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There are times we see a need (or probably more truthfully, a want) on the farm, but the checkbook just doesn’t agree with us.  We can argue the viability, the usefulness, and the time saving tips all day long, but there is no argument that will make that checkbook cough up the money needed to go and buy it.

So, as much as possible, I just go around that mean old checkbook and get it anyway.  It means that I may have to spend a day or two scrapping for the supplies, but usually I can find everything I need for simpler projects.  When the desire for a cold/hot frame began, I did just that.  And thanks to my son, James, I finally got the cold frame I wanted, and it fits perfectly beside my garden. 

Once built, it can be used as a cold frame or a hotbed. Although built roughly the same, there is a difference between a cold frame and a hotbed.  The cold frame’s initial intention was to be used in addition to a greenhouse.  Seeds are started in a greenhouse, and moved to the cold frame to harden off.  These are placed directly on the ground.  A hotbed is place over a hole in the ground, usually a few inches in diameter smaller than the box and approximately two feet deep.  The hole is filled with fresh manure and covered in a thick layer of straw.  Trays of seeds are placed on top of the straw.  The manure, along with the solar effect of the sun, generates heat on cold winter days and allows the seeds to germinate.  The windows act as vents – if the interior temperature of the hotbed or cold frame heats up too much, the windows can be raised by inches, or completely open to allow excess heat to escape. 

I currently use mine as a cold frame, with a slight twist.  I have started greens and a few herbs in trays.  I will harvest the greens for eating, and the herbs will be transplanted into my garden.  This year is simply a trial year, so I can gauge temperatures and how things grow.  Next year I have the option of digging a hole and using it as a hotbed, or leaving it as is and having a cold frame ready to go to harden off seedlings.  The fact that it cost nothing to have, makes it even a greater asset.

James repurposed some cypress boards that were originally used for raised beds in the garden.  Several years ago, our friends Jim and Lorea were talking about pulling down an old house on a piece of their property.  I asked Jim if I could have the windows, and he quickly agreed. 

It took a little more time to scrounge through buckets, drawers, and boxes in the shop to find hinges, and there was a little bit of scratching though scraps of wood left over from other projects to complete the supply list.  From there, it was just some measuring, scraping old paint off of the glass panes (and regluing a couple back in) and piecing the finished project together.

The idea that we have to run to our checkbook every time we want something can be hazardous to our financial health.  In my opinion, it is a good way to stifle our creativity.  If we keep running to the store to buy what we can very possibly make ourselves, it steals some of the joy and excitement of having made it ourselves.  I also think it is a breeding ground for boredom.  Think about it.  You go to the store.  You write a check.  You bring home your item and set it in place, then walk away.  End of story.

Now, think about strolling around the farm, searching through the barn, the shop, the junk piles, the storage sheds.  Pull a piece out here, a board out there, and listen to the jingle of metal screws, nails, hinges, hooks and eyelets.  Don’t forget to take a walk around the neighborhood.  Talk to your neighbors about your project, and see if they have anything they are willing to donate to the cause.  A lot of people would be happy to get rid of a few pieces of what they consider ‘junk’.  Got it all?  Grab you some paper and a pencil (and in my case, a good eraser), and start the design process. 

Got it designed the way you like it?  Grab your blueprint and all those supplies you collected, and start building.  It may take a few days, but think of all you have to look forward to – the excitement of a completed project you built yourself.  And consider this – you weren’t bored during the process.

Living Simply doesn’t mean living without.  It means living within.  There is hard work involved, but in most cases, that hard work is balanced by the joy of exercising our minds, our creativity and our sense of wellbeing.  And you seldom get bored.  To me, that is probably the greatest asset to a simple life.

Maybe it’s time to stick your tongue out at your checkbook.