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A Plan & A Party

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One pile for storage, one pile for the shipping container, one for garbage, and one for recycling

One pile for storage, one pile for the shipping container, one for garbage, and one for recycling

Once we decided what we needed from our tiny office, we sat down with an architect friend to map it all out. (We are so grateful for the multi-talented E.A.T. South community!) 272 sq ft is not a lot of space so we needed to use it well. To make the space feel bigger, we decided to take out the the wall leading to the left side of the caboose. We’ll also paint the ceiling a different, light color to give us the illusion of height. A pocket door on the office side will keep the internal door from taking up too much space.

Stuff, stuff and more stuff!

Stuff, stuff and more stuff!

With a plan and a design, we launched our tiny office project on Memorial Day weekend with a caboose cookout. To tackle the drudgery of a deep clean, we needed help -- and a party. We thought a cookout would make it more appealing to volunteers, but the staff also needed some party-motivation to haul and scrub on a holiday. It worked! With a great volunteer team, we moved four truckloads to storage, recycled as much as possible, and the grilled hot dogs, burgers and veggies were delicious!

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We're building a tiny office!

Planter boxes installed on the roof six years ago trapped water and caused the roof to rust. Off they went! They were heavy. We'll recycle them into planter boxes around the caboose.

Planter boxes installed on the roof six years ago trapped water and caused the roof to rust. Off they went! They were heavy. We'll recycle them into planter boxes around the caboose.

A cooler for produce storage, piles and piles of stuff, and a fire extinguisher. Safety first!

A cooler for produce storage, piles and piles of stuff, and a fire extinguisher. Safety first!

E.A.T. South is moving all of our operations to the farm, and we’re building ourselves a tiny office. Maybe you’ve heard of tiny houses? They’re the 200+ sq ft structures sometimes featured on home improvement channels. Our tiny office for three will be in 272 sq ft of a renovated little red caboose.

Farm visitors (kids but lots of adults, too) always want to explore the caboose, but there has been nothing to see. It’s been like our backyard shed where we store everything from old paint to broken chairs, and it’s too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter to be a work space. All of the windows leak. There’s mold. There are mice. There are ants. There are roaches. Eeeew!

Sitting down to plan our tiny office, we came up with the following needs:

Leaky windows lead to mold.

Leaky windows lead to mold.

  • Climate control - we need to be warm in winter and cool in summer.
  • No more pests!
  • Space for four people to work.
  • A small meeting space.
  • Storage space for produce. (A small household refrigerator and ice chests currently hold all produce harvested for market.)
  • Wifi
  • Doors that lock (Unfortunately, we have experienced several thefts on the farm.)
  • No mold! (See pictures.)
  • Windows that don't leak and open for fresh air.
All of the windows leak.

All of the windows leak.

We also had the following parameters & principles:

  • Limited budget - no more than $10,000 for materials and labor
  • Limited time - one month to complete the project 
  • Must be as ecologically responsible as possible - because we're like that.
  • No restroom - There are no sewer lines at the farm. We have to use the port-a-potties, but no bathroom gives us more office space.

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Easy Beets

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Cooking beets is really easy. You don't even have to peel them first! Here are the steps:

  • Preheat your oven to 390 - 400 degrees.
  • Wash the sand off your beets & cut off the tops (eat them, too). You can leave the tails on.
  • Wrap beets in foil. (you can also put them in a covered dish.)
  • Place in oven on a pan or tray so beet juice doesn't leak on your oven.
  • Cook for 30 - 40 min. depending on the size of the beets.
  • Open foil and let beets cool enough to handle them.
  • Rub the beet skin off with your fingers.
  • Slice and use in salads or in these tasty recipes.

Pink Dip or Beet Hummus (like regular hummus but without the chick peas. feel free to substitute cumin for coriander or leave it out completely. find tahini at Publix, Fresh Market, Capitol Market, and Whole Foods.)

Beet Salad - just toss your cooked beets with some oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, and they're really good. You can add toasted walnuts, pecans, blue cheese, goat cheese. The Food Network has also compiled a whole list of beet salad recipes if you're looking for a little more inspiration.

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Barrels of Fun (or Rain)

Our April Farm in the City workshop focused on water catchment and conservation. With help from Coosa River Keeper, U.S. Green Building Council Alabama, the RiverNetwork, and barrels from the Coca Cola Company, fifty households in the River Region are each saving up to 1300 gallons of water a year.

If you missed the workshop, here a resource list to help connect you with your own rain barrel or with water conservation organizations in Alabama.

Where to find the organizations who participated in the Rain Barrel Workshop

Coosa Riverkeeper, Facebook

USGBC-Alabama

USGS Water Science School- learn about all things water related!

Video from Coca-Cola & River Network on how to install your rain barrel!

Coosa River Swim Guide- Get the Skinny Before You Dip! Coosa Riverkeeper conducts citizen-based bacteriological monitoring from Earth Day to Labor Day Weekend that provides free water quality data to the public! We monitor 20 sites weekly and results are provided by noon on Friday. You can text SWIMGUIDE to 844-83 to get water quality alerts directly to your phone.

Where to find more rain barrels and supplies

If one barrel just isn’t enough, you can buy plastic barrels at Farmers Feed and Supply (16 E Fleming Rd, Montgomery) and the Prattville Farm Center (1154 S Memorial Dr, Prattville) for around $20. (E.A.T. South also has a limited number of left over barrels. Email farmer@eatsouth.org to claim one.)

Farmers Feed and Supply also has commercially made rain barrels for sale.

Rain Barrel Depot is the source for the conversion kits you received at the workshop. They also sell very fancy rain barrels and compost bins.

Want to host your own rain barrel building workshop? Are you a part of a nonprofit? Check out the River Network’s Rain Barrel Workshop Planning Guide.

Drip Irrigation

Drip irrigation uses tubes with small holes to slowly drip water into the ground next to your plants. Drip irrigation conserves water because you put it right where you want it, and you don’t lose a lot to evaporation. Saving water will also save money on your water bill.

Local Sources for Drip Irrigation - Home Depot and Lowes sell drip irrigation kits and some parts, but look for them in the plumbing, not the gardening, section. Ewing Irrigation (5890 Monticello Dr., Montgomery) also has all kinds of drip parts including small sprinklers.

Drip Works - California-based company that specializes in drip irrigation. Great customer service. They will help you think through your drip system, and their website has how-to videos, plans for drip irrigation and more.

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