Saturday, May 29, 2010

Garden update: May 29

Bullet points cause I'm tired and gross:

Planted two Toro blueberry bushes, a bunch more tomatoes, and some Mayflower Pole beans. Noticed a few tomato plants and one sweet pepper with the beginnings of fruit on them.

Set up 4 more potato tire-towers. I have lots of them now but still have lots more seed potatoes that I can't stand to waste.

Did some pruning on the big maple out front to let some more light on the garden beds.

Did some hardscaping along a path between two garden beds.

Weeded a lot.

Watered a lot. The high temps and breezes are sucking the water out of everything.

April and I grilled out for dinner, first time this year. We also ate the first all-homegrown salad... it was delicious, but I think I'd eat my old shoes if they had that fancy 25y0 balsamic vinegar on them.

Solar System groundwork and sizing...

After several hours on the phone yesterday with the very knowledgeable John F. Robbins, I am now doing my homework and trying to figure out the numerical specifics of my electricity usage so I can accurately scale the solar PV system I intend to purchase and install this summer.

To keep costs down I intend to purchase the solar system as a kit, wholesale, and do the installation myself (with help and consultation from John as needed). I have also decided to set up my system as entirely off-grid, entirely disconnected from the power grid and the existing wiring in my house. This will prevent having to deal with a lot of troublesome interfacing between these systems, government regulation regarding grid-tied systems, and after I install some new wiring and outlets in the house, will offer me great flexibility on the choice of where my electricity comes from on a case-by-case basis.

To this end, I've purchased a Kill-A-Watt EZ (albeit at a local Home Depot for only $25) and am quickly becoming addicted to measuring the electricity usage of damn near everything in my house. Already made some interesting discoveries (my tiny television uses as much juice while turned off as my phone charger does while actually in use).

Got a big 3-day gardening weekend up ahead. April is in town escaping the Indianapolis 500, and brought with her a Hori Hori, which should easily dispatch dandelions as it is in fact the sharpest damn knife I've ever seen. Even pressing your finger ever-so-gently against the blade risks a cut. Look out, weeds!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Garden update: May 27, 2010...

Planted 8 hills worth of squash this morning, and had to throw some more hay on several of my potato tires. Once they start, they go hard... I may well get to add a second tire to some of them by weekend's end.

It's also worth mentioning that my sweet potato slips, which were all but written off as frosted to death, and which spent a good deal of time impersonating dried-out sticks stuck in the ground, are beginning to throw out leaves with new vigor. Never underestimate a close relative of morning glory's!

The mosquitoes out in the field are still bad even in the mornings. I'm investing in a crate of Off!.

The World After Abundance...

Another excellent post by John Michael Greer deserves your full attention.

What all this implies, in a single phrase, is that the age of abundance is over. The period from 1945 to 2005 when almost unimaginable amounts of cheap petroleum sloshed through the economies of the world’s industrial nations, and transformed life in those nations almost beyond recognition, still shapes most of our thinking and nearly all of our expectations. Not one significant policy maker or mass media pundit in the industrial world has begun to talk about the impact of the end of the age of abundance; it’s an open question if any of them have grasped how fundamental the changes will be as the new age of post-abundance economics begins to clamp down.

Most ordinary people in the industrial world, for their part, are sleepwalking through one of history’s major transitions. The issues that concern them are still defined entirely by the calculus of abundance. Most Americans these days, for example, worry about managing a comfortable retirement, paying for increasingly expensive medical care, providing their children with a college education and whatever amenities they consider important. It has not yet entered their darkest dreams that they need to worry about access to such basic necessities as food, clothing and shelter, the fate of local economies and communities shredded by decades of malign neglect, and the rise of serious threats to the survival of constitutional government and the rule of law.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The potatoes and the mosquitoes have arrived.

My vast array of potato-tire-tower starts are finally throwing up little potato leaves through the hay. I've got a LOT of tires going, so I'm hoping for a bumper crop of spuds this year when all is said and done.

The LaRatte fingerlings are in an obvious lead, with Purple Viking also showing some leaf. Peanut fingerlings, Kennebec, Russet, Nicola, and Irish Cobbler are nowhere to be seen, as of yet.

During my watering jaunt at sundown, the mosquitoes came on with such force that I eventually dropped the hose to escape back inside. My ankles and temples got it the worst (they always go for the thinnest fleshed areas on me... must be my iron hide). This is making me think of making a bunch of those aforementioned bat boxes so as to recruit an army of hungry winged mosquito assassins for the property. Either that or I need to start brewing citronella candles in 55-gallon drums...

Sunday, May 23, 2010

massive sunday, massive sunburn...

Got my long hair cut short by the awesome barber here in Richwood. He's a very nice gentleman, has a dog that can read (!!!) and is hopefully going to put me in touch with a man who can sell me some chickens. So I'm doing my Clark Kent impersonation again.

Downside is, after a 14+ hour day working hard outdoors on Sunday, I am not only sore as hell but also feeling a strong sunburn on my neck and the backs of my ears.

Planted a bunch of trees today (2 Little Star Hawthorn, 1 Mountain Ash, 1 Methely Plum, 1 Queen Cox apple, and a Hunza Apricot. Many more tomatoes got installed in the ground and in hanging pots, and I transplanted out some Wonderberry, Sunberry, and about 100 square feet of various hot peppers.

Also seeded some Chinese Red Yard-long beans, Christmas Pole Lima beans, and some other type of pole beans whose name I can't remember because I'm so darn tired.

The only problem with keeping a blog about what I'm doing is that I'm often too tired to blog by the time I'm done doing it.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Fat Snake returns, DIY topsy turvy tomatoes...

A progress shot of the garden bed off to the side of my porch (click on the pic to visit it's Flickr page with rollover notes).

If the state fair had a competitive category for Leggiest Tomatoes, I'd be coming home with an armload of blue ribbons this year. Having planted most of my tomatoes in February at the advice of a family friend, I soon found myself with huge plants that I was struggling to keep alive with grow lights until I could actually plant them out.

In fact, while moving the tomatoes outside, I discovered that many of them had actually shot up into and around the bulbs themselves, to the extent that I had to remove the bulbs to get the plants out. Note to self: Never start tomatoes in February, no matter what anybody tells you.

Now that such a time has actually arrived, the task of actually getting them planted is proving challenging as well. For the leafy AND sturdy ones, I've been planting them laid-down in a trench with compost piled on top in the hopes that the excess stem will all go to root and give them Extra Moisture Powers.

When one stem half-broke during installation, I took a chance and tried fixing it with duct tape. Seems silly, but I've seen them come back from worse with less care.

I've been DIY'ing topsy-turvy-type contraptions out of salvaged hanging baskets, and so far they appear to be working quite splendidly.

April helped me engineer and install a 1 3/8" piece of EMT between the two columns of my porch, so I now have about 100" of room to hang plants from. We also ran a screw into the support beams along the side of the long barn, giving me room for another 30 or so hanging plants.

Below are some random growth-progress shots.

Blanco peas in flower.

My sweet corn sprouted!

Broccoli is getting big.

Bush bean sprout.

It is also worth mentioning that I had several more encounters with Fat Snake before the day was over. I saw him in a garden bed while watering, and then later on in the back of my garage. I had to try and scare him out by making lots of noise (banging on stuff and yelling "Rooooar, I eat snakes!" in a loud voice), and then finally gently dragging him out with a pole. He looked moderately inconvenienced, but not really upset. I guess snakes get food comas too?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Fat snake!

Was giving a quick tour of recent garden improvements to my dad upon his arrival when we found a small garter snake in the lettuce beds, glowing from it's recent mouse-y meal. He licked the air a bit but was largely too food-coma'd to slither away.

Little then did I know, we'd be seeing each other again real soon...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A call to garden...

John Michael Greer (whose blog is consistently excellent and on my short-list of must reads each week) has posted a "call to garden" of sorts, positing the once common but now lost concept of backyard gardening as a valuable tool to insulate families and individuals from economic shocks.

As this is a central concept to the life I'm trying so hard to build, I thought it was well worth a link.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

First veggie picked!

Weekend update in progress, but in the meantime, here's a video of a very exciting moment today...

Friday, May 14, 2010

Managing Alternative Pollinators... free PDF

With honeybees (sadly) seemingly in decline, it will be ever-important going forward for us to be able to manage other kinds of pollinating insects to keep the food supply on-line.

An informational book on this very topic has just been released, and you can download it here for free.

Happy pollinating!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Galaxy Peach tree...

Managed to get home in time to plant a Galaxy Peach tree from Park Seed Co. before it started raining buckets. It's a smaller tree, so I put it near the house.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

My Wheel Horse is my real horse...

My folks showed up to help out around the farm this Sunday, which was great because it means I got to see my mom on Mother's Day. My dad brought my new (to me) tractor with him, a 1975 Wheel Horse B-80 that I purchased down in Cincinnati. She's been lovingly maintained by an older gentleman who loves Wheel Horse tractors more than almost anything, and she got her trial by fire here on Sunday as we mowed almost the entire property, including some parts that would have been more appropriately approached with a machete or flamethrower. Oh, if my crops grew like my weeds...

I was fortunate enough to find another B-80 down in Cincinnati for the paltry sum of $25. While it doesn't run at the moment, it did come with a snow blade, and I figure if I can't get it running I can just use it as a parts machine. Hell, for $25, I can set it out in the yard as decoration.

Flashy Trout's Back romaine.

Amish Deer Tongue lettuce.

Bloomsdale Long Standing spinach.

Tall Telephone peas, finding the fence.

Recent rains and diligent watering have got my greens beds looking like somebody pressed the fast-forward button. The black mustard (seen directly above) has coalesced into one big square patch, and the other lettuce beds will hopefully fill out as some later seedings come into play.

Took some time to plant some Fernleaf Dill and Spearmint in the kind of lousy soil right behind the house, and some Basil and other herbs in largish containers by the driveway. Also seeded some more small lettuce beds to get some variety in the coming Summer's salads.

While I'm probably already behind on this, I've started planting out some beans. Seen here are Blue Lake Bush 274, Contender, Broad Windsor (Fava), Hutterite Soup, and Jacob's Cattle beans being soaked before planting. Bush beans fill up garden beds fast, and I'm already wishing I'd sheet mulched more of the grass last fall. Maybe I'll get a head start and do some more this summer so they have a better chance of breaking down by next season's planting time.

Jacob's Cattle beans. So pretty!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

New equipment!

The sky has been threatening rain something fierce for the past 24 hours, and yet so far, not a drop, despite the wind. I keep not watering, assuming it will surely rain soon. So far, no dice.

The roto-tiller is being returned to it's true owner for a while, so I took an opportunity this morning to till up the remaining garden beds around the house that I sheet mulched in the fall. I now wish I had done more, as I'll probably run out of space. I suppose if I get super-desperate I can start digging up sod by hand, but man... what a chore.

I'm getting two new pieces of equipment tomorrow... a 1975 Wheel Horse tractor and a small trailer that looks like a cow. Pictures when they arrive. :-)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Wrap-up: first weekend of May...

Had to postpone the much-anticipated farmwarming party this weekend due to promises of constant thunderstorms. Having done so, what rain we got was decidedly light and spotty (of course), but it was enough to keep the garden beds and trees wet, at least.

Had kind of a lazy weekend, but still managed to plant: 1 red currant (Jonker Von Tets), 1 apple tree (Braestar), 1 cherry tree (Emperor Francis), and 2 european pear trees (Bosc and Bartlett), 4 rows of sweet potato slips totalling just less than 100 plants (Nancy Hall, Covington, Boureguard, and Georgia Jets). Have some more trees on the way, and may well have more after that if Raintree keeps putting hardy fruit trees on clearance.

The lettuce and greens in the front beds are finally starting to look like little baby lettuces (thanks in no small part to some very diligent hand-weeding by April), and I am pleased to report that the black mustard greens taste good indeed.

Also washed the dog, who is now running around the house, sharing her newfound relative moisture with all that she comes into contact with... mostly me, April, and the couch.

Also proud to report that my newly authentic farmer's tan is strongly in effect, despite it being only the earliest of May. :-)