Adventures of Old Nebraska DaveToday started with a temperature of 59 degrees, bright sunshine, but just a little windy. Since my backyard is surrounded by trees and houses, the wind was not much of a factor for working in the garden. I totally went against Farmer's Almanac, which plainly stated that today was for killing weeds and brush but not planting. We will see how it all turns out. The soil in bed two had been removed leaving a depth of six inches of city composted yard waste called Omagro. It is the best stuff for garden and flower beds. Yes, there might be some yard chemicals in it, but I never claimed to be a hard core organic grower.

As the temperature climbed toward the high of 75 degrees, work on the great potato experiment began with turning the soil with a flat spade. Since years before the clay soil had been replaced with 100% Omagro, the soil was easy to turn and rake smooth.

Raised bed two

Once that was done, Pontiac Reds were placed with care. I found that if the potatoes are cut and let cure as all potato planting articles say to do, a wet spring will still make them rot. The prediction for this spring is cold and wet. Last year I planted whole potatoes by just pushing them down in the mud and covering them up. They turned out great. I am sold on planting the whole potato and not trying to skimp on the cost by cutting and curing. So here are the potatoes laying on top of the six inches of replaced soil ready to be covered.

Planted potato bed

Eight inches of more Omagro on top of the spuds and a good watering gets this layer of the great potato experiment almost completed. Each of the last four years the potato harvest has been better than the year before. The first year five years ago was a total failure with less harvested potatoes than what was planted.  It's a good thing I didn't have to depend on the potato harvest to survive.

Mulched Potato Bed

A shallow covering of partially composted yard waste from last fall to keep the bed from drying out in the some day coming days filled with warm sunshine, and this layer of the great potato experiment is done. I have hopes of a good harvest from this bed.

Next layer preparation

The great potato growing experiment that I've been talking about is an attempt to grow potatoes by planting several layers in a bin. I suspect all of us have read the articles about growing potatoes in garbage cans with an entire can full of potatoes at harvest time or the potato bin that has three feet of bountiful potatoes top to bottom. I won't say that those claims aren't true but the underlying theme is they aren't entirely true. From my research the potato vines do indeed continue to grow taller and taller up out of the additional soil spread around the vines, but over and over again I've read that the only place where potatoes are found is at the original planting depth. I found one person on a blog who had successfully grown potatoes in the bin method. She planted in eight-inch-deep layers. 

In this photo, you can see the preparation for the next layer of potatoes. When the potatoes grow up to have 12 inches of foliage above the ground, another layer of potatoes will be laid on top of the shallow mulch and covered with eight inches of more soil. When the foliage reaches 12 inches above the ground again, another layer of potatoes will be planted and one more layer after that. A total of four layers will make the potato bed a total of 32 inches deep. When all the vines die back in late summer or autumn, the potatoes can be harvested a layer at a time by taking the sides off the bed and scooping out the spuds. Well, that's the plan anyway. Like I said, it's all an experiment. 

My next post will be about another experimental growing system called the rain gutter growing system that's coming together quite nicely in bed one where the tomatoes and green peppers will be planted. So yeah, spring is mostly here and planting has started.

Leave a comment and tell me what you think about my crazy potato growing experiment?


Adventures of Old Nebraska DaveSpring is truly trying to come to my part of the world.  Sixty degree days are pure torture when the temperature says come out side the weather is nice but the garden soil says get outa here I'm still frozen and sleepin' (In a grouchy irritated voice) What's an over anxious cooped up all winter gardener supposed to do?  Well, here's what I did to over come all the pent up garden energy.  I could only play with seedlings under the grow lights in the basement for just so long.  I couldn't take it any more and had to break out.

Frustrated Gardener

Yes, that's right.  I broke out the mattock pick axe and chopped out the frozen ground. I was going to rejuvenate my backyard raised beds anyway. The frozen chunks were heaved over on an adjacent bed and the thawed soil was taken to the compost tumbler. Ten gallons of raised bed soil along with five gallons of peat moss, a coffee can of vermiculite, a cup full of lime, and a couple hand fulls of Epsom salts to complete the mix. 

Soil Mixing in Composter

Oh, yeah, getting a work-out today. It came out of the tumbler light and fluffy. It should really make the veggies grow good. It snowed again last night with temperatures down to 26 but another soil temperature check showed that the six-inch depth was 50 degrees. That's five degrees warmer than yesterday. Tomorrow it will be back in the 60s with temps in the 50s and 60s all week. I'm hoping to get my onions and cabbages hardened off and in the ground by the end of the week.

First batch done

There's the first batch of rejuvenated soil in the bed. The whole bed took a total of six batches to complete the bed. Next comes the rain gutter growing system. I'll have another whole post on how that's put together but here's a little preview of what it will look like.

Rain gutter watering system

These rain gutters have to perfectly level end to end and with each other. My big rain water tank will feed these gutters through a mini float valve to keep them full of water. Buckets filled with special growing medium will set on top of the gutters with a wick system to keep the soil in the buckets watered from the gutters. Yeah, I know, I had too much time on my hands this winter and the Internet is full of way out there stuff. This looks like it could actually work and would interface with my watering system really well.

My twist to this whole thing is to add multilevel growing. The bed under the gutters will have cabbages down the center strip and onions, lettuce, and radishes along the side strips. Of course that will have to be hand watered. It's just a totally radical experiment to see if it can work.

Potatoes will be another experiment this year but that's for another post. Spring is off to a running start with awesome ideas floating around in my head.

Oh, one more thing. I'm thinking about buying another property. This is just to hold and keep for a couple years until I decide what to do with it.

New property

It's a corner lot that measures 44 by 60 feet. The going price is $100. It's fairly level and would have great potential for a garden. This would be a landscape and more of corner beautification kind of garden. However, among the flowers, bushes and landscaping, there just might be a few onions, lettuce or radishes. Like I said this would a couple years down the road. In the mean time, I'd have the EPA do its thing before I got started. The houses on both sides are for sale. Not interested in houses.

Ideas abound for 2014. It's going to be a great year. I'm hoping the weather co-operates with your gardening in your part of the country. Until the next time. 


Adventures of Old Nebraska DaveWe finally have snagged a bit of snow from this last storm moving across the country. I'd say the final measurement was about four inches, which will be welcome moisture for gardeners and farmers. It was great to get out and shovel some snow. Exercise has been a little sparse this month. The cold vortex bipolar weather has kept me inside more than I would have liked. Bradley and I did hit the slopes today. Well, he hit the slope and I watched from the warmth of my truck. He's finally old enough to actually go up and down the hill on his own. As much fun as it is to sled down the hill, old grandpa just ain't as young as he used to be and getting back up that hill is a little more taxing then I remembered it to be in the past.

WebTV box

The great basement purge has begun. "American Pickers" have nothing over my basement. Years of storage and long forgotten memories are stored there. One of the first  things I found was this box that housed the WebTV unit that was my first entry into the Internet. The actual unit has been long gone but finding the box was a memory jogger for sure. Some of the readers probably have no idea why this was such a great thing. WebTV was a cheap way to actually be online without spending a lot of money. Computers were a bit out of my financial ability when they first came out. WebTV hooked up to an average TV and allowed dialup service through the phone line. It had a qwerty cordless keyboard and introduced me to e-mail. It was a brave new world of cyber space. Download speed at that time was a blazing 2.75 K. Yes, that's right, kilobytes and not giga or even mega. E-mail was entirely text and websites were even less then basic. Message boards were the rage, which are similar to modern day forums but without HTML.

Foxfire books

This was an exciting find for sure. Back in the early 1970s my interests were organic gardening magazine Mother Earth News, and the Foxfire books. A high-school teacher decided to keep his class interested in learning, and he would start a class project. The result was this set of Foxfire books. Anyone who is interested in homesteading would benefit by having a set of these books. When I bought these three, it was all that had been published at that time. Who knew that over the next decade the series would grow to 12 books about every thing imaginable. These books are the most in depth and minutely detailed books that I know about homesteading. They were written from interviews taken from 70- and 80-year-old folks in the 1970s. First-hand knowledge, from a generation of people who actually lived the life of pioneers, was written into these books in every detail and many times word for word. Pictures abound to explain the details of all the procedures. These are still available through Amazon and are priced some what reasonable. I'm planning on building out my set and have ordered book 4 and 5.

Boxes of so-last-century electronics will go to Best Buy to be recycled. Yeah, when was the last time you actually saw a 1.2 megabyte 5 1/2-inch floppy drive? Ah, yeah, I'm not talking about the 3 1/2-inch but the first floppies, which were bigger and not in a hard case. It's like opening up a sealed museum. I've just barely scratched the surface. I'll be pressing onward in the center of the room this next week. Who knows what treasures lie beneath the piles of stuff.

I have decided to try to grow some onions this year from seed. Last year I planted some onion seed directly into the garden soil. I quickly learned that onion seed is a delicate plant in the beginning stages and can't compete with the fast-growing grasses and and other garden weeds. The tender young seedlings were smothered by the weed growth. This year I have started the seeds inside under the grow lights.

Onion seedlings

The onion seeds are up and growing. About a week under the plastic wrap with a heat mat and they popped up out of the soil. Now the grow lights are on 12 hours a day and twice to three times a day misting will nurture them along until about 5 inches high. A little bit of a haircut at 5 inches and transplanted into fiber pots to encourage their growth even more. In a couple months the little fellas might have a better chance to compete with the weed growth.

I just received some Walla Walla onion seeds from Baker Creek last week so they will be planted and go on the heat mat next week. I really want to try to save some onions in storage next winter. I have two places to store them. Either my basement storage room or the front part of my garage. Both have low temperatures but don't freeze.

That's about all the news from the Urban Ranch. And advice from the old farmer (not me) would be to keep skunks and bankers at a distance.  See ya next time.


Adventures of Old Nebraska DaveOh, boy. I have been very neglectful to my GRIT blog and really my personal blog as well. November and December is always a busy time of the year but this year was even more so. Every year I think that I really must cut down on my 100 or so Christmas cards but then I just can't bring myself to do it and (big sigh) each year a few more get added. I hear from people through out the year about how wonderful it was to receive a card from me and how great the letter was. It's something that I've started that has taken on a life of its own and would be difficult to stop. Ah well, what's a retired guy supposed to do with non garden time. Oh, yeah, plan, start seeds, or dream about gardening. 

Most of you know by now about the appendicitis attack that happened on January 2nd. If you didn't hear about it and really want to know what happened you can click here and read all about it. Today's appendectomy surgery is not the appendectomy surgery of my parents' day. It was a major operation 50 years ago but today it's a routine operation that takes less than an hour and got me home the next day. Two weeks later the follow-up doctor visit found me pretty much back to a normal routine life.

I still haven't heard anything from the EPA about the lead testing so I suspect the spring planting is a bust for Terra Nova Gardens. Not to be discouraged, it will give me more time to work on developing the spring and getting ready for next year's planting. Depending on the test results and the work that's done, perhaps the fence will be completed as well. There's plenty of projects to work on back at the Urban Ranch where I live. I've taken to searching out other properties to buy from the city foreclosure list. There are some $100 properties that would make good gardens. Not that I need any more garden space now but maybe in the future. One piece I'm looking at is 43 by 60 feet on a corner lot. It's very flat and is a great prospect. If I bought it, development wouldn't start for two to three years. It might be nice to own just in case things go south in the next couple years. My uncle Danny O'Kane always told me, "Ya just can't go wrong owning property." Of course he said it in an Irish brogue. There's another one I haven't checked out yet but it's even bigger. It's 50 by 157 feet but this one is covered with lots of trees. Maybe owning wooded land might be advantageous some time in the future. This piece could have very steep slopes as well. It's difficult to tell from the Google aerial view.

Seed starting station

Seed catalogs are piling up and seed orders are starting to be sent out and received. I've begun the testing process for viable seeds from last year's stash. Since I had great success last year with starting seeds, I'll be doing that again this year. I'm going to make an attempt to plant sprouted seeds to see if that can be done with any kind of success. One of the GRIT blogs says it can be done so I'm checking it out. A pen pal that I've been writing to for over a year that I found in the GRIT magazine pages has sent me some seeds for growing giant pumpkins. That should be fun to try. I'm not really expecting a record 1,000-pound pumpkin but a 100-pound pumpkin would still be the talk of the neighborhood.

Terra Nova Gardens January

Terra Nova looks pretty desolate right now and the wind is howling outside. Another high wind alert with the temperatures dropping below zero tonight will be bringing 20 to 30 below zero wind chills. The prediction is for snow flurries but I don't think that's going to happen. I could be wrong but I don't see much headed our way on the radar.

This next week will be a week of heading down to the basement to start doing some serious cleaning out and hopefully a couple runs to the dump. I'm still hoping to keep the dump runs to a minimum. I would like to give as much as I can to the thrift store or give away to friends or family. It's all good stuff don't you know. I haven't looked at it for over 12 years and don't remember even what's down there in the basement but I'm sure it's all good stuff.

Christmas Tree Stand

I have a new twist on an old story. Last year at the end of the Christmas season the fiber optic bulb for the Christmas tree burned out. So I just bagged it and thought I'd deal with it next year, which was this year. So determined to fix the bulb issue, I removed the cover plate screws and removed the bulb. A replacement bulb was found and life was good. The new bulb was inserted and the tree was plugged into the wall with great anticipation about fixing the fiber optics on the Christmas Tree .... except the bulb didn't light up. I'm not one to give up easily so meters, screw drivers, and pliers were assembled for the trouble shooting. One hour passes with full disassemble of the base. Testing here, test there with all good results. Plug it back in and still doesn't work. Some times stepping back and just pondering the situation does wonders. Even better if a cup of coffee is involved. My light bulb in my brain finally went on. The plug I had been using for the Christmas tree was a living room plug controlled by a wall switch. Flipped the switch, problem solved. So the new twist to an old story about tearing apart the appliance to fix it when all that was needed was to plug it into the wall socket was born. (Red Face). Yeah, I won't be forgetting that again.

I hope and pray all is well with everyone in the GRIT blog community and the New Year will bring great success stories to share with us all.

And remember Life is simpler when you plow around the stump.


Old man Winter has taken up residence here in eastern Nebraska. Our first rain/sleet/snow storm visited us a couple weeks ago. Even today skiffs of snow remains as a reminder of the eventful day. The first such day of Winter always brings with it many wrecks on the streets. It's as if between the last snow of the spring and the first snow of the Fall, folks forget how to drive in bad weather. Now that I don't have to go to work, I just remain off the streets for a couple days to allow those that drive crazy to wreck their cars and be eliminated from the traffic.

November has been an extreme physically taxing month. The great yard waste caper began with the falling of the neighborhood leaves. Thursday is yard waste pickup for my neighborhood. Wednesday night dressed in my stealth mode clothes, Ricky (my trusty Ford Ranger truck) and I make our way through the neighborhood hauling load after load back to my yard.

Yard Waste Collection

At the end of the next day (Thursday) because collection continued until the goal of 300 bags was reached. Here lies the collection from the first week of 317 bags. When the collection truck came around the corner and saw the yard their jaws dropped because the rule is there is no limit on the number of bags. I was taking a nap from the physical excertion of the night before and the day of yard waste so as they were ready to dive into taking them away my neighbor that has a spot at Terra Nova Gardens saved the day by flagging them down and telling them not to take them away. Whew, that would have been disappointing.

Loaded Trailer headed for Terra Nova Gardens

Friday was a hauling day for the bags to Terra Nova Gardens. This week 317 bags equated to two big trailer loads and a couple truck loads after the trailer was returned. Three weeks of collection netted 971 bags of mulch for the garden areas. I now have three garden areas at Terra Nova Gardens. One is my main 90x90 fenced (well, almost) garden; another is my neighor's garden area; and next year will be an extended area into the property to the south of me. It's been neglected for the probably the same amount of years as Terra Nova Gardens. To keep the weeds down and grow some corn for the animals, 70 feet of that property has been mulched in preparation for next year's planting.

Terra Nova Yard Waste Mulch

Here's one week's haul of 316 bags of mulch. Last year I poured out the mulch on the ground and took all the empty bags back to the Urban Ranch to put out for the yard waste guys to take away. This year I had an epiphany or a duh moment as I call them. These are biodegradeable bags. Why not just lay the bag on the ground and dump the next bag on top. It's not cardboard but there are four layers of paper bag to help with the weed control for next year and well, I've seen how fast they degrade so it won't be a problem for next years planting. Neighbors at both the Urban Ranch where they were collected and at Terra Nova Gardens where they were used for mulch told me that the yard waste company was out taking pictures of the bags. I guess I made a stir in the city waste management.

Terra Nova Garden Expansion

This area where the bags are would be the expansion area for next year. It actually went another three truck loads of bags farther up passed the big light pole. While working on that area, a city car pulled up with a young lady (at my age they all look young) and asked if this was my property. I'm thinking, "Oh, boy, now I'm definitely in trouble." I indicated it wasn't but I was just trying to get the weeds under control on a derelict piece of land and showed her where my property ended. I encouraged her to drive a little farther down the road and see what I'd done with my property. She drove down to have a look at Terra Nova Gardens and gave me the thumbs up when driving out of the neighborhood. I drew a sigh of relief as I watched her disappear up the road.

The best is yet to come. Two weeks ago on a Friday the door bell rang. A man with a clip board was standing by the front door when I opened it. My first thought was "Oh, boy, another survey." He announced that he represented the EPA (yes that's the Environmental Protection Agency) and showed me an address on his clip board. "Is this your property?" he asked with a smile on his face. It was the address for Terra Nova Gardens. "Yes," I said wondering what I was getting into now. He wanted permission to test the property for lead. The dilemma was now if I sign giving them permission they will most likely find it there but if I don't, they can do it anyway and probably make life uncomfortable for me. I signed with the hope that they wouldn't find lead.

The next time I went to Terra Nova Gardens, I asked the neighbors about this and they indicated that yes the EPA has tested many other properties around the neighborhood and found lead in the soil. Then they scraped about 6 to 8 inches of top soil off the land and replaced with "good top soil." So the bottom line is they may scrape all the mulch off the land and replace it with dirt. (Big Sigh) Oh, well, I covered it this year so I can do it again next year with good neighborhood mulch.

It seems that I'm really getting the shake down but I'm still standing. And so the adventure continues.

Until the next time keep your fences horse high, bull strong, and pig tight.


Adventures of Old Nebraska DaveThose dog days of summer are long gone and the cold night temperatures of Fall have set in for the duration. I feel like the cold wet Spring coupled with the unusually cool summer temperatures robbed me of my favorite times of the year. My garden didn't get planted until almost June and the first ripe tomato was several weeks later than usual. It seemed to me that the entire summer was condensed down into a four to six week span. Most folks would rather have the cooler temperatures but I think it's healthier to sweat at least once a day. In my humble opinion it cleans out the pores.  Those that have read this blog for a time know that my motto is work hard and go to bed tired.  It's a little more difficult to do in the winter but trust me, I'll find something to stay busy.

Mother Earth News Fair

The highlight of September was the Mother Earth News Fair in Lawrence, Kansas. My ticket was purchased with anticipation before they were even printed. I must say that all my expectations were exceeded. My only disappointment was that it wasn't long enough to get to every workshop that I wanted to hear. There were several hundred vendors there pitching their wares. I love to listen to a sales pitch. I seldom buy anything but the pitch is very entertaining to me. Yeah, I know I'm just a little strange. Their pitch has a way of expressing the best qualities of their product.

The workshop that drew the highest attendance in my opinion was on Sunday morning at 9:30 a.m. It lasted an hour and a half. I didn't attend the demonstration but it was a live demonstration of how to process a chicken from the last cluck through the entire process. With just a rough count, I made an estimate of 500 or 600 folks were interested in the method. As for me, I saw enough chicken processing when I was a kid. I wasn't involved in the process other than cleaning out the coop when the chickens were all gone. Mom did all the killing, scalding, plucking, singeing and eviscerating. 

Some of the talks and workshops I enjoyed the most were Bryan Welch's talk about sustaining life on the plant, Cheryl Long's talk about garden tools and how to make the easiest cheese ever, and David Tracey's workshop on guerrilla gardens of which I intend to do this next year. Shhhhhh, don't tell anyone. It will be 30-by-30 square feet of sweet corn. It's a plan to keep the weeds down on the vacant lot next to my garden and hopefully be a decoy for the wild animals that like to attack my garden sweet corn. The tall fence I'm building and the decoy crop will hopefully be enough for me to actually get a good harvest of sweet corn. Well, that's the plan anyway.

Terra Nova

Terra Nova Gardens' fence rehabilitation is coming along quite nicely. This is the latest picture, however, there's been more accomplished since this picture. The missing slats have been installed from the rubble pile and much cleanup has been done in preparation for the fall deep mulch that will be covering the whole garden area again. Those that have hung with me on this blog since last fall will remember the nearly 600 bags of neighborhood grass/leaf confiscated yard waste that put a foot deep of mulch on my garden. Before the mulching caper, worms were scarce but now there are worms in practically every shovel of dirt. I'm sure the mulching was a great help to bring the worms into the garden.

Poor Man's Living Patio

There's nothing better than enjoying a nice fall day with Folger's in my cup. It won't be long before all activity outside will have to stop which only means that inside projects will begin. Yeah, there's no kicking back for the winter at the Urban Ranch. With the food storage room finished the rest of the basement will be the project for this winter. It will be first cleaned out and then made into a Bradley cave. Then I can actually have my living room back. Right now I'm into birthday party preparation for Bradley's ninth birthday so I better get back to it.

I hope all is well with everyone and that you can enjoy some Fall weather before it's gone as well. So until the next time stay warm, drink some hot cider, and eat some Fall comfort food. We will meet here again soon.


Here we are almost into October.  How the summer has quickly passed by us. The weather is starting to feel more and more like fall weather. One of the things I like about the area of Nebraska where I live is the distinct seasons that last at least a couple months. Some years certain seasons might be longer or shorter but usually they are evenly divided which makes each one very enjoyable. This could be the year that my grandson, Bradley, will be able to sled the school house hill by himself without his old grandpa riding down the hill with him. The issue is not going down the hill but climbing up the hill afterward. The first year, four years ago, Gramps had to pull him back up the hill on the toboggan. That ended a couple years later.

Removing the broken post

The reconstruction work has begun at Terra Nova Gardens. You would think that September would bring nice cool weather to work on such things but noooooo. This day was approaching 100 degrees. So this day a little work and allot of resting in the shade and drinking water was the plan. Two of the five post stubs were removed that day which I counted as a good day's work.

Big Post Removal

When first putting the posts up for the Terra Nova Garden panels, I wanted to make sure they were not going to be blown over by wind. I mixed up two 80-pound Quick Crete bags of concrete for each post. That made the total weight for the in-ground base about 200 pounds. That's good for stabilizing the post but not so good for digging it out. I never thought just a couple months after planting the posts that I'd be digging them out of the ground. The lesson learned here is that one bag is quite enough. This baby here was quite a struggle to get up out of the ground and into the wheel barrow.

The sad news is that the rail fence will not be rebuilt. It was almost totally destroyed in the accident and what wasn't was removed by the rescue squad and tow truck to help the driver out of the van and get the van towed away. Folks from the neighborhood still stop by and ask about what happened and shake their heads in disbelief. They say that some days they take a special trip just to see my progress on the garden. 

Split Post

The decision was made not to dig this post out but to repair it. 

Repairing the post

Some old-fashioned ingenuity for a makeshift clamp and a few 3 1/2-inch screws made this post as sound as it was before the accident. 

Now the real task of filling up the dug out post holes so new holes can be dug for the new posts begins. The soil has to be tamped down hard before the post holes can be dug. So far, two post holes and two panels are in process of being put back in place.

Gluing a board together

This board is from the last panel. It was busted up pretty good. Several more will have to have the same glue process to put them back together. Hopefully, in another week I'll have this whole section repaired so I can get back to fence building instead of fence repairing.

Never a dull or boring moment around the Urban Ranch or Terra Nova Gardens.  Until the next time stay busy enough to stay out of trouble but not so busy as to be able to enough what you do.

Have a great week, everyone.

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