February brought some much needed snow. Most folks here were not pleased to have the 8 inches of snow and then 4 more three days later. I always welcome snow. It is the most nitrogen rich moisture on the planet. The week before the snow, the temperatures were up in the high 40s and middle 50s for several days. It wasn't exactly a spring thaw (those that grew up on the farm know what I mean) but the top layer of soil was thawed out.
The snow began melting with above freezing temperatures almost immediately after the the snow quit. It was the best of conditions as the moisture soaked into the ground instead of having a massive run off. Totally the best way for a melt to happen. I think we are probably still behind in total moisture for this year but the effective way this snow melted could make it better for spring.
As I write this today, there are only 88 days until the frost-free spring planting begins. I'm not believing it this year and will have many backup plans in place. One is a new growing idea that I talked about in the last post.
This is half of the eight buckets that are now ready for planting. Unfortunately my thoughts of growing greens for winter salads didn't materialize due to life happening with friends and family.
This year, it seems, that health issues have hit many of the friends I know, neighbors who live in my area, and family. My task so far this year has been to make sure they get to their doctor appointments, run errands, and take them grocery shopping. I'm glad to be able to help others with things they need done.
So lids have been put on the buckets to keep them from drying out while they wait for their plants. These buckets are destined to have four tomato plants and four green pepper plants. I'll actually plant more at Terra Nova Gardens but these will be the table fresh produce plants that can be brought inside at a moment's notice.
The potting mix went into the fiber square pots and set in plastic trays. My method of watering is to let the fiber pots wick the water up through the growing medium through the bottom. The pots are about 4 inches deep just come up to the top of the tray they set in. About an inch of water is maintained on the bottom of the tray which will allow the water to wick up through the potting mix. It keeps every thing well watered with just the right amount without disturbing the plants.
These are the onions that have just been transplanted. They were planted about one week ago and are doing tremendously well for year-old seed.The articles that I've read say to use the freshest seed possible because onion seed germination goes down drastically after the first year. I haven't found that to be the case but then I buy good seed for onions. This week the cabbages will be started. I call them my little shamrocks. By St. Patrick's day they will look like little green shamrocks.
I hope everyone had a wonderful Valentine's Day. As for me, it's just another day now that I'm single. There's a certain freedom in not having to find just the right gift that has to out do last year. I never was very good at that. But for those who have that special someone out there, I hope it was the best gift day ever.
Until the next time. May every single seed you plant grow to an abundance of harvest. May the pests get indigestion from your plants and any form of disease or fungus spore die when it crosses your property line. Leave a comment about any gardening you are doing this time of the year.
January has brought some unusual temperatures to Nebraska. The entire last week was 40s and 50s. This week and on into next week will be the same. Everyone is enjoying the spring-like temperatures with reservations as February can be just as brutal as January. There could still be a lot of punch left in the Nebraska winter. I'm not sure that these warm temperatures are good for plants and trees. I've always been told that long periods of warm weather followed by severe cold is what causes winter kill in plants. I'm hoping that all my rose bushes I planted two years ago will make it and the one I transplanted last fall will come through this unstable weather pattern.
I've been starting to think about the coming garden year and the starting of seeds in February. Onions will be the first to go on the heat mat. I'm not sure what will be next, but I'll find something to keep the heat mat going through the next couple months.
Some of you will remember the bucket gardening I started last year with automatic watering. This concept was great and would have done well if it were not for the weather elements that kept beating down all gardens last year.
The lessons I learned from the first year were many. This double row of buckets on top of the raised bed was a multilevel growing concept and worked great except the center strip was a nightmare to keep weeded. There just wasn't enough room to reach down in there and weed efficiently. Therefore it became a weed strip instead of a cabbage strip. This year only one bucket rain gutter will be put on each raised bed.
The next brainy idea uses this same concept but in a basement environment.
It's pretty similar to the outside set up and uses the same buckets. Yeah, you see where I'm going with this, don't you? The next step after this was to hang grow lights above the buckets to give them plenty of light. I really wanted to use this to grow salads during the winter months, but again life got in the way and the last two weeks have been spent driving friends and family to and from doctors' appointments or running errands for them during their recovery. It's too late for salad growing, but the next use for this will be to plant tomatoes and green peppers after they get to transplant size from the seed starting station. I'm hoping to give them a much earlier than normal start in these buckets, then take them outside on the same set up when the weather warms up.
Now the good part is these are totally portable so if a late frost comes like last year, they can be taken back inside until the threat is over. If high winds and hail come with seven inches of rain like last year, they come inside. It's an awesome way to help plants avoid the nasty weather elements that weather men say we should expect from now on. For the later normal garden planting, many extra plants will be started so that extra plants for a second, third and fourth planting if needed will be ready. The weather won't catch me without extra plants to replace damaged ones again.
We elected a new governor this year in Nebraska. Every four years when the governor is re-elected or newly elected, an Inaugural Ball is scheduled.
Oh, yeah, that's really me. I was just the tag-along escort. My good friend Karen was the famous one. It was great to see how the other half lived just for one night. I feel ever so much more comfortable in a flannel shirt and blue jeans at a Mother Earth News Fair. Every once in awhile I just have to shock everyone and tuxedo up for a night. It was great but I don't think I'll be repeating it any time soon.
I hope and pray everyone is having the greatest of new years. May your health be good and all your bills paid through out the entire year.
I'm hoping that everyone had an awesome Christmas and got every thing that they wanted. My wish for this Christmas was to see my grandson in Texas. It didn't quite work out the way I hoped with his coming back to my house, but I did get to see him. I had to drive to Texas to do it. He is 10 years old and is fascinated with Lego kits and robots. I happen to find on the Internet a company that blends the two together and has kits that use Lego blocks to build remote controlled robots. My best Christmas present was to see his face when he opened the presents. It was only a short two-day visit but well worth the drive. Now comes the big wait to see him again for the summer in June.
This last week as I scanned through my usual gardening blogs. The posts were about why they garden. Some were to eliminate store-bought chemically laden foods. Some were about wanting to know how it was grown or what nutrients were given to the plants. The reasons were many and all good ones. It made me begin to wonder about just why I have chosen to garden.
Over the years I have always been drawn to gardening and have attempted it a few times only to fail because of work and family demands. That desire to till the soil survived over the years and never really went away. I have come to believe that the very roots of my gardening desire came from generations of farming ancestors as far back as can be researched. My ancestors on my dad's side came from Germany and Mom's came from the Slavic countries. All were tillers of the soil. I'm pretty sure they all arrived here in Nebraska during the early 1800s. My great-grandfather was actually part of the Oklahoma land rush. He wasn't in the first wave of those who raced in to stake their claims as portrayed on TV and movies, but went there several months after the territory opened up for claims. He just couldn't make a living there so brought his family back to Nebraska to live out the rest of his days.
Every generation on both sides of my family have been involved in farming to some degree. My dad never made his living by farming but always had a hand in farming and most always owned a small farm of 100 acres or less. I didn't know it at the time but those genetics in me were being fueled all during my primary years of education by being raised around farm life.
During the 1970s, I found two magazines that I devoured from cover to cover. Mother Earth News was a new kind of magazine on the racks and Organic Gardening was another of my favorites. I can remember owning single digit copies of New Mother Earth magazines. Every lunch hour at work would find me at the near-by library reading the gardening magazines that I couldn't afford. I just couldn't get enough information about growing gardens.
During the 1980s, some new books came on the market. One was by Ruth Stout about the no-work method of gardening, and Rodale Publishing cranked out numerous books on organic gardening. I never really figured out why it was called organic gardening until years later. It just looked like how my mom had taught me to garden as a child. Even Dad never used chemicals on his row crops, so I was never exposed to the new modern farming or gardening. I still remember that garden on top of the hill by the barn where Dad would every spring plow it up for Mom to rake and smooth out the soil for planting. It was where I lit the fire under the wire fence and burned the railroad tie corner post right out of the ground. Yeah, well, I'd watched Mom and Dad burn piles of dried weeds before so I just wanted to help them out. I was probably about 6 or 7 when that happened. It's a wonder my parents survived my childhood. I had so many brainy ideas that got totally out of control.
Another author caught my eye from the library reading in the early '80s. Mel Bartholomew wrote a book called "Square Foot Gardening" and wooed me into reading it several times cover to cover. It was a totally new concept from row crops. The combination of Ruth Stout's method and Mel Bartholomew's method set me on a course that changed my thinking about gardening. Even to this day my thoughts are always toward new and better plant growing concepts.
Upon retirement five years ago, the farming genetic seeds of many generations of soil tilling ancestors began to sprout. One resurrected raised bed from a gardening attempt of practically a decade before was rejuvenated and nursed back to production. The next year, two more raised beds were built. Today a total of four beds reside in the backyard. Over the course of three years, a rain catch automatic watering system was built and perfected. The desire to garden continued to grow and the backyard wasn't big enough to satisfy the need for produce.
Three years ago, a discovery was made of a city website that listed properties the city had foreclosed upon. Through a long process I found and became a land owner. The vacant lot was filled with trash from neighborhood dumping, nettle weeds, wild invasive flowers, fallen trees, scrub brush, and saplings. It took almost two years to bring the wild untamed land under some semblance of control. It's still a long way from being a beautiful Garden of Eden but I'm working on it. So now I own another property and am contemplating purchasing another.
This is a lot of words to get back to the question. Why do I garden? Is it to save money? Is it to become more self sufficient? Is it to have more healthy food? Any one of these would be a good reason to garden but after some soul searching none of these came to the surface. What then drives me to keep expanding my gardens? I just have this deep-rooted desire to till the soil and grow things. It has nothing to do with the harvest or the preserving but the growing and finding better ways to accomplish that. It surprised me to come to that conclusion. I will say that I do have some plans to save some of the harvest and preserve it but most of the collected harvest will be given away to family, friends, or shelters.
The plans for 2015 are plenty big and my adrenalin is flowing. Seed starting will begin in February. Oh, yeah, 34 days and counting.
Here's hoping for an awesome new year for everyone.
Goodness, here it is November already. Where did this summer go? With the many unexpected things that happened not as much gardening was accomplished as I would have liked. My garden is all put to bed but more about that later. The weather here has been a 10 for fall beauty and longevity. The fall colors are still hanging on as long as it can. We have had a couple light frosts but not that season-ending killer frost yet. Old Jack Frost has been teasing us this year.
My daughter and I rented a car and took a trip to Texas to visit my grandson for his birthday.
We, my daughter and I, rented a Ford Fusion with Eco Boost to drive the 948 miles to Bandera, Texas. Cowboy capitol of the world. Seriously, it's supposed to be the cowboy capital of the world. I was not impressed. I didn't see one cowboy riding a horse all the time I was there. That's not to say that at certain festival times the town cowboy's up. We had a great time and got to spend two days with Bradley. One of the things we, Bradley and I, liked to do when he lived with me was to watch Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on TV. So thanks to Hulu Plus, a ChromeBook, and hotel WiFi, we got to catch up on the new adventures.
We decided to go to a movie in San Antonio. My daughter is an avid movie goer and has an AMC movie card, which gets discounts and acquires usage points. The only AMC theater we found in San Antonio was in the downtown area. Once again my daughter was driving. This time streets were narrow, traffic was fast, and commercial trucks were big. All made for a white knuckle experience for her. Parking on the street was a lost cause so in the parking garage we went. The cost was $7 for the first hour and a dollar for each 30 minutes after that. The movie was "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day." It was a cute, humorous comedy of a family overcoming a bad day. I think all of us heaved a sigh of relief when we got back to the motel. The motel advertised an outdoor pool for patrons to use. That would have been nice but it rained most of the two days we were there, which greatly disappointed Bradley.
One more time of kayaking before the summer ended brought up against some challenging obstacles.
My friend. who lets me use his extra kayak, is indeed an adventurer. He found a challenging creek that flowed into one of the local water shed lakes near my house. As you can see it was a contortionist's dream. People might think that this photograph is a spectacular maneuver, but actually I was hugging the branch just trying not to tip over. I did finally make it under the branch without ending up in the water but it was tricky to say the least.
Oh so long ago, in August, a nasty front step resurfacing project was started for a friend of mine.
Inch by inch, day by day, through sickness and in health, the project dragged on. This is in the early stage of the daunting task of resurfacing the steps. A small glimpse of the ugly green carpeting can be seen on the right of the picture. It covered the entire set of stairs before starting.
Finally the steps are completed. The resurfacing is done and the painting completed.
Yea, the steps project is completed for this year. After painting the steps, we decided that the colors were a bit brighter than we had expected so next spring we will probably be painting the steps a shade darker. I'm sure that after a winter the steps won't look so pristine as in this picture. It's been a longer project then I'd like but the experience with resurfacing was priceless. I've never done anything like this before. The one step repair turned into a entire step refacing. I'm still unsure about how it will stand up to the cold icy winter. Hopefully the paint has sealed up the cement all enough to keep water from creeping into the crevasses and expanding, which would cause it to crack and come off.
The Urban Ranch garden has been dismantled and is ready for frozen snow weather.
I've stated many times that this year's garden has been a little disappointing. Rain, wind, hail and frost have all been factors in keeping the harvest down this year. My biggest failure was not in having a plan C. I did have a plan A and B in place, but this year really needed a plan C. I'll not make that mistake again. I learned a few things along the way that will better prepare me for the mean years ahead when animals and weather are locked in battle with gardening. I've already started thinking about next year and the overexuberant plans I have for the gardens.
October 24th found me headed south starting at 5 a.m. to the Mother Earth News Fair in Topeka. Kansas. The exhilarating thoughts of being there made the three-hour trip fly by, and soon I was in the parking lot of the Expocentre where it was being held. Friday was spent volunteering help to prepare for the event. Saturday and Sunday, every stage was filled with speakers of well renown from all parts of the country. My choices were all about gardening and preserving. There were many speakers who talked about animal raising and harvesting. but since my interests only lie in growing, I didn't attend any of those presentations. Now I have all these pent-up new gardening ideas and can't try them out until next spring. I'll just have to stick with planning and, in about three months, seed starting.
Here's a quote from Rudyard Kipling as parting thought. "Gardens are not made by singing 'Oh, how beautiful,' and sitting in the shade."
The unseasonably cool weather continues through August and into September here. It makes for great sleeping nights to enjoy with the windows open but the gardens here are still suffering from the lack of heat for the warm weather vegetables. No one has really complained about too many tomatoes this year. My last count for tomatoes from four plants was about 20. They were indeed delicious but there's no more behind this harvest. What a strange year. I've never seen anything like it in all my gardening years. Eggplants are doing well but small, and potatoes are the star again this year. Well, the potato tops look good. I haven't ventured beneath the tops just yet to check out the actual potatoes. I may start scratching around in another couple weeks. Tops are beginning to dry out.
Those of you that have read my blog know that my least favorite thing to work on is plumbing. It seems to be the plague of my life.
Many months ago, I detected a water leak that came from under the washer. Being the person that I am, I decided since there was a drain in the laundry room to take care of the water on the floor, I would do what I always do. What's that you say? I would just use the washer with the leak until the leak was just too big or it just quit washing. Use it until it dies is my motto. Amazingly the leak quit and life was good again.
Buzz buzz buzz (fast forwarding two years). Yes, two years went by without so much as a drop of water. And then it happened. A river flowed out from under the washer. I thought, "This is it. It's dead." Just for grins I wanted to isolate the problem and decide if it was worth fixing. Running through a wash cycle, I determined it wasn't the washer at all but the 49-year-old drain that had rusted out. I was rather excited that it was only plumbing this time.
Ten bucks worth of parts and a little PVC cement and all fixed. Now comes the floor clean-up. The washer hasn't been moved in about 15 years. There's plenty of yucky on the floor. A Pinesol soak and scrub, and it's good to go for another 15 years. Another maintenance job done.
One of the things that I like doing is to help those in need who can't spend much or anything on repair projects.
This is a set of concrete steps under repair for a friend of mine. This started with an agreement to just repair one step. Well, I did such a good job she wanted to do the rest of the steps and arms. These steps had red indoor/outdoor carpet glued to the stairs. Chunks of steps were missing and the side of the arm had huge holes in it. Window screen was stuffed into the holes and regular concrete was used to cover the screen. Then Cement-All was used to cover the hole side. It turned out pretty well for my first attempt at step repair.
Labor Day found me out on the mighty Platte River in a borrowed kayak.
Here I am just taking a break on the river. Four hours of paddling was good for some sore muscles the next day. This little kayak was a little spooky at first. Not only was keeping the kayak heading in the right direction a challenge, but keeping it from rolling and upright was a skill that had to be quickly learned. This was the first time I was in a kayak this small and in moving water. After about an hour, I had mastered control of the vessel. Rarely do you find the Platte River being other than mostly sandbars this time of the year. Because of the unusually wet August, the river was up and kayaking was magnificent. The day was a Top 10 day and the best of all there were no bugs. It really was an awesome way to spend Labor Day.
One last thing about the prostate and then we will never speak of this again. Planting the seeds of death went well with a couple days of just a twinge of nausea and some weakness. By the third day, all systems were functioning again and mowing the grass was done. I could tell the endurance level was not up to par just yet. After two weeks, I'm back to normal as you can see with projects being worked and life is once again on track.
See you out in the garden. I have post holes to dig, fences to build, grass to mow, weeds to pull and gardens to reclaim. Until the next time.
Wow, I can't believe it's been so long since I put up a post here. The summer has really been passing by quickly. Gardening for me this year has been very minimal. Extreme weather all but eliminated the planting season in the spring and more extreme weather prevented replanting for the third time. Only the hardiest of plants survived the onslaught of weather. The summer has been unseasonably cool. It's great for living with 80-degree days and 60-some-degree nights but not so good for warm weather gardening. The focus for me has been on garden structure and not so much on gardening this year.
The fence construction continues. The last fence panel is now up, which is not shown in this photograph and the last side of the garden will start being enclosed this next week. I'm not going to complete the fence before the corn is ready this year so I suspect the sweet corn will be raccoon food again this year. I'm confident that the fence will be completed before the ground freezes in October, which will make for a great garden next year.
Acquisition of building materials continues on Craig's List. These railroad ties will be used in the development of the natural spring platform. I'm still brainstorming on how to actually develop the spring and have storage for water irrigation of Terra Nova Gardens. It seems that every month or two a new idea pops into my head about how to maximize the spring development. One of these years it will actually get done.
This is a rough idea of what the spring platform will look like. The two outside platform supports will be bridge supports. Two more railroad tie supports will be used to make the platform solid. The two pallets will be given additional support under the pallet planks. Then a floor using disassembled pallets will be screwed crosswise over the original pallet. When finished, the whole structure should be super strong and very solid. The stand pipe you see is a 10-foot pipe that has about 6 feet of water inside the pipe. It will eventually have a hand pump on the pipe for bucket water use.
Another summer acquisition was limestone rocks. A neighbor a couple blocks away replaced a limestone rock wall with the more modern concrete retaining wall blocks. Here you see the first of many loads of nice rocks. It was a great catch. I plan to use these rocks for raised bed borders at Terra Nova Gardens and maybe some of the bigger ones for the spring development.
Yes, sad to say that here is Terra Nova Gardens totally out of control and gone wild. It's a constant battle to keep the land here under control. Just a month of neglect and you can see the result. There is hope that this can be once again tamed and brought under control for productive use. So much just didn't get planted this year because of the extreme weather and the very wet (14 inches of rain) weather in June. We received an entire year's worth of rain in June. What did get planted for the second time, as stated in previous posts, got whipped with wind, pounded with hail, and flash flooded with seven inches of rain. Check out "Storms, Storms, and More Storms," and "Garden Challenges Continue."
Here is Terra Nova Gardens under control. Three hours of work later out of control became under control. This is now and forever more known as Bed 1 at Terra Nova Gardens. The plan for now is to make this bed into a strawberry bed. The carpet you see is three seasons old and still in great shape. I cleaned it up a bit and will cover it with wood chips. I'm grinding up the dried-out brush pile along one side of the property to use for the wood chips. One thing I have learned about building gardens is to get the structure finished before starting to garden. I've been having to decide between gardening or building structure for two years. One will suffer at the expense of the other. I'm hoping this year will be a major step forward for the structure of Terra Nova Gardens.
The wild turkey bug patrol is on duty. In the three growing seasons at Terra Nova Gardens, wild turkeys have patrolled the area doing what they do best. They scratched through the mulch around the plants and managed to keep bugs under control. In fact I haven't seen any bugs the last three years. My naturally wild bug control seems to be working. Imagine that. Nature wins again. I have no less than three feral cats that roam the property keeping rodents in check. I'd say nature is watching over Terra Nova Gardens. I know that I still have Nebraska Phil the groundhog living close to my property because I've seen burrow evidence. I fill it up and he cleans it out. However, he's not been any problem to the garden that I know of. The woman across the street says that he devastated her garden last year. I'm not sure what's up with that but I'll just count it as a blessing.
Well, that's kind of what I've been doing since my last post. I hope every one has had a very productive summer and that your harvest fills up every last space of the freezer and every last jar in the cupboard.
One last thing is about the prostate. All is good to go for Thursday, August 21. By noon I'll be radiation hot for three months and then many more after that as the decay happens. It's an out-patience procedure that will have very few side effects. I should be back to gardening after three or four days. Well, that's the plan any way.
Have a great harvest everyone and I'll catch you up in the next post.
This year's gardening started, as I've stated in a previous post, with a very late frost that killed the first planting of warm weather plants. After scouring the home improvement stores and local nurseries I did come up with enough plants to replace the frozen ones. I counted heavily on the left over seed starts as well. Then came the severe weather that dumped seven inches of rain with baseball-sized hail and 100-plus mph winds during the first part of June. Once again the seed starts came to the rescue and maybe the late starting of the tomato seeds were in fact a blessing. And now another issue cropped up.
I took a trip to Oklahoma City to drop off my grandson with his dad for a summer visit. When I returned, the plants at the Urban Ranch backyard were dying with yellowed curled-up leaves. This photo shows them on the way to recovery but I didn't think they were going to make it. The month of June has been a windy month in Nebraska. I know there are those who are laughing at that statement in other states because the wind always blows there. Anyway, the two houses right behind me have yard services. I suspect that my plants got a whiff of weed spray from the yard service folks when they were spraying the neighbor's yards. I'm not sure just how much harvest I'll get off these plants. Most years the tomatoes are up and over the cages by this time of the year.
With the amount of rain we have received in June, it's been difficult to keep up with the weeds and lawn. The potato experiment has met with some success, but I'll not be making the four layers I had hope to do. It was not because of the concept model or the weather but totally because of my bad planning. Two things that I have learned from this year has been to buy how much seed? Yeah, enough to plant four beds even though there's only one. I didn't really have enough seed for the four layers and stores only have potato seed until they sell it all. The next thing I failed to do was care for the seed in waiting to be planted. I put the seed in a covered bucket but some how rain made its way into the bucket and the 90-degree days turned most of them to mush. I salvaged enough to plant a second layer but that will be the last layer to be planted for this year. As you can see the potatoes are growing gang busters this year. Even my neighbor's potatoes at Terra Nova Gardens survived the rain, wind, hail and flash floods. Potatoes are the star plant of the garden this year.
As I've mentioned, the first planting of sweet corn was devastated by the heavy rain and hail. The first planting, planted in troughs, cut through the heavy mulch but the troughs seemed to always fill in with mulch due to the windy days. The second planting I decided to try something different. The tools used were a bean can with both ends cut out, a block of wood, and a Thor hammer. My idea was to make beds of corn between the failed troughs. To punch through the heavy mulch, which is anywhere from four to six inches, the can was used to cut through it to the soil below. The cavity from the plug removed was filled with my special growing soil mix and two corn seeds were planted in each spot. About 75 corn plants were planted in this manner and the last visit to Terra Nova Gardens found little sprouts up and growing. Two green bean beds of similar size were planted with the same procedure as well. I'm hoping that these little sprouts will survive the severe weather that's coming toward us once again.
Update on the prostate. I decided to not just sit by and actively watch but to go with seeded radiation. I'm talking with the radiologist tomorrow to set that up. It's basically an out-patient procedure with a couple days of discomfort after the procedure and very few side effects. I'm hoping to be back in the garden building, growing, planting soon after the procedure. The radiated seeds are planted in the prostate and remain there forever. The radiation degrades over the next six years until they are totally drained of radiation. What will happen is an active watch on the PSA level to make sure it remains low for the rest of my life, which in all prospects will be well into my 80s as happens with the rest of my family. Cancer runs in my family but those who catch it early and take care of it live to be a ripe old age. I plan on living to a ripe old active age. My ultimate goal would be to stroke out on the end of hoe in the garden and fall into a cabbage or green bean patch. Great way to go for an old farmer/gardener.
I'm hoping that all of you are having a better gardening year than I am. I hope to hear all about your garden successes. Have a great day in the garden.