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11/3/2014

Adventures of Old Nebraska DaveGoodness, 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.

Bradleys birthdayMy 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.

Old Dave kayaking

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.

Nasty steps project

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.

Finished steps

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.

Garden Fall 2014

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."



9/8/2014

Adventures of Old Nebraska DaveThe 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.

Defective drain

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.

New drain

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.

Step Repair

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.

Nebraska Dave Kayaking

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.



8/18/2014

Adventures of Old Nebraska DaveWow, 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.

Terra Nova Fence 3

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.

Railroad ties for spring development

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.

Spring platform

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.

Rocks from Neighborhood

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.

Terra Nova Gardens out of control

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."

Rocks in use

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.

Wild Turkeys on Patrol

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.



6/30/2014

Adventures of Old Nebraska DaveThis 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.

Tomato plant

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.

June Potato Bed

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.

Planting tools

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.



6/9/2014

Adventures of Old Nebraska DaveThis has been a garden weather year for the history books. The cold freezing temperatures continued into April and May with relentless force. Two times I replanted the cabbages and onions and still the cold temperatures came with killing frost. The last killing frost came with a warning of frost in low lying areas two days after the frost free date for my area. My tomato and bell peppers were planted in five-gallon buckets 18 inches above the ground. They were barely to the top of the bucket and my backyard was on top of the hill so I thought I was good for not freezing.

Frozen Tomato Plant

Oh, contraire. As you can see this tomato plant, along with the rest, is toast. They might have made it, but I decided to replant and move on. I scoured the land far and wide, and it seemed that all the plant centers at home improvements stores, grocery stores, hardware stores had not heeded the warnings either and froze their delicate plants as well. As a last resort, I moseyed over to the the local nursery that had cover over all their plants, but alas the selection was a bit ragged to say the least. The season was coming to an end, and it was quite obvious why the plants there were left behind. I selected the best that could be found and replaced the sickly looking plants. In the compost heap they went.

The potatoes, cabbages, onions, lettuce, and radishes made it through the last frost OK. Life was good for about three weeks and plants grew with vigor.

Cherry Tomato Blooming

This little cherry tomato plant was so grateful to be given a home that just a couple weeks after planting, it started blooming and now has small little green tomatoes. It's climbed up to the second rung of the cage and is reaching toward the top with leaps and bounds as cherry tomatoes do. The other replanted tomatoes are just on the verge of flowering.

I've noticed something over the years of gardening. When years like this happen, nature has a way of speeding up the plant growth so the harvest really isn't that much later in the season. I'm seeing that happen this year as well. Who would have thought that just a couple weeks after putting the transplants in the ground that blooms and small tomatoes would be present on the vines? I was one bell pepper short from the nursery so one of the plants from the seed starts was planted in the last bucket. It was a fourth of the size of the other nursery plants. Now after just three weeks, it's ready to rise above the all the other bell pepper plants. Quite an amazing thing to watch. It looks much healthier than all the other bell pepper plants.

I'm really seeing the benefit to having gardens several miles apart. We had an extreme storm come though three days ago with winds in excess of 100 mph and hail the size of softballs in some areas of the city. My backyard gardens were untouched by this storm, but Terra Nova Gardens nine miles away was a total loss. What I had planted, sweet corn and tomatoes, were stripped clean of every leaf with nothing but sticks poking up in the air.

Hail Damaged Tomato

Even the weeds around the perimeter of the garden were stripped of most of their leaves. My Rugosa Rose bushes that I planted last year were pounded pretty good but I think they will survive. They are supposed to be tough – Maine seacoast rugged. So let's see how they survive in Nebraska weather. Right now I'm thinking they wish they were back in Maine.

Plants Left from Seed Starts

It's a good thing I over-killed on seed starts this year. Who knew that I would have to replant three times. The question now is will this be the last time. All my plants will be planted by next week. The season will be a bust if another extreme storm comes through. I'm glad I held back on the cucumbers and eggplants. But now it's get busy and get everything planted as there's only about 130 days left in the growing season. The way this year is going we will probably have an early frost.

I sprung a leak in one of the water storage barrels and had to empty the barrel with a bucket and dump it into the big tank. A fitting known as a bulkhead fitting was found at Home Depot, which is made just for such things as fitting a spigot on a barrel. So the spigot was taken off and the opening was enlarged to fit the bulkhead fitting.

Fixing a leaking barrel

Well, when arms are too short other methods have to be used to repair a leaky spigot. Everything worked out wonderfully well just in time for the last storm to fill it up. I could have filled up several more with the five inches of rain, but this is quite enough for now. So now I have three 55-gallon barrels filled as well as the big 400-gallon tank. With the bottom watering rain gutter system, this might be enough water for the whole summer. It really doesn't require much to keep all the buckets moist.

The potato experiment is struggling. Out of the eight hills planted, only five grew and one froze in the last frost of the year. The other four are doing great and the time is right to plant the second layer. I'm really going to have to plant the next layer this weekend. Boy, there's a lot of work now that the weather is definitely into the summer mode.

Memorial day found Grandpa and grandson out on the water at one of the local lakes.

Grandpa and Grandson on the Lake

In this picture we are exploring the head waters of the lake where the stream comes in to keep the lake filled with water. This is the best time of the year to explore this area as later in the year it becomes clogged with moss, algae and tall reeds. It was a perfect day for kayaking. Just a very slight breeze with nice sunshine kept us a little warm but not extremely hot. After about two hours of paddling around, Bradley was done. It's hard for a 9-year-old energy-filled boy to sit still in one place for that long. Fishing the next day was much better with being able to run up and down the bank, rock bombing the fish. We actually caught four fish even with the rock tossing going on.

I have to get a little serious on my parting comment, but I feel I must let everyone know about my situation. Some of you may already know this if you read my personal blog.

If you have been reading my blog for a time, then you know I had an appendectomy in January and recovered without issue. Every couple years I just have an annual checkup to have the fluids checked and make sure the blood pressure pills are still working. One of the tests that is run on the vials of blood taken is called a PSA test, which is an indicator of how well the prostate is. Four years ago the PSA level was 2.9, which is totally normal. Two years ago, it was 4.2, which is borderline for concern. This year it was 7.3. Because of the jumps, my regular doctor referred me to an urologist. He decided that we should really do a biopsy to see what was going on with the prostate. My prostate was short and fat. I know, too much information, but it turned out to be a good thing. Because of being short it only required 12 core samples instead of 24 and being fat the core samples were very good quality. The test results came back with just a tiny bit of cancer in one core samples. A doctor's visit has been scheduled on June 19 to talk about the options. I don't see this as a real issue because it's been diagnosed in the very beginning stage. It was so small that it could have easily been missed. So I suspect it's very curable. I'm not worried but any time the word cancer is mentioned people freak out. So don't do that, OK? I'll be fine.

More next time. Keep your paddles in the water and you will reach your destination soon enough.



5/13/2014

Adventures of Old Nebraska DaveHere is the next part of the rain gutter growing system, but first an update with the great potato experiment. Five out of the eight planted potatoes are up, and three are growing strong. Maybe in another couple weeks, I can plant the next level. I'm not quite sure at this time if I'll have enough growing season to actually plant the four levels that I originally wanted to do. We'll have to see how that works out.

Potatoes

The first thing that must be found is food-grade buckets. I found a practically unlimited supply of buckets for a buck each at the local Fareway bakery department.

Food grade buckets

I'm not sure what this would be used for and the ingredients don't sound too much like food, but apparently it is considered a food-grade bucket.

The next step is to cut a 2 7/8-inch hole in the bottom of the bucket. This will be where the net cup sets and protrudes out the bottom of the bucket.

Bucket with hole

Here's a photo of the net cup extended out the bottom of the bucket. The net cup is filled with a mixture of growing medium that's not just dirt, but a mixture of two 5-gallon buckets of compost, one bucket of peat, a coffee can full of Perlite, a cup of garden lime, and a couple handfuls of Epsom salts, and two buckets of soil. I mix it up in a compost tumbler and pack it tight in the net cup and a little looser but firm in the rest of the bucket. The bottom of the bucket bowed upward to the inside of the bucket so with a little heat from a plumber's torch the bow can be reversed to get maximum use from the wicking action of the net cup. The cup will then set down into the rain gutter at a full depth. The net cup sets down into the water and wicks water up into the bucket growing medium to keep it moist. I've had it up and working for about three weeks. It all seems to be working so far.

Buckets on rain gutters

Here you can see the buckets setting on the water-filled rain gutters. The buckets are planted with tomatoes and bell peppers. The multilevel growing of cabbages in the actual raised bed under the rain gutters is working so far. I figure once the tomatoes grow up, they will shade the cabbages during the hot part of the summer.

Radishes and lettuce

Along one side of the raised bed, under the gutters, radishes and lettuce are growing. The radishes are almost ready as well as the lettuce. Once they are eaten, other warm weather root crops such as carrots will be planted.

Onions

Onions are planted in the raised beds on the opposite side. These were all started from seed. Some are doing quite well and others not so much. I may just replant those that are not doing well with plants from a local nursery. This set-up, with the automatic watering from the last post, is working extremely well so far. We will see if this set-up works as well or better than the traditional method. I'm not sure if I'll have enough time to set up another bed for cucumbers, but I'm hoping so.

We just went through a night of severe weather. We didn't get any tornadoes, but the winds of 80 mph and rainstorms were toying with the idea. All together we got about 1 3/4 inches of rain. It filled my water storage tank you see in the background of a couple of the post's photos. The blue barrels are additional storage for water. This last rain filled the large tank and two of the blue barrels. The third barrel has a leak and needs to be sealed before it can be used for water storage. All together, I have an estimated 500 gallons of water stored from the spring rains. I'm hoping to be able to water the garden most of the summer with collected water.

I hope all your garden plans are starting to come together for the year. Until the next time, keep your hands in the dirt and mind thinking toward harvest.



4/28/2014

Adventures of Old Nebraska DaveI've promised this post for quite some time and it's time to make good on that promise. The weather here has been warming with night time temperatures in the 50s and day-time temperatures in the 70s. Finally I think the Winter grip has loosened and allowed Spring to settle in. The Daffodils and tulips are in full bloom and life is good on the Urban Ranch. One little update before we get started with the promised post. My potato bed had nary a sprout showing so I dug one up to see what was happening way down under. The potato was just starting to sprout with a little nub of a sprout starting to grow. I suspect the 45-degree soil temperature was a bit too cold for potato growth. With advancing warmer weather I am hoping for some potato vines to show up soon. Four out of the five replanted cabbages made it through the last frosty weather. Half of the onions made it but I have a reserve to replant them.

Some time ago I mentioned a new growing system that I wanted to try that was invented by a fella up in Minnesota that used rain gutters to automatically water the plants. I now have one working system and hope to have another working by warm weather planting time of May 15.

Rain Gutters

First thing that needed to be done to build the system was to use roofing screws to attach the gutter to two 10-foot 2X4s. A 3/4-inch hole was cut into the end caps for water transfer. Since these two gutters have the same water source, they must be perfectly level with each other. In order to do that great pains were taken and a leveling system was devised to get both perfectly level from end to end and side to side. The first layer of leveling was accomplished with landscaping timbers. Lag screws were used for the next leveling.

Lag screw adjustment

This picture is a little blurry but it's the best I could do with my low budget Kodak easy share camera.  You can get the idea of what I've done with the screws. Each 2X4 got a lag screw on each end, which was a total of four on each trough. Now the screws can be tweaked with a wrench up or down to obtain perfect leveling even after water is in the trough if need be. Water in the trough will seek its own level and be the final leveling test.

Now the two troughs must be connected and the leveling process gets a little more complicated.

Tying two Rain Gutters Together

Here you can see the two rain gutters tied together so whatever the level of water is in one of the troughs will be the same in the other trough. We'll come back to the buckets later, but for now we have to move on as to how the water gets into the gutters. Rain water is collected in the big tank that is seen in the background so that water has to be automatically transferred from that tank to the gutters. So let's see how that's done.

Water entry to the Gutters

Here you can see how the water will enter the gutters and supply both gutters. The parts for this system are all glued together with PVC adhesive and so far has not leaked. The hoses for this system are cut to length and fitted with two female ends. Cheap hoses can be used as there is very little pressure on this system, which is entirely gravity fed.

Water leveling Valve

I wanted originally to attach this float valve to the gutter, which would monitor the level of the water and allow water to be added when needed. The ones that I ordered were from Amazon and came with no float adjustment hence the bucket system was used. The yellow hose is the other end of the hose in the previous picture attached to the gutter. This float valve will keep the water level in the bucket at a constant level. By raising or lowering the bucket the water level in the gutters can be adjusted. With a little tweaking with different width boards the water level was matched perfectly.

Final hose connection

This is the final hose connection. Since the float valve has pipe threads and the hose has, of course, hose threads, an adapter had to be fabricated to match the two together. Now the water valve from the big tank is turned on and the water flows into the bucket. This water level is maintained by the float valve, which in turn maintains the water level in the gutters. It is all done mechanically without the use of timers as in the last system I built.

Your head is spinning by now so I think I'll leave the buckets for the next post. Really, I won't take so long to post again.

Until the next time, keep your hands in the soil. You never know what you can get to grow until you try.





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