Grit Blogs > Adventures of Old Nebraska Dave

Spring Planting and Mowing at the Urban Ranch

A photo of Nebraska DaveI am glad to see you back. It’s been a busy week again. Grab that infamous cup of coffee, sit back and relax for a spell, and let me tell you about what’s been happening on the urban ranch this week.

I love to help other people in between the home projects. So I helped to move a 100 year old upright heavy piano, and, of course, there were steps involved with the move. Then one night I had the pleasure of helping to assemble a propane grill. The grand reward was the delightful steak cooked to perfection from the initial lighting of the grill. Folks, I literally work for food or a good cup of coffee.

There’s a difference between a true rural ranch and an urban ranch. Of course there is the limitation of animals on the urban ranch, and then there’s anything that’s done on the urban ranch, it has to look pretty to keep the neighbors calm. So, I haven’t totally gone green, but I’m trying as much as I can. Lawns are a big thing with urban ranching. Keeping them manicured can be a taxing thing. The weekly cutting does provide green for the compost pile.

Dave mowing the lawn

Here’s a good shot of Old Chomper my cantankerous old Craftsman lawn mower. No one really knows how old he is. He was given to me for doing some gutter cleaning. He’s a bit crabby but has been a faithful lawn mower. It won’t be too long before he will be requiring some replacement parts. Every year the wheels get a little more wobbly. This could be the year of surgical replacement of the wheel joints. I can’t complain though as my joints are acting up and some day will probably need replacing. Anyone notice anything different in the backyard?

Chomper the lawn mower

Yes, you guessed it. The windmill is new. Well, it’s not new but it’s new to the yard. I picked that up helping my Mother-in-law move from a house to an apartment. I not only work for food, I work for stuff as well. It has to be good stuff though.

Lila has really out done herself this year. As I have said in past posts she has spent her entire life under Old Rose the redbud tree. She has blossomed incredibly well this year with full sun. The aroma is heavenly coming from all those blooms. I guess that’s just the way nature is. The death of one thing is replaced by the rising up of another. It will be wonderful to see how she takes over the Spring beauty display in the absence of Old Rose.

Lila the lilac bush

Spring is such a wonderful time. Digging in the dirt just seems like the right thing to do. Onions are one of my favorite things. I decided to give onions a try this year. I don’t believe that I’ve ever tried to grow onions before, so this will be a totally new experiment for the bio intensive garden beds.

Nebraska Dave planting onions

Another thing that I like is Yukon Gold potatoes. Dad inspired me to grow potatoes one year in high school. We planted one and a half acres of potatoes. I never wanted to see another potato as long as I lived after that experience. Then along came the town’s first Mc Donald’s with ... french fries. I told you I was an old guy. I remember when Mc Donald’s displayed their first million hamburgers sold. They used to keep a running tally of burgers sold on their sign. Anyway, I devoted an entire bed to just potatoes. Hopefully I can remember how to grow them. No, I’m not making them all into french fries. I’ve gotten past that and usually eat mine baked. I really like potato soup, too. Oh, yeah, and clam chowder. I don’t remember which one it is, but it’s the one with white sauce, potatoes, and corn. I could use a good recipe if anyone has one.

Nebraska Dave planting potatoes

The weather here has been rather mild this Spring. We haven’t had any bad storms and only gentle rains. The temperatures are usually in the 70s during the day and many times in the 60s at night. Still occasionally we will get a 40-some degree day, but we haven’t had any 30 degree temperature for some time now. I really need to get a soil thermometer to test the soil temperature for planting tomatoes at the right time. I think we could maybe get them in the ground a little early this year with hotcaps in the wing just in case. I checked out the nursery this last weekend, and good golly they got some monster tomato plants. I’d have to dig a foot and a half hole to bury them up to the first leaves or trench them in. I've never seen plants like that before in the nursery.

I did try to start tomato seeds in my green house. “Wait,” you might say, “I didn’t see any green house in the tour.” It’s really really really small.

My greenhouse is tiny

I planted a total of 6 seeds from the packages. What a shock it was to pay $1.95 for 25 seeds. It’s a big package for hardly anything in it. I can remember when Mom ordered seeds through the mail, and the package was fat with seeds. OK, I know that was then and this is now. Of course back then farmers bought seed corn by the bushel and not by the seed count. Anyway, I planted the seeds in the little water expanded pods in the green house, put them gently on the heat mat on top of the fridge, and waited for ten days. Only two seeds sprouted, and they were from the palletized seeds. I tested the seeds by sprinkling them on a moist paper towel, folded the towel over the seeds, inserted them in a Ziploc bag and placed them on the heat mat to see if they would sprout. After 10 days nada, zip, nothing; bad seed; dang big box store anyway. Once again I will have to buy plants from the nursery. The lesson learned was always check your seed. It may be too late to grow plants for this year, but I’m going to keep after the sprouting to have it perfected by next spring.

That’s it for this week. I hope to be farther along with the water tank project by next post and into the poor man’s patio trellis support project. The water tank project will require me to use Sparky my welder to mend a split seam in the side of the tank.

Don’t forget to leave a comment as I always enjoy hearing about what you are doing as well. I’ll try to stay out of trouble, but you know some times ya just gotta do what ya gotta do. Until next time, keep your tools sharp and enjoy the beauty of nature.

muck boot diva
7/27/2011 1:31:55 PM

N. Dave, Send me info on your 400 Gal Rain Water Tank -- I am VERY VERY interested for our garden. The animals we will make shift a solar pump to use in the ponds (we have 2 -- very far away from the garden). My email is muckbootdiva@gmail.com Just put in subject like Nebraska Dave -- I get loads of emails. Thanks. MBD


nebraska dave
5/11/2010 8:57:21 PM

Drew, you are so funny. If I was closer, I’d weld that windmill for ya. I just have a small light utility welder but it does what I want it to. His name is Sparky. I tried to use him on my water tank to mend the leaking seam and found that rust doesn’t weld at all. It just blew a hole through the rust. So now I will have to patch the hole. I used a hammer and tapped the metal to see how far the rust went back under galvanizing and now have a hole about twice the size of a golf ball. I expect that I’ll have to get some metal and pop rivet it to the tank over the entire seam and then weld the patch all around the outside of the patch. I’ve found that every project always runs into a snag some where along the line. I just expect it and always try to have a plan “B”. Some times I don’t come up with plan “B” until I need it. Today I hauled in a load of compost from our city yard waste recycle center. The city contracts a company to pickup the yard waste, compost it, and sell it to the public. It is so rich and black with just a hint of barn yard scent. I’m not sure how that gets in there, but it should really make those tomatoes grow. I hauled home a cubic yard of the stuff and filled up my newly created raised beds with eight inches of the stuff. I dumped it on top of the ground up leaves from last fall.


anotherkindofdrew
5/10/2010 8:16:49 PM

I kind of wish a few of us could live together in the same urban pasture. We could rip the fences down and turn our lawns to food. It would be great. BTW - I love your windmill. We have an old one that needs some welding to the legs but I don't know how to weld, don't have a spot welder, and don't even have a friend with such qualities. I guess I could try duct tape. hahahahaha!


nebraska dave
5/10/2010 3:27:35 PM

Shannon, thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. We had four strong guys so things really went well with the move. The steps were circumvented at the place we moved it out of by the ramp on the trailer. At the house we moved it into there were only three steps but doorways are always an issue because there’s not enough room to allow four to carry it through. We got ur done with out any breakage in piano or people. That’s always a good thing. I just bought cucumber seeds this last week and tested them for viability. They sprouting in three days. I planted the seed in the little green house in the expanding seed pods and four days later I have plants two inches high with more peeking through the soil. Much better turn out than the bad seed tomatoes I tried earlier. I was hoping to plant the plants this week but it looks like rain all week. I need to acclimatize the plants which will be a little difficult with wind and rain. Hopefully I will get a break before the plants get too leggy. The onions are looking real good, but the potatoes are a little spotty. The ones that did come up look good and strong. I am still hoping that more will come up.


s.m.r. saia
5/10/2010 8:48:56 AM

Dave - wow, having had to move several pianos in my life I can empathize with that. Pianos are a bear to move! Too bad about the tomato seeds. My particular seed problems are brassicas - broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts. I can't get them to take for anything. Your onions look great. I hope you have better luck with them this year than I have. I think I planted mine too soon. Love the windmill!!!


nebraska dave
5/8/2010 5:05:03 PM

Pam, thanks for dropping by. I try to keep moving. At my age I am just trying to stay ahead of rigor mortis. So I can’t sit, lay, or stand still too long or I start getting stiff. Just kidding but it is getting harder to roll out of bed in the mornings. We are still having a rainy season here and it appears that next week will just continue on. When the sun shines, I have to keep moving. It really has been a productive year so far with much progress on the summer projects. Hopefully I can get a couple done that I’ve been trying to get completed for a couple years. It looks like you keep busy on your place too. Busy just kind of goes with ownership of property. Something always needs attention or improvement. Have a great week. I hope all your projects turn out to be good ones.


pam_6
5/8/2010 10:37:18 AM

Hi Nebraska Dave, It looks like you are as busy as ever. Lila is beautiful. The wind mill looks like it belongs there. I understand about the potatoes. When I was around 11 or 12, Daddy planted about an acre of butterbeans to sell at the farmer's market. I picked and shelled so many butterbeans that year, that I hoped to never see any again. Of course I have 2 different varieties of butterbeans growing this year! (We made enough off those butterbeans that year for a new washer and dryer)It came in handy with the 7 kids in the family. Good luck with your vegetables. It all is looking great. Have a wonderful weekend. Pam


nebraska dave
5/7/2010 10:19:02 PM

Cindy, I’m sorry to hear about your asparagus. I know it takes a couple years to get it started. I’m just starting to acquire a taste for asparagus. I don’t have any planted. I can remember finding wild patches that Mom used to harvest at the right time. I’m not sure who planted them but most were along the railroad tracks as I recall. I wonder if that still happens. The used tracks here in Nebraska and Iowa have been turned into bicycle trails. We have hundreds of miles of trails between the two states. I like the surprise me method of the seeding. Many years ago, I tried sowing carrots seeds in the fall as the ground was freezing. The next Spring the seeds sprouted and grew at just the right time and turned out to be some of the best carrots I have ever grown. Tomatoes are another good volunteer crop. I’m forever culling out tomato plants in places I don’t want them. Hmmm, I see an experiment formulating. Maybe just maybe if end of season tomatoes are put strategically in a raised bed they will sprout and come up at the right time in the Spring. I’ll have to think about that one. I bought 30 gladiolas for the poor man’s patio this year. I’m still looking for the tuberous begonias. I find fibrous begonias every where but not tuberous. Last year I went with the fibrous and they were OK. I definitely want impatiens again. They were great and really kicked in at the end of the season. I think there was too much shade on the patio for geraniums.


cindy murphy
5/7/2010 8:28:48 PM

Hi, Dave. Everything's looking good. I like the windmill; I think it's cool you work for stuff...or as I call like to call it, "good junque". Oh! and coffee too; I'll always work for a good cup of coffee. We do potatoes too...they're up and looking really good this year. My mustard and spinach are doing fantastic, and the first harvest will be this weekend (if we can find time). The volunteer squash are doing well too - don't ask me what they are; I just throw the pumpkins and gourds into the the vegetable garden in fall and say "Surprize me". I never know just what will come up in spring. Had a few spears of asparagus this year, but I did in nearly my whole bed because I didn't take the time to shred the leaves before I mulched with them - time last fall was running short, and I just heaped the whole leaves into the bed, instead of mulching them first with the mower as I've done in years past. The whole leaves created such a thick, soppy mat, the asparagus crowns rotted. I could kick myself - the crowns were HUGE. Ah, well, I started over this year, and will have to wait a couple more years for a good harvest. Been debating onions (even if it's too late for them to get big, I figure I can use the greens). Our soil is probably too sandy, though. Around here, they're grown in muck-soils. The rest will have to wait. Below zero temperatures for the weekend and beyond. Here, Memorial Day is considered "safe" to plant the warm season crops.


nebraska dave
5/7/2010 3:12:37 PM

Hank, you are too funny with the welder scenario. I learned a valuable lesson trying to weld the seam of the tank. Now understand this tank is …. I don’t know how old and has been setting in the corner of the yard unused for about 15 years. It’s in great shape except for the seam where it was put together. This seam has a little rust so I started to weld the seam and blew a hole right through the tank side. I turned down the heat to the lowest setting and blew another hole through the tank side. I learned that there is no welding rust. It can’t be done. Ok now I see that snicker which is about to break out in a big belly laugh. I’m just an urban backyard rancher trying to learn how the big ranch boys do things. Ok so plan A didn’t work. There’s always a plan B right. I just haven’t figured it out yet but there will be a plan B. I did take the claw end of a hammer and started tapping on the rusted spot and when I got a hole the size of a baseball I hit good metal. It rusted right under the galvanizing. Who would have thought it could be true. While I’m thinking about that I have improved the plan for better water distribution so I can be working on that. Well, and then there’s the planting of the frost sensitive plants as well. Plenty to keep an urban rancher busy. Thanks for stopping by to see what in the world Old Nebraska Dave is up to. It’s always good for a laugh or two.


hank will_2
5/7/2010 11:42:31 AM

Nice post, Dave. Bummer on the seed starting. I've had entire packets of seed fail to germinate before. It can be frustrating. But at least with gardening you have plenty of options and thankfully a lot of nurseries and the like carry plants too. I know you know to, but be sure to watch out for those yellow fumes when you apply sparky to that galvanized tank. Is sparky by any chance tomb-stone shaped and red with Lincoln stenciled on it? Does he buzz just right when you're work sounds a little like bacon frying?


nebraska dave
5/6/2010 5:51:17 PM

MW, thank you for the kind comments about the urban ranch. It has been a labor of love the last couple years. Well, it’s been a time when I’ve actually had the time to do things that I’ve always wanted to do but never had the time. The projects can take a week, a month, or a year. There’s no time limit like there used to be. I am really enjoying this season of life. Lila out did herself this year. The blooms have nearly all disappeared until next year. I can hardly wait to see what she will do then. The Irises are starting to bloom with the peonies close behind. It really has bee a wonderful year around the urban ranch for blooming flowers. I bought the gladiolas yesterday that will go in containers for the poor man’s patio. This next week will begin the busy container planting time. Most all of the containers will go on the patio. I hope it turns out as good as it did last year. The onions are doing marvelously well and the potatoes are up. They are a little skimpy but the ones that are up are good strong plants. I’ll have to be getting that bale of straw to start covering the plants as they grow. The frost sensitive plants can be planted in about another week or now if I want to take a risk. The windmill was a nice addition to the urban ranch. It almost looks like a real Nebraska ranch. You are most welcome for the comments. You always have interesting posts about real life in the country. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.


mountain woman
5/6/2010 3:54:15 PM

Hi Nebraska Dave, I think you're too busy on your urban ranch to get into trouble. When would you find the time? I think Lila is so beautiful. Our one lilac bush hasn't even begun to bud yet so I'm envious of your colorful Lila. We have a really old mower that does the main yard around our house and Mountain Man just keeps it going every year. One thing I love about living in the country and having no neighbors is not having to keep the perfectly manicured lawn in accordance with every one else. Ours gets pretty wild in between mowings. I love your greenhouse. Works for me and I hope you get wonderful tomatoes. I'm envious of your onions and potatoes too. Love the windmill. Really your ranch is so lovely and well cared for. Just shows your love for the land. P.S. - Thank you so much for all your most kind comments on my RPM blog.