Adventures of Old Nebraska Dave

November To-Do Things

Adventures of Old Nebraska Dave 

Oh yes, the deep fall temperatures have arrived with a biting wind to accommodate them. There has been lower 20s at night with barely into the 40s during the day for the last week. It's kept me inside thinking about winter projects. 

Bed 4 2017a

This is bed 4 after a good cleanup. The plant debris and weed mess was weed trimmed off and the mulch buried at a shovel's depth. It will be covered with yard waste leaf mulch like the bed next to it for a winter blanket. That completes the formal garden area cleanup. This next week will be in the 50s and 60s so the cleanup will continue. Only five more beds to go and then I can hunker down for the winter.

Bed 11 Harvest 2017

Here's the squash harvest for this year, 75 in all. Some have been given away and some have been stored away for a winter's day. I see eating a lot of squash this winter. I'm thinking that the squash plants will be less next year.

Stir Fry

I have had a couple baked and stuffed squash that were tasty, and this is a stir-fry that I made. My stir-fries are mostly just clean out the fridge and see what happens. Some turn out great and others ... not so much. This one was great with chunks of squash that were first microwaved for 10 minutes then put in with the rest of the stir-fry.

dishwasher installation

The winter projects have begun. During the summer months a friend remodeled his kitchen and gave me the white dishwasher. It was an upgrade from the cheapo that I've used for many years. So the exchange was made on a cold and dreary day with the wind howling outside. The old washer was taken to the recycling center.  The installed dishwater is a much better one. However, it didn't come with a cutlery basket. It was just my luck that I'd already taken the old dishwasher to the recycle center before I discovered the missing item. Amazon came to the rescue. 

A refrigerator came with the dishwasher but it's just a second fridge that will reside in the garage. I wanted it mainly for the freezer space, which I've filled up with garden produce. I suppose the refrigerator side could be used for soda and water. I don't drink much soda, but my daughter and grandson do. My family has always thought my eating habits were a little strange. Eating healthy in the 1980s just wasn't thought about in the same way as today. Anyone who thought about gardening, canning, and living off the land was just weird. The trend is turning back to the basics today and more folks are gardening, even in the city. Almost every neighbor on my street has a couple tomato plants and a pepper or two in the backyard. Salsa is the rage today, to make fresh out of the backyard. I say whatever it takes to inspire people to grow things is OK with me. 

There's always some thing to fix in an old house. Well, some would laugh when I say my house is 52 years old when their house is over 100 years old.  Unfortunately, the very thing I liked about living in this neighborhood has become my plague. Tree roots have begun to creep into the main sewer line. It happens so often now that I will have to learn how to rent the machine and clean out the main line drain on a regular basis. I've discovered that a major name DIY home improvement store rents the machines for a reasonable price, which is much less than a service to come out to do it for me. So I better get to it. I'll let you know how it turns out. 

Have a great day. May all your chores be pleasurable; all your disasters be small; and all your days be filled with joy.

Nebraska Dave

Gardening in November 2017

Adventures of Old Nebraska Dave 

November finally brought the fall weather to Nebraska. The temps are 50s during the day and 20s during the night. The killing frost came about 2 1/2 weeks late. For a couple weeks, wind was the weather that kept me inside and not working on the garden cleanup. 

Terra Nova East side fence

This year has been the year of vandalism for the garden. Old rusty chicken wire might keep out rabbits and other creatures, but not so much 13-year-old boys roaming the neighborhood with nothing else to do. This is the second or maybe third time they have vandalized the garden.  Each time the escalation was a bit more than the last. They smashed up two of my big wooden tomato cages beyond repair, dumped over barrels off the mini water tower, and tore a big hole in the chicken wire fence. As I've said in the past, neighbors have taken over watching out for the garden as I live about 20 minutes away. Cops were called and the culprits were caught. I didn't press charges and hopefully this will be the end of damage from them. This area where the garden resides is not the best part of town and I expected a lot more than what I've had over the six years of gardening here.

So anyway, yesterday was a day of fence replacement. It really needed replacing, so the schedule was just stepped up a little sooner. I still have some work to be done on the roadside wooden fence. It's the section that the van smashed through about four years ago. I did my best to get put it all back together, but it just wasn't the same and is now falling apart in those sections. I'm hoping to get that repaired before the snow flies as well.

Bed 3 2017

This is Bed 3, where the green beans grew this year. I had in mind to let them mature after a couple of harvests to have dried beans for soups during the winter. It was such a weed mess due to garden neglect that I just weed-whacked down the whole mess and covered the bed with leaf yard waste from my front yard. Next spring all that cover will be buried at spade depth and the beds will be left bare during the spring season until planting time.

I've found that spring weed control is in three stages. First the early spring seeds sprout and cultivation is just easier without mulch on the soil. Then comes the grasses and finally the bind weed. So a good hula hoe, or some call it a stirrup hoe, on a bed without mulch only takes about 15 minutes to completely cultivate. The mulch is laid down right before planting with more layers as needed during the growing season.

I'm not sure how it happened, but if you look real close, you can see my ghost in the picture. I didn't realize that had happened until I got home and was downloading the pictures to my computer.  It looks pretty creepy to me.

Bed 4 2017

Yup, here's bed 4 with the frost killed eggplant, zucchini, and chard. The chard is still surviving but has a little bit of frost damage. One more good day of fence repair and cleanup will bring the formal part of the garden and fence repair for now to a finish for this year.

Garden View Fall 2017

Here's the garden view as of November 3, 2017. It's starting to look like a winter garden with slumbering raised beds and no green.

I guess it's time to fire up the basement microgreen project that uses the seed starting station. More on that later.

Have a great fall season and Thanksgiving Day.

Garden Harvesting and Winter Preparation

Adventures of Old Nebraska Dave

I'm not sure where this week went, but I only got to Terra Nova Gardens two days. One day was to fix fence, and the other was to remove all the tomatoes. It seems that something tore a huge hole through the fence. I kind of think that critter stood upright on two legs as there was evidence inside the fence that lead me to believe it was more than just curious neighborhood night critters. Barrels were turned over and things were out of order. The fence that was damaged was a 6-year-old chicken wire fence that needed to be replaced anyway; it was all rusty and crumbly. The chicken wire fence was replaced with a 5-foot steel welded fence with 2-by-4-inch openings. It's a better fence and should last longer.

Terra Nova Fence 2017

This looks like a squash graveyard. The idea when I built this slated wire trellis was to have the squash on the ground and the cucumbers that had been planted behind the squash would climb the trellis. The cucumbers did OK, but they stayed on the ground and the squash took over the trellis. Much to my surprise, the vine borer that kills any kind of vine plant never bothered the cucumbers or the squash. I'm not sure, but perhaps I've stumbled upon a way to confuse the little white moths that lay their eggs on the vine base and allow the their offspring to kill vine plants. I'll give it a try again next year to see if it was a fluke or really is a discovery. 

Squash Bed 2017

The potato crop was a great success this year. I suspect the crop produced somewhere in the vicinity of 50 pounds of potatoes from a patch that was 4-by-28 feet. This picture is just part of the harvest. It's inevitable to stick a few potatoes with the fork while digging them up; that produced 11 quarts of canned potatoes for winter soups. 

Potatoes in Storage 2017

This is the potato bed after the potatoes have been dug and the bed processed for winter. Now the last thing is to cover the bed with fall yard waste that contains leaves and grass mixture. The compost process begins over the winter, and next spring the fall yard waste is buried in the bed to continue to compost and feed the squash planted in this bed. My method of composting is called "direct composting" and the compost is just buried in the growing area instead of allowed to compost down in a pile.

Potato Bed 2017 a

This week will be to clean up the tomato bed and perhaps the green pepper bed. Those dang green peppers just won't quit this year. I'm sure I'll have another bucketful before the plants come out.  Last year I had beautiful plants but not a single pepper.  It sure is making up for it this year.  

Have a great garden week and enjoy the fall weather.

Garden summary

Adventures of Old Nebraska Dave 

The end of September and beginning of October was a busy time.  The garden kicked in and was producing an abundance even though it was neglected big time.

Victoria Dinner 1

Harvey came with devastating destruction. It's been a few years since I've gone on a crew to hurricane-damaged areas of the country. I couldn't pass up a chance to go to the Houston area with a chainsaw crew. This group is from the Southern Baptist Convention. On any given day, there was 80 to 90 men and women from all across the country. Crews were sent out each morning with work orders to complete. The orders might include covering a roof with a tarp, or cleaning out moldy, wet drywall, or cutting up fallen trees. There is still so much to clean up and repair even after a month has passed. As with any hurricane, the mosquito population booms and clouds of them roam the land looking for anything to provide their dinner. Fortunately, I'm not one that they seem to like much, but some on the team had to not go out because of being bitten all over their bodies. Mosquito repellent didn't seem to work too well.

It's always good to get together with like-minded folks and help those in need.

Potato Harvest 1

Potato harvest was great this year. I netted probably about 50 pounds of potatoes from a bed that was 4-by-28 feet. Most went right into the basement storage area and some were peeled and canned for soup-making during the dark winter months. The canned ones were ones that were stuck by the fork while digging. That amounted to about 11 quarts. 

Overall the garden did well this year. The tomatoes were a bust because of the mislabeled package. Rutgers tomatoes do not grow the size of a cherry and come in clusters. So I had 12 cherry tomato plants and no Rutgers. I was so disappointed. It's a good thing I have tomatoes from last year that will carry me over to next year. Never will I buy seeds from a big box store again. I learned that lesson the hard way.

As the garden winds down for this year, it's a sad but invigorating time. I'm sad that this year is almost over, but invigorated that the winter resting and planning season is about to begin. This year will be a year of growing microgreens in my seed-starting station. I have found that it's relatively easy to do. So even with the weather outside being frightful, I can still have a hand or two in the dirt.

In some ways it's been a long season, but it seemed to fly by fast. Always at the end of the year, I reflect on the year and surprise myself with how much was accomplished. This year was the same. Next year will be a year with more gardening and less building. All the garden beds are in place and all the fences have been secured, so most concentration can be given to just gardening. Garden projects are by no means finished, but the beds are done for now.  The automatic irrigation system will continue to be perfected both at Terra Nova Gardens and at Urban Ranch.

I hope all your garden experiences for this year were productive as well. Have a great fall season.

Harvesting, Cleaning up, and Watering

Adventures of Old Nebraska Dave 

Fall is definitely in the air. With the ending of summer activities and the start of school year, Terra Nova Gardens has been a bit neglected. It seems that always happens this time of the year. The harvest is past its peak and the plants are starting to become a little tired and worn down. The weeds, however, are not so ready to give up.

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This is what happens at my Terra Nova Gardens when I'm away for a couple weeks. OK, maybe a little longer.  It doesn't take long for nature to take over. I often wonder how long it would take for nature to completely undo what I've done and it seems to not be very long.

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A little work and a lot grunting and groaning with massive rest periods and large amounts of water consumption and it's finished. The carpet was actually under all those weeds. Carpet slows down the weed growth considerably but doesn't totally eliminate it. So, my method, as I've explained before, is to just turn the carpet over. It is a good way to smother the weeds and kill the roots. The carpet seems to last forever. The carpet you see here is probably three years old and still looks good. It was a good day's work. 

September harvest 2017b

This day's harvest was a wheelbarrow of green peppers, eggplant and zucchini.

Stuffed Peppers 2017

So, 22 stuffed peppers are now in the freezer with the rest of the peppers chopped, blanched, and frozen for adding to soups, scrambled eggs, or other tasty winter delights.

Watering 2017a

My search continues to find a better way to automatically water my bucket tomatoes. This the latest, but not the final, in a long line of summer experiments. It's a 2.5 gallon water dispenser that has the spout extended into the gutter. The dispenser is airtight so water will only drain out when the water level is low enough to allow a gulp of air to travel up the spout. The concept works great but the vacuum from the water flow has enough power to almost crush the water dispenser. I even tried a heavy-duty water dispenser but it was crushed as well. My next thought is to use the actual 5-gallon water cooler jugs designed for such pressure and fabricate a stand for them to set on. I'd like to have two of them per gutter and one less tomato bucket. The weight would be right around 90 pounds when two jugs are full of water, so a support under the gutter would need to be built. So the hunt for a semi-automated watering system continues. I'll let you know how it works out.

One Way to Rejuvinate a Garden Bed

Adventures of Old Nebraska Dave 

The official start of fall cleanup has begun at Terra Nova Gardens. Bed number 12 has been rejuvenated for winter rest. Bed 12 had the first harvest of sweet corn. Now it's on to beds number 10 and 11. They contain more spent corn stalks as well as cucumbers and squash. They are still producing abundantly, but I've got so much squash, eggplant, and cucumbers that I don't need any more.  No one really wants squash and eggplant. Next year I'm cutting back on those plants and planting just enough for my use.

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The first thing to do is remove all the corn stalks and other plant debris. I just threw it over the fence for now. When the time is right, I'll pile it all up in a compost pile for the winter. 

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Then I dig out a trench that's a spade's width wide and a spade's length deep. The dirt from this trench is put into a wheelbarrow for use on the last trench.

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Grass clippings are piled in the trench. These grass clippings come from my yard and my vacant lot, so I know there's been no chemicals used on them. The clippings are about as chemical free as they can be within a suburban and inner city environment.

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The second trench is dug right next to the first and the dirt is piled on top of the grass clippings in the first trench. More grass clippings are piled in the second trench and more dirt piled on top.  Then repeat, repeat, repeat, the process.

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When the last trench is dug and the grass clippings are piled in the trench, the dirt from the first trench, which is still in the wheelbarrow, is dumped into the trench. A light raking to smooth out the humps and bumps and the bed is completed. Only five more to go in this section of the garden.

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These are my next two beds to clean up and put to rest for the winter.  The cucumbers, squash, and sweet corn intermingled just as I wanted them to.  It must have totally confused the dreaded vine borer because I didn't see any damage from them. The victory over vine borer was a inundation of squash, cucumbers, and sweet corn. I have so much I don't know what to do with it all. I guess that's a great problem to have. I hope your garden is producing just as wonderful as mine. Next post will be about a new watering experiment. See you then.

Harvesting and Preserving

Adventures of Old Nebraska DaveOops, July is gone. I blinked a couple of times, and poof! It was over.

August is for harvesting. Cucumbers, squash, sweet corn, tomatoes, onions, cabbage, green beans, green peppers, and eggplant — the abundance is overwhelming. This is the time gardeners have worked for. Starting seeds, repotting, planting out, weeding, watering, and pruning was all for this time. Let the harvesting begin.

There's no other month like August. The fall sounds are becoming loud during the evening and night. Crickets chirping, locusts buzzing, and all the other night sounds are telling the gardener that it's time to start thinking about fall. Even the temperatures are entertaining fall. The nighttime temps here in Nebraska are in the upper 50s and 60s, while the daytime temps are in the 70s and lower 80s. It's quite a relief from the heated temperatures of July. Light rain showers have only caused the humidity to stay above 80 percent and have not really benefited the soil moisture much.

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As you can see, the cabbage has grown really well this year. It's now time to make some kraut, don't you think? Based on the articles I've read and the Mother Earth News sessions I've attended, making sauerkraut is relatively easy and it stores well. So, I'll be eating a lot of kraut this winter. I have some gallon glass jars I'll be using to make and store the kraut. It's not exactly the traditional crock method, but I'm sure it will be OK. 

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Well, it's amazing how much processed cabbage can be packed into a 2/3 gallon jar. I used three heads of cabbage to make this jar of kraut. Making sauerkraut is about as easy as it can get for preservation of a garden vegetable. The ingredients are cabbage and salt. The cabbage is just chopped up and sprinkled with salt, then packed into a non-plastic container. I use a zip-close bag filled with water to weight down the cabbage while it's fermenting. In about three weeks it will be kraut, but the longer I can wait before eating, the better it will be. Gardening and preserving require patience sometimes.

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This is one of many harvests to come. The dreaded vine borer didn't happen this year for some reason. I planted squash, cucumbers, and sweet corn all together. It became a tangled mess, but perhaps the vine borer was confused about which plant to attack and just gave up. The tangled web method seemed to benefit all three crops and production of all three was abundant. I have such a big harvest that I'm not sure what exactly to do with it. I will most likely give much of it away.

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There's the first of the preservation. Five quarts of pickles and seven quarts of green beans. I left the rest of the green beans to mature and dry out on the vines for dry beans to store for winter soups and such. The cucumbers were soaked in a salt brine for a week and then processed using Mrs. Wages Dill Pickle mix. The three week waiting period is just about up to sample the pickles to see if I want to make more. It's my second attempt at making pickles. The first attempt last year was OK, but I like crisp pickles and they were wimpy. The brine solution is supposed to make them crisp, so we will see. I might have to resort to the alum method if the brine method doesn't work. 

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Can you guess what's happening here? Every year a block party is planned for my neighborhood. Four years ago I made ice cream for my contribution. One taste of the real thing and everyone requested that I make it every year. I always tell them there is nothing in the ice cream that's good for you. It's filled with whole milk, sugar, condensed milk, and all real ingredients. It doesn't seem to matter, they eat it up just the same. My grandson made the comment, "Grandpa, it melts really fast." I responded, "It's supposed to melt like that. Store ice cream isn't real ice cream." The kid is getting a real education about food while living with old Grandpa. I haven't been able to get him interested in helping with gardening just yet. But, neither was I until I was in my 20s.

It's time to get back in the garden and find something else to preserve.

 See ya next time.