Wednesday, September 18, 2019

September 2019

September 11th 2019
Here we are in the middle of September. Time just seems to be traveling a break neck speed for me. Fall clean up continues. Those little nooks and crannies of the yard that get over grown every year have out done themselves once again. Even the tomatoes in the compost pile tried to take over the area. The thing about volunteer tomatoes is the season isn't long enough for them to produce much. The plants are very strong and robust but they are two months behind in growth compared to those started indoors. By the time they start producing the season is almost over. Well, that's how it works here in Nebraska anyway. 

Yard cleanup continues. I'm almost done with the backyard but the side yard needs attention as well. This year has been the worst year for out of control weeds. Time for me was premium for other things and weather conditions were very favorable for weed growth. The garden I did have got off to a slow start with cold weather continuing into June. Then it turned super hot with temps in the upper 90s every day for a couple weeks. Garden plants as well as people didn't know what to think. Starting about the middle of July things kind of leveled out and relatively mild weather was on tap for the last part of July and August normally our hottest months. Snow and rain has kept the moisture above normal all year.
There's a big cottonwood tree about 10 feet away from my picnic table at Terra Nova Gardens. It provides wonderful shade for the table but as you can see there's an issue with the tree. It's been pointed out several times that this is poison oak. I've not been bothered with it in the almost nine years of working at Terra Nova Gardens but others might so I have decided to tackle the death of poison oak. I don't like chemicals so my thought is to chop out a chunk of the main vine at the base and let it die on the tree. It has been symbiotic with this tree so long that some sections of the vine is buried in the tree. The tree has actually grown around the vine. So I'll dress up with old hat, face mask, long sleeve shirt, thick gloves, long pants, and old shoes to face the task of killing poison oak. Immediately after the deed is done, a total clothes change will happen. The old clothes will be bagged up and thrown out. When I was young, poison ivy didn't bother me but I've heard that as we age that could change so I'm not taking any chances.

This weekend is moving time for my youngest daughter. They are moving from apartment living to a modular home rental. One step closer to having their own home which is the ultimate goal. Fortunately she had hired movers for the big stuff. I really don't like to personally move but do like to help others move. I've lived in my present place 35 years and don't plan on moving any time soon. One positive thing I have noticed about moving is that it forces a cleansing of unused stuff. Lord knows that I have plenty of that hanging around. I am trying to get better at giving away or throwing away unused stuff.

I've begun the preserving of the tomato harvest. It's trickling in slowly. I've tried a new method of preserving this year. When I get a few tomatoes I chuck them up and throw them in the crockpot skins and all to simmer for a few hours. Then I put them in jars. The hot liquid will seal the jar for temporary storage in the refrigerator. When there's enough for a full canner of tomatoes (8 quarts), the tomatoes will be opened, heated up, and simmered again before putting in the Ball quart jars and canned in the bath canner. When ever I use tomatoes they are always blended so after all that processing, I'm thinking leaving the skins on won't be that much of an issue. It's a whole lot easier that skinning the tomatoes before canning. I have found my steel 10 quart pot that will heat of the tomatoes for the final canning. I was just outside for a watering spree and found that there are many more tomatoes to be processed. Yum!! It looks like there will be a lot of tomato based soups this winter. My favorite is chili. 👍 I'm waiting for a cool day to fire up the stove for canning tomatoes. It usually takes a couple hours to do a batch but it might be less since they only need heating up and put in the jars. It takes a long time to bring that big water bath canner up to boiling and keep it there for 30 to 40 minutes. Really all that's required is 10 minutes if the tomatoes are boiling hot but I like to error way over on the side of safety.


Wednesday September 18th
I helped with moving my daughter this last weekend and am now recovering from a back strain. I just don't learn and this is not the first time I've had to slow down and recover from a back strain. It usually goes away in a week or two. In the mean time things that need doing that are not getting done. I gives me a humbling perspective on what it's like for those that get laid up with injuries. 

Life goes on with taking care of the aging dog twice a day for my cousin, shopping for my Mother in law, getting my grandson home from school every day, and help my aging neighbor that can't drive get up to see his wife in the skilled nursing facility. Some say I try to do to much but I kind of like being on the go and staying busy. Some day I'll have to slow down but just not today.

So until the next time, I'll be cleaning up the garden in the backyard, canning up more tomatoes, mowing grass, and helping who I can with their needs. Have a great Fall. 

Nebraska Dave
Urban Farmer

Sunday, August 25, 2019

August Update

August Update
August is fast disappearing. The nights are cooling down and the days are very tolerable to be working outside in the garden and yard. The tomatoes are winding down and any thing that has flowers on it will be trimmed off to put the last thrust into the tomatoes already formed on the vines. It's been a fairly descent year for the backyard garden. Most of the big lush tomatoes have been picked and given away. Only small tomatoes are left to pick at eat or process.  I have processed three quarts of tomatoes to be used for soup. 

It seems that August is always yard cleanup. Even with the good intentions of Spring and a determination not to let the yard get out of hand, stuff happens. The mother in law's shoulder injury and the responsibility of helping her recover allowed two months of prime yard and garden time to be all but eliminated. So once again August has become a cleanup month. Oh, my mother in law has fully recovered from the injury and is back to her independent self once again. She's quite an amazing gal.

So far I'm up to 13 bags of yard waste that's come from back yard cleanup. I still have three areas to cleanup so there will be at least three more bags. Yes, it was in a really bad condition. Well, then there will be all the garden cleanup very soon. 

I haven't been to Terra Nova Gardens in two weeks. I would suppose it is just as bad as the back yard. There just wasn't any time this year to put into gardening there. Maybe next year. It is a disappointment for sure. There might be some onions and potatoes to harvest and maybe a tomato and bell pepper or two but mostly weeds abound once again.

I've been toying with the idea of planting a small fall garden. Not much just some radishes and maybe greens of some sort.


I was at the gas station; filled the car with gas; run through the car wash; and was just leaving the station when this happened. I didn't see it coming. A Chevrolet Avalanche backed up away from a gas pump and bashed me in the side. It made a loud racket and I was expecting it to be much worse. Still the estimate was $2200. Since the car is a 1997 with 110,000 miles, I'm expecting a settlement and no fixing of the car. I'm still going to fix it up. The car is in great shape and very clean with a lot of life left. It kind of sad that older cars are just written off even though they are a nice car. So now I get to go through the whole process of dealing with an insurance company and getting the car fixed. Oh, well, life goes on. Been there done that before.

I made it through another birthday without too much hula-ba-loo. I'm really not much for birthdays. After 72 birthdays it's not a big deal any more. It's just not the same as when I was 10. The only thing I have to say about birthdays is they just come too fast. They need to slow down a little. I am indeed thankful for good health, a goodly amount of energy, and a mind that still works …. well sort of. 😀

I hope everyone's having a great summer as Fall bears down on us. I saw a couple trees today that are already starting to turn colors. It seems a bit early but this year has been a strange weather year for sure.

Be well. God Bless. I'll catch up with you later.

Friday, August 2, 2019

August 2019

August 2019
My goodness the summer is almost gone. A lot has happened since May. The biggest event was my Mother in law falling and injuring her arm in the latter part of May. She is just now getting back to normal so the most important gardening months were off the grid. Since I'm the only relative she has, the responsibility of caring for her was mine alone. She cracked the ball in the right shoulder into three pieces. The good news is that she didn't require surgery. She didn't need to leave home. All the care for showers, therapy, and strength building was done at her apartment. After two months she's back to being as normal as she wants to be. Some things will never go back not because she can't do them but just because she doesn't want to do them any more. She's a tough old (92) gal but I can totally under stand not wanting to do every thing she did in the past. It's time to slow down and take life a little easier. So I'm the number one on the list speed call person for any thing she needs and it will most likely remain that way. I like helping her out. 


The poor man's patio has really put on a show this year. I plant it the same every year but this year it's really strutting its stuff.  This year I have close to 30 flower pots blooming. The front area on the ground was the spring flower bulbs which all die off during the summer leaving this area dull and drab. I decided to punch it up with flower pots that can be removed in the Fall to make way for the Spring bulbs to flaunt their colors next spring. It's a way to have it both ways Spring flowers and summer color. I'm going to have more flower pots to set around the property next year. I like the idea of moving the flowers around until it looks just right. I have in the past set up automatic watering but this year I didn't. I think I like the manual watering better. I get a better relationship with the plants. Every day or so I'm up close and personal with every one. When they were watered automatically, I just gave them a glance as I walked by but never really gave them an up close look. Maybe the special attention is why they are doing so good this year. 😊

This is what happens to a garden when it's neglected for two months. This is extremely embarrassing. There is a raised bed under all the growth. This August will be weed cleanup month for sure. It does clean up quickly as the roots of these weeds are in loose soil so a hefty tug and out they come in big clumps. I spent an afternoon for a couple days and filled up five yard waste bags of weed material. 

It's amazing what a little effort can accomplish. There's still much more to cleanup. I only planted one bed out of the four with a couple tomatoes and holly hocks and cosmos. The cement blocks were free and I have visions of replacing the rotting wood around the raised beds with the blocks. The wooden timbers lasted about 10 years but I'm trying to think ahead and not ever have to deal with rebuilding the beds again. I can't see myself in ten years in my 80s rebuilding raised beds again. It's a different kind of mentality when aging into the senior years. The thoughts gravitate toward, "How do I do this so I don't ever have to do it again in my life?"

Sadly I had to retire the old stock tank that stored my rain water that is caught from the roof of my house. Every year I had issues with leaks and it was just costing too much to patch it up every year so I bit the bullet and bought a nice shiny new one. So I won't ever have to do that again. 😃 As with all things, it was smaller than the old tank. I was thinking about that a few days ago and marveled at how society just excepts false advertising. Lumber comes to mind with a 2X4 that actually measures 1 1/2 by 3 1/2. Every one knows it and just excepts it. My water tank was advertised as a six foot tank and measures 5 foot 8 inches. The old tank was actually 6 foot. The old tank would hold 400 gallons of rain water but the new tank only 350 gallons of water. There's false advertising all around us but everyone knows it and just accepts it without question. When did that start? I did some research on the lumber and I might have known that in 1969 the U.S. Commerce department set the standard for a 2X4 as 1 1/2 by 3 1/2. It gave leeway to kiln drying shrinkage and smoothing the sides. I'm not sure why the water tank shrank though. There's no kiln drying or smoothing sides on galvanized metal.

I looked into painting the tank green and stenciling flowers on the sides. Because of galvanizing an oil film is put on the metal to help keep it from rusting. To paint the metal the film has to be removed with an ammonia soap solution, then rinsed thoroughly, then roughed up with sandpaper, and given a good coat of primer before painting. Wow, what a process. Yeah, I'm going have to think about that some. The fountain is active now to keep the water moving and mosquitoes from breeding and the top is covered with scrap wood to keep the sun from growing green slime. It's about 3/4 full and once again life is good in the world of catching rain water.
It's block party time again. Tomorrow the street will be blocked off and tables, chairs, and grills will be set up for all to enjoy each other's company. I made ice cream a few years ago and everyone demands that I make it every year now so as I'm writing this blog the ice cream freezer is grinding away outside my front door. I make two batches every year. One is vanilla and the other is chocolate. Vanilla always seems to be the biggest hit. The egg toss generates family competition as to who has bragging rights for the next year. I'm not too good at it and probably won't be doing it this year. My cataracts just don't leave me with very good depth perception.

>School starts soon so that will tighten up my schedule with a pickup from school for my Grandson every school day. My daughter has a work schedule that's either from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. or 2 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Neither of which allows her to pickup her son from school at 3 p.m. I guess that's what retired grand parents are for, don't you think? I don't mind. It gives me contact with him every day and Fridays are special with a treat from Dairy Queen on the way home from school to celebrate the end of the school week.

Here's to August and the waning days of summer gardens. Be safe and I'll have more for you later.

Nebraska Dave
Urban Farmer

Thursday, May 23, 2019

May Gardening
May has been quite the month. The weather has taken wild swings from 95 degree days to freezing nights. Hopefully now that the last frost date has passed, the weather will settle down into some warmer weather without the threat of frost, high winds, or hail. The topic of severe weather has been in almost every discussion between people lately.

The major accomplishment for May was the building of a raised bed for potatoes and onions. The sides are recycled pallets from a granite countertop company. A double layer of weed barrier was tacked to the back of the pallets then buried about ten inches into the ground. Garden cleanup waste and dirt were layered into the bed to fill it up. 
Apparently the potatoes like it. They jumped out of the ground in just a few days. I'm hoping for a good harvest. I'm not sure if I'll make another bed like this because it's uncertain just how long the sides will last before the need of replacement. I have been given a huge amount of concrete blocks which will make for much more longevity for raised beds. However these pallets make great looking fences.

I'm planning on more attention toward the backyard patio bucket garden this year. Right now there's tomatoes and bell peppers in the garden but cucumbers will be added real soon. 
The beauty about bucket gardens is that they can be some what mobile when needed. The threat of high wind and hail gave a new meaning to the term kitchen garden. Well, the severe weather didn't happen but it was nice to be able to safely bring the plants inside. They are once again back outside where they belong.

Lots of weed control has taken up most of the time at Terra Nova Gardens. My 400 gallon rain water tank in my backyard has sprung a leak and is now drained down. I've patched the problem area but now need to wait for the gooey roofing tar to set before filling the tank once again. It looks like the rain will be in abundance for at least another week so maybe next week I can start allowing the tank to fill up. It's a good time to clean up the inside of the tank and replace the cover while the tank is drained.

The first real harvest of the season, Yes, it's time to start eating the harvest of the backyard raised bed built last year. I was going to get some mowing done but it looks like another storm is bearing down on the area. Boy, it's a good thing I got the tank patched today and Terra Nova Garden trimmed yesterday. Weeds and grass absolutely jump out of the ground with this rain and now warm weather. 

I am going to work on raised beds and pathways at Terra Nova Gardens this year. The plan is for more construction and less gardening. Hopefully, I can get much done in the formal part of the garden. I have materials and now just have to do the work. It's going to be a good summer.

Be well and good fortune to all readers of this blog. What are your plans for the summer? Something fun, I hope.

Nebraska Dave 
Urban Farmer


Sunday, March 17, 2019

MARCH 2019  
March has been a challenge here in Nebraska. We were pounded with two snow storms and now we have flooding. We have had over 60 inches of snow this season which started the first part of November. That's over 35 inches above normal. Then bitter cold weather kept the snow piling up through January and February. Then with an excess of a foot of snow on the ground the rains came for three days and melted it way too fast. The rivers have overflowed. A dam broke which dumped a huge amount of water into a larger dam on the Missouri river which had to open the locks to release water. Now down stream from that dam is flooding. The snow melt hasn't begun in the higher level mountainous areas yet which will add to the problem. The governor of the state has declared a state emergency disaster. We have entire cities that have been evacuated because of rising water. I'm 100 feet above the flood stage where I live so it's safe thank goodness. I can deal with a little water seepage into the basement compared to an all out flood. Needless to say my heart goes out to those that have to deal with the flood waters. Water can be a most destructive force when out of control. 

TOMATOES, PEPPERS, LETTUCE, CABBAGE




The first of the seed starts have been transplanted into 8 ounce plastic cups. Here is 35 of the starts that are Super Beefsteak tomatoes. I've not grown these before but they seem to be doing well. With this volatility and unpredictability of the Spring weather this year, I'm doing extra plantings of the same vegetables at different times to be able to plant outside at the right time. I'm also planning to have extra plants for each planting in case the late Spring weather brings any high winds or hail. It's shaping up to be a very challenging year for gardening in Nebraska. In another week or two these plants will be transplanted into their final cups which are 32 ounce cottage cheese containers. Each time the plants are buried up to the first set of leaves so by the time the plants are set out in the garden they will have a sizable root system.

Here's another view of the Super Beefsteak tomatoes. Some of these will be going into my patio bucket garden this year. I have plans for a 21 bucket garden with 14 tomatoes and 7 bell peppers being grown in them. I'm hoping to get an automatic watering system built that will be gravity fed. I'm not sure if I'll get that done because there are many other projects that need attention as well.


This is a crop of lettuce, bell peppers, and one lonely cabbage plant. The lettuce will be harvested soon for salad as a micro greens dish. More planting will follow before actually being able to plant outside. This is about a four week growth.

The California Wonder Bell peppers are always difficult for me to get started. I planted some in the traditional way by putting the seeds in the soil but after three weeks I decided to try a new method. I put the seeds on a damp paper towel and sealed them into a Ziplock bag. The seeds sprouted in about 10 days. I carefully planted the sprouting seeds into these seed trays and in five days they were up and growing. This picture was about two weeks after that. They are doing the really well. The traditionally planted seed have yet to make an appearance after five weeks. I'm thinking they're not going to sprout. The seeds came from the same package. In a couple more weeks these pepper plants will be transplanted into the 8 ounce cups. They probably won't have to be transplanted again before putting out in the buckets.

I had an old package of cabbage seed that I decided to just dump the entire 200 seeds into a tray and see what happened. Yeah, one lonely cabbage plant came up and I think there might be another that can be transplanted. I guess I'll be getting some fresh seed to plant for cabbage this year.


My tired backyard some what raised beds were made from landscaping timbers about a decade ago and are deteriorating. At this point in my life I always consider how I can build things to never have to do it again because in ten years I may not be able to do it. So here's solution to that issue. This should out last me. I only have three more to go. These blocks are just loose fitted together in case some time in the future I decide to change things or eliminate things. This bed was layered full of yard waste and dirt. It will be interesting to see how things grow in it this year. This is about a four foot by 8 foot bed. Surprisingly the cost was under $50 to build it. Well, maybe a little more because I had some old blocks that I put to use. I'm not sure what will be planted in here just yet.
 
I'm just glad to see the weather warming up. The trees are starting to bud and the daffodils are coming up so Spring is finally here. Now if I could just see a Robin I would know that all is well with Spring weather.
 
I hope and pray that you are all well, dry, and ready to enjoy Spring.
 
Nebraska Dave
Urban Farmer



Sunday, February 24, 2019

FEBRUARY 2019  
February has definitely been Winter weather. We now have over 53 inches of snow this season which is 32 inches above normal. The soil temperature remains at 30 degrees at four inches and varies between 28 and 32 degrees. Snow seems to keep the soil warmer than bare soil. This weekend was a 9.5 inch snow weekend. Of course it started with rain, then freezing rain, then the snow. I'm still smiling about the nitrogen rich moisture. I just wish I could store it up for summer use. Maybe I should start filling up my water storage tank with snow so this Spring as it melts I could have some super charged water. Hmmmm, I'll have to think about that. Nah, too much work and Spring rain has just as much nitrogen and will fill the tank much easier.

GARDENING YEAR HAS STARTED




The seed starts are off to a good start. This is lettuce and tomatoes. Yes, it's way too early for tomatoes but I just couldn't help myself. I will try real hard to save at least seven tomato plants for the five gallon buckets. The rest will be put in large pots in to keep in case foul weather continues to plague the gardening year. The last couple years a devastating hail and wind storm hit the area at the end of May. It was a good thing I held back some plants for just an occasion as that. Alas, the garden was overcome by nature's relentless weed brigade. This will be a better year. I have a plan and I won't be leaving on a vacation right when I should be working in the garden. Last year it was one thing after another that kept me away from the garden until it was beyond any hope of getting back under control. This year the day will begin at 5:30a.m. in the garden. That way I'll get at least three hours of time in the garden before other responsibilities of the day begin.
There's no sign of life for the peppers and onions yet but those seeds were a couple years old and might not germinate too good. I started some pepper seeds by putting them on a damp paper towel inside a Ziploc bag to help them germinate faster. That was a couple days ago and there's no sign of life there just yet but I'm guessing it will be a week to 10 days before I see any thing there.



I'm going to get into flowers this year. I've not had very good luck with flowers from seed so this will be a big challenge. Hollyhocks remind me of my Grandma Potter. She always had a lot of Hollyhocks beside her farm house. I always did like them when I spent summers on the farm. Cosmos was given to me by a friend who got them out of a Cheerios box. She wants me to grow some for her. I don't know any thing about Cosmos so this a totally new territory for me. 

I started the cabbage today and accidently dumped the whole package in this container. Yeah, 300 seeds. It will be interesting what actually happens here. It might just end up being micro greens in a salad. I really do want more sauerkraut this year. It's so easy to make and is so good for a body. Fermentation super charges all the nutrients in a vegetable. Pickling and fermentation are wonderful ways to preserve things that I'm just beginning to understand.

Well, time to end this post and kick back and relax. Who knows what tomorrow will bring. What ever it is, it will certainly be an exciting adventure for sure.

Nebraska Dave
Urban Farmer



Monday, February 18, 2019

February Marchs On
February is fast headed toward March. One wouldn't think that Spring is near with the continuous snow storms that pound the Midwest and the bitter cold temperatures that are keeping us in the deep freeze. As for me, I just keep smiling about the piles of nitrogen rich snow that I see in my yard and gardens. I get a bigger smile when I think about another bug that froze to death along with all the bug eggs. So free fertilizer and less bugs is not such a bad trade off for snow and cold, don't you think? When the forecasters predict more snow with bitter cold temperatures, I just smile make another cup of hot tea to enjoy knowing that Spring and Summer gardening will reap nice benefits from it all. 
Yea, the floor is finally done. It's been a long project that was started last March. I'm just amazed at how well it looks compared to the old floor. With all the kids grown and gone and very little traffic on the floor it should last longer than me. Well, that's what I'm hoping any way. 
Ok, this is the next project and hopefully it won't take a year to get it done. Although there is much prep work before the paint goes on. It's been neglected for almost 35 years. Wow, have I really lived here that long. It's time for a new look. As I studied my house for improvements, I discovered that
yellow was the color of every room. Well except for the bedrooms that I've already painted. I'm really tired of yellow. This wall will be Heavenly Blue. Yes, it's a darker color than this yellow color but I like it. Well, and I just love the name. Right after I decided on the color to paint the wall, I was driving down the I-680 bypass coming home and in the sky I saw my Heavenly Blue color. I now know where the name came from. I like it even more now.
I built another new seed starting station. This should be the last one that I build. It's a full eight feet long and has the potential of 588 seed starts per shelf. Three shelves with be used for seed starts but for this year probably only one will be used. I will have to buy more lights and bulbs which is a major cost for me. I'll have to scout the ReStore and see if I can find some cheap light fixtures. It's not all that pretty but it is very functional. The hardest part of building the structure was to get the shelves perfectly level in two directions. Side to side and front to back leveling took some time and effort to accomplish. I like to bottom water when I start seeds and when watering transplants. To do that the trays must be perfectly level in both directions so the water will be evenly distributed in the tray. It was a tedious job but the water test in the trays proved that the job was well done.

There's not much else going one here unless you want to grab a shovel and help me move some snow. There's a possibility of 4 to 8 more inches on the way. Do you see me smiling? Well, I am. More nitrogen on the way.

Be well, stay warm, and have a great time of anticipating the coming of Spring and starting the garden.

Nebraska Dave
Urban Farmer