Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Preserving the harvest

I tried my best to give away all the produce that I could but still I had much left to preserve. I had doubts about whether I could remember how to use the canning equipment and if the proceedures had changed any since I last canned 20 some years ago. I aquired all the stuff to can and set out to try something not so hard which was just tomatoes for winter soups. This progressed into full soup production as you see in the above picture. When meat is involved in soup, pressure canning must be the only canning proceedure allowed.
Here we are locked and loaded and ready to apply heat which will begin the process of pressure canning. After about 90 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure the soups ready to be removed from the canner. This year I have preserved many quarts of vegetable beef soup and straight up tomatoes. Next year I might get into pickles and jellies. It's hard to say what will come out of Old Dave's garden. For this year the garden is pretty much done and the planning of next year's garden begins.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

It sure feels a lot like Winter!!

With the wonderful snow we had here it knocked down all the leaves from my front yard tree. Of course the Sickamore tree will dribble all Winter and half the Spring just because it can. So I don't worry about the leaves on that tree. They fall when they fall. I had a nice tidy yard last Friday but things happened over the weekend. Old Chomper my lawn mower didn't want to come out of the shed and start. He kept saying that it wasn't his job to deal with cold and snow. He told me to go wake up Stormie, my snow blower, cause that's what she likes. However with a little coaxing he decided to come to life and help with the munching of the leaves for the compost pile.
A total yard rake down was necessary to get all the leaves, sticks, bottle caps, and other assorted things left from a summer frolicking through the yard. It went faster than I anticipated and in just a little over a couple hours the deed was completed.

I'm still piling the yard waste stuff on the garden beds with a hopeful idea the it will be composted enough over the Winter to turn under and make wonderful growing medium for the vegetables. I'm in the stages of considering just what kind of plants to grow next year. I've been taking a poll of the neighbors around me and so far tomatoes and cucumbers are ahead by a long way. I am considering cucumbers and possibly some pickle making next year. A friend says it's easy because Walmart sells pickles in a package. All one has to do is mix up the package in some vinegar, slice up the cukes, and pack them in the jars. You really don't even have to can them if you don't want too. She just let them marinate the designated time and ate them right away. She gave me a jar and they are delicious. It can't get any easier than that.

Well, cleaned up for now. There's still a bunch of leaves on the trees around the neighborhood so I expect in another week or so I'll be dragging old Chomper back out of the shed kicking and being his grumpy self. But for now I can kick back brew up a cup of coffee and sit out on the Poor Man's patio and enjoy the nice fall weather. I love this retirement stuff.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Winter comes just a little early

Oh my word, I awoke today on October 10th and what an amazing sight I did see. Just yesterday I was sitting out on the front patio sipping a cup of coffee, basking in the sunshine, watching the neighbors come home from work. Life was good. Today I wake up to a Courier and Ive's painting. It's a beautiful sight, but I just wish it was a little closer to Christms before the winter snows begin.

Building Continues

To hold the plant support structure steady, braces are here being cut. They are screwed into the uprights and into the land scape timbers. It took a few more 2X2s then I expected. I started with 16 thinking that would be enough for two, but I neglected to take into account the bracing that was needed. When the structure was all finished it actually took about 12 instead of the 8 that I had calulated.
The last round of timbers were attached after the uprights were in place and relatively vertical. The squaring up process came after the cross pieces were in place and before the bracing began. It all came together quite nicely.

Finally the project was finished. The compst material taken from mowing the yard a couple days earlier has been spread in the beds waiting for the winter weather to turn it into mush. In the spring the compost will be turned under in preparation for planting. Now that all the fall work is completed planning for Spring will begin. I usually get my first garden seed catalog right around Christmas time. It's always such a joy to be able to start thinking about Spring after the holiday bustle is over.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Building Building Building

I've been sawing and building the day way. I had some issues along the way.

Three beds will be the limit for this year. I'll have to plan the beds and then hope to just rotate them from year to year with adjustments of course.

As you can see I've made concrete patio walk ways between the beds. I thought about just having grass then decided to use the patio blocks I've had setting around the place for some years. It just seemed like a good use for them.

I've started building the 8 foot support stucture on the middle bed. That's where the tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, and beans will go next Spring. In the right bed I want to grow potatoes because I do like and eat a lot of potatoes. In the left bed I want to put the salad stuff. As of now it will be lettuce, onions, chard, carrots, and maybe a couple peppers. At this point all this is just bouncing around in my head. I'll need to get serious about planning the beds when the holidays are over and the first seed catalog arrives. That's always a good indicator that it's time to start seriously planning the Spring time garden.

I struggled a bit with the drilling of the holes for the spikes that hold the land scaping timbers together. My old 40 year old drill just quit right in the middle of hole drilling. The cordless drill just didn't have enough grit to drill the half inch holes in the timbers. I'll either have to figure out what is the matter with the old drill or go buy a new one. I'm seriously leaning toward a new one. I think 40 yeas of service is a goodly amount for a drill. If the next one lasts that long it will become an inheritance for one of the kids.

Tomorrow is supposed to be another good day so hopefully I can get the rest done and settle down for a long winter's nap.

Monday, October 5, 2009

More materials

Well as you can see there's more materials for the support structure and more timbers for the beds, but not much more work completed. Today was a dreary day with a threat of rain. The choice was mow the grass which was much needed or work on the garden beds. Since the grass was about two weeks over due and soon to become a back yard wild life habitat, mowing the grass was the choice made. After the lawn was mowed I decided to make a run to my second favorite store, Lowe's, and pick up the rest of the materials to build the three garden beds. Of course a stop at Border's book store for a cup of coffee and a leisurely hour spent reading magazines I'm too cheap to buy was in order on the way home.

Here you can see my composting bins. As you can see the lawn debris fell into two catagories. On the left was the green back yard clippings without much leaf mulch. On the right was the front yard almost completely leaf mulch. Some review is needed before mixing the two together. I seem to remember there is a ratio of green to brown in a compost pile. I'll mix the two and pile it upon the garden beds for the winter. By Spring the mix should be quite composted and ready for growing veggies.
By the end of the week the beds should be made and the support structures built. Ok, well, let's wait and see what happens.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Beginning Garden Tour

This is the beginning of the tour. It's a extremely fall looking view of the front of the house which has the backyard which has the start of the bio intensive urban garden. It's just your typical 40 year old neighborhood house with a average lot size of 50 foot wide by 100 foot deep. So let's walk around the side of the house toward the backyard.
This is the way to the backyard. Through the chain link fence gate which is typical for the 60s built house. Along the way you can see the very spent Iris that will become either compost or yard waste in the near future. It still needs a little tidying up which is for another day. Let's get through the gate and around the corner to see the site for the garden.
You can see the garden plot way off in the distance beside the bush on the left side. As you can see what's supposed to be the backyard patio has become the storeage place for the building materials for other yard projects. These materials have accumulated over the last couple years from projects for other people. I have a side yard that looks like a construction site but has just about enough materials to complete the side patio next year. I have no lack of project ideas to keep me busy for a long time. Now if I could just concintrate of my projects instead of helping with other people's projects. Oh well it's just in my nature to help others first and then if there's time do my own projects.
Finally we come to the project at hand. The mission as I have chosen to accept is to build three 4X8 foot garden beds. The one on the right has been designated a garden area for 20 some years, but has only actually grown vegetables a couple years at the first building of the bed and the last two years. The other 15 plus years it was a wild life habitat that grew many species of insects and weeds. Originally, this area was double dug and enriched with peat and compost. I can't remember what I grew there but I think I covered the area with lawn clippings. The lawn clipping fresh from the yard idea didn't work to well as it heated up, packed down, and got moldy within a couple weeks. It really needs to be composted first. This first bed orginally started with two layers of landscaping timbers and this fall I decided to add another layer so as it stands now it's three layers high. That's about 10 inches of depth from ground level. As I mow the yard the last time this year, I plan on bagging the grass leaf mixture and dumping it in the eventual three beds that will all be three layers high. I'm hoping this will give the mixture a chance to compost down over the winter. Next spring I will double dig the new beds and fluff up the old bed and give the top a good spread of more compost to retain moisture and inhibit weed growth.

The long skinny poles on the path between the beds will be used to build the support for the vertical growth on the new bed on the left. Rough plans for this area will be to plant tomatoes, pole beans, and cucumbers. These plans are all up to change.

It's been kind of yucky weather with misty rain and high winds the last couple days which prevented me from working in the garden or yard much.

That's it for today. I hope to have more completed in a couple days.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

First Garden Post

This will be the first of many posts to track the escapades of Old Dave as he tip toes through the tulips to the bio intensive backyard urban garden. What you may ask is a bio intensive backyard urban garden? It is a intensive gardening method that is catching on in small city backyards or vacant areas within the cities. This method uses vertical growing techniques that require building supports for vegetables to be trained to grow up instead of letting them sprawl on the ground. The above picture is obviously not my backyard but it gives a look at what bio intensive gardening is all about. This is a picture of a Pasadena California backyard that feeds a family of 4 from about 1/3 acre. They have been at the back yard gardening for 15 years so I have a ways to go. For those of you old enough to remember it's kind of like the World War II victory garden on steroids.

The patio main picture is actually my front patio that I build last year and certainly enjoyed this year. I call it the poor man's living patio because the bricks are really not bricks but a colored concrete patio block made to look like bricks. It's way cheaper than actual bricks and doesn't look really too bad.

So off we go on the gardening adventure in Old Dave's backyard. It will be a wonderful trip with planning, digging, building, planting, watering, growing, feeding, harvesting and preserving.