Monday, December 27, 2010

Cleaning out the Storage area

Two loads to the dump and a pile of rubble in the basement corner later, phase one, the cleaning of the storage area has been completed. Bradley, my six year old grandson, helped with the cleaning. Of course there were treasures galore to be found in the deep dark confines of grandpa's basement shelves. It's the first time he was allowed in the basement and he was like a kid on steroids. Everything was a facination. He finally went into overload and had to go back upstairs for a time to recover. If it was up to him everything in the basement would be in the living room.
One of the treasures on the shelves was my original BB gun. I saved up $15.00 for this weapon with my $.35 a week allowance for chores around the house. I only shot squirrels and birds. However it didn't have enough power to hurt anything and had such a slow velocity that the BB could be followed through the air as it flew to the target. If I should hit a squirrel or bird, they would shake their body or fluff their feathers and scamper or fly away. It was the most marvelous thing I owned at the time which was at the age of nine years old. Ah, yeah, sorry about the rubble in the background but it will be leaving the premises soon.
Here's my meager stash for this year. Not much to brag about but it is a start. One step toward a food storage area filled with harvest or locally grown food. You can even see a bottle of home made wine from 35 years ago way back in the corner. I'm afraid to open the bottle for fear of what exactly I will find. It's the last of many bottles brewed way back in the early 1970s.

I will be putting the new wall on the left side of the steel beam. Anyone see an issue with that? Yup, that's right the shelf structure is a bit too long. One of my many changes will be the shortening of the shelf structure. The old Black and Decker saw will have to rip off a end section but first I'm thinking that I really need to install a ceiling light with a switch first. Insulation and drywall on the ceiling will come next. My plan is to start at the top and work my way down to the floor.

And so the project begins, where it will end no one knows but it will be an interesting journey. Tag along and see what happens in the dark depths of the Urban Ranch basement.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Beginning Winter Projects

When my wife Dottie died over nine years ago, entire rooms of the house were chock full of good stuff. You know the stuff that's just too good to throw away but you don't quite know when if ever you will use it but just know that if you throw it away that the very next week you will want to use it kind of stuff. Yeah, well as I plowed through the house room by room sorting through what to keep, what to throw and don't know piles, the don't know pile got scuttled away into the basement area. That area became the storage pit from hell. In fact my daughter Lydia will not go down there because in her words "It's just too scary." (Big Sigh) I suppose it's time to begin reclaiming the basement. I know it will be a multi year project but will be definitely worth the effort. Anyway the above picture is the area where I want to put my storage area. It will be a challange just to clean out the area. All the shelves need to come out.

Hopefully by spring this area will look quite different. The only light in this area is a ceiling light with a pull string to turn it on and off. My plan is to wire in another light in the storage area with a light switch that controls both the furnace room light and the storage room light. A wall will be built across the front of this open area with a doorway into the storage area. The two inside walls and the ceiling will be heavily insulated to keep the basement heat from entering into the storage area. drywall will cover up the walls and keep the insulation in place. It's a big project but what is there to do when the weather outside is frightful. Hopefully closing this area off and having two outside block walls will keep the area at a cool 45 to 50 degree temperature. Well, that's the plan anyway.

So stay tuned and see mishap adventures of Old Nebraska Dave as he attempts of build a basement storage area.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Cleaning up the garden

Has it really been that long since I've made a blog entry. The month of October was a busy month. November has started out the same way. This post will be about the cleaning up of the wonderful garden that grew this year. Due to a couple of killing frosts the garden is definitely done for this year.

As you can see the garden is quite dead. I'm trying to hack down the tomatoes that produced abundently this year. I planted just plain old Rutgers. They performed wonderful well. I have no idea how many pounds of tomatoes I harvested but it kept neighbors, relatives, and friends supplied all summer with some left for me. It was quite a marvel to watch the harvest just keep on coming long after others had given up.

This last harvest of ripe tomatoes was on November 8th. This was a full two weeks after what should have been the first frost date. The first frost didn't come until November 10th this year. Even though the vines were shriveled and dried out ripe tomatoes hung on them. The vines were still loaded with green tomatoes.

The last of the harvest of green tomatoes, potatoes, and green peppers. There was a harvest of onions later as well. Over all this year was pest free, disease free, and varmint free. While others were plaqued with bugs, disease, and critters, my plants weren't bothered by any of these things.

You can see the load of green tomatoes still on the vines. I didn't really have time to do anything with them this year, but next year I will be prepared to use up the green harvest as well as the last of the ripe harvest. This day of putting the garden to bed was a perfect day with sunshine and warm weather.

There's nothing like a good cup of coffee after a day of garden cleanup. It just soothes the soul to sit and enjoy the sounds, smells, and wild life activity.

Have a great day

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Time for new Garden Beds

It's time to expand the garden by three beds. A quick, well not so quick, trip to Lowe's to get timbers for the beds. The timber pile was pretty well picked over for the entire summer. It took about an hour to come up with 27 useable timbers. The first thing is to mow down the grass. I'm not one to scrape the grass off the beds but instead I just cover them up with yard waste and compost in the spring.

It always seems that things pop up unexpectedly. Hauling patio blocks from the side yard to the backyard to build the path between the beds, one of those unexpected things happened. After piling the wheel barrow full of patio blocks I discovered that the tire was low. It was so low I feared the tire would lose all the air.

Well, I turned to the old school air compressor. Yeah, I know I'm a pretty old guy. It still works. I pumped up the tire in good shape and continued on my way to the back yard with the load.

Finally the path is laid block by block. Not too challenging yet. Still just putting the blocks on top of the grass. Does the grass grow up through the cracks? Of course it does, but a quick buzz with the weed wacker when mowing the grass takes care of the grass issue. It's really not that much of a problem.

First path done and now on with the building of the actual beds. There will be three more all together. You can see that the onion patch has turned to weeds while I was gone on the last trip.

Twenty seven timbers from the truck to the back yard was a task for sure. Fourteen trips later the task was done and it was time for a break. Twenty seven cuts later all the timbers are cut and ready for building the beds.

Ah, yes coffee is always a refreshing drink for breaks. As you can see the grass has grown as well during my absence. I really want to finish up the garden beds to be able to put the grass-fallen leaf mixture into the beds as a first layer of fall compost. By next spring this mixture will be reduced to a layer of half composted material.
That's it for day one of building the expanded garden beds. Tomorrow is another day. With all the timbers cut the building actually begins.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Finished Garden Expansion

The expansion is complete. I had hoped for three more beds but only two beds would fit in the area to the water tank. I have enough timbers for another bed but that will have to wait until next year. Tomorrow I will be mowing the long overdue yard and with leaves mixed with the grass it will make for a great thing to fill the beds. Much more leaf mulch will go into these beds including the old beds. This will bring my total beds up to five.

Next year I'll have a full bed devoted to tomatoes, one for cucumbers, one for potatoes, and one for bell peppers. The last bed is undecided yet but will most likely start with lettuce and radishes. I like the white icicle ones that are a tad bit hotter than the red balls.

I really need to learn how to make pickles as Bradley, my grandson, will consume a half gallon pickle jar every couple weeks. What a kid. He eats pickles with everything.

As you can see the garden still has a little life left in it. The tomatoes have slowed down greatly and so have the bell peppers. The potatoes are from one plant with many others waiting to be explored. The onions are a mystery to me. They grew well after first being planted. Then after a couple months the tops died out and they were dormant all summer. About the middle of August they came back to life and are growing again. I'm not quite sure how that works but I'm waiting to pull them up after the first frost which is normally about October 15 which is just a couple weeks away. It's been a great year for gardening and I'm looking forward to a long winter's nap and planning for next year's garden.
This winter I really want to get started working on my storage area in the basement. Next year I plan on storing a lot more than last year. This year I didn't store anything and gave most of the produce away to friends and neighbors.
Happy harvesting to all and to all a good night.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Gravity Watering System comes online

The gravity feed watering system came online August 10th and is functioning wonderfully well. I finished the connections and filled up the main supply tank a couple days earlier to make sure the tank was going to hold water. The patch performed perfectly and the tank only had one minor leak in another area that was not of concern until I drain the system for the Winter. Phase one has been a complete success. One full tank will water the plants that I have now for two to three weeks. Each plant gets a gallon of water supplied to the roots as you will see in the following pictures and explanation.

Coming out of the main supply tank I connected a shut all valve to the drain plug hole. The one thing that I wanted in this system was to be able to shut off the water anywhere in the system to be able to work on the different parts. Maybe I overkilled a little but the many shut off valves will be quite handy.

The hose connection follows the fence line through the three weeks of weed growth to the secondary supply tank. I found that water volume is needed for gravity watering to work.

The connection to the secondary tank is to the PCV valves with special hose thread connections. I discovered that the hose threads are different than pipe threads. I've yet to find a converter to go from one to the other, but have master minded ways to get around the differences. In the PCV world threads to fit a hose are called MHT (don't know what it stands for) and threads to fit pipes are call MPT (again don't know what it stands for). Much trial and error fittings were assembled at the Lowes store to come up with a workable solution. Alas the answer came forth. Persistance at the Lowes store always nets the answer.

If you look close you will see the difference in color on the 2x2 strapped to the secondary tank. This 2x2 has been dunked in a hole in the top of the tank and the bottom darker color is wet from water in the tank. It gives and indication of how full the tank is. Water will seek its own level and in this case the water level in the black secondary tank is at the same level as the water in the main tank in the first picture. I raised the tank up off the ground so the water level would be the same as the main tank when it was full. This tank holds about 30 gallons and on it own would water one bed three times.

The gray box on the right is the heart of the whole system. It is an automatic timer that turns the water on and off at designated times. In the heat of the summer I have the timer set for 6am to turn on for five minutes. In that time enough water will run into the final distribution tank to water 4 tomato plants and 4 cucumber plants with one gallon of water for each plant.

This is the final distribution tank. It's a 3 inch PCV pipe with holes drilled to glue drip irrigation connectors in the holes. The hoses are the hoses for the drip irrigation. This tank has been made for the bed with the four tomato plants and the four cucumber plants. One hose for each plant will be positioned at the root base of the plant.

This is a look at the distribution tank in position cradled in the holes of two up right concrete blocks with a slight slope to the opposite end of the tank. There are two hoses in each distribution tank. One is for the water to enter the tank when the timer turns on the water flow and the other is a air drain hose to allow the distribution tank to drain after the timer shuts off the water flow. The end not connected to the tank needs to be positioned higher than the water level of the secondary tank to keep the water from bubbling out the end of the hose.

It all seems to work good for now. I just got back from a two week trip and everything looks to be in good watered condition. This is another picture of the hoses going into the distribution tank.

The end of the hoses that actually water the plants are held in position by pinch clothes pins. It's the best thing I've found to hold the hoses in the right place and not squish the hose.

It's been a summer project that took a while to get put together. It was kind of a design as I worked kind of project. When I needed to go to the next step the idea for that step just came into my mind. It was kind of fun to see things come together at the end.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Here's the final patch
Here's the final patch for the outside of the tank. It's been sealed around the seams with solder and with silicone adhesive sealant. It looks to be a sound patch after left to cure for two days.

Here's a look at the inside patch. I wandered around the Lowe's store looking for a rubber material to use for an inside patch. I finally came across a two inch rubber discharge hose for some use in plumbing. I used three pieces split length wise and glued flat on the inside of the tank with the silicone adhesive sealant. The pop rivets that stuck out through the rubber were covered in silicone as well to keep the seal. I have to build a stand pipe to keep the bottom sediment from getting sucked into the rest of the system. Then I'll fill the tank and get the whole system up and working. That's the plan anyway.

It's been a long process and I'm getting excited to actually see some of the system working and being so close to have the entire system functional. It's a long way from May when I started working on the whole thing. Many changes and many improvements along the way has made this a interesting and challanging project for sure.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Patching the Main Supply Tank

Here I am making a patch out of a trash can lid. I don't know where the can went. The last storm during the 70 MPH wind it left the property never to be seen again. So if you happen to see a metal trash can without a lid whiz past you it came for Old Dave's place and you can just keep it if you want.

Yep, there's the hole in all it's glory. You can see where old Sparky my welder was just too powerful and blew the hole bigger instead of fixing it. Who knew that the metal in a horse tank was so thin. I thought it would be thicker but not so.

First holes have to be drilled to the size of the pop rivets used to attach the metal patch to the tank.

Pop rivets are the best for patching stuff. Nice and snug will definitely do the trick for patching this leak. On the inside of the tank a pool liner covered with silicone adhesive will cover the same area. With the weight of the water pushing against the patch I expect it will seal up the seam quite nicely.

Now with the plumber's torch and a little solder to seal up the seams the patch will be almost complete. When the second patch has been attached in the same manner the soldered seams will be covered with silicone adhesive and the outside patch will be completed.

Well, there it is. One patch completed. She's not too pretty but I betcha it won't leak. It will eventually be covered up by nice retaining wall blocks anyway. All I care about is stopping the leak. Now just one more patch a little silicone adhesive some pool liner and this tub will be ready to hold water. The final element in the water system is nearing completion.

Well that's it for this time. Hope to see you back soon. Leave me a comment and let know what you think of the wild and crazy project of Old Nebraska Dave and his unique gardening techniques.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Cucumbers, Tomatoes, and Fallen Branches Oh My

A little storm blew through a couple days ago and left a little deposit on my driveway. This branch came from Old Sic the Sycamore tree. It was hanging out over my bedroom roof when it broke off. Some how it made it way down from it's high above loft to my driveway without touching the house, trellis, or any of the plants on the patio. That's a real miracle.

The garden is growing by leaps and bounds this year. I have potatoes on the right, cucumbers and tomatoes in the middle, and onions and bell peppers on the left. The cucumbers are beginning to produce and I expect an abundance of produce real soon. The bell peppers are growing in size and will soon be harvested.

As I said the cukes are coming in. This is the first of the harvest. I have harvested a total of 10 so far with much more on the way. When the neighbors get sick of cucumbers maybe I'll try my hand at making pickles. I bought a bag of pickling spice at Walmart but good Lord 7 cups of sugar seems like a lot to me. I think I might get a different recipe.

The tomatoes are just not turning yet. I have a great flurry of blooms and a few green tomatoes but haven't harvested any red tomatoes yet. I am waiting for that first bite into the red juicy globes. The summer heat won't seem so bad if I can have a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich or two .... or three.

Leave me a comment about how your garden grows. I am thrilled to hear about all gardening successes.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Gravity Feed Watering System Distribution Tank

I'm back working on the distribution tank again. The input and vent tube are glued and ready to be used. Today I'm drilling the actual holes for the final delivery tubes. These are nothing more than 1/4 inch drip connectors which will have 1/4 inch drip hoses connected to them. In the working state these hoses will just be an open hose placed at the roots of the plant to be watered.

Here I'm testing the distribution tank. I filled up the tank with water and all four of the newly inserted connectors dribbled water for about 5 minutes. I will have to test the flow rate before actually putting the system in service to see how long I need to set the timer to get the right amount of water to the roots of each plant. Some things can be trial and error and others will be caculations of volume and flow rate. I knew that High School Algebra would come in handy some day. Right I didn't remember it either. The internet is a wonderful thing. Ask for a conversion and up it pops with the formula. why didn't I have that when I was in High School.

If you look real hard you can see the water running out of the final tube connections. In the final state there will be tubes connected to these connectors to direct the water where it needs to go. So far everything seems to be coming together. Let hope that continues.

Here's a better shot of the little drip connector inserted into the drilled hole. The tube fits over the end of the connector.

That's it for now. More about the whole system later.

Another Week on the Uban Ranch

Hey it's me again,
I've been blessed far beyond what I deserve this week. My grandson, Bradley, and I went to see Toy Story 3 at the movie theatre on Monday. It was the usual weave of child entertainment and boomer generation humor. I am fascinated by how these children's movies can entertain both the kids and the adults. This third Toy Story Movie has the theme of moving on in life and how changes can be difficult but an OK thing. It's another great movie.

I attended a retired co worker's funeral this week which was a sad note. He was only 66. He was an active participant in golf, bicycling, softball, hunting, and many other physical activities. They suspect he died of heart attack on one of his bicycle rides. We are so blessed for every day of life that God gives to us. It's a sad thing that we need an event like this to realize that each day has meaning and can be joyous if we let it.

My back yard over the last couple weeks become totally hostile and out of control. Grass and weeds did abound profusely.

In one area of the back yard the weeds were so out of control I had to break out the hedge trimmer to cut them down. You can be assured that I tamed the wildlife habitat and one again the back yard looks like a well manicured urban yard. Hopefully the shorter grass and the absence of weeds with cut down on the bug population. The bugs seem to be thriving on the wet weather.

Next week I will have the privilege of cutting up a cottonwood tree for my friends in Elkhorn.

It fell during the high water of the river that flows behind their house. The soil is sandy and with the high water the tree just kind of slowly tipped over. I'm heading out to have a look at the tree on Sunday evening. That should be a good work out for "Big Bertha" my Stihl chainsaw. She's a 460 Magnum saw that I bought last year just for such occasions.

I hope that your week had as many blessings as mine did.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Watering Manifold

The final stage of the gravity feed watering system is the distribution manifold. I have discovered that the key to gravity feed it water volume since water pressure is low. Here are the parts of the manifold. The parts consist of one 10 foot PCV three inch non pressure pipe cut in half. It will be used to make two manifolds. Two end caps for each manifold. Two hose connectors for the water and air vent to the manifold. Finally the small plant watering hose connectors. I've also discovered that since there isn't much pressure things can be glued together and quite successfully not have water leakage.

A close up look at the parts for the manifold distribution system. The threaded parts are threaded for garden hose connections. They can be bought at any local home improvement store. All of the tanks will be connected together by 5/8 inch hoses. It's the cheapest way to go since I have many hoses that can be used without cost.

The first distribution manifold I put together I capped the ends first and found that I should have capped them last. It would have made cleaning out the debris from drilling much easier. Things are getting easier as I move along with the watering system. I'm kind of learning as I go with this project. I haven't really found anything quite like this on the internet. I guess I'm pioneering a little with the gravity thing.

You can see that one of the connections is dry fitted in place. I drilled the hole smaller than the connection to be able to slowly fit the hole to the connector by using a small drill rasp. You might ask why is there two connectors for the final distribution manifold. One connector is for the water to flow into the manifold to be distributed out to the plants. The other is for a vent tube to allow the water to empty the manifold when the timer shuts off the water to the manifold. You might ask what will keep the water from just coming out of the second connection instead of the plant distribution hoses? The vent tube will be another hose that will be raised higher than the level of the secondary water tank. Since there is no water pressure the water will never go higher than the water level in the secondary tank but will allow air to enter the manifold on drain down when the timer shuts the water supply off from the secondary tank.

Whew, you following all that? Well that's the plan for now.

The final assembly for the manifold was to glue the connectors into the final plant distribution tank with Gorilla Glue. Wonderful stuff. After this dries over night the final sealing will be completed with silicone cauk. When that dries then it will be time for the drilling of the holes for the watering hoses to water the plants. These are just small hoses directed to the base of the plants to be watered. The water will flow out of the distribution manifold through the small trickle hose and water the roots of the plants. This manifold will be made to water four tomato plants and four cucumber plants. Each one of these manifolds will be five feet long and water one raised bed.
This manifold is well on the way to becoming the first timed gravity feed watering system. It's been an interesting journey for sure to figure out how all this will work together. It's become more of a challange to make it work than a real help to the garden. However when it's all up and running it will be a great help to just let it run without worrying about what will happen to my garden when I am away for a few days. It will especially be good when my 18 day trip comes up in September. Sweet!!