Saturday, December 28, 2013

Year End Summary 
As the year of 2013 is fast heading to a close, my thoughts wander back through the year to catch some glimpses of what has been accomplished.  It always starts out with thinking that not enough has been completed during the year.  Each year is different with challenges that arise unexpectedly.
January - With Christmas over and the New Year beginning my attention was given to the three year project of a food storage area in my basement.  The electrical wiring was completed and the insulation was mostly completed with some of the drywall installed at the beginning of work this January.  Framing of a wall to close in the area with the installation of a door was the plan for this year. 
February - By the middle of February, the food storage room was finished and thoughts turned toward the beginning of the garden season.  A couple warm days allowed me to continue the work on turning pallets into a graphic sign that would be used for Terra Nova Gardens.  Construction continued with weather permitted on into the summer months before the sign panels were completed and installed.

The seed starting station was prepared to begin sprouting seeds into plants for the garden.  This year turned out to be a very successful year of growing my own plants for the garden.
March - March was a cold wet month which prevented the start of almost any gardening.  The construction of the graphic fence sign for the garden moved forward with lettering and graphic flower designs being painted onto the fence panels.
The cabbage and broccoli sprouts were up and growing nicely.  Both turned out wonderfully well or so the rabbits thought.  I was just thrilled that I had actually grown a cabbage from seed to wonderful heads of cabbage.  Perhaps next year with a little more protection a harvest will become a reality.  Each year the garden produces a little more.
April - The weather was still uncooperative with cold winds and rainy weather.  The garden was totally soggy and nothing could be planted. Everything was going to be getting a late start.
Out of desperation, I turned to natural native plants for spring time salads and started harvesting dandelion greens.  I guess they are alright but I'd rather have a good lettuce salad. I'd call them bitter greens.  I didn't try to put them in a stir fry which might tone them down a bit.
May - May brought 100 degree days so I labeled the year a year without spring.  Garden preparation and planting started but because of the cold wet spring every thing was a month behind schedule and delayed harvesting a good three weeks.
Two of the three graphic garden fence panels were installed at Terra Nova Gardens and a third was being finished.  Gardening was finally under way for 2013.
June - By this time things were growing gang busters.  The sweet corn was several inches high, potatoes were almost a foot high, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and cucumbers were growing nicely.  It was finally starting to be a great gardening year.
My long awaited Rugosa Rose bushes arrived and with great anticipation were planted around the outside of the garden area.  Many didn't survive the planting but with the ones that did, I can now propagate as many as I want.  I wanted all blue but some white ones managed to get in the order.
July - Mid summer geared up to be a busy time.  Projects for friends, harvesting of sweet corn began, and the third garden graphic panel was installed.  This month a discovery was made and a supply of free wooden fence panels were found.  A few loads of these panels was enough to enclose the main part of the garden area.  The project of installing 180 feet of wooden fence began.  By the end of the garden year only about 75 feet of fence still needs to be installed.
August - By now the fence project was moving along and looking very nice.  Tomato harvesting began and preservation of some of the harvest put winter bounty on the food storage shelves.  Most of the harvest was given away.  The surprise was the green bean harvest. Nearly 10 gallons of fresh picked green beans came from a 4X8 raised bed.  I plan on growing more next year to preserve.
Because of the last planting season and fence building the Urban Ranch was neglected.  In my haste to tidy the yard up the lawn mower hit the spout of the rain water storage tank and broke it.  Several days were spent soldering the spout back on and sealing up the tank.  Rain was sparse the rest of the summer and it never refilled.
September - This month started with a bang.  Literally, it did.  A call from a neighbor at Terra Nova Garden informed me of a van losing control and crashing through my graphic fence panels.  It took the rest of the month and part of October to put it all back together again. 
Joan, my grand daughter, was married and a wonderful trip to Las Vegas to be at the wedding lived up the month.
October - The garden year is winding down and fall cleanup has begun.  The end of the month started the great yard waste caper which allowed me to spread a foot of mulch over the entire garden area again.  It was indeed amazing how all the mulch from last year composted down to less than an inch.
November - Two weeks were spent in November collecting and hauling yard waste to Terra Nova.  The latter part of the month was spent working on a plumbing problem which still needs to be finished up.  Ceiling drywall replacement is not my forte.
December - December always brings the sending of about 100 Christmas cards with a Christmas letter inside and the beginning of receiving seed catalogs.
Now in a few days the New Year begins and we all can start over.   It's almost like having a do over but with more unexpected challenges to our plans.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Gardening is over for this year 
As you can see from the November header the garden definitely has that Winter look to it.  I've finished up the yard waste mulch caper with a total net of 971 bags of mulch for this year.  It covered my fenced (well almost fenced) area and the guerrilla garden area.  I did have a scare with that.  While covering up the new area with mulch a young lady (at my age they all look young) in a city car pulled up and asked if this was my property.  Oh, oh, I'm in trouble now, so I thought.  I explained to her that my property ended about 50 feet down the road and that I was just trying keep the weeds down on a derelict property.  She seemed not quite convinced so I directed her to drive down and take a look at Terra Nova Gardens to see what I'm trying to accomplish.  As she drove past me on the way out of the neighborhood, she gave me the thumbs up.  I guess I passed the test.
Neighbors both at the Urban Ranch where I live and Terra Nova Gardens have told me that the yard waste company have taken pictures of all the yard waste bags.  Apparently, the yard waste caper has caused a stir in at least a couple departments of the city. 
Well, then there was the EPA visit.  A couple weeks ago the door bell rang and when the door was opened a nice man with a big smile and a clip board was standing on the poor man's patio.  I thought, "Oh, boy, another survey."  Nope no survey today.  He showed me an address on the clip board and asked if I owned this property.  After I told him yes, he indicated he represented the EPA and wanted me to sign giving them permission to test the land for lead.  Several lead smelting refineries along the river over the last 100 years put lead particles into the air which then settled onto the land in Terra Nova Gardens' area.  I talked with neighbors in the area and they said that many yards have had about 12 inches of top soil scraped off and replaced with "good top soil".  Oh, well there goes all the mulch.  The test results haven't come back yet so I can still hope for a good test.  The good news is that they probably won't require me to take down any fencing.  How much gardening happening at Terra Nova Gardens next year is sort of hanging in the wind.
A few more warm days this next week will allow me to finish up putting away all the rain barrels and storing away the hoses.  I did get all the leaves cleaned up from the Urban Ranch front yard and covered the four raised garden beds in the back yard.  The back yard leaves will just be left to over winter and melt into the sprouting grass (crab grass that is) next spring.
 This will be my Winter project.  After 12 years of neglect and catching any thing that I just didn't want deal with at the moment, it looks to be even a hoarder's worst nightmare.  Bradley has been after me to make it into a play area for him.  It certainly would be nice to have my living room back. 
So as one thing is shutting down for the Summer season another is ramping up for the Winter season.
May this be the best Christmas shopping year ever.  I don't mean spending lots of money but just meaningful gifts that build memories.  Now that black Friday is over, sanity will come back to shopping.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Starting to feel more like Winter 
I've been busy trying to get things ready for Winter at the Urban Ranch and Terra Nova Gardens.  With the threat of snow today time is short for all the tasks that need doing.  Of course with the advent of Fall and falling leaves the great yard waste collection from the neighborhood is in full swing.
This is week two of collection.  So far the bag count is 657.  I expect it will take one more week of collecting bags to completely cover my garden.  Yeah, the garden really is that big.  I figure it's well over half an acre maybe close to 2/3 of an acre. 

This area covered by bags is the guerrilla gardening area.  It's an area about 30X30 feet that will be planted in corn mainly for the animals in the garden area.  It's just a good way to keep the weeds down and provide a little extra food for the native animals.  If I get my fence completed the corn will act as a decoy to keep them from challenging the fence.  Well, that's my hope any way.

 More bags for the outside area to the north of the garden.  I'm not sure what this area will eventually be used for.  Perhaps some fruit trees or berry bushes.  The garden is starting to put on its Winter face.  Fallen leaves have allowed a view of the bank behind the garden.
Progress in the garden has come a long way this year.  The garden fence has been expanded.  The graphic fence panels were finished and installed.   The tomato crop was prolific this year and several quarts of tomatoes were canned.  Pints of tomato soup were canned as well.  Most of the tomato crop was given away to friends and neighbors.  The eggplants did well and the green peppers did ok but not abundant as in years past.  The cucumbers had one flush then dried up.  The watermelons never happened but the squash and zucchini volunteer plants did well.  Potatoes doubled what I planted which is not a great year but still those tender new potatoes taste wonderful. 
The green beans out did themselves. They were the star of the garden this year.  From a 4X8 foot bed I harvested over five gallons of beans.  I kept a couple messes and gave the rest away.  Maybe next year I'll be more in a position to can more.  I don't really like frozen green beans.
A couple weeks ago Lydia, my daughter, informs me that the water isn't draining out of the bathtub.  Usually, that means there's a hairball in the trap.  Drain traps just end up with hairballs when there's girls in the house.  Alas it was not to be this time.  The drain stop slide rod had broken and the stopper was in the closed position with no way to unstop the drain other than working on the plumbing from under the tub.  So happens that's behind the ceiling drywall above the front door.

 So, yeah, a hole was sawed into the ceiling.  Here you can see the new plumbing that was installed.  About 20 years ago give or take a couple years, I had issues under here and hired a plumber to fix it.  Over the last 20 years I learned some things about plumbing and what I saw under the tub was not standard plumbing practice.
 This is not what is supposed to be under drywall.  The compression screw tight fittings are never supposed to be buried behind drywall.  Only glued PVC fittings are to be covered with drywall.  The small size drain pipes explains why I had so much trouble over the years with this drain.  Now all I need is to find some one that can fix the hole in my ceiling.  I am terrible at mudding and texturing.  Since this is in a very visible place, it does need to look good.
There is definitely a Winter chill in the air today.  The temperature is in the 30s with a whistling wind that bites to the bone.  The threat of temperatures in the teens for an overnight low will make for a frosty morning.  It's time to bring out the hot chocolate and find something to bake in the oven.  Soup for dinner sounds good.  I do love this time of year when the weather outside is frightful and inside snuggled in a lap blanket to read a good garden book or to watch a good movie can really be enjoyed. Winter is a time to rest and plan.
Until the next time stay warm and be sure to eat some Winter comfort food.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Fall is in the air  
Summer is definitely over and fall has arrived.  Colder temperatures have caused the garden to come to a screeching halt.  A tomato snagged here and there is a great treat now but I suspect that will be ending soon.  I have removed the plants from Terra Nova Garden and cleaned up most of the garden in preparation of the great mulch capper to begin.  As you recall from last year, I netted close to 600 bags of leaf/grass yard waste mixture for garden mulch.  I hope to beat the count for this year.  It worked great last year and the weed problem was practically nil.
Autumn is a time of year when soup warms the kitchen and the tummy;  hot chocolate becomes the drink of choice over lemonade; and baking infuses wonderful smells through out the house.  The fall leaf pile jumping competition entertains all the kids in the neighborhood.  It's a wonderful time of the year when eggnog once again can be found on the store shelves and thoughts continually wander toward winter comfort foods.
My favorite spot to enjoy fall is on the poor man's living patio with Folger's in my cup.  This is the last dying breath of beauty for the patio.  Soon the plants will be in the compost and once again winter's slumber will be upon us.  Summer has passed by way too fast this year.  I feel a little like the cold wet Spring robbed me of a portion of my favorite season.
The fence repair continues.  Most of the fence has been repaired except for a few missing slats and some rubble cleanup.  It has been a challenging task for sure.  This area will look allot better when I get it mulched.  I'm still hoping to get the fence completed before the ground gets too hard to dig post holes. Some how this month just slipped away very quickly.
Wonderful presents like this just show up on the patio from time to time.  All the flowers you see on the wall in the back ground were donated from some one I helped move.  One can never have too many plant supports or potted flowers.

Wishing all a wonderful fall season.

Monday, September 30, 2013

From Rubble to Resurrection  
Summer just won't give it up.  Well at least during the day time hours.  Still we are enjoying the 80 degree temperatures during the day but hearing the furnace kick on during the night time 40s.  With the first frost date only a couple weeks away, the garden is showing signs of being done for this year.  I for one am always glad to see the garden begin to go dormant.  It's time for the long winter slumber.  Yeah, right.  It's only time to turn toward the inside projects for the winter months.  This year it will be to continue to work on the basement.  The food storage room is done so now the rest of the basement will be tackled.  Since most of the stuff has resided there for over 10 years without being touched, I really think I probably don't really need it any more.  It would be nice if it became a game room for Bradley and neighborhood kids.  I know he would like that.
Work has continued on the reconstruction of the fence at Terra Nova. The three graphic panels have been restored after much gluing and clamping.  It looks pretty good from across the street and in the shade, doesn't it?  Those panels have a lot cracks, missing chunks, and crinkles when a close look is taken.  That's much like me. The panels stand once again has a memorial that no matter how bad things look, it can be better.  Never give up.  Defeat happens only when hope is lost.
In the middle of all the destruction, a Rugosa Rose blooms.  The bushes that I planted had many deaths among their ranks, but this one is alive and well. I ordered and planted enough to be able to transplant some of the others to fill in the gaps.  Now that the rail fence is gone the rose bushes will be more important to block the road from the garden.  My hope is that in about two or three years the garden fence will be blocked all together.
This last week was a special week.  Lydia, Bradley, and I flew to Las Vegas to attend my oldest grand daughter's wedding.  We had a great time with the culmination of the whole weekend being the ceremony at the Mt. Charles resort.  It was about an hour from Las Vegas in the foot hills of the mountains around the town.
One of the things we did while in Las Vegas was to go to the bridge across the Colorado river.  It was built after 9-11-2001 to keep traffic from having to cross the Hover Dam.  On the dam side of the bridge is a walk way that goes the length of the dam.  It has 69 steps up to the bridge from the parking lot and is maybe a half mile long.  My sister, Pam, Bradley, and I walked the whole length of the bridge.  It was a great adventure.
One of the favorite things to do when visiting Las Vegas is to feed the fish at the Marina.  These are huge carp fish and now a few wiper fish.  Stale bread is the best thing to use to feed the fish.  Once the word goes out that it's feeding time the fish literally fight over bread.
This is some serious fish feeding.  Can you tell that these fish are fed frequently?  It's another great adventure time for an eight year old boy. 

Have a great adventurous day.


Saturday, September 14, 2013

Fence Reconstruction  
Finally the cool September weather has arrived.  Seventies and eighties during the day make outside activities sweet.  Those fifties and sixties at night are awesome for sleeping with windows open.  Hopefully, the cooler weather will continue.
 Broken post stump removal has been a difficult task and took upward of three days to remove the five broken post bottoms.  I really didn't plan on having to dig up and remove the posts so I concreted them in the ground really good.  They certainly would have held up to strong winds but a big white van was just too much.
Yea, one down and four more to go.  Since I don't have hydraulics, good old farm physics helped with pulling the concrete up out of the ground.  A couple of the posts were a bit of a struggle.

 This little chunk is one of the first two posts that was planted in the ground.  I kind of over engineered it just  little.  Two bags of Quickcrete was a little much.  I definitely accomplished keeping the post from blowing over in a wind storm.  This chunk probably weighs close to 200 pounds.  Later posts only had one bag which was not only cheaper but easier to pull out of the ground.  This one really taxed my limits as far as strength goes.  I'm just not as strong as I used to be.
 A decision was made to fix this one so as not to have to dig it out. 
 Some more farm low tech engineering, helped hold the post together while screws were used to stabilize the post.  Four screws on each side did the trick and the post is as good as new.   I'm still considering maybe attaching one of the short broken posts on the side of this post for more stability but I'm learning that fence posts don't have to be that strong to survive.
The tomatoes continue to bury me.  The plants that produced tomatoes were grown from tiny little seeds under the grow lights.  It's really the first time I've ever been able to do that.  People are starting to stop by Terra Nova Gardens and ask for tomatoes.  The taste of these are tremendous.  I'm definitely going to grow these again next year.  They aren't really big tomato plants but they are loaded with tomatoes.  There's a day of canning in the near future.
This is one of the boards that need to be put back together.  A little Elmer's wood glue and a little time and the board will be good as new only with age wrinkles.  Kind of like me.
Well, that's it for this week.  The backyard hay field is calling me to do a mow down so until the next time be careful because I'd like to hear from you again.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Excitement at Terra Nova Gardens 
September gave us a small break from the hot weather then back into the sweltering middle and upper 90s.  A couple days ago we were blessed with a quarter inch of rain which is good but we really need a good soaker to moisten up the top soil.  Hopefully we will be getting more before the month's end.
On Labor Day news of an exciting event at Terra Nova was received from my neighbor that has potatoes planted there.  Apparently Bobcat Larry had called and told him that  someone had smashed through my garden fence.

 A big white van came roaring down the gravel road in front of the garden and lost control.  It tipped over on the driver side and slid through the rail fence and smashed into the wooden fence.  The neighbors in the area said it made a terrible noise that immediately caught their attention.  A fire truck, rescue squad, and police cars came to scene with lots of flashing lights.  This happened right after dark at about 9:30pm, so the effect was awesome.  The neighbor directly across the street made the 911 call and said that he had talked with the driver of the van.  At that time it didn't seem that he was hurt much but the rescue squad did take him to the hospital.  I'm very glad that he didn't get hurt too bad.
 The neighbors around the garden were actually more upset about the ordeal than me and encouraged me to pursue action against the driver.  I kind of look at this whole garden thing as an adventure with advances and set backs.  I'm not going to do that.  It's just a bunch of  sticks and wood that can be fixed.  This is a great challenge to piece the panels back together again.  They won't look quite as pretty as before but will have a weathered look with a story that will be remembered by the entire neighborhood. 
My grandson has the greatest humor ever.  I showed him the above picture and told him what had happened.  His comment was, "Hmmmm, I guess they didn't see the NO TRESSPASSING sign, huh."  He's only eight years old but I guess hanging around grandpa has rubbed off just a little.
This panel went back together fairly well.  I put three new backbone 2x4s that run the horizontal length of the panel right next to the broken ones and screwed them together for support.  Then the puzzle was put together by finding the right boards that made up the panel.  The missing board was shattered into three pieces and is in process of being glued back together.  It will be put in place on the next garden work day some time next week.  The other panel is busted up a little more than this one so it may require some small board replacements but I think it will turn just great. The posts that were broke off level with the ground will be a big task to get out of the ground for replacement posts.  Each of those posts have about 100 pounds of concrete wrapped around the bottom two feet.  Maybe I can get Bobcat Larry to help pull them out with his skid loader. 
I never knew that gardening could be this  exciting. So until next time reconstruction continues.  Have a great day no matter what you're doing.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Hot Days of Summer  
August is going out with a blast of extremely hot humid days with no rain in site.  Apparently it's just what the tomatoes needed.  They are starting to ripen by the basket full.  Unfortunately everyone else has ripening tomatoes as well so there's no prospect of giving away any big quantity.  The dilemma is what to do with the glut of tomatoes starting to come into harvest.  
Here's one day's harvest with another harvest day coming right behind it in a couple days.  I've been waiting for this day all summer now that it's here the fun begins.  I'm going to preserve all of the tomatoes that can't be given away.   So far I've only had one taker for tomatoes.

Here's the beginning of four quarts of tomato soup.  Nice juicy tomatoes are destined to be great tasting soup.  Onions and celery were sautéed and mixed in with the simmering tomatoes.  When the mixture was all soft the soup was run through the Nutri-bullet (a TV super powerful blender) which made it into creamy soup.  A little flour to thicken the soup and into the jars to be canned it went.

The finished product from allot of work.  It doesn't look like much but the taste that I got from the little bit left over was outstanding and made it all worth while.  Now the instructions say to add an equal amount of either milk or beef broth when preparing the soup to eat.  It is very thick almost like tomato paste so thinning it down before serving it up is a good idea.  It's great because four quarts actually makes 2 gallons of soup to eat. Nice!!
If you are looking at the picture and adding up the jars you will notice that it's one pint short of four quarts.  One jar broke in the canning process but didn't hinder the other jars from sealing in the contents just fine.
So what's next?  I have a couple requests for tomato jelly.  I've been looking for a recipe for tomato jelly and all that I've found uses tomatoes and jello.  Yeah, you're thinking what I'm thinking aren't you.  I finally found a recipe for tomato marmalade that's looks good and it doesn't use jell0.  I'll give it a try in a couple days with the next batch of tomatoes.
A couple posts ago I wrote about finding the mother load of old fence panels.  I hauled enough to fence in the entire Terra Nova Garden North.  Here you can see that I've finished up the north side of the garden area.  Now the posts need to be concreted to hold them steady and 60 feet of fence in the back with 30 feet on the south will finish fencing in the whole area.  Four feet high chicken wire will be stapled to the backside of the fence to cover up the cracks in the fence.  If that don't keep out the critters then I'll be looking into a battery powered electric fence.  Slowly but surely it's becoming a working garden.  Maybe next year I can get serious about gardening instead of critter control.
The water tank is still curing but it will get flipped over soon.  The inside will be sprayed with the TV advertised Flex-seal.  Hopefully, that will give the tank a good seal for next year's water supply.
I hope all is well with everyone.  Be safe where ever you are and we will meet here again real soon.


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Dog Days of Summer  
August has arrived with more cool weather.  Those Dog days of summer are coming to a close and not much hot weather has accompanied them which is just fine by me.  Just what, exactly are the Dog Days of Summer?  Officially the Farmer's Almanac says the term “dog days of summer” is intended to mean it is hot and humid. There is an astronomical basis for the saying. Dog days run from July 3 through August 11th when the sun occupies the same region of the sky as Sirius, the Dog Star. In ancient times people thought that the star’s position conspired with the sun to make the days hotter than any other time of the year. Other people thought that the hot days of summer made dogs “mad”, thus the name.  
 I've been at it again.  The Urban Ranch garden has suffered greatly because of the very late spring.  All efforts were directed toward Terra Nova Garden and the Urban Ranch was left to fend for itself.  That's not a good way to grow a garden.  Even with heavy mulch weeds will find a way to thrive.
Three hours of blood, sweat, and tears makes the landscape much more pleasant to look at.  Most of the debris was left on the curb to be taken away and made into city compost.  So I guess you could say that I helped out the city by growing them some recycle material for compost which is sold back to the community.  It was organically grown.

In the process of mowing the grass this year I managed to hit the gang distribution block for the watering system that comes out of the big 400 gallon tank.  It cracked loose from the tank and had a major leak.

 It will required a complete drain down to fix.  Since most of the water leaked out already, it didn't take long.  You can see my lame attempt to fix it which never works.  The shut off faucet is actually loose going into the tank so something has been broken.  When drained, the task was to clean all that tar off the problem area to get a better look at the issue.  This area has been a problem before so now it will get the fix it should have had a couple years ago.

Yup, I definitely broke it.  I decided to just "do it".  After the water was completely drained down and the tar peeled away from the faucet, only a slight tug pulled everything out of the tank.  Hmmmm, I really broke it good.  So off to Ace hardware for solder and resin to solder the faucet back into the tank.  The metal around the opening has to be shiny metal.  I had some cleaning and sanding to do.

Well, so far so good.  A good solid solder joint always makes me feel good.  Now a good blob of roof flashing tar to seal up the joint even more.

OK, looks  good as new on this side and now for the inside.
I really can't solder on this side without heating up the solder on the other side which would then melt, run, and break the good solid joint.  There's enough sticking through the backside to get a small hose clamp on the lip for added stability and strength.

 Since I had the tar, I sealed up the entire bottom seam of the tank.  Now patience will be required to let the tar cure.  How long that will take I'm not sure but it has to get pretty solid to hold in the water and not leak.

That was my project for this week.  Now it's time to tackle the backyard again.  The grass (crab grass) is heading toward the sky so it's time crank up Honda and get to mowing.

I'll try to keep things under control until we meet here again.