Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014 Year's end

The year is fast coming to a close and the new year looms on the horizon.  The outside gardens have long since given up their last bit of harvest.  The weather outside is definitely Winter with out first below zero temps for the 2014-2015 Winter season.  Only 79 days until Spring.  What does a garden maniac do during the off season.  Bring the garden inside.  I've been thinking about this for some time

I'm guessing you are thinking that this looks vaguely familiar.  Well it should it's the new growing method you saw in the spring for the outside garden brought inside.  Now all I need is about 45 gallons of soil.  That could be an issue this late in the season.  I'll hang a couple shop lights over the buckets to give the plants plenty of light.  So far I'll be experimenting with lettuce, spinach, radishes, and maybe a chard plant.

Looking back on this year's garden not many things turned out good.  The weather didn't co operate so the tomatoes were late and not as abundant as usual.  The great potato experiment didn't get passed two layers because of my lack of planning and lack of potato seed care.  Bad health allowed the weeds to take over.  Rain, rain, and more rain, didn't let me build much fence so the raccoons stripped the sweet corn .... again.  They do love the sweet corn and are not willing to wait for it to fully mature.  By the time it's mature enough to eat, they have eaten it all.  My only hope is to finish the six foot wooden fence and cover the bottom four feet with chicken wire on the inside.  I've been planning next year's garden with many new innovations as with every year.  

There were a few good things that happened this year.  Another foreclosed property was acquired and plans are in the works for making this property into a neighborhood event property.  The fence line will be planted with flowers in a raised rock edged bed and in the back corner an arch with a bench under the arch will be installed.  That's pretty ambitious so it may not be completed in one year.  My plan is to get the rock edged flower bed finished.  There's much work to complete on the two garden properties.

I did get four more fence panels up which leaves 8 panels left to completely close in the main garden area.  These are along the back part of the garden.  I suspect it's where all those pesky raccoons come sneaking in during the dark of the night.

A raised planter bed about 20 feet long by the parking area of Terra Nova Gardens will be planted with some kind of perennial flowers but definitely not day lilies.  I'm sick of wild day lilies.  Terra Nova Gardens was infested with them and it's taken a couple years to bring them under control.

So as the New Year rings in, there's plenty to do, plenty of new ideas, and plenty that won't get done. It's just the way of gardening.

Happy New Year to all and to all "Live long and prosper".  (Spock from Star Trek)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Winter arrives with a cold blast

The gorgeous long lasting fall color is definitely over.  Frigid wind chill temperatures dropping down below zero and a two inch dusting of snow marked the beginning of the winter season.  Even though the official winter date is a month away, winter is here to stay.  The ten day forecast is for more of the same.  It's time to stay inside and work on those unfinished projects from last winter. 

Even though it looks like January it's only the middle of November.  The garden is in the slumber mode as the temperatures drop and the blanket of snow covers it all up.  Gardening is done for this season and reflection on how things went for this year begin as the planning stage for next year comes to mind.  I'm kind of looking forward to Winter this year.  It's a time of resting and planning for the next year's gardening.  Inside projects are continued from last year.  The basement reclaiming still needs work.  The seed starting area needs to be made ready for February seed starting.  It might be expanded as the area became a bit crowded last year.  Some more shelves in the food storage area could be installed.  There's plenty of things to do even if outside projects are done for the year.
I can hardly believe that Thanksgiving is upon us and quickly to follow is Christmas.  No longer having Bradley in the household has changed the dynamics of the holiday season.  In stead of the hustle and bustle of morning breakfasts and getting ready for school, the house remains quiet and calm.  Gone are the days of school activities and friends over to build space ships with Legos or save the world on the Xbox.  Gone are the days with Bradley and friends saving the neighborhood with super hero powers.  It's funny how some of the most irritating things can become what is missed the most.  Toys strewn on the floor were always found by my tender feet.  Now I kind of wish I couldn't find one just for old times sake.  Life moves on and so Bradley has moved on into a life of Dad, brothers, sister, stepmom, and grandma.

Here's hoping that the Thanksgiving and Christmas season will be a wonderful time filled with joy and happiness for us all.   I'm certainly praying that all health issues are done and only health filled days are ahead.

Let us not grow weary of doing good.  For at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.  Galatians 6:9

Have a great Thanksgiving everyone.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Fall is already here

The rain continues to make any work outside miserable.  No garden work was accomplished this last week.  It rained almost every day.  When it isn't raining grass mowing has to be done or it would become a jungle.  I've lost count as to how many inches above our average rain fall we have received this year.  The gardens have become a muddy sticky mess covered with out of control weeds.  It's been a very disheartening year for gardens here.  With all the rain, even my focus on garden structure has not accomplished much.  It's really difficult to try to dig a post hole when the ground is soggy especially in river bottom gumbo. 

One good thing about the rain, it's kept me from being tempted to over do anything during my cancer treatment recovery.  I'm pretty much back to normal with strength and endurance.  I'm planning on getting back to the project list .... well that is if the weather will let me.  We are only two thirds through the month and we are already two inches above the average rain fall for September.

I was really blessed a week ago when I mowed 35th street corner.  Oh, by the way, the deed for 35th street corner finally came in the mail.  It a couple months longer for this property than Terra Nova Gardens did.  Anyway, the neighbor across the street was going to have extensive work done to her yard and outside of her house.  As a result her strawberry patch was going to be removed.  I was really considering a strawberry patch in this reclaimed garden bed from two posts ago.  I was able to dig up and transplant 30 plants into this bed.  I don't think I'll get much next year and I may just let the small harvest go for the birds to eat.  The next spring will be my turn and a cover will prevent them from being greedy.  I'll probably leave a small portion uncovered for them.  I'm not against sharing but those birds seem a bit greedy about food.  It wouldn't be so bad if they would eat the entire berry but they just peck at it enough to destroy the berry and move on to the next one. 
The potato harvest has begun.  This is the harvest from three potato plants.  It filled a five gallon bucket half full.  As you may recall I had a multilevel potato experiment going on this year.  I didn't get the four levels like I originally wanted due to errors with buying enough seed and storing the seed potatoes.  I did get two levels planted.  The larger potatoes were the bottom layer and the smaller potatoes came from the upper layer.  I feel the concept is doable but this year was not the success that I had hoped for.  Next year, I'm hoping, will be better planned with a more successful harvest.  The tomato and bell pepper are the last of a disappointing harvest.  Cleaning up the garden will begin this week.  I've never started cleaning up a garden so early in the year before.  I'm not really an extended season gardener but I may be forced to consider cover protection if this odd weather continues next year.

What do you see here?  A swingset in need of repair?  Imagery of youngsters laughing and playing, swinging, sliding down the slide, gliding on the horse glider.  All those would be good answers but now that Bradley, my grandson, has moved on in life, those days of activity on the swingset are over.  It sat silent all summer and now into the fall.  It stands strong and ready waiting for the day when children will return and bring it back to useful life. Sadly, I'm not sure that will happen any time soon. 
I've always thought that this type of structure would be good bones for a green house.  If the children return, it could quickly be converted back to a play area for them.  So next spring I'm seriously considering the possibilities of how to make that conversion.
There's not much else going on here during this wonderful fall weather.  The leaves are starting to turn into the fall colors and fall from the trees as the trees are looking forward to the Winter slumber.  I am looking forward to the Winter down time for planning and re evaluating the gardens for next year.  I've already got changes in mind for the next year.  It's kind of the gardener's way, don't you think?  Of course there's always the return to inside projects for the Winter.  My basement still needs much work to clear out the 30 years of collecting .... stuff.  I did make a dent in it last Winter and just maybe I might get it back to being useful again this Winter.  The furnace room needs some serious attention as well.

Here's a parting quote by Marcus Tullius Cicero.

If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sudden life changes

Life can change in the twinkling of an eye.  Actually, scientists have measured the twinkling of an eye and it's 20,000th of a second.  That's pretty quick, don't you think?  Just that fast major changes can happen for the good or the bad in life.  One such change has happened in my life this last month.  You have heard many stories about Bradley my grandson and I have written about many conversations that we have had over the last five years.  Five years ago he came to live in my household with his Mom.  Together, he, his Mom, and I went through some very tough behavior issue years with him.  At the age of nine, Bradley had grown into a great well mannered boy on the way to becoming a teenager.  As he packed and left for his summer visit with his Dad in Texas, I never thought it would be a time of sudden change but it was.  Two days before coming home from Texas the dreaded phone call came from my daughter announcing that Bradley would be living with his Dad in Texas.  The decision was made by father, mother, and Bradley.  It's been a couple weeks since that day and the emotion of it all is still fresh.  The grandfather - grandson bond was strong and will take some time to get used to the idea of not seeing his shining face in my home.  Life is quite different without hearing the word "Grandpa" at least a hundred times a day.  Just as quickly as Bradley came into my life, he left.  Living 1000 miles will keep me from seeing him except during summer visits.

The dreaded Cancer word can strike fear into the hearts of even the most strong.  This year continues to be a year of sudden happenings.  January brought the advent of an appendectomy, then soon after came the prostate cancer diagnoses.  The year of 2014 is certainly a year of sudden life changes.  The procedure for seeding the prostate has been completed and I'm now radiation hot for 3 months.  No babies on my lap.  No pets on my lap.  Pregnant mother's to be have to stay a distance of six feet away.  Four days after the seeds have been planted, I'm feeling pretty normal but am really trying to be good for awhile longer.  Just for good measure I threw in a Colonoscopy.  One polyp was found and removed with out issue.  So after recovering from the prostate seeding, I should be systems full speed ahead for the rest of my life. 

So I'm alive and well and on the way to recovery both emotionally and physically.  Don't worry about me I'm seriously thinking about mowing the grass tomorrow.  That's easing into to normal, don't you think?  At least it's not digging post holes, building fences, restoring concrete steps, or carrying heavy rocks for raised bed borders.  I'll probably have to wait another week before doing that.   Ok Ok, I'm just messing with you.  I'll be sure not to over do it.

Have a great end of summer time outside.

Monday, August 18, 2014

More summer stuff

This week the word was rocks.  While driving down the street I happened upon a homeowner pulling out his limestone rock wall to build a nice wall with retaining wall blocks.  Since I've been thinking about rebuilding my raised beds at Terra Nova Gardens, this will be just the material to use for borders.  I had to be extremely careful not to over load my little Ranger truck.  Rocks are heavier than they look.  I think I hauled six or seven loads to get the entire pile moved.
Terra Nova Gardens has gotten a bit out of control this year.
Yeah, there's a few Eggplants in the jungle and a tomato plant or two that survived the spring severe weather but nothing really that is going produce an abundant harvest.  I'm in process of trying to bring the area back under control and really I'm thinking about next year's garden.  This year was pretty much a total bust.  It's a good thing I'm not depending on my garden skills to live or I'd be starving this year.
 Here's a look at the use of the rocks and a little hint of what I hope the rest of the garden will look like by the time the snow flies.  I have plans to make this bed a strawberry bed but as always until the bed is actually planted, plans could change.  This year has been such a challenge to keep the weeds under control.  Behind the fence in the background is a huge brush pile.  That brush pile will become wood chips to cover the weed barrier carpet you see here in the pathway.  The front area by the gate will be an area that will be leveled with the gate sill and covered with patio blocks that look like bricks.  I'm hoping to get that done this year as well.  Much to do and only two months left before the threat of winter comes knocking.
 One thing I've never had to worry about since I started gardening at Terra Nova Gardens is bugs.  Wild turkeys have roamed the area for my last three growing seasons and never once have I ever had a bug problem.  They are constantly on patrol through out the neighborhood.  They scratch through the mulch but never seem to bother the produce growing.  I have had a problem with some picking at the young corn sprouts but not enough to bother their growth.  Eventually, I have plans to cover the corn patches with chicken wire until they are about two feet tall.  The turkeys then leave the corn alone after the stalks reach about two feet.  Then the threat is at harvest time when the raccoons think the buffet is open.  Hopefully, the tall fence will keep them out when I get it finished but they are pretty resourceful.  So the battle of wits is so on between wild critters of the land and Urban Farmer Nebraska Dave.

 Remember my newest land acquisition?  On the national night out, the neighborhood had an event planned.  Here is the use of my property for the event.  The Parks and Recreation department brought out a rock wall for the kids to climb and set it up on my property.  The plans for this property is to remain a place for neighborhood events.  Nothing much will happen here for a couple years.  I have enough to keep me busy at Terra Nova Gardens.  Only beautification will happen with maybe some flower beds and in the back corner my idea is to put up an arch with vines growing over it and a bench to sit on while enjoying the activity in the neighborhood. 
Everything is set for the August 21st radiation seed planting (pun intended) in the prostate.  I don't fore see any problems before or after the main event.  I should be back out in the garden in two or three days from what the doctors say.  There's virtually no side effects with this procedure.  I'm confident that this is only a slight bump in the road of life.
I hope that everyone is enjoying the last days of summer and ready for the fall weather.  I'm looking forward to the soup weather.  I love soup.  Until next time stay healthy and strong.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Summer cleaning & other good stuff

This week as been different kind of week.  When I took Bradley, my grandson, to Oklahoma city to meet his Dad for the summer visit, I came up close and personal with one of Kansas' finest deer.  Punched him/her dead center and then ran over the lifeless creature.  Fortunately my truck sits up high and nothing vital was broken.  Upon returning home and taking my truck to the body shop, I found out that because of a spring time hail storm they were still booked six weeks out.  My truck, lovingly named "Ricky", has finally been taken to the shop to have the damage repaired.  Six days without a truck to haul things is an eternity.  Once I got used to having a truck, it's now difficult to get along without one.

So this week has been dedicated to doing those things on the ToDo list that just never seem to get to the To Done list.

Why, you might ask, am I showing you a picture of the inside of my refrigerator.  Cleaning out the refrigerator has been on the ToDo list so long I forget when I ever put it on the list.  You will have to imagine what the inside of a neglected bachelor's refrigerator would look like because  I'm not showing you a picture of that but let's just say it wasn't pretty.  Ziploc clear plastic containers are a bachelor's friend.  When cleaning out the refrigerator, if the contents of a container can't be recognized, the whole thing is pitched in the trash.  In some cases there's a high possibility that a new life form has been cultured from weeks and months of incubation.  Things seem to get lost in the back of the refrigerator shelves and have babies.  Anyone else have that problem?
In the last post I showed the platform for development of the natural spring at Terra Nova Gardens.  I had two bridge supports for each side of the platform in place.  Two of these railroad ties will be placed between the bridge supports to make for a very solid support for the platform.  These ties were from Craig's list and for free.  My favorite price.  Much work is needed before the ties are placed and covered with a platform.  That's the last thing of the spring development.
One more panel to install and the south side will be completed.  Then the back side will be under construction and hopefully will be finished in due time before the sweet corn, what there is, ripens.  I will be needing two more fence panels but the fence company has a huge pile this time of the year.  I may get some extras just in case repairs are ever needed. 
Ha, yeah, as you can see the weeds are still kind of out of control.  I kind of gave up for a while this year and am working on the fencing.
This is a bottle of wine that I sealed up in 1973 when I made many bottles of wine.  It has survived three moves and was tucked away in the food storage room area before is was cleaned out.  When I found it I said I would open and enjoy the contents when the food storage room was finished.  It has been a year since that happened and so it was time to see if it had turned to vinegar or if it was well matured wine.  It was very clear and had a nice smell.  Yeah, you can tell I'm really not a connoisseur.  Any way it turned out to be gag me sweet but just this little glass made me a little light headed so I guess it has some alcohol content to it as well.  Yeah, I'm not a drinker either. I might have to use it in a cooler or something to cut down the sweet.  I'm just amazed it's still drinkable after 41 years.  I was only 25 when I bottled this thing up.  A lot of life has happened since then.
Of course other people's projects are in the mix as well.  Any time I get to use my chainsaw is a good day.  My cousin never fails to give me a good day.  This tree branch fell off a monster cottonwood tree that must measure at least five foot in diameter.  The branch fell and wedged up against a small tree.  The challenge here is that there is a nearly 45 degree bank under the branch that ends in about a 10 foot deep ravine with standing water.  Nothing like a good challenge.  Another cousin of mine chose to help with support and brush piling which is a big help and is just plain a safety factor.  It's never a good idea for an amateur to play with a chainsaw alone.  It took about 1 1/2 hours to cut and pile it up.  Then it was on to grass mowing.
Yes, the grass .... well the green stuff .... has been mowed and the edges have been trimmed.  I would hardly call what's growing there grass but it sure does look nice after it's mowed.  This is the newest property I bought and will be getting deed any day now.  The city accepted my bid over 60 days ago which is the required waiting period for the owners to respond before they give me a free and clear deed.  The two houses in the picture were for sale but have been purchased and will become rentals after complete renovation.  Three days were spent digging and chopping out tree stumps that were allowed to sprout up every year in the chain link fence.  It was three hot sweaty days but they will never sprout up again with the stump and roots removed.  My thought is eventually to have flowers all along that back fence and maybe an arch with climbing flowering vines over a bench to sit on in the back corner of the yard.  On August 5th, this property will be used for the National Night Out observance.  It will be quite a deal with the neighborhood from what I understand.  The street will be blocked off and all residents will be invited to a block party.  The first of many neighborhood events on my property I hope.
That's it for now.  I hope all is well with everyone and life is good.  Just another wonderful day in the neighborhood.



Sunday, July 20, 2014

Summer is here

Sorry about the absence from my blogging.  I know it's been too long when I get comments asking where I've been.  It's been a busy couple of months.  Trying to mesh several schedules together and getting in some garden time has made for less time to blog.  Of course there are always other people's projects to keep life interesting as well.

I suppose I should give an update on the prostate issue first.  I've talked with my Urologist doctor and he explained all the options from just actively watching to surgery and a couple in between.  One of the options is called a seeded radiation of the prostate.  That's one I have decided to have done.  The process has started and several doctor visits must happen before the actual procedure.  This procedure involves implanting 50 to 100 radiation active seed pellets in the prostate with needles.  The side effect is possible swelling for a couple days and maybe some pain but mostly back to normal after a couple days.  There's hardly any down time.  That will take place on August 21st.

Friends, family, and doctors have been after me to get a colonoscopy for years .... well, ok, decades.  I finally decided to get one done.  It was every thing I expected with the clean out and more.  The doctor's words were "We found three super small polyps and removed them.  I've good to go for five years.  They provided me with pictures but I'm not putting up on here.  Yes, I can hear those sighs of relief.

OK, enough with that health stuff.  Really, I feel fine and don't have any qualms about the end result.  In my mind cancer is dead.  It just doesn't know it yet and life is good. 

This is what happens when June gets 14 inches of rain and the garden is so wet that hardly anything can be done in it.  About the only thing that was planted was tomatoes which are not going to produce any thing and eggplant that seems to be holding its own but still no blooms.  Every thing had to planted in mud and just never really did well.  This garden, Terra Nova Gardens, was hit with a late frost that killed every thing and then three weeks later after replanting got hit with a seven inch rain that flash flooded the entire garden and had a 100 plus wind with hail to enhance the storm.   After that continuing storms kept the ground saturated.  To add to the extreme weather, July brought 70 degree days and lower 50 degree nights.  That's really not the right temperatures for summer vegetable crops.  The tomatoes just sat there and didn't grow.  My Urban Ranch, where I live, the tomatoes got a whiff of the neighbor's yard service weed spray and didn't die but are very sickly and quit blooming so there's only a hand full of tomatoes for this year's enjoyment.  It's not the best year for gardening here.

Wouldn't you know in the middle of the June rains one of my water storage barrels sprung a leak.  The barrel was emptied with a five gallon bucket and dumped back into the big water tank.  Yeah, I know there I am again laying down on the job.  My arms weren't long enough to reach down inside the barrel so I assumed my favorite position and to loosen the pipe union on the inside of the barrel.  I actually found a PVC bulk head fitting that's specially made for putting a spigot or a pipe on a barrel.  It is found at most home improvement stores for a very reasonable price.  It doesn't get any better than that.

Since the corn got flooded and hailed out my next plan was to punch a hole through the deep mulch and fill the empty hole with my special potting mix and plant more corn.  The deep mulch of a foot deep last fall has now composted down to about four inches.  The corn is now about six inches high but it was a good thing I planted two kernels in each pocket because the germination was terrible.  Even at two kernels per pocket some didn't have any germination.  I planted two beds of green beans and out of about 70 pockets only a couple germinated or some critter ate them when they sprouted.  It just really not a good gardening year.

My neighbor always plants potatoes every year.  This is his potato patch.  They are really doing well this year despite the rain, wind, hail, and floods.  They are the star of the garden this year.  I have potatoes as well and mine are doing well but my plan was to plant them in four layers.  It was a good plan but my failure to buy enough seed and store the seed properly made the layering plan less than successful.  Next year will be a better year for sure.  The two layers that I planted are looking good and hopefully the potatoes will be as good as the plant looks.

 Of course I couldn't stay away from other people's projects.  This is a set of stairs that I've been working on over the summer.  These two steps were in sad shape when I started.  The big oval circle had a big chunk missing and the smaller circle had a hole into the step that had to be filled with gravel and Cement All.  Then the entire step was skimmed with a coating of Cement All Rapid dry cement mix.  It was the first time I'd ever done anything like that.  The steps had been covered with that ugly green carpet that you see on the right and was not too healthy for the concrete steps. 

The next other people's project is for my cousin and will be cutting up a fallen branch in her back yard.  It's kind of tricky as it's a hanging branch that has fallen across a ditch and is held up by the bank opposite the tree.  This will have to be analyzed and carefully taken apart piece by piece.  When I went on disaster trips we called these widow makers.  Lots of careful study and having the wisdom when needed will be given to this situation.

This is the beginning of the development of the natural spring at Terra Nova Gardens.  The pipe you see sticking up is a ten foot pipe and is sunk down about six feet below the water level.  It will eventually have a hand pump mounted on it to pump up water into five gallon buckets for garden use.  Of course this is just a rough cover to keep kids and animals from falling in the mucky spring and hurting themselves.  The railroad ties will be leveled and two more supports will be used to strengthen the platform.  Plank flooring from other disassembled pallets will cover these pallets to make the platform stronger.  Right now a five gallon bucket is used to dip water out of the spring to water the plants in the garden which I haven't had to do because of the wet weather.  Eventually this spring will provide water for an irrigation system for the entire garden.  There are brain storm plans for a 300 gallon holding tank with possible expansion and a 275 gallon elevated irrigation tank for garden watering.  This will be a many year project to complete.

Fence building continues.  The first fence panel for this year has been installed with another in the wing lying on the ground.  The tree and brush clutter on the right has been cleared in preparation for the last two fence panels for this side.  Then the only side left will be the back of the garden.  It's a 64 foot stretch with 8 fence panels.  Each post is concreted into the ground for added strength for the 100 MPH winds.  All the fence that has been installed came through the hurricane force wind just fine.  Over engineering does have its place in the garden I guess.

The EPA has not contacted me about any soil removal.  I saw evidence that they have been at Terra Nova Gardens taking samples this spring.  The first time it was a sample here and there.  The second time it was a sample every square foot.  I swear they had come back a third time to take more samples but still no contact.  I think they just can't find any contamination but they are determined to be thorough in their attempt to test the soil.  It's ok by me.

I should be getting my deed for the next property that I bought any day now.  This one will be more of a community property and only be beautified with flowers and maybe a bench.  The history as I've been able to find out from folks in the neighborhood was that the house burned down in the 1980s and the lot was abandoned.  The neighborhood sort of took over the care and used it for events like block parties and even a wedding.  It's a perfect spot for just that and I assured them that it would remain for them to use but I would take care of it and over time beautify it a little.  It's a really nice corner lot that's amazingly flat.  It measures 44 by 60 feet.  Not real big but good sized for $100, don't you think?

Well, that kind of brings you up to date.  I'm having a great summer even though the garden is pretty much resting for this year.  My presence in the farmer's markets will have to be more often for this year.

How's your summer been so far?

Monday, May 26, 2014

Spring finally arrived
This Spring has been slow in coming this year.  The cold wet weather has set the harvest well later than normal for this year.  I suspect the first garden fresh juicy tomato bite won't be until August.  The visit from old Jack Frost two days after the last frost date for my area didn't help the situation any.  My tomatoes and bell peppers froze.  The frost threat was in the low lying areas.  Since I live on top of the hill I erroneously assumed that my precious plants would be safe.  Contrar contrar.  They might have made it but they looked pretty bad.  I scouted the land far and wide to find replacements but alas all the home improvement stores had been hit with frost as well.  My last resort was a local nursery that kept their plants under cover all the time.  Unfortunately at this point in the season the plants had been pretty well picked over but I managed to salvage a few to replant the ones that had been nipped with the frost.
As you can see they were really toasted.  It really wasn't worth the effort to try and save them.  I thought elevated above the ground and inside a bucket would protect them from the frost but not so.  It got all of the plants.  The cabbages, onions, radishes, and lettuce survived the freezing temperatures and are well on their way to live long and prosper.
The replacement plants were so glad to find a home that just a few days after I planted them this one started blooming.  Now I have to say it's a cherry tomato but it will do for now.  They have doubled in size since 10 days ago and are growing gang busters.  Maybe we will get to sample that first tomato of the season before August.  One can only hope.
This is a good shot of the cabbages that survived the frost.  Perhaps they were protected some by the buckets and lettuce on the right side.  Radishes are growing in the dirt under the buckets on the right side and have been all used in salads.  The lettuce is still producing enough for a good salad a day.  On the left side is the onions grown from seed.  Some are doing great and others not so much.

Here's a shot of the onions growing in the dirt under the rain gutters.  These were all grown from seed under the grow lights.  They were started in February and set out in the garden in April.  The only down side to multilayer growing is the weeding.  The cabbages are a little awkward to weed.  My body just doesn't twist and bend like it used to bend and getting around the buckets and reaching down to ground level can be a bit of a challenge.  But I can still get it done.
One of the projects I want to get accomplished this summer is to cleanup my side yard.  It's become quite a catch all for every thing.  These retaining wall blocks were left over from a project that I did for a friend of mine that was selling her house to move to Texas and wanted a little more curb appeal.  They were on sale and I over bought just a bit.  So I decided to build a flower bed at Terra Nova Gardens.  I just need a few more cap blocks for the top and it will be built and ready to fill up with dirt.  I haven't decided what to put in there just yet and maybe some of you could help me out with suggestions.  I'm not real creative you know.
The potatoes are up above the timbers and ready to have the second layer planted.  Only five out of the eight potato hills grew and one was a little sickly and succumbed to the frost.  So the four that are left will be the first layer.  Now I'll just lay a few more potatoes on top of the mulch and fill the second layer up to the top of the timbers.  The top of the already growing potatoes will keep on growing and the others will sprout.  Then two more layers of timbers will be spiked on top of the others in preparation of the next layer.  I suspect that will be the last layer as the Spring was so cold and wet the first of the potatoes took a long time getting started.
I have some news that I should let every one know about.  If you have been reading my blog for a time then you know I had an appendectomy in January and recovered without issue.  Every couple years I just have an annual checkup to have the fluids checked and make sure the blood pressure pills are still working.  One of the tests that is run on the vials of blood taken is called a PSA text which is an indicator of how well the prostate is doing.  Four years ago the PSA level was 2.9 which totally normal.  Two years ago it was 4.2 which is border line for concern.  This year it was 7.3.  Because of the jumps my regular doctor referred me to a Urologist.  He decided that we should really do a biopsy to see what was going on with the prostate.  My prostate was short and fat.  I know too much information but it was a good thing.  Because of being short it only required 12 core samples instead of 24 and being fat the core samples were very good quality.  The test results came back with just a tiny bit of cancer in one core sample.  This week a doctor's visit will be scheduled to talk about the options.  I don't see this as a real issue because it's been diagnosed in the very beginning stage.  It was so small that it could have easily been missed.  So I suspect it's very curable.  I'm not worried but any time the word cancer is mentioned people freak out.  So don't do that OK?  I'll be fine.

More next time.  Keep your paddles in the water and you will reach your destination soon enough.  

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Spring is slowly coming
Old Winter seems to be hanging on this year until the very last gasp.  Even though the day time temperatures are now in the 50s and 60s, the night time temperatures are still mostly in the 20s.  It's not very favorable to planting just yet but perhaps in another week the cold weather plants such as cabbage and onions can be set out.  They are busting out of the containers and begging to be outside in the real world.  The first little plants I set out a couple weeks ago are surviving but just barely.  I will probably replant them and put them out of their misery.
As the weather temperatures climbed toward favorable conditions for working outside, the ground conditions were not in agreement.  After a couple of nice days and still frozen ground, my crazy pent up anxiety and made a little cabin fever from the long cold Winter months took control of my thoughts.  I just couldn't stand it any longer, so drastic actions had to be taken.  Here you see me chopping the frost filled soil out of the ground to recondition.  The process was to dig out the soil; take two five gallon buckets of soil, mix with two five gallon buckets of partially composted yard waste from last fall, one five gallon bucket of peat, a coffee can of vermiculite, a cup full of garden lime, and a couple handfuls of Epsom salts.  The mixing is done in a compost tumbler then the batch is put back into the raised bed.  Six batches later the 4X8 foot bed is done and (yea!!) no frost.  I know pretty drastic but I just couldn't help myself.

Yesterday was one of the warm days that called me to be outside working again toward the day when all things could be planted.  Two of the four beds are nearing completion for planting.  The rain collection system has been set up for the year and is ready to begin collecting rain water.  Now we need a good two inches of rain to fill the storage tank.  I'm hoping that the repairs to the tank last fall will once and for all put an end to the leaking situation.
Bed number one which the farthest away will have a rain gutter system on top of the raised bed.  More about that in another post.  Under the rain gutter system onions, cabbages, radishes, and lettuce will be planted.  It's a multilayer growing experiment.  We will have to see how that works out for this year.
The second bed will be potatoes this year.  It will also be an experimental growing project.  You can see that the bed is about eight inches below the top of the bed sides.  This bed will house four layers of potato plantings.  The first layer will be planted by laying the potatoes on top of the eight inches of soil in the bed.  Then an eight inch covering of soil and mulch will cover up the potatoes.  After these plants have a growth of 12 to 18 inches a second layer of potatoes will be laid on top of the mulch and covered with eight inches of soil and mulch.  The third and fourth layers will be planted in the same manner.  By seasons end I'm hoping to have a bed full of potatoes.  We will see.  As you can see I'm more into trying to grow things on the edge than having a bountiful harvest.
Wait there's more.  Another experiment will be planting and growing giant pumpkins from seeds given to me from one of my Maine penpals.  She sent me a handful of seeds to try at Terra Nova Gardens this year.  It requires some special treatments but the potential is for a several hundred pound pumpkin.  I don't expect any kind of record breaking growth but still even if a pumpkin reached a couple hundred pounds, it would be the talk of the neighborhood.

 You ever have one of those days when you're all set to do one thing and then stuff happens?  Not too long ago one of those days popped up in my schedule.  The sun was shining brightly, the birds were tweeting (singing not digital tweeting), the garden bed were begging to be cleaned up.  Yeah, one of those perfect top 10 Spring days.  Just one thing before going out and enjoying digging in the dirt.  Just throw a quick load in the washer.  Yeah, right.  The whole agitator seemed a bit loose when inserting the clothes.  Upon inspection the whole unit came out with a slight tug.  A bolt had come loose and the agitator would spin freely.  An agitator that don't agitate.  Now that's pretty useless don't, don't you think.  Now I could have just bolted it down tight and it probably would have worked just fine but in my experience when things fall apart and a chance is given to replace parts that could become a problem in the near future, just do it.
The above parts are the old parts that make the agitator spin.  Even though they look in fairly good shape, I did not pass the opportunity to replace them.  So this day instead of enjoying the great outdoors in the garden, I enjoyed the great indoors down in the clothes washer tub.  The operation was a success and the household has high hopes that the washer will continue to live long and prosper.
I don't want to bore any one too much so I'll leave it at that.   Spring is here .... well, sorta. Enjoy the Spring days as much as you can.
Leave a comment and let me know what's going on in your part of paradise. Until next time.

Monday, March 10, 2014

This is torture weather 
Why you might say is this 70 degree weather torture?  This is the time of year when I really want to start digging in the dirt but the ground has not thawed out enough to start working the soil.  Today was a balmy 74 degrees.  It was awesome to be outside in a t-shirt once again.  Can anyone else say goodbye to below zero weather with me?  I'm not saying we have seen the end of cold days but I am declaring the end of below zero for this winter season.   Tomorrow is high of 45 with rain.  That's pretty typical for March in Nebraska.  I'll take all the 45 degree rain old Ma Nature will give.  It will help to thaw out the garden beds.
I took a trip out to Terra Nova Gardens just to walk the land and get a grip on the 2014 garden projects.  I have on the list to develop the Spring, finish building the fence, and start with the water storage.  I have changed my mind about water storage barrels up on the hill and have decided to put the barrels inside the fence elevated about three to four feet above the ground at strategic places.

Here's what I call my balanced meal.  On the left is tomato soup made tomatoes harvested from Terra Nova Gardens and processed in the Urban Ranch's kitchen.  On the right is totally Walmart with bread containing unpronounceable ingredients and cheese food product.  It's a balanced meal because one is healthy and the other .... well not so much.  I'm still working on eating better.  As my garden harvests increase so will my healthy eating habits.  I hope.
Still cleaning out the basement and finding things from the past.  How about this one.
Yeah, anyone remember  this.  At one time there must have been millions if not billions of these manufactured.  A display was on every check out counter in the country trying to draw you in to the big new digital world.  Apparently, I picked up one but I never went the AOL dialup route.  I went with a service provider called Juno which I still have today with my original e-mail address.  Of course I've climbed up into the new century with Internet service and wireless in the house.
I call these my little shamrocks.  They kind of do look like little four leaf clovers.  They are the cabbages that I started a couple weeks ago.  I started them in a flat and transplanted them into the plastic cups.  I'm hoping to get them outside in a couple more weeks.  The onions are still coming on strong and are about six inches high and starting to add a second stalk.  I am hoping to get them out in the garden as well before April 15th when my warm weather seeds need to be started.  I never thought I would be running out of space under the grow lights and may have to figure out a way to expand the seed starting station.

 I'm always scouting the city foreclosure website for cheap properties.  This corner lot measures 44 X 60 feet and comes with a price tag of $100.  The two houses next to it are for sale and the house across the street to the right has a yellow sign stuck on one of the windows.  That usually means it's got issues.  I thought this would be a good garden space but of a different kind.  It would be more bushes, flowers, and landscape.  I don't want to get to wild but maybe just beautify the corner some.

Things that I've learned from my previous purchase would put the development out about two years or more.  First the EPA would be contacted about lead testing before doing any work.  Then the utilities would be located because I'm sure there are some on this property because a house was once on the lot.

Speaking of the EPA.  I found a website that listed all the properties in the city and indicated which lots have been tested for lead and which ones didn't need the soil removed.  All the properties that have been tested that surround Terra Nova Gardens for a block in every direction hasn't needed to have the soil removed so I'm really hoping that the soil at Terra Nova won't have to be replaced.  I haven't heard any word from them but I'm moving forward with planting and hoping for the best this Spring.

I hope all is well with everyone and until the next time remember "Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, and snow is exhilarating.  There is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather."

Monday, February 24, 2014

Spring is almost here 
With Spring coming nearer and nearer, anticipation of digging in the dirt begins to fire up the gardening juices.  I'm so done with looking at seed catalogs and reading garden books.  Down in the deep dark bowels of the basement where the seed starting station resides, life has begun it's long journey to maturity.  Onions and now cabbage seeds have been sprouting and are becoming stronger and bigger every day.  Perhaps even today chives will begin their life cycle under the grow lights.  As snow gently falls outside and the ground remains frozen solid, it feels good to play in the potting mix for seed starting.  So in a way the gardening year has indeed started.

These are the onion sprouts that were started in a plastic tray.  With a little TLC, they have sprouted up to about five inches and now have been transplanted into square two inch fiber pots.  They are still healthy and strong.  The cabbages on the same shelf have just popped up their little shamrock heads and will be transplanted into the fiber pots in a couple weeks.

Winter provides allot of time to browse magazines and read books about gardening.  The greatest new source of gardening information last Winter has been Youtube.  I stumbled across a guy in Minnesota that has invented a container garden system that is self watering and will work great with my rain water collection system.  It uses float valves which keeps a continuous supply of water to the plants without the need for timers.  I'm going to give it a try this year and the see if it's worth the effort.  All indications look positive.

One of the requirements was to use food grade buckets for the containers.  Fareway has bakery buckets for a dollar each.  Here's a picture of one of the buckets.  I don't even what to know what Berthas No. 1 Bun Smear is used for.
Here's the ingredients for "Bun Smear".  Seriously, I'm not sure some of these are even food.

 I have been working on cleaning up my basement.  Many wonderful finds long forgotten about were found.  This is an original set of Foxfire books from the mid 1970s when there was only three books.  Elliot Wigginton was a English teacher that started these books as a research project to keep high school students interested in English.  Turns out over the next couple decades the set grew to 12 books of simple living and a some what must have to new homesteaders.  Practically everything needed to live off the grid is contained within the covers of these books.  It's really fun reading these books again some 40 years later.

This has become the year of doctor appointments.  Mine are rare and after the escapade with appendicitis, things have settled down to normal for me.  What ever that is.  However others have been tapping into my abilities to transport and deliver people to appointments.  My mother in law is in process to have cataracts removed so doctor appointments are scheduled to receive the go from normal doctor and heart doctor.  St. Patrick's day will be the left eye surgery at 7am with follow up the next day at 10am.  This last week another friend needed a ride to ER for intense vomiting and diarrhea.  Then again the next day for same symptoms.  The year has started out like no other year that I have known.  Pray that I stay strong and healthy.
Until the next time remember a bumble bee is considerably faster than John Deere tractor.