Thursday, May 23, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nebraska Dave 
Urban Farmer

Sunday, March 17, 2019

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, February 24, 2019

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


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

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

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

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

Nebraska Dave
Urban Farmer

Monday, February 18, 2019

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

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

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

Nebraska Dave
Urban Farmer

Monday, January 14, 2019

Happy New Year
January gives me a sigh of relief. The two months of busy holiday season is finally over. Don't get me wrong I love Thanksgiving and Christmas but I'm always kind of glad to see it over and life gets a bit of a rest before gardening starts up. 

This is going to be a year of finishing projects that are half done. It seems that I get excited about a project and loose interest about half way through the project. So, I've made my New Year plans to be a year of finishing it or as a famous Nebraskan comedian says, "Get ur done." The list is longer than the year so it will be a busy year for sure.
One of the best parts of the season is the beginning of the barrage of seed catalogs.
It's always comforting to settle back into a cozy chair with a hot cup of tea and a seed catalog to just browse the pages while the cold Winter weather rages on outside. I have a plan settled in my mind but it's never cast in stone until the seeds or plants are in the ground. I can plan all I want on paper or with digital garden planners but some times when in the garden, it just doesn't feel right and the plan gets changed.

The weather here has been quite warm for the first week of January. I actually went out to Terra Nova Gardens to cover up some garden beds with tarps to keep the Spring weeds under control. The temperature was a mild 54 degrees and the ground was muddy. Now the forecast is for a Winter storm to hit will up to three inches of snow starting with rain and then freezing rain and then snow. The worst scenario ever. Oh, well, I'm in for the weekend and will most likely stay in if the weather is bad. It might be a good time to just hunker down and make a big pot of chili.
I've been diligently working on replacing the kitchen floor. Way back in March I started working on this project due to a refrigerator that failed while I was away for a few days to a wedding in Texas. It ruined the floor under the fridge and so it just looked dumb having a nice new floor around the fridge with the rest of the kitchen and dining room with a dull 50 year old floor. So, yeah, it's kind of funny how things work that way for me. All I wanted was to fix the floor under the fridge and it turned into a full fledged floor replacement. This floor is just cheap peel and stick tiles. Most people with crinkle up their nose at such a task and complain that they know a person that knows a person that tried that and it didn't work. Well, if they just tried to stick the titles on top of an old dingy floor that's been walked on for 50 years then I would say that it was doomed to be a disaster. I have glued and screwed down a very thin subfloor over the old floor to get a very smooth and clean surface for the titles to stick. Once my tiles are down they won't be moving or peeling up. When the floor is done a coat of sealer will be applied to keep the cracks from filling up with crud. I'm getting down to where I can see the end of the floor project which is good. 

When the kitchen/dining room floor is done, I can start on the living room design. It's a bit unorthodox but I'm going to make it into a eating area. I have a large oval table with chairs. I have plans to start having Sunday dinners for family, friends, and neighbors. Now that I have my house to myself, I can make some of those plans that have been put on the shelf happen.

One of the task that had to be accomplished was to move this China hutch from the dining room to the living room. I has a lot of dishes and nick knacks displayed in the hutch. I devised a way to move the cabinet without removing any thing inside the hutch. It was a successful move without a single thing that moved for broke. Even more amazing is the that this hutch is a two piece hutch. The top is not attached to the bottom. I was a bit concerned about that but it moved really well with the strap around the top and bottom.

I'm hoping to get started on seed starting area renovation soon. I have a lot of plans floating around in my brain. I'm working on one design that will be able to be assembled in stages as the season ramps up. That will most likely be the one that I'll go with.

Well, lots to do and little time to do it. I hope all your plans for the new year will all be accomplished with great success.

I hope to hear from you soon.

Nebraska Dave

Friday, September 14, 2018

Removing the Jungle
Every year I have good intentions to keep my side yard clean and tidy. Every year about this time it has become a jungle that is difficult to walk through. So armed with a branch lopper, mattock, ax, and a sawsall, the work begins.
I am convinced that some alien rock fell from the sky and planted a totally vicious seed that is determined to take over the world. 
After some effort the tangled mass has been removed and once again some semblance of order has been restored in the side yard. There's still much to do in the side and back yard.

I have indeed found the source of all this and will be attempting to remove and kill the root.
As you can see it's still alive and well. I am determined to eradicate the evil plant. It has become a challenge between plant and man. 

Inside the house a new project begins. I have lots and lots of books. Several categories have struck my passion over the years. There are countless bibles and biblical books pertaining to prayer and other such subjects.  Then there's the technical books on car repair and computer programing (Which I never learned). Those were all recycled because programing from 20 years ago just isn't relevant in today's world. My passion the last few years has be gardening so now that's what fills the shelves today. I've become an advocate of digital books because they are easier to store and don't take up real space. However, digital takes electricity to see and read them. 
It's a start and will be expanded over time as I sort out the books to keep, the books to recycle, and the books to give away.
No this is not a rotated picture. It's me under a porch tacking up some insulation that had fallen down. Periodically I help do small repairs or building projects on a hundred year old ministry headquarters house for a non profit organization. It has been ongoing for over 10 years. I'm mostly the gopher (I go for this and go for that) and my partner in crime is really the project manager. 
The insulation was under this porch and just a slight distraction from the real project which was to build and install this under pen lattice work. It turned out real nice. Any time a work day happens, good fellowship, good food, and a good time is had by all. Turns out there were just two of us but we still had a great time. I really love volunteering but I just don't have much time to do it any more. It's kind of weird how a retired schedule fills up.

Summer is really starting to wind down and it's starting to feel like Fall. It's a good time to put away the cookbook on Barbecuing and crack out the cookbook on making soup. Each season has it's special food. Happy Fall to all.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Not much gardening
Mission trip to Vidor Texas
I was given the opportunity to go on another disaster trip. This time it was to a place called Vidor, Texas. It was on a rebuild team to re wire a church that had been flooded in the hurricane last September. Hurricane news lasts a week or two but the recovering from the devastation of a hurricane goes on for years. Some times the people that have homes damaged never recover simply because that don't have the money to repair or rebuild. Many either don't have flood insurance or can't get flood insurance because of living in a flood plane.

My journey started at 3 p.m. on Saturday July 14th.  It's a five hour journey to Pittsburg Kansas where my part of the team assembles to start the trip to Vidor, Texas.  As the sun sets on day one of the trip, a gorgeous sky lifts my spirit and gives me excitement for the journey ahead. This night for me will be spent with the team leader in his spare bedroom at his apartment.  Reveille was at 2 a.m. and the next day begins. Our part of team was two vehicles and five men strong.  After assembling in the parking lot and stowing our luggage and personal tools away in the trailer, we set out across the dark plains of Kansas Texas bound. This is my third trip to Vidor Texas. The last one was in 2009 to work on a church in Orange Texas. This leg of the trip is 12 hours long .... or should be. 

With great anticipation and more excitement the team assembles and we pull out of the parking lot at 4 a.m.  The long day of driving begins.

We were pulling a material trailer that had all the entry service panels, wire, switches, outlets, and boxes for all. Out first flat tire happened about 10 a.m. Not to be daunted we replaced the flat with gusto and continued our trek across the land of Oklahoma. 

About two hours later the front tire on this side blew. Faced with no spare, road service had to be called and a two hour delay in our time line happened. The leader of the group had road service replace both tires which then gave us a spare tire again. All went well for the rest of the day until we reached about 15 miles away from our destination. The two trailer tires on the other side blew at the same time. Another two hours to have road service replace the tires and finally the journey was over at midnight. The long grueling 18 hour journey had ended. The tire issues were attributed to seven year old weather checked tires that should have been replaced before the journey began.

This team was about 23 strong when all had arrived and worked on many things. A carpenter group changed wall locations and door openings for better use of the rooms of the building.  The challenge for me and my partner was a little different than the rest of the team. It was to tear out the old service panels and install the new ones.

The first order of business is to remove all these old panels and save the meter. Rusted door hinges, screws, and bolts are a real challenge to remove. The temperature began to rise and by noon the heat index was 105. The heat index was over 105 every day as my partner and I worked outside in the bright Texas sun. I came back with a crispy tan. Breaks were taken every hour and a half with a constant supply of water and Gatorade. By day's end every piece of clothing worn was soaked through and through with perspiration. Showers, ice tea, and evening meal (called supper in Kansas) was a welcome sight.

Then the dominoes were brought out and Mexican train was played until the 9 p.m. hour came and all trundled off to bed because tomorrow starts at 5:30 a.m.

The next task on the list was to remove the bars off this window and remove the window. The new service panels went over the window. It was a 400 amp service that was going in so more panels were needed than were removed.  So now I know if I ever need to break out of jail all I need is a cordless sawsall.  The window area was boxed in and a 3/4 sheet of external plywood covered the opening. A bead of caulking around the windows and the building was ready to have the panels mounted.

The layout of the new panels is an important part of the assembly of the service panels. The channel iron at the bottom of the picture is what the panels are attached. The channel iron is anchored to the outside of the building by using a hammer drill and drilling through the brick wall. Then bolts are used to secure the iron to the building. The group that I work with has very high standards and require the electrical panels to not only be functional but also look good and professional. So those channels have to be perfectly level. I mean perfect. Not close or close enough but perfectly level. It fits the way I like to do things.

The service panels are all anchored down and ready to be wired on the next trip.  I used to go on almost every trip but now that home responsibilities dominate my schedule, I can't get away that often. Once or twice a year is all that I can get done.  So I'll have to say goodbye to this project and may not be able to see the finished product.  But that's kind of how it is with these trips.
The trip home was uneventful and I arrived home about 9 p.m. Saturday night, tired, happy, and with a big bag of stinky clothes to wash.  Sunday was wash, dry, fold, and put away clothes day. Another successful trip has ended. I estimate it would be around trip number 31 over the last 15 years. 

Until the next time may all your tires stay filled with air and may all your projects be completed without problems.

Nebraska Dave