Thursday, April 19, 2018

Not "Mulch" To Talk About...

Bad winds again on Friday did the work of taking down the (what I thought was) last dead tree...


Turned out that there was one more dead tree hiding behind it.  So, I guess at some point we'll be taking that one down.  Another wind storm going on right now so it may not be standing tomorrow.

                   *****************************************

The beds are now in final prep and growing has commenced.  A few things are going to be different this year.  I'm not going to use any store-bought mulch, as it has become a problem getting pure, clean mulch.  Almost every farming magazine I read now is warning about the stuff ruining gardens because of the chemicals in it.  The weed killer toxins go through animals without bothering them, but their waste makes for toxic mulch.  Since nobody certifies the mulches as chemical free, you don't know what you're getting.

Because of this, I've decided to just use non-GMO and organic fertilizers, along with my own eggshells and assorted soil boosters.  I'm hoping this keeps the bad chemicals out of our food.  I may try composting my own mulch again, but the chickens pretty-much make that a "no-go."


... using my own coffee grounds in the bed...

... working in the stuff...

... getting the seeping hoses into the beds...

... hoses in and checked for leaks...


The placement of the new cucumber area and the tomatoes is done.  I had one cucumber support and decided to use the old tomato cages for some more supports.  The area to the left with the heavy T-posts is now ready for tomatoes.  Added in water cups to keep water off the plants.

If things go as planned, the tomatoes and cucumbers will be off to a good start.  I guess I'll know soon enough if these supports are up to the task.

I do have some lettuce already coming up so I've started a second planting there.  I also may have a green bean plant sprouting... could be a weed too, so I'm keeping an eye on it.


Monday, April 16, 2018

"Captain, She Can't Take It Anymore"*...

OK, enough already.  These winds are terrible.  They have destroyed much of what we've done in the garden and... 



... and trees are raining down all over the property.  OK, not all over the property, but 3 of the burned trees from 2015 came down.  There is 1 left so we are deciding if we should bring it down when the winds lessen.  These trees still looked like they should've been strong even though dead.  The wood hasn't rotted so we're at a loss for this.  I think one went and took the others, but we'll never really know.  I'm just thankful that as they came down, they didn't take out the fence or the greenhouse.

I'm thinking we should try and get aspens or poplars into this area, but we ALL know our luck in getting trees to grow up here.



After placing the hoops blown off last time back onto the beds, we needed to get to work on fixing the wind problems we've now identified. 

We had come up with a plan to get the upper bed hoops to stay on the beds.

First, we put foam pipe-sleeves on the bottom pipes as there were openings under them and I just KNEW we'd have bugs (beetles) walking up the blocks and under the hoops.  I wish we could have them sit on the dirt inside those beds, but those beds are so skinny in width that after seeing how the kale expanded while growing, I knew that we'd need extra space for things in those beds.

Next, we tied opposite corners to the T-posts with parachute cord.  This way I could just untie one cord and open a hoop for working in it.  Then, we waited for the next day of high winds.   "shudder"



Well, the winds came and the hoops moved.  They didn't move off the beds, but it looks like they bounced up and down and shed their foam sleeves.  So, now we are devising plans to remedy these problems.



In a way, the winds caused some problems with our screen door, too... but after Ziva got involved in a tiff with a squirrel.

During a lull in the winds (for a microsecond) while Ziva watched out the back door, a brazen squirrel headed in for some seed.  Ziva usually barks to let us know she wants out... not this time.  She hit the screen at a run and knocked it out of the way. 

The squirrel made it up a tree in time and was safe.  Not so the screen.  I set it up straight for Steve to install again.  The next second, the wind did take the screen for a ride.  It'll take a bit of fixing as Ziva's knock broke a wheel off.  More things to fix now.



So, we seem to have survived this windy weather, but the garden will need fixing, the screen will need fixing... my nerves will need fixing.

More wind is not good but we did get to see something great the wind did... this cloud was noticed overhead and I'm taking it as a sign that some angel lost a wing feather while protecting our homestead...

... isn't that a great cloud, or what?...


* Gene Roddenberry - Star Trek

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Windy Is As Windy Does...

Steve has put his pedal to the metal and the new upper bed hoops are finally finished.  We spent the last couple days getting the netting and tulle onto them.


We fit them onto the beds and thought they'd do well.  I did one in white tulle and one in black.  Both will have kale in them so I guess I'll see which color kale prefers to grow under.



Steve saw me slip down the dirt embankment and decided to get the steps in next.  I couldn't wait for those steps as I'd done quite a few awkward pirouettes down that hill.  There was also an indentation forming that I'd trip over.  Turns out there was also a collapsing home for something burrowed into that hill.  We pulled out lots of grass and a very small nest that thankfully was empty.  Stuffed a few rocks into the hole and proceeded with the steps.


Tah Dah!  New steps.  We'll be adding some more dirt to the top platform and finish the landing off with more cinders, but for now... heaven.



Walked out yesterday and had this sight before me.  We are into a couple days of very strong winds and I foresee some rope coming into play.

I was very surprised to see the large hoop being blown over as I can barely move it when I need to get under it.  Nothing really solid to keep the wind from just blowing through it, but I guess the tulle is substantial enough for this to happen.  It probably doesn't help that it also looks much like a sail.

I knew the newly installed upper bed hoops might cause a bit of trouble, as they are just sitting on the tops of the blocks.  All the other hoops are inside the bricks on the dirt and that helps them stay.  The upper black hoop had taken a tumble and the white one was just starting to go.

Must put my thinking cap on and come up with a solution...

... but just for now I'm going to pray for calm to return...



Monday, April 9, 2018

... Just Don't Call Me Late For "Dinner"...

Egg production has picked up since longer days have arrived, making for a few interesting surprises...


Had my first "wart" egg, which is surprising because I've seen just about everything now.  I get the most misshapen eggs, eggs with double yolks, eggs with the egg in its membrane but no shells and now...



... I'm getting eggs with no membranes AND no shells (excuse the unmentionable on top of it).  One a day and they are making messes of the nesting boxes.  I know the girls have extra calcium available to them and they get calcium in their greens, so someone's having a problem...



... and I think I've found her.  Dinner... um, Red, with the messy butt, is the culprit and she may have to go.  I'll see if this goes away, but so far it's been several nestbox messes and it can't go on forever.



The sun comes up pretty early now, so the insulation has come off the coop and the electric water fount is in the shed and the summer one is out.  It took several tries but I finally found a new crumble feeder and the girls are happy (I think). 



I've started intensively watering the trees since the aspens are budding well.  Yes, the pic is a tad blurry, but even then, you can see the buds swelling for leaves.  This is the aspen that let's me know what's coming for the other trees.  Well, except the new Redbuds.  They've not done anything yet, so I pray they are alive.



Murgatroyd has moved out of the garage for the season and has picked a new place to perch.  He found a little copse of pines for this outing.  Not sure it'll be a great place for sunlight to help him light his magic ball, but we'll see how it goes.



Thursday, April 5, 2018

..."Follow the Spiders"*... (not)...

Had a Harry Potter* marathon over a couple days and Hagrid's words of warning were probably on my mind.  I did also get out and get some work done, too, but only a little and between movies.  


Headed out with my wheelbarrow full of pine needles to mulch and prepare for my "garden of weedin'" and check on what needed doin' first.



To make the hooping easy, I pounded in the pole supports. Now that they won't fall on my head, I can start the bed's prep.



Got around to the LARGE hoop and noticed that it isn't spiders I should follow, but flies.  There were several that had already gotten stuck inside.  For the life of me, I can't figure how they did that in record time.  If they are getting in then those dreaded Rose Chafer beetles will also get in, so it was fly management time.  It was time for a stronger material than wooden clothespins...



... so I decided I'd roll the tulle tighter together at the top and, using the gardener's BEST friend, I clipped the top of the hoop with my trusty XL binder clips.  There isn't much they can't do.  Sure, they look like they're doing the job now, but check back in a month, or so, and we'll see if they can defeat the beetles.

I'd've used them on the other hoops, but they don't come to a point like the LARGE hoop, so the clothespins were relegated to them.  Now, Steve's finishing the two hoops for the upper beds and they will be pointed, so my "precious" clips will be used there, too (sorry, reference to "The Lord of the Ring's"** snuck right in). 



The strawberry bed was worked on, too.  I've pulled back the straw and pine needles in this pic so I can get acidic fertilizer down to the roots and put the seeping hose in.  

I guess it's time to check the hoses for leaks and and get moving...



* J.K. Rowling, "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" Hagrid's speech 
** Peter Jackson, "The Lord of the Ring's"

Monday, April 2, 2018

Hoops and Nets...

... and we're not talking basketball...

We finally got ourselves into gear and the work on the hoops commenced.  The winds have been fierce lately, so we knew this was going to happen inside the garage.  Steve backed the 5 ton out and we unloaded the hoops.


Not sure storing the hoops in the truck was the best thing but, even when the truck had to go somewhere, they seemed fine tagging along through the winter months.



Made the decision on which hoops go black tulle and which I'll try with white tulle.  Even in the garage, the slight winds making it through the door made working with the tulle difficult.  It's like working with spider webs blowing around.  And, after some fighting with the stuff, it seemed to become static and made the job worse.  Don't remember this happening last season.  I was the stretcher and holder while Steve was the attacher, and after some swearing, we made it work.



As one was finished, we'd take it out to the garden to make room for another.


Then, it was back to the truck and get another hoop.  I went black on one large and two small hoops.  Here Steve is covering the biggest hoop in white.  It'll be the green bean hoop so I'll see if white is best for them.



So, here they are.  Still going to take off, and cover, the hoop which covered the strawberries over the winter.  Probably going to be in black, but you never know.  Do they like heat or cooler in the summer?  Must check that out.  Don't want to spend too much time worrying about them as they may not be here after this summer.  This is their "make or break" year.  Produce, or you're history.

Steve is going to make two smaller hoops for the upper beds.  Trying to clothespin tulle and netting there was a bear, so the hoops should make those beds easier to work on.  He says he's going to make them taller than the regular hoops.  You know, just in case tall foods become a future plan.

One good thing about the winds is they've blown all the dry pine needles into the garden fences, so I'll be able to snag a lot for mulch with very little effort.  I can fill in the two blueberry beds, too.  

Then, it's mulch, seed, water...

... pray...