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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Darn Rain is Drowning My Trees!

We have been getting several inches of rain the last couple of days, and it is supposed to rain the rest of the week.  The backyard is flooding in spots, although because we're on a hill, we're in no way in as bad shape as parts of New England.

My new trees are in puddles, and I think I will probably lose them all. Damn that clay soil!

I don't understand it; there are three full grown standard apple trees living next door- how did they survive?

Well, I guess I won't start counting my losses until I confirm things; I guess I'm just trying to prepare myself for the worst.

Oh- and it's supposed to be in the thirties tonight, so I covered the one artichoke that's up with a water jug cloche.  I hope it survives, as it's the only one of four that was acting alive.

Welcome to farming, huh?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Aluminum Plant Markers, for Next to Nothing

This first picture is of my not-so-wonderful copper tags, in which I am really disappointed.  This looks like mud, but it is not; it's the copper tarnishing.  Perhaps when the whole thing is tarnished, and maybe verdigrised, it will be more legible, but right now, it could not be more illegible.

Then I had a flash of insight, which I tried with a prototype. Homemade aluminum plant markers made from inexpensive wire and aluminum beer cans! And they work very well- better than the copper.  I wish I'd thought of this before plonking down thirty-six dollars for the copper ne'er-do-wells.

You'll need: a measuring tape, several thicknesses of newsprint or an old newspaper, galvanized wire (here's what I used), a pair of needle-nosed pliers with a wire cutter, a pair of scissors, a small piece of cardboard, a dark-colored permanent marker, and an aluminum beverage can.

So here's how:

Measure a line 22 3/4" long on several thickness of newsprint or newspaper.  Mark the line at 8"; 1"; 1"; 2 3/4"; 1"; 1"; and 8".  This is your marking template.

Cut a piece of galvanized wire 22 3/4" long, which should be easy to do against your line.  With the permanent marker, mark the wire at the 8, 1, 1, 2 3/4, 1, and 1 inch marks using your marking template.

Using your needle-nosed pliers, make a ninety-degree bend out at the 8" mark, and ninety-degree bend up at the 1" mark, a ninety-degree bend back toward center at the 1" mark, a ninety-degree bend down at the 2 3/4" mark, a ninety-degree bend back toward center at the 1" mark, and the final ninety-degree bend at the 1" mark so that it looks like this:

I find that it makes a much sharper bend if I push hard against my thumb.  Set this aside.

On a small piece of thin cardboard, mark a rectangle 3 1/4" long by 7/8" wide. Make sure your corners are square.  Cut this out. This will be your label template.

Using your scissors, cut the top and bottom off the beverage can, and down one side.  Open it flat.

Using your cardboard template, mark the label on the outside of the can, so that when you cut it, any marks will be on the back side of the label, and not on the front of the label. 

Using your scissors, cut out the label.

It's easiest to go ahead and mark the label with a fine point ballpoint pen while it's flat, so go ahead and do that.

Wrap the ends of the label around the either side of the wire frame. I find that the labels stay on best if the edge just meets the back of the label and there is no excess.  Once I've done the first side, I'll trim a little of the label off the other side if it will make it just fit around the wire.

And voila!  I'm a lot happier with the aluminum plant markers.  Only time will tell how well they hold up in the long run, but in the first couple of days, they are doing much better with all the rain we are getting.  There are no changes on them- they're just wet!  And very inexpensive, which we like.

Frogs and Tomatoes

This last Saturday when the weather was so beautiful, Steve and I got outside and got some things done. He moved a couple of compost piles for me and then dug the last of the remaining lengths of rebar that were sticking out of the ground with which Randy (previous owner) had constructed the planter box and which we dismantled and reused for smaller boxes.  I worked on the cucurbit boxes and planted some of my very leggy seedlings, most of which were cold weather crops, although I did plant the canning tomatoes which I promptly covered in cut water jug cloches.

Sunday it rained, so we hied ourselves off to the library and grocery stores.  I picked up a book from the library (can I just say here that I love going to the library?) called 200 Tips for Growing Vegetables in the Pacific Northwest by Maggie Stuckey.  One of the very first things I read was, "Rule of thumb: don't put summer vegetables in the ground until the lowest nighttime temperatures are consistently above 50 degrees F."  Why couldn't I have found this book six weeks ago?  Then this morning I learn from the weather forecast that it will get colder this week and nighttime temperatures will go as low as thirty-five.  I think I may have jumped the gun on the tomatoes.  I did plant them very deeply after all, but I guess to be safe I had better start some more High Carotene seeds.

However, it is warm enough for the frogs to be out.  I consider this a good sign- I didn't even know we had frogs, although on Saturday we could hear one, but we figured it was a far-off bullfrog, because that's what it sounded like. As it is, though, it's a male Pacific Tree Frog, otherwise known as a Pacific Chorus Frog.  I know this because I sent this picture off to my nephew who has been studying frogs for many years (he actually had some poison dart frogs for awhile- Alexander really knows his frogs).  After reading about them though, I'm wondering where this little guy came from, because we have ravines and fast-flowing creeks around here, but no real ponds to speak of, which is what they need for procreation unless.....oh! I wonder if he was hatched and developed in the water feature that the folks next door have?!  It's just a little naturalized fountain, but I wonder if it was enough?  I hope to have a pond someday, with a burbling solar-powered waterfall.  It's good feng shui if it's in the southeast corner of your yard, with the water flowing toward the house- brings money, good luck, and good chi.  And who couldn't use more of that? I know I certainly could!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Gardening Activities for a Rainy Day

The last two days were glorious and sunny, and I hucked soil 'til I thought my arms would come out of their sockets. Steve was pretty tired too, but that's because he can pick up twice what I can, so he did- every wheelbarrow load.  Consequently, what took me all day to do (which was fill a box), we got done in a couple of hours, so the boxes are full, and I also have a flower bed against the western fence.  To date, I only have the two roses in the bed, but I'm planning a whole host of bee fodder plants like melissa, lavender, borage, bee balm (monarda) and the like.  I also want to plant some flowers that I just have always liked, like peonies, and some cutting flowers.  Maybe a lilac. Mostly, it's for the bees though. I have to get it planted and going, before I can think about getting bees, which is why I've decided not to do them until next year when I know there will be a lot more for them to eat, both in terms of quantity, more importantly in terms of variety.  There is the idea out there that one of the causes of Colony Collapse Disorder is mono-cropping.  Experts think that bees need a variety of food sources for optimum health, and it actually makes a lot of sense.  So I want to have a lot of different flowers that they prefer.

Today was not so pretty. In fact, it rained most of the day.  So what does an avid gardener do on a cold and rainy spring day?  This is what she does- she labels plant markers! For those of you interested, I bought the copper markers as opposed to anything else because they are the most permanent, and I wanted to label all those lovely trees and soft fruits that I put in the ground.  The best price seemed to be on eBay, but if I had to do it all over again, I'd bite the bullet and get 100 markers, and I'd probably get them somewhere else- 50 wasn't enough and eBay had the best deal for getting only 50.  If you decide to go the copper marker route, let me clue you in on a few things I had to learn the hard way.  Use a fine ball point, not a medium, and press hard over a magazine or catalog; don't do it on a hard surface.  This will give the best impression into the copper.  I fear that the plant markers I wrote first may have to be done over at some point, and I'm not sure how that will turn out.  At least I know what to do now.

For the vegetable beds, it occurred to me that if I'm using permanent markers, I needed to come up with something other than labeling them with the plant name or variety.  I decided that I should label them in sections like A1, A2 (pictured) A3, B1, B2, etc., and keep a record of what's in the section elsewhere, like in a notebook.  That way I don't have to worry about succession planting or rotating crops.  The first four beds were labeled with six sections each; the fifth will be the asparagus bed.

The various trees and plants got their own labels- this is one of the blueberry specimen labels. This is also one of the last markers I labeled, when I finally got the hang of what I was doing.  It looks a lot better than the first one.

Now that I have all the complete boxes full, all I need is the weather to cooperate.  Normally, it doesn't rain really hard here in Oregon like it does in Florida.  You can still get plenty soaked, but it's a softer rain.  Except when there's a thunderstorm, and then it rains pretty darn hard.  Today's forecast was for thunderstorms in the afternoon, so I didn't want to risk brand new seedlings in a torrential downpour.  Tomorrow may be a better day- it's supposed to just be a chance of showers in the morning, and showers in the afternoon, so if it's decent tomorrow- hooray! I'm finally planting!

Cold weather stuff, though- I don't want to lose peppers and tomatoes.  I'll probably start some seeds directly in the boxes tomorrow as well- the blended soil I have in them is pretty nice stuff, and turnips and carrots like to be direct sowed anyway. Yay! It's spring planting time!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Dirt, Beer, and Good News

This morning I took delivery on seven and a half cubic yards of lovely, blended soil for the planter boxes.  I moved half of it.  It really felt good to be shoveling dirt, knowing that I was using leverage on the shovel and not my back.  Steve came out and helped me with the last boxful, and I was really grateful, because he can pick up a fuller wheelbarrow than I can, so we could make fewer trips.  At the last half of the second box, I finally started to get tired, and let Steve fill the wheelbarrow out on the driveway and bring it back to me. I emptied them into the boxes with the shovel.  Keep in mind that I'd been doing this since 10:30 this morning, only taking a break to make and eat lunch, and put a second coat of paint on lumber in the garage.  We quit at six o'clock, just in time to feed Rufus.

Needless to say, since we'd had a late, large lunch, and I was looking for liniment, we drank dinner tonight.  Steve had a cheap Dutch import, and I had a Bitburger, my second favorite pilsner after Warsteiner.  Then I broke down and served us some Carambozola cheese and almonds, which went really well with the beer. Hey- I didn't have to cook again. Normally, I love to cook, but when I'm beat, I'm beat.

I called my brother Kit tonight to wish him a Happy Birthday, and he had the happy news of having landed a job the week before and starting only yesterday. Yay Kit!! Happy Birthday!! Only eighty-eight more days and the full bennies kick in!

So between feeling good about having three out of five planter boxes full, Kit's new job, and my Bitburger dinner, I am feeling pretty content this evening.

We'll just see how my back feels in the morning.  I still have the rest of the soil to move.

Non-Electric Night

You may have noticed that I don't post things or make comments on Monday nights- that's because I'm not online on Monday nights.

A few weeks ago I instituted a weekly non-electric night, and Steve has been a very good sport about it.  Monday nights are very slow TV-wise, so it seemed to be a good night for it.  The first night we played Scrabble by lantern light, but lately we've taken to reading.  It actually works out well for us, because we're so tired that an early bedtime sounds doable.  Last night we were in bed by 9:00 PM, and I fell asleep pretty fast.  It's good because we don't use our computers as an excuse to stay up later than we're really physically able to. Maybe we'll even save a little money.

Today I have seven and a half cubic yards of blended soil for the planter boxes being delivered at 10:30 AM, and as soon as my overalls are dry, I'll drag them out of the dryer and onto myself and get cracking out in the yard. I have one more box to put together, and hardware cloth to put down before I can fill them.  Tomorrow the copper mesh is supposed to arrive, and I'll be able to start planting after that.

Ok- dryer's stopped- I gotta go!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Spring Has Sprung

Goodness- it's been over  a week since my last post!  Well, the reason for that is that I don't have a lot of progress to report.  I wanted to get one of the planter boxes filled with soil so that I could transplant some seedlings, and it took me four days to fill it.   This is not to say it took me thirty-two hours- but I could handle about one third of the box a day, and then one day just did not cooperate weather-wise.   But at least, now I know how long it takes to move forty-two cubic feet of soil.

Well, that's not entirely fair.  I was mixing decomposing bark from the back of the yard (remember I mentioned that where there isn't lawn, there's plastic and bark, and I aim to remove all that plastic).  This was hampered by the arborvitae roots that are all throughout the bark, and the weeds which are growing on top of it.  So I weeded and then I hoed an area and picked roots out of it, and then shoveled it into the wheelbarrow, which I then wheeled over to the old planter box that I'm moving.  I shoveled some of the soil from the old box, which is no more at this point, into the wheelbarrow, which I then wheeled over to the box I was filling.   Then I turned everything in the wheelbarrow over and over with a spading fork until it was mixed well, and then I shoveled it into the new box.  This would move about three cubic feet a load.  I was plum. worn. out. by the time I called it quits at the end of the first day.

I know it doesn't look like much now, but it will this summer.  Even though I am anxious to get some of my seedlings from the garage moved to it, it occurred to me in time before I started that I can't until I get a copper barrier up for the slugs.  Slugs are a serious nuisance here in Oregon, and the only thing I've found that works with certainty is a copper barrier.  Last year's garden had a length of copper roof flashing all around the edges of the box, and it worked like a charm- no more missing plants the next morning.  This year, I ordered 400 feet of knit copper mesh to go around the edges, and it seemed a real bargain, considering how long it should last.   It should be here the 24th of the month, and I'll transplant lettuces, onions, and kales as soon as it's installed.

The day after I filled the first box, I built another.  The next (and last) shipment of plants I'm expecting are twenty-five Jersey Knight asparagus crowns.  So now I have four out of five boxes built.

In other news, the lumber for the pergola was delivered, and I purchased the paint for it Friday.  It's still drying in the garage, and probably tomorrow, as it's supposed to rain, I'll get started on painting it. 

Then yesterday I had my first dandelion salad.  I had been weeding and ran across a good-sized dandelion that hadn't flowered yet, so I popped the thing out of the ground whole.  It took a little washing though- it was pretty dirty, but I chopped it up with a tiny bit of French tarragon and a chive, and then dressed it very simply with olive oil, wine vinegar, and salt and pepper.  It was pretty good!  I'll be more careful with dandelions going forward, and be on the look out for them next winter when they start sprouting.  They are supposed to be tenderest and best before they bloom.

And last, but not least, here is my favorite boy dog enjoying some deck time.

Happy first day of spring!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Steps In The Right Direction

The other day when I got the currant and four almond trees into the ground, the big reason that I got so little done was that I decided to prune the photinia in the back corner.  I wanted to let more light hit the Dublin Bay rose, which will get sun in summer when the sun is high overhead, but is still in the shade right now.  Its buddy Courageous is taking off already because it's getting a steady diet of sunlight.  I also wanted to get the pruning done before I planted the almonds because I didn't want the falling limbs hitting young trees.

The photinia are currently the only thing in the yard creating shade, and even though they are pretty crappy (they're supposed to be a shrub not a tree), I'm loathe to remove them because they are the only shade.  It occurred to me that the only way to make them useful for this little homestead of ours is to plant the chickens and possibly rabbits underneath them.

Pruning the photinia opened up the space underneath them nicely!

You can see that there will be plenty of room for a hen yard.
I'm still not decided on whether or not to raise rabbits for meat.  They are supposed to be the quintessential livestock for raising meat in the city because they breed like you-know-what, and they are quiet.  Actually, they are not quiet- a rabbit will scream when it's terrified, so you have to make sure that nothing scares them.  It would be easier if we could go vegetarian, but Steve can't handle most of those foods that make up the correct amino acid replacement for meat, i.e., grains and legumes, so I have to feed him meat.  The plan is to eventually be getting most, if not all, of our food out of the yard, so I have to come up with something for a meat source, and rabbits would probably be the most sensible choice.  I'm just not sure that it's in the cards yet. At any rate- I have a nice shady spot to put them if we do decide to do rabbits. They need shade.

Speaking of getting all our food out of the backyard, we are nowhere near that yet. I'm still building planter boxes and picking up after the previous homeowner, as well as planting the things that take a few years to start bearing, like trees and asparagus.   But I do hope to get food out of the yard year-round in the future, which means we'll be eating by the seasons for sure.  I expect that we'll still need to go to the store for things like oil, and hemp milk, and Steve's coffee, and toilet paper and baking soda, and all that.  Lately, we have taken to walking the mile and a half to the store instead of getting into the car, which is part of the whole simplify, simplify, simplify strategy.  We've been to the library on foot a few times, which is the same walk as the library and store (and post office, for that matter) are right next to each other.

But the walk to do the shopping is a new step in the right direction.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Vintage Shaving vs. Modern Shaving

Some years ago, and I'm not really sure when or why, it dawned on me what an ecological disaster modern shaving is.  By combining metal and plastic together in the disposable razor and shaving cream can, we render neither of them recyclable, so into the landfill they go by the billions. I read recently that the EPA estimates that over two billion disposable razors wind up in landfills a year.  Two billion! That's just the disposable razors! I couldn't find anything about how many razor cartridges or shaving cream cans wind up there.   I remember buying cartridge-type razor blades at Costco, because they were so much cheaper than at the grocery store.  The big downside to that was that even though they were far less expensive in terms of out-of-pocket cost to me, they were entombed in a huge plastic coffin that made sure I could see what I was getting for my incredible bargain, but no where on this abomination did I see the friendly recycle triangle.  They were ecologically really expensive.  So I rebelled.

I did some research and made the argument to Steve that in the long run, we would save ourselves a ton of money AND do the environment a huge favor if we changed to old fashioned safety razors and if he started plying a shaving brush, to which he agreed.  Please don't confuse an old-fashioned safety razor with an old-fashioned straight razor.

This is a straight razor

They are not the same thing.   I would not go near a straight razor, much less take one to my underarms or limbs, or let Steve shave his precious Adam's apple with one.  Some people like a straight razor, and they are out there if you want to buy one.  I saw one recently that was $696, but it was a hand-made custom job. If you have that kind of money and time- help yourself to it.

I don't think that most people give a second thought to the paraphernalia with which they shave, but I sure wish that they would.  Our razors are made out of metal, yes, that had to be mined, but they should easily last us the rest of our lives.  Or at least until we decide not to bother anymore.  I used to buy Merkur blades from an online tobacco shop in Nashville.  The Merkur blades came ten to a package and were housed in a little plastic holder that came on a cardboard-backed blister pack.  Since I was paying for shipping, I'd order ten packages at a time to last us the year, and with shipping, they came to about $.65 a blade.  When you compare that with a package of refill blades for a modern razor that will set you back at least five bucks, you begin to see what kind of savings can be had.  The other advantage to double edge blades is that they can be much more easily recycled at the landfill where they will cling to the huge electric magnets that they use for metals, and they won't have to be separated from their plastic shells, because they don't have them.

I still felt bad about what little plastic was involved, so I went hunting again.  This time I found an online seller that had a box of 250 individually wrapped Personna blades for around $55 dollars. 250! That would last a couple of years, at least. With the shipping, the Personna blades cost me $.24 a piece.  That's twenty-four cents a piece.  These were much less expensive and there was no plastic involved.  We could have spent more, and purchased the fancy Feather blades at twice the price, but I was looking to get some blades in here cheap.   The Feathers have the reputation for being the sharpest blade out there, and receive enthusiastic reviews, so one day I may treat Steve to some to see how he likes them.  I would caution anyone contemplating a change to double edge shaving, that because they are so sharp, all the reviewers recommend them to experienced double edge shavers only, and to try shaving with another kind of blade for a few months while you get used to double edge shaving.  As Steve put it when we first starting shaving with safety razors, "these blades are unforgiving."  It takes a little longer to shave, and it takes a little while to get used to that.

This is a safety razor
But we did get used to them, and I no more often nick myself with my safety razor than I did with the newer razors.  We do still have a modern cartridge razor, but we save that for traveling, because the TA doesn't get safety razors.  In 2002, when we went to Germany, we had a fairly new pack of Merkur blades confiscated at the airport, which necessitated finding and buying razor blades in Germany.  We couldn't find a match and wound up buying disposable razors, which of course, was an anathema to us.

The other thing that shaving with a brush and safety razor does for you is change the shaving chore into something of a ritual.  If you round out the experience with nicer soaps or fancier shaving creams, and believe me, they can be had, then taking care of this daily routine becomes a lot more pleasurable, and much less a pain, particularly when you allow yourself the time to do it correctly.  And if you shop around, there are some really beautiful razors and razor sets out there that would make a really fine gift for someone, or a swell present for yourself.  The various shaving creams and soaps to be had are very nice as well, particularly those from Europe.  I'm not sure that I'd recommend buying shaving cream one tube at a time from somewhere in Europe- that would carry a heavy carbon price. But if they were purchased in bulk, or at the very least, as a gift, they could make the transition to using a safety razor very pleasant indeed.

A few shaving tips I can offer that I've picked up over the years is that guys should shave after their shower, to allow their beards to soften up a bit.  Girls should shave no sooner than four minutes in, and no later than eight minutes in, for the closest shave.  After four minutes, hair is soft enough to shave well, and after eight minutes the skin is so swollen with water that stubble is more apparent after the skin dries.  The other tip for both sexes is to draw the razor slowly across the skin for the closest shave and to minimize irritation.  Razor burns and cuts happen more often if shaving is rushed.

So I hope I've made my case: modern shaving carries a heavy price, both in terms of the embodied carbon it entails and longevity in the landfill, as well as it costs a lot more to your household budget.  Vintage shaving with a safety razor is much easier on the landfills and your wallet, and can turn shaving into a pleasant experience to which you actually look forward.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

A Busy Sunday

Today our contractor came by to give us the estimate for the pergola.  It wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be, and is within our means to get done.  The only catch is that we have to paint it ourselves, which I knew going in; Jef doesn't paint.  So next weekend he'll drop off the lumber so that we can paint it while he's doing a job on the coast for a couple of weeks.  I sure hope the weather cooperates, because the lumber needs to be ready to start when he is.

Speaking of weather- I managed to get the blueberry bed completely dug and the blueberries are in! 

You can't imagine (unless, of course, you've done this) how incredibly hard digging up clay, crumbling it up, mixing it with peat moss and then filling back in the bed is.  Even dumping the wheelbarrow full of this soil mixture was hell- at one point I was so tired that I lost control of the wheelbarrow and the front end of it went into the hole before I was able to dump it.  I had to get Steve to come out and pull it back out of the hole.  And after starting the next foot or so of new clay, which I dug up and loaded into the wheelbarrow, I'd tell myself really, Paula, don't over do it- this is the last one for today, and then I'd dump the mixed load and then tell myself, well okay- just one more. Until finally, I'd gotten it all done.  The forecast was for showers, but the weather for the most part kept clouding over and then breaking sunshine.   When I'd finally finished the bed, the sky was definitely threatening rain, as was the wind.  Throwing the blueberries all into the bed with some bone meal and organic fertilizer and then watering in took maybe five minutes, thanks to the wonderfully friable soil I'd just created.

Part of the impetus for working quickly was the fact that I had a deadline- we were planning a trip to the library and it closes at five on Sunday afternoons.  I'd just finished up with the blueberries at four.  Pulling out of the driveway about ten minutes later, the rain started. Talk about your deadlines.

When we got home from the library, I told Steve I just wanted to veg the rest of the day- I'd worked hard today.  "And yesterday," he reminded me.  "What kind of vegging did you want to do?" he asked me.  Just sit on the couch with a cup of tea and read a book, which suited him fine.  I just borrowed the bible of all chicken-raising books, the one that every other seems to reference: Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens, by Gail Damerow.  It's also the new edition of this book- this one is from 2010.  Interestingly, there is a sticker on the back of the book that indicates that it's a fourteen-day loan, in a system that usually allows three weeks for book loans.  I guess they were anticipating it being in demand.  I did have to wait for it, though, so...

The other thing that we got done this weekend is that we installed the raspberry supports, and Steve painted them.  I still need to put in the diagonal braces on the end supports, but I can do that tomorrow.  It's supposed to be sunny all day, which is a good thing- I have four almond trees, one currant, five boysenberries, and fifteen raspberries to plant tomorrow, and I'll have had them a week by then, so they have to get done.  I'm not worried about the raspberries- that bed is pretty much done- but I haven't even started digging holes for the almonds, much less the trench for the boysenberries.  And the ground will be wet tomorrow.

And then when I'm done with that, I need to get the bed together for the asparagus that are shipping in April, which doesn't seem so far away anymore.

The Best Laid Plans Of Mice and Me

Before I start digging a garden, I try to have a plan worked out so that I don't have to move anything.

This is the first plan.   It was pretty ambitious, and it included potato barrels and a large space for raising grain.   Then we started the new diet, which doesn't include potatoes or grain.  So back to the drawing board.

This is the interim plan, although you can see at the top that I labeled it 'final'.   Hah!  It was close, but from looking at the yard where the raspberries were going to go, I decided that I didn't like it, and also that I wanted to put the almonds in there.  Then when the raspberries showed up, I decided I'd better look up how much room they need, and it turned out that the new place for the raspberries wasn't going to be big enough, and the spot against the fence where I'd planned the asparagus would be better for them. The spot where I'd planned the raspberries would be good for the asparagus though.  So- back to the drawing board again.

The drawing board, and yes, that's a gin martini.
This time, I think I got it.

The only thing is, after all this, I think I'm going to have to move four of the apples away from their partners.   Good thing I left space for that.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Pulling Up Sod And Digging Clay

I was asked the question what is worse: pulling up sod or digging clay soil?

If I'd been asked that back when I lived in Florida, I would have sworn pulling up sod, because the St. Augustine grass there is amazingly tenacious, I have dug up my share of it. I've also put down my share of it.

This is the lawn that we put down in our garden in Florida.  The shrubbery and Italian cypress are young, and the patio hadn't been grouted yet, but this is the only picture I have of the lawn we put in.  It's actually the drain field for the septic system; otherwise, it would have been the perfect place for a pool, but I'm not the hang-around-the-pool type anyway. But I digress.

If I'd been asked the question on the day we put the apple trees in the ground, I would have said, digging up clay soil. It was truly soggy, and it clung mightily and heavily to my muck boots.  The sod was hell to get up that day as well, because it was so. freaking. heavy.

I am actually in a feverish rush- it's a toss up between desperately wanting to get my bare root stuff in the ground this weekend (it arrived here last Monday) and desperately wanting to get the blueberry bed dug up before this coming Monday.  The soil is finally at a point where I can easily crumble it for mixing with the peat moss for the blueberry bed- if I miss my window tomorrow and don't get it done, Monday's rain will turn it back into a slippery, slimy, sticky mess.  I hate my clay soil, which is interspersed periodically with straight clay.  I hope that come this summer, when it's holding water pretty well, that I'll be thankful for it.

For all my work, though, I feel like I'm getting stronger (I'm certainly smelling stronger) and I've lost a couple of pounds (yay!). Tomorrow I hope to get the rest of the blueberry bed dug, and the blueberries in, and then be able to get the raspberries into the ground as well.  Today Steve and I got the supports into the ground- Steve will paint them for me tomorrow.  And you know, I haven't even mentioned the boysenberries that are also waiting; there is a bundle of five of them, but I am not as concerned with them as I am the raspberries, which I absolutely love, and the blueberries, which will be hiding my bees for me next year (hence the horseshoe-shaped bed- the bee hive will go in the middle of that). I chose the blueberries because they are deciduous- when the bees need what little sun we get in the winter to warm them, the blueberries won't be in the way. And because I have a mix of early, mid-season, and late ripening berries, there should be something in bloom in that bed for them for most of the spring and summer. I've lots of bee fodder planned for all over the yard, but most of it won't get planted until later, which is why I won't start my hive until next spring.

Okay- one last picture of my old garden, back when I was gardening for pleasure, and not for food.  This is the view from the kitchen, in the late afternoon. I am really glad that I hung on to my old pictures- they remind me that I do good work.

Plus, it just makes me happy.  And the answer is digging clay is worse.  The sod is only so many inches thick- the clay, whether it's true or not, just seems to go on forever, especially when it's wet.

Friday, March 5, 2010

In the Berry, Berry Month of March

For the last two days I have been working on preparing a bed for the raspberries.  

Today involved cutting a hole in the sod for the blueberries, on the theory that I could use some of the soil from the blueberry bed to help fill in the raspberry bed.  

The blueberry bed needs to have some of its soil removed so that I have room for turning some peat moss into it for the sake of making it more acidic.  I am plumb worn out from hucking soil.

Tomorrow I hope to get the stakes and wires in early in the day so that I can get the raspberries planted.  Since it's after ten in the evening, I guess I'd better turn in so I can have a fresh start in the morning.


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Chicken Book I'll Buy

Okay- I've decided that chickens are in our future, particularly because as I keep talking about chickens, Steve is becoming more and more receptive to the idea.  Neither of us are kidding ourselves that we're going to save money on eggs this way.  And today, on our walk, we discovered another backyard with chickens in it.

I've borrowed a few books from the library, and my favorite is The Joy of Keeping Chickens- The Ultimate Guide to Raising Poultry For Fun Or Profit, by Jennifer Megyesi.  Copyrighted in 2009, the information is timely and relevant, and it's obvious that even though she raises meat chickens, she cares very deeply about their welfare.  I also really enjoyed the prose with which she opened every chapter.  The real kicker for me with this book, however, is that after reading it, I feel confident enough to try my hand at raising chickens.

The plan is still to wait until next year to do it- that and bees have to wait a year, because I'm still getting my garden and orchard together and I don't want to bite off more than I can chew.  I'm so behind as it is.  But chickens are definitely in the future, I'm sure of it.