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Sunday, May 13, 2012

Homesteading Update, 13 April 2012

The weather has been gorgeous of late and my back is paying for it.  Maybe I ought to slip myself a few ibuprofen with my wine, although I understand that ibuprofen is hard on your liver.  So is wine, but guess what I'd give up first.

Last weekend I told you all about my Red Pig tools and that I'd report on them after some use.  They are pretty awesome.  The crow's foot is great for weeding out grass rhizomes and raking a fine seed bed in a small space; it is far, far superior to the three-pronged cultivator that will shortly be finding a home in the Goodwill box.  Steve tried the Cape Cod weeder last weekend for its intended purpose but found that it was clumping the wet ground, which was obviously too wet to be worked. However, I found it to be the bomb for digging up onions; it loosened the ground around them easily and I was able to pull them out more successfully, so I still like this tool and can't wait to try it on other root vegetables.  I imagine it will do its intended job just fine in dryer ground.  I can't report on the fulcrum weeder because I haven't used it yet. I can report on the Hole About and boy, do I love this tool.  To the right are pictures of the Hole About, and the last one shows why I bought it.

It does a great job standing in as a trowel when I need one but it really shines at digging small holes. Which sounds, odd, I know, but sometimes you need to dig a really small hole.  It is super sturdy and I am not worried in the least about bending it.  I also think that I'll be using it for many years.  I would hazard the guess that if you were looking for a truly awesome gift for a gardening buddy, you would do well to get them some Red Pig garden tools.  I would also not waste any time; the guy who makes them is a retired tool designer for Corona, and he is not getting any younger. He's incredibly knowledgeable about tools.  Well, I'm getting ahead of my story.

Last weekend when I bought these things, the deal was that if you spent over $65, you could have a free trench clean out shovel; all you had to do was drive out to Red Pig Tools in Boring, Oregon and pick it up.  So yesterday, Steve and I drove out to Boring in truly gorgeous spring weather to fetch my free shovel.  We spent about thirty minutes chatting with Bob. He told about the Abbot weeder, which oddly enough, was not used for weeding out abbots.  He makes a berry hook, which is actually a medieval tool, but it works by cutting part way through the cane with the end, and then you hook it back toward you which makes the cane fall away from you.  This is a great tool for getting rid of blackberries which seem to plague the entire state of Oregon.  Goats work really well too, but a berry hook won't eat the young orchard you just planted.

Long bed
Big bed
The rest of this weekend was spent building the new planter boxes, or beds, as I call them.   The big bed is ten by twenty and the long bed is eight by twenty-four.  That way we were working with multiples of ten feet on one bed and eight feet with the other.  We built the

long bed first, and maybe in retrospect we should have built the big bed first, because the long bed kind of looks like ass. It's not the prettiest planter box.  It also doesn't sit particularly straight in its setting.  I will say that I learned an important lesson building it- actually a couple of lessons.  We had to cut our own stakes from two by twos, and the first few (critical few, it turns out) I left with one angle cut.  It turns out that a single angle will make the stake go in screwy; stakes with two angles cut to a point will go in much straighter.  The other thing I learned was to not set your stakes so permanently until you have the bed where you want it.  So the first bed is a little wonky, but the big bed will be much better, which is actually a good thing.  Because if I manage to get it done, that will be the bed that gets the hoops for the hoop house and winter gardening.

One of the high points of the day (next to quitting and coming in for a glass of wine and a shower) was the snake that showed up.  It wasn't Goethe, because he was much bigger and he didn't have that racy orange stripe down his back.  He was moving really slowly, so slowly that he didn't startle me and I was able to calmly tell Steve that Goethe has company.  I would like to think it's Gus but Gus had very definite yellow stripes, and this guy's were harder to see, possibly because he was bigger so he was older.  They were there, just kind of muddy.  He didn't have a rattle, so I'm not worried because a rattler is the only kind of poisonous snake in Oregon, and they tend to be down in the desert areas.  But yeah!  We have two garter snakes, thanks to Rae and her gift last week.

Maybe this year I'll get a leg up on the slug and mole populations.

My dreams are pretty simple, really.


Miriam said...

Oh yes, I remember learning that trick about how to point the stakes! My question for you (since you're always thinking about the best way to do things) is exactly HOW do you pound in the stakes? Right now our technique is I hold the stake and try to keep my head out of the way while Kim swings the sledgehammer. Needless to say, I don't find the process an entirely comfortable one! (Although Kim is really, really good at her part of the job.) So how do you do it?

Paula said...

I have a three pound hammer that works pretty well. It kind of looks like something the village smithy would wield. Steve also uses the flat side of the maul, which is essentially the sledgehammer side, but that's after we've pounded in the stake part of hte way with the three pound. The three pound works, but you have to hit the stake so often it mashes the stake. The best way seems to be to start it with the three pound and finish it with the maul.

By the way, the three pound hammer was what I used to put Lucy out her misery as quickly and as humanely as I possibly could. I've probably had that hammer for over thirty years, now, and it's seen a lot of use. I think it's time for a new handle.

Amanda said...


I am bringing my new puppy Clementine back from Arizona in early June. I would very, VERY much like Clementine to be used to chickens which means exposing her to them. I'd love to come out and visit this summer w her if you're ok with it... she's still very small, and I suspect the chickens could take her down if necessary:)

Paula said...

Sure Amanda, although I think my enthusiasm for meeting Clementine will far out-pitch Clementine's enthusiasm for the chickens. I don't have them yet though, so I'll have to let you know when.

Amanda said...

Well I am happy to bring her out to say hi anyways:) she is QUITE adorable.