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Monday, April 25, 2016

I'm Back

Did you miss me?

I know it’s been awhile since I actually wrote something.  That’s because it’s been a weird year for me, the details with which I will not bore you. But suffice to say that because I did’t really have anything good to write about, I didn’t. I’m not sure I have anything of interest to relate at this juncture, but I feel the need to write. Lucky you.

I’m not sure if it’s a mild case of depression or the somewhat curtailed list of vegetables that I can still eat (which I think might be the cause of the mild depression - no it's not, it's because I can't drink anymore), but I’ve been having a real struggle with getting excited about gardening this year. Consequently, here it is toward the end of April already and I don’t have anything planted or started. Not. Seed. One.

I figure that I’ll buy starts this year for a lot of it, (CHEATER!) and eventually I’ll get off my duff and get some seeds started.  I did haul out my seed stash last week and threw out the inviable stuff  and then sorted out the seeds I want to start with.  And I ordered some seed- not a lot. I still didn’t get excited though.

What will be the summer bed
But today I was out digging up some weeds and throwing some ancient cabbage plants into the green barrel and I noticed that the soil in the bed in which I was working was looking pretty good.  And that changed my plans for the summer somewhat.  I was planning on planting said bed with Sudan grass and planting the large bed next to the deck with summer veg, but I think I’ll switch the beds, because soil next to the deck needs more work than the other bed.

Bed getting the Sudan grass
(the comfrey is doing just fine)

Sudan grass is something I’ve only recently heard about, but what I’m hearing sounds good. Nita over at Throwback at Trapper Creek, whose opinion on all things homesteading I respect mightily, calls it the cat’s meow.  Sudan grass has two things going for it: one is that it’s great for impacted soils because every time you cut it, it sends out more roots, so with each successive mowing it creates more biomass under the soil.  The second thing it has going for it, and this is important, is that it winter kills. It’s also reported to be great at smothering weeds, but I’ll believe that when I see it. So many other cover crops have made the same promise only to disappoint. The other thing that it’s good for but not so important to me is that it makes good livestock fodder, but there are very specific times to feed it because it’s toxic at the wrong times. You can’t feed it when it’s under eighteen inches tall and you can’t feed it around frost time, and definitely not after a frost. But in between those stages, it’s supposed to be very palatable.  I ordered my Sudan grass seed from High Mowing Seeds because they had the size I wanted and the best price for buying it that way.  At five pounds, their price is the same as Johnny’s Seeds ($19.00), but High Mowing has free shipping within the contiguous US. And I only need about a pound; Johnny’s Seeds didn’t offer a pound and it would have been somewhat ridiculous to order it by the quarter pound, and a lot more expensive. Plus, I would have had to pay a lot of shipping. Here is a paper from Oregon State University regarding Sudan grass should you want to learn more about it.

This weekend is the annual trip to the Canby Garden Show, which I like to hit with my buddy Rae.  Last year we managed to miss it because neither one of us was paying attention, but we’re not letting that happen this year.  We have it all planned out.  I’ll look for my nightshades, which are back on the menu (yay!), and then see what other kind of veg is available.  Possibly some herbs. So with that in mind, I need to get the big bed cleaned up this week and some compost thrown on it.  The weather will be hot (eighty-four and eighty-six Fahrenheit, respectively) on Sunday and Monday so all my starts will get to cool their jets in the shade over the weekend, and then next week I’ll get them into the ground.

I honestly can't think of
another word for this
other than disaster.
Something else that needs attention, but I'm dreading taking care of, is the greenhouse.  Oh what a disaster that is.  'How could you let this happen?' you ask. Well, I'll tell you.  I think I got the winter stuff planted too early; by the time I got the plastic up on it, most of what I'd planted was going to seed, which was  a huge bummer.  Then I ignored it all winter.  So this is what I get to deal with now. I promise it wasn't my intention to grow all that biomass.  It just sort of happened. Yeesh.  I think I'll have to take off the plastic so that I can get at it properly, which is just as well anyway; I need to replace the pieced plastic with a solid piece. I was being cheap, and while it was a noble experiment, it helped result in the aforementioned disaster. Ai yi yi.

Well there it is, for what it's worth. I'm back to wasting your precious time again.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Birth Of A Wooden House

I can't say whether it's my amazement at how good this guy is at building this house or the way this film was crafted, but this is currently my favorite all time film.  If you appreciate fine craftsmanship, and are intrigued by timber frame construction, this will appeal to you.  I can't get over how good this guy is, I mean, he even chamfers the edges of his cuts, and he does it all with hand tools.  From felling the trees in January in Latvia when the moisture levels are lowest (which will result in lighter, stronger lumber), to insulating with pine shavings, and finishing with the Japanese technique of Shou Sugi Ban, to plastering with a mixture of sand, clay, lime, linen fiber, salt and wheat flour, and heating the house with two different masonry ovens, one of which weighs five tons and will heat the house for two or three days on a single firing, I guess you could say this guy is my hero.

Sorry Steve.