This is what Spring time is like in Northern Utah and in many places in the U.S., and with climate change happening, who knows what the weather will do. The lesson is, when you have lemons, make lemonade. And by gosh when you have sunny spring days, get work done.
March 31, 2008
This is what Spring time is like in Northern Utah and in many places in the U.S., and with climate change happening, who knows what the weather will do. The lesson is, when you have lemons, make lemonade. And by gosh when you have sunny spring days, get work done.
March 30, 2008
The kids are getting big!
I took these pictures today. They are fully feathered now with the exception of a few "fuzzies" left around some of their necks.
I thought I'd share a few pictures of them for any of you that are curious.
As you can see I'm still using the circular feeder that I got for them when they were chicks. It works alright I guess, but they really need to get a bigger one since they eat like it's going out of style. You should see them when I bring the feeder up and out of the coop. They jump and flap and squawk like their starving. One of the Barred Rocks actually got up on the ledge of the coop one time and on another missed it and soared right down to the ground. Luckily he came to me when I called him and I got him right back in their with his sisters.
And guess what other trick they've learned? I can't remember if it was last weekend or the one prior that I added a couple of roosting bars to the "Chicken Condo" but they've finally figured it out. They get up there and fluff up their feathers and stare at each other. (Or sometimes check out the bottom of each others feathers obviously.)
This Tuesday should be the City planning commission meeting where the chicken proposal gets it's initial vote. If it passes, and it should based on the comments from the chairman, then it goes to the city council the next week. If all goes well, the kids should be leaving their outlaw status behind in a couple of weeks. (Keep your fingers crossed.) That being said, I need to really get going on the coop. They need the space, and I need to be able to hang an adult size feeder for them.
March 29, 2008
We all noted that it was funny how trained we were; we kept instinctively starting for the lights for this or that. Even when I went to take this picture. Even though I had taken out the tripod so that I could take a no-flash picture in low light without blur, I still went for the light. We never turned it on though, and we had a great time. After the 9:00 hour had passed, we kept the lights out for a bit and just talked. We talked about school and choices, and about what the kids thought about the Earth Hour experiment. They had a great time and are wanting to do it more often. I suggested doing it at least once a month, but they thought once a week would be better. We'll see I guess, but either way we'll certainly do it again.
We also talked about what it must've been like before electricity, and I got to thinking. Wouldn't this type of exercise get us more prepared for events like blackouts or unexpected catastrophes? It's similar to the idea of living for a week or month from food storage to get a better idea of the things you don't think about, and makes obvious the areas where you are lacking in skill.
Did any of you also participate in the Earth Hour 2008 event? If so I'd love to hear what you did, and what you thought of it.
March 27, 2008
We're thinking of building ourselves some sort of in-ground storage option for this winter; something for storing potatoes and other root crops, but that's a long way away from now. I've shared a lot of success's with you, I guess I've been overdue for a new challenge. Note: I didn't say failure, that would imply defeat and I'll have none of that.
Finally I thought I'd leave you with this particularly funky tater. What shall we call him, Mr. Potato-Pinhead? Darth Tater? Call em whatever you like, one things for sure... He won't be getting called "dinner".
March 26, 2008
March 24, 2008
With Spring in full blast and cool weather plants getting put into the ground, I discovered that I didn't have a couple of the seed packets that I thought that I did; in the case of the radishes I did have the packet, just no seeds in it. Oops. I still need to get another load of compost for the beds, and should be able to get that in and add the greens to it this weekend, weather permitting of course.
The chicks are five weeks old today and are now fully feathered for the most part. It's been a while since I shared some pics of the boys and girls so I thought this would be a fitting milestone.
This was the scene tonight when I snuck up to take a picture of them all nestled together peacefully. Very cute, just laying all over each other. They're just like our boys when they were little, let em sleep together and it just turns into a mound.
This is what happens when a strange arm suddenly slips into the coup unannounced and clicks a picture of them. They all run to be the furthest back in the corner until they figure out what's happening. That big Leghorn pullet in the front is the one I call "Big Mama", I have high hopes for that one, look at them egg laying hips. :) I have to say also that I'll miss those barred rocks in the next couple of weeks after they fatten a little and get moved to the freezer. For any of you out there looking for a very friendly bird. I adamantly suggest you try out this breed. They are on the whole the most friendly birds I've seen. I secretly hope that one of them ends up accidentally being a hen so I can keep her, but as I said from the beginning, we're pretty pragmatic about them, if our ordinances don't allow us to keep cockerels then, well, you know.
Hope all of your little chicks out there are doing as well as mine have. I know a few people that ordered from McMurray hatchery had had some problems with illness. Mine were from Ideal poultry and have generally been pretty healthy apart from the two Minorca chicks that we got. Both of them got the same illness and died before two weeks. Oh well, you live you learn.
March 23, 2008
The existing garden that is being held over from last year consists of 6 raised beds and part of the back property line planter bed. Together this all totalled 282 sqFt. This year we are increasing this by prepping and using a formerly unused area next to back of the house, as well as by using the remaining piece of the back property line planter bed. The total sqFt being added is 112, bringing the total of dedicated planting beds to 394 sqFt (78.8 sqFt per person.) This is for the dedicated planting beds. In addition to these, we will be planting other edibles around the decorative beds in the front yard as well. This is a pretty big deal here in suburbia, but I think our neighbors have gotten in the habit of stopping by when they see us in the yard to see what new stuff we have going on around the house, so I hate to disappoint.(we do not have a fenced yard and we are on a corner lot so it's pretty regular to see us in the yard.) To the front yard beds we plan to add all of our edible/aromatic herbs such as basil, rosemary, thyme, lavender etc. as well as some new garden items that should work well in the front such as tall flowering okra, edible flowers such as Johnny jump-ups, pansies and nasturtiums and we plan to add some "tufts" of carrots here and there to fill in the gaps with their greenery and who knows, maybe surprise a neighbor kid with a summer carrot from the front yard. (By the way, neighbor kids are a great way to break the ice about talking gardening and home food production. You'd be surprised at how excited moms get seeing their kids excited about eating veggies.)
Tonight I got a few cool season plants into the ground. I planted a 4-pack of cabbage that I picked up at the nursery late last week on a whim, I don't know if they'll make it or not based on the weather swings, but I have some seeds sprouting indoors that certainly will. I also planted a few rows of beets, some head and romaine lettuce, a single row of arugula (rocket) and sowed some mesclun under the A-framed pea trellises I talked about a couple of days ago. The idea with that is that right now while the peas are just sprouting, the weather is cool enough to let the mesclun get full sun. Later when the peas have grown up the trellising, they will leave just enough shaded area under them to keep the tender greens shaded and cool. It's another hunch, I'll keep you posted.
Finally I wanted to state something just for the record. My wife, although a excellent homemaker, chef, baker, etc, etc, is not particularly big on the outside. More particularly she just doesn't like dirt. This is of course the polar opposite to me who on any given day has some form of dirt wedged under my nails or in my shoes, or in my hair (what hair I have that is.) by the end of the day. She does her best and to her credit is always right there with me working her butt off, wearing elbow length gloves, to make our goals a reality outside. She just doesn't love it like I do. Anyway, that said, I have to say that she is one of the main reasons for us having a successful garden at all. I am a dreamer, a planner, an envisioner extraordinaire; but a "get on with it and get it done" type... not so much. This is where we compliment each other. She'll drive me nuts with her lists, and schedules and her "HONEY, you have to get this done if we're going to ____." but you know what? That's what gets the job done. If it wasn't for her ability to see the big picture, I'd never get things planted in time, I'd forget to water for a couple of days or who knows what else. I wanted to get that out there for the record. This year looks to be shaping up to be a great summer, and likely it'll be because she got me moving when I was slacking about.
March 21, 2008
you sooner but with being sick most of the week, I just hadn't gotten around to it. You can see I was kinda running against the weather clock here. Luckily I got up at a decent hour and got an early start, but even at that, the weather was coming down the mountains so I had to get going.
Now when I said I got the compost from the dump, some of you probably cringed, however, the facility and the quality of the compost that I've received from here is, I have to say, very high. Above you can see the pile of the sort of green waste that is collected. Gardeners, lawn care, tree trimmers and such dump their "waste" here under constant supervision. Anything inappropriate is removed and only compostables are allowed to be processed.
Throughout the summer and winter, long (100+ yard) piles of compost 5 feet high are lain out and mechanically turned and watered with agricultural sprinklers to maintain optimum moisture and temperature conditions. This facility also produces three different grades of mulch, from essentially chipped and shredded wood. I've used this before, also with good results. But today, compost was the order of the day. If you click on the picture for a larger image of it, you'll see that I am only paying $20.00 per yard, a VERY good price, (The mulch is only $5.00 per yard.) and a yard is a healthy amount of compost. They are figuring about 1600lbs with it as wet as it is right now. You can see the dump bucket below, it basically fills the bed of my truck.
After getting it home and waiting till the next morning, (That's weather in Utah, snowing one day, and blue skies and clear the next) my backyard neighbor let me back up into his yard to dump the compost straight out of the back and into my back garden bed (Below). I was pulling some weeds at the time, but with the help of my strapping young boys and the lure of a couple of dollars, I got the compost unloaded and the garden prepped. At least part of it.
Below is the area I've chosen to plant my peas in this year. I'm trying a new technique this year; it's trellising, but with a twist. Rather than just go straight up and have my peas in a row, I decided to try something new to optimize the planting area. You may be able to see that the steel trellising is not vertical, but A-framed.
The theory is that when the peas get to a point where they are reaching the top of an A-frame, I can either add another A-frame on top between two frames (Like a pyramid), or simply run some twine between the frames and let the peas run on them. It's a new theory, so we'll see how it works. I'll detail my thoughts on this more in a later post.
Well, that's how I outsource my compost. Do any of you have similar things available to you?
March 20, 2008
This particular bout with "The Crud" comes at a most inopportune time, planting season. So since time, tide and spring sprouting waits for no man, even a sick one, we got our seeds planted and/or sprouting. A~ basically steered the ship, since I was kinda in the Duh zone with not eating and antihistamines and all, but we got our first phase finished. I had hoped to get them planted a week ago, but things kept getting in the way. So now, sick and all, we got down to it.
March 18, 2008
March 17, 2008
Sorry to all of you who read this by feed. I just had to post the Cycles post about 5 times, because the #*)@%^*@#) preview is not an accurate preview and the formatting was all jacked up. I have issues with things looking all sloppy and so had to fix it. Sorry again for the rss spamming.
To the left is a sorry looking dead bunch of sticks that was once a very full and very pretty snapdragon. Why is it still in the yard? Because those pretty flowers, when not dead headed toward the end of the year, will dry up and do their natural thing; go to seed and propagate. In fact this particular snapdragon is the second generation as it is. In fact there's another one just around the corner where we had never planted a snapdragon before.
Here's another favorite waking up for the season. Can you name it? Did you guess Honeysuckle? Before long, the kids will be sitting on the porch swing, sucking on fistfulls of these and leaving Mom and Dad to sweep em up, can't say I blame them though, (or that they're the only ones to ever do it.)
Here we have another little volunteer. This is a columbine that we planted our first summer here, three years ago. This flower has only one flush of blooms each season and after every one I let the plant go to seed. It's not the most attractive thing in the world I guess, but it's the cycle of things. It's the way it's meant to be.
And last but not least, everyone has their favorites, and here's one of mine, Daffodils. I can't help it, ever since I saw that kid having tea from a tulip and then eat it on "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory", I've loved em. They come up early every year, give us a big ole splash of color and, well heck they just make me smile.
It's fun to watch the cycles come around. Enjoy this time, it is fleeting and before long it'll be full blown summer, and though that brings many gifts of it's own, there's just something special about Spring.
Notice a little something in that clover? Maybe you've been around here long enough to remember last year. Saint Patties day around our house is a kind of hybrid holiday. I personally, never wear green. Why? Well, let's just say I had a rough time today when I was growing up. Our kids of course do, and we all say Happy St Patrik's day, but honestly, it's more like Valentines day. Today's the day I met my wife. We didn't fall in love right away. Or perhaps we did, but couldn't really do anything about it. Either way, this day changed both of our lives. It was fitting really, A~'s heritage is Irish, and guess you could say my name is pretty closely associated with this day.
March 16, 2008
As I alluded, the crowd if not sold out was very very close to it, and this was in a facility with a max capacity 2,768. As I sat there and listened, one of the common things he mentioned is that there is a real food movement going on across America. I really felt a part of it that night. In fact it was one of the first times recently that I haven't felt like the oddball in the room for making my own yogurt or raising chickens in my suburban lot.
After the lecture I had the good fortune to have brought my edition of "The Omnivores Dilemma" and to be able to get in a line right at the start to get it signed. He scribed "Vote with your fork". Mr Pollan was a very sincere person, and genuinely seems happy to be doing what he is doing. This picture was snapped just after he finished signing my book. (Please forgive the quality it was taken on a cell phone.)
March 14, 2008
Onto this I put some of my homegrown sprouts and voila, tasty meal. Now does it really qualify as a 100 ft diet meal since neither the flour nor the TVP are from my back yard? No, probably not to the purist, but I look at this as an excersise in producing as much of our own food as possible. Do we do that all the time, no. Do we a couple times a week, yes. Is it progress, definitely yes.
I hope as we share our progress and lives with each other, we keep in mind that we're all on a journey, some are further than others, but none of us is perfect. In fact what may be perfect to one would likely not be to another. I haven't heard anyone nit-picking or anything, at least with regard to "the 100ft Diet", but I think we've all seen it before with other such collaborations. To build a community, we all have to be a bit flexible with what others are willing to do, and encouraging of the things that they DO do.
I wanted to let everyone know I've been really enjoying getting to read some of your post as well. With the garden season just kicking in for many of us, and lots of people getting an early start, it looks like we'll all have lots to share in the upcoming months. Plus I'm really looking forward to the 100footdiet.org site launch on the first day of Spring next week.
For so long a period while I was on my own my diet was one of fast food or at best processed and refined foods, with few quality, healthy, home cooked meals, that when I started getting these delicious meals daily, I just stuffed myself. It was the first time since I was an adult that I had regular, complete and tasty meals and I made the best of it. That was my outlook on food, if it's good, eat as much as I can. I had not yet read Michael Pollans books, but I had accomplished the first of his three instructions to a healthy diet; "Eat Food". It was indeed food, but the next instruction is "Not too Much", that one needed a little work.
As the year progressed and my awareness of my diet and my connection to food grew, it seemed like for every step I made, A~ was right on pace with me as well. Somewhere along the road she began making even more of our foods right at home. She began a traditional sourdough start, made all of our breads, and has utterly spoiled us for desserts.
March 12, 2008
Feast after Famine
I mentioned A~ being from West Virginia and having a strong food tradition of her own, well that tradition combined with her skills in the kitchen and desire to feed people had many upsides. Delicious brown beans and cornbread, Biscuits and gravy with fried eggs, sweet potato pie; all of which I had had at least limited exposure to at some point, but had never had made like these. One down side, I also quickly learned, was that the secret of such mouth watering delights was bacon grease, sugar, shortening and huge portions . I don't have a problem with using bacon grease for some things, and there's really no other way to make proper biscuits and gravy if you ask me, but my fathers entire side of the family has a long history of heart disease and now that I was finally happy with my life I wanted to be around to enjoy it for a while. Long story short, after nearly six years of the dietary equivalent of reckless abandon, I had grown to approx 220+ lbs from my previous all time high of 153. Mind you I worked physically a lot through the latter years, and a lot of that gain was in new muscle, but much was what one of my coworkers likes to call "table muscle". This brings me to last year.
I mix all three parts together, using equal parts of peat and compost. For the vermiculite, I am adding slightly more that an equal third. This is because I will be primarily using this mix for starting seeds and as such want to encourage moisture retention in the short term. Our seedlings have a tendency to dry out when they start to fill in a bit, both because of the small amount of grow medium they are in, as well as because of Utah's naturally dry weather.
Whatever mix is left after I start all my plants, will get added components to bring the mix to an equal 3rd's proportion and will be used for some of our potted plants. Last year our petunias did much much better in this mix than they did the previous two years in miracle grow potting soil. And it was much cheaper!Try making your own, your plants will love it, you'll save some $$, and learn a solid gardening skill. Good luck will everyones sprouting.
March 11, 2008
So there I was in my early twenties with a passion and rich tradition for good food. I was married with a young child and serving in the military, how much of that food knowledge do you think mattered one iota? You guessed it, not a bunch. We pay our service members far too little, in effect to the degree that they are little more than the working poor in many cases. Food became not tradition or pleasure, it was instead a utility. We ate the basics; milk, beef, chicken and some veggies. But far too often it was taco bell, or microwave burritos with a heaping helping of processed snacks and soda. This was the norm for most of the next 10 years.
March 10, 2008
I thought since I’ll no doubt be thinking quite a bit about food this week, not to mention trying to finish In Defense of Food (which I’ve been whittling away at since the beginning of the year) before the lecture, that I would spend the next couple of days focusing on the story of food in my life. It’s not a fantastic voyage mind you, and I’m no Michael Pollan, but I think it’s good to look back to gain perspective and if nothing else to define the road we’re on and where we think it’s going.
March 7, 2008
After I got halfway through the collar, I made a loop and wrapped it with some finer nylon string, (actually it's cheap fly line backing material from the fishing section at the store.) this will act as the connection point for the lead, and again, will decrease annoyance because it's softer than metal. After the whole thing was done, I attached a button with the end pieces of the center portion of the string, and made a loop out of the other end. his I wrapped too, just for durability.
March 6, 2008
The best I can figure, the seed for this project was planted last year when we accidently found an earth sheltered home a couple of towns over; he was fascinated with the idea of why people would build homes covered earth. He wanted to find out in this experiment which home might use less energy and would "Protect the earth better." I helped him to build two identicle homes out of hardboard and MDF, and then he covered one of them in a way similar to a typical earth sheltered home.
After the homes were built, we tested them by taking a base temperature and then putting them under a heat lamp and taking measurements at 1 and 2 hours both inside and outside the homes. We found that the earth sheltered home inside increased to 53% of what the outside temperature was, but the standard house increased to 61% of what the outside temperature was. In other words, even though the earth sheltered home's temperature had a greater gain, the inside maintained a more even temperature throughout the test. This is one of the reasons that this type of home is considered to be one of the most eneergy efficient types of homes that can be built.
Anyway, all details to the side, K~ did an awesome job, and made me very proud. I like to hope that I had a bit of influence in his interests, but I certainly had a great time helping him with the project either way. He's already thinking about improving the project for next year; one teacher that was over the fair singled K~ out to tell him that with a little bit of effort, next year he could easily take this project to the regional competition.
One year ago today I decided to convert what was basically a practice blog on myspace to a full fledged, as often as I can post, blog. I guess I didn't realize how much I would enjoy it, but I do a great deal. I look forward every day to checking in to see who came to visit and where in the world from. I get such a kick out of all of the comments and input that I am blessed to receive from all of you.
I didn't plan a specific identity for this blog, and really didn't have too much direction in mind for it other than the fact that I wanted to make a concerted effort to focus on all of the positive things in my life, and in the world around me. As I did this, it was like a sea change in myself. One thing led to another, one change compounded onto another. The journey was on, and so it goes today.
March 4, 2008
While we talked, I found out that MVS carries primarily open pollinated seeds that can be kept for seeds storage and also goes to great effort to make sure that they identify the few seeds that are hybrids. They even carry an interesting product, Storage seeds, that are all open pollinated and packed in individual hermetically sealed packaging and then sealed in a hermetically sealed #10 can. These are estimated to last around eight yrs in storage from what I gather.
I received the following brief story as an email from a co-worker today and thought I’d pass it on. It makes a very good point, one that I think so many people never quite get.
A group of graduates, well established in their careers, were talking at a reunion, and decided to go visit their old university professor, now retired. During their visit, the conversation turned to complaints about stress in their work and lives. Offering his guests hot chocolate, the professor went into the kitchen and returned with a large pot of hot chocolate and an assortment of cups - porcelain, glass, crystal -some plain looking, some expensive, some exquisite - and telling them to help themselves.
When they all had a cup in hand, the professor said:
“Notice that all the nice looking, expensive cups were taken, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones. While it is normal for you to want only the best for yourselves, that is the source of your problems and stress. The cup that you're drinking from adds nothing to the quality of the cocoa. In most cases it is just more expensive and in some cases even hides what we drink. What all of you really wanted was hot chocolate, not the cup; but you consciously went for the best cups . . . and then you began eyeing each others cups. Now consider this, life is the cocoa; your job, money and position in society are the cups. They are just tools to hold and contain life. The cup you have does not define, nor change the quality of life you have. Sometimes, by concentrating only on the cup, we fail to enjoy the cocoa that has been provided for us. The happiest people don't have the best of everything. They just make the best of everything that they have. “
So, live simply.
Speak kindly. . .
and enjoy your cocoa.
I couldn’t agree more. I hope you all enjoy your day… oh yeah, and your cocoa J.
March 3, 2008
What I had read was that over wintering carrots in the ground helps the sugars to farm better and can actually give them better flavor that spring planted ones. I have to say YES. I AGREE! They are small mind you, the longest ones are around 6 inches long but what a flavor bang. I will definitely be doing this again, and with a little mulching and care, I should be able to get 100 ft diet carrots throughout next winter. Yeah! I love it when an experiment yields good results. (On a side note, I also tested overwintering carrots that were grown in a large round traditional planter (18"wide x 20" tall) This did not work. I think they got too cold and wet over winter because they all were soft and mushy, not at all edible.)
To your right you'll see another new addition this weekend; the "Chicken Condo". The chooks were starting to get to about triple the size that they were when we got them, and they needed some new digs. That, and I needed to find a way of raising the lamp up higher to ween them from it slowly. So into the stash of Dell boxes I go again and here you we are, two stories of duct taped, carboard, poultry luxury! Now they have plenty of space to roam around and I've bought myself a bit more time until I have to have the coop finished. This is a good thing since A~ keeps reiterating the "I want the coop to look nice. Your gonna make it look nice right?" mantra. But hey, have I let her down yet?
March 1, 2008
I was able to get into all 6 raised beds. I pulled the greens that were left in them and turned all of the soil over to allow it to get deep hydration and some air in there before I plant the early season stuff in them. I pulled some other stuff out too, but I'll post on that tomorrow.
I also was able to get my four dwarf and semi dwarf fruit trees (apple, pear and two cherry trees.) pruned. I usually get out to prune the trees a little earlier in the season, but this is the first chance that I've had. I didn't cut too much on the trees this year, just the basics of thinning and selecting branches. I hope to transplant the trees next year to a better location. Currently they're at the south end of our yard and regularly get in the way of the boys playing in the yard, or get messed with by the neighborhood kids since they sit right along the unfenced end of the yard near the sidewalk. I want to move them to our other unfenced area of the yard that is between ours and our neighbors yard and begin training them in the espalier method. I think it'd look nice, conserve space, and make a nice natural break between out yards; this would also reduce the ugliness of the vinyl fence that will no doubt be put up between us eventually. (Don't get me started on those.)