Welcome All! I'm a dreamer, I hope you are too! A Posse ad Esse, or From possibility to reality, is a general state of mind. I hope you'll share your possibilities with me as I will with you. Namaste~

March 31, 2009

Answer to the tomato question

Well I asked you to ask and Eric took me up on it. His question was this:

I'm curious about your tomato growing method. I think you planted your tomatoes close together (1 ft) and used your trellis system for support. What have been your experiences with growing indeterminant tomatoes in this fashion? Can you talk a little about pruning specifically for your growing method?

Well Eric, here goes. Yes, I do grow my tomatoes in very close proximity (1 sq ft), and yes I am very big on trellising. Too leave it at that would be making the process too simple though, so let me explain. In the pictures above and below, there are two sections of tomato trellising. The one above is the box that is in the back, the one below is in the box in the middle in case you weren't sure. This is last years trellis that I tried out. I didn't like it, and am modifying my framework trellis system to have a center beam that I can hold tomatoes on for this year, but this illustrates the method just fine.

I do grow the tomatoes in 1 sq foot of garden space, but I have thus far only grown indeterminant plants and they take to this very well. Generally speaking a tomato plant can grow just fine in 6 inches of soil in a square foot but the reason they don't is because if they're not trellised they require greater rooting space for structural support for themselves. With the tomato plant trained to a trellis, the support needs are met and the plant just needs to grow. This reduces the space needs of the roots. For training the tomato to grow up, I use a rebar stake that I notched with a hack saw and tie a string to. I stick it in the ground right next to the root ball and then tie the string up to the top of the overhead beam, whatever that is. As the plant grows, it naturally gets "leggy" at the topmost part. As this get's long enough, I just gently wind it around the string which stays in place. You don't want to weave it too tightly or it will strangle the plant, just let the plant know where the string is and guide it around. Here's a close up of one of my San Marzano plants and you can see the string with the plant wound around it.Now, here's the caviat. This works well for indeterminant tomatoes because they have a natural vineing tendancy. Determinant tomatoes do not. They are more naturally inclined to bush and produce a lot of fruit for one harvest than to continue to crank them out over time. This year we are going to grow a good selectionof these types as well, and I will not be trellising them. At least not like the other ones. I may work out a loose cage type thing or something, but I am not going to worry about them getting tall. It's not in their nature.

As for pruning them, I do make sure to prune them pretty consistantly. This isn't directly related to trellising, at least not in that I need to do it to get them to grow up or anything. The reason I prune is to maximize the yield as well to limit exposure to diseases. The basics are to pinch off all suckers. (These are usually the branch looking stems that crow out from the crotch formed by the leaves and the stem. They rarely set fruit and if they do it is usually inferior. Secondly, I trim off any old or dying leaves or leaves that touch the ground. Many of the blights and pathogens that tomatoes get, come from soil contact. There's a lot of good resources online if you'd like more info.

I hope this at least points you in the right direction Eric.
Good luck to you!

March 29, 2009

humanure, lists and sprouts

Man-soil update/specs

Here's the information paper that the Sewer district provided for us. I think it's very cool that they voluntarily provide such good information to the community. Particularly since people are using this in their gardens. I won't personally, This all went on our back yard lawn,but as you can see from the breakdown there's nothing really to worry about. For me it's a mental block, just being honest. When we picked the soil up and spread it on Friday, it was a kind of spur of the moment thing. It worked out to our advantage though on Saturday when our lawn aeration guy showed up and did our yard. I had him go over the backyard twice to really open it up, and the compost and "humanure" was quickly filling in the holes just like planned! Today it snowed a good 3-4 inches so hopefully it will really work the soil down into the ground where it needs to be. Good timing huh?

One of the reasons that I wanted to at least take advantage of this free resource was due to the interest in it while I was teaching the Gardening class last weekend. So many people were interested in how they could build their soil, and a lot of them needed to do it "on the cheap". There were a lot of people curious about this product and I have little to no experience with it. This is a chance to get familiar and at the same time green up the back yard. The information pamphlet will go into my Master Gardener folder and will be used to answer questions in the future.

To-Do List
Renee from The Garden Desk mentioned that she was interested in seeing my task list that I had talked about last week, so I dug into my far too full desk drawer to pull it out for her. I mean, I wouldn't want anyone doubting my sincerity after all.This unkempt low-tech scribble is the actual master list, if you will, that A~ and I are whittling away at as the year goes on. It's really nothing much to look at, but is the result of some serious thinking and discussing.

We made a list of everything that we really wanted to get done throughout the year, big (like building a greenhouse) and small (like hanging some bookcase lights), and then we sat down and went through it to decide what order of importance we thought they should have. This process was a combination of trying to work out if maybe we had to have one thing done before another for any particular reason and haggling for our own personal preferences to get started first. I had to dig the list up because, while we still reference it to check things off and to see what else we had planned, we generally make up week specific plans on the fly throughout the year. If we have plans for the weekend we work around those, If some opportunity comes up that is time sensitive, things get jockied around. The biggest part of making the lists is so that you've identified what needs to get done at some point. You've put it on the radar. From there it's just a matter of working it in to the week to week routine. Hope this helps/clarifies. Good luck!
I thought I'd leave you with a quick update on my sprouts downstairs. These are the cold season sprouts. Kohlrabi, cabbage, kale, broccoli, lettuce and chard.They're generally coming along good, but the kale, chard and kohlrabi are doing great. My broccoli and lettuce were older seed and are not germinating like I would have liked. I planted a lot of them though so I'll be fine!

Hope you all had a great weekend. Catch you tomorrow. Oh yeah, any questions or suggestions. Anything your wondering about maybe. I just thought I'd ask in case one of the lurkers out there wanted to chime in.
Yes, I can see you out there...it's OK, you can comment ;-)

March 28, 2009

What a pile of crap...literally

Yeah, I mean literally. We went to the local sewer district this afternoon to check if they had any of this soil, aptly nicknamed "poo dirt" or "man-soil" by the locals, for sale. I was nicely told that no, they will not sell me any of it, it's FREE, they'll give it to me. What's up with that? Free soil?

OK, so you know I'm all over that right, since I think we've well established that free is my absolute favorite price! The thing you have to understand is this, "This soil is going nowhere that I'm growing food!" Oh, I understand that it's been tested and it's "clean" and that it's OK to use in food gardens if I'd like; it's my hangup, and I'll run with it.

The reason we got this soil, was again for the back yard lawn. The clay heavy soil needs amending and getting nutrient rich, organic matter into it will only help that soil structure and hopefully get my grass growing this year. We won't use any chemicals on our lawn, because we do allow our chickens to range on it from time to time and intend to even more this year.

In other, and unrelated, news: Today was the last real class of my Master Gardener program! We have one more meeting next Wednesday where we'll learn about speaking to the public, and then we're having a pot luck. I was informed today also that during that class I should be prepared because they'll be calling me up to talk about it since I've already given a few classes. I don't know if I just don't have a problem with talking to audiences, or if I'm just so conceited that I think everyone wants to hear what I have to say, but I do enjoy giving the instructional talks.

Anyway, I'll be working on a few items on "my list" this weekend. Indoor tasks since the weather's supposed to be foul, hope you get to some of yours. Do tell, what's on your list?
I will post mine soon, as well as a detail of the components of the man-soil that I put on today. It's interesting, they gave me a paper with the breakdown of all the macro and micro-nutrients when I picked it up. Interesting stuff.

Have a great weekend all.

March 26, 2009

It rains and snows, that's how it goes

Yessirree, that's how we do spring time in Utah.
What a stinking mess. Yesterday it rained a lot. A lot for Utah anyway, it would mean drought conditions for many states, but we're happy when we get water. Then, Last night it turned to snow. After snowing last night, we got up to a white morning. The truck was iced over and it was c c c cold! Then today, it snowed a little then turned to rain.....then snow again... then rain.

Strangely, by the time I left work, all the snow had largely melted off, the truck was totally dry and the skies were clearing. Go figure? But that's just spring in Utah. It's always like that. It's one of the reasons that it's important to write down and plan out all the goals and objectives that we have to do outside in the gardens. Whether it's tilling in new garden beds, cleaning up and prepping existing ones, planting early starts or just straightening up a bit if you don't know what you need to do, it's really hard to prioritize at the last minute when you have a good weekend.

The other thing is this, even if you do have a list of tasks to do, do not wait until later. This, in my humble opinion is one of the deadly sins for gardeners in the spring. One, by the way, that I am guilty of having broken a time or two. (That's why I now know to avoid it.) If you wait, unless you have some God like power to control the weather, you're likely to fall behind. The day YOU'VE set aside to do the outside chores will be raining, or waterlogged from previous rains, and you'll be twiddling your thumbs. That is unless you also make a list of the inside stuff that needs to get done. Starting seeds, cleaning out the garage after a long winter or re-organizing the food pantry to make way for the upcoming harvest.

So if you don't have a to-do list, or a chores list or any other way of knowing what you want to get done, how do you expect to get it done? While the winters still groggy and not quite ready to really kick into spring yet, take this opportunity to wrote one down, make a plan and then be prepared to change it when the weather doesn't cooperate. ;-)

Have a great day everyone!

These are my people

You may have noticed that I was a no-show yesterday. I had an invite from a fellow Freedom Gardener and very cool blogger Nate~ to attend his first Garden the avenues meet up that he was putting together. I've been checking in on Nate's blog SLC veggies pretty much since he first started it and it's been really cool to watch his progress as he moves along. He's not afraid at all to just jump right in and give it a go, even though he is admittedly still a novice gardener. I have no doubts of his harvest this summer!

Anyway, In addition to being a doctor, starting a large backyard (and front) garden, building a greenhouse and helping to raise his cute-as-a-button little boy, Nate's managed to start a local gardening group around his neighborhood down in Salt Lake. Last night was the first get together and I, although not an SLC resident, was invited to come over; you know I jumped at the chance! We all checked out his greenhouse, talked about plants and plans and shared some of our extra seeds or ones that we had saved from last year.

I've been really enjoying the community that's beginning to spring up around me. OK, not really around ME per se, I mean I'm not the center of the world. What I mean is that I've had many more occasions of late to get to know more people in my greater community that I would not have were it not for this blog, the Master Gardener class, the Freedom gardens community and just being willing to "put myself out there".

These are my people. No matter where we come from, our careers, our incomes or our particular demographic I find that with growing plants in common we can all enjoy each others company. We've all had the success of a superb homegrown tomato or sweet strawberry and the failures of infested lettuce or wilted cucumbers. We have common ground that is undeniable.

Now, if I could just get everyone in the world to garden...we'd all just be one big happy community garden! Right?

Nate, if your reading, thanks for the invite. I had a great time and look forward to meeting with you all again soon.

March 23, 2009

The highest form of flattery!

It's been said many times that impersonation is the highest form of flattery. That being the case, I'm feeling pretty flattered!

A reader of mine, S~ , who found me through my writing at the "Simple Green Frugal" website, sent me an email the other day to say hi and that she had realized that we lived only 50 miles or so away from each other and wanted to introduce herself. This is, by the way, very welcome regardless of whether you're around the corner or across the globe. If you're so inclined, you can either leave me a comment or check out my personal profile for my email address and drop me a line that way. I love few things more that getting to know the people that stop by the blog, especially if they've been able to take something away from it.

Such seems to have been the case for S~, and I wanted to share it with you. Her husband and her have been working toward, as I understand it anyway, much the same kind of suburban homesteading that A~ and I have been. I'm so flattered that some of the plants that they're planning for their garden this summer have been able to get their start in a seed starter modeled after the one that I came up with earlier this year! Check it out:In fact, truth be told, S~ and her husband have one-upped me on this one. Most of the materials that they were able to use were scrap that they already had in the garage and they were able to put it together for around $8.00. (not counting the lights/bulbs of course.)
Check out the tomato seedlings too. They got theirs started toward the end of February where as I just barely got mine started this past weekend.

We were able to share our inputs on a couple of the shortcomings that have come up too. The starter is working great, but the outside edges of the flats are a little far out from the lights and aren't getting as much light as the centers. I've corrected for this by rotating the flats 90 degrees every couple of days. Initially I planned on covering the whole thing with those reflective survival blankets that are cheap to get, but the problem was that someone had literally bought all of them from every store local to me. I'll be checking again soon for some of them.

S~, thanks for sharing your starter with us. Glad to hear that it's working well for the most part. And I'm still looking forward to learning more about beer making from you guys.

till tomorrow...

March 22, 2009

This and that

Nothing big to report this weekend, it was time for a bit of rest. Of course that doesn't mean that nothing got done, just not nearly as much as I had hoped.
I did get my final new piece of garden bed all turned and tilled. It will be an onion patch that I should get 30 or more onions in. I picked up a couple of six packs of Chinese cabbage and some broccoli to drop in one on the garden beds too. I've been wanting to try chinese cabbage and so far my brocolli seeds are not sprouting very well so I wanted to hedge my bets.
I also ended up hanging some new blinds in 5 of our downstairs windows. I hate hanging blinds, but this time instead of buying some junky cheapo ones, we spent a couple of bucks more and got some quality ones that we hopefully won't have to change out for many years!
The biggest thing for me that went on this weekend was my first class that I taught as a Master Gardener. The class was taught at a local church and was set up to run in two different groups. Each group was about 30 minutes and just flew by! They were a very interested group of people and asked great questions. Each class ended up spending a huge amount of time talking about compost. Lucky for them, and me, that's one of my favorite things to talk about. I really enjoyed giving the class, and am already looking forward to my next on in April. This is something I can really get into doing.
Today the kids went down to Salt Lake to visit with family so A~ and I had an opportunity to spend some good quality time together. We had a good lunch and rented "Australia" for some home entertainment. It was a great time!
I hope you all had a great weekend and maybe got some work in on your gardens.
Catch you all tomorrow.

March 19, 2009

Peas (by request) and Taters

Alright alright... I know your probably tired of me talking about the potato patch for this week, but I thought I'd give you all an update since I did the planting in the rows tonight.

The first thing that I did was to mix up a batch of complete fertilizer using bone meal, blood meal and potash and turned it into the top few inches of the top of each row. I've planted a total of 59 potato plants, approximately 15 inches apart in the row and 18 - 20 inches between rows. I laid them out first to make sure that I was comfortable with the spacing and I think that this will serve us well. That's what's going on in the picture to the left.

I decided on four varieties this year so I can take notes and see how they really perform here. The earliest is a 65 day Norland red potato. I hope to be able to pull some baby red's from it around the middle of pea season. Mmmm. I also planted a few rows of Yukon Golds (80 day), a great all around tater. We can make fries with it or add it to a batch of mashed potatoes or put it in stews. The two longer season varieties that I chose are Russet Norkotah and Red Pontiac. Both are around 100 - 110 day potatoes. This is the first year that we're really making an effort toward 'taters. All we can do is pray for the best.

Now, as for the peas. I had a couple of questions about my self declared highly intense planting of them. It's not a very scientific experiment, but what I did was to use two of my 4x6 raised beds to plant shelling peas in. (These are not the sugar snap variety. They are the canning type where you need to get very large harvests at one time.) I turned into the soil some good organic fertilizer and then proceeded to plant the seeds in approximately 3 inch spaced rows where the seeds were approximately 2 inches apart in the rows throughout the whole garden bed.

4 feet wide bed = 12 rows.
6 feet long bed = approx 24-27 per row.
I averaged 25 seeds per row X 12 Rows = 300 peas per bed.
Two beds were planted and voila...600 pea plants.

Now, is this the recommended plant spacing for them? No. So why do it? I did it because the typical planting schemes are based around agricultural roots. I don't use regular rows, I have the ability to micro-manage the plants and I have very healthy soil with a regular rotation being used. My hope is that those factors will overshadow the not following the normal procedure. The beds I used have the sky-scraper looking trellis system that I came up with and I'll just run some twine around the frame and across the centers as the vines grow in order to help support them. They do tend to be pretty self supporting though in my opinion.

I'm a big advocate of trying to find solutions to problems in the garden. The problem I'm trying to solve here is that in order to put up a significant enough portion of peas, we need to grow a very large quantity of them. I don't have the space for traditional rows, so I'm "winging it". Were I to have planted the same number of plants in rows I would have needed something like 7 and a half 20 ft long rows to do that. We'll see how this does. Perhaps peas just won't make the cut next year.

I'm gonna check out for a couple of days for the most part until next Monday. I may pop in with a quick update or something, but nothing huge until then. I need to finish a writing job that I have in the works and then of course there's the upcoming class I'll be giving this weekend. (If they ever get back to me with the address that is.) All that's not counting yet another project work up that's been on the honey-do list for a couple of years now. Ahhh spring... time to run around like a mad man trying to get all the projects done before out glorious summer heat begins trying to kill us.

Have a great weekend all!

March 18, 2009

More Springtime Gardening

Here's those finished pictures that I promised you of the potato patch. The length of the fence line down the driveway is 15 feet and it's almost 11 feet wide.
I had to buy one of the sections of fencing because I didn't have quite enough from the salvage job I did but I don't think you can really tell.
Since I finished the fencing yesterday, and hope to plant the potatoes this weekend, I wanted to take today to really get the ground busted up. I double dug most of it tonight with my pitch fork and then quickly ran over it with our small cultivator.
I also added that 8 inch plank retaining "wall" to the side of it to keep the soil in the bed. It's some old barn wood that we've had laying around the garage for years and that needed to be used up. I do still need to re-bury that drain spout but....there's time for that later when the bigger fish have already been fried (if you get me.)
There's news on the indoor garden front as well. The Broccoli, kale, cabbage, kohlrabi and lettuce seeds that I sowed a while back are doing well. There is getting to be a bit of bend to them, but I think that's mostly because of how close the lamps are to them right now.
These should grow fairly quickly from this point and I'll get them in the garden in a couple of weeks.

And speaking of the garden...guess what needs to be harvested already? The late spinach from last year, that's what! I sowed this crop late in the season for a final harvest but it grew too slowly so I left it to over winter and now it looks done to me.
Some of the leaves will be a little freeze damaged but the chickens can have those. I'm just looking forward to a quick fry with some vinegar and maybe a bit of my last purple onion from last year.

Springs really shaping up nicely around here and gardens are being prepped all over. In fact, and I can't believe I almost forgot this...., I was asked by the Master Gardener program coordinator to teach a class this weekend in a nearby town. The class is for a church group and will focus on gardening from a preparedness perspective. They also booked me for another class in the middle of April at another cities city hall to talk about organic gardening and the options available. This is one of the main reasons I wanted to take this class. I enjoy talking about gardening and food production, and wanted to be able to help get others going in doing it them selves.

Wish me luck!
till next time.

March 17, 2009

Weekend update part 2

So then...where was I?
Yesterday I got through most of Saturdays activities but I didn't get a chance to mention what I did with the rest of the compost that we brought in. My garden beds are pretty good this year, and by the time I get ready to plant many of them later this spring, I'll have a lot of my homemade stuff on hand so this load of "black gold" went all over the back yard.It kind of breaks my heart just a little, to use all that compost on lawn, but our back yard needs it desperately. When we moved into this home, all we had was the crappy subsoil that was in our basement hole spread out like a clay-crete blanket over the yard. I couldn't afford at the time to do much of anything about it either so all of our grass is grown on far inferior soils.

Last year, the soil was so compacted that all our water just ran right off and formed a pool along the back edge of the property no matter what we did. This year, I promised A~ that I'd grow her some grass. I figure that's only fair, seeing as how I take a little more of the yard every year for my gardening ventures, so it's a goal that needed a little work early on.

Now, there's the matter of that one last salvage item that I was teasing you with. I'm happy to say that I finished the project today, but sad to say that It was late and I was tired so I forgot to take a picture of the finished product. Here it is just after we picked it up though. a twenty-something foot length of 3 foot high vinyl fencing.As I said I finished installing it tonight, but that was because I spend Sunday picking up all the supplies and Monday and Tuesday digging holes and setting posts so I could put it together. If you look at this picture, you can see the tree and rocks that I was talking about yesterday.This fence will go down along the driveway, cut back over just before the tree and end up next to the existing fence. It should help me to deter neighbor kids that have no boundaries imposed on them, skateboards and the occasional soccer ball from squashing my plants in there.

And speaking of plants, I planted this weekend too. Approximately 600 shelling peas, a couple hundred sugar snap peas and three rows of carrots. Yes you read that right, 600 shelling pea plants. I'm trying a new way of growing them this year by really optimizing the raised beds that they're in. Intense management is after all the hallmark of the small scale grower is it not? I will of course keep you posted.

And there you have it, the big stuff that we accomplished this last weekend of winter. Oh, I just love saying that!! Last weekend of winter! Whoo hoo. sprouts are popping up, ground is thawing and the garden has been launched.

Look out 2009 here we come~

Holy crap....I'm TWO!!

I guess I was so busy mourning my chickens and planning my gardens that I totally spaced it. But the 6th of March was my second blogiversary!!

It's been a great couple of years too hasn't it? I still get to hear from my friends that have been checking in here for ever it seems like. Farm Mom, Phelan, Eva, Rhonda and so many others. I get to share everything that goes on here in our little world with you and hear what's going on in yours. Even more, I get to learn from you all, and maybe even pass on some wisdom of my own to others.

I've grown a good bit this year too. In 2008 I had had 7,496 unique visitors and I was amazed at it. For last year (09) I had 27,760 Unique visitors, now I'm even more amazed!! No matter how often I get on here and see this little community that's developed I feel so lucky to get to have you stop by.

I'm looking forward to another great year with you all. I hope you'll stick around a while longer. And if you've just stopped by for the first time. Welcome! Leave a comment, ask a question or just lurk around for a while if you like. I'm easy to work with.

Here's to another year!

March 16, 2009

Weekend update

Alrighty then...could I have really gotten that much done this weekend? In a word, yes.

I didn't have the Master Gardener class this week (Furlough...damn economy!), so I was able to get my hours in early and get out of the office on Friday around noon. We used that afternoon to get organized for the weekend. That meant cleaning out all the crap that was located on my front side yard like the kids old 1/4 pipe skateboard ramp, some old wooden boxes and a few planters that I was given last year. It also meant moving the old boat that was parked in out drive way right next to the side yard so that I could get in there the next day. Then I dug into the back edge of the side yard and connected into my main irrigation pipe to add a spigot to it. After all this, A~ and I ran over to our local nursery to pick up some seed potatoes, since after all, that was the point of this whole exercise. Our newest addition....The potato garden!

I mentioned last fall that we had plans to expand the garden further this year, and so we have! This newest garden will not only give us an additional 200 sq feet of garden area, but it will officially move us "out of the closet", err..."out of the backyard" that is. It's in the front of our house, albeit on the side front, but the front nonetheless. Besides the obvious goal of producing more of our own food, I hope to keep this garden looking interesting and nice enough to maybe let my neighborhood see that growing food isn't just a backyard sport.

So then, Saturday we were off to the green waste recycling center (located at our landfill) to pick up a truck load of their overwintered compost. The stuff was still steaming when I got it!! All told it was just shy of 4 cubic yds of compost and A~ unloaded most of it herself. What a woman!! No I wasn't just sitting there drinking beer and watching, I was tilling. We were able to borrow a very nice tiller from a neighbor who is adding a garden this year and had gotten it from a friend.It worked great! Whatya think? It seemed like it'd be a perfect place for an additional garden so why not. Just to the left of the picture, we have a couple of large rocks, a small aspen tree and some flowers just along the sidewalk, and with the half fence to the back it's a natural little nook right there. But wait...there's more! (I always wanted to say it like that...sounds so carny doesn't it?)

While we were on the way home from getting the compost, we spied some sweet salvageables at one of the homes I was telling you all about before. The ones being torn down for construction reasons. We were able to get a bunch of nice red brick pavers that were part of an old patio. I ran into the guy in charge of the salvage operation and asked him about them and he said I could have them. I cannot overstate the importance of asking before salvaging. You can see them along the top edge of the tilled garden area on the picture above, but here's a better picture.They aren't lain permanently yet, so don't leave me comments on how bad my paver laying is OK? We just wanted to make sure we had enough.

We also picked this baby up on the way home from getting compost. It's been a long time coming too let me tell ya. I don't think I've ever shared my current 'barrow with you, but suffice it to say that it was a found, salvaged, last leg one ten years ago when we got it. This was a well earned investment! And oh can it cart some compost!

There's one last thing. We also were able to get a hold of another bit of very good salvage material that will really finish this area off perfectly. Any guesses? I'm gonna make you wait until tomorrow to see it. So make sure you come back by. I still haven't made it through Saturday yet, I'm telling you, it was a BUSY weekend!

All the best to you.

So much got done!!

Oh man did it!

In fact, so much happened this weekend that I was absolutely drained last night and crashed earlier than I have in ages and wasn’t able to get my normal post up. Look for a big update to go up tomorrow. I may even have to stretch it out for a couple of days. Hope you all had a great weekend and that your weather was as cooperative as ours was.


Till tonight



March 12, 2009

Thank you all.

Thank you all so much. I don't know what to say. (And that's rare, believe me...) I know I'm not really an idiot but, you know, these things can really drive a guy nuts.

Of course it's been heavy on my mind the last couple of days and there's some things I need to add I guess. I think I may have misframed my concern with the heat lamp coming on. I try hard to not allow my hens to get dependant on the heat or the additional lighting. I totally agree that it can make them dependant on it, and the added stress from forced laying is not healthy for them at all. The birds that died were already fatigued as it was I believe. The first one was a complete shock, but the second has been a weaker bird for some time. Both had suffered some frost bite on their combs this winter and I think they were just weakened in general. That's one of the reasons I was adamant about making sure they got some heat in the coldest hours of the morning.

Rachel, I've been thinking the same thing and have been giving them apple cider vinegar in their water every few days because of it. I will keep doing it for some time.

I think Anonymous #1 put it best in his/her comments. "If you have stock, you have problems." It's true to a point isn't it? As embarrassing as it can be to admit that I didn't know what to do, or that what I did do may have been the wrong thing, I do it because I know there's a chance someone else out there will have or does have the same problem. If I can't give the solution, I know the input from you all will most likely cover it.

Thanks for being a part of the process with me. And thanks for the support.

March 11, 2009

Another loss (I'm an idiot..)

Yeah, it's what it sounds like. We lost another bird yesterday. She was another one of our brown leghorns.

It's been really frustrating me too since I just lost a bird not even a month ago. I wasn't doing anything differently that I knew of, and yet I was losing birds. As I said previously, I was going to keep a close eye on the girls to make sure that I didn't see any signs of stress or disease or anything and I did, keep an eye out that is. No signs of anything though. That is, until Monday morning. I get up and get myself ready for work in the morning and then head out to the coop before I take off for the day. I give them fresh water, check their food and toss them a half jar of scratch for the day. While I do this, I check on them for signs of problems. I repeat the checking in the afternoon after dinner when I head out to the coop to fetch the eggs.

Monday morning when I went out I noticed that one of the hens was very lethargic. She was also all puffed up and not wanting to go very enthusiastically after the scratch that I threw her. I made sure she got some water and that the food was accessible to her. That afternoon I did a little research in to possible chicken maladies and learned more about mites and the damage that they can cause to hens.

I have to add at this point that many of the chickens have been going through a sort of molting phase. Or at least that's what it looks like. Many of them have been losing feathers both on their bellies below their vents, or along their backs just in the back by the tail feathers.

I got to thinking that maybe there were mites and that that was the cause of the feather loss. I went home and cleaned the coop out, dusted the hens with Diatomaceous earth as well as the beds and the floor. They say cleanliness is the biggest culprit when dealing with mites, however, While dusting the birds I inspected them for mites and found no sign of them. When I had returned home that night, the hen in question was doing infinitely better. I hoped I had it licked. I was wrong.

The next morning, yesterday, I found the same hen acting the same way. Confused, I decided to turn the light on longer to help warm her up. That's when I found that the automatic timer that I was using had crapped out on me and I hadn't noticed. They hadn't been getting the warm lights in the morning! I separated her from the flock, placed her in a warmer area in a crate with some food, water, bedding, and gave her a dedicated light to warm up with. Sadly, it was too little too late. She had passed by the time I got home from work.

So, as I said in the title...I'm an idiot. I've lost two birds now to what I think was a simple automatic timer. My girls didn't freeze, but the cold is, I think, what got to them.

In the mean time, I have remedied the timer problem. I'll not let that be the cause for further losses. The only possible up side to the whole thing is that we had 9 birds and were only allowed 6. I've been thinking about giving them away to a family that wanted to start raising chickens as it is, this just kills that.

If your new to raising poultry, please...learn from this. Check all your equipment each morning. Be familiar with your birds and keep an eye out for odd behavior. It may just be the odd quirky bit of behavior that keys you into what the problem is/could be.
All the best to you all.

March 10, 2009

More on baby carrots... (EDIT)

It's odd isn't it, the things that people are interested in? I mean, I can spend an hour typing all my thoughts out about the algebra of happiness into something that I'm really proud of, and generally speaking people could give less than a darn. But write about cat deterrents and *BANG*, most popular post of my career!?

That being the case, I'm not at all surprised at the interest in my carrots and I'm more than happy to share the story of my happy accident.

A couple of years ago I first tried to get some late season crops going. I figured the best thing to try would be carrots since 1. we like them and 2. they are pretty idiot proof. (I thought at the time but have since proven my self sadly incorrect!) I sowed them in late August or early September and they grew pretty well to begin with but then slowed and stopped completely in the fall. Since I was doing this as a bit of an experiment I didn't do anything to the carrots. No blanket, no plastic, no mulches... Just carrots and snow!

Imagine my surprise the next spring when I was clearing out the beds and prepping for planting and found the sweet tender little beauties in the ground. It was the result that I had looked forward to for sure.

I hoped to get more of them going last winter for this spring but it just didn't happen. I'm glad to have some though. They've garnered a following at work. I don't cook them up because for one, I really don't have a lot of say in the menu around here, but also because they're so good all by themselves. If I were to cook them though I think a hot saute with a little butter just until they're soft (1-2 minutes) should do them very well.

If your wanting to try this out. Plan your succession plantings of carrots leading into the fall just as you normally would. Then, over the winter you can either just let them sit until spring or dip into your *stash* over the cold winter. Either way, I wish you the best of luck!

EDIT: The question was asked about the greens of the carrots. I cut them off when I washed them for the most part, but none of the tops were longer than maybe...6 inches and had a lot of frost damage to them. These were also really skinny because I left them planted very densly as I knew they were for baby carrots and I didn't care about the size. (good luck Sandy, let me know if you have more questions.)

I'm on the board! The Big Weigh in

With a whopping pound and a half of baby carrots!

I marked down March 9th as the day of my first harvest of this year. And here's the haul:
After my happy accident last year where I was able to harvest some tender baby carrots early in the year from late fall planted carrots I've put this little trick on my list of must-do's every year.

There's not a lot to them I know, but the flavor is out of this world! Something about a freezing winter to make them sweet. If you haven't tried it, keep it in mind for next year. I'm planning even more this year.

Grow on!

March 9, 2009

Did I say it was Spring???

Ummmm, yeah... actually what I meant was that it was really really close to being Spring and that I, uh, was really excited for spring and uh...

OK, screw it, you got me OK?! I lied! It ain't spring, it's just close OK?

And here's the proof: Top = Yesterday Bottom = Today.
Oh well, that's spring time in Utah. You've gotta love it! (No, really, you actually have to love it. If you don't you'll just rot away in miserable frustration because it does this for like two months while it makes up it's mind what season to be.)
Angie, (Farm Mom) Please keep your snickering to a minimum. I guess I wasn't sure after all. You know me though...ever the optimist!

I did plant a bunch of starts today though so I'm just gonna go on like nothin happened. Denial's not just a river in Egypt you know?

Be well friends!

A moment of beauty

Just thought you might like this...

A beautiful sunset with Antelope Island and the Salt Lake out in the distance. For a CA boy that grew up on Pacific sunsets this is a pretty darn good consolation.

March 8, 2009

Wakey Wakey...time to get up

It was time to wake up the garden beds this weekend. I can feel the subtle ache in my back as I sit her from a day filled with pitch-forking and shoveling. It felt G R E A T!! I love spring time!! I'll gladly take a little pain in the back if it means I get to put my hands in the ground. Remember last fall when I put the beds to sleep for the winter? I layered in chicken manure, grass clippings and some leaves then topped the whole bed off with some leaves. Here's what they looked like this afternoon before I started digging in them.When I turned them over I was struck by the life going on under the soil. The ground was dark and rich; wet, but not soaked and teeming with life. The work paid off. Check it out:See the worms? My gosh there were so many of them!! Literally every pitch-fork full had at least one worm in it, but generally closer to 5 or 6. I have big hopes this year. Isn't that what spring is all about after all? Every year we get this wonderful chance to go out and try to see what we can coax mother nature out of, sometimes we do well, sometimes she smacks us down but always we try right?

I also managed to try a soil quality test that I learned about a few weeks back in the Master Gardener class when we learned about soils. I filled a mason jar to a measured point in a mason jar and then filled the rest with water. I shook the jar vigorously for a few minutes until all the soil on the inside had been separated and mixed completely with the water in a suspension.

After doing this, I waited a few minutes to see what had settled to the bottom. There was only about a 1/4 inch at the bottom at best. This layer of sediment will be the sand. It is the largest and therefore the heaviest particles in the suspension. Next is the silt. There are different types of silt, some finer than others, and they settle next in the test. Here's the test after about 2 1/2 hrs. Most of the sediment has settled, which is a good sign. Why? because clay particles are so small that they can bind with the water and can take at least 24 hours before they are noticeably collecting.

I took the sample in to the class on Saturday to show it to my Master Gardening instructor for his opinion and he says that it seems to have very little clay in it. "It's good soil...you can grow in that." I believe were his actual words. It's one hell of a stretch from what I started with I tell ya. I have some of that soil that I kept. I plan to do a test of it to see what I end up with. The only question I have on it is whether the big silt layer is actually clay? I don't think so but I hope the further test will confirm.

I hope you all had a great weekend and maybe were able to get out into the dirt for a little while. If not...sorry... Spring will get there I promise!

March 6, 2009

Master Gardener update

It was another good set of classed this week. What am I saying? Have I declared yet that I haven't liked any of the classes? NO! Truth be told, I'm having a really good time.

Wednesday we had a class on weeds. No, not *WEED*...weeds, like invasive, nuisance noxious, bane of my existence type of weeds. It was interesting to hear the guest instructors way of pointing out the problems with weeds that we may not think of regularly. He made that argument that non-native, invasive weeds are the greatest threat to natural ecosystems in the West. Not pollution, not climate change, not even drought; weeds! Something to think about...ain't it?

The class this afternoon was all about the UBC. The Utah Botanical Center. We got to speak with and ask questions of the Director of the program. There wasn't a whole lot of content in a traditional sense to this class, it was more of a familiarizing for us with the mission of the center and what part we can expect to play in that future. It's really an amazing place. If your in Utah and you're so inclined, I heartily encourage you to drop in a check the place out. Maybe this summer for the Thursday farmers market, or to check out the grand openings of the wetlands preserve classroom and the new arboretum.

There's always the Utah House too.
That's a model display home built using sustainable materials and techniques. It's a great experience and really gives you a good idea of what's possible out there with different methods.

As a matter of fact, speaking of the Utah house, A~ and I will be there tomorrow morning at 9:30 for a lab on pruning fruit trees. It's fulfills one of our lab requirements for the class, and it may/should give me some skill at pruning so I can accomplish my Espalier that I'd like to try. I'm looking forward to it, then I'm looking forward to getting home and putting some effort into my garden. Springs close enough that I'm looking at doing some planting this weekend. Both inside and out!

Hope you all have a great weekend.
Grow on!

March 3, 2009

seed starter is up...FINALLY!!

Well between an unplanned trip to California, Master Gardener courses and two kids doing science fair projects, I never had a chance to get around to finally finishing the seed starter that I got started with a ways back... sorry for taking so long to update you.

Tonight I finally got around to bringing it down into the basement where I'll have it set up until I'm done getting starts going; probably until mid May at least. I'm going to just put up a bunch of pictures (since that's really the best way to explain it don't you think?) and explaining myself as I go.
The main requirement for this project, outside of the obvious functionality of the starter, was that I could disassemble and store it with relative ease in a minimum amount of space. Above it the framework of the starter minus the lights. The trays are roughly two feet wide by 4 feet long, and the long boards that make up the legs are just shy of six feet long. They leg board are "L" shaped and nest inside each other.
Here they are all laid out just before A~ and I assembled it. The process is simple, attach the bottom shelf loosely to all four legs and then move your way up. It's a two person job, but in a pinch a single person could do it.
This is the set up that the whole shi-bang is held together with. It's a 2 1/2 inch long carriage bold with a washer, lock washer and wing nut for easy hand assembly.
This is a view from the top of one of the legs so that you can see how the legs and the shelves attach. Below is a picture of the shelf from the inside.
I lined the bottoms of the two shelves that will hold plants with plastic sheeting because I didn't want to accidentally spill water over the sides and have it drip out the bottom onto either the flooring or the fluorescent lamps. And speaking of which, these are the brand/s of lamps that I am using. One gives a high number of lumens but is heavy on the red spectrum of light (kitchen and bath) while the other will fill the gaps in the blue spectrum.
Mind you, they're not professional bulbs or anything, but hey...they do put out a good bit of light! I have two lamps per shelf for a total of four. Each shelf can hold 192 individual plants or 48 plastic four packs. Total I'll be able to have up to 384 plants started at one time. Woohoo!!
And last but by no means least...here it is, my starter. I only have one shelf loaded so far, but I'll be able to get my cabbages and broccoli started to supplement what I direct sow into the ground soon. The bottom shelf will have the later season stuff like tomatoes, peppers eggplants and such. then I'll spread them out amongst the two shelves as they get bigger.

Spring is here!! I don't care what the weather man tells me. When I start seeds and I can turn my soil like I did today...Springs here!! Time to get growing!

Hope all your seeds are sprouting well. till tomorrow.

March 2, 2009

Re-purposing and some good news

The plans for the greenhouse are still a work in progress and this weekend they had a big boost in possibilities. The city and county that I live in is just beginning a pretty large project to widen the main road that leads out to where we live. In the process they have "imminent domained" the whole North side of the road. For the purposes of this commentary I'm not going to go into the whole imminent domain issue but rather I'll leave it at this. I generally don't agree with it. There are times when I do feel it is warranted, but I'm not sure if this is one of those times or not.

The up-side to the whole thing, if there is one, is that I have been able to gain from the process. I drove by the abandoned homes for the last couple of weeks looking at them as closely as I could for windows. I just knew that one of the ten or so homes would have some windows that might be able to be salvaged before the wrecker showed up. Last week I spied them.
They were in the back of the first house on the row. The previous owners had built a sun room of sorts as an add-on and there were these beautiful 5'x5' double pane windows in there. I was hardly able to see it from the street, but once I got a look at them I decided to park and confirm. I've talked before about visualizing the things that you need or want from life and this is the perfect example of it. There's a particular reason that it works and it's not some metaphysical mumbo-jumbo or anything. (If your interested I'll go into it, just let me know, but it's the same thing that makes you start noticing all the red cars in the world when your looking for a red car.)

I grabbed my 13 yr old, a couple of hammers and a pry bar and headed over. I should mention at this point that I made a few phone calls about getting permission to scavenge these windows before taking it upon myself to do it. The project manager informed me that they could not give me permission to take the windows because that would, by default, make them liable for any injury I might sustain getting them. She also, however, informed me that they would not be salvaging any of the windows and that they "wouldn't miss them if they weren't there". (wink wink...nod nod...) So, as I was saying, my son and I headed over to the home and got to tearing into it. Here's a peak from the inside.
So after a couple of hours and two trips, one to loose them and one to pick them up. Plus a trip to the docs because my son found a nail with his foot... we finally got them home. Total there are four 5x5 ft straight glass (no seams) and two 47 x [34] inch double hung windows. probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 6-700.00 worth of windows. I've modified the layout of the greenhouse to incorporate the glass, which I am going to take apart into individual panes and then have cut to the specific sizes that I need, but I haven't yet re-drawn the plans. As soon as I do I will get them up here. I've been thinking about incorporating the chicken coop into the design as well; any thoughts on that from anyone?

As for the good news, A~ got a job and started today! Ironic isn't it how I was just talking about how we had decided to have her stay at home to raise the boys while they were young? The thing is that the job pays very well, is for the same company that I work for, is only four hours a day and best of all the hours are flexible so She will drop the kids off to school and then go to work. She'll be off before they get out, even on short days, and will pick them up just like now. In fact, our youngest boy B~, said this afternoon when he heard us talking about her first day, "Oh, yeaaahhh....I forgot you were working today..." That's a good sign to us that the schedule will not impact them at all. Besides, their not little boys anymore, the youngest is 11, and the extra $$ sure won't hurt at all.

I wish you all the very best...
till tomorrow.