I finally figured out how to finish the compost bin and a use for the leftover Cedar boards.

May 24, 2017

I was dreading putting the compost pile together because it was going to be heavy to put in place!  Solution! add deck (stringers) I think that is  metal brackets are called (used on roof rafters)  on the 4×4 posts and the 2×4 can be dropped in those brackets easily.  All I have to deal with are simple 90 degree cuts and I believe the compost pile build will be much more robust and stronger long term.  There is nothing wrong with using pallets for a compost bin especially if you build it properly.  I did not have those carpentry skills, tools or know how to to use those skills or tools properly. I am getting a bit better at  trying to do things properly the second or third try of building.

I’m learning, but I do tend to be a trial and error person.  Usually I tend to screw up by the numbers and then I find the how to build something. I also tend to be a person that needs a bit of time to figure out stuff before the “lightbulb” goes off in my brain.  Trust me, I screw up and half-ass a lot of projects and learn what does not work before I get a clue about doing it correctly the 1st or 2nd time. I do not recommend this system but it sort of works for me.  One thing I never do is use nails.  I don’t hammer in nails, I scare nails into boards at best.  I much prefer using screws as I often screw up building stuff.  Using a drill to remove a poorly placed screw is much easier than removing a poorly place nail.

Now on to the boardwalk garden path.  How do I use the Cedar boards left overs I bought for the compost bin?  What about building a garden board walk? My handicap may make me less mobile and I still will want access to my garden, so why not build a boardwalk?  Plus it will help keep my little digger dogs out of the garden.  At least reduce the doggies digging area in the garden.  This just an idea I’m kicking around in my noggin.

Last but not least I ‘m getting the pups brushed, combed and cleaned up.   I’m sorry to say I sort of ignored the doggies and they paid the price. I am brushing out the pekes and the under cut is brutal but the pups are getting mostly cleared of matted hair.  One thing nice about Jackson the terrier is his coat is easy to deal with, now the guy is terrified of scissors.  My trimming the Pekes was ugly but all of the pups got a good brush/comb out.  A mediocre trim of mats and relieved of extra fur for summer.

Keeping your self and critters cool in Summer you need to get the Ryobi mister fan!  About $80.00 but it works great in 100 Degree F. days.  Plus the 18 volt battery works with all Ryobi tools. This a great cooling system in summer.  If you live in a hot summer climate you need this little battery powered mister/ fan.


I dropped off extra starts and talked weed control with the neighbors

May 22, 2017

One of the worst things in the alley way beds is weed control.  The soil is really bad for most plants other than weeds and the weeds tend to be very unpleasant, full of pointy spikes and leaves.  A few years ago I tried using weed killer and I not only killed the weeds I killed the soil and that only invited in more weeds.  So for the last 2 years I have used Black Walnut leaves as a “killer mulch” in the worst areas.  Oh I still have some weeds but the weeds are the broadleaf type and not all pointy and annoying like puncture vine/goatheads.

I have added some wood mulch and two plants that seem to grow great in poor soil and with little water.  Sunchokes have done great and while they can spread they grow/spread slowly.  I planted Sunchokes three years ago and all the plant has done is got a bit thicker and bushy.  The roots/Rhizomes are still localized and not taking over the alley way area.  Low growing sedums planted and add a bit of wood mulch to retain water.  I planted sedum for the first time last year and half of the plants came back this year.  Not to bad for a plant that is subject to getting driven over and growing in poor soil with very little water other than rain.

The alley way beds are a work in progress of eliminating the nastiest weeds first!  That includes adding mulch and plant that I want that grow in poor soil conditions.  I’m also adding wood mulch to start to help with both water retention and as a sort of ground cover that prevents some if not all weeds.  While this is not a perfect system I have had very few goat heads or cheat grass to deal with in my my beds despite the fact some of my neighbors have very thick “nasty” weeds.  The best way to stop weeds is to improve the soil and add plants that you want that don’t give weeds a place to grow.

We are trying out some Balsam oil sachets with out mouse infestation of the basement.  While still early days it seems that the mice do not like the Balsam oil Sachets and the mice don’t always go outside to to escape the odor.  The mice do seem to be concentrated in my food storage area and while I “dropped the ball” on some of my food storage protocols, but most of my long term  food storage is safe from mice.

Prepper porn often consists of shelving units and there is a reason for that!   The SHTF has not happened but I have a darn annoying mouse problem.  Gosh can you imagine how much worse it could be if trash is not removed for a few months?  Work on fixing your problems now when you can access to stores or even “vermin control” you can call in if needed.

Last but not least,  learn from others mistakes especially mine own.  Don’t beat yourself up if you let a few item slide.  We are all learning stuff and we all make mistakes.   At this time we are afforded time to live and learn.


Starter plants and the marigold flat are in the ground

May 20, 2017

I think  SW Idaho is in the new 5A Zone that includes Arkansas.  That being said you  really need to grow celery.  I have had good luck growing “Utah High” via starter plants and seed.  Celery is easy to grow and I think it should be in every garden.  The plants grown in “peat pots” are in the garden but we still feel things may not work out but are willing to give the plants a chance.  We re-potted all plants from the small “peat pots”  and will hand out to neighbors if the plants survive.

The little garden fence was a no go and would not keep out small peke that wants to dig in dirt.  It is an ugly fence but somewhat effective and cheap.  You might see the new marigolds planted around the raised beds.

Mom says we have a bit of space for other plants but I want to see how the plants fill in the garden over the summer.  I placed the bird bath out in the garden as I noticed the little birds taking dust baths.

I sprayed the outside of the house for insects and the product is supposed to be residual for at least 3-6 months. WE have bugs and I dropped the “ball” being proactive on dealing with vermin.  Prevention cost a lot less but you have to deal with what life hands you even if you “Screwed the pooch”.

Plan of attack for the vermin.  Spray the insect killer inside the house where bugs may gather and breed.  Sort of the same way I deal with the mice.  New shelving units built or bought that can be put on casters and easy to move.  Place all food in at least heavy  duty buckets or bins.

I screwed up by having a food source accessible.  Now I’m paying the price of trying to eliminate both bugs and rodents.  Learn from my mistakes and screw up  now.  Golly we all screw up while learning new stuff and that is a good thing in the long term.  Of course it does tend to cost us a bit short term.

Okay a bit of a re- hash but I put up a fence that seems to stop my dogs digging up plants.  I sprayed a insecticide barrier around the house.  I finished planting my starter plants in the big garden bed.  Not a bad bit of work for a Saturday.


Mouse hunt, plants and the 1st wall built for the new compost pile

May 18, 2017

In the last couple of weeks of our mouse hunt we have caught over 40 mice in the chicken house and in the house.  For traps we are using box traps and sticky traps because we have critters and pets.  Snap traps will injure any animal and while sticky traps can get the dogs the traps can bet cut away with some scissors.   I’m trying out a rodent repellent in the basement that smells of balsam fir oil.  I added 6 bags of this “repellent” in hope that it will start driving the mice out of the basement.  Next week I will purchase the wood and start building shelving units in the basement.  My plan is to clean up all the mouse droppings,  Bleach and sanitize the walls to stop the mouse trails and make it safe from those mouse carried diseases and have all food items stored in long term containers that are vermin proof.  The last requirement of the shelving is it will accommodate traps or spraying for bugs long term.   While I may have slacked off  the last 6 months on storage.  My long-term food supply is very safe in 55 gallon metal drums.

Plants for the garden.

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As you can see I have a flat of Marigolds and several starer plants for the garden.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As you can see the pepper plants between the cages took quite a beating and look a bit sad.   I have starts to replace the peppers and my deep 4 ft.x 4ft raised bed is for any  plants that have no planned spot.  You can see the Black garden fence.  Well it has not worked for stopping the small digger dogs.  What has worked is those fold flat tomato cages hooked to the chain linked fence and  covers the small beds.

First wall of the new compost pile wall is built.   My carpentry skills are rudimentary at best, but as I build stuff I learn more about carpentry and how to make what I want in my mind happen in reality.  This the first wall of my compost pile and I can hide my screw ups against the chicken area. I learned a lot just putting together this first wall.  Overall I think this new compost bin idea will work long term and I’m also learning about how to work with different types of lumber and how to use those product around the yard.

The image on the left is the new wall of the compost pile.  The image on right is the my pathetic attempt of making a compost bin out of pallets that was less than successful.  There is nothing wrong with screwing up by the numbers if it does not cost you.  I learned the wrong way to use pallets to make a cheap compost pile.  Trust me I went very cheap and I did not know how to make anything plus I lacked the proper tools to make pallets work.   There is nothing wrong with using pallets to build a compost pile.  I just gave a pic of my screwed up compost pile to show that without knowledge and skills, half-assing stuff will probably end up costing you more money time and energy is the likely outcome.  I don’t have a lot of “extra” money to invest in stuff.  I really don’t have a lot of personal energy/strength to invest in screwing up.  So getting  stuff right or at least learning how to get stuff built right is critical.

I’m still not sure on how the compost pile will turn out,  though I have enough lumber to build a 2 bin system.  At this time the built wall will be on left side as well. I will have a divider section and a pressure treated built back wall.  I’m spending some dollars to build “my” compost system. Can you do a compost system cheaper?  Of course you can build one of those.  I’m no longer worried about cheap I’m worried about a working system for me.  I can afford to look beyond cheap and look at making stuff easy.


Plants got frost nipped and today we got hail

May 16, 2017

My peppers got frost nipped and just for extra fun, they got pummeled by hail today.  I added some protection after the storm started but I think the peppers are probably toast. The weathermen are for casting possible snow here in the valley.  Not unheard of too me but Spring time in Idaho is a bit more “eclectic” than I prefer.   We are good here at Casa de Chaos as we are late planting many “starter plants”.  The cabbages and cole crops survived the cold/hail.  I also planted the plants in a “protected” place in the front yard.  Just a small garden planting set back at this time.  Springtime in Idaho!

I bought the lumber for the new compost pile.  I’m using pressure treated 4×4 posts at the corners.  2×4 pressure treated boards to tie the pile together and cedar wood fencing to cover/contain the compost.  I’ll have to layout and tweak the plan over the next week.  I’m not just trying to make my garden “pretty”.  Every element must have a use to make the garden better in the long run.

I have most of the materials for building a compost mound/heap.  I want it to be semi-attractive as well as a good compost pile that is somewhat easy to work. Good construction makes life easier in the long run.

I really dropped the ball on my basement storage.  The mice are berserk and all of it is because I did not store foods properly in containers.  So Mom and I are trying out a few different items to get rid of mice and I’m looking to build  proper shelves to fight the vermin problem.  So we will see how it works out.  I’m not getting all “butt hurt” just because I “screwed the pooch” this time.  prepping and getting self-sufficient is a journey and not about one screw up.


A little late on the 3 sisters and pics.

May 13, 2017

I’m still sort of tweaking the 3 sisters garden beds.  I know what does not work from last year’s experiment. These beds are an adjustment and not necessarily the end result for the 3 sisters experiment. Via most web sites the corn and beans are  suggested to have a mound of dirt above the squash plants. I can test this out on my beds though they are only 3 ft. x 3 ft. wide.  I think adding a raised mound for the corn and beans is doable on a bed and then try a regular raised bed garden for the other beds.  Growing plants has so many variables that there are no hard and fast rules.  Each gardener must try out how thing work in the yard and garden.  If it is stupid and it works it ain’t stupid!

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Cedar boxes for the 3 sisters garden.

This is a bit of tweaking as corn, beans and squash did not do as well as I wanted in the big garden bed.   My garden got overgrown and was not healthy so by separating the plants I hope to create a better garden.  Those 3 beds cost about $80.00 in materials and I can afford that now.  But I started out using reclaimed materials and going “cheap” to start a garden.  Start small if you that is all you can do.  Often the hardest thing to do is just start.

The front yard edible beds.  I have a bit of work to do but over all the beds are looking darn good.

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It may not look like much but I have lettuce, spinach and brussel sprouts  growing.

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I thought I got of the happy little cabbages in the front yard beds,  but no luck finding them to post.

Simple and easy are not the same thing.  Almost every thing life is simple, that does not mean it is easy.  I’m not a homesteader and with my physical limitations I can not be one.  But that does not mean I can’t try and do stuff around the house.

Gosh I have learned so much from making basic raised beds to chopping up my own kindling.  We got slammed this winter so I’m prepping for a hard winter.   The worst that can happen is I’m ready for a hard winter.  The best that can happen is I’m very ready for a hard winter.


Ugh morning glory. 3 Sisters beds are done!

May 11, 2017

I got most of my chores done today.  The big bed got weeded and a quick roto-till to loosen the soil for planting.  Mom got the actual plants in the garden,  Four sweet peppers, two types of egg plant and two types of cukes.  Mom’s tall peppers she started back in March wilted a bit in the heat and transplant shock.  Mom gave the peppers a good drink of water and we added the canvas tarps to keep off the direct sun and the peppers perked up after an hour or two.  These light weight canvas painter tarps are great for protecting plants from a light frost or the heat of the sun, relatively inexpensive and great multi-taskers.  SW Idaho has cooler weather coming in this weekend so we are going to keep “hardening” the melons, tomatoes and some of the smaller plants and plant on Monday.

I had a bit more work than I anticipated in the 3 sisters raised beds.  Morning glory was bad even with the layers of mulch I added last fall. I used a garden rake to grab the weeds and pull aside the mulch. I dug up as much of the weeds as possible but these beds will need to be monitored and weeded often this year.  I have to say the soil was looking much better after adding the wood mulch for the last two years.  Not perfect so I added some garden soil and compost to augment the soil I tilled up for the raised beds.  Using both my dirt and augmenting with bought garden soil seems to make make darn good vegetable garden soil.  I don’t block off my raised garden beds from the ground because after one or two years I have not seen much difference in weed growth.  I do see a big difference in veggie production when I include my dirt in the garden soil mix.  I’m feeling positive the 3 ft. x 3 ft. garden bed is going to be easy to work with as far as weeding the beds are concerned. Especially since I left plenty of room for my garden cart and to walk around the beds. I have learned it is a lot easier to weed and work many small garden beds compared to caring for one large bed.    Once I pull the mulch into place between the 3 sisters bed and do some cleanup I will post up some pics.

My back yard grass patch is still a bit spotty but where the grass is growing it has been growing great!  Last year I laid out sod and it did okay but I think my soil prep was not great and the type of grass did not do well with a sun and shade mix.  To correct the problem I’m going with a sun and shade mix that is drought tolerant and made for the local area. I’m adding compost and reseeding the grass this spring to try and fill in the patchy areas.  I have reduced the part of my backyard that is dedicated to lawn because a good lawn takes a lot of work and resources but I also want some lawn around as it is cool in the summer and my little dogs love rolling around and playing in the grass.

I’m lucky, I have no CC&Rs where I live so I can have mulch pathways, a front yard garden with edibles.  I can experiment with the alley way beds and learn how to kill out weeds naturally, without using roundup that kills everything including the soil.  I have had better luck killing weeds by using mulch and augmenting the soil rather than resorting to “Chemical” warfare” against Mama nature.  I’m not sure it is actually slower as last summer Mom and I dug up “goat heads” /puncture vine and I added wood ash, a killer mulch made of walnut leaves and a layer of wood mulch.  For plants I have added Sunchokes and a few sedum plants to provide ground cover.  Mom cleaned up the weeds, some thistle, “Cheat” grass and some Fox tails among others but NO! Goat heads at all were dug up.  Not a bad result in just one growing season.