Finished limbing the the branches and the shopping list for the week.

April 17, 2015

It was a breezy day but Mom and I finished trimming the branches the Idaho power guy cut down. The larger branches should add a couple of days worth of wood to next year’s wood pile. I finally figured out how I want to prune my cherry trees. You ever have one of those problems that seem tough and then suddenly the last bit of info clicks into place and it all makes sense?  I figured out how to prune the trees after seeing how a neighbor pruned his fruit trees back and reading the term “cut those suckers back at the crotch”.  While statement sounds a bit violent it is memorable.  I need to prune back a lot of those “suckers”  on the cherry trees and this years harvest will be almost nil, but if I can get the trees healthy, happy and put on good growth the next 2-3 year harvest should be good.  I get a bonus of adding a little bit more hardwood to add to my wood pile. Make no mistake I can’t grow enough wood on my lot to feed the wood stove in winter but I could see how a homesteader with a few acres might go with fruit orchard and have some pruned wood to augment the wood pile, or perhaps use the pruned wood/chips for things like smoking meats.  My prepping philosophy is about using up all you have on hand without having to pay “retail”.  I also think about value added,  all I have done so far is a hot smoke or slow BBQ of things like a turkey. I think that flavor added is value added, plus a slow smoke preserves meat. Adding a few fruit/dwarf trees and learning to prune them properly could have many benefits besides the fruit.

I got my 10 bags of mulch for the front yard rose beds. The winds have been cold and very unpleasant but by Thursday things will be warming up.   I am a firm believer in mulch augmented with your compost for water retention in your lawn and garden.  It really saves water and if you don’t believe me simply mulch one area of you garden and leave dry soil in another, I bet you will be surprised how much water is retained in the lawn/dry area, at least I was surprised by the difference. I  added mulch to the other rose bed in the front yard Friday and the Scott’s Earthgro wood mulch went much farther than the Viagro mulch based on per bag coverage or “2 cubic feet” per bag. Based on my two rose beds of equal length, width and depth 6 , two cubic ft. bags of the Scott’s Earthgro covers the same amount as 8, two cubic ft. bags of the Viagro bags.  In the last couple of days I used the weed wacker to take the weeds to ground level, used the Hula hoes for cleaning out weeds and Mom and I pruned and cleaned up my roses and Mom raked the lawn for small branches a twigs from the last little wind storm. We cleaned up a lot of yard waste, one big bin (65 gallon) trash bin, two 30 plus gallon trash cans , about six 50 pound feed bags and two large construction grade garbage bags.

Mom seems incapable of of realizing how much she does helping me out. Just having an extra person trim roses, rake the yard and help clean up the trash is huge for person that did all those thing alone and is a huge time and energy saver. Mom is willing to help me with projects I do and is a great sounding board for ideas as she is well grounded in “Common Sense” which is not that common! No, we do not agree 100% of the time but that is okay because even this small home we have our own personal space to do as we wish.  It is a bit surreal at times as many people seemed to think Mom and I could not live in the same home. But we never had a problem working together when I was her supervisor, and while it is my house and my rules, I allow a lot of freedom as I had roommates as a civilian and in the Army. Heck we aren’t 12 year’s old looking to be popular and both of us tend to quietly rebel in our own way against the “status quo”.   Oh, it isn’t perfect, I’m sure Mom bites her tongue at times as there has been a bit of role reversal, but overall life seems to be going well.

 

 


Planting pansies and trimming up stuff

April 11, 2015

The pansies from Fred Meyer’s are planted in the back yard flower bed.  I think they got a little root bound but they should bounce back with having good soil and room to expand. I set up a small border fence to protect them from the chickens scratching around.  Mom’s chickens are sort of lazy and they can forage most of the backyard so the birds don’t work all that hard to get in the flower/garden beds if they see a small fence or other barrier.  Deep mulch seems almost irresistible to the birds but so far the cheap little garden fences do a good job keeping the birds out of my new little flower beds.

I got all  of the elm branches trimmed up. Little stuff in the garbage can and the larger chunks in the kindling bucket. I have 3  branches that need to use the small chain saw on rather than the loppers. Overall I was darned pleased how quickly the job was done. About an hour of work with the loppers filled a trash can and some kindling bucket for the next fire wood season.  I weed wacked a few weeds but dumping wood ash in the alley has done a a very good job killing out many of the nasty weeds. My plan is the wood ash will add a bit of carbon to the very poor soil and kill some weeds and so far the weed killing is working out well. I’m not sure about adding carbon as this the first year dumping ash. The first alley mulch area is doing great for killing weeds though a few little weeds have grown along the border areas. A few weeds is much easier to deal with compared to a large nasty weed infested area. I am staying away from Roundup and other plant killers as I want to build new garden beds that like the growing conditions in the alley garden. I have to kill out the bad weeds and introduce a new set of plants as well as improve the soil so the good plants I want can grow.  Weeds are not bad, as they are nature’s paramedics to protect soil from erosion. I also don’t care for “cheat” grass, goat heads or Morning glory for ground covers. You can build good soil and plant crops and cover crops that will choke out weeds, but it takes time to do it naturally.

I want to learn/try a perma-culture and other systems that work together on your garden to make it thrive.  The other half of my front yard looks like has room to  support a mini-orchard of five dwarf trees. I want to add a couple of small recirculating fountains or pools and a cool seating area sort of like a Spanish plaza/Persian garden for hot summer days.  Both the plaza and zen gardens will take time and money to setup but I should be able to  start with recycled stuff I have on hand.  I doubt I can afford everything this year but I can start with some of the cheaper materials and begin prepping the areas for the future gardens. A new thought for the rose bed borders is using regular concrete blocks rather than flat pavers. I can set the blocks with the holes facing up, add soil and use them as pots for plants that are both decorative and edible!

I’m still getting used to my glasses. I can’t say the bi-focal lenses are kicking my butt but I notice an extra bit of tension in my neck as well as a bit of eyestrain learning to use the glasses, though I don’t seem to have the problem of curbs looking odd like I had as a kid. In someways I think I got used to things being slightly out of focus and my brain is trying to learn how to keep things in focus. Okay I’m done complaining! It is still early days of getting used to the glasses, but I really love seeing things clearly again! Tonight I looked up at the stars and they were so sharp and vibrant that it just stunned me.

 


Life is not cooperating with my plans, but I got my glasses

April 8, 2015

Building the potato tower got pushed towards the end of this week because it might snow this week. I finished up the cutting and drying all the seed potatoes .  It will be interesting to see how much straw and dirt it will take to fill up the tall tower. I’m very consistent at under-estimating how much soil I need to get for my garden projects.  If I have to add more soil when I get my next check so be it. I don’t think it should make a big difference come harvest time.

I planted a  couple of “organic” garlic cloves in the front yard bed that had sprouted. I know it is the wrong time of year for planting garlic but with it so cool it is worth a try to see if the garlic can grow there.  I got a few more of the branches cut up and added more of the pruned grape canes to the trash. Last but not least I added egg shells to my my small raised beds. I rinse the shells and then “nuke” them for a minute to kill off any bad stuff like salmonella. It will be another four weeks before I can get my plants in the garden so the eggshells will add some good minerals without adding any bad germs/bacteria.

I’m still working out a few ideas to protect the garden beds from the chickens when they are let out.  So far the birds don’t scratch in areas with a small protective fence as long as they have other areas to scratch. Of course that might change if the birds see new vegetation growing in the garden.  Mom bought a roll of chicken wire and I have some 1″x 2″ boards I can add to the raised beds if I don’t come up with a long term solution.  Overall I think the chickens have been great for working the back yard soil and giving me compost but they do tend to be a bit random on what parts of the back yard they scratch. A chicken tractor would be a good long term solution but cost wise I’ll probably go with fencing off the garden area this year.

Mom did the deposition with the lawyers. Four hours of repetitive questions and some strange things with the opposing lawyer sneaking in a settlement that Mom supposedly wrote because the “font” was the same as all the other papers she has submitted. Mom did stuff on Microsoft office word which is usually a default to 10-12 point New Times Roman or Arial font. I mean if she “owns” a font I want to know about it and we can start charging all those software companies using “her” font!  Just basic silliness like that, Mom took a cruise and Mom went to Germany except Dad was with her taking the cruise and went to Germany and stayed in my home for free for two weeks.  Heck I rented a little Mercedes E series sedan for a week series so they could see the sites.  I won’t say going to Germany  is a cheap vacation but not paying for room and board sure makes it much cheaper compared to living in a hotel!   I suppose that’s how the “law” game is played now but I don’t have to like it!

Picked up my glasses today and wow they sure make a difference. It will take some time to adjust to the bifocal lenses but the long range vision improvement is outstanding! I really liked driving when using to prescription sunglasses (distance vision only). Everything was sharp and crisp even thought the day was overcast.  My eyes do feel a little strained tonight after using the bi-focals especially reading or using the PC as I’m still getting used to how I should look through the lenses. I figure withing a week or so it should become second nature how to look through the lenses correctly, though I may have to adjust my PC screen lower/farther away on my desk.  Overall I am very pleased with both pairs of glasses. One weird thing is my depth perception is back and I had not realized how much I was cheating and playing things safe while working with tools and driving.

I know that coming up with $150.00 is not easy when living on a fixed income but prepping isn’t just about stuff like storing food and water. Making sure you are as physically capable/healthy as possible should be one of your first prepping goals.  As per usual, I did things in the wrong order! One of the biggest reasons I do this blog is so people can learn from my mistakes. Don’t worry you will probably make mistakes but at least learn from others so you go and make unique and original mistakes, so we can all learn from them. One thing I learned in the Army if you don’t screw-up occasionally you are only playing it safe and not learning. Embrace failure! That is how you learn, just try and make all mistakes small enough that you can pay to have it done right and watch the “professionals” at work and learn from them!


Eye exam, garden tools and groceries

April 4, 2015

The eye exam went very well overall even though I need glasses. I was very impressed with how thorough the exam was, checking for cataracts and pressure build up. I was a bit concerned about cataracts because both my mom and grandmother had them, but so far my eyes are clear.  I don’t know if I got a discount for cash or because I’m a vet but the total cost for the exam and bi-focal glasses along with a coupon for free prescription sunglasses was $146.50. I think this is a great deal because I thought I would be paying about $300-$500 for everything. I would recommend using Icare Optical in Nampa if you need glasses or optometrist for your eye care.  One other thing, driving home after you have your eyes dilated is a very bad idea. I did it and I would recommend that no one  try it, especially on a sunny day when you leave your sunglasses at home.

Stone lumber is having a good Spring sale on tools and stuff for the yard. Since I saved so much money on the eyeglasses, I was able to pick up a few hand tools for yard work. I got a new 24 inch “lopper” for pruning the grapes and tree limbs,  a muscle-powered  weed and cultivator combo that I think will make taking care of the smaller garden beds easier.  The lopper is working great on trimming the tree limbs and the thick grape vines. Stone lumber has some cleanup tools on sale until the 18th of April for wands for the gutters and a pressure washing that I will get on the 15th of April. Plus I will get another lopper as a backup. By then the irrigation water will be turned on and using water out side for clean up will be much cheaper compared to using the house “potable” water.

This year I’m trying to add more ways of growing things vertically and there is a learning process as well as some equipment I need to get while I am slowly adding vertical growing spaces into my garden plans.  Got a couple more of the shelf brackets that will double duty as a shelf and a place for a couple of hanging plants. I’m planting a garden via raised beds and large buckets which saves space and  I hope a lot of money when the California drought crisis starts to hit people in the pocket book.  There is always a learning curve and you don’t your life being dependent on the best out come, so now is the time to learn to garden. You can start small with a kiddy pool of dirt and some herbs and spices.  After that you can slowly build up your garden with other plants as you go along. I don’t see anything wrong starting with some plants from a green house or at the local mega- mart if you are a new to gardening. If you pay $2.00-$4.00 per plant and get a harvest of 3-5 pounds your first year you will have paid for the plant and learned a bit about gardening.  That’s how I started my garden and while I’m expanding from the original kiddy pool, buckets and raised beds they worked great last year!

Albertson’s has some great sales going on meats. Prime rib for $5.99 per pound and 16-20 count shrimp for $6.99 are now bargains. I know it sounds insane to say these prices are bargains if you can afford to spend about $25.00 for a Prime rib now and then stash it in the freezer for the holidays you should do it.  A doubled wrapped prime rib frozen now can last in the freezer until the holidays. Perhaps beef prices will come down in the future but I would not depend on it and if beef prices go lower you simply add a few more “special meals” and rotate.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t think it is possible to have too much Prime Rib! Always remember your dollar cost averaging especially with rising prices. The average price of Hamburger in the USA is over $4.00 per pound so getting it on sale for $2.49 per pound is a bargain even though the cost seems high compared to a year ago.  What is happening in beef and bacon prices will soon hit veggies/fruits this summer I suspect certainly by fall at the latest.  So getting good buys now and growing your own veggies/fruit will help keep your food costs down or at least stable this year.

Most of prepping is about small personal or short term regional disasters via storms, earthquakes, tornadoes and hurricanes. If you prep for the small things you have a great start on prepping for most  big events.

 

 


Trees trimmed, messy limbs and more flowers

March 31, 2015

I asked Idaho power to trim a few trees that were growing around my power line. Trimming the trees is a free service and it helps the power guys prevent a few outages. Of course now I have to clean up the limbs in the yard, but overall it is a great deal. I was very surprised by how much more sunlight in that part of the yard now that the trees are trimmed back. I still need to prune the trees but I no longer need to worry about playing with power lines! I also get to add some free hardwood to the wood pile.  Getting the wood pile squared away this summer is going to be a big job and this year I will have to pay to have for the wood.  Things should work out because I pay off the wood stove the “loan payment” can be shifted to buying wood.

Fred Meyer’s is having a great sale on flowers so I picked up some more pansies and marigolds to put in  the front yard beds. I hope I can get a few more pansies and some seed geraniums for the back yard flower beds. While I love the idea of an edible garden in the front yard having some pretty little flowers add color and just make me feel good!  Once we get past the frost threat I want to plant a mix of the pansies and marigolds in the front yard by the sidewalk area.  I  hope that the mulch will help choke out the morning glory and the marigold and pansies will establish themselves in soil to replace the morning glory.  So far it looks like the  mulch is deep enough to starve the weeds of sunlight.

I have some new grass growing in the bare section of the front yard. I am still learning about the proper mix of mulch,  compost and fertilizer. The soil in this corner is depleted of the good stuff so it will take some time to build it up.  I suppose it is the bane of every gardener to have to wait and see how things work out.  Building a good soil naturally is not a quick process it takes time to repair damage.   I have an idea of a “mini orchard” using dwarf fruit trees in the front lawn area. What I want to do is have one of those “cocktail” trees in the center and then place various dwarf fruit trees around the center tree for cross-pollination via the central tree. I have no idea if this idea can work.  If it could work, a person could “theoretically” have a mini-orchard of several different dwarf fruit trees in a 20 feet by 20 feet area.  I’m still gathering information and working on the basic layout but I think the idea has potential.

If you are urban or suburban type homesteader/prepper/survivalist and want to grow your own food you should look at going vertical and dwarf fruit trees might be a good option as most HOA/covenants don’t seem to cover trees and shrubs. Adding in a few dwarf fruit trees in the front yard might be doable and keep the local busybodies off your back.  I have no idea what “hill” you are willing to die on nor how much effort you are willing to put into fighting for your property rights.  Sometimes it you can fight and sometimes it is best to not play the game, grab your ball and find a new place. Only you can make that decision.

No I don’t think you need to waste your energy or money fighting the system, unless you want too. It’s a big country and you can move wherever you want at any time if you are willing to pay your way. Heck, The pioneers did it back in the 1800’s often all they had was a small wagon, wheel barrow and a dream.


I got a start on cleaning up the front lawn and working on the basic gardening layout

March 29, 2015

Oh my gosh! I am sore and tired, but I got a lot done on the front yard.  I have to do my work in sections. This weekend’s  job was cleaning up half of the front yard, aerating the soil,  adding fertilizer, new grass seed and wood mulching one rose bed.  When I started adding wood mulch last year I was mostly interested in killing weeds and making the raised bed garden area look nice.  I was amazed by how much water was retained by my back yard even in areas that did not have mulch. Adding mulch in sections can have a huge impact on yard and garden water usage, though I don’t care for the “rubber” mulch as it does not add nutrients to the soil. Since my soil is compacted clay adding any natural material from sand to straw and wood chips will help nourish the soil as start loosening the clay so the bugs and stuff can do their magic.

Aerating the soil via the hand tool sucks, but is doable especially in sections. If you need to do a good size yard I recommend you go to a tool rental place and get a tool that will do the whole yard in less than a day. Unless working hard at poking holes in dirt is your idea of fun, aerating a good size lawn is a lot of tedious work!  I de-thatch the lawn though from what I have read doing it spring is contra-indicated and fall is a better time to de-thatch a healthy lawn. My lawn is not healthy so I figure I might as well try to save it via de-thatching and adding grass seed in hopes I can save it! Unless your lawn is really bad, a garden rake might be a better choice in spring time.

I added more grass seed and the weed & feed to the lawn via one of those little hand spreaders. My hands lack of strength and coordination that little spreader is very difficult to use on anything but a small job. Thankfully the local True Value store had a rolling spreader on sale for only $35.00.  I figure it will save a lot of my physical energy and effort improving the soil in the future.  I think and Mom agrees the finished section of front yard looks much better/cleaner and even the grass seem to have perked up in the last couple of days.  I planted the peas and have the seeds for the front garden beds ready to go  for cold weather plants Monday.  My aunt “G” is a gardening “godess” and she says she was impressed by how good my yard and garden beds are starting to look.  She knows how much work goes into soil repair as well as upkeep.

I finally got a batch of beer made instead of just thinking about it.  Jumping over the pekes in the kitchen,  waiting for snacks/dinner added a bit to the challenge.  Overall it is good to see the old dogs with a good appetite even though they can be underfoot.  I picked up some pork  country style ribs and a nice pork rib roast at Pauls.  Albertsons has some very good buys till Tuesday on Hamberger 73%/23% for $2.49 per pound sold in 3 pound chubs. 21/25 count shrimp for $6.99 per pound , Bacon for $2.99 per pound bought in a 3 pound pack. A few other processed/ dehydrated foods are quite cheap and you should get the circular before you go shopping. I think the Idaho brand flavored potatoes are quite good tasting and four serving for 25 cents is a a steal. These potatoes will work great for camping or add a major break/food fatigue via eating  “bulk rice& beans” every meal. I can say after a hard days work you won’t want to wait for even the 10 minutes to cook pasta never mind rice or beans. These dehydrated potato paks only requre boiling water and sit 2 minutes no heat after the mix is added to water.

I think it is great than many people want “real food”. But MRE’s are just chock full of preservative and chemicals and probably worse compared to an off the shelf product at your local mega-mart.  If you are storing MRE’s for a disaster, that is fine but you sure as heck aren’t going natural or Organic. Since you are not doing either of those things you might as well buy dehydrated potatoes when they are on sale!


Get ‘er done!

March 26, 2015

The wood mulch I wanted to buy went up in cost so I am going to wait and see if it will go on sale again. It sort of worked out as I found an Aerating hand tool for only $20.00 that is made of steel that is easy to use and should help getting the soil healthy plus make it easier for the lawn absorb the weed & feed, compost and new grass seed.  I want to do the perma-culture /food forest idea, but my first step is building a healthy soil and I need the grass to keep erosion under control while I work on the soil. I cut back some of the grape vines, tilled the soil and added some grass seed in a small area as a test.  I want to have a few sections of lawn to define the food forest and edible garden areas.  What I want for the front yard is something resembling an “English” country garden and the backyard sort of a modified “food forrest but using edible plants and herbs incorporating sand, rocks, fountains , small ponds with lots of arcs and round geometry shapes to soften the square shape of my house and fenced lot, incorperating some Japaneese garden elemants to make the backyard a restful spot.

I bought the big potato tower and seed potatos. I’m going with a russet and red pontiac potatoes for the first tower to see how it works out. I’m sorry I did not save the link for this idea but from what I remember about 4 pounds of seed potatoes resulted in a harvest of 65 pounds of taters. I have visited a few websites that recommend using these tall towers for growing tomatoes vertically but I think this consept might work for strawberrys as well as those other plants. Anyone with limited yard/garden space should look at growing crops vertically. I don’t think I can grow all the food I need but every bit of fresh veggies and fruit is a bonus and will make my bulk goods strech a bit longer.

I tilled the front beds and planted snow peas and I’m looking to add some carrots, radishes, spinach, and other fast growing leaf lettuce types.  We have had an early spring and there could be a late frost or two in the area. I’m plantin seed in a somewhat protected and at worse I may lose a few plants. My herbs survived the winter better than I expected using leaf mulch and straw, so I’m feeling optomistic starting cold weather plants a little early.  Mulch materials do have good and bad sides. Straw should be uesd in spring to protect plants, Wood mulch 3 inch deep seems to work well for killing weeds and gives a garden bed a clean look. Fall leaf mulch breaks down  over winter yet still will protect plants add nutrients to the soil and retain moisture.

I got a new “flapper” for the replacement toilet and added a bit of food dye to test for leaks and it is good to go. I don’t see any water leaks and even the condensation problem was solved by topping the tank rather than leaving it open.  I don’t know why adding a lid to the tank fixed the condensation problem but I’m not complaining. I got some silicone caulk to add a small bead to finish the toilet installation to make it look good rather than caulking the heck out of it to prevent leaks because of a bad installation.  I want to install a new dryer vent after my “experience” of the installed vent by the previous owner. The thing is For about $8.00 you can install a nice vent with about 12 -18 inches of pipe that can be screwed into studs going outside your home and extend to your dryer vent hose with no problems.

There was no need to do a jacked up washer drain pipe simply to avoid the dryer vent that was dead simple and cheap to replace. Heck the idiot spent more on pipe fittings, caulk and elbows than the replacement cost of hose for a new dryer vent. I swear sometimes the previous owner was the “Albert Einstien” of screwing up or at least the epitome of stepping over a dollar to pick up a dime. I know there are times a person will do repairs “just to get by until they get materials/money to make things right. I have done those things myself, but just half-assing stuff rather than doing thing correctly really gets on my nerve and when a person spends more money and tries to hide the ass-hattery. I get very peeved, I’m not a fan of getting by. If I pay cash money I want things fixed right and hopefully the first time!

I have the pipe and trap on hand to start dry fitting the washer drain pipe. To be within code I need at least a 4 inch pipe run tie into the stack and at least an 18 inch long drop before the trap. I bought trap with a clean out so things should go more smoothly. I will work on this pipe installation this weekend, Mom is not sure how she will react to having a washing machine draining properly and a dryer that is working all at the same time. There is usually a reason for city/zone codes. While I may not agree with some Federal codes and mandates, I will try to to make my home current with most building codes because they make sense!

A few  prepping items are on hold while I get my eyesight corrected. I will see how things shake out cost wise after the first of April.  While I don’t think it will be cheap,  I’m hoping for a cash discount and get the perscription for a backup set of glasses via the VA.  Ifthat happens great , if not I’ll  pay cash and get my eyesight corrected.

 


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