Yard and Garden updates

May 4, 2017
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Cedar Boards for the raised 3 sisters garden.

I am working on raised beds for the 3 Sisters Garden of Corn, Beans and Squash.  Last year I put the sisters in my large garden bed and they did not do very well as I think they received to much water when I was watering the other plants.  This year the sister’s beds are going to be completely separate and have three different 3 ft. x 3 ft raised beds on the south side of the house.  My hope is the corn will cast a bit of shade as some the stalks can grow 12 feet tall and the plants will get only the water they need and not get over watered.   I should have realized different plants need different amounts of water!

If you are curious this is the new garden …backyard layout

I have added two 2 ft. x 4 ft. beds for broccoli and cauliflower with a couple of bunches of celery in each bed. Celery is one of those plants that seems to be a good companion to almost every plant. Plus, home grown celery is to store bought celery that home grown tomatoes is to a store bought tomato.  Celery in the garden is easy to use as you just cut off what you need and at the end of the season you cut off all the stalks, give them a quick blanch and then dehydrate them for all those dishes in the fall.

I put all of the brussel sprouts, cabbages and most of the leaf lettuce in the front yard edible beds.  I planted a lot of lettuce this year as the prices have really gone up a lot and I like having lots of green salads and sandwiches for quick and light lunches in the summer.  Going with earlier plantings of lettuce in several different  beds I hope to avoid the lettuce “bolting” in hot weather.

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Newly mulched beds

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Tulips

In the front yard we added a lot of flowers and cleaned up the front yard garden beds.  I got some of the old dead roses dug out and added some new roses.  The biggest of my  problems with my Rose beds was I had no idea what I was doing when I moved into the house and the roses were too close and became overgrown because of neglect.  As you can see in the top pic I have cut back the old roses that are still somewhat healthy, dug out the dead roses and while it is bit tough to see I added new roses with plenty of space between them to grow.  It does not look all that impressive so far but the new roses are  starting to put on new growth and  the mulch is has made a big dent stopping the weed growth. Mom was also a huge help on cutting back the grape vines that got very over grown  when not cut back each year.

Last but not least the Alley way beds now seem to be cleared of puncture vines though I still have some broad leaf weeds and a bit of “cheatgrass” to eliminate.  Using the black walnut leaves as a killer much has worked out great and adding the wood ash from the fire place, seems? to be helping the poor clay/alkali soil in the alley.  My little sedum plant from last year have come back and look darn good once you find them in the taller weeds.  The sunchokes are filling and while it may not look all that impressive I’m darn pleased with the progress made on those beds.  Adding more mulch, soil amendments and good plants like the sedum and sunchokes should start choking out the unwanted weeds.


I’m back!

May 2, 2017

It has been a bit difficult the last 12 months but I am trying.  Lots of stuff to catch up with all of you.  I am not dead nor have I given up I just got lazy and my juggling skills were just a bit lacking for life and posting.   Sorry, I really dropped the ball and I don’t think ignoring my Blog was the best answer!  If we are lucky, we live and learn.  Just some quick updates .  Mom is still living with me as housing prices are a tad high and she is waiting for “DAD” to get her off the Mortgage contract.  Yeah it’s a long story but this is a quick update so “No Drama”  is allowed.

The garden is looking awesome and I managed to start plants this year.  Celery seeds are small rascals and you should be careful how you start them.  Mom says we will need tweezers just to separate the plants.  Never let a person with poor tactile skills start your pots for celery or any other small seeds!   Over all Mom and I are doing darn good.  Mom is enrolled in a Master gardeners class and I added a few more raised beds.  I started a 3 sisters garden last year and it failed.  This year I have new beds in the making for the 3 sisters garden.  I’m also trying out a new drip irrigation system.  Early days on trying a new system but the theory looks sound. We got a new dog and he is young and a terrier.  He has been great as he makes Mom giggle with his antics.

I added 2 new raised beds in the backyard and went hardcore adding edible beds in the front yard beds.  Early days for the “Cole” crops but so far so good!  Pics of the dog and pics of the garden.

Mom calls him Jackson and he is devoted to her.  He is a very sweet little terrier and not yappy.

Jackson the terrier.

I’m building new firewood racks and loading up on fire wood.  This last winter was brutal.  So I’m looking at buying a couple of garbage cans and filling the with sand and salt for next winter.   I thought I was prepared for winter I was wrong!

 

Sort of a short post to say I am back but I should have more3 pics and plans for what I am trying to do in the future.

 


I think I got the last two tomatillo plants in canyon county and lessons learned

June 20, 2016

The garden is doing great though we were a bit late starting some of the plants.  Actually I’m a bit amazed by how well the plants are doing via a the mix of sown seeds and some early starter plants. Today the pole beans are starting to sprout up through the ground of the 3 sisters garden experiment. I wish I could have started the plants in May, but I think the garden will be okay.  FYI for those that want to use straw as mulch.  While straw is a great mulch it does not break down quickly and if you use a small electric rototiller the straw binds up in the tines.  Because of that we are going to try out the Scott’s earth grow as a mulch for the garden beds as a weed blocker and for retaining water.  For my soil and the tools I have to work with using a bark mulch is the best solution for me and my garden.  But if straw works for your garden, go for it.  Every garden is special and it takes a few tweaks to make your garden grow.

Next job is eliminating Morning glory plants. While Morning glory is a pretty plant it climbs/spreads and strangles other plants I like around the homestead. Eliminated a weed or bad plant is good but you have to put in a new plant that chokes out the bad weed.  I’m going to try out some Mossy rose/Portulaca for my front yard beds as it is low growing and only a perennial (reseeds it self) for ground cover. If it works great if not it should not be to hard to replace next year.  Plus mossy rose is drought tolerant.

Some good new from the US senate on gun control laws and voting. It seems there was a bit of a backlash and the senators feared the American people might vote them out. I put a little 9mm carbine on layaway and I think I can get it off of layaway next week, rather than waiting on the Senate voting to take rights away from US citizens.

Things are getting “sporty” my friends and you need to be aware and prepared TODAY, just in case things go south.  If you are thinking of burying all your guns you need to dig them up.  Though I don’t have a problem if you bury “extra guns” as backup.

For this summer Home depot has a battery powered Ryobi fan for sale for under $40. 00 with an 18 volt lithium battery. These little Ryobi fans are great for cooling both people and animals.  I like the water misters and pump on the $80. 00 dollar model, but I recommend you get this fan or something similar to move both hot an cool air that is NOT dependent on the electric grid.

 


Weather has been less than optimal but we still got a lot done.

May 22, 2016

We got hail this week but most of the plants seemed to do all right despite the pounding. Most of my plants are somewhat protected in containers, so damage was minimal.  We are sort of behind the power curve on planting the garden but so far that is not a bad thing as the weather has been a bit wonky this year.  So far the plants  seem to be doing well and my focus has been adding in grass, making my pathways and a backyard that works for me and Mom.  Mom and I are doing a lot of basic yard maint. and cleaning up the grape vines has been a challenge this year since I let them get over grown along with the lilacs and a couple of or bushes. We got a lot of of the overgrown stuff cut back but we still have a lot of work to do on cutting back the grape vines.  I’m a little behind on putting the garden and it is rainy so rototilling the soil is just not on until the soil dries a bit. I’m adding a new bed to the front yard for edible flowers and annuls that just add a bit of color. The flower bed will be done in red landscape timbers to sort of fit the “craftsman home” effect.

True Value hardware is having a great sale for most of the things I need. I’m buying up Semi-gloss paint for the house as that makes the walls easy to clean and they have tarps on sale that will finish up protecting the wood pile from rain yet the tarps can be folded up to let the wood pile dry. The wood overhead cover is rotting and boards that support the roof are warping big time.  Two more tarps will cover the firewood and I can start cutting out the the bad roof over the wood pile.  I will be able to afford enough paint to cover most of the house with colors that work with a Craftsman type house.

I just bought a 10 gallon air compressor/oil type from Harbor Freight and a basic tool set up. This air compressor should be a large enough for most basic jobs around the house. I bought a small paint spray gun for paint but until I test it, I’m not sure about trusting it despite the reviews.

Mom always see what has not been done. I see how much we have got done.  Actually Mom gets down on herself for not doing more around the place. I think she is outstanding in her work cleaning up the grape vines and helping me trim up trees and bushes.  I suppose it goes back to her being a recovering Catholic.  It’s guilt imposed via childhood. I see the glass always full, It just might be full of air which is not helpful at times. I think we are doing great! The little “Casa de Chaos” got a new roof, a lot of work on the yard.  Hell we can run my washer without running a garden hose to the shower. We have grass for the dogs and great paths that are a pleasure to walk rather than uneven dirt that could twist an ankle of knee. I think we are doing pretty well over all.


Sod is finished Huzzah!

May 5, 2016

This is the before and after on the sod project. The rest of the grassy areas will be done with grass seed. One mistake I made with the grass seed was not keeping the ground wet. I’m now watering the grass seed areas daily and it has helped get the new grass areas started growing. I will be using landscape timbers as a border on the right and at the rock entry area at the back gate. The last job will be adding in more mulch on the right  and that should keep down the weeds and break down to add organic material to the dirt.

Mom did a great job on cleaning up the grape vines and the alley way. Now I can add the sedums, plant the sunflowers and add more mulch to keep down the weeds and hopefully the new plants will start choking out the weeds. Just killing or pulling weeds is not enough if you want to have good soil and growing spaces. You got to help mama nature by replacing the weeds with good plants.

Now that we have the backyard mostly finish mom and I can concentrate on the garden area.


I started laying out the sod

May 4, 2016

Laying out sod isn’t cheap but it seems to be a good choice for the small area I want grass for the doggies. The area I’m laying the sod is 30 feet by 12 feet so about 20 rolls of sod is enough to cover the area.  I laid out 12 rolls of sod today and another 8 rolls should finish up the job. The other areas along the borders I have planted grass seed and while slower, it is also a lot easier on the budget. Prepping/building up your soil is critical for both grass seed and sod along with keeping the ground, grass seed and sod damp so the grass can take hold and put down good roots.  The internet has great info about how to lay out sod as well as calculating the cost. You will get sod for about 30 cents per square foot and if you have poor soil figure about 30 cents per square foot to improve the soil. 65 -75 cents per square foot is a good guesstimate for the cost of sod but if you have time for growing grass from seed you can half that cost.  Of course if you buy sod in bulk you will probably get a better price.  If you have someone else install the sod you should double the price because of labor.  I think most people could handle laying sod as a DIY project and save some money at least if you want to sod a small area and not a whole yard.

For grass seed or sod you will need to prepare the soil.  A de-thatching rake is perfect for cutting into bare dirt to make it easier for the grass to put down roots.  Also a de-thatching rake is great for keeping a lawn healthy.  I’m adding a lot of top soil as well as some Steer manure/compost mix to augment the clay soil I have in the backyard. Mom’s chickens are doing a great job turning over the compost pile, but I’m still learning the best way to incorporate the compost in my yard work and building the soil. If you decide on sod, lay out the rolls off set sort of like tile so the “seams” of the sod are not all parallel or you will get gaps.  Plan your yard to make all yard work as easy and quick as possible while being inviting.  Using mulch and rock to block weeds, creating borders and paths ways will stop you from creating bad/dead areas in your lawn plus cut down on weeding or using a weed wacker around trees that may cut into the trunk and give an opening to bad bugs. While I’m cheating by adding sod for a quick lawn area I’m also looking at what the yard will look like in the future as well as how functional it is for ease of work.

A few things I noticed about laying out sod. The dogs love having the grassy area and have not done as much digging where I have planted grass seed in other areas. By adding mulch and now the sod we have several nice soft areas that are a pleasure to walk on and will help cushion falls. This is a great thing considering my handicap and works well for anyone with weak bones.  A big plus for me is I’m leveling my backyard and no longer fear twisting an ankle then falling down on hard soil or concrete paths. Mulch paths help retain water and healthy grass will help a lot blocking any weed growth.  Healthy plant growth really cuts down on the mud the dogs bring in. Last winter was a nightmare of mud because I had so much bare ground. Gosh if I had kids it would have ten times worse.

One last thing. If you have a clay soil don’t add sand for drainage as you will make a terrible concrete. Add organic material such as a wood mulch or compost. This is a slower method but after the mulch/compost breaks down over the winter you will have better soil for plants and or a garden.  Using sand for leveling if building a stone wall, deck or garden bed borders is okay. Building good soil can take years depending on your dirt.  Remember if you have lots of weeds your soil is probably missing something. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or to experiment with solutions. The solutions may not work but at least you will have learned something practical and not just based on theory.

Don’t be afraid to screw up as that is how you learn. The school of hard knocks may seem a little expensive but it is still a lot cheaper than a college degree and you get to try out both theory and practical applications of your knowledge.

 


Working on loan paperwork, plumbing and a carpet cleaner

January 9, 2016

Things got off to a good start this Friday, first stop was Harbor Freight buying the green house.I was a little surprised that they only had four in stock for the sale. I am glad I got there early as I have missed out on several greenhouses “selling out” before I got to the store.  We now have two walk-in greenhouse though one of the “houses” is one of the cheap plastic over a metal frame type of greenhouse.  The two walk-in greenhouses should give us plenty of space to start plants for the garden this year. This will save us a lot of money compared to buying plant “starts” at the local farm store.

I need to add a four more heavy duty tomato/potato cages for my growing vertical experiment. These cages should also work for any garden out in the alkali/hard pan soil of Owyhee county.  Based on trying to grow stuff on Mom’s first place, it will much easier to start with raised bed gardens and then work the slow process of improving soil naturally.  One of the big reasons I need a pickup and ATV is to haul a lot of compost and mulch around any future homestead. Trying out a few hugel-culture raised beds could be a worthwhile experiment to direct water as well as add more growing spaces.

About the March time frame a 300-500 gallon cistern should be do able. I already have several rain barrels, though my water delivery system needs work.  Now theoretically a 1000-1200 square foot roof should “capture” nearly 3000 gallons of water per year based on average rainfall here in SW Idaho.  The problem is not lack of water, but getting water at the right time and having a way to store it safely until needed. Stagnant pools or ponds are a no-go because of insects breeding and West Nile virus in the area.  The only solution I see is a rain catchment system that can be closed to prevent any insect breeding. Especially since many of the properties I have looked share a well and drilling my own well would break my budget.

That is a start on the food and water problems my homestead will face. By starting small, making effective use of my city lot, I am gaining equipment and skills that will transfer to the new homestead.

I had to fix a leaking bathroom drain. I had installed a “modern” drain and plug, what was needed was old school plumbing.  I still don’t trust the concept of compression fittings, but so far so good. No leaks and I think the old fashion type drain and plug will be much easier to keep clean.

Mom’s Bissel carpet shampooer died but I was able to fix it.  The problem was the water pump stopped working, it seems the belts that move the beater bar also help pump the cleaning solution. Once we cleaned out all of the hair on the pulleys the belts attach the pump started working again.  It seems the hair allowed the belts to slip.  When things break I try and fix them. Since I can’t really break it more, I might as try to fix it. I can always throw it away if I can’t figure out how to fix it.