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.

 


Moving to the country will happen, how quickly is up for debate

January 7, 2016

First things first, Casa de Chaos will need a new roof and some minor electrical and plumbing work. If I sell the house or Mom and I need to stay here longer we will need a good solid roof over our heads.  Luckily Nampa City has a 0-3% loan/grant program for those type of repairs and the loan might be deferred until the home is sold. I talked to the city today and it looks good for me as a candidate for a loan. I seem a bit unusual in that I have a good credit rating even though I don’t have a lot of income. Thank goodness I did not over mortgage myself when I bought this house and when I refi-ed the house I just wanted a lower payment and interest rate.  If I get approved for the loan the little house should be in great shape to live in or sell in the next year or two.

I will buy a rigid panel, 6×8 greenhouse at Harbor Freight. The greenhouse can be moved to the new place but it will useful here at Casa de Chaos extending the growing season. The last couple of years I have been a bit late on getting the garden plants started so I end up playing catch up and then getting overwhelmed at harvest time.  For a house in the city, this place does have a good set up of fruit and nut trees, grape vines and several different micro-climate garden beds that do a good job supplementing the food budget/pantry.

I have seen a few Owyhee county small acreages in the $70,000-$100,000 range that might work out for mom and I. Both of us need a place around $80,000 so we can put a 20% down payment to avoid paying mortgage insurance. We also will need to have some cash on hand to buy a couple of used ATVs and pickup trucks for work/farm vehicles.  I have a good set of tools for working the soil here in town but I remember digging post holes for a small horse corral via a post hole digger because the hardpan broke most augers.  I was a lot younger and physically healthy at the time. I sure can’t do that sort of physical work now!   I have aged a bit and I like to think I have learned to work smarter rather than harder, plus I cheat a lot to save my physical energy.

So far what I have come up with as a plan of attack is:

  1. Get a low interest loan or grant via the city of Nampa and fix up my house for the future and or selling it for enough money to pay off the mortgage and have money for a 20% down payment plus a buffer of few grand for any emergencies that will arise.
  2. Buy a used ATV and small pickup for working any future farmland/homestead.
  3. Start checking out properties in Owyhee County and touch base with some of the people we know that remember Mom and are willing to give us a head’s up on any good deals.
  4. Buy a Cistern we can use at my place or move to the new homestead that will hold rain water as a backup to the city water system or well.
  5. If possible start inviting like-minded preppers/starting homesteaders along with working with the local FFA and 4-H groups or trading/renting a bit of land for the physical work we can’t do daily.  It can be terrifying to strike out and become a homesteader and it is not the thing for everyone. Perhaps renting a bit of land with someone you trust might be a good way to get your feet wet on homesteading. Without completely pulling up stakes and moving before you are ready to make that sort of commitment.

The plans are still very preliminary but when I set a goal I tend to make it happen eventually. I only dread draining my water barrels if I have move.


I feel like I am getting caught up on stuff for2015!

January 1, 2016

Don’t get me wrong a prepper’s work is never done, at least for me I see preparing as a way of life. For all of 2015 I felt I was about 2-4 weeks behind schedule all year and most of the year seemed to be an exercise in “Crisis Management”.  I did not anticipate Mom’s divorce or her spending a year living with me. Plus I did not set good goals for 2015. For me having realistic goals set for the year is critical to my mental outlook as well as giving me a feeling of accomplishment. Having Mom around has been great, but I have to say that I did not have a firm grasp on my goals for 2015 so with Mom’s help I did manage to get some other things accomplished.  For other people it might be an adult child moving back home or taking on a grandchild, niece or nephew from parents that need to make sure the child is cared for while they get work/relocate.  I suspect I am not alone getting blind-sided by taking in a relative in today’s economy.

While “Crisis Management” is one thing that is very stressful. Learning to be flexible enough to adapt and go with the flow is a prepping and survival skill you need and practice. I can’t speak for others but I have had a lot of practice on adapting to new situations in 2015.  I don’t mind adjusting my goals when new stuff happens, but I really despise the idea of crisis management.  One of the reasons I think I felt I was always behind in 2015 is that I did not write down goals and check them off when achieved or simply crossed goals when I saw no way to make them happen.  For me, scratching a goal off the list is better than trying to play catch up. Since I did not have a list of goals for 2015 there was nothing to scratch off the “todo” list

I am blessed that Mom and I work and live together very well. I do most of the cooking and Mom does the dishes. I like doing outside work and Mom likes cleaning the house.  There is some overlap on jobs but overall we work well together.  Mom wants to get a place out in the country in Owyhee County. I would like a place out in the country like that,  but have been afraid to try and sell my house and worse actually move all my stuff.  I would not be moving to some third world nation and I generally only shop at the local “mega-marts” twice a month so gas prices should not be a huge problem.  Here in the city I can not get close to any sort of self-sufficiency as I do not have a enough land for critters and large garden.  I’m not sure if I’m physically capable of growing most of my own food in the country, but I know I will never grow enough food on my city lot with all of the zoning restriction.

Nampa Idaho is not a big city, but the whole “Treasure Valley” Corridor from Mountain Home (AFB) to Ontario Oregon is becoming an “Urban Megaplex” along I-84.  Boise Idaho according to the last census has a larger population than Salt Lake City Utah.  While I like the area, I don’t like some of the “big city politics” I am starting to see out of Boise.  Just this fall we had Boise city government bragging about buying (via a bond levy) open spaces and then shut down a local “tent city” because there was not enough money to “police the tent city or provide sanitation”.  I love “greenbelts, parks and bike paths” as well as the next person but if a city is buying up land with taxpayer’s dollars, all they end up doing is drive up housing costs and create more income inequality. The PTBs actually make the urban housing problem worse via zoning regulations and declaring green zones, no development zones. I suppose this works out great for people that have already got their homes, but it really sucks for young people/ families and those folks that live on the fringe.