Friday, October 31, 2008

October 31, 2008

Well, about all I can say about today is that I came home early to spend Halloween with the family.  We went trick or treating until tired meltdowns brought us home.  A very fun day all around. 

Thanks to the comments, it appears I missed the opportunity to plant more this fall/winter.  Next year I will plant more lettuce.  During the spring I planted one square of each variety and had more than I could use.  This fall, I planted one square and it's gone so slow and spindly, that I don't think I'll have nearly enough for a salald a week, let alone a salad a day.  Who knew?  Big mistake.  At least I planted tons of spinach.  And next year I'll plant more lettuce.

On a brighter note, when I planted my succession lettuce for January and February, I planted multiple seeds and most of them germinated.  I am definitely going to try to transplant them to vacant squares to grow more for the late winter.  I don't recall if lettuce transplants well, but I'm going to give it a try as soon as I see the first true leaves.  Of course since I haven't seen the plants in a week, it could be tomorrow.  I'm going to have to work fast and early tomorrow in order to get over to my folks place by 9.  Maybe I'll even snap a few pics tomorrow. 

Ah, the joys of 4 season gardening.  By the way, for my fall/winter reading I've put Four Season Harvest on hold at the library.  Hope you have more fun in the garden than I get to have tomorrow!

Enjoy your garden!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

October 29, 2008

Ah, the busy life of this credit crisis is driving me batty.  That said, I didn't post last night because after working 12 hours I went over to my folks house and helped them move all night.  A bit of physical activity was just the ticket to take my mind off work.  Unfortuantely I'm extremely sore today, but oh well.

This evening all I got done in the garden was to follow through with my plans to test my thermometers.  They are now both side by side outside in my garden area.  One reads 45 and the other 44.8  Not perfect, but close enough for government work I guess.  So, if they can be trusted to read trueish, then this evening the temperature difference inside my hoop cover was down to just over 1 degree.  /sigh.  I had expected much better results.  Instead I'm getting inconsistent results at best.  Anyone else have proof that hoop covers keep beds warmer?  I can't seem to prove it either way.  I'll keep at it but so far my results have been disappointing at best.

Oh, and don't worry, I'm not burning out on my garden.  My job, maybe, but mostly I'm feeling frustrated that the more I do the behinder I get.  That's not normal for me.  I'm usually a very productive person.  Hehe, with my schedule I bet you've gathered that.  What I really want is to spend some time in the garden, when it's warm and I can see what I'm doing.  Oh, and maybe, just maybe, I'd like to harvest a salad out of it.  Grrr. 

Anyway, I was thinking, I should really plant some of those empty squares in my beds.  Why I have bare squares I have no idea.  What can I grow if I plant it today that will be able to harvest, maybe even to preserve?  That would be fun.  Not sure how I'd research that.

Well, I sincerely hope you get out in your garden to walk around and pick up some fallen leaves or pull a weed or two.  That's what I hope to do.

Enjoy your garden!  I sure do mine.

Monday, October 27, 2008

October 27, 2008

Well short post because I didn't get home until very late.  But after dinner and putting the kids down (with lots of hugs to make up for lost garden time), I snuck out into the garden.  I needed to water so I did that with a flashlight. /sigh 

But then I took Ribbit and Toasty's advice.  I swapped out the two themometers.  Not only is 1 now where 2 was, but the outside is no longer next to the heated family room.  Instead, it's under the eve right next to the corn bed.  I didn't want to leave it out where it would get rained on, but that spot next to the corn bed gets no rain whatsoever, so it should be good.  I also placed it on top of a 2x6 rather than on the gravel to make sure it wasn't registering radient heat from the ground or the house (the garage isn't heated). 

Now I know it hasn't been long, only an hour or two, but as of 10:30 pm, the inside temperature is 42.5 and the outside is 39.9 and dropping.  All is right with the world again!

Thanks for all the suggestions and late night ponderings.  I'm going to take more temperatures and this weekend or maybe sooner I'm going to do a test by placing them side by side to make sure they're both registering the same.  This fix almost makes me think they won't. Shame, I want accurate results.

Enjoy your garden, I am mine!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

October 25-26, 2008

Well, this is going to have to count as my weekend post.  I didn't get in until after midnight last night and was exhausted so not post got done yesterday, though the pics were taken from then.

Of course Saturday started with painting at my folks house, but we ended early to get ready for each familiy's separate evening activities.  Thankfully mine wasn't until later in the evening, so I got TONS of time to work in the garden. Well not tons like a whole weekend, but several hours at least.  And the weather was a cool crisp fall day, so it was good for gardening.

I started by taking care of the mess I made Friday when I made my halloween decorations with my corn stalks.

The first thing I noticed was that the stalks didn't come out of the ground easy at all.  So I used my half-length pitch fork to lossen the root balls.  Then I pulled them up and tried to get most of the Mel's mix off the spider-web like roots before tossing them into my wheelbarrow.

When that was done I simply dumped them on top of my compost pile.  I know compost added to a compost pile is a good way to jump start it, but at the end?  Who knows.  Anyway, I didn't have time, nor the energy to fluff the compost.  I also didn't have a ton of ingredients to add other than the corn stalks.  So they'll just hang out until I get more fall leaves dropping and I mow them up to dump on top.  Should work nicely.

Once the bed was clear, I got 3 big bags of Starbucks grounds and mixed it into the top 6 inches.  I left some of the corn roots to compost in place because I didn't want to pick out all the little roots.

Then, it was time to do a garden tour.  Both figuratively and literally.  My sons' teacher stopped by for a garden tour, but before that I snapped some shots to show off what's been going on over the last week.  Get your fill of pictures now because next week's going to be another one full of late nights so no light for pictures.

Here is a shot of my hoop covers, all holding up very well so far.

I still don't have new piece of plastic to connect to the plastic mostly covering the bed in the foreground, but as you can see, I've figured out how to connect them.  I'll just clip both pieces to the back pipe with my binder clips.  Though I may order professional plastic clips.  They're about a buck a piece in bulk, so that's not bad. 

Now to show you what's in bed #3. 

It's cool to see the clear succession of the cauliflower, as well as the regrowth of leaves in the big middle one.  If you look close you can see the munched leaves on the bottom.

Here is bed #2, with the succession radishes in the foreground, the leaf miner infected mature spinach in the middle and the slow growing peas in the rear.  They should be much bigger by now, but they're growth has been slowed by the cold weather I expect.  What are growing well are all the mushrooms.  They like our soil here I guess.  Either that or my city compost's got them. 

Finally, here's bed #1...

In the foreground are the succession carrots.  You can't really see the sprouts in the row with the shroom in it, but they're there.  The next row is dedicated to my hoop cover temperature experiment that's going very poorly.  On that front, the temp difference is still holding true at 4-5 degrees difference, which would be great if it wasn't for the fact that it's colder INSIDE my beds then outside on the cold gravel covered ground. 

Behind the culprit of my garden anxiety is my succession lettuce.  I'm doing what Steve Solomon said to do for our region.  The big lettuce was planted in the first week of September.  I think it should be bigger than that but the weather sucked.  Next to that you can just see the sprouts of my October succession plantings of the same lettuce varieties.  Those are supposed to grow slowly, so as to provide winter lettuce in December and January!  I can't wait to be harvesting with an umbrella and a heavy coat!

Behind the lettuce is my cold storage for my mature carrots.  They're all ready to harvest, but we don't need them so we'll keep them in the ground until it's time to eat them.  Maybe if we do get colder weather they'll get sweeter, though I think the ground has to freeze for that to happen, and I will do everything in my power to keep that particular ground from freezing.

Lastly, I just love the fall colors, especially when they're all encompassed in my blueberry bushes.  Look how pretty the leaves look...

And of course between the two bushes I planted my garlic, but contrary to what I've read on the web with other folks, my garlic hasn't sprouted yet.  Not sure if it will. I'm doing the plant them and they will come method, meaning I'm not going to think about my garlic until next summer.

Anyway, now here are the new blueberry bushes.

Cool aren't they?  So that's the extent of my garden tour.  I didn't get out into the garden today, because I spent all day over painting. Then when I got home I just crashed and burned.  If I can't recharge next week's going to be hellish.  Thank goodness I can always grab a flashlight and head out into the garden for a few minutes.

Enjoy your garden.

Friday, October 24, 2008

October 24, 2008

Well, I came home at a reasonable hour today.  Not early, but only after 10 hours, hehe.  It was enough time for me to race around in my work clothes to get some garden stuff done before it got dark though. 

Unfortunately I was too busy to take pictures, so you'll have to check back tomorrow, but I hacked down all my corn stalks.  I tried to pull them but I ended up with way too much dirt with the tentacle root system corn has, so I bagged it and got out the machette.  I'll figure out how to dig up the root systems later.  Likely it'll take a pitch fork and a sore back to not step in the beds.  Not sure when I'll have time to do it though. 

So anyway, with all the stalks, I bundled them together into 3 bundles.  One I leaned up against each side of a tree in the front yard and put a cheap scarecrow we picked up to decorate with.  The third I laid in front on the ground and placed a couple of pumpkins at its "feet".  Very Autumn celebrationish, hehe.  Save the spiders for when the kids are older.

Then I had time to move my temperature gauge to a better sealed hoop cover, but it's still showing a 2 degree difference the wrong way.  Grrr.

To answer some questions, here rather than in a comment, because I'm not done with this experiment.  Darn it it HAS to be better to keep the hoop covers on the beds than not!

Dan:  Good thoughts, but the temps been the same for days.

EG:  The temps got closer together when I put the outside gauge on the gravel ground, but the one in the bed is laying on dirt in the middle, 16 inches above ground, so slightly higher.  Good thought on the moisture in the air though.  There's no way for me to completely seal the plastic.  I have it pretty taught, but nowhere near air tight. Not going to happen.  Still should keep some heat in.  Maybe it's warmer toward the top of the hoop, but that's not where the plants are, so who cares, hehe.  And yes, I get heat.  I still say cold though, nerd...

Granny: The wind does blow through there, and it is in a relatively secluded pocket of air, so that may have something to do with it.  I suppose I could block the air from passing over the outside one, but I want to keep it under the eves to stay dry.  It's not water proof.

Cheryl: Yeah, pretty wierd huh?

Sandy: Will do! I'm not beat yet...

Carolyn: Nope, good thought though.  I would have thought the temp would be higher inside the "car" also.  Can you tell I went to a liberal arts college too? hehe.  That's it garden gnomes keep switching out the two gauges so I think that #2 is inside and #1 is outside.  Then when I go out to check they switch them back. MUAHAHAHA!  Um, maybe not.

As the Fed Chief that wasn't perfect after all used to say... "It's a conundrum!"  And on that, even I knew Sub-prime and AltA mortgages were going to drag down those banks that did more than dabble in them, DUH!  But who knew it would kill the economy?  Certainly not Greenspan. 

Ah yes, gardening.  Sorry, I'm not doing much of that but doing more of the latter lately.  Sorry.

So, tomorrow is more painting, and then a party tomorrow night.  BUT, between those two things I think I'll get an hour or two to play in the garden when it's actually light out! Picture time!  YAY!  I'll get to see better what's growing.  For some silly reason I didn't check when I was racing around.  Ah well, how do you keep a turkey in suspense?  Tell ya tomorrow as they say...  Gobble gobble gobble...

Enjoy your garden!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

October 23, 2008

Ok, this is a short post, but I HAD to comment.  I don't have a clue what's going on with my experiment.  The world is backwards all of a sudden?

After the first reading I gave (8 degrees), the rest of them have been wrong.  Not just by a little, but by a ton!  In fact, they've been the opposite?!?  I don't know what's going on, but the 7 or 5 degree temperature swings have been in FAVOR of the outside temp, not inside the hoop cover.  Like right now, it's 42 degrees outside and 38 degrees inside my hoop cover!  That makes no sense. 

Well there's one possibility.  To get the temperature gauge out of the direct sun, I rested it on top of my chimney leaning against the siding of my house.  It's possible that it was getting heat coming off my house or bleading out.  So for now I moved it to the gravel, leaning up against the side of my chimney, but still under the eve to keep dry.  The temp's dropped a few degrees but it's still a four degree swing in the wrong direction.  What's more it's only 38 degrees inside my hoop cover.  That's way too cold!  Grrr. What's going on here?  Any ideas?  Bizare, I know.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

October 22, 2008

Sorry folks, I wanted to post last night, but I couldn't keep my eyes open.  So here's what I've been up to... work, work and more work.  But I did get to at least talk gardening last night at my sons' preschool with one of his teachers.  It was fun, and made me feel almost as good as being there, hehe.

Today was the second frost in a row.  Not a bad one, but probably enough to kill anything non-cool weather or not under cover.  I'm marking the 21st of October our first frost.  Smart or lucky, I'll take lucky for putting up my hoop covers LAST weekend, even though I was exhausted.  If I'd have waited until this weekend, I'm not sure damage wouldn't have been done.  Now I'm golden, and the hoop covers are holding up nicely.  Though they haven't had to withstand a fall storm yet.

That reminds me.  Garlicman from suggested I get these plastic tarp clip things for my covers rather than the rust-prone binder clips.  I couldn't tell what they were very well, but looking at them just now they don't seem to work for me.  However, I may use the 1 inch pipe split down the middle in small chunks to grip around the tarp.  Kinda the same concept.  Would be harder to put on and take off, but they wouldn't rust.

Also, regarding the hoop covers, commenters convinced me to put one of my remote themometers inside the hoop cover to compare to the temperature outside.  So after I watered I put it in the middle of bed #2.  A half hour after I put it in there (and let some warm air out watering), the initial readings showed an 8 point lead for Obama in the polls, oh sorry, wrong 8 points, hehe.  That's right though, the garden temp was 53 at 8:30 and inside the hoop cover was 61!  Not bad.  I will have to ask my wife to check it at noonish tomorrow since I'll be at work.

And sorry to say there are no pictures.  It's tough to take any in pitch black.  Maybe I'll get a few progress shots (and see some growth myself) this weekend. hehe

Enjoy your garden!

Monday, October 20, 2008

October 20, 2008

Well, not much to post about the garden today.  For after 10 hour days of manual labor over the weekend, I'm doing 12+ hour days at work again.  No end in sight until maybe December for me, and I still have 2 weeks vacation to use, hehe.

But what I did want to share was that we had a fall storm pass through, looking very winterish today.  It was thunder storms with pea sized hail passing through.  We had it for a brief time in downtown Seattle, and my wife missed being hit by ligthning in her car by a quarter mile (she saw it in her rear view mirror).  Shaken up a bit, but all was ok.  Though after a bad storm like that, I was worried when I raced home (at 8pm) to find that my hoop covers were none the worse for wear.  I half expected them to be torn to shreds by hail.  Not sure if we got it here or not, but if we did, hey held up admirably.  And the wind, though nowhere near as bad as we get in the fall, didn't dislodge much of anything.  Very promising. 

I'm thinking of watering every three days for now. I'm not used to having to water much, especially in the wet fall and winter months, but seeing as how the covers are on, I'll have to water in the pooring rain. Unless I want to take the time to uncover them and let the freezing rain do it for me, then re-cover it.  I think I'll garden with an umbrella or baseball cap instead, hehe.

Another thing I was thinking about today (just cause I can't garden doesn't mean I don't think about it), was to do a test to see how much warmer it is inside my hoop covers.  I've got two remote temp gauges for my radio controlled weather gauge. I could put the one from my kids room inside one of my hoop covers and compare it to the one right outside in the garden.  Interesting test.  Maybe I'll do that after I water.

Lastly, I saw an advertisement for 40 acre parcels for $30k over in Eastern Washington.  Heck, I could afford that.  So I called my brother up and mentioned it to him, since he's the one that dreams of being a real homesteader.  I'm just moving toward being an urban one. hehe.  Well, it seems that this place isn't new.  They've been trying to offload these parcels for over a year with little success.  Seems an old rancher or two died and thier kids didn't want the ranch, so they subdivided them into 40 acre parcels to sell off.  It's cool that apparently rural communities have crafted laws to promote homesteading rather than businesses building condos and single family subdivisions.  Could you just see multiple families buying a huge ranch out and creating a homesteading community?  Sounds pretty cool to me.  And I like that it's less than 3 hours from Seattle and gets 300 days of sun a year (pretty cold in the winters though, ask Granny, she's relatively close and heads to Arizona about this time every year), hehe.

One can dream...

Enjoy your garden

Saturday, October 18, 2008

October 18, 2008

Yeah, I'm posting twice today.  Gotta make up for lost time.  Well, not much to say, but I've got a few pics.  Not as many as I'd like but I'll get to that later.

First off, after I posted earlier today, I found a dead bird outside on the patio.  It must have hit the sliding glass door and died.  So I grabbed a piece of newspaper and wrapped the poor thing up.  Then I grabbed a shovel and burried it in the compost bin.  I've read that you can compost small animals so it should decompose over the winter. 

The cool thing about it was when I dug the hole at 8:00 AM there was a great deal of steam pooring out of it.  Yay, the grass clippings did the trick!  I also snapped a pic of the compost cover a week after the fall storms had played havoc with my hoop covers.  Good thing is that the cover is doing fine.

Well, as expected, today was a very busy day.  We spent most of the day preparing to paint my folks new house.  Prep work is 75% of the battle we figured, since one of the 4 bedrooms got painted in 1/10th the time it took to prep it.  Tomorrow will be more of the same, so no gardening at the Sinfonian residence.  I will be working in the yard a bit tomorrow (at my folks place).  Seems they have a mound of dirt hilled up the side of their house and it's leaking water into their garage when it rains.  So I'll be digging a trench to get the dirt and water away from the house.  Next spring we'll probably level the hill, but for now it's a stop-gap measure.

It wasn't all work at my folks place.  They called it a day early to go pick up paint for tomorrow, so I got home with 45 minutes to spare before dark.  First off, I checked the cantaloupe to see if it needed more water.  Much to my displeasure, the blight from the one plant had spread to the other two, killing any hopes for my cantaloupe maturing. 

Not that I'd held out much hope considering how late I planted the seeds Judy gave me.  Next year I'll plant earlier.  That and next time I see blight on a plant I'll yank it immediately or move it well away from any other plants.  I should have learned from my tomatoes and beans. /sigh.

After that, I started working on my hoop covers.  I'm not sure the next time I'll have to set them up and I wanted to get them in place before the weather turns foul next week.  So I started by adding the top bar connecting all the hoops together.  I didn't have time so close to dusk to drill holes and find bolts to connect them properly, so I just used twisty ties for now. I can go back later if these don't hold.  After that was done, I had my wife help me put the plastic over the hoops.  It seems I've got more than I need for bed #1 and far less than I need for bed #3.  I wonder if I can cut some of the plastic off bed #1 and somehow attach it to the bed #3 plastic.  It's not enough extra on 1 to re-cover 3, but if I could somehow connect the two, it would work fine.  Can you tell I'm too cheap to go waste another $14 on 25 more feet of plastic to cut a new one? 

For now the back of bed #3 is open against the garage.  Not great for keeping heat in, but the cukes are pretty much done as is.  I just haven't had the time to sort through the tangled mess of vines to harvest the cukes.  I did notice though, that against powdery mildew and the weather there are actually new cukes forming.  Boggles the mind.  I'm definitely growing them again next year, especially if we like the pickles. 

Here's a pic of us just starting to put the plastic over the hoops.  We lost light pretty quick after that and none of the pictures came out.  As it is the picutre could have had more light.  Sorry.  Gives you a feel of what I was dealing with, hehe.

Speaking of lighting.  I decided to try to change the light bulb in the garden fixture.  We've never turned it on because until the garden as created we never went back here other than to get between the back yard and the front.  Even then more often than not we would go around the house, hehe.  So after I found a light bulb, I wasn't surprised to find that the burned out bulb was rusted or otherwise frozen sold, locked in the fixture.  I don't think I can get it out without breaking the bulb.  For safety reasons we may just hold off until my dad and I have time to replace the whole fixture.  It would be really good to get light back there, even if the fixture is partially blocked by the chimney it is behind.  Stupid place to put it if you ask me.  In a perfect world it would be under the upstairs window above bed #2 (the bed in the foreground above).  We'll see, maybe we'll move it.  Doubt it, but maybe.

Well, time to go read more replies from folks I've sent messages to to see what they did in their gardens today.  I'm gardening vicariously through them, hehe.  It's the next best thing to being out there myself.

Enjoy your garden (for me)!

Friday, October 17, 2008

October 18, 2008

Well, as you may have seen, I haven't posted lately.  There are several reasons for that.  I'm posting at 3 am because my sleep patterns are all messed up.  I'm working 12+ hour days due to some MORE unforseen side effects of the economy and a strong desire to make something of this year at work.  What that's meant is that when I get home I have just enough time to put the kids down for bed and read them a story.  Great father huh?  Well this is temporary (I hope). 

It's also the first weekend that my folks own their new home, so in a few hours I'll be heading over there to work in the yard and paint a few rooms.  Too bad too, because the weather's going to be nice and I'd love to do some work in the yard here.

Speaking of which, as a non-gardener, it didn't hit me as hard last year when the days got so much shorter.  Now, I leave for work before dawn and get home after dusk.  Tell me when I can tend my garden?  Weekends?  What plants can thrive on weekly tending?  Not many veggies I'd assume.  I guess I'll be humming REM's "Gardening at Night" often this fall and winter.  Maybe it's time to see if I can fix the light in the garden area.  It's in a silly location behind the chimney, but maybe it will work.  Or maybe I'll buy a new fixture for it and have my dad tell me how to install some better lighting out there.  Either that or I'll have to get one of those miners hats to free up my hands from carrying a flashlight, hehe.  Actually I've been going without, relying on the ambient light from the streetlights 60 feet away and blocked by trees.

The other thing I've noticed from 30 second trips to the garden in the morning or evening, is that the wind is playing havoc with the plastic covering my hoop covers.  I need to take the time to clip the plastic to every PVC pipe so it doesn't whip around.  If I can find the time in the light this weekend, I'll do that.  I also need to put the plastic on bed #1.  It's done very well without it, though the carrot seedlings haven't shown as much growth as the more mature ones.  The more mature ones are getting very bushy indeed!  Maybe I missed the window on the last planting I did about a month ago.  Who knows.

I also sprayed my natural bug spray again last night.  The cauliflower and radishes are showing signs of attack again and the leaf miners are alive and well.  So we'll see if this works.  Never know.

As for my flattened spinach, not sure if it's toast or not, but it sure has grown since last week.  Despite the splotches of miners, the leaves are huge and ready to eat.  I'll make sure I wash them well, even though the spray says it's fine for consumption after 24 hours.  Maybe it's time for a spinach, radish, cucumber, carrot and tomato salad tonight?  That's what's either growing or I've got left.  Doesn't sound bad.  If only my lettuce would hurry up.  Actually it looked pretty good, well the Salad Bowl did.  The others are pretty slow going.  Must be the fall growing season.  They shot up much faster last spring.

On the home energy conservation front, I decided since I couldn't sleep I'd do some of my non-garden to-do list this early morning.  So I pulled the programable thermostat and tried to program it so we had 69 degrees when it's cold at night and 64 in the day and overnight.  Unfortuantely it's an older unit and I can't get it to reprogram, or even access the programing function.  I replaced the batteries and even found the manual online.  Grrr. I don't want to waste the money on a new thermostat, nor do I have much time to install a new one, but it looks like that will be a project.

Well, I'm getting tired so I'm going to try to hit the sack for a nap.  Take care and enjoy your garden!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

October 15, 2008

Fall is defnitely here.  Highs in the low 50s, rainy and cloudy.  I haven't been out to the garden in a while so despite the pouring rain, I went out after work.  Unfortunately not clipping every post hurt.  The wind had uncovered the beds and the rain had pooled in the plastic on top of plants.  My spinach was flat and so were my onions.  Oops.  It was dark and wet so I didn't sitck around to see how they faired.  And I didn't have a flashlight out there either.  So tomorrow I hope to see better, though how I'll get home in the light I have no idea. 

Yes, these short days suck as a gardener.  Now I see why folks don't fall garden around here.  Sure it's possible, just not easy.  And not for the faint of heart.  Well, I'm up for the challenge, the rewards are too great not to be.

This weekend is a painting party at my folks new house.  They took possesion of it today.  So that's about it for my gardening projects until Christmas.  But I will at least go out and clip the plastic to the pipe at every location possible when I have light.  And tomorrow before work (I'm ALWAYS rushed from staying up too late reading forums and blogs to learn more) I'll check to make sure they stayed up during tonight's storm.

So, if you're gardening still, enjoy it and don't get frustrated by setbacks.  They happen.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

October 14, 2008

Well, today was the first day that I went to work in the dark and came home in the dark.  At least I left work in the light, it just got dark on the bus ride home.  But today was a crisp clear fall day, meaning that tonight will be very cold indeed with no cloud cover to hold the heat in.  Mid 30s they say.  That's very very close to freezing.  Of course I don't feel like going out and covering my final bed, especially since it's only got frost tollerant plants in it (well, not the marigolds, but they've outlived their usefullness anyway hehe).  I may go out and water under the hoop covers when I take the garbage out, but otherwise this has been a no-garden day.  Too cold now.  Brrr.

However, when I got home I wanted nothing more than to hug my kids and crack open a chilled jar of salsa and chips.  So, while the kids had dinner, I had appetizers.  Much to my chagrin, the salsa had NO bite, no kick, and not much in the way of lingering heat.  I don't think we did anything wrong.  I did heat it to a simmer, store it in the fridge overnight and re-heat to a simmer before canning.  I don't think that had anything to do with it.  More likely, we just needed to add twice to three times the peppers.  Maybe even a habanero or two for some real kick.  We didn't think we needed to because when we tasted it initially it was hot.  Not too hot, but just right.  Goldilocks would have been proud.

So, next time we'll do it with more heat.  At least the taste of this salsa is amazing.  Far better with home-grown tomatoes and garlic.  I'm really debating about growing a determinate tomato or two for bigger harvest. 

Well, that's all I can think of for tonight.  Enjoy your garden.

Monday, October 13, 2008

October 13, 2008

Well, DoubleD suggested that I take the day and relax.  It's been quite a while since I did that, and it will be quite a while before I get a chance to do so again.  So today I stayed inside, played with the kids and went on errands with the family. 

About the only thing I did outside was to finish dismantling the potato bin and once they dried out from the early morning rain, I put them away in the shed.

In a perfect world I would have labled them, but I'll just grab two of each length whenever I need to add a layer.  I love this storage place because it's up over the rest of the shed stuff on an old door the former owner used as a big shelf.  The boards fit perfectly and I can even stick stuff on top of it.  Not bad at all.  I can't wait to find time to organize the shed better. I know I fit things better in it.

I also took the time to can the salsa.  I didn't find anything good in the way of definitive proof of whether or not I could can salsa in a water bath or not, so I went with my mother's experience doing it years ago.  So I re-boiled the previously sterilized pint jars and lids and brought the salsa back to a simmer on the stove.  Once the jars were boiled, I removed them and immediately added the salsa using a ladle and a funnel.  In total I got 4 and 3/4 pints of salsa out of the batch...

Then it was time to clean up the edges, put the lids on and secure the rings.  Finally, back in the water bath for 15 minutes.  Here is a pic of the jars waiting to pop after their sealing bath.

Don't they look grand!?!  They're not as thick as I'm used to, but it's perfect how I like it.  See I don't like onions and such whole.  I don't mind the taste blended up, so that's what I did.  The only chunks in there are my tomatoes diced up and the cilantro coursely chopped. 

Hehe on one of our errands today I bought a bag of tortilla chips just to have with salsa.  Oh, and of the five jars, my brother got one pint, my mother got the partial pint and I have one in the fridge cooling down for chips and the other two in the pantry.  One will go with me to the guy's night out the "girls" set up for the husbands after all their nights out.  The other will go to the family that finishes their jar the fastest... likely my folks since they were planning on having tacos tonight just to use the salsa.  Hehe.  And my father called the salsa mild and me a wimp... bah!

Well, I'm well relaxed and content with where my garden and yard is leading into the week and helping my folks move.  About the only thing I need to do still is bundle a bunch of my corn stalks together and set up a display with the cheap scarecrow we picked up today.  My neighbor always has a festive yard and they don't even have kids.  I'm not one to keep up with the Jones' but the kids deserve some festivity!  Of course I can always do it in the dark on our covered porch.  And the kids are going to a pumpkin patch this week with their school.  Maybe they'll pick one up to round our our display!  Sounds like fun.

Enjoy your garden!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

October 12, 2008

Well, not sure where the day went.  I feel like I got a ton accomplished, my arms are sore, my back is sore, my legs are sore, all sure signs of a fine day's work.  Then why is this going to be such a short post with so few pics?  Wired.

Even before we were done with our Sunday pancakes, my dad was over to get a jump on fixing the compost bin.  Thinking back on it as I write, we spent $100 on the cover and $15 for the bins... ironic huh?  Anyway, I have to say that Home Depot really disappointed me today.  They've been talking up how they've lowered prices and are working to help out with everyone's projects in this troubling economy, you know a real push to top Lowes.  Since I've never had much affinity toward Lowes (they're just closer to my house), I thought I'd give Home Depot the business today.  Unfortunately, they didn't have what we needed.  And what they did have was WAY more expensive than Lowes.  Grrr. So we wasted the gas to get there and back.  Insane.

Anyway, we used 2x2s to throw together a simple box frame over the bins.  Then we installed the corregated fiberglass on top of the frame.  If you recall from yesterday the lid bowed in the middle.  Well today, after a few hours work, tada!

Notice now we have support in the middle of the bins.  That was the problem before.  We also removed the 4x4 and the 2x4 that provided the slope. Instead, we allowed the slope of the land provide the run-off.  I notice you can't see it in the picture above, but there is a definite slope.  Time and rain will tell, but I'm hopeful.  Worst case, we can put back the 4x4 and a 2x4 to increase the slope if need be. 

The other cool part is the lid is easily raised by just me.  And the 1x3 that I used to make the frame level in the middle works very well as a brace to hold it up.

While we were working, we were using the full yard waste container as a work table.  Unfortunately it stank to high heaven of rotting grass.  Good incentive to finish the project so I could add it to the compost. 

Unfortunately it still smelled strong and icky after I started mixing in the existing compost with the fresh clippings.  And notice all the leaves that got mowed up into it also?  Who'd have figured it would be too N rich?  Water didn't help, mixing in existing compost didn't help, so I ran in and shredded a kitchen-compost bucket full of newspaper.  I dumped that in the middle and mixed it in with the rest.  It was only in there a short while and the smell went away. Whew, I was out of solutions for compost smells, hehe.

After that, I started dismantling the potato bin.  By the way, thanks for your comments. I'm feeling better about my harvest now. So, I got most of it pieced out when I realized I ran out of time and had to get ready for the party.  When my aunt got there she graciously brought her loppers and went out and gave the rose bush a buzz cut.  We got a nice centerpiece for the table and I've got a ton of roses to put in the yard waste container.  I don't compost them myself because the stems don't break down hardly at all.  Let Cedar Grove worry about the tough stuff.

At the party, we were talking about the salsa, and my mother insisted that we could water bath can the salsa.  Apparently she canned 25 quarts of salsa in a water bath years ago.  I'm confused.  She's going to research it a bit tonight, but insists that it'll work without a pressure canner.  If I do it, I think I'll still keep it in the fridge and use it sooner rather than later.

Speaking of canning, here is a generational pic of the pickles I've made, with the newest (last to eat) in the foreground...

Looking back at my to-do list, what I didn't get done was cover my last bed with plastic (though I did find it and it goes up easily... oh and the weather's been great so why bother?), buy a rhodie (I'm not even sure it's the season to be buying and planting rhodies), and I didn't gut the corn bed and figure out the fall/halloween decorations.  All in all, not a bad weekend...

Well I hope you all had a fun and productive weekend in your garden.  I, being a banker, get tomorrow off, so I plan on getting much of my to-do list done tomorrow.  Enjoy your garden!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

October 11, 2008

Busy day and I'm feeling it.  It's late but I wanted to get out a post or two.  Not sure, let's see how it goes.

Today started late, but it was a beautiful, though slightly chilly day.  I used the sun to dry the grass to allow me to mow, maybe for the last time this year.  It didn't take long, but I've got a yard-waste container full of clippings waiting to be dumped into my bin when I get the top off.  I held off doing the compost bins today because I wanted the sunny day for tater harvesting and drying.  That didn't stop me from prolonging the harvest to try to level out the low-side wall of the compost bin. 

Unfortunately it had a root under it that I couldn't remove, part of the pear tree right next to it.  Drat.  Guess I'll have to figure out a better way to remove the sag in the corregated fiberglass.

The mowing aside, my eldest and I were excited as could be about harvesting the potatoes I planted in March.  Would I get the 60 pounds that the contributor to the article said was the average?  Or maybe even over 100 like his former employee that kept the potatoes growing under a hoop cover into December?  Or would I find a few pounds at the bottom like the Yukon Golds, despite the late season Butte variety.  What would we find?

I got the front of the bin removed easily enough, but I had to leave it to go run some errands with the family.

It took longer than I thought it would, but using our hands, my son and I removed all the dirt from the bin, harvesting as we went along.

What we found was a mix of decent sized potatoes and small ones.  Nothing particularly baking worthy, at least not by commercial standards.  But my wife likes a smaller potato anyway and I should cut back.  So, for the moment you've all been waiting for, here is the great potato harvest of 2008!

We harvested everything, small to tiny.  Still guessing the poundage?  Well here it is from another angle to help...

And the winner is.... EG!!!!  He guessed 30 pounds and the total was a lowly 25 pounds.  Still 25 times what I started with, but nothing to write home about.  I was kind of disappointed because I didn't get much in the way of mid-level production from the bin, and only tiny potatoes at the top.  I think the reason for it was that I got lazy and the jungle was allowed to grow without being burried to the neck in quicksand.  That's got to happen next year to keep the plant thinking it's a root, not a stem.

So while my harvest was drying, I turned to the dirt.  I didn't want to leave it overnight for fear of a shower to drench it.  So I sent my wife out again to get more free fertilizer.  She returned with 7 bags of Starbuck's finest...

So the two of us dumped the bags and who could break up the cakes the fastest.  He won of course.

I was happy that I'd replenished the soil for next year to do something with it.  Maybe I'll give it to my brother to fill his new beds he's going to build.  Not sure.  Still don't think I'll use it for potatoes again, even re-fertilized.  The brown gold mixed in, I added the left over peat moss from the blueberry transplanting.  Again, we played who could break up the chunks the fastest.  Drat, he keeps winning.

See him here getting a head start, hehe.  Well after that was mixed, I broke out the bags I'd stored for just such an occasion.  Filling them was a two adult job that my son tried valiantly to help with.  In the end, we'd filled 10 bags of fertilized Mel's mix for use next spring.

In the end we resorted to double-bagging contractor trash bags.  Then, exhausted, I wheel barrowed them over to the side of my shed and put them with the rest of the bags from the Yukon bin, stored under the tiny eave for moderate rain protection.

Then it was inside the house to store the dried potatoes for the winter.

Maybe it was a good thing I only got 25 pounds, because I filled my last banker's box to the brim with shredded paper and potatoes.  The small ones however, went into a separate box for storage til spring to be used as next year's seed.

I stored more than I need, but you never know, I may do some in my beds if I've got room.  DoubleD has got a great tutorial on her site about how to do it right.  She harvested today, I bet she got far more harvest than I did.

After that was done, my brother came over to make pickles and salsa.  The pickles took the longest, but we got 8 more quarts put up.  While we were waiting for water to boil, we were chatting.  Where he bought the dill and salasa supplies, he saw something interesting.  Home-canned pickles fresh from Skagit Valley.  The price?  $5 per pint!!!  Hehe, we figured we're into our pickles $20 for 20 QUARTS and 8 pints.  What a steal! 

I didn't take any pictures of the pickles, since you've seen us pickling at my brother's house a while back.  I did want to chronicle the salsa process though.  First we blackened two red peppers directly on the gas burner and wrapped them in saran wrap to melt the skin off.  Then we chopped up an onion, several cloves of garlic, 2 cerano chillies and two chipotle chillies and blended them with about 30 of my brother's tiny cherry tomatoes.  Boy was it fun to see my new Blendtec in action for something other than smoothies.

Then the base was set to simmer on the stove as we diced up my 20 tomatoes and some cilantro.

As we added the diced tomatoes for chunkiness and cilantro for flavoring. We brought it to a simmer for 10 minutes.

Stirring regularly to keep it from sticking, and allowing the flavors to meld.

As I write, it's cooling on the stove.  It's too late to can it tonight, so I'll put it in the fridge to allow the flavors to meld further.  I had no idea that this salasa can't be canned for storage.  Apparently it doesn't have enough aciditity with tomatoes and a splash of vinager for taste to allow it to be water bath canned.  Grrr, we so need a pressure canner.

So I'm going to wrap up a long and productive day by putting the salsa in the garage fridge over night.  Tomorrow is another day and I've got a lot to do and a party to go to for my mother's birthday.

I hope you enjoyed your garden today and maybe next year my harvest will be something to brag about.

Friday, October 10, 2008

October 10, 2008

Quick post because I'm utterly exhausted and my eyes won't stay open.  Long week, way too busy and the market is making me crazy.  Just remember, you only lose money in the stock market if you sell.  So buy low and sell high.  Duh!

Tonight I was going to go to my brother's and pickle some cucumbers.  I went over there after work and we got everything ready, only to realize we didn't have fresh dill.  The store where we got it last time was out so we ended up talking for a few hours and I went home.  The new plan is to hunt down dill and do it tomorrow night. 

In addition, we are going to use the 20 or so tomatoes that ripened all at once rather than slowly over the winter like they're supposed to.  I've wanted to make salsa, so I'm also going to buy some onions and chillies and peppers tomorrow so we can make salsa and can it.  I can't wait!

Well, short post because I need to be well rested for a long and hopefully very productive weekend.  The weather's going to be better tomorrow then Sunday, so you know what that means... POTATOES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Stay tuned for the post of the year tomorrow (late after the canning session).  If I weren't so tired I'd be wide awake with excitement.  Wish me luck or post poundage guesses from my 1 pound of russetts. hehe.  Darn, I should have done that last week.  Day late and a dollar short I guess.

Enjoy your garden!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

October 9, 2008

Well, something's wrong with my blog. I couldn't edit my last post. I just gave me an error and didn't show anything.  So here are the pics of my hoop covers and other cold weather protection efforts in the daylight.

And here are my potatoes and cantaloupe tent.

Any one taking odds on the on the cantaloupe maturing?  My ignorant guess would be not likely, but it's no skin off my noes if I cover them and water them or not.  Growth has occurred.  It's a start.

And finally I think I mentioned the wind damage to my rose.  Well here is what it looks like!  Maybe if we tie it up it will grow right again after we prune the heck out of it?

Now on to this week's to-do list.  It'll likely be the last comprehensive to-do list for quite a while since I will be helping move my folks and then prep their house for sale.  Boy I hope I can come up with more than just this list but I'm not big on forward thinking into uncharted territory.

  • I still can't find the plastic for the original hoop cover.  I may need to buy more.  Grrr.

  • Buy some 1/3s to create that box under the compost cover.  It'll mean dismantling it but in the long run it should be better to be able to open and close it, not to mention smoothing out the low points.

  • Make some pickles. I've got tons of pickling cukes ready to go.  Maybe past ready.  Plan is for that to happen tomorrow.

  • Mow my yard.  I had hoped to have leaves all over the place first so I could get a great compost mix of carbon and nitrogen all in one pass of the mower.  For some reason it hasn't happened despite the foul weather clearly signaling to the rest of us that it's fall.  I may fluff it again after I take apart my cover, or I'll just dump a new pile in the empty bin to compost over the winter.  Not sure.

  • Figure out how to use my corn bed for fall/halloween decorations and gut the bed.  Since corn is a heavy nitrogen feeder, but I fed it liberally while it was growing, so do I need to feed it more? 

  • Um, is it rhodie planting season? I am not sure.  I need to plant one in a bare spot in the front yard rhodie hedge between the neighbor's property and mine.  If you recall, I'm looking for a blue one.

  • And drum roll please! Harvest potatoes! Dry them and bag up the compost.

That just about does it. I'll try to figure out more for this weekend, but for now that looks like quite a bit.

Enjoy your garden and stay warm!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

October 8, 2008

Well, interesting post today.  Today was clear and cold.  Well, low 50s cold, but it felt cold walking around with my fall jacket on.  So I checked the forecast and low and behold, the low for tonight is in the upper 30s.  WHAT!?!  Yep, I read it right.  Near freezing.  And me without my hoop covers up.  Time to put my set-up skills to the test yet again.

When I went out there though, I remembered that I didn't have time to set up my pea trellis yet.  No problem, grab the screw gun and the three inch screws.  So the trellis isn't plum (that's level for us construction novices), it'll work.  And unfortunately the left over twine doesn't quite make it.  So I tie more twine on and get it threaded.  Unfortunately it took longer than expected, but doesn't it look good?

Do you see how dark the photo is? Yep, it's getting dark, and I haven't started putting the covers on.  Of course I didn't think that far ahead and took the time to train some of the taller peas to grab the lowest thread.

I kinda got clued into the diminishing light when the flash went off on this shot.  Oops.  Better hurry.

Once I got all the hoops up, it was time to unroll the plastic.  Once I got the two far side, smaller beds unrolled, I noticed quickly that the plastic for the small bed was too short. I ran out of plastic.  Oops, yep, I cut the plastic for bed #2 too long.  Drat.  I knew it was going to be close when I bought it, but I should have measured better when cutting it last month.  But it wasn't so bad, I figured out how to fix it.  I dropped the PVC to the ground rather than have it resting half-up the bed.  That shortened the hoops and made it fit just right!  Nothing's that tall in that bed anyway.  And since I read that the 4 mil plastic won't last longer than a year, I will have an opportunity to get it right next time.  hehe

Sorry to say the pic of the covered beds was taken well after dark.  I was using a flashlight to put the clamps on.

Notice bed #1 still doesn't have plastic on it.  Well, in the dark I couldn't find it.  Where could a 25x10 sheet of plastic get to in my house?  Tis a mystery for another day.  All that's in that bed are carrots, radishes and lettuce.  All things that should stand a light frost, if we have one tonight.  As I'm writing this it's still 52 degrees in the garden.

But while I was looking all over for the plastic, I did find a small piece of 4 mil clear tarp.  So I removed the 1 mil drop cloth from the potato bin and put the small piece of plastic over the potatoes, and used the bigger drop cloth draped over a board pounded into the ground as a T-pee covering my cantaloupe SWC.  Sorry again for the dark pics.  Maybe I'll change the pics out tomorrow if I take new pics.

By the way, a quick glance at the cantaloupe showed me that they're as big as eggs now!

Enjoy your garden and stay warm tonight!

Monday, October 6, 2008

October 6, 2008

Not much to talk about today.  Mostly wanted to thank those who commented yesterday. Rebekah, thanks for trying, but even copying and pasting that long address took me to the iVillage homepage instead.  Thankfully using your search parameters helped me find it.  Well, I found 107 possible answers.  I will have to look it up later.  Until then they're sitting in a tupperware container drying on their own, for good or bad.

When I got home I had a good idea, it hit me as I got out of the car... rain drops, tons and tons of them.  Hey, I wonder how my compost cover is holding up?  So I ran into the back yard and checked.  Sure enough, the middle of the full compost bin was too low and it was puddling there.  Not horribly, but retaining water.  I think I'll need to keep the pallet gate shut and use a 2x4 to flatten out the low spot.  Either that, or this weekend dig out a bit under the low-end pallet wall. When we were installing the cover I could tell the edge of the wall nearest the pear tree was up a bit, likely resting on a root.   I'd hate to disturb a root, but it's the easiest solution to the flow problem.

Also this weekend I think I'll take advice and use a hair drier to try to heat the pipe to bend enough to reach across only 3 feet.  Otherwise I could swap out 2 of the brackets and PVC pipes from my original hoop cover, which are only 1/2 inch rather than the new pipe at 3/4 inch.  Maybe that'll bend farther without breaking? 

Lastly, I couldn't help but get excited at work today.  Someone said it's supposed to be nice on Saturday.  Nice could mean actual sun.  Actual sun Saturday would mean I FINALLY dismantle my Butte potato bin.  What I and countless other people have been waiting for since March is about to arrive.  It's almost time to find out what kind of harvest I got from my late-season russetts!  I am so anxious it's unreal.  The weekend can't get here soon enough, though if this weather remains foul, I am not sure I'll harvest.

Enjoy your garden!