Thursday, March 27, 2014

Potato page

Well my Potato page popularity strikes again. In case you weren't aware my second of four pages I created with helpful garden information got some local notoriety from the Seattle Times way back in 2009. Since then ever so often a popular site links that page to their site and I get a bump in traffic. Well it's happened again. I'd been getting about 150 hits a day since I came back. Then out of the blue it jumped to 900. Sure enough it was all Page 2. It's leveling off and soon it will be back to normal. Fun while it lasts I guess.

Anyway I'd like to give a shout out to the gardeners in Slovakia. Thanks to Google translation I could read the nice article she wrote and nice words she said about me. Thanks!

Man, typing on my phone on the bus leads to typos galore!

Lastly for this edit, I'm struggling to find a replacement handle for my pitchfork.  Internet searches all come up with the wood handle, not just the top plastic part. I'd really like a metal one if I can find one to fit.  Kind of discouraging. Anyone know where I can find one?

That's the last time I use "Lastly" because now Grit Magazine of Mother Earth News posted on Pinterist or whatever a well established link to my blog page on Tip Nut. I must thank them someday. They have always been the best referrer. Glad these folks give me credit even if Grit didn't. So much for renewing my subscription. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A garden adventure for some cub scouts

As the Cubmaster for my sons' pack is my job to come up with an entertaining activity for after my Pack meetings. Tonight I plan on doing a little talk about spring and where our food comes from. I'm going to end off with letting them plant some seeds. To that end we have to make about 30 soil blocks today. Makes me whisk I'd invested in a real spill block maker. The one a garden buddy made for me works but is slow for this application. Oh well, it'll be good practice for when I start my own seeds... very late.

I'm thinking of letting them choose between lettuce and random flowers I've got seeds for. Not all kids like salads. Hehe. Of course it looks like I got rid of the flower seeds, so we'll pick some up on the way. Of course we ran late and ended up with only lettuce seeds.

Still, the Pack meeting was a big success. I talked about spring and where food comes from. Then I walked them through the composting process with our Waste Management and their Cedar Grove compost arm that made the soil blocks. Lastly I explained one small seed could feed a person a salad per week for the whole season!

Each kid got to place a seed or two in their block and take it home. What a night. Next to repeat this weekend for my own garden. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Milestones, and real successes

First off, before I get into the meat of my post, I should take a moment to celebrate a bit of a milestone.  I was fairly close before my long hiatus, but today I finally hit a whopping 75,000 page views! It is quite an accomplishment since I had recently switched from my old hosting site (thanks Judy for all you did to start my blogging "career") and I'm quite certain I was over this mark there. I can't count the times I crashed her host service or made them make her pay more for the hits back when the infamous potato bin article hit on the Seattle Times.  My old photo hosting site even booted me AFTER I stopped blogging since it was so popular. Silly people.  Anyway, I celebrated with my eldest son this morning as we crossed over a bit of a milestone.  He thought it was cool.

Now for the real success of the day.  After ditching the kids my wife and I had the house to ourselves.  That allowed me to convince her to help me weed the garden beds.  We got to try out the stirrup hoe for real and found it not as useful as I'd hoped.  The broad fork was much better at bringing up clumps of weeds.  You may recall what the beds looked like before we started...

I shudder to think how bad this looks.  But a lot of elbow grease later, we had really accomplished something.
As you can see above, the process was to dig up the weeds in big swaths, knock some of the dirt off, then throw it into the wheelbarrow.  It wasn't as fast as we'd hoped, but it went fast enough. Many hands make light work.  I'm so proud of my wife for helping me.  I couldn't have done it without her.

Hehe, she just got a laugh out of my comment that out of 524 posts she finally made it on my blog.  Well, 525 is the charm they say, or do they?  Well, as you can see, the 11 foot bed is all done, and she pretty much tackled the entire 5 foot bed by herself.  Way to go dear!

You can see next to her the broad fork, or short pitchfork or whatever it's called.  It worked wonders to move it along.  At least it did until we had a bit of a casualty.

Poor broad fork, you served me well.  I'm hopeful I can find a replacement handle, maybe one that's metal and will hold up better, but I was in the middle of my 4 foot bed and prying up on the edge when it happened.  Oops.  It still worked well enough, but I want to fix it, or at least replace it.  Quite the handy tool. It helped us get to about here with only two wheelbarrows full of dirt and weeds. That's when my wife went inside to nurse a wound.

While she was inside, I unloaded the second of three wheelbarrows into the chicken run.  I was too tired to unburry the doors so they'd open large enough for a wheelbarrow to fit inside, so I ripped a hinge off the bottom of the left hand door.  Oh well, it still works for now. I'll fix it later.
The dirt probably has some bugs in it for the girls too, and if you can see the gaps under the footings, the dogs have been digging their way in. I need to beef up the protection, especially when the new chicks arrive.

But don't the beds look nice after all our hard work today?

We got three of the four beds done in about two hours.  I'm so pleased even though I know we didn't do as thorough of a job as we needed to.  As my commentators said, it's going to be a long slog to rid myself of weeds after letting the beds get that bad.  I think tomorrow after we finish I'll pick up some black plastic to put over the beds for a few weeks while the seeds germinate and seedlings grow and harden off before removing and planting.  Does that sound like a good plan or is it a pipe dream to think it will help?
I bet you never saw someone so happy about weeding, but I haven't had my garden looking this good in a year.  And no, I don't weed other people's gardens, hehe. I can't wait to finish up tomorrow. Hopefully I'll even be able to start some seeds.  And yes, I realize I'm way behind the curve.

Oh, and I love comments, so please talk to me.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Amazing weather, amazing progress!

Well, all it took was for me to post how bad our weather was on the first day of spring and presto! the weather improved.  As of 7 PM on Friday it's still a balmy 47 degrees and sunny.  Quite the change from the last few days.  What's more, this weekend is expected to be amazing.  I can't wait to get out there and tackle that weeding problem.  My brother over at Urban Homestead WA was just saying he isn't going to plant quite yet for fear of another late April cold snap.  Well, any long-time reader of this blog knows I have hoop covers on all my beds in case that happens. If I can get those beds weeded, then I can feel comfortable starting my spring greens, better late than never.

I was very encouraged by my post about my weed problem.  I was so excited to get home and try out my stirrup hoe that I didn't even change clothes.  Mostly I didn't bother because the sun was going down and we had company coming over.  So out I ran in my slacks and dress shoes to grab the hoe.  Quick like a bunny I raced to the bed.  This is where I'd left off after a half hour of grueling hand weeding.

Actually it was just the light colored dirt at the bottom that I got done earlier.  The rest I did in less than a minute with the stirrup hoe.  In case you're wondering what the heck one is, I took a quick snapshot of this miraculous device.

With it, I did in two minutes what took me a half hour last week. 

 I stopped only to come in and finish up dinner.  Sure I lost more dirt than I would like, but I did shake it off a bit before dumping it in the bin.  Besides, that bin went into the coop run, and I can use all the dirt I can get in there, the girls have dug it up something fierce with their dust baths.  What's the worst that could happen, weeds growing in the run, they would just eat them.  Hehe.  I'm so happy, I could have

Oops, you can see my gardening clothes.  Which reminds me, if anyone has a stressful job, 5 minutes in the garden at the end of the day does wonders to take the load off.  It has always left me clear headed and energized.  I've forgotten how good gardening feels.

Enjoy the first weekend of spring, what's your weather like?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

First day of spring

Hey folks!  If you live in the Pacific North Wet like I do then you know that the first day of spring is not Match 20th. In fact I was scraping ice off my car window this morning. We even regularly have snow storms in late April here. I don't call that spring do you?  Thank goodness for hoop covers. They saved my spring crop the year of the freak snow on April 20th.

What kind of weather are you having?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Catching up with Sinfonian...

It's been a rough few years since I stopped blogging.  Many people think of this time as the Great Recession. For my family it was a trying time as a zero income family. During this both stressful and amazing time we survived on unemployment for nearly two years due to eating constantly from my garden.  Not only was that amazing, but I got to spend almost two years with my boys. That is something I will never forget, nor hopefully repeat.  I didn't blog then because I was on the computer so much job hunting it didn't feel right to do something for pleasure.  Yes, blogging is a selfish act in my book.

After my unemployment term, I went right into an 18 month contract working night and day to earn money and make up for lost time replacing savings and getting debt free (a topic for another time).  It was right when that contract ran out that I found permanent employment back in the commercial real estate lending industry where I spent 15+ years of my career.  The first year (last year) was more insane hours earning overtime while deadlines loomed and the money was offered.

It was during those last threeish years that my garden suffered.  I still kept chickens, but I simply had no time at key times of the year to garden. I must say my stress level suffered for it, but never realized it until I got out and weeded for the first time last week.  This is what my garden beds looked like when I went out there. It's not for the faint of heart...

Scary huh? I spent a half hour with a broad fork, shovel and hand trowel only to carve about two feet by four feet of the far right bed. Quite inefficient considering all I had to do.  Now I'm kicking myself for not covering the beds with plastic or lasagna gardening with left over pizza boxes to kill the weeds.  I'm also mad at my big brother for getting rid of his gas powered roto-tiller.  Then I could have considered these beds overwintered with green manure.  Needless to say I'm looking for suggestions for the fastest way to get my beds ready. I haven't had the heart to start seeds indoors this year because there is no place to plant them. My best idea so far is to use my mother-in-law's stirrup hoe to cut the roots off below the dirt line.  The downside to this is I would lose quite a bit of dirt. Most of my time spent to date was to knock as much dirt off the weeds before I fed them to the hens.  I figure the worst case is that I transfer more dirt to the run, which is in desperate need of more dirt.  Oh, and so are my beds if you can see the bottom of the first 2x6 in the picture above. I have always meant to go get another few yards of 7 way compost from Pacific Top Soil to top off my beds, but that hasn't happened.  Maybe this fall.

Thoughts? I hope this weekend is better for weeding.  Last weekend was horrible with the deluge of rain we got.  I'm not that hard core anymore.  Hehe.  It's good to be back!  And for grins I found folks that were hosting my potato bin page on their site, a few not giving me credit, and recreated the links to the pictures, so my most popular page is back up and running.  Yay!

Enjoy your garden!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Come back?

What would you all think if I came back to blogging? It's been three years since my last post and now life is a bit more stable so I'm itching to garden and raise chickens more. Work is doing well enough that I may even be able to write here on occasion. Would you come back to read it?  Let me know. Thanks,