Sunday, June 30, 2013


Saturday didn't go quite as planned. I had a real lack of motivation, so didn't make it outside before it got hot. So we ended up going to Lexington to do some shopping that Andrea was needing to get done. Of course trips to Lexington always take up most of the day, so I didn't accomplish anything around the house when we got back either.

Today was more productive, though. I went out this morning and worked on the mower. I replaced the belt, which wasn't as difficult as I was afraid. After replacing it I decided to go ahead and mow, but was quickly disappointed to find that the mower still isn't working right. By that time it was getting hot, and I didn't feel like working on it again, so I put everything away and came back inside.

I went back outside around 5:00 to work on assembling the new lawn sweeper. I managed to get the main part installed before time to come in for dinner. I would normally say that it shouldn't take long to finish, since all that remains is the bag assembly. However, as I was moving the sweeper I found that it only rolls one direction, and currently that is backwards. So it seems I installed something wrong, and will have to do some more work to figure out what I did. I'm hoping its simple, and does not require completely disassembling the entire thing, but I'm not overly confident in that.

It was starting to thunder when I came in for dinner, and by the time we finished had started raining. We had planned to go back out after eating, but the rain changed that.

Saturday, June 29, 2013


When I got up this morning I headed over to the garden. I hadn't applied the foliar feed of diluted urine in a while, so thought that was well past due. I mixed up two gallon, and sprayed everything in the garden, as well as the bushes along the edge of the yard and herbs.

While spraying the onions I noticed that several of them were partially uncovered, so I went ahead and harvested those. I haven't weighed them yet, but they are decent sized.

I had plans to get a lot accomplished after work this evening, but of course things didn't go quite as planned. I hooked up the mower and started mowing the front yard, which was badly in need of being mowed. Things went well at first, but then after a few passes it stopped cutting. I managed to get the blades to re-engage, but then they stopped again. I think I need to install the new belt, so will likely do that tomorrow.

I had also planned to assemble the new lawn sweeper and try it out after mowing, but it was looking like rain. If all goes well maybe I can do that tomorrow.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Book Review - A Landowner's Guide to Managing Your Woods

One of the books I was most interested in picking up at the 2012 Mother Earth News Fair was A Landowner's Guide to Managing Your Woods: How to Maintain a Small Acreage for Long-Term Health, Biodiversity, and High-Quality Timber Production by Anne Larkin Hansen, Mike Severson, and Dennis L. Waterman. I had heard Hansen speak at the 2011 fair, and really enjoyed what she had to say. The book had been on my wish list ever since, but I had not yet picked it up. When I saw that she was doing a book signing at the 2012 fair, I knew the time was right to get my copy. Unfortunately I was busy during the signing, but Andrea was able to make time to buy the book and chat with the author for a few minutes.

I made the mistake of basing my expectations of the book on the workshop I had attended, and not the blurb on the book or reviews of it. I was looking forward to a book that focused on things like trail building, wildlife habitat construction, etc. While those were covered, briefly, the primary topic was managing a forest for timber production, or at the very least for maximizing profits. I continue to find myself frustrated by works that are based on the assumption that profit is a primary motivator for most people. While the premise is likely true, it leaves the rest of us searching for material that actually focuses on the important things in life. I suppose I can't really blame an author for basing the material on what will appeal to most people, as that is the way to maximize sales, and therefore profit :-)

I did gain quite a bit of knowledge from the book, just not on the topics I had hoped for. I now realize the importance of doing an inventory of our woods and developing a forest plan. I had naively believed that the best thing for our situation would be to simply let nature manage the woods. Unfortunately, that isn't going to result in a natural forest, though, since it has already been altered so much by logging, farming, etc. If I want a more natural woodlot I will have to begin by undoing many of the unnatural things done in the past.

Thanks to the book I am now also considering hiring a forester to do a management plan. I'm also much more open to the idea of eventually selling some timber. I should give one word of caution, however. Some reviewers were annoyed by the author's repeated suggestion to hire a forester. As one so aptly put it, you don't really need a book to tell you to hire a forester. Can you imagine buying a booking on DIY plumbing, only to find that the most common suggestion is to hire a professional plumber?

Even though the book turned out not to be what I hoped for, I'm still glad I read it. Whether I would recommend it someone else depends on his/her goals. There is certainly a lot of information in the book, but not everyone landowner will find it useful.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


Today was somewhat productive, even though we received a lot of rain. I tried working in the garden this morning, but was only able to mulch six tomato plants before having to quit. It rained much of the morning, but then cleared up nicely.

After work Andrea and I went back to the garden and finished up the mulching. We mulched and weeded the rest of the tomatoes and peppers. We also weeded the onions, and was able to harvest one of them. It was a good sized, nicely developed onion, which we were pleased with considering this is our first attempt at growing them. We decided to go ahead and dig a few potatoes as well, since some of the Yukon Gold plants have died back completely. Unfortunately the yields of the five plants that we dug were not good. We only found eleven small potatoes, averaging just under one ounce each. These were all from the last row I planted, which had no compost applied, so I'm hoping that maybe the other rows will perform much better. We'll just have to wait and see. It started raining just as we were finishing up, but luckily we made it back to the house before the storms and hard rains came.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


I didn't accomplish a whole lot on Monday. I was still tired from my weekend trip, and recovering from eating so poorly while I was gone. I slept much of the evening, but did manage to get up long enough to help Andrea install a couple more rounds of string for the tomato trellis.

Thankfully I was feeling better today, though, and was able to be more productive. I did a few small tasks during lunch, while cooking on the grill. After work I went over to the garden, which is needing some serious attention. I mowed the weeds around the edge of the garden and between rows of the tomatoes and peppers. I then weeded and thinned the corn and applied fresh straw mulch.

Monday, June 24, 2013


Sorry about not posting for several days. I was out of town this weekend, visiting friends in West Virginia. There is a group of four of us, plus spouses, that tries to get together at least three to four times per year. This includes an annual trip to WV for the entire weekend. This year I took off from work on Friday, so we could go a day early to maximize our time there.

I regret that the four of us don't live closer to one another. I like around 65 miles from one of the group, and 95 miles from another, and the others all live farther from one another. I'm thankful that we've managed to keep in touch and are all willing to make the effort to get together as often as we do. I believe it is very important to spend time with good friends, even if they live far away.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


I normally to the office for work on Tuesdays, but I skipped this week. Andrea was scheduled to meet someone in Frankfort today to pick up an order from Raw Paws. She had to go to jury duty this morning, though, and we had no way of knowing if she'd be available to drive to Frankfort or not. I volunteered to work from home, so I could take off from work a couple hours early if needed to go instead of her if needed. Luckily she didn't have to stay for jury duty very long, and was home in plenty of time to do the pickup.

It rained most of the morning, but by the time I got off from work the weather was clear. With all of the rain lately, we've missed the opportunity to catch a lot of rainwater because of the barrels being full. I decided to go ahead and use some of the water this evening, so we'll have some capacity when it rains again. I had emptied the trailer mounted barrel when I watered the tomatoes earlier in the week, so I went ahead and filled it from the rain barrels.

Once filled I took the barrel over to the garden and left so we will have it available to water from. While over there I checked on all of the plants. Some of the newly transplanted peppers are looking really good, while others haven't really grown much yet. I found a few that had been dug up. It seemed that whatever had done it had simply dug the loose dirt out of the hole, leaving the hole looking like it was before we planted the peppers. One of the plants was gone completely, and three more were laying next to the hole, in the dirt that had been removed. I replaced those three, and am hopeful they will be ok.

I also saw that something had been digging in the corn. Three plants, which were next to one another, had been dug out and eaten. The holes were very neat, with the mulch appearing to have been pulled back before the digging. The holes were approximately the size of my fist. I've asked the folks on Earthineer if anyone has any thoughts as to what may have dug the holes, but no one has any definitive suggestions yet.

Sun Oven Solar Cooker

Of the items we bought at the 2012 Mother Earth News Fair, the Sun Oven was definitely the biggest purchase. One of the workshop areas was set up near the Sun Oven booth, so while killing time one day I decided to watch the demo that was being given. I had been intrigued by the idea before, and after watching the demo I thought it might be something we could make use of. When I met up with Andrea later we discussed it and I learned that she had also been interested in a solar oven. We decided to take advantage of the special fair pricing and place an order.

We only recently tried cooking in the oven, which is why I have waited so long to write a review. Prior to this we had used it for dehydrating some peppers, and Andrea had sterilized some potting soil in it. Last week, however, Andrea wanted to bake some bread, but it was much too hot to turn on the oven in the kitchen. She decided it was a good opportunity to try out the Sun Oven. While she was prepping the bread dough, and since I was getting the oven out anyway, we decided to go ahead and try using it to bake some potatoes for lunch.

Baking the potatoes could not have been easier. We placed them in the already hot oven, and just let them cook for a couple of hours. I did re-orient the oven a few times during the process, to get maximum sun exposure, but that is a quick task. Granted, we could have baked the potatoes more quickly in the gas oven or on the grill. Since we planned ahead, however, the solar oven gave us comparable results without burning costly fuel.

The sun was out very strong when we put the bread on, so I expected it to bake in a short period. At times the temperature in the oven were slightly above 350 degrees, which surprised me. This wasn't consistent, however, and when clouds covered the sun the temperature inside the oven would drop to around 250 degrees. Unlike the potatoes, testing for doneness couldn't easily be done at the oven. This resulted in me taking the bread inside a couple of times so Andrea could cut into it to check for doneness. It ended up taking around two hours to bake the bread, which is probably more than twice as long as it would have taken in the gas oven. Still, though, we ended up with two loaves of fresh baked bread without using any fuel other than the sun.

I suspect that we'll use the oven throughout the summer, especially when we wish to bake something. I seriously doubt, however, that we'll ever use it enough to justify the initial cost. I'm not sure how much fuel is consumed baking a couple of potatoes or a loaf of bread, but I'm sure that the cost of the fuel is a tiny fraction of what we paid for the Sun Oven. There are factors to consider other than cost, however, and it is nice knowing that at least some of our cooking can be done without the use of fossil fuels. If one were living completely off-grid, I suspect that a solar oven might be quite useful.

Monday, June 17, 2013


Today was one of those days I'd rather forget. I got next to nothing accomplished, and part of what I did accomplish turned out to be unnecessary.

Andrea had to be in town this morning for jury duty, so I took her since the last time it was almost impossible to find a parking spot. On my way to pick her up after work I had an encounter with a groundhog that was crossing the road, and I ran over and killed it. Anytime I've hit an animal on the road its depressing, even when the result wasn't fatal.

Once we got home and had dinner I went out to unload some stuff from the car since Andrea needs to drive it tomorrow. While shutting the shed back up, I discovered a wasps nest, a bit too late, and was stung. I have a long history with wasps, and we've never gotten along, so that didn't help my mood anyway, to say the least.

Since we had only received minimal rain the past few days I decided to go ahead and water the tomatoes. I'm sure that it was no more work than normal, but since I was in a bad mood and hurting from the sting it certainly seemed like it was. Once I finished that I called it a day.

Before bedtime it began raining. I knew the forecast had called for rain, but lately that seemed to result in little to no actual precipitation. Looks like today they might have gotten it right, after I made the effort to water the tomatoes. I think I should have just stayed inside all day today.


This past weekend began with Andrea and I working together on finishing up the work on the bushes we planted along the edge of the yard. While Andrea installed the protective shields around the bases and labels I raked around them to prepare the soil for planting clover. We then sowed White Clover, which will serve as a living mulch. Our hope is that this prevents the need to mow, while at the same time provides nitrogen for the bushes to use.

After finishing that project we had some lunch and I took a short nap before going to a friend's house to help him with a project. The plan was to cut down a few unwanted trees in his yard, but my chainsaw would not started. Fortunately he had someone else there doing some work who did have a saw, and he agreed to cut the trees. With the trees cut, we just had to trim off the branches and carry the debris to an out of the way place. The heat took much more out of me than expected, and we ended up not completely finishing the project. I was exhausted when I made it back home, and did nothing but recuperate for the rest of the day.

On Sunday I got up early and worked on prepping the area along the front porch where we plan to plant sunflowers. We had applied some fresh horse manure to the area several months ago, which unfortunately resulted in thick grass growing up in the area. I mowed the grass, then use the rototiller to dig out the area. After picking out the clumps of grass, which went into the compost bin, I used a hoe and rake to smooth the soil back out.

By the time I finished it was getting hot, so I decided to call it a morning. It rained on and off the test of the day, although never very much. In hindsight we might should have watered the tomatoes, even though it rained some. If it doesn't rain tomorrow, we might go ahead and water them.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Pepper Planting 2013

We were finally able to transplant our peppers a few days ago. Ideally this would have been done several weeks ago, but the seedlings just weren't growing well. Andrea used the same seed-starting process for the peppers as she used for everything else, but after a good start the peppers just stopped growing. Finally she decided to switch to creek and/or rainwater in place of the tap water she had been using on them, and that seemed to kick start their growth. Of the eleven varieties she started from seed, all of them except the Habanero did well enough to transplant.

We planted a selection of both chili and bell peppers. These include Serrano, Jalapeno, Long Red Cayenne, Ring-O-Fire, Bulgarian Carrot, Paprika, Pizza, California Wonder, Carolina Wonder, and Orange Bell. The goal was to transplant two of each variety, but we had some extra space so planted an extra Jalapeno and Long Red Cayenne along with two extra Paprika.

Our transplanting method was very similar to that used for the tomatoes. The only thing we changed is that a bit of balanced organic fertilizer was added to each hole.

Like the tomatoes, we went ahead and installed the posts to be used for the Florida Weave trellis. We didn't quite have enough t-posts to do the entire trellis, so we substituted weaker u-posts for a few of them, although made sure never to use two in a row. We had originally planned to construct a few PVC Pepper Cages with the lengths of PVC we had been able to collect, but decided it would be much easier to just go with the Florida Weave for everything this year.

We had great yields from our peppers last year, so are hoping for similar results again. We grew them in the herb garden last year, which had the advantage of a layer of rabbit manure. With twenty-four plants, if we get even half the yields per plant as last year we should have many more than we can use.

Friday, June 14, 2013


I haven't accomplished a whole lot this week. That is partly due to rain, but I've also missed out on a couple of opportunities to get outside and work. Today was a nice change of pace.

Andrea was weeding and mulching the herb garden when I got off from work. I went out and talked to her while she was working, and helped just a little. It wasn't too hot, so once she finished we decided to go ahead and transplant the peppers to the garden.

The peppers are still small, but we were able to transplant all but one of the planned varieties. Hopefully being in the ground will help them to really take off. We had originally planned to plant two each of eleven varieties, for twenty-two total. Instead we planted two each of ten varieties, plus an additional four of the extra, for a total of twenty-four plants. If they do even half as well as our peppers last year, we'll have so many that we'll be lucky to keep them picked.

While at the garden I also noticed that the corn is starting to do well. We had seen a couple of days ago that it had finally sprouted. It seems to have really take off since then, and is about four inches tall now.

After finishing in the garden we decided to call it a day, even though there was still some daylight left. Andrea took that opportunity to grill pizza for dinner. Pizza from the grill was one of our regular meals last summer, but this is our first time having it this year.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


Today was the hottest day so far this year. With morning temperatures in the 80s, with a high forecast for the mid-90s, I knew it was time to turn on the air conditioner. While technically this isn't the first time we used it, Andrea used it for a day while I was out of town and she was decorating a cake, its the first time I've used it this year. We ran it for much of the day, then turned it back off this evening, once temperatures began to drop again.

I've had no energy today, and generally have just not felt very well. I'm somewhat suspicious that this may be from using the air conditioner. I know that using the a/c does impact how I feel. It seems that I've been more productive this year than in the past, and I wonder if the not using the a/c is one of the big reasons for that. That's one more reason to build a house that is designed for natural cooling, so we can avoid using a/c completely.

Since it was so hot today, and we were cooling the house artificially, we didn't want to use the oven, which would have just heated it back up. Andrea was wanting to make some bread, so she decided to use the Sun Oven. We bought the Sun Oven at last year's Mother Earth News Fair, but had yet to cook with it, although we had used it for a couple of other tasks. While getting the bread ready to be baked, Andrea decided to go ahead and try baking some potatoes in the Sun Oven. Both the potatoes and bread turned out. Of course they took longer than if we had made them in the gas oven or even on the grill, but that's a minor inconvenience when you consider the amount of fuel we saved.

Andrea also made more ice cream today. This time she made chocolate ice cream with strawberries, which she thought sounded weird, but I thought sounded great. It turns out that I was right. While she was working with the strawberries she went ahead and made some puree to use for making sorbet, and then froze the rest of the berries.

The weather forecast is calling for storms tomorrow, so we spent some time this evening working on shelter for the dogs. They have one dog house, on the front porch, which they share by alternating which of them sleeps in it. The last time it stormed, though, Jack used the dog house the entire time, which meant Luke wasn't sheltered from some of the blowing rain. Since he is scared of storms anyway, specifically thunder, this wasn't a good situation. We decided to clean up the crate that we used when we had to keep Jack contained during his recovery and put it on the porch. Neither of them has been in it since we stopped containing Jack, so they may not voluntarily go in, we aren't sure. We've made a spot for it on the porch, and taken the door off, so hopefully they'll see that they will be able to get out at any time if they do decide to use it.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Buried Container Irrigation

As I mentioned in Tomato Planting 2013 we are using buried container irrigation for watering the tomato plants. This is based, loosely, on buried clay pot irrigation, which has been in use in different parts of the world for centuries. Our use of buried container irrigation, however, was for very different reasons, and used different materials than the traditional method.

The idea behind buried clay pot irrigation is that water will slowly seep through the walls of the clay pot, depending on the moisture level of the surrounding soil. This allows the pot to be filled with a quantity of water, but dispersed slowly to the plants, as they use up the available moisture. This method is supposedly much more efficient than other irrigation methods.

Our need, however, was simply to deliver a predefined amount of water, in this case one gallon, to each plant during each watering session. We could have accomplished this by using a one gallon watering can, this this would require refilling the can after each plant. This would also not have worked if watering from a hose, attached to a barrel, which we plan to be able to start doing soon.

The idea of buying plastic jugs, with holes punched in them, was mentioned during one of our Gardening 101 classes. We decided that this would be a simple way of ensuring that each plant was getting a consistent amount of water. It was only after doing further research, after we had already decided to use this approach, that we learned of the similarity to buried clay pot irrigation.

Installing the system was simple. After transplanting the tomatoes I dug a hole directly in front of each plant for the jug to be buried. The hole was dug deep enough that roughly half of the jug would be underground. Holes were then punched in the jugs, near the bottom, on the side facing the plant. After placing the jug in the hole, the excess dirt was packed around it so it would not easily blow away when empty.

When the time comes to water the tomatoes, we simply fill each jug with water, then move onto the next. We are currently using creek water, which is carried in 5 gallon buckets. We dip the water from the buckets, and use a funnel, made from the top of a plastic water bottle, to fill the buckets. Once we begin using a hose connected to a barrel containing rain water we'll simply stick the hose into the jug and let it run until full, then move onto the next.

This process is working fairly well, but we have learned several things. First, we found that the distance of the jug from the plant seems to have a significant impact on the health of the plant. I tried to dig the holes as close as possible, but it was hard to get very close without disturbing them. In hindsight, I should have dug the holes for the jugs before transplanting the tomatoes.

We also discovered that the holes in the jugs can get stopped up easily, especially since we are using unfiltered creek and/or rain water that contains small pieces of organic material such as leaves, etc. Sometimes this can be solved by simply shaking the jugs, but other times it is necessary to remove them from the hold and poke something through the hole to unstop it. This means that packing dirt around the jugs to keep them from blowing away was unnecessary since we keep having to remove them anyway.

Lastly, I recently read the recommendation to leave the lids on the jugs, which we did not do. If the jugs have screw-on lids, they can be loosened or tightened, as desired, to alter the amount of air flowing into the jug, which in turn alters the rate at which the water flows from the jug. With no lids on our jugs, they empty within a few minutes, providing the holes do not get stopped up.

After learning about buried clay pot irrigation, I think that it is worth trying sometime. For delivering a consistent amount of water, however, I think that the use of plastic jugs works fairly well. By making adjustments based on the things we've learned I think that the results will be even better next year.

We did conduct a simple experiment to see how well the system worked compared to just pouring the same amount of water on the surface around the plants. When we initially installed the system we were short two jugs, so used those two plants without jugs as a control. We found that, while there was no significant difference, the closest plants that were watered via the jugs were slightly taller. I suspect that this is because the irrigation system delivers the water below the surface, where it can be more easily used by the plants before it evaporates. Of course our test was far from scientific, and lacked sufficient quantity of plants to really be statistically reliable.

Garlic Scape Pesto

In the past I have not done a good job of harvesting garlic scapes. Either I waited until they were too mature to eat, or harvested them only to let them go bad before using them. This year was different, however. I harvested twenty-two Korean Red scapes, which I then ate in a variety of ways. My favorite, by far, was the Garlic Scape Pesto.

I started with a recipe I found online, which had to be adjusted significantly due to the amount of scapes I had available. The recipe called for a pound of scapes, which seems like it would make an insane amount of pesto. My adjusted ingredient list was:

  • Garlic Scapes (cut into small pieces) - 3 oz
  • Parmesan Cheese (grated) - 1/4 cup
  • Olive Oil - 4 TBS
  • White Pepper (to taste)
The original recipe called for black pepper instead of white pepper, but I thought the white pepper might give it a nice kick. The reduced recipe also called for only 3 TBS of olive oil, but we found it was too thick so added another TBS. We use extra light olive oil, but I don't know if that would have any impact on consistency. The recipe also called for 1/4 tsp of lemon juice, which we left out. Andrea said that it was likely to help the pesto keep is color, which wasn't an issue since I didn't let it sit around for very long. 

Making the pesto is incredibly simple. Combine all ingredients into a food processor, and blend until smooth. Apparently some people prefer their pesto a bit chunky, while others like for it to be nice and smooth, so just blend until you get a consistency that you like.

Several of the recipes I found included nuts as an optional ingredient. I think the pesto tasted great as it was, but the addition of nuts or seeds is a good way of adding protein. I saw all of the traditional pesto options suggested, such as pine nuts, walnuts, etc. I also saw the less common almond suggested, and even pistachio, which I don't recall having seen recommended before in other pestos. 

I tossed my pesto with some whole wheat fettuccini, added salt to taste, and topped it off with a bit more grated parmesan cheese. The flavor was fantastic, although with possibly a bit more heat than some people might like. The recipe made enough pesto for two servings for me, which might be enough for four servings normally, since I normally eat a double serving (4 oz) of pasta. 

I'm already considering growing more hardneck garlic next year, just to have more scapes to use for pesto. I haven't completely given up on the idea of experimenting with other uses for scapes, but it'll be hard to waste them on something other than pesto, now that I know how good it is.

Sunday, June 9, 2013


When I woke up this morning I wasn't sure what I was going to work on today. I had one idea in mind, but after giving it more thought I decided that being able to finish planting the bushes along the edge of the yard should be a high priority.

I started out using hand a rake, hoe, and shovel to smooth out some soil and to fill in some low spots. I quickly realized that it was going to take much too long to finish with hand tools. I grabbed the string trimmer and mowed the weeds so I could see where fill dirt was needed, then started up the tractor. There was still a pile of topsoil nearby from when I did work down there before, so I used it to fill in low spots along the yard. More fill was needed that I had first realized, which was good, because I was able to disperse the entire pile of topsoil.

Once I finished with the prep work Andrea retrieved the bushes that needed to be planted and got to work. While she was doing this I worked on making some protective rings for the base of the bushes from corrugated drain pipe.

We were able to finish the project by lunch time. We have now planted twenty-five bushes along the edge of the yard. All that remains is to install the protective rings and labels, and then plant clover which will serve as a living mulch.

It started raining shortly after lunch, which was a welcome sight. It has been very dry lately, and we were preparing to water the entire garden again, by hand, if it didn't rain. According to the rain gauge in the herb garden, we've received 1.75 inches of rain today, and it isn't finished. This should really help the garden, as long as it stops tomorrow so the sun can come out.

 Since we spent the rest of the day inside, due to the rain, we used the time to experiment with a couple of things. Andrea made some  homemade ice cream, using fresh strawberries. It was very good, and I'm looking forward to making more while the berries are still in season.

We also made garlic scape pesto, which I had for dinner. I was pleasantly surprised with how good the pesto was, and am glad that there was enough for two servings. Unfortunately making the pesto used up the rest of my scapes, which makes me wonder if I should plant more hardneck garlic next year.

In addition to cooking, Andrea spent much of the evening making labels for the newly planted bushes. I think she'll have them ready to install once the rain stops and things dry up a bit.

Tomato Planting 2013

I've been putting off writing about planting the tomatoes until now because I wanted to be able to provide a complete picture of our process. We actually transplanted the tomatoes to the garden in mid-May. The plants were originally started from seed in mid-March.

The variety of tomato that we planted was Roma, which is determinate variety, commonly used to make sauces. We hope to be able to experiment with both pizza and spaghetti sauce, as well as hopefully can some tomato sauce or juice for use in chili-making.

While this isn't our first attempt at growing tomatoes, it is our first "real" attempt. We tried them in a container garden one year, with no success. We also tried growing inverted plants from hanging containers, which also did not work out very well. This year, though, I feel like we should see some positive results.

I've already described our method for seed starting, so will not repeat that here. In early-May we began the process of hardening off the plants in preparation for planting. We began by putting them on a shelf on the covered porch during the day. We gradually increased the time we left them outside, until eventually leaving them overnight and also moving them off of the porch where they could receive full sun.

We did very little soil preparation before transplanting the tomatoes. The section of the garden into which we planted them had been planted in cover crops. After the initial mowing of the cover crops, I mowed again, this time with the push mower, which cuts closer to the ground, prior to planting.

When it came time to transplant the tomatoes we simply dug a hole sufficient for the root system of the plant, dropped them in, and added soil. We chose not to apply any type of fertilizer at the time of planting.

We also went ahead and set up our watering system for the tomatoes on the day they were transplanted. We used a variation the buried clay pot irrigation system, which we first heard about in our Gardening 101 Class. In place of clay pots, we used one gallon plastic jugs, which were partially buried near each plant. Holes punched in the bottom of each jug, on the side closest to the plant, allow the water to slowly run saturate the soil. The idea is that this is somewhat slowed delivery of water is preferable to giving the plants the full amount all at once.

In addition to installing the watering system, we also installed posts for our trellis. We had originally planned to use cages to support the plants. Unfortunately, however, we  haven't collected enough pieces of PVC to build PVC cages for everything, so we decided to use a different approach this year. We decided to go with the Florida Weave method of trellising, which only required posts and some type of 'string'. We went with t-posts and baling twine, but there are several other options.

We have settled into a regular routine for caring for the tomatoes. We give each plant a gallon of water every other day, unless we received rain during that period. I have also began applying a weekly foliar fertilizer of diluted urine, which I will continue doing until fruit begins to develop.

Saturday, June 8, 2013


Not only was today not quite as productive as I had hoped, but it was also more destructive that I would have liked.

I began the day in the garden, where I sprayed the crops with diluted urine. Once that was done I hooked to the mower and began my primary work. I was able to get the yard mowed, and then began mowing across the road. It has been really dry lately, so I was able to mow the area that is normally too wet. However, I crossed the area one time too many, and managed to get stuck.

In hindsight, I should have just walked home to get the tractor and used it to pull the RTV free. Instead, though, I decided to just use the winch. There was nothing close enough to hook to directly in front of the RTV, so I hooked to a try off to the side. This turned out to have been a big mistake. The roller fairlead on that side broke, allowing the cable to slip off of the spool. Luckily the RTV was free by the time this happened, so I was able to get it out.

After lunch I decided to work on the winch cable. I hooked it to a tree, and backed the RTV away from the tree, while at the same time trying to unwind the cable, which helped it to break free. I unspooled the entire cable, then respooled. During the process, however, I tried walking in front of the RTV, stepping over the cable, and tripped. I'm not sure how it happened, but this broke the lace hooks on one of my boots. After that I decided it was a good time to go back inside and rest for a bit.

Andrea was in London most of the day taking a quilting class. When she got home I helped her install the first level of the trellis for the tomato plants. She also watered the tomatoes, while I mowed the weeds between the rows of potatoes.

We made it back in earlier than normal, which was fine with me since I had not had a good day. It looks like I need to find somewhere that works on boots. I also need to figure out what I need to do to repair or replace the fairlead roller of the winch, and consider replacing the winch cable as well.

Friday, June 7, 2013


We decided to plant more bushes today. The process was the same as yesterday, with me mowing and tilling and Andrea doing the planting. We were able to complete the next 50' section, so are now approximately two-thirds finished.

We were able to get an earlier start than yesterday, so I figured that we'd finish and make it back inside a bit earlier. I couldn't have been more wrong. Since it hasn't rained we needed to water both those bushes planted today and those planted yesterday, which required hauling some water from the creek. I also ran into more of the old woven wire fence, which took quite a bit of time to tear out and haul away. By the time the tools were put away, it was close to 10:00 PM, and well past dark.

Thursday, June 6, 2013


The weather forecast was calling for rain this morning, so I slept in. Of course there ended up being no rain. Seems like that is the way it happens, if I sleep in expecting rain, it doesn't come, yet if I woke up early, it would be raining.

At lunch I went to the garden to harvest garlic scapes. I had been watching them for a few days, and decided that today was the day to harvest. There were 22 scapes, all from the Korean Red variety. Unfortunately that will be all for the year, since that was the only hardneck that I planted. I may have to reconsider this next year.

After work I finished up the water hauling trailer that my Dad had helped me with. All that it required was installation of the spigot, which didn't take very long at all. After that I filled the barrel from one of the rain barrels, which was full. I wanted to empty it, so it could collect more when it rains again. While I was doing this Andrea worked in the herb garden, weeding, and applying paper mulch that she had shredded earlier in the day.

When we both finished with those projects we decided to plant some of the bushes along the edge of the yard. While Andrea was getting the bushes themselves ready I cut the weeds in the section we were planning to plant, then used the roto-tiller to loosen the top couple inches of dirt. It seems kind of strange to be using a roto-tiller when I have a tractor, but in a small area I think the rototiller makes more sense, especially since I had to work around some trees and exposed trees roots.

I think we planted around 10 bushes, which covers about a third of the area we have planned. I can't remember everything that we planted, but it was a variety, including forsythia, old fashioned lilac, japanese rose, weigela, and sargent crabapple. Hopefully we'll be able to finish up this weekend or next week.

Corn Planting 2013 - Take 2

The corn that I planted earlier in the year, and wrote about in Corn Planting 2013, never sprouted. We think the issue was bad seed, as it was a couple of years old. We decided to buy new seed and replant with that. I did a few things differently this time, so wanted to do an updated post. I do not, however, think that any of the things I changed had been the cause of the other seed not sprouting.

The prep work was the same as before. I mowed the area, but did not do any tilling. I also did not apply any compost or manure, which I'm sure would have provided better results if we had either available.

Like before I dug four shallow trenches, using a Warren Hoe. I then poured undiluted urine along the bottom of each trench. I wasn't very exact with the urine application, but applied between eighteen and twenty-four ounces per ten foot row. Since we have plenty of seed, and since we had problems before, I went ahead and spaced the seed six inches instead of twelve. I'll go back once it sprouts and thin out the weakest plants. Before covering the seed I applied a small amount of bone meal between the seeds. I was very inconsistent with this, and can't even make a guess as to how much I applied. In hindsight I should have taken some sort of measuring device with me to use for this.

After covering the seed and watering I decided to go ahead and apply mulch. We had a terrible problem with weeds before, which made it difficult to tell if any of the corn was sprouting or not. We put down cardboard between the rows, which I hope will keep that area relatively weed free. I then mulched the rows themselves with straw.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we'll have better luck this time. I doubt that we'll try again if it doesn't take this time, since its getting late in the year.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013


Today was a fairly productive day. I got up early and worked on some final clearing along the edge of the yard. There were just a few saplings that needed to be cut and some tree roots to be pulled up. Then Andrea helped me come up with a plan for what needs to be done before we can plant the bushes that we have planned for there. The major thing needing to be done is to cut one tree, which we decided we would do as soon as the weather permitted.

The forecast was calling for some much needed rain, which thankfully came in the early afternoon. It didn't rain for a long time, but when it was finished the rain gauge showed four-tenths of an inch, which I was very glad to see. Rain barrel #1 is now full, and the second barrel is nearly full.

It had stopped raining by the time I took off from work, although was still very wet. We decided to go ahead and cut that tree, while we had a chance. I always forget how terrible I am at using a chainsaw, until I actually do it. The cutting of the tree itself actually went fairly well. Andrea used the winch on the RTV to make sure the tree fell in the direction we wanted, and it came down without incident. Cutting the stump down to ground level, however, was a totally different story. I don't know if the wood is just harder the closer you get to the roots, if the chain is just dull, or if its something I do wrong, but it took me much longer than it should have to get through that stump, which wasn't even very big. While I was working on that Andrea loaded up the limbs I had cut from the tree, so we could haul those off. We managed to get everything moved except for the log itself, which I'm considering cutting into lengths and drying, for eventual use in the cordwood garden shed we have planned.

Monday, June 3, 2013


Today was a fairly productive day. It finally rained a bit this morning, although only a very small amount. Its better than nothing, though.

After work I got Andrea to help me work on the mower. The last time I used it the belt slipped, which I assumed was due to the same nut being loose that we had tightened when my Dad helped me work on it. I was able to tighten it quite a bit, so it seems like I was right. I just don't know if we hadn't tightened it well before, or if it worked its way loose that quickly.

Once the mower was fixed I took it over by the garden and mowed. It had been quite a while since I had been able to mow over there, so many of the weeds were three feet or higher. The mower did great, though, and I was able to get things in pretty good shape.

While mowing I caught a grapevine with the corner of the mower. Instead of the grapevine breaking free, which is what normally happens, the top of the tree broke out. The tree wasn't very tall, which was fortunate since it very nearly hit the tomatoes. After parking the mower I took a chain over and used the RTV to drag the tree out of the way.

I also hauled some water from the creek, so we would have it available for watering the tomatoes tomorrow. Since I will be working in the office tomorrow I thought it was a good idea to get the water hauled today, in case Andrea does the watering tomorrow.

Before calling it a day we ran out to town so Andrea could pick up a few groceries, and I could fill the gas cans. I go through quite a bit of fuel during this time of year, so had two gas cans to be filled and one diesel can.

Sunday, June 2, 2013


It seems that its taking me some time to get back into the routine of posting. That is something that I need to work on.

Since my last post we haven't done any major projects. Much of my time has been spent working in the garden, which seems to be requiring a lot of time right now. We finally gave up on the previously planted corn, and I replanted using new seed. I'll have to do an update to the Corn Planting 2013 post to reflect the changes I made this time.

I've also continued to mulch, which highlights the need to collect more items like leaves and grass clippings to use as mulch next year, rather than buying straw. While mulching the garlic I noticed that most of the Korean Red is starting to form scapes, which is good to see. I should be able to harvest some of the scapes soon.

This past week has been really dry, with only a tenth of an inch of rain. We've settled on a routine of watering the tomatoes every other day, when it doesn't rain, and watering the potatoes Sunday evening if the rain for the week was not sufficient. This resulted in needing to do some serious watering this evening. I hauled 90 gallon of water from the creek, and we used all but 20 gallon of it, which is stored in the barrel for the next time we need to water the tomatoes. I watered everything in the garden except the corn, which had been watered when it was planted. The forecast is calling for a chance of rain later in the week, so I'm hopeful that we might not have to manually water as much this week.