Saturday, February 23, 2013

the drunkie potager garden

I know this makes us look like total alcoholics, but I just couldn't resist the pretty, contrasting colors of Heineken, Bud Light Platinum, and Corona Light bottles for edging in my fancy dancy future potager garden. I haven't quite decided what's going to live here yet, but it will likely either be herbs and/or flowers. I splurged on the river rocks at $2.50 per bag for four bags.

You might wonder why I opted to lay the bottles on their sides instead of inverting them all like the center Corona ring, and that's because we live in Rocky Top territory, as I've mentioned numerous times before, and after slaving away on the center Corona ring, I got lazy and figured the side bottle option worked just fine.

The three remaining corners still need some trucked-in soil, and I've calculated that I need three more cubic yards of soil to finish the potager garden as well as the rest of my raised beds. Hopefully, after all this initial raised bed building I've done since we got here, I'll be able to maintain enough organic matter via cover crops and all that good stuff to minimize soil purchases in the future. There were many times when I contemplated an attempt at digging beds again to save on soil costs, but an investment in the type of tiller needed to break up our rocky clay soil would be far more, and I didn't really want to bug the neighbors to bring their tractor over for tilling.  

I used the free web app to figure out what will go where in my beds -- I definitely ordered way too many varieties of seeds, but the advantage is that I will be able to assess what ones do best in our climate and conditions.

After figuring out how much of each crop variety I want, I realized that I needed way more onion starts, so I made some origami pots out of newspaper and seeded four onions per larger pot (S = Stuttgarter, SRG = Southport Red Globe, TEG = Texas Early Grano, GP = Gold Princess), which still doesn't get me to where I need to be, but I don't have any more room under my grow lights. I was very disappointed in the first sowing of Stuttgarter and Gold Princess seeds from Baker Creek -- only two out of I think thirty seeds germinated whereas The Texas Early Grano and Southport Red Globe seeds from Sustainable Seed Company were at around 60%. I might be overestimating our onion needs, but I use onions nearly every time I cook something -- they're very important.

The lemon halves are seeded with Utah Tall celery -- if the lemon pots don't work, I'll make some more origami newspaper pots instead and reseed them.

The artichokies are clearly quite happy (I ended up with nine survivors) but look like they need some nitrogen, so I might use some diluted urine for fertilizer.

(excuse the poor-quality cameraphone picture)

We went on a beautiful hike today at our friends' property down the road. They're hoping to move out to their land this summer to start homesteading full time and were clearing brush and trees from the spot for their future home.

Monday, February 18, 2013

burning the cursed multiflora rose

Multiflora rose is abundant in all of our pastures. It is invasive and downright mean with its prickly thorns, although it is quite pretty when blooming. We need to remove a lot of it in order to put up our pig fencing -- the two little buggers we're getting will be ready at the beginning of March.

Jay did most of the work, especially the burning part because he is an excellent and efficient pyro. Look  at that tidy little pile of ashes that resulted from such a heaping mound of shrubbery! (I don't know anything about using biochar in the garden, but this recent chore has sparked my interest, so I scooped up the ashes and am saving them for later.)

Meanwhile, I started stapling some wire mesh onto the outside of the corn crib to shore up the gaping holes in the old wire for the future chicken coop (note: based on the way it's nailed between the frame and outer boards, I'm pretty sure it's the original wire from when the corn crib was built, which is kinda neat). That place is going to be Fort Knox for chickens when I'm done with it. No more losing birds to predators like back in Cali (waking up at 4:30am to a poor hen being ravaged by a raccoon outside your bedroom door and then having to decapitate her to put her out of her misery while still in your bathrobe before going to work is not all shits and giggles, people).

Thursday, February 14, 2013

a baby bull

The neighbors down the street know how much I love baby animals and know full well to call us when an animal is giving birth. Actually, that's not totally true -- it's just that they are super awesome and thought to themselves, "Hey, Blackie just birthed a calf, and I really think Justin and Sarah would love to see this, and Sarah would like to take lots of pictures."

So that's what we did.

Forgive the blurry, ultra-grainy images. It was almost dark out, and we had already downed a few by the time we got the call.

In the third picture, Great Neighbor is checking the sex of the calf. It was so awesome, and I'm so grateful that they were kind enough to include us in the excitement. Then, after all the hoopla, we went over to see the same neighbors' 2,600 pound bull that fathered the calf.

Keep in mind that this is a 4-second, wide-open exposure AT NIGHT, but Mr. Bull (on the right) was quite amiable and happy to pose stone-still for me.

Monday, February 11, 2013

mid-winter shenanigans


My little artichoke seedlings are quickly outgrowing their soil blocks. I've been very pleased with how they've held together, especially considering the disappointing stories I read about them falling apart when the soil mix is not just right.

I ended up with only 10 germinating out of 22, but that might be a plus because I don't think I have enough space under my lights anyway for more than that. I used half-and-half cartons cut in half to transplant them into, which I hope will provide them with enough room until they get transplanted permanently out in the garden once it gets warm enough.

Jay built a plywood surround for 5-Spot so that I can haul some loads of Ultra Soil from The Mulch Company in Kingsport for more garden beds. It will be interesting to see the difference between the different beds I've built: mushroom compost vs. barn dust vs. the Ultra Soil. Hopefully, I won't need to bring in much more after this first year since I should be able to harvest manure from our chickens and piggies that we're planning on, compost it, and add it to the beds each year.

I finally placed our order for the chickens: 10 Speckled Sussex (1 rooster), 5 Black Minorca, and 5 Araucana/Americana. This differs from my original plan because I simply could not find one source for all five breeds I wanted, and I don't want enough of each to warrant orders from multiple sources. I started cleaning out the south side of the corn crib for the future coop while Jay started clearing the multiflora roses in preparation for installation of the pig fencing.

Tally and Moosie are shaping up into what we think will become fine farm dogs. I threatened them with an electric dog fence because they were resisting our heeds of call a lot, but lately, they have been showing good signs of obeying and doing what we want them to do (a little bit of on-leash training probably helped some, too). Namely, cuddling and being sweet and being scared of the cat.

I have no idea if whatever bulbs I threw in this coffee can planter should really be coming up right now, but I welcome the greenery anyway. (I don't know what they are because they were originally planted in my garden beds back in Cali, but I didn't put them in deep enough so they rose to the surface after some torrential rain, and I greedily scooped them up right before we moved since I knew I wouldn't have much of a decorative gardening budget out here.)

Also, I start my orientation/training with the USPS on February 26th, and then I'm off to Texas on March 3rd to visit my parents. I'll be road tripping back with a dear friend of mine in Ruby (pictured below with my beautiful Ma) on a girls' vacation of sorts!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

cold and snow and probably not watching the super bowl

What do I occupy my time with when it's too cold to do anything outside and I'm feeling restless? I rearrange the house, of course.

Our house has two bedrooms and very, very little precious closet space. We originally slept in the larger of the two bedrooms, but it has an awkward, narrow layout, so I took it upon myself to switch everything around yesterday (you can imagine how thrilled Jay was to hear this while he was out and about all day), and although it's still not perfect (because our clothes are still hanging in the closet in what is now the "office"), I'm much happier with this arrangement.

This worked for a while.

This did, too.

But this is much better.

As is this (need to swap out the curtains, though).

Boring to anyone else but me, I know, but I like to keep track of my furniture arrangements.

Next, I packaged up some vintage t-shirts from when I was a kid to send off to my God-daughter, who will definitely be the coolest kid on the block wearing these awesome threads.

Tavern 190 was my late Uncle Bill's bar and is, by far, the raddest of the bunch. Time 2000 was the first ever electronic pinball machine and had beautiful artwork (I have the original arcade backglass, too) -- my Pops was a mechanical engineer at Atari for many years. The yellow t-shirt is from the game Breakout, and the Mulege t-shirt is from one of many trips to Baja when I was a kid.

Also, my soil blocks are holding together remarkably well. Only 8 of my 22 artichoke seeds have sprouted, so I may not have as many as I thought, but I'd be happy with even a 50% germination rate. I spotted some damping off disease on my onions, so I lightly misted a diluted hydrogen peroxide solution on the blocks, and that seems to have resolved it from what I can see. Strangely, one flat of onions is almost entirely sprouted while the other hasn't done anything at all -- each flat has two different varieties in it. Weird.

I don't really care about the super bowl this year, but it would be nice to be able to listen to the game since we don't have cable. I couldn't find a local radio station that is broadcasting it so maybe we can watch it streaming online. Regardless, I would like to wish my fellow SCHS Class of 1994 alumnus and Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo good luck at the game today! Unlike other classmates torn between rooting for their shitty 49ers or Brendon, I can say that I am 100% rooting for the Ravens!