Friday, November 12, 2010

Greenhouse Days


For the last two days we've been beginning to assemble the greenhouse frame. Or maybe it's not a greenhouse. Maybe its a high tunnel. Or maybe it's a giant cold frame. Or...


Out in my pasture is a bunch of semi-circle hoops, now fastened into the ground, with 2 by 10 boards running down the sides, 16' wide, by 45' long, by 8' high in size. We had a little help today, with some dear friends coming by to visit. They brought lunch with them, and were sucked right into working on this beautiful 75 degree and sunny day.

Next up is getting the hoops strengthened by running pipe and extra boards along the top and half way up the sides. We'll have to cut off the extremely rusty bolts that are in all the brackets first. It's an old greenhouse frame. Once that's done, I can focus on building the ends. I feel so incredibly blessed to be doing all this in such amazing weather. But the figs and strawberries remain unmulched, as it seems a bit silly to do when it's so warm.

Michael and I are both pretty tired and sore. We did a lot of sledge hammering, pulling out and resetting of pipe legs, fighting warped boards, digging and such. But the company was as great as the weather and the time flew.

We were not able to complete office cleaning tonight. Just too tired. We'll have to finish over the weekend, along with the other office we do.

Michael is going paintballing with a bunch of his friends and mentors tomorrow. I expect a very colorful experience. I'm not sure what I'm going to be up to.

I'm just really happy to be off my feet right now.

And - we are hungry!



Thursday, November 11, 2010

Here Comes the Sun, doot-n-doo-doo


It's another gorgeous morning.

I'm sure anyone reading this will fall off of their chair in shock, but the list from yesterday was not completed.

We got to go get straw bales right away yesterday morning, after a call to see if they were available at the barns. The man who owns the farm met us. What a lovely old man of 80. He said, "Follow me!" and proceeded to lead us to the place we needed to load at approximately .097 miles per hour. It was a great day for a drive!

He was so sweet, and had tons of stories. As one of the best ways you can bless someone is to listen to them, we did. For about an hour in one of the hay barns we heard about his family, his farm, his business dealings, his children. It was a real treat to listen to him and I don't regret a moment of it.

We arrived back home and I immediately got to work on the list, but after distributing the bales at their various sites, mulching the gooseberries, repairing the barbed wire fence, harvesting cow manure from the pastures, and a hiccup start on mulching the strawberries - the raspberries arrived.

These were such a good deal, ordered before I knew the car needed repair. "Strange how that happens," she said dryly. I got 36 Heritage and Black Jewel raspberries for a dollar each. But now I had to get them in the ground. Michael was able to help me by then, and we have such a good time working outside.

So the rest of the day was spent doing all but 9 of them before we had to do chores and leave for office cleaning. We were really pleased at the condition of the soil. When we had planted raspberries in that location 8 years ago, the soil had not been very good. But I think the Lord waved his hand, because we had brown soil there.

Each rootling got a hole, a plop of black gold on each side, and a six inch dressing of straw. These went in a row, about 2.5 feet apart, under a wire trellis system that was already there from before. We are hoping for summer raspberries next year.

So today I need to finish the raspberries, and then work on the figs, the greenhouse, and figure out the strawberries.

I've never actually mulched strawberries before. But I think that one reason they did not do so well in this last planting was that I had black fabric down that they were planted through. We had a very warm summer, and they may have simply been too hot. So I wanted to try mulching with straw.

Makes sense, straw-berries, right? Not so much. Everywhere you go, people are blogging about how they mulch their berries with straw. But no one still has green berry plants when they mulch them. As a matter of fact, if I recall correctly, my berries never actually completely stop being green in winter. So I am thinking that if I cover a bunch of green plants with straw, the inevitable is going to happen, right? Green plants, cover with material, dead plants. I do this with weeds all year.

So I tried mulching around them. Well, I have these tiny little newbie plants that are so small and too close together for that to be done with any success at all. I am currently stumped on how to approach this one, so that will be last on my list today.

I made yesterday what Michael judged to be my best 100% whole wheat loaf yet. It was my third attempt this week. I am determined to not buy another loaf until I figure out how to make our own. Personal goal. Still only four inches high. Actually, with the braided top, this one made it to about 5.5 inches. But they taste utterly fantastic.

This one used potato flakes or flour. I'm thinking, "I always have a box of potato flakes in my pantry." I often get a craving for quickie mashed potatoes. Nope, no flakes. So I juiced a potato in my juicer and used some of it for the required starch the recipe wanted from the potato flakes.

All this in the middle of outdoor work, means I've still got potato in my juicer. Blech.

Time for KP duty.



Wednesday, November 10, 2010

List for today.


After a $400.00+ day at the repair shop and helping my mom and dad all day long on their front yard project and dinner with freshly baked (and flattish) 100% whole wheat bread (very long run on sentence) in which we were so happy to be a blessing to my folks for the day and in which, despite being faithful to my juicing I ended up eating too much leftover Halloween candy from stressing out over the unplanned repairs on the van, we will continue to enjoy a week in which most of our regular activities were canceled.

So it's a work day here at home for me, and for Michael, when his school work is done. I have a wish list in front of me. Maybe I should add "Clean off desk" to it.... Nah.

1. Drive about 10 beautiful country miles to a farm and buy as many bales of straw as will fit into the back of the minivan. I might fit 10 or 12. Good deal, but no delivery.

2. Mulch the freshly manured gooseberry plantings with 2 bales of straw.

3. Repair the barbed wire fence that the neighbor's cows keep busting up. They did not come through yet, but it's torn down again. Probably the long-horn crosses. They really learn how to use those horns as tearing tools.

4. While back there making repairs, also pick up a wheelbarrow-sized load of manure for the raspberries.

5. Spread the manure in preparation for the rootings which should be here soon.

6. Leave 5 bales of straw next to raspberry row.

7. Neatly stack and cover the free lumber we got from my dad with the the $5.00 doors we found at the thrift store. These are for the future tables in the greenhouse.

8. Fasten the side base boards to the greenhouse hoops in preparation for walls. Wear black-widow smashing shoes. WooHoo! That stack next to my driveway for years will finally be gone.

9. Draw out a plan for building the ends, now that I have the storm doors (5 dollars at the thrift store) and locate the lumber from the wood pile. Hope there is enough there that has not rotted.

10. Cover 6 figs in straw (whatever is left) build cages or use rope to contain them, and cover with tarps.

11. Try to get some rest before doing an office cleaning tonight. :o)

I am glad that I have 3 good days of sun, in case I can't finish this as I hope to.

5:45 am. Time to clean house, juice, cook breakfast, pray, and load my iPod with Bible study lessons for the day.

Awaiting a beautiful sunrise,



Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Notes To Self


#1 Kitchen towels are not interchangeable with paper plates in a microwave.

#2 Potatoes make wrinkled, unattractive centers for burning kitchen cloths.

#3 Whenever you take a car to a shop, figure on your repair being twice what was expected.

#4 Father's are very nice to have. They give you free used lumber for greenhouse projects.

#5 Ban ginger from your morning juicing.

#6 Lysol kills ladybugs and stinkbugs.

#7 When car repair guys begin by calling your 'honey' you have lost about 20 years of respect. Only acceptable if you get a discount.

#8 Keep trying. You are bound to make a decent 100% whole wheat bread loaf eventually.

#9 Buy everything you will need in life before 2011. Inflation is going to kill you.

#10 Go to bed.



Monday, November 8, 2010

A picure is worth a thousand dollars.


At least that's about how much a nice new camera costs. I'd been hoping to get mine repaired but, instead, any money we've been squeezing out has been going to things like vet bills for our lovable-yet-useless canine (do you have any idea how much time and money it takes to care for an aging and uncertainly diagnosed dog? I do now; $350.00 and I hope that's it, because that is his limit, sadly.) and feeding a hungry automobile a balanced diet of things like tires and bearings. However, the change to cool weather has been a blessing in the car department. We no longer are roasting in our A/C free and broken window environment. It's cold, and we have a heater that works. Life is good.

We have been blessed with really great weather, for the most part. So that I am able to work outside most days. I've been moving gooseberry bushes which were declining every year. They are now in a new and improved location and awaiting mulch, which I hope to obtain tomorrow - right after a visit to the car repair shop.

The man-child, Michael, is growing out of clothes faster than I can find them. I buy shoes two sizes too big, and he's outgrown them in 8 months. Every time I look at him, I swear he's taller. He'll outgrow me in a very short amount of time. We hit thrift stores again this week, hoping to find him a winter jacket. We found some working coats, but nothing for casual town wear.

However, he was absolutely thrilled to get a trench coat and two casual suit jackets today, tweed and corduroy. The thrift store was selling all their coats for half price, two dollars and fifty cents each, and these are classics that will not go out of style. We bought them big.... here's hoping they last.

It took a lot of straw, but all the veggie and herb beds are thoroughly mulched. We have some experimental winter crops growing out there; peas and Swiss chard. I want to see how long I can keep them growing by just covering them on cold nights. I dug up some of the pepper plants and potted them, bringing them indoors at night.

I am also growing lots of things in the house. It looks a bit like a greenhouse in here, but that's kind of fun. We hope to get the real greenhouse going soon. I've been saving up, here and there, and I think I have enough to do it, if I can find the time in between everything else.

We are getting some raspberry rootings this week, and I'm so excited that we'll have raspberries again. So I've got a 90 foot row to dig, fertilize, and mulch when they arrive. I found a great deal on some new strawberry plants on eBay to replace the ones that did not make it for some reason. I hope the soil is fine. But two of the varieties I had planted gave up the ghost very early. We got 50 strawberry plants for only 12 dollars. I'm so glad to have put them in the ground, so we have a better chance at a good berry harvest next year.

I found a place that I can order grapevines from next spring at only 3 dollars each. That's an amazing price. If I am able, I will rip out all 112 vines that are out there now, and replace them with only 28 Mars cultivars. Mars vines have the greatest resistance to black rot, so it would cut down significantly on the amount of slaving away in comparison to actual ingestion of grapes. Ratios. This is why I studied Algebra.

I'm rooting blackberries for sharing and replanting next spring. Having another go at rooting figs. Oh, that reminds me, I still need to cover them for winter. Yiketh already.

And lady bugs wars are on. With the warmer sunny days in the 60's, it's prime breeding weather. Today we finally succumbed and sprayed all around the doors with Raid - garden fresh scent, of course. So you can lie to yourself all the way to your death bed. It could not be helped. I was spending an hour a day, just trying to keep up on vacuuming them up.

OK, Lots more going on, but without photos, it's just no fun to write about them, and harder still to illustrate how we are doing things, so I'll leave it with this:

Thanksgiving - 17 days
Days begin to get longer - 41 days
Christmas - 47 days
Get out your seed catalogs - 57 days
Average daily temp begins to level and climb - 60
Order your seeds - 71 days

Not long at all until those crocus are pushing up.