Friday, September 5, 2014

What I Did This Summer

Once the rains petered out, I damn near killed myself arduously marched back and forth with the little Honda mower, lugging countless bags of clippings to be piled on the garden beds becoming. Here's the joke:

See, I have "dandelawn", not grass like most folk. Mowing it is a race between the dainty little yellow blooms and the fuzzy puffballs of dandelion seeds just waiting to go forth and multiply.

Here's the look in mid-mow:
And this is just the front lawn. Somewhere along here, I heard a voice saying "Why won't you just get a rider mower?" I stopped the mower, took off the ear protectors, and turned around to find my wife holding a big cold glass of water. Of course, I said, "What? I didn't hear you. What didja say?" (Code for message acknowledged. Roger that.)

Got this little beauty, on sale as a store return at the Sears Homeboy Hometown store the next day, with all of 0.6 hours on the meter, because the original buyer found it was too hard to drive. I drove a heck of a bargain, taking a fat slice off the price. They delivered it 3 days later, complete with a full tank of gas, all nice and shiny:

With a 54-inch deck, mowing has become fun again. I am saving up for a bagger attachment, though, as a little lawn sweeper takes way too long to use. I really give this thing a work-out:

All I do is blow the dust and clippings off with a leaf-blower, and dust it with a microfiber towel. It has subdued the blackberry/fern jungle on the east end, and the big pasture on the west end is being cut and re-cut to compost in place:

You might think that's pretty level, but it is a bone-jarring thrash for me. The hidden ruts and gopher mounds haven't been tamed in many years - this stuff was 3 to 4 feet tall at first, but several tanks of gas later, it looks much better. There's a lot more back in the trees, too. I am wondering if a chain harrow (drag harrow) might smooth it out some, but it's not something I want to plow, till, grade and seed....more about that at another time.

The "RGB's" - raised garden beds - are still slowly accumulating, and don't really look different since the earlier pictures I took. I had more success with the greenhouse, with a mad jumble of tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and lettuce. I still have the second row of soil there to start with brassicas and carrots, and possibly a rooted sucker or two from the tomato vines:

You might recognize those red tomato tray thingies, which I actually found to be pretty good after all. I do need to get some repair tape for the greenhouse cover. The previous owner must have gotten into a fight or two with it. The PVC lines are purely decorative, since there's no known water line out to the greenhouse. I just got some cheesy 5/8" hoses at the local Bi-Mart and ran soaker hose over the beds (after taking the above picture). Hey, ya gotta do what ya gotta do, capeche?

The house repairs and stuff have taken most of our time, but I remind myself, to plant a seed is to believe in the future. I expect to have a real garden next year, even though I was saying that last year, too. Getting the garden tractor was not expected to happen until next year, so in some ways, we are doing OK, anyway. I've done more stuff here in two years than I did in five years on Maui, but that's my fault. Stay tuned....

Saturday, May 31, 2014

We Interrupt Our Normal Programming...

Every available day to work on the garden has been usurped by non-garden activities, mostly unplanned. When those distractions abate, we have lovely ground-soaking rains, generally resulting in furious grass growth, taxing my ability to keep it semi-tamed in the lawn areas, but the pastures are doing the reversion to nature dance without even one brush hogging arranged (the folks with the big Kubota tractor were away earlier, so the fields have gone wild). I only got about half of one brush-pile burned, and burn season ends any day now. Dang.

I did manage to drag the branches from the fruit tree prunings to the back, and chipped them down with a rather puny shredder-chipper. The larger branches will get to season for next winter, if we can get a real wood-burning stove installed.

The garden beds slowly rise, but it takes hours of stacking on cardboard, then countless bags of grass clippings, dirt and letting the rains soak it.

I think y'all get the idea. There's a lot of worm activity down in the decomposing stuff, which surprising (to me) doesn't have that stinky odor that wet grass piles sometimes exude. I try to sprinkle some old organic fertilizer on a layer when I find some, and some old rose food I had dragged over from Maui got added, too.

We got some tomato, lettuce, spinach, cucumbers, and Wall Walla onion plants to get the raggedy old greenhouse to working. There's almost no decent soil in the two rows, which look like straight potting soil was in there years ago. We've added some decent bagged soil, a  bit of compost, and the little plants went to work. No pics, but after I find some sticks to set up some trellises, I'll take a couple. Seeds will be planted on the other row, now that the soil amending has settled. We leave the greenhouse door open during pollinator visiting hours, but tickling the tomato blossoms gets done often. We probably need more 99-cent lettuce packs to put in once we harvest some of that lovely green. It's not much, but compared to zero last year, we are happy. 

Oh, and here's pair of feathered visitors in the south side of our back yard. I don't know what kind of birds they are, but the are big!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Uh, Happy New Year, and Hurray For Spring!

Yeah, it's a bit early for another post, according to the Procrastinators Rules, but here goes. The winter was cold all the time, with really cold weeks on two occasions, leaving us 6+ inches of snow each time, with the second snows made really messy with a bit of rain. Trees and branches took out electrical power, but thanks to the power company crews, we were down only for hours, not days. Lots of catalog time, but no way to do any garden building!
This Japanese maple was thinned somewhat, so no branches gave way.

Frozen jungle, but at least it looks pretty...

The river rose to "flood stage" level, but it raced by furiously then receded.

And then, the sun came out, and Japanese maples began to leaf out.

Ta Da! Now the layer building has begun, and there's tons of cardboard to pile on.

Each of those five rows is nearly five feet wide, and they are about twentyseven feet long. The lawn clippings start about eight or more inches thick, matting down with rain and molehills-dirt. The cardboard is easier to handle when dry, but obviously, some of it over-wintered on the grass... OK, I know it will grow back, so I just carry stacks of more cardboard out, and wait for a dry day to mow again. There's a good-sized brush pile behind the fence, but it is nasty thorny crap, fit only for torching on a no-wind day. I have at least 4 other piles to burn, too.

I managed to run some soil tests with A&L Labs just to see how to correct the deficiencies. PH is 5.1 - nice, if you are a blueberry. Nitrogen is ridiculously low, but iron is OK. They advise about twenty tons 280 lbs of dolomite for 1000 sq ft, but that will take all year to apply in stages. I just hope the fruit trees forgive me for the boot-camp pruning that was done to remove the broken and split parts after the black bears mauled them in search of rotty old scabby fruit. I'm trying to fix a crappy little chipper, to put through some of the trimmed-off branches to help on the garden beds. It wasn't expensive unless it won't work, but I'll have something for my cousin (St.) Vinnie if it's dead.

The one good thing I found this Spring is the great clean-up of the mower and string  trimmer/strimmer/weedwhacker. I used MowDeck and Clean Machine only a couple of times before winter arrived, but I was surprised to see how easily the tools shed the cuttings - they washed right off! No caked-on concretions, and only a faint green tint on some parts, which I could polish off if I was getting a white-glove inspection. I need to touch up the mower blades, but they still look almost new. I'm happy, because I mowed a lot of hidden crap in the grass, hitting branches, stone and dirt molehills, and acres of really way overgrown grass last year. I actually like to mow, but some day, I just have to get a tractor. Seriously.