Wednesday, June 23, 2010

More Stay-cation Week

Working for the Census for the past couple of months has given me a bit extra discretionary income. I decided to use some of it to catch up on a few health-related matters, so scheduled a few preventative medical exams. While I was doing fun things like getting poked with a needle for a blood chemistry workup, getting poked elsewhere for a Pap exam, and having a couple of suspicious-looking moles checked out, sweet husband took off for a day's outing with some of his biking friends (thank you to Ninja Bandit for this great photo of him and his bike).

My contact lenses have been really bothering me lately, so I also scheduled an eye exam. I wear rigid, gas-permeable, mono-vision lenses - the prescription for my left eye is for distance, my right eye set for closeup. My left eye has changed enough that I've been unconsciously squinting to see, consequently irritating the inside of that eyelid. My new lenses are now on order; my glasses, worn less often, are still fine. Now, only a mammogram left on the schedule (and I suppose I ought to dig out my records to see when I'm due for a colonoscopy - this getting older isn't for sissies, that's for sure).

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Busy, Busy Week

Aries took the past week off as a vacation week, and having him around full-time always messes up my schedule somewhat. Plus, he had projects in mind, and they usually end up involving me too.

First item he had on his agenda was paint the living room ceiling. Living in a home heated with a wood stove means it can get a bit dingy looking over time. So I looked through my home decor files to see what color we'd used before, finding out the last time we'd painted had been 1997. Not too bad. Off he went to the store to buy paint, while I started getting everything movable from the room - clearing tables, moving out lamps and dining room chairs, taking down artwork - and then finding drop cloths and plastic sheets to cover the carpet and things too big to move.

I let him deal with dusting back corners, taping off the wood trim, and the actual painting though. I had things to do out in the garden. Our Spring(?!) weather had been too cold and windy to set out my tender crops any earlier. When I could, I'd set them out on the deck during the day, bringing them in each night. But now, I'd finished up with the latest stage of the garden remodel, and was ready to get my kitchen counter back.

While I'd planted the earlier crops in the upper part of the garden, using two of the old "S" shaped beds, I had been digging and re-shaping the lower part from two S's into three 50' long straight beds. Instead of planting each long bed with the same type of plants, I divided each bed into thirds, making three "blocks" of three 1/3 rows. When I redo the upper part in the fall or next spring, I'll have six long rows, making six blocks, in the same area that previously held only four. I'll finish working out a new crop rotation schedule then.

For the tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants, holes were dug, eggshell, Epsom salt, and a bit of bloodmeal, bonemeal, and greensand added. The plants set out, cages added, Wall-o-Waters placed and then filled. Last year, I was about this late setting out my plants, and I didn't use the W-o-W's, figuring everything would be ok since nights will now be above freezing until mid-September. Our night temperatures are in the high 30's to mid-40's this time of year. But I found out that just because the plants aren't in danger of frost damage, it's still worth the time and effort to use the W-o-W's. Last year, my plants grew so slowly, and set fruit so late, that I didn't get much of a harvest. The W-o-W's, left on the plants until after the Fourth of July, give the plants such a nice little warm transition spot that when the heat of summer finally sets in they can really take off.

His painting finished, Aries then decided that as long as almost everything was out of the living room he'd shampoo the carpet too. Fine with me, I still had more work to do out in the garden. In the middle block I seeded corn and beans - the corn in trenches so I can hill up the roots later to keep them from blowing over in the wind, and then squashes, zukes, and cukes in the remaining third. I put wire down over everything to give the seeds a headstart from the birds, put new washers in the hose connections, and got all my soaker hoses and valves arranged. And then got to go inside to put my living room back together. To be continued . . .

Saturday, June 12, 2010

It's Always Something

I spoke too soon, bragging about being able to grow such beautiful tulips earlier this Spring. About a week ago, I noticed some dirt thrown up on the edging of the herb & flower garden. I thought maybe the cat or one of the chickens had been in there scratching about, and just swept the dirt back. Not long ago, one of the fence-flying chickens had started laying eggs just inside the little picket fence. I'd put a golf ball in her nest so she'd keep using it, so I could gather those eggs without having to look for them.

Then, a couple of days later, when I looked for eggs, the golf ball was gone. Upon closer examination, I found that it had fallen down into a hole dug out where a tulip bulb used to be. Uh-oh, not a good sign. Checking around beneath the flourishing oregano, wildflowers, and hollyhocks, I found only more potholes, wilting strips of tulip foliage, and gnawed pieces of the very bottom bits of bulbs. The daffodils, I think, are still there, but some squirrel found the tulips and appeared to be starting on the grape hyacinths next. Damn!

So I set the box trap in that garden, and have caught two fat squirrels over the past few days. I took them for a little ride to the south, over to a willow and cottonwood thicket across the creek, far from any other houses but with plenty of grasses and shrubs. There's cover from coyotes, and I hope the running water will prevent them from trying to head back over here.

Yesterday evening, when I was down by the chicken coop to let them out for a little walkabout before dark, I noticed one of the Rhode Island Reds huddled down next to the shade shed. When I went over to see if she was ok, I noticed she had a quarter-sized gouge ripped out of her back, just above her tail, and when she got up she balanced on only on one leg. I don't know what attacked her - the gouge looks more like something took a bite out of her than being pecked by the guinea or trod by the rooster. There was a hawk circling over the pen yesterday morning, and there are owls nesting in the trees across the street. It doesn't look like anything has dug under the coop, and everyone else seems to be ok.

I made sure she got some food and water, and by nightfall she was inside the coop, inside one of the nest boxes. We left her there for the night. Earlier today, she was outside with the rest of flock, so she is still managing to get around. Worried that the other birds might pick on that open sore, or bully her away from the food and water, we moved her up to the dog run this evening. She ate, and then settled down for the night inside the little brood shed. She's still gimpy, but maybe a couple of days on her own will allow her to recover.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Garden Remodel - Phase Two

Once we got the chicken coop moved, the next step was to move the garden fence farther out both to the north and south. Moving it south meant taking out a big rabbitbrush outside the fence by the truck gate, and taking down the little fence around the old, failing, asparagus patch outside that end of the garden. There were only about four plants left in there, and if they survive I might move them to a new patch inside. Then again, I might just start all over with new all-male plants next spring instead.

The old chicken wire fencing and wooden fence posts were taken out all the way around, replaced with the heavier wire fencing and t-posts reclaimed when our neighbor put up a board fence along half our shared lotline. We decided to run one long piece of fencing along the lower, eastern garden edge, and get rid of the wire gate down there.

On the north side, moving the fence out meant it no longer would connect to the old arbor there. I want the new garden beds to stretch almost to the new fence and if outside the fence it would block the way to the chicken coop. So the arbor had to go. But I like that old arbor. I didn't want to lose it completely. So I got Aries to move it to the western side of the garden, the side closest to the house. The photo above shows how much extra space we gained by moving the coop, that arbor, and then the fence - the raspberries in the foreground and the walking onions beyond were just inside the old fence, the arbor in between.

We did still want a gate in that section though, so Aries built a new one using an old wooden picket fence section someone gave us a couple of years ago. A bit of scrounging through the scrap pile produced a couple of gate posts; the hardware bin provided a couple of hinges, and a couple of pipe clamps to hold a sliding rod for a latch. Lined inside with chicken wire, a board sweep blocking the very bottom, and a buried wooden threshold, gave us a lovely critter-proof gate.

Ground squirrels, jack rabbits, and cottontail bunnies abound here (only the occasional skunk, vole, or raccoon). All would probably love to feast in my garden. So we dug a trench all the way around the outside of the new fence, and then buried 1" chicken wire fencing 6 inches down with another 8-10" bent out into an "L" at the bottom of the trench. Animals trying to dig under a fence will dig down right next to it, but they almost never start their digging a foot away from the fence. This left about 18" of chicken wire above ground around the bottom of the fence - enough to keep everybody that doesn't fly out of the garden (and so far, none of the chickens have gone over the new fence either).

Moving the arbor up to the west side closed up the last gap in the new fence. About 15 years ago, I drug that arbor home when an old house to the south of us was torn down (I asked for the arbor - that lot is still empty but for a few piles of metal and wood rubbish, a couple of ratty old elm trees, and a beautiful stone retaining wall). That arbor was ancient then. But I liked the way it looked (the lattice on the sides and top isn't the stapled together, pre-built stuff - this thing was completely made from scratch). I got Aries to patch it up and put it up in my garden. This time, the bottoms of the support posts had rotted a bit over the years, so Aries cut them off level and then put the arbor up on cement blocks to make it tall enough to still walk under. Some leveling, and brackets on the bottom to hold onto metal posts driven into the ground to make sure the whole thing won't blow over, and the same treatment to critter-proof the gate. And the Aries spent an entire day scraping and then repainting the whole thing. He's such a sweetheart!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Stretching the Corn Harvest

The calendar says it's planting time. The day-length does too (we went up to Tahoe for dinner with some friends a week ago, and even though we left after 8 pm we still had enough lingering daylight for the half-hour drive home - albeit through a snowstorm). I've just been waiting for the thermometer to say so too.

Finally, the last couple of days have warmed up enough to start thinking about getting the rest of the garden in. Corn is one of those things that have to wait to be planted until the soil has warmed up enough that the seeds can germinate instead of rot. Since today was my turn to post on the Simple Green Frugal Co-op blog, I wrote here about how I manage to stretch my fresh corn eating time from the end of July until mid-September, with only a short bit of work for me, a short planting time window, in our short high-desert gardening season (speaking of shorts, today was the first day warm enough to wear mine, and the first afternoon I've left the house without carrying a sweater).