Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Space Man Spiff


My Sweetie Pie took pity on my constantly running nose and scratchy eyes whenever I work in the shop. I am alergic to wood dust and probably a few other things, Like cat dander, altho that isn't a problem in the shop. She bought me a nifty dust mask set up that has a battery powered filter that forces cool clean air over the faceplate. No dust, No sniffles. Wish I would have had a few of these when we ground all the logs down when we moved in.

...And If I wear my holster with laser sighted drill - well the effect is just overwhelming. The space alien invaders have been staying away in droves. A suspicious helicopter overflew the place yesterday just above the tree line. Right over the retired Garden. When I looked out the kitchen window it appeared lower than my veranda. Honest guys it really is just veggies I am growing.

She also got me a replacement for the dilapidated and shredded earphones I wear when I am working with the skidsteers. This one is from Lee Valley and has a built in radio. Such luxury. Beethoven while I am shifting garden dirt from the Barn patch to the Re-Tired garden.

We got the garden fully planted yesterday. The usual list of culperts. Spuds ( Yukon Golds), turnips, beets, cabbage, carrots, soybeans, onions, kholorabi, spinich, lettuce, white and red radishes, tomatoes: roma and tumblers ( the tumblers have little green tomatoes on them), spaghetti squash, butter squash, swiss chard and parsnips. We will also add a few other things and plant some flowers around the place.

We're a little late planting this year. The season was late in coming and we spent a lot of time getting the tire system going. Next year will be a lot easier. And hopefully we'll have our own green house for plantings.
This gardening can be quite "tireing." Just look at the hired help at the end of the day:

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Gone Buggy

Don't know what this guy is but it's big. About an inch and a quarter long. With an ant like head. Come on you entomologists out there. What is it. Is it from this planet? Looks very ant like to me. But giant size.

A pan 'o gold. Well, green gold. O.K. it's just dandelion greens with a sprinkling of some other tender things.

Local beef, local greens. The Garlic wasn't local - yet. And the red and brown rice wasn't local. Now that's something I will miss when the meltdown happens. Anyway, I bought a handpowerd potato ricer at the second hand shop the other day. No one even knew what it was. I remembered it from my youth. It was one of my Dad's favorite ways of serving potatoes - riced with home made butter ( which I detested at the time ) and salt and pepper.

Well the rubber hits the garden today. Hopefully I can get the rest of the tire tops done. If anyone is interested let me know and I can post some drawings or pictures of how the system works.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Gone Yellow

Yesterday the eastern hill side was green. Today it is tinged yellow with dandelions. A euphoric explosion of yellow. And with any luck some spring table greens. I am drawn to a french method of sauteing them with garlic, butter and bacon - but were out of bacon.

Quite nice. It is still mostly overcast and not to warm. Well-it's 15C. But with a strong West wind it seems cooler.

Next on the spring flower parade will be the white and black chamomiles. Chamomile tea anyone?

Very warm in the tires. I still have a day or so of cutting tires and then I can finish planting and installing the rest of the drip irrigation systems.

Just got back from a Funeral. My first girlfriends Mom died. I haven't seen her in about forty years. She is quite a bit older than I remembered. And married to an old guy. Jeez how does that happen. Good thing we don't get old all at once. That would be quite a shock.

This is a picture of our outside cat Boose.(Carrier = "cat") She has taken over the garden. I think the mice are in for a bit of a shock this summer. She likes to hang around on the top of the tires that have horticultural cloth glued to them. Kind of like a cat size trampoline, with the added bonus of hot air from the tires acting as a butt warmer.



A shoulder without a cat on it must be a little colder..

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Lessons

Things I have learned this week. That I will admit to..

1) Begonias taste good



Ok this one was a complete surprise. Jo-Ann busted me taking a taste of a Begonia. Who would have thought. A local green house fellow introduced me to some edible plants. Like Begonias. They taste just like Sorel. I have to try it in a salad. Soon as the lettuce gets up. Last year we were eating lettuce by May 29th. Think we will be a little later this year.

2) Always pressure test an irrigation system before burying it.

Well Duh. I was using a lot of barbed hose connectors that had to be secured to the poly with stainless steel clamps. Just where do the clamps go, how tight to make them. When I turned on the water I blew three of the tops clean off. Nice little geysers. Looks like at least one of the "T" connectors blew apart under a tire. I will have to take the soil out off the tire to fix that one. Or two. Maybe three.

Also learned that CPVC, schedule 40 threaded pipe fittings need to be tight. And well glued or you can spend a couple of hours straightening that out. Ah well, water under the bridge - er distribution system. We got the main line pressureized and running yesterday. Through a filter and a pressure reducer. House pressure is too much for a drip irrigation system so we had to throttle our gravity fed system back to twenty pounds for the garden. Jo-Ann managed to decipher the Orientaleze on the Irritrol irrigation timer and we have that all working. Don't get me started there. Don't they have people that can proof read these things. In the language of where your trying to sell them. It will take some testing to get the program right. Now we are starting with 6 am and 6 pm for one minute. It has been really damp lately so hard to tell how to optimize the watering.

3) Don't put things off.

We wanted to put up a Canadian flag on the house but have put it off for a year or so. While we were at the Home Depot in Prince George we found a little porch mounted flag and mounted it off the veranda.

What fun. Would have been even better if the flag and holder was actually made in Canada. But wait - we're hewers of wood and drawers of water. We don't actually make things. Even our own flag.

Speaking of buying locally. Watched a thought provoking show on the tele last night. About items marked " Product of Canada ". Things like Lunenburg Highliner Salmon. Well all Lunenburg fish products. Ice Cream, No name Garlic, Pacific Shrimp etc. All clearly marked: "PRODUCT OF CANADA". Now that would lead me to believe it was made in Canada. How about you? Actually it doesn't. Apparently it means that 51% of the cost of transportation and packageing was spent in Canada.

The shrimp and other "Lunenburg" products come from Russia, China and Vietnam. Processed there and shipped in frozen blocks to Lunenburg Nova Scotia, the quintessential picturesque Canadian Fishing community - that can't support a local fishing community, where the local plant defrosts, packages and labels them: "Product of Canada". The ice - cream ( which isn't technically ice-cream ) a sugar and whey product comes from New Zealand or England. By using the whey and sugar product they get around tariffs on milk products - and of course it's "whey" (pun intended) cheaper.

Who'd a thought my Pacific Red Salmon made a 15 thousand mile trip from Kamchutka via the Panama Canal to Lunenburg Nova Scotia to be shipped across Canada another 5000 miles to my local Safeway. And this is economically feasable or sustainable how?

I see that Prime Minister Harper has promised to deal with this issue but the Liberal opposition are complaining it's a " Photo Op ". Jeez, like Canadians really want to be duped about what "Product of Canada" actually means.

Here's a link to the story: Made in Canada

Taste real home grown food. Pay attention. Ask questions. Buy Local.

All right. I am Adding fishpond to the list. Don't tell anyone. Probably a law against that somewhere.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Another Sh*ty Situation

Well not really. The septic tank at the second house on the property, Grandma's, hasn't been used in several years to it wasn't to bad at all. It was an old wooden septic tank and had deteriorated to a large hole in the ground. So it was time to replace it with a modern septic ball.

We are trying to get the place habitable. Now it needs some water leaks fixed, a new porch roof and decking and some handrails and it will be a great place for visitors to stay. It has the best view of the place as it is a couple of hundred feet higher than the main house.

The Tire gaden project progresses. With some last minute snags. When I went to turn on the main feed the underground valve stem broke so I had to jury-rig a hose connection to the distribution panel. Which is simply a 4 X 8 sheet of plywood that will house the water filter, sink, and taps.

I will have to dig down four feet and replace the valve. Excavator work. I will go looking for a more "Skookum" unit in Prince George on Tuesday so I can complete the set up. I also need to pick up some more drip irrigation sprinkler heads. That's the whole point of the water set up. Drip irrigation gets the water right to the roots of the plants and doesn't water the weeds. Not that their will be a lot of them with mulching in place. It's so much more efficient than sprinkling. And I can automate it via timer so that the plants won't dry out if I am off rock-hounding or visiting customers at the Coast.

Yesterday I planted twelve tires of plant sets that we got from a local green house. I have amended the somewhat clay soil with perlite and peatmoss. It looks like plant candy now. Loose and rich. The Tommy Toes, Romas and Tumblers have grown about five inches in the last week. I think they like the heat. Now the trick will be to keep them from overheating. I might try a mister set up that will cool the tires off. Or simply leaving the lids off during the hot days. Assuming that we will have some of those. The heat wave of the last two days ( + 22 to +24c ) seems to be over with today being overcast. Great day for working in the Garden. Hopefully it won't rain. Otherwise I have some programming to do.

In the last week all the leaves have come out on the poplars and willows around the place and we can't see highway 16 anymore. Wonderful green isolation. I swear my soul drinks in green..

Monday, May 12, 2008

Slip Slidin Away

I found another place in the yard that I can't park in for a while. Fortunatly Tom was here with the excavator so he pulled me out. Then when he was scrapping the mess down he almost got stuck. Jeez I don't have anything that could pull the excavator out. Must be a spring right between the two sheds. Now that reminds me. A fellow got stuck in the field the auction was in and when I went to pull him out with my Toyota people were giving him a hard time. Little dinky Toyota pulling out the big F350. I guess I better go get my camera..etc. Well the guy was appreciative when I did pull him out with no problem.
this is the view of the back side of the "Red Shed". It used to be red anyway. Minus the shed roof over the combine and it will form the New Tire Garden Greenhouse, chicken shed and garden tool shed. Theres a sink you might notice in the picture. It is going over to the new Tire Garden. Nice to have running water and power at the garden.

Well the " solar panel setup" turned out to be a bust. Crappy little 15 watt panels that someone managed to string together to some dubious old cat batterys. A lot of people were interested but I didn't stick around long enough to see what it went for. Too much for too little I think. I managed to pick up a box of plumbing supplies which contained a bunch of never used brass valves - for 10 bucks. I purchased a 3/4 " brass shut off valve and it was over twenty bucks. Today we needed four 3/4" plastic "tees" and lo and behold there they were in the box. Saved a buck and a half a piece. We also picked up four eight foot metal gates. We have some spots already picked out for them. I hadn't brought my trailer but our neighbors, the Reads, brought them back for us which saved us a couple of hours and two ferry rides. Auctions are funny things. Some stuff goes for dirt prices and some stuff goes for practically new store bought prices.

Well time to go and pump out part of the trench. It rained pretty heavy yesterday and the parts we left open for the valve risers has turned into a swimming pool.

We got most of the plumbing in except for a 50 foot run to the house connection. I won't do that untill I dig around the house to put in the water proofing/insullation.

Nice to be seeing the downside of this project. Now to plant. Ok, just a few connections first..and a yard sink, and filter and..

Friday, May 09, 2008

It's Tireing

But worth it. Naturally the expanded re-tired garden is taking a bit longer than I expected. We are adding power and 365 day water to the new chicken run/green house that I will pull over to the head of the garden once the City gets the old thresher from along side the "Red Shed". We've donated it to the local museum and they are building a shed for it. Apparently it has been on the property for as long as any of the locals can remember.

We have been collecting windows and will be able to completely glass in what will be the South facing side. We plan on using that for a greenhouse and winter chicken run. Apparently plants just love chicken breath. Who knew. There was a frost this morning but the plants we have in the tires are happy as clams. We have managed to reclaim a lot of the topsoil that was ( erroneously ) scrapped off to make a normal type garden. After sitting for a year we have turned it over a couple of times and use it to fill the bottom tire of the two tire stack. The top tire gets the "good" soil. Actually the top tire in this picture is just a reflector.

The top and bottom of the tire is cut out and I painted the inside so that it would reflect sunlight onto the soil in the second tire. I added four bags of perllite to loosen up the soil. That's a lot but the soil looks like potting soil now. It was originally from the horse corral between the barns so it is pretty rich. What amazes me is the amount of earthworms in the clay soil I put in the bottom tire. The worms ( with some help from turning over the pile with the excavator ) have turned it into a crumbly mixture. Very nice. I gave them a big helping of rolled oats before I put the top soil in the tires. Hay, I like oatmeal when I am working in the cold, I'm sure the worms do too..

In about an hour we are going into the municipal office to complete the transfer of an eighty acre parcel of undeveloped land from our neighbor to us. It's important to us because our driveway crosses this land. With it we will "own" our driveway and won't have to worry about easements.

And then it's back out to the garden to dig a hundred feet of 4 foot deep trench to run the water and power lines out to the yard sink and future green/chicken house. I know..it's red now. But that can change. I have a couple of paint sprayers and I'm not afraid to use them..

Were back from town. Papers signed and witnessed. When we came back I was working in the trench. It was about a hundred feet long, four feet wide and four feet deep. I guess it didn't have to be that big but that's the size of the bucket on the excavator. I managed to slip and pull something so that gave me a good excuse to have a cup of tea. I just looked up and noticed a black bear digging for roots on our East pasture. We have seen four so far. I'll bet they're hungry about now-- just coming out of hibernation.

Tommorow were off to an auction at Grassy Plains, About 15 klicks South of Francois lake. I have my eye on some solar panels. Self sufficiency reigns supreme.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

the Retired Garden


Our tire garden worked so well last year that we are expanding it this year. We are going to be installing 52 units. The soil will be in the bottom two tires and a reflector on top. Total tires required = 156. We ran 1/2" poly under each tire and stubed a piece up the centre of the tire. I used a "T" connector to do this and fastend it to a piece of 1/2" rebar .

The rebar does double duty - holding up the poly and forming a tent for the plastic or horticultural cloth that covers the top.

Its 12 degrees C outside and 25 degrees in a covered tire unit. That should get the soil warmed up in a jiffy. We only managed to get 10 tires up today but we have the method down pat now so we should make better progress tomorrow.

I will have to get more soil as I don't think that I will have enough. Besides I will want to vary the mix for different vegetables. Spuds like sandier soil. I am dealing with some fairly clay soil so it could probably use a few bags of perlite.


Any way it was a nice day, warm once the wind stopped. And I think I may have another convert to the re-tired garden.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Where there's Smoke

So what could happen if someone set fire to a brush pile and then didn't bother sticking around to see if the the blaze was going to stay contained? And just say that it dried out and we had a wind. A neighbour set fire to an old poplar stack. Didn't think it was necessary to monitor it. Imagine my surprise, shock and dismay when we came home to see this on our driveway:


That wasn't Ghost busters I was calling..

Fortunately, some other neighbours were driving by and gave me a hand with putting it out. The one who set the fire was 300 kilometres away.
It was touch and go in places but fortunately he had a couple of "Piss Cans" and there was a creek nearby that we could use to fill them up. And fill them up, and fill them up..repeat 'til the fire was out. It's an Ibuprophen day today.

I checked again at midnight last night and there were still hot spots glowing that I found when I turned out my headlamp. Me and my trusty smoke finder, Xena the wonder dog, got them all out. Today when I checked the burn with a faller friend of mine to see if anything else needed to be cut down it was out cold.

While he was here, Ken fell an old dried fir snag that was between two of the outbuildings. I was worried it could take out some of the outbuildings or even reach the house. He falls and skids for a living so it was nice to see a pro in action. Amazing how he could make a mark in the road and fall the tree on it.

I was thinking I would just cut it up for firewood, but my brother (who just happens to own a portable sawmill) mentioned it would make some nice lumber.

If pressed ( and not too heavily.. ) me other half will happily recount the story of my telling her to sit on the back of the truck to get out of the way of a tree that I was falling during one of our claiming sojurns. And then dropping the tree ( honest there was a big wind ) right on the truck..Well not the whole truck. Just the tailgate she was sitting on. Well, not when the tree hit. I did warn her. She can move amazingly fast when she has to.

So today I went to town and bought a couple of "Piss Cans" ( Honest I don't know what they are really called, this is what I call them. And everyone else I know) and a "Pulaski" ax. Later I have a fire pump and a couple of hundred feet of fire hose coming. And a truck mounted water supply. Just in case.