Weekend gardening

by Chuck September 4, 2012

Been spending my weekends working on the vegetable gardens. The garden inside our Tango-proof fence has always been a little haphazard – it wasn’t so much planned as it just sorta grew up over the years. One of the problems with planter boxes in the garden was that they didn’t line up with each other; that left little nooks and crannies where I couldn’t get the lawn mower in to cut the grass.

Pretty soon the whole garden got out of control:

I really needed to mow in there once or twice, and get the line trimmer in to take care of the corners, but with one thing and another I pretty much left the garden alone this summer. So in the tradition of men in my family I got out the power tools and started over:

I used the tractor to lift out the old garden boxes, then moved the planting soil over to the compost bin. After that, I stripped most of the grass out using the tractor bucket. I needed to clean up the edges by hand, so that took me another day of shovel work. Finally, I used my pile of dirt left over from other projects to fill in the hole that I made digging the grass out. Took two weekends, but all of the preparation work was complete.

Over the long Labor Day weekend I spent two days putting things back together. First I laid out, built and placed new cedar forms for raised beds (I re-used the one old bed that still worked). Then I dug trenches and laid 5 watering circuits that I took back to the side of the garden shed where I will put the manifold to control them. Each raised bed has two feed lines each on a different circuit so that I can water however I want – one feed line will be for drippers and the other will be for mini sprinklers or bubblers.

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Sunny Sunday

by Chuck April 8, 2012

Today was beautiful -- sunny and warm and just right for getting started on spring planting. I headed out to the greenhouse to take advantage of the weather and get some plants started so that they're ready to to be May flowers.

First I spent a little time cleaning up the greenhouse -- moving the over-wintering plants on to one bench, watering them, picking up dead and fallen leaves, generally tidying up the place. I didn't spend as much time out there this winter as I did last winter, so it's not quite as neat as it was last spring. I keep telling myself to go out there more often, but I haven't made it out much. That should change now that I have some new plants started.

This year I bought a big bag of potting soil to use to start plants, instead of using my usual mixture of compost and dirt. The stuff that I mix up tends to have big lumps in it that get in the way of planting teeny-tiny seeds. I also picked up two cell packs from the new greenhouse and hydroponics store in Monroe. These cell packs are made out of plastic probably twice as thick as the plastic in the ones that I bought last year at Charlie's. I think that these are made more to reuse than the ones from Charlie's.

I filled four flats with the potting soil and then planted up some flowers. I'm trying to plant all of the miscellaneous annuals that we'll need for the farm this year. I planted a flat of petunias and a flat of snapdragons, although I'm not 100 percent sure what we'll do with 72 snapdragon plants. Planting the itty-bitty petunia and snapdragon seeds was a challenge, but I used a folded piece of cardstock for a planting funnel and didn't worry if more than one seed made it into each cell. I can thin the plants later when they've got a good start.

Next I'll plant some allysum and some lobelia so that we have filler plants for the gardens. I picked up a package of white and a package of purple allysum, and I planted some blue and some multi-colored lobelia. 



Finishing touches

by Chuck November 15, 2010

Put some finishing touches on the greenhouse this weekend. It’s starting to look pretty good in there.

First, I built a couple of plant benches. I used grid tops from Charlie’s Greenhouse and Garden for the tops. Rather than buy the $139 benches from Charlie’s I used some 5/4 x 4 stock from Lowes. Each bench took 6 pieces – so for a little more than half of what it costs to get one bench from Charlie’s I built two benches for my greenhouse.

I should draw them up sometime. I looked for plans for cheap greenhouse benches on line and couldn’t find any. Someone else might use them.

Anyway, I also bought some wire shelves to put up above the cedar benches, and a plastic storage unit to hold chemicals and seeds and stuff. Still need to build another plant bench for the West wall and a potting bench for the South, but it looks nice and greenhousy in there.

Just for fun I also planted a flat of spinach and lettuce. Should have some plants growing in there, otherwise having it will be a little silly.



Bleedin' door

by Chuck November 5, 2010

Last time I worked on the greenhouse I managed to build the door just a leetle bit too big. I’ve got a 71 1/2 inch hole, and I made the door 72 inches tall. Add the fact that the material that I used for the door was lousy, I decided to start over with new wood and do it right.

The second time. Close enough.

It’s been so nice the last couple of days that it seems a shame not to get out and enjoy the weather. So while dinner cooked I went out to the barn and put together a new door. First I measured. Then I measured again. I went down to the barn and cut. Then I hauled the newly cut board back to the greenhouse and tried if for fit. Carried it back to the barn and trimmed off half an inch. Carried it back to the greenhouse and made sure that it worked. Measured the cut board. Measured it again. Went to the barn and cut the next board. Back to the greenhouse. Fit the board.

You can see how this can take a little bit of time to get done, right?

In the end I had a door frame that fit in the hole that I have to put it in, is straight, and is fairly square. It’s not covered, but I can do that tonight or tomorrow.

And the title? Here’s an important safety tip: When you are using an air nailer with small gauge nails, you need to make sure that your fingers and thumbs are further away from the air nailer than the length of the nail. Otherwise, if the nail turns in the wood, like one did to me, you’re in danger of nailing your thumb to the wood.

Like I did.

When I stopped swearing I went in to get a dressing – told Dana that “I’d nailed my thumb.” She thought I meant hit it with a hammer, not driven a nail in.

I hope she doesn’t take my air nailer away…



Rained out

by Chuck September 19, 2010

Yesterday I bought 3 sheets of T1-11 siding for the South wall of the greenhouse. I didn't get a chance to put them on, what with going to the Pumpkin Hurl and all, but I figured I'd get a chance today.

Last night it rained. Hard. Like an inch an hour or so. But today dawned bright and sunny and looked like a good day to go out and get the siding on.

About 10:00 I headed out to  get started. Sure, there are some clouds that look like rain to the West, but I should have some time.

Like most projects, I had to gather the tools from various places around the farm, go back inside for a pencil. All the normal stuff that I need to do before I get started. I laid out the siding, made my measurements, plugged in the saw, remembered to turn on the light switch in the chip shed...

And then it started to rain again, Just a few drips. But somehow, I knew. I put everything away, slipped the siding into the chicken coop. And then the sky opened up and it poured. By the time I walked the 150 feet back to the house I was soaked like I was in the shower. Now I'm sitting here watching the rain come and go. Well, not exactly go. Mostly I'm watching it rain, and then rain harder.

 Weather Underground says we might get a break on Tuesday. Maybe I'll get a chance after work to cut the wood and attach the siding.

Update: It certainly did rain harder. For a short time the Monroe City Hall weather station recorded a rain rate of 4 inches an hour. After that it dropped back to 2 inches an hour for a short time. And then it quit. At 10:45 you would have been soaked stepping out the door. By 11:00 the rain had stopped. By 11:30 it was sunny again.

I headed back out to the greenhouse, moved the tools and the siding back to the barn and made my cuts there. Then I hauled the now shorter siding back to the greenhouse and nailed it up. Next I need to build the roof vents.



Sweaters in the raw

by Chuck September 10, 2010

It's taken me months to get it done, but today a shearer finally showed up at our house to shear the sheep. The were starting to look a little ragged around the edges, the last guy who sheared them didn't do the best job ever, and their long wool was starting to look a little green at the ends what with all the rain we've been getting lately.

I started looking for a shearer in June of this year. Back 30-odd years ago when I raised sheep on the family farm that's about the time of year when we sheared, a memory that was reinforced by the flock just West of Duvall, they started losing their fleeces around June too. The first person I contacted didn't show up for our appointment. Didn't show up and didn't call to let us know that he wouldn't be coming. Customer service at its finest. I realize that losing the business of a flock of 5 sheep isn't going to break this guy, but I might have more someday. I won't, but he don't know that...

After that it took me a while to even find another shearer that was willing to come and shear a small flock like mine. Once I did, he only makes appointments a month out, and then he needed to reschedule a couple of times. Not a big deal, but I took time off for the first one and missed some work for the second time too.

He did do a nice job on the girls, he only nicked one sheep, which I remember as being a big deal. I'm not sure how much wool we got, but if it's a conservative 15 pounds each, we have 75 pounds of wool sitting in the garage. On Craig's List you can buy wool for $2.00 a pound, so the 75 pounds of wool will just pay for getting the sheep sheared. Next I need to figure out how to "skirt" fleeces. Sounds like the kind of thing you should know how to do if you are selling wool.



Is it summer yet?

by Chuck June 21, 2010

I took a four-day weekend this week to get caught up on some of the work around the place. With all the rain we’ve been getting we’re behind on the mowing and trimming – all the grass is too long and the stuff around the fences is out-of-control.

Thursday wasn’t too bad; Dana and I did a few small things around the place, and when the kids came home we started them mowing. Friday Dana and I brought out the line trimmers; between the two of us we managed trim all the grass from the front of the property to the alley. We even cut down all the long grass and weeds on the hill behind the house. In the afternoon we went down to Lowe’s and bought supplies for Saturday’s project: a bunch of fence posts and bags of concrete.

Saturday we started working on the fence around the vegetable garden.  I planted the five corner posts and cemented them in. Around 11:30 it started to feel like it was going to rain so we packed all the tools away and headed inside. Of course, we never got a drop.

In the late afternoon I decided that enough was enough and I took the tractor out into the pasture and started mowing. The sheep are eating a lot of grass, but the pasture is still ahead of them. I mowed off the alley and the top of the hill down to the access road. It’s starting to look better, but I need to get out and cut the thistles off soon before they start setting flowers and seeds.

It’s been a long, cold spring. Today is the solstice – the longest day of the year. More than 16 hours of daylight, but not a ray of sunshine to be seen.



Green house

by Chuck February 16, 2010

Dana bought me a little plastic greenhouse for Valentine’s Day. It’s nothing like the ones that I thought I wanted last year – it’s just 4 feet wide and about 8 feet long. I figured out that it will hold about 18 flats of plants, but that’s plenty for me to be getting in trouble with right now.

We set the greenhouse up next to the garden shed. We tried to pin it to the ground with the stakes that came with the kit but there is a layer of rocks about 6 inches down that we can’t drive a wire stake through. We put several concrete pavers on the frame to hold it down, hopefully it will keep it from blowing away.

Anyway, we looked through the Seattle Tilth gardening calendar that I bought a couple of years ago. We figured that when the calendar said “start in a cloche” that was the same as starting in our greenhouse, so we planted some spinach and some hardy annual flowers to start with. There’s only one flat of plants in there right now, so you can see that I’m starting slowly.

It works pretty well, actually. Dana put a thermometer in it and she found that the temperature inside was around 10 degrees above the outside temperature. Today i went out and found the temperature was 87 degrees inside, and only 60 degrees or so outside. It really catches the sun and makes it heat up inside.

And it gets pretty humid. The ground is very wet underneath – the rain we’ve gotten that last couple of weeks has really saturated the ground. The greenhouse is pulling that moisture up into the air, when I went in this afternoon my glasses immediately fogged up.

I’m looking forward to getting some more plants started inside the greenhouse and seeing how it works out for us. If we like the way it works we’re going to build a more substantial greenhouse for next year, something that will be big enough to hold quite a few plants as well as a place to sit and relax on sunny winter days.

Sounds pretty good to me.



Laminating the family room floor

by Chuck February 12, 2010

On Tuesday Dana and I went to Home Depot while the kids were at cat 4H and bought 18 boxes of Pergo laminate flooring, along with the floor padding and a few tools that we need to get the job done. Last night we started unloading the family room so that we can put new laminate flooring in instead of the existing carpet, which after only two and a half years is starting to show the wear and tear of cheap carpet in a high-traffic area of the house. We finished unloading the family room tonight after watching Burn Notice, hey, after all we need to have our priorities straight.

Anyway, as soon as the show was over I started taking apart the A/V equipment in the entertainment center. Wow, was it dusty. There were dust bunnies on the dust bunnies hiding behind the equipment. Sneezing happened.

After moving out the couch and the entertainment center we got to work pulling the molding from around the room. Dana came up with a marking system, and the kids carried the strips out into the garage.

After that Joey and I rolled up the old carpet and hauled it out to the garage. I needed to work fast, Dana was getting awfully close to vacuuming the carpet that we were about to throw away. Joe and I managed to stave that off, however.

Next up was the carpet pad. I was surprised (although I guess I shouldn’t be) to see lines of moisture where the subfloor panels butt together. Dana said there was moisture in the carpet pad too. The new underlayment for the laminate is supposed to provide a moisture barrier, not sure what good it will do but it sounds good.

Anyway, the family room is now almost the same as it was before they put the carpet in. It’s funny – I saw this house’s bones when it was going up but I still find it intimidating to see the subfloor hanging out there.

We jumped pretty quickly past the “OK, we’re committed” part of this project. Now that the carpet is out we pretty much have to go ahead with the project. Only we’re still not 100% certain, or even 90% certain, that we can pull it off. This could still be a train wreck.

Cross your fingers.



Home work

by Chuck January 14, 2010

We did a couple of projects over the holidays that made a big difference around the house. The first was something we planned to do from the first day that we decided to get the house. The second was not something that we planned but it is something that will make another project easier to get into.

Our first project was putting up a wall between the powder room and the laundry room. We wanted the builder to do it, but they don’t do pocket doors. So I did. Turned out pretty well and the downstairs bathroom was handy to have when we hosted the family Christmas party.

The second project was one of those that starts out with “How hard can it be?” and then turns into something that was fairly hard. And more expensive than we thought it would be. But we now have a “custom tiled entry” in our house. Taking out the 40-odd square feet of wood laminate in the entry will make choosing what to put on the floor in the family room easier, we don’t have to worry about matching or clashing with the entry.

Now that the entry is done, it’s time to move on to the family room and figure out what we’re going to do there. It’s probably going to laminate, we just need to figure out what kind of laminate it will be.



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