Friday, March 29, 2013

Spring Break

Break time, that is.

It may look like everything is still asleep out there, but things are getting organized. Over the winter the barn bedding has been mucked out twice onto the garden and covered with fresh leaves and straw. Sawdust has been produced for the blueberries and raspberries. The rhubarb is up. Most of last year's red russian kale shown here has now been dug up and some hung in the barn for the birds to play with, and some replanted in their pasture, ditto, and maybe it will survive to go to seed. I've kept one magnificent lacinato in the garden to watch through seed time. And I've divided and moved many clumps of garlic, some Egyptian onions, and chives.

In the greenhouse, there are fourteen flats of three and four inch pots. These I've been bringing out in a wooden tool caddy, randomized, a dozen at a time, hardening off, and planting in the far middle bed (Bed Number Four), just beyond the garlic patch and last year's leeks. There is a patch of peas and broadbeans. In any one spot you may find cauliflower, spinach, kale, bok choi, chard, beets, turnips, broccoli, cabbage, loose-leaf lettuce, or radishes. Three short rows, cross-bed, of carrots have been direct seeded. Bed Number Two, next door to the raspberries, has been sown to crimson clover and buckwheat, as it has been the least productive bed and we feel it needs a boost. Waiting in the wings are a second sowing of peas (sugar snap heirloom), a flat of storage onions, a flat of cilantro, some marigolds, statice, zinnias, and such.

I'm hoping to see some tomatoes come up in flats but no such luck so far. But we have a friend who does starts for a living -- we get her leftovers at a discount. Peppers, too. They come late in the season, but our soil warms slowly anyway.

White and crimson clover along with lime have been broadcast on the "someday pasture" and elsewhere.  Firewooding from the coppice is an ongoing project, and I hope to do some wattling this week.

Later, perhaps much later, the flats will be sown again, with green and yellow zukes, English cukes, winter squash, pumpkins, green beans, Scarlet Runners, and anything else we can get our hands on. I'll need to train up the kiwis and hops, work on the roof, and maybe start renovating a bathroom.

Hence the break.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Spud time

When the daffodils bloom, Risa plants potatoes. Our straw-grown spuds have produced progressively smaller crops of progressively smaller potatoes over the last half decade, so this year, we're experimenting with traditional rows of hilled spuds. A bed has been dedicated to this, so that's 150 row feet.

We have a small electric Mantis tiller, which is seldom used. We're having a dry spring -- most years, tilling has been unlikely in March, but right now the soil is right for this -- precipitation is down, as we are on the edge of the drought that California and eastern Oregon will likely experience this year. The bed was fluffed up, three trenches plowed out with the edge of a hoe, spuds laid on, and soil raked over them with a rake.

These spuds are very close together, but this is rich dirt. As the plants grow, we'll pile on soil (and, yes, straw) as best we can -- potatoes form better above the seed spud than beside or below.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Preparing for dryness

Another repost while Risa recovers from the flu she picked up in Calif. :)

Last year at this time, the cold rains returned in March, and for a rainy-day project, Risa built a solar food dehydrator from scraps. It did a fair job of the drying that was asked of it, and there was enough work for two dehydrators, so this year, as it's raining again, she's making another as much like the old one as possible, and again from scraps. First, measure your Craigslist window and then construct a box to fit. This box is made from 3/8" plywood and 2X2" leftovers, about 35X47X6", assembled with 3/4" drywall screws. The only tools in use here are a try square, measuring tape, pencil, 40-year-old radial Skilsaw and 50-year-old 3/8" drill with a Phillips bit, a 1/8" twist bit, and a 1.5" wood-boring bit. Oh, and an Arrow hammer tacker and a pair of scissors.

The window should just snap into the top of the box and be screwed down but it appears to have been sawn out of a building with a jigsaw, so, in the absence of the pre-drilled aluminum flange, Risa elects to prop up the window all around and tap each side of the frame through the plywood and put in some drywall screws through the sides. She's making a mistake; last year she remembered to put in the air circulation holes and screens on the ends first.

Oh, duh! The holes! So she changes bits and makes them.

The idea here is to keep flies out while fruit is drying. She can't reach in and do the other end this way without taking out the window so she just tacks the screen on the outside there. Not as pretty but should work ok.

She adds handles and a coat of exterior paint. Even the paint is scrap, leftovers poured together from a variety of green paint jobs (We have a "green" fetish). Handles help a lot when dragging this thing to the sunlight and propping it up to face its great god Ra. S'heavier than it looks.

No claims are made for skill or design efficiency here. Yes, it's only a one-shelf dryer but it works fast and can be reloaded endlessly. And it did, after all, cost practically nothing but an afternoon in the garage, listening mostly to Chopin Preludes.

I learned at an early age that you don't need a large shop full of expensive tools and materials to be productive. If you're imaginative and resourceful, you can make the most of any shop. -- Earl Proulx, Yankee Home Hints