Saturday, February 28, 2009

Garden Journal: 26/27 Feb 2008: Bean sprouts

Our corn and beans started emerging on the 26th. By the afternoon of the 27th, both the corn and beans were mostly sprouted and well on their way.

We also had our first salad with tomatoes, lettuce, and spinach from the garden (our volunteer cherry tomato plant continues to produce despite cold, chickens, and neglect).

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Garden Journal: 25 Feb 2009: Tomato seedlings

The tomato seeds that Julie planted are starting to sprout. These are Arkansas Traveler tomatoes.

We also appear to have a corn seedling in the corn bed, as well as more potatoes coming up.

Over the weekend I made new backsplashes for three of the four chambers (one was sufficiently intact that I left it as it is. I used some copper sheet we had bought a few years ago for metal art projects. Probably not the most cost effective use the copper but it was handy and it should hold up to the ravages of rabbit urine. Would have done more but Ash and Elm pollen were very high and had to limit the time I spent outdoors.

We have found a source for rabbits out around Fredricksburg. Will probably head out there in a couple of weeks, as soon as I can finish preparing the hutch.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Garden Journal: 21 Feb 2009: Oats have sprouted

This picture is of the oats I planted as eventually be fodder for the rabbits. I didn't exactly go about this is any well-considered way, so I was pleased to see that the oats actually sprouted. I top-dressed with a sprinkling of worm castings and watered it in a little.

I also top-dressed the spinach with worm castings and put some on the rose bushes and pomegranate bush.

I also cleaned out the rabbit hutch and put the doors back on. I still need to hose it down with bleach to sterilize it and make new backsplashes, which I can make from some copper sheet we have lying about.

I've also been meaning to list the seeds we've planted to date:

- Rainbow Inca sweet corn
- Sliver Queen hybrid corn
- Provider string beans (bush)
- Ornamental mix of sunflowers (in Dada's bed)
- Summer perfection spinach
- Lettuce mix


- Fummer Feast heirloom tomatoes
- Arkansas Traveler tomatoes
- Crafter's gourds

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Garden Journal: 18 Feb 2009: First potato emerges

Our first potato plan emerged in the potato tower. Was starting to wonder if they had rotted or something.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Garden Journal: 17 Feb 2009: Starting tomatoes

Julie started several varieties of tomatoes. At the moment these are in the kitchen on top of the breadbox where the dog can't get them. We have a bank of grow lights we could set up but we might just put a full-spectrum bulb in the fixture on the counter shown here.

Rained in the morning today, collected 5+ gallons of rain water.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Garden Journal: 15 Feb 2009: Planting corn and beans

This afternoon we planted corn and beans in the small raised bed, our attempt to create a traditional mesoamerican milpa in which corn, beans, and squash are grown together (or at least in concert) to provide both complete nutrition and maintain good soil health. We won't plant the squash in the bed but might try growing it in self-watering containers.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Garden Journal: 15 February 20099: First true leaves on spinach

The spinach is showing its first true leaves. The lettuce has sprouted fully as have the sunflowers in Dada's flower bed.

The chickens are starting to lay again--we're getting one or two a day now.

Yesterday we were visited by the organizing committee of the Funky Chicken Coop Tour, to whom we had submitted an application to be on the first annual tour of backyard coops. They seemed impressed with our little setup and as far as we know we are approved to be on the tour, which will be Saturday 11 April. Another chance to talk at length about raising chickens, urban homesteading, green homes, and other tedious subjects.

Have set up rain collection barrel number four, bringing our front porch capacity to about 200 gallons. The original three barrels are currently full from rain over the last week or so.

Robot made by Dada for Daddy

On Friday I returned from a three-day trip to D.C. and Dada presented me with this robot she and Julie made at the Children's Museum. It is modeled on the robot from the Wallace and Grommet short film where they go to the moon in search of cheese.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Garden Journal: 9 Feb 2009

Got 3/4" of this morning. Filled all three barrels and a bit more. Nice soaking rain.

Pictured is my attempt to plant a tray of rabbit forage, in this case oats. The tray is about an inch deep and about 12" x 18". I filled it with bagged soil we had lying about and then spread one packet of oats (marketed as "cat grass") on the left half of the tray. I didn't bother making drainage holes because I expected it to rain little enough that drainage wouldn't be a problem. Then it rained the next day. We'll see what happens.

Julie ordered more seeds from Seeds of Change: more corn, soybeans, quinoa, lettuce, etc., about $26.00 worth of seeds.

We'd like to plant the corn and tomatoes and stuff now because we just can't believe it will actually freeze again even though we know it's entirely possible at least through the end of February.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Garden Journal: 7 Feb 2009: Chicken tractor

Dada and I made a return trip to Jo Wilhelm's farmstead to get two chicken tractors that Jo had been unable to sell after our last visit a couple of weeks ago and that she said I could have.

Chicken tractors are simply any form of portable enclosure that you use to pasture chickens. We wanted to be able to put the chickens in the front yard where they could do some good for the unplanted areas, eating the grass, fluffing the mulch, and laying down some valuable poop.

Here you see one of the two tractors with its complement of chickens.

Jo also let me get a couple of water pumps, a bunch of chicken and rabbit feeders and waterers, and assorted other not-quite-junk that she still had laying about. Very excited about the pumps, which, if they work, will make setting up a small fish farm much more affordable.

Today the spinach and lettuce started spouting, so we now officially have a garden and not just boxes full of dirt.


Yesterday Dada and I went roller skating for the first time at a rink. Our neighbors were having a birthday celebration at the roller rink and invited us to join.

Dada has skates that's she's used some but hasn't really learned to skate completely. But at the roller rink she started to skate more independently. She even started to try spinning, albeit holding onto the rail.

We had a really great time at the rink--I love to skate too, although I'm really feeling it today (it sucks to be old).

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Garden Journal: 4 Feb 2009: Potatoes

Had a little break from work so I spent the afternoon preparing the potato bed and planting the potatoes. Got the bamboo woven without too much difficulty (green strips would work much better but I was able to make what I had work).

Dug out the cedar mulch and grass and then lined the bed with weed mat before putting in the soil. I had forgotten that the cedar mulch was particularly deep in that spot (I think it's about where the front-yard load was dropped).

Soil is about 1/2 my compost and 1/2 soil/compost mix that we bought. Scratched in a couple of cups of old bat guano fertilizer I found in the garage.

Covered seed potatoes with about 3 inches of soil and watered with rain water.

Had a few left-over potato chunks, so I planted those in one corner of the tomato bed.

Julie's mother is in town and made quinoa for us, a South American grain similar to amaranth that cooks up a bit like cous-cous. It's pretty tasty and a pretty amazing food stuff. It is one of the few grains that provides an almost complete protein, better than soy beans. Did a little research and it should grow fine around here in the cool months. Might try growing some.

Separated my new worm bin from the old worm bin--the new bin seemed to have enough worms to be self-sustaining at this point. Going to try the "old dirt, new bedding" technique for finishing the worm compost in the old bin--I want to maintain my worm population, so I don't want to just let the old bin die out, but I also want the worm compost to be as finished as possible--I tend to be a bit impatient and don't always let it finish completely.

I've also added some worms to the leaf and chicken bedding compost pile, which should eventually turn that into a giant worm bed, at least for a while.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Garden Journal: 1 Feb 2009

Checked the new worm bin and found worms, although I didn't take a full inventory. But it means it took no more than two weeks for some worms to migrate from the old bin to the new bin.

Today I made a self-watering container (, for this sad lemon tree we have that has tended to get neglected and barely clings to life even though it has produced a number of very nice lemons.

Inner bucket
The container is made from two 5-gallon buckets, with the lower bucket acting as the water reservoir and the upper bucket holding the soil. The upper bucket has a small cup that extends down into the lower bucket to act as a wick. The lower bucket has a drain hole that ensures that the water level is always below the level of the soil.

I painted the buckets with spray paint specifically labeled as "bonds to plastic".

I also cut the rebar for the potato tower down to about 4' high to make it easier to weave the bamboo. I did discover that at least green split strips can be bent by hand into hoops and will hold their shape once bent. This suggests the easiest thing may be to form hoops and then add them to the posts, rather than trying to literally weave the bamboo strips. Starting to understand the appeal of the tire approach from a level of effort standpoint.

The cedar pollen levels have fallen way down, so much more pleasant to be outside working on the garden.