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Getting My Hands Dirty – Real Dirty

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It has been a long “dry spell”- if you will, a drought for my Gardening Blog. I haven’t stopped gardening but have found/made little time to write about getting my hands dirty in the garden. My beer blog….I seem to find more time to write about my favorite beverages!!!! http://bishopsbeerblog.com/

The garden has slowed down at the end of a long hot summer. All of the tomato plants have been pulled save one. It looks like I may be able to squeeze out a couple more “maters”. The asparagus patch is over head high with ferns and if I peek under the foliage I can still find a few spears to snap off and eat as I work. I shared one with a visitor last week and she couldn’t believe how sweet the spears were! I have carrots coming up, beets have sprouted, the sugar snap peas are climbing, strawberry beds are looking good and my two banana trees have started to dominate their locations……not sure if they will become permanent members because of their size. One of then is a bit unique, a manzano (apple) banana. I have also heard it referred to as a manzanillo….Regardless of the name, I am told that they are very sweet.

Strawberries….I added 50 Chandler plugs and 50 Sweet Charlie plugs on the day before Halloween. I like the ease of planting the plugs I order form Ison’s Nursery. http://www.isons.com/

I used my wood lathe to turn a dibble; From Wikpedia – “A dibber or dibble is a pointed wooden stick for making holes in the ground so that seeds, seedlings or small bulbs can be planted. Dibbers come in a variety of designs including the straight dibber, T-handled dibber, trowel dibber, and L-shaped dibber. ” I found some images on my internet  search and I must say….some people can turn some very nice ones….Mine was a quick utilitarian effort….it works and was sized to match the plugs! The strawberry towers are filled and I can’ wait for the February/Spring crop!

Strawberry plugs in the tray from Isaon's

Strawberry plugs in the tray from Ison’s

My home made dibble sized for the strawberry plugs.

My home made dibble sized for the strawberry plugs.

My beehive is humming along…..sorry about the pun! The mouse guard is in place for the winter and has obviously kept the fat toad out of the hive. My daughter had seen him hanging out near the entrance but I actually found him nestled inside with his head poking out through the entrance….wonder how many he ate! I shooed him away and installed the barrier.

Back to bananas for a moment – The Mexican family that that gave me the corms, also gave me a family tradition for making tamales. They use the banana leaves! They hold the leaf over a gas burner moving it back and forth until it becomes pliable. They then use the banana leaf like you would the corn husk. Here is a pork tamale recipe. I think I will give it a try. Marcelino  tells me that they are much more moist than the traditional method. http://www.food.com/recipe/pork-tamales-in-banana-leaves-tamales-con-puerco-381926

PS – while out to dinner last night at the restaurant my wife looked at my hands and shook her head. I know what she was thinking….”you have nice gardening gloves yet you choose to just let your hands get dirty!!!!!!!” I tried, I really did try to scrub everything clean. The problem –  I have a fingernail on my right hand that was crushed many years ago and it grows goofy looking creating a dirt trap. So, as she was looking and shaking her head my mind quietly said, “yes dear!!!!!!!”

 

Paused for a week…..computer issues and then one of my many trips to Williston, North Dakota.  Now, about those very dirty hands. I had ignored my composting worms for too long. The drain off the bottom of the bin was plugged up and I knew the bottom tray was probably getting saturated. Oh yes, absolutely full. No problem, I made up a 5 gallon bucket of worm compost tea. I fed the majority of the tea to the newly planted strawberry pugs now thriving in the strawberry towers. My sugar snap peas are starting to climb but appear fragile. I harvested about 4 pounds of worm poop and spot fed the peas as well as giving a good dose to my asparagus ferns. I am very hopeful for a huge asparagus crop next spring.

My wife had the paper shredder fired up taking all of the probable confidential mail to create worm bedding.  The identity thieves will certainly have a tougher time putting the stripss back together. I also use the worms to take the ground up eggshells and make some calcium rich fertilizer. Between the worms and my big outdoor compost bins I send very little to the landfill.

Now wash hands thoroughly and make a sandwich with my homemade sourdough bread. Later on today I need to make the sourdough sponge for tomorrow’s baking day!

 

TTFN

Bishop

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Los Osos Corner Plot

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Los Osos, a little town near Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo, is gardener’s paradise. It has that Goldilocks weather, not too hot and not too cold, it is just right. The soil may be a bit on the sandy side but add some compost and it will drain well and produce amazing crops.

I have been wanting stop and look at the corner lot in town near my mother’s place for several years and finally decided to stop and look. It looks a lot like my hair on a windy day, disheveled yet remnants of a part still visible. There is obviously a plan but the owner of the plot, I am sure, never worried about staying in the lines while coloring.

Cool weather crops can pretty much be grown here round and warm weather crops benefit from the warm sun and soil after the morning fog rolls back. By stopping and looking, I noticed his “girls” in the fenced run at the far side of the garden. Looks like 8-10 well feathered hens of various colors and varieties. I am certain that they produce some tasty and beautiful eggs.

Buying a lot in Los Osos to vegetable garden would probably not payout in several lifetimes. Unless, of course, it was inherited from way back when they were begging people to buy lots there in the 60’s and possibly earlier. I have tried to talk my mom into allowing me to put in some edible borders at her place but I haven’t convinced her yet. Yes, the cost of water in this extended drought they have been facing is a real concern, we could use drip irrigation. Whaddya say Mom?

From this angle it looks disheveled, yet interesting!

From this angle it looks disheveled, yet interesting!

Now I see some organization and pretty decent spacing.

Now I see some organization and pretty decent spacing.

Looking back toward the street .

Looking back toward the street .

Look closely and you can see a few of the girls.

Look closely and you can see a few of the girls.

I am going to use this as a model for my fall peas!

I am going to use this as a model for my fall peas!

 

TTFN

Bishop

Bee Keeping Class

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I made use of the Christmas gift my daughter Lisa purchased for me. She gave me a three hour bee keeping class for two! Yesterday we took the short drive out of Kingwood to East Knox Drive about 10 minutes from my house. We were with a group of 12 or so other souls looking to learn a little bit about bees and bee keeping. The young man teaching the class under the umbrella of Round Rock Honey was top notch. He is a petroleum engineer cum bee keeper for a little over 2 years….being an engineer he has learned a lot by reading but it is backed up by his practical experience.

The best part….He lives in the Kingwood development where I live on probably a little smaller residential lot than I have…..along with more than a dozen hives in his backyard. We may be kindred spirits – he got permission from his wife for one hive….but as luck would have it his hive spun off some new queens and at the end of season “one” he had 4 more hives….My buddy John L will certainly see the connection!

The class was pretty interesting but there was a gentleman in attendance that must have been a “Geek” type engineer…. he had some close to on topic questions as well as TOO many off topic questions. We got into sugar molecule discussions, solar and electromagnetic disruptions to bee navigation and several other inane deeply trivial blather! He became fascinated with the frame base material, a thin plastic sheet imprinted with hexagonal patterns. The bees will build upon these sheets in the frames with beeswax and put to use as they see fit, pollen storage, honey storage, brood chambers of the various types. He spent a good chunk of time holding a sheet of the material up in front of sunlight and wondering out loud how he could add some LED lights for some cool light patterns! Hmmmmmm reminds me a little of my college days and altered states of consciousness…. I don’t think he emerged from those days fully intact. Our instructor is an engineer by education but seems to have his feet on the ground as a good ole Missouri boy graduating out of the University of Missouri Science and Technology in Rolla, MO! Very practical young man.

Daughter Lisa geared up and ready to play with the bees.

Daughter Lisa geared up and ready to play with the bees.

Honey....being added to a frame.

Honey….being added to a frame.

The Queen....her life is not as wonderful as we may have thought!

The Queen….her life is not as wonderful as we may have thought!

Standing in the way of the landing pattern. The returning bees were blocked on landed early on some class mates

Standing in the way of the landing pattern. The returning bees were blocked and landed early on some class mates

Drone Bee - the one with the big eyes!

Drone Bee – the one with the big eyes!

Pygmay goats in the feed store yard along with peacocks, pot belly pigs, miniature horses and burros....fun place to visit.

Pygmy goats in the feed store yard along with peacocks, pot belly pigs, miniature horses and burros….fun place to visit.

 

Wish me well folks as I go to the CFO for expenditure approval and the subsequent site request!

 

TTFN

Bishop

 

Preview of Father’s Day Gift

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My daughter Ashleigh is an organizing fool. She rode herd on my sons, Ben and Joe in order to clean out the two car portion of the garage. Over a year ago she scored a very nice wine barrel with the intent that I would make a compost barrel out of it. I did some research and also considered making a unique smoker…..I do live in Texas and the south, so, smoking meats of many types is the norm.

As the garage clean out progressed Ashleigh and Ben figured that the ” round tuit” in needed to finish the barrel and get it out of the garage was missing. As a surprise to me they tackled the job.

The barrel intact and ready for modification.

The barrel intact and ready for modification.

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They decided that they would support it in a horizontal fashion on a large wooden dowel. They used one of my Forstner bits and hopefully, centered the holes so it will tumble smoothly. Ashleigh vacuuming up the cutting….she is such a neat freak….

Doing the clean up

Doing the clean up

The work crew is shown below with the handiwork in the background. I can’t wait to get the hinged door installed and tumbling compost in the backyard!!!!

Come on Ash....smile

Come on Ash….smile

Ah that is better!

Ah that is better!

I promise some working photos and an update soon.

TTFN
Bishop

Gardening Perspective – Thrifty or Cheap?

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Am I cheap or am I thrifty? I guess, if I were to answer my own question, I would say yes! I am a bit of both. For example, this morning I was out in the garden straightening a few things up. As I was removing some of the supports/stakes for the cucumber vines I started saving bits and pieces of twine to use next time I need to support my vines. Twine, jute garden twine is about $ 2.00 for a 200 foot roll, that’s about a penny per foot. In about 10 minutes I saved maybe 50 feet of twine, 50 cents worth. That works out to a $ 3.00 per hour rate of return….. That sounds cheap to me! I will probably continue to waste my time with this effort. The twine is a very slow decomposer in my compost piles.

My ball of twine salvaged!

A diffrent look at my salvage efforts.

$$$$$ Saved eh? Some twine and a few stakes/supports…about a 3 year life for the crepe myrtle limbs.

The supports/stakes I use in the garden are from my Crepe Myrtles. Ugh….Just read how to prune Crepe Myrtles and my technique has been labeled crepe murder! My technique does produce an abundance of tall straight limbs that I use to support vines and such in the garden. My technique produces knobby looking plants. This past year I looked at some of the professionally trimmed crepes and modified my technique but I inherited stumpy crepes when I moved in…. don’t take that statement as a political jab at the current administration…I would never do that. My Crepe Myrtle is definitely not better off than it was 4 years ago. But, I have saved money over buying commercial stakes/supports. A six foot bamboo stake will cost a buck and a half. I use 50 or so every year. I am saving at least $ 75.00 annually – I am discounting the labor cost because I have to cut the crepe myrtle every year regardless of the use of the limbs….I am also keeping waste out of the landfill – my verdict – thrifty and “green”!

An example of the mess I inherited! Murder is a strong word – lets just say brutalized!

The way they should be!!!

What aspire to accomplish…..may require removal of the brutalized example in my yard!

A link to a pruning lesson and the source of the photos…

http://thedailysouth.southernliving.com/2009/02/24/what-concerns-p/

A spring look at a portion of my garden using the crepe myrtle limbs –

Supports/Stakes in action this past spring.

An August Update

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Compare the garden beds from the “Too Much Sweat” post to now. A lot is going on. On the right hand side I am about 3 weeks into the solarizing effort to eradicate the Bermuda grass….. I hope! The left side is beginning to show signs of life. I have a nice Serrano Pepper Plant with lots of blossoms. A squash plant is emerging, the pole beans are beginning to climb and I have
three fall tomato plants struggling against the heat. In the background my asparagus ferns are cranking a ton of energy back into the roots for storage. I am so looking forward to the bounty of spears for next year;

“From these “ferns”, the mature plant manufactures food and stores it in “storage roots.” This reserve supplies the energy necessary to produce spears the following year.”

Click on the photos to see them in larger size.

I am mulching like crazy. I have been using the grassclippings and a big pile of leaves left over from the fall collection to conserve moisture. We are on mandatory water restriction here in Kingwood now. We are over 20” of rain behind for the year.

I am still sweating though. Between the beds I am poring 2’X2’ squares of rock looking concrete. The mold handles about all of an 80# sack of cement. I am adding a buff color for grins and have to say that it should look nice when done. The pouring and finishing of the squares sucks the water out of the body! I sweat through one T-shirt per square.

I am always amazed at how the beans always twist the same direction when they climb. Yesterday I swear that the two climbing now grew 6 inches overnight. My guess is that I will pick beans before the end of September. That will be the second crop for the year. I love fresh green beans. We sure could use some help for rain……please, dance, chant or pray for rain……even nice thoughts will be appreciated!

TTFN

Bishop

Work, Sweat and Very Little Play

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The Big Freeze

I have been making progress removing the summer jungle growth from the garden. My eggplant plants (is that redundant?) looked healthy but the blossoms were not setting so out they came. The bed they were in was in pretty good shape and not overrun with Bermuda grass. I spent the morning getting it “really” weed free and water saturated, preparing the bed to receive two new tomato transplants. I selected a grape tomato and a beef master to place in the ground after sundown tonight. This bed has never had tomatoes so I am hoping that they take off. To help them along I put about two cups of worm poop at the bottom of each hole prior to dropping the plants in.

Worm poop! During my month in California the worms were left unattended in the garage. I had placed the top bin on the nearly finished bottom bin just before I left. They had no food, no visitors and no monitoring…… I expected the worst! I was pleasantly surprised when I began the poop harvest yesterday. Both bins looked rich with dark black worm poop, odor free and no apparent food scraps available for the little guys. From what I had read, the environment could become toxic – killing the little guys. They were absolutely thriving! As I dug into the bins there were still remnants of newspaper and cardboard…they still had some food! I wound up with about 15 lbs. of the richest looking fertilizer that the little guys have ever produced for me. Oh yes, odor free means that  it has no offensive odor…. really it just smells like damp, rich soil. The Meyer lemon barrel with surrounding strawberries enjoyed a worm poop banquet tonight as well as the pepper plant in the other barrel.

My last task this evening was removing this year’s dead blackberry vines. This year’s growth is starting to kick in nicely. I am being a little more diligent in pinching off the terminal growth as the new shoots hit 3+ feet or so. This forces lots of lateral growth in hopes of an abundant 2012 berry season. I hope to make my wonderful blackberry jam before the December 2012 Apocalypse! The photo on the lead-in is from the February freezing rain followed by an extended few days of bitter cold ( at least bitter for Houston). I am convinced that the lingering freeze hurt my harvest. For whatever reason only the terminal buds produced. Go figure.

Tomorrow or Thursday is tilling day. I will take my most Bermuda grass laden bed off line for 6 weeks. I will attempt to solarize it under a clear plastic sheet to kill the roots, rhizomes and other bad weed seeds. Three t-shirts today and it looks even uglier over the next three days. Yes, I hear all y’all, drink lots of water. I will!

TTFN

Bishop

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