mellowtigger: (snow)
Yesterday, as I walked from my truck to the office building at work, sleet bounced off of my hat and skittered across the road in front of me.

Winter can be over finally.  Please?

tilling

Apr. 17th, 2011 08:03 am
mellowtigger: (gardening)
I've decided that I need to invest some money into a "proper" method of tilling soil.  The local rental store has inconvenient hours of operation (closed by the time I get home from work on weekdays, closed all day Sunday), and it costs too much to rent a tiller for a whole day ($90).  I could quickly recover money invested in my own solution, plus the convenience would be much greater.

1) How did farmers do this stuff manually in centuries past?  I need to both chop the old dead stalks/leaves and push them under a light layer of soil.  Does it require two passes, once with a sharpened hoe to chop plants and later with a shovel to churn soil?  What are the best manual tools for cultivating the soil?

2) For more years than I can remember, I've seen the Mantis (2-stroke engine) advertised in the Mother Earth journal.  It costs $350 with good ratings for this very small and lightweight solution.  If I'm paying that much for a Honda motor, would there be any benefit to just go directly to the Honda (4-stroke engine) solution instead?

3) It seems wise to purchase a solution that has better long-term potential, such as the versatility of the Ryobi power head with attachments including the cultivator.  Although the customer ratings of the cultivator are good, the ratings on the power head are not.  Does someone other than Ryobi make such products?
mellowtigger: (snow)
2011 April 16Bummer. I just discovered that Dreamwidth has no photographs yet, so I had to upload this morning's snapshot back to Livejournal. *disappointed sigh*

Oh well.

We had above-freezing weather for the last 2 weeks, so all of the typical snow piles melted away.  The back yard was totally clear.  This morning, though, we have a slight accumulation.

I was planning to rent a tiller and get to work on the garden this weekend.  It seems rather chilly for that kind of outdoor fun, though.

Also, I'm seriously pondering the paleolithic diet.  I'll need to reconsider my garden for this year, though, if I do switch to it.  I'd have to give up all grains so I wouldn't be able to use my popcorn, corn, rice, and quinoa seeds that have already sprouted in my indoor garden. I could still save the quinoa for the leaves, but I don't remember ever seeing a recipe for cooked food using quinoa leaves.
mellowtigger: (Terry 2010)
fall colors arrive earlyI woke up very early today and couldn't get back to sleep. I went walking around 9am.  I bundled up in long sleeves and a vest because the weather is cold and damp today. It hasn't been cold enough to bring frost here in the Twin Cities, but it's getting close.  The leaves are already beginning to turn colors. It still seems early to me, but there's no arguing with Mother Nature about such matters. Forecast  was for a long and wet winter this year because of La Niña conditions. It appears that the forecasters may be correct already.

thin squirrel through chain link fenceI'm not the only one who thinks the cold weather arrived early this year. The local squirrels were out in force this morning, chomping away at all the food they could find. I noticed that none of them seemed fat enough to survive the winter. All of us were caught unprepared for this early chill. Here's a squirrel in front of the house that's still small enough to jump easily through the links in the yard fence.

Terry on the new patioThis year, I tried one of those hanging tomato containers. It works okay, but only okay.  I grew cherry tomatoes, and I plucked many of them to eat while standing right there by the vine. It would work better, I think, if I maintained vigilance in keeping the soil moist. The instructions did insist that the owner water it every single day. I didn't, and I guess my lackadaisical gardening shows.  *laugh*

Terry's new head shot for 2010I let the plants languish this year, focusing instead on working with dirt and bricks. I've reached the point where the patio is finished enough for use. All I need now is a chiminea, and this would be a great place to sit out the chill weather while reading a book. I think I may look for an aluminum product. I think that clay would not handle the subfreezing weather here (causing the clay to shatter) and iron would not handle the salty air (rusting because of saltwater thrown into mist on all of our roadways). Aluminum seems the best bet for long life in local conditions.

Taking a hint from [livejournal.com profile] bitterlawngnome 's icon offering, I've cropped this image to use as my new "profile image" online. The scruffy neck seems to need a shave, but it doesn't show up as much when shrunk down to the usual icon size.  Plus, when websites automatically resize for icon usage, the face still comes out looking normal in either original-size or icon-size resolutions.

I drive out this afternoon for my first appointment with the neuro-muscular sub-specialist neurologist. I took the day off from work since the appointment was smack in the middle of my short work shift. I don't expect much to come of this meeting other than, "Hello, how are you? Care to schedule some tests?" We'll see what happens. Time to get a shower and figure out where I need to drive to meet the doctor.

It's nice to have a slow day for a walk, an appointment, and then a classic sci-fi movie at the theater.
mellowtigger: (gardening)
patio 2010.08.01All of the patio bricks are laid, but I still have a lot of work to do.  The unevenness of the cinder block "frame" for the patio is more severe than I first thought.  It wasn't a problem until the last 8 rows of bricks.  I think I have a parallelogram frame instead of a square frame.  :(

Notice the dark gap on the bottom right corner.  That gap should not be there.  I had to create an equal amount of extra space on the left side by pushing the cinder blocks closer to the garage wall.

Next weekend, I'll reconsider the whole frame.  Either hug the garage wall more closely than I want to do, or push the whole patio farther away from the garage. (Yes, that option means that I have to lift up every single brick to move it.  Yuck.)  I should have calculated the diagonal for a 121 " x 121" square and measured both of them before laying the bricks. I would have discovered right away that my "square" was off slightly. Lesson learned.

chive bunny, 2nd generationIf weather cooperates again next weekend, maybe I'll finally get the patio done.

Several times today, a new bunny has hopped out of the garden to watch me while I worked.  Zhey is too small to be either of the other bunnies from earlier this spring.  Could I already have a 2nd generation chive bunny in the yard?  Or the runt of the same litter as the other two bunnies?  Or somebody birthed a very late litter this year?

There's not nearly as much clover now as there was this spring.  Chive bunny ate a lot of it.  Hopefully this new bunny is finding something edible around here.
mellowtigger: (sleepy)
I'm much too young to feel this old.  *laugh*

Today's limit was 150 bricks and 9 bags of sand, all lifted into and then out of the pickup truck bed.  I didn't get all of the bricks laid because I ran into a snag near the end.  The unevenness of the garage wall (and the awful styrofoam outside it) led to a brief space where 2 cinder blocks afford just barely less than the 121 inches that I need for my bricks (without cutting).

Photograph tomorrow, after I've had more time to fix the problem.

I've had my shower to clean up.  Now it's time for another large glass of iced water, then off to bed for some much needed rest.

limit

Jul. 25th, 2010 05:58 pm
mellowtigger: (the more you know)
There is, in fact, a limit to the number of bricks that I can lift in and out of the pickup truck during a weekend before my back gets too tired to trust it with another proverbial straw:

160 bricks

Slow but steady wins the race, as the saying goes.  Progress is good.

patio still in progress

Notice that I was correct about the size of the layout that will accommodate bricks without needing to cut them.  Yay, math!
mellowtigger: (absurdity)
Busy weekend.

sand in pickupI'd rather reuse material than consume new material.  Conveniently, [livejournal.com profile] dodecadragon had a big pile of "dirt" (sand, pebbles, and rocks) on his lawn, and he didn't need all of it for his own home project.  He offered the sand to me for my patio project if I did the work of sifting it through a wire mesh.  I showed up early Saturday morning and got to work on it.  After a few hours, I had a decent haul of sand in the back of my truck.  I took it back to the patio and spread it around.  It was almost enough to halfway finish the patio.

quinoa, lettuce, and tomato saladAfterwards, I collected plants from the garden to eat.  I cut fresh quinoa leaves, lettuce leaves, and tomato fruit.  I rinsed them off, then I added some raspberry vinaigrette dressing from the store.  Fresh food is yummy.  Quinoa leaves, though, are similar enough to spinach that I may need to consider recipes for cooking them rather than eating them raw.  The leaves are thicker than I was hoping for in a salad.

I need to find a recipe for something to do with all that fresh huge squash, too.

clothes on the lineBefore I fell asleep for a quick nap, I hung my laundry outside to dry.  That's new.  I haven't done that in many years.  I was annoyed with myself, though, for not changing my habits after the Gulf oil spill.  I've decided that the large items will no longer be thrown into an electric dryer.  They will air dry instead.  Now I need to find a good source of wooden (not plastic or metal) clothes hangers or all-wood clothespins.  Otherwise, I'm not really prepared for air drying clothes outdoors in the wind and sun.  How strange is that?

[livejournal.com profile] foeclan woke me from my nap to warn me about the impending rain.  I got outside to bring in the clothes.  It was only the first line of rainclouds, though.  A few hours later, storms arrived with high winds, heavy rain, and even a tornado somewhere north of us.

sand in patio areaThe next day, I went back to [livejournal.com profile] dodecadragon 's place to sift more sand for the patio.  I quickly found, however, that it was too thick with rain water.  I could still sift it, yes, but it was taking a lot longer than before.  I could sift all day and not collect as much sand as I did on Saturday.  It needed more time to dry.  Since I was wanting to finish the sand portion today, I went to Home Depot and bought some sand base.  It was soaked too, as it turns out.  Some of it was so thick coming out of the plastic bags (ugh, and me trying to be more "green") that it looked almost like wet cement.  It needs more time to dry out too.

Next weekend, I guess, I finally get to compact the sand, level it, and then lay the bricks.

At 7pm, I treated myself to a movie.  I walked over to the Heights to see "Inception".  Long movie, pleasantly complicated, plenty of action and psychology.  Like "Matrix" and "Total Recall", much of the movie is filled with the viewer wondering if the current setting on the screen is real or imagined.  You have to wait until the very last second of the film to witness as much evidence as the movie will offer you to answer that question.  I liked the movie.

The walk back home from the theater offered a nice "back to earth" transition as the sky turned dark.
mellowtigger: (Default)
Physical exertion didn't exhaust me today like it did yesterday, so I made more progress on the patio.  I would have done better, but sporadic bursts of rain have chased me inside already.

The books and articles mentioned 10'x10' (or 12'x12') patio decks.  They detailed exactly how many of each kind of brick was necessary to complete a 10'x10' patio.  What all of the papers FAILED to mention, however, is that if I were to add just a single inch onto the size (10'1" x 10'1") then I could lay the patio without cutting any of the bricks.  Me and power tools are a really bad idea, so of course I chose to push out a cinder block border by one additional inch.  A quick test run with some bricks showed me that, yes, they now fit squarely within the border without needing to cut any of them.  Yay!

patio ready for sand

So that's where I'm at now.  Ready for sand, then bricks.  Progress, slowly but surely.
mellowtigger: (gardening)
It's 9pm, and I finally finished the next phase of the patio project today.  I've laid cinder blocks for 3 sides of the 10'x10' patio border, and I laid the patio-facing side of the retaining wall for the raised garden.

Chive bunny watched me on a few occasions today, but eventually I was too noisy and animated to tolerate.  The bunny ran away into the alley somewhere for the rest of the evening.  I have the pager from work today, and it interrupted me by requiring a drive out to Golden Valley to work on an out-of-service photocopier.  I might have joined some Outwoods people for camping again this holiday weekend, but the pager kept me tethered.  Probably a good thing, since I made progress on the patio.

patio under construction, 2010.07.03

I normally don't much care what people smell like, but today was very humid and I ended up offending my own nose by the time that evening arrived.  I just finished a shower as cold as I could tolerate.  I feel (and smell) much better now.

I have the whole house to myself.  It's the weekend of the local science fiction convention, Convergence, so all of my roommates are spending their time out there.  It's just me and T'Reese here for Thursday-Sunday.

I think the rest of my evening will be spent vegetating in front of the boob tube while wading up to my nipples in Southern Comfort.  Maybe I'll get enough of a buzz to mask the noise from the fireworks already exploding outside.  If the weather cooperates tomorrow, I'll start preparing the patio area for sand and bricks.
mellowtigger: (gardening)
Chive bunny is back.  The strawberry patch is in front of my black truck in this first photo.  The patch includes some nice clover too.  Chive bunny ate all the clover leaves a week or two ago, and finally they were starting to grow back.  I guess that's what brought zhem back to my garden today. 

Eating all the clover leaves has done some good.  No longer hand-sized, chive bunny has quickly grown to about twice zheir original size.

When chive bunny was being especially cute, adorable, and photogenic, of course I didn't have my camera with me.  *disappointed sigh*  By the time I went indoors to get the camera, chive bunny was acting a lot more skittish.  Here are the photos that I captured.

chive bunny in the backyard 1chive bunny in the backyard 2
chive bunny in the backyard 3

I've been working on the garden to arrange a raised bed area.  The first wall looks great with a very even grade... except that the slope is a bit too steep.  It's not what I intended when I measured previously.  I guess next weekend (weather cooperating) I'll lift off the bricks and regrade that bed for the cinder block base.  Photos of that project after I make some more progress.

I'm installing a raised bed in part of the garden so that [livejournal.com profile] joshuwain (one of my roommates and landlords) can do some easy-to-reach gardening.  While sitting on the wall before finishing up today, though, I thought of another really good use for this raised bed next year.  Cold frame!  Just put some plastic over the top ledge of the brick border, and I can start seedlings outdoors instead of indoors next year.  :)

Now, shower finished, photos posted... I think I might actually head to downtown Minneapolis to the local Eagle bar for some food and beer.  I haven't eaten yet today, so I'm feeling rather hungry.  Well, I ate some strawberries from the garden this morning, but a handful of fruit doesn't go very far when digging dirt and hauling cinder blocks and bricks for much of the day.  I haven't been to the Eagle for many months either, so maybe I can enjoy a visit today.

Chenopodium

Jun. 9th, 2010 11:34 am
mellowtigger: (gardening)
I've written about weeds before, but today's post is specifically about the amazing goosefoot plants.  Their genus is Chenopodium, a word derived from the Greek words for goose (chen) and foot (pous).  Their leaves have a triangular and jagged shape reminiscent of a goose's webbed foot.

I discovered yesterday that they might be my new favorite genus of plants.  I was going out to the garden to do some weeding when I noticed something odd about this year's crop of weeds.  Something was different about them.  I've learned not to pluck when there's doubt.  I've killed too many corn and rice plants while trying to weed out the "bad" grass from the garden.

I remembered that this particular area is where I planted quinoa seeds, so I went indoors to google images of these plants.  Lo and behold, I discovered something remarkable.

My "weeds" were actually quinoa plants.  Moreover, my other "weeds" were a cousin species to quinoa and were also perfectly edible!  Quinoa is the species Chenopodium quinoa, and lamb's quarter is the species Chenopodium album.  Here's a picture of both from my garden, young leaves and full leaves.

Lamb's quarter is on the left.  The young leaves are more elongated, and the stem has a purple tint to it.  The full leaves take on a silvery sheen.

Quinoa is on the right.  The young leaves are more silvery, and it lacks the purple tint.  The full leaves go plain green, dropping the silvery sheen that they had earlier.

I ate both of those full leaves.  Lamb's quarter seems a bit more plain.  Quinoa was very nice.  The leaves are thicker like spinach, making for a more satisfying bite, and they had a stronger earthy flavor to them.  I can imagine eating them in a salad without any dressing at all.  Apparently both of them are powerhouses of vitamins, matching spinach for their nutritious quality.

lamb's quarter, grouplamb's quarter, singlequinoa, groupquinoa, closeup

strawberry spinach (or strawberry blite)Those are some images of the whole plants.  Lamb's quarter is on the left.  There's a group of them taking over the area near my truck, then a photo of one plant close up.    Quinoa is on the right.  The group is taking over one section of my garden, then a photo of some plants close up.

But that's not all!

I discovered that this genus is the same one that includes my beloved Strawberry Spinach (Chenopodium capitatum, pictured on the left from my garden in 2008).  Is there anything that the goosefoot can't do?  It has edible leaves, stalks, seeds, and even berries!

Related to Chenopodium are spinach, beets, and chard.  These plants are in good company.

Seriously, though, there's no excuse for going hungry in Minnesota during the summer.  Lamb's quarter grows wild all over the place in copious quantities.  It's food!

Pluck a leaf and taste it yourself.  :)

misc

Jun. 2nd, 2010 09:34 am
mellowtigger: (Default)
garden:  I picked two strawberries this morning.  They were much tastier than anything I buy at the store.

caterpillars:  One of the local newspapers had an article about the current caterpillar bloom.  "The last major outbreak was in 2000-2002."

rabbit:  Chive bunny is still here this morning in the usual spot in my chive-strawberry-thyme patch.  Can you spot zhem in this photo?  (hint: center, bottom half)
chive bunny again

movies:  I skipped all the events last night.  I plan to work today, though, and then go to the movie festival tonight.  Still tired, still "something" in my left ear.

dream:  I forgot to document a dream from Monday morning.  Nothing of significance happened, but I figure it was a response to my pondering of the history video that I saw at Fort Ridgely over the weekend.  The video detailed the events leading to the expulsion of the Dakotas from Minnesota state territory after two battles at Fort Ridgely.

My perspective was from a disembodied observer "camera".  I saw a modern human city which was living with alien cohabitants.  The aliens came to earth with superior technology (culturally) and strength (individually).  Their appearance was rugged and reddish, sort of like a classic demon depiction.  There were treaties that limited cross-cultural aggression, but there wasn't really much that the humans could do to prevent harassment at the local level by individual aliens who wanted to prove how tough they were by bullying or even killing a human occasionally.  I saw whole city blocks abandoned by humans because gangs (the alien youngsters, much like human youngsters) had marked their turf there.  Halloween night trick-or-treating was beginning.  Human police were out to ensure a peaceful night for the kids (in traditional costumes, not pretending to be the aliens).  I woke up before anything else happened, although it seemed liked a perfect setting for a violent episode.
mellowtigger: (wild things)
There are many accounts (both old and new) detailing how domestic cats change the urban ecology by their predation of city-compatible wildlife.  I can show the account to you in pictures.  One of our neighbors has two outdoor cats.  The bad local economy, however, caused the humans to leave for Colorado.  The cats went with them.  Since they left last year, I have noticed a lot more wildlife on the house lot here.

Cut to hide some garden pictures... )
 
All hail the chive bunny.
mellowtigger: (dumb)
I spent about 6 hours yesterday outside in the garden.  I moved dirt and cinder blocks.  I planted sprouts.  I drank the last bottle of my blueberry lager that I bought last week.  I had a good day.

I was hoping to continue the adventure today, finishing the plants and starting the brick patio layout.  I spent about 90 minutes and quit.  I was planning to do bicycle repairs today and maybe do some riding.  Unlikely.  The AIDS Walk is today, and I skipped that too.  I think I'm going to settle for food and more sleep.

I should probably go in to get my B12 tested again.  I dunno, I could get B12 shots monthly, but it just seems like that would be covering up symptoms instead of identifying and coping with whatever is the underlying problem.

brrrrr

Apr. 22nd, 2010 08:26 am
mellowtigger: (gardening)
I was intending to go outside this morning and work in the garden.  I changed my mind as soon as I opened the door.

The temperature is barely above freezing, and the windchill is sub-freezing.

I hope none of the sprouts outside were damaged last night.  Here's frost on the dandelions and grass in the backyard.



Hopefully you'll understand if I'm not thrilled at today being the 40th Earth Day.

thawing

Mar. 6th, 2010 10:11 am
mellowtigger: (Default)
It's not quite above freezing temperature yet today, but it'll be there soon.  Freezing is considered "cold" in most places, but around here and at this time of year.... this weather is "warm".  The entire week has been tantalizing.  It's been well above freezing every day, I think.  Sometimes, it's even been above freezing for a while after sunset.  Imagine that!

There's been a lot of snow melt, but of course there's still a lot more of it hanging around.  Here's a snapshot series to help you understand Minnesota winter.  It's cold here, so any snow that falls will stay until the seasons change.  These photos are from December 9th, December 25th, February 15th, and March 6th.  Notice the awful sameness to them?



I went walking/hiking last Saturday because of the freezing temperature.  (Remember, that's "warm".)  I saw geese, ducks, crows(?), and other small birds.  The Mississippi River is mostly thawed out, but the soil here is still solid (ice) rock.  I saw a few other pedestrians like me, and I saw a few bicyclists too.

I'm aching to get outdoors to play in the garden.  Here are some nice photos of the backyard from my walk last Saturday.

walkway 2010 02 27composter 2010 02 27

There's still no place to garden, but I do have the new composter outside and in use.  It's the round green tumbler in the photo on the right.  I'm going to try really hard to avoid planting any seeds indoors until next week.  That's still way too early, but I don't know that I can wait until April.  I want dirt and plants now.
mellowtigger: (Default)
Well, I thought I had already made my last post about gardening for the 2009 season. I was wrong. (Click photos to embiggen. (Click again for original size.))

sample Dragon carrotsThis "Dragon" variety of carrot is excellent. They grow huge in the soil here, yet they have a very soft and tasty core. Great combination, plus they're pretty to look at with their deep purple exterior. In this first photo, here are the ones that I damaged while digging them up. I gave them a quick rinse in a bowl of water on the porch step. They'll be eaten soon.

overwinter under terrariumI've had to buy Dragon Carrot seeds each year because none of them survived the winter. This time, I want to keep some alive so they can flower and produce seeds in their second year of life. I'm trying two tactics to overwinter these vegetables.

carrots with shovel1) I don't have hay for mulch. Instead, I'm going to try keeping them warmer by making a kind of terrarium dome over some of them. I upended a white plastic kitty litter container and built up some dirt around the edge to better seal in the air. We'll see if they survive in their native dirt through the cold winter.

2) I don't have sand either. I dug up some carrots and placed them into another kitty litter container then I added some more garden dirt. I guess I'll try keeping these in the basement where it's cool, dark, and dry. Maybe come spring they'll still be able to sprout and produce a flower stalk that can go to seed. I included the shovel in this picture so you can see just how huge these things are growing in the dirt here. Some of them are just massive.

broccoli in winterI found that a second broccoli patch is doing rather well in the cold weather. I expect to have a few flowerettes to cut and eat soon. Somehow, I didn't collect seeds from the ones that flowered in the summer. Guess I'll be buying more of those for the spring.

I recently took out of the freezer the last of the stew I made with all of the garden vegetables I had previously harvested: carrot, corn, bean, tomato. Yum. I wish I had a few acres to do this kind of thing fulltime.

snow

Oct. 10th, 2009 07:51 pm
mellowtigger: (Default)
We had our first frost on September 30th.  Today, we had our first snow on October 10th.

first snow 2009 Oct 10

I'm guessing this photo marks the last entry to my Gardening2009 gallery on LiveJournal.
mellowtigger: (Default)
I ate lettuce, strawberries, cilantro, and even some spinach already this year.

I collected a LOT of huge sunflower seeds, but then I stored them in the garage instead of in the sun, so they went moldy. I'll save some of them to plant next year, but there are none for me to eat this year. *disappointed sigh*

I mostly ignored the garden during the hottest time of the summer, and it shows.  No watering and dry summer definitely made a dent in the harvest.  There wasn't much of edible quality except the tomatoes.  This first photo shows (left to right) the popcorn, red corn, and golden corn in the first row; round tomatoes and yellow striped roma tomatoes in the next row;  purple beans, purple okra, and purple carrot in the the next row; and finally one of the giant sunflower heads.

Today for lunch I boiled one of the smaller red corn and golden corn ears.  They were both tasty, but also both rather dry.  I'm sure they would have been moister if I had watered the plants and harvested a week or two sooner.

harvestgiant carrot

flowersI took the close-up photo on the kitchen counter to illustrate just how huge that carrot is.  I only dug one of them up from the ground to eat.  The rest of them I want to overwinter and try to get them to bloom and go to seed next year.  The taste of that carrot is nice.  More importantly, the texture was very soft and tender.  Not at all tough and woody like many thin carrots that I get from a grocery store.  This variety is definitely a keeper!

And finally a snapshot of some of the flowers by the side of the house.  Mostly marigolds.  They have been flowering for a long time.  Very pretty.

The yellow striped roma tomatoes are just now fruiting heavily.  There will be lots of good chili and stew here in the coming weeks.  :)

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