Thursday, April 29, 2010

Joys of the Season ~ Vintage Seed Catalogs

Since all I've blogged about tedious things like engineering of water systems, and big ugly stumps, I thought I'd take a moment for some gardening inspiration. One of the best parts of spring, is just about when you've read your fill of mail order seed catalogs, the Vintage catalog trade get's into full swing on ebay. I try to limit my purchases of vintage seed catalogs to certain criteria, but I never limit myself on collecting the photo files. If it inspires me, I clip it and save it. Some of the photo files are even good enough that I've printed them out and framed them to hang on my side porch. In fact, seed catalogs aren't the only place you will find really good gardening illustrations. farm and home magazines from the 1920's right up through the 1940's have some great cover illustrations. As a bonus, some of the magazine covers can be found in prints on some of the larger poster print sites. Here, in no particular order, are a very few of my favorites: (BTW, you can click the photo to enjoy a larger version)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Tank is In

The tank is in the ground and all piped in. There is a valve on the upside of the stone box to divert the water around the tank in the winter. There is an overflow pipe that has been piped down what will be the garden path in the center of the raised beds. The hole the tank went in was over 7 feet deep. Now we need to situate the pumps, wire the electric for the electric pump, and put in the standing pipes which will allow access to the "water gate" valve, and the access lid. Then back filling. We already let the water in. About 80% of the house roof is piped in. It rained the first night, and the tank filled (instant gratification) and overflowed (imminent engineering challenges) so we quickly dug a temporary trench from the end of the overflow pipe to the open ditch, and got the transit back out and shot grade for the remainder of the pipe to get the overflow diverted to it's end goal. Then, back to the store for more pipe.

On a side note... how many of you have a horticultural "head start" program operating next to your door? These are my divided perennials and herb starts for this year. Right now they live right next to the steps. I'm hoping to find them permanent homes in the landscaping around the garden shed sometime this year. But then, I will just get more.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

It's Alive!

Spring is always a suspenseful time as I go around the yard looking to see what did or didn't survive the winter.

First, it looks like we've lost a few perennials. Only one of a matched set of lupines emerged. One of the guara, which tried to die last year has yet to show any signs of life, while the other two clumps are fine. I'm reserving judgement on everything else. It's a bit early to pronounce the baloon flowers dead, but the bleeding hearts really should all be up by now. I have a list, and I keep making the rounds every couple of days. I've already stopped by the nursery, but have contained myself. I did buy some pansies.

The trees seem to be OK. The row of lindens we planted last year are ready to leaf out. The mulberry trees which an early snow nearly laid flat are leafing out. We staked the one that suffered the worst, and I stop by nightly to give it words of encouragement. And my apple trees are doing great! These are the ones from Big Horse Creek. Last March I was out salvaging some scions from the dying tree in the edge of our yard. I sent them of to BHC, and in November they sent me two grafted saplings. We planted them, put tree tubes around them and hoped they would survive the winter. Last week they rewarded our expectations by leafing out heartily. This is what they look like down the tube.

And lastly, my asparagus is finally up! This is year three for the bed. It is in a less than ideal spot, and has been rather poorly treated. Last year, the sprouts were about the diameter of a pencil lead. This year they are almost normal sized. There were two stalks up at once giving me... a third of one serving. I hesitated to pick them, but I found some more stalks poking through , so I went ahead and picked them. It doesn't take much work to prepare two asparagus stalks! But that was the best asparagus I've ever had. I am planning another asparagus bed in another location, which I hope will be more productive.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


While Tim was digging for the drainage line from the downspouts to the water storage tank, he was unlucky enough to have aimed his line directly through the middle of this stump.

So he had to remove it, leaving a large, gaping, two foot deep hole full of water in the midst of the drainage project.
Now this was no surprise. We've had dealings with this stump before, and we knew it was lurking here somewhere. We just hoped we were headed narrowly past it, not through the middle of it. And, it broke the tractor... again. Here's the back story. Along the edge of where the chicken run will be, between there and the garden site, there used to be a double row of over a dozen very large hemlocks. The first row was cut before we bought the house.

The second row was cut early in our renovations. There were 8 left at that time, and the top fell out of one, narrowly missing the house. So we called a tree service to come and remove the monstrosities. This left us with 6 stumps in the yard, and 2 in the over grown edge where the blackberry patch is. Tim turned the stumps in the yard over and buried them where they sat. In our defense, we did not intend to live in the house. We planned on having it as a rental. We certainly didn't plan on gardening over those stumps. And he said at the time he would probably live to regret it. But, they were too heavy to move. This particular stump tore the metal attachment the neighbor fabricated that bolts to the tractor bucket and provides a handy attachment for a tow chain. TORE the metal. Which exactly what it did this time too. But what do you do with 6 very large stumps that you can't move? I guess the question is what do you do with 1 very large stump you can't move, because that's where we are right now. I guess it's going back into the back woods to provide a home for furry chipmunks or something, but it's going to have to be pushed there, because it has made it's feelings known about being hung from a chain.

So, back to the drainage project. We have the downspouts from the coop and garden shed, as well as the back half of the house routed through here to the storage tank. That will provide a lot of free rainwater for watering the garden.

The tank has been sprayed with undercoating and is ready to go in the ground. See how it is hanging from the tow chain attached to the inside of the bucket? One of those attachments is what the stump tore. It didn't break the bolts, it tore the darn metal. Heavy metal. Can you tell we're annoyed? And sort of impressed. Anyone want a stump? You have to pick it up yourself. We won't deliver.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


The eggplants and peppers are doing well, and the tomatoes were planted last night. How many bad things can happen while carrying a flat of wet seed starter from the kitchen sink, down what can only be called a glorified ladder, into the basement? Plenty I'm sure, but miraculously, I didn't get any dirt or water anywhere.

Have I ever mentioned how much I hate thinning seedlings? It's best to do it early before you get too attached. But, how do you know you're doing the right thing? How do you know you won't need that plant? How do you know you saved the right one? Uggh... I hate it.

Someone please remind me next year to leave the Rosa Bianca eggplants off the list. I simply can't stand the suspense. They were the last to germinate again this year. Only one of 4 seeds came up. I transplanted a vigorous White Lightening in the blank space instead of killing it, so at least I got to save one thinling.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Raised Beds - the half laps

Thursday my husband Tim and neighbor Mike spent cutting the end pieces for the beds, and half lapping them. Here they are stickered and weighted to keep them from twisting with the changing spring weather. That's 48 half laps for the end pieces.

Friday the three of us did the sides. We had perfect weather. Eighty plus degrees, and a nice breeze. Even though we ordered a new batch of ties, what we got were some that had been in the back of the lumber yard, under a pile of snow. The ones in the center were wet and frozen solid. They've been sitting for almost a week here as we waited for them to thaw and dry. The dry ones were about a hundred pounds. Some of the wet ones were probably between 180 and 200 a piece. And we had to move each one 4 times, and spin them three times. Fun. I did my share of lifting and carrying, and I woke up with only one stiff bicep. I guess I'm in better shape than I thought!

First Tim marked them and took most of the wood out with a chain saw. Two cuts per end. Times 24, equals 48 ends.

Cut down, then spin and cut from the other direction.

The first stage "done" pile is growing.

Then we moved them into the garage where Tim used a dato blade and radial arm saw to clean the corner and smooth away the last quarter inch of wood. That poor saw! We almost stopped it at least half a dozen times, but it held up, and everyone came away with all their fingers and toes!

Now the second "done" pile has grown. We stickered and weighted the long pieces, and covered them with a rubber membrane since it is supposed to rain all this week again.

This is the waste from the two stacks of half laps.

I was thinking if the 6" bed was not deep enough, that someday I could add another layer. But I can tell you now. That is never ever ever going to happen! I had decided that about half way through the 5 hours of lugging 100+ pound ties. My husband voiced it at the end. He's never ever ever going through this again! He did get through it pretty quickly though. And we only had to remind him twice that he wasn't building fine cabinetry. He had suggested that as a "safe word" phrase before we started. Since my husband is a perfectionist, most projects require a "safe word" to keep things in perspective. Heck, some projects require a whole committee to keep him from going overboard!
Besides the ties, we also have gates reacdy to go. I didn't think to get a picture, but the neighbor fabricated them from mtal and a piece of cattle panel. They look really nice and are a vast improvement over the plastic snow fence gate I've had for the past 3 or 4 years!

Thursday, April 1, 2010


Yesterday my husband dug the electrical line from the house to the garden shed. Can you tell? Neither could I. Here's a hint.