Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Keep debris out of rain barrels

All of my rain barrels that are directly under down spouts have screens to keep out debris. 
The screen on the barrel keeps out the larger debris.

So I was quite surprised when I looked inside one the other day and saw this.

Closeup picture of the debris that go through the screen, but not into the barrel.
What a mess.  I don't need that stuff getting into my drip irrigation lines.  There's a chance that it already has.  Anyway, the question now is, "What do I do about it?"  I figured that I had two options.  I could build some first flush diverters that would hopefully catch and divert the smaller debris away from the barrel before it started to fill.  Or I could get a tighter screen to stop the smaller debris from entering the barrel.  I really liked the idea of the first flush system.  It's probably the more permanent long term option.  It's also more costly and time consuming to install.  So I went with option #2, the tighter screen.  I ordered some mosquito netting from Amazon.  Total cost was less than $9.
Installation was pretty simple.  I put the netting on top of the existing screen, screwed on the lid, and cut away the excess material.
As an added precaution I also added a screened washer to the hose attached to each barrel.  I'm hoping that it'll prevent junk from getting into the drip lines that connect the barrels.
New screened hose washer on the left.  Old normal hose washer on the right.
Screened hose washer installed.
I didn't check inside the barrels after the last rain storm, but it appeared as though the mosquito netting did catch a lot of tiny debris. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Garden Trellis Update

Several months ago I built some trellises in my garden.  They were fairly simple to construct.  I used trees from my woods and lashed them together with square lashings.  The plan was to use them to grow peas and cucumbers.

So how's it working?

The trellis for the peas worked out fairly well.  Below is a picture taken on June 21.  The peas were nearing their end.  I've removed them since this picture was taken.  I saved the few remaining pea pods for seed for next year.
Some of the peas made it to the top of the trellis.
The trellis for the slicing cucumbers still looks pretty good.  This trellis had more vertical support lines which made it have a smaller grid.  I think I made the mistake of planting too many cucumbers.  They starting growing every which way and became a tangled mess.  I had difficulty getting them to climb the trellis.  I've made a note to plant fewer next year.
The trellis for the pickling cucumbers has not done well.  Several pieces of twine running horizontally have broken.  The stuff just wasn't strong enough to hold the weight.
You can see the large grid at the top and the gaping hole in the middle.
This is a closer view of the hole.  There used to be a grid of twine there.
Even with the broken twine these cucumbers have managed to climb.
Next year I'll have to find some stronger twine or maybe even use paracord.  That along with fewer plants should solve the problem.

Here's the first trellis after the peas had been removed.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Composting in place status.

Back in January I dumped leaves in a low spot in my yard with the hopes that they would compost in place.

It looked like this at the time.
January 2014
Six months have passed and it looks like this now.
June 2014
It's not nearly as deep as it was, but it still has the appearance of shredded leaves. 
The chickens get into these leaves and dig everyday.  Maybe once a month or so I have to get the rake and move the leaves off of the stone border. 

It's a lousy picture, but the ground under the leaves actually appears to be damp and dark.  Prior to dumping leaves here it was dry, hard, and tan. 
I'd say that it's an improvement, but I'm thinking that it's going to be a while until I can grow grass here.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

An update on blueberries and strawberries.

I planted some blueberries bushes back in May of 2012 (see here, here, and here).  Two years have passed, so an update is long overdue.
 When I put these plants in they looked like little twigs.  Now they're actually producing blueberries.
Same plants different angle.
You can see all of the berries on this plant.  They aren't close to being ripe yet.
If I have any complaints it's that the berries don't ripen at the same time.  I get 3-4 ripe berries per day, which I then eat immediately.  I'm not getting enough to use for anything like pies or ice cream.  I'm not really complaining though since I still get to eat blueberries.

Below is a picture of my strawberries.  These things spread like weeds.  You'd never know it by looking at the picture, but I thinned this bed out last September.  I need to thin it out again in the fall. 

I did manage to get a quart or two of strawberries at the end of May.  There were OK.  They were little, and by the time I picked them they were on the squishy side.  They made some good ice cream though.  So I can't complain.
Strawberries from my back yard.
Homemade strawberry ice cream.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Garden Status for June 2014

The garden really starting to produce now. 
June 12 harvest.

Slicing cucumbers on June 21.
June 22 harvest
The two quarts are refrigerator pickles and the pints are fermented pickles.  My wife made both on June 26.

Tomatoes picked June 27.  I canned these.  See the picture below.
I canned 5 pints of tomatoes on June 27.
I picked and canned every red tomato I could find on the 27th.  On the 30th the plants were full of red tomatoes.
June 30
Pickling cucumbers.
The peas are done.  What's left on there will be saved for seed for next year.

Pie pumpkin.  I've never grown pumpkin before.  It appears to be doing well.
I have several ears of corn with more one the way.  I didn't plant the cucumbers here.  They showed up on their own.
Zucchini.  June 30
I have a lot of beans out there that need to be picked.  This one was on its own so it was easier to photograph.
June 30.
I didn't get pictures of the pepper plants.  They're doing OK.  I expect them to produce more later in the year.  My tomatillos aren't doing nearly as well as they have in past years.  I have a little bit of my late lettuce left, but it's on the bitter side.  The lettuce I planted earlier got very bitter so I took it out and gave it to the chickens.

We've been eating a lot of this stuff with meals.  I've also been taking salad to work for lunch several times a week.  When I've had extra I've given it away to neighbors and co-workers.  This is my favorite time of year. I just love summer.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Front yard hugelkultur status

I've noticed that I sometimes write blog posts and then fail to followup with the results.  I need to get better about that. 

Anyway, long ago I attempted to put a hugelkultur bed in my front yard.  I haven't been overwhelmed with the results.  You can see the difference in the two pictures below. 

It's been nearly two years since I put this in.  Since then I've added 4-6 wheelbarrow loads of compost.  I added rabbit manure.  I added more compost and planted hairy vetch and rye grass in hopes that the root system that developed would hold everything in place.  The rye grass grew to be a foot tall.  I cut it down and left it in place as mulch. 
September 2012
June 2014
I made a few attempts at growing beans, kale, and even onions here.  None of it worked real well.  I think I have at least two problems.  The first is that this area doesn't get a lot of sun.  The second is that I don't think I've sufficiently covered the wood.  The third would be that there's only 3-4" of soil on top of the wood. 

I pulled back the top layer of mulch the other night and found that a lot of the buried wood was exposed.  The areas that were exposed appeared to be dry and not rotting.  The areas that were covered did show signs of rot.  (I have to say that the soil here is beautiful.)
Closeup of exposed wood.  The bottom is damp and the top is dry.
I pulled out three of the logs near the end.  Two of them had a fair amount of rot and the third did not.
I have a guess as to what happened. When I dumped the compost on top of the wood a lot of it fell off to the sides.  That's fine.  The wood needs to be covered.  At one time it did cover the wood, but it eventually settled.  I would need to make it much deeper to keep that from happening again, and I don't think I have enough compost for that.  I'm thinking that I might just remove the wood core and leave the beautiful new soil behind. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Compost Status

It's been a while since I've posted an update on my compost bins. Every month I move the pile from one bin to the other.  While I was doing that the other day I got some pictures.
I filled the bin to the top with leaves and other material last fall.  It's broken down and compacted so much that the bin is only half full now.
I checked the temperature and it was at 120*.  It was higher the last time I checked.  I might not have the right mix of greens and browns in there.
Here's the pile after it was moved to the other side.
I should probably turn the pile more frequently, but it's a lot of work.  This stuff has been in there for the better part of a year and still has a long way to go.  It should be ready in the fall.  I plan to use it in my raised beds once the growing season is over.  The beds settle over time so some of them have low spots.