email: cavebear2118 AT verizon DOT com

Monday, July 20, 2009

Watering and Weeding

The weather has been very weird here this year. It rained almost every day in May and most of June. Then it stopped utterly. I was so used to the soil being well watered that I didn't think about it when it didn't rain for 3 weeks.

The Cucumbers wilted, so I watered them. Then I tried to push a finger into the soil next to the tomatoes and couldn't! So I spent the past 2 days watering everything. I don't water the lawn, often. If it goes dormant, that's fine; it always comes back.

But I gave the vegetable garden and the flowerbeds a good soaking. The veggies are in separate framed beds, so I don't want to water the spaces between. The flowerbeds are about 8' wide, and I don't have any sprinkler system the waters so narrowly. I have some drip hoses, but they are unimagimably slow and don't work evenly.

So, I did it by hand. By spading fork actually...

A few years ago, I discovered that the fan hose-end nozzle fit in the handle of my D-shaped spading fork. It occurred to me I could just set it in there and drive the spade fork into the ground to shower an area many minutes at a time.

It works great. I keep a kithchen timer in my pocket, set it for 4 minutes, and weed a dry area of the garden while the water showers down on the other parts. The fan sprayer nozzle is perfect for 6-8' deep beds and almost all the water goes to the plants. The timer gives me consistent watering.

To all you gardeners out there, don't worry, I watered the tomatoes and such by hand only at ground level. I know about the diseases that wet plants can get.

I also watered the flowers at mid-day when they were sure to dry off the leaves before evening...

It took most of 2 days to do it.

But everything seems recuperated now, and it is supposed to rain a couple times next week. Yay! The lawn needs it and the garden/flowers will appreciate it!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Harvest Time, Finally

Well, I spent a few days weeding the garden and flowerbed. Nothing worth taking a picture of or posting about. But I was amply rewarded!

I picked my 1st 2 tomatoes and a cucumber.

Some years ago, I started growing heirloom Brandywine tomatoes. They were so superior to even the best home-grown hybrid tomatoes that I finally stopped bothering to grow even Celebrity and Big Beef (the best tasting hybrids). I've expanded to include Cherokee Purple, Prudens Purple, Caspian Pink, Tennessee Britches, and Aunt Gerties Gold.

While Brandywine routinely wins taste tests, I consider Cherokee Purple the best heirloom tomato. Brandywine is both sweet and acidic, but it is not very productive and it succumbs to disease too easily. Cherokee Purple has a more complex taste, and it is meaty, productive, and stays healthier.

Here is the Cherokee Purple, cut open (as well as the cucumber - note the small seeds):

Friday, July 10, 2009

Front Landscape Box Update

Some of the Caladium bulbs are emerging. Yay!

One is even opening the first leaf.

But I don't think I will try to save the bulbs each Fall. It seems like a lot of work and I am definitely a low-maintenance kind of person. So I am going to try to correct one bad decision happily in my theory of landscaping.

You see, I used to have another landscaping box (the OTHER side of the front steps) filled with Snow-On-The-Mountain. But I made the mistake of planting some other stuff (temporarily, hah, hah) there. That box seriously overgrew, and when I cleared it out last Fall (a seriously hard project), there were only 3 individual surviving "Snows". I carefully set them aside while emptying out the other plants.

I decided to replant 2 Nandinas in the back corners with 2 salvaged azaleas in between. The entire rest of the bed became a hosta and japanese painted fern bed. And because I had the 3 surviving "Snows", I stuck them in.

Bad move!

The Snows thrived and spread several feet. Among the hostas and ferns, the place just looks way too "busy" with different foliage. The hostas look great individually, but with all the Snows intermingling and filling up the spaces, it is just plain ugly!

So there I was with the very nice low-maintenance Snows not working with the equally nice low maintenance hosta in one bed, and the high-maintenance caladiums in the other bed...

You can guess where I'm going with this, I hope. I dug up a dozen individual Snows and moved them to the Caladium bed. I will enjoy the caladiums for this season and maybe even save a few dozen in the Fall for use elsewhere (but don't bet any money on that). The new landscape box will become a permanent "Snows" box, the older box will be just hostas and ferns (I'll dig out the Snows there) and neither will require much maintenance (a litle weeding, and good mulch will take care of most of that).

The remaining caladiums will become indoor hanging houseplants (out of reach of the cats - the caladiums are toxic) where they will brighten up dark corners (they love deep shade).

When I am sure the transplanted Snows are taking root in the new landscaping box, I will rip them out of the old one.


Thursday, July 9, 2009

Removing Vines From Garden Beds

Well, I started pulling vines on out of another garden bed today. I loosened the soil around the roots to get out as much vine roots as possible.

Even with a leverage fork, it wasn't easy. That a great tool. BTW. The whole thing is solid metal and the bar behind it provides great leverage. It works great. You stab it into the soil then pull back.

When I came across a poison ivy plant in the bed, I stopped and went inside to wash my hands and arms and douse them with rubbing alcohol. I used to be immune to it. Several years ago, I developed a terrible case of it that lasted 2 weeks. I won't risk that again!

But I did dig up a real pile of vines as deep as I could get at the roots.

I'll dig up the poison ivy plants and deep as I can dig, and wearing rubber gloves for protection. I'll have a bucket of soapy water to put them into before I so much as touch a door to the house.

I'm getting there...

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Impulsiveness Attack!

I stared at the "hedge" yesterday morning and suddenly decided I just couldn't live with it another day.

It started out a decade or so ago as one red twigged dogwood shrub. It really did have bright red stems in the Winter. I liked it so much that I bought a dozen more (from a cheap catalog source). Bad decision. Yes, none of them ever had red stems in Winter. I cut them down twice, but they wouldn't die. And I couldn't cut them down low enough with loppers to mow over, so they grew back. In fact, I eventually got used to the ugly things and mowed around them. Naturally, "other stuff" started growing up alongside them and soon it was the ugly thicket shown above...

So it HAD to go. NOW! I plugged in my electric chain saw (no more attempts with the pruners) and hacked into everything at ground level. I got this far before the chain saw wasn't cutting through anything anymore.

After that, I used a hedge trimmer to take out the soft stuff, and an axe to chop out stumps and junk saplings. The hedge trimmer is a rechargeble electric type (I hate noisey gas-power tools and can never keep those 2-stroke tools working anyway). Then I couldn't find the recharger transformer... Argh.

OK, pruners for the vines and the ax for the shrub roots and saplings... I finally got to the top where the one good original red-twigged dogwood is (still surviving, amazingly). It took some real work to get the junk out from around it without damaging it!

And least I had some company! I seem to have made a new friend.

He (I think - well it didn't seem appropriate to investigate too much) seems to live across the street as a daytime outdoors cat. I had never seem him (?) before, but his predecessor was also friendly and would come over for scritches whenever I worked outside in the front yard. He sat in the shade of a bush watching me work and whenever I sat down for a minute, he was right there rubbing and curling up at my feet. Apparently, I am very cat-attractive. He enjoyed investigating the garage thoroughly whenever I got too active with tools.

Well, I managed to fill the trailer with "hedge" debris.

I'll bring it to the brush recycling center Saturday so that I can have the trailer filled with free mulch. The new front landscaping box needs a couple of inches worth and I have places in the backyard perennial bed that are bare ground and want to grow weeds.

I could take tip cuttings from the "good" red-twigged dogwood shrub, but I bought a primo plant of that type named "Arctic Fire" that is suppose to be even brighter red, So I will plant it next to the orginal dogwood and see which looks best. I'll take tip cuttings from the winner next Summer. I LIKE having the hedge along the driveway; I just want it to be something worth looking at and maintaining...

And if the tip cuttings work, I will eventually plant a row on the other side of the driveway.

BTW, the big shrub that appears in some of the pictures is a "burning bush" (Euonymus alata "Compactus"). Praying mantises love it (I sometimes get a couple on me while mowing around it) and it IS a spectacular crimson color in the Fall.

But I have to say that, between moving the upright bar yesterday and all the cutting work today, every muscle in my body hurts. Heck, my toes hurt! Just lifting a beer to my lips hurts (it's the triceps). But I'll manage. ;)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Furniture Rearrangement!

I decided I can't live with the Big Screen TV in the living room. I had the old regular TV in the dining room where I could see it from the kitchen while I was preparing food. But the guidelines said I would see the new HD TV best from at least 8' away and that required the living room. So I had it installed there on a good solid TV table.

A year later I just can't stand it. I am LISTENING to more TV than I actually watch, so that needs to change. I measured how far away it would be if I moved it and sat there for a few hours. It looks just fine. So I am going to move it to the dining room. (very carefully)

Of course, there is furniture that has to be moved. The first thing that had to be moved was the upright bar. That's a neat piece of work my Dad made decades ago. Basically, its a 30" door built into a frame 8" deep and 38" wide. It has glass shelves and a fold out bar shelf 10" wide for mixing drinks on. It is a real wonder of construction. From the back, it is a nightmare of boards and pieces of scrap plywood, but it is as solid a a rock. Typical engineer construction. The outside surfaces are are highly varnished pine and oak. Visitors marvel when they see it. I love it!

But it was where I needed to move chairs to watch the TV, so it needed to be moved. It is "solid" because it is very heavy. I can't even lift it up an inch, for example. I'm not the strongest guy, but I'm not weak either. Moving it takes 2 guys minimum. So I had to think about where to move it and how to move it by myself.

I have lived alone for 40 years, so I've gotten used to figuring out how to move large awkward heavy objects by myself. I decided to put it in the guest bedroom. First, I had to figure out if I could even get it into that room. Obviously, I couldn't just carry it there (it must weigh 200 pounds). And at 7' tall, I couldn't get it through any doors upright. It had to be moved on it's side.

I tried to visualize moving it on the side through the house and into the guest bedroom. I decided I needed a piece of something the same height to practice. I looked through the house for something that length. I could have cut an 8' pine stud to 7', but I kept looking around. I finally realized I had a 7' fishing rod.

I took that upstairs and carefully manuvered it through the rooms, hallways, into bedrooms, etc until I was certain that there was sufficient manuvering room. By about an inch! Then there was the carpet to consider in the guest room. The bar door is flush with the bottom of the frame. The frame would sink into the carpet and prevent the door from opening. The entire weight of the frame sits on the 2 outside ends. I cut two 5"x8"pieces of wood to sit the frame on to lift it enough for the door to open easily.

So, how to actually move it? I had a 2' square wheeled support I made years ago. After taking out all the various bar glassware out (wine glasses of several types, beer glasses, steins, etc), I detached the bar from the wall leaving the door open 90 degrees for surrort. It will fall down if not attached to the wall into a stud. From there I "walked it around carefully until I could pull it over on a corner to lay it down on it's side of the wheeled support. It was heavy, but I was careful.

I managed to keep it from tipping over as I wheeled it out of the dining room, into the living room, and slowly into the hallway. Near the guest room, I realized I had it oriented backwards, so I had to push it back ito the living room and slowly turn it around. Then back through the hallway!

To get it into the guest bedroom, I needed to angle it into the master bedroom then into the guest bedroom. It wouldn't make the turns. Not because of the length of the bar, but because the wheeled suooprt was too wide. I stopped and had a beer.

Well, I had some small 3-caster support things. Not very supportive, but they were narrow. It took 30 minutes to get the bar off the large wheeled support and onto the smaller 3 caster supports. The hard part was getting the large wheeled support out from under the bar. I could lift one end AND remove the large wheeled support at the same time. I finally tied twine to the support, looped it around a foot, and yanked one foot while lifting the end of the bar. It took many tries.

That wasn't the end of the problems. The bar kept wanting to fall sideways when I moved it on the narrow casters. And they slipped out several times as they were pushed and pulled from the wood hallway to the carpeted bedrooms.

But I did manage it eventually. I had the bar in the room and the back to the wall. I was finally able to rise the bar upright. I had to open the door to prevent it from falling forward. But then, the door had to be open so that I could drive a couple of screws throuth the back panel and into the wall studs to hold it in place anyway.

There were, of course, some problems I hadn't accounted for. There was an elecrical outlet I didn't want to block, there was a closet door molding I couldn't be up against because it is not plumb, and there was only a few inches of distance to the fully opened door. Fortunately, it turned out that I could expose the entire electric outlet inside the bar by moving it 3" from the closet molding and that left enough space for the room door to open fully. But knowing how awkward access to the electrical outlet was, I put a short extention cord out one side just over the baseboard cutout in the bar.

I had used a stud finder on the walls before I started, so I knew where to attach the bar's back boards to the walls. I missed one somehow, but I got one spot on, so the bar will stay in place. I even pulled on it a bit roughly just to be sure.

So I made dinner and had a whole bottle of wine in celebration! Afterwards, I cleaned all the glass shelves (very carefully) and interior wood and replaced all the glassware. I am quite pleased.


Next, I dare try to move the heavy Flat Screen TV and table myself!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

New End Table Plans

Here are the tables I plan to build.

There will be some changes. The basic end table will be built exactly as designed. The "sofa" table will be built to the width and length, the same height as the end table. That is because I want an "end table" that is narrow to fit between an easy chair and a wall. The third table will be a smaller version of the standard end table to serve as a plant stand. I may actually make 2 of those, I just haven't decided yet.

The tops of the tables are made from Baltic Birch furniture grade plywood, and there is considerable waste from the 2' x 4' sheets. I need to sit down and see if there is enough leftovers for the size plant stand tops I need. The plant stands have to have enough spread between the legs to be sturdy enough to prevent the cats from knocking them over. I am considering making the plant stand tops round, but I might make the square just for consistency of design.

I might have to angle the plant stand legs outward or attach them to a larger plywood base for stability. I might build the coffee table, but I'm not sure where I would put it. As I don't have a sofa, I'm not sure where I would use it. I might build one taller to use as an eating surface. I like to watch science&nature TV while eating, and TV trays are wobbly.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy 4th of July

I'm just laying back today and cooking a couple chickens in the smoker... As usual, I read the Declaration of Independence out loud on the deck, and thought about my uncles who fought in WWII. It is good to remember these things.

I did reassemble the table for temporary use, found a good design for a new one, and made a list of the wood I need for it. Three tables actually. One end table, one skinny wall-side table, and one small one as a plant stand. At least I will have some matching furniture!

Making some progress on clearing the vine-overgrown framed garden beds. Will try to post on that tomorrow! I need to dump the pictures into the computer and crop them, etc. But not now; the chicken is ready and I'm starving!

But before I go, I want to say "Let freedom spread. Let it spread. Let freedom ring through the valleys and to spread from every mountainside, from every shore, from every field, from every hill and trench, from the cemetaries of wars to the memorials to the fallen, to the homes, to the bed of the last soldier veteran".

May it rest in all our hearts every day.

I honor and salute you who have fallen in the service of the nation...