March 31, 2010: Up Close and Personal

Kiwi Gomes requested a closer look at the germination list I have taped to my garden shed wall, so here it is (click to enlarge).

If there is a (+1), that means I have a later seeded one that is growing. I did reseed a few varieties of tomatoes and lettuce that didn't have very good germination. If there is a (-1), that means one died.

March 30, 2010: Seedlings & Garden Update

As I enter the garden shed, the germination lists for the veggies and herbs are on the wall. I don't keep track of the flowers here, I'm mainly interested in making sure I have enough tomatoes and peppers growing.

The mini-greenhouse, all tucked inside its plastic curtains.

Inside, the shelf is still sagging. I should have had John reinforce it while he was here and in a fixing mood.

Good germination on most of the tomatoes.

Marigolds and Sweet Williams are growing strong and stocky.

Peppers are beginning to get their true leaves.

Inside the picnic cooler, some unsprouted seeds bask in warmth.

Lettuce, broccoli and cabbages are getting a bit floppy, so I've been putting them outside for a while each day. I always seem to have better luck direct seeding these, I think it's just too warm under the lights in the mini-greenhouse. The smaller, stockier lettuces are being grown under a light on the counter, where it's much cooler.

Look closely, right in the middle of the photo. My first pea shoot of 2010!

You'll have to click on this picture to enlarge it, then maybe you can see the spinach that is growing there. I bought "leaf & twig" compost this year, which is much more expensive than the dairy compost I usually buy, and I think they should have composted those twigs a bit longer. It makes really rough seed beds.

See the three rows of radishes? The lettuce will be planted in between these rows.

The weather has been in the mid fifties, but the wind is cold, cold, cold! Today I planted all the toilet paper seed mats that I had made this week, which were Bulls' Blood and Red Ace beets, Champion, Cherry Belle and Sparkler radishes, Short 'n Sweet, Red Core Chantenay and Ingot carrots.

We still have no irrigation water. Now they say it MIGHT be on by the end of the week. I'm getting too much planted to haul out the sprinkling can full of water every time it's needed, so I broke down and put a nozzle on the hose and hooked it up to the house water. I don't like doing that, as it's chlorinated and expensive to use for gardening, let alone for lawn sprinkling. The grass under our pine trees looks completely dead now. It just can't survive without water.

March 29, 2010: Laundry Room Repairs

If you haven't looked behind your washer lately, run and do it right now. Go! I'll wait for you.

I had no idea there was a leak back there. It wasn't severe enough to make a visible puddle on the floor, but it was ruining the wall! Both faucets were dripping, as well as the hot water hose. Mr. H's socks came in handy to absorb the drips, and a couple of Ys from the garden shut off the lower ones. I tore back all the wet sheetrock and sprayed everything with straight Purex to kill any mold spores. Then I went ahead and painted the undamaged area of that wall, and called my son, John, to the rescue.

John to the rescue!

John cut out the sheet rock to expose the plumbing, surveyed the damage, and made the decision to replace everything rather than try to repair it.

Plumbing replaced, and a sheetrock patch installed

Taped and textured, ready for a coat of primer.

Then I gave it a coat of paint. The wall is like new, and John is my hero kid, as usual! The laundry room is ready for that new washer, which will be delivered Thursday.

All the shelves and moldings got a fresh coat of bright white paint. I purchased the two base cupboards (we had to put them together), and then stacked the old shelves on top of the one on the right, attaching them with a couple of L brackets so they won't topple off.

The two new cupboards give me some nice hidden storage.

Another view of the room. The light sage green paint is a pleasant change from the blue that has been the color for at least ten years.

The plant window is looking rather bare with most of the seedlings moved out to the garden shed.

I didn't completely give up gardening while I was redoing the laundry room. While waiting for the paint to dry, I made toilet paper seed mats of carrots, beets and radishes. They will all be planted tomorrow.

Elsewhere in the garden, the spinach is up, and the radish rows are visible all the way from the kitchen window. I planted some broccoli under milk jugs, the peas aren't up yet, and neither is the lettuce. Most of the seedlings in the garden shed have now sprouted, except for the parsley and the lemon basil. I bought a new packet of parsley seed today, just in case. I know it can take around 3 weeks for parsley to start growing, but the old (2008) seed can't be counted on to be viable, so I decided to play it safe and plant a backup crop. We finally got a good rain yesterday, but the wind blew hard all day today, so everything is dry again. Our irrigation water was supposed to be turned on March 22, but it's still off. Everyone to the west of us has water, but none to the east. Phone calls to the irrigation district just get "It should be on later today or tomorrow", but she's been giving that same answer since last Tuesday! Today she said there must be a stuck valve somewhere.....well, UNSTICK IT!!

March 28, 2010: A Quick Note

It's midnight, I've been painting all evening and I'm pooped! I got the laundry room done, except for an area over the water heater....need a ladder to reach back that far and up that high, and the ladder is out behind the shed. It can wait 'til morning.

Anyway, I just wanted to show all of you something special. A new great-grandson! Remington John is my third great, and he's a looker ;-)

Remington John Ripley

March 27, 2010: May I Pause for a Moment?

Maybe I should have said "May I pause this blog for a day or two (or three)?" You see, yesterday's microwave explosion was just one of several mishaps this week.

First, Mr. H heard a loud snap in his upper arm, while shoveling compost out of the pickup bed for me. It was painful enough that he went to the emergency clinic for an X-ray, but it turned out to be a pulled muscle. He managed to get "doctor's orders" excusing him from any other household or garden duties for the next couple of weeks. I think he's pushing it, myself.

Yesterday, as if the microwave mess wasn't enough, I was washing a quilt when the washing machine began to make the most horrible, loud noise. I guess it stripped its gears or something, the tub won't spin any more. Since the machine is probably 8-10 years old, repair costs would probably be so much that we might as well buy a new machine. Which I did. Today. It won't be delivered until Thursday.

Good time to paint the laundry room! Off I went to Lowe's, where I bought the new washing machine, then headed for the paint department with color card in hand. In the paint department, two male employees were having fun trying to put black tape on each other. I waited. And waited. Finally, one employee noticed me and asked "Did you want something?" No, I'm just standing at the counter because I have nothing better to do with my time. OK, I didn't actually say it, I just thought it. I informed him I wanted to buy some paint, to which he replied "Oh, we don't sell paint". Yes, I know he was trying to be funny, but I was in no mood for playing by then, so I said "Fine, I'll buy it at Wal-Mart" and I walked off. I stopped at the customer service counter and paid for the new washer, then went across the street to Wal-Mart. Wonder of wonders, there was actually an employee in the paint department! Yes, that is unusual in our Wal-Mart. I can't count how many times I've gone there for paint, but couldn't find anyone to wait on me.

I handed the girl my color card, and asked for a gallon of interior satin. It took her a while to figure out how to run the computer, but she finally got it. She put the can (actually a plastic container of Dutch Boy paint) into the mixer, but it made an awful racket when it started. She stopped it and adjusted it a couple of times, and finally got the mixer going the way it should. However, upon removing the container, we noticed there was wet paint pouring out from under the lid (that she had neglected to tighten), all over the mixer and down the sides of my paint can. Not wanting to waste any more time, I took the 20% discount she offered, and had her put the container in a plastic bag to protect me and everything else from the wet paint.

The laundry room is nearly finished, I'm just writing this while I eat my take-out Chinese dinner. Oh, I forgot to mention....when we moved the washer out, we discovered the faucets had been leaking. Evidently for quite a long time. There was lots of damage to the wall, so my dear, darling, always there when I need him, son John is coming tomorrow. He'll cut out the damaged drywall, replace the faucets, the drain and the thingies where the hoses hook up. Then he'll put in a drywall patch and tape and texture it. It should be good as new by the time the new washer arrives.

I also bought some free-standing cupboards for the laundry room. They have to be put together, but will give me a lot more storage for all that stuff I canned last summer. And I need to give all the other shelves a fresh coat of paint. Can't put ratty looking shelves back in a freshly painted laundry room, can I?

So I'm going to take a day or two away from my blog...and get 'er done! There will be photos, of course.

March 26, 2010: Why?

Why doesn't Uncle Ben's make the words "tear to vent" a little larger, so old people like me actually notice them?

March 25, 2010: Nasty, Cold & Windy

What happened to our beautiful spring weather? It was supposed to get to 61F, which is quite a bit colder than the past week has been, but so far it has only reached 54F with a cold, cold wind. I was going to try to get some broccoli planted in the garden today, but if this wind keeps up, I'll not even try. There's no way I could keep milk jugs over the seeds, they'd just blow away.

Speaking of "in the garden", not too much is happening yet. I did give all the raised beds a good layer of compost, and added the 3'x4' lettuce bed (that gives me two of that size), and got it filled. The three rows of radishes that were planted on 3/12 began showing some green yesterday. Nothing yet from the potatoes, spinach, peas or lettuce, which are the only other seeds that have been planted directly in the garden. The onion plants and the pot of cilantro are showing a bit of growth, though the cilantro is suffering a bit from the cold nights. My rosemary, the one that traveled to Arizona for the winter and back, has been removed from its pot and planted into its permanent spot in the garden.

The raised beds are all topped with compost and ready to plant.

The raspberries are growing like crazy, and I have the strawberry bed completely weeded and cleaned up now. It was a job digging out all of the quack grass that had invaded the garden. It comes under the fence from the neighbor's vacant lot, and I can usually keep it away from my side of the fence if I keep right on top of it and get it out as soon as I see it creeping in. However, I had melon vines covering the ground all last summer, and the grass got a real good root system going before I discovered it was there. Of course, it grows from rhizomes, so every time I pull some out, it just breaks and will form more roots and more plants. I'm afraid the only way I'll be able to completely eradicate it will be to use the dreaded "R" word. Roundup does have its uses at times.

This is from the four little raspberry canes planted last spring. We had to pull the posts and brace them on the outsides of the bed, as they kept leaning in the soft garden soil. Now I need to find my paintbrush!

You see strawberry plants. I see strawberry shortcake ;-)

Many of my plants have germinated in the mini-greenhouse. In fact, I think I need a second mini to hold all that I want to start, as I've also had to drag out an old picnic cooler, and a 16" fluorescent light for it, as well as a 24" fixture for the broccoli and cabbage seedlings, besides the 4 double fixtures inside the mini.

The mini-greenhouse is overflowing, the shelf is beginning to bow. Yes, the lights are crooked for a reason...the cosmos are getting too darned tall! I've been turning the lights on at night, and off in the daytime. It's been in the 30s here at night, but the lights keep it around 75-80F. When they go off in the morning, the temperature drops down around 60F. There is a double plastic flap that drops down over the front to keep everything inside warm and toasty.

The overflow (cold resistant plants) stay outside of the mini, on the counter. Tomato seeds stay warm in the picnic cooler, with the light on 24 hours a day until they germinate.

So far, the seedlings growing are:

Persey 1/3
Sungold 1/3
Gartenperle 1/3
Dwarf Champion 3/4
Golden Dwarf Champion 3/4
Market Miracle 1/3
Angora Super Sweet 1/3
Black Cherry 1/3
Kellogg's Breakfast 6/6 (These were seeds I saved from a beautiful, big tomato from last year's garden. I wasn't convinced I could really be a seed saver, so I planted six seeds to see if any were viable. I guess they were, as all six germinated!)

None of the other 14 tomato varieties has yet germinated. All but the two Dwarf varieties were planted 5 days ago. The Dwarfs were planted nine days ago.

Golden Calwonder 7/8
Hungarian Wax 8/8
Quadrato Rosso D'Asti 13/16
Early Jalapeno 7/8

Paris Island Romaine 3/5
Manoa 3/5
Little Gem 3/5
Buttercrunch 4/5
Red Sails 5/5
Red Romaine 5/5
Summercrisp 5/5
Anuenue 1/5
Jericho 1/5

Fernleaf 3/6

Italian Large Leaf 5/5

Red Egg 2/3

Calabrese 4/4
De Cicco 2/4
Waltham 4/4

Golden Acre 4/4
Gonzales 4/4
Red Acre 4/4

Alyssum, Carpet of Snow 18/18
Cosmos, Single Sensation Mixed 18/18 (need to be repotted!)
Hollyhock, Pink 1/6
Hollyhock, White 3/6
Marigold, My Saved Yellow 9/18 (I'm so happy this 2008 seed was still viable!)
Marigold, Petite Yellow 16/18
Shasta Daisy, Alaska 8/8
Sweet William, Tall Double Mixed 17/18
Tennessee Coneflower 1/18
Impatiens, Mixed Colors 5/100 (these came from a box of pelleted seeds in seed starting medium. Very disappointing if I only end up with five plants for $2.99, these were to be my main flowers around the patio and in containers)

March 23, 2010: Awake and Asleep

The garden is awakening! I cleaned out the strawberry bed today, and was so surprised to see quite a few blossoms already. I think it's at least a month early.

The garden awakens!

Granddaughter Alicyn was here again today. She got to dig with the trowel and fill her wagon with dirt. I think the exercise, sunshine and fresh air got to her. Her mother said she barely made it inside the door when she got home....................

Sound asleep!

March 22, 2010: A Baby Garden Girl

Granddaughter Alicyn's sitter is unavailable for a couple of days, so she's spending some time with Grandma and Grandpa. I'm a big believer in child labor, no matter what the age, so I got her out in the garden this afternoon and put her to work hauling compost ;-)

She's a hard worker! Tomorrow we're going to dig.

March 22, 2010: Critters

I know this is a bit off topic for a kitchen garden post, but Rebecca and I have been discussing snakes, and she wanted to see the King snake that paid us a visit one evening.

It was our first year in our Arizona home. We had stayed until mid June, painting and fixing up the place for a winter residence. We were sitting on our front porch, enjoying the coolness that is so elusive on an early summer evening, when I happened to notice a slight movement of something slithering up the porch steps. A moment later a 5 or 6-foot long snake was heading toward our seating area. I immediately recognized it as being a non-poisonous variety, and jumped up to go inside for my camera. Mr. H, who was oblivious to what was happening, said "Where are you going?", to which I replied "Snake!" My, I've never seen that man move so fast.

I did get my camera, and followed the snake for a while.

A Red Spotted Toad was another visitor to our Arizona front porch.

Then there was the tarantula that wandered down our driveway one day. I caught her in a great big jar, just long enough to get some photos, then let her go.

You can see that if she could spread out she'd be as large or larger than a CD case, and more than a handful for me!

Back in 2004, my daughter and son-in-law were managing a mobile home park in the Washington town where I live. One day, Bryan noticed a very distressed skunk with her head stuck in a mayonnaise jar. He called the Humane Society, and they told him they wouldn't come to the rescue, to just kill it. Of course, there's no way he could kill that poor animal....

He grabbed a table top from the patio....

With the table top between him and the skunk, he herded her toward the chain link fence.

Once he got her to the fence, Bryan turned the table top so the jar was wedged between it and the fence, which allowed the skunk to back her head out of the jar. She ambled away, without even a spray, and Bryan stashed the jar in the trash so it wouldn't endanger any other animals.