Friday, July 31, 2009

Garden Update

I haven't given a good update of the garden's progress of late so here are some crap photos off my cell phone.

First: The Stolen Raspberry Patch

Note the excellent use of scrap lumber as edging. It's gotten a bit roughed up but I'll put it back.

And the bad news from the little square foot garden. The Pest Damage:

Those bastards ate CHARD and carrot tops. The photo is of what SHOULD be leafy chard and bushy carrot tops but instead there is holey leaves and some spindly tops. Oh well. No carrots underground either. They are spending all their energy growing new tops.

But the good news is there are baby tomatoes.
This one is some heirloom type supposedly.

And there are green beans showing up that the grasshoppers haven't eaten yet

Those are onions in the next square over. They appear to be doing well. I planted 32 sets and have about 26 or 27 onions still going.

Here's an overview shot of the garden:

Across the front we have: bolted mangled chard, white onions, empty square (spinach or something that never materialized) and a tomatillo.
Next row back we have mangled carrots, a lone pepper that is still blooming and miss the season all together, some beans under a 1/4inch mesh cage since something totally ate them the first time. And a single bunch of red lettuce that was supposed to be 4 bunches of lettuce.
Third row back is the green beans shown above. Actually, they will grow up to be black or white beans, they're just "green" in color. A lone mangled marigold that the pests ate and it never bloomed (it was there to keep pests out of the garden...oh well). Then red onions, and a few more mangled sad carrots.
In the back row it's 4 tomato plants that are doing well so far (I ask each of my readers to please knock on wood at this point).

So, IF the peppers come out, they are hot hungarian wax peppers, and IF I had grown some cilantro, I could make some salsa out of the garden produce.

Never the less, I'm having fun with it and I'm sure next year will be better.

On another gardening note...the new lawn boy needs to be reigned in a bit. I'm going to talk to his mother. He and a friend mowed the lawn again. Now it's going to die because there is no more rain predicted. I don't water the lawn. It's a waste to put drinking water on grass when about 1/3 of the world's population doesn't have ANY drinking water access. Anyway, I don't like it that short when it's going to be dry. I'll have to catch him one of these days or try to get his number. I thought I was clear about no more mowing until fall but I also think they wanted money for something. Next time, there won't be pay. I realize that I have different lawn standards than others but the 2nd lawn boy's father is out there now desperately watering a lawn that would not have needed water if they hadn't mown it. Some people...

OK, I've got to dog proof the house. Babygirl is coming over later.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Ssllooww Food

Today I took the day off work and went to pick huckleberries with a friend and the friend's sister. I hadn't met the sister before but it was fun! And there was some adventure as the seatbelts were not available during the drive. Oh well. If I'm going to die for something it might as well be something delicious. We were all in the front seat of a big pickup and we're not small ladies. You bond with people when your are inadvertently body slamming them as you bounce over ruts. You also bond when you realize that you didn't wear appropriate foundation garments and you're just going to have to manual hold the girls down for the ride.

Anyway, we went up Cherry Creek, outside Saint Maries. It was lovely. My officemate had given us directions and stopped by to have lunch with 10:30.

I was told to be ready at 6:30am to leave. They were early! Which is good. But it meant I forgot a couple of things like lunch and toilet paper. Fortunately the friend had toilet paper. Even more fortunately there was a fortuitously situated log with a view of mountains and a nice breeze. Soon there were two fortuitously situated logs (sorry...I had to do it).

I was the most mobile person as the other two have replaced knees. 6 legs and only 2 original knees on the trip! They get around fine, but you don't want to fall down on the knees if you can help it. I told them that if they did fall, make sure it was up a hill that I could back the truck up to and just roll them into the bed. That or we'd just tie them to a bumper and tell the game warden we had a doe tag.

We actually ran into another Tribe employee up there. He is with forestry but said he was out checking huckleberry permits. (a pick them for free). I bribed him with one huckleberry.

We picked for a few hours with plenty of breaks. Then into St. Maries (pronounced "Saint Mary's") for treats at a cafe. Tragically, the only pies available were cream based!! I don't do the dairy so I got curly fries and iced tea. Still good. The other two had pie and a banana split. Looked delicious.

THEN we toured a park area and finally headed home. It was a lovely day out.

I got home at about 4 or so and set to work on the berries. I had WAY more than I thought. I figured I had about 4 cups and might be able to stretch them into a batch of jam (need 6 and a half cups per batch for the low sugar stuff). Turns out I had enough for TWO batches of jam. Yeay!! I was only going to do one batch and dry the rest and then I just went ahead since it was already hot and the jars were clean and did the second batch. It's easier to to lots in series than to start again another day. I didn't have the pectin I like for the second batch so we'll see if using the sure-jel recipe with ball pectin works out. Either way, it will be delicious. The worst case scenario is one batch of jam and one batch of huckleberry sauce.

If I get more this year I would like to try some spiced huckleberries. They would be spectacular with smoked salmon.

By the time I finished the jam it was after 6pm. That's pretty much 12 hours of effort and socializing for jam. Well worth it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Veggies and Whatnot

I panicked too early. There are now tiny tomatoes setting on one tomato plant. This is good. Grasshoppers are reeking havoc in general though.

Still, I got about 1/2 cup of raspberries this evening. So I made lemonade and froze the raspberries and put them in. Delicious.

I'm also watching the Grey Gardens HBO flick with Drew Barrymore and Jessica "Batbrow" Lange. It's OK. Not fabulous. Drew is too round and short and doesn't carry herself as well despite having the appropriate genetic background on her father's side. Jessica...well, too thin, too pulled and tucked. Part of the charm of the Grey Gardens ladies is their physicality so missing that is an issue. Ken Howard and Phelan Beale Sr. is OK, but of course we don't know from the original documentary what he looked like so he's got an easier time.

Drew did do a reasonable job with the accent. Still, she looks more like my friend Kendra than she does Edith Beale.

For those who haven't seen the Grey gardens documentary from the 1970s, I'm not sure you can be my friends anymore.

For the few who are left, please listen to the Ricky Gervais podcasts and then the Wiggly Wigglers podcasts. If you don't, you won't understand any of my references from here on out.

Ok, now I need to watch the movie.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Natural Bug Repellent...Not Just for Gardens

I'm avoiding spreading DEET on my skin these days, at least until I get desperate. Then I'll use the DEET.

Citronella oil makes an OK bug repellent. It's in many commercial repellents and is probably what makes that Avon bath oil work as a repellent.

According to many websites, and random hippies I've run into over the years, there are many essential oils that will work as bug repellent:
Mix together:
basil, cedarwood, citronella, juniper, lemon, myrrh, palmarosa, pine, rose geranium and/or rosemary.

Various sites recommend putting these in a base of 190 proof grain alcohol (from the liquor store) at a ratio of 21/2 tsp of oil to 1 cup of alcohol. Others say to use a carrier oil like almond or even olive but not a heavy virgin olive oil.
Be careful, some essential oils are a bit tough on skin or people are allergic to them. Best to do some experimenting before.

Lavender oil or the crushed leaves of a plantain (the North American weed, not the gourmet banana from the fancy food store) will take away the sting. Personally I keep a bit of "Sting Stop" around the trailer.

And since I've got a friend (Hi Karin) with a GIANT case of poison ivy, here are recommendations for that:
aloe vera applied right to the rash
tea tree oil applied liberally and frequently to the rash to stop the itch and maybe stop the rash (this might also stop itching from bug bites) (tea tree oil DOES cure various minor skin fuguses too and is a good antiseptic and disinfectant) (I wonder if I can grow a tea tree here? hmmm...)
Jewelweed...I don't know what this is, but they say it works against poison ivy and stinging nettles
Rhubarb stems! A site says to break the stems up and rub the broken ends (and the juice that comes out) on the affected areas. Interesting. And you'd smell like pie!
Since Karin has a horrible case, perhaps we could put a grid pattern on her with a sharpie and try a variety of natural remedies and see which works. Sure it's cruel, but it would be interesting.

The best cure is to NOT GET INTO POISON IVY. If you see this plant:

That whole "leaves of three, let it be" seems about right.

Anyway, enough about the poison ivy.

The garden continues apace, though I'm worried as there are no tiny tomatoes on the tomato plants yet. When do those come on? And the tomatillos? The beans? I know I could look it up but it would be easier if someone just told me.
The lettuce looks OK again so I might harvest a leaf tomorrow. I was supposed to have 4 bunches but only one made it. Some of the carrot tops (not the horrifyingly crap comedian, the vegetables) are starting to come back.
I'm still spraying stank on it frequently and I fertilized it with fish emulsion after spraying on the onion stuff the other day. It STANK to high heaven. I hope I can harvest worm poop soon. I've also heard that I should save my bean water (from soaking, cooking, and even from rinsing canned beans) to put on the garden. Something about nutrients. It also seems that once I get my sprouter going again that water is good for the garden. Since I water out of a bucket, I could just bring in the bucket to get that water and bean juice. I'll try it and let you know.

If anyone has used an oil or plant or something as personal bug repellent, I'd like to know how it worked. And for the family elders out there, what did you use back in the day?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Natural Bug Spray

In response to Laurie (FlyRight)'s question, I am using a "natural" bug spray.

I cut up some onion pretty thin. Added chopped garlic and some of the super hot cayenne pepper I had lying about. Let that steep in a sealed container with enough water to cover and a dash of oil for a few days.
Then I put it in the new (unfortunately plastic) pump up garden sprayer I got and diluted with water.
I've been spraying most mornings (though I realize I forgot today! Crap.). There is significantly less veg eaten in the mornings and very few of the little bug poops (dark bits) on the chard. The chard is pretty much a goner but I'm spraying the crap out of the tomatoes and beans in hopes of saving some crop. The onions appear to be fine.

The onion/garlic mix without the cayenne is referred to as "allium tea" on some organic gardening websites. And is supposed to be effective in keeping all sorts of bugs off the plants. It will keep the neighbors out of the garden as well. Lordy does it reek! Several sites recommended adding the cayenne and I figured what the hell since the neighbor cats keep getting in there. The cayenne should keep them out. It is also supposed to help with any sort of caterpillar or grub.
A couple of sites said to add vinegar but I haven't done that. It could change the ph of the soil and perhaps bother the leaves.
Some sites also said to add a bit of soap (not detergent!) to the mix. I haven't done that yet either because with such a small garden in a raised bed and non-permeable soil underneath, I could concentrate those sorts of things pretty easily and end up wrecking the soil in a year or two. If I get desperate, I'll add soap or vinegar.

In other news, I went triking again last night. I'm marginally faster than I was last time though I had to stop several times as it was in the MID 90S!!!! I hate the hot. Went from Chatcolet to Harrison and back, for those who know the local area. I'm not sore, but I did take precautions by coating my legs with arnica before bed.

And now, back to work.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Bugs and Sundays

So, the bugs ate more last night. I have pretty much NO CHARD left. Bastards. I almost had enough to make a slaw and now it's gone. I stopped at the hardware store for a sprayer as the small "misto" oil sprayer from my kitchen lasted about 2 minutes as a garden sprayer. Frustratingly enough, the garden sprayer is plastic. I could not find a metal one for any price. I'm going to keep looking though. I saw one weeks ago at a thrift store and thought "I just don't need it so I'm not buying it" and it was metal. DOH!

Anyway, I've got to order the b-t bacterial treatment online I guess and for now I'll keep spraying onion, garlic and cayenne stank on the remaining garden bits and hope for the best.

On the upside, I read of a new and better way to get the worms out of the worm poop so you can use said poop on the garden. You put some shredded paper or other appropriate bedding (leaves) in an old mesh bag, like an onion bag, and add some of their favorite food. Mine like melon rinds so I diced up a muskmelon that was in the fridge and put the rinds and torn up paper from my retirement fund annual report (best fed to worms...I'll grow more food with the poop than I'll ever buy with a retirement fund at the rate things are going).
Tied the bag shut with a twisty I saved off some broccoli and stuck it on one end of the worm thingy. Supposedly in a week or so, most of the worms will be in the bag. We'll see!

My outdoor composter is doing OK too. I had a some beans going off in the fridge (I over estimated my need for beans-n-rice), as well as some strawberry bits, quite a bit of tabouli and etc. Since the worms are not getting fed for a while, it all went into the outdoor composter. Then I grabbed some of the grass clippings that the lawn boy had piled next to the composter (why not in? Who knows). Just about 3 inches down from the top they were already heavily decomposed! It's only been about 10 days since he put them there. Awesome. I still threw them in the composter so I get the required layers of food and clippings that supposedly speed compostery.

In sad news, the grasshoppers have also moved in. They are eating leaves off the raspberries! I hope that doesn't kill the berry crop this year. I'm tempted to wrap the garden and the raspberries entirely in cheese-cloth this year. The grasshoppers would probably just tear through it anyway.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Freaking BUGS Are Eating the Garden


I knew there was something eating a bit of the chard. But it was just eating a bit so I thought I'd be all zen and just let it be because there is enough to share. This morning I check and the bugs have destroyed most of the chard. It's just a lacy leafy thing in the shape of chard. AND the one marigold that did come up and was about to get a is now the skeleton of a baby marigold. Dead probably.

There are 2 or 3 carrots that now only have skeleton tops. Probably dead.
The onions and tomatoes seem pretty good. The mystery plant has quite a bit of damage on the lower leaves but is still good at the top.

My first move was to break up some garlic cloves and spread those around the garden.

I did some googling and it seems there may be a leaf roller infestation. There is a cherry tree near by, actually several, and it's very likely infested. So, they've blown down on the garden. I saw a tiny green worm dangling from a silk thread.
By then the zen crap was out the window and I killed it.

More googling showed a bug like the mature one I saw in there, more or less, and noted the loads of black poops that you see on leaves. I've got that.

Many sites recommend allium tea. A blend of onion, garlic and hot pepper with a bit of soap (not detergent) and some say to add vinegar too. Then dilute with water and spritz the plants.
I guess I know what I'm doing as soon as the store opens! I have everything, though the garlic is now all over the garden in chunks so I'll need more of that. My castile soap should be actual soap rather than detergent so that should work.

Cripes. Freaking bugs!

They aren't on the lettuce yet...knock on wood.

On a less discouraging note, the tomatoes look good! I'm probably supposed to be pinching off the suckers and things but they are so lovely and green I don't want to.

And I heard on the Wiggly Wigglers podcast that worm tea helps with slugs so I'm going to put worm poo on the garden soon. My worms don't make much tea (that's the pool of worm wee that some bin systems get in the bottom) because I don't have the sort of system with pooling of tinkle facilities. Still, the wee is all absorbed into the worm castings so it must be somewhat effective. Over winter I'll see if I can get some tea production going with a few changes to the worm bin.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Awesome Toilet!

So, by now my faithful readers ... both of you ... are familiar with my wish to move off grid to some degree at least and my interest in composting toilets.
I've been wondering about how to harvest methane off of poo (mine and the critters') and if it's doable in this climate and etc. And what about composting toilets as a solution to issues like Plummer has? Here there is a sewer moratorium. No new toilets hooked up because we're about 100 gallons per person (kids included) over capacity on the current sewer. A new sewer is going in and there are a few low-flow shower heads around town. But, not much in the way of real sustainable change in handling poo and poo by-products in this area. And what about the "developing" world where the demand for western style toilets, which flush away massive amounts of drinking water, is rising as the availability of water is falling? Flush toilets may have solved a major sanitation problem in their day. But 6 billion of us cannot flush 6 times a day with even a low-flow 1.5g or 1g flush. You need pipes, treatment plants, incoming water, out going water. And the aftermath of everything we flush, from poop to the estrogen in so many women's pee from being on birth control pills (this is feminizing fish near the outlesure I'd be able to cook over direct poo gas from my own poo, but I could definitely run the hot water heater. The gas and flame don't touch the water. It seems less icky. Of course, I was planning on solar hot water but for the winter and cloudy days the rest of the year, this is probably a good option to have.

She also proposes a system where the poo is packaged in a cassette sort of thing and taken to a larger community digester which produces and harvests the methane and redistributes it through lines. This would be handy in urban areas and help depersonalize the poo gas. You'd be cooking over generalized methane, not the stink off your own poop.

She's got lots going for her ideas environmentally. She wants to keep this open source (free to you and me) designwise and to have the toilets locally produced with local materials. That keeps waste and shipping to a minimum. By keeping it open source it's not only available to you and me, it's available to actual poor people in the third world. It looks like most of the parts can be improvised from trash that is blowing and rolling around anyway. Five gallon buckets and plastic bags are two of the main resources needed. Those are all over the place.

Future guests do not be alarmed. I do not plan to implement this system immediately as a sole option. And if I stay around Plummer, even when I'm off grid you can wait until you're in town and poo at the Wellness Center or the IT center or the store.

On that note, why do grocery stores all have bathrooms now? I don't remember that being an option when I was a kid. I like it. But I wonder when we all suddenly had to have a bathroom at the ready at all times. Was it the same time we decided that we HAD to have water with us all the time? One of my favorite George Carlin bits is his tantrum on when we all got so thirsty and we couldn't just get a drink before we left the house. Part of it must be that we are out and about most of the day now rather than at our houses. And perhaps we're all a bit more spoiled now. Oh well. It IS handy when going through a small town and you really need a wee.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Cool Thrifting and Cool Flicks

It's been a while again. It's hard to blog during the week with internet only at work.

Anyway, I got to stop at a thrift store in Pullman WA and they had, for 3$ an organic cotton Blue Canoe brand tank! Very nice. Doesn't appear to have been worn much. And they had a Mouli (from those infomercials in the 1970s) in the original box with all the blades and the instructions. I love crap like that. It was cheap but now I need to get rid of something else out of the kitchen of similar size and/or use. I've got more coolers than I use so perhaps one of those can go.

Then I tried the Goodwill in Moscow ID and they had a Patagonia shirt for 2$ with no visible wear or stains. Who gets rid of clothes this expensive without wearing them out? Everyone but me? This shirt IS artificial fiber, but I'm hoping the idea that it's made out of old beverage bottles and that I can drop it or mail it to Patagonia for recycling into a new product when it's worn out shirt-wise will help with that.

I clearly need to buck up my outfits at work. I'm not offended by worn clothing but apparently other people are. When did we decide that things had to be new? Why do they need to be new?
My brown work pants are in fine shape other than some wear and tear around the hem. They are carhartts with double fronts so will last years (for 30$ new that isn't bad at all). The color is still fine, except for one bleach spot by the knee. And yet, wearing those with a button down Columbia shirt and my brown shoes, I was told that I was looking sloppy. I really don't get it. I work partly outside and the dress code is "attire appropriate to your job". I figured sturdy pants and a clean shirt with no inappropriate parts hanging out should be fine for someone who just came in from inspecting a wetlands location. I think I'll start keeping some "slacks" and a linen shirt in the office for when I'm supposed to meet a muckety muck. If they show up unannounced, which is the more common event, they can just deal with my outfit. Still, I'll try to wear things that look newer. We'll see if that satisfies people.

Speaking of thrifting and clothes. I saw this old old man at Value Village (a thrift department store chain) yesterday with an amazing t-shirt. It was one of those old-man undershirts like Gramp used to wear. Short sleeved and crew neck. The seams and collar were the only parts of the shirt that were clearly visible! It was SO WORN and SO THIN that you could see his old man moobs (that's what the kids are calling "man boobs") and skin through the shirt. He was entirely pink with white-ish seams around the sleeves and across his shoulders and a collar. I looked closer and saw that the slightly less worn parts of the shirt were making it look sort of "pink heather"...some areas a bit lighter pink. You could have read newsprint through that shirt. But it wasn't ripped and he was still wearing it. I wish I could have gotten a photo.

I did have to buy something full price yesterday. AND it's not biodegradable. I still needed a helmet for riding my trike. I tried to find used, but no go. Probably in the fall after bike season and maybe when the college kids are leaving in spring. But, my timing was off. I also did not want some shiny aerodynamic thing that makes it look like I'm trying to shave 2 seconds off my time on the Tour de France. I'm a fat middle aged woman on a bigwheel. I'm not shaving time off anything. But, the less douchey looking helmets cost a lot more. So I got the normal bike helmet shape. Black with gold flowers. It was that or pink with white flowers. Puke. Oh well. There are some very cool helmets that are just head shaped and have hat shaped covers going over them. I think those say "I'm wearing a helmet and I know I look like a moron so I added a cover for extra douchey-ness". More honest.
Perhaps I'll put one on my christmas list and then pass on the one I've got. Or I'll get used to the one I have.

Now for the cool flicks:
I watched "Harold and Maude" again. It really is a great flick! Everyone go watch it now. The Cat Stevens (now Yusuf Islam) on the sound track is amazing. And I realized that I dream of becoming Maude, though without the singing and dancing. I want to live in a weird house with a bunch of weird crap and not care what gets stolen. And if I bag a 20 something when I'm 80, so be it. I also liked her theory that 80 is a good time to go (TO ALL THE OLDER RELATIVES: I'M NOT RECOMMENDING ANYTHING FOR YOU! JUST TALKING THEORY HERE). 75 is too soon and 85 you're just hanging on. 80 sounds about right. Unless you're in good shape and still having a good time.

I also watched a few foreign films which I'll have to review later as my wash needs hanging out and I'm running out of time on the free dial up!

I want to put up a photo and garden report too. Maybe later today if I can mooch some wifi.