August 25, 2009


Tuesday, August 25, 2009 Posted by Ryan , , , No comments
We are starting to harvest the tomatoes and zucchini and even a few peppers from the garden already. Earlier this summer the one raspberry cane that survived transplanting and our heavy snow load produced a surprising number of berries and the new canes are already over 7 ft tall. I definitely need to build something to contain them for next summer and maybe prune the excess cane height to a more manageable 6ft. The thornless black berry, which looked so sad last summer, actually survived also and even has some berries coming to maturity right now. I'm glad the blackberry season is 6 weeks after the raspberry season. It makes it more manageable to harvest, eat and store the berries.

I've done little work in the garden during the summer except water and watch the yellow pear tomato plant grow to monstrous proportions. In fact my experiment of staking and tying the tomatoes(instead of using cages) this year - failed. Once the plants started setting fruit the heavy plant just pulled the ties down. I'm sure they would have pulled the flimsy wire cages down too, so next year some sort of wood tomato trellis is in order. I'd really like to build this pretty one that I found directions for, but I couldn't afford the cost, or space to build one for each tomato plant. Maybe someday I'll have one, as an accent, but build a more communal trellis system that can accommodate 6 plants at a time.

I've learned some lessons from our guerrilla garden experiment this year.
1) The hand-me-down tomato trellis has some engineering flaws that will help me build a more successful one next year. The first rung was only an inch or two off the ground so the second rung was too high to tie the plant to until it had already started creeping across the ground horizontally. Even now the tomatoes aren't tall enough to reach the third rung but have already started producing and getting heavy and our of control.
2) If we use the space again next year, I definitely have to use some sort of weed barrier/mulch because even after removing all the weeds when the plants were young, new weeds appeared and the vegetables are all much to large to effectively weed around. Some sort of climbing weed is strangling my eggplants.
3) The sun is great in the vacant lot, but it is hard to water evenly (especially without also watering the weeds). A soaker hose is a definite must next year. I just wasn't prepared this year with the proper materials - because I procrastinated - and the poor watermelon and pumpkin plants are paying for it.

My sister was visiting this week and I got to spend some time with her on Saturday (my only day off from work & the theatre). She gave me two of her handmade glass cloches for the garden because they weren't so effective in her patio garden setup. I have to figure out what I'm going to try them out on next spring. Maybe direct seeded basil? I tried to start basil inside this year, but right after our last frost date we had a week of scorching temperatures and the immature basil seedlings just fried in a day. So if I can get them started a little earlier outside, maybe they'll be stronger when the rouge weather hits.

Katie also asked about growing garlic, specifically how you get the garlic scapes. This year was the first time I've tried both onions and garlic - and both failed. I didn't water consistently, some of the onion starts got mouldy before I got around to planting them, and guess what, you are supposed to plant garlic in the fall! Well I know better this year. I did a little reading about growing garlic and found two great resources for our area (one in Hood River, and the other in Canada). First, I found that only the hardneck varieties of garlic produce garlic scapes. Softneck garlic is the kind you normally find in the grocery store. So if you want garlic scapes, plant the hardneck varieties, plus it allows you access to garlic that is harder to find. I don't know about you, but that is one of the main reasons I grow food. oh, and harvest the scapes when they've made 1-2 complete loops (but before the flower opens).

I pledge to be on top of things this fall and next spring so the new raised beds are built, cover crops are planted and garlic sown.

August 24, 2009

Fence Plan

Monday, August 24, 2009 Posted by Ryan , , , , , 2 comments

So my big plan for this weekend - besides cleaning up the house - was to get the brackets installed on the posts at the proper heights so that next weekend I could measure and cut all the 2x4s. I went to the store and picked up the brackets that I chose to use then on Sunday went outside to put them up. After measuring and running a string line I realized that the brackets all had to slide over the top of the metal pole AND the brackets were all supposed to go 4 inches below the string. I ran into a problem when I couldn't tighten the bolt in the bracket to secure it to the pole. I tried both a screw driver and pliers (just now I realized I should breakout the socket set and try that) but really that thing wouldn't budge. I could get it to un-screw, but there was no advancing the sucker. I'll go back with the wd-40 and the socket set, but it's just frustrating that something as "simple" as tightening a bolt can seem like an impossible task.

August 3, 2009

Things that happened…and didn’t

Monday, August 03, 2009 Posted by Ryan , , , , 2 comments
Car: I was pulled over and received my first ticket (ever) for driving with overdue (very overdue) license tabs. Apparently I never updated our address on the car registration when we moved and so never got a reminder, and apparently never look at the license plate on the back of the car to notice the little MAR sticker. I got the ticket in MAY. They guy who pulled me over was rather nice, I felt stupid and maybe mentioned that I would have remembered if they sent out e-mail reminders.

I was also rear-ended on the freeway in a construction zone. I have seen more than the usual rear-end collisions in this area while the section was resurfaced. It was the usual kind of rear-end accident. Traffic was really slow, stop and go and go faster, go slower, STOP…but the girl behind me didn’t stop fast enough. She was more shaken up than me, but then her car was more of a mess than mine. I called my insurance company, just in case and I talked to her insurance company. I took the car to their recommended appraiser, although there really wasn’t serious damage, and got a quote for the repairs. Approx $745 because they can’t repair bumpers anymore, only replace them and I say “yes, go ahead and order the new bumper” to the place that did the appraisal because it isn’t like I have my own personal body shop. But then two days later I talk to the man from the other insurance company and he says, “we got the estimate, do you want to have the work done there or do you want me to send the check to you?” Oh! I didn’t know that I could just take the money and run. Like I said, the damage to the bumper was cosmetic, and what the hell, the front bumper looks worse from my 2005 winter run in with a trailer hitch in an icy intersection. I took the check, canceled the repair, and continue to drive the car with the damaged front AND rear bumper, with a ever growing crack in the windshield. Classy.

House: We have some new cabinets & a lot more counter top space in the kitchen now. The cabinets are installed, the counter is installed. There is nothing in the cabinets yet (it’s only been 3 weeks and counting) but soon. I still have some puttying and touch up painting to do on the cabinets. I also need to strip and wax the floor in the kitchen to hopefully repair the lovely scratches left from the cabinet installation. That will happen after I finish wiring the new outlet for the microwave and maybe after I run new wiring for a hood fan and countertop appliances so that someday I could install a backsplash. You know, if I wanted it all done in 2 months, I would have paid someone else to do it. But I didn’t and won’t because that shit is easy, it just takes time. Time that sometimes is otherwise occupied by watching a marathon of Burn Notice or Law and Order or something embarrassing on the Family Channel because it is 85 degrees inside my house and 100 outside the house and if I move I will be miserable. I wish it was Fall already.

Yard: The fence (posts) are in. Ok, really, that’s the hardest part (have I said that already) and the rest of the fence should be super easy to finish – 1, 2 days tops. If I could finalize the design, decide which fasteners to use to attach the supports and find a day when another person is there to help me attach 7.5’ 2x4s to the posts. Really, though, it’s almost done. The rest of the yard is doing okay, the front is filling out. I need to get a picture so we can do a before and after since last year in July it was just dirt. The sunflowers are almost blooming outside the bedroom window and the grass in the backyard is so yellow and dry that is disintegrates when I walk on it. Just the way it should. We have been watering the food gardens and the front plantings, but not the grass because then it would need to be mowed and most of it is getting ripped out anyway and I’m lazy and stingy with water. I really do want to have a nice back yard but there’s still no patio (because the fence isn’t done yet) and what was grass (not very nice grass in the first place anyway) is now dusty and crunchy and the summer is now officially over.

Theatre: I say the summer is over because auditions for the Fall season opener are today. And for me, that means the end of the summer. There will still be time to finish the fence (don’t worry) but I no longer think the patio will happen this year. Maybe I could get my gravel path in the front finished though, that would be satisfying. Both Paul and I participated in the endowment fund fundraiser, which showcased all the musicals in the coming season, last month and I sang There’s No Business Like Show Business in a floor length body-hugging sequined evening dress. Somewhere there are pictures. Tonight I will be singing When a Merry Maiden Marries (The Gondoliers) by Gilbert and Sullivan for auditions for the Pirates of Penzance. It seems like the snow will be here anyday (oh, except it's still 92 degrees outside).