Gardening: dangerous business

Who says gardening isn’t dangerous? In today’s episode, your intrepid farmer is on weed-pulling duties. While attempting to get a particularly large-based, firmly rooted stand of grass pulled, I was pulling back with both hand and all my weight (although, as my brother says, “all my weight” means something entirely different for me than for some other people) when the roots suddenly gave way with a giant rrrriiippp from the soil, sending me falling backwards. I wound up bracing myself with one hand, straining my wrist in the process. Luckily, it’s minor, with no swelling and just a bit of pain when I move it or grip in a certain way. I forged ahead, and today’s haul: four bags of weeds to go to the yard waste guys. So far. Those guys need to earn their paychecks!

Project weekend at the ranch

First thing this morning after the fog lifted, I headed out to the bees to check them and take some frames. In two of the new hives, I found the queen pretty quickly, and they are motoring along just fine. In the third new hive, there were a LOT of bees. And they were not happy when I disturbed them by popping off the inner cover. Unfortunately, I could not keep my smoker lit for some reason, and all the pine needles out there were wet from yesterday’s rain – I’m going to have to keep a bucket of pine needles in the shed just for that. In any case, I did not spot the queen on my short trip into that hive, but there are more bees now than the last time, so I figure she’s there. I popped open established hive #2, and they were also not very happy, but I took three frames from them anyway and replaced them with empty frames. Then I dragged all my equipment on the wagon from the orchard to the garage. I can see a golf cart sort of vehicle in our future here. People may ask, why not use the tractor? It’s very loud, and the vibrations from it would disturb the bees, making them even more difficult to deal with when the hive is open.

After bringing in the frames, we had to let those wait until the afternoon, since Gabs and the monkeyboy would not be available to test out our new equipment in the morning. So, I got started on the first framing for a compost tumbler.

Cutting wood for frames

Make the Ts for the sides.

Crossing the T

Stand it up, measure 17″ from the top to drill a hole to slide the rod through.

A standing T

Drill the holes in each side T, the drill out a hole on either side of the barrel. Slide the rod through, adding the PVC bushing (outside the barrel), locknut and threaded PVC connector (inside the barrel) on either side, and slide the rod through the other T stand. Put the lid on, and presto! Tumbling composter.

Tumbling composter

I added a bracing board at the bottom to connect the two uprights for stability and strength, and trimmed the conduit on either side. The rod holes in the barrel are slightly above center, to make sure that the top part is always upright when the spinning stops. I also drilled a series of small air holes on either side of the barrel: three evenly spaced holes in each of the rings you see there on the barrel. It’s high enough on the frame that when the compost is ready to come out, a wheelbarrow will fit nicely under it so it can be dumped and shoveled out very easily.



It’s not terrifically heavy, but it’s heavy enough to withstand the types of storms we get around here. This was the first one, and it took less than an hour. The second one, however, took forever, and involved much cursing: the board that formed the uprights was, for whatever reason, one of those boards that seems to be impervious to drilling. I wound up with half screws and half nails in that one, because it was such a massive pain in the ass. But that is done as well, and now we have one, and Gabs can take one home. Then I’ll have to build another one or two for us here at the ranch, as we have plenty of stuff that needs to be composted.


Pickling factory

Marathon pickling session: complete.

Pickles in progress


I got 36 pints of dills done today from this batch of cukes. I do believe it’s almost time to call an end to cuke season. I’ll move on to the next kitchen season: salsa, sauce, curing peanuts, and harvesting and processing the sorghum, assuming the press arrives at some point in my lifetime.


Dill pickles July 2013


The carrots I pulled were sent to others for fresh eating, and mom shredded the rest and packaged it in two cup quantities for using in carrot cake, soups (like my potato leek soup), and other cooking that doesn’t require fresh carrots. The limas and pinto beans are starting to flower, and the black eyed peas are not far behind. We managed, between my sister and I, to salvage a number of the tomato plants that were flattened by our mini tornado, although there are some that I’ll probably need to pull since they’re not readapting well to being upright/being alive. That’s ok: I started three more flats with tomatoes, peppers, and basils (sweet, lemon, and lime) and put them in the barn under the lights.

I’m hoping there is enough time left in our long season here to get another round in, with the lessons I’ve learned about how to keep them upright, gracefully, against the inevitable storms – we are in fact in another period of hard downpours with windy conditions every day once more, that look to last about five days give or take. I’m concerned about getting the potatoes hilled up (covered with more dirt at the bottoms) as I’m worried the constant rains may be bad news for the tubers I see readying to form, or cause those more fragile stems to rot away before anything comes of them. My plan for today is to hustle some soil and poo to them after I return from a followup visit to the docs who cut open my face to allow me to open my mouth. That’s if the rains hold off for a bit longer tomorrow than they did today, as otherwise it will be a wash and I”ll have to wait until Wednesday.

Next weekend I’ll probably start in flats the things that can handle the slightly cooler temps as we head into what passes for winter here: cauliflowers of various colors, broccoli, brussels sprouts (another nod to my mom there). This week, in the breaks between the rains, I’ll be direct sowing things that can be sown directly: the next succession planting of carrots, and the first sow of leeks, something I completely neglected to begin earlier in the season, and more onions.

The garlic is not thriving, and as I was weeding today, I found that quite a number of them had rotted themselves in the ground: the earlier storms we’ve had with the inches of rain, plus the too-fast-move-from “spring”-to the furnace of summer were not kind in that regard. The next attempt at getting a good garlic crop will involve ordering only one variety (the one that looks heartier from the two varieties I put in this year) and will involve that planting being in a frame where we’ve put in some of the good dirt and poop from the mountains we have here. Since this year’s garlic went in at the end of last year, before the great dirt haul, the soil they’re in is not as ideal as it has been for everything else that’s gone into it.

Also on the agenda: another checkin with the bees: the three new packages to make sure they’re moving along as they should, and to see if they’re ready for a second brood box, and the established hives to see if there is more honey that needs to be pulled.