Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Yard Work April 2014

This is a great time of year to catch up on a few projects around the house. The weather is good and the ground still soft until the summer sun starts drying it out.

As I had mentioned in an earlier blog, our front porch slopes toward the house rather than away from it. So today the guys are tearing it out for a re-pour of the porch.
Donna, who has been laid up lately in Spokane, is missing a historic event, us making the first major change to the house. After seeing the video she was good with it. :-)

The guys did a great job of breaking it up...considering

Considering, the f'ing concrete was up to 9 inches thick, thick enough for a 4 lane highway, and the re-bar was laying on the ground underneath the concrete which further leaves me with nothing but more contempt for the former owners. The builder spent tons of money on the house and upgrades but the folks he sold it to used every cheap trick in the book to degrade any upgrade. My propane guy told me they sold the original propane heating stove...$4500 according to him...on craigslist for $250 so they could put in a wood-stove and cut their own wood. He was sick about it because he was about two hours late in buying the original stove. Why do I say cheap? See that drain in the was a fake, like two others with no drain system attached.

Ok, "calm down Tom"... my wife would say. The guys had to fill in quite a bit of the washed out soil under our aircraft runway cement with some of the crushed concrete. This will be great when it is finished...the right way! I'd do it myself but a man's got to know his limitations!

Just another example of the dim wits before us is this drain line for the rain gutters. The top was visible on the surface of the side driveway because someone was too lazy to actually set it below grade.

After cutting the line and moving it, I dug it down at least two inches below the top of the driveway. As you can see from my very "straight" trench, this is one of the reasons I don't play well with construction.

Not really knowing much about construction I did think it might be a good idea to have some drain rocks to help percolate the water into the soil. It's not actually rock but concrete the former folks decided to camouflage with mulch hiding on top near the side of the property.

Ok...just one more grip about the JO's of whom we bought the property from. The black line laying on the surface you are looking at is actually a water line going out to one of the water spigots for the yard. Totally their style!
It will be fixed in the coming week.

While Donna is recovering I tease her with relaxing photos of the back patio. My distorted sense of reason is, this will push her to recover and join me. Last fall Donna and I set about 100 tulip bulbs in the flower bed near my feet and they are just starting to come up. There is a little wire fence (three feet tall) just to keep the dogs from wondering off and I really have no intention of blocking our view with a deer fence to save the bulbs.

My son told me about these motion detectors that shoot out a stream of water when prompted. Denny has one brand and I went with a slightly more expensive one that has a few more "bells and whistles".
Below is my evaluation of the "Orbit Yard Enforcer"...I've had trouble attaching videos to the blog lately so a youtube video is the only way to present it.

Disclaimer: no animals were harmed or killed in the making of this video.

I turned off the "Yard Enforcer" so they could come back and eat the apples but I'd say our tulips might be safe this year!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Spring 2014

I ran up to the house in order get a few things ready for spring, like getting garden hoses out of the basement and turning on the outside water spigots. The temperatures are running in the low 60's during the day and mid 30's at night, so when I get here after dark I love whipping up a hot fire to take the chill off the house...and I mean hot!

No, Benji is not hiding from the wood stove. I'll sit in the white chair while watching TV and every time I go to get up, he is under my feet! Finally I tried moving his bed under the end table near where I sit and now make him lay there...stay out of my way, good boy Benji.

Still polluting the air trying to get rid of the left over deer feed.

My buddies have not abandoned me, although I think in a month or so it'll be "fawning" time and I expect the mothers will be more skittish.

This might be the deer's perspective while licking its lips thinking about how to get to Donna's tulips, a favorite of the deer. We tried planting vegetation that can be harmed by the herd behind a fence while letting the rest grow out in the yard.

It is Sunday, so I'm wearing my "Sunday best" outfit while working in the yard. I have used the typical cylindric tomato cage years ago and still have a couple in the garage but found an alternative  recently at a farm store. It is a triangle shaped cage, which doesn't sound that different but because it anchors with five legs instead of three... it should be much sturdier.

While it was hard to photograph, if you look closely you see a triangle shaped one and two triangle ones put together to form a rectangle. The rectangle would be great for tomato's, beans or even summer squash. Now when you join two singles to make the rectangle it has ten legs...more than enough for support. They are $2.99 each at "Big R".

I also hung a couple of "begonia" baskets in the front entry and two on the back patio. I have never tried this before but since I have 14 begonia tubers growing in pots I need a place for them. The two plastic yellow thing-a-ma-gigs are wasp and meat bee catchers. They had a bad summer last year here with these pesky little buggers, so we are trying to be proactive!

Time for the little critters. 
Here a male Northern Flicker drums constantly during the day on this old birdhouse, probably bragging to other males that he already has a mate. He never seems to hurt the house but must like the hollow reverberations that are produced by his beak. Take note of his "blurry" tail, I'll mention it later.
I'll accept all donations towards a better lens...haha 

We get plenty of California Quail coming through the yard at certain times of the day...and all winter too. Not too sure why they are called California Quail seeing that we are about 700 miles from California's most northern border?
I did see a good used lens that is only $7000, just saying :-0

Here is the same male Flicker utilizing a "quality" bird house for he and the little lady. I took a look in and they have dug a tunnel down towards the bottom further than I can see. 
The "tail"?
I have noticed in other photos that they use their tails as push bars, if that's the correct term. It looks like they exert pressure with the tail to get more power to the beak?

This area between the garden and fence was knee high in weeds when we bought the property. I sprayed a broad leaf control on it and then laid down some fresh straw to keep any growth from taking root...and to make it easier for the deer to walk around the garden, drooling! ☺
That's it for this blog..stay healthy.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Destruction 101 & Gardening 201

When we bought this house I was aware the front entry cement and brick columns would need to be replaced. The builder apparently did not compact the soil well enough which is causing the water to drain incorrectly.

I've never been known for my mechanical ability but I am pretty good at tearing things apart. To save some money...we are on a fixed income ya know!..I tore down the two brick columns myself. Donna thought we could save even more money if I broke up the concrete patio too...right, not a chance!

Hey, I could save more by just leaving it like this, I don't
 think it looks too bad. Hopeful the crew will start in two weeks and we can knock this out quickly.

When I went to Safeway to pick up some food and I saw a pallet of chicken manure on sale, 4 bags @10 bucks. I ended up getting 6 cubic feet for the garden but if I had more time, I would of gotten 20 cubic feet for the price they were selling it.

I first spread the manure on top of the mounds and started to carefully work it into the soil with my Garden Weasel Claw, which was a present from Donna. I had to be careful because I laid the main waterline for each mound right on top and the claw did have some pretty sharp daggers.
Then I had one of my rare brain farts. Since the waterlines only bring the water to the mound, the mounds will actually get their liquid from separate 1/4 inch lines that I can move. So why have the 1/2 inch line on top and in my way, just off set them to one that's what I did.

Why on earth did I spend good money for a riding lawnmower
when these guys cut and fertilize the lawn all at once? ☺

My granddaughter chastised me for polluting when she saw this photo. People that live in cities don't even know that us "country folk" do this all the time. Makes me wonder why some farms still have so much junk or dilapidated buildings on site when a match would clear the land.

While I was bored this winter, I tried building some birdhouses which were so amateurish in look and design that even I was embarrassed, but at least one occupant doesn't seem to mind. Some might wonder why I didn't use my humongous telephoto lens but to the astonishment of my wife, I didn't bring my 35 millimeter with me on this trip. This box was to specification for the Northern Flicker woodpecker and rather them look to my house as a condo I thought to build one. Just like a optimist..."if you build it, they will come".

Since my wife was disappointed because of the forgotten camera I had another brain fart...just try and get a shot using my spotting scope which wasn't as easy as it sounds but at least I was able to get this shot.This is the female, the male has bright red cheeks and of course is the more handsome of the breed. 

The box is packed to the top with sawdust, as per design, and the two woodpeckers took turns grabbing a mouth full, throwing it out while carving a tunnel for the nest.

The advantages of living off a dirt road is that traffic is limited to only other land owners, and some visitors. Some of the disadvantages are potholes, snow and dust.

We got lucky here. This is a county maintained road because the school bus picks up children which means grading, snow removal and oiling to keep dust at a minimum in the summer.
First time I have seen one of these rigs. Looks like the rear, offset wheels, are hydraulically pushed down to create pressure and thereby acting like one of those road roller...just my opinion.

That's it for this week, maybe more soon.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Gardening 102

Gardening 29.53 miles from the Canadian border does present its own set of problems. I got the mileage from a Google ruler tool.

This is by the "crow flies" measurement because if you tried driving to Canada you should add about 10 more miles to this estimate.

Two days after I plant my first crop of onions, I wake up to this snow storm. Lying in bed I got my first inkling with the blinds was so, so quiet. Not that it is noisy here, but when the snow falls without any wind it tends to deaden all, even the smallest sounds. The onions will be just fine and I am glad I got the irrigation system in before this small storm. My brother thought this was a great winter storm, too bad it's spring!

For whatever reason I love the sight of our "guard owl" with snow on it's head that we received from my son at Christmas. It is supposed to flap and scare animals away when the wind blows through it (we don't get much wind but when we do the owl pretty much does...nothing...ha ha) but I like looking out the window and seeing our "northern snow owl"...working or not.

Ps. guess if it worked there wouldn't be snow accumulating on it...right?

Funny me anyhow. I text (not texted) the photo to my sister and told her he was my guard owl. She in turn wondered how I got such a beautiful photo of an owl on our patio...I replied "put on your glasses"!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The rebirth of a vegetable garden

I have blogged or talked about gardening in the past and in this blog I'll try to put it to a timeline.

The house we bought had a small, overgrown garden area that first needed to be dug up, then enlarged. At least they put the garden in a nice sunny area of the lot.

After tilling the original garden I immediately realized it wasn't going to be big for what I wanted to grow.

Donna and I dug up the weeds outside and behind the garden as a perfect spot for our enlargement. 
We then used a post hole digger and set 10' poles in cement last fall before the ground froze for our future deer fence.

We decided to build "above" ground furrows, before the winter froze the soil, and at the advice of my brother Jack put straw down to walk and kneel upon...great idea. I mixed in copious amounts of horse manure, leaves and pine needles figuring in a few years we will have excellent some soil.

A must do project was digging up the blackberry vines that the past owners must of thought were a good idea within the garden. The two types of shrubs are a thorny and thornless blackberries plants, I did leave a few of the thornless plants at the request of Donna but got rid of all the ones with thorns. I have seen acres and acres of wild thorny blackberry shrubs choking many farms in Oregon and Washington...I'd rather that didn't happen here.

We wanted the garden to have it's own dedicated water so a one inch waterline was tapped next to the garage that ran out to the front yard.

From the valve, I am running the water line just inside the soon to be hung deer fence.

One last step to getting the irrigation inside the garden is this manifold...more later.

Ok, time to tackle the deer fence. Because we are on a fixed income I chose a cheap 7 foot plastic mesh that is nearly invisible.

Here I am using large tents stakes to secure the bottom of the net, deer are known to try and go under a fence rather than over. The plastic strips tied to the fence are my effort to warn the deer that there is something here because it's so hard to see.

The main trunk for a 1/2 inch water line runs under one of my walkways, because it is an area I know we won't be digging up any time soon in order to till the soil, I won't be piercing water lines in the process.

All three lines will be buried a few inches below a walkway.

After replacing the soil and straw, other than the water lines sticking up, you'd never know what was underneath. In the back ground you can see all the plastic white strips that might just give the deer a height goal to reach for?

I have 15 rows for planting and 3 waterlines so the average is one waterline for 5 rows. Each row has it's own valve so I can adjust how much water different plants will need.

This is the central 3 valve manifold. Each line goes to a section of the garden and from there, more valves are used to adjust water flow.

All 15 mounds are now piped and ready for irrigation but the only problem is I can't test for another two weeks. Neighbors have cautioned me against turning on outside water valves until April 7th...because of the chance of minor freezing.

I spent the better part of a day trying to find an inexpensive way of keeping the stiff vinyl line laying fairly straight on top of the mounds, all the manufactured items were too much money. I came across a bright idea to just buy a roll of stiff wire and cut U shape anchors to my own specifications for pennies on the dollar. 

It worked well enough to keep the lines near the center of the mounds. I will run 1/4 inch poly off the main trunk to each plant so it doesn't have to be perfectly on the top but near to the center is good.

Our very first veggie are onions because they can survive down to 20 degrees which shouldn't be a problem this time of the year.
These sets are from brother Jack in San Diego including Walla Walla's, Texas Sweet, Red Sweet and Georgia Sweet should get a good start with our forecasted showers for the next 5 days and mid 50 days.

The ground is now soft enough to set out our christmas gift from Donna's sister, Trish.

Nothing makes a great day working in the garden better than a shower, glass of wine and sitting outside on the patio...:-)

Driving back into Spokane to visit with Donna I saw a fleeting glimpse of a figure on the side of  Hwy 395 near Deer Park (not aptly named) and as passing realized there is no what was it? I had to turn around and was blow away at the sight of a moose that must of had a "pinto horse" as a father. I don't know if this moose was old, grey, part albino or just plain scroungy! 
Donna immediately named him/her "Moonstruck Moose"!