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"!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The first days of spring

Today is the first day of spring but not without winter grudgingly trying to hang on a little longer.

I drove up to the house to check on a few things right before the start of spring. I enjoy going outside at night to listen to certain night critters and try to figure out what they are. Of course the guy two parcels down has a couple of cows and chickens so they are very easily identified, I'm still working an many of the other mysterious sounds.

When I saw the moon rising through the trees with it's huge moisture ring I knew it might be wet in the morning. A tripod could of produced a more memorable photo but this will have to do.

Sure enough when I woke the following morning not only was I greeted to a wet start to the's was mostly still snowing on this, the 19th of March. From what I hear in town we will have a few more of these storms before it starts to dry out.

This was a good day to stay in the garage and plant some begonia bulbs of many different colors, they are Donna's favorite flower and plant. I bought some hanging baskets in Spokane so if our bulbs produce healthy plants I'd like to train them in the baskets.

It was also an opportune time to soak my onion sets that my brother Jack sent me from San Diego. The ground has thawed and I believe I could of planted them today (they are fairly frost resistant) but we have not fenced in the garden yet...besides, I'll let the ground warm up a bit more.

Later in the day all the snow and rain moved on and we were left with a beautiful prism of color.

As evening started to unfold I am having some doubts about just how many bulbs in the bed behind the deer see the light of day. Their hungry and although I did plant "deer resistant" bulbs in that bed, folks say if they are hungry they will eat just about anything.

You would hardly know it from the day before but this spring morning has finally "sprung". This is 9:00 am March 20th, the sun is out and weather is wonderful...a good day to do some yard work. As you can see there are still a few lingering patches of snow that haven't realized it is....SPRING!

This is what's left of about 12 or so bales of alfalfa that were not eaten by the deer this winter. While I don't profess to being an outdoors type, I believe they ate the nutritional parts leaving what amounts to straw. Since hay is a great insulator, I found that under the hay was a slab of 4 inch thick ice. Once it dries and before it gets too hot  I'll burn it to ashes.

In the foreground is a new alfalfa bale, of which I am trying to lure the deer away from the planted vegetation...probably won't work but worth a try. Behind the bale is horse manure, behind that is a compost pile and then further back is the straw mound.

Just short of my 66th birthday and this is the very first mound of hay I have ever made, which looks pretty good if I do say so myself. Think I'll throw a needle in the haystack and ask Donna to find it...ha ha

The garden soil is just waiting for me to finish putting up the deer fence before the "big" planting season starts.

Here, with the help of the dogs, I will send to the garden its own dedicated water line. I've talked at great length with my older brother on just how to set up system. I have 15 mounds, each about 12 feet long and I should have the ability to water all, some or none, my choice... with 15 shut-off valves in place.

I hope to have the fence up this weekend and if I do...the onions are the first to break soil.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Home and the Spokane River

Donna and I are in Spokane for a while, just when the river got very close to flood stage....I love it!

Without video it is hard to imagine the speed of the river at this stage. It was so loud it sounded like the proverbial freight train!

Eat you heart out Southern California...all this water is going straight to the ocean in short order.

The Spokane River is so big it splits around Canada Island in downtown Spokane. (again, eat your heart out L.A.)

Heavy flow over a diversion dam at the old Washington Power Company.

(can I say it you heart out L.A.) ☺

Went up to the house for the day after a week in Spokane and found most of the snow had melted. My garden is looking good but the sulfur is still laying on top of the mounds. I added sulfur because the soil test indicated that I needed to lower the PH value.

As you might see the sulfur is now integrated into the soil. I broke up the mounds with the mighty "Weasel Twister" Donna had got me for Christmas. It worked like a charm even breaking up rocks that I did not know were there...actually they were clumps of frozen soil under the ground that I thought were rocks...:-)

I am sure Donna feels the same as I ....we miss our home!
How could we not love this view...only need a few deer in the photo but they must be pissed because I have ignored them the last 10 days!

We will once again occupy our house and all will be as is should be soon enough.......:-)