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Archive for August, 2011

Playing in a Big Sand Box

August 30, 2011 Leave a comment
New Tubes

New Tubes

I  awoke Saturday morning, and one of the first thoughts to cross my mind was “What am I going to do today ?”, which was soon followed with “Especially since I don’t have a tractor to play on”. I decided to get out of bed first, and plan my day later, so I began my morning routine, getting dressed and then feeding my parakeets and fish. Not long after I got done, but before I managed to comb my hair, I heard a thud outside, and had a look. Their was a delivery truck outside, and he was bringing me a box. Sweet!

The box contained two tire tubes for the tractor.Later in the day, I asked rob to show me how to tear apart the tire and replace the tube. It sounds like an easy task, but if you don’t have a tire machine, you better have some tricks up your sleeve.My sister Maurice had the winning idea that separated the tire from the rim using a truck and a board. The board is placed on the rubber portion of the wheel, and the weight of the truck driving on the board separates the rubber from the rim. I wouldn’t suggest you try this, it’s always better to use the right tool for the job.

By the way, I was very happy with the company that sold and shipped me the tire tubes: Stevens Ag Parts – 1-800-333-9194. They sell all kinds of parts for older tractors.

Rob Digging up the Dirt - Photo by Jessica M.

Rob Digging up the Dirt - Photo by Jessica M.

I was using the back blade on the tractor to try and level a large pile of dirt near the rock garden, but I found it wasn’t very effective. Things got a whole lot easier when Rob loosened up the dirt first.

Me Leveling the Dirt with the Back Blade - Photo by Jessica M.

Me Leveling the Dirt with the Back Blade - Photo by Jessica M.

Once the dirt was loose, the back blade became a whole lot more effective. The blade is good at pulling dirt along behind the tractor to be dumped later. I’ve found it’s not very good at leveling dirt when you drive forward, but it works very well when the tractor is in reverse. I dragged the soil to the approximate location where I wanted to spread it in forward, and then switched gears to level it.

Two Tractors Working Well Together - Photo by Jessica M.

Two Tractors Working Well Together - Photo by Jessica M.

The arrangement worked very well. Rob could dig the soil up faster then I could drag it away, but I had a whole lot of fun trying to keep up with him.

Found a Rear End Axle Assembly - Photo by Jessica M.

Found a Rear End Axle Assembly - Photo by Jessica M.

At the bottom of the pile of dirt we found an old rear end. I’m guessing it’s from a very old truck since it has leaf springs.

Maurice Showing the Pile of Metal we Dug Up - Photo by Jessica M.

Maurice Showing the Pile of Metal we Dug Up - Photo by Jessica M.

Now that the second pile of dirt is leveled, I don’t have much left to do:

1. Clean up the metal and piles of wood.

2. Level the dirt where the piles were.

3. Spread grass seed and hay.

Then I can begin working on Phase II: Planting Trees, starting with pears, plums, peaches or any other fruit tree I can get to grow from seed. If that doesn’t work I guess I’ll have to save up to purchase some more fruit trees. I’ll also be planting some native trees in the area right next to the crick.

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Zucchini Boats

August 29, 2011 Leave a comment
Zucchini Boats

Zucchini Boats

I’ve definitely had my fair share of salad this summer, so I decided to switch things up a bit and cook some warm food. Zucchini Boats are a great recipe for people who don’t like the taste of zucchini, and they are terribly easy to make. Here’s the recipe:

1.) Remove the skin from a large zucchini, and cut it in half. Remove the seeds from the center.

2.) Fry some ground beef, adding a small amount of butter (for taste, not needed).

3.) Microwave the zucchini until it is fairly soft.

4.) Grate some Mozzarella cheese, and place a small amount on the zucchini.

5.) Mix the ground beef with spaghetti sauce, marinara sauce or pizza sauce.

6.) Fill the center of the zucchini with the ground beef and sauce, then cover with Mozzarella cheese. I’ve used two types of cheese in the photo above.

7.) Place in a toaster over, or stove on medium heat until the cheese melts and just starts to turn brown.

Enjoy !

 

Broccoli and Cauliflower

August 26, 2011 2 comments
Broccoli

Broccoli

I’ve finally gotten my first cool Broccoli and Cauliflower that I’ve grown from seed this year. I usually don’t like broccoli, but I did enjoy the few small pieces shown above. Next year I’ll make it a point to grow more of these plants.

Cauliflower

Cauliflower

I haven’t yet tried the cauliflower, and I’ve been told I need to place a rubber band around the white flower on this plant. I’m not sure why the rubber band is needed, but I’d be willing to bet someone will tell me = ) It can’t be a deal breaker if I forget to place one, since I imagine this crop was around long before man discovered how to turn trees into tires and springy projectiles.

The Current Mess That I’m Making

August 25, 2011 Leave a comment
8n Ford with a Back Blade

8n Ford with a Back Blade

Along with the Brush Hog, and Finish Mower, the Tractor has another attachment that I thought was kinda useless. The attachment looks like a straight piece of metal attached to the three point hitch. I have seen it used in the past to level gravel, or to move snow, but I didn’t really appreciate how awesome this piece of equipment was until I got on the tractor and taught myself how to use it.

I decided that I had looked at a  few piles of top soil for too long, and that this blade might be useful in leveling out the dirt. In an hour or so, I conquered the first small pile of dirt, and was leveling the ground nearby as well. It was kinda fun to level dirt when I didn’t need a shovel and wheel barrel !

Getting Started

Getting Started

After the initial success, I decided to use the blade to knock over some brush. The brush had been allowed to grow since it was known there were chunks of metal in this area that would do some serious damage to a lawn mower. Once the brush was clear, I could see the metal pipes and cables, to which my mind immediately pictured more work then I wanted to do.

I made a calculated guess that I could pull these chunks of metal out of the ground with the tractor, but I also figured there could be a high cost if I guessed wrong, so I started small, and soon found myself ripping and tearing till the whole area was flat, clear of debris and ready for some grass seed.

Found Iron

Found Iron

I managed to pull all of this metal from about a 150 square feet of ground.  It has already been sent for recycling, and I’d guess it’s on a ship headed for China, where it will be made into the axles for toys in fast food smile meals….

Front Portion - Manual Finishing Work

Front Portion - Manual Finishing Work

After removing all of the metal, and leveling the soil with the tractor, I needed to finish the job right by using a shovel and rake to make the ground smooth as any suburban lawn. I found myself shoveling wheel barrel after wheel barrel of soil, but I attracted some unexpectedly chipper helpers. Jessica, my niece, and the little gardener made a huge contribution leveling the soil as I dumped it. As always, I couldn’t believe the level of effort put forth especially by my 6 year old helper. He has since asked me if we could do some more dirt leveling, and amazing commitment if you ask me.

Middle After Blade

Middle After Blade

After cleaning everything up to the patch of trees shown, I decided to keep going, and started leveling the ground and ripping up any iron found. With Nate’s help we removed a whole lot of old trees and limbs, and I’ve brought down my Bio-Char barrel for some finish up work. I hope to place another barrel next to the one shown, and try out a double burn. This should give me more bio-char for the amount of fuel burnt. All of the brush Nate and I cleaned up will hopefully be turned into bio-char, and spread either over the barren ground here on in the garden.

Back End

Back End

I had set out to level two hills of soil, but instead I’ve made quite a mess stretching about two hundred feet long and 50 feet wide. I need to repair a flat on the tractor, then I can continue this project. I’ve already begun planting grass seed in the first portion, and covering it with hay.

When I’m all done leveling the ground, I hope to plant fruit trees the whole length of the driveway on the right, and a wide selection of native trees by the crick which runs through the valley on the left. Some of the native trees I hope to plant include Weeping Willows, which should help trap moisture in the valley instead of it running off during dry months. I may even throw in some cherries and berries as part of the final plan, but I guess I should get my ducks in a row and get back to work starting with a tire repair on the tractor.

Sandies Garden in August

August 24, 2011 Leave a comment
My Niece, The Tomato Tester

My Niece, The Tomato Tester

I stopped by Sandy & Davies house to return a hydraulic jack I had borrowed, and just like any other time I visit, I had to check out their garden. My niece led the way into the tomato patch, where she sampled, and declared ready, many of the cherry tomatoes that were growing.

Cherry Tomatoes

Cherry Tomatoes

I usually plant a few Red Alert cherry tomatoes in my garden, simply because they ripen sooner then the larger slicing tomatoes. Sandy is far more devoted to the cherries then I, and she even visited a commercial greenhouse to purchase these plants ( I usually start of all the tomatoes and peppers for the whole family in my greenhouse).

Waltham Butternut

Waltham Butternut

I planted Waltham Butternut squash hoping to repeat the success I had last year, but the plants are doing poorly. Sandy’s plants are doing great though, and I often find myself wondering why our two gardens behave so much differently. I guess it’s got a lot to do with water and soil. My garden is sometimes too well drained, but Sandy’s garden tends to retain a good amount of moisture. Her garden also enjoys some shade from a row of trees nearby, where my garden is exposed to the direct sun like an ant in the Sahara desert.

Swiss Chard - Bright Lights

Swiss Chard - Bright Lights

The Swiss Chard in both gardens are doing great. The colors alone are worth planting for, but having this plant be edible, and good for you is an extra bonus.

Celery

Celery

I couldn’t believe how well the celery plants were doing. These are the same tiny seeds that grew so slowly after I planted them 11 weeks before the last frost. They are nearly as tall as the zucchini plants in the row beside them, and it’s pretty amazing to see one of the harder to grow plants do well. I still need to work on my gardening skills with eggplant, kohlrabi, and pak choi, but I’m getting better every year.

Weekend Roof Work

August 23, 2011 Leave a comment
House Side

House Side

After a great deal of work getting the shed ready for the roofing, I was ready to get this portion of work over with. Of all of the stages of construction, roofing is the one stage that I lack a good amount of experience.  While the rest of the project reminded me of building with Legos, the roof was more like building with playing cards. I still need to cover the back side’s top half, but first I need to find a way to transport some sheeting from Home Depot, 30 miles to my home, without placing it on the roof of my car.

Landing Covered with Rubber Roofing

Landing Covered with Rubber Roofing

After covering the side of the roof which faces my home, I switched gears and materials. The flat landing on the roof requires a bit of creative construction, and after asking many questions, I’ve decided that rubber roofing would be the best material for this flat spot.

I had to plan ahead here when considering how the water would flow from one material to the other. In the places where the peaks were higher then the rubber material, I needed to make sure the tar paper would overlap the rubber. The same rule would apply where the tar paper was lower then the rubber, and so would need to go underneath. The trickest parts were located in the transitions would one material would be higher at one point, and lower at another. This occured in four places, where the flat portion met the peak portion (look where the tar paper meets the rubber beside the uncovered portion of the roof).

Half Way

Half Way

By the end of the night Friday, I had covered half of the roof, and after a few visitors Saturday morning, it was time to get back to work. The tool I was using to secure the staples resembles a hammer, and that’s primarily how it’s used. You slam the head of the stapler into the material which should be held in place. The staple gun uses the force to deliver one staple up to 1/2 inch deep into the material below. Needless to say, when you go through two rows of staples every few minutes, it makes a lot of noise.

Far Side After Rain

Far Side After Rain

By Sunday morning I had the roof covered, and that saved me from disturbing all my Amish neighbors on their day of rest. It was raining, so I took some time to inspect my work and ensure there were no leaks.

Drip Edge

Drip Edge

During the rain, the drip edge was functioning as it’s name implies. If I decide to place gutters on this shed, the drip edge will help the rain land in the gutter, rather then run behind it.

Flat Spot Holding Rain

Flat Spot Holding Rain

I even climbed up to the top to inspect my flat rubber roofing. I was quite pleased to see water poling a bit, rather then leaking through.

All in all, If I had to grade this roof as a teacher would grade homework, I’d probably give myself a B-. Why wouldn’t I earn an A ? See that hole in the rubber roofing ? I forgot to build a cover for it, so rain still hits the floor below.

Now I just need to find some financing for shingles…..

August Surprises

August 19, 2011 2 comments
Volunteer Pumpkin

Volunteer Pumpkin

The garden is so very big that I often don’t get to see whats growing in the different area everyday, and sometimes I may miss a portion for weeks at a time. I was having a pretty bad week for a number of reasons, but after spending some quality time checking out what I had been missing in the garden, I’m back to my normal calm self. I’ve found a single pumpkin growing in a abandoned compost pile beside the garden. It’s not the biggest, nor smallest pumpkin, but it was planted with no effort of my own, and I’m sure the kids will have fun with it.

Cabbage

Cabbage

I haven’t been paying much attention to the cabbage plants that I put in long ago, but while taking a look at the garlic I planted, I noticed that three of these plants look very promising, and I may just get some sauerkraut from them.

Large Cabbage Head

Large Cabbage Head

One of the first things I planted this spring was a row of directly seeded cabbage. It was supposed to be a mix of different cabbage plants that would grow and form heads at different rates. Unfortunately, only one of those seeds would grow into a plant, and there it is, the first plant of 2011.

Pak Choi & Joker

Pak Choi & Joker

Some time ago, my favorite cat “Boots” quit arriving for his nightly meal. Since he was a wild cat, and a male, I’m hoping he simply decided to “rough-it” and live off the land in the woods. Since he has been gone for about a month, I’m contemplating keeping this black and white kitten that has been following me around in the garden. His name is joker, and he really likes chicken and cheese.

Above, Joker navigates the space between a Swiss chard plant, and my now 4 inch tall Pak Choi plants. He didn’t stray further then a foot from my feet the whole time I was taking pictures.

In total, I think I’m doing pretty good for the season, with unexpected cabbage, broccoli, and even some potential Pak Choi soon to be on the menu.