Compost, Band Saw, and Seed Starting

Compost spread over most of the garden.

Compost spread over most of the garden.

It has been a busy week so far and this has been the first opportunity I have had to write about my progress.  Last Saturday, I was able to spread all the compost I had over the top of the garden.  The endeavour took nearly the entire day to do and left me with several bruises where I kept running the five gallon buckets into my legs and arms.  The bruises are just now starting to fade.  This was the entire reason I had started making compost: to amend the soil so it is more fertile, hold moisture better and plant easier.  This may also act as a mulch to help suppress weeds.  (When I think of mulch, wood chips spread over a flower bed come to mind, and not compost)

Starting pepper and tomato seeds.

Starting pepper and tomato seeds.

Also on Saturday, I started the first seeds of the year in the greenhouse.  I started the same variety of tomatoes that I grew last year.  These are not seeds I saved from last years crops, but rather left over seeds that I purchased last year.  I plan on starting some of the seed I saved later on once I know I will have as many plants as I want.

I also started some pepper seeds that I bought this year from Terroir Seeds.  There was only 23 seeds in the packet and I am trying to start them all, two per pot, so I’m hoping that I get at least a couple of plants that I can save seed from.  Otherwise, I will probably end up trying a different pepper variety next year.  Last year I tried to grow green bell peppers, but I never got anything to sprout.

The band saw with new, bright safety orange tires.

The band saw with new, bright safety orange tires.

On Monday, the tires I ordered for the band saw came in, several days earlier than I was expecting them.  Actually getting the tires on the wheels was rather difficult, because they were about an inch shorter than the wheel’s circumference.  Thankfully, the tires stretched and were able to fit, but if I ever need to remove them, I will be doing it with a knife because I doubt I could get them off whole.

I was able to start making some frames for a super and I got six sides finished and started on six top bars before I it got too cold in the unheated shed for me to work.  I should be able to fabricate every part of the frame except the bottom bar with the band saw.  For the bottom, I need to make a groove along the entire length of the bar, which will probably require a table saw or a router as I cannot think of a way to make that cut with a band saw.

Advertisements

Daffodils in Bloom

Daffodils in bloom

Daffodils in bloom

The daffodils are finally in full bloom.  They took about a week or so longer than last year.  About a week or two later is about how this spring has been going so far.  I’m just starting to get things set up for starting seeds, where this time last year, they would have already been germinating.  But unlike last year, we had a rather late cold snap that is probably responsible for pushing out spring.

About three feet of pinto beans direct seeded in the garden, just above the swale-alike.

About three feet of pinto beans direct seeded in the garden, just above the swale-alike.

The one thing that is taking place earlier than last year, is direct seeding of beans in the garden.  If we have another sudden cold snap, these will likely end up dead.  I only planted such a small amount because I am not certain that they won’t end up dead or that they will even germinate.  If this line does, I will be putting in more beans next week and hoping they don’t die by frost.

My spring ToDo list is starting to grow rapidly.  I have compost to move onto the garden plot, seeds to start in the greenhouse and in the garden, preparing some new ground near the fence line for corn and buckwheat.  And before long, the bees will need an inspection.  And I still need to finish the fence work in the front yard, pulling weeds for the compost pile has started, and a bunch of other small tasks.  Also I’ve ordered new tires for the band saw that should arrive late next week, which will allow me to start producing bee frames on a much more regular basis.  Until the rush to get all the plants in the ground subsides, I’m going to be keeping very busy.

Burying a Bunch of Rotten Wood

20130302173956

A trench filled with partially rotten wood.

I spent almost all of yesterday digging a long trench through the middle of my garden, filling it with rotten wood, and then covering it up.  I am hoping that this will help with reducing the amount of water required to irrigate the garden this and coming years.

I heard about this idea from Jack Spirko of The Survival Podcast under the name Hugelculture or Woody Bed.  It is a class of land improvements that buries wood under soil to promote the growth of fungus and bacteria that holds water and moves nutrients around.  I’ve heard these woody beds several times on the show, and since I had a bunch of rotting wood on the edge of my property, I decided to give it a try. The only real trouble I had was that after about four inches down, I hit Oklahoma Red Clay Soil, which is very difficult to dig through. I basically had to scrap layers of the clay off and use the shovel handle as a lever.  I ended up breaking off the handle of my garden hoe trying to loosen it up so I could remove the clay from the trench.

A swale-like structure over the woody bed.

A swale-like structure over the woody bed.

The other thing burying this wood allowed me to do is to build a swale-like structure over the bed.  A swale is a mound next to a trench along the land’s contour.  The idea here is to slow water flowing across the land and give it more time to absorb into the soil.  I didn’t survey out the contour of the land, instead just guessing roughly where level would be and slightly curving the ends uphill.  I intend to adjust the structure in the future as I find where water is flowing too quickly and pulling soil away.  About the only remaining garden bed preparation I am planning on doing before spring planting is spreading a layer of compost out and working it into the top inch or so of soil.  Before I do that though, I need to fix the garden hoe.

Seeds Are In, a Homemade Ladder, and a New Computer

All the things in the packet from Terroir Seeds

All the things in the packet from Terroir Seeds

I got the last of my seeds in nearly a week ago, just before heading out on a business trip.  Now all that I really need is for things to warm up a bit more before I can start planting.  The most exciting thing I ordered was the Bloody Butcher variety of maize (corn) which has a very deep red color.  Besides the corn, I have lettuce that should do fairly well in the Oklahoma heat, carrots, peppers, sunflowers, buckwheat and some Vitex seed.  The last one is a shrub/tree that will primarily be for bee feed.  The buckwheat will also be a good nectar source, but it also will provide seed that can be turned into flour.  Vitex, also known as the Chaste tree, appears to have some herbal medicine properties, but I haven’t ventured down that path so far.

20130223181603

A ladder-like construct made from 2x4s

Before the business trip, I spent some time cleaning up one of the sheds I have on the property that is somewhat of a workshop.  There was already a workbench in place and was wired for power, but after moving in, we have just been using it for storage.  In the process of cleaning up the shed, I decided to put everything we were storing there in the loft area.  The difficulty in this was that it was difficult to get up to the loft to pack things in tightly because there was no ladder.  So I built one.  I don’t think many people besides myself could use it and using it feels more like climbing a tree than a ladder, but it fits my needs right now, so it will stay until I decide otherwise.

The driving reason for the shed cleanup is to have a space to use the band saw and a table saw I got from my father-in-law.  They have been sitting in his garage for several years without use and somewhat in disrepair, so he decided to let me use them.  I’ve been working on repairing them as best I can.  The table saw has a non-functioning motor and is rusted up badly.  The band saw was in better shape and after lubricating just about every part on the machine, it was working well.  Then the lower tire started coming off the wheel and now needs to be replaced.  Once both the table saw and band saw are up and running well, I will be able to start making bee frames, boxes and probably much more.  This makes it a lot easier than driving an hour and a half to my mothers to use the equipment at her house and so I will be able to do a lot more woodworking that I have recently.

20130302100129After my computer died about two weeks ago,  I read an article on Ars Technica about a very cheap computer that was less than $400 for everything including the monitor.  Using this article and the computer parts that were still good in the dead computer, I put together a system for just over $200.  The case is a nice 4U rack mount server case I purchased over a year ago for when I decided to build a server-class machine that I have yet to get around to.  I spent yesterday evening putting the system together after getting home from Virginia.  Everything went together smoothly and started up without issue.  Some basic benchmarking puts it at six to seven times more powerful than the machine that died.  This is not too surprising as the old machine was purchased in 2005.