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.

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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.

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.

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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.

Continuing Spring Cleanup

As the weather has been getting warmer recently, I’ve been spending a lot more time outside. With all the extra time I’ve been spending outside, I’ve been able to get several projects started. Things will be picking up more once I get seed and it gets warm enough to start the seeds in the greenhouse and even more once the ground is warm enough to start direct seeding things like beans and corn.

I’ve managed to turn the compost pile over as much as it is going to be and wet the whole thing down as I did so. I’ll probably give the compost pile another month or so to cook before I start using it for seed starting and amending the garden soil. Now that I have the space, I can get the leaves from around the property raked up and start a new compost pile for next year and get the leaves out of the way at the same time.

I’ve been inspecting my seed starting equipment and getting it ready for use this year. I don’t think the seed starting trays are going to survive much longer. The clear tops have discolored a brownish-yellow color that will probably affect their usefulness and the bottoms are slightly warped. I would really like to have starting trays made from a more resilient material like a hard rubber, but I haven’t really gone looking for such a thing yet.

The new door fit into the door frame

The new door fit into the door frame

The greenhouse has also been getting some work. I’ve filled a few more cracks that had cold drafts coming thru them by cramming newspaper down them. I’ve also been building a new door out of scrap pallet wood. The old door was destroyed in the wind last year. Because of this, I’ve made sure the new door is very strong to the point of over-engineering. I still need to finish the door, but first I need to get more pallet wood as all that I have recovered, I have used to build the door to where it is. At least it now fits into the opening. The frame is somewhat crooked, so the door had to be adjusted to fit in.

Planting a potato from the kitchen counter

Planting a potato from the kitchen counter

Yesterday, my wife gave me a bag of potatoes that has been sitting on the counter long enough that the potatoes sprouted and told me to get rid of it. So I when out to the garden and stuck them in the ground. I don’t know how well this will work, but if any of them survive, it will be more than I would have otherwise.

Fence relocation in progress...

Fence relocation in progress…

I’ve also started to relocate a fence on my property. My puppies – really large dogs – have been getting the better of a couple of sections of the wire fence held up with metal poles that are anchored only in the dirt. So to remedy this, I’ve been moving a section of fence that has been an annoyance since moving in. Taking down the horizontal boards was fairly straight forward because of my experience with taking pallets apart, but I ended up breaking a couple of the board because the boards were so old and fragile at places where there were large knots in the wood. The verticals are going to take a lot longer because about a whole third of the poles are buried in the ground, making them very solid.