Friday, August 10, 2018

The water spigot

I've been told I didn't do justice to the difficulties in creating the water spigot. I, of course, commented that it'd be easier to crow about if there were photos of the process...

But here goes - because it is really cool what Chris did to make this look like it'd always been up there.
The spigot
He took an old barn beam and split it in two vertically. Then he carved a channel in both sides so that he could embed the Pex tubing.

The Pex needed to come out the bottom and run horizontally through the ground but he didn't want to add an elbow (they slow water flow and we have pressure issues this far up the hill as it is) so he carefully created a channel that would curve the Pex appropriately without putting undue pressure on it.

Then he joined the halves back together with a tight seam. Once it ages a bit it'll be pretty much invisible.

So that is the full story of crafting the water spigot. Thanks Honey!

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Generator shed

We installed a standby generator when we built the house and, as recommended, built a shelter for it. But since we were expending all our energy on silly things like indoor plumbing and cooking facilities, the cover was sort of quick & dirty. In other words, it was really ugly.

Well, Chris found the time this summer to build a much nicer shelter and it looks great.

Dry fit on the porch
Figuring angles 
Assembling in place 
Zoom in for a look at that truss join!
Plenty of room for snow shed
Stained and roofed
I think he did an awesome job. The only downside to the black color is that it obscures the joinery but it matches the trim so we went with it. The whole thing just looks so much better back there. And now when snow comes sheeting off the house roof, it won't pile up so close to the vents. Less shoveling! Hooray!

Monday, August 6, 2018

Garden update

The camp garden is doing great. I took these pictures on July 30th and despite sporadic rain the plants look fantastic.

I picked 18 ounces of basil leaves already; enough to make our entire winter supply of pesto. And the plants are already producing new leaves so we'll have plenty to use when the tomatoes finally start to ripen. Love Caprese salads!
After the basil harvest

Dill, mystery squash, hubbard squash, yellow squash 
I got most of my starts from a friend but there was a bit of confusion in the labeling. So I've got plants that I have no clue as to how to identify the produce. Especially on the squash plants.

Sunflowers, tomatillo, cauliflower, jalapeño
Mystery squash - maybe buttercup? kobocha? 
I've been battling squash vine borers again this year. I've performed multiple surgeries on many vines and so far I've been able to save the plants. It's a losing battle though so I'm going to have to find an alternative. I did a bit of research and came across a recommendation for Safer Brand 5163 Caterpillar Killer. I'll try that next year. For now I just keep digging them out, powdering with diatomaceous earth, and burying the vines.

My nemesis-squash vine borers
So many Hubbard squash! I've got six good sized ones and about six more little ones that may not have time to ripen. Last year Dad and I split one squash and both had enough for that night's meal, leftovers, and freezer stock so I'm going to be overrun with squash. I'm going to try this in a pie and see how it goes.
Hubbard squash - one of many
The mystery squash to the left of the photo hasn't set fruit yet so I have no idea what it could be. Given how late we are in the growing season I'm assuming I'll never know now. Also in this area is cucumber; but not normal cucumber, an heirloom white variety. They're small, spiny, and tasty.
Zucchini, Yellow, Cucumber, and more mystery squash
Chris got the rain barrel hooked up. I'll set it up next year for a drip irrigation system.
The new water barrel
My zucchini plants are huge. This is just one of them and the leaves are enormous. It's producing good quantities of fruit too.
Huge zucchini leaves! 
The tomatoes are being difficult. They set fruit early but none of it has ripened. None.
So many green tomatoes 
Very healthy tomato plants
I've been playing around with next year's garden layout already. I figure it's a good time to think about it while I've got perfect examples of how much room everything actually takes up.

As for harvests, we're getting enough summer squash out of these plants to make a dish every day plus share with Dad. Fortunately I've got a lot of squash recipes else we'd be really sick of it already. It's been a slow cucumber year but I've managed to put up a couple pints of dill pickles so far. The tomatillos are finally forming and I expect an excellent harvest there, and the jalapeño plant has one pepper already and lots of blossoms. I lost all but two kohlrabi to voles but those last two look great and I should be able to pick them this week.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Running water to the garden

I've been using hoses to run water up to the garden area but now that we've got it all spiffy looking we figured a more permanent solution was in order. Particularly a solution that would allow Chris to mow up there without having to worry about chopping hoses all to hell. 

We bought some Pex tubing and stretched it up there so that it could relax. 

Coils of Pex
 Then Chris dug a hole near the garden and put in an entrance.
Choosing the spot
Dropping pipe
Once the Pex was connected he used the tractor to dig a shallow trench and bury the line. It can be shallow because we'll blow out the line each year rather than let it freeze.
Water through the woods
The Pex comes out in the hosta bed near the house and when I want water at the garden I run a hose out to it. I didn't want a permanent water line from the house as that would be harder to install (it would have to run under the concrete carport) and to maintain (would have to dig below the frost line so it wouldn't freeze). This is quick and easy to connect with the added advantage that I never forget I've got the water running.

He used some old barn wood to create a cover for the line and it now looks like it's been there forever. We haven't done anything to cover the connection near the house yet but I expect it'll be something similar.
Awesome cover
My hose management system stinks at the moment since I didn't anticipate getting this water spigot this year. The soaker hose entrance is on the other side of the garden and I'm not disturbing plants to redo it. So at the moment I've got hoses running everywhere - though none are where they can be mowed so that's a win! I'll get everything laid out properly for next year and it'll incorporate the new rain barrel we're putting up there too.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Moving the Latrine

Way back in 2009 when we built the little camp on the property we also built a latrine. 

Subtle, huh?
This was not an outhouse but rather a private spot to use the composting toilet. Which means it didn't have a hole in the floor nor did it get gross with excrement. Which is fortunate because once we got indoor plumbing I repurposed it to a small garden shed.

Then in 2016 it got repurposed again when we turned it into a temporary chicken coop

See the chicken?
Of course, temporary implies impermanence and sure enough the chickens were moved into the permanent coop by the end of that summer. Which left the latrine/shed/coop stranded in the middle of the yard where it quickly became a storage shed again.
Sad and lonely
This year solved both the location and the usage issues. Once the camp garden was all set up we decided to once again move the little building to a new location. It makes me nervous when we move this thing but Chris is a dab hand at tractor work so it went smoothly. The hardest part was keeping it level when going up the steep driveway hill. 
Argh! Don't let it tip!
I want it around the back...
Yeah, in the corner closest to me. 
Um, it'll never make that swing...
I had doubts but Chris wedged the tractor into the corner and we wiggled the shed onto the stone foundation, and it all went great.
Setting foundation stones
It's now officially a garden shed (again). I removed the pop door shade cover but left the nest boxes. They're held closed with just a magnetic clasp and I keep my small hand tools in there where it's easy to grab them.
Wonderfully functional
We're going to put a gutter and rain barrel on the back so that we can set up a drip irrigation system for the garden.  And I desperately need to paint it. If you look at the photo where you can see the door you'll note that the walls and door are two different colors. The whole shed should be the color of the door and it will be very soon. Funny that I lived with it like this for years. Years! You just get blind to some thing I guess.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Planting the camp garden

The last update on the camp garden showed that we had it ready for soil to arrive. Here are a few reminders of what it looks like before all the hard work:

Lots of potential?
A well stacked corner
The stairs and cardboard underlayment
So we were ready to fill in all that lovely space with topsoil and get planting! Except the dirt got delayed. There I am, seedlings ready to go into the ground, and I can't plant for another 10 days. Argh.

Chris, of course, used the time wisely, and dug up some of our more annoying semi-buried boulders. They made it impossible to easily mow and keep up the cherry grove.

That's actually a huge hole
The plan was to dump the dirt in the hole, pull out enough to fill the garden, and then smooth anything left. Good plan.

Ten yards of topsoil just disappeared 
Carefully coating the garden area 
Dumped and hand raked 
The fresh dirt is coolest 
Wild roses left in the garden wall
We used the full 10 yards between the hole and the garden and realized that we really should have gotten 20. Darn.
Tomato cages add color
 I planted lots of stuff:
Marigolds, tomatoes, kohlrabi 
Sunflowers, cauliflower, tomatillos, jalapeno
Marigolds and dill bed 
Cokes, Zukes, summer squash
Hubbard squash
 I ran the soaker hoses and left a lot of room for squash plants to run and I'll have space to succession plant.
Basil and another dill bed, tomatoes
 But a couple weeks later, everything is starting to fill in (this was taken mid-June).

Homemade tomato cage
And now that we're into July, well, I've got flowers on everything and squash is starting to form. Really looking forward to some harvesting later this month.

We're continuing to make improvements. The shed is now up here, the water line has been run, and I've successfully identified what has been stealing marigolds and tomato plants (I mean, come on, what eats marigolds???). More on that later...