Welcome to Growbox Hill

Welcome to Growbox Hill
Welcome to Growbox HIll!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

ah joy

Well, the lawnmower works frigging great.. I already broke it :( Somehow I managed to shear off the rod that connects the front of the mowing deck to the front axle. Yep, I'm pissed and perplexed with myself.
However.. The yard is mowed, and Home Depot is sending someone out to fix it tomorrow.
The week whacker is excellent..
Now I'm making edger bricks to go around all the trees so I don't have to mow so close or accidentally whack the bark off the trees. I figure 16 per octagon, two on each side. That will make each side 32 inches, so that should be plenty. Plan on getting at least the fruit trees done this year hopefully. Takes a day per brick, so I'm more likely looking at 4-5 trees done this year, and making bricks over the winter. But I am going to do my best to mulch in a ring around each tree that needs it before the snow flies.

Finally got some seed into the ground today, we shall see if it takes or not. I scattered in Bloomsdale spinach and red russian kale in the lower section of the front of house beds.
And a whole bunch of seed in the firepit sanctuary. I plugged Mammoth and giant grey stripe sunflower seed every 8 inches or so along the fenceline, scatter plugged the ugly drainage patch, and a straggling line up the east edge of where the wildflower feed area. I mixed together mexican sunflower, chinese red noodle bean, hardy hibiscus, canterbury bells, golden marguerite, and a few each of random jack o lantern pumpkin, batwing pumpkin, goblin eggs gourds, luffa gourds, and pumpkin pepper plant.. and just randomly scattered the mix all over the wildflower feed patch. If they take, awesome, if they don't, meh, they were sort of toss seed anyway.
I also put in a bunch of toss bush bean seed in a line a bit in front of where I plugged in the sunflowers along the fenceline. Red lima, Royal burgendy, blue lake 47, white lima, and contender bush. Just plugged them every few inches, and took one giant step between kinds.
Discovered roses along the fenceline, two kinds I think.. and one down where the fence meets the pond that may be a briar variety. If so, you betcha I'm going to be encouraging it to fill in that patch.
And man, I was making a poor blackbird couple have a kinipshit while planting along the fenceline. Mostly one of them, but sometimes both, followed and scolded me all along the way. I wondered if it was the same ones I see at the clover nest. BTW, very exciting, three little eggs in that nest now.
I'm planning on mowing a path down to the firepit and around it.. But the rest of the sanctuary will probably remain unmowed. I figure whatever grows there I don't really have to worry about weeding or mowing down that way, lol, lazy me :)
I'm thinking of plugging in corn along the easement drive property line where the fence leads into the neighbors garage- by the time it's harvest time, I can yank them up and put in lilies. And gives me a good excuse to whack once and leave it.
Since I have buttloads of squash seed but the garden isn't anywhere near started.. I think I might just plug a bunch of seed along the arch drive, and train them over the drive. We don't use it right now anyway. I just put in the toss pittypan and the rest of the goblin eggs into a not so grassy troublesome mow spot. Hopefully the squash will sort of kill the grassiness off and I can get some bulbs in there to fill the area.

Started they eggshell container and the countertop compost bucket, yay!. I just used an old coffee tin for the eggshells. Printed off an image of broken shells for the lid, and the word eggshells twice- fit one piece of paper, then cut them apart and taped them onto the container. Now when we break eggs we have water running, and rinse them, and set them aside. When dry, break them up into the container. They are a great plant amendment and a good calcium source for birds. Yeah, that is kind of gross that birds eat shells, but it's good for them :)
The compost bucket is just a 2 gallon bucket with a fitted lid I picked up at Home Depot- 5 bucks. Every few days, it's time to take it out to the compost pile. Which yay, has enough matter to bury kitchen scraps, and ya always want to bury them. Maybe if Mama N is nice the yard will be dry enough for me to haul some grass clippings still this week. We got sort of extra, and I figure the green boost would be good for the pile since it's mostly last years leaves. By this time next year, I hope to have the first full working section of the garden worked in, and the rest of it at least marked off.
I got a bit over 6 feet between the fence and the utility pole. I'm gonna make the garden row 8 feet so I can easy clear with the mower all the way down. I can totally put in path and the square foot garden on the inside of the pole line.
I'm considering making a treadline for the outside of garden row. Make a handful of cement block forms, and use up one bag of cement at a time making them. Using the decorative form for the tree rings is cool, but I only got one. Think I will go with 4 inch deep bricks, make a sturdy treadline.
Hmm, note to that. The mold I'm using is about 16x8x2. For one pouring so far, and the second setting..
1st mix- 8 cups mix to two cups water. Kind of thin, but set up decently. Popped it out today in one piece, and it's curing.
2nd mix- over compensated. I thought the first was too wet and didn't fill the form quite enough. Went with 10 cups mix to 2 cups water. Had to add another third cup, should have done another. Cement was questionably too dry. But when I poured it out and tapped the mold, bubbles shook out and it smoothed real fast. 12 cups seems to fill the form just right though. Need to adjust the ratios a bit.

Monday, May 23, 2011

So, don't it figure...

Well, we resolved the lawn issue. Figured we would end up spending the same amount of money to pay someone else to mow as it would to just go get a mower.. So that's what we did yesterday.
Nice lil 20 horsepower riding mower with a detachable deck.. and is built to accept a snowblade which we will be getting before the snow flies again. Good thing that is supposed to be months from now.
It's an Ariens, all nice and bright orange. Personally, I kind would have preferred to get a John Deer cuz that's what I grew up with. I guess if I'm really that wigged, I could always paint the thing green and yellow, lol.
Don't it figure.. the rain held off until exactly when the mower was being offloaded from the truck.. pooey.
Anywho, we also got a really cool weed whacker. Its a 4 cycle, so it takes straight gas. Almost double the price of the 2 cycle, but worth it. We will never eff up the engine by mis-mixing gas and oil.
Extra cool, it's a Ryobi- and yep, different tools can be attached onto the drive head. We got the one with the curved head trimmer on it.. But you can bet we will be getting some of the other attachments too. There's a chainsaw trimmer, a toothed bush trimmer, a cultivator, an edger, a brush whacker.. Very cool.
There's even a usage sheet that I'm gonna tape into a sheet protector and put it up on the garage door.
So now we got what we need to tackle the lawn.. And ma nature decided to keep it too wet to do anything about it, lol.

Harry and the ladies were out this morning while it was still decent. But I think most of the critters are staying home for the most part today- don't want to get soggy feathers and fur :)
And oohhhhh.. The other weekend when family was here my sister and I discovered a lovely little birds nest in a patch of tall clover.. We took care to avoid it and I stuck a few branches into the ground around it so it didn't accidentally get squished. It didn't have eggs in it when we found it.. But it seems that one of the birds has taken it up as home since then. How awesome is that?

On the tec front.. I asked my love to print me off some cup hooks to replace the missing ones in the kitchen. He now has printed them off, so I get to put them up and see how well they work. I will be reporting back on that soon.

On the food front... I stumbled across someone in one of the forums I like to hit.. They seriously know wild edibles and herbs, and hooray, was willing to give me some good info in my effort to start learning how to harvest my yard! Oddly enough, it was a forum that pretty much has nothing to do with the subject, so I was extra tickled for this to have happened.
So some upcoming entries will be getting put under labels as I learn about wild harvest! And yep, as I figure out good eats, I'll be putting that up too.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

pumpkin in a growbox.. ok...

Saw pumpkin in a growbox as a search result on my listings..

Not sure what the person was looking for, but anyway...

At some point it is in our plans to start developing self contained, transportable hydroponic grow boxes. We are not quite ready for that yet though, so we are currently working on hydroponic systems and working with container plants. Hopefully that will end up yielding pumpkins in growboxes.

Right now it is possible to grow pumpkins in containers. Just takes the right kind of pumpkins to do it. There are a lot of smaller fruit and shorter vine species that can be successfully grown in containers. Some squashes do really well in containers, particularly bush varieties. Some decorative pumpkins and squashes can be trellised, but plants with larger fruits are best left laying unless you can rig up slings to support the fruit to the trellis. Luffa gourds do quite nicely with trellising, and it makes their fruit grow straight- it will tend to curve when grown on the ground.

One can also grow a pumpkin itself in a box to make it grow into a square shape. Instructables has a pretty neat DIY box one can assemble to do it :) There are also several vegetable and fruit shapers available commercially.

So it's been a while

Yeah, haven't posted in a while. Not much going on, lol. Been lazy. Puttering around the yard doing cleanup.
Put in a call to get the yard mowed till we can afford to get a mower. Holy crap 150-200 per pass. We need to get at least a weed whacker and a push mower for trim work. That will bring the cutting time down a lot, so maybe lawn service won't be quite so painful.
Still not sure what the purple blossom tree outside my office window is yet. But I have found that the orange halves wired to it hide remarkably well on it, lol.
The hummingbirds love it too, and the feeder I've started filling on the front porch. They are amazing. They will hover right in front of my window for several moments at a time, almost like they are checking me out as much as I'm checking them out :) I think they are immature ruby throats, so I hope to watch their plumage grow in over the summer.
The sweet cherry trees are starting to make their fruit- there are little green buds all over the place on them. I can hardly wait till they get fat and red!
Some of the raspberries I transplanted died, only one survived it looks like. The lily of the valley I transplanted looks like it's taking
Started weeding out the front of the house bed today, gack what a lot of work. Only got half the bottom bed done, and my tarp was full enough that now I have to let the plants die off a bit before chucking them into the compost bed. I neeeed to hit up the neighbor about the horse poo, and I keep forgetting about it when I see her car.
Had a friend while weeding, a nice lil toad. Sort of startled me at first, I bet I startled it too. But then it just hung out and watched me weed. I'm not sure if it was an American toad or a Fowlers toad. Considering the sandiness of that bed area, I'm betting it was a Fowlers :)
Hmmm, think I might have found morels growing on the property. I picked one for identification, but haven't found someone local yet.
Oohhh, I finally fixed the front walk. It was a pain in the keester, but it was worth it. Now it looks nice and can be used safely again.
And nope, the neighbors still haven't fixed the truck hole they made in my yard. I'm kind of irritated about it. Starting to seriously think I need to get in at least a ditch lily line down the sides of the easement drive. I'll probably do it in the fall at the same time my sister brings out the bins of pretty lilies she has for me. Those are going to be used to line other driveway sections. In a few years, I will have some awesome borders :) Lilacs will apparently have to wait till spring transplanting for them to take best.

From the tec side... The promised fruit holder that my love designed and printed for me. Last post he just made them. I've now used them a few times, and they hold apple, orange, and pear halves wonderfully!

From the food world.. Gosh, not much exciting going on. Been making food, it's been good. Experimented on a mashed potato casserole that had kale in it, and it turned out pretty tasty. Got a loaf pan of it in the fridge I want to try to fry up in slices for dinner tonight.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Doing and planning...

Got a couple things done around the house. Not a ton.

Went around and picked up the one up hyacinths around the yard. Some more successfully than others, lol. I pulled up my first plugs of lily of the valley, and put them in on the other side of the tree. Will for sure have to do more, but I wanted to move the first batch out of the edge of the other side. Dug up a whole handful of purple eyed white violets from under the chestnuts and put them by the back corner of the house. Dug up all the little raspberry sproutlings outside the patch and put them in the patch.
While down there digging and trimming some weedy trees.. I think I may have discovered morels. There were two of them, but sadly, I stomped on one before spotting the other. The upswing is that since I had already stomped one open, I could confirm its solid and completely hollow, is more pitted than lobed, has a full attachment of cap and stem. I broke up the one I smushed and placed the pieces spore down in the area I smushed it. Keeping an eye on the other one to hopefully catch it after sporing but before pure ick. Maybe I can get a confirmation of what it is.
Sketched up some new plans for the yard. Just doing some detailing in on ideas. Came up with a nice list of bird feeding bushes to plant along the neighbors chain link fence line and the rest of the firepit sanctuary. Give us a bit more privacy along that line. And anti mosquito plants for around the outer perimeter of the firepit. Surprisingly, there's a lot of lemon scented plants on the list. Marigolds seem popular too.
Revising some of the first year planting plans. Think I'm not going to even thing about what to start to plant in in the shady triangle in front of the house this year. There's a lot of work to be done with filling in the well digging that wasn't filled in as well as addressing a lot of surface root issues from the trees.
I think I'm going to do a sunflower fence along the chain link fenceline this year.
I raked the container slab off and got a few inch thick pile of leaves in a bed right off the back of the slab. Want to layer it with some manure from the neighbor.

Saw our first hummingbird today. He zoomed by the window and stopped by the feeder on the porch. I took it as a sign it was time to take the feeder down, clean it well, and make some feeder syrup.
Simple syrup is easy- one part sugar to four parts water. Bring water to boil, kill heat, stir in sugar till totally dissolved. Cool to room temp and fill feeder.
I find it's easiest to fill the feeder bowl with water for measurement so I don't have to toss the remainder in the fridge. My feeder holds 1 1/2 cups of water. I add to that 3/8 of a cup regular sugar.
Neighbor chickens were out and bold as hell today. I came out with seed for the finch feeder, and Ruby trotted right up to me expecting some. Of course I didn't spare her a palmful till after I was done filling the feeder, and she was a meh, not interested in what I tossed her. Buffy came up our front porch step while I was folding laundry. Buffy and Harry were bummed that I gave them a scant palmful of the last of the squirrel feed. Time to hie myself off to restock on critter food and check for seeds on sale to start the bird flower garden areas.
Tec front news is also critter news. I asked Marc to design and print off fruit feeding spikes for me. Little spikes to hold half a piece of fruit for feeding the birds. Just a simple pair of loops with a spike in the middle printed off the rep-strap. He printed me off a pair of spikes pretty darn quick, so now I have them holding apples on the tree outside my office window. I used florists wire to hold them to the branch, one pointing down (making a bell of apple half), and one pointing up (making a bell). I know orange would be better since I wanted them for enticing the orioles, but the oranges got eaten, and we had apples. I put the upward spike fairly far out on a branch to discourage squirrels, we shall see how well that works.
Depending on how well it works, we will modify it or not, and I will post the plans for it here.

Mmm, no cooking today for me, I'm getting treated to dinner :) But since I dug some wild chives today, and we have a ton of them in the yard..
It's really easy to dry chives. Take a bundle of them, and slice them fine. Spread them out on parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Heat your oven to the lowest warm setting, then turn it off. Pop in the cookie sheet, and let the oven cool down to room temp. If necessary, give the chives a stir, and repeat the process. When dry, store in a tight closing container.
Equally easy is citrus zest. If using a microplane, one can just leave a plate of zest out on the counter for several hours, occasionally tossing them. If using a knife or peeler for larger bits, one can use the same oven technique as for the chives. Try to get just the colored part of the peel. I always zest my lemons and limes prior to juicing when cooking. I tend to zest my other citrus too if I'm just planning on peeling it anyway.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Breezy Monday...

It was a lovely weekend at Growbox Hill.. Had family and friends visiting.

Cleaned up the yard of all the larger fallen sticks and branches that could hurt a lawnmower. Cleaned off all the dead grapevines and the wall off the kennel. Cleaned up the boards that were unsuitable for reusing, and rough boxed in the raspberries that the boards had been smothering.
Had one outstanding bonfire in the firepit with all the burnables cleaned out of the yard :)

So, now I need to figure out the immediate lawnmowing situation. The neighbor might have a lawnmower for cheap, or I may have to use a service for a while. Can't afford a new mower, though I would like to have one that I can also do a lil snowblade attachment on.
I also need to do a boatload of spot transplanting before I can do mowing action in the back. There a whole bunch of hyacinths of different types and some daffodils that have one upped here and there that I want to move to a more, er bedded location.
The kennel needs to be cleaned out of all the leaves blown in there- then I get to start up some container plants on the slab. Figure it would be useful since it has three chainlink walls in a row to utilize them till it's time to start working with chickens. Then the chicken house will go there.
The wood around the raspberries- some of it will be broken up for the firepit since there is still a lot of it. But some of it will still be used to box in the berries. Got my eye on a couple of raspberries that have come up on among the ditch lilies by the driveway- might already have a couple of berries, yay!
Also found out we have a mulberry tree in the back, and a couple of the bushes have leafed out enough that they are for sure lilacs. Super hooray- think I might border our side of the easement drive with even more lilacs, and spread the ditch lilies along the line between the easement drive and the neighbor. Got to try to discourage the neighbors from landing their truck in my front yard again, lol.
Another for sure we got it- lily of the valley, yum! It's spreading out under the chinese chestnut, but only on one side, so I'm gonna dig up the outer edge of it and put it on the other side so we have a nice total circling of the trees :) Discovered that what I thought was regular daffodils by the raspberries are really stunning doubled blooms- and needing division :) Some pretty narcissus too. Got some wide flat blades coming up, not sure what they will be, I'm hoping iris. Would be yet another planned planting already planted, lol.
The magnolia is now in full bloom, the peach is past bloom, and the sweet cherries are in full bloom. The sour cherries have some blooms, and the rest of the orchard is pretty much budding out leaf.

All the yard friends were out. Tippy and family were bounding all over, the birds were all fluttery and chirpy- even the Boston Oriole popped by to dazzle us with his brilliant orange plumage. Gave treats to the neighbor chickens for the first time, and they loved it. Now they know where to get the goods, they are even friendlier than before. The chickens all have official names now. Just the rooster was named by the neighbors, Harry. I call him Mr. Tasty, So I guess he is now Mr. Harry B. Tasty :). The ladies are Madge, all white, Ruby, with red plumage, and Buffy, buff with black tips on her feathers.
And you betcha the bumblebees were out zipping around and being happy. Haven't really seen alot of other bees yet, so there might not be too much competition for my golden ladies once I put in hives. Thankfully for all the old nests I have seen, I haven't seen any of the nasty stingers.
Still want to put up a bathouse, but keep forgetting to ask the neighbors about it. Want to know if they have already tried it or not, or would be PO'd if I put one up.

Made zuppa toscana and fresh ricotta for the weekend. I broke the curd too soon on the ricotta when it was curdling and ended up with a cheese suitable for a fresh spread instead of a curd suitable for baking. Still tasted great with watercress and flat leaf parsley mixed in. Made a fine spread for the ciabatta to go along with a fat ole skillet, yum!

Out of the tec front, my love has successfully printed out a very cool automated valve system. It will be quite nice for slow irrigating as well as regular nutrient additions to hydroponics. So smaller reservoir will be able to be used, making the system a bit more water saving. Plus I will also be able to individually tailor food for fruiting tomatoes, seedling peppers, and blooming eggplant all at the same time instead of individually measuring and feeding each one separately. So time saving too. And not have to pay a buttload of money to someone else for some fancy system. How awesome is that?
He's already written a simple control program for it, so it is a fully working model now. It was kind of exciting to see him just hit a button on his computer and voila! the drip turned itself on and off. So now he's experimenting with how long it takes to get x amount of fluid to run, bla bla bla.. The not quite so exciting part of getting it working right.
We are also getting into the notion of must have generator again. We just can't afford to be without power for the sump pump and well. So we are thinking gas and battery- that way we can plug solar or wind into that same battery too as we figure out our needs. Guess after our initial investment it will be time for me to get off my butt and start working on solar and wind. My love gets to do biofuel- I don't envy him that, it is kind of gross to me, but he's fascinated by it, lol.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Hooray May!!

Had an AWESOME Beltaine weekend!!
We got the firepit set up.. Oops, the stones we grabbed from the front yard second were bigger than the ones we grabbed from the backyard first.. So a little bit of shuffle will have to happen for the actual buttering of bricks :) But we had a really nice bonfire for Beltaine. Might not have burned the nine sacred woods, but we did burn a bunch of different woods :) Burned up five of the fallen branch piles, and almost wished for more. I also got to feed the male swan some beltaine bread by the night glow.. It was spectral and sweet, he made little lapping gobbling noises as he snacked on the bread bits :)
Some exciting bird incomers to the yard this weekend. A rose breasted grosbeak, and a pair of Baltimore Orioles. The male Oriole has such gorgeous orange plumage. Stunningly this morning, both of them decided to flutter right on my office window- they must have thought my orange dragons on the windowsill were food. Spectacular to see them both so close up! Think I'm going to have to whack up an orange and see if I can spike it onto the tree with the finch feeders.
It was good to see with the clearing rain the neighbor chickens wandering around the yard again. Found out from one of the neighbors that our next upcoming critter season is turtles, and that we have a few large snapping turtles in the pond- leeches too, so I guess swimming is pretty much out, lol.
Had the first bumblebees floating around my feet too- hooray for our little buzzing friends coming out with the warmer and drier weather :)
On the not so cool but pretty funny front... Another neighbor was trying to turn their truck around and managed to get it stuck in our front yard past the axles- by the time they got a tow truck out to pull the stupid thing out of my yard.. Well, I now have a large and deep truck shaped puddle in my yard. They said they would take care of it next time they come out, hopefully the water will be down a bit by then. Guess I'm going to have to seriously consider some plantings along that side of the yard. Maybe lilacs on our yard side of the easement drive, and esperilles or grapes between the easement drive and theirs.
Gack, we will for sure have to have a surveyor come out and tell us exactly where our property lines are so no one can bitch. But I have heard rumor that all summer is supposed be sort of stupid like that, so I will have to be on the alert, and take friendly neighborly measures in planting to protect the property.

Tried an experimental easy bread recipe over the weekend.. Decent bread, but pretty much just for sandwich fixing.. it wasn't luxurious bread, lol. Made pork stock in the crockpot, thinking I'm gonna use it to make zuppa toscana for next weekend, we are anticipating visitors. Normally I would use it to make potato leek chowder, but one of my guests favorites is the zuppa, and the stock will work very nicely for that too. Might make a nice italian bread and a baked fresh ricotta as well :)
Made a lovely beef roast- with pomegranate wine and portabella mushrooms, yum! I seasoned the roast well and seared it on all sides, then laid it on a bed of white onion, celery, and halved portabellas. Deglazed the searing pan with a healthy amount of wine, and poured that into the baking pan along with a couple cups of beef broth, and sprinkled the whole thing well with thyme. Covered with foil and into the oven for a couple hours at 350. Then I took the whole braising mess, tossed the solids in the blender with a bit of liquid, and pureed it. Back into a pan with the rest of the liquid and another whole container of sliced portabellas and simmered it till it was reduced by half. Delicious over the mashed yukon gold potatoes!

On the tec front, my love has designed a cool little valve thing for printing on the repstrap. Once it is finished it should work as a multifeed type valve for adding different chemicals into the same hydroponic tank. I'm starting to get antsy to use the system, I want to start my off season tomatoes, lol. Already know the tom thumb peas don't do so hot in the water rich system, so I'm going to see how well they do in containers in the solarium- it would be nice to have the extended season that way.