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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

By God that's a lotta seed!

So early last year I got all happy with seed trading. Was hoping for a 250 seed stock by the end of the year. Then I really was in the trading swing... And was gleeful that we were gonna top 300.. then 350... By the time I was getting hopeful about the close of the year, hooray, almost to the hopeful goal of 2014 closing!

Well, with the last of last years seed swaps finally arriving, we are around 475 or so. Almost doubled my 2013 goal. Makes me hesitate- I want a final bank of 1000? Perhaps I should think twice about all of this, lol.
What it really does is make me look much more closely on what seed is still out there. It makes me think about how much of what do I really want to have. For example, what am I missing if I have 140 kinds of tomatoes? What do I have too much of? How many frigging kinds of tomatoes can I have and still do reasonable and successful year rotations? I think I will be trimming the hell out of the reds category. I've found myself much more fascinated in other colors. I will be trimming out tons of hybrids that are in the collection too. Then I get to start growing out some of the rest, lol.
I have tons of beans, peppers, around 50 kinds of each. Rather nice selections of carrots, beets, greens, and squash, several kinds of greens. 75 kinds of flowers to tinker with seeding all over the place.

I think when is all is said and done, 1000 seed might be pushed out by a couple years. I'm thinking that a 500 cap might be in order for a bit. Get used to handling that much seed and building it into a proper sale/trade/keep base before moving on to more.

Of course there will always be seed on my wish list, and random seed I see while out and about that I'm going to pick up.

But now I have the task of sorting through all that seed and figuring out what all is going to happen with it. Some stuff is going to be planted in a couple weeks with wintersowing. Mostly first rounds of flowers. Maybe a couple of the herbs. And then it's a big ole domino till June or so, lol.

The weather is playing a fine game with us too. From snowed in for days to rain and slush/ice off, to the last couple days promising lake effect snow that last time saw us in multiple feet deep. And now we seem to be in the eye of the needle again, everywhere around us has been slammed with dark skies and heavy snow, and we have gotten sunshine and cold sculpting. Only now as sunset has crept in on the 22nd has all the warnings of the past couple days seemed to have merit here. And we were snowed in overnight and finally had to call in a push on the 28th. We were looking at even more snow and cold and had to take the break in the weather to get the push. Right now we have spent weeks snowed in compared to days open for mobility.

So over the last several days I've been sizing up the seed collection. I think I'm going to drop almost all traditional red tomatoes from the seed list. Figured out how to best process what seed is on the list.
I should be sowing in the first of the wintersowing jugs next week, but cold and snow as it is, I'm not too sure about that. I have to dig my way to the jug areas!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Blizzard of 2014

Started Tues, January 7.

Not sure if it's really going to be called a blizzard or not- but around here it was, lol. Today the storm is supposed to break, and we are getting what will hopefully be the coldest day of the year- it's supposed to climb up into the 30's over the next couple days.

Here's a pic of what our little part of the world looked like during the storm:

We have indeed already seen a few moments of clear if watery and cold sunlight today :) I walked down to the pole barn for the snow shovel, and shit, that was a chore. I was wearing winter boots with a couple inch sole, and snow depth ranged from just below ankle deep beneath the pines, to breaking well above my knees along pretty much the rest of the drive, lol. I was all bundled up in coats and cloak, and I was roasting by the time I got back to the house, but my lungs hurt from breathing in the freezing air- despite having my nose and mouth covered.
Took a goodly rest after that, lol. Then I cleared a path to the upstairs to look for the body bag and ski pants. Couldn't find either :( But discovered that at least the drifting keeps the area between the house and corner of the garage clear.
Took a break to warm up again. Searched around again, and found the body bag, still no ski pants. Shoveled out to the second bay of the garage. Got all the path areas dug out so far salted. I figured it would be too cold for salt to work, but it is working so maybe it isn't quite so cold here.

I can tell ya damn skippy that when plans for the chickens get built in, we are putting a door or attaching the thing to the end of the garage for inside access for this whole strip, lol.

Why am I bothering killing myself with shoveling now if I know warmer weather is coming? Because if I leave it to the weather, we still aint leaving till the weekend- if I start clearing today, we can leave tomorrow evening at the earliest.

January 8...

This morning went out and cleared some more driveway swath. My love almost got the car stuck yesterday evening in an attempt to get out. It did push out a lot more path- but what was still left too much to even get to the thin spot under the pines and made me want to cry. No amount of pre-clearing and hoping for better weather was gonna get us out to the road for many days yet.
I said screw this and called Dave to see if he knew anyone that could push our drive today- and after some call around, we got Randy on the line and out here to clear at least the path up to the garage. Of course it was 40 instead of 20- we figured a regular push is 20, and Randy wouldn't know till he saw our drive that it would be a double sized push of heavy shit. And we tipped him an extra 10.
So now we can come and go again. Tomorrow I need to shovel out a bit of plow stuff to walk nice to the garage and get down to the mailboxes to make sure that is decent for the mail folks. And dig in a walkway to the pole barn. We really need to invest in at least a snowblower or rig up some sort of little plow attachment for the front of our yard tractor to help us out in heavier snow. It don't happen often to worry about snow in, but when it happens...

So, the plowing out the snow, Randy dug up some of the area around the pines and along the drive. We are 100% cool with this, all he really tore up was stuff that needed a good push back anyway.

Here's some pics from yesterday early and today after plowing...

 A lovely pic out the stair door showing the wee folk nook- those folks are well tucked in :)
 A pic out the library window- The snow was almost up to the sill, the huge dune in the back is a plowed dune.
 This is what the drive looked like before we started digging. We cleared about 6 feet back on bay 2, drove another 6 feet or so flat, the another few feet of digging in of what we gave up and just called Randy.

 Woot! The drive after Randy was here :) A lot of the black you see here isn't dug up edge of drive- it's a heavy mass of blackbirds that showed up and started checking out the much smaller gouged area.
 Here's a shot outside the greatroom- That's a lot of birds!
Another shot of some of them settled down again.

A bit after all of this action, and I sat down at the desk... Saw several chicadees at the feeder tree- and then I saw a red headed woodpecker looking for a snack! Apparently they saw the blackbird memo and thought they were gonna get goodies too. Well sorry birdies, that side of the house is snowed in, can't get to the feeders to fill them even if I had something to fill them with right now.
But, well, maybe not. If I can get at least in reach of the feeder I could get some goodies tossed onto the snow.
The office door is still snowed shut. So the solarium door- I managed to wedge it open using the ash shovel I left by the door, and shovel out the pad. Thank goodness we didn't need the gennie though this. But the corner was clear. Got a couple windows around the corner and realized the snow was way too deep for adventure boots. It drifts onto the southside- Perhaps only 18 inches given the stakes in the ground.
Decided to sort of try out the base form of my snowshoe platform idea- I used the stack of kitty litter lids as snow stepping stones to the house corner where the snow was low enough not to need them. I tossed out the lids as stepping stones to the corner to make sure I had enough stomp spots- then I collected the lids as I walked back after scattering goodies and stomped down the rest of the path. I'm almost positive given the results of this if I added the mesh in the pole barn it could make a great emergency snowshoe. And I have goodly access to the pole barn now.

Coming and going for snow stuff is making me realize how much I need to get done for wintersowing. We are under four weeks till our first planting. Good thing we already have most of the heavy hauling setup work done. I need to sort tons of seed, and still getting in bean and tomato swaps.

Thursday the 9th:

Just puttering around the house, cleaning and watching the snow outside start to change already- the stiff peak of the rail has now become a slumped wave. The snow has sunk down low enough that the kitty litter hump is clearly defined- that means under 14 inches. Saw a fat-ass bluejay pick off a whole piece of bread from the snow, then hop on down for an even bigger piece! Also saw a huge crow in the trees, and he landed into the snow to snatch a piece- then found himself snowbound a bit and floundered to get his footing enough just to flap off the snow- and flew off without his prize.

Extra exciting news! My package of the tomato swap has been mailed out today! Or at least the host announced in the thread my package was sent out today :) Of course these and the bean seeds will count as new in on the 2014 roster, even though the trade was started last year.

I finally changed over the wintersowing spreadsheet to official growschedule for 2014. Holy crap there's a lot of stuff to drop in already! And I've decided to really change the format of the monthly tabs. I've started setting up weekly and weekend to do lists and will work in set up charts.

January 10:
Temps were warm in the morning, producing some fog over the pond. Hehehe, the crows are getting pissed off at the bluejays and chickadees because they are light enough to alight on the deep snow and get the bread bits, but the crows are smart enough to have figured out it's too deep and sinking for them. As dusk settles in, so has the rain. Yeah, from the coldest day (hopefully) of the winter to rain tonight.

SQUEE!!! Bean swap came in today!  Over 20 packs of different kinds of beans. Glad I only have the tomato swap to wait for now, that should be coming in on Monday or Tuesday I think. It looks like I should be able to completely close the 2013 books and fully open the 2014 one before the end of the month. We got in and sent out a lot of seed last year- it was my first year of really seriously doing a lot of trading, and it shows. How I've set up my 2014 logs is way different.

January 13:
Didn't do diddly squat over the weekend. Read a couple books, watched a couple movies... Just hung out and waited for the weather break. And it did :) We got fog and rain, which made for two days of gloomy crap, but mucho snow melt off. At this time I'm hopeful that our Blizzard of 2014 has gone a long way to getting all the lake levels back up to where they really are supposed to be finally and perhaps the super cold snap might have killed off some of those bastard ticks.
So today was running errands- got a lot of stuff to catch up on. And got home to find the TOMATO swap came in! Holy shit double backflip, there are over 100 packets of seeds, all different!!! Considering I sent off 10-12 kinds of about 25 packets total, this has been a super oober trade.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Happy 2014!

Happy 2014!!!

We here at Growbox Hill are dug in for the cold winter season. Got a lot of things going on with tying up the ends of 2013 and sorting things out for 2014... Particularly in our growing plans.
This month I will be doing things like looking over previous entries and making notes, updating and researching the seed list for what will be getting planted in 2014- the first plantings are just next month with wintersowing.
Up on the planting list is prepping up the solarium for potting up wintersowing seeds. Cutting up jugs and getting together dirt, figuring out what packets of seed are going to be sown starting in February. I plan on setting out my first jugs in the first weekend of February for Imbolc. 

Right now the only seriously long range guess at weather is Farmers Almanac. Here's what they say at of January first, 2014:

January 2014

1st-3rd. Scattered snow showers, flurries.
4th-7th. Rain and fog.
8th-11th. Southern Plains storm moves to Great Lakes; heavy rain and snow.
12th-15th. Big storm Gulf States to Virginias brings heavy rain and snow to Ohio Valley; lesser amounts to north and across Great Lakes.
16th-19th. Snow showers/flurries.
20th-23rd. Clearing, cold.
24th-27th. Turning colder. Widespread fog over Ohio Valley.
28th-31st. Rain and snow heavy for Great Lakes, Ohio Valley and points south.

February 2014

1st-3rd. Rain, snow.
4th-7th. More rain, snow.
8th-11th. Occasional snow flurries.
12th-15th. Unseasonably cold weather. Wintry mix extends into Ohio Valley.
16th-19th. Residual snow showers, flurries.
20th-23rd. Snow Ohio Valley, points south.
24th-28th. Cloudy, with some snow Great Lakes; wintry mix Ohio Valley.

What's been going on since my last real post? Had a good holiday, was able to have my mom here for several days. My love printed out and I hand painted and embellished a bunch of rather nice ornaments for several folks- and a sweet-ass snowman for our own tree :) Everyone gave and got a bunch a fun stuff. I got 34 pairs of socks which I was thrilled about. Food was pretty much the usual holiday faire- though I was re-introduced to an old favorite, chicken and rice. The creamy, mushroomy kind, yum!  I even had mom supervise me while making it to make sure I remembered it right, it's been forever since I even thought of it.
New Years was pretty quiet. Stayed up to see the ball drop in New York and went to bed shortly after. New Year's eve just isn't the same without Dick Clark.

So, January first is full of snow, very very full of snow. Today is a day of cleaning up after all the holiday stuff.
Set up the dehydrator with 4 trays of sliced celery, and 2 trays of shredded broccoli. Made a couple jars of refrigerator pickled baby carrots- used my standard antipasta recipe. Those will be ready to crack in a month or so. One nice thing about all the snow, I don't have to waste ice shocking veggies, I can just drain them and onto the front porch for a few minutes.
Got the leftover ham and chicken mushroom spread in the freezer, and divided the other 3 lb block of cream cheese and got that into the freezer. Made a big ole pot of Matzo ball soup with carrots, potatoes, roasted chicken, and green beans from our garden :).
Done tons of dishes. My love did a couple loads while I was gone, and I did a couple more today. And still with all I did today there is still more to be done, lol. 

Made a kitchen scrubbie over the holiday out of recycled onion bags. It was a snap to make, keeps the bags out of the landfills, and now I never need to buy a kitchen scrubber again! Stack a few bags, fold in thirds, fold in thirds the other way, and stitch around the edge, I used a scrap of yarn and a yarn needle my mom had handy. There's instructions out there on how to make other kinds, but I tend to like a square scrubby.
Now my last Dobie pad is almost dead.. And I'm fully switched over to using a luffa and recycled scubby instead of buying products for this. I have a small heap of other saved net bags set aside and will be making more of these- expect a photo tutorial soon!

Decided to brave the elements and go to the mailbox, we had outgoing mail and hadn't checked the mail in a couple days. Discovered that my rubbers are wonderful because they are tall, waterproof, and super grippy- they suck because they are zero insulated. Had to put on the rubbers because the snow was too high for my regular boots and I didn't feel like digging out my super tall boots. Wore my super-awesome cloak my mom made for me eons ago, I love that thing. Also discovered what a PITA it is breaking trail in snow several inches deep, hahha. Walking back up to the house was better, the trail was broken :) Of course it wasn't till I was walking back that I realized I should have brought my keys to grab the snow shovel out of the pole barn- oops. The shop broom might have worked fine last time, but I need a shovel this time. Perhaps tomorrow, I do need to break trail around the house and garage, and it's time to empty the compost bin, sigh.

Jan 2 was a day of tearing down the decorations and kitchen stuff and getting it packed up. Man doing that is time consuming! It was cloudy and cold, snowing on and off. Ugh, not hauling it upstairs today. Cold and snow and ugh. Got a rather nice present of pics from family, yay!

Jan 3......
This morning woke up and discovered the toilet in our bathroom isn't working- this is the one I had the sediment event with recently, and I'm not positive what's wrong this time, just no water coming in to fill the tank. This could be due to the line, or stuff in the toilet. Bummer :( dredged out more sediment and plan on doing a suction manuver before anything else.
Got a full dehydrator of raw sliced carrots set up. Made the tutorial for the kitchen scrubbies and posted it up, yay!
Kicked up the office from 55 to comfort zone, and turned on the living room for the first time after dark today.

Just after darkfall on January 4th..
With all the different snows over the last couple days, combined with the winds... We have a rather lovely striated effect like wind carved stone going on on the front porch railing. You can tell where we different inches, and the different densities of them by how much or not the layers are carved out. Pretty darn cool.
I think we might be seeing a potential 9-12 inches of snow over the next 48 hours. Overnight might get 5-7 inches with possible flurries throughout tomorrow giving snow or not.. into another possible 4 inches through tomorrow night.

I think at the close of this evening I can say FA has been wrong- flurries my butt, and softening into rain, nope. A few degrees to lift us out of total freezing, sure.

Checked in with the bean and tomato swaps. In the bean swap, looks like a couple people got packages before the holiday, and no one since then. People are asking bout it in thread now. In the tomato swap, the host is having some computer problems, but is checking in. He's reporting 10,000 packets in tomato tally, and is working on the additional donation seed now. Hopes to get all the packets off before the end of the month. Really makes me wonder how much seed I'm going to be overwhelmed with, hahaha.

Kind of figuring out what all I have or not with setting up wintersowing. I need to do a lot of cleaning up in the solarium to set it up. Gonna need a goodly swath of floor space to spread out a tarp to mix stuff up on. And I need to do a clear-off of the seeding bench.

Figuring out an attack plan on our sediment and pipes. Of course we need to replace the system filter in the crawlspace- but before we do and since we only have one clean one, I want to pick up another new one before doing the install.
Need to do a tank vacuum of the other three toilets- good thing we happen to have a device for exactly that. Ok, it's for fish tanks, not toilet tanks, but the tool will work the same. I want to clean those out ASAP too.
Will need to flush and fill the hot water tank, perhaps a couple times.
And the most dreaded- will need to clear out our bathroom and fix the toilet in there. I'm hoping for the best and it's within the toilet, and not within the feed line.
Other dreaded- this brings to point that we are overdue for our septic tank to be emptied, and how much frigging silt is in those tanks? And what might be building up at the bottom of our sump pump?

Holy crap do we have snow.

 This was taken around 1-2ish...
 This was taken at 4:30

 Out the other window... See that little mound on the right? That's the kitty litter bucket, it's 15 inches tall- the snow is at least 15 inches there, and the mound is the cap of snow that had built up on top of the bucket and now is getting filled in.
Another shot of this. And oh, that smooth section between the small tree and the mound has the black spanish round radishes, along with foot tall stakes showing where they are.

 Oh yeah, we are snowed in. The snow is halfway up the first panel of the garage door, and there's drifting deeper than that right in the drive path. Off to the left is the wall for the FOH garden- didn't take a pic because you can't see it anymore anyway, it's completely drifted in.
 Shot outside the stairwell door. This is the wee folk garden, you can just see a bit of the retaining wall on the right.
General shot out the door to the barn. That super huge mound is a plowed one-the neighbor does his own easement. You can see at the base V of the chestnut a goodly bit of branch- It's the bit that's been hung up since the storm last spring. If so yay for it finally coming down and not doing damage doing so. And what looks like a bunny shadow by the chestnut isn't a bunny- it's the blue spigot head.

 A bad pic out the kitchen window of the catnip pot. Yes, that big ole green pot that sits on a raised brick. The snowcap on it is easily as tall as it is.

This is the stakes that surround the poppy on the south side of the solarium. These are 4 foot tall stakes, and by guessing by where the tape is, the snow is about 12-15 inches here.The tape itself is a couple inches wide.
My love shot a great video of the snow, but I can't figure out how to load it up here.

On the bright side, we have now gotten in so much snow that it's starting to rather effectively insulate us from the winds- snow has blown into all the nooks and crannies already. The sound buffering effect is starting to kick in.
I'm considering how to scrap together some snowshoes out of kitty litter lids. Or something, lol. Gonna need to be able to get to the mailbox!
I should make a project out of it and see if I can find the snowshovel in the pole barn. And heh, take out one of the 4 foot bamboo stakes and take some depth readings. I've been thinking about it, and I might want to clear the end of the arch drive this spring. Seems like the neighbors won't be thinking about going where they shouldn't anymore, and it's getting to be more of a hindrance to us at this point in time.

Waking up on the 6th revealed no surprises, and a whole lot more snow!

 Here's what the front porch looks like this morning
 and the kitty litter bucket is for sure under snow now- it's over 15 inches deep out there!

 Those drifts in front of the garage doors are actually about chest high on me, around 4 feet deep

Friday, January 3, 2014

How to make recycled net bags into a scrub pad

We get various goods in net bags and quite often we just tear them open and pull out our onions, citrus fruits, and occasionally other produce and toss the bags. Don't toss them. They are useful for a ton of other uses. Quite a few of them pack down rather small awaiting use.

This is a bag full of bags that I've saved up over time. When you open your bags, don't just rip them open, if they have removable closures, use them. Don't worry if you do have a couple ripped bags, those can get folded into the center of the scrubbie. If the bags are stapled shut, take the time to snip off the very ends.

Whole heap of bags sorted out. As you can see there are some different grades of netting and different closures. These need to be cleaned up of labels and such. What needs to be cleaned up?
These are bags that aren't suitable for making into scrubbies- the more woven stuff or mostly plastic bags. These are really good for other uses though.

These are bags flower bulbs came in. They are nice because they are a sealed envelope.

Your typical onion bags
Cut off just the staple at the end!

Another typical bag type

Trim off right below the tag.

Ok, now that that's done, whew. We have a bunch of bits to put together. Of course going through a whole bag like this is a chore, but you can do it as a winter project :)

To keep it simple, you stack and fold in a bunch of bags. What combinations you use is up to you.

 This is three bags that have been stretched out to be sort of even, stacked. If you have a ripped bag, it will go onto the top of the stack so it's folded in.
 First fold, tucking raw edges inside
 Second fold, tucking raw edges inside
Turn 90 degrees, then third fold
And finally fourth fold.

 Now for stitching. Start in one corner, leaving a tail for tying off. Stitch all the way around
 Make sure your last stitch come out on the same side you left your tail. Tie your tails together, and snip off the extra.

And here we have the done scrubbie!

Made up one quick over the holiday as my last scrubbie was dying. Used 3 bags stacked, folded thrice and against that thrice again, then used a fat yarn needle and a scrap of yarn to seal the sides. It works great!

Using one of those sealed envelope bags is even easier.
 Stack and fold your bags like in the above. You might need to fold more or in quarters to get it to fit nice.
 Stuff those suckers in and lay them down nice.
 Fold over, and stitch along just the one side, being sure to leave a tail when you start to tie off at the end.
 Stitching and tying done! Now this scrubby has extra layers of the heavier yellow netting to make a more "scouring" side to the pad.

Fear not if you have zero stitching skills!
 These bags typically have small stuff, glass pebbles or marbles, small soaps, tea candles and so on.
 Take the lock off. Notice the barbs on the loop? Those need to be eased out of the cuff.
 Roll up a bunch of net bags and stuff the one net bag. Then put the loop and cap back on, being sure to do it tight so the bags are a firm ball.
And poof! Round ball scrubbie with zero crafting skills! You can cut off the tail end of the bag if you find it annoying.

So next time you think about tossing those bags or buying a new scrubbie- don't.