Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Stray Dogs

Two stray dogs appeared one day out in the field where Guv'nor and Tevia were working on the fences. The dogs eventually found their way to the house. We were nervous at first to have them around but they seemed docile and passive. Dog, on the other hand, did not like them. Her first reaction was scary - barking and growling and showing teeth we had never seen before. Thankfully they didn't react. She eventually calmed down and allowed them near us, but she was always protectively between us and them.

We debated about what to do with them. We have heard that some of the best dogs started out being strays. Should we feed them? Should we keep them? Would they stay? Would Dog settle down? Could we afford the vet fees? Could we afford the dog food? Would they eat the chickens?

We felt sorry for them. They were just hungry.

So, we ended up feeding them - a couple of times leading them away from the house hoping they'd move on down the road. But they would come back.

The vote was divided amongst us about whether we should keep them or not. Some liked them, some were scared by them. Someone would have to clean them up. Although docile, they weren't trained. In the end we decided we weren't ready for two more dogs. 

So what could we do with them? They kept following us home when we tried to lead them away. We are outside the city limits, so the city didn't want them. The county doesn't provide a pick up service. The best option was to take them to the county animal shelter.

So Guv'nor took them in the back of his pickup to the shelter.  And for his time and effort, he had to pay $15 per dog to leave them there. It didn't seem fair that we would have to pay. It's a lose - lose situation. And will probably happen again.

We have since learned that one of our neighbors saw the lady in a car as she dropped them off and sped away too fast to get her license plate number. She's the one that needs to pay.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Compost Tea

Those that know me, know that I love to drink tea. Almost any kind of tea. Well, except for compost tea.

We were first introduced to the idea of compost tea at our homesteading class. Apparently, gardeners have used some form of this type fertilizer for years - just ordinary compost (or manure) soaked in water for awhile, then sprayed over the garden. In more recent years it has been discovered that if air is introduced into the water while the compost is soaking, the benefits are multiplied, exponentially.

I went along a few weeks ago to a free talk about making compost tea at the local organic garden center. The owner demonstrated how to make your own system. I took furious notes and made sketches as he talked. It looked easy enough, so afterwards I went straight to Walmart and started to gather all the equipment I needed.

It cost me about $30, not including the compost which I bought from the garden center for about $13 (only because we don’t have our own yet). Several of the things can be found in the fish tank section at Walmart. (I’ve given estimates of costs in brackets.)

I would recommend assembling the tea bucket and brewing the tea outside, either in a garage or back porch. You will need access to an electrical outlet and a water source. And a table would be helpful.

1 - 5 gal. plastic bucket with lid ($4)
1 - fish tank pump suitable for a 20-60 gal. tank with a double outlet ($11)
8 ft of fish tank plastic tubing ($2)
2 - 5” bubble stones ($4)
2 - small air stones ($2)
2 - “T” valves same size as tubing ($2)
1 - one gal. paint strainer, mesh bag ($2)
thin craft wire used for flower arranging or twine  ($2)
Revitalizer compost ($13)
drill with 1/4” bit

Prepare the bucket:

1. Drill two 1/4” holes in the plastic bucket, large enough for the tubing to fit through. Drill them about 1-2” apart near the top just under the edge. Drill another hole in the lid near the edge.
2. Cut the plastic tubing roughly in half to make 2 x 4 ft. lengths. Then from each of  these, cut off two pieces roughly 3” each (you will have four 3” pieces).
3. Connect one “T” valve with two 3” tubing, and connect those to the two large bubble stones. Connect the remaining valve to one long section of tubing.
4. Set the two large bubble stones in the bottom of the bucket and thread the tubing through one of holes in the side of the bucket.
5. Repeat this process using the two small bubble stones, and thread through the other hole.
6. Assemble the pump, attaching the (included) back flow valves pointing away from the pump.
7. Attach the tubing from the bubble stones to the pump.

To use:
1. Fill the bucket with about 4 gallons of water. If your water is chlorinated, leave the water to sit for 24 hours to let most of the chlorine evaporate. (Chlorine will undo all the good that the compost is going to do.)
2. The two large bubble stones should be in place at the bottom of the bucket with tube coming out the side.
3. Insert the small bubble stones into the mess bag. Fill the mesh bag about half full with compost. Tie securely at the top (including around the tubing) with one end of a 12-15” length of craft wire. Thread the other end of the craft wire through the hole in the lid. Tie the wire to the handle so that the bag hangs near the middle of the bucket.
4. Plug in the pump. Brew for 12-24 hours at a temperature between 65-85 degrees. The tea should be dark brown with a pleasant earthy smell.
5. Dilute the compost tea with equal amounts of water and distribute generously on all garden areas needing improvement. A watering can or pump spray device is useful. Use all tea within a few hours of brewing. It will not burn your plants, so you cannot use too much.
6. Repeat often.
For added benefits you can add additional natural products for pest control and growth enhancement.

To each gallon of water, add any or all:
2 oz. Agrispon (fertilizer)
2 oz. Soil Menders Fish and Seaweed (fertilizer)
2 oz. Nature’s Gate Garlic Concentrate (for insect control)
2 oz. Medina Molasses (for insect control)
1 drop SuperThrive (to boost growth)

Thanks to Daughter for taking all the photos while I was demonstrating. After using it a few times I think you could improve upon this model.

Most of the equipment is for fish tanks.

I used Revitalizer compost.

Drill three holes: two in the bucket and one in the lid.

Don't completely fill the bucket with water because it will bubble up.

Cut four short lengths of tubing.

Attach the two large bubble stones to the longer tubing with the T valves.

Thread the tubing from the large bubble stones through one hole in the bucket.

Repeat the same process with the small bubble stones.

Add compost to the mess bag.

Put the small bubbles stones in the mess bag.

Cut a length of wire. You could use string as well.

Tie up the top of the mess bag with the wire.

Set the bag into the water.

Thread the wire through the hole in the lid.

Tie the wire to the handle so the bag is floating near the top.

The compost tea is brewing.

I put the pump on the top of the lid.

Here is the compost tea after it has brewed about 24 hours.

Here are some products you can add to the compost tea.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Raised Beds

Until we can get more ground prepared for a garden, we decided to make some raised beds for growing vegetables. We are planning to “double dig” an area for a garden, but it has turned out to be very labor intensive. So in order to be able to have a few vegetables this summer, we decided to do something quicker.

Son made us two big boxes out of the boards from the old deck. We decided to make them about 18” high to allow plenty of space for roots. And since the deck boards were 16 feet long, we used that length to make it simpler.

We got our dirt mix from the local organic garden center. It took two trips with the trailer to get all we needed. For each raised bed we used 18 bags of Raised Bed Mix, 1 cubic yard of compost, and 1 cubic yard of top soil. We put down a ground sheet as a barrier between the ground and the raised bed mix. We tried to mix it together as we filled the boxes.

We have added soaker hoses for irrigation, connected to a small timer.

We also bought small plants at the garden center: tomatoes, peppers, squash, zucchini, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, and onions.

The old deck boards were the perfect size.

Some of the boards were warped, but it didn't really matter.

Our raised beds are roughly 16 feet long, 4 feet wide, and 18 inches high.

We used Soil Menders Raised Bed Mix.

One cubic yard of compost turns out to be one scoop with the front loader.

We used sheets of ground cover to discourage weeds and grass growing in our beds.

Our first location had a 12 inch slope which we felt was too much.

We (Guv'nor and Son, while I watched) rotated the beds 90 degrees.

The slope was about 1 inch in the new location.

The ground cover was nailed into place.

We put layers of compost/top soil, raised bed mix, and compost/top soil.

I raked it level while they put it in by wheelbarrel fulls.

The two raised beds ready to plant.

I put down soaker hoses before planting.

Hopefully I have given the plants enough space.

I moved the soaker hoses to be nearer the plants.

Guv'nor made me a few tomato cages out of leftover fencing.

You twist the dial for the time you want - a bit like an egg timer.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Thrift Store

I found this old tea cozy at a local thrift store the other day. It was half price day, so it only cost $2. What a deal. It is a bit tea stained, but it is nice and thick so it keeps my tea hot. It even goes with my faithful teapot.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


All the hard work by Guv’nor, Tevia, Son, and Neighbor (with his post hole digger) on the fence line has finally paid off. Several sections of fencing are now finished. We now have two areas that are suitable for cows.

Neighbor was needing to rest his pasture so we have done a deal with him. His cows will graze in our fields and in exchange we get our fields mowed and fertilized all at the same time. What a deal. This is good practice for us until we are ready to buy our own cows.

He has some beautiful Red Angus cows and several cute little calves. He opened up his gate the other day and herded them across the road into our field.

This is a metal corner brace.

The corner braces were set in cement.

This is a "H" brace.

We bought new field fencing and "T" posts.

They used string to make sure they were making the fence straight.

The T post tie holds the barbed wire to the T post.

This is a pressure treated wood post.

Here's the field fencing with one line of barbed wire at the bottom to keep the wild hogs out.

Pressure treated wood posts were put about every 30 yards for stability.

They put two rows of barbed wire at the top.

Finished fencing.

Neighbor led his cows over on his four-wheeler with a bucket of feed. They'll follow him anywhere.

Most of the cows followed each other and crossed over the road happily.

A few calves got separated from their mothers and didn't know where to go.

One last cow found her way to the gate on our side.

Neighbor has about 30 Red Angus cows.

Then another section of fencing was done for us by a different neighbor who was wanting to keep his cows from crossing the creek bed. So he did a section of our fence down by the creek and used some of our cedar trees as posts.