Tag Archives: Gardening

Garden Update 3-15

Its been a few days since I have posted anything. With the rain and getting softball fields ready for our games, I didn’t have time to sit down to post anything.

My main garden bed is completely filled and I have tons of seedlings left to plant. Today, I spent time preparing rows in a second bed with mapping out potential 3rd bed. I bought some okra seeds, soaked them in water, and planted them in my seedling cups. What happened, I have 90+ seedling cups now and most of the plants are looking really good. I will be giving some to my mother in law along with a few squash, cantaloupe and watermelon  seedlings. I am hoping we have a great spring and mild summer so my family can reap a good harvest this year.

Along with making rows, I planted my corn, green beans, chives, oregano, and a few extra strawberry plants. I am still trying to figure out a watering system that is cheap(free would be good) and maintenance free. It would be nice if I could pressurize my rain barrel to create water pressure so I could use a water hose to water the garden. Anyone with suggestions? I also need to put another level on my original potato box since the bigger plants are roughly 10-12 inches tall. It will be another week before the second box needs it second level.

Over the weekend, I also baited most of our fire ant hills. I can’t seem to get rid of them though. I look at the old hills and see all the dead ones, so the bait is working. I just have to be diligent on baiting. I also bought a broadcast fire ant bait once I mow later this week. I am mixing borax and sugar today and soaking cotton balls. I will try everything that is going to kill those pests just shy of dumping gas(want to but not going to) on the hills.

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Survival Multiplier

What does survival multiplier mean? Survival multiplier is a skill or characteristic that one possesses that gives him or her an advantage in a situation. In a physical fight, if one of the fighters had extensive hand to hand combat training, then that would be their survival multiplier.

How do we gain a survival multiplier? People enroll in many different courses to gain an advantage over an obstacle or an opponent. I wish I thought of this when I was in college, I would have signed up for some of the recreation and combat classes Texas Tech offered. I did not. Others sign up for courses in building and construction trade, cooking, botany, survival schools, and many other courses that allow them to learn a skill or a trade that one day will help them survive. Some people read books and watch educational videos.

What happens when you do not have time or money to enroll in all these different courses? What do you do?  If you are like me, I eat, sleep, and work. I don’t have much time outside the normal work day to do anything extra (until summer break). So, I take the time at lunch and my break to watch videos (mainly YouTube) to learn different things. You have to be wary of which videos you do watch. For instance, I recently watched videos on canning, so I made sure it was filmed or sponsored by a canning company like Balls or Kerr Jar Co. Many people out there have techniques and practices, but some of them don’t know their elbow from their earhole.

I believe many people forget one of the characteristics they need in order to survive, and that would be they need to be physically fit. You may not need to have 10% body fat, be able to run a marathon, or bench press 350 lbs but I do believe you need to be able to manipulate your body enough to get in and out of tight spots. For about a year now, I have been running. I am also starting Insanity Max. I am embarrassed that I have not done it much lately because I came down with the flu and tournament season in softball (I teach/coach high school students) got me off track. Spring Break starts this evening. I will try to get back on track with my fitness this coming week.

Other skills I believe are considered my survival multipliers are able to build and fix most things, cook, sew, fire starting from various methods, not afraid to scavenge for materials, and the ability to problem solve. My wife is one of my best survival multipliers because she comes up with ideas for me to try, usually from Pinterest. I play ‘podcasts’ while I am travelling to learn about things, or at least have a chance to spark ideas on how to improve items I already have.

Growing up, I had many different adults in my life, and I learned a great deal of skills from them. If you consider yourself a homesteader, a prepper, a survivor, or just an average person, there is one thing all of them need, and that is a teacher. I am not talking about a school teacher, but some do teach more than their content, but someone who you can listen to, imitate, and look up to in order to gain knowledge. Knowledge is the ultimate survival multiplier. Papa was a great teacher. Sometimes my brother and I would go fishing with him and learned different fishing skills, how to tie a knot on a hook, make our own fishing bait, or just watch our poles. He helped us one year roof our house and showed us how shingles were supposed be laid down. I wish I was able to spend a little more time with him, but he passed few years ago. I inherited some of his woodworking tools because he thought I would use them. I try to honor him by keeping his tradition of building gifts instead of buying them. I may have replaced some of the tools but it isn’t the tool, it’s the tradition.

I don’t think anyone is ever prepared for every situation, but I think with the proper training and learning, you can problem solve your way out of most situations. I tell the students in my classes, sometimes it is not the content we are learning, the teachers are trying to teach you problem solving skills through our content. I teach geometry, which I believe is a very relevant subject to know. Many industries and jobs require some level of geometric knowledge in order for the worker to be successful.

(Picture of a sword and shield I made for my sons.)

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Garden: 3-5-16

Raised rows are done on the main portion. The potatoes are coming in pretty good. I cut most of the seed potatoes in half because they had multiple eyes growing from them. The morning glory flowers are popping up at the end of my potatoes. I am leaving them just to add more color to the garden. For my trellises, I am using 2×4 field fencing held up by rebar. I had a small section of it last year that my cucumbers grew on and worked pretty well.

I planted my most of my squash, all of my zucchini, and all of my cucumber. The seedlings were too big for the grow area and needed to keep the lights low for the other seedlings that are sprouting. The seedling cups (picture right) did great! The paper cups held together long enough to be able to transplant the whole thing to the garden. The roots found their way through the bottom, which is fine because I know the paper will dissolve enough for the roots to grow deeper.  I dipped the whole cup into a bucket of water to help that process and to make sure it had enough moisture for the plant.

We had rain all weekend but it only rained about 8 tenths of an inch. Over the last month, we have had enough rain to fill 2 or more of the 330 gallon totes. I need to get at least one more to help offset the cost of watering the garden this summer.

I need to figure out how to do a gravity fed irrigation so I don’t have to hand water the garden. I think I could find something better to do with my time instead hand watering. If you have any suggestions or comments, let me know.

 

Garden 2017: Preparation Update

Seedlings are looking good. I have cucumbers, zucchini, 2 types of squash that will probably be put out into the garden this weekend. This past weekend, I built my raised rows, put in my fence for trellises, and planted my onions and the rest of my potatoes. I have 2 potato beds that I will be growing vertically. I have never done potatoes, so this should be interesting.

My mother-in-law was over for Saturday and wanting to know what I used as fertilizer last year (since she was jealous with the harvest). I said nothing, which was true. I burned some yard waste over the garden area and tilled in the ash but other than that, nothing. I have pictures of worms found in my garden, and they are MASSIVE.  She brought me 2 bags of rabbit droppings to add to my compost. I used one bag in the compost, and will use some of the other bag to fertilize around the peppers, corn and tomatoes. I didn’t do so well with peppers last year, hopefully they will yield this year.

I see the corn farmers about to start sowing, so I will get my corn going this weekend as well. I will soak them first and let them plump back up so they will be ready to plant. I will also do this with my green beans and okra. Letting them get that first little root to grow will help.

Next Post, I will have pictures of the garden.

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Thank you,

Richard

2017 Garden

I prepared my garden space by tilling and conditioning it with wood ash, sawdust, and leaves. I built the base for the potato box, since I want to build this up and not out. I have never planted potatoes but I wanted to try. I purchased some rolled fencing that has 2×3 inch rectangular holes in it for my trellis. I used a small section last year for my cucumbers, and it worked great. I was going to run rope for the plants to climb on, but as I  started with it, I noticed too much play in the rope and eventually would sag. I did not want to keep fixing it later so fencing was the next available option.

To water the garden, I purchased a 300+ gallon cube tote and hooked it up to the gutters we installed 2 years ago. We just got a couple of good rains, and the tote is overflowing. I am strongly considering purchasing at least 1 more. A couple of years ago, I bought 2 55 gallon barrels for our front flower bed. To keep them from being an eyesore, I broke apart some pallets and lined the outside of the barrel to make them to appear as wooden barrels. That was a great success. To the water tote, I will do something like that but create a “wellhouse” look to it. No one wants to look at a plastic tote that has a metal exoskeleton. Once I do this, I will document and do another post for your information.

I started my seeds 10-12 days ago. They are growing strong. I started with toilet paper rolls to be able to stick it straight into the ground without disturbing  the roots. I quickly ran out. So I improvised with paper cups I made from old bills and students’ work. I guess I could theoretically say, “I am sorry, but worms ate your work.” After seeding 300+ of them, I ran out. So I will be making more. I found bread delivery trays, and cut them shorter to fit in my grow area.

I bought a bag of strawberry plants, I have 4 viable plants growing. Hopefully the other 4 will survive (not looking good for them).  I have squash (2 variations), cucumber, bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, zucchini, cantaloupe, and watermelon started. I will also plant okra, corn, green beans, onions, carrots, potatoes and tomatoes. I am getting seedlings from my mother-in-law. I may plant more, if I had time.

I haven’t decided yet, but I will more than likely line the area of the garden between the rows with old worksheets from my students to act as a weed barrier. Newspaper would be better, but who receives newspaper anymore? My school’s library don’t even receive it anymore. I have used cardboard in the past, but just don’t have enough. I will probably break them down and put in my compost. I figure if people are cardboard for worm castings, it should be fine in the compost.

I will try to find some type of mulch to use. I don’t want to use bag mulch since it is processed so much. I am looking at hay, pine needles(checking if it will make my soil to acidic) or just buy bulk mulch from a landscaping yard. If you have any suggestions, I would welcome your responses and ideas.

Experimenting in Gardening

My first year of gardening, was basically a success. I wished I took time to take pictures and write down what was a successful practice versus what I should have done differently. 2016 was a great year for weather in Central Texas. We had enough rain, the temperature stayed decent, and I had virgin soil.

In my 2016 garden, I had 9 tomato plants, cucumber plants, green beans, jalapeno pepper, bell peppers, cantaloupe, and a watermelon. I started half of them from seeds, but my wife bought the tomatoes, watermelon and the cantaloupe. Besides the peppers, everything took off. The tomatoes produced all summer, until later in August when the garden got flooded by a rain system that blew through. We gave so many away and froze many more. We had to just allow some fall to the ground because didn’t have enough room or enough people we knew to take them. The plants grew about 6 feet tall and produced dozens of slicing tomatoes and hundreds of cherry tomatoes.

We got 8-10 good sized sweet cantaloupe to eat, but lost 6 more melons to that rain. We had 3 watermelons that grew, but never turned the lighter green. I found out a little late when one of them rotted on the vine. That is when I knew the other 2 melons had to be pulled. Just in time too because they were the best melons I ever had. We learned that pay attention more to the harvest days than to the color of the fruit, because sometimes they will not get the color but will be ripe.

Our green beans produced through June, until we went on vacation for July 4th. They produced really well and picked every 3-4 days. The cucumbers were awesome. We couldn’t pick them fast enough. They finally turned tart sometime late July, but definitely got plenty of fresh ones for salads.

Welcome

Many times we look out and see the world is flying by us. Why? What is causing us to keep from living life? Is it school? Work? Bills? Family? Illness? Injury? Many of today’s conveniences are our shackles. I am a victim of that, as many of you.

My life was not always picturesque. When I was around 7 yrs old, my birth mother was diagnosed with cancer, and passed away at age of 9. I lived with family members, bouncing around from house to house. I lived with my grandparents and my room was in an old trailer house behind the main house that did not have working utilities whatsoever. There were times when there was snow on the ground, but I still had to sleep out there. The windows were screwed shut so I couldn’t open them in the heat of the summer, which it would get 100 degrees or better.

Some seasons during my childhood, I did not know if I would have plenty to eat, or even a roof over my head. I told my family I was staying at a friend’s house but just stayed in the local neighborhood tree house. That was not safe, but I was able to escape. I would go to friends’ houses close to a meal so maybe I would be able to have a good meal that day. My family tried to provide, and most of the time they did. I tell you these things to give you a background in my life, not to feel sorry for me. I don’t. All the experiences have shaped me into the person I am today. I was adopted at age 13, but my adopted parents separated when I was 17, and eventually divorced years later.

In my 20’s, I tried to show the world I had money (well, had a job) and bought expensive things. I paid for most of them but some were on credit. New cars were my kryptonite. When I was in high school, my cars were even below the classification of a junker. Most of them had a supply of water and oil in the back to top off before each trip, regardless if it was 5 or 50 miles. One car caught fire, twice. Another car I had to make sure I could pull out of my parking spot because no reverse. I was embarrassed by my vehicles.

Needless to say, I was the typical person, buying more than I needed. I wanted to impress with what I could buy but maybe not what I could afford. I thought I could do it all, still think that to some degree today. It wasn’t until 2008 when the market crashed, work was slow, and I was in a job I did not like and did not pay. I needed to change, but still wanted my lifestyle. I picked up handy man and lawn maintenance jobs in order to make ends meet. It was during this time I racked up a lot of debt.

I went back to school to get extra classes under my belt so I could get a teaching job. Yes, another poor-timing life change because massive budget cuts in schools left me to take a job in a place far from the world my wife and I knew. Through 6 years of teaching, I see the collapse of education. The “I show up to class so I should pass” attitude, the laziness that exists in students that is reinforced by the parents, and the addiction to technology the students have today. I still love the thought of purity of teaching, but the bastardization of the school system leaves many teachers second guessing their commitment.

Good things have happened as well. I could not ask for 2 better sons (4 and 2 yrs) and a loving wife. I am learning to garden (teaching the boys where I can), improving my carpentry skills, and trying to prepare for the unknown. This is what this blog is about, taking the things I am learning, and sharing with those that are like-minded. The ways that we can have some self-sustainability so that we are not dependent on society.  Work a little harder, strive for what is simpler, and live life to the fullest. Not to go off grid but could if I had to.

I can’t help thinking bad things can and will happen. They have happened before, happening in other parts of the world, and it is just a matter of time that they will happen in our own little world. This is an experiment to see if someone can learn how to gain sustainability. Gardening, carpentry, homesteading, and all the other abilities one needs in order to gain freedom. This experiment is not just to prepare for the worst, but also to fund trips to enjoy life, by visiting God’s wonders, nature, and what man has built for our enjoyment. If I can give those reading this a some insight to achieving freedom, that is what I am trying to do. This is not for everyone, but it is working for me and my family. Along the way, I will have co-authors helping with helpful hints and advice about certain things.