Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The first planter box

It might be my last, too.

OK, that is a bit of an exaggeration. But, it did take longer than I wanted it to. It was also a bit more work than I thought it would be. That is not to say by any means that I am afraid of the work. Just that twice as long wasn't what I was going for. It also took twice as much dirt to fill it up. The height ended up being taller than I had originally planned. But, all in all it worked out all right. I want to lower the next one and my lovely husband is all - 'You can't do that' but, Oh yes, I can! And, I will. The ground slopes so if I didn't lower the next one it would be too tall anyway.

Oh, right you don't want me to keep chit chatting, do you?

We started with a really roughed up garden. We knew that we were going to be doing this project so the last 2 or 3 months things were let go. We dug out the first 2 walls and got a good start. One of our main concerns with the metal construction was the heat transfer. Here in Florida the soil gets hot enough all on its own. I didn't figure it needed any help getting any hotter! So when we got up the old boards I had Rich cut them into lengths that would fit down into the frame of the walls. This should work to not only aid in lessening the heat transfer, but it will also keep the roots of the plants from coming into contact with the metal itself.


That poor old grapefruit tree was really in the way. I was digging the hole for the third side and gave up. After a long lunch break and enough research on the Internet to finally convince my hubby that the tree needed to come out, I got the go ahead to chop it down. That made the other two walls a lot easier to dig. Well, in a manner of speaking. At the end of the weekend we had 4 walls up, and a truck load of peat mixed with pine waiting for that planter!
The kids had a blast playing in it and completely ruined their socks. They have shoes that are 'outside only' so that was no big deal, but the socks had to be thrown away!
Here the 4 walls are up and hubby has decided that rather than a wood frame and sitting surface he wants to TILE the boxes with a bunch of bricks. Well, As long as I don't have to do it. I will still have to create a seat that can be moved from one box to the next, but for now I can just sit up on the top layer of bricks. He was kind enough to lay them so I can use it, it just isn't very wide. Or at least not as wide as my rear!

The box is nearly filled with dirt now and almost finished with the tiling job, but the weekend was over. Another truckload of dirt will finish it, but I am thinking about potatoes for this box so maybe planting some now and then finish filling it later might be better anyway... Hmmm....
I did break down and transfer 12 sweet potato slips into 1/2 of the box this past weekend. I couldn't help myself. I had to clean up that part of the garden to get it ready for the next box, and I didn't want them to suffer in the meantime. What's a gardener to do?

Nearly finished now. Hubby just has to find time to make the cuts for the 2 corners that will need square tiles instead of the rectangular ones on the top there. (Can you see the far end at the top?)
Not bad, huh? Again - not quite what I had planned, but I'm all for plans changing if it means that I have to do less work! The box is definitely higher than I had planned so I'll have to think of a way to stagger the heights and not have it look bad. With 4 of these boxes it would look strange for all of them to be at different heights unless I specifically planned it out ahead of time.
The dimensions of the box are different than I thought as well. When I looked up the pallet dimensions online it said 42" x 48" but in reality these pieces were 57" long!  I don't remember the short side because we took advantage of it and put that side into the ground... NO WAY was I digging that much farther!  So they are 57" x 50" roughly.
Sure do hope I never change my mind. I can't imagine how much harder it would be to take these out then it was to put them in. WOWSA!
So, there you have it. Now I have to figure out irrigation...
See you soon!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Harvest Monday 1.28.13

GEEZ! It's the end of January already, I can't believe it.

I guess time really does fly when you are having fun. :-) This weeks harvests are strange for me. I'm still unsure of exactly what type of greens I had planted, but I did harvest them this week. 7 pounds of greens,  just shy of 2 pounds of tomatoes a zucchini and 2 pounds of sweet potatoes. 
Ah, the greens wilted a bit from the heat. I can't believe how warm it got on Sunday.

I only harvested the sweet potatoes because I was moving the location of the patch. This is what has grown from the slips since my Fall harvest. Half of the new planter box will be sweet 'taters. I think they got too much water in the box against the fence and while I don't mind where they were at, it will be easier to control their willy nilly growth this way. Besides it will be pretty to have the vines hanging over the sides. :-D We vegetable gardeners don't always have the advantage of appearances first.

The girls enjoyed helping out with the harvesting and took advantage of my being preoccupied. The greens were a little more roughed up by the time they were done. LOL. They didn't do much but peck at them, but it was still funny to tell the kids they were eating greens that had been henpecked. *snort* They are back to laying very well again. I can't help but to think of it as a kind of reward for them. They also got to pick through the compost that went into the new planter.
An update on the build of the first planter box coming soon. It didn't come out quite how I planned. LOL. It's all good, just not what I was envisioning. Apparently when you've been married for almost 20 years your husband thinks he gets to have his input. I let him because I don't want him hating the garden and the work I ask of him. Smart, right? It was hard to let him do stuff though. I wanted it done MY way. In the end it is still functional and satisfies us both. I guess that is what matters most.  ?  Right  ?

Linking into Daphne's Dandelions for Harvest Monday. Thanks Daphne! You're a doll for always hosting~

See you soon!


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

BIG project

It's time for another big project. Only this time it's gonna be a BIG project.

Last time we took metal pallet boxes and turned them into some shooting tables for our little homemade rifle/firing range in Alabama. It came out really good, with some modifications.

This time we will take those same boxes and make some new garden beds... Yup. You heard, uh... read that right. My plan is to take galvanized steel boxes that look like this:
and in the end we hope to have something that looks somewhat decent and not completely funky. Something that is functional, and not too bad to look at.
In the fall I decided to only plant a tiny 4' space of winter veggies in preparation for this extra large project. I knew that if it came time to actually work on the project and I had veggies in the ground my poor little heart would stammer and I would not want to hurt any growing plants. While I've suffered with very few veggies from the garden, we don't spend a lot of time at home in the winter as we spend much of it traveling back and forth to Alabama. So we already knew the timing would be perfect.
For anyone not familiar with the current layout of my beds I have only had one set of garden beds for a year and I'm already changing them so certainly this was a flawed system. I should have tried to get the higher beds in place at that time, but I failed to do so.
Now that I am trying to work around some of my existing beds the project becomes interesting. I'll have lower beds next to taller beds, trees in between beds and I really wish I could afford a professional landscaper because I"m afraid I'll end up with something undesirable looking. Not to mention I need a pro to tell my stubborn husband that those citrus trees are indeed diseased and need to come OUT! (I digress)
SO here is what I have planned. I will lose only a few feet of garden space, but in the long run I hope to be a happier, healthier gardener.
These are the 2 main beds now... well recently. Right now they are mostly barren. The one in the center of the yard only has zucchini, a tomato, some mint and leeks in it, the rest is all gone in preparation for this project. I suppose I should say that the 2 citrus trees area also still standing. The grapefruit has not produced anything in over a year, but the cocktail tree is still trying. They both have greening unfortunately and we've been fighting the disease somewhat successfully but we are no longer get any truly usable fruit off it. Instead we are using our 'sweet' fruit as lemons. :-(
28' length in plantable space by 3' will become 3 or 4 boxes that are 4'x42" depending on space restrictions. I'll lose at least 20 ft in area so hopefully the new system will be more productive and have less disease issues to make up for the loss in space.
After the middle section of the garden is resectioned and those planters are done I'll start worrying about raising the planter against the fence. It will have it's own challenges. The 2 ends have established blueberry bushes and I don't want to raise those perennial beds. It's also very narrow there and would not allow the full width of one of those 42" boxes. This area may be tiered so that I can use a trellis for my beans in one section.
Work begins this weekend on the first of the beds. I sure hope it gets beyond the planning stages!
See you soon!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Harvest Monday 1.14.13

Welcome back for another ugly edition of Harvest Monday! LOL. Linking into Daphne's Dandelions once again. Thanks Daphne for being such a great hostess!

I just don't have very much going on lately. I spent the weekend pruning like crazy and hopefully it will pay off in the next 2 months. Everything already thinks that it is Spring and the blooms are beginning early. Too early. Hopefully this will shock the systems of the larger trees into waiting just a little longer.

Anyway the harvest this week? Pecans, Zucchini and 2 tomatoes.

I'm pounding away at the pecans. Another 8 pounds have been put away. Vacuum sealed and stored away for another year. This years crop was a disappointment. I am not sure that it isn't our fault for waiting so long to gather them and then leaving them up in Alabama rather than bringing them home to Florida with us. But, it's all part of the learning process. It could just have been an off year. We definitely didn't get enough rain and that would have to do with only half of the pecans being filled out well. But the a lot of them are also damaged in other ways. Shame, too because this years color is one of the best. Ah, win some lose some.

In the past I always put the pecans into like sized bags, but this year I am varying the size bags I am making. Some bags will be larger for baking sets of pies and things and some smaller for fresh eating and the likes. Hopefully this will serve us better and keep me from needing to open a second bag for just a handful of nuts and then forgetting that I have an open bag. Not that they go to waste around our house. We are a nutty bunch. The kids and the hubby make sure that any unused portions get eaten in case I forget for too long. Funny though, we may eat an cashew here or there but 90% of our nut intake is pecans and peanuts that we grow here or that we get from the property up there. My goal this year is to try once again my hand at growing enough peanuts for our peanut butter consumption. We eat a lot of peanut butter. I'm also going to make a pecan butter as soon as I'm done picking these darn things. It's worth a try. I'm not sure I'll love it but the kids might.

See you soon!


Friday, January 11, 2013

Retirement in 12 years, yet it's looming.

Retirement for me is about 12 years away, and I've been thinking about it lately, a lot.
As a matter of fact, it's got my feathers ruffled.

Both in a good way, and a bad way. In a financial planning sort of way it's well, EH - here nor there.
We are on target as long as Social Security will be there for at least part of our retirement. Of course that is the bad part. Will it be there for us in the long run? Can we count on that? Of course it's better if we don't count on it, but realistically we want it to be there to help us out financially.

The really bad part is that we will be trying to retire when our twins will be just going off to college and before we even would qualify for Social Security. *gulp* That is a big step. Either we have to accept that we will be really broke for that 2-4 years or we have to pray for scholarships. Their tuition is paid as long as we remain in State but if they go out of State - Well, that is just not an option unless they have a free ride scholarship. Guess that means that our expectations may have to be postponed until they graduate. We'll cross that bridge when we get there.

There are a couple of possibilities that might happen that will help us if they pan out
Income from the property in Alabama. (Thinking long run here not until we can move there 2-4 years after retirement and after my parents no longer have an interest in the property or are willing to give us a split for doing the work.)  Things like annual pine straw baling, beginning to actually sell the pecans rather than giving them away to people that are around, selling crops from some of the acreage or alternately deciding to use that acreage to try to go 90% self-sustainable. As it is we take about 70-80% of our annual meat, fish and nut consumption from this property.

There is also the possibility in the long run that my parents won't be around to harvest the pine trees for lumber. I assume that they will be there for the first thinning. This cutting is sold for paper. It is to benefit the lumber trees and give them more room to grow and better nutrient absorption. Meanwhile it will also provide income for my parents. It's not as profitable as the lumber tress, but hey. When it is time for the lumber trees? My parents would be 83/93 years old at that point.  Who knows what to expect then? It's a big IF but it would be a nice chunk to help out towards keeping our retirement fund going. The acreage would be replanted as well. The second and even third generations of trees would be sold for the benefit of our children. We figure that the first go round would pay for things like student loans and young adults bad spending habits. Then like us, they'll be thinking of the trees as a boon to their retirement plan in 60 years or so.

Ever the remote possibility that I have a distant relative that has written me into his or her will for millions of dollars and I don't even know about it... but that is just SO not happening, so I'll hang up my hat on that one and start working towards getting my chickens to lay golden eggs instead. LOL.

On one hand it's nice to know I have this plan, and I'm ready to grab a fishing pole and head to the hills! On the other hand... YIKES! It seems like it can't be done. I have a list of things that we need to accomplish before we can retire and while they seem doable, it's daunting. It makes me excited and puts a pit in my stomach all at the same time.

Go figure.

See you soon!


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Blogger issues

Turns out the picture problem has been going on since Friday. At least I know it isn't me. I'm trying to skirt the issue by uploading int he HTML format. Let's see if it works...
The first large bowl of pecans. These have now been dried and are awaiting vacuum sealing  
Zucchini, tomato and oranges...
My sweet girls gift of eggies. <3 I'm not sure which I like better. The chickens or the eggs. LOL.

So, if you have blogger and can't upload pics from your computer switch to HTML format and good luck!

See you soon!


Monday, January 7, 2013

Harvest Monday 1.7.13

New Year... New Harvest Monday! LOL.

OK well - Same Harvest Monday's, just a new year to start them in...So far I'm not sure if I'm going to do the harvest tally this year. It's really hard for me to keep track of with everything else. I mean it's great to keep track but so often I forget to do entries and I don't have a great system for entering them in late so then some things get left off all together or I have to estimate which I don't like doing. At any rate. I do typically put the amounts in my posts so that will make it easy go back until I make up my mind. But for now -

The pecan insanity has began. So far I have cleaned about 10 pounds of pecans. They are ready for drying and vacuum sealing. I am ready to scream. It is always hard to lose my kitchen to the pecan insanity. Hopefully it will be over by next weekend. We started with about 50 pounds of pecans (in the shell) It is always interesting to see what hard work does and how much 'meat' we end up with from the nuts in the end.

Blogger won't let me upload any pictures form my computer today unfortunately so you will just have to take my word for it I suppose.

I also harvested 2 pounds and change of zucchini a beautiful ripe tomato and about 10 pounds of oranges. MMMMmmmm.

I need to harvest my baby greens and also whatever the big greens are in the garden because they are getting unruly. But, I don't know what kind of greens they are Mustard's? No idea? Hopefully I can upload sometime this week and you all can give me an idea of what you think they are. LOL. It and the lettuce and zucchini are all that is left in the garden. The tomatoes are in the pots on the porch, and don't have a lot longer either. It's all OK though I have to start on the overhaul of the planters really soon in order to be ready for the spring planting in late February. :-) Time to start getting serious about how to raise those (some, not all) beds to a comfortable sitting height and do it right. With my back I need to make them easier to access for myself. Besides it will help keep the kids and the chickens out!

I'm terribly sorry about my extended absence but we went off to the property in Alabama for a few weeks and got a ton of work done. We brought back 60 pounds of harvested venison burger and another 40 pounds of sausage and steak. Not to mention what we gave to my brother. It's great to know when the work is done it pays for itself that way. Our freezer is full for the year, and if we are lucky enough this spring to also harvest a hog we will be set for meat except for chicken. I make friends with my chickens and I just can't do that. LOL. But I do get plenty of eggs!

Thanks Daphne for always hosting harvest Monday. You are such a doll for bringing us together week after week.

See you all soon!