Buying a home is an interesting experience. You are certain to come across some surprises from time to time. For example, one year our washing machine was draining slowly. We ended up digging up the PVC drainage pipes and rather than use a joint fitting to get the water to go where they wanted (down the hill), they simply…bent the pipe.
Yes, friends, who needs a 22 degree joint when one can use their brute force to just BEND THE PIPE almost in two? Well, now THAT certainly won’t cause issues. So after the pipe was fixed, it did lead to the discovery that our greywater from the house drains into our hillside. This is all the water you use in the house except the potty. Now this was actually a pleasant surprise! Greywater can be used to irrigate plants for your gardens as long as you are careful about the soaps and cleaners you use, assuming you do your greywater recovery correctly.
After the greywater drainage discovery, it wasn’t long that we also found that our dogs had come to the same conclusion. Yes, all of the kitchen waste that accidentally makes it down my sink does flow out by the hillside. And yes, dogs find this delectable, especially when we have a dish like spaghetti. Thus: The Noodle Hole got its name.
The screams of “The dogs are in the Noodle Hole again!!!” were pretty frequent in the first year we lived here. After running dogs out of the Noodle Hole, away from donkey dung, and out of the chicken manure, I decided that dogs are just gross. I pray to God that they don’t have taste buds.
But back to the Noodle Hole! For some reason, this year we have tons of tomato plants that have decided to set up camp by the Noodle Hole outlet as well as the washing machine drainage. I guess I had some tomato seeds in my pockets? Who knows. But there are about seven giant tomato plants, covered in green tomatoes out there now. Unfortunately, our first hard freeze is coming later this week and so I am going to pick the green fruit, take some cuttings, and cover them just to see how long the vines will make it. I have had tomato vines through January before!
Since the ‘maters enjoyed their laundry/kitchen water so much, we are planning a tiered box which will utilize the greywater and keep our tomatoes watered through the hot summer.
When life hands you a Noodle Hole, make a greywater recovery system!
I have never written a chicken obituary/memorial before, but I figured that I owe one to this particular bird. The other day, as we were coming home, Jason spotted a familiar chicken that we all know and love….in the middle of the road. Quite flat, actually. I am glad I did not see it.
It was not THE Wayward Jones, but rather her sister, who apparently, even though she was warned of the dangers of hitchhiking and living loosely, still ventured too close to the road. I COULD mention the age-old joke here…but out of respect, I won’t theorize why the chicken crossed the road. Actually, now I suppose we’ll never know. Anyway, Ms. Jones was interred September 17th, 2010. Casseroles, chicken scratch, and donations to P.A.R.C. (Persons Against Runaway Chickens) will be accepted.
In other news, it is finally cooling down enough that I have made progress around the farm. Tonight, we have been working on adding a top to the chicken yard. A couple of weeks ago, I found the headless body of one of my barred Rock hens, which is indicative of a raccoon murder. Let me say here that I do not like raccoons. Sure, they may look all cute and fuzzy, what with their little people-like hands, thick fluffy coat, and ringed tail. But behind their mask lies a cold-blooded serial killer. Let’s not mince words here. I won’t go into detail about what I would like to do to the ‘coon, lest you think I am just a cruel person. So, to avoid further bloodshed, particularly for the ‘coon, we are putting a ‘lid’ on the outdoor run out of wire.
I have been lazy in my garden. I haven’t pulled weeds in weeks and haven’t really cared to. Jason made the comment the other day, “Nice bed of Bermuda you’re growing here.” I couldn’t argue. If I were TRYING to grow Bermuda, it couldn’t have looked much better than the thick, jungle carpet that has now dominated my old lettuce patch. BUT, now is the time to plant, so I hope to take new pics and show you what will be in store for winter. I am planning on having a really kick-butt winter garden this year, mainly by really utilizing row covers and my chenilles.
In farmhouse news, it’s really nothing new. Please, please, please, if you do repairs on your house, have them (or do them) professionally. And for crying out loud, please don’t use the cheapest parts you can buy. Our poor heat pump/blower was apparently brought over on the Ark, and probably the same model used by the ancient Egyptians. Ok, maybe those time periods don’t coincide. Whatever, you get the picture. Our kitchen faucet is leaky, the kitchen sink is made out of white plastic (what masochist picked THAT out???) and the supposedly new septic tank is overflowing. Not complaining, just venting. Anyhoo, it boils down to I am about to have to spend a good chunk o’ change to have a new heatpump installed, so that we don’t freeze to death this year. I mean, last year, our house was at 58 degrees. I’m sorry, but I don’t care to live in a meat locker. Thank the Good Lord for all my quilts. I looked like some sort of strange chrysalis all winter last year, wrapped in about 14 quilts, along with thermal underwear, a full set of clothes and 2 layers of socks. I didn’t go anywhere without my throng of quilts. THIS YEAR (I’m pulling a total Scarlett O’Hara here), with God as my witness, I will not freeze again! We are going to insulate the house. I hope they blow 5 feet of insulation in the attic. I want so much insulation, it is scraping the rafters. I want so much that it is spilling out of every vent and pore of this house. I can’t say enough about good insulation.
I think I will end my post here. Hopefully, next go ’round I will have some sort of interesting pictures for you all.
I have been reading an excellent book: Four Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman. I guess I should say I have been reading it and re-reading it for about 3 months now and still have not progressed past Chapter 2. This is for the simple fact that: A. I have children and cannot finish any task, period and B. I get so inspired by the book that I run out and do something new in the garden and lose my place. Well, FINALLY I have accomplished something…all by myself! In the book, the author describes the French method of using ‘chenilles’ (French for ‘caterpillar’) in the garden. Not actual caterpillars, mind you, but rather low, little ‘greenhouses’ which will greatly expand your growing and harvesting season to year-round. So, the other day I decided that I was capable of creating such and I gathered all the necessary tools and implements. For those of you who are unsure about building your own chenilles, let me relay some personal truths to you now.
There are three things that I cannot do well.
1. Cook rice.
2. Put icing on a cake and make it look like anything but a sheer disaster, and lastly;
3. Hammer nails.
I can do a great many things well, excluding those 3 things. I had completely forgotten about number 3 until I went to hammer in some staples during my chenille-building experience.
Bearing that in mind, let me give you a step by step instruction lesson.
First, I took some 1/2″ PVC piping and I cut it to 100″ lengths. This DID require the use of a power saw, and yes, I actually did this all alone. How is it that I am deadly with a hammer and not a power tool, I do not know. Anyway, because I am working off of my 4’x8′ raised beds, I guesstimated that 3 pieces should be sufficient for holding up my plastic. I then dug 6 holes in my beds; 4 on the far corners and then 2 more in the middle of the bed, all in the interior of the bed. The holes need to be about a foot deep, so that when you set the pipes, they will be sturdy.
Then, I took a piece of the pre-cut PVC, stuck one end in a hole and CAREFULLY bent it over (yes, it WILL bend) and stuck the other end in the opposite hole. This creates an arch, which will be the support for your plastic sheeting.
Next, I back filled the holes, using the end of the handle for a ‘tamping stick’. You want to pack down the soil around the pipes for stability reasons. I backfilled about 3-4″ of soil at a time, tamping it down inbetween fills. So, then I repeated this process with the middle arch and the arch at the opposing end. Now, here is where my hammer comes into play. I took some small staples (forgive me, I don’t know exactly what they are called but they are the kind you hammer in) and hammered a staple about 3/4 of the way into my raised bed sides right above where the PVC met the soil. I had to leave an opening in the staple because I needed space to run some twine through it, therefore I did not hammer them in, or, attempt to hammer them in, all the way. The twine secures the plastic sheeting against the arches.
(Staple hammered into place where arches meet the soil)
I already had some plastic sheeting handy, though it was actually too small for completely covering my arches, I still chose to use it, since I didn’t really want to fork out more $ for another roll of it. The plastic should be long enough to completely cover the arches, leaving several inches on the sides and a few feet on the ends. I use the clear plastic that is intended for painters to cover floors. I buy the thickest one they offer.
SO, now I had 3 arches, to the inside of my beds, and now it was time to cover with the plastic. I took a staple gun (DANGER, Will Robinson!) and stapled the end of the sheet to the short end of the bed, and ran it over the arches to the other side, then stapled that to the opposing end. NOW, it was time to run the string in a zigzag pattern, through the staples, which secured the plastic, holding it in place and bracing it against the wind. So now I had something resembling a miniature covered wagon, sitting in my front yard. Can anyone yell, “Zucchini, HO!” ?
Ok, purpose of these ‘chenilles’. They protect your seedlings/plants from frost and wind, which will totally zap your winter veggies. They hold in the heat via the greenhouse effect to keep your little plants warm and toasty while it’s cold and crappy outside. Thin leaved veggies (like lettuces, etc) do like cooler weather but don’t ‘do’ heavy frost settling on the thin leaves. You’ll come out to a garden full of mush the morning after a frost. Thicker veggies, like broccoli and cabbage, actually can handle light frost with no problem, but even still, I feel better protecting them from the elements. The arches are low to the ground for this reason: as we all know, heat rises. If you make the arches too tall, the trapped heat will not be in contact as much with the plants.
The chenilles that the French use, according to this book, use thick wire hoops, and the wire is bent in an arch, and then a small circle where it meets the soil. This is where my staples came into play. The little circles are used to hold the twine in place. Sorry if I am doing poorly at illustrating this with words…I am a visual person myself. Anyway, the ends of the plastic are secured via a stake. Soooooo, if you do not have raised beds, then this method will work for you. I just happened to have the PVC handy. My husband is the Mr. Haney of Maydelle. Anyway, here’s the other cool thing about these chenilles. When it is warm outside, since you don’t want your little plants to cook, you will need to ‘vent’ your little chenilles. This is easily accomplished by pulling up the plastic in the center and securing it with a piece of twine. This allows the trapped heat to escape.
Thus far, I am loving my little ‘caterpillars’. I do need to build some more, though I may use the wire method next. Also, another way I have done these is to use a tomato cage made out of that 4″x4″ stock fencing, unhook it, flatten it somewhat and use these as your arches. I did this with my cabbage and broccoli, and they did really well. I was in a real recycling mode that day.