Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Greenhouse

Although our structures aren't completed yet, the greenhouse is completed enough for me to use it.  As long as the sun shines the greenhouse warms up quickly.  It was in the mid 20s the other night and the greenhouse stayed in the 50s during the night and in the morning the temperature shot up so quickly that I had to open the windows. It will get over 120 inside, even if it's only 50 outside.  It's amazing, but with temperatures over 100 the plants won't pollinate the flowers. The greenhouse has heat in the floors, so if we get several days without sunshine we can heat it up, if needed. 

I've never grown anything in a greenhouse before.  I was an expert gardener while in California.  Anything I planted grew like crazy.  Fruits, vegetables...ok, not ornamentals.  If it didn't produce food I wasn't that great!  So now, I'm trying to figure out how to grow everything in buckets indoors.  I bought 70 quart muck buckets for the trees and 40 quart buckets for vegetables.  I drill half dozen 1" holes in the bottom.  Then I put in a layer of the weed cloth so the soil won't come out the bottom.  I also have some 5 gallon buckets and other containers that I'm using.  I like the 10 gallon ones better than the 5 gallon ones as the plants seem real crowded in the 5 gallon buckets.  The 10 gallon will be more stable for the plants such as tomatoes.  Right now they are sprawling all over and the 5 gallon container isn't heavy enough to stick cages in them to hold the plants upright. 

The potting soil makes a huge difference.  Our compost isn't ready yet so I've had to buy potting soil.  I've used organic soils and they seem to work well.  I had some leftover Miracle Grow that I'd bought from Sam's Club.  That seems to compact too much and the water ends up going down the sides of the buckets and not to the plant roots.  I have to make sure that I mound soil up at the sides so it provides a well for the water to go where it's supposed to go. 

We have tomatoes growing in the Miracle Grow soil.  As long as I water it right they are happy plants.  Tomatoes will self pollinate with a little air flowing, so I open windows on each side of the greenhouse to bring in a little breeze.  That and I have a small paintbrush that I dab from flower to flower. 

We have lettuce growing in small pots.  I have these pots set in a plastic bowl that's used to catch water so it doesn't spill all over.  I fill the bowl with water and the soil soaks up the water.  This makes it so the lettuce doesn't get knocked over as it would when watering from above.

The green bean plants look sickly.  I'm keeping one step ahead of whatever is trying to attack them and we are getting green beans.  I've never had anything attack my green beans in my outdoor gardens.  I think this is some sort of fungus because I've never seen any pests on them. 

Here, within the first few days, some of the plants were attacked by aphids.  How did the aphids find us?  I tried using soapy water to kill them but that just killed the pepper plant! Now I search the leaves and squish the little buggers.  I also bought a ten-pack of the sticky fly strips.  I bought a piece of yellow cardboard, cut it into strips and attached the sticky strips to the cardboard.  I put a nail through each one and put a homemade bug catcher into each bucket.  I've caught some bugs.

The best part of the greenhouse are the fruit trees.  I've got lemon, oranges, grapefruit, and tangerines growing at over 8000 feet elevation in Colorado! My lemon tree is getting ready to bloom.  I'll again use the opening the window method to bring in a bit of a breeze, plus I'll shake branches, and individually touch the blooms with the paintbrush.  I'd like to bring some flying bugs in that will help with the pollination, but I'll have to remove my sticky traps if I do so. 

I'll be planting more soon.  Right now I've got quite a few empty buckets.  I'm hoping to find some local compost to mix with the store bought stuff.  Otherwise it's gets to be expensive.  Our compost, made up mostly of goat manure and grass hay droppings should be ready next summer.  So should our outdoor garden. 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Using Your Food Preps

The local Walmart (local means 1 1/2 hours away) sell Auguson Farms dehydrated and freeze dried foods for cheaper than the company sells it on their own website.  Each time I go to that town I stop by and buy something to try.  Since our house still isn't done (maybe by next spring) I don't have much space for food storage.  I probably still have a year or two of food, but it's packed into the back of the shipping container and unavailable.  But if TSHTF it's there. (I do have a 4 foot wide shelf in the front of the shipping container that is crammed with food.)  So I try this new stuff.  They sell it in #10 cans and I've bought chili and black bean burger.  The black bean burger can says it makes 38 patties and it was under $11.50.  It's cheaper to buy this can than to buy the already made burgers that are in the freezer section of the grocery store.  It's got black beans, rice, peppers, and seasoning in the ingredients.  I made 4 burgers the other day.  Boy didn't like it because they were soggy in the middle.  I think that's my fault because I made them thick.  When cooking a regular burger I'll make them thick so the center is medium rare.  You can't do that with black bean burger because the center ends up soggy.  If I made them thinner it would have been better.  The taste was good.  This mix would also be good cooked up like ground beef and used in burritos. 

The other item I bought was the chili.  It was a bit more expensive than the black bean burger but still worth getting and using in our everyday food preparation.  The black bean burger gets soaked in hot water for about 15 minutes prior to making into patties.  I soaked it for about an hour because I was busy.  The beans came out tender.  The chili has different directions.  You don't soak the beans, you just cook it in boiling water for 15 minutes or so.  That's a lot of fuel to use so next time I'm going to try soaking the chili for a while before cooking.  We cut up some hot dogs and put them into the chili just for something extra.  The chili was ok.  But I'm used to good homemade chili! Boy really liked this chili. The open can of chili has a very strong smell, that can still be smelled through the plastic lid. Once the can is opened the chili needs to be put into a thick Ziplock bag and then put back into the can prior to being stored or your entire pantry is going to smell like chili seasoning.  Or you can put it into a glass jar to keep it from smelling up the place.  

I think it is important to use this type of food in your daily eating if you plan on using it in your food storage.  I don't use dried food every day, but I'd sure hate to have to go cold turkey from fresh or canned food, or restaurant food, or however you normally eat to dried food.  Both of these items are going to be part of our storage plan and I'll buy one of each can each time I hit that Walmart. 

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Nothing done but settling into a routine

We are back in our trailer after having spent the winter at our friend’s guest house. We had internet access there.  At our house we have it but I didn’t have a place to set up the computer.  After all, there isn’t much wiggle room in a 19’ trailer!  Our house is not complete.  Still nothing is finished. We keep not passing inspections- electric and plumbing.  The inspector comes and points out one thing that needs to be fixed.  Then he leaves.  We fix it and the inspector comes back a week or two later.  That’s good but now here’s another item.  They can’t give us a complete list of what needs to be fixed.  It’s one at a time.  Job security for the inspector scum and because it’s new construction we are stuck having to deal with them. Unfortunately, this means more time and more money.  The plumbing inspector is coming back today.  Hopefully that will be a success as he has been easier to deal with than the electrical inspector.  We can’t finish anything or move into anything without these inspections passed.  I did move my computer into the bunkhouse and have it working, so sometimes I can get on line. I’m not supposed to be occupying any building, so the computer looks like it’s just on the shelf being stored. 

Same with the food supply.  A small trailer doesn’t hold much food.  I have a storage rack filled with food in the bunkhouse.  That’s allowed since it is being stored.  But with all the inspectors and workers traipsing in and out, I don’t like it so much in the open…but I don’t really have much choice here.  There’s no long-term buckets or anything that looks like I’m storing up food. I just comment that since it’s 100 miles to Costco I just have to stock up. I still do have food buckets and cans.  Some are stored in the barn, in a pile that just looks like junk, while the rest of it is in the shipping container with all my stuff that was brought here last year. 

Spouse hasn’t quite bought in on prepping and just tells people that I like to shop.  That’s not quite it.  I like to not run out of anything; not now, not during winter when the roads are bad, and not if things go sour.  Spouse gets that and any time a tool or something is needed we seem to have it on hand.  Spouse will come around.  When we were at Max’s Spouse asked Max about his food storage.  Max’s storage looks about what mine was when we were in the Great Central Valley.  It will look that way again some day! 

It snowed last week, the end of May.  In the Great Central Valley it was over 90. I’m still trying to get used to the weather.  Cool in the morning.  Nice until right after lunch.  Rain or snow in the afternoon.  Since the greenhouse isn’t done I have my plants growing in the bunkhouse.  I’ve started asparagus (seeds rather than roots is much cheaper!), tomatoes, onions, strawberries, blueberries, and salad greens.  I am trying to root apple and peach trees.  Spouse is hoping the greenhouse is finished soon.  If it had doors on each end then I’d be able to use it as it is, but since it doesn’t the goat would find my plants very tasty.  The place is so rocky that it’s impossible to even pound in t-posts.  You have to dig out the holes with a shovel and pull out all the rocks, or you use mechanized equipment. So the outside garden is not fenced!  Instead I’m picking out areas that I can plant my things that the goats, deer, and antelope won’t find.  I am putting the asparagus into a swale.  If I can keep the animals away for this first season they should survive just fine. 

Boy doesn’t realize how good of shape he is getting in.  If he wants to go visit a friend, he rides his bike.  He has one friend a mile away and another 7 miles away.  He’s also swimming a couple of times a week because I signed him up for lifeguard class.  He’s not old enough but the instructor is allowing him to participate, he just can’t get his certificate.  He has to ride his bike 30 minutes each way just to get to swimming.  If he frustrates me, I send him out for a run of 5 miles or so.  All of this at over 8000 feet elevation. 

I’ve been going out walking each day now that the weather is better.  I’ve gotten on Boy’s bike but walked it back the last half mile uphill because I was too tired.  That’s not saying much for my conditioning.  I feel like a lump after the winter.  But every day I walk, and I’ve started jogging a bit.  Can’t keep up with anyone, but it’s making me feel less sluggish.  Winter wasn’t so awful (after all, I lived through it!), and I’m sure I will get used to it and be more active next winter. 

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Colorado Bound

Wow, it's been half a year since I posted.  I suppose when life gets topsy-turvy posting gets put aside.  I didn't have a computer that had internet.  I certainly wasn't going to try to type stuff on my cell phone nor was I going to use the library computers to post on my blog.  But now I have a computer/tablet that has a real keyboard, plus I have internet access.  So it's about time I get back into my blogging world.

Instead of work going through the layoffs in August as they originally stated, they did it in July.  And they gave us less than 24 hours notice that the process was going to happen.  I didn't know whether I would be laid off or not.  I was going to be told the next day. I had some very pressing work tasks that I wanted to finish, and thinking that the deadline was still weeks away, was able to relax and have lots of fun on my honeymoon.  But here it was, my first day back, I was preparing to leave work for the last time, maybe.  I spent that entire day cleaning out my office.  I walked home at lunch and drove the car back.  I then made a couple of trips from the office to home, taking all my books, office supplies (only mine, not what belonged to work), and everything else that was in my cubbie. 

I still had it in the back of my mind that they would possibly keep me.  After all, when this thing started, my boss said that of the 9 people in our group probably two would lose their jobs.  Everyone in my office joked that because I didn't care if I got laid off or stayed I'd probably end up staying. They were wrong.  At 8:30 in the morning I got the phone call at home that my position was terminated and they didn't want to put me into any other positions. (Two kept their jobs, two moved positions, five were laid off.)  Since I was living in company housing I was told that I could stay for up to three months if I wanted. Since school was going to start in a month we only stayed two weeks.  I figured that the kids should start off the school year at their new school.

Girl surprised me and asked if she could go live with her mom.  If it's ok with her mom, then yes.  Drug Daughter (DD) has been off of drugs for over a year and she was interested in having Girl live with her.  OK.  But Girl can't boomerang this.  The deal is she must stay the entire school year, although I'm the one legally responsible for Girl and if things aren't working out I would take her back.  We put her on a plane with one very large suitcase.  She is now in the American Redoubt and doing very well. 

Boy is still with me.  He wants nothing to do with DD.  I don't blame him, as he wants stability and can't be assured of that with her.  He's also lived with me for about 11 of his 14 years.  This is home.  He is enjoying his new school and has made new friends.  He's also getting along well with Step-parent, even though SP expects a lot more out of him than I did.  That's really a good thing.

So here we are in beautiful, cold (-6 this morning) Colorado.  It's quite a change from the beautiful, not cold Great Central Valley of California.  Our house is not yet complete.  Instead of some of it being ready by November, nothing is ready.  We were living in our little trailer, and not killing each other in the process. Yeah for us! That worked until the weather turned cold.  I put my foot down and said no.  Three in a 19 foot trailer (that's fully extended) is not going to work.  It's really a trailer for one. The shower is also the closet, so you have to take all the food and clothes out before you shower.  Max offered to let us come to his house and shower.  That would work but I needed a more permanent solution. 

Another friend of ours had a little guest house (not little, 2 bedroom, 2 bath) that we could use.  It's got wood stove  plus wall heaters in each bedroom.  We've been in it for three months.  We have 1 1/2 more, then they need their guest house back.  Our house will not be done by then.  We are also building a little bunkhouse.  It probably won't be done by then either.  We will be back into the trailer but I will have a better exterior set up (for food and other items).  The bunkhouse isn't allowed to have a wood stove, and although it can be heated with a couple little room heaters, the county won't sign it off for moving in until the main heat system in the main house is done.  That's because the heating system is interconnected between the main house, bunk house, and greenhouse.

We've been working on the heating system for the past two months.  The heating system company said that their price to install this main portion was $17,000.  We decided to do the install ourselves.  While it is taking several months rather than the week that they would have taken,  that's a lot of money to save! 

So how was the move?  Most of my stuff got moved by the moving van in May.  We still had to move the truck and utility trailer full of stuff.  We looked like the Beverly Hillbillies.  Three cats, dog, goat, food buckets, and several 55 gallon barrels filled with yard tools (why didn't I put them into the moving van???)  The trip was very eventful.  The main freeway had been closed for 4 hours but had opened to one lane when we hit the slowdown area about ten miles from the closure.  We had a full tank of gas but hungry bellies.  We ate granola bars and snack foods.  We saw the mile long line to get off the freeway at the one and only gas station.  No doubt the gas station ran out of gas but people didn't know that.  It took us about 10 hours to make it to Vegas, which is normally a 7 hour drive.  Unfortunately, by the time we got there it was very late (can't see us driving down the strip with a goat in the back) so we filled with gas, got some more food, and kept driving.  Then it started pouring.  A river of mud went across the freeway.  We drove through it.  We ended up stopping somewhere in Utah, pulling over on the side of the road around 3:00 in the morning.  We slept sitting up.  In the morning, we drove into some small town and I insisted on real food for breakfast.  The sun was shining and we stopped at an I-Hop.  Best breakfast ever! 

The second day of the trip went well.  At least until the last few hours.  It started to pour again.  But we made it to the house.  We were able to pull the trailer into the barn and get the truck covered too.  It was late so it was time for bed. 

In the morning I made a little pen for the goat.  She was also happy to get out and walk around after having been in the back of the trailer in the pouring rain for a couple of days.  She ended up getting sick but I was able to cure her with some shots of penicillin.

Some of the food buckets lids blew off in the wind and rain and ruined what was in those buckets.  Some other buckets ended up getting water in them (cracked lids) but I didn't realize it until quite a while later, when the buckets started to smell!  All in all, we made it to Colorado.