This is not a pretty picture. I decided to drain the greenhouse pond due to the ducks breaking in and, in addition to eating half my seedlings, drowning a bunch of them that I had floating in the pond to keep hydrated. The pump that circulates the water was sputtering and I didn’t want it to perish so I drained the pond (transfer pumps are amazing FYI).
And this is what I found! Apparently those assholes laid eggs in the pond. And these eggs aren’t from their most recent break-in because I don’t think they were in there long enough; these are from the winter when I felt bad because the temperatures dropped into the negative teens so I let them hang out inside the greenhouse. So these eggs have been rotting on the bottom of the pond for four months or so. I’m pretty sure at this point they might be considered delicacies in some countries!
And apparently autocorrect has been right this whole time – ducks are fucks!
Sometimes I am big enough to admit I am wrong. (SOMETIMES, not all the time, so don’t get your hopes up too far!) This will be our third Spring up at the farm and there are things that I have learned that perhaps I was incorrect about earlier:
No till farming is a great idea in theory, but maybe not in practice. No till farming sounds excellent and maybe I will be able to move toward that, but in the meantime I’m itching to borrow my friend’s tiller and stir up this hard packed clay soil we have. This soil is entirely too clay-like and filled with rocks to be able to not till it for at least a couple of years .
Cardboard and mulch is for the slugs. As part of the no till effort last year I did a lot of laying down cardboard and manure and mulch. The slugs had a feast! They love to hide under the cardboard and come out at night and nibble on all the things you have planted just for them. I’m experimenting this year with some bare ground around plants (shhhhh – don’t tell the permaculture people) and some with just a layer of wood chips I got from the power company. Cardboard can be useful in other situations like preparing the ground for future planting, but it is entirely too hospitable for slugs to use it around newly planted seedlings.
Straight lines can be your friend. I am terrible at straight lines – I can’t sew straight, I don’t mow in any fashion one would consider organized, my shoveling is haphazard at best, and I fall off balance beams, so it figures that the “scatter the seeds any old way” would be my prefered method of planting. It turns out that straight lines make it possible to actually tell which of the little green things sprouting are the ones you want, and which ones are not because honestly most seedlings look the same and I’d rather suffer in somewhat straight-ish lines than assume that those sprouts are all my rutabaga seeds and end up with a bed of fleabane.
Grow what you planted, not what happened to sprout. The first year we were here I was so excited about all the “bonus squash” that had sprouted. Those bonus squash were actually super annoying wild cucumbers that grow around here that are in no way helpful or edible.
Bigger is not always better. HA! of course it is!
More is not always better. In some cases it most certainly is – you can never have too much mulch or too many work gloves. But when it comes to seedlings it is survival of the fittest and you have to be brutal. Yes those are all your babies, but do you want twenty stunted weird kinda-radishes or ten awesome radishes? Crowding is no joke in the garden.
Do not put the compost pile next to the house. Yes it is convenient and yes it was nice in the winter to have it so close. But you know what is not nice? Rat babies. That is all I will say.
You cannot do all the things at once. This is something I am still learning. There are a lot of projects to do around here and if I start thinking about them all at once I get overwhelmed and can’t do anything. I’m trying to remember that I just need to do one thing right now. I can do other things later, but right now even if I just sit in a corner of the garden and weed that corner – that is enough.
Seeds do not last forever. Especially if you leave them in the greenhouse over the summer and they cook at 120+ degrees. I have sworn to myself that this year I am planting every single seed I own (which includes ones from 2013 or something ridiculous like that) and will start fresh next year. Also – who doesn’t love seed catalogue time?!
Manure is a myth. I have a lot of piles of poop in the yard and when I acquired my first file of poop I thought I had won the fucking lottery. It’s manure man! I’m gonna have the most amazing plants growing in this amazingly rich poop-soil! No, what you actually will have is a ton of weed seeds that sprout when you spread said poop around that will take over your garden and piss you off.
Hay is not the same as straw. Hay is much easier to find than straw around here and one would be tempted to just assume “hey – they are both dry grass-like products, they are essentially the same” and you would be dead wrong. Straw is amazing and is an excellent addition to your garden, hay is full of grain seeds (as it is supposed to be seeing as it is a food item for livestock) and will fill your garden with unwanted grass forever.
Learn from the weeds. As much as weeds are annoying, they are helpful in that they type of weeds in your soil can be indicative of what is wrong with your soil. All those dandelions and dock weeds with their giant taproots are trying to break up this hard packed soil. They are also excellent at bringing up nutrients with their taproots so a nice compost tea is an excellent way to add these back to the soil without just rolling out the welcome carpet.
Off with your head isn’t always best. There is a reason people deadhead daffodils and other flowering perennials – it encourages better root growth because the plant will then not expend that energy trying to produce seeds. Take this and apply it to that horrid dock or dandelions and you are essentially deadheading your weeds and making them stronger by trying to mow them down the minute they flower! My plan is to wait until the dock is just about to flower and chop it all down.
Ok! This has been a lot of writing! I will leave you with this pretty picture of a luna moth from last year
This was a GOOD IDEA! The plants have lived out here all winter and have been happy, which means I have been happy!
The furnace was pretty reliable… until a couple of weeks ago.
And then it died. First I thought that maybe the oil filter and screen needed to be replaced. I did that – no luck. So I tried taking it apart since I figured that I hadn’t cleaned the oil nozzle in the three (almost) years we have been here and I had no idea what the previous owners did. It was not pretty:
I replaced the nozzle but not the electrodes since they didn’t have the correct ones at the plumbing supply store. Mainly, because, as I learned by googling the serial number I finally found it after cleaning off layer and layer and layers of gunk, this furnace is from 1957 and the company which made this furnace, International Heaters of Utica, went out of business and it is close to impossible to find any information about this furnace.
And then I tried to restart the damn and this thing BLEW UP – like literally sparks flying, thank goodness for circuit breakers that trip when things catch themselves on fire – blew up.
So this limit switch is busted, I don’t know where one finds a new one for a 62 year old furnace, and I AM FED UP.
So I have decided that once I have two fully functioning legs I am going to attempt to move one of the other five, non-sixty year-old furnaces from one of the less useful greenhouses into this one and all will be well.
In the meantime Spring is almost here which means it hasn’t gotten too cold and this has actually been keeping the greenhouse warm at night:
This old fireplace insert the previous owners left on the porch which I moved into the greenhouse a couple months ago with the help of E, a willing friend, the tractor, and taking down one of the greenhouse walls (don’t worry – I put it back up). The cinder blocks are piled up all around it and filled with stones and it all makes a pretty decent heat sink. For now….
whew ok – that was unnecessary, but I’m back and things have been HAPPENING around here! Where to even begin…
Well a while ago this happened:
The biggest news is that I’m currently one month into a three month leave from work to get stuff done around here. The first couple of weeks were slow; we had some houseguests and a bit of travel so I didn’t get much done. Then a week ago this happened:
So needless to say – I have not gotten a lot done since hobbling around on crutches and my knee wheely thing (which stupidly does not have a basket – who designs these things!) is not super conducive to doing farm type things. And I have a giant list of things to get done. Like super giant:
But luckily the cast comes off in a week and Spring is also slowly starting to happen up here; so, while the timing of my broken ankle is not ideal, it is also not the worst thing ever (ugh a cast in the middle of the summer – blech).
In the meantime I’m taking care of myself and making more BIG PLANS!!!
I’m really excited about this thing! It’s a cool sensor that you just stick on the wall and it tracks the temperature and humidity. I’ve been wanting something that does this so I can see how well the furnace is working in the greenhouse. I have a high/low thermometer, but I wanted something that would keep a better history of temperature changes.
It’s pretty awesome and I really like seeing the temperature fluctuations during the day. I can also tell how often the furnace is cycling on and off over the night. Hopefully I’ll be able to use this to tell how well some of my heating ideas are working. I already have the layers inflated and a new pond is in the works. It’s also possible there will be fifty bales of straw here shortly…
I am happy to report – There’s a lot of things that have gone well around here lately!
The truck has working four wheel drive! (I tested it in the snow even!)
The compost pulley is in working condition and has only strewn pineapple bits over the driveway once in it’s fully functional form.
I made an amazing seed spreadsheet to keep track of my apparently 140 varieties of seeds I am hoarding
E and I moved some cabinets from the laundry room to the kitchen (reuse!) and they are still attached to the wall right where we hung them!
The furnace in the greenhouse is still functional and we had 250 gallons of oil delivered so it should be working for a while. (though I will mention the thing that did not go well – we put the snow plow thing on the front of the glorified lawn mower and it did not go well at all; because it is a lawn mower and that is all it does – mow the lawn. So E and I spent a good three days chipping ice out of the driveway so the oil truck could get down to the greenhouse. Note to self: shovel snow right away!)
We got a 78 record and played it successfully on the Victrola! (we also played a 33 and got to hear Dancing Queen sung by the Chipmunks!)
The new bedroom is almost done. E has done an awesome job on the walls
I fixed a hole near the inflator in the greenhouse and hooked up a new vent to use air from outside to inflate between the two layers of poly. (outside air is preferable since it reduces condensation between the layers)
That’s all I can remember right now – but hopefully there will be many more this spring!
That is some pretty slick styling on the greenhouse heater, huh?
And I am happy to report that is a working greenhouse heater at that! This one required a bit of fiddling with the wires to bypass the thermostat, but it’s alive! I did also get to do some excellent reading about cad cell relays and oil fired heating controls – you know, just some light bedtime reading.
This greenhouse is much smaller than the original one, probably about half the size. It heats up incredibly quickly.
But this excellently working heater is uncontrollable because the old thermostat was busted, the one I pulled out of a different greenhouse was also mostly busted, and the one I bought from Home Depot was apparently a bunch of random bits of busted thermostats all shoved in a box (we definitely should have listened to the cashier and grabbed a new, non-opened one).
So tomorrow I will get thermostat number four and try to tame the Utica International wild beast of a heater which lives in the greenhouse. Wish me luck!
Things are still mostly hunkered down for the winter here at Jugtown. We had a bit of a weather rollercoaster the last week with one day in the 70s and then four inches of snow the next day. The snow is mostly melted, but I’m not holding my breath for warmth anytime soon – the last frost date in these parts is almost the end of May!
So we’ve been drinking our hot chocolate and building fires and making plans. Big plans!
Here is E’s big list of big plans:
and I have a lot of plans floating around in my head that I have yet to actually put into a concrete list, or at least one coherent list (though a concrete list sounds kind of funny). I do have tons of little lists and ideas and snippets of things I want to look up. E and I are trying to have phone free Saturdays so I have to make a list of all the things I want to look up later instead of immediately grabbing my phone and googling everything. My most recent list consists of everything from how record players work (more on that later) to thermostat wiring and things that are automatic but not electric (a lot more on this later).
Since my big plan list is not ready yet, I did make a list of things I have either learned or accomplished.
Wiring up the new bedroom! Yes this happened and was tested and is successful and no one died! I’m really proud of this.
The furnace in the other greenhouse is working (I guess this is kind of a spoiler…)
The truck has new hubs and a new battery which is properly held in place by a new battery strap and not the piece of crap I picked up at WalMart (yes, I know – but it’s the only place around here we can get prescriptions filled!)
In general I’ve learned a lot about electricity and wiring.
I almost have a fully functioning plow on the front of the tractor/glorified lawn mower.
We got a new stove! (The reason for this is not something that should ever be discussed). I guess it’s not really an accomplishment, but it is exciting!
E and I have done a really good job of not drinking alcohol the past month or so. This is more of a self care/mental health thing, but it’s worth mentioning.
And of course – staying cozy.
edited to add:
I made a pretty excellent list of all our tools and appliances around here. I also downloaded and organized all the manuals for various things (heaters, thermostats, tractors, leaf mulchers) that I have looked up in the past and assume I will need in the future.
I successfully sharpened the chainsaw chain and made a cool kindling splitter