Garden and War

Yesterday, I mowed the yards, and little else, since rain was inbound. We got another 2/10″, which is all to the good – perhaps a total of 1.5″ over the last week. That’d be a wonderful regular event.

Today, I planted all the seedlings in the garden.

Seedlings in the Garden

Seedlings in the Garden

It doesn’t look like much right now – 28 or so tiny tomato seedlings spread out through two beds, zucchini and butternut squash, cucumbers, and half-inch tall jalapeño plants. None of the cerrano peppers germinated. I’ve got spares of some of the tomatoes bedded for now where the cold frame was, in case of a late failure … and everything’s documented, so that I can preserve seeds for next year from this crop. The main purpose for this picture is to provide a baseline for the jungle to come.

Snow peas and tomato seedlings

Snow peas and tomato seedlings

The snow peas are doing very well. All about eight inches tall, and starting to flower. I sense YUM in our future.

*      *      *

Walking the dog after her supper tonight, we were lucky that her feet weren’t cut on the broken glass left behind by an asshat who was done with her bottle of Smirnoff. It covered a chunk of sidewalk. Fortunately, Lexi was trailing me, so that when I crunched, I stopped and made her walk around. After the walk I went back and swept it up and disposed of it. I suppose it’s true in any neighborhood – some are always going to be asshats.

*      *      *

A bad week in Afghanistan for our troops, sadly. Our condolences to the families, friends, and units of these fallen warriors:

Staff Sgt. Joseph H. Fankhauser, 30, of Mason, Texas, died April 22 while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

1st Lt. Jonathan P. Walsh, 28, Cobb, Georgia, died April 22 in Paktia, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.

Pfc. Michael J. Metcalf, 22, Boynton Beach, Florida, died April 22 in Paktia, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.

Chief Warrant Officer Nicholas S. Johnson, 27, of San Diego, California, died April 19, in Helmand province, Afghanistan, when his Black Hawk (UH-60) crashed.

Chief Warrant Officer Don C. Viray, 25, of Waipahu, Hawaii, died April 19, in Helmand province, Afghanistan, when his Black Hawk (UH-60) crashed.

Sgt. Chris J. Workman, 33, of Boise, Idaho, died April 19, in Helmand province, Afghanistan, when his Black Hawk (UH-60) crashed.

Sgt. Dean R. Shaffer, 23, of Pekin, Illinois, died April 19, in Helmand province, Afghanistan, when his Black Hawk (UH-60) crashed.

Spc. Manuel J. Vasquez, 22, of West Sacramento, California, died April 24 in Paktika province, Afghanistan.

Spc. Benjamin H. Neal, 21, of Orfordville, Wisconsin, died April 25 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, from injuries sustained when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.

Spc. Jason K. Edens, 22, of Franklin, Tennessee, died April 26, in Bethesda, Md., of wounds sustained April 15, in Laghman province, Afghanistan, when the enemy attacked his unit with small arms fire.

Spc. Moises J. Gonzalez, 29, Huntington, California, died April 25, in Balkh province, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained when his vehicle rolled over.

Lt. Christopher E. Mosko, 28, of Pittsford, New York, died April 26 while conducting combat operations in Nawa district, Ghazni province, Afghanistan.

Staff Sgt. Brandon F. Eggleston, 29, of Candler, North Carolina, died April 26, in Ghazni province, Afghanistan, from injuries sustained when his vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device.

Sgt. Dick A. Lee Jr., 31, of Orange Park, Florida, died April 26, in Ghazni province, Afghanistan, from injuries sustained when his vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device.

Staff Sgt. Andrew T. Brittonmihalo, 25, of Simi Valley, California, died April 25, in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained from small arms fire.

Third day and done

I decided not to add a new category: Pain. It belongs here, but it’d (hopefully) be so bloody rare as to be much like a broken pencil.

You saw one before-ish (more middle-ish, really)  picture from the front yard, day before yesterday. Here’s one more deeply before picture: the right-hand bed off the front porch:

Right porch bed before cleanup

Right porch bed before cleanup

You might need to click on the image to get the full extent of the pain this bed caused me yesterday. Bracketing the bed are a pair of golden euonymous bushes (pre-trimming. In the center is our wonderful batch of tiger lilies. They’re being owned, sadly, by the yellow-ish grasses, so those had to do. The tulips and gladiolas have been pretty sad the last year or two as well, so everything had to go, excepting the shrubs and and tiger lilies.

Friday morning, I started work on the left porch bed, and it was a bit of a breeze, really. Weeded it out with a hoe, then turned it over with the rototiller. I turned my attention to the right bed. I started weeding it out.

That was when I realized the depth of my problem with the yellow grasses. They were going to take over the whole bed within another couple of years. So I started trying to take those out. Hmmm. The hoe wasn’t going to cut it. More to the point, the hoe was bouncing off. I didn’t want to use the pickaxe, because I don’t want lots of left over bits for this thing to spring back to life with. So a shovel it was. There went two hours of my day, cutting some “grasses” the size of a love seat from the right hand bed.

By the time I’d actually cleared the bed all the way around, it was about 3 PM. I figured I could “hit the ground running” with the rototiller after shopping this morning (Saturday), and get the whole thing done by around 3 PM. So I spent an hour transplanting some of the tiger lilies into the tree bed on the left side of the yard, and called it a day.

I did the shopping this morning (off my usual Sunday, but I’ve got to go to work tomorrow for an indeterminate period of time), got home, took the dog for a leisurely walk, and changed into the yard clothing. Out came the rototiller, and I attacked the final bed. The ground attacked back, and won! It’s partly due to how dry things are here (we’re really short on rain this spring), and other than a few specific areas, much of that bed hasn’t been touched in 7 years. Sigh. Out comes the pickaxe, there goes two hours.

I amended the broken up bed with some leaf compost, and turned it with the rototiller. I tuned up all of the beds with a landscaping rake, applied the mulch to all of the appropriate places in the yard …

Wait, did I just say all? One more piece of bad news. Unlike topping up the mulch from year to year, this time I pulled it all out and refreshed the whole yard. Well, the whole yard except for the bit on the back of the tree bed on the left side of the yard. I had 25 bags of mulch. That’s 50 cubic feet, and I came up short by about a bag and a half. But from the street it looks great, and I’m bloody tired.

Here’s what some of it looks like:

Transplanted tiger lilies in the tree bed

Transplanted tiger lilies in the tree bed

The right porch bed, after

The right porch bed, after

With a bit of the old clicky-clicky, you can see that I’ve already added some new decorative grasses to the right porch bed. They’re spiky and non-invasive. In a year or two they’ll do a nice job of providing a bit of backdrop for whatever I plant there.

Now it’s nearly time to sleep, but first to walk the mutt. Ciao!

Spring: Sprung

For the second morning in a row, early temperatures in the mid-30’s Fahrenheit put a bit of a damper on morning yard work. I’ve taken a couple of days off to get the front yard in order. I’m peeling out all the old mulch, weeding everything, edging around the trees, and re-seating border bricks around the beds. What I didn’t count on yesterday was finding that a couple of the beds needed a deep turning.

Revising a planting bed

Revising a planting bed

When I uncovered the bed you see above, the soil seemed a bit lifeless and compacted, in keeping with the tepid growth of the few tulips that survived there. Normally I plant hardy annuals there, but they haven’t done so well, of late. This time, I remembered why: I haven’t turned that bed (nor the one behind it, up against the fence) since we moved into the house, nigh unto a decade ago.

Side note: We’re really short on spring rain this year – there hasn’t been but perhaps a quarter of an inch in the last 6 weeks or so.

Silly me, I attacked the ground with a spade point shovel. That bought me about three inches of penetration. I tottered back into the shed, and brought out the pickaxe. That did the job. I trenched out to 12-15 inches (in both beds, tree and fence), hauling the dirt back onto the concrete pad behind the fence. There I broke it up and mixed it with equal parts leaf compost. Then I barrowed the mix back out and filled the beds. The first partial load has just been tipped in, above. When all was said and done, five barrow loads went back into the bed.

The bed work slowed me considerably, though. I didn’t finish with the de-mulching and weeding yesterday, but I did all seven of the smaller beds/trees. What’s left are the two large beds around the front porch. I do know I’ve amended those quite recently, so no more pickaxe work today. I’m just waiting for the temps to rise into the 50’s so that I can get back to work. Ciao!

 

Good news, bad news

The good news is twofold. First, my penultimate deliverable for the Software Engineering class is in the hopper – two sections (about 11 pages) of an SDMP document. One more week of reading and writing puts that class to bed.

Second, it looks like my effort to finally purchase materials and get the cold frame built (see yesterday’s post) is going to pay off: we’re likely to see frosts Monday and Tuesday nights. With luck what I built protects what I’m growing.

Third (yes, third, this is a bonus good thing, for some definition of good), I’ve got a week-long VSphere 5 boot camp training that I’m attending this upcoming week. It’s nearby, I won’t be away from home much early or later than normal working hours, and I’m going to learn a crapload about VMware to supplement what I already know from the environments I’ve worked with previously. The downside is that all of this piles into my brain while I’m trying to finish a very challenging UMUC class. Such is life – the next convenient training is months away.

*     *     *

Our condolences to the families, friends, and units of these fallen warriors:

  • Sgt. Jamie D. Jarboe, 27, of Frankfort, Indiana, died March 21 in Topeka, Kan., from wounds suffered on April 10, 2011 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, when enemy forces attacked his unit with small arms fire.
  • Spc. Dennis P. Weichel Jr., 29, of Providence, Rhode Island, died March 22 in Laghman province, Afghanistan, from injuries suffered in a noncombat related incident.

Another Spring, Another Garden

The snow peas are coming in fine …

Snow peas coming up

Snow peas coming up

… although that might be a bit of a misnomer. It was nearly 80 yesterday. Fortunately the humidity didn’t match. We could still get a late cold snap, and even snow. But I really want to get more things started. Potatoes should do okay regardless:

Where the potatoes are

Where the potatoes are

That looks boring now, but soon, soon. As the potatoes come up, I’ll sweep the earth in from the sides and mound over the potatoes, which should increase yield. And there at the bottom left, you can see my snow/frost preventer.

Finally, a cold frame

Finally, a cold frame

In years past, I’ve started from seed in trays similar to those above. Sitting out in the weather, all it took was one frosty night to kill all my seedlings dead. I’d have to remember to bring them in at night, and put them out in the morning. Now I don’t have to do that. And since I don’t … I probably won’t need to. It’d be even cooler if I could put a temperature sensing system connected to a motor to crank that frame up and down at the appropriate times. But I can certainly go outside and pull the prop as necessary. The frame is hinged to the bed on the side away from the camera. The top is 3′ x 4′ x 1/8″ plexiglass, screwed to the top of the frame, and one center bar.

I got all that done, and tools brought in, and pictures taken just as the rain started to come down. Apparently we’re due for an inch or two this weekend. I hope the potatoes like that.

 

I’ll rest when I’m dead

I took off from work a couple of hours early on Friday.

At that time, I was still feeling a bit off my feed – this whatever it is that isn’t a cold anymore has been kicking my ass. So I “took it easy” this weekend: I slept in past eight both days! Thanks, Lexi!!!

After that, though, no rest for the wicked. I put in about 12 hours writing for both classes yesterday. Today: Shopping, washed the car, cleaned the dining room, weeded out the raised beds, and seeded/prepared for snow peas. Then I reviewed the writing I did yesterday, and submitted the assignment I could. The other one doesn’t have a class link for submission yet, argh! Now THAT’S frustrating.

Oh, yeah, and the bug’s still got me, more’s the pity. Still plugging away with the antibiotics, fluids, and other OTC meds.

*     *     *

Our condolences to the families, friends, and units of these fallen warriors:

Maj. Robert J. Marchanti II, 48, of Baltimore, Maryland, died Feb. 25, from  wounds received during an attack at the Interior Ministry, Kabul, Afghanistan.

On Feb. 25, the armed forces medical examiner at the Dover Port Mortuary in Dover, Del., positively identified the remains of Staff Sgt. Ahmed K. Altaie, of Ann Arbor, Michigan. On Dec. 11, 2006, a casualty review board declared Altaie “missing – captured” after his disappearance in Baghdad, Iraq on Oct. 23, 2006.

Cpl. Conner T. Lowry, 24, of Chicago, Illinois, died March 1 while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

Staff Sgt. Jordan L. Bear, 25, of Denver, Colorado, died Mar. 1, in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered from small arms fire during an attack on his base.

Pfc. Payton A. Jones, 19, of Marble Falls, Texas, died Mar. 1, in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered from small arms fire during an attack on his base.

Garden beds turned and dressed for winter.

Garden beds turned and dressed for winter.

Mostly chores and a bit of school work defined this weekend. I turned over the garden this weekend, and mowed the lawns. With a warm-ish week, the lawns both grew quite a bit. Washed the car, cleaned and organized in the house today. Tired and a bit sore, and debating whether to clean out the front beds, or wait for the first frost. I’m leaning towards the latter right now.

*     *     *

Our condolence to the families, friends, and units of these fallen warriors:

  • Pvt. Danny Chen, 19, of New York, died Oct. 3 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan.
  • Lance Cpl. Benjamin W. Schmidt, 24, of San Antonio, Texas, died Oct. 6 while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.
  • Spc. Ricardo Cerros Jr., 24, of Salinas, California, died Oct. 8 in Logar Province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit using small arms fire.

Putting the garden to bed…

Summer session (school)  wiped out my garden. That is, I didn’t have enough time to tend it, and it went a bit wild. Today, I mostly put the garden to bed. There’s some basil still in, and the peppers need final harvest, but all of the cruft is cleared out, and I’ll have to turn the soil soon. That and a quick threshing of the hay (the back “lawn” was well over 12″ tall) just about finished up my day. I spent a while playing Witcher 2, a fun RPG. A new release this week brought a very useful new tutorial stage, which helped me tune up the skills needed to enjoy the game instead of just thrashing my way through it.

Tomorrow: shopping, coffee roasting, and schoolwork.

OMG, Tomatoes!

Tomatoes much?

Tomatoes much?

Yeah, forty or more pounds of tomatoes out of the garden today. And that was after a morning and early afternoon spent working with Marcia restructuring her sewing and fabric rooms. Tired now: I made gallon of salsa, and started another lobster pot of red sauce. Last weeks was down enough to transfer to another pot. I’ll be freezing that batch tomorrow, and cooking down the new batch, too.

But I’ve *got* to do some schoolwork tomorrow, too. I wanted to mow, as well, but I’m running out of hours and days … less than 18 months if all goes to plan, then school is done. Whew. Whoops! Time to walk the little dog for her last outing of the day. Ciao!