Monday, June 19, 2017

Good onions, bad onions

You know I've had my share
Out of the ground and done:
  • Spinach
  • Radishes
  • Strawberries
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Leaf lettuce
  • Red onions
  • Cilantro
  • Snow peas
  • Elephant garlic
Just about finished:
  • Red potatoes (already started harvesting)
  • White onions (tomorrow)
  • hard-neck garlic (Thursday and Friday, assuming we get no more rain)
 I'm still planting bush beans even though I'm also harvesting them, and the raspberries are going nuts. Not sure on the pears -- the fire blight of 2015 has returned -- but apples and peaches are off the charts.  If I had cherries this year, I never saw them. 

But while we are eating healthy here* on Rancho d'El Borak, one little problem has arisen.  The onions you see on the table are full, fist-sized beasts that will store quite well, but they all came from the north end of my raised beds. The onions from the south end, both red and white, are about half-sized and are good only for chopping up for this weekend's burgers. Why? Because the maples that a decade ago shielded crops from the harshest of the Kansas sun now smother about half of the beds.  Rather than cut down the trees***, I'll be moving the beds this winter to a sunnier place on the south of the house.  So it's a good thing I built them to be uprootable and easily moved.

But there's additional reason I'm moving them.  Given the various excremental objects being thrown at our national rotating oscillator as we speak, I've decided that the beds need to be doubled in size again, and I really can't do that where they are.  So I've located 2 pallets of cinder blocks and a nice open place where I hope to a) grow as many vegetables next year as a family of nine can eat, and b) create at least two marketable products as part of our local CSA/farmer's alliance.  I'm reading old USDA brochures on growing horseradish as an annual and will be saving all my big garlic bulbs for seed.  I have a greenhouse/hoophouse in my sights****, but I will only buy it with money I earn from selling crops.  If I can't accomplish that, I don't really want to farm bad enough to need one.

The plan, which involves a lot more work on important things that I hope will lead to less work on unimportant things, is called Luke's Tower. We'll see how it plays out over the next 36 months...

* I'm convinced that once I turned 50, my doctor instituted a conspiracy against my health**.  Every time I see him he finds something else wrong with me.  Most of it has been fixed by getting as much wheat as possible out of my diet. I haven't lost much weight but I had to buy smaller pants, my belt is about to be downgraded again, and my blood pressure and cholesterol are back to human levels.
** And Billy Connolly is not really joking. I've forgotten what he looks like.
*** If it were my decision, I'd lose the trees. But the lovely and gracious Rogue likes them right where they are, and alive.
**** Actually, I have two coming.  The 8'x6'x7' hard-sided greenhouse is a done deal. I'll be using it to stay in spinach and lettuce and radishes all winter. The other is a 20'x48' hoop house.  We'll see on that one.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Muh death threats

Trump bullying Kathy Griffin
A crybully has them:
Kathy Griffin accused President Donald Trump and his family of launching a campaign to destroy her life in response to the image she posted earlier this week in which she appeared to be holding the commander-in-chief's severed head. 
The comedian* broke down in tears as she detailed the torrent of abuse she has been receiving online, and the constant death threats which she described as detailed and specific**...
Later in the interview Griffin said that her career was likely over now as a result of this incident, and that President Trump had 'broke' her, moments after she declared: 'There's a bunch of old white guys trying to silence me!'
Is there a name for that judo move in which SJWs effortlessly turn from brave, edgy warriors speaking truth to power into helpless victims of Muh Patriarchy? We've seen it now more times than the Stone Cold Stunner and every time it's pulled off flawlessly.

Well, almost every time.  In this case, it appears that Little Miss Victimhood might have really stepped in it -- she's been fired from a couple shows, lost an endorsement or two, and even Al Franken doesn't want to be seen with her. And if you're an embarrassment to Al Franken...

She is even muttering that her career is likely over.  We can hope, though I doubt that's the case. There always seems to be plenty of room for bitter, liberal harridans on TV. I would not be surprised to see her show up on ESPN as a hockey analyst in 18 months or so.

Wait, yes I would. But only because I don't watch ESPN.

* You keep using that word...
** but alas not effective. Whence do all these incompetent would-be killers arise?

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A dog's life...saved by technology.

It's a lifesaver
So anyway, I've mentioned before that DiggingDog works the graveyard shift for our local canine signal corps.  Every night, for hours on end, she passes directives to and from the neighbor dogs. These other dogs are at least a quarter mile away, so she must put considerable effort into passing these messages.  Sometimes her efforts are so strenuous that I can feel the sunroom frame vibrating. Obviously, this condition is not conducive to human sleep.

Such was the case Friday night. I went to bed about midnight, two hours or so after the relay began.  In order to make sure I knew she was working, DiggingDog moved directly outside my window. Bark-bark-bark, in groups of seven or eight, depending upon the messages being transmitted.  By 2 am I, still awake, was contemplating various accidents she was going to be involved in, most of them ending her miserable life. But it would probably just be easier to leave*, so I moved to an empty bed in Mr. Charisma's room on the other side of the house.

DiggingDog apparently decided that were I not within barking distance, I would not appreciate how hard she was working. So she parked herself immediately outside Mr. Charisma's bedroom window. By 3am, I had developed a very long list of exquisite tortures for her, but I was too tired to kill her at that point.

Instead I moved upstairs to an empty bedroom and put in some ear buds so I could listen to storm sounds on Youtube. I lay there wincing and twitching as I heard her barks even over the thunder. Unable to fly up to that bedroom window, she wasn't actually within hearing distance and probably had given up at that point. Yet that rhythm -- bark bark bark, 7 barks, now 8, now only 3 -- remained with me until I finally passed out from pure exhaustion.  At 5am, Mr. Charisma's little brother, Dino Baggins, awoke and demanded his morning bottle. Saturday was a very long day.

But at a family picnic yesterday, my newest brother in law mentioned an ultrasonic dog trainer he used to quiet his neighbor's terrier.  I, not being a TV watcher, had never heard of such a thing. But I brought up my handy dandy WalMart app and quickly located the First Alert Automatic Bark Genie, a 9v-driven electronic speaker that emits a dog-hearing-level squeal every time it detects a bark. I'm not sure whether it distracts or annoys the barker. Nor do I care, so long as the result is no repeats of Friday night.

I hung it outside of the sunroom last night just as DiggingDog was warming up for her shift. Thirty minutes later she climbed to her observation post atop the picnic table and cut loose with a double-bark. Then she stopped and looked around. She hit another note, then stared accusingly at me through the sunroom window. Finally she padded away, confused.  As I was putting Mr. Charisma to bed a half hour later, I heard her again just outside his window. Bark bark. Pause. Bark. Then nothing.

I saw her last when she came slinking across the deck at about 10pm. She stopped to look at me through the sunroom window, her face the most forlorn I had ever seen it. She was utterly defeated, her beloved signal corps destroyed. With a shrug of resignation, she moped into the silent night.  I slept 8 hours without moving.

Highly recommend.

* Plus, the kids really like her.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Monday, May 22, 2017

Black dirt / Red ants


So anyway, I finally got the lovely and gracious Rogue's tomatoes transplanted to her new raised bed this weekend. We're doing beefsteak raised from seed, so that ought to be an adventure, though not as much of an adventure as last year, when Mr. Charisma mixed several different types of seeds together giving us a random selection of tomatoes in every garden.

However, there were a couple of surprises once I pulled off the very-unrotted layer of pine needles that had been the last item I added to this bed.

1) The rot took 5 months. Manure, ground oyster shell, yard clippings, shredded paper, clayish soil, and sand, all of it melded into a beautiful black dirt that sticks together just as it ought. It's full of worms and pill bugs and all manner of good critters.

2) I got about half the volume of dirt I expected, so we'll have to do it all again this fall. I've already started actually. All around the tomato cages, I laid down a layer of wet cardboard, some fresh-cut comfrey leaves, and started to pile shredded paper on top. That ought to suppress the weeds while retaining moisture and providing the pill bugs and worms with plenty of chow.

3)  At one end, it was also crawling with bad bugs: ants.  Billions of them. And when I tried to drive in the tomato cage, I realized why. Maybe.  Back when I first set up this bed, I used it as an opportunity to dispose of a large number of bones collected by DiggingDog. I simply buried them under the refuse I was dumping in and hoped that she would not discover them.  She has not. But perhaps someone else has moved in to take advantage of the yummy calcium goodness of deer and cattle bones.

Either way, once I research whether it's safe to use borax* in a tomato bed, I'll get to removing the ants. These 10 plants ought provide enough to keep us in salsa and pasta sauce for another year, assuming they all survive the upcoming ant holocaust.

In the meantime, after getting the lawn tractor stuck in my field while trying to get more manure, I'm at something of a loss as to with what I'm going to fill  the new pepper containers with.  I don't have 5 months to wait around for a new batch of black dirt...

UPDATE: apparently, you make a paste with borax, sugar, and water, and the scout ants carry it back to the nest, where it poisons them all. We shall see. Lots of things sound easy on the internet.

* Borax is a mineral salt, not the plural of Borak.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Global warming strikes again

The fire this time
This time it burns up the Kansas wheat crop:
Blizzard conditions and heavy snow swept western Kansas, including 14 to 20 inches in Colby in the northwestern quadrant of the No. 1 winter wheat state in the nation, said the Weather Channel. 
“We lost the western Kansas wheat crop this weekend. Just terrible,” tweeted Justin Gilpin, chief executive of the grower-funded Kansas Wheat Commission.
I suspect that over the coming months and years it's going to become much harder for acolytes of Albert Gore's Traveling Circus and Subsidy Vacuum to keep claiming that currentYear() is the hottest year ever. Eastern and southern Europe have been getting freak snowstorms one after the other this spring and the good old USA just got one in my neck of the woods*. While it will be weeks before the final damage is counted, it's safe to say that there are fewer acres of wheat and more dead baby cows in the world than there were this time last week.

But what do snowstorms have to do with global warming? Very little, I suspect.  About 18 months ago, I dropped a cryptic little note in my year-end prognostication:
If we get hit (we won't) it will be by something coming out of the sun that we do not see until hours before impact. But sunspots are disappearing, the Earth's magnetic shield is weakening, and Jupiter's centuries-old storm is dying. Something is happening, and it's bigger than 50ppm of CO2.
Obviously, I don't know for sure, but I suspect that we are on the cusp of a grand solar minimum, a naturally-recurring phenomenon that humans neither cause nor can avoid.

It's been long-noticed that our sun's activity is cyclical, up and down, noisy and quiet, on about a 12-year cycle.  But it's less well-known that those cycles also have cycles. Every 200 years or so, the sun gets really quiet, the global temperature drops, crops are destroyed in large numbers**, people starve and suffer and overthrow their entire social order. A good time is had by all once it all washes out a couple decades later.

For the record, Cycle 24 looks like we could be getting ready for that kind of a quiet period:

The NASA Website is good for something.

But, you might wonder, if we are on the cusp of such a minimum, won't that get in the way of the Global Climate Progress that we have been allegedly enjoying for the last 40 years?  "Fear not," says peer-reviewed science, the great god CO2 has a wonderful plan for your life: A grand solar minimum would barely make a dent in human-caused global warming.

So who is going to win the royal rumble between that big glowing ball in the sky and and an extra 50 ppm of CO2 in the Earth's atmosphere?  I suspect that we will find out for sure in the next 5 years or so.

* Rancho d'El Borak didn't get snow, but we did get about 8" of rain over 3 days. Five Boys' Mom will have a more accurate count, I'll bet.
** Not from lessened x-ray or ultraviolet directly. A quieter sun allows more cosmic rays to reach the lower atmosphere from space. Those cosmic rays instigate cloud formation. And those cloud formations do the darnest things to stuff on the ground.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Rogue solves the pepper problem


So anyway, as soon as I finished supper last night, the lovely and gracious Rogue rolled up with a few somethings she found for sale on Facebook: a whole vanload of used cattle tubs, four bucks each.  These once held salt blocks or minerals, except for that row of two, which held buckwheat.  They're sturdy, thick, food grade plastic and hold about 10 gallons each.  So of course the first thing I did was to drill six 1" holes in the bottom of most of them.

You see, I have a pepper problem. Not one like last year where I couldn't get anything to grow past the dog-digging and cat-pooping stage.  This year I simply have no room for them.  Every bed I have except for Rogue's long one is full*.  So I have nowhere to put all these cayennes and chilis and bells** I've got popping up.

Well, had nowhere.  As soon as I figure out where to put the these new planters, and as soon as I figure out what soil I'm going to fill them with, they'll each get three or four pepper plants***, which should produce enough to keep me in peppers for a couple years.

* That one gets tomatoes, which are about 2" tall right now.
** But no jalapenos.  I've still got two cases of them from 2015.
*** and I may get to try one bucket in tobacco. Thanks, Tom.