Saturday, March 28, 2015

Potatoes not-in-a-barrel

bed comes complete with steel dog shield
and horseradish bug shield
Following the disappointing finale of 2014's Potatoes-in-a-Barrel experiment, I decided to make a modification.  The soil is fine for potatoes; last year's control group, planted normally in a 2-level raised bed, produced respectable results. Not fantastic, but they put the barrel to shame. But because the barreled plants did so well*, I still like the barrel idea. I just need a way to make the plants' uber-growth become tuber growth.

So I built and planted a single-layer raised bed, and once everything is respectably growing, I'm going to add a second level of blocks and fill it up with the leaf-compost on the left.  This year I won't go any higher than two levels since I don't want the soil to get too warm. But it also ought to prove once and for all whether raising the soil level on growing plants can be all that it's chalked up to be.

If it works, I'll probably tear it back to one level to start again, or maybe half-empty another bed to plant next spring in the interests of crop rotation. In either case, the top layer(s) will be pretty much 100% compost.

Also added today:
2 Almond trees
4 Chestnut trees
Some strawberries to replace the ones my dog moved in order to plant a deer jawbone on the east end of the strawberry patch.

* if by 'well' we ignore their primary purpose, which was, you know, growing potatoes.  But they measured almost 6' from the top of the plants to the lowest potato, pathetic as that potato was.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Wake me up when September ends

Conflicting advice
unless it ends early for some reason(s):
The claim that the U.S. government has information about an impending asteroid impact catastrophe, but is keeping the information secret to prevent mass panic, is spreading fast and causing growing anxiety among doomsday believers. 
 Following a series of warnings from doomsday prophets, there is increasing convergence of opinion among believers that an asteroid apocalypse will occur in September, 2015...
Now, I don't give any more thought to the prophesied September asteroid than I have in the last half dozen similar warnings. Catastrophic threats of this nature are best utterly ignored. After all, if we're gonna get it, it's not fatalistic to say, "Oh, well." It's realism.

But what is of interest to me is how certain months seem to collect reasons why we are going to be destroyed therein, whereas others leave us homefree.  I don't see anyone worried about April.*  But like December of 2012, which accumulated multiple conflicting reasons why that was it, September of this year seems to have plenty as well.

Among them:

1. The aforementioned asteroid strike.

2. "The Harbinger," Jonathan Cohn's prediction of doom that is tied into the Hebrew calendar (the 70th year of Jubilee) and is therefore a divine judgment.  Of interest is that the aforelinked article was published in 2012, so September of this year has apparently been on the disaster calendar for a while.

3. Last year, French Foreign Minister Fabius famously warned the world that "We have 500 days – not a day more – to avert a climate disaster," While it is believed to have been referencing a conference scheduled for Paris in November, 500 days and 'not a day more' falls in late September, 2015.

4. The last of the current tetrad of "Blood Moons" arrives on Sept 28, Israel's Yom Kippur, leading any number of pastors and would-be prophets to expect God to shake things up in the Middle East this fall. According to their claims, which I have not checked**, the last 2 such tetrads took place in 1967 and 1948, years most people familiar with modern history can tie to big events in that state.

5. The Pope is scheduled to come to America to address the US and the Congress in late September.  Some who take St. Malachy's prophecy seriously are certain this means something double plus ungood.

6. Market prophets and other prophets are saying September might be a good time to short TWTR or even AAPL.

So what does it all mean?  Heck if I know.  I suspect that by the time it does arrive, we'll be so caught up in the Most Important Election of Our Lifetimes to notice all the disasters that fail to befall us. But if they fail to fail to befall us this fall, at least we can't say we weren't warned.

* So maybe we should be.
** Not really taking them seriously enough to do so.

Friday, March 20, 2015

and the cycle begins anew

Meet the new bed, same as the old bed.
Fully recovered from last weekend's beating at the hands* of Mother Nature, I got out for a couple hours of planning and planting this morning.

The raised bed above is the same one we used for peppers last year, with one difference that you'll doubtless note. While mixing in some compost in preparation for onions, I uncovered another bovine humerus lovingly placed by Digging Dog (™). Rather than play that game with her again this year, I have covered the bed with a bit of the yard fencing that we tore down last fall.  Onions should not be bothered by it, but my four-legged undertaker will likely have to find somewhere else to ply her trade.  The other beds, though both longer and wider, may get a similar covering. That depends on Digging Dog's next move.

You'll notice lots of wood mulch around the beds that wasn't in last year's picture. I recently discovered that our good friends at Asphlundt** will give you a truckload of wood chips just for the asking, as it saves them the trouble of dumping or recycling them.  I've successfully placed a truckload and a half so far.  Unfortunately, my chickens have decided that such chips are always in exactly the wrong place and put considerable effort into moving them.

I also found a use for my 55 gallon plastic drum since we are not growing potatoes in it this year*** and since it no longer holds water. It has become an enormous ossuary for the deerly and cowly departed. The would-be undertaker can smell the bones, but she cannot get at them.  It remains to be seen if this tactic will result in more bones being dragged home or fewer.

* Well, microbes.
** The folks who trim roadside trees for the county.
*** Sort of like last year, but without all the hope and pictures.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

What did you prep this week?

Not the future I want.
M.D. Creekmore over at asks a good question:
Well folks that’s it for me this week… what about you… what did you do to prep this week?
Apparently he asks it each week, and props to him that he lays out exactly what he himself did.  I rather enjoy that kind of update, for I've long been of the opinion that you either prep as a lifestyle or you don't bother.  But prepping as a lifestyle -- or better said, continually increasing familial resilience -- means you ought to be able to answer the question yourself each week.  What did you do, this week, to better protect yourself and your loved ones from the coming effects of our collective politico-economic insanity?

For my part, it was a rather quiet week:

1) Added 3 new Kindle Books and plans for a few more. "What good," you may rightly ask, "does it do to create electronic books when electricity itself may soon go the way of Brian Williams' credibility?"  I'm glad you asked. A huge part of resilience is eliminating 'single points of failure.' In the network, that means duplicating that one piece of hardware that, should it fail, will bring your whole business to a halt.  In my case, it means not increasing income so much as increasing the number of places from which I can draw income.  I currently draw most of my income from the college bubble. That will not last forever, and I fully expect that electricity will outlive it.*  Therefore, I work to minimize the consequences of that popping by maximizing other things that can pay the bills. Plus, historians today need a decent electronic copy of Aethelweard's Chronicle, which I hope will be finished by Friday, and Sunday at the latest.

2) Bought, sold, and (most importantly) restored a bassload of dies.  In fact, in the last 31 days, according to Ebay, I have sold $763.54 worth of dies, enriching Ebay (and PayPal) no little bit, but also allowing me to add to my stockpile more dies, lots of lead and wiping solder,** toy soldier molds, unfinished wooden handles for rasps and files, rasps and files to fit the handles, a mason's chisel, a bigass fire extinguisher, and a thus-far-unused cast iron tortilla press.  The good news is that the sales of dies, besides leaving me with more dies at month-end than month-beginning, also paid for all that other stuff. Earn your preps and they will come. The bad news is that I have not yet learned to make tortillas by hand.

3) Added bricks to my pile and located plans for a sweet outdoor brick bread oven.  I now have a pile of recovered street bricks 3' high, 2' deep, and 25' long (and growing), and it looks like I haven't even really touched the erstwhile wood barn.  The weather was nice enough that it was actually enjoyable to pick through the piles and recover another couple hundred bricks this sunny afternoon.

4) Renewed my CPR certification.

5) Added a lockable storm door to the front of the house. It's not a huge layer of protection, but it is a loud one.

6) Planned much of the garden.  I'm still not sure how much area I'll dedicate to potatoes this year, but it will likely be larger than a 55-gallon barrel.

7) Spent a bunch of time with the lovely and gracious Rogue and the kids, all of whom are far more important than cast boolits, seater dies, or any other merely physical items.  It's always important to remember that prepping is never about the stuff. It's always about the people who will ultimately need the stuff.

* In other words, I don't think TEOTWAWKI is RIGHT FREAKING NOW.  But if it is, then that's fine. Bring it.
** hands down the best way to get tin at below-market prices. While I didn't get to pour any bullets this weekend, I'm looking forward to next, when I'll be a bachelor and might get to try out this new recipe for 45 ACP I've been pondering.