Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Pipes full of strawberries

I enjoy strawberries and have grown them in the usual manner in the past. (I still have evidence from that growing as weeds in the yard.) I was always dismayed at the amount of space they took up and sought another way. I had heard of strawberry jars and thought about that and then I saw hydroponically grown strawberries and thought that if it they'll grow in a jar with soil and a pipe with liquid, maybe they grow in a pipe with soil. This is my third year experimenting with this method and it seems to be working much better now.

I use about a four foot section of 6" PVC pipe, capped both ends and drilled ten 1 1/2" holes along one side. There is also a small 1/4" hole drilled into one of the caps for drainage. The pipes are filled vertically. The growing medium is sifted compost and peat moss. I used bare root strawberry plants. I filled the tube up to the first hole, added a plant, then more soil to the next hole add a plant until all holes were filled. Then the pipe is topped off and capped. The caps are snug, not permanently glued.

I used concrete blocks to provide a stable support for them when laying horizonally, but plan to use another structure to create a larger wall of strawberries. I water when the soil is dry to the touch and let nature take its course. The plants have set out runners that I may try to root and use them to fill next years tubes.

The best thing is there have been zero slugs and no dirty berries!

Hilltop Home and Garden Tour

My garden was just on the first Hilltop Home and Garden Tour. Nothing like a little pressure to get provide motivation to get all of your projects done. After a great flurry of activity, including a visit from a news crew, the yard was ready for the big day. It was a fantastic experience. Many positive comments, lots of interest in the methods of gardening that I employ. Several people have asked for me detailed information on how and what I do. I plan to provide that here. I will include both successes and things that still need improving. This is how the house looked the day of the tour. That is a PawPaw (Asimina triloba) tree in the front right. There are actually two. The second is immediately behind the one seen in the photograph. They have fruit on them now and I am looking forward to early September to taste their tropical goodness. More on them later.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Voting: The lesser of two evils... is still evil

This not meant to start a thread about the two major political party jokers. Can you tell I'm not a fan of either? Since registering to vote, I have not missed an election. But yet, every election when asked how I voted, I am always told you threw away your vote. Why? Because I always vote in the following manner: first third party (Libertarian usually, but other if they have no candidate), second non-incumbent (either person running against the incumbent or or the candidate of the party that was not just in office), if it is an incumbent running unopposed, I will not vote for them.

Every year it is always the same response, "you threw away your vote, voting for that guy!" To which I respond, "by that logic, every vote for a losing candidate is a wasted vote." That simply isn't true. I vote this way for several reasons. I am a small L libertarian (I'm not a member of the Libertarian party). I believe in liberty in all areas of life: personal and economic. I think each individual should be free to chose how they conduct their life, so long as it does not harm another person or an other's property without their consent and that consenting individuals are themselves totally responsible for their actions and choices.

Second by my voting pattern, I seek to improve ballot access for other viewpoints. The system is currently set up to heavily favor the Demicans and Republicrats. Just recently when the attorney general position was vacated, independents had to acquire and certify huge numbers of petition signatures to gain access to the ballot. All in just ten days!! I helped an acquaintance Robert Owens ( do just that. The "major" parties did not have to go through all of that, they did not even have to name a candidate for several weeks. By obtaining a certain percentage of the vote each election, that party is guaranteed ballot access. They can then expend their resources on other advertising, not just getting into the game.

Imagine if the major parties had to submit petitions for each and every candidate they wanted to run. How many do you think would make the ballot? Do you sign every petition?

So just think when you step into that booth as you scan the choices and think there's got to be another choice, by voting for a third party you may be increasing the number of choices the next time. And you'll be able to sleep with a clean conscience.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Dry "Hurricane" puts homesteaders to the test

OK, I describe myself as an urban homesteader. Courtesy of Ike, I get to walk the talk. It has been 41 hours without electricity at my house and we are all still alive! Truth be told there have been many perks come out of this whole situation. But let me start at the beginning.

Sunday at around 4:00, the wind rolled in and the power went out. What a wind it was, we apparently had gusts up to 70+ mph. The really strange part was that due to an odd happenstance, a cold front mixed with Ike or some such thing, we got no rain and it was sunny. So we got to watch the destruction. Trees were coming down everywhere. My neighbor had many large branches coming out of his very old silver maple. One perk: neighbors coming together his next door neighbor (not me) had not been the most friendly fellow and now was actually charitable and new folk across the street cam over as together we all cleared the branches away from the power lines.

Darkness set in. For those of you unfamiliar with where I live, it is called the Hilltop (though the signs leading into it are often altered to read "Killtop", that should give you an idea of the area we are talking about) The local pizza joint still had power and was doing a bristling business. They were of course broken into and cleaned out. The scum were out looking for easy targets. We could see the cars slowly driving looking for victims. We already know of one house that lost all its copper. I am quite sure that more reports will trickle in. But many neighbors got together and patrolled, not in a vigilante sense, but more of a "we are here and we are watching" attitude.
Another perk.

Dawn Monday. Walking to the large park nearby, remnants of an old Civil War camp, I surveyed the damage trees down everywhere. I also spied something else... black walnuts. The wind had knocked down tons of the things. I hurried home grabbed the girls, gloves and buckets and am now sitting on 150# pounds of unprocessed black walnuts. Processing should be fun. Details coming soon.

Afternoon Monday. Had to go to work. Couldn't believe the crowds of people waiting to get in to the Library. All of the computers were full instantly. People were very crabby. Not much fun.

Dusk Monday. Still no power. Time to transport the freezer items to a safe location. Friends had excess space and power, so off to their house. We are extremely grateful for their generosity to our family. Stopped at the store to pick up some bread and the next perk.

Monday evening. Inside the homestead propane lantern burning bright, I get out the Jiffy Pop popcorn. My kids had never seen it before. I lit the single propane burner and started shaking and swirling the pan. They watched questioningly as my wife and I stared with anticipation. We knew what was coming. As the pan made hissing noises the girls became a bit more interested, but were still of the "our parents are nuts" opinion (not sure if that changed). Then their expressions changed like the face of a child seeing a lit and loaded Christmas tree as the popping began in earnest and the foil began to expand. "Cool!" "Awesome!" "Popcorn!"

We sat on the porch lit only by a candle eating the best Jiffy Pop they had ever had. Together as a family we talked and enjoyed the dark, without any of the electric buzz that usually distracts us. Later my wife, my oldest and I sat in a room together around the propane lantern reading, enjoying the closeness of family as we enjoyed the separate worlds we explored as we read.

I am not sure when the power will be back on at my house, but it will be with a touch of melancholy as we return to the frenetic pace of the world in which we live. I just may have to flip the circuit break from time to time to power up the things that really matter.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

You throw it away I say wait I minute... I could use that to...

Tires turned inside out make wonderful mini raised beds. The soil heats up faster and it is a great way to get kids interested in gardening. Be sure to scrub them well.

Chimney tiles sunk into the ground ar a great way to contain those herbs that want to go everywhere. A discarded terracotta saucer makes a great birdbath.

What grows in my garbage cans? Well, since I don't throw that much away, I grow potatoes in mine. They are so easy to harvest, just knock them over. No digging!!!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Gorge-eous: Conkle's Hollow

Today was my oldest daughter's birthday she requested that we go hiking. She and I hopped in the car and headed south, towards Old Man's Cave, but that was not the destination. Very nearby is a small (87 acres) called Conkle's Hollow. If you've never been there, you should make a point to take a trip there, you won't be disappointed. Neither of has been there before, a friend told us about it. We will be thanking them. It is kind of tricky to find, but worth the effort. Far fewer people visit this outdoor gem than other Hocking Hills attractions. If you don't like crowds, get there now (or wait until after a good rain, more on that later). If you take my advice, make sure you are in pretty good shape and DO NOT take small children, this is not a place for the meek and mild. Take snacks and plenty of water the Rim trail is 2 1/2 miles, not super long, but you have to get there first. We had some zuchinni bread, apples and water (we wished we had more by the end).

The map for the park shows some cute dotted lines that say these represent many stairs. It is not kidding, the trail starts at the bottom of the gorge and goes to the top fairly quickly. The trail winds along the rim of the gorge. People die here, so be careful! Don't forget to enjoy the view. It can be decieving how high it is, because the trees from the bottom of the gorge reach almost to the top of the rim. It is quite spectacular when a clearing opens and the bottom is in sight. These peeks usually come at a place where water would be falling in the spring or after a good rainstorm. (I need to go back to witness that!)

After going around the rim, we headed into the gorge. The first part of the trail is completely handicapped acessible, at least go hike this. It heads straight back through the gorge along a slowly meandering stream (mostly puddle, right now). From the bottom, it is difficult to see the top because the trees are so tall and thick. Continue back, it is nice and cool in there and completely still. No breeze, just delightfully fresh air.

The paved trail ends, but press on. The best is yet to come. The trail ends at what would be a beautiful waterfall, if only there were more water. We will definitely go back.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Oh I wish it would rain...

It has been uncharacteristically dry here in Central Ohio. Even the humidity is down (thank goodness for that). However it has made it very difficult for the plants in my garden to make it through summer. I don't like watering, seems like such a waste when usually it falls from the sky for free. Ordinarily it is not a huge deal as I have rain barrels (4, for a total of 220 gallons) but they are all disconnected as I prep the house for painting. Drat!

Spring was awesome with all of the rain we had here. My fruit trees are loaded. One of my apple trees is so loaded that its branches are bent and touching the ground. This after picking off and throwing away (composting) two 5 gallon bucks of immature fruit. Ugh! I can't bring myself to pick off any more.

I should mention that I have a standard city lot, not huge by any stretch of the imagination, but currently have a large silver maple tree (I'd like to tap it some day and make syrup, more research required), 2 apple trees, 1 fig tree (yes, you can grow figs here in Ohio), 1 nectarine tree, and 2 paw paw trees (Asimina triloba, largest fruit native to North America). The "orchard" is in addition to a gardening space of about 20' x 40'. It keeps me very busy.

Pictures and details coming soon.