Adding an offset fire box to a vertical smoker.

I used a “smoky Mountain” vertical smoker and a “Brinkman” off set fire box. I thought this would be a long and detailed post but the big time consuming part was assembling the smoker and fire box. The tools you would need to join the two are a Phillips screw driver, crescent wrench, drill/w 1/4” drill bit and a saber saw with a metal cutting blade.  I put the two on a work table for a more comfortable working height.

I positioned the two where they would be located. I was surprised that the fire box had a large elliptical shaped hole for heat/smoke transfer. I traced the ellipse and bolt holes with a pencil then cut the ellipse and drilled the bolt holes.

Man that looks like a big hole but every thing lined up nice.


Brinkman includes the parts necessary to use the fire box as a stand alone grill, a larger elliptical plate with draft control. I decided to use them to reduce the heat/smoke to the smoker. If the reduction is to much I will cut a 4” diameter hole through the ellipse. If the reduction is still to much I will just eliminate the ellipse. As soon as the weather breaks I plan to build a fire in the fire box and burn off any manufacturing residue and see what kind of temperature range I will have.



Categories: My Gardening Journals, Smoking, vegetables and fruits | Tags: | 7 Comments

Brock is at it again.


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Cannot wait for spring!!!

My Mother use to stand on a box and harness a team of horses like these and go out and cultivate corn, she was 10 Years old at that time. When I was 10 Years old, my Grandfather would drive the team (different team of course) and my brother and cousin and I would follow the hay wagon and pitch the hay into the wagon. When the wagon was full we would pitch the hay in to the barn loft. When I reached 14 years of age my Grandfather was to old to farm any longer and I was busy chasing girls.


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Dandelions and a dandy Great granddaughter and Great grandson

This is Macy and Brock Edwards




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Robert A. Hall “I’m 83 and Tired”



This should be required reading for every man, woman and child in Jamaica,
the UK , United States of America , Canada , Australia and New Zealand and
to all the world…

“I’m 83 and I’m Tired”

I’m 83. Except for brief period in the 50’s when I was doing my National
Service, I’ve worked hard since I was 17. Except for some serious
health challenges, I put in 50-hour weeks, and didn’t call in sick in nearly
40 years. I made a reasonable salary, but I didn’t inherit my job or my
income, and I worked to get where I am. Given the economy, it looks as
though retirement was a bad idea, and I’m tired. Very tired.

I’m tired of being told that I have to “spread the wealth” to people who
don’t have my work ethic. I’m tired of being told the government will take
the money I earned, by force if necessary, and give it to people too lazy
to earn it.

I’m tired of being told that Islam is a “Religion of Peace,” when every day I
can read dozens of stories of Muslim men killing their sisters, wives and
daughters for their family “honor”; of Muslims rioting over some slight
offense; of Muslims murdering Christian and Jews because they aren’t
“believers”; of Muslims burning schools for girls; of Muslims stoning
teenage rape victims to death for “adultery”; of Muslims mutilating the
genitals of little girls; all in the name of Allah, because the Qur’an and
Shari’a law tells them to.

I’m tired of being told that out of “tolerance for other cultures” we must let
Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries use our oil money to fund mosques
and madrassa Islamic schools to preach hate in Australia , New Zealand ,
UK , America and Canada , while no one from these countries are allowed to
fund a church, synagogue or religious school in Saudi Arabia or any other
Arab country to teach love and tolerance..

I’m tired of being told I must lower my living standard to fight global
warming, which no one is allowed to debate.

I’m tired of being told that drug addicts have a disease, and I must help
support and treat them, and pay for the damage they do. Did a giant germ
rush out of a dark alley, grab them, and stuff white powder up their noses
or stick a needle in their arm while they tried to fight it off?

I’m tired of hearing wealthy athletes, entertainers and politicians of all
parties talking about innocent mistakes, stupid mistakes or youthful
mistakes, when we all know they think their only mistake was getting
caught. I’m tired of people with a sense of entitlement, rich or poor.

I’m really tired of people who don’t take responsibility for their lives and
actions. I’m tired of hearing them blame the government, or discrimination
or big-whatever for their problems.

I’m also tired and fed up with seeing young men and women in their teens and
early 20’s be-deck themselves in tattoos and face studs, thereby making
themselves un-employable and claiming money from the Government.

Yes, I’m damn tired. But I’m also glad to be 83.. Because, mostly, I’m not
going to have to see the world these people are making. I’m just sorry for
my granddaughter and their children. Thank God I’m on the way out and not
on the way in.


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Pittsburgh’s Indian Trail Steps

Beginning in colonial times and continuing through the 1930s, one way to get from the flats along the Monongahela riverbank up the steep hillside to Duquesne Heights was a narrow pathway known as the Indian Trail. The route weaved it’s way along the slope of Mount Washington. In 1909, the city built a wooden stairway, from Carson Street to Grandview Avenue, that became known as the Pittsburgh’s Indian Trail Steps.

The Indian Trail Steps in March 1910. Many hilltop commuters walked these city steps to and from work each day.

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Trout season just over the horizon.

A native brook trout stream at camp in Potter CO, PA.


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Cabbage hash and Hot Chicken sausage

We had to do something with the unused cabbage from Sunday. I think DW did well and I’m on a diet.


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Doctor’s appointment tomorrow so we had our St Patties Day today.

I had two of these. Rolling Eyes


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Hey I got a Phalaenopsis Orchid

The cost was $15.00 at Walyworld. I picked one out of about 20 that had two Orchids in the pot. Now I have to learn the best way to care for it. Rolling Eyes

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What do retired guys do?

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Ice jam in Oil City.

I hope Mother nature is kind to us. Oil City is about 80 mi upstream from us. Click on image to enlarge.
Oil City ice jam

railroad bridge

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Pittburg Hays Bald Egale

Pittsburgh Hays Bald Eagles – First egg 2-19-2014 at 4:45 PM       

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The deer are getting brave

Coming out in daylight they must be getting hungry. We feed them about 200# of corn every winter it seems to keep them away from the shrubs. After eating this deer came right up to the back porch and passed within 5′ of the windows. I didn’t get that photo because I was writing this post. This photo was taken full telephoto through two panes of glass.


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This one is for Annie

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My Great Grandson Brock

Is he a boy or what?


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10 Blooms at the same time

The photo was taken in the summer time. Bloomed one day and died the next. Had to wait another year for a bloom.



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Frank “Sugar Chile Robinson”

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How to tell if your dog is involved in a sex scandel

How to tell if your dog is involved in a sex scandel

Capture 1

Categories: My Gardening Journals | Tags: | 2 Comments

How I spend my time in the Winter

When Butch goes outside to do his business in the winter he has to get warm when he comes in. Have you ever had to use a mouse with a dog hanging on your arm?


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First year for celery

I planted celery this year for the first time and it did very well. I don’t know what kind of celery it is but the stalks were dark green down to the ground not blanched like in the market and it lasted in the fridge longer. There is one stalk left in the garden that has survived some hard freezes down to the low 20s and looks great. I wonder how hardy is celery.


Categories: vegetables and fruits | Tags: , | 3 Comments

Tommy Johnson

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33 tonight, 31 tomorrow night, 32 the next night (*^$^%&$@

For the next seven months the tropicals will be inside giving off oxygen in return for tender loving care. The problem is they are getting to big for us to be moving. The Christmas cactus and ferns are getting to wide to get through the door. I wonder if they would be worth putting on Craig’s list.


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Biggggg eggplant

We have all the eggplant and other veggies in the freezer we can use this winter and people who live around us do not care for eggplant. The result was, I have neglected the garden. When mowing the grass today I noticed something that looked like an eggplant. Upon inspection, there were three huge eggplants. Is there any use for eggplant this big? Tomorrow I will check the peppers.

BTW these were grown in 100% compost.


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Gretel and Ginger

These were my hunting dogs a German short hair and a Brittany spaniel. I used Gretel for pointing and Ginger for flushing. Gretel was my best pet ever (holding Butch’s ears and my other pets can’t hear now).


This photo is of Gretel watching where the grouse landed that I just shot. At home Gretel would be sleeping in the family room and I would go through three rooms to the den and quietly open the gun cabinet. When I would rack the shotgun, Gretel would come racing into the den excited and want to go hunting.


Categories: Bird dogs, Hunting | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Am I becoming a crotchety old man?

I have been watching more TV as of late and am appalled at the poor programing and acting. Also the commercials are directed at morons. Am I going to buy from some one that thinks I am a moron? I think not. As a result I have turned to Youtube and watch old programs like Soap, Frazier, Cheers and some of the old comedians that didn’t use cuss words. One program that I do watch on TV is Cops. The problem there is the program will make you paranoid and afraid to go out at night. Almost all episodes are about scum bags that either are on parole, of have felony warrants. What is wrong with these judges that think the prisons are too crowded? My solution is build more prisons or add more bunks.

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My good old days

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Four of the very best

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A must see video. (or old timers)

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24 th of August and I just picked our 3rd and 4th tomato

24 th of August and I just picked our 3rd and 4th tomato. Every thing else did great but we had several days in the 90s and the tomatoes did not set blossoms until late. The first photo is what I am use to and the second is what I got this year. We still have a way to go though but who knows what will happen next maybe a early Fall.tomato


Categories: My Gardening Journals, vegetables and fruits | Tags: | 6 Comments

Butterbush squash

These squash are supposed to be Burpee’s “Butterbush” and the squash I can see around the edges are smallish and the correct shape. The raised beds are 20” high but the vines in front of the beds are maintaining the same height as the ones in the bed. We have had a lot of rain this year and the last year that we had so much, the squash did not keep well. I will post the other beds tomorrow.


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Smoking a Chuck/English roast

After reading on “Smokingmeats” about smoking Chuck/English roasts, I decided to give it a try. Our local grocery store had them on sale for less than $2.50 per pound. They were marbled like a choice steak. I didn’t keep track of time for the photos but it was smoked at app 250 deg. for 5 hours and at 300+ deg. for 1 hour. I used McCormick steak rub and the flavor was very good and tender. I will do another one the next time they are on sale. Smile





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Becoming a non packrat in preparation to move

    After saving things, hear after referred to as stuff, for app. 53 years and having to downsize our residents, I am now throwing stuff out big time. I have always been a do it yourselfer  and saved any stuff that had a potential to be used for something else. I would save stuff that someone else had thrown out. A friend of mine and I used to say, whoever dies with the most stuff wins.

    Even though I used a lot of the stuff there is a lot left to get rid of. We are planning on moving into a Condo. hopefully early next year. Condos in our price range have very nice living space but have limited storage space. We both know our limitations and are psychologically  ready to make the move. This photo is our current house and the second photo is representative of where we will be living. As you can see it will be a hard move.

1 House 1


Categories: moving, Uncategorized | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Baby back ribs ;0) ;o)

I am a little light duty in the garden but I can still smoke. I used Royal Oak charcoal and Sweet Baby Rays BBQ sauce. The temp was at 225 to 255deg . for 4 1/2 hours and 300+deg. for 1 1/2 hours. OH I used the smoker in my journal.

The first photo is at about 2 hours.


This photo is finished ribs, notice the pink halo. Dinner is over and I won’t be able to move for a couple of hours.


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Adding an offset fire box to a vertical smoker.

There have been many hits on this post and I thought I would bring it to the top of the journal. Probably the time of the year. John

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I hate politics, but watch this film

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For all my Kids, GrandKids, and Great Grandkids

For all my Kids, Grand Kids, and Great Grandkids that never seen me in a suit and tie. Take a good look, you will probably never see it again.  Pap

4 (4)

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Propagation Chamber

Time on the year to think about propagating terminal cuttings.

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Am I geting too serious about peppers? JohnW

With respect to gardening, other than this blog and a few conversations with neighbors, I stick to myself.  But in one of those conversations, I’ve been told that there is a debate raging about how best to quantify the heat of hot peppers.   Thinking, the conversation was with Jean Romero-Stevenson, who it turns out is a bit of a pepper head.   Though, she’s a sane pepperhead.   Nina Winand is an insane pepperhead, having started over 60 varieties last year.  You read that right?  Not 60 plants, 60 VARIETIES.

But back to the conversation with Jean, and the debate.   If I understand the debate, there is one group who thinks Scoville heat can be done by purely quantitative chemical assay.  Another, the equivalent of vinyl fans (remember vinyl phonograph records?), the ‘purists’ (not mockingly)  who maintain that human taste is quite complex, and that other factors in the pepper affect the sensation of the capsaicin, so Scoville ratings can, should, and will always be better done by humans.  Expert tasters if you will.

I’m sure somebody out there cares where I weigh in on this.  Well, like my politics, I pick the best from both sides.  Let me start by criticizing an article that beat me to LC-GC magazine called “Simple and Fast Quantification of Capsaicinoids in Hot Sauces Using Monolithic Silica Capillaries and LC-MS”, by Simon Forster and Stephan Altmaier.  What I did not like about this article, and to be fair, the authors goals were certainly not to quantify peppers, or even the taste of hot sauces, so from the outset my criticism isn’t fair.   That said, here it is:  what is the real value to pepperheads of quantifying the levels of capsaicinoids in hot sauces?  And, double disappointment, I didn’t even see a key to tell which brands corresponded with which results.

So how do we relate Scoville heat, the taste of peppers, the ratios of specific capsaicinoids, hot sauce, and whatever else we pepperheads cherish?  We don’t, yet.  It’s a complex problem, and though the previous study gives us a hint at what we’re contemplating, certainly half the challenge is to understand what it is we’re setting out to do, and how it should be done in order to accomplish something of value.

My general approach is to be quantitative, but peppers are more than the capsaicinoids.  What makes a jalepeno a jalepeno?  What makes a habanero so darn worth all that heat?  I’m not even going to go near hot sauces.  That’s a decade away.  What is it about the pepper themselves that works with or against the capsaicinoids to produce the flavor behind the heat?   This is a serious question, and to get started, I’ve installed an HPLC system on a cart in my workshop/lab.

HPLC system

This is it.  It’s an Agilent 1100 (last gen, not latest gen) HPLC system.  I’ve set it up on wheels, as I’m prone to do, so it’s moveable, and can be easily cleaned around.  To do this, I had to place the pump, solvent tray and de-gasser on the bottom shelf, so the whole assembly wouldn’t be top-heavy.  To do this, I made up a special 0.007″ ID stainless steel fluidic link 1.3 meters long.  So instead of the traditional (top heavy) arrangement with the pump on top, I pump the solvents up to the sample handler on the top of the ‘stack’ on the top shelf.  From there, the fluid path proceeds as normal, down through the column heater unit and finally to the detector, which is at the bottom of the stack on the top shelf.  This is a really handy arrangement.  Note the ‘data system’ (the computer) sits handily to the left, is generally away from solvents, and there’s still enough bench space for odds and ends.

So, what’s next?  System qualification.  Then, initial method development.  Standards development.  exploring, poking around, and with luck, this fall, when the peppers are harvested, I’ll have a very basic method which will probably not even separate the various capsaicinoids, but with some luck will separate some of the flavor elements of the peppers.  Babe in the woods? Yea, I know.  Real chromatographers are laughing their a$$es off.

But so what.  It’s not what you don’t yet know that’s important, it’s what you’re learning.   The body of knowledge in this big crazy world is probably not even imaginable by any individual in it.   I’m not sure if that’s happened yet, or if we’re close, but for a big chunk of very recent history I suspect it may have been possible for the very best of the Renaissance men (Jefferson, Franklin, and their like) to know a darn big chunk of available theoretical human knowledge.  Say what?  5%?  even 0.5%?  That’s a big percent of the available theoretical knowledge at the time.   The knowledge of how stuff works.   Today, it’s not possible to be as broadly educated as our predecessors.  But don’t let that stop you.

My cousin inherited a book from my Grandfather Best, which was a compliment to the ‘Poor Richards Encyclopedia’ set.  This book was about 4 inches thick, printed on bible paper.  It was said to contain a vast amount of knowledge, and sold to farmers so they might have at least all the practical knowledge they might need living fairly independently on the rural farmstead of the late 18th century.  I hope that books still around somewhere, because I would surely love to thumb through it.  I wonder what indirect references there were, pre-echos, to what we can know today.  It’s a great time to be alive.

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Mobile garden on a rack.

Mobile garden on a rack.

This is my start for 2013, Only the top two racks are needed, so the bottom ones are put to other temporary uses. Note each red solo cup has a hole poked in the bottom so you only add water through the big tubs. The individual plants suck up the water from the tubs just fine.
Tomato’s, peppers and eggplant here.

Mobile?  well, it built on a rack I bought at a big box store.  I reckon I’ll wheel it outside as soon as it’s warmer.  This is a long Winter, here on April first I should be able to take them out during the day.   At least it’s consistently cold.  That warm March last year, followed by a cold snap wrecked my fruit trees and if not for a second flourish of grape buds, those would have been wiped out too.   I can’t imagine farming on a large scale back in the days before crop insurance.

By the way……..we got 25% germination from eggplant (Black Beauty) from a big box store.  My wife replanted triple seeds in the ones that didn’t come up.  By contrast, tomato seed from last year (saved) from three varieties germinated 100%.  Peppers (also saved) came up at 80%.  We didn’t get fancy with the wet paper towel tricks.  We just planted them in soil. watered and waited.   Eggplant was two weeks, peppers and tomatoes were faster, around a week and a half I think.

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A Garden in a box, shoe box that is.

Nearly all of my garden is in five shoe boxes. The exception being my squash and onions. I don’t know whether to plant onion sets or onion plants. I am hoping to transplant the third week of April and plant in the garden the middle of May. Keep your fingers crossed, we are due for a good gardening year.


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I vow to Mother Nature to be on time this year.

It seems that I am always behind when it comes to gardening. Sometimes it is beyond my control but not always. This year it will be different please please  please I will be starting my eggplant this week, the peppers two weeks from now and the tomatoes and broccoli three weeks from now. When I transplant will depend on how well the seedlings are doing. The plants will be set out during the first two weeks of May depending on the weather forcast. In the meantime I will be hoping for a great gardening year. Sch…, sch…did anybody hear mother nature make her vows???????

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If you are wondering how you got here…………..

If you typed that page redirected you to

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Journal Hosting

As of April 05 2013 I will be leaving Bluehost Web hosting and my Journal will be unavailable there. They want $192 for 24 mounts. Between now and then I will be looking at my options.   John

Categories: My Gardening Journals | 3 Comments

Hey, I’m published !!!!

To all my blogging friends and followers my winter project was publishing my journal on Kindle. It required a little effort but enjoyable. You should give it a try.   John


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Don't fence me in

give me land lots of land

Oh, give me land, lots of land, under starry skies above. I have converted my garden to an accessible garden. I had to make room in my paths to turn my scooter around which resulted in a reduction of growing space. In an effort to reclaim some space I plan to use a dryer drum to plant my zucchini in. The first photo is the corner space I can use and the second photo shows my irrigation system for that drum.



In this photo the bed to the left is for winter squash and in the back, right hand corner, I plan to put in a second drum for rhubarb. I also plan to put a drum in the upper garden for cherry tomatoes. John 
Categories: My Gardening Journals | 2 Comments

Keep your eyes open for……..

I took a load of trash to the city’s recycling site today. While I was there I spotted two beautiful ferns that someone had thrown out. There were some nice  perennials and shrubs but the root balls were too small. It’s a good time of the year to pick up bales of straw, corn stalks and pumpkins all god composting material.

The two ferns are in the center of the photo. They are about 30″ in diameter.

Categories: My Gardening Journals | 3 Comments

Double Stuffed Peppers


Here’s an experiment my wife is working on….double stuffed peppers.  The outside pepper is a Kapia, (very sweet).  The inside was a sweet Hungarian, but she’s also done some hot Hungarians and Poblanos.    The cheese is cheddar/colby.



Categories: My Gardening Journals, Stuffed Peppers | Tags: | 4 Comments

Paper Mache soil blocks are bummers

Four of the eight blocks planted germinated in three days. Today the ninth day there has been no further germination. I removed the dome for a closer look and a very offensive sour order came out and reached the up stairs of the house. I don’t know if the gas was methane or CO2 or a combination of the two but they are wrapped in plastic and in the trash.

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Paper Mache soil blocks

I thought about this early winter but got side tracked.  I will try Iceberg lettuce and Black beauty eggplant. It won’t be a big deal if it doesn’t workout because my son started plants for me and there are big box stores and lawn and garden centers near by.

I shredded 5 pages double page width of newspaper and folded them to fit in the shredder opening.


The shredded newspaper was covered with water and left to set over night.


The next morning I put the paper through a blender and strainer and I had my paper Mache slurry.


I was able to make eight blocks out of this batch of slurry and will plant Iceberg lettuce in these. My next batch, I want to make extra slurry to have blocks to dry out and test them for rehydration.


Categories: Accessible gardening, My Gardening Journals, soil blocks, Square Foot Gardening | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Looked the grim reaper right in the eye and won.

[audio:|titles=The Devil Went Down To Georgia]

My son John submitted this as a comment in another post. I think it deserves its own post.  Its about two months later and I just got home and I’m so weak I couldn’t pull a sick ho off a pi$$ pot. At this stage I don’t know if I will get in the garden or not, but I will be trying. 

To All folks who follow Johns Journal, Dad is in the hospital, St. Margarets in Pittsburgh.

I wish I could say he’s doing better. He had a major surgery (part of aorta replaced) on Tuesday, he seemed to be doing pretty well on Wednesday, then took a bad
turn. He’s in a fight for his life. I’m fairly sure he won’t be back on his website for at least a good week or so. It’s probably going to take a good 6 weeks of healing, and though Dad’s fairly tough minded, some support sure can’t hurt, so, if anyone would care to send a card to him at the hospital, I reckon the nurses would get it to him. IF he’s going to get through this, it’s because he’s in the right frame of mind. I know his interactions with you folks are important to him.

Regards All,
John (John’s oldest Son)

Categories: My Gardening Journals | 10 Comments

We are smokin now

The Platters – Smoke Gets In Your Eyes [Single Version]

Yesterday I smoked a 5 pound Duck. It is only about half done in the photo. It looks like Zorro was here but I just sliced the skin all over to let the fat render out. The taste was something like a chicken but different and the texture was different and it was still too fat for me. From now on it will be more sausage and less duck.

Did somebody say sausage? This morning I got up early and smoked 15+ pounds of venison hot Italian sausage. The flavor was different/better than I had expected. They will probably be eaten like summer sausage.

Off topic. This bugger has been hanging around since late summer. I don’t know what species he/she is but it is about 24 inches form head to tail. No birds or squirrels in sight.

Categories: My Gardening Journals | 2 Comments

Accessable garden update

This is my Grandson Dan. Sorry for the apple branch in front of his face. He is in the process of top dressing the fall leaves and decorations. There is nothing that will excite a red worm like pumpkin. There will be substantial shrinkage by Spring and I will top dress again with composted horse bedding.

The four beds are filled and nothing to do until spring.


The upper garden is filled also, while nearly. The cyclone fence in the center will be taken out and there is enough soil to fill the beds on the right.


Categories: Accessible gardening | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Making Sausage

Thick smoke

You can buy sausage for about the same $ as making your own. But when making your own sausage, you control what goes into it. For my first try I bought English roast (BOGO) and trimmed all the surface fat off which produced a very lean ground meat. Then I blended in a commercial seasoning kit and stuffed the casings.

This is my smoker, I have the door open because I put too many hickory chips on the charcoal and I want a thin blue smoke. The sausages on the left are summer sausage and the sausages on the right are venison hot Italian sausage. Both turned out Grrrrr8. I kept one summer sausage and gave the rest to my kids and the Italian sausage to a friend. All the sausage lasted about one day.

Categories: Smoking, Smoking meats | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Restoring a 1960 Wheel Horse 550

This winters project will be restoring a Wheel Horse 550. It is in worse condition than the photo shows. My Dad had one in the 60s and I inherited it and used it for many years. I caught the previous owner in several unchallenged fairy tails and bought the tractor anyway. I am sure he thinks he pulled the wool over my eyes. He didn’t know what the tractor is worth but was glad to get rid of it. The first photo is as recd. And the second photo will be as restored. John



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The new garden is nearly complete

My oldest son John came in from PSU yesterday and built the first half of my accessible garden. Just finished the first box in the first photo and a final inspection in the second photo. The third photo he is building the top half of the second box and you can see some of the remnants of the old garden to his back. The fourth photo just finishing the third and forth boxes. And the last photo is an overall view of the garden. In case you are wondering what my job was , it was staying the He** out of the way, sit in the shade and drink beer. So I did and a good job also. There will be more to come.   John M.





Categories: Accessible gardening, Square Foot Gardening | 4 Comments

Grape arbor

I had rail road tie stepped flower beds and a wooden hand rail that mother nature was reclaiming. I purchased the garden dry wall block and the people that mow the grass built the beds at a very reasonable cost. The total cost was about $2000 including the block.


As you can see I have some paving brick work to do but that is on the back burner. For now how do you attach a hand rail to garden dry wall blocks? I always wanted a grape arbor and I figured I would kill two birds with one stone. $150 later and two recycled hand rails I have my arbor.


Categories: Accessible gardening, Arbor, Grape, My Gardening Journals, vegetables and fruits | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Harvest Thursday

Finally getting something from the garden. It has been a three year wait but worth the effort. The subsoil was double dug with lots of compost spaded in. The two boxes for the bed were 10” X 30” X 8’ each and filled with 50/50 compost and horse bedding and lots of lime. This photo is the first years growth.

These are Jersey Giants and are living up to there name. That is a quarter atop the left hand sprout.


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Planned garden modifications

My planned modifications will not be made until after the current season. This is a sketch up of the garden as it is today except for the weather buffer room on the end of the GH..


This is a sketch up of the intended  modified garden. Eight beds will be reduced to three beds app. 16 1/2″ deep/tall.

Garden Mod

This part of the garden is some 30′ away from the above garden and will be treated the same way.

Garden 2

The beds in the center that form the figure E will be removed to form a figure C.

Garden 2 mod

The remaining beds will also be app. 16 1/2″ deep/tall. There are several photos of the current garden through out my journal and I will post a follow up with photos of the modified garden.

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Modular Raised Bed Prototype

It’s been my goal to tidy up the garden and eventually move to a raided bed system.   I’d independently slated a deck for demolition, and put two and two together.  The main problems which I’ve tackled are, forst, the pressure treated wood from the deck is not to be used without a little research and planning.  It contains ‘CCA’, which is Copper Chromate Arsenic.   The second aspect of this raised bed design was to come up with something that was flexible enough to let my garden continue to evolve.  By that, I mean the garden is forever changing, and I wanted a raised bed system that gives me options.

First, on that CCA issue, and whether I should even go ahead with the pressure treated lumber.  This link was probably the most cautionary.  She has some other good ‘horticultural myths’ sorts of information, here:

Some other sites mentioned that diffusion of the CCA goes mostly straight down, not lateral across the bed, and that most of the free CCA will come out in the first year.  Without getting into the details you can read at the site, I am going ahead with using the pressure treated lumber with the following precautions:

  • Wood stain on the inside, and/or heavy plastic.
  • No cabbage family, as they concentrate arsenic,
  • no root crops within 6″ or so from the edge,
  • No tilling after initial planting, till only in fall.

My research was not comprehensive, and I welcome comments and new information, but I did not find an overwhelming amount of ‘negative’ data on the topic, so I’m going ahead thinking it’s not completely safe, but manageable.  Certainly, I’m glad the timber I have is from a 20 year old porch that should be somewhat leached out.

Well, on to the second aspect of this, the design of the prototype.  Here’s a picture of the deck in dissassembly to show what I’m working with:

Above I’m just tearing up the old deck surface, and removing the nails.  Still have to fabricate the building blocks.

Below, I’ve built two pieces, the first two, in order to se how it works.

The base unit is 12′ 1″ long, and 4′ wide.  The top unit, sitting at the back there with the little pink flag,  is 4′ square.  In the corners, I nailed (ring nails using a framing nailer) a block 5 1/2″ long, which is the same height as the 2×6’s on the frame.  The trick is the corner blocks are secured 1 1/2″ lower than the frame, so they form little guides that sit into the frame below.

With this system, I can stack the 4′ squares on the base frame and increase the height of the frame as compost is added, or as I switch from one crop to the next.  For instance, I have onions in the lower 8′ x 4′ long section of the 12′ bed.  The upper section, contains lettuce, which is a bit of a waste, as I have a foot of soil below the lettuce.  But, that part of the frame would work very nicely for carrots or some other root crop.

With the base frame at 12′ 1″, I can stack 3 sets of the 4′ squares, one set might be two high, for a total of 18″.  If I put another 4′ section on, it goes to 24″ of height.  I reckon in the fall, if I want to pull a top frame off, and refresh a bed, I can do so and not have to dig down in alongside the frame.

I ‘secured’ the 12′ base frame with a couple bits of re-bar along the side, and at the lower end, I used some PT lumber to keep the soil in the frame.  Those I call ‘dirt skirts, and they also help hold the base frame level, (at least till the frost?).

My plan is to build more of the 4′ frames and have them at the ready as new crops go in, and to install more of the 12’ 1″ ‘base frames’.  I might put those base frames at various angles to the first one to make the garden interesting, and I might make some really long ones, perhaps 16′ 2″ or thereabouts.  The extra 1″ and 2″ is so I can have a little wiggle room to stack either 3 or 4 of the 4′ frames along the length of a longer ‘base frame’, and not have them fail to seat properly due to small inaccuracies in my framing, or the squaring of the base frames.

I hope the pictures post OK…..I’ll take a detailed construction picture next weekend.   Happy gardening all.

Categories: Square Foot Gardening, vegetables and fruits | Tags: , | 3 Comments

To all my visitors and Blogging friends

To keep spammers under control, only registered users can comment on the posts. All that is needed is a user name, password and email address. Unlike some unsavory web sites, I will not reveal any personal information.  Also all new users can auther/contribute posts but I will ban any user that abuses the journal.

Categories: Uncategorized | 3 Comments

A major life style change.

Well after $60,000.00 just for testing,(insurance paid all) I have PAD, AFIB,COPD (Google search for description) and an aneurism on my aorta . I want to continue gardening but the garden will need some major changes. The beds are not high enough and the pathways are not wide enough and at some point I will need hand rails. There is not much information on the wed and I will need you to use your imagination for suggestions.

Categories: Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Correction on the previous post

I posted about smoking meats inside with a range hood. It worked very well with propane and the small wood chip box but when I tried it with the off set fire box with sticks it overwhelmed the range hood. On one of the forums, someone posted this photo and it gave me 2nd, 3rd and 4th thoughts. My previous post was not a good idea and I hope that nobody tried to duplicate my setup. I think that is a very good demonstration of the value of the forums.

Categories: Smoking meats, Uncategorized | Tags: | 2 Comments

After laying on my back in the horsepiddle for a week, I’m back on the smoker.

After waiting for a break in the weather to try it out I decided to keep it in the shop year round. I installed a range hood directly above the smoker and vented it through the wall. This way I can smoke and not have to depend on the weather.

Country ribs were my first smoke. I made the mistake of either using TQ or to much TQ it was a surprise to have a mouth full of great tasting tender ham. I have to do more reading before the next go around. This photo is after one hour @ 260 deg.


This photo is after three hours @ 260 deg. At this point I mopped on the bbq sauce and bumped up the temp. to 300 deg for 30 minutes.


Categories: My Gardening Journals, Smoking meats | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Happy New Parsnips!

Parsnip harvest on January 1, 2010?   Prior to today, about half of the 10 foot row of parsnips had been removed, one at a time, as my wife used them in soups since this fall.  Here it is January 1, and I’m lucky the ground isn’t seriously frozen.   This morning here in State College PA, it’s frozen only about 1-1/2 to 2 inches deep at most.  This morning it was an unusually warm 40 degrees out, so what better way to start off 2011 than to go out and dig in the garden a bit?

These are the two best ones.  There were a number of larger parsnips but they weren’t as pretty.    I weighed the harvest from about  5- 6 feet of a row, we got exactly 22 pounds (10 kilo’s) of parsnips without greens, but with a wee bit of soil.  I put them in a bag in the bottom of the beer fridge.

Regarding their use, they have a good taste, I’d say they add a bit of a sweetness, and can be added to almost any kind of soup.

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Dolly Parton – Applejack

I decided to make some applejack and searched the Web for recipes. As it turns out anything you can mix can be called Applejack as long as it has apples in it (being facieses here). I am sure the pioneers did not have additives they call for today, I also do not think they would be extravagant with there sugar to raise the alcohol content. I believe the pioneers would simply let there hard cider freeze and remove some ice to increase the alcohol. If my logic is correct my differences are, I added enough sugar to the cider to get an SG reading of 1.09 which should yield about 12 1/2 % alcohol and I will not bother with the freezing.  John

Categories: Home Made Wine, My Gardening Journals | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Only 14 DEG F outside so……..

Merle Haggard & George Jones – Yesterday’s Wine

I decided to keep my butt inside and bottle some wine. This is the white Grape and Peach wine in the previous post. It has a pleasing aroma and taste very good but you can tell it needs to age awhile. The second photo is a close up of the label. This leaves me with one empty container and several empty bottles with a long winter to go. Hmmmmm what should I try next?

Categories: Home Made Wine, My Gardening Journals, Uncategorized | Tags: | 3 Comments

Wine update (short post)

The wine on the left is the Peach and White Grape and has been fermenting for 13 days. The wine has turned out crystal clear with no additives (you can see the bottles through the wine), 10% alcohol predicted. In the middle is the Pomegranate and Blueberry. It was started about 5 days ago and is percolating away, 12% alcohol predicted. My good friend Dan suggested making Apple Cider. I had been thinking about it and Dan got me off the pot. It was also started about 5 days ago and is percolating away, 12% alcohol predicted. At this point I don’t know if I will bottle it at the Hard Cider state or go one step further and make Apple Jack.

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My wine galleria


 It is made up of primarily Riesling and Merlot with a few odds and ends of previous adventures. I have always used wine kits and they have turned out great with the exception of the “Island Mist” kits. The wine is much too light for me and has a very low alcohol content. They are like a wine cooler without the CO2.

I have always used a six gallon carboy for making my wine but I am going to try some of the more exotic recipes and I don’t want to end up with six gallons of bad wine. The container on the left will be used for primary fermentation and the one on the right for secondary fermentation. These are one gallon food containers with a wide opening and the lids modified for using air-locks.

My first batch will be made from Welch’s white grape and peach frozen concentrate. The only additives will be water, sugar and Lalvin EC-1118 yeast.

I added sugar until the hydrometer read 1.06 SG which should produce app. 9% alcohol. A coffee filter fit over the top and I will let it there for app. Five days and then install the air lock.

Categories: Home Made Wine, My Gardening Journals | Tags: | 4 Comments

Winter garden update.

The radishes are doing well and starting to swell and I need to get the second planting started. The Habaneras are doing great with many small ones near the top of the plant.


PB150002-1024x1365The carrots look like they are doing well but I really can’t tell. The same with the Parsnips but I have to get in there and thin them out. The Lettuce is near ready to start eating and have to start the second planting also.The Tomatoes (bottom left in the photo) are a little slow but once they reach the upper part of the GH I thing they will do better.


Categories: Greenhouse Gardening, My Gardening Journals | Tags: , | 2 Comments

October wine making time

I am only a year late on this task but its on the way. Last fall I bought two wine kits one was Black Berry Merlot and Green Apple Riesling. I made the Merlot last fall and it turned out great like looking into a ruby and great taste but low in alcohol. I raised the alcohol to about 7 1/2% in the Riesling and it is in the primary fermentation stage. In about five days I will rack it into another carboy to finish fermenting for about another 10 days. I will add a clearing agent and after 3-4 days it will be ready for bottling. It should be like looking into a yellow diamond.  John

Categories: Home Made Wine, My Gardening Journals | Tags: | 2 Comments

Reputedly a sweet Habanero Pepper

My son a pepperhead acquired some pepper seeds from another pepperhead  and among the seeds there was a container marked Sweet Habanero Peppers. After hearing the background of the source of the seeds, there is reason to believe that is what they are. My son planted a few seeds in his garden and the photo below is of one of those plants transplanted into my GH last week end. I ate one of the green peppers and it was not as hot as some radishes. It will be interesting to see if they ever hit the market.  John



Closeup of some peppers.


Categories: Greenhouse Gardening, My Gardening Journals | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

Worlds largest compost operation (at one time)

The photo is from Google Earth and it is of the composting area of the Creek Side Mushroom Co. now defunct. The company was started by the Butler County Mushroom Farms in 1937 and provided 90% of the worlds mushrooms. You probably have seen them on the grocers shelves under the Moonlight Mushrooms brand. The mushroom growing area used 150 miles of abandoned limestone tunnels encompassing 800 acres beneath the surface with production capability of 60 million pounds annually. Creek Side Mushroom Co. downsized the operation and recently closed its doors.

What looks like two sets  of tire marks are the remains of the last four compost piles. They measure 330’ long and were 16’ wide and 16’ high. At the peak of business there were 8-10 rows of compost on that pad.

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2010/11 winter garden and 2011 summer garden

I am only a Month late but that was unavoidable. Every thing is planted except two tomatoes that I am waiting for the second set of leaves. There is a total of 18.7 sq ft under irrigation with an automatic fertilizer injector. The injector is set for a weak solution of 20-20-20 every time the system comes on which is one min every two days.

The container closest to the camera has Romaine lettuce planted. The second container has Iceberg lettuce Planted. And the third and fourth containers will be used for the second planting. Later the first and second container will be used for the third planting and so on until the end of season.


The first and second from the left are carrots, the third is celery and the fourth is parsnips. I have never grown these in the GH before so this is pretty much an experiment but I hope they do well.

PA080003-1024x768The container closest to the camera is red radishes.  The second container is white radishes. The third container is basil and the fourth is dill. The buckets on the floor are for the tomatoes.


I guess this is the start of my 2011 garden. In total there are 70 cloves of garlic planted. The ones in front of the telephone pole are soft neck and the ones behind the pole are stiff neck. I was a little concerned about the continuous open space on the outside row but the cloves are well rooted and the sprout is about to break through the surface.


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2010 sweet potatoes & winter squash harvest

The temps are supposed to be in the mid 30s this week end so its time to get the SP and SQ into the storage bins.

The squash are Burpee’s  hybrid Butter Bush. They have nearly if not the same flavor and texture as the Butternut squash. We prefer the Butter bush for its smaller size and it has been a constant producer. This years harvest is about 55 lbs.



The sweet potatoes are Vardaman and did well for the slips that survived. I bought a pack of 25 slips for about $13 and planted the best 20 slips. Of the 20 slips planted only 12 survived. This problem will be solved by next planting season. I have planted two small potatoes in pots and will take vine terminal cuttings this winter and determine which rooting techniques work best for me.


This the largest sweet potato harvested at 2#.

These came from one plant at 3.5#.



And this is the total harvest from 12 plants At app. 22#. I will let them cure here before  putting them in the bin.


Categories: My Gardening Journals, sweet potatoes, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Future Gardener

This is my great grand daughter Macey Monroe. I think she is hooked already. John

Categories: My Gardening Journals | Tags: , | 3 Comments

I am out of my league and need help

The area in my landscaping that needs the most attention is under two large maple trees. They are in competition for the moisture and create the dense shade. They both have surface roots, so I plan to raise  the bed 12”-16” with tapered sides. Now what do I plant there? The plants must survive zone 5b in dense shade, compete with roots from large trees and a direct SW winter wind. Any and all suggestions are appreciated.  John



Categories: My Gardening Journals, Uncategorized | Tags: | 6 Comments

First day of fall coming soon

September 22nd and it will be Fall. I want to get my garlic in before that and soon after clean all the warm weather crops off the garden. I won’t dig sweet potatoes or gather winter squash until first frost warning. The Yukon gold and Kennebec potatoes will be dug as needed until the soil begins to freeze deeply.

This was the fourth year in a row for a poor garden. The last three years we had spring weather all summer and last year I was able to grow lettuce all summer and the warm weather crops did poorly. This year it got too hot too fast and the cool weather crops did poorly. We usually have 2-3 days in the 90s and this year we had about 14 days in the 90s and many in the high 80s. Crops like peppers, eggplant, sweet potatoes and winter squash did well. The regular potatoes from what I have seen so far will be nothing to brag about.

The sweet potatoes look like they will produce well. These we will have for dinner tonight.


The winter squash did very well And I may have to shoot one of my wife’s pet deer to get us through winter.


The asparagus looks like it did fantastic for the first year’s growth for planted 2yr crowns.


This is how many asparagus sprouts I got from one crown. Can’t wait for next spring.

Categories: My Gardening Journals | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Help I am getting lethargic

Lately I have been neglecting my garden, my journal and the forums. Its not depression because I can set and look at the things I should/can be doing and be happy as a pig in sh|*. I may snap out of it or it may get worse who knows. Have any of you experienced this and if so what did you do or are you still as happy as that old pig.


Categories: My Gardening Journals | Tags: | 5 Comments

Torre Melanzana

This is from my son John.

I think I get more enjoyment out of my garden than most people.  This is because my wife makes things like this: torre melanzana (eggplant tower). 
Some people think eggplant is bitter, and it is, if you don’t know how to prepare it.  There are two ways to remove the bitter juices, depending what is being made.  This dish is sliced eggplant, egg battered and simmered in oil.  Alternate layers of eggplant and mozzarella (fresh or otherwise) are stacked then baked.  On top is fresh bruschetta made from fresh tomatoes,  red peppers pickled from last year, chopped garlic, olive oil, and fresh basil. 
Categories: My Gardening Journals | Tags: , | Leave a comment

A vacation in the hospital

What caused my trip to the hospital were heart arrhythmias. The symptoms can be a fluttering in your chest, a racing heartbeat, a slow heartbeat, chest pain, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, dizziness or fainting or near fainting and I have every damn one of them. Along with heart arrhythmias comes an increased chance of blood clots so the Doc put me on Coumadin (rat poison). As a result of that most of my other meds have to be changed and fine tuned which requires weekly blood tests, med adjustment and retesting. I feel like a porcupine turned inside out. I have to eat the same amount of vitamin K every day as it affects the Coumadin and could have very bad results. The table below shows various vegetable and the vitamin K they contain. Keeping track of my diet past and planning future diets for the amounts of vitamin K would be a hassle so I plan to avoid vegetables with high levels of vitamin K. As a result I will be giving many veggies away this year.


I have started planning next year’s garden as to what to plant where and the spacing and nutrient requirements.




Vitamin K





7 spears


Green beans

3/4 cup


Lima beans

1/2 cup



1/2 cup



1/2 cup


Brussels sprouts



White cabbage

2/3 cup



1/2 cup



1/2 cup



2 1/2 ribs


Swiss chard

1/2 cup cooked



2 cups chopped


Collard greens

1/2 cup



6 cups



2/3 cup kernels


Cucumber (remove peel)

1 cup slices



1 cup diced



2 cups



1/2 cup



1 cup chopped


Bibb lettuce

1 cup chopped


Red leaf lettuce

1 cup chopped


Iceberg lettuce

1/2 cup


Mustard greens

1 1/2 cups


Shiitake mushrooms

5 mushrooms


Button mushrooms

1 cup



1/2 cup


Green onion

2/3 cup


White or yellow onion

2/3 cup



1 1/2 cup



2 parsnips


Green pepper

1/2 pepper



1 medium



1 cup sliced



1/2 cup cooked


Yellow squash

1/2 cup slices


Acorn squash

1/2 cup


Sweet potato

1 cup


Tomato sauce (bottled)

1/2 cup






4 ounces


Turnip greens

1 1/2 cups



3 cups


Categories: Greenhouse Gardening, My Gardening Journals, Square Foot Gardening, Uncategorized | Tags: , | 12 Comments

I think this qualifies for intensive gardening.

On the far left are 24 Jersey Giant asparagus plants, left of center are 26 Yukon Gold potatoes, right of center are 26 Kennebec potatoes and far right are 12 Butter Bush winter squash.


These are 20 Nemagold Sweet potatoes.


Here are 12 Endive, 6 per row. Lettuce has been harvested from front and back.


Between the SPs and Endive and on the fence is a Gardeners Delight cherry tomato.


To the left of the Endive and against the fence is a Fourth of July tomato.


These are my peppers, in front are two rows of three Big Dippers, in the back row there is one Sweet Banana, one Picante and one Red Bell.


Here are 6 Black Beauty eggplants.


In the foreground are 5 Little Cloud cauliflowers. Lost one to a wind storm. In the background are 5 Green Goliath broccolis. Lost one of these in the same storm.


Garlic, onions, spinach and lettuce were harvested form the bed in the foreground and is now ready for fall planting. The bed in the background has one Zucchini plant on the right and two Brandy Boy tomatoes on the left. The two tomato plants are over four ft tall and only have 4-6 tomatoes on each. That rate had better pickup or this year will be the last for Brandy Boys.


Categories: Composting, My Gardening Journals, Potato, Square Foot Gardening, sweet potatoes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

I don’t think dogs are interested in gardening

Butch was on my work bench and decided to nap…… on my key board. I don’t think he was interested in gardening.



I didn’t touch the key board and there was no sound on the next screen but something woke him up


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Soil test is in and I think I will have a BM

After I seen the third year core sample of the raised bed, I just had to get a soil test to see what was going on. I have always known that garden worms were beneficial to the garden. But I did not know just how much work they did.

Unless you follow my Journal there are three Posts that you should read to get the background on the raised bed soil.

Penn State claims a 4-5 day turn around on soil samples. I sent the sample in on Tuesday and received an eMail copy today and a hard copy will be sent via snail mail. I requested the standard test($9) and % organic matter($5) and eMail data($1) for a sum of $15.

I was interested in the PH and Fertility of the soil but I was curious as how much organic material was present since the only thing deposited in the beds was organic but the soil did not seem as it was only humus. As it turns out at 25% organic material, I have just been feeding the worms and they have been building up the soil. John



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Another trick the worms do

 Often noticed but seldom seen are the little clusters of maple seeds. These are under some very large maple trees where the grass is very thin and they are easily noticed. After passing by I remembered seeing piles of worm casing under the same maple trees so I returned to investigate.


Here there are three or four seeds that the winged part of the seed is completely buried in worm casing.

I gently removed the seeds and uncovered two worm holes.

In this photo I had uncovered the third hole. The casing is better defined and there are maple seeds with the winged portion and skin that I assume were eaten off. Any thoughts as to how worms can harvest maple seeds without opposing thumbs? John

Categories: My Gardening Journals | Tags: , | 3 Comments

Three years of core samples

Four years ago I filled my new raised beds with composted lawn and garden debris rich with horse bedding. My gardening style with these beds has been no till and I top dress the beds each fall with composted horse bedding. As the red worms bring bottom soil and casings in to the beds I have to top dress less and less. The next three photos are of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd year core samples in that order. In the first photo you can see what looks like soil and/or worm casing on the bottom and many recognizable wood chips and pine needles on the top. The core sample in the second photo fell apart when trying to remove it from the mold. It may have been drier or smaller particle size that caused it to fall apart. There was a good bit more material that looked like soil/casing and just a few recognizable wood chips and no pine needles. The core sample in the third photo looked homogeneous from top to bottom with no recognizable material. It fell apart easier than the second core sample and I am more convinced it has to do with particle size and moisture. When this sample dries out (to save on postage) I will send it to Penn State University for analysis. One of there tests is percentage organic material. Since the only thing I have put in the beds was organic, I think I can assume that anything that is not organic is either soil or worm casing. John


Categories: Core sample, My Gardening Journals | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Couldn’t help myself, one more potato tower

Last year I built three towers to satisfy my own curiosity about growing potatoes in a tower. The one tower was a complete disaster because of a transparent tower that caused leaf development 10” from the surface. The other two did very well with potatoes developing over a 16” length of underground stem. These were short towers as I was not looking for a lot of potatoes but I did want to see the anatomy of a potato plant and just where the potatoes grew from.

While researching potato towers I found many people claiming success and a few that said that it was not possible. At the same time almost everybody claimed that early potatoes did not do well in towers. Well the Yukon Gold is our early potato, and the Kennebec is our mid-season potato, so I went with the Kennebec for my test.

After I harvested the broccoli and cabbage it opened up a pathway to a volunteer Yukon Gold potato plant and I decided it was time for it to go. That crazy plant had lifted that bed about three ins.


Later when I was cleaning up the debris I noticed that there were potatoes growing on that part of the stem that was above ground. If you look close at the lower most potatoes you can see leaves growing behind them and they are below the potatoes above.


Now when someone talks about potato towers this photo pops in to my mind and I wonder why Yukon Gold potatoes do not do well in a tower. I figure the only way to get that photo out of my mind is to have another experiment so here goes another tower.

There is a Yukon Gold with four chitted buds planted at least 8” deep in the base as you see it.


The tower was then filled with amended potting soil which puts the seed spud about 15” below the surface. I will fill the tower as the weather compresses it keeping the soaker hose about 2-3” and the seed spud about 16”+ below the surface. Wish me luck, John

Categories: Potato, Potato Tower | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

An easy way to plant tomatoes

This is my grand daughter Jessie, she planted a 4th of July tomato and is just finished planting a Gardeners Delight cherry tomato. I suspect that these will get a little extra care this summer. John

Categories: My Gardening Journals, Uncategorized | Tags: , | 5 Comments

Zone 5 and I have to get pro active

Its going down to 34 tonight and 33 tomorrow night but it looks safe after that. The potatoes have been planted, the spinach is up and looking good, onions, asparagus and garlic are also looking good. Come Monday I will plant lettuce, endive and more spinach and onions. On Tuesday I will plant four tomato plants and keep the hot caps handy. Toward the end of the Month, I will plant the peppers and eggplant. Still to come are broccoli, cauliflower, summer squash, winter squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, rutabaga, beets and several herbs. After the garden is planted I will re mulch the path ways, plant posies and re mulch the posy beds. In the mean time the grass is growing like a wild fire and there is about two years worth of fire wood piled in front of my compost bins. 

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New growth after a hard prune

 I have learned that a hard prune does indeed encourage new growth. But if I would let all of this new growth develop into vertical branches, I would have a big pruning job next spring. I did notice that at this stage of growth they break off very easily.

The only tools I needed were a step ladder and a pair of leather gloves. I gave all the main limbs a gentle rub down which removed all the new vertical growth. It required very little time and I plan to do this about once a month through out the growing season.

The new growth near the terminal end of the main limbs will remain and hopefully develop into fruit bearing branches. I or the deer will only get a few apples this year though. John

Categories: apple trees | Tags: , | 4 Comments

Never kill a black snake

This was sent to me by a friend. I don’t know if he originated it or just passing it on but I thought it was worth posting here. John

All my life I’ve been told not to kill black snakes because they kill poisonous snakes, But this is the first time I’ve actually seen proof….! The guy who snapped these photos said the rattler was still rattling all the way down!!!


Categories: My Gardening Journals | Tags: | 4 Comments

Boy did I screw up

I had fantastic results sprouting seeds this year. I used soil blocks and planted two seeds in each. Every seed sprouted, yep 100% germination. That’s the good news.

Once again too many irons in the fire. As a result I did not have time to make my own potting soil. I went to Wally World and bought four cubic feet of their cheapest potting soil. It was less than half the price of MG. The plants look healthy but have not grown ¼” since pot-up and that has been about three weeks. I know that eggplant like a slow steady growth and not to be shocked. At this point I don’t know weather to trash them and buy my eggplant or go ahead and plant them out.     John

Categories: My Gardening Journals | Tags: , | 4 Comments

Here today gone tomorrow

My wife nor I can get these suckers to grow vertically. I swear they can throw there thorns, quills, needles, 2 ft or more. I always where thick leather gloves but they still manage to get into my fingers. The blooms are beautiful but last only two days. I think they would make good compost but the wife keeps shaking her head no. John

Categories: My Gardening Journals | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Just in time for Easter

 A few of the early spring blooms, few commentaries mostly photos.

This time of the year, these guys show up again. I have fired them several times but they keep coming back. I think this guy is drunk all the time.

And this guy stands around with his pruners but you never see anything pruned???

And this guy is always craping. Maybe that is why every thing is so green.

What kind of caracter would be cutting Christmas trees now? Maybe he is planning on Christmas in July?



This one is always looking fore something to cut down.


Now this one, I have seen him move between his food bowl and bed but I am not sure what velue he has for the garden.   John









Categories: My Gardening Journals | Tags: , | 2 Comments

What a delightful surprise seeing this young lady

The photo was taken through three panes of glass on a rainy day and about 70 ft away. She is cleaning up the corn that the deer missed. Pheasants used to be very common in my area but for the last 30 yrs they are almost nonexistent. John

Categories: My Gardening Journals | Tags: | Leave a comment

100% germination of the peppers in 14 Days

The seeds were planted on March 15 and today the last Red Bell poked through the surface. From left to right there are; 6 Picante, 3 Sweet Banana, 3 Poblano, 12 Red bell and 12 Big Dipper. The first to sprout were the Poblano about 8 days ago. The humidity domes were not removed for ventilation and there is no sign of damp off or fungi of any kind. The containers in the back are Eggplants and Tomatoes. The Romas began sprouting about 4 days ago.          John



Categories: My Gardening Journals, soil blocks | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

I have been taking to much credit for my garden

As it turns out I have had a lot of help through the years, like 24/7/365. The photo is of an area under huge maple trees and the grass is very sparse because the trees are taking all the water and sun from the grass. I chose this area because the worm casing showed up in the photo very nicely. The photo is about 5-6 sqft but representative of the hole yard and garden. From late summer into winter, there is no sign of worms. They are somewhere between here and China. But as soon as the snow pack melts the casings are everywhere they must move up to just under the freeze line or snow and are active all winter. John

Categories: My Gardening Journals | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Down but not out!

The last two weeks, we had some beautiful weather and I was able to get my trees all pruned and sprayed. It was the first time I had to use pruners, loppers, compound loppers, bow saw and a chain saw to do the job and I hope I never have to do a hard prune again. I also planted peppers, tomatoes and eggplant seed. During this time I had infected sinuousness which infected my lungs and turned to viral pneumonia. The same thing happened last Fall and it required six weeks to get back to normal. I hope that is not the case now as I have emails and Skype calls to catch up on as well as some posting and gardening of coarse. John

Categories: apple trees, soil blocks | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

Oh boy what a job

 Today I finished the hard prune on my apple trees. I try to learn something new every day. What I learned on this job was, it’s a job for a much younger man than me although it will never be required again in my life time. Tomorrow I will spray the trees with oil spray and again in a couple of weeks. I will spray them again with a GP spray before pink tip. After that I will prepare the new Orchard Bee nests and when the blossoms start to open, I will remove them from the fridge and turn them loose. I will suspend any spraying until the orchard/honey bees have disappeared. john

Categories: apple trees | Tags: | 1 Comment

My 2010 gardening year has started

Today is the last rain day of a series so I was able to plant the peppers. For the soil mix I have several containers of various materials sitting around that I would like to get rid of. My first batch will be; 2 parts(plastic shoe box) composted horse bedding, 1 part(plastic shoe box) coco coir, 1 part(plastic shoe box) medium vermiculite. To this I will add ¼ cup Osmocote and 2 tbs Epson Salts. Just prior to making my soil blocks I will saturate the concoctions with Ferti-Lome 5-59-8. When I use up the coco coir and vermiculite, I will be using just composted horse bedding with the Osmocote, Epson salts and Ferti-Lome. The soil blocks were easily picked up and moved around. In the container on the left are 12 Red Bell peppers, in the container in the center are 12 Big Dipper peppers and the first 6 soil blocks in the right container are Picante peppers the next 3 are Sweet Banana peppers and the next 3 are Poblano peppers. The air temperature in the chamber is about 60 deg and the sand bed is 75 deg the temperature in the domes will be somewhere in between the two. The lights are on 24/7 until the chamber is shut down. Tomorrow is supposed to be warmer with lots of sunshine so I will be back on the apple trees. The next rain day I will be planting the tomatoes and eggplant. John

Categories: My Gardening Journals, soil blocks | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Spring is springing in SW PA

 The crocus are blooming, and its amazing how a little bit of color goes a long way to making you feel better.

The daffodils are up and will be blooming soon if the warm spell holds up.

The hyacinths are just poking there nose through the soil.

The tulips are up also and it won’t be long now. John

Categories: My Gardening Journals | Tags: | 3 Comments

A good day today


I got the second tree pruned when it started to rain and we are supposed to get nearly 2”. I put my tools away and ducked into the greenhouse. You can see three larger limbs leaning against the fence in the background. They along with others will be used for the smoker next year.



While in the greenhouse, I planted some small sweet potatoes from last years harvest. I have never tried this but I hope it works. If I get more than one sprout per spud, I will cut the spud and repot them individually. I am hoping this works because I am sick and tired of the quality of slips you get through the mail or L&G centers. John





Categories: apple trees | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Today I started a hard prune on the apple trees

The temperature to-day was in the high 50s with lots of sunshine. A beautiful day to be outside pruning apple trees. The trees have been producing fewer and fewer apples the last several years and I have learned that a hard prune may bring back the production. Well I did what I think is a hard prune and the wife and neighbors probably think I killed the tree. It has been said that you should be able to throw a cat through the tree without hitting any branches. Well I could throw several cats through the tree. It is also said not to expect many apples the first year after a hard prune (no kidding). The next two photos are before and after the prune. We will see what happens next. John


Categories: apple trees | Tags: | 3 Comments

Cleaning out the Green House

I have to make room for my spring plants so this will be the last harvest of lettuce, endive and onions. It is well worth the effort but this winter it was difficult because of all the snow and ice.


There are four pepper plants, two sweet banana and two red bell. They will be transferred into the garden. I am not sure if they will be transplanted or left in the containers.


There were two early girl tomatoes but there is only one now. The one with the most/nicest tomatoes will be moved to the garden in its container. It is about four ft tall and lots of nice tomatoes, I will need help in moving it.  I have harvested 20-30 tomatoes since the 1st of January. They were not as good as garden tomatoes but a lot better than store bought. John



Categories: Greenhouse Gardening | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Wine Labels

 I normally would not get this fancy but the weather is still to bad to work outside. I used 81/2”X11”photo paper and printed four labels on each page. The labels were separated with a razor blade and sprayed on the back with Elmer’s Spray Adhesive. PVC Heat Shrink Capsules will finish the top of the bottle. I will be bottling the wine during the first week in March. John


Categories: Home Made Wine | Tags: | 3 Comments

All this for a salad

 All this for a salad it but it was worth the effort.

After I got inside the GH this is what I harvested. It will be served with stuffed eggplant from this summers garden.

While I was there I looked around to see how everything was doing. The peppers are doing fine but it will probably be time to plant them outside before I get any.

The tomatoes are doing great and there are two plants with many green toms.

I should have a steady supply. Sure beats store bought. John


Categories: Greenhouse Gardening | Tags: , | 4 Comments

Another one of those storms

Thursday I was planning on pruning my apple trees soon.

Later that day, the National Weather Service was predicting a winter storm from Friday noon till Saturday noon with an culmination of 6”+. Later they changed it to 8”+ and later yet they changed it to 8”-12”. At that point I went to bed and this is what I woke up to.


Fortunately Number 3 son showed up to do some snow plowing. I panicked when I seen the GH roof the center looked like it caved in but it was fine and all the plants inside were as snug as a bug in a GH.


Well everything is cleared and we can get out easily but there is nowhere to go. Oh well I think I will wash wine bottles tomorrow. As usual all comments are welcome. John

Categories: My Gardening Journals | Tags: , , | 7 Comments

Making wine from a kit

1/29/2010 Finally getting around to making my wine. This is my cave in the basement where I do my Neanderthal think. I use two carboys one for primary fermentation and one for secondary fermentation. The blue band around the first carboy is a carboy heat tape and helps to maintain the wine at 75 deg f for ideal fermenting.


Mt first batch will be Black Raspberry Merlot and when it is bottled, I will be making Green Apple Riesling. I should end up with nearly 60 750 ml bottles of premium wine for app. $2 per bottle.


Each kit contains all the items to produce six gal of wine.


01/30/2010 Here the primary fermentation is on the way and after the fermentation starts to slow I will bring the fluid level up to the bottom of the carboy neck. After five to seven days, I will rack the wine into the second carboy, leaving most of the sediment behind, to complete the fermentation.


This is an air lock that sits on top of the carboy. It lets the CO2 escape and blocks any air from getting inside the carboy. I will update this post after each step in the process including the bottling. As usual all comments are welcome. John


02/04/2010 The primary fermentation is complete and I have racked the wine into the second carboy. The second carboy has been placed back up on the bench with the air lock and heat tape installed. It will continue fermenting for another ten days before the stabilizing and fining. As usual all comments are welcome. John
Categories: Home Made Wine | Tags: | 7 Comments

Today I started making my seed starting/potting soil

Today I started making my seed starting/potting soil. I have several containers of various materials sitting around that I would like to get rid of. My first batch will be; 2 parts(plastic shoe box) composted horse bedding, 1 part(plastic shoe box) coco coir, 1 part(plastic shoe box) medium vermiculite. To this I will add ¼ cup Osmocote and 2 tbs Epson Salts. Just prior to making my soil blocks I will saturate the concoctions with Ferti-Lome 5-59-8. When I use up the coco coir and vermiculite, I will be using just composted horse bedding with the Osmocote, Epson salts and Ferti-Lome. John

Categories: Composting, soil blocks | Tags: , | 3 Comments

A big advantage of using Soil Blocks with Humidity Domes

I was loading the wood bin in the shop today and I noticed the humidity dome with soil blocks in it that I had used for a thread about cheap humidity domes on Nov 23, 2009. What caught my attention was all the condensation inside the dome.


Upon inspection the soil blocks were as moist as they were when I made them. That is 54 days without adding any water and I think I could plant seeds in them today and they would go on to sprouting there second set of leaves. I also noticed there was no green scum or noticeable fungi of any kind growing on the soil blocks and the soil was not pasteurized. John





Categories: soil blocks | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Next year’s firewood.

This is at my son’s house and he had several huge trees that were dying and had large limbs that were dangerously dropping to the ground. The tree in the first two photos was leaning toward some telephone and power lines and had to have guide lines and come a long’s attached to straighten it up. The video is of the tree coming down.



This photo is of the tree that was just fallen. The cut sections are about 16”-18” long and there is probably close to a full cord of wood in this one tree.


There are three other trees in the pile in the background of the previous photo that are almost as big as the first tree. The next two photos will give you some idea of the volume of firewood that has to be cut and split. John



Categories: My Gardening Journals | Tags: | 1 Comment

How I heat my GH

This morning the temps were 28F and I noticed the snow on the roof. I thought I had better check the heater to make sure it was working. The GH is a Rion model GH44 and is 8 ½’ X 8 ½’. The glassing is double thickness polycarb panels which sit in groves in the frame like glass in a wood sash. The glassing is also weather stripped with neoprene.

The heater is a 10K BTU Glo-Warm non vented heater. There is a control knob on top that is variable from pilot to high(10K) with four positions. I set it on position one unless the temps are going down to zero or less, then I will set it on position two. The burner is about six ins long and about one ins wide.


As soon as I entered the GH, I knew everything was ok. The temps were at 54F and the RH at 64%.


The Polycarb panels, PVC frame and Neoprene weather striping are doing there job. The tomatoes are growing up against the roof with no ill effects.   John


Categories: Greenhouse Gardening | Tags: | 3 Comments

Winter gardening activities

All the raised beds have been top dressed with composted HM and dusted with lime except the potato beds and they were dusted with garden sulfur. As soon as it warms up a mite, I will dust them with some 5-10-10. The porcelain German garlic is finally poking its nose through the surface and was rudely greeted by a dusting of snow.
 We have had some pretty hard freezes but the outside endive and lettuce are doing great.

All the GH veggies are growing in 100% composted HM. Inside the GH the tomatoes are coming along fine. I have a small fan running for germination and it looks like its doing the job.


The inside lettuce and endive will be ready soon but the outside stuff is too good to pass up.


The onions are ready and as one is picked a set will be put in its place.


I think the peppers would like more sun and heat than they have been getting.


Categories: Greenhouse Gardening | Tags: , | 5 Comments

Preserving food on the farm as told by my farther


Lorna’s post on “Wood stove cooking” got me daydreaming about life on the farm. And I thought that what my father told me about food preservation might be of interest to some of you. It is not about the specifics of preservation but it is about what was preserved for a family of 12 including grandparents and 14 on Sundays (the preacher and his wife ate dinner every Sunday with my grandparents).

My grandfather had a building the size of a one car garage. It was divided into two equal size rooms. One room had a potbelly stove in the center and deep shelves on the outside walls. The shelves were hinged to the walls and supported with chains. They were used for drying fruits and vegetables. When the harvest was complete and the weather cooled, it was time for butchering. My grandfather would take the flue off of the stove and fold the shelves against the walls. First came the hogs, my grandmother would cold pack some of the meat and store it in the pantry. The rest of the hog would be smoked. The bacon, hams and link sausages were hung on hooks in the ceiling. Some of the sausages were made into patties and partially cooked. Then a layer was put in a five gallon crock and covered with lard then another layer of sausages and lard until the crock was filled. These sausages were stored in the springhouse. Then came the beef and some was cold packed and some was dried.

On the onset of winter the other room would be filled with hams, bacon, sausages, dried beef and feed sacks filled with dried apples, peaches, pears and plumbs and I can not remember what vegetables were dried, all hanging from the ceiling . There would be several “hogs head barrels” (60 gallon wooden barrel) along the outside walls. One would be filled with pickles another with sauer kraut and one with apple cider vinegar. I can not remember what if anything else that was stored there. But I can remember that building still being used when I was a kid and the aroma when you entered it.

The pantry was off the kitchen and almost the size of the outside building. It was lined on three walls with shelves from floor to ceiling. The shelves would be filled with cold packed meats, canned vegetables, canned fruits and sacks of wheat flower, buckwheat flower, sugar and salt. I don’t know what herbs and spiced they used.

There was a spring fed stone trough directly below the kitchen which fed a hand pump at the kitchen sink. Butter and milk was stored in that trough. The spring in the house also fed a stone trough outside in a stone springhouse which was primarily used for a root cellar. The springhouse was about 8’ X 12’ and the only part above ground was the roof. You could stand up without hitting your head. Both sides were filled with all sorts of root crops some winter apples and some winter pears and onions. The trough held the five gallon crock of sausages and lard and another five gallon crock of just lard.

That sounds like an awfully lot of food but I know what teenage boys can eat and I know how I ate when I was helping my other grandfather farm. The farm raised food was always supplemented with squirrel, rabbit, groundhog, turkey and deer. John

Categories: Life on the farm | Tags: , | 9 Comments

2009 winter garden update 11/24

47 days after planting, almost everything is looking good. The tomato blossoms look healthy and not dropping off. No green tomatoes yet though. The onions lettuce and endive look good also. The spinach is a little leggy, I think it would like it a little cooler. The peppers are slow and I think they would like it a little warmer. I am still hoping for something editable by Christmas. John



Categories: Greenhouse Gardening | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Humidity dome for soil blocks

I have always used the standard seed flats when starting seeds. Last year when I started using soil blocks it became evident that I needed to use the humidity domes. With the use of the domes, most veggie seeds germinate before I need to add water. My current flats and domes are pretty shabby and need replaced. At $7+ per flat/w dome I decided to look for alternatives. I found food containers at the dollar store that are 12” x 8” x 6” high and cost $1 per two containers. An even dozen of 2” blocks fit very nicely. John
Categories: soil blocks | Tags: | 2 Comments

My next chore completed

After taking 12 truck loads of shredded leaves to city hall, this is what I have to look at untill spring.:-(   Now I have to truck in 5 yds of composted HM to be ready for spring.8-)   John


Categories: Composting | Tags: | Leave a comment

True confessions or Inquiring minds want to know

There are times you have to do things that are not what you want to be doing. Those times are when your body is giving out. You know like the mind is the first thing to go and then there is the sex thing. Well I want you to know I can well remember the sex thing. There is a recent post about composting leaves that I responded to and thought I should explain myself. To extend my gardening years there are things that I must change that will not have a negative impact on my garden. Two years ago I converted my conventional row garden to a raised bed/no till garden. The results are fantastic, no bouncing around behind a tiller and virtually no weeds to pull. This year I am giving up composting (gasp). All lawn and garden debris and leaves are going to a commercial compost facility via city hall. To give you some idea of the volume of just the leaves, I have taken six pickup loads of shredded leaves to city hall and an estimated four to five more loads to go. It is not the collection of all the material that is the problem, it’s the number of times you have to handle them before they are ready for the garden. I have a source of composted horse bedding in any state of decomposition that I want. I have used it heavily for the past two years with great results and plan to use it exclusively from now on. John
Categories: Uncategorized | 3 Comments

2009 Winter garden update

The photo in the previous post about the 2009 garden was taken on Oct 8th.   The plants on the top left shelf toward the end are tomato and pepper plants. They are hard to make out but they are about 4 weeks old. Every thing else was seeded just before I snapped the photo not counting the fern or poinsettias.

This photo was taken 29 days later. Every thing is growing in compost rich in HM.


 The tomatoes are in blossom and I will have to get the Qtips out. The toms are Early Girls and I hope to have fresh ones by Christmas.   John


Categories: Greenhouse Gardening, Uncategorized | Tags: | 6 Comments

A year of promise and disappointment revisited for 2009 and a Rant.

I had a page on my Journal for the 2009 harvest. This spring I thought it was going to be a great year for the garden. As it turns out it is a 50/50 combined effort between Mother Nature and us. I think I did my part but MN let me down. We had a beautiful spring but the weather never changed, it was the coldest/wettest summer that I can remember in 52yrs of gardening. A year like this makes me think about the settlers and early pioneers and how they were at the mercy of MN. We can always run to the store and pickup this or that but they could not.

Now comes the rant. Thank heavens the promoters like AG of “Global Warming” are still alive to get some feedback about there ridicules claims. Can you imagine all the instrumentation around the world and the work force to collect the data and get an average to make such claims? Maybe it would be possible today but how about 20-50 years ago let alone 200-500 years ago. Now I fell better getting that off my chest and maybe I can start planning next year’s garden. John

Categories: My Gardening Journals | 3 Comments

Well this is my next chore.

The red arrow points to the roof peak of a 2-story house. The house sits in the middle of the trees so it does not appear smaller than it is. The canapé is roughly 80’ high, 160’ wide and 60’ deep. I have decided to hire someone to collect and dispose of the leaves and curtail my composting activities. The city will accept all yard and garden debris except grass and that is what I plan to do. My compost requirements will be supplied by a local horse boarding stables where I can get all the composted HM in all stages of decomposition that I need an no cost and they load the trailer. It’s hell when you have to govern you activities because of age.     John


Categories: Composting | Tags: | Leave a comment

Be careful what you say or do.

Be careful what you say or do. My great granddaughter Macey is keeping an eye on you guy/gals while I am off line.    John


Categories: Uncategorized | 5 Comments

The winter garden is on its way

It is not a RB or a SFG, it is a RCCAWG (raised container, controlled atmosphere winter garden). The surface area of the containers is almost exactly 16 sq ft. The four containers on the left will be onions and spinach. The four in the center will be peppers, Big Dipper, Sweet Banana, Red Bell and ???. The four on the right will be Red Top and Bibb lettuce and Endive. The two 5 gal buckets will be Early Girl tomatoes. I have grown every thing except the tomatoes and peppers in the GH before with very good results. I think the peppers will do well with smaller fruits though, the tomatoes will depend on the number of sun hours. I should at least get an early spring crop of tomatoes.        John


Categories: Greenhouse Gardening | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

Second year RB/SFG core sample

This year’s core sample was taken adjacent to last year’s sample. There was only about an inch of recognizable compost on top and it spilled out onto the floor when I tilted the tube to remove the sample. When I removed the sample, it just fell apart. The bed is about 88% full of what looks like plain old garden soil thanks to the many worms. At the end of next growing season I expect the beds to be nearly 100% filled with soil/worm casing. Then it will be interesting how the moisture retention will be and how the plants perform.


A close-up photo of the core sample.


This is a photo of semi-finished compost that the beds were top dressed with this spring. As usual all comments are welcome.    John


Categories: Composting, Core sample | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Sweet Potato harvest for 2009

This is my sweet potato harvest for 2009. A total of 21lb 9oz or about one lb per square. I planted 20 squares with one slip per square (SFG style). At $0.52 per slip, I am not sure they are worth the space. They are Georgia Jets and I would be interested in what others have harvested this year, particularly in the northern climates. As usual, all comments are welcome. John


Categories: sweet potatoes | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

The last potato tower for 2009

I should give a recap on the tower. The base of the tower is 8” deep. Two Kennebec seed potatoes were planted 6” deep, then two tiers added and filled with compost. The seed potatoes ended up about 16”+ deep. This was not an incremental filling of the tower. The tower was filled within 15min of planting. After about 2-3 weeks the one sprout broke through the surface and the other never showed up. When harvested there were no signs of it ever trying so it turned out to be a dud spud.


This is the first spud harvested. The stolen is coming from an area very close to the surface. I do not know if it was above or below ground but not any where near the seed potato or root zone of the main plant. The stolen is bent around so as to get a continuous view from potato to stem.


Here you can see three stolen near the top of an underground stem. On the end of that stem is a portion of the seed potato that is about 16” away from the upper most stolen.


The next three photos are a closer photo of each stolen so you can trace it from potato to stem.




The total weight of the potatoes were 4lb 14oz.



The largest was 1lb 3oz.


As Usual, all comments are welcome.   John

Categories: Potato Tower | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

One comparison between RB/SFG and conventional gardening

Last years squash bed was planted in hills. When looking down from above, it would look like double fives on a pair of dice. After the plants emerged the bed was heavily mulched with leaf mold and compost. The harvest was typical of my squash beds at 39-41 squash (depending how many times I count them).


This is the same area converted to raised beds filled with 100% compost. This is the first year for the raised beds in this area. Last years squash bed was 90” wide and this years RB for squash is 40” wide, less that 45% of last years bed. The number of squash in the RB 29 a substantial increase per sq/ft production. As usual all comments are welcome. John



Categories: My Gardening Journals, Square Foot Gardening | Tags: , , | 6 Comments

My follies with trellising squash

I have been planting Burpee’s hybrid zucchini and butterbush squash for years. This year I decided to trellis the squash to conserve space. The zucchini was easy to tie up to the trellis when the vine was small but as the vine grew wider and stiffer it became more difficult. We had a relatively mild summer storm and this photo is of the top of one vine that had broken off of one of the plants. What broke off was about 1 ½” of the tip of the vine with about 2-3 small leaves and blossoms. I had hoped the plant would start a new branch but it eventually died.

Both zucchini plants had a problem with the leaves in back buckling and falling forward over the tip of the vine and damaging the new blossoms. I had to be vigilant at removing them from that area.


The clincher is, the plants were growing approximately the same place as last years non trellised squash. Last year the squash grew across the pathway and up against the next bed. This year the trellised squash leaves grew with in 3-4” of the adjoining bed, so I only saved 3-4” of space.


The Butterbush squash were planted about 10” in front of the trellis and a dowel rod placed from the plant base to the trellis. It was easy to tie the vines to the dowels.


It became obvious that the vines did not want to grow north although there was plenty of sun. In this photo you can see about four times the growth toward the south as there is to the north. I decided to let them go where they wanted and sacrificed the onions planted to the south of them.


The vines are dieing back and the squash are ripening. There will be about 25 squash, enough for my wife and me but not very many to give away. This is the same area that the squash grew in last year in a conventional hill planting and I will be doing a comparison post about last years yield to this years SFG style of gardening. As usual, all comments are welcome. John


Categories: Square Foot Gardening | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Storage for potatoes, sweet potatoes, apples, winter squash and such.

I have been increasingly dissatisfied with the storage of root crops in the fruit cellar. It is just a little to dry and warm for storage.  I end up storing stuff under the benches that I no longer use. Well I pitched it all and built a 22” X 22” X 8’ storage bin for roots and tubers in the GH. The side facing the camera is insulated with 1 ½’ of polystyrene and the two ends and backside are outside walls. The backside and right end are under ground.


 Here you can see the insulated front side and a wooden slat floor for air circulation. The lids are hinged at the back and the middle so they fold under the shelves of the GH.



Categories: Greenhouse Gardening, My Gardening Journals, Potato | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

Who sez potato rhizoms don’t grow on the stem?

Because of the Late Blight hitting my tomatoes this year, I terminated the potato plants in an effort to save whatever crop I had. The Yukon Gold potatoes look great and the Kennebec potatoes are smaller but the perfect size for DW and me. I could have left them grow but I did not want to take the chance. Since I did terminate the plants, I decided to harvest the first potato tower. I covered the building of and the growth of the tower in an earlier post. Now it is time to see what I got.


The tower is 20 ½” tall. I tied garden twine around the main sprouts and attached a bungee cord to keep the plant in position as I remove the compost from around the spuds and rhizomes.


This is the first spud I came to. It is about 16” above the seed potato I had planted. The rhizome and potato were growing horizontally not upward like many people say.


The second spud was located about 13 1/2 “from the seed potato.


Here I started to remove the next level.


There seams to be rhizomes with marble size potatoes everywhere.


This is the potato plant as removed from the soil. It is about 20” from the tip of the green to the seed potato. There were three nice potatoes below the seed potato. I hope this answers some questions as where potatoes grow on a plant.


The weight of the potatoes on this plant is meaningless but it was 3 lb 3 oz. As usual, all comments are welcome.


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Coco Coir, gardening consumer hype???????

I have read so much information on Coco Coir I thought I would try it. It is not available locally and the cheapest I could find it on the net was eBay. A10# block cost $12 plus $10 shipping. It was a little pricey but I figured part of the cost would go to education. I have not used any yet but my parliamentary thoughts now are a good bit of that $22 will go toward education. This photo is the 10# block in the recommended 4 gallon of water in a storage tote.


After 12 hrs of scratching the wet surface with a hand cultivator I had the 6” x 12” x 12” block broken into eqq size chunks. Some smaller and some larger.


The chunks sat in the water over night and the next morning with less than ¼” of water penetration in to the surface. After an additional hour, I had the chunks rubbed through ½”hardware cloth.


I ended up with less than two cubic feet of nice looking sphagnum moss substitute after $22 and 21 hours of time invested. I will not be buying any additional Coco Coir in the future. As usual, all comments are welcome.   John


Categories: My Gardening Journals | Tags: , , | 9 Comments

The anxiety of gardening.

After the devastation of my tomatoes by the Late Blight, I was more than a little anxious about the condition of my potatoes. The Yukon Gold potatoes had been dying back but I thought it was the normal time for them to be doing so. Two 2’ X 8’ beds back to back in the foreground are YGs and had been cleaned off. The two beds behind them are Kennebec potatoes and look great, I do not think they are affected (yet). Both types of spuds exceeded 40” in plant growth and as you can see, my pathways should have been about 6’ instead of 18” wide.


This photo is of the bed on the left. I lifted the spuds for the first 14” only on Aug 07th

P1010005 copy 

These two spuds were harvested on July 20th from the same 14” area and weigh 1lb 7oz


These spuds are the same ones in the first photo and weigh 6lb 2oz. The total weight for 2.33 squares is 7lb 9oz or 3lb 6oz per square. If these two squares are representative of all the squares in the potato beds that will be 204lb of potatoes. Do any of you have tomatoes that you want to trade for potatoes? Hummm….. I wonder how a slice of potato would taste on a hamburger.



Categories: Potato | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

A remarkable potato.

After the garden had been planted, I had a volunteer potato sprout. I soon pulled it out, after a few days, another sprout appeared, and I removed it. Eventually two more sprouts appeared from under the frame of the RB/SFG. I thought if that potato wants to grow that much I will let it go and see what happens. Well I needed to access the backside of the pepper and eggplant beds to harvest and the potato plant had to go.


I found a pile of potatoes on top of the path and a couple under the edge of the bed. That crazy potato had raised the bed from 3” to 4”. There is about 2” to 3” of wood chip mulch on the path.


That one potato plant produced 31/2 lb of potatoes not counting the many small ones. The scale looks like crap but weighs very accurately. The basket weighs exactly one lb. Make sure to read the rest of the post after this next photo as this potato also raised some interesting questions.


The next series of photos are of a portion of the stalk that I cut off that shows various views of potatoes that were growing totally off the ground and potato stolons above leaf branches. In addition, these are Yukon Gold potatoes that are not supposed to do well in a tower, now I am wondering why. Maybe another experiment is coming next spring. As usual, all comments are welcome.   John






Categories: My Gardening Journals, Potato, Potato Tower, Square Foot Gardening | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

There’s trouble in River City

Late blight on tomatoes and maybe on potatoes. Well until last week, I did not know what I had. I knew that I was having some sort of problem with the tomatoes what I did not know was that it could also affect the potatoes. What a bummer. It is the same blight that struck Ireland in the 1840s

 This is what the tomatoes looked like the middle of July.


This is what they looked like a few days later I knew it was not blossom end rot.


It was clear that every thing had to go.

The next two photos are of the same spot before and after the blight. There were between 30 and 40 tomatoes on each plant.





The vent to the GH is right behind the tomato plants. Now do I have to fumigate the GH or what????


 As usual, all comments are welcom.         John

Categories: My Gardening Journals | Tags: , , , , , | 11 Comments

Phew what a time we have had.

Phew what a time we have had. Since about the middle of May, there has been preschool graduation, kindergarten graduation, high school graduation, collage graduation, graduation parties, and birthday parties. All of the activities were in nice sunny weather (good gardening weather), which is amazing considering haw many cold rain days we have had. We have had so many rain days, that I decided to get rid of all the junk that I have pack-ratted over the years. After 50+ years of saving junk, it will be an ongoing process. This week my DW had an operation and tomorrow I am having a test, the one that requires you to drink 4 liters of prescription fluid the day before, oops, wait a minute…..sorry about that. If you are over 60, you know the one that I am talking about, oops here we go again……boy is this fun 😦 . I have been taking many photos and have lots to post about, so hopefully I can get back to my journal and the forums.

I have saved the best news for last. Guess who is a Great grand pappy? I would like you to meet Macey Monroe named after her G grand pappy, John Monroe. How about that.



As usual, all comments are welcome.   John