Fall Garden Plans

Setting seeds for fall garden.Three weeks ago we started our vegetable garden seeds in the house so they would be ready for the fall garden.  Great plan, right?  You would think it was a great plan anyway.

For some unknown reason the seeds sprouted in less than half the time on the package.  Then instead of growing like normal plants they grew into tall spindly things that would never survive in the garden.

It seems leaving the lights on 24/7 wasn’t the right thing to do.  The light from the light bulbs were not enough light for the plants.  They are fluorescent lights and not full spectrum.  So the plants stretched to get more light.

I decided to let them die.  Yep.  I’ll have to reseed the entire bunch of seeds.  Which may not be easy since most of the seeds in the area are sold out.

It probably won’t freeze until late December or early January, and then only a few times and only for a few hours.  If I get busy I’ll still be able to have them ready for the garden to get a fall harvest.


Summer Heat Causes Garden and Bird Blues

It’s that time of year again.  The garden is withering in the summer heat.  It won’t matter how often I water the the garden, it’s still going to die from the beating the sun gives it.  Providing shade only provides minimal relief.  The tomatoes are still producing, but not as well.  Everything else is pretty much over for the season.

The birds are feeling the heat too.  They aren’t eating as much and spend most of their time at the water fountain or water buckets.  Less food intake means less energy so they are more docile and won’t produce as many eggs.   They spend their time inside the barn to avoid the burning sun.

Their food is in the barn to encourage them to eat and to keep it from baking.  Since we close their barn doors every night and open them every morning, I’m able to pay close attention to how much they are eating and when.

Quite by accident, I’ve found that if I leave them in the barn until 8:00 a.m. instead of getting them out at dawn, they eat more.  It might be that they don’t have anything else to look at and it’s still cool that time of day.

While the summer garden is winding down and the birds are resting, it’s time for me to get in high gear again to plant seeds for the fall garden.  Here, the best growing season is from September until June.  I better hop to it if I want the plants to be ready by September 1st!

Gardens in the Spring Time

Moles Damage GardensIt’s time to put out a garden, again.  This will be my third attempt in Texas.  I am pretty sure an actual garden won’t be possible this year either.  If it weren’t for the expected drought (again) it’s because of the moles it might be perfect.  Those horrible little creatures have taken over the entire area.  There is no where to walk in this town where moles have not damaged the ground.  You must step carefully with every step or fall into a mole tunnel or mole hill.  Moles don’t “eat” your garden plants, but they do uproot them.

I’ts extremely hard to get rid of moles.  Poisons generally don’t work because moles usually won’t eat the poison peanuts and it’s hard to know which tunnels are being used and which aren’t.  In this sandy location, you can’t flood them out.  That just leaves traps.  Setting traps is most effective, but even so is time consuming and requires extreme diligence and care.   If a mole detects a tunnel or hole has been disturbed, they won’t use that location again.  It simply makes a new one or goes to an undisturbed hole.

Because of this unfavorable turn of events, this year I’m going to put double ground mulch over the entire garden plot.   After turning it in a few times, I’ll place garden mesh over the entire garden area to kill off undesirable plants.  Next on the garden mesh will be more mulch to help water flow into the ground below to encourage composting of the mulch under the mesh.  (Yes, I do have hopes that someday I will have a real garden!)  The garden pots will be on top of the mulch, evenly spaced as they would be in any garden.

I am determined to have a great garden.  Wish me luck!

Canned, Frozen or Freeze-dried?

Growing up on a farm, it was routine to raise, freeze and can our own foods.  When I was about 9 years old, we moved to Addie Granger’s place.  It was a glorious farmstead that was owned by a very old widow lady.  Immediately my brother and I began to explore the old house.  In the basement we found her store of home canned tomatoes.   The best guess is that those jars had been there for five or so years.  All the jars looked good.  Not one seal was broken.  There was no discoloration of product.  The tomatoes looked good, enticing even.  We expected our mother to use them.  We were kids.  What did we know?

As it would happen, we decided to make gun powder out of the coal.  (We were pretending to be some kind of pioneer.)  My little sister was grinding the coal with one of the jars.  It shattered!  Imagine that!  Instantly the room filled with the stench of rotted tomatoes.  It didn’t take long and the stench reached the upstairs and my mother came running down the stairs to make my brother clean up the mess.    He put a clothes pin on his nose to help him avoid vomiting.  This experience has effected the way I look at prepping.

As with everything else, being prepared is a matter of lifestyle and planning rather than falling off the deep end in some frantic spending frenzy in the new niche markets that prey on the emotions of preppers.  My heart aches when I see families canning and dehydrating more food stores than they can use in a reasonable amount of time because I know their efforts are going to be wasted when the foods go bad.

Just because a jar looks good does not mean that it is good.  “They” say not all bacteria cause visible deterioration of products in jars.  Add to that the additional hours and energy home canning takes up, I’m not sure it’s worth it when I can buy reasonably priced commercially canned products for less money.   The same considerations apply to the alternatives to canning,  dehydrating and freezing.

Freezing home produce is a good alternative if you believe you will not have an issue with electricity during an event.  Sub-zero freezers can keep food safe indefinitely.  The trick is to properly package it to prevent freezer burn.  Remember the woolly mammoth the scientists ate?

Dehydrating foods can keep foods safe for a long period as well.  The same conditions apply here as canning.  How well the product is processed is of vital importance.   Commercially dried foods have a much cleaner environment than home dehydration methods, certainly better than dehydrators used outdoors.  That is not to say the home environment is dirty.  Commercial processors have a liability responsibility and take every measure to reduce the possibility of contamination by molds and other nasty things that like to fly in the air.  If done properly at home, the foods can last some months, but should be used by the next season.

For this reason, I process foods to use within the year.  I do not can or dehydrate products for a prepared lifestyle.  Canning, freezing and dehydrating are all great choices for a food supply that will be used within the recommended amount of time.  I do not consider those part of our long term prepared plan.

Commercially prepared freeze-dried foods will keep up to 25 years, so say the producers.  I believe them.  For that reason, it seems more reasonable to purchase freeze-dried foods for long term planning.  Many foods available in the grocery store are freeze-dried and reasonably priced.  These items will be stocked up before purchasing the expensive “prepper” freeze-dried meal packs.  If an event should happen, the grocery store items will be used before the freeze-dried meal packs.  Let’s hope we don’t ever have to break out the meal packs and camping gear.

Sandy — A Lesson in Preparedness

Hurricane Sandy, being the most recent natural disaster, serves well as an example of “what to do” and “what not to do” to be prepared for emergency situations.   As discussed in the article “Living or Prepping”, people choose to be prepared for one thing or another, or not all all.  While the citizens of New York and the surrounding affected area are said to be a well prepared people, the fact remains that people were not as prepared as you would think.

For instance, in NYC, living spaces are smaller than most people have in the rest of the country.  Smaller spaces equals less space to store supplies.  People did not have an adequate supply of cash on hand because they didn’t think about the possibility of not being able to access it during a power outage, or because they are poor and don’t have extra dollars.  In terms of evacuation, the concept was not even considered by most people because of lack of transportation and financial resources.  Instead, the people stayed in their homes and tried to stay out of Sandy’s way.

How prepared can a person be if they do not drive and do not have adequate stores of supplies?  How prepared is a person who does not have the ability to purchase what they need during such an event?  We could take this one step further.  In times gone by, stores had a “back room” where additional inventory items were kept and placed on shelves as the supply was sold.  Now, in an effort to reduce overhead and inventory, most stores practice “just in time” marketing.  Stores keep a three day supply of items on the shelves at any given time.  Because of this practice, people preparing at the last minute will find the shelves bare.

Being prepared means planning.  It means setting aside a certain amount of your budget to prepare for unplanned events.  It isn’t difficult, and it doesn’t need to change your lifestyle.  It can be as simple as buying two or three extra cans or boxes of food each week at the grocery and putting them under the bed.  Preparing to have cash on hand can be as easy as putting coins in a jar every day when you get ready for bed.  These actions are painless when you do them and add up significantly over time.  Using this method, there should be very few people excused from preparing for the worst.