Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Planted First Tomato in Garbage Pit

Yesterday I planted our first tomato plant. It is a Selke cherry variety that I purchased from Highland Star Seed. I started it from seed on 3/7/09. I found out about this tomato in the "grow a tomato from garbage" video on YouTube. Well, not really garbage, just any organic kitchen scraps, horse manure, grass clippings, weeds, compost, leaves, etc. The instructions say it does not have to be fully composted either, just dump it all in as is. My son and I dug a hole according to the instructions. The hole is 2 feet deep, 3 feet wide and the pile is over 2 feet high. This plant is supposed to yield thousands of tomatoes. Well see. I am doing it as an experiment because I was so intrigued by the idea. It seemed legitimate. I will document here and we can all find out if I can have similar success. The website for the seeds and instructions is McKean County Biodynamics.

Saturday, April 25, 2009


This is a Byer of Maine hammock I just bought. It was very inexpensive and weighs just 11 ounces. It is made of parachute material. I have never been in a hammock before but this is terrific. My son loves it too. It is so comfortable. I plan to sleep in it some night. You lie diagonally in it, which allows you to remain fairly flat. I don't have anything to gain by recommending it. I just think it is a great product and hope others can try it out. It does have a 250 pound weight limit. They do sell heavier duty versions of it. This now provides another sleeping option for our house that is comfortable and really cheap. It probably is not something to use everyday, but it is great for naps and just relaxing. Who would have thought? Who says you need a Sealy Posturpedic or Sleep Number bed at $2000 for a good rest?

Fixed Gear Bike

This is my fixed gear bicycle. I transformed it in 2006 from a 1982 Fuji Royale 12 speed. It has IRO wheels on it which are excellent wheels. While it was fixed at a single gear (42-15 cog), it still had brakes on it. I have about 700 miles on it after fixing it. I have noticed fixed gears bikes are becoming more and more popular. I really enjoy it. There is no coasting though and no brakes. "Fixed" means the pedals are always turning either forward or backward. You use your legs to pedal and slow down. Just last week I made the final move to remove the brakes after seeing several messengers in Philadelphia a few weeks ago. It is dangerous, but I no longer commute with this bike. I use my Cannondale, road bikes with changeable gears and brakes. This bike is just now for fun around town and riding slow with my son. I really like how it looks. Stripped down and simple. Not much to go wrong with it. Perfect!

A Different View of Dandelions

I happen to like dandelions in my yard. I know I am one of the few. I love this time of year when I have the yellow of the dandelions, purple wildflowers and green grass (or weeds) is in the yard. What a great color combination of nature! Actually a dandelion is a soil builder and the leaves are edible. It sends down a very deep root which will eventually rot and add humus to your soil. A dandelion is natures way of improving hard soil. It grows, sends down a deep root spike, it rots, adds humus in that spike. Then it provides some free food for you too in it's leaves. When you understand this, it does not make sense to spray dandelions killer and then rent an airating machine to punch plug holes in your lawn. Dandelion leaves can be a delicious salad. All for free. No starting seeds indoors, no hardening off, no putting up fences to keep pests out. Edible salad leaves in abundance in the yard and I did nothing for it.

I have not put any chemicals on my lawn for about 7 years now. I know my soil is improving. It has lots of worms in it and there are many bees all over the dandelions. It is a real marvel what nature does all on it's own. We just need to stop abusing it with chemicals. We don't know much about the teaming abundance of life under our feet in the soil.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

End of Hydroponics for Me

Here is a picture of my Burpee Sun Gold cherry tomato plant in my Hydrofarm after 2 weeks in the chemicals. The end of the leaves are curling up, drying up and falling off. The plant has plenty of moisture and I have followed the directions exactly. These symptoms probably can only mean too much fertilizer. I used the most diluted concentrations too for just establishing growth. The plant still may have been too young to take any food. It is now set back about 2 weeks to recover and I probably should start over again with a new plant due to the stress.

My other tomato seedlings in potting soil are doing wonderfully and they were incredibly easy. Hydroponics on the other hand is expensive, time consuming, power intensive (bubbler pump running) and high maintenance. The solution requires a full flush out and replacement every 2 weeks. You have to check the pH regularly. You know what? Forget it! The good thing about what I learned from this experience is that regular soil gardening is so much easier. "Feed the soil, not the plant..." says organic gardener, Eliott Coleman. Hydroponics goes completely against this philosophy.

This now convinces me to continue now completely in the direction of organic gardening, biodynamics, and permaculture which are all sustainable practices. I was never comfortable with all of the chemistry involved with hydroponics and it did not seem right. I guess I got caught up in the gadgetry of it all. I have to remember to always keep it simple.

I will clean up and put on ebay this week.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Cheap and Easy Power Washing

Here is my version of power washing equipment for house, siding and decks. You were probably expecting to see a Troy-Bilt pressure washer unit with a Honda engine on it complete with an on-board detergent tank. I almost got suckered into buying one for $350 but thought there had to be a better way.

A neighbor had a local man power wash their ranch house and fencing for $250+. He had been doing this each year for about 10 years. We were asked if we wanted our house cleaned by him too and we got an estimate. We almost went through with it. I don't like to deny local business people a chance to earn a living but this was a bit extreme for pricing. I went out to look at pressure washers at Lowes and almost bought one. I held off though. Something did not seem right.

Today I decided to keep it simple. I bought 2 brush heads (1 course for decks and 1 soft for siding), and an extension pole for $30. I filled up a bucket with a very diluted solution of Simple Green. I sprayed down the porch siding, windows, soffets and front face of gutters. I went over all surfaces with the brush and hosed off. It took all of 45 minutes to do. I don't think a pressure washer would have been faster and maybe slower. I found a great solution. No exhaust or loud noises either.

I also feel good about not having to buy another gas powered piece of equipment that I have to: store, maintain and wear ear protection to operate. I will go around my house and do a little each day. Eventually I will get it done. I will also get some exercise and maybe help show a few others that it pays to keep things simple.