March 17, 2009

Water, Water Everywhere and Nary a Drop to Drink.

(a.k.a.: A second update on Musical Cars)

Those of you who follow this blog may find it hard to believe the following: I was without a car this morning. Yes, we have six cars for three drivers, but, as fate would have it in her twisted sense of humor, the planets aligned this morning to make it impossible for me to drive anywhere. You see, one vehicle is at the farm. One is the one My Honey drives to work and he left early this fine morning. One is the one our teenager drives and there's the rub. She took her car to the shop to try to figure out the cause of its dying now and then. Rather than get my big, fat, you-know-what out of bed at o-dark-hundred this morning to give her a ride, I gave her the keys to the car I usually drive, assuming that, with the plethora of cars around here, that I'd be able to take the little ones to school this morning in some sort of secondary conveyance. Ah, was I mistaken! Of the two cars remaining, one was in the garage and the other was right behind it, jacked up with a missing wheel, rendering both unusuable.

Fortunately, it was an unexpectedly warm and beautiful spring morning here in Omaha (60+ degrees) so the little ones didn't mind walking the few blocks to school. They even called a friend and made an event of it, bless their little hearts. Fortunately, also, I didn't have anything planned that necessitated a car. Fortunately, finally, the teenager felt the need to get her car back from the shop (they couldn't figure out what was wrong, by the way) at lunch time (friends were meeting at a local restaurant, after all) and, therefore, freed up my car for moi! I still didn't need to go anywhere in particular.

But, hey, order was restored in the universe.

March 13, 2009

No Greenhouse? No Problem!

Here's a little DIY greenhouse for those of you, like myself, who just can't wait to get the vegetable garden going and who don't have the space or money for a fancy greenhouse outside.

Exhibit #1:

White plastic shelves are set up with grow lights and plastic sheeting over the whole thing. The plastic sheeting keeps the inside at a comfy, jungle-like atmosphere. (This creates nice humidity for the seedlings and cuts down on the need to water.) The peppers and eggplant love it! We happen to have two, large, south-facing windows which are perfect for this set-up. Don't be cheap, still need the grow lights! The sun is not around enough hours of the day at this point in the year.

Exhibit #2:
A few trays of seeds planted in tried-and-true mixture of peat moss/vermiculite/Azomite are placed on empty boxes so that the seedlings will be as close as possible to the lights. Once they grow a bit, I remove the boxes.

Exhibit #3:

All shelves are filled with seedling trays. In addition to our regulars of tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant (all of which need the early start to do well in the summer here in Nebraska/Iowa), this year we are also doing some fancy cauliflower, trying Brussels sprouts (again), some cabbages, some leeks, and some artichokes.

Exhibit #4:

The beginnings of the artichokes!

So, let's itemize:

One four-tier shelving unit (Lowes) -- $25
Three grow lights ($10 each) (Walmart) -- $30
Plastic sheeting to cover (Lowes) -- $20
Six Seed trays with clear covers ($4 each) -- $24
Peat moss/vermiculite mix (Lowes) -- $10
12 organic seed packets ( -- $40

Total: $149 (the first year...after that, it's just the seeds and dirt...$50/year for hundreds of dollars worth of fresh, organic, tasty food!)

Our set-up is six times the above, but we plant one to two thousand different plants for the gardens at the farm. With the single set-up described above, you can probably get about 240 plants started. That should keep the home gardener busy for the growing season!

Let me know how it goes!

March 10, 2009

An Update on Musical Cars

As luck (ha!) would have it, all five of the vehicles were lined up just right for a nice snapshot the other day.

(Number six is at the farm.)

I have come to the sad realization that I have been complicit in the stockpiling of vehicles. It seems that there is a good reason to have each and every one. When My Honey suggested selling the Lexus, I balked. ("That's the car I usually drive, it's paid off, it's not worth as much to anyone else.") So, we move on to considering the little Toyota truck. ("Well, it gets the best gas mileage, My Honey drives it to work.") Ok. So, how about the big red truck? ("It's useful for taking loads to the farm, it has the extended cab for the girls.")

Do you see how it happens?

Much to My Mother's bemusement, we have also come to understand how we are the embodiment of a pattern established generations ago of "Guys who Accumulate Vehicles and the Women who Love Them".

So, here's to you, Grandma and Grandpa! May you rest in peace knowing the tradition survives!

March 7, 2009

Getting Goosed

Way back in 2006, before ground was broken for any cabins or compost bins or barns or woodbins, we toured our newly purchased farm with our children. On that particular day in May, some geese were happily cruising around the pond. At one point, they must have finally gotten tired of our intrusion into their blissful afternoon and took off.

Maya, in the foreground, watches the geese head north from the pond. One can be seen, if you look carefully, in about the center of the photograph, just above the horizon. Andre was off to the right, unhappy that he didn't have his shotgun with him as a goose flew right over his head on its way to Canada.

We jump to 2009.

I was awakened this morning to the sounds of honking. Assuming it was either a dream or birds flying overhead and would pass quickly, I ignored the noise. After all, it was before 7am! But, the honking grew louder and more insistent. I finally got up, looked out the bedroom window, and saw four lovely Canada geese floating on our pond, evidently chatting with each other. It was enchanting to watch their movements for the better part of an hour. Then, as suddenly as they arrived, they flapped their wings and took flight.

It was worth the wait!

(Click on the photo to enlarge it and actually SEE the geese taking off!)

March 3, 2009

Musical Cars

You would never know there's a recession/depression/high gas prices/any problems at all with the economy by the burgeoning fleet of vehicles in our driveway.

It seems there is a bug that infects a man who becomes a farmer. This bug drives said man to buy used cars/trucks/tractors 'til the cows come home, as it were. It has taken over My Honey for the past couple of years. (Until this bug struck, we were happily driving a 1998 Lexus, which we still have.)

First, of course, we needed a farm truck. We bought an old Ford F-150 when we bought the farm in 2006 and it is worth its weight in gold at the farm. (Four-wheel drive and all that, you know.) OK. Fine. I'm down with that. Every farm needs a farm truck.

Then, we had to have truck in which to go back and forth to the farm. (Don't ask why. There is no cogent answer here. The old Lexus could have served just fine in this capacity.) So, we bought a shiny, red truck last Valentine's Day (very a propos, no?) This truck was only a two-wheel drive, however (a fatal flaw on the farm during snowy, wet, muddy, almost any weather).

So, naturally, that leads us to "a truck that goes back and forth to the farm and has four-wheel drive". "But, of course!", you may say. Yes, of course. My Honey would agree wholeheartedly. So, the search began for a four-wheel drive, SUV-type car/truck that fit the bill. Enter 'Little Blue':

Little Blue is a 1993 Ford Explorer that needed front end work. (Oh, joy of joys!)

Look at this face. He thrives on fixing these old things.

Meanwhile, paralleling the "trucks that go to and live at the farm" My Honey came up with "I need a truck to go back and forth to work and has decent gas mileage". Meet the 1982 Toyota that gets better gas mileage than almost anything out there! (Are you keeping a running count? We're up to five vehicles now, and I haven't even mentioned that our teenage daughter has my old Nissan. That makes six!)

No, the number of drivers has not increased. We're still at three (counting the teenager).

Fortunately, all of these purchases are in the hundreds of dollars, not thousands. But still...

Here is part of the fleet in the driveway.

In the interest of efficiency, I asked My Honey if we could get rid of something. He promises that if he gets the latest vehicle working, we may be able to sell the red truck.

I'm not holding my breath.