Thursday, May 29, 2014


 Last year I planted 10 grapevines on the west side of the property. Five were Concord grapes and five were Thompson seedless. I didn't worry about staking them the first year. I just wanted them to get a good root structure and become established. Four Concord and three Thompson made it through the winter.

Last fall Dave was kind enough to set the T-posts that will support the vines. This spring Joe got the wire and strung it. It was our first fence-stretching experience. I was impressed with my son's creativity. We didn't have the proper tool to pull the wire taut, but he improvised. He took a cable clamp, a loop of wire and a tie-down strap and used them. He clamped the loop of wire to the wire that needed stretched, securing it with the cable clamp. Then he wrapped the tie down strap around the outside fence post to make a come along. One hook went into the loop on the wire. Viola! Wire stretched.

He had some slick brass clamps that caught the loose end of the wire after it wrapped around the fence post and squeezed down on them to hold the wire in place. My grapevine supports look totally professional! Yea, Joe!

The final touch was to put a guy wire on either end of the row to counterbalance the weight of the plants as they get bigger. My contribution was to cut a pool noodle in half (one for each side) and slice it down the middle so it would mark the guy wire. We sure don't need someone cutting through the yard at night to trip on one of them.

Now -- grow grapes! Grow.

Friday, May 16, 2014

It Is So Nice to Have a Son

 I have been doing raised bed gardening since about 2010. There hasn't been much "raised" to the bed. I framed the area I intended to garden with landscape timbers, tilled the dirt and put seeds in the ground.

This year my son, Joe, decided it was time to improve the raised beds. I need them deeper for root crops like potatoes, sweet potatoes, and carrots. I need them deeper to continue to improve the soil. Joe counted the beds I have (9) and computed the number of landscape timbers I needed to bring them up to 3 landscape timbers high, and off he went to Sutherland's Lumber. He began by making me an entirely new, huge 4'x32' bed (bed #10!) west of the circle garden. Our friend, Dave, in the dark blue shirt, helped him with it.

Practice improving the first two raised beds told Joe that driving 12" spikes into those landscape timbers with a 3# mini-sledge wouldn't be fun. Not even pre-drilling the holes was enough to keep him from groaning about his aching back and shoulders.

He invented a special tool for his air-compressor that would be a modified air-hammer. With the air-hammer he could drive the spikes nearly in place. The sledge would only be needed to seat the heads.

As simple as it looks to make a rectangle out of landscape timbers, the process is very time consuming. After all the timbers are staggered like bricks and placed just so, with levels stacked to the right height, Joe has to drill pilot holes for the spikes. Usually it takes someone, in this case, Dave, to steady the timbers while he pounds the spikes in place. Each joint requires a spike on either side of the seam. Corners need three spikes. We use 12" spikes to reach through all three timbers. If they poke through to grip the earth below, that's gravy.

Finishing this bed means three of ten beds have been brought to full height. It's going to take all summer to bring all of the raised beds up to this new standard. Thank you, Joe and Dave, for this bed.

I love this new bed! It is as long as my parent's garden was wide. I can see it being used for lots of things, particularly things I want to grow in quantities. I had first thought I would plant yard-long beans here, but on second thought, this will be home to the tomatoes. It takes a lot of tomato plants to put up all the things I like to can.

Update July 2014: Here's a photo taken in July with the tomatoes going strong. I've already picked three or four Roma tomatoes. It won't be long before I have enough beefsteak tomatoes at one time to start canning. YUM!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mother's Day, 2014

Morning Has Broken!
The Cat Stevens song is running through my head. I was awake early today (really early), so I took my hot tea and breakfast on the back porch. There were too many clouds, trees and houses to see the sun rise, but every bird in my neighborhood was caroling the dawn. I enjoyed my quiet time to commune with the new day.
I love spring. It rained last night, so the grass is that extra vibrant green of freshly watered spring grass. Charming and Sugar were snuffling and rolling in it. Loki, our youngest cat, followed everywhere Sugar went, stalking her dog run as it trailed in the grass. Every so once in a while he would pounce... then she'd walk off (never seeing him) and he'd shake himself and look around. What the dickens?
It's a good morning. Happy Mother's Day to all.