Archive for June, 2009

Easy Hoop Tunnel

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

I put up this tunnel to protect my cole crops from insects. It was very quick and easy. My son Geoff gave me the idea. I’m not sure who showed it to him.

Material List:

12 pieces – 3/8″ reinforcing rod cut into 18″ lengths by my local lumber cut the material to length for me.

6 pieces – 3/8″ ID PVC tubing. Cut from 2 – 10′ lengths bought at my local Ace Hardware. I used pruning loppers to cut it to length.

2 – 16′ lengths of 6″ x 1/2″ very cheap boards that I have in my wood inventory. Plus some other scrap wood. These are to hold down the fabric. Many other found things could be used for this purpose. Since I took these pictures yesterday, I’ve decided something smoother would work better than this wood, as the wood can tear the fabric. So I’m now rolling up the fabric ends in some prototype hoe handles I had from when I started working on the CobraHead Long Handle. I use some large smooth stones to hold down the handles. This works better.

Approximately 25′ of 10′ wide agricultural fabric. I bought a 500′ roll from Peaceful Valley years ago.

This bed is about 19 feet long counting the end slopes. It is approximately 40″ between the PVC hoops. I shoved the re-bar 12″ into the ground leaving six inches exposed. The width between the rebar is approximately 43″.

Slip the PVC over the re-bar, cover with fabric, hold down the fabric with whatever.

Done.

MREA

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

This weekend Judy and I were CobraHead Exhibitors at the Midwest Renewable Energy Association’s 20th annual energy fair in Custer, Wisconsin. It is the largest show of this type in the U.S. This was our third year at the show. We sell lots of garden tools. In fact it is a way better show for sales than almost any garden or flower show we do.

The reason is the audience. MREA attracts people with interest in sustainable energy. They have a very high awareness of what is really “green”. Thus there are lots of gardeners and small farmers. Overall, the people are way hipper than the average show crowd when it comes to environmental issues and a knowledge of food and gardening.

All aspects of renewable energy and sustainability are represented in vendor exhibits, workshops, and talks and keynote addresses. The three day show also has some excellent food vendors including the Wisconsin staple – beer – by a great and “green” local brewery, Central Waters Brewing Company, and good entertainment. Saturday night we saw Michelle Shocked and I immediately became a fan.

Here’s Judy trying to make a sale.

Solar is cool! Pictured are a vendor of panels, a huge solar cooker designed for villages where there is no firewood, and a solar powered water heater.

Wind power for home, farm, commercial, and community was represented.

This experimental house features locally produced inputs and is super energy efficient.

The big boys like Toyota attend the show and don’t pass up an opportunity to show off their energy efficient vehicles.

But the home enthusiast modified Mercedes that runs on vegetable oil is in many ways more interesting.

My favorite vehicle – an Allis-Chalmers “G” tractor modified to be solar powered. No gas fumes in this farmer’s organic veggies.

Chucking Woodchucks

Friday, June 12th, 2009

Two day ago I caught momma groundhog. I posted about it and got a comment from Beckie who noted, “I am sure she will do fine in the wild, but be on the look out for the pups – they may be big enough to make it on their own.”

We’ll, sure enough. I caught this guy this morning and put him out where his mother was let go. They seem to love broccoli, so I’ll keep trapping with the tasty stuff until I think I’ve got them all relocated.

Groundhog Day

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

I first noticed the damage last week. I thought it was deer, but there were no deer tracks. The sweet peas were nipped off and some eaten to the ground. Then I saw some asparagus eaten, and some strawberry plants. Yesterday I found my two tomatillos almost gone and one of my tomatoes eaten to nothing. Curiously, the most severe damage was to the sunchokes, which I really don’t care that much about. They are just there. We occasionally harvest a few, but they are hardly a crop I worry about. Damage to my tomatoes, however, is a declaration of war.

I saw the creature at noon today when I went to the barn to get some tools. It was standing on its hind legs in the lawn next to the south beds. It was a woodchuck. I walked toward it to see where it would head. It casually sauntered away as I approached and it ambled into the weeds by my north beds between my house and my neighbors. I followed it and found a burrow only about ten feet from the asparagus bed. It had great access to both my neighbors garden and mine.

I have a live trap, a Havahart,that I’ve used successfully for raccoons and feral cats in the past. I got on the Internet and read that of all the foods, groundhogs like broccoli best. Fortunately, fresh organic broccoli from the co-op was purchased yesterday. I sliced off a few pieces of stem and some leaves and a minimal amount of side shoot florets. I wasn’t going to waste the best parts on the critter.

I put the broccoli into a yogurt container top, got the trap from the barn, set the trap about two feet from the burrow, baited the trap and set the trap door. When I checked two hours later I had her. Broccoli did the job.

I left her in the trap until after dinner, then I put her in the van, drove her to a place where the wild things are and released her. She really stunk of urine. Whew! I have a feeling she had pups or kits or whatever the babies are called, but I’m losing no sleep over collateral damage. Woodchucks are extremely destructive and my garden has to come first.

CobraHead Video Review by Shawna Coronado!

Monday, June 8th, 2009

I was very excited to see this video today. It was made by Shawna Coronado, a Chicago area gardener and writer. Here is the link to her blog, The Casual Gardener, where she first posted the video. Shawna also has a website and book called Gardening Nude, which is not at all about stripping off your clothes in the garden. In actuality, it features tips on making healthier and greener gardening and lifestyle choices.

I first met Shawna back in March when Geoff and I exhibited at the Chicagoland Flower and Garden Show, where she picked up a CobraHead from us. I got to know Shawna a little bit better when we both attended the Chicago Garden Bloggers Spring Fling last month. She’s a really cool, laid-back person, and it’s obvious from talking to her, reading her blogs, and watching her videos that she’s trying to make a positive difference in the world and encourage others to do so as well.

Better Than Your Average Strawberry

Monday, June 8th, 2009

I picked our first pint plus of strawberries this morning. Even though most are ripe, I usually have to pick them before they are totally deep red or else the birds get there first. The berries with a little white on them will ripen just fine in the house. I could cover the berry beds with agricultural fabric, but that is too much work. I’ve already got my sweet potatoes, peas, and peppers covered to keep the deer from eating them and I’ll have to cover my cole crops when I get them in the ground to keep off the cabbage moths and flea beetles. If I had nothing but time, I’d cover the strawberries, too.

Anyway, these berries are sweet and delicious and totally unlike the huge, tasteless, Styrofoam®-like Frankenberries that come from California and Mexico though the corporate food pipeline.