Friday, June 19, 2015

Photo Friday.

Here are some assorted Photos from June and an interesting transition of the sidewalk!

Yes here is our sidewalk.....brrrrrrr

It is so changeable from season to season and year to year.

There always seem to be tomatoes involved somehow!

 Then there are buckets and our favorite seed starter...solo cups be they red or blue!

 Newly transplanted Volunteer tomato plants, they have never looked back!

 The simple glory of a flower!

The never boring progression of life in a garden is always a joy.

 I think I will make  cabbage roll casserole tonight for supper...

 A pretty piece of Virginia Highway.

 I love the camera Ralph got me....this lovely fawn was well off the road and in a logged area. The camera allowed me to catch her in time before she ran off to her mother.

 I will miss this sleepy little Virgina Mountain town and the wonderful people we have come to know.

Now off to take Ralph a drink and do some more transplanting.

Enjoy our marvelous world everyone!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Simple Tomato Planting: The bucket Approach

We have been hoping to move....that is going so slowly we have had some developmental issues to deal with! Yes our tiny rescued volunteer tomato plants from the garden are now far too big for their pots. Ralph decided to move them to pails and then stake them so here are the stages they went through to get a new place to grow.

1- We decided to use the tall 6 gallon buckets that Ralph gets from work. They are for Lecithin which has to be added to bread dough to help bring the nutrition level up.

2- Lecithin is sticky and hard to wash out, we found it seems to be just fine if we leave the residue in the bottom of the bucket when we add the potting soil.

3- Prepare the bucket by drilling holes along the bottom. See this previous post.

4- Ralph then put a gallon or so of potting soil into the bucket and forms a small bowl shape to set the root ball into. He wants to bury the tomato quite deep so it will develop a super strong root system but he does not want it to go directly onto the bottom of the bucket.

5- He removes the plant from its pot by firmly but gently gripping the strong part of the stem not too far from the soil. He will squeeze the pot as he does this to loosen the root ball inside the container. He pulls upward on the plant and pulls gently downward on the pot.

6- Here is the healthy root ball. You can see clearly this plant has good root growth but was needing to be repotted before it really became root bound.

7- Now lower the plant into the bucket. It always seems to go far too deep into the bucket but tomatoes do very well deep planted like this, all along the stem where there are little hairs or bumps roots will develop.

8- Here you can see the plant fully lowered into the bucket.

9- Gently move the leaves to the side and protect them with your hand as you add the potting soil mix. Compress the soil firmly as you continue to fill the bucket. You can do this after you add a couple of containers at at time. Do not fill the bucket all at once.

10- Here Ralph is using his hands to push down on the soil. He does this around the outside of the bucket, not next to the plant.

11- Nearly full, just adding the last bit of potting mix.

12- A newly repotted tomato plant. With lots of room to grow and develop.

13- The final step is to add a tomato stake. Ralph carefully slides one down the inside of the bucket. We will tie to this stake as needed. I use strips of old T-Shirt material or yarn to do this.

14- Now this tomato moves to the front yard where instead of a tree lined driveway....we have a tomato lined walkway!

15- Here is what Ralph considers an excellent root ball, roots showing but not too crowded and no sign of getting root bound. This stage is ideal to transplant at.

16- Here is how Ralph uses his fingers to pack around the root ball when he first puts it down into the bucket. You can see how his fingers will go between the bucket and the root ball without breaking the root ball up.

17- Here is how he holds his hands when he is past the root ball and wants to start packing the soil around and over the root ball on the way to the top of the bucket.

18- Now he is pushing down and compressing the soil to get a good firm support for the tomato to grow in.

19- This shows how deep the tomato stake should go into the bucket, right the full depth.

20- I took this photo of the stalk of a tomato that will be repotted. You can clearly see the hairs and nodules on the stem. All these will become roots when it is planted deep.

We hope this simple tutorial is a help to anyone who has limited space or wants to be able to grow tomato's in less than ideal locations. We have had good results with our tomato buckets and look forward to this years crop. 
Oh and if you wonder what variety these tomatoes are....we are wondering too. They are all volunteer plants Ralph found in the garden. We have records of where everything was planted but this only gives us a general idea of who they might be? Its going to be a bit like Christmas when they start getting ripe!

Happy gardening and God bless.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Choice Will Be Made For You.

We went for a drive yesterday. The temperature was approaching 90 degrees (Fahrenheit). There was no one outside except a couple of farmers. There wasn't even any traffic. We got to talking, as we seem to always do on these little trips up onto the mountain. Except for there not being any storms present yesterday, it reminded us of a time in the recent past. And that got us to talking even more.

On June 29, 2012, a derecho hit our area. We were without electricity for about 8 days. Our temperature was in the high eighties and lower nineties the whole 8 days. Our area has the water tank up on the hill, so we did have water. I have lots of honey buckets – sixty pounds of honey comes in each bucket. The empty buckets came from work. We had no electricity; so, no hot water. I filled a bunch of buckets with water and set them out on the concrete sidewalk. About 4:00 PM, I would bring the buckets in and empty them into the bath tub and then refill the buckets for tomorrow. The water felt so nice and warm. Bath time! That water felt so nice!!! Until you set your backside down into it! Then it felt like ice water! I don't know why something that feels so warm to the hand can feel so cold, but it did. Anyway, that is how we took a bath. 

Our home phone had a powered base/answering machine. We had no electricity; so, no phone service. We had gone down to the Family Dollar two or three years prior and gotten a $10.00, simple phone with no frills. It worked fine off of the phone company's electricity. We had phone service. We still keep that $10.00 phone handy.

Cell phone towers were overloaded with calls. You had service, if you could get on the tower. Basically, you had to wait for someone to hang up for you to get on. It was like the old party lines, except you couldn't listen in on their conversations.

No electricity equals no gas pumps working. No cash registers working. We had food and gas of our own. We got by.

We went to the supermarket to get some “nice to haves”. Supermarket was open, but they had no power for the freezers and lost everything. Refrigerators were lost, also. This only lasted a couple of days before they shut the doors. No restocking. Nothing to sell of consequence. It took a long time after power was restored to get restocked. As an aside: I asked them why they didn't have a generator for the freezers. They said it was easier and cheaper to file an insurance claim for the losses
instead of trying to save the food.

I work in Roanoke. After I left work, I stopped by several fast food establishments. The lines inside went from the door, down the wall, across the end of the store, up the opposite wall and out that door, and down the side of the building. Employees had not come in and they were short handed. Most of the workers were workers who stayed over from the previous shift. And the restaurant was running out of food. They didn't get restocked. This didn't last long. The restaurants ran out of food.

I never heard anything, but I have wondered about infants and formula. For Mothers who were not breast feeding, I assume, and hope, they had formula on hand or got enough from the stores or traded/begged from neighbors/friends for it.

All summer long we heard chainsaws as everyone belatedly cut down any trees anywhere near their home or power lines...we think this has impacted the power service since then as we have had very few power outages from trees falling during storms in the last few years. Nothing like a tree falling into your living room or bedroom (while you are in it), to enlighten you as to what you should have done before. The power company had been coming around for several years asking to cut down trees close to the power lines to avoid damage to the lines. They would also cut trees close to the house for you and charge it to line safety. Almost no one would permit the power company to cut their nice trees. The power company was not charging for any of this. After the derecho, tree trimming/cutting down went to $1000 to $1500 per tree. They got from free to here overnight. Thanks to a derecho. 

Fast forward (rewind) to the more distant past. When I lived in Eastern North Carolina, We had hurricane Floyd come through about ten days after hurricane Dennis. The ground was already water logged from Dennis. The water from Floyd had no place to go but to the streams. The streams went from 150 feet to 3 miles wide. But!!! The depth wasn't the biggest danger. The water came up to the high voltage lines feeding the area. They had boats out there monitoring the situation. The boats could not get under the lines, the water was so high. They had to monitor the waves. If the water rose, the wind speed increased, and/or the waves got closer to the power lines, they would shut down the high voltage lines serving from up in Virginia to South Carolina. If the high voltage lines were touched by the waves, it would short out the lines and shut down the entire East Coast of the US.

Fast forward now to the future. It doesn't take an EMP, terrorist act, computer malfunction, or whatever, to cause a major problem nationwide. Everything is so interconnected, interdependent, and “just in time”, that one hiccup can spell disaster.

And it can begin a chain reaction that goes nationwide. It can affect many more areas of our lives than just the starting point of the disaster. Preparedness has kind of dropped off peoples radar. It is so yesterday, like Y2K. We got worked up, but it turned out to be nothing. But, what if???

What if a derecho came through at the beginning of July and the summers hottest temperatures? What if it shorted out the East Coast power grid? I would be affected. Would you? What if it affected the West Coast? Or the Plains? What if...? What if it was nationwide? What if it did not affect someone else, but affected YOU??? What would you do? How would you survive? What if it took two or three months to get repair parts? A year? What if there are no repair parts?

Four things we need for survival is shelter, clothing, water, and food.

Most of us have a house, apartment, condo, townhouse, or some place where we live. We have shelter. Fine! We're in great shape! But? Are we? When the outside temperature is 90 degrees for days, what is the temperature inside that house without HVAC (air-conditioning)? How conditioned are you to no A/C? When I was aboard an aircraft carrier, we lost A/C to our berthing area. They said the temperature went to 145 degrees in there. I don't really think it went that high, but it did feel like an oven. We had no air movement. Everyone but six of us moved to other quarters. The six of us had a 160 bed “hole” to ourselves. When we went to bed, we laid on top of the sheets naked with a towel across our midsections. And we sweated like crazy. It was a fitful sleep. We drank a lot before going to bed and woke up dehydrated. We would drink quarts of water in the next hour trying to rehydrate. It sounds impossible, but it took six to eight quarts of water to get back to normal. This home of yours is going to get hot, in the extreme. And it isn't going to cool off much at night. Where is your water going to come from? I doubt if your water tank is up on the hill. You will have no water. And how is the city/county going to get water up the hill to the tank?

Let's change seasons. What if our little disaster happens at the beginning of December? How are you going to stay warm? You have a fireplace? Where is the wood? Do you have enough to last until the weather warms up? Not likely! Fireplaces aren't good for heating a home, but better than nothing. But you have to have something to burn. And the smoke? Now your neighbors see the smoke and are going to investigate, trying to stay warm. Maybe they feel more entitled to your heat, at your expense. And you still don't get any water. Now, water lines and sources are going to start freezing. You just can't get a break. Maybe you could call your neighbor or friends or family and complain about how bad things are for you? Ohh! Things are going to get worse. 


Fiona added this bit of information: Forced air furnace's need electricity to ignite and then more electricity to run the fan and circulate the air in your home. A full propane tank is not necessarily useful. Natural Gas is not much better. [***Footnotes at the end of the post.]
Disasters can occur at any time, not just on your schedule or at your convenience. They WILL occur at the worst possible time for you, when you are the least prepared or able to withstand it!

For those with an earth bermed home or with a basement, there is some hope for you. At a depth of over six meters (twenty feet), the soil temperature will be equal to your average year round air temperature. If your yearly average temperature is 55 degrees, the temperature at six meters will be 55 degrees, year round. For an earth bermed home, you will incur a varying temperature, but better than outside temperatures. A basement will generally have more dirt on one side than another, and all of it or most above grade. Better than nothing, and moderated, but not as good as six meters. There is some hope and help in both of these.

Shelter done. You take it from here.

Clothing? It is cold in the house. It is cold outside. How are you going to stay warm? We throw on a light jacket and run out to the car. But long, extended, bone-chilling cold: how can you stay warm? The roads aren't going to be cleared. How are your high heels going to do in that white stuff? Or, for the southern folks, that ice? I have seen ice storms do a lot more damage than any snow storm. Oh, the flip-flops aren't going to be much help, either.

Just remember this: As bad times are seen coming, we may put on stress weight. And after the “event”, we will start losing weight as we try to cope. Styles will go out the window. Functionality will come in vogue! Have clothing on both sides of here and now. Too big will be better than too small after the “event”. I had a teacher in high school that someone asked what her favorite season was. She said winter. She said she could always put on enough to be warm, but sometimes couldn't take off enough to be cool. I don't think she was just being modest. Learn how to dress for heat and cold.

Water. What can be said. Safe and clean or dead. No way around it. It doesn't have to be cool or warmed up. It doesn't have to have fizz or flavors. Straight up and pure. Free of contaminates. And a constant, safe supply. In summer's heat, we're talking hours. In winter's cold, days. But, either way, it isn't much time. Hydrate or die. I may be repeating a falsehood here. If so, please correct me. But, as I remember, one of the biggest winter killers is dehydration. More so than freezing.

Fuel. For heat. Where are you going to get it? For your vehicle? I am talking singular here. You might have four or five vehicles, but which one will serve your needs best? And concentrate on that one. Keep it in tip top shape. Keep it fueled up. Keep spare fuel (stabilized) for it. Keep spare parts for it. Keep good tires on it. Keep tools with it to work on it. Can you fix a flat? Do you have a repair kit to do it with? Be prepared.

Guns. I think a lot of people are going to get surprised here. A lot of people have guns now. I don't think that number will go up a lot. Guns just aren't going to be for sale. What there are will go quickly. There will be no replacements. Gun shops will lock what they have up as best as they can, or hide them. They will be charging outrageous prices for what they do have. So, I think gun sales will be small. But, I think gun theft will be high. I think law abiding neighbors, family, friends, and strangers will be trying to get guns from whatever and whoever they can. This means YOU!!! There will be the same number of guns, they will just change ownership. And there will be bloodshed on both ends of the guns. I am not as worried about inner city hoodlums as I am about that upstanding neighbor down the road whose family is starving or cold. It could be dog eat dog! The brave are not the only ones to rise to the occasion. Scum rises to the surface, also. If you don't already have a gun, don't expect to acquire one then. And, do some soul searching. A gun is worthless to you if you aren't willing to use it or don't know how to use it, or if you have no ammo. And I don't want to get into the government and confiscation topics!

Food. Almost as bad as water. We are not ruminants. We can not survive on grass. We need calories. Protein and carbohydrates are 4 calories per gram. Fat is 9 calories per gram. We need fat in our diets. Or, we need to eat over twice as much food. And this in a scarce environment. For the populace that has not planted a garden: they probably do not have stored food. To plant a garden in July for survival is not going to happen. They will be dead before the calories come out of the garden. Lettuce is a diet food for a reason: no calories. Radishes: no calories. Spinach: no calories. Fast food out of the garden means no calories. Higher calorie foods means two or three months before harvest. What are these people going to eat? To walk out of the cities means calories. Where is it going to come from? No calories, no energy. Only the worst will get out. They will take what they need/want. Potatoes need cooler weather/soil. Not a good choice in July. Most seeds will not germinate in the high soil temperatures. It is too early for a garden. And fall is too far away. There is just not enough time. Lack of preparation will be their downfall. I have lots of seeds. I can make soup. I can eat a day or two, but not long term unless I have planted them back in April or May. I need to have prepared before hand, not now. It is too late now.

Winter time is even worse. You can't start a garden in the snow. You have months of cold to survive before even starting a garden.

Animals can be a survival food. How do you kill it? How do you save the meat? Summer heat means only days of food from a 1000 pound cow. The rest will be spoiled. Do you know how to work around this problem? There are ways. If you are prepared. And without refrigeration. Winter will be a help here. The meat won't spoil as quickly. But you have to have the will and you have to be prepared. Smaller animals are more meal sized. One per meal or two.

The only choices are to start ahead and always be prepared for the worst, even if it doesn't come. Or join the scum out there. Make your choice. Or it will be made for you.

*** These excerpts are from an article about the natural gas grid after severe cold weather in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

1)   The electric grid relies on natural gas.  Over half the electric generation fleet in Texas is fueled by gas.  For the U.S. as a whole, gas drives almost a third of the generation fleet, but with the discovery of enormous shale gas reserves and low prices, that number is growing quickly.  Almost all new conventional generation on the books in the US is gas-fired.  In the February 2011 event, there were problems getting necessary gas supplies to the power plants.  According to the FERC/NERC assessment, most of the outages were directly weather related, but 12% were indirectly attributable to gas curtailments to generators and difficulties in fuel switching.
2)   The gas grid relies on electricity.  In order for the gas grid to work smoothly, pressure must be maintained throughout the system.  This is accomplished by a complex system of compressors and pumping stations.  As a consequence of the rolling blackouts, many of these stations failed and pressure could not be adequately maintained.  This in turn caused a lower supply to the gas generators and results in a feedback loop.
In the gas grid, the main compressor stations feeding the large interstate pipelines are typically fueled by natural gas.  Gas-fueled compressors could be more widely used throughout the system, but they are noisy and have environmental implications.  So in urban areas, the gas distribution companies typically use electric pumps and compressors to bring gas to the consumer.  It’s not hard to see where the problem lies here.  No electricity, no gas supply.

A Ralph Post

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Homestead: The Land Search Starts Again

Well it has all started again. The land search that is. After the months of fighting to get the deal settled and the money here it is finally about to happen. Well maybe. The Money was supposed to be here on Friday but it was delayed one more time so now maybe this week. You may pick up on a somewhat skeptical tone to this writing!

I had told Ralph firmly we would not tour land again until the money was in our sweaty hands but his “Charm” wore me down and we made a quick trip to Kentucky this last week. Sigh! 

It was a very good trip over all but I did come away with a sense of tiredness I had not experienced from farm hunting before. The farm I really saw the most potential in will not make the cut. Ralph and I could have handled it 6 years ago when we started this mad pursuit and the first land deal was made and fell through. Now we have not got the time or finances to do it, with the unforeseen costs to the land sale and the plummeting exchange rate we have had to totally revamp our plans. Maybe not a bad thing as we are older now!

Anyway I am going to take you on a photo tour of this trip, both good and bad. I hope you enjoy this trip through Kentucky as much as we did!

Photo #1  This was a 32 acre property that we had on the list. Cut hay on a rainy day always makes me a bit blue. This was part of the supposed flat land that it had?

Photo #2  Timber piling collapsing under a corner timber on the tobacco barn.

Photo #3 This is at the farm I liked so much. 57 acres, but there is so much to do to get it back in working shape, from restoring a 84' x 66' foot tobacco barn to miles of perimeter fence and a basement repair. It had so much good about it though. For a young couple willing to work it could become a show piece.  It has two tremendous ponds both spring fed and a well with about the best drinking water I have ever had.  There is good pasture land and a very nice wooded area with some huge trees. Down one side there is a good field for hay or a market garden. The good things go on and on but the couple is ill and the place has got away from them. One of my favorite things is an old stone cellar house in quite good condition! Next to it is a storage shed that needs a lot of work.

Photo #4     A view of part of one pond and the pasture or cropland area around it, good fertile land and the bass were jumping!

Photo #5  This is the first sight of a property we really just wanted to see. 42 acres. By the photos on the website it did not have any where near enough useful land. The home was great and we liked the location but we could not find enough flat to garden. Much to our surprise there is a lot of good land nestled in a fabulous and secluded valley at the very head of a hollow.

Photo #6  Ralph out in the hayfield with the spading fork. He uses the fork to test for rocks by just stabbing it straight down its full length. He does not need to turn the soil as the fork tines make a heck of a noise if they hit rocks. Or they just stop! He was pleased with his testing and gently turned one forkful to find rich, red soil and an earthworm.

Photo #7     The House at "The" Hollow. It is 2100 and some square feet and of modular construction. We did not go inside this trip as, to be honest, we didn't think the place would work.

Photo #8   Just look at that Garden...really!  This is the backyard behind the home and below the garage/shop.

Photo #9   There are some erosion issues.

Photo # 10  Our last stop saw this pretty little farm with the sun slowly sinking in the west. This is a 15 acre property and it has a good ratio of open land to woods as well as nice buildings. It is on good well water, but the owners don't know how deep the well is....they never asked when they bought it. Ralph was shaking his head!

Photo #11 A solid, gravel drive leads to a welcoming home site. We noticed the hay was getting past its prime and needed to be cut.

Photo #12  A very nice piece of ground for a garden. This land slopes back away from the road. It has a nice mix of pasture/hay to woods and also has a spring that has never gone dry. The ground passed the rock test with flying colors!

Photo # 13 A photo I took with my Tablet as we headed home.

Photo #14 We saw two of these huge crosses on the way back, simple and stark and quite beautiful.

Photo # 15  Is a rainbow a good sign?

Now we will have to see and yes wait a bit more. I hope this glimpse gives you a bit of an idea what you can see on a land tour. Ralph has been working with the numbers and it is really close between the small farm and the surprise place in the Hollow. They both have a lot of potential and will be great places. The numbers will tell though and we are starting to get a bit more enthusiastic.