May 17, 2015
Raised Bed ROI
In a previous post, Making the Bed(s), Cop Car commented, "What are the pros and cons of raised beds? I've been tempted to put a couple in, but couldn't figure the ROI." I started to comment in reply, but found it was longish, so decided to make a new post.
Pros for raised beds:
- Don't have to hack out any sod to create (can just cover with landscape fabric then fill in with dirt);
- don't have to worry about the clay/hardpan/rock underneath;
- you can make you soil composition exactly what you want it to be;
- helps keep grass out;
- easier to reach vegetables that are close to the ground;
- don't have to worry about accidently mowing or weed wacking into the garden by mistake;
- if you have an herb that can be invasive (like mint), it is easier to control;
- neighborhood cats don't jump up into beds to use them as litter boxes (ask me how I know - LOL);
- No rototilling needed in subsequent years.
- Prep work labor (making the ground somewhat level for the base)
- Cost of materials (I spent less than $100. However, I only had to by the cinder blocks for 1 bed, but those are cheap and can sometimes be found on CL for free. Of course most people use wood or composite for the base to make it more aesthetically pleasing.
I have never had raised beds before this house so may not have covered all the pros/cons. Other issues may crop up over time but I liked them enough last year, even with the minimal gardening I did, to add the 3rd raised bed.
May 16, 2015
Making the Bed(s)
When I moved into this house, there were two raised beds that I used for limited vegetable gardening last summer. One bed was in decent shape, the other waws really falling apart. The beds were about 8 feet apart and I hate mowing (actually, I dislike having a lot of grassy area), so I covered the section between the two beds with landscape cloth. I had a vague plan to put in a 3rd raised bed at the time, and this year I decided was as good a time as any. The existing raised beds are on conceret cinder blocks, with wooden structures on top and I decided to carry the theme forward.
Instead of wood, I found raised bed kits online that are made of composite material and are easy to put together - no tools needed. The bonus was they are cheaper than buying the wood and hardware necessary (at least the sale I stumbled onto made it that way). The end of April I set up the lower cinder block structure then the first weekend in May I added the composite material and used excess dirt from the other two beds to fill it.
I filled that bed fairly full of dirt, including filling the cinder block holes since I left the landscape fabric in place. However, there is still plenty of room to add mulch/compost/manure in future years.
I also tore apart one of the old beds that was in really horrible shape - the wood was twisting away from the corner brackets and was very rotted (of course no pictures of that). I also wanted to move it about a foot closer to the new bed, from where the cinder blocks were. I dug out the cinder blocks and spent quite some time getting all the rocks, dirt and weeds out of the holes before setting up the new base.
Since I was relocating it, I also had to dig out more than a foot from the outside (you will see why in future pictures)
Finally I got the composite structure placed on it. Since this bed is not on landscape fabric, I did not refill the dirt quite as high as I did for the new bed. I didn't realize the new cinder blocks were slightly shorter than the old cinder blocks, so one edge is quite wide on the outside - oh well, I'll put in some thyme or something there.
The one remaining old bed will not be touched this year. It is still in decent shape even though the cinder blocks have been shoved out from beneath the wood. These pictures show why I actually ended up moving more than a foot of dirt for the restructured bed - the cinder blocks were pushed way out from the actual bed itself.
I do enjoy these flowers around the old bed too (flower pictures taken this morning). Not sure what they are, but they bloomed most of the summer last year so it looks nice.
April is the time of year that I have to get my car inspected (yes, I realize it is May, but I am working on old stuff off my camera and phone). Unfortunately, my car needed a lot of work to pass inspection. I had originally taken the car to a place close by where I work, so I could catch a ride from a coworker. However, I found that they were not as honest, or as reasonably priced as I would like, so I ended up taking my car to my local maechanic that I have don't business with for 20+ years (actually did business with his dad before he passed the business to his son Glenn).
Local is in relative terms; it is in Antrim, and is 5.8 miles from my house (yes, I know exactly the disatance). Now, the issue was that the work would take several hours and probably be over the course of a couple of days. Sure, I had my bike to get to/from work, but getting home after dropping the car off (and getting there to pick it up) was problematic since I have nobody around to ask for help (not asking EX).
So, I dropped the car off on a Thursday after work, and walked home. The shortest way back is about 2.5 miles along a main road, then split off onto back roads, some of which are dirt. If there were more ways to cross the Contoocook River, I could have shaved off some distance, but there isn't, so I couldn't. However, I was able to eventually utilize a snowmobile trail that runs alongside the longest stretch of the walk. Gave my shins a much needed rest from pounding the concrete and also ran straighter and flatter than the road it paralleled. Although cloudy and cool, it was still a nice walk and I got to see some parts of the river that I normally don't see, and go right by the local gun range (Deering Fish and Game - last picture).
Glenn kept the car until Tuesday as his tire supplier misunderstood and thought he didn't need the tires until then. Worked out fine as Monday was very hot and sunny, but Tuesday was cool and cloudy - I was comfortable and not sweating my but off on the walk to the shop.
I was pleasantly surprised while passing a house that is shortly before I hit the main road - it had lots of tulips and daffodils blooming. If I had known, I would have taken a picture when I went by on Thursday to show the difference 5 days makes.
It all turned out well; I had a great excuse to get more exercise than I would normally do on my own, got in some awesome scenery, and had pleasant weather. Hey, and I know it consistently takes me 1 hour and 20 minutes to walk 5.8 miles at a decent pace (not hurrying, but not quite strolling either).
May 10, 2015
Mother's Day 2015
Happy Mother's Day to Cop Car - my biggest cheerleader! I think the following pretty much sums it up - LOL
Oh, and Birdie too!
May 03, 2015
The Harley dealer that I store my bike at also hosts a HOG (Harley Owner's Group) and the associated LOH (ladies of Harley) chapter. The LOH members were given the opportunity to model some of the new clothing that had come into the store lately. This was to take place prior to a ladies ride yesterday (5/2/15), organized in recognition of International Female Ride day. Unfortunately I had a major crick in my neck, so couldn't participate in the ride. But, I had committed to taking a Lady in to pick up her bike that day, so got to model using someone else's bike.
This is my one shot at fame and fortune - LOL.
April 25, 2015
Thanks to Cop Car, I have found a completely useless, but fascinating theory on my name. If I use my former married name, I am the only person in the US with that name. And, there are only 164 people with that last name at all. I must know at least 20% of those people. I will admit that the spelling is a non-common variation and if I put in an alternate spelling, the instances rise.
However, what I do find funny (and perhaps accurate) is that according to the graphic, there are 1 or fewer. If I was the only person with that name on Dec 31, 2014 as of Jan 1, 2015, no one has it.
Now that I have gone back to my maiden name, it seems there are 188 people that would respond if it was called over the loudspeaker.
Of course this is non-scientific, not claimed to be accurate, and just uses statistics to estimate those numbers, so this means absolutely nothing except I had something to post.
April 19, 2015
Birdie's Cage Fail
When last I left you in this riveting story, due to the base of Birdie's cage breaking, I bought a new cage for him and seemed to be doing well in his digs 9picture taken 3/27).
Well, he liked his mirror (transferred from the old cage), but he was rooted to his spot on the upper perch. He would not venture down to eat, even when I clipped one of his favorites, whole grain bread, above the food dish. By 3/31, he still had not moved to eat, although he did eat some bread that I placed in a clip next to the perch he was on - so I knew I had to do something - especially since I would be leaving for my 3 day trip to Rhode Island. So. I brought the old cage back pstairs and placed him in it until I could come up with something better. He immediately ran down to the food dish and started munching away.
I started searching CL, and found that several weeks previously someone had posted the exact same model as Birdie's old cage. I had tried desperately to find the same model as new, but evidently it had gone out of production (not surprised since it is at least 12 years old). So, I found someone who was selling the cage - or were they? You never know on CL with older ads. Did they sell the item and not delete the post? Did they get tired of waiting for someone to want it and take it to the dump or local swap shop?
Only one way to find out, so I mailed the person that had placed the ad. In the email I offered a little less than they wanted explaining that I really only needed the base, not the whole cage. Yes, the cage was still available, and they would take what I offered so I arranged to pick it up the night before leaving for RI. I didn't wet it up as I had other things to accomplish (like pack), but at least I didn't have to worry about it while I was supposed to be relaxing.
A couple of days after I got home, I transferred Birdie to the new/used cage (hey, it was already clan, so I might as well use the whole thing). Although traumatized by the move, as usual, he settled in as if it was the same old cage.
At the same time, I decided to go ahead and assemble the stand that I had gotten for the new cage. Since the stand is contoured to fit the base of the new cage exactly, I had to scrounge in the basement and found a couple of shelves from a broken book shelf that works well for holding the cage.
If you look below the cage in use, there is a clear plastic seed catcher in the above picture. That thing has been in use since sometime in the 90's, and is brittle, cracked and falling apart. I looked and looked for a replacement, but the company that used to make them was bought out by another company and they discontinued making the seed catcher. Birdie is very messy for a cockatiel; throwing food and pellets out of the cage, so a catcher is needed.
Most solutions available now consist of a covering that blocks off view from above the seed bowl to the cage bottom. I knew Birdie would never go for that, so I finally found something that works, although it freaked out Birdie for a couple of days - but he is okay with it now.
Note that I only put up a couple of sides to the catcher so it sags and looks like crap, but it is the only way that I can still access the food bowls every day (it interferes with the latches for the bowls - if they slid upwards the catcher would be fine). It works better than the old catcher as Birdie hasn't figured out how to flip the pellets/seeds over the side, so the floor stays a lot cleaner.
Since the new cage that Birdie doesn't like is used, it can't be returned. I am torn as to whether I will try to sell it (and take a loss), or hold onto it. Every once in a while I see birds being given away on CL (cockatiels or parakeets), and I wouldn't mind having a couple more birds. Even if I don't get more birds at this point, Birdie has surpassed his life expectancy (he's over 20), so when it is his time to go, I am sure I will get another small bird or two - and having a new cage would be preferable to the used cage, which is about as old as the cage that I replaced.
At least Birdie is happy and eating, so anything beyond that is just a minor irritant.
April 11, 2015
Birthday Vacation on the Island
The Outlaws (they aren't really true in-laws anymore - LOL), that used to live in the next town over, moved to Rhode Island last fall. More precisely, they moved to an island, off of Rhode Island, to manage a timeshare resort. They kept telling me I should go out for a visit. Since I get my birthday off work as a holiday, and my BD fell on a Friday this year, it was a great time to take a 3-day weekend to go visit.
The tourist / vacation destination of Block Island, has not yet gotten underway so most "attractions" were not open, but that was okay, I wasn't going for ice cream, specialty chocolates or any of that stuff - just get away, see BIL & SIL, and generally recharge.
I left Friday morning to make the 1PM ferry (ferry only runs 3 times/day at this point, so timing is everything). As usually happens when I take vacation, I left in 40 degree weather and it was raining. It was the same when I got to the docks, and was supposed to stay that way for most of the weekend. Oh well, I expect nothing less! The view from the ferry was less than spectacular
So, I ended up taking a nap. Don't get to do that often, and obviously I needed it because I woke up just as we were approaching the breakwater of the island 55 minutes later. I texted SIL when I landed, and she came to get me; the timeshare community was only a couple of blocks away so I didn't have to wait long.
The rest of Friday afternoon I spent talking with SIL as she was finishing up ordering of linens and dishes needed for the units before prime season began. They had given me a room (thank you so much guys!) since they weren't full up yet. I also accompanied BIL to the dump, where I helped unload cardboard from kitchen cabinets that he had installed in some of the units. We also stopped at the local hardware store for plumbing supplies to finish installing kitchen sinks. With that, I got some idea of the lay of that part of the island, and BIL gave me histories of some of the features we passes (like "New" port - which used to be a lake and was opened up to the ocean for more portage).
That evening we walked to one of the few restaurants that was open for fish fry - walking is the main transport as everything is right there at the port, so it doesn't make sense to drive. At that point the rain had turned to intermittent drizzle, so we didn't get too wet. The fish was fabulous and we all returned to the resort gorged. I broke out the kindle and got in some reading before calling it a night.
Saturday I awoke to 40's, gray skies and massive wind. After making some tea, I curled up with the Kindle and read a bunch more. The outlaws expected several parties to arrive from the 1PM ferry, and they were doing last minute preparations, so I was left to my own devices. I walked the street along the beach and found the water was very pretty.
When I returned, it was shortly before the ferry was expected. SIL needed a couple of things done, so I was happy to help out. Then some of the guests started to arrive, so I retired to my room for more reading.
After the commotion died down, I decided to go walking a different direction. Even though it was still mighty windy, the sun had come out and it was warming up some. I found one trail, which I followed until it appeared to be getting close to town, then turned around to find more outlying area. I found the airport and the local air taxi. I was fascinated with the tail emblem and then suddenly realized it was the shape of the island.
After detouring for the pictures, I kept heading out, where I found another trail that went past this driveway.
Above the steps, I found that I was behind and above the airport
I was debating whether to go along the trail further (I was off the trail for the above pics, when I received a text from SIL asking where I was. I replied "I'm on some trail behind the airport." She replied that she wanted to make sure I wasn't bored. Ohh, no way! I decided to head back the way I had come as I wasn't sure how long the trail would continue before it found another road. When I got to the bench, I got another text from SIL saying she had ordered pizza and it would be ready in about 30 minutes.
I got back shortly before the pizza and we stuffed ourselves (obviously, this was not a wheat-free weekend for me). While we were eating, more guests arrived and SIL had to go check everyone in. I cleaned up (we had been eating at the picnic table). I then headed to the office, where SIL was checking in the last guest to arrive for the day. It was a youngish couple (anyone who appears under 45 is youngish to me now - LOL), who was asking about hiking. SIL hadn't yet gotten to any of the trails, so I was happy to give them some direction to the two trails I had found.
While the young woman took their baby to their unit, the young man asked if they should drive, or if it was safe to walk there. I told him that most people gave wide berth to walker (as wide as they could, some roads were barely two cars wide), and as long as they walked facing traffic they would be good. I also told him that most of the people would wave to them - the islanders are truly friendly, even In the off-season.
After a few minutes of paperwork, SIL decided she wanted to show me the "Cliffs". Since it was late in the day (6-ish), she drove us there.
Island Birthday - Part 2
The Cliffs were truly grand - giving a great view of the ocean, with a very nice staircase down to about 100 feet above the sands.
We then went to another viewing area further down the road, before we headed back to the Resort.
When we got back, I broke out some wine that I had brought to celebrate their first opening (for them, not the resort). We had some good conversation while I played with their kitty. Eventually kitty got tired and decided my jacket was a really nice place to snooze.
Sunday morning, SIL wanted to go to the Easter Sunrise Service at 6:15AM. So, we started walking about 6. The horizon was starting to show color when we got there, The service was beautiful, and short. The sun broke thru the clouds on the horizon shortly after the service started.
When we turned to head to the church for breakfast, I saw that there was a full moon too.
The church put on a great breakfast of scrambled eggs, ham, bacon (fresh, not store bought), potatoes and French toast made with cinnamon raisin bread - with real maple syrup. I put in donations for both of us since they had provided my room and two large meals while I was there (I took salads, sardines and bananas with me for my other meals). We walked the long way back to the resort to help all the food settle.
All too soon it was time to board the ferry for my trip back home. I had a great time, got to see and hike some new territory, had great food and even better conversation. I am so blessed that they invited me to come down (and meant it!). I hope to go again in the fall, when there is more color.
March 29, 2015
Still Snowing at the End of March
Although it is slowly warming up, and the birds are flying up from further south, we are still getting snow. The storms aren't big, mostly dustings - and we got about an inch yesterday, after heavy rains on Thursday (the garage did get some water, but not nearly what I got last year, and not entering the basement, so I am good.
Pictures taken yesterday and today of the snow pack remaining.
In my area, a big flock of redwing blackbirds arrived about 2 weeks ago and they have hung around. I can hear/see them in the trees in the trees in back, and to the side of my house. Pictures of other birds at the feeder a couple of weeks ago (3-7-15).
It is supposed to get in the 40's this coming week, but even then Easter egg hunts next week may be in the snow.