Topsoil and Wind

14 04 2009

Today was topsoil day. Wonderful guy that he is, AJ hopped into the truck and went to pick up the soil. I set about getting Oasis2 ready to fill. I’m not crazy about the name “Oasis2”. Once it gets some personality I will have to come up with a better title. For now I will shorten it to “O2”. Hey, I kind of like that…

Oasis2-Beginning

The soil has arrived. Hmm, that doesn’t look like very much. I hope it’s enough.

Truckload-Soil

With the truck backed up and ready to unload, AJ sprung a change on me. He offered up two tires we had sitting around. I guess these are $250.oo tires with a little life on them, but nothing we can use anymore. So, at the last minute I tried to incorporate them. Now that it’s finished I know how I wish I would have configured it; but you know what they say about wishing…

Ready-to-fill

We got the truck close enough that we were able to walk the soil over by the shovel-full.

Oasis2Filling

Within 45 minutes the bed was full of this gorgeous, rich soil. There was exactly enough and not a scoop more. Sorry compost heap, I’ll have to go with plan B on that.

Oasis2-Filled

The shoveling went so fast because we were racing this weather system approaching from the West.

Ominous-Weather

The first band chased us inside right after we filled the bed. We waited for the big gap in the middle and then went back to work.

Radar

From back to front, left to right: cucumbers, lima beans, pole beans. watermelon,

broccoli, super giant productive cherry tomato plant, musk melons,

lettuce, carrots and more eggplant. Actually, I thinned out the lettuce from The Oasis and transplanted many of them throughout O2.

Oasis2-Planted

The weather co-operated and I was able to add the gravel mulch.

Finished-Oasis2

This super tomato is supposed to get up to 6′ tall and produce over 600 cherry tomatoes in its lifetime. It’s so small and cute now, but I know it will become a monster. I’m sure I’ll be sorry I planted it in the middle of the bed, but gardening is so much more exciting if you mix it up a bit!

I faced the dilemma of how to support the plant once it begins to take off. I looked around for something with which to fashion a tomato cage. I just hate those utilitarian metal ones. Bamboo…plenty of bamboo everywhere, but how to hold it together? Then I remembered something I learned from my best friend Kris’s mom, Karen. Karen owned a flower shop and was a talented florist and designer (still is, although she is now retired).

One day we were enlisted to collect grape vines. I had no idea why, but Kris and I had to cut and yank down a huge mass of the tangled tendrils from her grandmother’s fence. This was a grueling and painful task, and we were covered with cuts and scratches before it was done. Afterward, Karen showed us the fruits of our labor. She grabbed a handful of the feisty vines and skillfully wound them into a beautiful wreath. I was always impressed with the fact that both of Kris’s parents were entrepreneurs and so creative. The wreath idea popped into my head when I thought about the tomato cage, so I went out on the back lot and cut some grape vines.

Tomato-Cage

AJ helped me secure them. The whole thing looks a little crooked, and I will probably straighten a bit and eventually add another ring towards the top, once the plant grows up a bit. I really like it, though. It works perfectly.

Tomato-Cage-CU

I hope the big tomato plant in The Oasis inspires the cherry tomato. The big tomatoes are bulging out everywhere. If you look closely you will notice that one is starting to turn orange. I’m hoping that we will have vine ripe tomatoes within a week. I still feel guilty about dogging the flea market tomato plant when I first got it. I think these are “spite tomatoes”.

Big-Tomatoes

After we finished up the wind began to blow. It has been blowing steadily around 25mph all afternoon with gusts up to 45mph. The new plantings are really taking a hit. Now I wish I would have waited for this front to pass before subjecting these babies to the elements. Tomorrow I will survey the damage and see how everything fared.

Even as the wind howled, nature gave us a gift; the most brilliant, apocalyptic looking red sky in many moons.

Red-Sky

Glad that portion of the project is finished. There is still a lot to do. I must cut and install the bamboo fascia; and will likely run out before I’m done. But the plants are in, and if this wind ever lets up they should start growing fast.

Tomorrow is going to be an exciting day. I think I’ll make you wait to find out what is in the works, but I will give you a hint: There are chickens, worms, mushrooms, heirloom plants and tie-dyed shirts involved. Check back tomorrow evening for the lowdown.

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Bamboo, Bamboo and more Bamboo!

10 04 2009

We got home with the bamboo on Wednesday and crashed. Thursday, after work we set up a processing center in the driveway. Bamboo is messy, branchy, leafy and sharp! I processed my pile of thin bamboo and AJ processed the big stuff. Sawzall, branch cutters and a machete were involved.

Processing

AJ deals with the especially difficult pieces.

Finishing-up

I pose with the sawzall.

Cutting

Today, AJ finished processing the big stuff, and put it under the RV to cure. Once it has dried for a couple of weeks we will treat it and use it in the new fence.

Bamboo-Curing

Here is my small stuff. It looks like a lot, but I bet Oasis2 takes the all of it.

Finished-Thin-Bamboo

This shot of Oasis2 should explain why I’m chomping at the bit to get the trellis built and the beans planted. The chaos in the background is Jack’s lot. He’s a fascinating and nice old guy; but his sense of aesthetics is vastly different than ours. This afternoon, Jack came around and sat on his trailer to talk to me while I worked. He said that he loved our gravel and couldn’t get over how great it looks. He said the bamboo brought back memories of WWII. They used it to build traps and cages for the Japanese. While we were talking the park manager came by with a notice about the Health Department citations. Jack has been ordered to clean up his lot, cover the boat with a tarp and get tags on his vehicles. I’ve been in this park too long to expect much of a change. There is only so much you can do with hoarders like Jack. I am very fond of the guy, but I do not enjoy looking at his junk. I keep my fingers crossed that the pole beans, lima beans and cucumbers fill in the trellis and obscure the view.

Oasis2-in-works

Here is the experimental stage of the trellis. I dug holes up to my elbows and buried five poles. The horizontal bamboo wasn’t long enough to span the length, so I changed plans and went for a diagonal look with three poles.

Trellis-in-process

It’s still a little crooked because I ran out of twine to tie it together. I will straighten it out a bit, and AJ said he would trim the ends for me.  I’m not very concerned since it is quite sturdy and I don’t plan to see much of it in a month or two. It’s not large enough to hide the entire mess, but I hope it helps.

Trellis-done

Here is a photo that AJ took when I wasn’t looking. I’m cutting the long pieces into small fascia, which I will pound into the ground around the raised beds.

Cutting-Fascia

Here’s The Oasis. Take a good look at this and try to take your mind off of the previous image.

Oasis041009

The ebay auctions bombed. I didn’t make enough to buy the topsoil. We planned to get it with our pay, but we did not get paid today; so I don’t know what will happen. The beans are sending out very long tendrils and really need to get into the ground. I may cash in my change jar and buy a couple of bags of soil just to get the beans planted.

Tomorrow is another day of labor. We are aching, exhausted and all scratched up.  See you on the flip side.





Week in Review – The Thriving Landscape

6 04 2009

It’s been a nonstop busy week. AJ’s mother, Karen and her beau, Mark stayed with us last weekend and through Tuesday morning. We worked hard the rest of the week and on Friday afternoon got news that Allan Sr. (AJ’s dad) was on his way. Exhausted and with a marginally functioning brain, I fear that I was a terrible hostess. A good night’s sleep, some great coffee and a hearty breakfast found me in better spirits by Saturday morning.  The remainder of the weekend was filled with more abundance and goodness on behalf of Allan Sr. It seems to be a trend that our quality of life drastically improves on a weekly basis. I will share all of this in my very next post, but first I want to give a progress report on the flora in our mini-Eden.

Tillandsia Fasciculata

This beautiful native airplant was rescued by AJ and given a new home in the dead hickory tree which we now call “The Mushroom Tree”, due to its proliferation of shelf mushrooms. The native bromeliad has put out four flower stalks since we adopted it; two former stalks still drying and releasing seeds as a new one emerges.

Tillandsia fasciculata

New flower stalk

Tillandsia fasciculata flower stalk

Old Seed Heads

Tillandsia fasciculata Seed Pods

Seeds

Tillandsia fasciculata Seeds

Although these native bromeliads are difficult to grow from seed, they do put off numerous pups. Today I made “Tillandsia Crabs” by placing some pups from another plant into some shells I have been holding onto for years.

Tillandsia Crabs

Tillandsia Crab

The Edible Landscape

This is a cactus I salvaged from a debris heap. I knew it when it was a massive and mature cactus so large that were it to fall on a person it would cause serious injury if not death. The cactus produces large, sweet fruit; which I eagerly anticipate. For now I have it in a pot with purslane and pink purslane at its base. Purslane is an edible weed, rich in omega 3 fatty acids. I made a delicious salad for dinner using some collected from my garden. Good stuff!

Purslane & Moss Rose

Oasis2 still awaits soil. This is my project for next weekend. The pole beans, lima beans, watermelon and musk melon are all from heirloom, open pollinated seeds from victoryseeds.com. A promisingly prolific tomato plant is from my friend Robert.  All await their new homes in the future raised bed. Stay tuned for the details of this project.

Oasis2

Victory Seed Company

I can’t say enough good things about Victory Seed Company, other than I wish they would have warned me about how prolific their seeds are! Assuming that not all would germinate, I planted too many, too close together. Everything I have planted is growing fast. I did a mini-harvest of spinach, lettuce and a few other herbs to add to our dinner salad. I don’t think we will have to wait longer than a week or two to really begin eating from this garden.

Baby Bibb Lettuce from Victoryseeds.com

Baby Bibb Lettuce

Baby Sage from Victoryseeds.com

Baby Sage

Baby Spinach from Victoryseeds.com

Baby Spinach

Baby Carrots from Victoryseeds.com

Baby Carrots

Baby Pablano Peppers from Victoryseeds.com

Baby Pablano Peppers

The Flea Market Tomato Plant

This tomato plant has at least 20 tomatoes and counting. Can’t wait to see how they taste!

Tomatoes

Gift From the Universe

Last but not least, behold The Dumpster Chair. I have been looking for a small chair or bench from which to reflect upon my garden. Friday I took the trash out and discovered this little treasure in the dumpster. A nice coat of white paint should restore it to its former glory. Another project for another day. For now, it is the perfect garden seat.

Free-Chair