Sunday, November 24, 2013

Fall cold snap

If November is any inclination, we're in for a rough winter this year! This morning we were at 13°F with winds blowing 20-30 mph, and we're expecting single digits tonight! We've had temperatures in the teens three other times this month.

So far the plants in the hoop house are doing well. When the temperatures get near freezing we put a row cloth over the plants for extra protection. The beets have wilted a little from frosting but that may be because they are planted closest to the edge of the hoop and are dealing with the most cold. We've picked quite a bit of lettuce and radishes though!

Over night, along with the cold temperatures, we got almost an inch of snow with more squall expected during the day.

My husband dusted off the south wall of the hoop house and as soon as the sun came out it quickly warmed up into the 20's and 30's. By noon it was 55° in the hoop when outside it was 19° and windy!

Inside the row covers are draped over all the plants to give an extra layer of protection. We watered everything well yesterday to keep the humidity high.

 Under the row covers the lettuce and radishes were frosted but were fine once the temperature warmed up. If we had not purchased cold hardy varieties they wouldn't have handled it.

fresh radishes when it's snowing outside!

I would love to be able to pick lettuce clear through winter but we'll just have to see what kind of winter we end up having and how much the plants can tolerate. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Cloth napkins for everyday use

Cloth napkins being made for everyday use do not have to be complicated. If I was going to make some for more formal occasions I might sew them with some nice mitered edges like these over at Design Mom. But for these a simple zigzagged edge will do.

Any fabric can used: leftovers from other sewing projects, sheets, old flannel shirts or some nice linens bought just for the project. I cut my fabric into 13" squares but anywhere from 12-20" is a good size, it's just personal choice.

Once the fabric is cut, use a sewing machine with matching thread to zigzag around the edge.

Fold up your napkins and stack them in a napkin holder on your table. As they are used they can be tossed in with your regular laundry. See, really simple! And now you don't have to buy disposable napkins anymore!

Monday, November 11, 2013

A solar water pump for the garden

Our garden and hoop house are across the street from our house. So watering always meant either dragging a long length of hose across the road from the house or bringing buckets of water to fill the watering cans with. Neither one was really practical.

When we build the hoop house in the spring Hubby wanted to install some kind of watering system for it. He wanted to draw from a spring fed pond 700 ft away and 50 ft lower in elevation from the gardens.

What he came up with was  a perfect solution, a solar powered water pump that would push the water up the hill to the gardens!
He purchased this on demand water pump from Northern Tool. A 30 watt 12 volt  solar panel charges a 12 v 115 amp hr deep cycle battery through a charge controller. The pump is powered directly from the battery and when not being used the solar panel keeps the battery fully charged.

To keep the electric components protected from the weather he place a plastic tote over top and screwed it to the deck to hold it in place.

The water is pumped through 700' of 3/4" black poly pipe. At the top of the hill the pipe is split, one end running to the hoop house and the other to the garden. Spigots are at each end of the pipes so we can connect either irrigation hoses or garden hoses with sprayers to hand water. 

So far it has worked perfectly! The solar panel is able to keep the battery fully charged and we are able to water a few times a week without any trouble, we've never drained the battery.

If you want some more details on the project, check out a very in depth article that was done over at Build it Solar!!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The fall hoop.

I am just realizing that I never wrote about the fall planting in the hoop,,shame on me!

We built our first hoop house this spring and in the summer grew tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, watermelon, and herbs in it.

Here it is at the peak of the summer! The tomatoes were touching the ceiling and the whole thing looked like a mini jungle!

Hubby went over to Johnny Seeds where they have a great variety of veggie seeds recommended for hoops and greenhouses. He picked out a few things that are cold hardy and would thrive in the hoop into fall.
The varieties we went with are:

The second week in September we cleared everything out of the hoop house and planted our fall crops. (We calculated that if we planted any later than that the plants would not have enough time to grow before it got too cold)

Now we catch up to now....

 November and we are still gardening! The beets and spinach seem to be slow. We've had to reseed them a couple times, they just weren't coming up well, we're not sure why. Everything else looks great! The lighter green is the leaf lettuce followed by the bib lettuce behind it. We even threw in some radish seeds that we had left from the summer garden. They grow so fast we've already harvested a bunch. Behind the bib lettuce is a row of spinach, followed by the carrots and the beets behind them. The carrots did well from the get go, germination was really good. Also my pot of parsley that's been sitting there since summer still looks good.

Two days ago we had an unexpected cold snap that sent temperatures down to 19 degrees over night. (Pretty cold for this time of year) Hubby purchased some row cloth just in time and we draped it over the plants the day before.
Now check this out....        

The day after that cold snap and we were harvesting for a salad! Fresh lettuce and radishes! The majority of the plants looked fine with only the larger beet plants showing some wilting on a few leaves.

With this success so far I'm realizing that I could be harvesting for a fresh salad for Thanksgiving and should not have to buy lettuce for most of the year. Pretty amazing!

Homemade train costume!

Train Costume!

My youngest son (5) is really into trains,,, I mean obsessed with them! So when my daughter suggested he be a train for Halloween he was thrilled with the idea.
When making a costume I try to scrounge as much materials as I can from around the house. This one is mostly cardboard with some suspenders borrowed from my husband.

 Two cardboard boxes and a cardboard tube (you know, the ones used for concrete footings) were assembled into the basic train shape. I hot glued them together first and then went over each seam with paper mache. (a typical homemade recipe, 3C flour, 3C water) After than dried I was still concerned about the boxes falling apart so I reinforced the joints with duct tape, on the underside and inside, where it wouldn't be seen. Three holes were cut out for windows.

I cut two holes for the chimney and headlight before painted. The chimney is a scrap piece of vent pipe and the headlight is the top of a Pringles can. I used spray paint to give it a nice even coat.

Here's a closer look at the headlight. When the cap is removed a light can be put inside during Trick-or-Treating. We used a head lamp but a small flashlight or glow sticks would work too.

An essential of this costume was that candy be able to go down the chimney... cutting an extra hole the candy can go down the chimney and into the box below. My son really loved this part!

My biggest dilemma with this costume was how to attach the suspenders to the inside of the costume. I was concerned that any holes I made would weaken the boxes and cause tearing while he was wearing it. What I came up with was this...
With my duct tape I created flaps on the inside of the box that the suspenders could be attached too. This held really well!

 Some cardboard wheels and Paper accents and this is the end result! We did have to add a small block of wood to the back of the costume since it's so front heavy.

 He loved it!! We got three uses out of it before a rainy Halloween started turning the cardboard into mush. But it lasted as long as we needed to so I'd say it was a success, and we got complimented on it everywhere we went!!