Friday, December 30, 2011

Uneven Minwax Polystain results!

I take back all of the good things that I said about Minwax polystain. It is beading up, which gives a very uneven surface. It is really very obvious!

I am following the directions for the second coat, and then I will use sandpaper blocks followed by fine steel wool. THEN I will, I believe, rub in a third coat in an attempt to get a more even surface.

Then I will not use this product again. Ever.

It takes longer to dry then they said, which is not a biggie. It means that the project will take longer, is all!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Refinishing the Table!

Solid wood furniture is the BOMB!

The good table is worn and ugly, which is a shame as I have always had a weakness for wood furniture. And, because money is so tight it would be foolish to replace it or even have it refinished it.

So, I went down to Home Depot and for $25 I bought what I needed to refinish it.

They had a bucket full of wood strips that I could match my table to. I could not take the bucket of samples home but I could (and did) bring in a broken arm rest to match the colors. What is even better: I will not have to strip the furniture! Min-Wax brand is designed to go OVER the old finish! And, the can of stain says that there is polyurethane already mixed into the stain and so a separate polyurethane coat will not be needed.

So, I scrubbed and I sanded the table top to make a smooth base, wiped off the dust with a damp rag, and let it dry for an hour.

I then brushed on a layer of stain, being carefull to keep a wet leading edge and it looks AWESOME! I did a GREAT job matching the stain! I will need a second coat that will go on tonight, but this table is going to look brand new! (Actually I think it is closer 30 years old, but have I mentioned that solid wood is AWESOME?)

Next I will have to take a toothbrush to clean some spots on the edge- I am only staining the top as that is all that showes wear- and then I will need to take a toothbrush to the chairs. There is some ground in grime on those chars on the underside, in the cracks where the rungs meat the seats, and so forth. I intend THEM to look as new as the table!

I consider home repair to be every INCH part of homesteading!

Gotta go, now. The sun is getting low and the chickens need to be shut in!!!!!!!!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Strawberries and Sweet Potatos in the Greenhouse.


My greenhouse is not well vented, so even with the open door it will be a problem to keep things watered. Increased heat means increased transpiration which means an increased need for water.

My greenhouse is home made and I got it ALMOST level, and so there is an uphill side that I can take advantage of. If I plant the strawberries in a rather thick row along that edge, I should be able to keep them watered without actually going into the greenhouse. Instead I can walk along the uphill side with the hose, and gravity will take the water into the greenhouse. This will be easier, and it means that I will not have to stand in the over-heated greenhouse in order to water. My heat tolerance has never been very good, and now that I have MS it is far worse!

Instructions on strawberries say to plant them a foot apart, but strawberries in the wild or in a bed grow much more closely than that. I do not expect a problem from planting them that closely.

I am going to plant a double row just 6 inches apart. The roots can spread out to the side.  And, when I fertilize I can spread a line of fertilizer outside of the greenhouse and let the water carry it to the roots!

If I plant the early strawberries I will give up some production as plants bred for an early yield rarely yield as well, but it might be worth it to not be picking after it gets hot! Kansas DOES get hot, and I will not want to be inside the greenhouse at that time. 

I THINK that most nurseries get their bundles of strawberries in February, which would be early enough as February is usually overcast and wet in my area. The greenhouse will not freeze in such conditions, but neither will the plants grow much. So, instead of trying to get them in early I will accept that they will not get planted as early as they could be.

And, since I will be growing them a few feet away from sweet potatos I shall have to go inside every now and then to move any sweet potato vines that threaten to grow over them.

Sweet potatos.

Sweet potatos love heat but they also love water. Instead of going inside to water, I will see what areas inside the greenhouse get boggy when it rains, and I will mark the area. THAT is where I will plant the sweet potatos!

I should be able to run the hose and fill that low-lying area regularly to water the plants nexxt to it. I might dig an inch deep trenchleading to the low area to speed things up a bit.

I do not mind being inside the greenhouse briefly and so I can fertilize easily: since the water will have to run 4 feet to the sweet potatos so it would be best if I put the fertilizer next to the plants. With heat and water and fertility, I expect the sweet potatos to be VERY HAPPY!!!!!!!!!

Weeding is very easy because of the raised beds that I put on top of woven greenhouse floor covering. I filled the raised beds with perlite: for nutrition the fine roots have to go through the woven floor or use the fertilizer that I apply. This keeps the weeds small and they are easily removed. Not that I have MANY weeds as there were no seeds in the perlite that I filled the beds with but I do get a few, now.

Since the sweet potatos will be grown in perlite it should be very easy to remove them: I will just work my hand into the perlite and remove them! I will have to be gentle to protect the woven floor that the fine roots grow through, but I expect no real problem.

Beauregaurd sweeet potatos grow well in my area. If I can I will grow some of them.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

I Am Running Out of Greenhouse Vegetables!

I have enough radishes for just one more salad! And, they are small and slightly frost-damaged, as the temperature unexpectedly fell down to 18 degrees farenheight. I need 2 layers of plastic on the beds when it is that cold and I only had one. All of the plants survived but some damage was done.

And, the turnips still have not bulbed up.

Elliot Coleman, who sells greenhouse vegetables all winter long, stated that vegetables stopped growing when the day length fell to below 8 hours a day. We are getting less than 8 hours of daylight right now. The vegetables should start growing again when the daylength is AGAIN 8 hours, which will not be until the end of January.

I am spoiled: I LIKE having fresh picked vegetables! No vegetable from the store tastes as good as my fresh picked ones! Next Fall I will grow twice as many radishes, as they are good in the middle of winter!

Heck, I might plant greenhouse radishes this winter in January, for early salads!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Kim Il Sung is dead!

I rarely speak ill of anybody, but his people were starving and he did NOT care! If he had cared, he would have allowed the citizens of North Korea to have larger gardens, instead of the tiny ones they were expected to use.

Not that the citizens DID restrict themselves to the tiny gardens that were legal: instead they paid bribes to be allowed to raise their carrots and such in peace!

Many of the refugees also report that a large percentage of the population were eating grass or skipping meals because they could not afford to eat! I suspect that the North Koreans have no idea that most countries no longer have famines, and that in other countries the people have no idea that grass can be eaten....... And WHY would any government try to stop the citizens from having large gardens??????

North Korea is a  land of many mountains. In America the mountains are often grazed by meat animals. In Europe the mountains are planted to vinyards, often with grass between the rows,  and so their hillsides produce fruit and hay, but in North Korea the citizens eat the grass that grows on the mountains instead of feeding it to livestock! And vegetable gardens are restricted. That is CRAZY!

The Winter Greenhouse!

It is the winter solstice, or very close to it.

The radishes are still good, though they have lost a small amount of their crispness.

We ate 2 small turnips at Thanksgiving, which is the end of November in America. Alas, the other turnip roots stopped growing when they were 1/2 inch across. Since the turnip greens are stronger than I enjoy I might be done eating turnips! We shall see: either the roots will continue to get fat or they will not. Either the plants will go to seed or they will not. And, if they DO go to seed then the greens might get milder, and then we could eat the greens!

Thw small onions are growing VERY well, and the scallions appear to be dormant. The parsley and young cabbage are just sitting there.

I wish I could remember when I planted the greenhouse: was it in September? I THINK that it was, and that would appear to be too late in the year for the turnips and cabbage. Though I might get some good greens when they go to seed.

Elliot Coleman, who writes books about using unheated greenhouses in a colder climate than I live in, plants chard, beets, arugula, carrots, lettuce, leeks, parsley, lettuce, scallions, sorrel, spinach, and a few others.

And, I have had good success with small onions, radishes, and parsley. If planted earlier no doubt I would have good turnips. Next year I will try all of those again and add beets and spinach to the mix.

Next SPRING I will try strawberries! Since I do not have to weed hardly at all I should get a good crop, and a very early one!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

I am back from my trip, much to my husbands relief!

Apparently my husband does not like my daughter's cooking! And, the house is a mess but she will soon put that right!

To console my husband, tonight we will have sausages, peas, potato cassarole, and a salad of cabbage and of radishes from the greenhouse! Yes, the greenhouse has done well for me, and everything is still alive!

I have no idea how cold it got while I was gone: it is not something that my family would notice.

I remember that men eat partly with their eyes, and so I have sprinkled some peas and some sliced sausage across the top of the potato cassarole, to make it look bright and pretty. Nella Last, an Englishwoman who cooked VERY well during the shortages of World War 2, pointed that out. She  said that her husband one day came home and spoke in horror how the men who worked under him had only vegetables, cheese, and bread to eat for their lunch! His wife was carefull to NOT point out that his last lunch had been vegetable soup and hot toast with cheese melted on top! Apparently her husband felt well fed because he ate lunch at home at a table with flowers and a table cloth on it!

Nella Last was an excellent cook because she could make the rationed food like cheese look like more food than what it was. Cheese was rationed and could have been eaten in a few bites, but by grating it on top of bread and heating it she made it into a filling dish. Also,  instead of eating the raisins they were able to buy, she would only use them to flavor bread and her English puddings. Puddings during the war were mostly bread, but she would use some raisins in the batter and call them a dessert. . By serving it at a table her family felt that they had eaten well.

I have 2 of the books that were written from her notes, "Nella Last's War" and "Nella Last's Peace", and they are both very good!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The greenhouse really heats up on a sunny day!

It is 18 degrees out and, while it is sunny,  there is a sprinkling of snow on the ground. When I went into the greenhouse the heat hit me like a soft, warm pillow.

The plants are now under 2-3 layers of plastic, if you count  both the skin over the greenhouse and the clear plastic tarps that I threw over the plants. The hardiest plants have just one tarp thrown over it but the vegetables have 2.

Today I watered with buckets of warm water, as the plants have gotten way too dry. I kept waiting for a lovely day to water but it never came: it has been overcast and chilly: now it is sunny but cold.

This will be my last entry for a while: I am going to visit family on the coast. I decided that it would be too much to ask for my family to care for the greenhouse, and so I got it as ready as I could to survive for a while without me. Not one of my relatives has any skill with plants: they would either drown them or not cover them properly!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Today I fed the bees.

It is a small hive, and they did not put up enough stored honey to last them for the winter. So, I made a heavy syrup to give to them. They will suck it up and put it in any empty comb in the hive.

The reason that they did not put up enough stores is because that area has a poor Fall nectar flow. I meant to move them, but I decided that I would need help with it and it simply did not get taken care of during the summer. We got a great many OTHER things taken care of, but the hive never got moved!

Another reason is that it was 109 degrees-about 42.8 degree celcius- and I found it difficult to get ANY yard work done!

This feeding for the bees will be the last. It is getting pretty cold, and so soon I will take out the feeding cups and put in some insulation instead.

This hive was a swarm of bees that moved into an empty hive this summer, and it is still not very large yet. They are in an EXCELLENT place to catch swarms: all that I have to do is to set up used bee hives and they simply move themselves in! But, as I said before, there is not much of a Fall nectar flow.

This spring I might sell them, or perhaps I will move them to my home. The city limits me to two hives where I live, but right now I do not have any. I got busy with 2 sick kids and a Mother in Law that was not doing well, and I did not watch the hive closely enough and so I lost the hive.

Bee hives need very little care, but when they DO need care they need care right away! If they do not get it they will PROBABLY leave, or possibly they will die. Bee hives cannot be neglected. And, so I lost my hive and I set out the hive so that more bees would move in, and they have.

I am still not certain I want to work with bees next summer. If another family member gets very ill I will probably sell them to prevent another hive from being lost.

Teenagers can be wonderfull!

I *AM* somewhat handicapped, and because of the recession my oldest child cannot find work. Fine. *I* hired her!

She works for me for about 2 hours a day, 6 days a week, at $5 an hour plus room and board. For me this is working out very well: She does the picking up and the dishes, which both require a lot of walking (tiring for me). She also does the laundry: she runs it through the machines and brings it to me to fold.

While her enthusiasm for picking up the same stuff day after day is waning, and she is starting to  put in fewer hours, this is *STILL* working out well! I really did need the help. I was barely managing until she finished high school.

The money that she earns goes for her half of college (we are splitting the costs), pays for her gas and for hanging out with her friends. I have spoken to her about working enough hours to buy a car, but she is borrowing ours and does not yet see the need. She is not yet thinking ahead yet but that's OK: she is only 18.

Yesterday I had her helping me plant bulbs. In a drizzling rain. I paid her double the usual rate, as I do with other jobs that are particularly difficult. In spite of the light, drizzling rain it was much warmer yesterday than it will be today!

Sooner or later she will find a job that is not from me: with luck my youngest will have finished school by then and I can hire him if he cannot find work! He is 17.

Otherwise we will start using paper plates and store bought lasagna, and we can cook from scratch every other day instead of every day to decrease my work load.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Protecting beds of plants inside the greenhouse

Today I covered the beds inside the greenhouse with clear paint tarps.

I will be traveling next week, and it is not likely that my family will remember to cover the beds if a hard freeze threatens. Having a second layer of plastic down will reduce the amount of light but this is unavoidable: if I do not protect the beds then any weather in the teens will execute the lot!

The radishes are ready to be eaten, and I have picked the first 2 turnips but the others are only about 1/4 of an inch across. With protection I might get a good crop: without it I will lose the vegetables just when they are ready to bear.

I only put radish in the salad and some cabbage from the fridge: I could have taken some pak choi but it has not yet re-grown from Thanksgiving. I have not grown much pak choi so I have no idea when it will stop growing!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Fall Harvest

Winter has, of course, stopped most of the vegetables cold.

On the GOOD side, I am harvesting radishes and greens in my unheated greenhouse, and today I pulled the first 2 turnips to add to a salad.. The turnips tasted fine, but the turnip greens were a little strong-tasting to add, so I didn't. That left me with 2 small turnips, onelarge radish, and the radish greens.

This time of year the store bought lettuce tastes a LOT like crunchy water, and the additions to the salad perked it up and made it taste excellent again!