Archive for June, 2008

Garden pictures are coming!

In the week(s) after I get my repaired camera back from Canon, I’ll post lots and lots of garden photos!  I’ll update on the cucumbers, cantaloupes, watermelons, tomatoes, green beans, peppers, eggplant, green onion, carrots and probably more.

Stay tuned!


Wildlife Prairie State Park in Illinois

Saturday we were going to spend a couple days in St. Louis but the Mississippi river situation was a little scary so instead we drove to Wildlife Prairie state park near Peoria, Illinois.  We would have invited the grandparents to join us but it was a really last minute decision to go.  PDF Map of the Park.

It was a nice place, but we had it almost entirely to ourselves.  They won’t be able to keep up the place if their attendance is always that low.  It was pretty nice there.  Not a whole lot to do like a bigger place, but very relaxed and fun.  In general they could have done more to just make people aware of what was available there.

One thing they had set up was a pioneer homestead farm area.  I liked wandering in the garden.  They had a gooseberry bush and I stole a ripe one.  It reminded me of the ones that my grandpa Les had along the driveway when I was a kid.  I’m going to try to find a place for a gooseberry bush in my yard.  The boys loved spending their quarters to feed oats to the nubian goats.

We also watched a predatory bird show.  They had a turkey vulture there out of the cage and up close.  They also let an owl fly around the room to different perches to pick up bits of cut up mouse.

In another area of the park they had a bald eagle in a relatively tiny, rickety enclosure.  It looked temporary, and there was a building project going on that might have been a more permanent home for him.

The boys’ favorite part was the 3-story slide built into a hill.  S. did it 10 times.  That’s a lot of stairs!


We learned from their brochures and web site that they have four old train cabooses refitted as hotel rooms with air conditioning.  For $80 per weekend night I think we might do that with the kids next year.  The kids could fish in a nearby lake until dusk and then we could grill out.


Garden changing weekend ramble

The lettuces are done.  They never made a head…it just got too warm for them and now they are bitter and milky inside.  I pulled all of them out.  We did eat 5 or 6 salads from the garden.

The last bed of radishes did not form bulbs…headless!  All carrots are coming along slowly, very slowly.

The broccoli is definitely done and I pulled all of them, even the small ones that hadn’t made anything to eat yet.  The cauliflower failed completely, so I pulled some of them and will pull the rest tomorrow. Maybe after I raise the beds higher next year I’ll have better luck with those two.

The cucumber vines are starting to grow.  I can see a little baby cucumber once in a while but I can’t find it the next day.  I’m starting to think I’m not going crazy and that a squirrel or bird or slug or something is taking them.

The zucchini is doing great and has quite a few little veggies growing along for me.

The green peppers, jalapenos, etc are still very small, very slow growing.  I hope they start putting on some size soon and maybe setting some veggies too.

The peas look horrible.  They got started too late because the early planting rotted in the ground. This is a strange wet year.

The watermelons and cantaloupe are growing vines slowly.  I’m not too hopeful about them.

The jackolanterns and pumpkin gourds are doing GREAT.  Taking up a lot of space and growing like crazy…bigger every day.

The green beans seem to be doing fine.  I have them planted in three 4×3 foot sections, planted every 10 days or so to stagger the harvest a bit.  I’ll attempt one more planting of green beans in the bed where the broccoli and cauliflower were, probably early this week.

Today I built a trellis for the supposedly smaller tomatoes that I was planning to just stake up with a short stake.  I wish I could show some pictures but our very nice digital camera is broken.  I’ll have to grab a cheapie for the time being.  I wouldn’t want to lose my loyal fans for lack of pictures.

I transplanted a few extra cucumber plants to a container on the back porch.  We have an old aluminum roof/awning and I’m going to let these cucumbers climb the roof legs.  It might even look decorative.

There is a rather big party here on the 4th of July.  I have to get the garage cleaned up nice enough to serve food in (which will include moving the table saw back into the back corner).  I probably need to move the lumber that was/will be the tree house but I don’t know where else to put it.  I could put it outside the fence, but if the creek floods again it will all float away.  It might just have to stay put as an ugly eyesore in the middle of the yard.  Maybe I’ll get started on putting it back up…I do have 2 full weeks and then some.

Tomato strangeness or predictibility?

When I was planting out my seedlings I didn’t move them all outside at the same time.  I was afraid that I would get hit by a cold snap and lose them all.

One step along the way was when I planted out 4 of my 12 tomato plants, one from each variety I grew this year.  They have been in the ground perhaps two weeks longer than the rest.

Well it shows!  Out in the garden right now I have 4 tomato plants with just TONS of green tomatoes, some already much bigger than a golf ball.  Those first 4 plants!  One of each variety.

The plants that were put out later–8 other plants, 2 of each variety–are just as tall and big as far as leaves, vines, general foliage…but they are only flowering…not a single green tomato yet.

I’m not sure how they know, but apparently they know.  It must be related to the root system?  Or maybe they are counting the days?  If anyone has a theory, let me hear it.

Garden changes for 09…early June edition

By fall all of these opinions will have probably changed, but as of today, here is what I would/will be doing differently with next year’s garden:

  • Raise the two beds on lowest ground another 8 to 12 inches.
  • Eliminate trying melons at all.  I set aside a lot of space for them and they don’t look good yet.
  • Eliminate things we can’t eat, namely jackolanterns and decorative gourds.  The plants are doing well, but it does seem like wasted space.
  • Twice as much broccoli, maybe even two full beds.  I thought I planted a lot, but it’s definitely not going to be enough to freeze any.
  • Twice as many bush green beans, again maybe even two full beds.
  • One whole area of lettuce planted really close together, that I would intend to harvest as leaf lettuce in May and early June.  I’m tired of waiting for lettuce heads to grow…I want salad!  Perhaps 9 or 12 plants per square foot.

I have five full-size 8×6 ft. beds and one that is smaller where the fence cuts it off diagonally.  If I were to do it right now I guess I would plant 2009 as:

  • Two beds of broccoli
  • One and a half beds of green beans
  • Half a bed of salad stuff (it’s still 24 square feet)
  • One bed to grow peppers, cucumbers and zucchini
  • One full bed of tomatoes

That eliminates cauliflower, some cabbage, peas, melons, gourds and probably a couple other things but hopefully puts more food in my belly.  I guess we’ll see what I think later on down the line.


EDIT (June 10):

You know…my first-in broccoli has all just about finished up already.  It was a disappointingly small harvest of broccoli, but maybe I’ll try a different seed next year.

However I’m havin’ a thought here.  Since the broccoli is going to be finished producing by the middle of June, I can plant 2 full beds of broccoli as early as possible, completely harvest them, empty the beds and then plant rows of green beans.  June 15 green beans will be done in mid- to late-August.  That should work!

Tree house downdate

Today I thought I should post a picture of where we are with the tree house project.  Sorry about the blurry pictures…it was a dark and dreary morning and the camera was setting itself on 1/8th second exposure.

No, you haven’t travelled through time.  I took the whole thing apart last night.

Here (both foreground and background by the fence) is the entire tree house.  Not as much fun now. 😦

What happened?

Crack is bad

My father noticed last weekend that the tree was cracked.  Upon closer inspection, it was MAJORLY, HUGELY cracked.  Upon looking down into the crack from above, the tree guys told us that it was well on it’s way to being a completely hollow tree.  A split-in-half-rotten-hollow tree 45 feet tall only 10 feet from my bedroom and literally INSIDE a play area I was making for my children.

So with much sadness, we decided that we should not attempt to simply cable together the top of the tree and save it.  It had to be cut down.  But, the plan was, we should save the trunk so the kids can still have the same kind of tree house.

I decided to thunk my crowbar against the trunk last night to listen for just how hollow it was.  I hit the tree trunk on the house side.  It did sort of thunk, but also kind of squish.  The crowbar sank right in.  I actually made a hole.

Mushrooms grow on DEAD trees.  These grew within the last 7 to 10 days.  They stink.  Even if I did leave the trunk standing here for the tree house, the whole play area would be covered in this stinky toxic fungus by the end of June.

We’re having it cut down to the ground and hauled away, at great expense!  I know, everybody gets paid for their work and it’s going to be a lot of work to haul away the tree.  Ugh!

And now I get to redesign the tree house and salvage as much as I can, hopefully without needing to buy a ton more wood.

My boys are taking it pretty hard. 😦


Excellent tree house books:

Garden flood today

Today while I was at work it rained a lot.  Actually quite a lot.  The creek overflowed its 4 foot banks and rose up 25 feet inside my fence (probably an additional 2 feet in water height).

Everything loose in the bottom half of the yard was washed over to the west side of the fence.  If it were not for the fence, I would have had a lot less to clean up here, but S. would have lost his favorite boots that he wears during all 4 seasons ala Napoleon Dynamite.

Grass layed down

The soccer net caught some gunk for me!  Thanks, soccer net!  GOAL!!!!!!!!

The flood waters rose right on up over my lowest two “raised” beds.  Next year I’ll add an additonal 12 inches to the 6 inch height I built this year.  That means I get to order and move dirt again!  Yee-HAW!

Small broccoli bent over, covered with debris.

Iceberg lettuce full of mud.

Corn lying down on the job.

Carrot patch almost ruined.

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