Monthly Archives: July 2008

Time to dig the taters

There was a TV commercial from the 80s which featured a Dunkin’ Donuts guy waking up early in the morning and he would cheerfully say “Time to make the donuts” as he rose from bed. My mom use to make donuts. No one she worked with was that cheerful that early in the morning. I think it’s just a TV thing.

Anyway, the potato vines died so it’s time to dig the taters. I wasn’t sure what to expect this year. Most of my potatoes washed down the river with the rest of Iowa, but I have a few stashed here at home as a backup. I planted a 4×4 square and a 2×6 with fingerlings. Also, I planted my neighbors tractor tire flower bed with potatoes. Seriously, here in Iowa a tractor tire can also double as a flower bed. Anyway, the fingerlings worked out to about 8 lbs, I think because I dug the 2×6 bed too early so none of them sized up. But the 4×4 bed did pretty good. Not as good as Red Pontiacs but I can live with it.

I thought fingerlings were supposed to be some super great tasting potato, but I like small red potatoes better, so they’re probably making their only appearance in my garden this year.

The plants in my neighbors tire didn’t produce jack shit. I think they were too shaded. The soil there was great, but by the time the trees leaved out I just don’t think there was enough sun. I got a few Yukon Golds but I gave them to her to enjoy.  The vines weren’t completely dead so maybe I dug them too early.  Or maybe they needed more nutrients.  I don’t know.  Maybe I’ll try it again next year.

I still have one container full which is still flowering since I’ve covered it up with more leaves to produce more spuds, hopefully. I also planed more recently to harvest later this fall, and I have a few more sprouting which I’ll put in the ground soon too.

I hate digging potatoes because it causes me to do two things I hate to do, turn over the soil and step on the garden beds.  I do what I can to avoid stepping on the bed, but I can’t do anything about turning over the beds.  I’m a firm believer in layering.  I never till or turn over the soil.  I don’t think it does anything, with the soil I have, so why do it.  So, when I need to add compost I dump it on top.  Mulch goes on top.  When I need to plant I pull back the mulch and plant, then move the mulch back over.  Everyone has their own opinion on what works, but I try to mimic the way nature builds soil.  This means I don’t till it up and I just add layer after layer after layer of organic material to the tops.  Essentially building the soil from the top down.

I hope you all had success with your potatoes.


Hungry little devils

I’ve been dumping the compost bucket in the pen for the chickens and I’m shocked how much they can eat.  There’s just two of them and they can eat a half a watermelon in 2 days.  My family couldn’t eat the other half before it went bad.  Crazy.  They do seem to love the canteloupe pieces though.  I’m going to keep putting those in there.

The chickens are getting nicer and somewhat more friendly.  I think they recognize the compost bucket when I come out with it.  And they stay close to me now chirping, but I can’t reach for them or they run off.  The dominant one is the most adventurous and will stand the closest to me.

We’ve named one of them Poky, but I have no idea which one it is.  For a while I could tell because it had a scratched nose, but I can’t tell anymore.  I don’t even know if it’s the dominant one, but I doubt it is as it was the most frightened one when they were separated and it got it’s name.

Still no eggs.

My wife says I can have two more chickens if she can have two more kids.  I don’t think that’s an equal trade.

That’s all for now.

Fun with Puns

. A vulture boards an airplane, carrying two dead raccoons. The Stewardess looks at him and says, ‘I’m sorry, sir, only one carrion allowed per passenger.

2. Two fish swim into a concrete wall. The one turns to the other and says, ‘Dam!’

3. Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly, so they lit a fire in the craft. Unsurprisingly, it sank, proving once again that you can’t have your kayak and heat it, too.

4. Two hydrogen atoms meet. One says, ‘I’ve lost my electron.’ The other says, ‘Are you sure?’ The first replies, ‘Yes, I’m positive.’

5. Did you hear about the Buddhist who refused Novocain during a root canal? His goal: transcend dental medication.

6. A group of chess enthusiasts checked into a hotel and were standing in the lobby discussing their recent tournament victories. After about an hour, the manager came out of the office and asked them to disperse. But why they asked, as they moved off. ‘Because,’ he said, ‘I can’t stand chess-nuts boasting in an open foyer.’

7. A woman has twins and gives them up for adoption. One of them goes to a family in Egypt and is named Ahmal. The other goes to a family in Spain ; they name him Juan. Years later, Juan sends a picture of himself to his birth mother. Upon receiving the picture, she tells her husband that she wishes she also had a picture of Ahmal. Her husband responds, ‘They’re twins! If you’ve seen Juan, you’ve seen Ahmal.’

8. A group of friars were behind on their belfry payments, so they opened a small florist shop to raise funds. Since everyone liked to buy flowers from the men of God, a rival florist across town thought the competition was unfair. He asked the good fathers to close down, but they would not. He went back and begged the friars to close. They ignored him. So, the rival florist hired Hugh MacTaggart, the roughest and most vicious thug in town to ‘persuade’ them to close. Hugh beat up the friars and trashed their store, saying he’d be back if they didn’t close up shop. Terrified, they did so, thereby proving that only Hugh can prevent florist friars.

9. Mahatma Gandhi, as you know, walked barefoot most of the time, which produced an impressive set of calluses on his feet. He also ate very little, which made him rather frail and, with his odd diet, he suffered from bad breath. This made him (Oh, man, this is SO BAD, it’s good) a super calloused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.

10. And, finally, there was the person who sent ten different puns to friends, with the hope that at least one of the puns would make them laugh. No pun in ten did.

New Flood Information

Do you remember that flood concert I mentioned we went to?  It raised $100K for flood relief.

The downtown Farmer’s Market is coming back on Aug 2nd.  That’s good news.

Public officials are saying there will be plenty of green in the buildings as they are built or rehabbed.  I’m all for that, but I hope they stay realistic and make the green improvements things that will still be good as we head down Hubbert’s Peak.  I’d hate for them to spend a fortune on something that is obsolete in 10 years.

Changing Things

I’ve got a lot of odds and ends to discuss, so here’s a brain dump.

This story about removing an asphalt driveway and building a garden is pretty cool.

Freegans in the UK, with video.

Some good reading about the financial markets:

Article 1

Article 2

Article 3

While I’m at it, these bailouts in the financial sector are sickening. I’m obviously in the wrong business. I guess I need to start a bank, grow it haphazardly and run it poorly, but make sure it gets too big to fail, rake in millions for myself, bitch at the regulators about free markets and leaving me alone and then when I start to fail I’ll go to them with my hat in my hand asking for help. Yeah, I think that’s what I should do. In fact, maybe I should become a consultant and travel around to bank and recommend they do this. Of course, maybe someone is already doing it because they seem to be doing it already.

Time Magazine had an article recently about cooking a gourmet meal for under $10. I have to tell you, I don’t see what the challenge is. I could easily cook a meal for less than $10, do it all the time. Granted it might not be as fancy as these guys produce, but it will feed a whole family and give you leftovers for lunches. That’s something I say.

The cabbage turned out pretty good tonight. I followed this recipe here. I did mix up a little though. I shredded a carrot into it, along with part of an onion. Then I kicked it up a notch with some crushed red pepper. Turned out good. Not the best still but edible. The boys ate some of it, which is good at this stage. My wife finished off the bowl (it was a small dish) so she liked it too.

I finally did it on Monday. Ever since I got involved with Peak Oil I decided I wasn’t going to profit financially with the knowledge I had when it came to investing. I could easily have bought gold when it was cheap. Oil was around $30 a barrel when I started to become aware of potential shortages. The Dow was 14K plus when I thought the market’s would crater, but I made a promise to myself that I was going to profit at the expense of others. I’ve come to the realization over the past few years that while I can make plenty of money investing in the stock market (and it’s something I’m very good at), it’s not really money. It’s ill gotten funds taken from other people who probably need them. Interest isn’t really creating new money (it sort of does) but more it takes money from other people and gives it to me. If I’m saving $10K and earning interest it’s because someone is borrowing $10K and paying interest. I’m OK with this part of it, but investing in the stock market knowing that when I gain it’s because someone else somewhere is losing is not appealing to me anymore. This is fine in one regard (like simple interest on a bank account) but profiting on oil or food just didn’t seem right to me.

The actions of the past few weeks have changed my opinion. Mostly because of this, the way the country is run my dollar now will be worth a lot less in 5 years and 10 years and 15 years. Not because inflation is so bad (although it is on a few key items) or because of deflation (which would actually make money more valuable) but because the government is debasing the currency too much. For example, how the hell are we going to payoff $10Trillion in national debt? Probably by trying to “inflate” the debt away. (This isn’t the true meaning of inflation but it seems to be what people understand) Meaning, they’ll probably just print some money on the printing presses. This is what they are doing in Zimbabwee. I don’t see why they won’t do it here.

So I need to get as many as I can now and I need to be positioned right when they do start the printing. The way I can do this is to come off the sidelines and invest my money based on my beliefs and what I think is happening. Right now I think we’re heading down a deflation curve so I’m going to invest based on this idea. This week I invested in 3 mutual funds that will profit handsomely if the markets crater. I’m not sure if I entirely want them too or not, but if I emotionally detach from that aspect all the indicators are pointing to this being a smart financial choice FOR ME. I also put some cash into a fund in the expectation that Treasury rates will rise in the future (which seems a near certainty as the Fed is concerned about inflation even though we’re in a deflationary recession).

Does this mean this is something you should do? I don’t know. That’s up to you. But I should also tell you that I still own 3 stocks and 2 mutual funds that are long the market (meaning I would profit as prices go up) as well as a fair amount of CDs to insulate the portfolio and provide some cushion against price swings on securities. So I’m pretty well covered on all spectrums of the market.

Cabbage, Chickens and the Veggie Man

A chicken got loose again yesterday evening.  I don’t know what happened, except I came back there to get my potato fork and one of the chickens was on the other side of the fence.  It wasn’t happy to be there as it was scrambling around trying to get back, and it’s friend was frantic on the coop side of the fence.  I chased it for a while and then got Rachael to help me chase it down.  Eventually we had 2 adults and 3 kids chasing it and we cornered it against a fence and snagged it.  We trimmed their wings so they shouldn’t be popping over the fence anymore.  Chicken wrangling is an adventure!  Those things are darn fast, and quick.  Now I know why Mick told Rocky to chase the chicken around when he was training for Creed.

A lot of commenters were talking about cabbage and how to prepare it.  My big concern with cabbage is that I went to my go to method of preparation that makes about every type of vegetable go down (stir fry) and it was rejected. In fact, he rejected the fresh peas that were in there as well. (I think they needed to cook longer and be a little more soft)  So if that failed I’m concerned.  I’m going to give this recipe a try and we’ll see how it turns out.

The Veggie Man:  In the post yesterday I mentioned that I was working with some local CSAs to distribute excess vegetables to some food kitchens.  I did my first run tonight.  The farm is fairly close to town, maybe 10 miles or so.  I drove out there and she gave me 46 lbs of broccoli, 20 lbs of lettuce, a bag of beets, 21 lbs of shell peas, 13 lbs of snap peas and 32 lbs of snow peas.  I’m pretty excited about this endeavor.  Before she would compost this excess, not it’s going to people.  Once I get a schedule down and find another driver or two we’ll be able to get some serious local, organic food to the food banks.  She thought she would have enough for me to pick up twice a week until early October.  Rock!  And that is just this one CSA, I have one other to work with (who has expressed interest) and also one on the north side of town that I haven’t contacted yet.

I’m adding a tab to the storing/harvesting tab above to track this.

Independence Days Update

It’s sweet corn season here and it’s just glorious! Coming up on muskmelon time too!

Plant something: Started some of the long maturing cool weather crops. Broccoli, brussel sprouts, carrots & chicory. I’ve got a lot more to put in over the next few weeks. Planted some potatoes that were sprouting in the kitchen cabinet in the ground, which I’m sure they appreciate.

Harvest something: I dug up my carrots (they were puny little things), some fingerling potatoes (also puny but probably picked too early), garlic (47 heads), cabbage, broccoli, swiss chard, an onion and some sungold tomatoes.

Preserve something: Froze some kale, spinach and broccoli. Bought some chickens for the freezer.

Prep something: I built another 6×12 bed which is part of my garden beds that are due for cold frame conversion this fall. Cleared out a bunch of volunteer plants to make room for fall plants in the existing beds.

Cook something new: I tried cooking cabbage this week in a stir fry. It was picked out. I’ve never cooked with cabbage before so if you have any recipes send them over. I’m not a sauerkraut or kimchi fan though Sharon so you can just keep those! 😉  My cabbages were in a bed that must have been poor soil because they are pretty small too.  I was thinking maybe cabbage rolls?

I’ve tried some other recipes too, but I can’t remember them. Mostly they are variations of similar recipes so that doesn’t really count.

My MIL bought me an electric rotiessirie last year sometime which I finally tried last Sunday. I put it outside on the patio and stuck the chicken in and let it go. All the heat was outside which was just fine with me. It wasn’t something new, but it was a new way to cook it, using this Goodwill find. I liked it very much. Sunday night chicken might be back in style in this family!

Manage your resources: Chili mentioned how she used the jar sealer on her Foodsaver to dry seal some storage items. It sounded good so I tried it. It was hit or miss. Some jars would seal, and some wouldn’t. Either way, at least I finally vaccum sealed up the rice and beans in the basement. Well, most of them. That’s all I’ve done, except stock up a little each week.

Local food systems: Well 2 local CSAs have surplus produce so I’ve volunteers to be it’s chauffeur to some local food kitchens and deliver it for use. I don’t think I’m developing any food systems, simply helping this nice, local, organic produce not go to waste.

I got the chickens too so I’m assisting in changing the mindsets of what’s acceptable in an urban setting.

Reduce waste: See above. That’s about all.

Learn a new skill: I got a pellet gun to remove the rabbit problem from the garden. I guess I’m learning how to hunt, sort of. This should be interesting.

On the chickens: Why doesn’t everyone have chickens? They take like no time to take care of. Maybe 15 minutes a day. And they are fun to watch. I like how they walk around and CHIRP! at things. They do dig some watermelon rinds though. I need a couple more I think…