Monday, April 3, 2017

Busy warm days

We've kicked into spring gear. It feels good.

C. is starting tomatoes. I think she has three flats (one more than last year) and a couple of trays of small pots. She always goes overboard on tomatoes, but it's (mostly) a good thing. We grow beautiful tomatoes – big fat Prudens Purples, weird fat pointy Opalkas, baskets full of Balconnoye Chudos – plenty to eat fresh and to can and dry and freeze. I think she's starting 25 different varieties, five or six new to us, and the rest old favorites. We have great luck with Ukranian tomatoes from seeds we order from Nikitovka. The Czech Stupice (Stoo-PEACH-ka) is usually our earliest tomato. And every variety we try has something special to offer. So, yes, we're nuts abut tomatoes.

I used to give her a hard time about starting so many – the greenhouse is usually packed with 150 or more plants come May – but last year I did the seed starting, and saw how hard it is to stop with two or ten of any variety. Those little seeds want to grow! and we are helpless to resist.

We don't have room in the garden for 150 plants, but our friends have gardens, too, and can always be persuaded to take some home. When I was working, I'd smuggle flats of tomato plants off to my coworkers. My garden club had a booth at the Spokane Garden Expo last year, and they sold Spokanites a bunch of Ukranian tomatoes. It's all good!

I know the trendy Paleo diets and autoimmune diets say tomatoes (and nearly everything else we eat) should be avoided. I'm skeptical. I think if we eat what country folk ate before industrial fertilizers and herbicides and factory farms took over, we'll be OK. We'll see if my new naturopath agrees.

The greenhouse can barely hold 150 tomato plants... but there will be more this year, so we're planning an addition. I have two or three weeks before the plants outgrow their indoor setup and need to move outside, so I'd better get moving. The building is basically a tall roof and a low front wall, with three glass patio doors sitting on the wall and leaning to the roof. The door is set into an end wall, and a triangular bit of plastic fills the rest. It's all salvaged material and rather funky, but works well, if I do say so myself. Our brick building is the back wall and heat sink.

So I'm planning to attach another tall roof, short front wall and three more patio doors. I'll try to build it better (the old part has some pretty warped 2x4s, is getting swaybacked, and the glass doors could fit more tightly...).

Right now, onions are in the greenhouse, and cabbage and pepper seedlings are in the house under lights. Next to be started are tomatillos. Probably corn, too. Our season is too short for corn unless you start it indoors, and get lucky in fall weather.

Our local little monthly paper came today, and mentioned that this has been one of the longest winters on record, and the wettest March, as well. And I thought it was just me.

Have I told you that C. is a digger? (Her dad was a digger before her, but he had a backhoe. I am very thankful that she doesn't have a backhoe.) Before the ground thawed, she had to channel her OCD into collecting guinea feathers. Now she can dig!

The front yard, with recycled greenhouse, and rocks and holes. That's the wide garden gate
 and the chicken house to the right.
She's been leveling the front "yard," gathering buried broken glass from a greenhouse mishap, and tile and other debris that other remodelers have buried there. We also have seriously rocky ground, and she relishes battle with a worthy boulder. So right now the whole area is pocked with pits and piled with cairns. I have to pick my way with care to the chicken house. I'm trying to convince her that the two big rocks she has half-excavated can stay right there under the ground. We'll see. It's astonishing to see a 4-foot-10-inch person heaving a bathtub-sized boulder around with a digging bar.

We'll have a path from our front door (off to the left), around the greenhouse and into the garden and chicken house. It needs to be smooth and rugged enough for people and wagons and wheelbarrows. We're thinking the flattest rocks could be set as stepping stones and thyme planted in between. I suppose I could trip over the rocks (or the thyme, for that matter) but then, I can trip over nothing at all. I'll just take it slow. Other walkway options are gravel (which always ends up migrating out of the bed), brick, or a boardwalk. I suppose we could leave it packed earth, and border it with rocks and an herb bed or something.

I've been organizing the gym a bit. It's filled with tools and lumber and boxes and junk and crap, and that's just our stuff. Most everything is lying randomly where the folks who helped us move piled it.

That's the moldy wallboard on the left. Lots left to do, but, really, you would be
impressed if I'd remembered to take a "before" photo. 

There's also a whole wall of leaning stacks of gypsum wallboard, some wet and moldy from the leaky roof. That's from the previous owner, or maybe the guy before him. He knocked down all the plaster on the walls, had brilliant new wiring put in, and sheetrocked everything (rather badly). I'm saving any big pieces in decent shape, but the wet and warped and weirdly cut can go. So I'm cutting it up and stuffing it in old feed sacks to go to the dump. I can't figure out any other way to move it as it's heavy, crumbling and mucky.

Ready for the dump.

We'll be able to use some here and there – we have a few unfinished wall and ceilings. And I put some up in the chicken house. The chickens decorated it. It isn't terribly attractive, but keeps the cold wind out.

So I'm tightening up the storage in the gym. That should make room to bring the non-mower inside. It's an old Craftsman riding mower without the mower deck. It has a plow blade and weights and chains, and we plan to get it running and use it to pull a trailer and move hay and such around, as well as plow snow. It's tarped and stored in the big dog yard now. I think the gym floor can handle the weight. Some past owner stored RVs in here, which didn't do the floor any good.

Here is the other side of the gym, with lumber storage. It could all be tidier.
If I spend hours and weeks organizing the gym, maybe I'll be able to find things. And after I get done with the piles of stuff, I'm going to hunt out all the tools, and hang them on pegboard. Yes, I am. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

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