Friday, November 23, 2012

The Leaf Scoop is a Wonderful Composting Tool

The willow tree spread it’s small, knife blade-shaped leaves all over the backyard and driveway.  These will make a wonderful nutrient in compost.  The thing I love about compost is that it is free and perfect soil.

Willow trees grow throughout Carson Valley, Nevada.  I previously wrote about how the green leaves and stems make rooting compound.  But now these leaves make the house look haunted.

Today I used the yellow Gardex Leaf Scoops.  Though I like to buy used or find things free, I paid full price for these and they are so worth it.  At the very least, they halved my time moving piles of leaves to the compost pile.   I would recommend these to anyone who has a deciduous tree.

Though I bought the yellow ones, there are at least two other manufacturers who make the same thing for about the same price.  The yellow ones are the only ones I have felt in my hands but they seem pretty sturdy and will probably last a few years if I don’t leave them out in the sun.

Happy composting!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Farmhouse Apple Pie, a First By Many Accounts

First baked dessert I’ve made at The 1966Farmhouse; first apple pie I’ve made in two decades; first baked dessert I’ve made in a good 5 years; first dessert I’ve ever made with my own apples.  You get it.  Novice time.

I like to think of myself as a purist when it comes to cooking, but (gasp) I am using Marie Callender’s pre-made frozen pie crust.  Important note:  They do not tell you until you open the package that the crust has to be somewhat thawed out before you put the pie filling in it.  Thank goodness I thought of that.

Now for the boring part:  peeling and coring apples without the peeler/corer.  Hello family?  Guess what you should add to my Christmas list.

Mood music of choice:  a custom mix of Carly Simon’s Christmas is Here, James Taylor’s James Taylor at Christmas and Christmas With Willie Nelson.

The recipe --

  • Remove two frozen pie crusts in the aluminum pie pans from freezer and follow instructions for separating and thawing.  (My recipe called for 20+ minutes of thawing).
  • 5 cups of  cored, peeled, and thinly sliced apples (This can take from 6 to 7 apples, I used red ones off of my tree that are similar to a Fuji.  Also after I cored and peeled and halved the apples, I sliced them thinly by running them through the food processor with a slicing blade on.  Per my usual, all of the fruit peelings and cores went into the compost bin under the sink).
  • Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees
  • Stir into apples, and coat them well with,:
    • 1/2 cup white sugar
    • 1/8 tsp. salt
    • 1 tbsp. cornstarch
    • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
    • 1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
    • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
    • 1/2 tsp. of grated lemon rind
  • Spoon apple mixture into bottom pie shell and mound a bit in the center
  • Before you put the top pie crust layer on, dab onto apple mixture in little pieces a total of 1 1/2 tbsp of butter (I used regular butter with salt)
  • Put second pie crust on top following manufacturer’s instructions
  • Cut slits for air to escape
  • Brush top crust with a little milk (optional, for causing sugar and cinnamon sprinkles to adhere only)
  • Sprinkle a little sugar and cinnamon on the top crust
  • Place in oven on cookie sheet or with a sheet of aluminum foil underneath to catch drips and/or broken off crust
  • Bake at 450 for 10 minutes
  • Bake then at 350 for 30 to 50 minutes (I had to turn it down lower because my old gas oven was cooking the crust too rapidly).

Voila!  Breathe a sigh of relief that you just made the American classic! Eat pie with or without vanilla ice cream.  We ate it without.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Living in Harmony with the Seasons

City living.  I knew only that way of living before 1966 Farmhouse landed in front of me.  Except for a few years in the 90’s when I lived in rented space in Tahoe, climate rarely caused me to radically alter daily activities.  Harsh winters change all that, as I am learning.

A fine layer of snow blanketed the valley night before last, melted yesterday, and then returned stronger last night and this morning.  Certainly, the apples are now over.  Pears, too.  Frozen lettuce does not endear itself to cold-sensitive molars.   Certainly, cilantro has laid down to die.  But still, the kale carries on.

Being a farmer requires following the writings on a calendar closely.  The plans for taking green cuttings from grapevines and flowering bushes to propagate for next spring have now wilted like the beet greens.  I missed that deadline, or dead vine, as the case may be.  Unheeded instructions to move winter crops out of what is now shade to a sunny area of the yard are now crumpled and water stained on October’s page, folded over onto the back of the stiff calendar backboard.

Where did summer go, with its radiant heat and intense light?  At 6,000 feet in altitude, the light and heat fades in November.  My plans of experimenting with the Ruth Stout method of gardening were only partially implemented.  Regardless of which method one uses in the garden, work is still required.  My energy and attention faded with the heat.

Growing food while also working as a professional consultant requires daily decisions on whether to work outside or get a new retainer agreement written and signed.  Work up a detailed analysis of the pros and cons of taking such and such position?  Or, go outside and set up mini-tents over onions?  Cut down brittle and brown sunflower stalks looming overhead or help a company get incorporated?

While the consulting work remains at less variable constants year-round. each day passing moves the garden closer to a new change in the season.  Why must the climate always be waxing or waning in a certain direction?  I mourn all the applesauce I did not make.  Now the apples sit frozen beneath an inch of snow.

The creativity at 1966 Farmhouse now must turn to the interior -- the unpainted floor, the prior owner’s taste in mint green wall color, and the grocery bags holding dead plant bundles saved for their seeds.  Now that I have to enjoy the outdoors by looking through glass, I realize I never cleaned the windows when I moved in.  One wonders where the Christmas tree will go in this new, old house.

Must I take up doing needlework in the winter to make the transition to country living a perfect caricature?    I will save that for old age.  Renovation will resume, as long as the money holds out.

Au revoir mes peches.  Ciao ciao arugula.  Adios tomatillos.  Hello new life of falling white snow, clear windows and crackling fires.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Willow Tree: Life Sustainer When Used for Rooting Hormone

One of the things that I have enjoyed most about owning this piece of property, which is less than .20 of an acre, is the option to create food and beauty on the land itself.  And, not just on the land, but with the land and the things that grow and die here.  I’ve heard it said at TV-dramatized funerals “ashes to ashes and dust to dust”.  Perhaps that is a biblical reference.
But it’s true that all living things die and return to the form of the basic minerals in existence.  What I am learning about composting puts those dead and dying things to the purpose of creating and sustaining life.  For so many years, I have read parables in the Bible that refer to agricultural principles and happenings.  Of course, the mind can understand them.
However, once one starts working with the land and the things that grow here, one begins to see the truths demonstrated in the Bible first hand.  So, what does this have to do with the willow tree?  Maybe nothing.  Perhaps I have digressed.
Many plants can be reproduced from seeds and through propagation.  I have posted before about gathering seeds from the food plants in my yard.  My kitchen dining area has turned into a seed ripening and storage area.  Harvesting seeds is just basic household economics.
Plants can be reproduced through propagation as well.  When one propagates their own plants, they have more for little to no money and they can also create more to sell.  Bringing in a little cash on the side can help subsidize the whole growing operation which is not cost-free.  But, again, what does this have to do with the willow?
According to many sources (here, here, here and here), willow contains a chemical called indolebutyric acid which makes an excellent rooting compound.  Rooting compound stimulates the cuttings you make from certain plants in order to ensure propagation works.  Guess who has a willow tree in her backyard?
The willow you are seeing is scheduled to be removed by Sierra Peaks Enterprises, located in Carson Valley, Nevada which can be contacted at (775)265-8444.  The reason is that the phone or electrical crew contractor came through and cut down all the limbs and trunks in the high-wire right of way.  You can see from the pictures below, just how lopsided this tree is.  It’s a danger to the house.
Even when it gets cut, I may elect not to have it totally removed because the shoots will grow year after year, providing me with free and fresh rooting compound.  It’s just another example of the cycle of life that goes on on this little plot of property.  And I think that’s pretty cool, don’t you?

But if you don't have a willow tree and you think propagation is a neat idea, you can just buy some rooting hormone and have it shipped to you.  Here are a few options:

Monday, August 20, 2012

Neat Idea to Create Seeding Cups from Toilet Rolls

From the blog of Sonja & Joe - Life, Love, Laughter: How To... Cardboard Seeding Cups (gardening)

How To... Cardboard Seeding Cups (gardening)

My friend Joyce posted about this on facebook a couple of weeks ago and I thought since I was beginning my gardening venture, I'd give it a try. Using empty toilet paper rolls or empty paper towel rolls you can make seeding pots to start your seeds in. Then later transfer the whole cardboard cup to the ground (or remove plant and put in ground). 


  1. empty toilet paper or paper towel rolls
  2. scissors
  3. potting soil or soil disc
  4. seeds
  5. water
  6. plastic tray or shallow box

1. Cut the toilet paper tube in half

    (paper towel tube into 4ths)

2. fold roll long ways to crease

     fold long ways again 

3. open the tube and
define the creases
to make it 'square'

4. Cut 1/2 inch up each
of the creases 

5. Fold the sides towards the
middle over lapping each
as you go around

6. Place cups into plastic
tray or bin

7. Place potting soil or a soil disc
into the cup

8. Add seeds and water
9. Cover with plastic wrap

Sonja & Joe - Life, Love, Laughter: How To... Cardboard Seeding Cups (gardening)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Penny Saving Tip for Gardeners #1: Use Extra Envelopes that Come in Bills for Seed Storage

When it comes time to collect your seeds throughout the summer and fall,  you could pay to buy those fancy seed envelopes like these.  I use something that’s free, but if you want to sell your seeds or give them as gifts, these ones by Proterra are neat, and it appears you can even put them through your printer.

I used the extra envelopes I get inside bills or donation requests.  Just label the front, insert and date the seeds, and then fold the flap down, and bend both top corners backward toward the flap side to keep it shut.  There is no need to seal the envelope.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Curious About Harvesting Seeds from the Yard

When I bought this house there was absolutely nothing green in the yards.  It was all dark brown and grim.  Since I moved in in April, the yard has grown into a jungle.  The prior owner did not have a lawn in the front but grew flowers, vegetables and fruit trees.
Jungle, east of driveway
Jungle, west of driveway

One of the plants that came up from seed is mustard. There were also many varieties of lettuce which have kept me in daily salads for about two months now.
My first lettuce plant of Spring, now flowering
The idea of harvesting seeds intrigues me for several reasons.  At first I thought of the economics of it, though seeds do not cost that much.  But a lot of little things that “don’t cost that much” add up to a lot of dollars, so why not economize where possible?

As I’ve learned more about horticulture, I see that not every seed and plant will work in every soil, microclimate and shade-to-sun ratio.  What I know is that the vegetables that are growing here now grew from seed that was dispersed by natural factors.  The prior owner already knew they were leaving last fall and summer and would not have intentionally planted seeds.  This means that 1) seeds from these varieties are seeds that will grow new plants, and 2) that these seeds like it here.  I’ve heard sometimes seeds from the hybrid plants and seeds sold widely are difficult to propagate.

When to harvest seeds is a question I am totally clueless about.  Do you harvest flowers?  I almost harvested flowers of my mustard plant, but my mom said to wait longer.  Now, my mustard plant has these pods on it.

Current mustard plant, most of the greens have been eaten, by me
Pods and dead flowers on mustard plant
So is it time to harvest these seeds yet?  Apparently not.  They are supposed to look as dead as a doornail, "deader", if possible.

This nifty video from an organization called Seed Ambassadors demonstrates when to harvest the seeds and how to separate the seeds from the chaff.

Here is a screen shot of how dead they are supposed to look:

It looks like I have a few more weeks to go.  If I can, I would like to harvest these for a fall crop of mustard greens which I love to cook, and also throw a few leaves into a salad mix for extra spiciness.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

I'm in Love!

Head over heels
Mom and I had the mini-dumpster from the city garbage department overflowing with urinated carpet.  (See, prior post re: dog urine).  And still, there were two large pieces, very heavy pieces, of carpet left on the driveway.

As the garbage truck drove by, on its' way to another errand, I waved.  I was trying to mouth whether it was okay whether the dumpster was overflowing.  They kept driving.  About twenty-minutes later they came back to dump it.

Both men got out of the cab to put the dumpster on the dumping mechanism.  They were both pretty cute, and clean cut.  One started chatting me up about the house, how long it had been vacant, etc.

For $25, I am only supposed to get the dumpster for one week, ending today.  After they dumped it out, he agreed to let me have it for one more week.  BUT THEN, he asked whether the two heaps of heavy carpet on the driveway was the only thing left.  "Yes!", I said.  He cajoled the other guy into heaving both carpets into the dumpster, emptied it again, and left with it.

My heroes!

Sorry, I don't have a picture.  But I don't think I will now forget which day is garbage pick up day.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Neighbor Who Bears Juicy News

Stock photo
Today, I drove over to the house to meet with the chimney sweep to get an assessment of the fireplace.  While the guys were cleaning it out, I spied an older lady smoking on the back porch of the house next door.  I had seen her before but thought now would be a good time to introduce myself.

She eagerly told me that she used to own the home.  She let it go back to the bank.   Thanks to her the home is clad with a newer roof, newer siding, and relatively new windows.  These features made it a good buy for me, even though there are many repairs to do.

She was also a prodigious gardener.  Flower bulbs are growing all over the lot and include daffodils, happily being yellow, and tulips whose colors we cannot yet see.

As quickly as I could into the conversation, without seeming opportunistic, I asked whether all of the flowering trees, with their pink and their white blooms, were fruit trees.  What a precious answer!  Yes, yes and yes.  A pear tree grows in the back, a yellow peach and an apricot on the side, and an apple, two pears and a "fruit cocktail" tree in the front.

Stock photo of an apple blossom
Her description of how luscious and juicy the yellow peaches are had me longing for harvest time this summer.  Maybe I will learn how to can fruit.

As for my neighbor, she now lives in the Philippines and is on a lengthy visit to her cousin, who lives next door.  She works a few hours per week at a hotel in town.

Questions bombard my mind to ask her the next time I see her.  As predicted this hand watering is now old after only two times.  So, how does the irrigation system work?  Which trees have which fruit?  What needs to be done to the fruit trees throughout the year?  Does the garage floor flood during heavy rain?  What is underneath the siding?

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Preparing for Easter (Resurrection Commemoration Day)

My sister and I scrubbed and scrubbed the kitchen yesterday.  It's hard to believe how dirty a kitchen can get.  It's probably not as dirty as it could have been.  I will not have time to repaint the cabinets before I move in and definitely not by tomorrow.

Unfortunately, I was the one to find the mouse poop.  Just disgusting.  I had to carefully wipe that out over fears of Hanta virus, rather than shop vac it out and disburse the poop via air particulates.  There was also a plumbing leak in times past that resulted in black mold underneath the sink.

Black mold can be toxic, can be, but I do not have time to get squeamish about it.  I just washed it down with bleach.  Actually, I've been spraying it with bleach ever since it became mine.  I do have pictures of the moldy cabinet, but I do not want to make anyone vomit on their keyboards.  So, I'll withhold those from your viewing.

Today I will be painting this product from Zinsser over it.  I am told that this is the absolute best product for covering smell and sealing out bad things, better than Kilz, because it is shellac based.  Water based and latex sealers cannot do what shellac does.  The B-I-N will also go over the urine areas of the plywood subfloor after it is sanded down.

Zinnser B-I-N Shellac Base Primer & Sealer Stain Killer
Happy Easter to all.  Enjoy the gift of Christ, the only one whose blood can cover and blot out our sins totally.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Yesterday was Overwhelm Appreciation Day, Followed by a Shopping Day

What that means is I took the day off of house stuff, and work stuff too.  I just couldn't take it anymore.

It's Spring, and my non-existent yard, with the weedwhacked daffodils is just sitting there as an eyesore.  Sister loaned me some grass seeds and I bought a garden hose.  Yes, this is the first garden hose I've ever purchased in my entire life.  Is that pathetic?

I am trying to have Easter dinner over at the new house this Sunday.  We got a leg of lamb at Costco today and some other food to go with it.  This will require a thorough scouring, because the kitchen is pretty dirty.

Yesterday, I did some searching on craigslist for appliances.  I found the below fridge, for about $100.  I gave a deposit today and will go back with the trailer to get it tomorrow.  This will help greatly with the Easter dinner.

I think this is the couple's "garage fridge", but it seems to work.  They've bought a new house.  It's about 10 years old they said.  I've never had a freezer on the bottom.

Thankfully, my contractor guy got the toilet fixed so that the water could be turned on.  Also, he's going to move the water heater out of its' closet in the kitchen, to a location in the garage.  That will give me a pantry in the kitchen.

Sorry, today is a boring post.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Plumbing Leaks -- The Never Ending Drama

We knew there was one leak in the wall at the shower.  That got fixed.  But since it was a leak during the inspection, the water supply to the house was immediately turned off.  So, I really did not know what the plumbing situation was.  It's a risk I took.  The house was owned by a bank.  So they made it very clear they would make no repairs.

Well, the crappy hot water heater leaks, the kitchen faucet is busted and the toilet is leaking under the house.  Drat.

So I'm looking at kitchen faucets.  I like the coppery country look.  Here are some candidates.  Feel free to vote or comment.

Fontaine Classique Pullout Kitchen Faucet with Soap Dispenser  $155

Elements of Design Two Handle Centerset Kitchen Faucet With Spray $76

Elements of Design Goose Neck Centerset Kitchen Faucet With Spray $97

There are more at the efaucets website, but, goodness, they are expensive.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Someone Weedwhacked My Flowers

Weirdness.  When I went over to the house this morning, someone had cut off the tops of swaths of nascent daffodils.  They had not bloomed yet.  Why would someone come over to my house, and just along the side of the driveway, cut off the tops of my daffodils?

Is it a hostile maneuver?  Is it a welcome of sorts, like, "Welcome to the neighborhood.  We'll cut some of your weeds for you"?  I just can't figure it out.

Not all of the bulb plants were cut, just the ones near the driveway.  This had to have been this morning before I got to the house or yesterday evening.  Theories anyone?

April Fool's Day, Wherein I Learned How to Use a Shop Vac

April 1 was offload-the-junque-off-the-uhaul-truck day. I was blessed to have friends and family to help me unload all my schtuff from Sacramento into the new house's garage. So we got some pix of that.

Wonderful sister who made deer meat chili for the workers' lunch

I drove the truck all the way from Sacramento on Friday night.  That was a lot of fun.  Actually, the trucks aren't that bad to drive.

Mom and Me

Wonderful brother in law

Oh yes, did I mention "shop vac"?  This is me getting tacks, nails and debris off the floor with ye olde Shop Vac.  These things are pretty cool.  You can scoop up just about anything.

Face Mask Couture
The carpet padding that had fused with the plywood and staples due to dog urine was pretty challenging to remove.  Treated the urine areas with Fabuloso and water.  I'm not really sure that's going to cut it.  Bought some Kilz today and might try that tomorrow and see if it blocks out the smell.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

First Day at MY House

I attacked the house today, the first day.  With the help of family and a friend, some new locks got installed, the garage swept, all of the filthy carpet removed onto the side patio and some tack strips removed.

Pulling the carpet up and seeing, literally, sandy dirt piled underneath it in certain high traffic areas, made me never want to have carpet again.  It collects so much dirt.

And the dog urine -- the amount -- was just overwhelming.  The prior dog had urinated in about 3 or 4 different locations in the house, over and over.  You could just tell by how stained the plywood subfloor was.  This leads me to why carpet removal was task number two, with changing of locks being number one.  The stench.  It's more like a stink than a stench.  I knew there was animal smell in the house eminating from the carpet, but I had no idea how much until I saw the stains in the plywood.

I will decide whether to Killz the plywood subfloor or replace some of the plywood pieces.

Note to self:  Order a dumpster from the waste removal company for the carpet and tack strips.

We also got the whole garage floor laid out with pallets, so that all of the stuff that will be stored in there for awhile will not get moisture damage from sitting on the garage slab.