Sunday, June 29, 2008

Random thoughts, learning to live greener

I started thinking about why we do the things that we do. Simple things add up, and sometimes simple things can make a difference. Like the quote from Margaret Mead. "Each snowflake in an avalanche pleads not guilty". Like this example, years of putting clothes into the dryer, even though it's in the 80s outside, dry and sunny. The dryer uses energy, generates heat (and it's already a very hot day), and pulls cool air out of the house. Is the dryer easier? Probably not much. It's not that big of a deal to hang clothes on a line. Is it faster? Who cares, it's not like we're standing there fanning the clothes. Do the clothes come out better, cleaner, neater? Not really, and for most, it doesn't matter. Do the neighbors care about clothes on the line? If the do, how obnoxious of them. Is the dryer better for clothes?" Probably not, the dryer lint suggests that dryers gradually wear clothes down. I guess there's always the bird poop issue, but how often does that happen? So why do we use the dryer instead of hanging clothes on the line? I have no idea. Just habit, I guess. Just not thinking.

That being said, it started raining after these were hung out to dry. Still, it will pass, and they'll dry soon enough.

I know, it's not like I just discovered how to make solar cells from used plastic water bottles. Still, sometimes we just need to THINK about why we do what we do. Maybe it can make a difference.

True, about 4 months out of the year, hanging clothes outside may not be an option. But there is the other 8 months. An indoor drying rack might help with the 4 rainy winter months, and humidify the house a bit when it is most needed. And not drawing heated air out of the house.

This photo is probably my great-grandmother and her daughter.

Postcard from Manilla, 1907

It's the washing, not the drying, that's so much work. You won't see me outside with a washboard, but this summer I'll try to continue this new habit, and continue working on living in a more aware manner. Not just with living greener, but other ways as well.
Aarrrgggghhhhh. Figs at whole foods, $6.50 a pint. Not as good as home-grown, not nearly as good. Had to buy some, to get a taste since there may not be a breba crop this year.

Most of the Vancouver fig brnaches are pinched a the tips now. That gives me some hope, since the pinching is only done when there are about 5 or 6 good leaves.

Despite a slow start this year, it's looking good now.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Gingko trees. Progress report.

Medium Ginkgo tree:
2008 19 inches (so far) with current total height 65 inches
2007 14 inches, final height 46 inches
2006 11.5 inches, final height 35 inches
2005 final height 23.5 inches

Smaller Ginkgo tree:
2008 16 inches so far with current total height 40 inches
2007 11.5 inches, final height 24 inches
2006 final height 11.5 inches

Onions and Garlic

All of the multiplier onions have fallen over and are drying. So I pulled them up. I'll dry them in the shade - one year I dried shallots in the sun and they all cooked. These are the "white potato onion". I like the flaver - it's different from modern varieties. Maybe more like a shallot, but milder. Plan: save about 6 larger bulbs, and most of the smaller bulbs, since there isnt much to eat on the small ones. Plant thme in september. The rest can be eaten.

Multiplier onions. Here they are drying in the shade.

The first garlic plants are drying out and falling over. These were levtovers from the year before - I did not know they were still in the ground.

Inchelium Red garlic. Not brown yet - I'll wait until they are. Given the size of the plants, I'm hoping for BIG garlic bulbs. This variety is the one that I think I'll keep growing. To the side, potatoes almost ready to bloom. At the rear, Ning's Chinese Beans are climbing their strings.


CLustermap showing the past 11 months or visits. Total in 2 years 17,354.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Strawberry Time!

Strawberries are the "unsung heroes" of the backyard orchard / garden. They take up minimal space. I use them as borders around the vegetable garden and fruit trees. They are very very cheap - a couple of plants will quickly multiple to dozens, if you allow the runners to root and grow. I probably have about 100 plants, but only bought 4. Currently I cut off all of the runners, because I have little use for more plants. At the Farmer's Market today, they were $2.00 per pint. We eat a couple of pints per day, and this will probably continue for the next month. They do take some maintenance, especially cleanup and weeding.

Border for the rose garden. Since the roses are organic, no issues with eating the strawberries.

Today's catch.

I've seen "Buddha's Hand" citron. This is the strawberry version. Tasted the same as the others.

Progress Notes

Sometimes when things get me down, it's time to add something to the yard or garden. Space is limited. In this spot was the world's ugliest rhododendron. Possibly the ugliest rhodie in the universe. It rarely bloomed, the flowers often turned brown before they fully opened, and this was my only rhodie that attracted insects - in this case, an unknown insect that eats big chunks out of the leaves, leaving them chopped-up looking and not very effective for growth. It's had 4 years for a chance, now it's out.

Goodby "Blue Peter" rhodie. In its place, a Japanese Maple, variety "Bloodgood". I have another of the same variety in the back yard, and despite being in a hidden corner, it's quite beautiful. Here's what one nursery has to say about it. Of course, they are not going to say "this is a really ugly maple, but we want your money so buy it now". Another description from the "Japanese Maple Store".

This tree is 45 inches tall. After digging out the rhodie, I made a hole about 6# deeper than required, emptied the 'special soil addendum" that is collected from the backyard "dog yard", and covered that with a few inches of regular soil. Since it's not right at the roots, it should cause any damage, but over the next year will be 'processed' before the roots reach that level. This worked fince for it's relative in the back yard, 5 years ago.

These "Fallgold" Raspberries are so good that they never make it into the house. I stand there and eat them off the plant.

The tomatoes are 15 to 21 inches tall, depending on location and variety. Many are blooming, and most have buds.

This allium moly surrounds a fig tree. I dont do anything to help it. The idea was that an onion-family plant might repel insects. I have no idea if that is correct.

Bike ride

Photos to prove that we actually did it. Today Ning & I took our bikes down the the VAncouver Farmer's Market, then along the Columbia Riverfront. The last bike ride was a commute to work 2 weeks ago, on a day that I worked a half-day. Can't do it when I work 12 or 13 hours per day, anymore.

Recent green things that we have done-

Ning will turn over his Corolla to me, I'll drive it instead of the Mazda pickup. He drives a long distance, and will have a Prius in 2 weeks.

Aforementioned bike rides.

As always, gardening sustanably and organically.

Yours Truly.

Here's Ning.

Bamboo harvest

The purpose of this project was to thin out the bamboo. It is surrounded by a buried 3 foot deep heavy gauge plastic barrier, to prevent growing into the neighbor's yard. The cluster has been growing about 7 years. It's been thinned a couple of times. Now it's much to thick, and the individual poles don't stand out. I removed about 1/2. The variety is "Phyllostachys aureosulcata aureocaulis"Here's another description of this cultivar.

This is a great "sustainable gardening" or "permaculture" plant, as long as it's growth is controlled. This is more tomato-posts and other plant stakes than I'll need for the next few years. I'll let them dry and store them until needed.

Support for grapevines. A few weeks ago, I thinned the grove of Timber Bamboo. This is supposedly Phyllostachys vivax but I'm not sure. After procrastinating for months, about adding some supports for the grapevines on the side of the arbor, I trimmed 2 of the harvested culms drilled a small hole in each, and fastened them to the arbor with screws. The supports are sturdy, and a bit flexible. About 15 minutes of work.

Inside the arbor. It's difficult to see, due to the lush grapevines. These now provide shade from the hot Western sun. It was almost instantly cooler once I had them in place and tied the sprawling vines to the supports. This definitely qualifies in the "cheap + lazy" category, and given that no trees were cut down, no trucks used for transport, no energy used in lumber mills, is also a green thing to do.

What's Blooming. Roses

Ning bought a new camera. Here are some of the results. Who says that you need chemicals to grow beautiful roses?

Tamara. This has long been my favorite. See below for Tranquility, which is giving Tamara a run for it's money. A David Austin "English Rose". Very, very fragrant.

Scepter'd Isle. Also a David Austin "English Rose:. Nice and fragrant.

Red Masterpiece. Sold as a hybrid tea, and has a hybrid tea scent. Very vigorous. More of a 'grandiflora' habit - big, many blossoms per bunch. A few years ago, I threw some prunings behing a new retaining wall. They were buried in fill soil. The prunings grew up through the soil, and became big bushes that are also blooming nicely.

Rustled Rose. This is a very fragrant purple rose that was 'rustled' by taking a cutting. It looked abandoned, growing by a telephone pole on a Portland street. The original bush is gone now. Not too vigorous, and susceptible to blac spot, but VERY fragrant. Fruity, berry fragrance.

Scentimental. Prolific.

Yellow "rustled rose". This was grown as a cutting from a bouquet of flowers that was brought into work by a coworker. It took about 4 years to reach good blooming size, and still isn't large. Looks like a hybrid tea type, and has mild hybrid tea fragrance. Looking in rose books, it might be "Graceland" but there are so many similar roses, it's hard to say.

Tranquility. From cutting-grown plant bough from Heritage Roses in St. Paul Oregon. I have not seen another rose exactly this color. Very fragrant and prolific. It was slow to reach blooming size, but is not very vigorous and prolific. No black spot so far.

Figs Progress Notes

So far this year the fig trees have had a difficult time. Early warm spell in late winter, then a hard freeze, then cold and wet, another warm spell, and the latest freeze in recorded record here. After a slow start, they lost the first leaves. Finally, there seems to be some growth and potential for late figs. At least they survived, and only one branch on one fig failed to grow.

Hardy Chicago. I'm not sure what caused the spots on the first leaves. The newer leaves don't have them. A couple of branches are at the 6-leaf stage, so I nipped out the terminal bud to encourage formation of figs. If the first leaves are very small, I didn't count them. If about 1/2 size, I did.

Lattarula. Very late start, None of the branches are at the 5-6 leaf stage yet, and many of the leaves are small. This tree suffered the most from the leaf drop.

Vancouver. This tree was the fastest to grow. About 1/3 of the branches are at the 5-6 leaf stage. The leaves are starting to grow out normal sized as well. There is one breba. This is the only tree with a remaining breba. That's not too much of a loss, since brebas have not been very successful anyway.

Petite negri. This tree had a number of brebas but they all fell off. Only a few branches are at the 6 leaf stage.

Desert King sapling, planted this winter. It is surrounded by bean plants, about the same size. Each branch is about 6 inches long, with multiple leaves, about 1/2 the size that I expect ultimately.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Bathroom project. Status report.

Framing and pocket door installation finished. None of this was as bad as I worried. The pocket door part was actually fairly easy. Here it is, 1/2 way open. I used the level about a zillion times to make sure that it was plumb.

Now the wall has wallboard. I waited for the inspector's OK (verbal) for this. I was tired of the bedroom feeling like a construction site. Not completely done (wait for the NEXT inspection) but now feels like a bedroom again. Actually makes the room feel bigger, for some reason.

The pocket door actually works. Amazing. Also amazing, I actually remembered to get 1 1/8" drywall screws, and they didnt go through the pocket door frame. All-in-all, this part worked out nicely.
The photo is a bit distorted - the posts are actually parallel and vertical. The city had sent me a threatening letter, stating get it inspected or get a big fine. So I got it inspected. The inspecter said that he couldn't renew the permit unless I did a couple more things, mainly improve the joist strength. I had installed 1 2X10; he said that I needed to pair them. So here it is. You cant see in the photo, but the 2X10 at the top is paired, and the posts are bolded into the concrete floor. Also, nat as difficult as I had worried, and I didn't crack or damage the floor. This basement room is looking strange now, but it want from ugly-finished to just ugly over the past few years. Someday, when everything else is done, maybe it will be another bedroom and these posts will be part of a clost door frame....

It's strange. For the other bathroom, the inspector signed off on the framing before I got wiring and plumbing installed. This one says I have to get wiring and plumbing first. Plus, the other one renewed the permit for me. This one says that I have to call the city (atually, in their letter, I think tha tthe the city said that the inspecter could do it - but now I cant find the letter).

Anyway, a bit of progress.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Ancient Palm Still Growing

Here is a link to the ancient Judean Date Palm that was grown from a 2000 year old seed. I can't post a photo becuse it is copyrighted.

Nice to see it is growing. Even if male, maybe it could be used as a pollen parent for new hybrids with modern varieties. Of course, what it most wanted is for it to be female. The it could be cloned and the actual dates would be Judean Dates, probably almost the same as the ancient varieties. My question now - if they can do DNA testing as noted in the article, then why don't they knoe if it is female? I understand gender in plant is different from animals, but still, it seems like DNA testing sould give an answer.

According to a wikipedia article, 2000 years ago there were thick forests of these palms along the Jordan River. The current date palms in Israel were imported from California, and originated in Iraq.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Brugmansia "status report"

This no-name brugmansia was taken out of the garage, cleaned up, and repotted 10 weeks ago. Not too promising then. I'll post again when it starts to bloom.

Click on the "brugmansia" tag below, to see what it looked like 10 weeks ago.

This brugmansia was a cutting, and I thought it might not survive the cheap+lazy method of drying out in the garage, so I kept in in a sunny window. It doubled in size during the winter. Now it's repotted and on the deck. The yellow leaves are a response to too much sun on the older leaves, but they'll soon be replaced by the newer, greener leaves.