April 30, 2022

Planting day 2022

2022 before

The day has finally dawned in which I'm planting all the little veggies outside. Yes, I'm reclaiming my sunroom office from the jungle it has become. All will be put to rights. I hope.

We already planted eight cabbage and eight tomatoes outside and yes, we did toss a tarp over them the last couple of nights. The Weather Channel said we'd have frost, but we did not. We'll have to keep an eye on the forecast and use the tarps again if necessary, but that's okay. The plants are going outside! 

Yesterday, I filled all the grow bags except one. I ran out of my planting soil with one bag to go. I need to get another bag of Black Kow and mix up another cart full of the mix to have at the ready. (Which we did.)

I'm looking at the starts I have and I may purchase more grow bags. As with last season, I did not expect to have such good germination and survival rates. After I get the basic plan planted and arranged in my garden corral, I'll make that decision. 

One thing I won't short space on this year is tomatoes. I have a cherry, a slicing, and a Roma variety this year. I hope to make a modest amount of tomato sauce from the Romas, and to freeze dry some of the Veranda cherry tomatoes. The other veggie I need to reserve bags for is cucumbers. Those seeds are going in the dirt today. I got one pack of mixed bell pepper seeds, and they are doing great - but I don't really need peppers. They'll be the last thing planted, and I may double up in the bags. Whatever pepper harvest we get can be freeze-dried, too.

Eight hours later...

What a beautiful day to spend outside! I don't have everything planted. I did end up running out of my planting soil mix again, and we do need to go get even more Black Kow, perlite, and peat moss to mix up a bit more. 

We got more than planting done, though. There are always dozens of small chores to do when you live in the country. As I'll be fully retired in a month, we spent some time formulating a plan to gut the shed and reorganize everything in there! That's going to be a lot of work, and probably more than one trip to the landfill. Having all the junk gone and the items we actually use better organized will reap dividends for both of us, though. It'll be worth the aggravation of doing it. 

To top the day off, the spousal unit called for a pizza for dinner. All we had to do was drive to the local pizza joint and pick it up. No, we can't have it delivered because 1) we live one-half mile too far out of the town, and 2) Deuce loves to go for rides in the car and we spoil the dog without any guilt. 

I do love a man who knows when it's not a good idea to ask, "what's for dinner?'

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

April 26, 2022

The Second Amendment

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

There is a lot of bru-ha-ha going on about the Second Amendment. Maybe the politicians of the United States no longer understand the language. 

"Shall not be infringed."
SHALL: expressing a strong assertion or intention
NOT: used with an auxiliary verb or “be” to form the negative
BE: used with a present participle to form continuous tenses
INFRINGED: actively break the terms of (a law, agreement, etc.)

What, exactly, shall not be infringed? The right of the people to keep and bear Arms. 

Why, exactly, shall this right not be infringed? It is necessary to the security of a free State.

Who, exactly, is responsible for the free State? The militia. 

Who, exactly, is a part the Militia? Every citizen of the United States who reaps the rewards of said free State.

Now wasn't that easy?

The Lady of the Manor (The Hideaway)

April 25, 2022

Let's try those 'taters again

Last year I got my hands on a few Kennebec potatoes and planted them in grow bags. I had a meager result, but I saved the spuds to use as seed potatoes this year. Well...... Those suckers sprouted like you would not believe! This year I have six potato bags planted and we'll see how they do. 

My grandparents always planted Kennebec potatoes. It's not a variety one hears about very often, but my grandparents were able to supply spuds to my parents and my maternal uncle. I'm not sure why they scaled back the potato patch, but the time came when they did. Maybe when the recipients of free potatoes weren't able to help dig because of job constraints had something to do with it. I just don't remember and it hardly matters now. 

So we'll see how it goes this year. Gardening is nothing if not one big experiment. You just never know what you'll have at the end of summer, and that is what makes it so much fun!

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

April 24, 2022

The Grand Solar Minimum

I'm increasingly interested in the discussion about the Grand Solar Minimum. Wikipedia, granted not always the most complete source of information but still very informative, describes it as: 

Solar minimum is the regular period of least solar activity in the Sun's 11-year solar cycle. During solar minimum, sunspot and solar flare activity diminishes, and often does not occur for days at a time. On average, the solar cycle takes about 11 years to go from one solar minimum to the next, with duration observed varying from 9 to 14 years. The date of the minimum is described by a smoothed average over 12 months of sunspot activity, so identifying the date of the solar minimum usually can only happen 6 months after the minimum takes place. Solar minimum is contrasted with the solar maximum, when hundreds of sunspots may occur.

The NASA Science page, located at https://science.nasa.gov/science-news/news-articles/solar-minimum-is-coming, has more information. Science has been observing the sun since before "science" was a word and one of the resulting bits of information is that Sol is very, very active. 

But every eleven years or so, the sun becomes less active and we have a solar minimum. And there is nothing we can do about it. Nothing. 

The sun's magnetic field weakens and provides less shielding from cosmic rays. Sunspots and solar flares, which we know can cause heatwaves and magnetic disturbances, decrease. Coronal holes can form on the sun. Our temperatures get cooler. 

What occurred to the spousal unit and me is the fact The Weather Channel doesn't seem to be reporting on this. All THEY talk about are electric cars. 

Here's the thing - If we're going to depend on the sun for more and more energy, should we not understand the cycles of the sun? Or doesn't the cycles of the sun fit the narrative?

Just saying...

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

April 23, 2022

Finally! Warm weather means outside work


outside motion=activated lights

I've been waiting months for a Saturday with decent weather. The mercury hit a healthy 75F today, and we were outside handling some odds and ends. 

You do know what mercury has to do with thermometers, right? Look it up, babycakes. 

The spousal unit was, to my surprise, happy to hop on the old Husqvarna and mow the grass while I cleaned out the greenhouse, installed a few new motion-activated solar lights, and worked on gardening "stuff." He then swapped out the bucket on the tractor for the Brush Crusher and gathered up a few downed branches. Then he put the bucket back on and added a scoop of garden soil to my cart so I can amend it for growbags, and spread two or three buckets of gravel where we drive the John Deere in and out of its barn. We were busy all day.

And you know what? It felt really good to get a few things accomplished. I'm really glad we decided to get a few more of the outside lights. It's dark out there when Deuce makes his last trip out before bed. Black night, black dog - he literally disappears! Now we have these fixtures all over the place and I can keep an eye on him. Another plus is we won't forget to turn off the outside lights and have them burning electricity all night. Yes, I have done that - but no more!

I put up the curtain screen door today, too. I didn't want to put it up this early in the year, but those big drilling bumblebees arrived today. They don't sting but we don't like them buzzing about when we're relaxing on the patio. 

I also hit the step goal for the day without going for a walk. I got all my steps in just working in the yard. Tomorrow may be different. I think Deuce needs a good long walk to burn off some doggie energy. 

We're not sure what we'll accomplish tomorrow in the way of yard work, but it won't be on the same level as today. We have plenty to do, but we need to pace ourselves.  We're both feeling "old" tonight. Go figure!

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

April 17, 2022

Shifting times of sunrise and sunset


He is Risen!

Yes, it's Easter 2022 and I'm up to watch the sunrise. It's always pertinent to remember the empty tomb but always more so on this day. Easter Sunday - the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox. People like to scoff and remind Christians just how pagan the timing is, but we don't mind. Scoff away if it makes you feel better. Scoff until your little heart is content. The day of Christ's rising will be remembered and remarked every year with or without you, and the exact date hardly matters. The changing date is part of the Easter tradition and a subtle reminder that we don't control God's timing. 

But I digress yet again. I didn't sit down to create a blog post about Christianity. 

Last evening, as I prepared to shut down the computer for the night, it occurred to me that it wasn't yet full dark at 8:30 PM. The spousal unit and I have discussed this a few times and had I not just clicked the shutdown icon, I might have investigated. As it happens, I'm up early and not ready to tackle the Wordle of the day, so I looked up the sunrise and sunset chart for the current year and for nineteen-fifty-seven.

Hmm. Interesting.

On April 17, 1957, sunrise was at 5:41 AM, and sunset was at 6:57 PM. In 2022, sunrise is at 6:41 AM and sunset at 7:57 PM. 

So now I am freaking out! Why is that happening??? What is happening to the Earth's rotation?  

As it turns out, Daylight Savings Time in 1957 didn't start until April 28. What does this mean? It means the spousal unit and I are NOT losing our minds! This is important stuff to a pair on the cusp of senior citizenship! 

It never occurred to us that we were both right and wrong. For us, when we were younger, 8:00 PM in April meant it was full dark. Now it means we don't need a flashlight to take the dog out to pee-pee. 

Our overblown and idiotic government caused this one. Just imagine that! They could leave Daylight Savings Time alone. Or better yet, end it or make it standard. Jeez...

This means we're really not losing it and the Earth is not about to fall off its axis and drift away from the sun, which would not be good for any of us, including the dog. I can't wait for the spousal unit to get out of bed this morning so I can regale him with the width and breadth of all this knowledge I gained this morning while searching for information on the Internet! He'll be so impressed - NOT. 

The fact of the matter is none of this really matters. Even if the Earth would break orbit and float away, it would still be Easter and the Easter promise that our souls are safe would still apply. If I did have more daylight hours to use in 2022 than I had growing up, it would still be more daylight hours to appreciate the creation around me. 

The time the sun rose on that morning so long ago doesn't matter, only what the sunrise revealed. The stone rolled back and the tomb was empty. The WOMEN were sent forth to tell of what happened. 

Can you imagine their wonderment as they told a pack of skeptical men, "He is risen!"? 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

April 14, 2022

Easter weekend 2022

As the daylight hours continue to lengthen, my days of gainful employment shorten. It's Easter weekend. Today is Maundy Thursday, and I won't check in with my protégé until Tuesday. I'm not worried about her, though. She's definitely up to the task. I kid you not, this young woman is me if I were twenty-five again and knew what I know now. I'm very impressed with her. 

The fallout from the Covid pandemic shut down in 2020 and 2021 continues. I wanted to purchase a ham for Easter dinner but quickly abandoned the plan. I don't need a ham badly enough to pay $52 for a five-pound ham. I'll be at the grocery on Monday to see if they go on sale. They should because I didn't see anyone lingering at the ham case to choose one to take home. Heck, if the sale price is good, I'll get two for in the freezer. We're going to have a $7 ham steak and be happy about it! 

And speaking of freezers, I'm re-thinking getting a small one for beef. I think I should get one of equal size to what I have now. I can put meat in one and everything else in the other. That may work better. 

What has me leaning in that direction? Right now I have a lot of items in the freezer but I need to get some meals pre-made and frozen, and space is really tight. I need to up my freeze-drying game and get some of the frozen veggies into Mylar. Sometimes it's good to practice what I preach about preparedness. Being prepared to get a quick meal on the table is part of that for me. I like to cook once and eat four or five times! Just because I'm going to be "retired" doesn't mean I plan to cook every day for the remainder of my life. 

But cooking is my plan for this weekend. I'm going to put the Crockpot to work with some of our favorite dishes, bake a few of our favorite breakfasts, and get the freeze-dryer working to clear some space. Being a multi-tasker, it can all happen at the same time! And unless I have something in the oven, I can work on getting the buckets and growbags ready for the garden, too. 

I don't mind being busy "feathering my nest." It's what makes me truly happy. Only 20 workdays to go!

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

April 10, 2022

Trust the almanac? Maybe not every year.

My grandfather planted by the signs, which is to say he read the yearly Old Farmer's Almanac and followed its planting guidelines. I get a digital copy every year, and it does contain some good "country" knowledge about when to plant what. With the digital copy comes access to a variety of documents which includes a planting calendar for my zip code. 

I planted my seeds according to the calendar, but I'm starting to think it wasn't a good idea for 2022. The Roma tomatoes look really good, but everything is a bit "peekid." That is to say, it's not looking good. I purchased good seed from Burpees so the sprouts should look a lot better. 

One of the starts, the Bodacious** tomatoes, look really ragged, so much so that during my last trip to town I purchased a different variety, Rutgers, and just this morning planted those seeds. I think that next year, I'll give the seeds an extra week or two before planting them. They'll catch up growing quick enough once it's time to get them outside. 

The weather surely plays a big part in the health of sprouts and seedlings. We're having a protracted cold, wet, and windy spring. Sunshine has been at a premium. Next year, I'll pay attention to what sort of cycle we're in. 

I did add a new shelving unit to my seed sprouting repertoire this year. I don't mind the sprouting trays taking over the floor space in my sunroom office, but it pissed off Loki the Cat. He knows when I'm at my desk and will come to the sunroom door for me to let him in and out. The trays in his way making it so he had to make a leap over them did not make him happy. Pandering to the feline? You betcha! He gets mouthy when things don't please him. 

The unit is a good addition, though. It's of mid-grade quality and will disassemble easily to store until next year. Add in that it has wheels and I can turn it every day for the plants and it's win-win-win.  

Come 2023, I may purchase a larger greenhouse and perhaps move the seed sprouting operation to it. It's something I'm pondering this year. It would mean planting seeds later in the season and keeping a very close eye on the temperatures inside the greenhouse. We'll have to think about that for a while. I'm not in a rush to spend the money and then discover it doesn't work for me. 

This summer, my first being fully retired, will be a learning experience on so many fronts. I hope I'm up to the task. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

**4/25/22 update - all the Bodacious tomatoes were a loss**

April 4, 2022

Brush Crusher 4200 tree take-down

One thing we are not short of here on the manor is trees. And when you have trees, you have trees that die and topple over. We had one such dead tree standing along the lane, and the plan was to cut it down this spring. One of the last windstorms beat us to the punch. The tree uprooted and headed for the ground only to snag in another nearby tree. We've been waiting for it to warm up enough for us to go outside and start our spring clean-up and today was the day that tree came down.

Here's the video, which is posted on YouTube.

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

April 2, 2022

Sooo, Saturday

Oh, happy Saturday! I've always enjoyed Saturdays, and soon every day will be a Saturday for me! I have only twenty-seven working days until "retirement." 

It was a good day. Spring made an appearance bringing bright sunshine and a high of about 60F. I made chicken salad using my home-canned chicken breast, transplanted tomato seedlings for one of the cousins, readied a few flower pots for soil, and made a fast mowing circuit of the front yard. 

We had this little weed send up delicate white flowers and I said NO YOU WILL NOT GO TO SEED!  So I chopped them off. But I digress...

We also played auto mechanics, a game we haven't played in quite some time. This made neither of us happy, but paying $500 for a shop to replace a simple fluid hose made no sense at all. To be fair, the shop didn't know our plans to trade in the Silverado as soon as Himself located a van. We wanted quick and easy since it was only one of four auxiliary lines leaking, not a job to last us forever replacing all four lines. Anyone buying a 2011 model year knows rust will happen, and one look under the hood will tell anyone that line is brand new. If you don't know how to lift the hood and check out an engine, stick to your sissy little foreign cars, okay? Pay a garage a ransom for repairs, and remember we did a $500 job ourselves for only $35.00 and an hour of our time.  

It's spring and I don't have the screen door panels installed on the patio. But it's time. A bird flew in and got between the screen and the back of the cabinets. It took half an hour to get the poor thing up, out, and off the patio. I pulled out the garlands and picks I have for decoration and used them to block off the gap. It's an attractive solution. We enjoy our patio and having some pretty things are pleasing. 

Yes, it was a lovely day. Here on the manor, it's easy to forget the turmoil in the world today and simply enjoy working with our hands. Today, we were rich. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)