Sunday, October 01, 2006

The bounty of the garden

The irrigation system, leaky tape

By Fall it looked like this!

Spring Garden: The cabbage did well under the row covers.

2006 Beekeeping Update

The bees are fed for the winter, weak hives joined with stronger ones to get them through until brood rearing time in January and then until spring nectar and pollen come in. I got alarmed in August when I found the driveway apiary almost devoid of honey, pollen, or brood. They're Russians and shut down brood rearing when our severe drought hit. There were flowers, but little nectar. They had consumed about a super of spring honey each. In the garden apiary the Italians had a surplus of honey and were full of brood and pollen. Unfortunately they also showed signs of Varroa mites. The new apiary, with the Purvis Gold Line queens, had lots of stores and good brood buildup. Guess I'm going with Italians, and will get more Purvis queens next year. They are the queens raised from breeders whose genetic lines have had no Varroa mite treatments for five years or more. I've only been treating with powdered sugar since year before last. I've got 33 hives right now, but may combine some more weak ones. If I lose half, then I can split in the spring. The only ones I'm interested in perpetuating are the Purvis queens. Clay and I went down to Brushy Mountain and hauled back about 575 gallons of HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup) for feed for the next few years. I figure the ethanol production will compete for the corn crop, fuel will get more costly, and sugar is already at $0.47 per pound.

I got about 5 supers of honey (about 120+ pounds) from both spring and fall crops.

2006 Garden Assessment

The year is sliding away fast!

We're tearing down the garden, and CC is laying on the horse manure thickly as the ground is cleared of gardening infrastructure. Next year is already in the works. I'm hoping that next year we can roll out old hay and plant through it into the well manured and limed soil we've prepared this fall.

Our total production of vegetables was fairly high, but since only a few would come pick for themselves, harvesting added to the work load. Bless IC and BG for their hard work harvesting, without them a lot would have rotted. BG used her share to buy goodwill around the community. We took a load of tomatoes to the local cannery, ending up with lots of canned tomatoes and tomato juice. Thanks to IC, CC and his girlfriend we had enough help. I also have put up beets and chopped peppers

The drip tape was a good experiment, but no better than the overhead sprinklers, since we irrigate out of the lake. We still had split tomatoes and other over-watering problems, as well as breaks in the tape that caused dry areas. The drip tape has to use well water, double filtered, and the sprinklers can take the lake water, unfiltered.

The best weed barrier seems to be newspaper, although it's a stinker to put down. We used woven landscape cloth, in 3 foot and 6 foot widths, some with staples, some without. If that has dirt on top of it (to hold it down) the weeds grow right through it, making it hard to pull up in the fall. It is hard to plant through, since you don't want to make the holes for the plants too big. With bigger holes the weeds grow up neat to the plants, choking them out. The landscape cloth also unravels, leaving tough long strands in the dirt to tangle in wads on the tiller or tools. When you are rototilling to keep the weeds down, you can't get too close to the landscape cloth or you'll rip it up, along with your plants, so weeds get a good foothold at its edges, even with hoeing. Grrr. Back to straw or newspapers. Straw is expensive, so we used old hay, adding lots of weed seeds to the garden. Thick enough, it smothers even big weeds, but it's very labor intensive, unless you roll it out with the tractor, which works well.

Unlimited but not Instant

Our hot water heater rusted out (3 in 15 years) so we've replaced it with a tankless, on demand hot water system, a Rinnai 2532, which is proving to be a real improvement. Reviews of tankless systems were mixed. As long as you don't expect them to be 'instant' hot water systems you won't be disappointed. With our high mineral, acid water I figure the copper heating container/element will need replacing sooner than estimated. Unlimited hot water is a boon. We'll connect the upstairs and the basement apartment hot water systems and no longer have to turn on the apartment hot water when we have company. That alone will save $100+ a year. Changing from an electric 66 gallon tank to the propane on demand will save some, too. Don't know how much, since I had that on a timer, 8 hours a day. Since I have lots of hot water I'm using it more, especially for washing clothes and longer showers. You can chose any temperature setting, so you don't have to dilute with cold water. We're keeping it at 120 degrees since I like hot showers. The come with remotes that will set each user's hot water temperature, so you can be sure children don't get scalded, but the washer gets really hot water. Computers!