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Category Archives: farming

2020 Farmers Almanac

Kitchen Garden 2020

2020 Kitchen Garden as of July 9, 2020.

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It is 1:30 in the afternoon 92 degrees F and the garden is in full grow, Tomatoes in bloom for about a week. We have been picking Greens and strawberries for about a month and a dang gopher has wiped out half of the Spaghetti Squash plants ( see upper left) already! Another is working the salad greens just out of this picture, lower left. Been after them with bait and traps. Seems like an unending war with them. While I get a few of them, there is always more to contend with.

The second plantings of beans and peas are up just as the first are beginning to bloom. I am replanting the missing Spaghetti Squash as they produce long and the baby fruit are far better then Zucchini in stir fry. Hopefully  I will get the gopher before it gets all my plants.

The near lower right is Butternut Squash. I hope I got the gopher that was working that area a month ago.

Lots of Amish Paste tomatoes planted along with Anahiem and Chyanne Peppers, maybe a good year to make sauce  8-). These Paste tomatoes are like giant Roma in shape and are quite dry and meaty,  a big, fist sized, one is perfect for slicing in sandwich and won’t melt the bread with excess juice.

Generally I grow standard bred crop lines and save seed so most of my crops have been acclimated to my soil and climate. after over 20 years of selection they generally do better then Hybreds from the store stock and are far cheaper in the bulk produced. But they are a real pain in the neck to produce as many require additional space and time to mature.


Solar Project

A solar PV installation has been a dream from the start of this farm project but HIGH cost and lack of funds has always forced us to just grit our teeth an pay the electric bill. a couple of months ago I came across an offer to sell used panels in bulk an a very low price. These were removed from a 10 year old PV power plant that was being upgraded to increase it’s production and take advantage of tax law changes. This model of Sanyo panels are guaranteed to produce 90% after 10 years and 80% after 20 years. It appears to me that there may be a lot of used Solar equipment that will be available soon.

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To do a simple system, gridtie, was selected to get the most bang for the buck in reducing the Utility costs that are scheduled to increase even more from their present high rate.

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Sanyo  200Watt MonoHIP-200BA add Gridtie micro-inverters

Image result for Enphase-m190-72-240-s12/grid Tie Micro Inverter



         The Enphase Energy Microinverter System solves solar power challenges by performing Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) at each solar module. MPPT is an algorithm used to calculate and respond to temperature and light changes detected on a solar power system, and to determine how much power to draw from the module.
The SANYO HIT-HIP (Heterojunction with Intrinsic Thin Layer) solar panel is made of a thin single crystalline silicon cells surrounded by ultra-thin amorphous silicon layers.  The unique structure produces highly efficient cells capable of achieving more than 18% module efficiency while producing more power even at higher temperatures
These panels leads are terminated in MC connectors for a massive series- parallel DC grid so I needed to convert them to MC-4 connectors that would match the micro controllers input leads.
These controllers are becoming available in bulk, as well. They are too small for more modern higher output panels of commercial system upgrades.

Summer Solstice

Once again the Terra – Luna pair have circled the Solar dance floor, the northern hemisphere is now exposed to the solar furnace and the southern one the cold of deep space. Enjoy! soon enough that orientation will reverse and it will be our turn to shiver.
For the the time being I am enjoying the spell of growing green life all around me and the promise of the sun warmed bounty from the fruitful earth. Consumed the first tasty morsels today, A few Giant Blackberries, a hint of the Summer harvest to come 8-).
Thanks be to the GOD that makes this miracle of sun, water and carbon…pg

Moonrise begins: celebrate the marriage of warmth, water and carbon in this circle of life along with a full moon to light the festivities.

See Tallblokes Talkshop blog post below.  😎 …pg

Triple Peanut Cookies

Triple the peanuts of PB cookies, these are addictive, so beware. You can’t eat one!

My inability to get to the local cookie shop, 40 miles away, has forced me to attempt to make my own. Peanut Butter being my favorite type. After many disappointing results from published recipes, I decided to create my own. There are many kinds of peanut butter sold, depending on the additives used and the amount of peanut oil removed, so that is a contributing factor to flavor and consistency of the results. So beware, results may vary. The peanut flour and chopped/ground roasted peanuts help to minimize this problem and make these cookies the peanutty-est!
dry ingredients: mix in a bowl,  set aside
2-1/2 cups – all purpose flour
1 cup – peanut flour
1 tsp – baking powder
1 tsp – baking soda
1 tsp – salt
Grind or fine chop 1 – 1/2 cup of roasted peanuts,  set aside.
1 cup – crunchy peanut butter,  set aside
break 3 large eggs  ( 2/3 to 3/4 cup of egg liquid),  set aside
note: Important get the egg liquid amount right !  2 large eggs are not quite enough.

In your large mixing bowl add:
16 Tbs – butter, ( 2 sticks ) 1/2 lb soft or room temperature
1 cup – granulated sugar
1 cup – packed brown sugar
mix butter and sugar to a heavy cream texture, takes about 5 minutes
mix in peanut butter
mix in 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, add eggs and mix well

and then incorporate the ground/chopped peanuts

slowly add flour ( dry ingredients mix )

The dough should be moderately stiff and oily to the feel.
Onto your prepared cooking sheet, make into 1-1/4 inch size balls.
Flatten to the thickness you want the finished cookies to be.
Cook in a 350F preheated oven, for about 12 – 13 minutes, or just barely browned edges. As they cook they get bigger in diameter but not much thicker. They will finish a bit over 3 inches in diameter at 1/2 inch thick. Somewhat smooth surface with small cracks. Allow to cool a bit before transferring from cooking sheet as they will be a bit tender while hot. This should yield over 3 dozen cookies…pg

Note: they get even better with a day or two of ageing, if you can resist the temptation. My lady complains about these cookies when ever I make them. Generally while eating one.  😉  …pg

Inexpensive Rooting Box

An inexpensive rooting box.

Inexpensive Root starter box

Inexpensive Root starter box

To create a good environment for rooting cuttings you need  good light and control of humidity until the roots can support the needs of the new plant

PETE Grow box

PETE Grow box

An inexpensive rooting grow box can be created by using clear PETE, vacuum molded,  salad containers.

To the left you will see a drawing that demonstrates the concept of removing enough of the flange of one container to set the top one into the bottom containers’ flange.

I remove the flange in two passes as the convolutions make it difficult to get a good job done in one pass. Remember to remove only the amount needed to set one into the other as the remaining flange stiffens the edge.

PETE container labels

PETE container labels

The first thing to do is remove the labels from the container that you will be using for the top. Important! do this as soon as possible. A dry, new label peels cleanly off easily.  Just lift the edge and peel slowly, use a sharp knife to assist with sticky spots.  A wet or old label is very difficult to remove. Use that container for the bottom!  😦   PETE is resistant to most solvents if you really do need to clean up old glue.

Top flange fit into lower flange

Top flange fit into lower flange

If the shape and cutting is correct the top will fit into the lower tray flange. This will preserve a high humidity environment for the cuttings while they force roots to form. The clear PETE transmits a maximum amount of light so that the cuttings can make sugar to feed themselves.  And you can see any water in the base.  Be sure to open the box from time to time and talk to your new babies. they don’t care what you have to say. But they do appreciate the CO2.     😎    pg

Important note: store out of the summer sun! A dry empty clear PETE container will warp badly if left in hot direct sun. Even in the Green House.  pg


A Cheap Greenhouse

Simple hoop house.

hoop house

Hoop house, a cheap green house

Inside hoop house

A cheap Hoophouse

An inexpensive greenhouse that goes up fast is a hoophouse made up of PVC pipe and clear polyethylene covering .

This is  a rebuild of a hoophouse that I originally created in the winter of 96-97  and after 6 years removed when I built the main dugout greenhouse.

This year I recreated it with some improvements to reflect experience of the earlier use.

As before, this is a very nice place to work in the winter and early spring.  Also a great place to sit in and visit with friends when the weather is too nasty to be out in the nearby Veranda.


hoop house

hoop house hoop anchor

To create this hoop house, I used 1 and 1/4 inch PVC  schedule 40 pipe, 10 foot lengths, these were glued together with “T”s or “X”s and spaced 48 inches apart.

The hoops are anchored with 3/4 inch steel pipe driven into the ground on 48 inch centers in rows 12 feet apart.

By supporting the hoop ends 8 inches above the ground I raised the center of the hoop  to 7 feet of clearance under the stiffeners and made the house feel much larger. Lateral stiffeners are run from end to end to stabilize the ends and spread the loading in wind and snow. One on each side and one in the center. The hoop stiffeners are 2×8 – 48 inch long, cut to match the hoop curve, and “duck” taped to the hoops.

hoop house end clamps

After the ends are created and stabilized to be square and plumb, cover them with the sheet plastic and fix it with “duck” tape on or around the pipe and staple into any wood framing.  For best results tape the plastic and then staple through the plastic and tape. Only after every thing else is done do you attach the main covering.  It is best if you have help for this part as the wind will come up as soon as you start this.  If you tape and staple the covering to the windward side you can pull and attach the covering on the leeward side by yourself. Work from the center towards the ends to draw the covering smooth.

Note: the end clamps are made of 1 and 1/2 inch PVC scheduled 40 pipe split in half and screwed to the end hoops to clamp the end plastic and covering plastic tightly to the end hoops.

hoop house door

hoop house rug door

This door is a piece of old rug that is heavy enough to cover the doorway but can be moved or tied aside for ventilation. This place will get hot in late spring.

“DUCK” tape, cloth tape, originally made by the DUCK tape company now generally called duct tape as it is often used in duct work. you will need a large roll and the good stuff is worth the extra price.

After the covering is done, add wood battens to the stapled and taped edges to make the coverings wind tight around the bottom edges.

Cheap 6mil poly will last until the hot weather makes it brittle, good quality greenhouse coverings will last 5 years and cost about 3 times the cheap stuff. These hoops are the original ones. It is best to bend the hoops in warm weather as they are very hard to bend when cold.  pg

Planting Bed

Planting Bed

Update, February 2013 we removed the old disintegrating covering of polyethylene and covered with new “greenhouse covering” plastic. this should last several years. I am tired of replacing the covering after every summer.

As we are having problems with pocket gophers this added central planting bed is lined with 1/2 inch grid screen, galvanized steel. The rack will be used to provide support for crop to keep it off of the planting soil in the bed.

Greenhouse Covering

Greenhouse Covering

You can see that the new covering is much clearer than the old cheap polyethylene cover. It should also have a better transmittance of solar energy. We will see just how happy the plants are after a few months.  pg

Be sure to “click” on the pictures for a better view and more information in comments.  pg


Pruning for the next Years crop

Unpruned Fig Tree

 Pruning a fig tree

This is a Desert King Fig. A type of white canning/fresh eating fig, very fast grower and good producer. Figs like heavy clay soil and some water for best production. This 15 year old tree really likes it here. Fig trees are started from suckers that sprout from the roots. I have cloned near a hundred trees from this one, and they start producing fruit in 3 to 4 years! Great gift for anyone with the space.  Great shade and fruit but very messy and draws birds. I cover it with a bird net in the early summer to protect the crop from birds. Then that must be replaced every year if you want fruit to enjoy and share. Because this is a fast grower it needs heavy pruning every winter, lots of brush to deal with! Other varieties grow much less but are slower to produce and produce less fruit. As they are slower they are later in the season to produce for an extended season.

Pruned Fig Tree

A pruned fig tree

For the production of fruit that can be easily harvested the fruiting area must be held down near the ground. As this is also a shade tree some compromise must be reached, In this case I want fruit 6 feet to 12 feet above the ground. Many fig trees produce 2 crops per year. The first, at bud points on last years growth in the early summer and the second, on the new growth in the late summer.  So there must be a method to your pruning. Every year I need to push the growth point down because it progresses up with every years growth. Every winter pruning starts with cutting the top down to the needed height and then thinning out the interior to achieve the needed effect.  Meanwhile keeping in mind the need to force new growth down lower for later years renewal.

Close up of pruned branches

Fig pruning

If you look closely ( click on images ) there is old wood that is grey,  and there is wood that is olive drab or gray green, that is last years wood and I leave 2 to 4 bud points for the early summer fig crop as well as a base for the next years growth. All other interior growth is cut away to thin growth points. You must remember not to get greedy, too many fruiting points will result in small fruit of poor quality. Too heavy pruning will result in heavy regrowth and little fruit. Fig trees are like apple trees You can’t kill them with too heavy pruning. So if you need to reclaim an old tree go for it, severely reshape the tree, it will reward you the second year.

Trellised Grapes

Grape vineyard

Every year the grape vines must be cut back to the main growth arms to restore the balance between roots and vines. Remember grape vines can grow themselves to death. and too heavy fruiting will result in small poor quality fruit. There are many different styles of staking and trellising the main trunk of a grape vine but the pruning follows two styles, One for wine and one for table fruit. This will depend on the variety used. These are wine varieties and are fixed to a 3 wire fence trellis with plants every 4.5 feet.

Pruned Grapes on Trellis

The rows are pairs 4feet apart with 8feet between pairs. For wine production the plants are heavily cut back to a few buds that will grow into canes with a few bunches per cane. Wine grape vines produce grape bunches on the 1st, 2ed, 3rd node points of the new canes and you want a bunch per foot of trellis.

For eating grapes, they produce fruiting canes from the 1st, 2ed, 3rd cane nodes and fruit bunches from the 3,4&5 nodes so they must be pruned to canes and buds. Canes for this years fruiting and buds for next years canes.  My eating grapes are grown on an overhead trellis.

To the left in this picture is an espaliered row of figs pruned low for handy fruit along the road way between the vineyard and the kitchen garden.  pg


A dugout greenhouse

Garden Greenhouse


There are many ways to create a greenhouse space from a windowsill to a giant hoophouse.  I have created a dugout greenhouse for our needs. The dugout limits side wall heat loss and takes advantage of earth warmth for frost protection. The roof system also minimizes heat loss. But there is a large reduction in solar lighting. and some supplemental light may be needed for growth needs. Note stove pipe in roofed section for additional heating. Many plants will die in prolonged periods of below 50F root zone temperatures. The roofed area over the windowed area contains 200, gallon glass jugs of water to stabilize the interior temperatures in summer as well as in winter.



south view greenhouse interior

Interior view

The 48 inch walls of soil cement are topped with a concrete binder beam that the roof is connected to. All wood is redwood and cedar for resistance to rot from warm and wet conditions. The cedar was cut and milled on the property and the roof frame has held up 3 feet of wet snow! This is also a nice place to work in the winter storms. On the south end is a temporary greenhouse area that I am using as a hanger and an area for work on the FRP disk.



View to the South Forest from drive around

Mixed woods of pine, fir, cedar, oak, dogwood and laurel

At 2200 ft elevation and at the back of a small steep canyon, we have a mixed forest of many species of  tree and brush as well as more different kinds bugs then I have ever seen in a small 20 acre site. There are white and yellow pine. , White fir, red fir and spruce. Tan oak, black oak, red oak as well as a white liveoak. There is also dogwood, maple, alder and California bay laurel. For someone that likes to play with wood this is heaven. These are big trees some over 150ft high and over 36 inches at 20 feet above the ground.

Sidekick load of firewood

 Gathering firewood

Lots of dead and down firewood that I have been gathering during the  this wonderful cool dry late fall we have been having. One of the down oaks, a Canyon Oak ( red oak) is over 40 inches in diameter at the first limb that was over 40 ft above the ground. Major timber material that I will have to rough cut in the forest before I can even move it with a tractor! I have a warehouse / barn under construction with mortice and tendon, 12 inch, oak post and timber for floor support over the basement area to be covered with a 5 inch thick grooved and spline pine deck.  All treenail pinned and glued, no metal.  More on warehouse later.



Junkyard self propelled 4 wheel drive wheelbarrow

 Modified Subaru Sidekick or pg’s wheelbarrow

Transport for 1/4 cord of wood.  Transfer of 1 cu.yard of materials. And small tractor, very handy.  Salvaged from junkyard.   pg