July 28, 2023

Garden Notes: July 2023


  • 1st: 0.48"
  • 2nd: 0.25" 
  • 4th: 0.47"
  • 6th: 0.03"
  • 7th: 0.44"
  • 8th: 0.01"
  • 10th: 0.03"
  • 15th: 0.17"
  • 19th: 0.17"
  • 20th: 0.18"
  • 22nd: 0.37"
  • 28th: 0.69"
  • 31st: 0.39"
  • Total: 3.68 inches

  • range of nighttime lows: 63 to 73°F (17 to 23°C)
  • range of daytime highs: 80 to 93°F (26 to 34°C)

Weather Notes
  • Firstly, I'll make note of my Thermometer Discrepancies post plus comments. I'm still mulling over exactly what data is useful to me in our lives here: rainfall surely, temperature logical, with humidity and heat index a large factor which only seems important on the day. I'm jotting the heat index down on my calendar, but I'm not sure what else to do with it yet.
  • The highs have been on the low side of normal for July, but it's been humid, which means we're just as hot and sticky as when they're on the high side of normal!
  • The lows are unusual. Typically, this time of year our lows our in the mid-70s (   ), so we're cooling off at night more that usual. This is welcome! It helps cool the house off. We haven't had to use our Arc-Chill cooling blanket yet, and I often put on a flannel shirt when I head out for early morning chores. 
  • Rain forecast is always for "scattered thunderstorms" or "isolated showers," which means sometimes we get it, sometimes folks down the road get it. (Which can be frustrating for a gardener.) I think the frequent cloudy days are what's helped keep our daytime highs lower than usual.

Garden Notes
  • Only mornings are cool enough to be in the garden, but our humidity is in the mid-90s%, which means everything is drenched with dew. I have to get everything done by 9 or 9:30, when the sun hits the garden. It's just too hot after that.
  • Afternoons are for canning or other activities.
  • Morning garden work includes picking, bed prep (like the potato beds, which are all done for the summer), some weeding, and I still have a few places to mulch.
  • This time of year, the garden is on the wild side.

Believe it or not, everything here is stuff I want: summer veggies, volunteers,
forage greens, and cool weather crops going to seed, which I'll collect later.


The final load of potatoes, with one lone onion I found.

Final harvest weight  of potatoes was close to 80 pounds. We've had a lot of discouraging years with them, but this year they did well. I think the difference was preparing the bed with compost, bone meal, and azomite minerals. Last year I reviewed a book by Lynn Gillespie, High Performance Gardening. It's primarily a beginning gardener's book, but I gleaned a nugget of gold in her discussion of soil minerals. I did a little research and discovered that I already had a good solution in the barn, Azomite. It's powdered organic trace minerals, and I started mixing small amounts with my compost. I think that's what made the difference!

The other thing I want to note is that digging potatoes was easy this year. I planted the seed potatoes in shallow soil and then mulched heavily. All potatoes were right under the surface of the soil and easy to find. Very little actual digging required.

Early July harvest sampler: summer squash, slicing tomatoes, cucumbers

Okra and cherry tomatoes followed soon afterward.

It's too hot for lettuce, so our July salads are usually cucumber and tomato based,
maybe with hardboiled duck egg, grated feta goat cheese, and ricotta/salsa dressing.

Or this one: tomato, cucumber, and black olives as a
treat. The dressing is my homemade ricotta ranch.

July canning sampler: pear sauce, zucchini, dill pickles

I'm guessing August will be hotter and dryer. August is when it's recommended to plant my fall veggies, but it's usually too hot and dry for that to make sense. 

How is everyone else doing? Gardens still making it? Not overworking? Anybody else looking forward to fall?

July 24, 2023

Dan's Power Scythe

Once upon a time we had a sickle mower.

our old sickle mower

It was a great alternative to the scythe, as it could cover more ground, more quickly. Not that we're always in a tearing hurry to get things done, but sometimes expediency is helpful. Unfortunately, this Troy Bilt was discontinued years ago, and replacement parts are impossible to find. Eventually, it stopped running and Dan couldn't fix it. So that was that. 

Since then, Dan's done all of the hay cutting, wheat harvesting, and tall pasture grass mowing with his scythe. But we've discussed options. Such as a new walk-behind sickle mower (selling for something like $6000), a sickle bar for the tractor (large and also expensive). or better yet, a sickle attachment for our old John Deere garden tractor. It will take attachments, except the small bars are now longer manufactured, and we have searched in vain for a used one. 

What about "inventing" something of our own? We discussed that for years. The best idea we could come up with was to somehow rig a hedge trimmer for sickle work. Here's Dan's first experiment.

Dan's power scythe, the prototype

He attached a hedge trimmer to the snath (handle) of his old American scythe (he prefers to use his European scythe) Here's it's first test run.

As you can see, it worked well. It even cuts through clump grass easily! (Something the scythe doesn't do well). Even so, it needed improvements. For one thing the wooden snath made it even heavier than it already is, and the controls couldn't be accessed except by bending over (not always convenient.)

Here's version 2. 

Lighter aluminum frame

Hand control for the throttle

Wiring for the throttle.

Here's version 2's test run.

That went well, so the next test was to put it to work, cutting a small patch of hay. It worked really well. He's able to catch the cut grass on the trimmer's blade guard and then lay it down in nice, neat rows. 

Can you see the rows? (Probably not enough contrast.)

As with most of our tools, we have both a power version and a manual version. We'll take advantage of the benefits of power tools while we can, but we have a backup in case we need it. 

July 19, 2023

Thermometer Discrepancies

I have two digital thermometers that measure daily outdoor and indoor temperatures. The oldest is my Acu-Rite.

It was cheap, has no bells and whistles, but records daily maximum and minimum temps, which is what I want for my daily record keeping.

The second is newer, a Logia that Dan and I bought ourselves for Christmas last year. 

Although cheap for it's class, it has a lot of fancy features that are useful. The biggest problem I have with it, is that the time is always an hour off. I've reset it, tried it on daylight savings mode or not, even changed time zone, but when it does it's radio check to update itself, it reverts back to this hour-off flaw. I need to mention that because even though the time on these thermometers appears to be an hour different, these photos were actually take less than a minute apart. Which brings me to what I want to blog about, i.e. they are reporting significantly different outdoor air temperatures.

I've been puzzling over this, and the first thing that comes to mind is sensor location. The Acu-Rite sensor is attached to a post on our back porch. 

It's in the shade, but  there are two factors that influence temperature:

  1. The porch is concrete. Concrete absorbs and retains heat. That's why it's always so much hotter in towns and cities with more concrete than plants and trees. 
  2. I cook and can on the back porch and use a fan in the window to vent the heat. That hot air is vented to where the sensor is.
The Logia is located on a pole above our carport.

It's elevated to about second-story height and is in the full sun. I expected it to be the one to report higher temps, but that hasn't been the case. Could the modest elevation make such a difference? I don't know.

I've kept track of the maximum and minimum temps of these two, and the discrepancy is consistent. What I found curious, though, is that the Acu-Rite's higher temp is close to the Logia's heat index temp. And that led to a discussion between Dan and myself about what temperature is and which is more accurate: what the thermometer says or what if feels like. Dan felt the Acu-Rite was more correct because of how hot and sticky it's been. That led to talking about objective and subjective assessment: dry heat versus humid heat, wind versus no wind, and all that. When the humidity is low, it feels better. When there's a breeze (another factor) a hot day is more tolerable. So, which one should is more correct? Which one should I use for my daily record keeping?

As an experiment, I changed the location of the Acu-Rite sensor. I hung it behind the solar battery bank box. When I later checked the read-out, the temperature reported ten degrees lower than the old spot. But it's darker and damper there, plus it picks up the cooler crawlspace temp, which is vented by Dan's exhaust fan in the crawlspace door. 

I use the Logia's max/min button to notate the daily highs and lows. I don't record humidity, because the high is always in the early morning before it heats up. But maybe I should start recording a high and low for humidity too. And perhaps I should start jotting down the high for the heat index. Because while I believe objective data to be the most significant, it's the conditions we have to work outdoors in that impact our experience. 

I have to say, that this exercise has made me look at weather reports differently. Now, I wonder where they got their highs and lows from. Where is the thermometer located? On the roof of a concrete building? Atop a pole in a blacktopped parking lot? In the shade over a grassy lawn? They never say, but it makes a big difference. 

In the end, I moved the Acu-Rite to a completely different location. It's now being used to assess pantry and crawl space temps. And I'll start recording noting humidity and heat index in my monthly garden reports. I'm not sure any of that will be useful in the long-run, but it sort of suits my personality.

Does anybody else record things like rainfall and temperatures? What are your thoughts?

July 15, 2023

Greenhouse: First of Two Doors Hung

Once the walls were up in the greenhouse, Dan started on one of the doors. We have two doors planned: one from the greenhouse to the backyard, the other from the greenhouse into the house. 

In the photo above, the door opening is covered with the old panel gate. Dan covered it every night to keep strays out. A path on the left goes to the garden.

For the door, Dan chose a heavy-duty "full lite" exterior door. 

For logistical reasons, we decided that we didn't want it on hinges. So Dan installed it like a barn (sliding) door.

Preparing for the bottom track.

Preparing for the top track

Track installed

Door hung. Side note: Turkeys are extremely inquisitive. If allowed
out of his yard, Tommy follows us everywhere (mostly Dan).

How in the world am I going to keep that track cleared out?????

Door pull and lock still needed

So, hung but not done, with a lot of finishing work to do. Still, it's progress.

July 14, 2023

Last Day for the Bundle Bargain

I didn't want to close out this week without mentioning that two of my eBooks are part of Permies' Permaculture Adventure Bundle!

How To Get Cream from Goats' Milk and
How To Make Goats' Milk Mozzarella
by Leigh Tate

The discount price ends today at 2 p.m. Mountain Time. After that the price goes up.

To wrap up this week's sneak peek, here's the rest of what's included:

The Amazing Elderberry, a presentation by
John Moody from the Superfood Garden Summit

Building the "Easy-Bake Coffin" micro documentary
by Paul Wheaton

Ram Pumps webinar
by Tim Barker

The Hugelkultur Movie from World Domination Gardening
by Paul Wheaton and Diego Footer

Huge gob of permaculture podcasts
by Paul Wheaton

Garden Master Guide eBook
by Andres Bernal

The Garden Master Guide is the companion eBook to Helen Atthowe's online Garden Master Course.

To check out the entire bundle, just follow this link 

Permaculture Adventure Bundle

In my next blog post, I'll show you more progress on our greenhouse.

July 13, 2023

Did I Ever Show You My Balcony Garden?

I have always been an avid gardener and whenever possible, I've had a large vegetable garden. Then, due to unplanned events, we spent four years in a "temporary" living situation of a small second story apartment. Our balcony overlooked a parking lot which wasn't very scenic. So our first summer there, I attempted an Old World style balcony flower garden. It was both prettier to look at and gave us a sense of privacy, as it somewhat shielded the view from the parking lot into the sliding glass doors.

The first year, I grew morning glories on trellises. The following year, I decided to branch out a bit, after I found some 10¢ packets of pea seeds. I bought them on a whim and planted peas instead. 

Eating our own fresh peas while cooped up in a small apartment made me feel incredibly happy.

Then, I found a bush tomato plant. I had looked for one of these before, but this was the first time I've found one small enough to plant in a pot.

My balcony only got late afternoon sun, so they weren't plentiful, but they were ours.

Other things I grew:


I harvested the stems and leaves right before it bloomed, when they are the most potent. My kitties had dried organic catnip all year long. 

Aloe vera (on the left at at the top) and "cat grass."

My only regret was that I didn't develop this more. The hot afternoon sun was difficult to deal with and dried out the pots quickly, but if I'd known about permaculture then, I probably would have found solutions for that problem. Indoor gardening with grow lights too, is something I wish I'd explored.

I realized later that I could have done so much more, even living like that. And that's why I want to start off today's peek into the 2023 Permaculture Adventure Bundle, with a book that contains ideas for everybody, whether you live in an apartment or on a farm. 

Building A Better World in your Backyard Instead of Being Angry
at the Bad Guys
by Paul Wheaton and Shawn Klassen-Koop.

You can have your Permaculture and Eat
It too!
By Robin Clayfield

Growing Fruit Trees with Ease: Fruit Tree Fundamentals
E-course by Susan Poizner

Working Together: The Homestead Tree
eBook by Harold Thornbro

Rocket Mass Heater Risers: Materials
& Designs eBook
by Paul Wheaton
and Chris "Uncle Mud" McClellan

Carbon Negative Mass Heaters webinar by Alan Booker

2 issues of Permaculture Design Magazine

Click or tap here, to see everything you get.

July 12, 2023

Did I Ever Tell You My Y2K Story?

It was minutes before midnight on January 1, 2000, when my family gathered around the telephone. Y2K was imminent and we were excited with anticipation of what might happen.

It was in the mid-1990s that we first started hearing about Y2K as a potential impending disaster. Also known as the Millennium Bug, the problem was that, until that time, computer systems notated years as two digits: 80 for 1980, 92 for 1992, etc. The question was, what would happen for the year 2000? Could computers tell the difference between 2000 and 1900? This inability to distinguish dates correctly had the potential to bring down worldwide infrastructures for computer reliant industries.

And so began a lot of speculation and predictions of Doomsday, The Apocalypse, and TEOTWAWKI (The End of The World As We Know It). Prepperdom was in it's glory and people were encouraged to prepare for the worst. Others pooh-poohed the whole thing as utter nonsense.

Somewhere during that time, one of the local churches was going to show the C-SPAN videos of the congressional hearings on Y2K. Dan and I had some questions; officially, our government was saying that there was no problem and that citizens need do nothing, but there were too many trustworthy sources voicing concerns. We decided to go. After a presentation of the facts, the congressional committee's conclusion was that Y2K was a real problem which required real answers. At the end of the video, the church's pastor got up to speak. I assumed he would take the opportunity to preach, but he didn't. All he said was, "If you want to know what to do next, read the book of Proverbs."

OK, I thought, I can do that. Proverbs is a book of sayings which contrast wise and foolish living. As I read through it, I thought about what to do in regards to Y2K. The wise, I read, are diligent, hard working, well prepared, self-controlled, generous, not given to get rich quick schemes, but gradually save and store up in preparation for winter. The example was the ant, neither influential nor prestigious, but hardworking and prepared. That made sense to me and I decided to start a serious food storage, including things that we couldn't grow for ourselves. We only had a few dollars each week to put toward it, but slowly we were able to store up quite a few months worth of food. Gradually, we stocked up on canned and dried goods, water, kerosene lamps, kerosene, firewood, and a tub and laundry plunger for washing clothes. 

At 12:01 a.m. January 1, 2000, Dan picked up the telephone receiver and listened. We had a dial tone! The lights didn’t go out, and life went on as usual.

In the days that followed, I remember quite a few folks were angry because nothing had happened. These were the ones who felt "duped" after investing thousands of dollars in food supply and survival kits. And then there were the I-told-you-so-ers, gleefully crowing because they hadn't bothered to prepare anything at all.

For myself, it was a valuable experience, and I learned things which made me realize that we always needed to be prepared. This philosophy has served us well. Several times, Dan was out of work and we were able to eat well without worrying about how to pay for groceries. Then there was the time when our area got hit by the remnants of three hurricanes. While we didn't get the hurricane force winds, we did get torrential rains, flooding, and extensive road and bridge damage. Like many others, our basement was ankle deep in water (and we did not live in a flood zone!) 

Even though we had a some damage, we were fortunate because many in our county had their basements cave in from all the water and ground saturation. Everyone was without electricity for days, and our food storage was a life saver. The grocery store shelves had long since been wiped out by folks buying up whatever they could get their hands on before the storms hit. We fared very well because in addition to food, I had been stocking up on matches, paper plates and napkins, toilet paper, first aid supplies, and water. The biggest problem was because our well water required an electric pump; we had no running (nor flushing) water. We did have a 55 gallon drum filled with water, so by rationing we were alright.

The memory that stands out the most, however, happened several years later. It is of a friend whose husband had been out of work for months. When her kitchen cupboards were bare, I could never have afforded to buy her more than a bagful of groceries. But I could easily give her a whole trunk load of food from our food storage, which I did. I was never more glad than then, to have heeded the advice to prepare.

Now, of course, we are able to grow more of our own food and have learned low-tech ways to accomplish tasks. We've learned how to simplify our lifestyle, so that when things like a global pandemic and lockdown take place, our lives pretty much go on as usual. But, hopefully, those stories help explain why I'm so enthusiastic about these resource bundles. 

Yesterday, I shared 7 of the 43 excellent resources in the 2023 Permaculture Adventure Bundle. Today, I'll share 7 more:

The "Fungi! Growing Speciality Mushrooms" chapter
from Edible Landscaping with a Permaculture Twist
by Michael Judd

Preserving Fruits and Vegetables Guide
by Lynn Gillespie of the Living Farm

Homestead Building Plans Bundle
by Teri Capshaw of The Homestead Larder

SKIP: A Framework to Connect Industrious
People with Elderly Land Owners
by Paul Wheaton and Mike Haasl

Stockman Grass Farmer magazine
All 12 issues of 2022

Handmade Natural Soaps eBook
by Jan Berry, The Nerdy Farm Wife

Natural Facial Soaps eBook
by Jan Berry, The Nerdy Farm Wife

The $35 bargain price lasts now through Friday. After that, the price goes up.

Click or tap here, to see everything you get.