Archive for the ‘Humor’ Category

My next step in taking over the world – one garden at a time

May 6, 2010

Well, it’s been a while since you last got the opportunity to read what I am writing. Sorry ’bout that. Have you missed me? Probably not, but I can live with that. But the real story is, can you live with me? Hmm, sorry to disappoint SO many, but I am already engaged in a “live in” situation, one that I am VERY happy with. So again I must disappoint. Now, on to the update.

When we “spoke” last, I was just getting started on my garden. I thought, after looking at the indigenous flora, that I was going to have some serious work ahead of me to get my soil, whipped into shape. Boy was I wrong. After getting the soil analysis back from Midwest Labs, I was very pleasantly surprised. I needed only a “little” NPK, along with some of the minor elements. So here’s what I did.

I tilled the garden area with a rear-tine rototiller, for the first and ONLY time, thank you very much. I then spread a “generous” amount of composted poultry litter that I then re-tilled, breaking up any chunks and going over areas I had not loosened completely the first go-round. I then built three 4′ x 16′ raised beds, along with several other free-standing raised beds. The free-standing beds are 2-3 feet wide and 8”+ tall.

Raised Bed Salad Garden
Raised Bed Tomatoes

After planting lots of stuff that I like to eat, such as tomatoes, potatoes, spinach, celery, onions, squash, climbing string beans …. okay, who am I kidding here? I REALLY don’t like string beans. They are just something that is easy to grow, there is NO shelling involved and they are easy to prepare. The fact that I planted them around the chicken yard should be indicative of the fact that if the chickens eat some/all of the damn things, I will be okay with that. Okay, back to the list. Climbing speckled butter beans, cucumbers, corn, hot banana peppers, bell peppers, jalapenos, strawberries, bok choi, broccoli, leaf lettuce, and of course some “herbs”. Enough said.

Backup Manure Source

BTW, this is the “backup” manure source for our fertilizer company. 🙂

After everything was up and growing, I was “finally” able to unload my dump trailer. Let me tell you something. Composted chicken $%#@*& is HEAVY, especially when it is wet! My dump trailer will actually carry WAY more than the hydraulics will dump. I had Anne on the controls of the lift while I had my tractor bucket under the front of the bed picking up. Everything was working as planned, until the battery leads over-heated, melting the insulation and then catching FIRE! Oh yeah, the heat was so great that the terminals actually MELTED, opening a hole INTO the battery. Fortunately, that is what JB Weld is for, so I was able to save the battery. The fire? I beat it out with a clump of grass. 🙂

As a side note, wet chicken $%#@*& compost will NOT slide out of a dump trailer once it “sets up” in the bed. I wish I had a picture of what happened AFTER the battery caught fire, as that was actually more humorous than the fire. With the 16′ bed almost vertical, and with the chicken $%#@*& compost tenaciously adhering to the sides and bottom, I had the bright idea of leaning an extension ladder up inside the bed (with the back doors open of course) to allow me to get up to the $%#@&* stuck “up there” to begin the process of loosening it and digging it out with a shovel. However, there was one problem.
In order to do this I needed someone to stand on the bottom of the ladder. Hmm, who could I call upon for this odoriferous task? Anyone, anyone? Yes, you in the back. That is correct. Anne, will you please step to the front to accept your award for “Performance in a Comedy” above and beyond the call of duty! Thanks babe.

So, to set the scene. I’m balanced on the top of a 16′ extension ladder, digging $%#@&* from out of this trailer while my lovely assistant is standing “knee deep” in what I am loosening out of the trailer! What a sight that was. If only I had of had the video camera rolling. Anyway, back to the narrative.

So, with my trailer once again empty, I went to a local wood flooring mill to pick up a load of hardwood sawdust. This worked perfectly as a mulch for the garden. As you can see from the pics, everything is covered, except that plants that I WANT to grow, which makes for a nice, “clean” garden. Since I wanted to make certain I didn’t rob from Peter to pay Paul (cause the soil microbes to pull nitrogen out of the topsoil to allow them to digest the wood mulch), I applied a thin layer of poultry manure fertilizer on top of the ground. So far, everything is working just like I wanted it to.

Stevia
This is stevia, ONE of the plants the FDA is/was at war with.

Field
In the meantime, this is the field I am “out standing in”.

So, since pictures speak louder than words. Sorry, I can’t let that one slid. Pictures don’t speak, and typed words don’t either. When the hell do we get some of these sayings anyway? Ok, since pictures are more DISCIPTIVE than words (sometimes) I hope you can get a feel (another non-involved sense in this situation) for what my garden is like.

So, if you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please let me know. I will either address them or loudly ignore them. 🙂

Until next time…

Celery

This is last years celery, which is so strong I’m not sure I can even eat it. If this is what people that don’t like celery think it tastes like, then I completely understand why you don’t like it. BTW, I’ve been told it takes two years to really get celery established. I will let you know how it turns out.

Post Script: Just so you guys (and gals) think I started with some kind of “blessed” patch of ground, this is what the original garden site looked like. The ONLY saving grace to all of this is there is NO Bermuda Grass on this property. I have lots of Bahia, but thankfully no Bermuda. I do however have LOTS of dewberry plants along with a whole host of other weeds.

Garden Site

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The BIG movement has been completed!

March 10, 2010

Whew! Boy was that a pain! No I’m not talking about THAT kind of movement.  What I’m talking about is my recent move to Alabama. We are all but finished moving in to our new home. Well, I’m almost done. I did put “most” of the boxes IN the house as opposed to leaving them in the dry van. I think I did MORE than my share. Besides, I don’t know where all this stuff is supposed to go. That is the job for my better half; the one with the superior spatial perspective. Don’t know what “superior spatial perspective” is? Well, I didn’t either, but my lovely wife insists she has one and while finding it might be interesting, I’m actually MORE interested in getting my garden area cut up and finishing my chicken house. Course the way this blog is going I had better make it extra nice as I might be spending time out there. 

Seriously though, we are happy to finally begin making fertilizer. Some of the equipment has been purchased, with more on the way. A local grading contractor is coming out tomorrow to give me a quote on getting the process yard graded as well as grading the area where the process building will be constructed. As an added bonus, he is supposed to quote me to deepen the lake on the property. Now there IS a real “need” for this other than the fact that I want the water to come up closer to the house. I need the 5000+ yards of dirt to fill in a low spot where we are going to put the EcoPods. So, I get the best of both worlds. I get the pond moved WAY closer to the house AND I get the soil needed to correct the low spot. Now THAT’S effective management. 

Now back to the important stuff – getting my garden in shape. The soil here is a mixture of sand and loam, setting on a red clay base. The soil fertility looks to be pretty bleak, due to the broom sedge growing everywhere. But, I know someone that makes fertilizer, so I don’t think “soil fertility” is going to be a concern.  After I get the soil somewhat broken up, my plan is to (1) send off a soil sample for testing (2) amend the soil with high calcium lime (3) add 150# of trace minerals (4) add copious amounts of composted poultry litter that I just happen to have stored over in Mississippi and finally (5) cover the whole garden with 4” of hardwood sawdust mixed with lime and poultry litter fertilizer. That way I can start getting the soil into good shape for spring planting.

I also plan on planting a SMALL “conventional” garden using synthetic fertilizer and no mulch, just to demonstrate the superiority of the permaculture method. While it is possible the conventional will do better, I just don’t think so. 

I also plan on regularly checking the Brix levels of both gardens to determine which veggies are actually more nutritious. But an explanation of Brix is a subject for another day.

In the meantime, I am a man “outstanding in his field”. Too bad it is raining like crazy, which doesn’t speak to my upbringing. I mean, what kind of man doesn’t know when to come in out of the rain? Until next time…

Why do we garden?

March 2, 2010

I get this all the time. Why do I garden? Why do I labor out in the hot sun, working to grow my food when I could just as easily—okay, WAY more easily—go down to Kroger and buy all the veggies I want? That’s a valid question. Here is the answer I give. Well, sometimes I give an answer. Other times I just look at the questioner like he has two heads, which really messes with his head, ‘cause I think he can actually READ my mind and then he starts to see himself the way I see him, which is with two heads, and that REALLY messes with his mind—but I digress.

The answer I give is this: “Have you tasted the veggies that come out of Kroger?” Probably not, because they taste like, well, NOTHING. Sure, they look good and they are HUGE, but there is no taste. And taste developed to let us know when the food we are eating is actually GOOD for us. If it tastes like ^#@^&, then it is probably only good for the compost pile. So, the primary reason I grow food is because I want my veggies to taste like food is supposed to taste. The carrots are sweet, (look, don’t let my wife see this part, since I have her convinced I don’t eat carrots, which is true, since I don’t eat the carrots out of the store), the cilantro is, well, pungent. Okra is slimy—I mean even right off the plant, which is how I like it. And the tomatoes, well, let’s just say they taste like the tomatoes in Kroger only WISH they tasted. The point is that home grown veggies taste like they are supposed to taste.

The other reason I grow food is because it is COOL! For the first time in I-don’t-know-how-many centuries, growing food is COOL. Now I don’t know what word they used back in the 1800’s, because back then growing food was simply what everyone did. Growing food was the equivalent of “not HUNGRY!” But even then it wasn’t COOL, like it is now. I mean, go to a dinner party and bring along a bucket of fresh, home grown tomatoes, and you are the LIFE of the party! It is the equivalent of showing up with a case of beer when you were, oh, 18! Now, as an adult, fresh veggies are the best way to get … well, you know—noticed at a party.  And you don’t even have to wear a wife-beater undershirt or spend time at a smelly ol’ gym.

No, you can show up with a farmer’s tan and a bucket—let me interject here that when you bring fresh veggies, bring a LOT! Don’t be skimpy with it. You are all about ABUNDANCE! Show it! You not only produce home grown veggies, but you produce them in copious amounts, yeah verily, VOLUMES. So, you stride in all confident, with your muscled bare arms all tanned, your hair highlighted from the sun and in your BUCKET a veritable cornucopia of garden delight. You bring tangy tomatoes, hot peppers, pungent cilantro, crisp onions and, voila! Pico de gallo! That’s like showing up with crack. Well, maybe not exactly like that, but amongst a bunch of foodies, it’s pretty close.

So this is why I garden. It is something I enjoy. It’s not fattening. It’s not addictive (okay, that one may not be true). It is something I can talk about with others who are interested in food and good health. And it makes me cool. More than that, gardening is how I relate to the world around me. I have been doing it for many years—gardening, that is—and I am still fascinated with how it works. When the soil is right and when everything works together, I can grow nutrient dense food that tastes great and did not depend on a bunch of synthetic fertilizer or chemicals. It is earth friendly, which is how EVERY gardener wants things to be, since, why would a gardener want to hurt Mother Earth? I mean, she is the one who makes it possible for us to grow what we grow and get the recognition we get. ‘Cause, let’s face it, even though we would garden even if no one noticed, the accolades are pretty sweet, just like our produce.

And that’s just my perspective, from a “man out standing in his field.” That’s me, the one with the huge, uh, cornucopia. 

michael@plusminerals.com

Growing Hemp for Fun and Profit

February 26, 2010

Now that I’ve got your attention, what in Sam Hill am I talking about? Am I advocating growing the “demon weed” in defiance of DEA edicts? This is a GARDENING blog, not a drug advocacy rant. Okay, I have to digress here and say that “weed” is a naturally occurring plant and as such should be left out of drug policy, but that’s just my own libertarian tendencies sneaking out when I wasn’t looking. But seriously, what “hemp” am I talking about?

First, I hope we all agree that bare ground is a bad idea. It is wasteful for solar energy to fall on bare ground with nothing present to capture it. It (bare ground) is susceptible to erosion, compaction and temperature extremes. So, cover crops are mandatory in order to collect solar energy, keep the little beasties in the soil happy and fed, and protect bare soil from erosion and compaction. Most importantly, cover crops are a CHEAP method of putting valuable nitrogen into the soil for just the cost of seeds, plus you get THOUSANDS of pounds of organic matter for FREE! It’s MUCH easier to grow your own organic matter in the soil than it is to buy it and HAUL it. Let nature do the work for you. Remember, we want to work WITH her not AGAINST her. She can be a great friend and helpmate or a cruel bitch on an enemy. Kind of like… well you know. 

Okay, back to the original question, “what hemp am I talking about?” That would be Sunn Hemp or for those who can actually READ Latin, (Crotalaria juncea L.).

These are some links to web sites advocating the growing of hemp, and just so everyone is clear, nowhere in these links will you find a reference to websites advocating the growing of the “other” hemp. So, just so I am CRYSTAL CLEAR, these are RESPECTABLE references with details about a valuable agricultural crop. Damn, no matter how I put this I just keeps getting deeper and deeper. Okay, here are the links.

This is a US government agency advocating the growing of hemp. 
http://www.plant-materials.nrcs.usda.gov/pubs/hipmcrb8433.pdf

This is a link to a main stream agricultural magazine detailing the advantages of growing hemp. 
http://southeastfarmpress.com/cotton/nitrogen-sources-0925/

And finally a link from the USDA, a gov’t agency that is always looking out for the American farmer. 😉
http://soils.usda.gov/sqi/management/files/sq_atn_10.pdf

Just to briefly summarize the benefits to growing hemp, they are, in no particular order:

1. Production of up to 200 pounds of organic nitrogen per acre every 60-90 days
2. Production of up to 6000 pounds of biomass per acre
3. Suppression of noxious weeds
4. Suppression of nematodes
5. Improved soil properties and water conservation
6. Reduced erosion and soil compaction
7. Has potential as a forage crop, paper fiber and as an alternative fuel

Who should use Sunn Hemp? Anyone who has soil that needs to be improved. The crop can be used by conventional as well as organic growers. Sunn Hemp ‘Tropic Sun’ works very well as a precursor crop for small grains (winter wheat/oats) or as a legume to restore soil fertility and to increase organic matter. Just think about it. You can turn 50# of seeds (15000 seeds per pound) into 6000 pounds of organic matter without having to pick up a shovel or use a wheelbarrow. And, as a BONUS, you get 200# of organic nitrogen, ready for plant uptake!

You can proudly proclaim that you are a producer of AMERICAN HEMP for both FUN as well as PROFIT!

Just be prepared by keeping copies of ALL seed receipts as well as copies of ALL gov’t recommendations to actually grow the variety of hemp I am advocating. I would not want you to be the victim of confused drug enforcement agents who don’t have the good sense to read useful and informative blogs such as this one. 

All kidding aside, Sunn Hemp is a completely LEGAL plant, not even in the same family as Cannabis sativa L. commonly called marijuana or pot. No, Sunn Hemp has REAL value to farmers and gardeners in the south.

I proudly proclaim myself to be an advocate of growing American Hemp, but that’s just me, Michael LaBelle, “a man out standing in his field.” Just don’t tell the DEA WHICH field I am out standing in. I wouldn’t want them to find out where I am after this blog hits the net. 🙂

The Tale of Two Cities and other ramblings

January 29, 2010

The Tale of Two Cities

I just returned from IPE10, which for the uninitiated, stands for International Poultry Expo 2010, which as always, was held in Atlanta, Georgia.  First a little bit about Atlanta.  It is a great city, as cities go.  All I really have to compare it to is Dallas and it is a LOT like Dallas, with a couple of notable exceptions.

First, the area is a whole lot prettier than Big D.  I mean, there are actual HILLS around and through the city and TREES!  Second, there is an actual RIVER running through the city.  The operable word is RUNNING, not like the sluggish meandering of the Trinity River, slowly glugging just west of downtown Dallas, replete with the occasional body or floating tire.  The third difference is the air quality.  I have never been to Atlanta in the summer, but Dallas in the winter has horrible air.  There is a condition known as an inversion that traps polluted air over the city for all of us to help filter out all the impurities using our lungs as filters.  We are (or in my case WERE) all about helping our city.  I am happy to say that I moved to where I no longer have to SEE the air before I breathe it.  I was taught in school that air was supposed to be a “colorless and odorless gas.”  Fat chance finding that in Dallas.

Unfortunately, the two cities are more alike than I would like.  TRAFFIC stands out as a VERY common denominator between the two piles of concrete and glass.  Since I was a non-native driver in Atlanta this time I did not have the luxury of “taking the back roads” to where I needed to go, which I was VERY good at when I lived in Dallas.  Since all I had guiding me was “Alice”, the Australian voice of my GPS, I pretty much had to go where she said go.  There is a work around trick for this situation though.  You can change your settings from “fastest” to “shortest.”  This works well as often the shortest is off the main drag and more along the lines of back streets.

BTW, don’t try this in the country of north Alabama. On the way to IPE10 (don’t you feel so cool knowing what that means now?) I had to deliver product to a poultry farm north of Tuscaloosa.  I did not realize I had Alice programmed for “shortest” distance.  Everything was going great until she “suggested” I take a dirt road.  I say suggested as I refuse to take orders from any woman (my wife excluded – love you babe) even IF she has a voice like Alice.  But I digress.  Before telling you how THAT worked out, let me remind you, gentle reader, that it has been a “more than a little damper than usual” winter in the south.

So, I slowly turned off the asphalt road onto the red mud and gravel road.  The first hundred yards or so were okay, until I went down a slight decline and noticed a situation just over the next rise.  I say situation since what I actually saw were ruts in the road that would have challenged by four wheel drive TRACTOR!  What was Alice thinking?  Okay, I took a deep breath and decided to try another way, regardless of what “Alice” had to say.  So, since the “road” was too narrow to turn around, I had to back out the way I came in.  This sounded good in theory, until I came to the “little decline” that I came down on the way in.  Now the “decline” was a stinkin’ INCLINE, which when it is covered with red mud and, now I noticed, not THAT much gravel, became a significant challenge.  So, since speed is supposed to be your friend, I got a good running start at the hill and slipped oh so close over toward the ditch.   Quick stop, drop the truck into drive and back the way I came.  Okay, I figured I just needed to be a “little” further to the other side of the road.  Repeat the above procedure, only on the other side of the road.  Not THAT far over!  Slam on the brakes and repeat the retreat.

Okay, I look at my cell phone, no signal.  After all I am on the north side of NOWHERE!  So, I walked back to the “scene of the crime” to see what I was looking at.  As it turns out there was a solid path down the road IF I could stay on it.  I quickly decided that speed was now not my friend but my enemy.  So, slowly I backed up, this time carefully staying on the “straight and OH so narrow” path.  Okay, so I got back to the road and made it to the farm for the delivery.  The farmers only comment, after detailing the road I had tried to take, was to look over at my truck and comment, “I really wouldn’t try that road, this time of year, until I was driving a tracked vehicle.”  You have to love the wisdom of the woods.  😉

Well I seem to have strayed from my appointed path, but then that’s the fun of a blog like this.  It reminds me of a comment Justine Wilson, renowned Cajun comic, made several times.  He may have only said it once, but I played the record LOTS of times. He said, “Tonight I want to tell you stories that I haven’t heard in a long time and I want to hear them again, and I want to tell you stories I’ve never heard and want to hear something new.”  I guess that is my way of saying that every time I start one of these entries I really don’t know where I’m going or where it will end up.  I don’t have an Alice for writing. But I hope you enjoy these little missives and next time I will get back to talking about gardening and growing, and fertilizer and other s*it like that.  😉