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seedlingsThis year we tried to grow our own produce from seeds.  I set up a light bar on a timer in our spare bedroom, along with a heating mat.  We planted lots of different types of seeds.  We planted just after Christmas.  By early March, our results looked like this.

And then we tried to transplant them outside.

That sentence has just made experienced gardeners wince.

The results were a disaster.  The new plants flopped around during the planting, and by the next day they had all turned white and wilted.  It was a total loss.

Here’s what I should have known.

When growing seedlings in greenhouse conditions, it is necessary to use a fan to circulate air around them.  It doesn’t have to be a heavy wind, but it does need to be enough to cause the plants to move a little.  And it should oscillate, so it is never coming from just one direction.

This air movement allows the seedlings to develop strength, so they are not so floppy during transplanting.

Next, greenhouse seedlings are delicate, and suffer transplant shock if they are just stuck outside.  To combat this they need to be, “hardened off”, by gradually introducing them to the great outdoors.  To do this requires about 7-10 days of gradually increasing exposure, in the shade for the first 3 days, and in the sun for the next 3, and finally late or early in the day leading to an overnight stay.

There are other methods to harden off plants too.

But without this “training”, a poor seedling raised in a sheltered environment has little chance of survival.  All my pepper plants died.  My squash plants were hit pretty hard, but they look like they may pull through.

But there is a lot of good news!

First, I cut a plastic 55 gallon drum in half to use as planters for my onions.  I got these drums for $11 each, used.  They were used to transport soy sauce before I got to them.  A little soap and water and all the soy sauce residue was removed.  I added holes in the bottom for drainage, and placed them on bricks next to my bags of potatoes.  I filled them with Mel’s Mix.

I had also filled my “Quick and Dirty Deck Planter” with Mel’s Mix, and planted a third of it with carrots, and two thirds of it with spinach.  The idea is to have fresh spinach all summer.

click for bigger imageThe spinach sprouted very quickly.

Since late January, I’ve been busy doing some pretty major work around the yard.

The goal is to always try to plant food.  I don’t always do this – we have succulents and pots of flowers on the porch to the East of the house.  I’ve planted lavender in the ground to the East too.

The house came with two orange trees.  The orange tree in the back yard was a nuisance, so I removed it completely.  The orange tree in the front yard produced a LOT of oranges this year!  About 300 pounds of oranges.

The house also came with a mystery tree in the front yard.  Here are some images of it.  I’ve done a little asking around and have discovered that the tree is a Glossy Leaf Privet, aka a Ligustrum lucidum.  I was hoping for an Elderberry, but unfortunately the berries on this tree are not edible.  They can be toxic.  The tree is somewhat invasive, and it tries to propagate by sending out shoots everywhere.  I’ve been keeping the shoots in check with my lawnmower.

So now I’m considering tearing out that tree and planting something I can eat there instead.  It’s too early now to decide – I won’t be able to order a decent fruit or nut replacement for it until late fall.

I’ve taken the time to update the layout of my house, and what is being grown where.
Click to make bigger


The blue spots around the house are potted plants.  You can see the cherry tree and blueberry bush in the back yard near the future deck.  You can also see the placement of my garden shed here.

I’ve named my North and South gardens, and the South patio garden.  I also started work to mulch in areas of the yard that I didn’t want to plant in.

The most work went into the North Garden, and into the mulching of the fruit orchard to the North East of the North Garden.  Before I mulched in that area, I had to move the irrigation pipes and add a border.  You can see an album of me doing that here.

The North garden also requires soil amendment, as did the South Garden.  I’ve already weeded and amended the South Garden, and planted my first pepper plants there.  Weeding was pretty bad since I’d let the Bermuda grass take over there.  Removing that was back-breaking!  

More on this in my next update.

First, I’ve finished the raised grow bed in the backyard, and filled it with “Mel’s Mix” from the :Square Foot Gardening recipe.  Next up for this platform garden is the addition of a trellis system.  I plan to grow beans and squash in this thing, and I don’t want the Argentine ants to get them, so any part of the trellis that touches the ground will have a barrier of Tanglefoot on it.  The idea is to keep all fruits and veggies OFF of the ground, and have the only pathways to the garden blocked from the ants.

I may even sprinkle diatomaceous earth around the bottom of the thing.

I’m busy weeding the garden to the South of my house. (I’ll call it ‘The South Garden’ from now on – to make it sound bigger!) I’m doing this in preparation of planting lots of different kinds of peppers there.  Last season, pepper plants were a huge hit.  They grew well, pests left them alone, and our canned peppers were so delicious that we ran out before Christmas!  Totally not fair!

This year we intend to grow lots of meaty peppers for canning, and spicy peppers for spice.

Speaking of peppers, I dried the Serrano chilies that we grew last year.  I tried hanging and drying them in a ristra, but that didn’t work out too well for us.  So instead, I put them in our dehydrator, and dried them until they were light and easily crushed.  I then bought a very cheap coffee grinder, and ran the peppers through it to create my own Serrano chili pepper seasoning.  (Yes, the seeds too!) And it is wonderfully hot and tasty!  I love it in my “everything ramen”.  (I should post the recipe for that…)

So, what’s up next?

As I was digging out the South Garden, I kept looking at all this wasted space on my porch.  We have a wrap-around porch, and the South side of it gets very hot in the summer.  I’ve been wanting to plant cover in pots or planters there to catch the sunlight, and reduce the heat transferred via the concrete into our house.

I’ve already planted a grape vine on that side of the house, and am trellis training it to cover the upper area of that porch.  But I needed something for the lower area.  And since my motto is, “Plant food” – that’s what I did!  I planted potatoes!  You can see here the 4-bags of potatoes, (and you can see my work on the South Garden is in progress too.)

Potato grow bags are a good way of forcing potatoes to continue adding new potatoes to the plant.  If you’ve never used these before, here’s a site with a good explanation of them.  The two bags on the left in this image are seeded with Yukon Gold, and the two bags to the right are seeded with red potatoes.

You will notice that I’m not letting the bags rest directly on my concrete patio.  They are on boards that are resting on bricks.  This is to prevent moisture from accumulating under the bags and damaging my porch.

I do expect an ant invasion on these poor guys, and will have to keep an eye on them.  I’ll use diatomaceous earth here, and may try to tanglefoot the area – but possibly not… that would be a lot of tanglefoot!

I will be putting a critter net over the top of the potatoes because I have a very common, but beloved garden pest that might attack these things.  My cats.  They see these bags as “fun sized” litter boxes!

After I finished putting these on my porch, I realized that there was still another 3 feet of room to the left of these bags.  So I built a wooden planter.

This is what I’m calling a “Quick and Dirty Deck Planter”, and I’ve created a set of plans on how I made this thing.  You can download a PDF of these plans by clicking on the image, or on this link.  They’re free – have fun!

It’s “quick and dirty” because it took me about an hour and a half to build it from raw materials in my woodshop.  I also only expect it to last 3 or 4 seasons before it starts to succumb to self-composting.  (That means it will rot slowly).  I’ve got plans to make a better, more robust model of this, and use it in several places around my porch.  When I do, I’ll post the updated plans.

One really nice thing about this planter is that it is raised 6-inches off the surface of the porch, on 6 legs that are easily protected by Tanglefoot.  I’ve already put this planter in it’s location, and put tanglefoot on its legs.  Soon I’ll fill it with Mel’s Mix, and having it grow some tasty spinach.  Since spinach can be harvested without killing the plant, I plan to have fresh spinach in my salads and sandwiches all summer!

So the sprouts are coming along, and I mentioned using sub-irrigation planters made of buckets on top of a raised grow bed. This was to combat the ants that have given me so much grief in the past.

When I was at Lowe’s, I was re-designing the raised grow bed in my head yet again, I just couldn’t get over the cost of the buckets!  About $190.00 new, or a lot of time and effort to pick them up used.  I wanted to complete the grow bed this weekend!

And then I realized, to make a grow bed, I only needed a grow bed – not buckets!

I’ve used the Square Foot Gardening method before at the Cherry Plum house, and it worked great – except for the ants.  I could do the same thing on top of the platform.  Let’s see, the platform will be 4 feet by 8 feet, so I needed three pieces of 8 foot by 12 inch boards.  This cost me $30.00 for those boards – MUCH cheaper than 64 buckets at $3.00 each!

The platform is made mostly out of 25 2×4’s, which cost me $2.10 each at Lowe’s.  Actually less than $40, because I have some 2×4’s in my shop left over from previous projects.  I also needed am 8-foot 4×4, which was also just sitting around in my shop (on my new wood storage rack!)

Here’s what the design looks like.  First the bones made of the 2x4s and the 4x4s for the feet.

Then fully framed up.

As you can see in the completed build, I used 2x4s to strengthen the places where the 2x12s were joined at the corners.  This is because 2x12s from big box stores tend to split down the length of the board – usually right in the center of the board.  Almost every 2×12 I’ve purchased has done this.  I guess builders are okay with this.

I also used 2x4s to “tack” the 2x12s to the bed along the long and short ends of the board.

So the first thing I did was put down 6 bricks on the Fresno hardpan dirt in my backyard.  I leveled these bricks.  Next I built the platform, and hauled it out to the bricks, and checked the level.

This isn’t sufficient for a permanent installation – if I thought this was permanent, I’d put in real footings for the legs, and make sure that it will remain in place and level for the next 20 years or more.  Instead, with Fresno hardpan, this is probably sufficient for the next 3-6 years, depending on rainfall.

You can see from the stripe on each leg, that I’ve already applied Tanglefoot to the legs to deny those ants a highway to my crops!

Next I added the 2x12s, and tacked them into place.

I’m using 2 1/2 inch screws on any place that’s critical, like the joins and the places where I’ve tacked the 2×12’s.  I attached the platform 2x4s to the platform using a nail gun.

You can also see in this photo that I’ve increased the rigidity of the frame by adding triangular braces on the outside legs.

In my last image, I’ve added an old tarp to the inside of the grow bed, and draped it over the outside.

Mostly I want a way to keep soil and water in the grow bed, and prevent it from quickly leaking through the wood.  It will still leak, but not until the tarp begins to fail, so not at all at first.

I also wanted a way to let everything drain, so I added a drain pipe to the bottom of the grow bed.  This is just a few pieces of schedule 40 PVC that I had lying around my shop.  I drilled holes in it, and stuck it through the side of the grow bed.  I’m not sure if this is a good idea or not, but I’m going to try it!.

So, how much weight can this thing hold?  I’m going to be filling it with wet dirt after all!

Well, each 4×4 post is a column that can easily support up to 7,000 pounds, or 42,000 pound in total over a balanced load.

That leaves the 2×4 spans.

Let’s see, a cubic foot of water weighs 62.4 pounds.  A cubic foot of moist dirt is about 78 pounds.  Let’s add over 20% “fudge factor”, and call it an even 100 pounds per cubic foot.  The grow box is 1 foot high, by 4 feet by 8 feet, or 32 cubic feet total.  So it may be possible that this grow bed is supporting 3,200 pounds of weight!

The longest unsupported 2×4 span is 4 feet.  And it is made of pine / spruce / fir. According to the MSR Lumber Producers Council span tables, a 100 psf live load on 2×4’s on 16 inch spacing a span of a little over 4 feet is safe.  This is just for the 2×4 joists.  I also have 2×4 flooring that is supported by the joists and by the posts, so the distributed weight is better supported in some areas than others.  But the whole structure will support the moist dirt plus fudge factor.

What is really interesting is that if the dirt is washed out, and replaced with just water, the structure will actually lose mass and become lighter!  So I’m not worried about the structure becoming too heavy in the rain, even if I didn’t have drainage!

I filled in the grow bed with “Mel’s Mix” tonight, and finished doing so in the dark.  So no pictures just yet.  I’ll try to get them this week.

Well, I finished the south wall of the woodshop.

It also had shelf brackets attached to the wall studs through holes carved out of the stucco.  Which means that I had to fill in the holes before painting the wall.

I already had everything in the middle of the room, and after a week of waiting for stucco to dry, I cleaned then painted the wall.

I’ve forgotten to mention – I use Valspar latex “High Hide” eggshell white paint for my shop walls.  Eggshell is more reflective than flat paint, but not as reflective as gloss paint.  White eggshell paint improves the lighting in the shop, making it brighter than if I were to use flat paint, or some other color.  I figure if I’m working with blades spinning at high speeds, it would be safer to be able to see where everything is!

So I finished painting the south wall, and the wood is on the north wall.  I will be building my miter saw table on the south wall, which will include floor cabinets that I built myself, and cabinets over the top that I’ll buy pre-made.  This should greatly increase my shop storage, and I won’t have to have as much stuff laying out.

I also plan to make a pegboard tool wall on the south side of the shop, near the toolboxes on the east wall.

I need to start planning on electrical sockets throughout the shop, and figure out where to put my swamp cooler in the south wall.  Summer is coming, and Fresno is known for being HOT!  I’d like to be able to work in my shop without melting into a puddle of sweat!

Also, I need to figure out my vacuum system, and look at my next projects.  As you can see from the photos here, I’ve stained one of my “Honey Do” projects – two wooden boxes that will become towel holders in our bathroom.  Since this photo was taken, I’ve mounted the iron work shelf brackets to these boxes.

My next big project for upgrading my woodshop is to tear out the 40-year-old home made cabinets out of the corner of the shop, then paint that corner.  The pegboard on the wall will come down along with the remaining wood that held up the old shelf on the wall on the back of the shop.

I’ll be forced to do some electrical work then too.  Some previous owner brought city power to that wall through standard lamp cord, and wired it to a wall switch that he nailed to the wall.  I’ve turned off that breaker, but even having that wire there gives me the willies!  It makes me fear for the rest of the wiring throughout the shop!

Once I get the last of the walls complete, I’ll be inviting an electrician friend of mine over to help me re-wire the shop.  I hope to pay him in craft beer,

Oh!  The table with drawers you see in the last photo?  I made that to be a project table / outfeed table for my table saw, and storage for tools.

I picked the last of the oranges from the tree.  There may be one or two stragglers near the top of the tree that I couldn’t reach with the fruit picker.  I’ll get them later as I do some clean up.

The oranges are mild, and fairly sweet.  They’re good eating.  I plan to dry most of these, but I’ve already snacked on a couple.  I delivered a baker’s dozen of them across my street to my neighbor who also grows food in his yard.  We do that from time to time.

This box is about 50 pounds.  When dried it will be less than 5 pounds.  My entire produce this year fits in a quarter of a 5-gallon food storage bucket!

I do want to add one additional tree to my yard – I’d like a Murcott Orange tree, also known as a Honey Tangerine.  I’ve found several places online that deliver these trees as bare root stock, but not to California.  California has strict rules on mailing citrus plants into the state due to possible pests.  There seems to be a couple of resellers here in California that offer these, but they are expensive – over $50 a tree!

So this year I plan to try sprouting my own.  And the first requirement is good Murcott seeds!  

I’ll let you know how that goes. 

Since we got a late start last year, we purchased our garden plants from the local garden center.

This year we’re starting from seeds, and to do this we needed a place to grow sprouts.  Our previous attempts to spout seeds in an outdoor greenhouse at the old Cherry Plum house were not very successful due to poor temperature control.  (too cold, too hot, dead plants!)

This time we’re sprouting them indoors.  Although our current temperatures this week are in the high 70’s F during the day.  Seriously, what is with this weather?  Jan / Feb are becoming part of our growing season!  Still, it gets cold enough at night to halt the sprouting process, so keeping them inside and on a heated grow mat is a good idea.

So I made a wooden stand to support a 4 foot long fluorescent grow light, and put it on a table in our guest bedroom.  (Also known as “Wendy’s Crafting Room”.)  We then started planting.

Next we added plastic greenhouse tops to the flats, and a heated grow mat under them.  I added a simple timer to the light so that it gave a solid 18 hours of light per day to the seeds.

We had everything planted and set up on Saturday, the 31st.  As of today, February 3rd, we’ve already seen germination and sprouts.  The Squash are in the biggest hurry to sprout, but even the beans are showing signs of germination.

Next up is getting the garden ready to accept the new inhabitants.

Last year we grew a LOT of tomatoes.  They did well, but the trellis I built for them wasn’t strong enough to keep them supported.

Unfortunately, I’m not good with fresh tomatoes.  I have an allergy to them until after they’ve been cooked or dried enough for their proteins to unravel a bit.  And Wendy found to her disgust that she can’t eat them due to an ulcer.  So this year, no tomatoes.  (Well, maybe one).

If you check out the map of our house, this year instead of tomatoes on the tomato trellis, I’ll be planting other climbing vegetables.  Beans and squash maybe.  Although this spot only gets morning Sun.  Hmm… I’m actually not sure what I’ll be planting here as yet.

The garden area to the South of the house is going to become “Pepper City”.  It turns out that the Argentine Ant doesn’t like pepper plants, and stays off of them.  So this year I’ll be planting quite a lot of them along this area.  Our canning went so well last year that we’ve already eaten all the results!  We want more!  So we are planning on planting several of the very “meaty” types of peppers, along with some of the “hot” types that I love.

But I still want to grow a lot of other types of plants, and wasn’t sure how to keep them pest free.

I’ve still got plans to (eventually) build an aquaponics greenhouse, (once my woodshop is complete), so there’s space on the map where my “future greenhouse” will be placed.  It’s just a dirt yard at the moment.  And I really don’t want to create a garden on it.  So I’ve come up with a more seasonal solution.  I’ve decided to use that area to do some container planting.

My plan is to use 2x4s to build a raised platform that is 4 feet wide by 8 feet long.  It will be raised off of the ground at least 6 inches by 2×4 uprights at the corners.  The uprights will be a full 8 feet tall, and will allow me to cover the garden with shade cloth during the hottest parts of the summer.  The uprights will also allow me to build trellis supports for the plants.

I’ll plant the young plants into sub-irrigation planters, using a mix of compost, potting soil and vermiculite.  The problem is the buckets.  Both Lowes and Home Depot sell their buckets pretty cheap, just under $3.00 each.  It takes two buckets per planter, and if the stand can hold 32 planters, that’s 64 buckets, or 190 dollars!

I think I’ll see if I can get some for free!  And I’ll definitely recycle my planters!  I may also use some other forms of planter – plastic boxes maybe.

The idea of using a raised planting surface is that I’ll be able to tanglefoot the feet of the platform, and therefore keep the ants from moving in!  

If you’ll recall from the Backyard Plan, we have an orange tree in the front of the house.  We moved in May of 2013, and the 2013/2014 winter harvest of the orange tree was terrible.  There were oranges on the tree from 2012 (and earlier!) and the newest oranges were flavorless at best, and downright disgusting at worst!

So starting in spring of 2014, I completely removed all the oranges from our orange tree.  Then I bought a package of Jobe’s Fertilizer Spikes for Fruit and Citrus.  I followed the directions and spiked the soil with fertilizer spikes just outside of the orange tree’s drip line.  I used 9 spikes, equidistant, in a circle around the tree in the root zone.

I watered the tree through the summer as part of my lawn’s automatic sprinkler system.  During extremely hot and dry periods I would soak the tree’s an extra time or two a week.

And it really paid off!

Oranges here are ready to harvest in December / January.  We got medium to large oranges with moderately thin-ish skins that peel easily and taste sweet.  They are not as sweet as some oranges I’ve had, but not sour either.  They are very tasty, and I love being able to snip one off the tree and eat it with lunch while sitting on my front porch.

But now we have a problem.  What do you do with two hundred pounds of oranges?

Well, you can freeze them (it’s recommended that you peel and divide up the slices first).  Or you can juice them and freeze the juice.  You can dry the orange peels themselves and use them for cooking later.

You could can the oranges.  They go well when canned together with grapefruit.

You can turn them into jams, jellies, conserves, or marmalade.

Frankly, we were not interested in any of this.  What we wanted was a way to preserve the calories and taste, and a way to preserve the snacking quality of the oranges.  And we didn’t want to add excess sugar to our diet.

What if we dried them?

I did a little research, and ran into Marillyn Beard’s blog, “Just Making Noise”.  She described just drying the orange slices thin, and then eating the entire slice, peel and all!  Another blogger, Amanda Rose, tried this with good results.

So Santa was very good to us this year, and he left us an Excalibur 3926TB Food Dehydrator!  This was perfect.

I made a trip to Bed Bath and Beyond and picked up a mandolin food slicer, then started picking oranges.  I picked about 40 pounds of oranges at a time, and washed them thoroughly in our sink.  Then I sliced them thin on the slicer.  1/4 inch is good, maybe a little thinner than that.  Don’t make them too thick or else they will never dry.  You don’t want to store these unless they are completely dry!

I made the mistake of slicing the oranges too thick, and storing them when they were not completely dry.

Here I am slicing them up.

I’d slice an orange onto a plate, then transfer the slices to a bowl.  I discarded the ends of the orange since they were all rind, and no flesh.  Next year I think I’ll dry those separately and turn them into a powder for flavoring.  I may try to do other things with them since there will be so many.

When I had sliced a bowl-full of oranges, I’d lay them out on the dryer trays.

As you can see here, my orange slices are nice and thick.  This has doomed them!

Still they were tasty the next day when we turned the dehydrator off.  Tasty and juicy, with orange peel that wasn’t very pleasant to eat.  I ate one anyway.

Then I put the slices into a vacuum bag and used our FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer to seal and store them.

And this is where it all went wrong.

Forty pounds of oranges made about 4 of these bags of dried oranges.  I put them into a storage bucket to see how they would do.  A week later I checked on them, and they were terrible!  They had already started to go bad.  They turned an unfortunate brownish black color.  When I opened them they smelled like oranges, with a hint of something else.  Yeast?  Alcohol?  Rot?

They didn’t smell good.

Take two.

This time I sliced them thin.  Maybe 1/8 of an inch or a bit larger.  I put them in the dryer for about 8 hours at 135 degrees F, and dried them until they became leathery.  After they had cooled, I again vacuum sealed them into bags for storage, and dropped them into a resealable 5-gallon bucket for storage.

The results this time were much better.  Each package of oranges feels light – like it was filled with packing plastic.  Individually, each slice tastes like a fruit-rollup, but tougher, maybe chewier.  The rind has a very citrus taste to it, but it is rather pleasant.  The flesh of the dried orange is full of sunshine and happiness.

These orange chips by themselves make a great quick snack.  They would be wonderful sliced up into a stir fry.

Vacuum sealing them together prevents them from being separate “chips”, and instead makes a large block of solid orange slices.  You can eat this as a snack by tearing off a chunk, or by cutting them into blocks.

I’ve harvested most of the orange tree.  I left some on the tree because they stay good while on the tree as long as I don’t let them wait more than a month or two, and as long as we don’t get a hard freeze.

But it occurs to me that I can slice the oranges, then remove the peel and place just the orange fruits on the dehydrator.  It has got to be easier than peeling the oranges THEN slicing them.  I’ll give that a try and let you know what I find.

Until then, thinly dried oranges seems to be a good way of preserving those calories.  Not as sweet as jam or marmalade, but sweet enough. 

Now that the new wall is installed in the shop, it was time to take care of the other three interior walls.

But first, a little history.

Back in 1989 when my late wife and I were stationed at Kadena Air Force Base, Okinawa, we decided to purchase some very nice Rosewood furniture.  Part of that purchase was this beautiful, hand-made Rosewood entertainment center.  My late wife loved this piece.  I kept our TV in the center console, and our stereo equipment along the right hand side.  She kept several beautiful knick-knacks in the left hand side and in the top shelf, behind the glass.

We also purchased a Rosewood curio cabinet, Japanese-style dining room table, and two nightstands.  I still use the nightstands, and I have the curio cabinet in my computer office.

But the old style television is out, and now HDTV, with 1080i and 4k and 8k resolution are the new thing.  The entertainment center was designed for a 4:3 aspect ratio television.  The new televisions are all 16:9 aspect ratio, and just won’t fit in a slot designed for a 32 inch television – which was considered to be “big” back in the ’80’s.

So when I moved into my new Harvest House, the entertainment center was banished to the garage.  Which is now my woodshop.  And it was there holding up a wall that I wanted to use for wood storage.  What to do?

I really tried selling this piece.  We paid over $3,000 for it new and delivered to our home on Kadena.  If I could have received half of that, I would have sold it.  But there were zero takers.  I advertised it for over a year back in 2005, and again in 2010.

But I wouldn’t sell it for less than $1,000.  Why?  Because there’s more than $1,000 worth of Rosewood there!  And as a woodworker, I have a use for interesting and expensive hardwood!

So with apologies to my late wife, I disassembed the entertainment center.

It was sitting against the wall of my shop that I wanted to use for wood storage.  Apologies, I didn’t take a photo of that wall beforehand.

That wall had a long shelf installed over the top of it by the previous tenant.  Since the tenant couldn’t find any studs behind the stucco walls, he chipped out the stucco, leaving several large holes to which he attached shelf brackets to the studs.

Here’s an image of those brackets, and a large selection of disassembled entertainment center.

How much wood?  I have about 300 pounds of wood, ALL ROSEWOOD, from my entertainment center.  I’m already planning projects for it.

But first I had to fix this wall.

The first thing I did was remove the brackets, and the weird wood plugs that the previous owner installed for some reason I don’t understand.

The studs behind the bracket are fine, and are true 3×4 inch studs – not the 1.5 x 3.5 inch studs that are sold at Lowe’s or Home Depot today.

But the previous owner had broken through the stucco, the wire, and the lath behind the wire, leaving a gaping space between the walls to expose these studs.  To fix this, I added a sheet of drywall with stucco wire stapled to it, then a layer of ready-mix stucco on top.  The hole was somewhat deep, so I had to put the stucco on in layers over several days time to allow for drying.

Finally, there was some cracking, but I used Dap DryDex spackle to fill those in and sanded it all smooth before painting it.

After the paint dried, I installed two courses of studs horizontally to the rafters.  These were to offer support to the five 4×4 posts that I installed from floor to ceiling.

These 4×4’s offer the structural strength to my wood storage rack.  According to my math (thanks college physics!) most of the weight will be directly down the 4×4’s to the ground – and these posts can each support tens of thousands of pounds.  The storage rack arms will act as a lever arm to the structure, and try to twist it out of shape.  But fastening the tops of these posts to the building structure will prevent that from happening.  Since my rack will never have more than 1,500 pounds of wood on it, this twisting force is only a portion of that.  The building is well capable of handling a sideways force of a couple hundred pounds.

On each 4×4 post, I’ve placed two or three shelf brackets.  The row along the top is using a standard metal shelf bracket capable of supporting 80 pounds each.  This supports a 2×4 that is butted to the post.  I’ve fastened the top side of the 2×4 to the post using hardened steel angles.  This creates a 24 inch-long bracket for long wood planks.  Each bracket easily supports 100 pounds off of its end without bending, and I can chin myself from each of these brackets near the post.  (And I’m not light!)

Under that I use two 2×6 boards, 30 inches long, to create the second bracket.  Each set of boards is connected to each other by 2×4 standoffs, and is connected to the post with 4 inch lag screws with a sheer strength of over 600 pounds.  There are 4 lag screws per bracket.

The final row of brackets is the same as above, but only 24 inches long.  And it doesn’t cover the whole distance because I want to use the space where the wall power socket currently is.  (I’ll put a shelf and my grinder there.)  I can comfortably walk under the middle range of shelf brackets.  And my rolling sheet wood storage assembly parks under the lowest brackets, so that I’m not tempted to walk under those and brain myself on them.  

In the space between the 4×4 posts, I’ve created an area to store sheet goods off the floor.  I use a bungie cord hooked into eyelets between the posts to keep the sheet goods from falling over.  This area is good for sheet goods that are 30 inches by 60 inches max.

As you can see, I’ve got a lot of wood on the rack already.  I use the top rack for long, one-inch thick pieces that I use for my bookshelves.  The middle area is holding about 200 pounds of Rosewood, and the bottom bracket is being used for 2x4s and 2x6s, and a couple of 4x4s.

The whole thing stores an amazing amount of wood!

I mentioned in my last posting that I was adding a potted tree.  

This is an “Ultra Dwarf Compact Stella Sweet Cherry” from Pacific Groves.  According to the tag, it is good for eating and preserving, and it grows to be between 5 and 8 feet tall.

The Pacific Groves website suggests that I use potting soil for the tree.  But I’m not sure that potting soil has enough nutrients, and I’m VERY sure that Fresno is a hot place during the summer and this tree is going to need a way to keep water in the soil.

So I used 1/3 potting soil, 1/3 compost, and 1/3 vermiculite.  This is somewhat reminiscent of the Square Foot method.  The result is something that I hope to be nutritionally sufficient, and good at keeping and holding moisture in the pot.

And, about that pot.  Although it has the look of concrete or clay, it is actually a double-walled resin pot.  The problem with clay pots is that they sweat moisture, and dry out very quickly.  Concrete pots heat up in the sun and transfer that heat to the soil.  My hope is that with a light-colored double-walled pot, heat transfer won’t be as much of a problem.

The pot was sealed on the bottom, so I drilled out four 1/4 inch holes to allow the water to run through.

The pot looks a little small.  However the tree is already 3 feet tall.  The pot should be sufficient for a 5-6 foot tall tree.  If, after a few years, the tree is 8 feet tall, I’ll consider repotting it.  But I don’t really think that will be necessary.

This is the first time I’ve tried planting a potted plant without first putting gravel in the bottom of the pot.  In the past I’ve added gravel or pot-shards in the bottom to promote good drainage, but some people say that this is a myth, and that it is better to just use a tray under the pot where water can accumulate and keep things humid.   

So that’s what I’ve done here.  The soil is full of compost, so I’m not worried about it washing out of the draining holes in the bottom.  The roll-around tray that the pot sits in allows water to collect, but it also has spacers to allow the pot to sit on the tray without sitting in this water and rotting the bottom of the soil.  This should result in a high humidity area that isn’t actually soaked all the time.

Last, I put Tanglefoot around the edge of the mobile tray to keep the Argentine Ants out of my cherry tree!  I’ll need to make sure that the tree doesn’t actually touch any structure (like a fence or pole) which might allow the ants access.

Before the summer heat really gets bad, I’ll add a sheet of plastic to the top of the soil to keep water from evaporating quickly in that direction.  I’ll add some mulch to the top of that to keep the heat down.  But right now in winter, it doesn’t really matter.

The cherry tree is sleeping now.  The buds seem a little greener, so perhaps it is getting ready to bloom in the spring.  I plan on removing any fruit this year, and allowing it to spend its energy on growth.  We will see if we get any fruit next year or the year after.

Next up, creating an automatic drip to the tree!

We got two new fruit trees to replace the tree that died last year.

Late 2013, we ordered three trees through the mail, and two of those trees are doing fine.  I wondered if there was a problem with the delivery.  We could have got our money back, but it was only $30, and didn’t seem worth it to me.

This January Lowe’s got in a LOT of fruit trees, and among them were the dwarf varieties that we like.  We still want to train trees in espallier style along the North fence in our front yard, and dwarf trees would be good for this crowded area.

So I picked up another White Nectarine to replace the one that died.  I also picked up a dwarf cherry tree, to try something that Wendy is excited about – potted trees.

Unfortunately I didn’t take photos of me planting the cherry tree in a pot.  In another post, I’ll show the results, and what I plan for that.

I followed the instructions for planting the White Nectarine.  So far, so good.

A week after planting, the buds on the tree seem different.  The tree is still wintering along with my other fruit trees, but they seem otherwise healthy.  I’ll need to wait for warmer weather for their budding.  I expect the two other trees will be fine, and I hope for good things from this little guy too.

Next, while I was taking care of the trees, I took the time to put Tanglefoot on all of their bases.

I’ve mentioned before that we have problems with the Argentine Ant.  These pests are the downfall of my garden.  They do more damage than all the other bugs combined, because they farm aphids and scale insects, actually increasing their populations past what it would be normally.  They also tend to sort of “nest” in my plants, where masses of ants will rest in the shady side of the plant until it is time to move again.

Spring of 2014 I noticed that the ants had a superhighway into my orange tree.  They were raising aphids and scale insects like crazy.  So I put a Tanglefoot barrier around the base of my orange tree to stop this behavior.

Ooops.  I made the mistake of doing this during the day, trapping about a dozen million Argentine Ants in the tree.

The ants ran down the trunk of the tree, came to the Tanglefoot barrier, and couldn’t go any farther.  They stayed on the shady side of the trunk. (And who wouldn’t?  It was hot!)  They just sort of massed there.

After several days, about half of the ants had grown tired and fallen off the tree.  They never tried to bridge the barrier.  So I dusted the rest of them with Diatomaceous Earth and in a day or two the remaining ants sliced themselves apart on sharp little pieces of silica.

If you decide to do this when the weather is warm, during the daylight when the Argentine ant is active, you’ll get similar results.  It is better to do this in the winter, or in the summer at night.  Winter is better when the colony is reduced and sleeping.  Summer night is better because fewer ants will be, “tending the herd”.

So I tanglefooted all of the trees.  Let the ants go hungry.

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