Saturday, May 28, 2011

Summer has arrived, woohoo!

Yes, summer like weather has finally arrived in Southcentral Alaska-and none too soon! We've had a very cold and dry spring with the birch trees leafing out several weeks later than normal. Lawns are beginning to green up, and the ornamental shrubs, bushes, and berries are leafing out as well. The past three days, we have had glorious sunshine and temperatures into the 70s.

Naturally this has lead to a frantic amount of work for those of us who garden. It's a mad scramble to get the garden plots and beds fully prepped and then planted. I am running around a week behind but with the help of family, it's getting done. Bless my niece who helped all day yesterday! As of this weekend, I should finally have room in my greenhouse to pot up my tomatoes and corn.....I haven't had a spare square foot in there since I moved in. I did manage to get the vegetables hardened off to sunlight, but the flowers-baskets, bowls and planters, have been put aside until today.

It'll be a busy, yet very productive weekend as I head over to help out a friend all three days.

Yeehaw, summer in Alaska! Where you burn both ends of the candle in the summer, and sleep all winter!!

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Finally it seems as though the weather has turned the corner into something we might remember as spring. It's been so cold overnight-with temps in the very low 30s or upper 20s for weeks on end-that we were all pretty discouraged. A few lucky areas have been blessed with warmer micro climates and have their plants out, but most do not. In fact, here it is, May 22nd, and the trees are not yet fully leafed out-and neither are all the shrubs. Typically, we're pretty much leafed out by Mothers' Day so this has been a set back to all gardeners.

But that doesn't mean the preparation work stops. I have a new pile of what passes for topsoil up by the garden-ready to amend and plant. I've delivered more items to the commercial greenhouse, and brought home my own hanging baskets. Yesterday I got peppers, tomatillo's, cucumbers, and melons potted up for the summer. Today I will work on all the annual containers, which will be pitifully small indeed. They've been kept in their cell packs for easily three weeks longer than normal, darn it. I'm still up to my eyeballs in veggie starts, even after setting aside whats needed by friends and family. And I have tomatoes. Lots and lots of tomatoes, haha Which is going to mean lots of big pots and I am so thankful that I had the foresight to purchase a number of those this spring!

We've also come up with a plan to replace the (incredibly ugly!) gravel alongside the long garage wall, hip hip hooray! In about three weeks or so, that gravel will be removed-and carefully spread to alleviate some minor drainage problems elsewhere. Then, lots of dirt gets spread and we'll be seeding it for grass. For this wall, I got a total of five lilac shrubs to plant, they are going to look wonderful! For the back side, I have two Norland apple trees and a Centennial to plant too, woohoo! Of course this means a fence for protection from moose, but I don't mind, I have been wanting apple trees for years. And most exciting of all, I managed to snag onto three honey berry bushes. Very hard to come by, these Zone 2 plants will provide not only scented blooms, but some wonderful berries when mature. The berries look like an elongated blueberry, and taste nearly the same.

Yesterday, I about had a disaster. My wonderful husband removed some fencing at the barn that wasn't needed, and moved the coop over one stall. It freed up quite a bit of barn space, so we're both happy about that. His idea was to fence off the garden from moose (and chickens!) using the fence panels with chicken wire zip tied to it. Sounded really good, but then yesterday I barely managed to snatch up a flat of veggies from being wolfed down by the laying hens.....and, instead of fencing the chickens out of the garden, I now have to fence them in. There is no way I can harden anything off with those birds loose, they'll eat it, lol! So today, one of the first things to tackle is making a secure fence for the girls. They are not going to be happy, poor things.

Another little project is to construct a real raised bed down by the greenhouse. Just has to be done, and hopefully I will have this knocked together by should be about 24 by 6 foot wide when completed. That's my pumpkin bed, and this time I will make sure I can easily add my plastic piping hoops over the entire bed, lol Also accomplished last week-thanks to my wonderful husband a couple of friends-the cold frame is up and sheeted. We used the scrap covering from the big greenhouse for it, and set the legs into concrete blocks. That's where the corn and extra tomatoes will be this summer.

I am sure am looking forward to all the new projects being completed-then I can share pictures!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Dancing with disaster

That's about the most on point description I can make about the big decision to move nearly all the plants into the greenhouse. We've had temperatures down into the upper 20s at night for several weeks, with highs only reaching into the 50s. But gosh darn it, all my plants were really suffering, being held under artificial lights.

We made the big move a few days back....which took quite a number of trips with the four wheeler and trailer, shuffling down over 60 flats, a couple dozen bowls and 30 or 40 pots of tomatoes and peppers. Any amount of sun and the greenhouse would heat right up into the 80s, and the fans would do their magic as usual. But it was the night time temps that had me most worried. I was able to borrow a 1500 watt electric heater from a fellow gardener, and thank heavens I did. Friday morning, I had a temperature of just 35 degrees inside. The expected low last night was forecast to be "in the upper 20s" which prompted me to find a second 1500 watt heater (also borrowed, this time from a neighbor) and I am so so thankful I did! Yes, 29 degrees here this am, but temperature in the greenhouse was about 40. Yay! Disaster averted!

And in the goat world here..........

All That continues to dance with disaster herself. A few days back I saw a partial post she made with the phrase "someone unmentionable". Really, All That? She is trying so hard not to publicly mention the farm, the breeder, and so forth, that she is forced to resort to stupid phrases like this. All That, many of us can see that big yellow stripe down your back from a long ways away.....stop trying to be cute. We're not buying what you're trying to peddle.

So here is the situation: A local breeder sold All That what essentially amounted to a starter herd. The breeder mentored All That for months, and answered questions and provided sound advice and so on-like anyone would do who is helping someone get started in something new. Now, breeders who understand breeding realize that pairings have several goals. No need to trot out the specifics as they relate to goats, but the aim is to improve quality not just create numbers. You look through the results, and cull what does not seem to be able to help you attain your long term goals-and if you are smart breeder, you also let a number of your best move on to new homes. This does two things: Allows the purchaser to continue with your lines, and helps to reinforce the farm breeding program. The trick is finding the right person to take those lines forward, you see? Culls are typically placed in either the stew pot or pet homes (in goats anyhow) and placing a promising doe or buck (sometimes with show and production accomplishments) is a gamble that knowledgeable breeders know they must take from time to time. Eventually the new owner breeds the animals and this helps the original breeder to see what different crosses and genetics can produce. In most cases, it's a win-win situation-but not, or course, with All That.

How the mentor became the someone unmentionable is a long story, but it boils down to the inexperience of All That, the breeder's decision under pressure to sell a particular goat, and then that goat did not turn out the way that All That expected. Therefore, the goat itself, it's parentage, and the fact of its origins are curiously absent from All That's public communications-but not the private ones, alas. She'll type any contortion to avoid the breeder's name, farm name, side and dam and so on. Just hilarious-and shows her true colors to all.

To anyone else, this is no big deal. We buy an animal, making a sound choice (hopefully) on what attributes are known and sometimes it just doesn't pan out. In horses, this can turn out to be an unknown physical condition, an undesirable behavior, or just a case of "don't click" at all. All That knows this, but seemingly does not believe it applies to herself and her choices in goats.....because, remember, she IS "All That".

As far as the court case, it moves forward at the glacial pace of the legal system. The Alaska Mini Goat Cache is moving forward as a club and several shows are planned this summer. It's a happy group of goat loving people and the meetings are well run, organized, and much gets accomplished each time.

Rumors continue to arise about the missing club funds' and All That's newly purchased (and expensive!) goats from the Lower 48 earlier this year, but we are all quick to squash this one. Since All That does not participate in the club any longer, and does not interact with us online or via email lists, this is just one of a number of questions that remain unanswered. Of course, this didn't stop the (former, resigned on Jan 9) president and All That herself from attempting to seize control of the club's bank account, haha This happened in March, btw. Of course they were not able to take the funds....but it surely shows intent.

Doesn't it?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A little sunshine

We have a little sunshine this afternoon, and it has surely lifted my spirits! Now if the night time temperatures would just come up about 8 degrees, I'd be a happy camper too.

Speaking of sunshine.....You may have heard the word used to describe exposing various schemes, plots, past actions of ill repute and so on. As in, "shine a little sunshine" on some person or situation. Today, I'd like to shine a little light on what can only be called a "smear campaign".

The important thing to know about smear campaigns, is that they are deadly effective. Whether the aim is to ruin reputations, or carried out for spite, revenge or whatever, they are insidious. In the right situation, just casting doubt is as damaging as renting a bill board for the world to see. Another important thing to know about these, is that the target is forced into a defensive posture. Rarely does a victim go on the offensive to curb or muzzle the perpetrator-they are too busy attempting to smooth the waters by providing the real truth-or simply too upset or angry to cope with the attack. Some folks will retreat into their circle of friends, family and supporters, and not deal with it all....which is essentially allowing the smear campaign to continue unabated and unchallenged.

They are incredibly effective when they are carefully planned and executed with the shield of anonymity, typically by using third parties, or such venues as can be found on line easily. Having been the victim myself a number of times, I understand the frustration that results. That said, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out who might be gunning for you, either. It will someone you had a run in with (even though it may have seemed inconsequential at the time), someone you had a big argument with-in person or on the web, or simply someone who has bought into whatever gossip/rumor/innuendo was fed to them.

The people who orchestrate smear campaigns, I consider to be cowards. Not brave enough to face someone and have it out-they resort to using other means to do their dirty work. And dirty work it is, make no mistake about it.

So, consider this a public warning to the two people attempting to "ruin" me. I won't have it. If you don't have the balls to take it to me direct, then remember this: It's a two way street.

And you live on it too.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The calendar says it's May......

But the night time temperatures don't!

Usually by this time of year, I have made up all my containers and I've started hardening them off to sun. Instead, it's been into the mid to upper 20s overnight for over a week-with no sign of edging higher. I've got four flats of annuals that I am pretty much starving, awaiting transplanting into bowls, pots and other containers....the baskets at the big greenhouse are getting some size on them which is nice-but still, it needs to WARM UP overnight! Grrrr!

Typically, we can count on "green" by Mother's Day. The first week of May will bring us the birch buds and a faint tinge of green-but not this year. I just now have buds showing on my raspberries so they are slow too. Very frustrating if you are a gardener!

On the other hand, I've been able to get my greenhouse cleaned out ahead of time. I have clean benches and all the pots and whatnot are tucked underneath them, ready to use. I have bales of potting mix there, and have one barrel scrubbed and filled with water. The other barrel still has some bleach in it-it had quite the mess inside since it was my manure tea maker. Over the weekend I picked up some bare root strawberries, and with my son's help, got them planted into hanging bags. There are three of them down there-cold or not, and they seem to be growing nicely no matter the overnight temperatures.

I am still gathering information about heating the new greenhouse. That's the biggest stumbling block to getting that erected, as it turns out. I have explored a lengthy list of options-from natural gas unit heaters, to wood, coal, masonry, or multi-fuel boilers, to a variety of passive heating designs such as subterranean, solar, and combinations of all sorts. Each has their pros and cons, and hardly a one is "just right" for my situation. I am not heating a house-and could hardly afford anyway-so the geothermal option is out. I could probably get away with a simple wood or barrel stove if I could rig up a water jacket and circulate or store the heat in some fashion. The amount of cubic space to heat is substantial (over 11000) but it's not a house and I only need the heat for maybe three months, tops-March, April, part of May. No way can I justify a multi fuel boiler starting at over eight grand, lol! And, I only need about 40 degrees worth of heat too. As it turns out, finding people who "get" what I am trying to do, is pretty difficult. Just yesterday I learned of another possibility, so I will be pursuing that too......I know for a fact the wood stove we have in our own home, would easily heat about half the space (which would be 24x30) but gosh darn it, the newer super efficient wood stoves are expensive! Oh well, I will come up with a solution eventually, I am sure of it.

The planting and seeding is beyond crazy. I had this idea to try a new thing to sell, and I am out of space! Again! And no room at the commercial greenhouse for one more single flat either, lol Over 150 flats delivered, with at least another 30 to go. In just over a week, I need to start the leaf lettuces too-and I am full up and then some. I may end up moving the tomatoes into the house so I can have room under the big light. In the midst of this shuffling flats, my car has developed what seems to be a wheel bearing issue. Just what I didn't need, as I need my vehicle, lol! It holds 9 flats even with the dogs that go with me every day. The trucks? None!

So here we are, first week of May, and I am in a holding pattern. It's the pits. Just like finding that a moose visited my raspberry patch sometime in the last few days. All the big canes got topped neatly......sigh