A transplanted Southern Californian living in North Dakota, with some insights on life with deaf dogs, a gluten free spouse, and the occasional mischievous garden gnome. Thank you for visiting and I hope you enjoy.



Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Final Gardening Frontier - Human Urine as Fertilizer

I've started reading articles with increasing frequency about utilizing your own "liquid waste" as fertilizer in the garden.  Perhaps this is because I'm reading more extreme gardening publications than ever before, or maybe it's because the idea is starting to go more main stream (yeah I deliberately made that two words so that it's also a potty pun).  Either way I've been reading a lot about using human urine as fertilizer. 

Even though human urine is almost completely sterile and is easily the most innocuous thing to come out of the human body, there is still the ick factor of peeing in your garden, especially if it's around plants you plan on eating, like ever.  Urine is a rich source of nitrogen, so rich in fact that they recommend watering it down 20:1 with water so that it doesn't burn your plants. And even if you don't want to use it directly on your plants, adding it to just your compost pile could really boost the activity in your compost pile.

Mother Earth News had an article about liquid fertilizers recently and included using urine as a fertilizer, Popular Science has written about it before too.  In this regard human urine has the potential to be a great organic fertilizer, but can I get over the fact of using personal human waste in the garden?

And for reasons that probably don't need explaining, I don't have pictures for this post...

So would you ever use this liquid fertilizer in your garden?  If you did, would you tell anyone?  I'm not sure that if I ever did this I would tell Alycia about it. 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Shadowfax in her Scary Pitbull Pose

Shadowfax demonstrated her best "scary pittie" pose today.  She has some pointers for anyone else who might want to imitate.
First of, you have to show some teeth.  A little bit of snarl goes a long way.

Second, show everyone else that you're tough and you don't care what anyone else thinks.  Use that fuzzy pink blankie for a pillow, not a blankie.  Yeah, you're a bad-ass.

Finally, do it all from a heated dog bed.  This literally tells everyone "I can stand the heat, so I won't get out of the kitchen", or off the heated dog bed.

That concludes the lesson for the day. 

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Frosting Bucket-Horse Poop Triangle

We gardeners do funny things, that's almost expected.  Whether we're dashing out in the middle of a ferocious thunderstorm to save a prized potted plant, covering up tender flowers with all but our nicest bedsheets, shoveling mulch while it's hailing (I did this today), or using concrete re-mesh to make tomato cages, we gotta admit we do some weird stuff.  I never thought I was above the strangeness, and my neighbors will vehemently attest to that, but lately I've set up a totally legal, but somehow illicit feeling exchange of frosting buckets and horse poop.  Allow me to explain.

I'm big on using buckets in the garden - they're handy as weed containers, hauling small amounts of dirt/fertilizer/sand, mixing potting soil, or cutting out the bottom and placing them over tender seedlings (this works really well to protect from unexpected frosts or marauding bunnies) to make a mini-greenhouse. I use plastic buckets in just about every imaginable capacity. We had gotten our buckets from Alycia 's parents who purchased Tidy Cat Cat Litter and gave us many of the leftover plastic buckets.  This all changed when Tidy Cat switched to plastic bags instead of buckets. 

So earlier this year I was at work lamenting to some of my students the fact that Tidy Cat Cat Litter no longer came in buckets, so my supply of conveniently sized 2 to 3 gallon durable plastic buckets had run dry.  One of my students at the local Community College works at the newly opened Tim Horton's Coffee Shop in Grand Forks, we'll call her Wilhelmina*, volunteered that they throw away buckets all the time and she could probably get me some of them.  The buckets are food grade 2.5 to 3 gallon buckets that contained frosting for delicious Tim Horton's donuts.  
This is what the buskets look like when I get them from my donut shop connection.  They're encrusted in various kinds of frosting/icing/glaze.  I need to clean them up, wash them off, and get all the frosting remnants off of them in order to transport them in my car and hand them off to my other student.

During this initial rambling discussion about buckets and gardening, another student and friend of Wilhelmina, let's call her Gertrude*, volunteered that she had a horse and plenty of horse manure piling up (literally), which would be free for the taking.  The only problem is that Gertrude lives about 45 minutes away, and I don't have a pickup or means of hauling large amounts of horse poop.

So once or twice per week there is an exchange in the back corners of the school parking lot.  Frosting encrusted buckets are passed from Wilhelmina to me, clean buckets are passed from me to Gertrude, buckets full of horse poop are passed from Gertrude to me.  I drive off with buckets of horse manure to compost, spread in the garden, or otherwise make my plants happy.  Like I said, gardeners are a weird lot, and I know that this arrangement and weekly parking lot exchanges should feel a whole lot stranger than they do.
I get buckets back that look like this - full of delicious, nutrient packed horse manure.  So maybe this isn't the strangest thing, gardeners use all manner of manure and have for centuries.  Perhaps it's just the seemingly illicit manner in which I acquire and swap buckets out in the school parking lot that makes it feel slightly odd.  Next week we'll tackle another interesting topic...using your own liquid waste as fertilizer, so stay tuned.     

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent.  

Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter Wrap Up

Easter weekend has come and gone.  It was filled with yard work, ham, chocolate covered goodies, even more ham, and then some more yard work.  The weather was delightful in the 60's and 70's and was perfect for getting out and preparing the garden.  I actually might be ahead of the game out in the garden.  We've cleaned up, trimmed some hedges that were in dire need of a haircut, and gotten ready for the delivery of landscaping bricks that is set to arrive on Friday.

500 hundred landscaping bricks and and equally impressive 10 yards of mulch are on their way.  This weekend should see if our garden stamina is Summer-worthy or is we need some more practice.  Lots of pictures of our newly shaped flower and veggie beds to come. 

Since our Easter wasn't terribly memorable and photogenic (nobody wants to see pictures of me sitting around eating ham and potato salad, right?), how about a review of Easter through the eyes of my awesome nephew Jacob?
Easter started out for Jacob with a trip to the fire station (where his Mom is a Fire Captain).  After sitting in the fire truck, he got to help find all the eggs and Easter treats that were hidden in and around the fire station.
Then more Easter egg hunting and cruising through the park on his scooter.
Followed by some quality time on the playground.  I didn't ask how many trips he took down the slide, but I was assured that it was quite a few.  Nothing like the power of candy to get you through the day!!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Shadowfax Napping

Shadowfax gathered her favorite toys around her heated dog bed, got tucked in (by her concerned people guardians), and wove her noggin through the legs of the rocking chair.  This is how she spends a cool and blustery Sunday morning. And don't worry, nobody was using the rocking chair.
 

Friday, April 11, 2014

My Most Hated Garden Task and Ugly Pictures of the Homestead

Gosh it feels good to get back out in the garden.  There's enough snow melted that I can start on some of the pre-Spring cleaning tasks that have been on my mind since the snow started flying so many months ago.  Actually there are only a few piles on the north facing walls of the garage and house, so while there are a few spots I can't get to, there's a lot of stuff I can do.

I trimmed down some shrubs in the back yard that I've been meaning to hack back since we moved in 5 years ago.  The problem is that these shrubs were a huge attraction for nesting birds (specifically the grackles) and by the time I remembered to trim them, they were full of nesting birds.  Not wanting to be a truly heartless baby bird killing monster, I let them be for the season, vowing to trim the bushes once the birds had fledged, only to have the task escape my mind. 

I then set about tackling my most hated garden task.  Not because it's difficult, it's not.  It doesn't involve heavy lifting or manual labor, but I detest it, even more than scooping dog poop out of the back yard.  I hate it because it's the result of carelessness of others.  The task?  Picking up all the trash in the yard.  This is the single worst time for it too.  All the snow has melted, leaving behind 5 months of accumulated detritus and rubbish.  It's ugly. 
I didn't even need to go find a bag for all the trash, there was one conveniently located in a shrub in the yard.  Our house is on a corner, a straight shot from a main thoroughfare to the park and swimming pool. Not the best location for remaining trash free.  Every day I'm out in the yard in summertime I'm picking up trash.  My work outside shorts have designated trash pockets that I empty every time I walk past the trash can. I've often wondered how much I would accumulate if I saved up a years' worth of garbage I pick up from my yard, but that would probably just bum me out. 
Here's a super ugly picture of my yard.  No leaves on the trees, no Spring cleanup has taken place.  It's brown, leafless, dirty, in need of a good raking and tidying up.  I share this picture because I'm not afraid to show the ugly side of the garden too, somewhere a gardener is giving me mad props for my honesty.  Plus there was some cool alignment of the trash in the shrubs down the shrub line.
An energy drink can, a Styrofoam cup, and tucked under the right side of the bush is a plastic baggie filled with an assortment of pro-Jesus pamphlets.  I could have sworn that Jesus and/or the Bible might have mentioned something about not throwing thine crap in thy neighbors' yard, but I might be mistaken on that one. 
Just a 10 minute tour of the yard yielded me a plastic shopping bag full of trash.  It's stuff like this that makes me hate other people more than I already do.  But at least it only happens every day during the Spring/Summer/Fall seasons.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Spring has sprung!

It's going to be close to 70 degrees today, but Tito remains unimpressed. The girls, on the other hand, are eagerly awaiting the arrival of spring.


Friday, April 4, 2014

Snow Covered Clematis Trellis

The arrival of Spring took another step back when we got a foot of Springtime snow on Monday/Tuesday. The kind of heavy, wet snow that sticks to everything and makes for unique and very interesting photos.
This is the clematis trellis on the East side of the house.  I made this trellis a few years ago with concrete re-mesh leftover from making DIY Heavy Duty Tomato Cages.  It's kinda crazy that in a couple of months this will (hopefully) be full of Jackmanii Clematis, overflowing with green vines and billows of blueish flowers.