Sunday, April 27, 2014

Wildflowers, Lettuce, Rain and Hail? April 27th, 2014


All winter we have been in this horrible drought and we have finally been getting a little rain... but Friday afternoon we got a lot of hail. About 1/2 inch on the ground and it didn't melt for hours!
Hail on my deck
Lower pasture - it looks like a light snow!

Veggie Garden - no weeding got done this weekend.
That was all day on Friday - so the only thing I could do was work in the greenhouse. The remaining catfish all died and I have no idea why. The water test was fine so I am stumped. BUT the lettuce is phenomenal and just absolutely loves this method of growing. I used seeds that are smaller versions of lettuce heads from Territorial Seed Company.  But the "Tom Thumb" that said on the package would be a tennis ball sized head of lettuce, perfect for one, grew to the size of a dinner plate very quickly.
Heads of lettuce

"Tom Thumb" - supposed to be a tennis ball size

Tomatoes are doing okay - they really need more sun and heat to take off.
I have eaten that lettuce and it is so clean tasting because it wasn't grow in dirt and there weren't any bugs or anything.. just awesome! Now if I can get my fish to live and grow!

Update on the Hop experiment

The hops are growing well.. 6 weeks after planting and they are approaching 4 feet high.
Nugget hops at 6 weeks
I am almost afraid to see what will happen when it warms up later this week and summer starts to show up... they are heading for the deck and hopefully they don't overtake it!

Wildflower Pictures

The rain at the end of March and beginning of April has brought out more and more wildflowers, so you get more pictures!
Icelandic Poppy ( Not California Native)

Bachelors Button - beautiful blue

Pretty white flower - don't know the name

One of the tough lavendar irises

Beautiful, delicate balloon like wildflower

This is just gorgeous paper white lantern wildflower

My front yard is a riot of colors!

Even red clover is getting into the act!
And finally - I love this picture. My back hill is covered in wild purple lupines but in the midst of 100 purple ones you have a yellow one.. there are a lot of ways of looking at this picture and finding meaning in it. But I think the best is to be true to yourself and not be afraid to stand out in a crowd. :)

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Garden Pictures April 2014


Just some pictures from my garden, which really doesn't exist since we are in a drought..

Garlic and Onions that I planted last year.. not ready yet.

Piles of weeds after  pulling them from an hour!

Front Yard - pretty wildflowers

More flowers!


Yellow Lupine

This is the yard after 2 hours of weeding!

Happy HOPS!


Friday, April 18, 2014

Greenhouse Aquaponics Post # 6 - April 2014

Please don't call the catfish police!

As you can probably tell by the title... my trip to Freshwater Fish Company last Saturday didn't end well for the fish. The visit to their place was fine and yes, they recognized me... and asked how my system was doing. I have a really hard time lying so I had to tell them all the fish died from the first batch. It got really quiet and one customer blurted out "How?"... I tried to mumble about there was new water, too much food, a stupid human and grabbed my new bag of fish and left. And here is proof that they did exist at one time..

My new batch
AND I got a new inverter to replace the one that blew up along with another battery and hooked them up below.
Much stronger inverter
Tomatoes and 1 pepper are doing great!

Lettuce is just growing like crazy. I have started new seeds in those other pots.
Everything was going good Saturday but unfortunately, Sunday didn't go so well... overnight the batteries ran out (expected that) but the hose you see on the top tank became a siphon and all the water drained back into the big fish tank. (didn't expect that)
That black hose pumps the water from the tank to the top grow bed. When the pump stopped all the water drained back to the fish tank.
Do you know what happens when all the water goes back to the fish tank? The water level gets too high and the dumb fish jump out... yep, they all committed suicide by jumping out of the tank. I am NOT making this up. One was still alive so I stuck him back in the water and he was swimming when I left but if he survives until I get back there in two weeks, I will name him Lucky.
Catfish Massacre #2
When I told Nick what happened and of course I am completely depressed, he said," look at it this way; If there was a catfish mafia you would be the #1 hitman!" What a dear boy he is....always looking to cheer his mom up.

If you are wondering if I will try again, the answer is yes I will ... but I hate to go back there again and try to tell them how I have killed 49 catfish in short order. I can't be the worse they have ever seen can I?


Sunday, April 13, 2014

High Speed Internet at Last!



For about the last year I have been trying to get some form of high-speed internet up at the house without any success. A group of us called and pestered all the traditional companies like Comcast, AT&T, Frontier and anyone else we could find. We had the option of using a satellite provider but their speeds were really slow, 5 mbps and the cost was high! We also have this service using radio towers called "Line of Sight" internet but no one had a tower in our area. A couple of people on the outside of the subdivision were able to get it from a company but it was slow. Last year I overheard someone talking about a new company that had started in Mokehill and gave them a call. After 8 months, he was finally able to get a couple of towers in the subdivision and I have internet! It was so strong that I was able to work from up there on Friday and run both of my laptops at the same time. I even tested it with streaming videos and a skype video call and it did well.. so here is a big "THANK YOU" to Empyre Wireless of Mokelumne Hill and owner Shawn P.


My bird netting caught and killed a rattlesnake this week.. it was a medium size one about 2.5 to 3 feet long... I untangled it from the netting and then cut the rattle off to dry out. Here are the picture for those that are not squeamish..
Snake stretched out

Tangled in netting

Turkey Nest

The turkey hen is still on her nest protecting her 11 eggs... not sure how she is surviving because I don't see her move to get food or water at all. The nest is right by my front door.. and she hides really well. 

Do you see the turkey anywhere?

This is from my front porch looking down.. she is so well hidden you can walk right by her and not notice at all.


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Juniper Bush Video

This is a video that I put together with all the little clips through the day. It took about 5 hours for the boys to pull out this ugly bush. We tried manually pulling it first but that didn't work and eventually we had to use a chain and the ATV. Even that was a struggle...

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Small explosion from the inverter and juniper bush removal!


What a great weekend this was up at the house! Mainly because my son Nick flew up from Tucson to visit me and he along with his friend Jason came up to the house with me. Nick hasn't been to the house for over 6 months so hasn't seen the new windows or the greenhouse and he was really excited to see those.
The greenhouse survived through the storms we had well, no rips in the plastic sheeting but the pump wasn't working again. I was playing around with the battery connections and the inverter when the inverter suddenly made "zzz pop" sound following by a flash of flames and a puff of smoke. Quickly followed up by me running from the greenhouse to the befuddled looks of Nick and Jason. (Life with me as your mom isn't easy or normal.) The reason the pump hadn't been running and killing the fish is that the inverter was under-sized for the power the panels are pumping. I had a 500 watt inverter and thought that would be fine since the panels are "100 watts"... but when  I look online, all those panels are with 1500 watt inverters. So I plugged in a long extension cord to keep the pump going this week while I buy a new inverter.

The big chore for the weekend was removing a very large juniper bush from the back hill behind the house. This bush was about 15 feet across and really dangerous in fire country to have next to a wood deck. They have this oil that just pops to life and burns like gasoline..Nick and Jason gave it a try and yes it took 5 hours to get done. Don't underestimate a juniper!
Just starting out - you can't even see the whole thing in this picture

Let's try the electric chainsaw - but the juniper broke that!

Back to hand tools

Maybe Nick can pull the small one out? nope!

Let's use the ATV! It took a few tries and getting a chain instead of the rope but it did work.

Throwing one of the branches down the hill

The big, main, trunk and Nick hooking up the chain to it. That didn't come out easy - they had to keep digging and pulling it with the ATV.

Burning the body of our enemy - the main trunk of the juniper.

Finally clear!
I hated that juniper with a passion and I am so excited to have it out. Now what I need is enough money to fence off that area, terrace the hill and install poles and wires to grow hops. My own beer garden! I have video of the many attempts to pull out the juniper on the ATV and will post them on youtube.
Speaking of hops - the two I planted are taking off... about 1 foot tall this week.
These plants are crazy fast growers~ up to 1 foot a week!
Finally - there has been some rain this past week and the wild lupines are starting to bloom. I have 2 varieties that I have planted and then there is the one that is a little differnt leaf size and shape.
Starting to bloom on the hill back by the greenhouse

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

*Update* - Fish Farm Open House - April 12th, 2014

Sat - 4/12/14

I just got back from the fish farm and yes... they did recognize me. The lady knew my name and asked how my system was going. I had to tell the truth and let her know all the fish died, which scared another guy who wanted to know why they died... all of sudden I was there in the center of about 6 men who were staring at me like I was talking football. I said I don't know.. mumbled about new water and crazy automatic fish feeder and took my new bag of fish and ran off... 
Please please please let this batch live! 



I got the email from the wonderful place where I bought my catfish before is going to have another open house on April 12th. I am going to go but hope no one recognizes me! I will be so embarassed if they ask what happened to the last group of fish! Maybe I could wear a disguise? Not sure if that is possible or not....

Freshwater Fish Open House Info


Nick is coming home this weekend and we will be going to the Oakland A's game and then up to the house for the weekend. Should be a fun time!