This is for AJ who wanted a better picture of the boom I cobbled together to help with building my barn.  This is the best shot I have.

Boom 2

Here at ThinMan Acres we have nine old apple and pear trees that are the only survivors of a farm that used to be here.  One seems to be a Transparent Apple tree, and the fruit is very early and quite good to eat if you can be quick enough to get it before it turns soft.  I suppose there are people who like softer apples, but give me a nice crispy one every time, please.

It looks pretty good from this side.

It looks pretty good from this side.

I hope the bees do their job on those blossoms and give us some nice apples this year.  Last year we had a killing frost at just the wrong time, and got exactly zero apples from all the trees.  It could have been worse.  Some folks north of here had just bought an apple orchard and were looking forward to making a go of the apple and cider business.  It didn’t happen.

Every time we have a windstorm I expect to see this  old tree blown over, but it just keeps hanging in there.  It’s quite an inspiration.  As maybe you can see in the photo below, most of the trunk is just gone, with some punky rotted wood in the center.

Rotten in the core

Rotten in the core

Thanks to some suckers, it has grown a few good sized new branches on the side of the trunk that is still present and alive.  Several times I have been going to knock it over and haul it off to the brush pile, but it seems to want to keep going, so I guess we will let nature decide when to pull the plug.  Maybe it will outlive me, though I don’t think I have any rot going on right now.

I kind of enjoy the pulling the well-behaved weeds. Those are the ones that, once you get a good grip on them, have the decency to give up and come out, roots and all. They are satisfying, if not actually fun, to pull.

The weeds I hate are the ones that just silently snicker and snap off when you pull them. You just know they will be re-sprouting as soon as your back is turned.

Quack grass, for example. I hate that stuff. It keeps encroaching on all of my garden spaces and it has to be beaten back periodically. I have to use a garden fork to seriously loosen the soil to have even half a chance of pulling enough roots out to slow it down. Clumps of it are in my lawn and grow five times faster than regular grass, so two days after it’s mowed, the lawn looks like it is studded with small green porcupines.

Bladder Campion

Bladder Campion

But I think I hate bladder campion even more. It has big old tap roots that go down to China, and no matter how carefully and deeply I dig, when I pull them out and look at the end of the root, there is always a little piece missing. I’m sure that, even as I’m cursing at it, that little left-behind root piece is already sending up a new stem through the wide open channel and whistling a happy tune. Grrrrrrrrr.

If I sound a little worked up, it’s probably because I did spend some time today fighting those very weeds. I fought the good fight and gained some ground, but I know that those nasty little beggars are plotting against me, even as I type.

New blessing for gardeners:  May all your weeds have strong tops and shallow roots.

So I have this new small greenhouse, and now I have room for about 32 trays of plant starts instead of the 12 that I could fit in when I was using only lights in my basement.   Maybe I should have just bought more lights.  Check out the photo below.

5 trays of zinnias

5 trays of zinnias

The front-most tray has Benary’s orange zinnias.  The next three back are Benary’s scarlet, mix, and yellow zinnias.  The back-most tray has Oklahoma mix zinnias.    They were all planted at the same time, but when I moved the zinnias to the greenhouse, the orange ones got left under the lights because there wasn’t room in the greenhouse.  Look at them now.

In my previous state of ignorance, I would have expected just the opposite, thinking the zinnias would just love the greenhouse and the ones left behind would sulk and fail to thrive.  Nope.

As I mentioned two posts ago, I’ve had trouble keeping the greenhouse from heating up into the 90s (F), whereas the basement is a pretty constant 70F.  I suppose that must account for the difference.    Unless Benary’s orange are gigantic compared to the other colors.   I kinda doubt that.

I’ve added a page showing how I built the seed planter shown below.  At this point I haven’t actually tried it yet, but I think it will work.  If not, this post will probably disappear at some point.  The idea is that the bottom of the planter will be poked into the soil and a seed will be manually dropped into the funnel.   By pulling up on the lower handle a flipper will open at the bottom, letting the seed drop into the soil.  The white cup is to hold the seeds.  If I were clever, I would make a metering device that would drop a seed every time the handle is pulled.  Maybe someday.

Manual Seeder

Manual Seeder

To see the page, and more pictures, you can click here or in the Pages box to the right.

Update June 21, 2009:  The seeder actually works really well.  It choked a little on some big pumpkin seeds, because they got caught on one of the two small screws that go through the drop pipe.  Some smaller squash seeds went through as nicely as you please, and I did a few hundred sunflower seeds with only one or two hangups.  And I didn’t have to bend over!!  I think this is a keeper.

I’ve found that the hardest thing about my small greenhouse is keeping it from getting too hot inside.  Even with the end door open, it is often 80 – 90 F inside on a sunny day, which is way too hot for the seedlings I am trying to raise in there.  I made a simple vent out of a couple of scrap 3/4 inch pine boards that I sawed into narrow strips and screwed together along with a spare piece of greenhouse film.

Basically, it is made of just two rectangular frames, one frame an inch bigger on both sides so it can fit around the smaller one.  The bigger frame is covered in plastic.

Frame has been screwed down.

Frame has been screwed down.

The small frame was screwed down to the greenhouse frames on top of the plastic film.  The film was then cut, wrapped around the sides of the frame and stapled.

Vent2Vent3

The bigger frame just sits on top of the smaller one.  There are no hinges.  I just lift it off and slide it in through the opening on sunny days.  I will probably need to hold it down somehow, maybe with a bungee, but that hasn’t happened yet.

The top frame with plastic

The top frame with plastic

Finished

Finished

There are lots of happy plants in the green house now, and a few …  ehhhhh, not so much.  My purple majesty millet is getting pretty big, but I think it needs a little somethin’.  A lot of its leaves are pretty pale looking.  I gave one tray a quart of diluted fish emulsion for a perker-upper to see what happens.  Jeeze, is that nasty-looking stuff.  I had a septic tank pumped out once and the resemblance is strong.

Getting kind of full in here

Getting kind of full in here

I’m also having an issue with my digitalis.  Some of the seedlings are scrawny and struggling, with pale leaves and green veins.  I sought some help with this and my problem may be (1) It’s too hot for them in the greenhouse (2) They are lacking iron (3) I’ve kept them too waterlogged and the little beggars are drowning (4) Some combo of one through three, or (5) Something else.  I gave them a shot of iron, and am trying to keep them cooler and dryer.  So far most of them still look like little sad sacks, though one is quite big and healthy-looking.  Odd, huh?

How nice that it is good and truly spring now in the north country.

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