|Red, reversible, velcro, and more easily washed than the mutt herself.|
Of course, the dog herself has mixed feelings about the whole idea...
|Red, reversible, velcro, and more easily washed than the mutt herself.|
|It may seem pretty stupid for anyone to attempt travel in these conditions, but she was on her way to visit her dying father, 325 miles from home and not anticipating this kind of weather. Pic from the URL above.|
|On the back of this Polaroid (the only camera I could afford at the time, and only because I had a full-time job the summer before), I wrote, |
"December 14, 1982, ten degrees below zero"
|I'm gonna make a sandwich out of these suckers on general principle, just to say that I DID: |
I grew the lettuce, I ate the lettuce!
|Each day, Lawrence comes home from work and, with an intensity one would normally reserve for discussions about the possibility of nuclear armageddon, asks, |
"Have the onions been watered?!??!?!"
|This is the marquee to the article linked above. |
You have to blow it up to read it, but it reveals just how seriously we take our onions around here.
|It may or may not produce anything edible, |
but has anyone ever grown
a more magnificent broccoli plant?!
I seriously doubt it!
|She doesn't look like a very brave anthropomorphic animal superhero, though, as she pauses beside a pile of illegal dumping.|
|A deafening freight train barrels down the road as |
the pinned-back ears and sullen expression say,
"I trust you and I'll sit quietly if you want,
but I'm NOT liking this..."
|Chicken a la Pete, at minute mark three twenty five|
(which is the temperature you'd cook him at, too!)
|Rollerblading child, so very cool, elegant, |
balanced, and poised.
GET NYX AWAY FROM ME!!!!!!"
|2008, professional-grade skates individually fitted.|
|MSFT clip art.|
|Highway to the heavens, acceleration lane to the attic, with Abe for scale. We probably shoulda stuffed our weep holes before now, but with our stinky dog and frequent presence in the yard, I was hoping that the pests would pass us over.|
|Victor rat trap. Available everywhere for about five bucks.|
|It's got a good sticky consistency and will cling to the trap mounts. It doesn't dry out and its distinctive fragrance lasts a long time. Unlike peanut butter or cheese, it won't melt and fall off the trap in our oppressive heat.|
|This pic is from the URL given above. There are several design elements that differ between this set-up and ours, however, and that'll become apparent in this post.|
|Three tanks nested: Behlen makes the 6-footers in slightly-descending diameters so that they can ship inside of each other. We mounted them flush on top of the trailer instead of angling them in because we were worried that they might warp if all the weight were placed on one edge... the 6-footers are about a hundred pounds apiece.|
|For much of this process, I felt like I was INVENTING the wheel, so it's only fitting that we rolled our stock tanks LIKE wheels into position. Fortunately, the land to the east of us has not been sold yet, so we put a temporary hinge on a section of our fence so that we could take all the landscaping supplies into the back yard that way - much easier than trying to maneuver through a foot gate and around the side of the house.|
|I got some serious criticism of this arrangement from one local hard-core gardener to whom I'd showed this picture. He thought that the aesthetics would be dramatically improved if the tanks were clustered together rather than dispersed, but the shape, size, and drainage of our back yard really would not allow that to work, we believed. The drainage swale basically runs in a line that would connect the two roof shadow points you see here. Nothing can block that swale. We also need to leave the central area open so that we can have room to play with the dog you see flaked out on the grass there in the middle. The back yard is 70 feet wide but only 39 feet deep in the foreground, 22 feet deep off the back patio. Our layout choices were limited.|
|This drill bit was an unexpected expense at about $45. As reported in one of the URLs given in paragraph (4), you could also try using a pointed metal bar to punch holes, but we didn't want to tear up the bottoms, especially since we needed at least one clean hole per tank to run irrigation lines through.|
|Holed tank. You can see the tentative layout for the support ring in the background.|
|Initially I did not want to complicate the clean lines of the tanks by adding a base, but we needed to engineer the drainage for that worst-case rain scenario (plus Lawrence is taller than I am, and wanted the tanks to be set as high off the ground as possible). Equally importantly, we needed to LEVEL the tanks and so we needed a solid substrate upon which to do that. Leveling is a step that they did NOT appear to take in the City of Houston installation described in paragraph (1) (at least, the tanks don't look level to me in the photos), but any time you install any structural feature that is not level, plumb and true, you will eventually have problems. When full of watered soil and rock, these tanks are incredibly heavy - even the four-footer approaches fifteen hundred pounds, and that's enough to seriously deform the underlying soil unless it's properly supported. We found these generic cement retaining-wall blocks for about $1.73 apiece at Walmart and used construction sand as a leveling filler. |
Our dog kept a constant vigil as the strips of sod were removed, because she loves eating the grubs that live in the root zone. :-)
|Once upon a time, Lawrence was the youngest person in the state of Texas to hold an irrigator's license (back when it was a more profitable way to earn teenage spending money than sacking groceries). Our irrigation system is currently under design and will be installed at some future point but, for now, we stubbed out the lines to each tank. This requires some headwork because order of operations is important. You have to be able to install the stub but then remove the tank to place the rest of the drainage base, as the next photos will show. For ease of removal and replacement, we clipped the stub short after initially placing it.|
|Gravel (about $65 per cubic yard, with one yard being more than sufficient to underlay all three tanks plus add layers into the bottom of each tank for aeration and drainage) filled the inside of the cement block ring. Once the gravel is poured in, it is best to stomp it with a twist like you're putting out cigarette butts, in order to compact and lock together the individual stones. A board can then be dragged across to smooth and level it.|
|If you want to strike terror into the heart of any Houstonian, all you need to do is utter the word "ants". I doubt that anything could ever totally stop fire ants, but because I had leftover landscape fabric stored in our garage, I duct-taped a layer of it at the bottom just to see if it would slow them down.|
|On top of the landscape fabric, a layer of gravel to help disperse drainage toward the holes underneath.|
|Next came the plastic layer. My sincere thanks to Garn Wallace of El Segundo California for educating me about zinc, which is the metal that was used in the tank galvanizing process. Zinc is not particularly toxic to humans or animals (remember, livestock typically drinks directly from these tanks by design), but apparently zinc inhibits woody growth when soil concentrations get too high. I lined the interior of the tanks with 6-mil plastic to shield the soil from contacting the tank and thus reduce any leaching. Lawrence thought that the black plastic would stand up better to the little bit of UV light that is expected to reach it. You can't see it in this photo, but the bottom of the plastic is slashed liberally in a radial pattern to further promote the flow of water through to the underlayers. I threw a bit of extra gravel on top as well.|
|One more thing to do before the soil can be added: remember, we had to clip the irrigation stub in order to easily lift the tank back off so that the space in the center of the cement blocks could be backfilled with gravel. Now that the base is all assembled, I had to splice on the riser.|
|The four-footer with two varieties of oregano, lemon mint, sage, rosemary, a hacked-off basil that is telling me it wants to come back from the root ball, an Indian curry plant, and an ornamental (mona plectranthus) in the center.|
|Close-up of the mona plectranthus. Way too pretty!!|
|The first six-footer with four broccolis and one Swiss chard. I'm starting off by spacing them widely, just until I see what happens with this thing. The central ornamentals include a cigar plant and the yellow one beside it is a thryallis.|
|Close-up of the cigar plant. I wanted to be able to keep the central ornamentals light and airy.|
|Tanks 1 and 2 in oblique view, ever-curious dog (Catahoula / Australian Shepherd mix) for scale. I hope to fill the back side of this first six-footer with onions and garlic this coming weekend. Bear in mind that these plants are new and it's mid-November right now... I foresee much more luxuriant growth once everything is established and also when spring comes.|
|One of the broccoli plants on December 22, 2010, |
with 12-year-old child for scale.
|March 8, 2011: The same broccoli plant, now in flower, just two months later, and the same child for scale, still 12 years old but now going on 20 years old despite being just two months older. In other words, the child appears to have matured more rapidly than this broccoli. Is that even physically possible?? Apparently it is, because other parents report similar phenomena occurring with their children.|
|One of the crowns from that same plant. |
It was an AWESOME feed!!
|Urban homesteading at its finest:|
Home-grown organic onions, hi-tech ELFA shelving, and a wireless router in the background.
|Our very first organic Anaheim. I could have allowed it grow much larger, but its presence was required in a Sunday morning omelette I made for us this morning, along with our own onions, garlic, tomatoes, and jalapenos.|
|Screengrab from the NWS URL above.|
This might not seem like a big deal to those of you in arid regions, but Houston is subtropical, receiving an average of about 48 inches of rain per year! To not have rain for 80 days is simply unheard of.
|Bat-faced cuphea doesn't seem to mind the heat.|
|Thumb from Houston Chronicle.|
|Another amusing screengrab from that NWS URL above.|