The Shed

The Shed
The Shed

Saturday, March 31, 2012


Hi boys and girls and welcome back to the Children's Hour with your favorite cut-up, Leatherface. Well I finally found out why that durn old chain saw wouldn't run, there was an ear ring jammed in the turning mechanism again! I wonder how the heck that keeps happening, I guess it's just one of life's little mysteries...

Another of life's mysteries is how to get a bumper crop of vegetables out of the gardens we've worked in so hard when so many of mother natures critters are bound and determined to get to them first. Here is the first contender from our rogues gallery of furry - and occasionally feathered - adversaries, and a tip or two on how to deal with their ilk.

Mrs. Bunny

What is cuter than a bunny? Not many things are; they are innocuous creatures for the most
part, a welcome sign of spring,

a pleasant sight on the lawn in the morning and evening. But in the garden, well perhaps not as welcome. The stereotype of Bugs Bunny with a carrot in his paw is not far from the truth, Rabbits love carrot tops and Mrs. Bunny and her adorable brood can saw an entire carrot patch level with the ground in just a few unguarded hours.

They also like the foliage of many other garden plants, cucumber and squash vines and their leaves being right on the top of the list along with all varieties of greens.

Fortunately, and unlike most of the marauders on the list, it is not terribly difficult to deal with

bunnies. A 3' tall 1 inch poultry wire fence will defeat them. They can dig underneath but rarely will, and setting the baseboards at the bottom of the fence even a few inches into the ground will discourage even the most enterprising carrot lover. 

Ignore the various sprays, scents, live traps etc. that are available, you will need a fence anyway, and a well maintained fence will keep a sorrowful Mrs. Bunny on the outside, looking in.

Yes Kids, rabbits are one of the few garden pests that we can happily co-exist with, because they are so easy to deflect. But be sure to stop back for the next edition of The Children's Hour when we encounter a totally different kind of adversary in the form of Chuck the Destructor...

As always, thanks for stopping by!


Before you go why not visit with Amycita, who gives us some of the soundest gardening advice that I can remember:, or with Mandy at Mandy's Pages, a breath of fresh air for all of us who write or aspire to do so:

Monday, March 26, 2012

SOMETHING DEAD FROM THE SHED - Some interesting extinct animals

Hi folks it's your old pal Jack, from foggiest London! You know, what with Delacroix and Leatherface, Yours Truly and even our favorite Uncle, corpses turn up with some regularity here at the shed. Given the nature and frequency of the wormholes in spacetime close to and in fact inside the shed, some of the cadavers may have an unsettling effect upon the uninitiated. Rather than try to sweep them under the rug - strictly speaking, we don't have one - we've decided to let everybody in on the secret. And so, with no further prattling, the introductory chapter of, "Something dead from the shed."

Wonders from the distant past:

Mankind is fortunate to share the planet with a number of truly remarkable animals. The polar bear, the coelacanth, the Siberian tiger, the platypus and the giant squid  come readily to mind; there are many more. Fascinating as these creatures are their luster invariably dims when compared to some of Mother Nature’s odder specimens from time long gone
Human nature is partly responsible for this perception. Today’s wildlife is familiar to us. After all, in a very real way we live in the midst of the wildest and strangest of creatures. Tigers and kangaroos may dwell halfway around the planet from us; other creatures populate the hidden ocean depths. Even so, cable television and the internet bring them to our living rooms whenever we issue an invitation.

Given the enormous span of time that elapsed from the beginning of life on earth 3.9 billion years back until the first recognizable hominid appeared some 4 million years ago, it stands to reason that almost all the life forms that ever lived, interesting or not, have gone extinct. A figure frequently quoted is that for every species alive today 999 others are no longer with us. It only makes sense that a large number of these long dead species would have been real attention grabbers.

These ancient animals, in all their – to us at least – alien weirdness frequently overshadow their modern counterparts. A rhinoceros for instance may get our attention; a triceratops would hold it. We greet the arrival of a cardinal at our bird feeder with delight; what emotion would the appearance of Phorusrhacos the notorious terror bird of the mid Miocene induce? And when it comes to pigs is Archy the affable pet pot bellied pig or Archaeotherium Mortoni the huge carnivorous Oligocene hog from hell more likely to liven up the party?

Let’s take a look at a few spectacular but very extinct denizens of the past.

From the “You Couldn’t Make This Up” department:

The setting is a warm shallow sea bottom during the middle portion of the Cambrian period. (Cue the theme from “Jaws”) Sculling along just above the bottom is a fearsome creature, body divided into 15 segments, each segment bearing a pair of opposed finlike lobes that are part leg, part gill, and part oar. A triangular tail acts as rudder as it drives along like a Roman war galley seeking prey. Five glittering compound eyes glare from stalks mounted on the rounded head. Protruding from the front of the head is a flexible snout like an elephant’s trunk, with a lobster like claw at the very tip.
Something moves in the silt. The hunter dips low, the proboscis stabs, the claw snatches and a helpless bottom dweller is dragged from the muck. The trunk folds under and stuffs the struggling prey into the gaping maw. The hunter glides on.
Meet Opabinia regalis, the terror of the sea. Before too much sleep is lost keep in mind that Opabinia went extinct around 530 million years ago and was, even including the deadly snout, only 4 inches long overall.
It would be interesting to note what sort of creature Opabinia regalis represented on the evolutionary scale, but the fact is, no one knows for sure and the subject is certain to start if not an argument, at least a lively discussion where paleontologists gather at happy hour. What most do agree upon is what Opabinia is not, and that is every other known creature.

While the origins of this evolutionary dead end are as yet unknown, Opabinia regalis was a fascinating predator from the famed Cambrian explosion half a billion years ago.

There but for a well timed asteroid, go us:

Troodon was not the biggest or the toughest of the theropod dinosaurs, a group that includes Tyrannosaurus rex, Velociraptor and Giganotosaurus in their numbers. Troodons may have been among the fastest theropods; but what is really interesting about this late Cretaceous biped is the size and structure of its brain. Troodon may well have been the most intelligent dinosaur that ever lived.

Faint praise, perhaps, when one considers dinosaurian Einsteins like Stegosaurus. The Stegosaur piloted 7500 lbs of meat, muscle, armor plate, bones and spikes using a brain no larger than a walnut. But the Stegosaurus is a veritable genius compared to Massospondylus, a sauropodomorphus from the early Jurassic that scores 3 times lower than the Stegosaurus on the Encephalization Quotient or EQ scale. Massospondylus could presumably outwit a cabbage, but it was apt to be a close run thing.

A quick word about the EQ as a determinant of intelligence.  The Encephalization Quotient is a number that reflects the actual measure of an animals brain to body weight compared to what is expected of an animal of that size. The expected score for an animal is always 1.0. Using this method with existing animals - and depending on which formula is used - we find that a house cat is right where it belongs, at 1.0, a dog is slightly smarter at 1.17, wolves slightly smarter yet at 1.25, chimps at 1.9 and humans around 5.5 as might be anticipated.

Applying this same formula to the dinosaurs and using a crocodile at 1.0 as a baseline we get figures for the carnosaurs ranging from about 1.0 to 1.8, - T.  rex is a bit brighter than a crocodile by this reckoning - and a slightly lower number for the armored herbivore Triceratops at .8. The perpetually befuddled Stegosaur scores a dismal .6. Our Troodon however checks in at a brilliant 5.8 or as far above the anticipated baseline as man scores against his fellow mammals.

Before we get too excited though, this still leaves Troodon, smartest of dinosaurs with the approximate intelligence of an opossum. Troodon went extinct along with the rest of the dinosaurs during the KT extinction at the close of the Cretaceous. But what if the Troodon had somehow survived? They would have had 65 million years to evolve that already special brain.

Troodon was a smallish, swift bipedal predator with remarkable hearing and vision including at least partial depth perception. They were almost certainly warm blooded as troodon fossils giving clear evidence of feathers have been found. Their forelegs were not shortened as in many theropod dinosaurs but long and strong with flexible wrists and three long fingers equipped with claws. The hind legs sported large retractable claws much like those of their cousins the Dromaeosaurs. The nature of their dentition leads some paleontologists to speculate that Troodon might have been omnivorous.

All of these seeming advantages lead to speculation that with so many millions of years to develop, Troodon might have become the earths dominant, intelligent species and occupy the same niche that Homo sapiens does today.

Paleontologist Dale Russell in the early 1980’s walked this idea a little further down the road when he created, along with model maker Ron Seguin a speculative sculpture of an evolved Troodon called the Dinosauroid. The result is remarkably humanoid and this has provided fodder for the critics, but after all, given millions of years, who really knows what might have happened? The fascination of the Troodons lies really not so much in what they were, but in what they might have become.

Look up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s – what the heck is it?

It’s called Hatzegopteryx thambema and it may well be the largest Pterosaur ever to take to wing, surpassing even the awesome Quetzalcoatlus norththropi in bulk and wing span. The jaw breaking name derives from the location where the type fossil was discovered, the Hatzeg basin in Transylvania, Romania. The full name, translated loosely means “monstrous winged creature from Hatzeg”.

An enormous skull, and by enormous is meant nearly 10 feet in length - most of which is jaw - was recovered from the Maastrichtian Densuy-Ciula Formation of the late Cretaceous.  It was excavated, reported and named by paleontologists Eric Buffetaut, Dan Grigorescu and Zoltan Csiki in 2002.  The initial mystery was, how could a creature with a skull this size ever fly at all?

This mystery seems solved by the revelation that the toothless skull, under a very thin but rigid exterior, is composed of extremely thin plates enclosing minute air spaces which gives great rigidity with very little weight, a structure which has been compared to expanded Styrofoam. This saved weight seemingly would have allowed Hatzegopteryx to get airborne and stay there, although whether the creature flapped its wings constantly, flapped a bit or simply soared on its 45 foot wingspan cannot be determined.

Just for comparison, most hang gliders have a wing span of 30 feet; the wings of the Lincoln Sport Bi-plane span barely 20 feet. For that matter the Italian Air force went to war in 1940 in the Fiat CR-42 Falco fighter, with a span of 32 feet.

 It also cannot be determined exactly how Hatzegopteryx fed, or on what. The jaws are toothless but huge, and are specially structured to allow an enormous gape. Was it a skim fisher, a land predator, did it pluck other flyers from the sky like an enormous dragon fly? More discoveries are needed to answer the very many open questions about this fascinating creature.

So close, but yet so far:

There are people living today, although their numbers are of necessity few and dwindling swiftly, that saw and interacted with live Thylacines, or Tasmanian tigers. A marsupial analog of the placental wolf the last documented living Thylacine died of unforgivable neglect in a zoo in Hobart, Tasmania in 1936. A remnant no doubt survived in the wild for a few years more but by the 1950’s the last Thylacine was almost certainly gone.

What makes the Thylacine so interesting? As a predator they were definitely bush leaguers, not big – rarely over 80 pounds in weight, a 100 pound Thylacine would be a freakish giant -  nor particularly swift – Thylacines wore their prey out rather than running them down, not flexible or even according to the EQ ratios as smart as a placental wolf or a domestic dog. They did have strong jaws, efficient dentition and a tremendous gape, but none of these characteristics prevented them from being displaced by dingo’s on the Australian mainland hundreds of years before Europeans arrived. They had definitely drawn the evolutionary short straw long before the white man came to Tasmania.

But they were an appealing animal, superficially wolf like in profile but with hindquarters striped like a tigers, Thylacines appeared more feline face on although of course they were more closely related to kangeroos than to either of the formentioned families.  They showed no particular animosity towards humans, were in fact shy and reclusive around them. And so, it is entirely possible that mankind lost out on a rare opportunity to acquire another companion animal, and this is where the real tragedy lies.

It is difficult to find records of Thylacines being acquired as pups and then raised as pets, but there are records of young to mature Thylacines being snared and then spared. These animals, treated kindly, became acclimated to humans and apparently performed well as watch animals, could be walked on leashes, trusted around children and so forth. There is no reason to suspect that the Thylacine could not have followed the path the placental wolf took ten thousand years earlier and that today folks could have their hearts seized by the sight of a peculiar looking Thylacine puppy wagging a somewhat stiff tail in the pet shop window.
As with the Troodon, although for very different reasons, our interest with the Thylacine is not so much for what it was, as for what it may have become.

There is one, small and fading hope; as is definitely not the case with Opabinia, Troodon and Hatzegopteryx there remains a significant store of Thylacine DNA available for those who wish to try cloning. Whether human kind has advanced far enough up the EQ scale to pull off a successful revival of the unjustly slaughtered Tasmanian tiger is a question that can only be resolved in the future.

Well that seems to have set the table nicely! A good day to you and thanks for taking part in "Something dead from the shed!"

Sunday, March 25, 2012

FARM GIRL'S CORNER - Swiss chard


Hi! I'm Farm Girl and I help Uncle Mac around the shed, and out in the garden and things like that. This morning for example, it was a little chilly outside so I helped him warm his dibble before we went outdoors to work. It is amazing what a feller, even an old geezer like Mac, can accomplish with a well warmed dibble!

But what today's Corner is all about is Swiss Chard and why it's such a great veggie to grow!

Everyone looks forward to greens in springtime, they are usually some of the first crops available. Kale, beet and turnip greens, tender spinach, all are wonderful straight from the plot and into the pot. The only problem is, once you have cut them, you have seen the last of them until the fall crop comes in. They will not grow back.

Not so with Swiss Chard. This cousin of the beet will produce tender, buttery leaves and flavorful stalks from late spring through the first hard frost if properly tended.

As with most vegetables chard produces best when the bed is partially prepared during the preceding years fall clean up. Chard produces a broad and deep root system, so when digging the prospective bed, double digging is beneficial. Take the opportunity to add large quantities of compost and other organic matter, chard thrives on loose, well drained soil. Chard is one of those few vegetables that does not require full sun to flourish, six hours daily is adequate.

Two weeks before the final frost date is a fine time to plant, so long as the beds have thawed and drained. Otherwise wait another week or two. Soaking the seeds overnight will shorten germination time, which can occur in 7 to 14 days depending on the weather.

Here at the shed we like to give the chard bed a quick dig, adding sifted compost and then raking it smooth.  We then add a 1 1/2" to 2" layer of sifted compost made by the hot process method which has killed the weed seeds, and rake that smooth as well. Next, wherever we want a chard plant (About 5" from center to center) we scoop out a cup sized divot from the compost layer and fill it with fine, unfertilized potting soil. We plant 3 to 4 chard seeds in each circle of potting soil, just about 1/2" deep, and gently pat the soil flat.

You may be thinking that's a lot of work for a small chard patch but really, it pays off. The potting soil is sterilized, free of weed and other seeds and you therefore know that whatever sprouts in it is chard. The compost layer is likewise 98% free of weed seeds and suppresses the growth of most weeds coming from the dirt layer below. Initial weeding is virtually eliminated, a mulch layer is prepositioned and all the gardener has to do is thin the chard plants to one plant per potting soil circle.

Some outer leaves should be ready to harvest in 40 to 45 days from germination, always leave the smaller, inner leaves and chard will continue to produce in most planting zones right up until the first hard frost.

Chard needs regular watering but should require no nutrients other than the compost already provided, it is a relatively light feeder.

Swiss chard is as delightful to look at as it it tasty on the table, and can be used to add color and eye appeal to the garden. Different colors can be placed in small patches at strategic locations to create an unusual and pleasing effect.

While most traditional chards like Fordhook Giant and Lucullus feature dark green leaves on white stalks, as in the first picture, there are also magenta varieties...

There are golden varieties...

"Bright Lights" mixes all colors of chard together in one packet...

Botanical gardens find Swiss Chard so colorful they sometimes include it in ornamental beds!

But chard is primarily for eating and can be used raw in salads, stir fried, boiled, steamed and prepared many ways using a plethora of recipes. As an extra bonus chard happens to be one of the most nutritional vegetables available, packed with vitamins, minerals and nutrients.

Chard seeds are available in any garden supply store, or from any of the seed companies, or even at your supermarket in the seed rack in the produce section. Why not add this tasty, nutritious, eye pleasing easy to grow green vegetable to your garden plot? You will be glad you did! 

That wraps up today's Farm Girl's Corner; as always, thanks for stopping by!  

Monday, March 19, 2012



"She was adopted this morning: Anna Lea Wade I am so glad I was able to get Hilda! She is the sweetest puppy! Love her!"


See this li'l dawg? Do not blink, because you won't see her much longer. Her time is up at the shelter she is at. The shelter is:

Stokes County Animal Shelter
1999 Sizemore Road.
Germantown, North Carolina

You need a good dog, you know you do. Or you know someone who does. Or you could repost this link and get other people to do so until someone springs this fine wee pup. But act NOW there is no time left!

The sheleter calls her "Hilda Mae" but you can call her anything you like, she'll love you anyway.

Here is the shelters link:


Sunday, March 18, 2012

FARM GIRL'S CORNER - Why bust your onions?


Hi! I'm Farm Girl, I help Uncle Mac whenever there is work to be done, out in the garden and around the shed and that kind of thing. But some times he just wants to play! Why just this mornin' he said to me:

"Hey! Farm Girl!"

"Yes Mac?" I said.

"Lets play the farm tool game! I'll be a rake, and you can be a hoe!

"Well that's sounds nice", I said.

What was I thinkin'? It was fixin' to rain but still. Sometimes I wish he'd go stay at Wooly Acres where old goats are always welcome.

But today I'm here to talk about growing onions.

Have onions been problematic for you? You are not alone. There are lots of gardening folks who grow onions when they plant them, but they just seem so much smaller than expected. And that could be because they are simply missing a few essential onioning facts.

Usually I don't plug one particular company here at the Corner but that is more of a guideline than a rule. When someone goes the extra mile, we like to tell you about it! is one such outfit. They specialize in onions and relatives (like garlic, not their grandmas) and have done so for 100 years. They tell you things about onion culture that are not generally known; things that can help you grow a successful onion patch. 

And they offer a nice selection of onions aiming for success throughout the USA.

If you haven't already bought your onion plants why not click on over to their site and take a look? You have nothing to lose, and alliums to gain!

As always thank you for stopping by at Farm Girls Corner!

(And if you see Uncle Mac tell him where he can put his rake next time it rains!)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

WHO'S GOT THE LINKS? We have daisies, Daisy Dukes, a frightful and dangerous bog, Jack the Ripper and more...

Some links are better than others. Some are actually Lynx. But we got 'em for ya, either way!


Ah the harbingers of spring! The first robin, the first mosquito, the first emmergent buds, the first Jehovah's Witnesses, and that ever popular first thong bikini! The cycle of life renewed and reaffirmed. And what is more life affirming than a burgeoning daisy patch? Almost nothing, is our belief here in the garden shed.

One woman who seems to agree is Glory Lennon, author of the award winning Glory's Garden. She is going to share a fraction of her daisy lore with us right HERE, and also HERE as well! Thank you, Glory!


A man goes out hiking, hunting, or fishing. He catches his limit, bags his buck, or has an invigorating walk. Or not. But he probably has a good day anyway.

Sometimes, it rains, snows or sleets unexpectedly. Or the man falls into a fast running stream, loses his gun and breaks his arm. A bad day by any measure.

Sometimes, he doesn't come back, and is never seen again. Was it the Wendigo?  A killer grizzly? No, and probably not. But Mike knows what it could have been, and if you are a veteren outdoorsman, so do you. A true tale of horror, that ended better than it might have, from Mike Logan...


Jack the Rippers dead,
and lying on his bed.
He cut his throat,
with Sunlight Soap.
Jack the Rippers dead!

Not exactly a ringing endorsement for Sunlight Soap, at least not by the standards of modern marketing. It was, however, a charming childrens rhyme that was in vogue
over 120 years ago when it became apparent that Jack had taken up another line of work.

It also proves that one cannot teach old doggerel new tricks.

Who was Jack? No one knows, no one ever will know. Forensics of the day were not up to the task; no one who witnessed Jackie at play up close and personal lived to tell the tale.

What did he do before he joined the big leagues on the night of August 31, 1898? Surely he didn't leap directly from a career of teaching the oboe to pureeing members of Londons' underclass! What were his stats down in the minors?

No one knows that either.

But that doesn't prevent the author of "Jack the Ripper; The early victims" from telling us anyway. And if you are an amateur ripperologist, and the woods (and fog) are full of 'em, you will have to look. It's like a train wreck... 

And speaking of wrecks its time for a healthy dose of NASCAR lore. Did you know, for example, that Ryan Newman can fart the alphabet? Makes you wonder why he ever bothered with racing.

If you are like the bunch that hangs around the garden shed, you cannot accumulate enough NASCAR lore. And that is why you are going to find this behind the scenes peek at Championship Week in Las Vegas as enthralling as we did. Alexandra Heep is going to tell you all about it, and she is going to do so right HERE!


Lock up the toll house cookies! Bury the chocolate chippers in the coal celler! Chuck the ginger snaps in the butter churn! 
Raymond Alexander Kukkee is here!

And he brings us - along with an insatiable appetite for cookies - this 24 carrot tale from the other end of the garden. No, not from over there by the parsnips, but from the autumn end of things, from fall in Northern Ontario where fall can turn mighty ugly before you can blink.

Raymond nearly blinked, but he rose to the occasion in the nick of time. Well he tells the story better, so why don't I let him get about it? Click right HERE!


I don't always buy art, but when I do, I make sure its an original Paret.

I thought I'd go see what lynny was selling these days, there are loads of new things! I was blown away!

Lynn has all kinds of new pieces hanging on the wall, and you should go and check her Etsy shop right now!

The surprising thing, at least to the denizens of the shed, was the reasonable prices, they match the current state of the economy. 

"Dam!" I recall Delacroix saying, "I don't even have to steal mine."

She didn't sound particularly happy about that but that's Delacroix, she is what she is. (Whatever that is!)

So go check out the gallery, then grab a crowbar, open your wallet, beat the moths to death and then treat yourself to a new wall piece! Brighten your day!


I was sittin' at the card table out in the garden shed, (it was a balmy day for March) when I heard a truck in the driveway. So did the wolves and they leaped upright, going from sound asleep to wide awake and full of mischief in a tenth of a second.

"DOWN!" I suggested.

They are essentially harmless critters, appearance to the contrary notwithstanding, but for some reason they like to mess with the UPS guy. He won't leave the truck.

They are also obedient and both dropped to the floor with audible thumps; Nero  grumbling, Dire sighing deeply as though he were bearing the weight of the entire lupine world on his brawny back. Funny critters, wolves.

I closed the shed door behind me and approached the truck. The window rolled down slightly and a box protruded. I grabbed it.

"Yes!" It was How HOW TO GROW AN EMERGENCY GARDEN" by Becca Badgett and Cheri Majors, long anticipated and here at last! It lives up to all expectations.

How to Grow an Emergency Garden delivers what the title promises; the reader will discover how to garden for a full twelve month cycle. There are great pictures, poems, a little scripture, a lot of know how, and tricks of the trade I had never heard of in a long life of gardening. It is well written as you would expect but if there are two things about this book that jump out at the reader, they are clarity, and brevity of expression.

That is a terrific combination in a "how to" book. No word is wasted, never is the reader in doubt about what he or she is being instructed to do. 

I recommend this book highly to first time gardener and grizzled veteren alike; to find out more, or to place an order, here is the pertinant Amazon page:

Act now while there are some in stock!


Thursday, March 8, 2012

FARM GIRLS CORNER - The seediness of Uncle Mac

May 18, 2012

The Quick Start Cabbages and Jersey Wakefields are doing very well indeed and are about due to be muched, we have an inordinate amount of turnips.

Collards, chard, peas and carrots all doing splendidly and as for the first bunch of radishes? We ate 'em already!

Newly planted bell and cubanel peppers took hold despit a few chilly days as have the cucumbers that we transplanted and the zuchinnis have sprouted. Things are well thus far.

But now its time to sow the parsnips. Bleah!

Later all!  

April 14, 2012

Farm Girl again! Back from doing Viking research in Minnesota and rarin' to do some

Our cabbages have been transplanted to their new outdoor bed and we'll wait a few days to see what happens, - the first few days are the major danger zone - and then we'll get you some pictures.

Also, of all the extremely early plantings we did, carrots, collards, turnips, radishes, peas, and two tomato plants (yeah I know) everything is up and doing well except the tomatoes, which are deader than John Wayne Bobbits taproot.

The peas (Burpees Easy-Peasy, I swear, I don't name 'em I just weed 'em) I think we had 100% germination! How about them app er, peas?

We'll keep ya abreast, here on Farm Girls Corner!

March 12, 2012

Hey! Farm Girl checking in with stunning developments on the cabbage front! It seems the Quick Start Cabbage seeds we planted in pots just 4 days ago are already living up to their name. Due to the abysmal photography skills of Leatherface, it may be hard to see but that miniscule white blot under the arrow is, in fact, a cabbage! Break out the spuds and the scorned beef!

                                                                IT REALLY IS A CABBAGE!    

March 8, 2012

Hi! I'm Farm Girl and I can generally be found around the shed or in the garden, helping out with this and that as need be. Why just today Uncle Mac poked his head out of the shed and hollered:

"Farm Girl! Git your butt in here and help me rearrange the hay!"

I just rolled my eyes and said: "Oh sure Mac, like I'm gonna fall for that four times in one week! I graduated Texas A & M you know!"

Besides that darn hay just works its way into everything.

Today I'm here to talk about a new veggie in this years garden. Usually we direct seed cabbages with a long growth period, like Jersey Wakefield, Goliath or Stonehead. We wait until just about two weeks before the nominal last frost date - April 20th - and seed into well prepared soil. This generally works out well and we get large cabbage heads in 90 to 105 days depending on variety. Excessive hot dry spells have been problematic in the past and besides that, July - August is later than most folks want to see their first cabbage.

This year Uncle Mac decided that a little head in a hurry might work out better than the promise of a lot in mid summer. I marvel that he took so long to figure that out.

We chose Quick Start Cabbage, from the Territorrial Seed Company who have been a reliable seed source for us for many years. Quick Start is billed as being ready for the pot in 55 to 60 days, and coming in at an average weight of three pounds is usually enough for most families. 

To get a real jump on the season, we started the cabbages today, March 8th, 2012. General cabbage lore tells us to start the indoor seeds 6 to 8 weeks before the final frost date and if we adhere to April 20 as the average date, we are splitting the difference at 7 weeks.

There is a huge caveat concerning the frost date this year. Winter so far has been the mildest on record in this neck of the woods. There has been just one snow storm, and that on Halloween. There has been next to no frost. Today, for example, the temperature reached 68 f. 

Obviously it is not possible to predict what will happen over the next two months so we'll adhere to traditional timing.

Potting soil (L), sifted compost (R) and pots

We like to use a larger pot than is standard, the cabbages will be in them for several weeks after all. These pots measure 4" x 4" x 4", and we have used them many times, for many plants.

[Note; when re-using pots, alway clean them well before storing for the next season, we use warm water and a little chlorine bleach, followed by a hotwater rinse. Plant diseases can be spread by contaminated pots as well as tools.]

We use a two stage growing medium. The pots are filled halfway with sifted compost from our heap, and then filled to the rim with an unfertilized potting soil. This is not mandatory, but seeds given this kind of a start do seem to prosper!

We plant 3 seeds per pot, 1/4" deep and then gently pat down the soil. When these germinate as we expect them to in 10 to 14 days we will remove all but the healthiest specimen.

Then it is just a question of keeping an eye on the fledgling cabbages, watering and turning them as needed and perhaps exposing them to a gentle breeze from an electric fan by way of an indoor hardening off process. 

Then, if all goes well and the weather and critters cooperate, and if the good folks from Territorial Seeds are correct in their projections, we should be enjoying fresh cabbages just like the one pictured by mid June. We will be updating everyone on their progress along with several other plants that are new to us so stay tuned!

That's about it for today and as always thank you for visiting Farm Girls Corner!

Friday, March 2, 2012


Hi boys and girls and welcome back to the Children's Hour with Leatherface! Last time this old cut-up told you all sorts of things about - can you remember?

Yes! Earthworms!

Well today's topic is once again, those very same little underground burrowers, but rather than tell you about the big ones and little ones, the smelly ones and the incandescent ones, we're going to tell you all about those stalwart little fellows in your very own vegetable garden!

"Oh Nooo Mr. leatherface", you're probably thinking, "not a steady worm diet here on the Childrens Hour?"

No of course not! We are simply providing Part 2 of what would have been a very long post if we had presented it all at once.

(And if you missed Part 1, you can catch up right HERE.)

But you know, a worm diet might not be such a bad thing after all!

Just look at how much fun little Jason and Jennifer are having here, posing for their parents! Wouldn't your Mommy and Daddy be grossed out if you tried a few wrigglies? I bet they would! Almost as much as if they toured Ol' Leathers' meat locker.

But with no further ado, and certainly with no reference to the risky diet with worms, or the exceedingly tedious Diet of Worms, let's dive straight into the compost heap!

It’s a team effort:

The gardener is rarely alone in the garden, even when there is no one else in sight . That’s because there is a large and busy unseen work force just inches away toiling at tasks that help make the garden a success even though said work force has no idea that it is doing so. We refer of course to the lowly and much underrated earthworm, unseen ally of every gardener who ever wielded a hoe.

Earthworms when present in the garden in adequate numbers keep the soil loose by burrowing through it. They eat particles of sand and clay as well as microorganisms and organic matter and excrete what is in effect a highly balanced plant fertilizer. They migrate from the topsoil to the subsoil bringing nutrients closer to the plant roots where they may be easily utilized. Their tunnels create arteries through which air and water can pass. They might almost be gardeners themselves.

How many worms are enough worms?                                         

There is almost no practical upper limit to how many worms a garden can benefit from. One way to find out if there are enough present is to take what Edward C. Smith in his excellent gardening handbook, “The Vegetable Gardeners Bible” refers to as a “worm census”. 
Mr. Smith states that a worm census will be most accurate if performed in the spring or fall, and not in the blazing heat of summer which tends to drive worms in unmulched beds deep. Smith recommends marking a twelve by twelve inch area of garden soil and digging down seven inches or so with a spade. Transfer the soil obtained on to a plywood square or similar surface. Gently separate the soil and count the worms found – small worms count the same as large ones.

Less than ten worms in a sample of that size indicate a problem. 40, 50 or 60 worms indicate a large and lively work force, busily drilling tunnels and creating rich fertilizer. It also indicates that the soil probably has a good PH factor, adequate organic matter and a rich subsurface microbial life. It possesses good “structure”.

What about those tunnels? 

When a worm squirms its way through garden soil it opens up pathways called tunnels which are beneficial for a number of reasons. The tunnels allow air, vital for photosynthesis and overall plant health to penetrate the soil easily and deeply. It opens drains for surface water; soil well worked over by worms can absorb water up to 4 times faster than can moderately compacted and relatively worm free soil. And the tunnels allow roots to penetrate deeply and spread easily, all of which leads to healthy and productive vegetable plants.

Natures own fertilizer: 

Worms like to eat. They like to eat microbes and other subsurface life forms, particles of silt and clay, and decayed organic plant matter otherwise known as compost. As they do so they excrete pellets called castings. These castings make the soil more friable, which allows more space for air and water to penetrate, and as was the case with the tunnels makes it easier for roots to penetrate the soil.

But castings are much more than soil loosening granules. They are a potent, safe to use and highly beneficial plant fertilizer. The tiny pellets the worm leaves behind it have concentrates of nitrogen, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, potash, and magnesium 5 to 11 times more concentrated than the original topsoil possesses.  Moreover, in a single year, given a soil rich with humus or compost, a single worm can produce up to 10 pounds of casts. That is a lot of safe, effective plant nutrient.

If you build it, they will come:

How to get more earthworms into the garden might be an appropriate question at this point. It is simple; work lots of compost into the soil, as deeply as possible, and then mulch the beds. 
The compost gives the worms plenty to eat, thus plenty to excrete, and encourages them to make many more worms. The mulch will keep the surface temperature and moisture level within acceptable ranges for earthworms and keep them near the surface of the garden, where they do their best work.

A nice experiment is to keep informal tabs on the compost heap as it progresses through spring to early summer. Turning after turning the gardener will notice progressively more earthworms, appearing as if by magic, in the compost pile. This is because for an earthworm, compost is a free banquet; they wriggle into it and happily produce more worms, which transfer to the garden as the compost is applied.

Things to avoid are excessive mechanical tilling and concentrated chemical fertilizers, both will kill and drive earthworms away.

The grower is never alone:

It may seem that way to the gardener staking, weeding, trellising and watering without another soul in view, but unseen beneath that top layer of mulch, an army is at work.

Well there, that leaves you with a great deal to digest on the topic of earthworms and the vegetable garden. Thanks as always for stopping by for The Childrens Hour with your pal, Leatherface!