Gardening Nude – She is my favorite gal

Seriously, since we are talking spring gardens, though I am still counting on cold in April or May, here is one of the best in the biz. Shawna Coronado is a real hard worker.

How To Make a Strawberry or Vegetable Planter From A Recycled Light Fixture – Sustainable!

It is time to think about Spring!! Here is a super-easy trick for recycling something old into a brand new vegetable planter. Learn how a light fixture can be transformed into something wonderful and useful!


Go there and read and listen. More tomorrow.


Gardening Time Is Here – But you need the right tools

I put off starting the annual gardening meditation because I could not believe that on March 20th Winter was really done. Actually we planted some spinach and peas at the beginning of March but we half expected them to die eventually from frost, an ice storm or snow. But now it is pretty clear that global warming is here so what better way to celibrate then to plant potatoes and onion sets. Here is a nifty new wheel barrow.

One of the drawbacks associated with traditional wheelbarrows is time consuming lifting, shoveling and scooping that takes its toll on your back. Designed to reduce stress on the upper body and make the arduous chore of moving yard debris a snap, the innovative Flexi Yard Carts put the main bucket area on the ground where the load is! Used just like a dustpan, you can roll, push, or rake all manner of material quickly and easily while also being able to haul heavy items more efficiently. Nimble and highly maneuverable, both models feature a lightweight, collapsible design for compact storage after each use. Features and Benefits

Features and Benefits

  • Minimizes back breaking work with an ergonomic design that allows you to rake, roll and slide debris directly into the cart.
  • Multi-use, the cart is perfect for gardening, yard clean up and a variety of hauling and transport tasks.
  • Tear proof, extra durable blue Duralite fabric forms the main body.
  • High quality, powder coated steel framework ensures strength.
  • 13 diameter by 3wide front tire makes for easy handling, even over rough terrain.
  • Low center of gravity (50% lower than most wheelbarrows) and self-leveling design allows the Wheel Easy to cradle and stabilize awkward or large loads.
  • Drops flat to the ground allowing loads to be rolled, dragged, pushed or raked directly onto the body of the cart.
  • Rapid release mechanism unclips the cart for simple hose or wipe down cleaning.
  • Cart can be folded flat for compact storage .
  • Holds up to 3 cubic feet of material.
  • Only 21 lbs. but capable of hauling loads over 350 lbs.


  • Size Dimensions: 46 L
  • Capacity: 3 cu.ft. and 150 lbs
  • Weight: 12 lbs
  • Composition: Tear proof, extra durable blue Duralite fabric surrounding a high quality, powder coated steel framework to ensure strength.
  • Usage: multi-purpose transport of goods, surpassing the
  • limited functionality of traditional wheelbarrows.
  • Key Features: ground-level loading; light weight; ergonomic design; compact storage
  • Warranty: Manufacturer warranties item for 2 years against defects in materials or workmanship.


Gotta go mow. Go there and find many more tools. More tomorrow.


Living Off The Grid – Maybe the last post on the subject

Why is this my last post. Because I am running out of sources that’s why. At least Google is running out of sources. We shall see. I think this blog is inactive now, but I thought the video was kinda cool.


Living Off The Grid – Welcome Video 2

One of the most important aspects of living off the grid is our large garden.
Watch the following video about the fall garden and learn to live off the grid.

This past fall season has been a wonderful time for our family with the seeming extension of the growing season. One of our great challenges with being off the grid is growing food for the entire year.

This year the season has grown much longer than normal, as you probably saw in the previous video. Our garden truly is a focal point of our life, and for good reason.
With just a simple amount of foresight you too can extend your season.
Watch the video first and you will see what we mean. Why not try a bit of garlic in your own garden, or overwintered onions if you live in a warm enough climate. Garlic is one of those vegetables that anyone, regardless of skill can grow.
You will notice also, that I use the word lazy, for lack of a better reference to describe our gardening approach. Some people work like mad to get all of the weeds out, but you will notice we leave as much as possible, clearing only enough space to do away with close competition weeds.
Living off the grid can be a lot of fun, or it can be a lot of work if you let those small chores get out of hand. We prefer to leave the work to natural processes, which do the job much better, although perhaps a little slower. It seems to work very well for us here. The extra composting material may seem unsightly to some, but it’s just another excuse to have everything clean as a kitchen floor?
We prefer to work with the natural cycles of the seasons, let the compost worms do their job and leave the rest to winter to accomplish.
If you take the time to clear everything with a rototiller it does seem to overwork the soil as well.
Take a few minutes off and just let it go, you do have better things to do than to presume to do the job of nature.
Thus comes the description of lazy as described in the video, some think that is the case, I prefer to let those soil critters do their job, while I watch.
Part of the fun of living off the grid we think.


More tomorrow.


Off The Grid – We move into survivalist land

Like I said in the beginning there are many types of people that want to be off the grid. The rich do it because they can. Many people do it to save money. Some people, like Thoreau, like the solitude or are paranoid. Then there are the survivalists. I do not agree with their theories or their ideology, but they are a part of the mix and this site is pretty explicit.

Talking to Friends and Family about Prepping

A number of readers have emailed me lately asking how they can convince their friends and family to start prepping.

To be honest this is a touchy subject, one that can often make even hardcore preppers feel a bit uncomfortable.

For some, the thought of talking to anyone about prepping fills them with feelings of anxiety. Just the thought of others knowing what preps you have is enough to fill anyone with a sense of paranoia . And who can blame them, lately it seems like every time we turn on the news another government agency is warning people about those dangerous preppers.

For those that do try to talk about the subject, trying to get their family and friends on board can be a headache to say the least.

From friends and family members that truly believe the government will save them in a time of crisis, to those that have been brainwashed by the media to believe that preppers are all  tinfoil hat wearing nutjobs, prepping can often be a touchy or even taboo subject to talk about. While we have touched on the subject in the past, I thought it was important to take another look at how we can help those we care about prepare for an uncertain future.

Dealing with those who believe the Government will help them in a time of crisis.

As a reader who recently wrote to me pointed out, 50 years of being programmed to believe that the government can help is hard to undo. We live in a society that is becoming increasingly reliant on the government to help them in every aspect of their lives. In fact over 67 million Americans now rely on government aid to pay for either housing, food, health care or education. That’s 1 in 5 Americans!

Most people simply don’t realize or believe that they are in any kind of danger. Most Americans live under the belief that the government will be there to help them in a time of crisis. So what can you do to change this mindset and protect those that you care about?

Use the Governments own advice.

Even the government advises people to be prepared. They will be the first to admit that during a time of crisis it’s highly unlikely that they’ll be able to respond in under 72 hours.

At the very least your friends and family should be prepared to survive at home without power, water and utilities for a minimum of 72 hours. While most of the governments advice is rather simplistic,  it may help you introduce the subject to those who depend on the government for everything.


It is a huge site. Go there and read. More Tomorrow.



Going Off The Grid Used To Be Hard – And many times ugly

I mean this for the average Joe. Going off the grid for rich people was always easy. You buy a solar designed house and attach generation too it. Done. But for anybody without an open checkbook, especially in the 70s and early 80s, you had to kinda make it up. And it almost always involved burning some sort of wood. Even in the southwestern part of the US it can get cold sometimes. Now there is a whole cottage industry dedicated to the stuff. Here is a part of a piece from one of those websites.

Global Warming or Approaching Ice Age? Scientists Say the Sun Will have the Last Word

Jan 30th, 2012 | By Tim George

LONDON – Met Office and the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit recently released data from 30,000 measuring stations that reveal there has been no global warming in the last 15 years. In fact, the findings suggest the earth might be headed for a mini ice age similar to one in the 17th century.

Several leading climate scientists told the UK Mail that the sun is transitioning from the unusually high levels of energy seen throughout the 20th century toward a “grand minimum” in solar energy output. Such a minimum promises colder summers, extended bitter winter, and shortened crop seasons.

The sun is entering the peak of another 11-year solar cycle. Termed ‘Cycle 24’ by solar scientists, this cycle continues a trend of lessening sunspots since a high in the 20th century. Experts at the University of Arizona and NASA have been studying magnetic-field measurements from 120,000 miles beneath the sun’s surface and predict ‘Cycle 25’ will peak in 2022 even lower than the current cycle.

Europe experienced such a lowered cycle of solar output from 1645 to 1715. The coldest part of that period, known as the “Maunder minimum,” came to be known as the “Little Ice Age”. This period causes severe disruption of crop growing seasons and occasional famines.


I know, I know the article has nothing to do with going off the grid, but going off the grid does not mean losing touch with what goes on in the rest of the world.


Go there and read a bunch. More tomorrow,


The Joys Of Fall Gardening – But how long does it last

So when to plant and when to harvest, that is the question? This information is for North Carolina but is probably applicable to all.

Table 1. Fall Vegetable Planting Guide.

Vegetables Suggested Planting1 Suggested Cultivars Inches Between Plants Planting Depth (inches) Cold
Days to
Asparagus (crowns) Nov. 15 to Mar. 15 Mary Washington, Jersey Giant, Jersey Gem 15 6.0 2 years
Beets July 15 to Aug. 15 Ruby Queen, Early Wonder, Red Ace, Pacemaker II 2 0.5 to 1.0 Semi-hardy 55 to 60
Broccoli July 15 to Aug. 15 DeCicco, Packman, Premium Crop, Green Duke, Emperor 18 0.5 to 1.0 Hardy 70 to 80
Brussels sprouts July 1 to 15 Long Island Improved, Jade Cross Hybrid 20 0.5 to 1.0 Hardy 90 to 100
Cabbage (plants) Aug 1 to 15 Round Dutch, Early Jersey Wakefield, Red Express, Red Rookie, Sweetbase 12 0.5 to 1.0 Hardy 70 to 80
Cabbage, Chinese Aug. 1 to 15 Pak Choi, Mei Ching, Jade Pagoda, China Pride 12 0.5 to 1.0 Hardy 75-85
Carrots July 1 to 15 Danvers Half Long, Spartan Bonus, Little Finger, Thumbelina, Scarlet Nantes 2 0.25 to 0.5 Hardy 85 to 95
Cauliflower Aug 1 to 15 Early Snowball “A”, Violet Queen, Snowcrown 18 0.5 to 1.0 Semi-hardy 55 to 65
Collards July 15 to Aug. 15 Vates, Morris’ Improved Heading, Carolina, Blue Max 18 0.5 to 1.0 Hardy 60 to 100
Cucumbers, pickling Aug. 1 to 15 Carolina, Calypso, Liberty (mtns.), County Fair ’83 10 1.0 to 1.5 Tender 40 to 50
Cucumbers, slicing Aug. 1 to 15 Poinsett 76, Sweet Slice, County Fair ’83, Salad Bush, Fanfare 10 1.0 to 1.5 Tender 40 to 50
Kale Aug. 15 to Sept. 1 Green Curled Scotch, Early Siberian, Vates, Dwarf Blue Curled Scotch, Blue Knight 6 0.5 to 1.0 Hardy 40 to 50
Kohlrabi Aug. 1 to Sept. 1 White Vienna, Grand Duke Hybrid 4 0.5 to 1.0 Hardy 50 to 60
Lettuce (leaf) Aug. 1 to Sept. 1 Grand Rapids, Salad Bowl, Buttercrunch, Red Sails, Romulus 6 0.25 to 0.5 Semi-hardy 40 to 50
Lettuce (head) Aug. 15 to 31 Great Lakes, Ithaca 10 0.25 to 0.5 Semi-hardy 70 to 85
Mustard Aug. 1 to Sept. 15 Southern Giant Curled, Tendergreen, Savannah 2 0.5 to 1.0 Hardy 30 to 40
Onions (seeds) Sept. 1 to 30 Texas 1015, Granex 33, Candy 4 0.5 to 1.0 Hardy 130 to 150
Onions (sets or plants) Sept. 1 to 15 Ebenezer, Excell, Early Grano 4 Hardy 60 to 80
Radishes Aug. 15 to Sept. 15 Early Scarlet Globe, Cherry Belle, Snowbells, White Icicle 1 0.5 to 1.0 Hardy 25 to 30
Radish, Diakon Aug. 15 to Sept. 15 April Cross, H. N. Cross 4 0.5 to 1.0 Hardy 60 to 75
Rutabagas July 1 to Aug. 1 American Purple Top, Laurentian 4 0.5 to 1.0 Semi-hardy 70 to 80
Spinach Aug. 1 to 15 Hybrid 7, Dark Green Bloomsdale, Tyee Hybrid 6 0.5 to 1.0 Hardy 50 to 60
Turnips Aug. 1 to 31 Purple Top White Globe, Just Right, Tokyo Cross Hybrid, White Egg, All Top 2 0.5 to 1.0 Hardy 55 to 60

Published by

North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service


Distributed in furtherance of the Acts of Congress of May and June 30, 1914. Employment and program opportunities are offered to all people regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability. North Carolina State University at Raleigh, North Carolina A&T State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and local governments cooperating.



More tomorrow.


Fall Gardening For Produce – Yummy goodies in the bag

Please read the entire post because the last line is curious.


After gardeners have worked SO hard and SO long to grow fresh, could-be-delicious produce, many are often robbed of their potential goodness because of improper, ill-timed harvesting. To avoid the occurrence of that unfortunate situation again, we have listed a number of the most popular garden vegetables and the harvest procedure for each.

BEANS, SNAP – Harvest before maturity when pods are not completely full for maximum tenderness. Wash immediately and refrigerate.

BEETS – Early beets should be pulled from the row when about 2 inches in diameter. If they are allowed to get much larger, they become woody, especially in warm, dry weather. Remove all but about 1 to 1 1/2 inches of the tops. Wash and refrigerate immediately.

BROCCOLI – Broccoli heads should be harvested when they reach a 4 to 8 inch diameter size and are firm and compact. Maximum size potential can be determined by watching the floret development. Broccoli heads appear to be singular structures when actually they are composed of many individual flowers called florets. When individual groups of florets begin to loosen and emerge from the otherwise continuum surface and are not tightly clustered, the head is as large as it is capable of being. If allowed to remain without harvesting, the florets will continue to elongate and eventually the entire head will be a yellow blooming composite flower. To harvest cut the stalk below the head leaving 8 to 10 inches of stem and attached leaves. Chill immediately.

BRUSSELS SPROUTS – Harvesting usually begins in 3 to 3 1/2 months after transplanting. Early sprouts should be picked over several times, the lowest on the plant being taken each time, otherwise these will open out and become yellow. The first picking should not be delayed after the lower leaves begin to turn yellow as the sprouts get tough and lose their delicate flavor. In picking, the leaf below the sprout is broken off and the sprout removed by breaking away from the stalk. As the lower leaves and sprouts are removed, the plant continues to push out new leaves at the top, and in the axil of each leaf a bud, or sprout, is formed. All lower sprouts should be removed even though they may fail to make solid little heads.

Many gardeners obviously plant cabbage, cauliflower and carrots and don’t know when to harvest them. Size alone cannot be used as the determining factor since variety grown and cultural conditions can determine the size at maturity. Also many vegetables can be eaten in an immature stage before maximum size is attained.

CABBAGE – Waylon Jennings tells folks how to determine when cabbage is mature, i.e., it has to be “firm feeling.” When cabbage heads become solid and the sides or top cannot be pressed in with the thumb, it is mature and large as it will get. Often mature heads will split open. If you want to delay harvest of mature cabbage yet prevent splitting of mature heads, twist the entire plants slightly to break several roots. This will reduce uptake of water from the soil and delay splitting.

CAULIFLOWER – Cauliflower heads should be harvested when they reach a 4 to 8 inch diameter size and are firm and compact. Maximum size potential can be determined by watching the floret development. Cauliflower heads appear to be singular structures when actually they are composed of many individual flowers called florets. When individual groups of florets, termed curd, begin to loosen and emerge from the otherwise continuum surface and are not tightly clustered, the cauliflower is as large as it is capable of being. If allowed to remain the florets will continue to elongate and eventually the entire head of cauliflower will be a yellow blooming composite flower. To harvest cut the stalk just below the head. The yellowish color of cauliflower curd surface is caused by exposure to sunlight rather than roaming pets with indiscriminate urinary habits. To protect the cauliflower head from sun and subsequent discoloration, when the small bud head appears in the center of the plant draw the lower leaves of the plant loosely over the bud in a tent-like fashion. Fasten them together with string or a rubber band. Really hungry, frugal gardeners always want to know if the leaves of cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprouts are edible. Certainly! However, older leaves are naturally tougher and excessive leaf removal reduces overall yield and size. Leaves of cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprouts are just as good as collard and mustard leaves provided the correct amounts of fat-back and black-eyed peas are available. (Northerners won’t understand this sentence!)

CARROTS – Since there are many varieties with different potential sizes and lengths, when to harvest can be a mystery. Most varieties fully mature within 60 to 85 days but can be pulled and consumed earlier. Crown size can be an indicator. The crown, where the foliage attaches to the root, usually attains at least a three-fourths inch diameter size when the carrot is fully mature. Another surefire technique is to pull the largest carrot and examine the bottom or growing tip. If the tip is orange the carrot is mature. If the tip is white the carrot is still growing and will continue to enlarge. There is no need to harvest the carrot crop all at once. Carrots can be left in the ground after they mature for several weeks without adverse affects. In fact, the cool garden soil is the best place in Texas to store carrots.


More tomorrow.


Fall Gardening Saves So Much Energy – It is like any nontradtional gardening though

First there are places in the US where you can garden year round. Most of the southeast falls into this category. Yes there are issues around water use because much of off season gardening requires watering. But when you look at the exercise and healthy food it can produce, plus the off setting of transportation costs, especially in gasoline costs overall the good out weighs the bad. I would contend with a solar space attached to a house or proper cold frames you can actually year round garden up to the Great Lakes latitudes. But this is not what traditionally has been considered fall gardening. I also might add something will take up later that winter crop covers can be considered both fall gardening but also composting. I also can hear a lot of you saying that you are sooooo glad when the gardening season is “over” that the thought of getting the rototiller out in August or September is too painful to consider. But we all over plant and also underestimate the amount of work and the amout of time involved. To which I say, “Stop it”.  Here is a good primer from East Texans – the home of Stevie Ray Vaughn.

Prepare In July For Fall/Winter Vegetable Harvest

by Keith C. Hansen, Extension Horticulturist


I skipped to the gardening part of this article.


Every time you prepare the soil to plant a new crop, always mix in as much compost as you can get your hands on. Add well-decomposed animal manure, fertilizer and lime if soil tests indicate a low fertility or pH, and work all ingredients into the soil.

Southern peas such as blackeye, purplehull, cream and crowders make a great, edible summer cover crop for building the soil and providing food. The pea vines can be mowed and rototilled under while still green for extra soil building benefits or allowed to produce peas and then tilled under.

Tomatoes and peppers need to be planted soon – by the first of August – if they are going to make a good crop before first frost. What if your garden spot is not yet ready? Buy your transplants now and grow them in a larger container to plant in the garden later.

Get either 6-pack transplants or 4-inch transplants. Put them in a 1- or 3-gallon nursery container filled with potting soil. Do not use soil from your garden. Add slow release fertilizer (like Osmocote or other slow release formulation) to the soil mix. Set the pots in a sunny spot in the yard, not in the shade!

Every time you water, use a water-soluble fertilizer solution instead of just plain water. Your transplants will continue to grow and be healthy, just as if you have transplanted them directly into the ground. Once your garden site is ready, you will have large, healthy tomato and pepper plants to set out. They will be easier to take care of and you will be assured of a bountiful harvest before the first freeze of winter.

Grow fast maturing tomato varieties for the fall harvest. Look for varieties with less than 75 days to maturity, such as ‘Merced’, ‘Bingo’, ‘Celebrity’, ‘Whirlaway’, and ‘Carnival’. ‘Surefire’ is a smaller, processing tomato variety (with thicker skin) which sets and matures all of its tomatoes very quickly, giving you a “surefire” harvest that beats the first freeze. Most cherry tomatoes will bear within 65 days of transplanting.

Timing is very important for a successful fall garden. Heat tolerant/cold sensitive crops need to be planted in time to mature before cold weather slows and stops growth, while cool season/heat sensitive crops are planted late enough to avoid the heat, but early enough to take the first frosts of winter.

The following are optimal “windows of time” for planting fall vegetables:

Beans – 8/1 – 9/1 (lima beans 7/15 – 8/15) Muskmelon (Cantaloupe) – 7/15 – 8/1
Beets – 9/1 – 10/15 Mustard – 9/15 – 10/15
Broccoli plants – 8/1 – 9/15 Parsley – 8/15 – 10/1
Brussels sprouts – 8/1 – 10/1 Peas, English – 8/15 – 9/15
Cabbage plants – 8/15 – 9/15 Peas, Southern – 7/1 – 8/1
Carrots – 8/15 – 10/15 Pepper plants – 7/1 – 8/1
Cauliflower plants – 8/15 – 9/15 Potatoes, Irish – 8/15 – 9/15
Chard, Swiss – 8/1 – 10/15 Pumpkin – 7/1 – 8/1
Collard/Kale – 8/15 – 10/1 Radish – 9/15 – 10/15
Corn, Sweet – 8/1 – 8/15 Spinach – 9/1 – 10/15
Cucumber – 8/1 – 9/1 Squash, Summer – 7/15 – 8/15
Eggplant plants – 7/15 – 8/1 Squash, Winter – 7/1 – 7/15
Garlic – 9/1 – 10/15 Tomato plants – 7/15 – 8/1
Kohlrabi – 8/15 – 9/15 Turnips – 10/1 – 11/1
Lettuce (leaf) – 9/15 – 10/15 Watermelon – 7/1 – 8/1

Seeded vegetables can be tricky to get up in the heat of summer. Soil often forms a crust on the surface after tillage and watering. This “crust” can hinder tender seedlings from breaking through. Here are a couple of tips to help get seedlings up in the summer.


Please read the rest. It is good stuff. More tomorrow.


Transition Community In Houston – One of hundreds around the US

I leave you this week in Houston. An oil ton if there ever was one. Got to love a group that is trying to do without hydrocarbons altogether. They claim they are moving to a new site BUT I couldn’t get there yet, so here is a sample of their old site.

Movin’ on…

The website subgroup of the Outreach and Education Action Group has been working on an updated website for Transition Houston for some time, and all that effort is paying off!  We are going to concentrate our information share and move content to the new site:  Please bookmark that location and check with us often for news about Transition in the Houston region, Neighborhood Initiative and Action Group updates, calendar, newsletter archive, and more!

Once again, the new Transition Houston website:


There are several other options for connecting with us.

We are on Ning.

We are on Facebook.

We are on Twitter.

And you can subscribe to our Newsletter!

Permaculture goes mainstream, hope rises

Sometimes little things give hope that progress is possible, and that maybe “if we act as communities, it might just be enough, just in time,” to quote the Cheerful Disclaimer.  This last week the little thing for me was the discovery of permaculture by the New York Times.  Now, I’m not so naive to believe that seeing permaculture in the mainstream press is going to make a lot of difference immediately, although I wouldn’t be surprised to see a surge of interest in permie classes across the country with long-term benefits to both participants and the environment (FYI, classes are offered here in Houston by the Permaculture Guild of Houston, through Urban Harvest).

I think the important point is that awareness is growing in our country:  awareness of our ecosystem impacts, awareness of the lack of sustainability in our lifestyles and economy, and also awareness of that which is missing in our lives–community, connection, purpose.  Permaculture is a positive response to that growing awareness, as is the permaculture-based Transition movement.

There are a couple of opportunities to join with others in our Transition Houston community this week and next.  Please avail yourself of these options to increase your awareness and find connection with a community of folks working for a resilient Houston region.

Transition Houston Hub meeting, Tuesday, August 2, 7:00pm to 9:00pm

Green Film Series Presents Blue Gold: World Water Wars, Tuesday, August 9, 6:30pm to 9:00pm

Transition Houston Hub meeting, Tuesday, August 2, 7:00pm to 9:00pm
We hope to see you at Tuesday’s Transition Houston meeting, which will feature a guest speaker in addition to news from the Transition Neighborhoods and Action Groups.

We are very fortunate to have Peter Wang, League of American Bicyclists Cycling Instructor, as our guest speaker.  Peter is considered a local biking expert.  He’s everywhere as a go-to guy for media interviews about bikes, and has been involved in a lot of bicycle issues.  He is risk-averse–exactly the kind of guy you would want to help you practice being safer!–and has taught a lot of these safety classes.

Peter will present a video screening followed by a discussion. The video is Enjoy The Ride, about essential bicycling skills.


More whenever.