Tag: Raised Row Gardening

July 2019 Wrap-Up

My July 2019 began and ended in Florida. But the whole month was not spent in the Sunshine State. In addition to driving a southern route from the High Plains to the East Coast, I also spent a short time in the State of Indiana. As a result, my writing suffered a tad bit.

In addition to visiting family, I have embarked on a major project. Along with a family member, I am working on bringing a foreclosed property back to life. The house has some problems, but it is structurally sound.

Foreclosures from the Great Recession

The United States is still working through a backlog of distressed property. This particular home has been empty the better part of a decade. As with many of these properties, the house was purchased as is. We did pay for some inspections. We were not allowed to turn on electricity or water. Therefore, we planned on major overhauls of these two functions.

Many homes built on slab during the latter part of the 20th Century have problems with the pipes. Thus, we were not surprised by the need for re-piping. This is achieved by piping through the attic. Another of my Florida relatives had just had this done. Thus, I was familiar with the pricing.

For the most part, the electrical system was in good shape. But, the air conditioning was shot. I can’t imagine a house in the interior of Florida without air conditioning. The replacement is scheduled for later this week.

Much of the remainder is cosmetic. My family member, with a little design help from me, will tackle this. The process has been interesting.

Rehabilitating Foreclosed or Distressed Properties

There are many, many distressed properties. Homeowners for one reason or another fail to maintain their homes. Under the best of circumstances, the houses fall into mild disrepair. But the worst cases result in foreclosures with a loss of equity and the ruin of credit.

It is hard to determine exactly how many properties are falling into disrepair. Not all end up as foreclosures. I thought a neighboring house had also been abandoned due to the evident neglect. However, an elderly couple, (possibly on a fixed income) reside in the home. This is anecdotal. But may happen more often than one would believe.

Unfortunately, a certain stigma is attached to buying such a property. A few contractors have refused to work with us. Perhaps there is a feeling that we are gaining from someone else’s misfortune. Perhaps they do not understand the gratification which comes from making something bad into something good. Currently, I see little if any monetary gain, but that may change.

Other Activities in July 2019

Of course, the summer months mean time in the garden. I am delighted in the continued success of the Raised Row Garden. The cabbages are gorgeous and the beets delicious. I will not be home for the County Fair. So no blue ribbons this year.

I plan to be home in time for some major canning mid-August. In the mean-time the garden is being watered by the man of the house. He reports the eggplants are abundant and tasty in eggplant parmesan.

July 2019 Reading

Unfortunately all the travel and planning have cut into my reading of novels. (I am always reading, just not always for fun.) This month websites and design magazines have stolen the show.  I may need to borrow an idea from my favorite South African blogger and keep posting with Just A Paragraph if life remains hectic. If you like blog reading, visit her website at despatchesfromtimbuktu.

Visiting The Little One

Perhaps the best part of July 2019 was the 24 hour trip to the Front Range. I was able to spend some tummy time with the newest member of the family. She makes such funny faces, I predict she will have an amazing personality.

Thank you to all my loyal readers. I appreciate your bearing with the less than regular posts. But, I wouldn’t trade this experience for much. Life is interesting when it is unpredictable. Bringing a foreclosed home back to life certainly qualifies as making life interesting.

 

Overwhelmed by Spring Projects

Chair rail under construction.
Spring is officially here by the calendar. The weather outside sometimes agrees. We have enjoyed some warm afternoons the last few days on the high plains. But this season is unpredictable and there are several chances for snow over the next ten days.

Perhaps the hardest part of spring is dividing the time up between indoor and outdoor projects. For example, the breakfast/kitchen revival I have been working on is almost complete. The new back splash will be grouted today and a pencil trim will be installed between the counter top and walls. Yet the pleasant spring weather is calling my name.

Garden Forays

So, I have squeezed in some work in the garden. The fence that I take down in the winter is back in place. While this adds to my labor, the temporary deer nets and recycled rabbit guards are no match for the harsh winter winds.

At some point a permanent fence will go in. But, I am still researching both what will be allowed by my small town and what I think is economically reasonable. Until then, the re-establishment of the garden fence will be on my spring project list.

The above work took most of a weekend, delaying the inside work. Additionally I have squeezed time to start a new asparagus bed. While the old one still produces, the trees now shade it quite a bit. So, I found a sunny location for a second planting. Asparagus are among my favorite vegetables and I hope to have a better harvest in a year or two.

Some of the Five Star lettuce went to seed last year and two plants emerged. Since I rotate crops, these were transplanted into the row for “leafs” as the row they were occupying will be earmarked for my root vegetables.

Quilts

In addition to the remodel and the garden projects, I am working on two quilt projects this spring. The Love Panel quilt is near completion. But I just sandwiched a king size Lover’s Knot Quilt. I will begin quilting it soon. (I hope!) Plus I still have another baby quilt to design. The goal is not to have too many unfinished quilt projects.

Spring Cleaning

Last but certainly not least on the list is a thorough spring cleaning of the house. The garage was done in early March. But I still have work to do in the basement. I confess, a lot of items make their way downstairs when I just don’t know what else to do. Many are items that I think will be useful someday when kids move into houses of their own. Some are items that I am overly sentimental about. Still others, like the back patio furniture need an indoor home for a few months.

But it is time to reclaim my basement. Two boxes of books are now ready to go to the local library book sale. The patio furniture will have to weather any spring snows. I did manage to toss enough items to fill two trash bags. (Really hard to do.) I have made some progress but still have more to do.

Physically Overwhelmed

All these spring projects are taxing. I certainly haven’t needed a trip to the gym for a workout. The wallpaper and new chair rail included lots of squat repetitions. The back splash tile put the shoulders to work. Hammering and more squats were involved with the fence. My body aches from head to toe.

Weight lifting occurs whenever I move the wet saw into place. Or rearrange boxes in the storage cabinets. The only thing lacking is cardio and I did sneak in a two-mile run last weekend.

Staying busy is easy when all your helpers have left the nest. Each spring the projects loom. Somehow everything is accomplished. But I yearn for my helpers, even though they all have busy lives elsewhere. Each learned the value of hard work through various spring and summer projects. Now they have their own projects to finish.

Econogal’s Top Ten Favorite Books of 2018

I have been contemplating a blog post on the top ten book reviews of the past year. However, there are several problems with this idea. Among them is the criteria used, the plethora of top ten book lists and perhaps the greatest challenge of all; limiting myself to just ten!

Criteria

I have often wondered how the top ten lists are compiled. Many times I have disagreed with the choices. For example, the Wall Street Journal recently released The 10 Most Intriguing Travel Destinations for 2019. Locations across the globe were on the list. Including Missouri.

Now I happen to love Missouri. I lived there long enough to graduate from one of the best public high schools in the country. I drive through there on occasion. Usually on the way to a vacation destination. Although I have attended weddings, conferences and a reunion, I never took my family there just for vacation. How did it make the list? Missouri must have met some criteria.

So what criteria should I include? Maybe I should count most likes. Or I could rank by most visits to the individual reviews. Or even the books I cite the most. What about the ones I like the most? Or books I found indispensable in real life? Finally, do I mix non-fiction and fiction together?

The Lists

A quick Internet search not only results in numerous lists, but indicates I am not alone in my concern to choose just ten. In fact, lists of both fifty and one hundred top books of 2018 appear in the search listing. Some lists are just fiction, others non-fiction and others a combination. I like the idea of a combination.

Some lists give a short review of each book. Since I have already reviewed each of my choices I will merely link to them. Just click on the title and the review will appear on a new page. Not all of my choices were released this year. So that may throw some readers into a state of confusion. These are my favorite reads of the year. The fiction side is a bit top-heavy with stories of twentieth century war. This I believe is a reflection of what is being released. Also, there are multiple debuts.

Fiction

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter

The Clarity by Keith Thomas

The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

Non-Fiction

Raised Row Gardening by Jim and Mary Competti

Educated by Tara Westover

The Case Against Sugar by Gary Taubes

Zero Waste by Shia Su

New Sampler Quilt by Diana Leone

As always feel free to comment. I would love to hear your favorite book of the year.

October 2018 Wrap-Up

October 2018


Some months fly by. October 2018 traveled at supersonic speed. This month of seasonal change is one of my favorites. Leaf color, crisp mornings followed by warm afternoons and bountiful harvest highlight the month each year.

The first freeze of the year arrived mid-month. I missed it here on the High Plains. But Mother Nature gave me a taste of it the very same day in Quebec.

Trip to Quebec

My trip to this Canadian Province has been highlighted in three posts thus far with another scheduled next week. Please take time to read about the travels in Fall Travel, Saguenay Fjord, and Quebec Province. The slide shows share some of the picturesque scenery. I believe the Province of Quebec rivals New England for Fall Color.

Most of my travel revolves around work or family. The trip to Quebec was pure vacation for us. Perhaps this is why it has made such an impact. I currently have a Louise Penny book checked out from the library. She is a Canadian writer with a mystery series centered on this region. Stay tuned for a review.

Harvest

This year I tried sweet potatoes in the garden. Most of the slips were planted in raised boxes with one slip going into the Lasagna Bed created in the fall of 2017. The yield was good for this part of the country. But the big success of the year was the raised row garden.

Early last spring I reviewed Jim and Mary Competti’s book Raised Row Gardening. Then I followed the directions to a tee. My fellow homeowner was skeptical. But the bountiful harvest has convinced him. I tried to keep track of the harvest amounts, but the totals became too great.

By Early October the Roma tomatoes were yielding over 5 pounds each day. The carrots large and sweet. Unfortunately the freeze zapped the cantaloupe with over a dozen on the two vines. Beans, peppers, eggplants, tomatillo and squash were prolific. Much time was spent canning in the kitchen.

After the freeze I planted garlic. The Indian summer has the flat green leaves popping out of the ground. In preparation for winter, the beds have been mulched. But green onions, Swiss chard and Kale are all still thriving.

Reading Discovery

I continue to read both printed and online material. One of my finds this month is a blog by Tim Harford. Naturally this writer for the Financial Times has much to say about economics. Among the non-fiction work I read this month was The Virtue of Prosperity. You can read the review by clicking here.

Among fiction reviews, I routinely read The Critiquing Chemist. She often reviews audio books. Commuters may want to visit her site. I am amazed at how many works of fiction are read each month by some of these reviewers. Often I struggle to find time to read and then review one a week.

Challenge

Many of you took on the challenge I issued after writing Linking Liver Disease to Socioeconomic Events. The three months are over. I hope you all have benefited. Physical health has direct links to Brain Health which of course is very important to me.

At this point in time I am still meeting my New Year’s Resolutions. This has been quite challenging for me. I find the social aspect the hardest. But I am getting better. As an introvert, small talk is not one of my strengths. But there is always room and for now, time for improvement.

Happy Halloween everyone.

September 2018 Wrap-Up

September 2018 focus was on harvesting from the garden and personal growth. To be honest, I lost track of how much I put up canning-wise. But my garden was the most successful ever thanks to following the advice learned from Raised Row Gardening. Jim and Mary Competti also offer great advice on their Old World Garden Farms website. Their book will surely make the top five under the non-fiction category for 2018.

September

My favorite part of September is the cooling down, at least at night. As usual, my part of the country did flirt with triple digit temperatures mid-month. But the evenings have brought some much-needed relief. Even though we have yet to see some color change in my small town, I did enjoy the turning aspens on my Xtreme Hike.

The twenty plus mile hike allowed for personal reflection as well as satisfaction. Achieving ones goals is always uplifting. The social interaction also kept part of my New Year’s Resolutions going strong. The physical aspect is also key. Brain Health goes hand in hand with physical well-being.

Challenges

Those readers taking the no-alcohol challenge are two-thirds through. I am receiving positive feedback from several individuals. Keep up the good work.

Personal challenges for me are also on track. Part of this year’s goals involved learning new skills. This past week I successfully learned how to convert a Microsoft Office power point to Google Slides. This was necessary to upload some You Tube videos for a presentation. I am still amazed at just how proprietary the competitors are. It is an understandable part of capitalism. But does create added work for non-profits and others developing presentations.

Final Quarter of 2018

The last three months are upon us. My cucumbers have already quit producing. We usually have a freeze in October. Sometimes just as the Trick-or-TreaLooking upon a mountainter’s are making their rounds. Thus the garden will soon be put away. Then it will be time to focus on quilting again.

Congratulations again to those meeting their own personal challenges. Growth is measured in many ways. Those of us getting on in years need to keep reaching for the stars as much as we are able. Personal growth may mean spiritual growth, improvement in mind and body, or just the ability to relax and be happy with our journey through life.

March 2018 Wrap Up

March 2018 has been a busy month. In addition to reading many books and working on garden projects. I traveled. The first trip to New Orleans you can read about here. Currently I am visiting Orlando. March is a busy month for travelling. After all it is spring break for many. The planes are packed and in some cases the airlines are looking for people willing to be bumped from their scheduled flight. I have yet to accept the offer.

Cold mornings lent themselves to reading while waiting for the temperatures to warm up. As a result, I have about half a dozen book reviews waiting for a Friday publishing date. There was a stretch in mid-March when book after book was incredible. I am excited about the reviews (including yesterday’s on Educated.)

I spent the pleasant early spring afternoons creating a new garden area. The raised row garden idea came from Jim and Mary Competti, bloggers at Old World Garden Farms. You can read a review of their new book here.

Zip Ties

Since I had a scheduled trip to Florida at the end of March, I worked diligently to establish the 40 x 30 foot garden. I managed to finish putting a deer fence in place just the day before I left. Zip ties allowed me to get the job done in quick order.

There are pros and cons with zip ties. On the pro side, they are relatively inexpensive. I bought a container of a thousand for $10.00. They are easy to attach. Finally they are strong. On the negative side, they will eventually become brittle when exposed to outside elements and thus have a short life span. They also play havoc on your finger nails.

I used zip ties to attach recycled metal soffit to wire supports for the base of my garden fence. Then, I used zip ties to attach a netting to seven-foot poles (to deter deer.) I also used the zip ties as an additional anchor of the poles to the base fence. Most of the afternoons in March 2018 were spent on this gardening project. See the pictures below for a sneak peek. An extensive post on the how-to is forthcoming.

Readership Community

Readers are a dying breed. On one flight a chatty aisle mate kept interrupting my reading of Kristen Hannah’s latest book The Great Alone. She was quite curious as to what the book was like since I was so engrossed. I wish I had an extra book to give her. I can’t imagine boarding a plane without a book to read.

Once I reached my destination, I was happy to see my copy of Two Girls Down was no longer inside the Little Free Library around the corner from my Florida hang-out. So readers are still out there, we just need to reach out and connect. I would love to have a reading group to share ideas on The Twilight Wife.

The readership community of Econogal is slowly expanding. If you would like emails sent to you each time a post is released, subscribe now or bookmark the page. Generally, I post twice a week as part of my New Year's Resolutions. So far I am on track to keep the 2018 list.

Be sure to share what books you have read this month in the comments below. This is one way we can share  great books even if we cannot meet in person. I know March 2018 was a banner month for my reading. I made some great discoveries of new authors and enjoyed new releases from old favorites.

What did you read in March?

Aging Doesn’t Equal Lifestyle Slow Down

Recently I picked up a Time Magazine at a check-out counter. The cover was a maze. The extra content covered longevity. Many of the articles are interesting and a couple seem to be directed toward me. I am aging and my lifestyle has changed but I don’t seem to be slowing down.

This past weekend is a good example. On Friday afternoon, I used spray paint to mark the rows as discussed in the book review of Raised Row Gardening. On Saturday, I oversaw the unfortunate need of rototilling. Only the eighteen inch beds were tilled. I am not one for machinery hence the overseeing.

True Test

Sunday came the true test for my aging body. I engaged in very physical labor from just before nine a.m. until five p.m. with a thirty minute break for lunch. First I made three trips to a Tractor Supply because the local farmer I contacted was out of straw. Three trips with four bales at a time in the back of the Subaru Outback. Each trip ended with hauling the bales to the plot of land lined out for the garden.

Then the real labor began. My location on the High Plains is in the midst of a major drought. To be honest, we have been living with different levels of water restrictions for at least ten years. Thus the ground is not easy to turn even after two passes with a rototiller.

I did not rototill the walkway areas. No need in my mind since no growth is desired there. Because of another ongoing project, I have excess topsoil to work with.

Each of the four growing rows measures eighteen inches by forty feet. Yes, forty feet. I may be aging but I still love working in my garden. I am counting on the folks at Old World Garden Farms and this raised row method to make the work easier with each passing year. But this first year is labor intensive.

I raked the loose dirt up the sides of each row. Then I shoveled the center in order to make a nice even ten inch base within the eighteen inch area. Next, I layered a six inch thickness of straw in the ten inch area. I raked the side dirt back in and then shoveled more topsoil over to form a nice mound. Often, wheelbarrows of dirt were added from one of two nearby piles.

The final step was to put a four inch layer of straw on the walkway areas. Since the wind kicked up in the late afternoon and was predicted to get stronger, I elected to water down the garden instead of lining the final two walkways. Dusk accompanied me into the house.

Stretching

Then, I did something good for my aging body. I stretched. I use Stretching by Bob Anderson as a reference guide. After the long day of work, I followed the stretches recommended for Indoor and Outdoor Work as well as those for Lower Back Tension.

The stretching I think is a key for the aging body. On Monday morning I did a few stretches and went about a normal day. Light housework with lots of laundry and vacuuming. I also wore a brace on the one ankle which has been giving me trouble. But no major pain.

In addition to the stretching, I think the absence of pain is psychological. I really want to expand my garden and I want to lay the groundwork properly. Therefore, the work is worthwhile. Some slight stiffness is expected. Slight is the significant adjective. No painkillers needed.

The articles in Time magazine reflect my weekend experience. The small snippets described individuals actively engaged in living. One anecdote was of a woman who ran her first marathon at the age of 69.  The reporting also discussed the need for community and social relationships.

Each of the five Blue Zones discussed by the Time article stress healthy living. Dan Buettner is the author of The Blue Zones. Ingredients for a healthy life include exercise, healthy food sources (such as straight from the garden), social circles, spirituality, and a good amount of sleep. Individuals in these areas of longevity not only live longer, but as the Time article states, they live better.

Online Communities

Even though the article did not discuss the online community, I believe that blogs and in my case blogging will also contribute to aging well. I follow several blogs and comment from time to time. I enjoy the comments (as well as the likes) on Econogal. I love going to lunch with a friend, but I also enjoy trading successful canning techniques online with individuals I may never meet. The same holds true with the book reviews.

We live in a changing world. People are living longer. Now the challenge is to make those extra years meaningful. Aging is one thing, aging well is yet another.

Aging Doesn’t Equal Lifestyle Slow Down

  • Empty lot
    Plot for future raised bed garden

Raised Row Gardening Book Review

Book cover of Raised Row Gardening
Book cover of Raised Row Gardening by Jim and Mary Competti

In the blog post January 2018 Wrap Up I recommended the website Old World Garden Farms. This is one of my favorite garden know how web sites. I am pleased to now share with you a review of their first book, Raised Row Gardening. I plan to implement such a garden this year.

Jim and Mary Competti are the authors of the book and the founders of Old World Garden Farms. They started using the raised row method as a way to fit gardening into their busy life. Both have full-time jobs and they are parents to four children.

Book Contents

Raised Row Gardening is separated into ten chapters. The first gives an overall background of gardening and the different techniques. Chapter Two starts in on the how-to of creating a raised row garden. The authors use both photos and illustrations in the instructions. Chapters Three through Six discuss the planning and planting of the raised row garden. Again, there are visual aids galore. Chapter Seven gives wonderful insight into composting. I have composted for years but I still learned from the information. The final three chapters discuss the raised row concepts in the fall, winter and years two and beyond.

Key Concepts

There are a few key concepts in the book. First, rototilling is not necessary except in very few cases. This saves on a lot of labor and time. Furthermore as the authors explain, rototilling can be harmful. Second, use of a heavy mulch is imperative in order for this concept to work. The authors give the needed information on what materials are appropriate for using as a mulch. Finally, Chapter four contains a planting guide for the raised row. The tips are great. They include concepts such as companion planting. Also, the guide pages discuss plants grown from seed versus transplants.

I highly recommend this book. If you are not an experienced gardener, this book will give you the confidence to start. If you have many years of experience, the ideas in Raised Row Gardening will make your life easier. Gardening is fun. The Competti’s present a method to make gardening less work with an increased production. I plan to implement the raised row method in the area shown. The white tubing and scraps indicate the edges of the area. I will post again as I create my own Raised Row Garden.

Empty lot
Plot for future raised bed garden
Empty lot
Second View of proposed garden area.