Gardening Corner: Killing Moles Softly and Other Winter Preps


Now that the last annuals are shriveled up with the first frosts (you folks in zones 8 and up don't count - damn your eyes for having an extended season), it's time to for winter cleanup and other chores. Killing Moles Softly* To say that hate hate hate the miserable little bastards would be an understatement, and we're not about understatements here.  We hatessss thems, little molesess... This nice article from Gardening Blog discounts traps and makes the case for alternative methods like CO2 gassing and lighting 'em up with propane explosions.  Sounds risky, but fun: What you do is pump propane down into the mole hill like the suffocating method, and then… and then… you light it on fire. Boom! You burn them up or burn … [Read more...]

Bambi Ain’t Easy, and Certainly Not Cheap

Wholly unrelated but very beautiful painting "Man and Woman" - Edvard Munch, 1905

Here at Casa USA Financial Service, we could be seen as moderately crunchy: organic gardens, average aptitude for recycling, *some* homemade cleaning products, and solicitous, borderline irrational patronage of local farms and farmers' markets.  Ah yes, and a subscription to Mother Earth News. Mother does good work on the conventionally sustainable:   reviews of home solar systems, the machinations of pesticide companies, the ins and outs of commercial composters, baking artisan bread and infused vinegars.  All that is good and self-reliant, love it.  However, when Mother delves into the arcane depths of personal finance advice, well, all we can say is that that's an endeavor best left to well-trained professional PF bloggers. The … [Read more...]

Monday Morning Fish Wrap: The Fascinating Topics of Nitrogen Fixing, Vetch and Green Manure

Don't let it's pretty flowers fool you... it grows like the dickens*

The Fish Wrap: an irregularly recurring mishmash of interesting articles and tidbits, themed around personal finance and investing blogs. A carnival of sorts, perhaps arranged by topic, and curated with questionable editorial standards. Occasionally, big ten-dollar words are used For gardeners, vetch is a pain-in-rear-end weed: a prolific proliferant that profusely procreates in your garden patch. It grows so quick in the spring as to overshadow your previous seedlings, and make a mess of your carefully laid out plans. Take heart: as we've said many times in the gardening section of this blog, a weed is just a plant out of place. For starters, vetch sets out pretty purple flowers, which attract insects. Some of them will be beneficial … [Read more...]

Produce No Waste: Adventures in Vermicomposting

Worm composting bin, a pitcherful of food scraps, and ready bedding material

"By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste." This is one of the twelve permaculture design principles, and it fits quite readily with composting.  Take waste outputs, and with a minimum of effort, turn them into valuable inputs. A tote bin full of red wriggler worms is a cheap way to reuse most kitchen vegetable scraps and turn them into fertilizer gold. What follows is a few lessons learned from a couple years of vermicomposting. (non-gardeners may wish to skip and wait for the next post) Construction Take a couple of ten-dollar storage totes, drill a few holes, add supports for the bottom bin, get you a pound or so of Eisenia Foetida red wriggler worms, and you're in … [Read more...]

Gardening Corner: Winter Prep and Proper Mulching

Straw mulch on on the hugelkultured tomato bed

November is good time to start thinking about next spring's gardening season, and prepping the raised beds for winter. The tomato bed below is the same one that was heavily modified this spring, into a hugelkultur bed of sorts.  Now it's done producing its hundreds of pounds of tomatoes, and it's time for a rest.  With the hacienda being further out east towards the Ozarks, temps are a little cooler than Tulsa, and the tomatoes were hit with an early frost.     The winter prep task list for this bed: Disposing of the tomato plants.  Most important to not just pull them up, root ball and all. Soil structure and integrity are an important part of soil fertility, and just simply eradicating plants releases soil … [Read more...]

Peeing On The Electric Fence

The title this post  was originally going to be "Lessons learned from this year's garden", but after reading some Will Rogers quotes today, I had to change it. Will Rogers says "There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation.  The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves" Given the  mistakes I've made this year when it comes to my vegetable garden, this  cracked me up more than a little. Let's look at a few boneheaded moves. ******************* Gardening Failures (I mean, "lessons learned") Okra.  Sort of a failure.  I learned that it's a whopper of a plant, growing to 6' tall with stems an inch and half thick.  Not to be included in a Square Foot … [Read more...]

How to Compost with Red Wriggler Worms

Worm composting, or vermicomposting, is something I've taken up only recently. During winter months, disposing of kitchen waste in an outdoor compost pile is more of a challenge, as the temperatures are too low to allow high enough temperatures to develop inside the compost pile.   As a result, kitchen scraps are not processed efficiently. Enter vermicomposting. I've known about this form of composting for a while, but in a sort of back-of-my-mind way. Then, sometime earlier this year, I happened to stumble on the excellent  Agroinnovations podcast.  Read More.... … [Read more...]

Compost Bins


Some pictures of our compost piles.  The main one I built out of surplus 1x4 cedar fencing boards, with some 2x4's in the base, and cheap plastic netting.  The most expensive part were the hinges in the front to allow easy access for turning the compost pile. The other piles are just chicken wire "bins", full of leaves that we collected around the neighborhood last winter.  The leaves sat and slowly composted anaerobically until this spring and summer, where I used them as "browns" up bit by bit, adding them to freshly cut lawn grass, or "greens". … [Read more...]

Save Money With a Backyard Garden

tomatoes on the table

Can you really save money by growing your own vegetables? I think so, many other home gardeners think so, Burpee Seed Company absolutely thinks so, but if you read some articles from major mainstream sources like the Wall Street Journal and MSN Money, maybe not so much. The message there is somewhat ambivalent. These two mainstream media articles since they came up in the first 5 results from a Google search "how much can you save with a vegetable garden". So why fuss about it? Here's a snipped from the WSJ.... Building an 8-by-4-foot raised bed and filling it with compost and soil will run about $80, Mr. Wolford figures. Buying a couple of tomato plants and six pepper plants to put in the raised bed will cost you another $15 or $20, … [Read more...]