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...]

Gardening Odds and Ends

IMG-20140423-00162 chives

"A weed is just a plant out of place". An oft-repeated aphorisms from a gardening mentor which also neatly fits into organizational theory: non-performing team members just who just haven't found their niche or unique role as an individual contributor. Either the plant (or he/she) gets pulled up by the roots (fired/termed/seek new opportunities/make new friends/whacked) and tossed on the compost pile, or gently removed to a garden spot more congenial to its purpose (re-assigned to new and exciting projects!!)     What's not to like about chive blossoms? Grab a few, break them up a little, and toss them on whatever you want to taste like a garlic/onion combo: a salad, an egg tart, or an open face sandwich.   A … [Read more...]

Forget About That $64 Dollar Tomato… Here’s Some Real ROI

All this for a lousy $2.49...

There's nothing like the arbitrage spread to be gained by a little  rosemary, basil and other garden herbs. Two bucks and forty-nine cents (!!!!) for a few aromatic sprigs or leaves from your local neighborhood grocer, versus some measure of delayed gratification by purchasing a little potted plant from well, from anywhere that sells such things in spring time. We tend to favor small local nurseries over big-box stores, but just about any store from Wal-Mart supercenters to the local hardware tack-and-feed  will be flogging seedlings for sale in the spring and all through the fall. Rosemary, Baby! While basil is glorious and aromatic and great on caprese salads, pesto and salads, rosemary seems to be its scruffier, more … [Read more...]

Gardening Interlude: Spring Is in the Air, and so Are Hotter-than-Hades Ghost Peppers

ghost pepper bhut jolokia

Spring is in the air, and time to fire up the seed germinating station.  About two weeks too late, but such are the demands of work travel, home projects, and family. Maybe it comes from living overseas for so many years, but the 101C household is a spicy one.  There are always a half-dozen or so bottles of hot sauce in the fridge at any one time, along with mason jars of hot fermented vegetables (onions, zucchini, cukes, cauliflower, and of course, hot peppers).  From time to time, we experiment with making our own hot sauce. Curries, stir-fries and chili are staples. This year we're going to spend a little more time on growing us some hot and extra-hot peppers, and making our own sauce ("Hot Sauce Success, Hot Sauce Fail!"). … [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...]

You Got Rocks in Your Head! No, Just Protecting Tomatoes Against The Cold (yet another Gardening Interlude)

Rocks and a Wall O Water

  Moving into May - and my isn't this 2013 slipping by fast - the danger of frost is gone for most gardeners, but it's been a wacky enough spring. Last average frost date for our zone 6 area is about April 15th.  As usual, we were a little ambitious and set out tomato and pepper seedlings a week before, and got whacked for it.  We've had three days of near freezing overnight temps since then.  Besides shuttling young plants in and out of the house and covering young plants with black trash bags, there's a couple of low-maintenance ways for protecting tomatoes from the frost. First up, just simple rocks.   Stones provide good thermal mass. If you've got the time and inclination, it's a very good idea to build … [Read more...]

Gardening Interlude: A Quick Way to Make a Vegetable Garden Bed

Start with three...

Say you'd like to get a few pepper plants in the ground, but don't feel like digging up that part of the back lawn, nor laying down a tarp and waiting for the grass to die off. Plus, you're busy, and don't really have time to build a proper raised bed. No problem, here's a work-around and a quick way to make a vegetable garden bed. A few bags of good topsoil or potting soil is about all we need to get started. Lay them out in a 2 x 4 or a 3 x 3 grid, and cut some openings in the tops, like so: Make sure that you don't cut too close to the corners, otherwise the sides will slump and the soil will want to spill out. Next, take a nice long screwdriver and poke some holes in the bottom of the bag. We want to have good … [Read more...]

Monday Morning Fish Wrap: Springtime at Terra Farms

This season's crop of garlic

Springtime at Terra farms, our grandiosely named bit of acreage in the country. The birds are thieving singing, flowers are blooming, the barn needs fixing, and Mrs. 101's project/wish list grows ever longer... Longer than a list of a politician's failed campaign promises. Longer than a sullen teenager's litany of imagined slights from an older siblings. Longer than.... well, just long. Springtime is just swell.  While some readers up in the great white north are still snow-bound, April is a time for planning and planting, and taking chances with putting seedlings in the ground and hoping that early frosts won't burn them.  Well, they did.  We had a couple of late freezes that burned the blossoms off two peach trees and the … [Read more...]

Gardening for Zombies

sharpshooter shovel

  And so another season of AMC's The Walking Dead is come and gone. Mercifully enough, the dumber-than-dirt Andrea character has passed on, whacked out in the season 3 finale.  And good riddance, too.  She was chewing up far much too much screen time with pointless pouting, histrionic hissy fits and woolly-headed gullibility.  Sorry to see Merle go, though.  He had the funniest one-liners. There's been plenty of criticisms leveled at Season 3 of the show, with its slower pace and a diminishing threat level from the walkers.   In this third season, most of the action centered on the interplay and dangers of human versus human, to the dissatisfaction of loyal fans.  Many viewers tune in for blood and guts and gore and … [Read more...]