How To Eat A Raspberry
With Muddy Hands

Dateline: 3 July 2015

Just starting to ripen

I think it has rained here to some degree every day for a whole month. The local news says we had three times more rain in June than usual, and that it was the wettest month for us in recorded history.

But today the sun is shining and no rain is expected. 

So I ventured into my garden. The soil is saturated but the plants are healthy. Pea pods are full, Baby zucchini’s are being born. New potatoes are forming in their hills. We have been eating beets (and beet greens!), kale, snow peas, and other greens every day. The spinach bed is finally going to seed. We are sorry to see it happen.

 As soon as possible, after all this rain, the open areas of soil (like in my onion beds) will need to be cultivated. Cultivation destroys pre-emergent weed seedlings, of course, but it also allows oxygen into the soil. 

The old agricultural writings frequently advised that garden soil be stirred after a rain because the sun’s drying action on rain-soaked soil creates a crust, and the crust prevents oxygen from getting down into the soil.

Oxygen is necessary for optimal health of not only plants but of humans too. Slow, deep breathing is something that helps to oxygenate our bodies, and many people routinely deep breath as part of a healthy lifestyle. Do a Google search. You might want to try it. But I digress.

Timing is everything when it comes to garden cultivation. 

There is a period in time, after a rain, and before the soil is too dry, when it is nicely moist, but not wet, and the earth can be cultivated with ease, and pleasure. So I’m waiting for that time.

In the meantime, with timing in mind, right after a rain is the ideal time to hand-pull any weeds that have gotten ahead of me. I pick them into a bucket, with lots of soil on their roots, and dump them in my compost pile. These weeds have extracted  minerals from the ground and packed them into their bodies. They will make fine compost.

And that explains how my hands were muddy this morning when I discovered that the raspberries on my well-tended canes are beginning to ripen. I could have gone in the house to wash my hands, but that really isn’t necessary….

To eat a raspberry with muddy hands, you simply grasp the stem the desired berry is on, pull it towards your mouth, inspect briefly for insects (blow them off if they are present), bite into the berry lightly, and pull it off the cane, into your mouth.

It’s a simple, naturally intuitive technique. I’m sure you could have figured it out for yourself, eh?

###

In other news, I am, as noted in my previous blog post, dealing with continued heavy demands on my time. The volume of Planet Whizbang business is making it hard to do much besides Planet Whizbang business. Speaking of which, I sent ten Whizbang Plucker “shebang” packages to Nigeria last week. Northern Africa is an expanding economy, or so I’ve heard. And they are just discovering the Whizbang Plucker. I haven't decided if that will be a blessing or a bummer for me.

Every day I focus on the “critical path,” a term and concept I adhered to back in my days as a remodeling contractor. Defining and staying on the critical path is key to getting things accomplished in an efficient, timely manner. It's an industrial-world concept that I can't seem to shake. 

The critical path is a tyrant when business orders come, as they are now, in a big, months-long wave. It doesn’t allow for blogging or gardening, or much else. A son’s wedding is coming in a few weeks, Futureman will be here for a visit again soon. Fifty Cornish-X chicks are due to arrive an a matter of days.

And in the midst of all this business, current events have compelled me to start another blog/web site. It is not agrarian. It has a  socio-political focus. I will announce it here soon, if it continues to come together. Some readers will find it of interest. Most will probably not. Hopefully, a few will feel compelled to help me with it. We’ll see.

At this very moment, however, the critical path is screaming at me... Get on course! Get to work!

I have miles to go before I sleep, as Robert Frost might put it— and miles to go before I sleep.  

But, I'll have you know, my raspberry patch is on the way to my workshop. I may tarry a few short, sweet moments there, before I get get on "the path.”  And, even though my hands are now clean (clean fingers are necessary for typing a blog post), I think I will still eat some raspberries as if my hands were muddy. It’s a whole lot more fun…..





Pleasant Surprises
In My Field

Dateline: 25 June 2015

My Field is an ocean of tall weeds!

June is a month of limitations for me. It is the busiest month for my Planet Whizbang mail order business. Which means I'm working from early morning, into the night, making sure that orders are processed, packaged, and promptly shipped. 

There is precious little time for much else, and anything else (like working in my garden, or writing this blog) must be done at odd moments of the day, when I deliberately take a few minutes to refocus. By the end of the month (right about now) I'm nearing burn out.

So, last Sunday (a no-mail day), in the morning, I fired up Leyland (my tractor) and headed down to my field. If you're a regular reader of this blog, you know I bought me a field, with some woods, a few years back. Paid cash, earned from selling chicken plucker books and chicken plucker parts over the course of ten years. Land ownership was a dream come true. 

The land adjoins my 1.5 acre homestead plot. But, due to the topography (a deep, wooded gully), my field is only accessible by driving down the road aways, around the corner, and down another road aways. Which means it is not exactly convenient to get to.

My field is about 10 acres in size. And, though I'm delighted to own a field, I'm kind of at a loss to know exactly what to do with it. If it had some fence and some cows, it would make a fine pasture. That would be nice, but I don't feel like I'm near enough to the land to properly tend the cattle. A good portion of the land could be an enlarged garden or a berry patch. But, again, it's not convenient to get there and tend to it like would be needed. I have planted a small apple orchard on the land and it doesn't get the attention it deserves.

The way I see it, I need to live in this field if I'm going to properly take care of it. I know from experience on our 1.5 acres that having a garden real near the house means it is a whole lot easier to take care of. Same goes for having critters. 

So Marlene and I keep thinking about the prospect of building a house in the field. But that's an expensive proposition. The other possibility is that I first build a much-needed barn/building for my Planet Whizbang business. Then maybe the house could come later. But, to complicate matters, a good section of the lower part of the field is wet. Real wet. As in, water continually flowing over the ground wet.

The water comes from a spring on the neighbor's property. It has been diverted underground via drain pipes (aka, drain tile) for decades, but the pipes are inadequate for the flow and the area has been a recurring problem.

It is a perfect situation for making a pond. But I don't have the money to spare for such an extravagance. 

I've been told that there is government money (aka, "grants") available for building ponds (and fences too), and I know neighbors who have tapped into such money. But I don't think it's right for me to take tax dollars to improve my land. Wouldn't that be a violation of the 8th Commandment? (thou shalt not steal).  No thanks.

So, my plan is to someday hire someone with a bulldozer to create an open drain ditch from the source of water at the property line, down through the field to an existing gully. With the amount of water that flows over the land, it would amount to creating a man-made stream. I'll make it deep enough that the field around it can be drained into it. And wide enough that the sides slope down gently to the water. Once that's done, and the field is dry, I can then think about a Planet Whizbang barn, and even a house.

The only problem is my lack of financial resources. I reckon I have enough savings to have the earthwork done, but then I'll have to work and wait a few more years to save enough for the barn. Projects like this take time (a lifetime) when you have to work for your money, and are paying as you go.

In the meantime, my field is getting overgrown with weeds. It has been three years since I cut it with Leland and my sickle bar mower. Brambles are growing, and there are little sumac trees here and there. The field needs to be cut low. I have a person with a brush hog lined up to mow it all down (except the real wet area).

And that's what brought me to my field last Sunday morning. I needed to flag the wet spots so the brush hogger could steer clear and not get stuck.

In the process of pounding posts and putting up strips of florescent tape, I checked on my little apple orchard half way up the field (above the water problems), and I was very surprised to find actual apples on some of my trees!

(click the picture to see a larger view)

I did not expect apples to be on the trees for a couple more years. Altogether, there are ten apples on four of the trees. They are beautiful apples too!

Then along the edge of my field (close to the woods) I was delighted to discover an abundance of perfectly ripe wild strawberries.



I spent some time picking and eating strawberries. 

Another pleasant surprise was an oak tree whip I planted a couple years ago. It was thriving...


I planted a lot of little tree seedlings, most of them maple trees, and most of them have either died or are barely hanging on, but that oak tree is living the good life. 

Seeing as that tree has managed to do so well, it's kind of special to me, and I suppose it always will be. I look forward to seeing it grow much bigger. 

(Note to self... plant more trees)

It was a nice morning. A very nice morning. And I enjoyed myself thoroughly, out there in my field. But I lost track of time. 

I don't wear a watch and I don't have a cell phone. When me and Leyland got home, Marlene came out to inform me that we had missed church. Did I forget? No, I didn't forget. I actually thought I was getting back in plenty of time to make it to church. 

I suggested to Marlene that we could go back up into the field and pick some strawberries. And that's what we did.










Redeeming The Dirt Conference
2015

Dateline: 24 June 2015



Back in 2013 Noah Sanders went to Zimbabwe (I blogged about it HERE) to learn about the Christian-agrarian ministry, Foundations For Farming. The combination of spiritual and agricultural principles taught by Foundations For Farming have brought sustainable hope and sustenance to the beleaguered people of Zimbabwe. Are these same principles of life and agriculture equally applicable to beleaguered Americans?

Noah thinks so (and I do too). 

With that in mind, last year Noah hosted a Redeeming The Dirt Conference in Rockford, Alabama. The objective being to introduce the Foundations For Farming principles to this country. This year he is continuing the outreach with a 2015 Redeeming The Dirt Conference (click the link for full details).

If I lived anywhere near Alabama, I would get to this event.

One more thing...

Back in 2013 I posted a link to a YouTube video of a man from Foundations For Farming talking about the basic agricultural principles of the ministry. The video ends with him praising the beauty of God's creation, as found in a sunflower. His words are powerfully compelling to me. Check out my blog post here: Acknowledging God in His Creation.





Beauty...
And A Beast

Dateline: 23 June 2015


I took the above picture in my garden yesterday morning. If you click on it, you will see a nice close-up of some potato leaves. They are verdant, velvety, and simply beautiful. The hideous-looking larvae provides quite a contrast; it's a beastly little potato leaf destroyer. If I did not kill it, and others like it, they would destroy my plants, and I would have no potatoes.

I think there is a spiritual metaphor in this picture.





My New E-Mail

Dateline: 21 June 2015

Mail delivery, as it once was
(click for larger view)

I have had the same e-mail address, through a local company, for at least ten years. I would still have it if the company did not notify me last month that they were going out of business. 

I had to scramble to get a new e-mail, change my e-mail information with different businesses (Amazon, PayPal, Ebay, etc.), and then try to find every business-related web page with my e-mail on it in order to update it. 

Having the correct e-mail address on your web pages is particularly important when you have a mail order business that depends nearly 100% on the internet.

All of this has been a hassle, but I'm pretty much transitioned over (though I'm sure I've missed some changes on my web sites).

If you need to reach me, my new e-mail is: herrick@planetwhizbang.com. The old e-mail of hckimball@bci.net no longer works.

Thank you.





Toe Bug Patrol
or
"It's Okay To Be Dooty"

Dateline: 20 June 2015


Futureman went back to Ohio today. He was here for two weeks, and we went on toe bug patrol in the garden every day. Toe bugs are more commonly known as potato bugs. Futureman doesn't do very well  with three syllables yet.

On our first foray into the garden, Futureman got some earth on his hands and arm. He seemed overly concerned about getting "dooty." 

"I dooty, Boppy." he said. Over an over. 

"I dooty, Boppy. I dooty, Boppy."

And I said. "Don't be such a city slicker. It's okay to be dooty. Dooty is good." 

To which he invariably replied..."Why?"

And I said, "Cuz Boppy says so."

FYI... Dooty is "dirty" and Boppy is me.

(I thought I wanted to be called Grampie, which is the term I used for my grandfathers, but Grampie isn't easy to say at three years old, so it's Boppy, and I'm kind of liking it.)   

There were not a lot of toe bugs to be found on our daily patrols, but we always found a few. Sometimes Futureman would spy a toe bug, but most of the time I would see them first. Whatever the case, it was his job to dispatch the critters.




I showed Futureman how to set a toe bug on plastic mulch and smoosh it with his foot...




At first, he would stomp his foot repeatedly, and completely miss the toe bug every time. So we worked on that. Instead of stomping, he would place his toe on the bug and give it a twist or slide it, which is a very effective technique for killing a toe bug.

After a couple days I thought Futureman might be better at smooshing toe bugs with a rock. The first time he smooshed a toe bug with a rock, he said, "Yukky." Rock-Smooshing toe bugs is also a very effective technique (sorry, no picture).

So now, Futureman has gone back to where being dooty is frowned upon, and Boppy is on toe bug patrol all by himself.