Monday, April 27, 2009

A new chapter

Today was my last day of work at IBM. I was informed I was being laid off the day before Sarah's wedding - and my first day back home from Florida for Trent's wedding was also my last day of work. I had an exit interview at noon where I had to sign some papers. 45 minutes later I walked out of the building for the last time with my severance check in hand, which I deposited at the credit union on the way home. They took out more taxes than I expected; so, the severance check was a bit smaller than I had hoped for.

So, I'm feeling bitter-sweet right now. The last two of my children are married - and I'm unemployed for the first time in 28 years. I really have no idea what my future holds right now. I'd like to do a career change and do something different - but I have no idea what.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Crystal ball - part trois

On Sunday, I took some engagement pictures for Ryan Elliott and Ashleigh Donner. I'll let him post them as he sees fit; however, I did want to post this one that I took using my crystal ball.

I would like to have taken more using the crystal ball - but it was really windy. I made a gizmo to prop it on top of a light stand (using parts from Home Depot); but, with the wind, I was afraid it would fall off and crash to the ground.

Sarah's wedding

Here are some pictures of Sarah's wedding on Saturday, March 28th.

3 down - 1 to go. We're leaving for Florida on April 18th for Trents wedding on April 21st.

The bride (Linda made the dress)

The bride an groom

Sarah and Ray cutting the cake (Grandma McKee made the cake)

Ray's family

Sarah's family

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Square Foot Gardening

Linda bought a book titled Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew. Overall, I don't particularly like how the book is written and organized - I find his writing style to be condescending. However, the concept intrigues me. He claims you can grow vegetables and flowers in only 20% of the space required by a conventional row garden - thereby saving water, work, and money. Basically, you
  1. Build a 4'x4' raised bed
  2. Fill it with a special potting mixture (called "Mel's Mix")
  3. Lay the garden out in a 4x4 grid of 1 square foot squares
Each square can have something different planted in it, such as 16 radishes, 4 heads of lettuce, 9 spinich, etc.

I had already built raised beds; so, I decided to section off a couple of 4 foot square sections to try out this square foot gardening thing.

Mels Mix is equal parts of peat moss, blended compost, and vermiculite. The vermiculite was, by far, the most expensive part. I think I paid $35 for a bag large enough for two 4 foot squares.

Blended compost is just that - a blend of, at least, 5 different types of compost. I used bags labeled
  • organic compost
  • mushroom compost
  • Texas native compost
  • Organic humus and manure.
That's only 4 bags - but I figured the last one counted as two :)

I added some additional wood to completely separate the square foot garden beds from the rest of the garden, removed all of the dirt, laid down weed cloth, and filled it with Mel's mix.

As can be seen in this picture, the two 4 square foot beds are near each other and I've laid out the squares using twine. I also laid down drip soaker tubing which I'll eventually connect into the drip system I am building into the rest of the garden. I'm going to add a vertical frame on the north side of the bed on the right (picture is facing east, so north is on the left).

As far as progress on the rest of the garden
  • The beds are all completed
  • I laid down mulch around the beds (with weed cloth underneith)
  • Most of the beds are filled with dirt and ready to plant. I have the dirt - with Sarah's wedding and all, I just haven't had time to get out and finish moving it into the beds.
What I have left
  • Bury PVC pipe to each of the beds for the drip irrigation system which will be controlled by a sprinkler timer
  • Finish planting
  • Reap the rewards for my hard work
Two of the beds are planted with
  • Onions
  • Lettuce (red, green, & bibb)
  • Swiss Chard
  • Broccoli
  • Beans (pole and bush)
  • Spinach
  • Beets
  • Radishes
  • Carrots
  • Turnips
Although, I think I'm going to till up the part with the spinach, beats, radishes, carrots, and turnips as they really aren't doing that well and plant those in the square foot beds. That way, I can use the space for plants which need a lot of room, such as squash, melons, etc.

Additional vegetables we are planning on planting this year are
  • Tomatoes
  • Popcorn
  • Summer squash
  • Winter squash
  • Okra
  • Melons (cantaloupe, watermelon, etc.)
  • Cucumbers
I also have a bed reserved (the one closest to the kitchen) as an herb garden. I'll be planting perennial herbs (sage, oregano, rosemary, etc.) in the middle and annual herbs (parsley, dill, basil, cilantro, etc.) around the edges.

Of the plants that are currently growing in the garden, the ones doing best are those that we planted as plants (onion, lettuce, broccoli). Those we planted from seed haven't done as well. Not exactly sure why - it could be its just been too cold since we have had a couple of cold fronts move through the area. It was 37 degrees this morning. Last time it was this cold on an April 7th was 38 years ago.

We did start some seeds indoors. Of those, the pole beans are doing the best and the bush beans are doing OK. I moved the watermelon plants to the garden - but I think the last cold snap killed them. We're still learning

Since the garden is in the front, we want to make it look nice, so we'll also be intersperscing flowers among the vegetables. For example, I planted marigolds in front of the pole beans - marigolds have an additional advanteage of discouraging certain garden pests and root nematodes.

Anyway, this is where our garden stands. I don't know if much more will be accomplished this month since we're leaving in a week and a half to go to Florida for Trent's wedding. But, I'll have plenty of time in May to work in the garden since my last day at IBM is April 27th.