Soil Test Blues (And other minor fails on the homestead)

Obviously, as you noticed in my last post, I had big plans for this past weekend. Most of them involved being outside.

And then came the first fail.  It rained – not a nice steady rain. Not the occasional sprinkle. But really annoying, poorly-timed on-and-off showers all freaking weekend. I tried to dig up some of the lawn for my new garden areas during what I thought was a reprieve in the showers, but within two feet of digging I had rain dripping off my hood. So I gave up, took a shower, and went grocery shopping, during which time it stopped raining and the sun actually came out for 30 minutes. I can’t win.

I did manage to clean up the garage lean-to, which I’ve decided to henceforth refer to as the Poly House as a tribute to the Berry Patch. I’m really quite pleased with how usable the space is now, and I can’t wait to use it in early spring as a transition area for seedlings. Um, I don’t have a photo, but maybe next time I will…

I also rounded up all of my seed packets that had been scattered and stored in various boxes in the garage all summer. I had big plans to place an order with D. Landreth next year and get all heirloom seeds, but after seeing how many seeds I have that need to be used up, I think I should work with what I have and just order what I don’t have. Hopefully by next year I’ll have used up all of the non-heirloom seeds AND will have done a good job of saving seeds from the plants I do end up growing with Landreth’s stock.

Jason needed to run some errands and go to the hardware store, so I tagged along to price the supplies I’ll need for my seed starting area. I’m thinking that the lights and bulbs will end up costing somewhere around $70 for three lights. Probably a good thing I’m not placing a huge seed order! But, when I think of the long-term value of growing our own food, I believe it will be worth it.

I’ll need flats (which I can get from my dad) and some sort of system to catch the water. While I’d like something more permanent and not as, well, janky, I think for this year I’ll go cheap and use what’s around the house. I’m thinking some of the old window screens in our garage (we have a lot) supported by cinder blocks, with a tarp and a few plastic totes underneath. My dad actually uses our old plastic sled to catch the water when he starts seeds, and it works just fine. Good thing I’m not fancy!

The second fail happened when we got home. I’d been wanting to try filling the feeders and attracting a pair of cardinals that’s been hanging out in our yard, so I picked up a small bag of birdseed while we were out. Unfortunately, we have a pack of extremely greedy squirrels running amok in our yard, and within one hour of me filling the feeders we had SIX of them fighting over the birdseed. Gah. By the time I got home from work yesterday, the feeders were empty. The little vermin had eat cleaned them out and spilled a ton.  I have to figure something else out with those little pests. They don’t really have a natural predator here in an urban environment, and that’s not good for anyone involved.

I did manage to get down to the farmers market and pick up some fall decorations – just a few gourds and some Indian Corn. I’d love to pile the front porch with lots of pumpkins but at $2-$5 a pop I can’t really justify it. Another minor fail. It would be really, really nice if next year I could decorate my porch with things I’ve grown myself. We’ll see!

Probably the most disappointing part of the weekend was seeing the results of my soil tests for nitrogen, potash, and phosphorus.

Nitrogen Test

Potash Test

Phosphorus Test

Obviously, we’re fine on potash but almost completely depleted in the other two areas. I had hoped that a summer of adding small amendments to the garden and growing a huge patch of beans would have helped with the nitrogen issue, but I guess I have a very long way to go! I suspected as much when I dug up the soil in July and found so few earthworms, and when I had so many problems with damaging insects. You can be sure I’ll be researching lots of ways to improve the soil over the winter. Any good suggestions for natural amendments, especially in the way of nitrogen and phosphorus?

All in all, the weekend wasn’t a total fail. I got lots of baking and cooking done (I made this and so should you) on Sunday for the upcoming week, I knocked out some of the mending/alteration projects in my sewing room (which I hate doing but need to do more often!) and I even had time to hang a few new pictures. In between all of that, we had a good breakfast together on Sunday and enjoyed a few cups of hot cider and a movie the night before.

And, I saw this out my kitchen window this morning:

I feel blessed.

What did you do this weekend? Any minor or major fails? Any successes?





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