Archive for January, 2010

Frugal Gardener: Strawberry eBucket

When even a hint of spring comes each year my mind seems to gravitate toward some new experiment in my garden.

If my memory serves me right, when I was younger, my thoughts turned in another direction, but dang, I can not remember which, so I’ll settle for the stimulation of the garden, I guess.

In all this crazy weather this year we have suddenly had a week of warm sunny weather that got me outside cleaning, clearing and wanting to plant.   The land is far too wet, it is like a swamp actually, when I was setting up my Ebuckets that grew  so well last season, the idea hit.

Why not try growing strawberries in a modified Ebucket?  After all, you can grow the berries  in planting bags.  So I set about creating my strawberry bucket.

Last fall a  neighbor gave me some plastic buckets used to store swimming pool chemical.  They are 12″ diameter buckets  but are deeper than a standard 5 gallon bucket—-perfect for what I have in mind.

I am going to put a series of 2 inch holes around the side of the bucket; holes centered approximately 5 inches apart.  Since a 12 inch bucket has a circumference of approximately 36 inches I can put 7 holes in each staggered row;  three rows, plus 4 holes in the lid of the Ebucket will accommodate 25 plants;  this is the standard unit of sales for most plants.

Setup for this strawberry bucket is the same as the standard Ebucket ; very simple to assemble.   All you need is 1 plastic bucket; 1 plastic colander about 12 inches in diameter; a piece of pipe 2 – 3 inches taller than your container for the fill pipe, and on this bucket I used a 1/2 inch piece of pipe to make a overflow valve on bottom of my strawberry pail.

My first row of planting holes are about 4 inches from the top of my container; simply measure down about 5 inches for  the first center.   Measure over about 5 inches to center the next hole and drill away.  You will probably have 7 holes; now drop down, measure 5 inches to center next row; stagger the spacing so one hole is not directly under another in the row above.  Repeat the process for the third row, that is it!

Planting is simple.  Get your plants ( roots);  most nurseries package in units of 25 plants but I  got what was available locally at Lowe’s and Wallyworld;  a box of 20  Tristar and bag of 10 Quinault (cost $13).  You’ll need your favorite container potting mix.

Strawberry Ebucket

Strawberry Ebucket

Fill and pack your potting mix around the colander to just over the colander  for effective wicking.   Continue filling (but  not packing)  mix to the level of the bottom row of planting holes;  separate your roots and lay them on top of layer of mix.  Be sure not to bury neck of crown, let it lie on edge of hole.

You will need to place some material over the plant at the hole entrance to keep mixture from coming out; I put some wood mulch over the hole just inside the bucket; worked great.

Cover this row of plants with mix to the level of the next row up; gently pat mix  and  water gently to settle in; I had put a gallon of water in the colander after I seated it;  I water the first row  til water flows from the overflow pipe.

Repeat process until all plants are in place.   I filled my bucket completely with mix since I am using that space on top  to set 4 plants — total  25 in the Ebucket.

There are few things I have done differently.  After reading and looking at other self-watering set ups, I have come to the conclusion the there are no hard and fast rules regarding soil and fertilizers.

The  EARTHBOX®  advertising has convinced many that the fertilizer has to be a certain  kind applied in a particular manner;  we are assured that no additives can be used in the soil  mix.   Experimentation shows this is not the case.  So…………

The basic mix must stay fluffy,  beyond that there are countless variations.  I am using a container  potting mix in this Ebucket that already  has some fertilizer incorporated.  Plan to supplement with liquid “teas” as the plants grow.

Will my Ebucket work with strawberries; I hope so; we will see.

This is what I find interesting about this hobby.

(References are for information only.  I am not associated with companies, nor am I being compensated in any way)

What the heck?

I am having the oddest experience this morning, since about 3 am.

I am conscious that I am dreaming; one of those dreams where  I recognize people  from many points in my life. The circumstances are completely unrealistic; the snatches of situations  could have happened,but never did.

I am trying to protect someone from something. In this dream I am telling myself, this is just a dream; it’s not really happening; even though I awaken and sit on the edge of the bed, my mind keeps struggling with whatever is happening.

Keep saying to myself this is not real; when I  settle my thinking and go back to sleep it starts over, at the point I was when I woke up! The mental struggle starts again, until I awaken.

Three hours later, I have taken a shower, shaved, brushed my teeth. I can no longer remember the details, just the desperate, helpless feeling of not being able to help whomever I am trying to shield from unremembered danger.

This is weird. It is not a nightmare. I am not terrified, just disturbed, by what I know is not reality.

A Shrink would have a field day with this, I bet;  if a Mormon Missionary or one of Jehovah’s Witnesses shows up on my doorstep later today and introduces himself,  as either Joseph or Daniel, I am really going to freak out!!

In the light of day, and after a cup of coffee, I think I have figured this out.   Last night just before I went to sleep I spent 2 hours watching CNN and HLN coverage of the Haitian tragedy.

This was the first time I allowed myself to concentrate on this horrible situation.  The rescue of a 24 year old man being pulled from the rubble after 11 days entrapment was very disturbing, though gratifying.   He is in very good shape after all this  time because he was trapped in a tiny space  on a  side of the building where some coke, beer and a little food  was available.

Just P’or Folk

We are promised 3 score and 10 years as a good life time. As I get closer to my allotment, I look back and am amazed, I have made it this far. I think the fulfillment of the first part of that promise is because the Lord protects children; the rest because he looks after fools!

Growing up in rural Saluda County, SC in the late 1940 through early 1950’s was an interesting experience.  Town was 5 miles away; the only transportation we had was a battered old red truck Daddy used to get to work, or the mule and one horse wagon Grandpa Gis used for every other transportation need.

In those days I felt a clear distinction between the “rich town folk” and us “p’or folk”.

My early childhood memories are a chilling example of the conflicting emotions of snobbish contempt for those I believed to be, somehow,  “better than me” and a burning desire  have what “they had”.

Why did I feel this way?   My parents never taught me to diminish my value; but, come to think of it, I was never encouraged reach out, to believe that I could become a part of a world outside the restricting little community I was born into.

As a six to 10 year old child, I observed.

Rather than viewing community improvement as a signal for opportunity,  I viewed them as  a painful reminder;  I was not of  “their world”.  As a young child I remember the feeling  I was the beggar under the rich man’s table searching  for scraps.

A child often misunderstands intents of adults; a resentful child assigns negative motives to simple acts of kindness.

Until I was nine years old I attended Emory  Methodist Church.   The church was about 2 miles from  our home; I walked; my parents did not attend.  Sometimes, one of the Shealy’s would pick me up along the way. (THEY had a car).

At church  Mr. Frank Herlong, a widower neighbor, always sat in the pew with me.   When the collection plate was passed he would always press a few cents into my palm; I guess he wanted me to feel I had something to give.

Sadly, in my childish mind, these simple acts of kindness and caring,  emphasized the  differences in the worlds of the “haves and  have-nots”.

Looking back, it frightens me to realize where this could have led.

The world turned on its head during the decades of the 60’s  and 70’s;  unthinkable events took place; social systems crumbled; a world that was, literally ended.

My generation was forced to examine its convictions and act on them, for better or worse–there  was little choice.

There were many who allowed the poisonous ideas of a world  of  “have and have-nots” fester to a point of  eruption that threatened the existence of  both worlds.

I graduated high school in 1959,  my resentment and discontent was gone.   I knew who I was; what I stood for.

Early in the 1960’s I began using the name “Lane” instead of  “McKarion”.  I had considered a career in radio broadcasting  and was told my name,  McKarion Cockrell, was too long and difficult to pronounce.  The pseudonym  “Lane Cary” was created.  I borrowed from my legal name Ar(lan)der;  Cary alluded to my middle name, Mc(Kari)on.

When the dream of a radio career became a pleasant memory, I chose to continue to be identified as “Lane”; my Mom never forgave me for “denying who I was” and refused to  address me as anything other than, “Kay”, “Karion”, or her odd pronunciation, “MuKaren”.

Dad seemed to understand; all my adult life I was “Lane” to him.  One of the most precious gifts from him was  his telling me shortly before his death  he was proud to be known as “Lane’s Dad”.

I never had the courage to try to explain to Mom that in my mind “McKarion” was a scared, angry, resentful  kid; when I happened  on “Lane” I just let it stick; I would never have switched otherwise.

What brought the change in my thinking?   How was I able to smother the seeds of  bigotry that were taking root when I was so young?

I began to recognize two things when I was about 10 years old.

About this time I began to think very seriously about God.  I remember sitting in the cab of that old red truck studying, feeling a thrill that there is a personal God who cares.    I came to really believe that it does not matter who you are, what you have; He sees, smiles, guides.

It was then that I determined that I would do what I  understood to be God’s will no matter the consequences;  I began to see my limited  possessions, talents and opportunities as godly gifts.   I was only 10, but  I understood.

The Saluda School System  was in its infancy 60 years ago; but what a world those struggling teachers opened to those thirsting for knowledge.   The names  Bradley, Waters, Cromley,  Bullard, Carson, Forrest still shine as examples of ones who cared  in my  early years.

It is not so much the principles of life that I remember from them;  it is the love of knowledge, information–simply coming to know I can do it, that I treasure.

In high school the learning of life values was an osmotic process as I watched those guiding  me through the  educational process.   I learned method, but more importantly, I observed  in their lives morality, trustworthiness, commitment to principal.   They seemed to have something to give; they gave from their hearts.

In the dark ages of my youth (technically, this  is almost literally true) the value of higher education was not recognized as it is today.   High School graduation was the goal of the majority; a few would be privileged to go further.

In many cases finances limited opportunity; but I think there was  a feeling  that higher education was simply a way to avoid getting on with  “real life”.

Personally, I never  pursued a higher education, first for financial reasons; later becoming involved in life’s pursuits gave me an excuse for avoiding the commitment to a scholastic life, in short, I am lazy.

I am so glad that I did absorb the understanding that information is out there–I can find it.

It has been my privilege to  associate with many well educated, intelligent people who have been willing to tolerate my presence — I learn from them.

Materially I am still just “p’or folk” but I feel rich beyond compare; life has been good.