I’m still alive!!! Status update

So, after many a weeks away from all of you fine folks out there in the “internet”, I have returned.  Yes, I am still alive.  I know many of you were wondering if the crazy man with many things on his brain still had all things on said brain.  Truth  be told, life has gotten in the way.  Work has been doing it’s best to put me in the ground, early.  We are going to be moving in about a month, into our first house… woohoo!… Heck, I haven’t been to Yoga class in over three months (except for last night), which almost put me in the ground.  All in all, I have been working on my skills (namely my brewing) and getting life back into perspective and order.

Some not so (maybe so) current events…

I won first place in the Belgian Strong category for my Belgian Tripel, at the first annual OC Fest of Ales (I know what you are thinking, yes there were at least three entries in the category) I am very excited as this is the first competition that I have entered.

Been working 10-11 hour days, and a Saturday for good measure, been short handed.  The pay is good, but the hours are starting to wear on me.

Getting prepared for the “Learn to Homebrew Day” celebration and brewing demo out at a friend’s shop, CalWest Hydroponics and Homebrew  This is going to be quite an event!  10-15 different homebrew demonstrations.  Several local commercial beer offerings in the beer garden and a few local bands will be performing throughout the day as well.  There will be food to go along with all the festivities, at least two grills will be firing up tasty morsels for your enjoyment.  If you care to see how the hobby of homebrew works, or just enjoy heading to new places to try new things, come on down and say hi!

So, that was my info-mercial, hope you can stop by…

It’s good to be back, I have looked at my blog several times, and promised that I would be back to say hello to all of you again.  I finally said “screw it”… if I don’t make time, I will continue to put it off, and you would never hear from me again.  Thanks for reading, I really do appreciate the time that you have taken to stop by and have a look into my world.

Till next time…. Cheers!

One step closer, intalling drip irrigation

This weekend I finally got the drip irrigation system installed in the back garden.  This was the first time that I had installed such a system, so it was a bit of a learning experience.  Going into it, I had an idea in my head of how it was going to look and function.  As with many things in life, we get into it and something that you don’t expect comes up.  Since the plans were in my head, yes… I know better… the basic layout was simple, there were jut a few things that came up that could have been avoided had I had a plan drawn out ahead of time.

Starting at the hose bib, as with just about all projects you have to start at the beginning (DUH) I rolled out the 1/2″ line to see where I wanted to splice in the first tee.  Piece of cake, no issues, make the first cut.  From the tee, splitting off, I run about four feet of 1/2″ line to feed two 1/4″ lines that will be watering my hops.  Check, piece of cake.

On to the raised beds.  This is the point at which a drawn plan would have come in handy.  You see, my beds are offset a little bit.  They are ab out two feet apart, but one is about three feet closer to the house then the other.  So I guess the length of 1/2″ hose I am going to need and how I want to connect each bed to the main line.  Oh, I forgot to mention that the fittings are friction fittings, you push the tubing into the fitting and it will not allow you to pull the tubing out.  I had connected the left hand bed top the tee and the right hand bed to the elbow.  Which put the left hand feed line about ix inches from the edge of the bed.  Well… it wasn’t pretty, but you can actually get the tubing out of the fittings.  Minor issue, but it was something that was completely avoidable. From here I used some 1/4″ pre “drippered” tubing to do the job inside the beds.  Not sure I will be completely happy with the 12″ spaced dripper tubing, but we shall see how it goes, all of the base work is done, all I would have to do is change a couple of parts to get the desired effect.

So now, I do not have to worry about the plants getting over watered or forgotten when I go on a trip and have the watering taken care of.  I also invested a little bit more money and purchased an inline timer for the system, so that it is even less maintenance.  I think my hops will end up doing much better with a consistent watering schedule.  Time will tell.

Spring turns to Summer and the garden changes

Last week was the summer solstice.  The sun is as high in the sky as it is going to be, and the race back towards winter has begun.  There are changes that are happening in the garden as well.  There is a transfer that happens, very subtly, transferring from the spring varieties to those of summer.  We also start to think about what will be going into the fall garden.

The transfer from spring to summer in the garden is… like the weather that changes during this time period.  Not delicate and small and drab, but much more vigorous and colorful.  Many of the herbs are setting overdrive while others are starting to flower.  Coriander has bolted and is about ready to be harvested, the lettuces have all bolted, collecting seeds instead of leaves has become their focus.  Tomatoes with their shades of red are ripening, carrots are being harvested, shallots and onions are getting ready for harvest, garlic is poking it’s head… errr… their shoots up.  The first generation of green beans is winding down.  And lastly, in my garden at least, the hops are reaching for the sky and getting ready to start budding.

The weather is warm and and evenings are very comfortable.  Pants and coats have given way to shorts and tee-shirts.

This fall will be a fun one, I think.  The hops will need to be harvested, more lettuce will be planted.   I may look into planting my beds with a leguminous cover crop to give the beds a bid of a rest and some much needed food.  There is still plenty of time before that decision must be made.  In the mean time, I think I will head out to the porch and pet the cat for a little while before I head off to yoga class.

Preparing for the loss of a loved one.

I know this topic will probably turn a lot of people off solely with the title.  But this is a topic that really needs to be addressed before something bad happens, because the loss could be you, and you family may have to make do without you.

Keeping track of your finances is something that you should be doing regardless.  Knowing your financial status allows you to be a smarter consumer.  It also will help take care of your loved ones if something were to happen to you.  If the loss is not you, it will make taking care of all issues much easier.  Putting together a budget, with plans for savings, will allow for a more “normal” life is something happens.

What will become of your possessions?  Your properties?  Do you have a will, does your significant other have a will?  Are there any trusts set up for any children you may have?  Is everyone aware of them?

Finally, have you prepared yourself mentally for this eventuality?  I think this is the part that people have the biggest problem with.  We as humans do not naturally think about our own end.  If we open ourselves to the inevitability, we can make the process easier on everyone.  Just like going through mental exercises to prepare yourself for a football game or for a challenging hike or a race, having taking the time to envision what we will do or what types of decisions that will need to be made will give us confidence in our everyday lives that we are not going to be left, or leave a loved one, stranded.

Take the time to talk with your family.  Don’t leave to regret not saying what you feel or how you feel to your family.  Putting off these things will lead to regret.

Garden update

It has been a while since I posted about the status of the garden.  Just about all of the lettuce, spinach, arugula and coriander has bolted and gone to seed. All of my beets went straight to seed and/or died, which is weird, because beets aren’t supposed to go to seed until their second year.  Most of the carrots I planted did not get enough sun and died shortly after sprouting.

For once, I have onions that are actually forming a bulb and are not going straight to seed.  The shallots that never came out of the ground last year have all multiplied and appear to be doing well.  I have some Italian Rose beans, as well as Blue Lake bush beans all going strong.  The tomatoes that were volunteers in mom’s garden are doing extremely well.  One is a beefsteak type and the other appears to be a cherry.  Two of the bell peppers that were planted two years ago refuse to die, they have some small peppers on them.

My hops are looking pretty good.  I think I over fertilized a couple weeks ago because they all but stopped their growth (maybe they were putting energy into root growth, ahead of a big push above ground)  I know that you shouldn’t expect to get much, if any, of a harvest from you first year, but it would be really cool to make a beer with home grown hops this year.

The fruit trees are doing ok.  The Blood Orange has a couple fruit on it, the Honey Mandarin is going gang busters, grapefruit is putting on some leaves (it needs them), the pear looks good (probably won’t get any fruit production until next year), the apple… the apple… darned neighborhood kids.  I have close to two dozen apples on the tree earlier this spring.  Now, there are 5.  I think they kids thought it would be fun to use them as projectiles… or food. Grumble…. And last but not least, my Kumquat is working on it’s third crop in a year and a half.

All in all, not bad, but I should put more production into the raised beds…  As with everything else, it’s finding the time.  I have to put that drip system and timer in this weekend.  That should help out.

Adding a drip system to the garden

Last week I purchased a kit to install a drip system in my garden.  There were multiple reasons I wanted to do this.  One being water conservation, another, save myself some time.  Combined the two equal money savings.  I will be automating the system as well, which will help when I travel out of town, I will not have to worry about making arrangements for someone to stop by and water.

Conservation is a two fold attribute.  One, I live in Southern California… a desert.  Yes, the water saved will not be much, but ever last bit counts.  The other part of conservation, a decrease in the bill.  The less water that I use, the smaller my bill, the more money in my pocket.  I will be able to conserve by putting the water where it is needed, instead of water the entire area, losing some of the water to evaporation.  The automation saves me time, which equates to more money saved.

A third point, and maybe I am just justifying this to myself.  Starting the project gets me outside, and adds knowledge and experience of a new skill that very well could come in handy down the road.  Eventually I would like to do this with a rain catchment system, to further lower the cost of operating.

The squeaky bottom bracket gets the grease

My trusty steed had developed a squeak.  I’m talking one of those squeaks that drives you up the wall… squeak… squeak… squeak… It appeared to be in the left side of the bottom bracket or in the left crank arm.  For those of you who may not have any idea what I am talking about, my steed is a circa 1985 Nishiki Olympic steel road bike that I converted to fixed gear, and for those of you who don’t know what a fixed gear is… a fixed gear is a bike that has the rear cog fixed to the rear hub.  If the bike is moving, so are the crank arms.

So, my squeaky steed….

This squeak was driving me nuts, it would only show up after I have been riding for a couple of minutes and the turning of the cranks generated some heat in the bearings.  And, let me tell you, on a bike that you cannot “free wheel”, every time the cranks go around and I get a squeak… I was about ready to kill it.

Instead of killing it, I thought it would be best for some maintenance.  You see, I bought this bike years ago while working in a bike shop, from a customer who had destroyed one of his wheels.  I bought it off of him, because the cost of a new wheel was more then the bike was worth to him.  So I offered him the cash that I had on me… $58.00.  I then proceeded to spend about $300.00 on components to make this bike rideable…. boys with their toys… Oh yes, not killing my bike.  I took the crank off and disassembled the bottom bracket, the spindle that the crank arms attach to.  I do not believe that the bearings had ever been serviced, with close to 30 years on the parts… it needed some attention.

So, I replaced the old grease with new synthetic, super high speed, incredibly expensive bicycle grease.  And, to my great please (of course) I no longer have a squeaking steed.

The moral of the story, with a couple of tools and a little know how, I saved myself the cost of having to pay someone else to work on my bike, freeing up those funds to go toward other necessities.