Thursday, August 21, 2014

What a pitch!

What a (pitchy) mess!


Wow, my blades are a wreck. We've sawn through miles of wood during the last few weeks, and you can feel the drag on the blade with every cut. 

I pulled the blades from every saw, and decided to test a couple of cleaners. Someone gave me a can of the Sprayway cleaner, and I picked up a can of Easy-Off Oven Cleaner.



There is conflicting information about the best way to clean pitch off a saw blade - some say that using oven cleaner will attack the binder used on carbide blades, thus deteriorating the brazing on the carbide tips. The theory is that if the brazing fails, the carbide tips can separate from the blade. 

Not cool.

But - other studies say that using oven cleaners are fine.


One thing is sure - both substances I tried dissolved the pitch almost immediately. It didn't take 30 seconds of soaking to dissolve everything. 


A green scrubby removes everything caked around the tips.  (I'm using gloves, by the way.)


So the question remains - is it safe to use oven cleaner to clean my blades? 

The price of the official blade cleaning product is about $5.50 a can, and oven cleaner is just a little less than that, so price isn't a huge consideration. 

Some people complain about the toxicity of oven cleaner, but after getting a snout full of the pitch cleaner - I think that's a moot point. Both really suck!

Considering that my blades only "soak" in the oven cleaner for 30 seconds, and are rinsed clean -  they can't sustain much deterioration. 

Bottom line? I'll just use what I have available. 


Monday, August 18, 2014

Friday, August 15, 2014

The most amazing garden in years!

Sometimes it takes a few years to figure things out, to get it right. This year - I finally figured out how to manage a good garden here in the desert. Wait – I take it back.... A great garden! 

But don't get me wrong,  my past gardens have been pretty good. But this year - it seems like everything came together perfectly. 

I reserve my Sundays for gardening - it's the only day of the week I manage to get out into the yard and play in the dirt. Add a cup of coffee to the mix, or a beer if it's later in the day, and I'm pretty content. 

These tulips bloomed in February; we had a very mild winter and things started sprouting in January. Right around then, some friends and I got together and decided to start our gardens from seeds, rather than buying starter plants. We each chose the plants that we wanted to start - and agreed to meet in a couple of months, so that we could trade plants. 


It was a terrific idea - for just a few dollars, I started zucchini and cucumbers and beets.I saw a post somewhere online that mentioned using the cardboard cores from toilet paper rolls or paper towels for starting your seeds. It's a perfect way of getting your seedlings growing - put a little dirt in the tube, drop in a seed, and water it. 


 A few weeks later- you'll have these. They were reaching for the sunlight, and for just the cost of a pack of seeds, you can have about thirty or forty plants. That cardboard is biodegradable, so you can just dig a hole and drop it it. 

 We traded them in March - Mel and Nancy brought in a HUGE variety of tomatoes, Lupe brought in peppers and eggplant - as a matter of fact, we had so many plants were just giving them away to people in the shop.


 Mine were in the ground in no time.



Here's the humble beginning of the garden, in just a few plants in place.


 See that tall plant toward the back? Someone told me about cutting the ends off scallions - and throwing the roots in the soil. Those are the scallions growing - they're about 3 feet tall! 


They got a little tough, so I didn't eat them - but they sure do look cool in the garden.

This is the first time I actually mulched my soil - it makes everything look so clean and pretty. 


The artichokes are one of the first plants to take off,


 and I had a decent crop of them before the aphids took over. 


I had so many, but a few got past me -  like this Don King artichoke. In the end– the aphids won that battle and I had to cut back all of the artichoke plants to the ground. Luckily - they are perennials; they'll be back next year. And I learned a trick or two about dealing with bugs. More on that later...


Here are some beets just starting to sprout up.



 I had no idea beets were this easy to grow - here they are a few weeks later later.  


At first, the beets were tiny



 and then POW! 




... Mega beets! 


The greens are almost better than the beets themselves!




As the warmer weather kicked in, the tomatoes started wreaking havoc. 


The garden went from this 


to this 



and then to this.... in no time! 



Every other day, I was pulling out yields like this...








Homemade chipotle salsa, anyone?


This might be the most perfect tomato I've ever grown.



When one of the zucchini gets past me and grows a little too big,


 it's time to make this. 


And these "donuts."


We had a lovely storm, and BooM! 


Everything just exploded!

I wish I'd have dated these photos, to see how long it took to go from this to this - 


but if felt like it was almost overnight!



The eggplant are just maturing - I can't wait! I'm not sure there's anything better than grilled eggplant on pizza. 


Once in a while, I'll be cleaning out some dead leaves or harvesting some tomatoes and I'll find something like this. I didn't even know the cucumbers were still growing! 



Here is today's harvest - not bad. I'm going to try Scott Conant's fresh tomato sauce recipe with these, even though these aren't technically "cooking" tomatoes.  



Finally - one of the keys to the success this year has to be the "pesticide" tip that my friend Joann shared with me. Joann is a Master Gardener, here's an article about her in our local paper! 

For years, I've suffered the insult of growing a great garden, only to have it destroyed by mid summer by insects. 



hornworms (true bitches)



 squash bugs, which are pretty much zucchini terminators.




Bastards!

 You name it, they have "visited" me. But this year, Joann suggested sprinkling my plants with diatomaceous earth. I'd heard of it, but never knew anything about it. Turns out - it's a garden saver! 

I use the food grade version, which some people actually eat. (WTF?)  I sprinkle it on my plants, using a huge restaurant salt shaker. It bothers the hell out of them, effectively dehydrating and killing them. And it is perfectly safe. 

After a good sprinkling - it almost looks like it has snowed in my garden. But - I'd rather have white "snow" on the leaves, than bugs. Everything gets a good rinse before I bring it inside.


And there you have it - the best garden so far. 


Many thanks to my gardening buds - Mel, Nancy, Lupe and Joanne - hope that we can share plants again next spring!