Monday, April 22, 2013

Has it really been 3 years already?

When we bought this house in 2010, the backyard was dirt (or mud, depending on the weather).  That's it.  By the time we actually moved in, mud had been replaced with weeds, some taller than me.  I had to actually use a machete to clear my way through parts of my own backyard, as if I were on a hunt for Dr. Livingston.

So to go from that to how it looks now, I'm pretty darn pleased with the progress.  It still isn't perfect (lots of weeds/bare spots to address still), and I still have some other projects in mind but for now, I'm going to bask in the glory of some before/after pictures.


Weeds in 2010:

Actual halfway decent looking yard in 2011:

As of this afternoon in 2013:

It isn't perfect, but damn if it isn't looking much, much better.

Hard to see in that picture, but we made an improvement to the back corner of the yard as well.

Using the same spray/cover/mulch technique used around our garden as explained in this post, we mulched this corner of the backyard and planted a larkspur, tea olive, and magnolia saucer.

I also added the tiny little guy on the left last weekend, a blackberry bush (well, they sold me a bush, but it looks like I bought a twig.)  I'm curious to see how it grows and produces.

Closing with a few pictures of our new back area.  I'll post about what we're growing in the garden this year and a few other things later this week.  Good to be back to posting and growing.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Final Garden update of 2012

It is almost September and my garden is done for the year.  I put the last plant in the trash, put my tomato cages back in the garage, pulled the last weed and turned the last spade of soil on it yesterday. 

This year was a lot like last year in some ways: it wasn't the seasons changing that did my garden in.  It was negligence.  Last year my grandfather suffered a stroke and we left town for over a week, when our area was consistently getting 100 degree days and the garden died.

This year I left for a week to clean out a barn back home while my wife was incredibly busy (we're talking 14+ hour days busy) and the weather was 100 degrees.  The garden went unwatered, and predictable results followed.

I got to thinking about a general overview of this year gardening, and thought yall might enjoy it too.

What we did differently this year:

  • Added 3 planters to the garden.  One with herbs in it (Only Basil did well) and the other two with strawberries (that never produced anything)
  • Put down mulch/sheeting around to garden to help prevent grass growth in the beds.  This was mostly successful, though there was still some grass that popped up in the garden beds.
  • Planted less peppers and tomatoes to add watermelon and squash.  
  • I didn't bother setting up  drip irrigation this year.  Last year I had problems with the lines clogging a little, and the pressure always seemed too high or low.  I either flooded plants or they didn't get enough water.

 Plants that did well this year:

  • Tomatoes
  • Squash
  • Jalapenos
  • Basil
Plants that underperformed:

  •   Bell peppers
  • Pretty much every pepper besides the Jalapenos
  • Watermelons
  • Strawberries

Over all, it was another good year.  We got a TON  of squash and tomatoes, used the basil a lot, and had a decent amount of jalapenos.

Got a quick hint for yall of an upcoming post now.....when I actually post about it I'll include some installation details as well:

Monday, July 30, 2012

The perfect pair

Some of yall might remember my very first gun post was about one of my favorite rifles, my Marlin 1894c chambered for .357 magnum. 

To quote my final paragraph of that post:

"One more good reason to own a lever gun (as if we need MORE reasons) is the fact that they're beautiful rifles and an important part of American gun history.  From the Spencer rifles of the 1860s to my Marlin produced in the 21st century, lever guns have been owned and used for personal protection, war, and pure enjoyment for 150 years here in Texas.  That's a good enough reason for me."

 Well, owning a lever gun is nice and all, but there just seems to be something missing if you don't own a single action revolver to pair with it.  I finally remedied that problem this past week, when I picked up a like new in box Ruger Blackhawk convertible. 

For those who aren't aware, single action revolvers are an old design.  When you see cowboys in Westerns, they're usually carrying some variant of the Single Action Army revolver.   Thus, they're perfect to pair with a cowboy assault rifle, aka lever action rifle. 

What is a single action?  They vary from modern revolvers in 2 large ways.  1) The hammer must be manually cocked before each shot.  You can pull on the trigger all day long, but without the hammer being cocked back, the gun won't do a thing.  2) The cylinder is fixed in the frame.  Almost all modern revolver cylinders swing out of the frame, so you can unload/reload the entire cylinder at once.  A single action must be loaded and unloaded one round at a time, through the loading gate.  Here's a picture of what I'm talking about:

My blackhawk is a 6 1/2" model, chambered in .357/38.  The neat thing about this particular gun is it came with an extra cylinder chambered for 9mm ammunition.  So with a quick cylinder change that can be done with no tools in about 20 seconds, I have a gun that can shoot 3 different types of ammunition.  Pretty neat!

Couple more pics of the blackhawk to finish this post out, and I'll leave you with this final thought:  A lever action rifle and revolver chambered for the same ammunition is a pretty nice pair of guns to own.  I love both of these, and now I just need to get a western style holster and a cowboy hat and I'll be ready to ride the range.  Thanks for reading.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

$3 dollar security upgrade

Just a quick blog this weekend, and then I'm busy until next weekend, but I thought I'd share a cheap home security upgrade with everyone.

Most robberies occur when a thief kicks in a door, grabs some valuables and gets back out.  A security alarm is a good way to help detect/prevent this, but if that is out of your price range or you're a renter, there's no reason to not do anything to help protect your stuff.  Ready for a simple upgrade? 

I'll give you a hint...we're messing with this:

 This picture shows the weak part of your door.  Contractors who build houses like building them cheaply.  One way this manifests itself is the screw they use to secure the strike plate of your front door.  The screws pictured are a whole 3/4" long.  That means they secure the strike plate to the jam.

The jam isn't strong enough to withstand a kick from a teenager, much less a criminal who's desperate enough to break into your house to finance his crack habit.  There are lots of elaborate, expensive solutions that could give a dedicated swat team a bit of trouble, but we're talking about cheap and easy here. 

So if the screws only secure the strike plate to the jam, why don't we fix that?  

A 3" screw can actually reach and anchor into the framing boards in the wall.  So instead of kicking against a jam, someone trying to break in has to manage to break the screws themselves or the framing board they're drilled into.

 Not an impossible task by any means, but certainly more difficult than kicking a jam out, wouldn't you agree?  Here's quick pictorial comparison of an old screw with its replacements:

So, what does an upgrade like this cost?  I got these four 3" wood screws for a whole $3 at my local hardware store.  You will need a drill to get them anchored, but if you don't have one I'm sure you can find someone you can borrow an electric drill from.  Its a whole minute and a half of work to swap out the old screws for the new, and you've improved your home security a decent amount.

Not bad for $3!

Monday, May 21, 2012

FIrst Harvest of the year

Got to pick the first veggies out of the garden today, which was exciting.  Our tomatoes are still green, but we have lot of them, so hopefully I'll get to pick some of them soon.  Watermelon is growing like a weed (though no fruit yet) and our squash plants are actively trying to choke out 2 of my pepper plants.  I keep trimming it back, but they keep trying to cover the peppers up.   In the meantime, I can just eat this squash for a week.  Seriously.  Its huge.  I even put sunglasses in the picture for reference.

I also had a couple of Jalapenos ready to go, so they got picked as well (and instantly thrown into a mix for some Jalapeno Ranch...mmmm).  The squash got cut up and baked into squash fries.  I'll try to get some pictures up of those some other time. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A Brief Thought on Welfare Cards

I'm not going to get into a whole discussion regarding welfare, but as a libertarian most of you can probably guess where I stand on that one.

Instead, I'd like to share a personal story about a overweight lady in front of me in line at Walgreens.  As I'm standing there waiting to purchase Mothers Day cards (see? I'm such a capitalist I even participate in made up holidays designed to do nothing but sell crap) I notice there seems to be a problem in front of me.

This lady was becoming slightly angered by the fact that the cashier had swiped her Lone Star card twice, and the machine was claiming she still owed money.  Being a curious soul, I decided to peek into the bags and see what this poor woman was unable to provide for herself that I and other taxpayers helped her purchase. 

8 or 10 cans of Arizona Iced Tea (which are of course, super healthy...right?) and a pack of cigarettes she was purchasing with cash.  That was it.  No food, no medicine, no toiletries.  Arizona Tea. 

The poor cashier winds up having to call a manager over, and void the transactions, etc before rechecking her out.  When this happens, this woman lets out a huge sigh, rolls her eyes and huffs like an angry walrus (which she kind of looked like...back hair, body size and all.  Truly, the only thing missing was the tusks). 

Now, you're purchasing a frivolous drink...using taxpayer money...and you're going to get ANGRY that the cashier is taking too long?  I mean, I'm sure her time is valuable as hell!  Holy crap.  The sense of entitlement in this country that some people have is flat out astounding to me. 

I'd love to drop Suzy Walrus into Somalia for a week to see how far her fat ass and sense of entitlement would get her. 

Rant off. 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Garden Update (4?)

Not sure what update I'm on, but I have lot of garden news! First a couple of quick pictures of the garden:

The tomato plants, due to their continued instance that "I grow where I want", have been placed in govt reeducation centers, also known as "cages".  These cages should help the tomatoes grow upright, though the quality of the cages leaves much to be desired, as they were obtained by govt contract or "at walmart".

Our watermelon plants continue to grow wherever as well, but hopefully the intimidation of seeing the tomatoes cages will show them how to get in line.  I doubt it though, because they're dirty fuzzy watermelon hippies.

The Cherry tomato plants have begun producing lots of flowers and little tomatoes, and should be ready for taxing or  "harvesting"  soon.  The strawberry and herbs planted in our gardening pots continue to under perform, proving yet again that separate but equal is a crock of BS.  

The peppers are the soccer moms or "most confusing" plants of the lot.  They can't decide what they want to do yet.  I'm not sure if its just not hot enough for them, if they haven't been pandered to enough, or if I simply need to start getting more expensive haircuts to win their love, but we have some pepper plants that are very big but haven't so much as flowered, and some that are tiny and will probably crush themselves under the weight of the single pepper they're growing. 

Our squash, like most politicians, are very pretty and have promised lots and lots of crop for harvest.  Unfortunately, just like most politicians...our squash have promised lots and delivered little.  We have one small squash that is starting to grow, but they promise to do better if we reelect them in November.

All of our plants, minus the political squash, seem to be suffering the effects of bugs or "1000s of pages of petty laws and regulations" which isn't helping them to grow and produce.  Man, my garden has lots of issues!