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Archive for December, 2009

We have no one to blame but ourselves. We were so in love with the house and in such a hurry to find a place here in North Georgia that we paid no attention to the ramifications of the Home Owners Association documents we signed. Boy Howdy, did we get more than we bargained for.

No one forced us. There were no guns to our heads. The rules and covenants were out there in plain sight, fully disclosed. I could kick myself, but at my age I no longer have the flexibility in my hips or knees.

I understand the theory behind an HOA. We all want to maintain our property values and be proud of our neighborhoods. But from my vantage point, many Associations have gone the way of the Trade Union movement, are too powerful, too self important and have lost the forest for the trees.

For example, I can understand a guideline for maintaining a garden shed or greenhouse in good condition and not letting it become an eyesore. But banning them seems draconian and foolish.

I could list numerous examples of silliness foisted upon communities by their Associations, but you get my point, I’m sure.

I suspect that many people, like us, miss the full extent of HOA covenant implications, due to the euphoria of purchasing that dream home. We are ‘high’ and not in our right minds. We miss the fine print. We sign and then it’s too late. But we are still to blame. Shame on us.

The libertarian, iconoclast in me would tear down these baals and set men free, but since that’s not likely to happen, I would suggest that before you sign your soul away that you take time too cool the hot flashes of house lust long enough to think through everything you’re signing up for. It’s way more than a mortgage. If like, us, you are learning late in the game, there are still two choices; assimilate or evacuate. Guess which one we’re choosing?

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Watch Sam demonstrate just how simple it is to start vegetable plants from seeds.  We used standard peat pellets and a portable greenhouse kit which was purchased at one of the big box stores a few years ago.  The greenhouse kits come in a variety of sizes and are inexpensive.  They will last for several years if they are stored properly, and the peat pellets can be purchased in a variety of sizes and quantities from several home improvement stores and nurseries, as well as many online suppliers.

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The last two seasons, B and I have battled squash bugs (aka ‘stink bugs’) incessantly.  Year before last, they ruined our pumpkin and butternut squash.  Last year, they found our straight neck squash and zucchini. I think I went through gallons of insecticidal soap and picked off hundreds of the little invaders by hand.  I’m pretty sure the fight ended in a draw.  We never eliminated them, but we managed a decent harvest.

This year, I intend to engage the beasts on two fronts.  First, I’m going to grow some of my squash hydroponically.  Squash bugs can’t live in vermiculite (‘Take that, stink bugs of the universe’).

But my secret weapon in the main garden will be the lovely, nasturtium.  All my reading tells me that nasturtium is particularly repulsive to squash bugs.  And since squash bugs are particularly repulsive to me, I shall plant nasturtiums liberally in my garden beds.  Besides…. they are edible…and pretty, too.

Weird, huh?  It’s still December and I’m already talking about fighting bugs.

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Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

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Back in October, our HOA (otherwise known and our local green death panel) announced that compost piles were not allowed.  Bah! Humbug!

Not to be deterred, B and I bought a couple different types of commercial compost bins and transferred the pile into them.  We’ll update our findings as soon as we have some.

Around the same time, I started reading about worm composting, aka, vermiculture.  I was instantly hooked (pardon the pun, fishermen).  I ordered a worm compost bin, set it up, got some bedding going and ordered a pound of red wigglers.  They arrived in good order.  I must say, though, they were much smaller than I expected.

It took the worms about a month to establish themselves and get to work earning their keep.  The process is a bit slower than I expected, primarily due to the adjustment period and the fact that I should have ordered two pounds instead of one.

After the worms began to get active, I discovered a flaw in the design of the compost bin I ordered.  The holes between the bedding section and the waste section are too big.  The worms regularly leave the buffet table for a nap down below.  That’s bad on a number of levels.  Besides the fact that worms can’t eat things they can’t get to, they endanger themselves and can die if not put back.

B went to the store and bought some screen material to line the bottom with, which seemed a great plan, but the worms still find their way under it.  I’ll have to superglue the darned stuff to the bin.

Anyway, during my morning rescue mission today, I happened to notice some very tiny strings of thread in the bottom of the bin .  When I went to scoop it up, it moved.  There were a dozen baby worms in the box.  I am so psyched.  They are very thin, extremely pale, but quite active.  I gently placed them in the upper bin, added some food scraps and closed the lid with pride. But in my excitement, I forgot to take pictures.  Sigh.

How weird am I?

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He Who Loves the Soil

He knows no winter, he who loves the soil,

For, stormy days, when he is free from toil,

He plans his summer crops, selects his seeds

From bright-paged catalogues for garden needs.

When looking out upon frost-silvered fields,

He visualizes autumn’s golden yields;

He sees in snow and sleet and icy rain

Precious moisture for his early grain;

He hears spring-heralds in the storm’s ‘ turmoil­

He knows no winter, he who loves the soil.

-SUDIE STUART HAGER

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Our seeds have arrived.  In some ways it’s hard to believe that it’s already time to start seedlings again, but in other ways, I’ve been ready since the end of harvest. 

Brittan and I will begin planting pepper seeds over Christmas weekend.  We’ll start with the Jolokia (Ghost) peppers, because they require the longest germination period and have a very long season to harvest.  On the positive side, they produce till very late in the fall.  The only real negative was that we noticed  the late season peppers did not have the same heat levels as those from earlier in the year.

Beginning the first week in January, we will sow in sequence, peppers, tomatoes, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, squash, zucchini, marrow, eggplant, melons and cucumbers.  The things we will sow directly into the beds will wait until April.

We made a business and directional decision this year to use only open pollinated and heirloom varieties of vegetables.  We will also collect more seeds this year, so that we can gradually reduce the need for outside purchasing.  It is important to us that we grow only varieties that can reproduce year after year, rather than hybrids which cannot.

We’ve also decided to go completely organic.  Our long term goals are to be totally sustainable.  That is not possible being dependent on industrially produced fertilizers.  We do not believe that the oil and chemical companies are the enemy, but we don’t want to be dependent on them, either.   But more on that another day.  For now, we just enjoy the Christmas season and the joy

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