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Send in the clones

March 17, 2016 1 comment

Grapes…..

Grape juice, grape jelly, grape wine, grape wine vinegar.  We use grapes in so many ways, and we never seem to have enough.  So back in the early part of February this year I decided to try my hand at cloning our grape vines.   After a little light reading and a trip to the feed store, I was ready.  Early to mid February is the best time around here to prune grape vines.  It’s past the cold part of the year, so any diseases or pests are dead; and it’s before it starts really warming up, so the sap is still down and the vines won’t bleed.24464289084_03b883d53c_b

Supplies:

  • Pruners- make sure they’re sharp
  • A sharp knife
  • A container of bleach water (a half-capful in a pint jar is plenty strong)
  • Rooting compound powder
  • A bucket of wet sand
  • A plastic grocery bag

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Prune your vines like you normally would, and choose your best looking vines to clone.  You want the section closest to the main stem – the fatter part, and make sure they’re about the diameter of your pinky finger or bigger.  If you’ve ever pruned grape vines before you know the huge pile of cuttings you end up with.  You can be picky; make sure there are no diseased or damaged sections.

24976845772_a659f43e14_bCut them down to size – you need 3 or more “nodes” – the bumpy part of the grape vine – on each cutting.  Leave ½ to 1 inch below the bottom node (yes it matters top and bottom).  Then take your sharp knife and scrape just the outer layer of bark off the vine to expose the green part underneath.  Immediately dip this section into your bleach water solution, and then into your rooting powder.  Roll it around and completely coat that green part, and the bottom node too.  The rooting compound has a hormone in it, derived from willow trees t25001317381_f20d359bdb_bhat stimulate root growth in your plant.  You want to coat that bottom end really well.  After you’ve got it coated, stick it down into your bucket of wet sand.  I ended up with about 15 cuttings in each of my buckets of sand.  You can do as many as will fit, or you can even do individual pots if you don’t want to have to re-pot them later; just make sure you cover each one up to the second node with sand.  Then you have to cover the container up.  You need something to keep the humidity extremely high during the rooting process.  I use plastic grocery bags; they’re big enough to go around the tops of the buckets, and stay on nicely.  24727877059_56351b203e_bOnce your container is covered, put it in a warm area, out of direct sunlight.  It doesn’t have to be a dark room, but it can’t be in the sunlight, or you will bake your grapevines.  I stuck them in the shower, since a couple of the buckets had cracks and leaked; kind of a pain to drag them out every time to take a shower, but it kept the floor dry.  Check them every week or so to make sure that the sand is still wet.  You don’t want them to be under water, but you don’t want them to dry out at all.  It’s critical to keep a high humidity level at this stage.25465741232_87fbb6f6a1_b

After about 4-5 weeks, you should begin to notice the buds swelling, and leaves starting to form at one or more of the nodes of the cutting.  You can take the cover off at this stage, but be careful to keep them hydrated.  It’s best to water them every day at this stage; because there aren’t any real roots to speak of yet, and the plant can dry out very quickly thru those new leaves.  If you notice the leaves starting to droop, go ahead and put the vine sections back under their plastic bag tent.

After about another month or so, I should begin to see new growth on my cuttings, and the roots should be starting to form too.  I’ve re-potted mine before this happens, as I don’t want to damage the new baby roots.  25568208300_bc75abdb60_b  I put them in a potting mix with some added vermiculite to help keep things hydrated, and allow the roots room to form.  I’m keeping a close eye on the leaves for signs of wilting, which will tell me that they are getting dehydrated, and I need to tent them to increase their humidity level.  In late May, I hope to be able to plant the started cuttings in the ground.

Hopefully by next summer, we’ll be harvesting some grapes off these cloned vines.  Even if things go extremely well this year, and these start to try and produce fruit, we need to pinch off any fruit that forms, so the plant can put energy into roots.  Next year should be ok for a limited amount of fruit, and after that we should be absolutely swimming in grapes.  I made 64 cuttings, and 61 of them seem to have taken.  So I now have 61 little grape starts with lots of new leaves on them, waiting to take root.  Kind of exciting watching God’s creation spring to new life this time of year.

 

Until next time…..

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LED grow lights on the cheap

March 3, 2016 5 comments

 

With all our little seedlings popping up all over the place, I needed some grow lights in a hurry.  In the past I’ve used shop lights from the local big-box hardware store, as well as an official fluorescent grow light – I think I got it from Gardens Alive.  It worked great, but it was very expensive; and this year the bulb got broken.  Tired of constantly buying new bulbs all the time, I looked into LED grow lights.  EXPENSIVE!!!!

So, I thought I’d engineer one myself, in my low-budget way.  I needed something that would be LED-based- to save on power consumption; water-resistant- plants do require moisture; cheap- obviously; and easy to store- since we only use them for a short time each year.  So I came up with something based off of a product I don’t really like – plasticor.  That’s that corrugated plastic stuff that all those political campaign signs are made of.  But it’s light, sturdy, water resistant, and reasonably priced.  I picked some up at my local sign shop, and they even cut it to the size I needed for me.  Since I didn’t care about the color, I got an even better deal on them.

Here’s my bill of materials to make 1 light:

  • 1 piece of plasticor, cut to the size I need on my growing shelf.
  • 1 set of stick-on LED lights (ordered from Amazon)
  • A length of mule tape – you can use rope, or chain – I just had this laying around
  • A 12 volt power adapter – again, had one a bunch laying around

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I used a soldering iron to melt the holes in the plasticor that I needed for the mule tape and the LED strip’s power cord.  You could probably use a hole punch, or a knife, or scissors, but the soldering iron make a nice neat round hole.  This is the view from the top side.25479556245_b8a28acdbb_z

I tied a piece of mule tape, cut twice the width of the plasticor at each end, thru the holes I’d “drilled” with the soldering iron.  I then slid the plug for the LED strip thru the center hole.

On the other side, I started the adhesive for the LED’s and ran them in a sorta-circular pattern sticking them down tight to the plasticor.  They don’t make sharp bends very well, I tried to do square corners on 1 of the others I made, but it didn’t come out very well.  Here’s the LED’s all stuck down and ready to light up.25361241742_b4cf981f92_z

And here it is plugged in to the 12 volt power supply.25184107560_4c7f136218_z

Here it is hanging on the shelf over the seedlings, providing the light they need to grow and thrive.25114747769_f6bd675b4f_b

I simply tied another piece of mule tape to the loop that I made, and then tied that to the shelf at the height I want.  It’s adjustable so they can be raised up as the seedlings get taller.  Once we’re finished starting our seedlings, these should store nicely; taking up a lot less space, plus without having to worry about broken bulbs.

All together, each grow light cost about $14 in materials that I had to buy, and took approximately 10 minutes apiece to assemble.  To purchase a pre-built LED grow light would cost $35 or more apiece, and take up 4 times as much space.  We should see a decrease in the power usage as well, 24855509763_5c4d634370_zsince these are LED lights.  Each strip of 150 LED’s draws 24 watts, and provides PLENTY of light.  If you look in the window at night, our pantry is VERY bright.  I have the power connected to a power “strip” so I can just switch them all off when we go to bed at night.  Hopefully this bit of engineering helps someone out, and gives a jump start on getting the garden plants started.

 

Until next time…..

Categories: Uncategorized

Spring is getting ready to go “sproing”

March 2, 2016 Leave a comment

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Each year, as the days get longer, we all start getting impatient for springtime to fully arrive. The outside projects start in earnest, cleaning up all the stuff that didn’t get cleaned up before cold weather,  whitewashing the fenceposts and the chicken coop, getting ready for the first batch of meat chickens, planting, pruning, and the dozens of other tasks that have to be done RIGHT NOW.

 

25046642769_982abd88e8The big push right now is remodeling the chicken coop.  It was in pretty bad shape this past winter – there was a hole in the roof big enough for me to stick my head through.  Last weekend Austin and I tore off the old plywood roof, and replaced it with some of the metal roofing that we  have laying around.  We had just enough so that we didn’t have to buy any roofing.  We’re also increasing the size of the coop, and adding a “nursery” for the (50) new laying hens that we bought a couple months ago.  We had a calf pen on the other side of the coop 24795682613_3615cc5633_bthat we’re expanding into.  All of the older children worked on the demolition of the old wall, cleaning out the winter’s accumulation of litter, and scrubbing the nesting boxes while Taya was busy whitewashing the inside.  Austin worked on building the addition, and hung the door from the old turkey pen.  It’s coming together quite well.  We have the outside run to finish this evening, and the nursery will be complete.

 

 

25260442212_ae50e13d24_cWe’ve added a Jersey calf to our collection of animals, and we’ve worked out a great arrangement with one of our neighbors.  They had a couple of very old horses, one of which had died, and they wanted something in the pasture with the remaining horse for company.  With some providential timing, we were able to move the calf in with the horse, along with Daisy – our donkey, and so far everyone is getting along fine.  The calf will provide our family with beef in a couple years, and he helps to keep the grass mowed in our neighbor’s pasture.25005697129_7f12e51c52_b

Since it will be time to plant sooner than we realize, we have literally hundreds of seeds started – kale, lettuces, peas, tomatoes, peppers, squashes, and even cucumbers.  I always make the mistake of putting the little plants outside too soon, and lose half of them to one of the infamous late frosts that we get in our little “holler”.  The last frost date according to the USDA map is 4/15; but there’s always several hard freezes for 2-3 weeks after that.  Hopefully this year our fruit trees will bear us some fruit.  The past 2 years they’ve gotten nipped by frost, just as they are fully budded out, and are most vulnerable.  We always try to save them by covering the buds and blossoms with every blanket, sheet, and piece of fabric we can round up, but the wind always blows it loose overnight, the frost settles on the flowers and kills them; usually the same night that I forget and leave the tomato plants out.  It’s a reminder that there is a power greater than us that controls creation around us, and we have to always be vigilant and pay close attention.

 

One of the reasons we’re starting so many seeds this year, is we have the goal of opening a produce stand/market on our property this year.  We’ve put in a total of 50 blueberry plants, are waiting on a few hundred strawberries to arrive, and are hopeful that the 15 grape 25053304559_095da39ff2_bvines do very well.  We have 50 new laying hens, and are planning on adding to our flock of ducks as well.  We’re hoping to produce enough for our family, and then have plenty to offer for sale.  We’ve done farmer’s markets, we’ve done other venues, and have decided it’s time to do it like we do everything else – our way.  We’re hoping put up a small building  at the end of our driveway, and offer flowers and plants, Taya’s soaps and lotions, fresh produce, pastured chicken, eggs; and whatever else we can think of.  We’ve got our “shingle” hung by the road; now hopefully we’ll be blessed with success in our venture.

There’s lots more going on, but not enough space and time for it all to fit here.  Lord willing, we’ll be adding updates a lot more frequently.  You can always check out our life in pictures at our Flickr site, as we upload photos there “as they happen”.  Hope everyone is doing well, and spring comes soon!

 

Until next time…..

Categories: Uncategorized