It’s that time of the year. The mind rotates around to food and plantings…

No one in my family has ever been much of a gardener, except for my mom. And frankly, I didn’t learn a whole bunch: Let her and mi sisters pick the Hiumalyana black berries that grow up in the Northwest – and let them do the cheesecloth and dripping. My role was to play with the melted parafin. And I still got some pie and jelly in the deal – great family value stuff.

When we moved to the Outback, Elaine did most of the gardening. She is spectacularly good at it.

Because of the airplane, though, we weren’t around the past couple of summers to look after the garden. Brother-in-law was courting so his attention was (rightly) elsewhere.

So this year I burned out the garden and we’ll put in some real crops this year.


After a while you get a practiced eye from reading about gardening. The most obvious defect with the Ure garden plot is that the fence gate is too damn low. So one of the first projects this weekend will be to put up some re-bar, well on some cattle panel, and then spray with Rustoleum primer.

A couple of years ago, I got real interested in hydroponics. One reason is it involved zero weed-pulling. But that still doesn’t produce a plant to go in the net pots that go into the liquid. Those still have to be “hatched” and put into grow media.

I did a fair planting of tomatoes and broccoli on January 30th. But here’s all I got for the efforts:


Not much there, right?

But from a similar batch of seeds, I decided to plant using a planting stick and plant in starting and potting soil. World of difference!


You can’t read the dates on the ID sticks well, but these all went in on February 6th – so this is (right side) tomatoes and left side squash at the six day mark.

The (simple enough for even George to follow-along) lesson is simple: Don’t waste your time on those “look like they oughta work” peat pellets.

Granted, these are pellets that had been in storage for, um….maybe 4 or 5 years. But that’s the point of prepping to see what works and what doesn’t. You can see the “doesn’t” real well.


Left: two weeks in pellets, right 6 DAYS in real soil.

These are same seeds, different containers and all on the same heat mat. To be sure, the right-hand plants are on a cookie sheet (metal) to hold the water around the bases. But the use of a plastic mat shouldn’t make any different. Unless, of course, you’re a fan of Dr. Wilhelm Reich.

He’s the fellow who came up with the idea of “orgone energy” and some claim it’s the “orgasmic power” of the Universe. A rare book I have argues it’s the orgasmic power that runs antigravity for aliens and lots of other froufrou, which is even more outlandish.

Still, there may be something to this metal plan being used.

Reich’s idea was that orgone energy could be “accumulated” by containing things in alternate layers of organic and inorganic (some say metallic) material.

Thing of it as growing things in a kind of “capacitor box.”

Remember that a capacitor is nothing more than two conductors – separated by some insulating material – and a “charge” may be stored in the insulated field between the metal plates.

What Reich did was build up “accumulators” with different materials, sometimes wood and metal, other times other things.

There actually may be a bit of fringe science to some of his odd ideas: There is a small but measurable electric field around everything living and perhaps, with the high kind of containment, the materials could be selected to keep more of a plant’s “orgone” (life force/orgasmic) energy in the same region and not be frittered away through the plastic tray which was used for the peat pellets.

I have a good photo here of the plants at six days. So when I get some time later this week I’ll put in still more tomatoes and see if they pop up faster or slower.

One footnote on this: There is a pretty well defined lunar effect, so we would expect similar seeds to germinate a bit slower during the waning part of the moon’s cycle.

Ain’t science fun?

Another little wobble on Ure’s part…well two actually.

One is that although I love our reliable old Flexogen hoses, I’m ordering a 50-foot “drinking water safe” hose for the garden.  Camco 22803 TastePURE Drinking Water Hose (5/8″ID x 75′) – Lead Free for $30 bucks works.

Get a longer hose than you need and get some hunks of rebar so you can pound them in so the hose doesn’t run over plants when you move it around.

If I was a plant and got some of that plastic/hose hose water smell on me, I’d want to craw back into the ground.

Instead, for the past few weeks, I have been taking up a full bucket of water and letting it come right out of the faucet. We ran a pipe up to the garden years ago – a fine thing to have.

By letting the water sit overnight or longer, it gets rid of the chlorine smells and other dissolved gases…which shouldn’t be a bad thing.

Final point is about gardening as prepping:

As I say, I’m not a big fan of gardening. But that’s because I stupidly wanted to just toss seeds in the ground and get vegetables the following week.

Turns out, my earlier efforts involved a lot of unnecessary hard work. I spent time pulling weeds and all kinds of stuff. There are several good books on weedless gardening – everything from  Square Foot Gardening A New Way to Garden in Less Space with Less Work to Weedless Gardening for good openers.

Any of these will be a step in the right direction. But more important to me has been this greenhouse thing. It will be raining down here today and I can be in the greenhouse puttering away. The payoff will be plants that will be probably 5-6 inches high that will go in right after the tiller pass and the amendments to the soil.

My friend Perk – former fire chief hereabouts (off traveling last heard) – was a Master Gardener and he used tricks like putting down a row of weed cloth, planting his veggies in small holes and then mulching over the cloth. Made sense, if I’m remembering his technique correctly.  But it seemed like a lot of work,…so mulch and till it under in the fall.  Bring in worms, too.

Heaven knows we have pine needles enough and with lime to keep it from going to acidic…

Still, in survival gardening you’re really after minimum labor and maximum food output, so I may even skip the tilling…just burn things out, turn over a small hand shovel worth of ground, transplant into that and mulch over the burn ash.

Absent the airplane, which will go at some point regardless of the events this week, I’m trying to wrap my head around “survival gardening.”

So if I accidentally write “This is not work, this is a new fun…” That’s just me, turning the homestretch at 68 trying to stay in shape and emphasizing nutrition.

But it does make me wonder: Isn’t there some way we could harness all that wasted human efforts in gyms and fitness clubs and lay some of that “orgone”-like energy in community gardens, or such?

So when will Melania be planting the back yard of the White House?

Don’t forget this is Valentine’s day.  Remember to pick up a treat or you will be sleeping in the greenhouse or worse.

Write when you get rich,