Robert Pogson

One man, closing all the windows.

Posts Tagged / garden

  • Jun 30 / 2014
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Some Businesses Just Don’t Get Customer Service

I bought some equipment from a company with a great “brand” a couple of years ago and it stinks. The clutching is very jerky and the drive belts get chewed up. Wanting to find any further information which might help fix the problem, I went to their website whereupon I was asked for model number/serial number to look up manuals and such. Fine. However, their web-application would not “accept” my numbers. I took them right off the bloody stickers on the machine!

Upon further study, I learned that model numbers are 6 digits beginning with “9″ even though my sticker clearly shows a number 9 digits long. There is another number nearby which is 7 letters/digits…. Further, a serial number is the last 6 digits of another string beginning with “0″…. Why can’t the user enter what’s on the sticker and the web-application figure it out? To make matters worse, there is a list of model numbers which must be manually translated, yep, just like a code book. Mine was not among them. What are their servers doing? Can’t they do lookups?

There is a nice part-number for the belt that’s getting chewed. Local suppliers will sell it for $30. I managed to find one supplier who gave the measurements of the belt. The OEM would not. I measured what was left of my belt and ordered 5 off the web from a generic supplier for the price of one belt locally. They should last me five years at the present rate of chewing. Sigh. I sent the manufacturer a message with images of my stickers and a tongue text-lashing.

UPDATE I got a reply to my e-mail. The sticker on my tractor is wrong! My tractor was built by a subcontractor who made the mistake. So, the brand-OEM sent me the correct information and I’m good to go… Of course, there are errors in the manual, like diagrams showing idler pulleys that don’t exist and grease zerks that don’t exist… but at least I can now examine documentation without carrying it in from the garage in the comfort of my zoomable computer-screen.

  • Jun 28 / 2014
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Enough With The Rain Already!

Here we are in June when we expect the odd thundershower. Last year and the year before we had months of drought. Now, Nature is trying to fix the average in one year. We’ve had two weeks of frequent rain an inch or so at a time. The ground in my yard is saturated. There are puddles in several places. My garden is drowning. Today, we got another inch or so in a cats-and-dogs downpour.

I’ve had it! I’m going to actively drain my yard. I have an old sump pump I’m going to repair and put in weeping tiles in the main garden. I waded out into the biggest puddle and started a siphon to the ditch. It’ll take hours to drain that. To add to the situation, a landscape designer persuaded the little woman to build damns berms all over the yard. There’s a lake behind each one. I had the yard levelled off about right except for fine-tuning before those damned berms… One berm is even catching water discharged from the sump. The sump drain was crushed by big trucks last year and the little woman promised more so I haven’t replaced it.

Well, at the rate we are going, I should be dead by the time this yard is landscaped. I may never taste a fruit from these trees. About half the trees I planted in the last year are under water. Even the hardy ones are drooping.

  • Jun 06 / 2014
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Yipee! The Garden Is “In”!

I’ve been working at it for a month but this morning I finished planting the last seeds for the garden, the quick-growing stuff like radishes and spinach and a few others. I spent a lot of time on corn and peas but also dodging heat/rain/cold… It’s been a terribly variable month. May usually is like a mild summer-season with rarely any heat or rain. Now to catch up with the weeds… They’ve been happily growing for a month and you can tell how long ago I planted a section by how tall the weeds are. Fortunately germination was uniform so I can actually see the good stuff. Today, I will try to plant my hedge of caragana. 500 seeds, one per foot… Luckily the day is forecast as sunny but not hot so I should be done one side by noon and I can do the other side in the afternoon. I’m also filling in some gaps in another hedge and weeding that as I go. Things are looking up.

Corn, peas, onions planted from seedlings, and broccoli planted from seedlings are all doing beautifully with nearly 100% survival. Saskatoon and grape nursery stock are looking good and about half the raspberry nursery stock are looking good. In another week, I should know whether the garden is thriving or not. At the moment I would bet nothing but a hail-storm would mess this up. I don’t have any distractions except the lawn and its weeds and the mushrooms in the forest and weekends target-shooting. Life is hectic when you’re retired. ;-)

One different strategy from previous gardens… I’m growing two flats of Marigolds to produce seed. I should be able to have thousands of the little darlings growing around the yard next year at the current rate of seed-production. Each plant produces hundreds of seeds and I have a hundred plants. If I plant the early seeds, and they are fruitful and multiply, I could have a yard full of the darlings by broadcast next year, my own weeds… I could have three generations going by the fall. I can plant the overflow in several other flats and the garden where harvests have gone on and pretty soon Marigolds will take over the Earth. Don’t you just love geometric growth when it’s this pretty?

UPDATE I’m 80% done planting a hedge of caragana on two sides of the property. It’s taken a lot longer than I expected because I met some weeds along the way. Of course, quack grass is a recurring nightmare but I’ve pretty well controlled it by roto-tilling invaders from the neighbours but I have to dig out the last outposts before planting the hedge. I’ve planted about 400 seeds… 100 to go… In a few years I will have a sincere yard in which yellow birds like to live.

  • May 23 / 2014
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Guilt is a key motivator of humans. Guilty humans will go to great lengths either to deny error or to compensate for error.

I’ve been feeling guilty all day today. I got out in the garden early to plant stuff before it became hot. The first thing I saw was a pair of tree swallows trying in vain to get into the two wren-houses I built for my garden. The hole was too small and the bird could only get the head inside. In the afternoon after planting half my shrubs I decided it was too hot to do anything and retired to the cool of the house. That only made me feel more guilty… So, finally, I jumped up and selected material to make a proper tree swallow house. It’s much bigger than the wren-house because the swallows are bigger and they have lots of nestlings. I made a 1.5″ hole this time and used heavier materials because the house would be out in the open rather than close in to my garden. I welded some t-bars together to make a post and planted the thing at the far end of one of the berms, so the swallows would have a lot of height for their “dive”, almost 10 feet. I don’t need to worry about the young wandering around on the lawn demanding to be fed. The swallows fly and never return to the nest. They move to where there are more bugs. They are beautiful birds, eh?

UPDATE Here is a picture of one of my tree swallows sitting on an old sunflower stalk. They are flitting around picking up straws and things to line the nest but also picking off the odd bug.

  • May 22 / 2014
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Resume Gardening

I started planting two weeks ago but a week of cold/rain, a warm space and another couple of days of rain has delayed things. I have corn/peas planted. My shrubs are at the Post Office. The weather should be good for a couple of days to plant it all. Rhubarb and Caragana are active. Bedding plants are looking vigorous. No word from the plums and maples. The maples were mowed down by rabbits last fall. A Green Ash was pruned severely by deer. I hope they have enough to eat so they can leave my garden alone this summer… Too bad I live in a “no shooting” zone.

  • May 11 / 2014
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food, horticulture


I’ve been watching the soil-temperature data (from an NT server run by the Government of Manitoba…) and with the sunny hot day we had yesterday, I have determined to plant the garden. There’s only one day of mild freezing in the longterm forecast. Sprinklers can protect the garden from that. There will be a few days of cloudy damp weather starting today so the bedding plants will be comfortable. I’ve had them sitting out on the patio for a week and most are happy… As well, I will start planting the big seeds, peas and corn. I have a few baby carrots left over happily sprouting in the crisper to go as well.

It’s always exciting to get the garden in. This is the day. Seize it. ;-)

  • Oct 11 / 2013
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family, horticulture

White Spruce and Caragana

I am not sure what “white spruce” is. They all seem green to me… but I was helping an elderly relative pack and was offered a collection of seeds. I was assured these were seeds from the old homestead where a young family grew on the farm nearly a century ago. One item, caragana, I have already planted but it will be good to add some diversity to its gene-pool. I am not sure how long such seeds are viable but even if one grows it will be great. The white spruce came in kits probably distributed during some activity for the old folks. They may be more viable. Then there are the beans, three kinds no less. There are half a pound of them. Surely a few will grow. I will have to segregate them and cover the flowers to keep them pure but I can try to grow some new seeds next year.

According to Wikipedia, White Spruce likes to grow in regions cooler than a mean temperature of 18C in July… That will be hard to meet in my yard… but heavy watering should help. It likes acidic soil, a bigger problem. I could use a few tall trees to give some shade to the new patio during the heat of the day. Deciduous trees would be more effective, I am sure, but I will find a place for a few of these. I can always put any surplus in the corners. The little woman agrees to this. ;-) white_spruce(This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. dmcdevit)

Trees! After 4 years of mud and weeds, and two years of grass and weeds, our yard is converging to a sincere place to live with a good mix of people, trees, flowers, vegetables and grass, lots of grass. I could have birds living in my yard in a couple of years if all goes as planned.

  • Jun 21 / 2013
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I went shopping yesterday for a few items. One was parts for a water-manifold for the garden. I need several hoses running from time to time and the old manifold just died. It didn’t last long so I will do this right, building it myself. The old one was a casting that looked pretty but the valves literally disintegrated with the bobbins popping out…

I will make the manifold of copper tubing and tees connected to a short length of old garden hose and the existing outlet. I have a large home and a large lot but only two outlets… hence, the manifold. I have a fair bit of material laying around like the tubing but I can’t find enough valves, hence the shopping. Instead of bottom-of-the-line valves, I bought some nice ones with mounting brackets built in and removable packing so the seals won’t be damaged by soldering. They come with a male connector for garden hoses at a 45º angle so my hands and eyes can work together fiddling with the hoses. The plan is to cut the tubing into short sections to fit between the tees and between the tees and the valves. I even bought a cap so the end can be closed off nicely instead of crimping and soldering.

I know I have soldering flux, solder and propane burners around but I have no idea where the flux is. A bit of reading on the web found a patent for a flux based on citric acid (1990), which I have in stock since my northern teaching days and making ersatz soda pop… Basically I need a mix of water and 20-40% citric acid with a thickener to help it stick to the metal just before soldering. Bitter white sauce… I will bore some holes in a substantial piece of wood to mount the valves. A few steel bars into the ground will make it sturdy.

Oops! I had to increase the spacing of the tees. Clearly, I did not make enough room for the valves. I cut longer stubs between the tees.
No more mucking around with hose-connectors for me. I will just leave them connected all summer…

  • Jun 08 / 2013
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Bad Day At The Office…

Today was not a good day. I was in the process of mowing the weeds when the transmission on my 29 year old John Deere mower locked up. I am not sure whether the transmission actually broke or the sensor of oil-pressure failed. I am just tired of fixing the old thing. It’s time to buy a new machine. Of course, the little woman wants to take charge of that.

An interesting challenge now faces me. Supposing a new machine is bought, how do I get it to my yard? Most of the local retailers are so close, I could actually drive the new machine to my place… It would take about two hours and might save a $50 delivery charge. How to get rid of the old machine is another matter. Perhaps I could salvage the engine which still purrs and use the frame to hold a generator for backup power.

Another failure was the 6 year old string weed-trimmer. The head overheated and plastic melted. It looks like I need a new head and some lithium grease for the shaft. I used to have some at the old homestead but I can’t find it now. More shopping.

Well, with a large lot and dandelions in their prime, bad things come in bunches. With rain expected over the next couple of days, I have to get cutting ASAP…

  • May 30 / 2013
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Back In The Saddle

Yesterday, having caught up with my seeding, I did other things for my land. I finally got around to fixing the old mower’s deck. The mounting bolts I thought were rounded off were actually coated with grass-juice… I sharpened the blades to increase efficiency. They weren’t as bad as I thought despite hitting so many rocks on my property last year.

Some things were wrecked however. When I went to remount the deck, I discovered that two bolts were missing that supported the deck on one side. I guess the abuse last year loosened the bolts. As I did not have any replacements I did a bit of welding to secure the mount. I also straightened a strut that was bent.

I took it out for a spin and whacked off the first dandelions and the grass itself. This is the first spring after planting from seed. In places the grass is already perfect, lush and dense. A few spots with poor soil or low snow-cover have a lot of growing to do. The thing I liked most is that the quackgrass has really been set back. Large portions of the lawn have none despite a general infection two years ago. Quackgrass hates regular mowing and perennial rye grass just gets bushier.

There are a few places I need to level a bit as the land settled in an irregular fashion after planting and in the drought last year. I need to do a bit of rake and wheelbarrow work. The damned berms are a bigger problem. The dandelions love them and the little woman still has planted nothing there. I am temped to turn them into a paradise for rabbits by planting them over with wild roses… :-(

  • May 26 / 2013
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About two weeks ago, I began to seed my garden. Recent developments:

  • I have finished seeding corn by hand, one per square foot, 500g of seed…about 4500 kernels. I hope my friends show up to help eat the crop. ;-) I think, next year, I will ask them to help plant it as well.
  • The first sprouts I have seen are corn, radish, rhubarb, asparagus, lilies, rose, and apple. It’s going to be a great year.
  • I still have a bunch of tree seeds and a few onion sprouts to plant.
  • Dandelions got raked over with my battery-powered whipper-snipper.
  • My Dahlia cuttings seemed to have had a setback but it was just a period of low light. I will move them outside shortly to fix that.
  • I have sprouted some unknown bulbs donated by a relative. I suspect they are tulip, narcissus or daffodil bulbs. I have not planted those for years but images on the web seem to match.

Tomorrow, I plan to plant grass seed on a few bare zones/spots and place a bunch of dormant tree-seeds in trays. If I have the energy, I may fertilize the grass and start watering more than the garden-seeds. I also plan to sharpen the blades on the big mower. I have to weld on nuts to the retaining bolts which have been in forever… It seems I work harder now that I am retired.

  • May 02 / 2013
  • 2
food, horticulture

Planting Corn

Last year I had the best crop of corn of my life despite a drought and distraction by renovation of the old homestead. The weeds nearly won…

This year I will change to a smaller patch more densely planted. The strategy is to allow the corn to shade the damned weeds and win. To do that I will change from 30 inch spacing of rows to 12 inches with 12 inches between plants in the row. This will reduce competition between roots of plants which were only 4 inches apart last year. Each plant will be offset 6 inches from the nearest one in the next row. I can cultivate small weeds by hand by straddling a row of corn until they are too tall. By then they will shade the weeds. This gives a density of 43500 plants per acre but they will receive TLC all summer and good fertilization. I will have one low spot but if it floods I will just bail it out. These plants will have no excuse not to produce as water will be close at hand.

No doubt the yield will be more than we can eat but a few parties and putting away frozen and creamed corn could take care of a bunch. Barring tornadoes or hail or some horrible pests… it should be another good year. Last year I was a hero for a couple of weeks… Next week will be sunny and warm, good conditions to prepare to plant by the end of the week.