Friday, March 13, 2015

Growing Asparagus: Is it worth the time & money

This is the question that I have been pondering today, when thinking about the upcoming garden season this year. I was thinking about trying something different, in addition to the usual crops that I plant every year. First of all, it seems that a lot of people don't like to eat asparagus, for whatever reason, but this stuff tastes great to me! Anyway, a few years ago, I had this same dilemma, but it wasn't about the money or time involved with setting it up, but more about the time it takes to get a good harvest. I move around a lot, it seems, so that is the heart of my quagmire.

Asparagus, when starting from seed, will take about 3 years to produce a decent amount of yield. If you buy 1-year-old crowns, you'll still have to wait a couple growing seasons for steady production. When you buy the expensive 2-year-old roots/crowns, you still won't have very much asparagus during the first growing season when compared to how much money you spent on the plants. Hmm...

If you are at a location that you are at least semi-certain you are going to be at for a while and have the extra room for such things, asparagus seems to be a good choice. Around here, they sell it for nearly 3 dollars a can in the grocery section and I don't even know how high it is in the produce section. People claim that it is so much better fresh, right out of the garden (like most things), but I'm totally satisfied with canned asparagus except for, well, the price. The good thing is, asparagus seems to be fairly easy to grow, going by the last few videos I have watched today.

Oh, I forgot to mention: Once you get your asparagus planted and thriving, you shouldn't have to worry about replanting any time soon. On average, it will keep coming back season after season for 15 to 20 years. I've even read that it can last for 50+ years! However, this means nothing if you move around a lot! This is also the reason why I said if you "have the extra room for such things," because wherever you plant 'em at, you will be dedicating that area just for this particular crop.

I could write a long list of the health benefits along with certain odd qualities that asparagus has, but I'll spare you from the verbiage. I'm just more or less talking to myself on here about whether or not I should try growing this awesome perennial vegetable. From the green varieties to purple and white, you can find it all online. I will at least provide something useful on this post, and add some quality links below...

An easy-to-follow video that shows just how easy it is to grow asparagus, if you have the time and money for it:

Additional reading material about asparagus:

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons - Source = Wiki link is already provided above.

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Sunday, March 8, 2015

Dick Proenneke: Alone in the Wilderness

"Alone in the Wilderness" is the story of Dick Proenneke living in Alaska at Twin Lakes. This film shows a man living on pristine land that is unchanged by man, while being alone in a type of wilderness that few people would dare to challenge. Dick selected this type of peaceful setting even though it had brutally cold winters in which provided the serenity of stillness, at times. This DVD is so enjoyable to watch and it has a calming effect to it, if you enjoy this type of stuff. Just to see a person living off the land (for the most part - outside of the occasional delivery of certain products like granulated sugar, etc.) and having to put in all the hard work like cutting all of their wood, building their own cabin, making their own utensils while catching their fish, killing certain wild animals and growing their own food, all while documenting and narrating the chain of events during the process, is truly aesthetically pleasing to watch. For one to achieve such things, not only did a person need to be an excellent craftsman (and a great carpenter he was), but they had to also be very content with one's own thoughts and company...

This was a dream come true and a lifetime challenge for Dick Proenneke, that he ultimately lived out. What was going to be a 1 to 1.5 year project, turned into 30 years of outdoor peacefulness and pleasant, self-fulfilling adventures. He didn't leave the wilderness of Twin Lakes until he was 82 years old! He mentioned that the -40 (Fahrenheit) and -50 degree winters were starting to get hard on his joints. After returning to civilization at age 82, he died 4 years later from a stroke, at age 86.

Although this movie will not be for everyone, since not everybody seems to enjoy nature nowadays, if you are looking for some soothing outdoor explorations in a beautiful Alaskan setting, you'll love this flick! Alone in the Wilderness is the only film that featured Dick Proenneke that I have watched, but they also made a couple more (not including the Part 2, to this one) that was related to this one: "Alaska, Silence and Solitude" and "The Frozen North." The DVD for this show seems to be priced fairly high at the moment, so you may want to watch a short clip on YouTube (it skips around through various parts and leaves out most of the film), to get a better sense of what type of flick this is and/or to see whether or not this style of documentary is for you:

Shopping Link: "Click Here for Dick Proenneke DVDs on Amazon"

Image Credit: Fair Use - DVD Cover -

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Biostone: Biological Concrete made from sand, bacteria, and urine

Now here is an interesting biological product that could eventually be used to replace standard concrete while lowering our CO2 emissions. Yeah, cement production is not the most environmentally friendly thing in the world, to say the least. Anyway, the product is called "biostone" and it plans on putting your urine to better use; ha! The combination of this biological concrete uses sand, bacteria, and urine.

The procedure for creating this biostone/biological concrete involves filling a mold (that has the desired shape of the product) with sand before pumping a bacteria solution of bascillus pasterurii into the mold. From this point, it will set overnight. On the next day, a solution of urea, calcium chloride and nutrient broth is then pumped into the mold. As was stated on the actual page I just read: "The bacteria uses the urea as energy to absorb the calcium chloride and convert it into calcium carbonate, a cement-like mixture that binds the sand together within the mold." You can read more about this, here:

One of the YouTube videos is located here:

Of course, this particular method would not interest the common consumer nor would they probably like the idea of buying products that are made from urine and bacteria. LOL! On a good note, this is a step in the right direction since the idea behind this biological concrete/biostone can be expanded upon and hopefully be used later on to build houses, etc., and make industrial manufacturing more environmentally friendly and sustainable. I just thought this was an interesting advancement nonetheless and decided to share these tidbits of info today; cheers!

Image Credit: My own photo of a nearby rocky terrain.

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PolyGenomX: Using Epigenetics and Polyploids to grow more efficient Trees and Plants

PolyGenomX (PGX) is a research & development company that deals with plant-based biotechnology. They specialize in epigenetics and polyploidy. The term 'polygenomics' spawns from the practice that involves the deliberate creation of polyploids. I'll briefly explain polyploids in a moment, but first... Before anybody gets their panties in a wad, PolyGenomX does not involve itself with the creation of GMOs.

This technology could greatly enhance our biodiversity and could even help give the future of this humanoid race, some much needed hope. With a world population that is increasing at an alarming rate, we obviously need to make further advancements since many of us are giving up on the day that doesn't involve Big Oil domination and crude methods of energy. Since we can't stop The Powers That Be, maybe more folks will work around them like the ones over at PolyGenomX. Anyway, epigenetics is a term that can be used to describe anything other than the DNA sequence that influences the development of an organism. If you'd like to read about this particular field of study, go here:

Polyploids are especially common in plants. It involves a stress response that helps, in this case, a plant or tree evolve/adapt to its changing surroundings/environment that would, in turn, make it stronger and more capable of surviving. They call this a "polyploid event," and the main part of PolyGenomX consists of them trying to invoke a polyploid event in these modified trees and plants. This, when done correctly, will enhance the yield, shorten the breeding time, enhance the growth, allow poor growing areas to thrive with green life, prevent certain plant diseases and overall just make the trees and plants way more efficient. For example, with this technology, a 4-year-old tree would have the growth of a 10-year-old tree.

If you'd like to read more about polyploids, go here:

If you'd like to read more about PolyGenomX, go here:

If you are actually interested in this subject about using epigenetics and polyploids to grow better plants and trees, watching this 16 minute video may be of great interest:

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Are all amphibians poisonous to some degree?

While checking out various types of venomous creatures vs. poisonous ones, I ran across a statement that said "all amphibians are poisonous" - to some degree. Now, is this true or not? I haven't found definitive proof of this yet, but it does seem that most of them have poison glands in their skin albeit a lot of them are so weak, they wouldn't have any effect on humans. I think that is what makes this hard to believe. Basically, all frogs, toads, salamanders, newts, etc., are poisonous, technically.

I find this to be interesting, in a weird sort of way. I mean, personally, when I see stuff like toads, frogs, salamanders and newts, I don't usually think "it's dinner time!" LOL! Although snakes, lizards and turtles are reptiles and are not amphibians, I feel the same way about them, too. But back to the primary subject, are all amphibians poisonous? I know that all frogs suppose to be because of their skin, which is why you often hear how you should wash your hands immediately after touching a frog. Just think about the ones that chop frog legs for a living? Wait a minute, they probably wear gloves.

Well, if all the frogs are poisonous to some degree, why not all the toads? Yeah, the toads definitely look like they are! Many of those brightly colored salamanders actually look poisonous without even having to know this, and the newts are not much different. Hmm, maybe that is why I've seen my cats throw up before, shortly after eating them. Or was that a lizard? Hmm... Anyway, I just thought I'd bring this up, in case some of y'all have never thought about it before. I know that it's a good thing it is usually just the skin that is poisonous and the actual flesh/meat of a bullfrog and other large types of frogs (for example) are not poisonous, or else a lot of people would be sick from eating them; ha!

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons - Source is found here:

---End of Post "Are all amphibians poisonous to some degree?"

Expensive Compost Bins are not necessary

For the ones that use compost or have at least thought about it, you probably know what I mean when I say "expensive compost bins." Good grief, some of these things are outrageous in price. Out of curiosity, I was just checking and seen a lot of them listed from 100 to 200 dollars, and some of these bins were even in the 300 to 400 dollar price range! I'd build my own before buying those. Plus, I don't think they are necessary anyway. To me, at least, compost bins are more of a convenience than a requirement. Sure, these expensive contraptions help churn, turn, stir, air out, mix, etc., but so does a pitchfork; ha!

Anyway, I use various types of organic soil amendments for my garden every year, but I've never did the compost pile thingy. During the non-growing season I'll periodically dump a lot of used tea bags, vegetable waste, etc., on top of my garden area. Of course, if you have a commercial lot or a giant corn field, for example, this will not be sufficient; ha! However, if you are only growing enough food for a single family, it is very easy to accumulate enough organic material during the fall, winter, and early spring, for your small to medium-sized garden.

Another method is to simply save a lot of the waste in buckets, dump the smelly stuff out in early spring, and till/plow the waste into your soil a month or so beforehand. At any cultivating rate, I'm going to try the compost pile thing for the next couple of months, just to see how it smells, oops, I mean goes. If you want to reduce the odors, adding more brown matter than the green matter to your pile at a ratio of 3:1 or 4:1 will help a lot. Brown matter is stuff like dried leaves, dried grass trimmings, etc. Think 'dead' for brown, and fresh produce trimmings and fresh manure for green, etc.

Well, anyway, I'm going to modify some extra large plastic containers for the compost bins, and manually stir the crap as it rots. One must remember, compost is just decomposed organic matter. This ain't rocket science, as they say. I also like to spread a fair amount of wood ashes over my growing area once a year, as a soil amendment. Wood ashes will raise the pH a bit if you overdo it, so only use 'em in moderation.

Image Credit: Fair Use - Product Image -

Related Post:

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How to Freeze Summer Squash for Frying Purposes

When freezing produce, a lot of folks think you just "throw it in a bag" and simply freeze the stuff. While true for some things, like corn on the cob, for example, it doesn't always work out for other items that may be in your garden. I selected summer squash for this post because not everybody uses it for healthy stews and various recipes, as some of us like to bread and fry it!

When you freeze summer squash, whether you blanch it first or not, it will thaw out in a soggy condition. This mushy stuff will usually not be something that will bread and fry very effectively, and you may end up with a scrambled mess, to say the least. However, there is a way to freeze your squash for frying purposes, as I found this out by way of trial & error.

Please note: This method takes a bit of time and space, so you can only prepare so much at one time, in most cases. First, you slice your extra squash into your desired degree of thickness for frying. From there, you bread it (I use yellow corn meal and additional seasonings) as if you were about to fry 'em up. Now, take a couple cookie sheets out (or whatever works) and place every single slice of squash on the pans or however many you can fit on there. Make sure that none of the squash touches each other and quickly put them into your freezer. When they are completely frozen, you can now put 'em all into freezer bags.

Since each slice froze individually, they will not stick together in the freezer. Plus, they are already breaded for frying purposes. Now, instead of worrying about them being too mushy to fry, you can drop them into some hot oil later on while they are still frozen because you don't have to wait until they thaw out to separate them for the breading process. You see how easy this is? Hey, it works for me! Cheers!

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons - Source =

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World's Oldest Trees

First of all, the tree shown on this post is not the world's oldest tree. It is really old, though. Yeah, like 3,200 years worth of old! I decided to go with this image because, to me, the giant sequoia trees are the most prehistoric/ancient looking. In fact, giant sequoias are the world's largest single trees by volume. These magnificent trees grow to an average height of 164 to 279 feet with a freakin' diameter of 20 to 26 feet! Of course, they can get much larger, but that is on average, if that tells ya anything.

Anyway, when it comes to determining the world's oldest trees, some of the answers seem to vary. Personally, I don't really count the clonal trees that constantly grow new trees from the same root structure albeit some folks really get off on such things. It is like, "Hey, look at that 9,550-year-old Norway spruce tree! Well, the tree isn't that old but some of the root structure may be." Say what? Yeah, they can produce exact copies, or clones, if you will...

Then, there are the ones with "estimated years of existence" and so on. I thought they were all estimates, in a way. I mean, it is not like we was actually there to see 'em back then, but there is some varying criteria used and a variety of sources, estimations, tree-ring counts, and whatnot involved.

Not too long ago, the Methuselah was considered the oldest non-clonal tree in the world, at 4,841 to 4,845 years old (don't ask why two different sources reported 2 different ages). The oldest individual tree (non-clonal) I recently read about was 5,063 years old and is located in White Mountains, California. However, I still like the giant sequoias the best and I will always favor them when it comes to the antiquity of trees; cheers!

Related Links to further your reading:

Image Credit: This work has been released into the Public Domain by its author at the English Wikipedia project.

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Growing Peas and Beans without a Trellis, Lattices, Cages or Poles

Okay, this title may be a bit misleading, but it's in the ballpark. Instead of the common how-to advice about how to grow certain types of beans and peas while using latticework (lattices), a trellis, poles, cages, etc., I'm simply going to highlight a couple types of plants that doesn't require them. Yeah, I'm not going to talk about how to grow 'em, since the growing part is strictly your problem (or joy) to begin with; ha!

Anyway, I always exclude peas and beans from my garden for some strange reason, but mainly because I don't want to deal with all the extra poles, cages or lattices. I don't know why I've never checked on the other varieties of peas and beans that doesn't require such things. Hell, many of these plants grow like a bush anyway and never need a trellis system while growing. So, while pondering over what type of new plants I'll be adding to the garden (outside of the ones I grow every year), I found a couple that sounded great. They are the Sugar Ann Sweet Peas and the Early Contender Bush Beans, as depicted above.

The Sugar Ann Sweet Peas only reach an average height of 18 to 24 inches, are completely stringless, and produces quite a bit earlier than the standard snap peas. They have an estimated harvest date of 56 days! This sounds like a good option, unless there are some hidden surprises in store like poor quality or not very disease resistant, etc., but I'll find out in a few months.

The other one shown here is the Early Contender Bush Beans. They have an average height of 12 to 20 inches, are stringless, and produce really early. They have an estimated harvest date of 49 days! Another good thing about this variety is that they are really hardy, disease resistant, and can withstand a lot of heat.

So as you can see, when it comes to growing beans and peas without all the poles, cages, lattices, and trellis work being involved, there is no how-to advice necessary. Just pick out the right seeds; cheers!

Image Credit: Fair Use - Product Images modified by my MS Paint - Source =

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Grow Strawberries in a Pyramid Bed

I've always wanted to grow strawberries for the fun of it (well, to eat, too) to compliment my vegetable garden, etc., but so far I'm yet to give it a try. However, I was just reading about growing 'em in a pyramid bed, like the one shown here. Is that cool or what? You can also buy these pyramidal beds with a sprinkler system for a few extra dollars. Well, this particular model seems to always come with a sprinkler. Like most things, prices seem to vary albeit I have seen them priced as high as 60 dollars online. The old catalog I have lying around the house has them listed for 40 bucks, but the catalog is 5 years old. Oops!

Anyway, this aluminum pyramid bed would be excellent for your strawberries (or whatever you want to plant) and it will roughly hold 50 plants in a circle that is 6 feet across. The sprinkler that is placed on the top level will water the entire bed. I may give it a try this year, but it would be better/cheaper if I built my own pyramid bed and watered them myself; cheers!

Shopping Link: "Search for Pyramid Bed Gardens via Amazon!"

Image Credit: Fair Use - Product Image - - This image can be found on various catalogs and websites.

---End of Post "Grow Strawberries in a Pyramid Bed"

*Update: 3/24/16 - Well, I finally ordered some strawberries online this year. I decided to get them online from a certain website ( because they had some interesting and somewhat unique types of strawberry plants for sale this year. They called them Whopper Strawberries and they claim that they can reach the size of peaches!  Hell, yeah... So anyway, I ordered like 40 plants for 20 bucks (plus tax and shipping and handling, of course).  Unlike the title of this little low-traffic blog post, I decided to not grow my strawberries in a Pyramid Bed.  I mean, it sounds like a neat idea, but I would rather not invest that much money in a crop I have never grown before.  Plus, it is much more fun being able to spread your fruit plants out in random places throughout your lot/yard, etc.

Side note:  If you use the Amazon link above, you might have better luck typing in 'strawberry pots' or 'strawberry planters' into the search bar once you get there, as there are currently better options from those particular search results as opposed to the one I originally provided within the link above; cheers!