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Our half acre in Cottonwood

Trying to live nicely with low impact on the planet.

Recycle, repurpose, wear it out, do with what you have.

December 11 ... Nice storm! We got 4 inches over the last 48 hours. It is nice to see lake levels rising. We're going to need a lot more of it.
Had a nice thanksgiving. I roasted a 14 pound bird on our old Weber charcoal grill. I used alder wood for smoke. Everyone loved it. The girls loved having the kitchen and oven for pies and side dishes.

Nov 20 ... 3/4 inch rain, more coming. (I can't get too excited. We would need 25-30 inches to break the drought. But, any and all rain is a good thing.)

Nov 17 ... First frost. Low of 28. Tomatoes, peppers, basil, many annual flowers, all dead.
Begonias, Coleus, cacti, all safe in greenhouse. (low of 44 in there)

Nov 13 ... 1/4 inch rain

Oct 31, rain 1/2", all irrigation off.

Oct 23, Raining, not much, maybe a tenth of an inch. Make that 1/2 inch!

I'm doing a small fall garden. Kale, lettuce, beets, beans, chard, etc. We're hoping we get enough rain that we won't have to water them very much.

I'm still being frugal with watering. Right now, we have 5 irrigation zones, running from once per day to once a week and from 15 to 75 minutes.

I've spent much of my time in my own back yard. In view of current drought and fire conditions I have been working at using less water while keeping lawn, flowers, fruits and vegetable garden growing. The lawn shrunk a little and a drip system with timers is helping me keep things alive through this heat.


Sept 1. We've replaced 300 feet of drip line, stopping several small leaks. About 240sq feet of lawn is now succulents on a low flow drip line. Nearly everything is on a timed drip system. Very little hand watering. We really try to deliver just enough water, just often enough. We have our own ground water well and have had no problems yet. Ground water is a finite resource, we all need to conserve.

For fire safety, I've cleaned gutters, raked leaves, pruned up some trees and removed a few plants that burn too easily. We have too many trees near the house to be really safe, I'm just trying to improve my chances.

I've done some honey-do projects too. A new retaining wall, flower beds with Lantana, Butterfly bush, Star Jasmine, all somewhat drought tolerant.
Iceplant and other succulents are taking over for more water hungry ground covers.

Aug 2014
One of my current projects is eating less salt, actually all sodium, for blood pressure. It's in all prepared foods. Baking mixes and canned vegetables are too salty. Storebought bread is too salty. Most of us don't need half of what they put in.
The good part is that I got back into baking. I like to bake my own bread, rolls, etc. At least I can control the amount of salt.
Oct 30,

I've been working at improving my bread. I want a loaf of good sandwich bread. Store bought bread has 180 to 220 mg sodium per slice. I can't eat much of that and stay below 1500 mg per day. My bread is about 50mg per slice and it tastes great! Real bakers might chuckle to find I make my dough in a bread machine. Yes, I can knead my dough and I enjoy it, I'm just lazy. I just use the dough setting. It works, and I have an easier cleanup.

After a dozen or so loaves that didn't rise enough or rose too much and collapsed I have finally got good loaves with some regularity. I did not know that if you eliminate half the salt you need to cut the yeast in half too. My one and a half pound bread machine just won't make two loaves of sandwich bread. I can get one loaf and six nice rolls or bread sticks. (I know there are only 5, I ate one right out of the oven!) It works for the three of us. I seem to bake two or three times a week.

I can also make one sandwich loaf and 2 mini loaves.

I have to laugh at myself in the long and convoluted way I came to this point with bread. I tried every idea I came across on the vast internet. I tried real "bread flour". I tried adding gluten. I tried bread machine yeast and fast rising yeast. None of those changes helped.
What did help me was using less yeast, adding a bit more water, and not expecting to make two full sized loaves. Oh yes, Also learned that you don't really "punch down" dough after the first rise. I gently "squish" the air out, cut it as I need, and shape the loaves for the second rise.

Dec10... I adapted Martha Stewarts Multi-Grain bread recipe to use in my bread machine. Turned out pretty well for my first try. It got eaten before I thought of a picture. I'm sure I'll make more, (note to self, cook wheat berrys several hours ahead.)


Tiny greenhouse, only 64 square feet, but works well for me.

Three 55 gallon barrels of water absorb heat during the day and give it back at night. Last winter we had overnight temperatures down to 20 and the greenhouse never got below 38 with no additional heat.

The greenhouse was a low budget, recyle, repurpose project. About $100 invested in total. Insulation, fasteners, and plexiglass for the triangular windows were new. All the glass, paint, and lumber was salvaged.

Inside the greenhouse Nov4,2014.

I've been taking cuttings from the lantana, coleus, and star jasmine. Lantana seems easy to start.

Composting


Ten feet of 1/2 inch welded wire made this one yard compost bin.


Sept 1 update. Turned compost 2 day ago. Added 10# or so of alfalfa meal, moistening it often. Today it's internal temp had risen from 80 to 138. Microbes must be really busy digesting those oak leaves.

November 17 ...
Compost is nearly done, I turned it once in late October, sifting it with 1/2 inch screen as I went. It looks great. Very fine particles. Now it can age until Spring.

I've learned some things about making compost. The first was that is nearly no wrong way to make compost. It bothers me when people burn leaves. It's so easy to let them go back to your soil.
Another thing I learned about compost is just how much more there is to learn. It appears that a compost made from 25-30 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen breaks down quickly and generates more heat. I'm trying to stay organic and "Earth friendly". Since we generate so much more high carbon material(leaves and dry grass) than nitrogen rich grass clippings I add alfalfa meal to my compost.
I make a tea with the alfalfa meal and feed my plants with that. I filter the solids out of the tea and add them to the compost as well.

I am far from be a compost expert. I have learned a few things. First, Don't be in a rush and use compost that isn't done. (I did that and nothing grew well in it.) The second thing I learned is that the better you shred, mix, and moisten the materials you put in your compost the better.

Fire resistant plant list

Save work and save water xeriscaping.

UC Davis Irrigation guide

Page last updated Dec 11, 2014