The pole beans are growing quite well and seeing significant growth. The cabbage is looking healthy too. This morning, we inter-planted more onions between the bigger plants. Mrs. SNH is finding containers to catch some rainwater as it looks like we might see some rain today.
It has been a while since a post, mostly because a lot has been happening in real life! As the corona virus makes it’s mark upon the world, it is undoubtedly affecting you or someone you know. Since this blog focuses on finances, gardening and eventually the occasional fishing report it might be time to explore how I and the SNH family are dealing with it.
You may have
noticed that food is in short supply at the grocery stores due to the
panic caused by corona virus. It seems a run on toilet paper is in
effct and you might not have gel alcohol based hand sanitizer. What
are we to do!
Hopefully you had a
great planting of winter vegetables and are seeing a harvest from
your cold frames if you are in a cold climate. If you are in a
subtropical as I am here in Florida, the oranges are in harvest and
your spring garden should be in full swing! I am not yet harvesting
anything out of it, but still maintain the goal that when we get to
our permanent house we will produce about 1/3 of our own family food
needs. In the meantime, find out if there are local farms that you
might be able to get some fresh produce instead of your typical
grocery channel. They can have great deals, don’t gouge and it
supports your locals. We were able to score some great Oranges the
other day from an ex-sunkist farm.
Just for fun, these
are things we have growing: Bell peppers, Italian sweet peppers,
blueberries, turnips, cantelope, a single zuchini, tomatoes, a few
failing bush beans and cabbage. Oh, there are also a few bulb onions
growing in a bin that we planted the other day as well as a handful
of bunching onions that I threw into a grow bag with a blackberry
bush. The truth is that the volume of these items is very small and
we have poor soil, so if there was a genuine food storage issue, we
would not be able to cover the need for the 6 people in our house.
It is good practice for the next time. I’ll continue to learn how
to read plants and ammend soil when it is “go time” for the
On the upside, the
stock market crash has taken a huge tumble which represents a great
buying opportunity! I can’t wait to get a big discount on some my
steady dividend REITS and equity REITS. I am personally looking at
putting into OHI, STOR or STAG as great stocks that kick out high
dividends and have good upside potential. I also thought about O or
FRT, but I still think O is overvalued even with the dip and FRT
while attractively valued doesn’t match my growth need. Those two
will make great income generators when I get close to retirement, but
not now with my 30 year horizon to market exit. You might also be
able to get into a good solar stock since solar is now a requirement
in California for new buildings and you get to buy in at a low low
While CV19 might be
on your mind, remember to keep your wits about you, keep building,
investing and growing. Think of fun ways to stay busy if you are on
lockdown and help others when you can.
Wash your hands and say your prayers because Jesus and germs are everywhere.
I am back with
another good way to do things just a bit smarter. Passive solar
heating ideas have been around for a long time. If you are new to
the concept, then this might spur on a great idea for you!
heating uses the sun to heat something without a 3rd party
interruption. For example, a passive solar pool cover will help heat
the water in your pool by focusing energy from the pool cover
directly into the pool. A non-passive method might be using your
electric pool heater with energy generated by the solar panels on
Do you have a
location around your home that is consistently a few degrees cooler
that other portions of the home that you want to heat during the day?
You can build a low cost passive heater for these kinds of spaces
whether they be a garage, outbuilding or a spare bedroom. All you
will need is a 2×4 frame, some clear plexiglass or clear corrugated
plastic sheeting, black tubing commonly available at your local
hardware store and a bit of time with your construction skills.
Step 1. Build a
frame that can sit on the outside of your building that you want to
Step 2. Cut a hole at the top and bottom of your building to support the in and outflow of air from your solar heater. The top will serve as a location for hot air exit, the bottom will serve the cool air entry into your heater. Some folks like to install a mechanical fixture to open and close the vents when they want to “turn on” passive heating in cool weather and “turn off” when weather is warm.
Step 3. Put your
tubing into the frame. Weave the tubing from the bottom entry and
wind it up to the top of the entry. This will allow the air to heat
from the base. As the sun energy heats the air in the tubing it will
rise through the tubing gaining additional heat through the frame.
Once the tubing is affixed inside the frame, seal it with your
plexiglass at the edges of the frame. If you are using the
corrugated plastic method, ensure that the ends are sealed. “Great
Stuff” sealant can be used for this purpose.
Step 4. Attach the
cool side entry of your solar heater with another section of tubing
to bottom entry of your building. Do the same for the top.
Step 5. Enjoy the
great free heating you get during the daytime. The size of your
frame and the volume of the space you intend to heat will determine
your performance. I would recommend that an 8’x4’ passive heater
frame be used for a 10×10 space for moderate gains. This is a very
smart way to save some heating costs on your home during the cool
spring and cool fall weather. It can also give your heating system a
bit of help in the winter.
Today, I had a nice bit of cool weather and planted some of the blueberries that I received for Christmas. Sams club had a great deal on some whiskey barrel look-alike planters. Berries are one of the best “smarter not harder” things you can plant because the cost of berries in the grocery store are very high. Blueberries and Blackberries can bring between 4 and 6 dollars a pint!
The first step was to plant them with some basic soil, add some manure and acidifier since blueberries enjoy a slightly acidic soil. I then added a top layer of planting/potting mix with some decent drainage. Lastly, we used an organic fertilizer to keep the plants fed for a bit.
If you are in the southern part of the US, it’s time to start making your spring planting plans. I am planning to plant tomatoes in starter pots with the kids as a way to push some extra funds into their 529 plans. I’ll do a post when we get those going!
It has been a
pretty crazy couple of weeks, thus my lack of posting. Let’s run
down the list:
* I suffered a severe back injury that laid me up for several days and had to go to the emergency room!
* Little SNH’ers
got sick before the Christmas holiday.
* Christmas school
events were attended.
* Santa’s lap was
attended by the youngest SNH lady.
* Lots of good home
cooking was done – chili information below.
* Cabbage ended up
getting a leaf miner and will likely die out completely unless it is
treated and tended.
* Grow bag seems to
have 2x growth versus standard plastic planters.
* I had an injury to my foot, rather, an attack of psuedogout. It swelled my right foot to double the standard size and needed some quick treatment. I am currently on the mend, but will likely take about 5 days to be really walk-able again per the fine staff at the walk in clinic.
The Garden has had some interesting items happen to it. First, Little SNH’er #2 planted a cabbage for a school scholarship progress. The winner was to submit the cabbage for a chance at a $1000 scholarship. Unfortunately, it has secumbed to leaf miner and the growth is very slow. Likely not a winner. Here is a picture of the leafy pathways it has made through the plant:
I have battled with
leaf miners before when living in Florida about 15 years ago. They
can be treated effectively with organic solutions, but can damage
plants to a point that they cannot recover. With my foot being out
of commission, it may have gone too long. I plan to get some this
weekend to try.
The grow bag with the turnips are outgrowing the plastic bins with Parris Island Romain and Beets. I think the water regulation (soil drainage) of the grow bags is far superior to that of the plastic bins producing a better environment for soil consistency in a container garden. I removed the water retainer in the beets to allow more water to flow out of the container in hopes it will regulate better. I have never done will with beets.
It really is time to get my metered gardening solution up and running. I have 1 more major component to order, a vegetronix VH400 meter (https://www.vegetronix.com/Products/VH400/). It is in my scientific and engineering opinion, the best option for long term soil metering. It uses TDR to read moisture vs corrosive annodes as are most of the low cost solutions. TDR ignores the salt content (a big issue in coastal Florida where I am at) as well as maintains a long lifespan sitting in the soil.
I made a great chili and seem to be honing in on a style that I really like. I apologize, but I put beans in mine. Here goes the latest version:
1 lb micro cubed steak
2 serrano peppers, finely chopped
2 jalapenos finely chopped
1 poblano finely chopped
1 can tomato sauce
5 cloves garlic
1 white onion finely chopped
1 can of black beans
1 can of red kidney beans
1-4 cups water depending on how soupy you like.
Saute the onions, peppers and cubed beef together until brown and creating a lovely “spicy” scent through the house.
Add your favorite chili spices. With this recipe, the peppers do a pretty good job, but some paprika, 2 tbsp of generic chili powder, 2 tbs salt work well.
Add in your tomato sauce and beans and simmer on low for about 2 hrs.
I was realizing today how much more time we have during lunch breaks if we use what we have in the fridge for a quick meal. For example, this weekend I used a crockpot for some delicious adobe style chicken which fed the family a great dinner on Sunday. On the flip side, we were left with about a pound of chicken in leftovers. I simply wrapped those in a tortilla for a quick lunch yesterday and wrapped 2 up for a late-night dinner tonight. The amount of time saved by having such a quick meal was great! I got to spend more time with my 4 year old at lunch after she returned from preschool and I got to spend some extra family time with the kids this evening by opting for a delayed burrito wrap with the leftovers after the little SNHers were in bed.
‘Going Green’ seems to be a topic on a
lot of minds lately. I have always been fond of using the available
energy we have to maximize the comfort in our homes and maximize the
long term dollar in our pocket. This is the geothermal heating and
There has been a lot of focus on Solar
lately as groups like Enphase build smart charge controllers for your
panels, solar panel costs are coming down, installation is getting
easier and there are many tax-advantaged incentives for installing
solar in your home.
I don’t often see much regarding
tapping into the huge thermodynamic heat bath we have sitting right
under our houses! Most geothermal heat pumps for homes have nearly
double the lifespan of modern heating and cooling equipment according
to many manufacturers, but it also takes significantly less power to
operate a geothermal heat pump than it does to run other traditional
heating like forced air with an electric heat pump or an electric
Geothermal installation may be suited better to new buildings as piping must run either vertically or extend horizontally from the base of your home into the heat battery of the earth. Older homes may require additional costs to retrofit as additional work in the slab may be necessary. The heating and cooling potential for your specific climate does change, but all areas across the United States see a benefit. According to Energyhomes.org, the payback period is between 2 and 10 years. A system that requires vertical duct-work deep beneath your home will have more labor associated than a system installed with a horizontal trench.
So if you are interested in learning
more, I would check out energyhomes.org and talk to a local supplier
of geothermal installations. Not only will you have a system that
uses 40-60% less energy than a traditional HVAC solution, it also
helps you sleep better night knowing you made a change that has a
lower environmental impact in terms of fossil fuel generation from
the electric company and it will give you money back in your wallet
to put towards your retirement!
If you ever looked at the detailed
economics of growing a few plants for their harvest, you might want
to be careful about your purchase. With the Florida move now
complete, I thought it would be great to get in on the March
strawberry haul and grow about 10 plants myself. The Florida
strawberry season sets plants in October and harvests between
February and March, so it was a perfect time to get a quote. At
$2.95 per plant at the local garden center I started to think about
the average haul from each plant. Usually, it is about a pint or so.
Locally, the in season Florida
strawberries usually host prices between $1.50 and $2.50 per pint
when in season. At $2.95 a plant, I can’t justify buying the plant
for the potential yield. While I love gardening for the excitement
of great quality fruits and vegetables, I like to ensure that it is
worth my dollar. It really is disappointing. Unfortunately, in
Florida, the strawberry is grown as an annual and dies out fully
during the summer months, so I really can’t re-populate through
division or suckers. If anybody is out there who knows a bit more on
this or other resources in the space coast for local varieties that
are under the threshold per plant, please leave a comment as I would
like to get the cost under control to make it worth growing
strawberries. The 3 little snhers can’t get enough of them.