sun, 03-jun-2007, 09:41

Planting day

Start of the garden

Yesterday we planted the garden. The plan was:

Plant           Spacing    Num  Feet    Actual Number
--------------  ---------  ---  -----   -------------
cabbage (cb)    24" apart   10  20'         10
potato (pt)     24" apart   13  26'         17
greens (lt)      6" apart    6   1.5'        6
broccoli (broc) 12" apart    6   4'          6
cauliflower     16" apart    6   6'          6
zucchini (zchn) 36" apart    2   6'          2
rhubarb (rhub)  36" apart    1   3'          1

Top bed: 32' (scale: 2 characters / foot)
|   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   |           |       |     |     |
|cb |cb |cb |cb |cb |cb |cb |cb |   caulif  | broc  |zchn |zchn |
|   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   |    (6)    |  (6)  |     |     |

Bottom bed: 32'
|   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   |  |  |     |
|pt |pt |pt |pt |pt |pt |pt |pt |pt |pt |pt |pt |pt |cb|lt|rhub |
|   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   |  |6 |     |

We wound up planing the potatoes fourteen inches apart, rather than twenty-four because that’s what we’ve done in the past and we were reusing the landscape fabric from last year on that section of the garden. So we actually got seventeen potato plants in the ground. We also squeezed another cabbage in between the lettuce and the potatoes, so we were able to plant all ten plants. In past years we’ve had problems with the potatoes getting green from exposure to light, so we’re going to hill the soil around the plants as they come up. The two potato plants on the end are spaced 24 inches apart, so we can find out if a more generous spacing improves the yield.

I also got a new pair of boots to replace my Redwings. I bought my first pair of Redwings when I worked at the steel mill and I wore them every day on that job. They lasted seven or eight years. My second pair only lasted three or four years. The sole came unglued from the leather part and the instep section also separated and cracked. This time around I bought a pair of Hathorn boots, which are the economy sub-brand of White's, and like White's, they're made in the United States and are re-buildable. Hopefully they're better built than my last pair of Redwings.

tags: boots  food  garden  vegetables 
mon, 28-may-2007, 13:03



This weekend we spend a lot of time getting our vegetable garden ready for planting. The first plant date here in Fairbanks is June first, so we’ve got until Friday to get everything set up and ready to go. We spent most of the day on Saturday removing the top layer of dirt from the garden, and replacing it with a pickup truckload of soil we got from Great Northwest on College Road. They support the Dog Mushers, so we support them. We replaced five wheelbarrow loads on the upper bed, eight loads on the lower bed.

Sunday we rented a rototiller and rototilled both beds. We did three passes on each bed, and only had the tiller out for a couple hours. In the past I’ve always turned over the soil by hand, and I can say without reservation that using a rototiller is a much easier way to go. I think it churns the soil up better too, so hopefully we’ll have fewer problems with clay this year.

We got plants from the Farmer’s Market, Alaska Feed, and some from Calypso Farms. We’re growing Russet potatoes, basil, and several varieties of cabbage, zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, and salad greens. I had hoped to grow beets, but we didn’t see any starts for that, which may mean we need to start them from seed directly in the garden. Andrea also got some flowers that should help keep pests away from the crops, as well as improve the soil.

tags: food  garden  me  vegetables 
mon, 21-may-2007, 17:20

Delta Meat Company Logo

Delta Meat & Sausage Company

Last week we ordered a side of beef from the Delta Meat & Sausage Company in Delta Junction, Alaska. They’re about two hours south of Fairbanks and raise their own beef without antibiotics or growth hormones. I’m not sure what percentage of their diet comes from grass, but since the farm doesn’t use antibiotics, corn must not be a very large part of their diet (cows aren’t designed to eat corn, so corn-fed beef require loads of antibiotics to keep their guts functional). Relatively speaking, it’s a local business, so significantly less petroleum was consumed getting our meat to us that would be required for the meat trucked up from the lower 48 to service our local megajumbomarket. It's a good thing.

Delta Meat butchers the meat into a “supermarket” cut, which means the labels conform to what you’d expect to see at the meat counter. Before our steer was cut up, we talked to the butcher about what what we wanted done with it. We found that we used the ground meat more quickly than anything else on the moose I shot a few years ago so we geared our cuts toward producing more hamburger meat.

We picked up the side at the Sears parking lot. Five boxes.

Here’s what she wrote on the receipt regarding the cuts and whether we wanted them or not:

  • Arm—No (I'm not sure what this is)
  • Chuck roast—Yes
  • Chuck steak—Yes
  • Short ribs—Yes
  • Stew meat—No
  • Rib steak—Yes
  • Round steak—No
  • London broil—Yes
  • Bottom round roast—Yes
  • Rump roast—Yes
  • Tip roast—No
  • Cube steaks—No
  • Brisket—Yes

Anything listed as “No” was turned into hamburger meat. Keeping the brisket whole was the only thing we asked for that unusual enough that they didn't have a sticker for it on the package. We're going to turn some of the brisket into corned beef, and Andrea will cook the rest using a family recipe.

The “standing side weight” was 291.5 pounds, and the cost is based on that weight. We paid $2.65 / pound, or $772.48 for the whole thing.

Here’s what we got:

CutNumberTotal weight
2 pound packages59118.0
London broil35.6
Rump roast28.6
Chuck roast415.4
Boneless sirloin steak67.8
Porterhouse steak612.1
T-bone steak59.3
Chuck steak47.6
Tenderloin steak21.9
Rib steak35.0
Short ribs515.6

In total, that's 212.5 pounds of meat, for an average cost of $3.64 / pound. Cheap, and I believe it is much better quality meat than we can buy, and is better for the cows, the environment, and for us (grass-fed beef is better for you, with better omega fatty acid ratios than corn-fed, feedlot beef).

tags: Delta Meat  food 
sat, 12-may-2007, 08:27

baked redpoll

baked redpoll

Last night we had hamburgers for dinner because Fred Meyer didn’t have any good looking fish. I’ve been wanting to start a “Friday Night Fish Night” tradition to get more fish into our diet, but it’s hard when the local megamarket doesn’t have anything worth eating on Friday afternoon. We just bought a side of beef from a local meat company, and have some older frozen hamburgers in the freezer to eat before our all-natural Alaska meat shows up next week.

I use a chimney starter to get the coals going (it’s the silver tube sitting in the little Weber in the photo), and it must have been throwing off enough heat to warm up the redpoll in the photo. He’s in the lower left. He laid there for at least five minutes warming himself by the heat from the coals. Redpolls don’t appear to be all that smart (they’re called “pigpolls” by bird feeders around here), but this one really knew what he was doing. Click on the photo for a larger, and still fairly grainy image.

tags: birds  deck  redpoll 
thu, 10-may-2007, 04:59


foreign spam
image by f_mafra

I maintain our departmental mail servers, and spend a fair amount of effort trying to reduce unsolicited email. One of the ways I do that is by collecting my spam and training our spam filter with it so our users won't see it more than once.

Today I got a hilarious email that must have been written in another language and then translated into English. It's first paragraph mentions a “most exciting lose flesh product available.” Sounds good! Better yet is this supposed testimonial from a guy in New York: “And you see me, the bed became cool also!” To quote Temperance Brennan: “I don't know what that means.”

I also don't know how I mange to “decline the preposition” and resist this exciting new product that “attacks unnecessary kilos.”

tags: spam  sysadmin 

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