The Fix...Is In! - I always wanted to be a gastronomer Blog at - 236299

I always wanted to be a gastronomer

The IN! 
May 18, 2011 10:30 am 
Updated: May 20, 2011 1:38 pm
I did it. 100 new glorious square feet of my lawn is no more. In its place a 10" deep layer of fine black top soil now fat with planted seeds and seedlings.
I started on Friday morning with the run up. First and foremost was locating the right kind of soil AND getting it into the hole. Finding the soil in the first place was a bit of a chore. I started looking a few weeks ago. It's dirt, what could be so hard right? I mean, every time I drive to the city, there are a couple of places right by the highway with mountains of the stuff sitting right there. Turns out, the mountains I was looking at were indeed the soil I desired but, more precious than gold! A simple sack was 8$, a truckload, more than 300$, adding in that the freight would be another 100$ and holy cats, I'm over 500$ before I've even pulled the lawn dart targets out.
So I needed something closer to home AND I needed a cheaper way to get it. Two massive undertakings. I have friends with pickup trucks but before I never even considered those friends because their pick up trucks are shiny and new, and two and a half yards of top soil might sully the box liners. Egads! Thusly, I wandered out back of my shop and stared hopefully at my old Dodge pickup truck. I bought it for 500$ about 10 years ago, just as a backup for when only an open box vehicle would do in moving large cabinet projects. I never expected to use it much and in truth, I actually ended up using it far more than I expected. Every time one of the newer vehicles was in limbo, specifically my ill fated Yukon, it was the old 81 Dodge carting my butt around while I threw cash at the GMC.
The Dodge has a single barrelled carburetor over a slant 6 engine. It requires only 1 droplet of oil to run and some fuel. I have never changed the oil in it. It has no air filter. The floor on the drivers side is basically gone, I've fashioned a piece of 3/4" plywood to fit and that's screwed in place to keep my feet from become Flintstone impellers. The cab header  rotted out bad a few years ago, I was finding moss growing inside the truck during one of my periodic needs for its' use. Ultimately, you couldn't drive it while it was raining because of the sheer volume of water sluicing in from over top the windsheild. I fixed that with two tubes of kitchen and bath mildew resistant silicone. Yep, just filled every open rust hole on the top of the cab with a big old slather of silicone and wouldn't ya know it, it completely stopped the water.
So that's the Dodge. It requires little and always, always runs. On  Friday morning, I went and bought a battery for the GMC, (I'd stolen the Dodges battery last fall when the one in the GM went tits up), then I changed out the batteries. I checked the Dodge for its various goo levels and found them appalling but present. I stepped in, turned the key, and ... nothing. Finally, I thought, I've managed to beat the old Dodge into a seized up pile of offal. I seemed to have power, the few remaining gauges that work spooled up as powered so it had to be the engine. The dip stick was crusted with rust and the oil thick and gritty so I figured now it was just a matter of getting it towed to the salvage yard to dispose of it. I opened the hood, wiggle a few wires, crawled underneath and banged a wrench against the starter. Nope, nothing, not even a click. Last rites for the Dodge.
Ok, now what I thought? I'd found a place that sold soil to farmers and garden folk about 15 minutes away but I wasn't sure if they delivered. I was pondering this while I straightened up my tools. Finally I closed the hood on the Dodge and went to remove the keys from the ignition and on a whim, for no reason I turned the key as if to start the vehicle one last time started right up! Well knock me down with a feather! I will have this thing when I'm 90, I'm absolutely certain it will outlast me. I put it in gear and drove it round the back of the building, took it for as little burn to just flex it out a bit and the old gal ran like silk, well tired old silk, but silk, still. Now I had a truck! I went to the insurance office and bought some insurance for it and then it was back home to plot out the space.

On Saturday morning, I was outside by 7 in the morn , excited, shovel in hand. I know there is no easy way to dislodge a lawn. Grass is a weed and it roots deep. Or perhaps it's just that my lawn is all weed, masquerading as grass. Anyhow, brute labour was what was going to get the job done so one cubed spadeful at a time, I dug out a 6 foot by 12 foot excavation, plopping giant chunks of sod into my feeble weak useless wheelbarrow for carting over to the fence so that I could load the dirt into the back of the Dodge. Mind numbing brutal work. I was done by 11:00 AM and I have a giant sunburn on my neck to prove it, of all places. Thusly at Noon I was ready to drive the Dodge down to the soil farm and get loaded.
The first trip went well enough except the guy driving the 966 loader tried to dump the whole 2 1/2 yards into the Dodge. In fact he did get the whole load in there but the back bumper immediately plummeted to the ground. Thusly we had to grab shovel and unload half of it. On that way back home, I realized that if I had to shovel this lot off the truck and into the wheelbarrow to get it over to the garden, it would take me a week. I decided on the way home to go buy or rent a wheelbarrow more suitable to my height. I'm 6'3" so if I stand up straight with my wheelbarrow, the front flange over the wheel housing digs into the ground. Of consequence I have to crouch slightly when using it which is painful after awhile. With a good wheelbarrow, I could park out front and loading would be easy.
A trip to my local garden supply place did not help my situation. I wanted one of those 2 wheel jobs but they wanted 200$ for one. Arg said I, not for a one time use. Luckily, the rental place had a construction barrow and it made light the work in just the right way. I even got a deal on the rental if I brought it back the same day.
Back at the house, the loading went well. My wife and stepson pitched in and we were done soon enough for me to head back for the rest of the soil. When I got back to the dirt place, wouldn't ya know it, the guy who loaded me was off on a delivery. A DELIVERY *&^&^. Sigh. In his place, was a tiny Mexican lady who told me, "I am slow to load but I can do eet". Watching her climb up into that giant 966, I thought, ok. 5 minutes later she was still sitting in it, shakily contemplating actually making it move. I asked if all was alright and she said, "I am slow to load but I can do eet."
I asked if she wanted me to load myself with the 966. She excitedly asked me if I knew how to drive one and having once driven a forklift 30 years ago, I said, oh yes of course, been a few years but hey, it's liking riding a bike. Now climbing up into a vehicle that requires a ladder is a thrill all by itself. Having complete control of that vehicle is another matter entirely. It roared, it bucked and I hung on for dear life and 5 minutes later I had the other half of my soil nicely loaded into the back of the Dodge. How ya like them apples?
By 4:30 PM , we had the second load unloaded and into the garden, and by 4:45 PM I had returned the wheelbarrow to the rental place. You notice, by this time it's no longer the hole, or the excavation, it's - the garden!
You'd think, after this day, I'd have been ready for the bed you know? Up at 6, moved a ton and a bit of dirt out and a ton and a bit of topsoil in. But no, lots of daylight left, 75 above, I planted.

Good Lord, I just spent a half hour trying to upload some shots of my new garden onto this hinky site. Wow, no joy. I may have succeeded but apparently now I have to wait for review and given that I've had a submitted recipe waiting for exactly the same thing for over 3 years, you're going to have to take my word for it that the garden is in! Note: it appears to have worked after all! Though, I am back for the third edit replacing dropped numbers and wondering what in the heck is offensive about the word Y U K O N...
Now, before my I go any further in my long gardening tale, you should know that when it comes to gardening, I am only slightly more sentient than a chimpanzee. My mother had a thumb, the green kind, could grow pumpkins in a thimble of housedust. Me? The jury is out.
I tumbled three giant sacks of steer manure into my new soil and then in went, are ya ready? I have 11 tomato plants this year! Last years 3X10 garden with 6 plants produced an astounding 60+ lbs of tomatoes. This year, I'm aiming for 100+. It may have been more but I put in 4 plants of wee tomatoes, Sweet100's, Tumbler, Chocolate Cherry and Yellow Pear. I have a Celebrity, a Sunstart,  2 Romas and 3 Early Girls.
The other main addition is 12 Strawberry plants, all long bearing. Additionally I've got an Italian parsley, a regular parsley, purple ruffled basil and a rosemary plant. I put in two Watermelon plants and planted 4 melon seeds. In the seed game I also popped in seed for 42 carrots and I'm taking another shot at beans, having planted 6 seeds in the ground.  I got a dozen lettuce plants, 6 iceburg and 6 mixed as well as half a dozen beet plants and finally in this plot, for seedlings, I'm giving the peppers another go also, with 4 plants including some Jalapenos this time. More sun on this side of the yard so what the heck. Over in the old plot, the 3 X 10, I planted a new Rhubarb plant, 4 Acorn squash, 4 broccoli, and single cucumber. From last year, the bluerry bushes, onions and mint are all busily renewing themselves.

I have no idea how any of this will turn out. It's a 130 square feet of garden, .3 of 1 percent of an acre. How much will grow? Thats the part that will have me out there nightly, checking soil for dampness, pulling weeds, just setting and watching it grow, contemplating the goodies I will make with the success stories that come of it. To those of you that grow, Happy gardening to ya!
Garden Before
Photo Detail
Garden After
Photo Detail
May 18, 2011 10:37 am
Wow! Congratulations on your new garden. Want to come do mine? I want to hear regular updates. Gardening can be hard work but the rewards are great. :)
May 18, 2011 10:56 am
LMAO! Great story Raedwulf, gotta love them old dodge trucks, I use duct tape and tie wire and goop for my major mechanical fixes and if that can't help then it gets passed onto RN Grampa. Gardening is in the top 10 of my Zen moments. From fixing to planting, weeding, harvesting and preparing for next year, nothing is greater. Enjoy your little block of happiness that you created.
May 18, 2011 11:18 am
You know what Nana? If you lived anywhere nearby, I'd be over this weekend with my new wheelbarrow (my Dad brought me a good one!) and we'd get your gardening in. It's hard work but dammit it's fun! I will likely update in the late summer, when I know what's working lol.
May 18, 2011 11:26 am
You are living good, Raedwulf! An old Dodge, stirrin' the dirt, plantin' and you even got to do some time in heavy equipment! ... I bought my Dodge new in 96. It has now reached the "abuse the he-- out of it" stage. Like yours, I'll work it until it quits. I hope it will last as long as yours.
May 18, 2011 11:36 am
At the risk of sounding like an old fart Mike, they don't build em like they used to lol. When I bought the old Dodge, the deciding factor was that slant 6 engine. I can't tell you how many old timers I've heard extolling the virtues of that engine and... it turns out they were right. The best vehicle I ever owned was an 84 Dodge van, huge thing that had a massive powerful engine, loved that thing. Anyhow, guess I better get to work lol, playing hookey today. Hey RN Gramma, big wave howdy, love your truck fixing skills!
May 18, 2011 4:09 pm
I had a '76 Dodge Aspen that had a slant six. Unfortunately, it was before the Iococca era. The smarter than brilliant engineers put a carbuerator on it that had a float chamber that would drain out whenever a left turn was made faster than a creep along. Chrysler said it was a matter of getting used to it. That piece of wisdom began as I left the dealers lot. A few years later, the dealer was in jail, most of the top execs were terminated and Iococca forced the engineers to prove they could build a car or find a job at Yugo.
May 18, 2011 6:53 pm
Nice story and garden. It is an investment to put in a new garden! We have three raised garden beds and I would like to add two more, one dedicated as just an herb garden. Have a great summer! Keep us posted!
May 18, 2011 7:11 pm
I had to laugh about Y ukon...and the forklift to son applied for a job at a crane company. They asked if he knew how to operate one, and he said 'sure, I've done it a few times"...he had...the ones you put on a kids birthday cake!!! He got hired tho, and now he's a certified crane operator. Too funny.
May 19, 2011 9:10 am
LMAO,Raedwolf! My husband proposed to me in the cab of a '78 Dodge pickup named "Ralph"! That truck was incredible. His mom hated it, though, because evertime you hit a puddle while riding in it, you got your feet wet! I know all about holes in the floor boards:) Gardening is a totally zen experience. We've got fourteen tomato plants in ours: 6 roma, 6 better boy and two grape. Now we fight weeds and rabbits until the goodies hit the table! Congrats on all the hard work and enjoy bounty:)
May 20, 2011 1:38 pm
Heheh. Every guy needs a truck. Wow! You must've burned a lot of calories. Do you have a plan for not feeding the local bunny population?
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About Me
Let's see, in keeping it to a subject, at age 22 I had a filet doused in Bernaise sauce aboard a train. That was it, I was hooked on fine food. Living in a small town necessitates learning to cook well to maintain that stellar menu.
My favorite things to cook
Oh man, only a thousand characters? My favorite things to cook are items that make YOU happy. I'll try anything and thus far it would be far easier to list those things I don't like than those I do. So far, I hate Cilantro and I'm allergic to green chiles. It's a short list.
My favorite family cooking traditions
My Christmas dinner. Usually in December, sometimes early January. I've a waiting list of people who wish to be invited. Alas, I've only a service for 10. We're talking silver, Noritake, crystal stemware, crisp linens, fine wines paired appropriately and a menu that's usually derived from a theme.
My cooking triumphs
Every smile, every gasp of delight, every accolade, such sweet victory!
My cooking tragedies
A Cioppino recipe I found here. I served it as part of one of those Christmas dinners and the cod was a poor choice. It was terrible, ghastly fishy taste. I've since learned a thing or two about freshness in fish. Prior to that, hmm perhaps when I was 10, I made a spice cake that called for whole cloves....hey, that's what it said on the outside of the bottle, whole cloves....
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