Creating A Berry Trellis From Reclaimed Material

We had a right pleasant day today.  Morristown (about 20 miles down the road from us) is flooded, but I have no idea where the rain came from.  It was sunny all day here.  And unseasonably warm: there is a rumor about that we set a record for high temperature in February for our area.  We’ve had a couple of similar days this week, so it seemed a good opportunity to do some work in the garden.  This week my main yard-work task was to erect a set of trellises on which to grow berries.

I have boysenberries, blackberries, black raspberries, and red raspberries established and producing.  I also have blueberries and strawberries but they don’t require trellises.

The trellis for the boysenberries is the separate unit on the left end of the photo. For the two previous years I’d used four tomato cages in a row as the trellis here – that did not work well.  Boysenberries are viciously thorny and having to reach inside a bush that covers both sides of the bulky trellis tended to leave my arm torn and bloody.  And I let the canes get out of hand and they got all twisted up and tangled together.  It’s hard to prune out the old canes when they are like that.

Thornless blackberries are along the long leg of the L and black raspberries on the short leg. Blueberry bushes are in the box on the far side of this grouping.  Red raspberries are in a separate row on the right hand edge of the photo.  They already have a trellis I made from steel fence posts and wire mesh fencing.  It’s ugly but it works.

For this one I used T posts, which I had, and 1 3/8” fence rails, which I had, and some multi-strand wire, which I had, so all I bought was  6 rail end clamps, 6 eye bolts, and a small spool of 17 gauge galvanized steel wire (because I didn’t have enough multi-strand wire to do the whole thing).  Less than $20 cash outlay for this project.  All the rest of the materials were salvaged from past projects – not all of them my own.  I’m such a scrounger.

The fence rails were rusty in spots, so I sanded those and hit them with a coat of silver Rustoleum spray paint (which I had on hand).  That won’t stop rust, but it will slow it down and make it look nicer for a while.

In the past, the blackberries grew on a length of wire mesh fencing hung on three wooden posts.  A wooden beam across these supported PVC hoops, which supported bird netting to form my Berry House.  But two of those posts rotted off, as did the support beam.  So I dismantled that last fall and pruned the berry canes back over the winter.

With construction complete I took a break, then went back out to tie up the berry canes to the wires with hemp twine.  Where I had clumps of canes that would be too dense, I cut out the older ones – probably bore fruit last year anyway and will not bear again.  This is kind of a start-over scenario since I pretty much let it go wild last year.  This year I need to be more diligent in my vine husbandry.

I do not, at this point, have plans to erect a structure for bird netting again.  The PVC was too flimsy (snow on the netting collapsed it, crushing the blueberries.  Who’d a thunk that snow would build up on bird netting!) and I’m not sure I want to go to the trouble of building one out or treated wood.  It did not seem that the birds were attacking my berry house, so it may not be needed.  We’ll see,  for now the trellises will give me the chance to start over and keep things properly pruned for a better yield.

Ground-shaking News

In the news feeds this morning is a report of another earthquake here in East Tennessee.  This time a 3.0 magnitude quake centered in Knoxville.  That’s not far from us.  I didn’t feel anything, but it gets me to wondering about the frequent earthquake reports I’ve been seeing:  is Tennessee about to tear itself to pieces or is this normal and we just haven’t noticed it before?   Let’s ask the experts.

www.Eartquaketrack.com says East Tennessee has had: (Mag. 1.5 or greater) Continue reading Ground-shaking News

A Beagley New Year

Marie and I don’t go out to whoop it up on New Years Eve. We’re not into parties, and crowds, and drunk drivers; so we stay home with our dogs and have a more personal celebration.

Normally we do a meal that we can stretch out through the evening and have a themed movie marathon. It’s a different theme each year. This year we decided to watch episodes of the 1962 season of The Twilight Zone and eat Mexican food.

Marie made a pot of chili, we had chimichangas, and burritos, and for desert, apple pies cooked in the fireplace with a pie iron.

Rod Serling seems to have been obsessed with death in 1962.  That was kind of odd.

I put Sable and Hudson to bed, and brought Rebel in the house, around 9:30. Rebel watched the TV for a bit, then got bored and laid down.  I guess he’s not into the old black and white shows.  These youngsters have to have lots of color.

Around 11:00 we all burned out and decided to go to bed. All except Blondie Bear: she said, “You folks have gone crazy.” and went to bed around 9:00.

The next morning …

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Complications

Have you ever noticed how sometimes even simple tasks can snowball out of control with complications?  I was taking something to my workshop and I noticed that the right-front tire on my pick-up truck looked low on air pressure.  I made a note to check that when I was done with what I was doing at the time.

When I got to it I took an air pressure gauge out of the truck glove box and checked the tire pressure.  22 pounds: yep, that’s low.  I checked what I could see of the tire to see if I could find any damage or foreign objects embedded in the tire and found nothing obvious.

I have an air compressor.  It’s not a great compressor: it’s probably an antique, although I recently bought a new hose for it because the old one dry rotted and crumbled, but it will fill up a car tire.  Eventually. Continue reading Complications

Canine Street Gangs

Yesterday evening I heard what sounded like a small pack of coyotes moving through the area, yapping and cutting up like a canine street gang making their presence known and threatening to hurt anyone who got in their way.

When I let my dogs out for their bed time potty run I made sure all the floodlights were on and I went out with them carrying a strong flashlight.  I hoped that lights and a human presence would be enough deterrent if, indeed, one or more coyotes were in the immediate area.  My yard is fenced, but most fences mean little to coyotes.

Later, as I was sitting in bed reading, I heard a single blast of what sounded like a shot gun.  Very near by.  Then it got real quiet. I was cautious again this morning, but it sounded like that pack of punks learned a little respect for humanity.

Is This Even Possible?

Is it possible that coyotes are in our area?  We’ve not had them before.

Oh yes!  I know people who have personally told me of their own encounters with coyotes.  These people live along O’Neil Road: just to the north west of us, and in Bridgeport: just to the north east of us.  My neighbor says he saw one walking up our driveway towards the woods one morning a while back.  So, yes: this is a real threat and a grave concern to me.

Dealing With Coyotes

According to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, this is how to deal with coyotes:

  • Do not feed coyotes!!  When coyotes begin associating humans with food they loose their natural fears and may become dangerous.
  • Eliminate water sources.  These areas attract rodents, birds, and snakes which the coyote will prey upon.
  • Position bird feeders so coyotes can not get to the feed.  Coyotes may also be attracted to birds and small mammals that have been lured in by the feeder.
  • Do not discard edible garbage. Coyotes are opportunistic and will eat any table scraps.
  • Secure garbage containers.  Use trash barrels with lids that clamp down tight even when tipped over.
  • Do not place trash cans out the night before scheduled pick-up.  Placing cans out in the morning before pick-up will give coyotes less time to scavenge. They will not have cover of darkness.
  • Do not leave barbecue grill outside and uncovered. The smell of the grill and the contents of the grills drip pan attracts coyotes.
  • Feed pets indoors whenever possible.  Remove any leftovers if feeding outdoors.   Store pet food in areas not accessible to other animals.
  • Clear brush and weeds from around property.  This deprives the coyote’s prey (small mammals and birds) of protective cover and deters coyote from hunting around your property.
  • A fenced yard may deter coyotes.  The fence must be at least 6 feet high.  Preferably the bottom of the fence should extend 6 inches below ground level.
  • Do not leave small children outside alone if coyotes have been frequenting the area.
  • Do not allow pets to run free.  Provide secure housing especially at night.  Small pets (cats, rabbits, small dogs) are favorite prey of coyotes.
  • Discourage coyotes from frequenting your area.  Harass them by throwing rocks, shouting, and making loud noises when one is seen. [shotguns work too!]
  • Learn more here: Coyote Control

The Swarming (of Ladybugs)

Every fall since we’ve been here we have experienced an increase of activity in “lady bugs”.  Early on it was so slight we barely noticed but in recent years it has been increasing in intensity.

Why Do They Bite?

My guess on this is that because all forms of ladybugs feed on aphids and the larval stage of several insects (thus earning them the status of beneficial garden insects) at this time of year these large concentrations of ladybugs cannot find enough to eat and turn to biting other creatures (like me) trying to obtain sustenance.

Actually the American Lady Bird beetle is not known to bite, but the Asian Ladybug does.  It is not toxic,  but not only is the bite painful, some people are allergic to it.

What’s the Difference?

Visually, the two are very similar and the untrained eye may be fooled. Both are similar in size (though the Asian beetles tend to be a bit larger than the American) and shape.  Both can be from yellow to red in color.  Both have black spots.

But there are some consistent differences that make it possible to tell them apart.

  1.  The Asian beetles have variable spots: anywhere from 0 to 20.  The American beetle has 9: 4 on each side and 1 spot just behind it’s head that is centered and bisected by the split in its elytron (wing covers).
  2. The Asian beetle has a black and white “head” with the black part forming an “M” or “W” shape.  The American beetle’s is primarily black.
  3. The Asian beetles are known to bite, the American beetle is not.
  4. The Asian beetle seeks shelter by invading our homes in fall, the American beetle is more reclusive and seeks shelter by clustering in sheltered locations outside.

Why Are Asian Beetles Here?

The Asian ladybugs were brought into the United States by the USDA and Forestry Commission to relieve the hardwood forests of many disease carrying aphids, mites, and scale insects.  But, the Asian species of beetle proved to be hardier and stronger than the American species.  The two compete for the same food sources, and the Asian species carries a parasitic fungus that kills other species of ladybugs.  Now the American Lady Bird Beetle is on the endangered species list as, once again, something imported is killing off the native species.

And from the looks of things lately, they’re gunning for us next!

Unicorns In the Bible

One of the arguments that some Bible critics make is that it mentions unicorns — which we all know are mythical creatures and therefore the Bible must be a book of myth and legend, not fact.  And indeed the King James Bible does talk about unicorns:

Daniel 8:5 [Full Chapter]

And as I was considering, behold, an he goat came from the west on the face of the whole earth, and touched not the ground: and the goat had a notable horn between his eyes.

Bible search results

Continue reading Unicorns In the Bible

The Airplane That Flies At the Edge of Space

There are only a few airplanes (that we know of) that can fly at 70.000 feet or above. The SR71 Blackbird has logged at least one flight at just over 85,000 feet (July, 1976) [1] and the The X-43A flies at 100,000 feet while still using an air-breathing engine (not a rocket) [2].  But only one plane routinely flies to the edge of space and back, and it’s actually a relic from the 1950’s.   Although each plane is periodically stripped completely, x-rayed, and refurbished, the design has remained essentially the same over all these decades.  Why? Because it works. Continue reading The Airplane That Flies At the Edge of Space

Moonie and the Weird Snake

So the Moon Pie was barking at something outside the fence of the play yard. I went to see what the fuss was about.  Figured it had to be some critter or other, and if it was something dangerous I’d better shoo it away from the dogs.

It was a snake.   A weird snake with a HUGE triangular head.

Rattle snake?  I’ve never seen a rattler with those markings.

It wasn’t moving, maybe it’s dead.   It wasn’t coiled, so it shouldn’t strike.

I looked closer.

Ohhhhh …

It’s a grass snake eating a toad.

A toad that doesn’t want to be eaten.

This could take a while.

We went inside and left it to its dinner, while I tended to ours.

Accomplishing A Minor Auto Repair

Our pick-up truck’s check engine light came on and it started running rough at idle a couple of days after we got it home from the purchase.  Also, I started hearing a hissing sound in the dash.  And the air conditioner stopped working.  All at the same time.  To me there was only one answer – and it was one I figured I could fix myself (for a change). On the Chevy S10 and the GMC Sonoma the air direction control uses vacuum to pull bellows driven valves inside the dash to direct air to the feet, dash vents, or windshield. I ordered a new Air Flow Control Unit from GMPartsDirect.com a week or so ago and it arrived a few days ago, but it has since been raining or Marie had the truck because her Subaru was in the shop. Today I spent most of the morning replacing the Air Flow Control Unit.
Air Flow Control Unit
Continue reading Accomplishing A Minor Auto Repair