Monday, December 20, 2010

Rose Garden Irrigation

After reading that fellow rose enthusiast Chris VanCleave (see his blog at is working on an irrigation system, it occurred to me that I should share my experiences...and gain the wisdom of other gardeners' comments.

For those new to irrigation, you should know that sprinklers waste a lot of water to evaporation. Drip irrigation minimizes this waste and allows you to direct water exactly where it is needed. When watering roses it is important for the leaves to remain dry, as roses are often susceptible to a fungus called blackspot, which loves our hot, humid, Alabama climate. Together, these issues make drip irrigation the obvious choice for roses.

6When you're learning what you want/need it is hard to beat the bargain prices of a starter drip irrigation kit on sale from Harbor Freight. As a friend of mine says, "cheap is a quality overcoming many faults." Such a kit typically includes a pressure reducer and an adapter to hook 1/4" drip tubing onto a garden hose. One step "better" involves using 1/2" polypropylene for the main lines.

0When paired with a timer it can keep your roses and other plants happy all summer. I'm hoping this timer will last more than a year, but if it does it'll be the first. This one was used with my rain barrel during the summer of 2010, but is typical of my first few rose irrigation timers.

For the first several years in our current home I wished I could water roses with the same timer installed for the lawn and other flowerbeds. Instead I used a system primarily comprised of parts like the above plus extensive lengths of 1/4" drip tubing, soaker hoses, and eventually 1/2" polypropylene. It worked fine but required extensive annual repair/rebuilding.

My wishes came to life when we added a pool and enlarged the lawn. It was easy to justify the integrated sprinkler/dripper system while the yard was already a mess. I buried 3/4" schedule 40 PVC at the edge of the rose bed, just as if we were going to install sprinklers. By using the higher quality indoor timer, solenoids, and PVC, the primary parts of this system should last for years. The key component is an adapter which allows the drippers to connect. I bought these at Lowe's.




If you want a sprinkler head AND the dripper, you can use an adapter like this one.

Since there's only a few feet of 1/4" tubing it should be fairly long lived and easy to replace when the time comes. In the past I used standard drippers rated at 5 gallons/hour. Those worked OK but my ability to accidentally get sand in the lines meant that actual rates varied widely. If only there were a way to open the dripper and clean it out. Enter the adjustable rate "bubbler." The top unscrews for cleaning and the rate is adjustable, making the same part number work for every plant and its individual water needs. Drip irrigation bliss!


For the finale I added a soaker hose to one of the risers so our water loving Mexican Heather could be kept happy. It all adds up to an automated irrigation system which requires very little maintenance, should last a very long time, and lets me spend more time smelling roses and less time digging around under them.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Old Farmers Advice (via e-mail)

(My apologies to the author(s), but these words of wisdom seemed worth keeping. -greg)

Life is simpler when you plow around the stump.
A bumble bee is considerably faster than a Ford or John Deere tractor.
Words that soak into your ears are whispered....not yelled.
Meanness don't just happen overnight.
Forgive your enemies; it messes up their heads.
Do not corner something that you know is meaner than you.
It doesn't take a very big person to carry a grudge.
You cannot unsay a cruel word.
Every path has a few puddles.
When you wallow with pigs, expect to get dirty.
The best sermons are lived, not preached.
Most of the stuff people worry about, ain't never gonna happen anyway.
Don 't judge folks by their relatives.
Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.
Live a good and honorable life, then when you get older and think back, you'll be happier.
Don 't interfere with somethin' that ain't bothering you none.
Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance.
If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop diggin'.
Sometimes you get, and sometimes you get got.
The biggest troublemaker you'll probably ever have to deal with, watches you from the mirror every mornin'.
Always drink upstream from the herd.
Good judgment comes from experience, and a lotta that comes from bad judgment.
Lettin' the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier than puttin' it back in.
If you get to thinkin' you're a person of some influence, try orderin' somebody else's dog around.
Live simply, love generously, care deeply, Speak kindly, and leave the rest to God.
Don't pick a fight with an old man. If he is too old to fight, he'll just kill you.
Your fences need to be horse-high, pig-tight and bull-strong.
Keep skunks and bankers at a distance.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Food Inc on PBS

Food Inc is currently airing on PBS and is available to watch online from their website. I think it was on the air last night and will be available to watch online from your computer later today (Apr 22, 2010). See The show is to re-air next week. If you haven't seen it, I suggest watching online rather than waiting. (btw--not after munching on a sausage biscuit or McD's burger)

This is an important movie because it publicizes some disgusting facts about our food system, but likely contains some exaggeration and/or misinformation as well. It certainly has the capability of leading people to some very wrong conclusions and bad decisions. No doubt it is getting people energized and motivated. If you are trying to DO something with people, motivation is the hardest part.

Here's why it's important to look at this now...

That link should take you to a web page of what people are saying about "foodinc" on twitter (as I repeat myself) NOW. Our opinions of twitter don't really matter--this should provide you with an idea of the pulse at the moment. When I watched the movie a couple of months ago (my notes are at -- read, comment, correct, disagree, it's all fine by me) there was very little chatter. PBS has changed that. Just as importantly, you can watch it without directly sending a check to the producers, whose values are apparently different from mine. They paint a picture of chickens and cows living a rough life. I have serious problems with that allegation, but that's a different discussion.

There's also a show on TV called Jamie's Food Revolution (ABC Fri at 8pm central) which is not necessarily good TV, but is helping to fuel this fire. His campaign is to get people to eat more healthy foods and to reduce health problems. I don't necessarily expect the show to go too far, but it's something you should know about. The cause is a good one.

Those are things I think you must know. As for my personal opinion...

I've mentioned to colleague and friend Dr Taylor that a business like Super Suppers (see for a description plus others) could be the bridge for making a "local food system" work. The primary reason is that it provides a funnel for local producers without the necessity of a CSA contract by individuals. Once people are on board, direct marketing should be easier. This is not without risk but if there was ever a time, it's now. See for risks and guidance.

You can add your own ideas. My point is that now is the time to do anything you want to see done related to local foods. There wasn't a lot of motivation prior. Either the motivation will die, or the competition will make ventures tougher in the future.

As you look at the twitter posts you should see links pertinent to local foods, direct marketing, and other web sites related to the cause. The information is flowing. How to use that to make something worthwhile is up to us.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Food, Inc

I watched interviews with the producers of Food, Inc when the movie was released and didn’t agree with their apparent “agenda,” but my professor, Dr Fowler, suggested it was worth paying the rental. As it turns out, Netflix has it available for instant streaming. I still don’t agree with all of their conclusions, but the ugly truth about the industry is indeed worth viewing. Here are a few points brought out in the movie (with hopeful accuracy, but mostly not quotes):


There are 47,000 products in average American supermarket.

There are no seasons for food. We ship produce around the world, or whatever else is required to maintain stock.

A very small group of multinational corporations control the food system.

Industrial food began in 30s with fast food. McDonalds brought the factory system to the restaurant business in order to improve efficiency. Uniformity and cheapness changed the food industry. McDonalds corporation is largest purchaser of potatoes.

In the 1970s the top 5 companies controlled 25%. Now the top 4 corporations control 80% of the food industry. Tyson is biggest meat packing company in history of world.

30% of our land base is planted in corn. Market for corn is sometimes lower than cost of production due to corporate pressures and government subsidies. Corn can be stored easily, therefore it has become a staple in our food supply. Practically every product in the supermarket contains corn and/or soybeans.

Cattle have historically eaten grass. The concept of grain fed beef is relatively new, and due to the abundance of cheap corn. The glut of corn has caused new products to be created, like high-fructose corn syrup, which take advantage of the cheap input.

At turn of century a farmer could feed 6-8 people. Now a farmer can feed 126 people. More efficient than ever.

In 1996, when Monsanto began selling Roundup Ready soybeans, only 2% of soybeans in the US contained their patented gene. By 2008, over 90% of soybeans in the US contained Monsanto’s patented gene. Monsanto owns patent on seeds so farmers can’t save seeds from their own crops. They have people hired to investigate and verify that farmers aren’t keeping patented seeds. It drives others out of business completely for a variety of reasons, the court system being one.

We should be buying locally grown food. We should be willing to pay more for locally grown carrots and broccoli than industrially produced hamburger patties. A food system which produces more healthy food would reduce our health care needs.


You may not be hungry again for quite some time after watching, but you’ll get over it. In the meantime, you might want to visit (or look for a similar listing in your state) to find a direct marketing farm near you.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Healthcare Reform by House

In a recent episode (“Epic Fail”) of the TV series “House,” the hospitalized patient, Vince, posts details of his case online. One of his attempts at online self-diagnosis is based on “the wisdom of crowds,” as he explains “studies show the collective decision of a group can be more accurate than any individual’s decision.” This effectively put the team of doctors in competition with the Internet. Eventually his online quest did work, but I won’t describe that here. My important takeaway was the possibility of using “the wisdom of crowds” in healthcare. It doesn’t take many trips to a doctor to realize that medical care is just like any other undertaking. There will always be those who are better than others. The writers of House have proposed one method of reforming healthcare which could provide every patient with the absolute best possible care. It was thought provoking at the very least.

While this episode was not my favorite, if you are into IT and a follower of the series, you should be sure to '>watch. I doubt any video game programmers will be impressed, but it certainly addresses the collision of modern day healthcare with the Internet.