Sunday, May 30, 2010

Cleansing Our Pallets, Part II

The internet will back me up on this: there are endless uses for the ubiquitous pallet. And, in this case, necessity is the mother of invention. My necessity was to get rid of extra pieces of pallets that wouldn't work for building flats. Believe it or not, all those "waste" stringers I mentioned in Part I were the perfect material for something else I didn't even think about needing: tables to put the flats on! Construction was very simple. Each table requires 11 stringers, which you can get from three or four pallets (depending on their design). I started by removing the extra wood and nails from them. This step isn't absolutely necessary for the legs and top surface, but it looks much nicer and you won't have nails grabbing you as you walk by.
I had removed the boards for flat material by cutting right along each stringer with a circular saw. That left the stringers you see in the photo here, complete with pieces of board still nailed in. I found I could break these off of the nails easily with sideways hammer blows. I was left with nails that could not be pulled out. Most would allow themselves to be hammered in, some were bent and hammered flat.

All of the stringers were 48" long, so I let that dictate the length and width of the table. Two stringers would form the crosspieces, making the table 48" long, and five stringers would be cut in half to make ten surface pieces for a 24" wide table. The legs were cut to 37" to create a reasonable height. I chose the six straightest, flattest, and strongest stringers for the legs and cross-pieces.

I assembled the surface first, laying the 24" surface pieces flat on the cross pieces and nailing them. The gap between each was something like 1½". Then I upended the surface and attached the legs with screws. I spent some time making sure they were square before affixing them, but it turned out not to make a clear difference. They were a little wonky anyway.

When I righted the whole thing it was obvious that it was not so stable, so I added the diagonals you see in the photos. They were scrap flat material.

I needn't state that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and that function often comes before aesthetics for me. If I find that Warren Buffet writes me into his will I may commission an Amish cabinet maker to fashion me some nice mahogany flat tables. Until that point, though, I will be very pleased with these. They are sturdy enough to jump up and down on (our seedlings do a lot of that), durable enough to last at least a few seasons, and were free wood.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

You Think YOU Have Problems?

Just imagine how this guy felt.
When Margo was walking through the dog room this morning she noticed that we had a guest. "Hey Dan! Come here. There's a chipmunk stuck in the window." I'm not sure what I heard her say, but it wasn't that, because I stayed at the table eating my oatmeal. At her insistence I came to look, and was surprised. And, of course, went to get the camera.
Some folks use video to make an educational impact. I can already tell that, on this blog at least, it is going to be reserved for entertainment. Here's the main idea: this chipmunk is in between the window and the window screen. How did it get there? Who knows.

We just know how we wanted to get it out.

It would have been pretty easy to remove the screen and let it jump the five or so feet to the ground, but then it would have had to face three dogs who were anxious to make its acquaintance. So we got it out the other way, and got another priceless photo.
I think the whole operation will go smoother the next time this happens. If only we had gotten to practice first on a sloth...

Baby spinach, anyone? It's organic!

Monday, May 10, 2010


That would be the state of contentment with one's ancient wheat. We finished our spring grain planting a week or two ago, spotted any damaged or disappeared plants last week, and can now settle in for the joy of watching it tiller and grow. While we're doing everything else, that is. You can find the varieties we planted below in The First Transplant. Next year we will put in some less common varieties of barley and spring wheat that we ordered from Bountiful Gardens to see how they do in our climate.
But back to our featured star. Kamut, like an ancient anything, is kind of a funny bird. Its past, previous to its appearance in the US in 1949, is foggy. A concise assessment of the story can be found here. And a briefer one follows: A US Airman stationed in Portugal was approached by a man who offered him 36 grains of this wheat, telling him it was found in a pyramid tomb in Egypt. He mailed them home to his grain-growing Dad, who grew them to great satisfaction.
It makes for an entertaining story, which could be embellished (but not verified) to a great extent. Without knowing more it could be taken as a complete hoax. But Kamut, compared to modern improved wheat, has a much larger kernal, and despite its 30% higher protein content it doesn't illicit a reaction from many who have wheat allergies. Adding that its DNA is different enough from modern varieties that geneticists have had a hard time figuring out its definite origins, you have a compelling case that it has remained out of breeding circulation for a long time.
(Here are images comparing Kamut with a variety of hard red winter wheat. I would have taken them myself, but, um, we planted all of ours. These are from and, respectively.)
And don't bother looking it up on wikipedia. As of this posting the entry for Kamut looks like it was written by the company that holds its patent. What? It's patented? Yes, I was skeptical too, but I can see where they are coming from. They got the patent in 1990, which made it one of the only 5 non-genetically engineered patented plants (there were already 65 patented GE plants by then). The company gives their explanation on the "Why a Trademark?" portion of their site. And, I have to say, it seems like an ok idea. Especially because Kamut is already in wide circulation, its growing is not in any way prohibited, and the trademark seems to be applied only to the marketing of it. As opposed to Monsanto, who might sue you into bankruptcy for unknowingly having one of their patented seeds in your field. Instead, it seems that Kamut International is trying to maintain the purity of seed claiming to be Kamut. Which is fine by me.

We were aided in our planting by my sister Anne, who was visiting for a few days. As you can see, we were all working together on a strict timeline. That's me, behind, double-digging the bed just before they move their digging board back. Not standard operating procedure. But good, wholesome, community agriculture fun all the same!