Monday, June 30, 2014

Corn in the backyard, 2014 -- weeks 7 & 8

 June 22

Although the rain hasn't been plentiful, it's been enough to support the stalk growth through the last two weeks of continued warm weather.  The seventh week contained 34% more growing degree days than normal and saw most of the plants add about 19 inches to top out at 58 inches on June 22.

 June 29

The eighth week was not as warm as the seventh, accumulating about 18% more growing degree days than average, but the corn hit its stride and gained 32 inches to hit 90 inches tall by the end of the week.  In the picture above, it's no longer possible to see trees or buildings across the highway, although history indicates the corn stalks are probably not quite done growing.  One bit of evidence is the lack of tassels poking out of the top of the plant.  Once those appear, the stalk growth is nearly complete, and the plants get down to the business of producing a crop.  But that will come later.  Now I've got a couple of charts to illustrate how the crop this year is doing compared to the four other years for which I have data.

The first chart suggests that we may have another week or two of growth before the plants reach full height, and that the current height of the stalks is consistent with the median for the eighth week for the five years shown.  Some weeks have been a bit below average, but there's no reason to believe this crop is suffering.

This next chart makes the case that this crop is doing exceptionally well for this time of year.  We've never measured stalks this tall in the last week of June, and the 32 inches gained last week was also a record for this time of year.  We'll keep our eyes on these trends and track the 2014 crop to full height, but it looks like we could tie or beat the pace set by the early crop of 2010.

I wonder how this data would look if we compared growth to growing degree days?  I suspect a fairly strong correlation would appear, so I may just have to plot that data.  If it looks interesting, you can rest assured you'll see the results here.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

A bumper crop of cherries

I'm always anxious each year to see how many blossoms appear on the cherry tree, as that's one indicator of the fruit yield for that year.  A lot can happen between the budding of the blossoms and harvest of the fruit, but without blossoms, there's no hope for fruit.

Imagine our pleasure this year to see the tree covered in flowers like this on May 4.  I'd been impressed for a week before this as the blossoms seemed to proliferate daily, until by the beginning of May I started being anxious about freezing temperatures.  We've occasionally had frozen flowers on the tree, which kills them in short order and eliminates any hope of fruit at that bud.  Once the flower is pollinated, and the fruit begins to set, freezing is less damaging although we've seen some yield reduction at that stage in the past also.

I checked the fruit periodically in May and was disappointed that a noticeable number of blossoms did not appear to have been pollinated.  I hadn't noticed any bees around the tree this year as in years past, but I wasn't watching closely either.  Was I seeing evidence of shrinking bee populations?  Evidently the bees did a better job than I expected, as the fruit proliferated over the months of May and June at a rate not a lot slower than the blossoms.

God blessed us with no freezing temperatures from blossom to fruit ripening this year, so our crop was the largest we've seen on this tree.  This is how the tree looked on June 18 after about a gallon of fruit had been harvested already.  Knowing the amount of work involved in picking and pitting that many cherries, and how there were far more than we normally consume, we put the word out to friends to come help themselves and many helped and enjoyed the fruits of the harvest this year.  Since we didn't measure the yield we can only estimate that over eight gallons have been harvested so far.

This image proves it was not difficult to find cherries to pick this year.  I don't have measurements to prove it, but it appears the fruit is a little smaller this year than in the past.  Is that a reflection of the limited rainfall we received while the fruit matured?  Or maybe the tree can only produce so much volume of fruit, so if there are more cherries, they end up smaller?  Someone smarter than me will have to answer those questions.

Ultimately, this is the goal: fruit safely off the tree and ready for processing or immediate consumption.  In the end, we have enough cherries for our satisfaction and at least six other families will benefit as well.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Corn in the backyard, 2014 -- weeks 4, 5, and 6

June 1

The corn growth started to accelerate in the fourth week as the stalks more than doubled in height to 18 inches.  The fact that we had 60% more growing degree days that week probably influenced the growth significantly.

June 8

Although the fifth week was not as hot as the fourth, we still managed to receive 30% more growing degree days than the historical average, causing the stalks to top out at 29 inches.

June 15

The sixth week was very comfortable as every day was cooler than average, resulting in 17% fewer growing degree days than typical.  The stalks managed to continue adding height and mass, however, and reached 39 inches at the time of the photograph.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Basement Remodel Project: Preamble

Our basement has always been a disaster.  Okay, maybe disaster is too strong a word.  Our basement has always been a compromise, at least since 2007 when we moved in.  The previous owners had begun finishing the basement when we bought the place, and we promptly tore most of it out before we moved in.  Over the years, I've not hesitated to tear things apart in the basement if it was necessary to accomplish a purpose upstairs, so the basement has been in a varying state of demolition for the past seven years.  Needless to say, my wife has been very patient for a long time.

When I say "basement" I'm really only talking about the east half of the basement.  A block wall (to support the upstairs floor joists) separates the east and west sections, and the west section is home to the well pressure tank, water softener, laundry area, furnace, water heater, freezer, and assorted storage.  That side requires a different kind of remodeling, that we won't be attempting until some undetermined future date.  The east side includes the landing for the stairs from the first floor, the main breaker panel, the wood burner, a waste water drain pipe, access to the west side, and access to a full bath and sewage ejector previously installed (documented here and here).  The main room is about 13 feet wide and 44 feet long, and the height is about 7 feet 4 inches from concrete floor to the bottom of the floor joists.

Although it's embarrassing to show, this image gives you some idea of the state of the blank canvas we had to work with in December when the final (?) phase of demolition began.  The room had multiple purposes: storage for various construction materials, temporary sleeping for guests that we weren't embarrassed to send to the basement, "lounging" in front of the wood burner, and treadmill exercise while watching videos on the TV.  Not a homey environment for most of those activities.

I've been reminded recently that not every homeowner enjoys spending most of their free time improving, repairing, or maintaining their property.  I count myself as one that does enjoy this kind of busyness, at least on this property.  I see it as a combination of taking dominion over chaos and disorder, while beautifying and organizing our environment.  As I share photos of the progress of this project in the future, I hope you will see improvement and order as we shape the room to our purposes.