Saturday, December 5, 2009

Can't see the forest - cause we cut down the trees...

When our house was built, there must have been a sale on every ugly plant. We have systematically been taking out old, fugly plants and trees and re-landscaping the ranch.

Here's the latest step - taking out a row of totally overgrown trees along our access road.

Taking out the trees... from Upshaw Ron on Vimeo.

It makes such a huge difference already.

See you next time...
From City Boy Starts Farmin'

World's Easiest Cherry Jam Recipe

So, you've got a cherry tree too. Or you drive by that stand on the side of the road selling cherries and want to make some Cherry Jam.

Now in my second year with two cherry trees, I think this is about as easy as you can get to have some delicious cherry jam.... enjoy!

Cherry Jam... from Upshaw Ron on Vimeo.

Good Luck, let me know how it turns out!

From City Boy Starts Farmin'

Where's that tool again?

I'm sure this has never happened to you...

A pair of needle nose pliers is needed to complete the job you're working on. You know that you own a pair of said pliers. One problem - your garage looks like my barn.

I finally decided to do something about the hornets nest that was my barn. I scored a great deal on some drawers and wall cabinets from Second Use. If you're in the Puget Sound Area, it's definitely worth a trip for used building materials.

Barn Cabinets from ron upshaw on Vimeo.

Nothing ground breaking here, but I will say that the metal drawers with the heavy duty runners is a major plus in a garage / tool application. Oh, and it sucks to not have a level floor!

Here's how things turned out:

Barn Cabinets - After from ron upshaw on Vimeo.

Now the challenge will be to keep it this way!

From City Boy Starts Farmin'

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Rancher Ron 1, Blackberry Bush 0

It's been a while since I've blogged, but not because I haven't been busy.

We wanted to get one more big project before the rain starts, and that big project was a permanent fence along our stream. This jumped to the head of the list because of a program we are part of with the King County Conservation District. Since we attended their Farm Plan classes and then got a Farm Plan, we are eligible to get reimbursed by the County for certain projects. Things like our manure bins, animal containment areas, and wetland buffer fences are reimbursed up to set percentages.

The buffer fence is around 75%.

We had a project manager from the Conservation District come out to help draw out where the fence will go to qualify for a Wetlands Restoration Project. After we do our fence, the KCD will come out and restore as much of our stream buffer to native plants. They say they will also maintain it for three years. This is very good news for us.

The first step was clear out some of the blackberries that were right on the new fence line and get the post holes dug. I decided to hire The Brush Monster. It's a bit spendy ($160/hr) but I think it's money well spent. If you've ever taken out blackberry bushes by hand, check this machine out.

Rancher Ron 1 - Blackberry Bushes 0 from ron upshaw on Vimeo.

We decided that since this part of the pasture gets pretty wet in the winter, we'd go with 4x6 pressure treated posts, and 180lbs of cement in each hole. That's totally overkill, but I only want to do this thing once. Since we're getting reimbursed for some of the cost, I spent a few hundred dollars extra on bigger posts and more cement.

I'll get some pics of how things turned out...
From City Boy Starts Farmin'

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Pickles 3 Ways...

So I had a bunch of onions out in the garden and didn't know what to do with them all. Did not seem like the best thing to give away... "Hey, you want some free onions?" - "Um, thanks?"

So I decided to try my hand at making pickles. Since I'd never done it before, I made pickles 3 ways. One was an English recipe, one was my own spicy creation, and one I got from Good Eats.

Pickles Three Ways from Upshaw Ron on Vimeo.

If you want the original from Alton Brown - here you go:

After a taste test - don't even bother with anything but the Good Eats recipe. They are awesome! The best pickles I've ever had. Went through my whole stash in a few days. It would even be worth it if you don't have a garden - just buy onions and pickle cucumbers.

Best. Pickles. Ever.

See you next time!

Rancher Ron

Sunday, June 28, 2009

REVIEW: DIG Drip Irrigation System

I've heard a few people call it "Chore Efficiency" but I just call it lazy. Or maybe I am being efficient. I'm talking about watering the plants. We've spent $500 easy on new plants around the house, and watering is a pain. Plus we're going out of town for vacation, and don't want to come back to a bunch of dead plants.

My first try at doing the drip system was in my garden when I saw a kit on sale at Harbor Freight for $10. It didn't work too well for me. In fairness, I think I was asking too much of it. This kit would work great if you just need to water some planters or a small herb garden.

So I ended up getting a much beefier system at Home Depot. It's the DIG Micro Sprinkler Watering Kit. The basic kit at Home Depot was $26. I got one for the front of the house, and one for the garden. I also bought an extra 100 ft. of the half inch tubing. I think 150 ft is about the max for length, and I needed about 140 ft.

Here's a video of my install.

Review of the DIG Drip Irrigation System from Upshaw Ron on Vimeo.

Now that I've had it for a few days, I'm really happy that I got the battery powered timer.
If you're going to "automate" your watering, might as well do it all the way!

So overall, I'm really quite pleased with the micro sprinkler kit.

See you next time.

From City Boy Starts Farmin'

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

My DVD is on Amazon!

This is cool news. I just got a DVD I produced with my buddy Kenan on

We did it a few years ago. It's called Hike Great hikes close to home. It's basically a half hour video for the beginning hiker or for a hiker that's new to the Puget Sound area. We cover a bunch of really cool hikes, and cover what gear you'll need including the 10 essentials. If you're into hiking - check it out.


From City Boy Starts Farmin'

Top 5 Farmer Father's Day Gifts

So Father's Day is right around the corner, but what do you give your dad if he's a country boy? NO SOCKS or BOXER SHORTS. Put some thought into it and get him something he'll actually like. Here's my top 5 list for this year.

5) A Weather Station. This one is the La Crosse Wireless Station. Dad's love things that are wireless, and love checking the weather. Mark my words, you'll start to hear things at the dinner table like, "We had a max wind speed today of 17 miles per hour." Or, "Guess how much rain fell last night." Believe me, Dad will love this one. $70

4) A Weed Puller. May I present to you the Yard Butler Rocket. It really works and saves your back. Sit and get a chuckle as you watch dad wander around the yard just looking for a weed to pull. $38

3) Skidding Tongs. Trust me on this one. I just got a pair of skidding tongs, and I couldn't wait to hook em' up to the tractor and start dragging some stumps around. If your Dad has a chain saw, then he needs a pair of Skidding Tongs! I know you have no idea what this is, but Dad will love it. You use these tongs to pick up or drag stumps. A major plus when it's time to cut firewood. Bonus: dad gets to pretend he's a real life lumberjack! $54

2) A Metal Detector. I know what you're thinking - that's the dorkiest gift ever. But every dad would love to have one of these but it's one of those things you just don't buy for yourself. Believe me, Dad will be happy he got this one, and I bet you he finds some strange piece of metal on the property within a week! $60

1) A Nail Gun. This is the one that I have, and I use it all the time on the ranch. One prerequisite: make sure Dad already has a compressor. If not, then buy the cordless nail gun - a bit more expensive, but there will be an ear to ear grin on Dad's face when he opens this up. Trust me. $209

Good luck! And treat your Farmer Dad right this year!
From City Boy Starts Farmin'

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Top 5 Things for a Lazy Gardener.

Well, it's my second year of gardening. I must admit I went a bit overboard last year. I think that's probably pretty standard. You can use the search box at the top of my blog to find the plans for my raised beds if you want to see the stuff from last year.

But here's my list of things I learned to be a lazy gardener.

1) Seeds suck. Don't buy them till you have a few years experience and find that you LOVE gardening. I went crazy last year buying seeds, and because I'm a beginner, it's a total waste of time and money. I don't know how to start things inside - I don't have growing lights - and I don't really have the time.

2) Buy The Starters. For several reasons. Less work for you - that's the most important. And second, because you'll know what the plant looks like. Last year, when I planted seeds, I couldn't tell the plants I wanted from the weeds. Finally, you get to eat stuff quicker. In the end, it was only a few dollars more that the mountain of seeds I bought last year.

3) Less Is More. Mistake #2 from last year is that I tried to do too much. Start small and you'll realize that unless you cook a gourmet meal every night, that it's actually quite hard to keep up with the yield of even a moderate sized garden.

4) Raised Beds Rule. This is the one area that I give myself credit in. I knew going in that I did not want to be down on my hands and knees fooling around with these plants. The raised beds that I made bring everything right up where I can get to them. I did make the boxes deeper this year, and that helped out immensely.

5) Automatic Watering. This is the next project on my list. For around $30, you can set up a system that will water automatically. Just turn the little timer, and away it goes. A must have for the lazy gardener.

So here's some video of stuff this year:

Ron's Raised Garden from R. Upshaw on Vimeo.

See You Next Time

From City Boy Starts Farmin'

Good Bye Dwarf Spruce Trees...

A word about Craigslist. It can be the best thing ever (see: Total Gym for $25) and it can be the worst thing ever. I speak of the "Free" section. I don't know what it is that is encoded in the DNA of the people who love the free section of Craigslist, but there seems to be a few nucleotides missing. I put an ad up for free Dwarf Spruce Trees.

I figured that someone who needed some trees could transplant them and save a lot of money. Who am I kidding? I also wanted some free yard work. I needed to clear them via orders from the Cowgirl, and thought I could kill two birds with one stone. Lets just say to call these people flaky isn't fair to a biscuit. But after several start/stops, I managed to get the area cleaned out.

I wasn't totally convinced we needed to do it. I kinda like the dwarf spruce trees, especially in the winter when there's some snow on them - seems like a row of Christmas trees, but I must admit that I like the new bed much better.

Good Bye Spruce Trees from ron upshaw on Vimeo.

Next up, I need to install an automatic watering system for these flower beds. I'm tired of watering already! Funny how one project creates another.

See you next time

From City Boy Starts Farmin'

Nuts! I Love Em.

...Ah, Nuts!

Last year on our honeymoon we went to the Oregon wine country and rode horses through a winery. One winery was right next to a hazelnut farm, and we bought a bag of hazelnuts and fresh honey with some hot spices. It was awesome...

So I thought I'd plant a few hazelnut trees out on the ranch. I learned that you need two so they can cross pollinate.

Plus I've already got the bees - so this should be a no brainer.

Planted some Hazlenut Trees from ron upshaw on Vimeo.

I doubt I'll get any nuts this year. In fact I don't know how big the tree needs to be before it starts producing? Anyone know?

See you next time

From City Boy Starts Farmin'

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Topsy Turvey - Why Do You Hate America?

So I'm getting ready for the gardening season like everyone else, and I see a stack of Topsy Turveys at the store. On sale for $10.

You know the one. I had visions of so many tomatoes that I would open up a Ragu factory on the weekends. So I bought it, and planted 4 tomato plants at the same time.

Well, mine didn't quite turn out like the commercial:

Topsy Turvey = FAIL! from ron upshaw on Vimeo.

Am I naive? Did I fall for some clever marketing? Does this mean that the ShamWow is a fraud?

From City Boy Starts Farmin'

The World Famous PIGERATOR

You read that right... a PIGERATOR.

Me and my crazy Cajun buddy Charles decided to have a pig roast out on the Ranch this year. He was at a pig roast in Louisiana that was cooked inside a gutted refrigerator. He said he wanted to make his own version of a gutted fridge with his friend Gator (I told you he's a crazy Cajun.)

So Charles & Gator took care of building the Pigerator, and I was in charge of the pig and beer... and a bon fire. Not a bad trade off.

While I don't have pics of the Pigerator build, it's pretty simple in theory. They welded 1/2" steel plates inside the fridge box - with some insulation so the outside wouldn't get too hot. Charles installed a BBQ grill thermometer thru the door. There's a removable hook welded to the top inside, and a coal box on the bottom. He put a drain hole in the floor for the drippings, and 4 vent pipes - 3 in the front, and one in the back.

You can see the pipes on the front... the one in the back is bigger. Charles has the pipe covers so you can control the airflow. They also installed a fireproof gasket around the door, and two clamps that hold the door open. The thing weighs a ton... man is it heavy.

Next up, I needed to find a pig. Initially, the people I spoke to said to get about a pound per person, but because we didn't want to run out of pork, we ended up with a 114 lb pig. I got it from Mike Lind's Custom Meats.
23022 172nd Ave SE
Kent WA 98042

Mike did a great job on our pig... he even let me borrow a cooler for the weekend since our cooler wasn't big enough for this 114 pounder.

Here's a video of the day in question:

The World Famous PIGERATOR from Upshaw Ron on Vimeo.

It was the best pork that I've ever had in my life... good job to Chuck and his Cajun magic.

Everyone had a great time...

Here's some more video from our buddy Marco:

See you next time..

From City Boy Starts Farmin'

Easy Bloom Review

So I don't exactly have a green thumb. But in my defense, I haven't tried to make anything grow since we suspended a potato over a Styrofoam cup on toothpicks in Mr. Diamond's second grade class.

So I broke down and bought an Easy Bloom. I didn't need my arm twisted too hard, I admit I loves me some gadgets! It now lives next to my iPod, Blackberry, mini DV camcorder, still camera, and a bunch of cords that don't plug into anything.

It costs me about $60. I got mine on Hey, they're on sale now for $39.99... that's a really good deal.

It's a very cool little gadget. Plug it into your computer, and put in your zip code, and it will tell you all the plants that thrive in your area. It also has a watering mode, and monitor mode.

Easy Bloom Review from R. Upshaw on Vimeo.

Here's a little video on the "Water Mode"

Easy Bloom Review - Water mode from ron upshaw on Vimeo.

If you're new to gardening, or clueless - or both, I really recommend the Easy Bloom... especially since they've dropped the price to $39.99. That's less than the cost of one tree that you could avoid planting in the wrong spot with the Easy Bloom.

See you next time.

From City Boy Starts Farmin'

Two Bee Hives This Year

I have a confession to make: I've been slacking off on the blog. But not because I've been lazy. I've been too busy doing stuff to post.

I'm going to try and catch up today.

I have another confession to make: I murdered a bunch of bees last year. Not quite in the Dexter with a saw kind of murder, but my hive did die. It was a really cold winter, and the girls didn't make it. But I'm going to try again this year, and I'm adding another hive. It's really the wooden ware that's the most expensive part of beekeeping for me. So I got a bunch of new gear for this season and changed the bee yard a bit.

Getting Ready For New Bees from Upshaw Ron on Vimeo.

I've expanded the Apiary this year... in fact, I've doubled it... to two hives. Here's how things look now.

Two Hives This Year from R. Upshaw on Vimeo.

Here's some footage from Memorial Day Weekend.

Bee Hives - checking in... from ron upshaw on Vimeo.

It's really fascinating to have the second hive this year. It's helpful to be able to A/B the hives. Initially, the gray hive was much more active... in fact they were kind of testy. I theorized that the gray hive would be more active, and pull out more frames quicker and eventually give me more honey.

But that hasn't really been true. The pink hive seems to have a bigger population, and seems to be pulling out frames quicker. Exactly opposite of what I thought.

I actually reversed the hive boxes two weeks ago to see if it would encourage the girls to pull out the rest of the frames and put honey in there. I'm anxious to put my honey supers on the hives, but I don't think it's quite ready yet.

See you next time.
From City Boy Starts Farmin'

Monday, May 11, 2009

Horse people, help me out!

So I need some help with you Horse People out there. Last year we installed Hot Tape for our cross fencing. Well since that time I tore down the overhang on our barn, so I needed to move the charger box for the fence.

I re-installed new ground rods, and I don't know if this reading on the fence is strong enough. We have the 3 mile charger, and I'm 99% sure the install is correct, but our reading seems low to me.

Re-doing the Hot Tape.. from ron upshaw on Vimeo.

Let me know what your reading is... I don't want to zap the horses too hard, but I want them to respect the hot tape. I'm thinking we might need to buy a 5 or 10 mile charger box to up the zap?

Please leave me a comment if you think this looks wrong, needs to be tweaked, or even looks right.


Pre-Garden Prep for this year...

Last year was my first year to garden. I tried the "Square Foot Gardening" method with a raised bed. I got OK results last year, but I think that the depth of the soil wasn't enough. So I modified the raised beds to make them deeper. The one thing that I was totally right about is that the raised beds make it much easier to weed and maintain... that part I like.

Modifing the Raised Gardens... from ron upshaw on Vimeo.

I've since filled these bad boys up with about 2 tons of Llama poop manure from my neighbor Bill, and have planted a bunch of starters, I'll post that up soon.

See You Next Time!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Little Pink Houses

Bird houses, that is... but if you need a little John Mellencamp...

Last year, I did a post on making a $5 birdhouse. Only one problem, a bird never moved in. I think it's because I put it on the barn right by where the dogs go in and out. Probably not the best idea. So I moved the $5 birdhouse and installed my new Modern Birdhouse.

Little Pink Houses from ron upshaw on Vimeo.

Does anyone know if it's better to hang a birdhouse on the North or South side of a tree? I was thinking if I hang it on the south side, it would get too hot in the Sun all day? Let me know if you know...


Saturday, March 7, 2009

Expanding the horse pasture - Perimeter Fencing...

So last year I did a survey of the corners of our property. Just do a search at the top of the blog and you can read all about it... it was quite an adventure - not to mention, it wasn't cheap.

But on the good side, we gained about 30 feet of pasture that our neighbor was using as yard.

It was time to finish up the fence that I started several months ago. (Ok, it was almost 6 months ago, but I was really busy.)

We got the fencing up and the Cowgirl wanted double stretchers so I need to get some more pressure treated 2x4's, but other than that, I think it's looking pretty good.

Perimeter Fence Building with the Cowgirl from ron upshaw on Vimeo.

The Cowgirl wanted to try a different style of construction on this perimeter fencing. Usually, I'd buy Simpson Strong Tie metal brackets and put the stretchers on with screws, but the horses like to itch themselves by leaning into the fence. So we beefed up the posts to 4x6 pressure treated and we're putting the stretchers on the face of the posts and using 3" nails. It was actually a lot easier to do than the brackets, and we'll see how it holds up.

I'm also going to re-purpose a 12 foot gate from the barn area to put in for road access. Just add that to the list.

All Creatures Great & Small - Maple Valley Version

Although I've never actually read the book All Creatures Great & Small, I did manage to make my way through all 7 cds in the book on tape. So I've got that going for me.

Here's a montage video of some wildlife out on the farm.

First: a raccoon that just walks right up to our sliding glass door and is completely unafraid. Not a good thing. They can do some serious damage to a dog or cat. I spoke with PAWS and they recommended first making sure not to leave any cat food out at night and see if that stops him from coming around.

Second: It's been over 2 months since Gerty the dog had ACL surgery. Her rehab has been driving us crazy. She's not clear to run around yet, so we have to keep her on the leash and inside. Not fun. She seems to be doing quite well. She's got a bit of a limp, but Dr. Paul says that will improve as time goes by.

Third: A mystery creature I saw out by the barn.


All Creatures Great And Small from ron upshaw on Vimeo.

More Snow, but I got a new Deere

Spring is right around the corner...right? You'd never know it when we keep getting SNOW.
What's the deal with all the snow this year.

But I'm getting geared up for this season - do your best Price Is Right imitation - "IT'S A NEW JOHN DEERE GARDEN TRACTOR!"

Still Snowing and the New Deere from ron upshaw on Vimeo.

At least it's new to me. A couple around the corner (now I know it's 1.8 miles because I rode the
Deere on the road...) had an amazing garage sale last weekend. They were moving to Florida and selling all their stuff amazingly cheap. I picked up this Garden Tractor that retails for $4200, with 200 hours on it for $800. Not bad. And he threw in a trailer.

As soon as the weather gets a bit nicer, I'm going to see if it's got enough juice to mow the horse pasture that I had to do with a brush hog last year.

I'm pretty pumped about this deal. Should last me for a long time!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Rookie Mistake - Double Fail...

Seems like I've been having a LOT of failures on the farm this year. But as the top of the blog says, I am a city boy trying to figure all this stuff out. This one is a double Fail.

A while back I attempted to make Cherry Wine from the massive amount of cherries in the orchard. (You can follow along with all the Cherry Wine posts by typing 'cherry' into the search box on the top of the blog - it only searches this blog...)

Well, that resulted in some really tart, undrinkable wine. I couldn't bring myself to just throw away my first batch of wine - so I bought a Mother of Vinegar and tried to make Cherry Wine Vinegar. So I'm sure you can see where this is going:

Vinegar Fail! from ron upshaw on Vimeo.

So I just delayed my FAIL a few months. But hopefully I learned something this year and will be able to adjust and make a better wine next year.

See you next time~

I Lost My Bees...

Yep, this is what I found last weekend when I went out to start feeding the girls:

Are the bees still alive? from ron upshaw on Vimeo.

I waited a few days and looked inside. NO BEES. So I took the top feeder off and heard the sound all bee keepers dread - silence. Not one buzzzzzz.

Dead Bees from ron upshaw on Vimeo.

So I took the entire hive down to Trees N' Bees in Auburn to ask the experts what went wrong. Their opinion what that the hive tried to supersede, or make a new Queen. That means one of the following bad things happened:

1) The original Queen left the hive and a swarm followed her. That would mean at least half of the bees would be gone in a swarm leaving a very weak hive for the winter.

2) I accidentally killed the Queen when we took the honey last year. The Hive would then try to make a new Queen, but it might have turned cold by then - weak hive - cold - dead.

3) The Hive 'decided' to produce a new Queen because she was weak or not laying enough eggs. When that happens, usually they make a bunch of Queen cells. When the new Queens hatch - they fight each other for the hive, so Queens then die or leave/swarm - weak hive - cold - dead.

But the silver lining is that there didn't seem to be any diseases in the hive, and I've contacted several other Pacific Northwest beekeepers and they have lost their hives this winter too. It was a very cold one for NW standards.

So this weekend I bought about $500 worth of new gear, ordered two new packages of bees, and set out to paint and repair everything... oh and I had some visitors:

Painting the bee hives from ron upshaw on Vimeo.

So now I need to get my apiary ready for a new hive by April, and we'll see if I do better this year.

See you next time

Monday, January 26, 2009

Destroying Stuff Is Fun

If there's one thing that gets a guy going, it's destroying something. Ask any fan of Office Space about the printer scene.

We had this really ugly overhang coming off the side of the barn and it was time for it to go. We also wanted to pull out some old fencing that wasn't doing any good.

I started off using some hand tools, and quickly moved to the tractor. By the way, I really thought that when I pulled out the first support in the middle that the whole thing would fall in. I didn't expect to have to pull out so many of the footings. I sped up the video for times sake...

Demo of Barn Overhang from ron upshaw on Vimeo.

Now comes the removal process...

See You Next Time

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Cowboy Up...

We shot some video last week of my latest riding lesson. I'm trying to learn how to canter. Here you go.

Ron Riding from ron upshaw on Vimeo.

I don't think I'll be winning competitions any time soon, but at least I'm more comfortable in the saddle.

See You Next Time~

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Ice is slippery, and other obvious things...

Where do I even start on this one?

Because there was a giant wind storm forecast for our area, we took the horses to the Cowgirl's trainer's barn. It is totally enclosed, and warmer than what we have here.

Then it snowed and snowed, and snowed some more, and we couldn't get the horses back on the slick roads. About a week or so later, it was finally clear enough to bring back the ponies. We got them unloaded ok, then this happened...

Good times.

Snow weighs 15 lbs per cubic foot....

That fun factoid plus the numerous news reports of collapsing structures led me to climb on top of our horse shelter with 10 inches of snow on it. Smart.

Snow On The Horsestalls 1 from R. Upshaw on Vimeo.

Snow On The Horsestalls 2 from R. Upshaw on Vimeo.

Snow On The Horsestalls 3 from R. Upshaw on Vimeo.

Snow On The Horsestalls 4 from R. Upshaw on Vimeo.

Snow On The Horsestalls 5 from R. Upshaw on Vimeo.

Snow On The Horsestalls 6 from R. Upshaw on Vimeo.

Snow On The Horsestalls 7 from R. Upshaw on Vimeo.

I'm typing this from the future, and I'm glad to report that the horse shelter did not collapse! Nice.

See You Next Time ~

Gerty gets her stitches out...

So we are suppose to wait 10 days before Gerty's stitches can come out. To keep her from gnawing at the leg she had to wear one of those cone heads.

Gerty healing up from R. Upshaw on Vimeo.

Finally it's been 10 days, and it's time to take out Gerty's stitches. I was tired of putting the cone head on her, so I can only imagine how tired of it the dog was...

We still have to keep her "as still as possible" for another 20 days. Then at the one month point - she can take 5 minute walks on the leash.

It's been pretty tedious, but hopefully Gerty will be running around like normal by Springtime.

See you next time...