Clay Pot Irrigation – Part 1

I was recently perusing one of my favorite websites, Little Homestead in the City, and came across a blog post about ollas, or clay pot irrigation.  The whole concept, which has evidently been around for a few thousand years (leave it to me to just be finding out about this), is fascinating. 

The idea is that a porous clay pot is planted in the ground or raised bed and filled with water. Plants are planted around the pot and the roots grow to the source of water.  The water wicks out of the pot through the pores and waters the plants directly to the root system.   A rock (or something like a scrap piece of broken pot) is placed over the hole to keep mosquitoes out.  The pot is refilled as needed depending on temperatures, rainfall, etc. 

According to the Permaculture Research Institute of Australia, there are a lot of good things about the method including 50-70% water savings, guards against water stress, does not over irrigate, less frequent watering is required, less weeding since weeds do not prosper as the soil surface remains dry throughout the growing season (interesting!), saves on fertilizer if it is applied as part of the water used to fill the pots (can you put liquid worm fertilizer in there?  must research this!), the soil of the seedbed does not get sealed due to water impact but remains loose and well aerated, and last but not least, clay pots can be installed on undulating ground where surface water runoff might be a problem. 

The Aussies also site some disadvantages such as potential for winter breakage if left in the ground in areas with a winter freeze – definitely a possibility here in Oklahoma and prolonged use is likely to decrease porosity of the clay pot if used in heavy soil. 

Here are a couple of very helpful charts that were on the Australian site.

Sounds to me like the pros outweigh the cons.  As much as I would LOVE to buy the cute ollas found at Peddler’s Wagon, they are a bit out of my price range.  I have three raised bed and will need 4-5 for each.  So after a search for DIY ollas, I made a trip to my local Home Depot for pots.  Let’s just say, I’ll be buying my next round at a local garden shop where I found them the next day for about 1/2 the price!  Here is what I bought for about $45.

Standard UNGLAZED clay pots, saucers, silicone and white paint.   The paint is to seal the part of the pot that sticks up out of the ground to keep water from wicking out the top.  That was a tip I got from someone’s blog that said they learned the hard way.  Sounds like me. 

They were not cheap.  Each pot was $4, saucers were $3.  But I figure if I can get 5 years use out of each pot and with money (and heat stroke) saved from reduced watering, the upfront investment will be worth it.  I also discovered a couple of used pots in the garage that I can clean and use.  One thing to watch out for when buying the pots: I found that a lot of the saucers had what appeared to be hairline cracks and some of the pots did, too.  Don’t know how that would affect the process or the strength of the pot, but just kept looking until I found five pots with no cracks.  Anyway, if I’m paying four bucks apiece, they need to be intact, thank you very much. 

The first step is to seal the saucer and pot together to make one unit.  It takes one bead of silicone on the lip of the pot, squish down, and then a bead around the seam on the outside.  Let dry according to the directions on the silicone.  Mine said 12 hours which was overnight and then some.

It’s not pretty but this part will be underground.  Next came a leakage test.  I didn’t do the test on each pot.  I figured if one sealed, they all did.  Hope I’m right.

No leaks!

Next I painted about 2″ down from the top on each pot as well as the top (which of course is really the bottom of the pot).  The pots will be planted with the saucer down and water filled through the hole.

You can see the water wicking through the sides of my test pot. Pretty cool.

So, this is as far as I’ve gotten.  The weather has been cold and cloudy and the weatherman says we may have one more overnight freeze this week.  I should have already had my onions and lettuce and spinach out, but I’m always slow getting started in the spring.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to get the pots in the ground Thursday this week and can show you Part 2. 

Until then, keep it simple, ya’ll.

Another Form of Living Local

I hadn’t thought of this until just now.  Tonight my husband and I experienced a different form of living locally. 

Usually for entertainment, we hop onto Netflix for an instant play movie or go to the theater to see the same movies everyone else in the country is paying way too much for.  But tonight we did something a little different. 

There is a local musical  duo, EricaJames, a father (guitar) and daughter (violin) who are totally awesome.  Their music is very relaxing with a touch of Celtic.  I’ve always loved the guitar violin combination but these guys have that connection that, if they were singers, would blend in perfect harmonies.   

They have one CD out and from the sound of things tonight, have a lot of new material that hopefully will be out soon. 

What made it even more enjoyable is that Erica’s husband and two small kids were there along with siblings and Mom.  It was definitely a family affair.  Take a look at their website and download their music.  They have improved a lot since their original CD was put out a few years ago, but its still good melody.

http://www.ericajameslive.com . 

A local coffee shop, real community, real local living.  Must do it more often.

Thank You OU!!

Thank you University of Oklahoma.  I mean it.  They stepped up and did the right thing and I am very grateful. 

My son and three other students were scheduled to arrive in northern Japan the 1st of April for a semester’s study at Yamagata University.  At first OU closed that site as a destination, but after further deterioration of the situation there, has closed Japan entirely to exchange students.  Thank you!!!

We were struggling with a decision as to whether to send D. to a southern university there.  He has worked so hard to make it happen this year.  But now the decision is out of our hands and my prayer that things would work out in his best interest has been answered.  Thank you Lord! Thank you OU! 

So, in complete opposition to the “live simply” mantra, since airline tickets AND tuition will be fully refunded, we granted permission for a little retail therapy.  He is now the proud owner of a new 37″ flat screen TV.  Oh, well.  He will have lost an entire semester toward graduation credits, but he is here and not being exposed to radiation.  His future health is not at risk from that particular hazard anyway. 

So we will move on to the next step.  He still has a job since his leave of absence had not gone into effect yet.  He still has a place to live since his lease does not end until May.  And he can go to summer school to make up a couple of the classes he lost. 

Looking across the ocean, let’s pray for the people of Japan.  And lets take a lesson from them.  There has been no looting and one news account said they are continuing to recycle at the refugee centers, in spite of their miserable conditions.  And let’s not forget the families of the 1300 Americans who were in northern Japan when the quake/tsunami struck.  Many are still waiting to hear about their loved ones. 

I’m counting my blessings today.  What are you grateful for?  

Keep it simple ya’ll.

Ugh (its so hard to come up with titles for these stupid things)

I’m so tired.  Maybe its daylight savings time.  I did really well the first few days and then BOOM! this morning I’m really dragging.  I had to work until 7 last night on my feet in bad shoes.  May not sound like a big deal, but for someone who has chronic feet and leg problems, its huge.  I tossed and turned all night with the pain even after taking 800mg of ibuprofen – which always works with other types of pain but for some reason doesn’t phase my foot and leg pain. 

Or maybe its the sugar overload I’ve been on lately.  I was doing great.  Down 3 pounds which is a big deal for post-menapausal life.  Then my neighbor brought me a King Cake from Mardi Gras.  Ate my fill and put the rest in the freezer.  Yea, me.  Then my husband felt sorry for a co-worker and bought 2 boxes of Girl Scout cookies.  One box of thin mints eaten for dinner all at one sitting.  Dessert overload at my son’s going away party – although he may not be going to Japan now – still in limbo on that decision – another story for another time, but could be contributing to my blahness.  Birthday cake for a coworker. Cupcake from the gourmet bakery after gourging on Mexican food for lunch yesterday.  I usually pass when co-workers go out for Tex-Mex at lunch because it is SO much food, but it was that same birthday and not wanting to be a stick in the mud, went along.  Then a couple of cookies at the exhibit opening last night.  This morning I feel like crap.  Vision even slightly blurred.  Diabetes runs in the family.  I’m in denial.  Never check my blood sugar.  Whine……………….

On the up side, the weather is warming nicely.  Hopefully the frost we had on the windshield Tuesday morning was the last of the season.  Pretty soon I’ll be griping about the heat!  But while I’m griping I’ll be eating home grown okra!  Woohoo! 

Be praying for the people of Japan.

Doody Calls

Sorry, couldn’t resist the pun.  Doody – or chicken manure is now in the raised beds.  The instructions said to just spread it on top of the soil and water well.  Yea!  No backbreaking work in that. 

I also got the watering system set up, but its not perfect.  Three sprinklers are hooked up with connecting hoses to one faucet.  The first one gets lots of pressure – too much water for the #1 bed when its just right for the other two further down the line.   Will try putting a splitter on the faucet and operating them separately.  Will still have to water other areas by hand, but this system will lighten the load during the extreme heat of the summer.  I wanted to get it set up before I planted so as not to injure young plants.  Trial and error time again.  The story of my life. 

Next step is to buy my onion and potato sets and get them planted along with lettuce seeds.  Its still a little cold but I’m going for it.  Okra will wait until the middle of April.   

Just an update for anyone interested in the process.  Urban agriculture!!!!

Keep it simple, ya’ll.

Almost There

This is what met my eyes when I walked out the door this morning.  Cue birdsong and woodpecker tapping.  The buds are ALMOST open.  In a few days this very lopsided Bradford Pear tree will be in full bloom.  While all the other trees still appear to be dormant, local pear trees – and believe me there are LOTS of them around here – are trying very hard to get Spring underway.  Come to think of it, I haven’t seen any tulips this year.  Must have missed them because they always precede everything else.  Next will be the redbuds – absolutely gorgeous and the state tree of Oklahoma; again, very prolific.  And then the irises.  I love irises.  I have yellow and purple in my yard.  The blooms don’t last long but they are truly beautiful while they last. 

My sedum is beginning to put on some serious growth.  It never really goes dormant here.  I cut it back every winter but there are always some low lying green buds just on the surface.  It made it through the extreme temperatures this winter. 

I think I’ll go to the local nursery today at lunch and buy a few bags of manure to work into the veggie beds tomorrow.  Next comes planting for onions and lettuce. 

I also need to get serious about pricing DIY guttering.  I’ve had two very nice rain barrels for a couple of years now, but haven’t gotten them hooked up for lack of guttering.  It might be a little pricey to get the whole thing up and running, but free water for the garden will be the tradeoff.

 The garden is going to be great this year – I can just feel it!

Keep it simple, ya’ll.

A Simple Step Toward Stewardship

Just like most folks these days, my ever decreasing paycheck – due to increases in health insurance premiums for the year – and the ever increasing prices in gasoline, groceries and clothing means my paycheck doesn’t go as far as it used to.  The money belt is getting tighter.  Maybe its just my expanding midsection, but that’s a whole other issue. 

This can be a serious problem to an avid reader.  I love books.  No way around it.  I pride myself in buying from local bookstores rather than the big chains like Barnes and Noble or Borders.  La vida local!  But I had to take a step back recently when I found several books I wanted to purchase.

There is no way I can justify spending $80 on 4 books.  Just can’t do it.  The answer?  Well, duh, you’re saying about now.  The local library!  I turn to it often for my fiction fix, but tend toward purchasing when I want to add to my “resource material.”  Can’t do it this time.  Fortunately for me, Oklahoma City has a huge system of neighborhood branch libraries.  What may not be on the shelf at my local branch most likely is somewhere else in the city.  All I need to do is go online and put in a reserve for the book.  Presto!  Three days later I get an email telling me to come pick it up at my local branch.  I was happy to find all four books there.  Most times I find what I want, sometimes I don’t.   I realized that this latest book wish list is more biographical  than true resource or reference titles that will be of use later.  Those I purchase, if after borrowing from the library I decide I must own them. Simple Prosperity by David Wann is a good example – definitely one of those books that requires a highlighter.  So inspirational. I returned the library copy immediately and headed for Full Circle Books.  They had it!  Full price, but local.    Buying used is good, too, but that means buying online which means paying shipping.  Not always a savings and does nothing for my local economy.

So for now, being a better steward of our money by getting books from the library means I have more money to purchase organic food from the food co-op.  I get to improve my mental health – no guilt over buying books, improving my sustainability knowledge – and my physical health – better food – maybe a smaller midsection?   A win win, if you ask me.  Something else, too.  By being forced to wait a few days to get my hands on a book, I have actually found that by the time the email arrives in my inbox,  I may not want to read the book anymore.  So I  cancel the request and it goes to someone else or back on the shelf.  I haven’t spent money on an impulse purchase.  Better yet, I haven’t spent money on a book just to delve eagerly into the first chapter and then say, “Dude, who told you you could write!”  No money wasted on a book I’ll never finish.

Take a look around. Bet you can find ways to be a  better steward of what you’ve been blessed with. 

Keep it simple, ya’ll.