Sago Palm

Sago Palm Recovering from a Harsh Winter

We have been the owners of a sago palm for a long time, maybe 15 years or so. I think Claire bought it at a garage sale or some fund- raiser where someone had plants for sale. It was a tiny thing when she purchased it with only a couple of stems about three or four inches long. I didn’t know anything about planting and care of these things so it sat on the porch for a long time. Finally I moved it to the ground under the porch where it got abused some more –  watered when it rained, covered completely with dirt by Ringo and Red when they went digging for a cool spot to sleep. Finally I discovered it while I was closing the holes dug by dogs and decided to plant it in the yard.  It grew nicely producing several rows of fronds each year and then during a cold winter it froze back to the stump. The next spring it grew back. It froze back several years and again this past last winter.

Two weeks ago I cut it back to the stump again. Dead or alive these things will draw blood if you are not careful. The stems of the fronds have sharp serrated edges, the leaves have very sharp points and the trunk has long pointy spines. Below are some pictures of what it did after it got its dead fronds cut off.

Click on a picture for larger view and to read caption, ESC to return here.

These plants are fairly hardy. This one has frozen several times and has bounced back each time. It is also supposed to be posionous, especially to dogs. I’ve seen dogs eat a lot of things but I can’t imagine one chewing on this thing, especially our pampered pups!

Pictures of Plants and Stuff

Spring Plants and Pictures

Here are a few pictures taken over the past week or so. Spring brings out the new plant growth and the color of the flowers.  Click on one to view a larger version and read more about it. When finished viewing the individual pics press escape to return here. Enjoy.

Greenhouse Arranged

The greenhouse is now up and running. So far I’m satisfied with the way things are going, but-there is always one of those, next year I will use a slightly different system for the hydroponics. Here are a few pictures of my setup.  

This is a deep water bucket system. Each bucket is filled with water, nutrients are added and an air stone connected to an air pump is placed into the bucket. A hole in cut into the bucket lid to receive a net pot to hold the plant.

Here we have the buckets with their plants in them. Starting at the bottom the first two buckets contain sweet banana peppers, the next two are Roma tomatoes and last three buckets are Brandywine tomatoes. In the back row there are only four buckets. The nearest two contain cucumbers and the far two have bell peppers.In the first bucket you can see the lid with a net pot filled with clay pebbles. The bottom of the pot just touches the water and the plant roots grow down into the water.The plant’s main stem is clipped to a string attached to the overhead to keep the plant upright.

These plants have grown quite a bit in just 10 days. All are starting to set flowers. I have discovered that with the high temps being in the mid 80’s that each bucket looses about one quart of water per day. Some of that loss is due to evaporation from the air stones action as well as from transpiration. It will be interesting to see how well everything will stand up to our Texas summer heat.

These cucumbers are really growing fast. The top of the plants were between the bottom and second cross wire of the fencing I’m using for a trellis. Between each flower and the plant stem is an elongated bulge. That is the beginning of a cucumber.

This is the plant rack that took a week to put together. Looks like it will do what I wanted it to do.

Here are some of  the plants that were transferred into the buckets. The remainder were transplanted in the garden.

The greenhouse is now arranged until next time. Then I will probably do a few things differently.




Greenhouse Arrangement

A greenhouse is just like a room in a house. If things aren’t arranged and stored properly a few items will make it look full and cluttered. A 12′ X 18′ space should hold more than 5 tomato plants, a box of lettuce and 4 trays of seedlings. So I got busy.

Early in the month I started building the below rack to hold flats of seedlings and other assorted plants in small pots. I used all salvaged lumber and started ripping pieces down to size when the table saw died. The next day was spent cannibalizing a motor from another power tool. The first one was the wrong speed and the second turned in the wrong direction. A little re-wiring got the second motor turning in the proper direction and the table saw was back in business. Now I have two power tools that have no motor on them. Next came time to nail the shelf slats on with a brad nailer. And it had died in its storage case. The local big box stores didn’t have what I wanted so Amazon had to come through for me. To end this saga it took a week and a half to cobble together this rack. It should have only taken a day.

Rack to hold 1020 trays

This table with all my long legged seedlings will be replaced with a work table much smaller. I’m running behind getting things in the garden and into hydroponic buckets. We are still having cool nights and then strong winds during the day. The plants that I have set out are really taking a beating.
Flats of seedlings
I have five tomato plants ( cherry, patio and celebrity variety) that I wintered over from last fall. They are producing and we have had a few fresh ones for our salad. It won’t be long and we will have more than enough to eat plus plenty left over for a tomato fight!! I moved then off the bench to make room for more hydroponic buckets.
Potted tomato plants
These two tomato plants are in hydroponic buckets. They are clones of the plants that are potted. I cut off suckers about 4 inches long and stuck them in some rooting media. Went they got to be about 8 inches tall I transferred then to the buckets. Each has several small fruit. The tub contains lettuce. There is one head left to cut, we ate the rest. Replacement plants are put in as soon as a head is removes.
Hydroponic tomatoes lettuceLast week I got busy and now all that I going to grow in hydroponics is in buckets. Everything is growing real well. There were/are a few hiccups and I suppose that is all part learning what and what not to do. Will try to get a few pics in a post showing the current state of this experiment.

Spring 2014

A Picture Story of Nature Coming to Life

Yesterday it was sunny and warm. Today it is cloudy and cool. The calendar says spring is here. I suppose Mother Nature is mixing thing up a bit so we won’t forget who is in charge of the weather. Anyway in Texas we only have two seasons–“It’s warm Out” and “It’s Cool Out”. It won’t be long before “It’s warm Out” will be the saying of the day. A test that we use to gauge when Spring is really here is when we have seven consecutive nights when the temperature is 60° or higher. So far that hasn’t happened.. Wild flowers are starting to bloom. We had enough rain this winter so there should be a nice crop.

Pictures of Wild Flowers on Meadow.

This is the most dense spot of flowers on the meadow and consists mostly of Indian Paintbrush. There are a few Bluebonnets sprinkled in and a lot of yellow flowers called weeds.

Closeup of a bluebonnet.

Closeup of the Indian Paintbrush.

Getting the Greenhouse and Garden Ready

I have been starting some vegetable seed to grow in the garden and also in a hydroponic solution. I should have started these seeds the first of January but the “roundtoit” set in and it was well into February when I started these. They are growing but should be bigger when planted which needs to be soon. The will have to do.

In this flat I have two varieties of  tomato and some bell pepper. They were under a light and apparently my light was not close enough because the sure got leggy.

These are some pepper and tomato plant taken from the flat above and I’m trying to get them ready for the hydroponics bucket.

These are cucumbers plants. Most are for the garden and a couple I’ll put in hydroponics. This year I’m going to train the vines to climb a trellis of some sort instead of crawling along the ground.

These are tomato plants that are clones. Clones are suckers that are snipped off the mother plant and stuck into some sort of media. Media could be the dirt in the garden, potting soil, play sand or in my case a perlite/vermiculite mix. The tomato plant is a vine. It starts out as a single stem(vine)with leaves alternating on it. The suckers will grow from where the leaf joins the main stem and will grow to become another stem(vine). That is why tomato plants that are not staked become a huge tangled mass. Even staked tomatoes should have their suckers removes. The root system of the single stem coming out of the ground can not supply enough nutrients and water to maintain the plant and all the suckers plus produce lot of large fruit. When the suckers are big enough to grab pinch them off. To use as clones let them get 3 to 4 inches long then pinch them off and stick  into some sort of media. Keep the media moist. Shade so they won’t lose too much water through transpiration. They will start to grow roots within a few days to a week or so. No fertilizer is applied so the plant will develop roots, not leaves. I planted my suckers in clear plastic cups. When I can see roots through the cup they are ready for transplant. There aren’t many plants that cannot be cloned. Soft wood or new growth is best to use. If your 4 to 6 inch cutting is full of leaves strip all off except a couple at the top. A rooting hormone can be applied (either a commercial product or a homemade concoction) however there is no hard evidence that either really works. What works best is to select the best cuttings and provide a proper environment of temperature and humidity and most of your cuttings will root.

These tomatoes are in potting soil. They barely survived some hard times since last fall but a little TLC and now they are doing fine.

This  is what my hydroponic tomatoes looked like on the last day of February 2014.

And this is what they look like today 23 days later. They have flowers but no fruit has set to date.

And my lettuce on 28 February ’14.

Here it is today 23 days later. We had a salad made from one head this evening. Excellent!!!

This is a bulb that I received free with and order for some seeds. It is called an Amaryllis. It should put out some leaves soon and maybe another stem or two of flowers.

Until next time……………

Aircraft I Have Flown

My Introduction to Flying an Aircraft

A CBS 60 Minutes segment aired this past Sunday about the US Military’s latest fighter aircraft. The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is a family of single-seat, single-engine, multi-role fighters under development to perform ground attack, reconnaissance, and air defense missions with stealth capability. The F-35 has three main models; the F-35A is a conventional takeoff and landing variant, the F-35B is a short take-off and vertical-landing variant, and the F-35C is a carrier-based variant. According to the 60 Minutes segment the aircraft, developed and built by Lockheed-Martin, is 7 years past due for delivery and I forget how many hundreds if billions of dollars over budget. WOW! The DOD civilian and military persons who were interviewed by the reporter all said that this aircraft is the cats meow, it can do everything and would replace all the fighters currently in service for many years come. The F-35 sounds like it is going to be the Swiss Army Knife of fighter aircraft. Hopefully it won’t be like the knife-can do a lot of things but none very well. The Military/Industrial Complex is thriving in this country. President Eisenhower warned about the pitfalls of a huge military industrial complex in existence after WWII. I’d say it is still alive and well today.

This got me to thinking about the aircraft that I flew when serving in the US Navy. They are all museum pieces today. The very first plane I flew in was a DC-3. I was a passenger on my way from College Station, Texas to NAS Dallas, Texas to take a physical and a battery of test to see if I qualified to enlist in the Navy. I sat in a seat where I had a clear view of the number 1 engine. I could see what appeared to be oil streaming back on the cowling of the engine. When the pilot started the engine and the engine and wing disappeared in a huge cloud of smoke, I got to thinking this can’t be good! Well,we made it to Dallas and back home OK. The Navy thought I had all the qualifications to become a pilot.

My Introduction to an Aircraft

After enlisting I was sent to Pensacola, Florida and entered the Aviation Officer Candidate program. After sixteen weeks of boot camp type training, lots of math and engineering type ground school and physical fitness, I graduated from the AOC program and received a commission as an Ensign in the US Navy.

I then went to NAF Saufley Field, Pensacola, Fl. and began flight training. When a student pilot checked in  to one of the Navy’s training squadrons he was first assigned to a ground school class. For two weeks we sat in a classroom learning all about the aircraft we were going to fly and the maneuvers that we would perform. After that ground school continued but only for a half day. The other half of the day was spent flying.

Each student was assigned an instructor.  For the first flight the instructor issued the student a barf bag and for the first couple of flight we had to verify that we had it handy before take off. I never had to use mine but some guys did. Much later when I was a flight instructor, I learned that instructors would make bets amongst themselves as to how soon they could make a new student air sick. The winner was on the flight line walking to the aircraft, so the story goes.

The T-34 was a single engine tandem seat trainer. The version I flew had a piston engine, however later versions were turbo-prop. The student sat in the front seat and instructor in the rear seat. My instructor had a habit slamming his knee board (a clipboard normally strapped to his leg on which he took notes) on the glare shield right behind my head when I screwed up. It was an effective training aid. We did six 50 minute flights practicing take offs and landings, climbs, turns, and  basic air work. The seventh flight was a check ride with a different instructor. I got a thumbs up on the check ride and two hours later I was in the air on my first solo. That was one of those things I will never forget but don’t remember a whole lot about. Guess I was a bit nervous. You didn’t see him but your instructor was around witnessing your preflight, taxiing and take off. He also observed your return and landing. It was rare but not unheard of to get a down on a solo if the student was observed doing something dangerous or illegal. There were always a lot of eyes around to keep track of who was doing what.

The student stayed with the same instructor for most all training flights. Check ride were always off wing (with a different instructor pilot). Each flight was graded. Check rides were especially important since the students performance determined whether he continued with the program. The first down usually resulted in a couple of extra flights and a re-check. A second down and he was washed out of the program. I had no problems in this stage of training. I had a good instructor.

It was every students worst nightmare to get a instructor who was a screamer. He was the guy whose voice got louder and louder plus higher in pitch when a student was having difficulty with a particular part of the flight. The more he screamed the worse the student performed and the more the instructor screamed.

At Saufley we learned how to take off and land, fly straight and level, do turns, climbs and descents, recognize and recover from stalls (done at altitude), ELP’s (Emergency Landing Practice). The instructor would close the throttle to simulate an engine failure. The student had to locate a clear area on the ground for an emergency landing and fly the aircraft to a landing. We never took these to a landing but waved off and hopefully we hit all the check points on the way down so we could have made a landing if it were a real engine failure.. We also did some acrobatics. And of course there was basic air work. Every other word out of the instructors mouth was about your basic air work. Basic air work consisted of maintaining a constant heading, altitude and air speed when flying straight and level, making standard rate turns (3 degrees per second), making standard rate climbs and descents (500 feet per minute) and keeping the aircraft in balanced flight. We had to do all that plus keep an eye outside the cockpit to avoid other aircraft.

A new class of students would arrive at Saufley every week from Preflight Training. There were 20 to 25 students in each class. The goal was for the class to finish the syllabus in about 16 weeks. I don’t know what the attrition rate was but more quit than actually were booted out. Those of us that finished went on to Whiting Field at Milton, Florida. A different aircraft and different things to learn will be the the subject of another post.