Sunday, October 10, 2010

Alpine Diner

Welcome to Diner Week! We will be looking at scenes from a bygone era when meals were well under $1. The picture above was taken in Alpine, Texas in 1939. Click on the picture to zoom in, and take a look at the prices. Perhaps we can date ourselves . . . what is the cheapest you ever remember paying for a hamburger. I believe when I was growing up in the 60's you could get one for 35 cents. I can remember getting change back for a dollar for a hamburger, fries and a drink.

Domestic Update:

It has been a while since I updated you on the Bean Barn. Well, I am happy to report that it is completely finished. The electrician came last week and put the final switch in, and I can officially declare the construction project complete. As you remember, my mom and I did most of the construction, but on some of the plumbing and electrical work I got professional help. At the point it was almost finished, I went ahead and fired up my experimental hydroponic systems. I say experimental in I put together very small systems so I could see what works and what does not work, and then I will expand the systems to fill the space as I learn what is the most effective.

I must say I am very pleased with the results to date. I had tried gardening many times over the years, but I was always frustrated. No matter what I tried, the vegetables came out with defects . . . bigger on one side, non-uniform color, misshapen, split on top, or perhaps with some bug bites. Being a perfectionist, even though the vegetables were fine to eat, I was always unhappy that they did not have the uniform perfection of store bought produce. So, I finally stopped gardening because of the non-perfect visual appearance of what I was growing. I am happy to announce that I am getting exceptionally attractive results so far in the Bean Barn.

Now I ask you, is that not beautiful lettuce. I looked at every leaf and could not find a single defect. I also like how uniform and symmetric the heads are. I am not sure when to pick them, but I think they are getting close. Here is another picture that shows the system they are growing in.

There is a large tank built in the floor of the greenhouse. It does not show in this picture. The tank has the nutrient solution in it. There is a pump in the tank, and the pump sends the nutrients up to the long white grow channels in the picture. The lettuce is started in little holes in the grow channels. The nutrients flow through the channels like a river, and then return to the tank in the floor. So, with this system there is no growing medium at all. The roots just go down into the nutrient stream, and drink their fill. The nutrients constantly circulate. Once a day I go out and measure and adjust the nutrient pH and concentration. I am very pleased with the lettuce but would like the leaves to be a little deeper green, so next time I will add a little iron chelate to get a little deeper color.

I am also experimenting with a bucket system where the plants grow in perlite, which is a white material a little like small pebbles.

Again, I am experimenting to see what works here. Closest to you are the tomato vines, which are looking good and about to get their first blooms. The taller vines behind, with the big leaves are European cucumbers. These are those that are expensive in the grocery store and that are individually packaged. The cucumbers are going crazy, and will be to the top of the greenhouse in the next few days. They are covered with blooms, and the cucumbers are starting to grow. Over on the left is a watermelon vine, jalapeƱos, bell peppers, and a squash. I am also experimenting with snow peas, broccoli, chard and spices.

I am hopeful I will have a grown cucumber to harvest by next weekend.

I feel that this progress brings me ever closer to my goal of becoming a gentleman farmer.


  1. WOW!!, 50 cents for a T-Bone steak and it looks like tomato juice was 1 cent. Burgers for 10 cents.

    GOOD JOB!!, PJM on your garden

  2. With all those tools hanging on his pants, I should think he would really need suspenders to help hold them up. Any ideas as to what occupation he held?

    Those are truly gorgeous veggies. With the capacity of your green house, you may need to start your own Farmer's Market.

  3. Beautiful produce! Looks like you'll be able to feed the entire neighborhood . . .

    Good work.

  4. Excellent update, thank you.

    And congratulations on finishing the project! And the veggies look great.

    Diner week should be fun. I remember 30 cent burgers in the late 60s, and 18 cent a gallon gas during Midwest gas wars in the early 60s.

  5. I'll be dating myself here...the least expensive cheeseburger, fries and drink I can remember was $4.67. But I love diners, and I love old things, hence, why I love OPOD.

  6. Congratulations! Beautiful tomato plants at home (South France) greenhouse plastic, there are 102 ° F! The tomatoes and peppers grow very well. Should be watered every 2 days.

  7. 15 cent burgers, or burger, fries, and soda for 45 cents, around 1960 when the Burger Chef chain moved into New England.

  8. What a beautiful photo. I love the peacock shadows, very serene.

  9. In the mid 50's a Mc Donalds hamburger, fries and a Coke ran you about 38-39 cents. What you got there was equivalent to a $4.80 Combo today. The fries were slightly fewer because we Americans had yet to discover obesity. Hummmm, did the price go up due to salary inflation or just inflation?

    Really glad to see the system up and running,PJM. This may prove to be your best "return on effort" project yet. We need a picture of you or your daughter moving dirt or pulling misquite

  10. I can remember 35 cent Gino's Giant sandwiches here in the Baltimore area, and stopping every Saturday morning for a nickel Coke and a five cent bag of Cheez Nips at the drug store. And, collecting soda bottles for the two cent refund!

  11. Love the picture of the Bean Barn, softly glowing as the sun sets, with peacocks adding to the beauty of the evening.

    Cheapest burger I recall was about $1.35.

  12. I really like old diners and always have. It's the personalities there that always bring me back.

    If you don't mind I am going to draw this and post it on my blog in the next couple of days.

  13. Beautiful lettuces and an equally beautiful photograph this time.

  14. The "National" cash register was manufactured in Dayton, Ohio (my birthplace). NCR eventually closed its Dayton factories and maintained its world headquarters there until recently. They are now in Duluth, Georgia.

    It would be interesting to learn what a cash register costed a business, and how much it costed NCR to build one.

    NCR supported the Dayton economy for many years. And I am certain that the populace paid 10¢ for a hamburger back in 1939.

    Your 'bean barn' is fabulous.

  15. In the mid sixties I worked at McDonalds. 15 cent hamburgers, 20 cent cheeseburgers. cokes a dime shakes 25 cents, 10 cent fries. I made 1 dollar 10 cents an hour frying them up. Gas by the way was 30 cents a gallon, G.M. line workers were making about 4 to 5 dollars an hour. Un unionised workers were making around half of that.

  16. My mother worked at a Mexican restaurant (with both a dining room and curb service) in Henderson, Texas in 1937-38. She made $1.00 a day + tips (and she always said that tips were small and scarce). She sewed her own uniform, lived in a boarding house (rent $3.00 wkly.) and walked to work 6 days a week. Every evening when she returned from work, she hand washed out the uniform, then ironed it for the next day. Believe it or not, she even saved money during that year. What a gal! What a work ethic! What a survivor!

  17. PJM:

    Congratulations on achieving your goal of becoming a gentleman farmer.

    I would say with the tractor and the greenhouse, you're there!!

    Beautiful veggies.

  18. Wow..great photo of your "bean barn" that must be a peacock I see..:)
    Your lettuce looks great to me..keep good records..they will be the clue you may need if you have a growth problem. I am very interested in how you like the taste of the veggies.
    It does look like you are well on your way to your new status! :)