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.
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, jalapeños, 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.