Archive for March 2008

Texas’ Book Report

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This is a picture of Texas’ second book report this year. She had to read her book and then make a float that represented what happened in the book. She wanted to choose an easy picture book at first but I made her choose one that had more words and not so many pictures. She chose a Junie B. Jones book because those are the ones she is really into lately. Junie B. Jones Toothless Wonder is very applicable to Texas lately because she is at the age where teeth seem to be falling out right and left.

Texas was just recently seen by the orthodontist who recommended that she have four baby teeth taken out to make room for the permanent ones. Luckily for her one of them was wiggly already so she got that one out with the help of her dad the other night. Now the dentist just has to take out three teeth. I just hope she is not like me when I was a kid because I was somewhat combative if anyone tried to give me shots or do procedures that I thought might be painful.

Spring Cleaning

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Our garage has been accumulating dirt and junk all winter: piles of Christmas lights, tools lain around, dirt/snow crud on the floor. Today it was unseasonably warm so Nancy and I used the opportunity to give the garage a spring cleaning.

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Dirty Garage – as usual, Sam wanted to be in the picture

We spent the afternoon sweeping, organizing and picking up while the kids rode their bikes around and enjoyed the nice weather. After a good scrubbing and rinsing of the garage floor we were able to enjoy the fruits of our labors.

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Clean Garage

Moving around the power equipment gave me the idea to go out and till the garden. Tilling the garden in the spring is a tricky issue. Do it too early and you end up with a muddy mess that later dries out into hard-packed dirt clods. Do it too late when the soil is already dried out and you end up with a swirling dust cloud.

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Fortunately, I timed it right and the soil was a nice crumbly condition after tilling. We’ll give it another tilling in a couple of weeks and then be ready for the early-season plantings.

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Dry Pack Cannery

UPDATE: 12 October 2008 5:29 p.m. – Looking for information on the Sandy Dray Pack cannery?

Sandy Dry Pack Cannery
615 East 8400 South
Sandy, Utah 84070

Phone: 801-561-8104

You can also get the Home Storage Center Order Form online which contains pricing for the products available at the dry pack cannery.


Yesterday afternoon Nancy and I went to the Sandy Dry Pack cannery to can stuff for our food storage. A missionary from our ward is home on temporary medical leave from Portugal so we took him with us because he needed a companion for the afternoon.

We canned sugar, carrots, apples, macaroni, spaghetti, powdered milk, onions, and oats. We also got 16 pounds of pancake mix. While most food storages in Mormon homes are based on wheat, Nancy and I decided to base our food storage on rice. We chose rice because we eat it regularly so we can more easily rotate the storage and because rice is easy to cook – just potable water and a heat source. Wheat just seemed too complicated to me.

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The Elder helping us at the cannery

We’re still about 600 pounds short of our goal for rice. We also need salt, oil, and various other odds and ends to round things out but overall we’ve built up a fairly decent food storage. I’m not sure how great it would be if we had to live off it for a year but hopefully we’ll never have to find out.

Strawberries – Part 2

Yesterday we finished constructing our strawberry planter. I was pleasantly surprised at how it came together (although the built in sprinkler system that came with it is pretty cheesy).

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Not too shabby

After finishing the top layer Nancy and I planted the 50 strawberry plants while Diana played in the dirt in the garden. Now we have to make sure the runners are thinned properly and hopefully we’ll get a crop of strawberries this summer. As I told Nancy while planting the strawberry plants – if we don’t end up being successful with strawberries I suppose we could always use the planter for flowers.

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Luppin posing in front of the planted bed

One and Done

Unfortunately, my beloved Cougars continued their tradition of “one and done” in the NCAA Tourney tonight. I was grumpy for a few hours after the game so I decided to go on a walk with Nancy to get rid of that grumpy energy. I didn’t have high hopes for the Cougars anyway (I picked them to lose in my bracket in the office pool) but it would be nice to see them get a win in the tourney every once in a while.

Now for a long boring sports summer (I’m not really a baseball guy) while I wait for football season to start.

Is a Hybrid Worth It?

I’ve been thinking about getting a new car and wondered whether it was worth it to get a hybrid. I used the following numbers in my calculations:

Car Price MPG
2008 Toyota Camry LE (4-cyl.) $21,080 24
2008 Toyota Camry Hybrid $29,720 34

All numbers from Consumer Reports April 2008 issue. Note that this isn’t a Prius – it is a Camry Hybrid

According to Consumer Reports, the cost difference between the hybrid and the regular 4 cylinder is $8,700. I then used various sets of numbers for both mileage over the life of the car (80K, 100K, 150K) and for the price of gas $3.00 to $5.00 in 25 cent increments. Based on my calculations, you would have to drive 150,000 miles with gas at $4.75 per gallon before you broke even.

I then ran the calculations again using the Toyota Prius:

Car Price MPG
2008 Toyota Camry LE (4-cyl.) $21,080 24
2008 Toyota Prius $23,780 44

All numbers from Consumer Reports April 2008 issue

In this case, the cost difference for the Prius is only $2780 and the MPG increase is significant. According to my calculations, you would break even with a Prius even if gas got as cheap as $1.50 a gallon for 100,000 miles. In the same driving scenario as above (150,000 miles at $4.75 a gallon), the Prius would save you more than $13,000 in gas.

So, what is the conclusion? If you’re interested in saving gas money and aren’t concerned about such things as fit/finish, steering response, performance, power, handling, breaking, comfort, etc. then the Prius is the way to go. If you’re interested in those other categories but still want to save a little money on gas then just go with the regular Camry because the hybrid isn’t going to save you any money in the long run (assuming gas doesn’t spike up to $6.00 per gallon before you put 150,000 miles on the car).

If I wanted to be cool I would make a web calculator where you plug in numbers for the cost of the cars, gas mileage, total miles driven, and gas price. The calculator could automatically tell you which car saved the most money. Of course, someone’s probably already done it and all I need to do is Google it.

UPDATE: A little Googling did indeed reveal several hybrid car calculators. I liked this one the best. I ran my same set of cars through it and the resulting numbers were almost identical to my own.

Strawberries

One of our biggest problems with Strawberries in the past has been kids. They pick them when they’re still green. Birds also like to peck at the berries. This year we decided to plant the strawberries in a bed that could be covered with a net. I ordered the bed online a few months ago and it was shipped this week. It also came with 50 strawberry plants which I wanted to get in the ground as soon as possible. Thus, today was strawberry planting day.

It’s been threatening to rain/snow all day long but I didn’t mind because you are supposed to plant strawberry plants when it’s overcast. The bed is a circular bed with 3 terraced levels. Nancy and I started out by laying out the first level and filling it with dirt from the garden. Although our yucky clay soil is still pretty wet, the top layer of soil in the garden was relatively dry. Unfortunately, we had only worked for 20 minutes when it started to snow. Eventually the snow turned even the topsoil in the garden into mud so we decided to call it a day after only completing the bottom layer of the terrace.

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Layer 1

My biggest worry is what to do with the strawberry plants. They can tolerate the cold fairly well so I left them in the garage but I need to get them in the ground within the next few days before the roots dry out. I don’t want to water them when they’re in the garage because I don’t want them to wake up from dormancy before I get them in the ground. The weather is supposed to improve in the next couple of days and I’m taking Wednesday off so hopefully we’ll get them in the ground before next weekend.

Planting Season

Planting season is upon us (well, it’s more appropriately called “start seeds indoors” season). The first plant of the season is broccoli. I’ve tried growing broccoli in the past and although the plants grew well, I never got them to head out. I think it’s because broccoli is a cool-weather crop and I always started too late. Thus, I started plenty early this year.

There is a wealth of information about when to plant and how to plant and what to plant on the Internet. My favorite guide for vegetables is the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s online guide. I also go to Utah State’s website for local information but it’s harder to find what I want and not as well organized as the UIUC guide.

According to the various guides, broccoli can be moved outside 2-4 weeks before the last frost date and it takes 4-6 weeks from planting the seed to transplanting. The average last freeze date in South Jordan is April 26 so I just do the math: 4 weeks + 2 weeks from April 26 is 8 weeks which means now is the time to plant broccoli seeds. One thing to remember is that April 26 is just the average last freeze date which means it can and does freeze after April 26. Thus, for the kind of plants that have to be planted “after all danger of frost is over” (e.g. tomatoes, corn, pumpkins, etc.) I use Mothers Day, May 11 this year, as my “all danger of frost being over” date. All the agriculture science says that the best method to determine when to plant is not with planting schedules based on frost dates but to measure the soil temperature. At one point I had a soil thermometer but I haven’t been able to find it since we moved. The only problem with using a soil thermometer is that soil temp doesn’t mean anything when I’m trying to start my seeds indoors. Thus I use soil temp for plants that get direct seeded in the garden but I stick with the old fashioned planting calendar for seeds started indoors.

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I’m trying two different varieties of broccoli this year: Hybrid Packman (supposed to grow well in Utah) and Hybrid Green Goliath. The peat pellets with the thread tied around them (on the right hand side) are the Packman variety. I also got out my indoor grow lamps with the special bulbs that are supposed to be as close to sunlight as possible. I got these lights a few years ago and they really do a good job. The stems of indoor-grown plants are usually thin and spindly but with these lights the stems grow nice and thick and the plants are much hardier for transplanting. I just hope my neighbors don’t look in the basement window and call the cops on me because they think I’m growing marijuana.

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Sam wanted to be in the picture

Hopefully this year I’ll be able to get a head or two of broccoli and then I can see whether home-grown broccoli has any taste-difference over store-bought and whether it’s worthy any continued effort in upcoming years. I’ve got a lot of thoughts about gardening: philosophy on what’s worth growing in the garden, thoughts on hybrid vs. heirloom seeds, genetic engineered plants, seed banks, etc. I’ll dive into them in later posts but for now it’s just fun to kick off the gardening season even though there is still plenty of unmelted snow on the ground.

Sam’s Broken Arm

Last week Nancy sent the kids over to the playground for a few hours. They’ve been off track for a couple of weeks now and are driving Nancy nuts so she takes every opportunity to get them out of the house. When I got home from work, Sam was in house bawling that he hurt his arm. I don’t know how he fell but we’ve experienced enough broken arms in our child-raising adventures to think he likely had a buckle fracture based on the way he was holding his arm. It was getting kind of late to take him to the doctor that night and he wasn’t in too much pain so we decided to just give him some Tylenol and schedule an appointment with the doctor the next day. Man, it’s tough for a guy to get some sympathy when all of your sisters have had broken arms before you. Waiting also had the added benefit of being able to schedule Diana for the same time.

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Samuel’s Broken Arm

When he got back from the doctor Sam had a splint on his arm and a smile on his face. Apparently his break wasn’t severe enough to require a cast (bummer, I always like seeing what crazy color the kids pick for their casts) so they said to just leave it in the splint for several weeks. The biggest problem with the broken arm is that it’s his right arm and the splint they gave him limits the use of his fingers so he makes a mess at the dinner table. Maybe in another week we can trade out for a different splint – one that lets him use his fingers more.

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Can you spot the break? I certainly can’t

A Doubtful Experiment

I always get excited during the winter for gardening during the spring/summer. Unfortunately, I tend to lose my excitement once the hot weather of full summer takes hold and Nancy is usually left with the daily task of watering and caring for the garden.

This winter I decided to experiment and try something we’ve never done before planting raspberries and strawberries. Actually, we’ve planted strawberries before but the kids usually pick them when they’re small and tiny so we’ve never harvested any legitimate strawberries. I ordered the raspberry and strawberry plants in early winter and the grower is supposed to ship them to you when it’s the right time to plant for your area. The raspberries showed up yesterday with a notice that they should be planted as soon as possible.

Raspberries do better in a cool climate so our plan was to plant them on the north side of the house where they would hopefully not take such a beating during the summer. Unfortunately, I don’t think the grower took into account the amount of snow we’ve received this winter because although the weather was nice today, the ground on the north side of the house is sopping wet – classic Salt Lake Valley clay.

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Canes in the mud

Nancy and I dug a trench and filled it with mulch from a drier part of the yard then planted the raspberry canes. Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait at least another year before we find out whether this experiment will produce any fruit. Based upon my experiments in growing anything other than the easy vegetables (corn, beans, tomatos, carrots, peas), the raspberry experiment will likely be a failure. Oh well, it will be fun trying and if we’re lucky then we’ll have a nice patch of Heritage red raspberries a couple of years from now.