There is No Peace and Harmony with Scorpions

I failed.

We quit getting our house sprayed over a year ago, it might even be two.  It’s been long enough that I honestly don’t remember when the last time was that we had “the bug guy” come out. I really wanted to avoid it because I hate the idea of poison around the house. Plus they usually want to spray in your house and pretty much hose down your yard until you are swimming in whatever toxic substance they deluged your property with.

The chickens were our primary defense for a while. When they were free ranging they ate some bugs, but mainly they pooped on the porch… a lot.

We also tried diatomaceous earth around the perimeter of the house.

I looked into several natural bug sprays but did not prioritize it.

I got busy.

We got bugs. Lots of ‘em.

My wife was really good about crickets and even the occasional roach, but quite frankly there is no harmony with scorpions. They are nasty creatures. Even one or two probably wouldn’t have been a big deal, but we saw… dozens this summer. Not like A dozen, but… many dozens.

scorpion on the block

I saw them everywhere in the yard this summer. In the sprinkler box, on the underside of the olla lids, all over the block walls. I killed a ton of them. No mercy for scorpions.

Unfortunately they took the fight inside. It’s not very relaxing to check your bed for scorpions every night. We found them on the walls, in the closet, in the shower (they like water sources), and pretty much everywhere else where you don’t want to see a scorpion. The kids got really good at spotting them, which is an accomplishment considering they blend in with tan and brown colors really well, perfectly matching our tile and carpet.

scorpion on the wall

In the end I decided to do something. The “bug guy” wanted to spray the outside of the walls and the ground around the house up to six feet from the wall. Too much. Of course even if I talked with the first one and got him ‘trained’ on the areas I was willing to allow spraying, the next month it would probably be somebody different and they would end up hosing the place down from top to bottom.

I ended up picking up some poison and doing it myself. Sigh…

It’s a failure, but one that needed to happen. I was able to control the areas that were sprayed, when they were sprayed, and how much they were sprayed. It seemed like the best case scenario. I’m sure at some point in the future I’ll put more effort in and do some testing with the natural sprays, but for now… this is the solution.

We still have bugs in the garden. I still see a few roaches when I water he trees. Spiders are still trying to take over the compost bins, but the house is fairly secure, and for now that’s how it needs to be.

Posted in bugs, scorpions | 3 Comments

Why I Start with Raised Beds

How do I start a garden?

That’s what I asked myself several years ago when I started with a blank slate of a back yard.  I really had no idea what I was doing and I was starting with some of the worst possible conditions I could imagine.  Some places have hard soil.  We have caliche.

The clay in the soil gets wet, then bakes in the hot AZ son.  Wet, bake, wet, bake… and the result is equivalent to concrete.

When I was building my first raised beds I was told by someone that I needed to dig through this soil to get drainage for my garden.  So I dug… two feet down… through caliche… with a railroad pick.  It took FOREVER.  The first time I tried to break through the soil I took my railroad pick and started swinging.  I’m not a lightweight, but that 12 pound railroad pick bounced… and sparked… on the concrete that was my backyard.  I wet it down and left it.  It never soaked in more than a quarter inch.  It evaporated.  It was terrible.

Beds in a row

I’ve learned at least a little over the years, so if I was starting again I would do it a little bit different.

Raised beds have certain advantages over a traditional garden.

- They are higher up and so are a little easier to get into.

- The area is well defined which gives you a better chance of keeping your kids and your pets out of it.

- It allows you to concentrate your soil resources into one confined area that can be densely planted.

- It will warm up faster in the spring (if that is a concern for you).

- If you are using ollas, you can actually put the olla in place as you fill the bed, making the initial placement easier.

Lots of sprouts in a raised bed

Of course, raised beds don’t last and eventually the wood will rot.  That’s true, although from my experience it takes longer than you think.  But even so, it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

As you water your raised bed you are providing a nutrient dense compost tea to the area underneath and around the bed.  Over a few years even hard caliche will soften and improve.  By the time the wood has rotted and needs to be removed your garden soil has gone from bad to better.  The ground has gone from unmanageable, to easily workable.  Instead of a railroad pick you can easily use a shovel.

If I was starting from scratch, I would consider the following things.

- Think long term.  What do you want your garden to eventually look like.  Five, even ten years down the road, how big do you want your garden to be?  Figure out what the final perimeter area of your garden will be.

- Put several raised beds in that area but start small.  Add a couple more next season or next year.  Organize the first ones though in a way that makes sense as you add them.

- Put those beds right on top of the soil, no need to dig down.  You may get some muddy spots around your bed.  If this is a problem throw down some mulch around your beds.  A good, mostly composted wood mulch will absorb a lot of water and continue to improve the soil.

If you like the raised beds you can remove the soil, rebuild the box, and put everything back together.  If you decide to turn the whole area into a traditional garden, then your soil will be ready to go!

What do you think, fellow gardeners?  If you had to start from scratch how would you do it?

This post is linked on the Homestead Barn Hop at The Prairie Homestead.

Posted in Arizona Garden, Dripping Springs Ollas, ollas, raised beds, square foot gardening | 3 Comments

What God Taught Me in the Garden This Week, Oct 16, 2014

Water is essential in the garden.  Without it nothing will grow.  In the heat of summer it only takes a day for many plants to wither and fade beyond recovery.  It feeds and nourishes.

There are signs near Blythe, CA on I-10 that say it very clearly, “Food grows where water flows.”

Very true.

So, I water, and water, and water.  Especially with new sprouts coming up.  Consistent moisture is so important.

Now, I know the water that I normally use is not the best.  It has chlorine and other additives.  It is far from pure and far from ideal.

Still, it is better than nothing and the plants still grow.  Not as well as they could, but they still grow.

Rain water is the best.  Of course, we just don’t get very much of it around here.  When we do it is incredible, the plants seem to go crazy.  It has everything they need without all of the garbage thrown in.  The garden drinks it in and erupts with new growth.  It’s always impressive.

I like to read to learn.  I rarely read fiction.  I recently read The Circle Maker and I am currently reading Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian LifeBooks like this push me.  They challenge me where I am. They are useful. I enjoy them.

Of course, there is something about the Bible.  God’s word is powerful.  It impacts you where you are.  It can be simple enough for a young child to understand and challenging enough for the most astute scientist searching for real truth.  I recently taught a room full of children about the story of Moses. I was also recently taught about the electrical characteristics of the cosmos and how the physical characteristics of plasma line up perfectly with the descriptions of the firmament in scripture.

It really is amazing.

Numerous times I’ve read through a scripture that I am very familiar with, yet because of the season of life that I am in or because of recent events, God opens up a whole new level of understanding for me.  The words don’t change, but the impact certainly does.

It’s the pure water that we really need.  The rest is good, but the good book is the best.

Have you spent time in the word today?  Did you know that if you read just four chapters in the Bible a day, you would read through the whole Bible in less than a year?  Four chapters isn’t much, but it is nourishing.  Drink it in and you are sure to grow.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend.  God bless!


Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments


Ahhh!  It’s a great time to live in AZ.  From now until May it will be beautiful.  A little on the cold side at night sometimes… but who am I kidding, it will only be cold to people who have been living in AZ their whole lives and have thinner blood.  To the rest of the world it will feel like Spring!  Which is why this is EVERYBODY WANTS TO LIVE HERE season!

Planting is underway.  I really wanted to have it done by the time September was finished.  I didn’t.  Things never really work out according to plan do they?  But still we plan.  There is a plan every day… and the plan changes every day.  :)  Sorry for the blurry pictures, I’m a little out of practice photographging sprouts.


So far we have some cabbage, ice berg, romaine, chard, red Russian kale, dino kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cilantro, and dill planted.  Little seedlings are springing up everywhere and I’m busy yanking out Bermuda sprouts wherever they may dwell.  Be warned foul beasts… I’m coming for you!  (Insert maniacal laughter here)


I spent a couple of hours on Saturday with my youngest helper pulling up piles of grass and trimming up the pepper plants.  They still have a solid month of good production to go, so I want to make sure we get some good sized peppers!  I harvested the peppers from the trimmings and had enough to fill a substantial bowl.  Roasting and peeling the small peppers can be a pain though.  I focused on the larger ones.  I’ve learned when it comes to roasting to get the oven super hot (BROIL) and put the peppers up as close as you can to the heat.  Then wait until they are really blistered before you turn them.  I’d love to have one of those drum roasters that they have in grocery store parking lots, but the oven works fine.


I added some manure to the main garden and have been busy raking and smashing and pulverizing… it’s good for stress relief.  I’ll plant all of that out soon with peas and various other things.  I’ve got a plan for that.


The areas that were cleaned up in the pepper beds are going to be planted out first.  At the end of November the peppers will come out, along with the ollas, so I need to be able to get those out without destroying too much.  That will be a challenge. I do like demo though.

I’m still looking for a good deal on some mulch.  Maybe some alfalfa that got ruined by the rain, or even some woodchips… I’m really not that picky.  I’ve decided it would be really handy to have a decent sized wood chipper.  I have a tiny one right now, but frankly, it’s not good for much.

I’ve still got a few little apples growing on the tree.  I’m not sure that they’ll finish maturing, but they are fun to watch.  Apples seem to be a pretty slow process.


That’s about it; I hope you all are having a good Fall.  Ours is off to a great start.  It’s a great time to garden!

Posted in apples, Arizona Garden, basil, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, chard, cilantro, desert garden, Red Russian Kale | 1 Comment

Observations and Conclusions on the Ollas

Ollas are the name for unglazed terracotta pots that you bury in the ground with only the neck exposed. I’ve written on them here before but it seems like so long ago I thought I would explain more without having to dig back through old posts.


This last spring was the first time I tried using ollas.


The ones that I selected were from Dripping Springs Ollas.  They are larger than most, locally available to me, have a lid that fits perfectly, and have a mouth that is wider than most, making it easier to fill with a long watering wand.  Actually it didn’t take long before I could use my wand to pry up the edge of the lid, fill the olla, and replace the lid without having to bend down and pick the lid up.

Saved a lot of lower back pain.


I had nine ollas that I used all together.  They are on the expensive side, I believe about $30 each.  Which was actually a lot cheaper than others because they were locally available and I didn’t have to pay shipping.  Still $30 x 9 = ouch.

I buried three ollas per 4 foot x 8 foot planting bed and then planted heavily around them.


Two of the beds contained peppers (and are still using the ollas), and one bed was planted with tomatillos, squash, zucchini, beans, and watermelons.

I’ve since removed the ollas from the one bed because they are not good to overwinter in the ground since they COULD freeze in a hard frost.  Granted those are pretty rare around here, but at $30 a piece I really didn’t want to take the chance.


Filling the ollas was a lot faster than watering a whole bed.  I did fill them every day, which I’m sure helped, but still it was definitely faster.  Faster watering means less water.  I still watered the perimeter of the bed and the corners, only because I had planted very densely and wanted to make sure that everything was well saturated.

I like to let the chickens out when I fill the ollas because I’ve found that a wide assortment of bugs enjoy the moist environment.  Crickets, ear wigs, and roaches are pretty typical, with the occasional scorpion.  Either way, my one smart chicken figured this game out pretty quick and would hop in the beds and wait for me to fill the pots so she could grab a bug or two.  It worked out pretty well.

I did find that the plants in the bed did not wilt as quickly in the heat of the afternoon, in fact frequently they did not wilt at all.  Similar plants, especially the squash and zucchini, in other beds looked pretty sick when the mercury hit 110+.  My peppers in my pots look good, but are not as big as the peppers in the beds with the ollas.  They also weather the afternoon sun better, even though they aren’t shaded like the potted peppers.


When I removed the three ollas out of the one bed I was able to confirm what I had been told previously, that the roots of the plants would weave their way around the olla, making the watering even more efficient.  Sure enough what I found was a complete encasement of the ball of the olla in a thick mat of roots.  It was impressive!  The roots did not penetrate the olla and I found that the surface of the terracotta was in good condition, giving me confidence that they will last for several years to come.

In all, the ollas definitely lived up to the hype.  They worked efficiently and made watering easier.  I cannot gage whether or not I actually used less water, since this year I drastically expanded my garden with six additional 4×8 beds, but I can easily say, just by gaging the time, that I used less water on the beds with ollas than I did on the ones without.

Are they worth the investment? Well, that’s depends.  My water is not that expensive, so it would probably take two – three years to recoup the investment.  I will definitely keep the ones I have and use them again, but I’m trying to garden more cheaply, so I will probably not buy any more next spring.

Have you ever tried ollas?


Posted in the Homestead Barn Hop on the Prairie Homestead.

Posted in Dripping Springs Ollas, ollas | Tagged | 10 Comments