Steve Mendez

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since Aug 15, 2013
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Recent posts by Steve Mendez

I have noticed crews of sagebrush seed harvesters along the highway south of our town in the fall. They harvest in an area where the sagebrush seem to be especially large and bushy.
They have large cloth bags which they hold the seed heads over and then beat on the heads with tennis rackets. Towards the end of the day their pickup trucks are piled high with these bags that resemble giant pillows. I don't know how they separate the chaff from the seed.
There was a huge fire (90,000 acres) in the hills and mountains near our town this past summer. Much of the burned area is now being seeded with a mixture of sagebrush, bitterbrush, and other native plants. This is important winter range for Mule Deer and they are going to be in trouble, especially if it is a harsh winter.  
1 week ago
About 10 years ago I dug up 4 small (6") sagebrush plants, leaving a coffee can sized ball of soil around the roots. I took them home and planted them on the bank of the irrigation ditch in front of the house.
They really took off and within 4 or 5 years they were bushy and taller that me. Small sagebrush were popping up around the original plants and everything was going great. the neighbor's hired a "lawn care" outfit to tend their yard and the sagebrush got sprayed through the chainlink fence that separates our yards. The plants were about 3' from the fence but were sprayed anyway. All the plants but one tiny one died. I complained to the neighbors about it and the "lawn care" people denied everything. The survivor continues to grow but isn't thriving, I think it is being shaded out by trees now.
I dug up 2 small sagebrush from southern Utah and planted them in the middle of our yard 3 years ago and they are doing pretty well. They are definitely a different type than the ones that are naturally occurring around here.
1 week ago
I took part in a Rainbow Trout mort composting project using a 3 bin system built from pallet wood at the College of Southern Idaho Fish Hatchery in the early 90s. Each chamber was approx. 1 cubic meter. We kept daily records of the weight of the morts added. Each day's layer of morts was covered by about 10 cm of moldy straw.
It was interesting to see how bin #1 would fill to halfway in fairly short order and then take much longer to fill all the way up from there. The pile would really start heating up once it was half way and it would just kind of collapse on itself and start to decrease in volume even as we added morts and straw. Temps of 60c to 68c (140f to 154f) in the center of the bin were quite common once the system got going.
The smell could be intense if the morts weren't covered sufficiently with straw.
By the time the material made it through bin #2 there was no evidence that it was composed of about 80% dead fish by weight.
There was always a waiting list of people who wanted the black earthy smelling compost from bin #3 once it cooled down.
The CSI Fish Hatchery still composts the morts, 25 years after the research project ended.
1 month ago
Newborn rattlesnakes have a "button" on the end of their rather stubby tail and their head is kind of square shaped.
Your snake resembles the baby gopher snakes that I see at my farm in late summer.
3 months ago
I have been unsuccessful with my several attempts at growing Pistachio trees from the nuts that I gathered late last fall. I sent nuts to a couple of Permies who requested them but haven't heard what their results were.
This past Thursday (July 30) I visited family in Logan and also took 5 small cuttings from the largest tree. I'll try to get the cuttings to sprout using Lauren's technique.
Interestingly, even though the cuttings were immediately put in water, the leaves had turned crispy dry by the time we got back home to Idaho about 4 hours later.
4 months ago
Some years ago I helped a friend repair some bullet holes in his 500 gallon blue plastic water storage tank. We had to cut a round 24" hole in the top so that we could get inside. Once inside we smoothed the 1/4" bullet holes flat with a rasp and sandpaper. We then cut some 3/4" round pieces from a Tupperware bowl and taped them in place over the holes with Gorilla Tape. As far as I know they are still holding with no leaks. The hardest part was making a tight fitting cap to cover the 24" access hole.
7 months ago
There was a local cricket farm featured in our newspaper about a year ago. According to the article it was producing 2,000 lbs of crickets a week, to supply protein powder for human consumption. I'm not sure if the 2,000 lbs was live weight or dried wt. The crickets were being raised in a greenhouse that is heated with geothermal water. Haven't heard anything about it since then.

8 months ago
In our garden there are cutworms crawling around above ground at night. In damp conditions they are more numerous. They chew seedlings and small transplants off about 1/4" above the soil and then consume the toppled plant. I have observed this behavior by flashlight.
Earwigs are also out at night eating the newest growth on seedlings.
The cutworms and earwigs hide under the cardboard that we place in the garden. During the day I turn the cardboard over to expose the hiding cutworms and earwigs. It doesn't take much to give the cutworms mortal wounds with my crutch tips. The earwigs run for it and are harder to kill. I don't hurt the centipedes and fast beetles because they are predators.
We try to be judicious with our use of diatomaceous earth to avoid injuring predator species.

8 months ago
In our garden we sprinkle diatomaceous earth around the plants that are coming up from seed.
We use inverted paper cups with the bottoms cut out for cutworm barriers around small transplants along with diatomaceous earth.
Cutworms do their damage at night and hide in the dark during the day. Placing cardboard flat on the ground in the garden will provide cutworms with places that they think are safe, but are not.  
8 months ago