Midian Ranch Blog

This is the web log for Midian Ranch, an isolated homestead in rural Nevada. It is owned by Jason and Tina Walters, whom are also its regular posters. This blog is exclusively for the enlightenment and edification of our friends, family, and colleagues.

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Location: Gerlach, Nevada, United States

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Strange Days Have Found Us

Even by our admittedly chaotic Black Rock Desert standards the weather has been utterly freaking unpredictable this week. On Monday it was hot: up into the mid eighties. Today it’s 55-degrees outside at noon! We had a small snow flurry today and it looks like the Granites have had a fresh dusting of powder… but it should be in the 70’s this weekend. Late yesterday afternoon I rode a motorcycle into Gerlach and encountered high winds, freezing rain, a sandstorm, and fog – all within an 18 mile stretch of road!

So, yeah, we haven’t planted our vegetable garden yet. I’m sure you understand.

I traded by old Ford 8N tractor to an interesting fellow named John for a couple of generators on Sunday. It was a good trade. He got an antique vehicle that I could never seem to do much with, and I got two generators that I desperately needed to keep things functioning smoothly around the ranch. One is a small but powerful Coleman that I have already strapped to the back of my big truck. It will be especially useful for running things Downtown. The other is a 500-pound electric start Onan that I’ll probably use as the backbone of my non solar and wind power for Uptown. I can even buy a remote control for it… an unthinkable luxury if you’ve ever lived off-grid on a budget of not-to-damn-much.

John proved to be an enjoyable kind of guy to spend a few dangerous hours loading and unloading equipment with. A former Marine pilot, he spent 30 years in the service before retiring to become a refrigeration specialist, sunbather, and all-around northern Nevada desert rat. Interestingly, he’s also the nephew of Olympic great Jim Thorpe, and quite strong and spry at the tender age of 68 (I had him pegged for 55).

John and his wife Millie maintain an informative website about hot springs bathing that you can link to here.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Fortress Garden

The construction of a vegetable garden in the Black Rock Desert is no small matter. You can’t simply pick a patch of ground, pull of the weeds, and plant some seeds. Nothing is ever as simple as that out here. A vegetable garden in the desert has to be as impregnable as Fort Knox, constructed with every imaginable defensive measure against the voracious fauna destined to attack it. Your list of potential opponents includes deer, pronghorn antelope, mustang, rabbits, mice, rats, and chipmunks – not to mention the insect world.

So what do you do? Well, first you have to select the location on your property where you want to plant. I choose a lifeless patch of bare ground behind my house. The soil is toxic, but that’s all right because I don’t plan on using any of it. I’m using either compost or imported soil in eight by four foot boxes constructed from lumber, so the plants won’t have much contact with the indigenous dirt. Then I’ll drip feed the boxes constantly so that they never dry out.

After selecting your plot you have to enclose your garden. That means building not only up, but digging down as well. In our case the Western Pacific Railroad was kind enough to give Midian Ranch five rolls of storm fencing: four foot wooden stakes connected by an ocean of bailing wire. I had already augured four by four posts in as anchor points, so after digging trenches around the garden I buried about a foot of the fences underground as protection from any critter that gets adventurous enough to try to go under the barrier. Then I layered the fencing to create a rabbit proof barrier on the ground and a deer proof barrier higher up. With that completed I began to stack rocks (not lack of those out here) around the base of the fence line, which will hopefully increase the “hassle factor” for any mice or rats that plan on trying to squeeze through the storm fencing to the point where it won’t be worth it for them to try. Unlike their more dandyish and sissified woodland cousins, desert animals don’t have the luxury of throwing calories recklessly away on projects with dubious outcomes. In other words, if it’s too much work a desert creature won’t try.

With that completed I placed four cinder blocks in front of where I’m putting the gate and then filled them with dirt to hold them in place. Behind them I drove a series of metal stakes into the ground to form a subterranean barrier. Again, with any luck this will keep out rabbits and prove too much of a hassle for the smaller mammals to bother with. I’ll post in a few weeks and let you all know how well these preparations worked.

In other news Tina and I attended Gerlach’s Italian Dinner, held annually at Bruno’s Country Club. Bruno is quite fond of my wife and kindly went out of his way to invite the two of us. The food was wonderful - better actually than much of the food I’ve had in Italy itself – and the company of our neighbors was pleasant. Afterward we adjourned over to Uncle Larry’s for drinks with our friend Elizabeth Jackson. All and all a pleasant evening.