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by Richard Perkins

A cool place to restWelcome to Richard’s blog. If this is your first visit a little introduction is in order. Professionally, I’m an engineer with a strong interest in renewable energy and sustainable development. But that’s just my day job. Or it would be if I wasn’t currently between jobs… ;-) I’m also an avid backpacker, a musician, and a novelist. Or I will be once I get my first novel published… :-o

This site is dedicated to my never-ending struggle to find a meaningful balance between my professional and personal interests. So if you’re wondering how I fit all of the things I want to do into a 24 hour day, read on. The site is divided into three pages.

Here in the water garden you can scroll down to find the most recent posts in my Is viagra prescription only canadaTadalafil 20mg price ukBuy real viagra onlineSildenafil for pulmonary hypertension Journal: entries on the creation of this blog, news on my writing submissions and career developments, and other articles that lack a formal home.

Next door at the office you’ll find my Buy propranololOnline order intagra cheap canada pharmacyKamagra gold 100 kaufenFind vivanza discount on line fedex shipping Professional page: view my resume or read about interesting things in the world of renewable energy technology.

If you’re interested in fiction, check out the Phenergan for sale long haul flightKamagra for sale in ukOrder zithromax overnight Writer’s Lair: There you can find excerpts from my NaNoWriMo 2008 winning manuscript, The Renegade’s Door. You can also read the drafts of Doormakers Fall and Voices of the Deep, two earlier works set in the same world.

Buy sildenafil tablets onlineBuy viagra cheap canadaKamagra oral jelly gel 100 mg Henry Coe State Park – Lakeview Zone

by Richard Perkins

For my fourth trip in Henry Coe State Park, I headed south into the Lakeview Zone on a cool autumn day in mid November. I’d already visited many of the 87,000 acre park’s designated zones during my previous hikes to the Blue Ridge Zone, the Orestimba Wilderness and Kelly and Coit Lakes, but this stop was a new one.

It’s a nice little corner of the park, with a handful of old jeep roads that follow the gently rolling ridge-lines and yield glimpses of the park’s wilder eastern interior. But the zone takes its name from the panoramic views of both Anderson and Coyote Lakes, which lie just outside the park to the southwest. This zone wold probably be a mountain biker’s dream, except that it’s not technically open to the public yet, and the jeep roads haven’t been connected to the rest of Henry Coe’s extensive trail network.

The Sycamore Canyon Trail, which ascends Cordoza Ridge from the Madrone Soda Springs camp, is the only way in. When I call this route an unmaintained bushwack of a climb… I’m being generous. I don’t recommend attempting this hike without permission from the rangers at park headquarters, a good map, a compass, or a reliable GPS, and some trailblazing experience.

I began at the park headquarters entrance at East Dunne Ave. I set off southeast on the shady, single-track Corral Trail, then continued on the Springs Trail at the 0.6 mile mark. The Springs Trail rejoins the wider Manzanita Point Road at the 1.8 mile mark, turning gradually further south toward Bass Pond and the Manzanita Point Group Camps before intersecting with the China Hole Trail to the north and Madrone Soda Springs Trail to the south at the 2.6 mile mark.

After kicking up a trio of deer and the ever present flock of turkeys behind the group camp, I turned south into Soda Springs Canyon, descending about 800 feet over the next mile along tight switchbacks. At the bottom of the descent, I crossed over the Mile Trail at the 3.5 mile mark, stepping easily across the shallow pools of early season rainwater in the western tributary of Coyote Creek. There are two tent sites on the southern bank of the stream at the Madrone Soda Springs Camp, once the site of a health resort for the reputed curative effects of its mineral water springs. As peaceful as this tree-lined camp was, it was not my destination, so I forged ahead.

The next mile or so was the most technically challenging part of this trip, and the reason for my warnings above. South of Soda Springs, there is an old fire trail that climbs up 900 feet to Cordoza Ridge via switchbacks. As I said, it’s not maintained, and has been overrun by berry bushes, underbrush, chaparral, and sprawling manzanita groves by turns. It’s a faint game trail at best, when you can see it at all. Even finding the trail head from the Soda Springs camp was tough, but hey, what’s life without a challenge?

From the camp, I pushed through berry bushes, bearing northwest along the southern bank of the stream. At the 3.9 mile mark, I made a hairpin turn away from the canyon floor onto the overgrown fire trail to begin my ascent. I continued southeast through dense underbrush to a set of switchbacks near the 4.2 mile mark. After the switchbacks, the trail climbs nearly due west along a steep ridge before plunging through a tangle of chaparral around the 4.5 mile mark. Pushing through this thicket is taxing work and will snag anything that isn’t securely strapped down to your pack. Don’t say I didn’t warn you! I had to detour around a few fallen trees along this last part of the ascent as well.

Next I wove through a grove of sprawling manzanita bushes, a welcome change after leaving the chaparral behind. Near the 4.7 mile mark, the trail turns northwest, ascending through mixed woodlands before reaching the grassy Cordoza Ridge Road at the 4.8 mile mark.
Here I turned south to hike along Cordoza Ridge Road. For the most part, all these ridge-top jeep roads are wide, rolling, and scenic. In June these same roads might feel hot, dry, and shadeless, but since I was here in November, the views were gorgeous and the crisp air was invigorating.
I knew that my water access was limited to a few scattered cattle ponds where the water had to be filtered. So I headed for the largest of the mapped ponds on Fitzgerald Ridge to camp for the night. Cordoza Ridge Road rolls gently southward until it curves southwest near the 5.1 mile mark, with scenic views across Cordoza Canyon to the northwest.

I pressed on as the road wound southwest, passing an intersection with Big Canyon Road at the 5.5 mile mark. Then the road descends gently with the ridgeline to an intersection with Fitzgerald Ridge Road near the 6.0 mile mark. Here, I turned west, descending more steeply toward the livestock watering pond near the 6.5 mile mark.
I camped upslope from the pond, and settled in to enjoy the sunset over Morgan Hill to the south. This is an active cattle grazing area, and although I didn’t have to share my campsite with any lowing cows, there was plenty of proof that they’d been around. Recently. (Watch where you step!)

So day 1 of the Lakeview Zone trip featured 6.5 miles of hiking, about 1500 feet of elevation gain and 1800 feet of loss. Along the way, I enjoyed panoramic views, deer, wild turkeys, and plenty of solitude.

My plans for day two were to trek around and see as much of Lakeview Zone as I could fit in before returning to Madrone Soda Springs camp for the night. So I took Fitgerald Ridge Road southeast toward Palassou Ridge and the promised vistas of to the south. At a fork in the road near the 0.7 mile mark (7.2 miles cumulative) , I turned right onto Nesbit Ridge Road. There is a small livestock pond a bit further along the left branch of the fork at the beginning of Palassu Ridge, but it was murkier than the water from Fitzgerald Ridge Pond.

Soon after the fork, Nesbit Ridge Road veers southwest, keeping this heading until the 1.2 mile mark (7.7 mile cumulative). There the road wraps west around a knoll before dog-legging back to the south. There are panoramic vistas all along this leg of the hike, mostly to the north and west but occasionally to the eastern interior of the park as well.

The ridge road skirts to the west of the highest point of Nesbit Ridge, mantling along a contour line until the 1.9 mile mark (8.4 miles cumulative). Here the road begins a long descent leading to the edge of the park and onto private lands before reaching Larios Canyon and Coyote Lake. I followed the road to nearly the edge of the park at the 2.2 mile mark (8.7 miles cumulative). This part of the ridge offers stunning views of Anderson Lake to the west and Coyote Lake to the south. It was well worth the walk.

After eating a morning snack overlooking the lakes, I retraced my steps, taking Nesbit Ridge Road, Fitzgerald Ridge Road, and Cordoza Ridge Road back to the intersection with Big Canyon Road near the 4.6 mile mark (11.1 miles cumulative). I scrambled up the short but steep incline to the first of two ponds on the south side of Big Canyon Road, but it was little more than a muddy wallow.

The road bends southwest beyond the first pond, gradually descending through mixed woodlands with more shade than Cordoza , Fitzgerald, or Nesbit Ridges. There were stands of evergreens interspersed with the yellowing deciduous leaves. It was a nice change of scene from the more open western section. I continued southwest, savoring the occasional view of steep-sided Sycamore and Soda Springs canyons to the northeast through breaks in the trees.

Near the 5.4 mile mark (11.9 miles cumulative), Big Canyon Road veers southward briefly, before an eastward bend and a hairpin that serves as a small switchback in a particularly steep part of the otherwise gradual descent. I continued onward to the second small pond, near the 5.7 mile mark (12.2 miles cumulative). This pond was completely dry and filled in with windblown leaves.  Despite the lack of water, this is a cozy little site, tucked in among a stand of oaks and pines with plenty of soft leaves for an afternoon rest stop. I took a break here for a leisurely lunch and watched the industrious squirrels stashing acorns for the winter.

After lunch, I again retraced my steps, taking Big Canyon Road back to Cordoza Ridge Road. Hiking northwest, I passed by the turnoff for Sycamore Canyon Trail near the 7.5 mile mark (14.0 miles cumulative). I didn’t see much more wildlife on Day 2, but I did spot plenty of tracks, including one that might have been a mountain lion following a herd of deer.

I continued on to the last livestock pond on my tour, near the 7.9 mile mark southwest of Cordoza Ridge Road. It was dry as well but it was also fenced off, so I didn’t try to get too close to this one. Now thoroughly satisfied that I had chosen the best place to camp the first night on Fitzgerald Ridge, I turned back southeast and returned to the almost hidden turnoff for Sycamore Canyon Trail near the 8.4 mile mark (14.9 miles cumulative).

The bushwack back down the Sycamore Canyon Trail was not as challenging as the trip in, since I was more familiar with the route. I could also spot a few of my own footprints from the day before in the leaf litter or occasional patch of mud. But still, descending 900 feet through a mile of underbrush takes it out of you, and I was ready to pack it in when I finally reached Madrone Soda Springs Camp near the 9.6 mile mark (16.1 miles cumulative).

The Madrone Soda Springs have an interesting history. If you’re willing to scrape away some fallen leaves and vines, you can still find relics from the late 1800′s to earl 1920′s when a resort and health spa operated here. Most of the structures are crumbling away now, and the soda springs are long since dried up, but you’d be surprised what you can find if you look hard enough.

Day 2 of the Lakeview trip included 9.6 miles of hiking, about 1600 feet of elevation gain and 2300 feet of loss. I visited enough livestock ponds to confirm that the first one I checked on was the most reliable watering hole for this area, and enjoyed another day of solitude and simple pleasures.

Day 3 dawned clear and cold. There was a film of hard frost on my bivy sack and a skin of ice in both my water bottles, which made it a little harder to eat breakfast and pack up, but I managed. After breakfast, I hiked the 1 mile and 900 feet back up Madrone Soda Springs Trail to Manzanita Point Road.

The air was starting to warm up by then, so I took a short break remove a few layers of insulation before continuing back to the park headquarters via Manzanita Point Road, Springs Trail and the Corral Trail. Once I could see the headquarters in the distance, I started to see day hikers, out enjoying the sunny autumn weather. It was a short Day 3, but it got me back home in time for lunch. You’ve just gotta’ love that about having a park like Henry Coe in your back yard.

On my way out, I hiked 3.5 miles, gained 1300 feet of elevation, and lost about 200 feet. That bring the round trip total to about 19.7 miles, and 4300 feet of elevation gain and loss. Not bad for a weekend outing.

This also checks off zone number 10 of Henry Coe’s 15 named park zones. I plan to hit 4 of the last 5 in a longer trip in late spring. I’m not sure when I’ll be able to visit the last zone, since it’s one of the park’s later additions and I’ll probably have to get permission from the rangers to visit it, like I did with this trip.

As I’ve said before, Henry Coe is a real gem of a state park. If you live in the Bay area, you should definitely make the short drive down to Morgan Hill and go for a walk. You won’t regret it.

The text of this article was previously published on Associated Content.

Henry Coe State Park – Kelly Lake and Coit Lake

by Richard Perkins
This entry is part 5 of 6 in the series Trail Guides

I took my third backpacking trip in Henry Coe State Park in early June. My previous trips were both out-and-back affairs, starting and ending at the park’s northern headquarters on East Dunne Ave. For this outing I planned a through hike instead, entering the 87,000 acres of parkland at the headquarters entrance and leaving via the southern Coyote Creek entrance a few days later.

My 21 mile hike took me through the Western, Mahoney, Kelly, Coit, and Grizzly Gulch Zones and gave me a chance to visit scenic Kelly and Coit Lakes along the way. My first day of hiking started in the afternoon, so it was short. I left HQ along the pleasantly shaded, single-track Corral trail. At the 0.6-mile mark, I turned onto Manzanita Point road, a broad and exposed jeep road that runs to the group and equestrian camps clustered around Bass Pond.

I continued past the turn-off for Poverty Flat Road at the 1.5-mile mark until I reached intersection with single-track China Hole and Madrone Soda Springs trails at the the 2.2-mile mark. From there I continued northeast along the China Hole trail, emerging from the mixed oak woodland near the group camps into the chaparral walled switchbacks that descend steeply toward China Hole and the Narrows.

My first day’s hike entailed five miles of backpacking and a net elevation loss of 1400 feet. I saw a couple of wild turkey near the group camps at Manzanita Point and a deer grazing through the meadows overlooking the Coyote Creek’s Middle Fork along the way. I also saw two backpackers toiling up China Hole trail’s ascent on their way out of the park. I set up camp at one of the grassy sites on the southeast side of China Hole’s wading pools in the early evening. I even got to relax in my new, ultra-light camp chair and watch the stars come out before calling it a night. It was great to be out on the trail again.

I started early on Day 2. Summer days in Henry Coe can get hot, especially in the early afternoon. I wanted to make the most of the cooler morning hours, so I was packed up and ready to go right after breakfast.
I climbed up Mahoney Ridge along the China Hole trail, following well-graded switchbacks through the dappled shade of a mixed oak forest. After about 600 feet of ascent, I reached the northernmost tip of the ridge. I stepped out into sunny meadows just before turning south on the aptly named Mahoney Meadows road at the 1.9-mile mark (6.9 miles cumulative). Unfortunately, I left the shade behind at this point for most of the day. The walk southeast along the ridge line is dotted with intermittent stands of live oak.

The meadows here were mostly brown and dormant by early summer, and the temperature rose steadily throughout the morning. The path here is a wide jeep road, and with the combination of elevation and rolling meadows, the views  were hard to beat. I also managed to spot some of the last of the season’s wildflowers along the way.

At the 3.8-mile mark (8.8 miles cumulative), I reached the intersection with Coit road and turned southeast. Coit is another wide jeep road that continues along the spine of Mahoney Ridge, climbing steeply in some places as it ascends toward the the highest point of my trip, 2600 feet. Along my route to the top, I passed turn-offs for the Cross Canyon trail near the 4-mile mark (9 miles cumulative), and the Blue Tank Spring trail near the 4.8 mile mark (9.8 miles cumulative). I passed through recovery regions, full of green shoots and wildflowers but bearing the obvious scars of Henry Coe’s never-ending struggle with wild brush fires.

The view did not disappoint when I reached the highest point of my trip near the 5.5 mile mark (10.5 cumulative miles). I climbed up onto a grassy berm on the northeast edge of Coit road for 360 degrees of unobstructed views across the park. It was well worth the heat.

After passing the Wasno road turn-off at near the 5.7 mile mark (10.7 miles cumulative), I started to descend in earnest. I lost 600 feet of elevation over the next two miles, some of it in broad switchbacks and the rest in jeep runs straight downhill. I passed a mountain biker toiling his way uphill from the south, an unavoidable consequence of hiking on the jeep roads that connect the southern interior regions to the southern park entrances.

The plant life in the southern face of the ridge was a little different, with a few determined pines clinging to rocky escarpments and more wildflowers on the banks of this stretch of Coit road.

When I rounded the corner of one of the last switchbacks in the descent, I could see Kelly Lake nestled in the valley below. Unfortunately, I wasn’t the first backpacker there. A trio of hikers had spent the previous night on the lake’s northeastern shore after hiking in from the southern entrance. They left that evening to move on to Coit Lake, but not before I had to set up my own camp. I settled for a smaller, more sheltered site on the southwestern shore. The water access wasn’t as good as the grassy site on the other side of the lake, but it suited me.I did have to share it with a fledgling chick that had fallen (or jumped) from its nest. It’s mother stayed close by as well, keeping a wary eye on me the whole time.

It was just as well that I chose the more remote camp site, since another solo backpacker arrived in the late evening after the trio left. We compared notes as he started looking for a place to set up his own camp for the night. Like me, he had hiked in from the northern headquarters entrance to reach Kelly Lake.  But he had done the whole trip in one day. I traveled 7.6 miles on Day 2, climbed 1700 feet in elevation and then lost about 1000 feet of that in my final descent to the lake. The other hiker? About 13 miles, plus 1800 feet of ascent and 2600 feet of descent. He had a long day!

I had a few hours of free time on Day 3 before I had to break camp and depart for the Coyote Creek entrance to the park. I took the opportunity to visit nearby Coit Lake after breakfast. I filled a water bottle and set off north on Coit road, leaving the Kelly Lake dam behind me as the road rose through stands of mixed oak and wildflowers. After climbing about 400 feet, I passed the intersection for the Crest trail and Willow Ridge road in a saddle at the 1-mile mark (13.6 miles cumulative). I couldn’t see much of the lake from this vantage point, but the reedy inlet came into view as I descended to the turnoff for the Western Coit Lake trail at the 1.3-mile mark (13.9 miles cumulative).

The trail led past the group camp on the southwestern shore of Coit Lake near the 1.5 mile mark (14.1 miles cumulative). A large group of bike campers had camped there the previous night. They were cooking up breakfast at the picnic tables and cooling their heels in the shade of the pergola as I strolled by. Beyond the group camp, the trail narrowed to a single track, skirting between the shore of the lake and the steep rise up to Willow Ridge. I found a second, smaller campsite a little further along near the 1.7-mile mark (14.3 miles cumulative), where industrious campers had carved out a level tent pad from the hillside and left small fire ring nestled among the pines.

I reached the dam and walked along its length to the northernmost point of Coit Lake before turning back.  Then I headed southeast, climbing 250 feet along Coit Dam road to the intersection with Willow Ridge road near  the 2.5-mile mark (15.1 miles cumulative). I turned southwest, following Willow Ridge road back to its intersection with Coit road at the 3.1-mile mark (15.7 miles cumulative) before retracing my steps to my base camp at Kelly Lake. I saw two deer on my return trip, which brought my total to 6 for the weekend. This pleasant walk added 4.1 miles and 850 feet of elevation gain and loss to my trip.  Not bad for a morning outing.

After eating taking a refreshing swim and eating a light lunch, I broke camp at Kelly Lake and set off for the Coyote Creek entrance. I had to climb about 600 feet along Kelly Lake trail before reaching Wasno road at the 0.9-mile mark (17.6 miles cumulative). The going was steep, but manageable. I certainly used a lot of water on this leg of the trip. The rest of my hike for Day 3 was one long (and often steep) descent.

I turned southeast on Wasno road for two tenths of a mile before bearing southwest on the Dexter trail, a single-track plunge straight down through the steep, shadeless meadows on the south face of Wasno Ridge. The going was a little hairy at times, and trecking poles would have made the footing less treacherous as I dropped 500 feet in half a mile before the Grizzly Gulch trail at the 1.7-mile mark (18.4 miles cumulative). The views from Dexter trail, however, were extensive, especially of the giant stone monolith that soars 100 feet straight up over the junction of two minor tributaries to distant Coyote Creek.

Grizzly Gulch trail was much more forgiving, at least initially. It mantles along a contour, skirting in and out of riparian woodlands that offered comforting shade on a hot June afternoon. The panoramic views offered when the trail broke out of the scattered woodlands were nearly as good as those from the heights of Coit road.

I continued skirting the edge of Wasno ridge until the intersection with the aptly name Rock Tower trail near the 2.7-mile mark (19.4 miles cumulative). Then Grizzly Gulch trail turned south, descending aggressively along the eastern bank of another tributary of Coyote Creek. I passed another trio of backpackers climbing up toward Kelly Lake, warning them that a group of ten hikers had just set up camp on the largest site that morning. Both Kelly and Coit lakes are popular destinations on hot summer weekends, for obvious reasons.

I passed a sign for the Cullen trail near the 3.2-mile mark (19.9 miles cumulative), though I couldn’t spot the single-track trail in the grass myself. I kept descending, dropping through more riparian woodlands on my way to a low-water crossing at the 3.6-mile mark (20.3 miles cumulative). I had lost a little over 700 feet in about a mile at this point, but most of the descent was behind me. After the crossing, Grizzly Gulch trail turned westerly, following the southern bank of this major tributary of Coyote Creek through some of the densest (and coolest) forest of the entire trip. It was a welcome relief from the sun. I reached the intersection with the Spike Jones trail near the 4-mile mark (20.7 miles cumulative), and continued west through mixed oak forest until I reached Coit road again about 2 tenths of a mile later. From there, it was a short stroll south on Coit road to the Coyote Creek entrance at the 4.4-mile mark (21.1 miles cumulative).

Overall, this thru-hike (with day trips) added about 21 miles to my backpacking total, including about 3700 feet of ascent and 5400 feet of descent along the way. It was a fun outing, with plenty of wildlife, wildflowers, and scenic vistas to enjoy. The park was a little more crowded than my previous visits, though I never had to share a campsite and encountering 19 backpackers and 8 mountain bikers in 21 miles would still count as secluded compared to most camping destinations. June weather was much warmer and drier than my April outings, and water was noticeably more scarce. The ticks were out in force too; I lost count after brushing off about 20 of the little bloodsuckers over course of the weekend.

Even so, for my money Henry Coe State Park is still one of the best backwoods destinations in the Bay area. So far I’ve visited 9 of the park’s 15 zones, and enjoyed every one in its own right. I fully intend to check off the remaining 6 zones in time. Happy hiking!

The text of this article was previously published on Associated Content.

Friday Scorecard

by Richard Perkins

I reluctantly closed the door on all my outstanding submissions this week. The last agent on my list had lost my submission. After sending it to him again, he said he’d look at it right away. It’s been over two weeks now, so he can’t be too excited about the manuscript. It’s time to call a duck a duck, and Renegade is quacking.

I’m working with a handful of critique partners to improve the manuscript now. I’ve decided to get the story into the best shape I can through reader feedback and judicious revision before taking further steps. There are two potential paths forward: second-tier publishers and small print houses, or self-publishing this novel while I crank out a new project.

Opinions vary pretty widely on self-publishing these days. Member of the traditional publishing market are understandably queasy about self-publishing. Some of them, like agent Nathan Bransford, still offer fairly even-handed advice about the topic.

The short version is that self-publishing and POD are not the quick-and-easy path to publishing success that aspiring authors wish they were. If you want to publish your story yourself, you have to be prepared to do all of the work that a traditional publisher would normally do for you. Authors often forget that publishers have an editorial staff, a roster of layout and cover artists, a promotion and marketing team, and an established network of distribution channels working for them. If you fly solo, you’ll have to be prepared to do some heavy lifting.

But I may decide to do that anyway with this first book. I’d like to see it in print at least, even if it’s only for a small audience. I already have a first edition of Renegade, printed through CreateSpace. Once I revise and roll Critter feedback into a second edition, I’ll probably re-release the book for general purchase through Amazon. I’ll probably create Kindle version as well and then do a word of mouth promotion blitz through my blogs and social networks. I’m also thinking of a special project to help with distribution. I’d need a few volunteers though, scattered around the country (and possibly around the English speaking world). It would be a stealth project, so all of my volunteers would have to be sneaky. Add a comment below or send a message through the contact form to find out more.

In other news, I had a first-round job interview yesterday with a Bay area CPV company. I think it went well, but you know how subjective that can be. For anyone interested in renewable energy topics, I’ve posted a new article on Tidal and Ocean Current Power in my Renewable Energy Tech series. You can also find it at Associated Content.

Gardening with Soilblocks

by Richard Perkins

I bought myself a new garden tool for this summer’s vegetable garden. It’s a Ladbrooke soil blocker and it’s designed to simplify the process of raising plants from seeds. They’re manufactured in England, but you can buy them at a number of online resellers or make one yourself, if you’re up to the task.

The basic idea is to mix seed starting mix and water into a mud-pie-like consistency, pack it into the blocking tool to compress and form the blocks, than eject rows and rows of preformed blocks onto a tray or shallow dish. The tool imprints a perfect, seed-sized divot in the top of every block. you simply drop a seed (or two) into every divot, pinch closed, water regularly (and they do mean regularly) and put the trays in a sunny spot for a week or two. Once the seeds germinate and sprout their first true leaves, they’re ready to harden and transplant into your garden.

One major advantage of this approach is that you don’t have to thin out half or more of your seedlings on your hands and knees because you direct sowed your seeds too thickly. The only plants that go in the ground are the ones you want to keep. The trade-off is that you need some appreciable surface area to set out your soil blocks while you’re waiting for the seedlings to sprout. This might be tough for people without any greenhouse or sunny window space.

Here are some pictures that I took as I worked my way through the process. The first step was making the soil blocks. I used an organic seed starting compound that I mixed with a little vermiculite and peat moss. It took a little fine tuning before I got the mud-pie consistency right, but the neat little rows of soil blocks were fun to make. With the five block tool, you can amass an army of blocks very quickly, so don’t get too carried away!

Next I had to add the seeds. To sow the seeds, I used a trick that I picked up from David Tresemer’s excellent reference, Transplants in Soil Blocks. I dampened the tip of a bamboo skewer (I was out of toothpicks) and used it to pick up one seed at a time from the seed packets. Then I pressed each seed into the wet divot in each soil block (where it would stick without hesitation). You’d think it would be tedious work, but it went surprisingly quickly.

I then covered the seeds with a layer of dry vermiculite and potting soil (to prevent damping off when the shoots pushed up through it). I dispensed the seed cover with a folded piece of cardstock, being careful not to bury the seeds too deeply. With this many blocks, it could have been very easy to forget which plants were where. I created a map using the grid of a spreadsheet. It turned out to be a lifesaver later on, when I was trying to figure out which seeds had germinated and which I had lost.

The first sprouts appeared in about a week, and by the end of two weeks, most of the seedlings had emerged. Unfortunately, I lost a lot of this first batch because I kept them covered (to retain moisture) and out of the sun (to prevent overheating). About half of the shoots shot up thin and leggy from lack of light. Then when I moved the box out onto a shelf in outside our window, I didn’t water them often enough. Misting the blocks at least twice a day once the sprouts emerge is critical. Those little soil blocks may be cute, but they don’t hold much water. They’ll dry out pretty quickly in direct sunlight. I didn’t make the same mistakes on my next batch of seeds.

Today was the culmination of my soil blocking efforts. Today, after hardening the seedlings on the window shelf outside for the past week, I transplanted the hardiest of the lot to our little vegetable plot in the back yard. You can see the results below. I’ve got a couple zucchini plants, a couple rows of peppers, a row of bush beans, four kinds of tomatoes, some cilantro, some sweet basil, a row of rainbow chard (still running strong from the winter crop), and a few sunflowers in the back. The garlic is growing over in the other planter with the rose bushes this year. And I’ll probably plant some green onions and an eggplant or two if I can find the space. It’s too soon to tell how fruitful our little plot will be this year. I’m trying to grow everything in it from seed instead of using plants from the nursery. Hopefully (fingers crossed) this summer’s crop will be a tasty one!