Things have progressed very slowly this year. I’ve been really bogged down by some courses I’m taking in the evening, so by the time schoolwork and family stuff is done for the week, it’s usually time to start the next week. The garden railroad, and other hobbies, have suffered. The BIG news is my article in the June issue of Garden Railways entitled “Build a Track Odometer.”  The YouTube preview shows my article as the still image.

Over the winter I added DCC to an Aristo 0-4-0, which was the engine that came with the starter set my wife bought me 14 years ago when we were expecting our first child. What was my train room was being turned into a baby room, so she bought me a large-gauge train set to put into our garden. I also added a sound decoder, so it’s fun to watch and hear on the track. While I like DCC on the indoor HO and N gauge layouts, I’ve never been happy cleaning the outdoor railroad track, so I’ve been slowly working on converting one of my USA Trains NW-2 switchers to an AirWire battery powered remote. The one thing I don’t like about the AirWire system is that each transmitter is supposed to be on its own channel. Being a ham operator, I’ve got an understanding of how radio works, and the AirWire system seems to have “cheaped out” on this one issue. It wouldn’t be too hard to have multiple transmitters share a common frequency (or set of frequencies). Over the winter a few of the newer cars were converted to Kadee couplers and had some weathering done.

Outdoor Progress

One of the very first plants from 2004 was turning into a monster bush that blocked the track each year. Besides the Corsican mint that’s covering part of the main line, you can see there is no path through the monster shrub just beyond it:

Sui decided she didn’t want the plant anymore, so I removed it one weekend and put some of the branches into a bucket of water, and they have since starting sprouting roots so we can plant this somewhere less in the way. The gaping hole in the ground doesn’t look good but at least the track is accessible again:

You can see the chicken coops and the hens now. They help with the gardening and generally make sure they like the layout:

We live on the edge of the woods in the pine barrens (“the pines” for those who know the term) and have a lot of ticks, but the chickens seem to eat the vast majority of them.

Train track, chicken track, whatever. From left to right are Essie, Hamburger (but she tastes just like chicken), and Tabitha.

<a href=”http://www.k2ut.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/GR2012_5.jpg”><img class=”aligncenter size-full wp-image-334″ alt=”GR2012_5″ src=”http://www.k2ut.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/GR2012_5.jpg” width=”735″ height=”980″ /></a> I finally got back to building the next rock wall but won’t be filling with dirt for at least a few weeks:

And this is what the same area looks like with about three cubic yards of soil added. This is what I did on 4th of July… shoveled dirt! There’s still another three cubic yards of topsoil sitting in the driveway waiting to be moved over. I figure another 9 to 12 cubic yards will completely fill all the remaining raised beds.

Nice shot of the water garden. The large white plant is a mountain laurel, which is native to this area. They bloom each spring with thousands of white flowers, some years being more spectacular than others. The first spring we were in this house was one of the best years for the mountain laurels; our entire street and every yard was full of white flowers for about a week.  The water garden does have a lot of real frogs that make noise all evening.