Dying Time Newsletter Volume 37 featuring GHOST COACH

My Friend and ocassional co-author Duane Lindsay has a new book coming out in April and I'm posting a link to it so you can get first crack at it. It IS the second book in the series but it is a terrific standalone novel. Very entertaining. I could go on and on about how brilliant and funny and intriguing it is but I think I'll let readers who reviewed it speak for the book.

5.0 out of 5 stars Worthy of ten stars
By Abbie Thackrahon February 7, 2018
Format: Kindle Edition
My first Duane Lindsay book has been the best book I have read in years. I was hooked from the first chapter and the rollercoaster ride only stopped at the end.

The con game is relatively shrouded in mystery and this book blows the con artists lives open in a way I never expected. Dixie is the daughter of Leroy Logan, the most wanted conman alive and still never been caught. Leroy has laid the groundwork for the best long con ever tried. The only thing he needs to pull it off is money, lots of it. Oh, and a team. His team is scattered, literally. Some as ashes, some in nursing homes and others in graves. Dixie has money and a team but she'll never go for it, unless he cons her.

I never give spoiler reviews. That is all I will say about the plot. I will tell you that the book is well worth your time. It's funny, poignant and a slice of life us straight folks could only fantasize about. The ending even shows an altruistic side to someone most wouldn't believe possible.
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5 out of 5 start: By Mjmon March 30, 2018
Format: Kindle Edition
This is the first story I’ve read by Mr. Lindsay, even though it is the second book of the series. I was given a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. This is a wild, amusing ride with some curious characters who have performed some complicated cons for many years under the tutelage of the greatest con artist of all. This story covers the long con he has set up over a number of decades to be his greatest con ever. There are many twists and turns as we watch cons emerge within cons, crooks engaging and causing changes in the specifics, the re-grouping after portions go awry, all of which keep the reader turning the page. The ending is totally unexpected and very satisfying. I will go back and read the first book in the series. This is a fun ride!

5.0 out of 5 stars
Like father - like daughter
By Stella C. on March 16, 2018
Format: Kindle Edition
Well written and smooth flowing with lots of intricate details, it is a humorous, funny, delightful and extremely entertaining book that keeps the reader entertained throughout. Highly recommended.

5.0 out of 5 stars
The Con to top all Cons
By BlueEyes on February 11, 2018
Format: Kindle Edition
This author has an imagination that knows no boundaries. The ultimate conman has set up the con to top all cons, The Ghost Coach. The Grifter's Daughter, Dani and her crew of misfits all have certain talents and all will be needed for this con to be a success. Now all they need are marks...
These books are a delight to read, funny, suspenseful, and they keep the reader guessing until the very last page.
The authors mention of real people and events from the past, make this book seem real and more interesting.
5.0 out of 5 stars
Great writing that is comfortable and easy to read.
By James W. Kleefeld on March 13, 2018
Format: Kindle Edition
Love this series. This book has a couple of great cons well thought-out and carefully planned. There are set-backs and false leads which are always neatly resolved. A few twists and surprises that you really do not see coming, and some plot points that end almost the way you thought, but when you look back you see that this was the best solution after all. Best of all, the text flows smoothly with great readability. I am constantly impressed by deft phrases and nicely-worded sentences. I'd love to read more about Dixie and her con-man father.

5.0 out of 5 stars
The Con to top all Cons
By BlueEyes on February 11, 2018
Format: Kindle Edition
This author has an imagination that knows no boundaries. The ultimate conman has set up the con to top all cons, The Ghost Coach. The Grifter's Daughter, Dani and her crew of misfits all have certain talents and all will be needed for this con to be a success. Now all they need are marks...
These books are a delight to read, funny, suspenseful, and they keep the reader guessing until the very last page.
The authors mention of real people and events from the past, make this book seem real and more interesting.
5.0 out of 5 stars
Great writing that is comfortable and easy to read.
By James W. Kleefeld on March 13, 2018
Format: Kindle Edition
Love this series. This book has a couple of great cons well thought-out and carefully planned. There are set-backs and false leads which are always neatly resolved. A few twists and surprises that you really do not see coming, and some plot points that end almost the way you thought, but when you look back you see that this was the best solution after all. Best of all, the text flows smoothly with great readability. I am constantly impressed by deft phrases and nicely-worded sentences. I'd love to read more about Dixie and her con-man father.

Okay, by now you can see why I rave about Duane Lindsay's books. If you like them you will undoubtedly enjoy the terrorist thrillers he co-authored with me TAP DOUBT and AMERICAN JIHAD (boos one and two of our WAR CORPS Series). I will provide links to those books below but first here's the link to



Now here's the article I promised on growing potatoes.
Growing Potatoes in Grow Bags and Towers
By Raymond Dean White 3/7/18
Types of Potatoes to Grow in Bags or Towers
To most of us a potato is a potato. Plant them and they’ll grow. But if you want to maximize your production of potatoes in a grow bag or tower you’ll use Long Season potatoes as they are indeterminate and will produce more potatoes off the main shoot as the plants are mounded.
Determinate potatoes (short season), by contrast, will only produce spuds just above where the seed potato is planted. They still benefit from mounding as this practice delays maturity and allows the potatoes to get bigger.
My favorite long season potato is German Butterball. Its mouthwatering flavor won Rodale’s Organic Gardening Taste Test. From personal experience I can vouch for it being one of the best tasting potatoes I’ve ever eaten.
Kennebec potatoes are another excellent mid to long season, indeterminate variety. They are great bakers and are the single most productive variety I’ve grown here in AZ.
Early Ohio is a short season determinate variety I’m trying for the first time this year. The fact it matures early hopefully means I’ll get a good early crop of tubers before our fearsome summer heat descends upon the homestead. I will mound them to delay maturity in hopes of getting larger potatoes, but I will harvest them before our temps climb into the 100’s.
Other varieties I’ve grown with mixed success here in Arizona include Yukon Gold, Carola, Russet Burbank, Purple Viking and Gold Rush.
One variety I still want to try is Superior, largely because it is touted as heat and drought resistant, very tasty and long storing—this while being a short season determinate type suitable for early Spring or Fall plantings.
Seed Potatoes vs Store Bought
I’ve had excellent results using store bought potatoes as my seed crop. I’ve also had terrible results. For consistently good crops I recommend buying seed potatoes from a reputable dealer. I’ve purchased them from
Grow Organic
and several other seed providers.
The main advantage to seed potatoes is they should come to you certified disease free. With store bought types you’ve no idea what disease you might be importing into your garden. Also, store bought potatoes are often sprayed with a sprout deterrent so, as I learned the last time I tried them, what you end up with is compost, since they rot in the ground instead of growing.
Setting Up and Growing Potatoes in Grow Bags
The Grow Bags I bought were 20-gallon size from Gurney’s.
The instructions say to fill the bag ¼ of the way before planting. I’ve found filling it 1/3 of the way works better for me. Also, the first time I planted potatoes in Grow Bags I noticed that, unless you filled them to the top (which you don’t want to do if you plan on mounding) the sides of the bags need support to hold them upright so they don’t flop over onto your plants. I made a loop of chicken wire, inserted it into the grow bag and nestled it down into the soil—problem solved. The wire holds the sides up and, since it sticks above the top of the bag by at least a foot, allows for more mounding and therefore more potato production. Alternatively, you can simply fold the sides down around the outside of the bag—unfolding it as you mound—but the chicken wire method works well for me.
Okay, so fill the bag up 1/3 of the way with well composted, nutrient rich, soil that has a pH of 5.5 to 6.5. The soil should drain well but hold enough moisture so you don’t have to be constantly watering. I use a mixture of homemade compost, peat moss, and 3-4-3 fertilizer (if needed). One such fertilizer I’ve used with good results is Gurney’s Potato Food.
Tip: adding banana peels to your compost increases the supply of potassium, which is very good for potatoes and tomatoes.
Next plant your seed potatoes. Since I live in the desert SW at an elevation of 3751 feet I plant most seeds, including potatoes, deeper than the package recommends—as the top few inches of my garden soil tends to dry out quickly. I’ve learned the hard way it pays to plant potatoes deeper than the 3-6 inches suggested by most seed potato companies. Most gardening sites for the desert SW say 6-9 inches and a depth of 8-9 inches seems to work best for me. If I plant determinate potatoes less than 6 inches deep all I get are small 1-2 inch spuds.
Once your potatoes have sprouted let them get 6-8 inches tall and then start mounding soil or mulch (such as straw) around them. Let them grow another 6-8 inches and repeat the mounding. For determinate potatoes mounding them twice is usually enough to give you some decent 3-5 inch spuds at harvest. For indeterminate, long season varieties I mound them three times.
Another thing I discovered works best for me is to NOT cut any seed potatoes that are smaller then three inches in diameter. For the most part I don’t cut any seed potato unless it’s very big. It seems like the larger the seed potato I plant the larger and healthier the potato plant is, and the larger the crop is at harvest.
If you do cut your seed potatoes it is vital that you allow them to season in a warm, dry area for several days before planting. Otherwise they’ll rot instead of sprouting.
I’ll freely admit my first experience with these was a complete flop. I’d either overwater them or underwater them and production was terrible—unless you like tiny, thumb-sized potatoes.
I’ve learned to coil soaker hose in the dirt at the bottom and in each successive layer of straw mulch I use for mounding.
Building these is simplicity itself. I start with a length of 24” tall 1”x1” chicken wire (poultry netting to some of you). How long a length depends on how big you want your cage to be. Since I like my towers to be 3 feet in diameter I cut the wire to a 10’ length. (Circumference of a Circle = 2xPIxRadius or 6.28xR). For a 3-foot circle this comes to slightly over 9.4 feet but since I like to overlap the wire I cut it to 10 feet.
Bend the wire into a circle (overlapping it) and hook it together by either bending cut ends or by weaving a piece of baling wire in and out the 1” openings. I then add a couple of offset layers of chicken wire to the bottom to keep burrowing critters such as pocket gophers and packrats out.
Set your cage on a nice level spot and line the lowest 8” with rags or old Tee shirts. This keeps the soil from falling out the sides when you add it. Some folks just pack some straw around the inner edge of the circle before adding the dirt but I find using rags works better for me.
Add 8” of well composted, loamy, lump free dirt. Put a cap on the male end of your soaker hose and coil about a third of its length around in the dirt layer as you go. I use wire landscape staples to keep the hose in place as I coil it. Coil the rest of the length of soaker hose loosely around the interior perimeter of the wire cage and leave the female end dangling outside the top of the cage.
Plant your potatoes 6” deep and at least 8-10” apart. I start them at least 4” inside the perimeter of the wire.
Hook up a hose to your soaker hose and water until the soil is evenly moist. Or, at this stage you can simply water with a watering can or spray attachment from above.
As your potatoes break through the surface of the soil and begin to grow use the soaker hose to water them—again keeping them evenly moist. Once the plants are up I stop watering them from above as top watering can lead to disease.
Once your plants are 8” tall add a layer of straw, leaving just a few top leaves showing. The technical name for this practice is mounding. Coil about a third of your soaker hose into this layer as you go. I’ve found a 50-foot length of soaker hose is about right for a 3-foot diameter tower as you’ll coil about 16 feet of hose in each layer.
When your plants have grown another 8-10” mound them with straw once again. At this point you will be at the top of your 24” tall tower. Keep the soil evenly moist and allow the plants to grow, mature and flower. Note: during the three to four months your spuds are maturing in your tower or bag the straw will begin to compact and decay so you will have to add a bit to keep the topmost potatoes from being exposed to sunlight and turning green. Do NOT EVER eat the green pieces of potatoes as they taste bitter and are somewhat toxic.
Potatoes will begin forming about two weeks after flowering. I prefer to leave them in the ground as long as I can to allow them to get bigger. Here in AZ I will start harvesting anywhere from 85 to 120 days after planting (depending upon the variety). That means potatoes I plant in early March will usually have developed into nice sized bakers by late May to Mid-June. Note: the tops of my plants will usually NOT have died back by this time. If I leave them in the ground too long the spuds I intend to eat will start sprouting and sending up new plants. It’s one of the problems of growing cool weather plants here in the desert.
For those of you who can’t plant a crop until late April or even May you might not be harvesting until October. And since we are talking primarily about grow bags and potato towers here it’s good to keep in mind that, if you live someplace that truly has winter, potatoes grown in such ways will freeze faster than those grown in the ground.
Some folks here in the desert SW don’t plant potatoes until June or July so they can get a fall crop. Some who grow them in spring as I do will plant a second crop in June or July. Since potatoes are a cool season crop, I haven’t had much luck doing that, but hey, experiment in your own locale. Maybe it will work for you.
My next experiment will be growing potatoes in grow bags inside our spa room during the winter months. This is an unheated room that is surrounded on three sides by exterior walls of our U-shaped home. The forth wall is only screened in and therefore is basically open to the outside. The room is half roofed with regular shingles and half with clear polycarbonate plastic. So it’s sort of an unheated greenhouse. It currently holds an 800-gallon spa (thus “spa room”) that I will eventually convert to an Aquaponics system. It gets far too warm in summer to grow anything but it stays at a decent temperature for growing cool weather crops in the winter. I can use artificial lighting to solve the short days problem winter poses. If the experiment works, I will have solved the problem of not being able to store enough potatoes to make it through the winter and have seed potatoes left over for spring planting. We’ll see.
Curing Potatoes
There are two ways to cure potatoes. The first is to clean them off. I don’t mean wash them, just get rid of the dirt and straw clinging to them. Then place them in single layers in paper bags or cardboard boxes and store them in an unheated room or garage for ten days to two weeks. If the room has very high humidity and holds a temperature of 55-65 degrees that is ideal.
The second method is In-Ground curing. A couple of weeks prior to harvesting I stop watering. This allows the skins of your potatoes to “cure” or toughen up before harvest. Often the lack of water will cause the tops to die off during this period, but if they don’t I cut them down. The original idea behind allowing potatoes to cure was that tougher hides help prevent damage when digging them. Tougher hides also help them stay fresher longer in storage.
One of the main advantages to growing spuds in grow bags and wire cage towers is that you don’t have to dig them at all. I just spread out a tarp and dump the contents of a bag or cage onto it. Then it’s just a matter of sorting through the straw and dirt to pick out your tubers.
Another advantage is that if you want to you can harvest new potatoes simply by “digging” your hands through the straw and removing them without digging up and disturbing the entire plant.
If you live someplace that actually has winter, you can and should wait for the tops of your potatoes to die back and wither as this will give you a crop that has completely matured.
Whichever method you use, after they’ve cured it’s a good idea to sort them and remove any with damage, green areas, soft spots or open cuts for immediate use—just cut out the green parts or soft areas before consuming them. The rest can be moved to storage.
Storing Potatoes
When I harvest potatoes I do not wash them as some gardeners recommend. Instead I gently brush the dry dirt and straw off of them (remember I stopped watering so they could cure) then lay them in a single layer on top of a bed of dry sand in several low plastic boxes that slide under the bed in our guest bedroom. I do that because I don’t have a root cellar or any place except the inside of my home that stays below 75 degrees. Remember, I’m harvesting in June so it’s too hot outside to store them in a garage (ours isn’t air-conditioned) or storage shed.
When I’m storing potatoes in the guest room I put a 1 ½” thick piece of Styrofoam, into the bedroom window to block out light and keep the room dark, as darkness is also a requirement for long term storage.
I’d love to be able to store potatoes in a dark, dry room at a temperature of 40-50 degrees, but until I rent a backhoe and dig and build a root cellar (it’s on my list) I’ll simply have to do the best I can.
I’ve considered buying an old fridge, setting it at 40 degrees and using it as a temporary root cellar, but then I’ve added the expense of running another fridge and I already use two. This inability to cure and store them at proper temperatures means I’ve never yet been able to save potatoes through the winter for use as seed the next spring. Solving this problem was the genesis of the “grow them in the spa room” idea discussed above.
When the weather outside finally turns cold (which sometimes doesn’t happen until January or February) I’ve been tempted to bury any potatoes I still have in the ground and let mother nature be my icebox. It simply doesn’t get cold enough here for me to worry about them freezing if they are buried and the bed is mulched with straw. But I haven’t done that yet—mostly, I’ll admit, because we love potatoes so much we tend to eat them up. Also, by that time I’m growing winter crops and my raised beds are full.
Aside from having a cool, dry place for storage the length of time your potatoes will last depends upon the variety. Red spuds won’t last as long as yellow or white skinned types. Thick skinned Russets will keep longer than thin skinned Yukon Golds. So if you grow different kinds of potatoes consume the ones with thin skins first.
Tip: Never store potatoes near apples or any other fruit as the gases they give off while ripening will cause your spuds to sprout. If you do want your tubers to sprout—as many folks do prior to planting, then place them next to apples and a window or fluorescent light. The practice of sprouting your seed potatoes before planting them is known as “chitting” and it’s a good thing to do. I’ve had my best success at getting heavy crops when I chitted my seed potatoes.
As I said above I’ve learned not to top water my plants as it encourages disease. If you see a diseased plant pull it immediately and do not put it in your compost pile. The most common diseases are viruses and these are most often introduced to your soils by poor cultural practices—not rotating crops, not using certified disease free seed potatoes, failure to remove volunteer plants, irregular watering that leads to cracked soil and not planting your seed potatoes deep enough (here in the desert at least 6” and in other, moister places a minimum of 3”).
So if you water regularly at ground level, plant deep enough, rotate your crops, used disease free seed potatoes and pull volunteer, you should get a disease free crop—which is really important if you plan to save seed potatoes for the following year.
The most common diseases effecting potatoes are Common Scab, Early Blight, Late Blight and Mosaic Virus.
Common Scab is caused by a fungus that will live in your soil practically forever. It’s inactive if your soil it too acidic (pH below 5.4). Some folks recommend adding wood ashes to your soil to reduce pH but I’m unconvinced this works. I favor adding sulfur to do the trick. Potatoes love a pH between 5.5 and 6.5 though they will grow well even in pH 7.0 soils. So if you reduce your soil’s pH to the point it will inhibit scabs it might not grow your spuds very well anyhow. My advice if you have this problem is to rotate your crops so you don’t grow potatoes there for several years.
Early Blight shows up as small dark spots on your foliage that can grow larger and kill leaves. It’s most common in Eastern, Southern and Central States where humidity and excess rainfall are problems. Using certified disease free seed potatoes and mulching with straw can keep Early Blight at bay.
Late Blight commonly appears during cold, wet weather, when leaves begin turning brown or black. The Downy Mildew fungus causes it and if the weather warms up after plants are infected the stuff can spread rapidly and drastically reduce production. A fungicide such as Potato Dust is the most effective treatment. Here in the SW we don’t see much of this disease because we’re too dry. Most seed supply houses carry fungicides—though you can make one yourself out of one gallon of water, ½ teaspoon of Dawn or other bleach free detergent and 2 tablespoons of baking soda. It isn’t very effective against the more virulent forms of Late Blight but it helps with lesser fungal diseases.
Perhaps the best way to avoid any fungal disease is to treat your seed potatoes and the soil they are planted in with Bonide Garden Dust Insecticide and Fungicide. It’s listed as an organic, eco-friendly product. The active ingredient for the insecticide is pyrethrin, the fungicide comes from sulfur and copper.
I’ve never personally used the stuff as fungal diseases are uncommon in my area.
One of the reasons I like Kennebec potatoes is their resistance to Mosaic Virus. The disease shows up as curling two-toned leaves (light and dark green). It’s usually spread by aphids so keeping them off your plants is the best prevention.
Insect Pests
One of the worst “bugs” you can get is potato tuberworms. The problem with them is the plant up above ground can look perfectly healthy while the worms are drilling crap filled holes into your crop. Aside from digging some tubers and seeing if they are infested, the easiest way to tell if you’ve got a problem is to use Pheromone baited sticky traps-- http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/P/I-LP-POPE-TR.003.html to see if any tuberworm moths show up in them.
The best way to prevent an infestation is with proper cultural practices as outlined above.
Biological controls like braconid wasps will kill tuberworm larvae without hurting beneficials such as lady bugs, preying mantis or earthworms. They come in many types so when you’re ordering them online be sure you get the kind that works best against the pest you are fighting. Different kinds of brachonids prey on tomato hornworms, tobacco hornworms, beetles, coddling moths, corn borers, army worms, weevils, caterpillars, stink bugs, aphids and squash bugs. Yippee! Let’s attract these beasties to our gardens. Right?
Braconid wasps are tiny (1/4 inch or less) and like all parasitic wasps they sting their prey and lay eggs inside their victims. When the larvae hatch they consume the prey. A nasty way to die, I’m sure, but nature is not a kindly mother. Nature is venom, fang and claw.
Braconids like small, open-floret flowers that have some nectar. Dill, Fennel, Cilantro and Mint are good choices for attracting them to your garden. Allysum is also a good choice. I’ve seen them in plenty on carrot flowers, yarrow and white clover, asters and daisies. Leaving a few stalks of broccoli standing will provide shelter for braconids during winter and the next spring you will have fewer cabbage worms and cabbage loopers. Parasitic wasps also like it if you place a few containers of water in your garden. Birdbaths will work but I just use old Frisbees or saucers.
You can order braconids and other parasitic wasps from
https://www.arbico-organics.com/product/moth-egg-parasites-trichogramma-platneri/pest-solver-guide-caterpillars-moths and
https://www.planetnatural.com/product/trichogramma-wasps/ and
https://www.buglogical.com/trichogramma/ which is likely where I’ll be getting mine.
The wasps I’m ordering this year are ichneumonid and chalcid (Trichogramma Platneri since I’m West of the Rockies) wasps as they both prey on corn earworms, cutworms, hornworms and cabbage worms. If I can afford it (these bugs aren’t cheap) I’ll also get some beneficial nematodes. If you live East of the Rockies you want Trichogramma Pretiosum. The only problem with using parasitic wasps to control insect pests is timing the release properly. It’s a good idea to put out sticky traps and see when your moth populations are peaking so you’ll know when to release them. . Native braconid wasps already live in and around my garden but I need more. Let’s hear it for biological warfare.

Follow up NOTE: many of the wasps websites I've linked to above are either out of stock or don't sell Trichogramma Platner. All of them say to wait to order the wasps until you know you need them because they will hatch in just a few days after your receive them. So, you can't simply order a supply to have on hand--unless you have plenty of the right kinds of flowers (like I mentioned above) for them to feed on until their preferred insect hosts show up.
I use BT “San Diego” every year and it has proven somewhat effective in limiting hornworm, highly effective against potato beetle, but less so against corn earworm. This particular BT will not harm beneficial insects such as honey bees, parasitic wasps and lady bugs. I haven’t been able to find this product (which seems to have been replaced by Spinosad) for a few years now, so I’m hoarding my remaining supply
Other well-known potato pests are Potato Beetle, Aphids, Flea Beetles and wireworms.
Hand picking seems to work best for controlling Potato Beetles, but if they get out of control I bring out the BT San Diego and let fly.
Soapy sprays (non insecticidal) will work on aphids, though aphidius and aphilinus parasitic wasps work well too.
Lightweight row covers will repel flea beetles while plant are young (which is when they are most susceptible to damage).
Wireworms are click beetle larvae. They are usually only a problem if your garden was recently covered with sod. They are best controlled with braconid wasps, but if your garden is heavily infested you’ll have to get hold of your local Agricultural Extension Agent for advice on how to take care of them. My advice is to simply start growing potatoes in tower cages or grow bags and avoid the issue. That covers how to take care of most problems organically.
But if all else fails, I WILL fall back on chemical warfare. I hate doing it, even with products like Safer, Spinosad Entrust or Neem Oil that don’t harm beneficials, but I’m NOT putting in all the work to grow my own food only to see it disappear into insect gullets.
That’s it for potato growing in Grow Bags and Towers. I’ll see you next month when the topic will be How To Make Your Soil More Fertile.

Now here are the links to Duane and my War Corps terrorist thrillers. 



American Jihad



And when you've read them, please, PLEASE, give them a review. I know it takes a few minutes of your time to do so but without reviews we indie authors vanish like chimney smoke in a stiff wind.

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