May 172017
 

how to tackle the challenges of a less than perfect garden collage

Each garden is unique in its challenges and abilities.  That is part of the fun, and frustration, of gardening.

Add in to this the fact that each gardener is different – desiring different things from their garden, using it differently, and having different abilities and time with which to dedicate their skills.  This is where we often find ourselves growing or letting go.

With our new yard, I was looking forward to a younger yard, one where perhaps the need to water and increase soil nutrients would be the biggest worries.

I was wrong.

While the previous owner took great care of the inside of the house, I can say with a fair amount of certainty that the outdoors were not where a lot of time was spent.  If there was time spent there, it was not on landscaping or improving soil quality.

The first time  I mowed was about 3 weeks after it should have been done.  It actually needed mowed the week I had surgery, the week after we had just taken a family vacation … it was not happening.  I had assumed I would be up for the task after a week or so of recovery.

Wrong again.

In order to mow the new yard, I had to load our non-selfpropelled lawn mower into the back of my car and drive it over there.  Then I had to unload it and push it around the yard.

“Take it easy and let others do things for you,” said the doc.  In other words, no lifting or pushing.  I assumed with it being the beginning of the season, I could get away with a few weeks off.

Wrong again.

By the time I was able to get to the lawn, here is what the backyard looked like:

new yard initial

Not exactly a monoculture of grass.  I was thankful it had not reached what I dub the “hay-mowing stage”, where all the grass is a lush 3 feet tall and you may as well buy a goat.

The weeds were/are still abundant and growing at a wonderful rate.  The soil you can see will easily tell you that topsoil is sorely missing.  Certain parts of the yard are getting too much water, while other sections are not getting enough sun. Other parts are doing great in regards to sun and water, but also have some serious weeds (beyond the standard crabgrass, dandelions, etc.)

So much for being an easy, challenge-free yard to begin our gardening adventure at the new house.

wet shaded yard initial

How are we going to tackle these challenge and turn them into something which will be productive and an asset?  While I do not have all the answers right at this moment, I do know one thing – small steps add up to big changes.

With that in mind I have decided to do those small steps, focusing on places where I can initially make the biggest impact or where the issue is something which can be handled quickly.  These small, high impact steps will help keep me moving forward.

#1 Choose a place to start, something which will make the biggest impact

First up – regular mowing, blowing the grass clippings back on the yard, as well as beginning a late spring garden.

By starting here I can remove one of the largest visual challenges.  It may not be the toughest thing to fix, but it will help me start feeling like the end is not impossible.

Also, by mowing, I am keeping this aspect from becoming a larger issue as the weeks pass.

Looking at planting calendars from my state’s colleges, I noticed it was not too late to start some of the vegetables we like.  What I did not have time for was to build a raised bed.

While out shopping one day, I noticed stacks of potting soil next to the cash registers.  I picked up a bag (and later another one), took it home and planted seeds. (more details to come).  This is probably the smallest garden I have had in over a decade.  Not really an issues, as I am not looking to provide all of our vegetables for the year.  My goal was to have a few fresh things now without causing too much work.

In a few months I will look into creating a late summer/fall garden.

to be continued …

May 152017
 

cup of matcha latte

I am always on the look-out for new recipes and foods to try.  Unfortunately, that does not always mean I have time or the ingredients to test them out.  However, I try to keep my eyes open for things that will fit into our menu in the upcoming weeks.

Sometimes, something catches my eye and begs me to get it then figure out what to do with it.  While this is not the normal way I function, it does happen rarely.

This was one of those times.

match tea powder

As you may have picked up over the past several weeks, I like a cup of hot tea.  Usually a red or black tea, preferably nothing fruity.  Knowing green tea is also good for you, I had picked up a box a few months back with the intent to add it to my mornings.

I didn’t.  It sat there mocking me on the shelf every time I opened the door.

Once I began having a cup of tea in the mornings, while watching the sun rise, I decided it was time to open the box of green tea and let some of the natural benefits work their magic on my healing body.  As it turns out, while it is not necessarily my preferred tea, it was not bad.  Actually, I was beginning to like the flavor.

When I was given the opportunity to try out Matcha (ground green tea powder) I decided it was a safe, yet exciting, step to take into trying something new.  “I like green tea, so … surely I can find some way to make this so I like it, too. After all, it has a lot of health benefits and I have not exactly been going to the gym lately.”

And find a way I did.

Thanks to their website I found a recipe for a green tea latte.  How great is that? Not only does it call for matcha powder, but it also contains coconut oil.  AND it is a latte.  I love lattes.

making matcha tea

While the recipe was for a Bulletproof Keto Matcha Latte, I did not need all the restrictions. In the end, I did make a few adjustments due to not having certain items or not needing certain dietary restrictions.

  1. I had no coconut milk in the house, instead substituting regular Vitamin D milk.
  2. With a lack of a milk frother, I found my hand blender to work well enough for my tastes.  Thankfully I am not a huge fan of froth on my drinks, so the results were exactly as I like them.

bulletproof matcha tea latte

One of my concerns was the size of the packaging.  For the price, I was expecting something larger.  However, once I looked through the recipe and found I would only need 0.5-1 teaspoon of the powder, I realized how many cups this would make and the size was not such an issue.

If this is something you often order when you are out and about, at $4 a cup, or would like to keep as a special treat or a healthy alternative, then I could see where it would be a good deal.

If, however, you are looking to make several cups a day because you are an avid tea drinker and want to watch your costs, then you may want to counter the cost with a few cups of a cheaper option of tea.

If cost is not a deterrent to making several cups a day, then go for it! It was easy to put together and the coconut oil did not clump once the drink cooled off. (I was not in an extremely cold setting.)

 

This post contains affiliate links.

May 132017
 

concrete flower container with pic borderContests. Giveaways. Sweepstakes.  No matter what you call them, these little gems can be fun to enter.  It is even better when you win and open your mailbox to find something besides bills.

However, in order to win, you must know about them and enter them.  While I can help a little bit with the first step, the second one is up to you!

Here are some giveaways from around the web. A few things these giveaways have in common:

  1. A garden theme
  2. They are open at some point in this month, though closing dates vary

I try to also have these common themes, though that is not always the case:

  1. They are not on major commercial sites
  2. The majority do not have thousands of entries (so the chance of winning it higher for you)

I hope you find something that peaks your interest.

IMG_20140706_125450329

SEWCIAL BEE SAMPLER

“Julie at The Intrepid Thread is offering a $20 gift certificate to spend however you’d like at her shop!” Enter now through Monday, May 15th!

 Cottage Garden Collection Fat Quarter Bundle

With a review like this, how can you not want to find a craft in order to use these prints? – “The Cottage Garden Fat Quarter Bundle will give you those cozy feelings with prints of woodland animals, ladybugs, strawberries, and other whimsical details.”  Ends May 21, 2017 at 11:59:59 p.m. Eastern Time.  Note: there are a lot of ads to skip or click “No” on to get to the confirmation page.  You will get there though without having to say yes to any of the offers.

Everything’s Coming Up Roses Giveaway

“Enter to win a Proven Winners Rose Garden package featuring the At Last Rose, Oso Easy Double Red Rose and Oso Petit Pink Rose and Dave Thompson’s Organic Healthy Grow fertilizer to get your plants off to a great start!” Ends May 21. 2017 at 11:59pm CT. Open to legal U.S. residents of IL, IN, IA, MI or WI who are 18 years or older.

Sharpen your seed skills with Botanical Interests & $50 gift card giveaway!

“…you can buy your seed anywhere from the local garden center to the grocery store or even in bulk at a farmer’s market. But it’s quality over quantity today as we sift through seed. That’s why we are over the moon excited to have partnered with Botanical Interests and for your chance to win a $50 gift card from them to choose your own seed.”  Ends May 31, 2017

Nifty Homestead Giveaway – May 2017

“Spring is officially here and with summer right around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about tomatoes. We love tomatoes so much that we wanted to do something a little special this year and make sure that you’re all set for the fruitful season ahead!” – Ends May 31, 2017

 

If you know of others, please leave a comment below. I will check it out and add it, if appropriate.

May 092017
 

Schoola.com

Earlier this week I went through the kids’ clothes with them, paring down on excess, passing along 2+ paper sacks of clothes no longer needed, and looking for where we needed to fill in.  With the weather all over the place, I had to leave out both cool and warm weather clothing.  Thankfully it was still cool, as I found 4 more pairs of next-size-up pants for George in our clothing totes.  However, he only had 2 pairs of shorts which would fit him. Yikes!

Buying ahead and also second-hand are two ways we are able to keep our clothing budget in check.  This is especially important with one kid who likes to change sizes quickly and is 4 sizes ahead of his (not much) younger brother.

Schoola has been a sanity-saver more than once.  We have always been impressed with the quality of their clothing, their honesty in the condition of each item, the shipping times, and the knowledge that our purchase is helping a school raise funds for various programs.

Currently, Schoola is running an early Mother’s Day savings event – Happy Mother’s Day! Get 50% off with code MOM at Schoola.com. Offer is valid 5/10-5/14.*

Know someone who would be as excited as you are about this deal?  Send a friend $15 off to shop the amazing deals on children’s clothes at Schoola.com and you’ll get $15 off too. Shop now!

And don’t forget, orders of $25 or more always qualify for free shipping!

*Fine print: Discounts and credits do not apply toward the free shipping threshold or promotional minimums. Discounts are applied to the post-credit order value. New-with-tags items are not eligible for purchase with discounts or credits.

 

This post contains affiliate links.  If you click through and purchase something, we will receive a small amount in return, at no added cost to you.

May 082017
 

strawberry plants may 6 2014

After reading up on some farming/gardening news from around the world, I was beginning to feel, well, depressed about the state of things currently taking place.  Hence why I often avoid the news.

This article, however, left such an uplifting, positive feeling; I want to get up and get to work in the yard, changing what is currently there into something which will actually be useful (beyond looking pretty).

Farms like Ms. Bates’s, in addition to more traditional farmland, have been around for quite some time. Thomas Whitlow, an associate professor of horticulture who specializes in urban plants at Cornell University, Ms. Bates’s alma mater, said that in the 1940s some 40 percent of fresh market produce in New York was grown in victory gardens. – A Staten Island Urban Farmer

May 032017
 

god made rainy days quote

I should be mowing the yard ahead of the rain.

I should be planting beans ahead of the rain.

I should be making sure everything is in order outside, ahead of the rain.

I should be grocery shopping ahead of the … no wait.  I need to shop because we are almost out of milk.

What I am doing is paying bills … not ahead of the rain, but because they are due. A much better reason than the rain.

While doing so I emailed a question to our insurance person, which then led to me “clearing out a few emails”.  You know how the rest goes.

What I came across was something I thought might interest a few of you – it is not gardening related, but a free offer that might help you in your parenting or working on school with your kids.  No looonnnnngggg drive required.

From May 8 – 23, the GHC is offering a free online home school convention for parents of 5-12 year olds. (They are not going to card you, so if your kids are out of that age range, you are still welcome to “attend”.)

“But I am not  a home schooling parent. I have absolutely no interest in home schooling.”

That may be true, but there are several talks which may interest you anyway.  I find that these are not only useful in the schooling we do at home, but also in helping with homework and parenting in general.

There are two options for this online convention:

  1. The FREE option which allows you to see a session for up to 2 days.  If that does not seem like enough time, the second option may appeal to you.
  2. Get Lifetime-All Access for $99.  The talk will be available to you at your convenience, as well as having access to pdf summaries of all convention sessions.

The GHC online convention website outlines which talks are happening on each day, with Sundays having a break, which will help you plan your time wisely.  They also offer more information on each talk and the attendance options available.

I have not attended this online version before, but look forward to seeing how it compares to the in person one we attended a few weeks back.  While the session offerings are not a diverse, the convenience and price can not be beat.

 

May 022017
 

The May flowers are here, and Swagbucks has brought a $5 bonus!

When you sign up through me this month, you can earn a $5 bonus! Here’s how:

1. Sign up using this link

2. Earn 300 SB total before 6/1/17. You’ll get a $3 (300 SB) bonus for it!

3. If you spend at least $25 through Swagbucks Shop* you’ll get another $2 (200 SB) bonus on top of the cash back you’ll get from shopping. If you have some shopping to do online, just go to Swagbucks first and visit the store through them. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, but you’ll get SB points for every dollar you spend (on top of the bonus)!

Swagbucks is a rewards site where you earn points (called SB) for things you’re probably doing online already, like searching, watching videos, discovering deals, and taking surveys. Then you take those points and exchange them for gift cards to places like Amazon, Starbucks, Walmart, Target, or PayPal cash.

That’s it. It’s super easy, and Swagbucks is for real. I use it myself, and I’ve earned $55 (5582 SB) in the first 3 months of the year.  This is a bit lower than I normally would have earned, though almost a month of that time I was out unable to do my normal activities.  I also did very few surveys and no free trials, both of which can be sources of larger SB earnings. (You do not have to complete surveys or trials in order to earn SB; it is only one option.  There is also no tracker which you must download.  Earning is as easy as logging into their site and choosing which activities you would like to complete.)

The SB were redeemed for PayPal and Amazon gift cards, resulting in home school materials purchased for this upcoming year, as well as replacing a broken radio in our home.  Every little bit helps and begins to add up, especially when I can do these things without having to leave home or interrupt a large portion of my day.

*You must receive your shopping SB before July 1st (I think they mean June 1st, but I will check to make sure on this detail.)

This post contains affiliate links.  As a referral, I receive a small amount of bonus SB whenever you also complete activities and earn SB.  These help me continue to purchase items for our schooling and home needs.

May 022017
 

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, Swagbucks had a fun team challenge to help you earn SB from Swagbucks!  Yes, this part of my life has now extended to all parts of my life.  No longer am I restricted to only hearing about this for hours a day while Jack retells step by step the movies, t.v. shows, and games.  It is a good thing I like it as well, though not as intently as he does apparently.

For those of you who don’t know what Swagbucks is, it’s a website where you can earn cash back on everyday tasks you do online like shopping, answering surveys, discovering deals, and watching videos. You can even earn for searching the web!

If you’ve never tried Swagbucks before because you didn’t know where to begin, their Team Challenges are a great way to learn the ropes! Their latest, the “Swag Wars” Team Challenge, begins Monday, May 1st at 8am PT.
Here’s how you can join the challenge and the site:  

1. Click here to join the challenge and be assigned to a team.

2. Starting May 1st at 2pm PDT, in addition to earning SB you’ll contribute points to your teams total as you complete different activities on Swagbucks.

3. Check back on the page often to see the scores and what you’ve contribute so far.   

All members who participate and contribute at least 400 points to their team’s total will receive a SB bonus in the form of a SB Swag Up Rebate on their next gift card!

Not only that, but if you earn 300 SB before May 1st, you’ll get a 300 SB bonus (as long as you’ve signed up under me)!

Members of the 1st place team will receive a 50 SB Swag Up Rebate, members of the 2nd place team will receive a 35 SB Swag Up Rebate, members of the 3rd place team will receive a 20 SB Swag Up Rebate, members of the 4th place team will receive a 10 SB Swag Up Rebate, and members of the 5th place team will receive a 5 SB Swag Up Rebate. Your SB Swag Up Rebate will be made available on Friday, May 5th and will expire on Wednesday, May 31st at 11:59pm PT.

May the Force be with you!

May 012017
 

child running into fountain

Did you know, if I do not post for 4 days, the number of readers on this blog goes down?  Surprising, right?!

Okay, not so much.

With an award winning post title like the one above, I am sure the numbers will go up today … okay, probably not. 😉

Seems I am 0 for 2 today on the blog!

Speaking of the blog, I have either been very much here or very much not as of late.  To say this past month has not gone as I planned it would be an understatement. I apologize for the inconvenience of not knowing.  It really is an area I am trying to work on.

rose bush thorns

After taking our lllloooooooonnnnngggg trip last week to the home school conference, my body decided the experience was too much stress.  It then reacted accordingly for this whole past week.  When I had finally thought I was past being stressed from all the changes and the surgery, I reverted back to being exhausted and nauseous for several hours each day.

It was not as bad as it was previously, but enough to be annoying and greatly slow down my days. I had to be mindful of what I chose to do each day – one big thing and two smaller things.  Everything else on the list happened if I had the energy.

If I tried to do more, I paid for it the next day – best to stick with what worked and move at a turtle’s pace.  Hence, no posts toward the end of the week; they did not make the list. 😉

I think I have mentioned before what I do to help lower my stress levels when my body reacts this way.  In case you did not see it, and ever face something similar, here are a few of the steps I take to combat the feelings before they lead to larger issues (been there, done that; it isn’t fun):

  1. Eat breakfast twice – first one is smaller, focusing on getting something in me, preferably a protein, and immediately upon waking.
  2. Get outside. Nature calms you, even if intermixed with car sounds.  If no birds are around, download and play nature sounds, though the real thing is better.
  3. Drink green tea.
  4. Go for a walk. Even if it is only in circles around your deck. (Useless fact – 115 laps around my deck equals a mile…Make sure to switch direction every so often.)
  5. Get sunshine on you. Vitamin D can help you feel better.
  6. Don’t worry about the smaller stuff. Your kid wants to take his lunch box and cold pack to school so his water bottle at snack time is cold? Say, Yes, and move on.
  7. Listen to the Bible audio version style, since you are up at 4:30 a.m. anyway. (Amazon has mp3 versions you can play on an app or your computer. Some are free if you have a Prime account.)
  8. Read a book, unless it makes you dizzy, then go back to #7.
  9. Go to bed early.  My body has been waking up at 4:30 a.m., no matter the time I go to bed.  However, being tired makes me feel even worse the next day …. so, 8:30 p.m. bedtime it is.
  10. If you do happen to wake up at say 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. or any other o-dark-thirty time and your stomach won’t stop turning so you can sleep … drink a cup of water.  Maybe even take an antacid chew-able.  Water can do a lot to help our bodies heal themselves.
  11. Distract yourself.  After a few days of whining internally, I found that getting out of the house and talking about something completely different really helped.  Don’t push it too much, but start focusing on other completely unrelated items for a time.

My husband thinks I am too complicated, having these ‘rules’ in place.  He prefers to spend several hours at the gym.  Normally I would agree.  However, that is not always possible and I needed to find things to help while still being at home, schooling, parenting, and trying to keep the house running.

What he did do to help was take a kid or two out for activities, even when I did not feel like going.  “Walking around in 88 degree weather while looking at art? You go right ahead; I will stay home and play a board game.”

He also gave me grace when I did not have the energy to do the dishes at the end of the day.  Our dishwasher is broken and I had been doing them by hand.  Not a big deal, but when you feel like you might fall asleep in the middle of washing a cup … the dishes can wait till the next day.

spring flower collage

Today, I am feeling better.  I woke up at 4:30 a.m. (again), drank some water, went back to sleep till 6.  Woke up feeling not-nauseous, ate breakfast, got everyone ready for their day, then went to an IEP meeting.  I seem to have gone to one each month since the beginning of the year.  The joys of moving states and school districts.

I plan to grab lunch out, once this post is finished, before going to carpet stores to get some samples.

The goal is to be in the new house in June.  New carpet is really the only thing we wanted to have done before we move in.  With no furniture currently in the house, this is the perfect time to do so.

While it needed to be done, there were other Big Items on my to-do list (spring break, surgery, updating insurances, grocery shopping…getting better) which needed to be done first.  Now that those are over, and I was able to get a person out to measure, we are now moving on to actually choosing something.

I have slowly been taking items over and unpacking them, though nothing large at this point.

Last week I did grab a bag of potting mix to start some seeds/transplants in this upcoming week.  While I may have missed several vegetable planting times, there are others that are still able to be started.  I waited till after the storms went through and cooler weather was forecast for a few days.  Hoping it works out.

I did consult the growing calendars for my state and realized my best bet is a late summer/fall garden.  Not a bad idea at this point as the yard has NO current garden or beds.  If I had nothing else happening,  I could focus on building them, but for now, I do what I can with what we have*.

Something I have been doing is watching YouTube videos concerning gardening.  One that stuck out to me last night was called “Why We Are Not Doing BACK TO EDEN Gardening”.  The premise was the same as I came to for any sort of permanent garden right now – I would rather some something growing than have it exactly how I ideally would like to have it but not grow anything this year.  In other words, something is better than nothing.

*In case that sounds too much like giving up before starting, I wanted to clarify – I have plans, new things to try for our different zone, different yard, and different challenges.  The something I am going to have is the first step in trying to overcome one two of the biggest challenges, very poor soil and lack of time to focus solely on gardening.  This is one method others have used with success, so I am starting there while researching more solutions.