Feb 132017
 

Chickens in Pen 2

I am continuing to go through draft posts, things I had started and not finished.  While this is a few year old, the topic is as relevant today as it was then … well, except I do not live in the same area any more … I may have to make contentions with others and start my own Farm Market Swap this year.

Last week my friend sent me an inviataion for this year’s Farm Market Swap.  Now to come up with ideas of what to take.

Last year I was not sure what to expect, so I took several of most things I canned.  Of course I left what we needed to make it through this year.  Turns out I took way too much.  Guess to much is better than not enough.

This year I decided to not take as much stuff.  Instead I will take a bit of two or three things.  To keep it interesting for everyone I am looking for things that are a bit more unusual.

Here are some ideas I have come across:

Chocolate Cherry Sauce (she talks about how this is not a low acid)

Chocolate Raspberry Sauce

Blackberry Syrup

*********************************************************

In the end I made Blackberry Syrup.  I made so much we are still using it on pancakes and waffles.  That is, we are using it once I remember to get out a new jar when the current one is empty.

The Chocolate Raspberry Sauce is something I tried, but chose not to take.  It came out too thick and not raspberry enough for my tastes.

blackberry bushes bloom

When we moved, the idea of doing anything like this seemed like an impossible feat.  What has happened this past week, though, has changed my thinking on this.

Friday, Jack and I joined a group of home schoolers for a party.  While the kids were playing, we mom began talking.

As it turns out, not only have we been blessed to live in an area with other CM home schoolers, but also ladies who like to garden, sew, cook, raise animals ….  by the fall, I think I may be ready to try something like this with these women.  Of course, others are always invited.  The more the merrier.

 

Have you attended something like this before?  What were your experiences?

Feb 092017
 

This post contains affiliate links.  Prices are constantly changing, but these were the prices when I first found them.

Growing Through Reading

Here are 3 ebook deals happening right now, all for under $3 each, to help satisfy your gardening desires. Or maybe to help you begin a new project or learn something new.  Just like plants, our brains and souls need stimulation and nourishment in order to grow.  Reading does this in so many way – fiction or non-fiction, electronically or on paper, in your main language or one you are trying to learn – reading not only  helps you learn new things (or take you to far away places), it also helps your brain grow and strengthen.

While I would love for you to spend hours reading through old post on this site, here are 4 books I think you would prefer. (While these are also available in paper versions for a bit more, the links below are to the ebook versions.)

Square Foot Gardening with Kids: Learn Together: – Gardening basics – Science and math – Water conservation – Self-sufficiency – Healthy eating (All New Square Foot Gardening)

” In Square Foot Gardening with Kids, Mel reveals all of the tips, tricks, and fun projects he has used over the decades in one of his most cherished pursuits: teaching youngsters to build and grow their own kid-sized SFGs.”

Square Foot Gardening was one of the pivoting influences to get me into using raised beds.  While I still mix several various methods in my gardening, it is easy to see the influences this has had.


Practical Projects for Self-Sufficiency: DIY Projects to Get Your Self-Reliant Lifestyle Started

Inside are 25 various projects, ones that you do not necessarily need a lot of room for, but which could benefit you.  Personally, I think the cider press looked very useful, something I wish I had done 5 years ago. Now that I have more free brain cells to use, this looks like a good project to do with the kids. (They love to work and build with wood.)

If I am going to grow herbs, it would be nice to be able to dry them … and I am going to need a new compost bin, no matter which home we move into (none seems to have one) ….


Gardening for the Homebrewer: Grow and Process Plants for Making Beer, Wine, Gruit, Cider, Perry, and More

“Learn how to grow, dry, and store fresh hops. Or go off the beaten path and grow everything you need for your first gruit, cider, perry, or fruit wine. Have just a balcony or a windowsill? No problem! A variety of plant recommendations will suit gardeners of all types, even ones with limited space.”

When I was younger, I would admire the shelves of jars, filled with these interesting round things floating on top of liquid.  Later on I realized they were grapes.  Still later (okay, a few decades) I realized that perhaps she was making wine.  Growing up in a fairly teetotaler household, that was the last thing on my mind. 😉

I also had an uncle (same side of the family) who would often brew his own drinks.  I was in awe of how he knew to even do that.  Then I came across books like this one and realized how he knew what to do.  While some of the knowledge was passed down from one generation to the next, or local culture, other bits came from books like this.

Please enjoy responsibly.

Feb 062017
 


Adventures In Gardening yellow flower

This post contains an affiliate links and my honest experience with this particular product.

Taking chances is something gardening is all about.  It is what makes it an adventure.  Even if you never try a new technique or plant, you are taking a chance.  Gardening is not for the faint of heart.  Whenever you plant a flower, spread seeds, add a tree to your yard … you take a chance on the weather cooperating, the soil providing nutrients, deer not eating your plants … well, you get the idea.

During the 2014 spring season, I decided to take a chance on a new gardening product, Roll Out Flowers.  This particular product may not have been new to everyone else, but it was something I had not tried before.  I had heard of making plantable paper with seeds, of using damp paper towels to help spread small seeds evenly in areas, but never had I purchased such a product.  However, the kids were excited to try this and see the results.
front flower bed sunflower packet

The concept was simple, roll out the product and water.  In a given amount of times, flowers were supposed to appear.

As we lived in a place with almost constant breezes or gusts of wind, I added a bit of mulch to the top, helping hold it in place.  Later, more was added as the sun would quickly dry out the material otherwise.

I was tempted to bury it under a thin layer of mulch, but wanted to follow the directions as stated.

front flower bed may 6 2014

front flower bed 2 may 6 2014

The kids were so excited to see what would happen, checking every day to see if there were any new seeds.  Unfortunately, this method did not work for use.  Whether it was due to old seeds (I bought it during the off season) or the sun drying it out too much,  nothing sprouted from this material.  Eventually it was removed from the flower bed and replaced with other traditional seeds.

I have tried the same method with other products, and other flower types, with some success.

Have you tried this product or similar?  What results did you end up getting?

Jan 282017
 

thinking oustide the garden box books collage

This post contains affiliate links to books I would love to read this week, instead of washing the dishes or doing laundry or, well, you get the idea.  Perhaps instead you can read them and let me live vicariously through you.  If you choose to do so, please leave a comment and let me know what you thought of the book.  Actually, I have read one of the books on the list this week, which is why it is on the list.  I loved it so much that I will probably read it again … once the dishes are washed and the laundry is done. 😉 Who am I kidding, I will fall asleep tonight reading by my book light, as I always find time somewhere in the day to read at least a little something.

Push the Zone: The Good Guide to Growing Tropical Plants Beyond the Tropics (The Good Guide to Gardening Book 3) by [the Good, David]

Push the Zone: The Good Guide to Growing Tropical Plants Beyond the Tropics (The Good Guide to Gardening Book 3)

If you are looking for a new challenge or adventure in gardening, this might be the thing for you.  Meeting a plants needs leads to the results you are desiring, even if you have to artificially fulfill those needs.

My mother-in-law was great at this, being able to start and grow fruit trees several zones north of where they ‘should’ grow.  How?  She understood the need of the plant and was able to meet it.  Yes, it took a bit of extra attention.  However, she was able to reap the rewards – fruit she would otherwise have had to purchase at the store, shipped in from another country usually.

You might already know one side of your house has frost longer in the day than another part, or that the bushes on a particular side of your house grow larger than their counter parts around the corner, or perhaps you have found a particular plant will not grow at all in your yard, but the neighbor up the hill grows them so much they are a weed.  The difference could be as simple as a difference in microclimates.

I personally saw this happen with two different blackberry bushes, planted 3 feet apart.  One grew several feet higher each year than the other, due mainly to how far away from the wall of the house it was.  It happened to get an hour or so more of sun each day; everything else about their site (soil, water, impact of human traffic, etc.) was the same.  The extra sunlight created enough of a difference in the growth, and as a result the crop and spread of the second plant was much greater than the first.

Instead of taking the harder route, like I have done in the past, learn from someone who has already put in the work and research.

The author does give a disclaimer in the introduction: he can’t help you grow limes in a Minnisota backyard or find the girl of your dreams; but it may help you grow the desired plant that would grow if you were only a few hundred miles south.

All the Presidents' Gardens: Madison's Cabbages to Kennedy's Roses-How the White House Grounds Have Grown with America by [McDowell, Marta]

All the Presidents’ Gardens: Madison’s Cabbages to Kennedy’s Roses—How the White House Grounds Have Grown with America

Are you tired yet of hearing me rave about this book?  Yes, I liked it that much.

Not only did I learn about the gardens found on our presidents’ lawns, but also about gardening history, history of our country, and an appreciation for life through the past several hundred years.

Can you imagine being able to walk across the lawn of the White House?  Let alone assuming it was the public’s right to do so?  How about the President’s family keeping the family milk cow on the front lawn? Or being expected the President’s family to personally host and cook for all dignitaries and visitors, usually from their own gardens.  Things have definitely changed over the years.

The ebook version of this book is only a few dollars right now.  This would make a great clutter free, early Valentine’s Day present for yourself, or a gardener in your life. 😉

Pepper Growing: Everything You Need to Know About Peppers Growing by [Anderson, William]

Pepper Growing: Everything You Need to Know About Peppers Growing

I miss the blessing of having frozen peppers available on hand; ones I was able to either grow of buy at a local produce auction, straight from the grower.  This fact is driven home constantly as I see the current price of peppers at our local grocery stores – $1-$1.50 per pepper!

With the warmer than normal winter and a move to a warmer climate, my body is screaming “It is spring! Get planting!”  However, I know winter is not yet done.  Then I saw this book and read the begging of the introduction, “I will tell you in the following pages about different types of peppers and how you can easily grow them indoors.” (emphasis is mine)  Wait, what?!  Grow them indoors?!  Now this is definitely making my gardening brain think outside the garden box in terms of which plants I can grow in the midst of winter, inside my house.

This 37 page ebook is currently free if you have Kindle Unlimited. Otherwise it is just over $5 (i.e. 5 store-bought peppers) for an ebook and also available in paperback.  There are currently no reviews, though for a price of a few peppers, it may be worth it to check out.

And yes, my brain often thinks in gardening currency, especially if I happen to be selling or purchasing produce at that time.

Jan 252017
 

 

farmers market table selling

Selling at Farmers’ Markets can be fun and slightly addictive. The people are great and they usually have something in common, a love of gardening, or at least the fresh results from gardening.

When thinking about selling at a farmers’ market, do not feel like you have to be kept in the box of plants and fresh produce. Check with the rules of your market first, but there are many other related items you could sell.

1. Hanging gutter garden

2. Mason Jar Solar Light –   Great use for jars that you would no longer can in

3. Recycled pallet planters

4. Wind chimes – you can change these up by adjusting the decorations on top

 

What are some other items you could think of making? Are there places, beyond your Farmer’s Market, where you sell?

Jan 202017
 

This post contains affiliate links to some great reads.

growing through reading 3 books collage

The love of books and the love of gardening are not mutually exclusive, as Beatrix Potter successfully demonstrated. To that extent, here are three books which caught my eye recently.  They are each of vastly different garden topics and aspects.

Something they all have is common is they are available both in print and ebook versions.  These are also not free books, though they sound very much like something that would be worth paying for.  They also all have over 100 raving reviews, as in 98% give them 4 or 5 stars, which can often be hard to find.

The world of gardening books has taught me a lot these past few years, and these three books promise to add to that knowledge.  They are all going to be added to my reading list and hopefully consumed soon.

Beatrix Potter's Gardening Life: The Plants and Places That Inspired the Classic Children's Tales by [McDowell, Marta]

Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life: The Plants and Places That Inspired the Classic Children’s Tales

The book is divided into 4 sections; a biography of Beatrix Potter, a description of her garden through the season, a guide to visiting her gardens, and a plant list. I was familiar with Potter’s illustrations in her children’s books, but was unaware of her other artwork.. She began doing botanical illustration as the age of 10. In addition to some of Potter’s artwork, there are also photographs of Potter and her gardens, so photos taken by Potter herself and some more contemporary. I enjoyed reading a biography that did not attempt to sully the person’s reputation. This book made me want to get out in my own garden and visit Potter’s gardens if I should visit England in the future.

And the review from Not Yet Old makes me want to visit this book.

Rosemary Gladstar's Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner's Guide: 33 Healing Herbs to Know, Grow, and Use by [Gladstar, Rosemary]

Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide: 33 Healing Herbs to Know, Grow, and Use

As I look ahead to a year of growing a mobile garden, herbs were at the top of my list of plants.  I love having fresh ones to use for cooking.  To be honest, I have not explored the material on herbs and their usage as much as I could have.  I knew they could be used for medicinal purposes, but have never tried it.  This sounds like it would be just the thing to have on hand for gaining such knowledge.

The Market Gardener: A Successful Grower’s Handbook for Small-scale Organic Farming

A great reminder that one does not need vast acres to have a successful garden or farm.  Over the years I have found the best results when I look to non-traditional methods, those who look to the natural process and try to mimic it rather than fight against it.

The thing about this book that caught my eye was this sentence in the description, “Growing on just 1.5 acres, owners Jean-Martin and Maude-Helène feed more than two hundred families through their thriving CSA and seasonal market stands and supply their signature mesclun salad mix to dozens of local establishments.”  (emphasis is mine) Imagine what we can do in our small back yard garden for our family, or even perhaps our neighbors.

Since the move to a new place with a different flow and culture, I have had serious doubts about having a road side stand again.  And to be honest, I doubt I will.  I enjoyed having it, getting to know our neighbors and blessing them with produce, but it does not look like it would work as well in this setting.  It was nice to have a bit of extra income during the summer months.

Perhaps I will visit the idea again, once we are no longer renting, and do something similar to what is described in the book.  Till then, I will continue to grow in my knowledge and from the experience of others.  You  never know what you might learn.

Jan 092017
 

kids-garden

  1. Pick up discounted plants, bulbs, or seeds at the store.  After all, the house may take a while to sell and you could get in just a few more flowers or vegetables.
  2. Let the volunteer tomato plant grown and produce. Fresh tomatoes for the road is welcome any day.
  3. Visit the produce auction. You may not buy anything, but you can still visit and complain about the prices. “What?! Are the peppers made of gold?” Think of it as saying goodbye to what used to be.
  4. Mentally rearrange the annual flower plantings for next year.  “If a short trailing plant were added here ….”  Never mind that you will not be there to do anything about it, that is not the point.
  5. Add a perennial or bulb to a corner of the garden. While you may not be there to enjoy it next year, it could make someone else’s day a bit brighter. Think of it as an easy Pay-it-forward activity.
  6. Take a few seconds to glance through baskets and pots at yard sale.  Nothing may be bought, but it is still a pleasant hobby.  You never know when you might get some inspiration, and also reassurance of there always being pots and baskets at yard sales.
  7. Spend time weeding the flower bed. It may not matter next month if you pulled that last week, but it is a great way to deal with the stress going on now.  Even if the garage is filled with boxes, you will know something is in order.
  8. Process a batch of jelly.  I have to admit I did this activity, though for a specific reason.  There were several cups of zucchini in my freezer.  Not wanting to make a huge batch of muffins, I made some fresh zucchini jam to take to a Farm Market Swap.  While not all of it was swapped, it was a better use of the zucchini than tossing it in the compost pile.
  9. Slow down while driving, and glance at the potential treasures set out for free curbside. Dreaming does not cost you time or effort, and it for sure does not cost you moving fees.
  10. Feel guilty for not having planted more. This may be a personal issue which no one else deals with.  However, I really was feeling bad for not planting peas, etc.  Especially when it ended up being 5-6 months from the time I knew we were going to be moving “at some point” to the actual moving date.

While I could not foresee how long it was going to be before a move happened, and I did not have the extra time to take care of a garden, then guilt was still there.  At this point I need to focus on the good which came from this lack of gardening – using up items previously preserved as there were not free ingredients available, simplified meals, and finding new ways to save.  It also allowed me time to focus on other aspect of life.

Have there been gardening, or other, activities which you did even though you knew it was sort of a moot point?  Why did you continue to do them anyway?

Jan 022017
 

kids-garden

Having moved several times, always hours away from the previous garden, there are a few things which always automatically fall of the list of gardening activities.  While some items have to remain, after all you do not want to yard to look unkempt, here are 10 items gardeners should not do once they know they will be moving.

  1. Plan a huge garden. While they may not be able to completely avoid the urge to plant a garden, it will not be as big as previous years.
  2. Pay attention to frost dates. This is true, unless they are moving after the last frost date and want to get the most out of the garden they did plant.
  3. Pay attention to rain amounts. Again, true, unless they already planted a garden and are still reaping the benefits.  Otherwise, who cares if it rains enough to drown your tomato plants and set your peas back by a month. Or does not rain enough and would otherwise require watering to keep everything alive.
  4. Set up a watering system.  (see #3)
  5. Stress about weeds. Do not let the garden go to weeds, but there is no use trying to keep every single one away.  You will never get around to actually packing a box in preparation for the move.
  6. Go through existing seed packets, making note of what is missing for that year.  It may be easier to toss the whole lot, starting over again at the new garden.  Or, if you have a collection of heirloom seeds, do not worry about sorting them till you are preparing for the next growing season.  Seed packets do not usually take up a lot of room.  You would be better off spending your time learning about your new growing zone or soil.
  7. Inspecting pots, checking for holes and unusable pots. Unless it is an unusual pot, hold sentimental value, or already has a plant in it, you would be better off giving them away.  Unfortunately, I only followed this advice for half my pots.  Somehow the sneaky devils multiplied in my basement while I was looking at my canned goods.  While I tossed many, gave others away, and sold a few, I still ended up moving a fair amount.
  8. Spend hours looking through the latest gardening catalogs. It is too painful to realize you will not be taking advantage of the latest heirloom find or hybrid flower for the year.  Best if you just “slowly step away from the catalog” and think good thoughts about what you did last year.
  9. Scour curbside, looking for treasures to be re-purposed into trellises, containers, bird baths, garden sculptures, stepping stones, tunnels … I would think this is pretty self explanatory.  However, if you do not understand why, I suggest you take a look at moving costs.  Those ‘free’ treasures could end up costing a whole lot of your garden budget to move to a new location.
  10. Watch the latest in gardening television.  This is best left for reruns on rainy days once you get to your new place.  The urge to try out the latest project or solution will only delay you getting to your new garden.

Are there other gardening chores or habits you dropped once you knew a move was in the near future?

Dec 262016
 

kids-garden

Gardening has a lot of benefits for your health, your home, and your pocket book.  After a time, many of the activities are second nature.  Not doing them seems contrary to our personalities.

When a move is in the near future, these automatic activities take on a different look.  For example, instead of making sure there is enough spaghetti sauce to last through till the next year, calculations are made to see how much you can use up before having to pay to move it.  (It would probably be cheaper to buy organic sauce once you get to your new location.)

If you are facing a move there will be many details to keep track of, your gardening being a small part of your list.  This does not mean you should ignore this area of your life, but instead focus on some of the most important aspects, both practical and emotional.

Here are 10 Things Gardeners Do When They Know They Are Moving.

  1. Make a conscious effort to use up home canned goods in their pantry. If not already doing so, they try to use up all the lovely goodies from past harvests that are sitting in their pantries.  Moving filled jars is heavy and difficult.  If using a moving company, they may not agree to move them. Unless you have a very large vehicle to transport them in, they could take up a lot of room in your car.  If moving them yourself, they are heavy and harder to pack.
  2. Make a list of all the perennials in their garden they want to dig up and take with them. They contemplate whether they will grow in the new climate, survive a season in a pot until a more permanent in-ground home can be found, or if it is better to give it to a friend and ask for starts back in a year or two.
  3. Finally toss that packet of seeds, which were best used … 6 years ago.   It can be hard to let go of things that ‘might be’, things that ‘could be great’ if you  just had the time/space/mental energy.  While seed catalogs are filled with new packets of seeds every year, it can be hard to ‘waste’ seeds.
  4. Come to the realization that you can not take it all with you.   The garden soil you have spent time amending to the point that even almost dead flowers come back to life in brilliant displays of color.  Yup, it has to stay.  The hostas you finally acquired, and then separated, creating a shade garden where you used to fight your grass?  Someone else will get to enjoy them growing.
  5. Begin to dream of their new gardens. While it is sad to leave the garden you have put time, effort, and love into, the adventure of having a new slate to work on can be a great distraction.  Now challenges to overcome, new blessings to enjoy, how can you not start to get excited?  Will it be shady or sunny? Dry or wet?  Will there already have been a gardener there previously who paved (hopefully not with actual pavement) the way for you or will it have been neglected to the point of using all your knowledge to even get weeds to grow?  You may even start cutting out pictures, or mentally filing away ideas that you had been wanting to try, but which did not work for your current garden.
  6. Seek out seed companies in the new area. Each zone, micro zone, and area of the country have their unique quirks.  If you are able to obtain plants and seeds from a source very similar to your new location, you will improve your chance of having a successful garden.  The plants will be adapted to the climates and soils of the area, resulting in less stress and better growth.
  7. Look for local gardening groups. If you are unsure of your skills, or looking for other to connect with, now would be a good time to join a local gardening club in your new area.  You will be assure of having at least one thing in common with others in the group.  It is also a great way to learn about the local pests, successful plants, and methods used in the area.
  8. Stop picking up free coffee grounds and shredded leaves … unless the urge is too high, then they somehow seem to jump into your trunk when you blinked.
  9. Finally accept they will not get to that awesome flower planter … this year.  However, keep the link/photo/source so you can try it over the winter or once you get to your new yard.
  10. Continue to feel guilty that they never go to that awesome flower planter this year, nor the extra soil amenities added to the garden.  Do not worry; the guilt will only last as long as it takes to acquire a new garden.  The list of activities will start anew, as will the list of things you need to do right now! :)

Have you moved during a gardening season?  During the winter?  What are some of the things you did, gardening wise, to prepare for the move?

Dec 182016
 

This post contains affiliate links and a great way for you to earn money towards your spring garden goals.

This past week, in the middle of home schooling, unpacking, cooking, and in general trying to calm chaos, I participated in Swagbucks’ Dashing Through The Dough Team Challenge.  It was a blast, even if my team did come in last.  I learned so much from the other participants, hearing their opinions on various ways to earn (or not) and being encouraged to keep going, even when it was obvious we were coming in last.

Not only did I get to meet new people, but I also added to my points, called SB.  I now have enough to redeem for a larger gift card, or two separate ones if I desire.  If I wait till the new month, I will have enough to redeem for 3 gift cards, as the first $25 gift card every month is reduced in points. (This works for most gift cards, though not for the PayPal ones.)

With the Team Challenge concluding, Swagbucks has begun a new challenge, another round of SWAGO.  This month’s Holiday Themed Swago offers a possible 400 SB ($4) Bonus!

What is SWAGO you ask? It’s a bingo-inspired promotion run by Swagbucks that rewards you with SB for completing everyday online activities. When you complete a task, watch that square change colors like a twinkling Christmas light. You can then redeem those SB for free gift cards. If you’ve never used Swagbucks, and missed last week’s team challenge, participating in SWAGO is a great way to learn how to use the site, and it’s a lot of fun!

Here’s what you need to know to get your 400 SB Bonus:

  • Swago will begin on Monday, December 19th at 8:01am PDT/11:01am EDT, make sure you hit “Join” otherwise you won’t get credit for completing the action items. Each square on your Swago Board will contain an action item to complete.
  • Once you complete the action item in a particular square the square will change color signifying the action item is complete.
  • You have a limited amount of time to mark off as many squares as possible so use your time wisely.
  • Be mindful of the patterns and their corresponding bonuses located on the right of your Swago Board. The patterns will vary in difficulty and bonus value.
  • Once you’ve achieved a pattern the corresponding “Submit” button will light up. You can have multiple patterns available for submission, however, you can only submit ONE pattern so choose wisely.
  • The game ends Monday, December 26th at 12pm PDT/3pm EDT. So make sure to hit “Submit” on the pattern you wish to submit. If you don’t hit “Submit” before the game ends you won’t receive your SB bonus.

As most of my Christmas shopping is completed, and even gift exchanged, I am looking towards the new year.  My goals for earning SB are:

  • to reduce the cost of home school materials
  • save on our online grocery shopping
  • and purchase gardening materials.

In planning our move, I had to decide if it was worth moving certain items.  A fair amount of gardening things were either too worn or out of date (seeds from 2011? really?).  These were best tossed or passed along, with the idea of replacing them once we moved.

Completing daily actives and participating in promotions is a great way to earn a few dollars towards replacing those items … or buying myself a container of cappuccino mix to make coffee in the mornings.