Sep 152018
 

mason jars

After spending all the time canning produce from your garden or elsewhere, the last thing you want to happen is to have jar go bad and not realize it till you “smell something funky” when you go to your pantry.

Take a few minutes to look over the jars you have.

Are they all still sealed?

Do any need to be wiped down?  If so, do it now before you forget.

If any have gone bad, dump the contents and sanitize the jars.  Check for chips before storing them till they are needed again.

Sep 082018
 

The raised box for my strawberries is precisely that –  a raised box.  I made it out of a free pallet this past spring.  It was my first pallet project and not the prettiest of things.  The strawberries do not seem to mind, though, as they are setting runners left, right, and over the edge.

Per plant the 6 All Star plants, my June bearing plants, are setting a lot more runners than the 2 Eversweet plants, my everbearing ones.  Out of the 8 mother plants there are currently 10 babies trying to set root with more still growing.


With the hope to disturb the babies the least when I move them to a yet-to-be-built box, I used what I had to create pots inside the current bed for them to (hopefully) root in.  With a lack of small pots around, I turned to my pantry for a solution.  Disposable cups it was.

After making a drainage hole in the bottom, I labeled each as to the kind of plant it was – Eversweet or All Star.

I then used what I had on hand for a filler – wood chips.  It would be preferable to put potting soil in there, which I will do at a future date.  For now I wanted to get it started and at least the framework in place.

The pots cups were then placed into the existing bed in appropriately the location the runners fell naturally.  By cup number 10 it was starting to get crowded in there.

For the rest of this season and next I will pinch off runners from these plants so they can focus on growth rather than reproducing.

 

Aug 312018
 

This post contains affiliate links.
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Aug 282018
 

 

Regular turning of your compost pile is one of those garden jobs that often is forgotten.  Turning your pile over does several things:

  1. Mixes the new items you have added to your pile with your older items.
  2. Allows air to get to items that may previously have not had it.
  3. Discourages pesky insects (gnats, flies, mosquitoes, etc.) from gathering and laying eggs by covering food scraps not yet decomposed. This is only an issue if your pile is near where people will be, and therefore they will be pesky.
  4. Speeds up the decomposition of your pile.  In other words, you will have compost that you can use faster.  (This is my favorite reason.)

If you are in a cooler climate, or just a down right cold area, you may have to wait till a warmer day. This is especially true if your pile is under snow or otherwise unable to be worked.

Aug 152018
 

mason jars

After spending all the time canning produce from your garden or elsewhere, the last thing you want to happen is to have jar go bad and not realize it till you “smell something funky” when you go to your pantry.

Take a few minutes to look over the jars you have.

Are they all still sealed?

Do any need to be wiped down?  If so, do it now before you forget.

If any have gone bad, dump the contents and sanitize the jars.  Check for chips before storing them till they are needed again.

Aug 072018
 

This post may contain affiliate links.
This morning found us having a wonderfully yummy “Not-Back-To-School” breakfast.  That is right. While all the neighborhood kids were already at school my kids, both of them, were just waking up.  They were not tardy or skipping the first day.  Our first day is not for two weeks.  And that is a cause for celebration at the moment.

After much aggravation this past year, I knew something had to change.  Among other things is the schooling of George.  No worries, he will still be learning.  Only this time it is at home. With no homework all evening. With no early morning bus rides. With no wasted busy work during the day.

Well, that last one depends on what you call ‘wasted busy work’.  There is a lot of things he finds himself doing which I do not necessarily consider productive, but it is not ‘work’ to keep him busy while everyone else is doing something.

His schooling this year will look similar to Jack’s but with a few key differences.  For one, he is getting tutored in math outside of home two days a week.  A wonderful friend has tutored in math for years and already had another kid George’s age who was needing help this year.  By placing them both together there is now a ‘class’ of two plus the teacher.  You can’t get much more individualized than that.

With an added kid but no particular time I have to be home to meet a bus, we are able to stay for all of our play/nature groups, add in an outside class or two, and have an added voice when we talk about books we have been reading.

It also means more organization on my part.  And that, Dear Readers, is what I have been trying to work on these past few weeks.  Currently it looks more of a mess than organized, though it is getting there.  I have sold several things, recycled others, shredded papers to make a mulch for the garden, pulled up dead plants and replanted random seeds from almost empty packets, begun laying down cardboard in order to create a bed along the back fence for trees, added hooks in the attic to hang a quilt frame for storage, and rearranged the attic (still in progress) so the less needed items are no longer right by the door.

Okay, I may have also binge watched all the episodes of a vlog on YouTube. Motivation comes in many forms.

There has also been a lot of thought to my goals for this year.  While they are under the umbrella of our overall education goals, each kid has different needs.  This has helped guide me in decisions about possible activities, curriculum, planners, orders of the days, etc.  There is more to go, but any little step is closer than I was before.

Little steps seems to be the theme for me this summer.  I have accomplished several things, though all have been in little steps.  The new bed along the back fence is a great example of this concept.  First, I considered my goal – block out some of the view of the neighbor’s house.  Then I set about going through different ideas.  Next I did some research, then decided upon specifics.  After that came the first plant, then the marking for 3 more yet-to-be-purchased tress.  Once those were marked I began laying down cardboard as an initial layer for a planting bed.

Layers of cardboard are good for killing grass, keeping moisture in, and decomposing after some time.  Finding someone getting rid of their moving boxes helped the progress of this step immensely.  While doing all this, I also have been earning Swagbucks to use toward purchasing landscaping and concrete blocks to edge in this bed.

Later this week I will begin adding wood chips.  I had delayed this step as I did not want to spend $$$ at the store to purchase bagged mulch.  A search on one of the local For Sale groups returned a result for free wood chips.  Perfect.  Now to haul them to my house a bit at a time every week as I am in that part of town.

It’s that time of the year again! Swagbucks is holding a Back to School Team Challenge to help you earn free gift cards! 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 and earn points towards free gift cards and PayPal cash! The challenge runs from Monday, August 6th to Friday, August 10th

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. In addition to earning SB, you’ll contribute to your team’s 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 600 points to their team’s total will receive a SB bonus in the form of a SB Swag Up Shop Bonus on their next gift card!
Not only that, but if you sign up under me this month and earn 300 SB before September 1st, you’ll get a 300 SB bonus!

Members of the 1st place team will receive a 100 SB Swag Up Rebate, members of the 2nd place team will receive a 50 SB Swag Up Rebate!

Jul 282018
 

 

Regular turning of your compost pile is one of those garden jobs that often is forgotten.  Turning your pile over does several things:

  1. Mixes the new items you have added to your pile with your older items.
  2. Allows air to get to items that may previously have not had it.
  3. Discourages pesky insects (gnats, flies, mosquitoes, etc.) from gathering and laying eggs by covering food scraps not yet decomposed. This is only an issue if your pile is near where people will be, and therefore they will be pesky.
  4. Speeds up the decomposition of your pile.  In other words, you will have compost that you can use faster.  (This is my favorite reason.)

If you are in a cooler climate, or just a down right cold area, you may have to wait till a warmer day. This is especially true if your pile is under snow or otherwise unable to be worked.

Jun 282018
 

 

Regular turning of your compost pile is one of those garden jobs that often is forgotten.  Turning your pile over does several things:

  1. Mixes the new items you have added to your pile with your older items.
  2. Allows air to get to items that may previously have not had it.
  3. Discourages pesky insects (gnats, flies, mosquitoes, etc.) from gathering and laying eggs by covering food scraps not yet decomposed. This is only an issue if your pile is near where people will be, and therefore they will be pesky.
  4. Speeds up the decomposition of your pile.  In other words, you will have compost that you can use faster.  (This is my favorite reason.)

If you are in a cooler climate, or just a down right cold area, you may have to wait till a warmer day. This is especially true if your pile is under snow or otherwise unable to be worked.

Jun 172018
 

This post contains affiliate links.

Earlier this year I was looking at rain barrels to add to the garden. I was not sure what else I wanted to add to the garden, but I knew my main garden planning goal is to set up a good framework for the future. Rain barrels fit into this overarching criteria, we needed them to help balance out the moisture of the soils.

The first rain barrel was added a few months back.  The puddle surrounding the back patio after each rainfall disappeared.  It worked so well I began to consider where I wanted to place my next one.

Before I got to that stage, though, I added a raised bed to the yard as well as a fig tree.  Our first fruit tree!

While adding rain barrels never left my thoughts, it was not the immediate thing I was working on.  Summer is not really our wet season, so I knew I could focus elsewhere for a while before we really needed them.  What I needed to be focusing on was adding a planting bed along the back fence.  The plan is to add more trees and other plants to it come fall/late winter.

The soil here is not exactly nutrient rich…unless you count clay and more clay as a nutrient.  If I want to give the new plants a leg up on growing, I need to begin amending the soil with compost, mulches, and other detritus. Not only will this give them the nutrients they need but help hold in the moisture.

In order to begin amending the soil I need create an edge barrier to do so.  Taking a page from the new flower bed, I decided to use concrete blocks along the back and edging stones along the front.  This will serve a few purposes:

  1. saves on cost
  2. allows me to plant along the fence, inside the holes in the blocks, thereby saving room horizontally
  3. hopefully makes it harder for the rabbits to come in under the fence

This will be done in stages.  First, I am going to block in the areas I want to put the trees.  I will add cardboard and other items inside these blocks, beginning at the most important parts of the planned bed.  Second, I will begin to expand this areas until they connect, adding cardboard (weed barrier) and other compost items as I go along. I am hoping in this way not to overwhelm myself with the project, nor have a lot of out-of-pocket at one time.

Knowing the trees I want to plant, as well as the area I have to work with (there is a shallow drainage ditch between our fence and our backyard neighbors), I am planning to make the bed rather narrow.  At 2′-3′ wide I think there will be enough room for the trees, all of which have a mature crown diameter of about 10′.

So far I have purchased enough concrete blocks to mark where I want to plant three of the trees.  There were purchased from a home improvement store with a $25 gift card I earned on Swagbucks.  By earning a gift card earned each month I will have all the materials I need in a few months time with minimal out of pocket.  If I am able to take advantage of deals or discounts, it will happen even quicker.

All throughout June you can earn large bonuses when sign up as my referral on Swagbucks. Swagbucks is a rewards site where you earn points (called SB) for things you’re probably doing online already, like searching the web, watching videos, shopping, discovering deals, and taking surveys. Then you take those points and exchange them for gift cards to places like Amazon, Target, or PayPal cash.

When you sign up through me this month, you can earn a 300 SB bonus! Here’s how:

1. Sign up using this link

2. Earn 300 SB total before July 1st, 2018. You’ll get a 300 SB bonus for it!

I have also been adding to the compost bin and gathering used coffee grounds from local coffee shops.  This is a bit harder to do here than in Small Town as they do not save them automatically here.  I have to call, ask, and stop in that day or soon thereafter.  My best source so far as been the coffee shop inside the local grocery store.  Who knew so many people got their morning coffee from there?!

With some other, larger, more expensive things we are looking to accomplish this year, I am glad to have a way to save some money on gardening.

What are some of your favorite ways to spend money on gardening?

Jun 042018
 

A small space in your yard, either between buildings or along a border, can become a source of complaining if it requires maintenance yet does not seem to offer any benefit.  Such a space exists between our yard and our neighbor’s.  For the both of us this space is a dead-end, leading only to the backyard fence but no gate.  Neither of us have a door exiting the house at this point, nor a walk way.  While it holds utilities for the both of us, it is mainly a strip of usually forgotten grass which needs to be mowed.

When considering the garden as a whole this past winter, I realized I would rather transition this area into a large flower bed to attract butterflies and bees.  I also knew that it would be a big undertaking if I did it all at once.  Instead, I plan to take it on in stages, increasing it over time and as I have spare flower seeds to plant.

Limitations and Challenges

On our side it is about 7 feet wide, on a slight slope, gets partial light, and contains some utility ROWs (right-of-ways).  It is protected from rain by our house on one side and their house on the other, again about 7 feet further.  However, the bottom of the slight slope drains the backyard and a downspout from the corner of our house.  The result is a vast difference in moisture from the edge next to our house and the edge next to the neighbor’s yard.

These challenges actually created opportunities.  Flowers which grow in dry areas would do well next to the house, while those who can handle moisture or non-regular wetness would do very well further away.  I now was able to plant a larger variety of flowers by noticing the micro-environments happening in this area.

Beginnings

The progress of this bed did not happen over a weekend, but slowly over the past few months.  This has allowed it to grow organically rather than planned out to the detail.

{March}

Internal conversations as of late have tended along this line:

  • It is getting warmer outside.  I really need to get a move on with building some raised beds and lasagna gardens (for flowers).
  • Oh, it is cold again.  I must have been jumping the gun.  Good thing I did not plant anything.
  • Well, rain today.  Can’t do much work outside right now.
  • Warm…again. Yeah, I really should have gotten something built for outside.  I’ll do that tomorrow…
  • ::siren:: I doubt anyone would judge me too much for not improving the yard in some way while the tornado sirens are going off.
  • Oh, my, it is cold!  I think I will focus on an indoor task today.
  • …okay, so is it warm, or cold?  Warm, let’s go outside …(few hours later) my goodness, it is getting colder as the day goes on.

At first, I let this dictate as to whether I should start garden projects outside.  However, after a few back-and-forth’s I realized that if I waited till it was “perfect” I would miss the window.  Right now, something is better than nothing.

I grabbed some old packing boxes, box of shredded paper, shovel, kids’ wagon (filled with unfinished compost from compost tumbler), and headed outside.  Layering the items I began a lasagna garden.  While it is smaller than I would like, I remember that smaller can be better.  This is especially true when trying to do multiple things at once. Right now, something is better than nothing.

{April}

With a garden bed already begun, I realized I needed something for edging if I was to help keep out grass and hold the bedding in place.  A quick rough measurement of the area allowed me to pick up some bricks from the local home improvement store.  Jack was less than thrilled with this trip, though I think it had to do more with shopping in the rain than it did with the act of shopping itself.  Personally, I figured we would dry off and there could be worse things to do than shopping for garden supplies in the rain.

The total for the edging quickly added up, so I adjusted my expectations to have a shorter bed than I desired.

Once home I placed the bricks around the bed.  They reached 75% of the way around, but it was good enough for now.  The side which was not covered was against the house and a bit of the fence.

I found some more paper to shred and emptied the compost tumbler, again, to find more material to put on top of the cardboard.  We had received a shipment of cold items in the mail, the insulation of which was shredded cotton (jeans?).  This was added to the materials and has worked well at keeping the grass out.

After everything was dumped in the bed I covered it with a partial bag of peat moss I had in the garage.  While it is a light material it will mix well with the future organic material.

{May}

As seeds were bought or found I added them to the bed.

  • Daffodils from a science experiment found their home here, as did a few older daffodil bulbs from a long while back which never got planted.
  • Hollyhocks, a flower I always wanted to have in my garden, were planted in the spaces in the concrete blocks along the fence.  These should form a nice tall, colorful backdrop for the rest of the garden.  Not only will they help hid the fence, but they will attract insects as well.
  • Butterfly Weed and Chamomile seeds were spread around, as well as a few purple cone flowers.

I am starting to see several of these sprout, though I was not expecting much out of them as I planted them on my time schedule, rather than at their optimum time.

A watering dish was also created and installed in the bed.  One thing I have learned since installing this is that the water evaporates out of it at a quicker rate than I thought it would.  If we experience a few sunny days in a row I need to add water to it myself.  This is due to its shallow nature which appeals to butterflies and other insects.

What you can not tell well from the picture is the slope on which this bed is situated.  The far right block, along the front edge, and the far left top block are almost equal in height.