Oct 292017
 

In April I shared a bit about growing green onions, also called onion sets.  What if you are wanting larger onions, though?  Onion sets do not always grow into big onions, especially if they are meant to be green onions.

Now, in most parts of the country, this is not the time to be planting onions.  However, it is always a good time to learn.  If you are wanting to increase your knowledge of onions for next Spring, here you go.

Oct 222017
 

It is easy to get wrapped up in expectation and miss the fact that these expectations are really not all that important in the grand scheme of things.  As I was reading the news this morning, I came across an article which caught my attention.  I read it, then went about my morning of getting George on the bus.

As I came back toward the house, I mentally hit myself over the head again, as I looked at the grass hanging over the edge of the sidewalk.  Looking down the street, I could see how the neighbors had edged their sidewalks.  “Ugh.  My yard looks so unkempt.  They must think I am the worst neighbor ever.”  Then, at that particular moment of berating myself, I remembered the article and everything was put into perspective again.

While we like to have a yard that looks well kept, it is not so important that I spend every available hour working on it.  I am not going to be all OCD about grass hanging over the edge of the sidewalk.  Instead I am going to spend my time, at this point in my life, working on educating my kids, taking them outside to play, making meals for everyone, thinking ahead to what I want the yard to actually look like in 5 years, 10 years, etc.  For now, I will let the grass grow over the edge till I decide it is the week to edge the grass in both yard.

This train of thought made me pause, “What else are first world problems in regards to gardening?”

Life at the edge  drought in Somalia

Venezuela’s farmers: ‘Planting for the revolution’  He says the government’s tight controls on imports have made it impossible to get hold of seeds and fertilizer.

“It’s crippling us. Many people round here have the land all prepared for sowing, but we can’t get hold of the seeds.”

Venezuela’s new decree: Forced farm work for citizens

Venezuela is telling hungry city dwellers to grow their own food

The Hidden Radicalism of Southern Food

Kuki Gallmann, ‘I Dreamed of Africa’ Author, Is Shot in Kenya

Volcanic Minerals, Not Worms, Caused Disease Outbreak in Uganda

So, yeah, grass growing over the edge of my sidewalk…not really at the top of the list of things to really worry about.  The world will keep on turning and I will remember to be thankful for what we do have and not sweat the small stuff.

Oct 212017
 

This post contains affiliate links.  Thank you for helping support the running of this blog, at no additional cost to you.

As you are looking to bring your outdoor gardening season to an end, or perhaps you already have, this is a great time to see what yard items might need to be replaced for the Spring. You can find great deals online and in-store on garden and patio items right now!

I have seen a variety of items while shopping, from fertilizer to hoses, garden flags to flower pots.  And least you think you must go to a garden store or big box store to find deals, I have even seen them marked down at my grocery store.

However, one of my favorite ways to shop currently is online.  I can save time and gas of running from store to store, and do not have to load and unload (unwilling) kids in order to see what discounts may be available.

Here are a few deals I came either came across today:

As low as $29.99 (78% off), the 10 ft offset cantilever patio umbrella outdoor market hanging umbrellas & crank with cross base , 8 ribs has great reviews (4.3 out of 5 stars).  Shipping is free for Amazon Prime members. Prices vary depending on the color choice.Here is something which has been on my list all summer, a grill cover.  Ours did not make it through the move in very good shape.  I used to think these were an unneeded accessory.  However, after not having one for a few months, I realize it is a necessity to help protect our grill from the weather, thereby extending its life.

At just over $16 the Syntus Grill Cover with Grill Brush 58 Inches Waterproof Heavy Duty BBQ Covers Gas Grill Cover for Weber, Brinkmann, Char Broil, Holland, Jenn Air is very much in our budget, especially since I can use a gift card to purchase it, and definitely much cheaper than buying a new grill due to rust and decline from weather exposure.iconSolar lights are one of my favorite garden accents.  Not only do they save on having to run electrical wiring throughout the garden, but they can be placed in a larger variety of spots. Batteries are needed, though this is still by far a cheaper option than installing underground wiring.

These Solar Nature Lanterns are currently 50 % off their regular price.  If you wait a month or so, till we are closer to Christmas, you should also begin to see sales on batteries.

What ever it is you may be noticing needs updating or replaced, now is a great to search for its replacement.  While most post people are thinking fall holidays, take advantage of sales and start off the next Spring with more money in your pocket and a garden ready to be enjoyed.

Oct 202017
 

Not sure what to do with an excess of apples?  Here are a few ideas, as well as links to recipes and instructions.

Applesauce – NCHFP and PYO

Sliced Apples – NCHFP

Apple Cider Vinegar – PickYourOwn

Apple Cider – PYO

 

I tried making Apple Cider Vinegar a few years ago.  While it was not hard, I will try it again only if I also have someone near me who knows how to do it.  Let’s just say I think it ended up being a bit too fermented. 😉

Sep 182017
 

This year has held many changes for us.  I thought I was prepared.  I thought I could handle it all.  I thought…

Yeah, I was wrong.

Not completely, mind you, but in the “I thought I…” part of things.  There is nothing I can do to make anything happen.  Try as I might, I can not think something into reality.  What it does bring is anxiety as you see things around you not going as you want them to.

This came to a very clear reality after my surgery in March.  Physically I healed fine and quickly, with little pain.  Emotionally I was brought to my knees.  Once I figured out it was anxiety and not low iron, blood sugar, blood volume, or internal bleeding (sitting on the couch with orders to not do anything for a few days can lead your mind down interesting paths), I knew what needed to be done.  I also knew it was not going to be a quick fix.

Part of my self-imposed routine was to start the day off well.  In the past this meant me getting up at my regular time, having two breakfasts (the first to get my stomach convinced it was actually hungry and not sick), and getting dressed.  This time however, I found myself waking up super early, unable to fall back asleep.

Unable to fall asleep one morning, I went out to the back deck to watch the sun rise and listen to the birds sing.  Within minutes I felt better.  Not perfect, but better.  I went back in to get George off to school, but then back out to the deck I went.

For a few weeks I spent hours out there every day.  We even did home education outside.  The fresh air, sun shine, sound of birds and wind rustling in the tree tops…it was peaceful and what I needed.  Well, peaceful except for the occasional emergency vehicle siren and sound of traffic during morning commute times; at those times I focused on the nicer sounds and prayed for where those sirens were going.

Another part of my time outside involved a morning devotional.  At first, reading made me nauseous, so I used an audio version of the Bible on my phone.  After being able to tolerate printed materials, I added in Humble Roots by Hannah Anderson.

Not only was this book an encouragement, but it also spoke to my love of plants and nature.  Most importantly it spoke to the “I” part of why things were not working out – it was pride.

For years I thought that my sense of peace depends entirely on me. – Hannah Anderson, Humble Roots

Daily devotionals are not something I usually seek out.  I have gone through a few different ones over the years, but find I would rather read from the original text than from someone else’s opinion of what was being said.  This is where I felt Humble Roots deviated from other devotionals – it does not read or feel like a devotional.  Instead, it felt more like a talk with another gardener, one who has been where I was at.

Humble Roots is half plant book and half Christian devotional, each half complementing the other to help demonstrate the point being made.

After spending hours out-of-doors, and not solely in this instance of healing, it is hard to not notice details of nature and take them to heart:

  • The dry creek bed filling up with water in a few minutes time, yet days after a rain storm upstream.
  • The birds singing in the middle of a rain shower.
  • Flower stalks righting themselves after being laid flat by the wind.
  • A plant, growing from a tiny seed which seemed unimpressive and unlikely to survive.

There are lessons all around us, examples of the goodness of God and His providence.

These are also things which we, ourselves, could not make happen.

Humble Roots does not come across as an author talking at the reader, but someone who is also on the journey to find peace and understanding in one’s day.   This gentle approach and easy read was much appreciated at a time when I was already being hard enough on myself.

Toward the end, I found that I did not fully agree with some of the conclusions which Hannah Anderson presented.  They felt a bit forced or abrupt.  This did not mean I could not gain something from the writing, only that I think the last chapter or two could have been edited better.

 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for review.  This post contains affiliate links.

May 222017
 

 

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

continued from Part 1

No yard is perfect.  Overcoming the challenges can either be viewed in a positive light or as a overwhelming chore.  I am choosing to go the first route, viewing this as a time to grow and use my creative juices to find solutions and help the garden grow.

The first step I took was to address one of the biggest visual and immediate problems.  For me, this meant mowing the grass to help get the weeds under control and to get myself moving.  The Laws of Motion can also apply to our motivation when doing things in life.

An object in motion stays in motion unless acted upon by another force.  -Newton’s First Law of Motion

The other force takes the look of our self-doubt, the feeling of being overwhelmed, freezing up by indecision, and so forth.  By doing something, anything, we have begun the motion to reach our goal.

#2 Form A Plan

While this step would ideally come first, something it is best to get moving and do something. 

Have you ever spent time making an awesome, color coordinated, shiny plan, only to then feel so exhausted by it you go take a nap? You never get around to actually doing the plan you spent so much time making?

Or how about researching, and researching, and researching to find the perfect whatever-it-is?  In the end you are so frozen by indecisiveness you give up.

So, we put into motion our goal with a first step which was obtainable and quick.  It was not perfect.  It was not necessarily researched or planned out.  What it was is quick and simple.  The other steps can come later.

We are now in motion.

The first time I mowed, it was nothing fancy or full of thought as to the pattern. I mowed and everything was shorter. It no longer looked like an unloved home. The end.

The second time, I put a bit more thought into it, mowing the other direction.  Not only would this help catch any missed places from the first time, but it would also help the grass keep from being blown onto the exact same spots in the yard each time.  By going a different way, I could also view the yard from a different angle and begin to gain a sense of how the yard worked.

I am not sure there is any great wisdom behind changing direction. I did find various dips and bumps the second time which did not stand out the first.  As for timing, I am thinking mowing parallel with  my house saves a few seconds, as all the major obstacles would be along a particular pass or two, rather than at the end of every row.

While mowing I began to form a plan to address various issues. I also contemplated how to use challenges to our advantage. It was all theoretical, nothing was actually put into action.   The end.

The third time I mowed, I tried to make a concerted effort to actually look closely at the plants making up the yard as I passed them.  Grass is not the only plant growing, and the others may give me an insight into what is going on below ground.
initial front bed planting

During these first three times, though, I was doing something to help the yard.  Others might think I was purely being lazy, but it was an active choice, one I knew would eventually help the lawn.  I left the clippings on the ground.  

Instead of bagging up the grass clippings or composting them, I let the mower blow them straight back onto the ground.  By putting back the organic matter I had just removed, the grass clippings will break down over time, returning nutrients to the soil.

They will also (hopefully) help keep weed seeds from reaching the soil and taking hold as quickly.

Once summer comes in full force, having a layer of organic matter on top of the soil will also help in shading the ground, helping keep moisture loss lower than it might otherwise.

This seemingly little step may not sound like much.  However, over time it will begin to add up.  Any organic material I can add to the lawn will only help improve the soil, and thereby the plants and animals living there.

Another step I plan to take for the next mowing is to raise my mower as high as it will go.  Not only will this allow the grass to have larger leaves by which to absorb energy from the sun, but it will also help continue to shade out any other smaller plants (i.e. weeds) which decide to try to grow.

 

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 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 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 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.