Mar 122015
 

Craftsy
Craftsy is celebrating National Craft Month with a big course sale 3/12/15 @12pm MT through 3/16/15 @11:59pm MT! 

With 50% off their online course, you will be able to do more of what you love.  It is also a great opportunity to pick up a new hobby, maybe one you have been wanting to learn for a while.

With 24/7 online access, you will be able to take classes at whatever time fits your schedule. Sign into your class on Craftsy’s website, pick back up right where you left off with you HD video lesson, or move directly ahead to the next class if you feel ready.  This has been a great feature lately, as my only ‘free’ time seems to be after 8 p.m. and then I can not leave the house.  I can watch a lesson while the kids sleep, even if my husband is not at home.

Not only will you save BIG with this sale, but their 100% money-back Craftsy Guarantee applies to all the course.  If you are not satisfied, let them know within 30 days of  your purchase.

Here is a sampling of the 25 Home & Gardening classes available:

Vegetable Gardening: Smart Techniques for Plentiful Results

 

Gorgeous Garden Design

Vegetable Gardening: Innovative Small-Space Solutions

 

The Extended Harvest

 

Here are some easy links to search all the classes.  Remember they are 50% off till Monday, so do not wait too long to sign up or you will miss the savings.

Home & Garden Classes on Sale at Craftsy
Classes on Sale at Craftsy
Art & Photography Classes on Sale at Craftsy
Cake Decorating & Cooking Classes on Sale at Craftsy
Paper Crafts & Jewelry Classes on Sale at Craftsy
Sewing, Quilting & Embroidery Classes on Sale at Craftsy
Fiber Arts Classes on Sale at Craftsy

Quilting is something I found that I love to do.  It has been put to the side since kids have been added to our home, but is something I definitely have not given up on doing (just check out my fabric stash that I refuse to get rid of).  Knowing that I will not be investing in any fancy machines in the near future, this particular class really appeals to my creative side:

Creative Quilting with Your Walking Foot

Free Motion Quilting a Sampler

I have tried various patterns and methods on my own, as those I knew who quilted lived hours away from me when I was doing my first several quilts.  Actually having someone with more experience than me be able to give tips and ideas and just all around knowledge on how to do what I have been trying to do, sometimes failing more than succeeding, would have made a huge difference.

Or maybe you are looking for something to prepare for the upcoming season of grilling. Craftsy offers more than just crafts:

Cooking the Perfect Steak

Which class would you choose to take?

Apr 012014
 

DSCN8509

“Don’t judge a book by its cover” is more along the lines of “You can’t judge a tomato by its skin” when it comes to gardening.  Depending on what you are wanting out of your tomato, some kinds may be better than others.

When I first started canning I didn’t quite understand this concept.  I was mainly doing jams, as tomatoes scared me a bit … and I did not have a pressure canner, which is needed for most tomato products.  After a few years I took the plunge and canned up my first tomatoes.

Here are a few things I learned:

  1. Preserving tomatoes as crushed tomatoes, you may want to pay attention unless you like a lot of juice in your jars.  However, it will not matter a whole lot if you get or grow the wrong kind.  It is more of an annoyance later if you have to cook your dish a bit longer or strain your tomatoes first.
  2. When it come to doing something like sauce, however, the type of tomato makes a large difference.  Being the one for learning the hard way, I learned this the hard way.

The first year I decided to make sauce was also the first year I got a food mill.  Around midnight of putting the first batch through I was ready to give up canning altogether.  “How do people think this is the way to do it?  This doesn’t save money, it just wastes your time.  I would be better off doing internet surveys right now and going to buy sauce with the money I make.” Grumble. Grumble. Grumble. Almost throw the food mill out the window.

food mill pizza sauce tomato 2

Sauce Tomatoes

food mill tomato result 3

Slicing (juicy) Tomatoes

What was the problem?  My tomatoes were the wrong kind.  There was too much liquid in them and they were not being pushed through the food mill.  However, I did not figure this out till I got a batch of sauce tomatoes and realized how easy and nice it was to use the food mill.  It also saves a lot of time cooking them down. (I have another tip for this, but that is a different post.)

The picture below shows several different kinds of tomatoes sliced so you can compare the insides.  I took this picture last fall to demonstrate the differences.  This happened to be the selection of tomatoes I had that night to process.

DSCN8512The two tomatoes at the bottom of the photo, the yellow one and the red one to its right, have more ‘meat’ to them and less area for seeds and juice.  These tomatoes would have been better for sauce than, say, the one in the middle on the left.  That one has more seeds and juice than ‘meat’, making it a good slicing tomato for  your hamburger but not so great to make sauce.

“But this isn’t canning season.  Why are we talking about this now?”

Glad you asked.  While it may not be canning season, it is the start of gardening season.  The decisions you make now will affect you later on down the line, such as when you are ready to can or freezer up your produce.  Are you looking to make sauce?  Grill out burgers? Make tomato jam? Have crushed/whole/stewed tomatoes?  You need to make sure you have the right tomato for the job.

Do not select a juicy, seed filled tomato if you are looking to make a thick sauce – unless you want more work, including cooking for hours, later on.  While the shape may not matter, you will want to look for something that has few seeds and more ‘meat’ to it.  Many heirlooms are a great choice.

If you are interested in using them on a sandwich, either type of tomato will do.  Your selection may be based more on shape, size, and flavor.

If you are looking for a tomato to use on salads, you may prefer a cherry tomato over a grape tomato.  My husband likes a salad tomato that will fit in his mouth without being cut.  If I am not able to get those, then I like to use a roma tomato, as it is a smaller size and I am not left with half a tomato to use before it goes bad.  One year I grew a very small tomato, it was about the size of my pinkie fingernail.  While these were great in salads, it took forever to pick them and get any real quantity.  I had gotten them by accident, but did enjoy growing something out of the norm for me.

While this post has been about tomatoes, it really goes for any plant you plan on putting in your garden.  Take the time now to think through what it is you are looking to get from your garden.  Only put in the plants you are looking to use, and selection the varieties that will give you the end results you are hoping to achieve.  The gardening experience will be much more rewarding and enjoyable.

Happy gardening!

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Oak Hill Homestead
Jan 292014
 

volunteer seedlings in compost pile

volunteer seedlings from compost

Here is a lesson I learned the hard way – if your compost is not hot enough, the seeds in it won’t die.  I was thankful that the seeds which didn’t die turned out to be easy to see and pull.

The larger sprouts were from a gourd of some sort, pumpkin or squash more than likely.  There are also more delicate looking seedlings in the mix, which sprouted in clumps.  Those turned out to be tomato seeds from cherry tomatoes I had thrown out.

If I had more room, more time and more curiosity I would have let these grow to see what they produced.  As it was, space was limited that year.  My neighbor let some volunteers grow from their compost pile the following year and ended up with several different kinds of (decorative) pumpkins.  If your plants are hybrids, their seeds will not be replicas of their parents, meaning you won’t know what they will be like.  If that is what you are going for, then you will need to use heirloom seeds.

Jun 142013
 

2013 Garden Update

Okay, so it is Friday already and I had planned to post this on Wednesday.  I’m not really sure what happened, but that is the way I’m rolling this week.

The rain these past few weeks is finally starting to show in the garden.  The tomato plants are either taking off or producing fruit, depending on the type and when I planted them.  The beans and summer squash have fully sprouted.  The zucchini I planted for the FOURTH time also came up … then disappeared so I think something ate it as this was in an unfenced spot.  I also replanted strawberries.  My herb bed was furnished with some starts someone had but didn’t need, as my seeds there were either really behind in coming up or didn’t come up at all.  (This doesn’t seem to be the year for seeds for me.)

My first harvest took place of two bundles of green onions.  These were grown with no chemicals, yet they didn’t sell on the produce stand.  I’m a bit surprised as several of our customers are picky about that sort of thing.  I cut part of the tops off the two bunches of onions I put on the stand and was able to chop those and freeze them to use later in soups and such.  I’ll be doing that with the rest of the onions as their tops are long.  The red onions seemed to have fair badly with all the rain and became mushy.  The yellow ones did much better.  They didn’t grow round on the end like I had hoped, but they are decent for green onions.  Anyone have tips on growing green onions?  Am I missing something in my soil that will help them grow better?

I also got the cucumbers planted, as well as the patio planter with a few more tomatoes and some herbs.  The tomatoes in the patio planter were the ‘rejects’ from the rest of the plants I had.  They were the smallest and the furthest behind growth wise.  As it is, I have tomato plants in several different stages of development in the different areas of my garden.  This should mean that I don’t have a large harvest all at once, which wasn’t planned but may turn out to be a good thing.

Here is the garden bed under my kitchen window.  I came back from camping a few weeks back and was surprised to see my bean had sprouted (in the upper left corner of the picture), as well as my yellow squash (most of the other plants).  The three tomato plants in the bottom left of the picture are white heirloom tomatoes that I got from someone.  I wasn’t sure how the wood mulch would do right next to them so I cut some milk jugs and used them to create sort of wells to plant inside of.  Of the three plants, two are doing great and one is just looking wimpy.  Not sure what the difference is.

DSCN7922

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DSCN7925

This is the bed I’m using for the 5 x 5 Challenge.  The bare spot in the middle is where I harvested some onions.  I really need to finish harvesting the onions on the right side of the bed, to allow more room for the other plants to grow.  I added a few sugar snap peas to a bare spot along the trellis.  They have come up, as have the other beans.  The tomato plants are growing and the squash are doing okay.  Some of the flower seeds I added on a whim are also growing, though I don’t remember what kind they are.

DSCN7927

The first planting of strawberries was a disaster.  I’m thinking something got in there and ate them before I was able to put a fence up.  Finally I gave up and went to a local store and bought plants.  Imagine my surprise when I got to the cash register and they were half price … I went and bought six more.  My hope, plan, is for their runners to grow and fill in this whole area.  They are doing great so far and we have little strawberries already growing with  more blooms on the plants.  These are ever-bearing so they should produce some this year.  I also planted a row of sugar snap peas along the left side of the beds as this side is right up against the fence.  Half the beans sprouted and are a foot tall.  The other half are just starting to show.

DSCN7928

The herb bed is another area that I finally gave into the fact that wishing doesn’t make it so.  The cilantro and basil seeds just weren’t sprouting.  When someone called and asked if I wanted some herb transplants, including basil, I said “YES!”  I now have sage, orange mint, parsley, oregano, two kinds of basil, and thyme, in addition to the two cilantro seedlings that decided to appear.  My hope is to make this my herb bed and have some of the plants be perennial.  The sage and mint should come back year after year.  Actually, I should have an issue with keeping them in control.  However, my “should’s” this year haven’t turned out that way so I’m not counting my chicks just yet.

DSCN7931

We got the rest of the mulch spread around the blackberry plants.  This area looks so much better and the mulch should help keep the soil moist in addition to enriching it.

DSCN7932

I was also able to put up four hanging planters with cucumbers.  The first year I did cucumber plantings this way turned out fabulous.  The second year, not so much.  I think it had to do with me remembering to water.  Last year the plants looked fabulous but there were no insects to pollinate them, so the blooms didn’t produce cucumbers.  I’m hoping I didn’t shoot myself in the foot yesterday when I sprayed the grass for mosquitoes (our kids react very badly to insect bites, otherwise I wouldn’t have done that).  These were my second batch of seedlings, as the first just didn’t come up.  Again, not my year for seedlings.  We’ll see how they go.  My goal was to have cukes for our weekly salads, but so far that hasn’t happened.

DSCN7934

 

This post is part of the 5 x 5 Garden Challenge.  The main goal of this challenge, according to Chiot’s Run blog, is to learn and encourage gardeners, especially new gardeners.  Please join us in the challenge and see how much you can do in a small space.

Round 5x5 logo
May 062013
 

pen and notepad

These are a bit late, but that is what happens when you are gone for the weekend at the end of a long week.  Not all things get done before leaving, such as writing up goals for the upcoming week.

My weekly goals this week are a mix of garden and decluttering, though I’m only going to post the gardening ones here.  Beyond that it will suffice to say that I hope to get rid clutter and items we don’t use or need, as it is making me feel as if all the stuff is closing in on me.  Just as I feel the house is overtaking me, I feel as if the time to plant is quickly passing.  It isn’t necessarily, and all the rain we have been getting hasn’t really been conducive to getting a garden in.  The feeling, though, is still there.  I’m thinking it has to do with the fact that we are coming off of almost two years of drought.  During that time I’ve come to realize just how important Spring rains are to the rest of the season.  It is a time when plants can get a healthy start on growing, one that will affect the harvest months down the road.

zucchini seedlings

One of the two zucchinis I planted at the end of last week was damaged in the rain over the weekend.  Thankfully I have extra transplants that I can replace it with.  Even if I didn’t, it is early enough to have put out seed.

My tomato plants really need to get in the ground, though I think the temperatures are still a bit cold.  They are getting too big to be in the little cells they are currently.  The result?  They are easily wilting due to the heat from the heat pad and the light from above.  So for now I am going to repot them into larger containers.

Last Week’s Gardening Goals

  1. I have finished edging, laying landscape fabric and mulching the front beds.
  2. I have gathered more mulch for the flower beds in the back. – I haven’t done this, though I saw a source for it and plan to go back and check it out this week if I have some free time.
  3. I set up the planting container for the deck. – I still need to add sand to the base and soil to the top (at which point I can plant).  However, the container itself is put together and that was my goal.
  4. I have added fencing for all the raised beds.
  5. I have added fencing for the small garden area under the kitchen window. – We are planning to have the house painted in the next few weeks.  I decided to wait on this garden bed till after that happens, as it is again the house.  I do have fencing and posts to use, though, so I’m ready to go once it gets painted in this section.
  6. I have put up the trellises for tomatoes and beans.
  7. I have planted zucchini, pole beans, cilantro and lettuce.
  8. I have bought basil and thyme seeds. – turns out I already have basil seeds.  I’m going to wait on buying thyme as I may be able to get transplants relatively cheap soon.
  9. I have started herb plants.
  10. I have finished reading: Bell Peppers: Growing Practices and Nutritional Value by Roby Jose Ciju

This Week’s Gardening Goals

  1. Plant basil seeds
  2. Plant parsley seeds
  3. Plant chive seeds
  4. Plant lettuce
  5. Plant spinach
  6. Trim bushes along front walkway
  7. Add mulch, as available, to beds around blackberry bushes
  8. Transplant tomato starts into larger containers

 

What are your goals for this week?

Apr 162013
 

Here are some photos of my garden so far this year.  It is just beginning here in my area.  Actually, most people haven’t started their’s, but some have tilled up their gardens.  Our last frost date was supposed till this week so I’m actually a bit ahead of the game this year.  I’m hoping we don’t have any late season winter storms.

dwarf blueberry bush in container

 

Above is the semi-dwarf Northland blueberry bush I ordered this year.  It is supposed to be self pollinating, so we’ll see what happens.  Blueberry bushes take a few years before they start producing.  I feel as if I know very little about blueberry bushes, though I have read a few books lately. I actually don’t know of anyone who grows a blueberry bush.  They just didn’t grow in the areas I have lived before.  I tried to make the soil mix acidic, as blueberry bushes like a pH of around 5- 5.5.  I was thinking of getting 2, one for each side of the shed door.  However, I had already ordered two blackberry bushes and 25 strawberry plants.  The frugal part of me just could’t convince the gardener in me that we had to have two blueberry bushes this year.

strawberry plants newly planted in raised garden beds

 

The spacing for the strawberry plants was supposed to be 3 plants for every 2 feet.  These boxes are about 4’4″.  I decided to have each box contain 12 plants, making each row within each box have 6 plants.  (The picture above shows both boxes aligned together.  I pulled back the new wood mulch, planted each plant, then covered the ground between the plants with mulch.

Side note:  the soil in these beds were still moist from several days earlier.  The one behind m back has the same soil except there is no mulch.  The soil there is already starting to dry out.  

tomato seedlings

 

These are my tomato seedlings in my basement.  I was worried about them at first, but they are doing okay.  Not great, but okay.

tomato seedlings side view

Here is a picture of some of the plants from the side.

tomato seedlings side view 2

 

 

bean and vegetable seedlings

Though I have mainly tomatoes started, there are also a few other ones planted. The taller plants are beans.  The cilantro hasn’t appeared.  The zucchini is starting to make an appearance.  The garden spot for zucchini is ready and waiting.  I may have to sow cilantro seeds directly into the location I want them.
new seedlings 2

 

Besides two squares of lettuce seed being planted that is where I am so far.  I’m hoping another week or two will find these seedlings looking a lot more sturdy.  Also, I believe my basement is a bit too cold this year for some of the seeds to sprout.

Oct 102012
 

Here are some ebooks I found at various places on the web.  Before downloading the books, please double check the price to make sure it has not changed.  I tried to share only those that seemed to be from reputable websites.  If you experience any issues, please let me know.

There is no common topic among these, except that they all pertain to gardening.

1. USAGardener.com released the ebook “Guide to Growing Your Favorite Vegetables”

http://usagardener.com/free-gardening-ebook.php

2. Sustainable Gardening Tips has two free ebook about how to control garter snakes and snails.  Unfortunately their delivery system is down at that moment.  I did want to mention it though, in case anyone was interested in bookmarking the site.

http://www.sustainable-gardening-tips.com/free-garden-ebooks.html

3.  On Wit Guides you are able to download a copy of The American Gardener, printed in the late 1800’s.  First, there is a review of the book.  If you scroll down to the bottom of the page, on the left side, there is a button that says, “Download Ebook”.  Click there.  It will download as a zip file.

http://www.witguides.com/details.asp?id=294

4. Doug’s Green Garden has a book compiled by responses from readers in regards to the question, “What was the best advice they would give to a new beginning gardener?”.

http://www.douggreensgarden.com/free-gardening-ebook.html

5. I have followed through with the link below, but have not downloaded the books. There is a link for The Gardener’s Seceret Handbook ebook, as well as plans for several different projects you may want: potting bench, hoop house, etc.  The website come across as a bit promotional to me.  That may not be a bad thing, but it is something I wanted you to be aware of.  I’m not endorsing the sight; just giving you the link so you can see if it is something you might be interested in.

http://www.freeplants.com/

6. Free Ebooks Canada has a copy of Gardening Secrets For A Lush Garden available.  Several of the topics are geared more towards our northern gardening friends, whether in Canada or elsewhere.

http://free-ebooks-canada.com/?p=1002

The also have a book about Garden Troubleshooting here.

http://free-ebooks-canada.com/?p=5144

7. If crafts are something you are interested in, you might check out the ebook from Fave Crafts.

http://www.favecraftsblog.com/free-garden-crafts-ebook/