Friday, July 21, 2017

Garden Friday




We've been in our new home for about a month now.
With many indoor projects getting accomplished,
it seemed like a great time to get my hands dirty workin' on our garden.


 This planting bed was already here.
The former owners had grown some tomatoes in containers,
but weren't much into gardening beyond that.
I decided to clean up the area and ready it for my veggie bed.


 The groundcloth was pretty well spent,
so I removed it all and leveled the ground as best I could.
The soil here is heavy clay, so I will be sowing in pots.


 I used some of the feed sacks I had on hand
that were too dirty to wash for my daisy tote project.
These will line this bed and hopefully, keep weeds at bay.
For now, I am using bricks and rocks to hold the sacks down,
but once the containers are added, they shouldn't be needed.


 I gathered my supplies including the feed sacks,
a trowel, my seeds and a box cutter (to split the sacks).


 I had also prepared a list of which crops would be in containers,
and which would be in the straw bale garden
(which has now become a moot point).



 I lined a few of the icing buckets I got from Sister
with styrofoam to keep them lighter
and easier to move around.
It also saves on the cost of soil mix,
because you just don't need as much.


 Thyme, parsley and dill were sown in these smaller buckets.
I recently moved them to the back deck,
where I can keep an eye on them 
and make sure they stay moist during these hot, dry days.


Several varieties of lettuce were seeded,
including buttercrunch, red sails and red salad bowl.
Once these get growing, I'll start up a few other varieties,
to keep the harvests coming through the fall.


These icing buckets work well for crops that don't need much space,
like lettuce, spinach and herbs.
They even have a handle to make moving them around a breeze.


 So far, one of the tomato plants I brought with me
from the rental is doing okay.
One lonely fruit is holding on for dear life.
It may be too hot for the others to set fruit,
but we are hoping for the best.
Worst case scenario,
we'll just start another crop next month.


 I'm hopeful that the snap peas will give us tons of tasty morsels
all fall and even longer.
These will be sown every two weeks to ensure abundance.
I need to set up a trellis system on which they can climb.


Here are the straw bales I got this week.
The plan was to start conditioning them this weekend.
Using the straw bale gardening method,
the bales must be "conditioned" for up to 12 days
before planting.
This means that you alternate watering with fertilizing
to help the bales start the composting process,
which then feeds the plants placed there.
Unfortunately, I realized I had made a grave mistake.


I had a hard time finding local straw,
so I ended up buying this from a big box store.
Without even realizing it,
I neglected to ask them if the straw had been treated with anything.
When it occurred to me,
I called the store and they said 
they have no idea because the straw comes from many different farms.
That was all I needed to hear.
Straw bale gardening would have to wait until spring
when I can obtain clean, pesticide-free straw.
Bummer.  
It won't go to waste, though.
There are plenty of places where we can use it
to line pathways and prevent erosion around here.


I had purchased these biodegadeable pots from someone on Craig's List.
She has more and she's just down the road,
so I plan to pick up a few dozen more as my Plan B tactic.
They were a buck apiece and she even threw in an extra since I bought more than 10.


 They are 4 gallon pots,
which will work for the majority of what I'm planting.
I sowed broccoli, brussels sprouts, and snap peas in them. 
I also started some eggplant and broccoli in six packs
for transplanting later on.
If I need deeper pots, 
I will continue to look for 5-gallon plastic buckets at Publix
or other food stores.
The deli or bakery has them and
they are free for the asking.



So, we are under way,
although we are having to alter a bit what our plans were for the garden.
A true homesteader just keeps moving forward,
no matter what gets thrown at them.
Never the less, it's quite exciting to be farming again
and I am looking forward to the experience
here in our new state.
Who knows what will come of it?

What's getting started in your garden this week?



Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Fan-TASTIC!

We are continuing to tackle a few small projects
in our quest to create a welcoming space in our new home.



The former owners used this room off the garage as a dining space.
The light fixture was in the middle of the room and hung low
so that it could work over the dining table.
For us, the room is serving double-duty as an office
and eating area.
We haven't yet decided if these changes will be permanent or not,
as we've only been in the house for a month.
It's a good idea to live in the space for a while,
so you can see how it best suits your family's needs.



As cute as it is, we knew we didn't want this light in the center of the room
and we needed a fan here, as it sits adjacent to the kitchen.
Big K has added fans to each bedroom
and this was the final one to be installed.
We wanted to show you just how easy it is
to change out fixtures.


The fan comes in several pieces and has an instruction booklet,
to make it easy for do-it-yourselfers.
All of the fans we chose have a brushed nickel finish,
as that is what we are using throughout the house.


Once the light came down,
we were left with these protruding wires.



The fan base plate is secured with a few screws.
The wires get threaded through a hole in the plate.
Big K is lovin' his new drill!


These wires get matched up to the same colored wires
that come with the fan.
Wire nuts keep everything secured.
Just match up the same colored wires, twist them a couple of times to keep them together,
and then put them into the wire nut and twist a couple of times around.


This handy hook allows the installer to hang the fan
while working on the wiring.
It fits into one of the holes on the fan body.


See the blue wire nuts in place?
The wires then get tucked into this space
so that the body can be aligned with the screws that suspend it.


Once the body is aligned with the four screws,
they are secured with a screwdriver or drill.
Tighten only until the fan body is stable.
It shouldn't wobble or vibrate at all.


The ring then just snaps in place to hide the screw holes.


Here's the part where the blade assembly fits onto.


These wires are for the light on the fan.
The wires are color-matched and simply plug together.
They fit easily into the recessed cavity that you see in the preceding picture.


The fan/light assembly snaps onto the body
and is fastened with four more screws.
The glass for the light snaps into the bottom of the fan,
and you're good to go.


The directions seem straightforward enough
that even if Big K wasn't the handyman extraordinaire,
I might even attempt  it myself.
Fortunately, he is employed here full-time,
and we plan to keep him busy for a good, long time. 
All the fans look great,
 (can I just say that ceiling fans have come a long way?),
and are keeping us cool during this dreadfully hot summer.

One project down,
a few dozen more to go!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Garden Friday


Goodness Gracious, it's HOT out there!
This week we hit temps in the 90's
and it kept me inside most of the time.
Even though the mercury is soaring,
it feels like Christmas!
Wanna know why?


My Sow True Seed order came in the mail!
Whoo-hoo!
What a beautiful array of loveliness.


I'm hoping to pick up my straw bales some time this weekend
so that I can prep them for an early August sowing.
They take about 2 weeks to ready for planting.
(I plan to document the process for you to see.)
In the meantime,
look at all the goodies that will be going in.
We have beets, cauliflower, eggplant,
kale, lettuce, pumpkin, snap peas and spinach.


Aren't the seed packages gorgeous?
They are created by artists
who obviously have a passion for vegetables.
Sow True Seed is a company based in nearby Asheville, NC.
We are happy to support our local seed savers,
as we've always been extremely pleased with their offerings and customer service.


They even sent us a gift of brussels sprouts seeds
to thank us for our order.
They remain one of our favorite seed companies.
In fact, I hope someday to be able to visit their facility
and share it here on the blog.


Two favorite flowers made their way into my order.
Echinacea and Rudbeckia will be a treat for pollinators in our garden 
and give us some cut flowers for the house.
We'll place these close to our veggies,
as they will attract all the good bugs we want.
Both of these grow well in this area
and we look forward to watching the bees and butterflies savoring them.

Are you planning a mid-summer garden?



Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Organized Downsizing



A couple of weeks ago, 
we moved into our new cozy shack.
We love the home, the property
and the neighborhood,
but the house is about 400 square feet smaller 
than our last home in Florida.
This has required some serious paring down.
I wish we were completely unpacked and
had the house in order,
but we are taking our time in completing projects
and making this a welcoming and comfortable retreat.




 Fortunately, I embrace the minimalist lifestyle,
so it was easy for me to let go of things.
I find the process freeing,
knowing that I am making room in my life
for all the good things that God has in store for me.
Although we did rid ourselves of many household items and furniture
before we made the big move,
there was still more than we could comfortably situate in this 1400 square foot space.
We have listed quite a few things on Craig's List
and one other local forum for sale or giveaway.
We are also considering having a yard sale,
so that we can clear out many items at once.
So satisfying.


To begin, we started sorting items according to the rooms 
in which they are used.
Several of our larger moving boxes were put to the task.
One box contains things that will be given away or taken to thrift stores.
Any leftover blankets or other bedding will be donated
to the local Humane Society.
They can always use towels and blankets for the animals there.


 Any items that hadn't been used on a regular basis in the last year
(popcorn popper), are put into the kitchen box.
I had a few extra casserole dishes and storage bins
that we could do without, so they got tossed in.
We also had quite a few shelves and other things
that were here from the previous owners,
so we are dealing with those as well. 
There was another box for decorative items,
garage items and bathroom items.
I'm not one for sentimental attachments,
as I choose to focus on the memories instead of the physical object.

Giveaway box
Even if we decide to go the yard sale route,
it's always good to have a giveaway box.
Kids especially love getting something for free.



With the yard sale in mind,
it's important to have great signage.
Using a bright colored background (the same color on all signs)
and bold black letters will help folks find your sale.
Advertising on free sites is also helpful.
We like to price everything ahead of time,
 so that there is no question about how much items cost.
You can use individual stickers,
or place single-priced items on a table with signs
(all items $1).
Of course, you should expect some haggling,
and be prepared to take less than you are asking,
except for high-ticket items.
Any money made at the sale can be used for 
a multitude of ideas:

1.  holiday fund
2.  vacation fund
3.  emergency fund
4.  new furniture fund
5.  donated to a worthy cause

This process has helped me appreciate all that we have
and this new life that we are living
in our wonderful neighborhood.
Organizing just makes me feel empowered.
Keeping material items to a minimum
truly helps one focus on the important things in life.

"Gratitude makes sense of our past,
brings peace for today,
and creates a vision for tomorrow."
~Melody Beattie


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Friday, July 7, 2017

Garden Friday


This Garden Friday finds us defining a new garden space.
We've been in our new house for 2 weeks now,
and there has been little time to focus on the outdoors.
This week, some effort was made to tidy things up a bit.


This is the east side of our home.
It's the perfect sunny spot for growing.
The square patch laid out here
was created by the previous owners,
who were not gardeners.
This is where they grew a few tomato plants
and that was the extent of their ventures into farming.
The location serves me well,
as it is semi-private,
so I can pretty much do whatever I choose,
and not have to consider the effect on any neighbors.


Just a few yards away is the area we are using for compost.
It is nestled under the trees
and has the beginnings of a good leaf pile started.
It feels good knowing that every few days
I can deliver all of our kitchen and yard scraps here
and Mother Nature will do the rest.
We are considering putting a shed near this area as well,
to have all of our gardening/yard tools close at hand.
We aren't sure exactly where the drain field is for the septic,
so we cannot plant any veggies here.


Here, our humble beginnings.
A few buckets leftover from our "tin can garden" at the rental,
along with a few new acquisitions are enjoying the full morning sun.
The plan is to level it out a bit,
then use some of my extra feedsacks to line the area for the containers.
Some feedsacks that I have collected have too much sweet feed on them,
and it is too labor intensive to clean them for my daisy tote project,
so this way, they will still have a purpose.



Two jalapeno plants were purchased from farmers at the market last weekend,
to be harvested for use in my pickled okra.
The tub was a plastic bin whose lid was worn out,
so we repurposed it for growing.
A few drainage holes were drilled in the bottom and it was good to go.


Also acquired from the same farmers
were one each of  Cherokee Purple and Brandywine tomatoes.
These are both new varieties for me,
so I can hardly wait to see what comes of it.
These 5-gallon buckets were picked up at the grocery store,
where the bakery uses them for icing.
They are there for the asking, so I ask!
The tomatoes and peppers were given a good dose of turkey poop
when they were transplanted into their respective containers.
That should help them along!


My leek are sorely in need of transplanting.
They take a while to grow to maturity,
and I am grateful that they have hung in there
through all the neglect these past months.


After unpacking this bin with no top
(it was used for large items during the move),
it was elected to be our new leek keeper.
Leeks have to be banked to ensure a full white top,
so this deep container will be perfect for the job.
Drainage holes in the bottom will keep them happy.


I love organizing, and this area needed it badly.
I simply coralled all of the containers I might be able to reuse in the future
and placed them on the side of the garden bed.
Everything has holes in the bottoms, 
so no need to worry about mosquitoes laying eggs when it rains.
Anything without holes naturally gets stored upside-down.


Our deck out back gets filtered light in the spring and summer.
It's the ideal spot for growing herbs
and the bonus is that it's right off the kitchen for easy access.
Right now there are only this thyme and parsley growing,
but we are hoping to put more herbs in soon.
The containers are more icing containers acquired from a local culinary school.


The majority of our beds will be in this area.
We're pretty sure that it's far enough away from the drain field
and it still gets a good deal of light most of the day.
It is sloped, which can be good or bad
(I haven't figured out which yet).
The new idea I am tossing around is straw bale gardening.
I'm researching it now and I think I'd like to give it a go.


This week our buckets rewarded us with this.
Even through neglect and a move,
the garden keeps on giving.
There's a lesson in that.