Adventures in Garlic

A few days ago we decided to make some garlic knots (the recipe for which will shortly be posted on Pocketful of Posies) and as I reached up to my shelf to pull down some garlic I felt something strange.  I brought down the bulb and upon inspection found five or six long green shoots sprouting from my store bought garlic.

garlic

Now this garlic is still perfectly edible and delicious but for me it’s an excellent opportunity to test my gardening skills a little early.  To plant garlic all you need to do is carefully break apart and plant the individual cloves, leaving the skin as intact as possible.  From what I’ve read garlic is best to plant in the fall but this will be staying in my kitchen anyway so we’ll just have to wait and see what kind of crop we get!

Yesterday I posted about using recycled materials as gardening containers and today I’m going to put my new know-how to good use.  I’m raiding my recycling for plastic bottles.  So far I’ve got an old milk carton and an orange juice container; both of which I plan to chop in half, poke holes in, and fill with dirt.  Heading to Walmart a bit later for my dirt since everything in the backyard is frozen over and rock solid.

Will post updates!

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Alternative & Apartment Gardening

Alright… confession time.  I’ve been getting a little distracted lately from my gardening series.  The truth is, it’s hard for me to focus on future things like a garden I have to wait for until Spring.  I am such a tactile person that I constantly need something for my hands to do.  Which is why I decided to write about container and apartment gardens for this installment!  The truth is, if I wanted to, I could start my garden right now – today!  From what I’ve learned all it takes is a few seeds, a sunny window, and some creativity to have a state-of-the-art organic container-garden right in my own home.

Also, it won’t cost a pretty penny.  The more I dig into the homestead lifestyle the more I’m realizing it’s what I’ve been looking for all along.  I don’t regret my decision to leave work to start our family but there are time when I feel like I’m asking a lot of my husband.  Especially now that we want to save for a house, I am becoming all too clear of my consumer habits.  I’m already a considerably thrifty person but it is still an area I could learn to grow in.  I look at our friends who are moving so quickly through life’s milestones because they have two incomes and feel a bit guilty that I don’t bring home any bacon.  Which is why I am so determined to have a successful garden and live more efficiently.  My homesteading research is teaching me I can help provide for my family many healthier, environmentally safer, and (oh so importantly) cheaper alternatives to what we would normally buy.

These alternative gardening tips in particular are fabulous money savers because they utilize “junk” you might already have lying around your house!  If you want to start a container garden it is absolutely ok to go buy a few planters from your local gardening store – but what I want to talk about here are some more environmentally (and wallet) friendly substitutes.  So if you’ve got a porch, balcony, sunny window, and some recyclables – you can have an apartment garden too!

Seed starting containers you didn’t even know you already have!

Egg carton seed starter > video
1. Take an empty egg carton and cut the bottom away from the top along the fold.  Also, cut off that little flap that holds the top and bottom together.  Keep the top half as this will go under your seed starter to as a watering tray.
2. Take anything with a sharp point (an awl, a screw driver, a pen) and poke 5 holes in each egg compartment for drainage.
3.Fill the carton with dirt (potting soil or dirt from the back yard is fine).
4. Poke your finger into the dirt of each compartment making a nice little indentation and plant your seeds.  Cover with dirt.  Add about a 1/4 in. of water to the watering tray and place your seed tray on top.

Oh, and don’t forget to label!  You can use an old Popsicle stick or if all the seeds are the same then just write along the side of the egg carton.  Also, this style requires an egg carton that has a top without hole in it.

Egg carton green house > video
1. Poke drainage holes in the bottom of each egg compartment.
2. Leave the top half attached but cut a rectangle out of it where the holes are.  See video for more info.
3. Rip off a piece of plastic wrap and cover the part that you cut out.  Tape along the edges of the plastic wrap to keep it in place.
4. Open the carton and fill with soil.  Make indentations in the soil with your finger.  Plant seeds in indentations and cover with soil.  Sprinkle with water.

For this seed starter you’ll need to find a watering tray.  I suggest a cookie sheet or other baking sheet you won’t need to use for the next couple months.

Old Keurig cups!
I absolutely love the idea of re-purposing k-cups because while single serve coffee saves on water – it still stacks up in the trash!  If your family drinks a lot of coffee then start saving those little buggers to make your own seed starter.
1. Remove the label from the top and clean out the coffee grounds.
2. Poke holes in the bottom for drainage.
3. Fill with soil and plant your seeds

This is another project that will require you to possibly sacrifice a baking tray to use as a watering dish; but aren’t fresh, organic vegetables in the summer worth a few less brownies in the winter?

How my eccentric grandmother gardens!

So I was looking around on Pinterest for some creative recycled container gardens when I had a sudden flash back of my grandmother’s garden.  It isn’t a container garden but it does boast an abundance of eclectic containers.  Number one on the list is:

Old boots and shoes
You might need some power tools for this one, depending on how thick your souls are.  I’m not sure I recommend this for vegetables but it works wonderfully well for flowers and my grandmother’s chicks and hens have always loved hunkering down in a dirty old boot.

1. If you’re shoe has some stinky old foot smell, soak it in water and vinegar bath and let it dry.
2. Use a hand drill or an awl to make drainage holes in the bottom of your shoe. (or a hammer and nail would work)
3. (optional) Remove laces and cut off the tongue for more growing space.
4. Fill with soil and plant your seeds.  Sprinkle with water.

I recommend using this on a porch or balcony garden and somewhere the water can drain freely.  Also, leather boots and shoes work the best.

An old colander
Just add your dirt and you’re ready to rock!

A wicker basket
No hole poking required.

Old soup cans
Of course you should clean out any soup remnants and then remove the paper label.  Don’t forget to poke or drill holes in the bottom for drainage and if you are feeling very cafty, poke some holes along the top for string and make yourself a hanging planter!  Also, you can paint the outside of your cans to make them look pretty.

Empty plastic soda bottles
1. Clean out and remove label.
2. Cut in half to desired height.
3. Poke holes in the bottom.
4. Fill the bottom with soil and plant your seeds.

If you want to utilize the top half then leave the lid screwed tightly and poke holes all along the body.  Poke holes near the opening you cut and thread with string to make a hanging planter.  Fill with soil and plant!

The best vegetables to plant in your container garden

Here is a list of some vegetables and herbs for the rookie gardener that grow very well in containers.

1. “Jade Gem” lettuce
2. Cherry tomatoes – a favorite of my grandmothers and very good in hanging planters
3. Basil – from my experience basil is easy to grow in a pot but is a very thirsty plant so make sure to give it enough water
4. Oregano – also from experience I can tell you that oregano is what hearty little herb!
5. Potatoes – this one surprised me but according to the experts, potatoes “thrive” in containers

Container mistakes to avoid

While we are discussing the scores of container gardening possibilities, it might be prudent to mention a few things we shouldn’t do.

1. This first piece of advice seems pretty common sense… but then again, it’s more than likely a mistake my over-eager self would make.  When using a big container, put it in the place you want it to stay before you fill it with dirt!

2. Don’t over-water your plants.  Whether you are using containers or not, it is never a good idea to give your plants more water than they need as it can lead to root rot and a poor harvest.

3. The flip-side of a vegetable water crisis is – don’t underwater you plants.  The less dirt your containers have, the less your plants are able to hold in the moisture which is why a watering tray can really come in handy.

4. Don’t buy sickly plants.  If you are using starter plants than look for ones with vibrant leafs, unbroken stalks, and un-withered buds.

5. Don’t have unrealistic expectations.  Whoa, this one hits home as I am usually the person who blatently disproves that old saying, “Shoot for the moon because even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”  I can tell you from experience that you will, in fact, not land among the stars when you overestimate your own time, resources, abilities, or determination.  Only start with what you can handle!

I hope you all enjoyed learning about apartment and container gardening with me!  May your plants be fruitful and your containers recycled!!

For more information don’t forget to check out those videos on egg carton seed starts.  Also, check out my Pinterest because I am always adding new articles and interesting projects.  Here are the articles I used for this post:

5 Container Gardening Mistakes to Avoid

5 Best Container Vegetables

35 Easiest Container and Pot Friendly Fruits, Vegetables, and Herbs

Tomato Varieties for your Container Garden

Eco eco everywhere!!!

I know we are supposed to be talking about all the excellent gardening know-how I am gathering but can we just have a quick moment to mention all the awesome homesteady, self-relianty, eco-super-cool-stuff I am finding?!!

homemade

I just went through all my sustainability pins and have come back with a trove of fabulously green fixins for my home that I can’t wait to share with you!!

homemade3

Ugh!  Learning about being a better garden-mama is great but as it is the dead of winter, that project will have to wait while all these other fun thing-a-ma-bobs just sit there taunting me!

homemade2

::Sigh::  But because I love you, my faithful WordPress family – I shall not let our journey of knowledge be derailed.  I shall stay the course and follow through.  Let us finish our series in due course before we move on to clever tutorials full of pretty colors and flashy designs.

Thank you, that is all.

Match-Making and Marigolds

Hello fellow novice gardeners!

Last night my husband took me on our first date in months and even though the food was terrible and service slow, the conversation was amazing!  It was so much fun to go out without taking at least five diapers, two toys, and a 4 oz. bottle.  We didn’t talk about anything deep, earth shattering, or Nobel prize winning but this little garden and everything it represents for our future life has been laying heavily on my heart.  I love our daughter dearly but it is incredible the difference it makes when the hubs and I can be alone together.  I was waiting all week to have an uninterrupted conversation without distraction about our desires, hopes, and plans.  Right now I’m only planting a few tomatoes but with hard work and a little luck by next winter we’ll have canned soups and sauces, frozen veggies, and dried herbs.  Right now I’m digging some dirt, saving a little money, but maybe in a year or so we can be planting some roots of our own.

roots

I know it sounds like a lot to put on a little apartment garden but that’s why we’re seriously committing this year to a more sustainable lifestyle.  To amp up my eco-game I’m getting prepared with a little Pinterest-inspired research.  Which brings us to this post!  Match-Making and Marigolds: some fyi on companion planting.  What is companion planting?  Well, similar to our experience in the human world, some plants make better friends than others; some keep pests off their neighbors while others just mooch.  To whip out some Webster’s for you:

Companion planting is the close planting of different plants that enhance each other’s growth or protect from pests.

It’s a good idea to plant vegetables next to a friendly neighbor so they can:

  • Help each other grow – tall plants can provide shade for any sun-sensitive shorter ones
  • Use garden space more efficiently – vining plants can either be used to cover the ground while upright plants, like bushes, stand upright – or – vining plants can be trained up a trellis opening space for ground dwellers below
  • Prevent pest problems – some plants, like onions, repel most pests while others can be used as bait to lure pests away from more desirable plants
  • Attract beneficial insects – it’s also a good idea to attract insects of the insecticidal variety

beeAlthough, after sifting through infographs, articles, and cheat sheets some of the information out there on companion planting is very contradictory.  Quite a few articles state the exact opposite of each other.  So do tomatoes like cabbage or don’t they?  Should I plant my peppers next the beans or away? One article even stated that all plants in the bean family detest marigolds which according to everyone else, are the Numero Uno wingman of the vegetable world.  So to stem the spread of confusion I’m going to side with the majority on this one when it comes to planning my planting companions.

For my garden:

Tomatoes are best to plant near: marigolds, sweet basil, sage, beans, and cucumbers (just to name a few)
Tomatoes DO NOT like: fennel or black walnut which inhibit growth

Bell Peppers get along with: tomatoes, onions, and basil
Bell Peppers DO NOT like: beans, kale, or the cabbage family

Zucchini/Squash are friendly with: parsley, peppers, and tomatoes
Zucchini/Squash DO NOT like: potatoes

String Beans plant well near: tomatoes, cucumbers, marigolds, rosemary
String Beans DO NOT plant well near: fennel or onions

A few general good-fella’s in your garden include:

  • Marigolds – they repel certain insects, (including mosquitoes!) and rid the soil of dreaded nematodes (I have no idea what a nematode is but they sound like awful warty buggers)
  • Yarrow – another garden friendly herb that keeps away nematodes and pests.  Plant it freely among your other crops. Yarrow is actually a flowering herb whose tea is good for hang overs. 😉
  • Callendula – is a flower that makes a great bed companion for most vegetables
  • Onions – do not pair well with all vegetables but are excellent pest repellent for those it does pair well with
Nematodes - according to Spongebob Squarepants
Nematodes – according to Spongebob Squarepants

Unlike the friendly plants above, fennel is apparently the farm bully!  If you are planting fennel give it it’s own bed because it is a big hog who doesn’t like to share or play well with others.

Another thing to consider when vegetable matchmaking is nitrogen.  A word on nitrogen!  Plants need nitrogen, pure and simple.  Like we need air, water, and cans of spinach to make us big and strong, vegetables need nitrogen.  What is it?  Nitrogen is a plant nutrient released by all dead plants and some living ones!  Beans and Alfalfa, for example, add nitrogen back into the soil during growth.  However, not all veggies are so giving.  Tomatoes, corn, and leafy greens are huge nitrogen hogs who just want to gobble it all up as fast as they can!  Most herbs tend to be moderate nitrogen users.  How does knowing this help us and what does it have to do with companion planting?  Well, the other side of companion planting is crop rotating.  Say you plant a nitrogen hungry plant this year which will deplete your soil, next year it is a good idea to plant a nitrogen producing plant in the same plot instead to re-enrich your veggie bed!  Or you might want to spread some nitrogen rich compost down after a year of a crop like corn.  But don’t over do it!  Balance in everything is key.  Just like you don’t want to raise your vegetables in an over watered swamp patch, adding too much nitrogen can also harm your crops.

Feeling overwhelmed?  (If you are a first timer like me then you probably want to choose the easiest vegetables to plant and if that is the case then don’t worry about having the perfect soil or making sure every single vegetable is near it’s best friend. Take this information and make it work for you – not the other way around.) Don’t sweat it!

My tentative plan right now is to plant:

Be    –    M    –    T    –    Ba    –    P    –    M    –    Z/S

That’s beans, marigolds, tomatoes, basil, peppers, marigolds, zucchini/squash.  I’ve decided to add basil because I LOVE fresh basil and planting it near tomatoes is supposed to make them sweeter.

Here are a few links with more information about companion plants:

Companion Planting Cheat Sheet 

Uncle Luke’s Companion Planting Chart

Starting a Garden

As promised, here is the first installment on my gardening, eco, everything green series I am doing in preparation for a sunnier, healthier, cheaper summer!  As I am a beginner gardener, I can’t really say anything I learn or already know is the full proof way of doing it.  I know what I do from watching my mom and grandmother (mommom) and what I’ve learned has come from hours of scouring the internet.  Hopefully, when the weather is warmer I can post the updates of my garden and how these little tips and tricks have actually worked for a real-life novice.  For now, if anyone has any advice of thinks I’m sharing something that is too good to be true don’t hesitate to leave a comment about your own experience!  So, now that we’ve all taken our grain of salt – let’s move ahead!

Planting

2011 Sept 288What to plant

The first step in planning your garden is to decide what you want to grow!  Sounds pretty simple, right?  Thankfully where we live isn’t the arctic so we’ve got a pretty wide range of possible plants.  If you live somewhere with any type of “extreme” climate (arid, moist, frigid, depths of hell hot, etc.) and a shortened growing season then you might want to look up what vegetables are best for your area. Here is a handy, dandy link from Mother Earth News to help you plan best for your area.  When you subscribe for free they will send you timely reminders of when you should plant your crops.

Also, let me not forget while I am under the heading of what to plant.  In deciding which vegetables you want to grow you should also choose if you want to grow from seed or a starter plant.  This year we are using starter plants because they can go straight from the store to our garden.  It isn’t the most sustainable option but it is less labor intensive and we won’t have to worry about mold and fungus on our seedlings.  My long term goal is to store the seeds from this year’s plants to start from seed next year.  I’ll talk about starting from seed in more detail in another post.

For my first garden I am going with some staples from my childhood:

Roma Tomatoes (for sauce & stewed tomatoes)
Green Zucchini
Yellow Squash
Green Bell Peppers
Red Bell Peppers
Green Beans

When to plant

The first thing I’ve learned about starting a garden is that there are specific times during the year to plant depending on where you live.  I’m not sure when my mom planted when I was growing up.  Definitely in the spring but she never bothered looking up her zone or anything.  However, I grew up in fertile and warm South  Jersey, the garden state, and am currently residing in North Eastern PA, known for its cold weather and coal mining.  It isn’t as if I’ve moved from Florida to Alaska but the summers are a bit milder, the winters are a tad harsher and things which easily fair an outdoor climate in Jersey all year need to be housed during a PA winter.  (Like the sickly basil plant I was given last summer, nursed and tended through the fall and let die before December.)

So because I want to be as prepared as possible, like a good little gardener I looked up my zone.  Here is a link where you can look up your zone and a nifty table that describes when specific veggies should be planted.  Unlike the Mother Earth News link this requires no subscriptions but will not send you email reminders – so the choice is yours.

Here are the dates suggested for our veggies:

Tomatoes:  May-June
Zucchini/Squash: Early May
Bell Peppers:  May-June
Green Beans: June-July

Where to plant

If you don’t have the best outdoor spot to till up some dirt then there are a variety of other options for starting your garden.  Admittedly, we probably could have sustained a small herb garden in our previous apartment if we were willing to shuffle it around to which ever of our few windows was receiving sunlight at the time. But if you’ve got sun – that’s all you need!  A small balcony, deep window ledge, or strategically placed end table can set you up nicely for some small scale container gardening!  For this section of my post I looked up a few more articles on container gardens and was flooded with results!  So much so that to fully appreciate the simplicity and ease of apartment and alternative gardening I’ll have to give it its own post.  For now I’ll leave you this sneak peak:

After you’ve decided whether you are having an outdoor/indoor, ground or container garden, it is important to know how much sun your plants like.  When you purchase the seeds or starting plants they should be labeled with the kind of light that plant needs.  For example, there are five different types of sun exposure:

Full shade: Look for this on the north sides of buildings and walls or under trees with low branches and dense leaves. No direct sunlight reaches the ground
Partial shade: Find this in areas that get direct morning sun (on the east side of buildings) or afternoon sun (on the west side of structures) but none at midday, from about 10:00 to 2:00 p.m.
Light shade: Look for this under trees with high branches and sparse foliage.
Partial sun: Same as partial shade but these plants also tolerate midday sun.
Full sun: These places receive full sunlight for at least 6 hours or more each day including midday.

Most vegetables require that 6 hours of tanning but some leaf and root vegetables, like lettuce, peas, carrots, kale, and swiss chard (yum!), will tolerate part sun or light shade.  For my garden, which is full of fruit producing vegetables, we will be needing full sun!

Along with taking note of how much light your vegetables should and will get, you also need to tend to your soil.  It’s good to know whether your vegetables prefer acidic or alkaline soil.  If you have a small plot and two vegetables that can’t agree on the best dirt try planting one in the ground and another in a raised planter box.  If you want to get all gadgety, Lowe’s sells a soil testing meter which will tell you the moisture, light, and PH in your garden for only $8.98.

amending-garden-soil-7

Now, I might have looked up my own special little planting zone but buying gadgets like this is where I draw the line.  If half of my veggies want acidic and half want alkaline then I’ll split them down the middle and use two different types of compost (which I CAN NOT wait!!!!! to talk about in a future post!) to give them what they want.

Key: Neutral soil = 6.5, higher is alkaline, lower is acidic

In our garden all the vegetables are tolerant of approximately the same range.

Tomatoes – neutral or near-neutral soil
Zucchini – neutral to slightly alkaline
Peppers – neutral to slightly acidic
Green Beans – neutral or near-neutral

Companion Planting

marigolds2012falloctober021

While we are discussing where to plant, another great trick is picking a friendly neighbor for your veggies!  Much like the human world, some veggies are better friends than others and make great companion plants!  For example, tomatoes and basil are besties because basil helps to repel spider mites and aphids and attracts bees!  Look forward to my post, Companion Planting: Match-making and Marigolds for more information on the subject.

For the singles in our garden: Do’s

Tomatoes pair well with: basil and marigolds
Peppers with: tomatoes, basil, and onions
Green Beans with: lavender

Don’ts

Tomatoes do not do well with: potatoes or the cabbage family
Peppers with: beans, kale, cabbage family
Green Beans: onions, garlic, fennel

How much to plant

I’m not sure why anyone would want to plant a garden that couldn’t provide enough food for their family for at least a season.  If you don’t have storage space, can’t can, or freeze then fresh vegetables and herbs in the summer are always welcome gifts for friends and neighbors.  In the summer there is almost always a basket full of vegetables at church, free to anyone who wants them.

When determining how many plants to plant it is important to think about how long you want them to feed you.  Will you be canning or freezing produce to use all year?  How much space do you have?  And, how much time do you have, because you don’t want to become overwhelmed with an overgrown garden.  So determining how many seedlings, sprouts, vines, and bushes is a question of balancing your goals with ability.  Here is a helpful chart with suggestions for how much to plant if you are planning to feed a family for one year from the garden.

Using the food for a year chart I should plant:

20 tomato plants
10 Squash
10 Zucchini
6-10 Pepper plants
4-8 Green Beans

…… Ugh, I don’t think so.  1. I absolutely don’t have the space.  and 2. That is a lot to can and freeze and my apartment is very small with an already full freezer.  Our goal is to eat fresh during the season and freeze/can what we can keep.  Also, I want to start out small so I don’t get overwhelmed.  Right now I estimate we will need 3 tomato plants, 2 green peppers, 2 red peppers, 2 squash, 2 zucchini, and 3 green beans.

Last but not least, Watering

watering can spraying water

Unlike sunshine and soil, watering is something you can have a bit more control over.  If you want total control over how much water your plants get then I recommend building a green house.  Otherwise, pay attention to the rain water they receive and water them accordingly.  Through rain or the hose, your veggies need an inch of water per week.  According to Burpee, “Thoroughly soaking the soil with infrequent watering is better than shallow regular watering. Deep soaking encourages plant roots to reach deep into the soil while shallow watering keeps roots close to the surface, leaving the plants susceptible to drought.”  But when they say soaking they do not mean frequently drowning your plants which can also cause damage to the plant and crops.  Instead, let’s say it isn’t going to rain this week so you should soak your garden twice a week about 1/2 in. each time.

In addition, some plants enjoy a good sprinkling all over to keep cool while others need their fruit and leaves to stay dry to stave off mold.  For example, tomatoes should be watered at the roots.  I had an excellent article with more examples but have lost it in the dregs of internet history.  As a rule of thumb, leafy greens like to be sprinkled – especially if they are in direct sun while fruit bearing vegetables should be watered at the roots.

So I hope you’ve enjoyed the first installment in my series and will keep reading!!  Coming up in Starting a Garden, I hope to write more about companion planting, composting, alternative gardens, fertilizing, pest control, and tips for growing my specific veggies!

Not to mention all the other fabulous, eco-friendly projects I’m pursuing!

Getting my garden on!

I have been wanting to start my own garden for the past four years but I’ve never had the space or even enough natural light in our previous, window-handicapped apartment.  I did have a brief, dinky flower garden which our down stair neighbors promptly filled with cigarette butts and the occasional stray Pabst Blue Ribbon can.  Charming.  However, now we have a whole yard to develop how we like!  It isn’t huge but there is a cozy spot in the back corner with lots of sun that it already plotted out as it used to be a flower garden.  A little digging, a little weeding, a little fertilizing and voila!  Our first vegetable garden.

My mom always had a garden when I was living at home.  We grew tomatoes, zucchini, squash, onions, bell peppers, frying peppers, hot peppers, and some very flavorless watermelons.  In the summer we would go down to the garden and pick something fresh to fry up, grill, broil, or bake for dinner that night.  While I always appreciated the harvest, I very seldom did any of the sowing, tilling, or even watering.  Everyone says that gardening is this great relaxing and stress relieving endeavor but I know myself well enough that it will more likely be a bit of a challenge for me.  Honestly, I am a little lazy so I’ll be exercising my just-get-up-and-do-it muscle.

Even though my flower gardens haven’t enjoyed much success in the past I am really looking forward planting some veggies!  Also, it’s going to help me tick off a few new year resolutions, like saving money this year.  The best deal I’ve ever found in the grocery store for tomatoes on the vine was $1.99 per lb. but a few $5 tomato plants will produce fruit for an entire season!  When I was working as a personal chef the family I cooked for had between 5-8 tomato plants which grew more produce than we could ever use – and they were a family of 6 adults who loved tomato products!

Aside from saving money, having a garden will also help me accomplish my other resolution of getting outside more and taking the baby outside more too!  I’ll forgive myself for being a hermit now because Pennsylvania winters are rough but come spring and summer – I NEED NEED NEED to get out of my freaking house.  We’ve got three more months of cold and I already have cabin fever.

So to get myself ready for a sunnier, healthier, and cheaper summer I am Pinterest-ing like a mad woman!  I love Pinterest – it’s like Google with thumbnails!  What I like to do is gather all the good looking articles in my neatly organized boards, head back to read through all of them at once, and collect my research.  Because I am so awesome and I just love you guys I’ve decided to share the wealth!  For however long it takes I’ve decided to do a series of all the gardening, eco-friendly, diy, and sustainability tips, tricks, and info I find.

Here is my tentative schedule:

Pinterest Research

  • starting a garden
  • composting
  • canning/freezing
  • getting rid of disposable items
  • diy baby care
  • eco-friendly housekeeping
  • energy-saving techniques/diy
  • sustainable lifestyle
  • homesteading

I’m excited to get started and share everything I learn!  Happy gardening!

New Year Book Recommendations

“A room without books is like a body with out a soul.” – Cicero

One of the best new year’s resolutions anyone can make is to read more!  I have always loved books.  When I was in junior high my friend Nicole and I always said that if it was the end of the world you could find us at the library trying to read one more book before it all ended.  Also from when I was younger, I used to wish heaven were a place where I could live out the lives of my favorite heroes and heroines from fiction.  So if you are accepting a reading challenge or just want to read more in general in the new year, here are my recommendations.  Each book has a link to its Amazon site.

Female Hero, Adventure/Fantasy:

The Hero and the Crown by Robin Mckinley
The Blue Sword by Robin Mckinley
A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray (A trilogy)

Female Hero, Fiction:

Chocolat by Joann Harris (Apparently there are other book following the same heroine.  I haven’t read them but am making a note for future!)
Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman (Very different from the movie.  I loved the movie but I don’t even associate the two.  The book is incredible.)

Fantasy Fiction:

The Earthsea Quartet by Ursula K. Le Guin
The Other Wind by Ursula K. Le Guin (Read the Earthsea quartet first!  This is the finale of the Earthsea books.. at least, it is Ged’s final book.  We aren’t sure yet if it is the end of Earthsea.)

Young Adult/Children’s Fantasy Fiction:

Howl’s Moving Castle by Dianna Wynne Jones (I love Miyazaki’s adaptation of this book and have watched in numerous times but I have read this book times innumerable!  It makes a wonderful bedtime story if you have children, boys or girls, but it is also great if you are in the mood for something sweet, charming, and whimsical.)
Castle in the Air by Dianna Wynne Jones (If you have seen Castle in the Sky by Miyazaki – this book is nothing like it.  Not even the same story.  This is the sort-of-sequel to Howl’s Moving Castle and so much fun to read.  I can’t wait until my little ragamuffin is old enough to read these books with.)
The Complete Chronicles of Narnia by C.S Lewis  (When I say complete, I mean it!  I know you’ve probably heard or seen the movies like, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, or, Prince Caspian, but you haven’t read Narnia until you’ve read The Horse and His Boy or The Silver Chair.  Don’t woose out, read them all!)

Space Odyssey:

Ender’s Game Series by Orson Scott Card (You’ve heard it before but I’m gonna say it – the book was WAY better than the movie.  The movie was good but the book was complex, dark, and enthralling.  So rare.  The last time I actually couldn’t put a book down I was in sixth grade reading the complete Chronicles of Narnia for the first time.

Nonfiction:

The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad
Multicultural Manners by Norine Dresser (I read this book for an ESL class in college but it was fun and very informative.  A good starting point if you are planning on visiting another country.)

Christian Nonfiction:

Through Her Eyes by Marti Smith
Revolution in World Mission by K.P Yohannan (Although, I will tell you to read this with a grain of salt.  K.P Yohannan is very passionate about his thesis and his insights are changing world mission for the better but at times the book reads a little extremist.)
Road to Reality by K.P Yohannan (Same note as above.)

My book list:  These are books I got for Christmas and plan to work on in the new year.

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman ( I am currently reading this book and it has a very Malice in Wonderland feel to it.  I can’t wait to finish this post and snuggle up with it in bed!)
Coraline by Neil Gaiman
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Maze Runner by James Dashner

Also I am rereading the Harry Potter series once I’ve exhausted my new books.  Harry Potter, books and movies, is my guilty pleasure – don’t judge!!

Have a very readerly new year!

New Years

I don’t like making resolutions.  I am all about being goal oriented, especially short-term goals, but I always have a hard time making new year’s resolutions.  I guess what I am supposed to do is look back over the passing year and decide in what ways I’ve failed, could be a better person, or how I could achieve in the new year what I couldn’t in this.  I don’t diet, I know myself well enough that if I say, “I am going to exercise,” I just won’t, and I’m already a freak about staying organized so all the usual standbys are even more meaningless.

In retrospect, 2014 was an exceptional year!  February I had an incredible baby shower full of fun, my favorite snacks, friends, and presents!  We moved into a better apartment in a safer neighborhood.  March, our beautiful daughter was born just in time to be the best birthday gift ever in April.  May, June, July were rough, I’m not going to lie.  Even though our girl is amazing, smart, funny, sweet, affectionate, and beautiful she was a handful to get used to.  September we had our first family vacation in the Outer Banks and we needed it!!  October, baby’s first Halloween (she was a fat cat!), then my parent’s came to our house for the first Thanksgiving we’ve ever hosted, and we just kind of slipped through our first Christmas as a family of three (it snuck up on us this year but we had a nice, relaxing time).  I’ve learned a lot this year, changed, grown, transitioned.  If I were to make a resolution regarding all that I suppose I could say I want to be a more attentive mother – as my baby attempts to eat a something off the floor.  Although, that would be pretty meaningless too because  Autumn is happy, healthy, and I am sane!  We play together, we laugh together, and she’s learning so fast, so if I don’t catch every single fuzzy before it sees the inside of her mouth I think I am still doing pretty damn good as a mother.

I suppose there are some things I’d like to do in 2015 but they only count as new year’s resolutions by default.  It is only a coincidence that my to do list starts in the new year.  We haven’t lived in this apartment for a year yet so I haven’t had a chance to fully utilize the yard and clothes line out back.  Only because it requires hot summer days, here is my first “resolution”:

1. Be diligent about using the clothes line so we can save money on electricity.

I guess we can add this to the list.  We need to save money on electricity because we are:

2. Trying harder this year to save our money for a down payment on a house.

I am so thankful for the new apartment we are in now.  Unlike our last one, it isn’t in the city surrounded by drunken frats and drug dealing neighbors and it isn’t up two flights of stairs.  We love our new home but we’ve been day dreaming more and more about owning one.  In our last apartment our land lady let us use our rent money to fix it up a bit.  We painted every room, put new flooring in the kitchen and bathroom, and installed a new faucet in the kitchen.  It made living there for the first two years more comfortable and didn’t cost us anything but our time but it was still an investment we’d never see a return for.  We want a home with privacy, where we can’t hear our neighbor walking or snoring through the walls, a place we can make our own without asking permission, where we can have chickens and a big dining room table to fit all our family!

In the same vein:

3. Plant a vegetable garden to lower our grocery bill.

4. Put ALL of our tax return in the bank!

In years past we’ve used our tax return mostly to make extra payments on our school loans and in part to help get our newlywed life into a comfortable routine.  But this year we are putting it all away!  It hasn’t been easy watching our friends moving through life milestones while we feel stuck where we are.  Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t regret the choices we’ve made and we’ve stuck to our priorities.  Priority number one has always been to get out of debt and to that end we’ve never made a life choice that hindered us from making over the minimum monthly payment.  Another priority is the life we give our little one.  Those fast-moving friends have a leg up on us because they all have two incomes.  We decided our quality time was more important to spend as a family than in some job.

While I don’t consider my to do list “resolutions” in the strict sense that I am waiting specifically for the new year to start them, I guess they make the cut by default.  Mostly because they require warmer weather or the end of a tax season, those are my goals for 2015.  And just because now I’m feeling in the spirit of plan making, here are a few other fun things I’d like to do after winter.

5. Spend more time outside.

6. Learn how to can things from my garden.

7. Take Autumn to the park.

8. Spend less time on the computer.

Happy New Year!

Sleep Alchemy

I swear, my daughter lays in bed at night and with a sigh thinks to herself, “I’ve already woken up four times in the past hour.  I’ve had my bottle plus that extra one I demand after midnight and I’ve peed twelve times.  I’m in my micro-fleece jammies that are much nicer than any of my mommy’s jammies… but something is missing.  Should I kick askew my singing mobile?  Or, perhaps, try and get my legs caught between the bars of my crib?  Maybe I’ll throw around my covers and tangle them in a heap trapping myself in a small corner of my bed…”  Waaaaaaaaah!!!!!!!   Waaaaaaaah!!!

Not dogs barking, truck engines revving, or even our loud-footed neighbor can wake my sleeping babe.  Not but the faint rustle of peaceful sleep drifting lazily from her mother’s bedroom will cause my wonderful infant to stir.  After I’ve changed her, rocked her, fed her, changed her again, and gently tucked her back in I silently creep to my own room to watch the monitor for signs of rebellion.  She’s as quiet as a church mouse and it isn’t until she senses the sweet comfort of sleep slowly rolling over me that she begins beating her fat little legs against the wall in protest.

I used to get over sickness so quickly; 24 hours tops and I was cured!  Now, catching a cold is like… is like having a baby!  It just never goes away.  This one started as a sore throat, progressed to a fever, downgraded to nasal drip, threatened a sinus infection, and is now a chest clenching cough that has left me literally speechless!  I’m supposed to teach a class in a few days and my voice has improved slightly from death rattle to chain smoker.  Meanwhile I am leaving a trail of tissues like a self-conscious slug.  Women!  Do not breastfeed your babies; it’s how they suck away all your life force.

She only does this when her father is working back to back shifts.  She can feel a change in the force and strikes out against the un-unified parental guard.  This time I won’t head her wailing though!  There is absolutely nothing that baby wants for.  She is living high on the hog with her fresh, second bottle, hundredth new diaper, and heaps of loving cuddles.  It isn’t like it matters anymore, though, as I’ve spent so much time getting up for her that my rhythm is completely thrown off and I’m not tired anymore.

Is there some strange alchemy going on in my house at night?  Some law of equivalent exchange that makes it impossible for her to sleep unless I give my sleep?  You win this round, Brat.

 

 

 

(P.S If you are a parent and can unashamedly understand/appreciate the references made in this post then we might be best friends!)

Early Christmas

(Just a little warning.  My head is full of cotton and my chest is full of salt from this cold so please forgive any incoherence in this post.)

We came home last night after spending a night at the husband’s brother’s house.  My sister-in-law Mel has become my best friend this past year and we love just hanging out, drinking wine, and watching our babies play together.  It’s always fun to spend time with family but it feels even better to come home to our own messy house, our own lazy routine, and soak in the quiet comfort.

The baby and I will be spending tonight and tomorrow night alone as her daddy has to work so we decided to have a little early Christmas last night.  I enjoyed the excitement and tension of going to bed Christmas eve and trying to fall asleep as fast as I could to wake up early in the morning and race to my presents!  It’s still fun now when we visit our family and are surrounded by big boxes and bigger laughs.  But in our little family of 3 we’ve come to appreciate a more laid back, relaxing Christmas.

We were so happy to be home and feeling so warm and comfortable after dinner we decided to open our presents then!  Little one went first and had a very sweet first Christmas.  As I was taking pictures of her opening and playing with her gifts I noticed the wrinkled onsie sporting splashes of soup from dinner and wondered whether I should have put her in something more festive.  Would that have made our Christmas more special though?  If we were “pinterest-perfect”?

I don’t want to use this post to bemoan the perfectionist anxiety plaguing the pinterest generation but I will just take a moment to say a little something… We were tired, smelly, and messy.  The dishes weren’t done, the floor wasn’t vacuumed or even cleared of toys.  We weren’t wearing our Christmas best or being followed by a professional photographer.  We had our Christmas in our home, not a perfectly lit photo shoot.  And it was wonderful, sweet, and authentic.

We gave our gifts, kisses all around, and settled down to enjoy ourselves and each other for the rest of the night.  We ate soup and sandwiches for dinner and left the wrapping paper on the floor till morning.  Not the prettiest Christmas perhaps, or the most traditional, but it was all our own and we loved it!

Merry Christmas!