Where Have I Been?

I’ve been blogging, only not here. I’ll keep this post short and to the point.

So where have I been?
I’ve been blogging at A Calm Persistence. Feel free to follow over there too- it’s not always pretty, but it’s honest. The blog is about my experience with recurrent pregnancy loss and infertility and I’m finally ready to share my story. No more secrets.

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Garden Update: June 12, 2014

It’s raining. So, what does a gardener do when it rains? She updates her gardening blog. A lot has been happening in the garden, but I haven’t had much energy to update this blog when I’ve been actually gardening. But it’s growing!!

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Potatoes, bush beans, tomatoes:

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More potatoes and mint:

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Potatoes growing in a crate:

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Cutting Gardening in progress-sunflowers, zinnias, cosmos: This picture is a bit blue, but you get the point. 

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I’m using watering system this year. If it works this year, I’m going to hide the hoses, but right now I really wanted to just see how it would do. Tony is in charge of watering my garden this week, so I wanted to quick install everything so he had less work.

 

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I got them at Walmart at the end of the season. They were originally $20 a pack, but I got them for 75% off and two from my brother-in-law for my birthday. I used 5 packs in the entire garden. I got them to stay by using a tent stake I bent to fit the hose. Each stake was $0.79 at Ace Hardware.

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A few reclaimed accents:

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Another use for an old chicken crate:

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I drilled holes in a wash tub and now it’s a planter for sunflowers and cosmos. My apple mint is a bit out of control here, you can’t even see the rusty mower in the back.

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My little guy. He HATES coming into the garden because he usually ends up getting sprayed by the hose at some point.

 

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And last, but not least the flowers are finally blooming:

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Hot Potato! Hot Potato!

There is just something about potatoes pulled right from the ground. They really don’t taste like store-bought ones at all. Last year, I mixed store-bought red potatoes with the homegrown (because I didn’t have enough from the garden) and Tony wanted to know “what the heck” was wrong with the ‘other’ potatoes. I told him they were from the store. He then chose to only eat the potatoes from the garden and he’s not a picky eater at all.

Why do I grow my own potatoes? One word: PESTICIDES. I’ve seen one too many Dr. Oz shows on why organic potatoes are the way to go. Growing my own, I KNOW they are organic instead of just some unregulated label they stick on the bag.

But with the cutting garden going in, there is really no room for potatoes in the raised beds. So, just like I did with my strawberries, I’m getting creative here too.

We’ve all seen on Pinterest how you can grow potatoes in a tower, a wire cylinder lined with straw, or even in a laundry basket, right? Seriously though, did you ever try searching “growing potatoes” on Pinterest? Potatoes are easy to grow so I can see why you can grow them just about anywhere.

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The problem I have with plastic containers is the chemicals. What is the point of growing them with organic pest control, in organic soil if you’re going to grow them in plastic bins that will bake in the sun? Wouldn’t that lace the soil and then the veggies with chemicals? Not that I’m crazy about this, but it IS one way I can control what I allow into my food.

So, because potatoes will grow just about anywhere I’m going to try to get a bit creative here just like I did with my strawberries. I got bushel baskets from my MIL (for free). She had gotten them from an auction years ago and never used them. She probably has about 20-30 baskets hiding out in her shed.

So here’s what I did. I planted 2 varieties of potatoes.. Red organic potatoes (early season) and regular potato seed.

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You do have to get actual seed potatoes and the time to buy them is in mid-March to right around now. Eventually stores will not sell them into the summer months because the potatoes will actually bake in the ground if the soil is too hot.

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You then have to cut the potato to separate the sprout. The sprouts will turn into your potato plants. I usually make sure they are about golfball size.

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Here are my potato pieces that will eventually be plants.

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They say you need to treat them with an anti-fungus powder, but I never do and they are always fine. I hope I don’t jinx myself this year though. Here is a started potato bushel basket:

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And the red potatoes are already starting to come up:

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This is the first spring I’m not teaching, so it’s so rewarding that I got a head start on my garden.  I already have lettuce, strawberries, and potatoes growing and it’s only the start of May! I’m pretty excited about this.

 

Starting more Strawberries: Creative Solution

Strawberry plants come like this in case you didn’t know- they are dormant so it’s okay they aren’t in soil. You can get a pack of them for $7-9. I found them in Mid April at all of my local greenhouses. Strawberries.org is also a very helpful reference for finding the strawberry type you might need.

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Just a reminder, there are three basic types of strawberries, June-bearing, Ever-bearing, Day-neutral.

  • June-bearing: produce strawberries in June for about 2-3 weeks. These are great for canning, strawberry pies, and jam because you really get a lot in a short amount of time.
  • Ever-bearing: I call these ‘garden snaking strawberries’ because they produce just enough strawberries all summer long to snack on.
  • Day Neutral: I don’t really ever plant these because the strawberries are small and they really don’t produce as much as the June-bearing.

This year I planted three different varieties. They are all technically June-bearing, but they will produce fruit at different points in the strawberry season:

  • Honeoye: Early-season
  • Allstar: Mid-season
  • Sparkle: Late-season

My thought is that I will have strawberries the entire way through the strawberry season. I might be giving strawberries away!

The problem? I do already have a strawberry raised bed located beside our house, not at the garden but there is no room for additional strawberry plants by the house or in the garden. So, I had to get creative. I’m not quite sure it’s going to work at all… I have no idea.

I made strawberry boxes. I figured you can plant them in planters or plastic hanging bags, why not in a crate? It will have good drainage and full-sun and that’s what strawberries love.

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So, I lined it with a straw blanket (The stores were out of burlap so I had to get creative). The straw blanket is usually used for newly seeded yards to help the grass grow, but I figured it would help the soil drain great. It also has a plastic netting inside so it’ll keep in the dirt.

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We (by we, I mean Tony) screwed them into the garden fence and added soil: (FYI- the bag was full of rain water too, so it was HEAVY. That’s why the hubs is making such a strenuous face). 

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I planted the strawberries. I’m thinking I over crowded the box (the recommendation is 1 plant per square foot or in a row-12-18 inches apart), but I don’t care I’ll just pull them out if they stop producing. If you want the actual planting strawberry suggestion instead of my ‘we will see if this works’ way, you can check out this great Youtube Video: How to Grow Strawberries, but honestly I just don’t have that kind of room. We are planning on extending our garden next year, so maybe then I do it the right way.

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I’ll keep you posted on how they do!

 

 

 

Peach Tree SOS

I know, I’m blowing up your reader or inbox with gardening posts today.. sorry about that. I promise this is the last post for today. I’ve been taking pictures, gardening, and now I’m finally getting a chance to sit down and record it all. 

Last year at the Mud Sale I bought two peach trees and two dwarf cherry trees. My peach trees are Baby Gold (apparently good for canning) and my cherry trees are Montmorency dwarf trees (sour pie cherries).  I have a problem though, I don’t even know the first thing about caring for trees! I’ve never grown a fruit tree before.

I honestly don’t even know where to start, but here are the pretty blossoms on the tree right now. Can I prune the tree when it is blooming? It seems to be growing straight up.

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I do know one sure way to kill a fruit tree is to prune it at the wrong time, so I started with Google and got mixed reviews on when it’s okay to prune. Then I put out an SOS on Twitter, but no one has responded yet.

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I’ve found this peach pruning “How to” and that helps, but I’ve already missed some deadlines for things I need to do. This will technically be my second summer (first full summer) with the trees.   I’m pretty sure I can’t prune them right now with blossoms on them, so I’ll probably just wait until next March.

Mistakes I made already with these fruit trees:

  • I planted them in awful soil.. sort of on a hill. How in the world am I going to pick fruit on a hill? 
  • I planted them in the burning heat at the beginning of July. Who the heck does that? It’s a miracle they’re even still alive.
  • They are too close together.
  • I haven’t done anything to them yet besides putting them in the ground.

So, I’ll fertilize and feed my trees now (pray they won’t die), treat them so the bugs don’t get them, and take care of pruning next year??? Unless someone tells me I can do it now. Can I? Does anyone know?

Oh, Blueberry Bushes

I always seem to kill my blueberry bushes. After some research, I’m realizing that the soil seems to be the problem. So this is what I constructed.. ALL BY MYSELF. They are not filled with new soil or feed yet and mulch will go around them so they won’t stand out as much, but they are at least completed. 

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The blue color matches the shed (it’s the same outdoor paint), but my thought here is that I can better control the soil.. I’ll let you know how that works.

Tony came home and there I was with the saw, his drill, and screws I managed to find around his garage. He was pretty impressed…. and a bit scared. He wasn’t sure I knew how to work the saw. How hard could it be?

1. I measured the boxes I needed:

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2.I used wood from my reclaimed wood collection:

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3. I cut the boards I needed and screwed them together:

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4. I set them in place before I painted them:

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5. Paint:

 

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I finally filled them with soil and am in the process of locating a good blueberry feed. Any ideas? I think just controlling the soil may help. They are not dead yet, but they’re headed there.

 

Mud Sale: April 12th

 

 

 

 

This was a new experience for me, not because I’ve never been to a Mud Sale, but because I went without Tony. My husband usually comes along-he helps me bid (I can be in two places at once), assists me get everything I bought, and loads things into the truck for me. Going alone was a new experience that I was nervous about, but with the husband being out of town it was a perfect distraction.

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If you didn’t catch my last Mud Sale post in 2013, let me tell you a little bit more:

  • It’s organized and run by Amish volunteers to benefit the local fire companies. All the items are donated and the profits go straight to the fire company.
  • It’s an all day event- lasting from 7:00-7:30am- 2-3pm.
  • There are quite a few auctions going on at the same time: 2 separate plant auctions, crafts, antiques, horses, building materials, yard equipment, quilts, and all sorts of other stuff.
  • When I attend a new sale, in order to know where to go I just follow the crowd of people.
  • If you want to get the best deals you have to wait until people get tired and go home. Or go to a mud sale when it’s raining or extremely hot. Mud Sales are being advertised much better now thanks to social media, so I can’t always find the best deal. Usually bad weather keeps people away.
  • You don’t have to carry any of your stuff to the car or truck. The little Amish boys will do all of that for you, I give them a tip.
  • I always bring my own chairs- I set one up at each tent I’m going to be bidding at. The seats they provide fill up quick.

This year I went in search of a few things- perennials, wood crates, and something to hang on my garden fence for decoration.

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They had crates! I only paid $3 each, but at our local craft store they are $12 each.

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There a lot of flowers and I did manage to get a good price on some decorative grass.

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For the garden fence, I bought stars I’m going to paint. Hopefully it looks okay. I had my eye on these cute wood daisies, but they went for almost $20 each (WAY TOO MUCH). So, instead I bought 7 stars for $12. That was more affordable for me.

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It was a great day even without Tony there. And I leave you with something you don’t see everyday.. (Don’t worry I took this picture when I was stopped in bumper to bumper traffic).

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And this is what the Amish kids do when the sale is just about over- It’s hard to see, but they are all playing volleyball.

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Creating a Cutting Garden: Part 1

I have always grown vegetables and fruits, but last year after visiting my aunt’s house I decided I wanted a cutting garden. A garden of beautiful flowers that I can cut and put in vases all summer long. I love the look of fresh-cut flowers around the house during the summer days, but I really hate spending the money. So I’ve decided that part of my garden is just going to be for flowers this year. There is a really good list from Real Simple called How to Create a Cutting Garden. You can find the link to the flower list here.

I would just love it if my cutting garden would look similar to this one: Here 

I posted the flowers that I have decided to grow from seed below. I will also have different flowers that I get at a mud sale next month. I’ll post them after I go because I have no idea what I’m going to pick up there.

I started all of my seeds, they’re much bigger now though. I always put a few extra seeds in each hole and then pull out the weaker one when they start to grow. Below I was trying to figure out exactly how many of each flower I wanted. I ended up planting 288 flowers. I also planted strawberries, basil, and gourds. I will buy my vegetables at a local Amish greenhouse because it’s so much cheaper and they are bigger plants to start the season.

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Annuals: 

Zinnias- (peppermint, state fair mix, envy) I love Zinnias! They are easy to grow, you can cut them and they regrow, and they come in a variety of colors and flower sizes. The ones that I chose are a color speckled in white, red, orange, yellow, and light green.

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African Daisy- I’ve never grown this flower before, but I thought they would be beautiful.

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Cosmos (sensation mixture)- I chose these because they grow high and they can grow well in poor soil. They come in a variety of colors.

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Mexican Sunflowers- I chose this one because I researched them and apparently  one single plant spreads easily. They are also long-stemmed and bright red.

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Sunflower (Autumn Beauty)–  I’m pretty excited about this sunflower too. These sunflowers are yellow, orange, and yellow/red. They do grow 5′-7′ so I would imagine that the flowers would be a perfect focal point in a vase full of flowers.

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Sunflower (Mammoth)- I am added these, although I wish I would have chose more of a branching sunflower so I had more to cut. It’s not too late though, so I might try. If you are starting your own cutting garden, I would suggest a branching sunflower variety. These will get pretty big, but maybe I’ll be able to catch them before they do.

Calendula- 

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Perennials: I don’t know much about some these other than what was on the back of the packet. 🙂

Cone Flower – I know that these flowers can grow pretty much anywhere because they are drought tolerant. They will also produce big, beautiful flowers to fill a vase. This is really one of my favorite flowers.

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Columbine (Peppermint Candy): 

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Blanket Flower: I just love these. They are so pretty!

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Malva: 

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I have no idea if these will actually grow, but I’m hoping for a Part 2 or 3 to show you how it turns out. But this is the plan.

 

 

It’s that time of year…

I’m so excited that the weather around here is finally starting to feel like Spring. And Spring means gardening!

I spent both Saturday afternoon and Sunday all day in the garden.  I’ve been very busy! A lot has also happened since the last time I blogged, but I’ll slowly catch you up on all of that. The first new thing you might notice is a puppy in the pictures below. Unfortunately we lost our English Bulldog, Tank in February to lymphoma. We did get a puppy and he’s such a ball of energy and so much fun.

I’m back to blogging (hopefully to stay). Working in the garden this weekend I’ve discovered that a lot needs to be done. I hauled about 10 wheelbarrows of leaves and debris from around the beds. It was a mess. I even needed my husband’s help to remove branches from a previous ice storm. I cannot wait to get some color in these beds!

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While removing the leaves, I also discovered that the shutters need repainted. They look awful!  The rough winter had quite an impact on the paint.

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So I had to first use a putty knife to get all the paint that was peeling off, which took forever.

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And my little helper kept stealing my kneeling mat.

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I’ll sand the shutters down on Tuesday and hopefully get another layer of paint on them to last another few years.

 

I also got a chance to plant lettuce yesterday (although I did not prepare all of the beds yet, I did do 1/2 of one prepared for lettuce). Lettuce is easily planted right now by seeds and does really well in temperatures ranging from about 45F to 65F. Lettuce is usually somewhat frost tolerant, but I may have to cover it if it gets too cold. I prefer the loose-leaf lettuce because you can just take what you need and it grows back.

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I try to keep my garden as pesticide-free as possible and I do love this Miracle-Gro soil (no they do not pay me to say that, although that would be great, wouldn’t it?). I’ll use regular (inexpensive top soil) for the rest of the beds and mix in a few bags of this when I actually fill the beds in a few weeks.

 

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Overall, I’m excited to finally get back in the garden! And it was nice to have the company of this little guy (don’t you just love the dirt on his chin? He eats it.)

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DIY Christmas Tree from a Tomato Cage

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! I know. I know. We didn’t even have Thanksgiving yet, but the retail stores have tricked me into the holiday spirit.

I’ve seen a lot of DIY Christmas trees on Pinterest, but I have to tell you I was unimpressed with most of them. Most were showing the wires and if they did look nice, there was not a tutorial on how to do it.

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I used a tomato cage I already had. One that was in terrible shape.

I then used this garden twine to wrap around the tomato cage, but I’m sure you could use what you have on hand to save you money. I wanted it to be circular, so I put this all around the cage so the garland would have something to grab onto.

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The picture below looks messy, but it still worked.

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I then wrapped it with garland starting at the top. I got 30 feet at Lowe’s for $5 and I needed about 45 feet to cover the tomato cage.

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I then prepared the base. I used my Cricut Expressions machine to do this:

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Then I put the tree on top of a plastic pot (upside down) and put my tree on top. In order to give it some weight and take up space I wanted to use water bottles and gravel, but I didn’t have any one hand. Wine bottles though, yeah I had those. 🙂

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I then put garland on top (I got a 15′ section at Dollar tree). Then I decorated! I used all ornaments and stuff from Dollar Tree and I already had the ribbon! You can’t even tell the wine bottles are there.

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I’m pretty proud of my creation! And it was MUCH cheaper than the store bought ones.

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Price breakdown:

Wash tub: Free- I already had as a planter- btw you may have to drill holes in the bottom so water can drain out.
Wine bottles/plastic pot-free
Ribbon- Free (I already had, but it sells for $5 at Lowe’s)
Garland- $10 for 30feet (Lowe’s)
Garland- $1 for 15 feet (Dollar Tree)
Berries- $5 Lowe’s (although I found them at Dollar Tree after I already bought them at Lowe’s)
Ornaments: $2 (Dollar Tree)
Start topper: $2 (Dollar Tree)

If you add lights, it will be an extra $5 (I’m making another one that will get lights)

Total Cost: $20
If you use ornaments you already have, buy the berries at Dollar Tree, and keep an eye out for cheaper garland, you could make it for much cheaper.

The store bought trees cost anywhere from $48-$100.