Friday, May 24, 2013

Get Into The Garden

I've had to trick myself into going into the garden. Last year, after moving into our new house in May, we rushed to get the garden plowed up and planted. And then I just let it do its thing. What I discovered, however, is that you can never just sit and let a garden "do its thing". If you do, without even realizing the weeds take over practically overnight, your tomato plants grow exponentially before you have a chance to pinch off any suckers, and your squash plants take over everything until you can't find where your pepper plants were. Let's just say my gardening plan was majorly flawed.

This year we're trying a different tactic. I changed my garden to raised beds using the plot markers, put down newspaper and a bunch of mulch and the biggest key: I told myself I had to spend at least 5 minutes gardening a day - I would not only be taking care of my garden, but I would also receive much needed exercise and therapeutic relaxation at the same time!

The amazing thing about the 5 minute promise to myself is that I rarely only spend 5 minutes. Most days I spend a lot longer digging, weeding, pruning, etc. But if I told myself I had to work at least 15 minutes, I don't know if I would feel as motivated to get out there, especially if the day was hot. 5 minutes though - I can do that!

So far, this method has been working great. Minus days that it's raining, I have been outside gardening way more than I was last year. Some days I get a lot done, other days I don't. But the point is that little by little I'm making progress and keeping tabs on what's going on with our property. One day I just spent hacking at an ugly bush by our front porch. Another day I dug up a miniscule part of our heavy infestation of daffodil bulbs and planted some along the front of our property by the street. (That was way more work!) Sometimes it's hard to grasp that little tiny efforts along the way add up in the end. The nice thing with gardening is that you can actually see the fruits of your labor fairly quickly. If you don't do anything, though, the weeds will let you know - that's for sure!
Raised beds using plot markers.

A massive carpet of daffodils. It's ridiculous.
The cute fuzzy little caterpillars (tent worms) that I suspect are responsible for deflowering our entire pear tree and some of our currant bush. Arrrrh!!! We definitely need chickens!
A pretty iris - this is the only one of this color on our property. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Spring is Here

Spring arrived on our little homestead a few weeks early! Well, ever since January, the stubborn spring flowers have been coming up. We even had violets spring up in the beginning of February! So, to say our winter has been on the mild side would be an understatement.

Here are some pictures of our early bloomers plus a couple cute birds visiting our bird feeder:

Sweet little guy!

White Crocus
The first flower to appear (not counting the very early violets)
There are some purple ones blooming now!

Another bird visitor

My red currant is showing buds! Yay!

Daffodils growing like crazy in our yard.
Why the previous owner planted them here is beyond me!

A bulb I planted back in October. I can't remember what it is.

(There are plenty)

Budding Bartlett pear tree

The strawberries are growing too!

We've had two snow storms since they've starting growing and budding, but it doesn't seem to phase them too much. Now I really need to get going on planning our garden and starting some seeds!

Happy Early Spring!

Monday, March 4, 2013

An Owl Visitor

A beautiful barred owl 

Look who came to visit us the other day! There were actually two in the trees, but we didn't see the other one until they both flew away. And then just a few nights ago I was loading my daughter up into our car. It was dark out and I heard 3-4 owls hooting loudly to each other in our trees. We hear them fairly often from a distance, but when they're in our treeline by our yard, they are loud! It was so cool! It was too bad it was so dark, because that would have been neat to see.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Dyeing Mishap

Today I was dyeing my daughter's white comfort blanket a nice shade of blue. I sewed a bunch of her baby burp rags together into a large blanket, and even though she's 3, she still loves snuggling with those burp rags! Well, I didn't want 8+ years of stains showing (I used them for my son as well who is now 6), so dyeing was the obvious solution.

I put on my rubber cleaning gloves and was squishing the fabric in the dyeing water for about 10 minutes before I had to take my gloves off to do something. Little did I know that one of the fingers had a tiny slit in it and...

Of course it had to be my middle finger that was dyed! I don't really want any attention to be drawn to my middle finger, especially because I'm not the sort of person that just flips people off, you know?!

Next time, a thorough inspection of my gloves will be done before I start dyeing.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

From Pallets to Chicken Coop

Our own homegrown eggs are so close!!!

My husband and I are preparing for the project I've been waiting for most of my life: building a chicken coop to house some chickens! We got this great idea from Mother Earth News for building a chicken coop out of wood pallets. You can usually get wood pallets for free and we're lucky in that our neighbor occasionally ends up with pallets in relation to his job and doesn't know what to do with them. Now that he knows we're collecting them, he just brings them on over! Sweet!

Well, we only have 2 pallets so far, so it's going a bit slow. I guess that's okay though. The wood is free! Sometimes "free" takes time. :-)

I am so thrilled to finally be able to seriously think about chickens! It's always been so far in the distance that I haven't even settled on what breeds I want or how many. I'll need to bust out my chicken book and get studying.!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Homemade Brown Sugar

For me, brown sugar is one of those things that I don't really think about until I need it in a recipe. Usually I have some on hand, but the last time I needed it - I was totally out! I had no time to go out to buy some and it was Sunday. We usually don't go shopping on Sunday. So I was stuck! What was I going to do? Thankfully, I remembered that I had stashed away a recipe on making your own brown sugar with two ingredients - sugar and molasses.

I dumped about 2 lbs. of sugar into a bowl, poured on about a half cup of molasses and started stirring. It definitely turned into brown sugar but it smelled very molassesy. It also had little molasses clumps in it. That had me a little concerned. But I didn't have time to worry about it and continued to make the sticky rolls I was in the middle of making. Well, to my surprise the molasses flavor baked out and everything tasted normal! How cool!

So, if you are in a pinch and need brown sugar, be sure to have some white sugar and molasses on hand. You'll be able to save your own bacon without having to go very far! :-)

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Colonial Projects

Right now in homeschooling, my son and I are doing a unit on the colonists. So we started reading about the Jamestown settlement and now we're reading about the Mayflower. As a historian, I am very careful about what we read when it comes to history. History is a tricky thing because primary sources are often very biased, and reading secondary sources can be even worse! It is very difficult to find neutral accounts of history, so sometimes it proves to be rather difficult to find just the right books to read. (Don't even get me started on Christopher Columbus!) For now we're using Mayflower 1620: A New Look at a Pilgrim Voyage done by the Plymouth Plantation. We will also be taking a look at 1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving also done by the Plymouth Plantation. Their books look very impressive, with photos of reenactments of the events, and I love that they really seek to bring an equal point of view from the Wampanoag people. 

Anyway, I also found some fun books on Colonial crafts. I was surprised with how many I found! Our first project was knotting a fishing net, because fish was a very important part of their diet. My son is still learning how to tie knots, so I helped him a lot, but it turned out really well, I think!

The cool thing about this project is that it could be applied in so many ways - for the fishing for food aspect, a religious context with Jesus and the apostles who were fishermen, for studying jobs or industries, etc. It was actually pretty simple! We found the project in Projects About Colonial Life by Marian Broida in the Hands-On History series. I think some of the other crafts in there are a little pointless, but I'm picky when it comes to crafts, so that's really just me. Check it out!

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