Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Home is what you make it




Finally!

Well we've made it. Five months and 2,000 miles later and we're shaking the road off of our feet and slowly settling into our new home in the Pacific Northwest.

When we pulled up roots in Oklahoma and headed to the Pacific Northwest I expected all of the normal changes: climate, culture and all of the typical dynamics that go along with a move, like, where's the closest bank, where do I buy groceries and how do I get to local post office.

But as I was unpacking I had this unsettled feeling and couldn't shake it.

I rationalized all the normal feelings about the amount of stress moves can create, but nothing I did seemed to make a difference. The more I tried to get settled the more I felt unsettled. I needed to make this my home, put my stamp on it. But how? The inside of the house was coming along but the outside...well, I hadn't touched it.

It didn't really make sense to me to bother with the outside because I knew we'd be moving again, at best we'd be here until next summer. So logically it doesn't really make sense to “dig in” and make it ours because, well..we'll be moving.

At least that's what I was trying to convince myself day in and day out. My mantra to myself and our boys was, “This is not home, we're not staying.” Which really equated in my mind to “keep it simple and keep it sterile. Don't bother trying to really settle in because whatever you do you'll have to tear up when it's time to move.”

After weeks of doing all of the necessary things like dealing with utility & cable companies and sending out change of address forms, I just couldn't take this feeling which was something akin to cabin fever.

So what to do?


Get outside! Plant something! Get some fresh air!


Now when we were packing up our old home, I chose to bring all of my indoor plants because I knew they'd transition well, because they had ridden in the car. But all of my perennial planters I left with my mom. I hated to leave behind my roses, lavenders, lantanas and a huge 6ft.cedar box filled with sedums. But I had very little faith they'd make the week long haul to the Pacific Northwest in the back of a U-Haul trailer, let alone the 30 degree temperature change.

Seriously folks, when we left Oklahoma in the second week of September we were still having 100 degree days and 80 degree evenings. By the time we arrived in the NW and finally found a place to live two weeks after we arrived, the temps were already in the mid 60's - low 70's. My poor plants would have had heart attacks had they been able to!


But now what? I knew with it being the beginning of October there'd be slim pickins. I didn't care. I needed to dig in the dirt no matter what.


That meant grabbing a couple of mums, a seasonal grass and a pumpkin and getting busy.

As I started piddling around our place I tethered our 2 new pups out front so they too could get some fresh air. I watched them romp and play and I couldn't help but laugh at them and relax.

This is what I needed,outside, digging in the dirt, laughing at the dogs, meeting a few of our neighbors and making our house a home. For us gardening types, a home isn't only about the inside 4 walls, it's about the outside as well.


In fact, that afternoon spent outside breathing in the crisp fall air while letting my fingers go numb as I hosed down the porch with ice cold water from the hose did more to alleviate the stress from the move than anything I was trying to accomplish inside.

When all was said and done, the outside looked a little more welcoming, a little bit more like home and I was beginning to truly settle in.

Here, take a peek! I hope you enjoy.




 Mums, a seasonal grass and an old warty pumpkin


A seasonal wreath


And the finished product!


Until next time,


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Sunday, April 12, 2015

Growin' up and movin' out

No I'm not talking about my kids, although they are hedging their way to the door way too quickly for my taste but that's a completely different story and I digress :)

What I'm really talking about are my little seedlings.They've been sitting under grow lights for weeks now and I did my best to keep them watered and warm with the right temperatures thanks to the grow mats. But now it's time they head outdoors.

As a newbie veggie gardener I try to read as much as I can, talk to as many experienced gardeners as I can and let nature do the rest. (while I keep my fingers crossed of course!)

But now, as we head into warmer temps it's time to move them from their protected little world under the sunlamps to the harsh realities of hardening off outside.

And before you think me a heartless gardener, wait! Check out their new digs.

I bought this mini greenhouse from my local houseware store. For $20 bucks I think it was well worth the investment especially since, here in Oklahoma our temps are all over the place right now. One minute they're in the 80's during the day and then a storm front blows in with 50 mph winds and temps quickly drop to the 40's. Yep! That's Oklahoma for ya!




As you can see, they're happy little veggies, all thriving and branching out. Soon it will be time to move them up to bigger pots as I wait for the ground temps to reach above 50.

Now let me tell ya, I'm not a bettin' woman but..something tells me that although our days are unusually warm lately with temps hovering right around 80, I get this niggling feeling in the pit of my stomach that good old Mother Nature has one more cold front for us, so I'll be keeping my veggies in pots until I'm fully convinced we're having an early summer instead of a late snowstorm. And if you think I'm kidding, I'm not. Two years ago we had snow in May! Eek!

In the meantime, now that my first seedlings have been transferred to larger pots outside into the greenhouse, I've started my next batch of seeds. These are the ones like carrots and radishes that don't have as long of maturity dates as do the zucchinin's and beans.


Now I will say that being a brand new veggie gardener, this whole timing thing is rather overwhelming. “When do I plant the tomatoes, what about the sunflowers, is it too early for the carrots and what about those marigolds and did I actually leave enough space in the garden to plant these things?

I tell ya, it's all so confusing trying to figure out who's on first and what's on second as Abbott and Costello used to say. So it's slow progress. But I will say it's all worth it.

Just to see seeds sprout, watch their initial leaves turn into sets of two and three and then branch out to a degree that you need to transplant them into bigger pots, it's all so exciting!

And as I recently found out, nothing is more relaxing when you're sicker than a dog for a solid month with a chest cold, than spending time transplanting your seedlings into larger pots while watching gardening shows on YouTube.


So while it's slow progress at the moment, my gut tells me that any minute, when Mother Nature stops throwing temper tantrums with our weather, my veggies are going to explode!


Here's to warm weather and great gardening days to you and yours,

Amy




Sunday, March 1, 2015

Seeds of Joy


See this sweet face?
 At first glance you might mistake our Little Miss Tessa as a cat. And if you thought that, I wouldn't blame you one bit for she outwardly looks like a cat. But.. let me reassure you she is in fact, NOT a cat, she is a goat and considered public enemy #1 in our house when it comes to my houseplants, specifically my orchids and African violets.

Doubt me? Let me give you some proof that she's a goat.

 See.. I told you so. 

Now it's safe to say that I was NOT a happy girl when I found out that Tessa decided to start noshing on my orchids. And for a few weeks I did everything in my power to her keep out of the plants, i.e. spray bottles, clapping my hands at her, having the boys chase her, you name it, I tried it and Tessa was not having any of it. She'd stop temporarily and then return when we weren't around.

Apparently the goat gene runs heavy in her veins.

Nothing was working until the day I brought home a plastic container of organic wheatgrass to add to my juices in the morning. 

From the moment I walked into the kitchen with it still in my grocery bag you would've thought Tessa hit the lottery. Literally she went cat loony.

I tried for a few days to keep her out of yet another plant of mine, eventually even keeping the wheatgrass under a cloche so she couldn't sink those chompers of hers into it, when finally I noticed that she'd stopped eating my houseplants in preference to the wheatgrass.

Score!
 
Off went the cloche! In fact, I grabbed an unused planter, plopped the wheatgrass in some dirt and trust me when I tell you, that cat went after the grass like a lion after a gazelle.

At this point we're not thinking she's normal. Somewhere in the body of hers, she is most definitely carrying around some goat DNA.  

After about 3 weeks of me buying  wheatgrass  for said goat-kitty, which can add up rather quickly, I figured since I'm already planting a bunch of seeds for the garden why not reseed the areas of the planter she's already eaten? Sounded good to me but then again, as a newbie gardener, I don't know if it'll work until it doesn't. 

To be honest I wasn't quite sure the seeds would germinate in our poorly lit kitchen area.  And if they did sprout would they hold up to Tessa walking all over them.  ( She has a weird knack of climbing into the planter and sitting on top while noshing on the grass that sticks out around her - she's weird, I know!) But so far, so good! The seeds are surviving her abuse and sprouting very quickly.
Now I have to say as a new gardener, this brought me a jolt of joy when I first spied the seedlings sprouting.

Funny how life can be that way sometimes. You have an idea, you put it into motion and hope and pray it works and then when you have that first glimpse of progress, wham! Pure joy!

That's where I'm at with this wheatgrass. Because it would seem that Tessa the goat-kitty enjoys having her own "garden" enough to keep those fangs of hers off of my orchids and violets, which makes me very, very happy.

So while this particular gardening success is small in the scheme of things, to me, it's a huge win-win. The goat-kitty is happy with her own patch of grass and I am so very happy that my houseplants no longer shake in fear when she walks by!

Therefore there is once again, peace and harmony in a our little suburban garden.

Until next week,

Blessings & best wishes,

Amy

Sunday, February 22, 2015

2,000 New Friends come a knockin' at my door!







They're here! 

2,000 of my new best friends have arrived USPS Priority Mail and I couldn't be happier!

Now before I introduce you let's back up a few weeks when I decided to jump on the homesteading wagon. Keep in mind I'm basically starting from scratch out here in suburbia so I'm reading everything I can get my hands on and one thing that kept coming up in my reading was composting.

So with a few tips from gardening book and YouTube videos I figured if I was gonna do this right and help amend this Oklahoma red dirt that's harder than a brick, I'd need a little help. OK, change that to a lot of help!

Enter...my new best friends. Red Wiggler Worms!

In my research I learned Red Wigglers were the best for composting.  Frankly they seem a bit like slithering little vampires...they don't like light, and are blood  veggie thirsty critters with voracious appetites and the weirdly cool thing about them is that what they excrete is pure gold for us gardeners. Sounds gross I know, but when you live with 2 teenage sons, nothing grosses you out, least of all worm poo.

Now I'm all for organic, no pesticides and adding as much back into the garden as possible the all natural way. And since I'm not the squeamish sort and thought those little dudes were rather cool considering all they'd be doing to help a new gardener like myself out, I knew I had to have me some new friends.

About the same time I started saving all of my food scraps. No meat. No grease. No Cheetos, just good old fruit and veggie scraps. Oh! And I learned those little stickers you get on your produce...you know the ones, well, worms don't like those, so they hit the trashcan. But all the yummy food that worms like to eat, got tossed into my temporary worm bin.


To set up my worm bin, I took an old clear shallow plastic bin (24x15x5) threw it into a big black yard waste trash bag, layered it with damp torn newspaper shreds, about a half gallon of organic soil and then started adding food scraps to the bin.

Now I've read that worms like when food starts to rot. Something to do with bacteria and all that jazz. So I started this food bin about a week before the worms actually arrived in order to get the decomposition going. I made sure everything was slightly damp, not soaking wet and then popped the lid on, put it in the garage to percolate a bit.

With the compost cooking I needed worms. 

I hit my local nurseries first but who knew no one carried worms in the winter. What? Worms go on vacation? They diet in the winter? I don't get it! Not a single worm to be had. That's ridiculous! A worm's gotta eat! And I've got garbage to feed them...why can't I buy worms in the winter? That's just weird.

Oh well, back to square one. The 'net.

Within minutes I found my worm source. Uncle Jim's Worm Farm.

Now here's the cool thing. Apparently there are sales on worms in the winter. Yep. And there are discount codes for additional money off. Love that!  So I placed my order and a few days later, shipped Priority Mail, my vampire Red Wiggler worms showed up in a peat packed breathable bag.

 I followed the directions just as Uncle Jim suggested and got the worms transferred to their new home with nary a problem. And so far it would seem that everyone is happy!


I want to encourage everyone to start a worm bin.  If you want compost that is pure heaven's nectar for your veggies and flowers, get a bin, save your scraps and order your own set of vampires! Your plants will love you! And frankly these little dudes are so cool to watch.


Until next time,

Happy Gardening,

Amy

Monday, February 16, 2015

New Beginnings for a New Gardener

It's time to get started.

But where to begin?

I'm new at this. Well, relatively speaking I am. I've done a few perennials with mild success but frankly my life as a busy mom only allowed my gardening skills and efforts to put in a small rose garden, a few hydrangeas and a couple of herbs. But that's about to change.

As a novice gardener I'm excited about all the things I want to accomplish outside. This is the first real year my life has slowed to a dull roar and I'm enjoying the extra time to pursue gardening. There are so many things I want to do this season.

There's the raised garden bed I want to build and fill with my family's favorite veggies like carrots, green beans and kale. But also I want to try my hand at sweet potatoes and growing them from slips I start here in the kitchen.

Then there's the potting bench I want to build out of an old double seated swing that used to grace the front porch of our very first home. (I'm a big sentimental softie!)

Thorn-less blackberries and raspberries will be added to the garden in hopes that our family will be enjoying them atop a big bowl of homemade ice cream after a day spent in the sweltering Oklahoma heat.

Now I realize it may be a bit nostalgic to think that I could grow veggies and a few fruits for my family to enjoy like my grandma did. And the nostalgia I feel when I remember running up and down the rows in my grandparents garden chasing "horny toads" and breaking out in a rash because I'd eaten myself sick my plucking cucumbers and tomatoes right off the vine, well..frankly I want that for my kids too! 

I want to slow life down a little, enjoy what's been given to us in our own small suburban back yard, step away from the hectic pace of go, go, go and simply live life a little bit better, centered on our home and family and what we can achieve together right here at home versus always looking to tackle the world.

I want to bring back the simple pleasures that come from hard work and sweat when digging in the earth, time spent with loved ones in such a way that I simply cannot wait to get the raised beds built and seedlings in the ground and to wait to see what springs to life.

New beginnings do come with their own set of challenges, some seen and some unforeseen. Gardening, especially for a newbie like myself is bound to have huge learning curves. So while I have grand plans and dreams of what will be, I know it is best to pull my head out of the clouds and be realistic. Start small and learn big will be my motto this season.

Follow me this season as I head back to my roots, back to the way my grandmother did things, where leading a quiet, simple life shared with those who cross your path means building memories and a lifetime of joy.


Blessings & Best Wishes,

Amy