Saturday, June 14, 2008

Learning to Use Your Clay

If you're like me and are struggling to understand and use your clay soil, El at Fast Grow the Weeds has a wonderful blog post about her farm full o' clay. Some great ideas in there, so thanks for sharing El!

The Imperfectly Beautiful Garden

One of the blogs I just recently began reading (I have a SHAMEFUL obsession with reading blogs...) is The Nesting Place. This week, The Nester challenged her readers to reveal and post about one imperfectly beautiful portion of their home. Unfortunately, during the summertime, I'm aaaaaaallll about the garden, so I'm bending the rules a bit. Instead, you're about to see the very imperfect spots in my garden. Beautiful? Maybe not so much. LOL

Do you see 'em? Between those two Spirea who've only just spent their gorgeous white blossoms. Yeah, those are two dead, dead, dead Spirea. Killed by moi. I tried to transplant them from the backyard to the front to fill in that imperfectly beautiful gap in the hedge. I really thought one of them would make it, since it still had some green before winter set in last year, but alas!

Okay, this one is more obvious. I can't begin to describe the imperfections in this beautiful little garden plot of mine. It was supposed to be bursting with breadseed poppies (Papaver somniferum) by this time. Instead it has a few very wee California poppies (Eschscholzia californica), cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus), and cornflowers (Centaurea cyanus). Let's just say I super duper suck at growing poppies of any variety. Y'all see the topsoil runoff onto the sidewalk? How precious. I really don't even know how to prevent that yet, other than to get something to grow there. Not doin' so well on that one. Let's not mention the weed-filled cracks in the walkway...

It's inevitable that when you garden, you will have some failures. This is especially so when you're gardening with edibles. Too much rain, too little rain, early frost, late frost, freak hailstorms, rotten neighbor kids, dog urine, etc, etc, etc can all contribute to a less than stellar crop. The thing is, you have to keep going. Have to remember that all of these spots really are imperfectly beautiful. I get to replace those brown and brittle Spirea with something with some edibility or other use (or, more than likely because of my perfectionist nature, more Spirea) and I have a kickass plan for a purple herb garden in the plot of dirt next year. Maybe even a columnar apple tree or two...

Homestead Helper

The twins are only 4, and we've yet to assign any real chores to the kids. Besides picking up their rooms before bedtime each night, everything is left to Mommy, but I really do feel that it's important to have the children help as they grow. Now, when everything is still fun to them rather than work, it's easy to get them to join in. Even when I really don't want them to.

Everytime I bring the basket of towels to the chair to fold, Annie digs right in to find the washcloths and hand towels. Every one of them gets folded to perfection saving me... well, no time at all really, but isn't it sweet that she wants to help? :)

What's Blooming in My Garden: June 14, 2008

Most of the flowers of the garden are still preparing to bloom, so there's been a bit of a lull since the narcissus, tulips, peonies, and spirea stopped putting forth their bits of loveliness. That will have to be remedied next year...

Pale yarrow (Achillea millefolium), always with a slight lilac tinge

My lonely butterfly weed (Asclepius tuberosa), planted from seed last year.

My first daisy (Leucanthemum x superbum) of the season! Yippee!

Strawberries are still blooming and fruiting.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Got Crisco?

The Husband and I have a running argument--er, debate--going on which is better: Crisco or lard? Can you guess which I prefer...? Hint: It ain't the Crisco!

Regardless of the fact that I'm the one that does 99% of the cooking around here, The Husband does do some cooking for himself, so we somehow managed to obtain one of those big blue cans of Crisco. *sigh* Since it's there, I have to use it for something, right? And I'll be damned if I'm gonna cook with it! So, Sleepytime Balm it is. Only, I don't like that recipe. LOL Doesn't it seem that orange essential oil would be stimulating rather than relaxing? Instead, I used:

1/4 cup of room temperature Crisco
10 drops Chamomile essential oil
2 drops St. Johns Wort

We've missed A LOT of sleep around here lately with all the coughing and sickness nightmares, so we put this balm right to work...


Sick Days and the Glory of Sage

The husband started a new job a couple weeks ago, and, sure as sin, he got sick his second week. New people, new germs to get used to, and my husband has a suppressed immune system as it is because of some neccessary medication he's on. Unfortunately, it wasn't long before Annie started getting hoarse, and the past 4 days or so have seen all of us manifesting the cold in our own way. The Bean ran a low-grade fever for a couple of days and was quite lethargic, but other than that, she was fine. Annie and Airius have been hacking up their lungs (Annie worse than Airius), their noses have been alternating between stuffiness and runniness, and neither of them has been sleeping very well at all. Airius is having nightmares about bugs, and Annie wakes up several times a night begging for water, which inevitably leads to a few more wakeups for potty breaks. I, of course, have had the least sleep of everyone. So far, I haven't developed the hacking cough that the husband and twins have, but my head and nose are seriously congested, giving me a constant dull headache, and my joints are very achy.

So, how have we been dealing with this? I must admit that our quantity of "medicine" here is quite limited because most of our herbs have only just started growing. But, undaunted by the fact that I've yet to put up any Echinacea, Mullein, or Horehound medicinals, Mommy (uh, that'd be me...) took a trip out to the garden and gathered what I DID have. I brought back in some of the yummy stuff in that picture--sage (Salvia officinalis) and added a handful of the fresh herb to a big bowl of hot, steaming water.

"Come on, kids. We're gonna go camping."

"Camping? Where? Mom, I'm too siiiiiiick."

Each kid got a turn under the "tent" (a dishtowel draped over their head and the bowl to capture the steam), and relief was almost immediate. The rest of the herb that I'd harvested, I dried for use over the next few days. The kids seemed to prefer the more mild scent of the dried herb to the very, very pungent aroma of the fresh.

I have to admit that this is NOT the best thing for dealing with summertime coughs. Adding more heat and humidity is no one's idea of a good time when it's 90 degrees outside, but inside my husband insisted on having the AC on high enough for the rest of us to require blankets, so the steam inhalation wasn't too bad after all. Hey, I'll humor him while he's sick. Besides, he's at least twice my size. In a battle over the digital thermostat button, he would most certainly win!

Needless to say, work on the house and garden have come to a near standstill. I keep trying to push myself to do the work that needs to be done, but the kids aren't goin' anywhere. They are a constant reminder to me that I need to rest and recoup and let my body heal. They're just SO much better at it! :D

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Golden Showers Garden Party

Golden Showers Garden Party - 6/21/08

I really didn't plan to do any challenges besides the Independence Days Challenge I'm already participating in because, well, that one's kicking my arse as it is. However, Crunchy Chicken just issued the Golden Showers Garden Party, and I had to participate. Had to.

Basically, on the day of the Summer Solstice, June 21st, all participants are going to pee on their gardens. Yeah, you heard me. Pee. On the garden. Okay, okay. You have to dilute the urine first or you'll burn your plants, but this really is all right everybody! Urine is a sterile product, unlike fecal matter. Truuuuust me... :D

In case you don't believe me though, here are a couple more links to convince you to participate:

Greywater Guerillas on using urine to fertilize your plants on the sterility of urine

Go forth and shower, friends...

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Independence Days Challenge: (my late) Week 1

So, I spotted this doozy of a challenge over at Dancing in a Field of Tansy and, as intimidated as I am to make all of this happen on my meager and still developing suburban lot, I figured it would be a nice way to keep track of things and force myself to step it up! You can see the "rules" and inspiration at Casaubon's Book. Without further ado then, here are my Week 1 accomplishments (or lack thereof):

1. Planted: I've been extremely slow on the planting phase of things because I'm still ripping up the lawn to make room for our veggie garden. However, today I planted Corno di Toro peppers, sweet basil, marigolds, and Rouge Vif D'Etampes pumpkins. So, 4 out of minimum of 7 things to plant each week. LOL I'm rockin' this challenge, baby!

2. Harvest something: I am so far from having harvested something everyday this week, it really isn't even funny. Planting was laughable, but harvesting is just downright sad. This week, all I harvested was some of my completely insane, take-over-the-world lemon balm (Melissa officinalis). Lots of it. Does it count if I harvest just lemon balm everyday because that is a completely doable task! No kidding, folks. Oh, and I guess technically we harvested some chives (Allium schoenoprasum) as well, since Annie keeps eating them to the ground nearly everyday. The kid is an addict, I tell ya. Is there a support group for that?

Oh wait. I lied. We also harvested some Rosalita lettuce for salad one night this week. It was beautiful but bitter, since bolting time is nigh. This should have been planted so very much earlier than it was. Next year, I'll know.

3. Preserve something: The aforementioned lemon balm was lazily dried for tea.

4. Prep something: Spent all week ripping up the sod to prep a bed for the peppers, basil, and marigolds. I also listed some stuff on eBay on Monday and will do so again tomorrow as I continue to declutter the attic. Finally bought a clothesline to hang up in the backyard. Tomorrow's laundry day, so I'll spend my morning trying to figure out a way to rig that bad girl up!

5. Cook something: Didn't cook anything from the garden and didn't try any new recipes. While not technically cooked, we did eat the Rosalita lettuce we harvested... Yeah, I fail miserably in this category too.

6. Manage your reserves: Um, 'nother failure? Had to send some storebought onions and corn on the cob to the compost pile. Bad homesteader!

7. Work on local food systems: Let the neighbor borrow my green plastic chicken fencing to protect her sunflower seeds and received a couple cuttings from one of her rose bushes in the hopes of rooting and establishing them out front for hips next year (yum!).

8. Reduce waste: Other than the normal composting, didn't do much. Freecycled a few old games and a baby car shade. Listed stuff on eBay. Again, nothing more than the norm this week.

9. Learn a new skill: Other than blogging, there's nothing new in this category.

Aaaaaand that's a wrap!