Sunday, November 20, 2011

Have a Hand Made, Home Made, Heart Made Holiday!

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas!  Of course that means gift lists--both for giving and receiving.  With everyone's pocketbook fraying a bit around the edges, consider abandoning the mall in favor of presents custom-selected, and custom-made, for the recipient.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Lighten up!

Do you feel like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders?  Work demands, family times, community obligations all pulling you in a million different directions?  Stop!  Take a look at your life!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Thank you very mulch!

 Every year I begin my garden with the best of intentions to control pests and weeds.  As long as it's cool, I manage fairly well.  Sometime during the summer, something usually happens to interrupt my efforts:  a rainy spell, an unexpected opportunity that takes me away for a week or so, or an illness.  This year, all three intervened and the grass took over (left).  No matter how much I worked, the grass and weeds grew faster than I pulled.  It became obvious I needed to work smarter rather than harder.

Last year, I had tried using black gardener's cloth to prevent grass and weeds.  It did, but it also impeded water reaching plants.  I knew I would not be satisfied with that solution.  Then I picked up the most recent issue of Mother Earth News which contained an article about mulches.  Eureka!

Now, I've been feeling guilty about not composting the untreated grass clippings from my nearly 2 acre yard.  After all, the soil in my garden turns rock-hard during the dry summer and could certainly use organic amendments.  So, I pulled out the lawn sweeper, attached it to the mower, and enjoyed a lovely summer evening riding around my freshly-mown front yard.

What was not as fun was pulling as many of the weeds as I could bear on the next cool morning.  But pull I did, and spread the now-brown grass clippings in a 2 inch layer around my pepper plants leaving some room around the stems.  I stood aside and waited.  And waited.  And watered--it's been a rather dry summer.  And waited.  And smiled.  After two weeks, the grass had grown around the edges and was leaning in, but had only just begun to peep through the mulch.

I clipped the edges and piled on another layer of mulch.  An added benefit was the nutrients the decaying grass supplied to my struggling plants.  So, I'm now a believer in the power of mulch.  I'm already plotting my mulch strategy for next year!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

This Garden is Hot!

Habanero Peppers

The garden is really making progress despite the heat and because of a few extra waterings in between the scant rain.  Especially prolific are the peppers and, of course, the grass, purslane, and other wild plants.  I've let the wild plants get ahead of me and have resorted to mulching the peppers with yard clippings.  We do not use any herbicides on the lawn, so the clippings should be safe to use and should even improve the nitrogen content of the soil.

The jalapeno plants have been a bit delicate, but the others, including California Wonders, are thriving.  I also have peppers in containers which are doing well, too.  It's not too late to start your own container peppers.  Give it a try!

Cubanelle Peppers
Cayenne Peppers

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Mama, Them Tater's Got Eyes!: Potato Baskets

I don't know about your house, but in my house, the potato is a staple of our diet.  Late in the winter I had a few which were sprouting so I decided to try growing them.  I lined inexpensive laundry baskets with gardener's cloth and filled them half-full with potting soil.  I cut the potatoes into chunks with a sprouted eye in each.  (You can let them dry a bit.)  Plant four of each "eyes" around the edge of each basket.  Keep moist but not soggy in a warm sunny place.

They should begin sprouting in a few weeks.

Once they've grown about six inches above the top of the basket, fill the basket to the rim with more potting soil.  Keep moist and in a sunny spot.  Each basket should produce about 8 pounds of potatoes, I'm told.  What fun!

Update!  Here's the crop:
Not bad for a first try!  The potatoes ranged from marble-sized to about 3 inches.  I'm really excited about the next try!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Being Frugal, For Peat's Sake

The occasional warm winter day inspires me to dig out the potting soil and do my early indoor seed starting.  In the past I've used styrofoam cups and peat pellets but this year, in the interest of sustainability and cost, I've decided to start my seeds in toilet paper rolls and newspaper pots.  When researching how to make the pots, I found several folks willing to sell me a handy little device to help.  Unfortunately, the handy little device carried a handy not-so-little price (in its defense, the wood was beautifully turned and finished).  So, I rummaged around my place and put together my own newspaper pot maker.

I put together a quart jar lid, a small mushroom can (both ends cut out), and an empty worcestershire (or any that fits inside the can) bottle.  To make your pots, tear your newspaper at the center fold to make a single page.  Fold that single page lengthwise and use your bottle to crease the paper.  Roll the paper firmly (but not tightly) around the can, leaving just over half the diameter of the can to fold in for the bottom.

Starting where the newspaper ends, fold the bottom into the can (four folds).  Fit the jar lid over the bottom of the can and set on the table.  Use the bottle to tamp the bottom of the pot flat, twisting to crimp well.  Carefully sllide the can out of the pot, then remove the jar lid.

I store these in a shoebox lined with a plastic bag.  I'll let you know how these work out!

PS  April:  Fill these to the top with soil and keep moist lest the paper wick away moisture quickly.

Monday, January 31, 2011

What a Waffle!

Who wouldn't like waffles for breakfast?  A while back I had the idea to use one of my favorite kitchen staples, Martha White muffin mixes, to make waffles!  As muffins, you can't beat the value of Martha White mixes--one envelope makes a half-dozen muffins for less than $2.  Just imagine what kind of waffles they would make!  Well, this past Sunday I tried out two of my favorite flavors:  Apple Cinnamon and Banana Nut.  I dumped the mix into a bowl with a pour spout and added 1/2 cup plus 1 or 2 tablespoons evaporated milk.  Stir until just mixed.  Let sit for a few minutes to thicken before cooking in a pre-heated waffle iron until golden.  (Don't forget to spray your waffle iron with cooking spray!)  These are very tender so be careful when removing them from the waffle iron.  Drizzle a little melted butter over and keep warm until serving with your favorite syrup.  I can't wait to try out Chocolate Chip and Chocolate Chocolate Chip.  Wow!