Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Year's Harvest

Last summer, I hemmed and hawed over whether to invest in a winter CSA share.  I was determined to light my coop and plant for fall and be (almost) self-sufficient.  Drowning in tomatoes in September, I decided there would be no lighting of the coop.  I didn't have time to figure it out.

I didn't have much time for planting either.  I half-heartedly threw potatoes in every available empty container - a bushel basket, some terra cotta pots, large plastic nursery pots, and a mound fashioned out of stakes and leftover chicken coop.

My potatoes this fall.

I threw out some lettuce and carrot seeds and invested in a couple six packs of veggies - broccoli, swiss chard, lettuce and bok choy.  I ignored the lettuce and it bolted.   The broccoli still has not "headed".  Will it?  I have no idea.  I clearly put the chard in to late as it has never really grown and 2 of the 6 seedlings have disappeared thanks to some pest or another.  But the carrots, the bok choy and the potatoes?

Oh yeah baby!  My not so hard work paid off as I hauled in this New Year's harvest (plus some additional mandarins).

And check out this last carrot that I pulled up?  Remember when I confessed that I could not grow carrots?  All that is in the past.  This supersized sucker makes me legit!  I'm a real gardener now!

Happiest New Year from me and my first time ever late December harvest!

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Winter Garden Walk

I haven't posted in a while due, in large part, to holiday craziness.  Today, though, I was forced to clean out the chicken coop.  I mean the girls really put down their clawed feet!  My time in the winter garden outside calmed, restored and rejuvenated.  Take a walk with  me and, for a moment, forget wrapping, baking, shopping and holiday'ing in general.

Satsuma Mandarin Tree

Navel Orange Tree

Native Grape on the Chicken Coop

Gravenstein Apple Tree

Bok Choy

Happy winter!

* I'm linking to the Homestead Barn Hop with this post.

* Join the Facebook page for more frequent updates, photos and links.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Playing Santa in the Garden

I'm at the Green Phone Booth today, putting the garden to bed - "Night Before Christmas" Style.

T'was the season before winter, and on the homestead
Jack-o-lanterns were rotting, the zucchini was dead.
The sheet mulch was tucked round the pear tree with care,
In hopes that next year's pumpkin patch would be there.

The hens all nestled all snug in their coop,
Dreaming of laying eggs and not becoming chicken soup.
And I in my boots and dirt covered pants
Pulled out the last of the tomato plants.
When back in the yard, there arose such a clatter,
That I sprang from the raised beds to see what was the matter.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Day After

Halloween night was a wild brawl.  An orgy of not fair trade candy, wrappers tossed idly on front lawns of the most trick-or-treated streets.  Jack-o-lanterns rotted, kicked down the curb.  Cheap costumes shredded, tossed into the trash or "donation" bag.  Every year, despite my eco-intentions, I end up sinning one way or another.  Ate too much candy.  Outfitted a kid in a cheap a costume.  Or threw out something that could have been reused or bought new when we could have gone second hand.

What's done is done.  Here's how to green clean up our messes.


A couple years ago, a friend compiled this amazingly thorough list of what to do with leftover Halloween candy and candy wrappers.  I particularly love the idea of an advent calendar to Thanksgiving comprised of Halloween candy.

This year, I plan to try the Halloween Candy Bark.  Maybe freeze it and give it out as a Christmas gift?

I might also stash some for decorating a gingerbread house or make it into a Thanksgiving dessert.


So much for jack be nimble, jack be quick.  Jack is a moldy mess by now!  If you have preschool or elementary aged kids at home, read Pumpkin Jack with them.  It is about the life cycle of a pumpkin - beginning with a jack-o-lantern decomposing out in the garden.  Every year, we put the kids old jack-o-lanterns out in the garden and watch nature work her magic.  By spring time, all that is left is the stem.

One website talks about pumpkin roads where people all take their jack-o-lanterns to dot long rural roads.

If you are not so inclined to watch your creation rot, the compost pile or green waste bin is a good place for it.  Or give it your chickens or livestock - provided it isn't actually moldy or covered in candle wax.  Of course, if the pumpkin wasn't carved (maybe just colored with a marker), then for goodness sake's.  Eat it!  Pumpkin mac n cheese.  Pumpkin muffins.  Pumpkin milk shakes.


If your costume is more than something pulled out of your closet, there is the question of what to do with it.  Most store-bought costumes cannot stand up to much wear.  Their seams split.  They get a hole here or there.  Still, most often they can be reused for children's dress up.  If your kids won't wear them again, check with local schools.  Many classrooms for younger kids have a dress up corner that could use some fresh costumes.

Alternatively, a neighbor or friend might have a child with a dress up trunk.  (One of my kids has one and wears costumes all year long!).  Finally, pack the costume away with your Halloween goodies.  Next year, you or your child might wear it again (my youngest wore the same costume 3 years running), you can swap it at a costume swap, or turn it into a thrift store when it will be snapped up while folks are in the mood.

How do you green up the day after?

Monday, October 24, 2011

10 Signs You are a Garden Warrior

1) You are not afraid to get your hands dirty.  In fact, clean nails, uncracked skin and a long-lasting manicure are sure signs that you are not a garden warrior.

2) You know how to wield a pickax and aren't (too) afraid to do it.

3) You have quads of steel and you got them the old fashioned way.  No weights.  No machines.  No gym memberships.  Just squats with a purpose - weeding, planting, harvesting.

4) You have killed to protect your garden.  Snails, rats, gophers, hornworms.  You may feel bad that you did it but you'd do it again.

5) You are not above hiring out the dirty work.  The cat who kills rats.  The bat who eats mosquitos.  The ladybug who devours aphids.  You invite these killers for hire into your yard with food, a bat house tucked behind the play house, cover crop in the winter.

6) You are willing to "thin" your seedlings - even though you coddled and loved each seed once upon a time.

7) You pull out still producing plants when the season dictates - even if you wish you didn't have to.

8) You can tell the difference between collards, mustard greens and swiss chard at 50 paces.

9) To you, going native does not mean what most people think.  It has nothing to do with getting naked - though, truth be told, you've gardened in varies states of dress and undress.

10) Like all warriors, you have a code of conduct.  A place you'll never go is the use of pesticides.  Okay, maybe a little bit of organic sluggo but by using pesticides, among other things, there just is no challenge.

Are you a garden warrior?

* Join the Facebook Page to keep the battles going.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Hot Tips for Cold Nights

I'm a temperature wuss.  No really.  I'm a California native.  A SOUTHERN California native.  Yes, I ultimately braved the freezing cold temperatures to move to the San Francisco Bay Area.  That first winter was tough!  Eventually, I adapted - sort of.

But when you cross the green in me with the wimp, you do get something slightly more respectable. I've been doing Crunchy Chicken's Freeze Your Buns Challenge every winter since its inception in 2007.  I don't usually go below 64 degrees during the day and the heat off at night but still, here are my favorite survival tips for keeping warm anywhere.

1) Take Up a Warm Hobby - Knitting is good, crocheting is good, sewing works.  Something where you are working on something that keeps you warm.  In the winter, I often knit and whatever project I'm working on sits on my lap, warming me.  A laptop achieves the same thing. ;-)

2) Become One with Your Pets - We have a cat who we call the "Heater".  He likes to sleep below the covers and heats that bed up faster than hot water bottles or an electric blanket.

3) Double Or Nothing - Okay, remember that I am a wimp!  I double my socks at night before going to bed on a really cold night.  I've also been known to sleep in slippers and, when really desperate, a hoodie.  Remember what they say, feet cold, body cold.  Or something like that.

4) Open Up - Your oven door that is as well as your the lids on your stove-top pots and pans. Nothing warms the kitchen faster than a cooling oven.

5) Go Electric - We used to go with hot water bottles but they just don't do it like an electric blanket.  Of course, the whole sleeping surrounding by electrical waves or whatever does creep me out but most times, you can heat the bed up before you get in and your are golden.

How low will you go this year?  Will you freeze your buns off?  Any tips to keep help this warm weather girl go to 63 degrees?

* I'm linking to Thrifty Thursdays at Thrifty & Fabuless and Frugal Fridays at Life As Mom.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Different Kind of Holiday

I'm over at The Green Phone Booth today considering whether what changes I could make to make this holiday season more meaningful.

Cruising the Internet the other day, I came across a woman endeavoring to spend zero dollars on Christmas this year.  Zero dollars!

On one hand, I love this idea.  Focus on experiences rather than materials.  Save money and put an end to the consumerism of the holidays.  However, these all or nothing challenges always intimidate me.

Plus, I don't think we could do a Zero Dollar Christmas at this place in my life.  But that doesn't mean that this doesn't give me some ideas.

Click here to keep reading.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Truth About Chickens

Minerva Louise checking to see what leftovers I brought.

1) Chickens and mulched pathways do not mix.  Chickens and mulched trees and plants do not mix.  Chickens and sheet mulch do not mix.  Sensing a pattern here?  Let me make it easy.  Chickens + Mulch = NO!!!

2) Even though chickens and mulch (and frankly vegetable gardens) don't mix, that doesn't mean chickens aren't awesome for the garden.  They obviously add protein to the homegrown diet and produce prodigious amounts of poop.  They, also, break down straw like nobody's business, adding fertilizer as they go.  I clean out the straw bedding from the coop periodically and spread it as mulch around the fruit trees. Their crushed egg shells go into the soil for added calcium.  It's an edible gardener's dream.

3) Devote a pair of shoes to your chickens.  Yes, one whole pair or maybe even two.  These are your chicken poop, I mean coop shoes.  They can walk around the garden but preferably not on alot of paved surfaces and never, ever, even in an emergency into the house.

4) Wear gloves when cleaning out the bedding or the expletive you utter will be what is on your hands.

5) Chickens are the carb queens of the livestock world.  Oh sure, you hear folks go on and on about how their chooks just go crazy for watermelon.  Or grapes.  Or blueberries.  Okay, mine like blueberries too but blueberries are too expensive to waste on those birds!  Whenever I bring out the kitchen scraps, is it the pumpkin or cantaloupe they go?  The tomatoes?  It is not.  Those little piglets can beak out a spaghetti noodle or hunk of bread quicker than you can say "egg"!  They are also mighty partial to proteins: scrambled eggs, bits of cheese.  The healthy stuff?  Last resort, baby!

Serena found the leftover pasta.

6) On the topic of leftovers, chickens are the great garbage disposal of the homestead.  Almost all of our leftovers (they cannot eat uncooked onions and potatoes, moldy stuff), go through the coop.  They'll eat it all - and then you'll save on chicken feed.

7) People or animals who are scared are called "chicken" for a reason.  Because chickens think everything is scary.  The rake.  The hose.  The kids (okay, they are a bit scary).  The shade on the side of their coop that blocks the beating summer sun.  I've only ever had one chicken who was afraid of nothing - even our dog who tried to eat her.  Of course, chickens are prey so maybe it is a good thing to be wary of life after all.

8) Speaking of sayings, once you own chickens, you will understand half of the proverbs on this planet.  Ruling the roost.  Bottom of the pecking order.  The nest egg.  The hen house.  Cackling like a bunch of hens.  Don't put all your eggs in one basket.  Flew the coop.  Chicken scratch.  Don't get your feathers ruffled.  If its a saying and you've heard it, odds are about 50% it involved chickens.

9) No matter what you name your chicken, it will sound adorable.  Omelet.  Cute.  Henny Penny.  Fun.  Puff and Fluff.  Sweet.  Dinner.  Hilarious.  See what I mean?

Read what my hens have to say, in their own words, in my Tales from the Roost series.  To keep up with my squawk-talk, join the Facebook page.

* I'm linking this post to Homestead Barn Hop.

Friday, October 14, 2011

5 Little Pumpkins Sitting on a Gate

(Or on the porch bench, but you get the picture).

Five little pumpkins sitting on a gate.
The first one said, "Oh my but summer was late."
The second one said, "The homestead sure did care."
The third one said, "A full grown pumpkin was rare!"
The fourth one said, "I hardly grew at all."
The fifth one said, "But already it is fall, fall, fall."
So, ooohhhh went the gardener and out came the pumpkins
And five little squash went into the oven.

So much for the pumpkin patch.  Next year is another year - with hopefully more summer-like weather and more intelligent pumpkin patch placement by this here gardener.

I'm linking this post to Harvest Mondays.

Join the Facebook page to keep track of these five little pumpkins - and the rest of my urban homestead.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Seasonal Gardening Sadness

It happens every year.  The sunlight grows a little less warm.  It slants more instead of beating overhead.  The tomatoes slow down and the summer squash falls victim to powdery mildew.  Leaves turn brown and drop.  There is something beautiful about fall.  Welcoming.  A promise of quiet and a house smelling like pumpkin pie.

But it also signals a time to clean out the garden.  To put down sheet mulch and cover crop.  Tuck in peas and garlic and greens.  But there's only one problem . . .

To put all those things in you have to take something out.  Something that, while not completely done, is nearly there.

I'm ready to put my peas and Chinese cabbage in but which tomato plant should go?  The sungolds will produce through Thanksgiving.  The yellow pear can go the distance as well.  Betty with its big ole green lobes waiting for a heat wave to turn could go but her stocky limbs are intertwined with a long-lasting heirloom.

And I'm ready to put in the sheet mulch.  Exactly where next year's pumpkin patch will go.  Full sun.  As attested by the still blooming zinnias - a blur of fuchsia and orange.

The cardboard is the beginning of my sheet mulch.  Farewell zinnias.

The cover crop?  A tangled mixture of fava beans, peas and vetch that harbored beneficial insects and a toad last time I planted it in a large area.  That is scheduled to go over above sheet mulch and in between my citrus - you see.  Right where alllll those flowers are currently blooming . . .

But fall gardening is a Catch 22.  Let summer have her last laugh and you won't have time to plant your fall edibles.  Or tear out the vestiges of summer's bounty and bid a premature farewell to her slowly turning tomatoes and poste haste peppers.

Almost every year, I choose the latter.  But that doesn't mean I don't feel the sadness of seasonal gardening as I do it.

* I'm linking to Tuesday Garden Party with this post.

* More on gardening, chickens and homestead holidays at my Facebook page.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Homestead Cannot Run Itself

We moved to our half acre a little over a year ago with grand plans.  Okay, the "we" with the grand plans was me.  An orchard.  Raised beds.  A pollinator garden.  The chickens (moved from our old place).  Bees (hopefully next spring).

Many of my plans came to fruition (no pun intended) but I forgot how much work it can be keeping up with everything.  The pounds and pounds of unrelenting process-us-now or else tomatoes.  The unyielding siege of summer squash.  The diligent delivery of eggs.  The baking from scratch, the home-cooked meals, the hand-knit Christmas presents.  Not to mention keeping the house in decent shape, the front (non-edible at this point) yard weeded, the patio swept, the cats cared for and so on.

My dad visited in the midst of tomato-fest.  He looked at my two kids - ages 6 and 8 - and said: "It's too much work for one person to keep all this up."

Yeah!  What had I been thinking.  Keeping up a homestead is quite a bit of work!  These weren't just beings who needed help with homework, required lunches packed for them, prodding to clean up their rooms, help folding their laundry.  These were little homesteaders perfectly capable of pitching in big time - beyond the set the table/clear the table sort of thing.  Heck, in the Little House on the Prairie days (my kids hate it when I bring this up), kids their age would be out plowing, chopping wood, baking, you name it.

I set about asking for help.  Big zero.  Demanding help.  Not much more.

And then, Pinterest came to the rescue.  I came across the idea of the Job Jar.

I promptly brainstormed all the little things I do during that day that a 6 and 8 year old could help with.  Man there was a lot - a lot that would help me keep my head above water and keep me a step ahead of the chaos.  A lot of places where some well placed child labor could keep the homestead afloat.

The Implement:

My Job Jar is a thrifted canister filled with folded paper notes.  It works well and didn't cost a dime but the kids keep picking the same jobs over and over again.  I might switch to popsicle sticks or wine corks (here's the general idea with ping pong balls).

A Facebook page commenter suggested a job wheel.  Here's a handy one for multiple kids.

A blogger friend uses a coat hook type of solution.

And, if you are willing to pay for the chore beyond regular allowance, chore magnets are a fun idea.

The Follow Through:

Now, when my kids get a consequence (in lieu of the time out system), they have to do a job from the job jar.  If they leave toys and such out after they go to bed or don't clean up their rooms, whatever's left lying about goes into the ransom box (another Pinterest find).  It can be ransomed by one job per item.

We have regular, daily jobs that the kids need to do to earn their weekly allowance but I suppose job jar pickings could be tied to the allowance as well.

Have you tried a system like a job jar?  How did it work for you?  How do you get your kids to pitch in?

* I'm linking to Homestead Barn Hop for this post.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Free Range Furniture

A week or so ago I read about the next step in local food.  It's local clothes.  I'm not sure I'm there yet but if local clothes are the next step, then I think local or more environmentally friendly furniture cannot be far behind.

Furniture is, to me, like meat.  Not great for the planet no matter how you look at it.  Resource heavy but still something people really want.  So, in furniture shopping, I've started to look for happy furniture.  Its way better than factory farmed.  I like my furniture to have roamed free - preferably through other people's houses and into antique fairs, thrift stores, consignment stores, and on Craigslist.

My most recent acquisition - bin table from a rural antique store (total bargain!), shoe basket from an antique fair and under bin basket free ranged for many years through my mom's house.

Not all furniture is that happy, though.  If its not available second hand, furniture made from old furniture - or other things - is the still pretty happy.  You know - upcycled, reclaimed?  You can find such furniture at antique fairs and swap meets or, for those like me who like to let their fingers do the walking, on Etsy!  That's right!  I'm in the market for a coffee table.  After finding nothing suitable second hand, I turned to Etsy.  I had no idea the amount of furniture you could buy there made from reclaimed wood, reused metal, and upcycled bits of this and that.  Bonus - I'm supporting a small farmer, er, artisan.  Simple Internet searches can turn up small local showrooms of folks in your region doing the same thing.

Even though it seems impossible, not everything in the world is available on Etsy!  Turns out some other medium sized and industrial farmers have turned to reclaimed and recycled as well.  LL Bean carries a great line of partially reclaimed wood furniture that was made in the USA, so it was shipped halfway around the world.  Crate & Barrel offers many pieces made from reclaimed wood or with other "eco-friendly" attributes.

Finally, even if you cannot have organic food, I mean, recycled furniture, at least it can be locally grown - or made.  Maybe not in your city or even your state but I do feel a bit better buying Made in the USA furniture shipped across the country instead of across the sea.  Plow & Hearth has a diverse line of well made Made in the USA products.  I can attest to the quality as I own one of the dining room pieces.  Sturdy as can be and a final solution when free range furniture failed me.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Minivan Mama

Check out my post at The Green Phone Booth in which I dish about the good, bad and ugly in trading a minivan for a mini hybrid.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Monsanto + National Parks = BFF

We visited Yosemite National Park last weekend and I was surprised to see this:

The blackberries were sprayed with RoundUp Pro Max right on the valley floor.  This helpful signed warned, in all caps, DO NOT EAT BERRIES.  I'm sure the park's animals can read that sign and heed the warning as well.

Is nothing sacred?  I understand that maybe, for some reason, the park does not want the berries there.  Perhaps they are worried about them attracting bears to heavily trafficked areas.  We were told that volunteers pick apples off the apple trees planted there for that reason.  But volunteers cannot dig out the blackberries?  Perhaps the blackberries edge out other important plant species.  But seriously, can't we do something more than squirt them with pesticide and hope for the best?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Free Money!

No joke and no gimmick!  I guarantee you that if you do the following, you too will end up with free money.  Here's how I did it:

Two summers ago, in a jumble of national park vacations and preparation for a new school year, we moved into a new home.  Untouched boxes went from the old garage into the new garage.  The kitchen was unpacked willy nilly.  Glasses seemed like they should go here, my waffle maker here and, um, the food, I guess over there.  The bathroom had no medicine cabinet so everything was just stuffed under the sink.  Good enough.

Until now.  The garden is winding down.  The holidays have not ramped up.  And the kids are back at school.  That means it is time to declutter and organize.

I've been slowly working my way through the house starting with the garage.  At this point, I've only completed the garage, the family room, tackled a third of the kitchen and jumped ahead to a bathroom.  In doing so, I've uncovered three very cool vintage rings I bought as a student abroad 20 years ago, 3 bottles of shampoo, two bags of cat treats, more dried beans than we could eat all year (though we'll now give it a go!), mixes for my SodaStream and a ton of other awesomeness.

So now you get it about the free money.  It's not that I found money.  Well, actually I found an old emergency bag with a little cash in it, but I'm also saving bundles.  After uncovering those three bottles of shampoo, I won't be buying any for half a year.  Those rings will keep me off of Etsy but provide the same thrill.  Canisters and a trendy monogrammed tote (yes, with my initials) will keep me organized.  And we'll be swimming in bean soup and stew all winter.

I've saved money, natural resources, donated 8 bags to the thrift store and Freecycled other things.  I feel lighter, happier, less stressed and have a sense of accomplishment.  All without spending a dime.

Here are my favorite "free money" tips:

1) Just because it is cute or "green" doesn't mean you should keep it.  If you've not used it in the last year to two, ask yourself if you really need it cluttering up your home - even if you technically have room.  Some things that hold special memories may get a pass here.

2) As you organize and declutter, take stock of what you have and use it up.  I uncovered a box of Borax and a box of washing soda when I used to mix my own dishwasher detergent.  My husband hated the smell so I switched to 7th Generation. I just ran out of laundry detergent, though, so a mixture of the two will see me through the next month or so and, eventually, clear some room on a shelf.  And let's just say that if you have any good recipes for dried beans, send 'em over.

3) Keep donation, recycle and trash bags or boxes with you as you work.  Otherwise, it is tempting to toss everything into the trash.

4) Never get rid of a basket, bin or canister!!  I keep a laundry basket in the garage where I put empty containers until needed.  When I go on an organizing binge, they are waiting to cradle toy cars, oatmeal toppings or reusable sandwich bags.

5) Speaking of containers, not only should you not get rid of them but you should keep an eye out for attractive ones at thrift stores, garage sales and so on.

6) Work with what you've got.  Accept that some shelves cannot be moved, some containers aren't as pretty as others or just won't fit.  Put on your thinking cap and you'll still come out way ahead.

7) Donate and reuse as much as possible.  So little is landfill worthy these days.  "Goody bag" toys and such can be rounded up and given to doctors, therapists and dentists for their "treasure boxes."  Even if a thrift store won't take it, odds are that someone will if you post on Freecycle or the free section of Craigslist or put it on the street with a FREE sign.

8) Stay organized about organizing.  On Pinterest, I came across a monthly schedule for deep cleaning.  It suggested cleaning baseboards one month, windows another, and so on.  It is not such a bad idea, instead, to tackle one room a month for organizing, decluttering and cleaning.  Pinterest also has lots of great ideas on repurposing for the purpose of organizing.  Things like using a magazine holder to stack cans or aluminum foil boxes.

9) Take lots of breaks but don't let it fall of our your radar.  Some weeks, I conquer only one shelf or cabinet but I am plodding along and leaving a wake of organization in my path.

10) Think of how you will use up all the treasures you've uncovered and enjoy.

** Linking to Thrifty Thursday at Thrifty and Fabuless, Seasonal Celebration Sunday, and

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Joining the Dark Side

Alas, 'tis true.  I've turned - from focusing on the sun-baked bowl of my back yard to the dappled, partial shade zone that is the side yard.  Previously drenched in ivy, we've removed that - leaving behind some camellias and wild blackberries.  One area - big enough for two trees - is fairly sunny.  Not hot mind you, but a steady-ish stream of sun.  The hydrangeas that used to occupy this zone were often sunburnt and wilting. The rest is partial shade.

What is an edible gardening, wildlife attracting jedi to do?

I plan to put in a couple of fruit trees in the sunnier spot.  One persimmon, which I've read are shade tolerant and one what?  According to this month's Urban Farm, pears and apples can produce in a half day of sun but I've already got two of each up on the sunny back 40.  What about a plum?  Urban Farm says maybe.

For shrubs, I intend to put in some currants and maybe an elderberry.  I'll also cultivate the berries that remain and might put in a few oakleaf hydrangeas - just because I love them! But it would be nice to have something busy, something that the birds can hang out in and something pretty as our family room and living room windows look out on this planting strip.

Ground level might have some strawberries, yarrow, and what?!?

I'm looking for perennials mostly, stuff with not a lot of upkeep but that is useful for either wildlife habitat, attractive or productive in an edible sense.  I'm live in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Any ideas for this newly-minted shade trooper?

* I am linking to Garden Tuesdays  and Homestead Barn Hop for this post.

* For more galactic adventures, like me on Facebook.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Fall Is Not a Four Letter Word

Okay, maybe it is technically a four letter word, but you know what I mean.  Fall comes just in time every year.

Just when you start to get a bit tired of preserving this and that, when tomatoes and summer squash start to be a little too much, when stone fruit no longer holds its allure, when the garden begins to look cluttered and the bobbing flowers a bit garish - then it is gone.

Clearing away the dead squash plants, tugging out cosmos and poppies feels liberating.  The dying tomato and calendula plants are just as pretty as they were when they burst from the moist dirt in spring.

The fall garden is beginning to stretch its legs. Just a little something to nibble on but not enough to prevent holiday planning and knitting sessions.

Welcome fall!! My favorite season of all!

* I am linking to the Homestead Barn Hop and Garden Tuesday for this post.

** Please join my Facebook Page for non-four letter words in between posts!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Who You Calling Garbage?

I remember a day when old tires and bottle caps were trash.  Those days are long gone as repurposing has hit the mainstream.  Check out these fun repurpose ideas:

Tire Flower Pots:

Bottle Cap Table (laid in concrete):

Clothespin Memo Board on Old Metal Washboard: 

Teapot and Teaspoon Robot Clock:

What a fun way to reduce one's footprint in style!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Second to None

The garden is winding down.  Notice I said winding down - not done.  I'm still eeking a few squash from the mildewed plants and still harvest dozens - though not buckets - of tomatoes every day.  The apples are done and the Asian pear throws off a fruit or two a week.  We've moved from frantically preserving to thoroughly enjoying.

Still, as I spend less time in the garden, I cannot help but turn inward.  Not in a philosophical sense but in a decorative sense!  I hit the Alameda Antique Faire two weekends ago with one thing in mind - cozying up the family room.  I didn't find what I was looking for but I came home with a mostly full wallet, a crowded camera memory card and a few fun things for the munchkins - including a light up human body model.  Try finding that at your big box toy store!

I also saw lots of things I wanted or would never want but was happy that someone would want so that they didn't end up as landfill paddings.

 So sweet! 

These made me smile.

How cute would this be to store shoes in the entry way or blankets in the family room?

This is the most fun seat I've ever seen but I think it might clash with my decor!

Do you antique?  Visit local swap meets or antique fairs?  Do you love owning something with a past?


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Light At the End of the Tunnel

All spring and summer, I've reveled in the garden.  I've poked seeds into the grown.  Flitted between the flowers, dead-heading here and there.  Harvested a random tomato, crookneck squash or Asian pear.  Propped up a heavy branch.  15 minutes here and there of work.  Hours of relaxation.

Then August hit - like a sledgehammer.  Everything was ready at once.  Tomatoes.  Apples.  Summer squash.  Pears.  Peppers.

As we ease into summer, the garden is beginning to wind down.  The smiling yellow faces of sunflowers have faded, seeds popping through and beckoning squirrels from all over the neighborhood.  I've chopped them down bit by bit, to dry out unmolested in the garage, and become chicken feed this winter.

One of my tomato plants bit the dust and the other five have begun to slow down, leaves drying out.  In California, some of my tomatoes will continue to produce bit by bit through November.  But they begin spitting out the tomatoes a couple at a time rather than unleashing them in a red avalanche.

Powdery mildew spots the leaves of my dutiful crookneck squash.  The hardy yellow offerings shrink in size and taper off.

My pollinator garden was once a wave of color, teeming with bees and finches.  Now, dried plants loll about amongst the late summer favorites - black eyed susans and orange cosmos.  Nasturtium seeds are ripe for the plucking and calendula has given up the ghost to powdery mildew.

Even as I am sad to see the summer - with its endless bounty - wane, I am grateful for quieter days.  For cover crop and for sheet mulch.  For fewer flies around the chicken coop and for time to sketch out the plan for next summer's garden.  For knitting and decorating for holidays.  And I am grateful for the light at the end of the preservation tunnel.

I'm linking this post to Tuesday Garden Party and Harvest Mondays

Monday, August 29, 2011

Making Memories

You might wonder where I've been of late.  True, August had its share of last minute vacations and the chill'uns are back in school but that doesn't completely account for my absence.  Oh no.  This does.

Tomatoes.  And apples.  And summer squash.  Everything ready at once.  Oh, don't get me wrong.  It is not that I'm not grateful the garden has been so busy.  It is just that I find myself in a constant race against the over-ripe clock to freeze the tomatoes, can pasta sauce, turn apples into cinnamon apple chips and dehydrated squash.  All the while, I'm also trying to savor the tomatoes in salsa and fresh over pasta.  Enjoy the apples in apple bars and apple cake.  And squeeze the squash into breads and stir fry.

Remember June and July people?  When I proudly showed off a couple of squash and some herbs?  Remember when I picked my first tomato and relished in every last little nibble?

Me either.  It's all a distant, hazy memory.  But I'm off to ensure that I remember this August alllll winter long.  Happy preserving.

I am linking this post to Homestead Barn Hop, Harvest Monday and Tuesday Garden Party.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Good Enough Environmentalist

I thoroughly enjoyed Abbie's How Green Are You Quiz last week - gleefully checking off the answers and pleased to find myself a nice shade of Emerald Green.  I gave myself a pat on the back.  Not bad for someone who's been on the eco journey for some time.  Long enough to have sampled almost everything "eco" and thrown a good share back as not me, too difficult or too kooky.

I still got it!  I may drive too much in my minivan, I may not line dry my clothes any more, and I may have resorted to occasional yogurt tubes in lunch boxes despite the plastic but hey, I'm still green, ya'll!

Landing on "Emerald Green" was a hollow victory, though.  And not just because Abbie meant her quiz to be tongue in cheek.  No, it was hollow because I realized that I have finally reached the place in my environmental journey where I ask the much pondered question:

Do individual actions really matter?

For the past four and half years, I've walked and biked all over the place.  I've frozen my buns off.  I've grown my own vegetables and eaten 90% local for a couple of years. I gave up almost any sort of disposables, eschewed new for second hand, and have been eaten alive by guilt over things like: forgetting my canvas bags, buying garden starts in non-recyclable plastic pots and springing for new sweat pants for the boys for school.

And you know what?

I'm more afraid to write about climate change today than I was in 2007.  Then, most Americans accepted climate change for what it was - scientific fact.  Today, it is a political hot potato, most Americans do not believe it is true.

Despite the disbelief, more people are "living green."  Heck, most Americans prefer organic to conventional food but I'm not convinced that individual action will get us where we need to go.  Resorting to cloth wipes and canvas totes hasn't put a dent in global warming yet.  So how do we get there?

This week is a two week of protest against the Keystone XL Tar Sands pipeline.  Something that climate scientists call a "game over" for climate change if Obama allows it to go through.  Environmentalists are calling on people to come to Washington DC, protest the pipeline project and risk jail for civil disobedience.  Another member of the Green Moms Carnival is going.  I'm awed.  I'm wowed.  I'm jealous.  And I am afraid.

That the media will not cover it.

That it won't make a difference.

And mostly, afraid to make any sort of commitment like that.  Instead, I'll stay home and make some yogurt from organic milk bottled by a local company in a returnable glass bottle.  I'll can my homegrown tomatoes and then hit the thrift store for back to school clothes.

Will it be good enough?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


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