Weather:  56* & Sunny

1-24-15_CollageI’ve been trapped in a Dexter marathon.  One of my tom cats has been missing for 12 days.  The longest he’s ever been gone before is 6 days.  I was convinced he was dead – eaten by a coyote or something, and then he just shows up this morning, eats 4 bowls of food and goes to the door wanting out.  Now I’m convinced I’m just a Foody Call.  ;(

One o’clock in the afternoon.  I’ve got to do SOMETHING productive…

The boards are still in my car.  Paint clothes on and an hour or so later I’ve got 3 boards painted front and back.  Back inside for another episode of Dexter and lunch.  Keith Carradine is eating a sandwich and that sounds good.  I’ve got 2 slices of bacon left over from this morning that I made in my NuWave Pro!  (Love that thing!)  Back outside, got them screwed together.  My plan is seriously off.  By my calculations I should have space for three 2×8 boxes on this side of the gate opening, but there’s barely enough for two.  😦

What can I do now?  Ugh…  I had promised to stay out of the woods until my poison cleared up, but what else is there.  So I tackled that area behind the storage shed.  I got the Roundup and loppers, but gave up on the Roundup pretty quickly when each time I clipped a branch the stump was quickly hidden by the leaves.  I cut down a bunch of poison too.  :::Face Palm:::

Another bath in hot bleach.  I’m loving this smell.  NOT!  Lol.  And back to my dark, redhead.


Sowing Eggplant & School Frustrations

Weather:  38* & Raining

SeedStartsI’ve been putting it off, but there’s really nothing else to be done today so I might as well get to it.  I’m starting my eggplant seeds indoors using the tips I found from a Greenhouse Professional on the MotherEarthNews website.  I had this mini greenhouse that I picked up last year at Walmart and I’ve been on the lookout for a heating seed mat, but seeing as how it’s so early in the year (and I’m broke), I decided to try the heating pad I use everyday on my back.  (Lazyboys are notoriously bad for your back, so I keep one on when I sit on the couch.)

I planted Black Knight Eggplant, which a girlfriend says is less bitter than their purple-skinned cousins, and Early Long Purple.  The plastic wrap retains heat & moisture, while the darkness forces the seeds to focus on germination rather than reaching the light.

I’m eat up with poison ivy or oak and I had to drive into town to meet a friend whose wife generously made me some Jewelweed soap and a liquid potion to try and ease the itch.  1-23-15_poisonBathing in bleach and vinegar has been less than fun!  While I have makeup on and my hair is actually styled I decided to drive to the technical college and check up on my status.  The bitch nice young woman had completely forgotten about me!  She took me over to Cheryl, the Financial Aid lady who told me that I have to talk to the unemployment people.  Drove over there and they said I have to jump through all of these hoops first – like getting approved from the school and applying for a Pell Grant.  So back to the school who got another (the REAL) financial aid lady, Jess, involved and said that even though I have $6k in grant money that was set aside just for our group of displaced workers the $3500 4 week course doesn’t qualify and the $9k 20 week course would put me in debt (IF I could qualify) and would be no guarantee.  Argh!!!  I’m a truck driver but because I’ve been driving a bus for the casino for the past 5 years my 20 years in a semi are virtually worthless because I don’t have an “recent” experience!!  I’m mad and depressed!

I went to Lowe’s to pick up some lumber.  My unemployment check DID come through.  I got three 2x8x8 boards (the big box store is higher than my little local hardware store!), 2 concrete stepping stones and 2 concrete blocks.  I had the boy cut one of the 2x8x8 into 2′ sections and then I got to thinking about the lady in Alaska who uses cedar fence boards, so I bebopped over to look at those prices.  I’m paying about $5 for the 2×8’s and the THIN 1×6 fence boards are roughly half the cost, but I’d have to have a saw, saw horses (I absolutely LOVE her pink ones!) and I couldn’t remember how she managed to screw those thin pieces together.  Besides, the 2×8’s will last longer, right?  There was a cute guy beside me loading up a cart and commented on how high lumber is these days.  Thanks buddy, I needed more bad news today…  😦

I got everything home, including the 50lb bag of chicken feed that I got at Tractor Supply.  A girl in one of my Rabbit Groups said they had the 24×24 cages on sale for $15.  They regularly run $35, but I couldn’t find the store she mentioned in LA for them to call and compare prices.  Besides I’m thinking of raising them under the back deck and really need hardware cloth, buried 2′ deep – i.e. I need to dig FIRST.  Yuck!  Anyway, I left the lumber in my little car because it’s raining.  If it’s dry outside tomorrow I may get out there and paint them.

1-23-15_SeedCollageStill depressed and bored and on my 15th episode of Dexter (which my red-haired son got me addicted to!) feeling worthless I decided I might as well mix the bag of sphagnum moss with the last bit of my vermiculite and think about doing more seeds tomorrow.  Using an old enamel cup I mixed equal measures of each into plastic dishpans that I got from the dollar store last year.  Maybe I’ll start all the pepper seeds I bought with my Food Stamps at Dollar Tree today…

Did I mention that the county called and is having a workshop on the 29th to see if I qualify to make payments on my outstanding property taxes?  (It’s funny that the city can owe the county more than $50 million, but let me get behind…) 😦

2’x8′ SFG Boxes

Weather:  46* & Rainy

I1-22-15_two2x8st’s cloudy and gloomy and I really didn’t feel like doing anything outside, but I’d rather have something to show for the excursion into town yesterday and all the painting.  I had intended to construct these and drive into town for 5 more boards (about the max that will fit in my little car.  I’m sure the small hardware store people think I’m nuts), but I forgot to certify Sunday so no unemployment check.  No check = no money to build vegetable beds.  I’ve been told by some of my other co-workers that next check will be double, but I’ll have to wait and see…

My planned garden is 36’x48′ with a 2′ bed around and inside the perimeter, so two 2’x8′ beds leaves me with a long way to go.  My perimeter fence will run between the two beds in order to keep critters from digging under into the garden.  I had a thought yesterday that maybe my two end boards should be 4′ in order to better stabilize the bed…1-1-1_GardenPlan

I originally drew my plan on graph paper, then on this big poster board with a ghost grid (which I have hanging on the backside of my front door, so I can keep the dream front & center).  I’ve also designed it over at GrowVeg.com and virtually planted my intended veggies & herbs.  I really like their software and want to use the program, but that will also have to wait until I have $25.  😦

Oh shoot, I forgot to cover up the firepit.  Now I’ll have wet ashes!  😦

5 New Boards

Weather:  58* & Cloudy



My last utility bill was almost $400; however my weekly unemployment check is only $200 so I was only able to pay half of it.  Last month the utility company couldn’t wait one week before they sent me a cut off notice.  It’s been really cold here lately, so perhaps they’ve taken pity on us poor broke girls.  This time they’ve given me 16 extra days to pay, so I’ve got a few extra dollars this week.  That means boards!

The first two beds that I made I couldn’t wait to get them painted or filled with dirt.  The last two I at least waited to fill (partly because I can’t afford dirt – is that worse than being dirt poor?), but not to screw together.

This time, I’m playing it smart and Kilzing both sides before I put them together OR fill them with dirt.  My husband scooped out two 5 gallon buckets of ash from the fire pit, so I will actually have dirt in the future.  With that plus the leaves that I’m filling the beds with to decompose.

I sure wish I had been able to catch those saw horses on sale last week, but I made do with two concrete blocks and an old pallet.  Not the sturdiest of work surfaces and I’m not sure my back was any better off, but job done!   And just in time.  It’s getting dark out here…



Chipmunks & Preservation

Weather:  64* & Sunny

1-20-15_chipmunk-kitchenI’ve had the doors open all day because it’s been so nice and in ran my cat with a chipmunk in his mouth.  I got up, grabbed some gloves and went over to get it out of his mouth, but not before the chipmunk got loose.  He ran into the hall, but the bedroom & bathroom doors were closed, so Jerry the cat grabbed him again and I grabbed him from Jerry.  Unfortunately while I was trying to snap his picture before releasing him he bit me!  And he wouldn’t let go.  I carried him over to the sink intending to splash some water on him, and he jumped out of my hand and scurried onto the backsplash.  Then around the edge of the counter, off and behind the fridge.  Jerry & I finally managed to get him again and I put him in the tall, empty fish tank in order to recover.  I gave him some bird seed and a small water dish.  I think he ate and fell asleep in the bowl.  Some pink camo fleece for him to rest on and I’m out of here.

No more working in the woods for me for a while.  They have extracted their revenge.  My forearms are covered in poison ivy.  😦

1-20-15_kilzed4I hate painting.  But…  it’s got to be done.  I want all my square foot raised beds to be painted in different, bright colors but I don’t know yet if I want them solid colors or girlie camo colors.  Either way they have to have a coat of Kilz on them.  Treated lumber is twice as expensive as pine, but pine won’t hold up unless it’s coated.  So if I go with the camo colors then the base white will be the common denominator.

I already had these four 4’x8′ beds constructed, so I was sitting on my bum in the sun.  😀  I had to take the far right bed’s hoops apart and flip it over.  Meanwhile Jerry had come into the garden to pout.  I told him that I was sorry, but I feed him well enough that he doesn’t have to hunt.  He promptly walked over to some antlers drying in the sun and sat beside them.  Ok, ok, the irony isn’t lost on me…

Berries – Week 1: Aronia (or Black Chokecherry/Chokeberry)

Aronia_BlackChokeberryAronia, also called black chokecherry, is an extremely hardy shrub that can be grown in USDA hardiness zones 3 to 8. It grows 3 to 6 feet tall and wide, depending on the variety. This vigorous shrub is self-fertile, generally insect- and disease-free, and produces an abundance of blue-black berries in summer. The berries make a strong-flavored wine, juice, or jam, and have one of the highest levels of antioxidants of all the berry crops. ‘Viking’ and ‘Nero’ are two good selections.

As an added benefit, the glossy green leaves of this deciduous shrub turn fire engine red in fall. Instead of planting burning bush, why not grow aronia for fall color and edible berries? The plants sucker freely and can be used as a hedge plant along a wall or building.”  –Source:  Edible Landscaping

CBS News boasts:  “The berry has one of the highest antioxidant values ever recorded for any other fruits, including superfoods such as blueberries, acai berries and goji berries.”

Michigan Bulb offers this information:

Botanical Name: Aronia melanocarpa ‘Viking’
Form: Deciduous shrub
Sun Exposure: Partial Shade/Full Sun
Height/Habit: 3 – 5′
Spread: 5 – 6′
Spacing: 5 – 8′
Hardiness Zone: Zones 3 – 8
Foliage Type: Obovate, glossy mid-green leaves with excellent red orange and a hint of purple fall color.
Flower Form: Corymbs of white tinged with pink.
Flower Color: White tinged with pink
Flowering Date: Late spring to early summer.
Planting Requirements: Morning sun with shade in the afternoon is best for fruiting and fall leaf color.
Soil Requirements: Adaptable to a wide range of soils but moist, fertile, well-drained soil is best.
Growth Rate: Moderate.
Unique Characteristics: Hardy native plant to Eastern North America and Canada. This variety is a cultivated form of the native aronia. It has recently attracted scientific interest due to the deep purple-black berries and their properties. There are several health benefits of the aronia berries like other dark pigmented berries such as blueberries, black currant, salal and bilberries. Antioxidants, cardiovascular system support, anti-aging properties, digestive aids and help in maintaining blood sugar levels to name a few! The berries are not particular tasty fresh to humans but the juices can be made into a number of wonderful items such as juices, wines, syrups, sauces, marinades, chutney and pies. If you don’t care to harvest the fruit, the songbirds and other wildlife will gladly take care of that for you!
Pruning: Late winter when dormant or after flowering if fruit production is not an important factor for growing this plant.
Additional Information: Remove seeds and skin when used in foods – takes out the bitterness. Bounty of fruit by the third season of growth. Harvest fruit in early to mid fall.

“Also known as Chokeberry because of its ascetic flavor, this deep purple berry has been considered by many as the healthiest fruit in the world because of its abundance of anthocyanines, which aid in reducing the risk of chronic diseases. Scientists and medical experts are even exploring the possibility of using the Aronia Berry to fight heart disease and cancer. American Indians were among the first to discover the medicinal value of this purple berry as they believed it to be an of aphrodisiac.

Aronia Melanocarpa Viking berries thrive in swamps and wet woods, so it best planted in moist and well-drained soil. Blooms start to appear in late spring and continue to blossom until early summer. Native to the eastern part of North America, the Aronia Berry is currently cultivated in many parts of the world. The plant yield clusters of tiny white flowers with pink glabrous sepals. Apart from its therapeutic properties, the fruit is also versatile in the kitchen. It can be used to make jams and fruit preserves, juices, food coloring, and tea to name a few. The Aronia Berry also makes a great decorative plant in any garden, not only because the fruits have a beautiful color, but also because the plant is resistant to harmful elements such as disease, pollution, and drought.”  –Source: Michigan Bulb

Aronia-blossomsJacqueline, at Deep Roots at Home says they are quite tart, but good in quickbreads and are self-fertile, so you only need 1 bush! 😀

Homestead Management & Eggplants

Weather:  43* & Overcast

I want to do things RIGHT this year.  I want to be focused and get more accomplished – a LOT more – and knowing that I need help is what prompted me to start this blog and look for a homestead book, calendar or system to teach me what I need to know and when.  I found Quinn, over at Reformation Acres, has a downloadable Binder Bundle for $4, which includes a Seed-Starting Calculator.  So many of the things she does are not pertinent to me (yet), but knowing when to start my veggies and herbs is an invaluable part of my journey this year.  (Who knew I should start eggplants indoors in a few days!?)  A garden is my biggest goal.  My grandparents were farmers and my mother has had gardens on & off throughout her life and served us eggplant fries growing up.  I despise the taste of vegetables, but I’m hoping to change with the help of The Sneaky Chef books.  My husband, who loves vegetables, has never had eggplant, so I’m eager to have him try it.

eggplantStarting eggplants indoors requires what…?  Seed & soil certainly, but as I had tried starting seeds indoorhs back in the fall with absolute zero success I needed to do more research.  I found How to Start Seeds Indoors after searching for “eggplant indoors” on YouTube and got sucked into some Utah State Extension videos on training cucumbers up a trellis.

The actual video on growing eggplant made me really curious about their greenhouse tunnel.  It looks like they have regular t-posts (how my garden is marked off) with just pvc fitted over the top and some boards screwed to the outside with plastic sheeting overhead.  In other words, it looks like a simple adaptation that I could make to my garden for bird netting, shading or winterizing.

But back to starting seeds.  According to Quinn’s seed calculator I can also start Kohlrabi, Leeks, Onion seed, Peppers, Shallots, Chives, Lemon Balm, Lovage (!?), Marjoram, Oregano, Sage, Parsley, Thyme, Artichokes, Lettuce, Tomatoes (!!), Anise, Cumin, Horehound and Hyssop indoor this month too!  So I might need a LOT of space.  Ron Patterson over at USU had built his own seed starting rack, but I recently lost my job and need a CHEAP alternative.  Why not use a shelf on my baker’s rack?  Had anybody else done this?  I found one I really liked and another that gave cost breakdown.  It wasn’t the typical baker’s rack that I had in mind, but I do have one of these at my house in the city (if my son isn’t still using it for bike parts).  I’ll just have to drive there, disassemble it and convince my teenage daughter to bring it back in her truck after Christmas break.  🙂  (I also found this blog post of the cute westernesque town of Baker Creek in the Ozarks.  I also like the Almanac entry on her sidebar.)

As it stands, I’ll need:

  • my baker’s rack
  • a shop light or two
  • s hooks
  • chain
  • soil medium for seeds
  • seed trays
  • a heat mat (maybe)
  • plastic wrap

These two info-packed articles should be a good start as well:

  1. Seed Starting Secrets of a Greenhouse Professional
  2. How We Transplant Vegetable Plugs