a "been-there" mom of six offers encouragement
to wives, young mothers, and those not so young,
and simple common-sense approaches to
the "ings" of life:
child-rearing (hints and helps), homemaking (all areas),
cooking (simple, cheap, and do-it-yourself)
making (toys and gifts), preparing (for the unexpected),
maintaining (sanity and peace in this increasingly crazy world) and more---
all aspects of making the most of making do on little---
and having fun in the process.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Where's the Post?


Today is Friday! Monday I told you I was going to start posting on Tuesdays and Fridays.  

I wrote Friday's post on Wednesday and . . . simply pushed the wrong button! 

I'll be back on Tuesday!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Swimming in Vegetables . . .

where the pool once was 

Dave and son Luke --- the water volleyball champs for 3 years running!

This week I have been posting about our cheap-and-make-do gardening efforts.  The first two posts were ways we have been successful using a variety of small and small-ish containers----in the tiny area that wasn't taken up by our 15x30 foot above ground swimming pool.

The pool died three years ago shortly before a good friend, who lived at the end of our street, offered us her raised garden boxes complete with soil. The gift was unbelievable! Moving them seemed overwhelming---if not impossible!

As words from an old Roger Miller song encourages,  "knuckle down, buckle down, do it, do it, do it!"

Impossible just takes a little longer!

We left all but one section of the pool's metal framework in place. With the exception of the one box  shown in the photo below, the others fit perfectly within it. 

As we enter the garden (through the one removed framework area) notice how that one "outside" box snuggles perfectly between the framework and the steps to the deck---couldn't have fit better if it was custom made for that spot.

The three tires in the lower left have potatoes planted in them. We planted in the second tire and as the plants grew higher we added the third tire. Again, when the plant grew up above the third one, we added a fourth.You remove the tires one at a time to harvest. 

Last year we added a compost area where the white buckets are. It is amazing how fast it fills up with the peelings and trimmings.

There is peace and satisfaction in watching the garden grow. There is great pleasure in picking the produce and often, eating it right on the spot. . .and sharing it.

And sometimes there is humor.

Once you have your produce, whether from home, market, or farmer’s market, it needs to be washed. The following, from internet sites, are homemade washes/preservers and comments from their contributors.

● I have been using this for years. It can be used in spray form or as a soak. It  really works and works very well! no chemicals 100% natural and will remove dust and dirt and kill any little bugs and bacteria not to mention it costs only pennies to make and when used as a soak it will help preserve your veggies so that they will last quite a lot longer. Because of the fresh lemon juice any unused spray may be refrigerated until used again, I just usually use up the 1 cup and then discard the rest --- the exact amounts do not really matter a little more will not hurt, I really don't even bother to measure I just eyeball everything. If you are using a smaller bowl then reduce the vinegar to 2 tablespoons and salt to 1 tablespoon it will work just as well.
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 cup water 
2 tablespoons salt 
Put all ingredients into a spray bottle (be careful as it will foam up) shake gently to mix, then spray on veggies or fruit, allow to sit for about 2-5 minutes and then rinse under cold water.
1/4 cup vinegar
2 T. salt
Fill a clean sink or a large basin with cold water; add in vinegar and salt, then swish around with hands (you may also do this in a large bowl). Place the fruit and/or veggies in and allow to sit for 25-30 minutes although I have even left soaking for over an hour (this will not effect the flavor at all, the vinegar cleans and the salt draws out any little bugs, dirt and other small unwanted things, it also will remove some of the wax. Rinse under cold water and dry.

Vinegar-less Wash
1 tablespoon lemon juice 
2 tablespoons baking soda 
1 cup water 
Put this mixture in a spray bottle. After spraying, let produce sit for a few minutes. Rinse well. 

● This writer states she saw the following vegetable spray on Oprah and notes: Be sure to mix this in a DEEP pitcher. The baking soda and vinegar will react and foam everywhere if you do not.
1 cup water 
1 cup vinegar 
1 tablespoon baking soda 
20 drops grapefruit seed extract (you can find this in your healthy food store, natural antibacterial) (optional) 
Mix all ingredients together in a DEEP pitcher. Pour into a spray bottle. Spray on fruits and or vegetables and allow to sit for 5 or 10 minutes before rinsing.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

More Gardening Show and Tell. . .

More Creative Gardening Containers continuing from yesterday's post.

But first, a little something about the little plastic write-on garden stakes, about 5 inches long, you use to mark/identify your seedlings and plants. I found them at Wal-Mart for $2.99 per pack. I think there were 10 in the pack.

Making the Most of Discards                                   
At a thrift store two years ago, I happened on an used thin metal mini-blind for $2.50.With scissors, as I need them, I cut each blind-strip into the lengths I want---cut a point into one end of each--- and that is all there is to it! 
Enough plant stakes to last a life-time for less than the price of 10!

The next photos will show our movable containers garden when the pool area was still filled with the swimming pool---which took up the other two-thirds of our yard.

A New Life for Retired Tires

The bright pots are wastebaskets from the dollar store filled with bright critter-avoiding chrysanthemums.
The red poppies in the lower right are having their turn in the blue lower half of a 55 gallon water storage barrel.
It has also successfully housed tomatoes, and wonderful come-back wild flowers.
The greenery by the fence on the left is the wrap around part of a grapevine whose leaves
seasonally provide the allusion of coolness and  even produces grapes on occasion.
I doubt if there is a tire store anywhere that will turn you away when you ask for their old tires. One cheerfully encouraged, "for every tire you want, you should take two more."

In all cases we were free to pick whatever kinds/sizes we wanted from the discard pile. We chose matched sets for uniformity in stacking. And while, they don't show in any of the photos, small trailer-type, that we used for small planters. Some people use tractor size but they were too big for us to handle.

There are many Internet sites on gardening in tires. There are sites that show you how to cut a tire and turn it inside out---making a larger planting surface.  That is a lot of hard/heavy work!  We got increased planting surface simply by selecting low profile tires.

Others show you how to decorate them.  You can learn how cut them and paint them to turn them into really bright fun flower containers if you are so inclined. Both are beyond our strength or creativity.

We simply painted ours white to reflect the heat, as explained in yesterday's post.

Some sites strike fear of the tire materials that may leach into the garden soil and compromise the plant and the safety of its produce. Many others dismiss that as untrue.

Our cheapskate nature solved any potential leaching problem

Because we did not want to waste our good potting soil filling the insides of the tires, we made cylinders of heavy plastic to fit inside the stacked tires. We filled the cylinders with the soil --- 
conserving and protecting at the same time!

When the heat became too much for the plants, we erected a
sun cloth to provide some protection.

I'm going outside now to finish planting the lettuce, spinach, radishes, and cabbage.
We are also going to try to baby along two Early Girl tomato plants (one planted directly into the garden, surrounded by 4 one-gallon milk jugs filled with warm water and wrapped in a sheet of clear plastic; and      the other residing in a 5-gallon plastic bucket in our half-deck greenhouse).

It is fun to try something new each season.

On Friday, when I am back at the computer, we'll step through the entrance to the previous pool area.

And. . .I'll  post recipes for cheap and effective home-made vegetable wash.

Monday, February 27, 2012

How to Creatively Garden in Bits and Pieces

There isn't much better than stepping outside and picking  your own salad fixins'

We are not quite there yet, but it is beginning to look a lot like Spring!

And where we live it is planting time for lettuce, onions, potatoes, carrots, radishes, peas. . .with spinach following quickly.

Last August 18th, when my blog was about a month old, I posted on gardening-in-a-bag, along with the instructions--- and other cheap mini-garden solutions.



Today to start off the new gardening season I have a little tell----along with a lot of show. Our backyard and garden has been, and still is, a work in progress. These photos were taken over a period of three years----with some at various stages throughout the season.

Our back yard is quite small but the bigger problem is everything in our little community is built on lava!

Raised beds or containers are our only option. And the older we get the higher we try to raise them!

If you have the money, the variety of commercial containers is unlimited. If money is an issue, the variety of creative containers is limited----but only by your imagination and ingenuity.

We choose to put our garden money into soil enhancements. I think the plants appreciate that!

Along with the shopping bags, we've used dollar-store pots, dishpans, washtubs, popcorn-type tins, plastic buckets and . . .

I think these are culvert pipe remnants --- pieces left over at construction sites --- that we have put in the strip alongside our carport.  They are smooth on the inside. These were originally black (which is a good heat absorb-er but since we live in a very hot climate we painted ours white to reflect the heat.) 

When using tall containers, only about the top 12 inches needs to be good soil. The bottom part can be filled with non-degradeable stuff --- rocks, Styrofoam pellets, etc. I have read that pop cans work well if you first punch a couple of extra holes in them.  Fill in the spaces with dirt and then top it off with the plant-loving materials.

For nine years we had a large above ground swimming pool, with our garden here and there around the rest of the yard. When the pool "died", we expanded. The stairs lead to what was the deck, half of which is now a green house.

The colorful tubs were a wonderful thrift store find. I don't know what they were originally used for (each one is hooked to the other by pieces of  rope) but with holes drilled in the bottom they are perfect on the steps. In this picture they were filled with herbs.

This year the stairs and deck are white, the herbs are being moved to the square container next to the stairs and come summer, colorful heat-loving vinca will fill the tubs. 

A blue plastic dishpan sits on a chunk of old wood in front of the oddly-placed power box. Previously it held a taller container filled with perennial garlic chives --- another attempt to disguise the box. Last year a green plastic rectangular dishpan filled that spot, planted with colorful decorative sweet potato vines. They were supposed to drape and dangle as they grew. That didn't happen but they still looked nice and drew the eye away from the ugly box (a little).

Tomorrow, Tuesday, I will show you our first larger and semi-permanent containers which were/are very successful.

Friday we will expand into our old pool space.