Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Brand New Year

I really don't like new year's resolutions.  Usually people create impossible goals, and end up feeling like failures when they can't reach them.  I certainly have been there, but I stopped making resolutions a long time ago.

That being said, I still think the beginning of the new year is a perfect time to stop and reflect on your life, and change directions if you notice you're not down the path that's best for you.  And after a hard year like I've had, I really need some redirection. 

Chad and I are going to have our traditional new year celebration soon, consisting of a movie and nachos, so I won't spend a lot of time on this post.  But I wanted to write down what I want to change in my life, so it's maybe a little more concrete. 

Number one, I want to start feeding myself properly.  My body is an amazing gift from God, and I should nourish it with the best foods I can find.  My goal is not to cut out junk because thinking in negative terms creates a vacuum that draws in the candy bars.  Instead, my goal is to fill my plate with lots of good foods so that there's not much room left for foods that make me feel bad. 

I also want to start exercising my amazing body so that it's strong and well maintained so I can do the things I love, like gardening and hiking.  I'm going to go easy on the exercise, because I'm out of shape and I don't want to hurt myself.  I also don't want to exercise so hard that I start hating it.

I want to make space in my day for the things I love, which means I have to change the way I think about my time.  It's precious, and I should stop trying to find ways to waste it.  This will also make space and time in my life to help me find more meaning in my days.

I want to start treating myself with the same respect and love that I treat others, because no one else will treat me that way until I do. 

So how was your year?  Was it good?  Did you have rocky spots?  Is there anything you want to change?  Whatever 2015 looked like for you, I hope that 2016 is even better.  Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Garden Tour

It's been such a mild winter here in western New York (and all of New England and the Mid Atlantic as well), and I've been hearing crazy stories about how how spring bulbs are starting to spring up already, and garlic is a foot tall in gardens.  I got pretty curious about what's going on in my garden, so I took a stroll around the yard with my camera (and a good pair of boots, because it's muddy!).

And what do you know!  The daffodil bulbs really are sending up shoots.

They're pretty small yet though, as you can see by their size compared to those leaves.  And it's not all the bulbs; only the ones that are more out in the sun are popping up.  The ones more in the shade are still sleeping.

Actually, I left some bulbs in the garage too long because I didn't know where to plant them, and I noticed they had started to sprout.  So not wanting to waste something awesome, I stuck them in some vases.

So far, only one has bloomed, but it's such a fun thing to walk into the kitchen and see a beautiful blooming hyacinth.  Plus, it smells awesome.

And you know what?  My garlic is coming up, too!

But it's certainly not a foot tall.  It usually gets about that big before it gets covered by snow anyway, so I'm not worried about it.  It is, afterall, called German Extra Hardy and can withstand some pretty frigid cold snaps.

One thing I worried about with this warm weather was that my apples would break dormancy too soon and their buds would die.  However, it looks like they're nice and sleepy still and should make it through to spring.

So while I was out there, I took a picture of my newest toy, too.

I got it all together on the Sunday after Christmas.  It was quite a project, but not as bad as the reviews made it out to be.  The box came with two pieces that weren't supposed to be there, and two pieces that I needed weren't there.  Thankfully, they're not pieces that are structurally necessary, so I just put it together and contacted the company about it. 

It's a really cool little planter!  The planting space is about 6 inches deep, and the space underneath is good for storage.  The clear plastic is pretty sturdy, but the black plastic, which covers the base part and is the tray for the soil to sit in, is flimsier.  However, the frame is very sturdy and well designed, so if the plastic breaks, I figure I can replace it with wood or some other material and just keep reusing the frame.  I like it a lot! 

It's currently sitting in the cleared out raspberry spot.  It's less windy there, and there's no threat of falling ice, but in the spring, we'll move it over to it's permanent home on the south side of the house.

There, between the raspberries and the concrete slab.  And if I like it, who knows?  Maybe I'll get another one and put it where the raspberries are.  I don't know what variety those raspberries are, but I don't like them very much.  The canes and the berries are really waxy, and my fingers are so sticky from wax after picking them.  Plus the berries have a crumbly berry disease, and I'm not at all sure how to help the poor plants.  But I suppose that's far enough down the road that I don't need to think about it right now.

So there's what's going on in the ole garden.  It may look asleep, but things are still growing!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Merry Post Xmas

I hope everyone had a nice Christmas.  We sure did.

And I don't mean as far as presents go, either (although we did get some nice gifts).  Our Christmas was good because we got to spend time with family that we hardly get to see anymore.  We laughed and told stories, caught up with what's new and retold old memories.  It was even so nice on Christmas day that Chad and I took a long evening walk in the moonlight.  It was lovely. 

So here's hoping that your Christmas was just as fun and lovely as ours was.  See you in the new year!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Life and Stuff

I've been enjoying writing about my garden the last couple of posts I wrote.  It's nice to get my ideas and dreams down in words; it makes it all seem more real.  It makes me feel like spring will come again, and when it does, I have plans. 

What I haven't written about is my life, and that's because it's been pretty hard the last four months.  It's still really hard for me to think about it, and even writing this much is giving me a cold sweat.  But in case anyone still reads and is still interested in how my life is going, I thought I should mention some of this.  Plus, maybe it will make it more real for me, and help me to deal with it.

I'm not going into full details.  I don't know if I ever will.  So let's keep it simple. 

In September, I was pregnant for five weeks.  And then I wasn't anymore.  It was the most heart crushing thing I've ever gone through.  Chad got a vasectomy in November (that's how long they made him wait, just in case he changed his mind).  And now, for real, Chad and I will never have children.

I'm still recovering from everything that happened.  I've felt like I've had a fog hanging over me for the last few months, but just lately it kind of feels like it's lifting.  I'm taking things slowly.  You can't push yourself to get over this sort of thing.  And I do know I'm getting better, because I've been getting into my art again.  Here's a couple pieces I've painted recently.

Red Onion

And I've been having these pangs of.... wanting more with my life.  Wanting more friends, wanting meaning, wanting to get out of the house.  I'm just savoring the wanting right now, the knowledge that there's so much I can do with my life. 

So if I'm mostly writing about plants and such, well, that's just my therapy.  It's soothing and it helps me to express myself at a time where I'm still having trouble being alone with my own thoughts.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Dreams of a Greenhouse

As a homemaker, I don't usually get much time off.  There's always something to be cleaned, cooked, or picked up.  But every Thursday, I try to give myself a little slack to do whatever I want to do.  I still feed the mouths and  do the dishes, but otherwise I just chill.  And today, that chilling involved a lot of daydreaming.

As I've mentioned before, I live on a small lot in the city; I cram as much garden stuff as I feel comfortable with, but I'd really like more room.  One thing I really dream about having is a greenhouse.  I'm not sure why.  It's not like I really know how a greenhouse works exactly, or what kind of advantages it has.  I mean, I know you can start your plants early in a greenhouse and it keeps things warm for warm loving plants like peppers and melons, but it seems like there's something I'm missing.

Even so, I still wish I had room for one.  A special little place for my plants, where I could start my seeds outside instead of my cramped basement; somewhere warm enough so I can get more than one shriveled little sad looking pepper on my otherwise healthy looking pepper plants; and maybe ever somewhere that I could extend my season and have fresh homegrown greens through the winter.  What a lovely thought.

But do you see a place for a greenhouse here?  Really?

Property line is easy to tell on the left; right property line is just passed the clothesline.  Back line is about where the compost is.

I mean, I guess there is a bunch of space in the center there.  But how silly would that look?  I would like to sell this house within 10 years, and I think a giant greenhouse in the middle of the lawn would make it a bit hard.  The garden is probably going to be a problem as it is.  Maybe I could put a greenhouse over the whole of the garden, and then just take the thing down when we go to move...  But a greenhouse that big would probably be pretty expensive.  Plus, I'm not sure how well you can grow spring crops in a greenhouse.

Well, in my dreaming this morning, I started wondering what kind of little greenhouse-like things garden companies sell.  Well, let me tell you; quite a few!  Most of them are either tall plastic pop-up things that pretend to be mini greenhouses, or short plastic pop-up things that go over an existing garden.  But I found a couple of them that are both a raised bed garden and a greenhouse at the same time, and this one in particular kind of caught my eye.

I happen to have a spot on the south side of my house that's still (miraculously) empty.  Between my raspberry canes and the cement slab next to the side porch, there's a space that's maybe 5x5 feet that's empty lawn.  Now we do  get some chives that grow there, and some mint that's crazy wild, but this thing is cool enough to put over those things.

However, it's also a spot where, every late winter/early spring, a huge chunk of ice falls off our room.  And I mean huge.  Usually 4x2x1 feet and weighing at least 100 pounds.  It sounds like the roof is coming in when it falls down.  And the greenhouse would be right in the way of that.  Shoot.

Ahh, but!  They also make a smaller one.

And this one looks like it's small enough to avoid the impact of the ice boulder.  It's 2'x4', and is meant to sit against a wall.  Which is perfect, since I have a wall right there.  It's empty underneath so you can put supplies there, but I probably won't do that.  It'll just be nice to not have to weed that whole area.  It usually gets full of monstrous weeds by the middle of summer because we don't mow that side of the house, and certain unnamed husbands don't weed wack but once or twice a season.  And also, I'm lazy.  Although it might be nice to get all those bags of compost out of the garage.... hmmmmm....

Anyway, I already bought the little greenhouse, lol.  It was $249 on Amazon, but Burpee had it for $199, plus I found a 20% off coupon online.  Score!  So after the $25 shipping, it was only $185, woot!

My plan is to fill it with premade raised bed soil mix and then plant peppers in it!  I'm so excited to actually grow peppers and maybe get something from them!  I've tried peppers every year since I started gardening, and every year I'm disappointed.  They do sooo well in my basement; they're tall, with thick stems and bushy leaves, and some even start getting buds by the time I start hardening them off.  And they still look nice when I put them in the ground, but they stop growing so quickly, start looking a little small, and then the peppers, once they start coming, are so small and sad looking.  The only time I got decent peppers was when I grew jalapenos, and I've heard that hot peppers can withstand colder weather better than sweet peppers.  Which is good to know, living in the north, but I don't like hot peppers.

I've seen some other northern living people do great with peppers when they grow them in greenhouses or hoop houses, which is great.  So I'm hoping that my new toy will act as a greenhouse and keep my plants warm enough to actually get some peppers!

I guess we'll see how it goes.  Even if it doesn't increase my pepper yields, it'll be nice to have more growing space and a place to maybe start some seeds early (or have lettuce late in the season), and somewhere sheltered to harden off my plants in the spring.  Yay!

To totally change the subject, check out what Chad and I saw in the backyard the other day.  Keep in mind that we live in the city.

As far as I can tell, he's either an 8 or 9 point buck.

I'm pretty sure he was after this lady.

There was also another lady in the neighbor's backyard.  We had to do a bunch of shouting and waving of arms to get them to get out of our yard.  (Note: always be careful around deer, especially bucks, during breeding season!)  They came back a few times; sometimes they were just laying in our yard in front of my garden!  What the heck?  We shooed them off every time, because I certainly don't want them getting cozy.  Deer are the most destructive animals in my yard.  Which is silly, because the closet woods are about a mile away.  Ok, half a mile away, but still, that's half a mile they have to walk through the streets to get to my house.  Across a busy road and a school and sardine-packed houses.  Silly animals. 

Friday, December 11, 2015

My Big Garden Dreams

It's been quite a while since I last blogged.  Again.  I have a habit of doing that sort of thing; one minute I'm totally into something, and the next I don't want anything to do with it for months or years at a time.

Like gardening.  Around September, I'm usually getting pretty sick of gardening.  Which is ridiculous, because that's when so many of my plants come to harvest, but for some reason I just get bored with the whole thing.  Then around December, usually when the first catalog appears in the mail, I'm so ready to start gardening again that it's embarrassing.  "Weren't you just sick of gardening like yesterday?" I might hear from certain unnamed husband.  Yes.  I was sick of gardening.  And now I'm not.

I have so many big plans for my garden, which is silly because my garden is very tiny.  Somehow, on roughly a 40x70 foot piece of backyard (that's very shady in one corner and has the house shadow during half the day in the rest of the yard), I've managed to plant and grow:

2 apple trees
4 blueberry bushes
2 five foot long raspberry brambles
1 2x4 foot strawberry patch
4 4x4 foot raised vegetable beds
1 1x16 foot raised vegetable bed
1 2x4 foot raised vegetable bed
As many veggie buckets as I can find space for
Two pretty nice flower gardens
Not to mention room for a swing and a clothes line

Here's a bad drawing of what it looks like.

My back yard

As you can see, it's quite cramped.  The driveway abuts the neighbor's property, but we do have about five feet on the other side of our house of ground where I put my strawberries, a small veggie garden and a patch of raspberries.  And yes, the flowers and compost at the very back of the yard are actually partially off of my property.  But the house behind ours is condemned, so whatevs.  I don't think anyone will mind too much.

So yeah, small city garden with big country dreams.  I keep looking at the catalogs and dreaming about what I wish I could do.  I wish I could put an arbor above the entryway for my main garden and grow grapes on it.  I wish I could have a greenhouse or hoop house to grow peppers and melons.  I wish I could grow pumpkins or winter squash.  But I have to face the fact that I have a small shady yard and that I have to be happy with what I have right now.

One of the more major things I'm doing next year is planting new raspberries.  The last couple winters have been killers in our area.  2013/2014 was what they call an open winter; we had almost no snow at all.  Which is great, except it was also extremely cold.  We got down to -15 or lower for weeks, and the ground froze five feet deep.  That killed my raspberries to the ground.  They did miraculously send up new shoots, but being summerbearers, that meant that I would have to wait until the following summer to get any berries.  Well, the winter of 2014/2015 was equally cold, except it also had record breaking amounts of snow.  I think we had four feet of heavy packed snow in our back yard, which protected the bottom part of the canes but the parts that were above the snow died off.  The hard winters were especially rough for the patch on the north side of the garage, and they started dying off from some kind of disease shortly after spring came around.  I decided that I was tired of dealing with harsh winters and raspberries that weren't up to the challenge, so I pulled up all those canes, dug in a lot of really good soil amendments, and planted some runner beans there to help boost the soil fertility.

The raspberry plot after adding lots of good stuff

I read about a cool new raspberry that Cornell University bred a few years back called Double Gold.  It's a blushed gold everbearer raspberry with high disease resistance, designed for cooler regions (Cornell is afterall in NY state, just like me).

Double Gold raspberry
There's a nursery that Cornell had grow it for them that's actually just an hour's drive from here, so I'm totally thinking about driving up there instead of paying $20 shipping.  The cool thing about everbearer raspberries is that they produce on first year canes.  As in, they grow a cane and then berries form on it the same year.  Whereas summerbearer canes, like the ones I have, grow canes one year and then produce berries on it the next summer, which is ok as long as the canes don't die back every winter!

I'm such a rambler.  I really meant for this to be a short post with some ideas for my garden next year, but I've already gone on a ton!  So maybe I'll shorten things up a little.

I managed to save a lot of seeds last year, so I really don't need to buy many.  I do want to try a couple new varieties, though.  My plans for new plants are:

 Cherokee purple tomato

Dragon's Tongue

New York Early 

Cosmic Purple
Not actually new, but I need more

Hidatsa Sheild

Sweet Pickle

I haven't really decided on lettuce yet, but I would like to try a crisphead type (iceburg) to go with my green towers romaine I already have.  I need to get some shelling peas too, but that's one of those things were it doesn't seem to matter what variety you get because they're all the same.  

So those are some rough plans so far.  I'm still dreaming about the greenhouse and the grape arbor, but I guess those will have to wait a while until we can buy our country home.