Saturday, October 13, 2012

Garden Plans

I've spent a large part of the past two years planning for the future of our garden/homestead.  I've had less time to work in the garden than I would like, but it has been a good time to reflect on the future of our property and how we use it. It has been a time to determine our priorities. 

It's been a good time for me to learn to deal only with what I can manage at the time.  There is no way in the world that I"m ready to take on this whole plan-but I can work at it one phase at a time. 
It's manageable this way.

John has been a great sport through all of this...we've discussed our concerns and our dreams.  I'm the dreamer and he's the realist. He's always good to keep me grounded and not take on more than I should.  He knows that I have the tendency to take on a huge projects before I'm ready.

For something this important....I had to come up with a plan.  It is important to me to be a good steward of our land. I've looked through many blogs, studied historical gardens such as Monticello, and read as much as I could about homestead layouts. 

I've decided there are things I don't want to do that would be better to purchase from others.  I'm a little hesitant about bees...but John isn' that will work and maybe someday I'll get over my fear.  I still want chickens, but know that now is not the time for me to take that project on.

So here it is........THE MASTER PLAN!

Up close details.... (dotted lines indicate future plans)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Special Day

We had a really special day on Wednesday as Ben was honored for an essay he wrote to promote no texting and driving in the state. We visited the state capital and met with the Governor for a special proclamation. It was a special honor to recieve and we are so proud of him.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Crushed Ice

Growing up, we never had a refrigerator with an ice maker. We had two of these...

When the tray was empty, you filled it up and put it on the bottom.  Mom never had a chest freezer, so every bit of freezer space was used.  I don't even remember that we had a reserve tub of ice...

If we wanted crushed ice, we used one of these:

But in the summer, we would visit my grandparent's house in Louisiana.  Granny had an extra freezer in the garage and she had reserve ice in her freezer.  Her freezer was on the bottom which was much easier for little ones to reach.  She used metal ice cube trays and would dump them into the ice container.  Over time, the little pieces of ice would build up in the bottom of the ice container. Then we would arrive and all line up in the kitchen to pry them loose. I always looked forward to getting one of her juice glasses and scooping up the little pieces of crushed ice on the bottom of the container.  Pure joy!

I still love crushed ice.... it is a just one of those little things...

Now, I can make these little tiny ice cubes this kind of ice tray.....I picked these up at Lehman's in May. I really enjoy these too.

Just the other day, I moseyed into the kitchen and filled my glass with crushed ice out of the refrigerator door.  And while that is very nice, it struck me that what used to be a treat to look forward to is now an everyday occurrence. 

It seems to me that convenience has taken the anticipation right out of life. 

Anticipation is certainly under rated in our modern society.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

September Already!

For the first time in almost three weeks, I have the time to stop and write a blog post.  Here is a quick run down of how full my weeks have been:

*Minor surgery for Emily (long overdue and a blessing to finally complete).  She fell on her hip four years ago and we finally were able to get all the doctors and insurance companies on the same page.  She's on crutches for four weeks, but found out while she was recovering that she got a full time teaching job! Quite a thing to celebrate in this economy.  Wedding planning has been slow but is getting ready to go full force with her increased mobility. While Emily was laid up on the couch, her best friend from childhood came by to visit with her new baby girl.  It has been so wonderful to spend time with her. Dara, your visits brought so much joy to our home this week ......thank you so much for stopping by....don't be a stranger even if Emily isn't home :)

And the patient with a little bundle of joy....

*Saturday we purchased Sarah's long awaited vehicle.  She should graduate from college next December and will be off to graduate school.  The increased gas mileage is a welcome change! And in all the excitement....I didn't even get a good picture.

*Ben got back last week from a five day teen driving school sponsored by our state police.  He is now paired up with a trooper to work in our area of the state to help increase teen knowledge on the dangers of distracted driving.  He had a blast!  He got to try all of those things out that he could never do on our cars for fear of wrecking them.  He's a huge "Top Gear" fan, so this was a fantastic experience for him.  He now is in competition for scholarship money based on his activities in the community.

*John's classes at the University have started.  He loves teaching! He still has to put in quite a few hours learning the new technology of his online classes, but the job is such a blessing.  His stress level is down and we are all enjoying this blessed life.

I'd like to post a garden update this week, but frankly, there isn't one.  The only thing I've accomplished is measuring and arranging the garden beds into the right location.  John and I braved the mosquitoes to tackle this job.  This time of year, it's a real challenge to spend any time at all outside because of the swarms. The beds still have to be hammered into place (hopefully this weekend) and then I can start working on filling them little by little. After I was gone for Emily's surgery, I found out that all the little spinach seedlings I was watering were actually weeds.  They've been pulled and I plan on purchasing the plants I need to provide an all winter garden.  I expect to be picking a new harvest of white half runners at the end of next week as well.

Ben helped me reseed the front yard where our trees had to be taken out earlier in the summer.  The grass is coming in nicely, but nothing to really jump up and down about.  The weather has helped and we haven't had to water a lot.

The one thing I have finally accomplished is that I finished work on our homestead plan.  I'll save it for a Saturday garden post.  In the meantime, here's a little bit of progress on my part to eliminate more chemicals from our home.

I found time to order Mrs. Meyers soap.  I've been wanting to try the new bluebell scent, and I purchased the hand soap collection to test out my favorite fragrances. I'm not a fan of the rhubarb, but love the basil and parsley. They came in just in time for me to discover a slight leak under the kitchen sink.  I tightened the offending gasket, and this weekend plan on emptying the cabinet of everything unnecessary. I have to make room for all this soap! 
The best part about this week is that I'm settling into a better routine for the year in spite of the increased tornado of activity around me.  I've had lots of help from my family and that is making a huge difference.  That's it for tonight......I have lots of posts running around in my mind....I'm hoping to get them down before I forget them!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Progress in the Garden!!!

Here's an exciting thing to see this late in the blooms on the white half runner green beans I planted in July.

Ben started the construction of my remaining garden bed frames on Saturday for me, then Bryce and Emily came home yesterday and helped me finish the rest.

It's still really warm here (93 degrees yesterday), and the mosquitoes make it nearly impossible to be outside for even five minutes, but we stuck to it and here is what we accomplished.

This is the garden view from the back of the garage.  The two beds in front that look weathered are my test beds to see if I really wanted to take on a project of this size.  I loved the ease of gardening in these raised beds. The beans are happily growing in one and the other has a few herbs that have weathered the drought and new seedlings of broccoli, cabbage and spinach.

Here is a view looking toward the back of the house.  It will take some specific measuring to place the beds in just the right spot.  I also still have to add the PVC supports for the covered wagon supports they will have to extend the growing seasons with garden fabric covers.

 You can see the beds are positioned where my previous garden of raised rows was located.  The ground is very uneven and will need to be leveled for the pathways.  The outdoor fireplace on the left is in a bit of disrepair.  I hope to restore it and make it a focal point in the garden design.  

I have a comprehensive yard plan that I expect it to take several years to implement. Later in the week I hope to post some planting plans for these wonderful beds.  I'm anticipating that it will take quite  awhile to fill this many beds with just the right amount of soil and compost.  We will start this project when the leaves start to fall.  (We have plenty of leaves!!!)

It was really important for me to get this hard structure part of planning completed in order to take advantage of the changing seasons.  We have a very long way to go on this journey toward producing most of the food we eat.  We do live right in town, but on our 1/2 an acre (about 1/3 of which we will use for gardening), I hope to plant a small orchard, keep bees, grown fruits and nuts, and one day even have a chicken coop! 

Thanks Emily, Bryce, and Ben for helping me so much this weekend!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

This Old House Update: Floors and Entry Hallway

It's been a while since I wrote about "This Old House". 
This summer I focused on some serious maintenance of the wood floors.  I scrubbed, stripped, and waxed them in the kitchen, dining room, and downstairs hallway.  Short of having the floor professionally refinished, this was the most thorough treatment I could have given them.  It took days, and when the weather got too warm, I had to stop because the wax fumes were just too much without opening the windows to let them escape.  During the process I carelessly stepped through the floor vent and found myself with one leg dangling in the basement!    Every time I think of how easily I could have broken multiple bones, I thank the Lord for my blessings. Instead of being in traction, I was able to get back to work after three days of icing my leg and catching up on some summer reading while I recuperated.

In the process, the hallway got a furniture and rug makeover.  I found these great rugs at Plow and Hearth.  I love these colors!

This cabinet was rescued from the basement and refurbished.  It's original use was in my father-in-law's legal office.  I claimed it when he retired, (no one else wanted it!) and we have used it for various purposes through the years.  It has been in the basement full of arts and crafts supplies since we moved here. We don't have the art/science projects like we used to have so I've been able to cull many of the supplies that we just don't need any more. Ben helped me bring it upstairs and I removed the worn out wheels (Ben's suggestion). Then I replaced the hardware, and touched up all the scuffs and scratches.

I love the new look of the hallway and so far we have been able to keep it this uncluttered for almost two months!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Summer Break is Over

I have had a wonderful summer.  I took a blogging break to enjoy this summer full of.....

Ben (looking soooo cool in his dad's old aviators!) attending the Governor's Scholar Program.

John's last day on the bench before retirement. 
He started his new job as a college professor this week.  This new level of less stress is a welcome thing!

Although we are both still teaching, retirement has us thinking about getting one of these in the future. 
It's still a few years away....but something to dream about.

Wiley's big brother Tucker came to live with us this summer. Now we have two yorkies running around. 
 They both seem happy and are really a lot of fun.

My nephew Adin spent a week with me while his parents moved...I had a wonderful time getting to know him better.  My neighbor graciously let us swim in their pool.
Being around young people certainly makes you feel young!

Sarah and Ben visiting with family.

 Mom and Sarah and Novel's horse, Cru.

Novel (Sarah's boyfriend)  in the show ring.  Of course, he was the best one there!
I'm completely unbiased ;)

And the big news of the summer...Emily and Bryce are engaged! 

It certainly is "A Wonderful Life"!!!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Late Summer Garden Update

Gardening has taken a back seat this summer. 

The heat and humidity have made it more than uncomfortable to spend any length of time outside, 
 and with most of my family gone over the summer, I didn't have a lot of motivation to keep it going.

Early in June I was able to harvest a semi -respectable garlic/onion crop. It wasn't what I hoped, but a good start for my first efforts.

Most of July, the garden suffered neglect as I focused my time working on decluttering in the house, but more on that later.

I planted green beans in mid July for a fall crop.

Two weeks later they were ready to run, but I didn't find time to give them anything to run on. 
 I have visions of cute little antique fences and creative verticle pieces in the garden, but that is something to work on in the future.

Swarms of late summer mosquitos and hornets have kept me away from the yard until yesterday morning.  Here is what it looked like before....
And now after...

I've prepped the yard area for the raised bed garden layout and here is the lumber ready to assemble....

I started small to see if this was something that would work for me and I absolutely love it! 
Even when I neglect the weeding, a few short minutes and it's back under control.

Hopefully next week I'll have exciting pictures of my raised bed garden....

Monday, May 14, 2012

This merry, merry month of May!

Two weeks in and this month is going strong! 
Here is a brief recap of the monumental month we have had so far:
Sarah and Ben finished up their college semester classes with finals. Sarah is working and studying for the MCAT this summer.  Ben is finishing his high school semester and has been playing a lot of baseball games.

Emily graduated from the university.

We had a great party to celebrate.

John has decided to retire from the judiciary and start teaching as a full time university professor in August.  This will be a huge lifestyle change for us.  It is going to be very, very nice.

This past weekend was prom and as the parent of a junior, I was in on the decorating.  It ended up looking just beautiful! I wish I could take credit for it, but I just took directions. My youngest sure is growing up! That's him on the end towering over everyone else.  Get out of the way John Travolta!

We put up the porch awnings this week and finished the painting of the porch ( I have to admit that I hired someone to do it!).  New porch furniture was purchased and now I'll have all summer to put my finishing touches on it.  I can't wait!

We celebrated Mother's Day at church with our traditional breakfast fixed by the fathers.  I love that time of fellowship.  It was low keyed at home in the afternoon.  I enjoyed a cup of tea on the side porch, sitting on the new, comfortable chairs, and listening to the rain.  I love being a mom, and we finished off the day with a family movie (minus Emily who is on her way to her summer job as a white water rafting guide!).

My own garden is somewhat neglected, but plodding along.  It's not too weedy, but my seedlings are looking a bit weak.  Sweet peas are growing like crazy, but I haven't had time to give them anything to climb up. Lettuce is ready to be harvested and I'm hoping to plant more before the hot weather hits us. Two weeks ago, we were hit by a hail storm that our plants are still recovering from. 
This is a picture out the back door.

The school year is winding down, and today, I got my assignment for next year.  Same room, same subject......big relief.  Only two more days of work and then a long, long summer off to work on things I have been looking forward to doing at home.

I'll be traveling some this summer and the first trip will be to Lehman's non-electric store in Kidron, Ohio and the Longaberger basket factory with my mom.  Mom and I may be able to work in a visit to my brothers (who happen to live in opposite directions), and hopefully to the national quilt museum in Paducah, KY.  If you ever get a chance to go will absolutely take your breath away! 
Charlottesville is also on the agenda for John and me.  It's one of my favorite places to visit.  I get to take in the sites while John works the days away at the JAG school. We'll have time in the evenings to do some exploring. The gardens at Monticello are high on my priority list. I may even get the chance to spin up to Washington to visit family. There may also be a couple of weekends at Fort Knox, but that will depend on John's leave time.

The summer ahead is looking just as busy as the first two weeks of May, with National Guard commitments, college visits, family visits, and just plain soaking up the season. I'm looking forward to it all.

Monday, May 7, 2012


Yesterday we watched our oldest cross the graduation stage for her Bachelor of Arts degree in Education! 

WOW!  We are just so proud! 

With Father Al and Bryce.

Ben, Emily, and Sarah.

It was just a wonderful, wonderful day celebrating with family and friends!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Garden Journal

I've been on Spring Break this week and accomplishing a lot in the yard. 

I started seeds for the first time. I've experimented around with where to keep them and have settled on our covered back porch. 

I marked off what I call my "covered wagon" bed for square foot gardening.  I haven't ever gardened this way and am anxious to learn from it.  I anticipate adapting it to my preferences over the years, but thought it would be a good idea to to begin by spacing the bed out to be most effective. I can change as I go along. When the weather warms, I can remove the piping for taller crops.  We had a good frost last night, so I'm glad I have prepared to cover what is growing.  So far I think it is much easier that the large row garden I kept up the past few years.

  I was careful to document what I planted in each square.
This bed has lettuce, spinach, kale, collards, carrots, and radishes.

I built two of these raised beds and have plans to build more throughout the year.  I will have to get at least one more built before I can plant all the seedlings.

I am still utilizing old parts of my garden for larger crops.  I planted a row of sugar snap peas.  I've never grown peas before and am anxious to see how it goes. 

In the immediate future is the clearing out of this bed....

Hidden under all these weeds are two peonies, spearmint (which is taking over), an heirloom rosebush that is completely out of control, and a grape vine that is in the wrong place in our big plan.  This year, I'll clean it up. 
 Eventually, this is where I want to place an elevated rain barrel system to catch the water off the garage roof to take it straight to the garden. We had lots of rain the past few years, but drought years aren't uncommon and this system would keep me from dragging a hose over a hundred feet during those times. I don't have any thoughts of getting to that project until next year, but it's good to have a plan.

I worked on our overall backyard homestead plans this week and feel good about them. With all the tree removal we've had to do this year, we want a solid plan in place before we start replanting.  Trees are not something that can be easily relocated.  I'll finish up the plans and post those next week.