Tuesday, April 30, 2013


The general information out there is that beans are easy to sprout.  You all remember growing beans when you were in elementary school - right?  And then there's the advice to soak them overnight beforehand in order to help them sprout.

Well, apparently not all beans follow this advice.  Without soaking the pinto beans had a 75% germination rate.  The kidney beans were about 40%.  The black beans, well out of a whole bed only about 10 sprouted. 

So I started over.  Well partially.  I didn't pull out the ones that sprouted but I prepped more to fill in the gaps.  Since I already had them on hand I started with pinto and kidney beans.  First I soaked them overnight.  That was more than enough for the pintos.  But I had to soak the kidney beans again because they jammed tight in the jar and not all of them got a good soak.

When I replanted the kidney beans yesterday, maybe 10% of them showed signs of starting to sprout already.  I'm hoping for good things.

When I got ready to replant pinto beans today I realized that almost every bean in the jar had started sprouting.  So I carefully transplanted and am keeping my fingers crossed.

The black beans I set to soaking yesterday.  I drained them this evening.  Tomorrow I'll plant them and we'll see what happens.  I think I'm going to plant several per hole in hopes of getting at least one plant per hole.

And I accidentally weeded out some of my cucumber plants before I realized it.  I'm going to give it a week and double check to see how much damage I did.  If it's too much then I'll pick up a couple of packs of pickling cucumbers to plant in the beds.  But since the ones I didn't weed out are still tiny babies I figure I probably didn't pull to many.

Anyways, fingers crossed for the beans to do well.  And I think I will make sure to set back seed this year so that I can be sure of its age and condition for planting.  I have a gut feeling that part of the problem is that the seeds I'm using are off of the store shelf and not packaged for planting.  There's no telling how long they had been sitting or what conditions they had been stored in.  But I can't find kidney beans packaged for planting at all.  And this year was the first time I ever saw black and pinto beans in seed packets.

Anyone else out there have some experience with these types of beans in the home garden?

Monday, April 29, 2013


I'm grateful for many things in life and I don't always remember to say that.

I'm grateful that the peas have decided to grow with a vengeance and are now almost three feet tall.  In the last week they've started blooming.  In another month or so I should have a bumper crop harvest.

I'm grateful for the rains that are coming about once a week.  While they are driving my son crazy because he can't go outside, they are providing the gardens with a better watering than can be provided by me.  And the plants are truly appreciating it if their growth is anything to go by.  The peppers are all growing up.  As are the beans and tomatoes.  The potatoes are exploding up and will be needing more soil before long.

I'm grateful for the gifts that come from nature even when I'm not expecting them.  The chocolate mint that escaped its planter and is now gracing pots to be bartered or given away.  The strawberry runners that have escaped their bed and are also now in pots.  Those are set aside to encourage good growth so that when I move in a few years I will have plenty of healthy plants to go with us.

I'm grateful for the random people who have graced my life in the past week or so.  Offering help even if I was unable to accept it.  And those who offered and did help, with no thought for payment but just because they themselves were in similar situations and understood.

I'm just as grateful for all of the random people who have appeared in our lives at different times.  Whether it was to help, or sometimes hinder, they were all there for a purpose.  Some to bring peace, others to teach lessons.  Although, I hope I have learned those lessons well.  And I hope for future lessons to be much gentler.

I'm grateful for the friends who came and got even more plants to grace their yards and preventing me from killing them.  And their offers to help when I need to get things done in the yard.  And the one who truly surprised me with a garden membership for my son and I.  (Which will get very well used!)

I'm grateful for all of the lessons taught to me, as I grew up, by caring parents, uncles, aunts, grandparents and friends.  Many of those lessons have helped me to keep going when I was ready to fold.  It has absolutely nothing to do with the severe stubborn streak that seems to be embedded in our family's genes.  Honestly. ;-)   Some of those family members are not here anymore.  Or are they....since their lessons are still an active part of my life.  And sometimes I swear they are looking over my shoulder and whispering in my ears, just to keep me on track.

I'm grateful that someone, somewhere in the universe, listens when I close my eyes and offer up pleas for things that we need (and sometimes just want).  Then places those things in my path whenever possible at prices that I can afford.  And sometimes at prices that remind me of the difference between need and want. And rarely, but just enough, provides a surprise bit of income sometimes to just keep us afloat for that tiny bit longer.

And while sometimes I close my eyes and dream of unlimited money or wild shopping sprees for necessities that don't have a monetary limit.  I just as often close my eyes and wish for a partner for my heart and soul.  But even more frequently, I close my eyes and say "Thank you" for what I do have.  And I hope that the gratitude that suffuses my body, mind and soul during those moments truly is expressed to those unseen ears and eyes.  Because I know that without those unseen eyes and ears, things could be much much worse.

So here's to being grateful.  Here's to hoping that I will continue to have positive reasons to be grateful (hopefully without negatives).  Here's to life, an adventure that exists for us all.

(Nothing is wrong.  I just felt a soul deep need to express how grateful I am for the blessings that have come our way and that attempt to balance the negatives of life.)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


For the past few weeks I've awoken each morning to beautiful sunshine sneaking through the edges around the curtains and shades.  It is a wonderful way to wake up and gives each day a beautiful start. 

My son tends to awaken with the sun.  On the days that he is truly determined to sleep in I will find him completely burrowed under his covers.  But normally we both get up with the sun even if we spend the first hour or so being lazy.  Well, okay, he spends it being lazy.  I just get a head start on the daily to do list.

In the garden life is growing.  All of the fruit trees, vines and shrubs are showing life now.  The peas are sprouting wonderfully.  The storm last week seems to have motivated them and they are now getting taller than the trellis!

I met up with a friend and we went to the botanical garden sale.  Lots of beautiful plants but I limited myself to just two.  My friend found quite a bit to make her happy.  She will be doing a lot of planting for the next few weeks. 

On Saturday I went to the local Master Gardener sale.  They had a variety of plants but nothing I was looking for.  I've become a picky gardener again I suppose.  I'm looking for edible plants I don't already have and those are harder to find.  Oh well, it was a nice calming walk as I explored.

Everything I've planted seems to be doing well except for the bean plants which haven't sprouted.  So today I will be setting beans to soak overnight and then replanting tomorrow.  Hopefully that will help improve the germination rate.  The carrots have a lot germination rate but I'm putting that down to the fact that the seeds were very old and hadn't been stored well.  To balance it I took the remainder of the seeds and spread it across part of the plot.  Then I used fresh seed for another section of the plot.  I'll also look into saving some of the seed from them, although that may not be possible.

I also got a flat of Job's Tears, nasturtiums and witch hazel started.  Only the nasturtium seed is old.  And that varies, some of it from years ago, some from last year.

The chocolate mint has escaped it's planters and spread across a small section of the yard.  I'm not sure when or how it did it but I'm pulling the runners and sharing them.  I may pot some up for the plant exchange in a few weeks.  I'm thinking about bringing mint, strawberries and a few other randoms from the yard.  I don't expect to find anything we need but I love sharing.

We also went to the local thrift sale.  And amazingly they had some summer clothes in my son's size.  I've been watching for months but had only found one item here and there until now.  So, a bit lighter in the wallet than I should be, but he's got clothes that will fit for summer.  All the clothes are in great condition and cost me a great deal less than they would have at a regular retail store.  I normally buy year round to set aside for the next year but his growth spurts have been so unpredictable the last couple of years that I can't.  If I buy too far in advance I find myself with the wrong sizes for the season.  That's a waste of money that we can't afford.  So I find myself tremendously grateful for a good local thrift store and their 50% off sales.

I'm hoping to make a duct tape body double sometime in the next month or so.  It would be a tremendous help for me in making so new clothes for myself.  So, fingers crossed, I will be able to recruit a helper or two so that I can get it made.  And maybe make some for them as well.

Now I'm off to mow the lawn.  Wish me luck.  I hope you are all having wonderful days.

Monday, April 15, 2013

One Legged Man

My family has a quote that goes "I'm as busy as a one legged man in a butt kicking contest."  And that's been the last little while.

Last garden bed cleaned and planted fully.  Frost covers taken off them all.  The trellis for the peas wasn't quite enough so I spent some time running jute to provide the poor plants with more support.  If all the plants produce well I will be set for fresh peas for a while.

Only one batch of greens came up.  Seems the old seed was too old.  So sometime in the next couple of days I'm going to reseed those areas with new seed.  I need to remember to allow the plants to go to seed this year so I can harvest more seed.  And we have already harvested greens to eat.  They were yummy.

The beans seem to be very sporadic in sprouting so I'm giving them one more week and then I'll put out more seed.  I may actually go buy bean seed rather than using the bulk seed that I also use for eating.  But we'll see.

I found all the types of peppers I was looking for, including Ghost peppers.  I also found curry and cumin.  I'm supposed to go to the botanical garden sale this week.  I'm looking for bay laurel and any other hard to get herbs that we would use.

I ended up adopting two more cats.  They are sons of the one that disappeared.  Both from the same litter, their previous mom lost her fiance and then her job.  She was having to move back in with family and couldn't take the cats.  It was take them or watch them go to the pound.  I took them.  My old cat seems to be taking these two a lot better than their father.  Several possible reasons including that they've always been indoor cats and they rough house with each other - leaving him alone.  They aren't quite sure what to make of the dog but they're working on it.  The dog is following the commands to leave them alone.  I only had to tell him the first day, after that he had it down.

Pulled the repaired mower out to do the lawn.  Found out that certain features had been repaired wrong.  Doesn't keep it from working but makes certain things, like emptying the grass bag, a pain.  I don't know the wiring for it and can't afford a repair manual (vs. owner's manual) so I'm going to have to live with it.

Some friends and I spent an afternoon digging out bulbs.  I sent daffodils, irises, daylilies, and tulips to new homes.

And through it all, I'm still working on onions.  One batch at a time.  First chopping them, then carmelizing them, then dehydrating them.  And then all the scraps but the roots go into the crockpot to make onion stock.  I'm debating doing a second 50 lb bag just to get enough for the year done.  Onions are not my favorite thing to do but they are so incredibly useful around here.

Anyways that's just some of the things.  There have been others.  This week has had some true highs and lows.  And lots and lots of things needing to get done.

And one last wonderful tidbit.  I discovered that I can buy bulk meats at the local Sam's Club for a better price than a certain online company.  And I don't have to wait for specific sales/dates.  This will make it much easier to get my canned/freezer meats up to the level that I want them at.  I hadn't even known that Sam's Club would sell bulk rather than the packaged meats on display.  Truly a wonderful bit of information.  Especially since they sell lamb which is one of the meats I use to substitute for beef with my son.  Expensive - yes.  But the bulk packs sell for less than the display packs, so a lot less expensive than it could be.

Hope you all are having wonderfully busy weeks as well.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


Yesterday and today have been something of a rush.  Yesterday I had to go to three different stores in order to get seed potatoes and bell peppers.  Yes, I know I could plant potatoes from the grocery store but I wanted to know exactly what potatoes I had.  And the hot peppers I wanted aren't available yet.  Hopefully they will be by next week.  Anyways, add all that running around with pool time for my son, a doctor visit for my son, and then a pit stop by my parents' place and we didn't get home until dinner time.

And since the weather has been beautiful, I let my son run around in the yard until it got dark while I went out and started the weeding for the last old garden bed.  That one was the worst.  It was the first bed I put in last year and I didn't get any type of good mulch cover down on it.  I got about 2/3 of the way through before it started getting dark.  Oh, and I got the potatoes planted and the full layer of soil over them.

Today we skipped Co-op because my son still isn't feeling up to par.  At around noon he finally felt well enough that he went outside on his own.  He's spent most of the day on the porch swing rocking back and forth.  And somehow he scraped a good layer of skin off of one of his fingers.  And yet he didn't make a sound that let me know.  I cleaned it and put a layer of Neosporin on it as soon as I realized what he had done.  And since he's still playing it will get a thorough cleaning again before bed time.  This is one of those times that I wish he would allow bandaids.

I went out and finished the weeding in that last bed.  It wasn't fun and I'm definitely being more careful about mulch this year.  Most of the beds will have thick layers of greens to serve as a mulch for part of the season.  And then different types of squashes for the remainder of the season.  But this one was so bad that I ended up digging up all the soil and sorting through it for weed roots.  There was a lot of runner grass and some tree roots which I think came from a mimosa that I keep trying to kill.  Then I added all the extra stuff.  And then I planted the peppers.  Then I also planted three of the tomatoes that my Mom grabbed for me this past weekend.  I didn't want to hurt her feelings by telling her that I had already gotten the tomato plants.  And a few more won't hurt anything.

But the rush was trying to get as much in the ground as possible before it rains.  The weather man says the rain won't be until Thursday but the sky is showing tonight maybe tomorrow.  If it doesn't rain tomorrow then I'll get in the last of the kidney beans and the beets.  And maybe I'll get a few starter trays for later season plants going.  Oh, and the Job's Tears.  This way nature can give them all a good heavy watering that will be better than anything I can do with a hose.  And it's probably time to move the citrus out of the house.

The list for the next couple of weeks is painting the front porch and wooden swing set.  And clearing out the section of ground along the side fence.  That section will become focused on blackberries and Job's Tears on the inside.  And the outside section will become the home for the raspberries, I think.  And I need to weed the herb bed and the grape & strawberry bed.  Also some friends are coming over to get some daylilies, irises, and resurrection lilies.  I might even get a small decorative bed planted in the front yard near the end of the driveway.  Oh, and lest I forget, I still have blueberries to get in the ground.

Geez that list keeps growing.............I think I'll stop now before I convince myself that there is too much to get it done.  Here's hoping that spring is keeping you hopping and happy.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Spring............I Hope.........

I'm almost afraid to use that title for fear that it will tempt the weather to bring us deep winter weather again.  And I've got enough blooming now that I really don't want deep winter weather coming in.

The peas are up and thoroughly happy.  Their trellis is over the bed with a frost cover over it.  The garlic and onions are just as happy.  And the greens are coming in well.  I should be able to start harvest greens by the end of this month.  Only one of the old beds still needs cleaning and planting.  And it should be done this week.

I decided to buy tomato plants rather than use seeds since the cold weather held on so long this year.

I received a truckload of cotton compost that was almost completely composted.  And then five bags of goat manure.  The goat manure was mainly straw so I may not do that again.  But I worked both into the beds that hadn't been planted.  And then into the new beds I made.

I spent the last couple of days building the two new garden beds and filling them.  I am officially out of dirt in the dirt pile.  Hopefully I can find another construction project that will be happy to bring a scoop or two of dirt from their site.  I have enough wood for one more full size bed.

I rebuilt the potato bin.  I've tried using tires several times now and it just doesn't work here.  The temps in July and August make the bin too hot for the plants to survive despite frequently watering.  And I always forget to drill drainage holes so the sides of the tires hold water.  All in all, not a good thing. 

This year I was allowed to take some 3 x 3 lumber from an old swing set.  Then later I was able to get some fencing that my Dad was taking off of some gate frames.  The 3 x 3 posts were cut in half for the corners so the bin can get almost 4 feet high.  Then I cut the fencing into 2 1/2 foot pieces to form the sides.  And lastly, I screwed the boards to the corners.  I was so very thankful that I had both a drill and electric screwdriver on hand as it made the project go so much faster.  I put the top board and three lower boards on each side.  The rest of the boards are set aside to add as necessary.

After it was constructed I put a full wheelbarrow of the cotton compost in the bottom.  Then I put a 3 inch layer of dirt.  Now I just have to get the potatoes tomorrow and we'll be set.  I'm thinking about spacing the additional boards so that some of the leaves can grow between the boards as well as going up above.  Fingers crossed for a better potato crop this year.

I decide not to grow as many sweet potatoes this year.  As much as my son likes them, he doesn't seem to be eating them as frequently.

And I won't be growing watermelons.  I grow most melons for dehydrating.  And that's pretty much all I do with watermelon.  It makes a treat that my son loves.  But he won't eat it fresh.  And even the tiny watermelons are really to large for me to eat by myself.  And lastly, dehydrating seeded watermelons is a pain.  So I'm going to grow other melons that I will eat fresh and dehydrate.  And then buy seedless watermelons for the dehydrator.  Maybe I'll get lucky and find a local farmer who is growing them.

And finally, I found the pie pumpkin seeds I was looking for.  So those will get planted this year.  I still remember the group field trip this last year where the farmer told us that he planted pumpkins on the 4th of July in order to have them ready for Halloween.  I'm not worried about having them for Halloween but having the harvest then would be best so that it's not right on top of me processing other things.  So I may plant around mid June in order to harvest and get the beds emptied before the frosts hit.

All in all, life is busy.  In the house I still have 40 lbs of onions to get processed.  That will probably be the task today and tomorrow.  Mixed in with finishing the outside beds and getting stuff planted.  Oh yeah, and laundry...

I hope Spring is in your area and that your are enjoying it.  Maybe I'll get some pictures this week to help those of you who are still waiting.