Inspiration and Relaxation in the New Place

We have been at the new place for a little more than two months. A lot of things have been completed and in the list of things that we need to do just keeps growing. Work is never done.

We have started building screens for all the windows that have been without so we can open the windows. I thought living in a brick house would help keep it insulated and cool, but it turns out that brick seems to absorbs heat. So in the interest of not killing each other due to heat we bought a window a/c unit. I try not to use it if possible because of the use of electricity, but it has been necessary more days than not so far.

We have also started building our raised garden beds. Once we built them I had 5 tons of top soil with 10% compost amendment delivered. It was so much cheaper and less time consuming then the bagged stuff found at the local home improvement stores at $40.12 a ton. Plus we got to support a local business, which I always like. We didn’t have quite enough to completely fill all the beds we built, but enough to get some late start stuff in the dirt before the season is over. Until we design and start building a greenhouse we will create hoop houses over the raised beds to get things started for next year.

This is the first bed built by my boyfriend.

This is the first bed built by my boyfriend.

My boyfriend built panel sides in the shade of the garage so we could just bring them into the yard and  screw them together.

My boyfriend built panel sides in the shade of the garage so we could just bring them into the yard and screw them together.

We lined the bottom and sides with cardboard to keep down the grass/weeds. We just laid these beds on top and didn't till any of the underneath. You can also see the tarp that we are waiting to put dirt on.

We lined the bottom and sides with cardboard to keep down the grass/weeds. We just laid these beds on top and didn’t till any of the underneath. There is a  tarp in the background to put dirt on.

The 5 tons of dirt arrived. You can see the comparison with the house in the background and the beds waiting.

The 5 tons of dirt arrived. You can see the comparison with the house in the background and the beds waiting.

We had more dirt then beds so we built a few more.

We had more dirt then beds so we built a few more.

So we have used as much dirt as possible to fill the beds. It wasn't quite enough, but that is ok.

So we have used as much dirt as possible to fill the beds. It wasn’t quite enough, but that is ok.

In the last picture you can see that we have transplanted a few tomatoes that we had in the ground. They were doing ok, but not getting any bigger. There are also tomatoes in the white buckets. They got beaten up by the last hail storm we had about a week or two ago, so we will see if they come back. To give you an idea on size, the corner bed on the right is 8′ long on the long size. The two detached rectangular boxes are 8’x4′. I think this is a decent start in a new place. On the other side of the rectangular 8’x4′ on the right I am going to start my asparagus bed. From my understanding they take a lot of space and several years to get going, but once established can last 30 years or more. I have the space and nothing but time.

We have also started doing simple sustainable things in the kitchen, like making pickles from cucumbers bought at the local farmers market. Unfortunately in the small town we are in that means about 4 vendors. We have also started making our own bread from scratch. But it is so good that we eat almost a loaf a day. It is so good! To be clear, when I say we have made pickles and bread, I mean my mom has. I have dubbed her the official pickle and bread maker.

Mom's Pickles

Mom’s Pickles

The new house in the new town is so relaxing. It has also inspired the ability to unplug. We don’t watch as much television out here. We like to sit on the porch. We have been taking the dogs for a walk around the park that is a block away. We eat dinner at the kitchen table. It has helped us get more creative. Mom has been sewing. My boyfriend, Jason, got a 3D printer for his birthday and is using it to fix tools, print little fun stuff for me, and to build a walking robot, We’ll see how that goes. For me I have been inspired to write, color, I am going to start a fairy garden with supplies I am gathering, and I am going to start learning how to do wood carvings. I got a couple knives and am going to practice with Ivory soap that I can then use in my laundry detergent.

We have also repotted several things. The avocado tree got a bigger pot. I am not sure how well it will do since it is growing taller but not much bigger around so there is no support structure. The top is flopping over. The dwarf banana also got a new home. It seems happy. The orange tree stayed where it is because it seems just fine where it is, it is even getting a little fruit on it. I am not sure if I should leave it there or what to do with it. I will have to do some more research. I have promised my family I wouldn’t buy anymore houseplants and instead I am concentrating on the ones we have.

Projects we having coming up before winter are to build a shed for the riding lawn mower and yard implements and to put a fence around the property. As you can tell from the pictures, that is a lot of fence. And because we are in the city and it is our front yard it can only be 3 feet high. So we will be doing a fence that is wood framed with wire. I will post pictures when we are done. In the meantime we have already hired a property surveyor that came out and staked the property lines. It was expensive, but better than having angry neighbors or land feuds.

Until next time!

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The Garden is Planted!!!! And I Got a Job!!!!

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Peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers before planting.

We are done planting! It seemed so easy this year. Last year we got a late start and had to build garden beds with store bought dirt. This year, we simply cleaned up the beds and planted. It was so nice! Now we just get to maintain and enjoy.

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Clean bed, ready for cucumbers and tomatoes!

 

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The grate squares measure 1’x1′. We use these to easily measure and to keep the cats from using the loose dirt as a litter box.

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Tomatoes!

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Cucumber plants in one corner of each square. Seeds in the other corner of the square.

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Peppers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Strawberries!

Here is an overall picture of the garden. The paver area is still a mess, that is the next project.

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Very top left in the shaded box is green beans. Clockwise from that: Peas, lettuce, carrots, spinach, strawberries, potted dill (not seen). potted tomato, 3 tomato plants and a whole bunch of cucumbers. In the white buckets are tomato plants, one that you can’t see has a cucumber plant (I’ll explain this in a minute). In the white box are peppers. Each large box in the middle measures 3’x6′. I have twelve squares (1’x1′) with several cucumber plants. My mother fears we planted too many, but last year she had the same concern and I held back and we didn’t get any. I can always thin them out if needed.

Most are pickling cucumbers, then there are two of burpless cucumbers. Peppers include 4 bell pepper plants, 2 anaheim peppers and 2 poblanos. Tomato plants include 2 mortgage lifters, one each of beefmaster, cherokee purple, brandywine, Mr Stripy, fantastic and an early girl. If you are counting along that would be 8 tomato plants. We are testing to see what kind we like best.

I am so excited. We plan on canning and if we need extra stuff, like onions or dill, I hope to find it at the farmer’s market. I think I may start early, I have never canned before and don’t want to have a learning curve when I have all my veggies ready to go. Some things we decided not to do this year, like potatoes. Just want to concentrate on what we have.

The white buckets are an experiment of my mother’s. Self watering potted plants. They are sort of like a pot you would use for your violets. On the bottom is a bucket that has a drain hole drilled into in about 2-3″ up from the bottom. A second bucket sits in it that has drain holes drilled on the bottom and towels that are threaded from the bottom to the top. The towels soak up the water that is in the bottom bucket to feed the roots of the plants. How does the water get into the bottom bucket you ask? Well there is a 22″ length of PVC pipe from the top through the bucket to the bottom. We put water through the pipe into the reserve. Yes, I get the irony that we still water the bucket, but we will see if it works.

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The bottom of the top bucket. There are many little drain holes to let water out. The large hole in the middle is for the towels to come up through. The larger hole off to the side is for the PVC pipe to thread to the bottom bucket.

 

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Three towel strips coming up from the bottom bucket to the sides. Now time for dirt.

 

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Finished….almost. You can see the bottom bucket, the PVC pipe on the left. In the background you can sort of see the finished product. We put black plastic over it to keep the dirt warm and extra water out.

I ordered a few little fruit trees in January and they have now all arrived. I have an orange tree (which is doing great), a lime tree and now a dwarf banana tree! When these things get bigger my living room will look like a jungle….but there are worse things. For perspective they are each planted in a 6″ pot.

 

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Orange tree

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Lime Tree

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Dwarf Banana

An update on the avocado tree. I moved it out of the bright direct sunlight and started ignoring it, just watering it weekly. Check it out. You can see on the bottom that the leaves are still burnt looking, but it’s still growing new leaves and getting bigger. I also started two new ones, because I could 🙂

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Avocado as of 5.17.14

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New avocados

And lastly, sorry for the long post, I got a job. One of my pimps came through for me. I should start next week sometime after my finger print background check comes back. It isn’t as much as I really need to make, but after 3 months of not working it is better than nothing. It also has no direct customer contact. That alone may be worth the decrease in pay.

Hope everyone is having a great weekend! Please leave feedback, advice, or just say hi 🙂

 

Garden Update

I have been such a slacker! I haven’t done anything with Zero to Hero or anything. I apologize.

But I am so excited about the garden! My peas are coming up wonderfully. The lettuce is looking great. I don’t think the spinach is too happy. I recently learned that you should seed that in the fall so it will be happy in the spring. So we will try that next year. Check it out:

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Peas are in the four squared in the back. It is difficult to see but there are strings hanging from the posts that are tied to the grate things for the peas to climb on. Total cost for those was about $18. Two kinds of lettuce in the two on the left. Next to them there are carrots, then onions. On the far left is the spinach. We also started green beans yesterday. The strawberries are also looking good this year.

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I am going to be starting my pickling cucumbers next week and since I love green chili I am going to try my hand at growing the peppers I need to make my own.

On house plant news the English Ivy is almost dead. I cannot figure out why I can’t grow it, but I am giving up. I need to focus on things I can be successful at that will give me food. On that note, the avocado tree is still alive. I put it in a semi dark corner where it gets a little light and it seems happy. No more leaves have started looking burned and it’s still growing and happy. We’ll have to see what happens.

I’m still unemployed. I have 3 pimps and am still looking on my own and nothing. Nada. I have had 4 interviews in the past three months. It’s really sad. But I know there is a reason for this. The perfect job is out there! I am also starting my volunteer work with Denver Botanical Gardens on the 24th (http://www.botanicgardens.org/). They have an agricultural site that I toured and trained at last weekend. I am so excited! There is so much to learn when it comes to growing food. The people seem wonderful and the site is just beautiful. At least I will have that to distract me and keep me from getting in trouble.

Anyone else gardening this year? What have you planted so far? How’s it going?

 

Dream Reader, This One’s for You

As the main focus of my blog is gardening and sustainable living I am writing to all of you who share similar interests. Fortunately, today I have an update.

It rained yesterday in Colorado. My garden likes rain so much better than when I water. I wonder if that is because of whatever additive they use in the water? Hmmmm. Anyway, the garden outside is looking good. Peas and lettuce are coming up nicely and I see a hint of my carrots, onions and spinach. Unfortunately, the butterfly bush that was super tiny when I got it has passed. I continue to water it in hopes it will make a miraculous resurrection, but I am not counting on it.

Indoor plants are a different story this week. All of this is relatively new to me. In the past when I have grown houseplants I always sort of assumed they had a self life. I put them in the window where they would get light, I watered them and when they died I just accepted it as their time and said goodbye. But this year I am making it a priority to make sure they all live. It is not as easy as you would think. The plants that were in my eastern facing living room window had all of a sudden started shriveling up. It took me two weeks to realize they were getting too hot. It didn’t make sense to me. They have all been fine there since last September, but they are now just getting too hot. So I moved them to a shelf in the same area, just out of direct light. That was Friday night. It’s Sunday. Almost all are already so much happier. I have started a spreadsheet with the types of houseplants I have and what their care should be. I am trying really hard to be a great plant mom. Even the avocado tree is happier, but this might just be a hospice situation with it. Only time will tell.

In February I ordered several plants from Michigan Bulb Co. They send them out depending on zoning areas and when it’s the right time to have them. I ordered an orange tree, lime tree, coffee plant, banana tree, immortality herb, and they included my now (probably) dead butterfly bush for free. I know, I’m nuts. It is Colorado after all. But I am going to give it a shot. All these things are super small when they get to you, so they will grow into the space. I tried an immortality herb and orange tree last year with resounding failure. So, with my renewed confidence I am trying again. The lime and orange tree are in pots in the south windowsill in the kitchen where it gets really hot and they have 6+ hours of light everyday, as my research shows they like. Last year, the orange tree was not happy. This year, it is already growing new leaves!Image

I wish I new what type of soil I used between last year and this, but I am happy so far.

I also received the coffee plant the other day. According to my info they like moist soil, lots of humidity and bright dappled light like they would get on the side of a tropical mountain. I can do moist soil but humidity in Colorado is a hard thing to come by. This will change when I have a greenhouse, but in the meantime I was wondering about maybe putting it in the bathroom and getting a grow light. Anyone have any experience with these?

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The only thing I am waiting for in the mail is the dwarf banana tree. I bet it will need the same type of care that the coffee plant needs. Perhaps I have gone overboard? Nah! Nothing ventured, nothing gained 🙂

Please, if you have any experience with these types of plants, any tips or advice would be appreciated. Just so you know here is a semi comprehensive list of my houseplants:

  1. African violet, that will not bloom again. This is my mother’s plant. I think it needs a new pot.
  2. Aloe vera, which needs to be replaced as I over watered this winter not realizing plants sort of hibernate.
  3. Avocado tree, which is having trouble.
  4. Bonsai tree, much happier since I moved it out of direct light
  5. Coffee plant
  6. Corn plant, I have had this for about 8 years. It loves to sit in a corner and be ignored. I water it once a week and that’s about it.
  7. Dwarf banana tree, waiting it’s arrival
  8. English ivy, loves to be misted.
  9. Ficus tree
  10. Immortality herb
  11. Lime tree
  12. Orange tree
  13. Orchid
  14. Palm type tree
  15. Philodendron, three types
  16. Peperomia
  17. Pineapple top
  18. Purple clover, which I thought was completely dead until I planted the pineapple top in the same pot. They are best buddies.
  19. Sensitive plant, this thing is neat. If you touch, bump or blow on it the leaves close.
  20. Snake plant, aka Mother-in-laws tongue plant
  21. Swedish ivy

I think that is about all the plants I have. I am not planning on adding anything new, I want to be successful with these as well as my garden. But you know, the plant nurseries are hard to avoid when the weather is nice. I am happy to post pictures of any of these if you don’t know what they look like. Just ask and ye shall receive.

 

 

Yesterday we planted Tokyo long white onions in the garden. My lack of planning meant that we did not soak the seeds overnight. Guess we will see how they are doing. I also planted some garlic that I had started in the window sill into a container. Good news, the lettuce and peas are starting to sprout.

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Lettuce.

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Peas.

My houseplants are having a hissy fit as well. Things that were just fine are all of a sudden droopy and not happy. I’m not sure what I did to make them angry and I am not sure how to make them happy again. After researching what was happening with my avocado it appeared to be a salt accumulation issue. So over the weekend I put it in the shower and watered it a lot and let it drain, watered and let it drain to try to flush out the salt issue. For a day or two is was sad, seems a little happier today. Then I noticed along with the burnt looking leaves on the bottom there are now also spots. The top leaves look ok but the burning look is climbing. Do I cut it off? What do I do? How am I ever going to move to a sustainable life if I can’t properly grow anything….grrr.

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You can see the entire tree in the picture. The top leaves look good although they are a lighter color green. Then the burnt leaves with the light spots. Anyone have any ideas on what is going on?

Successes and Failures

Garden 2014

Well, it is about time we start working on our garden this year. This will be the second year we have tried our gardening. It is not as easy as I thought it would be. It takes work and perseverance. But I am committed to moving toward a sustainable life, so we will try again.

I don’t think we will try as much as we did last year, but who knows what will end up happening. We want to can and plant things specifically for pickles and stewed tomatoes. At a minimum we will plant tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, dill, and garlic. I also want to plant peppers, strawberries, chamomile, and possibly beans, peas, raspberries and maybe asparagus. I’m not sure we have the space and we aren’t planning on being in this house too much longer, so I don’t want to go overboard just to leave it behind in a year or two.

Mom and I are going to try a self watering tomato bucket this year. I am also growing garlic in a pot with my houseplants. That stuff grows super easy. And because I am completely crazy, I am also growing an avocado tree that I started from a seed in December of 2012, a pineapple plant, and on order I have an orange tree, lemon tree and a banana tree. I tried an orange tree last year and it died. So I am trying again and feeling more confident that I can do better. 

I plan on adding more pictures and keeping a record here on wordpress of my successes and failures. If anyone can tell me why my avocado tree is getting brown leaves that would be great. I have read that it is getting too hot, too cold, not enough water and too much water. It would be nice to figure it out so I stop torturing it. Thank you.

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