Monday, June 27, 2011

Weekend Work

We had a few days of rain which hindered our outdoor work,but I do admit that I was quite happy to let nature water the garden and the grass seed! Saturday it was overcast but no rain,so we did get to finally continue on our yard work.

I laid mulch down around the garden boxes:

Brother B got the walkway  along the garage evened out:

Rick finally got the swale in the backyard how he wants it. When we get a good rain we will see where it needs to be adjusted,as we are trying to dictate where the rainwater drains-away from the garden and The Girls! You can see in the photo where Brother B made a pergola with a tarp for them.It gets real hot in that space,so this will give them some shade that isn't inside the coop:
Rick's youngest brother Spencer is up with us for a few days helping out. He took two piles of old wood that we weeded from our main woodpile and stacked them in between trees. The two piles will be our fire pit wood,or if we just need a bit of starter for the woodstove come winter. He did a great job:
 Sunday Rick also finally levelled off the driveway,and now we can park in it again since we no longer have a pile of fill and a pile of loam.Our neighbors have been very gracious in letting us use their driveway to park our vehicles. We have given them eggs in appreciation. While Rick was doing the driveway,Brother B and Spencer worked on levelling the area for our pool. We bought a 20 ft pool,one of those set-it-up-yourself jobs. Rick pushed back our brush and compost areas,and laid down fill,while Brother B and Spencer raking out rocks and used a level to make it even. As I type this they are back out there working on it. We hope to get the pool up and running by week's end. While they worked on that I weeded the garden.

Last night,I finally finished Zach's camo socks:

These are too thick to be worn with shoes.I made them for scuffing around the house. I will be working on Brother B's socks next.

Today I am going to plant wildflower seeds,I just hope it's not too late in the season. I am also going to scrub the green algae off the garage.Yuck.

The kitty is doing very well,he is eating and seems to be gaining weight.His little spine and ribs are not sticking out as much as the were. He is very cuddly and loves to curl up on our shoulders!

I hope you all enjoy your day where ever you are!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Garden Pictures

I took these photos yesterday.

The tomatoes
Green beans and spinach
Straight 8 Cukes and green peppers
National Pickling cukes and radishes
Peas and beets
I also have pumpkins,and zucchini and summer squash which are all coming along. We have our first two ripe strawberries,and the herbs are doing nicely.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Summertime Is Here

I have been trying for several days to answer comments on my posts,but Blogger will not let me. I can't respond to posts on other blogs,either! I have tried resetting my password,but I keep coming up as anonymous,and then it goes right back to the password page. Go figure!

Things have been busy around here. Our garden is growing well,which I am happy to see since we had such a late start. I have two ripe strawberries,and I still need to trellis my peas and cukes. I did get my tomatoes staked. I will post pics of that tomorrow.

The boys have been working on levelling the yard and creating a swale in the back so the water doesn't drain from our next door neighbors yard through our garden area ,into the chicken pen and hopefully not in our basement so much. Today they are going to work on levelling the area for our set -it -up-yourself pool. Our grass seed is finally sprouting as well.

Yesterday we had an exciting morning. Rick and Brother B were on their way to go fishing when Rick almost stepped on a little kitten. It ran under our porch,but they were able to get to it:

We thought perhaps the neighbors cat had babies,but when we asked them about it,they said no. Apparently,though,they have seen kittens running around in the area,so a cat had a litter somewhere nearby. This poor little one is just a baby. It was very scared,and bit both Rick and I,but after a short while it calmed down and we were able to hold it. It's little spine is sticking out,so we gave it some soft food and tried to get it to drink a bit of milk. I have named it Smokey. I believe it's a male.He tried to snuggle with Moxie but neither Moxie or Little O were having any of it,at least,not yet.

I decided to try and make peppermint soap the other day. It's been curing now for about 5 days.I used the lye soap recipe and just added some finely chopped fresh mint when it was starting to trace. I  put in what I felt looked nice. We should be able to give it a whirl in a few days and see how it came out.It looks pink in the photo,but it's not. It's natural color:

When Zach got home from school yesterday he was very surprised to see little Smokey. He has such a soft heart for cats and dogs.Smokey is licking his face in this picture,tickling him and he couldn't stop laughing:

One of the other things I decided to try was homemade ice cream. We love ice cream,but usually have to watch the ingredients because of Rick.This way,we can make ice cream that everyone can enjoy. I bought an inexpensive electric ice cream maker and tried chocolate chip.It came out wonderful! Now I must go buy ingredients for chocolate today:
Today is Zach's last day of school. We went there this AM for the awards assembly. Zach was on 4th quarter Honor Roll,and made Honors All Year.Here he is this morning with his certificates and his autograph shirt:

He has had such a great year this year. Yesterday he won the 7th grade Poetry Slam. Earlier this year he won the 7th grade spelling bee. We are so proud of him!

Summertime is here,and we are ready for it!!!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Reorganizing the Living Room

One of the advantages of the menfolk being gone is that I have full rein of the house. I can work uninterrupted. No having to stop projects when they come in for lunch,or trying to work around anyone.Yesterday was living room reorganizing day. It was time to declutter and do a good thorough cleaning .I moved furniture and gave everything a good sweep,wiped down the walls where the Samson's slobber hit the walls,and gave everything (lamps,globes,AC,photos,etc) a good once over.

The first area I worked on was our TV area. I didn't take photos of it,but I cleaned out the drawers of the antique sewing machine table that we use for our DVD table. I used a cable tie to group all the wires from the TV,DVD player,and surround sound speakers.I wanted to hang photos and Rick's service flags,but discovered that I didn't have any picture hangers. I have to run to the store today,anyway,so I will grab some and take care of that today or tomorrow.

Next was the computer area:

You can see how cluttered it is.My goal was to free it up.You can also see the pile of magazines on the filing cabinet. Time to go through those!

Next was what I call "Rick's Corner." It's his chair,and he seems to pile his stuff there...his table,magazines,blood pressure machine,and assorted things:
I didn't like the bookcase there. It restricts where Rick's chair can go,and therefore make the chair stick out in the traffic area more than is necessary.

The next area is the opposite corner. It's not cluttered,but this is where I wanted to put the bookcase to free up Rick's Corner:
I rolled up my sleeves and got started. Four hours later,with only being sidetracked by lunch,checking on the poultry,gathering eggs,and reorganizing my silverware drawer,this is how it all turned out:
I wanted to raise up the computer,so I found a board outside and used two small pots to support it,making a small shelf for the monitor. I didn't have enough room for the two speakers,so I put them under the shelf. I used an old valance to hid the makeshift shelf,and now the speakers are hidden as well. I cleaned out the drawer,so now all the items that were in the pencil organizer are in the drawer,so I actually no longer need it,even though I left it on the printer.I went through all the magazines and ripped out the articles I want to keep out of the old issues,and only current ones,which I moved to the coffee table.I used cable ties to organize all the wires under the desk.

Next is Rick's Corner:
I am liking this look much better. It's not a confining looking. His pile is gone. I cleaned all the oil lamps in the room and refilled them. I also cleaned all the candle holders and put new candles in the ones that needed it.I think I will put Rick's service flags in that corner.

Couch corner:

You may notice that  I don't have curtains.The only rooms that have anything on  the windows are Zach's room,the bathroom,and our bedroom for privacy. The french doors have blinds inside them which we do close at night or when the sun is too hot. I didn't put curtains in the living room or the kitchen because I think it makes the house look bigger,it gives us more natural light and I enjoy seeing the colors outside.It's like having nature as your own painting in your house. Laura Ingalls Wilder didn't have curtains either,saying that the windows were her pictures. I agree.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Rick and Brother B left yesterday on a four day fishing trip up in Maine. There is a spot that Rick has always wanted to fish since he was in his twenties,so now that his knees are healthy again,he is finally doing it. This leaves me alone during the day while Zach is in school,which is strange to me. Mind you I do have hours by myself sometimes,but never this much. It's certainly different.

Today the sun has finally decided to make an appearance.It has been rainy since Friday,and the temperatures have been chilly. Typical New England weather-90's and sunny one week,the next,cold and rainy. I must say I am very pleased with the rain,though,because it's really helped the garden along....

You can see my broccoli on the left,next to that are my onions. The seemed to sprout overnight! My green peppers,cukes,and tomatoes have done well. You can't see the corn because it's way in the back,but it's about 5" high. My beans,peas,beets,radishes,and potatoes have taken off as well,but it's hard to see them here. My lettuce and spinach are starting to sprout,and I have flowers on one of my pumpkin plants.The strawberries are thriving,I have a few green berries popping out.

Today I am going to reorganize my living room,then tomorrow I am going to work in the garden. We are not expecting any rain today,so everything should dry up nicely,so I should also be able to finally make my peppermint soap,which calls for fresh mint. Before Rick left he  spread loam out on the areas of lawn which he used some fill on,and he put grass seed down,so I will have to make sure that's watered. So far, our turkey chicks are doing great. I made sure that they had plenty of water and feed,and the light is giving off just the right amount of heat. The Girls are doing good,a few of them are broody,but they aren't being protective of the eggs to the point where they try to peck me this time. I have been able to just go in the coop and gather the eggs,though I do talk soothingly to The Girls who are nesting,and I pet them as well. They grumble at me,but that's all. Our big turkeys are still laying eggs,and they are doing fine as well.

Right now the dogs and cats are sleeping,there is a slight breeze blowing,and the birds are singing away.There is something about the sounds that of nature that I find very soothing and relaxing. This is the life!!!!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Kitchen Reorganization

One of the things about having a small (918 sq ft) home is making the best use of space. My kitchen had been bugging me for a bit. I didn't like the flow of it. One thing that I found real annoying was lack of counter space.You can see in the photo below all of it. Cutting boards were propped up under the paper towels,and the boards kept slipping flat on the counter. To the right,the canisters,knife block,microwave,and our Life Book. A tad cluttered. You can also see our lovely missing ceiling tiles from where we had ice dams a couple years ago. This year we are actually going to redo the kitchen. I've been saying that,but it's actually going to get done,probably this fall. We are going to install new flooring,ceilings,get rid of the wainscoting,and possibly get new appliances.
I do have this butcher block that we bought at a yard sale 5 years ago for $60 so we could have some extra space.I put a tablecloth on the table to hide the catch all it had become underneath.
Here you can see the lovely pile that was hiding. My Precious was stored under there,and as much as I love it,it was a pain to have to bend down and pick it up all the time. It's heavy and awkward. My crock pot was falling over,and my electric skillet was looking sad and dusty.

So...I had to find a home for everything. Happily,my canning cabinet had enough space on the bottom so I could store my water canner and pressure canner. I brought those down from the attic.My electric skillet found a new home in the empty drawer under the stove. I moved my microwave to the butcher block,put the coffee maker where the paper towels were,and put the cutting boards behind the canisters. The paper towels now rest next to the coffeemaker,but I am going to get a new holder and place for it. My Precious has a place of honor on the counter next to the canisters now. The attachments have their new home in a cabinet drawer. I also revamped my soap and candle supplies. Soap supplies are now in the cabinet all the way to the left in the below photo,on the top shelf. The candle supplies are all the way to the right,in the bottom cabinet (you can't see the cabinet in this photo). I also cleaned out the butcher block drawer. It took four hours of cleaning and moving things around,but I am very pleased with the result. The kitchen looks much bigger,and now we have more space to work with.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Cleaning For Pennies On The Dollar

I was one of many folks who used to buy cleaning products. Windex,Clorox wipes,etc,etc. Then I discovered that simple items that most homes have do the same job,and for pennies on the dollar. Why buy Clorox wipes when you can do the same with bleach,water and a little elbow grease? Same goes for Windex. Vinegar and water do fine. No need for Soft Scrub,a paste made with water and baking soda are the ticket.

                                            Glass Cleaner
Simply pour into a spray bottle 1 cup of vinegar for every 1 cup of water. I used an old Windex spray bottle. You will smell the vinegar,but that only lasts seconds. It works great on glass,appliances,etc....anything you would normally use store bought glass cleaner on. You can use a rag,or if you use paper towels you can compost the paper towels,since vinegar is not a chemical. Just shred the paper towels first to help with break down.

                                         Disinfectant Cleaner
Again,simply pour 1 cup of bleach for every cup of water into a spray bottle. You can adjust the amount of bleach you use,depending on how strong you want it. I used an old Clorox Clean Up bottle. I use it on my counters,in the bathroom,etc.Bleach and water in a bucket make a great floor cleaner as well. If you use paper towels for wipe up,you cannot compost them because of the bleach.

                                           Baking Soda Scrub
 My favorite is the baking soda scrub. My french doors are metal,white,and love to gather dirty menfolk finger prints. I simply made a paste of water and baking soda,and used an old toothbrush to scrub out the prints. You could also use an old dish washing sponge with a scrub side. You will have to wipe down the area after with water and a towel.

I am still trying to find a good recipe for hand dish washing detergent. I have started buying Planet,which is more than the Ajax brand I bought for a long time, but it's more earth friendly. It's biodegradable,unscented,uncolored,and hypo allergenic. It's made from Coconut Oil based cleaners,salt,and sodium bicarbonate.

Next time you run of cleaner,check you cabinets first before you run to the store. You probably have all you need right there in your home!

Monday, June 6, 2011

What To Do With All That Poo

Having chickens and turkeys,I am well aware of the benefits of composting their poo. After it's had enough time to sit,it is one of nature's most wonderful fertilizers. But that is not the poo I am talking about. I am talking about poo from the likes of these two:

Yes, I am referring to dog poo. We had been chucking it into the tree line to naturally decompose. But now that we are pushing back that tree line so we can push our compost area further back and reclaim the yard,we need a new strategy.
So Rick took an old rubber garbage barrel,drilled several holes in it,dug a hole several inches deep and placed the barrel in it. He then put the poo in the barrel.

On occasion,we will put lime in the barrel to help with the decomposing process. The lid will keep the smell nonexistent. It's still in the tree line,just not in the same area. Now the poo is in one spot,and not randomly chucked into the trees!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Don't Throw Out That Wheelbarrow! Grow In It!

Last year,our wheelbarrow had broken handles,so we put new ones on,and gave it a new coat of paint. This year,we discovered holes in the bottom. Rick wanted a bigger wheelbarrow,anyway,so we purchased one that holds a greater capacity,mainly,for hauling wood,rocks,etc. This was before we bought the tractor,but now one person can haul with the tractor and another can use the wheelbarrow.

But,what do we do with the old one? Make a planter,of course!

I filled it with left over compost mix that we used for the garden,and planted a few more Green Ice and Little Caesar lettuce,as well as Salad Fresh and Bloomsdale Long Standing Spinach. One good thing about having it in the wheelbarrow is I can put it in an area that doesn't get full blown sun all day long.It should look nice when it's full of greens!! So...don't throw out that old wheelbarrow....grow in it!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Our Garden

I am beat. I just finished planting the garden. It took four hours all told. I did get some done yesterday,but only had time to plant tomatoes and green peppers. Combining the mix and filling the boxes took longer than I thought it would,but of course,it would've taken much longer if we didn't use the tractor. All told, we mixed 4 yards of compost,28.5 cubic feet of peat moss,and 48 dry quarts of vermiculite (the vermiculite only came in small 8 dry qt bags,and at $7.00 a pop,we didn't get as much as we probably should have).

Today I was out planting at 10:30 and just got in at 2:35.  All told,this is what I planted:
Potatoes-48 white,my Pontiac Reds have been shipped and I will plant 48 of those
Green Beans-72
Onions-256 (red and white combined)
Summer Squash-2
Zucchini-2 (summer and zucchini are both very proficient and with two apiece last year it was more than enough)
Cukes-22 (still have 10 in the basement that I had to restart,so I should be able to plant those outside soon)
Green Peppers-5 (I did start 8,but three pooped out on me and it's too late to start them now)
Carrots-48 ( am staggering the planting on these,in all we should have 192)

*starred veggies are new for us this year

I am going to plant Butternut squash as a fall crop and will continue the broccoli into fall as well.

We were lucky that we did not have to buy more lumber to make the extra boxes. Our neighbor Kelly had plenty of lumber on hand. We did put weed block on the bottom of all the boxes again.

Phew!!! At least that's done!!! It was a good day to be outside,it's cool and the wind is blowing,so the bugs have been kept at bay.Rick has been moving our compost pile back further into the tree line. There was a good bit of steam coming up when he moved it,so that is a good sign. Brother B has been working hard getting all our wood re stacked under the wood shelter. No idle hands here!!!

Our little turkey hen who has been visiting us apparently found our garden boxes. I found some prints and poop in our carrot box.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Today Is The Day!

That's right,today is the day....I finally get to plant the garden! The garden area has been filled and levelled,the boxes made,the compost delivered,peat moss and vermiculite bought. The boys are going to mix it all up and fill the boxes. I will then FINALLY plant the garden.

At least I am not alone. Last night at Garden Roundtable many are far behind,although it seems like most are a bit further along than I am.

The boxes:
4x8 double height-corn
4x4-peas and beets
4x4-cukes and radishes
4x4-cukes and green peppers
4x6 double height-red and white potatoes
4x4-green beans and spinach(two varieties)
4x4-lettuce (two varieties)
4x4-double height -carrots
4x4-various squash

In my herb box (4x4) right now I have spearmint,Greek Oregano,and thyme. I planted dill,more oregano,and basil.

In my strawberry box (4x4) the strawberries are growing nicely,still getting more little green plants pushing up daily,and some are nice and long,with blossoms.I found one little itty bitty green strawberry yesterday.

I will take photos of the area today and post them tomorrow. Right now we are still trying to decide what to put down around the boxes. Wood chips again?Mulch? Or perhaps some form of gravel? It's all dirt right now.

I am rubbing my hands gleefully together in anticipation! The weather here today is much drier and cooler than yesterday. In fact, we had tornado watches here in New England. There was a report of a touch down in Jefferson,which is up north,but folks in the Springfield area of MA got hit with two tornadoes,which also travelled a bit across the state. It was a super cell that we very rarely see in these parts,you normally see it in Tornado Country in the Midwest. Four people are confirmed dead and there is alot of damage.  We are keeping our MA neighbors in our thoughts today.