Garden Update


I had some time alone this morning, so I built up a new garden bed in the backyard- my husband pulled some nasty old bushes out for me a few weeks ago in one of the few sunny spots in the backyard.

tomato/basil garden bed

Four tomatoes, four basil (under the “hot caps”), and one ground cherry in the middle (also under a hot cap).  Yes my hot caps are a little…what’s the word…trashy.  But hey, they were cheap and plentiful.  (By the by- I have seven more of these rinky tomato cages, and then I’m at loose ends.  What’s your favorite, inexpensive, way to cage tomatoes?  Besides those wonderful $15 square cages?  Because I’m thinking that 10 or 15 of those cages just isn’t going to happen this year.)

We’ve been having a lot of warmth, cold, sunshine, and torrential rain.  Yes, all in the same day most days.

As a result, my back garden box has exploded with seedlings, most of them not mine.  Time to weed, you think? (This picture is SO EMBARRASSING.)

backyard box

Speaking of weeding, I finally got around to hoeing out the weeds under the deck and along the side fence.  (aka “our new front entry”)  How’d I do?

my new compost pile.  My shoulders are tired.

Oh, and my poor spinach never even had a chance.  (WAS this spinach?  I’m fairly certain that’s what I planted there, but this looks like no spinach I’ve ever seen- I better check that seed packet.  Might have been mustard spinach.)
spinach (bolted)

Lots of tomatoes to plant out, lots of basil.  I’m getting nervous- the basil especially are chafing at their wet roots in these drainage-free cups, and it’s probably another solid week until my front beds are ready.  I think there’s a patch of sunny dirt in the front yard that I can stick a load of these in.
tomato starts

basil starts

Potatoes are chugging along.  The purple potatoes have already reached the top of their can!  I’ll wait a few more days for all the shoots to grow out, add one more load of dirt, then just let it be till September.

purple potatoes

The yukons have sprouted- whew.  Always a little scary waiting for those first sprouts to pop out.  They have some catching up to do, but if we have a mild Fall they should be fine.  (You watch- THIS is the year that I will be in charge of mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving, and I will GROW THEM MYSELF.  Woohoo!)

yukon potatoes

Potted cilantro, chard, and carrots are all doing well.  As in, they’ve managed to sprout.  Total win in my book.  Took a while for the cilantro- I really hope those seedlings ARE cilantro.  Always a bummer to tend and care…and realize you’re cultivating weeds.

cilantro seedlings

swiss chard and carrots

Water Storage

April 18th we talked about water storage.

Ok, now on May 17th we’re doing it again!  Seriously guys- you never know when you’ll be glad to have something on hand.

checking out the busted water main

See that?  That’s three construction guys and my hubby, Saturday night, saying “Shoot.  Busted the water main.  Who’s got duct tape?”  Yeah, they really did duct tape it together over the rest of the weekend until the new part came in this morning.  Water was only off for an hour or two (thanks to the miracle of duct tape) but it was dinner time…practically everything needs water to cook or be rinsed with, never mind the cleaning up afterwards (Mimi, I’m looking at you on that one.)

I’m not trying to preach here folks, but I AM exceptionally glad we have a shelf full of bottles of water- empty soda jars, empty juice jugs, empty vinegar jugs (we buy white vinegar in 1-gallon bottles.)  I KNOW we don’t have enough yet for a full-on emergency- I want to have 14 gallons per person- but still, something is better than nothing!  (And plus, now I know that the water is actually drinkable 🙂

Pepper: FAIL

dead pepper seedlings

dead pepper seedlings

Gruesome. Such a needless death.

But, considering that I planted them in March, and they hadn’t yet formed true leaves…maybe this is for the best. Yeah?

(I moved them to a sunnier spot, thinking it would help them…unfortunately that sunny spot was in my basement, when I forgot about them.)

A New Challenge

Y’all ready for this?

Yeah, me neither.

As of today, we are completely self-employed.  We’ve been getting ready for a while, but it was slow because Wonder Daddy had a very, very busy job at an accounting firm (that, as of today, he no longer works at his former-boss told him.)  We THOUGHT we’d have more time before he chose his own launching-off date.

*Please know: the story is his to tell.  A rule was broken that he didn’t realize was a rule.  Hindsight is 20/40, and this is what I can do: I’m a homemaker*

The fledgling business is in no way ready to support itself, or anyone else, so we’re on our own* until we can drum up more business.  Unfortunately, the bulk of a tax practice’s income happens in December-April.  Busy season is absolutely insane, and it’s over for another 7 months or so, when people come crawling out of the woodwork saying “Here!  Take all my personal information, all my financial records, and DO SOMETHING!”  (From personal experience, it’s really quite amazing to have a complete stranger hand you a fat envelope full of social security cards, bank statements, mortgage interest forms.  What’s amazing is not what you see of their lives, but how quickly you forget that this data is personal- it’s just data!  Honest to betsy.  And yes, it’s all ENTIRELY confidential.  If you don’t trust your tax accountant…umm…hey!  We have openings! 🙂

So my challenge is this: can I pare down our already lean and mean (I think) budget?  It’s only been 19 months since we were last in “leaner and meaner” mode.  We found ourself with two houses, along with the two mortgages, utility loads, etc. that come along, PLUS a new baby with all those beautiful hospital bills.  At the time, I was crazy enough to think “Gosh, I’m glad Mimi came too fast for me to get an epidural.  We just saved $1,500!”  With a lot of prayer, and a lot of work, a lot of kindness, and a little bit of powdered milk, we came through.  Our old house sold the month before our hospital bills came due (which, oddly enough, equaled the now-missing “old house mortgage payment” we’d been making every month.)

We’ve added some fluff over the past 19 months.  Gym membership (canceled.)  Friday night dinners (we’ll still have date nights, THANK YOU MOM AND DAD, but….I’m going to get to be an excellent picnic packer.  And we’ll go on hikes- yay summer!)  I’ll have to more careful at the craft stores- no more “Oh, I might make someone a present out of this.”

So, this “DIY Mama” is about to go supernova.  I still have my piano studio- if wishes were fishes, lots of kids would realize this summer “Yeah!  I really, REALLY want summer lessons!”  Because then I’d feel a little bit better.

*”On our own” is an entirely relative term.  We both have fantastic families.  My family lives close by and is always so kind to come help with projects, play with the kids, mull over finances, and send home the occasional grocery sack of completely random “no one is eating this, do you want it?  I bought way too much…” goodies.  Which I always enjoy immensely, when it comes time to try and figure out what to DO with these new ingredients!  His family is so supportive in all our decisions, even across the distance.  Good grief, my MIL talks to Ernie on the phone nearly every day.  We have ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC families.  So this “on our own” really means….without his old company 🙂

Garden Update

For being 37 degrees outside this morning, we had an amazingly gorgeous afternoon.  The girls and I rounded up shoes and (soon discarded) sweaters and went outside after piano lessons.  While the girls climbed the play set and mucked in the dirt, I got busy in the garden.  Gardens.  Whatever.  You know you some people use buckets and cups all over their house to collect leaking water?  I have buckets and planters and dug up spots all over my backyard, collecting sunshine.

Added drainage holes to another spare garbage can, and threw in some sprouted yukons.  It’s a bit late.  OK a LOT late, but we have mild falls, and last year my potatoes were ready in September.  I think I still have time.

Purple spuds in the back (growing like mad) and freshly planted yukons in the front
purple potatoes in back, yukon in front

(Funny story about growing potatoes- I checked on my vermicompost (worm) bin this afternoon and was SHOCKED to see 6 inch potato sprouts going straight up.  I threw some potato tops in there, and they grew like mad looking for light!  No roots, though.  Thankfully.  I keep my worms in a foam cooler- I have no idea why those potatoes went crazy sprouting like that.)

Found some old recycling bins, and set the girls to work filling them with dirt. (OK, yeah I helped a little with that. Mimi was doing a one-scooop-in, 2-scoops-out dealio) I THINK these are zucchini. I had 2 squash plants with ridged leaves, and 3 with smoother leaves. One is a zucchini (summer squash) one is a acorn-type squash (winter.) So… I have them flanking my raspberry patch. I hope 10 feet of separation is enough to avoid any nastiness.  (Seeds courtesy of the fantabulous Mama Papaya)
zucchini squash.  maybe

Of course, when my back was turned Mimi went back to her two-scoops-out shenanigans and managed to bust a leaf. Aww.
Mimi got to my squash

Yeah! My mesclun mix of lettuce (and bucket of bibb, in back) has sprouted! I have a horrible time starting seeds, so this is great. I sowed these seeds TIGHT. Maybe too tight. But I plan on “cut and come again,” and cutting at about 3 inches. Hmm…maybe too tight. We’ll see.

Little Tom Thumb is blooming! This is so exciting. I’ll be sure and sow a TON of peas in late summer for a fall harvest, now that I see how few flowers each vine has. Good thing they like to be packed in tight.  (Oh, and big thanks to Mama Papaya for these lovely seeds!)
Tom Thumb Peas

Let’s see, what else did we do back there….I found pots and spots for about 15 basil starts- still have a ton to plant up, but I planted the biggest ones.  Transplanted ground cherries from a seedling tray into cups- again, just transplanted the biggest ones (that had a set of true leaves.)  These ground cherries are SLOW getting started- they were planted the same time as those zucchini you saw (in the same greenhouse) and are just barely getting going.  Guess they needed more heat.

OK, that’s it for the garden!  We should have sun for the next little bit- hopefully it’s enough to get the concrete guys in here to do the demo on our front yard and pour the new driveway/patios/stoop.  Fingers crossed!  Then it’s just a hop skip and jump to building the boxes and putting out the tomatoes and peppers.  And, you know, whatever else is hanging around.

I’ll sneak down to Mom’s greenhouse tomorrow, so you can see what we’re up against in the ‘what’s hanging around’ department.

The Back Wilderness

I’ve taken you on a tour of the garden- the stuff we grow on purpose.

Now here’s what grows without any effort at all!  (If only I could find a use for these things.)

Dock. Deep rooted, nearly impossible to pull by hand. Loves the same conditions as stinging nettles, and is often found in the same areas. Which is good, because it can soothe the nettle’s sting.

Stinky Bob. Or Stinky John? I don’t know. But it spreads like crazy, and smells bad. LOVES the edges of our woods.
stinky bob

Oh help. That’s a lot of nettles. Luckily, the solid wall of blackberry brambles keep the kids out of this. I shudder to think of Mimi wading into this mess, it’s over her head!

Stinging nettles are covered in a thin, brittle “glass.” If you brush against them, it shatters and embeds in your skin- the more you rub, the more it throbs, itches, and yes: stings. I know these are edible- I cooked some up once when I was a girl, they tasted similar to spinach. Oddly enough, I can’t convince myself to go out gathering. (A few changes of water clears away the chemical glass.)

This nurse log is only a few years old- our area had a massive wind storm a few years back that took down hundreds of trees like this ancient cedar. The problem with our boggy forests is that the trees develop very shallow root systems- you can see how wide it was, but hardly any depth. When the tree came down, it took out part of the fence and the deck (we think.)
nurse og

I saw moss, lichen, native blackberries, invasive (himalayan) blackberries, a small white flower, and ferns all growing out of this log in just a few year’s time since its fall. I expect to find red huckleberries in the next few years- there are a few bushes close to the house, and birds scatter the (um…digested) seeds far and wide. They normally grow out of old logs and stumps like these.
nurse og

These next pictures are mushrooms. SOMETHING has been nibbling at them in the night. I wish I knew more about mushrooms, to know whether or not these could come to my table. They pop up in this spot about twice a year.


They’re pretty big!

And finally, it wouldn’t be spring without new birth, right? Unfortunately, these critters didn’t last long. I wouldn’t have minded them, if they hadn’t been in the door jamb.
just-hatched spiders

Garden Update

A real, live, garden update…about things that are GROWING!

Here’s the tour:

First, the garbage can potatoes are doing nicely. These are just 5 or 6 organic purple potatoes that sprouted in the cupboard, thrown in a garbage can with some dirt and a lot of drainage holes. I covered all but the top few inches of this growth with dirt after the photo, and I’ll keep doing that until I fill the can with dirt. Then, just let ’em sit and cook till the plants die back! Easy as pie.

The raspberries are leafed out now, and doing great. I can’t wait.

I’m trying an “early spring” garden in our box this year- by mid summer it has too much afternoon shade to be really successful, but I’m hoping these things can get off to a good start, or even finish their season, before then.


Mustard Greens
mustard greens


Kale. Now if this baby kale doesn’t make you *squeeee* well then….

I tucked ‘Alaska Bush’ peas a few places in the yard- it’s interested to see how the plants are faring, based on location.
These are on a sunny patio. They’re nice and tall.

These are on the deck- a little warmer, not as much sun. They’re not as tall, but this is my first flower out of all of them.

These little “Tom Thumb” peas truly ARE tiny. I’m amazed they survived at all- for weeks while I waited for the seeds to germinate, I visited the pot daily to poke the seeds back into the dirt after squirrels or crows dug them up. I think a few became snacks before they germinated. After they sprouted the critters kept digging them up, but not eating them. I kept poking the seeds back into the dirt. I’m just happy they’re growing!

Basil starts are starting to come in from Mom’s green house- I’ve got them protected a bit with these temporary “green houses.” Once the peppers and tomatoes come, they’ll get the special treatment too.
temporary cold frames

Oh.  This.  Well, I don’t know. It could be a few kinds of melons. Or winter squash. Or summer squash. And did you know that summer squash will not set fruit if they’re too near winter squash? And that if two kinds of summer squash are too near each other and cross-pollinate, you’ll end up with JEHOSOPHAT, WHAT IS THAT VEGETABLE? True story. My only hope is to separate these all out by leaf types, and plant them far, far away from each other. In pots. Because I don’t have sunny garden beds. Because…well, I just don’t. BUT I HAVE POTS! The Garden Will Live this year. 🙂
squash and melons