Saturday, January 31, 2015


Ahh, quiet coffee in the morning...

This weekend, I plan on being slightly lazy but mostly productive.  The house is a tad scandalous and needs a hose down, so I'll be taking care of that first thing.  After that, I plan on completing a few finishing touches on a birthday present I'm delivering on Sunday (here's a hint: it's cute, and intended for a toddler) and maybe working a little more on my handful of pre-garden-season gardening projects. And then there's some chucking wood into the pile form, which is always needed at least once a week.  If it sunnyish, I may just bundle up and bask on the sun porch with a book for a wee while...but if it's cloudy, I may devolve onto the sofa with some knitting.

Hence, slightly lazy but mostly productive.

Bacon may also be involved.

Friday, January 30, 2015

I Heart PBS

There are many reasons why I love PBS, but my latest fave-rave is this show:

It does make me want to rush into the kitchen and bake something decadent, but then I remember that I don't need quite so many cakes or biscuits or pies (ahhhh, pie!) and I settle for a piece of dark chocolate and another episode...

Incidentally, you can watch full length episodes of this program, and others, at

Monday, January 26, 2015

Smarty-Plants Book

I recently got a used copy of this book for a whole dollar--and I'm rather pleased with my investment.  This is actually a pretty approachable book.  Granted, it is likely more a textbook type book than an entertaining gardening book, but it is really quite interesting.  The language isn't difficult to wade through, and you know, it's nice to read a book where you can feel your brain expanding and saying "ahh, information!".  Makes a change from my recent diet of all things cheap fiction...

In any case, I'm really enjoying reading about the ins and outs of plants, how they grow and adapt to their given part of the world.  Each chapter is broken into small sections, which is perfect for bedtime reading: good information, in small doses, to mull over before sleep claims me.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Pinterest Inspirations

I love Pinterest.  Recipes, garden ideas, fanciful name it, I've likely pinned it to some board or other.  What a wonderful site for all sorts of inspirational pictures!

Take, for example, a few photos that have piqued my interest (and inspired a new garden project):

from the  
found on
A trip to my favorite farm supply store yesterday revealed the unexpected and wholly delightful surprise of short stair risers on sale and distressed wood on clearance--that, combined with a quart of inexpensive teal paint, will hopefully yield me a creation to display my pots on this summer (between the two large plastic pots, which I plan to fill with miniature popcorn and trailing beans).  I'd show you a picture of the project thus far, but all it is are some boards propped on plastic sawhorses with a first coat of teal paint!  With our current run of warmish weather, it's nice to work on a garden related project on the south-facing porch.  Not only should the paint dry in good time, but Ernest Hemingway the Cat loves having some company as he lounges in the sun.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Super Shopper Score!

Right.  So, you may have realized that this little Farmlette runs on a fairly slim budget.  We recycle, we repurpose, we create from the free get the idea.  But sometimes, there's stuff (like, say, a hoophouse) that needs to be purchased.

That's where The Google comes in handy.  I do some research on various products, I price compare, I figure out what can I find locally versus what I might be able to acquire with free shipping.  I ponder the merits of building my own in true D.I.Y. fashion versus a premade kit.  I measure and remeasure and plan and plot...

For the new southern exposure I suddenly have, I wanted a smallish hoophouse.  Nothing too big, really.  Even a small D.I.Y. hoophouse would run about $100 or so, if I could find everything on sale, and there was the time factor of needing to build in time to catch the early season.  And then again, did I want a permanent structure?  Maybe something that looks fairly decent but can be easily taken down before winter might be good...because then, I'd have more sunlight streaming into the porch...

Then I stumbled upon this: the Flowerhouse brand Farmhouse Pop-Up Greenhouse.  Seriously.  It bursts out of a bag and tah-dah, you've got a fancy little instant greenhouse in your yard.

All it needs is a man in a kilt to come out of a cake...

Ahem.  I digress.

The instant greenhouse, in its glory.
Cute. Perfect dimensions.  Sturdy yet temporary.  Then I checked the price tag: $399.  Yikes.

It's even sexy from the side...
Commence price stalking.  Over the past couple of months, I've been tracking this particular beauty.  The local hardware store chain had a few, then fewer, and finally, down to one lonely greenhouse...and then, the price began dropping.  As I had hoped, by the time they reached one left in stock, they had decided to "discontinue" this item, and sell at the lowest price possible if no fool picked it up sooner.

Lower it fell, and lower still...until it was a whole $270 off.  And then came the 11% discount, and the extra clearance discount, and it was on sale for a little over $100.  I was gifted a marvelous gift card for Christmas (thanks Mom!), and made the run into town on a quiet Saturday night to pick up my lovely.

There was a bad moment where they couldn't find it, and then it was finally located on a dusty shelf in the abandoned garden department in a rotted box.  After discounts and gift card, I scored my beloved-and-stalked-after pop-up greenhouse for the princely sum of....

(insert drum roll here)

Fifteen whole dollars, which was pretty much the sales tax. 

Yes folks, my Machiavellian machinations paid off and I scored a four hundred dollar (more or less) greenhouse for fifteen smackeroos. 

Now, to wait patiently until spring creeps in...

Monday, January 19, 2015

Wintertime DIY

I've been pondering what I want to make to grow peppers and melons this summer in the new south garden hoop house/green house.  I'm looking forward to taking advantage of the extra sunlight, and hopefully having lots of success with peppers (which would make for a nice change) and melons (which I attempt every year or so, and never have too much luck, sadly), but I don't want to wind up using a ton of well water to keep things hydrated.

I'm envisioning a system of grow buckets (like the ones in this video--ingenious use of cheap effective materials!), plus a homemade water barrel to collect rain water from the roof.  I need to replace the gutter on the south side of the house, after it was unceremoniously yanked off the house by a falling tree, and I think this would be the perfect time to install a water barrel system to keep things happy in the new hoop house.  I rather like this model:
For ten bucks, I like it.  And I can connect it to irrigation tubing and connect that to all my grow buckets...and then, with luck, bring on the happy melons!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

TV Influences

This is the episode of BBC's Gardener's World that launched me into thinking about growing dahlias.  I love this program, it's perfect for settling down with a hot cup of tea and some knitting on a cold winter's evening, and getting lost in the garden.  ( I believe I've mentioned my love affair with Monty Don before...)

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Great Dahlia Experiment

mignon dahlia mix, from

I've been inspired by the many British gardening programs I adore, and I'm going to attempt to grow dahlias this season.  I love the bright, cheerful flowers, and the fact that bees seem to love them, too.  I've opted to try growing from seed, which may or may not work out, but I couldn't resist the Mignon mix offered by Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.  I've been reading up a bit on various techniques, and this helpful guide from Gardener's World (one of the BEST BBC gardening shows, ever) has me motivated to get sowing coming February.

With any luck, I'll have a host of happy little plants that will grow into beautiful flowered shrubby things in summer.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Wood Stove Cookery

With cold weather, comes daily fires in the woodstove, cheerily keeping my little house toasty warm.  Sometimes, I take advantage of the heat to cook a meal or two.  Recently, I tried baking potatoes in my cast iron dutch oven, a vintage find at a garage sale years ago.  First, I washed, pricked and wrapped my potatoes in foil and placed them into the pot.
I've found it works best to diffuse the heat a little, otherwise things boil far too quickly (or bake, in this case).  Using canning rings makes a useful trivet.
And then, it's a matter of plonking the dutch oven onto the stove, stoking the fire, and allowing your whatever-it-is to cook until done.  I left the potatoes for a few hours, and they came out perfectly!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A Cress Experiment

I love peppery greens, like arugula and watercress.  It's been ages since I've had watercress, and I was thinking: gosh, I miss that peculiar little green.  So, I've decided to do a little experiment this year and grow my own watercress.

While this video advocates finding watercress in the grocery store (not something we carry here in the US, sadly), I've found a source for watercress seeds.  With any luck, I'll eventually have plants that will then be useful to grow in the fashion described in this video.  I love the idea of little percolating tubs of green goodness, frothing happily away...  With this handy growing guide, I think I'll have a good time getting everything started.  Maybe I'll even add fish in my frothing buckets...ooh! Hydroponics!  Now we're getting really fancy, aren't we?

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Inventory and Planning

The trick to managing a seed collection (particularly if you're a bit of a seed collector as I am) is to do an inventory.  Usually, I do a run through of what I have available (and what I've ordered in) in January.  I round up my little storage boxes, park myself in a comfortable spot, and commence list making.  Usually, I wind up with something that looks like this:
It's helpful to see everything that I have available to me, so then I can come up with a plan for which plants will wind up in which gardens.  That involves a different list of sorts:
I won't exactly stick to the location, perhaps, but planning like this really helps me to manage my garden spaces come spring.  With a good plan, you really can maximize even the smallest of growing spaces!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Front Garden Rehab

I've been thinking, and decided: the front garden needs an overhaul come spring.  Much like the back garden, I think it's reached a point where it needs redesign.   I definitely need to rebuild the raised beds, which are coming apart at the seams and compacted to boot. 

So here's my plan, keeping the front flower beds (which I love, so cheery!) and reducing the number of four foot by four foot raised beds to three.  I plan on making them twice as deep (eight inches), which should help with growing root vegetables like carrots and radishes.  I think that will be a better use of the space, with the addition of three self-watering tub gardens for greens.  I do love my self-watering tub gardens.  They are nearly as much fun to build as they are to grow in, as long as I don't forget to add a drainage hole or two.

After a layer of weed suppressing paper, and a layer of mulch, I think it'll be a thing of beauty.  The sore muscles will be worth it!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

A Humdinger Bash

Dun dun...dun dun..dun dun...

I threw myself a big party last weekend, and it was awesome.  There was an inflatable remote control shark involved, and dancing.  Oh, and a tiara.

It made for a nice break in the routine of winter chores around here on the Farmlette, and happened just before a round of very cold days (and nights).  Lately, it's been back to the grind of work (with a very disjointed work week due to inclement weather) and a sore molar which apparently needs a root canal.  Not sure how finances will swing that one, but I suppose I'll deal with that after the antibiotics and pain meds are done.  Some days, I think I should've chosen to be a dentist.  Sure, teeth are gross, but man, apparently the pay check is pretty nice!

I think I'll settle for being a part-time homesteader on a slim budget, though.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

It's a New Year!

Sing it, Julie.

Anyway, hopefully everyone is starting their new year off right: in pajamas, with coffee and perhaps waffles, bacon on the side, with no plans other than staying in said pajamas for as long as possible.

I'm getting ready for an influx of house guests today, with mom arriving this afternoon and brothers arriving tomorrow.  Amid that prep, there's some rather festive additional preparation happening, to get ready for the birthday bash I'm throwing for myself on Saturday.  I figured, I'm turning 40, I haven't thrown a party in a while, and what the heck.  It's a great reason to round up a band, a keg of beer, some BBQ meatballs, and a whole bunch of friends, friends of friends, and well-wishers and have one heck of a good time.  So far, it even looks like the weather will cooperate.

I'm not really one for New Year Resolutions.  I always seem to break them, or forget them...actually, I forget them more often than I break them.  I do, however, like to think up plans for the next year.  Funnily enough, those generally revolve around the garden and house, and such like.  I've decided that this year will see a complete re-do of the front raised beds (which need rebuilding to a much deeper depth and an influx of compost) and the addition of a second hoop house/green house on the south garden side of the yard.  The falling of the box elder is turning out to have hidden bonuses, with better ventilation and significantly more light for my fruit crops.  As for the house, well, I'd like to get the repairs from the fire completed and maybe figure out how the heck I will afford a new roof.  I desperately need a new roof, but sadly lack the $5000 or so needed to acquire one.  Any rich sugar-daddy-mama-entrepeneurs out there reading this blog who want to make an investment in my happiness, and buy me one?



Yeah.  I didn't think so.  Well, if worst comes to worst, I may need to tarp it for a season.  My neighbors will love it, I'm sure, but I figure if it really really really bugs them, they can anonymously buy me shingles.  Put that to them, and suddenly they'll find other things to moan about, I'm sure.

Anyway, I have a feeling 2015 will be a great year.  There's plans afoot for new chickens to be hatched, new seeds to be sewn, and a possible weekend road trip or two to be taken.  Aside from trees falling, fires causing mild destruction, and sudden freezer death, 2014 was fairly awesome--so here's to an even better new year!  Cheers, all!!