Saturday, July 21, 2012

Farmer's Markets

There is no easier way to get up close and personal with all of the foods that you eat than to go to a farmer's market.  The past month, I have been visiting various markets in nearby towns and there is such a variation of turnouts.  It seems that the bigger cities in my region have the least attendants and the smallest ones are packed with farmers and vendors who have been working long before the market has even started. 

There is such dedication to bringing healthy, natural food and products to the people, but why is there such a sad turnout?  One big reason is a lack of knowledge about what is offered at the markets.  A lot of people seem to assume that farmer's markets will cost them more and have less quality than the grocery store will (which sometimes may be the case).  Other factors can be poor timing for the market or simply lack of information to the public about it.

Whatever the reason for poor turnout to the markets, I always encourage people to support local foods and businesses as much as possible.  The locals that surround you are not interested in taking advantage of anyone, and they are working as hard as they can to provide you with something of great value at these markets. 

I hope to see more people take advantage of the markets in the upcoming years.  The need to be in touch with the Earth has yet to lose its appeal to many, and a farmers market is just another way to fulfill that need.

Thursday, July 5, 2012


My worms are not happy campers.  They have all massed up the sides and top of my bin and I had to dig through the bin to find out why.  I found some scary stuff!

First off, there was a fuzzy piece of macaroni that I thought was a caterpillar.  That told me that someone had put some no-no food in the worm bin.  After some more digging through be bedding, there was some pizza (no-no) and more macaroni.  No worms anywhere near that stuff, so I used some blunt ends of wooden skewers as chopsticks to get it all out. 

I think it is time for a sign telling everyone what is good to go into the bin and what should be avoided.  Hopefully the cole slaw bits (without the dressing) are a hit with the worms.  I had put them in the food processor for easier eating.  They're already fans of the espresso bits!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Organic Local Tea!

I am a tea and coffee lover, and when I met a local woman who makes specialty tea from her home I was so excited.  Sub Rosa Tea does not have a shop of its own yet, but I really hope that for the sake of promoting local business and organic practices that the wonderful owner can get one.  What a great thing to have in my city, right?  I'd have never known about this business if I did not volunteer yesterday and meet the woman who makes the tea.

I am always on the lookout for organic companies, and it is interesting that most of them have to sell online because there is no available space for them to get in with their own hometown.  If we really want something special and meaningful to the people around us, supporting what is in our community is the first thing that we can do. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Making family mealtime

Doing more activities as a family is a goal that is often on every mother's mind.  Some people prefer to leave the home to find something interesting to do, and some like to be together in the backyard.  Activities for my family are usually at home because we are very budget conscious and would also rather night fight a cranky baby away from home. 

Parents spending time with their children open up a lot of psychological benefits for the children as well as the parents.  Communication and closeness are enhanced as they interact and build trust and love together.

Meal time is promoted as one of the most important family times with many benefits.  According to WebMD, "When families dine together, they tend to eat more vegetables and fruits -- and fewer fried foods, soda, and foods with trans fats, research shows. When younger kids frequently eat dinner with their families, they are less likely to be overweight than other children. That tends to change in the teenage years, when they're less likely to eat at home."  Makes sense to me.

More benefits of eating together, according to eat better eat together are communication, better school performance, better adjustment, and better nutrition.  There can be negative results to eating together, however, when parents cannot get along or are too controlling during mealtime.  This can lead to guilt, stress, and uncertainty about food and meals for the children who, eventually, become adults.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Rain is wonderful

I love it when it rains really good over night.  Earlier in the week we had some nasty storms that didn't cool anything off.  Last night we had a long rain and that means this weekend is starting off beautifully. 

On the downside of all of this rain, all of the weeds on earth are trying to grow in my tomato plots.  The poor things are having a hard enough time.  The wind that we had yesterday snapped (yes snapped) my lettuce in half.  I guess I have to harvest without waiting for it to go to seed.  I hope that I can save the seeds this fall when I plant more. 

It's great to do free outdoor activities with my daughter when it is cool like this.  When we're indoors from the heat there is only so much we can do to keep from being bored.  Once we get outside, watch out!  I think we will take a walk to the library today so that I can get more books to mow through this weekend. 

We are also building our worm compost bin for our basement this weekend.  I ordered the worms (which won't be here until next week) from Amazon so that when they come they'll already have a home waiting for them.  I just hope that a thousand worms is enough!  My soil at home is so horrible that I have had to actually buy topsoil (which I am not exactly happy about doing because it was taken from somewhere else) to put in my garden beds for my herbs and such.  I still have 2 bags left and a few pepper plants that will need to be planted in them when they're big enough.  It kills me that my plants grow so slow.

I have seen a ton of articles online about fully mature vegetables (other than lettuce) such as radishes that make me wonder what I'm doing wrong with my own garden.  I probably started a bit late (only lettuce and tomatoes were started inside before the frost time was past) so I'm hoping to be on top of things next year so that I don't have the latest harvests in history. 

Documentaries are my favorite rainy-day activity.  When the baby is napping I will turn one on and soak in what is being presented that day.  I had watched Chemerical, a documentary about a family that was going chemical free in their house because of breathing and health issues that they were conscious of.  I loved the suggestions that were offered to the family about how to get away from chemicals while still being clean and healthy.  I think that over time, I will also try to convince my fiance that we should make our own laundry soap out of non-chemical ingredients, buy regular soap to wash with, and just be more natural overall.  Our skin will thank us.

Making Homemade Laundry Soap is relatively easy to do.  I'm still deciding on which pot to use to make soap with, but without chemicals in the soap I probably should not be worried about contaminating it.  It should clean out rather easily.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Baked Kale Chips

Today was my first day eating kale.  I baked them at 350 spread on a cookie sheet until they were brown on the edges.  First cut the leafy parts off of the stem (and compost the stem, of course) and tear them into bits.  Coat them in a bowl with about a tablespoon of olive oil and another tablespoon of seasoning salt.  When they're coated, lay them on the cookie sheet and bake.

The texture of the baked leaves is like a crispy, extremely thin potato chip.  They taste similar to a chip also, but have a green flavor to them.  I personally liked them and suggest trying it yourself!  If they weren't so thin, I think they'd even be wonderful with a yogurt dip.

Herbs and volunteering

In our garden, we have planted a small variety of herbs to use later in the season when we begin experimenting with canning.  Basil, dill, rosemary, chives, and cilantro are the ones that I decided to start with and to learn from this year.  A few of my plants had been brought to me from my father's garden (parsley which went to seed, cilantro, and some chives) but the rest had been started from seed and are in containers (where they just might stay). 

I really don't know much about actually growing most of these herbs, though.  So I did a little bit of research.  Wouldn't you know that I'm growing a few in a way that I shouldn't?  I shouldn't be starting my dill anywhere but directly in the garden because they don't like to be transplanted.  Hopefully because they are still tiny, I can go ahead and move them as soon as possible (tomorrow morning) so that they won't notice!  I really want a lot of dill for pickles and drying this year.

My chives that I planted from seed still have yet to actually grow.  Even though my father provided a generous amount of plants, the amount of them we use in cooking exceeds the amount that we can harvest from the plants!  I will give them another week before I give up on them.  In the mean time, I may have to divide my father's chives because they're as bunched as they could get.

I am already learning a lot from my garden as it slowly grows.  My biggest issues are with the quality of my soil.  It holds water OK, but settles as if it were made of sand and becomes compacted easily.  I hope that with composting and lots of love, I can get my garden soil to where it should be to produce a medley of wonderful herbs, flowers and vegetables. 

Yesterday I volunteered with a local CSA group who provides local, fresh, organic vegetables and fruits to people who buy shares of the veggies.  I learned a lot about kohlrabi, garlic scapes, and kale.  I had never in my life tried any of them, let alone tried to cook them!  I realized that neither had many of the shareholders who were purchasing these items, and the ladies that I volunteered with were very happy to offer advice on their use, storage, and different ways to cook it.  I plan on going there all summer and fall to learn as much as I can about different produce that I've never been around.  Maybe I'll even try to grow some, someday!

Until then, I need to make sure my own garden can grow. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father's Day, baby plants, and roses

Today was a very long and exciting day for our family.  It started like any other: with breakfast.  Soon, though, we were well on our way to entertaining our daughter and tidying up outside for our big Father's Day grill out.  It was our first time inviting the family over for a grill out and we were nervous to say the least.  But we had veggies and burgers, and you can't go wrong with that!

The first big task that we set to do today was to plant the beautiful yellow and pink rose that I had gotten my fiance for Father's Day in honor of his dad.  It had a tiny little bud on it, which ended up opening up completely after the rainstorm that we had through the early afternoon.  It is now our 3rd rosebush in our yard, and I am more than tempted to plant a generous amount of chives around it (because chives and garlic are good for roses, I've read).

The biggest plus to my day is that all of my seeds seemed to sprout at the same time!  I have waited 3 or 4 weeks now for my hot peppers to sprout and they're finally popping out of the soil.  The cucumbers took no time at all in the plastic berry containers that I started them in, and all of my herbs (cilantro, dill, and basil) have come up, too.  I'm going to have to get more dirt!

Instead of doing internet research this week, I have been reading books from the library.  Eat More Dirt by Ellen Sandbeck is almost like reading a journal.  It is very informative while not overwhelming.  The author and her husband are both landscapers who deal with organic gardening, composting, mulching, and respect the soil as well as the ability for nature to control itself.  I learned a lot about pests in this book, including how to deal with slugs (my biggest opponent at the moment), who are taken care of by laying down wood ash (cool!).  Less squishing for me.

I have also started Organic Gardening for the 21st Century by John Fedor.  This book includes some beautiful pictures that I find inspiring to look at and pretend that are my own garden.  I have not gotten far in the book, but I've gotten far enough to take a few ideas from it.  I want to plant beans or peas in a pot, connect the pot to something higher with the string, and allow the beans or peas to climb up the string.  The image here is not the one from the book, but you get the idea.  I have just the spot for some peas to do some climbing!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Secrets to great soil review (part 2)

The book is finally finished!  I now know that I need to learn a whole lot more about composting and that I have a lot of options about how to go about it based upon how quickly I need composted soil.  I've decided that my basement will contain a worm compost for the winter, but before that we will continue to use a giant pile in our backyard (which will compost very slowly).

Secrets to Great Soil was simple to read and understand and has made me realize where I need to focus more of my efforts to improve my garden without buying fertilizers.  If you don't want to buy the book, take a trip to the library and borrow it.  I truly believe that it can help any level gardener.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Urban Farming in my city

I am very excited today to learn that urban farming in the city that I live in does not have a ton of barriers for a startup.  Usually agricultural land is 5+ acres here, but if someone wants to have a greenhouse or do other similar commercial things, the city is willing to work with that person depending on the location!  The location problem does not bother me so much, as there are plenty of places all over town that are vacant and would look beautiful full of vegetables!  I really hope that this is the start of better connections with the earth for people inside of the city and even in the schools!

Just thought I would share :-}

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Garden Decoration

Tiny birdhouses are great to paint up and put out in the garden to customize it to your liking.  Today I finished painting our birdhouse green, yellow, and brown colors to put near the lettuce on the bottom branches of my rosebush.  It's too small to really house birds, but it's fun to make the garden cuter.

What I really like about painting my own birdhouse is that the color ranges that I can come up with on my own are so much better than the factory-painted ones in the store.  I had bought the little house from a craft store for a dollar and it was originally a toy for the baby so that we could get through the checkout line.  There are much bigger ones that we could have gotten from hardware stores or general stores, but if I am going to get a super duper one, I think I would put it together myself.  Talk about a great family project!  Check out for great instructions on housing any kind of bird that you'd like to see in your yard.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Rain Barrels

It has not rained much here this spring and I have found myself watering my garden with the hose to make up for the lack of water for my plants.  Upon receiving the water bill for this month, I realize that I've probably used about $10 in water just the past month!  To me, that's just way too much.  So I decided to find an alternative solution to make up for that.

My dad had mentioned making a rain barrel and putting it in the back yard where the concrete on our back porch sort-of slopes toward the house a bit (and therefore the downspout is extended a ways beyond that so we don't get a flooded basement!).  I did a quick search online and found plenty of different ways to make my own rain barrel.   You know, for when it actually decides to rain.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation has a great document on making a rain barrel that includes hoses and overflow holes.  This was a bit fancy for me, as I have little experience drilling holes in plastic and installing hoses.  But it could be a really great idea for someone who wants a nicer looking barrel for their home and yard.

Environmental Services for the City of Portland also had a document about making your own rain barrel.  This one still featured the hose, but seemed less daunting as I read through it.  What was the best about this is that it helps you to determine where the best place for a barrel would be.  There are, of course, places that you can buy pre-made barrels but the idea of making my own in just a few steps with my fiance on a Saturday morning is so irresistible.

The cheapest alternative that I have found to the more complex rain barrels in the previous documents is one that is made out of a trash can, has a mesh to filter out gunk, and a simple spout with a valve.  I found it on Better Homes and Gardens and I will probably use this construction on my own project.  Sure, the trash can is less eye-appealing but it's an easy-to-find product wherever you live.  I'm sure I could dress it up a bit, too.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Soil book review! (part 1)

Composting is one of my newest feats and because of this I decided to take a trip to the library and check out a book about soil.  I got Secrets to Great Soil by Elizabeth P. Stell (Storey Communications, Inc., 1998) and I am absolutely in love with the book.  The author has introduced so many aspects of soil so easily.  She allowed me to understand soil acidity, how to identify the type of soil that you have, the mineral balances and importance in soil for plants, and even different uses of gardening tools all within the 1st three chapters!  I'm super excited to be reading the book and because chapter 4 starts right in on making and using compost, there will be plenty more from me where this came from. 

Go get a book and learn something :-}

Vitamins and Minerals in Food

I have been reading articles online about deficiencies of vitamins and minerals and how it is linked with obesity.  This sparked my curiosity, so I did some Google searches about vitamins and minerals to see if I could find anything about how it pertains to obesity or weight loss.  Needless to say that the search engine was a disappointment, as I got tons of websites selling magical weight loss supplements and promoting eating vitamins in pill form to make up for the fact that people don't eat vegetables or fruits to get their nutrients.  I don't agree with skipping on the actual good food for a pill, so I've had to look in a different search to see where these vitamins are found so that I can adjust myself to be healthier and get what my body needs from my own garden or even produce at the store.

The first site that I thought was helpful lists the vitamins and minerals that are needed and tells why you need them and where you will find them in food.  Great!  Health Check Systems was great for me to look at, and I think that I will be taking notes on what I need to be introducing into my daughter's diet as well as my own. 

The CDC had a great page about getting your fruits and veggies as actual servings and a variety of colors.  It is pretty basic, but starting basic is always a good idea.  Locally grown food benefits are also something to consider.  Fruits and vegetables are picked when they are their best in flavor and nutrients, rather than prematurely to be shipped across the country.  It also helps your neighbor farmers economically by encouraging them to continue to offer fresh, local produce to their communities rather than selling off to a super farm that will specialize in one crop, which can lead to lack of genetic diversity among crops and increased room for disease.  Genetic diversity in crops and livestock have been a big issue as of late.  For more reading, Diminished crop diversity explains a lot that you may find interesting.  The Global Crop Diversity Trust is also a great site to check out if this interests you as much as it does me.

All of this reading about crops and vegetables have made me realize that what I bought at the store is the same as what you can buy at the store anywhere!  Seeds, vegetables, fruits, and even seedlings lack so much diversity anymore.  It is very convenient, but should we be doing it?  My goal for next year:  get some seeds from a seed-saver's exchange for more variety and promotion of people who care very much for the plants that they grow.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A little thing about tea

If I'm not drinking coffee, I'm drinking tea.  Tea is a super special treat for me because it is something that I don't think that I can possibly have enough of sometimes.  My absolute favorites are the loose-leaf teas that I seep with a tea strainer. 

They're not cheap, though.  I go between two different kinds that I have about a lb of each.  Mademoiselle Grey and a Yerba Matte are in my cabinet at the moment and both have such drastically different flavors!  And I like my tea strong.  On my wish list right now is a kind of cinnamon tea that a classmate in college let me try.  The tea, by Harney and Sons, is incredibly flavored and even for someone who loves sugar in tea as much as I do, I found that it does not need sweetened any more than the cinnamon that comes in it!  Talk about wonderful.

I do have quite a collection of bagged teas as well, mostly from the Republic of Tea but also many other cheaper varieties for iced tea in the summer.  The herbs that can be paired with the teas in the bags are magical! 

Of course I wouldn't be me without looking for more information about the different kinds of tea and why there are bags and loose teas and if there's any benefits or drawbacks of either.  Well, I got some answers on The Tea Scoop about how the flavors are affected by bags, the freshness of tea, and how to get the most of the tea that you buy. 

WebMD gave me a bit to think about for the possible health benefits of various kinds of teas:
  • Green tea: Made with steamed tea leaves, it has a high concentration of EGCG and has been widely studied. Green tea’s antioxidants may interfere with the growth of bladder, breast, lung, stomach, pancreatic, and colorectal cancers; prevent clogging of the arteries, burn fat, counteract oxidative stress on the brain, reduce risk of neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, reduce risk of stroke, and improve cholesterol levels.
  • Black tea: Made with fermented tea leaves, black tea has the highest caffeine content and forms the basis for flavored teas like chai, along with some instant teas. Studies have shown that black tea may protect lungs from damage caused by exposure to cigarette smoke. It also may reduce the risk of stroke.
  • White tea: Uncured and unfermented. One study showed that white tea has the most potent anticancer properties compared to more processed teas.
  • Oolong tea: In an animal study, those given antioxidants from oolong tea were found to have lower bad cholesterol levels. One variety of oolong, Wuyi, is heavily marketed as a weight loss supplement, but science hasn’t backed the claims.
  • Pu-erh tea: Made from fermented and aged leaves. Considered a black tea, its leaves are pressed into cakes. One animal study showed that animals given pu-erh had less weight gain and reduced LDL cholesterol.
  • Chamomile tea: Its antioxidants may help prevent complications from diabetes, like loss of vision and nerve and kidney damage, and stunt the growth of cancer cells.
  • Echinacea: Often touted as a way to fight the common cold, the research on echinacea has been inconclusive.
  • Hibiscus: A small study found that drinking three cups of hibiscus tea daily lowered blood pressure in people with modestly elevated levels.
  • Rooibos (red tea): A South African herb that is fermented. Although it has flavonoids with cancer-fighting properties, medical studies have been limited.
Tea Health  gives benefits as well as drawbacks to tea and what can lessen the benefits (adding milk or sugar, apparently!) to drinking it.  And who'd have thought that it was once used as currency?  I had no idea :-}

Monday, June 4, 2012

Keeping Active with a Busy Life

I can tell just by my mood when I have not been active enough physically.  Winter time is one of the biggest problems for me, especially because I hate the cold Ohio weather.  Because it is not summer, I don't have too much of a problem keeping active and moving around.  At work I am almost always on my feet, and at home I make sure to play with my daughter and garden daily, even when I'm tired. 

The Harvard School of Public Health offers quite a few reasons to get off of the couch and keep moving.  For me, physical and mental activities are the biggest benefits that I could give myself.  It is super easy to sit on the couch and read a book all day when it's 90 degrees out, and I can make all of the excuses in the world to not move.  Those won't help me though.

I have discovered how much physical energy just house chores require, though!  Line-drying clothes has a lot of bending and lifting, picking up baby toys has a lot of walking and bending, and even just carrying my daughter around while I vacuum helps a ton.  Almost makes me want to clean the house! Well...sometimes.

Yellowing Tomato Leaves

Some of my little tomatoes have had yellow leaves that look kind-of dried out.  I decided to investigate the possible reasons and solutions for this.  Reasons that tomato leaves turn yellow can range from simply not enough water or sun to plant disease.  I investigated photos of the possible diseases and decided that mine were definitely not diseased. 

I still do not know exactly what the problem is, though.  So I decided yesterday afternoon that I would go ahead and put my little plants in the super sunny part of my garden (they were still in their planters because they're still so small) and give them a good drink when the strength of the sun weakened (to keep the sun from scorching my leaves).  That solves my water and sun problem and they should green up again fine.

As far as the nutrients in the soil go, I am going to get myself a soil kit sometime this summer and do some learning about how to increase desired levels of NPK in the soil naturally depending on what plant that I want to grow in a certain area.  But that is for another day.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Saving Lettuce Seeds From Your Own Garden

I have always wanted to learn to save seeds, so I am starting with the one that I bought the most of: lettuce.  A quick browser search brought up tons of websites for me to check out, but here is the one that I liked the most. told me everything that I needed to know: how to know when the lettuce goes to seed, how to dry it, and how to store it. 

Because I have at least a billion baby food jars and lids, I couldn't be more happy with the last part of the article that suggests storing the seeds in glass jars.  I think that today I am going to pick my plants that I will end up saving from because they are due to be at the end of their little leafy lives pretty soon.

TLC had so many other tips for other plants.  The next one that I will save is my parsley (which has already gone to seed).  Happy saving!

A few benefits to drying your clothes in the wind

Aside from saving money, there are a few things that can make you feel even better about a decision to dry on the line.  Fresh scents from blowing in the wind and time spent in the sun hanging the garments are some of my favorite benefits.  What I am not so keen on is stiff clothing and lint from dust and the tree that shades my line (it's the only place that I could put it). 

Check out mom advice for some more tips and benefits to line-drying clothing.  If you would like a more mathematical reason to put some clothes up on the line occasionally, check out Funny About money, where how much you save (roughly) by line drying can seem like just a little bit (at first).  I think that it really depends on what you use.  We do not use dryer sheets or special anything when we dried our clothes before our dryer broke.  Someone who does use a lot of that could save more by line-drying overall because they'd not be able to use it.  Make sense?

Even if you're not into putting up a clothesline, you can always get a clothes rack and some clothespins to air-dry items that you do not want damaged in the dryer.  Cloth diapers are a big one for me.  Sure they're softer after being dried, but it also wears down on the waterproof fibers.  They're not super cheap up front, so I want them to last.  Same with lightweight clothing that I won't need for a while.  It can dry overnight, be ironed out if needed in the morning and saved from the dryer heat.

When we did have a dryer, the one thing that I would finish up to soften the fabrics was blue jeans.  Those suckers get so stiff!  But since I have read lately that half to 3/4 cup vinegar in the wash can keep them from getting stiff, I can do away with steam ironing jeans to get the stiffness out.  Should save me a lot of time, especially because I hate ironing and have lots of denim!

For me, a few clothespins and drying rack are a great benefit to energy usage over a long term.  A few dollars a year can seem insignificant until you keep adding years and dollars is a great benefit.  :-}

Friday, June 1, 2012

Recycling with your garden

Here at our house we have yet to become a part of any recycling program, which we really need to do soon.  But there are ways that we have been cutting waste to keep the Earth happy.  Our biggest step that we started this year was our compost pile.  Right now it is just a pile in a corner of the yard, but eventually I will find something to make a compost box out of.  In our kitchen we have an old pretzel bucket that we put food waste in.  Coffee grounds and egg shells make up most of our compost, but there's a few fruits and veggies that have been half-eaten by the baby that we toss in there too.  Any leftover food scraps also get tossed in.  The downside is that if we don't stay on top of it, it gets smelly.  Fast.  But all of this food is going to be eaten by our worms (which we saved from the bait store) and turn into some amazing dirt to be spread out on our garden next spring.

Other things that people recycle and we don't right now is plastic.  Plastic has always confused me because some of it is just not recyclable and I have just re-used it for drinking bottles or plant watering bottles anyways.  But it can only be re-washed so much, because that little neck on the bottles just isn't exactly easy to get past.  I decided to look online to see what I could do with the immense bottle collection that has been stacking up in my cupboard all winter. 

Watering Bottles can be made from a 2-liter soda bottle.  From what I've read, they're handy when you won't be around for a few days to water your garden.  Just fill them up, and insert them in the dirt upside down.  Sounds like those watering globes that are sold everywhere, to me!  If you wanted something more fancy, you could always paint them up or make a cover for them.

Milk Jugs, Plastic Bags, Coffee Cans, and Yogurt Cups also have a ton of uses.  In The Garden Online has plenty of uses for these wasted materials, some of which even I did not realize (and I love to reuse my stuff).  What struck me the most was the lack of ability to recycle yogurt cups.  I'm glad that I had been saving them for seed starters!

Cardboard is just another material that decomposes great and has a variety of uses.  Aside from everything being shipped with the stuff, it decomposes great in the garden.  If you've just moved or seem to just collect boxes, you've got plenty of cardboard around to cut up for decomposition in a compost pile.  You can use boxes as a container for plants, and even use smaller ones as decomposable starters (just make sure that you cut some drainage holes in them).  Weed barriers, foundation for a garden path (under some mulch), and many more things can be used from just cardboard. 

Nature Moms Blog has even more cute ideas for recycling those pesky newspapers and toilet paper rolls.  Looks like there's a use for almost everything!

Line-drying clothes: vinegar

We have been line-drying our clothes all summer, and I've had a major problem with how they've turned out when dry: super stiff!  I decided today to find a solution.  Turns out, 1/2 to 3/4 cup vinegar will keep them from getting stiff and because it dries outside, the smell goes away.  Thank goodness for that because I completely dislike the smell of vinegar.

Since it is raining today, we get to put up a line in the basement for the cloth diapers to dry.  Turns out that I had forgotten to bring in the clothes from outside before work last night and they're getting an extra rinse.  It's all good.  They can dry tomorrow. 

Raised Gardens

I have always wanted to try out raised gardens and set them up to be tiered.  I will probably experiment with it next growing season, but many people do it every year!  I decided to check out how it was done so that if I do decide to do it sooner, I can.  I have found a how-to for one that requires no digging.  This no dig vegetable garden is pretty straight forward and encourages you to recycle newspapers, cardboard, and compost to make it.  That means, you won't be buying tons of potting soil to fill it up.  There are a few layers that they use to make theirs to boost the soil that you're making and using but for me personally that just seemed like a lot to go out and buy. 

Big benefits of raised gardens are less weeding, a clear walkway so that you don't accidentally trample your plants, less bending to ease strain on bad backs, better soil drainage, and warmer soil for earlier planting in some areas.  They can easily take the place of weedy or bare areas in your yard and add an attractive feature to your overall landscape.  Build one with legs and you have one that you can put on a deck or other hard, even surface that can be moved around for convenience in the winter months, assuming that it's not too big and you've taken the dirt out.

For someone who has less horizontal space and more vertical space, tiered gardens are a beautiful touch.  These are what catch my breath every time that I see them done creatively.  Sure, there are plenty of terrace gardens on hillsides and front yards but I'm talking about real space-saving gardens that can be grown between buildings, on balconies and stairs, or even just small yards and are staggered little boxes of color and lush greens!  Check these ideas out for fun. 

Putting gardens on shelves or troughs are another option for people with minimal space.  Next year, my big project is to put troughs up the sides of our little shed.  It gets plenty of sun and because the wood made to build it is of poor quality, I get to cover it up with plants where it's rotting away at the bottom.  My plan: combine a tier and shelf build so that there are different sizes of troughs (bigger at the bottom and smaller at the top for herbs).  I also want to "tilt" them a bit as they go up so that I can see the plants, but not too much because we don't want the soil to drain out!

If you have not checked out the windowfarms that were posted from yesterday,  definitely look into those, too.  They're another way to recycle old plastic bottles and got me really excited to do.  There's no reason to only do them indoors or in a window, though!  I would totally put them on a porch if I didn't include the watering system with them.  I think that they can help to keep herbs going inside during the winter so that you don't have to rely on dried ones for cooking.  I had done that in a pot beside my sink this past winter.  I had chives and basil all winter and the plants are outside now getting a good drink in the rain and lots of sun when it stops.

Gardening: The mood-booster.

Can Gardening Cure Depression?

This article examines the benefits of gardening that are the results of studies and observations.  Dirt and picking fruits and vegetables are apparently really great at raising serotonin and dopamine levels, respectively.  Is that why I enjoy gardening so much?  Perhaps!  Not to mention that gardening gets you out in the fresh air and the sun on top of all of this physiological chemical stuff! 

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Sustainable Urban Gardens

Lots of information to get from this website.  Unlike most of the websites that I have been looking at today, this one is not outdated.  I plan on taking this information and applying it to my small garden and gradually making it bigger as I get the time.

My favorite part of this site?  The windowfarms!  I had some small plastic rolls that were small light covers that are decorated with plastic origami-style designs that I was going to put together to make an herb arrangement hanging in my kitchen window or front porch on the metal railings.  I got so excited when I saw what they did with their windowfarms and how it is built!  I will definitely try this.

Low-Cost Containers National Home Gardening Club

Low-Cost Containers National Home Gardening Club

I think the boot as a planter is a great idea!  It could add some interest to my plain ol' front porch, which is in desperate need for decoration!  I think that I could find at least a million things to use to plant things in around the house.  What would be really great is using an old bookshelf, tipped to it's back and filled to the brim with vegetables or herbs!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Gardening different plants together: a small piece of the pie.

A thing about gardening from The National Gardening Association
Planting in succession helps to keep things growing in-season, year-round.  I hope to be able to plant long-term harvest-able plants as well as ones with shorter growing seasons all together.  Depending on your geographical area, you can get quite a variety, which excites me!  I'd better get to reading more about what I can do in my own area.

My beginning

I have set a few goals for myself for this summer to learn more about making less of an environmental impact in small steps.  I have planted a small garden in my backyard that consists mostly of tomatoes and lettuce, and I have already become used to line-drying clothes rather than using a dryer.  As the summer goes along I want to not only master gardening my plants, but to try more ways to cultivate what I have to give me a long-term benefit.  I also want to learn more about environmental and living issues that surround my community and I hope to be able to make an impact for the better on my world. 

My first main tasks that I have set for myself is to learn how to can food.  So naturally, I went out and bought a book about it.  If I wanted to save money I would have gone to the library, but I would have had to make many return trips to re-read any useful books.  Having one of my own was just a better idea.  My fiance is completely on board with this idea, especially because it involves food.  I just want to learn to make better quality things for our daughter and to teach her things that can bring us together as she gets older.  She's only 15 months, so I'm starting now so that I know what I'm doing when she's old enough to help out!

The garden that I have planted is only half-done.  I have started about 20 or more tomato plants that have yet to be put outside with the four that my father had gotten for me at the store.  I have lettuce and some very small cucumber plants that are just starting out as well, and I have seeds for hot pepper plants that are still in their packages.  I still need to dig up more garden space for my peppers and the rest of the tomatoes.  As far as herbs go, my father had given me some cilantro, chives, and parsley from his own garden because they volunteer every year for him.  My parsley is going to seed right now so I will get to learn what to do with that sooner rather than later.

The reason that I am using a clothes line right now is not because I like stiff clothing to iron.  Our dryer broke.  It was used when we had bought it and instead of going out and buying a new one, I convinced my fiance that line drying was a better option so that we can save money.  It is just about summer, after all.  If if was winter, it might be a whole different story.  I still need to fine-tune line-drying because ironing T-shirts for an hour or more is not my idea of a good use of the baby's nap time. 

I had graduated with my bachelor's degree in general studies this past month and have been watching documentaries ever since.  I wish that I was still in school because there is still so much to learn.  I decided that no matter what, I will keep learning about everything and started with Netflix documentaries.  This blog is to keep myself on-track with what I am learning and what I have already learned.  I want to look at issues on both a broad scale and a local one so that I can make a difference anywhere.  I think that I will start with food.