Browsing the archives for the gardening reference category.

Toying with lawn alternatives, cheap flower bulbs, huge cow bones and chicken poop ideas.

We had quite the eventful weekend around here. Most of our progress was homesteading related of course.

We built a spiffy fence panel that will divide our deck area from the rest of the backyard so that the free ranging chickens won’t be able to come up onto the deck and cover it with poop this year.


While grocery shopping over the weekend we scored some fun discount flowering bulbs to add to our garden that include hyacinth, lily of the valley and peony.

Bulb buying tip: buy spent plants!

I love buying the reject pots of decorative seasonal flower bulbs that have already bloomed. Sooo many people over look these for lack of knowledge about the plant and don’t realize they CAN be planed in the garden and will rebloom next year.

Also, the discount/ reject price is often way lower than what you’d pay for the plain old bulb it’s self in a catalog.

Take my hyacinth bulbs for example (I am so very excited about these!). I scored them for just under $1 a bulb when they normal sell in catalogs for $8-12 a piece. That is anywhere from a $63-$99 savings on the nine hyacinth bulbs I bought. Squee!!

Nathan planted about 5 rows of corn this weekend so now we have the tomato trellis behind our back garden fence and a mini cornfield growing in addition to our square-foot garden beds and our sunflower/bean tee-pee that we added this year.

One of the things we’ve been particularly annoyed with this year is the lack of grass freely growing in our front and backyard.

We decided to experiment with grass alternatives instead of re-seeding the lawn this year. Not only is re-seeding the lawn a financial burden but it also wastes a lot of water and precious time that could be spent focusing on more important things.

So, in the backyard we have several wild clover transplants that we are allowing to take over since all the dormant grass roots have been ripped out by our rambunctious, running dog. All winter and spring the backyard has been a mud bog.

Clover is a great, low growing ground-cover that the chickens will enjoy eating plus it doesn’t require as much mowing. When it blooms the flowers will benefit wild bees and the bees will benefit our garden, added bonus! Hopefully the clover will better withstand our soggy winter months and all the foot traffic!

In the front yard we are converting the lawn to a cottage garden that is a mix of flowering perennials and edible annuals. We already have a service berry bush bordered in irises as the focal point of the yard. When it’s done the goal is that it will not only be visually appealing but also a great source of produce for our family.

We also remedied our restless dog syndrome. Some of you may have seen my post on Facebook about our latest dog frustrations.

Dixie has been ripping our chicken fencing so that she can get to and scarf the chicken feed each day. Not only is this frustrating because she is destroying the fencing but it’s also frustrating because she’s taking food away from the chickens who need it right now since our yard has no grass for them to eat.

Turns out, a giant cow bone can occupy a high energy dog for days and days. The bone may have been the best $10 we’ve ever spent.

So those are the updates here on the half-acre homestead. How does your garden grow? Are you working on anything new this spring for the house or garden?

Starting Seedlings With Recycled Products

With spring just around the corner many people are making plans to start their seedlings indoors, us included. Before you plunk down the cash for a plastic seed tray or other starter system consider making your own while also reducing your household waste.There are a number of free alternatives to the commercial seed starting trays that you’ll find in most seed catalogs. The cool thing about repurposed no dig seedling starters is you are preventing these items from going to the dump while also saving some hard earned moola!

The idea of no dig seedling starting is to start the seeds in something that doesn’t require you to uproot the seedlings and transplant them in your garden. The planter and the planting material all go with the seedling right into the hole in your garden and the seedling just grows through the decomposing planter material and into your garden soil.

The plus to this technique is your fragile seedlings are less likely to experience shock. Also, you are replenishing your garden soil with compostable often nutrient rich material in the form of a decomposing planter.

Once we saw how easy it is to make your own seedling starters we’ve never gone back. Some seedling starting ideas that we tried in the past are:

Starting seeds in cardboard egg cartons

This works because the cardboard egg carton is a nice rectangle shape, plus the little egg holes are perfect seedling size and the egg carton is easily cut or separated when it is time to plant your seedlings in the garden.

Make papier-mâché cups from old newspaper.

These can also be planted directly in your dirt like the egg carton. All you do is shape cups out of sheets of newspaper, wet them, reshape them and then leave them to dry. In our experience these were less sturdy than the egg carton method.

With both of the above methods you just place your repurposed planter in a dish, tray or even a lipped cookie sheet to catch water seepage. Or you can just place your seedling planter in an existing pot of soil so the water seepage transfers to another growing plant.

There is new interesting idea we are testing out this year that you can also try:

Repurpose cardboard cereal boxes & paper product rolls

This is great with cereal boxes, cardboard freezer boxes, toilet paper rolls, paper towel rolls and similar items. Here is how:

  1. Take your toilet paper roll or cardboard box and cut them in half (or in sections depending on the size end product you want). Toilet paper rolls, cardboard cereal boxes can make 2 or more seed trays depending on your preferences about taping or folding corners under.
  2. Take your toilet paper roll cardboard box and and fold or tape depending on preferences.

Now you are set to sow some seedlings on the cheap and reduce household waste while replenishing the land around you. Go forth, plant and dream of spring.

Garden woes and thoughts of fleeing the homestead to have a baby…

It is not easy to up and leave in the middle of your season harvest after putting in all the hard work and anxiously awaiting the payoff.

We are fixing to abandon the garden now and turn our focus to the upcoming birth of Baby Sister. It isn’t as bad as it could be considering the garden hasn’t been all that productive. It’s been an off year for us, probably because Nathan isn’t ever home to tend the garden and with me all big and pregnant things weren’t planted to tended to as well as they should have been.

[POPUP=IMG1]The disappointments for us this year were peas, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, squash and potatoes. Squash vine borer and squash beetles killed off our plants right after the first setting of fruit. We had zucchini, pumpkin, gourds, butternut squash and they were all destroyed right away. It was the year of pest attack for us, I guess we weren’t proactive enough in the beginning cause the bugs pretty much killed off all the stuff we had going out back beyond our yard. Other than the tomatoes, beans and corn.

The successes are of course tomatoes, our favorite lemon cucumbers, pretty popping corn, lettuce did well, beans (soup and fresh ones), okra, swiss chard, radish, turnips, strawberries, collard greens, carrots, grapes, sunflowers and blackberries have done great.

We figured out the mystery of our Etna Bush Beans and were happy that the early ones we picked turned out okay. Apparently, the pods get white with red stripes (much like the beans inside the pod). They are best picked for drying and soup making once the pods show red and have turned white and begun to dry out.

Another Etna Bush Bean note is that once the first round of pods are removed, the plant will re-flower and set new pods… or at least our have begun to. This is a welcome surprise since our 8 plants didn’t yield as many as we had anticipated and many more will need to grow before we are making soup with them.

I was hoping to get a quart mason jar filled with soup beans this year, you know to grow a pound or two of soup beans for winter… Not sure how many rows and rows I’d need to plant for that. I’ll keep you posted though.


To harvest or not to harvest? Etna Bush Beans that is…

Google has led me astray. I’ve got my hands on the soup beans I’ve been coveting, the Etna Bush Bean but there seems to be no consistent information about the proper harvesting of these beauties. Google has failed me this time…


Decorating with nature: Osage Orange

It’s fall and we actually live somewhere that has a beautiful changing of the seasons so I wanted to try collecting and decorating with things that are found around the town this time of year.

On of the things we found by accident, while driving through a nice forest-like section of residential area were Osage Orange trees. We were calling the fruit Osage Oranges, also known as Hedgeapples but it turns out only the tree is called and Osage Orange, not the fruit. Osage Orange trees are cousin to the mulberry tree.

The Hedgeapple fruit from the Osage Orange tree isn’t orange but are instead a vivid light green with a bumpy texture and they look brilliant against the autumn tree line. This is how we came to notice them as we drove by one day.

They actually smell an awful lot like and orange peel which is where the name Osage Orange came from.

Once we noticed these Hedgeapples laying in the embankment near the road turned around, came back, pulled over and N jummped out to gather as many fallen Hedgeapples as he could for us to bring home.

We had no idea what they were but figured we could find something fun to do with them once we looked them up. Here I what I ended up doing with them:

Only the dehusked seeds are edible and I read they are quite a pain to get to so we opted to use them for their unique look. They really pop placed in a clear decorative bowl or near other decorative items in the house. I even put a few around a vase of slowers I have on the table.

Folklore says these are also a great deterrent for spiders and other bugs. Probably has something to do with the faint orange scent of them.

We are glad we pulled over and snagged some of these Hedgeapples though. They are a peculiar little fruit and I just love finding free, beautiful ways to spruce up the house and decorate for the seasons!

Stinking Spring Showers, Easter and gardening fun

Last week it rained quite a bit. Normally this wouldn’t be an issue except we just had a huge amount of mulch, peat moss and vermiculite dumped on our driveway so we could use it to prep the square foot gardening beds N built.

So the dirt and such has been a muddy mess in our driveway for like a week now. I am sure the neighbors love it too! We’ve been itching to get it moved so we can have our driveway back, plus we’d love to have the gardening beds done and growing food already. It’s just kind of hard to do yard work in the rain.

Today we are making it happen though, rain or shine we are knocking some things out. Poor N is in his rain jacket and putting the finishing touches on the planting beds and getting the fence and gate up.

Everly and I planted some bulbs during the breaks in rain but are back inside now that it is raining more. The mound of dirt wont be fully moved from the driveway by tonight but other stuff is getting done.

Speaking of storms, Thursday the rain and wind dragged Everly and I down the street and almost took our umbrella along. We survived, the umbrella didn’t.

Wednesday we got the photos we ordered from Everly’s 4 month old photo shoot. We are super impressed with the canvas prints. They are very cool and really stand out, see:

Oh, she’s got her third tooth in and the 4th is very close. She’s gonna have rabbit teeth for Easter is seems (both bottom and hopefully both top teeth). Speaking of rabbits. I haven’t shown you the finished crochet bunny I made her for Easter.

Here is the “in the process” shots:

And here is what the finished product looks like. Not perfect but pretty darn good for the first non-rectangular (or square) project attempted huh?

I learned a few crochet lessons that I thought I got prior to this project but in working on the project I realized I really didn’t get it and have been doing it wrong until this point.

  1. When chaining to begin work on the next row or round always skip one (or more depending on the stitch). This error really messes up your stitch count and compounds with each row. It’s part of the reason my colors aren’t lined up right.
  2. When working in rounds and it says chain then turn it really does mean you work back over the work you just finished, not working forward in a spiral type way around the round. This mistake makes your pattern seem wrong when it’s really not. It also makes picking up your accent color all whacked. Oops, my bad.

I am not expert crocheter, just learning as I go. This project made it obvious why. It was cool to begin and also finish a project that Everly will be able to enjoy in her Easter basket though. Now I need to get working on finishing that huge baby blanket I started while preggo with her.

Peonies survived the winter and the major swamp conditions!

Spring still isn’t quite here yet but some bulbs are rearing their heads though. I am happy that the three peony divisions we brought from our old, moldy rental house are resurfacing. I wasn’t sure if they had rotted away in the overly wet area we mistakenly planted them last spring when we just moved here.

Here they are poking their reddish heads through the soil, it already looks like they’ll be much stronger and estabulished this year.

On Friday the ground was more workable (aka, less muddy) and the temperatures warmed up a bit so we got outside and dug a second ditch for the sections of drain pipe we bought to divert the run-off from our gutters. You see it rains quite a bit here and apparently the soil used was a very poor choice, drainage wise. It just gets all swampy in the grassy yard after storms and the water does not dry up or drain away from the house, then we have Dixie running back and fourth in the mushy yard which makes the grassy swamp in to a muddy swamp in the spots she frequently runs.

Anyway, the first section of drain pipe I buried is already diverting water underground, away from the house and right under our back fence, in to the pond out back. Here you can see how it looks after I half-assed packed the dirt back down after burying it:

The second gutter drain pipe is burred under those three peonies that are resurfacing I also added some daffodils and daylilies to the bed and noticed some wild strawberries spreading around out there. You can see them behind Every and Dixie in the below photo.

Happily we got all the drain pipe laying and re-landscaping done before the torrential rains came through over the weekend. We got to see first hand how great it is to actually have the water draining off the house and out of the yard. Woho, our hard work has paid off!

We’ve got some pretty daffodil bulbs that have opened for our enjoyment too. Yay spring!

Ant invasion bites! Homemade ant killing recipes.

I’ve been running around the house like a madwoman cursing and going on just about every time I enter the kitchen. Everly thinks my rants are funny, I am not amused though. The cause: tiny black ants that are seeking warmth and moisture under things like the espresso machine and the water distiller. It’s a full-blown Ant invasion!

We’ve been plagued by these little buggers just about all winter. How they are entering the house I have no clue but we have been super diligent about keeping the kitchen clean and keeping foods sealed and out of their reach. Still ants come and take up shop in various spots. We’ve even noticed them living in the soil of a few of our indoor plants.

Now, come spring we’ll be able to take all the indoor plants out for re-potting and we can leave them out there until they are all ant free. In the meantime we have been trying all sorts of home remedies for annihilating the ants and ending the ant invasion.

Vinegar is a great kitchen disinfectant and it also is said to destroy the invisible ant trail (so other ants can’t find their way in). We’ve been spritzing vinegar water on them to kill and stop them from returning. Did this for about two weeks now but the ant invasion is not over. We also wiped the counter down real good between killing sprees. Still the ants return.

We tried a honey, sugar and borax “bait mix” with hopes of having them take the poison borax back to the colony where all the other ants would die after consuming it. Unfortunately, none of them really touched the poison bait mix. It was out for several weeks.

We have been told by neighbors to get some commercial ant bait/ poison since they had the same issue that was solved this way. It is just with our zoo of animals and Everly we aren’t jazzed about any kind of bug poison in the house. We try to limit our toxic chemical usage. We don’t even use bleach…

Anyway, today I’ve resulted to making up a different/ less toxic bait mixture. I found it here and am using the yeast, molasses and sugar one.

Sugar Bait

2 TBS Molasses
1 TBS Yeast
1 TBS Sugar

Mix and place mounds on paper, plates or in covered containers with holes.

Important: When baiting the ants to bring poison back to the nest, resist the temptation to kill them when you see them. You want them to live and take big juicy pieces of poisoned bait back to the nest for the rest of the colony to feast on.”

So far the ants are drawn to it, hopefully it does kill them. We wont know if it’s worked for another week or so though.

That means another week of becoming pissed every time we enter the kitchen and see the little bastards on the counter. Everly will be amused at least. Here is what the madness looks like today:

“Ants, ants, go away. Don’t come back another day…” May this ant invasion end very soon, please let it end soon.


Better results were had using a honey and borax mix.


2 TBS Boric Acid (Borax)
Jam (or Jelly, Honey, Maple Syrup)

Mix the boric acid with the jam or jelly to make a paste. Slather it on a piece of paper, a plate or in a covered container with holes. You may have to adjust amount of Boric Acid if the ants seem to eat up the bait like crazy, but are getting fatter from it instead of dying.

Mystery bulb indentification: Surprise Lilly or of the Narcissus species?

We snagged a bunch of free plants today that I was pawing through tonight. Now, the person who gave them to told us that we were getting iris and lilies. Upon inspection I am almost certain this is wrong. I am going to let you weigh in here because I am no know-it-all and this really has me stumped. I consulted Google but value your 2 cents much more.

Here is a look at what we have to go through:

Personally, I see daffodil looking things (the supposed “surprise Lily” mystery plant), tulips, daylilies (not iris), yucca and blanket flower.

This is the mystery plant we were told was a “Surprise Lilly” which is also referred to as a Resurrection Lily.

The bulb looks like it is of the Narcissus species to me. Maybe a mondo daffodil bulb… It can’t be a paperwhite because those can’t overwinter here and these bulbs have been naturalizing in her back yard for years though the ice storms and frigid winters. Take a look:

Every lily bulb I’ve seen has an artichoke like texture and doesn’t resemble an oniony looking smooth bulb like Narcissus often do. After some further reading I learned that the surprise lily is from the Amaryllidaceae family which also can look oniony and smooth. So now I am turning to the leaves for clues about what kind of plant this is.

Basically, I have no stinking clue what plant this really is. Let me know if you think you know! We are going to hold off planing them until we are sure. Don’t want to put them in the wrong location and have them die :-/

Only a few days left!

Just finished dividing my lily and iris in the garden in preparation for the move this weekend. They are all dug up, washed and are drying so I can box them up and move them. I just need to box up my pots now!

We spent the day taking furniture apart to conserve space and money. We are being charged for the length of truck we use not the weight so we are working hard to pack efficiently and disassemble everything we can.It’s amazing how little space furniture takes up when it is broken down, ha!

N is filling the water tanks on the RV, dumping the sewage, topping off fluids and checking tire inflation. He is also installing a Y-bar towing thingy on our Izusu Amigo so we can tow it behind our RV for the trip.

We started moving stuff in to the RV for the trip, I guess you can call it RV nesting. It is feeling more and more cozy and perfect for the trip. We are glad we bought it, it is going to make the trip fun.

The moving truck should arrive tomorrow and we’ll begin loading it ourselves *sigh*. Once we get stuff out of the house and in to the moving truck we’ll be able to see and begin working on cleaning this place in preparation for the inspection on Monday. Cleaning is my least favorite part of moving, wanna clean for us?

Our carpet cleaning is scheduled for friday. We booked SOS Carpet Cleaning because we know and like Kevin the owner.