Friday, September 23, 2011

Fall gardening checklist

Various shovels & hand tools - CHECK
Wheelbarrow - CHECK
Overgrown garden beds in front - CHECK
Naked, empty NEW garden beds in back - CHECK
Big box of hundreds of new bulbs to be planted - CHECK
Ibuprofen, acetominiphen & ice packs in freezer for my aching arms, legs and back - CHECK

Guess who is spending the weekend working on fall gardening projects...

Monday, September 12, 2011

Knitting Post - FINALLY

When Airman finished Air Force Basic Training, we received a packing list for civilian clothes he wanted.  Top of the list was a stocking cap.  Of course, I was not satisfied with sending 2 of his ready made hats.  I just had to knit him a new hat. 

So when an email from Patons came with this free pattern, I was inspired to use some of my sock yarn stash to whip out a light weight, breathable stocking cap, suitable for the hot weather in San Antonio, Texas.

Not only was this a quick, easy knit, but I fell in love with the mitered square shaping of the crown. Believe it or not, that was a new technique for me.  All in all, this pattern was the perfect inspiration to get me back in the mood to knit.  Lots of mindless knitting in the round with a little challenge at the very end.  (excuse the poor photo - the hat was in the mail before I realized what a bad picture I had taken)

Of course, with Airman being so far away, I had to use Peeps to model the new hat.  She wasn't too happy to be interrupted during school but she helped me out anyway.  Of course, she didn't put down her pencil or stop working the whole time. 

My Peeps is so happy to be back to work on homeschool.  I am blessed!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A long and eventful summer

I've been sooooo busy this summer. I was working 2 part-time jobs, both resulting in long hours on my feet and one requiring lots of scooping. Yes, I was back at the ice cream shop this summer. Needless to say, there has been little gardening, no knitting and lots of time spent trying to catch up on housework. Hence, nothing to blog about.
However the biggest news of the summer is ... my son is now an Airman First Class. We travelled down to his graduation from basic training this month. We couldn't be more proud. Not only did he make it, but he graduated as an honor graduate. He was in the top 10% of his class of over 600 trainees. Now he is in tech school to become a loadmaster. He won't be home for months yet but we are e-mailing, calling and skyping on a somewhat regular basis. Those were all things forbidden during the 8.5 weeks of basic training. I never knew I could miss someone as much as I missed my son this summer.
Anyway, here he is:
My son! My Airman! My Hero!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Too busy to write - wish you were here.

Preparations for Airman's graduation are in full swing around here. Too busy to say much but lots of photographic evidence of my garden progress.

This little fella was just hanging out in a pot of Hens & Chicks I have awaiting transplantation into my perennial beds. Frankly, I don't see the attraction of this particular napping spot. Seems a bit too uncomfortable, doesn't it?

Friday, April 29, 2011

One beautiful day sandwiched between days & days of RAIN

Well, at least one day this week was sunny and somewhat warm. It is has been such a gloomy, wet, depressing spring that the only thing that has kept me up and moving was my dreams of a stellar garden this year.

So, of course, I took advantage of this one lovely day to get some work done for the garden.

First, I transplanted all the seedlings into bigger and better homes. The pansies all went into their outside pots and they are in the process of being hardened off this week. I also transplanted tomatoes, zinnias, marigolds, basil, lavender, Queen Anne's Lace and a few pepper plants that survived (some nibbling creature has been eating the leaves off all my pepper plants - grrr) into bigger pots so their root balls can get a little bigger before transplanting them into the garden next month.

I then got to try out my new soil cube tool. I actually won this little gadget recently in a drawing at Highly Uncivilized. Since I so rarely win anything, it was a real joy when they contacted me. And now that I've actually tried it out, I am THRILLED that I won. It is one of those little gadgets that you look at and say, "Cool!" but then don't buy because you are just not quite sure if it is worth the investment.

Well, this thing totally is worth it. It was produced by Deeply Rooted Organics. Look at the nice, orderly blocks I turned out in a quick hurry this afternoon. The beauty of using soil blocks is the roots will air-prune themselves, meaning, when they reach the outside of the block, they send a message back to the stem to put out more roots. The result is a compact, healthy root system that will not suffer from root shock when you transplant them. Plus, there is no plastic pots to wash, store or throw away. So wonderfully green and organic, it makes me swoon.

It even came with a specially made pair of tweezers to move the blocks when it is time to transplant them. And it works, too. I had a few blocks that needed to be shifted around and it held the blocks together nicely as I lifted them into a better position.

I planted more tomatoes and peppers, so I can stagger harvests this year, as well as some sweet alyssum and sweet peas. For kicks, I started a few radish seeds as well. I plan on direct sowing most of them but thought it might be fun to experiment a little. I have room under my grow light for at least 3 more trays, so I'll be blocking up some more soil and starting more seeds soon. I just need to mix up more of the special soil mixture they recommend.

Might as well keep starting seedlings while it rains this weekend.

Come on, Sun. We miss you. Come back soon! And stay awhile next time, please!!!

Monday, April 25, 2011


Well, I've tried to post this a couple of times and Blogger hasn't been too eager to let me. I don't know, maybe it is discrimination against worms. Or maybe it hates my amateur photography. Needless to say, it has been a while since I could get things to work. Perhaps this time it will work (fingers crossed).

We arrived home from our spring break trip to a delightful little surprise on my doorstep - WORMS! Yes, the worms I ordered back in December finally arrived. I had purchased a black file box to house my worms quite awhile ago. I drilled 30+ holes all over it and filled it with damp newspaper shreds, coir and my new babies.

They seem to be adjusting to their new home quite well, although when I open the top to feed them, quite a few of them try to wriggle out. I keep reminding them that they will starve to death outside their new box but I guess you cannot reason with red wigglers.

It will be a few months until I can harvest the castings to use in my garden but I am having fun with my vermiculture experiment anyway.

In garden news, the trellis I made are installed and the garden beds are all weeded and ready for planting. I'll get some photos taken and up soon. The clouds have rolled in and the rain that is in the forecast for the next two days appears to be looming. So, I'll wait for a little sun before snapping progress photos for your enlightenment.

In knitting news, the baby blanket is almost finished. I need to knit 5 more inches or so, then I can bind off. THEN, I promise to take a photo of it and post it. Maybe I should just spend a day taking pictures of all the knitting I've finished in the past 5 months and get everything updated. Well, only if we can get some sun. It's been way too gloomy this month for successful photography anyway.

Disclaimer: All these excuses are merely a smokescreen. Truth: I have been too lazy to get the camera out.

Well, off to take Bubbles to swim practice. Ta-ta!

Friday, April 08, 2011

Gardening - At Last

The weather has been absolutely glorious this week. So, in spite of a sprained ankle and wrenched knee (long story involving skis, Lutsen Mountain and poor judgment), I got out into the garden this week and started a long-delayed, much anticipated project of adding some new flower beds.

I decided to be extra lazy efficient and do a lasagna layering method to get rid of the grass the new bedding area. I had harvested 30+ bags of maple leaves last fall and had them stored in black plastic bags over the winter. So yesterday, I spread the leaves over the grass, covered them with black plastic and spread wood mulch over the black plastic. The photo above shows the three different stages. Fortunately, the wind was not too strong, so I was able to tackle the job largely on my own.

In knitting news, I have started a baby blanket for a dear friend who just had their 5th baby. They had thought they were finished and had donated all of their baby stuff years ago. Then God blessed them with a miracle and they are starting all over again. I can hardly wait to see their newest son. Alas, I do not have a picture of the knitting progress but hopefully I can get one before I give it away this time.

Well, back to the garden. . .

Monday, March 21, 2011

Winter Sowing

My first venture into winter sowing is now underway. I used this booklet as a guide as I prepared my containers and sowed the seeds. As you can see, I made a bit of a mess but with the rain we had over the weekend, the mess is now all gone.

You can also see in the background that we will have snow on the ground. In some parts of the country, it is too late for winter sowing but, alas, in Minnesota, there is still time.

I have located a few more containers lurking in my stash of recycleables, so I may be adding to the collection. And since we have more snow in the forecast this week, it seems I won't be running out of time to winter sow for awhile yet.

It may sound like I am complaining about the snow but it is providential, actually. We took a chance and booked a ski vacation for spring break. The snow this week ensures that we will have good skiing while on vacation.

In other news, I have another great experiment in the works. I found a potato in the bottom of the pantry that was sprouting. So I cut it into a couple pieces and potted it in a container to see what would happen. Well, it is growing like gangbusters. I doubt I'll end up with any new potatos but it was fun to see what a potato plant looks like.

On the fiber front, I have recently resurrected an old passion for cross-stitch. I've been working on a small project in my spare time. I am also plugging away at cotton wash cloths. After listening to numerous complaints by my Hubby about the state of most of my kitchen linens, I've decided to replenish my hand-knit washcloth stash.

I've chosen a new pattern from Lily's Sugar'n Cream pattern website (you have to log in to see the pattern but membership is free) called Feather & Fan Dishcloth. It has a lovely ribbed texture that will work well for all the scrubbing we have to do around here.

Well, off to finish school with the girls and check in on all my little seedings in their various and sundry locations. Ironic how homeschooling and growing seedlings are so similar. They both require almost constant attention!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

If a picture is worth a thousand words . . .

Here are a 8 thousand words for your enjoyment.

Seeds are growing well. This weekend I plan on winter sowing more, and transplanting the bigger plants into real pots. With the warm weather this week, spring fever is reaching a peak.

Come on, snow, MELT!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Trellis follow up

Sorry about the delay. Life - you know - ummm, well, anyway.

Here is the next step. Now, the book tells me to glue the joints with pvc cement. I bought the supplies to do it but I am thinking about not gluing the pieces together. Just drilling some holes and screwing them together. The advantage to me is that I can disassemble them later. If something gets damaged, I can easily replace the broken part.

However, living in a climate that is prone to severe thunderstorms, tornadoes and blizzards means these should be very sturdy to stand up to strong winds. Would the joints be strong enough with just a few screws through them? Then again, nothing will stand up to a tornado anyway . . .

Any thoughts, friends?

Finally, the trellis sheet will be screwed to the frame. I am making four of these so far. I have several ideas on where to put them. I do need some vertical growing space in my vegetable garden this year, since I plan on growing peas, beans, ornamental squash and cucumbers vertically. However, these are so cute, I thought about lining them up along the side of my garage and training some flowering vines up them instead.

I am excited to get these finished and in the garden. Just got to wait for the ground to thaw enough to dig the holes.

Oh, and I found a plan for pvc garden furniture. The old grey cells are percolating away . . .

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Easy Garden Trellis

The Garden Fever 2011 continues to dominate my waking hours. And with the unseasonably warm weather this week, I was actually able to get out in the garage and start working on a new pet project.

I found this project in Easy Garden Projects to Make, Build and Grow. I purchased the supplies in early January, when the gardening bug was just too overwhelming to resist. The total cost for four 8 foot tall/2 foot wide trellises will be under $100.

I had the local lumber yarn cut the 10 foot pvc pipes down to 8 foot lengths. I then cut down the 2 foot lengths at home to accommodate the elbow joints and still fit within the 2 foot width of the trellis material.

I then used some fine grade sandpaper and removed all the print from the PVC pipes. Everything is now prepped and ready for gluing and assembly. Stay tuned for the next installment of Building o' the Trellis.

In weather news, we have had several days of above freezing temperature and little bits of grass are starting to appear around the edges of the yard. However, I am not getting myself too excited yet because the weather forecast for next week includes a significant (i.e. plowable) snow event.

Which is probably okay, since we have scheduled our spring break trip to a ski resort here in Minnesota and snow will probably be a good thing to have around.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Can't help but brag a little!

I just happened to attend an epic, historical event at my son's hockey game last night. If you happen to be into hockey at all . . .

Yup, my boy is a member of that varsity team.

Oh, and yes, I am very hoarse today

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

More Gardening Projects

Yup, gardening fever shows no signs of abating. I've been starting seedlings, transplanting, making new biodegradable pots and reading every gardening book or magazine I can get my hands on. I've made lists, drawn layouts for the vegetable garden and researched ways to recycle, upcycle and generally repurpose stuff for use in the garden.

At left is a picture of my new mini greenhouse hard at work sheltering my first transplants. After the little seedlings have developed their first set of true leaves, I move them out from the big germinating grow light set up and move them to the transplant set up. I purchased this inexpensive shelving unit from The Greenhouse Megastore for under $50. It is not the sturdiest shelving unit in the world but I bought it mostly for the three covers that came with it: A clear plastic cover, a black mesh cover and a solid black cover. I plan on moving this unit out of the basement and onto the deck later this spring and use it to harden off the seedlings before planting. I figure I can always find a sturdier shelving unit (or make one) later that I can still use the covers on. I bought very inexpensive florescent fixtures and hung them from the wire shelves to provide light for the plants until they are sturdy enough to bring upstairs into my 4 season porch. Having kitties means I have to protect these babies until they are too big for bratty cats to uproot.

My other big project is making more biodegradable pots for transplants. With a family of 6, we tend to accumulate more grocery bags than we can reuse. So I've been cutting them up and making little square pots out of them. Each paper bag yields 8 three inch pots or 24 one and a half inch pots.

I carefully open the bottom seams of the bag, and then cut down the side seam to open the bag up. I carefully peel away the handles, if the bag has them. I cut the bag in half lengthwise once and widthwise twice to make 8 nine inch (approximately) squares.

Then I fold the 9-inch squares in thirds in both directions. I cut one crease on each side to make flaps that can then be wrapped around the outside of the pot and stapled or taped. I'm not too fussy about these, since they are going to be filled with dirt and eventually rot away in the ground, so rough edges and uneven sides don't bother me. I use little staples from a tiny stapler that I figure will rust away very quickly underground. They are so fine, I am sure they won't last more than a year.

I set these pots in aluminum catering pans I bought in bulk at a party store. Then I can just pour water into the pan and let the moisture wick up into the pots, to keep from disturbing the little seedlings. The aluminum pans reflect the florescent light up and around, so it magnifies the light somewhat. I may end up adding some tin foil tents to the set up, just to further magnify the light from these low wattage florescent fixtures.

Well, there you have it. How to get a gardening fix when you live in the frozen tundra of Minnesota and your vegetable garden is still 3 feet under snow and the outside temperature is 3 degrees Fahrenheit.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Eureka! I have seedlings!

I'm so HAPPY! The ol' green thumb is alive and thriving underneath 60" of snow here amongst the Chosen Frozen.

It looks as though I have nearly 100% germination so far. Some of the pansies are still popping up and I have a few onions that haven't quite broken the surface but everything is looking FAB - U - LOUS!

I am knitting a little (new washcloths) but mostly, I'm playing around on my new toy, Nook Color.

Back to mooning and crooning over my itty, bitty, widdle seedlings.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Another long gap

Well, my well-laid plans have gone the way of those of both mice and men. But I am still here and kicking. I know I promised some pictures of FO's but everytime I pull the camera out, the battery is dead. Lacking any initiative and drive, I simply put it back, instead of plugging it in. Blame the grey, gloomy weather . . . blame the deep cold that has settled around here . . . blame whatever. I am just too blase' to care.
What is more, the knitting mojo seems to headed south with the birds. Instead of dreaming of cashmere and alpaca, knitting cozily way in front of a warm fire and sipping hot cocoa, I find my waking (and a few sleeping) hours consumed with plans for spring gardening. Yes, folks, I am completely backwards in the hobby mojo department.
However, I refuse to let the 40" of snow in my gardens deter me when I'm in the throes of garden fever. I have been pouring over the seed catalogs online, ordering flower and vegetable seeds willy-nilly. I've set up the grow light and ordered my sterile seedling mix. I've purchased and potted some new houseplants. I purchased and set up a little greenhouse unit in the porch to house the future seedlings. And I started a little herb garden for use in the kitchen.
And today, I filled some trays with potting mix and started the first round of seeds for spring planting. I have a flat of Giant Pansies in purple and gold all tucked up in it's black plastic tent and warming nicely in the dark. I have Marigolds and Zinnias and Lobelia set up under the grow light in their mini greenhouse and I even started some peppers and tomato plants to get a jump on the harvest season this year.
I also joined the American Horticulture Society, with the thought of becoming a Master Gardener someday.
Yes, I feel triumphant because I am overcoming winter. Yes, there may be 4 feet of snow on the ground. Yes, there are months before the first blades of spring bulbs pierce the frozen tundra. Yes, it is colder than a witches nether regions outside. But I will have flowers soon.
Mwahahaha! Who knows, maybe I'll feel energized enough to actually charge the camera and take pictures of the new baby plants.
(Any bets on whether the knitting mojo strikes right about the time I should be transplanting stuff outside?)