Skip to content

Vegetable Garden, Early August 2010

August 8, 2010

Though I got a late start and things still aren’t where they would typically be at this time of year, it’s amazing what about a month of growth can do!  Compare these two pictures, the first from July 10 and the second from today.

July 10, 2010

Today, August 8, 2010

The plants that have been most surprising to me are the tomatilloes.  I’ve never grown them before and they growing amazing well and so quickly.  They were spindly things when I first put them in the ground and I thought that they might die in the heat spell since they were so skinny and small, but they have surpassed the tomatoes in growth and have dozens of fruit set on them.  The peppers aren’t doing so great; I think it has, overall, been too cool for them.  Tomatoes are finally starting to blossom, but haven’t set fruit yet, so I don’t know that I’ll get much ripening before frost, but I’m going to cross my fingers and then consider row covers as our nights get cooler.  Potatoes are getting close to blossoming and I have fruit on the summer squashes; the cucumbers are growing well and I trellised them today.  I’ve got many volunteer chards around the garden that I just left and they are getting very big.  If we don’t have much of anything else, we will have lots of chard.

I took on a little project yesterday of whipping out some cheap-o compost bins.  We have a source for free 55 gallon plastic drums, so I rinsed out two of those, drilled 3/4″ holes in the body for ventilation and then, because the lid is fixed and not removable (unless you cut it off), I used a jig saw and reciprocating saw to make a flap on the top that can be wired open during filling and emptying and then pushed shut while it is cooking.  Theoretically our method of mixing will be rolling on the side every now and then.  Hopefully that will pan out and work in reality.

I cut halfway around the outside edge of the top of the lid and about 4" in on each side of the center line to create a flap (notice the organic label? only the best for our compost!)

Compost bin with the lid wired open


We’ve Got Eggs

August 3, 2010
tags: ,

Hatching eggs and raising chicks into cockerels and pullets has been such an exciting journey.  It’s amazing to me that in less than six months you go from this:

to this:

Our very first egg!

We  put the eggs in the incubator on February 1st, the chicks started hatching out on February 23rd and we got our first egg on July 30.  So, the whole process was just a couple of days shy of six months and the pullet was just a little over five months old when she started laying.  The best I can tell is that we only have one out of 8 laying so far and I’m pretty sure it’s one of the Australorps that’s laying and not one of the Australorp/Easter Egger crosses, though I’m not certain because some of the crosses are black like the full Australorps.  There are two black ones who have combs and wattles which are more developed than the rest and I’m relatively sure it’s one of these girls that are laying.  We aren’t getting quite one egg per day yet, but I know that it won’t be long before this one gets to laying regularly and the others follow.  The first egg was larger than I thought it would be.  I’ve seen some small pullet eggs, but this one was about the same size as a medium egg from the store.

We are still so excited when we go out to the house and find an egg because for the last month, it sometimes felt like they would never lay!

Cargo Pants Purse

July 24, 2010

I’ve needed a new purse for a while now.  I wasn’t too excited to make a new one, so I searched thrift and consignment stores and sales at other stores, but I didn’t find anything that I liked enough to fork out some money.  The main thing that was keeping me from sewing a new purse was the issue of pockets.  I really don’t like making them even though they are not hard.  Then remembered something I had read a couple of months ago about making a water bottle holder for kids out of old kid cargo pants and realized I could do the same thing with a pair of my old cargo pants and I’d have a ready-made pocket on my purse.  Next, I just needed to pick up some fabric for the lining.  I found a print I really liked, which also happened to go well with my cargo pant fabric, in the bargain basement of our local quilting/fabric shop; it was $1.25 for a fat quarter.  Then I purchased some cotton webbing for the strap from a chain fabric store.  For less than $5 I have a cute, functional little bag for myself.

Cargo pants

Piece that will become outside of purse

I removed the seams and then cut into a rectangle as wide as my fat quarter (22") and about 11" tall

I pinned the seams and sewed two stitches, one to create a "sleeve" and the other to close the bottom

I sewed the lining into a bag using the same method.

I didn’t take any other in-progress, but the rest of the steps include sewing the lining bag and the outer bag together  along the top edge with one inside out and one right side out, so that the two “right sides” are facing each other and the straps and also sandwiched in between the right sides, on the inside of the bag.  It’s very important to remember that the straps should be this way, otherwise when you turn it out, the straps could very well be sewn on the inside of the bag!  I know this from experience.  You will need to leave a 4″ gap for turning.  After turning them out so that the outside fabric is on the outside and the lining is on the inside and the straps are where they should be, press the bag so that the top seam is nice and flat, in preparation for top-stitching the edge.  Make sure to press the fabric under very well along the gap that you left open.  Top-stitch around the top edge of the bag.  For a closure, I sewed on a metal snap I had lying around, but you can also use velcro.  I considered using a magnetic snap, but my bag ended up a bit shorter than I planned and I didn’t want to position it as low as I would have needed to allow room for top-stitching.

Finished bag

Newly Planted 2010 Summer Vegetable Garden

July 11, 2010

For the past several years, my vegetable garden has been a sad excuse for a garden.  Really, the only garden that did exceptionally well was the first year that we tore out our lawn and turned the majority of our back yard into a fenced garden.  After that, I got pregnant with my last child and then things just never worked out quite right after that.  I’ve had various yields and planted various things, but I just never got my act together like I did the first year.  Some of the issues were funky weather patterns and most of them were financial and the remainder were time management and just plain laziness/not getting out there and working.  In regard to the financial issues, it has generally be an issues of putting out the money to buy a huge load of compost ($200+) and materials to build raised beds, because I’m not a big proponent of tilling every year.

In the years that I attempted a decent garden and didn’t purchase materials for raised beds, I tried  a hybrid weedless/lasagna gardening method.  It worked reasonably well, as far as yields, but was never weedless.  This year has been no different with the financial inability to purchase compost and raised beds materials, but when I thought back, I realized that the only year we had a great garden was the year we tilled everything.  When I looked into the price of a rototiller rental, I discovered that for approximately 60% more than one day’s rental, we could find a used rear-tine rototiller on Craigslist, which is exactly what we did.  This rototiller was a great price, but it needed a little work, though not as much as the previous owner had thought it would.  With rototiller in hand, my guy and I got the whole garden area tilled and raked the huge weeds out.  Then I laid out the beds and paths, and tilled the beds a little deeper.  If I had more time, I would have gotten a couple of loads of manure and tilled that in, too, as in the first year we had a huge garden, but since the time in which I could get a garden in was quickly running out, we just tilled the soil we have.  Though tilling still isn’t my preferred method, it sure beats not having a productive garden.

Considering the indecision and the time consumed figuring all that out combined with cool, wet weather well into June, even hoping for good yields out of a garden this year might be overly optimistic, but I’m going to give it a shot at least.  My garden plan has changed in a few major ways since the last garden planning post.  The biggest change was a rearrangement of paths and bed orientation based my husband’s suggestion.  It was actually one of those simple, yet brilliant suggestions.  In rearranging the main path directly from the garden gate to the chicken coop door , we also moved my clothesline to accommodate the new path.  It’s actually in mid-move, since it has only been removed; the move will be complete when it is rehung.

New 2010 Garden Plan

So, layout and tilling has been the biggest changes.  I’ve got basically the same plant list.  My tomato starts looked large and beautiful when I planted them and they are still looking good, but in the ground, they look much smaller than they do in a sunny window!  Though I’m behind on getting things in, I feel that I’m not as behind as I would be in a typical year, since the weather was so cool for so long.  I didn’t get any peas planted or harvested, which is a big disappointment, but most everything else has gone in, or will go in very soon.  I only lack planting carrots, beets, green beans and leeks.

See all the weeds in the background? That's what covered the entire garden before tilling.

Post-tilling, you can see the clothesline still in place

Garden, mostly planted.

So, that’s what’s going on in my garden. Hopefully the three-day heat wave we just had will jump-start the growth. I only lost one tomato plant and that one looked questionable when I put it in the ground.  Now that I’m starting with a mostly clean canvas, I need to learn how to wield my hoe often to keep it from getting overwhelmed with weeds again.

From Egg to Soup Pot

July 10, 2010
tags: ,

If you hatch your own chicks rather than purchase already sexed female chicks, one of the “by-products” will be roosters.  We can’t keep roosters in the city and even if we could, we wouldn’t need more than one for our small flock.  We had always planned to process and eat our cockerels, but when they started crowing a few weeks before I anticipated they would, we had to whisk them away to a friend’s farm until we could process them.  We planned to take a whole Saturday and do the deed ourselves, but by lucky chance, we were able to slip our six cockerels into a huge batch that our friends were having professionally processed.  I anticipate we will still need to learn to do it ourselves in the future when we hatch more eggs to replace aging hens and possibly to process even the aging hens, but for now, this worked out well for us.

We have Australorp and Australorp/Easter Egger crosses, which are not meat breeds, but egg-laying breeds.  Our processed 18 weeks old cockerels came in around 2 3/4 pounds each, which is not large, but was actually larger than I was expecting.  I was expecting their meat to be stringy, and it was a bit, but not exceptionally so.  I cooked two of them into a soup and reserved some meat for a stir-fry.  The chicken soup that I made was the most delicious chicken soup that I’ve ever tasted.  I described it to my family as tasting more chicken-y than chicken soup and it’s true.  The flavor was chicken squared.  The meat required far longer cooking time than a typical broiler, but it was very worth it.  I used the necks and feet to make a fantastic stock, which gelled impressively when refrigerated.

This one with the rust-colored feathers was one of our roosters. Clearly, from his facial tufting, he was one of the Easter Egger crosses.

Stuffed Platypus

June 14, 2010

Oddly, many of the crafts created in our house lately are being made by my oldest daughter, M. and many of them are for children.  We’ve had a lot of births and birthdays lately, which is why there are so many kid-centered crafts.  This time M. decided to whip up a stuffed animal the day before our cousin’s first birthday party.  She was looking for a stuffed monkey pattern, but didn’t find one that she felt comfortable making while short on time.  We did find a stuffed platypus pattern and decided that since you can’t just go to a store and expect to find a stuffed platypus that this also  had a nifty factor in addition to being easy.

Stuffed Platypus

This was a great project in addition to being quick because it uses a small amount of fabric. The denim that she used came from the lower 1/3 of  one side of a leg from old jeans and the feet and bill used very small scraps from a custom apron that she did, so some of those really small scraps that may have been tossed were useful.

Ripple Baby Afghan #2

June 7, 2010

I’m in love with ripple crochet patterns, particularly this one.  It’s amazing, to me, how a simple ripply stripe of color can pack so much more punch and interest than a straight stripe.  If the decor of our house was entirely in my hands, I would ripple every soft surface.  (Okay, obviously that’s an exaggeration, but I would cover a lot of the soft surfaces.)

I made this baby afghan for a sweet little cousin* that has newly arrived.  I was hoping that I would finish and mail it so that it would arrive before he did.  But in typical tardy fashion, I procrastinated for a few days and darn it if I didn’t miss it by a day or so!  I mailed it on Wednesday and my cousin went into (a very long) labor on Friday morning.  So, hopefully she will open the package before opening my blog.  I think there’s a pretty good chance that will happen since she’s kind of busy and tired right now.  Sweet Sebastian made his appearance on Saturday evening.  I love his name, particularly because it’s the name we chose for our second daughter, had she been a boy.

I always deliberate long and hard over the colors that I choose for a project.  It’s a pretty important part!  Knowing that he would be a boy, I wanted something un-girly but not overtly boyish either, because I know my cousins are not all, “Grr…dress the boy in blue and red lest he become effeminate.”  Their home has some purple in it and though purple seems to have become the new pink in girls’ clothing and decor, I still think it’s unisex.  Anyway, I love how the colors turned out and I hope they like it, too!

The next baby afghan I do will be in loud, bright colors, and I am trying to decide between using the same ripple pattern or trying this granny stripe pattern.  I think Lucy at Attic24 is a crochet genius and I always drool over her colorful pictures.  I also think that crochet is not given the credit it deserves in the craft world.  Knitters and specialty yarn stores  can sometimes appear be arrogant in believing their knitting is superior, but I think there are wonderful things about both crafts.  So, if you are a hooker, don’t be afraid  wield your hook with pride.

*He’s actually my first cousin once removed, but cousin is obvious easier to say.  Though it’s been said I should call him my cousin’s baby.  However, since he’s my children’s second cousin and technically my cousin, too.  We’ll call him cousin.