Wednesday, July 31, 2013

No more ugly door

Oh I see a brown door and I want to paint it blue... ok so it really doesn't sync with the Rolling Stones "Paint it Black"

but do y'all remember my crappy brown entry door? The oh so fine 1960's/ 1970's Goldilocks Door? This window is too tall, this window is too short and this window is just right...

Well now it is Rustoleum's Royal Blue. This wasn't my first choice in color but I had this on hand from an old project so I say use what you have

Making some progress...
Before I began, I cleaned the door, sanded, tacked it off  and wiped it down with IPA. I didn't use a primer because Rustoleum enamel is a highly pigmented paint. I am thinking that may have been a mistake not to prime first. 

4 coats later
I think it needs another 1 to 2 coats 

I hate the windows and wanted a little privacy, so I decided to jazz them up a bit. I dug around in my craft box and found some frost effect paint

and a stencil (Martha Stewart's Arabesque)  

It dries more evenly pigmented than this.

A vast improvement at no cost to me since I already had all of my supplies!

I need to take a razor blade to and touch up some of the excess smears but overall I (and surprisingly the hubbs also)are happy with the results. 

Up next... a new door knob--maybe something like this in antique pewter?

The hubbs is gonna power wash the house just to clean up the accumulation of grime.

I found some shutters that I like (simple flat panel) painted in the Royal Blue, of course

Right now my house looks a little too much like White Castle with the blue and white but I have a vision...
I am in love with this color scheme--Butter cream yellow, bright white trim and an accent of royal blue. It looks so happy!

but I also like this color palette because it is more subdued.

Whatcha think?

Monday, July 29, 2013

How I Began Holistic Gardening (Part 3)

Welcome back. I am glad you hung in there for part one and two of my journey to Holistic Gardening. Let's wrap this up shall we...
I left off around the year 2000 when we purchased our 1881 house. The yard and garden-if you could call it that-were decimated.  We attempted to tame a 60 x 250 vegetable garden that was overrun with weeds,
looked gray and was baked  hard as a brick from the hot sun. It was so sad and  depleted of all it's nutrients. The first thing we did was hire someone to come in and disc the plot. Then we had a truckload of manure delivered and tilled in. And we waited for the weather to warm up from a chilly Spring to the balmy first days of Summer. And I dreamed of vegetables not confined in pots.

Suffice it to say our first year was an unmitigated disaster ( I will share in a later and very lengthy post). I thought I could fool Mother Nature with one application of manure and have well balanced soil. Yeah, it didn't work out like that! 

Now during this time,after  the first year (2001) we lived in our house I experienced a double whammy. I experienced a VERY serious health issue, resulting in surgery and then --WHAMMO BLAMMO- I lost my job. I had 8 weeks of laying on my back recovering with nothing better to do than contemplate life and read. Since life was kind of depressing at that point, I chose to read things that provided a mental escape, by reading  lots of trashy romance novels, any magazine I could lay hands on and my beloved gardening books.

As soon as I began to recover physically and could manage it, I found myself in the garden. Even if only for fifteen minutes at a time, it was worth every agonizing pain of making my way through the yard.  I needed to emotionally recover and working on and in the garden- albeit  physically exhausting- was the balm that soothed my soul.  I nurtured the garden and myself at the same time. 

This was the true beginning of the holistic gardening for me.  

I worked on amending the soil after buying a cheap soil testing kit. As I made the soil healthy I also began to read more  natural pest controls and about companion planting since I didn't want to use any pesticides. I wanted my backyard safe from toxins. I wanted to develop a natural habitat for animals. I wanted to bring in the good bugs and prevent the bad bugs. I wanted my own little utopian ecosystem a little bubble away from the world.

It took time to turn the dirt into good soil. We added a broadcast of 10-10-10 fertilizer,  composted manure, peat moss, wood ash, straw, a bag or two of bone meal,  grass clippings, pine needles and leaves. We actually went and got garbage bags full of pine needles and leaves from friends houses (since we are sadly lacking in trees) to add to the soil.  Haha people thought we were certifiable for asking for leaves but they also knew we would rake 'em up so they were more than happy to oblige. We used whatever I could get my hands in those days to feed the soil--we dumped in old buckets of used potting soil, shredded newspaper (not any glossy paper), rinsed eggshells and coffee grounds. 

We planted small areas of the garden while we were working to amend it but gardening in blocks. It sorta looked like a giant checkerboard  We always had a few blocks open to lie fallow or was sown with a cover crop -clover- then mowed and tilled in. We rotated our plantings to limit the possibility of diseases and pests. Slooowwwlllyyy, the soil came alive. It took another 2 years before we saw worms in the garden. By the 3rd year we had ladybugs and mantids. And I actually cried because I KNEW my garden would make it and I finally knew I would be ok.  It was a rather zen experience nurturing my garden and myself.

Although there was an incident in 2005 where the hubbs was trying to "help me" when I was recovering from another surgery. Let's just say, he did some very bad and stupid using Sevin Dust and pulling out my tea herbs and medicinal plants. He was lucky I couldn't get up  because I totally would have gone "Fried Green Tomatoes" on him... As a result of his "accident" it took about a year to recover from the initial pesticide application and 3 years before I saw lady bugs and mantids in the garden again. I never did replace my medicinal and tea garden...siiiggghhh

Fast forward to 2008...I thought I had it under control and was feeling pretty smart about the whole gardening game, when I began to learn about permaculture. Permaculture was more on the fringe than organic gardening in the 1970's and was rather a quiet revolution.  Permaculture is defined as a branch of ecological designecological engineering, and environmental design which develops sustainable architecture and self-maintained agricultural systems modeled from natural ecosystems. What this means is is self sufficient, self sustaining and looks at the sum of all the elements involved as opposed to the individual elements.

Here is a partial list of permaculture principles (as applied to gardening)
1. Observe and interact-Some plants commonly referred to as weeds can actually be medicinal herbs  or host plants for beneficial insects.
2. Collect natural resources when abundant and use during times of need-Rainwater collection for irrigation 
3. Obtain a yield-Use what you grow and grow what you use. 
4.  Produce no waste-recycle, reduce, and reuse. Don't throw away those veggie scraps, grass clippings,  pruned twigs or coffee grounds--make compost;  reduce your natural resource wasting lawn by turning into a wildflower garden, edible garden or use xeriscaping; reuse containers to start seedlings.
5. Integrate rather than segregate- avoid monocultures (single mass planting which involve crop rotation) and embrace polyculture or companion planting. Introduce biodiversity stimulates plant growth, increases resilience to pest and diseases and attracts the beneficial insects.
6. Use small and slow solutions-things in nature do not occur overnight nor in one season. It takes time to build the composition of your soil, regrade the land and achieve harmony in your ecosystem. 
7. Use and value diversity-diversity reduces vulnerability

There is so much more to permaculture and I will talk about patterns, layers and zones in a later post.

I was feeling pretty good because I had already done a lot of the permaculture concepts. I tweaked a few things like looking at how certain plants grow in nature. I began implementing more companion planting with both flowers and edibles. I learned about water conservation and rainwater collection. Which I am STILL working on...

Two years ago my job was winding down and I had a substantial amount of free time which I spent perusing the internet and came across integrated pest management (IPM) which is a multi tiered approach for managing pests from a large scale agriculture to the backyard garden.  The premise is not all pests and weeds are bad, just because you see a pest doesn't mean control or eradication methods are required. IPM encourages bio-pesticides--naturally occurring substances, such as  plant derived pesticides (Pyrethrum), insect's to combat infestation (ladybugs, parasitic wasps , assassin bugs and green lacewings), microbes BT (Bacillus thurengiensis) and other organisms for pest control.

Science is constantly finding new organisms  (microbes, insects and plants) from naturalized biodiverse locations to bridge the gap  for effective and environmentally responsible bio- pesticides for weed, pest and plant disease management.

So there you have it. My foray into organic and holistic gardening. What began as a quest to educate myself took me on journey of self discovery. There is SO MUCH MORE I want to share with you on holistic gardening and all of it's nuances (Companion planting, Permaculture, IPM's and Biodiversity) but I literally could write the equivalent of a book and still not scratch the surface. However, I will through a series of additional posts provide more specific detail to some of the natural methods I use.

I hope you enjoyed reading a bit of the backstory and even more so I hope you will begin a quest to garden holistically.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Swimming in Vinegar

Not in the literal sense of course because that would burn and be kinda stinky. And not to mention weird! No, I say I am swimming in vinegar because I have my very own picklepalooza going on here at MyCozyLittleFarmhouse.

I guess that is what happens when you pull in a harvest of  20 lbs of zucchini, 14 lbs of yellow squash and 10 lbs of cucumbers. Y'all my back is aching from the toting of the harvest baskets and eyes are burning from chopping all those dang onions. 

Time to get my pickle on...

Cucumber Bread and Butter

Zucchini Relish

Hot Squash Pickles

Dill pickles in process.

I will be glad when my house doesn't smell like vinegar!

What are YOU canning?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Say 'ello to my not so little friend...

My kid borrowed my food processor, indefinitely, so I decided to "upgrade".

Say 'ello to my not so little friend...

Oh yes, a metal die cast base, 14 cup capacity, 3 different bowls, adjustable blades and a 1000 watts of lightening fast chopping/dicing/ shredding obliteration. mwahahaha....excellent

This sucker wasn't cheap. I actually broke into sweat when slapping down my magic plastic (Macy's) card. Macy's was having a 1 day sale with all kitchen appliances were 40% off. I also had a my star rewards coupon for 20% off. So I got this bad boy for 60% off. Except it still cost more than the first car I ever bought.  I like to think of it as a long term investment. The motor has a 20 year warranty so that says something about how invested I am in this, haha.

I am telling you I LOVE this thing. It is not nearly as noisy as my old Black n Decker. Just take a gander at ALL of the stuff that comes with it.

It actually has a 77 minute DVD in addition to the instruction and recipe book.

All the blades are stored in a locking case that even has a drawer! Oh my god y'all that is like neatfreakiness nirvana right there!

Did I mention my cutting blade is adjustable?  From 1 to 6 mm and the shredder blade is reversible for fine and medium shred.  It also came with a dough blade...WOOT!

I think this is my new best friend! Well at least during the canning season .

Oh yeah, BTW,  this is my opinion of which I am not being compensated by Cuisinart. But if they want to pay me, this is crazy but call me maybe?  LOL

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

New Recipes Posted

Hello all my dear bloggies. As you know, I have been remiss in posting on the blog or at least posting sporadically; however,  have been very active on 
MyCozy LittleFarmhouse Facebook page.

I have some new recipes posted, just click the link and it will take you there.

Southwestern Style Stuffed Zucchini Boats
Because you gotta do something with all those zucchinis
30 minute Sweet n Spicy Glazed Chicken
This my take on homemade chinese
Spinach and Ricotta Manicotti Primavera
It's pasta and cheese...'nuff said
I hope to see you there!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Freaky garden stuff

Y'all there is some freaky stuff going on in my garden...mutant vegetables, mutant bugs and a mutant pepper plant on it's way to being a pepper tree. 

Did someone come and dump radioactive ooze in my garden when I wasn't looking?

My mutant radish, compared to a normal sized radish, weighing in at a whopping 12 ounces, Unfortunately it wasn't  edible since ants had decided to make lovely home in the center of it.  It was neat cutting it open (besides the ants)...because I did the omg there a kazillion creepy crawlies everywhere dance. It appeared to be a quadruplet radish, 4 for 1.  Oh well in the compost  bin it went.

Congratulations-twins, sorta like the movie TWINS-the runt one on the right is Danny Devito and the hulking, steroidal looking one on the left is Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Pepper tree, anyone?  See the puny, normal pepper plant compared to my mutant? Look at the stalk on that sucker!

Any superhero sized veggies or plants in your garden?

Sunday, July 7, 2013

It isn't all doom and gloom

Some things look kinda happy from all the non stop rain. Although I have lots of mushrooms growing everywhere. Not that I would harvest them because 1) I don't eat them and 2) I don't want to poison anyone because I don't know a good one from a bad one.

I wish the grapes were ripe. I am debating if I need to to put netting over them yet so the birds and other critters don't get them before I do.

Nice fat jalapenos. Please turn red soon...

Sweet, crisp leaf lettuce

I am so impatient for some ripe tomatoes...Please turn red soon...

A few strawberries peeking out. I am glad to see them still producing.

Everything is! Ok, except for the yellow squash-which still aren't ready yet! I was so excited to a little pop of red from the strawberries. All this rain is washing all nutrients away. The tomatoes and squash got a boost of calcium and everything else ended up with a compost side dressing.  Last year was to hot and dry. This year is to cool and wet. You just never know what Mother Nature is gonna dish out.

Well in this case Mother Nature gave  me 2  1/4 lbs of zucchini so far!  And yes I know they are small. I like them small and sweet. I hate when the get big and fibrous. Although I probably could have waited another day to harvest these. No worries though, there are  quite a few more waiting in the garden for me. Not sure whether to make zucchini bread, a small batch of relish, pickles or just saute it and eat it! mmmmm

And at least I got a picture of this pretty butterfly on the Monarda (Bee Balm) in between the rainstorms. Anyone know what type of butterfly this is?

How is your week in the garden?

Friday, July 5, 2013

The neverending rain train

I know some parts of the country are struggling with heat and no rain, so I shouldn't complain but it is ridiculous here in the Midwest! We are getting rain every other day, if not daily! 

Our 7 day forecast
LOCAL 12 Planning Forecast

According to NOAA our ytd rainfall is 26.08 inches compared to last years 18.97. The average accumulation is 23.07 inches. We broke a record yesterday with it being the 4th rainiest Independence Day in Cincinnati history with 1.36 inches of rain.

My rain gauge is full. I have emptied it periodically. some of this could be from days when we had the hose out.  We have had 8.06 inches of rain since June 1st, with the average rainfall for the same time period is 4.48 inches

Water logged planters

The pool is overflowing

The rising creek. The bank was very slippery and muddy, so I couldn't get to close. Maybe we should have built that boat ;-)

Something is nomming on my brussel sprouts but everytime I spray the neem oil it rains and washes it off!

Everything is a goopy mess. I couldn't get in the the big garden to harvest. I tried to buy straw bales but haven't been able to locate any  so I used cardboard. Whatever, it works for now.

I am concerned I am gonna have rot from the excess moisture. I am going to feed the tomatoes an extra boost of calcium to avoid tomato blossom rot. I will  need to keep an eye on the squash because they can get blossom rot too. 

Siiiggghhh...what is your weather and garden dilemma?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Happy July 4th

I hope everyone has a safe July 4th and that includes our furry friends

More pets are lost on Independence than any other day of the year.

What you can do to keep your pets safe:
Keep your pets indoors during fireworks
Never leave your pets unattended outdoors even in a fenced yard
Make sure your dog is microchipped and/ or wearing a current ID tag
Make sure the microchip information is accurate
Keep a current picture of your pet just in case

Monday, July 1, 2013

Instant Garden (at a super cheap price)

I often wonder how many times I say, "I was at Home Depot/ Lowe's/ Tractor Supply/Rural King/ Menard's / Fill in the blank and I found..."?

So yes- it is going to be one of those posts.

I was at Lowe's and that had a crap ton (which is ALOT of stuff) of perennials marked down to a dollar.

Doesn't it look pretty?

Like I was gonna pass that up, haha no way!!

  (because my trunk/ car because it was full of stuff I was taking to Goodwill for a donation drop off)

I only bought:
6 Shasta Daisies
6 Penstemon
3 Coreopsis
2 Rudbeckia
2 Trailing Cranesbill

I was so excited I almost forgot the main reason I went in there which was to buy some tomato cages because I didn't feel like making any. One of my neighbors gave me 5 more tomato plants and 3 pepper plants. They aren't all heirlooms but it wasn't like I was going to say no. haha

Lilies, Daisies, Coreopsis and Rudbeckia
As I mentioned in an update the kids bought a house, which has nooooo landscaping. I made them a planter barrel but for a buck a piece how could I not get them some plants. Although, no doubt some of these will find their way to one of my garden  beds.
Daisies and dianthus--MINE!
Fortunately for me (and my wallet)  there is a torrential downpour since I don't feel like swimming to Lowe's. I'll be nice and save some plants for other people...


Except the kid called and when I told her about the sale, she said the magic words...
"I'll be there in a few minutes and I have my SUV" 

So much for restraint, haha

2nd trip I bought ...
5 Asiatic lilies
5 fountain grass
4 dianthus
3 bee balm *
1 butterfly bush
Everything was a buck except for the bee balm
*(these were $3.00 each marked down from $7.98)

I think  it is gonna be a nice housewarming gift (well part of it anyway) and the best part?
They are on their way to an instant garden in their first home!

Bee balm, trailing cranesbill,  dianthus
Scarlet Fountain Grass
Butterfly Bush
Here's the cost breakdown

Quantity Original Price Full Price Cost Sale Price Sale Cost
Shasta Daisy
6 $5.98 $35.88
6 $5.98 $35.88
Asiatic Lilies
5 $7.98 $39.90
Fountain Grass
5 $7.98 $39.90
4 $5.98 $23.92
Bee balm
3 $7.98 $23.94
3 $3.68 $11.04
2 $7.98 $15.96
2 $3.68 $7.36
Butterfly Bush
1 $7.98 $7.98

$241.76 Total (pre-tax) $43.00

$229.67 Discount (5%) $40.85

$15.71 Tax (6.5%) $2.80

$213.96 Grand Total $38.06

I saved $175.90...WOOT!!!!

Anyone else score some good deals lately?

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