Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Attack of the Fungas Gnats!!!

Ugh.. I don't know what it is but EVERY year I get these darn gnats. This is the first year I was able to find out more information about them though. These little buggers can kill a seedling off in 2 days and an almost ready to transplant plant in about a week.

Normally when they started flying around I was able to spray and get them killed before I lost all of my plants. This year it's a little bit harder. They have invaded my aquaponics systems. I have all my seedlings and almost ready to transplant plants in my grow beds. I can't use any of the normal pesticides (and Corey and I agreed starting this year everything as close to organic as we can get) Yet I also can't afford to loose all 150 plus seedlings!

So I'm doing a 4 step approach. 1st thing I did was get the mosquito dunks. They are safe for plants and fish. These went into the fish tanks. I researched them ad the BT is commonly sold in jugs for Aquaponics.

Then tank by tank I am taking all the plants out, pumping almost all the water out into the fish tanks (the fish love bug larva) and then adding enough rock to get rid of any standing water spots. The Fungus gnats lay eggs where it's wet and the larva live and grow in the moist environment where they eat plant roots and fungus.

Then I am replanting the seedlings. Please note a few things. First make sure you get the roots into water. Second if your seedlings are really small, immediately transplant into another box, they can't take the 30 mins out side of their watery environment and will litteraly melt in front of your eyes.

I have also hung up one of the sticky flying bug traps over the beds to help catch the adult gnats. I realize this could take up to 6 weeks to get them all gone.. but hopefully I'll have saved my plants. So far the beds I've fixed are doing really good.

So if you see little white things that move like crazy when you blow gently on the surface of your dirt or other growing medium strike fast or you could loose your seedlings

More info and picture of fungus gnats

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Spring has sprung around the house!

I am running a bit behind on my Spring things to do list. We really didn't get to start on much of my list until this month so I'm a bit behind.

I have finally reached Blog Spring cleaning, mainly because it's so wet outside and continues to rain that I'm skipping ahead on my list.

One of my big Blog cleaning things to do was to fix the name/title on the top...  So now you can see my "Spring Title" I hope to have pic's with my title in them for every season we go through :)  Remember I said "I Hope" :)

My other 2 goals, organize the Tags and put up more pictures. It's all well and good that I describe everything but  I need to get pictures up so you can see what I"m describing.  Last year we didn't have a usable camera for much of the year, but we do now.  So please bear with me if something seems out of whack over this next week. I hope to have everything Spring Cleaned... but if there's a break in the weather... you know where I'll be :)


Okay I'm dancing up and down over here. I'm just that excited. After much talk Corey and I are putting up Laundry lines :) I know probably not what any one was thinking.. but for me I just can't wait to use it. My mom is probably reading thins and rolling her eyes :)

I know I complained a lot growing up about having to cart the wet laundry to the line (had to haul it up steep stairs and hope we missed any landmines :)  But I am looking forward to the smell and feel of line dried clothes. That and what can I say.. if I had to do it, why shouldn't my kids? He he

After talking with Corey the argument went something like this... It will smell better, won't heat up the house, will save money on electricity, will be outside work.. will be physical work... all sounded good in his book.  So this week our laundry lines go up. With trees every where and garden every where else we did have to get creative to find our spot.. so if you drive by our house yes those are the holey jeans I patched waving in the wind in our side yard, next to the swing set, where the whole world can see them :)

Can't wait to let my laundry wave in the wind :)

It's that time of year again.

Yes! The weather is getting warmer and we can stand to be outside with our overalls and sweatshirts on! This means it's garden time again. After reading from a lot of sources about the prospect of a global food crisis it's really starting to hit home. Thanks to a blog I read our new motto is to "Garden like you can't go to the store."  

Really the way we are looking at things, are we going to be able to afford an extra trip in to town for groceries with the way gas prices are?  Are we going to be able to afford veggies with the gas prices going up and shortages added to that we could really see some things go through the roof price wise? How safe are the foods that we will be getting? Will they use more pesticides and hormones so that they don't run the risk of loosing more vegetables?  

And then again everything could be just fine... but do I want to find out the hard way or be prepared?

This year to help us prepare for what could happen and save money and eat healthier either way we are adding at least another  100 square feet of garden space. There will be at least 3\4 raised beds added to the front yard. The side yard will be done in raised beds and we are expanding to part of the back yard.

We now have 7 Aquaponics beds, 4 of which are in full swing and growing like crazy. After the plant starts get put out in the big garden we will reseed with more that will be left to grow in the house to supply us over the winter.

Simple Changes BIG Budget Impact

As a stay at home mom I can say honestly I miss working outside the home. No I don't miss the crazy boss or the why is your kid sick again. But I miss the feeling of accomplishment and the time spent away from my kids and husband and house.

But I'm very practical and have looked at the math up and down and backwords and forwards. If I were to go back to work even making the $13 dollars an hour I was making as an admin assistant when I left my last job I would be loosing money...

After you add up the Daycare, Gas, Second Car, Higher Insurance, Lunches, Dress Clothes, Shoes ect.. we would loose an extra 5 to 8 hundred dollars... instead of bringing home that amount. Then you also have to think about your employment record. Saying I was unemployed because I was a stay at home mom is better then saying I was fired from my last 4 jobs because of my kids. With everyone in this family having a medical issue I always felt disjointed and missed more work then I ever wanted.

So I'm a stay at home mom. This year I am making it a point to not only educate myself more about Green/Zero Waste/Urban Homesteading.  I am also trying to implement simple changes that will have a big impact on our Budget.

This has really opened my eyes.. Some of it was a real shocker to both Corey and myself.

Take Laundry Soap. We use the cheapest stuff running us about $7.00 a month for soap and $4.00 a month for Softener.. So a year is $84 to $100 for Laundry Soap and $48 for Softener

I can make a 10lb Loaf of plain Cold Process Soap for around $15 depending on the price of oils. (averaging on the high side)  After curing time I have enough soap to grate and then dry for powder to get us through at least 6 months of Laundry. Add a box of washing soda at $2.50 every 3 to 6 months and there's our detergent. $40 at the most for a full year. Softener I've been told you can use white vinegar which I already use as a cleaner around the house and for pickling so we ALWAYS have this on hand. I just saved at least $84 or more a year in laundry supplies, not to mention all the bottles and dryer sheets that won't be thrown into the landfill.

Yes grating soap takes time but come on, grab a grater, a bowl and throw in your favorite movie or TV show and you can get at least half if not all 10 lbs grated. Leave it in a couple of trays to dry out and it didn't take any time away from you.. you just used the time you were already wasting... for something productive :)

My next big realization in the last 2 weeks.. we buy tons of ready mixes.. more then I thought, from Pizza dough, to muffins, to pancakes , to waffles.  I can make all these things with my sour dough starter that's already sitting on my counter, the flour, sugar, powdered milk, oil and eggs we already buy in bulk and have on hand.. so why am I spending so much on packaging and preservatives when I could be making it myself?

My husbands newest realization has been in the form of cheese. We always bought the big bag of co jack shredded cheese from Wally World. for about $8.00. This month we spent $14 on a huge block of Co jack that had weight that was 3 1/2 times the weight of the bagged cheese. I put it in a container and have been shredding it as we go. Corey realized his stomach is not bothering him anymore. We are also using less cheese because it really melts and gets all gooey and tastes like cheese.  So for the extra 3 min it takes to grate cheese were saving money, packaging, and not getting a ton of preservatives. (I use the tiny grating part so it spreads out easily)

Snack/Cookies  I bet you have some in your pantry right now. You know like a bag of Chex mix and some yummy cookies... We don't. Do you know for the price you pay for the big bag of Chex mix you can make 2 Gal sized Canisters of it? And make it as spicy or as sweet as you want?  We make a batch of Chex mix, a batch of Puppy Cow/Muddy Buddies, 2 batches of Cookies and a big batch of Garlic Cheerios (generic of course). We have a canister or tub for each and can see when were getting low. Most all of these take some of the same ingredients, like butter, garlic salt, season salt ect.

Bread  another way to save money. It sounds like it would take a bunch of time but it really doesn't if you plan it out right. One evening you mix your dough and kneed it really well. Leave to rise over night. In the morning kneed again and separate into rolls or loafs. Bake before or after lunch or dinner if you don't get home till late. Once again you save packaging, and preservatives going into your family and you save money. We make rolls instead of loafs, they seem to take up less room in the freezer and they are a grab and go snack for the kids. One day a month we make enough for the whole month then freeze. Another day we make breakfast rolls for the month. The have Cinnamon, sugar and sometimes nuts in them.

It sounds like a lot of work but honestly I enjoy it and the whole family helps. Its another way we spend time together as a family

Friday, April 15, 2011

Wow so much to do!

Wednesday was such a wonderful day! Corey and I and Colty were able to get the Right side of our front Rose beds cleared out.

This side has been much neglected the last 2 years since it didn't have anything except 3 Store bought Rose's and a few flowers in it. I can say that it would get fully covered in weeds and stay that way because nothing of great importance was growing in it. Well, this year that's changing. Last fall I managed to clean out a small area to plant Strawberries in, but the Violets came back with a vengeance and are suffocating out my Strawberries. Never fear though. Corey and his trusty shovel have been out working hard and almost all the Violets are out :) Not to mention thanks to the girls and Colty half of it already has wood Chips down :)

After working out there for a while Wednesday when Corey got up, we enjoyed a picnic lunch in front of the house. This was such a nice treat. Colty and Corey cleaned up the table we were given last year, while I made sandwiches on our fresh Sourdough Rolls. While enjoying our break we saw a few Finches enjoying the new swing set and sigh... the first Wasp of the season. 

After lunch we watched Colty play on the swing set while we continued working in the front beds. Then when the girls got home Corey went back in for his nap and Rose and I started deep cleaning the kitchen...

It's been a wonderful week and so beautiful outside. The Rose's are blooming, the Onions and Garlic from last Fall are in full growth and the flowers the previous owners planted are all smelling wonderful. I'm really looking forward to the Poppies this year, they have multiplied again :) I also enjoyed finding that the bulbs I planted last year had babies :)

I plan on trying to get pictures up this weekend as long as the Snow/rain stay away.  Happy Gardening and hope everyone else is enjoying Spring :)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Big thanks to Friends and Family!

I just wanted to take a second to thank our friends and family who have been a wonderful help to us. Most people wouldn't be thankful for a ton of used buckets, windows, doors, wood and mop handles... but we are! 

I can't thank everyone enough for embracing this part of us and thinking of use when you come across these things! You have saved us a lot of Money and Time and this make our lives easier.  We appreciate it so much and don't know what we would do with out your support.. even when we seem nuts :)

Things we have been given    and what we've done with them so far
  • Privacy Fence Pieces:  Made a 5X3 Foot Compost bin, Built our 5 New Raised "Kitchen Beds"
  • Concrete Border: Put a border around the Front Rose beds to help keep the weeds and lawnmower out
  • Mop Handles: Trellis system for Peas
  • Fencing: Fenced around the garden and around the roof of the Garage to keep the birds out
  • Blue Barrel: Installed a Rain Barrel that we use to water the Roses
  • Buckets: Potato Garden
  • Newspapers: Varies, Lasagna mulched the front Kitchen Beds and feed the worms
  • Bi Fold Doors: Made a Craft Counter Top for my beading
  • Misc Wood:  Soap Mold, Shelves, Raised Beds and more to come.
  • Misc Cabinets: Craft room Organization
  • Old Tractor Tire: Pumpkin Planter
  • Old Tea Bags (Unused) : Worm Food
  • Windows: Cold Frames to be completed this year
I know there's more but that's all I could think of right off hand.
Thank you all for supporting us in our adventure!

The Year of the Potato Buckets!

I am looking forward to this weekend and praying it rains only a little. We are planting our first trial of Potato Buckets. I have really severe Carple Tunnel that I try and work around, so digging up trenches for Potato's every Fall is really painful. Corey's a great help, but a lot of them have to be dug out by hand so you don't accidently cut them. Not only does this take FOREVER... (we've dug for 4 hours before and only harvested 1/4 of our Potaotes) it also takes a lot of room.

So thanks to my father in law, we have about 20 5Gal buckets that were originally used for Pickles :)  This weekend our goal is to get these fully cleaned drill some drainage holes, fill with woodchips, soil and worm compost and plant our Potatoes in them. I've read were other people have had wonderful harvests doing it this way. I'm just praying for a decent harvest and easier harvest then usual!

This also makes more room in the garden for the PopCorn and Sweat Corn to be planted. :)

Cucumber Fence

I talked with Corey today and after much debate we figured out where to plant the cucumbers. With over 200 seeds and wanting to can our own pickles/relish for the year, along with saving seed for next year we need a large amount of room.  (any one who knows us knows that Rose and I are pickle nuts, not to mention our family fav dinner Rueladin has pickles in it, so does our meatloaf and loaded hamburgers)

So the idea is that we try growing them in the front Rose beds over the rough sawn cedar fence. My only worry is the new neighborhood kids walking down the side walk and grabing them or ripping out the plant. I had an issue last year where they were stealing Great Grandma's Rose's off the bush...  We'll still grow some in the actual garden to (just in case) but our main supply will be up front.

If anyone knows of a cheap and easy trellis system that we could make or reuse items to make please feel free to let us know. We have many more plants that have to be trellised this year. (my fav on so far was using the metal mop handles and string) :) It worked great last year and we should be able to use them again this year..

I'm so excited and can't wait to see things grow!!!

I LOVE April!

April.. what an important month for us. Until recently I never really realized how important this month was for our family. This is the month we prepare for our gardens, finish projects inside that need done before nice weather, and figure out what all needs to be done outside.

I also get to play in dirt again (huge smile). I can't explain how good the feeling of dirt on my hands makes me feel. It reminds me that I'm still alive, that I have something to give, and that God's miracles are all around. I till or dig in this dirt, plant something and take care of it and in turn it takes care of my family. :) What a wonderful blessing to have this opportunity!

If your looking for seeds please check out this seller on ebay they help provide free vegetable plants to residents near them that have been hit hard by the economy. Wow! If every nursery and seed place would do this we could really combat hunger in the US. So far everything I've ordered from them have out preformed the name brand stuff that I normally buy and a whole lot cheaper!

Today we finished the 2 towers of the swing set. so the only part left is to build the frame for and hang the swings. Monkey bars and slides are all up. I'm glad we went with this unit, a friend had her newly built one from Lowes blow over this week. And neither of our towers so much as rocked in the 50 mph gusts :)

Colty keeps running up and hugging me. He's so happy :) It really makes the work and sometimes frustration worth it :)

I also managed to plant our first of 5 "Kitchen" Garden beds. The Egyptian walking onions are planted along with some red onions, the borage was transplanted, the Cinnamon basil transplanted and a few herbs and a LOT of Onion seeds were planted. It was so nice to get dirty and get thing sin the ground today.

I even spent the time this evening to organize our seeds. In an effort to make things easier I bought little zip lock bags and opened all the seed packages and put them in their own bags. This was no small task! With 38 envelopes of green onion seeds, 10 of carrots and so on.. this took a lot of time, but I'm hoping it will save time while planting and create less mess outside. Not to mention less seed waste since I'll be able to SEE any left in the bag. It was amazing how one big box of seeds now fits in a tiny box :)

It is supposed to rain all the rest of the week, so we'll probably keep painting in the house and get some minor things done, then next week finish the swing set and get more boxes filled.

Things to do this month:
Fill all garden boxes
Till back of garden
Replace Garden Fence
De weed and prepare front beds for Strawberries and Cucumbers
Move Strawberries
Transfer Rose to Gma's house
Turn Compost
Plant, Plant, Plant

I'm looking forward to a very productive Garden Year!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Garden Planning #2

Update on Garden 2011...

I'm doing an update on the garden and our planning not only as a normal update in my blog but because there is an event on a blog I read that is giving away gardening things if you update your blog about what your doing to reach a sustainable life style. You can check it out more here :

This is one of the blogs I read and enjoy!

So basically so far this year we have all 7 Aquaponics beds going strong, Tomato's and Peppers are about ready to transfer, eggplant and luffa are close behind.  (did you know you could start Pepper seeds in a aquaponics bed?? Even when everyone says they don't like that much water??  who knew!)

 We have a flat of walking onions growing and hope to transplant that into our newly filled "Kitchen garden bed" out front by the end of the week. Since it's raining the other 4 of the "Kitchen Garden" raised beds won't be filled until at least next week.  Were moving Strawberries out of the garden beds and putting them up in with the Rose's.  The only inedible flowering things that we will grow any more are: Rose's, Daisies and the flowers Harper had already planted around the house.  All other growing space will be used for edible plants only.

We have 4 raised beds put into our Large Garden area. This area will now be used as a "Canning" Garden. Most everything is this garden will be canned this fall. We ae also trying to grow Pop Corn again. This is such a yummy treat and tastes so much better home grown then store bought!

So this is where we are at.  More raised beds to go in to make things easier on me and the strawberries moving to the front of the house and the new "Kitchen Garden" that will be used as an every day grab for the kitchen and the spices that I hope to grow and dry myself in the Dehydrator.

I love this time of year the weather frustrates but I can see my Gardens take place and grow in my mind :)

Well, Check out the other blog for great info and your chance to receive an item and work towards self sustainability!!

Life's Small Blessings are everywhere!