Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Snow/Ice Garden

I woke up to 19 degrees this morning and a leftover White Christmas. Beautiful

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Using what you've got

I've been planning for 2013 this month and it occurred to me, "Why not just use what I've got?". I currently have eleven varieties of tomato seeds, some dating back to 2010. From what I've read, it appears that Tomato seeds will last three to four years if stored properly. And if your not sure, you can always do a seed germination test. Just moisten a paper towel, place seeds on it, fold it, put it in a plastic bag and then store it in a dark place. Wait two weeks and then check to see which varieties have sprouted.

The problem is I like buying and trying new seed varieties... really like

With limited space, I believe my solution will need to be a three pronged approach:

1. Decided which varieties you enjoyed the most and grew well. Use what you have left over, these will become your stables.
2. Select one or two varieties you haven't tried (either on hand or purchased) and give them a whirl, these will be your garden adventure.
3. Bless someone else, either with seed varieties you have on hand or by growing extra seedlings to share with a friend. I did it this year and it was exciting to visit my friend's garden and see the other varieties I started. Also, some towns have seed libraries where you can donate seeds and try new ones. 

I don't believe there is anything wrong with purchasing new seeds, especially from organizations that preserve heirloom seeds. However, if you've purchased seed like I have you can end up with far more than you need or can use. Instead, consider new ways to use what you've got.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Just in time

I harvested my Tomatoes this week and NOW there is a chance of snow. Blessed!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Christmas Tomatoes!

I harvested most of the Tomatoes today, just in time before the cool winter weather arrives. God is good!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The race to March 15th

I've read that its recommended to start your tomatoes indoors eight to ten weeks before your last frost date. Since my last frost date is March 15th, that means January 4th at the earliest! Its ironic, but without knowing this I started my tomatoes on January 4th this year. Just because I was too excited to wait any longer. My problem was that I didn't get them into the ground quick enough. By the time March 15th rolled around we had what seemed like non-stop rain (and laziness). I finally got my tomatoes in the ground around mid April. Now I'm finally getting close to harvesting my first tomato .... in December. I believe I could fertilize much better this year around, but I also believe I need to plan for a March 1st transplant date in 2013. This means, I need to decide which varieties I'm growing over the next month.

What varieties are you considering for 2013?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Early December Garden Update

Its officially December and 80 degrees outside, one of the many reasons I like Texas! I am writing this post with the sun shining and the a warm breeze blowing through my office window (ahhh....). Despite the Farmer's Almanac predictions of Snow Snow Snow for North Texas, it appears we are going for a third growing season this year. This has been great for my late season tomatoes.


I'm fairly certain this is my Pineapple variety from Bountiful Gardens. This one is just starting to turn in color and has that red yellow and orange swirled together like a sunset look that was described for this variety.  Their big too!

This little cherry tomato plant grew out of my compost/random garden bed in the exact same spot my zucchini plant inhabited early this year. By the time I noticed, it already had fruit growing. I didn't have the heart to kill it, but I didn't protect it from the frost either. It appears to be the hardest tomato plant I have as its still green and growing. I should probably save the seeds for next year. 

I harvested the last of my carrots from spring yesterday.  I'm pretty sure I planted these in April or early May and their growth really took off this last month. I cleaned, chopped and added them to my roasted potatoes for last night's dinner. Both had great flavor, the cream variety was a tad milder than the red.

I planted Beets a couple of weeks ago to have some more winter crops available. I've heard they are light feeders and taste great when roasted.
The Broccoli is doing really well. It appears to like this weather and the light shade it receives. I look forward to seeing the head and side shoots soon.

Saturday, December 1, 2012


My first seed catalog for 2013 arrived today from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. I've never purchased from them before, but I'm excited by all the options. 2013 is going to be great!

Friday, November 30, 2012

It all started with Laundry Detergent

 I’ve been surprised with the changes in my life over the past four months. It all started with laundry detergent. I was on Facebook and happened to see a link for Homemade Cleaning Recipes one friend shared with another. I was intrigued. I’ve always like the idea of being self sufficient, not from my provider, but from consumerism as a whole. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy my Lucky Brand jeans, Cinnamon Toast Church Cereal and other consumer goods. However, I like the idea of knowing how to live simple, even if it’s just-in-case knowledge.

Laundry Detergent

I also like easy, really easy. After perusing my new favorite website, it appeared the easiest recipe to try was the powdered laundry detergent. I basically just mixed three dry ingredients together and I had detergent. Enough detergent that I estimate it will last me about a year, for the price of $7.50. The best part was its less toxic than regular detergents and it did the exact same thing my old laundry detergent did, clean my clothes! I use to spend that in a month on laundry detergent, so I’m pretty pleased with my savings of $82.50 a year. 
All purpose cleaner

Did you know vinegar cleans? I didn’t. It turns out if you mix distilled vinegar with borax (a natural mineral) and some essential oils, you get a pretty great all purpose cleaner. I keep mine in an old 409 bottle, I really like how that bottle sprays. It sprays perfection.

Dish Soap

I attempted to make my own dish soap back in September. It went well for an hour. Then the soap that I had boiled down congealed and I couldn’t get it to squeeze out of the bottle. FAIL. I then learned a friend of mine just mixes Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Castile soap and water together to make hers. I copied this with the peppermint version and really like the results. My husband is not thrilled with the small amount of bubbles it creates (compared to regular detergents), but I really like the scent and it cleans my dishes great.  

Shampoo and Conditioner

As a former hair stylist, I’ve always valued higher quality hair products. There was a time in my life when I only purchased Aveda or Phyto products and nothing else touched my hair. It was great, until I needed to tighten up my budget. The truth is if you don’t color your hair and you go easy on the heat styling, you can use the cheap, $2.00 to $3.00 shampoos and not notice a difference in the health of your hair.

The problem is your pouring some rough chemicals over your head each time you wash. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) are commonly found in shampoos; they strip the natural oils from your scalp and can leave your hair dryer that it really needs to be. Also, they are both irritants, meaning you don’t want this stuff in your eyes. I’m not really sure if there is any research to back this theory, but I find myself wondering if we are constantly pouring irritants over our head daily if there is possibility of long term eye damage.

I haven’t completely rid myself of regular shampoo and conditioner, but I have cut back. I wash my hair about three times a week, using John Frieda Sheer Blonde Shampoo once and substituting with Baking Soda and Vinegar the other times. On the days I don’t wash my hair, I rub corn starch into the roots to absorb any extra oil and then brush out (partially). The corn starch actually gives my hair  a bit of volume and I’ve found that I prefer my off days. 

The Simple Mom blog has an entire post dedicated to going Shampoo Free, which is where I got the idea to make the switch to Baking Soda and Vinegar. The two counteract each other in their PH levels which create balance and leave my hair softer than I expected. The days I use them are my 2nd favorite hair days. I still use Sheer Blonde because it lightens my naturally dark blond hair. I plan to experiment with Chamomile tea in the future to see if I can get the same lightening effects.

Acne treatment

Did you know that tea tree oil is used to treat acne? I didn’t, but now I do and for me it works better than the benzoyl peroxide which is also potentially carcinogenic and explosive!?!

Facial Cleanser

I have spent the past eighteen years struggling with overly oily skin and acne. It started early in my life and with the exception of the times I’ve used Proactive and Yaz, I’ve never really gotten rid of it. While I was on the Simple Mom blog recently I came across a post about the Oil Cleansing Method (OCM). The theory is that by using normal facial cleansers, even ones made for oily skin, you are stripping your face of its needed oils. In return, your skin overproduces oil to compensate for this. As a result, your skin just gets oilier. When oil gets trapped by dirt in your pores, you experience break outs. The goal is to remove dirt from your skin without stripping your skin, by using good oils that nourish your skin. 

I use a combination of Castor Oil which draws out dirt and Extra Virgin Olive Oil that moisturizes. I’ve been using this method for three weeks now and I REALLY like the results. I’ve notice my skin is softer, less oily, clearer and it even glows a little. Plus, I really like the relaxing effects of massaging the oil into my skin. 

I still purchase other bath and cleaning products, such as:

Honest Company Face & Body LotionHypoallergenic / Non-toxic
Honest Company Body Oil - Food-grade quality, cold pressed oils
Honest Company Sunscreen – I used it daily on my face, neck and hands

Yes, I could probably branch out in the brands I use but I really like Honest Company products.

It’s been a great four months and I was surprised with how much I’ve really enjoyed learning natural, easy ways to live. I look forward to learning more.

Any other suggestions out there to try?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sowing for a potato harvest

In the fall of 2010 I diced up some potatoes to use in my first ever lasagna garden. My husband warned me that I would reap a potato harvest from this, but I insisted that it wasn't possible since I had diced the potatoes up REAL TINY! Of course, he was right!

When I pulled back my black tarp the following spring I had hundreds of potato plants growing and sure enough there was a harvest!

So this fall I'm sowing on purpose with the goal of reaping a potato harvest.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Did it freeze last night?

According to the The Weather Channel it doesn't appear so, but sure enough this morning there was a light glaze of frost on the rooftops.

I found this excerpt from a website called About Frost while Googling the matter:

But the low temperature was only 35°F, How did frost form?

What is important is not what the temperature was at the thermometer but what the temperature was where the frost formed, and if frost formed the local temperature was below freezing.
A thermometer indicates the temperature where the thermometer is, usually a few feet above the ground. Because cold air sinks relative to warmer air and because the ground can cool very quickly the temperature at ground level can be cooler than a few feet higher where the thermometer is, eventhough the thermometer indicates a temperature that is above freezing, it can easily be below freezing a few feet lower. 

So it appears that we had our first frost of the season last night. I really need to a get a ground thermometer and start tracking temperatures in the garden.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Tartine Bread

We had a really good rain last night and the 2nd growing season of North Texas is in full swing. Radishes that I planted last month are ready for harvest, beans are growing, tomatoes are getting larger each day. I am so excited!

Last night my husband and I celebrated our 7th year of marriage and while waiting for our table at the cheesecake factory we decided to browse Barnes and noble. That was when I spotted the Tartine Bread cookbook.

The country bread loaf on the cover made my mouth water, so much so that I decided to give it a try today. Which is when I realized that it's about a 3 week long process. However, I was determined to give it a try!
I didn't buy the book, but  instead found the recipe on Martha Stewart's website. If it turns out well, I'll probably go back and buy the book to try the other recipes. Despite the fact that it first appeared incredible complicated, it was actually pretty easy. I must admit, I've never made bread before....ever. I've wanted to try for a while now, but never actually braved it.

Basically Chad Robertson's recipe focuses on simple ingredients and commitment, lots of it. I made the first part of the recipe tonight, the Starter. Now I begin my 20 -ish day journey to Tartine Bread. I weighed, mixed and poured my heart out and now the real challenge comes, the wait. Over the next 20 days I will be committed to "feeding" the starter around the same time each day until it has reached perfection. Then I can make the dough. 

I'll keep you posted. 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Homemade cleaning

Today I decided to make my own homemade dish soap. It was quite the experience.

It appeared to go well, but about four hours later the liquid soap congealed back to its original state, the solid form soap.  So my search for homemade, non-toxic soap continues....

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Beans are coming up

These are The bean sprouts my garden greeted me with today. Can't wait to have a green (or purple) bean harvest soon!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

What is it?

I spotted this on my tomatoes recently. I think it's a Japanese beetle, but since I've never spotted one before I'm not 100% positive. Can anyone confirm this for me?

Sunday, September 9, 2012

First pumpkin

This is a garden blog. So it's a tad disappointing that I'm posting a picture of a pumpkin I bought instead of grew. However, I can appreciate the hard work of someone else and I'm happy to know that I'm supporting a Texas Farmer. Here is to my first pumpkin of 2012!

and one month later it is

or at least it feels that way. I believe the official first day of Fall is September 22nd, so almost there.

 August was a relatively cool month, for about two weeks. We had lots of rain, 2.82 inches according to NWS which is the highest since March and just odd for August. I welcomed it though!
We also had a severe storm that did tornado-like damage, but turned out to just be fast, straight line winds. A lot of fences were down in our area, a billboard was bent over and twisted and my neighbor had a metal pole go straight through the body of his truck.

Yes, August was an interesting month. I began fertilizing with a variety of liquid fertilizers around mid-August in preparation for Fall Tomatoes. I did this last year around late September and had a large (for me) harvest of green tomatoes right after Thanksgiving. I ended up pulling them right after the first frost (laziness) and allowed them to ripen indoors. I plan to do the same this year, only I want them to be red before the frost.

My cucumbers did not survive August despite the rain. To be honest, I got really lazy with the rain. Even when it stopped it took me another two weeks to start actively watering the garden. I kept waiting on another storm to do it for me.

Now, I'm good though. I just finished weeding the old cucumber bed and will begin planting Beets, Radishes and Beans in preparation for next week.These veggies will produce throughout the fall and early Texas winter (think 60s) while giving plenty of nitrogen to the soil. I plan to plant my Tomatoes in that bed next spring and growing nitrogen rich plants now will prepare the way.

The weather should stay nice the rest of the week with a cold front coming late in the week. The rain might hamper any weeding and planting needed, but I would like to have that finished today in our high of 89 weather.