Friday, June 18, 2010


Giveaway at Keeper of the Home!

I know. It's shameless. I would really, really, really love this. Feel free to enter yourself. Or, because you love me so much - enter, win, and get it for me!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Oh Vinegar, How I Love Thee

I really do. I didn't for a very long time though. When I first started my journey towards a healthier lifestyle, I kept reading about vinegar everywhere. Cleaning, laundry, pest control, weed control, yada yada yada. I tried cleaning with vinegar and thought I'd never get over the smell. But you know what? I did. And now, I absolutely love the stuff. (I mean, not for a perfume or anything) Because, you really can use it for everything! It's great for a fabric softener, general disinfectant, conditioner, and my most recent discovery - a fantastic weed killer.

I kid you not - it's great. I buy vinegar by the gallons, and I used one, undiluted, in a flo master gallon spray jug. My dad got this one for me at Sam's, and I'm pretty sure it was less than the $20 on this site. (Now, I personally think one of these is a must, because unless you only have 1 or 2 weeds to get rid of, your hand will hurt from a regular trigger handle.) I also added a little powdered citric acid (a.k.a. sour salt) because I had some left from my failed dish detergent recipe. There are a multitude of weed killer recipes, but I went for the no-fail method and didn't water mine down. I don't have time for 2-3 applications if the first didn't work, thank you very much. You could also add lemon juice, which is basically citric acid. One gallon will go a looooong way. I spray first thing in the morning on a very sunny, hot day. They basically fry in the sun. I have found that this works best when there's no chance of rain for a couple days. One time it rained within 12 hours, and I think the weeds recovered from their burning :)

So here is a nice before shot of the enemy:

And the after:

Pretty impressive, huh? I thought so. I really love that I can use it around my garden beds without worrying about leaching chemicals into the ground right where I'm trying to grow organic food! So this only deepened my love affair with vinegar. What about you? Do you use it? If so, for what?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Garden Progress

The garden is coming along beautifully - and I couldn't be more proud! Ok, well maybe I could, and I probably will be when I actually begin harvesting. *grin* It should be soon too, because I have cucumber, squash, zucchini, and okra blossoms - woohoo! I'm really looking forward to picking some produce, because, quite honestly, I've only been picking grass and wild violets from the garden. Not too rewarding...

The tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, carrots (pic below) and peas seem to be coming up rather slowly.

As I did everything from seed though, I'm not entirely surprised. I'm consoling myself with the fact that what does come up will be very hardy, and if I save some seeds this year as I plan, next year's plants will be perfectly tuned for my yard. The asparagus is looking rather cute, like a mini pine forest keeping the tomatoes company. They won't be ready for about 4 years. (Talk about a long-term investment!)

I saw a rabbit in the garden *gasp* and I went to chase him out only to watch him squirm right through the fence! Isaac finished putting the tighter gauge section on the bottom rather quickly... I thought we might not have to do that part at all - but I was wrong. Hopefully he'll finish the gate this weekend. We're still planning on putting an electric wire around the top to deter deer, because our fence is just under 5 feet tall, and deer can jump 8 feet.

The garden seems to be buzzing with life whenever I'm around, which is a wonderful thing. I have inter planted marigold and nasturtium to encourage some beneficial insects and discourage others, and it seems to be working. I would like to put a few morning glories on the corner posts too. I planted 7 lantana bushes right outside the garden by the driveway too, because lots of bugs like those. The only negative bug problem I seem to have had was a specific little black and green caterpillar munching happily on the okra. I have since seen his variety on pretty much everything else, including the grass. Apparently, he's not too picky. I have been hand-picking and squishing them, and that seems to have taken care of it. While a little holier than I prefer, the okra is once again thriving.

As I survey the garden progress, it seems clear that I will be tweaking the balance next year. The squash, zucchini and pumpkin need much more room! We eat squash frequently, so I want plenty of it. My celery is quite pitiful, I'm not sure how many plants I have, but the 3 in question aren't even in the celery section! (They were a teeny tiny seed I just sprinkled hopefully.) I also wish there were more carrots, but I can't start those early to transplant because they don't like to be moved. The cucumbers are going crazy, so between that and the okra, I plan to do some pickling. Next year I hope to be prepared enough to start some seeds indoors to transplant and get a head start.

I am very pleased with our trellising system! I found it here, and it's also in the book, Square Foot Gardening. I didn't buy into that whole idea, but I loved the trellis plans. We made a variation and didn't buy the netting. I strung twine up and down over the piping, attaching the bottom loops to the ground with landscape pins. I do think the netting would be beneficial for some veggies because my climbing zucchini is very strong and pulled the pins right out of the ground! (Here's a close-up of ours.)

In case anyone's wondering how I manage doing any of this with the's what I do: I usually spend about an hour 2-3 times a week out in the garden. I do it in the morning, before it gets really hot, but after the boys eat breakfast so they're happy and full, but not nearly tired for nap time yet. They play in their play yard and I put in a DVD of Elmo or something. Then I take the baby monitor outside with me and garden and they are perfectly happy with this arrangement. There are definitely some days where I could never pull this off, and all last week was just that! So, my gardening this morning involved some heavy-duty weeding. Only one time so far did they start fighting so badly that I had to take off my muddy shoes and run inside to break up the craziness.

So that's the update on our gardening project. I got some blueberry and raspberry bushes for a steal, so I'm trying to decide where to plant those. One more step towards self-sufficiency!