Saturday, September 15, 2018

How to Create Your Own Italian Seasoning

Every home needs an herb garden. Even if it's just a few plants in containers on a patio. The bees will appreciate you and your family will as well when you are roasting a chicken with fresh rosemary or topping their favorite pasta dish with a handful of chopped basil. In the late summer before the whole thing fades to nothingness except the thyme and rosemary it's time to harvest, dry, and store. 

Planting and Harvesting: 

For Italian seasoning, I like to plant: oregano, flat leaf Italian parsley, basil, rosemary, and garlic chives.  You can start cutting and drying them in mid-summer. 

When it's time to harvest the whole thing when the plants are winding down cut them early in the day before it's too warm. Wash them thoroughly and let them dry.  In these photos the herbs have flowers because I left them as long as possible for the bees. You may want to harvest them sooner. 

Next, separate the leaves from the stems. I like to save the woody stems of rosemary to toss in the first fire of the season. Do you have little seasonal rituals? If you love to grill out soak them in water and add them to the coals. 


Put the leaves in a mesh basket, on a window screen, or even out on a table to dry completely. You can place them on a cookie sheet in a warm oven, or if you don't care how long it takes you can play Little House on the Prairie and hang them up to dry. A food dehydrator is more trouble than it's worth for me since it's another gadget that must be stored except for a couple of times a year you are going to use it. Surely by now, Y'all know how I feel about gadgets. 

When they are dried enough for you to crumble them in your hands break them up over a strainer to keep out the larger pieces. Or cut them with scissors. Basically anyway you can get the job done will work. You just don't want your family picking actual sticks out of their food. 

Of course, I'm sure woody thyme stems are good for you. How is that not a thing? 

Usually, after that I let them dry a few more days. It's humid in the south and you don't want any chance of mold. When you think it's dry, give it another day or two just to be safe. 

Break them up until the pieces are fine enough to be used in an herb or spice shaker you have. 


Store in an airtight jar in a cool, dark place until you need them.

You can experiment with different blends of herbs you like to make your own, one of a kind mix!

Perfect gift for the foodie in your life. :) Pair it with a jar of honey for a delicious marinade. Tie a little bundle of herbs on top to become the gift giving champion! 

XOXO Y'all! 

Thursday, September 6, 2018

What to Do Now For Next Year's Garden

What NOT to do: 

Let's be honest since we're besties and all. I have done everything completely out of order this summer. Read my post about it here: A Tale of Two Gardens. The proper thing to have done would've been to plan and execute the hardscaping first early in the year while the weather was cold, along with organizing the potting shed. THEN plant a garden. Of course, I should have done the porch (read about that here) in spring as soon as the pollen storm was over. But no! I did ALL of the things so I could redo all of the things.

In July. In Memphis. 

Do this instead: 

I do not recommend doing twice the work because your timing is terrible. And if you are planning a garden for next year, right now is the perfect time to get your act together. This fall and winter is the time to do a new garden layout and put in pathways.

Also starting your composting or setting up your lasagna garden should be done now if that's how you roll. All winter you'll be keeping things from ginormous depressing landfills because they'll be cooking along in your happy little compost pile.

According to Scientific American, "We throw away 25% of all the food we produce for domestic sale and consumption." Feeling guilty? Me too. We often think that if it's biodegradable it's okay to toss it in the trash but in a landfill, those scraps produce methane gas. In your garden, they produce food for worms and eventually soil. It's kind of a no-brainer. 

I'll be recycling cardboard boxes right into the garden for weed control as well.

If you have planted a fall garden then you have a ways to go to keep tending that until the first frost date which in Memphis and surrounding areas (zone 7 (a and b) is November 15th. I had good intentions for a fall garden. But the soil was so depleted after redoing everything it needs time to rest and regenerate.

I'm trying to avoid my own personal Dust Bowl over here. 

Right now my main focus, besides watching for the perfect honey harvesting day, is composting and rooting plants for next year.

Here's how:

Since I'm not looking to attract less than charming creatures I do compost the kitchen waste into a bin with the appropriate other goodies necessary for a happy hot compost pile. But grass cuttings, the contents from the vacuum (I know. Ew.), leaves, and paper from the shredder are going right into the beds in layers.

Read my more detailed composting post here. 

This is also the time to work on your leaf mold for next year. This is a huge thing in the UK but for some reason not so much in the US. Probably because we are such an impatient lot. The whole process can take 2-3 years. But it isn't like it's work or anything. You rake the leaves into a pile, I'm using some old fencing to contain mine and then you just pile them in there and wait. You can get fancier if you want but remember forests have been doing this for thousands of years without any interference from you.

If you are starting from scratch then this is the time to start thinking about your overall plan. That way you'll have all winter to complete a design, collect materials, and put in your hardscaping while your compost is cooking. Plus if you want something sexy like a wood chipper you can put it on your Christmas list. 

You genius, you. 

What I'm doing next: 

Only half my garden got made over in the heat of summer because the other half is closer to the beehives and I also have several things that need to be moved in winter while they are dormant. This gives me the chance to do it correctly and I'll be sharing that with you over the winter. I love do overs, don't you? 

Bee posts and updates are on the way soon! I'm gearing up for harvesting but that all depends on the weather. 

XOXO Y'all!

Monday, August 27, 2018

The Finished Potting Shed: Adding a Glass Wall

The largest part of the potting shed was wrapped up in a day, see the previous post, but the hardest work was phase 2. The lattice had always been here, put up by my father in law over 25 years ago. I'd added the tool rack many years back but the whole thing had always kind of bothered me. I'd stand in the shower and look out the window at the potting shed and imagine a wall of glass here instead. Step one was moving the tools to their new home.

Next was tearing out-carefully so it can be remade into another project- the lattice.

Thanks to my son who came home one day when he was in college with a carload of old windows he'd rescued from a dumpster -is he my kid or what?- I had the windows to do the project. I'd also retrieved a sidelight from a neighbor's trash pile years ago and knew it would be perfect for this spot.

This is another one of those projects that I did for almost nothing. I had everything except hinges which I bought for about 5 bucks. Thanks to a tree falling on my daughter and son in law's front porch (everyone is safe but they are getting a new roof) I also had some reclaimed 90-year-old pieces to finish out this wall. I hand sawed all these pieces and spent the day piecing it all together like a puzzle.

I'm sure people with actual skills are cringing, but that's okay. I noticed that on my ginormous Pinterest board of potting sheds I loved the ones the most that looked like they'd been made out of necessity. The ones with bits off-kilter and a little rough around the edges. I adore the ones that look like they're ancient. I used vintage bricks for the foundation of this wall to further the been here forever effect.

My main goal was to have a little window that I could open. As I cobbled this wall together I got happier and happier. Here's a little before and after:

When I got the window framed in I added a little sill and finally added much dreamed about the window. It looked great from inside.

Then I stepped outside and it looked like Ma and Pa Kettle had built it.  I didn't want it to look that quaint!  Though as I looked at it I realized it was probably just that all the materials were a different color. I couldn't get to painting soon enough. Can we just agree that paint is magic? 

Over the next couple of days, I finished the painting and then when I was backing into work on Friday there, right in front of me were a couple of old doors leaning against a dumpster.

I wheeled back out and went to throw it in my SUV. It was probably the heaviest thing I've ever retrieved. Thank goodness I was so excited about it that I had the same adrenaline as a mother lifting a car off her kid.  I went inside and texted my bestie to have someone come and get the other one for her. Can't wait to see how she uses it!

The door creates the half wall on the tool storage side. It still needs to be cut to size but it was a great solution for creating a barrier on that side and giving the potting shed a more complete feeling. 

You know after that I painted all the tool handles to look more cohesive. How could I not? A dusky green seemed perfect for NOT being able to find the tools I leave in the yard. But who wants neon yellow vintage tools? 

I wanted something special on the potting bench and the new batch of Iron Orchid Decor Stamps arrived just in time at Me & Mrs. Jones. I used the wreath building stamp to create a detail that will be the perfect place to photograph things from the garden.

Have you had a project you've dreamed of for ages? Getting started is most of the battle. And even though it may not be perfect there is tremendous satisfaction in being able to say that you did it yourself.  Besides perfection is so overrated. 

Keep imagining and doing! 

XOXO Y'all! 

Monday, August 20, 2018

Solving Functional Problems in the Potting Shed: A One Day Makeover

watering can

I wish I had reorganized my potting shed before any of these other outdoor projects commenced. It would have saved me a ton of time to have things organized and not wasted energy looking for my gloves or shears. This has not however been the season for me doing things in the right order. It has been more like an exercise in proving that done is better than good.

 Which brings us to the last thing that should have been first. Reorganizing the potting shed.

The main problem with the set up was that I never set up a proper potting bench. I'd created storage (inadequate as it was) but no workspace. So even though I had a potting shed for all my garden tools, pots, and other necessities, when it came time to plant seeds or transplant something I always found myself taking it to the table on the patio or using something charming like the grill or the top of the garbage can.

potting shed

Let's take a look at where I started. This is how the shed looked for the last 5 years or so. It was cute but impractical for the doing of actual work. I did love the use of the old windows but it's a sad substitute for the greenhouse I imagine making from them.

If you have an old bookcase that is too big or too ugly, consider laying it on its side to give it a new life. Unfortunately, this one sat right on the floor for several years. One of my main goals was to get it up on cinder blocks to make it a comfortable height for working on and prevent the bottom (or side) from rotting...well, any more than it already has.

reusing bookcase

Everything looked fresh and clean with a coat of white paint. At Lowe's, I picked up this board and some trim to make a proper potting bench with sides to contain dirt that might get spilled. It hangs over which means it now is a comfortable place to work.

vintage watering can

Okay, let's discuss these bunny sconces. Y'all. I was at Goodwill and ran across these and was totally smitten. I tossed them in my cart and immediately knew they would be perfect in a potting shed. A nod to Peter and Mr. McGregor and his iconic garden. These things make me ridiculously happy. They were the perfect whimsical element for this space.

seed storage

 I knew I wanted to stain and not paint the new potting bench area.  I imagined a golden honey colored wood but I didn't have that and I really didn't want to spend any more money than necessary on this project. I happened to have General Finishes Java Gel Stain.

potting shed

It's a beautiful color but for this application, it looked a little fancy. It was really dark so I decided to lighten it up with a whitewash.

potting bench

Much better.

The second part of this project was moving all the garden tools from the side of the shed where we sometimes struggle to reach them. The space was inadequate for all the tools and every time we wanted to grab a shovel or pitchfork we had to go all the way into the shed.

It sounds easy but was really a lot of work. I moved (this involved a crowbar and took a minute) the tool hanger and tools to the outer side of the shed that was open, thus creating a wall of garden tools that are more organized and much easier to access.

tool storage

In the before photo above, you can see the dirt around the tools on the floor where my resident chipmunk, Pip, has been excavating. I really thought all this disturbance might cause him to relocate. As you can see below I needn't have worried. He's apparently on board with the renovations.

Then came the most fun of any project. Decorating!

potting bench

In this case about 99 percent of the decorating was just where to store things because this needs to be a very practical space.

I'm still torn about glamming up this space. Part of me wants to do gold leaf on things and hang a fancy chandelier. But I adore pictures of classic sheds with layers of terra cotta and dirt. Check out my potting shed obsession on my Pinterest board: Porches and Potting Sheds

potting bench

What would you do? 

 To glam up or not to glam up--that is the question!

Either way, my new potting bench just seemed to want...something. More about that in the next post!

XOXO Y'all! 

Monday, August 13, 2018

Back Porch Redesign: From Bright and Exciting to Cool and Calming

Every good mint julep deserves a good back porch. Last year I painted our screened in porch with gray porch paint. Read about the 2017 porch makeover, right here. 

It was a vast improvement over what was there before but I wanted it to be so much more. I was semi-satisfied with it until the recent garden reno. When there was so much green on the other side of the screen, the white chairs and sparse furnishings were fine.

My goal was to create an authentic Southern back porch. I didn't want Pinteresty signs that said "gather" or anything burlap. I wanted to steer clear of "farmhouse." These bright signs definitely had to go as well.

I can't tell you how glad I am that the zebra grass is gone from this corner.

After I added all that lovely blue/gray crushed limestone it was too much brightness for relaxing. I needed to bring in some coolness and darker colors to foil the glare from the stone. I scored this beautiful patio rug at Target for half off of its 120 dollar price.

I had already bought delightful fabric on clearance for 8 bucks a yard and became obsessed with trying to match the color of the bird. It's much more chartreuse than it appears here. The bold pattern and color of the bird made me feel all French retro.

I have two little side tables that I wanted to be the exact color of that bird.

Originally, I thought this might be a fall/winter project but y'all know how I get. When inspiration hits I can't control myself. Plus it all just kept coming together! I found this vintage wicker chair at an estate sale and it was the color of a set my grandmother had. My authentic Southern porch was getting closer! I mixed up some paint and painted the other chair to match.

I debated whether to leave the Adirondack chairs white but in the end that side of the porch needed a cool weighty color and I chose Annie Sloan's Chateau Grey. As soon as I brushed on the first stroke I knew I'd made the right choice.

The same day I painted the chairs I hit up an estate sale where I found a Victorian birdcage and cute little step stool. The darkness of the sign I painted last year (read about it) was the perfect touch of black on the wall. In the corner behind the vintage wicker is a good old-fashioned box fan.

Here's how it turned out! My grandmother would feel right at home and I love how the color palette evokes style memories from my childhood.  Who thinks I need a table for the center to put our feet up on?