Friday, June 18, 2010

Harsh Realities

One of my chickens died yesterday; chalk it up to sweltering southern heat. She was sweet and timid and not a very good layer, which in days gone by would have meant she'd have gone in the roasting pan months ago.  But that is how I know I would never have made a very good farm wife.  Wringing the neck of ....anything, except maybe the occasional family member is hard to imagine. 

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Home made laundry soap

Here's the scoop on making your own detergent. It is easy to make and you can adjust it any way you like.

1 C. Washing Soda
1/2 C. Borax
and 1 bar of soap, grated

That's the basic recipe. You mix it up and use 1 TBS. for a light load or 2 for a heavy one.

You can use it just like this and it will work great. For stain removal you can make it with the Fels-Naptha soap which can be difficult to find. I have found it lately in my local hardware store. Ivory makes for a great clean smelling load of clothes. Sometimes I add baking soda if I'm washing things like dog bed covers or bath mats. You can add essential oils also if you want.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Garden Chronicles 2009 Recap

The main thing about gardening is the main thing in life and that is just that you try. Sometimes it works sometimes it doesn't. But....you always learn something, and I love that. So here's sort of how it went this year on the Short suburban homestead.


Successes:

1) The chickens! By far the most fun and entertaining thing I have ever "grown" in the garden. I would have done this years ago if I had known how much fun they would be and I wouldn't have been so worried if I had known how easy it would be. I'm still waiting for the first egg but I love that little extra bit of self sufficiency represented by my hens. They haven't provided breakfast yet but they have contributed to the garden by eating bugs and weeds. When I clean out the coop all the shavings go right to the compost heap where all that nitrogen gets put to work "cooking" the compost.
Aug. 24. Mrs. Bennett, Lizzie, Jane. Hoping for eggs within the next 2 or 3 weeks.


2) The spring lettuce and first planting of summer mix did well. Later in summer when I was so busy I just didn't have time to keep up the successive sowing needed to keep fresh lettuce handy.

3) Arugula did great! One of my favorites.

4) Garlic. Amazing. I actually just planted the cloves from a bulb I bought in the produce section at Walmart last winter.

5) Best year for strawberries in a long time.
Perry's berry harvest from the garden this morning. I should have been taking pics of all my salads!


6) Black rasberries did great this year after 4 or 5 yrs. of producing only a few berries.

7) Blueberries, which usually only produce during the month of July are still at it. We have picked baskets and baskets.

8) Trionfo Violetto beans. They always look beautiful and we had a nice supply. They are finishing up now.
Trionfo Violetto beans. They turn green when you cook them. Kids love that.


9) Herbs: parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. :) chives, garlic chives, oregano, variegated oregano, cilantro, St. John's wort, spiderwort, mint, chocolate mint, basil, lemon balm, lemon thyme, Annie hall thyme, wooly thyme. Honestly, you have to be a really bad gardener to kill herbs. It is the thing I recommend everyone start with.

10) Pumpkins. After the Corn Maize ended last year Jared brought home some of the leftover pumpkins and hay bales. I used the hay bales as the walls to my winter compost/ grow heap which I placed right in the garden. In spring I tore up the bales and used them to mulch the garden paths and planted the pumpkin seedlings in a more convenient spot. Then I transferred the remaining unfinished compost the the back compost heap. I did get one big orange pumpkin although not the beautiful green and white ones I was hoping for. This was a fun project and I will probably do it again.
Late August.


Failures:

1) Tomatoes! I don't even know what happened here. Out of the 6 plants I started with I got about 3 tomatoes. Some of them I lost in the big storm in June, but the others just didn't produce very well.

2) Blackberries. First year, planted 3. One was mature enough to yield and the birds ate every single one even though I had covered them with netting. Smart birds.

3) Pears. Amazing crop the tree was hanging low with fruit. The squirrels ate every one. I would see them sometimes struggling to get a giant pear, almost as big as they were, up the tree. Even though I was so mad I couldn't help but laugh.
pear/June 23


4) Apples. I really think the apple tree is too close to the house. We don't ever get many. The best thing I ever get from that tree are the trimmed branches in spring. I cut them, bundle them, tie them with twine and let them sit to dry out over the summer. Great fire starters in the fall and smell wonderful. I sometimes also use them as wattling to hide ugly fences or to create make shift trellises.

5) Emperor Runner beans. This surprised me. Not one bean. Not one! Beautiful vine and gorgeous
flowers right outside my kitchen window. It did attract hummingbirds every day for me to watch while cooking though, so it's hard to call it a failure. Bees also loved it. I'd plant it again.


At least the successes outnumber the failures! And none of it is really failing if I'm outside with my dogs and chickens turning a steaming pile of compost on a cool morning or picking something for dinner. So it's almost that time of year to "put the garden to bed". It will continue to produce a few things here and there through mid October and some of the herbs will be available all winter. The next part of the gardening year is one of my favorites. Hauling in huge armfuls of firewood and building a big fire. Sitting next to it with stacks of beautiful garden books,The Farmer's Almanac, and in January....the seed catalogs. I'm already planning a new project for next year, an apiary. I started studying bees last year and will continue that through the winter and hopefully it will go as well as the chickens have. Lots more research to do on them, but for me that is just as enjoyable as the project. If you want to be a lifelong learner then plant a garden.

" I am an old man but a young gardener." ~ Thomas Jefferson

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Graduating and Mixed Emotions

Gradually Graduating to Freedom

Well, here we are. For all practical purposes the physically exhausting and mentally draining part of parenthood is over. The sleepless nights, endless requests, and constant needs that must be met have all but come to an end. Now their lives are more or less their own and I'll be available for advice and counsel when needed but I'm finished looking for the shoe that somehow ended up in the toy box. The police showing up at my door because 911 had been called due to his sister's crying; a thing of the past. If I never make another peanut butter and jelly sandwich again....it'll be too soon. Don't get me wrong, I have loved being a mom. Best job ever, wouldn't trade it for the world but the seasons of life keep changing and that is the way it is supposed to be. Best to live by the Marine motto: Improvise Adapt and Overcome. Watch carefully as I change out of my mom costume and back into who I was before I had them. Wait....that's impossible. It was SO long ago and now that I think of it, I don't think I cared much for her anyway. That body, though....okay, let it go. Let's move on. Time to redefine myself...again. And without guilt! Can I get an amen, ladies? Mom guilt and fear of failing at the most important job in the world are two emotions I won't be longing for.

Lately I've noticed that fear is becoming an emotion I'm less willing to put up with. I think it must have something to do with the fact that I've been its captive so often while bringing up children. The list of things to be afraid of is endless and rules so many of our decisions as modern parents. (whether or not that is healthy or even rational is an idea to tackle another time) So as I'm doing an inventory of what I'll miss and what I won't, fear heads the list for the latter. I also won't miss: tantrums in public, drastic mood swings, stepping on Legos, (and hearing them bouncing around inside the vacuum) and feeling positive that I am doing it all wrong and it is all going to end with my turning two really warped individuals out into society....if I don't call Human Services and turn myself in first. So all of that worrying and insecurity and the reading of countless parenting books...um no, won't miss that.

I know that this is where you expect me to list all the things I WILL miss. I'm sure that list is just the same as most of yours. Just fill in all the sweetness of them on a good day and you get the picture. Fat little feet running down a beach, a birthday cake with dinosaurs, the simple happiness of playing in a sprinkler...mud. But one thing that I will remember above everything else; reading to them. Coming home from the library with more books than little arms could carry, Little Women aloud by the fireplace, wondering how Robinson Crusoe would survive, Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, Pollyanna, Winnie the Pooh....Peter Rabbit. Where the Wild Things Are and Goodnight Moon. Sometimes I wander into the children's section of the bookstore and sigh. But not to worry, along with one large dollhouse and THOUSANDS of Legos, there is a very large collection of books put away for some future little people that may come my way.

I've had many parents of adult children tell me lately that it isn't ever really over and being a parent to adult children is difficult. Define difficult. I get that I'll worry a bit about them always and hope they make good decisions and are happy but let's face it, whatever it is, I won't be legally responsible for it. No one is going to look at me and wonder why I can't make them behave. There will not be WWIII over a Happy Meal or blood curdling screams over a lost toy. Some of those things may be in my future, but at that point I'll be able to pick up the phone and say "They are ready to come home now."

So come Saturday morning when my son walks across the stage I'll mentally call the thing over. It won't be that clean I'm sure. I'm taking tissues just in case and I'm on the watch for some super emotional mom meltdown but so far so good. After that I'm going shopping and planning a trip. Guilt free. Tenacity is a good character quality but there comes a time the best thing you can do for the people you love is open your arms...and let go.


Note: My son has graduated since this was written and I am happy to report that there were no tears or emotional melt downs.  I did however, fairly rapidly, ship him off to China but more about that later...