Thursday, July 19, 2018

My Tricks and Tips for Beating the Heat

A post is coming next week with a garden tour and complete start to finish recap of my garden overhaul. The operative word there being haul. I did mention 2 tons of gravel, right? Meanwhile one of the questions I've received from a bunch of people is how am I working so hard in this heat and worse, humidity.

I should start off by professing my love for winter and all things cozy. Roaring fires and stacks of books, hats, and scarves. (sigh)

Here's how to make the best of it if you decide to take on what should clearly have been a fall, winter, or spring project in the middle of July. What project am I avoiding with this one? 

I mean obviously, hire someone. But if you are cheap, like me, here ya go. 



Maybe the most important thing I've done is to get up early, which I always do. I'm generally up at five and when it's getting light at six you can get outside super early. There are two reasons for this.

First, It's cooler. Aren't you glad you showed up for this info you can't get anywhere else? 

Second, as the day heats up you notice it less.

If you are hanging around inside with the AC blasting and you head out at nine or ten to get started the heat can already knock you down in the south. Being out as the temp rises makes a huge difference even if you are just having your coffee outside. So, remember if you have a lot of outside work to do get out and stay out.


I generally get going around six and work until about 10:30. Then I come inside to take the first shower of the day, (Hugo Chavez is rolling over in his grave) and tackle inside chores. Generally, this means spending seven hours on Pinterest ogling gardens the size of Massachusetts, but lately, it has meant slinging, jarring, and labeling honey. On hive inspection days I do have to hit the hives around 11:00 for an even hotter job. On those days I come in totally wiped out.

I'll happily confess to slipping a nap in this afternoon schedule somewhere if I feel the need. 

After dinner, I go back out and work until dark. By dark, I mean about 9:00.


I have a 25 oz. water bottle that I fill up 6-8 times a day. In the morning I put some lemon slices in the bottle and fill it to the top with ice. Top off with filtered water and take it everywhere! You cannot stay out in this heat if you don't hydrate! I start the day with a protein smoothie and often don't have that until I come in at 10:00. I'm not that hungry first thing in the morning and I find that I eat far less when it's this hot. Later I have a salad and dinner is something light. This heat is an appetite killer. How have I lost zero weight?  


I know that you know to wear the lightest, loosest fitting, coolest thing you have. I have worn the same shirt and shorts whenever I was working on this project. Also boots most days, and after the first couple of days when I got too much sun on my face, I ordered this hat from Amazon with the SPF built in. Don't forget your garden gloves!


*I am not recommending these products. I am telling you what I do. 

Now if you want to make all your own goodies that's great. Some days I do that too. However, when I started this project the ticks were bad and the mosquitos were attacking me in swarms. While I occasionally use homemade mosquito repellent you have to reapply often. This was definitely a Deep Woods Off situation, especially for legs. I did not receive a single mosquito bit during this project.

I used Neutrogena SPF 70 on my face. I have an olive complexion and come in between 10:00-3:00 so I don't bother with sunscreen on my body.

When I come in from the heat I spritz my face with Garnier SkinActive Facial Mist Spray with Rose Water. Obviously, I've sweated all the sunscreen off by this time. I keep it in the fridge so it's extra refreshing. I found this product a few weeks ago when my face and lips were super sensitive due to my propolis/beeswax allergy. ( I know, right?) I was looking for something with rose water and found this. It gave me so much relief! I use it several times a day. Again, you could probably make something similar if you have time. I might try to do that myself this winter when I get a minute.

I have to say that after two weeks of this schedule, I feel amazing! An Instagram friend says she calls it the Prairie Girl Workout. I like that.

Stay cool, Y'all! 

Thursday, July 12, 2018

How to Look Entirely Insane at Your Next Garden Club Meeting

Yes, Y'all. These are the lengths I will go to to avoid pulling up the carpet and linoleum (an inside job!) in the guest cottage.

After our last chicken, Fanny, passed away I just couldn't stand the thought of the chicken run laying empty and sad and growing weeds that would surely be enormous by fall. The total garden overhaul started slowly, as most things do." I wonder how this lamp would look on that table" somehow can turn into painting a room and rearranging furniture. Projects have momentum. Or maybe I just have some crazy decorating disease. Let's call it, Well if I'm Going to do That...

I just thought I'd pull up all the fencing that divided the chicken run from the yard and from the garden. So. Much. Fencing. It was just that temporary kind that comes in rolls and with stakes, you pound into the ground. I did not envision the trees that would take up residence along the fence line when I put the fence up. The massive amount of weeding I thought my backyard needed, disappeared when I pulled up the fence. So satisfying.

With the fences gone, I could see new possibilities.  It was wildy beautiful the way it was but man was I pining for more order and definition!

"I mean, for this fall, obviously," I told my husband. I sort of meant it when I said it but already I was feeling itchy for a change.

"Would you help me move the chicken coop?"  He did and in my mind, I was envisioning what could be. I stripped it down to the frame and once it was in its new location I primed it. It made me so happy even though the bottom is rotten and needs replacing. I love the idea of having a ruin in the garden. Can't wait to work on this next!

One of the things that had always really bothered me was that the trellis and makeshift gate were off center to my kitchen window and the main part of the path.

As long as we had chickens it needed to stay where it was. But now...

Moving the trellis meant digging up the Confederate Jasmine and Carolina Jessamine beside it. Along with tons of weeds. It also meant finding just the right spot for it.

It now sits at the entrance to the bee and flower part of the garden.

It only took one morning to get the job done. I felt so much better with that major annoyance solved. I cleared out the rest of the weeds over the next couple of days and dug a new path. Then I was looking at the old path.

Wouldn't it be nice if they were uniform? You know it would. I'll admit that when I look at this picture now I do think it looks cray cray. 

I tore up the old path. At this point, my garden looked like a construction site.

Did I mention my love for reclaimed brick? I've been collecting them for 30 years.

I've had a lot of people ask me how I can work in this heat and humidity. Here's the rundown: 

Get up at the crack of dawn and start working.

Work until the sun gets on this area of the garden usually about 11:00. 

Take a shower and put on clean clothes, eat, spend the next 7 hours pinning dreamy gardens on Pinterest. 

In the evening put work clothes back on and work until dark. Sometimes I wash my work clothes in between shifts because...ew.

Three words: Deep Woods Off. 

Ticks are bad this year and at the times when it's most comfortable to work there are swarms of mosquitos. 

Three more words: sunhat. sunglasses. boots. 

I was a normal person the three words would have been: GET SOME HELP.

It took me about a week to get ready to order the gravel which arrived on Tuesday and I spent the day moving into the pathways. I still have a long way to go, because of course, I have more ideas!

The gravel (crushed limestone) is from Nature's Earth Products I ordered this over the phone and they offered to deliver it right then! I wasn't ready for a driveway full of gravel but they came the next day. Fantastic customer service and I was surprised at the prices. Why get one ton when you can get two for the same delivery price? 

Here's how Phase 1 turned out! I'm super happy about it!

Also, I think I'm going to find a couple of hard-working young men to help me finish the gravel part after recognizing some physical limitations of being 53 yesterday. Yes. I am saying it will take two males half my age to replace me. I felt amazing while I was doing the work on Tuesday but the next morning I had chest pains from my Mitral Valve Prolapse which hasn't happened in several years. I'm going to admit I might have overdone it.


Wednesday, July 4, 2018

The End of Our Backyard Chicken Adventure

I should probably start off by noting my husband's patience with all my schemes. Sometimes it's a lot like I Love Lucy only he isn't Cuban and I've never been on a ledge in an alien costume. Yet. He does get frightened and hold on tightly to his wallet when I stand around gazing at something too long. It's usually followed by terrifying comments like: 

Wouldn't that be a good place for a chicken coop? or Wouldn't it be fun to have bees? I'm currently envisioning a lovely blueberry hedge at one end of the garden. 

He's so lucky he can't read my mind because the things I actually want to do that he would never agree to would kill him. But trust me they are all amazing! 

The chicken project started somewhere in 2007 when I started laying the groundwork. "Look how expensive eggs are getting!"

Two years later he'd agreed to go all in on the chickens (this meant 3 baby chicks, we know our limits. Also I have read The Egg and I and seen the movie.) And of course, although all the websites stated that you could build a chicken coop out of anything, this chicken coop was going to be in my garden in a suburban backyard and I wanted a pretty chicken coop. Which a friend built to my specifications. Okay, I found him some plans on the internet. 

No automatic alt text available.

As it turned out this wasn't a very practical design but it was pretty. 

By the time the first egg was laid several months later it cost us $563.00. See. I told him eggs were getting expensive. 
No automatic alt text available.

No automatic alt text available.
I started off with 3 baby chicks in 2009. They arrived at the post office and when I got them home and opened the box I immediately fell in love. I raised them in our office and hung on their every peep. The original trio was Jane, Lizzie, and Mrs. Bennett. The chicken run was deemed The Republic of Pemberley. Over the years we had Charlotte, Lady Catherine de Bird, Kitty, Lucy, and Fanny. 

Jane, Mrs. Bennett, and Lizzy.

We were surprised at how entertaining and fun they were. We marveled at their different personalities, we treated every egg as a treasure. But we also had a lot of things go wrong and the brutal truth is that most non-country vets won't treat a chicken which means if things go badly you are on your own. To diagnose. To treat. 

Word. I'm far too squeamish to be a farm wife. 

Everyone's favorite was going behind me in spring as I turned the garden over. 

My husband and I are both far too tenderhearted to be able to put down a sick chicken. I can't count the times that we've imagined how our grandmothers would marvel that no one ever just got thrown into the stew pot when they stopped laying. So after our last experience with a sick and dying chicken, we decided to call it quits. 

But if there's one thing I'm not squeamish about, it's change. There are plenty of posts coming up about what is happening with the chicken run and coop. Meanwhile, here are a few posts and pics of the hens over the past 9 years. 

I'm not crying! You're crying! 





Mrs. Bennet

Lady Catherine de Bird

Lady Catherine de Bird, Lucy, and Fanny