Category Archives: Garden

Thriving In My thrifty Week–May 24, 2021

Rob, with help from our nephew Jake, cleaned out the heat pump. He noticed there was so much ash and smoke from last summer’s wildfires he was scared to use it without giving it a good cleaning. He called at least one person to possible come do it for us, but they were unavailable, so he watched U-Tube videos and did it himself. Now when it gets hot, we will be ready. Doing basic cleaning and maintenance on our things saves us a ton of money, as they last longer. Doing it himself saves us even more, but it isn’t always possible, even for Rob. I’m glad it worked this time.

Rob took Michaela, our niece, to see horses twice this week. She loves going places and doing things and this is a totally free activity, other than a little gas, as both places were at friends.’ He’s always looking for fun things for them to do and is always excited when he finds good activities.

This past week, we mostly finished planting the garden. I worked a couple of long, hard days doing that. I didn’t take pictures because there’s nothing to show–the seeds aren’t up yet. So you get pictures of my other obsession–the baby:). There are a few small things to finish, but the bulk of it is done, and I’m not sorry it’s raining today. We need it badly.

I got into the flowerbeds a little bit, but there’s a lot left to do on those. The weeds will wait.

I cooked quite a bit as we had meals to deliver to a couple of places, plus our normal cooking. Patsy has been in a mood to cook, so baked brownies, lemon bars and lemon-poppyseed muffins, twice. Rob has been BBQ-ing everything in sight, so it was a group effort.

I spent quite a bit of time taking my rotation with a family member who is recovering from surgery, and we scheduled out the next bit of time as well on a Zoom call with the family. It’s one good thing that has come out of the pandemic–we just set the time up and all got on there and said which days worked for each one of us, then sent out the schedule via text. Now we know who goes over there and when, who cooks, who takes to appointments, etc. all without leaving home. This should eliminate people being scheduled on days that they are already busy and having to trade, but we can trade if we need to. It’s so nice to have several of us able and willing to take turns and to be able to choose convenient times to do so. And, it’s been great to have so much time to visit with that person more than I usually get to.

By Saturday, I was ready for time with the baby. So, I borrowed him for about 6 or 7 hours and Patsy and I just played with him. Rob was gone to a mens’ conference, but he got a turn once he got home. When his mama came and got him, she surprised me with pizza, which we gobbled right up:).

Rob really enjoyed his conference. It was the first thing like that he has been able to attend in a long, long time. It’s very encouraging to see things like that starting back up in our area. Our family is ready to get out there a little more, now that we’ve all had our vaccinations. Patsy got her second dose this week, so she needs to be patient a little longer, but things are definitely looking up.

Thriving In My Thrifty Week–May 10, 2021

Here is my lovely Mother’s Day basket Rob grew for me in the greenhouse. Each of our mothers got one as well. Grandpa helped our grandson a little with his present selection, by doing some shopping for a very small gift and a card. So did I. I put the one choice on the table and let him crawl toward what he wanted to give his Mama. Not surprisingly, he chose the present I put out, although for moment I thought an empty milk jug in the vicinity might actually win out:).

Much of the week centered around work and a small gathering we decided to have on Mother’s Day. Many significant people, including both of our mothers, had other important places to be, so the numbers were few. That turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as I severely pulled a muscle in my leg while working on the flowerbeds. Rob and Patsy did all the work to get the house ready and Rob did most of the cooking. I sat on the couch and read or watched t.v. while they did those chores. Hmmm…some people will do anything to get out of work….. I say in my defense that I did clean 1/2 the bathroom. Gladly, I’m much, much better now and Rob and I took 2 super short walks today to get that leg back in shape. Tomorrow’s going to be much better yet, I can already tell.

I saved a lot of money sitting on my couch. How, you ask? Well, we made up a menu entirely of food we had on hand, except for some sugar soda Rob picked up. All we use here is diet soda, but some like the regular kind. It was on a very good sale, so that didn’t cost much. Thankfully, I had shopped last weekend for 2 weeks, and my plan payed off. We still have lots of groceries. People also brought things, and that’s always a nice gift to the host! This time, we really appreciated it more than ever.

I did not buy paperwork at the Dollar Store or anywhere else. I used regular silverware, not plastic and my usual glass plates for dessert. I did use a few paper plates I had in the cupboard, but bought no special napkins or anything for the occasion. I put fabric placemats here and there on t.v. trays and on the table for people to use, so did not buy a paper or plastic tablecloth. I put basil plants Rob grew in the center of the table for a centerpiece with the intention of giving them away after the party, so did not buy flowers or any other decorations.

I did not go to JoAnn’s as planned to buy new patterns on the pattern sale. Because I was not there, I bought nothing else, either. Because I’ve not chosen to go often during the pandemic, I do buy things when I’m there and can find something I like. There will be other chances to go to JoAnn’s, and other pattern sales, even though my phone is constantly telling me “It’s you LAST chance to get a good deal at JoAnn’s!” I have so many projects to work on, I’m not worried.

We also spent extra money when I sat on the couch. For one meal, Rob ordered me some gluten-free pizza from Dominos. Yum, yum, yum. If it didn’t hurt so much, I would definitely think it was worth doing it again…..but….it did hurt, and I got very bored sitting down, so I’m not planning on it.

I sent artichokes home with my oldest daughter. I said anyone who wanted some could pick some, so she did. She picked some for us to eat as well.

I picked lettuce a couple of times already and have more getting ready. I was able to re-use the nets from last year to keep the birds off.

The Little White Snowpeas are blooming and the Maestro peas on the left are about to bloom. In the back the Sugar Snap Peas are climbing the fence, as they should. Since we can’t till properly, as the new tiller is still delayed, I’m so thankful for the new raised beds Rob built last fall.

My aunt kindly texted me that there were eggs for 98c/dozen at her local Waremart (like Winco). Rob needed to run over there anyway for another reason, and, since I didn’t have as many eggs as I thought I did, he stopped to get me some and SCORED!!!!! Around here, jar lids are still very scarce. But, now we have enough to add to what he’s purchased here and there to finish up what we need for this upcoming canning season and so do the rest of my sisters and my mom, as some of these are for them. He just couldn’t believe it when buying a whole case was an option. He couldn’t believe there were any at all, much less that many! He has checked over and over in basically every store he has entered for any reason, and also on line. (Yes, there are some there, but we refuse to pay outrageous prices like $9/box, or other equally ridiculous prices.)

Now, if that elusive jar lid super sales comes along, I may buy extra to have a backlog, but for now, I’m super happy with what we have. The people he’s talked to where we often buy lids told him they got some, quickly sold them, and have no idea when, or IF, they are ever getting more. And, there are limits on how many a person can buy posted on the shelves when they are found in this area. We are not jar lid hoarders, but it is a fact that I canned over 1,000 jars last summer and that’s a lot of boxes of lids. I’m also a jar lid snob and only want Ball or Kerr. I’ve had some bad experiences with other brands and it’s just too much work for me to risk repeating those experiences. This year, I probably don’t need to do quite so many as I tried to can a few extra of each item last year, but we hit some items pretty hard this past winter. Good thing I love canning and gardening.

The other thing Rob and I did last summer was dry more items. We plan to do even more of that this year, as we found uses for most of what we dried. There’s just no point in growing such a large garden to preserve if I can’t find supplies to do just that and a way to use what I preserve. If they don’t like it, they won’t eat it. Plain and simple, sad, but true, and any other cliche you have heard. They are all true around here:)

Are any of you having success finding lids where you live?

Thriving In My Thrifty Week–April 20, 2021

Last week can be summed up with one word: YARDWORK!!!

We had 8 yards of well-rotted mint compost delivered on Friday morning at 7 (Yikes!) and spent Friday and Saturday taking it by the wheelbarrow-load to the garden. You can see the new raised beds in the background. There are peas, snap peas, snow peas, green onions and strawberries growing nicely. The weather has been great, and Rob got the watering system up and running so now they are growing even better between the water and sunshine.

We spent quite a bit of time working on the watering system. A few sprinkler heads needed replacing and there was one evening where Rob was on his stomach in the grass, I was wrist-deep in mud trying to screw the new head in, water was spewing everywhere at one moment, and Jake wanted noodles! Wow! Never a dull moment. Eventually, we got 2 out of 3 replaced and left the other one for another day!

I used an old-fashioned shovel to dig out many, many dandelions and other weeds near the raised beds by the deck and the flowerbed nearby. After I got it cleaned out, I spread a couple of bags of bark chips in the paths to help keep them clear. It helped a lot last year.

We have saved hundreds lately by either doing things ourselves or having Rob fix broken items.

We put steer manure in the flowerbed area where the fig tree used to be. The soil is terrible, but we will improve it over time. I planted out geraniums that Rob either dug up and saved in the greenhouse all winter or started from cuttings. The alyssum, pansies, African daisies and poppies were started from seed in the greenhouse. Some seeds were from seed companies, some from the Dollar Store, and the cuttings were from last years’ plants.

In the area behind the geraniums, including the stump area, tons of zinnia seeds are scattered. Most are old, (25c/quart bag at a yard sale a couple of years ago), so I threw them in there thickly. Straight back on the right, is a snowball bush. We bought it at a yard sale for $5 this weekend. I’ve been wanting one for quite some time, so I was delighted. On the right-hand side are some Hood strawberry plants–just 12. They are June-bearing. I’d like to have a large crop at one time for jam next year. The rest of my berries are overbearing, and I love having berries all summer. We shall see. Without the tree to shade everything and take all the water, I have high hopes for this area.

We all took our nephew to a track meet. They have a very short season, due to Covid, so his parents, Michaela, Rob, myself, Lovana, Patsy and Malcolm went to cheer him on. He has 2 more, and then he’s done. Malcolm’s mom was working that day, so we got to take him to his first ever sporting event:)

We took advantage of the sunshine and had a picnic at the park with Jake, Michaela, Patsy, Malcolm, Ja’Ana, Rob and myself before J had to go to work one day. We took several walks. We cooked a few meals, but did sandwiches, salads, and things like that quite a bit. I finally went to the store today, Tuesday, and stocked up on enough to hopefully last the rest of the month. The last time I went was almost 2 weeks ago, so we were getting low on produce. I also placed an Azure Standard order with the money I’d set aside the last couple of months, to stock up on some cleaning supplies and bulk items. The funniest thing we ordered, for me, was a pound of pepper. Again! I got one about 3 months ago. Really! I’m not kidding–Rob likes pepper (understatement of the year!). It amazed me to see I needed another one so soon, but I did. So, if you ever stop by for dinner…..consider yourself warned!

Thriving In My Thrifty Week–March 15, 2021

Several years ago, we got extra daffodil bulbs when my sister divider hers. Patsy planted them in front near the street and they get prettier every year. The first year there was one bloom on some of the plants. Now they are starting to multiply and will continue to do so until I will have to divide them in the future.Sometimes, we add in a few bulbs from Winco or other places, but mostly these are absolutely free flowers that just keep growing and growing. I weeded a tiny bit in that flower bed, but there’s lot more to do.

We spent the week cleaning up the tree Rob cut down last Monday. There’s still a bit left to pick up, but the majority of branches are gone. Rob borrowed a trailer to haul them away to my sister’s farm. The cardboard box was over some daffodils to keep them safe, and another one was covering the faucet. The chunks of wood will join the rest in the side yard, drying for next year. Then, I’m going to enrich the soil and plant a few things. I have not decided exactly what I’m planting, yet.

Rob’s been transplanting like crazy. He built some shelves up high in the greenhouse and is putting in an automatic sprinkler system to water things when we go camping. He’s doing some experimentation. It seems like the next thing he is going to try is 1 minute per day and see how it goes, after drenching them so badly he feared he had drowned them during the last trial run! (Do you notice a theme here lately….we are planning to make it to our camping trips this summer, unlike last summer when they got cancelled almost every time–nothing will stand in our way if we can help it, says the girl who already had to postpone one trip due to an ice storm! But, we will prevail, or if we have to cancel, it won’t be from lack of trying to go!)

The tomatoes are really starting to look good. They are not all for me, in case you were wondering if I was going on a “tomato only diet” in the summer:).

I made 3 kinds of soup this week. One was vegetable, one was chili and the other was a cream of broccoli, carrot and cauliflower with cheese, made from the little baggies of veggies in the school lunches and milk from the same place.

Rob had to stop off at Costco and grabbed a cooked chicken while he was there, so we’ve been eating that. He pulled steak from the freezer one day and then found that our niece, Alissa, accepted my invitation to eat lunch here on Sunday after church, so he saved it, cut it into smaller pieces and cooked it when she came over. She loves, loves, loves steak! Her brother and sister were already here, and they were so glad to see her. She works at a camp these days and isn’t home as much as they would like. We all were delighted to see her! As the day progressed, the party grew unexpectedly. 2 daughters and grandson came over, too, so I baked a lot of potatoes and cooked carrots, green beans and corn to stretch out the one package of meat he had thawed. It’s the garden that just keeps giving! I also used some of my home-canned apple pie filling to make an apple crisp. There was more than enough, and there were lots of leftovers for people to take home if they wished. Funny thing. There are still carrots and beans in the fridge…hmmmm….no one took those….hmmm.

I did some cleaning and yard work. It makes me feel calm when I get things tidied up. Of course, the clean house didn’t last long, since Jake and Michaela spent the weekend here, and we had the kids over on Sunday, but at least we started out clean:). It still felt good to know I had done it! I noticed that the kids all spread out nicely without being asked, so I felt happy that they were social distancing on their own.

I finally went to JoAnn’s and used some gift cards I received for Christmas. I got some cotton fabric, elastic, thread, and a few patterns. I plan to make some summer dresses for Patsy and maybe a top or two. I may even make myself a cool, flowing, oversized summer dress while I’m at it. Last summer, I wished I had one to throw on after working in the garden, since I often get quite hot out there.

I’ve been working on a dress for Patsy that was started some time ago, so need to finish that before I start anything else. I also made several masks. Some of ours are wearing out, and we lost a couple. Now that we’ve been going back to church, I am wearing masks more often.

Thriving In My Thrifty Week–March 8, 2021

We have had some very mild weather this week. I took the opportunity to weed out the raised bed I planted last fall. It’s been covered with plastic over wood frames. We removed them, I weeded and planted, then put the coverings back on.

Kale, lettuce, boc choi, parsley, chives and a few scraggly snow peas wintered over. I planted tiny Quick Start Cabbages, Noble Spinach, lettuce, snow peas and some cilantro. I covered 2 of the cabbages with milk jugs to see if that speeds them up even more, as I’m down to my last couple of cabbages from the winter garden. The walnut shells are an experiment. Hopefully, they are sharp and the slugs won’t want to crawl on them.

I planted climbing sweet pea flowers behind the baby strawberry plants in my new raised beds in the side yard. There are a few bush snow peas, some green onions and a space for a very small patch of something else, still not decided on. In the far raised bed, there are Sugar Snap peas in the back that will grow up the fence and Maestro bush shelling peas in the front, filling the entire bed. It takes a lot of shelling peas to get any! The sweet pea seeds and the bush pea seeds are a bit old, but I wanted to give them a try now that I have a fence they can climb, if they grow.

Today, Rob took the fig tree down. It was in the front yard, and now there’s a huge mess! He did it gradually, though, starting with his pole saw, so I could pull branches away as he downed them. No cars were hurt, no power lines damaged and nothing hurts except our muscles. Boy, do they ache after using some that had clearly not been used for a while! We started that project right after we got back from a 2 mile walk. Not sure we thought that one through:). We will work a day or two more this week to get it all picked up and dealt with. Firewood was moved to another location to be loaded into the shed when the old wood is used up. (There’s some old wood in the back of the shed that needs to be used this year, so we can’t put new wood in front of it.)

Right at the end of the project, Rob’s bigger chain saw died, so he could not quite finish. He has already been watching U-Tube videos to see how to fix it, and also called a guy he knows for advice. We borrowed a trailer, and Rob and our next door neighbor will do a group dump run because neither of them have enough junk for a full load. They will split the dump fee that way. Then, we will fill the trailer with all these branches and he will haul it to my sister’s farm where it can be burned and return the trailer. The tree was very messy and dropped many, many leaves and unappetizing figs. (I think there are other varieties that taste better than this one.). A large piece of the tree broke off this winter, and part of the rest of it was rotten. It was time for it to go, and I won’t miss it. I will miss the interesting birds that came to eat the figs. I think my Sweet William, hydrangea and other flowers will do much better with more light. Even if we could have found an arborist who had time to come (they are super busy cleaning up after the ice storm), we wanted to do it ourselves to save $. And, although they would only charge $15 to dump a load of branches at the dump, free sounds like even a better price:) and Rob needs to drive that direction anyway to return the trailer.

Rob has been busily transplanting his seedlings. He has SO many this year! At last count, there were over 100 tomato seedlings of many various varieties. There are many old tried-and-true kinds and some new ones we wanted to try. He is growing starts for my sister’s garden this year and has several other people he wants to share with.

Jake and Michaela spent a lot of time over here this week. One day, Rob took Jake and Patsy to a park. They had a blast, and I love how Patsy looks in the dress my friend gifted her! She gave Patsy several clothing items she didn’t need anymore, and several of them fit, making Patsy very happy.

Uncle took Michaela to get her hair cut. It was her first time back in a salon for over a year. Grandma’s been keeping her trimmed and tidy through Covid, but she was excited to get back to her regular routine. She loves nothing more than having Rob drive her here and there and to have appointments and activities to do. He also took her to Horses of Hope, where she gets to either ride or interact with various therapy horses.

She also went with him to pick up pork from the meat shop. (She calls those kind of errands country drives and looks for trains, McDonald’s and Dairy Queens whenever he can drum up an errand that’s a little distance away). A man we know who raises pigs had 1/2 of a small one he could not sell and offered it to us for the price of cut and wrap. We gratefully accepted and it is residing in our freezer now. It was about 80 pounds of meat, and it ended up a little over $1/lb for the cut and wrap fees.

And, what would my blog be without babies? We were blessed to be able to spend some time with Rob’s family–the first time in over a year. We had not seen a couple of the family members for over 2 years, and had never seen the youngest baby.

It’s crazy to think of, but both of these little boys are Rob’s great nephews. His nephew’s son is 2, and niece’s son is 1. They were born almost exactly 1 year apart from each other. There was a birthday party on Sunday afternoon. I had never met either little boy, so spent some time crawling on the floor, getting acquainted. The older little cutie has seen Rob before, and spent the party pointing his little finger at Rob across the room saying, “That’s Uncle Rob!” So cute:). Although Rob has occasionally been able to see his mother this past year, it’s been very limited, and even more so for me as we have so strictly limited our exposure to her, as she is in her upper 80’s. I was able to have a nice chat with her, and I enjoyed catching up. She heard Rob was raising plants and told me she had told some people at the party that they no longer needed to buy any, just go see Rob:). Good thing he has a lot!! He really does have some to share, so that’s good.

Now that so many in that group are vaccinated, we felt comfortable accepting the invitation. I did notice people keeping their distance more than they used to. This pandemic has changed us all in small ways, as well as the large, more obvious ones.

We were able to go to church again this Sunday. The girls wanted to go, too, so we picked them and our grandson up and hauled them along. The baby was great. Once again, he fell asleep on Rob for the sermon. The cutest thing was he woke up at the end and when Rob held him up during the last song, he started singing little baby praises with everyone else. So sweet!

I’m looking forward to getting outside more this coming week. There are so many daffodils blooming now. I’m loving them. I’ll try to get a picture of the front of the house where Patsy planted so many bulbs from my sister’s yard a few years ago. They are just about to burst into bloom. They should be lovely in a few days. Every year, we try to buy her a small handful of “fancy” daffodils to put in there with the others, and I’m interested to see what came up from this last batch. Hopefully, that ice storm was winter’s last hurrah, and spring is here to stay!

The Side yard Garden Project Completed-January, 2021

We finished the side yard project this week. This used to be a real mess, with waist-high weeds along the fence in spring and mud in the winter. We wanted it to be more usable, and for there to be a cleaner surface to walk on as we went back and forth into the camper. When we camp, we have to load in our fresh foods and our clothes for the week. We also use the camper fridge as our extra fridge when we buy a large quantity of something that was on sale. We also use the camper for a guest house on the rare occasions that someone visits us over night. Where the raised beds are now, there was a grassy area that was an inconvenience to mow and a wasted area to water, but it’s hooked into the sprinkler system. I wanted to grow more food there instead.

We started last fall. Patsy worked on it for a while, and was paid for her efforts, and then decided it wasn’t her favorite thing, so Rob and I took it on. There were concrete stones, weeds, roots, rocks and dirt to move.

As the fall and winter progressed, we worked at it when we could. There are pebbles where the camper steps stop and red bark for the rest of the area.

Rob built the first raised bed from reclaimed lumber. He had to buy part of the lumber for the second one, but using the scavenged lumber helped bring the cost way down. We saved all the dirt we dug up from the area by the camper to help fill the new beds. The bags are some dirt that was dug up before Rob got the beds built. We saved all the concrete edging stones for another future project. Rob has a plan to put in drip irrigation connected to the in-ground sprinkler system that is already there, and make it as easy to water as the rest of the yard and garden.

We covered the grass under the beds with old cardboard from boxes to discourage weeds, then shoveled in dirt.

A few weeks ago, I put some purchased, enriched soil and some bone meal in the first bed and stirred it up. Then, I planted baby strawberry plants in half of it. This weekend, Rob finished filling the second bed with dirt and more enriched soil. I spread out the rest of the red bark chips and he trimmed off the neighbor’s bushes that had been growing through our fence. The branches were starting to lean out toward the camper, and were a real trial to brush up against after a rain…..quite startling I’ll say when the water went down my neck!

I plan to plant some peas in the empty bed before too many weeks pass. The other half of the strawberry bed will be filled with early spring veggies such as boc choi, spinach and cabbage or more peas. I bought a big package of those. It’s just easier around here to get into a raised bed in early spring since they dry out sooner. The main garden is way too wet. There is good sun here, so I’m excited about what might grow.

The arborvitae look dismal now, but they will leaf out all too soon. I don’t want them anyway–they are the neighbors. He does know we trimmed them off on our side. Rob thought it was just common courtesy to ask permission even though they were growing through onto our side of the fence, and of course he was fine with it.

Since the camper is not at home now, we decided to hustle up and finish the job while it was easier to work in that area. How Rob does it, I’ll never know, but he will back it in there and the steps will open up right where the gravel is, every single time. The door will just barely open, but the slide-out will also open exactly enough to not hit the gutters on the house (about 3 or 4 inches) and there will be enough clearance to get in and out the door. It amazes me every time. Now that the project is done, we won’t track as much mud inside, and I’ll have 2 more beds to grow food in. I should not get water down my neck any more, and Patsy won’t have to man-handle the mower into that inconvenient place anymore. It’s nice to have it done.

2021 gardening Plans

If I want produce like this again, I need to plan now. Rob and I have done quite a bit of garden planning this winter and I’ve already ordered and received my seeds. Here’s what we’ve got planned.

Over the past few months, we have been improving our side yard. There was a strip of grass that became a place to pile things, caused lots of moans and groans every time Patsy had to man-handle the lawn mower over there to mow the tiny strip of grass and was wasting water to irrigate something we did not like. Rob built raised beds. Cardboard was put in the bottoms and dirt is being moved from beside the camper to fill them in. Last week I mixed in 1/2 bag of purchased growing mix and some bone meal and planted 1/2 of one bed with strawberry runners that had grown from my existing strawberry plants. If we want strawberries, the beds need renewing frequently or they don’t produce well. I was happy to get this many new baby plants for free.

We have raspberry and blackberry (Marion) bushes growing as well. This fall, we cut down an old peach tree that shaded those berries and the back of the garden. I’m excited to see how much better things should grow with the additional water and sunlight they will get.

The bags on the left are full of leaves. Rob picked them up downtown where someone had raked them up and left them out for the taking. Patsy has since dragged them into the garden. They are still in the bags. When the sun shines on the bags as spring comes on, they will decompose more quickly then if we poured them out. At least they did the last time we did this and hopefully it will work again. In the late spring, they will be spread out and tilled in, as long as they are pretty broken down. Otherwise, we will have to wait as they will rob the soil of nitrogen while they break down if they are too intact. Part of our planning is a constant search to improve our soil. We expect a lot from our garden, so we amend the soil every chance we get.

Rob will clean the greenhouse soon. He has some winter lettuce growing now, and will start some of the baby plants soon. Right now, it’s not heated at all, but he will put a heat mat under the new seeds when he plants them. It’s been a very mild winter. We have a space heater we can plug in if we absolutely have to, but we’d rather not.

Here are some of the seeds we are using this year. We also have a bag full from of partial packets from previous years, and quite a few seeds Rob saved this past summer. Since it’s the first time he’s done so much seed saving, we are being a little cautious. We will use his and the purchased ones until our confidence has grown and we make sure it’s been done correctly. Still, we ordered about 1/2 of what we do sometimes. You cannot save seeds from hybrids–they won’t grow true to kind. Still, I grow some of those because I want the product they produce. The flowers were a Christmas gift. I love zinnias, so I know I will grow those!

It looks like a lot of seeds, and it is. I grow a huge garden, and we start our seedlings of things like tomatoes and peppers. We also give away some starts to my sister and others. I can and freeze large quantities of vegetables and fruits–I’m talking hundreds of packages and jars, so I need a lot of produce!

I ordered from Territorial Seeds and Pinetree Garden Seeds this year. I like to order from Johnny’s sometimes, but like to limit myself so I don’t have to pay as much shipping. We have several great garden centers around here and I can pick up more things if I need them. I like to order, though, because I like to choose the varieties I want with the disease resistance and productivity I want.

Here are some of the kinds I like to grow. Remember, some of these have been saved, or I already have a partial packet of them so you may not see them in the picture.

Lettuce: The photo is Yukon Winter Mix from Territorial. It’s from the greenhouse. It is the first time I’ve grown it. I had good success in the garden, have some in the raised bed under plastic and in the greenhouse. I ordered more, plus a winter mix from Pinetree. I always grow Buttercrunch. It’s my favorite. I like lettuce mixes and always grow them, plus Drunken Woman Frizzy Headed Lettuce from Territorial. I like the Flashy Troutback lettuce from Territorial, also. We have Gondor head lettuce from Territorial and have used Summertime in the past.

Onions: I have green onion seeds we saved. I get packets from the Dollar Store sometimes if I need them. I grew Patterson F1 onions for storage and Red Bull F1 as well, from Territorial, and will do so again. You cannot save these seeds, as they are hybrids. They store well. We still have tons left and usually they last until spring if they are not all eaten. I grew white onions last summer. They are all gone because they do not store well.

Cabbage: Last fall, we planted Quick Start cabbage from Territorial because is was the only kind Rob could find seeds for. They were in short supply around here last summer. It grew quickly, made a great fall crop, and I still have one out in the garden that looks good. The rest have been picked and eaten. We ordered another packet of it. It is a smallish head, grows quickly and tasted great. I’ve grown the Cabbage Mix from Pinetree for years. It is all kinds of cabbage mixed up–red ones, big ones, small…all mixed up. I only got 1 red one last year, and will have Rob make sure to not thin out all of those this year, as we enjoying the cabbage/apple relish (?) mix I canned. Even with only one, I got 6 or 7 small jars.

Carrots: I’m not picky on those. I ordered Eskimo F1 from Territorial, just for fun, but am happy with Danvers Half Long from the Dollar Store or anywhere else.

Spinach and Greens: Joi Choi Pac Choi from Territorial is our favorite Boc Choi for early spring and fall planting. Rob’s just getting into kale in the past few years, and finds he likes the Tuscan kind. We ordered Dazzling Blue Kale from Pinetree to try it, and have been enjoying several kinds of kale my friend Jeannie sent me seeds for. We are newbies to growing celery, and have lots of skinny, leafy celery with hollow stems growing right now. We will try Tango from Pinetree this summer and see how it does. We’ve grown Bloomsdale Spinach from various sources, ordered Palco from Pintree for early spring and Reflect from Pinetree for summer planting.

Beans: Blue Lake Bush beans are our favorite. I got 2-1/2 pounds from Territorial this year, as we grow a tremendous amount. I can many quarts each summer. Carson is a good yellow bush bean. I grow a few rows of those and usually mix them into some of the green ones when I can, if I’ve got any ripe ones, for color variance. I also like growing some pole beans for a continuous crop until fall so we can eat fresh ones as long as possible. The bush ones give a large crop all at once for preserving. Rob saved a bunch of Blue Lake Pole Bean seeds. I bought Violet Podded Stringless Pole Beans to grow. They were a bust last summer, but I’ll try again with more sunlight to help them along this year.

Tomatoes: Glacier (Territorial) for small, extremely early tomatoes. Black or Chocolate Cherry, Sungold and Yellow Pear for small tomatoes to snack on. We got Fantastic F1 from Territorial for canning, Cordova F1 as a sauce/paste tomato and are trying CarmelloF1 for the first time for slicing. We grew BuffalosteakF1 last year and will use the rest of the packet this year. We could not get WillametteF1 this year from Territorial, so Rob ordered some from the internet. We’ll see what they turn out to be:). We got some Longkeeper seeds. I grew them years ago and want to try again. The green tomatoes Rob picked and ripened lasted until Thanksgiving. Maybe these can do better.

Broccoli: Hybrid Broccoli Blend from Territorial. It gives broccoli at different times, as it is a mix of different varieties, which is nice.

Herbs: Dill, basil, cilantro, parsley. I’m not picky. I order some, get some from the Dollar store, and save seeds. My parsley self-seeds, as does the cilantro and sometimes dill.

Peppers: Carmen (Pinetree or Johnny’s)–it’s a long sweet pepper that ripens early, a must for my climate. I’ve grown it for years. I’m growing Jalafuigo Jalepeno from Pinetree this year as it promises to be larger and spicier than others. Anaheim can be purchased many places. Serranos from the Dollar Store work fine, as I only need a few. Lola F1 from Territorial is a recent favorite. It’s a long, light green sweet pepper and bears heavily. Rob started Hungarian Wax Peppers from the Dollar Store last year, not knowing what they would be exactly. They were great and we still have a package…We also have some bell pepper seeds from there.

Peas: I grew some Tall Telephone Pole peas last year and got a few. This year, I will go back to an old favorite, Maestro, a bush pea from Territorial. I don’t grow them every year, but I plan to put some into one of the new raised beds for an early spring crop.

We use multiple succession plantings of Oregon Sugar Pod II peas. Tons! We eat them as fast as we grow them and I plant a new, tiny row every 2 weeks all summer long.

Beets: Early Wonder Tall Top is our favorite. I’ve also used Detroit. Pinetree Beet Mix is good, too. Rob got a whole handful of Early Wonder Beets on clearance at a local farm store, so that’s what I’ve got this year, plus a bunch of the mix left over. Even with all I grew last year, we had to buy a bunch to pickle–beets are a favorite around here!

Pumpkins and Winter Squash: I struggle with those in this garden. I’ve tried Butternut and Delicata with poor results. I will try again, but was super grateful for the Sweetmeat and Butternut Rob’s cousin gave us, and the ones we were able to purchase at a local farm stand.

Summer Squash: Raven F1 Zucchini from Territorial is great, as is Easypick Gold F1. From Pinetree, I like Tromboncini and Summer Squash Mix. I use a lot of those and make relish and pickles with this as well as eat it fresh.

Cucumbers: Lemon cucumbers grow great and self-seed often in my garden. Rob saved some seeds of those this past summer. Pickling cucumber seeds are fine from the Dollar Store, but, again, Rob saved some. The slicers–same story. I also have some from last year in case his don’t grow, but I think they will. I use a great deal of pickling cucumbers–I canned about 50 pints last summer–so I need a lot.

Flowers: I always grow zinnias and they self-seed in my garden. I like nasturtiums as well, plus Rob grew great pansies last year. He also grew snapdragons from the Dollar Store seeds and they are still alive. He likes to experiment, and so I will have whatever flowers he decides to grow at the time. Last year he saved over the geraniums again, so I will have those. He started a bunch of those from seed last year, and then some cuttings from ours and my aunt’s plants.

Even with growing all of this, sometimes crops fail, or I can’t grow enough, so my sister is gracious enough to let me pick from her garden. We also buy things from farm stands, such as cauliflower, which we do not grow, or peppers if I need to make relish before ours are ripe. It’s always a changing process, but keeps my mind busy and my body active. I love gardening!

Thriving In My Thrifty Week–And a Quick Sewing Project for Patsy–November 15, 2020

I was able to complete a quick sewing project this week. I took the scraps from Patsy’s cape and made her a hat. Sadly, I lost my old hat pattern somewhere in the sewing room. Rob found me another one for free on the internet, and this is how it came out.

We had a very old peach tree at the back of our garden. We’ve been talking for quite some time about taking it down. After all, my sister owns a peach farm and we get all we want from her. Besides, we were very nervous about smashing the neighbor’s fence since so much of it was actually leaning over the fence….you know how these kinds of projects are. They get bigger the more you think about them. So we put if off. This summer, it began to lean alarmingly towards the beautiful fence our neighbor recently erected, so we became more committed to removing it before it fell. In reality, this picture doesn’t even really show how far it was leaning. The angle is wrong. Today was the day to get it down at last!

We were jump-started into action when we were visited by our neighbor on the west side of our house. We followed him into his yard to gape in horror at another neighbor’s yard utterly filled with a part of a huge cedar tree that broke in the last day or two and smashed a shed and filled that person’s entire back yard. He felt he should show us because the rest of the tree was starting to lean alarmingly toward our shop! After some consultation with a couple of neighbors, we found that a tree service was going to be called tomorrow. But, we knew we couldn’t delay any longer in removing our problem tree. That new fence the neighbor put up is too nice to smash.

Thankfully, we had live-streamed church this morning, and God provided a window of opportunity with no rain this afternoon. The minute we were done, the skies opened up and it poured. So, it just became a nice Sunday afternoon project that didn’t ruin our Sunday plans, and took much less time than we had feared.

I climbed a very short ladder and snipped off lower branches with hand loppers and then moved to the clean-up crew. Rob used his chain saw with the long handle to cut off branches, bit by bit, from the top down. We were very careful and pulled the branches toward our side of the fence and threw the branches into the empty garden. Some raspberries and artichokes were actually smashed a bit in the process, but we uncovered them ASAP. There were a few branches that fell over the fence. Thankfully, our neighbor had removed the fancy lights, per Rob’s request a few days ago, and we were able to pull the branches up and over using a garden rake without damaging anything. He came out as we were finishing and assured us that his side of the fence was just fine, we had not smashed, ruined, or destroyed anything in our efforts.

We used pruners to cut the branches into small pieces and filled the yard debris bin. Rob cut the larger pieces into firewood with his chain saw. We left the rest of the branches in the garden and will fill the bin again several times as the weeks pass by. The apple tree will come down this winter, too, hopefully. We get no good apples from it. It’s not ready to fall on anything, so it can wait.

Now my garden will get even more sun and grow even more veggies! The raspberries should be sweeter and grow better. The roots of the tree have been taking too much water from the back of the garden, and I’m hoping this helps. Doing this job ourselves saved us several hundred dollars, maybe more if it had fallen and smashed that lovely fence.

I had planned on shopping last Tuesday, and got the things on my list. I used my $10 off $50 coupon at Safeway and actually spent about $45. I stopped off at Winco and got a 68c/lb turkey and a couple of things they sell for less there. In the meanwhile, Rob and Patsy stopped off at a different Winco and grabbed 2 more turkeys. I’m delighted to have three turkeys now. The whole thing was complicated by the fact that Rob, Michaela and Patsy were on their way home from picking up our 1/4 beef when they stopped for those turkeys! It was a larger quarter than last year. So, we played “arrange the freezer” for quite a while, and it all fit, thank goodness.

While out with her, he found ham for $1.29 at Grocery Outlet, and bought 2 small ones. One hour later, when other family members went to get some, they were all gone. They simply haven’t been on sale anywhere this fall. Since he was going out again, I had him pick up a few more groceries, including a couple more gallons of milk with long pull dates, and we should be set for the next couple of weeks. I have reserved some of my monthly budget for an Azure Standard order later in the month, if I decide to do so.

Rob chopped wood 2 more times this past week.

So, we are loaded up with groceries and wood, so plan to spend this next week cozy and busy!

Thriving In My thrifty Week–October 6, 2020

This is my miracle. Rob picked up some wood from my brother-in-law, came home, split and stacked it.

He is still limping, and has a few other muscles that aren’t working quite right, so he was improved for another round of physical therapy. He started that today.

When Patsy was helping Rob pick up wood, she found a praying mantis. We also found caterpillars in the garden and brought them in with the hope of her being to observe them turning into butterflies. So far, no luck, but it’s good to try.

Our onions are dried nicely now. Rob built some wooden boxes to store them in. We have many, many more than this:). He’s sorting them, a little each day since the white ones will go bad first, then the red and yellow because of the varieties and storage capabilities they have.

He worked with Patsy in the shop while he was building them, and taught her how to safely use a tool she had not used before.

Every time Rob goes up to my sister’s farm, she send home garden goodies. We have been enjoying corn. We have dried the last of her tomatoes, as she has what she wants, and worked with apples, apples and more apples. We also dried zucchini, made Giadiniera, and apple pie filling and bread and butter pickles. I thought I was done with pickles, but found more cucumbers. Those were the absolute last, though, and I pulled the bushes up. My canning shelves are over-full, so Rob build me some wooden boxes to store empty jars in as we empty them to free up a little space on the shelves so I can safely move things around without danger of breakage and more easily see what I have as things in front are used up.

She sent kiwi and kiwi berries for us to snack on.

I spent 4-5 hours tying up my blackberries this week. The new vines grew extra long and were very tangled up with each other, grown into the garden and covered with weeds and otherwise entangled. It was not fun, but it’s done.

This was the week for people to give us food, multiple people for several reasons. What a blessing they all were! I was given a bag of popcorn, many fruits and vegetables, and a box of assorted cans of foods that Rob’s mom was given, but could not use. In that box were canned beans, a can of baby corn, some clams and oysters, and some sauces, plus more. I sorted them. The ones that were slightly over-date were set out for immediate use, the rest put on the shelves for later. I made a baked bean medley from some of them, plan to give away the oysters as we don’t eat them, have a stir-fry planned for the baby corn and will make clam chowder soon. I ate the can of very strange soup, but….hey, we don’t all have the same tastes and it’s gone now:).

I picked some lettuce, the first I’ve had for a while. Summer heat and smoke were not kind to the garden and there wasn’t any for a while. I also picked peppers, green beans, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, zucchini and beets from the garden.

I went grocery shopping last week. I used the $10/off $50 coupon at Safeway and also clipped several store coupons to my phone account. I will need very little at the store this week, between what I bought, the end of the garden, and what I was given. I like to stretch out my shopping trips if I can, to save time and to stay home, and as always, save money!

A Fall Frenzy of Food Preservation–October, 2020

My sister’s apple trees have yielded a bumper crop this year. She has kindly shared a LOT of apples with us over the last couple of weeks.

This week, I have made apple pie filling, dried apples, and we have eaten SO many apples!

As you can see, the garden tomatoes are coming to the end of their days. But, despite a few spots, Rob brought home this box from my sister’s. We also picked some equally spotted ones from our garden.

We dried them. I did this a few years ago. You can use them in any recipe calling for sun-dried tomatoes that are not packed in oil.

In the cabbage mixture I grew, there was one head of red cabbage. We ate a little off the side of it, then it sat in the fridge. I found a recipe for a German cabbage with apples in it and used the rest of the head to make it. It’s a sweet and sour, pickled mixture and I’m getting excited to try it. I’m just waiting to let the flavors meld together before I do.

Rob wanted to make Giadiniera. He found huge heads of cauliflower at a farm stand. They were only $3/each. We froze some and used the rest for this pickled vegetable mixture. There were many, many recipes on the internet, and they all seemed to be different. I did a little research to make sure the brine was safe, and then just picked one.

The zucchini, Tromboncini and summer squash bushes all ripened more fruit. We dried them. I did this a few years back and used them primarily in soup. I added them at the end of the cooking process and they rehydrated nicely and did not turn to mush. I have another idea or two that I plan to try with these.

When I went out to dump one of my many bowls of apple peelings into the compost heap, I felt a “crunch” under my feet. Much to my surprise, there was a cucumber under my feet in the bushes I thought were finished. I started searching and found enough misshapen cucumbers to make 8 little jars of bread-and-butter pickles. That was a very nice surprise since I had not made any this year and a great way to use these ugly cucumbers in a tasty way.

We have spent considerable time this past week preserving food. This task is winding down, though, as we have also spent a great deal of time putting the garden to bed for the winter. We are not done, but are making great progress. The last few fruits are being picked, bushes are being pulled, vines are being tied up, compost is being spread from the one bin that is finished, and Rob is planning to till soon. I have hoed around my fall plants that will not be tilled up, as they are not finished. I hope to finish that job in the next couple of days, before the rain that’s supposed to arrive this weekend. It’s been a wonderful gardening year, and I’m grateful for all that we have been able to harvest.