Friday, April 25, 2014

Up-cycle (or is that re-cycle?): small garden stakes...

As I grew my tomato starts, I realized they might need staking up before going into their bigger buckets, and I didn't  want to buy a bunch of sticks/stakes (hate to spend money when something else will do). As I was walking through the laundry room, I spied a package of bamboo place mats I'd bought on the cheap years ago. Four of them for $1.99.  They were 50% off at the time. One of them I used as a sushi rolling mat, which, BTW, it was perfect for. I had three left.

Hum, these could work, I thought.

I took my rotary cutter, ran a slice through the strings holding the place mats about every 2", and pulled them apart.

Very easy, and I have enough small stakes to last several growing seasons, all from just one of the mats.  I still have two left. I'll keep them. Never know what use they may find.

This project took all of about 10 minutes. Once down to the last few bound sticks, just pull the threads off, and you'll make clean up time quite a bit faster.

My sagging tomato before...

And perked up after...happy.

This is the time of year I'd rather be traveling around with Cliff and Kindle, exercising my camera, and the less money I spend on things I need around the house, the more money I have to hit the road for short weekends here and there.  Plus, it just makes me feel better to up-cycle.  Or is this called a 're-cycle'. I never did figure that one out.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Seedling update and time for trimming

The seedlings are doing exceptionally well in the 'grow room'. So well, in fact, it was time to give them a little trim.  I want my tomatoes to grow vigorously, but also up a little. I want to plant each start fairly deep, so the roots are strong and well developed. To achieve that, they needed some thinning, so the energy would go up and into the top leaves just starting to come along.

It was only the tomatoes that needed trimming at this point. The peppers won't need any, nor will the eggplant. The basil I will prune to create a bushier plant, but it's still a little early for that.

Before trimming they looked very happy, and everyone was/is growing well, almost too well. Now I fear they will be ready for the great outdoors before the great outdoors is ready to provide a hospitable growing environment for them. The last (average) frost isn't until the end of June, and I won't be waiting that long. They will be going out far sooner than that, but I'm prepared to bring them in, as well as cover them with plastic 'jackets', should they need protection from the colder temperatures. None the less, they are still about a month from going outside.

Most of the things I've done with my plants, I've learned through my Google searches, and some instructional videos on YouTube. I really have no clue what I'm doing, but my plants, at least so far, are very happy. Emergence of the seedlings has been well over 90%, which is really cool, and further reinforces that I'm making the right choices so far.

They look a little naked now that they are trimmed, but I know it's good for them, and for how I want them to grow. With the speed they have been growing, it should be no time before they are ready for another trim.

After I trimmed them, I noticed the underside of the leaves was a beautiful purple color. Not sure if these were from a particular tomato plant, or not. I thought they were interesting enough to shoot.

We have almost 80 peas emerging in the garden boxes outside, and they are going crazy. My blueberries are loaded with buds, too, even the plants that are only rated to -30, and had to endure -27 (in buckets!) this winter are coming along.

Cliff's dad loved gardening. Maybe his green thumb is landing on me. I hope so. Time to plant some chives now, and I just may have to bite the bullet and plant a raspberry bush, too, in my father in law's memory.  He always grew them, and Cliff smiles when he tells me about it.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Strawberry coring

I'm not a real fan of cleaning strawberries. Never have been. I'd rather be on the eating end of things when it comes to these little guys.

None the less, cleaning must be done. I'd always done it the 'old fashioned' way. Cut the top off, then slice the berry, but it always bothered me that the less sweet core was still inside, and it took a fairly big cut off the top to remove the leaves, and the hardest part of the core, right at the top.

Many years ago my sister told me to use a straw to push the core from the berry, but every straw I'd tried was too flimsy, and the diameter too small, so my efforts weren't very productive.

This morning I got to thinking, as I looked at cleaning 4 lbs. of strawberries, "how can I make this easier?" I had an extra fat straw from the local coffee shop, so I gave that a go. The only trouble? Once the straw was full of cores, it was hard to push more of them from the berries that would follow, so I added a smaller diameter straw in the center, to act as a plunger. It worked beautifully.

Push the straw into the bottom of the strawberry, up through the leaves and out. If you miss the center, just pull back the housing straw, realign, and push again. When the core is in the straw, and pushed all the way through the berry, push the plunger, and out it comes.

Viola!  Perfectly cored strawberries, with very little waste.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

New 'life'...

I knew after Jet died, I would need something to fill my time, to help ease myself into/through the grief, without being overwhelmed by it. It was probably one of the biggest reasons I went against my promise that I wouldn't grow another vegetable garden this year. I'm glad I did, though in some ways, it is bittersweet.

The day Jet died, we came home to find the first two peas emerging in the planter boxes in the backyard. Eight days later, we have over 50. Both Jet and Ty (and Kindle, too) loved the peas, plucked right off the plant. To see those emerge, and know Jet wouldn't be here to enjoy them this summer, was hard. I knew when we planted them, he wouldn't be here. I even said as much to Cliff at the time. Knowing that, I struggled through the planting, but Kindle is still here, and life goes on...we have to keep things moving for her, so she enjoys her life, as both the boys did when they were here.

The rest of my seedlings are still enjoying the grow lights, and the warmth of the room where they are currently housed. I added a small humidifier to the room a few days ago. I turn it on, along with the heater/fan, for a few hours every day. They are living in their own little 'rain forest'...and thriving, I might add.

This is about 3 weeks post planting. The eggplant and peppers were the last to emerge. I wasn't sure they would, but they did. Just took a bit longer. They popped up about six days ago.

The tomatoes are the furthest along.  We planted three varieties, and all three are doing well.  Cherry, Brandywine and Roma.

The basil is doing well, also. I have found I like to grow the Genovese basil best, and as I understand it, it's the one most prized by chefs. It grows about twice as fast as the sweet basil. I gave one plant to each of my sisters in law last weekend, and kept one for myself. I planted more seeds the next day, and they are well on their way now, too.

The cuttings I took from the gnat infested plant I got at Trader Joe's are also thriving now. After I cut the stems, I washed them well, and set them in a cup of water. Once the roots were well developed, I plunked them into my homemade potting mix, and off they went. They are happy...and no more gnats. In the last week, they have a second set of leaves on one stem. I think they like the 'rain forest', too.

Friday, April 4, 2014

I don't know how...

I don't know how to write this entry. I don't even know how to start. All I see is pain and loss...and a long life ahead, without you at my side.

All your life, you have been my heart, and when you left, it went with you. I feel so empty, so lost without you.  I know I'm breathing, but I can't catch my breath.

Our journey was a private one - one I never wanted to share, and one I don't think you wanted to share, either.

Before you came into my life, I didn't feel a lot of self worth. I'd never been told that I was good enough, smart enough, or worthy of love. You never uttered those words to me, because you couldn't, but in everything you did, every action, every look, every snuggle, bark, sneeze, lick and shake, you told me that I was worthy, that I mattered. You never let me down. You never left my side, unless you had no other choice.  You lifted me up, and healed my broken heart.

You gave me the greatest gift I've ever received - unconditional love.

I don't even want to tell people you are gone. I don't want to hear all the those familiar words, "I understand," or "I'm so sorry for your loss." I don't want to be told how lucky I was, or how lucky you were. I don't want any of that, because no one, anywhere, can understand what you meant to me, what you gave me and how much I loved you...I don't think it's possible to love anything more than I loved you.

I called you "my beautiful," and you were, in every way that possibly mattered.

I have said you were the greatest love of my life, and it's the truth - that I was so well cared for, by you, that I learned to love myself, to trust myself, and to give life a chance I'd never given it before. I trusted you with my deepest fears, and you pushed them away, always letting me know I was stronger than they were. You were the only living thing I have ever trusted never gave me a reason to think I couldn't. Not in your entire life, not for a single moment.

Goodnight, my beautiful. My heart goes with were my everything.