Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Forgive me blog, for I have neglected thee

Well, it's been far too long since I posted something. My only excuse is that a lot's been happening with the end of the school year and my mom doing something to her knee (that was fun, let me tell you!)

But there's been some exciting developments in la casa de Bunny! (The next couple of descriptions will be for The Growing Challenge!)

This was (notice the verb tense - it's now an ex-tomato) my first tomato! Since doing something with only one cherry tomato is, well, silly, I cut it in half and shared it with my mom. We both agreed that it was absolutely delicious. I've since had several more - though, those I incorporated into dinner.

I have to admit I never really put much stock in the 'it tastes better if you've made it yourself' business, but it's so true! I've just recently (within the last year or so) taken to tomatoes and had I had a tomato like this from the beginning, I would have been a convert years ago!

I purchased another tomato plant which I neglected to ask how large it would grow before purchasing. It's also a grape variety, but I had to get a tomato cage ($2.11 at Home Depot - I had it staked before but I saw it leaning out into the open air yesterday and decided enough was enough - good thing the roots are strong!) In the process of putting the cage over the tomato plant, I managed to break off the top - which had several flowers and two lovely teeny tomatoes. I'm kicking myself for not being more careful, but I'm hopeful it'll bounce back.

In better news, my sunflower opened up this past weekend! I wasn't at all sure if it would get enough sun to actually do so, but it has and I'm thrilled. As the plant was free, I wasn't going to be upset if it didn't flower, but it's so pretty, isn't it? It makes me cheerful just to go see it outside.

You can see parts of my homemade trellis there, too (the yellow yarn). As frugal as I am (aka, cheap), I'm trying not to spend a lot more on my garden - I've spent too much already - so when I saw a need for a trellis for the sunflower, as well as two of the cukes and a spare green bean, I eyed the wood leftover from constructing the bunny cage. Yes, I've kept wood in the corner of my living room next to a bookshelf for four and a half years. I knew it'd come in handy some day!

I nailed the two long pieces to the short piece and then stringed the yarn in criss-cross. I then staple-gunned (is that a verb?) the ends of the yarn so it'd have more stability. So far it's working exceedingly well. The cucumbers are clinging to it, it's giving a bit more support to the sunflower and one of the green beans that's next to it has also sent out feelers to use it as well.

The picture to the right shows the trellis a bit better. You can see the beans in the background on my $11 Salvation Army shelf (just needed a bit of tightening of the screws to be really stable). The other yellow flower next to the sunflower is one of the cucumbers. Judging by how many tiny cucumbers I see on it and all its little friends, I'm going to be up to my ears in bread and butter pickles by the end of the summer. (Yay fun gifts!)

I was also able to actually pick six green beans at once (as opposed to the one at a time which, like the first tomato, was eaten by itself). I sauteed them up and again - homegrown is so delicious!

In the Doing Not Thinking Challenge, I have made more progress! My linen cupboard (really just a sectioned off spot in my walk-in closet) has been cleaned out. Watching this video from the ladies of Living on a Dime on how to fold a fitted sheet really helped me make things neat! I also came to the conclusion that not only do I not need six sets of flannel sheets (many with penguin motifs, at that), but I don't need twenty sets of towels, either. I'm just me. I don't go through that many towels before I do a load of laundry! So everything is neatened, refolded, and I've got two big trashbags full of things to go to Salvation Army/Good Will. I'm also keeping up with everything else staying neat as well. It's amazing how much calmer I feel when I'm not surrounded by clutter!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

How My Garden Grows

My porch garden is growing fairly well, I'd say. I've gone from teeny tiny seedlings to actual plants, which is exciting. (You can also see the yard sale find of the week - the bench that's holding the plants. $7 and it fits perfectly!)

I seem unable to grow rosemary, though. I had a rosemary tree given to me at Christmas and it died within a month. The rosemary plant I bought at the end of March/beginning of April is now also almost gone to meet its maker. I don't think I do rosemary.

My cilantro is also looking rather pathetic. I don't think it's getting enough sun, though I'm now moving it into the sun at all possible times.

In good news, the hanging basket of tomatoes is doing well, as is the cucumber. I've got one bitty cucumber, and eight green tomatoes so far. The beans are also doing well, if only coming ready one by one. I'm sure that will change.

This growing season has already been a true learning experience, and I'm discovering my porch doesn't get nearly as much full on sunlight as I thought it did. I don't know how my onions, carrots and garlic will turn out. If they don't do well, I won't plant them again next year, but so far, I'm enjoying it all!

I also have a new set of porchmates. Please ignore the fact that my window obviously needs cleaning desperately (or the screen does, at any rate). They're barn swallows. So far, we seem to be getting on fairly well and staying out of each other's way.

I'm also working on (well, letting it sit) a batch of fertilizer tea. We'll see how it works (I'll try it on a few of the plants that aren't so far along first, I think, just in case I did it wrong.) If I can make my bunnies' poop useful, that'd be great!

The doing not thinking challenge
I haven't organized anything else (yet), but I'm keeping what I have organized neat and clean - that's something, isn't it? I've also donated the things I decluttered. Slowly, but surely ...

Monday, May 18, 2009

A Journey of Self-discovery

Over the past year or so, I've been on a journey of self-discovery, though it was entirely unintentional. One discovery led to anothere, which led to another, and so on and so forth. I find it rather heartening to look back and see how far I've come, especially as this time last year, I was a good bit unhappier and less satisfied than I am now.

I've learned that I can lose weight (despite the fact that I've been maintaining the last six months or so). I am going to refocus this summer, when I can concentrate on it and hopefully have another successful summer in the weight loss department. From my desire to eat healthier ...

I've learned that I can cook! I knew this, sort of, but I've become a much more confident cook. I attribute a lot of this to various food blogs (Green Lite Bites, for one), but also to Cooking Light. Both have fabulous recipes and scrumptious pictures that make me want to try! The interest in making food led to a curiosity of what else I could make and...

I've learned how to sew! With the gift of a sewing machine from my mom for Christmas, I discovered that I can actually make things - gifts, things around the house, etc. The idea of not having to go out and buy a new comforter was freeing (if a bit daunting!) I plan on my next Christmas to be much more a homemade holiday than any previously, because who doesn't like to get gifts that are handmade? From learning how to do things by hand, I wondered what else I can do around the house and ...

I've planted an organic garden. My cucumbers are forming, I've eaten a green bean (yes, A - it was good!), have several tomatoes on one of my cherry tomato plants, and everything else is growing pretty well, too. Except the rosemary. I have no idea what I've done to it, but it was clearly WRONG. This weekend I even constructed a trellis for the sunflower/beans/cuke out of a couple pieces of old wood and some yarn. This interest furthered ...

My curiosity about all things "green". I've set up a recycling center in my kitchen, tried to compost with worms (emphasis on the 'tried'), and now use vinegar-water solution for cleaning countertops. Now, these are hardly jaw-dropping feats, but every step I take improves things. Speaking of improving things ...

I've also become more financially independent. I paid off my car and will pay off my credit card bill next month. This is exceptional timing as I'm downsizing at work in a few months (which I'm totally okay with!). I also called my "extras" companies (cable/internet, cell phone, Verizon) and got them to lower my bills, saving me $75 a month. It's amazing how much these companies are willing to work with you when you tell them that their service is too expensive and that you're thinking of switching! I've also switched myself over to a food budget of $200/month. Last month was a dismal failure, mostly because I wasn't serious about it. This month, with the inspiration of the girls at Standing in the Cash Only Line, I have an envelope with my month's money (16th-16th), and I will do this!

This entire post came about because of this:
My very first loaf of homemade bread. I used the recipe on the back of the bread flour bag and it was surprisingly easy and very rewarding. Not only did I get to nibble on still-steaming bread (YUM), but I also found that I really enjoy kneading bread! Who knew? Fresh bread is going to completely replace storebought in my house - not only is it cheaper, but I know what's going into it, another big thing!

So, what have you all discovered about yourself?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Updates, Challenges and more

Well, I am saddened to say that my foray into vermicomposting has come to a bad end. In looking into my worm bin this afternoon, I discovered that they were all dead. :( Suffice it to say that I am rather upset about this because I was doing my best. It'll be a bit before I try again (but I will). I may want to get one of those fancy ones, rather than using the one I made. Not sure what was wrong with it, exactly, but oh well.

Doing Not Thinking Challenge Update
1. Organize and declutter in the following areas: kitchen, desk area, sewing/craft area, closets. Give away or recycle the things I no longer need/no longer work. This is going rather well. My desk is now neat and organized, as are several kitchen cabinets and drawers. I've given away the things that were making my desk cluttery and am gathering the kitchen stuff to take to Good Will. Yay me!

Oh! And I reorganized my pantry and now nothing's falling off the shelves. I also donated some things I wasn't going to eat to the Mail Carriers Food drive that happened yesterday, so my organizing and decluttering benefited others, not just me.

It's amazing how much calmer I feel without so much crap junking up my drawers. It's almost all perfectly usable, but since I sold kitchen products for the past two and a half years (I've recently stopped), I am up to my eyebrows in products I earned for free. Time to get rid of the things I used before I had the 'good stuff'.

2. Learn how to can! I’ve got lots of veggies growing on my porch and I’ll need to do something with them when it comes time to harvest them. Nothing to harvest, yet, so I haven't done this, though my mother has promised to show me how. Yay!

3. Exercise at least 3x a week, bumping it up to 5 in the summer when I don’t have work. I've been less good about this - I'm at 2x a week definitely. I supervise a gym 3x a week for about an hour, but my days keep getting booked with other things, so hopefully that'll stop soon.

Growing Challenge

Things are going well! I repotted my blue lake bush beans and moved a lot of the ones that were indoors out (and repotted into bigger pots). My first cherry tomato plant has several little tomatoes, I've got a couple beans on one of my pole bean plants, and one of the cucumbers is flowering. Garlic's doing well, as are the onions, carrots and herbs. I also planted a couple more cilantro seeds, as there's always somebunny around here to eat it (two, actually!).

If I can produce enough cilantro to keep my bunnies in greens year round, I've figured I'll save $52 a year, plus tax. That's nothing to sneeze at!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Of Worms and Seedlings

It's been a banner week in my household. Not only are all the seeds outdoors (onion, carrots, cilantro and garlic) sprouting into lovely little seedlings, but I also inherited five pole bean plants, two cucumber plants and a sunflower from work. It literally made my day when I realized that they were there for the taking! Now, I am giving two of my inherited bean plants to a friend, because I already have nine and fourteen total bean plants would produce enough beans to feed far more than me for a year (should it all go well!), but I am still thrilled. I'm not quite sure where I'm going to put all of them, but a coworker is bringing in some pots I can use/borrow/have so that will help a little bit too. I think my windowsills will be getting quite the work out from all the plants that are small enough to be kept indoors.

I am now also the proud mama of approximately 800-1200 worms. It may be less than that now, though, as I don't think they all made it, sadly enough. I do admit to shuddering a little when I spread them out. It seems I have absolutely no problem with picking up single worms, but when they're clumped together, I'm embarrassed to admit that I get a little skeeved.

This was especially apparent when on Friday morning, I got up and went to check on them.
I pulled off the top of the worm bin (I used the method outlined here to make my bin - and even bought a drill to accomplish it!) to reveal that many of my new "darlings" were attempting to escape. Predictably to anyone who knows me, I shrieked, probably waking the neighbors at 6:20 in the morning. I then used a bit of cardboard to "encourage" my new guests to get back into the darn bin. And then I discovered that several had fallen/migrated out the holes in the bottom - I was terribly grateful to have put another bin without holes underneath the original bin, rather than just using the extra lid to catch worm tea, otherwise I might have had worms everywhere. The whole thing went on the porch.

In the day since that happened, I have become a bit less freaked by multiple worms, especially when (wearing a rubber glove - I'm working on weaning myself away from it, really!) I rooted around in the damp newspaper to see if they were eating the feast of Cheerios, stale bread and stale rice that I had ready for them. Enough were happily munching away (and producing vermicompost) for me to be quite pleased. My apple core and a few small slices of cucumber also went in this morning. I'm feeding them lightly for the first week, as per instructions. I hope they'll work up to bunny droppings as well, as that'd be a great way to get rid of them other than tossing them in the garbage. Aanyone know if worms can compost Carefresh, a recycled paper litter? I'm also a tad worried about the urine being too acidic for them, so that might be out.

Monday, April 27, 2009

A Sprout!

My plants have (mostly) been moved outside. I've added six (now five due to my stupidity) lettuce plants to the bounty on my porch. I've been watering twice daily since I woke up on Saturday morning and found my cucumber and two bean plants wilty. Water brought them back, so I've been trying to keep up, especially with the horrendously hot weather we've been having.

In doing my evening checks (I also seem to be getting up earlier and earlier so I can get the watering in before I go off to work and after I feed the fish and the buns), I discovered something that had me racing for the camera.

It's cilantro sprouts! There are several of them, which might mean I have to find some more containers eventually, but I am ecstatic! Not only do the bunnies adore it, but I do too so the more the merrier, in my opinion. I have this vision of looking up at my condo from the ground and seeing cilantro plants in every window. It'll be cheaper than buying it at the store for .99 a bunch at least (and it won't travel all the way from wherever!)

The cilantro I planted outside isn't sprouting yet, which worries me a bit since they were planted at the same time. I'll give them a few more days though. My carrots and onions are also not sprouting. Packet says 10-21 days for them (10-14 and 14-21), so I'm still hopeful. The tomato plant continues to get blossoms, though the rosemary isn't doing as well as I would like, nor is the sage. The oregano is off like gangbusters as is the parsley.

In other garden-related news, I've started a worm bin and the red wigglers (Eisenia Foetida) are enroute. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

New Beginnings

It's rather appropriate, considering the name of this blog (Carrot Wishes and Cilantro Dreams), that my first blog will be about my first garden. Oh, I've had gardens in the past, but they were at my parents' house, bought with my parents' money and used my parents' resources. But now I'm living in my own little condo and have decided to start container gardening on my teeny tiny porch. There were several reasons for my decision (other than it being spring, of course, though that certainly helps). The first is to offset my carbon footprint. While my teeny tiny plants won't do a huge amount, every little bit helps, and hopefully my teeny tiny plants will grow into bigger plants - that is the point of it, after all.

Secondly, the expense of buying fresh herbs for a recipe is astronomical. At my local grocery store, I can get herbs imported from Israel (I think?). Israel. For herbs. Yes, I love herbs, and my sage and prosciutto chicken isn't the same without the sage. Yes, I love my basil in my Basil Shrimp with Goat Cheese Orzo. However, importing it from halfway around the world seems a bit off to me. A package of the herb of your choice is something like $4 and of course, I put the rest back into the fridge, where it sits until I either remember it in time to use it again or I start to notice a smell that's a bit off. The amount of waste going into that little package of herb makes me cringe.

Thirdly, well, truthfully, I need a hobby that gets me away from the computer all summer! There's only so many hours I can sit and stare and check my favorite blogs.

So I chose instead to plant a garden which has set me back almost $100 with plants, seeds, containers and soil, but hopefully it will be a good investment (and is already fun!). I've had good luck with herbs at my parents' house a few years ago (almost a decade, I think), so I hope that good luck has followed me here.

In my first foray into organic container gardening, I've planted basil, oregano, cilantro, sage, rosemary, cucumber, beans, carrots, garlic, onions, and cherry tomatoes. I'm feeling ambitious, though I didn't have space to plant the lettuce seeds I bought. I'll need to get some more containers (I'll be repurposing some things instead of buying the expensive ones from the home store) to thin out the beans, carrots, and onions when the time comes.

Honestly, I'm a bit nervous about the plants I'm starting from seed (carrots, onions, cilantro), and the garlic probably won't be as prolific as it would be if I were planting it in the fall (which is when you're supposed to), but I've got my fingers crossed. After all, if I can get the stuff to sprout in the crisper, why shouldn't it also do well in soil!

The plants will face a Southernly exposure which I hope will be good enough, especially as some won't get prime spots on my 4x6 porch.

Wish me (or rather the plants) luck!