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.