Monday, May 24, 2010

My garden - it is a-growin'!

Well, my garden is growing away, which I'm quite pleased with.  I even have two yellow boy tomatoes tomatoing (yes, that is a word ... at least it is now.)  Some of the leaves of that plant are turning yellow, though, and I can't determine if it's not enough sun or too much water.  We had a big rain yesterday and it got a drenching.  I think I'll let it dry out a bit and see if that helps (I also just added some organic fertilizer.)

That's the Yellow Boy on the left with the Riesentraube cherry tomato right next to it.  A pathetic and gangly lettuce is next and then my perennial failure: rosemary.  Bought a start last year and killed it, got a plant for Christmas last year and killed it, and these were cuttings.  They are dead.  I don't think I'm destined to grow rosemary. I've got several basil plants in the rust colored planter that are doing well.  Basil, at least, doesn't hate me!

You can see two of the basil (a LOT more of my basil seeds germinated than I intended, so lots of fresh basil this summer and then some yummy pesto in the fall.  Mmmm.   Next to the basil is my cilantro, which I grew from seeds.  I'm really proud of the cilantro, actually, as it's my bunnies' preferred green and it's so darned expensive if purchased at the store (and never lasts very long, either!)  I've got a hanging pot full of it (along with a volunteer basil which apparently came from last year's basil bolting as it's a different type than this year's). 

These are two of the Thai Striped White Eggplant that were free seeds from the seed company.  I wasn't so sure they'd survive at first, and I don't think they're going to get enough direct sunlight, but there wasn't really any reason not to plant them.  The leaves have a bit of fuzziness - less than an African Violet, but almost the same texture.  It's very interesting and I'm anxious to see how they turn out.  As I've never had this type of eggplant, I'm curious how it'll look and taste!

My Sugar Snap Snow Peas are growing gangbusters!  They're already outgrowing the trellises I bought the other weekend at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, so I don't quite know what I'm going to do next.   Down at the bottom there's the beans - not sure if they're the blue lake bush or the golden wax, as I forget what I planted where.  It'll be fun to find out, though!

In other garden-y news, my garlic seems to be doing well, but the lack of 100% direct sunlight may hurt my crop.  If I even get one bulb, I'll be tickled, honestly.  There's only so much a girl can do with a teeny porch, after all!  My sage is growing well, too, and I have new tenants.

If you recall from last year, I was slightly concerned (okay more than slightly when they swooped down near my head) by the barn swallows that took up residence on my porch.  Well, they returned this year, and after a few days of discouragement, I gave in and admitted that Mother Nature had won.  Barn Swallows: 1, BunnyChick: 0.

Things were going along fairly well for several days.  They remembered their part of the bargain - don't kill me - and I remembered mine - don't bother them.  It was working out well.  Imagine my surprise when I go out one morning to water the plants and I find, not my friends the barn swallows, but rather two mourning doves, who had built their nest on TOP of the mud nest of the barn swallows.  For those who aren't familiar, mourning doves are a great deal bigger than barn swallows.  And they've got beady eyes.  It seems like the swallows gave the doves the low down on the Do Not Kill The Human agreement, but I'm still wary.  f

And sad to say, I miss my barn swallows. 

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Joy of Budgeting

This past month is the first month that I've ever really given myself a firm budget and stuck to it. I downloaded a 'Personal Monthly Budget' from MS Excel, input all the necessary information (including taxes, health insurance premiums, car insurance premiums, etc.) and knew exactly how much I'd have leftover. I then used that 'leftover' money to pay down my debt. I am happy to report that I have paid off my credit card this month (just the interest charges from last month - a total of $6) and my student loan (7 months early)! Next month, I'll also pay off the bed that I financed, so other than my house, I'll be debt-free. After that, the plan is to build up my emergency fund. (The concept for this type of budget and the impetus to actually pay off my bills early despite the twitching it caused when I wrote big checks is credited to Dave Ramsey. If you're interested in budgeting and paying off debt, I highly suggest checking out his Baby Steps, either on his website or by borrowing one of his books from the library.)

One of the best things I did last month was to open a savings account. I've learned that if the money is in my checking account, I will spend it. I now have a modest emergency fund that I will be paying into for the next year or so in order to get the 6 months of expenses that experts recommend. I've also consulted a financial advisor to see about putting my emergency fund into a money market account. I'll likely keep what's in my savings account there, as I like the ability to just transfer it into my checking account for a small emergency (and wanting to buy a new television is NOT an emergency), but for the main part of it, it'd be nice to get more interest than .05%. Yes, that's five hundredths of a percent. I earned a whole $.04 last month. At that rate, I'll be a millionaire ... never. ;)

It's amazing how much more in control I feel because of the budget. I know what I'm spending, how much I can spend, and if I buy something not in the budget (as in the case of a book I've been waiting for for months), it has to come from somewhere else (in this case, it ate into - forgive the pun - my food budget a little.) Now, it's not to say that seeing I had exactly $12.93 in my checking account for a good week before I got paid didn't make me begin to panic. However, it did make me realize that I can't go out and spend whenever I want. What a concept, right?

Overall, I have to say budgeting has made me a much calmer person (except for the mistake I made for counting one receipt twice which threw off the totals!). I don't know why I kicked and screamed for so long about having a formal budget. I was always okay with 'If I have enough in the checking account to cover it all, then I'm good' method of budgeting. And while that's fine and good for some people, it's not enough for me. It ignores one very important facet: it doesn't allow me to become financially independent with savings and retirement accounts. Budgeting will allow me to build my savings and eventually contribute more to my retirement savings.

I like that.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Garden Update

Thanks to the lovely (and sometimes terribly hot) weather we've been having lately, my garden is doing extremely well. In a few months, I'll have a nice crop of sugar snap peas, yellow wax beans, green beans, tomatoes, eggplant and lots of yummy herbs!

To the left are a basil plant (far left) and two Riesentraube tomato plants. For a while there, I really didn't think any of the tomatoes had sprouted, but 2 out of 4 ended up producing and one of those little tubes has two plants in it. I know I should be thinning them out, but I feel guilty for killing one of the poor things. We'll see how well they grow and if I can transplant them separately. I've two more basil seedlings that are in various stages of growth. I've never started basil from seed before, so it's a learning process (as are the tomatoes).

My mom also gifted me with a Lemon Boy hybrid tomato plant for Easter. It already has flowers on it - 3 so far - and while I was off this past week, I moved it around my little porch so it would get maximum sun. I can't do that now that I'm back at work, but if it keeps growing as it is, then it'll be producing before too long. Pity it's a hybrid, though. I don't think it'll reproduce itself if I save the seeds (though if I'm wrong, please tell me!) That doesn't mean I won't try, though.

A few of my lettuce seeds (which I purchased last year but did not plant as I also bought starts at my local organic farm) have come up. Just like the poor tomatoes, I can't bear to thin them. I tried transplanting two, to moderate success. One died, the other seems to be doing alright. We'll see how it goes.

My peas are doing absolutely brilliantly, though. I put my makeshift (and extremely homemade) trellis over it (with duct tape, no less, to hold it in place) and one intrepid plant is already wrapping around it. The other two aren't tall enough to do so yet.

Both sets of beans are coming up, and the garlic is doing quite well, too. I have high hopes that it'll actually produce bulbs this year, with consistent watering and enough sun. Cilantro is actually beginning to look like cilantro, too! Woot! I will have to bite the bullet and thin the parsley, though, as I clearly overseeded it and there are a ton of seedlings sprouting. I'll do that next weekend, I think. The eggplant is one little sprout, so my fingers are crossed that it'll grow and produce. (Is now the time to admit I've never, actually, tasted eggplant?)

All in all, my garden is doing quite well for almost mid-April. How about yours?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Garlic, Budgeting, and Meal Planning

So last weekend, I finally got my seeds planted. So far, no signs of germination, but that's normal. I planted cilantro, basil, tomatoes, and soapwort in small containers. The parsley went in the hanging tub, to keep it from taking over, and the peas are supposed to be directly sown, so I put them in one of the big tubs. I'm waiting on the beans, as they're supposed to be directly sown, once chance of frost is past. Since it's getting below freezing tonight (have to bring my parsley pot in), it was a good choice to wait on those. Perhaps next weekend, when it will (hopefully) be warmer.

The little brown things in the middle are toilet paper rolls. I wish I could say I thought of it myself, but alas, like most good ideas, I got it from another blog. The trick is keeping the soil moist. I expect when I finally do get to planting them (four tomatoes and a basil, hopefully), the paper itself will be pushed aside by roots and eventually biodegrate into the potting soil. At least that's the plan, anyway. Not sure how it'll work, though, since I don't plant in the ground. Guess I'll find out!

In other news, the garlic I planted back in January or February (yes, I know, later than the winter equinox or sometime in November) is coming up! I hope it will be do better than last year's did (though I planted that set very late - May, I think.) Regardless, this time I'm more on the proverbial ball.

I'll also plant one or two of the eggplant seeds that I received free from the seed company. Admittedly, I'm not much of an eggplant fan (alright, I admit it, I haven't actually ever had eggplant). Hopefully having 'Thai White Ribbed Eggplant' will convert me.

In financial news, I've started a budget. I downloaded a 'Personal Monthly Budget' spreadsheet to use with Excel and I've now planned out my budget (loosely, since some months I'll need more gas or fewer groceries) for the next few months. I know when (when!) I'll have my credit card/student loan/other charged things paid off, and I know how much I'll start putting away in the savings account, which I've actually started! *gasp* Hopefully, I'll have several months' worth of expenses tucked away, with a bit of planning and not spending my extra on ordering out.

And that brings me to the fact that, along with the budget, I'm also doing meal planning. I went a bit off script today (getting fish tacos since I had $5 free, so my meal only cost me $2.33!), but the macaroni and cheese in my freezer will keep. So far, I'm really enjoying it. It's a weight off my shoulders not to have to wonder what I'll be having - or if I'll have everything I need. That was usually half the reason I would order in (the other being laziness).

So if anyone has any tips on gardening, budgeting, or meal plans, I'd love to hear them! :)

Saturday, March 13, 2010


Wow, sorry, blog. It's been nine months or so since I last posted. A lot's happened in that time period, in my personal life, and suffice it to say that I got very distracted and overwhelmed, and the blog was the thing that fell by the wayside.

An update on my garden from last year:
  • Beans did fairly well. I didn't have enough to can, but they were tasty while they lasted!
  • Tomatoes also did well.
  • Herbs ... were a mixed bag. I fail at rosemary (I think it didn't have enough room for the roots), but basil, parsley and sage did pretty well. Cilantro bolted early and often due to the heat. I'll try to keep it inside this summer.
  • Lettuce - did well until it got hot. Bolting lettuce is very interesting to see, though!
  • Garlic - failure! I didn't plant early enough so they didn't form bulbs.
  • Cucumbers - epic failure! Although they were the size of cucumbers, they were very very bitter. I don't think my porch gets enough direct sun.
  • Sunflowers - I got another couple flowers, which were very pretty, but I did not harvest seeds.
One of the main reasons why I didn't have enough of anything to can is because I went on vacation in August and the plants didn't get watered once a day. I had asked someone to look in on them, but I apparently wasn't specific enough. Alas. The plants were wilted and shriveled by the time I got back.

This year so far, I have ...
  • Planted garlic in January (alright, a bit late from winter equinox or November, but it was bitterly cold in February so I think it'll be okay).
  • Ordered seeds!

Top (left-right): Blue Lake Bush Beans, Golden Wax Beans, Sugar Snap Peas, Soapwort (new to me - I'm curious about using it for making shampoo).

Bottom (left-right): Riesentraube tomatoes, basil, parsley, and thai white ribbed eggplant (a freebie from the seed company).

I also plan to use my cilantro seeds from last year and see if I can get any plants from it. I also want to buy a sage plant (Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, where I bought seeds from, was out of sage seeds). Overall, it's a bit tamer than last year's garden, but most of last year's insanity was due to getting free plants. Well, and a little over-buying on my part!

As I don't plan on taking trips this summer (then again, I never do ...) they should produce enough for me to have some to can. A friend has agreed to teach me to can in exchange for some seamstress work on his shirts. Fair trade, I think!

I want to start my seeds this weekend (at least those that recommend indoor starts). It's a pouring, depressing day, and expected to last all weekend. I guess I've found the plus of a covered porch garden - bad weather isn't necessarily a deterrent!

Happy gardening!