Thursday, April 3, 2014

Backyard Brainstorming

This is that time of year when summer is so close I can almost feel the heat. Almost. So it's the time of year I start hashing out big (some husbands might say unreasonable) plans for how fantastic our backyard is going to be! Granted, several of these things were also on my first plan from 2012 but there are some fun new ideas, too (thank you pinterest). And they definitely will not all happen this year so lets all put on our patient pants before we get started. Got 'em on? Ready to dream big? Good. Here's what I'm thinking:

Over on the top/middle left we have our existing garden. Last year it was totally neglected and used for digging with dump trucks. But this year we already have seeds started to make it better than ever! Our section of strawberries & asparagus will stay the same (but we may finish boxing it in, that never got done last year) but the rest of our garden will need to be expanded to fit more goodies. I'm thinking adding a few more raised beds somewhere in the yard might be our best bet. The right side of our yard is shaded by a big tree so it would have to be back by the driveway or up where we have the random bush of uselessness (and the fruit trees I drew in, but it turns out we have power lines running over there so these would be better suited back where I drew the garden beds. oops.) Besides our new array of veggies, we're also going to need to step up the design to keep the critters out. Our first time around most of our plant were eaten by furry little scavengers. We definitely want to keep some of that food for ourselves this time! We haven't decided on an exact plan but we have a few ideas. One option is to build a removable frame like in the book Square Foot Gardening. The seem fairly easy and cheap to make, the only thing is that I would have to drag them off to get to the foodie goodness. Which led me to the idea of a totally fenced in garden so we can just open the gate to come and go.

I love the simple open look of that one and would be great for keeping out bunnies. However. Oh, however. We have an insane number of squirrels and I'm suspicious that they do far more damage that the few little bunnies hopping around. And a fence like that would not do much to stop them. Boo. So if we did a fenced in garden it would have to be something could have a roof, more like this:

Although there are probably some kind of city ordinances or nonsense against that? Hmm. While we think about that, I'm starting on a much easier & cheaper attempt to keep the critters at bay. I've read that animals aren't too crazy about the smell of marigolds. I have no idea if this is true. But 200 marigold seeds were only $0.99 from SeedsNow so I have a bunch of those guys sprouting in the office, hoping we can plant them all around the garden.

This next idea isn't drawn in the layout, but I also would love to have some kind of greenhouse for year-round veggies. I love these cool window greenhouses, but I'm thinking of doing something more practical like covered boxes along the south side of the house (you can read more about it in Four-Season Harvest). The other ideas I want to keep in mind for our garden are space-saving trellises for viney plants and I want to try newspaper instead of landscaping fabric under our raised beds.

Blogger Tricks

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A Bigger & Better 2x4 Car

We've had such a positive response to our 2x4 car for kids that we've decided to step it up a notch this year with a car that's big enough for the whole family!

It's super affordable, and the customization options are almost endless. You can opt for either bench or bucket seats, or even upcycle a few seats from the junkyard for a cushier ride.

You can make this basic sedan style, make a smaller smart car stye, or even extend the back to make a mini-van with plenty of room to grow!

We have some great optional features like a sunroof, third row seating, and some pretty sweet under-carriage lighting. Get ready for the ride of your life!

You can even reduce your carbon footprint with a simple DIY solar panel!

Here's all you need to get started:
  • 68 - 2x4s @12' long
  • 2 sheets of plexiglass @ 4' x 8'
  • 4 - tires P225/70R15 (or adjust plans for your junkyard find)
  • 1 - sedan chasis & powertrain (our plans are based on a Buick LeSabre but check your junkyard, find the best deal, and adjust the plans accordingly)
  • 1 - steering wheel
  • 1 - car battery
  • optional solar panels (make your own or buy one)
  • Any additional features you would like to include - air conditioning, radio, headlights (required for nighttime driving), coffee pot, keyless entry, etc.
  • Wood glue, screws, wood filler, sandpaper, finishing supplies

Ready to get started?

Friday, March 28, 2014

My Favorite Pie Crust {& Blackberry Pie}

Some days you just need a yummy warm dessert. Pie has been one of my favorites so I thought I'd share my favorite pie crust recipe in case you would like a slice! Granted I'm no pie expert, but I clipped this recipe from a magazine a few years ago and it has been a favorite ever since. This recipe makes three single pie crusts, but I usually divide it in half and roll it a little thinner to get two double crusts. You can wrap the second crust in saran wrap and a ziploc to store it in the fridge for three days, or in the freezer for a month (just thaw it overnight in the refrigerator before using it).

Before we start, let me tell you that these pictures may not be the best representation. I snapped these after it was half eaten and spent the night in the fridge... which was my only chance because we eat it straight out of the oven and it's gone in a flash. This one lasted two and a half days. Minus two tiny pieces for Big Brother, there were two of us eating it. So it may look like a hot mess, but boy oh boy is it yummy!

In a large bowl combine:

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Starting Seeds Indoors

You guys, I can hardly wait for warm garden weather. We started our square foot garden two years ago, but last year was kind of a dud with just a few tomato plants that showed up on their own (I was pregnant and totally unmotivated.) so I'm ready to finally give it a real go again! The boys and I spent a really warm day last week hoeing the garden and pulling up the last few plants still hanging out from last summer to get it new-plant-ready. Of course today it's snowing. So it's still going to be a while before we can actually get things started out there. But we are not deterred, and in fact we're actually already going strong in the guest room! We're trying something new this year to save a few dollars and we're starting our plants from seeds indoors. After reading up and stressing out and trying to map out a planting schedule, I decided I might as well jump in before it's too late. I took parts of what I read here and there and I'm making the rest up as I go. So this is how we started our seeds indoors in seven easy steps. It may not be the best (so please give me any tips you have!), but it's certainly better than the nothing we were doing before!

Step 1: Buy seeds. 
We had a collection of seeds in the freezer from 2+ years ago that we started with (no sense buying more if these would still sprout!) We needed to fill in a few gaps for veggies we hadn't grown before or had bought as plants later in the season. We ordered our new guys from SeedsNow, which specializes in heirloom, non-GMO seeds, and best of all offers sample size packs for just $0.99 each! The packs we ordered have between 10 - 200 seeds depending on the veggie, but that's plenty for our backyard garden purposes. I may try saving seeds at the end of the season for next year. I'll let you know how that goes.

Step 2: Find pots.