an end to the summer season

The end of the summer means a lot of different things to me but right now I’m thinking about my garden. My summer crop is growing crazy still because I planted everything late but I’m already supposed to have my winter crop in! I don’t think it matters much as long as I get it in soon, like next weekend soon.

I learned a ton from my first summer season. Even will all the mistakes learning experiences, I had a pretty great crop. I’m hoping that means my winter garden will be just as good if not better!

If you haven’t read any of the garden posts yet, here a recap. -> I started off with most of my plants in the greenhouse where they struggled from the lack of light. I then moved the dying plants to a spot on the side of my house. I knew they still wouldn’t get the 8 hours or more of sun that they needed but I was hopeful!  And finally when I realized they weren’t dying (!), I spiffed up the outdoor garden with supports, mulch, and a drip system.

With all that progress, I got a lot in return.

I have 5 tomatoes plants which have given me well over 100 little tomatoes and counting. At one point I got over 50 in one week! I’ve used this recipe three times now. I’ve even experimented! I love a sweet sauce so I skipped the garlic, added two green peppers from the garden, and two tablespoons of sugar. It’s so good!

A couple days ago I found a behemoth. Look at this giant zucchini! You would have thought I won the lottery by the way I was dancing around with my ‘trophy’.

I’d only seen one other rotted zucchini before this one so I didn’t think I’d be getting anything edible. I was collecting tomatoes for sauce when I spotted it.

I’ve heard that they can get too tough and ‘seedy’ when they get too big but I sliced up half of it and made zucchini crisps. Cheesy and delicious.

With all this great crop, I still have some issues that I need to figure out. My peppers have a bug problem. I’ve been able to rescue some but the plants look pretty sad. I haven’t done anything to prevent bugs so I need to do a little research for my winter crop.

You can see in the photo below that some of the leaves are eaten away. Meh, I don’t like bugs!

I also still have that lack of sunlight problem. Look at what this tomato plant did! It grew up and over the fence all the way to the ground on the other side looking for sun. Poor thing.

I know the winter vegetables don’t need as much sunlight so hopefully it won’t be a problem this time around.

As you can see from the photos above and below even though they’re still producing, the tomato and bean plants are ready to go. I was hesitant a month ago to rip them up because they were still going strong but now that they’re a bit weathered so I know it’s time for new, winter vegetables.

This coming weekend I’m hoping to add in some broccoli, cauliflower, and leafy greens.

Tending to my garden is so fun to me. I’m learning a lot which I love and I get food in return! Such a great hobby. I’m excited to try new recipes with the crop too! I’m thinking soup and more soup. 🙂

What are you growing in your winter garden?

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the body shop

A long, long while back I wrote a post about the Leaping Bunny program.

Last Monday, I spent the afternoon in search of new hair care products and makeup. I used the Leaping Bunny App on my phone to help me. It was so useful!

I set my sights on Ulta thinking they’d have a lot of products on the list but I didn’t find much so I headed on over to The Body Shop. I saw on the App that The Body Shop was listed under every category of product that I needed!

On my way over I was optimistic that I was going to find my new one stop shop for beauty and skin care products.

I totally did and then some.

At The Body Shop I found not only a friendly sales person but a girl who was genuinely excited about the product and the core beliefs of the company. I may be way behind on the times but I had no idea that The Body Shop was so focused on helping others. Such a breath of fresh air!

A quote from the founder:

“The business of business should not just be about money, it should be able responsibility. It should be about public good, not private green.”
-Dame Anita Roddick. Human Rights Activist. Founder of The Body Shop (sourced from the ‘Our Company’ page)

Not only is the company against animal testing which I’m all about but it has four other core values that are just as great: Support Community Trade, Defend Human Rights, Activate Self-Esteem, and Protect Our Planet.

I love it.

Like me, you’re probably very tired of politics so I’ll leave it at that and move on to the awesome product!

I wanted to buy everything I laid my eyes on but Al would have killed me so I picked up only what I needed which was shampoo, conditioner, and eye shadow.

With my degrees in graphic design, I’m all about the look of the product! If it looks nice, I want it. A good example of this is wine. Doesn’t everyone buy the bottle just because it’s pretty or is it just me? 🙂

The packaging at The Body Shop is clean and pretty. It’s not too busy and focuses on explaining the product well.

Technically I have a lot of hair but it’s also thin so I went with the volumizing shampoo and conditioner. So far my hair really does seem a lot thicker. It also isn’t weighed down and greasy which often happens with other products that I’ve tried.

Both have nice, floral scents that I totally want as a perfume. Course they may have it! Next time.

I’ve only used the eye shadows once but they were super smooth and therefore easy to apply. The shimmer looks a bit strong in the case but it’s subtle on the skin.

After realizing that I loved the store and didn’t want to leave, I joined the rewards program. You get 10% off all your purchases, coupons when your points build up, free shipping online, and a couple of other perks too.

I promise, The Body Shop has no idea that I’ve written this post! I just had to share my positive experience with you.

Do you have a favorite store or beauty product?

garden upgrade

It’s been about a month since my last garden update. I’m learning as I go so in the past month I’ve made some upgrades and conclusions about my two growing spaces. For any newbie gardeners out there, I thought you might enjoy some tips!

Vegetables like consistency in watering. They like the soil to stay moist all of the time.

The the first week or so that I planted my outdoor garden, I found it difficult to regulate how much water they needed and when. I had trouble with over watering in my greenhouse and was scared I’d hurt these new plants too.

As luck would have it, I ran into a display at Lowe’s for a drip system that looked perfect for my problem. It has a timer that I’ve set to 15 minutes in the morning and 15 at night. Lately during these super hot days, I’ve also turned it on at lunch time to combat the major wilting.

The good thing is that the little drippers are direct (as you can see in the photo above) so you know the plant is getting the water. This is unlike watering with a hose where the plant is getting some water but the weeds around it are also getting a ton! I had a LOT of weeds before I put the system in.

The next thing I realized that I needed were some tomato cages. The bamboo pools weren’t tall or strong enough to hold up my flourishing plants. A couple times I came home to a plant bent over a touching the ground. I was like an ER doctor in a life-threatening situation in the way that I moved to jury-rig a taller pole! I saved them both times, thank goodness.

After that, I got the cages and carefully inserted them into the ground. Once the tomatoes start growing I’ll be able to rest the limbs on the levels of the cage so we don’t have anymore close calls.

My biggest plant which happens to be one of the guys that fell over, needed some more stem support so I used twist ties to help it stand a little better. I’ll readjust the ties as the plant keeps growing.

Roary was being a good girl that day so she got to hang out with me outside the fenced-in backyard. This normally doesn’t happen because if a squirrel or a scent is near by she can’t help but bolt. She decided that it was way too hot to stay next to me so she found the only shaded spot and plopped down in the sea of ivy. She’s a prissy lady who doesn’t even like to put her bare bottom on tile floor (only carpet), so this was really funny to us. 🙂 So hardcore like her hound dog sister nowadays.

The last upgrade I did was cover the drip system and surrounding soil in mulch.

I’ve heard that this will help keep the moisture in as well stop the weeds from growing. I don’t know about that though, those weeks are ruthless!

Oh! You can see in the photo about how I rigged up the taller poles, ha.

This is a picture of one of the very, very tall tomato plants in the greenhouse. The LED light has helped their growth but I think it came along a little too late. Because they spent most of their growth searching for the sun, they’ve grown too tall and thin. They are flowering but even the biggest tomato cages are too short for them.

Recently, a landscaper confirmed that we have to take a couple dying trees down in our backyard so I might try again next year with the greenhouse or expand my outdoor garden. For now, I’m going to try my best to keep the greenhouse plants going and see what happens.

My conclusion is that the outdoors plants are doing much better! I was afraid that they wouldn’t get enough sun but obviously they’re doing better than the ones indoors.

Gardening is so fun!

How’s your garden growing? Do you have a link to any photos? I’d love to see!

homemade compost bin

Yesterday I made a compost bin. It took me like 5 seconds (equivalent to about 25 minutes in a non-exaggerator’s world). I can’t even get over how easy it was.

I searched the internet and found this video from About.com that I decided to copy.

I bought a new no-wheels trashcan from Lowe’s but if you have an old one that you can use for the project, it’d keep your cost down to zilch. Make sure it has a lid that works though! You’ll need it.

The photo above shows my supplies: trash can, drill, green and brown matter. I found this article that explains what the green and brown matter is for and how composting works if you’re curious.

Begin by drilling lots of holes all around the side of the can. The holes are necessary because the microbes that break down the matter need air to survive. It also reduces the smell among other things. I don’t know what size the drill bit was but it looked to be about 1/2 inch in diameter. It seems like a good size to help the air circulate.

Make sure you do the drilling on your driveway or a back porch (not on grass like me) so that it’s easy to sweep up the debris. I spent a good amount of time picking up these little plastic scraps. They were everywhere!

Here’s the bin in all it’s holey goodness. I just eyeballed the spacing by the way. No need to make it perfect.

After that, in went a layer of brown matter. Be sure to tear the paper products into small pieces, it’ll help them decompose quicker.

Orange Green Matter.

And another layer of brown matter in the form of leaves.

If the matter doesn’t stay moist the microbes that break down the material can’t survive so if you live in a super dry state, you might need to water your mixture about once a week. I probably won’t be watering again because I live in the humid South but I didn’t want you to miss a step!

Next, cover the can with your lid. Make sure it’s secure. You don’t want any critters getting into your ‘food’ and also when you roll the thing, you don’t want smelly compost everywhere.

One of the reasons to use a trash can is so that you can tip it over and mix the compost by rolling it about once a week. This will help speed up the process a ton. I’ve read in a couple places that in anywhere from 4 weeks to three months you’ll have fresh compost ready and waiting.

If you want to reduce a little carbon footprint, I’d say this is the way to do it. You’ll take out the garbage less, your trash can in the kitchen won’t stink to high heaven like it sometimes does and in a couple months you’ll get FREE compost to help your garden grow. You may not be a hippie who wants to save the earth but those are some awesome reasons to start a compost pile.

Do you have any green habits or projects? Feel free to share!

———-

On another note. The Grow Light that I mentioned in this post has come in! It looks like a crazy UFO but all the plants in the greenhouse have really perked up. The big test will be how much fruit everything produces. I’ll keep you posted!

my veggie garden

Not to be confused with my greenhouse garden.

Speaking of my greenhouse, I’ve been having a little trouble with it. There are two issues: 1. That there is too much shade and therefore not enough sunlight and 2. I might have watered the veggies too frequently.

The overwatering has resulted in yellowing bottom leaves and gnats galore. I’ve somewhat fixed the problem by being really stingy with watering. If I feel any moisture in the first two inches of soil then I leave the plants alone. Since doing this, I’ve gone up to 5 days without watering! I have to remember that the plants are in a greenhouse in pots so they don’t need much. So far so good now that I’ve changed my ways.

As for the sun problem, I did a couple things. First, I cut back a couple of pine tree branches to let in a little bit more light.

I also bought a GlowPanel 45 LED Grow Light that covers 5 square feet. Even though it was pricey, I figure it’s a lot cheaper and ‘greener’ than buying vegetables that I have traveled across the country to my plate! It also only uses 28 watts of power but produces 250 watts of sunny light. Super cool. I wish I could tell you that it works great but I got it out of the packaging yesterday and it wouldn’t turn on! Hopefully, once I get a new one, I’ll be posting about giant tomatoes and peppers.

The last and final thing I did to try and combat the shade was to move some of the plants to a spot outside that gets more light. To the right of our side entrance we had a huge mess of weeds and plants so I thought it’d be a good location.

The week before I started my solo work, my sister and I uprooted all the weeds and transplanted the plants in the foreground of the photo (that need mulch!) from the area in the back. Because this was already done, I was able to start tilling the soil right away using a hoe.

Can I just say that I feel quite silly using these gardening/farming terms? Especially when one reminds me of my love for Ludacris.  Does that explain a lot? I hope not, ha. Please keep reading!

Anyways, tilling is tiring!! I had to stop ever couple minutes to take a breather and rest my weary arms.

After I was fiiiinally finished, I mixed in my new top soil with the existing soil per the instructions on the bag. I then dug out little trenches to help water filter out. I don’t even know if I was supposed to do that part but it’s what I always see online.

I laid out my 2 feet long bamboo sticks to space out where I wanted to plant my veggies – every 3 feet for tomatoes and squash and every 2 feet for the peppers.

Then I carefully dug the plants out of their pots and planted them next to their poles.

And tied them to the poles using twist ties. I know they aren’t very tall but I figured a little support this early wouldn’t hurt.

I’m still a bit worried about the amount of sun these plants will be getting too. I know they should be getting at least 8 which they aren’t BUT I’ve got nothing to lose!

I wish there was someone that could come over and just tell me what to do with everything but hey, it’s an experiment! This gardening stuff is fun and if I get a couple tomatoes at the end of the July it’ll be icing on the cake pasta sauce on the spaghetti!

Are you taking any risks in your yard? Any new plants?

to eat meat or not to eat meat?

That is the question.

Ever since I was little, meat has grossed me out. To this day if I chomp on an unmentionable (veiny thing or fat) I panic, start to sweat, and then either attempt to swallow or spit it out. Lately I can’t even finish the meal if that happens.

Ground up stuff on the other hand, I can take – all that nastiness is mixed together so you can’t determine what’s what! <- That statement is so ridiculous but true. An example: I had a Mexican meal last week with the best beef tacos and tamales in town. It’s located here but has a different name now just in case any Richmonders want to venture outside the city.

Meat promoting aside.

At the beginning of this year I attempted to stop eating any of it. It was fine except for when I went to eat my normal meat meals like pizza and Mexican when I’d have to rethink a bit. Obviously there are simple substitutes but it made me think! I went a couple weeks and then went back to my normal eating habits. I think going back was a combination of having to cook for myself as well as my meat eating husband and the question of ‘why?’. What’s the point of stopping if I like some of it? I thought this and I’m sure my husband did too.

This morning my blogger friend Sarah wrote a post on Polyface Farms which is a ‘green’ farm talked about in the movie Food, Inc.
She reminded me that I’ve had this post in my drafts folder for a couple weeks now so I thought I’d bite the bullet and finish it.

I’ve been meaning to watch Food, Inc. ever since it came out (four years ago!) but I’ve been too scared to do it.

You know I’m a huge animal lover (my family keeps growing and growing) so too see all that pain and suffering would be tough. Watching the movie would be a game changer because I’m not a huge meat eater to begin with.

I’m scared of becoming a vegetarian even though I have an urge to do so. Also, it’s about the cooking challenges and the judging of my reasoning by others. Very silly reasons to not watch a movie that will help me grow. I am a grownup after all, I can do it.

But I haven’t.

I know for some vegetarians it’s about how gross it is to eat flesh and for others it’s about the rights of animals. Or at least I assume these are the reasons because really, up until I started reading healthy living blogs, the only vegetarian I knew was my older sister, Amanda. Hi AMP!

After writing the above, I realize I’m a little bit of both.

So should I become one? My views on animal cruelty are quite strong but I do like to eat meat once in a while. Do I want to give up my beloved tacos and tamales? Maybe I should just make sure the product is coming from a ‘happier’ place like Polyface Farms?

I think for now, that’s what I’m going to do. I’ll find a local farm and/or head to the farmer’s market on Saturday to explore my options. Maybe I’m chickening out or maybe this is what I’m supposed to do.

It’s an interesting crossroads to be in. I’ll be watching Food, Inc. this week for sure.

If you’re a vegetarian or meat eater that is particular about their vendors, what is the reasoning behind your eating habits?

my greenhouse gardening

I’ve only grown a ‘garden’ once and that was last year on my back porch. It was one of the many projects that I took on while my husband was deployed. I grew flowers and green onions all from seeds. Almost every day I would check my pots to see if anything had grown. It was lots of fun.

When we were first looking at our current house, one of the things that caught my attention was the fact that there was a greenhouse sitting in the backyard. I imagined tomatoes to the ceiling and luscious whatevers growing everywhere. I could feed my family!

The only thing was, I didn’t (and still don’t) know how to grow vegetables, let alone in a greenhouse. So this past Sunday I started and found some help in the process.

The lady who lived here before us was a gardener. We were told she died of cancer 5 years ago. My father-in-law also died of cancer and so I feel a sort of connection to this house (or her). I’m sympathetic.

You know how some houses can creep you out and some not? Even in it’s current disheveled state, this one is comforting. Maybe it’s the lady, maybe it’s not.

I’m not trying to scare you! Hey, I don’t even go into a ROOM if a scary movie is on and I’m still alive, so just keep reading. 😉

I mean she left me a greenhouse. I’d say that’s my first sign. It’s an 8×10 (I think) with a functioning fan to suck out all the hot air and heater that we need to fix. The previous owners left a lot of stuff in it so I began by clearing out the space while my husband cleaned the outside to let more light in.

before

Ay chihuahua.

Before the planting began, I bought a couple of different organic seeds of vegetables that we frequently eat in the house -> carrots, roma tomatoes, spinach, arugula, peppers, green onions, and zucchini.

The carrots are iffy since they’re a root vegetable but I thought I’d try them anyways. The lady left a huge, deep pot that I thought they might be able to thrive in.

I also lucked out and accidentally bought the bush variety of the zucchini and tomatoes. The vine varieties wouldn’t have worked since they would’ve needed space to spread.

She also helped me a ton by leaving a lot of pots behind. I combined the pots I already had with hers and laid them out on the shelves from largest to smallest. For some reason I thought that made sense.

I then took my seed packets and placed them in the pots to visualize it all. I only needed to buy two more pots to fit everything.

I can’t find the item online, but the soil I used is an organic potting mix from Lowe’s.

I spotted fish tank pebbles in the corner of the shelf and figured I should line the pots with them before I added the soil. I believe it helps drain the water?

Also, I wasn’t sure how high to fill the pots but again the lady helped me out and I saw old dirt lines in a couple of pots to guide me.

Oh and she left me a frying pan in there so I kept it and used it as a pot saucer which I assume is what she had done. Pot saucers help to catch drips and overflow.

My husband had little pieces of scrap wood leftover from a project so I used them to label all the pots.

And no I’m not a magician! I originally had the tomato and pepper seeds in starter pots inside my house so they’ve been growing for a couple weeks.

I planted the arugula in the lady’s crazy pot in the back. I think it’ll work well.

As for the strawberries. They’re an added bonus! I got to work on Tuesday only to find a box of strawberry plants that one of the vets had brought from her own garden. I excitedly scooped up two! I bought an additional two pots and planted them the next day.

I was on such a gardening kick that I moved these EXTREMELY heavy planters to the backyard to make a grouping. They were scattered around the front as well as the side yard. The two larger planters were already filled with soil so I topped them off, filled the smaller one, and then planted flower seeds that I had saved from last year.

I tend to over water so I am resisting the temptation! I know all these plants have a long way to go but hopefully I’ll have a few success stories in the coming months!

I hope the lady would be proud.

Do you have any gardening projects going on this spring?