Winter Gardening: Coldhouses

October brought some unseasonably cool temperatures this year (no complaints), so we very quickly had to get our coldhouses up and running. We had a couple nights in the upper twenties while we were still waiting for the plastic for the coldhouses, but thankfully the row covers were enough.

Our radishes were already looking great (a couple ready for harvest!) and the other seedlings were coming along slowly. After a few knuckle-biting nights, we finally received the UV plastic for the coldhouses and got to work.

We used the existing PVC from the frames and expanded to enclose two beds per coldhouse. Because the PVC has a coating that will erode the UV plastic, we covered the areas that would touch with duct tape and went to town (the front and back panels are just cheapo plastic sheeting from the hardware store, so no worries there).

Because duct tape was virtually useless in taping the heavier plastic sheeting, we got to make clips out of PVC (yay!). While Mr. Indulgent did the tall jobs, my job was cutting the sections of PVC with the hacksaw (60+), then cutting the notch with tinsnips so it could slip around the pipe. Ouch.

After a collapse a couple nights in, we used some nylon string to tether things down to keep the frames from racking. So far, it looks to be successful!

Our crops as of a week or so ago:

fingerling carrots, touchon carrots, french breakfast radishes

cabbage, romanesco, chard, kale

And our first harvest!

I am so excited to see how these continue to work. I’ll be checking the temps periodically to see how they’re doing.

Any experimentation with winter gardening for you? What’s your favorite winter crop?

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Happy Halloween!!

Happy Halloween! The planned trick-or-treating may have been rained out, but we made up for it with good friends and good fun indoors. I don’t think Booger noticed :)

Our Wreck It Ralph costumes (Vannelope von Schweetz, Fix it Felix, Wreck it Ralph):

Our arcade game themed pumpkins (Tetris, Pac-Man, Pinball – I know it’s kinda hard to tell when lit):

And a fun evening of pumpkin painting!

I hope you had a wonderful Halloween! How did you celebrate?

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A little Sugar Rush, anyone?

We have a few criteria for Halloween costumes: Booger can’t “know” that he’s in costume (has to just be clothes), and I have to be COMFORTABLE. This year, the family decided to go for a Wreck It Ralph themed Halloween.

The boys had an easy time of it. Booger’s costume consists of a too-small long sleeved onesie that I died red-orange, drew lines on, and cut the sleeves off of, and a too-small pair of brown overalls. Neither the onesie or the overalls will snap, but I don’t think he minds. Mr. Indulgent just needs a blue work shirt (owns), work boots (owns), tool belt (owns), blue hat (owns), some patches for the shirt and hat (he’s making…with some assistance), and a golden hammer (just spray painting one of his many hammers). Easy peasy.

My costume, however, took considerably more work (imagine that, right?). I used white fabric to make a hoodie (modified McCalls 5252) and leggings (just traced a pair of leggings that I own) and dyed them teal. I know it should have been mint green, but that wasn’t an option, and I didn’t care that much. I tried using this tutorial to leave the white stripes, but the garage was a mess I had limited ground space to work on and had the stupid idea to drape the leggings over a bin…so the dye ran. I’m 99% sure that if I’d done this on a flat surface, it would have worked perfectly.

Since I wound up with completely teal leggings, I tried bleaching the stripes…which worked? Well, I learned for the future that when bleaching stripes, use just an itty bitty smidge of bleach…because it, too, runs.

Then I made myself a two-tiered, pleated skirt, and collapsed (because it was 10pm the night before Halloween).

Finishing touches: chalk my blonde hair “black”, wrap a red pipe cleaner in my ponytail, and glue colored dots in my hair (using Tacky glue; water soluble!)

My Vannelope (excuse the cell phone picture…and the toys):

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My first non-Christmas wreath – My October Pintermission

I’ve never had a wreath on my door other than my Christmas wreath (with the exception of the monster wreath for Booger’s first birthday). I recently stumbled across said monster wreath and decided to re-make it. I knew I’d been pinning felt flower tutorials for a reason :)

I used the extra twine from my boxes, wrapped the wreath form, used some of my oops flowers from the Grandparents’ Day board, made some more, hung it with the ribbon off a pack of washrags, and ta-da! All from leftover materials and a couple hours (wrapping the form definitely took the longest).

Pins used:

Loopy flower

Spiral flower (sorry, haven’t the slightest clue what tutorial I used, but they’re all pretty much the same)

Big flower

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Baby-Mae Leggings Review (you need these)

I think most parents have heard of BabyLegs at this point, and for good reason! Little leggings make life SO much easier when it comes to diaper changes, crawling, and they also add to the general cuteness of your little one (and yes, boys and girls!).

And if you know about BabyLegs, you know that they’ll set you back a pretty penny ($12+ per pair!). Luck is smiling down on all of us, because a dear and talented friend of mine has set up shop selling adorable, custom products for a completely reasonable price!

Baby-Mae Leggings started off with the most awesome leggings (check out those awesome Star Wars leggings on my Booger) handmade by LeAnna, and has branched out to include wet bags, lounge pants, changing pads, wipe cases, paci clips, carseat canopies, door latch covers, and all sorts of bags! All products are customizable (without breaking the bank) and you have the BEST fabric choices EVER! I always have a hard time finding cute stuff for Booger because we detest sports in this house, and everything for boys is so sports-centric. With Baby-Mae, I can indulge our geek side with Star Wars and comic book themes (she also has done some Dr. Who!), as well as some classically cute boy looks.

Mr. Indulgent thoroughly appreciates his masculine wet bag (boy are there seriously few choices out there from other sources!)…

LeAnna is continuously creating new products, but she also takes custom orders for any ideas you have! You also get the benefit of quick turn-around on these handmade beauties; she ships orders every Friday!

Check out her Facebook page, look through the fabrics and products and place your order today! Then your kiddo can be this cute :)

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Homemade Stevia Liquid

My fingers are so sweet. It’s like I’m made of plant-based candy. I’d let you try, but you’re not here. Plus, that’d be kinda really weird…I just don’t know you that well.

I’ve never used Stevia. Powder. Leaf. Extract. Liquid. None of it. That stuff is crazy expensive. Thanks to the impulsive decision to grow some this summer, I got to spend some time tonight rolling and tearing up stevia leaves, and now I know how sweet it is!

I’m sure it would have done much better had I trimmed it back (it was three long legs by the end of summer), or if it hadn’t been trying to grow out from under tomato jungle…but I still call it a success.

We took a handful of cuttings to try to root (no harm in trying, right?) and harvested the leaves yesterday. We got about 2 cups of lightly packed leaves!

Because I’m most interested in replacing our tea sugar with stevia, I decided to go for something in liquid form, rather than powder or dried leaves. I found several how-to’s for alcohol based extract, but wasn’t sold on it due to the short shelf life (you reduce it after it’s “steeped”, subsequently cooking off some of the preserving alcohol), which turns out to be 3 months on the shelf. With it being made with vodka and leaves, I really wasn’t sure if it would freeze to store it that way, so I decided to go for the water based liquid and just freeze cubes (2tsp and 1T portions). It’s still a bit big on the portion size (you only need about 1/8 as much liquid stevia as you need sugar), but freezing 1/4tsp portions seemed a little crazy. Plus, we calculate to replace all sugar with stevia in 1 gallon of sweet tea, we’d used 4tsp. For things with very small uses, I froze about 1/4C in a tupperware and plan to just thaw it out once hot tea season is in full swing, and just grab a drop or two when needed.

I used these directions to make my stevia liquid. VERY easy.

Use 1C water for every 1/2C stevia leaves (I had 2C leaves, so I used 4C water), and bring it to a light simmer. Turn off the water and add the leaves (I abused my leaves some before putting them into the pot, just like I would fresh herbs).

Let it sit for 30-40 minutes, then strain through strainer and cheesecloth. From there, I portioned into my ice cube trays and froze.

I think we’ll be starting at half-half to make the switch…we’ll see if Mr. Indulgent will continue to indulge :)

Have you tried stevia? What’s your favorite way to use it?

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Winter Gardening

It’s that time of year. Summer has officially come to a close and the cooler weather is finally making its way here. After a hot, dry summer, I couldn’t be more ready.

So, I lied. I’m beyond ready in my head…but reality is a slightly different story.

I got The Winter Harvest Handbook for Christmas (yay!) and have been reading it sporadically since. Or rather, reading at it. I’ve been somewhat lacking in the ability to just sit down and read it all the way through, and have been, instead, looking up specifics and bouncing around. We decided to try our hand at cold house gardening, starting off slow, since we already have nearly everything in place. We’re opting for just cold-hardy crops, and we’re keeping our fingers crossed! We’re planting:

Radishes: French Breakfast, Watermelon, White Icicle
Carrots: Touchon, Little Finger
Spinach, Bloomsdale
Mustards, Tendergreen
Kale, Red Russian
Swiss Chard, Bright Lights
Garlic, German Red
We also have some leftover brassicae seeds from previous seasons that we’ll give a go. Can’t hurt, right?

I’m off to a pretty really late start…so maybe fall will be long this year? Out of our four raised beds, only one is planted, one is turned (OMG, I am in so much pain from all this hacking at squash plants to get them out, breaking up the grass that got in there, and turning in compost…I guess I’ve done my exercise for the next week? Ha!), and the other two are spitting out the last of their summer harvests. Tomato jungle looks to be nearing its end…and even if it isn’t…it is. With about 10 gallon-sized bags of diced and seeded tomatoes, my fingernails are taking on a semi-permanent orange hue and I. Am. Done.

The last bed has our eggplants and peppers, which are still slowly-but-surely churning out fruit. We did learn, unfortunately, that Booger is allergic to eggplant, so we’ll be pushing those on unsuspecting strangers. The peppers though…that’s a different story. I’ll leave those until they are good and done. Not because I like peppers. Because I don’t. I hate peppers (point of note: if I smell bell pepper, I’m likely to leave the room if it’s an option, and one stray piece of pepper is enough to render my entire meal inedible). I will leave those pepper plants to produce as much as possible because I have some strange twisted love for growing peppers. They’re so pretty and I just love watching them grow. Fortunately, the hubs and my little boy love eating them. This bed also has the beans that kept being eaten by the bunnies (I pulled 5 beans today…the only 5 to grow so far) and our celery. We are abysmal about thinning seedlings. I mean, truly abysmal. Therefore, we have CELERY in the sense that we have LOTS of very tall, very skinny stalks. I’m pretty sure they won’t be great raw (doubt they’ll have any crunch), but we’re hoping they’ll be good for cooking.

Enough talking. I’m going back out to stare at my radish seedlings (my new favorite crop) :)

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Happy Grandparents’ Day

First and foremost, Happy Grandparents’ Day to all the incredible grandparents out there! Whether your grandkids are near or far, I hope you got to spend some quality time with them and that someone thanked you for being in their lives.

I grew up not really knowing my grandparents. They lived over 500 miles away and didn’t do much driving, so we generally saw them once or twice a year. They called and kept up with the lives of my sister and myself, but it’s just not quite the same. So when my friends with local grandparents would complain about Sunday brunch or some such, I just couldn’t understand (still can’t) and always felt a little jealous and a tad left out. And now we’re doing the same to Booger by living almost 600 miles away from one set and 900 from the other, and we know there’s a potential for it to get much worse since Mr. Indulgent’s job could take us anywhere.

But my boy has some incredible grandparents who are doing everything in their power to be a part of his life. My parents have made countless trips to see him, spent a week with him so we could go on vacation, and thanks to Skype and Facetime, he gets to see all of his grandparents and talk to them regularly. It’s a wonderful thing, a grandparent’s love for their grandchildren, and I am so thankful that Booger’s grandparents are determined to have him experience it.

“Grandparents sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children.” – Alex Haley

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August pintermission results, and then some

Woo! More projects completed! I just love being able to step back and say “done.”

Our first big project had been in the works for a while: converting our livingroom coat closet into an entry nook. This pin was my inspiration and it’s finally completed! And for now I guess you’ll just have to take my word for it since I keep forgetting to take a picture :)

(Update 9/26: Here’s a picture!)

The second project was much smaller, but I’m just as happy with it! For Grandparents’ Day, I started with this pin and created this:

We had a dark brown paint that we did a base coat with, then white washed over it for the effect (love!). Then I used my Cricut to make stencils (oh my word, that was WAY too much thinking since I had to break everything into segments to make them fit on the page) and it took both of us and we still wished we had more hands :) The hubs drilled some holes for the rope while I learned to make felt flowers (so super easy, but it took me several tries to get them small enough…I evidently get carried away when I have a glue gun in my hand), et voila!

Those were my two Pintermission projects for August, but I thought I’d also share the rest of my handmade parts of Grandparents’ Day.

A bracelet with pictures of Booger for Oma:

Mod Podge Dimensional Magic – very easy to use!

And mailable hugs to the grandfolk:

And on the accordion it says something along the lines of “Happy Grandparents’ Day! I wish I could be there with you, but am sending a hug instead. Love – Booger”

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Saving Seeds

Our wall of tomatoes has gone completely and utterly wild. I now have 4 gallon bags full of diced (seeded) tomatoes in the freezer…and we’re only about half through what appears to be the season. I’ve been keeping the seeds from all of our heirloom tomatoes (fingers crossed this works because I want these beauties next year!).

I’ve been following this tutorial from The Art of Doing Stuff. Simple and direct.

Cut the tomatoes and scoop out the seeds…

…put the seeds in a dish, cover with water, and leave them for 4 days until their moldy…

…rinse/wash/dry…

My first “batch” I forgot about for…a couple weeks. The water was evaporated and they were NASTY. I saved them anyway. We’ll see. I now set an alarm each time I do this so I don’t forget :)

Do you save seeds? Any tips/tricks?

 

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