Friday, May 18, 2012

Garden Preparations


It's been a lot of work over a lot of weeks with a lot of help from the hubby, the twenty-year-old, and even the two-year-old, but the garden is actually beginning to look like a garden.  I decided on the newspaper method, and it was rather easy.  However, it was easiest after we got our system down.  I recommend having someone help you if you are doing a large area like we were.  One person lays the newspaper in a single layer, slightly overlapping, while the other person has the hose on a mist setting and wets the newspaper.  This prevents it from blowing away.  We worked in sections topping the wet newspaper with just enough wood chips to hold the newspaper in place until the entire garden was covered.  Once we ran out of newspaper we finished covering the surface with an ample amount of wood chips.  

Some information that I've read on using the newspaper method to prepare your garden bed included adding a layer of dirt between the newspaper and the wood chips.  I chose to omit this step.  Our dirt is nice and black, and the newspaper should be plenty easy to dig through with the trowel in order to plant my seeds or started plants, so I figured it would have just been wasted effort.  I'm a big fan of using wood chips in the garden for a couple of reasons, so I just went that route.  

In my experience wood chips help to deter weed growth, help the ground maintain moisture, and they decompose adding to the richness of the soil.  Sure, they need to be replaced each year, but since they're free, and they earn their keep, why not use them?  Not to mention, I love the finished look they give the garden.

This is as far as we made it before running out of newspaper.
We need to move the pile of rocks and finish covering the south end of the garden,
but that won't take long at all.
My mom is coming over this weekend, and we are painting the smaller rocks as markers for the plants that will get planted in the garden.  We have plenty of them on the property.  I'm all for working with what the land gives you.  The larger rocks will continue their way around the end of the garden to create the border.  Natural, free, and beautiful.  Love it!

I love Pinterest!  That's where I got the idea for the newspaper method, painting the rocks as markers, and organizing seeds in photo albums.  I had some photo sleeves that I got for free a couple of years ago.  I wasn't sure what I'd use them for.  They're intended for adding photos to a scrapbook page.  I used them to organize my seeds, and I love the outcome.

Each sleeve set has six pockets.

I put one packet of seeds per pocket so that the back of the packet
could be read without removing it from the sleeve.

Then I stood them up in a handy basket that I already had.
I like this particular basket because they fit nicely,
it's durable and easily cleaned, and it has a handle.

Now that I'm all organized, finishing up the garden this weekend should be a breeze.  With a little water, sunshine, and prayer we should be well on our way to creating a beautiful oasis in our yard that will provide us with glorious flowers to behold and enough delicious produce to put up and share with family and friends. I am very excited to watch this area of our property come to life.

Friday, May 11, 2012

It's a tick, Dear!

One thing I could not have foreseen with moving from the city to the country was the sheer amount of bugs.  Seriously!  I knew there would be many more, as our lot was so small where we were, we had no trees, barely any grass, and a small garden.  It was a rare occasion for us to be bothered by mosquitoes.  Even though I knew there would be more, I really had no idea how many.  Not to mention there are some, at least one for sure, that you have to kind of worry about.  

It's a viscous little critter.  It's sneaky.  It lives just about anywhere.  It can cling on for dear life.  It gives no indication of its presence.  That is, unless you actually feel it move.  It can get in your hair, under your clothes, or even hitch a ride on your pet.  Have you guessed it yet?  What if I tell you it can burrow into your skin and give you a life-threatening disease?  Well, you have to have guessed by now.  It's a tick of course.

Fun, fun, fun...

So, what should we really know about these little bugs that tend to be out in droves this time of year?  First and foremost you need to be aware of their presence and on the lookout for them after any time spent outside at all for any length of time.  Seriously.  I had one crawl on the cuff of my hoodie one day as I sat on the couch after just being out on the grass for a few minutes.  Lord knows if I brought it in with me, or if it was already in the house.  Either way that little critter was hanging on to my cuff for dear life.  It took a little effort on my part to get it unattached and down the drain.  That's where I send all unwelcome 'guests' in my home.  Down the kitchen sink they go!

The first tick I had on me here was on the nape of my neck right at my hairline.  Creepy!  I was standing by the kitchen sink talking with my mom and hubby after spending the day working on the row of lilacs pictured in my last Friday Farmgirls post.  Fortunately I felt the little sucker crawling on me.  When I grabbed it, thinking it was a Box Elder Bug, imagine my surprise to see it was a tick.  Also, imagine the speed in which it got rinsed down the drain.  That baby was out of here!

Here are some ways to prevent tick bites:

1.  Avoid areas where ticks live like grass and shrubs.

2.  Wear light colored clothing so they are easy to see should they hitch a ride.

3.  Tuck in your pant legs if at all possible to avoid them crawling up your pant leg.

     NOTE:  I highly recommend this as this is the way the last three known ticks made their way into our   house.  Hubby had fallen asleep on the couch after working hard outside.  He and I had also gone for a walk down our south trail and through part of the woods.  Imagine our surprise when hubby jumped off the couch from a deep sleep and started ripping his pants off!  There were two ticks, that we know of, inside his pant leg, and he felt them crawling on him.  FUN!  The next morning I was sitting in my living room where I usually do my morning Bible study, prayer and reading when I felt something in my yoga pants that I wore to bed.  Another tick!  NICE!

4.  Use insect repellent designed to repel ticks.

5.  Don't waste any time waiting to check yourself, others, and pets when you've been in an area where ticks like to hang out.  You want those little critters gone ASAP!

To learn more about ticks, how to prevent getting bit, and what it looks like if you do, visit these sites:

This is what a tick looks like.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Waiting for the Bloom


It's been a while since I've participated in Friday Farm Girls, and I did miss it.  Thank you to Illinois Lori from Serenity in the Suburbs for resurrecting this old project of hers.  It really does bring me great pleasure to document our progress from finding the bits of country within our small city space to actually creating a life in the country.  Yes, I am officially a Farm Girl now.  Well, sort of.  

In August of 2011 we purchased 11 acres in SE Michigan.  It's like moving to another world.  Our home for the past 15 years, and the only way of life we'd ever known, was located in a very urban suburb of Detroit.  It was my next to youngest son that opened my eyes to the nature that existed around us and made my existence in the city much more bearable.  See?  I always wanted to live in the country.  Our 'Five Year Plan' turned into a '15 Year Plan', and this meant I had to deal with some emotions along the way.  It was only after I accepted where I was, made it home, and stepped out of the way that God was able to do amazing things in our life.

Anyone that's visited The Zoo Crew any number of times knows the journey we've been on.  We are a combined family of now eight children.  We came together as a blended family with seven children never imagining there would be an 'ours' in the future.  Well, surprise, surprise!  We adopted Avery and brought him home from the hospital in January of 2010.  Essentially, we are starting family life all over.  We actually get to raise one, at least one, child in the setting and the fashion we always dreamed of with the others.  It is an amazing gift that I am so thankful for.  

You see?  I never wanted to raise children in the city.  Something within the core of my being told me that I needed to be in the country; my family needed the country.  For whatever reason that was not to be, until now. It's almost like getting a second chance at life.  I am quite certain I would have been more physically up for the challenge at 27 than 41, but you'll hear no complaints here.  There is a big blessing going into it with the love and appreciation I now hold based on my personal experience to this point.  Now is a time of discovery in so many ways.

We have done so many things already in the eight months we've been here.  Time is flying by, and we are setting our priorities.  The property we bought was lacking just two things that I can tell.  One is a barn, and two is proper care.  We intend to provide both.  Our first really big project will come this summer.  We are preparing to erect a pole barn.  This has been such a long process already.  We're hoping to see it come to fruition by the end of July.  We'll see how that works out.  If I've learned only one thing in the process called living it is to be flexible and not hold too tightly onto expectations.

Here is a little glimpse into our new world and some of the projects we have done on our land already:

 Re-roof shed and lean-to as well as animal structure not pictured.
 Remove shrubs and old porch to create new covered porch.
 (Time to take an after picture.)
 Purchased a 'new to us' tractor for all our many projects to come.
Had a double semi load of wood delivered.  It's enough wood to heat    our home for about four years.  This will give us time to manage our property, harvest downed trees, and give them time to season.
The inner pile was as large as the outer.  That's how much we got  chopped and stacked so far.
Cleaned up the overgrown hedgerow of lilacs.  This involved removing two trees and a huge bush.  You can see how wet the ditch was.  It drains nicely and stays relatively dry now.

 Working on the hedgerow.

We cleared this area of all undergrowth.  We are currently preparing it as our first planting bed.  I added a Flowering Almond, two butterfly bushes, and two blueberry bushes so far.  Still lots to do here!
Paid to have the wood pile moved by a local man with a bigger tractor. Now there's room to prepare for the pole barn.
Planted six trees.  This is the Jane Magnolia I've always wanted.  We laid Gypsy to rest underneath the tree.  She was my awesome dog of nearly 15 years that passed right during our move.

As I take the time to get to know our new space on Earth I am finding that I am learning a new lesson.  There is joy in the waiting.  Spring is a time of discovery, and since this is our first spring on this piece of land, everything is a new discovery.  How exciting is that?

We moved here in the fall when everything was doing what it does to get ready for winter.  It wasn't long before the fall blooms faded, and the leaves fell from the trees.  The landscape changed.  Most things living went into hibernation, and so did we in a way of sorts.  We slowed down.  Inside and outside work ceased. No more remodeling, no more big outdoor chores.  The most labor intensive thing we did was stack wood, and we even got a lot of slack on that this time thanks to the incredibly mild winter we had here in SE Michigan.  It was a time of waiting, planning, and getting comfortable in our new surroundings.  We had never lived anywhere else together.  This was a huge undertaking in many ways.

As the weather has begun to give glimpses of summer we have made our way outside.  We have discovered so many things on our land in these few months.  We've learned to be patient and see what things growing do without disturbing them, if we're uncertain as to what they are.  Our curiosity has been renewed.  It is a constant joy to get to know all the living things on our land, plant and animal alike.  We have quite the bunny population explosion going on now, too!  I've discovered where the Chickadees live, and they even built a nest under the roof of our new porch.  I am hoping to have one feed from my hand this summer.  How cool would that be?

Great, beautiful things can happen when we get out of the way and allow ourselves to be guided by something bigger than ourselves.  Some things take longer than others.  Waiting is so important.  Everything worthwhile takes time.  Fall mums are a good example.  In the spring they sure don't look like much.  They're just dead sticks poking out of the ground, if you've not cleared them away the fall before.  I don't know how many times my hubby asked me, "Are you sure they'll grow back?"  I had to reassure him constantly so that he didn't destroy the area where they were growing.  The other day I got to point out to him that they were indeed coming back.  They're barely an inch tall now, but they'll be over a foot in the fall and full of blooms.  Just like they are supposed to be.  Everything blooms in it's time.  Us included.

There are a few bunches of greenery on our property that I have been anxiously awaiting to find out what they are.  Something inside of me just knew they were flowers, even though they didn't look like much.  I pointed them out to the hubby so he didn't destroy them in his endeavors.  He has a knack for doing just that.  Thankfully, we've gotten pretty good at communicating with each other about these things over the years, and he will actually seek me out when it comes to all things growing.  It's just not his department, and he's devastated me enough times over the years wiping out something I've been growing.  Purple Irises come to mind, but that's another story.  Anyway, just about the time I was about to give up the notion that my instincts were correct, and accept that maybe this greenery really wasn't a flower after all, something changed.  Buds appeared on the tips.  I knew it!  The greenery was set to produce flowers, but when?  More waiting.  And, then...

Gorgeous, or what?  Now, I believe this little beauty was worth the wait.  I have a few bunches of them on the property, and I am so thankful.  There wasn't much of the way of landscaping present on our property, so I really have my work cut out for me.  See?  I enjoy growing flowers and produce.  I am so excited to have enough land to actually grow fruit in addition to vegetables.  We have a ton of brambles on the property that I believe to be raspberries, we have a small patch of strawberries given to me by our old neighbor, and there are several fruit trees on the property.  The trees will require some attention, and it will likely be a couple of years before we can really get them to produce usable fruit due to their neglect and the dramatic overgrowth of the plants around them.  In addition to what already existed, I added two blueberry bushes and a cherry tree.  So exciting!

All of these different things, the Lilac Row that needed tending, the Fall Mums, the Brambles, the Fruit Trees, the Mystery Plants yet to be discovered for what they are, and the new goodies we planted recently, all of these things will bloom in their own time.  What a beautiful lesson.  

The Lilac Row needed our help.  We cleaned up the mess, set them free, and got out of their way so they could bloom where they are planted.  

The Fall Mums require no attention.  They are content to do their own thing, and when the time is right, they too, will bloom where they are planted.  

The Brambles have been there for at least decades, I am sure, maybe even longer.  They need no help from me to grow and produce fruit.  Sure, a little tending here and there may help produce better fruit, but the plant intrinsically knows what to do all on its own.  

The Fruit Trees require some assistance, so we will clear their trunks, and set them free from the encroaching wilderness so that they can get the nutrients they need and put their energy into producing an abundance of fruit for a fall harvest.  

The Mystery Plants are content just as they are.  No help is needed from me, but I have no problem relocating them to a new location in order to save them from destruction or allow them to shine more brightly and better share their beauty.

The new goodies require extra attention because they are young and fragile.  They need protection and the proper care to grow into strong, thriving plants that produce their own respective blooms and fruit.

Each and every living thing on our land is unique.  It has it's own personal history.  It's own journey, so to speak.  Each one requiring it's own special amount and type of care to reach it's full potential.  If it is too crowded its blooms will be less abundant and not as easily seen.  However, given the proper care and the right amount of space each one will shine in its own special way.

Oh, how we can learn so much about ourselves and those around us if only we pay close attention to what the things of nature teach us.  God is in the details.  His lessons are everywhere.  If only we learn to take the time to pay attention and take in what is all around us.  Wait patiently for the blooms.  They all open in their own time.

"Bloom where you are planted, and encourage others to do so as well."


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