Monday, June 02, 2014

My latest Shutterfly album is being printed right now!

Create your own custom photo books at

It's always so fun to get these printed so my family can enjoy our wonderful memories together!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Spring tilling and tender mercies

Because we took an amazing vacation to Florence, Oregon and Crescent City,  California for spring break I really got behind on my garden. I kept thinking I would just ask my neighbor to till it while I was gone. Totally forgot. Ugh

So my son is getting baptized this week. We are celebrating his birthday party afterward. My huge lifetime brand table is currently covered with plants that I started indoors. I need that table for the party. 

So as I was driving home today after volunteering at the school I saw a tractor with a sign on it that said "garden tilling" and phone number. I called and he drove right over and tilled up my garden in 10 minutes. His prices are half of what I've heard from other tractor owners. I paid him a tip in addition for being so prompt.

Call it a coincidence if you want but I know it is a tender mercy from a loving Savior who knew I was busy in the service of others and doing the best I could. I was even able to get the organic fertilizer on the garden before he started tilling. (Save time and put it in a fertilizer spreader and run it backwards around the garden). This whole thing couldn't have worked out better.

Now to get some plants in the ground...

Saturday, March 15, 2014

You harvest what you plant whether it's in your garden or in life

If you haven't planted garlic before, please don't be afraid of it. It is wonderful and easy to grow.

In the Fall (after your garden had been tilled)

#1 separate the pieces of the bulb
#2 plant the larger pieces (there's no decision making with hard neck garlic because all the cloves are large)
#3 dig a trench about 3 or 4 inches deep
#4 space the cloves 3 inches apart
#5 cover the cloves with soil
#6 water regularly all summer (I use a drip line and timer) and when the soft neck garlic starts to fall over around the middle or end of July, pull it out of the ground.
#7 dry in a place out of the reach of birds (they'll peck holes in them - um just trust me on this)
#8 store in a cool dry place, saving a few cloves to plant next year.

Just a note: unless you have amazing soil make sure to fertilize with a great organic bone meal. (Always test your soil before adding anything to it)

So how does this compare to my regular every day life. In the fall, we think about putting our gardens to bed for the winter. But there is something about knowing I've got garlic growing. Knowing is going to pop up in the spring. Usually when it shows up I know it's time to plant peas. It's a motivator to start gardening again. 

The Daily, weekly, yearly stuff can become mundane. Sometimes we just need a little something to get us going again. By planting something good in my garden in the fall, I'm more likely to plant other good things in the spring. 

A few months ago, I held a baby during church so a young mom could get a little more out of the lesson. Today that mom put her arm around me and gave me a hug when I cried during the closing hymn. It's those moments of kindness that keep us going. 

You harvest what you plant whether it's in your garden or in life. Let's be more kind, thoughtful, and willing to help others, myself included. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Canning chicken stock is proof that I can change - text fixed

The other day there was a special on boxes of fresh chicken. 40lbs of chicken for $1.49 a pound. I trimmed up the chicken and placed 3 chicken breasts per gallon freezer bag. I ended up with 16 bags. Looks like I need to go buy some more. It also left me with 6 pounds of trimmings. I then put the trimmings in a large pot with 8 quarts of water, 5 celery sticks, 4 sliced onions, and 20 peppercorns. Simmered all of that for 2 hours and ended up with 6 quarts of Neff todo needchicken stock after I skimmed the fat off the top.

There is something amazing that happens when we work to make the most of what we have while saving and preserving what we can. There is a sense of accomplishment and gratitude. I'm grateful for the skills I've learned. I don't remember my mom canning anything during my growing up years, so I didn't learn to do this by example. I bought a Presto canner and the Ball Blue Book with recipes and canning instructions.  This is something I learned to do on my own. I do need to thank my mother in law for showing me the high elevation pressure change section of the instruction book. By the way, the Ball chicken stock recipe is delicious. This one small part of my life is proof that people can change for the better. I became more frugal, self sufficient, and able to follow instructions by choosing to learn this skill - which originally came from preserving vegetable from my garden. Having a garden is life changing in so many ways. 

How has learning to garden changed you?

Laura - to garden is to believe in tomorrow

Monday, March 10, 2014

Cultivating good soil and Cultivating a good life

Many of you have already figured out that square foot garden soil can be difficult to keep filled with the right nutrients for your plants to be productive. Every year something must be added and in my case, this year, a whole bunch of stuff must be added. I purchased a vegetable and tomato organic fertilizer (please don't ask me to make my own stuff from compost - I haven't progressed that far) and an organic bone meal (it has not been bleached white). I added both to my West garden and some to my South garden. It took me some time to figure out exactly how much I would need but luckily the wonderful soil test kit makes recommendations for very low NPK results. With that in mind, I had to add way more organic fertilizer than I had originally planned. This calls for another trip to the store but I'd rather do the extra work than end up with low production in my garden.

The nice thing about organic fertilizer is that it is slow release so if it's a wet spring, I don't have to worry about it running right out of my garden. Another nice thing is that it's full of other micro-nutrients you don't find in chemical fertilizers. One more thing is that it is filled with beneficial microbes, creating a healthier soil that's a little bit more self sustaining.

Thankfully there is sunshine in addition to soil and water.

I find myself needing to balance the the give and take. You can't give away more than you receive unless you allow the light of the Lord to amplify your efforts. Right now I find myself letting go of things that are draining me. And I am trying to improve my prayers with my Heavenly Father. And I am seeking to be around those who encourage rather than tear down. I'm working to avoid more of the offensive and putting more effort into seeking out the good. Just as I must cultivate good soil, I must also cultivate a good life.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Getting organized for Spring Gardening

The other day I made a quick stop downstairs to see my little sprouts as I was taking items (canning jars) to the utility room for storage. I thinned the Swiss Chard (a new plant for me) and then took the thinned out pieces up to Kiwi and Mambo, my Green Cheek Conure parrots. It's always fun to try something new in the garden just like trying something new in real life. In fact I made some progress in that matter this spring. I actually jumped ski jumps in the terrain park at the local ski mountain. I surprised my husband and my children. After a few jumps I was done and happy. 

Back to why I was in the basement working on my indoor garden. My whole goal was to get the laundry room clean and organized before I start pouring my efforts into the yard. Some items needed to go back where they belonged. It's been raining and so it is easier to stay and work indoors.

I knew the laundry room would take a while so I started with the drawers. Lots of little disorganized odds and ends and bits of dust and grime. It feels so good to get it all cleaned out. I scrubbed the drawers and trays. They were once again white inside. 

Kind of reminds me of repentance. Sometimes in our lives we don't realized that certain things needs to be cleaned up before we can continue to progress.  For years I had no idea how much control anxiety had over me. How much control I had allowed it to take. I've spent time working with a wonderful counselor and then using the work book she recommended for follow up. Since then I've started swimming again and skiing. While I was afraid at first, I exercised my ability to choose to spend time with my family and to choose to do things I love. I found new things to enjoy and am progressing in life again. Choice is so powerful.  The grime of anxiety is slowly but surely being wiped away from my life.

Wonderful new or refined activities fill my life just like the organized items that went back into the drawers in my laundry room.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Soil Testing my row garden and square foot gardens

This video goes through preparing the soil for the test. Make sure you dig 4 inches down to collect the soil. The results are in the photos. Have any of you ever tried to change the  alkalinity of your soil. I'm afraid if I add sand, I'll end up with cement.


What new plants are going in my garden this year?

Sage is the newest member of my garden. Last fall I called my husband's grandmother to get her recipe for Thanksgiving dressing (bread crumbs, sage, milk, celery, onion, salt). It was delicious and I knew I could make a gluten free, dairy free version. I loved the sage so much that I decided to try growing some this year.

Other herbs and spices I've grown in the past are Garlic, Oregano, Thyme,  Cilantro, and Basil. I always get excited about new stuff. And of course today I will be planting basil. The Thyme and Oregano are perennials and pop up each year without any effort.

I'm also adding a photo of the celery I have going. The seeds are amazingly small and so are the tiny little plants that first pop up.  Looking forward to a Thanksgiving feast for straight out of the garden this year.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

I cleaned up my square foot gardens in February

I cleaned out the weeds and I raked the tops of each of my square foot gardens. I also cleaned out the  remaining carrots (half eaten by voles) from the west square foot garden.  I couldn't turn the soil yet, still frozen about half way down. Probably a good thing. I'm thinking of creating a wire mesh cage of some sort to keep the voles out. Any ideas? I will probably have to also cover the top somehow and let the plants grow through. The voles here don't just eat my plants from underneath.

Kiwi and Mambo joined me and got some much needed vitamin D. I kept them close to the house when I switched to the south garden so they were less likely to be prey for hawks.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Growing Plants Indoors

After spending a day outdoors I also took a look at the plants I have growing indoors. The Cilantro has started growing real leaves. I can't wait to share a few with my Green Cheek conures. They love spicy greens. And I love salsa.

They also love sprouted wheat. After only 8 hours of soaking the birds are ready to eat them. Most seeds eaten by birds out of doors are already sprouted. That means their nutritional value is at its peak. That makes for healthy birds. One tip I've learned that I'll share with you is that it's best to sprout only one type of seed or bean at a time. Beans must be cooked or sprouted to be safe for birds.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Pruning the peach tree

4 weeks ago about 250 wards (a ward is a congregation of about 350 people in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) in our area were asked to fast and pray for moisture. Just a little info, congregations are divided up geographically.  Since then our dry winter has changed dramatically. 

The weather has been amazing the past 4 weeks in the valley. We've had a few nice snow storms and a lot of rain. Most of the snow has been in the mountains which makes for some epic ski days which we have enjoyed as a family. Some may call it a coincidence but as we looked at the doplar weather report the storms were directly over these 250 wards. The Lord was quick to hear our cries. I wonder if it has something to do with the increase in temple attendance and the 20,000 person increase in people serving full time missions. Snow pack levels went from 26% to over 100% in the mountains in just 3 weeks. I am so grateful, and I'm sure my garden will be grateful too.

Today we finally had a little sun and it was warmer too. So I got out my new fleece Jacket. I bought it yesterday at Kohls. You can see from the price tag it was marked down to $9. Then I used a coupon in addition. My very inexpensive fleece Jacket was the perfect thing to keep me warm on the shady side of the house. If you need a few warm items for Spring (and since it's suddenly the end of February, fall really isn't that far away), check out the clearance rack at Kohls.

I grabbed my pruners and my favorite pair of garden gloves and headed out front to the peach tree. You should never cut more than 1/3 of the tree or it will become stressed and die. But at the same time, you don't want crowded branches and peaches that can't get any sun. I always have a hard time cutting them back but I do it and feel better once I can distract myself by digging in the dirt.

I did save a few branches for snow men next winter.  And I trimmed a few branches so I can use them as natural supports for my pepper plants and such.

I'm looking forward to seeing the apple and peach trees bloom, and as always we are looking forward to the fruit.

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Garden changes slowly

Since the tomato plants were growing up into the lights, I decided to move the front set of lights up a few inches.  And since the plants on the left are newly sprouted, I switched some of the tall plants into the left tub. That way the short plants would be closer to the lower back lights.