I Want to Blog Again.

This morning, my very favorite bloggers, whose blog I’ve followed for the past five years, announced they’re calling it quits on their blog. At least for now. I was pretty sad about it. After five years of almost daily updates, it’s a shock, to say the least. It feels like I’m losing touch with part of my family!

Somehow that experience awakened the beast in my heart again. I want to write about our life. I miss being able to document cute things the kids do, random thoughts, family updates, and my feelings about everything. I know I don’t have a huge following, and likely never will because I don’t plan to specialize in anything outside my own personal interests (i.e., my family). But it was nice to know at least a couple friends and family members could keep up with us.

So. Here we are. Hula Girl is four years and four months old. Gelato is two years and two months old. Jonathan is turning 32 this month, and I’m turning 29 in a few days. We’ve been living in our first house for a year and two months. Riley, our cat, is six years old. Jonathan is working at the same place, but his job is changing in January. I am staying at home with the kids and teaching Sunday school. So much is the same as the last time I posted. And yet so much is different!

Jonathan’s upcoming job is the biggest change in our situation. He’ll still be working for the same company. However, he has recently been trained as a horticultural therapist. Since he has received that training (to be completed in November), the decision-makers at his company have decided to purchase a house for him to use as the location to provide horticultural therapy services. They are remodeling the house right now to include office space, seed storage space, a greenhouse, indoor and outdoor garden areas, storage sheds, etc. Jonathan will be creating the entire program for his company and will serve as the therapist on-site. There will be a recreational therapist on-site as well.

To say Jonathan is excited would be an understatement for sure. Yes, it’s a large undertaking. Oh my, is it. Coordinating with his loan repayment program, current supervisors, the health department, his horticultural therapy instructors, the business office, administrators, and so forth, is a huge endeavor. On top of that, he’s building an entire program! But this is totally up his alley. It’s funny because he never had any gardening inclinations until we were married and I introduced him to it. Better half? You’d better believe it. 😉 I’m just so proud of all he’s learning, and the attitude with which he’s facing this challenge. He just keeps putting one foot in front of the other, without getting overly anxious about things.

The kids are great. Challenging, but great.

Hula Girl is taking dance again, and she’s loving it. She has such beautiful straight legs and pointy pointy toes. She picks things up quickly, and she’s still extremely obedient. Dance is one of her favorite things. She also loves playing with her Elsa and Anna dolls, jumping and skipping around, climbing really high up on play structures, and swimming. She can read, but we don’t push it. She’s a baker at heart- she is awesome at measuring out ingredients and mixing them up. She is still not very interested in sitting still and coloring or doing any kids of crafty activities. Therefore, writing is not something we’re stressing at this time in her life. She HAS grown out of putting everything in her mouth. Oh my goodness, people, when she was three and a half, I thought she was going to die because she was putting anything and everything she could find in her mouth. Soap, lotion, toothpicks, rocks, sticks, leaves, bugs, hair ties, etc. You name it, she mouthed it. And then… she stopped. Whew.

Gelato is… two. 🙂 He is the exact age now that Hula Girl was when he was born. Man, I am so glad Gelato is my SECOND child. He is into everything, but not in a destructive way. I frequently find him pulling a chair over to the fridge so he can get himself a glass of ice water or standing up on a chair near the stove so he can see what’s boiling in the pot. He is always so careful not to spill his water or touch the hot stove. I am so glad we’ve followed the RIE principles with him; he knows that I trust him to know his body’s limits, and he rarely tests them except in safe situations. Other than these situations, though, he is really quite rambunctious. He’s the kid tumbling pell-mell to plant his face into the couch cushions. He’s the kid climbing into the swings and trying to pump his own legs (at two). He’s the kid splashing and screaming in the pirate pool… just because he can. He’s also the kid who is mischievous and will try to get away with… everything. He knows the limits, and he tests them. Not the same ones over and over again. Just all of them.

Both children are snuggle bugs. They enjoy sitting on my lap for hours listening to me read. They’ve recently convinced the cat, Riley, that he should actually like them and sit on their laps. He tolerates them well enough, and hasn’t tried to scratch or bite them at all in months! Hula Girl keeps trying to convince us to keep her door open at night so she can cuddle with Riley in her bed. Santa may or may not be bringing her a kitten this year. (Seriously, may or may not. Jury is out. But it is highly likely that Santa will be bringing a kitten.)

I still attend my ladies’ Bible study group on Monday nights. It’s been so much fun to get to know the ladies in my group. One of the ladies even has two little girls and we trade babysitting services every now and then. We tried to get all scheduled about it last month, but then there was sickness and life, and this month I forgot. So we’ll see how that goes. 🙂

We’ve also joined a Bible study with a group of older people from our church. They are all into the grandparent days, so they are willing to travel to our house on Thursday nights. This saves us the hassle (and $$$) of having to hire a babysitter, and we so appreciate it! It also means my house has to be spotless at least one day a week. You win some, you lose some.

So that’s that. Hi. I hope to reconnect with some friends and family, so leave me a comment to let me know you were here! 🙂

Garden (Jungle?) 2013

It’s time for a garden update! With pictures! Basically, we’re going to talk a lot about this today:


And this:


And this:


As you can see quite clearly, Jonathan has a green thumb. Heck, he has a green hand. Two of ’em.

We have been practicing with different gardening techniques since 2011; this was our third garden. Jonathan has got some kind of natural gift for gardening that I surely don’t have. I think a lot of it has to do with his perseverance and his ability to observe. He notices when creepy crawlies start to invade, and he works hard to do what it takes to get rid of them (non-pesticide). He is much more patient than me. I start getting all worried each year around June, freaking out when things haven’t started to grow yet. He just laughs at me and tells me to wait. So I weed and do my part to contribute but mutter under my breath about how it’s going to be a failure this year. By the 4th of July, however, everything is green and lush. Funny how that works out.

Anyway, this year we decided to incorporate a lot of things we’ve not done before in a garden, and we’ve been quite pleased with the results. We used beneficial insect-attracting flowers. We used pest-repelling flowers. We planted less peas and green beans and more watermelon, corn, and kale. (Mmmm, kale chips. I need to pick some kale for tonight’s dinner! I think kale chips would be a great accompaniment for crock pot macaroni and cheese! Who’s with me!?) We ordered all organic seeds from my aunt’s seed company in Willits, CA. Here’s their website.

And do you know what? We learned even more about ourselves and our gardening needs and wants. But that will be another post. For now, let’s take a peek at what we’ve got growing out there! Jonathan takes pictures almost every morning. Here are some of my personal faves, mixed in with some food shots, just to keep it real. And don’t forget my gnomes.

Sunflower! Isn't the center detail insane?

Sunflower! Isn’t the center detail insane?


Cinderella's carriage- not quite ripe yet!

Cinderella’s carriage- not quite ripe yet!


Mint blossoms. Yes, we know you're not really supposed to let your mint flower. But we have about 20 mint plants (not exaggerating), so we figured we'd let the one in the hanging basket do its thing. Pretty!

Mint blossoms. Yes, we know you’re not really supposed to let your mint flower. But we have about 20 mint plants (not exaggerating), so we figured we’d let the one in the hanging basket do its thing. Pretty!


Oh, Fumwallikin. Gettin' old.

Oh, Fumwallikin. Gettin’ old.


These flowers are really cool. See how the petals start out as small spiral-shaped spears poking out of the center of the flower?

These flowers are really cool. See how the petals start out as small spiral-shaped spears poking out of the center of the flower?


Then they start to open up and a new set of petals pushes its way out...

Then they start to open up and a new set of petals pushes its way out…


Then more petals, and these pretty yellow star-shaped stamens...

Then more petals, and these pretty yellow star-shaped stamens…


And they just keep on going! Petals after petals after petals! They are SO lush to behold; from the sides they look like soft pink pinecones!

And they just keep on going! Petals after petals after petals! They are SO lush to behold; from the sides they look like soft pink pinecones!

Zzzzz.... introducing our newest gnome! He has yet to be named. Hula Girl suggested calling him "Counter" but I countered. I'm thinking "Lolly" might be part of his name.
Zzzzz…. introducing our newest gnome! He has yet to be named. Hula Girl suggested calling him “Counter” but I countered. I’m thinking “Lolly” might be part of his name.



Watermelon! Don’t you just love the curly curly vines?


Festivity corn! This stuff is pretty tasty, and the kernels are super cool. They're a mix of red, blue, and yellow . Quite festive!

Festivity corn! This stuff is pretty tasty, and the kernels are super cool. They’re a mix of red, blue, and yellow . Quite festive!


Good ol' peas.

Good ol’ peas.


Aren't these pretty?

Aren’t these pretty?


I think I'm going to have this one blown up on canvas for my bedroom. It's just beautiful.

I think I’m going to have this one blown up on canvas for my bedroom. It’s just beautiful.


Lookin' good, Elmwinkle.

Lookin’ good, Elmwinkle.





Garden: 2013- Front Yard Transformation


We are pleased to announce that we are almost ready to plant some seeds and get underway!

Jonathan spent the majority of last weekend hauling rocks. (Why is it that our gardening ventures ALWAYS involve clearing huge amounts of 1″ granite?) We now have double the garden space we had last year, and the front of the house looks somewhat finished. I’ll address the front in this post and get to the garden deets in another one soon.

We live in a rented house. (We are debt-free and intend to stay that way. We will be living here- in this city- for about 3 more years, but after that we aren’t sure we want to stay here. So we rent. No need to buy a house only to have to turn around and try to sell it again.) The street we live in bends right after our house, and the lot across from ours and right next to ours (the “elbow pit” and the “funny bone” part of the road) are vacant. Since we live in deserty-prairie-wilderness, there are a lot of tumbleweeds, prairie grasses, cacti, and dirt all around. Nothing pretty. And that was our entire front yard, except for the little split-rail fence that surrounds part of the area, along with a spruce tree and two bushes that are pretty darn ugly (and dying). We have a brick patio with a rose bush and a cement walkway with a little planter next to the house. The planter has a miniature rose bush and two baby holly bushes surrounded by brown mulch. Beyond that, the front yard was horrifyingly ugly.

And the pokies! Since, like, nothing normal or lovely grows out there, we were overjoyed to find some pretty yellow flowers sprouting last summer. Let me tell you, the flowers are deceptive as all get-out. We let them proliferate because we thought they were mild and pretty and we were excited to have something other than brown foot-high grass to look at while we pushed Hula Girl on the swing. Big mistake. Have you ever seen those burrs called goat heads? Check these things out. Make sure you scroll down to see what they look like when they get all dry and stick into your shoes. We always remove our shoes when we come inside, but not all our guests do. And that is what sticks our toddler’s heels on a regular basis. Nice, huh?

All that to say, Jonathan moved a lot of rocks. He took the rocks out of the back yard and covered all that deserty-prairie-wilderness area that is designated by the shoddy old split-rail almost-fence. He put underlayment in a few areas, but we’re mostly going to just have to get out there and pull all the weeds every other day or so. That’s fine. I plan to spend my entire life outside this summer. No joke.

So our front yard looks really nice. Jonathan edged the mini granite chunks with large white sandstone-type rocks that are just laying all around in the field next to our house. He also made a giant obstacle out of some old driftwood in the area that the neighborhood boys like to run through (it’s SO annoying when they run down our walkway and under our patio area during Hula Girl’s nap and wake her up because they’re squirting their water guns at each other right under her crib- like, seriously, kids? Didn’t your moms ever teach you to stay out of your neighbors’ yards and front entryways?!!?). We actually kept one large rectangle open and surrounded that area with tulip and daffodil bulbs, which are now pushing up. We plan to grow mint there; we’re also going to throw down some wildflower mix. It will be pretty- wild crazy mint and wildflowers. Yeah!

The front yard care this summer will include:

  • pulling weeds in the rock area
  • watering the mint/wildflower area
  • re-mulching and adding compost to the rose and holly bushes
  • watering the aforementioned bushes
  • trimming and/or replacing the terribly ugly evergreen bushes that are half-dead
  • watering aforementioned bushes
  • cleaning all the trash out from under the spruce tree (we live in the windiest part of the world, and ALL the neighborhood trash cans empty themselves into our yard every trash day)
  • trimming the tree
  • watering the tree
  • tending the garden box that lives out front- preparing the soil, planting, mulching, watering, weeding, etc.

We are going to have SO much fun. 🙂 (And I’m not joking!)

2012 Garden Master

Well, here’s a good ol’ garden update. I haven’t talked about it in a looooong time, so I figure now’s my chance to brag on my husband a bit.

Last summer, we tried to have a garden, but there were so many other things on our minds that we really didn’t put our heart and soul into it. Don’t get me wrong- Jonathan certainly worked really hard to move hundreds of feet of 1″ granite, turn those hundreds of feet of soil to loosen and remove extra rocks, and shovel in hundreds of feet of compost. But after those huge first steps, our garden did not do super well. We live in a hot (during the summer, anyway), dry climate. Our soil here is basically void of nutrients on its own. Combine those two factors with us pretty much knowing nothing about gardening, and we ended up with a good ol’ garden flop. We pulled out a million tomatoes, bunches and bunches of basil, a few squash, and one round of snap peas. Beyond that, nothing.

This summer we vowed to make things happen differently. We were bound and determined that if we put in effort, we wanted to have a reward for it. 

Jonathan put in hours and hours of really difficult manual labor this year. He built five garden boxes. He filled each box with topsoil (which he had to wheelbarrow about 40 feet each trip). He fenced each box and put bird netting over the tops of the boxes with tomatoes and berries. He mixed organic fertilizer into the soil. He built a drip/soaker system (with my dad’s help). He planted all the seeds (and continues to plant as needed). He mulched the areas around the plants to protect their roots from the heat and evaporation. 

He works out in the garden every night for about an hour. What does he do out there? He trims dead leaves. He puts down organic pest control. He builds new supports for plants that have the need. He re-mulches, re-seeds, and re-fertilizes on a regular basis. And….. he HARVESTS!

Our garden is so flipping productive this year that we are having a hard time keeping up. Did you know that yellow squash must be harvested EVERY night? And that you can get 3-7 squashes PER DAY?! What are we supposed to do with all that squash? So far we’ve blanched it and frozen it, given some to our neighbors, sent some to our landlord, sent some home with my mom, and eaten it at almost every meal for the past two weeks. And it just keeps on coming! Our yellow squash bushes are 3-5 feet in diameter and 2-4 feet tall. Each of them has a steady supply of squash growing on it. 

Our pea plants are super productive, too! Jonathan has harvested at least four grocery bags full of peas this summer. We’ve blanched and frozen some, eaten some raw, cooked some, passed some on to our neighbors, landlord, and parents, and even thrown some away! And they just keep coming! 

We’ve also harvested tons of lettuce, basil, and green beans, and Jonathan gets a daily treat of a fresh raspberry or two (we only just started the bushes this year, so they’re still quite small). I have really enjoyed the super sweet tiny little yellow tomatoes that come in bunches of 4 or 5. That tomato plant, by the way, is in.sane. It’s at least  3 feet in diameter and 5 feet tall. The cage holding it up is invisible. Even Fumwallikin, my large garden gnome, got lost inside the tomato plant. Jonathan keeps moving Fumwallikin to the outskirts of the tomato forest, but he has to be repositioned every three days or so. Cuh-razy!

So yeah, I am LOVING it. 

Props to Jonathan, 2012 Garden Master. May the earth be with you. 


Quick Lil’ Update

Jonathan- BIG NEWS! Jonathan has been working toward receiving his full licensure as an LPC (licensed professional counselor) since graduating with his Masters in December ’09. Well… he got it! His license was effective June 1, and along with that came a raise at work. What great timing! We’re planning to get a bigger car (’10, ’11, or ’12 Toyota Highlander- anyone have a used one you’re selling?) because our little sedans just won’t fit all our stuff plus kids anymore. Plus, this means Jonathan has a lot more options available should he decide to pursue another career route (no, he’s not quitting his current job, and we have no plans for it! don’t freak out on me here!!!!). It’s just nice to know he’s just one more step ahead.

Me- I’m pretty tired of being pregnant. This time around has just seemed far worse than the first time, in almost every regard. I am dealing with a lot of fatigue and pain that wasn’t there last time. I’ve got frequent heartburn, and my legs simply won’t hold still at night. Falling asleep is the hardest part of my day, even though I’m always so tired. Sigh. I am grateful for how fast time has gone this time- I remember AGONIZING over how much time was left at 20 weeks with Hula Girl. It seemed like I had been pregnant forever, and I still had halfway to go! Now we’re down to 6 weeks and I just can’t believe that my girl is going to be a BIG SISTER in that short amount of time. Whoa. Our lives will change forever- and that’s kind of freaking me out. I feel much more relaxed and prepared for the labor/delivery aspect this time. We actually know what we’re doing and what our plans are. We’ve spoken to our doctor and have her on board for most things. We know how to breastfeed (trust me- there is NOTHING easy about it at first), we know how to change a diaper. We also (unfortunately) know just how tiring a newborn can be… let’s hope this one is a non-reflux awesome sleeper child. 🙂

Hula Girl- she’s great! I love her and she’s even more fun every single day. I do not enjoy her moods sometimes when she’s overtired (they happen to coincide with my hormonal “I-just-can’t-handle-it” moods–freakish, right?). But I do enjoy her enthusiasm, her new phrases, her curiosity, and her compassion for others. What a sweet girl she is. My favorite of her phrases right now: “Look at that, Mom! Look at that, Dad!” This makes me laugh because we’ve always said, “Look at that!” to show her that we see she’s accomplished something (rather than telling her, “Good job!” over something trivial like stacking one block on another- great when you’re 9 months old, nothing wonderful when you’re 2). It also cracks me up because she usually calls us Mommy and Daddy. But when she uses the phrase, “Look at that,” she switches to Mom and Dad. So silly.

Gardens- they’re growing! We had a recent infestation of flea beetles, which demolished our broccoli, kale, and brussels sprouts crops. Boo. But everything else is growing and thriving. We have to be very cognizant and remember to water at least twice daily. But since we (I say we, but really it was Jonathan) put down mulch and fertilized, the garden has been flourishing! Our corn is about 2.5 feet tall, our squash plants are starting to put out blossoms, and our lettuce is close to pickin’ time!



Garden Update! Finally!

I have high hopes for this year’s garden!

Jonathan built five 8’x8′ garden beds this year, each of which is fenced, and two of which are completely covered in netting as well (tomatoes and berries go in the netted ones- we have a lot of pesky birds… and by “pesky,” I mean, awesome… so we feed them- we just don’t want to feed them our fruit). Then we got a huge load of topsoil delivered (for free- our landlord really likes gardening, so he paid for all materials except the seeds and plants themselves). Then Jonathan completed the grueling task of wheelbarrowing (hey, Rachel, if “blow dry” is the verb, so is “wheelbarrow”) load after load of dirt to fill up our garden beds.

Once that task was complete, Jonathan spent several hours planning, drawing, and configuring our garden beds to make sure the plants that need the most water will receive it, and that the plants that need space will have it, and that the plants that need to climb surfaces will be near them. He did a fabulous job! Then he planted. And he planted. And he planted. Hula Girl and I were gone for 3 days, and that’s pretty much all Jonathan did- he planted.

And now… we’re starting to see sprouts! Yahoo! We have over thirty pea plants shooting up out of the soil. We’ve also got lettuce, kale, and something else. (I haven’t seen the diagrams, and I can’t get down low enough to the ground to read the sticks, and the “something else” is something I just noticed this afternoon during the midday watering session, so who knows what it is?!) We’re beyond excited to see little tiny green babies popping out of the ground here, there, and everywhere! Really, we take a lot of pride in our garden.

I can’t say that I did anything to help, though, which is sad for me. Jonathan will get all the glory this year… that’s okay, though. He needs a little glamour in his life once and a while, you know? 😉 Fortunately I will benefit most, as we planted several fruits, vegetables, and herbs he doesn’t even like, just so that I could have them! And no, I am NOT willing to share my tomatoes. So back off.

I think this weekend will be the “install the soaker hoses and timing device” weekend. My dad is supposed to give us a call to tell us how the “experts” would do it. I am excited to get these things in place, so we can mulch. It’s 90 degrees here today (not nearly as hot as it will be later in the summer), and by the time I watered midday, the ground was dry and cracked even though Jonathan watered this morning before work. Eep. We definitely need that mulch down. We really need to conserve that water! For the good of the veggies… and the landlord’s water bill!

Yeah, this isn’t the most exciting post I have ever written. How could I spice it up a bit?


Jonathan gave me two delightful garden gnomes for Mother’s Day. You all know that I love, love, love… absolutely love garden gnomes, right?!

One is your typical lil’ guy, green pants, blue shirt, red cap, white beard. He is about 10″ tall and he’s wearing an expression of curiosity and glee. The other is about 4″ long, but he is lounging on a large toadstool, which puts him about 8″ off the ground. He looks more relaxed and happy than anything.

I have been working on names. I’m thinking “Fumwallikin” for the tall one, and “Elmwinkle” for the small one. Any other suggestions?

Backyard Progress

Jonathan is incredible. Seriously. Over the past month, he has put about 30 hours of manual labor into making our backyard a place to be enjoyed. When we first moved in last fall, the backyard consisted of a small rectangular concrete slab against the house, two juniper trees that were ringed with dead branches around the bottom (most of which someone had unsuccessfully tried to twist/break off, leaving a brown dead twisty sharp poky disaster area), and 1″ granite rocks-lots and lots and lots of them.

Now, I am a backyard-playing kind of Mommy. I love the idea of taking my kids out back to a nice fenced-in area where I am somewhat sure that they won’t be in danger from foreign objects or animal waste products. But when we moved in and had… a wasteland… I wasn’t too thrilled. That’s why Hula Girl and I have seen more of the parks and playgrounds in the city than of our own backyard.

But all that is changed as of this weekend. Check it out.

Jonathan and Hula Girl hauling rocks... Beautiful mountains in the distance!

She was being so helpful!

Okay, so see that 1″ granite all over the ground? Yeah. That was our WHOLE yard… up until a week ago. Now, see those raised 8’x8′ garden beds? We officially have FIVE of them. Jonathan worked extremely hard on them, and I am super proud of the work he did. He had to drill holes precisely in the ends of the railroad ties, and pound at least 2 pieces of rebar (which is short for reinforcing bar) into each plank with a sledgehammer. Then he had to put up a fence with a gate around each one because we live in the land of quails and bunnies (not to be confused with milk and honey- har, dee, har…). He even had to rig up a section of garden that can be fenced across the top to keep out birds- that’s where we’ll be growing all our berries and tomatoes.

Also, see that good-looking dirt in the garden beds? That’s our new topsoil. I went to the landscaping company and told them the dimensions of our garden beds and lawn area, and they ended up telling me we needed 11 cubic yards of dirt. Um, folks, that’s a LOT of dirt. Hula Girl was thrilled when the dirt arrived because she got to watch the dump truck “pour” the dirt onto the tarps. Ever since that experience, she has been running around the house talking like a dump truck. It’s kind of a low, gravelly voice. Super funny.

So anyway, this weekend we got our sod. Yes, our glorious sod. Wonderful, green, lush, spongy sod. I could go on and on forever… but I won’t. I just love grass and the smell of it and the memories associated with it. After all, I played soccer for eleven years of my life… I spent a lot of good times on grass. And when Jonathan and I started dating, we’d go lay in the grass in a park in Pacific Beach and look out over the Sea World fireworks many evenings each week. So yeah, grass!


Jonathan and I have been watering religiously- the manual that came with our sod said we need to water 10-15 minutes, three times per day, for the first two weeks. After that time, we can cut back to the traditional morning-and-evening watering. However, I think we might keep a short midday drink for our thirsty spears of green gloriousness because man, oh, man, there is nothing WORSE than a burned up lawn in August.

There is still much work to be done. Jonathan still needs to wheelbarrow a bunch of dirt into the last garden bed. Then we need to plan the exact placement of our seeds, driplines, and so forth. Next we need to plant seeds and lay the hoses out. Finally we need to do a general clean-up of the back patio since we can now actually enjoy sitting out there and admiring something other than granite as far as the eye can see.

But Hula Girl and I started enjoying the garden/backyard this morning. We went out for an hour and a half. She got super muddy and wet, but that’s okay. It’s warm here these days, and as long as she’s covered in ridiculous amounts of super high SPF sunscreen (still loving the California Babies stuff that we found last summer), I don’t really care what her clothes look like. As long as she’s having a good time and getting plenty of sunshine, exercise, and good ol’ fresh air. Here she is, busy as a bee:

Deciding where the flower pots should go once we get flowers for them!

The reason she got all wet- she actually stepped INTO the tub of water.

Playing in the sandbox!

Break time! All that playing tuckered me out!

And the true reason we were able to stay outside so very long…

Isn't that the most beautiful blue? It makes the (super green in real life) leaves of the cottonwood tree next door look so dull! Ah, spring!

Soil Test Results

Whenever you’re planning to add plants to an area where you’ve previously had rocks, dirt, landscaping, or weeds, it’s important to make sure you know the composition of your soil. This will help you when you’re choosing the fertilizers you use and it will also help you determine which kinds of plants will thrive in your space.

As you may know, we’ve decided to add a lawn and a large garden in the backyard this spring. We’re also planning to do something in the front yard, but that’s priority #2. We were completely unsure of our soil’s composition as we just moved here in October and therefore haven’t seen the growing season. We have very little evidence that anything can actually grow here. There are quite a few tumbleweeds blown up against our fence, and there are cacti out in the empty fields next to and behind our house. There are also a lot of short scrubby looking grasses, but nothing else worth noting. We also know that the climate is a huge factor here- it will get over 100° every day all summer long and we’ll likely get torrential rains each afternoon during June, July, and August. Neither of these things is exactly “good” for growing things.

Anyway, we want to do a lawn so that Hula Girl can run around barefoot and not step on a cactus, and so that we can have picnics outside. We’re also wanting the lawn so we can run through the sprinkler- what’s more awesome than that?! We want the garden because we love fresh veggies and the pickin’s around here are slim. Grocery stores charge an arm and a leg for fresh produce, and what’s available in Walmart is… well… if you don’t know the Walmart produce department, you’re better off. I am searching for a local farmer’s market, but it’s looking like the closest one is 45 minutes away.

So, in anticipation of our lawn and garden, we did our soil testing this weekend. Jonathan and Hula Girl went outside in the backyard and dug up numerous soil samples for me while I went grocery shopping. Then when I got home, I played chemist with a soil test kit from Lowe’s. You can actually find a place to perform the soil tests for you, through a local co-op or gardening organization, usually, but again… slim pickin’s around here (i.e., these types of things don’t seem to exist, even after extensive research and numerous phone calls). Store-bought in-home kit, here we come!

I followed all the directions carefully, and here are our results! Our soil is:

  • low in nitrogen
  • low in phosphorus
  • high in potassium
  • generally balanced in pH levels (7.0-7.5)

We also tested the physical components of the soil and discovered that we have a clay-like soil that doesn’t drain well. When water hits the top, it runs off easily, and the soil packs down into hardness after getting wet once. (Recall the aforementioned torrential downpours each afternoon all growing season…)

What these results mean for us:

  • We need to purchase a fertilizer that has larger amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus than potassium. When you look at a bag of fertilizer, there is a series of numbers listed, like 5-10-5. This is called the N-P-K and it shows the ratio of nitrogen to phosphorus to potassium content in the bag. So we’re going to look for something like 10-5-0.
  • The reason we’re looking for double the nitrogen is that we’ve got such clay-like soil. To amend this issue, we will have to add quite a bit of organic matter (basically, POOP) in order to “fluff it up” a bit. When organic matter decomposes, it eats away at the nitrogen in the soil, so we’ll need to add extra nitrogen. Hence, we’ll need to buy a 10-5-0 fertilizer. Capisce?
  • We do not need to add lime to raise our soil’s acidity, nor do we need to add aluminum sulphate to raise its alkalinity. Score. However, we do need to keep an eye on the pH levels since we are adding organic matter. As it decomposes, organic matter tends to decrease soil pH levels. We may find ourselves needing to add some lime later on this summer. I think we’ll test every couple of weeks or so, just to keep up with it!

We’re planning to go ahead and buy a garden tiller, like this one.  We’ll use it throughout the summer as we mix in different fertilizers and stuff, and keep our garden soil loose. But before we even get started with that, we’ll have to do a large amount of amending our soil (adding compost and fertilizers). Last summer we did it all by shovel. However, this summer, we definitely want to rent or borrow a more powerful and efficient tiller for preparing the ground for the sod and/or seeds. We will have to put organic matter and nutrients 6-8″ deep into the soil in order to give our lawn a healthy base. This will also help our garden plants grow deeper roots and have healthier soil with which to produce delicious veggies all summer long. Mmmmm….

Anyone doing any soil testing or amending? Any hints/tips for us before we “dig in”?

Nice Days and 2012’s Summer Garden!

I skipped posting yesterday because my mom came to visit us for the day. Hula Girl couldn’t have been happier to have her Grammy here. We went to the park in the morning (it was 65 degrees and beautiful outside!) then we came home for lunch, and Hula Girl took her nap. After she woke from her nap, she and Grammy played “golf” with Hula Girl’s toy broom and some small balls we have around the house. Oh yes, that was a screaming-laughter kind of good time. 🙂

Today is another gorgeous day, but it’s so windy! Faithful readers (all three of you, haha!) know that it’s pretty much always windy here. I am getting concerned that it will be super windy this summer. That will mean less fun out in the backyard. I mean, Hula Girl won’t be able to play happily in her sandbox if the wind keeps blowing sand in her eyes. It will also be bad for our lawn and garden- we’ll definitely have to install a drip-system for our garden so the water doesn’t evaporate as soon as it leaves the hose.

Jonathan raked/shoveled away about 400 square feet of rock in our backyard this weekend to clear the patch for our lawn, and he’ll also have to rake/shovel another 400ish square feet of rock so our garden can have a place to grow. Our landlord agreed to pay for sod so that Hula Girl can play in grass this summer. It will be nice for her, because we’ll have a lot available outside. We’ll have the baby pool, sand box, grassy area, basketball hoop, picnic table, slide, lawn mower, wheelbarrow, hula hoops, balls, chalk, and wagon in the backyard. I am even planning on giving her a tiny patch of space in the garden and letting her grow something there (with a lot of help from me). I am excited that she’ll have a grassy area to roll around in, and that we can set out blankets to have a picnic. It will be nice when the backyard is not just a rocky expanse. I totally understand the point of it where we live- I mean, cacti grow here really well, so I’m betting grass will consume a lot of water and fertilizer. But it will be totally worth it when we can go barefoot in the grass and run through the sprinkler!

And yes, we’ve decided to have a garden again this year. We’re going to be scaling back as far as size, but we’re really doing a lot of research about our soil and all the additives we’ll need to use. We’re planning to rent/borrow a rototiller to get that extra compost/fertilizer down deep before we plant, and we’re going to install a drip-system so we can water better. We’re also going to be using mulch to cover the ground and there will be two sections of garden that we’ll cover with a trellis or netting so they’ll be partially shaded. I think last year’s garden would have had much more success for us if we had provided a bit more shade, a bit more compost, and a LOT better watering. It just gets too hot here to rely on the twice-a-day sprinkler-style watering. Things sure sizzle around here; the mulch should really help provide some insulation.I also think the mulch will come in handy when we have our monster thunderstorms. Less erosion=happier garden.

We have not sat down and decided exactly what things we’ll be planting this year, but I’m sure of a couple of items: strawberries, tomatoes, basil, sweet peas, green beans, zucchini and summer squash. Provided that we have space and that Jonathan agrees, I’d also like to do some lettuce, broccoli, kale, green onions, watermelon, cantaloupe, and pumpkins. I’m thinking we could even do the large squash and melon plants out in the front yard. Maybe we’ll put in a few raised beds out there. We have a lot of bare ground in front of our house, and it gets sun all day long. Great place for squashes and melons!

I’m also considering putting some native plants in the front of the house. I looked up a few grasses and flowers that are suitable for this environment (aside from cactus varieties), and there are quite a few options. I have started calling garden centers in the area, but no one has any good leads so far. You’d think that in this harsh environment, where it’s ridiculous to think of growing pretty much anything, native plants would be wanted. But apparently everyone loves those pansies. And petunias. Silly.

Oh, and I’m also going to do a vertical herb garden with a cheap over-the-door shoe holder. We have a nice spot that gets lots of morning sun and afternoon shade, and relatively little wind on the balcony outside our bedroom. I’ll be doing simple herbs there like mint, catnip (for Riley), wheat grass (also for Riley), basil, oregano, etc. The nice thing about it is that cats and other animals can’t get to it, and it will be fun to look at some fresh greenery every morning when I go outside to do my Bible study before I get Hula Girl. Maybe I’ll even throw in a few flowers, just to pretty it up a bit! 🙂

I will be doing a lot more garden research in the next week, and we plan to start some seedlings next weekend. I am beyond excited for that! Any gardening tips and/or plans of your own? Share, share!


What the Heck is Blood Meal?

Well, it’s gross. That’s what it is. Blood meal is a fertilizer derived from either cow or pig’s blood (usually taken from slaughterhouses). It’s full of nitrogen, which is a nutrient that is typically lacking in gardens after a while…

And it’s what I have to spread in our garden today. Sick, gross, dees-gusting.

Have you ever driven through a town that has a lot of slaughterhouses? It reeks. There is a city in Colorado, Greeley, which is full of slaughterhouses. My soccer league used to travel to Greeley for games on some weekends. The smell was overpoweringly nasty. Many of my friends went to college there, at UNC, and they all admit that it doesn’t feel like home unless there’s the rancid smell of burning cow blood in the air.

I think I’ll be avoiding the patio for a few days.

Our garden isn’t doing soo bad, but it’s not growing anymore. We have a lot of green bean, squash, kale, tomatoes, corn, carrot, and chive plants, but they seem to have reached their “peak.” Unfortunately, that peak is not tall/big/healthy enough to have sprouted much food. There is one squash blossom, three tomatoes, and maybe four green bean blossoms. Whoopee.

Enter blood meal. If this doesn’t work, I’m going to go back to get some more organic fertilizer. And maybe something else. I never actually tested our soil’s pH levels; I might have to get lime or acidifier. And yes, I made up the word “acidifier.”

Wish me luck and a shower. I’m off to spread dead animal blood around my garden. SO gross. I wish organic didn’t mean gross.

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