Monday, April 30, 2012

Growing an Avocado Tree

It's quite ironic that we are growing an avocado tree because Andy and I are pretty strict to only growing things that will produce something to feed us.  While an avocado tree may produce delicious avocados in tropical paradises, it does not produce fruit in frozen tundra's such as Wisconsin.  Also, (in case you live in tropical paradise) you need two trees to pollinate and produce.

So why grow it?  Because we can!  How cool it is to know we can grow an avocado tree from a pit/seed from an avocado we ate?  This is how YOU can grow and avocado tree, too:

Step 1:  Eat an avocado
Easy peasy, throw some slices on a (veggie) burger, mash it and make some guacamole, or just eat it plain.

Step 2:  Save the pit
When taking the pit out of the avocado, be careful to not damage it with a knife.  I normally stab it (helps relieve my inner angst), but you might just want to gently guide it out if possible.  Once you have the pit out, peel the "skin" off.  It's like a thin brown coating.  Peel as much of it off as you can.

Step 3: Set pit up for germination
No dirt needed!  Just fill up a cup, mason jar, bowl, etc.. with water.  Poke 3 toothpicks into the sides of the pit so that you can suspend the avocado pit over the water. 

The water should go up about half of the pit.  Add water if it ever gets below the bottom of the pit.

Step 4: Wait... patiently.
This is the hardest part.  Put your pit in a sunny spot and wait.  You will find yourself watching the pit, hoping that any minute it will start to sprout.  Andy and I got totally down on ourselves when nothing was happening a week or two into starting our tree.  Please note it will take at least 4-6 weeks before you get some sprouting action going on.  The bottom of the pit will crack open and you will see a bit of the root popping out and than it will take a while for the plant to start growing out of the top too.  When this happens, throw a mini party to celebrate!

Step 5:  Plant in soil.
Once you have a sprout that is an inch or so tall, plant it in a pot with soil.  We used a medium sized pot, added some potting soil and planted the plant.  Do not bury the pit too deep.  Make sure the top portion of the pit is exposed.  Keep the soil moist and water pretty frequently.  Put back into sunny spot.

Step 6:  Wait... patiently.  Again.
Story of my life when it comes to gardens.  Waiting... ugh.  But no worries, over time you will find your avocado tree is growing beautifully.  Our avocado tree is now a year old now and it's about 2 feet tall!

Add some signage with inappropriate language to pursuade the tree to grow and grow well.

That's it!  Andy and I are just a week into starting a second tree.  Who knows... if we have two of them inside with temperatures around 70 degrees, maybe we'll actually get one to produce.  I doubt it, but I can still dream, right?

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Happy Thoughts, Happy Thoughts

The sun has decided to hide behind the clouds today and it has only amplified my serious case of the blues.  I'm not entirely sure on what has me so blue, but I know a big part of it is I'm not taking 100% care of myself.  I'm neglecting myself which in turn is making me feel not like myself and more like a very crappy version of myself.  A lot of the hows and whys to my blues is very personal and I'm not sure if I'm ready to divulge such information to you yet.  I just hope I can get myself out of this misery. 

I have a busy day today.  First, we are going to Finley's friends 2nd birthday party and then we are off to Andy's Aunts surprise birthday party.  And then tonight I am going to a get together with some old friends from high school.  I've been really excited to go, but right now I'm just hoping I can put a smile on my face and put my blues aside. 

And a quick solution to side track my brain to happier things?  Thinking of all the things that make me happy, of course.

Dave Matthews Band.  One song and I instantly feel better.
VW Busses (big plus if surrounded by trees)
All vintage owl things
But most of all, my family, doing the most ordinary things.

What do you do when you have the blues?  What makes you happy?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Homesteaders Daughter: A day in the life of a Toddler

As some of you may now, I am a nanny for two different families during the week.  On Mondays and Wednesdays, Finley and I go to take care of a cute little boy name Jack.  He is 1 month older than Finley, so they have definitely become BFF this past year. 

Want to know what a day in the life of Finley's looks like?

Lets start off at 5:30 in the morning.  The pirate eye patch is quite the accessory, don't you think?

Around 7:30-8, we head over to Jack's house for the day.  They are so excited to see each other that it sometimes involves 10 minutes of jumping up and down and screaming.  Than it's straight to business.  Dressing up as a firefighter with high heels... the perfect blend of tom boy and girly girl.

We play hide and seek for awhile.  Jack and Finley... Where are you??!!

It's not even 9 yet and we are on to playing some piano.  It's never to early to play Christmas music.

Here is where Jack was yelling at Finley for singing Jingle Bells too loud.  Best friends yet enemies at the same time... sounds like siblings.

Finley had to take a moment and talk on the cell phone (or calculator).    She kept saying "Grandma, What are you doing?  Building castle? ok.".  I don't think my mother was building a castle, jus' saying.

It's always nice to fit in a bit of time for waving the U.S. flag.

Okay, now I'm getting tired.  What time is it? 9:30 a.m!  Are you effing kidding me?? Longest.Day.Ever!

The rest of the day entailed going to the park and having a picnic, going back home to clean the tornado that went through, and finally nap time.  Wow. 

4:00 p.m. and Finley and I are on our way home.  We spend some time watching Tangled for the 50th time this week.

Finley does some tumbling on the furniture.  2 years ago I would have sworn to you that no child of mine would ever be monkeying around on my precious furniture.  My, have things changed.

It's fun to dodge the camera!

Thank my lucky stars, it's time to eat dinner, have a bath, and go to bed!  By 7:30-8:00, Finley is asleep and I am collapsed, incapable of movement, on the couch. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Garden How To for Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day!  I hope you fill the day with activities such as gardening, learning, cleaning, or nurturing.

If you find yourself with some free time and a love for potatoes (quite obsessive in this household)- than this project is the one for you!

3' x 3' Potato Bin- with this potato bin it is said that one can grow up to 200lbs of potatoes!

Materials needed:  4- 2x8x12' lumber, 4- 2x2x8' lumber, 3" galvanized screws, sandy top soil, compost, sprouting potatoes.

Step 1: Cut lumber-  Of course I had the manly men at Home Depot do this for me.  Have the 2x8x12' cut into 3' lengths.  Cut the 2x2x8' into 42" lengths.

Step 2: Screw Together-  Start with the screwing two 2x2's to each side of a 3' piece.  Do this one more time.  Stand them up and screw two more 3' pieces to connect it all and create a square.

NOTE! As you can see, we built the potato bin in the basement only to quickly find out we couldn't get it out of the basement.  Learn from our silly mistake and build this potato bin OUTSIDE!

Once you get the bottom 4 boards put together, we can start adding boards up the sides.  We designed this box to have 5 boards per side.  HOWEVER, we are only going to screw together portions of each side.  For the back of the bin screw all 5 boards on.  For the remaining sides only screw on 1 more board.  **We left one side with only one board so when the time comes we can easy shovel in more dirt**

Step 3: Install Bin- Place the bin in an area that is in full sun.  Also make sure it is on the north-side of your property or away from other growing vegetables so the height of the box doesn't block the sun.  Level and fill with soil & compost.  Potatoes love sandy soil, so if need be add a bit of sand to the mixture as well.

Step 4: Plant Potatoes-  The best step of all (besides harvesting)!  Last year we went to the garden store and bought sprouting potatoes.  This year we had left over potatoes from our crop last year that sprouted, so we gladly used those.  Do not go to the grocery store and buy potatoes and plant them... they will not grow!  They are sprayed to deter sprouting.

These potatoes are really small, but if you have larger potatoes with multiple sprouts you can cut them in half and plant the halves.

Plant the potatoes sprout up and cover with soil.

Potatoes grow a beautiful green bushy type plant.  Once they get to about 6" in height, add more dirt to the box.  Add more layers of boards as the summer goes on and the dirt level goes up.  Eventually you will have dirt as high as 4-5 boards high (30-40")

When it comes times to harvest (the leaves start yellowing and dying off) unscrew boards from the bottom and start digging in!

This is our first year doing this so I will update as the season goes on and let you know how our harvest did.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

All In A Days Work

I love the weekend because it means it's time to devote some serious time to the garden.  The past week had been pretty much raining, so the sunshine today was very well welcomed- even if it was only 45-50 degrees.  Our to-do list is a mile long and we were eager to get to work.  Before noon we got ZERO done.  This is pretty much what we had to deal with all morning: A very crabby, sobbing, nothing will please child.

If you are queasy, pay no attention to the fact that she is licking the cry-induced snot off her face.

After some lunch and a nap, Finley was semi in a better mood.  We were finally getting some stuff done.  First, we built another garden bed.

Finished off distributing the 5 yards of top soil I had delivered this week.  This was by far the worst part of the day.  I HATE hauling dirt.  Luckily, my Father-in-law let us borrow his tractor and trailer to ease the pain. (as you can see I also got the laundry done... multitasking is key here!)

Finley loved the tractor.

As the sun was reaching the western sky, we finally were able to plant some stuff.  In the new bed we built today, we planted strawberries and a blackberry bush.  To start off our edible landscaping around the boxes in the front, we planted rhubarb (strawberry and rhubarb jam, anyone??).  And to end the day on a good note, we planted our potatoes!  A post about the potato bin will be coming shortly.

All in all... not a bad day!  Now if only Finley would stop being a crab-ass.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Hallelujah! Hallelujah!  My peppers are sprouting- 18 out of 32 so far!  My mood has definitely been in a funk lately, but seeing my peppers sprout (when they tend to be hard plants to start) today has sparked a little bit of sunshine inside me.  Hopefully my peppers (and my mood) will do nothing but flourish from here on out.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Building Raised Garden Beds

Another "How To" post!  I know I did a how to post on building raised beds last year, but with this new blog I found it fitting to do it again.

Raised beds have been a dream in regards to gardening.  Last year we had the most minimal amount of weeds.  It's easy on the knees and back too.  And if you have plants that spread or overtake areas, these beds help control them.

This past weekend, Andy and I built 3 more raised beds.  They are 4' by 8'.

First, you need to buy wood.  We buy our lumber at Home Depot.  We would buy cedar which is better to hold up to the weather, but I'm not rich, so... the cheaper UNTREATED wood it is (I have read that this wood will last for up to 5-6 years no problem).  For one 4'x8' bed with a depth of 16" you will need to buy 4- 2x8x12' boards.  Home Depot will cut your boards to length for FREE!  Cut each board into a 4' length and 8' length.  Also, you will need to have posts for the corners.  Last year we just used 2"x2" boards, but we decided to up it to 2"x3" just for added strength.  Cut these boards into 16" lengths.

Step 1:  Gather your wood.  (and tricycle and VW Vanagon aka Ooby Dooby to entertain toddler)

Step 2:  Have a man with a very large beard cut wood to length (if not done at Home Depot or similar store).

Step 3:  Screw all the boards to the corner posts.  We started  (and found it to be easier) by screwing the corner posts to the 4' length sides and than adding the 8' lengths.  Once all the bottom layer boards are screwed on, add the second layer to make the bed 16" deep... you can make it only 8" if you want.

It's that easy!  I don't know why people spend a fortune buying already made beds when we can easily make one for only $30!

Step 4:  Determine where to put your bed and make sure it is square and level.

This year that will total to 5- 4'x8' raised beds and 4- 3'x3' raised beds.  That is a ton of space for gardening!  And to think, in the years to come, this number will be doubled or even tripled!  Don't think we are obsessed about homesteading yet?  Here is a picture of Finley getting her study on about garden pests...what do you think now?

Need advice on how to build raised beds?  email me or comment and I'll help.  Live in the area and want us to build one for you?  No Problem!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Seed Starting Adventure

This was our Friday night project:

Admiring these

And building this!

 Yesterday I found a sweet deal on Craigslist for these shelves and I knew I had to have them.  For $20 each I now have a great start to a seed starting station.  The lights were also a Craigslist find for $10 each!

This year Andy and I dove head first into starting seeds this year.  Neither of us had started seeds before so we were pretty clueless.  After lots of reading we excitedly put on the calender of when to start what seeds.  This past weekend was very exciting because we got to start our tomato and pepper seeds!

Want an easy "How To" on seed starting?  Great!

Step 1: Moisten your soil.  We used Jiffy Seed Starting Mix (it's great!). Then put the soil in your seed starting medium.  You can use various things for this.  Egg cartons, newspaper, peat pots, etc...  I found some of these seed starting kits at the thrift store.

Step 2:  Decide on what you are going to grow.  I would recommend doing research on the proper time to start your specific plant/vegetable.  Number one mistake made by amateur seed starters is starting seeds too early.  

Step 3:  Dig holes into each pod.  We needed a 1/4" hole, so we used the edge of a pen to get the perfect depth.

Step 4:  Plant your seeds.  Personally I put three seeds per pod.  But it is recommended to do anywhere from 1-4 seeds.  Note:  Seeds are small this buggers.  Small, delicate hands work best for this step.  :)

Step 5:  Use a mister to water.  Just pouring water can wash out the seeds at this stage.

Step 6:  Put some sort of plastic of the top.  These kits come with a lovely lid and put under your lights.  (we use regular fluorescent lights, as we've read often that you don't need grow lights...  So far so good!)

 Step 7:  As soon as your seeds germinate and sprout, take the lid off and put back under the light.  Enjoy the beauty!

A few side notes on starting seeds:
  1. mist only when the soil feels dry.  You do not want to over water and have your plants dampen off.
  2. Have the lights about 1-2" above the plants... no more!
  3. Once the seedling have started strong, decide on the strongest one in each pod and pinch out the weak ones.  All energy and nutrients will now go to that one plant.
  4. Once they get their first true leaves you can start fertilizing them every other week with diluted fertilizer.  Andy and I are going to use Bat Guano this year!
  5. When it comes to the week before planting harden of your plants.  This mean putting your plants outside in the sun for a a little bit more each day.
Now a few notes about Tomatoes... my silly amateur mistake this past week:
  1. Tomato seeds germinate in the dark!  I read this after the fact that I had them under the fluorescent light for a few days...nice one Lindsay!  Once I removed them from the light and covered them with cardboard to block out any light, they sprouted the next day!
  2. Tomato (and pepper) seeds need heat.  It's only 63-65 degrees in our basement, so we broke down and bought (new- so unlike us) head pads.  These heat pads are great and they help keep the soil 10-20 degrees higher thus helping our tomato and pepper seeds germinate faster.  
Our peppers have yet to sprout.  it's been about 6 days so I'm hoping this happens soon!  I have read that pepper plants are really hard to start.

If by chance we fail miserably at starting seeds this year, we will have to buy the plants at the nursery and give ourselves the "Better luck next time" speech.  BUT, if all goes well... well, than we just saved ourselves some big bucks and confirmed that we are nothing but Rockstars.