Planting Now for Next Years Flowers

This last flower season was my best one yet. Previously I had always been into perennials, flowers that bloom year after year and while I still love them, you just can’t beat how gorgeous annuals can be. Reading Floret Flower’s blog for years now has been a huge inspiration to me. Perennials were the perfect thing for me to focus on while my three babies were tiny and very high maintenance. Now that they are older and not needing such a high level of supervision, I can finally turn my attention towards annuals.

Being careful not to bite off more than I could chew I focused on four flower varieties last spring to grow, but in order to do that I had to start in late summer. I’m starting this cycle again and thought I’d share with you what I did last year, so if you wanted to follow along with me this year, you can. I can also tell you what I did that was a complete failure, so you can know ahead of time what not to do.
Botanical Interest Snapdragons(Botanical Interests Snapdragon Tall Maximum Blend)
Please note that I am in zone 9 (you can find your zone here), so our winters don’t get too cold and these flowers can easily overwinter and survive the frosts and very occasional freezes we do get, as long as I keep them covered.

(Botanical Interests Lauren’s Grape)
I started my seedlings off in mid September. So right about now. Last year for ease I picked up Renee’s Garden & Botanical Interests seeds at the local hardware store. This year I decided that since I proved my worth last year, I would splurge on specialized seeds from Swallowtail Garden Seeds.

(Botanical Interests Hungarian Blue poppy – the most beautiful flower I’ve grown!)
Last year in Mid-September I planted:

This year I’ve planted seeds all from Swallowtail Garden Seeds:

  • Madame Butterfly Snapdragon
  • Twinny Appleblossom Snapdragon
  • Mother of Pearl Shirley Poppy
  • Meadow Pastels Iceland Poppy
  • Danish Flag Breadseed Poppy
  • left over Botanical Interests snapdragon seeds from last year

I plant my seeds in all sorts of left over 6-packs we save along with big plastic clam shell produce containers from Costco. I haven’t spent any money on fancy seedling trays, although I probably should at some point. If we happen to have seed starting soil mix, I’ll use that. Otherwise I just use potting soil. Whatever we have on hand. After I seed them, I label them. That’s a very important little step that I have often forgotten in the past, thinking I’ll certainly remember what I planted. I never do.

(Botanical Interests Lauren’s Grape)
Then I take our kitchen trays and cookie sheets and cover them in aluminum foil to protect them and place all the seedling containers on these. I put all of these on our washer and dryer which get great southern light and is close to a water source for easy washing. I also happen to walk past this spot multiple times a day so I can keep a steady eye on how things are looking. Now friends, learn from me and if you choose to place your seeds on your washer and dryer, please, please level your machines first. Two years ago I had an entire cookie sheets worth of sweet pea seeds vibrate themselves off the washer and all over the floor. A lot of bad words came out of my mouth that day and I don’t want that to have to happen to you too.
By early November all my seedlings had come up and I planted them out into raised beds. That’s about six weeks of growing inside in trays before I planted them out. Then I covered them all in agribond floating row cover. That, I believe, was a key step in seedling success. The agribond keeps pesky bugs and birds from eating the seedlings and keeps them a little bit warmer during the winter. Rain water permeates through the agribond. I kept the agribond on over the flower starts all winter. If there is one thing you are going to invest in, other than seeds, it’s that agribond.

By March I was snipping my first snapdragons to bring inside and by April 9th my first Hungarian Blue Poppy bloomed, which was so gorgeous!

If I did this, you can too. Go out to the hardware store or nursery and buy a few seed packets and get planting this weekend! I’ll keep checking in with you over the winter about our fledgling flowers. And in November we can discuss sweet peas. If you’d like a good list of zone 9 seeds you can start now, check out Floret’s article for more ideas.
p.s. Thank you for your patience while I was selling the Ultimate Healthy Bundles package the last few weeks. I don’t normally ‘sell’ things on this blog and it felt like a bit of a stretch for me. I’m not a natural sales person. But I really believed in the package and was so excited that my book was part of it. Thank you to those who did invest in it!

How I Wash My Face (& Last Day to Buy!)

wash-your-face-naturally It seems like every fall my skin care routine needs a little change up. It must be the change in the air. This last fall, I decided to ditch the soap in my evening face wash routine and try this homemade scrub made out of oatmeal, rose petals, calendula petals, mint leaves and lavender. It made my face feel so good afterwards that I’ve used it every night since. Because it’s made with flowers, it smells heavenly!

Now that I’ve used it for a full year and can honestly recommend that you give this a try. My skin feels so soft after I wash it and not dry like when I use soap. You know that tight, dry feeling that you get after you wash your face with soap? I don’t get that after using this recipe. Even though I don’t use soap, my face is clean after I use this scrub.

Normally I don’t wear too much make up, usually just a bit of mascara and a touch of eyeliner. However on days when I do wear more makeup, I do add a tiny bit of liquid soap to this mix.
Here’s the formula for making Cleansing Grains:

1 c. oatmeal
small handful of each:
dried lavender
dried rose petals
dried calendula
dried mint

Blend well in blender. Store in an airtight jar.

To Use:
Splash warm water onto face. Pour 1 Tablespoon of Cleansing Grains into hand and rub grains between both hands. Apply to wet face in gentle circular motions for about 15 seconds. Rinse off and enjoy your clean soft skin!
Other uses:

  • Add a handful to bath water for a soothing, skin healing bath. Perfect for eczema and dry skin.
  • Add 1 TB honey to 1 TB Cleansing Grains and use as a face mask


Why (and how) We Built a Chicken Tractor

how to build a chicken tractor

how to build a chicken tractorOur ladies are on the move! Scott and I have been wanting to build a chicken tractor for a couple of years now and we finally did it.

I got the desire to move our chickens to a mobile tractor when I read Joel Salatin’s Pastured Poultry for Profit. Now we don’t really aim to make a profit with our poultry, but he gives great advice even for a backyard operation like ours. The idea behind a mobile chicken coop, or chicken tractor is that every day you move it one space ahead onto new pasture. This allows the birds to eat fresh grass and bugs and allows that space of land to receive a proper amount of fertilization from the chicken poop. If you leave chickens in one spot too long, not only will they eat everything that grows until it dies, but also the nitrogen from their manure will completely deaden the soil. By having both their food and their manure on the move, you are making both the chickens and the land healthier.

how to build a chicken tractorAnd in addition, because these are laying birds, having them eat fresh greens and bugs makes their eggs more nutritious, which of course makes better food for us.

how to build a chicken tractorYou see, it’s better for everyone.

how to build a chicken tractorYou also eliminate that pesky chore of coop cleaning if you can keep them mobile. Having chickens live in a dirty, dusty coop raises their chances for catching disease. And let’s be honest, it’s one of our least favorite jobs to tackle on the weekends.

I researched a lot of chicken tractor plans and wasn’t happy with anything I saw. I wanted to build this myself and I’m pretty new to construction so many plans were either intimidatingly difficult, or they were too simple and not easily moved. Then there were some that were frugally made, but just plain ugly. Then I found this YouTube video and knew it was the perfect plan for us. A few days later and we started building. I did have Scott help me build this in the end. He’s a great building partner because he doesn’t like unfinished projects laying about, so he’s a good motivator to get out everyday and work some more on it. In all it took us one full weekend day and a few evenings to build it. We followed the directions of the video pretty exactly.

how to build a chicken tractor

We ended up using mainly wood we already had on hand. We did have to buy hardware cloth, fence boards, and two eight foot boards along with the wheels and a whole bucket of nuts, bolts and washers. Our grand total for what we need to buy for this was just under $200. It’s not a cheap project. To lighten the load the video suggests ripping 2×6 and 2x4s in half lengthwise to 2x3s and 2x2s. This helped a lot. And while it’s still heavy, it rolls so well on it’s wheels, that I can easily move it around. Can you see how the wheels work on those levers. You can position them to raise the coop and move it or by swinging that 2×4 over they lay down flat. It’s a pretty cool design.

The only thing we haven’t figured out fully yet is the watering and food situation. The video suggest putting in a 5 gallon square bucket next to the laying boxes and hooking up a PVC extenstion with chicken watering nipples. That all sounds well and good, but how we can refill that bucket is a mystery to us. That is our puzzle to solve. In the meantime we just put their water container in with them along with their grain container and that works for the meantime.

how to build a chicken tractorNow our field is as dead and dry as it gets, so we ran them along our septic leach lines for a week to eat down the dock that grows like crazy there. They’ve eaten it all down and for now, we’ve placed them back in the main coop. Because of the timing of the season we have giant bowls full of produce and kitchen scraps for them to enjoy. As soon as we (ever!) get some rain and once the vegetable garden is finished, we will move them back into the mobile coop to enjoy their salad bar. Hopefully this next spring we’ll be all ready to keep them in there moving along. If luck plays a part and we get decent rainfall, we can keep them moving all over the backyard, helping Scott to mow the field.

And the empty chicken coop left standing? Well, it is big enough to fit a few sheep I suggested to Scott…..




My Dream for the Maker’s Marketplace

Sometimes I wish I had giant gobs of money. On a normal day I don’t spend much, if any time, dreaming about having large amounts of money, but every once in a while, the desire comes up. For instance a month ago we had to pick up a quick birthday present for a soon to…

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Knitting and Reading August Edition

  Boy, it’s been over a month since I’ve checked in with you regarding knitting and reading and wouldn’t you know, the same project is on the needles! Scott’s sweater is a big project and you’ll be seeing it lots as I hopefully check in with you more often these days. Luckily it’s very enjoyable…

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Knitting and Dyeing

Being that it’s the warmer summer months, a lot of knitting has been going on around here. The moment I cast off from my cardigan, I started swatching to knit Scott a sweater. Yes, the first sweater I’ve ever knit for him. When we were first together together I had read in Stitch n’ Bitch…

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In the Garden, July 10

Taking pictures of the garden really shows a different side of it than walking through it. For instance I now know that I need to fill up those flower beds a bit more. And there is a big bare spot in our tomato garden behind the peach tree, which looks huge in this picture. We…

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Knitting & Gardening

Typically, on weeks that I join up with Ginny’s yarn along and Nicole’s Keep Calm, Craft On, I write about knitting and reading. But it’s hard with the children at home to find enough time to read so I hope you don’t mind that I pair knitting with gardening this week. These pictures seems so…

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How to Support Your Tomato Plants

Today I asked my husband, Scott, to give us a little write up on how he’s learned to support our tomatoes. After 14+ summers of tomato gardening together, we’ve gotten it down to a fine science. Since tomato support is his task, I asked him to give us the low down on how to do…

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