A Nest for All Seasons A Nest for All Seasons: June 2016

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30 June 2016

The Battle of Weedland -- Fiskars Giveaway!

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Normal weeds are a pain, but poison weeds are AWFUL.  The main culprit here is poison ivy and it is EVERYWHERE on our property.  As a result of the home sitting in foreclosure for several years before we bought it and then just barely maintained while we spent a year in Puerto Rico, we have a problem.  Our kids could no longer romp through the woods without brushing up against the stuff, so we needed a plan quick.

Can you ID the poison ivy here?  LEAVES of THREE!

Battling Poison Ivy with Fiskars Tools and Suffolk Sheep at Stonecrest
This is just one "before" with tons of poison ivy hiding in and around the desired foundation plants
We tried spraying, but it just doesn't work on such a large scale and pulling by hand was so risky.

 The solution?  Sheep and Axes.

Battling Poison Ivy with Fiskars Tools and Suffolk Sheep at Stonecrest

Don't look away!  There's a giveaway!

Battling Poison Ivy with Fiskars Tools and Suffolk Sheep at Stonecrest  Hatchet

To be fair, "axes" is a pretty strong word.  These new tools by Fiskars are actually more of a clearing tool than a chopping tool. The tool in the first picture is called a machete axe, the photo above is a hatchet  and the photo below is the billhook. (There is also a billhook saw in between the smaller two and a true machete in this line of tools). Fiskars sent these tools for me to test and review in the garden and is giving away a collection to one lucky Nest for All Seasons reader!

Battling Poison Ivy with Fiskars Tools and Suffolk Sheep at Stonecrest  Billhook

"Why is it called a Billhook?"

Good question!  I wondered too, so I researched a bit and the older, traditional billhooks have a much more gentle curve to them. When looked at from the side, they look like the "bill" of a bird. The hook part is self-explanatory. These tooks were used in farming, and then later utilized in battle as makeshift spearheads. More info HERE.

I pictured these tools as being full on axes that could chop through small branches, but they didn't really work for that task as I imagined. Instead of an up and down "chopping" motion, I learned a swift side to side WHACK is where they really shined. The machete axe was particularly good at giving plants a little "haircut" to tidy them up. I love this sharp bladed tool as an option when I don't want to break out power tools.

Battling Poison Ivy with Fiskars Tools and Suffolk Sheep at Stonecrest

  I also REALLY liked the sharp, curved blade interior.  Look at that edge!

Battling Poison Ivy with Fiskars Tools and Suffolk Sheep at Stonecrest

Each of these tools has that curve and it is the one feature I found most helpful in battling the ivy. Instead of trying to rip down ivy from old, established trees, I used the little hook to slip behind ivy roots and cut them low on the tree trunk to kill the poison ivy. It will take months for it to shrivel and die, but the other option is yanking down miles of poison ivy and that is no option at all.

That little hook is also really helpful for making very quick work of thicker palm stems, spent Iris blooms, small woody weeds, etc. You can hold the plant with one hand, snip with one motion and then toss the weeds into a waiting wheelbarrow.

Battling Poison Ivy with Fiskars Tools and Suffolk Sheep at Stonecrest

 The billhook curved edge works really well for sharp and even cuts in bunches.  
The daffodil leaves are really starting to yellow up and look bad in the garden, so they received a 2 second chop as well:

Battling Poison Ivy with Fiskars Tools and Suffolk Sheep at Stonecrest
Battling Poison Ivy with Fiskars Tools and Suffolk Sheep at Stonecrest  Daffodil Leaves

Note: Remember that daffodil leaves need to stay aboveground and attached to photosynthesize energy for next year, 
but by the time they are yellowed like this, that process is basically complete and they can be cut back if desired.


The next part of our poison ivy (and other less-threatening weeds) plan included two new members of the backyard barnyard.
 Meet Murtaugh and Lady Mae (alternately referred to by their nicknames Theon and June).

Meet Lady Mae - AKA June (We have a hard time picking just one name...)

June not only eats grain out of our hands, but now comes to me for greens and just to be curious :)

June is a girl and Theon is a wether (castrated male - sorry Theon). Without castration, Theon would have become a ram and a ram is too aggressive for our little backyard needs. He is still a little skittish (understandably), while June has started to come towards us now simply out of curiosity.

Theon -- He doesn't like me yet!
These are Suffolk lambs that will grow quite a bit larger, produce a shorter light colored wool and will eat 3% of their weight EVERY DAY in weeds. We are mainly utilizing the sheep for their eating abilities, but I will also experiment with the wool a bit and try out some new crafting ideas next year. One of the most exciting things about these little lambs is their love for poison ivy. When we move them to a new grazing area, they go for the poison ivy FIRST. It is utterly amazing.

The only thing that they will NOT eat thus far is a new-to-me plant called 'Oregon Grape'.
 A beneficial plant for humans with shiny, holly-like leaves and blue berries is a no-no in sheep diets apparently :)

Oregon Grape drying from the rafters in the kitchen -- I hope to dry many herbs this summer and fall!
NOW it is time for what you have been waiting for -- the GIVEAWAY!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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22 June 2016

A Well Away From Home

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How to Set up a Vegetable Garden with Gilmour Soaker Hoses Quick Connect and TimerThis is the first year we have a "real" vegetable garden.  I have had plenty of vegetables in pots and even planted amidst ornamentals, but this is the first time I prepared the soil for a year, then had the virgin earth properly tilled.  It was so rewarding to see the earth turned over like that and so blasted discouraging to see the grass start coming up again :/

How to Set up a Vegetable Garden with Gilmour Soaker Hoses Quick Connect and TimerI didn't go into this ignorant, however.  I had prepared a smaller bed (cardboard, compost, coffee grounds that sat for a year), but when the garden was tilled I decided to enlarge it.  The section that had been smothered and composted for a year came up with just a smattering of weeds, but the freshly turned grass turned into beautiful sections of perfectly green baby grass.  SO.  Those plots are being solarized with black tarp and the rest of the garden has been planted out.

Next problem?  Water.  I had the garden tilled before an expected 4-5 days of rain in late May, so the timing was perfect (albeit a bit late).  After that week though, the rains slowed down and there was a need to water deeply a couple times a week.  Our water spigot at the house is around 150 ft. away from the vegetable garden.  Our water barrel that collects rainwater from the gutters is around 75 feet away from the garden.  Our system of watering included three little boys running gallons of water from the spigot or rainbarrel down to me where I dumped them into a watering can and onto the garden gently.  Over and over and over again.

When Gilmour contacted me and asked if I would like to try out some of their products, the answer was immediately YES. Gilmour provided the following products for review:

How to Set up a Vegetable Garden with Gilmour Soaker Hoses Quick Connect and Timer

Flexogen Super Duty Hose

Male (4) and Female (1) Quick Connectors

Single Outlet Electric Timer

Gilmour Thumb Control Nozzle

The original little garden plot that was cardboarded, 
composted and covered in fall leaves for a year.

The Well Away From Home

The obvious problem that needed solving was managing to get the rainwater stored near the house down to the garden. 
 I use a rain collection container similar to this "mountain" rain barrel.

Otherwise, the resource sits there overflowing when it rains underutilized.  I ran 150 feet of Flexogen Super-duty hose to get from the corner of the garden up to the main water spigot.  I can move the hose to the rain barrel when water is available there.

How to Set up a Vegetable Garden with Gilmour Soaker Hoses Quick Connect and Timer

A few facts:

The Flexogen Super Duty Hose has EIGHT LAYER construction making it super durable.
The heavy duty BRASS couplings are crush resistant AND corrosion resistant.
The O-rings inside the couplings provide a durable seal -- NO LEAKING!
They are Made in the USA and have a Lifetime Warranty.

How to Set up a Vegetable Garden with Gilmour Soaker Hoses Quick Connect and Timer

At the corner of the garden, I have three choices -- spray, sprinkle or soak.  The spray works well for a quick soaking of the whole garden, but that is not an efficient way to water most of the time.  The soaker hoses are the answer to simple watering that can seep way down to the plants' roots without losing water to evaporation.

How to Set up a Vegetable Garden with Gilmour Soaker Hoses Quick Connect and Timer

 2-Second Connection Male >>> Female

One of my favorite hose accessories are the quick connect adaptors.  I will not lie -- it took me awhile to figure out the secret attachment method and took my husband 2 seconds.  The trick is to pull up on the second female rubber ring and then slide the two pieces together.

Gilmour Quick Connect Hose Pieces at A Nest for All Seasons
Gilmour Quick COnnect Soaker Hoses at A Nest for All Seasons

Gilmour Quick COnnect Soaker Hoses at A Nest for All Seasons
Gilmour Quick COnnect Soaker Hoses at A Nest for All Seasons

I decide which option I need, pull up the rubber ring on the female and connect.  2 seconds.

Side note: The thumb control option on this nozzle is WONDERFUL.

Gilmour Thumb Control Nozzle at A Nest for All Seasons

My Storage Trick

I had metal window planters from our old porch that I hadn't yet had a place to install here at Stonecrest, until one day when I had a flash of ingenuity. I attached two of these metal planters to the front of my potting bench and they fit just perfectly.  (I love when that happens!) They can hold gloves, small pots, etc. and also serve as a quick spot to wrap up a hose or two when the lawn needs to be mown.  

How to Set up a Vegetable Garden with Gilmour Soaker Hoses Quick Connect and Timer

More on Soaking Those Plants...

When installing soaker hoses, here are a few tips that I stumbled upon the hard way:

How to Set up a Vegetable Garden with Gilmour Soaker Hoses Quick Connect and TimerHow to Set up a Vegetable Garden with Gilmour Soaker Hoses Quick Connect and Timer
How to Set up a Vegetable Garden with Gilmour Soaker Hoses Quick Connect and Timer

1. Gilmour soaker hoses are FLAT, meaning they store up nicely for the winter.  However, I found they kinked a bit when they were "dry" and formed much better curves when I arranged the hoses "wet".  Next year, when I lay out my soaker hoses, I will get them full of water and then arrange them one by one.

How to Set up a Vegetable Garden with Gilmour Soaker Hoses Quick Connect and Timer

2. Soaker hoses can trample and pull your baby plants if you happen to move it a little too roughly. Two sticks forming an "x" help keep the hoses in place to avoid baby plant casualties.

How to Set up a Vegetable Garden with Gilmour Soaker Hoses Quick Connect and Timer

3. The water soaked through the first two hoses very well, but the third connected hose had less water and the fourth had barely any.  I decided to split my 4 soaker hoses into two sections, leaving two connectors that feed different sides of the garden available for the main hose/water source.  Thus, I can only water half of the garden at one time, but the watering is more efficient.

4. To figure out how much water my plants were actually getting, I buried a can under one section and noted how long it took to fill the can.

5. Water hungry plants (Tomatoes!  Watermelon!) received the "circle treatment" while tougher onions and potatoes just had a nearby straight line for extra water. I wanted the soaker hoses to give a good deep watering when rainfall was scarce, but did NOT want to keep the soil completely saturated on a daily basis.  The goal is to get plants to send down DEEP roots in search of water by letting the top 4-6 inches dry out every few days.

Fig Tree With Soaker Hoses at A Nest for All Seasons

6. Some gardeners cover soaker hoses with mulch, particularly in formal ornamental gardens, but I skipped this step as I foresee needing to move the hoses for weeding, rearranging for better water distribution as plants grow, etc.

How to Set up a Vegetable Garden with Gilmour Soaker Hoses Quick Connect and Timer

One last note: When going out of town, I am utilizing the Gilmour timer to make sure the garden doesn't expire on me in the summer heat.  There IS a chance that I will waste water soaker hosing the garden if there is also rainfall, but better a little MORE water than necessary.  I do NOT set the timer on a regular basis though and prefer to monitor the plants manually to see when additional water is needed.


Now for the fun part...my FAVORITE plants so far in my first REAL vegetable garden!

1. Potatoes and Onions -- I know, I know.  They are humble and boring, but they are PERFECT for children to plant.  They are absolutely foolproof and easily planted by inexperienced hands. We planted some familiar favorites, but also some really interesting gourmet fingerling potatoes.

Purple Potatoes are planted here with miniature pumpkins which will twine around the potatoes, shading out weed competition.
Purple Potatoes are planted here with miniature pumpkins which will twine around the potatoes, shading out weed competition.
2. Kid Plots -- Not technically a plant, but separating out two plots for each child to manage on their own has been really fun.  The boys have gotten SUPER creative with their garden plans, plantings and decorations.  I made sure to stock them with plants that will DEFINITELY produce (See potatoes and onions above) and am excited to see how this exercise in independence pays off.  They are already making plans to SELL their produce for a profit, but I have been encouraging them to EAT it!

Kid Decorated, Edged and Planted Plots in Spring
3. Pumpkins --  I know pumpkins take up tons of space, but I love how tough they are and I LOVE picking my own pumpkins out of my own plot come October!  We got to the garden late (late May) this year because of our Puerto Rico travel schedule, so I went with smaller pumpkins this year instead of the mammoth types.  We should see plenty of pumpkins by October even with seeds going in just a few weeks ago.

4. Squash -- Same as above!  They are TOUGH and big and nutritious and I really just have a thing for monstrous vining vegetables.

5. Flowers -- I am SO excited to have utilitarian plots for growing cutting flowers.  I did not have to "worry" so much over design, but could just plop in bulbs and seed in lines for various flowers.  This year I have 4 sections of hollyhock (seeded this year and will bloom next year), anemone, calla lily and some old Italian White sunflower seed that might come up and surprise us!

Little Ruby Fig Tree
6. Fig Trees, Rhubarb and Asparagus -- After visiting P. Allen Smith's farm earlier this year, I was determined to grow figs.  When I saw them on sale for $12 at Stauffer's, I grabbed two.  I have also wanted to get new perennial asparagus and rhubarb plots started in hopes of future harvests (2-3 years after planting). 2 fig trees, 6 asparagus and a single rhubarb later and our vegetable plot is well on its way to having a few perennial anchors for each year.

We are also growing many of the classic garden favorites including assorted tomatoes and peppers (the kids picked out plants at the local garden center since we were late to planting), a couple watermelon plants, sweet potatoes, etc.  I am excited for harvest time!  I am also excited that Gilmour is giving away a 75 ft. Flexogen Hose and Thumb Control Nozzle to one of YOU!  Enter below!

17 June 2016

The Summer Stack Became a Competition

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You might remember my summer stack (Gardens of Awe... and THM are still my favs of that bunch!) that I hoped to get through by the end of summer. Well. That stack has multiplied about 6 times and shows no signs of slowing down.

You see, while in Puerto Rico, we had no access to library services. In downtown Humacao, there was a very small library of Spanish texts.  The parking downtown was abysmal and we did not speak or read Spanish well enough to utilize the books there. The kid's school library did not check out books the way a typical school does here in the states.  Thus, we brought books from home and spent a good chunk of change buying books off Amazon for our year in Puerto Rico. We sorely missed the library. Sadly, our 6 year old did not even remember how a "real" library worked. When we explained to him that he was able to pick out whichever books he wanted (FOR FREE!), check them out and then return them for MORE books, his eyes got wide, asked several questions for clarification, then went around the library like a kid in a candy shop.  All that said, I am SO thankful for the library system and think it is one of the absolute best uses of taxpayer dollars.

Not only is the library an invaluable resource, but they have upped the ante for summer with reading competitions.  The boys were sucked into it first, then our 2 year old, and then I even got the bug. There are raffles and gift baskets to win, Bingo for the adults for reading various types of books (mysteries!  book by women! books written by an author with YOUR name!) and various prizes for reading certain amounts of minutes for the kids. It is an outstanding program. We are reading more than we ever have and I actually have to make the kids stop reading and get outside to play. What a fun new stage of life THIS is!

Here is my growing summer stack:

Some of these are Amazon buys, some are library checkouts and some are preview copies from publishers for review.  Let's start at the bottom of the stack and move up, shall we?  The book on the very bottom is The Night Gardener and it is a picture book to read to the kids. I won't lie. I bought this book for myself. The illustrations are insanely beautiful and I prefer to read picture books that engage me AND the kids. This one fits the bill and is one of the most beautiful children's books I have seen recently published.

Next up is a library find that you will LOVE if you are a gardener or literature junkie. If you are not, you will probably think this book is boring as sin. One Writer's Garden is the story of Eudora Welty's life and garden (along with much of her mother Chestina's life and garden planning) and I ate it up.  I think I read this book over 3-4 days and loved every second.

All the Light We Cannot See is a novel by Anthony Doerr that won the Pulitzer in 2015 and I came to it via Doerr's more recent memoir, Four Seasons in Rome. Four Seasons describes Doerr's life with his wife and twins in Rome as he was writing All the Light. I finished Four Seasons, liked it and thus All the Light is now on my MUST READ for summer. I haven't cracked the cover yet, but am excited to do so!

The light blue book that comes next in the stack is Around the House and Garden, another Amazon buy that I instantly knew I would like. You know how there are book "types" that you will always like?  Maybe your "type" is a diary in an attic with a secret story to tell of generations past or perhaps you will always love an apocolyptic tale of survival no matter how well written it is or is not (those are types of my husband and I...bet you can't guess which is which...) or maybe your "type" is a good whodunit mystery. One of MY "types" is a good old fashioned story of someone's garden intertwined with their life and learning. It is not the type of everyone, but I think it just might by YOUR type if you are a fan of A Nest for All Seasons. Around the House and Garden is the story of Dominique's healing via the garden and it is a keeper -- already headed to my permanent bookshelves.

Those next two books sandwiched in there are two more picture books titled 1 is One and A is for Annabelle. They predictably teach children about their numbers and letters, but they fit through my filter of I NEED TO FIND THEM BEAUTIFUL while I read them over and over and over again. Both are illustrated by Tasha Tudor and I have been investing in my collection of Tudor books every few months. I hope to eventually collect hardcovers of all of her work. It is beautiful, sentimental and perfectly girly.

Next on the list is Gardening When It Counts, a text I found recommended on a prepping forum over and over again. It is written by Steve Soloman, former owner of Territorial Seed Company. The book is VERY detailed and written from deep knowledge of old gardening wisdom and current techniques in the seed, farming and garden industry. It is definitely a dry read, but I am very pleased to have this book in my reference library. IF something terrible should happen and there was no longer access to the internet, this book would be an incredible, invaluable resource for the home gardener growing their own food.

You might laugh at the next two choices, but let me explain. One of my boys is VERY into the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books and another is VERY into Captain Underpants. While neither is traditionally great literature, they are FLYING through these books at the rate of 3-4 a week. Their eyes fly across the page and for the reading practice alone they are great. However, I do want to have some idea of what they are reading, so I like to throw a few YA books into my own stack to keep up with them.

I also previewed Firestormers and Be Light Like a Bird for the boys (both available in mid-late 2016). Firestormers would be perfect for kids interested in the fire/police/rescue fields or for children whose parents work in those fields. Be Light Like a Bird is a beautiful book and tackles the difficult subject of a parent's death from a child's point of view. This particular story follows Wren as her mother reels with anger after the death of Wren's father and they move from place to place afterwards. My son did not get into it at 10 years old, so perhaps save this book for 12-13 year olds or perhaps a child going through similar circumstances would find comfort in this book.

The next book is just for me :)  Origami Chic is a new book by Sok Song that releases later this year. (It is currently available for pre-order HERE). It is marketed towards young adults, but I am enjoying it as an adult. I am not a papercrafter, so I am a beginner when it comes to difficult folding techniques. The book gives a slight introduction to basic folding techniques, then detailed step-by-steps for each project with photos. I have been able to follow along with no problem (and I have been known to get quite frustrated with origami instructions!)

There are two things that really made this book stand out for me. 
First, the included papers for folding at the end of the book are so appealing and pretty.

Secondly, the subject matter is fashion -- clothing, accessories, etc. and is not the typical origami cranes and such. 
I adore the little outfits and enjoy thinking up new ways to "play" with them. 

For example, this cute little tote bag fold on a larger scale would make
 a darling container for little tussy mussies or May Day flower baskets for neighbors!

The last book of the stack is 365 Days of Nature of Discovery, an impulse buy I made on Amazon because it was one of those used books that has many, many used copies for 1 cent (and $4 shipping) and it was a nature book with illustrations -- I cannot resist.  I am glad I didn't either because it is quickly becoming one of my favorite little nature books. To begin with it IS little.  It is fat, but small and perfect for kid hands or throwing in a backpack. 

The book is organized into "days" like "Hummingbird Day", "Owl Day", "Hog Day" -- you get the picture!
 It is super fun and for under $5, it is a worthwhile investment for summer fun.

While not technically a book, at the very tippy top of my stack of books are two CDs that are great for the background while reading, making supper or just whenever. (yes, I still enjoy a good CD) These were a Mother's Day present I requested and they are on repeat between the Max Richter Pandora station and the Norah Jones Pandora station.

If you haven't heard of Joey and Rory and you like country and/or gospel music, then you are missing out. Joey recently passed away at a young age after a battle with cancer, but wanted to record the Hymns album before she passed. It is heartfelt and stirring -- you should look them up! 

So I told you the stack keeps growing...I have just a couple more for you!

I haven't read To Kill a Mockingbird since high school (when my English teacher noted that my report looked like Boo Radley wrote it :/ ).  Well, I thought it was time I re-visited this classic and then I noticed that The Mockingbird Next Door was a librarian recommended book this week (that is one of my BINGO squares for the reading competition) so I grabbed it as well and am reading "Next Door" first. The librarian recommended I read them in that order and after reading Anthony Doerr's works that way, I rather enjoy reading the memoir and THEN the work, so here's to Harper Lee backwards!

Happy Reading and Happy Summer to you!

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