Category Archives: Hippies in the Garden

Seasons On The Homestead

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*This post is Day One of the January Nablopomo 30-day blogging challenge hosted by BlogHer.

Living on our little homestead for seven months now has taught me a few things about seasons.

Among the lessons:

Summer is hot.

Obvious, I know but, seriously, if you think about it, it’s not that hard in our society to spend the vast majority of your time in a climate controlled setting. I KNEW summer was hot but when it came to actually needing to be outside more than I was in, I discovered in a very practical sense that spring is a lovely time to be in the garden. It’s 70 degrees and sunny and the earth is cool beneath your feet. Summer is hot and buggy and horrible.  But… if you do things right in the spring you will have to spend less time planting and, far worse: weeding, in the summer.

Some seasons are more fun than others.

It’s quite pleasant to head out into the twilight around 9pm on a summer’s evening. There may be a warm breeze blowing and the frogs and crickets are singing their nighttime songs. Evening chores are lovely and peaceful and a joy. On the other hand, heading out into the snow when it’s below freezing and pitch black at 6:00 pm in the winter to break a layer of poopy ice off the chicken’s water dish is less fun.

Seasons On The Homestead | LazyHippieMama.comDon’t plan any extra activities in the spring or fall.

When planting and harvest time hit you have a tiny window to get ‘er done. If you snooze, you lose. Play in the heat of summer. Play in the dead of winter. Once spring hits you have a matter of a couple of weeks to lay out what’s going to happen for the rest of the year. If you don’t act quickly you have to wait a whole year to try again. Fall is for picking, washing and preserving and there isn’t much time for anything else. Stall for even a few days and the earth will re-claim what she’s offered up to you.

As we kick off 2015 I can look back and see that life itself is a cycle of seasons.

For our family, 2013 was joyous. After some really rough financial struggles we found ourselves both well employed and moving past basic survival. Not very far past but we were confident, every day, that we would be able to put three meals on the table the next day. If you’ve never lacked that confidence you will never truly understand the peace that I’m referring to. We had time together and a nice home and everyone was healthy more often than not. It was a season of much needed rest.

2014 started off in the same vein but it became clear fairly early in the year that the seasons were changing. By April we were being swept along in an avalanche of life. It wasn’t all bad. A lot of what happened was stunningly wonderful. It was just… well… if you don’t already know you can read more here.

Going into 2015 we are skiing right on top of that avalanche and it is exciting and exhilarating, exhausting, overwhelming and fabulous. If it’s true that a man without a dream is dead then we are alive to the fullest! We are dreaming bigger than we have in a very long time and, even when it’s exhausting it is awesome in the most true sense of that word. It’s “spring” in our lives. We are planting seeds just as fast as we can to ensure an abundant harvest in the years to come.

Hippies considering the future...

Hippies considering the future…

I don’t think we can maintain our current pace forever. We’re only human! But I’m not worried about it. Last fall I reached a point where I just couldn’t imagine canning one more tomato and right about then they stopped turning ripe and the work was done and I was able to sit down and look with joy at my shelves full of food that would feed my family all winter long. This is the season we are in. We are scrambling to get the work done. There is not a doubt in my mind that when we reach the point where we feel like we just can’t “run” another step we will find that the seasons are changing and then we’ll have time to look back and see all that we’ve accomplished. It’s going to be great!

Do you feel the cycle of the seasons reflected in your life? What season are you in now? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Are you, too, seeking to save the earth, promote world peace and raise productive citizens without expending too much effort?

Why not follow LazyHippieMama on WordPress, by email or Facebook to get all the updates.

If we work on our goals together, they may be a little easier to achieve!

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That’s A Wrap On Summer 2014

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That's a Wrap On  Summer | LazyHippieMama.com

According to the calendar, summer 2014 is a wrap and, indeed this summer’s garden is just about done. Here’s some of what we learned and experienced this year, a few notes on the autumn crops, and a really great product I had a chance to try.

We bought Kale seeds from Mary’s Organic Seed Company.  The kale grew up quickly and it’s been going strong all season long. We’ve picked at it several times a week and you can never tell. If anything, it’s only gotten bigger since the weather turned cool.

That's a wrap on summer | LazyHippieMama.com

We also got an heirloom sweet corn variety from them. It was a total bust. The plants were beautiful but we didn’t get a single decent ear of corn. I can’t put all the blame on the seeds or the variety of corn we chose. Since this is our first season in this house we didn’t realize how far the shade from our big walnut tree would reach and the corn ended up with very little sunlight. Also, I’m told that the tannins from the walnuts themselves change the chemistry of the soil which could have contributed to the problem.  Next year we’ll do things differently in that corner of the garden.

Our heirloom popcorn from Tietz Family Farms grew fairly well. It’s not quite totally dried yet, so we won’t harvest for another week or two.

This summer’s weather was a little weird. We had long periods of dryness followed by torrential rainfall that would leave the ground soggy for days. The temperatures stayed very mild, often getting downright chilly in the evenings.  Apparently these circumstances create an issue known as “blossom end rot” in tomatoes.  At one point I was certain we weren’t going to get any tomatoes at all. They hung, green, on the vine for weeks and those that turned were only turning because they were rotting.  Then, right around labor day, we got some rain and the temperatures hit 90 and, literally over-night, the whole garden ripened.  Since we’d planted about twice as many tomatoes as we really needed we ended up with a great haul. If we hadn’t had any issues we would have never been able to keep up with the harvest and processing.

We had four varieties of large tomatoes as well as some “Sweet 100” cherry tomatoes.  Four of our plants were beefsteak tomatoes from a local nursery and they put out the prettiest, roundest, reddest, most “meaty” tomatoes I’ve ever seen. We didn’t lose a single fruit on those plants to blossom end rot!

That's A Wrap On Summer | LazyHippieMama.com

I looked up how to clone tomato plants and I’m going to try over-wintering some cuttings. I’d love to grow more of those next summer!

That's a wrap on summer | LazyHippieMama.com

Spaghetti squash grew like mad. 3 or 4 plants on 2 little hills put out well over 100 pounds of squash!

Seeds from Burpee Organic yielded a monster of a zucchini plant.  It was so big that people were commenting on having noticed it from the road as they were driving by.  Note that our garden is behind a barn, 50 yards or so off the road.  It was a BIG plant.  It was prolific in the way that only summer squash seems to be and then it started to wilt and die… but no… wait… it sent out “runners,” which are now putting out a whole second crop. I didn’t even know zucchini could do that!

That's a wrap on summer | LazyHippieMama.com

And the zucchini just keeps coming…

We lost our cucumbers to greedy chickens. The strawberries were really too young to be impressive, though the occasional bright red berry all summer long was a joy to find! Our pumpkin patch consisted of one vine that never had a single pumpkin. Squirrels ate every single hazelnut.

Look at all those shells. I bet they were delicious. *sigh* I hope the squirrels enjoyed them.

Look at all those shells. I bet they were delicious. *sigh* I hope the squirrels enjoyed them.

 

Oh, well. Win some, lose some.

All in all it was a great first year on this property. We harvested well over 500 pounds of fruits and veggies with the fall stuff still trickling in! Not bad considering the late start and total disorganization surrounding the planting of the garden that was pretty good.

ON PRESERVING:

We pickled and canned using a hot water bath this year and that works out fine. I did burn out a bit at the end and sadly ended up letting more tomatoes than I wanted to go bad. I’m not beating myself up too much. It was an overwhelming few months for a number of reasons and I was working on a stove that only has 2 (sometimes 3, if the stars align) working burners.

We froze as much as we could fit in the freezer and hung peppers and carrot tops to dry them.

Most winter squash will store very well, kept in any cool, dry place. Dry is important. We lost a large amount of our squash to mold when it got damp in the barn. Disappointing, but lesson learned.

If we really are going to be serious about being as self-sufficient as possible we really need a pressure canner, a deep freeze and a dehydrator. Four burners would be lovely as well. But, you know… we’ll get there. Rome wasn’t built in a day and all that.

Any sponsors out there who want to send me free appliances? Just thought I’d put it out there.

LOOKING AHEAD:

Next year I’ll plant fewer tomatoes and a greater variety of other veggies. By then we’ll have our raised beds ready to go so we’ll have that space plus we plan to enlarge the main garden a bit.

I’m hoping my little tomato clones will flourish over the winter. I’ll also save seeds from the spaghetti squash and zucchini plants that did so well. We’re also going to try to make some good cuttings from our concord grape vines. The vines we had did beautifully but we’ll be out of juice before the snow flies and I never did make any jam.  We really love grape juice. The kids were guzzling it up just about as fast as I could pick the grapes. OK – maybe not just the kids.

I’ll definitely plant sweet corn again but I’ll try a different variety and plant it away from the walnut tree.

 THE PROMISED COOL PRODUCT:

Kidecals wrote and asked if I would try out their labels and, if I liked them, share them with you.

kidecals-logo

I loved them!

I ordered these adorable little customized Christmas labels and they came just a few days later. They are super sturdy and the picture doesn’t do the bright colors and clear quality justice. They feel more like plastic than paper. This means they are water proof and also that they will peel off without leaving a messy, ugly residue on your jars.

Canning labels | LazyHippieMama.com

They had several styles of labels for canning but also labels for just about every other conceivable use, some very cool wall decals, key board stickers and more.

I’ll definitely be ordering from them again! I hope you take a minute to check out their website. You’re going to love it!

Are you, too, seeking to save the earth, promote world peace and raise productive citizens without expending too much effort?

Why not follow LazyHippieMama on WordPress, by email or Facebook to get all the updates.

If we work on our goals together, they may be a little easier to achieve!

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If you enjoyed my blog, it would mean a lot to me if you’d toss me a vote by clicking the link. Thanks!

Using Up The Cherry Tomatoes

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Using Up The Cherry Tomatoes | LazyHippieMama.comLast year we had several cherry tomato plants and so many of them ended up being wasted. I made gallons of pico de gallo/salsa (You can see my favorite recipe here) and topped everything we ate with cherry tomatoes for weeks. I added them to sauces and even tried juicing them but, when it was all said and done I just had more than I knew what to do with.

This year we agreed not to plant so many.

But then…

I had a few plants that I’d started from seed and I figured only half of them would take root and produce. But, nope. Every one of those little guys held on and grew. And then someone dropped off more. “We didn’t want to waste them and we have too many.” They said.

I couldn’t throw them away. They were just too beautiful. Into the garden they went.

And now I have cherry tomatoes. Mountains and piles and heaps of cherry tomatoes.

I learned that cherry tomatoes, more so than their larger cousins, freeze quite well and can be used for soups and stews all winter.

I filled my freezer and didn’t make a dent.

My sister told me I should try Ina Garten’s Provencal Cherry Tomato Gratin.  I did and I loved it. It’s just the right combination of soft and crunchy, sweet and savory. It took 5 minutes to throw together from this simplest possible ingredients (not including cooking time) and it was a huge hit.

But I still had more. A LOT more.

Then I discovered tomato jam.

 

Image from Food in Jars. Click the photo to see the original recipe!

Image from Food in Jars. Click the photo to see the original recipe!

Apparently I’ve been living under a rock all of these years because I’d never tried nor heard of such a thing before. I stumbled across this recipe and resisted at first. I love grape jam and strawberry jam… but tomato?!  Then I read a comment that, “It goes beautifully on turkey burgers but eat it on soft stinky cheese with crackers and it will change your life.”

I LOVE SOFT STINKY CHEESE ON CRACKERS!

So I made some tomato jam. And it’s FABULOUS! And so pretty in those sweet little Mason jars. And it’s actually quite easy to make. No peeling and seeding and such. I just put my tomatoes in my slap-chopper and tossed them in the pot to simmer. And it takes 5 pounds of cherry tomatoes to make 2-5 pints of jam, depending on how big they are, how much sugar they contain and other factors. I got 3 1/2 pints from my first attempt.

I’ve got approximately 47 relatives who are getting tomato jam for Christmas this year and I’m not going to have any guilty, “I left them in the garden to rot” feelings. Everybody wins!

Do you have other recipes you love to make with cherry tomatoes?

Are you, too, seeking to save the earth, promote world peace and raise productive citizens without expending too much effort?

Why not follow LazyHippieMama on WordPress, by email or Facebook to get all the updates.

If we work on our goals together, they may be a little easier to achieve!  

90 Days on the Homestead

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This week we celebrate 90 days on our little miracle farm. (Click here to read about our miracle.) It has been the craziest summer I’ve had in memory! We’ve celebrated some wonderful moments and wept over more than a few. Through it all we have been wrapped in the love of those around us and I’m pretty sure that, at least once every single day, either Handsome Hippie Hubby or I have sighed and said, “I really love living here!”

Here’s a glimpse at the first 90 days.

The garden grew leafy and green…

90 Days On The Homestead | LazyHippieMama.com

And then became slightly wild and overwhelming.

90 Days on the Homestead | LazyHippieMama.com

Then it got so big it ate New York like a radioactive monster from Japan.

90 Days on the Homestead | LazyHippieMama.com

As the squash has petered out we’ve begun pulling it and putting in a fall planting of lettuce, spinach, radishes and cabbage. Here’s hoping that frost doesn’t come earlier than expected this year!

The weather was weird! Once or twice it was actually cold enough to see your breath at night and it was quite dry all summer.  We’d gotten a late start on the garden anyway, due to ground that was still frozen in mid May and not moving in until June. We had a bit of an issue with blossom end rot and, later, we were attacked by grasshoppers and tiny green worms.  All of that combined to make a fairly weird harvest schedule with squash and strawberries turning ripe at the same time and sweet corn that still isn’t ready to be picked.

The end result was enough to keep this Lazy Hippie up to my elbows in canning jars, though.  We’ve had over 300 pounds of veggies so far including zucchini, cucumbers, spaghetti squash, tomatoes, bell peppers, jalapenos, brussels sprouts, onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots and more.

90 Days on the Homestead | LazyHippieMama.com

Whew!

While I’m on the subject of veggies, we experimented a bit with container gardening.  We grew our cucumbers in pots next to the chicken run.  They did pretty well… until the chickens figured out how to get to them.  I’m pretty sure they ate more fresh cucumbers this year than we did.

We also grew some sweet potatoes in a container.  No one in my family loves or hates sweet potatoes. Every now and then we eat them. They’re OK.  So it was that I came to have 2 wrinkly old sweet potatoes in my veggie basket.  I’d bought them for a certain recipe I never made and forgotten them.  On a whim I sliced them in half and stuck them in water because I’d seen it on Pinterest. Three out of four of those half moldy old things sprouted the prettiest green shoots!  We pulled the shoots off and stuck them straight in the water and they grew massive root systems very quickly. Curious and with nothing to lose I stuck them in a container and all summer long and this beautiful big leafy green plant by my porch steps.  Finally, we dumped it out to see what we had in there.  We ended up with about 4 pounds of what looked very much like smallish carrots. They are pretty tasty – you know… like sweet potatoes. (Go figure!) The roots and the leaves still looked great so we stuck them back in the dirt for decoration, if nothing else.

90 Days on the Homestead | LazyHippieMama.com

A little porch planter probably isn’t what I would recommend if you’re looking for a “real” harvest, but we’ll get a couple of nice side dishes from 2 moldy potatoes that would otherwise have been tossed into the compost, plus a lovely potted plant.

There have been grapes! We were all so excited about the lovely, mature grape vines at this house. When it was time to pick them we had great fun (and full bellies!).

90 Days On The Homestead | LazyHippieMama.com

The chickens are getting fat and sassy. When the bugs started becoming damaging in the garden we set our girls loose in there, figuring it didn’t matter if they were a little destructive since we were about to lose it all to the worms anyway. They saved the day! After a few hours they were so full they looked like old men lolling on the couch after Thanksgiving Dinner and there wasn’t a bug within 100 yards of the garden.

90 Days on the Homestead | LazyHippieMama.com

 

A week or two later we got our first little egg. Oh, happy day! We are getting about one little pullet egg per day now. I think only 2 or 3 of them are laying and expect things will pick up over the next few weeks.

90 Days on the Homestead | LazyHippieMama.com

One side of the house is a jungle that still needs to be tamed.

90 Days on the Homestead | LazyHippieMama.com

I did get part of it all cleared out and I planted 2 blackberry bushes but I got side tracked before I mulched it so now I blackberry brambles surrounded by weeds. Oops.  I’ll put that on the list.

The other side of the house is going to be raised beds. That’s a project that I started and got stuck on so the hubs took over and straightened me out but by then I was on to something else so now I need to come back to it and finish it. That’s on the list, too.  It’s a pretty long list.

I got a compost bin set up. I used an old crib I snagged at a rummage sale for pocket change. We covered the slats with chicken wire and made a chicken wire top, buried the legs a few inches deep and it’s been working out fine. My only concern is that it’s not very big and it’s getting full fast. Time to keep an eye out for some more pallets!

90 Days on the Homestead | LazyHippieMama.com

Oh! I almost forgot to share with you! OUR HOUSE IS HAUNTED!

Yes, we have our very own ghost.

We were sitting in the living room one morning. I can’t remember exactly what we were doing but, chances are, if the whole Hippie Family was in the living room at once Hubby was at his desk, reading or watching something on his computer. I was in the recliner, typing a blog or scrolling through Facebook, and SHD was sprawled on the couch playing Minecraft.

All of a sudden we heard a haunting sound…. “OOOoooooo!!!  I a spooky host!” Said the voice from far away.

And then it appeared:

90 Days on the Homestead | LazyHippieMama.com

I hope you don’t have nightmares.

So there it is. Our first summer as homesteaders (sort of). Now we get to move on to a whole new season. We’re looking forward to some nice big piles of leaves for jumping in and a few evening around the fire pit (oh yeah, did I mention, “build a fire pit,” is on the to-do list?). The High School Football games are, literally, in our back yard and we can’t wait to cheer on the local team and see the marching band.

Life is good.

90 Days on the Homestead | LazyHippieMama.com

Are you, too, seeking to save the earth, promote world peace and raise productive citizens without expending too much effort?

Why not follow LazyHippieMama on WordPress, by email or Facebook to get all the updates.

If we work on our goals together, they may be a little easier to achieve!

I’m very excited to say that this post was featured on The HomeAcre Hop! 

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Re-purposing An Old Crib

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Just for the record - we haven't made him sleep in this one for quite some time, he just decided to spend a little time remembering the good old days.

Just for the record – we haven’t made him sleep in this one for quite some time, he just decided to spend a little time remembering the good old days.

Toddler-saurus Rex outgrew his crib several months ago. We knew that it was time to move him into a big-boy bed but we already had the crib. He liked it! And for some reason this boy… the boy who will jump from the top of the staircase, launch himself into the deep end of a swimming pool and climb a ladder like a spider monkey stayed in the crib. He would wait, patiently calling for Hubby or me to come get him, every morning.  We would come into his room and tell him he could get up, at which point he would easily climb out of bed by himself and follow us downstairs.

I don’t get it, but I wasn’t about to complain!

Why would I end this arrangement?!

But, alas, then we moved into the new house.  The crib was used when we got it and, though I never checked, it’s probably been recalled because every crib in the US that’s more than 10 minutes old has been recalled for one reason or another. It was getting a little rickety. It really wasn’t safe for him anymore and I certainly didn’t feel comfortable giving it to someone else for a younger baby to sleep in.

Maybe he can sleep in the dog bed? He seems pretty content in there!

But it was still so pretty! And I couldn’t see just tossing all that loveliness in the landfill.

What’s a Hippie to do?

Repurpose it, of course!  I had Handsome Hippie Hubby tear it apart to its pieces and drag them all to the new house which he did with no complaining – even though at least one full load of what we moved was “pieces of stuff I’m sure I can use someday.” He’s a great husband!

Yesterday was the day… I figured it out!

We had a spot in the yard where an old tree stump had been ground out and the hole filled in with dirt from the field next door.  The grass hadn’t yet grown over it so it was just calling for some kind of creative treatment.  As I stood there, staring at the bare earth, trying to figure out what I wanted to do it came to me.  The rectangle of earth was just a little larger than a baby crib.  EUREKA!

I dug out the corners and buried the legs enough to give it some stability, tied the corners together with a length of wire and planted peas all around the edges. As they grow they can climb the sides creating a little “hidden fort.”

I painted an old piece of plywood I swiped out of a friend’s burn pile (Yes. I admit it. I save other people’s garbage, too.) as a tic-tac-toe board with painted rocks as the markers. A few colorful touches added some fun and it’s ready to go!

The finished product! Now to wait for the peas to grow...

The finished product! Now to wait for the peas to grow…

I am having so much fun at the new house – with all this space to build things like this.  What whimsical creations have gone in your yard this summer?  Tell about them or share your links in the comments.

Are you, too, seeking to save the earth, promote world peace and raise productive citizens without expending too much effort?

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If we work on our goals together, they may be a little easier to achieve! 

 

Composting 101

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* This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I may receive a percentage of any purchases made.

Composting 101 | LazyHippieMama.comWhether you’re just looking for a place to throw your lawn trimmings or you want to do a full re-vamp of what you’re putting in the landfill what you need to do is start your own compost pile.

If you are like me when you decide to do something like this you Google it.  What happens then is that you get a long list of articles (like this one – except not nearly as fun and easy to understand) that tell you how to go about creating what you need.  Here’s the thing… when I first decided to build a compost bin the instructions I found on many sites were so complicated I almost gave up.  The bin designs included turners and aerators and solar panels. There were websites for buying specialty worms and insects.

Thankfully, I decided to plunge ahead and, as it turns out, everything is working out just fine.

Here’s the main thing you need to know:  Vegetal matter will rot and break down.

That’s it.  That’s the one key to keep in mind.  Now… can you speed up the process? Make it tidier? Balance the nutrients that you end up with.  Yes. You can do all of that and more.  But you really don’t have to do much of anything to make your biodegradable waste turn into black dirt.

On the other hand, there are a few important things you may want to keep in mind.  Here are some things I’ve learned along the way.

Note: If I was going to buy a fancy composter I’d buy one like this.  It makes kitchen scraps into useable dirt in just a few days and it is far prettier than what I built out of pallets. You even get your choice of colors!

http://ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&Operation=GetAdHtml&ID=OneJS&OneJS=1&source=ac&ref=tf_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=lazhipmam-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=B008HVGADK&asins=B008HVGADK&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true&MarketPlace=US

1) Don’t put meat or animal products in your compost pile.

Meat will attract nasty predators and scavengers.  I’m assuming that you’re not looking to draw anything from rats to vultures to coyotes to your yard.  It will also stink a great deal more than vegetal compost.

2) Do put a variety of other things.

Kitchen scraps and yard clippings, dead leaves, small sticks, egg shells, newspaper, cardboard…  the more variety you toss in your bin the richer your mature compost will be.

3) Locate your compost pile in a place where the bugs won’t bother you.

Insects are a valuable part of the composting process and your outdoor compost pile will be crawling with them.  You probably don’t want it right outside your back door where you’re going to get a face full of flies every time you leave the house.

This is my pallet bin. It was quick and easy to build and it gets the job done.

This is my pallet bin. It was quick and easy to build and it gets the job done.

4) Do make sure the air and water can get to your compost.

This is not the project for a sealed, air-tight, water-tight bin. One of the reasons pallets are great for building compost bins is because the slats let the air in.  If you turn your compost with a pitchfork or shovel every so often it will rot faster.  If you don’t it will still rot.

5) Don’t put dog or cat waste in your compost – especially if you’re going to use it in the garden.

Dog and cat poo can potentially contain some very nasty bacteria and parasites, even if your pet is healthy.  Their digestive systems are just very different from ours.  Those organisms can live in your compost pile and make you sick when they come in contact with food or through handling of the compost.

6) Do add rabbit or chicken poo.

Also, toss in the stuff you clean out of your hamster or guinea pig’s cage.  Cow and horse poop are awesome in compost but if you’re already caring for a cow or horse your homesteading skills are likely so far beyond mine you stopped reading several paragraphs ago.  These types of manure will break down quickly, easily and safely.

7) Don’t expect things to go very quickly.

If you want to compost in 24 hours you need to buy the fancy equipment.  If you just want to throw your scraps in a pile you will still get compost. It will take a long time. Potentially years, depending how big your compost bin is.

Composting 101

8) Don’t worry too much about it.

You’re working with kitchen scraps and poop. This is not the project in your life that should be keeping you up at night.  Your compost pile should be a tool that helps create a space for your waste and generates some fertilizer for your garden. Don’t let it be more of a project than it really needs to be!

Before you go… don’t forget to enter the VivoPrint gift card give-away!  You can win $50 toward some gorgeous custom-designed electronics accessories or photo gifts.

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Are you, too, seeking to save the earth, promote world peace and raise productive citizens without expending too much effort?

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If we work on our goals together, they may be a little easier to achieve! 

Learning Chemistry, Physics and Math in the Garden – Part 1

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Chemistry, Physics & Math in the Garden - Part One | LazyHippieMama.comAgriculture is science. If you’re growing something – whether flowers in a pot on the windowsill or vast fields of vegetables – you’ve got a ready-built classroom.

There are some obvious lessons: What does a seed require to sprout? How do plants “eat and drink” from the soil? Which animals are harmful/helpful to plants? Etc.  But there are other things that can be learned in the garden as well.  A good gardener has a grasp on chemistry, physics and math.

Each Friday for the rest of the month of April I’m going to be sharing ideas for very simple, low-cost ways to use your garden to explore science and math.

1) Acid or Base?

Soil can become acidic or alkaline over time.  To find out which way your dirt is leaning you can take a handful of earth and mix it with water until it’s liquid mud.  Separate it into 2 cups. Add vinagar (acid) to one cup and baking soda (base) to the other.  Watch for a reaction.  If the mud is acidic the baking soda will create a foamy reaction. If it is alkaline the vinegar will do the same. If it is neutral (or close to it) neither substance will react.

Chemistry, Physics & Math in the Garden - Part One | LazyHippieMama.com

Why does the reaction happen? Because the acid will dissolve the bonds holding the molecules together in the base. That creates energy which is released into the liquid. When the energy is burned up, the reaction calms and the bubbling effect will slow and, eventually, come to a stop.  For a much more thorough (but still quite kid-friendly) explanation check out this website.

2) Absorbency/capacity

Different plants grow well in different types of soil.  Tomatoes love very damp earth. Pumpkins will sprout on a hot compost pile. Lavender loves dry, gravelly sand. The reason for the variation (at least in part) is that each of these plants have a different requirement for the amount of water needed to grow and each type of soil has a different rate of absorbency.

Go around the yard and see if you can find some different types of soil.  You may find that you have several kinds, naturally.  In my yard I have one streak of red clay, a sandy stretch and a lot of black loam.  Get creative. Do you have playground sand? Potting soil? Mulch? Gravel?

Put a sample of each type in a cup or bowl.  Using a measuring cup start adding water to each sample to see which types of soil are the most absorbent.

Wikianswers has a great explanation of why the different types of soil hold water differently.

3)  Erosion

erosionTake a plate full of earth and have your child blow, as hard as they can on the dirt and see if they can make it blow away.  Can they make it into shapes, like sand dunes? Discuss in what ways the wind shapes the dirt.

If you hold the dirt at a slight angle and run a small amount of water over it what happens? Can they cut a valley? Does it wash away entirely?

Now try the same thing with dirt that has something growing in it (like a piece of sod). Can you still move the earth?  How do the plants help “anchor” the dirt to the ground?

These experiments can offer a great opening into discussions about all sort of things. Why do farmers plant cover crops? Why are there stands of trees between fields in the midwest? Why do architects need to know about how erosion works when building bridges over rivers, houses on hillsides or planning cities in valleys?

Come back next Friday! We’ll cover trajectory, simple machines, measuring area and more!

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Grow Your Hydroponic Produce Using the Sun’s Bountiful Energy!

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I am thrilled to have guest blogger Chris Wimmer sharing his wisdom and experience today regarding hydroponic gardening. Be sure to read all the way to the end and follow the link to get his new, free Spring Hydroponic Growing Guide. Enjoy! 

Grow Your Hydroponic Produce Using the Sun's Bountiful Energy! | LazyHippieMama.comAbout the Author: Chris Wimmer is an urban hydroponic hobbyist who uses hydroponics to maximize his 400 square foot yard and extend the short Chicago growing season. Chris blogs about his hydroponic experiences at  CaptainHydroponics.com and is on facebook.

It’s officially Spring and it’s time to start your spring garden.  Using hydroponics in your outdoor garden gives you all the benefits of indoor hydroponics with the added benefits provided by the sun’s full-spectrum lighting.

Definition of a Hydroponic Garden:

True hydroponic gardens contain no soil. The soil is replaced with an inert medium such as rockwool or coco coir.

Water and feeding are automated so the plant is never without either.

pH levels and fertilizer are easily measured to ensure the plant’s energy is focused on vegetation and flower/fruit growth at all times.

There’s more to a thriving garden than that which is mentioned above, but the above-mentioned variable are the heart of growing your produce hydroponically.

Grow Your Hydroponic Produce Using the Sun's Bountiful Energy! | LazyHippieMama.com

Benefits offered by an outdoor hydroponic garden:

Easy natural lighting:

The sun will always be the greatest natural resource on Earth so we should always embrace it.  Hydroponics work perfectly with the natural summer sun patterns.  There’s no need for a timer or adjusting the distance of the lamp like there is in an indoor growing system.

Little or no dangerous chemicals needed:

I find that a clean well maintained growing tray will significantly reduce the number of critters around your plants.  Addressing a few critters is usually pretty easy vs. the swarms that can occur in the soil.

Quick tip: Add a bug zapper in near your garden to safely guard your plants.

You control all the growth variables:

With hydroponics, your plant’s root system is constantly fed a water, oxygen, and fertilizer-rich solution to maximize their growth. Since you’ll also be controlling the pH level of the feeding solution and growing media, the plants growth won’t be inhibited by acidic imbalances that can happen naturally and which are harder to control with plants grown in soil.

What crops should you grow?

You can grow anything you want BUT some are more work than others.

In general, root vegetables are harder to grow because of their depth requirements. It’s best to start with one of the easier-to-grow plants listed below, to get acquainted with the various hydroponic techniques first, then move on to more difficult-to-grow varieties of fruits, veggies, shrubbery, or exotic flowers.

Grow Your Hydroponic Produce Using the Sun's Bountiful Energy! | LazyHippieMama.comPopular starter plants include:

Tomatoes

Herbs

Salad greens

Wheatgrass

Strawberries

Interested in starting something this spring?

If so I just completed a Spring Hydroponic Growing Guide which I’m offering for FREE.  It will teach you all the basics of hydroponics, provide you key questions you should consider before starting, and even a couple easy step by step system building guides. Happy growing!

Are you, too, seeking to save the earth, promote world peace and raise productive citizens without expending too much effort?

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How I Started A Spring Garden Without A Lick of Work in The Fall

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seedling.jpgAbout this time last year I decided I wanted to plant a garden.  I had a decent size yard plus my new-at-the-time neighbors said they wanted a garden as well. We decided to set up several plots in their space and ours and share.  Having no previous experience we turned to the internet and looked up how to prepare our space.  Everything we read said that you need to start in the fall by breaking up the sod and tilling it and adding compost.  Then, in the spring you till it again and you can plant.  But it was already spring…

We called a farmer friend and begged his advice.  “Dowse everything heavily in herbicide. Wait a week for it to die and then you can break it up and it will be ready to plant. I also use herbicide at this time of year, that time of year, on these crops and those…”

I wasn’t OK with that.

I sat, criss-cross-applesauce in my yard and stared at that spot.  I live in a place where rich black dirt is everywhere you turn. It’s a drained swamp that was once covered with glaciers. Things grow here. Everything grows here. Toss an apple core in the bushes and a tree will sprout.  I’m not kidding. That has happened to us.  This isn’t like our yard in Arizona where anything that wasn’t a prickly pear cactus had to be nursed along like a 90 year old heart attack patient.  The trick wasn’t getting the garden to grow. The trick was to get everything else to STOP growing in that spot.  There had to be a better way than spraying poison on the ground where I wanted to work barefoot and grow my family’s food.

I asked myself, “What’s making the current life grow?”

Easy. It had rich soil, sunlight, water and air.

What if I could deprive it of one or more of those things?  Hmmm…

A plan was hatched.

I grabbed a shovel and turned all of the sod by hand. This may be the single most physically difficult task I’ve ever undertaken.  Then again… this is coming from a woman who gets tired carrying the laundry basket from one room to another when it’s full.  I’m not exactly an olympic athlete.  The work made my hands blister and bleed. I whined a lot about my poor, sore hands. Mostly because I was kind of proud that I’d communed with my inner pioneer woman and I wanted everyone to know.

I got my fingers in the dirt and broke up the big clods working the largest weeds – dandelions mostly – out roots and all and tossing them into my compost bin.

When everything was more or less dirt-side up I got the garden hose and turned the whole space into a muddy slosh pit and then I covered it with thick plastic and weighed down the edges.  I left it, baking in the sun like that for one week. No oxygen. No light. Way too much heat.

At the end of the week, I pulled the plastic off, broke everything up again with my trusty spade (a significantly easier task the second time around) and picked out any remaining weeds. There were only a very few survivors.

I planted the space and it thrived beautifully.  A few weeds came through as summer wore on but I’m reasonably sure that would have happened no matter what.

Some crazy big tomato plants from last year's garden.  I now know why they say to leave a good deal of space between those tiny seedlings!

Some crazy big tomato plants from last year’s garden. I now know why they say to leave a good deal of space between those tiny seedlings!

Is this the approved method used by experienced gardeners everywhere? Nope.

Will it work on every type of soil? I honestly have no idea.

Is it better to start in the fall and get everything ready ahead of time? Absolutely. I have no doubt what-so-ever that you get better results that way with much less back-breaking work.

Is all lost if you decided this spring, as these first warm days peeked out from behind the gray clouds, that you want to start a garden? No way! Get out there and look at your space. REALLY look at it and I bet you will see a way to make your garden grow… no nasty chemicals required.

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If You Don’t Have Any Clover You Can Never Get Lucky

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image credit: freedigitalphotos.net

image credit: freedigitalphotos.net

We have a neighbor with a perfect lawn. His grass is thick and bright green and no weed would dare rear it’s seedy head. I have no doubt that he peers across the street at our lot full of clover, dandelions and chicory and cringes.  Yet, as St. Patrick’s Day approaches, Sweet Hippie Daughter made an astute observation; “I feel bad for him. He doesn’t have any clover and if you don’t have any clover you can never get lucky.”

Poor guy.  Maybe he doesn’t know what he’s missing.

You know…

by not growing clover.

What were you thinking? Sheesh! (hehehe)

Actually, there is a great deal to be said for allowing clover to grow in your yard. 

Clover provides nitrogen to the plants it shares soil with, so it actually fertilizes the grass in your yard.

Clover grows slower than grass and doesn’t get as tall so you will have more time to figure out the path to that elusive pot o’ gold at the end of the rainbow. Also, less mowing means less burning of fuel which is good for the planet and for your wallet!

Clover is great for bees, butterflies and other pollinators.  While you may find the idea of a yard full of bees to be a little scary the truth is most bees want nothing to do with you – especially when such abundance surrounds them. The are busy sucking up as much pollen as they can find.  Also, while stings are certainly unpleasant, bees are vitally important to the success of many of our crops and the changes in industrial farming in the past decade or so have created an increasingly difficult environment for them to thrive in.

Clover smells wonderful on a warm, sunny day and feels like walking on a cool, soft pillow in your bare feet.

Historically, clover was always considered part of a pretty lawn. It was even sold as part of most lawn seed mixes. It was actually the fertilizer and herbicide companies that convinced people that clover was no good, because they couldn’t figure out how to create a chemical that would kill weeds and leave clover. So, if you let clover grow in your lawn, you’re standing up to The Man.

Clover needs very little water. Even in dry years, you won’t need to water your lawn very often, if at all.

Clover is so pervasive that it will actually choke out many other types of weeds that might try to establish themselves in your lawn.

When the dog does his business in the yard, clover won’t be affected as grass is.

Finally, a really great clover-filled yard could attract all kinds of fairies and leprechauns and other various magical creatures. With all that magic in you yard, you just never know when you might get lucky. *wink*

Speaking of getting lucky… I am super lucky to have readers as awesome as you! That’s why I’m hoping you don’t mind if I ask a favor of you. Could you click on the banner, below? Each click is a vote for Lazy Hippie Mama as a Top Mommy Blog. You don’t have to register or anything. Just click. Being a Top Mommy Blog helps me have the opportunity to offer great prizes and give-aways, like the LEGO Kidsfest ticket give-away we have going on right now!

Thank you and Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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Are you, too, seeking to save the earth, promote world peace and raise productive citizens without expending too much effort?

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