Category Archives: Gardening

Last look at the garden


Here I am smiling in the garden about a week before we had to leave it. I’m smiling because I had no idea I’d have to leave it.

I left behind my fat momma spider who was about to lay her eggs! She had been munching down on grasshoppers and helping me out all summer.

A prolific sweet potato harvest I won’t be able to dig up. Most disappointing thing about leaving the garden behind is the harvest I won’t be able to collect. The beans, kale, onions, garlic, potatoes, broccoli, peas…

I guess this is the same lesson that has to be learned by all gardeners – things happen that you can’t predict. Too much rain, not enough rain, freak freezes, sudden relocations. Things happen.



Rainbarrel Workshop

I love a good diorama. Especially a diorama that is on a lazy susan.

Maybe it is the teacher in me but this is a great learning tool. Everything labeled, plastic bendy straws for gutters, it’s perfect!

Labels. Every diorama must have good labels.

The workshop itself was pretty informative as well. Everyone paid $30 and was walked through the step by step construction of a plastic rain barrel. There was a short lecture at the beginning all about rainwater, its uses, the legal issues with collecting rain water and different code restrictions. There were examples of different kinds of systems ranging from small collection set-ups for livestock watering to full systems to provide for an entire household. I’ll elaborate more on those later.

The barrel construction was incredibly simple. We drilled a 1″ hole about 2 inches from the bottom using a spade bit. Squeeze a ring of silicone caulk around the threads of a faucet (ours were especially fancy faucets), and screw the faucet into the one inch hole until it sits flush against the drum.

The top of the barrel has a 5″ diameter circle cut out for the filter /water entry. The filter was also incredibly easy to put together. We cut the bottom from two plastic flower pots of the same size as each other and as the hole cut into the barrel. You turn one pot on end and place a square of mosquito mesh over it. Next you slide the other flower pot on top. This keeps the mosquito mesh wedged tight between the two pots and snugly in place to filter debris from rain water and keep mosquitoes from breeding.

After that, the filter pots go into the hole and your barrel is done! The silicone caulk should be allowed to cure for at least 24 hours, then it is a good idea to take a hose and fill the drum up to the faucet level and check for leaks. Any leaks found can be sealed up with a little more caulk.

At the end of the workshop we took home two completed 55 gallon rain barrels. Again, I love my van. Keep Denton Beautiful hosts a number of workshops like this and if any of the others are nearly as informative and productive as this one than they’ll definitely be worth attending.

For our tiny home we plan on using every possible surface to collect rainwater for our garden and potentially our own consumption (for showers and food). We’re looking at a couple different kinds of filtration systems for home use but haven’t settled on one that fits our needs – there are size and weight requirements (tiny and light). If anyone has some good suggestions for water filters I’d love to hear them!

I love a good courtyard

This gorgeous little courtyard was also in Navasota, TX.

It was landscaped with rosemary, hyacinth bean, lantana, and a few other colorful annuals. The stone entry and the gravel was arranged so that there wouldn’t be any standing water and the space looked clean.

I especially liked the patio chairs – the outdoor cushions were a nice departure from the normally skinny plastic covered kind you see sometimes.

The picket fence hiding an industrial AC unit was fronted with lantana and a hyacinth bean was climbing up the side. Hyacinth beans are one of my favorite ornamental/edibles.

That’s about it. Just some courtyard love.

Splitting Pears

House Sitting Nightmare #2: strolling down the street to check on the chickens to make sure no one else has decided to quit walking and see a large fallen tree in the distance. A few more yards and I realize that tree belongs to the house I’m taking care of. At 6 in the morning I chose to walk right past the tree to the backyard and not acknowledge its existence. I would ignore that it was blocking the sidewalk and half of the street.

Fresh pear wood has such a distinctly pleasant smell; the scorching summer heat worked on all of that sap so much that it felt like I was trying to breathe pear syrup instead of air. I managed to ignore the tree’s presence until about 1 in the afternoon. By that time a friend of the home owner’s had come to the rescue with a brand new chainsaw and was so excited to use it for the first time, who was I to argue?

The tree was gradually broken down; it took only 3 hours of sawing and hauling to get the whole thing out of the street and the sidewalk. The homeowners, my friends, worked on the big pile when they arrived home and now there is almost no sign of the split trunk. There were a lot of nice logs that I’m hoping will dry out nicely for lathe and other carving projects. I’m not an especially confident wood worker and think that starting out with softer woods will be the way to go. If I’m wrong, please let me know. If I’m not, I’d love some project suggestions. All in all, the nightmare turned out to be not so bad, but definitely something I hope to not have to deal with again anytime soon.

Horn worm!

Share in my horror at finding this beast crawling along my already suffering tomatoes. I left in one plant after the massive tomato harvest because it still had a few hangers on, but this little fellow ruined that. Horn worms!


When Chickens Stop Walking

House sitting nightmare #1: Open the chicken coop to find this little girl laying on the ground with her legs stuck out behind her, panting, and showing no signs of being able to use her legs to run away from me like usual.
I immediately checked on the other chickens but they were just fine, happily pecking away at the yard. I picked her up (something I never thought possible with this particular bird) and brought her in out of the heat. I thought maybe she had overheated so I checked and their water tray was full to the brim, there was plenty of food (and nothing foreign or poisonous that I could tell of ) so I was kind of flumoxed. Google searches for ‘chicken can’t walk’ were all terribly grim and repeatedly mentioned that an autopsy was the only way to diagnose what had happened. House sitting nightmare. I called the chicken’s mama and she suggested that I keep Mutton Chops in for the night so the other girls wouldn’t pick on her and so I could keep a closer eye on her.
So we loaded her into a cat carrier and brought her to our house so she could be in the AC all night and so I could check on her every now and then. She seemed perfectly fine in every way except that her legs refused to work. She bobbed her head and fluffed her wings like nothing was up, but again, her legs didn’t work.  Squeak was immediately intrigued and kept creeping closer and closer until…

The chicken flapped her wings as a warning and Squeak ran off right into my camera. Needless to say there were no more close calls. In the morning when I opened the cat carrier door Mutton Chops walked right out like no big deal. And then ran around my living room like no big deal. Apparently all she needed was a night in the air conditioning to feel like her fluffy old self again. I’ve never heard of this happening without chicken death following soon after and am going to write it off as just another weird thing that chickens do.

Since the incident she has not layed any eggs but doesn’t show any signs of being egg bound. However, she does look like shes beginning to molt on the top of her head. Has anyone else ever experienced pre-molting lameness?

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