Category Archives: Gardening

We updated the front yard for the spring and we have new babies!

It was time to clean up the front yard and get ready for the warmer weather.  We started by cleaning out the front flower bed and replaced the hostas with bark. It is too hot for the hostas to survive there without the shade of the tree. I still need to get some colorful annuals for the big pots, but here is what it looks like now:

front bench

We have a new wreath over our front door and I added some yellow and salmon colored flowers to pick up the colors from our bench pads. 


The top looks a little smooshed because in the few weeks it’s been there, we noticed that a house finch couple decided that it was time to make a nest so I didn’t want to hurt it.

That’s when I noticed that we have a house finch family living on our front door. (Fortunately they didn’t drown or get blown away in our lovely spring thunderstorm last night!)


As we decided to move to the back yard and work there, we saw more lovely things like these:

yellow iris

Yellow Iris


Purple Iris



And, lest we forget:


The baby kittens we found hidden behind our kiddie swimming pool leaning against the wall.  HorseyBug was in seventh heaven.  These little guys got moved by their mama last night in the storm and we aren’t sure where they are now but they are cute!

Yippie! Time to make Homemade Strawberry Freezer Jam!

Ahhh! Spring begins the delightful toil of putting up food storage for the year. Last year we had so much Strawberry Freezer jam that I didn’t make any.

During the winter we made a dent in it (we shared a bunch with some friends – so we didn’t actually eat that much, lol) , so this year I got to make 19 1/2 pints of Strawberry Freezer Jam.

I started making the less sugar version about 4-5 years ago and prefer it to the more sugary version I had eaten until then.

Fresh Strawberry Freezer Jam

When the berries go on sale (usually 4 pounds for $6), I buy 20 pounds just for jam. Since I use less sugar, the recipe calls for more berries.  The berries this year were perfect!! Don’t they look good?? 🙂

Now that the jam is done, I bought some more berries to wash and clean. I will slice them and place in freezer bags for smoothies all year long. We eat smoothies a lot in the summer as “ice cream” or just for part of our lunch.  This is a great way to stretch our budget and still have “fresh” fruits and veggies all year.

Sometimes I surprise the kiddos and make a vanilla sheet cake and we have our version of a Strawberry Shortcake dessert.

All New Square Foot Gardening – I’ve got the fever!

I am really excited to plan the garden and get started this year!  Last year was really difficult for me – our new house doesn’t open out on the back yard since it is on a hill so I couldn’t see the garden like I could at the old house and we were in the middle of a serious drought.

I finished reading the book called “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature Deficit Disorder”, in early February.  It was so inspiring to me!  As you know I am adamant that we allow our children lots of time in nature, but this book talked about and provided details and “professional” knowledge to prove what I have already seen in my children! You can read about it here.

Anyway, one night after reading that book, I laid awake for a couple of hours planning how to include everything that I want in our yard – a place for a few chickens, several fruit trees, a very productive garden that allows me to can food, a place to include some bird and small animal inviting habitats – while reserving a place for my kiddos to run around to play and act out their imaginary story lines.  We don’t have a lot of space, but I figured it out by deciding that the garden could move to the front yard.  We don’t spend much time out front – but I can see it from the living room which means that I can easily take care of it in small snatches of time. 😉

When my parents moved, I requested that I get to read their book called “Square Foot Gardening” – a huge tome of information that would take me a long time to read.  I wanted to use that because it taught companion planting and how to get more in the garden for a bountiful harvest.  One day, though, I was looking for something on Amazon and saw the “All-New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space” by the same author, Mel Bartholomew.  It was colorful, it was smaller, and the book was only about $12 or so. I admit that I bought it because I figured I would actually be able to read  it.

What I didn’t anticipate was how much I enjoyed it and how much I didn’t want to put it down.  It became my reading for a week – everything else went on the back-burner.  In the new method developed after 30 years of experience with the first SFG, Mr. Bartholomew developed a method that ANYONE can do – children, older people, disabled persons, and anyone who desires to have a chance to garden.  He shares how to make the beds, the grids, how to plan, plant, and harvest.  He shares plant information, their preferences and problems, and even a couple of recipes.  It is ORGANIC gardening, no chemicals required – and teaches how to make your own compost.  He teaches how to have a SFG in an apartment, in town, on a balcony, a step or set of steps.  It truly is for EVERYONE.  What I loved is the explanation of how to INEXPENSIVELY increase the space of your garden by building up a support instead of taking all the ground.  He even raises pumpkins and watermelons on support trellis’.

Here is a YouTube video of Mel explaining Square Foot Gardening.

Here’s a link to his SFG website.

You can get the book from Walmart or Amazon.  It’s worth the read.

By using this method, I can increase my garden productivity by 50% with significantly less work.  I can place the garden in the front and create my nature retreat in my back yard.

It’s the best of both worlds.