Summer Gardening Series: The Early Challenges

In my post yesterday, I wrote about how excited we were about starting on the road to raised garden bed gardening and the whole adventure of it. However, we did already have to deal with quite a few challenges. I do not have any pictures for this post, but let me just say there were times, when we were so upset about the gravity of the situation we wondered why we even started it all in the first place.

Challenge #1: The Woodchucks.

These were the worst (still are, actually). Even though we put up the fence around the garden right on the day when we planted everything, they would still get in multiple times a day. Stan then went around the garden and put a second (chicken wire) fence around it too. Then we bought overpriced repellent pellets at Home Depot that were supposed to keep woodchucks and the likes of them away from the tiny plants. Imagine our disappointment when we discovered that those mindless creatures actually liked the powder! We were appalled, but every day (and sometimes multiple times a day) we would look in the garden, and something new would be missing (as in entire plant would be eaten down practically to the ground). One day we got back and found every single one of our tomato plants missing a top and some of them missing a large chunk of a plant. That was literally the straw that broke the camels’ back, and Stan since then dealt with the creatures much more severely than just sprinkling repellent powder. We’ve had at least a dozen of them, and now we are down to just a few (maybe 4 or so), but even those don’t come out as often as before, as they’ve gotten to be more skittish. They have ruined almost all the plants we had, and some of those plants never recovered, although some are slowly coming back to life.

Challenge #2: Moles, chipmunks, rabbits, and other little critters.

Realistically, woodchucks should have just gone into this category as well, but since they’ve been the biggest pain, I had to single them out as the biggest challenge. 🙂 Here again, we’ve sprinkled repellent powder that’s designed specifically against those species, but I’m not sure how much it helped. Just a few days ago, we saw a rabbit right inside the garden happily nibbling on baby cauliflower. I was so mad, I wanted to go back to Home Depot and return the rest of those repellent powders right then and tell them that those do absolutely no good, and how can they charge $20 a bottle for it… But alas, those bottles were more than half empty, and I’m sure Home Depot people would have looked at me funny trying to return something that has been opened and used 🙂

Challenge #3: Some kind of bugs.

Some kind of bugs are attacking out tomatoes, eggplants, and pepper plants, as well as some of the cantaloupe plants. I’m not sure what they are, but everyday I see new holes in the leaves of those poor plants and start wondering what we need to do to keep those alive. We didn’t want to spray those plants with any harsh chemicals, as we are trying to keep the food (if anything ever grows that is) as close to natural as possible, but we might need to look for some sort of solution to prevent those bugs from spreading.

There are lots of other challenges  that I won’t cover in detail, but regardless I am still glad we put in the garden. The kids get so much enjoyment out of it, and it’s a joy for us as parents as well to show them where the real food comes from, and to watch them take care of those plants and help them grow.

Tomorrow I will share some pictures of the current state of our garden, that is still growing despite all the obstacles. If you want to see all the progress we’ve had so far, be sure to come back and check it out.

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Summer Gardening Series: The Planning and Planting

 

After a long bloggy break, I am finally back and ready to blog again. We’ve been busy this past spring, and the summer is not promising to be any less busy, but I wanted to share our raised garden bed gardening adventures with all of you. Like I mentioned in this post, in the past we’ve tried every single year, albeight unsuccessfully, to put in a regular garden, and sadly nothing would grow. And not for the lack of trying. Just something about the soil here, being all clay and rocks, as well as lack of sunshine in the spots we’ve picked out for the garden before, and of course, unfriendly little critters, would not allow any produce to grow, even if it would happen to sprout.

This year we decided to put in the raised garden bed. We knew that this would be quite an expense, and all upfront too, but decided that if we are going to bother wasting our time putting the garden in at all, we might as well do it correctly. In the second half of May my sweet husband (with the help of 2 little helpers) assembled and installed our new garden beds. I drew up the charts to scale, planning out what should go where. Both little boys were super excited to get their own little garden bed. We told them they could plant anything they wanted in it, but they would have to be the ones taking care of it, weeding it, watering it, etc. Even those “harsh” conditions couldn’t dampen their spirits 🙂

We went to one of the local nurseries and bought a lot of small plants (more than we were planning to). I could say, we got a little excited and carried away. And then… we had to find space to put it all. 🙂 Some of the plants had to even go into our Topsy Turvy Upside down planters (of which I didn’t even get a picture yet).

Here are some pictures of the garden as it was being put in about a month ago:

Little plants waiting to be planted
My older son Edward is excited to plant the tomatoes!
My younger son Connor is not any less excited about the cucumbers, which he loves to eat!
Connor is helping plant
Original garden layout plans
Edward with the tomato he planted in his garden bed
Both boys are helping plant together
Young cucumbers

And here’s what the garden ended up looking like on the day we put it in (before the fence was installed) 

Our garden
Boys’ garden bed
Little tiny new plants

 Tomorrow I will share a bit about the challenges we’ve encountered during this past month, so be sure to come back and check out my new post! How has your summer been?

Posted in children, frugal living, gardening | 3 Comments

Out of the mouths of the babes

I was getting out 2 cookies for Stan and myself to have tonight with tea, and Stan happened to ask about the box of girl scout cookies he noticed in the pantry. I told him they were still sealed, but that he could open them. He said, that no, that way they were zero calories 😉 At which point Connor, carefully listening to and absorbing this whole exchange, chimes in: “I want a calorie. Give me a calorie please!”  Both of us just melted into a puddle. How could you not give that little guy a cookie?

After he finished his cookie he piped up again: “I need another calorie! I need lots of calories!” 🙂 No kidding son. You DO need to grow, you know 🙂

*********************

Later tonight, Edward, our 4-year-old,  decided to be a bit philosophical too:
 “You know what’s interesting? Connor is only one, and he talks so well! That’s very amazing!” 🙂

These two boys never stop to amaze me with their pearls of wisdom 😉

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New minivan

After 9 days of being down to a one car family (after I very unexpectedly and quickly sold my husband’s station wagon on Craigslist), we are finally now proud owners of a real mom-car – a “new-to-us” Honda Odyssey minivan! I won’t rehash all the stress that surrounded searching for this van, all the shopping around and test-drives with two little ones in tow, the stress of having 3 cars literally snatched away from us (one of them we missed by a mere 10 minutes!), but I want to record just a few points.

1. The used car market is incredibly tight these days. The time we missed 2009 Toyota Sienna in New York (100 miles away from us) was the most depressing time. Basically on Friday afternoon I called to inquire about a new minivan a dealership just listed on their website, asked him to hold it for us until we can get down there, then checked the carfax on it, checked KBB value, talked to my husband, and after 20 minutes (!!!) called back with my credit card in hand to put down a deposit. We have never even seen that car, it was way above our target price range, and we were ready to put down a deposit on it, as it seemed like a very good deal, being listed at about 30% below the book value. Imagine my surprise when the sales guy told me “Sorry, that car just sold 10 minutes ago”. I was so frustrated and angry! I couldn’t believe that making a multi-thousand dollar decision like that, site unseen, in a mere 20 minutes was TOO slow! But we moved on and kept looking…

2. Dealerships don’t haggle on the prices of their cars today. When we were buying our previous 2 cars about 5 years ago, this was a completely different story and we got an excellent deal on both. Now, with every car being listed online and sold in a matter of minutes (see point 1), they just list at their rock-bottom price to seem more competitive and do not negotiate down by a single dollar. Out of all the dealerships we visited, only two on the phone mentioned that “yes, we would work with you on the price” (whatever that means), but when we got there, they didn’t negotiate at all, which was really frustrating and a waste of everyone’s time.

3. Dealer’s conveyance fee is a complete rip-off and there’s nothing you can do about it! It’s pure profit to them, on top of all the other mark-up they are getting, except it’s not regulated at all. I checked my contract from 5 years ago, and on my Ford back then we paid a dealer fee of $179 (plus all the DMV fees and sales taxes), this time as we were looking I was surprised to see the fees listed all upwards of $400! The dealership we ended up getting the Honda from, actually charged $600!!! That seems like a lot of money for nothing, considering they already built in their profit into the price of the car, which they weren’t willing to negotiate on…

4.  A lot of used cars today (at least a lot of the ones we happened to look at) have some sort of water damage. A lot came from the south (as I would see, after I checked the titles on them), but didn’t have flood damage or water damage listed on the titles. Clear titles and carfax, but when you look at them – it’s a different story. Some of them had wet carpets and even rust inside! So be careful, especially if you are buying online from someplace down south (or even from here, as a lot of cars were transported from the auctions down in the south up to New England).

5. Trying to stay on a tight budget while buying a used car is hard: we had to choose between getting a more reliable brand of a minivan, with nicer features, versus a basic model of any less reliable brand, but perhaps newer and fewer miles. After talking it over with quite a lot of people we went for Honda, because we kept hearing “Hondas or Toyotas last well past 200K miles” whereas in a lot of other vans you start dealing with issues like transmission and engine problems, sometimes even before they hit 100K miles.

Now on to a couple of pictures and the list of features that I like the most about our new van:

 

Features that I like the most (and have come to really appreciate in a mere few days that we’ve had this car)

I bet you thought I’d be mentioning things like navigation system or rear-DVD players, but we don’t have either in this van. 🙂 It wasn’t essential to us (considering we have a GPS and and a portable DVD player, but kids rarely watch anything anyway).

1. Sliding power doors (nice-nice-nice to have when your kid wants to get into the car while you are still locking up the house, and it’s raining 🙂
2. Heated driver and passenger seats (I didn’t really care for leather in both of our previous cars, although I must say it was easier for cleaning up after kids. But it was always too cold to sit on in the winter, and too hot in the summer! Now at least the winter part is taken care of.)
3. All the space, especially when the third row is stowed in the floor. My little guy Connor loves to run around in all that space!
4. The fact that middle captain seats fold completely forward to let people get to the back row even with the car seats installed in the captain chairs.
5.  Adjustable power seats are nice too 🙂
And a whole array of other nice little features that Honda thoughtfully implemented in their minivans.

Can you tell I like our new van? I know a lot of mothers dread getting a “mom-car”, but that wouldn’t be me 🙂 I like the way it drives, and all the space it gives 🙂

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Menu Plan Monday, week of April 4th

Even with all of that turkey-eating going on all of the last week (I included it in the lunches, too, believe me, which I don’t even post here), we still have some left over. So I’ll still be using it up here and there this week. What can I say – it was a really big turkey! 🙂

Monday: turkey and citrus salad (it was on the menu plan for last Friday, but we ended up being out, and since I had all the ingridients, I just used them today). It was delicious, but I substituted the mushrooms for 2 bartlett pears and 1/2 of a small red onion, sliced thinly. Even my kids loved it!

Tuesday: Rice with summer squash and zucchini, spinach salad

Wednesday: Green bean turkey bake

Thursday: No-cream pasta primavera, loaded with veggies! (I love this dish, and make it a lot in the summer. I have a slightly different version that I usually do, than the allrecipes.com one, but this one is close enough).

Friday: leftover buffet, spinach and egg salad

Saturday:  Beet and egg soup (I just add hard-boiled egg on top), freshly baked bread

Sunday: small snack, possibly just fruit and yogurt, since we have our small group in the afternoon and end up eating some snacks there.

What are you all eating this week? Have you made your menu plan yet?

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Just another spring day

Today turned out to be a busy day. Despite still feeling weak (from the cold I’ve been battling over the past 10 days) and just general tiredness that comes with being pregnant, I had a lot on my never-ending to-do list.

I’ve been washing all the winter coats, snow pants, hats, scarves, mittens, etc. for the past couple of days… only to find out that there’s 8-10 inches of snow in the forecast for this Friday. Now, I’m generally used to having snow at the end of March (I think we’ve pretty much had it every spring that we’ve been here, for the past 8 years), but April? Please! I am so SICK of snow, since this winter was way snowier and colder than any of our previous New England winters, plus we already had our end-of-March snow last week. Anyway, maybe all that washing was in vain (hoping to put things away), since I’ll have to get them out again for this Friday… Oh, well… We’ll see.

I want to share some precious pictures from today with all of you. My two sweet boys LOVE to read together, and very often I find them just like that – side by side, reading. This time they climbed into Connor’s crib (they do that sometimes, to play, or snuggle, or read) and Edward was reading “Millions of Cats” to Connor, while Connor was “reading” his own book (he likes to look at another book while Edward is reading to him). Such a sweet moment – I love to see them growing in their love of books together!

Connor noticed me taking pictures and was all smiles 🙂

I also get to witness Edward’s gymnastics practice in our hallway (every day, very faithfully), when he works on his splits, hand stands, and bridges. He also loves to go hang on his rings (we have a pair for him in the basement to practice on).

He practices even on days like today, when he has gymnastics class in the afternoon. He loves gymnastics and looks forward to it every single week! He’s been in it since he was 2 (it was his idea to start gymnastics, not mine) and he hasn’t regretted it once, and neither have we, seeing how very good he is (he’s only 4!) and how much potential he has.

I also had to take his picture from his class today – this boy just loves the rings! He is so strong, it’s amazing! He’s the youngest boy in his afterschool beginner class (other boys are all 5.5-6 years old) and he’s by far the best! And I’m not just saying that, although I am certainly proud of my little sportsman 🙂

I also had to run to Walmart today to buy some bins for putting some stuff away in the basement, then the bank, then some other errands. But the highlight of the day for both kids (and probably for me, since I got almost 1.5 hours of time all to myself to read!) was their Bible Club’s end-of-year celebration pajama party, where they played a bunch of fun games and feasted on more sweets than they’ve probably seen in their entire lives 😉

But then again, just look at those sweet faces snuggling again 🙂 Don’t they both look so happy? They’ve had a long and tiring day!

And yes, I know they both need haircuts 😉 It’s on the list for the next few upcoming days. My husband’s just been not wanting me to take them in for haircuts since it’s been so cold here, but I AM hoping it will be spring someday again and that warmth WILL come 😉

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Annual spring replanting adventure

I’ve been quite busy yesterday and too tired to post about my indoor gardening escapades. It took me about 4 hours (with the help of my little helpers, of course, and  a lot of explaining on my part of why things had to be done in a certain way, but we turned it into a homeschooling opportunity) to replant all of my indoor plants (I always want to say “flowers”, but only 2 of the plants have blooms on them, and my little cactus is also thinking of blooming, so I’ll keep referring to all of them collectively as “plants”). I try to do this unthankful job every spring, putting all my plants in bigger pots, using nice Miracle-Gro soil, trimming off excess and generally grooming them. Sometimes I have to replant things in the summer or fall too (say, if I get new plants), but generally I try to keep the bulk of it to spring.

I usually dread this task for a few weeks beforehand, because I know how much work (including moving large heavy pots) is involved, but afterwards I do like the “orderly look” of all my newly repotted plants. They look so green and cheerful in their little matching pots – makes my heart want to sing, especially when sunshine hits our living room windows and they all soak up the sunrays with their newly cleaned leaves 🙂

I generally hope for the best and that all of the plants make it through the replant and some rough treatment (I did say I had helpers), and so far none have died 🙂 But it’s only been one day. When we first moved to this house 3 years ago, and I bought quite a few new houseplants back then, a lot of them didn’t make it through the first winter and died. I was so sad, but then I decided that even if they gave me joy for a short time, it was all worth it. So, ever since, I usually try to stick to similar kinds of plants that seem to work (none of the tropical kinds – it’s too cold for that here 🙂

What are your favorite house plants? Would you care to share with us in the comments?

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