Saturday, April 28, 2012

I'm Boring Myself....


 I keep telling myself that I'm going to write of some exciting new adventure or perhaps something of an insightful post about what's going on with me, like I used to.  But by the time I finish with work and chores and then supper and a shower, all I feel like doing is sipping a shot of whiskey and letting Jack rub my feet.  Not exactly tales to keep you on the edge of your seat.  We have actually had a few adventures lately, besides the chickens tearing the hell out of the garden.  Oh, and by the way, I get my revenge on them all tomorrow. Ha!!  I'll post pictures. 
I think I'm feeling overwhelmed again by what I have left to finish on the house and can't get my mind wrapped around writing about many subjects because all I'm thinking about is what I need to do to finish the kitchen, the living room etc..  I have decided no more art shows etc. until I get the house finished.  I am simply going to have to make time to do this.
 So, in the meantime, ya'll get more garden pictures.  I know you're thrilled.  I was actually thrilled to see my first little asparagi shooting forth from the soil!  Never fear, they are all still intact and shall remain so for another couple of years. *sigh*


 The blank spots in the back part of the strawberry bed is where there were plants but some damn chickens tore them up.  I actually replanted them and they do have a few tiny, new green shoots on them but I think it will take awhile before they recover.


Thank goodness the chickens didn't ravage my raspberries or they might really have been supper.  The berries are doing well!  I hope to have a big crop.  The first year I pruned these all down to the ground at the being of winter, as the book said, and had a fair crop the next spring but this past winter I only pruned them about halfway.  I think they seem to like that better.


 My tea plants arrived!!!  They were a bit bigger than I expected, so that was good!  I had a bit more clearing to do where they will be planted so they are still on the deck tonight but I should be able to plant them tomorrow.  I'm very excited about this!


This is the area behind the house where they will go.  They supposedly like part shade, part sun and well drained soil.  Well, that's what they got here so we'll see.  Did I mention that I am excited about this?



And here is one more exciting thing!!  Rhubarb!!  I know you're probably wondering why it's in a pot and I assure you it isn't going to stay there.  I had planted, directly in the garden, 2 other large rhubarb roots that I had ordered from a company.  Supposed to be bred just for the south.  Well, they never came up.  Nothing.  So, I was at one of those big box gardening shops one day and happened to see they had a pack of 2 rhubarb roots for sale.  I said 'what the heck'; they were a different type and looked like real roots, not like the black shriveled things I had got in the mail.  (wonder what kinda search engine hits that sentence will get..)  Anyway, I planted them here so I could monitor them a little better and then transplant them to the garden later, on the off chance they grew.  Well, they have grew like crazy!!  And yes, I know it will be another 2 years before I can really cut much of these too, but they are on their way!!

So, that's my exciting post...ha!  Anybody else have anything new or unusual that ya'll are growing this year?


Monday, April 23, 2012

The Gift Horse


 I meant to post before I ever went to the show this weekend but time got away from me as usual.  Seems like the last couple of days beforehand are always a blur trying to get ready, no matter how prepared I tried to be in advance.  My new business cards arrived at the last minute and I had to go into Birmingham to pick up some old work that was being discontinued at one store.
The show was about an hour north of here on the shores of Lake Guntersville.  It's a real nice town with some great restaurants and LOTS of opportunities for fishing if you like that sort of thing.  It was a nice but cool weekend but the show was pretty much a flop.  I didn't lose money but I didn't make a whole lot either.  It wasn't bad as an opportunity to get back in the groove of things though and gave me a chance to review my booth set-up and decide on many new changes for it, IF I want to continue doing shows.  I met some real nice people and Jack bought a beautiful original watercolor for me from this real nice man who had the booth across the aisle.  The painting is my birthday gift and will look fabulous in my new kitchen.



I placed 3rd in my category!  This was a small cash prize, so that was nice, and I got an offer from the Guntersville Museum Director for a long term consignment deal to sell my work in their gift shop.  Here's the link; looks kinda neat.  I didn't realize that the town of Guntersville was named after Will Rogers great grandfather.  So, all in all I guess it was a profitable weekend.

Upon arriving home, however, my nice outlook on things was pretty much trampled, just like my strawberry plants, by the fact that the chickens had somehow managed to get the gate open from their run into the garden and from the looks of things, pretty much had the time of their lives.  All my hard work was halfway destroyed.  I finally got the strawberry plants put back in some order but don't know if they will survive.  Of course the chickens had gorged on strawberries and then just pulled off many of the green ones.  They mashed my onions and munched down some of the cabbage and cauliflower.  I think Jack was more upset than me and really gave those chickens a piece of his mind.  I don't know if much sank in or not but they wouldn't go near even my flower bed today!  And they laid a lot of eggs!

Monday, April 16, 2012

What's Next


Well, this is phase 1 of Garden Experiment 2012. Rhubarb. Don't know if it will grow here but I'm sure going to try. This is the 'McDonald' variety; supposed to tolerate the heat here. We'll see.


Also in the experiment is asparagus! You can see some already coming up in the background of this photo. I didn't get enough plants in the first order to fill up the whole bed Jack built so I had to order again. What has come up seems to be doing well.


The blueberries are doing really well this year, so far. I am keeping these watered better than last year in an effort to prevent them from all falling off before they ripen. The bushes have about doubled in size since last year and are really heavy with fruit.


My first strawberries are ripening! I ate the first handful this morning! Yum-O!!! The raspberries also seem to be doing well and setting much fruit; even the wild blackberries look like they are going to do well this year. Hopefully this will be a great year for fruit!


The rest of the cool weather crops are doing well so we'll see if they actually produce much.


This is a little better close up of the sprouting asparagus. Maybe one day. *sigh*

I have been pretty busy getting ready for this show coming up and just haven't been able to wrap my head around a topic for posting. Maybe I will have something interesting soon. After this show is over I'm going to have to make a concerted effort to start working on the house again. I've got parts of the kitchen sitting all around the house waiting to be installed and just no time. Well, I'm going to make time. I may have to write out an actual schedule for each hour of the day but I'm going to get this house finished! It's ran way too far over and I'm tired of it being undone. So, time to knuckle down and get serious. I've kept thinking that I'd start when I got through with work or after my feet got a little better or after the garden was in or yah, yah, yah and things never get anywhere like that. For me anyway. Plus, it seems this blog has gotten so boring and stale lately I've got to give ya'll something more interesting or you're going to dump me!!

I am trying to redo and add some pages to the blog so ya'll can check out the 'Pottery' page and tell me how you like it or don't like it. I want to add a 'Food' page that includes all recipes and a "See Alabama' page that includes many of the great places to visit here. Or weird places or unusual places and all that.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Workin' For A Living


Well, I finally bit the bullet and signed up to do an art/ craft show. I actually like doing the shows because I enjoy getting out and meeting my customers and seeing new places but I hate dealing the state and sales taxes. I mean, I have no problem paying my sales tax; that's fine. It's that the state of Alabama makes it into the biggest ordeal if you declare yourself a business that sells retail. See, if you only sell wholesale, somebody else has to pay the sales tax and deal with them. I like it that way but they, the retailer, also get to take a large chunk of your sales. But I am inevitably going to have to declare myself a business and do some shows to get more income coming in. The stores where I have my work are actually doing pretty good but like I say, they take between 40-50% of the sales. I know that sounds like a horrible amount but by the time I do a show and pay the entry fee, sales taxes, gas to get there, other travel expenses, signage, booth expenses etc. I'm spending probably 40% of my profits anyway.


So anyway, I've been pretty busy making stuff to fill up my stores and then have enough left over to do this show and in between running to Birmingham to deliver work and all.

I've been kinda down too of late. I guess I'm kinda depressed over leaving my construction job. I know that may sound funny and I've written about missing the guys, so ya'll know that part of it. I'm also down because see, I left before I was finished with my work. Some could say I drug up, although I gave Daddy Rabbit over a week's notice. We had talked on a couple of occasions about it beforehand. I know if you have not worked construction you may not see the significance of that but to leave before you finish your part is considered unethical or sorry. There were a number of factors that led to me leaving but one of the main ones is one that kinda makes me feel silly. It was my feet. I have developed a couple of issues with my feet and basically walking is often times extremely painful. Walking or standing all day in heavy boots on concrete is agony at times and if it rained...I would just about be in tears. I have been to the doctor and the inserts he made did help for a while but they have become less effective and his only other suggestion was to shoot me full of steroids. I will NOT go that route. So, I am now trying to find alternative help. I have tried about every kind of insert, padding, prosthetic, etc. they make and not much luck so far. I have plantar fasciitis in one foot and arthritis in both.
So, yes, I'm kinda down. Jack and I wanted to do a lot more hiking and such here and even go back to the Grand Canyon to hike to the bottom and back up. Hell, right now I have trouble walking to the mailbox and back.
But, I'll keep trying to find a solution or some therapy that helps. And I've also tried a number of shoes, boots and all that. So, that's what's going on with me.

Oh, and I want to thank DoubleHomestead for this award that he felt I deserved!! Thanks so much! I do appreciate it and meant to mention it earlier; I've just had a number of things going on and on my mind. My longtime readers know I'm kinda dingy sometimes but I do appreciate every one's readership, emails and comments.


Saturday, April 07, 2012

Spreading The Wealth


The wealth of plants and flowers that is... I've always preferred to think of myself as frugal but I guess sometimes I'm just downright cheap because it just kills me to pay full price for plants and such sometimes. I mean, I will occasionally buy, and pay good money for, certain plants. Like an heirloom apple tree. But for the most part there are just so many ways to come by free or really cheap plants and gardening tools and I know these days lots of people don't have a lot of extra money for such anyway. So, being that gardening and such are the big "in" thing, how does one come by plants and save money too?
1. Most of the plants in my driveway flower bed were extras shared with me by friends or my mom. If you have friends that garden they most likely will have some plants that need dividing or reseed freely and most people are happy to share these.
2. I've told ya'll before about my .25 cent mums I get on clearance at the end of the fall season. Each season has their own clearance sales, so watch for these. I probably have 5 mums in this bed that I got for a quarter a piece. They might need a little TLC for the first season but I've never had any die and the next year they come back great.
3. Old abandoned homesteads are great for digging plants, just make sure you have permission. I've even dug them off the side of the road but make sure this is okay too beforehand. Several counties in my state also have "plant dig days" at the local landfills. Whenever they are about to move to a new area of a landfill they will let the public go in and dig whatever native plants you want before the area is cleared. These are always free and announced several weeks ahead of time. Your state may have something similar.
If you have any friends in the know, you can often go into a construction site before the excavation starts to dig plants too.


4. Jack and I happened upon a winter clearance sale at a gardening center and got 6 bottles of this fish emulsion fertilizer for $1 a bottle, so they often have many things besides plants on clearance. Keep your eyes open even in the winter too.


5. I'm very fortunate to have many great native species that grow all over my land; some of your friends or you may also. I have counted about 5 different species of ferns on my property, not to mention hydrangea, dogwoods, rhododendron and scads of flowers, so whenever I have an area I want to spruce up I often just go transplant stuff I already have out in the woods. You can fill in with one or two store bought plants if you like.


6. Don't be afraid to dumpster dive!! I got this cool, old planter out of a dumpster on a job I was on and my mom has been known to dig plants out of a dumpster too! The planter was broke but a steel pin in the base and that was fixed. Stuff like this has so much more character than that plastic/ foam crap they make these days. Thrift stores and flea markets are also good places to find old funky garden decor.
7. Many seed vendors will send you a free pack of flower seeds when you place an order for other stuff. I've gotten several packs of seeds this way.
8. Many people will also be happy to let you take cuttings from shrubs and trees they have or you can just propagate your own stuff this way. Sometimes it's kinda tricky to get them to take but even if they don't you are usually not out much or any money.
9. Joining gardening clubs is a good way to find friends for swapping plants and our local Master Gardeners club often has sales around town or at the farmers market where you can get some really good deals.

Do any of ya'll have any other frugal ways to acquire plants, seeds or tools for gardening?

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Growin's On


Well, spring has slapped everybody upside the head around here and there is much going on. Ms. Prissy (on the right) is broody again so we have put her in the run to try to snap her out of it. She gets it so bad she doesn't even have to have any eggs. She tries to hatch the golf balls we keep in the nesting boxes. Shes' already pretty looney, even for a chicken, but when she gets like this she is really nutty. It takes her about a week of not being about to get to a nesting box and she usually snaps out of it though. Poor little Sheila is having to stay with her because she seems to have a bad cold or something and I want her to stay away from the others while I treat her. It's so hard to diagnose a chicken. She sneezes a lot and breathes hard sometimes. I hope it is not infectious bronchitis but she is getting an antibiotic just in case. I don't like to give drugs like that but I don't want her to die either or spread it. Yes, she's in with Prissy but I'm short on space and better one other get it than everybody. Everybody is getting olive leaf for now, an anti-viral, just in case and because I'm not sure what it is.
We also replanted the main run with grass and it has done well, as you can see. They had eaten every speck of grass here but this crop is doing well and should maintain it's self better as they only go in here for cases like this.


The garden is doing well, especially all the herbs. The flowers on the sage are just this electric blue. Gorgeous! In the background you can see the monster catnip plant but it got severely pruned yesterday. It was already crowding everything around it and will be huge again by summer.


The composted chicken poo in the rows before planting seems to have helped a lot! The broccoli that got most of it is doing great! Maybe I will get a harvest before it gets too hot. I'm really trying to establish a permaculture thing here where all the plants and animals work together. The chicken poo feeds the garden and the garden feeds us and then the chickens too. I have added a little bone meal and some natural fish fertilizer but am trying to avoid most commercial fertilizers, even organic ones. I'd rather build the soil using compost and such and it seems to be working. I dig up lots of wormies any time I plant something, whereas before they were pretty scarce.


Here is the massive amount of catnip I harvested. Not sure what I'm going to do with it though. I mean, we use it for a sleepy tea and Grendal likes it of course, but we don't use a tremendous amount. I've got 3 large bundles drying and maybe I can give some away too. I'll probably just compost a good bit. It should be good for that.

I have a post or so about my pottery and such coming up; I'm working out how I'm going to make my living now that I'm done with the construction. Does anybody have any questions or idea they would like to see a post about? Want to know how I do anything it particular? Just let me know!!

Monday, April 02, 2012

Those Old Backroads Again


I suppose I shall always get some perverse pleasure from loading my tools up in Ol' Blue and heading out for the open road. Why, I don't know that I could really say. Joyful associations of my freer and younger days? The simple curiosity to see what is over that next hill? Probably a combination of many things really.


But don't worry dear reader; I haven't reneged on my vow to retire from that life. I just took the weekend to go help a dear friend expand their little vacation house on the river. Being in a flood plain, the house sits up on steel columns and more steel was needed for the expansion, thus the need for a welder. I was happy to help.


It was about 3 hours south of my place and took me to some areas of Alabama I had never seen before. Funny thing, you still see lots of old pecan groves, lots of cattle farms. Just on much flatter land than is around my home.


Nice view when it wasn't covered by my welding hood. Saw lots of ducks and other water fowl. Didn't get a chance to go fishing though. We had to work fairly steadily to be able to get it done over the weekend. Had lots of good food and good company to make up for it however.


Now, this is only about 10 miles south of my place; note the hills in the background. I arrived back at my place about 5:00 p.m. and have been playing catchup ever since, so I may be a little late returning emails or such and now it's way past bedtime. I'll be back soon with more news and photos.