Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Two posts in one day? Someone check my temperature!

I mentioned a couple of posts back that we recently moved.  We happen to now live in an area abundant with conservation groups and, well, other nature lovers.  I've discovered a couple of organizations that offer regular outdoor exploring and learning opportunities, and what a blessing they have been.

A little background: I was born a nature-lover.  I still treasure so many incredible pictures in my mind from when I was growing up in New Hampshire; of the elegant blue heron standing knee deep in the water, past the dappled birch trees in the dewy morning fog, of the small snapping turtles sunning themselves on rocks at the far end of the pond as I passed quietly under the arched tree tunnel in my canoe, of sunshine sparkling on the water as it flowed between the smooth river stones.... of bright red salamanders hiding under mossy rocks and of peaceful lady slippers blooming in the woods behind my house... 

Since moving we have spent a good deal of time enjoying what our new area has to offer.  Some times that has been as simple as a boat ride out into the lake or even trudging onto the snow-covered ice in our heavy winter boots.  Other times we've walked down to the water's edge and watched the waterfowl prey on fish and insects, or skipped a few stones, but we have also explored some local hiking trails and taken advantage of a couple of organized hikes not far from home. I treasure all of these.

Our latest adventure was rough on Brian with his allergies, and it ended with Gabe's first deer tick incident (not fun), but otherwise we had a really nice time, and since it was a guided hike it serviced as a good refresher on some wild plant and tree identification. 

Among our finds were white trillium (everywhere), jack-in-the-pulpit, red columbine, wild ginger, blue cohosh, hepatica, early meadow-rue, bellwort, goldenrod galls, and countless trees including shagbark hickory (a previously unfamiliar tree to me), plus a turkey vulture, turkey feather, centipede, toad, and one tiny little worm.  We had fun climbing over fallen trees and up and down a few steep, moderately rocky areas. These things make me happy. 

I could do this every day.

"Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them;"

~Jeremiah 29:5

If I'm going to resume blogging, I might as well start with a gardening post, right?

So... remember when I was stressing over gardening two summers ago, in New York?  Well?  Now I'm all in.

Two of my biggest gardening challenges were always money and space.  Space is no longer an issue.  (Yay!)  Money... Well, starting up new gardens, particularly raised beds because of all the soil they require, is not cheap.  (Otherwise you can probably do it on a dime, so to speak.)  However, you may also recall that I'm a longtime online reward site member, and now I have it down to a science.  I spend a little time (not money) on my site each day, and I reap the rewards.  In a typical month I earn anywhere from $40 to about $55 in gift cards, and that's without referrals.  I don't even sacrifice as much time as you might think, now that I have it all figured out.

Last month I decided it was time to cash in on my gift cards and went a little crazy.  I bought two very nice raised bed kits, a swift (off topic I know, but I'm excited), a window bird feeder and some seed (more on that later), several heirloom organic seed packets, and a few other little things.  I still had to buy soil, but I scoured the area stores and am confident that I found the best deals.  I had to compromise a bit on the types of soil, but I think I did okay.

Constructed outside right now are our two 4x4 garden beds.  Brian helped me prepare the ground for them, and then we built and filled them with a mixture of top soil and compost.  I'm going to attempt square foot gardening, and I know that is not the ideal soil mix, but I'm chancing it this year because the recommended mix is way too expensive.  I have also heard some bad things about the effects of peat moss harvesting on the environment, so I think it's worth a try as is.

Last week I bought some cheap rabbit fencing too.  As soon as the lawn gets another mow I'll have to put that up.

We are still getting frost advisories, so I haven't planted anything outside just yet.  Inside I do have corn, two varieties of tomatoes, peas, cucumbers, cayenne peppers, jalapeno peppers, bell peppers, sunflowers, and marigolds, and most of them are looking pretty good.  The hot peppers are just beginning to poke through the soil today.


I will also be planting some zucchini, beans, onions, and lettuce directly outside, and I hope to dig out a spot (and then build up a mound) for some pumpkins.

Last but not least, we've loaded up a hanging basket with some basil, oregano, and parsley.  We are sooo looking forward to using fresh ingredients from our own garden!

I still have a lot of work to do.  I've started to clear an area for some flowers that Thomas wants to grow.  He picked out larkspur, cosmos, and daisy seeds.  I also need to dig up some grass and till the soil for my sunflowers.  The fence has to go up, and I have to decide where to put the pumpkins and get that space ready.  Then I get to plant!  Yay!  That's the fun part, and if all goes well next year should be significantly easier.

I plan to keep my blog updated with progress.  I'm not holding my breath just yet; between the non-ideal soil mixture, the plethora of animals and birds, and the distinct possibility of insect and disease problems, not to mention our unpredictable weather patterns, we'll see what happens.  I have received a lot of joy from all that I've accomplished so far, and I have our maker to thank for that; the miracle that is gardening never ceases to amaze me.  Even if nothing succeeds, I have found enough enjoyment already that I'll have to remember that. Plus, learning experiences are so valuable.  I may never learn if I don't try, right?  Here's hoping all goes well!

Today, before I tackle the above list, I weed last year's flower beds.  And try to avoid the snake that I am pretty sure lives in one of them.  (Joy.)