Thursday, February 25, 2010

Look what I woke up to this morning!

Spring has definitely NOT sprung!  I knew it was too good to be true!  It sure was nice while it lasted though.  We already have about six inches of fresh powder, and it shows no sign of stopping.

Monday, February 22, 2010

What the heck are those things?


Those, my friends, are dryer balls!  They eliminate the need to use those nasty, chemical-laden dryer sheets.  And they actually work!  Of course, I would rather hang my clothes outside on the line, but in winter in Alaska, that just isn't going to happen.  These are definitely the next best thing!  They really do stop 95% of the static electricity, and they can be used over and over again!  Gotta love it, especially when used in conjunction with my homemade laundry soap!

I wish!

The sun is teasing me, this can't POSSIBLY be spring.  Combine the added daylight that we are getting every day with the fact that it has been in the high 30s/low 40s for the last two weeks, and you might almost believe that spring is really here.  I, however, have lived in Alaska long enough to know otherwise.  Yes, the snow is melting, yes the days are getting longer much more quickly, and yes, there are pussywillows outside, but I refuse to fall for it.  This is February in Alaska, and its gonna get cold again.  But in the meantime, I want to put the swing back out on the porch!

Friday, February 19, 2010

What I have and what I need...

Just doing a quick seed inventory:

* Random seed pod from Mom's garden - Can anyone identify this flower?

* Snap Peas - Sugar Ann

* Blue Lake Beans (both bush and pole)

* Nasturtium

* Sunflower - Mammoth Grey Stripe

* Kale - Red Russian

* Spinach - Melody

* Cabbage - O-S Cross

* Broccoli - Nutri-bud Organic

* Carrot - Sweetness II

* Zucchini - Black Beauty OP

* Onion - Parade

* Radish - Cook's Custom Mix

* Pepper - King of the North

* Peppers - Mixed Chilis

* Eggplant - Twilight Hybrid

* Blue Shrimp Flower

Most of these are left over from last year, so I should probably test-germinate a few of each before assuming they are available to plant in this years garden.

** Herb update, I have Thyme, Rosemary, and Lemon Basil seedlings growing happily in my kitchen window!!!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Discovered a new forum!

I just found North Root Big Lake Gardeners, and gardening club and forum... right here in my home town! (If you knew how small my town is, you would understand my surprise!) What an exciting way to get to know some local gardeners with some experience growing here in Big Lake! I'm looking forward to joining the club and hope to learn a lot this year!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Homemade Laundry Soap

I have had many email requests for my laundry soap, so I figured I'd go ahead and post it... Let me know if you try it, and what you think! I use if for all of our laundry, from my baby's delicate things to my auto-mechanic husband's work clothes, and I love it!

Homemade Laundry Soap

1/3 bar Fels Naptha soap (in Fred Meyer in the laundry aisle next to the Borax)
1/2 cup washing soda (NOT baking soda, although Arm & Hammer does make it)
1/2 cup Borax powder

You will also need a small bucket (3-5 gallon) and a stirring utensil, a funnel, a grater (cheese grater works fine), a saucepan, and something for storage (gallon milk jugs work great!)

1. Grate the soap into the saucepan.
2. Add 6 cups water and heat until the soap melts, stirring occasionally.
3. Add washing soda and borax, stirring until dissolved.
4. Remove from heat.
5. Pour 4 cups hot water into the bucket.
6. Add soap mixture and stir.
7. Add 1 gallon plus 6 cups water and stir.
8. Let sit for 24 hours in the bucket, until gelled.
9. Stir vigorously, until mixture resembles "egg drop soup".
10. **Optional - Add 1/2 to 1 oz essential oil of choice - citrus works well*
11. Transfer to storage jugs.

Shake before using - 1/2 cup per load - works fine in high efficiency washers

* I use lavender essential oil, about 30 drops per batch

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A Whole Other Post...

Rhubarb - you either love it or you hate it, but if you haven't had it in a long time, try it again... it might surprise you!

I LOVE Rhubarb. My husband thought he hated it. Then I made him a rhubarb crisp from rhubarb fresh cut from my garden. My husband LOVES rhubarb! I had been thinking about buying a few to plant this year, as well as transplanting the one I have to a better location. Wouldn't it be wonderful to have frozen and canned rhubarb in the middle of winter! I just remembered that on the back 5 acres I have several rhubarb plants growing, which I haven't even looked at in about 2 years! I can simply dig them up and put them up with the garden, and give them all the love they deserve! Not to mention that they most likely could be divided! I read a blog about rhubarb producing which has gotten me interested in that avenue as well -

Does anyone have any growing tips or recipes for rhubarb?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

I just had to!

Here we go! I officially bought some seeds today! I couldn't resist the sale, I had to do it! I bought Sugar Ann Snap Peas, which I grow every year and have great success with, Nasturtiums, which I am positive I will be planting, and Stringless Blue Lake Bush Beans, which I am also sure will be in the garden. I think the only other plant I will be planting fore sure this year is Rhubarb, which is the subject of a whole other post!

I decided that I need to increase the depth of my raised beds this year, as the ground below is completely gravel, and I think the shallow soil hindered growth last year. (The roots hit the gravel and simply stopped growing.) I have two beds that are triangular and of equal dimension and two each of two differently sized rectangles. If I turn the 6 shallow beds into 3 deeper beds, by stacking the frames on top of each other, I should have better luck. I can always build one or two more each year until I really have what I want.

As far as dealing with the nutrient-poor soil, the plan is to remove all the soil from all the beds and mix with the finished pile of compost and some aged steer manure. This will be my first year using my own compost, so I'm excited! And soon it will be chicken fertilizer going into the fresh compost rather than buying steer manure.

I have to admit, I will be doing a little bit of planting today, just to scratch the itch a bit more. I bought some organic potting soil and few pretty little pots that fit perfectly in my kitchen window. I will be planting Basil, Thyme, and Rosemary. I'm a sucker, what can I say!

Uh oh, its early, but I've got the itch!

It is official, I have caught it. That seasonal disorder whose symptoms include sketches of chicken coops and garden plans, seed catalogs and hatchery fliers. I catch this bug every year about February or so, and this year is no exception. It all started with 4 seed catalogs arriving in the mail. Now I have to really plan out my garden and decide what I want to plant this year. I say I am going to take it easy this year and just grow a few things I have success with, and one or two that I need to learn about, but that plan never seems to work.

My husband thinks I'm crazy. He got home from work last night to find library books about raising chickens and building chicken coops spread all over the bed, with sketches of the new garden layout and chicken coop, all enclosed in a nice chain link run (that I used to use for my dogs, but don't really need now that I'm down to just one mellow old friend.) I even have it designed to have a door between the chickens and the gardens so that I can let them in every fall to fertilize the dirt for me! I'm fairly sure that Rob is going to build me said coop this year, and I need to make sure I know exactly what I want for the day he says its time to build it!

I'm glad that my husband humors me, even if he thinks I'm just a little bit nuts!