Friday, March 29, 2013

Fruit Tree Blooming Branch

In the last snow/ice storm, one of our fruit trees had a limb severely damaged. It broke yet still partially attached and we haven't had time to cut it off yet. So the majority of the limb is laying on the ground. I'm not sure why, but it is loaded with buds and the blooms are beginning to open. (The rest of the tree hasn't started to bud out yet).

I decided to cut off as many of the smaller branches from the limb and bring them inside, to hopefully finish opening. Won't it make a spectacular centerpiece for Easter?!
I want them to bloom inside for two reasons: 1) they are beautiful, and 2) I still need to identify this tree! When it bloomed last year I thought it a Cherry, because it reminded me of the Cherry Blossom festival in DC.
But, later in the season I spotted a fruit on it. Very few, because the funky spring weather we had last year -everything bloomed early, then the late frost zapped all the blooms. So we barely had any fruit last year!
I wish I took a picture of the fruit when I saw it, because the next time I checked it was gone! I assume something ate it, because their was no evidence of it on the ground. The very small, immature fruit had the coloring of an apricot. Though we're told there was once a plum and peach tree planted here, no mention of an apricot. Hopefully this year I'll be able to get some fruit and identify the tree! Until then, these blooms will be a beautiful centerpiece for Easter!

Happy Easter!

-Live Simple, Be Happy-
Magnolia Holler

Join the fun at Farm Girl Blog Fest!

And, the Farmgirl Friday Blog Hop!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Garden Planning and Lessons Learned

I’m planning the layout of our gardens for this growing season. We’ll have three sites this year – a pumpkin/watermelon patch, a Children’s garden, and our traditional garden. Last year I extensively planned our garden, however in reality we threw it together rather quickly a month late, in the evening, and in the rain. I learned a lot from my mistakes…
1) Always pay close attention to the sun and large tree location when choosing a site for your garden.
Last Spring was our first spring at Magnolia Holler. We decided to use the same garden site as the previous owner. It was a 40x40 sq ft area with several (overgrown) raised beds. It was apparent they hadn't been used in a long time. We didn't want raised beds anyway, so we removed them, all the debris, and went to work tending to the soil. We tilled it, limed it, and amended it. I planned my whole garden. I had BIG plans. I divided it into a quad with center walkways. I grouped like veggies together, with companion planting. It was going to be a masterpiece! In March we planted our lettuce and peas. Then in April the unthinkable happened! The large oak and hickory trees leafed out, shading the ENTIRE site! I was devastated.


2) Pay close attention to the required days for maturity.
I picked a new site, it was only 10x20 sq ft, but it got full sun for most the day. We only had a week to get everything else in the ground before I had to left town for a couple weeks. We tilled and limed (no time for amending). And as it turned out, due to weather, I still wasn't able to get everything planted until the end of May. (The suggested planting for most out stuff is mid April.) Some of the plants didn’t have enough time to fully mature. The three pumpkin vines grew about 8 ft each, we had about a dozen beautiful blooms each morning, however they were all male - no females, so we didn’t get a single pumpkin! The two musk melons produced one melon each. And the cucumber only produced about three! (Those were really disappointing.)


3) Watch the weather.
One night I said “I NEED to get these planted!” So I went out after dinner and planted everything. Then it rained for a week straight! The tomato and pepper seedlings I started indoors and transplanted did well. The pumpkins, melons, and beans survived. The okra never sprouted (I even replanted two weeks later, so it may have been the seeds or soil condition.) And most of the corn seeds rotted. My husband planted an entire field of corn (about 200 seeds) however only about a dozen sprouted!


4) Check on the garden daily.
I checked on our lower (traditional) garden most every day. However, the corn field was in the back and we didn’t check on that every day and we can’t see it from the house. Well, one day we checked on it and only about six stalks were left out of the dozen that sprouted! They had grown about 4ft tall, and something had eaten them! Then, a few days later, the surviving stalks were completely knocked down, laying flat on the ground! Err. We assume it was either a raccoon or bear. So ALL our corn was now annihilated!


5) Weed everyday!
Since we didn’t amend the soil, I used an at home soil test, which said our soil was:

  • K (potash) – surplus

  • P (phosphorus) – deficient

  • N (nitrogen) – depleted

  • pH 7.0-7.5 neutral-alkaline (we did lime)

So, we knew we needed to use a fertilizer. Well, the tomatoes are hungry little guys. And, the weeds thrived off the fertilizer too! I was so busy at my day job on the weekdays, and on the weekends we were always doing something fun for our son, so the weeds just kept on growing! One day I went to grab a handful of basil and cilantro to discover I couldn’t find them because the weeds out grew them! Same with the carrots!


Learning from our mistakes.
This year we have doubled the width, of our traditional garden, it's 20x20 sq ft. The bulk of the planting will be here. We planted a cover crop for the winter, mainly a clover mix. For the field in the back, we planted a combo of clover and radish for a cover crop over the winter. This is where we had our corn last year, but this year we’ll plant the corn closer to the house; and use this field for our pumpkin/watermelon patch – it’ll be perfect because it’s slightly sloping. And we’re tilling in organic matter to amend our soil. So (hopefully) we’ll get a better yield this year.

Conneticut Field Pumpkin blossoms

 Do you have any lessons learned to share?


-Live Simple, Be Happy-

Magnolia Holler

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Indoor seed starts

Well...March has come on like a lion, and I think it's gonna go out like a lion too! The ground is still too wet to till, so I still haven't been able to get my lettuce, peas and radishes planted!

Luckily the flowers I started a few weeks ago are very happy inside!
The nasturtiums are extremely happy!

The bee balm are slow, but happy!

The marigolds are are thriving.

And the calendula are growing strong!

I also started sun gold tomatoes, brandywine tomatoes, jimmy nardello peppers, baby boo pumpkins, and blue hyssop. They're all off to a slow start, so we'll have to wait and see...

I'm itching to get my hands in the dirt, but until then this ill have to do!
Have you started seeds inside, or have you been lucky enough to have seeds in the ground?

-Live Simple, Be Happy-
Magnolia Holler

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Liebster Award

I've been nominated for a Liebster Award by Ann @ Summers Acres. I had never heard of this, so you can imagine how surprised I was! Reading her description and a few other links she provided, Cupcake-n-bake and
Sopphey Says, I am honored to receive this thoughtful award!

Thank you so much Ann! While it is not a "real"award, but more of recognition and encouragement, it was received, much like you, at the perfect time! All week has been stressful with long hours in the office, continuing through the weekend! (Luckily it is raining all weekend so I don't feel as guilty not being able to get my hands in the dirt and plant my peas, lettuce, and radishes!)

The Basic Guidelines
Nominate 5 blogs with less than 300 followers
Share 5 random facts
Answer 5 questions
Think of 5 new questions for those you nominate.

Blogs I'm Nominating
1. Sandra @ Clearwater Farm
2. Cindy @ Old Time Farmhouse
3. Heather @ Townsend House
4. Connie @ Frugal Living on the Watkins Ranch
5. Mary Ann @ Calamity Acres

5 Random Facts About Me
1. I was a flight attendant in my early twenties.
2. The first time I ever tried any type of wild game, was the second date with my husband!
3. I am fascinated with the idea of time travel.
4. I am addicted to the Starz series Spartacus!
5. The first time I ever heard a bull frog, I thought it the sound of a wild and ferocious animal!

5 Questions From Ann @ Summers Acres
1. What is your favorite season? I love all seasons, but if I had to choose just one, it would be Spring. Because I love watching everything come back to life after the cold winter!
2. Who is your hero? My dad. He's always worked so hard to make the "American dream" a reality.
3. What is your favorite comfort food? This is an easy one...chocolate!
4. What is your favorite book? There are only two books I've read more than once - Pride & Prejudice, and the Hunger Games Trilogy, so I'd say those are my favorites.
5. Why do you blog? To share ideas and experiences and to learn from others who enjoy similar activities.

5 Questions For Nominees
1. What is your favorite family tradition?
2. What is your fondest childhood memory?
3. If you could travel in time, would you go into the future or back in time?
4. What do you do to relax?
5. What is your favorite fruit or vegetable, and why?

-Live Simple, Be Happy-
Magnolia Holler

Monday, March 11, 2013

Birds nest craft

Well, our power is finally back on! WooHoo! (A shower never felt so good!)
But, in all honesty it was fun, though cold and a tad unprepared, it was an adventure. Our three year old son said "I like the power out!"
Well of course he did, he had Mommy and Daddy's undivided attention! He also thought it cool to light candles. Last night, the first night back with power, when it got dark he asked if we could play power out again! How cute.

It wasn't much of a challenge to keep him occupied. I got out a lot of my craft stuff, he picked out things he wanted to play with, then I tried to come up with an idea of what we could make using those things. It was like a game!

My favorite challenge: balloons, spray adhesive, twine, and scissors.

After thinking about it, by staring out the window watching the birds eat seed. I had the idea to make a birds nest.

After I blew up a few balloons, we sprayed them with the adhesive. Then wrapped twine all around it, leaving a little opening near the base.
After it dried, we popped the balloon. And the twine held its shape.

Then (hopefully I didn't break the rules to our little game) but I grabbed a few cotton balls and markers. We colored them and stuck them inside for eggs.

It's not a Picasso, but it entertained a three year old!
What would you have done with the objects? I'm always looking for new fun, kid friendly craft ideas!

-Live Simple, Be Happy-
Magnolia Holler

Friday, March 8, 2013

Snow Storm Saturn & My husband the genius

The snow storm hit just as predicted. We stocked up on the usual water, toilet paper, coffee, cat and dog food. We also filled the kerosene and diesel tanks, for heat and the tractor in case we needed to plow.

They predicted the hard snow would begin in my area around 3am Wednesday morning. Well, I'm not exactly sure when it started but by 3:30am Wednesday morning we were without power. By 8am we had around 6" of snow and it was suppose to continue through 8pm. Luckily it ended at our house around 4pm and only around 8" total.

Now it's Friday morning and still no power. The house has been staying at a steady 48 degrees. Saving the kerosene, we've been using it sparingly. But the serious problem...

How to heat water...and more importantly, how to make coffee!

It was too windy to fire up the gas or charcoal grill outside. My husband had an idea, probably not the safest, but in a pinch it'll work.

He build a little fire, using a soda can, perlite, and fire bricks - which we happen to have a stash of in the barn. (Please don't try this at home.)

For fuel he used Denatured Alcohol.

It took a while to heat up the water kettle; but in the mean time He found and dusted off the French Press.

And voila, we had coffee!
We're making a list of additional emergency items we should stock up on, until we can purchase a backup generator.

-Live Simple, Be Happy-
Magnolia Holler

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

We have sprouts and a dilemma!

I think we all have spring fever, even though it's very hard not to start pulling off the winter mulch in the flower beds, but with the looming snow storm in the forecast I quieted the urge. Instead I refocused my attention on starting some of my seeds indoors. I wanted a head start with my flowers this year, so I started my marigolds, calendula, nasturtiums, and bee balm.

Just 10 days later and I have seedlings!

The calendulas were the first to sprout, followed by the marigolds, and the nasturtiums are still emerging. I'm not expecting to see anything from the bee balm for another week or two. 

Between my son and the dog, the beneficial flowers in the vegetable garden usually get trampled, I  plant them on the row ends. So this year I'm going to plant them in containers and set the container at the row ends. I did this with some marigolds last year and it worked well, they survived when the others didn't!

A couple days go I also started my tomatoes, peppers, and blue hyssop. Hopefully I'll have little sprout lets soon too! The last thing left are my strawberries!

Only two more weeks before I'll be planting the lettuce, peas, carrots, and radishes! Though I have a dilemma, my area was always a Zone 7, which the planting dates are mid march and last frost date mid April. Well, we're one of the lucky ones that was re zoned! We are now classified as 6b. Which pushed everything back 2 weeks. So onto my dilemma, continue as all the farmers in my area have for generations with the earlier planting, or listen to the "new" zoning guide and wait 2 weeks?

What would you do?

-Live Simple, Be Happy-
Magnolia Holler

Friday, March 1, 2013

Children's Garden

With February past us, I’m eager to get my hands in the dirt! But, I’ll have to entertain myself with making plans for the garden, until it’s the right time for planting. This year we’re adding a Children’s Garden for our son, Q, who is three. It will have fun items, such as Baby Boo and Jack-be-little pumpkins, an assortment of Sunflowers in varying heights, Easter Egg radishes (won’t the color be fun?), of course strawberries, and my favorite Sungold cherry tomatoes (they are so sweet it’s like eating candy!).

I’ve made a TeePee out of bamboo and will train the pumpkins to vine up it. But other than that, I’m at a loss for other fun structures to include.

Do you have a Children’s Garden? What structures do you have for your child’s entertainment? I'd love to see pictures for inspiration!

Head over to The Self Sufficient Home Acre and join the fun!

-Live Simple, Be Happy-