Monday, November 09, 2009

Well, it's November already...

Yes, it's been a little more than two months since I blogged. I tried to get here and do it, but things have been a little more than busy around here! The spouse finally got a full-time job - he's driving a tractor-trailer over the road and he's not been here since the middle of September. Talk about a big adjustment..we went from him being home every day and just working 10-15 hours a week to him not being here at all. Emily misses him a lot and has what I call a "meltdown" about once every two weeks - life's not fair, she wants to see her Daddy, why does he have to drive a truck, etc. I try to tell her that it's better than the alternative of continuing to struggle to pay our bills all the time. She does understand, but it's still taking some getting used to. I had a lot to get used to also. I am doing all the outside chores around the house and am learning a little more about car maintenance, plus managing all the household finances (I was doing most of that already) and making sure both Emily and I are where we need to be when we need to be there. I have some amazing friends and neighbors who are wonderful about helping me get Emily to some of her activities and watching her when I have my night class or a meeting to go to; and others who have helped me with car "stuff". One friend in particular knows about everything I am dealing with and has been so wonderful and supportive, even telling me "I'm proud of you for hanging in there and doing this." That does my heart a world of good, and I know that I am doing the right thing. School is going well and homework keeps me busy. College Math is a bit challenging - having been out of college for 23 years has had me re-learning a lot of stuff but it's all interesting and I'm not struggling in any of my classes. Yay me! I'm still looking for a part-time job or the perfect venue(s) to sell my soap at. There's some holiday craft fairs/bazaars coming up that I am looking at participating in. They could bring in some additional cash which would be very helpful. I would still love to find a little bit of land to grow on and sell at the farmers market - the possibility still exists, I just have to make it happen.

Then there's the garden...

It has been exceptionally hot a lot longer this year. In fact, we really have just now started to cool off with daytime temperatures staying in the mid 80's instead of the low 90's. I didn't start all my seeds back at the end of August as I had planned because I knew they wouldn't survive, but I have gotten them in their little pots in the last 2-3 weeks. Tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, spinach, lettuce and peppers are all in various stages of sprouting. I have had a bumper crop of basil, oregano and chives this summer; they are acting almost like perennials so they must really like the weather this year. My lavender plant is blooming too and it smells heavenly! A lot of people say you can't grow lavender in Florida because of the humidity but I am here to tell you that it can be done. I may buy a few more plants if the nursery has them, maybe I can get there Saturday and check out all the goodies. I love going to a good garden center/nursery, don't you? I'll post pictures of my garden progress starting next week. Happy Gardening everyone!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Moving right along....

Things are coming along, both in my garden and in my life. I have planted lots more seeds, and the ones we planted a few weeks ago have germinated nicely. I transplanted my cherry tomato seedlings into bigger pots on Sunday. In a couple more weeks it will be cool enough to start some lettuce, cilantro and mesclun; I'm also going to sow some cucumber, bean and eggplant seeds. I made a few planters out of some ceramic/glass things that have been gathering dust around the house. Here's a picture of a little bird house (actually bought this at Goodwill a few weeks ago) with oregano in it, and a watering "can" with ivy. They would be cute on a porch or patio, or in the kitchen. I am now on the lookout for more interesting containers so I can turn them into planters too!

On the personal front, I am happy to tell you that I am starting back to college next month! I will be studying for my Associate's in Science in Digital Design and Drafting, and may pursue my Bachelor's degree in Computer Information Technology. One step at a time, that's how I'm taking things. My nine year old daughter is excited for me, and I am pretty excited too - I have wanted to go back to college for many years and something always seemed to get in the way. Well it's a done deal first class is September 15th at 8:30 a.m. I am still working on finding a job, or earning an income. I am looking at doing a "greenmarket" on Saturdays with my soaps and perhaps some fresh herbs, and possibly my little potted gardens - I'm still working on the plans to see if it will be a good potential source of income. I'll keep you posted. :) Happy gardening!

Saturday, August 01, 2009

It's been a long, hard summer so far

Life throws us curves sometimes, and we usually don't see them coming until they have smacked us in the head. That is what happened with my summer garden plans. I tried to take care of my little seedlings, but didn't really have enough time. I tried to rely on other family members (ie: the spouse) to help with the watering but it was haphazard at best. Needless to say they did not survive. So I have been left with my herbs for the summer and that is all. But I'm okay with that. I am experiencing several life changing events at the moment and the garden would still be suffering if it had survived. Event number one will have me as a single parent in a few months and event number two happened two weeks - I lost my job. This was a total surprise to me. Jobs are in short supply here and the unemployment rate is almost 13% so that makes it even harder to find one. I am thinking about going back to college but I am also contemplating what seems like a million other possibilities too. I have written about wanting to have an herb farm here on my blog before and that dream has not never will. I would love to be able to lease an acre or two of land and plant it in herbs, edible flowers and heirloom vegetables. I could have a booth at the local farmers' markets (there are three or four that I know of in the area) or have a selling area where I grow.

Another idea I have is to start a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). It would be great to offer people fresh, locally grown food on a weekly basis. I have read about CSAs for many years but have never lived in an area where they existed. I think they are great and besides providing good food from a sustainable source, they help develop a sense of community that is lacking in today's society. A lot of people think my plans are idyllic and ask me "how would you be able to do that?" Well of course it would take some planning, and some money for funding the venture, but I think both are very viable options for me to pursue. And I would be following my bliss, which I think everyone should do. "Do what you love" should be everyone's mantra; I think that is a big part of being happy. Until I can follow through on my dream, I will continue to plant all I can in my containers. Soon it will be time to plant cucumbers, tomatoes, greens and all sorts of other garden delights. I can't wait to "get growing" again!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Time for the summer garden

For most of the country, summer is the time to garden. You plant in the spring and reap the bounty of fresh fruit, veggies, herbs and flowers until the first (or sometimes second) frost. As I have mentioned before here on my blog, it's different in Florida. We can start planting anywhere from August through around October/November and harvest while everyone else is enduring winter. Cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuces, and other delectable goodies are just waiting to be enjoyed. Late April and May begin to bring us warmer temperatures, and our little patch of paradise starts to show signs of weariness. The cucumbers are tired and don't want to grow anymore, the cilantro and lettuce decides they are going to send up flowers instead of new leaves, and the tomato leaves starts to curl under because it's just too darn hot. It's like they all decided to throw a temper tantrum and proclaim loudly "I don't want to play anymore!!" I told them "Okay, then, I'll just find some new garden playmates", and so I did. There are a few veggies that will grow well in the heat and humidity of a Florida summer; namely watermelons, okra and hot peppers. I don't have room for watermelons, but I do have room for the okra and peppers. Of course since I'm the only one in my household that eats okra, I'll probably be sharing it with anyone(everyone?) that I can give it to. I'm growing cayennes, habaneros, jalapenos, poblanos and "grove peppers". They are a tiny little pepper that my grandfather grew all his life and it makes the best pepper sauce for cooked greens. There are also a couple of tomato varieties that are supposed to be somewhat "native"; one of them is called Matt's Everglades Tomato. I have read about them on the Florida Gardening forum on but haven't found any seeds yet. Maybe next summer...

My herbs are still doing well. The basil is quite prolific and I am using a little just about every day in something. I toss a few leaves in our salads and have been putting it on my turkey sandwich when I brown bag my lunch for work. It adds a nice bit of flavor to what can be a very boring lunch. The oregano, chives, thyme (both regular and lemon), sage, dill and tansy are all looking good and being useful as all good herbs should! I think I am going to make some basil vinegar and I would like to make a large quantity of pesto; however I am not sure about freezing it. I'm afraid it will taste different than fresh pesto (which I absolutely adore) so I may make a small bit and see how it does. Of course I will dry some of my herbs to use later in the year, but I love to pick them fresh and use them...they are just delightful! If you have a garden planted this year, I hope you enjoy your harvest as much as I am enjoying mine. They can bring such joy and a sense of accomplishment to one's heart.

Happy gardening,


Friday, April 17, 2009

A Couple of Good Weeks in the Garden.

I've been busy, busy, busy and haven't had much time to post! Herb Day was fun, I learned a few new things and made a few purchases - a tansy plant and a lemon thyme plant plus moringa and roselle seeds. I transplanted the tansy already and have to find a new container for the thyme - its scent is wonderful. I still have to start the seeds, I will probably wait until fall to do that since it looks like the long hot summer will be here was 91 here today!

The veggies are looking good, I have one good size cucumber already with lots of wee ones and blooms right behind it. The tomatoes and peppers are doing pretty good too, I just wish there were more of them! My basil is doing very well, I have lots of it and shared some with one of my good friends today (it's the big bunch on the table in the picture). I planted a little window box with herbs last week - thyme, sage, chives and a rescued oregano plant from the 50% off rack at Lowe's. It looks a little sparse now but should fill in nicely in the next 7-10 days. I am going to use my herb harvest to create some dip and sauce mixes; I am working on updating my website and will be adding them soon. I also made a couple batches of soap today, it was nice to get back into the swing of things in Soapland. One batch is scented with lavender essential oil and a fragrance oil called Botanical Hemp; and the other batch is a "Man Soap" with cedarwood, black pepper and patchouli essential oils plus a fragrance oil called "Commando". It smells really nice and just a bit sexy in my opinion. I need to have a few male friends be my market testers - I love getting feedback on my soap. :)
Wishing everyone a blissful week,

Friday, April 10, 2009

Grow little veggies, grow!

I am excited about the new things in my garden! My cucumbers are growing and look pretty good so far, maybe the chives I interplanted with them are helping as they usually get a disease of some sort and wither away before I can harvest anything. I read tonight that cucumbers and squash like cold, wet feet and perfectly dry sunny leaves. I have to move my container out of the sprinkler's path if I want them to thrive and not end up with powdery or downy mildew. I may need to do some hand pollinating as well...I've never done that but it's not difficult from what I have read. My tomato plants have little green tomatoes on them, and my pepper plants have some blooms on them. My mesclun, dill and parsley have sprouted as have my corn and beans. My basil is wonderful, I will have enough to make pesto this coming week!
I didn't get my watermelon and okra planted yet, I may be able to do this tomorrow after I get back from Southwest Florida Herb Day. It is being put on by my county's Master Gardeners and looks like it will be a fun and informative morning. I am sure I will come back with a few plants! I bought thyme and lavender plants last weekend. A lot of people say that you can't grow lavender down here, but you can. You just have to create a microclimate for it and give it lots of love. A fellow GardenWeb member stated in a post two weeks ago "The best gardeners are fearless." I am taking that mantra to heart and hope to have a wonderful harvest in the coming weeks and months. Happy Gardening!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A good book and my gardening plan.

I mentioned in my last blog post that I am finishing reading the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver. This is such a interesting book...I am only on page 91 but I know the rest of it will be as good as the first few chapters have been. With the movement for a safe, more sustainable food system in our country gaining momentum I highly encourage everyone to read this book and put some of the ideas in it into practice with your food choices. This week was "eat what we have" week at our house as we are trying to stretch our food budget as far as possible. I decided that starting this weekend we are going to attempt to buy as much locally grown food as we can from the farmers markets and a couple of local farms. There are also some ads on our local Craigslist for eggs that I am going to inquire about. I will see how this works for us...I hope it works well but Emily is a pretty picky eater and getting her to expand her culinary horizons is a bit of a challenge. Stay tuned!

After giving myself a swift kick with my last blog post, I got out and planted some more seeds. Mesclun, sage, parsley, corn, dill and scarlet runner beans. I know they make pretty vines and attract birds; I have to confirm whether they are edible or not (I think they are). There is still time to plant watermelon, okra and several other things down here and I am going to try to accomplish that this weekend. Out with flavorless grocery store produce, in with delicious and nutritious locally grown fruits and veggies!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Am I a wanna be gardener?

I have visions of lush, bountiful containers and beds of vegetables, herbs and flowers - many, many visions. Translating that vision into reality has become a real challenge for me and I'm not sure if I can face the challenge and win. I think it's important to be self sufficient, at least as much as one can in a suburban city with more ordinances and restrictions regarding what you can do on your property than anywhere I have ever lived. I have a quarter-acre of St. Augustine sod complete with sprinkler system. This is not something a person just tills up, so I am using containers. The problem lies in the fact that I'm not using them as well as I could be. I have some tomatoes, cucumbers, basil and a couple of pepper plants in them, but there could be more - SO MUCH MORE! I want beans, peas, eggplant, squash, more peppers, salad greens, lots of herbs. I want to can, dry and freeze my extra harvest. I want to donate some of it to the local soup kitchens and food banks to help those even less fortunate than we are. Things are very tough here in this part of Sunshine State. I was hoping to reduce my food cost by having a large garden but have only made a small dent in the grocery budget. I so need to do this because the cost of groceries continues to go up each week and the quality just keeps declining. I checked out Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver today at the library and am going to finish reading it. Hopefully I will be re-inspired to plant some more seeds and eat more seasonal, locally-grown food.

Sunday, February 08, 2009


It got really cold last week - temps dropped down into the low 30's here. I covered my plants Tuesday night and just uncovered them this morning. I hope our little cold spell is over for good, but we will most likely have another one or two before Spring arrives. My thin Florida native blood doesn't like the cold and it seems that I never have enough warm clothes in my closet for these little inconveniences. Good grief, I live in Florida and shouldn't have to have a winter coat! Sounds reasonable, doesn't it?

I covered my plants Tuesday night and uncovered them this morning. They are just fine, such little troopers they are! Sowing more lettuce seed today, along with some dill, parley and nasturtiums. I have to go get more dirt to fill my half barrel containers, so a trip to Lowe's is also on today's to-do list. I am still wanting to put a flower bed in the front yard and fill it with cosmos, zinnias and sunflowers. I also want to plant some flowers in the back yard too if I can find the time to do it. I am a member of and love the forums there, especially the Florida Gardening and Garden Junk boards. The GJ board inspired me to create a garden "totem" as a decorative accent and I liked the first one pretty well so I made a second one too. They will add a little interest and perhaps the colors will attract some birds and butterflies. I haven't actually put them in the garden yet, I have to find the perfect spot for each of them first. What do you think of them? I have so many little "things" sitting around and in boxes that I just had to have at one time or another; I am trying to find an alternative use for them and these totems let me put a few things to good use. I used aquarium sealant to attach everything together and it is holding up well. Other people use different kinds of adhesives, I bought several kinds too and will be testing them to compare. If you decide to make one, please share a picture, I'd love to see it!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A chill in the air, and time to make soap.

We have had a cold snap here in Southwest Florida. Of course it's nothing like the frigid temperatures that most of the country is experiencing, but to me it's pretty darn chilly and I want my mid-70's back. I covered all my plantlets Wednesday night and uncovered them today, they needed a little water but were not hurt by the cold at all. The Buttercrunch and Romaine lettuces are growing very nicely, it's been a long time since I grew lettuce with success. We do eat a lot of salad so it's nice to grow our own greens for it. I got some tomato plants from a friend the other day, German Queen is one of the varieties. His plants are doing well and are full of fruits and I hope to have a good crop myself. If I can grow enough tomatoes I want to can, dry and freeze some for the summer as it will be too hot here for them to produce. I know there are a couple of varieties that are very heat tolerant and I may try a few plants this summer, but if they don't do well I will have a second source for tomato goodness.

I will be making heart shaped soaps for Valentine's Day this week. I think a few scents like Vanilla Spice, Strawberries & Cream, Secret Whisper and Midnight Jasmine will be lovely for the gift baskets I am planning. They will also include massage melts, scented flower petals, candles and a bottle of scented massage oil. How romantic and enticing does that sound? I'd love to receive something like this as a gift instead of the usual flowers or chocolate. If you would like to order a gift basket for Valentine's Day or any other special occasion that calls for a little romance and sensuality, please email me for details.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Happy 2009 everyone!

2009 has started out fairly well. My daughter and her cousin had a ball at the beach and just "hanging out". No Chuck E. Cheese, which didn't bother us at all. It was fun to see him, his mom and his "me-mom" as he calls his grandmother. They leave today to go back to North Carolina, we probably won't see them again until June. We were busy at work last week as more seasonal visitors have started to arrive for winter. The traffic has increased and so has my stress level just a bit. :)

My tomato seedlings aren't doing very well now. They looked like they were off to a good start, I don't know what happened to them. The seeds are a couple years old but haven't germinated as nicely as I was anticipating. The cucumber plants are fantastic; I have planted Lemon cucumbers, Poinsett 76, and Picklebush, which is supposed to be an excellent pickling cuke. We shall see in a couple of months when I try my hand at making pickles again. It's been about 12 years since I canned anything so I think a little refresher course will be necessary. I am getting some nice lettuce from my plantings, it is time to sow some more this week. I ordered 4 inch plastic pots from, they shouldn't take too long to ship and I can't wait to get them. Today I am sending out soap to a friend in Nashville and shipping a belated holiday box to my mom. If you send holiday gifts late three years in a row does it become a tradition? I heard a comment/quote on the radio Friday morning that I liked quite a bit - "Stop walking through the motions of your life and start living your life." Doesn't that sound like a good way to start 2009?