4.10.2014

DIY Patio Umbrella Holders - Tutorial with Pics

I want to place 2 patio umbrellas on our driveway patio because, unfortunately, it is like the surface of the sun out there. No relief from the sun, and past about 10AM in the summer, the concrete is like walking on hot coals! Below is the picture of what I really wanted...

These HEAVY umbrella bases weigh in at 110 pounds each PLUS they have wheels so one could move them around as needed. BUT good gawd! They are $70 alone!!! Plus, I would need 2 of them... That just was NOT going to happen. So I decided to make my own! This project cost me about $13.

Here is what you will need. Keep in mind, I made 2 bases.
~2  (60 lb) bags of ready to to go Quickrete
~2 large flower pots (I used ones I had purchased years ago at Ikea, bonus - they have wheels
~2 (2ft) long sections of PVC pipe. The pipe I used was 1 1/4 in which fit my umbrella poles perfectly
~tape - really effing strong tape

supplies

supplies

STEP ONE - drill a hole in the very center and and bottom of your flower pot to allow water to drain out of your pipe. This hole should be much smaller than your PVC pipe, obviously so the pipe doesn't fall through the pot. 

STEP 2 - This part sucks... you will need to stand up your PVC pipe and tape it into place. I used painters tape. I DO NOT recommend this. Use MUCH stronger tape PLUS another pair of hands for filling the flower pot. Make sure your pipe is centered over the drainage hole. 

Step 2 (part 2) you want to make sure your PVC pipe is standing up nice and level in all directions so that your umbrella later on will not be cock-eyed. I taped my mini level to my pipe and did it that way. 

STEP 3 - mix up your quickrete with water until it is the consistency of peanut butter. Use a LITTLE water at a time... It can turn into concrete soup with only a few too many drops of water. 

STEP 4 - Fill your pots around the pole. This is where the extra set of hands and really effing strong tape will come into play. I did not have extra hands, nor really effing strong tape, so my pipes moved as soon as I piled in the concrete. I had to reestablish the level and plumb of the pipes. Not fun. 

STEP 5 - smooth out your concrete and allow the flower pots to set for a few days. Then, just plop in your umbrella, and there you have it! Also, make sure to clean up your mess so your wonderful, loving, supportive husband doesn't get mad at you for playing in concrete when you really have no idea what you are doing :)

Step 6 - after your concrete has set up and hardened, make sure to drill some drainage holes in the PVC or in the side of your pot, especially if the concrete doesn't reach the top of the pot.
All there is left to do is put in your umbrella!

My concrete does not reach the top of the pot, so I plan on filling them with potting soil and flowers. 

So for $13, I got gorgeous, mobile, 65 lb umbrella stands. That makes for a happy yardener. 

4.09.2014

Yarden Happenings

Today was GORGEOUS! I finished writing a paper and then got my butt outside to do some work on the yarden. I continued cleaning out the back of the yard. I had to empty the compost of all the branches and dead plants before I could dismantle it, and then I had to figure out what to do with all the crap. It wasn't very windy today (odd for April, like really odd) so I broke everything down and had a little fire in the pit. I'm not sure exactly why, but holy crap, that was the worst smelling fire I have ever had. Even the branches I burned smelled like garbage. It was gross, and I kinda felt bad for my neighbors. Only a little bit though...
This junk all got burned. And it was gross. 
This is the cement pad now where the compost and a planting bed was... Still kinda is...  I need to sift out the compost and add it to the beds. Also finish tilling out that broken down bed... I think I am going to put a little table and chairs back here for the summer once its all cleaned up.
View of the back now that stuff is coming down and out. Those pallets will go to good use in our basement
In that picture above, you can see the back fence. My lovely, stupendous, and oh-so-freakin-friendly neighbor decided to put up a teeny tiny fence blocking his yard from the little path between my fence and the neighbors garage. This will prevent me from traveling to the direct back yard neighbor's yard to weed wack and take care of that area so it doesn't become all overgrown and grow into my yarden. So my solution for now will be to take down the old crappy wire fencing (taking it to scrap for some cash) and then I will be able to maintain my yarden and his yard, and while I'm at at, I will just take care of everyone's yard... Ok Tiny Gardener, get off your high horse... I gotta take some aerial shots so you guys can really see what I'm talking about.

Anyways, the Spring cleanup is coming along nicely, and I can't wait for the next task... I need to get the tarp off the chicken run and get that all tilled out and level again. The girls have really dug out some serious holes, and it just all looks awful. Plus, there is STILL a garden bed in there that needs tilled out... Oy!

I can't wait for you to see what I have in store next. I'll be posting a new tutorial on making your own patio umbrella stands! Woot!

How is your garden cleanup coming? Anyone else taking out beds and replacing them?

3.28.2014

FINALLY Got Some Gardening In

Yesterday, the weather let up long enough for me to get out in the Yarden and get my peas planted. I knew I had to get 'er done, or I would planting would be delayed another week. It rained all last night, will snow tomorrow, and I did NOT want to be tilling a mud pit. So it was quite a process. The peas went into a bed that has constant issues, for whatever unknown reason.... The dirt in this bed is always like, 6 inches lower than the rest of the beds, has a ton of rocks, and has weeds galore. So here is how it went down:
First, I had to till this bed... The dirt is SUPER hard and compact, and full of rocks. It was soooo much freakin fun. 

Then I took apart this broken bed to till out the dirt and fill in my crappy bed... Also a ton of fun... It was still partially frozen. This bed is going for a few good reasons... First, the wood is all split. Second, the chickens will have a new home in the back of the yard next summer, so I need to start getting it cleaned up back there. The compost will also be going away this summer... I am no good at it, and everything that would go into the compost goes to the chickens anyway, so two birds with one stone so to say. 
Here is the bed all filled in and planted. In addition to more soil, each half of the bed got a bag of sand tilled in. Oh yeah, that stuff was partially frozen also. 

Here is the broken bed SUPER broken. I will till out the rest of this dirt to fill in other beds, flower pots, and my cucumber planters (which I have yet to build.)

ALSO! I got some seeds sown in trays. The tray in the upper part of the picture has 18 kales and 18 petunias. I wrapped them in plastic wrap to try and keep in lots of moisture and heat to get them sprouted. I have no idea if that will help or not. I have never been successful at growing flowers from seed, but I would really like to try because they get expensive! The lower tray contains my eggplant, brussel sprouts, and various kinds of peppers. I am also really going to concentrate some energy into pepper production this year. Last year was a TOTAL FAIL when it came down to my peppers... So we have been without our favorite BBQ sauce for over a year, and we are running low on hot sauce.

All I have left to do for now is to get my seed shelf wrapped in plastic, hang the lights, and get everything plugged in and running. Shouldn't take too long, I just need an extra set of hands!


3.03.2014

Let the Planting Countdown Begin!

Ok, I've had enough of my negative-about-the-weather self, so lets look on the bright side! The sun is shining today, even though it will only be a high of about 10. But that's OK!

In exactly 14 days, the peas are going in the ground! Woooo!!! And 1 week after that, most of my veggies will get started on the shelf! Woo!!

Finally, there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel! Do any of you guys have a countdown going? Or are you even lucky enough to have started planting already?

**PS** If anyone requested seeds from my stock, other than Carolyn whose address I already have, please email me your address so I can get the seeds out to you ~~> mytinygarden@gmail.com

2.27.2014

Still Cold, Still Whining About It

Yep. Its still cold. And we are all still whining about it. What is it about complaining that makes us feel better? Ok, maybe it doesn't make you better, but it sure does me.

Lately I can imagine myself going outside and yelling at the cold and snow, but I resist because I am sure the neighbors would have me committed. Last week when we had a few days in the 40's we were all jumping with joy at the ability to walk outside and not nearly fall on our rears because of the perpetual ice. Man, that was AWESOME!

Today, we are back in the single digits to maybe teens, the chickens are shut in again until at least tomorrow, and the dog is giving me the "You want me to seriously go outside? Are you insane?" look every time I grab the leash.

It is supposed to get up to the mid 30's on Saturday, so I will be outside cleaning the coop and making the girls nice and comfy for the next round of awfulness, due in on Sunday morning with many inches of snow and unrelenting cold.

Keep warm people. Good luck. 

2.20.2014

Tiny Gardener-1, Possum-0

Yesterday, I had my dad and sister over for lunch and Husband was also home for the day. So, as we were enjoying our homemade pasta, Husband ran outside because he heard a ruckus in the chicken coop. He came back in and said, we have a possum!

So I flew out of my chair, ran outside in my slippers, yelled at the thing, clapped my hands loud, and what did the possum do? Stared at me. The thing just sat on the fence and stared at me. So Husband ran across the street to get the neighbors pellet gun and the possum and I continued our staring contest. 

Husband got back, ran upstairs in the house to get a better angle on the overgrown rat, and shot him. Well OK. He missed the first time, then hit the thing in the butt. Did the possum even get scared? Nope. He just hung out and lurked slowly (actually, he looked drunk or drugged or something) across the fence until he reach the rain barrels. Then Husband got him in the neck, and s-l-o-w-l-y (I am really talking slow motion here) fell from the fence and died. You really should know that the whole time I was perched ready to go with my garden digger to stab the thing and defend my chickens. Just so you have a good humorous visual of where I was during the encounter. 

So anyways, after he fell, Husband came outside, went around the garage and gave him one more shot just to make sure the possum wasn't, well, playing possum. So THEN we had to dispose of the thing. GROSS. Did I mention that he fell into like, 3 feet of snow? So yeah, I was the one who had to dig him out, and get him disposed of. 

So moral of the story? Possums are weird and huge and scary and gross and not completely nocturnal apparently, and they will eat your chickens. We didn't lose any yesterday, and now we have a pellet gun of our very own so we will be prepared. 

Just as a side note, I really think there was something wrong with this possum. The way he was moving, or not moving, was really alarming. If I were ambitious enough, I would take him somewhere and have him tested, but I'm not. But if you are one of those who will get pissed that we defended our chickens, then please don't comment. But I really think this guy had to go, not just for the chickens sake, but possibly his own. 

1.31.2014

Seed Swap

Is any one out there interested in doing a seed swap?? I am interested in getting my hands on some interesting herbs and anything that isn't listed below. If you have good stuff, put it in the comments or shoot me an email at    mytinygarden at gmail dot com

I received my order from Baker Creek and realized that, woah, I have a crap ton of seeds. My pride and joy, though, will be the 1/2 pound of Oregon Sugar Snap Peas. I am going to plant every Single ONE because snap peas are my absolute favorite vegetable on the ENTIRE planet! Happy Day!

Here is a list of stuff I can spare and split up:
      *Special Note* Some of these seeds may be a couple years old, so I make no guarantees. Nearly all my seeds come from Baker Creek, so you can look up descriptions there.
Beans
- red seeded asparagus
- chinese long bean

Broccoli
- early purple sprouting
- calabrese

Cabbage
- brunswick
-perfection drumhead savoy

Eggplant
- listada di gandia (I already have some ready to send you Carolyn)

Onions
- alisa craig
- noordhollandse bloedrode
- yellow of parma

Peppers
- Craigs Grande jalepeno
- cayenne, long thin
- sweet king of the north
- poblano

Tomatoes
- black cherry
- chadwick cherry
- riesentraube cherry
- dr wyche's yellow
- cherokee purple
- marglobe supreme
- comstock slice and sauce
- amish paste

1.27.2014

Eggs... Refrigeration Not Required

Ok... So I watched this thing on PBS the other day about the Shaker Society of way back when and they were talking about how they were really self-sustaining communities, they had gardens, they had chickens and pigs and goats, etc. The thing that really caught my attention was a simple reminder that DUH these people did not have electricity and therefore did not have refrigerators. So what the heck did they do with their eggs???

They KEPT THEM ON THE COUNTER! Oh. My. GAWD. Now, before you go insane, lets review some basic chicken-y stuff... Chickens lay eggs for reproduction. Duh. Now, a hen has natural defenses for protecting her eggs (and I don't mean from predators, but I hear they can become real nasty bitches) from bacteria and viruses, etc. The hen places a "bloom" over the egg which dries in mere seconds (when its not 5 below outside) and this bloom has natural antibacterial properties which prevent the porous shell from absorbing bad stuff and making the baby chick inside die. Now, my hens don't have the luxury of getting laid so they do not need to go all broody on their eggs, so we eat them! That's why we have chickens! 

So why do we, as Americans, refrigerate our eggs? Because the USDA and the FDA and all those government agencies who control what you put in your mouth require that eggs go through a washing process in which they are washed in chlorine and water, and some cases bleached. The removing of the bloom is what actually requires the eggs to be refrigerated because nasty bugs have a tendency to grow slower in a cold environment. Not to mention, the eggs you are buying in the store are many many days, if not WEEKS old by the time they get to you, so yeah, they definitely need refrigeration. 

(Here is something pretty cool) In Europe (!) it is ILLEGAL to wash eggs before selling them due to the washing removing the natural properties of the eggs. I remembered this when I was in the UK and went to a store and found eggs ON THE SHELF. Like, next to the bread and sugar. NOT in the refrigerator. 

So why in the heck don't we hear about all kinds of nasty salmonella outbreaks in Europe due to eggs? I will remain not on my soap box about how totally disgusting, dirty, and effed up our food production is and just continue. SO! Because in order for an egg to be contaminated with salmonella, it must come in contact with it. First, the egg may be contaminated from the hen directly if she is in fact, infected. If you keep a healthy flock with a clean coop and clean laying areas, then they should remain clean and healthy. Secondly, the egg may be contaminated if it comes in contact with contaminated feces or something of the sort (or in the nasty conditions battery hens are kept or the nasty conditions of the processing facilities). Again, if you keep a clean and healthy coop and flock, you should be fine. 

And when you bake, don't the best chefs always tell you to allow your ingredients to come to room temp before you begin, including your eggs? There is a whole community of people out there who proclaim that a cold egg cannot be properly cooked. 

So I if you have chickens, the choice is up to you really. I am going to go against convention and keep my eggs on the counter and wash them thoroughly before using (just to be sure really). We go through about a dozen in 10 or 12 days, and that is WELL within the shelf life of a fresh, homegrown egg. And if we die, then I guess I was wrong, but I don't see that happening. 

So what do you do? Refrigerate or not?

1.22.2014

I'm Pretty Sure the Chickens are Hating Life


Well, it is cold. Again. I mean, I know it is winter, but COME ON! When it finally gets to around our "normal" temps of 20's-30's we are going to feel like it is summer! These temps of like, 6, are really starting to get to me. Walking the dog makes my eyeballs freeze up for crying out loud. If you live in a colder climate than mine, then you deserve a freaking medal!

The chickens will be shut in yet again until Friday (its supposed to be 20!), at which time they can be out without me freaking about the potential for frostbite. And then they will be shut in again because it is supposed to go back down into the single digits for days on end.

Truth be told, I don't count on the weather forecast more than 2 or 3 days out, but I am planning ahead. Friday I will shoo the girls out of the coop and clean it all out and put down a nice deep layer of fresh bedding (shavings AND hay next time around) and make sure they are all set to be bedded down again.

I am sure that my mother is doing her happy dance because I am putting our new sheets on our bed (Christmas gift from said mother). The sheets are literally made of fleece. FLEECE sheets. We have slept on them at her house and HATED them because in my mother's house, the temp NEVER goes below 70. In our house, the temp never goes ABOVE 70. And when we are sleeping, it never goes above 61. The problem is that when you are sleeping in fleece and it is hot in the house, you sweat. And when you sweat in fleece, you don't dry off. However, when your house is an igloo (like mine) the sheets are actually quite PERFECT! So I am sure that my mother is doing her "I told you you would love them! I told you so!" happy dance. So thanks Mom, thanks for the awesome sheets.

Now, if only I could wrap the chickens up in fleece and make them warmer.