No Rototiller Required: Prepping the Garden

Boy, did I have no idea what we were getting into this weekend prepping the raised bed. I went out there to do a quickie till job, and well, couldn’t get my shovel down an inch. Bad times. After poking around a little more I realized that I had a super-ultra-maxi root mat on my hands. An hour of shoveling only to clear a 3×1 area? No gracias. So I called in the troops and Mike and Oats joined me outside. When I asked for help, Mike suspected that it was a thinly veiled ploy to get out of tilling, which, admittedly, I have been known to do. Then he went out there. Ha! Told ya, babe!

Why was it so thick with roots? No idea. I didn’t till in the fall, but I think I remember at least turning the soil last spring. Maybe I didn’t do it as thoroughly as I thought and just turned the top few inches, which filled in during the summer. Bummer. But now it was time to face the piper, and Rototillers were $50 to rent for 4 hours. Wasn’t gonna happen. Thank goodness Mike thought of using the reciprocating saw to cut the ground into manageable chunks. He cut along the orange lines in this picture:

(Don’t worry, we removed the golf club trellis shortly after this pic.) He repeated the grid for the middle and right-most sections of the garden. Thank goodness the chunks came out like slices of cake with little more than a nudge from the shovel. Want to see this incredible, no good root mat already? Check it:

Those chunks are DENSE, just straight roots that came up whole. After we got half of the mat up we realized that taking them out removed more than half of the soil volume. Cha-ching. I’d much rather spend that money on plants. So in an attempt to not have to trade Poatsie to fill the bed with soil, we took each root chunk and teased it apart while knocking it with a hammer. It kind of worked!

We definitely got a significant amount back, which was good news. We rinsed and repeated for the other side and then ventured to the store for some soil. We went for 8 cubic feet, which we roughly calculated would be enough.

Remember how I’ve mentioned that I’m kind of impatient at DIY and projects around the house? Well it cam back to bite me in the nose this time.

I read online that good raised bed soil should be 1/3 compost, 1/3 peat and 1/3 topsoil. Well, I figured we had plenty of peat and topsoil already since that’s what we originally filled it with two summers ago, so this time I was gonna up the compost factor this time by buying 4 cubic feet of it and 4 cubic feet of a topsoil/peat mix. Um, guys, I bought manure instead of compost thinking “How could they possibly sell uncomposted manure?? That doesn’t seem safe to use on edibles!”  Well, they can (and it’s not unsafe). And it had the sweet benefit of being $1 cheaper per bag, so I just grabbed it. We loaded up the car with the soil, did another errand, and came back to find Oats nose deep in manure! I was having flashbacks to our mousecapades from earlier in the month!

Yeah, so after we got Oats out of the goods and spread it around the garden, the second clue that this had been a misstep hit us squarely in the ol’ factory, which apparently got Oats’ appetite up. Lest we forget that dogs are not people, he was pulling on the end of his line to get a bite of the chickeny goodness.

WHOA did it smell. Like poop. Lovely, I know. I hope you’re not eating. And if you are, sorry! So yeah, even after leaving it a day, it smelled something fierce. In researching how to get rid of manure smell, I also found out that the nutrients in it are too concentrated and can burn your plants. That sealed it, we couldn’t leave it. It wasn’t fair to our neighbors! And I wouldn’t have any plants to speak of, which is the opposite of cool.

So, I scooped up all the manure and piled it on a tarp.

That smile says, “I can’t believe I just bought 160 lbs of poo. Crap.” Thank goodness we had some pallets on hand for a compost bin we were planning so Mike could whip up a quickie box for us to let this manure do its compost thing before we ever touch it again. (Sorry, I was planning to blog about building the compost bin, but in the fray of poop removal, we didn’t stop to take pics.) The old bin is on the right, and the poo new bin is on the left. Surprisingly, all heaped up like that it doesn’t smell.

Hallelujah! It was contained! Now, I totally transplanted everything and set seeds out in the manure. It all had to come up, so I carefully scooped up the seedlings, recovered the onion sets, and said goodbye to the seeds I had so carefully sown the day before. It was worth it though, ’cause now we won’t be called The Sewage Stall by our neighbors, which is always a plus. While Mike built the bin, I ran out for some soil more appropriate for mixed company. I just bought garden variety (ha.) garden soil figuring that there was no way I was going to get all of the manure up so it would still add some nourishment. Here is the the garden with some fabulously non-offensive soil in it.

And that’s the current configuration. The artichokes, kale, and Brussels are all transplants. The onions are sets (basically just tiny onions that grown and multiply through the summer), and the rest are seeds. This is what I call the ‘cold season’ setup, even though it is 90 today, it’s really supposed to be 60, not that I’m complaining. I’ve never had much luck with cold crops, so this round is mostly just a ‘let me see what grows’ kind of thing. Cross your fingers for me! After all that, I can proudly say that garden is prepped for the season. Score!

So, now for the big question: Have you ever bought unprocessed, unadulterated manure, by accident?!?

State of the Garden 4/9/12

Here are a few snaps of the current state of the Folksy Home garden. With temperatures rising, my indoor seedlings are starting to outgrow their small confines and are looking for loose soil to spread out in. My raised bed, however, is in no way ready to accept them. Besides the fact that it’s still dropping to the 30s at night, the whole thing is basically a biomat of entangled roots. I used a shovel to break it up last week, and after an hour, I had only loosened a 1×3 area. I’m going to have to get creative with that, because the kale and the Brussells sprouts have already missed their date with the great outdoors. The garden is perpetually a work in progress. On to the photos!

**I, like the rest of the world, am having an Instagram love affair. Please forgive me for my trespasses (too soon after Easter?), but anything that gives my photos a semblance of artsiness is right up my alley.**

Left to right, top to bottom: 1) Raddishes! The first seeds planted outdoors to pop up their heads. 2) Quick arrangement of birch branches. 3) The biomat that is our raised bed. It’s gonna take some work to get that untangled. Anyone have a Rototiller they’re willing to lend? 4) Pansies in an old watering can. 5) Oatsie enjoying the wind. 6) Lilacs getting ready. 7) The cherry blossoms at their peak. 8) Bleeding hearts in full bloom. 9) My flat of seedlings hardening off outside.

Spring’s renewal is in full gear here in Bucks County, and there is no better example than in our fine yard. What does spring look like in your yard this week?

Of Mice and Men

It started with some black “sprinkles” in the cabinet one morning.  I cleaned and disinfected, no big deal. Then there were some by the dog bowl the next morning, again I went with the wipe and the disinfectant and added a promise to clean up more thoroughly.  Oh, but then the sprinkles appeared on the stove and the counter one more time and it was on. This reign of terror had to come to an end.

We have a pretty hard and fast no-kill policy here at FH. I think the only exceptions are mosquitoes actively biting, or wasp nests. You really can’t mess around with that kind of bite.  The rest of the regular insects get scooped up and thrown outside with a kind of, “You don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here” mentality. But this sprinkle machine? This mouse that was crawling up and down our cabinets and counters and leaving us ‘presents’ to find in the morning (it gives me the willies just thinking about it!)?  How do you scoop up that guy and throw him outside?

I didn’t even know that they made no-kill mouse traps, but a frenzied trip to True Value proved otherwise: $19 later and I had the ‘Tomcat’ no kill trap. A little expensive, but it was the only live trap option there, and I needed this thing caught, fast. Besides, it has a ‘Sleek, modern design’.  How could I say no to that?

The trap is a set-it-and-forget-it type deal, and that night we placed the trap on the counter with a cartoon-esque wedge of hard Parmesan cheese in it. The hubs couldn’t resist the too cute imagery of it, and I have to admit, catching a mouse with a wedge of cheese is kind of beyond quaint in a weird way. Or maybe we’re just weird. Wedid add a tablespoon of water to the trap because the box said that mice can dehydrate easily. So I guess yes, we’re weird. Anywho, the next morning we still had sprinkles, but no mouse in the trap. Blech!

Of course we weren’t giving up, so the next night we added some peanut butter near the entrance and swirled the cheese in it. By the time the sun came up, we had our little friend. Looks just like on the box!

Well, catching was the easy part. Where the heck do you release a mouse? If we let him go in our yard, I think he somehow would have found a way back to the cushy luxury suite otherwise known as our kitchen. So what did we do? We took him across state lines, of course! There’s a great piece of woods across the river in Jersey where we take Oats for walks on the weekends, so we packed up the dog and Mousie in the Cherokee and headed east. Here is Mousie making like Stewart Little and forging the Delaware.

And here he is on the top of Goat Hill. We thought that patch of brush would be a cozy spot for a mouse to make a new home.

He took a little coaxing to jump out, but once he did he ran right for the bushes. With Oats right on his tail. Yeah, oops! FH and I were intently watching his first steps back to freedom and the pup must have caught a glimpse and lunged towards the tiny guy…thank goodness he was on a leash and I could pull him back or we would have had a very sad end to our release party.  Mousie made it to the brush, and we no longer have chocolate sprinkles on our counters. Win-win!

Have you ever held a catch-and-release party? Or are we just crazy town?

Ten for March

**Every month I do a monthly round up/diary-type post highlighting what we did that didn’t make it on the blog. I haven’t found a firm format yet, but this month I’m trying out a ‘top ten’ deal. We’ll see if it sticks ;) Let me know your thoughts in the comments!**

1. The first flowers of the season: crocus! I was so happy to see them, I had to take a photo.

2. Oatsie in his St. Patrick’s best. The hat says, “I’m a wee bit Irish.” Ha, gets me every time.

3. St. Patrick’s day in Massachusetts. We went out with Mike’s family for some green beer and bag pipe music. The waitress who took this pic wasn’t so well-versed in iPhone photography, as you can see.

4 & 6. Seedlings! Signs of life! These guys are on the window sill in our bathroom. The top is a Lufa seedling (yes, the shower scrubby things!) and the bottom are some Brussels sprouts reaching towards the light.

5. Ceviche! The best dad in the world, aka my dad, and I got Peruvian take out food while I was down in Florida. I could go for some more of that right about now.

7. Baby Bella! Meet Bella, my dad and Liz’s new puppy! She is the most precious thing, very sweet, cuddly, and SMALL…4 lbs small! I wish there was something in that photo for scale so you could appreciate it!

8 & 9. My mom’s backyard. It totally has a rustic retreat/Carribean getaway feel and when you’re sitting in the pool back there it’s hard to have a care in the world.

10. He’s just so smart! Received this in the middle of the day while in Florida from FH accompanying this text: “I have a new tank finding assistant.” Love that dog.

In other news, this little collage is my first ever hand at Photoshop! I have the new CS6 beta, and well, this took me longer than I care to admit to put together. I watched an exhaustive amount of Youtube tutorials, and I think I’m finally getting the basics. Fun stuff!

So remember March’s goal: start p90x? Well, mission accomplished! We have started! Though I haven’t been as thorough as I’d like to be (doing an hour and a half workout after getting home at 7:30pm just doesn’t happen), FH has been whole hog, though, and has already made visible progress!

April’s Goal: Finish school! I know this is kind of a cop out, but really: one. more. month. Lots of papers and projects, so that will take up  plenty of my non-work, non-class time! Happy April!

February 2012: In Between

Happy Leap Day! I love leap day, it’s just kind of cool to have a day that only happens once ever four years, feels weirdly magical. And it’s a good excuse to celebrate a small thing.

Anyway, the February wrap-up: February is such an ‘in between’ month. It’s usually cold and dreary and brings on the beginnings of that undeniable yen for warm weather, gardening and the Cape. Thank goodness it’s short and sweet! We managed to make the most out of Feb, though, and it got me looking forward to Spring. I’m ready for March. Like they say, “In like a lion, out like a lamb,”  and I’m ready for lamb season.

The month started with a sweet Valentine’s day. Beautiful flowers from the hubs, and some champagne on the in-progress bar cart when I got home from work.

I couldn’t deny gardening season any longer and tried my hand at re-growing spent scallions and drying papaya seeds. We’ll see how that germination goes. Scallions were a success!

We took lots of walks around town, and the water in the Delaware was so low we could stroll out onto the wing dam.

And finally, a few sprinklings from the month:

1. Baby Marcus and his mama (My sister, Alanna) sent me this adorbs pic of them being silly.

2. Oatsie cuddled up with his bff dog the stuffed animal.

3. Mike and I went to a Trenton Titans hockey game. Surprisingly few fights!

4. I got some new specs from warbyparker.com. I highly recommend them if you need new glasses, affordable and they do a one-for-one, like Toms shoes.

5. And last, but not least, I got an internship for next year!! Of course, I had to have a little celebration :).

Not bad for an in between month!

Now to business, March’s Monthly Goal:

Start P90X! Mike and I did the program before our wedding in August (it’s intense, but TOTALLY worth it), and, well…it’s time to do it again, if you catch my drift. Thinking about doing and actually doing it are two totally different things, however, and this month we WILL start it. Bring it on, Tony Horton!

As for February’s monthly goal, mission accomplished. I now have a pic of my mug gracing the webpage of Folksy Home. Enjoy ;)

Cabinet Organization: Check!

This week Love and Renovations put out a call to arms in the form of an Organize-a-Thon. The challenge involves organizing one area of your home each week left in February and then either post or e-mail her about it. A kind of support group for getting organized. I thought to myself, ‘I could use this!’

So, here we are on week 1, and I have shiny, clean kitchen cabinets. Score!!

Now, I know this not the before and after that TV shows are made of, but for me, and especially Folksy Husband it’s a nice step up. He nearly refused to ever go into the pots and pans shelf because he hated the deafening clanking that went on trying to get something, and forget about the tupperware shelf. When emptying the dishwasher he’d just leave the tuppers on the counter because of the potential plastic avalanche when putting them away.

Here’s a closer look at the bottom cabinet. These are un-tampered with befores, people. I’m gettin’ real:

Muuuuch better.  My process started with emptying the cabinets of everything but the food and coffee mugs. Oats helped.

Funny story, see those red-striped popcorn containers in the center of the photo above? Mike and I won them on a mystery theater train ride. All the passengers’ names were in a hat, and the MC happened to ask each of us to pick a name out. I picked Mike’s and he picked mine! Everyone on the train thought it was rigged! Good stuff. They went the way of the yard sale.

Anywho, I separated out the things that was yard-sale-bound and got to work putting stuff back. Very exciting. It was mostly trial and error, and I think the biggest help was the added space from getting rid of the unneeded. Oats did a little scouting work and gave me the all clear:

Here are a few post-organization snaps:

No more excuses to not put away tupperware!

Small electrics within an arm’s reach.

The other horror I tackled was the top shelf of the middle cabinets that is filled with baking goods. Here are the contents before: lots of plastic bags, which are not exactly organization-friendly.

After putting most dry goods in other containers like mason jars and swing-top jars that were hidden in the bottom cabinets before (using stuff and making space, double bonus!) this is what I was working with:

And the baking goods back in their place:

So, now Folksy Husband has no excuse to not put tupperware away, I don’t get hives thinking about what could be hidden in there. Win-win!

Next week, it’s gonna be a craft-cabinet extravaganza. I’m a little nervous.

(p.s. Bar Cart is coming along, and this weekend is Bar-Cart-a-Palooza oh-twelve. Mike is really getting into tricking it out. There were mid-day brain storming texts, that’s all I’m gonna say. ;) )

World of FAIL Craft: Personalized Smart Cover

(I don’t know what came over me with that World of Warcraft joke. I don’t even like video games. I was compelled by a higher power. Only logical explanation.)

Oh boy, is this a doozie.

It’s no secret that I love me some gadgets and my iPad is one of the most prized pieces in my techie quiver. I have the iPad 2, and protect it with a cute plastic case and a simple smart cover. Now, we all know those smart covers have limited color options, especially when you’re the crazy lady who waited in line to buy the iPad the first day (yes, that was me). So, I had the coolest gadget in the world covered with one of the ugliest colors ever (ok, maybe not the ugliest ever, but not my cup of tea). Yeah, clearly something had to be done.

So why not paint, right? I mean, people paint tea towels, leather purses and who knows what else, so why not a smart cover? Oh, how wrong I was.

I settled on an oh-so-chic chevron pattern and got to work carefully making a template,

which involved serious number crunching


then it was on to measuring,

and taping,

and painting,

veeeerryyy carefully

with a little help from the Poats dog and a head lamp.

Then I sealed with modge-podge to make it stick and

got it looking so so good…

I was so confident/excited about this project I took 80 photos. Seriously.

Then I used it. F to the A-I-L. Cracked City, USA. Here is how it looks after 3 weeks of use:

Now, it’s not thaaaaaat bad. It still functions as a smart cover after all. But it’s cracked, and chipping, and not exactly chic. The major place I went wrong is painting over the creases where the cover bends. I think if I had incorporated those into my design so they remained the original light blue, it would have fared much better, but who knows. The paint also may have been an issue; I used acrylic paint, and maybe if I had used something meant to have a little give I’d have an EPIC craft instead of a FAIL craft. Either way, now that the smart cover personalization seal has been broken, I’m thinking of maybe decoupaging it? We’ll just have to see how that goes.

Anyone else a resident of the World of FAIL Craft?

Bar Cart It Is!

Guys, I can’t even fake it. I am DEVASTATED about the Super Bowl last night. Ugh, I wanted the Pats SO badly. I can’t even talk about it yet, too soon. Mike is equally devastated, he’s sent me at least 12 texts this morning reiterating that fact in different ways (“I’m glum city USA.” for example). We’ll have to kick butt next year. Brady and Belichick WILL get another one. Trust.

Anyways, because my mind was so preoccupied with football this weekend, I didn’t write a post and now I’m too bummed to write one. But just as a quick peek, here are a few pics of the bar in production. (Bar Cart won!) We drew up a good (I hope!) plan, went to the big orange and picked up parts and started with the painting and sanding. I’ll be working on it this week so hopefully a final product is not too far off! Here’s what we got for now:

 Drawing up plans and putting parts together at Home Depot.

The wood slab that started it all after the first pass of sanding,

and a gratuitous Oats shot. This was going on while we watched the big game. Clearly he’s not as into the Pats as we are.

Alright, is anyone as sad about the Super Bowl as I am? I will try to stop sulking ASAP.

  • Maria @ FH

    Hi there! I'm a grad student, wife, and doting owner of the cutest dog you've ever seen. I love organizing, gardening, and taking on projects I only later find out I'm wildly too impatient for. Read along as I try to accept it's about the journey, not the destination, especially when it comes to DIY. Welcome!

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