Getting Ready for Winter

The Mad Dash to Prepare For Winter

As is customary for me, I get a bit lazy in late summer and put off as many tasks as I can until it gets too cold to do them comfortably.  At this point, I still have to do them, but curse myself for wallowing in my laziness and tell myself I’ll never do this again.

Well, guess what?

It’s that time of the year again.

Preparing for Winter

I’m hoping my list looks worse than it will actually be:

  • Drain hoses and put them away
  • Wash and put up the storm windows
  • Clean screen windows and put them away
  • Clean rain gutters
  • Collect seeds
  • Pull plants
  • Cut back perennials
  • Spread compost
  • Mulch leaves
  • Fence around the raspberries
  • Dig dirt for seedlings
  • Prepare rain water for freezing
  • Clean the garage

It looks like I could do it in a couple of days (with good weather).

Cleaning the garage might be the sticking point.  It’s an unpleasant job even in nice weather, but it would be nice to be able to have the car in the garage for once!  We’ll see how that goes. 😉

Photos From the Back Yard

Grow Your Own Birdseed

Anyone who feeds birds black oil sunflower seeds knows that good seeds end up on the ground.  It’s obvious by the big piles of shells under the feeder; you know all of those shells haven’t been cracked open.  It’s even more obvious when a field of sunflowers starts growing around your feeder!

Photos From the Back Yard

Volunteer plants.  You have no work invested and sometimes you’re surprised by what comes up!

Any sunflowers that start growing, are usually allowed to grow around here.  The bees are attracted to them and the birds don’t mind the shelter they provide.  This year, I’ve noticed that the Goldfinches are really drawn to the sunflowers.  It’s been a lot of fun watching them try to get a good footing on the flower as they attempt to dislodge a plump seed to devour.  Bunnies wander around under the flowers, eating seeds that have been dropped.  The squirrels usually sit on top of the flower and ride it in the wind, like a bucking bronco.  It’s pretty cute.  My husband says it’s like a Disney movie in the back yard!

Besides the free entertainment and the micro eco-system it provides,  I’m guessing there are at least 1000 seeds on most of the heads, so there’s not a lot of waste.

When the seeds look fully developed, you can let them dry on the plant or cut the heads and dry them.  The birds and squirrels will usually get to them first, so again, not a lot of work involved.  In the fall, before the frost, I pull the plants and strip the leaves off the stems.  The leaves go into the compost pile and the stems can be shredded for mulch.

If I had more room, I would take a few handfuls of sunflowers and plant a small field.  It seems like a good investment…1 seed into 1000!  🙂

Photos From the Back Yard

Photos From The Back Yard

Photos From the Back Yard

Adorable gray squirrels!  They keep us entertained.

Photos From the Back Yard

Drying my garden gloves.  They’ve got holes on both sides of the fingers.

Photos From the Back Yard

Lots of volunteer Sunflowers this year!

Photos From the Back Yard

Love the patterns the seeds make.

Photos From the Back Yard

Lots of Hops starting to form!

Photos From the Back Yard

My grapevine is focusing on world domination.

Photos From the Back Yard

Parsnip seeds are getting ready to harvest.  I don’t like parsnips very much, though 😛

Photos From the Back Yard

Kind of a tangled mess!

Photos From the Back Yard

Love these huge flowers!

Photos From the Back Yard

Raspberries have been delicious and prolific this year! 🙂

Photos From the Back Yard

Waiting for the Brandywines to ripen!

Photos From the Back Yard

Swamp Weed.  Butterflies and bees love it!

Uses Egg Cartons in Your Garden

Use Egg Cartons in Your Garden

About a year ago, I started saving egg cartons with the thought that I would maybe have chickens someday and would need the cartons.

Uses Egg Cartons in Your Garden

It didn’t occur to me that the cartons would accumulate rather quickly and I would end up looking like I’m hoarding them. 😛  It’s a little embarrassing.

Fast forward to now…..summer is in full swing and like most summers, the weeds are winning.

I’ve been reading about No-till farming and Lasagne Gardening and they sound like fantastic ideas!

So, here comes the idea with the egg cartons.  Possible future chickens are going to waaaaaay in the future, so it’s better to use the cartons now and I don’t see why the egg cartons wouldn’t work for blocking out the weeds.

I have a circular flower garden where I grow a variety of Sedums and a Clematis.  Since I started feeding the birds with black oil sunflowers, (the feeder is right beside the garden) the sedums are struggling and thistles have taken over.  I wonder if there are some thistle seeds in with the sunflowers?

Uses Egg Cartons in Your Garden

I weeded the garden and laid down egg cartons and put the pulled weeds on top (being careful to pull off the flowers first).

Uses Egg Cartons in Your Garden

This fall I’ll add leaves and if I can get some straw, I’ll add that too.  Keeping my fingers crossed that this will work, but I may have to move my Sedums and do something else with this garden.

That’s the cool thing about gardens…they are a work in progress.  Always evolving!

I’m also trying this technique in the veggie garden, around the squash.  This fall, I’m planning on laying cardboard over the whole veggie garden, plus adding a bunch of leaves.  More on that this fall!

Uses Egg Cartons in Your Garden

Is anybody else trying this?  How is it working for you?

I like the idea of the cardboard breaking down and everything that’s used, eventually being nourishment for the soil.  Much better than weed fabric, plus you save a lot of money!

Weed fabric is about $105.00 for 750 square feet.  Cardboard and egg cartons you can get for free!

MONEY SAVED: $105.00!!


Enjoying Simple Pleasures

Every morning, I like to take about half an hour to walk around the back yard and fill my senses with nature’s wonderful bounty.  Walking through the grass, getting dew on my shoes, listening to the birds sing their cheerful songs, seeing the sun rise above the tree tops, smelling the sweet perfume of blossoms as they dance in the breeze…..what a beautiful way to start the day!

I want to share some of the things I enjoying looking at every morning.


My Clematis is blooming like crazy!

Antique Enamelware

Bought some enamelware at a farm auction, recently.  (Still have the sunburn)  It belonged to the family of a life-long friend.  I’ll treasure these pieces.


Waiting for the raspberries to ripen!

Parsnip Seeds

Tenacious parsnips that survived a brutal winter and went to seed this year.

New Grape Vine

One of two new grape vines I propagated over the winter.

Hops Vine

New hops vine, from a division of an old plant.  Love the smell of hops!

Grapes on the Vine

This is a fantastic year for grapes!  Can hardly wait to make jelly!!!!


I have tons of Yarrow.  Surprising what one plant can do, given enough time.

Mock Orange

Mock Orange.  Love the spicy scent!

Mock Orange

Love Mock Orange so much, I started another plant from the seed of the big one!


I love the spicy/sweet smell of Petunias!  I always start them from seed saved from the previous year.


A few of the volunteer sunflowers in the yard.  I feed the birds black oil sunflowers and there are always new plants popping up every year.  The birds and squirrels love them!


Honeysuckle and Hostas!  The honeysuckle creates a little tunnel that Heidi (our dog) likes to hide under.

Hope you enjoyed my simple pleasures.  More to come later  🙂

Use Weeds for Mulch

Put Your Weeds To Work For You

“‘In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

Benjamin Franklin

As a gardener, I would revise this to….”Nothing is certain except death, taxes and weeds.”

The sun is gonna shine,

The rain is gonna fall,

The weeds are gonna grow.

It’s that simple.

If the weeds you are pulling haven’t gone to seed yet, you can put them to work for you in a couple different ways.

  1. Throw them in your compost pile.
  2. Use them as a thick kill mulch.

The second one is what I’m focusing on today.

We have a fenced in back yard and a dog (Heidi) who loves to run the parameter of the fence, keeping a close watch for marauding squirrels and rabbits.

I keep the fence line free for her to use as a dog run, with my gardens coming within about a foot of the fence.  She’s trying to wear a natural pathway between the gardens and fence, but there are always weeds popping up and not enough room to mow.  It finally dawned on me that I can be using those weeds as a kill mulch for the pathways!   And…it’s free!

(An important thing to remember about using weeds as mulch, is to be sure to pull the weeds before they go to seed.  Otherwise, you will just be re-seeding!)

Put Your Weeds to Work for You

This way, I can keep the weeds from growing in the pathways and next Spring I can put down some straw and wood chips to make nice looking walkways around the yard!

In our town, we can get free wood chips from the city, so that keeps costs down, too!

Using weeds for mulch

You can see some dried weeds underneath the freshly pulled ones.  I think a couple layers will take care of most of the weeds.

A big roll of weed control fabric is $39.98.  Weeds are free.

MONEY SAVED $ 39.98!!

Urban Homesteading

Urban Homesteading and Self Reliance

To me, Urban Homesteading is simply homesteading on a small scale.  Growing your own food and living a simple lifestyle that is respectful of the land you live on.

Urban Homesteading

That’s what I have been doing for the last few years.

About 4 years ago, my daughter urged me to start a vegetable garden.  She thought it would be fun to grow some veggies and persuaded me to allocate a section of our back yard to our new endeavor.  We dug up a sizable chunk of the backyard and planted our pumpkins, zucchinis, tomatoes, basil, peppers, beans, peas and carrots.

Together, we enjoyed watching the garden grow and delighted in each opportunity to pick a harvest.  I really owe her a lot for encouraging me to plant that garden, because something clicked.  Something inside me said “yes, this makes sense…this is what I need to do”.

From that point forward, I have enlarged the garden every year, amended the soil, studied gardening and homesteading and have really felt comfortable and at peace.

Urban Homesteading

I look at urban homesteading as practice for whenever the opportunity presents itself for homesteading on a larger scale.  Self reiance is something I was raised with.  I learned canning, cooking and sewing from my mom and grandma.  I also learned little bits of Do-It-Yourself skills from my dad, by helping him with projects.  Our homestead was a daily lesson in simple living and it has served me well.  Skills are something that can never be taken away.

Urban Homesteading

From a practical standpoint, these skills are very valuable:

  • Growing your own food is healthier for you
  • Gardening is good exercise and you get lots of Vitamin D
  • You save lots of money being able to make things or fix things yourself
  • If there is ever a zombie apocalypse, you’ll be a very valuable person with all those mad skills! 😉
How to keep a garden journal, garden journals

Garden Journals: Keeping Track of Triumphs and Failures

How to keep a garden journal, garden journalsDear Diary,

I started a garden journal to save time and money by keeping track of my gardening triumphs and failures.  I am also including my garden plans, plant rotations and gardening discoveries.

By keeping a garden journal, I will be honing my gardening skills, keeping track of my favorite seed companies and documenting my favorite plant varieties.

I’m keeping it simple, using a composition notebook that a local thrift store had on sale for 10 cents and making columns with headings; filling it in as the summer progresses.  Here’s what it looks like.

garden journal, gardening

garden journal, gardening

How to Make a Garden Journal

Here are the things I find essential to keep track of, but you may have others:

  • Crop
  • Seed Company
  • Yield
  • Comments

This was my journal from last year and my comments indicated how the plants grew for me.  We also experienced a drought last summer.  (Which I need to add to my journal!)

Lots of lessons learned that will help save money down the road!

Fish Fertilizer, home made fish fertilizer

Gone Fishin’: How to Make Your Own Fish Fertilizer

How to Make Your Own Fish FertilizerHow to Make Fish Fertilizer


Fish fertilizer is fairly easy to make.


There are 6 steps, ranging from easy to queasy, but in the end, you will  have a super food that your plants will LOVE!


Here are the steps:


  1. Dig some worms, then grab your fishing rod and a bucket with a tight fitting lid. *
  2. When you get to your favorite lake, put some lake water in your bucket, catch 3 or 4 fish (Sunfish work well) and add them to the water in your bucket.  If you catch some weeds, like I usually do, put those in too.
  3. Enjoy the rest of the day fishing, listening to the birds and feeling the sun and breeze on your face.
  4. Go home with your fish bucket.
  5. Here comes the queasy part….grab a hatchet or axe and chop up your fish.  I take the fish out of the bucket place them on the ground, near my compost heap and chop away.  Once you get past the first fish, the rest won’t seem so bad…..until you get splashed with fish guts.  Might want to wear goggles.  I’m just saying.
  6. Shovel your chopped fish back into your bucket.


*If you don’t fish, find someone who does and ask for their left-over fish guts.  Yes, they will look at you like you’re crazy, but carry on.


Now we’re ready for the Fish Fertilizer Recipe


  • Lake water (about a gallon)
  • 3 or 4 fresh chopped fish
  • Browns…leaves, dead grass, sawdust (enough to soak up the water)
  • Molasses…about 1 cup (helps the mix ferment and keeps the stink down)
  • Epsom Salt…2 tablespoons to add some magnesium
  • Let it ferment for about 1 month, stirring or shaking the mix every 3 days.
  • After a month, it will be ready to use as a tea.  To make a tea, put 1 part fertilizer to 5-6 parts water in a bucket or watering can.  Let this set for about a week, stirring every day.  When you are ready to apply the fish fertilizer tea, water your plants a bit first, (just in case the tea is a little too strong) and then apply the fertilizer to the base of your plants.


After that, just set back and watch your plants grow!


You’ll be glad you went fishing in order to Make Your Own Fish Fertilizer and you’ll have saved a lot of money!  32 ounces of fish fertilizer sells for about $15.00.  You’ll have a gallon (128 ounces) for the cost of a cup and molasses and some Epsom salt!   Money Saved $59.50!