Hey! I guest blogged over at my husband’s computer programming blog, www.griffinscs.com. Don’t worry, it’s not about coding! We’ve been working on a neat little project with a Raspberry Pi and an old GameCube, and I go over the methods we used to paint the plastic case, and a little logo mod. I hope you guys like it – here’s the finished product!
Square Foot Gardening – a Revelation August 1, 2012
During the dead of winter I was at the library with my son, in the kid’s section. I spotted a book on the reshelving pile called Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholemew. Intrigued by the picture on the front, I picked it up and glanced through. I was impressed and curious about what I saw inside. I took it home with me and waited impatiently for the growing season to begin.
Square foot gardening is a re-engineered version of the traditional home garden. It has a few major tenets:
- Gardens are built in raised boxes with a grid divided into one square foot sections
- A special soil mix fills the boxes – you don’t use existing soil, which means you can put your garden anywhere you like, with minimal digging/weeding/etc.
- The garden is located in an often-used part of your yard
- You plant only the seeds you need, and store the rest for following years
- Plants are grown in groups of 1, 4, 9, or 16 within the square divisions, not rows
Some of the major benefits of square foot gardening are space conservation (plants grow in 20% of the space required in a traditional bed garden), water conservation (only water the roots of your plant instead of the entire garden), easy upkeep (weeding takes very little time, and doesn’t need to be done often, since you’re using brand new soil), and natural crop rotation (when one square’s crop is done, replant with something else!)
I live in a fairly urban area, so my backyard is about the size of Buckingham Palace’s bathrooms. In past years, I tried to garden on the side of the house, but you know what they say – out of sight, out of mind – and by midseason, my garden would invariably be a tangle of weeds and crowded, sickly plants. Last year I attempted to do all my gardening in containers on the deck, but that failed even more miserably as I wasn’t able to keep them watered properly. I assumed gardening just wasn’t for me and that I would never grow more than a few tomato plants.
When I decided to try SFG, I opted to put the boxes on a patch of weeds and bone-dry dirt between my neighbor’s fence and the path to our garage. Nothing would grow there anyway, and it was heavily trafficked, so it seemed like an ideal location. The area was almost exactly 3 feet deep, so I built two 3′ by 4′ boxes. The cost? Nothing, I just used some lumber we had sitting around in our garage. I’m no carpenter, but I was able to build the boxes in an afternoon mostly by myself (I needed a hand cutting the lumber to size.)
The soil, Mel’s Mix, is a blend of 1/3 each of vermiculite, peat moss, and compost. The vermiculite and peat moss I was able to buy at our local nursery, and we’ve been composting kitchen scraps for years, so I had no shortage of compost. You fill the boxes and affix some sort of grid to the top. I stapled mini-blind slats to the boxes to create my grid – each box held 12 1′ squares.
In addition, I built trellises for each box for vertical gardening. I made these out of electrical conduit, cut to size, and attached at the corners with some plastic plumbing parts. Each trellis was slid over rebar hammered into the ground, which both keeps them vertical and gives you the option to put the trellis away when it’s not in use. Finally, I tied nylon trellis net (available at garden centers) to the top and sides to form the trellis itself. These fixtures are extremely strong, and have held up in 70 mph+ winds. Here is a great video tutorial on building your trellis.
Now, we’re mid-summer, and here is a list of things I have successfully grown in just 24 square feet of previously unused yard space: kale (2 plants), basil, cilantro, peas (16 plants), carrots (2 squares), onions (2 squares), tomatoes (4 plants), nasturtium (2 plants), microgreens, green beans (3 squares), lettuce (3 squares), squash – but I’m not sure what kind yet, they were volunteers – pumpkin, maybe?, Serrano peppers, and spinach. The kale, tomatoes, and squash have done particularly well – my tomato plants are over 12′ tall, and just LOVE the trellis. I’m harvesting at least 20 cherry tomatoes a day off a single plant. The squash has sort of taken over – it covers the entire trellis and has moved on to the rest of the yard and is trying to annex my neighbor’s yard as well, so I have to keep it in check. At the moment I have about 6 empty squares just waiting for fall’s crops to go in.
If you’re interested, the best place to get started is Mel’s book, but there are lots of resources available online to help you, too. One excellent reference for plant spacing and other information specific to SFG is My Square Foot Garden. So, what I’m trying to say is that I can’t believe this gardening technique isn’t more popular. I haven’t even listed half the benefits – it’s amazing what a little fresh thinking has done to revolutionize what is a centuries-old process.
New items in the shop, and some Pinterest love! February 1, 2012
A bracelet, some new earrings, and my absolute favorite thing I’ve made, this vine necklace! Go ahead and check out the shop if it’s been awhile! http://visibleblue.etsy.com
Also, on a totally related note, can I just say how much I love Pinterest? It took me some time to get into it – two months after I received my invite I finally created an account. Now I’m kicking myself for not having done this earlier – it’s a great inspiration mill and a pretty good advertising tool as well. (We won’t mention the fact that it’s a dangerous time vacuum!)
Breakout Bras Grab Bags! November 14, 2011
Oh dear, it’s been much too long since my last post. I just want to take a quick moment to alert any ladies that may happen upon my blog to a great deal at Breakout Bras – they are doing their famous grab bags again! I got one two years ago and I was so happy with the results. For $50 you get 4 high-quality bras – these aren’t your standard department store bras. You can also get 2 regular or maternity bras for $35. The sizing is more precise than what you may be used to at Victoria’s Secret or department stores, so make sure you measure yourself according to their directions. I promise it will be worth it! Having a properly sized bra makes a huge difference in your silhouette and makes you look thinner to boot.
Not only is the merchandise of a great quality, but they have the best customer service too. Feel free to email or call them with your sizing questions, they will help you get the perfect fit! It’s also worthwhile, if you do get a grab bag, to jot down any requests you might have (style, color, etc.) and hopefully they’ll do their best to accommodate.
For the record, I have no affiliation with their site – I’m just a huge fan!
Agent Blue October 12, 2011
Have you heard of BzzAgent? I’ve been a member of this word-of-mouth advertising website for over three years now. During this time, I’ve tried tons of new products (free!) ranging from girlie beauty products to tasty edibles to awesome tech, and everything in between. Do I feel dirty shilling for The Man? Yeah, a little, but you can rest assured that I’ve only ever given my honest opinions and I definitely haven’t promoted the stuff I didn’t feel great about.
So what am I trying now? I’m in three campaigns at the time, but I’ve only received samples for two of them, so I’ll leave the third review for later. The first is Burt’s Bees Natural Skin Solutions for Sensitive Skin. I received a full size Sensitive Daily Moisturizing Cream and Sensitive Facial Cleanser. First thoughts: wow, this stuff is pricey, at $15 and $10, respectively. Though I’ll admit, I’m a cheapskate when it comes to beauty products, and pretty lazy when it comes to skin care in general. I don’t have the most sensitive skin in the world, so I’m not totally the target audience here, but I can appreciate products that are gentle on the skin as much as anybody. Now, I can’t seem to find the facial cleanser on EWG’s Skin Deep database but the moisturizer is listed as a 3 on a scale of 0-10, on the low end of “moderate concern”. Ok, not too bad. I’ve used them a few times since receiving them. My face feels…clean and moisturized. Which I guess is the point. The products have no scent (duh) so I can’t really describe much else, except they seem to do what they claim, and without irritating my (admittedly not super-sensitive) skin.
The second campaign I’m part of is Green Mountain Coffee Fair Trade. My only previous experience with their product was at a gas station somewhere in Massachusetts after 14 hours of driving overnight, and it was pretty bad. Apparently, there are a lot of ways you can ruin a pot of coffee as a gas station attendant, so I’ll give Green Mountain the benefit of the doubt on that one. I got two packages of ground coffee in the mail yesterday, which was excellent timing because I ran out that same morning and didn’t have time to get to the grocery. Anyway, the two flavors were their Pumpkin Spice seasonal and Organic House blend. I was a little sad that I didn’t get whole bean coffee, but I think I’ll get over it. For the record, let me preface this review with this disclaimer: I am no coffee connoisseur. I didn’t start drinking it until well after my son was born (he’s 18 months now) and I love to add loads of raw sugar and almond milk to make it palatable (oh yes, I drink it for the caffeine). That said, yum! The Pumpkin Spice tasted just like fall! It was sort of a coffee-chai hybrid with the amount of spice that comes through. Totally up my alley. My husband likes to use the leftover coffee to make a chocolate-milk-coffee-vanilla almond milk afternoon pick-me-up, so needless to say, that drink was a total hodgepodge of flavors (pumpkivanispicemochalmondmilk?), but tasty nonetheless. I don’t have one brand of coffee I always drink, so this one may be rotated into the regulars this fall. I obviously haven’t opened the second package yet.
The next campaign is for Kroger’s Truly Awesome Homestyle Chocolate Chip Cookies! Definitely looking forward to that one!
Off and Running October 4, 2011
In junior high volleyball practice, we once had to run several laps around the gym. I remember this, because it was torture for me. I also remember complaining to a girl running next to me. Me: “Ugh, I thought this was volleyball, not track!” (What a clever 13-year-old I was!) Her: “I know! This is so easy!” (I still hate her.)
Two more memories stand out for me from college: running from the cops with my skateboard in hand (hand-painted, rarely used,) and running to catch a bus at one in the morning.
These experiences pretty much sum up my relationship with running. I was firmly in the “will-not-run-unless-being-forced” camp.
Fast forward many years (and a couple dozen pounds) to 2011 – I am the proud mama of a healthy baby boy, and thanks to the miracle of nature that is breastfeeding, I’m back down to my high school weight! I don’t want to squander my cheater’s diet (it sure wasn’t easy, but it was unintentional) so I decide it’s time to get into shape and keep the extra weight off.
I’ve never really been very sporty – I played softball as a kid and then a few years of volleyball, and marched in the band in high school if you can count that as physical activity. The idea of getting fit was daunting, and I didn’t really know where to start. I had the motivation, but no plan.
Then, on a forum I frequent, I came across something called Couch to 5k, or C25k for short. I identified immediately. (“Couch! It’s one of my favorite words!”) The plan consists of 3 workouts per week over the course of 9 weeks. Each workout is 20-30 minutes of walking and/or running, usually in intervals. Ok! I can do this! I went out and bought some fairly expensive running shoes (hey, if I spend a lot on them, I’ll have to use them, right?) and enlisted my sister-in-law to be my running partner.
It was difficult, and continues to be difficult – but doable. The great thing about this program is every step is just enough of an increase to feel it, but not so hard that you feel discouraged. Every time we finish a run, I feel pumped – and that is something I never thought I would say. Every time I can see the results, like being able to bike up a hill that gave me lots of trouble in the past, I feel great about what I’ve accomplished. It has spilled over into other parts of my life – I am more motivated to try difficult things (starting your own business, anyone?) because of the success I’ve had with C25k.
Sadly, I’ve yet to finish the program, even though I started months ago. When the weather got hot, we slacked, and now that it’s been cold and rainy, we’re slacking again. I’m using this blog post as the equivalent of the expensive shoes – if I post about it, now I have to go do it! Besides, after I’m done, maybe I’ll start taking my dog!