Category Archives: Book Recommendations

Back in the Blogging Saddle

It’s been nearly two years since I last posted. TWO YEARS! I haven’t forgotten about my little blog. It’s been quietly nagging me in the back of my mind. For two years I’ve been thinking about and meaning to get back to it, but life has been so busy. In those two years I increased the amount of hours I am at work and our two kids are now school age and involved in more activities (soccer, swimming, gymnastics, piano). I value our quiet time and we all enjoy just hanging out at home and playing in the back yard. We aren’t usually involved in that many things at one time. However, in an effort to try different things and see what the kids really enjoy (in addition to wanting the kids to learn how to swim), it feels like we’ve been overdoing it. My son informed me last night that he’s ready to take a break from swimming. Right on. He’s been doing great and has really progressed since he started winter lessons in January, but a break is definitely due.

One of the highlights of the last year is that we now have backyard chickens! I plan to write a whole post on that, but in short: husband built a coop and a run, and in March 2015 we got six Golden Comet chicks (red sexlinks). The kids loved watching them grow from chicks and have continued to love and care for them. They even gave them names. The chickens deserve a blog post of their own, so we’ll cover all that next time around.

In the meantime, it’s April and the weather has been gorgeous (except for the last few days of heavy rain). We’ve gotten our garden started, and since my garden is the topic I blog about most (aside from my kids, maybe), I wanted to share a few pics of what we’ve got going. I’m also home today with a sick kindergartener, so while she’s resting and watching The Land Before Time (a favorite movie series around here), I decided to finally bring back the blog. 🙂

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Our new chicken coop and run along the side of the garden. Also, last year Mr. L. added a fence around the garden to keep the chickens, dogs and deer out. It’s been working great!

 

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This is late afternoon and as you can see, the garden gets a good bit of shade then. I usually try to start planting in the far end and save the sunniest parts of the garden for tomatoes.

 

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The first transplants include cabbage, broccoli, kale and Brussels sprouts. I will need to keep an eye on them so I can see when the cabbage worms start to show up, then take action.

 

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Our “walking onions” popping through! My dad gave me a bunch of these a few years ago and I save the bulbs to replant each year. They develop a flower at the top with a bunch of new bulbs that get heavy and plop over, starting a new plant, which is how they “walk”.

 

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These two were really into helping garden this month, so we harnessed that enthusiasm! They helped plant onions, potatoes, and green beans. Miss D. also helped transplant the Brassicas one afternoon when her brother was at soccer practice. We still have lots to do!

At the recommendation of my Uncle Joe, I’m currently reading Growing Great Tomatoes in preparation of planting our own tomatoes in the next week or so. I’m also checking out Straw Bale Gardens and am thinking of giving that technique a try at some point. There’s always so much to learn!

To be continued…

 

 

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Book: Week-by-Week Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook

Last year I really wanted to start a garden, but I was very inexperienced and even a little intimidated. Despite my beginner status, I dove right in and got through the season with a lot of trial-and-error and a lot of inefficiency. I wanted to do better this year, yet there seemed to be so many things to learn and I didn’t know where to start.

This past winter I was browsing the book section at a local Plow & Hearth and found the Week-by-Week Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook by father and daughter team, Ron and Jennifer Kujawski. It’s exactly the type of gardening book I had been looking for: one that would break a year’s worth of gardening down into small, manageable tasks, telling me what to do and when to do it.

I’m pretty much a beginner gardener and I think this book is great for beginners. The Kujawskis break down the Handbook into weeks before or after the last frost date. So, all you do is find your last frost date and then fill in the dates at the top of the first page in each section of the book. For example, one section says “9 weeks before average date of last frost”. Since my average date of last frost is around April 16, I grab a calendar and count backward 9 weeks from April 16 and put that date (February 13) at the top of the page in the handbook. In that short section, the Kujawskis tell me which seeds to start around February 13 (eggplant, peppers, and some herbs), how to design a crop rotation plan (with a table showing a typical crop rotation plan), and how to be prepared for a dry season (by making a DIY rain barrel out of a garbage can, as well as few other recommendations for prepping the garden). They even provide a list of drought-tolerant vegetables.

If you want a garden but don’t know where to start, or you have some some experience but you want a little guidance on how to improve your gardening practices, consider the Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook! Aside from being a great gardening guide for what-to-do-when, the Handbook has a lot of excellent bits of garden-related information, tips, and tutorials. It’s been my go-to reference so far this year. The authors even encourage you to scribble notes in the margin, take the book with you to the garden, and get dirty (you and the book)! As they put it, “If after the first growing season, this book has no soil smudges or pencil marks, you probably didn’t have enough fun.”

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By the way, if you don’t k now your average date of last frost, there are several online sources for finding it. You could do what I did and try the frost date listing at Victory Seeds, or go straight to the National Climatic Data Center for the most comprehensive (and also most confusing) data. (Keep in mind that your last frost date isn’t an absolute; it’s just an average, so you could still experience a frost after your last frost date.)

Sleep, Baby, Sleep!

I’ve been shopping around for a cheap, low-height table that I can convert into a sensory table for the kids. That basically involves cutting a hole in the top of the table big enough to drop a shallow plastic tub into. So, since I’ll essentially be destroying the table, I obviously don’t want to spend a lot on it. I’ve been checking Craigslist with not a lot of luck. I’ve also popped into three different local Goodwill stores to see what they have. While I still haven’t found the right table, I did find another goody that I couldn’t pass by and I’d like to share. Read on.

When my first child was a baby, we had some sleep issues. At one point, when he was around 10 months old, we’d put him to bed, only to have him wake up every two hours after that, standing up and crying until we came in and helped him back to bed. It was torture on all of us. We didn’t rush in to his room at every cry, and we tried to wait to see if he’d fall back to sleep, but I wasn’t totally comfortable with using the Ferber (“cry it out”) method. Our routine, which felt a bit like whack-a-mole (though no one actually got whacked) continued until I discovered Dr. Marc Weissbluth’s book, Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. This book was a godsend! Shortly after diving into the book to find a solution to our sleep problems, I did what the author recommended (which was to put my son to bed about two hours earlier than we had been), and we all began sleeping through the night. Since then, I’ve continued to reference that book for every stage of development that my children have reached, because their sleep requirements and schedules change as they grow. Furthermore, anytime anyone I know complains that their child isn’t sleeping through the night, I recommend this book. It’s a great reference. It helps you understand children’s natural sleep rhythms, and it helps you troubleshoot to improve the quality and quantity of your child’s sleep. I so love this book that I’ve given it as a gift at two baby showers.

Though I’m happy to lend out most of my pregnancy and child-rearing books to friends, I can’t bring myself to lend out my copy of Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child because I never know when I might need it. However, while at Goodwill shopping for a table, I found a copy of this book, practically brand new! I couldn’t NOT buy it, even though I have a copy myself. So, I bought the Goodwill copy–for pennies, basically–and I’d like to pass it on to someone who will hopefully find it as useful as I have. If you are a sleep-deprived parent of a baby or toddler, or if you’re an expecting parent, and you are interested in having a copy of this book, be the first to leave a comment here to let me know and I will mail it to you (free, of course). Like I said, I paid little for it, but I have found the book so useful that I couldn’t leave it sitting on the shelf at Goodwill. I just want to share the love. 🙂