Sunday, June 28, 2015

Planting a Cutting Garden by a non-expert

Many years ago, I was all gung-ho on planting a garden box.  Or rather, I was gung-ho on planting four, 8'x4' sized garden boxes to be exact.  I planted six tomato plants that year, yielding a crop of over 200 lbs of tomatoes among many other veggies, and I learned how to can things in a hurry.  It would have been hysterical if it hadn't been so frantic.  I remember walking door to door with flats of tomatoes, begging my neighbors to take them.

In the end, my mother came over for a hot, sweaty weekend of learning as we went, because she hadn't ever done a lot of canning in her life either- but she had the advantage of having watched her mother do it so she knew the basics and we went from there.

The point was, my "if you're going to do a thing, do it all the way" approach was a little overwhelming and I learned my lesson.  (Well, at least when it comes to gardening, anyway.)

The next year, we downsized our garden back to two boxes, removing two, and made a fire pit in the vacancy they left.  I turned one box into a cutting garden and the other was a veggie garden. (I didn't plant tomatoes... and you're not going to believe this but two tomato plants came back on their own and produced a TON of tomatoes.  I had no idea a tomato plant would come back on it's own but it did.  It was nuts.)  Fast forward to a few years later, and those wooden raised beds were rotting apart so we decided to line the house and fence with six smaller, more appropriately sized beds- (4'x2' each) which was the best decision we ever made when it came to planting.  I kept three boxes strictly for cutting garden space and that's what I'm here to chat about today.
 Firstly, I do believe that flowers are my love language.  Having them in the house all summer long, is one of my favorite things.  I combine herbs and cuttings from anywhere in the yard into bouquets and I love being able to simply walk around the yard and see what I come up with.
One of my dearest friends wanted more exact details.  She asked me what I planted, when I planted it and such.  As for what I plant- I've got a lot of perennials that come back, scattered all over, such as hydrangea, lilac, peony, lavender and greenery such as hosta, boxwood etc.  I've got azaleas, and other random bushes I frequently cut from for greens.

As for the cutting garden boxes themselves, I first got the idea nearly twenty years ago.  Adrain and I were newlyweds, renting the cutest little mother-in-law cottage, and our landlord's wife had planted a large flower bed at the back of her house that was strictly for cutting and bringing inside.  I thought that was a brilliant idea.  Why just grow things to enjoy when you're outside, and spend money to purchase flowers when you want something inside- or to give away? Flowers make the prettiest gifts and they work for all occasions.  After that, I vowed to myself that I'd have my own cutting garden someday so I could bring little jelly jars filled with home grown flowers to friends at BBQ's and enjoy beside my kitchen sink all summer long.

As a general rule, I don't use many flower starts, preferring to plant in early to mid-May, and working mainly from seed packets. I plant directly in our soil, rather than starting my own indoors, but I live in the Pacific NW where we often finish with any deep freezes by February and we have more mild weather year round anyway.   (You'll want to pay attention to your planting zone when planning when and what to plant of course.) I adore zinnias for their season long color display and tend to plant about 2-3 seed packets of these in May.  This year I did plant dahlias from starts and they haven't done well but it's been very hot and I forget to water well.  Oops.  I typically chose a wildflower mix seed packet for butterflies and/or hummingbirds and they tend to grow all kinds of pretties that I can't identify other than saying they make our bouquets lovely throughout the summer season.
 Honestly I'm pretty sure I planted a few other things that either didn't come up, or are in the process of coming up, and I can't remember what they are.  I always think I'll save the seed packets in my gardening book and refer back to them but then I don't and it doesn't matter anyway... what comes up gets enjoyed and what doesn't isn't missed. Ha!

 (I'm one of those gardeners that can't always tell the weeds from the plants and don't really care over much... just saying.  I also kind of randomly scatter seeds wherever when I'm planting. Which is also why I reminded you this post was written by a non-expert in the title.)

 This garden box had a bunch of things die, so it's looking a bit vacant at the moment.  As the summer progresses the zinnas will take over some of that space and it won't matter.
 As soon as the zinnia blooms are open I tend to cut them just above the second set of leaf clusters.  They keep coming back all season long, well into the fall and they don't seem to mind my careless approach to watering or not watering, which makes them my number one favorite to grow.
 I planted marigold starts in the corners for little pops of useful garden cheer.  I heard that they keep bad things away but I have always liked them so even if they were useless I'd probably plant them.
 This year, my herb garden was simple (basil, rosemary, thai basil, oregano, thyme and chives) but I've already included the fragrant cuttings from pruning it, into my bouquets.  I love adding basil, rosemary and oregano, along with flowering chives and lavender stems on occasion. 

 Once I've gathered cuttings of what is blooming, I bring them all inside and fill jelly jars, mugs, tumblers- whatever cute vessels I can find, and keep them all around the house.  I change the water every day in each vase, and pull out faded blooms, often adding in new cuttings to keep refreshing them.
 This was from one of the mixes I bought and I've been loving it's vibrant blue bells.

 I also tend to grab things from the veggie patch as well, such as the tops of the sugar snap peas.  They make pretty curling stems and tendrils in a tumbler with flowers.

So that's what I do when it comes to our cutting garden.  If you haven't put one in before, I encourage you to go for it even if your spaces are small.

Happy gardening!

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Monday, June 22, 2015

It's always a boat

I'm sitting here, in a puddle of sunshine.

A dear friend of mine and I often feel like we go through life's similar situations at the same time.  We have laughed about this for years and joked about being soul sisters.  It so often feels like a God-designed connecting point for us because when nobody else in our sphere quite gets it... a simple text and we both realize that we're not alone.  We just have to know someone else can say, "Been there, done that" and mean it.  Or... "Am there... doing it!"  Which is even better.  

We've both been doing the She Reads Truth Summer study.  This morning hit me on so many levels.  I shared one aspect of it on Instagram and will leave that one there... but another aspect of today's study hit me elsewhere and my friend and I connected instantly because we are both facing the similar rising tide of life changes all of a sudden.  Some unknowns on our horizons.  To me, it feels a lot like a roller coaster ride because I've been here too many times before and I tend to get mad and want to get off immediately and make NOTHING CHANGE because though I often love change.. I also completely hate change. 

Actually, that's not 100% true.  What I hate about pending change is the faith journey that I've got to buckle up and prepare for.  Once I'm in the thing, I'm normally good to go.  It's gearing up to say yes to the journey that I resist for some reason.  Today's devotional talked about the biblical story of Naomi and her journey with loss and trusting God with an unknown and rather bleak looking future.  I wrote in my journal, "God always oversees our pain and always has an ultimate redemption plan for it.  Our pain is never wasted."  (I also wrote about how nice it is to have someone like God who is so dependable that writing always and never about His character actually works but that was a side note.)

I got to the point in the morning where I shed some tears over the situation and then prayed and laid it out before Him.  I was afraid to ask this given my past track record of misinterpreting any small thing as a "sign"... but I asked for slammed shut doors right away-immediately-(today even) if this path wasn't ultimately His will and I also asked for flashing, flaming, brightly it, unmistakeable neon arrows if this path was the one He wanted me to have faith and move onto.

I felt immediately reassured by God as I wrapped things up and flipped my study book over to tomorrow's page- the story of Ruth.  An entire page greeted my eyes, showing a photo of a woman in a boat headed toward a city with this sprawling verse over the top of the image saying, "You hold my future." Psalm 16:5.  The image of a woman in a boat headed toward something felt like a faith metaphor... God may be asking me to once again get into a boat and approach a new thing.  Truthfully, we seldom get anywhere in faith without stepping out over an unsure/unstable surface. (Dangit.)  God always offers us a trusty vessel in which to travel securely to the destination in and nothing ever happens along the way that isn't overseen by Him as part of His ultimate plan.  The boat is our faith vessel, the water is life's unpredictable and unknown future, and choosing to cross the water in a boat is so representative of trusting God with our very life and saying yes in our actions.

He NEVER lets us down when all is said and done, because He is ALWAYS there, directing our steps until we take our last on on this earth.  So here I go again.  Putting on my life jacket and trying to ignore the small waves lapping against the sides of this fragile craft I'm about to step into.  The paddle feels familiar in my hands but the rocking as I settle myself on the seat always makes me a bit seasick and worried.  Praising Him for being the One who steers my boat.    

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Friday, June 19, 2015


I'm popping in to share a few father's day preparation pics.

Because I like making everything an event.

In fact, my family and I recently took Meyers-Briggs personality tests (it was actually so much fun to get to know how we all think) and this seems to be part of my whole personality profile.  Hosting, planning, gathering and getting all my people together for memory making and such.  Have you ever taken those tests before?  I was an ESFJ which came as no shock to all my people.  It was almost scary how accurate it was!

Anyway.  Its almost Father's day.  I just finished making my boys a tee time and whipping up a rice crispy cake.

 (Because what father doesn't want a fancy topped rice crispy cake right?)

(Okay so maybe they don't care quite so much about those kinds of decorative details but I am compelled to do it so my guy knows how appreciated he is.)

(There's probably something in my personality profile about that. Ha!)

I hung a banner for him too.  And I'm taking him to a baseball game at some point in the weekend so I'm pretty sure he WILL know he is loved and appreciated.

And about this banner.  I love it.  I constantly go back to it for various events.  It works for anything.  I got it a couple of years ago, from my buddy Jen at 163 Design Co.  (Her stuff is gorgeous.)

 I saw the idea for the kites, clouds and plane cake toppers on Pinterest, originally from this site.

This was my Sasha-spin on it... instead of a real cake, I pressed the rice crispy ingredients into a parchment lined angel food cake pan and popped it out.  So quick and easy.

The toppers were quick too.. some paper, bamboo skewers, felt, washi tape, twine, clothes pins and hot glue.  Took about a half hour to cut things out and glue them together.  I didn't have a DIY as I couldn't find the original source anymore but they weren't all that difficult to figure out.

I might be able to use them again this summer too.  They really did turn out cute!

 So happy Father's day to all the amazing, involved, daddies out there.  Especially the one I get to do life with.  You guys are awesome.

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Monday, June 15, 2015

Centerpieces and Kid projects!

Today, I am cramming two small ideas into one post since I didn't think either of them really deserved their own spotlight...

The first idea is a cute and inexpensive tabletop idea that I pulled together for the coming few weeks until after the Independence day holiday is finished.

It was inspired after watching my husband and kids play catch night after night, during BBQ time.  We have a perfect little strip of grass on the side of our house right next to the BBQ area and while they wait they either throw balls or shoot nerf guns/bows.  I gathered up their baseballs and borrowed my son's dump truck to host them.  I tucked a few flags into a container filled with white rocks and nestled it on a tray next to the truck.  The perfect thing, is they can grab the baseballs as they head into the backyard.  This has already proven quite a handy little spot!  Cute... and functional!

This next idea was also inspired by my people. It is a fun, and also inexpensive target you can make if you've got boys (and girls) with nerf guns or bows.  We have a lot of nerf games in our neighborhood, though fewer than we used to, as kiddos grow up... Both of my kids love shooting at a target and we've had them drawn on the fence boards which didn't make their daddy very happy.  My solution was to have a $10 slab of plywood cut, and painted so they can shoot nerf targets to their hearts content.  It didn't take me any time at all to make and will be sure to add to the lure of our backyard, which is where I'd prefer to keep them (and all their buddies) this year. (I am betting on slicing up loads of watermelon to keep them nearby so I can keep an eye on them all.  Ha!)

I cut a piece of thin plywood to size at Lowes, then stained it and had my son drill two holes in it for hanging.  I used a thumbtack and string and pencil to do that old circle drawing trick. (The tack goes into the center with the string tied to it on one end, and then you tie the other end of the string to a pencil and draw circles, shortening up the string to make smaller circles.  Afterward, I painted in the spaces using leftover paint that I had on hand in the garage.)

This was such a quick project!

We didn't have a ton of obligations this weekend and it was very needed.  I snapped a few pretty yard pics for an outdoor spaces feature my boss is doing on her blog right now and wanted to share some of my favorites here too.

 We have six days (plus today) left of school.  They start up again on August 26th... I'm very much struggling with that!  Seems like the whole country is out earlier than we are and start up after Labor day.  We have so few sunny days here, that it seems a shame that we had to get them cut short for an early August start days but I'm determined to enjoy this summer as much as I can, for the time we have it!  (Still.. August 26th? Pffff.)

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Monday, June 8, 2015

Peeking behind the big wood fence

I just walked in the door after one of those heart-refreshing days with my long-time BFF.  We got kids off to respective schools and then hit Starbucks for fuel, Ikea for terrific deals and solutions and such, and then wound things down at a local farm that sells lunch and serves iced tea in mason jars, (I know, right?) before dumping bags in the kitchen in time for the return of the school bus.  We managed (as we always do) to touch on millions of topics, weave in laughter from our childhood memories, howl over random funnies that would probably only be funny to us, along with squeeze in a bit of summer fun planning and a heart to heart where I did not even cry, though I very well could have with her, because by now, nothing is off limits.  Truly, nothing.  Everyone needs a girlfriend like this and I've got them by the handfuls.  A life blessed and thank You LORD for days like this.

Anyway, it's been a while and I've got a few things I'd love to blog on but today is just one of those somewhat quick sneak peek posts (well okay it's hardly a sneak peek- it's more of an overview) of some of the yard fun we've been doing over the past few days.  I wanted to show our new party pit in it's nearly finished state and a few of my favorite corners so far.

**NOW... before I do...please remember one thing here.  Our family doesn't feel crazy about doing yard work... I mean we can mow and that jazz but we aren't really into it if you know what I mean.  Sometimes the cool of the evenings beckon me to a weeding frenzy, but that's about it for me.  That said, there is a lot we'd still love to do, even more that we need to do, and most of which will probably never get done if I'm perfectly honest. I'll share some of those future ideas here... but this is SO real life so don't laugh at the places my son should have edged/weed-whacked and didn't or things that are crooked or not level or not painted correctly or finished and such.  Again... real life, not Better Homes & Garden and I guarantee we can have just as much fun back there in that party pit as is, than if it was pristine and finished.  Maybe MORE! Not pictured, we have a huge 15 foot trampoline in the center of our yard, a hammock my man got from his company, and a narrow side yard in the back where people throw balls and such.

(All photos were taken on my phone... because with less than an hour to get a post up, it works!)

 Our front porch welcome.  I used that old bucket (given to me) in my bedroom with a little Christmas tree in it.  Now it has a summer use so it's happy year-round!

House color was a custom match and door color is Sea Salt by Sherwin Williams.

 You may remember the before of these chairs from this post... and that refinished little free table in between them from this one. (Painted Sea Salt by SW and cushions sewed by me.)

 Now into our imperfectly lovely backyard....
 Dipped garden tools in more of that Sea Salt paint and a bench my man made me.
 We have an out of control Wisteria vine and we really do have plans for a small arbor as you enter into the party pit, but that isn't happening just yet...
This is our new party pit space...  Last year we had it on the side of the house but we have moved it because this makes better sense and like I mentioned previously, that narrow side yard was prime ball throwing space.  This above photo shows it at the start of this Summer.  Our garden box sides were propped up because they were rotting and our fire pit needed to be relocated.  Adrain and I decided to make six smaller garden boxes around the perimeter of the fence and house and then add in another picnic table, since one never seems to offer enough seating.  Our stack of plastic chairs were so uncomfortable nobody wanted to sit in them at night and the paint job I did on them last year was peeling horribly so we went back to the wood Adirondacks (Home Depot) that seem to last us much longer.  (The last set we had lasted us ten years and if I had painted them when we first got them, I am convinced we would still have them.)
 My son helped with the painting, for a little fun money reward, and he's got a few touch ups to finish but they turned out great.  We painted them Dried Thyme by SW. We also made our fire pit smaller when we relocated it and it allowed for us to make it three stones high.
 Both picnic tables got a coat of creamy white exterior house paint and I used a bit of the Dried Thyme to cover some inexpensive Terra cotta pots for the table centerpieces.

We have an herb garden box, a salad garden box, a veggie garden box and three cutting garden boxes with random mixes in them. (Please ignore the permanent flower bed with nothing in it but a lilac bush, a daisy plant and garden Nome.  I do have plans for that still as the summer continues.
 Adrain strung lights over the tables but not the fire pit and I love them!!

 I've got a fun outdoor kid project happening soon and I'll hope to blog about that shortly. 

Now I just need to host a party... More on that soon as soon as school lets out!  Counting. the. days....

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