Saturday, June 29, 2013

Pallet Garden, Part 2

      The garden is in!! The jury is still out as to whether or not all the subsequent rain has been a blessing or a curse, but it's planted. We went out to my favorite vegetable (and flower for that matter) farm, Snell Family Farm. There we were able to pick out all of our favorite veggie seedlings, ready for planting.
     We got a bunch of cucumbers and kale (the top 2 favorites of my girls), a few summer squash and zucchini, a pumpkin, lettuce, and celery. These are ALL items we will use regularly throughout the summer. The trick for us is to make this urban garden as efficient and cost saving as possible. We were sure to plant items we knew we'd use. We also tried to avoid items that we've planted in the past and had a hard time eating before they went the rainbow chard. I do so love it, but I'm the only one. So this year we skipped it, now I won't be forced to eat giant bowls of fresh chard by myself in a hurry to keep it from spoiling at harvest time! We also skipped hot peppers because I still have a freezer full of peppers we didn't get through last year. Efforts like this can keep from making your favorite veggies seem like a chore which is the exact opposite effect we are going for.
     We even got a couple of "patio planters" of tomatoes. These babies are gorgeous and already starting to fruit. They smell amazing and fresh and green! We placed these on the elevated small pallets and put them around the side of the house. Here they will be hidden from less savory folk who would be tempted to pick up and walk away with our beautiful bounty.  The larger pallets aren't as big of a concern, just due to their size. 
     We pulled the seedlings from the packs and laid them out generally where we wanted them to go. We paid close attention to recommended spacing guidelines. Last year our garden got a little crowded.   
     Once everything was where we wanted it, we dug down and planted. Last year we had quite a few problems with slugs. There are tons of "home remedies" for this problem but nothing we tried last year worked. This year I asked the experts. At the farm they recommended crushed egg shells around the garden and plants. We are in the process of giving this a "go". I'll let you know how it works, if at all.
     We are going to be up to our eyeballs in veggies here, in just a few short weeks. And for a fraction of the cost that the vegetables would cost at the market or grocery store. Again, we splurged on seedlings and planters because I'm way more likely to kill the plants from seed than seedling and I want to make sure we have food this summer. All in all we spent about $100 for everything. I can't wait to start harvesting. The girls are super excited. My oldest has memory now of last year's garden and my youngest is old enough to actually understand the purpose this year. This is a true family endeavor and it's moving perfectly so far. Soon the pallets will be all but overgrown with beautiful greenery and delicious goodies. I'll be sure to keep you updated on the progress and even get some recipes flowing from this baby soon! There will be polenta lasagnas, fresh salads, pumpkin soup, tomato sauces and more. Some will be eaten immediately from the garden others may be frozen and saved for the weeks to come. Total win!
     Remember this can be done anywhere! You do not need a big parcel of land (no matter how wonderful and magical that would be) in order to produce fresh, home grown veggies for you and your family. We are lucky enough to be renting a place with a small side yard. But the pallets could be placed on a roof top, deck, or patio. The pallets can even be built and filled and then stood up and learned against a fence or house wall. As long as you make sure your plants are able to take root the pallet can stand vertically and grown your veggies, no problem. Be creative, there is no wrong way to be growing your own food, just give it a try.
Enjoy the green thumbs friends, even if you're in the city!
Simple City Sam

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Pallet Gardening, Part 1

     My amazing hubby got the pallet garden all set and ready to go last week. We learned a few things last year and made our improvements. This year we were sure to raise the beds just a little bit off the ground, for better drainage. We used cinder blocks and 4x4s for this need. We stapled "landscaping paper" to the bottom of the pallet. Then we filled in all the cracks and spaces with soil. I also called in my Garbage to Garden mature compost delivery and added that to the mix. Hubby also nailed a few stakes to the outside of the set up. This will allow is to tack up some chicken wire or screen to keep some of the more annoying critters (skunks) away from our yummies. We added a pallet this year as well as a few pot stands. They are really just small pallets that we are using to elevate large pot planters. Also we did all this about a week before we wanted to plant to give the soil a chance to mix with the compost and to give ourselves some time to plan the garden after having a visual aid to finally grasp the real size we'd be working with.
     Last year's garden was definitely a success, but I want an even bigger yield this year. Having this garden saves us an ENORMOUS amount of money in produce. It also ensures that we are eating the freshest, most healthy produce we possibly can. The girls get to be involved in growing the food they eat, which is extremely important for us. They take pride in the work they do in the garden, which I hope will translate into a beautiful work ethic later in life. This year they (mostly my oldest) had some real opinions about what needed to be planted and what we could skip. So, we really bulked up on kale and cucumbers, and my beloved rainbow chard became an item I'll buy in small amounts at Farmer's Market, just for me (which is fine, because I ended up eating A LOT of chard last year). That's what gardening is all about, trial and error, success and failure, all at once.
     Everything went very smoothly and looks great!! This project was low cost and will have enormous financial and health benefits. I up-cycled pallets that were destined for a fire pile, waited until I found a sale on soil and called in my mature compost, included in my monthly haul away service!  I also "splurged" and have paid for seedlings, so I'll have a MUCH better chance keeping them alive and actually getting them to fruit! In the long run, I believe this actually saves me money, far less is wasted than when I tried to plant from seed. My thumb just isn't that green yet, which just goes to prove that anyone can do this...anywhere.  
See? The city can't keep us from fresh, home grown veggies, nor from simple solutions. Happy urban gardening! And be on the lookout. One of our very next posts will reveal our beautiful baby garden.
Simple City Sam

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Herb Box In Action

      The herb window box has been planted for a few weeks now and is thriving. All we have to do it open the kitchen window and reach out. We have fresh Basil, Rosemary, and Thyme, . We also pick fresh wild Sage and Lavender from my grandparents yard by the arm-full, score!
     We have already employed it's usefulness in several homemade dishes. And remember, making these were super easy. I just asked my hubby to do it- jokes!, just kidding. We cut the end off of one pallet and filled it with soil and compost. Next hubby mounted it to the exterior sill of the window and we were ready for planting. We hit up Farmer's Market and got some fabulous looking seedlings from Snell Family Farm. They are the best in the area in my opinion and so incredibly knowledgeable! Yes, I know seeds would be even more economical- but I know my limitations (which is important) and I tend to kill seeds, so seedlings are the best bet for us. We use them for our veggies too, which allows us to plant later in the season as well.
     Remember that when you do this you'll need to make sure you don't hang your boxes in a run-off or drip line zone. That much weight or volume could break or kill your herbs easily. You can also see that we employ many pots for planting as well. Any nice, sunny days we get, we even let the indoor plants go out for some fresh air. What a difference it makes. Also, be respectful. If you are in the city and renting, make sure to clear the installation with your landlord...fresh food is always a good bribe, when needed.
Happy Herb-ing!
Simple City Sam

Monday, June 17, 2013

Father's Day

      I never, in my wildest dream, would have ever imagined a better father for my children than my husband. He is amazing, kind, compassionate, patient (with ALL of us) and the epitome of selfless. He works endless hours to provide for us and still gladly shows up for play dates and puppy surprise missions.  My girls are over the moon about their Daddy and it melts my heart. Every day is Father's Day in this house and that's the truth, which is why I didn't post yesterday. I don't want him to be thanked by schedule alone . There is never a day when he doesn't give himself fully to them and this family. I am so grateful, happy and honored to call him mine! He let's our girls grown in their own ways and be themselves, what more could we ask for.
     Here they are. Patient, crazy and calm 
True love. Happy Father's Day, H!
Simple City Sam 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Two Lights State Park

      Maine has so many state parks, we truly are fortunate! What's even better is that they are, for the most part, extremely well kept and equipped. Yesterday we went out to enjoy the sunshine with some of our friends. We all packed up and headed out to Two Lights State Park in Cape Elizabeth.
     There is one of Maine's most beautiful coast lines and beach there, as well as hiking trails a gorgeous little pond and a killer playground! The girls had a blast playing with their friends, especially because now school is out and we need to work hard to see them through the summer.
     We made our way around one of the hiking trails twice, threw sticks in the pond, played numerous rounds of "What time is it Mr. Fox?", played on the slide and swings, had a snack, and we even got to bring the new puppy! We spent almost 3 hours there and that was only because we had other plans for the day (like work, boo). We could have happily stayed all day! We never even made it as far as the beach (dogs not allowed there). The best part is that and adult ticket is $3 and kids under 5 are free. So we had this glorious morning with friends for $6, tax deductible. The State Park pass makes this adventure even more economical and allows for far more frequent visits.
Local outdoor fun, I don't think you can beat it!
Simple City Sam

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

First Day, Last Day

     My oldest just finished her first year of school, albeit preschool. Next year she will be in kindergarten and attending full days. I'm already starting to miss her. I can't believe how much she's grown (and her sister too) in this last year, both physically and mentally. She is such a special little girl and I feel so blessed to be her mother. She is kind, caring, rambunctious, energetic, loving to the utmost and compassionate. Though her fashion sense hasn't changed a whole lot, the difference from that rainy yet excited, first ever day of school to the sunny, but sad last day of school is amazing. She made some incredible friends and learned more than I ever thought possible. I can't wait to see what kindergarten will bring. I just hope she'll slow down a little getting there!

"Mom, I don't have school tomorrow, it's the last day!"
I love you, my little bologna!
Simple City Sam

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Birthday Party SCS Style: Invitations

      My oldest is turning 5. Already! She is super excited to have her first real, everybody's invited, birthday bash. In fact I've been stalling her planning process since before Christmas! Now is the time. So we planned it all out and, like with everything I do, we strategized. What would be most fun? What would be the most economical? What would be a reasonable amount of work to put in? These were all questions we needed to address, and did. A beach bash was decided on and a guest list and menu were made.
First up in the execution stage: the invitations. My oldest was adamant that we mail invitations. I get that, kids LOVE mail. Heck, I love mail that isn't a bill, right? I didn't want them to look cheesy or mass-produced, that's clearly not my thing. But of course I didn't want to spend an arm and a leg on something that, ultimately, will just be thrown away. So I reverted to an old standby I love to employ, stamps and ink.
     I have an enormous amount of brightly colored card stock. I was at the craft store months ago and they had a sale. So I have roughly 2000 pieces of card stock, rainbow colored, that cost me $25. That's like what, a penny a page? I also have a pair of decorative cut scissors. Side note here, these things are kind of a pain in the rear to use. I have mastered the use of them but I still don't get the result I want all the time. Their use requires patience. You've been warned. Straight scissors would work just as well, and quicker, too!
     My oldest and I went to the craft store and purchased a new stamp for the endeavor. She had settled on a beach theme so we focused our attentions in that direction. Lo-and-behold, a mermaid little girl, with long flowing hair. SOLD! (Less than $10...and I know I'll use this one again!)
     I typed up our invitation and printed it, in columns, to get 2 to each page. I cut the card stock in half the short way, getting two invitations per page. We stamped one side of each invite and let them dry. Then we folded each one in half, creating a small card. Then we glued the invitation to the inside and wrote a short birthday message on the inside cover.
     I also, sealed it together with a small tab of glue and used the back as an address label and sent the whole thing through the mail. No envelopes to buy. We did pay for stamps, around $15. She is so proud of her invitations and I'm thrilled to have a huge number of people invited for such a low cost.To top it all off they are cute, unique, and partially designed by the birthday girl herself.  
That's what I'm talking about! Phase one, complete.
Simple City Sam

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Quail The Dog

     There are plenty of days when I feel like I'm not doing well as a parent. Maybe I'm not doing all I can for my kids, I'll think. Maybe I'm doing too much and not letting them learn themselves, I wonder. There are the days when I can muster a feeling of lacking pretty quickly, especially because, as a mom, I'm really focused on being the best darn one out there.
     Then there are days when you get to surprise your children with a new puppy.
     After careful consideration she was named Quail. In this family we are spiritually driven (as opposed, perhaps, to religiously) and tend to believe most fully in the lessons of Native American spirituality and being. We do have Native American ancestry and I know I've always felt very connected to it, despite it's now small representation in my actual DNA. None-the-less, we all have an identified spirit animal and my oldest is a Blue Jay. The Blue Jay is know for being mischievous, impulsive, difficult, and very smart. It is also known for having an inner conflict with this being, as it is also known for being loyal and concerned for it's brethren (often). There are many stories to be found detailing these myths, legends, and beliefs. One of her favorite stories is Blue Jay Girl by Sylvia Ross. It is a perfect representation, I think, of how my oldest sees herself sometimes. In the stories, Blue Jay Girl is ultimately tempered by channeling her "inner Quail". The Quail is known to be calm, patient, fore-thinking, all things Blue Jay Girls feels she lacks but desires.
     So as we were tossing out names as a family and trying to decide "Quail" came out and my oldest LOVED it! From then on it was set. She's already been nicknamed "Q" by my hubby for short and is beginning to recognize the name Quail. She is so sweet, even tempered, and patient, ESPECIALLY for a puppy. I can't wait to see how she and the girls grow together.
So today was a lucky day, one when I feel like we totally nailed it! I'll definitely take that.
Simple City Sam