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To really bring everything together from this little story of mine, we celebrated Poppop’s birthday on Saturday. He and I both enjoy cooking so we spent the afternoon in the kitchen making a recipe from one of his favorite cookbooks. Note the duct tape holding it together. We had a great time together and made a spectacular dish. Happy birthday Poppop!
You know how certain smells just remind you of a person? Whether this is a compliment or not, the garden shed smell always reminds me of my Grandmother. I walk in and think, “Hey Grandma, what’s happening?” Tomato sauce smell always makes me think of my Poppop. The man loves spaghetti and makes a badass meatball. I can’t tell you how many times I have gone to visit him and the smell of sauce greets me at the door. I cannot smell tomato sauce without thinking of Poppop. Jelly beans and leggings, on the other hand, remind me of his partner in crime (my Mommom) but we’ll save that for another story. So why am I thinking of tomato sauce before a tomato has even appeared on my plants? It’s because I have buckets! Buckets that were once used to hold tomato sauce from one of my very favorite restaurants. Allow me to put in a quick plug for them…Genova’s To Go…locations in both Maryland and Pennsylvania…family run by real live Italians…pizza and subs that will knock your socks off…and also where I happened to meet my lovely husband. Check them out! Pick up a pizza and possibly a husband too. You will not regret it! We will now return to our regularly scheduled bucket discussion…
After perusing You Tube videos and Pinterest finds on how to increase planting space in small yards, I got it into my head that I should try planting in 5 gallon buckets. They can be moved all around the yard to follow the sun and quite a few things can be grown in them. You can even get really fancy and rig up a self watering system with the buckets, some hosing, and various doodads. The self watering bit is intriguing to me, but I wanted to test out bucket planting before throwing myself into a technical undertaking. Just about every video and article suggested asking local restaurants and bakeries for cast away food grade buckets rather than buying new ones. Supposing you don’t want to run around town begging for buckets from your favorite eateries, Home Depot does sell packs of food grade buckets. I, however, enjoy asking for strange favors from my old restaurant friends. A quick correspondence with my buddy D via carrier pigeon and used buckets are now in my possession. They once carried sauce so guess who they smell like!? Maybe no carrier pigeons were actually involved but the thought did make the story more interesting, right?
Sometimes you have to make things work with what you have available. This is good for a number of reasons in my opinion. The first reason that comes to mind and the one reflected in this blog’s title is money. Blah. Let’s not talk about it because I think you get the idea. The next reason is dear Mother Earth. Maybe it’s just us but we get a kick out of reusing things in a new and clever way. Not only do we reduce waste but we force ourselves to be creative. When we succeed we also have a nice talking point when guests visit. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve begun a conversation with, “This used to be _______.” True, owning a construction company gives us more access to “waste” building supplies than the average person, but from other blogs that I have read people often find sources on their own. More often than not reusing materials gives the final project a nice rustic appearance. This is another plus if you ask me. That rustic look blends with natural surroundings so much better than something shiny and new. Take a look at some of our creations for ideas and feel free to reproduce them. After all, imitation is the best form of flattery. And what is the best way to garden on a budget? Be creative!
The Garden Structure
The result of another deck tear down and some old pallets for the greens garden. The bricks for the path were salvaged as well.
Tom fashioned our tin man from cans originally destined for the recycling center. The owl was rescued from our neighbor's trash can. The hope is that he helps scare off other birds.
Other Odds & Ends
The blocks were relocated from our front flower beds to a shade garden in our backyard. Sometimes simply moving something from one location to another gives it a fresh new look. The tulips were given to me last Easter. Rather than pitching the pot once the flowers had died, I planted the bulbs in a flower bed. Beautiful! Our woodpile was originally just that - a pile. A big messy looking pile. When the kid's playhouse became rundown and dangerous, we dismantled it and gave the house a new purpose.
Every yard needs an airplane, right? My son sure thought so when he was about 5 years old and lucky for him his Papa had a pile of scrap wood with "airplane" written all over it. Our youngest now uses it for very serious missions.
Our porch was boring and after a "few" ideas found on Pinterest and subtly placed in the husband's head via text and email, he presented me with the perfect solution. It has rustic charming appeal and even gives me another place to pop in some flowers. Thanks dear husband!
Have I mentioned how much I love composting? Our version is nothing fancy but it works. It's made of some pallets and miscellaneous boards. To the right of the bin we have a birdhouse also fashioned out of scrap wood.
The Beloved Dandelion
How else can you save money and help preserve our beautiful planet? Skip the lawn treatments! Dandelions are beautiful and provide endless fun for children.
Meet Tom - the guy who make my ideas happen. He's an all right guy. I guess you could say I'm fond of him. He also happens to be a great Papa and master of fire pit pizza and bread baking. The stone and brick around the fire pit? Salvaged of course!
Time for a little reflection…
Back in March we started with a pile of seed packets from High Mowing Organic Seeds, a few bags of organic seed starting mix, and a bunch of containers. I should mention the folding table and light leftover from a restaurant remodel as well. I had my doubts about the set up but with the aid of aluminum foil for reflective purposes (the husband’s idea) the seeds became plants under their artificial sun. Without fail a seed becoming a plant amazes me every time!
Fast forward to the present and we have a forecast full of warm weather mixed with some rain throughout the week. To prep them for their big move into the garden, the plant babies went through a transitioning process from inside to outside over the past couple of weeks. Cold turkey isn’t recommended so gradual sun and wind exposure it was for my little green friends. And on Sunday, a gorgeous sunny day, they made the big move. In anticipation of this grand event, I had plotted out my garden on graph paper old school style. Following that plan I set out each plant in their designated spots and then gathered some beautiful wormy compost from the bin. I added a bit of compost into the bottom of each hole before placing the plants and packed a little more around them after planting. Congratulations my lovely plant children! Now please don’t die.
Scenes from The Green Brick Road
Back to reflection…
Once all of the plants were tucked into place the kids and I headed over to my Dad’s house. Essentially this is where the Green Brick Road starts because his land is where I grew up and where I had my first little garden bed. For the sake of full disclosure I was a terrible gardener as a child and soon lost interest in tending my plants. Thank you Mom for saving their lives! Watching my children run around in my old stomping grounds always brings back great memories of a happy childhood. I couldn’t have asked for a better place to grow up.
I leave you with an inspiring video. I am in awe of what she has created!
A love/hate relationship. That is what I have with the raspberry patch located behind my garden. I love, love, love those prickly canes when they are heavy with fresh berries. However, once those berries disappear and I’m left with wild looking fruitless canes I lose a bit of that love. Hate may be too strong a word to be truthful. Of course, looking at the scratches up and down my arms right now causes me to lean heavily in that direction. Soon enough I’ll be popping warm from the sun berries into my mouth and the injuries will be well worth it. This taste I never forget and that is why the raspberries canes have survived yet another year. That and the fact that raspberries have a strong will to live. They spread their roots quickly through the ground and new canes pop up all over. If you choose to grow raspberries, be prepared to commit to some maintenance. Do not let fear clutch your heart though because I will now present you with “The Lazy Guide to Growing Raspberries.” I make no guarantees to its success. I guarantee only that this is what I do whether it is right or wrong in the expert raspberry growing community.
Step Three - oops Four!
Stand back and admire the new addition to your yard and dream of all that you can do with fresh berries. The possibilities are numerous and delicious! As for when you will actually get fresh berries depends upon the type of raspberry you planted I would imagine. Some will be prudish and make you wait a bit but then you will appreciate them all the more.
What to do when the raspberry canes try to take over and steal your children? Well, I don a pair of gloves and arm myself with some clippers and dive into the bushes. Wearing a pair of goggles may even be a good idea. Flippers are optional. Be bold and determined in your pruning. If it looks dead, pull it out. No need for nostalgia here. If it popped up where you don’t want it, pull the sucker out. Here you have a few options. You could replant it where you do want it. You could “gift” it to a friend or set it on the curb as a freebie. People love free stuff! Or you could close your eyes, apologize to the universe, and toss it in the trash. Sure, composting the extra canes is an option but I have a feeling you would end up with a raspberry bush in your compost bin. Did you ever accidentally grow a pumpkin that way?
Proudly show off your scratched arms and tell all who ask, “You should see the other guy!”
Remain hopeful and wait patiently. And then…sometime in the future…enjoy some delicious and nutritious and amazing fresh raspberries. Take a picture of said berries and post it all over social media with the tag #bejealous.
There you have it - The Green Brick Road’s lazy method to growing raspberries. Supposing you prefer a more thorough and infinitely more knowledgeable source, head over to Fine Gardening. I learned a few things from them and might act a little more “expertly” in my raspberry growing attempts next year. In the meantime, let me get back to nursing these scratches up and down my arms…
Around the Garden:
Have you ever read the book “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie?” If you have not, the next part of the book goes, “he’ll probably ask for a glass of milk.” Well, the Grandmom version goes like this, “If Grandmom saw a patch of empty land, she’d probably want to plant it.” She was never afraid to ask the owner if she could put a “few” plants in. I remember her planting a garden next to the apartment complex my cousin once lived in and another at a local senior center. The local paper even wrote about her a few times. Following in her footsteps I jumped at the chance to take over when I discovered that my neighbor wasn’t planning on doing much with a raised bed along the side of her house. When you have a yard as tiny as mine and you enjoy gardening, any extra space is a huge blessing. Should I plant more tomatoes? More peppers? Both? Decisions, decisions!
Grandmom the Local Celebrity
As for the garden that I actually own, this week Nina and I worked hard to finish prepping the beds for planting. Since the possibility of frost still exists however, my not so little anymore seedlings remain in their container homes. They visit the outdoors on bright sunny days and look longingly at the garden awaiting the day of their big move. I’ve mapped out where each will live when that happy day arrives and have found homes with friends and family for those that will not fit. My dad went home yesterday with two trays of plants for his house. They will be planted in the very same garden that I laid in as a child while eating fresh peas from their pods. Hmm, guess that makes me like my Grandma in yet another way as she was quick to share her plants with anyone that showed an interest in them. Being able to share my plant babies feels nice so maybe I’ll just have to “accidentally” sow a few extra seeds next year as well!
The Egloff Farm
We capped off an already great weekend with a visit to a friend’s farm. The first time I visited their beautiful home was for a Christmas party, and it was love at first sight. It’s that kind of beautiful. The kind of place that feels like home right away and the kind of place where there is always something new to discover. Jokingly I mentioned at the first party that I was going to move in. After today’s visit I’m not so sure that I should have been joking. Maybe the chickens will loan me a nest? It might just happen especially since hearing about my older kids’ adventures finding crayfish in the creek and hearing Nina’s laughter at the dogs and chickens was pure music to my ears. A great, great day!
On this bright sunny day I used my trusty cart to transport beautiful composted horse manure from a pile in the yard to the raised beds desperately in need of a soil refill. By chance the other day my husband opened the free paper that usually goes directly into the recycling bin and saw a freebie post for composted horse manure from a local farm. What luck! I had just mentioned to him earlier in the week that we really needed to find something to fill the beds. Was it divine intervention that led us to Higher Ground Stables? I think absolutely yes. Even better, these horses feast on organic feed. Who knew that I could get so excited about horse poopie!
As good as it is possible to be. That is the definition of 'perfect' and the word most suitable to describe Monday. The kiddos were home from school, the weather was absolutely gorgeous, and the day was ours to enjoy. And enjoy it we did! There is that saying that goes "a picture is worth a thousand words." Monday holds true to those words so luckily I had my camera in hand. Our day in pictures...
My boy is a quiet fellow and yet he can talk your ear off if given the right subject. We used to sit together in the backyard when he was a baby and watch the trees dance. He could sit still and just be even at such a young age. He can go for long periods of time on his own but not because he doesn’t like other people. In fact, he is one of the sweetest people that I know. One time when I was feeling sick and was laying on the sofa miserably he played contentedly with his toys on the floor below me. He stopped for a moment to tuck his very favorite teddy bear under my chin before heading back to his toys. This was when he was just about a year old but even now at age ten he has moments just like this one where he melts my heart completely.
My boy, nicknamed Mr. Peanut, is not always very expressive so sometimes it can be hard to tell if he is at all interested in a topic. Up until last week I really wasn’t sure how he felt about our family’s gardening project. Thanks to his magic bean plant, I can see the spark in his eye. He came home with his gangly bean plant planted in a clear plastic cup last week. Usually his response to my daily question about his school day is simply, “It was good.” That day he was fired up. “Good! Look what I brought home! My plants never grow when we do them at school but look at this one. It’s a bean!” When we got home he carefully staked it with popsicle sticks because one of his classmate’s plants broke. We did a quick search and found that it is possible to grow a bean plant in a pot though not really the ideal method. We found a suitable container and Mr. Peanut repotted his magic bean plant. Watching him care for his little plant turned my heart to mush, and I’m hoping, hoping, hoping that his little plant survives and he gets his magic beans. Will we grow a magical beanstalk?
My sweet tomato babies were bumping elbows and knees in their starter cells so my hairy adolescent plants moved on to bigger digs today. Fearing for the lives of my plants, I popped over to Organic Gardening to read up on the ins and outs of transplanting before getting started. I really liked the idea of newspaper seedling pots but I’m still sticking with baby steps. Plus, time was an issue since I work around the schedule of a one and a half year old. The goal in each nap period is to cram as much quality work time as possible into that short time frame. So when the little one's head hit the pillow today my 8 year old daughter Bella and I headed to the basement to tend to the wee plant children.
March is a tricky month and this year is proving no different. One day all signs point to “yippee spring is here throw open the windows and doors” but the next day our hopes are dashed and that white stuff falls from the sky again. You’ve gotta enjoy the good days outside when they are here and do some spring cleaning inside when the days dip back to winter. Or you can be one of those people that promptly throws on shorts and flops as soon as we get the first warm day and then never looks back even if winter creeps back for a moment. What? It’s only 40 degrees outside? Nah, I’ve got my shorts on so that thermometer must be wrong! Yeah, those people belong to a different flock of birds if you ask me. Dress weather appropriate ladies and gents! So, where are we on the green brick road? Let me give you a tour!
A quick peek around the yard on this sunny but still chilly day shows much work that needs to be done but also happy little signs of spring. The garden still has old vegetation haunting the raised beds and cages from last year’s garden. Some people would have cleaned all of that out before the cold weather hit. I will tell a small white lie and say that I left it all purposefully so that the old plants would leave all of their nutrients in the soil. In reality, I just never got around to doing it so let’s hope that my nutrient theory holds true for the soil. Speaking of the soil…I need more, more, more! The raised beds are only a couple of years old and the dirt has settled considerably. I know that the local garden store has bags of organic garden soil but it would be nice to find a source that would allow me to get a big truck full of nice, healthy, as toxin free as possible dirt. I really need a farmer friend! Are you a farmer? Be my friend. Well, if you live far away I guess that doesn’t help with the dirt problem but new friends are still nice. The moral of the story here is that we have two important tasks on the garden To Do list: clean out the old vegetation and find more dirt.
All that talk about dirt brings me to fond thoughts of compost. I love compost! Basically it’s a real life backyard science project that results in beautiful worm filled dirt all for very minimal effort. Supposing my compost pile were bigger, I could fill up my raised beds with it. Right now I should have enough to spread over the tops for a nutrient boost. Other composters are very precise about their compost piles but I take a more relaxed approach. After all, who wants to get all caught up in rotten banana peels and egg shells? What is my approach? A little bit of this (food scraps) and a little bit of that (brown, dry stuff like leaves) and then let it sit. By let it sit I mean really let it sit for a good long while. When it looks rich and dark in color and when hopefully wriggly wormies are living in it, you know it is garden worthy. The current pile in my backyard may look like that underneath but it has a very thick layer of food scraps on top that have accumulated over the winter. Also we see solid evidence that this family eats a lot of eggs, bananas, and apples and that our coffee consumption could keep Starbucks in business. We would have to actually buy Starbucks coffee for that to be true but you get the idea. I can easily bring the compost ratio to a healthier state when I clean out the yard. Never fear little worms!
The next stop in our garden tour leads us to amazing green things popping up from the dirt of their own accord. The process amazes me every year. How do the daffodils, tulips, and other early birds know when it is safe for them to make their entrance? However they do it, I am always so happy to see them!
Welcome to The Green Brick Road. My name is Valerie, and I invite you to join me and my family on our gardening adventure. We hope that you will learn with us and grow with us. Pun intended!