Thursday, April 28, 2011

Raised Garden Bed

I think I mentioned before that I have plans for expanding my garden this year. Well, I finally got around to adding that raised bed I wanted. I already had a traditional garden consisting of rows, but I've been reading more about the benefits of raised bed gardening and had to try it. Eventually I think my traditional rows will be converted too, but I have to wait until I harvest my potatoes and onions and whatever else I decide to put in that bed.

So, what are the benefits besides looking freakin' awesome?  Raised garden beds allow you to maximize the  space you have available. They extend your growing season because the soil heats up faster in the spring and holds that heat longer in the fall and because the soil in and under the raised bed is loose, the roots of your plants can reach much deeper, which in turn reduces the need to water as much. Who doesn't love that? The list goes on, but those three are deal breakers for me.

When you build your own raised bed, the materials you chose are very important.  Though you might be lured by cheap lumber,  stay away from treated wood. The chemicals  the boards are treated with will most certainly be absorbed into the soil and in turn, your plants.  That kind of defeats the purpose of organic gardening am I right?  When choosing  lumber, also keep in mind that if you go for an untreated pine, it will, in time rot and need to be replaced. If you don't mind that, more power to you,  but if you'd like the structure to last, go for a nice cedar or red wood. Though your upfront cost is greater, these boards will last you a long time.

Decide how big you'd like your bed to be.  I allowed cost of supplies to dictate the size of my raised bed. I purchased three cedar 2x6's. At 15 bucks a pop, I figured an eight by four foot bed would be sufficient for now. 

I used two eight foot boards for the sides and cut the third board in half for the narrow ends.

Next I drilled four pilot holes, two on each end of the four foot boards. 

Then, with Chris's help, I attached the four foot boards to the ends of the eight foot boards with wood screws.

With shell constructed we carried the wood structure to the ground where the raised bed would be.
With a spade, I dug a line around the wood frame. Moving the wood frame aside, I began digging out the sod and dirt for my raised bed using, are you ready for this one, the bastard trench method.

I have no idea why this is called bastard trenching, but there you go, it is what it is! So I bastard trenched this baby and this is how it works:
I separated the garden bed into segments. I'm using eight segments here to demonstrate the method.  First remove the top layer of sod and set it beside the first segment. Next, dig out the hole about a foot deep. Move the dirt next to the sod. This sod and will be used to fill the last hole.
Now remove the next segment's sod an put it in the first hole face down. Then dig out the second hole using the dirt to cover the sod in the first hole. The sod will decompose and add nutrients to your soil.

Continue in this way until your reach the very last hole.

Once you've reached the last hole, use the sod and dirt from the very first hole you dug to fill it in.

With the ground sufficiently bastard trenched...I love saying that for some reason, it's time to place your wood frame over the turned soil.
Once the bed is leveled (this is important because of drainage) it then can be staked down, which I have not done yet, but will. Chris added a nice layer of compost from our compost heap. When it stops raining I will mix more loose soil with the compost and my raised bed will be ready for plants.
 There you have it, a raised bed and how to bastard trench...yeah still not tired of saying it!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Easter grass overload

With four kids, Easter can mean candy until the middle of July. Not to mention all the plastic eggs and grass that comes with the holiday. So I find myself up to my eye balls in Easter grass and eggs. I can throw it away and I probably will toss some of it. I can reuse the rest next year and I probably will do that too. But all this paper grass could be used in a craft or two right?

Yesterday in the middle of feeding the baby and nap time I made little paper flower buds to place in my bud vase. I think it turned out pretty cute. I am curious how some of you would reuse your left over Easter paraphernalia. What would you make?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


I knew I'd get your attention with that one! Succulents are what I'd like to discuss today and by succulents, I mean the plants, not what I think of short shorts on a 50 year old man. I don't know why I said that either.

Anyway, with great weather upon us I'm in the mood for some serious gardening, but in 15 minute bursts because I'm sweating my butt off! Geez!

I'm talking about succulents a.k.a. "fat plants" because of their water retaining qualities. I have a few very difficult garden beds in my yard.
See the monster overhang?
Hey stop looking at the peeling paint! I haven't gotten there yet!

I'd be difficult too if I had no access to water! I guess sometimes they get a slanty rain drink. That's why Succulents are a perfect fit for this awkward garden bed. Somehow, even though I don't water them, they survive and add a little green to an otherwise brown  garden bed.

When summer is at it's peek these green plants will get a deep pink cluster of flowers, adding even more color to the drab front bed.

The flowers aren't the only burst of color you'll get with succulents. Also beautiful are the lovely shades of green and red the leaves turn in the sun.

Beautiful right? Not only are succulents a great addition to the garden they make beautiful living wreaths.

Succulent Wreath

Gorgeous! Someday I might attempt this. First I have to get a prettier front door. No, I won't show you a picture of that. Somethings are better left out of this blog!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Meal Planner Monday

Eww Ahh! The weather is getting nice. The grills are being rolled out of storage and the decks and patios are the seasonal dinning areas of choice! With eager anticipation of great weather this week I have planned a few meals that should be prepared outside on the grill!!  Get ready for you Monday meal planner and don't forget to wear your sunscreen.

Crackling Burgers

Buffalo Burgers

Pasta Cake

Grilled Chicken with Cheese and Avocados

Fiery Pork Skewers
This Weeks Grand Total: $75.33

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Easy no sew Roman Shades

I'm so happy today! I just finished hanging my new Roman Shades in my kitchen! The windows in there had been bare for years and honestly, my neighbors were starting to complain.

You see, when you look out of my kitchen windows you see my neighbor's house and driveway. There's no buffer zone between our homes. My house is literally on the boarder of their property, so there's no privacy, but I grew up in the middle of no where, where trees hid our windows and allowed us to walk around in our underwear anytime we wanted....ah those were the days! Well sometimes I forget that I don't live in the woods anymore and sometimes I might walk through the kitchen past the windows to my laundry room in nothing but a towel...hence my neighbors complaints...oops!

Time to cover them up! To remedy this, I bought fabric a few weeks back to make window treatments and only now have gotten around to making them. I don't know about you, but when I make a fabric purchase like that (anything over 3 yards) I get "project cold feet." I think its especially bad when I have to sew. I like sewing, but I hate sewing machines. Each and every one has the devil in them and they will without fail cause a lot of problems.

Finally, I got up the courage to begin the project. I always like to do a little research before I begin a project, so before digging in, I looked up a variety of ways to make Roman Shades. Through the website Apartment therapy I found a great little tutorial on the home decorating and DIY Blog The Little Green Notebook. In this tutorial, the Blogger used mini blinds as the bones of the shade. GENIUS!!

In this post I'm going to show you how I did it, because I did tweak it a bit to make it easier for me.

First I started with cheap mini blinds from Walmart.

Go to your window and measure the height and width. Decide how long and how wide you want you treatment to be. I wanted mine to fit inside the window moulding. The window measured 53 inches long, so I made the shade extend 54 inches long. For the width I measured 23 inches wide and wanted the shade to extend to 25 inches.

With the measurements taken, begin preparing the mini blind. Extend the blind to their full length on a flat surface (I chose my dirty floor!)
Mini blinds have a series of cords that hold the plastic strips in place and help lift the shade. The lift cord is thick and the ladder shaped cord holds the plastic strips. Cut the ladder cord out of the blind, but be very careful not to cut the lift cord!

With the ladder cord removed, the plastic strips will slide freely up and down the lift cord. With the measurements you took of the window, decide how wide you want your pleats to be in Roman Shade. Since I measured 54 inches long, and I know that 6 is a multiple of 54, I decided my pleats would be 6 inches long. There's no formula here, just try to give yourself easy numbers that can be easily divided in whole numbers. Also,  a 6-9 inch pleat look best with a small window, so keep that in mind when measuring,
Okay, so I know that my shade is 54 inches long and that every 6 inches will be a pleat. The pleats are made by gluing the fabric to a plastic strip. A pleat every six inches means I need 8 plastic strips and the bottom Slat to glue onto for a total of 9 plastic strips and slat. See that: 9 x 6 = 54.
First I need to remove the thick bottom slat to take out the plastic strips I don't need. Do this by prying off the two plugs on the thick slat.

You'll see inside the end knot of the lift cord. You can untie or cut this knot off. Then slide the thick slat and all of the plastic strips you don't need off. Measure the lift string to the desired length (mine was 54 inches.) Reattach the thick slat and tie off at the measured mark.
Cut excess string and push the tail into the hole. Replug the holes with the plastic caps.
For my shade I have 8 plastic strips and a thick slat. The whole thing measures 54 inches long. Now I want to place the altered mini blind on top of the fabric I'm going to use.
I was lucky in that my fabric from top to bottom was the same length as my altered shade, so I didn't have to cut and hem the top and bottom. The sides were rough and did need a hem, so I measured and cut the fabric so that from side to side the fabric went past the plastic strip about 2 1/2 inches on each side.

To make the no sew hem I used heat and bond. Heat n' bond is just paper with an adhesive back, that when ironed onto fabric transfers the glue to your surface. Just remove the paper and you have a clean flat strip of adhesive that when ironed again makes a nice little hem.

With heat n' bond on the edges of the fabric, I found the middle of the fabric panel. I folded the panel in half and ironed a crease so that I could use my quilting ruler to make a nice uniform hem. Fold over and press. Also if you had put a crease in the middle of the panel, now is a good time to press that out.
The finished product should look like this, however depending on what your fabric is like you may have to do the same to the top and bottom.
Now place your mini blinds on top of the back side of your fabric. Find the center and with fabric glue, attach the thick mechanical top to the top of the fabric.
note: the pull should be flush with the fabric.
 Then carefully measure from the top mechanical slat to the desired length of the next plastic slat. Mine was 6 inches, so I measured 6 inches down and marked with pen.
 When all my marks were made down both sides of the shade, I put glue on the round side of the plastic strip and adhered them to the fabric. While I was gluing, I made sure that I had the plastic strips on dead center, lining from top to bottom with the top slat. I used my ruler to measure in 1  1/4 inch (this is half of 2 1/2 inches) I glue and measure, glue and measure all the way down to the bottom slat. BE SURE NOT TO GLUE THE LIFT CORD TO THE FABRIC! The lift cord must be free of glue so the shade can go up and down.

I then allowed the shade to dry completely over night. I used a beer bottle, yes a beer bottle to hold the bottom slat in place to dry correctly over night.

The next day, I hot glued the excess fabric on the top and bottom, folding them over the thick slats.

Leave the side of the top open and free of fabric so it can slide into the bracket at installation.

 With the brackets in place in window, the top of your shade should slide right in place.

When finished the shade is installed it will be able to lift up and down.

Guess who's going to be able to run to the laundry room in her underwear now? Yeah me!!

A lot of you have asked what color of paint I used on my walls in the kitchen. Because I am cheap I can't give you a clear cut answer. I went to Walmart and found an expensive paint color I liked and then ask them to clone it with their store brand Color Place. Here's a photo of the label if that helps!