Thursday, January 8, 2015

Now is the time to read seed catalogs ( excellent references!) and plan your 2015 garden.  A new one that came my way in yesterday's mail is very exciting:  Select Seeds - Rare Heirloom Seeds and plants (  One plant I am definitely getting seeds for is Polygonum orientale - Kiss me over the garden gate.  It was used in the cottage garden, attracts pollinators and beneficials, 
grows 4-5' tall, and is great as a cut or dried flower.  I have the perfect place for it and can't wait to try it out!
Another plant I am excited to try is a scented Geranium, "Mabel Grey" - which the catalog says has an intense lemon fragrance. Scented Geranium's can be used in cooking, making teas, syrups, in biscuits, cakes, etc., so I am curious to try this one also.
Pelargonium Citronellum Mabel Grey

And I plan on purchasing several plants of Geranium "Skeleton Rose" - to take advantage of its ability to repel mosquitoes! 

I can't afford to buy all the plants I would like to, but now that my infrastruture is almost done, I will draw up this month a garden plan, and make a 5-yr plan on what to buy when.

There is so much to do in the next 8 weeks.  Besides starting seeds (must get in my Territorial order!), I have beds to prepare!  My wonderful helper Amanda just dug the hole for the last fruit tree I planned to order.  and just in time!  The Raintree Nursery catalog came in the mail today - and the tree I wanted was finally in there.  Last year, they didn't have any three-tier Espalier trees that were different varieties - just all one variety.  I was worried that I would have to look elsewhere.  Then the catalog arrived, I flipped open to the apple section, and there it was - A 3-tier espalier with Liberty, Ashmead's Kernal, and Pristine.  Although when I went to order it, it didn't have Pristine as the third apple, but instead Spartan - which is fine with me since it is from the McIntosh Family and I am a fan of those.  So in a small space, I will have four different types of apples (not forgetting my crab apple) - which should be enough for fresh eating, pies, applesauce and jelly for our family.  I can't wait till it comes.  the hole is dug, fresh compost is settling in nicely, all against the fence that will eventually give it support.  
A slightly fuzzy example of espaliered trees

My reading this month also includes a reprint of Gertrude Jekyll's "Wood and Garden, Notes and Thoughts, practical and critical, of a working amateur.  First published in 1899, it is a treasure of her thoughts and notes on gardening, planting, what to plant, etc.  In the February chapter, she introduced me to a new possible flower for the flower portion of the garden; "Tiarella cordifolial".

Foam Flower (Tiarella cordifolial) in the summer
Gertrude says that the leaves show bright coloring in the winter, turning to scarlet, crimson and orange. She also recommends Berberis Aquifoluim for winter color; we know it here in the Northwest as Oregon Grape.  What is interesting is that here is Gertrude Jekyll writing over a hundred years ago, in England, of a plant that is a native for us here in the Northwest.  She is a strong advocate for including varieties of this plant in any garden plan. 

My son Aaron, who is a garden designer for Stone Soup Gardens in Seattle ( is also a huge fan of Oregon Grape.  I think they put it in a lot of the rain gardens they design. 

My helper Amanda has made a good start on preparing our tools for spring.  She has been sanding down the wooden handles and then coating them with paste wax - getting ready for another season.  We still have to finish that project, sharpen the shovels, and put on another coat of rustoleum paint (I use bright red to find them easily in the yard).

So January continues, cold and foggy, but inside things are heating up with orders to nurseries and seed catalogs, time spent over the drafting board.  I even had a chance to check out a you-tube video on thatching (I do have to roof my new tool shed).  When you are a gardener, there is never any down time!

Monday, January 5, 2015

It has been about a year since I have posted - a lot going on.  My daughters heart condition was worsening steadily over the last year.  In November she had open heart surgery to install an LVAD - a heart pump to assist her left ventricle.  she will keep that until she gets on the list for a heart transplant.

So, hope everyone has been gardening and growing and is excited about SPRING which is just a few weeks away (in gardener mindthink).  I received my first seed catalog (Thank you Territorial) on Christmas Eve - what a great present!

I will try to post some pics soon.  My computer died, and I have a new one but all my pics are somewhere on a spare drive.  I have almost finished the front of the yard, planted fruit trees, and started to apply permaculture principles with dead wood swales and hugelkulter - so keep tuned for that.


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Really quick update

Shortly after my last post (May 29th)  I fell in my bedroom and broke my foot - or ankle, or - it hurt like &*$&%(  - the ambulance drivers thought it was just a sprain - I knew something was broken.  so, turned out that my stumble caused my tibia to split from the ankle joint up a few inches, and three toe bones to break up by the joint.

9 weeks off work with my foot in a cast and up - watching my beautiful garden become overgrown from lack of care.  I did find friends and family to pick raspberries and marionberries.  Cucumbers didn't make it, as well as some of the herbs I had just purchased - lack of water.  We had a mass of tomatoes, mainly from not being able to get out there and pick off the suckers.

Started back to work August 1st, but still pretty tired from the injury, so have been sleeping a lot.  Just now starting to get back some of my energy.  And tackling much needed projects around the yard.

So may have some pics soon.

Woven throughout all of this were over a dozen appointments for my daughter up at the Oregon Health Science University to determine what was going to be done about her heart.  we found out last week that she has been accepted as a candiate for a heart transplant.  they can't list her until she loses about 12 pounds.  Not that easy to do, when you are hardly eating anything anyway, and don't have the energy to get around much.  so need a miracle in that area.

When not trying to catch up with the outside, I have been inside trying to finish the back bedroom ( the master bedroom) for my daughter.  Have been wanting to move her into that room for over a year - she needs the room for all her books and stuff, and it is closer to the bathroom.  :)  Very important when you are on a diuretic.  So it seems that every waking minute is filled with either working in the garden, yard, or painting, patching, building on the inside.  Not much time for computer stuff.

So I have been around - just laid up most of the summer.  It was kind of weird - this is the first year in many, many years when I have not canned anything!  (kind of hard to do from a wheelchair).  Perhaps in a month or so I can post some pics of what I have been up to.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Living Simply

A tumultuous year is behind me, and another one is ahead.

November 2011 I received a layoff notice, ending the job  I had been going to for 9+ years.  I started taking St. Johns Wort right away.

April 2012 I started a new job ( at the same state agency) - but working for a previous supervisor that I had had a contentious relationship with.  He had not changed any.  Stress level went way up. still taking St. Johns Wort.

December 2012 - Governors budget came out, and our agency was only on it for one year - guess what that meant?  Yep - our agency was probably being shut down -no ones job was safe.

February 2013 - My daughter went in for one of the many tests that she routinely has to have with her heart condition.  Found out that her heart had become much worse, and her cardiologist was referring her for a heart transplant.  she is not sure that is what she wants, but at least is going along that path for now.

April 8, 2013 - finally some good news!  I started a new job, at another state agency, but this one with secure funding, doing something I really enjoy.  But, still taking St. Johns Wort.

Since March, besides getting a new job, our lives have been filled with Dr. visits.  There are many, many tests that you have to go through to find out if you are a candidate for a heart transplant.  Jess started going to the severe heart failure clinic in Portland - an hour drive away from our home.  Every two weeks we met with them, and along the way, there were in-hospital tests, out patient tests, lab tests - and the she was referred to OHSU - which is the primary hospital for heart transplants in the NorthWest.  Yesterday was our first meeting with one of the doctors from the heart transplant team.  Since we were up there anyway, and I had the day off of work, we packed in more tests that her doctors had ordered, labs, chest x-rays, immunizations and pulmonary breathing test.

We came home exhausted and I at least went to bed and slept for 10 hours.

When facing situations like this, it is best to simplify your life as much as possible.  For me, that has meant scaling back on my garden this year.  I don't know where we will be in the transplant process in the fall, when I am normally going nuts canning beans.  So I didn't plant beans this year.  And I have enough canned beans from last year to get me through another year if I don't eat beans every day.

I have planted tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers.  And of course, the berries are coming on wonderfully - but I will probably give away what we can't eat fresh.  With a new job, and all the doctor and clinic visits, there just won't be time for the normal rhythm of growing, picking and canning.  And I don't even want to try.

So my work outside will be on adjusting infrastructure - working on the chicken house - things that I can do that if I have to walk away from the task for a few weeks, I can.  So I will be living as simply as possible for the next year.

I am glad that new visitors to this blog can still get instructions on how to create a raised bed, improve their soil structure  grow vegetables and fruit to feed their families and neighbors.  I am so proud of my children, who are each growing food (some in friends yards as my son in Seattle is doing).  My granddaughter just picked and ate the first peas that her parents are growing in the community garden they belong to at OSU in Corvallis.  At the end of the day, it is a simple joy to prepare your dinner with foods you have grown yourself, or bought from farmers in the area.

The need to live simply for awhile is sometimes brought upon by disaster, like those fellow Americans in OK who lost so much in the storms of life.  When you are reduced down to nothing by a few minutes of wind, it gets real.  What is really important?  In this past year of living with the change in job, then the imminent loss of my job, and the sharp reminder of my daughters mortality  - again, having a life that is already simplified as much as possible is important.  The yearly rhythm of planting, harvesting, preserving - even though scaled down, helps to keep my life in perspective.

I am sad to not blog as much as I was, but not apologetic.  I will post when I can.  I have a thread on growing carrot seed that I hope to post later this summer.  If you don't hear from me in awhile, it is because I am spending what precious free time I have in the garden - when not visiting doctors, clinics, or working.  And, I will keep taking St. Johns Wort.

My thoughts go out to all of you who are endeavoring in your own way to live simple lives...


for more info on St. Johns Wort:
And always let your dr know when you start taking an herbal supplement - I cleared taking this with my pharmacist first to make sure there would be no problems.  But my daughter could never take it, as it would interfere with her heart medications.  So always a good idea to check with your doctor or pharmacist first.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Saving Money

How do you save money?

Do you cut coupons?  Drive around and hit all the sales?  How much money are you really saving?

Cutting Coupons

Every week I overhear someone in the lunchroom at work talk about making an effort to use coupons.  Perhaps they saw one of those TV shows where people get hundreds of dollars’ worth of groceries for just a few dollars by cutting coupons.  Amazing?   Hmm, well, I would ask you to look at what kind of food they are buying.

I tried to use coupons too, but found that the only companies that can afford to offer coupons are the big mega-companies that have the brand names, that push the gmo-processed food.  If you want to live off chips, pizza, cookies, pop, and name brand cereal that is all very expensive ( and not good for you) – then couponing might be a good way to go.

I was taught by my mom to shop the perimeter of the grocery store – if I had to go to a grocery store at all.  This is where the fresh food is; fruits and vegetables, meat, dairy, eggs, etc.  No name brands; I have never seen a coupon for organic apples or broccoli.

If I had to shop the aisles, I was taught to look up high, or down low, where the off brands are kept – not at eye level where the more expensive national brands are.  That was how we saved money.  We made cookies instead of buying them or buying the kind you slice and bake.  And for those who tell me they don’t have time, I was a single mom with four kids working full time, and I still managed to find time.  I also taught my kids, who all can cook and bake and are really excellent in the kitchen.

So back to saving money.

Do you read the weekly coupons and drive around and hit all the sales?  Well, sometimes that can work – especially if you have a freezer.  I also watch the news, the commodity prices – I know that with the drought this last year, corn and wheat will go up in price, which will put meat prices up also.  I already bought my pork on sale this fall when farmers where butchering, and have all that I will need for the next 6-8 months socked away in the freezer.  I have my canned and frozen veggies and fruit.  About all I really need to buy are dairy products, eggs, and fresh vegetables now that my garden is not supplying me everything.

So, how do I save money?

#1 – I keep a budget.  I figure out what I am going to use my money for every month, put some aside for long-term goals (even if it is only $5), and let the budget be the boss of my spending. 

#2 – my main credit card is one that I get cash back on.  I use this credit card just for paying my monthly bills, like phone, utilities, cable, etc.  So I pay my bills, and then pay off the credit card.  So on bills that I would have had to pay anyway, I get cash back.  I also put about 60% of my food money on this card.  And I don’t pay it off completely – companies get upset with you for doing that.  But even leaving on about $75 - $100 balance, I don’t pay that much in interest.  And I get back about $25 - $50 a month depending on what I paid that month.

#3 – I use ebates.  Now, I would never encourage someone to go and spend money just to buy stuff.  I think a lot of the stuff that people do buy they don’t need.  But, if you do have needs, why not save money on it if you have to buy it anyway?

I have been using ebates now for about 6 months.  I was skeptical at first – not thinking that I would get much back in rebates, because I didn’t think I spent that much outside of needed items every month.  I started using it when I was shopping for Christmas.  And was surprised how quickly the balance they owed me built up.  I started looking at the list of stores they are signed up with, and realized that a lot of the stores that I buy from anyway are listed through ebates – I had just been buying stuff from them without going through the ebates portal first.! 

A good example of this is my garden.  You see how much lumber I have used in my garden to build raised beds, right?  A lot of that lumber, and the fasteners, chicken wire, tools, etc., came from Home Depot.  Did you know that you can go online to Home Depot, place your order, pay for it, and then go pick it up at your local store?  I activated my ebates tracking ticket for that purchase, and got 5% cash back.  And, the order was already on a cart and ready to go for me when I got to the store.

Dear Robin:
Your Ebates account has been updated to reflect recent shopping activity. Please remember to start at every time you shop online.

DateStoreOrder NumberCash BackStatus
11/23/2012Home DepotW173600805$5.15Purchase

Next I found that two suppliers online I use all the time were also listed on ebates – one was Gardeners supply (where I get my garden fabric to cover the raised beds) and Puritans Pride – where I order about $75 worth of vitamins and herbs every other month.  I still am buying from these companies, I just go through ebates first, and then get cash back. 

Dear Robin:
Your Ebates account has been updated to reflect recent shopping activity. Please remember to start at every time you shop online.

DateStoreOrder NumberCash BackStatus
9/7/2012Puritan's Pride3450481$8.05Purchase

Dear Robin:
Your Ebates account has been updated to reflect recent shopping activity. Please remember to start at every time you shop online.

DateStoreOrder NumberCash BackStatus
 (The above was for a new saw I needed to purchase - ordered it online and then went to will call desk at store)

One of my favorite new stores is  I went there because I was looking for a less expensive place to buy one of my daughter’s supplements that is pretty expensive – about $25 for a thirty-day supply.  I found it at - $27.99 for a sixty-day supply.  And they not only offered a 12% cash back through ebates, but you get Drugstore “dollars” to spend the next quarter.

You'll earn $5.66 in dollars™ when this order ships.
(This total may change, as it doesn't reflect any credit used to purchase your order.)
You can redeem the dollars™ you earn today between March 31 - April 30, 2013

 Now, if I need something, I get it through one of these stores, either going through ebates, or using the toolbar app that I installed.  That way, if I am surfing the web and come across something I am interested in, if it is listed with ebates, a little ebates sign shows up to notify me.  That is how I found out that I could get cash back on my Carbonite purchase (a program that backs up your computer). 

And I am careful to put all the ebate purchase on my credit card that I get cash back on – so each purchase I am getting money back from someone.

My first ebates cash back check was for a little over $60.  My next one will be around $70  I estimate – I keep finding things that I could purchase locally, but can instead get online – and with many sites, like, you get free shipping if it is over $25.  A lot of the generic products are what you would get at Walgreen’s, so I am all stocked up on stuff for the cold and flu season,  buy from them everything from toothpaste to soap, and it all comes within a couple of days – their shipping is incredibly fast.

Account Info

This is what I have earned since starting in August 

Ebates is free – the companies that are signed up probably write off the cost like advertising or coupons.  You don’t have to enter any credit card number – just your name and address so they know where to send the check.  And you can even use ebates for Groupon and LivingSocial!

I never wanted to run a bunch of ads on my blog – because those are just annoying.  However, I am so convinced and so excited about the money you can save by using ebates, that I don’t feel bad sharing a link to it.

I am currently putting all my ebate checks in my savings account to go toward a big screen TV for us – something that I normally could not afford, but may be able to next fall.  And, I will get cash back on that purchase as well.

Have fun browsing the shops – there are some there that you can save a lot of money on items you would need anyway (Zulily, the lego store, toys r us, Home Depot and Lowes, Puritans Pride, Gardener supply co., etc).  So have fun doing your monthly shopping and knowing that you are going to get some money back!
So here is the link to click on for signing up - and I will also put it in the sidebar:


Saturday, December 29, 2012

The 2012 Garden - at the end

As 2012 draws to a close, I thought I would take you back on a journey through the last couple of months in the garden.  Sorry I have not posted as I went along, but things were pretty hectic this year.

So, here is how my garden turned out:

I made multiple plantings of peas this year - started picking in April, and picked the last peas in mid-November.  It takes a lot of planning to do this.  Also, you have to ensure that you plant so that when there are blossoms, there are bees.  I made sure to have some mason bees out (the rosemary blooming early always draws them in).   I also made sure there were lots of flowers and herbs blooming late so that there were still bees around to pollinate in late October.

We had a bumper crop of pie cherries this year -more then we could possibly use.  I love cherry pie!  We had a cherry pie for Christmas ( had to use Truvia because of my diabetes) and everyone thought it was great!  We have gallons of frozen cherries, and I gave to friends and neighbors another 10-15 gallons.

I wish I could share the smell of the Marionberries we had this year.  this was another bumper crop.  I had a co-worker come over and pick several gallons.  I envision even more in 2013 because of the vine training I have been doing.  All told, we probably picked about 8 gallons of berries - from 4 plants.

These are headed for marionberry cobbler - and vanilla ice cream!

One of several planting of peas

Bok Choy blooms - had lots and lots of seeds I gathered this year!

The beginning of the tomato craziness - this is in mid-June (potatoes to the left)

By the middle of July, the tomatoes had grown way past the six foot mark - 13th street nursery was one of the few places I could find 8-9 ft bamboo at a reasonable price - I bought pretty much all they had!  Bamboo and zip ties - that is how I supported the tomatoes this year.  It was quite a sight!  People drove slowly by, walked by, came up to the door to ask about the tomatoes.  what a year for tomatoes!

And you wonder why I wasn't able to find time to blog...  Honestly, every time I came home from work, I was out either picking berries, or tying up tomatoes!

I also had to finish the front fence on the east garden next to the berries.  I had a lot of supervision from the cats.
Either Puppy likes the warm walkway, or thinks he needs to keep an eye on me.

Of course, getting up there was one thing, getting down was another.  It involved an 8 foot 2 x 6 to make a ramp for her, a lot of encouragement, and a lot of whining on Macies part.

Just as a reminder, this is the apple tree I planted from a seed 15 years ago - this was the most apples we have ever had from it, and only the third year it has borne any.  As you can see below, we got enough apples for about 4 pies.  Last year, we only got enough apples for 1 1/2.  So for Thanksgiving I made a apple cranberry pie - it was delish!

In August, canning beans started to be a every other day chore.

I canned a total of 38 quarts, 18 pints, and froze about 4 gallons of beans for veggie soup.

Picked our first crop of Blueberries from the plantings I had made in early spring. Jess was glad to get those, and Amaya helped check for more every time she came over.

In July, we helped to welcome the newest additon to our extended family - Remi  Sullivan, the daughter of my nephew Zac.  they live in Kelso - it was quite a long drive up there, but worth it!

Peppers started really producing in August, and kept on until late October.  As soon as they were ripe, Jess got them to cut up for raw veggies.  Will have to plant more next year!  I hardly got any...

Celebrated my daughter Gwens birthday this summer with a chocolate truffle cake - with our raspberries.

Amaya enjoyed the cake also!
When I lived in Greece, the street vendors cooked lamb kabobs over coals, supported by concrete blocks or bricks.  I have been wanted a bbq for sometime (preferably a Weber) but don't have $700 lying around for the one I want, so this is my kabob cooker ( and steak cooker) on the cheap.  I bought a firepit on sale ($25) - and some firebrick.  Bought a bag of charcoal for getting the fire going, but have been using up the wood from cutting down the hedge 3 years ago - so I guess it is a type of fir.  Anyway, we spent the summer experimenting with different types of kabobs.  Yum!

Homemade pita bread, yogurt, cucumbers, tomatoes, red onion - roasted lamb.  wonderful!

Here was another version with potatoes - lamb was marinated in olive oil, garlic ( which we had just harvested, and rosemary.  

Here is Amaya (age 3 and a half) helping me wash anise basil so that I can dry it.

She really gets the whole salad spinner process!

I grew two different kinds of dry bush beans this year.  Jessica's job was to clean them and sort them

It helps to have someone who is a bit OCD for jobs like this.  The only one I have tried so far is the tan ones (Annies bush beans from Nichols).  they have a great flavor - kind of mealy like a potatoes, and didn't take that long to cook up.

And of course, there was the tomatoes - most of which went into dried tomato chips, salsa, and canned tomatoes.

We probably ran the dehydrator for three straight months - doing one to two batches a day.  Sad to say, Jess only has a little bit of dried tomato chips left...  She is trying to ration them.  

We had so many chives this year, I decided to try something new.  We have had great success with basil and sage butters, so tried chive butter.

I like it spread on homemade bread, but it is good stirred into pasta also.  I even threw in some bread crumbs to get all the bits from doing this, then froze the crumbs and used them later for coating fish.  that was yummy.  I try to not waste anything.

Part of the fall crop of carrots ( most of which is still out in the garden keeping cool) and the last of the beans for veggie soup.

October meant the grape harvest was ready...

Forgot to show the currants earlier - we had a great crop this year...

Radish seeds  - they just need to dry and then be harvested

Cucumbers did well - my plan to grow them on an incline seemed to work well, and we got a steady supply of cukes for about 3 months.  Jess was so sad to see them go.  she had a greek salad every day for almost three months (cucumber, tomato, feta and olive oil)

That is all the pics I have for now.  In October is started to rain, but we were able to pick the last tomatoes in November right before thanksgiving.  I started building some new raised beds in October - took me until December to finish them with the horrid weather.  I had to pull out all the drip line for the tomatoes, the fencing along the driveway, built three 12' x 3' x 3' beds.  Just in case anyone is wondering, it takes about 120 buckets of soil ( 5 gallon size) to fill one bed.  I know - I spent several weeks in between rain storms running out, uncovering the dirt pile (4 yards of soil mix) to fill them.

Happiness right now is going through all the seed catalogs that are filling my mailbox.  I have all my seeds for 2013 - but might see something new I want to try.  My big push now is to redo two of my beds for a new project - build a seed starting tower with lights ( in the garage), and be ready to plant peas in about 8 weeks.

I know winter has just officially started, but spring is just around the corner!

Have a happy new years - be safe!