This post is in partnership with DripWorks. All thoughts and words are my own.
In summer, keeping a vegetable garden well watered means keeping an open tap like you haven’t seen since your last kegger in college. But in the western United States, the little rainfall we’ve seen this winter can make it seem like summer year-round. And that makes our finite resource ever more precious in spite of the few rainstorms that did pass through in recent weeks.
Despite record-breaking precipitation last year from Alaska down to California, 38.4 percent of the US is once again facing drought, the highest percentage since the 40 percent recorded in May 2014. Over 44 percent of California is currently considered to be in moderate drought, reservoirs in the Colorado River Basin are at alarmingly low levels, and bone-dry farmland across the country has resulted in poor pasture and crop conditions. According to the Climate Prediction Center, it’s looking like another dry year ahead.
For those of us in urban areas, it’s sometimes hard to wrap our heads around the fact that our water supply is dwindling. After all, we simply turn on the tap and water magically falls, as much as we’d like. But I think a lot of gardeners (especially edible gardeners) feel the struggle, financially and emotionally, every time a new seed is sowed or another bounty is brought in.
In a conservation-conscious area, this could mean a bit of creative planning, cutting back on raised beds or finding ways to reuse gray water. But irrigate your garden right, and your crops can continue to drink up without exceeding your city’s water restrictions. In fact, you’ll be able to tend your vegetable garden while saving water at the same time.
Two new things happened in my house after I moved from a perennially mild climate to a cold and snowy climate: boot trays and overwintered houseplants. Lots of overwintered houseplants.
In fact, they’re not even houseplants in the sense of peace lilies or mother-in-law’s tongue (low-light varieties that live inside all year), but plants like bloody dock. And mint. And lemongrass. They’re plants that moved with us to Oregon after we dug them out of our California garden, and they’ve been hibernating in a sunny window for the past few months, waiting patiently for the frost to pass.
(And, um, that could be a while… I’ve heard stories of frost happening in June here!)
Early spring can feel like a game of garden roulette: sunny and warm one week, tempting you to transplant all those tomatoes you’d started inside, then wet and cold the next week, reminding you that frost isn’t entirely out of the picture.
If you’re itching to get outside but the unpredictable weather is reigning you in, there’s still plenty you can do around the yard before (and aside from) sowing seeds or putting tender seedlings in the ground. The name of the game in March is “clean-up,” and this checklist will walk you through all the sometimes forgotten (or intentionally overlooked) tasks to help you tune-up your garden for prime planting season.
My daughter loves to be in the kitchen. (Perhaps a budding cookbook author herself?) She loves to watch me cook and mimic what I do, whether it’s stirring up a pot or pouring liquid from one bowl to another.
She loves it so much, in fact, that we’ve had to install a gate across the opening to our kitchen because it was easier than childproofing each and every cabinet and drawer. Her curiosity and enthusiasm for pot lids, pot holders, tea towels, food containers, and mixing bowls meant they were always scattered on the floor or disappearing into the living room, where she often set up her own makeshift cooking space.
For months I kept an eye on Craigslist for a reasonably priced play kitchen when I realized that my favorite kitchens, the stylish Charlie and Chelsea collections from Pottery Barn Kids, were over $700! Sorry, Gemma, I love you but I could buy a lot of things for the real kitchen for that much. When I found this KidKraft Culinary Kitchen at a steep discount (after stacking a few coupons on the Target site), I decided to jump on it.
I started my first seeds of the season last week — tomatoes, my favorite summer crop. I like to give them a head start by sowing the seeds indoors so that come March (if I’m lucky), I can harden them off and transplant them outside.
Right now I’m starting six varieties of tomatoes, a purple tomatillo, and a shishito pepper in 16 tiny seed starting pots recycled from years past. While 16 sounds like a reasonable number, it’s not uncommon for me to have upwards of 100 pots or more, of all sizes, once I’m in the thick of seed starting season. And, I rarely buy new pots.
We moved a lot of things from California to Oregon when our family relocated a few months ago, from our favorite plants to our flock of chickens, but the one thing we’re glad we didn’t haul up here is our old chicken coop.
That’s not to say we disliked our tiki coop design — it served us well for six years and we were happy to pass it on to the next owners, who were hoping to raise a flock of their own. In fact, they asked if we’d leave it behind, as we had planned on disassembling the structure and salvaging some of the wood.
But the tiki coop was originally designed for a mild Southern California climate, and we knew we needed something that could stand up to Central Oregon’s snowy winters. One of the hot topics before our move was, Should we build or should we buy?
This post is in partnership with 3-IN-ONE® and Lava Soap®. All thoughts and words are my own.
When novice gardeners ask for advice on gardening tools, my response is always to buy the best you can afford. Shears and pruners can be found at your local discount stores, but these small hand tools are among the most abused in your garden. It’s worth the extra few bucks for tools that will last through many seasons and perform well under constant use.
Subsequently, you’ll want to take good care of them to not only protect your investment, but also reduce the chances of spreading weed seeds or soil-borne pathogens around your yard. I know — easier said than done, right?
But tool maintenance doesn’t have to be total drudgery. If you take a few minutes after every use (even every couple of uses) to care for your tools, you’ll save yourself hours of elbow grease at the end of the season.
Every year for the last couple of years, I’ve been sequestering myself for several days at a time, borrowing beautiful homes in beautiful places for self-imposed and self-directed writing retreats. I find myself checking off a huge number of tasks on my to-do list in just a few days, more than I’m usually able to do in a week in my own home.
And why is that?
Because there are no distractions. There are no husbands to cook for, animals to pick up after, dishes to load, laundry to fold, or errands to run. While I adore my home and see it as a sanctuary, the reality of being home is that there’s always something to do here… something other than work. It’s especially difficult considering I work from home, and every day as I’m typing away on my laptop, the garden or the kitchen or the ocean view always calls to me.
So, I am a big fan of self-imposed writing retreats. I love to get away, focus on my passions, and find inspiration in a new environment. I love to hunker down and tackle projects that would otherwise be near-impossible for me to start (or finish) at home. I retreat in order to move forward.
As children, we’re often told little white lies or half-truths in order to be coerced or persuaded into doing something we resist. I didn’t think this was fair game until I became a parent myself, and find myself making promises to my toddler that, at her age, she easily forgets. (I’m sure this will come back to bite me in the butt in a couple of years.)
So it makes me smile when I remember the oft-repeated “motivations” (read: manipulations) by my parents to encourage me to eat more vegetables: carrots will give me crystal clear vision or — my personal favorite as a kid — spinach will make me stronger (like Popeye!). While I eventually figured out that spinach won’t give me superhuman strength, I’d always accepted — even as an adult — that carrots were good for the eyes and we needed to eat a lot of it. I think my ophthalmologist even told me so at one point.
You can imagine my reaction when I learned in later years that the carrot’s claim to fame is nothing more than an urban myth, born from propaganda spread during World War II.
Surprised? So was I.