Garden Planning 2015: What Shall We Use to Fill the Empty Spaces?

Since turning my backyard into a giant vegetable garden, I don’t have too many empty spaces left in the back of my house, but the ones I do have are haunting me. Then there’s the front yard. A bare, unused small patch of grass with some torn up spots where I pulled out the ugly shrubs I hated. I also hate these unlandscaped sad empty spaces, but landscape design is not my jam. I am a total loss for what to do with these bits and pieces. Do I plant some blueberry bushes over there on that one weird slope that’s so hard to mow? Do I turn my front yard that no one uses into a butterfly/pollinator garden? Plant a bunch of veggies out there with a sign for my neighbors to wander by and help themselves?

I turned one empty space into a dog run (showcased in my post on poop composting) but I’ve still got this:

Unused space #1

Unused space #1

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Compost All The Things!

Let’s talk about poop, shall we? More specifically, dog poop. We have a large dog and he poops a lot. I hated the idea of just picking it all up and throwing into the garbage to get sent to a landfill, but I can’t just leave it sweltering in the sun stinking up the joint either. So I started researching dog waste composting. I found cool instructions for building your own in-ground dog waste composter and figured that was the perfect solution.

So last year I redid the dog’s whole side yard (he’s since totally destroyed my efforts, bad dog) and installed my very own in-ground dog waste composting system. You can just see the lid of the in-ground composter in the far corner. Continue reading

When Life Hands You DIY Fails…

A while back I posted about making these lovely clay face mask bars from a recipe on one of my favorite sites for DIY beauty, Humblebee & Me. I’m back today to share with you what an abject failure they were. Not because of any problem with the recipe as written, but because I am the problem. I am habitually unable to follow a recipe as written. This is great for cooking, as I often just sort of toss things in and see what happens. This is not so great for DIY projects.

Sometimes, sometimes, every now and then my experimentation and “let’s see what happens!” attitude result in some pretty awesome things. And since there are very few recipes out there using tallow, a lot of those projects have been heavy on the experimentation aspect and turned out pretty great. This was not one of those times. I knew as soon as these babies dried I had gone horribly awry.

Not pretty

Not pretty

I didn’t have all the ingredients that Marie used in her original recipe, so I improvised a bit. And thought, why not add some ground up flowers in one?  When I’ve made traditional face masks in the past, I’ve often added these types of things, so it seemed like a good idea to try to replicate those in bar form. No.

Okay, well maybe it would have worked, but I didn’t manage to grind my flowers (lavender, rose petals) fine enough. It wasn’t obvious at first, but once the bars dried and they looked more like pumice stones than anything I’d want to rub on my face, it was abundantly clear. As soon as I wet a bar, all the tiny stems and bits that didn’t grind up were sticking out like tiny barbs. Ouch. I didn’t fancy a face mask that started with taking off the first 12 layers of my skin.

Use on your face only if you're looking to remove all your skin.

Use on your face only if you’re looking to remove all your skin.

Okay, so a big fail. But I also hate wasting stuff. So I tried to think of other ways I could use these. Clearly never getting near my face. First I thought, maybe a body scrub bar of some kind? But again, like sandpaper. Then I’m standing there in my shower, holding this little puck of horrors and realized that their resemblance to a pumice stone was my answer. Feet bars! So I’ve now been using these as a combo foot scrub and clay mask for my ugly ugly dry cracked feet and they’re lovely! My feet feel all soft and smooth.

My recipe combined the French Green Clay bars I linked above, plus these Pink Rose Clay bars, because they used coconut oil, which I had on hand. I also made a few with tallow, because if you’ve read my blog with any regularity at this point, you know I try putting tallow in EVERYTHING. So if you want to make your own DIY FAIL Clay Foot Mask Scrub Bars, just mostly follow Marie’s recipes, and add some not so finely ground flowers (I also made one with green tea and jasmine flowers), some essential oils if you want, and scrub your sad feet pretty just in time for spring!

I did a thing…

For a while now, I’ve toyed with the idea of selling body products. I like to make them, I’ve had a number of people ask how they can buy them, and it seemed like a fun dream. But I never really moved forward, because I’ve got a full-time job and two small kids, and really, who needs yet another project? A few days ago though I saw a post on Facebook from a local woman selling all her packaging for lip balms, lotions, etc. Without thinking about it, I told her I’d buy them. So now I have this:

IMG_20150312_124145176_HDR

Oops. These boxes are all still sitting in the same place, because I have NO idea where to put them. And I’m a little bit afraid they’re going to turn into a giant visual reminder of that one time I lost my mind and bought hundreds of jars. On the plus side, I used one bottle to make my husband fancy pre-shave oil, and one large jar to make myself chai latte inspired bath salts. So… Only about 500 more little jars and bottles to go?

Make Your Own Ollas

Anyone ever made these? I thought about it last year, but never got around to it… My hugelkultur beds already cut down on watering quite a bit, but I might throw a few of these in too!

The Suburban Farm

I first read about ollas (pronounced oh-yah) over at Little Homestead in the City. Basically it’s an ancient irrigation method that uses unglazed, porous clay pots buried within the root zones of plants. Water poured into the exposed necks of the pots (or pitchers) naturally seeps into the soil, providing a continuous supply of water to the plants.

I’m intrigued by any method of watering that reduces consumption and is more natural. Ollas seem like the perfect answer, but premade ones can be expensive if you’re using them to irrigate everything.

Then I found a gardener named Matt who posted an excellent how-to for making your own ollas using nothing more than inexpensive terra cotta pots.

I followed Matt’s tutorial, and here’s how it went:

STEP ONE: ACQUIRE INEXPENSIVE POTS

Step 1: acquire pots

This time of year they’re easy to find, and I bought these 15-inch pots for $1 each at Job…

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I’m melting, melting!

The Wicked Witch of Winter is finally on her way out. My garden is still 3ish feet deep in snow, but I now think it’s entirely possible that I might be able to work on the garden sometime before May! I can actually see the top of my compost bin again!

IMG_20150309_091926413_HDR IMG_20150309_091102115_HDR IMG_20150309_091933283_HDRAnd here’s a before photo for contrast:

IMG_20150216_082805417_HDR

Monday Experiments

Finally had some inspiration to do some crafty type projects today, so I whipped up a few variations on this clay mask bar from Humblebee & Me. Mine are WAY uglier than hers. We’ll see how they function once dry!

Also made a bunch more bath melts using the recipe I posted about a while ago. I may have gotten a bit creative with the ingredients and just started throwing in all kinds of random stuff. Ground up coffee beans? Sure! Earl Grey Tea and lavender? Why not! I should clearly not be trusted in the kitchen with bath products, because I just start looking around and wondering what else I can mix up.

Experimentation!

Experimentation!

Apologies for the wretchedly crappy photo. Variations below:

  1. Lavender, rose, elderflowers, chamomile; rose and jasmine essential oils
  2. Chamomile & calendula; lavender essential oil
  3. Coffee beans (because why not?)
  4. Green tea & jasmine flowers; jasmine essential oil
  5. Chamomile and oats; rose geranium essential oil
  6. Green Tea Lemongrass
  7. Lavender Earl Grey
  8. Rose petals; rose geranium and amber essential oils
  9. Citrus; tangerine, lime and bergamot essential oils

Good thing I like baths.