Thursday, February 23, 2012

Winter Reading in Anticipation of Spring Gardening

Is anyone else getting anxious for spring, to get outside and play in the dirt again?  Even though this seems to be the "winter that wasn't" for our area, I have reached the point where I am definitely ready to get out of the house.
Our yard is a disastrous sight!  Sticks and branches of all sizes are strewn everywhere, and leaves that the neighbors didn't clean up from their yards during the fall have come to settle in the edges of my flower beds and collect at the base of the garden fence.  There is driveway gravel tossed into the lawn from the little snow shoveling we have had to do.  The end of a small stack of firewood has tumbled down, probably from the raccoon that likes to climb the nearby pine tree.  Because of the strangely non-winter-like weather we have had, lots of weeds have already grown in the bare veggie gardens.

If you consider dealing with those sorts of things, then I suppose the coming of spring doesn't seem all that appealing does it?  But then of course there are the little snow drops up about 2 inches already, the first flowers in my yard to bring a glimpse of the joy and hope of spring.  And too, the greenhouse has weathered the season exceptionally well; with only minor attention to adjust the door slide and a few panel clips, it will be ready for seed starting trays--lots of them!   In addition to these, I have my bookshelf of winter reading to get me geared up for gardening.

There are so many places to turn for info these days, but I am "old school" enough that I like to have my resources in hands-on format.  Sure, I look up lots of things on the internet, I would be foolish not to take advantage of it, but like to have a books of my own. Books that I can skim, re-read, highlight, write side notes in, crease and wrinkle, and go back to time and again.

One book that I picked up a few years ago is The Vegetable Gardener's BIBLE, by Edward C Smith.
The Vegetable Gardener's Bible
It includes so much practical information that can be adapted to any home garden, and includes a plant directory (index of vegetables and herbs) with individual plant needs, crop rotation considerations, choosing the best site, sowing and growing, harvesting and storage of every kind of food plant we would ever want to grow in our back yard.  This is one of the books as I described before--highlighted, page corners folded over, and referred to often!

Next you see the cover for a book we bought last year. I have read bits and pieces of it so far, and have found it very interesting and well written.  As you can tell by the few and far between posts this winter, I have yet to become the Four-Season Harvest-er. The author Eliot Coleman, gives lots of helpful information about extending your home gardening season by the use of cold frames, greenhouses, row covers, varieties of crops and other things that I aspire to do one day...and reviewing the book while wrapped in a blanket on a cold day now is a sure way to start to get that "gardeny" feeling.

Gardening Magic
Strange facts, odd solutions and tips for using household products in the garden can all be found in Joey Green's Gardening Magic.  Things like poison ivy remedies, "recipes" to deter various pests, coffee and tea fertilizers, and easy hand cleaners can be really useful, even if I can't see myself taking some of his other suggestions such as using mouthwash to clean pruning tools or the legs cut off of a pair of pantyhose stuffed with rags tied around my knees for kneeling pads. (That one is kinda different?!?!)  If for no other reason, this book was a fun gift from my hubby because it makes an interesting "coffee table" book or conversation starter!

(Note:As of the time of this post, all of the books pictured can be found at Clicking on the link below each book's picture will direct you there!)

Do any of you have favorite resources for your gardening information? I would love to hear from you and check out your book suggestions too!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Winter Non-Garden Projects: Cat Scratching Post

 From time to time, especially during the winter when there is little to do outdoors,  I "get crafty" and have to urge to make something. Sometimes that involves sewing, sometimes its scissors and glue, other times its my toolbox.  YES, I have my own tool box, and it stays in the house right where I can find most things I might need.  It is really multipurposed in its existence, but one reason I have it is so I don't have to go searching in the garage for hubby's tools! (I will save the other reasons why I have my own toolbox for another post.)

This project is actually the result of my saving a small scrap of carpet left over from a whirlwind weekend apartment makeover we did for a family member last summer.  The piece of carpet was pretty small and very stiff, and retained the shape from being rolled up on a tube--as new carpeting usually is. Well as it was laying there on the floor, I (in my sleep deprived state) thought I could use it for some project or another and tossed it in the trunk of my car....and there it stayed...and was used for various things alright, like a mat under a hot baking dish when I took a meal to a family at church.  Then I got the brilliant idea--as our cat scratched the end of our couch with her claws...and scratched at the carpet on our stairs...and scratched at the cushion on the chair--to make a scratching post! AH HA that carpet would be useful right?!  hmmmm...

Shortly after I thought of my "great project idea,"  my dad was checking out some thing under the hood of my car and needed something out of the trunk as well.  He asked "why do you have this scrap of carpet?"  So I began to tell him of my magnificent plan!  He disappeared into the garage and quickly returned with a heavy cardboard tube that I could use for the project....but what was I going to use for a base to keep the thing upright? Then the task got really interesting as although he would deny it, dad likes a good crafty project as much as I do! And besides it was for his grandkitties as he affectionately refers to our 2 cats and reminds me that neither my sister in law nor myself have given him any REAL grand children yet so he has to spoil the cats. Anyways, back to the project--We rummaged around in the garage and found a piece of 3/4 inch plywood which dad then cut into an 18 inch square, (yah I have a tool box but no power tools so I needed help with this part, hee hee).  He then meticulously measured the ends of the tube and cut a circle of the plywood to fit snuggly inside each end, and secured them with a bit of construction adhesive. After finding the center of the plywood base, he drilled 4 holes and added 4 wood screws to hold the post (tube) onto the base (square plywood).

You can see the 2 parts pictured here.

I took the bare construction home with me and set out to cover the tube with my salvaged carpet scrap--which turned out to be way to short for that, and way to stiff to fold over and cover the baseboard.  So after all that time saving it... it ended up in the garbage anyways!
NOW WHAT, UGH!  I had to rethink my plan.
Later I found a thin rubber backed rug on clearance at the store for only $4, and snagged that to perfectly cover the base. My trusty staple gun came in handy for fastening it tightly and smoothly over the edges of the board.  Then a quick trip to the hardware and $7, resulted in a 100 foot roll of 1/4 inch twisted sisal roping to wrap the vertical part of the project.   The pictures below show how I just tied a slip knot,  tightened the loop at the base of the tube,  then tightly wrapped the rope around and around til I reached the top of the 19 inch post, where I finished with a knot and a dab of glue to keep the end from fraying.
You can also see one little furry friend was interested in her present before it was even finished!

To make the fixture more interesting to the cats, I attached a toy to it.  The small fishy is on the end of an elastic cord making it fun to bat at and bite and pull on!  A simple screw in the center of the wooden disc on the top of the tube holds the other end of the elastic string in place.

And here you see the finished product with a kitty cat trying it out.

Oh, I almost forgot to write a few extra notes on the subject:

Why do cats scratch on things?--to keep their claws clean and sharp.

How tall should a scratching post be?--at least as tall as the cat is long when standing, or taller so she can stand on her back legs and stretch up with her front paws.

Make sure the post is sturdy--so it doesn't tip over when that cat first tries to use it, and startle her into not wanting to use again.

Multi surfaces--such as wood, twine, cardboard or carpeting, provide variety for the cats to work their claws on but protects your furniture, curtains, rugs and clothes.

See ya again soon with another winter project post!

Monday, February 13, 2012

"To Blog or Not To Blog?" That is the question!

"To Blog or Not To Blog?"
Hello readers. Did you miss me?  Did you often check to see if there were any new posts only to be disappointed? Have you wondered and worried what has become of the getaway gardener during the winter?

No, not really?!  I didn't think so. 

Not much has been going on in the gardening department here, nor the green house (as winter gardening in there is still in the experimental stages for me).   I worked on a few non-gardening related projects during the winter, and I may get around to posting about those, but does anyone really want to read about the projects I am doing?  or about my upcoming gardening plans? or creepy little buggies that crawl around in the garden later in the season? or my burnt tomato sauce and other such preserving mishaps?    

Recently, I was asked if I was going to continue with the blog this year ... and I didn't really know how I wanted to answer, so I have spent a little time thinking on the question. Here are the things I have been mulling over:

SUBJECT MATTER:  I have some ideas, which seem interesting to me... but then when I think about sharing them, ugh. I think well "now they will all know I am a weirdo for sure!"    Of course, "I am what I am and that's all that I am, I'm Popeye the sailor m.. ", oh oopsie that can't be the song I was goin for....where was I?  Right, being weird!    I guess it's probably a good idea to share the trials and triumphs that we are experiencing as we do our best to be good stewards of the opportunities and resources we are given, and in this day and age, blogging is probably the most widespread and easy venue for doing so.  Also, do I limit this to garden-oriented stuff, because it has been named "getawaygarden" specifically, or is it acceptable to expand to other projects, info and skills I learn, try, conquer (or fail)?

TIME MANAGEMENT:  Is posting really the best use of my time? or is it something I can "allow" as my "rest time" activity?

AUDIENCE:  I only have 9 official blog followers! and the hit or miss few that happen across the occasional link from facebook...

AM I ANY GOOD AT THIS:  Well let me just say here that I used to be smart, quite smart in fact  (insert wide cheesy smile)  but eh, the brain is getting a little out of practice in the finer things as I have spent so much time in the last few years almost completely engaged in child care, elder patient care, diapers (yes from both of the former categories thank you), reading books which have less than 20 pages and include lots of pictures, medicine regulation and administration, well you get the point... very often now I feel like the ol' brain is just about mush!  SO, am I kidding myself in thinking I can still intelligibly translate my thoughts into articles that a-people want to read, and b-convey information that is somewhat useful or at least mildly entertaining. And is   keeping up with writing to y'all, researching topics that come up about gardening, and etc possibly GOOD for my noggin! 


CONSPIRACY WARNINGS:  Ok, so seriously these are the real concerns in today's world...The things I feel are important enough to blog about/share info on/whatever... are also the topics that cause a lot of people to be on high alert.  Can I deliver vague enough postings so as not to be considered a target (in any of several aspects) and still clearly transmit useful information, experience, and values to my readers?  The things I hold most dear are Faith, Family, Freedom and the Preservation of all three--It goes without saying that each of these are under attack and so are the people that promote them.

Here's where you come in!  Tell me you want me to stay.  Join this site as an official follower if you haven't yet, then share me with your friends! Get me some more followers! Leave me comments, questions, and topic suggestions...

I will be waiting to hear from you...