Category Archives: Skills

Just Getting Warmed Up: DIY Inexpensive Base Layer for Kids

For the last few months, my preparedness focus has been on stocking our family with WARM winter clothing. We live in Utah, and we get our fair share of cold and snow. If you live in an area that is prone to cold temps, or if you plan on taking a trip somewhere that is, it’s a really great idea to be prepared. Our little kiddies are more at risk of developing hypothermia, so it’s important that we dress them to keep the heat in. One great way to do that is to dress in layers.

When layering, you want to start with material that will wick moisture away from your body, dry quickly, and have good insulating properties. The cotton thermal underwear that is carried everywhere will NOT cut it. As cotton absorbs moisture, it loses the ability to insulate well, whether that moisture be from snow, rain, or sweat. Wet cotton speed the loss of body heat. Which is great if it’s 95 degrees out. Not so great if you are stuck out in the cold for any length of time.

I found some great micro-fleece polyester thermal underwear in the women’s underwear section at Walmart of all places. All they had was cotton in the men’s section, so I bought my man a larger size of the women’s version. It works because they look gender neutral, as they are solid black, a basic shape, and base layers are meant to be fairly form-fitting under your other clothing. I was having a hard time finding anything but cotton for my little guy though, unless I spent a small fortune. That is, until I saw these, and had a stroke of genius.

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The material was right, 100% polyester fleece. Polyester is great because it doesn’t hold onto moisture like cotton. Instead of being absorbed and held, the moisture is wicked away from the skin and evaporates more quickly.

And they were cheap! This inexpensive outfit also came from Walmart. I think it was $12 or less to buy both of them.

Which brings me to this: It is HARD to cough up $$$ for clothes that your kids are going to outgrow in a blink, especially ones that are so seasonal! There are a few things that I have determined really help lessen the blow to our wallets. 1. Buy used. You can find great quality items that are lightly used for cheap! Yard sales, online classified sites, and thrift stores are great places to look. 2. Buy at the end of the current season for next season. When stores are clearing out their winter products, they’ll mark the price down. 3. Buy bigger sizes and just roll things up so that clothes can be used for more than one season. 4. Buy gender neutral and classic items so that they can be passed down to your other children.

On that note, this DIY is great because if you buy the outfit a couple of sizes larger than your child is currently in, it could potentially fit your kiddo for up to 3 winter seasons! I’ll show you what I mean in a minute.

The sweatshirt I plan on layering on top of a polyester shirt under his heavier coat, but the pants I wanted as a real “base” layer. They were a little bulky for that purpose, and I wanted a more snug fit so that he would be able to wear them under other pants. I thought about getting rid of the pockets but then I decided the storage might be a nice feature.

I’m a fairly inexperienced seamstress, but this really is EASY. I started out by putting the pants on my son inside out. I had him lay flat on the floor so that I could pin the pants where I wanted the new inseam to be.

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Cute little mannequin!

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I would recommend using straight pins, but the safety pins were what I had handy.

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I made the crotch area a little longer than he currently needs so that as he grows taller, the waist band wont ride too low. (In the meantime, I just flip the waist band over to lift the pants up the extra inch or two.) After pinning the whole thing I used a marker to mark where I wanted to cut. I left about 1/2 an inch as my seam allowance between my drawn line and the pins. My lines are obviously not perfect, nor is my pinning, and let’s be honest, neither was my sewing. But this is a VERY forgiving project.

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Then I cut away the extra fabric…

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I didn’t get any pics of these next steps, but I just sewed along the cut edges with a straight stitch about where the pins were, taking the pins out as I went. Make sure to backstitch at the end of your seams. After the straight seam, I actually zigzag stitched over the cut edge to increase the strength of the seam. Turn right-side out and ta-da!

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With the tighter fit, the pants bunch enough that even though they are long on him now, they don’t drag on the ground! And because the pants are somewhat stretchy, and the length has been reserved, he should be able to wear them for at least 2 more winters! Another bonus: The pants tuck right into his boots and stay there, instead of being a pain to tuck in as the originals would have been and will help keep the snow out of his boots!

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Is your family prepared for the weather (whatever that may be where you live)? Any great winter prep ideas you’d care to share?

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Get Prepped!

Prepping AKA emergency preparedness. Some people prep for the end of the world. Others prep for natural disaster, warfare, political unrest. Some prepare for epidemic, power outage, extreme weather, medical emergency, or job loss. Some prep simply because their religious or political leaders encourage it. Whether one or all of the above reasons appeal to your sense of urgency, prepping is a good idea. With even a basic understanding of history, it’s easy to see that disaster will strike…and you and your family could be the victims.

It’s easy to become complacent. I live in a region where major natural disasters are extremely rare. Many of us, myself included, have never known the fear of being marked as an immediate target by a specific and hate-filled enemy. And while there have been a few infectious disease scares over the past year,  most of us here in the U.S. have lived lives relatively shielded from serious contagions. I personally have never experienced life with long-term, or frequent, power outages, nor have I lived with fear in a place plagued by riots and looting. I haven’t been forced to leave my home to ensure my family’s safety. I haven’t ever been desperately hungry because food was not available. I’ve never had to filter, bleach, or boil my water to make it safe to drink.

But that could quickly change, and without warning.

History tells me that at least one of the above scenarios is extremely likely to happen in my life time. And who am I to ignore history?

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We are a Scouting family, and we believe in the motto: Be Prepared!  Part of that preparation is stocking up on necessary and useful items. Part is practicing skills that increase chances of survival and long term self sufficiency. But just as important as the first two parts is learning from the past, studying history, and as a family of faith, searching scripture and putting our trust in God.

Please, join us here at Wildflower Independence for prepping reminders and ideas, and join me and my family in readying ourselves for whatever may come our way. Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments, as well as any suggestions for future prepping posts!

Whatever prepping means to you, please, don’t wait until disaster is breaking down the door. It may already be knocking.

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Christmas 2014

We didn’t get a real tree this year as I would have liked. I love getting a permit to cut our own in the mountains, but this year we were trying to simplify as life was a little too hectic (moving into our new house, etc.). Hopefully we can get a fresh tree next year!

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Christmas morning!

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Cousins in Christmas jammies! My little guy went a less traditional route…dragons are Christmasy though right? Er…

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We had a great Christmas and it was so nice to spend time together. I hope you had a fantastic holiday and felt the love!

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Beets? Little Help Here?!

Can I just start out by saying, beets are drop-dead gorgeous! The colors are vivid, bright and deep. I love the red veining that runs through the leaves, the contrast is just beautiful. And golden beets have a beautiful orange, almost red glow…

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Now, that I’ve swooned over them a bit, I have a confession. I don’t have a lot of experience growing beets. And I could definitely use some advice. As far as I can remember, this is my second year attempting to grow them, and the first year I’ve ever grown the golden variety.

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For some reason the goldens were not nearly as hardy as my plain ol’ red variety (I think they were Detroit Dark Reds). Is this a normal occurance? I planted about the same number of reds and golds, and my reds came up pretty reliably, while only a couple of the golds held on long enough to even form a root! What’s up with that?!

They were in the same bed, and should have recieved close to the same amount of water, AND I think I even planted them at the same time!!

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Another question: They are beautiful this year, and I’ve really enjoyed using the tops as cooked greens with my swiss chard…

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But why are my beet roots so small? They are barely larger than hefty radishes!

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Does anyone out there have great advice for growing large rooted beets? And should I just expect the goldens to be less reliable than the standard red variety?

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Grandpa’s Garden

So, I told you in a previous post that you HAD to see my Grandpa’s tomatoes, but this post will show you how pathetic my garden really has been this year, because you are about to see some of the rewards and results of a true gardening MASTER.

This is my Grandpa. He’s approximately 6 feet tall. The plants that he’s standing next to are Super Fantastic Tomato plants. Yes, they are gigantic, and gorgeous, and loaded with tomatoes.

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He builds large round cages out of wire fencing to hold these babies up, and as you can see, UP is exactly where they have gone!  (You can see one of the cages on the left (below), as well as part of grandpa’s carrot bed, and small corners of his melon patch vines and blackberry bushes.)

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Grandpa plants them in his “Black Gold”, which I’ve been told is mostly composted leaves (A.K.A. leaf mold) from his deciduous trees that he collects and piles up each fall. He usually starts his tomatoes from seed early in the season, eventually moves them to his handmade cold frame (which is beautiful and should be the subject of another post), and then finally they make it into the garden when it’s warm enough. He plants them in wide, deep holes that he FILLS with “Black Gold”. He said that this year, he mulched with a little bit of horse manure on top around the holes. As you can see, his methods are working.

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You will also notice that Grandpa had to make his fence a bit higher with baling twine to keep the resident deer out.  They were after his tomatoes! Grandpa’s onions are beauties, too. He grows these from seed each year.

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He gave me some seed heads for my garden next season! And can I just draw attention to the absence of weeds in his garden!?

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Aren’t the seed heads pretty! Grandpa makes great fresh salsa out of these onions and tomatoes!

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Grandpa told me that to plant his carrot bed, he crushes the seed heads in his hand and then broadcasts them in the area he wants them. He then puts some “Black Gold” on top. I think he does the same thing with his onions.

Thanks Grandpa for letting me show off some of your awesome gardening skills! I wan’t to be like you when I grow up!!

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Summer Garden August 2014

The garden is doing well this year, though half of it got started a bit late. We have been enjoying the addition of truly fresh food to our diets. Bryce has a garden bed at the office this year as well, so we’ve been getting good stuff from both places. Beet greens and swiss chard have made appearances on our plates, and zucchini has been eaten with gusto in a dish that’s new to us. (I’ll share the recipe soon….it was SOOO good).

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Baby Boy loves eating the peas…hence there are few pea pods left on the plants to photograph right now, but there will be more in a week.

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Lots of green tomatoes, only a couple red ones so far. I swore last year I wouldn’t use the same wimpy tomato cages, but I didn’t follow through. Unfortunately, not all of my tomatoes are even caged at this point. I did find, however, that the “large” puny cages do alright when doubled up. They support the tomatoes much better doubled than when they are used singly.

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This year I planted the tomatoes closest to the fence in holes filled with compost, and the other 3 are just planted in our regular soil. The 3 closest to the fence do seem to be doing better, but they were also planted a little earlier if I remember correctly. And they are different varieties. So, not a true test of the difference compost makes, but I still believe the compost is the way to go. You should see my grandpas tomato plants. He plants in large deep holes, filled with just leaf mold/compost and his plants are MASSIVE and loaded with tomatoes. I mean, we are talkin’ 5 foot tall, lush, thick dark green plants covered in beautiful tomatoes. I’ll have to take a photo and show you sometime, it’s amazing!

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The gooseberry plants gave us a great harvest this year, and they are so much bigger than they were last year! The dill and basil have struggled. You can barely see them poking up between the brassicas and the gooseberries. I planted them late in the season as transplants and they’ve been too thirsty at times. Even so, the basil has been used a lot in my cooking.

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My ARP rosemary is doing well. It is supposed to be a variety that has a better chance of surviving our cold winters, so crossing my fingers. When you just brush your hand across a rosemary plant and breath that scent, oh my stars. I love it.

And look at those gorgeous chives and green onions! They both overwintered from last year, and I started the green onions from the left overs of a store bought bunch! After chopping the green tops for a recipe, I planted the bottoms. They’ve done really well, and even went to seed this year.

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I think a neighbor must have sprayed weed killer earlier this summer, and it must have gone airborne (volatilized) and hit some of my jerusalem artichokes. That’s the most likely explanation as to why there is a completely dead patch right in the middle of the bed. I’ll have to replant the spot this fall when I harvest the tubers.

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I planted green beans around Baby Boy’s saguaro cactus rib teepee fairly late in the season. I thought it would be a fun “house” for him, and if we get beans, great! He helped me plant them. *smile*

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Kale got in late, but is doing well. And I imagine with the cooler temps we’ve been having lately, they are going to take off soon. Aren’t they lovely!

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Broccoli is flowering! Not necessarily great for edibility, but look how pretty it is! Looks like broccoli will be on the menu today.

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I’ve got at least two little watermelon forming. They seem to be growing pretty quickly, which is fun for impatient gardeners…not that I know any.

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Yes, there are obviously some weeds in my garden. Morning glory is a major pest in my yard and garden. We put a lot of black plastic down this year to help control some of the weeds and to retain moisture. This has worked well over all. It definitely has made weed control easier…although there ARE weeds in my garden, they aren’t as HUGE or quite taking over….so that nice.

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Lessons I’ve learned (or have been reminded of) so far this year are:

That I need to plant stuff earlier to give it a better chance of producing a respectable harvest.

Use a good compost, and dig your holes wide and deep.

Control the weeds early in the season, and mulch to keep them down, and keep the garden looking nice. Don’t let them go to seed! Next year I plan to mulch the perimeter of the garden with straw to keep it looking clean and to help smother weeds.

Any gardening lessons you’ve learned that you’d care to share? Let’s hear it!

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The Seeds Are Here!

Look what came in the mail for me yesterday! Oh it’s like Christmas!

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I am one of those strange people that devour seed catalogues. The different plant varieties and their growth habits enchant me, and I daydream of harvesting produce as diverse and colorful as the plants that fill those pages. I have scavenged the catalogues for years, but this is the first order I’ve placed. EVER.

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These were my top picks this year, although I may place another order. These are all heirloom varieties, so the plants will come back true from seed saved each year (as long as they don’t get near another variety that can cross-pollinate). I ordered from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and Seed Savers Exchange.

Baker Creek:

Ananas Noire Tomato This tomato’s flavor profile sounds intriguing. It also has interesting coloring and is supposed to be a good producer.

Golden Beet I love beets, golden and otherwise. Big bonus, the gold ones aren’t nearly as likely to stain your clothes or anything else!

Petit Gris de Rennes Melon In the catalogue, this is claimed to be the favorite melon of a famous melon expert. I figure if it’s a “melon expert’s” fave, it’s gotta be good.

Zuchinno Rampicante Squash Love that this squash can be used as a summer squash or as a winter/storage type.

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Seed Savers Exchange:

Potimarron Squash It’s French name describes it’s supposed chestnut-like flavor, it’s a good keeper, and just look at that gorgeous red/orange skin! I also like that the squash isn’t a HUGE winter squash. It’s a manageable size at about 3-4 pounds, just big enough for a few people, or to be turned into a pot of soup.

Black Krim Tomato This tomato looks amazing, super dark, and the flavor is supposedly one of the best. I can’t wait to try this one!

Sweet Pea Currant Tomato These are itsy-bitsy tomatoes perfect to garnish…whatever you garnish tomatoes with. Honestly I’m hoping the flavor is good too, because I don’t know how many excuses I can come up with to grow adorably minuscule tomatoes if the main purpose is not to eat them. But I couldn’t resist trying them at least once.

I cannot wait to see how these babies do this year! Are you growing any new varieties this year that you’re excited about? Any tried and true that you would recommend?

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Growing Citrus In Cold Places

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My lemon tree started blooming, so I thought I’d share the beautiful gems with all of you. Unfortunately, I can’t share the gorgeous smell! I love the scent of citrus blossoms.

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Not too long ago, the little buds were just tiny, like this:

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They grew until the plant was covered in white buds like this:

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Even before the buds opened they started to smell AMAZING, and over the last few days they have opened into these sweet, waxy blooms.

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Some of the blossoms from last year turned into this year’s fruit. This is a lemon, and the next shot is a blood orange.

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If you have an indoor space that gets a fair amount of sun in the winter, I would highly recommend growing one of these beauties. The foliage is gorgeous, the flowers are lovely (as is the scent), and they are pretty forgiving plants. My dad gave me these trees a few years back. A few of the trees were bare-root, and some of them he had been growing in pots. My dad was a lot better at regularly fertilizing and watering than I have been, but I am improving. You’ll notice that in the following photo, there are not a lot of large leaves, but there is a TON of new growth and small flower buds.

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Even though I brought them inside for the winter, they lost a lot of leaves. There are probably a few reasons for this:

-The seasonal drop in temperature for one.

-The shock of being moved abruptly (without being whatever-the-oppsite-of-hardened-off-is) may have had something to do with it.

-New temperatures

-Less light

-Maybe even the difference of humidity from outside and the mudroom could have done it. I’ve read somewhere that misting your trees can help, or putting them over a tray of pebbles and water, so that the evaporating water can help keep the humidity higher.

-Cold. Our mudroom is very cold in the winter, due to drafts, the tile floor, and the heater vent that was closed until just recently (for some reason), so it may have just been too cold in there.

-And finally, it could have also been a lack of water, since the tree that lost the most leaves was the one that I think was most neglected when it came to watering.

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Whatever the reason, I am just glad that the trees seem to be forgiving me, and I hope to make it up to them this year.

This morning I noticed that the lemon tree had shiny dried spots on it. To get an idea of what I’m talking about, imagine that someone flicked sugary syrup-water onto the leaves and then it dried. And that’basically what happened. The culprits were fairly easy to spot once I knew to look for them. Aphids. They drink the sap from the tender buds and leaves and excrete a sweet sticky substance called “honeydew”.  I also found a solitary “scale”. I killed the majority of the aphids, and removed the scale. I squished them by lightly brushing my fingers over the areas where the infestation was the worst. Kind of gross when you think it through but hey, it works. I need to mix up a spray for the rest of them. We’ll try using some soapy water first, and then go from there.

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Baby Boy enjoys smelling the flowers too, but I have to keep a close eye. He likes to pluck the flower buds!

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So give it a try if you have the inclination! My next citrus attempt…kaffir lime! I’ll keep you updated on how my trees do this year. Any favorite citrus memories and recipes out there?

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Our Garden 2013

“Neglected” has to be the word that would best describe my garden this year, but that being said; we had some successes, some failures, and the results of some experiments to share.

I hadn’t grown broccoli before, and I made the mistake of waiting too long to cut the little heads off in the summer. When I finally got around to it, they had flowered. Hoping to see if we would get any usable side shoots, I cut the heads off and let them start over. I am so glad that I did, because we were rewarded with some small-medium sized heads this fall. They probably would have done even better had I watered them more, as they were in a raised bed. The cauliflower was no good, but I’ll probably try again next year. *UPDATE* The heads turned into LARGE heads of broccoli by the end of the season!

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I got the potatoes planted quite late in the season. I think if I had planted in EARLY spring, and waited until the tops had died before digging, I would have had a larger crop of bigger potatoes. As it was though, I am just happy we got anything! I planted Yukon Golds, Purple Vikings and Norland Reds(I think).

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Kale was a superstar in our garden this year! I planted in the spring, and it survived the summer. By fall it looked glorious! Dark blue-green with lovely crinkled leaves. And it was delicious in our Zuppa Toscana soup!

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Look how pretty the Brassica beds look! Just ignore the weeds please.

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And while we are on the subject of Brassica, the brussel sprouts were a little bit of a disappointment I’m afraid.  I planted them in late spring with kale, broccoli, cauliflower. The leaves are large and lovely to look at, but the buds…They seemed to go straight from small and tight, to small, loose, and leafy. I didn’t find any of the hard, tightly packed balls that I expected. This was my first attempt at growing them, and I’ll definitely do more research and try them again because we love brussel sprouts! They weren’t a complete waste anyway, because the large leathery leaves are apparently a favorite of our chickens, and the loose sprouts were still delicious steamed with other vegetables and served over brown rice. I read online that you can eat the leaves in various ways as well, so we’ll try that next year!

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The tomatoes did not do well this year, and there are a handful of reasons why I think that was the case. I should have dug wider, deeper holes, with a small embankment around the hole to keep water in. And I should have filled the holes with compost with just a little bit of our native soil mixed in, instead of the opposite. I think because our soil needs some work (It seems pretty clay-ey), the water just couldn’t penetrate deep enough. And I didn’t water often enough. To make matters worse, many of the tomatoes had to be dug up and replanted so that we could have a tractor come in to prep the backyard for sod. So all that being said, of the few tomatoes that we did grow, I’ll plant Superfantastics, Cherokee Purple and the Sun Sugar cherry tomatoes again next year, along with a few new varieties.

Oh, and I will NOT be using the weak tomato and peony cages for my tomatoes again next year. As pathetically small as my tomatoes were, they STILL managed to weigh the cages down to the point of leaning over. My Dad and Grandpa both use heavy duty wire fencing that they wire together into large, round, sturdy cages. I hope to build some of my own next year.

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The jerusalem artichokes = SUCCESS!  Planted these late last fall and have already harvested some of the lovely tubers (In fact, I have some in my crockpot with a beef roast as I type). I’ll go into more detail in another post, because I think more people should be growing these. They are a great source of food, and they give another boon of flowers!

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If you happen to notice the way the jerusalem artichoke patch slants…I tried an experiment, and that is the result. If I remember correctly, I only planted the very small round tubers on the right side, and medium-large tubers on the left side. As you can tell, the size of the starting tuber does seem to make a difference in the size of the plant. I wonder if seed potatoes work the same way?

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My two Poorman gooseberry bushes had blossoms, but no fruit. I may not have watered them enough, and perhaps that is the reason they didn’t produce, but I have high hopes for next year. They were planted in the last last year or so, so they may just be getting settled.

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Our garden wasn’t great this year, but we tried some experiments and learned a few things. More time weeding couldn’t hurt. *smile* Our soil is less than perfect, and would benefit from a lot of organic matter. We added some horse manure last year, and a little bit of grass clippings and compost in some areas, but not nearly enough. So this fall I hope to till in all of our sycamore leaves and more grass clippings. Our vegetable garden is partially located over what used to be gravel RV parking…so, yeah. Buried gravel. Thankfully, last fall we put in a few raised beds using cedar fence slats. So I’ll add some compost to the beds as well as work on sifting out more of the gravel. I’m already excited to start planning next years garden! Hopefully we’ll have even more success, and fewer failures!

 

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Fresh Apple Juice

Bryce’s friend Bevan built a heavy duty juicer/press using a garbage disposal to crush the apples, and a car jack to press out the juice. Pretty ingenious, I would say. We have great intentions of building one or two apple presses of our own in the near future, but Bevan was kind enough to let us borrow his in the meantime. The night these photos were taken, we were at Spencer and Shanille’s house. Baby Boy wasn’t quite sure what to think of the puppies, but they sure seemed to like him!

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I was loving the sunset light, and the effect it was having on his fly-away hair. (He still hasn’t had a first haircut!)

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Watching the action happening up in the apple tree!

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In the tree, shaking and throwing apples down to the “gatherers”.

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Now for a game of “Where’s Baby Boy?!”

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There he is!

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Considering how much time his parents spent in the trees as children, I guess he comes by his interest in climbing honestly.

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Since the apples were unsprayed, they had a few worm holes. We cut out the bad parts of the apples, and used an apple slicer to cut them into smaller pieces so that the disposal could be more efficient.

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This cutie stopped gathering long enough to give me a smile!

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Observing…something.

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Baby Boy helping to gather apples.

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Enjoying the sunset…and the homing pigeons.

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A quick trampoline break!

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Feeding apples into the disposal! Our process went something like: Collect the apples, cut/core/deworm-hole the apples, put apple slices into BYU bucket, fill the bucket with water and rinse the slices, drain water out of bucket, feed apple slices into the disposal, collect apple mash in a mesh lining, press the juice out using a carjack with a round wooden piece attached, collect juice in the bottom tray and finally dispense juice into the clean buckets.

Ta dah! Apple juice!

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Bryce hauling the apple cores out to the animals.

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Overseeing the apple press.

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The outcome of our labor! Fresh apple juice! Hooray!

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I didn’t get photos of the buckets filled, but we divided the apple juice into BYU creamery icecream buckets. The buckets are large, 3-5 gallons I think, but it’s possible to fit at least one into our refrigerator. Since we intended to drink the juice fairly quicky, we didn’t bottle or freeze any. That will be an experiment for some other time.

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