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Archive for the ‘organization’ Category

“It’s about time” is a series I have started over at Sincerely, Emily this year. Basically, it is about finally getting around to doing some things I keep putting off for one reason or another.

We all have our “lists” don’t we? Please tell me I am not the only list maker out there. Some of you have them in your head (that was me when I was 23 yo) and some of you have them on paper, in your phone or on you computer (paper for me thank you!)

I tape a list to the kitchen cupboard when I find I just keep forgetting certain things I need to do.  I tape a checklist to the door so when I am leaving for a meeting I can make sure I haven’t forgotten anything. It is terrible when you arrive at you culinary group meeting to find out forgot the dish you cooked! (I haven’t done that yet, and I really don’t want it to happen – therefore, a list)

I have a notebook in my purse with one page dedicated to grocery or shopping related things – everything is written in one place and that works for me. (like the dimensions of the oven rack I need because I did this!)  That notebook serves another purpose; it is always in my purse so when I am out I can add to it, jot down something I need to email someone, things I need to do, etc.

We all have things we need to do: take out the trash, clean the bathroom, call the dentist, but this is different. I am talking about things that I want to do (after I have cleaned the bathroom or taken out the trash). I don’t have to make kimchi… I want to (I want the healthy benefits from fermented foods). I don’t have to make this or that… I want to. It will help reduce the amount of other items that I buy. It will help reduce packaging, and reduce the amount of commercially made things I buy. It will improve our health because I make it and therefore I know what the ingredients are. I don’t have to plant flowers… I want to. These flowers will attract bees and birds. In turn, those bees and birds will help pollinate my veggies and eat bugs out of my garden and I can later save said flower head for making lotions of salves (calendula) or use it to make tea (chamomile or hibiscus.)

So far, this year, I have managed to check 3 things off my “list.”

As this year goes by, some months may be more productive than others when it comes to these things on my list, but each month I am planning to make or do a few things that I have put off. I know I am heading in the right direction.

I did a post here a few weeks about my best intentions and my plans for making up some tinctures and throat lozenges. Well, this is the year to do it.

You would think with all these “lists” I make that I would have one for all these “things” I want to do. Nope. So I am finally making a new list…It’s About Time !!!

What do you have on your list?

Sincerely, Emily

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I know they’ve moved me from Zone 5 to Zone 6, but I’m still planting based on the Zone 5 frost date of May 10.

I always plant a range of home starts, nursery starts (although fewer and fewer of those) and direct. I like to do traditional seed starting, and a little winter sowing.

The hardest part of all this is to make sure that you’re planting, first, in a way that doesn’t overwhelm you, and second, so that your seedlings are ready to plant out when the proper weather hits– the cool weather ones in early April, the tender solanums not until almost June around here.

I use the wonderful “seed stash” tool at MyFolia.com to keep track of my seeds, but it’s most useful as a database. While it lets you note when you should plant indoors, and transplant, it doesn’t yet have a reminder function, and anyway, a pop-up box on my calendar or desktop is not a useful method for me. I like something really hands-on and visual, that puts it all in one place at a time.

I’m pretty organized, plus like all gardeners I get antsy (plantsy?) in the middle of winter and start wanting to do something–anything–that seems like gardening.  I used to sort by date into planting pots, but they tip over and get out of order. It’s really not optimal.

So what I’ve developed is a seed keeper system, organized not by type, but by planting date and method. It allows me to select out of the larger seed stash the seeds I’m actually planning to plant, so I’m not constantly pawing through seeds trying to remember what to do, and  I have a beautiful basket woven from recycled materials that a friend got me from Ten Thousand Villages which is a perfect size.

Here’s the method:

Make a card divider with the planting date on it, and list under it the method (indoor, winter sowing, direct) and the seeds you’ll plant. Those seeds go in front of it. I have my cool-weather, long growing season ones starting Feb 15 (leeks, brussels sprouts), then nothing for about a month. Here’s what they look like (hmmm, March 20 is a little bit early for tomatoes, may have to redo that one):

I use them year after year. As you can see, I used some old fliers from one of my clients. If I was the entrepreneurial type, I’d probably propose that NDiN market these with a logo and a guide book for the different zones!

Once I have my cards worked out, I pull out my seeds, all organized by type (as you can see, this task is yet to be completed) and start pulling packets, to load into the planting system.

When it’s all ready to go, it looks like this:

Ready to go.

How do you organize for the planting season?

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boxes

In my adult life I’ve moved seven times; two of those as a family with a child. Averaged out, that’s once every three years! Ugh. No wonder I despise the process so much. Each time I move, I dislike it more and more. (I say as I’m breaking from unpacking.) It seems as though we’ve got this thing figured out, though, and perhaps I can offer some advice to those of you that are planning on a move any time soon.

I’ve learned that it will always take longer than you plan, or want it to take to get everything moved and unpacked and in working order unless you downsize your belongings. We Americans like our Stuff, even those of us that don’t consider ourselves “Normal”. As soon as you plan to move, begin ridding yourself of excess. Reduce, recycle, or give it to someone to reuse (or if you’re a glutton for punishment, hold a yard sale). E-bay, Craig’s List, or Freecycle are some excellent alternatives to a yard sale or Goodwill – and I like them because it is a lot less stress than spending an entire week to set up and clean up a yard sale.

Avoid purchasing items for your new place until you’re moved in. Yes, you’ll want your new joint to be happening and functional the day you walk in. First of all, that’s a completely unacceptable expectation to put on anyone, even your own self. Second of all, why bother getting more stuff you’ll have to pack and transport when you probably have too much as it is?

Start gathering boxes, newspapers, and other packing material as soon as possible. These are items it seems you can never have enough of. Liquor stores, grocery stores, and farmer’s markets are all great places to look for boxes. Also, look for sales on packing tape and big permanent markers. Find a home for them and put them away every time you’re done with them so that you know where to find them the next time you start packing.

Do a little research of the area you’ll be moving to beforehand. Get contact information for utilities, locate grocery and hardware stores, arrange internet/cable/telephone start dates, and find a convenient restaurant or two to make things easy on yourself.

Keep tape, markers, scissors, box cutters, garbage bags, and newspaper available even when you’re UN-packing. Surely you’ll have second thoughts on a few items and need to repack them for storage.

Label. Label. LABEL! You will never remember what is in each box unless you only have five of them or have a photographic memory. Write clearly on the top and two adjacent sides of the box what is inside and a general idea of where they belong. You may also want to come up with a color code for especially fragile items. We used bits of blue painters tape on fragile boxes so that we knew at a glance which weren’t good boxes to play basketball, soccer, or football with.

Don’t stress about dusting or making things spotless before packing them. Dishes and glasses will inevitably get fingerprints on them when unwrapping, and you’ll want to wash any newspaper/box germs off your dishes, silverware, and cooking tools anyway. You never know what’s crawled on those boxes or papers.

A quick rinse through the hot cycle of the dishwasher may be good enough to get some of those prints off. If you’re worried about germs, you can use some mild detergent in the machine, or quickly wash them in the sink.

Put your toiletries in a carry-on bag so you don’t have to search for them when you’re bedding down for the first night. It’s an awful pain to have to dig through boxes to find saline solution so you can take out your contacts. Even worse, fumbling around for your glasses once you’ve taken your contacts out!

Make sure that you have enough clean clothes to get you through the move and a day beyond. A washer and dryer will probably be one of the first things you hook up if you own them, and keeping a load or two running while you’re unpacking and cleaning is almost painless.

…however it’s a good idea to wash all your towels, bedclothes, and curtains to have them ready to hang or put away as soon as they’re unpacked. I put mine in large garbage bags for easy transport, then reuse the garbage bags for clean up in the new place.

Prepare food in a crockpot, cook a roast in the oven, or even (gasp) order out if it helps you stay sane. There’s no reason to cook big meals, bake breads, or go over the top if it’s going to add to your workload. Think of simple meals that you can make at home to save money, perhaps eggs with mushrooms and kale in tortillas topped with hot sauce and sour cream; an easy salad with sliced leftover roasted chicken; or even a bowl of oatmeal with nuts, fruit, and cream. And keep healthy snacks available! You’ll most likely be using up more calories than normal, so keep your energy levels in check. (Don’t fail like me and fill up on junk and completely crash when everyone is counting on you….)

Use up all of those disposable plates and cutlery you’ve been hording because you’d otherwise feel guilty having thrown them away.

Arrange tools like screwdrivers, wrenches, drills, and hammers in a small carry-on bag so that you don’t have to dig for them when you need them. Don’t forget any hardware you may need.

Keep cleaning supplies nearby all the time! You will drop something. Something will spill. Food will spoil. Your child will dump her drink in the backseat of the car during a poorly-timed trek through rush hour traffic in a major city. The Gods of Moving say it must be so. Keep rags, towels, a broom and dustpan, mop and bucket, trash bags, and some simple cleaners around for basic cleanup.

Don’t forget to spend time with those kids when you can so that they’re feelings don’t get completely crushed when you scold them for dumping said drink in the car during your poorly-timed trek. Remember that time spent with your loved ones is also supposed to be relaxing for you.

Ask, pay, or bribe friends and family to help you early on. Remind them (although not obsessively) when they’re expected. It’s considered excellent manners to feed people and even provide cold beverages!

Take time out to celebrate, relax, and just be with the people you’ll be leaving behind. Goodbyes are difficult, especially in these times of email, Twitter, and Facebook when short statements are the norm. Say what you feel, and keep in touch.

Finally, remember that you’re not perfect. Be realistic with your expectations concerning your time, finances, and energy, and do the same for those that are along with you for this crazy ride.

Jennifer can be found blarging at Unearthing This Life and on Twitter as @unearthingthis1.

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feb collage

 

So many of us are working our way toward a more self-sufficient lifestyle. With that in mind we here at NDiN wanted to share some general guidelines of what to plan for on a monthly basis. Whether you’re a gardener, a beekeeper, a forager, or you keep animals, hopefully our monthly guides will help you plan ahead for the month. Depending on your exact climate you may find you need to adjust your schedule depending on your region.

February can be one of the last chances to get indoor projects completed before the spring thaw arrives. Gardeners are getting excited and it won’t be long before the first of this year’s farm babies are here! Spring is really just around the corner, so start wrapping things up inside and get ready to head back outdoors.

Indoors:

  • Check basement or crawl space for leakage during thaws.
  • Check bathroom caulking for re-sealing needs. While you’re in there, check your pipes for leaks.
  • Freshen your kitchen sinks by pouring a mixture of 3 cups hot water and 1/4 cup vinegar (or the juice of one lemon) down each drain.
  • Keep an eye out for cracks in your drywall caused by settling during thaws and freezes. There are expandable putties and spackles available for problem areas. While you’re at it, you may want to mark outdoor masonry to be repaired. Plan to complete this project after the last hard freeze and once your biggest worries of the house settling are past.
  • If you don’t have a cold frame or greenhouse, set up an area to start seeds for your garden. Few seeds need light to germinate (be sure to read the directions) so you may be able to get by without any lights other than a window for the first few weeks. (Check out chiotsrun seedstarting 101 guide).
  • Research and prepare for any animal purchases for the year.
  • Keep a tray of water and spray bottle near indoor plants to adjust humidity levels, especially if you have central air. Running the heater can dry them out quickly and cover leaves with dust.

Outdoors/Garden/Wildlife:

  • Keep fresh water available and free of ice for birds and wildlife.
  • It’s National Bird Feeding Month. Keep feeding those birdies! Seed, dried berries, and suet are great meals for our feathered pals.
  • If you live in a climate with mild winters, this month may be a good time to dig new beds. You may also want to repair or build new composting bins to be prepared for this year’s cleanup.
  • Southerners could get away with planting bare root trees on warm days.
  • Keep driveways and walks free of snow and ice. Have shovels, plows, and salt/brine accessible and stocked.
  • Watch gutters and roofs for ice dams.
  • If you didn’t get to it during fall, now would be a great time to oil and sharpen garden tools.

Animal Husbandry

  • Be prepared for early birthing. Have any equipment you’ll need ready and accessible.
  • Nights are still very cold in most parts of the country. Keep your critters warm with fresh hay, heat lamps, or blankets, but be sure to avoid fire hazards. 
  • If you’ve been leaving a light on for your chickens you can begin weaning them off of it. The sun is setting noticeably later and your gals should begin laying more regularly soon.

You can also find Jennifer at Unearthing This Life where she blargs a bit about good food, home schooling, raising chickens, and being a suburban Yankee transplant in a rural southern town.

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January collage

So many of us are working our way toward a more self-sufficient lifestyle. With that in mind we here at NDiN wanted to share some general guidelines of what to plan for on a monthly basis. Whether you’re a gardener, a beekeeper, a forager, or you keep animals, hopefully our monthly guides will help you plan ahead for the month. Depending on your exact climate you may find you need to adjust your schedule depending on your region.

Now that Winter is officially here most of us will be spending a lot more time indoors. For those in the more Southern regions, outdoor work is manageable on warmer days. It’s a good time to focus on the indoors, keeping warm, and getting a jump on this year’s activities.

Indoors:

  • Take down and store holiday ornaments and decorations.
  • Update your address book from holiday cards and gift envelopes if you’ve saved them.
  • Clean out your files in preparation for tax time. Rid yourself of out-of-date warranty cards (update if necessary) and manuals. Schedule service appointments for extended warranties.
  • Clean out dryer vents with a wire hanger and vacuum cleaner. Wash mesh filters with soap and a scrub brush to allow for better air flow.
  • When finding new homes for holiday gifts, clean out unused items and donate those in great shape to your favorite charity.
  • It’s also a great time to photograph your belongings, room by room, for insurance purposes.
  • Start planning your spring garden. Look at gardening catalogs, websites, and blogs (like us!) to get ideas for what to do this year and when. Purchase seeds by March to guarantee delivery and stock.
  • Research and prepare for any animal purchases for the year.
  • Keep a tray of water and spray bottle near indoor plants to adjust humidity levels, especially if you have central air. Running the heater can dry them out quickly and cover leaves with dust.

Outdoors/Garden/Wildlife:

  • Keep fresh water available and free of ice for birds and wildlife.
  • If you’ve already begun to put out birdseed continue to do so. They’re now relying on you as a food source.
  • If you live in a climate with mild winters, this month may be a good time to dig new beds. You may also want to repair or build new composting bins to be prepared for this year’s cleanup.
  • Keep driveways and walks free of snow and ice. Have shovels, plows, and salt/brine accessible and stocked.

Animal Husbandry:

  • Early birthing will begin late next month for some of you. Make any preparations necessary to help mammas and babies along.
  • Keep barns and other animal shelters clean to help prevent illness and discourage wild critters from nesting. Change hay often, keep tools cleaned up, and be sure to keep water free of ice.
  • Put a light out for an extra two hours in the evening for your chickens. It will help keep their coop warm on colder evenings and promote more egg laying.

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november collage

So many of us are working our way toward a more self-sufficient lifestyle. With that in mind we here at NDiN wanted to share some general guidelines of what to plan for on a monthly basis. Whether you’re a gardener, a beekeeper, a forager, or you keep animals, hopefully our monthly guides will help you plan ahead for the month. Depending on your exact climate you may find you need to adjust your schedule plus or minus two weeks or more.

  

Although many of the outdoor chores are completed for the year, it’s not time to slow down. Gardeners are beginning to dream up next year’s spring and summer crops and for most of us there’s always leaves to take care of. For some of us there’s even a bit of snow. As we get closer to the holiday season it’s easy to become consumed with gatherings and preparations, but it’s important to remember those seasonal aspects of every day life. Keeping ahead of the weather, taking care of outdoor animals, cooking with seasonal foods, and staying warm are key this month.

Indoors:

  • If you store foods like squash, potatoes, and carrots for winter use be sure that you rotate for freshness. Also be sure to occasionally check for any spoiling or critter damage.
  • If  you haven’t already done so, be sure to check the batteries in your fire detectors.
  • Check garage door for air leaks if  you have an insulated unit. Also check household windows for any drafts. Catching these now can save you lots of money over the winter.
  • If possible, set up a “craft/wrapping area” out of immediate view for holiday activities, possibly in a separate room. This should help keep clutter down in main areas of the house helping to keep it tidy and help reduce holiday stress.

 Outdoors:

  •  Trim any trees now that most of the energy has gone to the root systems of most plants. It’s also not too late to plant some trees so long as your ground is not frozen. Fruit canes can also be cut back depending on the variety.
  • When outdoor gardening chores finally slow down, clean, sharpen, oil, and put up all tools for the winter.
  • Clean gutters and downspouts.
  • Make sure all hoses and water barrels have been drained and put up until spring.

 Garden:

  • Clean up rotting plant materials to help keep your gardens healthy. Decomposition is great, rotting is not.
  • Till chopped leaves directly into garden beds where they’ll stay warmer and decompose faster over the winter.
  • Garlic and other bulbs like tulips can still be planted in zones with milder winters.

 Animal Husbandry:

  • Keep barns and other animal shelters clean to help prevent illness and discourage wild critters from nesting. Change hay often, keep tools cleaned up, and be sure to keep water free of ice.
  • If you keep an area warm for animals occasionally check for fire hazards. Examine wiring on extension cords, heat lamps, and portable heaters. Keep bedding away from heat units and keep a fire extinguisher inside larger buildings.
  • It may not be too late to have sheep and goats mated in your area.
  • Cold weather days are best for slaughter and processing. Keep an eye on weather and plan accordingly.
  • Put a light out for an extra two hours in the evening for your chickens. It will help keep their coop warm on colder evenings and promote more egg laying.

 Wildlife:

  • Most animals are starting their winter cycles, including hibernation and building up of nests. You can assist your neighborhood critters with a few little tricks. Continue to feed birds; make your own suet cakes for freezing weather to help fuel up birds; offer some peanuts and corn to squirrels; leave a few piles of leaves or stones or a piece of corrugated metal for frogs and lizards to burrow in; set out water for all animals and keep it free of ice.

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august collage

So many of us are working our way toward a more self-sufficient lifestyle. With that in mind we wanted to share some general guidelines of what to plan for on a monthly basis. Whether you’re a gardener, a beekeeper, a forager, or you keep animals, hopefully our monthly guides will help you plan ahead for the month. Depending on your exact climate you may find you need to adjust your schedule plus or minus two weeks or more.

August brings on the Dog Days for many of us:  Harvesting and preserving is at full-speed; Some of us are still foraging (elderberries anyone?); And many of us are wishing for cooler weather. Are you on track with what you should be doing?

Home:

  • Since you’re busy filling up your freezer with all those goodies to get you through the winter, be sure to pull your units out and vacuum the condenser coils and airways. Doing so will give your freezer/fridge a longer life and reduce your energy bills because of energy efficiency and therefore be better for the environment.
  • Clean up ceiling fans. If you’re like me you have your fans on as often as possible to help keep air flowing throughout the house. Be sure to clean off those blades and get rid of those bunnies forming. I’d hate to see one of them get flung in someone’s drink.
  • If you preserve and can any of your food you need to pay special attention to your drip pans, heating elements, back splash and exhaust. Remove electrical elements and/or drip pans. Soak the drip pans in hot, soapy water and scrub well. While you’re at it, pull out the fridge and give the sides a good cleaning, sweep underneath, and remove any grunge from the exhaust hood.
  • When’s the last time you checked your smoke alarms?

Outdoors:

  • Check window and doors for drafts while it’s warm. You don’t want to be adding insulation or sealant while it’s cold outside.
  • Does your compost pile need to be aerated and/or watered?

Garden:

  • Remove budding and flowering weeds and any sick plants.
  • Start planning for a late season garden with cabbages, broccoli, and kales. If you’re a northerner consider your onions and garlic for next year’s harvests.
  • Remove thatch and heavy clippings, but allow your perennials to go to seed. Collect any seeds you’ll want to start indoors next year.
  • During these hot days make sure to keep birdbaths and water dishes filled up.
  • Do you need to think about softwood cuttings of shrubs?
  • Think about a coldframe design. First frosts will be upon a majority of us within about two months!

Animals:

  • Spring chicks are becoming mature. Consider your nesting designs and build one now if you’re not prepared. You may want to put out some fake eggs in your nests to fool hens into laying in nest boxes.
  • Allow natives to seed without deadheading. They’re a good source of food for critters.
  • Do you need to consider cold weather housing for any of your animals? Cool nights will be here sooner than you think.
  • It’s honey time for many beekeepers. It’s time to put in your orders for honey. If you’re a beekeeper do you need to start feeding to get hives built up for winter? Many of you are busy slinging honey, be sure to have enough supplies on hand.

 

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