Archive for the ‘Planning’ Category

I’m getting a bit ahead of myself, but the warmer days have me thinking about the Spring/Summer garden planting.

We have already hit 90F here in South Texas. That is just too hot, WAY too soon for me. Last week we had another cooler down that was right up my alley and it had me opening the bedroom windows at night to cool the me down!



I try hard to purchase veggies in season, but I had an itch (and an event to bring a dish to) to make Tabouli (click on the word “Tabouli” to link to the recipe that I posted back in July of 2013). I picked and used as much as I could from the gardens; parsley, mint, cilantro, onion. But I did have to purchase things like cucumber and tomato (oh I can’t wait to pick that first fresh tomato!)

I am behind in my seed starting, but my tomato seedlings are up and a few of the pepper seeds are starting to sprout. I did pick up some heirloom and non-GMO seedlings at The Natural Gardener a few weeks ago. They are already potted up into gallon containers. The Natural Gardener didn’t have their pepper plants in yet, so I will check back in with them, as well as check a few other local nurseries to find some organic ones.

Reality check: last wee our temps are back in the “Texas Winter” range. We have been 25F at night with a few days that didn’t get about 45F (I know that is a heat wave for some of you out there.) so my seedlings are living in the garage and in the house for while.

What type of seeds will you be starting to prepare for the upcoming gardening season?

Sincerely, Emily

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I get it– spring cleaning because you can set the wash tub outside, and beat the rugs when it’s warm.

But my washtub stays indoors since, despite my pioneer-woman conceits I actually don’t use a scrub board to clean; nor do I beat the rugs. I vacuum them. I don’t want to be stuck inside cleaning when the weather is finally nice and I can get out of the cave for a few hours.

Enter the January Cure.  This is one of those internet things of which you’re vaguely aware for years.  And then a friend says “I’m doing this!” and you think, okay, why not. It’s great “Dark Days” therapy.

Last year my friend petered out after a couple of weeks, but I stuck it out and went the whole month. I confess some of the tasks struck me as silly (buy some mass-produced art), or inconsistent with the eco-friendly mandate (buy some cut flowers in the middle of January– they’re only the most ecologically disastrous industry on the planet!). But for the most part it laid a really useful and effective structure for cleaning. Last year I had an entire 10-room house to clean, which was a little more than the “Apartment Therapy” home site was geared towards. This year, I’ve contracted onto my first floor, so I should be able to keep up a little more.

I’m going to add my disaster of a basement to the mix (in fact I’m headed there right after writing this).

I’ll be going back to my regular Tuesday posting day for  reporting. (It seemed ridiculous to post about cleaning on New Year’s Eve- I don’t know about you, but on New Year’s Eve my aim is making messes, not cleaning them up!)  I hope you’ll join me in signing up through the Apartment Therapy site, and that you’ll chime in on the comments here about your successes, misses, and surprises.

Happy New Year!

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The entire East line of our property (300′) is full of cedar (Juniper) trees. They are wonderful because they help keep the morning sun off our house and that helps to keep things cooler for a while. They offer shade for some of the herb and flower gardens from the morning sun. They provide habitat for the variety of birds that live in our area. They also provide shade for the clothes line, because the hot Texas sun will fade our clothes rather quickly otherwise.

Chinese Pistache (Pistacia chinensis)

Chinese Pistache (Pistacia chinensis)

Around here, you will hear a lot of people say that the cedar (Juniper) are invasive. You will also hear them say the steal water for other trees and plants. Well, an invasive (to me) is an opportunist. It takes advantage of areas and will continue to grow and produce seedlings if the conditions are right. Back in the day when buffalo roamed our area, there were not a  lot of cedar (Juniper) trees. The buffalo hoof traffic kept the cedar trees under control. Since the buffalo don’t roam here anymore the cedar trees have taken advantage of the situation and now grow everywhere.

I am not sure if the cedar trees steal water from other plants, I do know that when it rains an inch, that all the leaves living on the tree soak up that water before it hits the ground. After that inch of rain, it is completely dry underneath the cedar trees. So, if that is “stealing,” then I guess they do.

As the trees get taller and older, the bottom branches die off.  Around our house, we have worked at trimming them off as they do that. The last few years we have noticed that more and more of the cedar are dieing and we find ourselves trying to come up with a plan to plant other trees amongst them to start growing and replace the cedars as they die.

You’ve probably heard the question, ” when is the best time to plant a tree?”…… answer: 10 years ago. Nothing grows real fast here, so had we been on top of this 5 years ago we would be that much more ahead of this game now. Well, we are not, so the best time to plant a tree for us is NOW.

We have four Chinese Pistache (Pistacia chinensis) in our yard. They are very established and are wonderful. One of them produced a lot of babies last year so I dug up several and potted them up to get them growing and last fall we planted four of them in the ground and they are doing really well. This spring I was able to dig up more seedlings and we will get them planted this fall. We also have a Vitex (also known as Chaste tree & VERY deer resistant) that is growing in the clump of cedar in the front yard. It does not get enough sun so it is rather leggy and scraggly, but we have taken out three cedars that were around it and it is starting to look a lot healthier now. Last Spring I found two babies under it and potted those up to get established. Last fall we planted those up near the front of the property line so that as we take out more cedar they will be growing up and provide us with some replacement trees and privacy.

front yard project 4This is an ongoing process. I am not able to head out with the chainsaw and trim cedar limbs or take down tress right now, so we are doing it as my husband has time. Normally, I would load the truck and take all the cuttings to the recycle place, but I just can’t do that yet either.

Several weeks ago my husband went on a trimming spree and we had 4 truck loads of cuttings that he took to recycle. On one of his trips he brought back a load of mulch. I had a plan to start planting more in the front section of our lot near the street and had picked up another Vitex and several ornamental grasses to go with a few agave babies from our neighbor. My husband dug holes and I helped him plant everything. Then I put out the paper feed sacks and we (he) covered that all with mulch. It is doing well.

You can see the area of cedar in our front yard and a few more dead trees that need to come out.

You can see the area of cedar in our front yard and a few more dead trees that need to come out. You can also see the Vitex blooming (light pink) in the background.

I have plans to create some sort of berm using some of the tree trimming and cover it with dirt and plant on and around it, but that is really going to have to wait until I am completely recovered so I can take that on myself.

My husband is really starting to see the urgency of getting other things planted as he starts to see how many of our cedar are dieing. I am grateful that he has had the time to help with the trimming and planting to move things along. It is an ongoing project, but it is nice to see some progress and some things taking shape.

Are you working on any yard projects?

Sincerely, Emily

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I am just trying to accept my new pace for now and have termed this year “The Year on Hold.” My mind is still moving at its normal speed, but my physical body is moving at a fraction of normal. I would say 1/8th speed of less. Dang that is slow.

My hands and nails haven’t been this clean in a long time and my nails are longer than they have been in years and year.

These hands haven't seen the dirt in many weeks

I cleaned out some stuff in the silverware drawer and found a set of 2 forks and 2 knives that had been my Gramp’s. I set them out for a meal one night. Mom and I had fun looking at them and talking about them. She thought they were mostly likely from Gramp’s second wife’s brother who had been in Germany and brought them back. The antlers are so much more knobby than the deer antlers here in the US. and the detail is beautiful. They were fun to use and enjoy.

Gramp's treasurer's

The 14 year old neighbor girl came over on day and I taught her how to make granola bars. I sat on a stool in the kitchen and guided her through the recipe. It was fun for both of us. As we waited for them to cook and cool, we played a game. I let her pick the game and she chose Battleship. I bought the game at a garage sale a few years ago and this was the first time I had played it in decades. The game was missing a few of the boats, but we made it work. On the first game we each hit a ship on our second guess. Imagine that. The second game it took us forever for either of us to hit a ship. It was pretty funny.

Hit! You sunk my battleship!

I managed to take another trip to the emergency room last Sunday. I only stayed 4 hours this time and I am determined to not go back (unless I have to of course.) The blood clot has broken up (that’s a really good thing for me) and I should be on the road to recovery and smooth sailing at this point. The big thing right now is to get my INR (International Ratio) level stable in the therapeutic range. I go to the lab for a blood test once a week and then we adjust the amount of coumadin that I take to keep the INR in a stable therapeutic range. The range we are shooting for is between 2-3.

In the mean time I am digging through and cleaning out drawers a little at a time. I am going through piles of papers and organizing what I can a little at a time. I also hope to have time to work on blog posts and read other blogs and comment more consistently. My mom picked all the cabbages for me before she headed home and I hope to get a crock of sauerkraut fermenting (with help.) I imagine many of you in the northern hemisphere are getting antsy for spring to arrive. In my area we have already hit 90F and most people have their spring gardens planted.

“The Year on Hold” will still be frustrating for me, but I will make the most of what I can.

When was the last time you played Battleship?

Sincerely, Emily

You can see what else I am up to over at Sincerely, Emily. The topics are varied, as I jump around from gardening to sewing to making bread or lotion and many things in between.

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This is the second in our repostings of Jen’s wonderful posts on monthly planning. Originally posted in 2011, here’s what to do in the traditional dead of winter.

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.


  • 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.


  • 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.
  • XAN EDIT: if you’re in a short-season zone (5 and up) start long season seeds like onions and leeks indoors
  • 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 in archive at Unearthing This Life where she used to blog (or as she called it “blarg”) a bit about good food, home schooling, raising chickens, and being a suburban Yankee transplant in a rural southern town. She’s not writing right now, but her wonderful posts are well worth scrolling through.

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I’ll be reposting Jen’s wonderful series on monthly chores and tasks throughout the year. Here’s January, originally posted on January 7, 2011 by Unearthing This Life.

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.


  • 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.


  • 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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No New Year’s resolutions around here. I really liked Xan’s post the other day and I enjoyed reading Annie Rie’s post Six at Sixty. I have accomplished many things over the past year and will continue to make my lists and continue to check items off those endless lists. I much prefer my to-do lists to resolutions.

cabbage Dec 2012

Am I going to start a New Year’s list? Heck no, my other lists are still way too long! There are times I feel like I have been sitting around and I wonder if I have accomplished anything, but when I start to think about the things I have done and the things I have accomplished I lighten up a bit. Not all things are huge and noticeable.

I am happy to have the opportunity to explore new things, plant more vegetables, walk next door to visit the neighbors, and be involved in some local community things. I am grateful for my husband and my family, and the time we have had together and the memories that go along with living our lives. I look forward to more exploring, more veggies in the back yard, more visits with the neighbors. I look forward to more memories and time spent with family (and friends.)

Tomorrow is a new day. I look forward to many new days in this New Year. I hope you do to.

Sincerely, Emily


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Eat sensibly

Buy one item from Eileen Fisher (and only one, as it eats up the clothing budget through 2023)

Local beer

Local whisky

Do every household project that costs under $50, seriously

Get out of town

Watch everything on the Netflix queue

Speak a foreign language to a native

Get over it

Homemade pasta (that’s for you, Susy!)

Find a nice girl for my son (any takers?)

Call my father

Write to Congress

What are your resolutions?

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“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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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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