At War with Mother-in-Law’s Revenge

When we first moved in, Kay, the previous homeowner, came to pick up some mail and offered some gardening tips on how to care for all the beautiful perennials she planted in her 40 years in the home. One of the first things she said was that I needed to pull the “mother-in-law’s revenge” early and often.

What’s mother-in-law’s revenge, you ask? Well, Kay didn’t really know what it was but she named this formidable garden invader after her mother-in-law gifted Kay a few seedlings for her garden claiming they’d be the perfect filler and ground cover for her beautiful front gardens. Kay’s mother-in-law passed shortly after she planted them and said they’ve been haunting her gardens ever since. The seedlings quickly multiplied and choked out many of her strongest plants. She’s been pulling them from her garden–and cursing her mother-in-law–every year since.

Since making this our home and taking over the gardens, I too now curse Kay’s mother-in-law every time I have to weed it out of the gardens. It doesn’t just cover the open, available real estate on the ground, it likes to hide in the middle of other plants–like my hostas, chrysanthemums, and russian sage–making finding them early and pulling a bitch. And despite my best back-breaking, weed-pulling efforts, it seems to come back with more vehemence each time. I’m telling y’all this stuff could flourish in a vat of bleach with no light.

Finally, I did some research last year and discovered the real name of this pest–goutweed. Goutweed is an extremely aggressive, invasive perennial. Savvy Gardening calls it the “cockroach of the botanical world” and “a beast to eradicate”. While on the prohibited or restricted plant list in some states, goutweed can be found in some garden centers under the name of “bishop’s-weed” or even “snow-on-the-mountian”.

Turns out, Kay’s approach of pulling the plant, which often comes up fairly easily, is one of the worst things you can do! Goutweed stems from a web of rhizomes which branch far and wide underground. You see, rhizomes have a nasty habit of multiplying from broken or left behind roots in the ground–like when you pluck gray a hair and five more emerge, thriving and taunting you.

So how do you get rid of it? It’s a painstaking process. Many sites recommend fully covering it with plastic, essentially “cooking” the devil which can take anywhere from 8 weeks to 2 whole seasons. You can also smother it by cutting it down and covering it with cardboard and mulch – 2-3 feet beyond the menace’s prersence. Another option is spraying it down with a vinegar solution or even chemical-based weed killer like Round-up.

My initial plan was to try the smother and cover method. I figured I could cover around some existing plants and add good soil above, building up the gardens and planting new perennials which would look better in the front of the house than black plastic. Besides, I had PLENTY of cardboard thanks to Amazon and Christmas time which I stored for several months. Unfortunately, when we prepared for hosting my sister-in-law’s engagement party in May, Sr. wanted the garage clean and recycled all my cardboard. To be fair, I caved and gave him permission.

June is always a busy month at work and difficult for me to get in the gardens and then I was out of comission for several months with nausea in my first trimester. By the time I got back to life–and the gardens–in September, mother-in-law’s revenge had ravaged the front gardens.

Exhausted and over it, I’m not ashamed to say I finally caved and turned to the chemicals. After all, this was war. I came to terms with the fact that there’d be some casualties, like my russian sage, mums, and a few other perennials. After the first careful spray, I was disappointed that the beast didn’t begin to wither within hours. I had totally imagined a scene out of The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy douses the Wicked Witch with water and finally ends her reign of terror.

No such luck. However, after a few weeks a difference could be seen. AND my chrysanthemums didn’t die! Two more rounds of spraying and I’ve made a serious dent in the rein of Kay’s Mother-in-law’s revenge.

Unfortunately, the arrival of the cold weather has stalled my progress because the chemical sprays are recommended for using weather above 60 degrees. Looks like there will be more work in the spring. I’m thinking I may need to srpay again a time or two and then will likely cover with cardboard and fresh soil so I can plant a few new beauties. This will allow the new plants to thrive while the chemicals dissipate under the decomposing cardboard barrier.

I also haven’t touched the bed of hostas in front of the kitchen bay window yet but I plan to smother and cover that small bed. With my Japanese Maple in that bed, I don’t want to use any chemicals. Besides, the hostas are overgrown and can’t be divided because they’re infested with goutweed so removal or covering is the best option. I’ll cover it this winter and it’ll be fun to design a new perennial bed there in the spring–something that doesn’t have hostas maybe?



It’s been a while

So much to catch y’all up on!!

It’s been a few weeks since the constant nausea of my first trimester subsided–praise the Lord! Since then, I’ve been trying to catch back up to life and all the things around the house and gardens.

In the past month, we’ve waged war on the “mother-in-law’s revenge”–aka goutweed–in the front gardens, planted fall mums, orchestrated a near-whole house refresh with new carpet and paint in the majority of the house, revived the dahlias in the cut flower garden, celebrated 2 birthdays and an anniversary, finished the football season, and moved the girls into a shared room to free up a room for the nursery.

The big garden also got A TON of care and attention from Clint who built raised and installed garden boxes and used old pallets to build a new compost bin. I’m serious y’all, it’s impressive!

As the cool weather rolls in, we have much more to do–like prep the coop and gardens for winter.

I’ll be posting something about each of our updates and adventures moving forward. In the meantime, what winter prep tips do you have to share with me?!


Cut Flower Garden plan: Year 1

It’s almost here! Sun’s out, buds out y’all! Yes, sad attempt at a little gardening humor. Real sad.

Regardless, it’s warming up here and we’re only a handful of weeks from the danger of the last frost! I’ve got my bulbs waiting and little seedlings thriving indoors. A few weekends ago I spent the morning laying out the garden plan for the new cut garden.

I decided that since I want my cut flower patch to not only produce beautiful bouquets for the house but also look beautiful in the yard–think cottage garden– I needed to think about what I put where.

Inspiration:

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/307018899603003505/
https://www.pinterest.com/pin/91760911128127552/

This is where the teacher in me takes things a little far.

First, I decided I needed an info sheet for with all the basic information on each plant I’ve got for the garden, including planting/seed sowing preferences, bloom, height, and harvest time. This way I could determine where to place each plant so there’d be visual variety and plants wouldn’t overshadow their neighbors. I also added an image of each plant, so I could picture the adult plant and consider color.

I then created another sheet with the layout, considering the height and spacing for each plant, and marked which plants were perennials–so I knew where plants would be coming back each year and where I’d need to replant. Finally, I created a layout with bloom times as I want to have something blooming in each part of the garden from spring to fall.

I know… overkill; but mentally I feel like this garden will be a piece of cake! I’ve thought of my plants from nearly every angle and will have no excuse for hesitation regarding which plant to put where. Now I just have to concern myself with the walkways and perimeter…. what type of fence posts will I invest in and will I do my walkways with mulch or pea gravel? 😱

Here’s some inspiration I’ve been pulling from:

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/1055599901620867/
https://www.pinterest.com/pin/137711701091841482/
https://www.pinterest.com/pin/398287160797916208/


This Week on the Half-Ass Homestead: March 7-13, 2021

This week was a busy on for me at work but in the back of my mind I all could think about was how I needed to get seeds started. I spent evenings in my newest book, In Bloom: Growing, Harvesting, and Arranging Homegrown Flowers All Year Round, and to say I’m inspired is an understatement. The pictures are beautiful and have me dreaming or a cottage style cut flower patch.

Last week I put in my request with 811 and got news that the entire side yard is clear! Unfortunately they didn’t inspect the back yard as I asked so I had to put in another request. I think this was due to the comment I made on the request that made is sound like I just wanted the back left side of the yard. Despite not having the rest of the back surveyed yet, I’ve officially decided where I’m putting the garden!

As I shared before, some of the pain points of the current location are that it’s too far from the how, and a water source. After some thought, I’ve determined the side yard is the best place for the garden – it’s close to the house, and the water hose, so I’ll be more likely to get out there and watering will be easier. And even better, it’ll be right in my line of sight while I work and paint from the sunroom! I watched the sunlight on the plot throughout the day to ensure it receives plenty of sun.

So this morning I got right to planning. First with the vegetables using my handy-dandy Clyde’s Garden Planner to map out what, how and when I can plant. I found it easier for me to visualize everything by making a chart with each month and a list of what would need to be planted indoors, outdoors, and harvested.

I did this same thing with my flowers and added the tasks to one of my new 5 year planners. Both planners have places to log information about planting and harvesting but I like the open layout of the of the Royal Horticultural Society record book.

After I laid out the scope and sequence of planting and harvesting times, I took a break to get the the girls shoes for Roseanne and Cameron’s wedding next week . On the way home we stopped by Lowes… I mean, shut up and take my money, Lowes! I not only picked up the landscape fabric I went in for, but I also came home with tulips (because the girls had to have their own tulips ), gladiolus (because they remind me of my Mom), peonies (my favorite), dahlias, and some evergreen trees to add a screening around the fire pit area.

When we got home, I went out to see what I had to work with in regards to dimensions for the side garden. Because we need to maintain a passage large enough for us to drive a truck in the back–for when we have mulch and gravel– I’ve got a maximum width of 12 feet but have a lot to work with regarding length. Rather than doing the traditional raised rows of 18 inches, I’m opting for 3 ft wide rows for more surface area to plant in – like a hybrid raised bed/raised row.

As I was showing the girls, they requested a sitting space for their “Girls Club”. The Girls Club was just started this week between the girls and Ava. When they meet they “take notes on nature” and have even requested a guided tour of the emerging plants in the house gardens. ❤️ They also plan to have art on Wednesdays, picnics on Thursdays, and show-and-tell on Fridays. With this adorable request in mind, I’m thinking I’ll opt for 40 or 50 ft and have sketched out a few plans.

Tomorrow I’ll spend the day planting seeds, marking off the side garden with landscape fabric, and maybe even moving soil.



This week on the Half-Ass Homestead: February 14-21, 2021

As we wind down from the Galentine’s Party last weekend (more on that from Ella and Grace soon), and we start to warm up from the winterpocalypse that froze much of our country, I can’t help but itch for springtime.

I mean, the struggle is real, y’all. Back in Texas, pre-2020’s anyway, spring starts NOW. My Mom already has most of her garden and plants in the ground with sprouts and buds everywhere. Yet here in the Midwest, it’ll be May before we are out of the freeze window. Again, I love it here and all the beautiful snow, but I think the socially distanced winter has kept me feeling cooped up a little too long this year. Or maybe this is a result of having garden success and wanting to bring my gardens out of hibernation. Either way, I’m looking forward to breaking soil, opening ALL the doors in the sunroom, and watching all the green sprout from the thawed ground.

This week I took the Cut Flower Garden Winter Mini Course from Floret Farms which I found out about after I ordered some seeds late one evening a few weeks ago. I bought Floret Farms’ beautiful Cut Flower Garden book last year after the girls shared how much they’d like to have a flower garden. For Christmas this last year, Grace asked for her very own flower garden… again, spring cannot get here fast enough! And this year I plan to be more prepared than ever.

We got a late start on the cut flower garden last year and planted nearly of the big garden with seeds sown directly into the ground. After I picked up the nifty Clyde’s Garden Planner tool, I realized there’s a lot I can start planting indoors as early as March!

As I took the Floret Farms mini course, I started filling up my Amazon cart and making garden plans. And for some reason Amazon felt it’d be cool to send it all in individual packages over several days (enter stare down from Sr. every time he had to grab a package form the frozen porch 😬🤣🤷🏻‍♀️)

Here’s what I ordered (not all pictured):

Non-Necessities :

  • Gardner’s Tool Belt – Erin, founder of Floret Farms, has a cool tool belt like this. This one is a fraction of the cost and I may look more like a member of the Village People with this on than she does, but I will FEEL legit and that’s what matters, right? 🤣.
  • 5 Year Gardner ‘s Log Book – Two things… 1) Purchasing a 5 year journal should show REAL commitment y’all! 2) This was MUCH smaller than I thought it would be but I like the seasonal checklists and todos.
  • 5 Year Gardener’s Record Book – Um. I just realized I bought two 5 year books… I guess this one is more of a record book than the other
  • Mini-Farming: Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre – I mean, why not?!

Now that I’m armed with more knowledge about staring seeds indoors, have the right tools, and more gardner’s journals than one person needs at one time I’m ready to get a jump start on spring!

And if that’s not enough, I also got the privilege of sitting down to coffee with my mother-in-law and sister-in-law Mary’s soon to be mother-in-law to begin planning a late May backyard engagement party! Have I told y’all how much I LOVE to host things?



Dreaming of Spring and taking the recently released mini course from Floret Flower Farm tonight. I bought their beautiful book, Cut Flower Garden, last year which inspired a late season build of a small patch on the side yard. It was less than successful but I’m hopeful for a better outcome this year, especially since Grace asked for her own flower garden at Christmas.


Learning From the Best


I Hate Gardening

by Brian J. Camp Jr. – age 11

I love to being outside. But my Mom takes the whole point of being outside away! She makes me work in in the garden all the time in the summer and spring. It sucks all the fun out of the great weather. I mean, who wants to pull weeds, plant, or shovel dirt and mulch when the weather is nice… or ever?!

She also makes help her with her projects. For example, the chicken coop, fencing the garden, building her a potting bench… that she hasn’t even used yet!

The only time I don’t mind working in the garden is if I can get money for it. Mom will sometimes bribe me to do work outside for her. But most of the time, if Mom pays me, she makes it hard work. She says she wants to “get her money’s worth”. 😒

And sometimes I do not finish, so I don’t get paid for the whole job. Mom says working for her is good practice for my business with the Yard Crew (more on that later). But Mom has high expectations. She even fired me once! 🙄

Now, don’t get me wrong, I like having a garden and fresh food. I just do not like to WORK in the garden.

The job I hate the most is pulling weeds. Mom has me pull BUCKETS and BUCKETS of weeds from the front garden. We don’t even grow food there.

My Dad can be worse! He doesn’t make me work int he gardens but he gives me gross jobs outside, like picking up dead animals. And RAKING LEAVES is the job hate the most!!!!

This year my Mom say she is going to make the garden bigger. OH JOY!!!!!!! 😑



Houston, we have a problem!

So, we’ve spent the last few days in a battle with groundhogs. Sunday morning we noticed something had gotten into our garden and ate the tops off the carrots, leaves off most of the green beans, and a good chunk of our lettuce, spinach, and kale crops.

Later that evening during dinner, Vinny told Clinton and Tarin he noticed something through the window in the garden. Sure enough it was a groundhog! Clint chased it out the garden and discovered it CHEWED a hole in our fencing (cheap-ass chicken wire!).

Clint ran to the store to get reinforcements and I debated if I wanted to pull out my riffle for some target practice.

When Clint got back, I showed him an old trap I found from the previous owners and we loaded it up with all the groundhog’s favorite things then set it outside the garden by the hole it made. Inside the garden we situated the owl.

Then we waited.

The next morning it didn’t appear that the groundhog returned. The trap was untouched and the garden appeared to have no further damage.

The waiting game continued… until Sr. took Jack outside:

This. Was. War.

Sr. added celery to the trap and reset it inside the garden covered with hay. A few hours later Jr. came screaming inside with news that we caught the villain!

As we all gathered outside, the kids were the first to fall prey to the evil groundhog’s cute exterior.

Clint offered to remove the animal to a local park but Tarin’s dad was unsure this was legal and offered a more permanent solution.

Sr. was put in charge of “handling it” after the kids all went inside, which turned out to be much more difficult. Apparently our garden vegetables made it temporarily invincible and it knew it as it but the end of the barrel and tried to eat it way through the side of the trap.

Ultimately it was done and our crops were safe…

Or so we thought….



This week on the Half-ass Homestead June 22-28, 2020

Grace has taken to driving the hens around… not sure if they like it as much as she does 🤣

The past two weeks have been busy one on the home front and with work for me. It’s weeks like these that I’m thankful to be doing this whole garden homesteading thing with the Norris family.

Work has ramped up between creating two online courses, preparing for our first virtual summit for educators, and meeting with customers to plan for next school year, I feel like I’ve been glued to my MacBook for two weeks straight. And, though Brian Sr. had a couple of days where he started to feel better, he quickly took a turn down hill with severe pressure and nausea. We’re hoping for more answers and relief next week given this new medicine he’s on. On top of that, I’ve discovered I’m now allergic to poison ivy (turns out it’s bound to happen when you spend three weekends with a weed eater killing that stuff). So much itching!

Last week I didn’t get out to the garden once but often looked out the window and would see Clint and Vinny watering the garden, hanging with the hens, or eating lettuce and spinach off the plant. Grace, Ella, and Brian Jr. often joined them. They even dropped off some radish on Father’s Day! So grateful for them!

The kids tried radish for the first time, Grace was the only one who liked it even a little. I really enjoy some fresh slices on my sandwich but look forward to a few suggestions from some of our Facebook friends, especially roasting them!

By the time I got out to the garden this Friday, it was in desperate need for some harvesting! It’s amazing how much of a different the grass mulch has made for our crops!

Tarin, who has been busy with work herself, joined Ella and I in the garden for some picking. We got quite a haul!

On Saturday, we harvested rhubarb and I picked up some straw to recover our walking paths. Grace took pictures:

It’s about time for a second planting of carrots and some other crops. I’ll have to do some research on what would be good to plant.

Sunday, I spent time in the house gardens, adding cobblestone to a some of the paths, and reconfiguring the front garden by removing a bush and widening the area around our front outdoor table. I plan to add stone or pea gravel to level the space out.

While I worked, Sr. relaxed inside, the girls played by the creek catching salamanders and Brian Jr. played ball in the yard and took breaks to play guitar for the hens. It may be a little crazy, but life on the homestead is good!


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