Last time I shared with y’all I was fresh into redoing the backyard, so excited about the possibilities. It’s been a month and a half and until this weekend the project hadn’t gone any further.
Luckily the stars aligned and I had the energy AND the time. I told Sr. that all I wanted for my birthday was the materials to bring my vision to life (and his truck to haul it all 🤣).
We’re in the middle of football and softball season so Saturdays are just about the only day we have free so this past Saturday we got to work. Brian and Ella even HELPED!
Two loads of topsoil later and we’ve got a pretty good, level base for the pea gravel. The two railroad ties from the existing garden bed, of which we removed 4-5 feet in July ended up being great borders for the two sides. These are only temporary –Sr. thinks the ties are yellow jacket magnets and wants to get rid of all of them down the road. I used rock from a pathway I removed in the front gardens to round out the corner between the two ties. This matches the layered rock corners found elsewhere around the house gardens.
We also decided to move the azalea, opening up the space even more–another 3-4 feet. This was my brother Josh’s brilliant idea! We moved it to the little outside corner of the space and added some rocks. The larger space now has me thinking we could open the stairs up more on the corner to further connect the space!
Next up, I’ll dig a trench to fix a standing water issue at the patio and divert it downhill, add landscape fabric, and then pea gravel and done! I’m hoping I can get to it all by this weekend. 🤞🏻🤞🏻
Earlier this fall, Tarin told me about this great estate sale in the village that she found and asked if I would mind taking our truck up to pick up the chair and other things she purchased. As pulled up to the sale I noticed wicker furniture in the drive along with mismatched chairs of all occasions. We loaded Tarin’s finds into the truck and she encouraged me to walk around as she took a second glance.
As I walked into the screened sunroom, there were more chairs. And there it was–this darling mid-century sofa with eccentric floral cushions. I fell in love.
Of course, the price tag was in love with the sofa as well. The hefty price almost had me walking away but Tarin recommended I ask if they’d come down. A little negotiation and the sofa was mine and in the truck.
Originally, I planned to put it in the basement guest room but decided that I liked it too much to have it stuffed away in the basement. I mean look at this print! I screams for a spot with a view.
The glass porch/office/studio came with white wicker furniture–the only furniture the previous homeowners left in the house. We were so thankful for the furniture too, as our moving truck took two weeks to deliver our furniture from Texas, it was the only thing we had to sit on those first few weeks here. Wicker has a bit of southern charm in my mind and it was in great shape. I updated the cushions and added a bright rug and the sunroom was now my favorite room in the house, for more than just the views. It serves as the perfect back drop to my Zoom feed at work with many compliments from folks remarking how they’d like to have tea with me here, and the natural light and scenery make it the perfect place to paint (on the few occasions I pick up a brush).
This was the perfect place to put the sofa. Of course this called for a complete redecoration of the room.
I decided to wait until I had two chairs to go in the room with the sofa, just as our current set up is. I scoured the local Facebook market place, I wanted a rocker, but every rocker was more of a standard rocking chair you’d find in grandma’s sewing room. I searched Wayfair top to bottom, saving a few mid-century style chair but found nothing I loved. Besides, Wayfair just seemed like cheating. I wanted another great find–something well made, with history and character. I searched the local antique barns for a month before I found anything close to my liking.
These two antique chairs were in an antique barn just a few miles from the Camp Farm.
My friend, Rachel, came over one evening to help me switch out the furniture. It’s an excellent start but I’m still working on refining the feel of the room. I also need to fine the right rug. I got one on Wayfair but it clashed with the print so I’m still searching.
Oh! And I also found some amazing crystal stemware at the estate sale which demanded to be showcased. This lead to the search for a cabinet worthy of storing such sophistication.
With the 4th piece of vintage furniture bought in just three months, I’d say my obsession is in full swing! I’m always looking for a bargain and not afraid of a little dust.
As the cold keeps me indoors and the gardens dormant, I’m now focusing more on finding the voice of this home; after 3 years here I feel like I can hear it. It’s a combination of farmhouse, vintage comfort with a touch of retro accented with splashes of fancy. I’ll be sharing a little about the pieces I find and how I’m transforming rooms with them – and repurposing the existing furniture I keep. Also, I have a big remodel planned at the end of next year! Stay tuned, y’all!
A few weeks ago, we lost our sweet lap hen, Hazel, to a hawk.
We have 2-3 hawks in our neighborhood (plus a large fox and a few coyotes) that have been making quiet a ruckus this late-summer. I noticed their calls in mid July and heard from the McCrearys, who live two doors down, that one swooped down on their young flock as Molly was trying to usher the hens in the coop.
Despite the McCreary’s close encounter, their distant calls and a few sightings, we weren’t too worried about the hawks as predators since our hens are pretty much full grown. It was the fox that always appeared at dusk,just after the hens went into their coop , and liked to hang out eating groundhogs behind the shed that we saw a a real threat to our free-rangin’ ladies. After all, when the hawks’ squawks neared, the hens always ensured they were under the cover of the brush in the gardens. We knew we couldn’t keep the hens free-ranging for long and would need to build a bigger coop and/or run but it wasn’t at the top of our list. Unfortunately, our delay worked in the hawks’ favor.
On a Monday, I debated letting the ladies our as I was working a number of back to back virtual meetings, as is the norm in back to school season. However, it was going to be a hot day and their adorable coop is just too small for comfort so we decided to let them out for the day. Just before a new customer meeting, Sr. came in from the garage and said, “I think something ate the chickens, there are feathers everywhere!”
With my meeting just moments from starting, I told him to get the kids and try to find the rest of the flock and put them away. I then texted Tarin to let her know what was happening and started my call. Luckily, 5 of the 6 hens were found safe, but terrified, in the ferns at Tarin’s house. Hazel was the only one missing. Sr. wasn’t lying. There were feathers everywhere. Poor hazel seemed to put up a good fight and looked to have almost made it from the treeline, where the trail began, to under the old Chevy truck where the trial abruptly disappeared. We searched the grounds to see if she might have survived but found nothing.
By the next day, we had decided that it wasn’t in the budget and we didn’t have the time to build a new coop with a run like we have been planning so Plan B would have to be another solution. We found this covered pen and decided it’d be just what we needed for now.
The pen arrived in 2 boxes– chicken wire and aluminum poles. Thanks goodness Sr. had the patience to put the aluminum frame together Thursday or else it wouldn’t have gotten done this weekend. Saturday, we all worked together to cut and attach the chicken wire roof and walls. The kids transferred the hens to the pen and smothered them all in love (they missed wrangling them) while Tarin and I did a deep clean of their coop- which desperately needed it after nearly 2 weeks of 5 hens being cooped up in there 24/7.
After clearing out a few branches and debris from under the pines, we positioned the pen over the coop and set out their food and water. We even found a small board to serve as a nameplate for their new digs.
Now the new problem is keeping the kids, especially the little ones from going in and out of the pen–1. because they’re more likely to leave the pen door open and 2. because the poor hens have no way to escape or hide from those little arms.
One major error we made in our big garden last year was with mulch… we basically didn’t have any. Due to a tight budget, we used straw as our walkway mulch but we overlooked mulching our growing rows. We also missed the memo about planting cover crops over winter. Turns out, the raised row garden technique isn’t so weed-free when you don’t mind your mulch.
This year, we’ve been dropping the ball on mulch–again. We had big plans, y’all, but they didn’t happen. The walkways are in desperate need of new straw but more importantly the rows were getting are dry and cracked just hours after every rain and with longer stretches of summer heat drawing close, we needed to figure out something quick.
After Sr.’s brain surgery, our great friends, the Sickles, have been helping us with the lawn. The first mow, I told Paul the wrong level to cut at and the lawn got a hefty trim. With so much cut, we had rows of clippings across the lawn Sr. asked me to use the lawn sweeper to sweep the clippings off the lawn the next day.
As I struggled to maneuver the first load of clippings beyond out of the sweeper my first few rounds. It was a sight to see. I couldn’t seem to get the grass dumped out at the right spot. I decided to toss a few shovelfuls of clippings on the new compost pile. Turns out, grass clippings are great for compost AND as mulch.
Here’s what I learned:
IMPORTANT NOTE: You should only use clippings from untreated yards.
Grass clippings are are a great source of green or brown material–depending on if they are fresh or not–in the compost. If fresh, they count as a green and require a brown, such as dried leaves to balance things out (I’m still learning A LOT about composting and pretty much only know three things: there are “green” things, (2) there are “brown” things and (3) there should be “balance.”)
Mulching with grass clippings, it not only cools the roots and helps retain moisture, like any mulch, it also can add up to 25% of the nutrients growing takes out of the soil. When using fresh clippings, you should use thinner layers so it can break down and you don’t encourage rot.
Finally mulched rows!
Since most of my clippings were brown, I piled it on nice and thick. I was able to get half the rows done before I ran out of clippings and had to sweep Clint and Tarin’s yard. The second round of sweeping was much easier once I figured out I didn’t have to get off the mower if I used the black rope, and that I could just dump it as I drove by the front of the big garden.
Once I finished, mulching, I took some of our left over soil builder and put it at the base of the plants. They have been LOVING it and so have we–less watering, yay! And the best part – totally FREE!
This week we had beautiful weather! A little rain, not as much as I hoped for–isn’t it funny how when you have a garden, you start to pray for rain? It’s way too much of a chore to pull the hose all the way out to the big garden to water. There are signs of plant production everywhere! Clint and Vinny were enjoying the butter crunch lettuce straight from the plant while out watering one day.
The flowers are still blooming every day. I took a stroll through the house gardens and cut a few roses and flowering herbs for a summery bouquet.
The hens got more adventurous as they roamed towards the front yards. If you drove by the homestead on Tuesday morning you probably saw me running around like a madwoman with a lime green snow shovel shooing chickens out of the brush behind the coop (it’s full of poison ivy) and yelling orders at the kids on how to wrangle them so they. Trying to keep them all our of the poison oak and ivy and get the hens put up before my next meeting was exhausting.
I was able to use Sr.’s lawn sweeper (yes thats a thing) and swept up more grass clippings from our two yards to mulch the rows. I also added some enriching soil builder we had left over from planting the peach tree and blueberry bushes.
Sr got his 17 staples out and this weekend brought a slight improvement in Sr.’s pain 🙌🏻 and we explored new scenery for our walk.
Vinny turned FOUR and Tarin did a maternity shoot in the garden with the chickens!
This first year of raised row gardening is the most expensive, as you spend you money on not only plants, but dirt, mulch and other essentials supplies you may not have. Initially, we decided we’d try to avoid the need for building a fence during the first year since we didn’t have it in the budget. We made plans for using marigolds and Irish Spring soap to deter animals from our garden.
Before we got out plants in the garden, a groundhog helped itself to our tender crops like they were a buffet. Luckily, (for the groundhog) it stopped hanging around in the house shortly before planting time, However, once we got the plants in the ground, Tarin and I started feeling a little paranoid about all our plants just hangin out in the open. In addition to groundhogs, our beautiful neighborhood is full of wildlife, including and abundance of deer and rabbits. I felt like every time I looked out the window the deer were standing around the garden mocking me.
While we never saw them IN the garden, their presence around it was enough.
We asked around on some local Facebook groups about the costs to have someone build our fence and the cost of labor alone was way out of our budget. Having mended fences on our old ranch back in Texas, I was pretty confident we could do a simple fence ourselves. After a few conversations with my Dad about how to go about it and the spacing of posts, and pricing our various fencing materials, we decided to got with t-posts and chicken wire as they were the most inexpensive options. Again, the garden plan I created came in super helpful when figuring out our materials list!
I picked up all the materials at Tractor Supply and had Brian Jr. Help hammer the t-posts in place. When Tarin got home she and I tackled the chickenwire, which was a bitch. The wire and posts were the same height… until I put the posts in the ground… because I hadn’t accounted for that 🤦🏻♀️. Chicken wire is also super flimsy and can easily stretch out of shape. So all along the top the wire was loose given we didn’t have supports aside from the posts and we were too lazy to rig up a fence stretcher–which would have made some difference I’m sure.
All in all though, we got the fence up, and the extra fence height I hadn’t accounted for went on to the ground as a skirt on the perimeter, which would be great for keeping small animals from digging in the fence.
By the time we got to the gate our half-assery was in full swing, partly because we were exhausted, partly because we were discouraged but how not-so-great the fence looked, and partly because we had not idea what we were doing. I resorted to a primitive gate method we used on many fences in ranches back in Texas… we just took some chicken wire across the gate opening and used wire to hook it closed. It was by no means sturdy but it closed the gap.
Surprisingly, we had no animals break into the garden last year! Our hopes were to build a new, legit fence this year… more on that later.
In a raised row garden, there is no need for tilling and working the ground soil or building boxes for your garden beds. You simply cover your walkways with a non-producing mulch, straw, or rock material and create raised rows of quality soil about 18 inches wide and 6 inches high in the middle.
Once we had out big garden plot marked off, we decided to cover our walkways first with a weed barrier cloth since we didn’t have it in the budget to spend a lot on materials for the walking paths. This way if we couldn’t get enough mulch to cover the pathways, the cloth would keel the grass and weeds down. I created another diagram to help us determine where and how much cloth we’d need.
With the weed prevention fabric down, we then covered them with straw–our cost-effective “mulch” alternative–and ordered our soil. Unfortunately, we were a little late on the garden soil request. Because we waited until the last possible moment to order our soil, many places were out–something Tarin and I hadn’t considered as a possibility. I finally found a local place that not only had soil, AND would deliver that weekend.
The soil arrived when Tarin and Clint were away so the Camp kids helped me transport all our dirt into rows. Pretty sure this is when Jr. began to hate gardening 🤣 However, I was pretty proud of how hard Grace worked with her kid-sized shovel. We were all pretty proud once it was done.
Unfortunately, all that soil, wasn’t as great as we thought it was. When Tarin and Clint got home we went out to the garden to bask in the way everything was coming together. As Tarin looked at the soil in rows, she commented on how much the soil looked like mulch… in fact it looked exactly like mulch. In a panic, I called the place we ordered it from to confirm they had not delivered mulch instead, I mean it was all ready in TWENTY ROWS, how on earth was I going to give it back to them?!
The dirt company had a completely calm response to our freakout. Turns out, it was soil but it hadn’t finished “processing”. We were told to “just water it and it’d look like dirt” and as time went on the particles would finish breaking down. In other words… It was totally mulch, y’all!
Despite mulchy soil, we were ready for planting… or so we thought.
Our first lesson in plants
While we were able to get pricing on dirt (your most expensive purchase in year one), we had no idea what plants or seeds would cost. Tarin and I meandered around the aisles of our local nursery, list in hand, but overwhelmed at the where to start. Luckily we stopped an employee who shared with us which plants we could start by seed–a much cheaper option (cucumbers, squash, zucchini, carrots, green beans, peas, lettuce, spinach and kale) and which we should transplant ( tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, and herbs).
After several questions, I’m sure the gardening specialist, sensed our ignorance so she shared that we needed to “harden” our plants before planting and that we should wait until after the danger of frost has past–which is after Mother’s Day here. While we were bummed we’d have to wait 3 weeks to plant, we were thankful for this extra bit of wisdom as it snowed into mid-April that year.
While we waited for Mother’s Day, and the danger of frost to pass, we followed the instructions from the garden specialist and hardened our plants on the back deck. Our plants sat on the picnic table toughening up, that is until a ground hog decided it was a buffet and ate all our broccoli and cauliflower down to nubs. That groundhog wasn’t the slightest bit phased by the marigolds surrounding the plants, nor my presence in their sunroom Trying to remain professional during a video conference while the groundhog went to town. (This was the first sign we’d need a fence.)
What’s ‘hardening’ mean? Plants from nurseries are started and kept in greenhouses, living the lush life. The shock of transplanting them to new soil combined with sudden and constant exposure to the elements (wind, sun, rain) can kill theses tender little plants. therefore, you need to toughen those babies up by gradually increasing their exposure to the outdoors over a week or so–setting them outside during the day and bringing then indoors in the evenings if cold or daytime if really hot.
Once Mother’s Day passed, and what was left of our plants had sufficient time to harden, we got to planting in our mulchy soil. We had everything except the popcorn seeds (that row remained empty the whole year) and the boxes for our herbs, onions, and potatoes (which we never got around to planting).
This first year of raised row gardening is the most expensive, as you spend you money on not only plants, but dirt, mulch and other essentials supplies you may not have. We decided we’d try to avoid the need for building a fence during the first year since we didn’t have it in the budget. We made plans for using marigolds and Irish Spring soap to deter animals from our garden… more on that later.
The week Brian Sr. came home from his brain surgery and we were blessed with so much help on the Camp Farm from mowing the yard to delicious dinners. Honestly, I haven’t had to think about dinner all week. It’s been glorious, and super helpful as I pick up Sr.’s activities. So. much. laundry. We are so thankful for the continued support. Check out these awesome cookies my friend and colleague, Kyle made and sent to us from Houston!
As for Sr., it’s been pretty rough with severe nausea and pain. Mornings are the worst for him and walking is still pretty taxing as his neck is regaining strength and balance is still off. He’s supposed to work up to walking 5 miles a day. The first day he could gather strength to get out side and walk, he only made it across the street and back. We have a long way to go but each day he makes it a little further down the neighborhood and this weekend, he was able to walk with out his walking stick.
Ella and Grace have been playing entrepreneur all week, with an “Amazon delivery” adventure and having lots of meetings. It’s quite the business of the future. I don’t even have to order the items, the just show up in bags with “invoices”. And they are things I love, like my favorite books or high heels from my closet. 🤣
Little Miss Grace has gotten quite good on a bike and earned herself a shiny new one! And Jr. finally earned enough to get his new bike–thanks to his cat sitting job and helping in the yard and garden.
The hens continue to grow and have proven themselves capable of being able to roam free in the back yard mostly un supervised… I guess this means they’re now free range!
In the gardens, plants have been loving the sunshine this week. We’ve seen tons of growth in both the house gardens and big garden. My favorite peonies came into bloom and Ella and Grace helped me make a trellis for the peas and to support the green beans.
With all the extra sun, the soil in our growing rows was starting to dry out and crack. We hadn’t gotten around to adding mulch to the rows, or even deciding what kind of mulch we’d use, so I added grass clippings from our last mow. I’m hopeful this will be a good, free, solution.
Grace found our first strawberry and the girls helped me pull seeds out of a few melons and cucumbers for later planting since our first round of them didn’t take after all the heavy rains a few weeks ago. My sweet friend, neighbor, and fellow gardener, Amiée, brought us a few of her extra cucumber plants as well as a few extra goodies! I mean, I couldn’t be more excited about this book, y’all!
Early last spring, while watching the kids play in our back yards, Tarin and I began chatting about gardening. I was loving reaping the benefits of well established gardens around the house–thanks to Kay the original owner of our home and her 45 years of love in the garden. Most of the house gardens are floral, with the exception of the one side herb garden and the two rhubarb plants in the back. While I had made great use of the rhubarb, mint, lemon balm and chives, there was more I wanted to grow. Tarin and I talked about wanting a garden with more produce.
Soon after our chat I found out about a class being offered at a local nursery by Jim and Mary Competti on their raised row gardening technique, which promises a well producing garden with minimal work– and not a lot of tilling, weeding, hoeing, and spraying. (Hallelujah!) I registered but by the time Tarin got around to it, there were no more seats. The plan was I’d go, take copious notes, and we’d start our garden shortly after. I didn’t make it to the class but did find the Jim and Mary’s Old World Farms blog with details on their technique and even complete garden plans!
After a morning of coffee and researching in the blog while sitting on Clint and Tarin’s back deck, we were inspired by this Old World Garden Plan featuring a 45 x 60 foot garden. Tarin and I marked off a spot where our yards meet of the same measurements. When we asked what Clint thought about our initial layout, he gently suggested we might scale it back a little, “because you know, it’s your first year. You may not like gardening.” 🤣
Once we had the spot laid out, I made a detailed, scaled plan using excel, and we made a list of materials. We may have opted for a smaller plot but our garden is not exactly small. With a 30 x 45 perimeter, 20 ten foot growing rows and space for raised boxes for herbs, onions and potatoes it’s plenty big to produce crops for our two families.
It may have been tedious, but this plan made to scale has served us well, from determining the amount of materials we needed for growing rows and fencing to how many plants each row can fit and where we would place them.
This year, I simply copied last year’s plan, rotated where our crops would go in the growing rows and made modifications to the crops we wanted.
But just because we had a plan, doesn’t mean we knew what we were doing. After all, we weren’t looking to invest a lot of time or money into this new garden–we were really banking on the promises of the hassle-free gardening technique of raised row gardening . Also, neither one of use had a great track record with keeping plants alive. In Texas everything I planted burned up in the summer heat or died from neglect when life got busy. We definitely half-assed this first year int he garden. In an upcoming post I’ll share how we made this plan a reality and tell you about our soil mishap.
The redneck pool, aka redneck hot tub, is a bit of a tradition in my family and brings up fond memories of hot summers and water fun.
Summer is HOT, especially down in Texas. Growing up, whether on a hunting lease or our own ranch, we always managed to find an old livestock trough/stock tank to turn into our own mini water park. My mom would make me a swim suit, usually out of those red shop rags, and me, my brothers and my cousins would spend all day crammed in that game and playing with the hose to keep cool. Eventually we had a house with an in-ground pool but the old stock tanks were just as fun!
This spring, when the chicks started getting too cramped in our storage bin turned chicken brooder, I found a great deal on a 110 gallon tank at Tractor Supply. Initially I thought once it finished it’s purpose as a brooder, we’d put it in the garden as a container for potatoes and onions. However, when I got it home I discovered a spicket at the bottom for easy draining.
This discovery meant the tank would be perfect for a redneck pool like I had growing up. We’ve been wanting a small pool for the summers but Brian Sr. Says it’ll bring mosquitoes. I think he just doesn’t want to get shafted with cleaning duties (I don’t blame him).
We first filled the tanks a few weeks ago, when it was admittedly too cold to swim. Despite my warnings the kids insisted. They splashed around with blue lips and jaws chattering 90 miles an hour. They had a blast!
Now that it’s feeling like summer, this has been the perfect distraction for the kids—especially on days like today when Brian Sr. and I are away for Sr.’s brain surgery. The kids had a blast in the pool and even coaxed Jack to hop in!
The best part is, the kids work together to keep it clean and filled. Sr. and I do nothing… well except tell Grace to stop yelling and shrieking every time she splashed. I sweat the whole neighborhood hears her, and then hears us yelling her name! 🤣🤷🏻♀️
Once the days get even hotter, I’m picturing a little redneck hot tub in in the evenings… because, why not?!