A look back and a look forward

The look back: Highlights of 2012

The biggest thing that controlled my life in 2012 was that I was unemployed.

In the beginning of the year, I was hopeful to launch a new business – website design and social media management for small businesses. I spent part of my free time learning the ins and outs of self-employment, researching marketing techniques, pricing, and creating a business website.

Also, early in the year, when the weather was still chilly, I spent weeks in the workshop learning how to paint gourds. Over time, I got better at choosing the paints and inks that worked best and honed my drawing skills.

I also began baking bread – peasant loaves, white loaves, baguettes, yeast rolls and biscuits. (I had never been a baker and was [still am] pleasantly surprised at the outcomes.)

As winter began to fade, I began a major house spring cleaning, literally from ceiling to floor in every room. And, I prepped the vegetable garden, hand tilling the bed, planting and caring for the young summer vegetables. And, I started clearing brush that is overtaking the property, a major undertaking. One that will never be done.

I made a trellis out of branches to support a rose bush.

In May, my sisters came to my house for our yearly sister vacation. Our visit was more low-key than normal, mainly because my budget was so incredibly tight, but we did manage to go to the beach and go to Firefly Distillery and we went to see a movie together. One with Johnny Depp.

And, then I tended the garden. I spent more time there than in other years, since I had more free time, and productivity was the best ever, and I spent quite a bit of time in the kitchen preserving the harvest for winter consumption.

And, in between, I continued to work on my business and paint gourds and clear brush and bake bread and I learned to make concrete casts out of leaves for yard art.

And, we began work on my plant shack.  And, I planted a winter vegetable crop.

And, my sister and her husband came for a vacation in October and we took the boat to Folly Beach to fish and scavenge for sand dollars. We golfed with them and ate oysters. And, then they went home.

And, after that, I continued to work on my business and tend the garden and paint gourds and make concrete leaves and bake bread.

The winter crops are coming in now and I am preserving the excess of the harvest.

My old car continues to hang in there, even though the transmission has been giving me a headache for a couple of years now. And, our tractor, a major tool at our house, has died and is non-repairable and there is no money in the budget for a replacement.

Looking back I can see that most people would find my year fairly non-descript. But, I have to say, all in all, it was good!

The look forward: A plan for 2013

If I had my druthers, I’d prefer to continue to pursue my dream of self-employment. But, since I do not have customers waiting in line for my services, that is not possible right now. My number one priority for the new year is to find a job.

Outside of that, I have made a few personal goals to have a happy year ahead.

  • Finish the plant shack. It’s been on hold for a few months because we ran out of money. But, that’s temporary (I hope) And, when it does get finished, I will have my own place to work on all my crafty things and gardening pursuits.
  • Grow more vegetables. I like growing things. Vegetables are fun to grow because they taste better and are fresher than anything store bought, I can grow organic, and I can preserve for future use and save money.
  • Paint more gourds. I’ve never considered myself an artist, but, I learned last year that the more I practice, the better I get.
  • Make more concrete leaves. Mixing concrete is like the adult version of making mud pies.
  • Bake more bread. A loaf of plain, bland, store-bought bread costs over $3.00 a loaf these days. My bread, on the other hand, tastes awesome and guests think I am super talented!
  • Clear more brush. The work is great aerobic exercise and the other end result is a prettier homestead.
  • Begin a daily journal. Because I want to.
  • Doodle every day. Doodling is great exercise for a more creative brain.
  • Write more. The more I do it, the better I get at it.
  • Learn new stuff. I want to make home-made wind chimes and other yard art. I’d like to start doing yoga. I want to learn how to use the table saw and drill press and jig saw and, then, make stuff.  I want to re-study classic literature, take an on-line course, study the stars, learn how to make pasta, make hand-crafted soap.

All in all, it looks good!



A winter garden tale

I’ve been getting asked frequently (not really, just once, actually) about my winter garden this year. I thought I’d show you a few pictures.

The broccoli are doing great! I’ve blanched and frozen a few batches already and still have more to come.

The cabbages are about the size of large grapefruits and feel very solid. I should be able to cut some of those soon.

The cauliflower are beginning to form heads. I am very excited about it as last year they didn’t do so hot. I didn’t know last year that a frost will ruin the heads and I lost most of them. This year, I read about a procedure called blanching. This is where you collect the outer leaves in a bunch to surround the fragile heads and close with a loose rubber band. I have not done it yet, but continue to watch weather reports for frost warnings.

The Brussels sprouts are struggling a bit this year. The little heads are loose and turning brown. I’ve read that removing the lowest sprouts will help the plant make better heads. I’ve done that and hope they start producing better as these are a favorite eating vegetable of mine.

I’m also growing collard greens. They are typically very easy and can be ignored for the most part. This year, I am getting a mediocre crop for some reason. I didn’t even bother taking their picture.

Sweet onions will stay put until February or March. I’ll pull them just in time to begin preparations for the spring/summer crop.


Shedding a little history

Or, more precisely,  a little history about the shed.


We’ve got a few outbuildings on our property.

One is called the workshop. When we first moved here, it had a dirt floor and was, in general, a pretty crappy building. Now, it has a nice solid concrete floor, shelving units, work table and new windows. Brian’s man-cave.

Another building is called the plant shack. We began the re-build on it this past summer and it is starting to look pretty good. We hope to complete it over the winter so I can use it for my plant stuff and craft stuff and general woman-cave stuff.

The third building is called the shed.

I don’t know a lot about how the shed came to be. It was here when we bought the house 10 years ago. The shed looks very old; some of the wood is rotting and the tin roof is rusted. Amazingly, it stays very dry inside.

The shed is approximately 10 feet wide by 18 feet long. There are three doors on the front, although two look like they were added later, since they are not framed like the one on the far right.

Inside, the shed is divided into three stalls with concrete floors. At one point the shed was used to house goats, so says my neighbors. And, later, another previous owner used it for his hunting dogs. A high chain link fence kept the animals in.

We first used the shed as a chicken coop. Brian built nesting boxes and a roosting ladder for our dozen laying hens, one of which, turned out to be a rooster. His name was BOB, but later we called him PSYCHO BOB. I have a handful of funny stories I could share about our chicken experience. Maybe some other time. Anyway, we raised chickens for about 5 years before we gave it up. That tiny opening on the far left door is one we cut as an opening for the chickens to go in and out of their coop.

Now, we use the shed for storage. We keep most of our lawn supplies and other outdoor gear in there. Temporarily, I am housing my plant supplies in there, too.

We use the fenced area in the front of the shed for our vegetable garden. FYI, this winter I am growing collards, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and sweet onions.

There is a feral cat in the neighborhood that will not let us get close enough to her to catch her and get her to the vet for spaying. She has used the shed as her birthing center four times now. And, although we don’t chase them away, when the babies get old enough, she takes them over to our neighbor’s house to live with a few other outdoor cats.

This summer, I started decorating the outside of the shed. I spruced up some old window frames and hung them to add a bit of color. I also tried my hand at leaf casting (making leaves from concrete) and, I’ve hung a few of my early experiments on the wall, too.

The next project for the shed wall is converting a fan (from an old broken box fan) into a wall flower.

I’m becoming the queen of funky junky.