Friday, April 25, 2014

Los Cuatro Gatos Locos Urban Homestead

So I have four crazy cats, therefore, I figured since they're the only animals I have so far, I'd name the urban homestead after them.  Things have been going well here.  Hubby's been busy building things for me.  Unknowingly, he has enrolled in my "Farmhand in Training" program.  He's doing a great job.  So far, I have an outdoor sink, two raised beds and lettuce table on the way.  Apparently, we need more power tools.  I believe this is the motivating factor behind his willingness to help me.  He's such a manly man.  The machismo is really coming out now :D

Isn't he just precious?!


I found two cute white shutters, which will go on the front.  I haven't told him it needs a shelf or that I envision panels around the whole thing, but that's ok.  It will be serviceable once we find a faucet for it.  I'm going to try the Habitat for Humanity ReStore tomorrow. Not sure what color to paint it.  Any suggestions?

Here's the raised beds and the plants longing for its warm embrace.

Going to try to convince him to build just one more, lol.  There might also be a tire planter involved in this area.

Finally, the nasturtiums have really sprouted well via the wet paper towel method.  100% germination!  Yay!  I chose "Alaska" for its variegated leaves, since everything in the front yard is green or brown.  They will encircle the oak tree in the front yard.  First, I put down a ring of compost around the pine mulch, then I walked on it to tamp it down.   The seedlings are spaced about 12 inches apart.  They seem to be growing ok.  Oh, and we have fire ants everywhere!  We're going to try the boiling water method for a bit before we try more extreme tactics.  I've got bites that are two weeks old and still itchy!

Friday, April 18, 2014


Hallo!  So on Monday I found out that my lateral entry teaching program will officially be over on Monday, April 28th!!!  Long story short, they told me I only qualify to get two scores counted toward my final decision instead of three.  I wept in the car from sheer joy that this 10+ year journey is about to be a finished chapter in my book.  It's unbelievable to me how this has really weighed down on me.  The original plan was to be a teacher in NY.  It took almost 4 years for me to finish my undergraduate, then I went back to grad school the next semester, then I was there for a few years, and was almost finished, but then got sick, and could never bring myself to go back since I hated my program so much.  I was floundering around about what I should do, when a year ago, I received an invitation to apply in Charlotte to be a teacher.  I bit, and my whirlwind of a year began.  Now I find it will be officially over soon.  My scores are in the passing range and in a celebratory gesture, I dropped thirty bucks on a nice goodwill haul.  Mostly work clothes, of course.  Phase One of Farm in Five is nearing completion.  Though I think I have to stay in North Carolina for two more years to get my permanent license, there's no more school or program requirements.  They said they will give us more info about that on Monday.

So I submitted my magazine article, and am awaiting news from the editor.  This is so exciting.  My life is slowly starting to resemble what I've always envisioned.  It's going to take more time to get there, but Phase Two of Farm in Five is Make More Money/Buy a House.  I'm going to have to find a second job, and get our finances in order to get a house in the next two years, but it's looking good.  Pretty much right on track.    The plan is to buy the cheapest house I can through a government sponsored lottery for public servants in teaching, firefighters, police and EMT. This will allow me, hopefully to cut my rent in half, and within three years, sell the property for a profit since I am only required to pay 50% of the mortgage, and have a down payment for the farm.  In preparation for our home, I've been watching lots of DIY and HGTV.  Can't wait to add "home improvement diva" to my resume!

Lastly, with all this other stuff off my mind, I can focus on getting the competitions details hashed out for SAFF.  In the last few years, there has not been a proper fleece/sheep to shawl competition.  This makes me sad. Something like this can inspire someone to be a spinner or a weaver and add to our growing ranks.  I know it did for me.  I'm responsible for bringing it back now.  Up till now, I've been focused on the rules, and logistics of the event.  It's time to start thinking about how it will look, as well as how to get more participants and also how to drum up prizes.  Because there are so many new weavers, and I know I was prevented from participating in this event until I found someone with a four harness loom and four other spinners, I'm proposing to also have a rigid heddle scarf competition.  I believe this will attract more people and is appropriate for people who have less skill and equipment in weaving.  It will also allow for more creativity from the spinners, who will be allowed to make art yarn, weave in locks, use angelina and other fun stuff, and use commercially prepared roving and drum carders/carding boards.  This one will be a bit more challenging to form rules for and I think I need to form a practice team first to get a handle of how many people are needed to make it so.  Also, I'm toying with the idea of a "Wild Card" team, who will be supplied with tools/equipment/materials needed so we can get one more team made up of people who didn't register, but would like to compete and can sign up the weekend of the fair.

Whew!  Been busy!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Busy Little Bee Part II

Well, I thought I'd separate my loooong post into two parts.  There are some updates on the bareroot plants I bought in February, as well as my fig tree.  

Here is my fig tree.  I'm so freakin' excited:

Now with more and bigger leaves!  Yay!

Some of the native plants I bought are showing signs of life.  Not sure what this one is.  It might be a buttonbush, two others are oak leaf hydrangeas, and the last one leafing out might be a hazelnut.  Can't remember.

When we first came to the property, it was overrun with vegetation around the fences, and barren in the middle.  To balance this out, my plans were to thin out the fence line, and start building up the middle.  Once it fills in, it will add dimension to the yard, and afford some meandering paths around to add interest and a tiny little woodland lot.  We added the firepit in the center in between the trees to be a focal point and for fire safety rules to be away from the house.  Gravel that was in front of the back door was raked up and repurposed.  Right now, there's still a lot of brown everywhere, but over time, it will change.  The leaf litter serves as a mulch to keep the weeds down and build up the soil, and affords good cover for insects and worms which are beneficial to both the soil and the birds.  We noticed that water continues to drain from our property up to a day after it has rained.  I think it's because with all the mulch, the water drains more slowly, and has a chance to seep into the soil, as well as keep erosion down, since the whole backyard is sloped.

I never noticed there were some interesting plants, so when I attacked the fence line with the lopers,  I found these:

A vine that suspiciously looks like some kind of scuppernog or muscadine grape.

And these:

Which appear to be some sort of brambleberry with LOTs of brambles.  Ouchy.

And these:

Most likely strawberries.  Not to be confused with these:

False Strawberries.  (It took until they bloomed with yellow flowers for me to notice the difference.  They will form tiny hard berries for the birds, though.)

And the last surprise is I got started on two projects that have been on the backburner:

Repurposed glass birdbath and butterfly food dish to go in the center of the herb circle:


And the salad table:

Whew!  That was a lot of work.  Going to drink and write and spin and relax for the rest of the night.  Cheers!

Busy Little Bee

It's been an awesome weekend!

First, a disclaimer:  clearly I wanted to impress you, dear reader, with my photo and text laden post complete with inept iPhone pictures.  I hope you forgive the crappy angles and shadows and get the gist of what I'm trying to illustrate.

Yay!!  I don't have to go to work tomorrow, so that gave me the drive to get lots accomplished in a few days.  Hubby and I went to the county yard waste management facility and picked up one cubic yard of compost.  I think we got more than that, but it was pretty funny.  Hubby kept telling me I bought too much, but I tried to explain to him how 1 yard was the minimum of what you could purchase.  If we spent $23 on compost at the local big box garden center, it would have gotten us several bags.  This way I got a whole pick up truck full!  It was totally worth it.  I finally got around to filling in the herb circle.  My plan was to fill it up with a soil and compost mix, but we can't afford soil right now so straight up compost is where it's at.  Not sure what will happen, but lots of other crap grows in our soil, so eventually, I think the roots will spread to the soil level.  We shall see.  In the meantime, it was a lot of work to shovel the rest out of the pickup onto the tarp today.  Who needs yoga for toned arms?  I'm doing the farmgirl workout, lol!


I also was able to spread some compost on the back strip I cleared this winter in preparation for the wildflower bed.  I have no idea what's in the seed mix, if it will grow, or anything other than I bought 1 oz of southeastern wildflower mix, tossed it on the compost, stepped on it to pack it in and watered the shit out of it.  My goal is to water 2x a day until I see established seedlings, then taper off to once a day till they get bigger.  The soil back there is a bit better, since I don't think people raked back there, so the quality is a bit more loamy than clay.


I planted out the herbs I started inside in the herb circle.  There's a few horehound plants, since I've been dying to make "Rock and Rye" for "medicinal purposes" and Christmas gifts.  There's one weird lavender plant I grew from seed that looks nothing like lavender but smells like lavender.  I'd like to see what happens to it.  It's got broad leaves and a thick, sturdy stem.  Also, I planted out my alpine strawberry plants I grew from seed and it remains to be seen how they will fare.  And two rhubarb plants.  People say rhubarb does NOT grow here, it's too hot, but for 35 cents, I figured I'd give it a try.  Next, there's some spearmint, I think, and orange mint or something, but I don't remember.  In the next ring of  the circles, I planted some johnny jump ups and pansies, but it remains to be seen how they will do, as it is a bit late for them.  Apparently, they don't do well in the heat, either.  There's some nasturtium seeds that I soaked in the paper-towel-sprouting method experiment, since apparently, they're hard to germinate because of their hard seed coating.  Those will go around the tree out front, as an experiment to see if composting the roots will let things grow there instead of cultivating a pile of pine needles.  

Lastly, I threw some compost by the fence and planted some sweet pea seeds and am praying for them.  I'm sure they won't like the heat, either, but what the hell?   I shall call this "Southern Gardening for Northerners 101, School of Hard Knocks, Charlotte, NC.  I'm sure many have taken this class before me.  The key to passing it is learning from your mistakes, and not getting too discouraged.


There's too much to talk about, so I'm going to post a sequel, complete with MORE crappy iPhone photos :D

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

In two days time...

I will be on vacation.  No, I won't be travelling the world, or eating at fancy restaurants, or swimming in sparkling sapphire waters, but I won't be at work.  Also, my bestie is coming to visit and we'll be house hunting for her big move to NC.  Yay!

I did some spinning this morning before and worked on an article while proctoring a depressing bunch of ESL students who were taking a reading exam in English. I felt bad that they clearly had no idea what the hell they were reading.  Ironically, one of passages had instructions on how to write a magazine article.  Maybe I should have paid closer attention.   I'm just about finished with it and look forward to getting it done.

In television news, my husband and I are crushed that Being Human is Being Discontinued, although I'm not surprised.  What's more shocking is that a total copy of a British show, with the same characters, and similar stories, lasted for as many seasons as it has.  It was a good run Aiden.  We will miss your vampire-y hotness.  (That goes for Aiden (Mitchell) in the Brit show, too.  Been missing your hotness for a while.  Also, Agents of Shield went cray cray last night.  I think it's the first time a movie and a current TV show had overlapping story lines with the same actors at the same time.  People who did not see Captain America: The Winter Soldier are totally screwed now.  It's only been out for a little over a week, and there were no spoilers or anything.  Jeez.  I feel lucky that we saw it last weekend, so events weren't so shocking.  I have a feeling we will see more of that in the future.  It totally works.  Now you won't be able to wait for the digital version unless you want to wait to watch your favorite weekly TV show.  I'm surprised it took this long for someone to figure that out.

Lastly, my gardening plans have been on hiatus and it makes me sad.  I'd like to get some straw bales, but apparently, straw isn't in season in the spring, and I'm afraid to drive the truck too far to get some for fear of breaking down in the middle of Bumblefuck, NC.  I guess the perks of it would be that there would be mountains of F-150 parts for fixing what needed fixing.  I'm thinking Dawn will be my partner in crime for that event.  (Please don't read that Dawn...)  After I get the straw home, it still needs 10 days to break down and get ready for planting.  I think it's ok, though, since we have a long growing season.  It'll all work out in the end :D

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Bring me some figgy pudding!

Yes.  It's April.  And the title of my post is symbolic of December festivities.  Why, you ask?  Well because of this:

Baby Fig Leaf

My fig tree has finally started to come to life.  I've been waiting since the plant sale in November of last year for this day.  Not sure what will happen, but here's to hoping I have at least one lone fig for figgy pudding this Christmas.

In other news, I've passed my observations for the lateral entry teaching program.  Hip hip hooray.  And I passed my first year North Carolina evaluation.  Woo-hooo!  Now I will get my temporary teaching license until the end of grade test scores come back.  Which may not be until next November or so.  Who knows?  In the meantime, I have a bit of weight taken off my back from worrying so much about it.  On Wednesday, I have a job interview for a summer camp counselor.  The pay is OK, and I definitely need a summer job.  We'll see what happens.  The good thing is we're doing it.  We're making it happen in NC.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Oh Trucky Truck!

We are experiencing a rocky initial relationship with the new (old) truck. Like a newly adopted child, it seems we need to get acquainted better before we make any decisions on if we really like her.  (The Tardis.  Behemoth.  Trucky truck.)  The day before we registered her officially, hubby broke off the oil dipstick tube.  We ended up plugging up that hole permanently and the prescription was get the oil changed every 2-3 months so you know it's clean.  Ok.  Not traumatic.  Today we took her out on the road for our first pallet-collecting trip.  I think we used 1/4 tank just to go a few miles because of nasty rush hour traffic.  She took 4 pallets like it was nothing, the workhorse that she is.  We didn't even have bungees or rope; just tossed 'em back there, said a prayer, and went home.  Windows were down, A/C blowing hot air.  Like a dream.  Then when we got home, my window wouldn't go up.  Dammit to hell.  Now we're stuck with an open window.  Tried taking the switch apart and checking the connections, but to no avail.  Hubby thinks motor is seized.  Crap.  It seems my new hobby is the truck.  Which may or may not be good.  At least I'll be getting experience in fixing cars like I always wanted.  Oy vey!!!

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