There Is Such A Thing As Free Lunch!

I’ve always wondered how I would do stranded in the middle of nowhere with no food for days on end. I never did learn proper foraging skills (bad Girl Scout!) even though I know some wild plants are edible. I just don’t really know what any of them look like. Luckily, you can’t browse too many urban homesteading websites or read too many books without coming across a section on edible weeds. And then you can google pictures of those weeds. Thanks to modern technology, I’m about to eat weeds!  Totally free lunch. 

The other day this little plant I thought was clover grew little yellow flowers. Umm…. I have clover everywhere because, well, I planted it. And it spreads like wildfire. So when my pot with last years lettuce started growing this clover look-alike, I paid no notice-until the yellow flowers popped up. I had to know if I should pull it since it was growing next to my volunteer lettuce from last year’s bolting. 

Turns out, it’s just wood sorrel. 

Turns out, that’s edible. 

Even better, it’s really good!

Sorrel growing next to volunteer cut-and-come-again lettuce

When someone says something is “lemony” they almost always mean it “tastes like dirt with a lemon flavor” to me. Or maybe that’s just my experience with lemon herbal teas! This stuff actually tastes like a squirt of lemon juice!  I was shocked when I chewed up that first leaf. So, it’s going into tonight’s salad along with some of that volunteer lettuce. Totally free greens for my salad!! Didn’t plant it or water it or tend to it in any  way. I love free lunch!

I wonder if the wild violets in the back yard taste as good…

Convenient Water Saver

Convenient Water Saver

I had an occasion this winter to go to the local big box hardware stores. This is never good because my imagination gets carried away with all the projects I could do…if only I had the time and I tend to spend way too much money on stuff that never gets finished (I’m talking about you, galvanized wire and uncut tree limbs that will make a new garden border). But while I was there I picked up some seeds. Nothing special, just some perennial wildflowers and chamomile and mint. I got the chamomile specifically for tea and have every intention of adding some tea bushes for black tea to the garden. We go through a lot of black tea in this house. But I knew I really really wanted a tea kettle to heat my water because they’re cute and they whistle so I would stop getting involved in something and the pot of tea boiling over before I remembered it. So I hit up Amazon and Target and the tea websites trying to find one that was super adorable and whistled. I had no idea they were so expensive!  A whistling tea kettle costs more than a coffee maker!  Eventually I gave up looking because I had other things to do and the reasonably priced ones seemed to have horrible reviews. Well, while I was BJ’s the other day, I saw they had tea kettles!  Reasonably priced and actually the exact Cuisinart version I had eyeballed. But they also had almost the exact same kettle from their house brand Berkley & Jensen for just $24.99. I knew from my days working there that BJ’s gets good product for their house labels. I also knew that if it didn’t work properly they would take it back and give me a refund or store credit with zero problems so I bought it. It works just fine and boils more water in the same amount of time as my pot I was using for tea. 

What on earth does this have to do with saving water?  I went to clean a pan this morning and was about to flip the faucet on and wait for the hot water to come out when my shiny kettle looked back at me. I’ll hang on to that cold water until you can use it, it said (OK, it didn’t actually look at me or say anything, but if it was a TV tea kettle it totally would have!). So I ran the cold water into my kettle and cleaned the pan when the warm water came out. I used the cold water to water my plants. I already paid for it when I turned on the faucet, and it just rushing down the drain every single time I needed hot water annoyed the crap outta me. Especially knowing that I would have to run the faucet again to water my plants. So from now on, I have a new habit of keeping a pitcher, tea kettle or watering can right by the sink to catch that cold water I don’t need right now. I can’t wait to see how this impacts my water bill!

The New Lawn

Ever since I bought my much loved reel mower, I’ve been on a search for a new lawn. Frankly, ours is full of weeds and grasses with thick seed stalks that the poor mower can’t cut. In the last 5 years, we have tried 4 times to grow grass in our front yard and are always thwarted by the weather. It’s either too rainy or too dry or too hot here in the summer and our yard looks like this by fall:


Dead as door nail. Gross.  No matter how pretty it was last fall and in the spring, that stuff isn’t dormant, it’s dead. 

Of course, I absolutely refuse to use chemical fertilizers and weed killers and I know there has to be a better solution. Enter our faithful clover patch:

This clover patch moved in the spring after we did 5 years ago. Notice the nice black soil underneath. It started with this:

The clover withered after sustained 98 degree highs and almost no rain for the last 10 weeks. After a single thunderstorm it was back. 

The goal is to plant the clover with fescue to crowd out all the less savory plants and rebuild the topsoil. I won’t need much seed. And $30 got me enough to do the whole yard 4 times over ( which is fine because I will spread it again come spring.)

Clover grows great here. In fact, despite the brutal temperatures and lack of rain, we sprouted 2 more large patches of wild clover this summer. 

My little mower cuts it just fine. Even the flower heads. And I would do almost anything to get rid of those awful seed stalks in the yard. Keeping a “neat” appearance is an HOA requirement and those blasted stalks are definitely in violation. 

Bonus: the clover stays green here 9 months out of the year or more so when my neighbors’ yards are yucky brown, ours will still be pretty. 

I’m crossing my fingers this works. I’ll keep you updated!

This Worm Farming Thing

This Worm Farming Thing

So about 3 weeks ago I told you guys about my new red wigglers. I thought getting the moisture ratio and feeding ratio right was going to be hard. I was so dead wrong!  Easiest pets ever. Seriously. And I don’t have the ideal bin. It’s clear. Apparently I didn’t put nearly enough holes in it because condensation builds up if I leave the lid on. No biggie though because these little guys stay right in when I take the lid off-for a week. Yes, I had an open worm bin under my desk for a week and the dogs didn’t try to eat from the bin nor did any of the worms try to run away. 

I’ve only fed my worms twice since getting them settled in. First they had a smorgasbord of sliced tomatoes and coffee and part of my catnip that I accidentally clipped with the water hose. Today they got a bruised up sliced apple, coffee and some more paper. 

I repurposed a Corningware casserole dish that has a lid as my kitchen scrap pot. It works really well to keep the fruit flies away and it’s conveniently dishwasher safe. Feeding today was super easy. Use hand shovel to push shredded paper to the side, flip over contents of dish. I had lined the bottom with newspaper before adding the food so I didn’t even have to recover the feeding zone! 

The dirt at the bottom of the bin looks heavenly. It smells like the deep forest and I can’t wait to spread it on my plants!

They’re being camera shy!

As you can see, they haven’t been big fans of the catnip and it’s been taking forever to wilt. It sat out on the porch for several days and then when I put it in the dish it perked up like it was growing! I may end up pulling it out if it decides to grow in there. 

Sneaky lazy gardening

Sneaky lazy gardening

Let me tell you the story of how my water hose leaks at the sprayer. Seems like no matter what type of rubber gasket I stick in there, the thing still finds a way to drop water!  Today, I finally found a practical application for that problem!

While there are various irrigation systems on the market, I’m too cheap to buy and too lazy to install any of them. Plus, my plants are scattered in a dozen pots throughout my yard and I’m sure the HOA would be none to thrilled for me to rig up something that wasn’t a professional sprinkler system. But thanks to my drippy hose nozzle, I have a single-plant drip emitter!  It’s stupid simple, but I only though of it yesterday when I put the hose down after spraying a squash bug colony off my zuchini plants and seeing all that useful water run off my driveway. So I picked up the nozzle and set it in my tomato pot while I checked on my roses. Well, the roses were being munched on by some Japanese beetles!  So while I addressed that problem, my tomato got nice and damp. When I came back, I moved it to my zuchini pot. Today, it’s sitting on the lip of my salad barrel with hopes that it will revive the poor lettuces that didn’t bolt in last week’s heat. 

So there you have it, my super cheap, super lazy watering system. 

Worms!

As a child, worms fascinated me. As an adult, being removed from nature, they kinda grossed me out. But as I try to get back to my roots and start growing my own food and saving money, I needed to find a way to get quality compost or fertilizer to keep my plants healthy-for cheap! Enter the Red Wiggler! Tiny little red worms that will turn my coffee & tea & leftover veggies into compost. And they do it fast. Like 3 weeks fast. I like fast results for a small investment. 

Today I bought a pound of Red Wrigglers. I’ve saved up some vegetable scraps and a couple cardboard boxes and bought some plastic bins. Now I’m the proud owner of a worm farm! With any luck, I’ll have some great compost to add to my plants in a few weeks. Of course, I’ll keep you updated!