Saturday, April 26, 2014

First food from my garden! Tomato-Basil-Mozzarella-Bacon Salad!

Well, this might be an overly optimistic title (most of these basil leaves were ready to eat when I planted them) but it still makes me super happy to just pop out on the porch and get some basil when I want to cook with it!

I made a YUMMY salad for lunch this week.  
  • Bacon Lardons - basically really crispy bacon bits that take the place of croutons (get it, crout-ons...lard-ons)  These are from NomNomPaleo's cookbook and something I add to a lot of salads.  I added them to my deviled eggs earlier this week!
  • Pearl Tomatoes on the vine (from Trader Joes) - quartered.  I cut up about 8 or 10 tomatoes.
  • A small amount of Trader Joes Mozzarella - chopped into chunks.  I probably used about 1/5th of the log of mozzarella.
  • BASIL!  I tore up about 8 leaves for this.  I like to tear instead of cutting since I think it bruises the leaf more and releases more scent and flavor.
  • Aged Balsamic Vinegar  - this is from Aldis and is part of their private label collection.  They don't carry it all the time but it comes in a beautiful little square bottle.   
Add it all to a bowl with a lid and shake.  For best results (if you can!) let it sit in the fridge together so the flavors all blend.  I made this in the morning before I left for school and by lunch time (let's be real, I couldn't wait so I ate it mid-morning) but it was perfect! 

This tastes like summer to me!  I would eat this every day if I could!   So fresh and so yummy!

Squirrels and my Garden!!

When I lived in rural WV, we struggled with gardening because the deer would eat everything before it had a chance to grow and be harvested.

I thought planting a patio garden on my porch in this little suburban area would be much safer from the "wildlife."

I was wrong.  Very wrong.

 I am so mad at these squirrels!  I caught one in the act!  So, all of this happened THE FIRST DAY that I planted my garden.  I came home from a relaxing night away with my ❤️ to find the devastation in the pictures above.  LOOK at that jalepeno plant!  BOTH plants were dug up and eaten off at the soil level.  No peppers for this girl.   My pots were knocked off the shelves and dumped all over my porch.

Those little rodents even dug up all the daffodil bulbs that I brought back from my mom's house in West Virginia AND TOOK THE BULBS WITH THEM!!!

I want to kill these squirrels - no lie.  I looked into poisons (but don't want to endanger neighborhood dogs and cats) and if I was in WV I'd just shoot them. Hah, not an option in the neighborhood.

I cleaned them up...and I noticed that the only plants not touched were the lettuce, tomato and lavender.  I've read that lavender could keep deer away, so I'm hoping it will keep squirrels away.  I picked some sprigs of lavender and rubbed it on all the cleaned up and re-potted plants.  I also put little bits of lavender in the soil.

I also read that cayenne pepper will keep the critters away so I dumped ground cayenne pepper on the top of the soil.

For three days this worked.  On the third day I caught that little gray rodent at it red (gray??) handed!!  The little thing tried to slink away like if he got really low to the ground I wouldn't see him.  GRR!  I yelled at him, but he didn't seem to care.  He knocked the strawberry pot off the top shelf again!

I put more cayenne everywhere - all over that strawberry plant and even on the pallet itself.  Hopefully that helps!

I honestly don't know what to do about this.  One variety of hosta is completely destroyed, the other two have many damaged stalks.  Peppers are all gone.   I'm not sure my herbs are all going to make it.  Daffodils are gone (all but one) and impatiens have been rooted around in so much, they might not make it either.

Anyone have any (safe) suggestions?  Help!  

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Spring Break Porch Makeover - Part 2: Pallet Herb Garden

Now it is time for step 2 of the porch makeover!  A pallet project.   I found inspiration for the project here at and I'm excited to see what I can do.   Her directions are great - only I don't have a lot of the tools she mentioned (like a kreg jig) so I had to do some improvising.  I'll explain that part as we go.

I noticed a pile of pallets outside behind ACE hardware this morning on my way back from plant shopping.   So I popped in and asked if I could have one.   They told me to help myself to as many of the un-painted ones as I want. One for now...:)  I picked what looked like a good one and loaded it up to haul it home.

Then it was on to youtube to find out how to break down a pallet.   This was going to be harder than I thought!  I wish I had a sawzall...that makes it look easy!   There were a lot of great ideas, but I didn't have the tools.  So I followed the directions on this video, but instead I used a large flat screwdriver (a stand in for a crowbar) and a hammer to pry up all the boards on the back and one of the middle boards on the front.    Whew!  It was a lot of work, but well worth it.  I will say I worked my shoulders in a way that they aren't used they were screaming the next morning!  I am pretty sure I also pulled a muscle in my neck/right shoulder that is still hurty.  Ouch! This was by far the hardest part of the job! 

(looks like I need to clean up the floor again!) 

After a quick trip to Lowes for some more 
  • 1 1x4x10' cut into 4 18" pieces (shelves) and 2 16.5" pieces (one side has a separate brace, so it makes it much shorter.  The leftover piece was about 8 inches so I used it for a foot.
  • a pack of screws.  I got #8 2.5 inch screws.  I have no idea why...they looked like they were a good fit
  • a pair of bolt cutters (an expense I'm not proud of, but I'm done fighting with those nails!!)  $13.50
Total spent at Lowes $25

I bought 12 plastic pots at the Dollar Tree.  They came in 4 colors, so I picked up 3 of each to add a bit of color.

  They needed a hole in the bottom for drainage, so I drilled the bottom.  It was really easy.  They have little indentations, but just needed to be drilled through.

 AND I got a pair of work gloves.  All that work yesterday without gloves.  I ended up with one splinter (got it out!), two smashed fingernails (not from the hammer...but when I was prying, something came loose suddenly and I smashed my fingers into the board/nail), and one scraped up wrist.  The $1 for work gloves was totally worth it.

Total spent at Dollar Tree $14

Next it was time to cut the nails - you have to use your muscles.  I pulled and pulled and pried and tried to hammer them in but they won't budge.  So I got the bolt cutter and cut them off as close as I could to the boards.

Attach the shelves.   I used the level in the compass app for my iphone to make sure they were really level.  You can see in the final pictures that they don't look level because the original boards on the pallet aren't square. It adds to the charm, right? :) I drilled the holes then put the long screws through.   In PinkWhenJen's  original planter she used a kreg jig to drill angled holes and that seems like it would be a great idea, but way beyond my ability.  My shelves are also staggered a bit because once you put one in, you can't put another directly beside it.  :) Do the best you can - they don't have to be perfect!  

Attach feet - again, I used what I had.  I had one leftover piece of wood from the long 1x4 I bought and it was about 7 or 8 inches.  So I screwed that on one side.  I had another piece from the wood I pried off that was in pretty good shape and about 9 or 10 inches, so that became my other foot.  :) This step could be skipped if you want to lean the garden or attach it to a fence/wall.

Finally!  Time to plant!  One more trip to Lowes and Walmart to see if they got healthy little herbs and veggies after the frost.  Success!  Plus I found another pot in my storage closet AND bought two types of tomatoes.

      • 1 more jalepeno pepper plant
      • rosemary
      • cilantro
      • spearmint
      • lemon balm
      • 2 sweet basil plants
      • purple basil
      • thai basil
      • 2 types of strawberries
      • 4 tiny kale plants
      • 2 types of cherry tomatoes
      • another bag of miracle gro potting soil

Total spent at Lowes (21) and Walmart this morning (33) = $54

After potting everything and sweeping up the porch, I am very excited about my Spring Break Porch Makeover!  I think the only thing I need now are a couple of cute outdoor pillows for the porch chairs.   

Now, fingers crossed that I can grow all of these plants!!

On the blue table: bibb lettuce, tomato plants (2) and lavender.  On the floor: impatiens and daffodils (from my mom's house!) and 3 kinds of hostas.  On the big table: jalapeno plants (2), a candle and a citronella candle holder.

Top row:  Strawberries (2), Lemon Balm, Spearmint.  Middle row: sweet basil (2), thai basil, purple basil.  Bottom row:  kale (2), rosemary, cilantro.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Spring Wreath!

I came across this wreath idea on a blog linking to Create.Craft.Love.  I was in LOVE immediately!  I knew this would be a great wreath to put on my door (now that it's time to take down my pink floral wreath that's been up since Valentines Day!!) 

Garden Hose Spring Wreath via #spring #wreath #garden

Here is my version - I added a garden hose nozzle in purple and a longer bow, but other than that I followed the directions on the Garden Hose Spring Wreath linked above.  :)   What do you think?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Spring Break Porch Makeover!

I love my patio...and that it faces the "trees" and not the parking lot like my last place...

But it was looking kind of junky.   Even though I have gathered some new furniture lately, it still seemed mis-matched and without a direction or anything to pull it together.

On my patio I had

  • a beige gravity lounger
  • a patio table from my grandmother's house (with a solid metal base with a greenish color and a white tabletop)
  • two plastic Adirondack chairs (that I got from craigslist about 10 years ago!) and a small plastic table that I had spray painted royal blue.  One of the chairs was broken...
  • an assortment of planters and pots stacked in the corner from plants that have died long ago.
Last week I picked up two beige and brown sling chairs for the table.  They were on sale at Aldi for $15 each.  They match my gravity lounger perfectly and are the right height for my table.  I got rid of the blue plastic chairs that day.

Total at Aldi:  $31

Today I went to Lowes and got a bag of potting soil some plants.  My goal was to spend $50 or less:
  • 32 qt potting mix
  • 2 large hostas (different varieties)
  • 1 small hosta 
  • lavender
  • 12 pack of impatiens
Total at Lowes was $45

Next I headed to Walmart to see if they had tomato plants available.  I really wanted tomatoes too... but there was a hard freeze over the last two days so both Lowes and Walmart have lost all their tomato plants!  :(  In a few days I'll go back and get some more. I did however spend another $6 and got the following:
  • small bibb lettuce
  • small jalepeno plant
Total at Walmart was $6

 I repotted and planted all of these in my existing pots and the back patio was looking better already!

Now it is time for step 2!  A pallet project.   I found inspiration for the project here at and I'm excited to see what I can do. I'm crafty, but I am not super handy with tools and construction.   This should be an adventure!    Stop back tomorrow to see how it turns out!