Monday, February 29, 2016

Weekend Things

It was a busy but beautiful weekend here in the mountains....the best part being that I was NOT WORKING!!  Well....not working at the office, anyway - but let's face it, there's always a ton to do around the house. And after being in the office every weekend for what seems like forever I was one busy girl around home this weekend!

And I was happy as a clam. 

I kicked off the weekend with a lovely evening with my sweetie on Friday with dinner out at a local brewery. 

Followed by dessert at home.....

Just look at those beautiful chocolates - and I'll tell you, they taste even better than they look!

Friday, February 26, 2016

I Told You So!!

I knew there had to be a reason I was so spring obsessed this year. 

Yes, I'm a gardener. Have been forever. 

Yes, I love spring. But I'm not usually this obsessed in February. 

I think in my heart and soul I just knew it was going to be an early spring. Perhaps because of the crazy winter. 

The Irish would say, "I felt it in my water." Don't ask. 

But now I have proof. Because they're back. 

"Who?" you ask.....

Why, the Red Winged Blackbirds, of course - who else?

Learn More About The Red Winged Blackbird - Click Here
They are the first heralds of spring in our little mountain top region. And then come the robins. 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Roses in the Sun - Finding the Perfect Obelisk

What a crazy storm we had last night - thunder, lightening, heavy rains, high winds - whew! The creek on my property is roaring again - I could hear it from the bedroom with all the windows shut!

I jumped out of bed and couldn't wait to get outside. It was lovely and warm out, and although everything was absolutely drenched I had to go for a little walkabout. 

Which of course got me thinking again about spring gardening. 

The folks that owned the house before me came from a family of gardeners - I really lucked out. 

The steps that lead up to my deck walk right up through a lush perennial garden. What a lovely welcome to my home!

August 2015 - Looking up the steps towards the small set of stairs to the deck and kitchen door
It got a little crazy in those perennial beds this summer, as shown in these August photos. however, in my defense, this was my first season in the house and I had to let everything grow to see what's what. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Coming Home

My favorite part of the day is coming home. I finish up at the office, drive the short trip home up my beautiful country road, and pull into my garage. 

I'm home. 

I put my key into the lock at the kitchen door and I hear the pups raising a racket downstairs. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

What's On My Book Pile

I have always been an avid reader. I absolutely love books. One of my favorite places to while away a rainy afternoon would be either in a bookstore....or sitting in my favorite chair, next to the fire, reading a good book. Aside from novels, my favorite books are usually about cooking, gardening, or decorating. Love, love, and LOVE. 

I've been so busy lately that I never seem to get to all the books I want to read. They tend to pile up next to my chair, waiting for that quiet and peaceful day off that never comes. 

It's ok....I get through them a little at a time. There's no rush, I'm not going anywhere. 

In the mornings I love to sit with a cup of coffee before work and either browse around visiting all my blog friends or enjoy a good book. 

Here's what's on my ever-growing book pile right  now, awaiting my attention:

The one on top just arrived yesterday and I can't wait to have a peaceful hour to just enjoy each and every page!

My Tiny Garden on Amazon
I was first made aware of this book by a blogger I have long admired, Marie Viljoen of 66 Square Feet - the cover photo is actually of her last garden, on a rooftop in Harlem, NY.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Simple Spring Updates

I'm sure you've all figured out by now that I'm all about color. My home will never be a simple, neutral palette - as much as I admire it in others' homes. I just wouldn't be able to live with it on a daily basis....I crave color. 

Despite my color craving, I do tend to dial it back a notch as the winter wanes on. In fall and winter I want to surround myself with deep, warm colors, plush textures, anything that screams cuddle up and get cozy. 

But at this time of year when the days start getting longer and the light is changing and the birds are singing their sweet songs I crave a change. I need to lose some of the rich colors and embrace the light and bright. 

It was another crazy busy weekend on the mountain top....I worked Saturday, again. Don't even talk to me. 

We had a charity auction to attend on Sunday. Mimosas, anyone?

And in between there arrived a large pile of firewood on my driveway that needed to be stacked. Welcome to my weekend workout!

So I found myself on Sunday night after a couple of mimosas I enjoyed at the auction catching up on the chores I never got to do around the house all weekend.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Flower Dreams

As you may have deduced, I have big time spring fever. 

It's too early, I know. 

But I can't help it. 

I can't do much yet but dream....and order supplies.
Yesterday I was researching starting vegetables from seed. Which is exciting, because I love harvesting vegetables I've grown myself....especially when I've started them from an itty bitty seed!

Today I'm looking into flowers that I want to start from seed. But how on earth will I narrow it down? There are a billion awesome varieties out there and I want to try them all!

But let's be sensible here....that would cost me a fortune. And I don't have room.....or grow 18 million types of seeds. 

Perhaps I'll narrow it down to just 10 types...that seems reasonable!

Here's what I'm considering at this point:

1. Hyacinth Bean

The flowers are simply lovely and the seed pods and beautiful foliage add an extra pop of purple in the garden. Bonus - all parts of the plant are edible! It's a win-win for me!

2. Nasturtium

Always. I just love this old fashioned flower. I have been peppering my garden with Nasturtium seeds for as long as I can remember. I plant them in my veggie garden and not only do they brighten up the garden but of course the flowers and leaves are wonderful in a salad!

3. Morning Glory

Morning Glory is another flowering vine I always and forever will have in my garden. This simple, old fashioned climber just makes my heart sing when I see it scrambling up and around the fences and trellises of my gardens and blooming away. I know Morning Glory is invasive in certain areas so do your homework before introducing this climber to your garden. Here in the Northeast we don't have that issue....and I bless and nurture each and every 'volunteer' that pops up from the previous year's vines. They are all welcome!

4. Sunflower

Since our growing season is relatively short up here on the mountain top I am going to start my sunflowers indoors this year. However, they do tend to suffer from transplant shock so I'll put them in peat pots to be planted right into the ground when the time is right. 

There's not another flower out there that shouts "country garden" more than a sunflower! How can you help but smile when you see that sunny yellow head bobbing in a summer breeze?

5. Zinnia

I'm embarrassed to say that I believe last year may have been my first year successfully growing zinnias. Or perhaps growing them at all! I'm not sure why....perhaps they never caught my eye at the garden nursery. Last season, however, I picked up a couple of brightly colored varieties and I am now hooked! Those babies bloomed....and bloomed....and then bloomed some more! I had readers tell me how simple they are to grow from seed....and I can't wait to try!

6. Cleome

I adore Cleome in my garden every year. I've been buying starts from the garden center but this year perhaps I'll go back to starting my own from seed. I seem to remember them being quite easy to start indoors, although it has been ages since I've tried. And they are prolific self seeders so once you get a bed of these beauties going strong, there's a good possibility you'll have lots of volunteers for years to come. 

7. Nicotiana

Nicotiana is a fabulous plant to include in your summer garden! The plant can get quite tall but mixes well in a mixed border as it's quite airy. The biggest bonus of this plant is the fact that it releases the most heavenly fragrance in the plant it near the place you like to relax at night, such as a favorite swing, patio, or under a bedroom window. 

8. Stock

Ahhhh, heavenly Stock! One of the best flowers to include in a spring container - this plant thrives in the early spring coolness but does not do well in summer's heat. It's worth including it if even for a short time simply to enjoy that sweet, spicy fragrance. This is another plant to include near a favorite evening spot to enjoy the heady fragrance. 

9. Larkspur

No cottage garden would be complete without Larkspur! Another prolific self seeder, plant Larkspur in an area that you won't mind volunteers popping up for years to come. I'm good with that!

10. Lavatera

This one is new to me but I've read about it and I'm intrigued! I always try out at least one new flower each season....although generally more than one....and this year I believe it will be Lavatera. 

I've already started compiling a seed order at Johnny's Selected Seeds.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Seed Starting 101

It's an absolutely gorgeous day on the mountain top today with temps hitting 60 degrees. In February. What the heck? But hey, I'm just going to enjoy it while it lasts!

Of course I'd love to be playing in the dirt today but alas, necessary evils got in my way. In the form of a cord of wood that was dumped in my driveway and must be stacked. 

That ruined my plan of raking out some garden beds when I got home from work. Wood stacking takes precedence. 

But I can still dream about gardening, right? 

I got an email from Mother Earth News letting me know it's time to plant asparagus and onions in my area. I doubt she knows I'm on a mountain top and therefore not quite a true zone 5 but still....gardening season is around the corner!

I'm going to start some seeds in my little garden cottage this year. I was browsing around online and trying to figure out what needs to be started when and I came across this helpful chart. 

It looks like I still have a bit of time before I need to start my seeds, which is great....because I'm still doing research. 

I found this helpful little tidbit online also:

Good to know, right? 

What did we do before the internet? 

Of course, I couldn't stop there. There's so much information out there on seed starting and organic gardening - and since I can't stop thinking about planning out my garden I'm just sucking it all in!

Like this little tidbit - that means I should be planting my herbs and lettuces in the portion of the garden that backs up to the garage wall. Who knew? I always thought herbs absolutely needed full sun! 

So I kept on looking and the Farmer's Almanac tends to differ in opinion...yes, there are some herbs that can take partial sun, but most do need full sun. 

So perhaps that statement is more specific to things such as lettuce, spinach, kale, etc. 

Either way, it's time for me to start figuring out what seeds I want and put in an order - yee haw, that's exciting!!

Because pretty soon days like today are going to be a regular occurrence. 

And I want to be ready!

Friday, February 19, 2016

Gardeners' Gold and Weird Women

Well, I did it! I finally decided on a composter! I'm so excited! 

Ok, so I might be a little weird - sorry! That's just me! 

But let's face it - compost is a huge part of organic gardening - us gardeners call it "Gardeners' Gold" for a reason!

It's very simple - feed the soil, not the plant. If you feed the soil, the soil will nourish the plants. 

The magic lies in compost. When we compost our garden waste and kitchen scraps into rich, dark 'gold' for the garden we put back into the soil what the plants take out of it. 

Synthetic fertilizers do not feed the soil. If anything, they leach the nutrients out of the soil leaving the soil worse off than before you added it. You give the plant itself a quick blast of food but you are killing off the biology of the soil. All the added chemicals and salts in synthetic fertilizers are poisoning our bodies via our waterways and our land. 

I started gardening organically many years ago. I honestly can't remember the last time I bought a container of Miracle Gro - it must be 20 years ago. 

I do buy liquid fertilizers to nourish my container gardens and give my plants an extra boost but they are all natural and organic. 

Big Bloom at Amazon

It's great to have a liquid organic food on hand to give the plants a little extra nourishment every now and again. 

I also have turned to the Vermont Compost Company for help with re-balancing the nutrients in the soil in my containers. 
Vermont Compost Plus at Gardeners Supply
This stuff is great - I add a bit to any containers that don't get dumped at the end of the season and it perks the soil right up! It's been a huge help these past few years when I was renting and didn't have a composter. 

But here's where the magic is going to happen from now on:

Meet my new friend. Isn't he gorgeous?

I told you about all the composters I was considering in this post.  Funny enough, this was not one of the ones on my radar at all! That was, until Pamela from Brooklyn Farm Girl left a comment telling me about this composter that she has had for years. 

I looked it up and I was intrigued! The only problem was, it didn't have two chambers. 

I nearly bought another one, one of the ones on my list, but I kept reading reviews and there were a number of things folks mentioned that were really bothering me. 
Yimby Tumbling Composter
1. Difficulty to put it together - ummm, no thank you. 
2. Flimsy materials, would probably not last more than a few years. 
3. Wasps and other flying insects getting into the vent holes. Again, no thank you!
4. Stinky stuff leaking out. 
5. The size of the openings for dumping in waste were too small. 
6. Difficult to turn when loaded up
7. Would not be able to move it easily once it's in place

I kept going back to the Envirocycle. The reviews were amazing, pretty much 5 star across the board. And folks raved about the company's customer service. 

This unit was more expensive than the other one I was looking at but if it's going to last many, many years and the company will stand behind it that makes it more than worth the extra money. 

I decided to purchase one now...and another one in the future. This way I can have two chambers, just like I really wanted. That means one side can be full and 'cooking' while the other side is being used and added to regularly. arrived within days and sat in my garage for a bit while I waited for a halfway decent day to set it up. 

I set it up last night after work...and I'm delighted with it!

Setup took less than 5 minutes. The unit is most definitely light enough for me to handle on my own. 

Here it is on the corner of my patio next to the veggie garden. Exactly where I thought it should go. 

It's close enough to the kitchen door to make dumping my little kitchen compost bin easy peasy. We like easy peasy!

If I can smell it at all in the summer months it will be simple enough to move it to a different location away from the house, and then move it back for winter. 

I fed it the first bucket of kitchen scraps plus a bucket of dried leaves....heaven knows there are plenty around that need to be picked up!

I love that the opening is nice and large for dumping in waste. And the latch is easy enough to open even with frozen fingers like I had last night!

The unit is in two pieces - the top round part and then the base.
Another plus? The base not only has rollers so turning the top part to mix and aerate the contents is so simple....but it also collects the compost 'tea' in the base! There's a spout with a twist on cap that you unscrew to pour out the 'tea' when it gets full. That will take the place of me having to order liquid plant food online - that means this unit will pay for itself in a couple of seasons!

Pure genius, I tell you. 

See how weird I am? What other woman gets this excited about compost?

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Spring Dreams

What I'm dreaming of:

What I have:

What I'm drooling over:

What I've got to work with:

What I'd like to do:

What I'll need:
Grow Light
Seed Starting Mix
Seedling Trays
Heat Mat

What do you think? Am I missing anything? Can I do it? Can I convert my little garden cottage into a pseudo-greenhouse without spending a fortune?

Any of you garden gurus out there that can offer any suggestions, please do!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Love and Stinky Kisses

My sweetie has such a fondness for all animals. He rescued a tiny kitten years ago who is now his heart and soul - she's incredibly spoiled and has such a good life. 

And he spoils the heck out of my two pups - I don't think he ever goes off the mountain without bringing them back little surprises like a new toy, a Giants jersey, some treats. 

No surprise he was glued to the Westminster Dog Show last night. And as much as I said I didn't really care if we watched it, I was hooked also. Isn't it so interesting to see all the unusual breeds of dogs there are? I have never heard of many of them!

The winner this year was a German Shorthaired Pointer named CJ - here he is in all his glory - what a cutie pie!  

My sweetie picked him as the winner. I did not. 

I like my pups small so they can cuddle up on my lap. I have a few favorite dog breeds that I have always thought some day I may take into my home. I don't say 'own' because, truly I believe our pets own us, not the other way around. 

High on my list is a Papillon, which I have had on my radar since I was a child. The Papillon is considered the smartest and most trainable of all the toy breeds....and those 'butterfly' ears just melt my heart!

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel captured my heart many years ago as well - they are such a wonderful little dog, extremely affectionate and well behaved. What's not to love? 


I've always adored Yorkshire Terriers (Yorkies) like my friend Brenda has over at Cozy Little House. Just look at that little button a tiny teddy bear! 

Not that I'm looking for another dog any time soon, that's for sure. But there will be a someday, no doubt....and until then I will be ever so happy spending my days loving and spoiling the two babies I have at home. 

They own my whole heart. 

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