Category Archives: Spectacular Spring

Weekend Hiking – Independence Monument and Dominguez Canyon

How did your weekend go? We had beautiful, warm weather. On Saturday, we hiked to Independence Monument. It’s a beautiful trek through the Colorado National Monument and uphill most of the 2.5 miles to the rock. It was about sixty degrees in the morning and overcast most of the way there–the perfect weather for hiking in our high mountain desert.

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When we reached the monument, we scrambled up a large, flat boulder and ate lunch. We’ve tried several different lunches that are easy to pack and don’t require refrigeration, and our favorite is whole grain crackers, natural canned chicken, oranges or apples, and sparkling juice for something bubbly.

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The walk downhill was much easier, and the views are amazing. I should have taken some pictures, but my phone was in my pack and kind of a pain to take out. The entire hike is five miles, and we were all pretty tired by the time we arrived back at the trailhead. I’m so impressed with how well the kids are hiking this year. We’ve only been out a couple times, and they’re already able to go so much farther.

Because Independence Monument is part of a national monument, you can’t take dogs hiking in the area. Buttercup and Gunther were not happy when we loaded up the packs but left them behind, so after church on Sunday, we decided to take another hike. This time, we drove to Dominguez Canyon. We hiked a little of it last year (you can check out that post here), but we covered a lot more yesterday.

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We did almost six miles this time, bringing our weekend total to eleven.  The kids are at such a fun age. I love that we can get out and do so much.

Here’s a picture from our first hike of the season to Mica Mine the weekend before last.  It’s the first time the kids were able to make it all the way to the mine.

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That’s all for now. Tomorrow I’ll go back to posting my food journal (I’m not going to keep track on the weekends).

Have a great day!

 

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Seed Starting – What’s Growing in 2016

I’ve been blogging pretty regularly on my author website, but I’m afraid I don’t get over here as much as I’d like. But today, today I’m here. Why? Because it’s one of my favorite times of the year. Seed starting time!

I didn’t have a garden last year. It’s the first time since my kids were tiny babies that I didn’t start any seeds. I did, however, end up publishing three books and one novella, so it was a productive year. Just not for crafting or growing.

As you may know if you follow my author blog, we moved last November. I absolutely adore our new house, and this year I’m going to try container gardening. There are tons of pins all over Pinterest featuring homemade self-watering containers, usually made from storage tubs and five-gallon buckets, and my husband is going to make me a bunch! This is the plan he likes the best, and it’s the one we’re going to try.

I’m also going to try potatoes for the first time this year. Apparently they grow well in containers. I don’t know. We shall see.

If you’re new to seed starting, you can check out my original seed starting post back from 2014. There’s not much to it really, but it did take me a few years to get the knack of it.

So here’s what we have started so far:

  • Cherry Tomato – Gardener’s Delight: I’ve never grown this variety before, but it gets great reviews, so I’m excited to give it a go. We planted six cells.
  • Tomato – Fourth of July Hybrid:  These tomatoes are supposed to bear very early, very flavorful, small fruits. These and the cherry tomatoes are my only tomatoes, but I’m debating starting a late season heirloom variety as well. We’ve planted six.
  • Sweet Pepper – Carnival Blend: This seed packet contains a mix of purple, white, orange, yellow, and red bell peppers. I’ve planted six cells, but I’m thinking of adding more. The packet is supposed to contain 20% of each color, but you don’t know what you have until the peppers mature! I really want some purple.
  • Pepper – Anaheim Chili:  Every summer, my mom used to buy roasted anaheims from a local farm, and they are very good.  This year we’ve decided to roast our own. We’ve planted six.
  • Lettuce – Grand Rapids: I love salads fresh from the garden. After this batch moves outside, I’ll start more to grow inside for the hot summer months. We’ve planted twelve.
  • Spinach – Baby’s Leaf Hybrid: Just like with the lettuce, when these little guys move out, I’ll plant more inside. We planted six. (Note–I’ve found that spinach seeds do not save well. If you buy some, make sure you use them this year)
  • Basil – Mammoth: Basil smells amazing in the garden! We’ve planted six.
  • Parsley – Single Italian Plain-Leafed: This type of parsley is supposed to be more flavorful than the curly variety. I’ve never had luck growing it, but I’m hoping this year will be different. We’ve planted six.
  • Rosemary: I just now noticed the seed packet doesn’t have a variety printed on it, so I’m not sure exactly what type it is. Hopefully it’s good! We’ve planted six.
  • Cilantro – Coriandrum Sativum: I love cilantro! Like parsley, I’ve never been able to coax it to thrive, but since I’m container gardening this year, I’m hoping it will go better. We have six.
  • Moss Rose – Double Mixed Colors Portulaca: Moss rose is beautiful! If you’ve ever planted these vibrant annuals, you’ll know how easily they sprout up from seed (my mom has them come back in her containers every single year, and she brought the originals home from the garden center at least eight years ago). We planted seventy-two.
  • Marigold – Crackerjack, Mixed Colors: Marigolds are very fun for the kids to grow because they are nearly fool-proof, and they almost always start flowering before we get them outside. We planted seventy-two.
  • Zinnia – Mini – Zini Mixture: I’ve mentioned it before; zinnias are one of my favorite garden flowers! They are so bright and cheerful.  We planted seventy-two.

That’s all I have started for now. It’s still early, so I’m sure we’ll end up with more. We always do. I’ll definitely start some perennials once these are out of the seed-starting trays. In our last few moves, I’ve lost my all my daisies, so I’ll need to do some of those.

I’d also like some calendula and thyme. And I’d really love to try petunias this year. I planted a flat of them back in 2013, but they never sprouted. Since then, I learned they need light to germinate, so I’d like to give them another shot. They aren’t the easiest seeds to find, at least around here, so I might have to order some in.

What are you growing this year? Have you started your seeds yet? I’d love to hear about it!

 

Starting Vegetable and Flower Seeds

There are several reasons I start my own seeds. Here are a few:

1. It’s cheaper than buying plants. We’re talking tons cheaper here, especially when you have a collection of seeds. All of my seeds are at least a year old–some of them are three or four–and they still germinate. I didn’t spend a penny on seed starting supplies this year; they were all leftovers. I take that back, I bought a 20 cent pack of cherry tomato seeds. So I spent 20 cents on seed starting supplies…

Starting Seeds
Starting Seeds

2. You can choose exactly which variety you want to plant. For example, I have both giant zinnias and dwarf zinnias planted. Sometimes it’s hard to find the exact type of flower or vegetable you want in the nursery.

3. It’s gratifying. There is nothing like planting little lifeless seeds and watching them come to life. Later in the summer, when your little seedlings  produce vegetables or flowers, you will feel an amazing sense of accomplishment.

4. To kids, it’s a magical process. Okay, it’s still kind of magical to me. God is amazing. If you’re homeschooling, starting seeds is a must when you study plants (I think it is, anyway).

 I usually place 2 seeds in each pod–except for squash, and then I only plant 1.  If there are two healthy seedlings in each pod, I separate them when they have two true leaves. Here’s what I have started this year:

10 Zucchini Dark Squash – These are the seeds that are several years old. Right now, 60% of these seeds have germinated. They have been in the soil for almost two weeks, so I think that’s all I will get. If you plant old seeds, make sure you plant extras. I did, and right now I have 6 zucchini plants. If you’re familiar with squash, you will know that’s way more than enough…

Zucchini Seedlings
Zucchini Seedlings

10 Roma Grande Tomatoes – These are last years seeds. I didn’t notice any difference in the germination rate than the year before. Since I have 2 in almost every pod, I will separate these once they have two true leaves, and end up with about 15 – 20 plants.

6 Early Treat Hybrid Tomatoes – Also last years seeds. After I separate, I will have 10 – 12 plants.

Tomato Seedlings
Tomato Seedlings

26 – Large Red Cherry Tomatoes – As always, I planted lots of extras to give away to friends and family. I planted these later, so they haven’t spouted yet, but I should end up with 42 – 50 plants.

6 Sweet Hybrid Mix Bell Peppers – Just planted. I should end up with 6 – 10 plants.

6 Hot Salsa Mix Hot Peppers – Just planted. I should up with 6 – 12 plants.

10 Lavandula angustifolia True Lavender – Just planted. Should end up with 15 – 20 plants.

10 Matriccaria recutita German Chamomile – Just planted. Should end up with 15 – 20 plants.

46 – California Giants, Mixed Colors Zinnias – My favorite, favorite flowers. Love them! Just planted. Should end up with 80-92 plants. Just think of how much it would cost to buy those in the nursery!

Zinnia Seedlings
Zinnia Seedlings

20 Thumbelina, Mixed Colors Zinnias – Just like my favorite, but only 6 inches tall! Just planted. Should end up with 32 – 38 plants.

There are several vegetables you can’t start inside –peas, carrots, radishes, and beets are a few examples. There are a few vegetables I don’t recommend you start inside, but you can. Two that come to mind are pumpkins, which get massive very quickly, and cucumbers, which don’t transplant well.

Herbs start well, as do many flowers, especially annuals. One thing to keep in mind, many perennials will not flower the first year they are started. I plan on starting two whole flats of daisies once this batch of seedlings is in the ground, but I’m not in any hurry, because they won’t flower this year. You have to wait a long time for your first blooms on many perennials, but it’s worth it! If you want nearly instant gratification, plant marigolds. Those almost always start to bloom before I get them in the ground!

You will need a few basic supplies if you want to get started.

1. Seeds – That’s kind of a given, I think.

2. Seed Starting Soil – Sometimes I use plain potting soil, but your seedlings are safer in sterile potting medium. You risk damping off if you use potting soil. Basically, your baby seedlings may die over night because of pathogens in the soil. Not fun.

3. Containers — these can be flats, six packs, egg cartons, yogurt containers…you get the point. I prefer flats of six packs from garden supply companies, but last year I bought the cheap ones from Lowes. Since that’s what I had leftover, that’s what I used this year. Make sure you have some sort of tray underneath. I like to water from below, so I just pour water in tray and the soil sucks it up.

4. Light – In my old house, I had a beautiful south facing room that worked very well. My husband bought me a cheap storage tower from Wal-Mart, and we set it up about six inches from the sliding glass door. I started hundreds and hundreds of seeds that way. In my new home, I don’t have a room that gets enough light. This year I have taken over my husband’s work bench in his garage. There’s a lovely fluorescent light hung low just above the bench, and it was just begging to be used for seedlings. This seems ideal. The only drawback is that I had to wait later in the season before I started the seeds; it’s important the temperature in the garage doesn’t dip too low. If it looks like it will, I will have to bring all my flats inside. This isn’t as fun as it sounds.

Seed Starting Bench with Fluorescent Light
Seed Starting Bench with Fluorescent Light

 

Planting is easy.

Fill your containers with soil, plant the seeds according to the directions on the packets.

Drizzle water from above using warm–not hot–water. Be careful not to disturb the seeds. I like to use the spray nozzle on my kitchen sink set as low as possible.

Cover with plastic wrap or the clear lid that comes with the flats (I don’t always do this–especially if I must use plastic wrap), and then take the cover off when your seeds begin to sprout.

Keep the soil evenly moist, but not soaked. Make sure the temperature in the room is comfortable, and provide lots of light! 

Later I will show you how I move my seedlings to the garden! 

Tell me, are you starting seeds this year? If  you are, what you growing?

 

A Girl and Her Dog

We’ve had Ellie for almost two weeks! It’s crazy how fast it’s flown by. She’s the softest cotton ball I’ve ever seen–a cotton ball with teeth. She’s ornery…oh my, is she ever. She’s also sweet. And smart…too smart at times, but that goes back to her being ornery.

GirlandHerDogWe spent our first weekend with her reinforcing our back fence. There wasn’t anything wrong with it, but if she were clever enough, we’re pretty sure she could have gotten out.

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Here Ellie is, supervising.

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Then resting in the shade…

FixingFence3Here she is a few days ago checking it out. She walks around the whole thing two or three times a day.

FixingFence4Can you see how much bigger she’s gotten in just a week and a half?

And look, it’s spring! I love the view from our backyard.

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