There’s Something Happening Here…in the Columbia Falls Community Garden

I’ve been a bit remiss about posting pictures of the garden this season.  Fact is, the garden looks fantastic!  Best ever!  We have wonderful plot holders who are committed to the upkeep of the garden.

We all walk around the garden looking at the various ways people grow their healthy food–and this, of course, is the beauty of the community garden concept.  We get ideas from each other, we problem solve together and we celebrate our successful harvests.  We get a little overly excited about when our beans sprout, and we become gravely concerned when a hole appears in the leaf of a new pepper seedling.  We worry about chilly NW Montana mornings, and we stare endlessly at our gardens–contemplating the next chore, wondering why our potato plants aren’t as big as Robbie’s, and discussing the merits of rows vs. mounds.  Should we use straw?  Is the compost ready yet?  Why won’t the mower start?  Should I have done square foot gardening like Staci and Craig?  Drip hoses or hand watering?

I love it!  So here are some pictures of the garden in early June.  Enjoy.

IMG_3568

IMG_3567

Only gardeners get excited about compost bins, I think.

IMG_3565

Bug motel. The good kind.

IMG_3563

Hops. Under new management. Welcome, Coralan and Nate!

IMG_3554

Food Bank plot looks fabulous, Robbie!

IMG_3549

Neon!

IMG_3551

Corn sprouts

IMG_3548

Some haphazardly planted potatoes. Still, I think my ten-year-old minion did a great job!

IMG_3547

Peas and flowers. And I got fancy with the trellis.

IMG_3546

Erin’s pretty much perfect plot.

IMG_3540

Erma planted some lavender in our corner bed

IMG_3538

I think we are set on oregano.

IMG_3537

Also set on chives.

IMG_3536

Great idea–a hanging basket!

IMG_3535

Raspberries are thriving

IMG_3533

Colorful cages

IMG_3531

A riot of strawberries

IMG_3530

Beautiful brassica bed

IMG_3529

Zinnias!

IMG_3526

Ready and waiting!

IMG_3525

Sweet potatoes in a tire!

IMG_3523

Square foot perfection

IMG_3516

A ridiculously large rhubarb. Pie, anyone?

IMG_3515

My onions. I will never have as many as Erin, but I will keep trying!

IMG_3514

Volunteers sunflowers, maybe?

IMG_3513

Pallet veggies

IMG_3510

Potatoes, all in a (crooked) row.

IMG_3509

Peas getting ready to climb

IMG_3569 IMG_3562 IMG_3561 IMG_3559 IMG_3555 IMG_3543 IMG_3539 IMG_3534 IMG_3520 IMG_3519 IMG_3511

Check back in a few weeks–the changes will be amazing!

The Great Tomato Dilemma

I love growing tomatoes.  Hands down, they are my favorite yield from the garden.  We eat them fresh, and can the rest.  Such satisfaction!  Last year, I started 12 Roma  plants from seed during the first week of April.  They were amazing, if a bit behind their local nursery counterparts.  In fact, because I never trust my own seedlings to thrive, I bought 20+ “back up” tomato plants of different varieties–and then planted my dozen starts because they were doing so well.  I put up 74 jars of tomato products. It was a banner tomato year.

tomatoes

Last year’s crop

Emboldened by my success, I started 36 tomatoes from seed this year during the first week of March.  Now, understand–I have shelf with two grow lights as my set up, which works fine for a seed starting tray with 72 holes.

seed starts

But guess what?  Plants grow.  And they need to be re-potted into six packs.

seedlings

And then into 4 inch containers.  It is rather a pain.  Hoping I could get the plants into the raised bed, I held off on the last re-potting.  But they were a tangled mess, falling over and breaking their stems.  Still, I really thought I could hold out.  Maybe I could make it to mid-May, as long as I covered them against the still cold nights.  So silly–I live in NW Montana!  You just don’t put tomatoes (or peppers or basil) into the ground until at least Memorial Day.  Or, as the old-timers say, “until the snow is off Big Mountain” which some summers might mean mid-July.  I vacillated about this for 2 weeks.  My poor husband and my friends had to listen to me debate myself:  re-pot one more time, or wait it out?

I decided to wait.

But then, as I was watering my beloved tomato plants, I noticed these:

tomato nodules

The dreaded root nodules

Horrid little nodules on the stems.  I used this picture, threw it into Google images and voilà!  They aren’t good.  The stress of the too-small containers were likely forcing the plants to create these root nodules.  The nodules develop because the first line of saving itself is trying to throw out more roots to gather more nutrients.  But this just wouldn’t do.  I decided that I would just plant them out–after all, I could protect them with Remay and soil warming plastic, right?  Well…even though we had just experienced 3 70 degree days, it was still too early.  I knew it.  But I rationalized that I couldn’t possibly re-pot all the tomatoes, and the seven of them that looked especially peakish would die anyway if I didn’t plant them.  So I took the four of the least sickly of the sickly plants, and, without hardening them off (because who really needs to do that?  Well, me.  I need to do that) planted them in my raised bed.  I covered the soil with red plastic, which I used successfully last year.  I placed crunched up egg shells in the trench I dug, and placed the plants in sideways as is recommended for root growth.  I put the tomato cage around the plant, watered it, and then wrapped the cage in Remay.

photo 1 (4)

My little tomato soldiers.

But you know what?  It’s way too early to plant tomatoes.  And they definitely need to be hardened off.  And I should have just gone and found bigger pots.  Because these are sad, sad little tomato plants.

photo 2 (3)     photo 3 (3)

The one on the left has a chance, maybe.  Not really.  I’ll keep you posted.

On the bright side, I went ahead and re-potted the rest of my tomato seedlings in anything I could find.  Some of  the less hearty ones needed to be sacrificed for the good of the whole, which was very hard for me to do.  I feel guilty thinning carrots.

I found supports and tied my stems to them and look great.  I moved some to a sunny window.  Now my peppers have a little room, and I imagine I will be re-potting them next weekend.

photo 2 (2)

10343988_10152127799910886_435986045_o

What is the moral of this story?  Wait two more weeks to start seedlings.  Maybe three.  And unless you have lovely hoop houses, don’t put tomatoes out when it is 50 degrees with wind and rain.

Self Promotion or Self-Aggrandizement?

I decided, after several suggestions from friends, to start an Etsy shop.  It isn’t a big deal–I just listed a few extra knit items I have and the lip balm I make.  I’m really not convinced my stuff is actually good enough to charge people money for it.  When friends and family say they like my things, I always assume they are just being nice.

I have trouble setting prices.  As anyone who knits knows, if I actually charged for my time and materials, no one would  buy my knits due to the cost.  I recently listed a baby tunic in my store.  This one piece took me two years to complete because I struggled with the lace pattern, the small needles and the lightweight yarn–it wasn’t something I could do with other people in the room, or with regular interruptions–I had to count stitches! I kept putting it aside and coming back to it.  I probably made and remade the thing 6 separate times.  If I used minimum wage to determine the price, not even including materials, the cost would be in the hundreds.

fiona

The million dollar baby tunic

Last week  I was asked specifically to make something for a friend, and I did–so why did I feel ashamed specifying a price?  She didn’t seem to think what I asked was too much.  Other items are relatively easy to make, so I feel stupid charging people because they could seriously make them themselves.  Yet my sister-in-law says that even if they could, not everyone would, which is why a pair of boot cuffs (that take about 2 hours to make) sell for $20-30…and people actually pay that.

I had a conversation with a friend this weekend about how hard it is for me (and her) to self-promote.  She has to as part of her job, so she’s learned, as she says, “to fake it to make it”.  However, I am definitely passive aggressive in my approach (writing a blog post about it? Soooo passive aggressive!).  I’m confident in other areas of my life, so why am I having such a hard time with this?  Other people sell their crafts regularly, and I don’t think anything of it, so why do I care so much?  Is it a Midwest thing to feel like promoting myself is actually self-aggrandizement?  (By the way, I would never mark my own post as “super-awesome”–why is this even an option, WordPress?) Since I am trying to work through this,  I am going to go ahead and link this post to my Etsy store, SixthStreetKnits.  And blush while I do it.

1546734_10151888941990886_198067612_o

Who else struggles with this?

Trying to Find a Balance

I decided this past fall that I simply couldn’t keep up with posting daily–real life had to come first.  Yet, as I was looking through my blog today, I realized I really missed it.  So I guess the answer is balance.  I am going to try to post at least once a week.  This may be crazy, as garden season is right around the corner, but I’ll figure it out.  It might just mean one less thing gets knitted each week.

Speaking of knitting, I just opened an Etsy shop called Sixth Street Knits–just for the extra stuff I make.  I feel a little silly because I’m not sure my knitting is good enough for someone to actually give me money for it, but people seem to like what I’ve been making.  We’ll see what happens.  One thing that I listed is the finally finished “Fiona’s Top” pattern.  (See the post:  The Saga of Fiona’s Top).  It took me two years to get that sucker done–I frogged and reknit that thing so many times I should have at least half a dozen of them now.  It may be a while before I attempt another–small needles + light yarn do not satisfy my instant gratification needs.  Right now, I am making another little sundress for my cousin’s baby–bigger needles and less lace make for a quicker knit.

Image

 This year I want to find some balance between knitting and gardening.  Last summer I hardly picked up any knitting because I was so into working on my garden plot and yard.

So there it is…a short post to get back into the swing of things on From Michigan to Montana. Feels good to be back!

Would You Like to Join the Columbia Falls Community Garden?

Hi!

There will be at least 4 plots available for the 2014 season.  These organic plots are approximately 12′ x 12′, and are available for just a $20 cleaning deposit.  If you are interested in putting your name in for the lottery, please click on the link below and fill out the form.  The drawing will take place toward the end of March.  Hope to see you in the garden!

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?usp=drive_web&formkey=dGhDeWNEZ1FqVXRHdnVjdVBrMlJ4b3c6MA#gid=0

1068839_10151566180845886_771511090_n

1058981_10151566525360886_812143841_n

IMG_1882

IMG_1855

IMG_1811

IMG_1789

A Very Crafty Christmas

Pinterest makes you feel like you can craft anything, doesn’t it?  Its “DIY” category was the basis for most of my Christmas presents and decorations this year.

My first project was a yarn ball wreath.  My husband fashioned a ring for me from coaxial cable, which I wrapped with yarn.  I used foam balls from JoAnn’s as the center for each “yarn” ball and Red Heart Super Saver yarn, which is pretty inexpensive. It took me a while to determine the best way to secure the balls to the ring.  After experimenting, I used floral U shaped pins, and then my handy glue gun.  I added some inexpensive silver gaudy balls (as my husband calls them).

The final result:

1473408_10151828969095886_1801919093_o

Next year I may add more of the smaller balls to the outside ring.

For my front door, I made a quick, inexpensive wreath with gaudy balls, a wire hanger and ribbon.  The picture is a bit blurry, but you get the idea.

Image 1

Of course I knitted a few things to gift, including ear warmers, boot cuffs and a beer cozy (didn’t want my brother-in-law to feel left out).  I also made some fingerless gloves, but I didn’t get a picture of them.

bootcuffs:

IMG_2799

IMG_2810

I made body spray from distilled water, witch hazel, vegetable glycerin and essential oils:

IMG_2803

I crafted ornaments:

IMG_2784

IMG_2795

But what I was most excited about making was the lip balm.  For the majority of my life, if I discovered I didn’t have a ChapStik in my pocket, I swear I could feel my lips immediately drying and cracking.  Now I can’t imagine ever purchasing it again.  I bought the tubes through Amazon, but the first batch I received was awful–not a single cap stayed on.  So as not to waste them, I put a small dot of hot glue on the tube to make them fit.  Subsequent orders from different vendors produced appropriately sized lids.

There are many recipes for lip balm on the Internet, and I settled on one that combined beeswax, shea butter, sunflower oil and essential oils.  I made peppermint, citrus (orange and grapfruit) and lemon batches.

1546734_10151888941990886_198067612_o

In addition to these items, my husband made strawberry bread, pumpkin bread, and zucchini bread.  It was a very crafty Christmas indeed, and even though my family in Florida pokes fun at me, wondering if my children are being used as sweat shop labor, I had fun and I’m even a little bit proud of myself.  :)

Currently on the agenda:  I am knitting a wall hanging thingy–the idea came from Pinterest, of course.  I am also making t-shirt yarn out of tank tops that I dont wear anymore–I eventually want to crochet it into a rug or a basket.

photo-5

Are you making anything right now?