Don’t Pee In the Pool

Hey, friends. This is just a short post on a rainy Wednesday (which also happens to be my third wedding anniversary). Poignant, because what I’m about to briefly write has to do with my wedding invitations.

kermie invite

Hands down, my mason jar invitation template has been the most popular thing on my blog. For a few years now I’ve also offered this design as a custom edit for sale on Etsy, for those folks who didn’t want to try and alter the template themselves. It’s been cool. I’ve seen a few blogs here and there who have featured it, or a version of it, themselves and they’ve linked back to this blog. Linking back and a virtual high-five to the original designer is totally awesome. Just as cool was when Wedding Chicks told me they wanted to use a version of my design as a free download on their site to which I responded ALL THE YES TO EVERYTHING but in a more professional way. I had used some of their downloads before and it felt good to give back to others. That was indeed the whole point of offering them for free personal use.

Unfortunately, over the last few years, especially in the last year or so with the mason jar everything boom, I’ve seen knock-offs of my design for sale on Etsy. It’s totally disheartening. Artistic expression and inspiration is great. Taking the hardest part of a design and leaving it intact, and changing the easiest part of it, and then turning around and claiming it or implying it as your own hurts. I know I’m not the first, and I certainly won’t be the last.

I really like offering a fully editable design for people who might not be able to afford a really fun wedding invite. I really LOVE hearing how much people like it, and being told how appreciated it is. These thanks are the reason I’m keeping it up.

For those out there though who think it’s cool to take parts of someone else’s design and pass them off as your own, for profit (or not without acknowledgement), it’s just not. I don’t think you’re a bad person. You might be a really nice person who just made a not so great choice. We all don’t make the best choices sometimes and can be jerks. Am I going to take legal action against you? Nope. Am I mad? Eh, not mad per say. I’m just super, incredibly, disappointed.

There is one lesson here: Don’t pee in the pool. It ruins it for everyone.

xo,

Heather

FYI: I am shutting down my Etsy store Dorothy+Lucille, which offered the customization of these invites, on June 1, 2014 (this Sunday). The decision to do this had more to do with reclaiming my time than anything else. The free invites will still be offered for now at the link above. I’ll also still have my store Green Barn Soaps, which will be reopening in July.

Let The 2014 Garden Begin

Hey, friends! I hope you all had a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend and aren’t too hung over/tired/burnt this morning! We stayed home this Memorial Day weekend but have started and done so much. Renovations are back in the swing, and so of course is the garden. Speaking of the garden, I realized I’ve barely written about it this year!

This past growing season confirmed to me that I really wanted to get serious about growing some of my own seeds. In the past I’ve tried winter sowing, but I had decided it wasn’t for me. After lots of research on different methods I decided I wanted to go with soil blocking. It’s literally what it sounds like, creating blocks of soil and starting seeds in those blocks. There’s a lot of great soil blocking material online so I won’t write a ton about the method, but good places to start are to search “Eliot Coleman soil blocking” and to check out Johnny Seeds, which is where I got my soil blocker. Personally I don’t do mini soil blockers, I stuck with 2″ and then moved up to pots for the items (like tomatoes) that needed to be potted up eventually.

DSC_0380-01First was deciding what we wanted to start from seed, what seeds we wanted to direct sow once it got warm enough, and what started seeds we still wanted to buy from our local green house. I knew hands down we were going to start tomato seeds. I really felt I could grow stronger plants by transplant time, but I also wanted more control over the varieties I grew. Beyond tomatoes I wasn’t positive what I would do. In the end I went with tomatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, celery, celeriac and tomatillo’s. I’ve yet to see how the cabbage, cauliflower and tomatillo’s do and if they’ll be big enough to transplant anytime soon (pictured above). They also got a bit leggy since I forgot to turn my grow light on for two days. Oops. The celery, celeriac, and tomatoes all have done very well. The broccoli I’m not sure what to think of. It looks okay, but it suffered a little after potting it up. I’m not sure if it will do well once it get into the garden so I’m just crossing my fingers.

DSC_0341-01 DSC_0342-01Outside of soil blocking, we have a lot going on in the garden already. So far we have peas, cylindra beets, red ace beets, peas, garlic, onions, and as of yesterday, eighteen of the twenty-eight tomato plants!

DSC_0347-01 DSC_0350-01 DSC_0353-01 DSC_0355-01 DSC_0356-01We also expanded our asparagus patch with the asparagus I bought at the Fedco Tree Sale. Our patch was about 1 ft. by 2 ft. and it’s now about 4×4 which is a pretty good size. To plant  I first air dried the crowns for about twenty-four hours to get any storage mold dried, built the trenches, laid in the crows and covered with soil. We already have a few sprigs showing up from this year, but we won’t pick them. The second and third year asparagus has been delicious, while we’ve let the one year old asparagus go to seed.

DSC_9684 DSC_9697-01 DSC_9714-01 DSC_9731-01DSC_9694-01DSC_0345-01In the other areas of the yard I decided to transplant the strawberries to go in with the blueberries. I figured the acidic soil would be better, it would keep all of our fruit in one area, and it would allow me to build a 2×40 bed behind one of our stone walls to move our squash into as part of a crop rotation plan. At first I was worried the strawberries weren’t going to make it. Turns out though, weeks later, they are thriving in their new home. I really think the change in soil was perfect for them.

DSC_9701-01 DSC_9705-01DSC_0361-01Beyond strawberries the deer got at our blueberry and raspberries this winter since it was so harsh. I really wasn’t sure our new raspberry vine made it but sure enough, it did! Along with the raspberries, the blueberries and rhubarb are also in bloom. I’ve cropped the rhubarb pretty heavily already, but it’s still going.

DSC_0357-01 DSC_0363-01 DSC_0367-01 DSC_0370-01 DSC_0372-01We also expanded our orchard to include two peach trees and two more apple trees. Andy had the great idea of keeping one of the apple trees by the stone wall where the blueberries, raspberries and strawberries are. While all of them are doing good, the one by the stone wall seems to be doing best. There must be something about the soil around that wall, because everything seems to thrive over there.

DSC_0373-01If it seems like a lot has been going on around here, you’d be right! Thankfully I have my new handy broad fork to thank for a lot of the work in the garden. We originally tilled the entire lot, but as I’ve needed beds I’ve been aerating with the broad fork. Unlike tilling it helps keep the nutrients deep in the soil and also doesn’t expose weed seeds—a big issue we’ve been battling for a while now. This no-engine, no mechanics, simple piece of steel equipment is absolutely my favorite gardening tool I own.

DSC_9689-01In the end, that’s what’s been going on so far! Since spring is a bit behind I decided to wait until next weekend to buy the rest of the seedlings and direct sow most of the plants. I might put in the celery and broccoli this week, but I’ll be playing it by mother-natures ear. It’s a ton to do, but so far, so good.

One last thing, I’ve already been canning! This is our first year with rhubarb growing on our property and I realized it was a use it or lose it moment. Sunday I scoured my Ball Company canning recipe book and found one for Victorian Barbecue Sauce using rhubarb. Over all it’s a really unique sauce and pretty darn tasty. I ended up with four small jars and enough left over to use on the pork tenderloin we had last night for dinner.

10401791_310803725740660_785031501_nBesides all of this, the first week of graduate school is done! Only seven more weeks of this class to go and then an eight-week break until the next session! Thank goodness too, because that will be prime gardening time!

xo,
Heather

 

Growing Challenges

This year has been full of growing challenges, from starting most of our own seeds indoors in late winter, to learning a new technique for starting seeds called soil blocking (I’ll get into this in another post). There has been a growing challenge of another kind too in that I’m going to graduate school!

I’ll be starting in a week from today and I’m really excited to finally be starting this goal I knew I’d always go for. I’m nervous and excited and scared and excited. I know I’m not the best at handling stress but just reminding myself how blessed I am to even have the opportunity to get this degree keeps me humbled and driven. I’m going to be kept pretty busy between this class which is an eight-week intensive course, being in the peak of needing to get the garden going/weeding, etc., starting up summertime house renovations again, and planning my cousins baby shower. With all of that said, I’m still hoping to post here once a week. I’m going to stick to the Tuesday/Thursday schedule and hoping for 10am. Though lets face it, I’ve already blown that with this post. So let’s just say “Tuesday or Thursday, with a hope for Tuesdays.”

The other big thing is that Green Barn Soaps is going on hiatus for the next eight weeks. I will be open again after this class ends in July. I’m not sure I’ll be doing this with each class, but during this next eight week period I really need to take something off my plate and GBS seems like a good fit as it’s slow this time of year.

Finally, if I won’t be able to get a post up or if this schedule needs to change because of other challenges, I will be updating over on my Facebook page which you can get to by clicking here and will likely send out a tweet as well as mention it on an Instagram post (@likeacupoftea). As always I post on Instagram pretty regularly even when my posts here aren’t. Gardening and dog photos are pretty regular. Let’s be honest with each other though. I know you all come for the dogs and I’m guessing that’s why you follow me on Instagram too. I know you guys are suckers for the two yellow dogs. I am too, I can’t blame you.

Cheers to the next eight crazy weeks of my life! Notes of encouragement on here and Instagram will be so incredibly appreciated.

DSC_9738-01

xo,

Heather

My First Time

We all remember our first time. You’re excited but nervous. You have an idea of what to expect from what you’ve been told, but you don’t really know what you’re in for. You’ve heard it can last a while, and you’ve heard it can be quick. So, you excitedly take a deep breath, and let it out. This is happening.

Then, you load the dogs into your hatchback Saab, make sure you have your sales slip, and head up the highway to the glory land. The Fedco tree sale awaits you.

The huge two weekend event every year draws a very large crowd, with the first weekend reserved for those who pre-order trees. I had ordered two peach trees for our mini-orchard all the way back in December. This was the year I was going to go up there. This was the year I was going to see what everyone had been talking about years before me. Was it really as great as they said? It must be. My hopes were high. Since I had ordered trees early, I also got first chance at the cream of crop trees, bushes, and other goods before it was opened to the general public.

IMG_9378That friday morning just a few weeks ago I piled myself and two dogs into my hatchback, with no idea what was coming my way. I had a general idea everything would fit. It took a bit of finagling though when I not only picked up the two peach trees, but opted to buy 25 asparagus crowns, a  Honey Crisp apple tree, and a McIntosh apple tree. Will power got the best of me that day, thankfully. Common sense was not lost as I left beautiful cherry trees, blueberries, pear trees, and a huge variety of a hundred other glorious items where they lay. Thankfully so too, because Primrose wasn’t too happy with me as is.

IMG_9379As it were, Winnie was in the front seat, and Rosie laid right behind the passenger side on my comfy coat but most assuredly giving me the side-eye the entire time. I laughed when I ended up accidentally snagging this photo of Winnie while trying to get a photo of the cramped quarters. It looks like she’s yelling at me for the space issues. While it doesn’t look cramped in the photo I can guarantee you that there were four trees, particularly the apple trees, touching from the back of the trunk all the way past the rear view mirror with an inch to spare.

IMG_9380After leaving the tree sale I decided I wanted to grab some copper fungicide at their other warehouse and ended up stumbling into my version of heaven. I found where they keep all the potato stock. To be truthful I just wanted to eat them since I’m a carb loving broad. No one told me there would be potatoes my first time. No one told me there would be potatoes.

IMG_9382I also ended up meandering over to the seed warehouse where I bought some things in a haze. I remember buying peas, but I couldn’t tell you everything else I bought off the top of my head. I know I managed to get out with only about four packs of seeds though after thoroughly reminding myself about all the Johnny Select Seeds I had previously ordered that were waiting for me at home.

IMG_9383A few weeks after digesting everything, let me tell you the truth from the other side.

The Fedco tree sale is everything I had ever been told, and more. Aside from everything I’ve mentioned already, the people were just so incredibly nice. As far as patrons, every type of person was there. There were small gardeners, to people who just wanted a nice tree for their yard, to small homesteaders like myself, to legit farmers who I have an intense respect for. Their wealth of knowledge is staggering.

If you have never been to the Fedco tree sale, go. Order a tree so you can get in that first weekend, and just go. Get there early in the morning on the opening Friday and you’ll have plenty of time and space to take it all in.

Go slow. Enjoy it. Don’t rush. It will be worth the wait.

xo,
Heather

Welcome to Sawmill Nation

Andy and I have been wanting a sawmill for a number of years now. We had no way of justifying an expensive production model with hydraulics, so instead we focused on smaller home models. We looked at just about every brand, and eventually settled on a Woodland Mills. Rather, I had settled on a Woodland Mills. That was until recently, when a deal came up that was too good to pass.

DSC_9642A few years back Andy and I went to his friends place to help him and his Dad saw some lumber. Our friends father had purchased a Hud-Son Oscar 121, which had been purchased used from another guy who bought it and decided it was too much work. Andy jokingly said, “When he’s ready to sell it, have him give me a call.” We moved on, and continued to look around casually while renovating the house. We knew we were going to buy a sawmill this year, but we figured it would be this fall. That is, until we got a call recently saying our friends Dad was selling his mill – a mill that had been barely used.

With our anniversary just about a month away we pretty much looked at each other and knew we had to jump on it. My heart was still with the Woodland Mills, but I came around pretty quickly. We ended up getting the mill, extra track, and a box of new blades for about 1/2 of what everything would cost new. We wished each other a happy early anniversary, jumped in the truck with the dogs and picked it up.

It was just in time too, since our neighbor had a pile of logs out back him and Andy had cut and hauled out this winter.

DSC_9621It’s been fun getting the mill setup, and getting the feel for it. Andy and our neighbor have mostly been the ones using it, but I’ve been learning the ropes too.

DSC_9627We’ve been cutting a lot of 2×6, with some timbers and other various dimensional lumber mostly hackmatack, poplar and a scatter of pine and maple. I’d say overall we’re happy with the setup. The logs are cut nice and maintenance seems to be straightforward. We had an issue with a wave in one of the boards from the blade jumping but that had more to do with the figure of the grain and some pitch build up most likely. Like I said, this is a learning curve for everyone involved (me the most).

DSC_9635The log pile is almost decimated at this point, which means we’re looking forward to cutting the cedar Andy felled at his mom’s place a few weeks back. For now we’ll keep cutting up our neighbors lumber with him, and then at some point we’ll do some hackmatack up at the farm too for a lean-to off the barn. One of the reasons I love Maine, and particularly where I live, is that there is a strong sense of community and neighbors helping neighbors.  A lot more gets done, and faster, when we’re all willing to step in with our resources to get it done.

DSC_9641I know this sounds a bit odd, but the truth is that our little homestead feels a bit more complete with Oscar here. We’ve been wanting a mill for so damn long that it feels like an accomplishment. We aren’t big spenders, we understand the worth of a dollar, and we have made sacrifices specifically so when something like this comes along  we’re able to buy it. That might seem rare in the age of keeping up with the Jones’s and instant gratification, but it’s a deeper feeling like no other to see a long term, hard worked for, item come true.

DSC_9662To both Andy and me it’s important to provide for ourselves. We live in a vastly interconnected world but we also think it’s important to be able to provide for ourselves in some ways. I’m not even close to totally self-reliant and I’m okay with that. We are in no way hardcore homesteaders, and don’t intend to be. In the case of the apocalypse, I am – in the famous words of Dido – going down with this ship. My self-sustaining goal is less dooms day zombie survival and more to have food in a snow storm, to decrease my grocery bill significantly in the summer, to enjoy the taste of summer in the winter with a can of homemade salsa, and to have lumber on hand (or the ability to cut it before we need it) for projects. It’s important for me to just do my part.

Overall, we’re happy. We know it’s not for everyone. I know I’m a bit of an odd duck in the world of marketing to women in that I don’t want diamonds for my anniversary. Last year we stumbled upon our long sought after Suburban a month before our anniversary. This year, it’s a sawmill. Next year? Who knows, but I bet it won’t be jewelry.

858680_10101646540750989_1955072273187390111_oxo,

Heather