All posts by Brittany

Our Vegetable Garden {2017}

Our-Vegetable-Garden-2017-1I am so excited to share with you all what our garden plans look like for the year! 2017 marks the second year of our vegetable garden at the new house. I’m super excited and super nervous all at the same time. I feel like last year was really just a test to see how it went, but this year I feel more pressure for everything to go perfectly. However, if you’re a gardener, you know that things never go perfectly! 😉

Last year, I ran into multiple issues throughout the growing season including bugs, weeds, powdery mildew, and poor soil drainage. Despite all of these issues, we did end up having a very productive season. (You can check out our 2016 gardening yields here!)  I don’t want to revisit those issues this year so we are mixing it up a little bit. I truly believe that if we can overcome these issues, we can have an extremely productive garden and eliminate the need for supplementing with produce from local farms.

We have spent a lot of time talking, thinking and planning this year, to find ways to avoid some of these issues. This is what we came up with.

What we’re doing differently this year:

Weed Prevention: Weeds were a H-U-G-E problem in our garden last year. So much so, that it was difficult for me to even keep up with weeding. So this year the name of the game is prevention. If we keep the weeds from taking over, maybe we will have a fighting chance! We prefer to not use chemicals in the garden so, we are going to lay black agricultural plastic to help keep the weeds at bay. I will keep you updated on how this goes!

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Plant Placement: We ran into some issues last year with poor soil drainage which resulted in slow development in our tomatoes, peppers and kale. It also prevented most of our seeds on the lower half of our garden from even germinating. We will be planting more “water-loving” plants in the front left corner of the garden (which is the lowest point in our garden) and placing the pickier plants in the back of the garden. We will also be planting a different variety of plants than we did last year. I’ll share the specifics below!

Drainage Pit: My creative, handy hubby came up with the idea to put a drainage pit into the lowest corner of our garden. Similar to what a lot of people have in their basement, we installed a sump-pump in the pit and have been diverting the water to a drainage ditch along the back of our property. In case you want to try this method too, I will be detailing the process in an upcoming blog post!

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Seed Starting: I have shared in the past that seed-starting is not my forte. In fact, every time I have attempted it in the past, it has ended in tall, stringy, wilted little stems. After doing some research and buying a few new supplies, we decided to give it another try. We are attempting this on a very small-scale with only about 36 plants. Six plants of six different varieties.  I’m already thinking ahead to next year. If the seed starting goes well this year, we may try starting all of our own plants at home next year. That is something we have never attempted before. We typically purchase certain vegetables already started at a local farm and then start the remainder from seeds right in the garden. This would be a huge undertaking for us, but I’m very excited at the prospect of growing everything from seed right at home! It would be a huge step in the right direction towards self-sufficiency. I will keep you posted on how it turns out this year and what we plan to do next year!

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Fall & Winter Planting: We will be trying our first cover crop at the end of the growing season this year. We will be planting winter rye to aid in boosting the quality of our soil. This will also help with weed prevention throughout the fall & spring months, prevent the soil from eroding due to rain, snow, and spring thaw, and will also provide added nutrients when we till it into the soil in the spring. We’ll also plant onions and garlic in the fall. We used to do this every year, however the past several years we haven’t gotten around to it. But I’m making it a priority this year!

Soil Improvement: Another method we are trying to improve our soil drainage is to boost the quality of the soil. This is a project that will span over several years. We added a bale of peat moss to the soil in the spring. In the fall, we will be adding a load of high quality top soil to the garden. We will also be adding nutrient-rich compost and composted local horse manure. The compost pile is still a work in process-we will be starting this over the summer! I’m really excited to start researching and learning more about composting! And of course I’ll be sharing what I learn with you guys!

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What we are planting in the garden this year:

24 Regular Tomato Plants (Mt. Merit)
12 Roma Tomato Plants (Mariana)
2 Cherry Tomato Plants
3 Jalapeno Pepper Plants (Centella)
8 Bell Pepper Plants (King Arthur)
1 Dill Plant
1 Cilantro Plant
2 Basil Plants

Vegetables we are planting from seed:
Cucumbers *Plus 6 plants we started from seed in the house*
Beets
Carrots
Parsnips
Bush Beans
Snow Peas
Leaf Lettuce Blend *Plus 6 plants we started from seed in the house*
Spinach *Plus 6 plants we started from seed in the house*
Swish Chard-Bright Lights *Plus 6 plants we started from seed in the house*
Red and Yellow Potatoes *Technically not seeds*

One of our main goals with our garden this year is to eliminate the need to supplement with vegetables from local farms for our canning needs. The majority of our canning is tomato products: tomato soup, salsa and stewed tomatoes. We are more than doubling our tomato plants this year and we also added some variety with the plants. We are planting 24 regular tomatoes, 12 roma tomatoes and also 1 or 2 cherry tomatoes! In the past, we have planted only regular tomatoes. If all goes well, this will be yet another step in the right direction towards self-sufficiency.

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The Herb Garden:

We added a rosemary plant and an oregano plant to the herb garden this spring. My oregano did not come back this spring, so I had to replace it. And the rosemary is an annual, not a perennial. So we plant this every year! The following is a list of the herbs that we already had in the herb garden: Lavender, Spearmint, Lemon Balm, Tarragon and Chives. These have all been coming back year after year and are healthy as ever!

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So that’s what our garden plans are for the season. What are your plans for your vegetable and herb gardens this year? Share your thoughts in the comments below-I love to hear from my readers!

Home & Garden Update {May 2017}

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Hello Friends! And welcome to the May home and garden update! I know it has been pretty quiet around the blog lately. The reason is because I recently returned to my full-time job after my maternity leave so sadly came to an end (as all good things do). So needless to say, life has been a little crazy around our home over the past month or so. To be quite honest, life has seemed pretty overwhelming lately. With trying to care for a 4 month old, manage my home, do well at my day job, write for the blog, and not to mention just life in general, the list of things to do never seems to end. It’s all about time-management, priorities, and routines! This has been a time of learning, stretching and growing for our little family but we are settling into a nice routine now. Going forward, things may not be quite as active around the blog as they used to be but my goal is to have a minimum of one post per week and more consistent updates on Facebook too!

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I know it has been some time since I posted a monthly homestead update. Looking back over my posts, the last one was actually back in September. So, we have a lot of catching up to do!

With the arrival of spring, we are very anxious to get outside and get our vegetable garden planted for the season! So far, our strawberry patch is overflowing with flowers and green berries and our apple trees have little baby apples on them!! It is so exciting to see our plants coming to life for the season and being productive! We are also trying to start some of our vegetables from seed this year (which is something we haven’t had luck with in the past), so I will keep you updated on how this goes! So far, so good!

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This month we have spent a lot of time planning for the summer season ahead of us. We have our garden all planned out, including a new drainage system that we added to help with the standing water. (You’ll hear more about this in an upcoming blog post!) We also have several smaller projects planned for around the house/yard as well (you can read about these below!)

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Last summer proved to be quite challenging for me in the gardening department. Keeping up with our vegetable garden and the herb garden while pregnant and working full-time proved to be harder than I had expected. And looking ahead to this spring and summer, I expect it to be equally challenging (if not more) with a little one to keep an eye on too!

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Here is an overview of some of the goals that we have set for ourselves…

Goals that we want to achieve this month:

In the Yard/Garden:

  • Prep the vegetable garden for planting at the end of the month:
    Weed removal
    Tilling the dirt
    Adding some nutrients to the soil including peat moss and local horse manure
    Laying plastic to help with weed control
    Adding a drainage system
  • Moving daffodil bulbs. We have some daffodils that come up in the yard every spring and I want to dig these up and plant them in my gardens around the house.
  • Planting Hyacinth and Tulip bulbs. We purchased some flowers around Easter and I want to get these planted in my gardens too.
  • Wrangling my spearmint plant. My spearmint started to take over last summer and this spring it has continued its conquest to take over my herb garden. I have a plan to try to get it under control.
  • Add deer repellent around the fruit trees.
  • Getting the vegetable garden planted over Memorial Day Weekend. (If the weather cooperates!)
  • Getting the flowers planted in various pots and planters around the house and yard.
  • Freshen the landscaping-We usually add fresh mulch every year, however, this year (in an effort to save time & money) we will simply rake/stir up the current mulch to give it a fresh look.
  • Continue treating the yard for weeds.
  • Clean out the bluebird box from last year.
  • Adding a fire ring to our back yard for campfires and cookouts!

Around the House:

  • Wash all of the windows in the house and get the screens back in the windows.
  • Spring Cleaning: wash walls and scrub carpets.
  • Organization Overhaul!! I want to organize the entire house, room by room, drawer by drawer. This is definitely not a 1 month project but I want to at least get it started this month! I have some time off of work, so I hope to take advantage of this and get a good start on this!
  • Adding a large sun shade to our back porch, so we can enjoy our back porch more this summer. It gets full sunlight from one side during the morning (which isn’t so bad). And it gets full sunlight in the late afternoon through the evening which makes it almost unbearable during the summer.

Longer Term Goals:

  • Adding Lean-To over our wood-pile
  • Stump Removal
  • Garage Project:
    Adding Insulation to the garage walls
    Paint the walls
    Lay Tile Flooring (Black & White Checkerboard Pattern)
    Add a workbench, toolboxes, and cabinets
    Add plywood flooring to the loft above the garage for storage space
  • Building a fire pit

Some of the goals we have accomplished since our last update:

  • Finish plumbing in the shed.
  • Adding insulation to the garage walls.
  • Run co-ax cable from our attic to our basement for a t.v. antennae. We were able to eliminate the expense of cable t.v.
  • Roll out the yard.
  • Fertilize the yard. (Weed & Feed)
  • Finished the nursery

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There always seems to be a million things to do around the house, yard, and garden. I’m sure I’ve forgotten to add some items on the above list. But little by little we are getting things accomplished!

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What is on your to do list this spring? What goals have you put in place for yourself? Share your thoughts in the comments below-I love to hear from my readers!

Baby’s First Easter Basket

Babys-First-Easter-Basket-1As a brand new mom, there are so many things that I am looking forward to doing! Of course, I’m super excited to watch my baby learn and grow every single day! It is amazing how from one day to the next, I can literally see him changing before my eyes. From the expressions he makes to the sounds he makes and the “communicating” he does-it is just incredible how quickly babies change! He’s becoming more aware of the world around him and getting more and more curious everyday! Of course, I’m also excited to experience all of his “firsts” with him.

Well, with Easter quickly approaching, I am getting more and more excited about his first Easter! I am really looking forward to all of the special things that this holiday will include: an adorable outfit, his first Easter basket, and lots of special family photos and memories!

Today I am sharing what I’m including in his Easter basket! When I first started thinking about it, I thought to myself-What in the world do you put in an Easter basket for a 3-month old?!? In our family, Easter baskets typically consisted of lots & lots of candy and a few other small items too. So, with a 3-month old who can’t eat candy yet, what am I going to do?!? Well, that’s when I started to get creative!

There are two main things I kept in mind when choosing what items to get. First of all, I didn’t want to just get a bunch of little, junky things that would probably end up getting thrown away. And second of all, I wanted to ensure that the items I got were useful and possibly things that were already on my “list” of things to get for him.

Take a look at what we got for our baby’s first Easter basket…

Of course, you first have to start with the basket. We wanted to choose something nice that we will be able to use for years to come. So we chose this nice wicker basket with a blue and green plaid lining! It was pretty inexpensive-we purchased it at Walmart.

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Next on the list was a Baby’s 1st Easter bib! We want him to wear a nice outfit on Easter (a dress shirt, dress pants and suspenders) but we still wanted something cute for his first Easter as well. This bib was exactly what I was looking for to add to his outfit! I also found these cute little bunny ears for some adorable photo ops!

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Next on the list were some little toys for him! I chose a velvety, blue bunny lovey and a soft, little giraffe stuffed animal. He is very fond of stuffed toys right now, so these were the perfect addition to his basket!

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His favorite pacifiers were a must! His favorite is the “Gumdrop” style pacifiers (By The First Years) as this is what they gave him at the hospital. He also likes the Soothie binky (By Phillips Avent), they are very similar.

He is really starting to get interested in the world around him, so I thought bubbles would be something fun for us to do on the back porch once the weather warms up!

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He is still in need of some summer clothing. I chose an adorable Ninja Turtle onesie and also a swimsuit (trunks & a shirt) for our summer adventures!

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Last but not least, I chose some books to add to his basket…

Guess How Much I Love You
The Easter Basket (a beautiful pop-up book)
Corduroy’s Easter Party
The Runaway Bunny

We are working on building a little library for him, so of course I wanted to add some books. My goal is to buy him several themed books for each & every holiday going forward! That way he will have a wonderful variety of holiday books!

Some other ideas for books are…

The Velveteen Rabbit
The Tale of Peter Rabbit
Pat the Bunny
The Little Lamb
The Little Duck
The Little Rabbit

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Here is what his basket looked like once I gathered everything together!

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Here is a compiled list of ideas for your baby’s first Easter basket-whether you have a little girl or a little boy!

Easter/Bunny/Springtime Themed Books
Sunglasses
Swimsuit
Sunhat
Bubbles
Small Toys (Trucks, Etc)
Sippy Cup
Plates/Bowls/Utensils
Bath Toys
Bunny Ears
Spring/Summer Clothes
Children’s Bible
Sandals
Bowtie or Bonnet
Baby’s First Easter Bib or Onesie
Wooden Toys or Puzzles
Stuffed Toys or Lovies
Snacks (If your baby is old enough for foods)
Rattles or Teethers

Putting together an Easter basket for the first time is so exciting and so much fun! What are you including in your child’s Easter basket? What are some other ideas for fun, non-candy items? Share your ideas and thoughts in the comments below-I always love to hear from my readers!

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My 2-Week Meal Plan {March 18, 2017 Edition}

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Hey Friends! Today, I’m sharing my family’s meal plan for the next 2 weeks! I’ve had a pretty busy weekend, so I’m a day late! But better late than never, right?!

You’ll notice on my meal plan this week that we have a rehearsal dinner and wedding at the end of the week! My husband is going to be a groomsman in one of his friend’s weddings, so we will be having a fun wedding weekend! One added perk of a wedding was that I got to pick out my baby boy’s first “formal” clothes! How exciting!! I picked out the cutest outfit (Carter’s of course)  pair of dress pants with embroidered nautical designs, a pair of suspenders and a little dress shirt onesie! He looks so handsome in it!! I can’t wait to dress him up for the wedding!!

Also, you may notice that a few meals from my last meal plan are re-appearing on my menu for this week. So, whenever we have something come up that changes our meal-plan, I simply shift the meals that I didn’t use from the last 2 week period and move them to the new meal list. This is when it is so important to be flexible. Whether it’s making last-minute plans with friends, stopping at a restaurant because it was a busy day, or simply having leftovers from the day before, it’s always important to be flexible with your meal plan. The one thing that really effected our meal plan over the last 2 weeks was having a lot of leftovers. The batch of hobo beans that I made lasted us several days and we also had a lot of leftover pizza from a visit with some friends. Having leftovers for a dinner is a great way to ensure that food doesn’t go to waste. It also helps your grocery budget stretch a little bit further the following week because you already have ingredients for several meals that you maybe didn’t get to make the week before.

So, here is what meals I am planning for my family over the next 2 weeks! My hope is that my ideas will inspire you in your own meal-planning adventure! You know from my previous posts that I am pretty passionate about meal-planning. It has made such a huge difference for our family. It brings so much peace and order to our evening routine and makes my life so much less stressful! And who doesn’t like less stress-I know I do!!

If you haven’t already, check out my methods and tips for meal-planning here!
What’s for Dinner? The Reason I started Meal Planning
Tips for Successful Meal Planning

Week 1
Sunday-Coconut Shrimp, French Fries, Vegetable
Monday-Tacos, Corn
Tuesday-Crockpot Hot Dogs & Sauerkraut
Wednesday-Sausage Muffins
Thursday-Meatloaf, Baked Potatoes
Friday-Rehearsal Dinner
Saturday-Wedding

Week 2
Sunday-Venison Hamburger Steaks, Mashed Potatoes
Monday-Pizza, Tossed Salad
Tuesday-Tuna Noodle Casserole, Peas
Wednesday-Chicken Stuffing Shells, Carrots
Thursday-Grocery night-We always grab something while we are out for $10 or less
Friday-Fish Sandwiches, French Fries
Saturday-Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnuts

If there is a particular meal that you would like to see the recipe for on the blog, let me know! Also, if you have any questions about my meal plan or need advice on making your own, please feel free to comment below or send me an email! I always love to hear from my readers!

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How to Make a Baby Memory Box

How-to-make-a-baby-memory-box-1I am a photo-taking, scrapbook-making, sentimental person! I love to look through my photo albums, scrapbooks, and treasure boxes and reminisce on the happy times in my life. Remembering back on our family vacations, birthday parties, and just every day life! I have collected treasures from my childhood, high school, college, our wedding and so much more. It is so wonderful to have reminders of the many special times!  So, of course, when I found out I was pregnant with our first child, I began stashing away special little mementos to remember back on this very special time of my life!

When I am saving special items, I don’t want them to be tossed all over the house, stashed here and there in random places. I want to ensure that everything is neat and organized. That way, my house stays organized and not cluttered AND everything is in one place-So that when the sentimental moment strikes that I want to look through my treasures, I know right where to find them!

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Of course, you can make a memory box for any type of occasion. You may want to create a memory box for your wedding, a family vacation, or from a time period in your life-like childhood or college. No matter the time or occasion-creating a memory box is a fantastic way to collect and organize your treasures to keep for years to come!

Today I am sharing how I made my Baby Memory Box for my first baby!

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First of all, you want to find a pretty box to fill with your memories! I chose a photo box which you can purchase at any craft store like Michael’s or Joanne’s. There is always a variety of colors and patterns, so choose one that goes along with the theme of your box. These usually only cost a couple of dollars. But you can use any type of box. For a more frugal option, you could use a shoe box wrapped in pretty, themed wrapping paper. I chose a light blue, polka-dotted box since I had a baby boy!

Then I gathered all of the items that I want to save as keepsakes!

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What types of items to include in your baby memory box…

Ultrasound Pictures
Cards from Baby Shower
Baby Shower Invitation
Baby Shower Games
Baby Shower Napkin
Hospital Bracelets
Footprint Cards
Deflated Balloons
Newspaper from the day baby was born
Include any other additional items that you would like to have as a keepsake for your baby! You can continue to add items to the box throughout your baby’s life.

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I wanted to ensure that my box was also organized, so I bundled like items together with a pretty ribbon (like the stack of cards I had from my baby shower). Also, for my newspaper, I rolled it and tied it with a ribbon. You can use any additional items that you may need to make your box pretty and organized. You could use decorative envelopes, ribbons, paperclips, or containers! (Target’s dollar section always has cute office supplies that you could use for this!) My last step was to neatly place all of the items inside the box.

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And there you have it, a beautiful baby memory box that you will have to treasure and look back through for years to come. Someday, you can share all of those special mementos with your little one and share stories and memories of those special times!

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