Saturday, April 28, 2012

How to Dress up Your Front Door

April showers bring May flowers!
Containers can add beautiful colors and interest to your outdoor area.
Here are my four planters that I used to add life to my front porch and back deck.
The trick is to combine three types of flowers and plants:
  • Spiller
  • Filler
  • Thriller

Having the spiller cascading down the planter will make you container look lush and elegant. The filler will keep you from being able to see most of the dirt in the planter. And the thriller should be a tall, attention grabbing plant or flower. The more showy the better!

On the front porch, in my larger containers, for my "spiller" I used a combination of lime green and purple sweet potato vines. You can stick with just one color, but I really like them used together. My "filler" is yellow-blossom Million Bells aka. callibrachoa. It is related to the spreading petunia, but has smaller blooms. The spreading petunia would also make a good filler but doesn't have generally have as many blooms. For my "thriller" I went for fuschia colored geraniums.
This is three sweet potato vines, two Million Bells, and one large geranium in a planter with a volume of about 5 gallons.

On the back deck in my smaller planters I used one sweet potato vine, two white allysom for the "filler" and one tall, spiky Dracena grass for my "thriller". These containers are probably only about one gallon volume.

Friday, April 27, 2012

How to get Chicks (the Poultry kind)

I have just received my second round of chicks. They are two Polish Crested, two Brown Leghorns, and two Rhode Island Reds. Since my first round of 12 chicks all lived, I'm batting 100% so far! Here is my set-up. Large rubbermaid bin (used to house Christmas decor), a heat light from Orschelns, a bag of pine mulch, a chick feeder and waterer, medicated chick feed (contains anti-protozoan medication), and a bungee cord to keep the water up off the ground. This is optional, but it really helps to keep them from pooing in the water dish!

Line the bin with pine mulch about one inch thick. It helps to keep smells at bay and you can dump it on your garden as it gets dirty. Weed control plus built in fertilizer, we call that a "two-fer", as in, "you get two good things fer one!". Keep them in a place where they will be safe and there is electricity so you can keep the heat light on them AT ALL TIMES until they are about 4 weeks old. Chicks must be kept at 100*F their 1st week of life. You may decrease their heat requirement by 5*F every week until they are about 5 weeks old. At this time they have "feathered out" enough to be able to be moved outside. While they are being kept under the lamp you can take them outside a couple of days a week while you clean out their cage. They must be watched over while outside and must ALWAYS be offered a constant source of food and water. Make sure they are not huddling up together, which can mean they are too cold, and be sure to put them in a spot where you can easily catch them like a corner. They are faster than they look!

You can get all of these supplies from a farm supply store, including the chicks! However, I got my first brood from a local seller I found on Craigslist. These were much cheaper and I would always prefer to buy used and local products when possible! You may even make a new friend who will give you some free heirloom tomato seeds! I just love how we can become inspired by the most unlikely people and live in a community that is so interconnected.

The set-up
Heat lamp that requires a special bulb

The feeder and waterer

Their feed with antibiotics

The chickadees!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Heirloom Tomatoes

This year I was introduced to heirloom tomatoes. A friend had purchased a few seed packets from Baker Creek ( and after planting all that he wanted he passed the remainder of the seeds on to me. Of course I started them in seed pods as quickly as possible and was eager to learn all I could about what he called "heritage tomatoes". He told me about the Purple Cherokee tomato that turns purple when ripe and how it had been grown in Arkansas by Native Americans for hundreds of years.
First, they are called heirloom because they are not genetically engineered like most seeds that you buy in stores. Those seeds come from companies that genetically alter their seeds, called Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), to produce more resilient plants that can stand up to harsh pesticides. But in our home garden we don't use pesticides so they are not necessary. Also, GMOs produce plants with sterile offspring. Meaning you can't replant the seeds from those tomatoes and expect much of anything to grow! So the heirloom variety comes from the fact that these tomatoes have seeds that can be reproduced year after year and saved for use the next year. This is the way our ancestors did it for hundreds of years. These specific types were chosen because they did better in our climate and produced fertile fruit. Also these fertile plants can cross pollinate with other tomato species, so you could possibly end up creating your own unique tomato variety! Here are the four varieties that I chose to grow.
  • Cherokee Purple
  • Brandywine
  • Rutgers
  • Beefsteak

I started out with 36 seed pods growing 4 different varieties. 31 made it to true "leafing out". Of course I don't need 31 tomato plants, so I decided to pay it forward. Since my goal is to encourage other people to plant veggies gardens as well, I gave 4 plants to my dad and 4 plants to one of my coworkers. From one mans heirloom seed packs he was able to stock his garden, my garden and two people he doesn't even know with fresh tomatoes all summer long. I just love the idea! So now I'm down to 23 plants, still a lot, but I know I can always make the surplus tomatoes into salsa and can it for the winter!


A friend of mine suggested that I begin a blog about my home garden, decorating, and raising chickens.  I have shared these ideas with my friends on Facebook who wanted to know more information about my projects, but I have finally decided that they do need to be shared with the blogosphere.  So here I go!  My hope is that I can share some of my ideas and inspire you to create your own modern homestead.