Complimentary Curbside Conquests

Yesterday I happened to be in a neighborhood that is having bulk trash collection this week. Although I’ve previously found bulk collection to be a great source of treasures, I was feeling a bit under the weather yesterday and was only up for walking eight or ten blocks before heading home to rest up again. Fortunately, in just those few blocks I discovered a nice metal plant stand to liven up my living room with the pots I’ve collected previously.

But this morning I was feeling better again and decided to explore another part of that neighborhood. There were lots of cardboard boxes in front of houses as usual, and I had to go up to each one to see whether it was full of junk, a plastic christmas tree (it’s amazing how many plastic trees get thrown out in January!) or something more interesting. Just when I thought I wouldn’t find anything interesting, I noticed a long box that said Everlast on the side. Could it be?

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Heavy bag

Yes! It was an Everlast canvas heavy bag in good condition. Usually people buy exercise equipment at this time of year, not throw it out. It would have been such a shame for it to take a trip to the landfill. And lucky for me, a friend with a car was available to give me a ride home with my newly acquired toy.

But this was especially great because I had also found a heavy bag during bulk collection last year. That heavy bag came with a stand but unfortunately was never used because the bag wasn’t in good condition and at least needed to be thoroughly cleaned out. It was full of tiny scraps of fabric that had gotten wet, making the bag even heavier and gross enough to encourage me to tackle any task other than cleaning the bag during my free time. Just this morning, I cleared out yet another small chunk of the inner gunk before giving up again for the day. In the meantime, the heavy bag stand has also sat there unused. Until today. The chains for the bag were also in the box, and this bag was not so heavy as the other bag. Between two people it was easily raised onto a stepladder and then attached, followed by a few light punches to test it out.

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Heavy bag on the stand in the garage

We already have bag gloves, so the only things left to do are to put some weights on the stand to make it a bit more stable and replace the one remaining lightbulb in the garage with two new ones before it goes totally dark. Oh yeah, and punching. There is still much punching to do. ūüėÄ

Six On Saturday 2019/01/05 – Small Things

I bought too many plants last year and have a stack of little black pots waiting to be reused. So this year, I’ve resolved to limit my purchases to twelve plants for the whole year. If I want more than that, I’ll have to start them from seed, from cuttings, or swap with other gardeners.

I’ve been following The Propagator‘s blog for a while to learn more techniques and decided to participate in the Six on Saturday blogging theme, which is a way to share six things that are happening in my garden. For this week, there’s an obvious focus on plants I’ve started myself.

Red Yucca

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Red yucca youngsters in the side yard

I’ve had this red yucca for a while. I started this red yucca from seed indoors and planted it out last spring. The tallest plant is now a whopping 8 inches tall. Maybe I should have called this post “Slow Things” instead.

Butterfly Milkweed

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One of several milkweed sprouts

Several sprouts are starting to come up from seeds of a few different wildflower packets that I scattered in the side yard in fall. I’m looking forward to a lot more seed for future swaps in addition to having more butterflies show up for pollination duties this year.

California Poppy

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California poppy in the kumquat bed

I also sowed some California poppy seeds in the fall after having seen a couple of yards in the neighborhood with various beautiful poppies and then reading online that the flowers of this variety are edible. This looks like other seedlings online so maybe in a few months I’ll have some beautiful and delicious orange flowers blooming.

Scarlet Runner Bean

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Young runner bean plant by the mulberry

Cowpeas grow really well in my yard, but it requires planting them out every season. I’m hoping that these runner beans really are perennial and I can harvest beans for years to come. Unfortunately, only two plants have survived from a dozen or so that I planted in the fall, but maybe they just weren’t mature enough yet to handle a little bit of predation. Still hoping, and I have some seeds left to start more in the spring.

Artichoke

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Artichoke sprouts

These aren’t in the garden yet, but I’d like to put out at least a few artichoke plants this spring. Amazingly, these seeds took only a week to germinate (I kept the soil pretty damp because I had heard recommendations to soak the seeds before planting them but promptly forgot until they were already in pots). If all goes well, I’ll start some extra artichoke plants for swapping also. But the hardest part for me is generally keeping seedlings alive until they’re strong enough to go outside.

The seed packet contained two varieties–Green Globe Improved and Purple of Romagna. I don’t know which is which, so I’ll have to do some more research online to learn how to tell the two apart.

Shrimp?

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A crustacean in my yard!

This most definitely isn’t a plant, but it was in my yard. I live near a creek, and on one side of my property is a low area that floods whenever there’s a good rain. This morning there were still a few puddles still out there from rains earlier in the week. And there was something moving! At first I thought it was some sort of beetle or roach, but upon closer inspection it was a crustacean. I’m not sure if that really is a shrimp or not, and I never would have guessed that shrimp live in the creek, but I can tell you that I won’t be eating shrimp anytime soon. Whatever that was didn’t look at all appetizing.

Those are my six for this week. Even without accruing many more plastic pots, I think this is going to be a great year for enjoying the garden!

Neighborhood Swap Day!

Twice a year everyone in the neighborhood takes all the stuff they don’t want want or need and sets it out for neighborhood swap day. Like the large metal milk jug that my aunt gifted me because she didn’t want it. Someone else loved it and took it away, while I strolled around and got my pick of the other goodies folks have set out.

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I didn’t take this burger pi√Īata, but isn’t it cute?

Well, technically it’s called Residential Bulk Collection, and it’s for bulky items that folks consider trash and just want to get rid of. The scrappers get a lot of the good stuff, too. There’s constantly another scrapper trailer driving around looking for metal pieces they can collect. It’s kind of disappointing that they end up recycling some items that could be reused, but at least it keeps things out of the landfill.

And it’s a great way for much other stuff to find new homes also. Need a new-to-you dresser or table? How about a book to read? This is a perfect time to get something for free and to save stuff from the landfill.

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Many goodies collected this weekend

Here are the various treasures (and less treasured items) I collected:

  • (Ignore all the grey bricks. I did pick those up from the curb, but it was for a nearby multi-family residence that doesn’t have the same bulk service.)
  • Blue shelf – Not pictured since it was set out earlier and grabbed earlier. It’s already in the garage happily organizing pots, trowels, and other garage-dwelling items that were previously scattered on the floor or resting somewhere inconvenient.
  • Hanging pot – There were two of these and I was only interested in extra ingredients for the compost, so I dumped the soil from one into the other to tote it back more easily. Folks must have thought I was crazy carrying around that thing, but they don’t know what they’re missing.
  • 6 light grey ceramic tiles – In retrospect, I’m not sure if this is enough tiles to be useful to me and I may keep passing these along.
  • Citronella candles – To discourage mosquitoes. They’re probably not too effective, but I’m sure I can find someone who wants them if I decide not to keep them.
  • Wide-ruled paper – I know plenty of people with school-age children.
  • Fabric adhesive – I’m second-guessing this now, but no matter. Even if I can’t find a new home for it, I haven’t done any harm by delaying its trip to the landfill.
  • Christmas greeting cards – I’ll use these next year.
  • Card games rule book – Mostly so I can learn another type of solitaire sans computer.
  • 12 brick pavers – I can always use more brick pavers for my garden. This was a perfect find for me.
  • White marble chips – It says erosion control on the bag, worth a try.
  • Pink ceramic pot – Which will be perfect for the previously neglected snake plant that a coworker passed on to me recently.

If I had a truck, I would also have grabbed the three or four Christmas trees I saw while out. They’re going to be turned into mulch so it’s not a bad future for them, but they’d be even better as mulch in my yard or protecting the area by the creek from erosion. Well, that’s okay. I can share.

Of course my favorite find ever from a bulk collection week was Free Serenity, still hanging serenely on my bedroom wall. Has anyone else scored something great from what other folks considered garbage?

 

The Not New Garden Path

Since we bought this house and planted our first baby fruit tree almost three years ago, I’ve wanted some kind of path for the backyard. It’s not an immediate need that I’d have to resolve by purchase, but it’s a dream. I’ve tried many things.

Wearing a path in the earth. Well, I did spend many hours out in the garden and a visible pathway did eventually appear, but it would disappear into the weeds after the spring rains.

Brick. Who wouldn’t want a lovely brick path? I still collect any abandoned brick I come across, but I’ve also calculated how many bricks it would take to build a path around the whole backyard. Nope. Even with my acquired hobby of started watching Craigslist for unwanted bricks or pavers, I found mostly heartbreak because whenever there was a really interesting listing, the givers wanted them to be gone pretty much immediately and that would have required a truck or the like.

Gravel – I was able to get a bagful from someone who wasn’t using it, but it wasn’t long before I could barely see the gravel through the weeds. Gravel alone wouldn’t cut it.¬†I needed some kind of weed barrier underneath the gravel. Some sort of durable plastic would be the obvious answer, but at the same time I have a hard time putting something in the ground that is just going to turn into bits of trash instead of contributing to the soil.

Cardboard – I looked at materials that were in true abundance, and cardboard may have helped under the gravel. Could it stand up on its own as a short term path?¬†Unfortunately “short” term was right. Anything that wasn’t super thick would start to disintegrate rather quickly. And it’s amazing how quickly weeds can grow through a double layer of thick cardboard!

Pinterest-type stuff – I saw pictures online of people making pathways from glass bottles dug into the ground or with wooden rounds cut from fallen trees. I even went so far as to collect a few bottles at the office but gradually came to the realization that these would be more work than I was willing to sign up for. And I didn’t really trust a pathway made of bottles that could break or wood that might start rotting after several good rains.

Last week a posting by one of my neighbors on NextDoor gave rise to a new idea. He had a few bags of sawdust to get rid of. Online research showed some folks love sawdust in their garden pathways. They used super thick layers, more than I’m willing to use, but maybe combined with the cardboard? Anyhow, it’s worth experimenting with.

As a bonus, while walking over to the neighbor’s house to pick up the sawdust, I noticed a pleasant surprise beside a dumpster in the nearby alley. There was a good pile of bricks waiting for me to take them home.

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Yay, more bricks!

I immediately set to work in the area I had recently started bricking in an attempt to protect my Meyer lemon tree from being overrun by grass. I added multiple layers of cardboard, set some of the new bricks temporarily on the other side to hold it down, and then added some of the sawdust, damped it, and tramped all over it to try and compress it. It’s still a bit fluffy, but I’m hoping the rain helps.

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My new garden pathway in progress

Of course, this is still an experiment. I have no doubt that weeds will still make it through. Also, the pathway needs to be moved a bit further away from my baby tree. But it’s getting better. And it comes with the bonus of adding a little color to my yard during these dull winter months. I just need to rake away a few more of those leaves and stick them in the compost so I can soon be surrounded by more green. 2019’s going to be a good year. I can feel it.

Water-Only Hair Washing

When I first got into zero waste a couple of years ago, I quickly discovered the baking soda method for hair washing, sometimes called “no poo”. It involves mixing a small amount of baking soda with warm water and then using that to cleanse your hair, followed by a rinse of very diluted apple cider vinegar (ACV).

The thing that intrigued me was the suggestion that using convential shampoo regularly actually causes your hair to get oily more quickly. As someone who couldn’t go more than a couple of days without washing due to oil buildup in my hair, I was totally onboard with trying this out.

Initial attempts left my hair very dried out,¬†but that was resolved by¬†using less baking soda. And then immediately out of the shower my hair would sometimes already feel greasy, but that I discovered by experimentation was the result of too much apple cider vinegar. Other than these lessons learned, my hair didn’t go through the adjustment period that I heard about everywhere else. Then again, maybe I just had lower expectations for my hair. As long as my hair wasn’t brittle or really greasy, I was happy.

I had been diluting the mixtures more gradually. A year after moving to this BS/ACV method, I was finally ready to get rid of the ACV rinse entirely. After a couple of experiments, this change turned out to be totally fine!

A few more months down the road, I ditched the baking soda. Again, no big difference because I was just moving from a super diluted solution to pure water. The baking soda has to be mixed fresh with the warm water to be effective, so I was super glad to simplify this part of my hair washing routine.

At this point, my hair washing routine involves massaging my scalp with warm water at the start of my shower. Then at the end of the shower I switch to cold water and massage my scalp under the water with my head upside down. I read somewhere that this gives your hair more body, but I’m not sure that’s effective. My hair looks the same either way.

If you’re still reading this, you’re probably ready to see the results.

My hair one day after washing with water.

My hair at the end of the week (right before washing again).

Pretty consistent, huh?

Unfortunately, we already have highs in the 80s here in central Texas. And since one of my hobbies is gardening, that means I’ll be sweating a lot more very soon.¬†So my once-a-week hair washing routine is about to become a twice-a-week hair washing routine. Still, it feels really good to be free from store-bought shampoo and conditioner. It’s¬†one less thing to worry about.

My Austin Garden In April

After an unseasonably warm winter, we’ve lucked out lately with some beautiful (not sweaty) weather lately. I’m doing my best to enjoy it while I can, and many of the plants are enjoying it as well. Even the fireflies are finally out again. Here’s a sampling of what’s been going on in my central Texas garden.

Cultivated Edibles

Only a few of my tomato seedlings and none of the eggplants survived. One thing I’ve learned this year is that cleaning the pots and using fresh potting soil really does result in healthier starts. Right now there’s one cherry tomato plant and one Roma tomato plant out in the yard, with one last seedling (started from a random tomato) still in the house.

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Cherry tomato starting to stretch out
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Roma tomato with a long ways to grow

The jalape√Īo pepper plants were eaten when transplanted outside. One my coworkers says that rats love them. I’ll bet the squirrels love them too. ūüė¶

At least one of the bell pepper plants is untouched, plus one more still inside.

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Bell pepper plant

The cucumbers and nasturtiums were planted in partial shade this year. Last year they looked really heat-stressed in full, full sun. Now that the trees have leafed out, though, I’m worried they may be in too much shade. Only time will tell.

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The fava bean plants which survived the winter have finally started producing pods.

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Fava pods at the base of one plant

I’ve planted random seeds all over the backyard. The bad thing about this is I always have to¬†be more careful where I step or I could squash a cherished seedling.¬†It’s also difficult to cut down the weeds while avoiding seedlings. That might explain the weedy situation of my backyard currently. But yesterday, I saw a dark sprout that I marvelled at recognizing it as a squash. Several sunflowers have sprung up, the beans are obvious, and many are a mystery.

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Butternut squash seedling
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Royal Burgundy beans

Sadly, I haven’t yet seen anything¬†that looks like a melon vine yet. It’s only the start of April, though, and I still have extra seeds to put out. I will have delicious melons this summer!

I finally pulled up some carrots in March. They were delicious even though there weren’t too many of them. A couple of dozen carrots from three packs of seeds is very unimpressive. I may have to¬†be a more attentive carrot gardener next year, because I really do love carrots.

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Paris Market and Scarlet Nantes carrots

I only got four corn plants from the whole pack of corn seeds. Maybe if I had watered more… nah. I’m probably not going to try corn again anytime soon.

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Corn, mulch, and a few not-corns

The cilantro is already flowering. I didn’t pick any because to me cilantro tastes like soap, but I’m hoping to harvest some coriander seeds before my current supply is exhausted. It’s one of my go-to herbs. Strange how that works.

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Cilantro en route to becoming coriander seed

Is the Fuyu persimmon tree dead? It still looks like just a stick in the ground.¬†The trouble with transplanting a dormant tree is that I have no way to gauge how healthy it is and if it there’s anything I can do to pamper it a little more. I did give it the scratch test, and there is a bit of green beneath the bark. I’ve also read in multiple places online that it can take months for a persimmon tree to come back after being transplanted. But I really really hope I don’t have to wait much longer.

Fortunately, the fig, kumquat, and citrus trees (meyer lemon and satsuma mandarin) are more visibly alive. The citrus leaves have some yellowing, but I’ve applied a little bit of nitrogen fertilizer and have been careful to water them only as needed. Most of¬†the other trees nearby have leafed out happily and the sea of green is mesmerizing. Even the pecan trees at long last have bits of green starting to extend from their branches.

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My new kumquat tree!
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Texas Everbearing fig still going strong
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Meyer lemon, surviving bug attacks

Landscape Plants

After months of patient waiting, the Bluebonnets are finally showing a bit of their namesake color. Unfortunately, grass and weeds are encroaching all around so they don’t get the full attention they deserve. Next year if I can get some started from seed, I’ll plant them out in the front yard bed.

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Bluebonnet plant finally in bloom

During my last stop at the nursery, I was looking at all the seed packets and finally decided to try some lemon grass. The envelope said “Germinates in 3-5 weeks” and I was prepared to practice some patience, but after just four days the first sprout appeared! Now must be the perfect time for it to germinate here, so I just started another couple of small containers today.

On the way home from the nursery last time, I came across this stalked bulbine, sadly abandoned on the sidewalk. This is a spreading perennial, so I’m delighted to add it to my garden.

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Stalked bulbine

It’s the perfect time for taking cuttings here in central Texas. …or so I’ve heard. I’ve never successfully rooted a cutting before. Anyhow, I took a few cuttings of my rosemary and salvias. Once I learn how to propagate these properly I’ll be able to grow a full yard of delightful plants. At the same time, the layering method is also being used to try to root branches¬†of these plants that I can transplant next year.

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Rosemary cutting time!

Sadly, the Esperanza also never came up. I’m going to take this as a sign that perhaps I shouldn’t try to plant things in January. The weather fluctuations between the 30s and 80s are probably too much for any reasonable plant to bear unless they already have a good foothold. Or maybe it’s just for advanced gardeners.

Wild Edibles Discovery

When I first saw the¬†wild onions in side yard, I thought they were the garlic chives sprouted from seed I scattered. Well, nope, the chives never showed. I’ve since seen the wild onions in other places around the neighborhood and even saw them mentioned on tv so I’m sure of the identification. I can’t seem to get a good picture of these, though.

Also, I knew wild blackberries live in some¬†places around town but I’ve never seen them firsthand. That explains why when I first snapped this picture I didn’t even consider it as an option until further explanation. Time to start cultivating the weeds!

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A wild blackberry perhaps?

… but I can sadly no longer recall where exactly¬†I took this picture and can’t find it anywhere. At least now I know better.

But the best discovery of all was the identification of one backyard tree as a Mulberry.¬†I don’t remember seeing any fruits last year, but maybe I wasn’t looking. Or maybe the squirrels got them as soon as they were ripe. This year my eyes will be open. This weekend I also made the fortuitous discovery of a tree with already-ripe mulberries not far away and they were amazing! I can hardly wait for the fruits on my own tree to ripen.

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Leaf and fruit sample from my tree. So the internet could tell me what it was.
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Ripe mulberries discovered in front of a house in the next neighborhood

 

Things I bought in March

March wasn’t so bad. I’ve enjoyed spending time in the garden rather than at the shops. I bought a couple of items from my wishlist and bought fewer plants than in February, but¬†did acquire¬†more free stuff than expected. And my wishlist is getting longer with big ticket home improvement purchases coming up. Maybe someday we’ll get a boarder for the extra bedroom so at least these costs wouldn’t be for just the two of us.

Check out previous lists from January and February.

Plants

The days¬†have already been starting to feel hot, so my plant purchases are finally dwindling down a bit. (Maybe next month they won’t require they’re own category?) I did buy yet another citrus tree as a splurge purchase. After all, the kumquat is¬†the one tree that I really wanted to buy but hadn’t been available in the nurseries every other time I checked. Other than that, just a couple of small potted plants and a couple of seed packs. Unfortunately,¬†I’m almost out of seed starting mix (it goes fast once you realize that using fresh mix every time really does prevent damping off) and may have to get some next month.

  • Meiwa Kumquat tree – yay! kumquats!
  • Chili pequin – because what could be better than a perennial pepper plant
  • English thyme – to see how well it spreads for groundcover potential
  • Lemon balm seed (already sprouted)
  • Lemon grass seed (sprouted in under a week¬†although the pack said 3 to 5 weeks) – because lemon grass is reputed¬†to repel mosquitoes
  • Succulent pieces (orphaned pieces that I hope to propagate into full plants)
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How could I resist?

Not New Stuff

Wow, this list is fairly long this month. I went to Goodwill and found exactly what I was looking for early in the month, but the other things just happened.

  • Rain boots – I now have no fear when trolloping around the poison ivy-infested side yard (from Goodwill).
  • Mini-blinds for the front¬†window for extra privacy. These were kind of new but I found¬†them at Goodwill so close enough.
  • 3 Shirts ‚ÄstSwapping out shirts I like less at the¬†Really, Really Free Market. I know it’s meant to be free stuff but I participate like it’s a swapping party.
  • Patio chairs ‚Äď I didn’t even ask for these but my mom dropped off a couple of old patio chairs one morning. They’ve actually been quiet convenient as a sort of shelf in the garden.
  • Plants¬†‚Äď I’ve been doing some research online, and of the plants already in my yard, I may just have wild onions, wild blackberries, wild Muscadine grape vines,¬†and a Mulberry tree. I’ll definitely¬†be paying close attention to see if my identifications are correct!
  • Soil – From a neighbor doing some landscaping.
  • Mulch – well, grass clippings and leaves collected from sidewalks, as well as a few lawn bags set out on the street that I furtively made off with.
  • A book – one of the other book club members gave me an extra copy of the book for next month, so I don’t even need to wait for it at the library.

New Stuff

  • Lawn bags¬†‚ÄstI’m not sure if these count because I bought them at my mom’s request (I don’t count the tons of stuff my husband chooses to buy), but I did buy them before helping her rake up some oak leaves in early March. (My mom’s composts¬†many things but the oak leaves just don’t seem to be breaking down.)
  • Line for the weed eater – The lawn (and weeds) that are already wide awake. My husband is happy to help out as long as it gets a clean trim, so weed eater it is.
  • Toilet paper

Things I didn’t buy

  • More tomato seeds – Even though I have only two tomato plants that survived this year, it’s already getting hot out and may be late for Spring planting. I may consider starting fresh tomato plants for the fall garden, though.
  • Machete – I was looking at these on Etsy but it’s too soon to determine if it’s worth purchasing. It’s on my wishlist below though.
  • Fast food –¬†I gave up fast food for Lent as well as eating out in general for the most part, but I’m ready to have pizza again. ūüėõ
  • Seed starting containers – In addition to the plant pots I’ve saved from previous nursery visits, working in an office means I have access to plenty of food to-go containers. It’s not hard to find on the perfect size and even with an already vented lid.
  • Esperanza – The one I bought last year is definitely dead, but I’m going to¬†give seed starting another try for this one. There are plenty of Esperanza bushes in the neighborhood to grab a few seeds from later this year.

Wishlist

Super long wishlist too! Fortunately, I know I won’t be indulging in all of these things in April.

  • A new roof! I finally got around to mucking out the gutters, and those shingles don’t look like they’re protecting our home that much anymore. Time to start checking out the roofers in this area. My goal is to get this done in the next month if possible.
  • Rain catchment system — gutters around the rest of the house and rain tanks. This is less about saving water than it is about saving my soil and preventing further erosion. (This has always been part of the post-new-roof master plan, but now it feels close enough to put on the list.)
  • Machete – My favorite lawn tool so far is definitely my scythe. It’s one of the most effective tools, the easiest, and hardly requires any storage space. With no lack of weeds, I’ve been considering a machete, grass hook, or other implement for the smaller spaces where I just can’t control a scythe with enough precision.
  • New tub? I’ve sealed up the crack again for now and caulked around the edges since the roof is first, but someday…
  • Bricks/pavers ‚Äď Am still collecting the rogue brick for use in the garden whenever I come across it.
  • Seed starting mix – As I mentioned above, I’m almost out and I’m trying to reduce how many seeds I’m starting inside¬†but will probably need more before long.

Ready to go in 10 minutes

One of the greatest things about simplifying your lifestyle is less stress and having more time for the things you care about. In my case, I now have the choice to either get up when my alarm goes off in the morning for a slower morning routine or to caress the snooze button a couple of times and be out the door in under ten minutes of when I do get up.

Obviously, if you have a job where a perfectly polished appearance is required, you won’t be able to do this. I am extremely grateful to have a job with a more casual dress code and where¬†you could probably even get away with a vicious cowlick without any snarky comments.

My morning routine…

 

I give my face a quick scrub with a wet washcloth. For this purpose, the slight abrasiveness cleans as well as soap (better actually since it doesn’t dry out my skin). And after years of feeling ashamed of going out without at least a bit of foundation, I’ve finally grown comfortable with my own skin instead taking time every morning to apply product all over my face.

Clothing takes only a moment to throw on. My shirts are sorted on the closet rod based on how recently they’ve been worn, so it’s easy to quickly grab the next shirt due. (If I find myself wanting to skip a shirt more than once, that’s a pretty good sign that it should be passed on to someone else.) Then I just have to grab one of three pairs of jeans¬†as well as one of three pairs of shoes to go with it. There are few requirements for matching outfits, other than that one of my pairs of jeans is slightly longer and works best with the sneakers which are taller than the other shoes.

My weekly hair washing is on the weekend. On a work morning, all it takes is a few quick swipes with the brush, and done! On the same note, I almost never take a morning shower. Even during the summer when I can use a shower more frequently, I’ll usually do that¬†in the evening as soon as I get in from the evening.

This leaves plenty of time in those ten minutes to use the bathroom, brush my teeth if I want, check emails or the weather forecast, etc.

When it’s time to go I’ll give my husband a kiss goodbye. He’s still in bed¬†when I leave the house (great for me because it means uninterrupted access to the bathroom).

Finally, I grab my backpack, wallet, keys, phone, and lunch bag or snacks if I have anything prepared.¬†And that’s it. I’m out the door and can read or listen to music during the short bus ride to work. It’s a super-low-stress way to start my day and incredibly freeing. My only complaint is not learning about this sooner.

The Garden in March

There have already been several days in the 80s this year, so you know it’ll be just moments before the unbearable heat of summer hits us here in central Texas. March may be the best time to be out in the garden, so here’s a quick pictorial of what’s in my Austin backyard garden right now. Apologies for an exceptional amount of blur on some of the photos. The mosquitoes are already out, and I had to keep moving to keep them away.

Veggies

Some of the swiss chard that I planted a month ago in unamended soil has finally sprouted. We’ll see how well that grows.

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Swiss chard has finally sprouted

One of my coworkers shared some extra beans. I soaked them overnight before planting and they started sprouting within a few days. Beans seem to grow so well¬†here in Austin, and I’m looking forward to getting my cowpeas in the ground soon.

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Purple garden beans

A couple more spinach plants are starting to come up. These have grown way more slowly than I expected, though, and I’ve only had a few leaves most weeks. Next year I’ll try planting more.

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Spinach

The garlic looks pretty healthy. I have about 20 of these scattered around the garden.

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Garlic

Radishes haven’t turned out that great for me previously, so I’ve gotten lazy recently and just scattered seed on top of the soil. Still, there are some nice little plants forming which I can either use for radish greens or let them go to seed. I read you need quite a few radish plants for them to be pollinated correctly, so I may just let the radish bunches all go to seed.

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Radishes coming in

The one broccoli plant that grew has already bolted without producing any florets.¬†Next season I’ll try collard greens instead since I’ve seen those grow well in other gardens in the area.

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Broccoli in bloom

You can just make the edges of carrot fronds in these pics. The number is really disappointing considering I scattered three packets of carrot seeds this year. Next season will require some strategy because I love carrots.

I only have a handful of onion plants that grew from seed (planted in October), but¬†I have confidence that these are the toughest ones and they’ll grow into delicious onions.

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An onion grown from seed

Most of the onion transplants that I bought last month are doing alright. This picture is from a few days ago. I actually did weed and mulch a bit around them today. I just hope the rain stops knocking them over before they can put out some better roots.

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Onion transplants

The fava beans have grown tall and have sweet¬†white flowers on them. They’ve been covered with unidentified tiny dark insects much of the time, but then ladybugs came and enjoyed chowing down so I left them as is.

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Fava bean plant

The cilantro is doing well. If I actually liked cilantro (it tastes like soap!) I’d be using it already, unlike almost everything else in the garden.¬†I will pick a bit for my husband to enjoy, but really I’m growing it for the (coriander) seeds which is great seasoning for soups, pasta sauce, and many other things.

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Cilantro

Also of note is the garlic chives, which didn’t grow anywhere I planted them in my garden but¬†did grow from the few seeds I scattered in the side yard by the creek. If they survive until the fall, I’ll transplant a few for convenience.

Also not pictured is the cherry tomato plant–the one tomato plant I grew that hasn’t¬†died on me while still¬†a seedling. The plant is still fairly small though, and the tomato I took the seeds from was possibly a hybrid so there’s no telling how it will produce.

Indoors the only plants alive at the moment are a couple of eggplant sprouts, a couple of bell pepper sprouts, and a few tomato sprouts that just this afternoon poked up from the dirt.

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Eggplant

I’m tired of seeing seedlings die but may get some more Roma tomato seeds anyway as I really want to make and freeze some more tomato paste this year.

Perennials

The Mexican Mint Marigold is coming back to life after its winter slumber. This area also got the weeding and mulching treatment today so it looks a bit better than this now.

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Mexican Mint Marigold

The Mexican Honeysuckle looks almost exactly like it looked when I planted it a month ago. I was hoping it would grow into a small shrub. Maybe as the weather continues to get warmer.

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Mexican honeysuckle

 

Not pictured are the spearmint, a couple of rosemary plants, oregano, a couple of salvias, and a lavender. My trials of santolini, dichondra, and sedum also aren’t pictured because they still look exactly like they did when planted recently. Grow, plants, grow, come on!

In sad news, the lemon balm¬†didn’t survive my attempt to keep it as a houseplant. The chile pequin and lemon verbena which I planted late last year also appear not to have survived the winter, but I’ll keep checking.

The esperanza that I recently bought and planted is also not yet showing signs of life, while other estabilished esperanza plants in the neighborhood have. Hoping mine is just still putting down roots and will give some green soon.

Trees

This year has been a big one for fruit trees. I’ve acquired a persimmon tree, which is still dormant and still looks like just a stick in the ground, but persimmons are known to require some patience.

I transplanted my two-year-old Meyer lemon also. Some of the leaves are starting to yellow, but that’s either due to too much rain or not enough of specific nutrients that I can’t feed it with well while it’s getting so much rain. It had better hang in there until the dry season starts so I can give it more targeted attention.

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Meyer lemon tree

If that fails, I have another baby Meyer lemon tree inside that just needs a bit more time to grow big and strong .

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Baby Meyer lemon tree

The satsuma mandarin has the same yellowing leaves as the Meyer lemon. But it’s a survivor, I can feel it.

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Satsuma mandarin tree

Finally, there’s the fig tree which is the most promising so far.

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Fig tree, already leafing out since I brought it home a few weeks ago

In less fruity news, there are also four baby Texas Mountain Laurel trees growing strongly in the front yard.¬†Although just a couple of inches high now, they’ll keep growing slowly and in a couple of¬†years become beautiful little shrubs. And someday, graceful small trees.

Bonus

As a final bonus, we just discovered these growing in the side yard by the creek. From showing this pic around to coworkers, it sounds like they may be daffodils! They’re doing so well on their own that I’ll just let them be for a while longer.

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Daffodils?

Bonus #2

But¬†what’s this growing in a neglected part of the yard? Ugh, I don’t know how I can ever get rid of all this stuff.

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Poison ivy and Virginia creeper

Things I bought in February

I managed to stay away from the thrift shops all of February, so this shouldn’t be as long a list as last month.

However, one of the things I noticed was that last month I was eating out regularly — three or even four times a week. It’s hard to resist. Therefore, I’m giving up eating out for lent. All the food I purchase will be basics (maybe a jar or two of spaghetti sauce in there though), and I’ll be doing more cooking next month. That should get me back on the right track.

Plants

My plant-buying spree continued this month–a couple of fruit trees, some onion transplants, and a handful of small (perennial) plants to experiment with and see what grows well/easily here (I’m hoping for some of these to expand quite a bit). Fortunately, it’s already getting fairly warm out, with highs frequently in the 80s, so from this point out it’s mostly about keeping these alive. No more plant spurges until fall.

  • Fig tree, Texas Everlasting
  • Autumn Sage
  • Onion transplants
  • Mexican honeysuckle
  • Satsuma mandarin tree
  • Santolini
  • Dichondra
  • Sedum
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Fig tree, already leafing out since I brought it home a few weeks ago

Not New Stuff

Toward the end of the month, I stopped at the Really, Really Free Market again to drop off a few items and scored some great finds.

  • Shirt – I’m slowly refining my style, replacing one shirt at a time.
  • Pair of jeans – Not needed yet, but I’ll stash these as a backup pair. They’ll need hemming before I wear them anyhow.
  • Couple of bras – This is the first time I’ve found a bra secondhand which actually fits well, and there were two of them. So excited! Don’t worry, I did wash them.
  • Lentils & spices – Another rare find. Someone apparently cleaned out their panty, and I grabbed what I expected to use. Very glad to get some marjoram as I’m out of oregano, and marjoram will do in a pinch.
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Lentils and spices from the RRFM

New Stuff

  • Kitchen lights –¬†These are the long tubes and I’d like to switch to smaller LED lights at some point but that can wait a while longer
  • Bar soap
  • Toilet paper
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One of the two dead lights replaced in the kitchen

Things I didn’t buy

  • A new mailbox – Early in the month ours was hit by a car and it doesn’t quite close properly anymore. But after being re-erected, it’s functioning well enough.
  • Mulch – I can always use more mulch, but I stole a couple of leaf bags and an xmas tree left on the curb on lawn-waste pickup day. We’re rich with organic matter now.
  • Even more plants – Yes, I¬†could have gone much further.
  • A new umbrella – I left my umbrella one day and got rained on slightly. It wasn’t horrible.
  • Shampoo – I’ve been doing water-only hair washing for several months now and am never going back.

Wishlist

There are a few new items on the wishlist. I may be hitting the thrift stores in March for those first two.

  • Rain boots or other tall sturdy boots for gardening by the creek, now that the poison ivy is starting to spring¬†back to life.
  • Mini-blinds for the dining room window, for more privacy than the current curtains offer. (We’re right on street with high pedestrian traffic to look in.)
  • Fresh¬†tomato seeds if I keep killing off my tomato attempts ūüė¶
  • New tub? I don’t know who invented these cheap plastic tub-like shells. Not sure if this one can be saved.
  • Bricks/pavers – This one is difficult to score second-hand without a car, but I’ve been very slowly collecting the rogue abandoned brick for the garden and would like to pick up the pace a bit.