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Gardening Update 09.05.2020

Gardening Update 09.05.2020

As the nights get cooler and the days shorter our summer 2020 garden is winding down for fall. This summer our vegetable garden stepped up a notch and I planted way more than previous years. We also had a huge pest problem with rodents, ants, […]

Gardening Update 6.14.2020

Gardening Update 6.14.2020

This year is the first one in a while I have been excited about my garden. Working from home for the past few months due to the Corona virus has greatly reduced my commute time from 3-4 hours a day to nothing and this means […]

Walla Walla for a Kid Friendly Wine Weekend

Walla Walla for a Kid Friendly Wine Weekend

Last April we took a road trip to Walla Walla, Washington for a kid-friendly attempt at doing a bit of Wine Weekend. We have been saying for many years that we would love to go to Walla Walla to pick up wine and this year due to our Declaration of More Family Travel we just went ahead and did it. We left on a Saturday and came back Monday afternoon and it was quite a bit of driving but our kids did pretty well.

 

McNary Wildlife Refuge Bird Blind

Our kids are pretty little still and there is not a whole lot to do in Walla Walla so I did a bunch of research and came up with a few frugal family friendly activities as well as made sure to book a hotel with a pool.  We had such a great time swimming in the hotel pool (which we had all to ourselves by the way) that booking a hotel with a pool is now a requirement on family vacations. It was really easy to just pop down to the pool for a quick 30 min swim after dinner before heading back to our room for movie night and the swimming tired the kids out enough that they slept very well in strange beds. I highly recommend it!

 

Our main activity for Sunday morning was hiking the loop around the McNary Wildlife Refuge. The loop is about 2 miles long and includes a bird blind, many interpretive signs and several benches to rest on. There is an environmental education center at the refuge but it was not open when we were there although we did read many of the signs and learn a lot about the wildlife and plants that are in Eastern Washington.

 

Red-Winged Blackbird
Red-Winged blackbirds were singing everywhere.

We took a couple of hours to hike the loop around the ponds because we stopped very often to look at the many birds that were there. The kids learned a lot about what birds live in Eastern Washington, what the seasons were and how local farmers were helping feed wildlife in the winter. It was their first time in Eastern Washington so we also talked a lot about how different it was on the other side of the mountains. The little one was probably to small for a lot of this but it is really important to me that my kids appreciate nature from an early age. My parents took us out on hikes and to different areas of Washington when we were kids and I still remember a lot of what they taught us. I am also a firm believer in giving kids full, more “grown up” explanations to any questions kids ask about their world around them whenever possible. We rarely tell our kids they are too young to understand something and I am always surprised at how much they remember months or even years later.

 

 

For lunch we went to a BBQ place that Mr. Oscoey wanted to try called Porter’s Real BBQ.  The food was really good! We were all hungry from our hike and the kids took a nap when we got back to the hotel. I am strictly gluten-free and was a little bit worried about finding places to eat since it is such a small town but we had pretty good luck. We also went to Red Robin for dinner the evening before and our hotel had free breakfast which included many gluten-free choices (even muffins!) so my worries were pretty unfounded and there was plenty to eat.

 

Columbia River Gorge

We had a swimming lesson that Monday night we had to get back for so on Monday morning we went for a quick early swim and headed back towards Seattle. I wanted to stop at the Ginko Petrified Forest in Vantage on the way back and do a little bit of hiking.  Unfortunately the weather was super cold and windy and everyone was tired so we walked around the visitor center a little bit and headed back.

 

Petrified log
Petrified log.

The kids were mildly impressed with the many petrified logs lying around and we tried reading the signs so they would learn at least a little bit but everyone was tired and just wanted to get back in the car since it was so cold. I definitely want to go back when it is warmer out and the visitor center is open. Since Vantage is so close to Seattle it would be an easy day trip to head back out there again and do some hiking. There are some fairly level hikes in the area that I think the kids could do at least part of and next time we head out we will try one.

 

Petroglyphs on the rocks.

One of the coolest things about our stop was looking at the Petroglyphs that were all around the visitor center. The kids really liked looking at them and we talked about how they got there and how old they were. Before we head back there we should probably check out some books on petroglyphs from the library or maybe do some online research. I love the idea of learning as much as you can about local history and visiting the places in person makes it so much more real for kids.

 

Columbia River
View of the Columbia River

We had a great time on our trip to Walla Walla! We definitely need to head back to Eastern Washington again sometime to visit when the season is a little bit different. It might be cool to visit four times a year and create a nature journal or something like that where the kids do drawings and write about what they see. We could then compare it to previous visits and notice how things change with the seasons but I am getting a little bit ahead of myself since only one of them is able to write a little.

 

What local places have you visited with your family?

 

I don’t have any affiliations with any of the places listed below, they are just where we ended up visiting and had a great time.

 

In case you go:

 

McNary Wildlife Refuge

 

Ginko Petrified Forest

 

Porter’s Real BBQ

Our Not-So-Frugal San Francisco Trip February 2019

Our Not-So-Frugal San Francisco Trip February 2019

Mr. Oscoey and I have always loved San Francisco. We went there once many years ago by ourselves for a whirlwind 18 hour trip and had always wanted to go back but never found the time or money. Last fall (while I was laid off […]

A Declaration of More Family Travel

A Declaration of More Family Travel

Travelling has always been something that we have wanted to do as a family but we have never actually done much of. Before we had the youngest we took 2-4 small trips a year spread between Oregon, the Washington Coast and Vancouver, BC for a […]

Garden Update 06.08.19

Garden Update 06.08.19

It has been a while since I have done a gardening update so I though I would take a few pictures and talk a little bit about them. Our family has been super busy with travel, kids, work and the frequent birthday parties that happen this time of year so not much gardening has been going on. I have made an effort to do some weeding and mulch some areas of the garden but time is limited and the garden is still rough around more than a few edges.

 

Faded Peony

Our Peonies came up beautifully this year. They seem to be recovering from their accidental stomping the first spring we lived in our house. We bought our house in the fall and a large number of dormant plants popped up during our first spring that we had no idea were there. This particular plant was stepped on as it first started emerging while we were digging our asparagus beds. Last year it had one blossom and this year there are several which are very beautiful! We have two Peony plants and honestly even the second year one of them was so damaged I didn’t really see it until much later in the season. Strangely one only one of our Peonies is blooming and almost done. The other has several blooms ready to pop, and even the bees are trying to get inside but they have not opened yet and it has been a couple of weeks. It is pretty interesting how these plants are probably about 20 feet away from each other but they each have their own micro climate and are blooming at different times.

 

Strawberries

Our strawberries are coming along nicely. We planted one of these Alpine Strawberries we inherited from the neighbors a couple of years ago and now we have several plants along with many, many June bearing plants that have all taken over one area of our garden. These tiny tart strawberries were our son’s favorite last year and the only fresh fruit he would eat. So far this year he has not been as interested but hopefully he will come around eventually!

 

Gigantic bush with white flowers.

Our gigantic bush that shades our front door is blooming beautifully this year. In the afternoons it is buzzing with the hum of dozens of bees.

 

 

I finally got around to planting annuals in our gigantic pot. It is really heavy and under the cover of the roof so every year I plant annuals in it since watering can be tricky. I also filled most of the pot up with Plastic milk bottles before I added soil to cut down on the soil used and to keep the pot from getting too heavy.

 

 

We did official fairy gardens this year for both kids. My daughter had only a couple of hens and chicks left in her pot and some of her fairies were broken so we added a couple more to her pot, some more hens and chicks (a girl after my own heart) and some annuals. I like to do annuals in the kids’ fairy gardens because they love choosing plants every year. Since we use smallish pots there isn’t a lot of room but it is nice for the kids to have a little piece of their own gardens.

 

 

My son got to make his own fairy garden this year. He was too young the first year and last year we never got around to it so he was very excited. He picked out mostly pink and red flowers and they look really good. He also picked the red gnome because he looked like Santa Clause which was really cute.

 

 

I bought some vegetables for the kids to plant as well. They picked out some squash, snow peas and cantaloupe which is tricky to grow in the PNW. I fully intended to plant them immediately but when I got home I discovered that my garden beds are missing quite a bit of dirt and are at best half way full. I am going to get more soil this weekend so I can get these in the ground before I forget.

 

 

I should probably show you a few of my weeds that popped up despite the mulch I laid down. Next fall my goal is to lay down cardboard and mulch and try to keep the weeds in check for next year.

 

 

Most of the gardening I have gotten to has been in the front yard. This picture is of my side yard…there is supposed to be a path through there but clearly it is super tiny and mostly non-existent. This area was way over planted by the previous owners and is prone to weeds, despite mulching and regular weeding. I have taken out about half the plants but everything that is there overcrowds. At some point I will probably take out everything on the right hand side but I am hesitant since a lot of those plants bloom later in the year and they feed our resident hummingbirds and healthy bee population.

 

Despite my lack of time to garden ours is flourishing. How is your garden going this year?

 

The Importance of Walking in the Wood With Kids

The Importance of Walking in the Wood With Kids

Since being laid off I have been trying to spend time with family and friends. My Dad is nearing retirement and has some free time as well so I have been trying to get the kids out to see him on the family property out […]

Pumpkin Farms and Pumpkin Carving!

Pumpkin Farms and Pumpkin Carving!

In honor of Halloween I thought I would post some pictures from our pumpkin farm visit and pumpkin carving extravaganza. We have been going to the pumpkin farm with the same group of friends for the last five years and our kids love this tradition! […]

Indoor Seed Starting Resources

Indoor Seed Starting Resources

Indoor Seed Starting Time

 

It is that time of year again when I start to think about what seeds I need to start indoors. This is our third year gardening at our house and the second year for us starting seeds indoors. Last year we started tomatoes, ground cherries, spaghetti squash, sunflowers, cucumbers, zucchini, louffa, gourds, pumpkins and watermelons. Our biggest successes were our squash plants and the beans we direct sowed into the ground. This year we have decided to just buy our tomatoes and ground cherries from the store since we put a lot of effort into growing not so healthy plants last year.

 

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Seed Starting Indoors
Seed Starts 2017

 

Seed Starting Basics

 

When starting seeds indoors there are some basic rules and tools you will need. First off you need seeds (of course), pots, a shovel, soil and a grow light. There are many different types of pots you can use from plastic cups to toilet paper rolls and when you are first starting out it is best to try out a couple of different kinds and see what works best for you. Last year we used red plastic solo cups since we had a bunch lying around but ultimately biodegradable pots such as these here are better for the environment. You can also buy one of these seed starting kits to use as well:

 

Some people also use warming mats but we start our seeds inside the laundry/furnace room which is very warm and we haven’t needed a warming mat. Our grow lights also came from Amazon and you can find many different types that work but we bought one very similar to this one:

 

We buy our soil from Costco and mix it with this seed starting mix. Our seeds come from a mish mash of places. This year we have a bunch left over from previous years, seeds I saved from our vegetables and some an easy grow seed set from my mother-in-law for Christmas that has a few varieties that we were missing but if I were to order seeds I would from Seed Savers Exchange. They have a mission to grow heirloom varieties and have a program in place to help their members propagate and grow rare varieties of seeds to preserve plants that might otherwise be lost. I am a huge fan of them and my favorite time of year is when their catalog comes in the mail. It gets me super excited for spring!

 

The basic rules for starting seeds indoors are to:

  1. Start them at the right time according to the package (You can find your first frost date here)
  2. Make sure they are getting the right amount of warmth and light according to the package
  3. Water from below to prevent mildew forming on the leaves
  4. Don’t forget about them until they are root bound (I may have some experience with this)
  5. Harden your seedlings off gradually outdoors before planting in the ground
  6. Be gentle when transplanting them to avoid damaging the roots.

 

Seed starting is a skill that takes practice so don’t be discouraged if your first few tries are not successful! Even expert gardeners have trouble with particular batches of seeds or if the weather decides not to cooperate! I am a firm believer in practicing something until you figure out a way to make it work so my best advice for starting out is to pick a few easy to start plants such as zucchini, pumpkins, lettuce, radishes or peas and see if they work. You can always go to the garden store later to grab a few pre-started plants if you seeds don’t work out.

 

seed starts
Seed starts in the garden

 

Here are some excellent resources for your seed starting adventures!

 

Homestead Bloggers Seed Starting Resource Page

A large list of seed starting resources.

 

The Rustic Elk “8 Vegetables you Should Start Indoors”

This is a great list of vegetables that do well when started indoors and tips for growing them.

 

Dans Bois “Indoor Seed Starting Setup”

This is a great how-to for setting up your lighting system to maximize seed health.

 

Farm Fit Living “Tips for Growing Vegetable Transplants from Seed”

A great article breaking down into detail how to start your seeds.

 

Feathers in the Woods “How to Pre-germinate Seeds”

A great piece about how to pre-germinate your seeds prior to planting them for optimal health.

 

Gardening Advice.net “Tips for Starting Gardening Seeds”

This article talks about the different ways to start your seeds.

 

Better Hens and Gardens “Homemade Seed Starting Soil Mixes”

Thinking of mixing you own soil? This is a great resource.

 

Farming my Backyard “How to Make Newspaper Pots and Save Money Starting Seeds”

Use these instructions to make eco-friendly newspaper pots to start your seeds in.

 

The Reid Homestead “A Complete List of all the Seed Starting Equipment you Need to Successfully Plant Seeds Indoors” 

A comprehensive list of what you will need for seed starting.

 

Exotic Gardening “Tomato Seed Starting Tips” 

How to start tomatoes successfully.

 

Uber Frugal Month January 2018 Wrap Up!

Uber Frugal Month January 2018 Wrap Up!

We have come to the end of our Uber Frugal Month Challenge and we were pretty successful! We kept to our super low grocery budget, were mindful about our purchases and had some great discussions about where we want our life to head and what […]