Thursday, December 31, 2009

Okay, 2010 here I come

It is the 31st of December. Final decisions about what the new year should be focused on have to happen today, in the next 11 hours in fact.

1. Find a new permanent job.
2. Increase and improve my food production.
3. Find ways to make money at home.
4. Improve water reclamation system.
5. Learn a great deal more about solar power and ways to use it.
6. Increase my knowledge of webpages and their administration.
7. Have a party.
8. Clear out significantly more clutter.
9. Convert the dining room into the office and the den into seed production and breakfast area.
10. Learn, learn, learn!

Things to do on this holiday weekend to get the ball rolling.
1. Put the new vegetable bed in the front yard, and fill it with hay and compost.
2. Work out cost and pricing for some of the 'make money at home ideas'.
3. Go to that 'Harbor Freight' store that has all the solar stuff.
4. Move the desk into the dining room and the dining room table into the den.
5. Clear out more clutter.
6. Laundry...more of a weekly resolution, than a yearly one ;o)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

It's a little early for resolutions, but...

I usually refrain from making New Year's Resolutions, but this year they keep coming to mind. I haven't got anything major that I want to change and maybe that is what makes the resolution seem like a reasonable idea. The 'I will lose 50 lbs by March' sort of resolution seemed so fraught with looming failure I never wanted to go there. This year tho' I don't have a huge amount of things and need changing, just improving and improving it natural and part of the forward motion of things.

In the year 2010 I would like to find a permanent job. I have various things that I would like to have in that job, but they are various and do not all have to be met in the same job for me to consider finding a job successful. I am currently doing temp work in a hospital. I have never worked in a hospital before, so I had no idea how much I would like it. The work is important and the importance is brought home to me every time I type the words "oncology" or "labor and delivery". I would like to work nearer my home, but if I end up in a hospital not so near home then at least my need for feeling that my work is important to people is met. I would like to work near my house to allow me more time to work on my self sustainability and if that kind of opportunity comes along then I will meet more of my household goals and that is good, too.

I want to expand my vegetable garden, the plans for this resolution are already in the works. I have priced the wood for my raised beds and for the organic soil that I will need to buy to fill them. I want to improve my green house in a couple of ways. I would like to increase the amount of gravel on the dirt floor, I would like to add more structure for hanging plants over the winter, I have ideas to increase the weatherproofing/heat keeping properties of the structure, I would like to put together additional candle heaters, and finally I would like to build shelves for seedlings. (just a few resolutions for the greenhouse)

Water! I want to increase the rain gutters on my house to add to the water collection that I do for the garden. This includes a gutter along the west exterior to collect in or next to the greenhouse, and a gutter along the south exterior to collect at the southeast corner of the house for the shade garden. There are alot of improvements that can be made to the collection system that I already have around the shed as well. I need to put a leaf blocker over the gutters to prevent the buildup of gunk. The drums that I have need to have spouts connected to them so that I can connect them to a hose.

Chickens! I need to dig out the chicken coop, that is valuable guano and it needs to be placed in the compost pile. I would like to come up with a better way to feed and water the chickens and I think that they are out there I just need to find them. I need to work on weatherproofing the actually coop as well to prevent rain getting in when a serious storm occurs.

The Shed! Man this needs so much work I cannot even imagine it all. Number one is just cleaning it out. I don't even remember what is in there. Then it needs to be reorganized in some way that makes sense. I do not have any idea what that way might be yet.

The Garage! It is coming along, but still needs work. More things need to be removed and then...maybe insulate it a little bit and then put up peg board. Too much to know right now I will wait for inspiration on this one.

The Den! I am constantly re-inventing this room. Right now it is the dogs room, the VCR/DVD room, the Barbie doll room, the knitting room and the seedling room, oh and the office. It must remain the dogs room, and I would like it to remain the seedling room, but every thing else if up for grabs. In fact it would not hurt my feelings to turn the dining room into the office and the dogs room into a breakfast room of sorts. This idea appeals to me. Since I generally watch TV programs on the computer and use the TV to watch DVDs which I actually do from the kitchen or while really sitting on the sofa and concentrating on what I am watching. (This happens very rarely.) This means that the dining room becomes the office and that would require a little redesign for electronics purposes, but it has potential. :0)

I think that there are enough resolutions for the entire year of 2010 at Powell Cottage.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Getting the Stuff Out

Wednesday night, I went to my den and living room and looked for 5 things from each room to give to the Kidney Foundation Drive. I did find 10 things. I found about 15. This was basically unplanned clearing of stuff that worked better than expected. I do not know where this will lead, but I am very happy about the direction.

The winter months are a little more difficult for me because of my lack of central heat. I am working on baking more which actually keeps the kitchen warmer which in turn keeps it cleaner, cuz I will stay there longer. The bedroom is just fine and the space heater in the den is good and I have the new space heater in the bathroom which is good as well. The closet room feels like a deep freeze, but that's okay with me.

I am working on using my space more effectively. This is very difficult for me for some reason. It goes along with my difficulty of finding a home for everything. Both of these things motivate me to move forward in may getting rid of stuff. My wish is that once a lot of this stuff is gone, homes will spring into view for the remaining items.

I find that I can clean out an area, drawer or pantry and then a few weeks later clean it out again. On the second go round I suddenly see new things that I no longer need. These things were there the first time, but for some reason my subconcious can deal with reducing only so much stuff at a time. It's okay. It's slow going, but it is going and that is for the good.

I went over to help a friend clean up her stuff a few weeks ago. She had gotten to that "can't see the floor" place in her bedroom. We worked for two days and, yes, the carpet was still there. Basically this was a "home for everything" issue, with some junk mail and store receipts thrown in. I was in such empathy with her tho. It seems like life is so full and the time to decide where everything should go is overlooked and then it just snowballs. I do it, I do it all the time. At one point she said that she should be embarrassed by me seeing her mess, but she wasn't (good to have friends like this) and I told her that if she started feeling embarrassed then we could just go to my house and do the same thing in my places where the hurricane hits and she would feel all better.

My 2010 goal will be to remove "places of the hurricane" from my house. I almost have this accomplished, but there are always set backs and I want 2010 to be the year the "set backs" are set back, here at Powell Cottage.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Today a hawk landed on my dead tree. It was amazing. I was washing dishes and I looked out the window and thought, 'man that is a large bird'. Then I grabbed my binoculars (which I keep by the sink for this very opportunity) and I checked it out. I grabbed my camera and walked slowly towards the already open back door! Snap! I had proof. Now I don't know why this hawk landed in my yard, it was only about 10 feet from the chicken coop, but that is completely enclosed so no fear for the hens. The hawk did jump over to my brush pile and check it out, but mice in the middle of the day - I don't think so. Maybe lizards. It flew away and then came back again. I keep that dead tree for wildlife purposes and it just made my day!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

When I arrived here at Powell Cottage, nearly 20 years ago now, it was late December 1990. The grass was brown the trees were bare, and the stone cottage that I fell in love with was trimmed in a harsh brown against white clapboards and beigy/yellow stone. I knew at once that the dark brown had to go. I spent time picking out the paint colors so that the house would be softer to the eye and not outlined as if in a coloring book for children. I changed the brown to a medium taupe and the white to a light taupe and that was the beginning of my influence at Powell Cottage.

The front yard had only one tree. It was a about 4 feet tall and as it was Winter it was leafless. In the Spring I discovered that it was a Maple. It was on left of center in the yard as you looked at it from the street. I had no preconceived ideas about trees at that time so I thought that I would just let it grow. In the backyard there was one Pecan tree at the center and very back of the yard. It was relative large and the only large tree on the entire 1/4 acre. There were several old and spindly peach trees scattered about the yard, but they wouldn't last much longer so I didn't give them much thought.

Twenty years later I look back at it and I do not know when each change took place. It is an organic process in every way. I would always be an organic gardener and the creation of the gardens of Powell Cottage would be organic as well. I was moving towards sustainability, maybe even permaculture back then and I had not even heard the terms. When left to our own devices I believe that most of us will move in that direction. You might even call it laziness. The natural happens. If you could find a way to take care of yourself and your family without needing to keep up in a capitalist society then I think that the ways to do that naturally are in fact the easiest. As I sit here the back door is open I have one ceiling fan whirling above me imitating the outdoor breeze. I am easily more comfortable than when I am in the same temperature brought about by air conditioning or heating.

Back to the Maple tree. I let it grow for a year or two longer. It never seemed to get any larger. Then one evening I got a wild hair and decided to move it to the back yard. Now, I cannot remember what made me do this. I worked for a very long time digging the hole around the tree deep enough to encompass the roots as best I could. I remember that it was dark when I finally pulled it from the hole leaving some roots behind and I recall. It was dark and I truly don't remember how I stored it for the night, but I did plant it the next day in the back yard and now it is over 15 feet high.

That tree if over 15 feet tall now, and even after all of that trouble, this tree will be coming down soon. As my Pecan tree continued to grow and two of the neighbors Oak trees have grown as well the Maple is scrawny and branches out in a weird distortion of Maple growth just to get to the sun. That was however my first foray into transplanting success. Moving that tree less than 100 feet changed something and it began to grow at a much quicker rate.

That first transplanting success is one of the things that keeps me going here at Powell Cottage.

Friday, May 8, 2009

And The Fun Begins!

May 7, 2009
Okay -- Inspired by simple mom 's Spring Cleaning Party I am going to join in with some caveats. I work full time so my spring cleaning will be spread over weekend days. I will post before and after pictures even tho' the "befores" will humiliate me. It's tough for me on the cleaning and organizing front, as I have stated before.

One of the concepts that I have a problem with is the "everything should have a home" concept. It's not that I don't believe in it, nor is is that I don't agree with it. It's that it has taken me at least 4 books on organizing and many websites worth of reading and podcasts worth of listening to even hear the term OUTLOUD in my head (if you know what I mean). One day very recently I said to myself --- OH! Wait! You don't just mean what room should it go in or how do I sue this item, but in what actual drawer or on what actual shelf does this particular item should this item always be found and returned to! A place that if I went so far as to print a label and stick it to that particular spot, in six months not only would I probably find the item there, but I would still agree that it belongs in that chosen location. Ooooohhhh!


This has opened up some thoughts for me. The decluttering has been working somewhat, but the step further to determining -- why what is left is where it is and should it be there -- is a much bigger deal. I have just started working on that part of the picture and man I have a lot of work to do along those lines. A lot of thoughts to process, first I have got to clear out spaces in my brain for all of the "no kidding" comments that I am anticipating to be stored. Augh!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Little Success


My garden is going very well. I planted 3 kinds of peas: English, Snap and Snow. All of them are producing excellently. I planted them in early January even tho' all the information I read said to plant them on Feb 1st. I am glad I was too impatient to wait.

My tomato seeds -- all heritage -- also have done really well. I have 18 tomato plants in the ground. 16 of which I grew from seeds. The other two I bought at the March Dallas Organic Garden Club meeting.

My tomato varieties are as follows: Russion Black Krim (from the DOGC mtg), Beefsteak, Yellow Pear, Sweetie Cherry, and Brandywine. All are doing great. In fact last night I got the soaker hose in place, so all that is left is for me to feed them -- then they can feed me.

My Brussel Sprouts look suspiciously like 2 - Brussel Sprouts and 2 - others (?), to early to tell for sure, but I am thinking maybe brocoli or cauliflower. Lettuce is going great as are my potatoes. My potato tower is 3ft high now.

I got two new chicks. They are Heidi and Helen. Heidi is a Buff Orpington and Helen is a Silver Laced-Winged Wyandotte. The are nearly completely feathered now and have been making daily treks (on the weekends) out to the yard. I have them in a pen so that the other three: Hester, Hilda, and Hazel can get used to them.

The worms are doing fine, but wormeries are a little slower going than I had realized. Other than a few ounces of worm tea, the wormery still hasn't earned it's keep, but I have high hopes. And, the worm tea did go on the peas which are doing great soooo.....

I have decided against rabbits. Rabbit poo that could immediately go into the garden would be great, but I have old chicken poo to use in it's stead. They are not necessary and would be an added expense so frugality wins.

The swimming pool for the duckweed is cancelled for the time being. I haven't quite figured out the right spot for it.

Guppies are needed for the pond and a new air pump. Sounds like an expense for a future paycheck.

No knitting going on -- it's gardening time!

Cutting electricity -- I need to work on this goal. I have just read about a very interesting power strip on sale thru my electric company. It notices when your computer goes to sleep and it turns off your peripherals automatically.

My water bill should improve this year. I have completed the guttering around the garden shed and I currently have 2-30gal drums piped together collecting rain water. This is in addition to the 20gal drum by the front porch. This is just the beginning of the rain catchment system planed for this place and I have already noticed some improvements that I need to make before the entire 6 drum system will be working in unison.

Cooking outdoors -- I've done nothing to further this goal except buy a sun tea jar. It is in my thoughts though and the BBQ already exists so it's really the solar oven than I am pondering. I have done some research. It's a project for the future.

Couponing is a real boon for me! I have cut my spending by 40% I bet, and I have built a bit of a stockpile. I am feeling really good about that.

My short falls are in decluttering and cleaning. I donated two boxes full of items to the church garage sale, but that truly doesn't begin to make a dent. And the cleaning,'s still in a desparate state. Obviously I am not giving these aspects of my life improvement enough emphasis - since they are not even in my headline. That will have to change.

I still have a goal of having my garden on the DOGC garden tour in 2010. Hope my house will be clean enough by then so that people can come in a use the bathroom if they need to.

I still panic occasionally about keeping all of the balls in the air, but when I write it all down it looks like I am making some progress here at Powell Cottage.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

It's Time for the Fog to Clear

Assuming that I have 15 years to live, what do I want to do with them? What impact do I want to make, or for that matter not make?

I want to live lightly on this world, but I also want this world to live lightly on me. I don't want the weight of the world to be on my shoulders. I can't carry it. I would happily help someone or many people who are in difficulty carry their weight as well, but that is all. I cannot provide a solution for the world. I can only provide solutions for myself and by example for others.

Enough philosophising! What are my intentions to make this happen - to carry my own weight. Organic gardening, animals with use, bees, water, wildlife, knitting, low environmental impact, frugal living, learning - constant, continual learning.

How am I faring so far? My garden is organic and begun for the year. Most everything started from seed. Organic and frugal! I have 3 chickens about to become 5, eggs and manure make them useful. 2 cats - no use whatsoever, but I am committed to them until they pass. 5 - Cocker Spaniels - no use again, but they are my family and they keep me sane. Worms - working away in their wormery - very useful. Bees! Not here yet but I am determined. There will be bees in my life in the next year or so. Rabbits are next on the list, I am not sure that they are necessary, but they might be fun. :-)

I have a pond in two sections the larger is for the dogs to swim in and the smaller holds the water lily and the pump. I am about to add a small swimming pool to the mix to grow duck weed and provide more water for my backyard habitat. Oh, and guppies would need to be added for mosquito control.

Wildlife is just for fun and entertainment, but necessary!

Knitting is for me and my warmth needs, and for gifts, and for decoration, just general homespun work.

I have already cut out my natural gas for home heating bill, and it wasn't nearly as difficult nor as cold as I thought it would be. Amazingly it also wasn't very expensive. My heating only the portion of the house that I lived in with electric heat didn't raise my electricity bill very much at all.

Next is moving my cooking to outdoors. That will include my BBQ, and definitely a solar oven, but it may also include some other kind of oven. I am not there yet though. If at any point in time I get a new job closer to home that would cut my gasoline consumption, too. My water catchment system is coming along. Last weekend I bought 6 containers to hold the water. This weekend I need to build up the places to raise the containers off the ground and to gutter the house to get the water to the containers. It's a process. :-)

Couponing is a whole new world for me. I knew that this world existed. I just didn't have the knowledge about how to use it. I am gaining that knowledge with the help of the internet and things are looking very promising on that front.

This is part of the learning. I guess that means that I am doing pretty good on carrying my own load, but I don't feel that I am doing very good on being an example. That is the next big area to explore.

Living the full life here at Powell Cottage.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Oh My Goodness Remember This When Canning

It is about 18 hours since I last threw up. Not a very appetizing beginning I know, but I am writing about it to remind myself about how careful I will need to be when I start canning. I did this to myself, but I think it was the chinese lunch from the day before yesterday that infected me. I am just now able to concentrate long enough to even get on the computer. Yesterday, I just got sick and then slept and got sick and slept from 4am until 10pm. I had one worse experience with food posioning than this one about 10 years ago. I slept on the bathroom floor during that lovely event - for two days. Well, that's all the concentration that I have in me. By the way the new computer is here and it's great! Hope your healthy, from Powell Cottage.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

This weekend was particularly productive at Powell Cottage. I planted peas, and onion sets, and seed potatoes, and tomatoes, and peppers, and beets, and radishes, and spinach, and kale, and brussel sprouts, and lettuces (lots of lettuces) and other things that I can't think of right now. Seeds and sets, all the window sills are full and the onion bed has about 100 onions planted, and the potato tower is started. The shed is cleaned out. Oh, oh, oh and the asparagus is planted. I have high hopes for this asparagus. I have organized a place for the new raised bed by placing loads of large, leftover, plastic pots side by side in the area where the new bed will be. I am thinking that along with a new deck I will build a new trellis as well to shield the sun from my window but not necessarily from the ground so that the ground can still be productive. It's a theory anyway. Also my comfrey root and salsify arrived. I will open them when I go home. January is feeling really good right now! Really Springy!

My house is doing better as well. The den is better, but not great. The kitchen is better, but not great. The living room is not great. The bathroom is not great. The guestroom/closet is not great. And the bedroom is horrible. ...after writing this it doesn't look as if my house is doing better, but unfortunately this assessment is better than it was. Ugh!

My energy level is up. I am attributing it to my better financial status, and my improved outlook. Now it give myself pats on the back for coming up with free ways to do whatever it is that I want to do and I spend time working on what I have already got going on and not thinking up new things to start. This may be the best thing that comes out of hard times.

I also prepared the way for my shed water collection system this weekend. My plan is to gutter the shed and have the water flow into water barrels along the back of the shed. That's the plan anyway.

I seem to have lots of ideas these days. I evaluate them on whether or not they will save me money. No gas heat in the Winter is saving me money I think. The electricity bills will tell, but if heating 2 rooms with a space heater turns out to be cheaper than heating a whole house with gas; that is what I will do from now on.

Becoming self sufficient on my little 1/4 acre is the ultimate goal here at Powell Cottage.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Narcissis are Blooming!

And the daffodils are coming up. Spring seems to come so fast after Christmas in Texas. Tonight it is supposed to be 27 degrees outside, so the temperature will seem like Winter, but it should be near 60 on Saturday. As I have said before Winter is a roller coaster ride.

I noticed on the weekend that the violets are coming up in the portion of my 1/4 acre that I consider the natural area. I have many areas in my yards. In back there is the lawn area which gets smaller every year and the shade garden area, and the back corner cover in Vinca Major and marked by my stone wall, then there is the shed, behind the shed not yet identified for use but I am thinking green house, there is the chicken yard/coop, the brush pile, the compost stable, the natural area under the pear trees, the clothes line area, the vegetable garden area which expands every year and the pond. The area near my back door currently has a very small deck but I have dreams of a screened in porch. That pretty much covers the back yard....the front yard is another story-for later.

I have been watching the GardenGirl online now for a few days and I really think she is inspiring. I have going to try to put a link to her on this blog...but it you don't see it then I didn't figure out how. Wishing you a deep Winter's sleep and dreams of Spring from Powell Cottage.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Peas Are In!

Today the high was 53 degrees, but planting peas made it seem like just the right temperature. I planted 3 types of peas and I innoculated the seeds and I have actually recorded the types and mapped their location so I might really be able to make a decision about how they do.

Under my hoop house there is lettuce, and parsley, and cilantro, and spinach, and grass and henbit. Ugh!

I put up a potato tower, but my nursery didn't have seed potatoes yet, so it is loaded with a layer and hay, and leafs, and some beautifully aged compost. It ready whenever the seed potatoes arrive.

Tomorrow it is supposed to be warmer than today, but then a strong cold front should be coming thru. North Texas Winters are always a roller coaster ride.

It's always a ride here at Powell Cottage.

Winter is Here

It has be cold here at Powell Cottage this week. In my part of the world cold means lows near freezing. I bring the chickens in when the cold is near freezing. Yes, my Dad, the farmer, thinks I am nuts, but I only have 3 chickens and I put newspaper down on the washing machine and they roost there quietly all night.

This year I am trying something new at bedtime. I have started using bed curtains and I am amazed at the difference it makes. The house can be much colder than I would have normally accepted and I am all warm and snuggley. Of course, there is the additional heat of up to five dogs inside my bed curtains and they help.

This weekend I will check under my unoffical green house and see how everything is going. We shall see.

I am planning on buying many of my seeds this year from Seed Savers. I want to join and I will as soon as I have the extra few dollars. I am excited about growing heritage vegetables and saving my own seeds for next year. The way I see this is every year I can buy a few new and interesting seeds to try, saving my old seeds from last year, and eventually I will have all the seeds I could ever want and just have to spend money on some new find if and when that occurs. Always thinking of ways to save.

I need to put gutters on my garden shed. My plan is to use rain water to irrigate the small wild patch in the southeast corner of my garden. I might sound like a good spot to grow something, but it is very shaded by a 6 foot fence on the south, and oak tree on the east, and the shed on the west. Mostly is is covered in Vinca Major, a Red Bud tree, and some daffodils in the winter. The Vinca Major looks very scraggledy in the Summer, so rainwater is my answer. Maybe if I collect enough water I could plant some shade loving plants that need more water than we have naturally.

I guess that's all from Powell Cottage today. Cheers!