Trying to Regain the Garden Mojo

Update: The garlic is just not close to being ready. What looked like rot to me was the old clove that was planted to start the new garlic – it was rotting, but inside was a beautiful new plant. Thanks to my husband John for schooling me!

This is what our garden looks like today:

2011 Winter Garden Back 40

We’re lucky to have a sizeable garden, with five raised beds in the front and a big open area in the back that I affectionately call “the Back Forty”. But let’s be honest: It’s looking pretty bleak right now. The only (non-weed) things growing are some leeks, which we planted way too close together but are delicious nonetheless.

And some garlic, which is either (1) not even close to being ready, or (2) already rotten.

It didn’t use to be like this!  This past summer, we had an awesome garden.  We had tomatoes, peas, beans, squash, cucumbers, carrots, melons, eggplant, and corn.  Well, the corn was planted a little late and never really got sweet, and the beans were oddly fibrous and inedible, but everything else was great. We had so much produce coming out of our garden that we were giving it away by the bucketful! Our garden bounty was so overwhelming that you can hardly see a couple of the raised beds in the first picture below!

So what happened? Did we come out of the gate too strong and not have any energy left for a winter garden? Were we just unsure of what to plant over the winter? Busy with other things? I suspect it was a combination of all of the above. The funny thing is that once the planning and planting are done, gardening doesn’t require much effort – especially at this time of year when waterings can be few and far between. Whatever the case, I’m determined to get my garden mojo back, and soon! Here’s what I figure needs to be done:

1. Get rid of the remaining weeds and debris, and turn the soil over to loosen it. It always seems really compact after a growing season, but we amended it pretty heavily last spring, so it isn’t looking too bad.
2. Figure out what to plant.
3. Plant it!

It seems so simple! And yet, I can’t seem to get motivated enough to make it happen. Any suggestions for good stuff to plant in Northern California this time of year?

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Before and After: Hallway

When we bought our house in 2006, little had changed since it was built in 1979.  There were dated lighting fixtures, worn flooring, dingy paint, and lots and lots of dark wood trim.  Now, I love natural wood, and in upcoming posts I’ll show how we’ve kept it as a feature in some parts of our house, where it adds a lot of character.  In our downstairs hallway, however, I think you’ll agree that the trim had to go!

Original Downstairs Hall

This photo brings back a lot of memories.  I can remember looking at this hallway and thinking: What have we gotten ourselves into?!?  With five wood-trimmed doorways, this space was so visually crowded and claustrophobic that I didn’t see how I would ever like it.  But, we decided to make the best out of it!  Armed with a little (okay, a lot) of paint, and a little (okay, a lot) of elbow grease, we set to work, and it turned out better than I ever would have imagined.  We painted the walls a soft, warm yellow, and painted the trim, doors, and baseboard a nice crisp white.  The old doors were very worn and had actually been punched in in several places, so we replaced them with new paneled doors.  While we were at it, we replaced the outdated brass-colored door hinges and knobs with more modern brushed nickel.  We also installed an inexpensive pressed-glass light fixture that makes the hallway sparkle – and a new smoke alarm to keep things safe.

Downstairs Hall

Although we eventually replaced the flooring with new wood, I really think that it’s the paint that makes the biggest difference here.  And looking at the recent photo, I think we could improve the space even more with some lighter frames on the walls and a few tweaks to the vase and mirror at the end of the hall.  Add it to the list… 🙂

So, tell me, are you fearless with the paint or do you prefer to keep your natural wood?

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Make Do and Mend

The idea of Make Do and Mend became popular during World War II, when raw materials were in high demand for war efforts.  Women, in particular, were encouraged to be creative and mend worn clothing as much as possible, or recycle the material from worn-out garments to make something new.   It was all very patriotic, and a real necessity in Great Britain, where severe rationing meant women really had to Make Do and Mend.

I really like the concept of trying to make the most of what I have.  And although it’s fun to think about recreating whole new outfits from my existing clothes, in my life Make Do and Mend is mostly about Mend!  I’ve been sewing for many years, and I can be a bit of a perfectionist.  Mending is a nice change from all that.  It’s quick and dirty sewing at its best, which makes it perfect for beginners.  So what if you mess up?  It was already messed up!

Here’s a quickie repair job I did on the busted knee of a pair of John’s work pants.

Knee Patch Outside

They're stained because they're work pants...

I backed the rip with a scrap piece of fabric, pinned it in place, then stitched it securely using a 3-step zigzag stitch.  Here’s the inside of the patch.

Knee Patch Inside

The inside of the patch.

I used my pinking shears to cut the excess patch off.  They’ll keep the edges from raveling.  I recommend avoiding the urge to stitch back and forth over your patch a bunch of times.  Every time you take a stitch, you make a little hole in the fabric.  If you make too many of them, you can actually weaken the fabric.  Think about perforated paper – it’s easy to rip, right?  Fabric’s the same.  So just stitch around the edge once or twice, and call it good.

This little project took less than ten minutes.  Heck, it took me less time to do it than to blog about it!  I hope you’ll consider trying a mending project like this – it’s super easy, hard to mess up, and very rewarding!

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