Shoestring Gardening - Home Recipes for a Beautiful Flower Garden

It's time, it's time, it's finally time!!! After months of grey days and cold weather, the sun is finally shining and the weather is warm enough to plant flowers. Our Woodsedge bulbs and perennials have already made their appearance, first the tulips and daffodils and now the purple columbine. I love our perennial garden because we always forget what we have planted in it so it's a fun surprise to see what's coming up. We also plant lots of annuals. The sunflowers and marigolds my great gardening husband starts in the greenhouse, but we still enjoy browsing through the gardening centers looking for the best deals on other annuals to fill the flower boxes and empty garden spaces that are crying out for color.
This year we are saving money on buying fertilizer and plant food at the store by making our own. Our homegrown gardening resource is Jerry Baker, author of Flower Power! Amazing tips, tricks, and tonics for a beautiful, bloomin' garden all year long. Jerry is billed as America's Master Gardener and he is a the go-to-guy for natural, organic, affordable gardening tips.
Here are a few of his gardening tips and tonics from the book Flower Power! that I think we should try in our Shoestring Garden:
Soil Prep: before you plant prep your soil with 1 inch of peat moss or compost and 1 inch sand. Then saturate the soil with this Soil Prep Mix (pg. 83)
  • 1 can beer
  • 1 can regular cola
  • 1/2 cup liquid dish soap
  • 1/2 cup of chewing tobacco juice (since I'm not a chewer, it's a mystery to me where I will get this ingredient)
Apply with 20 gallon hose end sprayer.

Timely Tonic: Use this to feed your flowers twice a month (pg. 20)
  • 1 Cup beer
  • 1 oz fish fertilizer
  • 1 0z liquid soap
  • 1 oz ammonia
  • 1 oz whiskey
  • 1 Tbl clear corn syrup
  • 1 Tbl gelatin
  • 4 tsp instant tea
Dissolve all in 2 gallons of warm water

Late Summer Rejuvenating Tonic: apply liberally to annuals in August to get at least one more full flowering (pg. 43)
  • 1/4 cup beer
  • 1 Tbl corn syrup
  • 1 Tbl shampoo
  • 1 tsp of 15-30-15 fertilizer per gallon of water
Mosquito trouble? Plant Marigolds to keep mosquitoes and other bugs away. (pg 40)

Feeding Formula for planting perennials -I had to read this recipe twice to see if he was pulling my leg. Apparently it works great (pg. 92) :
In a five gallon pail, mix:
  • 2 lbs dry oatmeal
  • 2 lbs crushed dry dog food
  • 1 handful of human hair
  • 1/2 cup sugar
Work a handful of the mixture into the soil before planting.
Black spots on roses? Try this tonic:
  • 1 Tbl baking soda
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbl liquid dish soap
Combine in a gallon of water and spray every 7 - 10 days.

I'm also a big fan of Horce Glump's creative organic gardening tips check out Horace Glump on Gardening.

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Shoestring Savings - Everyday Time Savers

Oh my goodness how time can get away from me. My goal is to post twice a week on Shoestrings End and here I only posted once last week and this week is almost gone. My excuses are: that I've had a wonderful time visiting with my parents who have braved chilly North Idaho in exchange for hot hot Phoenix and my son is getting ready to travel to another country and my brain is too crowded right now.
Since having enough time to get everything done seems to be an issue with me lately, I thought that I would post on a few Shoestring time saving strategies for everyday life; time savers that I have done, that I should have done, and that I will be doing.

Plan ahead: I have such a hard time getting things together when we have to go somewhere. When the kids were little I always put their school clothes out, prepared their lunches and made sure that everything was in the backpacks ready to go the night before. It always made our school mornings so much more pleasant. I need to adopt that strategy for myself. So, I will plan my wardrobe ahead of time. That way I will not be standing in front of my closet 10 minutes before it's time to leave yelling that I have nothing to wear. I will also anticipate my needs for the day and put my purse, cell phone, keys, water bottle, etc. on the table ready for me to grab as I run out the door.

Multi-task: If I think about it, I really can organize two or even three things (three things are really my limit) to get done at once. For instance, while the coffee beans are roasting I can start a load of laundry and wash a few dishes. While I'm coloring my hair, I can clean the bathroom and fold laundry or give myself a pedicure. While I'm talking to my good friend on the phone I can run a dust rag over things and straighten the living room. The secret to multi-tasking, for me any way, is to keep the tasks somewhat related. If I'm doing a household something I pair it with other household tasks. If I'm working on something professionally oriented then I pair it with professional tasks that will move me ahead on my to do list.

Cook double recipes: It makes sense that if I'm already making something, I may as well make twice as much and save the rest in the freezer or fridge for another meal or lunch the next day. That saves future cooking time.

Store cookie dough in the freezer: We like cookies at my house but I find baking an entire batch of cookie dough to be very time consuming and I don't always have the time to devote to it. Making the dough, though, is very quick. So, we make the dough and then just bake one sheet of cookies. The rest of the dough we roll into a log and wrap in wax paper and a freezer bag. That way, the next time we want cookies, all we have to do is preheat the oven and slice and bake. I'd always rather have fresh from the oven cookies at coffee time.

Learn while I drive: I spend so much time in the car. It's easy to relax, listen to music and let my mind unwind and often that is exactly what I should be doing. But car time is also a great time to learn something new - Listen to a book, memorize scripture or music or lines for a play, play a language CD and learn a new language. My husband checked out a learn Swedish CD from the library and we listened to it in the car. We didn't really learn much but we had a great time trying and laughing at our terrible Scandinavian accents.

Make lists: I am by nature a list maker. Lists help me to keep organized and keep my brain from being too cluttered with helpless oh-my-gosh-what-do-I-do-next thoughts. When I make my list I prioritize and mark what tasks can be combined. At the end of the day I congratulate myself for completed list items and just move the unfinished tasks to the next day's list. The key to list sanity is to not hold on too tightly but to let go of things that just wont get done and, most importantly, to be flexible. Life is full of changes that invade the list. Be ready to put the list aside and play in the sunshine if that's what the day requires.

A few ways that I save a little time here and there. What are your time savers?

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Mother's Day Present Good Reminder to Keep Emergency Water

My happy Mother's Day was really very happy. I spent much of the day with my mom and received flowers and gifts from my children and husband. One of my favorite gifts of the day was completely unplanned - I got to take a shower before the water pipe under the house broke. We were sitting in bed drinking coffee and BANG, an explosion-like sound shook our bedroom wall. We rushed outside and didn't see anything wrong. We wondered if it had been a fluky earthquake (We don't have many earthquakes in North Idaho). Then my husband noticed that the water pressure was down. Rushing back outside we could then hear the sound of rushing water under the house. My wonderfully talented DIY husband was able to turn off the water and repair the pipe but we were without water for a good part of the day, which made me question our emergency water supply. The answer to the question was that, if this was a real emergency, we didn't have enough water stored.

In an emergency you can survive quite a while without food, though stocking your pantry shelves with emergency supplies is still important, but you can only survive a few days without water.
Here is some simple information for storing emergency water:
  • How Much Do You Need? For personal use, a minimum supply of 3 gallons of water per person for 3 days. Other sources that I have found suggest storing a minimum of 6 gallons per person, enough to last one week. Each person will drink about 1/2 a gallon per day and use the other 1/2 gallon for brushing teeth, washing hands, etc. You will also need to store water that you can use to flush toilets and do dishes and rinse out laundry. Don't skimp on that water. I know from experience that it is really a blessing to be able to flush your toilets.
  • What Containers to Use to Store Water? For personal use water use any food grade plastic or glass container. A food grade container is any container that has held soda, juice, bottled water, punch, etc. You can also buy food grade water containers from sporting good stores. I use milk jugs for water that I wont be cooking with or drinking (toilet flushing water).
  • How Do You Clean the Container? Always clean and sanitize your containers before filling them with water, even if the containers are new.
  1. First wash the container out with hot soapy water. Use a bottle brush to scrub the inside and be sure and clean the outside of the container and the cap. Rinse well.
  2. Next sanitize the container with 1/2 tsp of bleach per quart of water, so if you have a gallon jug use 2 tsp of bleach. Fill the jug with water, add the bleach and shake. Rinse again with clean water.
  3. Once the container is well cleaned and sanitized fill with drinking water from a clean source of drinking water. To be on the safe side, it is recommended that you ad about 1/8 of a tsp of chlorine bleach to your water to kill any bacteria that may have been missed in the sanitation process.
  4. For your non drinking water be sure and clean and sanitize the container as well. It will store better and you never know what you might be using that water for.
  • How To Store Emergency Water: Be sure and store your water in a cool dry place, heat and direct sunlight will weaken plastic containers, and store away from gasoline and chemicals. Mark each container with the words "drinking water" and the date. You also need a strong shelf to hold a large supply of water. Once again, I know this from experience, wimpy plastic shelves sag and break. We have also stored some emergency water in the freezer. That way if your power goes out your frozen water helps to keep your food cold. Just be sure and leave a little room at the top to allow for expansion. Rotate your stored water after a year. Use it in the garden, your plants will thank you.
Here are a some sites that have good information on Emergency Water Storage:
Mississippi State University Extension Service Aid
National Terror Alert

Thankfully, for many of us, emergencies are few and far between. But doing a few things to prepare ourselves and our families for just-in-case is easy and inexpensive and worth the piece of mind.
I'm thirsty, I need a drink of water.

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Breakfast in Bed, A Mother's Day Delight

Sunday is Mother's Day. I'm sure that you know that already but, just in case, let me remind you again....Sunday is Mother's Day. Sometimes Mother's Day can be a very stressful time for young children (and their fathers). Little ones want to do something special for Mom but don't always have the funds or the transportation or the ability to purchase a gift. Breakfast in bed can be a creative money saving solution to this dilemma.

I love breakfast in bed. It always makes me feel pampered and special. I like the feeling that for these few more minutes I can wrap my hands around a warm cup of coffee and hold off the day a little longer. A few minutes of bliss is a good way to start Mother's Day. Here are a few easy and affordable breakfasts that your kids can make on their own.

To make this process as easy as possible do a few things the night before:
  • Set out the ingredients, cooking utensils and serving plates.
  • If you don't have a serving tray cover a cookie sheet with a pretty cloth napkin or towel.
  • Get the coffee ready so all the kids have to do is push the on button. (VERY IMPORTANT)
  • Pre-cut anything that needs slicing.

Strawberry Croissants
This is one of my favorite special breakfast treats.
  • On Saturday buy fresh croissants from the bakery in the supermarket, strawberries and Cool Whip.
  • Saturday night: slice the strawberries, slice the croissants in half and place them on the serving plate(s), cover tightly with plastic wrap.
  • In the morning: turn on the coffee, spoon the sliced strawberries and the Cool Whip on half of the sliced croissant and cover with the other half. For extra colorful yumminess top with a spoonful of strawberries.
  • Serve with love and don't forget to do the dishes.

Fruit Salad and Cinnamon Toast
  • On Saturday night: slice Mom's favorite fruit and place separately in covered bowls. In a shaker combine one cup of sugar and 1/2 tsp (or to taste) of cinnamon. Put out the bread and the toaster.
  • In the morning: turn on the coffee, Combine the fruit in a pretty bowl, if you wish sprinkle the fruit with chopped nuts for a protein crunch, toast the bread and then butter and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar mixture. Have an older child or an adult cut the toast into pretty triangles and arrange on a serving plate.
  • Serve with a smile and don't forget to clean the kitchen.

Jamberry Muffins - You will definitely need an adult to help with the oven.
On Saturday night: Read Jamberry by Bruce Degan. Set out pre-measured ingredients.
You will need:
1 3/4 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 egg
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup cooking oil
jar of favorite jam (if you would like berries in your muffins instead of jam use 1 cup blueberries)

  • Sunday Morning: Start coffee. Set the oven for 4oo degrees. Spray the muffin tin with cooking spray or grease well with shortening.
  • In a mixing bowl combine dry ingredients. In a liquid measuring cup combine the milk and the oil add the egg and beat with a fork until the egg is mixed in. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour the liquid into the well. Stir just until moist ( there will be lumps). (If you decide to use blueberries instead of Jam, add berries to batter now.) Fill each cup about 1/3 full with batter. Add 1 tsp of your favorite jam to each cup then cover the jam with more batter so that the cups are about 2/3 full.
  • Bake for 20 minutes or until golden. Remove muffins from pan and allow to cool so that the jam doesn’t burn any mouths.
  • Serve with a hug and don't forget to load the dishwasher.

If the kids want your Mother's Day breakfast to be a surprise, have all of the ingredients of your favorite breakfast on hand and ready to go. Then casually suggest that such-and-such for breakfast would be a wonderful treat on Mother's Day. Dad or an older child can help with the preparations while you lounge in bed smiling at the sound of your kids in the kitchen and anticipating your love filled breakfast in bed.

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Shoestring Parenting - Let's Go Fly a Kite

When our kids were younger we liked to put kites in their Easter baskets. Spring days usually offer breezy kite flying weather and here at Woodsedge there are no power lines to get tangled up in. As the kids would work to get their kites in the air I would think about Charlie Brown and his hopeful but often disastrous experiences with his kite. If you haven't heard the kite song from the musical "You're a Good Man Charlie Brown", you should check it out, it's so funny and true to life.
Anyway, back to kites. Kite flying is such a fun Shoestring family activity. You don't have to buy the really expensive kites to have a successful kite flying experience. You can make your own. What a fun way to spend a weekend together, making and flying your own kites. To get started, read this beautiful picture book, Henry and the Dragon Kite (below is an excerpt from my post on Wondersome StoryTime about this award winning book.)

Henry and the Kite Dragon
written by Bruce Edward Hall
illustrated by William Low
Laptime: kindergarten - elementary
Story Circle: kindergarten - elementary

This 1920's story takes place in Chinatown in New York City. Mr. Chin, also called Grandfather, makes beautiful kites that he and the Chinese children fly from the rooftop of his building. Grandfather Chin can make the kites fly as if they were alive but one day the Italian boys from Little Italy start to throw rocks at the kites. Why would they do such a mean thing? Find out how the kids from Chinatown and the kids from Little Italy resolve their differences and bring peace to the sky over their neighborhoods.

This story is inspired by a man named Mr. Chin who lived in Chinatown when the author's father was a little boy. The book won the Jane Addams Children Book Award in 2005 given by the Jane Addams Peace Association for its depiction of peaceful resolution of conflict. Award winning artist, William Low gives us beautifully intricate and vibrant illustrations. I particularly enjoyed looking at the faces of the children; each face seemed familiar.

After you enjoy a storytime together, it's time to create your own kites. If you google kite making you will find lots of sites with directions. Here are two of my favorite sites:
How To Make a Kite Out of a Plastic Bag - I have piles of plastic grocery bags at home so I thought that this would be a great reuse idea. The site has clear instructions and lots of pictures. Along with this Wikihow article is a list of other articles on kite making and kite flying.
Make your own Kite - This site is the result of somebody's Independent Study Project for a physics class. The instructions for making your own diamond kite are clear and there are accompanying illustrations. What I really like about this site is all of the extra fun information - the history of kites, how does a kite fly, and kite flyers. I found the FAQ especially helpful.

Learn the lyrics to the song Let's Go Fly a Kite from the movie Mary Poppins and sing while you fly.
Let's go fly a kite
Up to the highest height
Let's go fly a kite
And send it soaring

Up through the atmosphere
Up where the air is clear
Oh, let's go fly a kite
Let's go fly a kite!

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