Month: April 2014

Early spring and greenhouse construction

gardening, Small business April 30, 2014

Greenhouse construction is finally underway. My husband and step brother have been working 8 hour days on it and we are getting closer. My windowsills are full of seedlings and I am running out of room waiting for our last frost. (It snowed this weekend, spring time comes slowly in the mountains).

The arugula and spinach is outside and thriving along with the onions. We have some hops just showing signs of green, and a few young asparagus plants weathering the cold. The tulips are in bloom and the lilacs are just showing some buds in spite of the recent freeze. The mint patch is looking good and I have some potted pansies on the patio to keep the promise of more flowers alive. The fruit trees are budding out and our sweet almond blooms have come and gone. I have also put out several plants of creeping thyme, while I lay some generously spaced flagstone. I am hoping to create a low maintenance space that will tolerate the dogs but still look attractive. Pea gravel may be in our future.

In the back, I am weeding weeding weeding. We have planted a beautiful weeping spruce to go with our three juniper trees and large ornamental grasses as a screen. We have seven Karl forester grasses, three giant sacatons and one miscanthus. I’m hoping that’ll do the trick while the junipers mature to screen the view of the houses down the hill. The ground is cleared for the small patch of cool season turf which will meet the wildflower meadow at two globe willows. The seed has been purchased for the meadow and I am busily preparing the ground while I wait for the danger of frost to pass. All in all pleasant if not erratic and sometimes windy weather.

My mind is full of flower bed plans to be installed in our first landscaping project for a client and I spend free moments scouring native seed catalogs and Pinterest for inspiration.

As far as business goes, we have one big project and one small maintenance contract. Not eating meat very often these days, but I’m hoping to get some ad space in the local paper shortly and gently pestering people hoping to get word of mouth going. Our website is up and looks good. I have a little blog going for it that is fun to work on and of course we have a small but growing Facebook presence. It’s a little scary, but my anxiety about bills and groceries is completely mixed up with my excitement at being able to spend my time and energy on something that I so love l, knowing that my husband feels the same way. We alternate in our panicking, so far one at least one of us is confident when such episodes arise. We do panic from time to time though. That is all the news that is fit to print for this little aspiring business.

herbal companions

gardening, green living, Uncategorized April 27, 2014

Today I’m planning my vegetable beds with herbal companions in mind. Certain herbs can improve the taste or vigor of vegetables and repel harmful insects and attract beneficial ones. A few vegetables don’t like certain herbs, like dill and carrots; but valerian, thyme, and marjoram are generally beneficial throughout the garden. Mint and lavender repel mice, and hyssop improves the productivity of grapevines.

This is a wonderful reference for companion planting generally, including sections on herbs, vegetables, flowers, and trees:

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full time gardener, hobby lawyer

gardening, green living, lifestyle, Uncategorized April 3, 2014

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It’s been a long winter and I haven’t written a post in months.  I am 4 months pregnant (after suffering a miscarriage at 8 weeks) and had a rough go of it for a while with several illnesses.  However it is April now, and though it is snowing, spring is just around the corner.  We haven’t gotten the greenhouse up yet, the ground was too frozen and ski season too busy to get too much done.  I have started all sorts of seedlings on windowsills and in our sun room though.  The greenhouse construction will commence in the next couple of weeks.  I can’t wait.  The chicken coop is underway, I have managed to make some progress even with my toddler and pregnancy.  Also we have begun clearing ground for the small grassy lawn that will be seeded shortly.  I am currently trying to find a couple of dwarf nigerian goats to help me control some of the particularly difficult weeds.  It is a large, windy and dusty plot of land that we are going to transform and the going is slow.

In the meantime, my husband has quit his job and is striking out on his own as a landscaper.  It is frightening, especially with another child on the way, but also very exciting.  The dream of being self employed is so tantalizing. What’s more, we both get excited when talking about projects and he is happiest doing hard work outside.  He has an especially strange zeal for general maintenance, which is good.  There are many promising leads, and we get to break ground at my father’s house to get us started.  Starting this business is just one more crucial step we are taking to build the life that we want.  It is something we both love (we have long spent our weekends at plant nurseries and digging in our dusty dirt).  It won’t take too much work to keep us afloat financially, but it is a risk nonetheless.  I also happen to be an attorney and pretty good some of the things that will be needed from the business end of this endeavor.  Finally, it is something that we can do to make our living without sacrificing time with each other our boys (just found out about the one on his way). 

I have also finally found a perfect side job.  I work a few hours a week as an attorney, and it struck me today that the law is best practiced as a hobby!  I spend just enough time on it to feel useful and solve problems.  I’m able to get into the research and writing without it becoming drudgery.  My boss has all the responsibility and stress (that’s why he makes the big bucks).  I even dusted off my suit and made a court appearance.  It was nice.  I have shed some of the angst that came along with the monotony of being a full time housewife and found just enough out of home work to make me feel like a ‘real’ person.  Whatever that means.  All I can hope is that the small firm that employs me will be content with our unusual arrangement into perpetuity. 

Still, money is tight and every so often, I get an itch to take a job at the DA’s office or for J to go back to working for his old boss.  The steady pay check also has its draws.  I have to smack myself and remind myself what we are looking for in life, and that is time and not money.  We have already been given the time, but we squander it in service of acquisition of money.  We have family, but we sacrifice being with them for security.  We have things we enjoy doing, but forsake this enjoyment for work.  We are trying to make work enjoyable and let it involve our family.  Actually it can all be summed up by saying, we are trying to make it possible to spend our time doing what we want. 

Finally, if we can get J’s landscaping business going, the next project will be figuring out a way to be able have enough money through the winters to spend plenty of time on the mountain skiing.  This is no small feat, it is expensive and most of the seasonal jobs coming from the ski area are extremely time consuming.  J has been working 13 hour days this winter and I never made it onto the mountain even once.  

One scheme I have going is trying to grow hops on a couple of acres.  That way, we could harvest in fall and keep that money for the winter.  I have ordered a few rhizomes to test it out. There are a couple different people who are cultivating native strains to make them drinkable.  Microbreweries are growing fast in this part of the country, and still most of the hops come from the northwest.  Locally grown hops fit perfectly into this trend.  The plan is also to raise sheep and let them help keep the hops clean and in check, plus I have a friend with a weaving shop who buys local wool.  It’ll require a good deal of investment, but my sister is interested in doing so.  I just have to get the growing nuts and bolts figured out.  It’s an idea though.  Plenty of hard work to do and all enjoyable. 

So that is it.  We have been here a full year now and are gradually making headway on our plan.  Happy spring. 

“APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers…”
TS Elliot, The Wasteland

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