Category Archives: The Garden

All About the Flowers (of Garden to Table Feast)

Slow Flowers at Garden to Table Feast by Farmhouse38.com, photography by AmenPhotography.comI just wanted to take a moment and bask in the beautiful local flowers that we were so lucky to have for the Garden to Table Feast. So-prepare yourself- I’m gonna fill your feed with endless images (mostly captured by the lovely Amen Photography). I regret nothing!!! I had always planned to pull flowers and greens from my own garden for the event, but as it grew in size, I realized that I would need to source additional materials from elsewhere. And I wanted those ‘elsewhere’s to be as local as possible.

Slow Flowers at the Garden to Table Feast by Farmhouse38.com, photography by AmenPhotography.com

Garden roses, leucadendron, alstroemeria, draping amaranthus, and grapevine.

In the heart of Los Angeles, local flowers have been a really tall order for me in the past. Sure, it’s easy to find flowers; walk into any local supermarket, or even home improvement centers, and it is sometimes astounding what a selection they have. But are they local? Most likely not. And the very point of the Garden to Table Feast was to choose the slowest materials and ingredients possible–not what was commercially (and in most cases, the most easily) available. Fortunately for us, the amazing California Cut Flower Commission  stepped in and reached out to several local flower farms on our behalf. Resendiz Brothers Protea Growers, Mellano & Company, and The Sun Valley Floral Farms all generously provided us with a wealth of bafflingly beautiful flowers and greens. I was blown away, and completely humbled.

Slow Flowers at Garden to Table Feast by Farmhouse38.com, photography by AmenPhotography.com

Lovely yellow Alstroemeria from Mellano & Company, Craspedia (Billy Balls–love these!) and various mints from the Farmhouse38 garden.

Additionally, I decided to reach out to the one and only super-local grower I knew of: Silver Lake Farms. This is a remarkable little urban farm so snugged away inside Los Angeles that you would never know it was there (unless you knew it was there). I’d read about them so many times in the past (in the Urban Farm world, they’re kind of the stuff of legends), and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to see what they had up their sleeves. I wasn’t disappointed, in fact, I was beyond elated at the overflowing buckets I loaded into my car.

Slow Flowers at the Garden to Table Feast by Farmhouse38.com

My Silver Lake Farms haul: the best kind of cargo. Side note…my car needs to be washed. When you can see dog paw prints on the bumper…ya. Time for a wash.

Slow Flowers at the Garden to Table Feast by Farmhouse38.com

Silver Lake Farms is what my garden wants to be when it grows up.

Because I didn’t know what I was going to get from any of these places, my floral design strategy was pretty basic: mismatched, clear containers, and a riot of botanicals with no set color scheme. Perfect for a Garden to Table Feast, in my opinion.

Slow Flowers at the Garden to Table Feast by Farmhouse38.com, photography by AmenPhotography.com

A wide assortment of botanical materials and colors are unified by their intentional unintentionalness, and by the repetition of clear glass containers. Keeping the linens and place settings neutral also helps tie everything together.

Slow Flowers at the Garden to Table Feast by Farmhouse38.com, photography by AmenPhotography.com

Gorgeous colors, with no rhyme or reason. Seasonal perfection.

Slow Flowers at the Garden to Table Feast by Farmhouse38.com, photography by AmenPhotography.com

A whole batch of loveliness from Silver Lake Farms; Sweet Pea, Monarda, and a bunch of other pretties that are beyond my realm of identification!

Slow Flowers at the Garden to Table Feast by Farmhouse38.com

Lilies, Queen Anne’s Lace, and some sort of amazing green balls (perhaps a type of leucadendron?) from Resendiz Brothers Protea Farm that I have no idea the name of-but am completely enthralled with.

Slow Flowers at the Garden to Table Feast by Farmhouse38.com, photography by AmenPhotography.com

Slow Flowers at the Garden to Table Feast by Farmhouse38.com, photography by AmenPhotography.com

Lilies, Queen Anne’s Lace, Monarda, and broccoli.

Slow Flowers at the Garden to Table Feast by Farmhouse38.com, photography by AmenPhotography.com

Leucadendron, hydrangea, kale, and radishes.

Slow Flowers at the Garden to Table Feast by Farmhouse38.com, photography by AmenPhotography.com

Garden roses, snap dragons, a couple of pincushions, lavender, white thistle, and sweet peas.

Slow Flowers at the Garden to Table Feast by Farmhouse38.com, photography by AmenPhotography.com

Slow Flowers at the Garden to Table Feast by Farmhouse38.com, photography by AmenPhotography.com

Flowers always kind of make the event, if you ask me (I’m probably a bit biased). But I have to say that having gorgeous flowers and knowing exactly where they came from takes it to a new level. I highly encourage you guys to go do some digging, find your local flower farms (they’re out there, I promise!), and buy from them. Check SlowFlowers.com and the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers for lists of farms and retailers. And when you do go to the local market, look for labeling like the CaGROWN sticker, or the new AmericanGrown labels, or simply ask your grocer where they get their flowers. If they don’t buy locally already, they’re never gonna start unless their customers speak up. Challenge accepted, am I right?!!

A Garden to Table Feast

Garden to Table Feast at Farmhouse38.com, event styling by Farmhouse38, photography by AmenPhotography.comGarden to Table Feast at Farmhouse38.com, event syling by Farmhouse38, photography by AmenPhotography.comLast weekend, the summer solstice provided the perfect evening to collaborate on a wonderful summer party with a bunch of talented Southern California (and Western Nevada–holla, Reno!) bloggers. The idea was simple: let’s get together for a lovely dinner comprised of as many local ingredients as we could muster, and when possible, use ingredients straight from our own gardens. Set it all up under the mason-jar-lit grapefruit tree at Farmhouse38, shoo away the chickens, and keep the cocktails and Instagram rolling!

Garden to Table Feast at Farmhouse38.com, tablescape and floral styling by Farmhouse38, photography by AmenPhotography.com

I just love a big ol’ farm table and mismatched chairs, don’t you? Flowers and candlelight never hurt, either! Not one bit.

Garden to Table Feast at Farmhouse38.com, event styling by Farmhouse38, photography by AmenPhotography.com

Just passing through! Carry on! (BTW, please take note of Eloise, in the background, and the way she walks. I don’t think her legs bend. Makes me laugh every time.)

Garden to Table Feast at Farmhouse38.com, floral styling and tablescape by Farmhouse38, photography by AmenPhotography.com

The flowers! I have a special place in my heart for the flowers (always). Much more on them later.

Garden to Table Feast at Farmhouse38.com, tablescape and floral styling by Farmhouse38, photography by AmenPhotography.com

Southern California really delivered on the most perfect, temperate evening. The weather and light could not possibly have been better–and we could not have asked for a more talented, wonderful photographer in Ari Nordhagen of AmenPhotography.com. Find her on Facebook, and Instagram.

In addition to her mind-boggling design and illustration talents, Sarah of VerySarie.com must also be a little bit psychic because she somehow captured the exact essence of the evening in her gorgeous invites and menus.

Garden to Table Feast at Farmhouse38.com, invitations by VerySarie.com, photography by AmenPhotography.com

How perfect are these hand-lettered and gold-foiled invites from VerySarie.com?

Follow VerySarie.com on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

Because many of us were meeting for the first time, we kept ourselves and our blogs straight with adorable handmade name tags courtesy of Amanda at LoveCreativeBlog.com.

Garden to Table Feast at Farmhouse38.com, nametags by LoveCreativeBlog.com, photography by AmenPhotography.com

We all kept referring to each other by blogs, but it was nice to put names to blogs to faces.

Follow LoveCreativeBlog on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

Garden to Table Feast at Farmhouse38.com, photography by AmenPhotography.com

Oh, haaaaay, chickens.

Sustenance for the evening was in the ever capable and creative hands of Jennie and Corelyn of Garlic, My Soul. They came up with and executed the most delicious menu of comfort foods and gorgeous slow produce.

Garden to Table Feast at Farmhouse38.com, hand-lettered menus by VerySarie.com, photography by AmenPhotography.com

Darling menus designed by verysarie.com.

Garden to Table Feast at Farmhouse38.com, food by GarlicMySoul.com, photography by AmenPhotography.com

Oh, the picture perfection of heirloom tomatoes!

Garden to Table Feast at Farmhouse38.com, Prosciutto Pear Bites by Garlicmysoul.com, photography by amenphotography.com

Insanely yummy prosciutto-wrapped pear bites by Garlic, My Soul.

Garden to Table Feast at Farmhouse38.com, food by Garlicmysoul.com, photography by amenphotography.com

Zucchini Crudo: zucchini, onions, parsley, and feta in some sort of zesty dressing. Garlic, My Soul–you better be posting recipes!

Garden to Table Feast at Farmhouse38.com, food by Garlicmysoul.com, photography by amenphotography.com

So much gardeny goodness in this salad!

 

Garden to Table Feast at Farmhouse38.com, food by GarlicMySoul.com, photography by AmenPhotography.com

Our plates just had no hope of being big enough!

Find Garlic, My Soul on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

Garden to Table Feast at Farmhouse38.com, tablescape by Farmhouse38, photography by AmenPhotography.com

What’s up, chicken?!

Did I mention the flowers?

Garden to Table Feast at Farmhouse38.com, tablescape by Farmhouse38, photography by AmenPhotography.com

Slow flowers for days!!!

You all know that I take my cocktails very, very seriously. Fortunately, so do the two brains behind BourbonandGoose.com, Marissa and Sam. They were charged with creating a custom cocktail for the drink, and well, they brought us two. Huzzah!

Garden to Table Feast at Farmhouse38.com, cocktails by BourbonandGoose.com, photography by AmenPhotography.com

Fresh produce, even for the drinks!

Garden to Table Feast at Farmhouse38.com, cocktails by BourbonandGoose.com, photography by AmenPhotography.com

Master drinksmith, Sam, of BourbonandGoose.com, hard at work keeping cocktails in everyone’s hands.

Garden to Table Feast at Farmhouse38.com, cocktails by BourbonandGoose.com, photography by AmenPhotography.com

On the left, we have the Violet Beauregard: homemade rosemary infused gin, blueberry puree, and sparkling water. On the right…well, I can’t remember what it’s called but it was darned good. Jalapeño jelly-infused tequila, and fresh watermelon and lime juices. Yum and yum. For awhile there, I had one in each hand.

Follow the adventures of BourbonandGoose.com on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

Garden to Table Feast at Farmhouse38.com, photography by AmenPhotography.com

Shiner beer is not exactly local, but it is exactly Texas. The Texan always insists there be Shiner. Gotta represent a local brewery with a little Golden Road, though!

Dessert came to us courtesy of the incredibly sweet tooth of Julianne at BeyondFrosting.com. Her individual Mimosa Cheesecakes (adorably presented in mason jars, no less) and fresh-baked berry pies were absolutely to die for. To. Die. For.

Garden to Table Feast at Farmhouse38.com, dessert by BeyondFrosting.com, photography by AmenPhotography.com

I heart cheesecake in a jar. So much. I ate it so much, too.

Garden to Table Feast at Farmhouse38.com, fresh berry pies by BeyondFrosting.com, photography by AmenPhotography.com

Fresh berry pies are just too perfect for ringing in the summer. These were incredible.

Follow all the desserty fun at BeyondFrosting.com, and on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

While you’re at it, check out YummyHealthyEasy.com. Jen is freaking fantastic. So is her site. She shares so many fabulous, fun recipes of all shapes and sizes. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

And then there were the flowers…of course, that was my little wheelhouse. The California Cut Flower Commission generously stepped in to help source materials from local farms (thank you to Mellano & Co., The Sun Valley Group, and Resendiz Brothers Proteas for their gorgeous, gorgeous flowers!). I also went to the most local flower farm I could think of: Silver Lake Farms, in the heart of Los Angeles for several lush buckets of straight-from-the-garden yumminess. Combined with flowers and greens from my own garden, we were dripping in stunning, local blooms. Stay tuned for a separate, more in-depth post about just the flowers!

Garden to Table Feast at Farmhouse38.com, tablescape by Farmhouse38, photography by AmenPhotography.com

Flowers and candlelight. Am I right?!

Garden to Table Feast at Farmhouse38.com, photography by AmenPhotography.com

Such a fabulous time!

Garden to Table Feast at Farmhouse38.com, photography by AmenPhotography.com

White dog had to get in on the party.

Garden to Table Feast at Farmhouse38.com, photography by AmenPhotography.com

So did little brown dog.

So that everyone had a piece of the evening to bring home with them, Laura, of OliveandLove.com, sent us all away with yummy homemade brown sugar scrubs as favors. She’s kind of known for her scrubs.

Garden to Table Feast at Farmhouse38.com, Brown Sugar Scrub by OliveandLove.com, photography by AmenPhotography.com

Find the recipes for these and so much more at OliveandLove.com.

Follow OliveandLove.com on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

The evening was just beyond fun, and I can’t wait to do it again next year! Many thanks to all of these amazing bloggers!

Garden to Table Feast at Farmhouse38.com, event styling by Farmhouse38, photography by AmenPhotography.com

 

 

 

 

 

Slow Flower Bliss

 

Slow Flower Joy at Farmhouse38.com

I’m a big nerd when it comes to my love for locally-grown, organic flowers. I get overly excited. Like a terrier. ‘Slow Flowers’, a derivative of the Slow Food Movement, is a concept coined and tirelessly advocated by the remarkable Debra Prinzing (author of The 50 Mile Bouquet: Seasonal, Local and Sustainable Flowers, as well as, you guessed it, Slow Flowers: Four Seasons of Locally Grown Bouquets from the Garden, Meadow and Farm ) to describe the on-going shift towards a more conscious floral consumerism. Just as people have become more aware of where and how their food is produced, they are starting to realize that the same principles should be applied to the cut flowers they buy (the ones sitting in a vase on the table right next to their local, organic food). We should strive to farm flowers in the same ethical manner; free of chemicals, free of excessive packaging, and free of incredibly long-distance travel that requires fuel, preservatives, refrigeration, and even more packaging. Furthermore, the slow flowers concept champions the organic flower farmers; those who dedicate their lives to responsibly producing those gorgeous blooms.

Slow Flower Joy at Farmhouse38.com

An arrangement pulled straight from the Farmhouse garden, including all sorts of roses, echinacea, hydrangea, and grapevine. Doesn’t get more local than that!

Ten plus years ago, when I was running my floral event company, the slow flower concept was completely unheard of. I used to get so angry, too–showing up in the wee hours of the morning to the Los Angeles Flowermart and paying top dollar for materials that had literally been flown in from Holland or Columbia that very morning because a bride needed *this exact shade of pink* tulips and roses. How crazy is this? It made me irate, actually. This is not to say that there weren’t locally-grown materials available there–in fact, I tried to buy those whenever I could. But the wedding industry, at the time, kind of drove this ‘anything is available any time of year’ mentality that meant materials were often shipped from the other hemisphere. It was this insipid ‘Yes-ism’ that went something like: “Oh, you want scarlet peonies? Well, they aren’t in season, but let me just call Australia”. I was guilty of this mindset… though, at the very least, it bothered the living daylights out of me.

I used to fantasize about having a huge piece of property where I could just grow the flowers myself (at the time, I lived in a teeny-tiny house on a teeny-tiny urban lot–even teeny-tinier than the one I live on now) and then create events exclusively with those materials. But that just wasn’t how it was done. You don’t get *this exact shade of pink* tulips all year round when you grow them and sell them locally (if you even ever get it at all). You get what is in season…which is always gorgeous, but might not match that Home Depot color card you brought to me and insisted I find the exact floral manifestation of (true story). Ultimately, I was so disgruntled with ‘how things were’, that I left the business all together. I wish I had had the gumption to dig my heels in then, but life was sending me in another direction.

Slow Flower Bliss from Farmhouse38.com

I heart tiny arrangements, especially in an upcycled jam jar. So simple to grab a few bits from the garden; black-eyed Susan, zinnia, oregano blooms, and rosemary.

It sent me to the Farmhouse, where we moved right after I closed down the flower company. Naturally, I was reeling a bit at that time. What was I supposed to do with my life now? I missed the flowers, and I missed the actual art of arranging. It’s rather cliché, but I also missed the ‘giving’ of flowers. So while we threw ourselves into the renovation of this old house, I also threw myself into designing an organic garden that would give me enough flowers to get my fix.

Slow Flower Bliss from Farmhouse38.com

Look for a tutorial on this simple arrangement coming soon!

For a few years, I busied myself with house projects and ‘playing’ in the garden. Oh…and I started a blog. :-) My foray into the world of social media brought with it a trickling awareness of change within the floral industry. I began stumbling across blogs and Instagram accounts of florist farmers such as Floret Flower Farm in Washington, and Saipua in New York. And, of course, I followed. I began to see florists dedicating themselves to using only local, responsibly-farmed flowers, such as Farmgirl Flowers in San Francisco. And places like Lila B. Flowers in San Francisco and Silverlake Farms in Los Angeles defying the odds (and, in the case of Silverlake Farms, changing the laws) to grow sustainable flowers and produce for sale and for floral design, in the heart of the city (cheers to that). Go follow all these wonderful companies (full list of links at bottom)–you won’t be sorry!

I started hearing (*seeing, *reading) Debra’s name a lot. When The 50 Mile Bouquet came out, I ate it up–almost literally–the images (photographed by David E. Perry) are downright yummy. Here is a fascinating glimpse into the stories of the farmers, florists, and designers that make American slow flowers their life (but first, might I suggest reading Amy Stewart‘s Flower Confidential so that you can see exactly what these farmers are up against with mainstream floriculture). Close on the heels of The 50 Mile Bouquet came Prinzing’s aptly-titled Slow Flowersa veritable user-manual for building 52 weeks of breathtaking seasonal arrangements. For anyone dabbling in the art of DIY floral-arranging, this book is chock-full of ‘recipes’ and tricks of the trade. My favorite trick of hers? Instead of using that green goblin of the floral trade, florist foam, use chicken wire inside your container to stabilize your materials. Brilliant. I may or may not have an excessive amount of chicken wire laying around.

Slow Flower Bliss from Farmhouse38.com

A few tiny garden roses, fuzzy celosia, oregano blooms, and mint leaves make a tiny, but fragrant, arrangement in a vintage porcelain jewelry box.

But it gets better. You may be thinking this is all good in theory, but not so easy in practice. If you’re like me, trapped in the middle of a huge city, you may (ironically) be a little stranded when it comes to accessing locally-grown flowers. You may naively get really excited and buy peonies from Trader Joe’s thinking they are locally-sourced and then, after the fact, find out that they actually came from Canada. I’m not naming names. (To be fair, both Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods source local flowers when possible, but not exclusively.)

Ombre Peony Arrangement by Farmhouse38.com

They’re gorgeous…but they travelled too far to get here. Look away!!!

So what is one to do (especially if you aren’t able to have a cutting garden of your own)? There are more and more resources online for finding your local flower farmer. For starters, visit the brand new slowflowers.com. Prinzing‘s latest endeavor is an actual online directory of floral studios, flower shops, flower farms, and designers who use American-grown flowers, or as the case may be, grow the flowers themselves. This incredible list of vendors is growing every single day. FieldtoVase.com is a lovely spot on the interwebs created by the brains behind Farmgirl Flowers, Christina Stembel, as a hub for all things locally grown and floral. Here, you will not only find a list of incredible contributors and a growing list of resources, but you will find a delightful blog spotlighting industry creatives and the very latest news.

There are a number of organizations that you should check out, as well. The California Cut Flower Commission (ccfc.org) has some fabulous resources, information, and meet-your-farmer type highlight stories for California-grown flowers. The Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers (ASCFG.org) is full of a wealth of industry links and information, but most importantly, you can search their website for local growers and flower shops by state. When you are shopping for flowers, look for the new American Grown stickers that make American flowers easily identifiable at your local market, or for the CA GROWN stickers that mark the abundance of blooms that come from the Golden State.

I simply can’t urge you enough to seek out flower vendors at your local farmers’ markets. This really is the best way to ‘know your farmer’ and support them, whether it be for flowers, produce, etc, etc. And if you’ve got the space and the will, grow yourself some pretties of your own. One of my favorite things is to purchase a local bouquet, bring it home, and add to it from my own garden. There’s my bliss. Right there.

I love that consumers are embracing slow flowers and the simple notion that seasonal is better. I adore reading stories about weddings designed with locally-sourced materials; brides and event designers actually choosing sustainability from the get-go, and in some cases, absolutely highlighting it. It warms the very cockles of my heart to see how times have changed and are changing still. Yeah. I said ‘cockles’. That’s how I roll.

Resources:

AmericanGrownFlowers.org– A brilliant initiative to ‘brand’ American grown flowers so that they are easily distinguishable to consumers. Love it. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest,  for all the latest news.

ASCFG.org–The Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers. Find them also on Facebook.

CCFC.org–The California Cut Flower Commission, home of the CA GROWN movement. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

DebraPrinzing.com–A fantastic resource for slow flower enthusiasts; Debra highlights industry innovators in her podcasts and blog posts. Follow her on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.

FarmgirlFlowers.com–Follow along on Facebook ,Twitter, and Instagram. You won’t be sorry–this is one of my favorite feeds in each category–they post some gorgeous stuff!

FieldtoVase.com–Follow on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram for more local flower goodness!

FloretFlowers.com– Follow their wonderful blog, as well as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram feeds. Their work, as well as their images, are absolutely stunning.

LilaBDesign.com– So much loveliness packed into just one website! Another wonderful blog, as well as beautiful Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram feeds.

Saipua.com–You’ll find information on their flowers, their farm, and their flower school here. Oh, and soap. They make that, too. Follow their adventures via their blog and their wonderful Instagram feed.

SilverlakeFarms.com–this one’s near and dear to me because they are, quite literally, near to me. Follow the happenings at this beautiful little urban farm on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

SlowFlowers.com–one stop shop for finding American-grown flowers, farms, and florists; follow along on Facebook and Twitter to get the latest slow flowers news.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Colorful New Book for Your Garden Library

Review of A Garden To Dye For by Farmhouse38.com

Gardens are just divine, aren’t they? They provide us with impossibly much: food, medicine, an eye-ball-ful of gorgeous, and a basic, peaceful connection to the Earth that is hard to put into words. Leave it to the fabulously funny Chris McLaughlin to give us just one more bit of lovely we can reap from our gardens: natural dyes.

This book is an absolute technicolor dream for the home fiber artist; all you crafty spinners with your adorable goats and sheep and bunnies and alpacas and all their glorious fluff–here is your guide for what to grow in your garden (besides fluffy animals) and how to process it into yummy, yummy homemade colors. I can only imagine the possibilities. But for those of you who aren’t quite to the point of harvesting your own fiber (uhh, that would be me), Chris shows us how and with what to dye yarns, threads, silks, cottons, linens, and other ready-to-go fabrics. But it all goes far beyond fabric; natural dyes can be used on wood, basket-making reeds, paper products, play dough, and since we’ve just come off of Easter–eggs…of course, you can dye eggs with them! Huzzah!

There are so many wonderful recipes and tricks of the trade in this book, but, as a painter, one in particular jumped out at me…making your own watercolor dye paints. I knew I had to try this. I also knew I wanted to use materials that I either had on hand, or had in the garden. Red cabbage, beets, turmeric, and black tea were all already in my kitchen and would give me blue, red/pink, yellow, and brown dyes, so I got to work. In retrospect, I also realized that I have swamp mallow, marigolds, hollyhock, rose, and coreopsis growing in the garden–all dye materials listed by Chris–but I had ants in my pants and overlooked these at the time. Dang it. DANG IT.

As with all natural dyes, a little experimentation was in order. Ultimately, I landed on a pretty decent recipe that was just a miniature version of what Chris outlines for dyeing a big batch of fabric.

To get blue dye paint, you’ll need:

-4 tablespoons of finely chopped red cabbage

-1 cup of boiling water

(I actually started out by putting the cabbage bits in a mason jar, boiling water in a tea kettle, and then pouring the boiling water over the bits and letting them sit for awhile). This color was pretty, but ultimately, I didn’t think it was strong enough, so I then transferred the contents of the jar to a small saucepan, and boiled the liquid down by half. This gave me a great blue color.

To get red/magenta/pink:

-4 tablespoons of finely chopped red beets

-1 cup of boiling water

The tea kettle method worked great for this and I did not need to boil the liquid down further. This yields a very saturated dark pink. Obviously, if you want it lighter, pull a small amount and mix with water to water it down to your desired color.

To get yellow:

–4 teaspoons of powdered turmeric

–2 cups boiling water

The tea kettle method actually yielded a nice, light yellow color, but ultimately, I wanted it more saturated so, again, I boiled the liquid down by half after the fact.

To get brown:

-6 standard black tea bags

-2 cups boiling water

The tea kettle method yielded a very light brown, which was great, but I wound up boiling this liquid down by half, as well, which gave me better saturation.

To get green:

Mix equal parts turmeric and cabbage dyes.

To get reddish-orange:

Mix equal parts turmeric and beet dyes.

To get reddish-brown:

I kind of mixed equal parts of all four base colors.

Obviously, one can mix any variation of these colors and get all different shades and colors. Experimentation is key! Chris also suggests using binders to help the color stick: these include whole milk, egg yolks, or egg whites (but each of these will change the colors slightly, so test first). I opted to not go with any binders, and so theoretically, my colors will fade slowly over time.

 

DIY All-natural Watercolor Dye Paints from A Garden to Dye For via Farmhouse38.com

My resulting colors.

And my subsequent watercolor painting:

DIY Natural Watercolor Dye Paints from A Garden to Dye For via Farmhouse38.com

Eloise and Gertie in all their all-natural colorful glory. All natural except for the Sharpie outline. I’m a cheater. I do what I want!!!

This book was just a pleasure to read–Chris’ trademark humor and gift for ‘telling it like it is’ get me every time. Be sure to visit A Garden to Dye For’s Facebook page and Chris’ blog Home Ag with a Suburban Farmer because to celebrate the launch Chris is giving away a Natural Dye Starter Kit with all sorts of goodies (including a copy of the book) to get you started on your home-dyeing and gardening adventures. To enter, you just need to follow her on Pinterest and leave a comment on the A Garden to Dye For Facebook page telling her what your favorite kind of garden is. On May 20, 2014, her Chiweenie helper will select a winner at random. You gotta love that. And if you don’t win the prize package, never fear, A Garden to Dye For is available at all major booksellers including Amazon.

Cheers to pretty colors!

Review of A Garden to Dye For via Farmhouse38.com

 

 

Hello Spring! Giveaway

Hello Spring! Giveaway from Farmhouse38.com

 

Okay, folks! Here it is! Spring is in the air so it is time to get your garden on–who’s with me???

We’ve got such amazing products in this fun gardening gift basket that will go to one lucky winner. Enter here or by clicking on the link at the bottom of this post.

But let’s run through all the goodies first, shall we?

Hello Spring! Giveaway from Farmhouse38.com

WOOT!! A 6 Month Seeds of the Month Club membership! If you all haven’t joined this amazing program, you simply must check it out. Every month, they send you four packets of non-GMO seeds (mostly veggies and herbs) selected specifically for your growing zone and season. You never know what you are going to get, but that’s part of the fun! You can find out more by following them on Facebook, and Twitter.

Hello Spring! Giveaway from Farmhouse38.com

A sampler pack of my favorite fertilizer: Authentic Haven Brand Manure Tea. This stuff is good, you guys. I’ve been using it for a couple of seasons now, and I am a huge fan. ‘MooPoo Tea’ is 100% organic and sustainable, and the plants really dig it. Furthermore, it is produced here in sunny Southern California on the Haven Family Ranch: follow along with them on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and see some amazing snapshots of ranch life on Instagram.

Hello Spring! Giveaway from Farmhouse38.com

A copy of one of my favorite small-space gardening books, Vertical Vegetable Gardening, by the incomparable Chris McLaughlin. Chris is the author of several gardening how-to books, the homesteading guru for About.com, and queen of all things Home-Ag. For more about her, visit her website, Home-Ag.com, and you can also follow along with her on her suburban farming adventures on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Hello Spring! Giveaway from Farmhouse38.com

A hand-painted 12″x12″ reclaimed steel message board, made by yours truly (multiple versions coming soon to a certain Etsy storefront!).

Hello Spring! Giveaway from Farmhouse38.com

Well, you need some garden-themed magnets for that message board, don’t you?

Hello Spring! Giveaway from Farmhouse38.com

A package of seed storage envelopes from Williams-Sonoma’s Agrarian Collection, in case you have any leftover Seeds of the Month Club seeds.

Hello Spring! Giveaway from Farmhouse38.com

My favorite little garden gnomey and gloves from Threshold Target. Every garden needs a gnome to watch over it, in my professional opinion.

Hello Spring! Giveaway from Farmhouse38.com

A set of gorgeous copper garden tools (a hand fork and trowel), and a brass-tipped tamper-dibber all from Williams-Sonoma’s Agrarian collection.

Hello Spring! Giveaway from Farmhouse38.com

And last, but not least, this gorgeous gathering basket to put it all in (also from Williams-Sonoma).

Contest begins today, Friday, April 4th, 2014, and ends at midnight, Wednesday, April 9th, 2014. The only mandatory entry requirement will be for you guys to leave a comment on this blog post (but please do so by using the Rafflecopter link below and following those instructions), but I will give you lots of non-mandatory extra entries by going around and following all our contributors’ social medias. The more you follow, the more entries you’ll earn.

So who’s ready to win this thing?!

Enter here!!!!

A Monarch Chrysalis

A Monarch Chrysalis at Farmhouse38For everyone interested in seeing the photo progression of the monarch chrysalis…this post is for you!

Of course, a few weeks back, my milkweed plants were teaming with monarch larvae:

A Monarch Chrysalis at Farmhouse38.com

Eventually, they got big and fat:

A Monarch Chrysalis at Farmhouse38.com

 

And then they proceeded to trek away from the milkweed to find a place to pupate (build their chrysalis). We found them cruising in the very far reaches of our yard. Incredible.

But I was especially astounded when I went to give my Lady Scarecrow a spring makeover (her clothes are so Spring 2013), and as I was stripping her down, I found this!:

Monarch Butterflies at Farmhouse38.com

It was attached right to her wrist, like a little charm. Of course, I carefully readjusted her clothes and left everything just as it was.

So thrilling!

I proceeded to check on it everyday. For about a week, it looked just the same, and then suddenly, one day, it looked like this:

A Monarch Chrysalis at Farmhouse38.com

 

I knew it must be close, so I started checking on it about once an hour, like a maniac. When it didn’t hatch that day, I knew that probably as soon as it was warm the next morning, the game was on.

The next morning, it looked very similar, but those pretty golden accents had all but disappeared, and the shell of the chrysalis was so very transparent, it was crazy!

A Monarch Chrysalis at Farmhouse38.com

Once it began to warm outside, we began to check on it at five minute intervals.

And lo and behold, we missed it emerging! :-(

A Monarch Chrysalis at Farmhouse38.com

Within a five minute span, it had hatched, and pumped its crumpled wings full of fluid.

I was so upset that I missed it, that I swore I was going to sit there and watch it until it took its first flight. So I sat and watched.

A Monarch Chrysalis at Farmhouse38.com

Slowly it flexed its wings and legs, and made its way up from the chrysalis and into the sun.

A Monarch Chrysalis at Farmhouse38.com

I waited.

A Monarch Chrysalis at Farmhouse38.com

And I waited.

A Monarch Chrysalis from Farmhouse38.com

And the white dog waited.

Until finally…it really began to stretch its wings in the sunshine.

A Monarch Chrysalis at Farmhouse38.com

At this point, I was finally able to tell that this was a male (by the two black spots in the center of each lower wing).

They say that it takes about an hour before a monarch is ready to take flight, but the white dog and I waited two and a half hours for this little guy.

A Monarch Chrysalis at Farmhouse38.com

I could see him start to vibrate and really pump his wings, and I knew it was the moment.

And then–just like that–he was off!

A Monarch Chrysalis at Farmhouse38.com

A bit out of focus, but there he went–tumbling clumsily around.

And then we were super tired so we had to rest on a nearby rose bush:

A Monarch Chrysalis at Farmhouse38.com

First flights are exhausting.

After a bit of a rest, he flitted to a few different resting spots in the yard, and then he was off, tumbling and flying with the other monarchs that had been playing in the garden that day.

Magic. Complete and utter magic.

A Monarch Chrysalis at Farmhouse38.com

The white dog just really wasn’t all that impressed.

 

Of Monarchs and Milkweeds

Monarch Butterfly Gardening at Farmhouse38.comI attended college at UC Santa Barbara, and my very first apartment was just outside of campus in Goleta, CA. My neighborhood there butted up against a chunk of undeveloped land peppered with trails that led all through and eventually down to the beaches there. I felt very fortunate to live so close to such a place and spent a lot of time exploring and running on those trails, always taking different directions and footpaths to see where they would take me. One afternoon, I was doing just this, running a trail, and all of a sudden, I stumbled into a eucalyptus grove that was alive with monarch butterflies. Stunned and all alone, it was just I and the butterflies, the flipping of their wings dripping from every leaf, every branch, and ‘puddling’ in various spots on the grove floor. It was magic, and I have never ever forgotten it.

Monarch Butterflies at the Goleta Monarch Grove via Farmhouse38

This is how I remember all the trees looking when I happened into the grove back then. Image borrowed with permission from the City of Goleta’s Butterfly Grove website.

What I didn’t know then was that I had probably stumbled into what is now the Goleta Butterfly Grove; at the time, I was totally unaware of its existence (it wasn’t designated as such until 2005, several years after I would have been there). But that beautiful, spiritual, quiet moment has haunted me ever since, and is a large part of what bothers me so much about the current decline of these incredible creatures.

First things first; a bit of information on the monarch…

The monarch butterflies comprise two separate but similar migratory patterns in the US: one west of the Rocky Mountains, and one east. The smaller western migration consists of generations of butterflies that overwinter in coastal California (anywhere from just north of San Francisco to as far south as Mexico). In the spring, the migration moves up through the Central Valley and Sierra Nevadas of California, up into Oregon, Washington, and even sometimes as far north as British Columbia. In the fall, a special generation of monarchs are born; ones that live up to 8 months. These special butterflies make the long move back down to their sites in California where they stay until spring. These are the butterflies that I have grown up with in Los Angeles, that filled my childhood backyard, that I witnessed in the eucalyptus grove in Santa Barbara, and are the very butterflies that now visit the Farmhouse garden. These monarchs and I go way back.

The eastern monarch migration is the stuff of legends, with its individuals traveling possibly as many as 3,000 miles in a season! The special migratory generation of butterflies begin in the US and Canada when milkweed and nectar sources begin to die back in the fall, and will then fly all the way to overwinter in Mexico. In the spring, they make their way from Mexico north to the US Gulf Coast, where native milkweed is just beginning to bloom, and it is here that they lay their eggs and start the next generation. Sometimes up to three generations will successively travel north, following the bloom of the milkweed back to their predecessors’ starting points.

This is where milkweed (genus Asclepias) becomes really important. It is on this that the females must lay their eggs, as it is the only thing that the larvae (caterpillars) can eat.

Building a Garden for Monarch Butterflies at Farmhouse38.com

Tiny babies in the milkweed.

So what is happening to these butterflies (and so many other invertebrate pollinators)?

The Xerces Society website states:

In 2008, the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC), a tri-national organization covering the United States, Canada, and Mexico established by the North American Free Trade Agreement, published the North American Monarch Conservation Plan. The Plan identifies several factors that have contributed to the steady decline of monarchs across their native range:

• loss of overwintering sites in Mexico due to deforestation;
• degradation of overwintering habitat in Mexico due to forest fires, diversion of water for human use, and poorly-regulated tourist activity;
• loss of overwintering sites in California due to development;
• degradation of overwintering habitat in California due to aging trees;
• loss of breeding habitat due to the ongoing decline of native milkweeds (Asclepias spp.), their larval host plants; and
• disease, parasitism, and predation.

Additionally, The Xerces Society states:

In the western U.S., overwintering populations of monarchs along the California coast have declined from over 1 million individuals counted at 101 sites in 1997 to less than 60,000 individuals counted at 74 sites in 2009. Most scientists believe that this decline is due to the loss of milkweed from a prolonged California drought and the extensive use of pesticides.

Sad face.

So what can we, as individuals, at home in our own gardens, realistically do to help? First and foremost, put down the pesticides and the herbicides. Just stop. It may be a little trickier sometimes to deal with pests and weeds organically, but we’re all better off for it. If you’re spraying for ants (even with some so-called ‘organic’ sprays) any other unlucky invertebrates that come into contact with that stuff are going to suffer the consequences. Pesticides don’t discriminate, even though their packaging would have you believe otherwise. Herbicides are just as bad, if not worse, because they tend to be broadcast in larger quantities across much larger areas; inevitably coming into contact with more organisms, and depleting vast sections of critical native vegetation (milkweed, anyone?). Additionally, they can hang around in plant tissue (especially when we’re talking plants that have been genetically modified to resist such products), soil, and ground water for a very long time. Ick. Beyond the negative impact on pollinators, do you really want to spray that stuff on your lawn and then let your kids and pets roll around in it? Don’t. Just don’t. If you simply must use them, apply them in careful, specific doses; avoid aimless, broad applications.

That brings us to the milkweed. Plant it. Wherever, whenever, however you can (for a fantastic article on planting milkweed, visit one of my favorite blogs: Julie’s Garden Delights). But proceed with caution when going out and buying milkweed plants: most nurseries still subscribe to conventional practices, which means that that beautiful milkweed plant you bought with the bestest of intentions (that may or may not even be the right variety for your region), may be doused in some awful chemicals. Chemicals that, until they run their course (which could be quite awhile) are going to do the exact opposite of what you intended the milkweed to do. So the safest option is to find out what species of milkweed is/are native to your region (there are more than a hundred varieties in the US), buy seeds, and grow it from scratch.  Or find a reputable source for organic, native milkweed plants (don’t know where to go for that?-see below!).

Monarchwatch.org has an excellent list of milkweeds by state here, where you can figure out what kind you need to be growing in your yard. And even better: you can actually purchase flats of native milkweed plugs through them by going here. Huzzah!

Xerces.org also has an awesome milkweed finder here.

MonarchJointVenture.org lists some additional resources, and also a fabulous set of guidelines for planting and managing milkweed not only in home and public gardens, but also in agricultural areas (where milkweed populations have been notoriously wiped out), managed corridors, and natural and restored areas. Check out these guidelines here.

Building a Garden for Monarch Butterflies at Farmhouse38.com

A well-fed monarch caterpillar makes its way around a milkweed stem.

It has taken me a long time to get to planning, planting, and growing the Farmhouse38 garden (had to get the house renovation done first, and, as we all know, that still isn’t done). In fact, it has only been in the last two seasons or so that I have really gotten to give it a go. It was always my intention to make the garden a haven for pollinators, but most especially for monarchs. Two seasons ago, I went to my local big-name nursery and eagerly bought three mature Tropical Milkweed, (Asclepias curassavica) plants to put in my garden. My heart was in the right place, despite being a bit misguided. Firstly, this isn’t a native variety (for my region it is the Narrowleaf Milkweed, (Asclepias fascicularis). And secondly, I have no idea what sorts of nasty stuff the plants might have been treated with. I was clueless. Thirdly…well, three plants is just not enough. Plant as much of it as you can possibly stand and/or fit. If three plants is it, well, then that’s it, but if you can fit more, do it. In its natural state, milkweed grows in thick colonies, which not only provide ample food for the monarch larvae (as well as being a natural nectar source for a variety of pollinators), but offer much needed shelter. Ideally, your garden should have generous native milkweed interspersed with a wide variety of native, flowering plants (with staggered bloom times); milkweed for the babies to eat, nectar-filled blooms for the adults to feed off of, and plenty of shelter for all. I am working towards having milkweed planted in every single bed in my entire yard.

Building a Garden for Monarch Butterflies at Farmhouse38.com

This season was the first that I had caterpillars on those three Tropical Milkweeds (for the past two seasons, even though there were monarchs in my yard, they wanted nothing to do with those plants–you do the math), and they absolutely decimated them! Hungry little fellas!

Building a Garden for Monarch Butterflies at Farmhouse38.com

A female and several babies vie for space on a milkweed plant.

So what am I planting in the Farmhouse garden besides milkweed? I’m shooting for as many native flowering plants as possible. Xerces.org has an awesome list of regionally-specific native pollinator-friendly seed mixes here. Additionally, I’ve got many non-native pollinator-friendly ornamentals interspersed with vegetables and herbs (as I am also working towards having a self-sustainable vegetable garden as well as a bit of a cutting garden). It is important to plant your garden for continuous bloom; all pollinators need nectar sources spring, summer, and fall. Here is a really great article by the National Wildlife Federation with some guidelines on planting a butterfly-friendly garden.

In addition to plant selections, the NWF article lists several important non-botanical features that your butterfly garden should have; mainly, that butterflies need places to rest, and they need places to ‘puddle’. ‘Puddling’ is a behavior where butterflies congregate on damp sand or mud to drink water and draw minerals. Make sure there is a spot (or two) in your garden where they can do this, and if need be, place a low dish, filled with sand or soil, and keep it damp. Place rocks and twigs within reach of the sand for the butterflies to land safely on. Butterflies also require spots where they can stop and rest in the sun; recharge, if you will. Provide flat rocks that are placed where they receive around six hours of sun a day. This will ensure that the rock is always warm and welcoming to a little butterfly-style relaxation.

Building a Garden for Monarchs at Farmhouse38.com

A monarch caterpillar begins to build its chrysalis.

It was always my intention that once the garden was up and running and properly outfitted for monarchs and pollinators alike, I would have it certified as a Monarch Waystation. This is a wonderful program run by MonarchWatch.org that encourages the implementation of monarch-focused butterfly-gardening. Through their site, you can learn about the Monarch Waystation project, see guidelines for buidling a monarch-friendly garden, purchase Waystation seed kits, as well as certify your garden as an official Monarch Waystation. Done and done.

Building a Garden for Monarch Butterflies at Farmhouse38.com

I was so surprised and excited to find this gorgeous monarch chrysalis hanging off the wrist of my Lady Scarecrow.

The plight of the monarchs is obviously a tiny, tiny facet of a broad, insidious epidemic. It isn’t just the monarchs suffering, it is many, if not all, invertebrate pollinators. They are a pivotal and now precarious support on the food chain, directly responsible for the pollination of over 2/3 of our food supply and reproduction of over 70% of the world’s flowering plants. Without them, we are in deep trouble. It is important that we sit up and pay attention, and become more responsible with our actions. The Monarch Joint Venture views the monarch as “a flagship species whose conservation will sustain habitats for pollinators and other plants and animals”; ie, if we all take the urgently necessary steps towards preservation of the monarchs’ habitat, we will be helping all the other little guys, as well.

Now will someone please help me down from this soapbox? Thanks.

Building a Monarch Butterfly Garden at Farmhouse38.com

Let’s do what we can to help them.

Sources:

Adolf, Julie. (2014, March 6). Feed the Monarchs! You Can Grow That [blog post]. Retrieved from http://JuliesGardenDelights.com.

Goleta Butterfly Grove. (n.d.) Goleta Butterfly Grove [webpage]. Retrieved from http://www.goletabutterflygrove.com/.

McLaughlin, Chris. (2009, February 5). The Fantastic Monarchs of Pacific Grove [web article]. Retrieved from http://examiner.com.

The Monarch Joint Venture. (n.d.). Create Habitat for Monarchs [website article]. Retrieved from MonarchJointVenture.org.

Monarch Watch. (n.d.). Milkweeds by State [webpage]. Retrieved from http://MonarchWatch.org

Monarch Watch. (n.d.) Milkweed Market [webpage]. Retrieved from http://MonarchWatch.org

Monarch Watch. (n.d.). Monarch Waystations [webpage]. Retrieved from http://MonarchWatch.org

National Wildlife Federation. (n.d.). How to Attract Butterflies to Your Garden [website article]. Retrieved from http://NWF.org.

The Xerces Society. (n.d.). Milkweed Finder [website article]. Retrieved from http://www.xerces.org/.

The Xerces Society. (n.d.). Monarchs [website article]. Retrieved from http://www.xerces.org/.

The Xerces Society. (n.d.) Monarchs, Conservation Status [website article]. Retrieved from http://www.xerces.org/.

The Xerces Society. (n.d.). Pollinator Conservation [website article]. Retrieved from http://www.xerces.org/.

The Xerces Society. (n.d.). Pollinator Conservation Seed Mixes [website article]. Retrieved from http://www.xerces.org/.

Pot O’Gold Terrarium

St. Patty's Day Pot O'Gold Terrarium from Farmhouse38.comEver since attending the Terrarium Class at The Nest Reno a few weeks back, I’ve had terrariums on the brain. I figured that St. Patrick’s Day was a good excuse to get it out of my system.

I started with a nice big glass jar (the kind that comes with a lid, but we’re leaving that out this time around), and filled it about two inches or so with some green recycled glass fragments (obtained at a gardening store).

St. Patty's Day Pot O' Gold Terrarium from Farmhouse38.comNext, I dropped in two generous handfuls of activated carbon (you can find this, most likely, at your local nursery, but also in the aquarium section of the pet store).

St Patty's Day Pot O' Gold Terrarium from Farmhouse38.com

The third layer is a bit of sheet moss (from the nursery or craft store):

St. Patty's Day Pot O' Gold Terrarium from Farmhouse38.com

Now, it’s time for potting soil. Put enough in to accommodate the size of the plants you want to use.

St. Patty's Day Pot O'Gold Terrarium from Farmhouse38.com

Time for the fun part: planting. I chose several tiny plants from the nursery, including a couple of shamrocks (oxalis) and a couple of seloginella ferns.

St. Patty's Day Pot O'Gold Terrarium from Farmhouse38.com

My local nursery has an entire ‘fairy garden’ section with itty bitty plants perfect for terrariums.

But I also just happen to have some wild oxalis growing in my yard, whose leaves are much tinier and more ‘fairy garden-ish’–so I wanted to transplant a few of them, also.

St. Patty's Day Pot O'Gold Terrarium from Farmhouse38.com

I wasn’t sure if these would survive transplanting–but they totally did! Shamrock on.

St. Patty's Day Pot O'Gold Terrarium from Farmhouse38.com

I planted all my tiny plants and then tucked sheet and reindeer moss all around them, then gave everything a really good misting of water.

Now it was time to make my tiny pot of gold. I started with some broken mirror glass gravel (found at the craft store). It was kind of a cool yellow glass, but I spread it thin and sprayed it with gold spray paint, let it dry, shook it up a bit, sprayed it, let it dry, etc., until it was well-coated with gold. Any type of small gravel would work for this, I just really liked the size, shape, and reflective quality of this stuff.

St. Patty's Day Pot O'Gold Terrarium from Farmhouse38.com

On the left is the original look of the gravel. On the right is how it looked lightly sprayed gold.

Now to create the pot: I went with the most wee terracotta pot (also from the craft store) I could find:

St. Patty's Day Pot O'Gold Terrarium from Farmhouse38.com

We have three sizes: wee, not so wee, and FRIGGIN’ HUGE!!! (Who’s good at their obscure SNL skit lines?)

I then sprayed it black with chalkboard paint. When it had thoroughly dried, I ‘seasoned’ it a bit with chalk to make it look a little aged (giving the whole thing a coat of hairspray to help make the chalk stick). I then hot glued a craft stick into the bottom of the pot (sticking out the drain hole). Next I layered hot glue, then gold gravel, then hot glue, then gold gravel, etc, building the gravel up until it looked like a nice, full pot of Leprechaun gold.

St. Patty's Day Pot O'Gold Terrarium from Farmhouse38.com

Unhand me gold.

Now…for the rainbow. I began with an empty plastic bottle:

St. Patty's Pot O'Gold Terrarium from Farmhouse38.com

I drew a rough guidline, spiraling down the bottle, and then cut along this line.

This left me with a curlycue strip, like so:

St. Patty's Day Pot O'Gold Terrarium from Farmhouse38.com

Next, I took some fine gauge sand paper and sanded both sides of the plastic (this removes any printing or label remnants, and gives the surface some ‘tooth’ for the paint to hold on to).

St. Patty's Day Pot O' Gold Terrarium from Farmhouse38.com

Tape or weigh down both ends of the plastic so that it is laying flat. Choose your rainbow colors (I used basic craft acrylic paint), and thinly paint your stripes of colors (thin the paint with clear gloss if you have to so that the final result is a bit transparent). Once that has dried, hot glue one end of the rainbow to the back edge of the pot of gold, and place your pot in the terrarium.

St. Patty's Day Pot O' Gold Terrarium from Farmhouse38.com

For some reason I really wanted a little paver path leading to the pot. So I placed some tiny stones. I think I am still fixated on Olive and Love‘s adorable pathway in her Terrarium Class terrarium.

St. Patty's Day Pot O'Gold Terrarium from Farmhouse38.com

This little path makes no sense. What leprechaun in his right mind would build a path leading to his pot of gold. I mean, really.

The final step is to apply your cloud to the top edge of the jar. I swiped a handful of fiber-fill stuffing from a pillow, ran a bead of hot glue along the back edge of the jar, and stuck the fluff on. I then ran a bead of hot glue along the loose end of the rainbow and lodged that in the cloud.

And there you have it! A pot o’gold at the end of the rainbow, cloud and all:

St Patty's Day Pot O'Gold Terrarium from Farmhouse38.com

Kitchen Scrap Fertilizers: Waste of Time?

Kitchen Scrap Fertilizers from Farmhouse38.comWe’ve been composting for awhile here at the Farmhouse (see my composting set up here). I love being able to hang onto kitchen waste for a higher purpose. Some scraps go as treats to the chickens and parrot, while others go into a special compartment in our freezer (so they don’t attract flies) before being taken outside to the compost bins. But I was unaware until recently that certain scraps, mainly eggshells, used coffee grounds, and banana peels, can allegedly go straight into the ground as fertilizers.

There are a ton (okay, slight exaggeration) of these three things going into our compost bins, and so when I realized that they could possibly skip the bin and be applied straight, I got real excited. Because these are the things I get excited about. What.

So I broke out good ol’ Google, and I started doing some research. And just like anything that you hear going around the internet, I came up with really mixed messages. Allegedly, coffee grounds add nitrogen to the soil, and as such, are great as fertilizer for any acid-loving plants. But you’ll find people out there also warning you that they can make the ground too acidic. And you’ll find people saying they do absolutely nothing. Great. Banana peels, buried in the soil near the roots of the plant (or dried and processed into a fine powder), are thought to be a slow-release dose of potassium and phosphorus, as well as magnesium, calcium, nitrogen, and sulfur, and are especially perfect as a rose fertilizer. In fact, banana peels have been used as such since the Victorian era. And yet, you’ll also find people saying they do absolutely nothing. And that the garden rodents dig ‘em real quick-like. Super. Finally, ground eggshells mixed into the soil around a tomato plant are supposed to prevent the dreaded blossom end-rot. But there are a lot of people who say this doesn’t even begin to work (that the calcium carbonate in egg shells takes so long to break down and be released into the soil, it’s just not worth it). Fantastic. Furthermore, it’s nearly impossible to find anyone committing to how much of any of these ingredients you should add to your soil. Which is frustrating, and also a bit suspicious. Is this all just wives’-tale-ery?

So what do I do? Test it for myself, that’s what.

Let’s start with adding eggshells to the tomato planting process. Tomatoes need calcium in order to resist blossom end-rot, and there are many conventional products on the market that can be added to combat this. But I don’t want conventional. I want to use my garbage. I’ve got a lot. The Ladybirds make sure of that. And you need a lot of eggshells for this (depending on how many tomato plants you’ve got or plan to have). As you use the eggs, rinse and then store the shells in a bowl in the fridge. I saved up about two dozen for this first trial run.

Kitchen Scrap Fertilizers from Farmhouse38.com

The eggshells pass general inspection; ready for processing. Transfer them to a baking dish or cookie sheet.

Kitchen Scrap Fertilizers from Farmhouse38.comWhen you’re ready to process them, heat your oven to 200-250 degrees F and bake them in a baking pan for around 30 minutes (or until all the moisture is cooked off of them. If they start to brown a little, that’s ok). When the time is up, pull them from the oven and let cool. Now pop them in a food processor (or coffee grinder) and pulverize them into as fine of a powder as you can get them. The finer the powder, the quicker the calcium will break down in the soil. Apparently.

Kitchen Scrap Fertilizers from Farmhouse38.com

This batch of two dozen eggs generated a half pint of egg dust.

Your (hopefully) magic egg dust is ready to use! Allegedly, the most ideal time to use it is when you transplant your seedlings; you place it in the bottom of the hole. But here’s where I could find no information on just how much you are supposed to use. So I am going out on a limb and trying several different quantities to see if there is any variation in results. In a few of my plants, I will use 1/4 of a cup sprinkled in to the bottom of the transplant hole, for a 4-inch pot sized seedling, in a few I will do 1/2 cup, and in a few more I will try 3/4 cup . I will report back on how this works; in previous years, I have always had a few plants suffering from blossom end rot–so we shall see how things go this season.

Kitchen Scrap Fertilizers from Farmhouse38.com

1/4 cup of egg dust sprinkled in the bottom of the transplant hole.

Kitchen Scrap Fertilizers from Farmhouse38.com

Another application method would be to sprinkle the egg dust around the soil at the base of an existing plant, and work it in.

So let’s move on to coffee grounds; acid-loving plants, such as hydrangeas, camelias, and azaleas can benefit from the application of coffee grounds. Even for plants that like it a little acidic, such as roses and tomatoes, they can be used sparingly. Supposedly, worms love them (and they’re great for adding to vermicompost). But…of course, when you start reading all the information out there about this, you undoubtedly run into the same cautionary tale: coffee grounds are great, but don’t use too much! Dear Zeus, no! Not that! And then, beyond that, there are plenty of accounts of how they do nothing at all. Great. Awesome. So how much is too much? Of course, no one wants to commit to this, and just like the eggshells, there are no quantity guidelines. Super. Thanks, The Internet.

So once again, I must go my own way. While I allow a good portion of our grinds to go out and into the compost bins, I reserve some in a bowl in the fridge. When I’ve filled the bowl (approx. 8 or so cups of used grounds), I place them in a baking dish and pop them in the oven (alongside the eggshells) for a half hour at 200-250 degrees F to dry them out. The reason for this is that damp grounds have a tendency to grow mold pretty quickly and this helps to prevent it.

Kitchen Scrap Fertilizers from Farmhouse38.com

Bake them till they’re nice and dried out.

It seems as though there are several methods out there for applying the grinds. Many people will make a mulch of it around their acid-loving plants (and the thicker this is, the more likely it is to grow mold, so go thin with it). But if you’ve got chickens, this is not a good idea. Coffee grounds=sick chickens. So I prefer the idea of burying them pretty deep down by the roots of the plants–we’re talking several inches here. How much coffee grounds? Again, I have found no direction with this. For my rose bushes, I decided, at random, that I’d go with 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup, buried in a hole near the roots. My hydrangeas are all in the front yard, and therefore, out of the reach of chickens, so I’ve been applying coffee grounds as a mulch basically whenever I have them. I should also mention that I take any leftover coffee and, after it has cooled off, water my hydrangea bushes with it. So, they are pretty much coffee addicts at this point. In previous years, my hydrangeas have been pink, indicating the soil being neutral to basic–if the coffee grounds do their trick, the hydrangeas should become more purple to blue. They are leafing out now, so I’ll have my answer soon.

Kitchen Scrap Fertilizers from Farmhouse38.com

My hydrangeas previously…pretty basic. :-)

Finally, we come to the banana peels.

Kitchen Scrap Fertilizers from Farmhouse38.com

These were kicking it in the freezer with the rest of the kitchen compost waiting to be used, so they have a little extra debris stuck to them.

As I mentioned before, banana peels have been used as a rose fertilizer for a long, long time. Burying a single banana peel at the base of the plant is the simplest way to do this. As the peel decomposes, it releases nutrients into the soil; nutrients that roses, especially, are said to thrive upon. Some people suggest drying the peels and grinding them into a fine powder (to speed up the absorption process), but I feel like that’s a lot of extra work. So I went with the peel.

Kitchen Scrap Fertilizers from Farmhouse38.com

I dug a hole several inches deep near the roots of each rose plant, and placed a banana peel and 1/4 cup of used coffee grinds in the bottom of it: a little nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus cocktail.

Of course, truly the only way to be sure of what’s going on in your soil is to do a soil test. I really want to know if these methods work, so I tested my soil in each spot before application, and I will test again in a couple of weeks and see if there is any change, and then I’ll come back through and report my findings in this post.

Kitchen Scrap Fertilizers from Farmhouse38.comI should note that over-the-counter calcium tests are not super easy to come by, that I know of– so I’m probably just going to sit around and wait to see if I still get blossom end-rot. The tomatoes. Not me. In related news: does anyone know of an easy calcium test?

I’m curious to hear from anyone else who has tried these fertilizers; please comment and let me know your experience!

DIY Tillandsia Wreath

DIY Tillandsia Wreath by Farmhouse38

Oh, how I love tillandsias! After making off with a boatload of them from my recent trip to Reno (thanks again, Sierra Water Gardens!), I knew immediately that I wanted to make a wreath with some of them.

DIY Tillandsia Wreath from Farmhouse38.com

You will need: raffia-covered craft wire, a length of craft store grapevine, thin craft wire, and a selection of your finest mosses and air plants. Oh, and scissors and a hot glue gun. And hot glue. And a little bit of patience.

It would be very easy to start with a craft store grapevine wreath. Very easy, indeed. But I feel like I have used too many of those lately–and I was thinking I wanted something a little less chunky. So I decided to build a more slender wreath form, using raffia-covered craft wire and a length of store-bought grapevine.

I began by measuring out three lengths of raffia wire (I measured approximately 54″ lengths, which by the time you twist and bend and shape, etc., gives you approximately a 17-18″ wreath form). Twist these together into a single piece, twist the ends together, and bend and shape the wire to create a circle. (The more lengths of wire you twist together, the sturdier the form will be–go ahead, do four, five–get crazy).

DIY Tillandsia Wreath from Farmhouse38.com

It doesn’t have to be a perfect circle. Let’s be honest here; it probably won’t be.

Next, cut a length of grapevine to fit exactly on the form of the wreath.

DIY Tillandsia Wreath from Farmhouse38.com

Lay the grapevine cord along the wire form and cut it so that it fits perfectly on the form.

Every so often along the length of the grapevine, you will find little bits of wire lashing it together. One by one, undo these, and lash them back around the grapevine and the raffia wire to secure the whole thing.

DIY Tillandsia Wreath from Farmhouse38.com

Now we are ready to start attaching some air plants! There are a couple of ways of doing this: fishing line, thin wire, or non-toxic glue. I prefer (and happened to have on hand) wire. You want to carefully thread the wire (or fishing line works, too) through some of the base leaves the plant and then twist (not too tight, just enough to be secure).

DIY Tillandsia Wreath from Farmhouse38.com

For the larger plants, you may need to slip a wire around the base, as well as another towards the top of the plant. They can be heavy.

DIY Tillandsia Wreath from Farmhouse38.com

The smaller plants are fine just having one wire threaded through the base.

Now place the plant where you’d like it, wrapping the wire around the backside of the wreath form and twisting to secure. I also like to put a dab of hot glue on this back twist (being VERY careful not to get any on the plant itself), just to give it a little extra hold. Try to attach your plants so that they hang horizontally, as this is how they would attach themselves in nature, and this will help prevent water from collecting in their armpits (where the leaves join the plant–I’m so scientific), which is not good for them. If you must attach them so they sit upright (which a few of mine are), you may need to lay the wreath flat when you mist  or rinse the plants (this is how you should water them).

Add plants to your heart’s content! When you are happy with the arrangement, tuck some bits of moss in and around, securing with a bit of hot glue when necessary (again, being SO careful not to get it on the tillandsias).

DIY Tillandsia Wreath from Farmhouse38.com

Honestly? This looks pretty dang good. I almost stopped here. Almost.

For some reason, I had it in my head that I wanted a couple of tiny floating air plants in this thing. So I selected some small specimens, threaded them with wire, and then attached them to the top of the wreath (twisting and securing with hot glue there). I then applied bits of sheet moss at random to the rest of the naked wreath using plenty of hot glue (also covering the spot where the hanging plants’ wires attached to the top of the wreath).

DIY Tillandsia Wreath from Farmhouse38.com

Ta-dah!!!

Hang your wreath in a protected area with bright, indirect sunlight, and be sure to water regularly by misting or running under water, depending on climate and plant type. For a great article on how to care for your tillandsias, check out this post on FloraGrubb.com.

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