Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Locks of Love

I wanted to donate my hair so bad. But I'm just not gonna be able to do it.

A minimum donation to Locks of Love is 10 inches. I'm at 8. That is just two measly inches!!! But in hair-growing time, that is forever! If I was to take all 10 inches off my head right now, my hair would be right at my chin. That is way too short for my type of face, and I have to be able to pull it into a pony tail for work.

In April, it will have been a year since I've cut my hair. Its getting very raggedy and gross. If I'm going to wear it down, I have to straighten it with a hot iron. That is not a very "me" thing to do (because it takes way too much time and effort!). When I have it pulled back in a pony tail at the gym, the ends of it stick to the back of my neck and get all sweaty (GROSS!) so I think its about time to chop it all off.

I'm going to do it Thursday before work. Yes!

My mom used to cut me and my sister's hair. We had long straight, red hair. Everyone. And it was very long. My mom's used to be down to her butt before she chopped it all off and gave it to Locks of Love! But people used to think we were Amish because we had such long hair. My mom would give it a trim every now and then. Nothing special, just a straight-across the bottom trim.

When I moved away to college is when I finally went to a hair salon for a haircut. I actually really enjoyed it because I love to have people brush my hair. It was like going to a spa for me! And I went to Great Clips. Paying $12 for something I used to get for free (and they actually gave me layers and style to my hair!) didn't seem unreasonable.
Then, I upgraded. When I was a Senior in college, I found a "NY Styles" near the campus that would cut my hair for $20. Yiikes, thats $8 more than Great Clips!!! But they did really nice work and told me why they were better than Great Clips. I've been going there ever since. They are now 45 minutes from where I live, so I have to plan my hair cuts according to my work schedule.
I'm a grown adult, who can afford a nice salon, but I'm scared to "upgrade" once again. I'm afraid that I'll get "sucked in" to the more expensive places because they'll do that much better with my hair. I like the way NY Styles cuts my hair, and its relatively inexpensive. Also- when I go in they always ask who did my highlights (because they're fabulous!) and I tell them that they're natural! I have friends that pay big bucks for this stuff! But anyways- I'm sure if I get sucked in someday, its going to be because of my sister's influence. She's new to my area, and I'm sure she's going to convince me to trade in my NY Styles for a Salon Blu, or whatever. We'll see!
RNH is going to the beach with his BFF for the next two days, so he'll have a surprise (if he even notices!) when he gets home!
Me with my hair the shortest its ever been, 2007.

Me about 3 months ago. My hair doesn't look that long because its pulled around and over my shoulders. Its much longer than this now. And stringy/wavy/gross. I can't wait to get rid of it all! :)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Start of an Herb Garden

I love the idea of having an herb garden right outside my kitchen door. I loved the idea so much that I bought several different types of seeds and began to plan my garden. But the more I planned, the more I realized, RNH and I don't use a lot of the herbs I wanted to plant so bad. So I re-thought my herb garden and cut it down. Based on what we eat, and what we use, I planted only a few herbs. Probably half of what I originally planned.

On the left hand side of the deck stairs, I planted mint. I have no clue what kind it is because I bought it from a man a the Raleigh Farmer's Market. I had never been and took a special trip there with my sister. I was bummed because there really wasn't much for sale (since its still early in the season) and everything was pretty expensive. I purchased three herb plants and that was it. The mint is planted on the left-hand side of the deck because it is very shaded at all times of the day. It is doing very well despite the 90 degree days we have had. I planted it all by itself in its own space since its supposed to spread well. I'm pretty excited about the idea of making fresh mint juleps and dipping the leaves in chocolate. I love anything mint-chocolate. I'm going to have to do some research to figure out what else I can make. Anyone have anything they can recommend?
The right hand side of the deck receives a lot of sun. This is where I planted rosemary. Its not looking too great right now, but the weather is going to be getting better and I think it will be fine. RNH and I don't use a ton of rosemary, but I think it is one of those herbs that we can learn to use a lot. Plus its got such a great aroma and I think it will be nice to smell every time we come in and out of the house.
Next to the rosemary is the dill. We usually only use dill for pickles. We're planning on canning a lot of pickles this year, so having fresh dill on-hand will be perfect. Last year I bought a few sprigs from the grocery store, only to have them wilt in the refrigerator before I could use them. This year there will be less waste. I'll also look into other things that call for dill. Since dill doesn't come back year after year, (at least I think that's what I read!), I went ahead and planted it pretty close to the rosemary. I'm thinking next year the rosemary might take over and get bigger, so the dill will have to find a new spot.
Next to the dill is the basil. The dog chewed the top off of it right after I planted it, so its not looking too great. Ugh. I love basil. One of my favorite things to make is a basil butter. It is just butter, basil, garlic and Parmesan cheese. It is easily frozen and is great on corn, chicken, toast, etc. Love it. Because RNH loves basil too, and he has serious doubts on the recovery of our broken basil, he went ahead and purchased another plant. It was planted in a pot and looks much better.
To the right of the basil is oregano. My mother in-law brought us several small sprigs of oregano from her own garden. I'm not sure what we are going to do with it, but I'm sure we'll use it for something. I'm thinking we're going to be making some marinara sauce with all of these herbs!
RNH and I also purchased some cilantro from our local nursery. We bought two bunches and planted them in a pot as well. RNH makes an awesome salsa, so having fresh cilantro on hand will definitely help. Besides, when he buys cilantro from the grocery store, he often picks up parsley by mistake. Now we won' t have this problem!
Speaking of parsley- I also purchased some flat-leaf. We don't use it a ton, but I love to make shrimp and pasta dishes, with a butter and wine sauce, and sprinkle that with parsley. The herbs were so cheap at the nursery, I couldn't help it and purchased some parsley too! I'm sure we'll find more uses for it!

There is no more room in our herb garden, so the new basil plant, cilantro and parsley were all planted in pots and are kept on the deck. This is actually better for me because I can keep a better eye on them and make sure they're well-watered. They're also out of reach of the chickens (so far!). The chickens don't seem too excited about the herbs in the ground though. Is that usual, or will they become a pest as the garden grows?

So far the chickens have stayed out of the garden for the most part, now that it has garden netting surrounding it. I hope they continue to stay out as everything begins to grow!!!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Meet My Friend

Meet my friend Skinny. She is insanely hilarious and she is making my chickens famous!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Apple Tree

RNH and I planted our two apple trees the past two days! It was a bit of a struggle to figure out where we wanted to place our permanent structures for maximum enjoyment, all while keeping them out of the way. Our disease-ridden, terribly pruned pear tree stands next to an ugly light pole in the middle of our yard. It is a terrible eye sore. But when the pear tree has leaves, the light pole doesn't seem so bad. Turns out that there were two other fruit trees also planted nearby to cover up the ugly pole. It stinks- we need the light in our backyard, but its hideous. Anyways. RNH and I dig and dig and dig and remove the two old fruit tree stumps that have decayed and decide to plant our new apple trees in their place.

I'm a bit worried about the Gala apple tree we planted since it was basically set on top of a rotted root ball that we just couldn't get out of the ground. For the most part, the tree trunk had decayed and we pulled out all of the old wood that we could. We then filled the soil back in with garden soil and compost. I'm not sure if this was a good thing to do. I'm also concerned with why these fruit trees had died. Were they diseased? If so, is the old wood going to pass on the disease to my new trees? Only time will tell!

This picture is the corner off of our deck on the back of the house. You might be able to see the tiny red circles I drew in the grass. Those are our apple trees!

As you can see from this angle, the apple tree is planted near the light pole, hopefully to conceal the pole better. Past the light pole is the pear tree. The pear tree is a disaster. Now after I've done all of this research on pruning and care of fruit trees, I feel sad for this pear tree.

I don't know if the poor tree has ever been pruned. I know there are several ways to prune fruit trees, but I like the pyramid shaped trees that have a central leader. I think with a bit of training, it will be possible to recover this pear tree as long as I'm able to remove the one of the Dos Leaders. The one leader, on the right, actually suffered from a severe bout with fireblight last year. It has to go. There are a ton of other branches in this tree that have to go, so I've got my work cut out for me!


Another problem I have: if you look to the right of the pear tree, there are several other small pear trees that have sprouted over the years. I don't think this is a good thing. But if I'm going to loose a pear tree to fire blight, wouldn't it be nice to have another (free!) tree growing in its place? I think that these younger trees probably have a higher chance of also being infected with fire blight, but I'm not sure. I'll pay more attention to them this year since I have a bit of knowledge!
I don't think I'll know whether or not the larger pear tree is salvageable until about 2 years later. By then who knows what kind of shape these tiny pear trees will be in. As the growth continues this year, I think I'll keep an eye on the small ones and see which one looks the healthiest. I'll cut out all other small trees and make sure I prune the small one correctly. As the years pass, if I determine that the large tree is done for good, I'll just hack it down and let the smaller tree continue to grow (properly pruned!) in its place! We'll see. This is a lot to think about, but I'm excited about fruit!!!
If you can give me advice about my pear and apple trees, please do! I need all the advice I can get!

broccoli

I have finally put my seedlings in the ground!!! We had a pretty cloudy, yet decently warm day and I was finally able to put my nursery-purchased broccoli into the ground, along with my tiny seedlings. At this point I wanted my seedlings to be much bigger than they are, but because my lovely puppy knocked over my first seedlings, I got what I got. I am happy to report that despite my seedlings being a bit small, they are doing very well!


Because the soil is so rocky/full of clay at this end of the garden, even after tilling under manure and compost, (maybe it will be better next year?) I decided to mix some bagged top soil in with the clay while planting. I'm hoping the loose soil will help the young plant's roots settle into the soil better. We'll see if I'm right!
While planting my broccoli, I was minding my own business and all of a sudden I heard clucking behind me. The dang chickens had run over to my little baby plants and begun eating them! It didn't even take a second before the ladies had found my gold mine. I had to quickly put up a temporary fence around my luscious green tops, even while I was working in the garden. Its pretty funny that the chickens have left the garlic and onion alone. I guess those veggies are a bit too potent for them to enjoy. Here is my temporary garden fence. This weekend I am actually going to purchase some more garden netting and go ahead and enclose the entire 1,000 square feet so I don't have to worry about it later. Besides, I snuck carrots in (even though they weren't in my garden plans that I have drawn out... oops!) and I don't want to have to worry about the chickens discovering them as their green tops begin to poke out!
I planted a Rabbit-eye blue berry bush just a few weeks ago. It is doing very nicely. As I recall, my blueberry bushes looked exactly like this last year. Full of buds and looking very promising. They produced a decent amount of berries for being such a small bush, so I was happy with them. But now...The tops of my three bushes that I planted last year look like they're still dormant. With this warm weather, I expected to see something. I took a set of pruning shears to it to determine if the bushes were even still alive. I had to remove the dead branches anyways. Well I might have been a bit too prune-happy, but I cut the bush back a tad and got rid of the dead stuff. Hopefully this will help. I know (now) that the soil is not as acidic as blueberries prefer. I'm hoping this doesn't stop them. I am also planning on mulching the bushes better with pine straw and adding lime to the soil to add to the acidity. We'll see. I'm just praying they produce!

Maybe it was the extra long/harsh winter that we had this year that has kept the bushes from growing as quickly as I expected them to. I'm new to blueberries, does anyone know if its normal for them to look this way? Do I need to just be patient?!?!

Dehydrating Deliciousness


I recently purchased a food dehydrator from the ultimate redneck store, Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World. It is our favorite store. I bought an Open Country 7-tray food dehydrator based on the several reviews and research I did. I found that if I'm not going to be dehydrating large quantities of food on a regular basis, the Open Country would do just fine. It was on sale and I paid $40. I think it is a perfect contraption for a beginner dehydrator. The reviews speak highly of the product, and there are several reviews on it.

The one food I desperately wanted to dehydrate was bananas. I have watched and re-watched the banana making video on this awesome website, Dehydrate2Store, but I just can't get my bananas to taste very good. They taste old and bruised.

Anyways. I have fell in love with other things that I've tried. Fruit cocktail is my favorite thing of all. I am a huge candy eater. Especially at work. I get a bored/sweet tooth and feel the need to go pick up a pack of Skittles or something to chew on. Instead of reaching for candy now, I pick up my dehydrated fruit and its just like eating candy! Sweet, chewy, and all sorts of different flavors. The only difference: its not quite as bad for me!
Canned fruit of any kind; peaches, pears, fruit cocktail, pineapple, apricots, etc. are awesome in the dehydrator. My newest thing: strawberries. I love Special K Cereal with the dried strawberries in it. These strawberries taste like they came right out of the box. Since I don't have a huge amount of strawberry plants right now, I will probably end up drying a lot of my berries to eat later.

Another fun thing that I took from Dehydrate2Store was kiwi infused strawberry. Simply slice the two fruits and lay the slices on top of each other while drying. Magnificent!


Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Natural Born Swimmer

A coworker brought his two dogs over today, a pit mix and dingo-dog mix. They're big dogs and Drake has played with them since he was a tiny puppy. He loves them and loves to have puppy play dates!!!
We went down into the woods and walked along the river. We actually went further than RNH and I had ever been. It was so much fun being in the middle of the woods, in the middle of nowhere. I just love that feeling! The dogs were having a blast running around and chasing each other. Drake found a decaying turtle and the other dog found a ton of beaver holes, but other than that, nothing too exciting.

As we were walking back, RNH and I were on one side of the river, and my coworker had all three dogs on the other side. Drake began whining because he couldn't be with his parents. We stopped along side the river and I coaxed him into the water. He had to swim across to get with me- and he did it!!! It was so great! We made a big deal about it and of course he wanted to do it again. He swam right back across where his two play pals were waiting for him.

Further down river it got much much wider, and he even swam across that! I was upset because I didn't have my camera with me, and it felt as if my child had just taken his first step! I'm sure as the weather continues to warm, he's going to be swimming a lot more. I snapped this picture of a worn out pup after his buddies were gone!

Isn't he getting big!??!

Onion Failure

I've pretty much given in and have admitted to my failure at growing onions from seed. I read that it was hard to do, but I figured it wouldn't hurt to give it a shot. Since I read that a common mistake is over-watering onion seedlings, I was careful but ended up under-watering them. So now I have life-less seedlings sitting in my window. I'm bummed. I found some onion bulbs at Walmart, surprisingly, for $1.50, so I'm going to try my hand at them. They went in the ground this past weekend.
The garlic that I moved from one spot in the garden to another, is doing remarkable. I'm excited that it did not die. I'm hoping that once its harvested, I'll be able to dry the bulbs out and make garlic powder. We use a ton of it at our house, so it would be perfect! Our favorite store, Southern States, had a huge grand opening this weekend. Despite working midnights and not being awake during decent hours, RNH and I decided we'd wake up early and go. They were supposed to have biddies there, as well as some good sales, so I really wanted to go. Of course when we got there, all of the chicks are gone. Sold out. The fruit trees were on sale as well, and I had made up my mind that I was going to buy a single peach tree. Most peach varieties are self-pollinating, meaning you only need one tree. And of course like the biddies, the peach trees were gone as well. RNH and I were bummed, but quickly decided that we would like to have some apple trees. They are not self-pollinating so we bought two kinds: Gala and Fuji. I am so ecstatic about the possibility of apples that I can hardly stand it- the only thing of course is that I will have to wait at least 3 years for them to fruit! Oh well! I'm also on a list just in case SS gets some peach trees in. We'll see. Now we just have to find a decent place to plant these trees! We'll have to figure that out on our next day off!
I also bought some carrot seeds for another attempt. Last year I planted them in the fall and they did wonderfully. But because I'm a wimp, I didn't have the heart to thin them out, and I also did not weed them well-enough, oh and I also planted them too late! Now that I've done research on them and have mapped out my garden plans, I think I'm going to squeeze these suckers in. The carrots that did grow last year, were tiny and very very sweet. They were delicious. I think our soil is good for carrots, so I'm hoping I'll have some good luck with these. I read that they should have been planted at the first of the month, but with the rain and everything that we had, I think it is good that I "waited." (Or just didn't think about growing them until now!) :) Putting them in the ground will be the first thing I do on my day off.

My broccoli and eggplant seedlings are now outdoors at all times. Even overnight. They are doing wonderfully, but I think I need to transfer them to a fiber pot or something. The small peat pots that they are in right now are too small. I won't plant them into the ground just yet. I'll just put the round peat pots into the bigger, square fiber pots and wait for them to continue developing.

On the way to the dump, yes the dump, the other day, RNH and I stopped in at a local nursery. It is well off the beaten path and we've never stopped. I wasn't sure if they'd have vegetables, but they sure did! The man who owns the nursery starts everything from seed in his huge greenhouse. He had 4 packs of broccoli started, ready to plant, for $1.60. That is unheard of at Southern States. A 4 pack of smaller broccoli seedlings at SS would be at least $3, and probably more. I was real excited and told him we'd come back for more plants as the season progresses. I purchased 12 broccoli plants, in addition to the 10 or so that I have at the house. I'm hoping that his seedlings will be ready for harvest first, and as long as the heat holds off, I will be harvesting my seedlings weeks later. We'll see if it works out!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Garden Preparations

So now that this crazy cold winter seems to finally be over, I dug in full steam into the garden. RNH re-tilled the garden while I formed the rows. Afterwards I spread some Black Kow (cow manure) on the rows. I'm not sure if that is the correct way to do things, (its probably better to work the manure into the soil while tilling) but I'm thinking this will be good enough.

While doing all of this hard work, it was very amazing to see the differences in the soil within just a few feet. The soil on the west end is a darker color (I think because I put manure down last spring), and is much more fine. The soil on the east side is harder, full of thick rocks and is like clay. I'm thinking that this is going to be a big problem for our crops at that end of the garden. RNH suggested working in some top soil which I think will be a good idea. If I had been composting all winter, it would have been good to work the compost in. But I was lazy, so now I'm just working with what we've got. And thankfully, we've got topsoil in the shed.

Our soil goes from this:
To this: in a matter of feet.

My next problem to tackle: chickens in the garden. I only have garlic and onions planted so far, but the chickens immediately go over and pluck out all of the onion bulbs. Grrr... I've got to buy some more netting and set up the fence ASAP!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Bad Teeth

As I promised, I am posting a picture of the beaver skull (just the top half) that we found in the woods recently. The size of the skull makes me think that this was a younger beaver. It is pretty small and the beavers I have seen have to be about 50 lbs. I'd guess this one was about 20 lbs. And I don't think his mom ever showed him the correct way to brush his teeth....

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Creatures of the Night

We finally got pictures of animals (besides birds) on our wildlife camera!!! While at the Dixie Deer Classic we got some good information on setting up the camera the correct way, as well as what the deer are looking for at this time of the year. They're searching out minerals and apparently the salt lick will do them right. So RNH bought a lick and set out some corn. He moved the camera to the side to get a different angle, and Volia! Here are some of the pictures we captured! Nothing too big or exciting, but hopefully we'll see a big buck, fox or something neat on there soon!



Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Redneck's Heaven

Yup, that's right. The Dixie Deer Classic was in Raleigh this past weekend. Of course RNH and I went. I've never been since I'm new to all of the redneck ways, but let me tell you this- I've never seen so many good ol' people in one place. I usually hate crowds, but this crowd didn't make me as nervous as other crowds do...

The first building we went into was full of people and tons of crazy noises. From turkeys gobbling, crows calling, owls hooting, ducks quacking, and deer grunting, there seemed to be a million vendors that were selling the "best" call at the Classic. RNH and I wandered from booth to booth. We were specifically looking for a good wood duck call since that is what we seem to have the most of. I guess that is a popular duck in our area, because the best sounding wood duck call had been sold out on Friday (we were there on Sunday). As we checked out the different duck calls, I began to notice a trend. The vendors had their calls on display. If you asked them to use the call so you could hear the pitch and sound, they would suggest that you try it. Yup. I got suckered into trying a call. A call that probably a million other people had tried that weekend. Surely, I thought, these have to be sanitized in some way. After I made a feeble attempt at doing the "WheeeT" that a wood duck does, the man took the call back from me and wiped it with a dry cloth. A dry cloth. And he put it back on the display. Immediately I regretted having blown on that duck call. Wood ducks being the most popular duck in the area, meaning the most popular call. And he was very good at getting me to try the call, as I'm sure he was good with the 50 bagillion people before me. Yuck. I don't have any diseases (that I know of) so far... We'll see!
Another building was full of guns so we checked prices on things. RNH is really wanting a Springfield 1911. The ultimate 1911 for him would be made by Colt, but he's going to settle for a Springfield. We're also looking at getting revolver of some sort since all we own right now in the handgun department are pistols. I'd also like to get RNH to help me build an M4. He built his, which I think would be pretty cool to do! The other gun he is working towards is the M1 Grandee. Ohhh if we only made a ton of money....
The last building was full of John Deere equipment to buy, deer heads to be judged, and long, long lines. What were the lines for?



Everyone was waiting in line to meet these people:

Michael Waddell of The Bone Collector TV show. He's pretty much every redneck's idol, and Lee and Tiffany Lakosky of "The Crush" on the Outdoor Channel. No, we did not stand in line to meet them. We did walk by and see them though!

The show was a ton of fun. RNH actually bid in a silent auction on 2 turkey calls, one $40 and the other $50. He bid a total of $20 on the two calls and waltzed out the door. No one seemed to be paying attention to the auction- which is pretty funny considering that these calls won awards for best calls in NC. Hmmm... Unfortunately the duck calls were being auctioned on Ebay. I guess they're a bit more popular!

We also got to watch a neat Labrador hunting demonstration. It gave me a renewed hope for Drake and his ability to retrieve. We were so impressed by the labs we saw that day, that once we got home RNH threw Drake into the deep water of the river and made him go swimming! He was a natural at it! Hopefully when it gets warmer, we'll continue to work withi him and the water!

The Dixie Deer Classic was awesome and we can't wait to go again next year!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Making Furniture?

As you may recall, a couple-friend of ours gave us one of these:

And now I want one of these:
(not this one, but something like this!)

But RNH has a better idea, and wants one of these:

...so he can make me a piece of wine furniture. I think its a great idea because we will be able to custom create it for the wine cooler, and make it custom for a specific place in the kitchen. And we'll be able to stain the wood to match the kitchen cabinets. We've got a million wine glasses from the different wineries we've visited, so a hanging wine glass holder is a must. Then I also want the cross bars that hold the wine bottles because that just looks so cool. I also would like for it to have a drawer to hold any sort of miscellaneous alcohol items, such as cork screws and bar tools.
It may be a bit fancy for our small kitchen, but I have a wine theme, and I think it will be pretty neat. Next month we're buying the miter saw, and then after that we'll be looking into what materials we need. I'm excited and (I hope he can do it!!!).