Home keeping strategies: Flylady

I often spend time thinking about how I spend my time. I want to be quite intentional about my time use. And, occasionally, I think about how a woman of ages past might have gotten it all done. She didn’t have all the electronic gadgets I’ve got, like the washing machine and dryer, that save a great deal of time and effort. Add in electric lights and the internet, and I have both distractions and helps in way that she likely never even imagined.

And so I have pondered how life would be different if had to spend a whole day actually doing laundry. And grow *all* our fresh veggies. And sew *all* our clothes. I’m quite thankful I don’t have to do these things!
It has also gotten me thinking about how its likely any woman of earlier times worked on a seasonal basis. Spring and Summer were spend primarily in the garden, perhaps and sewing, knitting and the like focused on during those times when being outside wasn’t reasonable.
Of course, I’ve also given it thought about how my life should run. I realized that July, August and September are the times of the year that one *does not* want to be outside, but the rest of the year is fairly reasonable (except the occasional cold spell in January, February or March). With the right veggies, I could garden from late September to June. From late March to June and then late September to December are the garden intense months.
Feeding the family, obviously, can’t be done seasonally. Though perhaps I could plan to do the cooking heavy tasks at certain times. E.g. defrost the freezer, make freezer meals. Hmmmm…. lots of thoughts.
Sewing could be focused during those times when I just don’t want to go out, like July to September and January.
All of these thoughts lead to a project I have in mind. I am a connoisseur of home management/scheduling/organizing methods and I thought to go through all the various methods I’ve tried and what I thought of them.
First up… flylady.net!
I love flylady. Really. Even though I don’t currently use her system. I found flylady years and years ago, and thought “ugh, website too busy. not going to bother.” Then, only a few years ago, I found her again. Mom had died about 9 months before and I was ready to find help in the home management area (as in other than Mom). And I found flylady.
At the time, I needed flylady. When you sign up for her emails, you will get a lot. Most are reminders, many are testimonials, some are Marla’s own musings on life, the universe and everything. (well, not everything. or the universe. just life.) Her book, Sink Reflections, is basically a remedial study on organizing life. She makes no assumptions that you even know how to use a calendar. She preaches “Baby Steps” which is so important when trying to make changes.
After a time, I stopped getting the emails. Then I got them again. Then I got the daily digest. Now, I don’t get them any more. But my needs have changed.
Her instructions for creating a home management journal are great and I still use her format as the basis for the notebooks I put together. I am exploring a few new options, but they are all variations on a theme, really. I use her method for creating travel journals and any other I-need-to-keep-track-of-all-these-papers situations.
Flylady gave me the foundation of routines. Morning routine, evening/bedtime routine and afternoon routine. I see routines preached just about every where today, and I suspect that they have been the basic foundation of home keeping for a very long time. But some how I missed out on the idea of routines… until flylady.
I didn’t like get so many emails. At the time I was getting her emails (2007 through early 2010) there wasn’t really a way to get just the reminders and not the other emails (like testimonials and general life reflections). I needed those reminders. But I’m not good about just deleting an email I don’t need to read, so I spent a lot of time sorting through flylady emails. I suspect some of the logistics have changed… the internet has changed a fair bit. Blogs are a bigger deal now than in 2007. And flylady has been doing her thing since 1999; the internet has changed A LOT since 1999.
By 2010, I found I didn’t need the reminders. I was on my feet home keeping wise and I was ready to branch out.
She’s solid, she’s consistent. Flylady is a great place to start. And I LOVE the calendar. I still buy the calendar each year.

Gardening Time!

This weekend was all about getting the summer garden together. General principle, I’ve been told, is put your tomatoes and other warm weather plants out after Easter. Before Easter, they will freeze. And the week before Easter, it did freeze one night — down to 28′ and that would have knocked any warm weather plant down for the count. And since we were gone over Easter weekend, all the garden prep got left to this weekend.

A most gracious Hubby got out there with Little Man and I Saturday morning and helped get the garden turned. And he finished turning it Sunday morning. Today, I got the transplants put out.

Some reflections on gardening here —

  • I’d love to adopt a no-till method, but I don’t think it would work here. You’ve got to dig out the burmuda grass and other weeds, they are tremendously hardy. And the black clay of our soil is heavy, thick and sticky. And that is in our garden, which has had sand and organic matter added every year for 3 years now.
  • Gardening is *hard* work. And I love it.
  • Little boys love dirt. But even little boys can hit an outside limit.
  • Garlic is confusing! I put a good number in last fall, one batch about 2 or 3 weeks before the second batch. The first batch seems good and grown, but upon digging up one bulb, it hasn’t bulbed out yet. Alas, when!?
  • Taking a risk — we purchased one strawberry plant. Just maybe?
  • I wussed out on starting from seeds. I did start some peppers, but between Little Man and the cats, none of the seedlings made it past seed-leaf stage.
  • I got 5 tomatoes and 4 peppers. 1 pepper is in a pot out front.

And a few pictures —

Can I blame it on busyness?

Is that a word? ‘busyness’? Seems like it should be “business”, but that is pronounced differently. Ah, well, I’m sure you get the idea.

You might have noticed my posting rate has dropped drastically. Yep, its true. Ah, you say, the Peanut is keeping you busy? yes, yes, and yes. The child wants to be outside, but Mommy says ‘no’ when its over 100′. We’ve made it out most mornings, but even then we both work up a sweat. We play a lot, on the floor in the living room, in his bedroom, outside, in the dining room. We love to play!

The garden is also keeping me busy. Just look at all this produce!

I’ve already made 5 pints of salsa, and a pot of spaghetti, plus 5 or 6 pints of green enchilada sauce with the tomatillos and some undetermined amount of salsa verde. And I’ve eaten a slew of tomatoes on sandwiches and wraps. The squash bugs are getting overwhelming on the tomato plants, so I’m picking the tomatoes early (when they are just starting to ripen). I’ve lost a slew of tomatoes to blossom end rot, and I think they are starting to suffer heat damage as well (it is freaking hot here! 105′ yesterday!). All the tomatoes have stopped setting fruit as far as I can tell, so as they give up all their tomatoes as ripe, they are coming out. I will be able to put the peppers in (currently in pots), which will be nice for the peppers. I’m also thinking to just give the ground some rest till I plant for the fall. I’m thinking about getting a hold of a bale of hay and spreading that out. It will help keep the ground cool and damp, and will mix right in when I’m ready to plant the fall crops (lettuce, kale, garlic, broccoli).

I stopped picking the sweet pea current tomatoes (the itty-bitty round ones) and rarely pick the cherry romas. I can’t keep up eating them, and when I start feeling overwhelmed by them, I don’t want to eat them. :::sigh:::

On a more personal note, I’m working hard to not be a martyr… you know, “oh, poor me, I’m so busy, poor me”. It’s really not ‘poor me’. I love what I’m doing, and yes, I stay busy (some times it feels like crazy busy) and I get frustrated when I don’t get as much done because we are playing outside so much. But I know that this is where I want to be, and I’m doing what I want to do. I can’t ask for a bigger blessing than this.

And I had a birthday this week. Goodness, 35. Yep, not ashamed to say so. Each year keeps getting better, and that was true this last year again. So far, this trend has shown its self true, so I’m looking ahead with gleeful anticipation with what the future will bring.

Gardening Spring 2012

I did get the garden up and running this spring. I’ve also realized that with our general climate, we will get the most monetary benefit from the garden fall-winter-spring.  If it doesn’t get too very hot, I can keep tomatoes and peppers alive through July and August so that they can produce again in Sept and October, but little else likes to produce in the summer here. Well, except squashes and we don’t really like squash. And okra. But okra is slimy. And if Mama doesn’t like it, its not gonna get cooked/made.

So, what is going on here right now?  Here’s what I’ve got growing —

Various random plants (from top left): Rose of Sharon, the garden, basil, red malabar spinach, (middle row) random squash/gourd, tomatillo blossom, (bottom row) sweet pea tomato plant, the herb garden

The spicy peppers (from left to right, top to bottom): Joe’s Round blossom, jalapeno, fatali

The tomatoes: Roma (left 3), sweet pea (right 3)

Tomatoes — total of 11 plants


Sweet Pea

Amish Paste

Cherry Roma

Peppers (all are spicy varieties) — total of 11 plants


Joe’s Rounds



Tomatillos — total of 3 plants

The basil is doing great and the cilantro is going crazy. I finally cut back the marjoram because it was taking over and I don’t use that much marjoram. A friend asked me to keep her potted herbs for the summer while they are gone, so I’ve add sage, more basil, and mint. There was room in the pots so I put in seeds for oregano and a few others… oh, dear, I can’t remember! I’m pretty sure there is some spearmint in there, and perhaps some cumin?

I’ve got seeds to plant kale, cabbage and lettuce in the fall. I could also add broccoli, and I’ll put in more garlic for sure.

I hope to make a good chunk of salsa, spicy pepper dip for chips and candied jalapenos from the summer veggies. I think to really use up all the peppers I need 3 times as many tomato plants — it might just mean more dip, though that can be used like salsa. I should be able to can the dip, I’m hoping the capsicum will allow water bath canning.

As for monetary savings, I’ll have to see what I can make, and how well I use everything. Sometimes I find myself so overwhelmed that I shut down and stuff gets fuzzy before I get anything made. I really do want my garden to assist me in spending less on food, so I’ve got to  be sure to not let things go. But, we will see!

Garden and Life Update

Sweet Friends! Sorry it has been so long since my last post. I must learn to write when it strikes me and set it automatically post.

Anyhoo — I got the fall garden planted. Lotsa, lotsa tomatoes: 4 roma plants, 3 amish paste, 3 mexico midgets, and 4 cherry romas. I put in 6 sweet peppers, as well, and need to put some garlic out in the midst of the plants. The two spicy pepper plants are still producing fruit, so I left them in. Plus, it rained last night and this morning, nearly an inch worth.  Yeah! It’s September!

In other news, the adjustment to full time isn’t as hard as I thought. The big downside is that I leave my household chores to Saturday and I still have school work for the weekends. So, for example, last Saturday was very full. Sunday was equally busy, with church in the morning, working all afternoon on school stuff and Fellowship Family in the evening. Ah, well, such is life, I guess.

My sister put together a 101 things to do in 1001 days. I’m quite tempted to join in and put together my own list, but is quite frightening. Well, we’ll see what I get to.

School has started, Life is busy

Well, as I expected posting is less now that school has started. I feel at a loss as to what to write about, even though there all sorts of little bits of news: I love my classes, school has started off quite well, I’m tired, my seedlings are HUGE, but its still too hot to plant them out in the garden, I did really good with the weekly home blessings this morning and we put together some fun stuff yesterday.

Part 1: School. 
This really is the bulk of my life these days. Luckily, I love teaching and I love figuring out how to educate my students in a way that is fun for all of us. I haven’t implemented full-blown SBG, its more a blend between a more traditional grading system and SBG. The school admin wants to better understand what the impact SBG would have on grades and parental understanding of what the grades mean. I understand that. I might not love the response to SBG, but it works for me. I’ll spend this year presented a good case for SBG.

In Logic 2 (8th grade-ish), we started reading Silent Spring. I think this might need its own blog post to describe the great time I’m having with it. We had a wonderful conversation in both classes as we read chapter 1 and part of 2. Carson paints a grim picture in chapter 1 and uses some major emotional language in chapter 2, so I tried to bring that out. We talked about what Carson is trying to convince us of, with the thought towards evaluating that claim after we’ve seen the book’s argument. I love the intelligent conversation we can have! Its amazing the change that just 2 years brings in a child’s development. The younger 2 grades, grammar 5 (5th) and grammar 6 (6th) both also went amazingly well. Last year had a rocky start, but with just one year of experience, I’m feel so much  more confident.

Part 2: Garden
The high today is 104′. ARGH!!!! When I figured out the timing for planting my seeds (so that they would be ready to plant out last week of Aug or first week of Sept), I took into account both seed packet times and how long it took in the spring. Nope — Rachael got that wrong. Sort of a “duh” moment. Early spring is chilly, chilly, even here in Central Texas, and tomatoes and peppers will take what seems like forever to sprout and grow. With this heat, they will grow wonderfully fast, which would be good, except they are outgrowing the seedling containers. The seeds all sprouted in less and a week, and now they are starting to produce little bunches of flowers (the tomatoes, at least). Well, I guess I’ll have to plant them out even in this heat and hope for the best. In the meantime, I’ve pinched off the flowers and I’ll transplant to bigger containers this afternoon. Maybe I can put off putting them out another week.

Cayenne Pepper — Still producing!

The crazy bit is that the cayenne pepper plant is still producing abundantly and I think its only getting water from the septic sprinklers — I’m not watering it. I picked 20 some odd peppers this morning, and there are more flowers. Plus, all the leaf-footed bugs are gone, I can’t find any stink bugs, and even the weeds are chilling out for now. I haven’t watered but once a week ago or so; my plan was to let stuff petter out and give the garden a rest for Aug. The neighbors down the street, who I’ve never gotten over to talk to, completely cleared out their garden at the end of July and haven’t planted it yet for the fall. (Maybe they won’t, I’ve never asked.).

On the more poopy side, I usually handle heat fairly well, but lately its been really taking it out of me. But I’m also back working more than ever before, so who knows why I’m so tired. Probably a combination? Just makes for less garden time.

Part 3: Housekeeping.
I talked about my chore schedule rearrangement a few weeks ago, here it is. For two weeks now, I’ve aimed to do the weekly home blessing on Saturday morning, along with the laundry and other sorts of chores. Its worked quite well; it gets my Saturday off to a decent start and the house is wonderfully clean for Sunday and the start of the week. I still haven’t figured out when to grocery shop (I think Thursday after school?) and menu planning is a hit and miss activity (aiming for Sunday afternoon), but things are going well for the most part.

Part 4: Fun Stuff

We know Hank likes high places, and we’ve put him on top of the TV cabinet a few times to see what he would do. We’ve discussed how to create a set of “stairs” for him to get up there on his own (and down), and went to the local hardware store to explore the creation of a PVC pipe contraption. I drew it out and we pondered what we needed and started looking at prices and figured out quick that would be $100 and up. So, nix that. Then Hubby had a wonderful idea! We got 2 simple plastic shelving units with 4 shelves each, got several pvc couplings, and put the shelves together so that the shelves alternate going up. We figure if Hank decides he’s not interested, we have plenty of places we can use a set of shelves.

I guess the farm is too wet.

So, I notice these guys in the worm farm a few weeks ago (borrowed picture)

Garden soldier fly larva

In the last week, I’ve been finding them on the dinning room floor, apparently crawling out of the worm bin. Finally, this morning I went about scouring the internet for an answer. One of the two worm farms is going back to school next week, and I’d rather not have a cleaning lady asking me about these guys she might find on the floor.

Turns out, I’m quite confident about this, that it is a soldier fly larvae, or, perhaps more specifically, a garden soldier fly larvae. All I read is that they are voracious eaters of dead and decaying matter (good for worm farm), don’t compete with the worms so much, but like it much wetter than do worms. So, I will go about adding some nice dry material to both farms today. They leave the worm farm to pupate, looking for dryer soil. Alas, my dining room floor doesn’t have much soil, I work hard to keep it that way.

I’m gonna have to totally have a ‘worm farm ecosystem’ lesson this year in either (both?) grammar 6, Life Science, or Logic 2, Biology. Now the creative juices are flowing! We can identify how it works in the carbon cycle and the nitrogen cycle…. WOOT! I’m excited now!

Purposes and decisions

Warning: Rambling, thinking-out-loud post

I’m in an interesting spot.  My poor blog is due for a post… its been over a week since the last one. Poor neglected blog.  I’m feeling very academic and wanting to write on the thoughts in my  head about school, SBG and my various downfallings and successes as a teacher. I started blogging again back in January with the intention of blogging about my garden and my home. But here I am not interested in posting about my garden, my knitting or my cooking at all. My reading of blogs is leading heavily towards the blogs of teachers and academics with education topic posts. I’ve been writing a fair bit, but its related to role-playing, school and educational philosophy (and none of it is getting posted at the moment).

I think I need to decide the purpose of my blog. If it is about news and events of life for friends and family, the blog will be inclined towards one particular style of post. But if I want to reflect my many ideas and thoughts on eduction (of which I have many), then the style changes. ARGH!!! Decisions to be made, and my general life inclination is to decide to not decide when its a difficult decision. Say that fast 10 times!

Too many thoughts, too many ideas. My brain is so full right now, its scary. More to come, I promise!

PS. The February Lady Sweater got put on hold while I knit some Christmas gifts for the ladies in my extended family. After the FLS, I hope to knit either Every Way Wrap or 5 Way Cable Wrap. Its another decision to make….

30 minutes later
Update: I’m going to get better at putting labels, make it easy for people to find what they want. If I find that I am posting regularly about teaching once school starts, I’ll branch off and start a new blog with some witty name that is dedicated to teaching. As it is, I suspect that my blogging interval will extend greatly once school starts, I’ve got a busy, busy schedule.

Food production and preservation (and related topics)

Life has been fun this past week. Less than one day after posting about the June 9 rain, it started raining again. Its been slower this time, in the past 18 hours, we’ve gotten about an inch. Nonetheless, it has cooled everything off quite a bit, and provided a great deal of free water. In addition to the original rain barrel we put out, I added 3 “homer buckets”, which filled in the first couple of hours. Just now, I added 3 more plastic containers that are now filling nicely.
The original bucket and a plastic container, positioned to also catch some of the overflow out of the original rain barrel.
A full “homer” bucket on the front stoop.

The second “homer” bucket and the second of three plastic containers.

The third and last plastic container and the third “homer” bucket (full of water).
Forecast says to expect rain for several more days, so it shouldn’t be a problem filling these three new plastic containers.
The compost is coming along very nicely. I’m planning to start some seeds this weekend, so I’ll start sifting out the fine stuff soon. I’m very excited… the first bin was filled again with fresh grass clippings yesterday (beating the rain by an hour at the most).

All is growing wonderfully in the garden. Any ideas as to what type of gourd this is? It came in a packets of “mixed gourd seed”, and I’ve seen at least 3 types of gourds so far. I’m planning to dry them and maybe I can make some decorations out of them, or sell them for others make decorations for the fall. Hmmm….
I decided to make 1 big bed, instead of 4 small beds. After talking with a friend at school, I realized roto-tilling will be easier and I have more space for planting and I can mix up where I plant stuff more easily. Plus, its fewer cinder blocks! I’ve got the last nine to purchase and put out, which I think I can do once the rain stops.
The cayenne chili plant is producing prolifically, so I decided to hang and dry them. They are up in the garage, and I add 3 or 4 peppers every few days. Hubby loves spicy food, so its hard to have too many spicy peppers. I’ve got plans for 2 cayenne plants for the fall.
I’ve also tried my hand at canning again. The canning of huckleberries worked just fine, it was just that the huckleberry jam wasn’t so good. This time, I went for canning salsa. I used the “Better Homes and Gardens” recipe, using more spicy peppers than called for (and fewer sweet peppers). So far, its been a hit with both Hubby and I. I just hope 5 pints will last till the next tomato harvest.
I’m making pizza sauce today, with plans to can it. I’ll dedicate a post to that process, when I know the final results. I’m all about figuring it out myself, so I should wait till its all done to know if it was successful or not.
Gosh, rainy days are nice.

Gardening Lessons Learned

Been thinking on these things for a while. I’ve finally gotten around the writing it all out!

1. don’t use newspaper as seed pots. It molds, soaks up way too much water, and falls apart long before the seedlings are ready to be transplanted.
2. I need to learn a lot more about the bugs and other diseases my plants can get infected with. I need to learn which bugs are good and which are not, and get bold enough to squash those who aren’t beneficial.
3. I need to be better disciplined about getting seeds started and I need a better idea of Waco weather so I can know when to plant, etc. Then again, it may just me needing patience about living here longer.
4. Canning is hot work. I’ll find out if it worth it in the next day. [I just canned huckleberry jam.]
5. If I have ideas of canning, I need to plant determinate varieties of tomatoes. Want lots tomatoes all at once…. Next time around, I plan to plant both interminate and determinate varieties.
6. Hand digging is hard work, and might break your pitch fork. Borrow a roto-tiller when you can.
7. Ollas aren’t as spoofy as they seem at first look. Or perhaps I didn’t use them right? Anyhoo, they worked great while the weather was mild, but aren’t working as great with the hot, hot weather. Soakers might be better.
8. Get those soakers running EVERY morning, can’t let the ground dry out or it will take hours to soak the ground again.
I’m sure I’ll think of more things that I’ve learned in 6 months of gardening. and hopefully, I’ll learn more in the next 6 months of gardening.