What to plant…

As I combed through the Baker Creek Seed Catalog this morning while sipping my coffee, I realized that I may have a problem.

I started with restraint, keeping my seed budget in mind. But as I made my way through the greens, peppers and tomatoes, my resolve faltered and I went a little crazy.

Luckily, I came down from the mania and had enough sense to cross out seeds I already had saved from last season. Whew!

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This year, our big focus is on greens. We, like the rest of the world, made a resolution to eat healthier and (so far) we’ve stuck to it by, sort of, following a ketogenic diet.

We eat salads with just about every meal. And while iceberg lettuce is crisp, it offers little in the way of nutrients.

Greens, purples and reds. Spinach, kale, cabbage and chard. Brussels sprouts and arugula. All super nutrient rich, leafy and delicious in salads.

We’re trying out heirloom variety tomatoes and peppers. We have a dealer for jalapenos so I’m done even trying to grow them.

I’m throwing in a few flowers just for fun. Bells of Ireland, spider flower and euphorbia are unique…at least to me.

We’ll plant a bunch of herbs this year as well. Sadly, they will not go in our herb spiral.

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Planting it around a dead tree stump was a bad idea. Even though we’ve drilled holes in the stump and poured Epsom salt water over and over again, the Bradford pear just refuses to die.

Instead, one of the raised beds we got from the neighbors will be dedicated to herbs.

We have 9 raised beds in all. 6 are filled with topsoil already. They will all eventually go in the greenhouse, but this season we’ll be using all 6.

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One will be an herb bed. Two will be for leafy greens. Another couple for strawberries.

Our kitchen garden will be filled with tomatoes, peppers, beans, cucumbers, carrots, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, okra, zucchini and cabbage.

I’m both excited about and dreading planting the kitchen garden. For the past few years, we’ve let the chickens prep the garden for us. All winter they’ve scratched up, eaten pests and fertilized the soil. But thanks to the fox, that didn’t happen.

Thanks a lot Mr. Fox. Thanks a lot.

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Spring is on the Way!

I have a confession…I have lost my motivation. 

Not for homeschooling. Our year so far has been wonderful. I love the freedom we have to alter our day as we see fit. The boys are thriving and we are having fun. 

Not for writing…I’m still researching publishing houses, sending my work out to magazines and adding to my collection of rejection letters.  

No, what I’ve lost my motivation for is planning the garden.

I have no idea where it went. Perhaps the fox stole it when he ruthlessly slaughtered our chickens or the Japanese beetles killed it with their constant assault on the garden.  

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In an effort to find that lost drive, I looked back at the goals we set at the start of the year. What progress have we made?

  • Start and plant seeds early. Uh…nope.
  • Prepare for the war with pests. Specifically, you guessed it, Japanese Beetles. Well…it has been really, really cold. I’m hopeful that most of the grubs will have frozen to death resulting in fewer beetles. And…I do plan to hit the yard with another treatment of milky spore in Spring.
  • Really, really, REALLY create a strategy for keeping up with the weeds. ?
  • Get that greenhouse going for Spring crops. Well…it has been really, really cold…
  • Order replacement chickens. Hmmm…

After reading through these goals and realizing I’ve done little nothing to meet them, my enthusiasm is in overdrive and my mind is whirring with ideas, wants and wishes. There is so much to do! With the last frost date only a few months away, there are plans to make, seeds to start and chicks to order. 

The first step? Inventory seeds and drool over this gorgeous seed catalog. Oh, and try not to go overboard this year. Again. 

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Motivation found
Time to plan, start and order
Spring is on the way

 

 

 

 

 

Bitter Victories

These bitter winds
I do not mind
Nor the chilly nights

The salted roads
Don’t bother me
I like the cold and ice

The ground is cold
The frost is thick
The wind has quite a bite

It’s how I know
When Spring arrives
Most grubs won’t see the light

Let Winter stay
Until late March
‘Til all her work is done

We’ll win a fight
Against our foe
Beetles: 5; Us: 1

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Tender Shoots

Slowly and with little steps
They grow each passing day
Their tender limbs reach to the sun
They blossom in new ways

We gently tend those little seeds
And help them plant their roots
We strengthen them with soft blown winds
Those gentle little shoots

When it’s time to take them out
And plant them on their own
We worry what will happen
When they’re out there all alone

As the season stretches out
Their fruit grows on the vine
We water them and with a smile
We know they’ll be just fine
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And then there’s the garden…

Now that the holiday whirlwind has passed and the elves have returned to the North Pole, I’m feeling a little exhausted and just a tad uninspired.

But…then there’s the garden and all the planning and excitement of this new season.

There are seeds to buy and start.

There are beds to plan and plant.

There are strategies to determine and execute.

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I absolutely love this time of year. Sure, it’s frigid with temps below zero, but I can curl up with my favorite seed catalogs and dream of planting my Spring, Summer and Fall garden.

The seed catalogs are already starting to come in the mailbox bringing with them excitement and dreams of a lush and productive garden.

I’ll circle and plan to buy millions of seeds and come back down to reality when I see the price tag on said seeds.

Goals for this year:

  • Start and plant seeds early.
  • Prepare for the war with pests. Specifically, you guessed it, Japanese Beetles.
  • Really, really, REALLY create a strategy for keeping up with the weeds.
  • Get that greenhouse going for Spring crops.
  • Order replacement chickens.

First, I will determine what to plant and create my seed starting schedule.

Next, I’ll research battle strategies for dealing with pests and keeping up with the weeds using cardboard, weed block and good old-fashioned elbow grease.

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Third, we’ll make plans to get our greenhouse up and going as soon as possible in early Spring.

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Finally, we’ll research the best, kid-friendly, egg-laying replacements for our flock and find fox, raccoon and opossum repelling tricks to beef up coop security.

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The next two months will definitely not be tedious. We have a garden to plan.

Though winter is cold
Though winds blow and chill the land
We joyfully plan

 

 

 

Mischief Makers: The Top Shelf Elves

This season we had so much fun
We hope you liked it too
Next year we will all be back
To laugh and play with you

Be good and kind throughout the year
From far off we’ll be watching
A quick goodbye, a fond farewell
Now Santa’s sled is launching!

Until next season Joe and Jake!
Nim, Lil, Glitter and Barrel

P.S. We Won!!!

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Mischief Makers: The Eve of Christmas Eve

North Pole

Santa towered above a sea of elves giving The Eve of Christmas Eve Pep Talk.

“Mischief Makers, this is your final night on assignment. Tomorrow night will mark the end of another season.”

Loud cheers and whoops filled the air as the elves danced around each other merrily.

“The Top Shelf Elf Trophy has already been decided,” Santa called out over the hubbub. “The winning team will be announced on Christmas morning. Have fun and give your charges a fond farewell!”

Nim and Lil stayed at the North Pole longer than usual to chat with their friends about which team had won the trophy.

“My bet is on Squirt and Cosmo. Remember how they built a ball pit for their kids?”

“Nah, I bet Sprinkles and SugarGems win it. They built a life-size gingerbread house.”

“I can tell you who it’s not going to be,” said the Grumpy Old Elf as he jerked his head toward Nim and Lil.

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“Hey, I heard that!.” Nim crossed his arms and glared at the Grump. 

“Well it won’t be you,” he said. “Not after your reindeer went berserk.”

“Now you lis-“.

“Ignore him Nim, lets go.” Lil took Nim by the arm and pulled him over to the launch pad. It was a quiet flight back.

When they landed on the window sill, Lil touched Nim on the arm. 

“Are you ok?”

“Yes,” said Nim. “I just wish the Grumpy Old Elf would have kept his mouth shut.”

“At least Glitter didn’t hear him.”

Nim shook his head and laughed. “Even if we don’t get the trophy, I don’t regret anything that happened this season.”

“Not even the paper airplane incident?”

“Not even that.” Nim smiled.

Agreeing not to tell Glitter about the Grumpy Old Elf, the elves went in to help give the boys one last surprise…and to have one last fun night together.

“Nim! Lil! Look at this!” Glitter was in the living room looking down at a race track.

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At the elves puzzled looks, Glitter pointed a hoof at a note on the floor. 

Nim, Lil, Glitter and Barrel,

We’ve had so much fun finding you every morning this year! Our favorite was when you took all those elfies and made ornaments out of them, and even though Mom was pretty upset about the snowstorm…we loved it!

Since you’ve worked so hard and given us so much, we wanted to give you the night off. Can you test out these new cars for us? 

Thank you for another great December!

Your friends,
Joe and Jake

“Well,” said Nim.

“Wow,” said Lil.

“Rrrrufff!”

“Isn’t it wonderful?” said Glitter. “Our boys are so sweet, so thoughtful and so, so good!”

Nim and Lil looked at each other and smiled.

“This note is worth ten Top Shelf Elf trophies,” said Lil.

“Come on…let’s play!!!”

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Mischief Makers: Wrapping Paper War

Nim, Lil and Glitter zipped around the kitchen throwing wrapping paper balls at each other.

“That’s for making me dress up!” Glitter lobbed tangled ribbon at Nim as he zoomed by, wrapping paper streaming behind him.

“Dodge this one!” Nim threw a tissue paper missile at Glitter.

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Glitter paused mid-air and, for a moment, a small niggling of dismay started to creep over her. Then, just as quickly as it had come, it was gone and she hurled a bag full of Christmas bows at her two friends.

As the battle died down, the trio sat on the table, drinking sugar water and gazing at their handiwork.

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The kitchen was covered in paper balls. Ripped paper hung from the cabinets and streamed across the floor. Ribbon was scattered down the hallway.

“What next?” asked Nim. “Should we get the cotton balls out for round 2?”

“I have a better idea,” Lil floated down to the roll of paper on the floor and began wrapping cabinet doors.

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They covered the cabinets with wrapping paper, getting even more on the floor and counters and wrapping tape around themselves.

When they were finished, the sprites hung above the stove to review their handiwork while Glitter pretended to kick wrapping paper around.

You know she’s really trying to clean up,” Nim whispered.

“You can take the reindeer out of the stickler, but you can’t take the stickler out of the reindeer.”

Both Mischief Makers were well satisfied with the job they had done.

Deck the halls and wrap the cabinets
Fa-la-la-la-la La-la-la-la
Hang up tinsel with some magnets
Fa-la-la-la-la La-la-la-la

Nim then flew above the sink and got settled in for the wait.

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Lil spun around singing the rest of the carol before landing gracefully on the opposite side of the sink.

Watch as Glitter tries to clean up
Fa-la-la, la-la-la, la-la-la
She’ll get tackled by a green pup
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la!

I’m so glad we got to work together this year!” whispered Nim.

And I’m so glad you helped me relax a bit,” Glitter whispered back.

Lil smiled and winked and they all anxiously waited for morning to come.

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Mischief Makers: The Evil Sparkle

Nim and Lil had spent all day in the “snow globes” glaring at Glitter with a mixture of annoyance, awe and admiration.

She had gotten the better of them. And while they could enthusiastically acknowledge her accomplishment, they could not let her get away with it.

“I am sorry for tying you up, stuffing you in bottles and turning you into elfin snowglobes.”

“That’s ok Glitter,” said Nim in a falsely cheerful voice as he squeezed his way out of the bottle.

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“And I’m sorry I stuffed cotton balls in after you.”

“Every snow globe needs some snow, right Nim?” Lil dusted cotton fluff off her shoulder.

Both elves were smiling, but the impish glints in their eyes made Glitter nervous. Very nervous.

“Really Glitter,” said Nim as if reading her thoughts. “We are not mad.”

“You’re not?”

“We know that you were just trying to help us keep the Top Shelf Elf title,” said Lil.

“Oh I’m so glad you aren’t angry,” Glitter shuffled her hooves.

“That’s why we aren’t going to be too hard on you when we get back,” said Nim.

Nim and Lil linked arms and floated out the window leaving Glitter to watch them with apprehension. 

The game was on.

***

“Glitter, we’re baaa-aaack!” Nim plopped on the table with a wrapped package under his arm.

“And we have a surprise for you,” Lil said landing lightly next to Nim.

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“You were gone for a lon–what are you wearing Nim?”

“This? This is my new superhero costume.”

“And this,” said Lil. “Is my new Santa costume.”

“We are going to set the stage for an escapade!” Nim flicked his cape over his shoulder.

“I am going to play Santa, on the run from a band of vicious villains intent on holding me for ransom.” Lil held up her Santa hat.

“And I am going to play the courageous superhero who bravely saves Santa from the band of bandits.”

Glitter started to smile, but then noticed something shiny and green in Nim’s arms. She gulped. 

“And you Glitter, are going to play the evil mastermind behind the crime.” Nim smiled and narrowed his eyes.

“In short,” said Lil with a smirk. “You are going to play the bad guy.”

“Play? But you know I don’t like–ermph!”

Nim and Lil pulled green goggles over Glitter’s head and shiny green boots over her hooves.

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“You are the Evil Sparkle, a rogue reindeer cast out from the North Pole for crimes against Christmas,” said Nim.

Lil giggled. “And so our story begins….

On Christmas Eve, the minute before Santa was to start his journey, a dastardly deer  snuck stealthily into Santa’s workshop.

‘I am here to kidnap you!’ said the Evil Sparkle.

‘Ho, ho, No you’re not!’

Suddenly, SuperElf, a brave hero and champion of all elves, tumbled down the chimney and found the Evil Sparkle tying tinsel around Santa’s hands and feet!

POW!

ZAP!

BOOM!

SuperElf is victorious! Santa thanks the brave hero, hops in his sleigh and with a ‘Ho, ho ho!’ glides into the night to deliver presents to all the good little boys and girls.

Glitter, hanging upside down by her back legs, was outraged.

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“How dare you! What if I have a flashback to the torture I experienced at Barrel’s paws?”

Nim and Lil stopped laughing and looked down at her in amusement.

“Oh Glitter, that won’t work on us.”

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Mischief Makers: All Tied Up

Usually, the boys were fairly well behaved. Sure they got into the odd fight here and there, but for the most part…they got along.

That’s why the day’s events were so astounding. Never had the Mischief Makers ever seen the boys behave so badly.

“Wow,” said Lil.

“Whoa,” said Nim.

“Yikes,” said Glitter.

What started out as a minor disagreement over whose turn it was to open the advent calendar, quickly turned into an all out fight.

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“Jake almost hit me with that toy car,” said Nim.

“And what about Joe and that pool noodle?” said Lil.

“At least he didn’t use a stick,” said Glitter.

Even though they dreaded it, Nim and Lil knew it was their duty to report any bad behavior to Santa.

“We’d better go Nim. We shouldn’t keep Santa waiting.”

“I suppose you’re right.”

“This is their first incident of really naughty behavior,” said Glitter.  

Glitter was right. Did they really have to report this to Santa?

Lil sighed. “If it were only a brotherly spat, we’d overlook it.”

Nim rubbed his eyes. “Unfortunately, cars were thrown. You know what that means Glitter.”

Glitter cast her eyes to the floor and shook her head back and forth.

Chapter 8,  Section 5b

Statute 3.3 Minor disagreements between siblings are to be reported at the Mischief Maker’s discretion; however, any disagreement involving the launching of toy cars must be reported to Santa.

“Maybe we can make an exception just this once,” said Glitter with a little desperation in her voice. “Afterall, we haven’t been very good this year.”

Nim and Lil were flabbergasted that Glitter would even suggest ignoring a rule in the book.

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We? Lil and I have barely caused trouble!” 

“Ok, ok. I haven’t been the best behaved this year,” said Glitter. “But…the Top Shelf Elf award…”.

“If we don’t report to Santa, we’re not doing our job. And that’s an even bigger risk to the award,” said Nim.

Lil nodded and both elves started to fly to the window.

“But…,” Glitter said. “If you can’t get back to the North Pole to give your report, you can’t get in trouble.”

“What in the world would stop us from flying back?” Nim asked as he turned to face Glitter.

“Ooomph!”

“Eeemph!”

Glitter tackled Nim and Lil to the ground and galloped around them with dental floss in her mouth, tying them securely.

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“I’m sorry, but I can’t let you report to Santa.”

“Glitter!” The two elves struggled against the minty floss as Glitter stuffed them into empty 2 liter bottles.

“It’s for the good of the team,” Glitter wrote a note to the boys while Nim and Lil glared at her.

“Santa is going to wonder where we are Glitter.” Nim hoped that Glitter would be afraid to disappoint Santa. Again.

“Oh don’t worry about that,” she said. “I’ll just tell him you were all tied up.”

I had to stop Nim and Lil from telling Santa you were fighting with each other and not listening again. Try to listen and get along better because I don’t think the floss will hold them for long.

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