Thursday, February 20, 2014

Projects in Progress

Rest in Peace poor little celery plant
There are a lot of ongoing projects at the Sheffer homestead. It is tempting to only report on the ones that are in the "somewhat" to "fabulously" successful range. However, that wouldn't really give an accurate picture of life around here. It's been a mixed bag. We've had failures, struggles, and successes in a pretty even mix.

First off, we start with very sad news. Today, the celery was pronounced dead. For 38 days, it struggled against the odds (since it was being raised by Sarah) but was unfortunately removed from all life support to go to the big Compost Pile in the garden. Through its death, it will bring new life to other plants.

The dreams it had of being a wonderful nourishing plant will continue on long after its death. This poor plant's sacrifice will be an example for all future celery plants. There will be a day when we have conquered the deep questions of the Celery Project, and we will prevail!

(Note: Yes, the picture just looks like dirt. That's really all that there is to see. We held out hope that something.....anything would grow. Once it became apparent that there was nothing left living in the pot, we did have to finally give up hope of this project working out for us.)

Also on the failure list, we have to put just about all cleaning and organizing. We have both been pretty emotionally spent lately and not had the energy to get it all done. The dust bunnies are in danger of reaching alarming size though, and Sarah is really tired of the pictures and paintings being propped up in a corner instead of on the wall. Hopefully this will be able to be moved into the "making progress" category soon.

Sarah has begun work on a couple of new growing projects. Last week, we planted pepper seeds in hopes that they will be able to germinate. They did come from store bought peppers, so we are hoping that it will be possible to get them to grow. There's no picture of that project right now since it's only been a week, and there's not too much interesting about egg cartons full of dirt.

Also in the grow project works is an attempt to grow lettuce from leftovers. The stumpy bottom just went into water today, and we'll have to see how it goes.There's nothing much to report except that despite using a lettuce knife, there's a little brown on the tips of some of the leaves.

Ongoing in a non-growing related area would be the efforts to produce a delicious, 100% whole wheat sandwich bread. So far, the sticking point has been the sandwich part. Sarah has been struggling to get the bread to look like anything other than short stubby loaves. We continue to hold out hope that "this next loaf" will be the one where the magic trick is learned. Since some have followed the saga on Facebook, there will likely be a posting here that explains what actually finally worked (if Sarah ever learns).

Day 54
Finishing on a high note, there have been some project successes. This last week we were able to actually eat some of the green onions that we grew ourselves. We are still hoping that we can get some of the bigger stalks to go to seed, so we have more to work with. In the interim though, it was pretty gratifying (and super convenient) to be able to grab some fresh food that we grew ourselves right on the kitchen counter.

Also in the "W" column goes Sarah's efforts on the car's power steering. Sure, all that it needed was some power steering fluid, but as someone who doesn't know much of anything under the hood, it's a pretty big deal. Hopefully, the car will stay fixed from now until we decide to get something new (to us). Car repairs add up really fast!

Projects currently on hold until warmer weather arrives are the basement, the Man Cave, and the Comet.

God Bless!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Date Night!

Ok. So we're just getting a couple of $5 take out pizzas and watching a movie on Netflix. It's still a date night. Extra special? It was Charlie's idea. That's right. One very sweet husband suggested a night off from cooking dinner (and the extra dishes that come with it). Now we just need to get the vehicle out of the driveway - the warmer weather today has made the snow too slippery to get any traction. Who could have guessed that there would be a drawback to not having below zero temperatures for a change?

Last week we made an epic journey to Home Depot to get gardening supplies....potting soil and a few more lights. According to the recommendations, it's still a little early to start the tomato seeds, but we wanted to get some while the selection was good and we were thinking of it. It's way too easy to forget to start them and wind up not having time for anything but the much more expensive seedlings. Sarah got a tray of pepper seeds planted. The seeds did come from peppers bought in the store, so we aren't sure if they'll grow. If not, we'll have to pony up the buck and a half for some seeds at the store. It wouldn't really be the end of the world.

Charlie succumbed to the pressures of the Pig-tailed Mafia and ordered six boxes of cookies - five of which are now here and the sixth will be delivered shortly. Sarah had often wondered how so many boxes of cookies get sold every year (since she would definitely prefer homemade cookies)....and then she married one of those sweet guys who just can't say no to a cute kid. Apparently some work will need to be done to change this before we have kids old enough to take advantage of this. The teen years could get really rough.....

Sarah finally finished a major crochet project that has been in the works for months now. Yarn for the next project is currently on order. Should she be concerned that the folks at her favorite craft store now know her and ask about how ongoing projects are progressing? They don't know her name yet which she hopes prevents her from needing to be admitted into a 12 step program.

It seems about time to go get those pizzas....

God Bless!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Crazy and Calm All at Once

It is amazing how you can have both tons of stuff going on and nothing at all happening - at the same time. It feels like we have all this stuff happening, but when we actually look at the happenings of the last week or two, it's mostly just normal life...

Charlie started his new and more predictable work schedule a little over a week ago. He is still worn down from all the crazy foolishness of the previous months though, so he hasn't quite gotten to being in the groove yet with it. His work related stress has gone down some already though, and we are hoping that with another week or so he will start to feel more relaxed.

Last weekend, we went to a "Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage" seminar with a few other couples that we know. For those of you who have never been....if you ever get a chance - GO. It was both very entertaining and has also resulted in a lot of really good conversations from things that we realized about ourselves and one another. Best part - THE GUYS LOVED IT TOO! We did pick up copies of the DVDs too, so we can watch them again when we need to be reminded of things.

So far this week, our big "event" was to pick out some of the seeds that we want to get started indoors for our garden this year. We decided to scale back significantly from what we did last year because we realized that we had taken on too much to start. As much as we really want to have that huge garden that provides us with all sorts of delicious fresh produce and yummy stuff for preserving, we need to build to it. This year we plan to continue with the berries, ramp up our efforts with the tomatoes and some peppers, and try to get some of last year's saved seeds to grow. It's not nearly as exciting as going to pick out all sorts of seedlings and bringing home a huge variety of things, but we decided to go with a boring garden if it means somewhat more predictable results.

The only other exciting news is that Sarah finally got her Shamrock Shake and is very happy about it. Really, it's the little things in life....

God Bless!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Celery Project - Part 1

Given the success of the Onion Project (not to be confused with The Onion which is just awesome in its own right), we decided to give a few other "sproutable" plants a try. There are a lot of options out there, and it was difficult to decide which one to try. The deciding factor ended up being which plant from the list entered our house first during the natural course of events. (Now that we have the light source and soil, this should be a totally free project, right?) Charlie likes to eat celery; Sarah recognizes the potential health benefits of celery and has been trying to figure out how to choke it down; Sarah bought celery to put in chili (one of the foods with enough other flavors to totally hide the celery) and cut up for Charlie's snacking enjoyment. Celery it is.

From the online information that was available, celery is likely to take longer to sprout into something useful than the onions. Luckily, this, again, falls more into the "science experiment" category or even "entertainment" than the "want something to eat" category. It's a good thing too. If we were counting on Sarah's gardening abilities as an actual food source, we would starve. Quickly.

Day 1
This project started out very similarly to the green onion one. The base of the celery was put in a dish of clean water and given plenty of light. Since we already had a lamp for the onions, the dish with the celery was just placed next to the onions on the kitchen counter. (Yes, for anyone who has been looking in the background. That is the Scooby Doo Mystery Machine. It's our cookie jar. Does this really surprise you that we would have a totally awesome cookie jar like this?) These experiments are starting to invade the space for preparing food and doing dishes, so they will probably need to be moved eventually. However, Sarah is rather fearful of allowing them to be out of sight and therefore out of mind any time soon. It's a balance...for now, we'll just make do as is.

We discovered quickly that they weren't kidding when they said that celery wouldn't grow as quickly as the onions. The progress was incredibly slow by comparison. For anyone who wants to try to grow their own food in this fashion, celery is probably not the best choice for a start. It's kind of boring.

Day 4

As you can see, a couple days into growth, there has been only a tiny amount of growth. Mostly, the water is just turning cloudy, and the remnants from the outer stalks of celery are starting to turn mushy and after a few more days, they were pretty far gone.

After a week, the outer stalks had reached a point where they were falling apart. Wanting to take advantage of any nutrients that the mushy outer bits might provide as compost, Sarah planted the celery base in some soil allowing just the tiny it of growth from the center to remain exposed. Since she couldn't find any more pots in the basement, and trying to find flower pots over by the edge of the garden (under the snow) did not seem like the most effective use of time, Sarah improvised a pot. A few holes were punched in the bottom of a sour cream container to allow for drainage, and the whole thing put back in the (now empty and rinsed bowl that had been the home to this experiment for the last few days.

Day 13
Day 13, and we still just have little nubs. It is VERY slow compared to the onions. This is supposedly normal (and boring) since the celery is basically growing an entirely new plant. Three to four months does sound like an incredibly long time to keep a plant alive and will definitely put Sarah's gardening capabilities at their limit. Seriously? How on earth does anyone keep a plant alive that long...there's all that watering and, well, watering....

The growth in the center is actually starting to look like leaves though, and they seem very healthy. They're actually a darker and healthier looking green than the leaves from the original celery stalks that were purchased.

At this point, there has been no fertilizer added aside from the celery that has decomposed. This will probably be changing since the bag of topsoil doesn't exactly have all that many extra nutrients to it.

Day 21
And after ONLY three weeks, we have what might actually be called real leaves. Look at those cute little things!

It's a good thing that Charlie pays attention. Sarah went out of town for the weekend and had forgotten to ask Charlie to check on the growing project. Luckily, he looked at how things were going and saw that a little drink was needed. Crisis averted.

Slightly off topic but not, the parts of the celery that are composting have really started to break down. The soil is incredibly loose, and it will probably be necessary to add a couple of spoonfuls around the plant. Yes - spoonfuls. It's hard to tell from the picture, but this whole thing is pretty small. You can see how little space it takes up in its container, and it's just in a sour cream tub. (For all grammar nerds: Note the correct usage of its and it's in a single sentence. You're welcome.)

Day 27

So, apparently Sarah should have made that extra stop last week to get fertilizer when the first place didn't have it in stock yet. (Seriously Walmart? You normally have all the crap that anyone could possibly need and then stuff that they didn't even imagine. You have all sorts of seed starter kits since it's February, but no fertilizer? People do have house plants to feed.) We will definitely be making a stop at Home Depot tomorrow since they are apparently the only place in town that keeps a reasonably well stocked lawn and garden area year round. We are SERIOUSLY missing Stein's lawn and garden center right now. They do have stores on both sides of Green Bay. Maybe we should see if they'll open them on both sides of Wisconsin? Hmmm.....could this be a future project for Sarah? Upon second (and very quick) consideration the idea of Sarah having anything to do with a garden center is too amusing to give it any kind of credibility. Everyone can laugh here. It's ok.
Day 30

Plant food went into the pot on Day 30. Composting and organic fertilizer is all the rage and definitely is something that we will be using in future experiments/growing projects. However, Miracle Grow is something that we have both used frequently and know, more or less, what to expect from it. Since one of those important scientific principles is to not change a whole lot of variables all at one time, it seemed best to go with a known food for the celery. This free project has now cost $4 for the package of Miracle Grow. At least we were also able to use it to feed the green onions, and it obviously is going to last a LONG time and help on future projects. That makes it an investment? Maybe? No? It just means that $4 was spent to try to grow celery that costs less than that at the store?  It also means that $16 has been spent to try to save $3?

All of those hobby farm and homesteading blogs now are starting to make sense. It is very easy to be so focused on all the future savings that you're going to get from growing/raising your own food that you overlook the cost of starting up the operation and learning how to make everything work. As we make the (frequent) trips to get yet more supplies, it is very apparent to us that we have lots to learn. The nice thing is that we are starting small enough that the cost of our education is pretty reasonable. We could pay 10 times this amount and have it still be less than a single credit for a college class.

Since this project is much slower to develop than our first one, we'll keep you updated as things progress. We'll make it a cliff hanger to keep you coming back.

God Bless!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Working Without a Net?

"There are far, far better things ahead than those we have left behind." - C.S. Lewis

Last weekend, Sarah went back to Green Bay for a visit and had a fantastic time with friends and family. Upon returning home, we got to talking about what we left when we packed up and moved across state. It was a lot. The network of support that we had there was an incredible safety net in so many ways, and while we know that the people we know there will always be there for us, it is not the same.

It would be very easy to look at what we left and have regrets or want to return to it. As a matter of fact, there have been times when we have asked ourselves if it was the right decision. Ultimately, we know that it was. We have had to rely on one another for support more instead of our outside safety net which, while not without struggle, has helped us to be much stronger for it. We have been doing more to make sure that we are on the same page for our goals in life and how to support each other through the inevitable struggles. Together, we are meeting people and developing new friendships. They aren't a replacement but rather an expansion of our support which we know will allow us to continue to grow and take on new adventures.

What we left behind wasn't the people. We carry them with us in our hearts. What we left behind was a life where it was too easy to not grow into the individuals and the couple who we want most to be. What we have ahead has some unknowns, (Ok, a lot of unknowns. Fine. It's mostly unknowns.) but we are constantly becoming the people who will be able to meet whatever challenges come our way thanks to those in our life who encourage us.

God Bless!