Native Garden Project Finished- Woohoo!!

I had a date this morning – with 40 bags of Grade A cedar mulch.  Fortunately I didn’t have to tackle it alone.  My husband opened and poured while I raked and spread.

Just to recap………

This is what we started with about 6 weeks ago.

This is what we started with about 6 weeks ago.

Next came a back wrenching day with the sod cutter that gave us this….

After setting border

After setting border

Then the native plants were in place and the soaker hose laid down….

The trial run was a success.  Even, drippy moisture.

The trial run was a success. Even, drippy moisture.

And today- ta da!!!- mulch!!

The plants are young and it was almost impossible to get the 3" depth the landscaper suggested.  And we should have evened up the surface a little more.

The plants are young and it was almost impossible to get the 3″ depth the landscaper suggested. And we should have evened up the surface a little more.

Here are a couple of closeups….



Ozark Bluestar

Ozark Bluestar

Here is the complete list of natives we planted: purple muhly grass, prairie rose, hibiscus, penstemon, goldenrod, coneflower, blue sage, joe pye, bergamot, beautyberry, false indigo, Ozark bluestar and prairie blazing star.  And of course, an Eastern redbud tree.  I don’t expect any blooms this year, but everything is still healthy after being in the ground almost two weeks.

So…..on to the next project.  No rest of the wicked.  Since we still had a LITTLE energy left after laying the mulch, we cleaned the old mulch and inches of spilled birdseed out of the old beds next to the patio and spread mulch on them.  Oh, did I mention that we only used 29 of the 40 bags.  There was no way we could have used them all – and I cut down the number from the 50 the landscaper told me to buy.  Then around to the front yard where I planted this is my grandmother’s old washpot.

I lovethe tall Spike in the middle.  Behind it is aspargus ferns, Black Dragon for contrast, impatients and Moneywort.

I love the tall Spike in the middle. Behind it is aspargus ferns, Black Dragon for contrast, impatients and Moneywort.

My husband cut the seat out of this old chair in the large bed in the front.  I zip-tied a basket with coconut husk liner, but ran out of potting soil.  I’m not sure what I’m going to plant in it.  There’s  not much to choose from for shade plants.


This should be really nice with plants “growing” out of the seat.

Speaking of potting soil, I’ve never really found one I like that will hold moisture.  I found this at Organics OKC.  Pricey, but hopefully worth it.


Lots of good stuff in it. Should have for $18 a bag.

I’m off to email my native plant images to Habitat Hero in Colorado.  Although Oklahoma doesn’t have a local chapter, they are interested in native gardens everywhere.  Susan J. Tweit is one of the founders.  She’s been my inspiration.

So,what else is on the list….vacuum, clean bathrooms (ugh), laundry, fresh sheets on the bed, work on baby quilt….refill tea glass, lay down, turn on Netflix, watch episode of Foyle’s War.  Yeah, I like that list better :).

Simple blessings to all!




De-Plasticize Your Home: Know The Codes

More reading on my part regarding the abundance of chemicals in our lives.  This time the culprit is plastics.  When it was considered the newest miracle product of  the 1950s, our grandmothers still largely bought and cooked fresh food: fresh produce, meat from the butcher, and stored left overs in those cute little glass refrigerator dishes that go for a premium at antique stores these days.  Today, most of our food comes pre-packaged in plastic.  And what we don’t consume at one meal, we store in plastic in our plastic refrigerators.

Plastic has changed.  Different plastics serve different purposes and are made from different chemical resins.  Some are stable, some are not and leach into our food.  It’s also in our shampoo bottles, our flooring and our kids’ toys.  Plastic is pervasive, but you can educate yourself and learn which ones to avoid.

We’re all familiar with the recycling code on plastic containers.  That cute little green triangle with a number in the middle.  That number indicates the kind of resin used to create the plastic. 


Typical uses: water and soft drink bottles, prepared salad and spinach containers

Health and environmental impact: intended for single use; plastic can break down and host bacteria; potential to interfere with reproductive hormones


Typical uses: opaque milk jugs; cereal box liners; liquid detergent bottles; most shampoo bottles

Health & Environmental Impacts: low risk of leaching


Typical uses: plastic wrap, cooking oil bottles, toys, plumbing pipes, window and door frames, insulation

Health & Environmental Impact: known as the “toxic plastic”; can cause endocrine disruption, reduced sperm count, testicular atrophy and liver cancer

(Run Forrest, run!!!)


Typical uses: plastic wrap, grocery, garbage and sandwich bags.

Health & Environmental Impacts: not known to leach chemicals


Typical uses: yogurt and margarine tubs, microwavable meal trays,  fiber for carpets, wall coverings, vehicle upholstery

Health & Environmental Impacts: hazardous during manufacture but not known to leach chemicals


Typical uses: styrofoam cups, clamshell containers, foam meat trays, plastic cutlery, electronics packaging and insulation

Health & Environmental Impacts: eye, nose and throat irritation; stored in body fat (ooohhhh), can cause cancer to production workers, harmful to marine life (this type of plastic makes up the majority of the huge garbage islands floating in global oceans)


Typical uses: baby bottles, some reusable water bottles, stain resistant food storage containers

Health & Environmental Impacts: BPA-containing polycarbonate causes endocrine and reproduction system disruption; impaired neurological functions; cancer; cardiovascular system damage; early puberty (OMG), obesity (crap!); chemotherapy resistance

Well, Forrest, I’m about to catch up with you.  Good grief.  In my disgust, I am looking for ways to relieve my household of the abundance of plastic.  I quit drinking out of plastic cups a long time ago, but still have them around and my husband uses them all the time.  Just about all the food I buy, even the organic potatoes and apples I bought today, came in plastic bags.  The trays our treat-ourselves-once-a-week rib eye steaks come packaged in are absorbing plastics that are then stored in our body fat.  And I’m really going to start checking for #7.  Scary stuff. 

So, in the spirit of less plastic, I splurged and ordered some reuseable produce bags to use at the grocery store instead of wrapping my fresh produce in plastic and then bringing it home.  Here they are, from Amazon.

I bought 2 sets of 5 at $11 each.  Perhaps a little pricey, but washable and should last a very long time.  They were transparent enough so that the checker had no problem identifying the contents.   Now I just need to find some alternative storage solutions for leftovers.

Comments anyone? 

Keep it simple, ya’ll.

Homemade Laundry Powder – Update


I’ve been using the laundry powder I made from borax, washing soda and Fels Naptha for about a week now and I really like it.  I found several recipes online and chose this one: 

  1. 1 bar Fels Naptha grated
  2. 1 cup borax
  3. 1 cup washing soda

The Fels Naptha and washing soda were a little hard to find.  Actually, I had given up on the washing soda when I happened to spot it one day in a local grocery store I don’t regularly shop at.  (Shame on me.  I shop at Walmart –  which I hate –  because I can do everything in one trip.  I should be supporting the local store that actually has a much better food selection and purposefully carries great stuff they know their “largest competitor”, as they gracefully put it, doesn’t stock.) 

Anyway, after stumbling upon the soda, I started searching for the Fels Naptha with renewed determination.  I googled “where to buy Fels Naptha” and found it at my local Ace Hardware.   It was $1.19 a bar.   Sorry, don’t remember the price on the borax and soda, but they were pretty cheap.  One bar is used for each batch of powder, but I can get roughly 7 cups from the soda and about 9 from the borax.  Not bad.    According to the recipe, you use 2 tablespoons for each load of laundry.  I use 2 rounded tablespoons for a large load, 3 rounded tablespoons for a super load and for my husband’s really dirty jeans and shirts, I use 4 tablespoons.  So far I have been very pleased with the results. 

The process to make it is a little time consuming.  I’m still experimenting with the best way to grate the soap.  The first time I grated it by hand with my cheese grater.  Slow, and the pieces came out bigger than I wanted.  So, I then put them through my small electric chopper mixed with some of the powder ingredients and got better results.  Today I used my food processor and ended up back with my small chopper.  I guess I’ve been trying to achieve more of a powder-like result with the soap, but have decided its not going to do that just because of the properties of the soap itself. 

So, after grating the soap, just stir it all together. I store mine in an unused glass canister with a snapring lid.  Works great.  I do find that the borax and soda have a tendency to settle to the bottom and so I give it a little stir before measuring each time.  I need to keep track of how many loads I get from each batch. 

I know I’m saving money and I feel good about not putting quite so many chemicals on my clothes and into the water system.  I know some people argue that borax is caustic and that Fels Naptha is a petroleum product, but I still feel good about it being a little more “natural” a product than what I was using. 

I purchased a bar of Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap, but haven’t tried it in the laundry powder yet.  First of all, I felt kind of triumphant at finding the Fels Naptha and wanted to try it first, and secondly, I read somewhere that the castile soap doesn’t clean as well.  My husband’s work clothes get really, really dirty, and I want to get them as clean as possible.  Thirdly, the castile soap was over $3.00 a bar, something I knew would really shoot the price up if used regularly.  So, there it is.

Hope this helps if you’re thinking about making your own laundry powder.  It is a little time consuming, but worth it.  If you have any questions, leave a comment and I’ll get back to you.  If you have anything to add, please do.

Keep it simple.

Comments on Contentment

There is a blog that I read every day,  This 60-something guy and his wife live in Taos, New Mexico where they moved nine years ago from Maryland.  The winters are especially hard for him.  The dirt driveway up to their old adobe rental gets snowcovered and impassible.  Then spring or “mud season” arrives and the driveway is again, super hard to use.   He has really been struggling lately and his posts have reflected his frustration.

Today’s post, however, was more upbeat.  He spoke about the beauty found in the quietness of a snow covered Sunday afternoon at the woodpile, with only a lone bird offering up sound.  He realized that as hard as the winters are, as depressed as he gets sometimes, that this particular Sunday afternoon he was happy.  He was “in the moment” and everything was okay.

This started me thinking.  How many times can I truly say that I am in the moment?  Truthfully, most of the time, I am mentally planning ahead, or wishing we lived somewhere else, usually some place with  mountain scenery.  I think about the garden I need to be starting on soon; I think about the housework I didn’t get done over the weekend.  I guess I have gotten in the habit of mentally “going elsewhere” during the work day because my job requires very little brain power and mental escape is sometimes the only thing that gets me through the day. 

But, looking at the bigger picture, I really am happy with my life.  My husband and I both have jobs, we can pay our bills, our son is doing well in college, we live in a moderate climate where we don’t have to dig out of snow just to get around, we have awesome friends. 

I know the national economy sucks right now; I know people have lost jobs;  I know the day may come when everything collapses and another Great Depression sets in.  But in the midst of the fear about the future, I also know the Great Provider who has never let us down.  The times my husband has lost his job, another door always opens and we have never missed paying a bill.   

Be happy with what you have.  Enjoy the sun and prepare for the rain.   Put some money aside and put back some food and water.   Live simply and lessen your stress.  Find peace and contentment where you can.  Take a drive to the countryside, get out of the city.  Just get out and take a walk.   Be in the moment.  Keep it simple.

A New Year

Today is the first day of 2009.  Happy New Years to one and all!  So, since we all have resolutions, here are some of mine.  The inevitable: lose some weight and take better care of my health.  Okay, that’s out of the way.  So, what do I REALLY want to do for 2009 – something less depressing :-).  Finish the home projects we have started, get the new garden planted, stop seeing depressing movies (Doubt and Seven Pounds within a 3 day span – big mistake – if I”m going to pay $9 to see a movie I want to come out smiling or at least crying tears of joy, not depressed over how screwed up people are).  Back to the resolutions – pray more for the people God puts in my path, be a better steward of the things intrusted to my care, talk less about other people in negative ways (a daily struggle – do not judge lest ye be judged – boy, do I have a lot of that coming!), quilt more – its so therapeutic; be more grateful for the life I have without envying those that have more; be more generous; be more hospitable. 

Its another beautiful sunny day, not a cloud in the sky, but its cold.  I can feel the cold air coming off the glass of the patio door.  Boy, we really need to do something about that fence.  Probably going to have to buy a new dishwasher this weekend.  Money takes wing. 

Lots to do over the long weekend.  My husband has volunteered to do the overhead texturing on the bathroom ceiling.  Yea!!!  Then prime, paint and then another full coat on the ceiling and walls.  Put up the trim.  Chair rail or no chair rail?  How to deal with the line on the drywall left by the wainscoting that no amount of spackle and texture seems to erase; choose paint color for cabinets.  I’m not good at that part at all.  I have no problem mixing and matching fabric colors and patterns for quilts.  Why am I so lousy at choosing paint colors?  But I LOVE the choices we made for the countertops and floors.  Oh, well, gotta keep plugging……

Have a great day off – keep it simple

Oh, What a Beautiful Morning

The opening line from the first song in the movie Oklahoma!  “Oh, what a beautiful morning…”   It is a beautiful morning in my small spot of Oklahoma today.  The sun is out and its going to be a warm day again.  Not bad for December. 

So, this of course leads to thoughts of spring and the new garden.  I briefly purused my 2009 Bountiful Gardens catalog yesterday and decided to grow some grains – hulless oats, specifically.  Supposed to be a rich source of protein and carbs and easy to harvest and store.  We’ll see… so, what else?  Purple hull peas, okra, Roma tomatoes, STRAWBERRIES!!!, gerkins for dill pickles and I’ll cave and grow yellow squash for my husband.  Personally, I can’t get the nasty stuff past my lips unless its raw with LOTS of Ranch dressing – the cooked version makes me gag.   

Back to the oats.  The catalog says I needed to plant in the fall – well, too late now – but it does well if planted in February.   So, this speeds up the process some.  I need to make a decision on where to make the first plot and get some newspaper down and layer the bed and let it cook under black plastic for about six weeks.  Then is should be ready to plant.  So says the Lasagna Gardening book anyway.  I need to find it and refresh my memory.

I also need to work on my food/water storage list.  My problem is going to be storage space.  I have a blank wall in the garage now that the dog treat baking stove is gone (one of these days I’ll stop celebrating, I promise, but it still feels too good to be rid of the business right now), so maybe I can put in some shelving or a cabinet for the water and canned goods – hmmm, not a bad idea.  Of course, I’d really like to have a freezer, too.  But in the event that we have no electricity for an extended period of time, a freezer will only be a problem to deal with.  Shelving sounds more practical.  

With all this to do, there’s the distraction of the new quilt.  I don’t know what it is about fabric that draws me so.  Its the colors, the softness, the idea of making a work of art that will last for decades.   Its addictive – I guess there are worse addictions.  Sugar and fabric are mine.  

Have a great day everyone.  Remember –  keep it simple.  Life is too short to make it complicated.

Goodbye Christmas – Hello New Year

Christmas was kinda bah-humbug for me this year.  I’m really glad its behind us and I’m really looking forward to the new year ahead.  No more dog treats – ever, ever, EVER!!! 

Perhaps its the fact that we’re forecasted to have 65 degrees and sunshine today that has me ready to start gardening.  I ordered three new books today: Living Without Electricity (primarily for the chapter on laundry), Gardening When it Counts Growing Food in Hard Times (from the Mother Earth News Wiser Living Series – hmm…wonder what else is in that series?), and The Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving.   I still need to watch the video on the square foot gardening method that I bought at the end of last summer.  I also got the 2009 catalog from Bountiful Gardens and can’t wait to delve into its pages.   

I am SO looking forward to doing something new and creative this year.  I’ve started a new quilt and signed up for a mystery quilt class in March.  I’m going to attend my first meeting of the local quilt guild and perhaps even volunteer to organize retreats – something I LOVE to do.  

I even made my first purchases toward our 1-year food/water stockpile.  I didn’t buy much, although it was tempting to load up the cart at WalMart.  I need to take the time to sit down and put together a comprehensive list of what we will actually need rather than just buying on impulse because I’m in the mood.  I’m reading Crisis Preparedness and it has a lot of good information in it, although a lot of it seems overly complicated.  Maybe I’m just overwhelmed a little at this point by the thought of putting together a list of everything we might need to live without food replenishment resources for an extended period of time.  I also want to learn to cook on an open fire.  Wish I could raise chickens, too, but local ordinances prohibit it.  So much to think about.

Why, you ask do I want to do all this?  I don’t know, just an urging in my spirit to be prepared, to know how to live in survival mode, and to be able to teach others how to, as well.  Oh, well, baby steps.  I’ve said all this before, so I won’t repeat myself. 

So, what do I wish for everyone for the new year?  A desire to live a simpler life, a conscious removal from the consumer driven, media directed lifestyles we all live, but  most of all, my wish – no, my prayer – for everyone is to know the life-changing, life-saving love of the Saviour. 

Keep it simple.