Thursday, April 9, 2015

Backyard Re-Design: Rain, Cold, and Catchup

Between spring break, the rain, and the off again/on again cold weather early spring wasn't very productive for our backyard makeover.  We were able to get a couple of beds built and a few things planted. The tractor made a few ruts in the area where the court yard is going to be. Looks like my impatience will cost me one load of top soil. The good thing is what I don't use to level the area back off I can use in other parts of the yard.  We sloshed around a bit and tried to burn the piles of limbs, leaves, and other garden debris. When the piles finally dried out the wind was too high. Needless to say that is still on the to-do list.

The boys helped move dirt from the two small raised beds we already had in the side yard to the new beds their daddy and pawpaw built.

Two planter boxes made from some reclaimed shelving and parts of a pallet rack for our sweet peas and onions. As you can see, there is still quite a bit of water...and the grass is still growing!

We were able to build our music/noise wall. We used some old wind chimes, cans from the cafe, milk jug, a little wooden box, and canning jar rings among other noisy items.  We will add more items along the way to this area. The boys love it!

You can check out the directions and other pins on my gardening and outdoor spaces board right here 
Part of the pallet fence was constructed and work on the horse shoe pit has begun. It is between two trees. My thought here is that during the hot summer the trees would provide some shade. The guys weren't sure it would work so they made a temporary pit, tested it, trimmed limbs and tested it again. It looks like it's going to be the perfect place. I got the idea from Pinterest and showed our youngest son and now he is in charge of this project. Uncle Bubba (Pawpaw) loves to play horseshoes and we think it will get good use during his surprise birthday party in mid-July.

We were able to plant our sweet peas, asparagus, dill, onion sets and potatoes last week and when the boys and I checked our garden yesterday the peas, onions, and even the potatoes are coming up! The plants we planted look like they are taking to their new area and are going to do well. The little boys were very excited to see the new was Granna.

We found a couple Dahlia's and an Asiatic Lilly when we moved back to the Old Farmer's Market. Not sure how old they are or if they will even grow, but I let the little boys plant them anyway. They were kind of dry so the 4 year old thought it was a good idea to give them extra water after they were planted. (If they don't come up I'm going to plant the plants while they are visiting their mother...shhhh....don't tell!)

 From left to right: Asparagus, planted in a raised bed made from concrete blocks. My daddy always had a little bed of asparagus when we were growing up. It's perennial and needs little care. I mixed 2 parts organic peat, 1 part Fertilome potting soil, and 1 part playground sand and planted already established (2 year old plants) we might get a couple spears this year but next year we'll have a couple of meals! Our potato towers were easier to do than I thought. We picked up a small roll of wire, cut it in half, wired it together with some florist wire, put the hay around the wire, added a couple inches of dirt, a handful of cut seed potatoes, then covered with a couple more inches of soil. They are just now sprouting and sometime next week we will add more hay around the side and more soil. Both potato towers cost about $25.00 and are predicted to produce more than 50 pounds of potatoes! That is if I can keep from digging out the new potatoes! The middle picture is our little strawberry bed. This is a family favorite and is the first thing we planted Ike, now 4 was just two when I brought home a couple 6 packs of struggling plants and threw them in a pot in the front flower bed. The first berries were few and far between and a bit tart. Last year the pot was overflowing and the berries were delicious...This year we transplanted about 60 plants! We first put them in a couple of old tires we painted red and our lab dug them up. I was kind of glad because I didn't really like the look of the tires in the garden. When we checked yesterday they were loaded with buds! The last two pictures are of the onion sets and dill. I am excited to grow some dill this year because I want to try and make pickles for the first time so if you have a good recipe, I would be interested.

The little boys are having a wonderful time learning how to garden. They love the flowers and are amazed that vegetables come from dirt. I can see I need to educate them a little more on what else it takes to grow food.  We did a little more work on the children's area, but that is for another blog on another day. For now, I need to suck down this coffee and head over to the store and get ready to see y'all face to face.  Until then...happy gardening...happy spring!

Aunt Theresa

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Saturday Garden Power Hour

Since we moved back home to the old Farmer's Market we've decided to add a demonstration/class on Saturdays at 10:00 a.m. They are short and informative and the entire thing is free and takes an hour, maybe less.  The gatherings are small and informal and we love the sharing of ideas with our customers.  The first class covered what's hot for 2015, the second class was on living wreaths, the third was on unique planters for Easter. We have a door prize or two and there is no pressure to purchase. If you are out and about on Saturday's make plans to stop in and see what we have going.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Backyard Re-Design: Planting Blueberries

As I've mentioned before the 4 year old is a picky eater. One of his favorite fruits is blueberries and he can eat them by the bucket! I learned this when he helped get them ready to sell last year.  To the left of the new children's play area we are going to start with 3 bushes and today we are going to pick them out.

Blueberries like well drained, acidic soil, high in organic matter. The ideal PH is between 4 and 5. I don't think we will test the PH level unless we have some difficulties down the road.

For best results use 1 to 3 year old bushes and plant in early Spring, so now is the perfect time. Holes need to be 20 inches long and 18 inches wide. I'm going to have the 4 year old help by using the measuring tape to be sure we have the right dimensions.  He won't even realize we are working on number recognition.  Space the bushes about 5 feet apart.  Blueberries are partially self-fertile. To harvest more and larger berries it is best to plant 2 or more varieties so we are going to get 3 different bushes.

They need to 2 to 4 inches of mulch in order to keep their shallow root system moist. Either wood chips, saw dust, or pine needles work best.  We are not going to mulch this weekend since the ground is pretty saturated and we will be adding some dry Fertilome to the soil (which is always my preference since our soil tends to have a little too much clay.) They only need one to two inches of water per week so once we hit that dry July and August weather we will run our hose over there a couple times a week.

We will have to pinch the blooms back the first couple of years or there will never be much fruit and what does produce will be bitter or tart.  I sure hope these little boys understand and wait patiently.  It looks like this year we will have to pick up our berries at the store.

After 4 years the plants will need to be pruned in late winter just before growth begins. Pruning important to stimulate growth.

Pruning High Bush Varieties: Start with large cuts and remove wood that is more than 6 years old, drooping to the ground or crowding the center of the bush. Also remove low growing branches whose fruit will touch the ground, as well as spindly twigs.

Pruning Low Bush Varieties: Prune by cutting all stems to the ground.


Fruit is ready to harvest between late July and mid-August. Don't rush to pick the day the berries turn blue. Waiting just a couple of days will ensure the berries are sweet, tender, and juicy.  Full production will be reached after 6 years.  Again, it is recommended to pinch the blooms off at least the first to second year to stimulate plant growth and better fruit production.

High bush varieties will reach about 6 feet and are adapted for zones 4-7. Low bush varieties are best for colder climates and are creeping plants only a foot or so high and spread by underground stems. Low bush varieties make a nice ornamental fruiting ground cover. Half-high bushes were developed in Michigan and can be anywhere from 18 inches to 4 feet tall producing a grayish looking berry. Some are tart and great for pies.

We are picking out 3 different high bush varieties today. I can hardly wait to get them in the ground and in just a couple of years the boys (and their granna) can go out and grab a handful of these rich in antioxidants, super fruit!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Back Yard Redesign: Day 1-Let the Cleaning Begin!

We finally had a little break in the weather yesterday so the 3 and 4 year old and I got outside to see if the layout we have been working on this winter will actually work in the space we have. We might have to make a few alterations, but for the most part we can fit all the elements in the space we have. However, Uncle Bubba has mentioned a fire pit a couple of times, so we will work on placement of one in the court yard area.  Especially since he is the one who is going to have to do all the heavy work.

Our main focus right now is the raised vegetable gardens. We have two small and one large raised bed back here that were used to raise sweet potato slips a couple of years ago. Much like the entire back yard, those have been severely neglected.  Looks like our best bet in cleaning these out is to burn them off, then pull the roots of the weeds out by hand, and amend the soil before planting. Our goal is to get that done this coming Saturday since the forecast is sunny and warmer temperatures for the better part of next week. 

This weekend we will pick up the materials needed to make a few more beds and our seeds and cole crop bedding plants.  We have 2 small planters in the side yard that will be used for salad onions, garlic, herbs, lettuce and spinach. It's a good thing you can put raised beds together quickly and inexpensively...and if the soil prep is done correctly they are relatively low maintenance.  The boys and I use a small hoe and shovel (and our hands) to loosen the soil between crops. So that's the plan for this burst of spring-like weather. We'll let you know right here exactly what we planted and how long it took and a cost estimate as well once we are finished.

TIP: When using raised beds it's best to cover during the winter to keep the soil from being contaminated. This coming winter we plan on placing a layer of straw across the tops of the beds and covering with black plastic.

 As you can see from this "before" picture we definitely have our work cut out for us! The good thing about all this rain and melting snow/ice we clearly know where our low spots are.  It helps with the layout of the raised vegetable garden beds. There's no doubt we will need a load of plain old fill dirt for these.

While we were out surveying our area and making decisions where we wanted to put our new raised beds we decided to take advantage of the saturated ground and start digging out the ivy  around one of the oak trees in the side yard. The children's play area will be close and it will be the perfect shade spot for a bench. After 10 years of minimal care the ivy had pretty much taken over. I highly recommend it if you are looking to plant something where you need ground cover and plant material to retain the soil.

These are just a few shots of the ivy bed. In the middle is a picture of a root, believe me there are tons of them in there. The picture on the right is where the ivy is dense and where we were working. We used a garden rake, our hands, and long handled pruning sheers. The sheers helped when the vines were tangled and long. We were able to cut them to a manageable size especially for the little boys.

It took us a couple of hours to get this section cleared. I'm sure a couple of adults (or some teenage help) could have knocked it out in no time, but this project is a labor of love and a great teaching tool for the boys. What made the digging and pulling of the roots easy was the saturated ground.  Our tree is going love not being smothered in that ivy this year!

We also worked on general clean up and a little design work for our "bird" area as the boys call it. They have been feeding the birds and squirrels all winter and have really enjoyed watching them from the great room window. We moved our shepherd's hook from the front where we will hang a feeder. Later this Spring the boys will make a bird house each for this area. We also placed a square concrete stepping stone where we want the bird bath. We have to wait for PawPaw (Uncle Bubba) to help us with that since it's concrete. We debated moving our garden angel around there but there is some concern for the 3 year old since she has a broken wing...

We mainly just piddled around outside cleaning little bit of this and clearing a little bit of that. The above purple Crepe Myrtle was totally overgrown with variegated Vinca Major. My nephew, Jeremy, planted that while he was still in high school some 15 years ago. I did leave some of the Vinca so I can use it for another project.

All three of us were just happy to get out of the house! After a bout with the flu then all the winter weather and rain the sight of the sun did our hearts good. I can tell you this, last night we all slept very soundly and peacefully!

Ahhh...and the rain has begun again.

Here's an overview of our plan for the weekend. Friday we will pick up our cole crop seeds and starter plants from the store. We might even pick up a couple 6 pack of tomatoes and step them up in larger containers so we can bring them in if it gets too cold outside. Saturday we will build a couple of new raised beds and begin working on cleaning up and amending the soil of the old ones and get our cole crop plants planted. We might be able to move the swing set if I can rustle up some muscle. That way we can begin the children's area.

Thanks for following us on this journey. I hope you get some ideas and useful tips. Please feel free to share anything you think might make this project easier. Any ideas for a more beautiful space are welcomed as well. You can comment here or on our Facbook page.  Until then, we will see you at the store.

Aunt Theresa (and the boys)

Monday, March 2, 2015

Hankering for Spring

With daylight savings time this Sunday and spring officially less than three weeks away my hibernation is quickly coming to a close. The threats of more "winter" weather this coming Wednesday doesn't have me too excited about donning my work boots just yet. Though the last shot of warm weather and sunshine had me and the 3 and 4 year old outside cleaning our raised beds and making plans for planting.

It won't be long and we will have our carrots, sweet peas, cabbage, brussel sprouts, broccoli, spinach, and salad onions planted. We are going to make a couple of potato towers we saw on Pinterest and plant them as well.  They can grow up to 25 pounds of potatoes each. I'm thinking we are going to start with three.

The 4 year old is fascinated with both flower and vegetable gardening.  My goal is not only to raise enough food to eat and some to put up for the winter, but to entice him to eat more vegetables...let's hope it finally works.This year we plan on adding some blueberries and grapes. We are all kind of excited about that.

Of course a winter of scrolling Pinterest, browsing gardening magazines, and reading flower and plant books gives a person tons of ideas. Especially when there is such a big back yard available. We have an old galvanized water trough that's been in the back yard some fifteen years. This is the year we are going to turn it into a water feature and the surrounding area into a court yard. I have a drawing, a list of plant and landscaping materials and a detailed to-do list. It includes a children's play area complete with music/noise making area, checker-board, club house (you know cause we have boys) and some whimsical pathways. I love the alphabet pathway but instead of using the flat stones we are going to pick up some of those round concrete stepping stones so the 4 and 5 year old can paint them. It will be the major path leading from the court yard area to the play yard.

We have a stack of these square stepping stones down by the barn and now I know what to do with them! We are going to use Frisbees for the game pieces and probably paint the squares red and black. I'm not sure if we will try and build some benches or just pick some up ready-made. We have to keep in mind that it will be plant season at the store and there is plenty of work to keep us busy there. The hop scotch game will make a perfect path from the swing set to the club house.

I think a pallet fence between the court yard and vegetable garden will be a nice addition and give me another place for flower beds. I really want to add a couple of Jane Magnolia trees.  They are one of my favorites and bloom early giving us the first hope of Spring.

Along the base of one of our huge old oak trees the four year old wants to make a fairy garden.  I love it! I think it will be just the touch of "magic" to keep both boys interested.

Poor Uncle Bubba keeps listening and looking as I show him all these pictures and talk about what we are going to do "just as soon as the weather breaks" but I think I might see a trace of fear in his eyes.  It's going to be a huge endeavor and of course, the vegetable garden comes we are going to break it off in chunks and work it like that. Hope you enjoy this journey with us.  I will post before and after pictures, tips and advice and everything we learn along the way.  Until then...enjoy the last bit of winter weather, make your plan, and we will see you back here soon.

Aunt Theresa

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

There's No Place Like Home Especially When You Are There

Have you ever noticed just how many sayings there are about home? There's no place like home~ Home is where the heart is~ Home is the starting place for love and dreams~ Home is not a place it's a feeling~ Home is wherever I am with you~ Home sweet home!

By now most of you have heard we are leaving our Sherwood location at North Hills Blvd. and Country Club. You've heard that it is because the seasonal nature of our business will not support the high overhead during the fall and winter months. You also know we are returning to our original location in the Old Farmer's Market on East McCain in North Little Rock. As a matter of fact, the store over there is open now.

The decision to go home was probably one of the hardest we've ever made. We have loved being a part of the Sherwood community and getting to know our new customers on a personal level. We had so many dreams and goals for the big store, but at every turn we encountered road blocks. Add to that bad weather, rising prices, and a tight economy, and well, you get the picture.

As summer turned to fall and we entered into serious contemplation and prayer for the future of our now 36 year old business things just seemed to fall into place; up to and including the new owners of the old property renovating the building as we had imagined so many years ago. Funny, they never even talked to us about what we just happened. The rent, the utilities, the cost of keeping the store stocked would be cut in half...And we would once again be next door to BJ's Market Cafe.  It was just the nudge...just the sign...just the opened door...just the opportunity we needed and the decision was made... It's time to go home.

Our anxiety has turned to excitement with each and every promise of continued patronage. We can not thank our customers enough. You are truly part of our family, you are why we do what we do, and you allow us to do what we love.  We will forever be grateful!

Thanks for following us home!
Aunt Theresa

Just a few shots inside the new store at the old location. See you soon!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


I am so ready for the cooler weather. I'm not a big fan of rain, but I'll take it if it means Autumn will finally arrive and stay! Days like today are perfect for a hearty soup and I know just what I am fixing for dinner tonight! ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND SHALLOT of our family favorites! The good thing about this soup is you can cook the ingredients in advance and pop them in the refrigerator and use the next day or later in the week.


4 cups peeled, seeded, and cubed butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
4 large shallots peeled and quartered (I use jumbo green onions)
1/2 in peeled fresh ginger sliced thin. (Use powdered ginger if necessary, just wait till everything is in the pan and sprinkle lightly)
2 1/2 cups fat-free, low sodium chicken broth
2 tbsp fresh chives (I use the green part of the jumbo green onions)


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Combine first five ingredients in a roasting or jelly roll pan, toss well and bake 50 minutes until tender, stirring occasionally.  Let cool ten minutes.

Place 1/2 squash mixture and 1/2 the broth in the blender. Remove the center ring and place a fresh, clean towel over allowing steam to escape.  Blend until smooth and place in large sauce pan. Repeat process until all squash and broth are used. Cover and heat 5 minutes until heated through. Top with chives and fresh ground black pepper.


I have used sweet red onions in place of shallots/jumbo green onions and thyme instead of ginger. Its delicious! I cube the butternut squash and place on a cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, then a couple pinches (or more) of fresh thyme - then thinly sliced purple onion on top and bake until tender. This soup is a little sweeter and I sometimes use less chicken broth and add a little heavy cream once it is heated through in the sauce pan. Either way it is the perfect fall soup.

Happy Eating!
Aunt Theresa