Category Archives: Gardening

Creative Collections: Build Your Own Fire Pit

Logan has been wanting to build a fire pit in our backyard for awhile. You know, to compliment the huge deck we have in the back! This is another maybe-next-summer-project, but that doesn’t stop us from looking for ideas!





This Old House 

The Art of Doing Stuff

 Tipnut had some good things to consider before you start building…
*Check with your legal restrictions that you’re even allowed to build a fire pit, especially if you live within city limits.
*Make sure you build your fire pit a safe distance from buildings, fences, and trees.
*Always have a water source reading when you’re burning a fire.
*Check that your fire is completely out when you’re finished.
*Never leave a fire unattended.
*Supervise children when a fire is burning.

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The Market Fresh Cookbook

Last year I didn’t do a very good job using the tomatoes I grew in my garden. I’m not a huge fan of just plain tomatoes, and with how quickly they ripened, I quickly had an overabundance. I ended up freezing most of them… and they’re still in my freezer.

Obviously, if I’m going to grow produce (especially tomatoes), I need a plan…

I was wandering around Half Price Books and came across Taste of Home’s The Market Fresh Cookbook. Each section focused on a different vegetable. Including tomatoes. So I picked up a copy, and we’ll see. Hopefully, I’ll put to better use all those lovely vegetables ripening in my garden… And all those carrots I buy from Costco.


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Saying Goodbye to Summer Vacation

On my last day of summer vacation, I’m getting ready to say goodbye to lots of relaxing time. Since the weather has been so very hot this summer, not much of that relaxing was done on the deck. But I did look out there during the 90 degree streak and wish I could be out there!

Two summers ago, my husband and father-in-law began adding a deck to the house. What started out as a small concrete pad became an 800 square foot deck with three levels and a pergola. Our plan was to swap a window for a door in one of the back rooms, so we needed the deck to extend beyond that door. That didn’t end up happening, but the plan meant the deck got to be pretty big.

Usually the hammock stretches across the pergola area, but right now we’re using that area for our fire pit.
The umbrella and blue chair are part of our large dining table outside. 

And glorious. We absolutely love this space and use it all the time. Dinners together, reading, computer work, family events, and parties.

Last summer, I only focused on planting a few large pots out there. I spray painted some brown pots blue to match the pillows and chairs (yep, even pillows outside).

Thanks to my father-in-law for giving us the chairs and letting me paint them green!

 See this post for more about the plants

This summer our goal was to plant around the deck. The hard part was finding something reasonably priced that would grow up nicely in a few years. And was easy to maintain! It just so happened that we found some “distressed” grasses and spirea at Lowes (not sure what made them distressed because they looked great to me), which meant they were hugely discounted. For under $30, we got 10 grasses and 5 shrubs. Happy day!

Ten long, hot hours over three days…


And we have our deck planted! I had forgotten how long it takes to dig a whole new garden, but it does look great. Even though I faced mosquito bites, sunburns, spider eggs, and more bugs than I care to remember. And even though the shrubs and grasses had to withstand record long heat. Still looks great.


We’re waiting to edge and put in mulch, so for now, I just put down a layer of newspaper and covered it with grass clippings. Hopefully it will keep the weeds down!

Alas, goodbye to summer. And Deck, I’ll be seeing you much less, but we’ll be having more dinners together soon.

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To Weed or Not to Weed

My vote is NOT to weed. Not a fan. I guess I don’t mind picking a few weeds here and there, but it gets away from me so fast! I’ve been good about wedding my raised beds in my vegetable garden, but the pathways… Ugh. I’m too embarrassed to post a picture of what these looked like when I planted my garden a few weeks ago!

This is after I took out some of the weeds. All of the area around the raised beds looked like this.

But at the same time, I don’t want to use a bunch of harsh chemicals on the weeds. Especially around my vegetable and herb gardens. No thanks.

My lovely vegetable garden:  No weeds allowed!

So… I looked up natural ways to get rid of weeds. Here’s what I found…

1. Newspaper covered with grass clippings
2. Vinegar and water solution (what doesn’t vinegar take care of!)
3. Boiling water
4. Bleach (isn’t this a harsh chemical?)
5. Salt
6. Corn gluten meal
7. Mulch
8. Pull them up (this is what I’m trying to avoid!)
9. Plant competing plants
10. Use a hoe

I decided to try the first three, because they were cheap and fast. I sectioned my garden pathways off and did a little experiment.

1.  Newspaper Covered with Grass Clippings
This was one that my mom used to do in some of her gardens… but that was back when I didn’t want anything to do with gardening so I have no idea how it worked.
Pros:  very easy to do, you don’t see any of the weeds, makes a nice area to walk on (especially after the rain), will decompose and fertilize my soil (not hugely important since it’s the walkway, but a nice perk), could be used around new plants to do less weeding overall
Cons:  not sure the weeds are dying, weeds are growing along the side of the raised beds

 First application (The grass clipping went down the next day)

 A few days later

 Weeds growing along the edges of the beds

 After 2 weeks

2.  Vinegar and Water Solution
I use vinegar to do most of my cleaning, so there was a spray bottle all ready to go. My solution ended up being 3/4 vinegar to 1/4 water. This is stronger than what I usually use to clean, but I really wanted those weeds dead.
Pros:  already had the supplies, could just spray single weeds
Cons: didn’t really work (weeds are still growing even a few days later), spraying that area made my hand really tired

 First application (that’s my water/vinegar bottle)

 A few days later

 After 2 weeks

3.  Boiling Water

This one was totally new to me.  I got out both of my dutch ovens and my stock pot and went to town. Tip #1:  don’t do this on a day that’s over 90. It really makes the kitchen hot (wahoo for air conditioning!).
Pros:   just needed water, could see results almost immediately, many of the weeds didn’t come back a few days later (but… see the cons), good use of cooking water
Cons:  heating up the kitchen, carrying full pots of water out to the back garden was a little difficult (thankfully, I didn’t spill any on me), can’t be used in areas that you want to keep all of the plants, some new weeds started growing back a few days later (but lots fewer), shriveling weeds don’t look that great

 Boiling the water

 First application

 A few days later

 After 2 weeks (the green on the left side is the lawn)

The verdict:  I think next time I’ll use a combination. I’ll pour the boiling water on round one of the weeds and then cover with newspaper and grass clippings. Even though the newspaper wasn’t the most effective way, I like having the covering over the bare dirt. Next spring, I’ll probably use the boiling water to clear my beds of all the winter weeds and then give it a few days before I start planting. Regardless… it means I’m not pulling weeds or using all sorts of chemicals by my food. Happy day!

Sources:, “How to Get Rid of Weeds the Natural Way,”  “Eight Ways to Get Rid of Weeds in Your Yard and Garden

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Our First Vegetable Harvest

Today I got to pick the first vegetables from our garden!

Eleven green beans…

Okay there are only ten in the picture, but that’s because I ate one while I was still in the garden 🙂 They just taste so much better when you’ve planted them!

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My garden

With the couple of nice days we’ve had, I finally got outside and weeded my gardens. Right now it’s lacking much color, but I just dead-headed everything. When things bloom again, I’ll repost! So here are my ongoing outdoor summer projects…

Front Garden:  It wasn’t until just recently that I realized that not all people have front flower gardens. I really thought that part of being a home owner was having a front garden. I do love my garden! My favorites are the knock out roses (from my mom), lilac bush (also from mom… I hope it will bloom next year!), and the shasta daisies. My goal this summer and next is to get a layered look in the front. I’ve started my list of good plants to plant in the back, middle, and front. I’m trying to make almost all of these perennials.



Container Pots:  These pots are where I splurge on annuals. I really love colorful foliage, especially Persian shields and coleus. Unfortunately, the dog decided to eat my coleus. I’m also trying my own hanging pots with upside down tomatoes–there are also basil (sweet and Thai) plants and marigolds in them. And since my seeds are finally here, I guess I’ll try some tomatoes and eggplant in containers too.


Herb Garden:  This is my favorite section of the front garden. I have all my herbs planted right by my front door so I always have them ready when I’m cooking. I have basil, oregano, mint, sage, chives, stevia parsley, and rosemary. My parsley and mint came up from my plants last year, which was a nice surprise this spring. This is my first time planting stevia, so we’ll see. And really, are chives that different than all the wild onions I pull up out of the garden?


Vegetable Garden:  Right now I’m only planting tomatoes, yellow squash, spaghetti squash, zucchini, cucumbers, beans, and arugula in the back. The seeds I ordered finally came in (11 weeks after I ordered them… really?) so I’ll be trying lettuce, carrots, and chamomile back there. Here’s hoping I get something from those seeds!


Side Garden:  When Logan moved into the house, there were already tons of Lily of the Valley planted on the north side of the house. I love how easy and hearty they are. My mom has also donated plants she divides to fill in this garden. I don’t do too much with this one… just make sure giant weeds (mostly thistles and dandelions) don’t take over!

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