Almost 2 Years Ago…

And everything has changed. I started this blog as a way to document my journey in making a home out of the arrangements that we had at the time. Making the best out of what we had available to us. It’s all different now.

2 years ago, we had just found out we were expecting our 3rd child and I knew we had to save money wherever possible. That meant gardening and preserving, hunting and fishing, cloth diapers, and 2nd hand clothes. I was fine with it all! And it was all working out! From previous posts, we had everything set up and ready to go! Then the 3rd trimester and North Carolina summer kicked in. ┬áMost days I couldn’t get off the couch, let alone get outside to water and weed the garden beds. It was never my husband’s thing, so it all over grew, and it wasn’t the produce I had planted. Most everything failed that year, except the tomato plants I ended up buying. They went crazy. In fact, at the end of the season, when I pulled the plants out of the bed, one of them had vines 8 feet long.

Fast forward to a year ago, and it’s when everything started unraveling. My life began to fall apart. About a year ago, I decided to attend a weekend long conference. It was the first time leaving the baby and my grandma flew in to help out. Because of my husband’s job, he wasn’t going to be a reliable source of child care. After the winter we had had, I needed a break from it all. Everyone was sick. I wasn’t feeling well. I made the choice to go to the conference for inspiration but also for much needed time away. I made some life changing decisions at that conference and I shared them with my husband. Looking back, I’m pretty sure they scared and intimidated him. I was in the mode of moving forward and doing my part in contributing to our lives. Making everything better and easier. It was obviously, and painfully, apparent that he didn’t see it that way.

Now the present. We are in the stages of divorce. We’ve been legally separated for 9 months and the petition has been filed to dissolve the marriage.

Things have changed a lot in the past 2 years. We have 2 kids, a preschooler and a toddler. We’ve experienced a miscarriage that was an unplanned (by us) pregnancy. I moved 600 miles away, with my kids, to live with and be around family. I have a full time job and looking for another part to full time position. My world and environment has changed, but my goals and dreams haven’t. I turned 30 this past year and truly don’t feel like I’ve accomplished anything. I know that’s not true. There is plenty I’ve accomplished. I just don’t feel that way. My 20’s, if recreated as a rollercoaster, would be a ride no one would take.

I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting and recounting, re-planning and remapping what my life should look like. Ultimately, I’ve written out my goals and dreams. I’ve cut out pictures and drawn out blueprints. I’ve decided to take one day at a time and stick, as closely as possible, to the plans I have made. I’m a lot better about allowing life to happen to those plans, but I’m also more aware of how to get those plans back on track. I don’t know exactly where this year will take me, but I’ve got goals to accomplish. And continuing on the path I started 2 years ago, making my life, AHAP.

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Strawberry Season!

Here in North Carolina, strawberries are in season and not for long! 2 weeks ago our 3-year old and I went to a strawberry farm and picked almost 15 pounds of strawberries! It was hard keeping her out of the buckets and eating everything we were picking. We loved every minute of it! I wanted to get started on canning and preserving while I am feeling good. At 5 months pregnant, I never know how I’m going to feel.

From the 15 pounds of strawberries, I made 9 half-pint jars of Old-Fashioned Strawberry Jam, 10 half-pint jars of Natural Strawberry Summer Fruit Jam, and 5 pint of Strawberry Lemonade Concentrate. There are still strawberries left! Yes, I need to get back to finishing them out. I’m trying to decide between Strawberry Butter and Strawberry Apple Butter. If I have enough, I may just make both. I also want to get back to the farm and get more strawberries to get some more canning done! I don’t know if it’s necessarily needed, but I did have a lot of fun.

I will post the recipes in separate posts!

Thank you for reading! See you next time on As Home As Possible. ~Amanda

Blue Jar Garden: April 11th and 18th Plantings

The past two weeks have been crazy with weather changes and pregnancy fatigue, but when I have energy, I’m trying to do all I can in the house and the garden, as well as work when I get called in. Craziness, but here is what I’ve been planting!

April 11th Plantings:

1.5 square feet of Imperial 45 Cantaloupe (I transplanted 3 starts into a 1 square foot by 1.5 square foot mound.)

1.5 square feet of Crimson Sweet Watermelon (I lost all but 1 start, so I transplanted that and replanted a couple of seeds into a 1 square foot by 1.5 square foot mound.)

1 square foot of Marketmore Cucumbers (I lost all of my cucumber starts and replanted seeds directly in the garden.)

1 square foot of National Pickling Cucumbers (Again, I lost all of my cucumber starts and replanted seeds direction in the garden.)

4 square feet of California Wonder Bell Peppers (I transplanted 4 starts into the garden.)

4 square feet of Sweet Banana Peppers (I transplanted 4 starts into the garden.)

8 square feet of Clemson Spineless Okra (I transplanted 4 starts and replanted 4 seeds into the garden.)

8 total square feet of Hot Peppers (2 transplants each of Anaheim Chili Peppers, Long Thin Cayenne Peppers, Jalape├▒o Peppers and Serrano Chili Peppers.)

2 square feet of Waltham Butternut Squash (I transplanted 3 starts into a 1 square foot by 2 square feet mound.)

8 total square feet of Everbearing Quinalult Strawberries (I planted a total of 9 strawberry plants.)

12 total square feet of Tomatoes (1 transplant of Beefsteak, 1 transplant of Big Boy, 2 transplants of Early Girl, 4 transplants of Roma’s, and 4 transplants of Red Cherries.)

Since the April 11th planting, I lost all of my tomato plants, the watermelon mound was washed out by an uncalculated water fall (from the roof), lost all but 1 pumpkin plant, and I’m not too sure the pepper plants are going to make it.

April 18th Plantings:

1 square foot of Carrots and Radishes planted together (I am planting 1 square foot a week to get an extended harvest.)

4 square feet of tomatoes (I am in the process of replanting tomatoes by purchasing tomato plants from a big box store.)

1 square foot of Gourmet Garlic (I am planting 1 square foot every 2 weeks to get an extended harvest.)

1 square foot of Sweet Onions (I am planting 1 square foot every 2 weeks to get an extended harvest.)

Since I lost all of my tomatoes and needed some herbs started, I ended up purchasing a total of 20 plants. I had to buy all of my tomatoes (2 Big Boys, 2 Early Girls, 4 Roma’s, 2 Cherries, and 2 Grapes). I also bought 5 lavenders plants for bug repellant, 1 spearmint, 1 peppermint, and 1 lemon balm. A big box store near us was having 5 plants for $10, so I went ahead a bought up, even though I really wanted to start everything myself.

I am definitely learning a lot in my first season by myself. My aunt and uncle live in Georgia and grow most of their stuff in a greenhouse. I am getting a lot of tomato and pepper tips from them.

Thank you for reading As Home As Possible, Blue Jar Garden ~Amanda

Blue Jar Garden: April 10th Plantings

Today I planted:

1 square foot of Heirloom Sugar Snap Peas (I am planning on planting a total of 3 square feet and planting a square foot worth every two weeks.)

1 square foot of a combination of Danvers Half-Long Carrots and Sparkler White Top Radishes (I am planning on planting a total of 8 square feet and planting a square foot worth every week.)

2 square feet of Blue Lake Bush Beans (I am planning on planting a total of 8 square feet and planting every 2 weeks.)

2 square feet of Roma II Bush Beans (I am planning on planting a total of 8 square feet and planting every 2 weeks.)

2 square feet of Early Golden Bantam Sweet Corn (I am planning on planting a total of 8 square feet and planting every 2 weeks.)

2 square feet of Golden Queen Sweet Corn (I am planning on planting a total of 8 square feet and planting every 2 weeks.)

2 square feet of Silver Queen Sweet Corn (I am planning on planting a total of 8 square feet and planting every 2 weeks.)

It has been hot, humid and storming on and off this week. I’m taking every cool and dry opportunity to plant this weekend. This morning I planted while the garden bed was still in the shade for a little bit and cooler. I’m hoping to get a lot of my summer plants in the ground this weekend. However, when I opened our greenhouse this morning, my starts where all laying down. I’m just hoping they needed more water and some sunlight. My daughter and I set all the plants outside and am hoping the heat, sun and water will bring them back. If not, a month’s worth of work and preparing have gone away, which would make me sad. Our family is very much looking forward to fresh-picked cucumbers and tomatoes! I really hope I don’t have to go out and buy plants. That is what I was trying to stay away from. Only time will tell.

Thanks for reading As Home As Possible, Blue Jar Garden ~Amanda

The Things I Want to Try…

My mind has been spinning about what all I want to do when the harvest comes out of the garden, and the plants aren’t even in the ground yet…

There are the obvious canning and preserving recipes: pickles, salsa, tomato sauce, etc, as well as freezing sweet corn, green beans, zucchini, etc.

I also want to make jams from our raspberry and blackberry bushes and strawberries. I want to fill our pantry and cabinets with condiments, like pasta sauces, ketchups, barbecue sauces, and herbs and spices. There are so many things, I really need to make a list and find recipes. I also need to start stocking up on canning jars and freezer bags.

The things we already have for the preservation processes: stand mixer with several slicing, dicing, straining, and juicing attachments, dehydrator, food saving machine with different jar sealing attachments, pressure canner and water bath pots with strainers and blanchers. There are still things I want to get: a lot more jars, camping propane stove to cook outside (I would love to have a wood-burning stove, but living arrangements do not accommodate at this time), better organization for food storage, and a separate freezer.

Until next time, thanks for reading As Home As Possible, Blue Jar Garden ~ Amanda

Blue Jar Garden

I am so excited to share our garden! My mom and brother were visiting for spring break. My mom helped me build, fill, and prepare the garden beds! After 4 re-designs, many trips to several stores, sunshine and rain, the garden is ready! After some input from neighbors, we ended up building 4 – 4 foot by 8 foot beds with 2 x 6 x 8 pieces of lumber. Two beds are 12 inches tall and two beds are 6 inches tall. I am using the “square foot gardening” method and am pretty excited about getting plants in the ground! It isn’t quite warm enough yet to plant, but the beds are ready! I am already thinking of things to do next year, but that’ll be for another time.

10-DSC_0180 09-DSC_0176On the left, we have, what I am calling, the north, west, east and corn beds. On the right is a closer up of the “corn bed”. I still have things to work on, like the pathway, but I’m still excited.

The “north” bed is for peas, cucumbers, pickling cucumbers, watermelon, cantaloupe, carrots, radishes, Blue Lake green beans and Roma Italian green beans.

The “west” bed is for beefsteak tomatoes, big boy tomatoes, early girl tomatoes, roma tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, jelly bean tomatoes, strawberries, onions, garlic, parsley, cilantro and basil.

The “east” bed is for bell peppers, sweet peppers, many varieties of hot peppers, okra and turnips.

The “corn” bed is for 3 varieties of corn, 2 varieties of zucchini, butternut squash and pumpkins.

I have also planted two raspberry bushes and two blackberry bushes. Flowers and other herbs will be planted in containers and places around the beds.

Two weeks ago I started several seeds indoors, a storage closet that is heated in a small four-shelved greenhouse. I started all the cucumbers, tomatoes, squashes, peppers, and flowers. They came up quickly and nicely! We will start planting seeds and starts in the garden next weekend, after the last frost date is next week.

There are still things to do, like put together my pest fence and bird netting, and work on composting, but overall, I am happy with where things are on my timeline.

Believe it or not, I wanted to start small this year. This is my first year gardening on my own. I help my mom last year and wanted to test things before going big. All the things I’m planning on growing are things we eat. There are many things that I’m not ready to take on just yet, like potatoes and lettuces. I am also going to be canning, freezing, and preserving come harvest time. We are expecting our third child in August, so we will see how all these things go.

Why “Blue Jar Garden”? Honestly, I found some cute jars at a store that I thought would be cute as bug candles in the garden. Then I found these cute little guys! They’re mini torches!

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Until next time, probably next weekend after planting and notes are taken! I will also be sharing my new electric mixer adventures! I got a new one with many attachments that I cannot wait to use!

Thanks for reading As Home As Possible, Blue Jar Garden! ~Amanda