Archive for the ‘Crafts’ Category

Planning the Structure of the Fall and Winter Gardens at the End of Summer


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We are dealing with a drought and heat in Houston. The large number of water main breaks has caused water restrictions, yet I am working on my plantings for a harvest later in the year. Part of this work is focusing on the structure of the garden.

Katya and I sit on the edge of the new garden bed, where we discuss my three sisters planting. We compare the leaves of the green onions that are behind me and the corn shooting up beside her. Then we move onto the flowers. I began this bed before the water restrictions were put into place, but I am still hoping for a harvest in October. I am looking more towards the structure of the garden though as I prepare for the fall and winter. Most of my projects have involved using recycled materials, then painting them to hide the mixture of items. The projects have been a cold frame, a solar oven, a few raised beds, an outdoor storage/workspace,a seating area, a stage, and compost bins. These are not all complete, but I thought that I would share what has been done so far.
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Foraging and Nature Walks


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Have you thought about foraging for food? On a nature walk in Jesse H. Jones Park, my brother and I discussed the feasibility of foraging.

What a busy week for family oriented events. Along with the celebrations surrounding Easter Week, we had Earth Day and my father’s seventieth birthday. On Saturday, a German club of which he is a member had a party for its members and a birthday celebration for him. This was held at Jesse H. Jones Park. I had never been to this park, but I had heard of it. The park is located behind a neighborhood near Deerbrook Mall. We had a great time at the party, but the nature hike was the best part for me. The children were engrossed in their explorations of any animal that they could find and the plants that engulfed us.
above ground rootskatya on tree
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How to Make Your Own Tomato Cage


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Tomato plants are going in the ground, and we all know that they need staking. A wire tomato cage is a frequent solution, but how about making your own.

I have not gone big on having tomato plants in my garden. I guess because it is so easy to get good quality ones at the store; however, heirloom varieties may not be so easy to find. This year sees me planting many of these seedlings, so I needed to find a way to stake them. Having pruned, I obtained several bamboo canes and thin, long tree branches, so I decide to make a rather large cage feature in the bed being used by the tomatoes.
tomato cage
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Creating Infused Oils for Scents, Cleaners,and Cooking


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Infusing oils or vinegars with the scents and flavors of herbs is simple to do, while adding new dimensions.

On Christmas morning, my girls are playing with their gifts from the night before. My son has traveled to visit with relatives, so I am enjoying the girls only. The first item that Katya wants to experience is the soap making kit. We open it up, and we begin to experiment. As the morning meanders on, the little ones paint, create jewelry, and make music. For some reason, it dawns on me ear lunch that my wife and I have given them presents revolving around crafts. The soap has cooled, so we remove it from the form, and my wife quizzes Katya on how did we make the soap. My daughter understands the basics of the process. She loves the fragrance, and we talk about creating more scents with herbs from the garden.
    Making an infused oil is truly a simple process. The essences made with alcohol are a bit trickier, but using oil is a matter of mixing the oil and herbs together. I have heard that you need olive oil or safflower oil for the process; however, I use any oil that I have on hand. That oil is usually olive oil in my home, yet I have used canola oil. When making an oil for cooking, I use a few sprigs of the herb in the oil. After a day, the oil as a good flavor for cooking. If I want the oil for a punch of flavor to drizzle over the meal, I blend a larger amount of the herbs with the oil, then I strain out the herbs after the oil has sat for an hour. Now that I am making soap with my daughter, we will be looking for oil as scent. We pack the herbs into the jar and the oil is poured over it. Again we wait one day. The flowers of the antique rose are used for their fragrance as well. If you are curious about why this works, the oils in the herbs and flowers are attracted to the oil being used.
     The process for creating a flavored vinegar is the same. I like gently heating the vinegar that I am flavoring with the whole spices that I am using, and then adding the herbs when it is cooling. I mention the vinegar here, because you can create a cleaner for your home that has the fragrance you want. Vinegar is a great organic cleaner. For health reasons, many choose to use vinegar over bleach and ammonia. Personally, I feel that people use too much bleach and ammonia when cleaning. Vinegar works well as a cleaner, but you do have that strong smell, which is not popular. Infusing the scent of herbs into the vinegar comes to the rescue. Need a lemon scent? Well here is my lemon grass or lemon balm to aid us. Bay leaves, roses, or thymes may be your preference. You can even incorporate cedar if you want a cleaner with an insect repellent quality. When used as a cleaner, strain your scents out of the vinegar.
    I like the fact that my children are growing up learning about the uses of plants. If I tell my daughter that I have no money to buy her something, she spots a bank on our drive, and she informs me that we can stop at the money machine. There is a disconnect in this instance. If I talk about making a meal, she understands that the vegetables are coming from the garden. She knows how we worked to make the plants grow. She understands how we harvested a vegetable for the meal. We have made pasta and bread from scratch. There is no disconnect. With more involvement in craft projects, she is seeing how more household goods are made.   

Greetings

This site came out of my desire to write about my love of gardening, but also to connect it to my knowledge derived from home inspections. That is why I tied it to the home inspection site.If you have questions, you can email them to me (frank at yourhoustonhomeinspector.com). For home inspections, call 713.781.6090.
Happy gardening, Frank

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