Friday, May 27, 2011

The Robinson Garden Club

We've been working so, so hard on our garden this year and really praying to the garden fairies, the sun gods, the center for agriculture, and considering a sacrificial lamb hoping...that it will be our best garden yet. We've had nothing short of an obsession for years now. Many moons ago, Jim and I started our first garden in the edge of the parking area at our first apartment.

Young, shirtless Jim proudly watching over his garden (2006)

Serious gardening mistakes going on here....
I mean how many peppers and tomatoes did we try to shove in those little pots?!

We eventually advanced to a small, in ground garden on the side of our next apartment. We took over some available flower beds for the larger plants, as well as continue with some pots for herbs and smaller crops. It was a small area to work with and not optimal as far as lighting goes, but we made the best of it. We started experimenting with different vegetables, established an herb garden, and had our first encounters with pest, diseases, and other cause of death. I think I was using a 35mm camera at this point and don't feeling like digging up and scanning photos, so I have no available documentations of those stepping stones, but about three years later we ended up with this....

Fancy fence to keep out our Watership Down crew + hand made lattice fence for cucumbers, zucchini, and squash (2009)

Various lettuces, oregano, spinach, and cilantro various lettuces.

Last year we regressed a bit, but to no fault of our own. We moved into our house, so we had to start over in terms of preparing a plot for the garden, the soil was crap, we didn't know the land well enough, we had a bazillion grubs and other pests (which ended up killing our cucumbers and zucchini), and in general were just short on time due to other house projects. We still ended up with some tomatoes and peppers and a good supply of herbs.

Tomatoes (2010)

This is a terrible picture taken through a screen in an upstairs window but it gives an idea of the size and placement of the garden last year

This year has brought on a lot of experimenting and a lot of garden 'firsts' for the Robinsons. We've triple the size, added raised beds, and our using a mix of grown plants from a nursery, seedlings started inside a few months ago, and seeds directly in the garden beds. Our crop lists is insane, we added a killer net type fence to keep, and I'm pretty sure our neighbors think we've lost our minds.

The area with no raised bed is the site of our garden last year. After mixing in manure and compost, the soil quality was so much better so we decided not to cover it with the raised bed. One of the nice things about raised beds is they can go pretty much anywhere, so we moved it over a bit and basically have two garden beds in this area. We realized last year that it didn't get quite enough sun, so we've dedicated this area to mostly shade/partial sun crops, as well as experimental crops.

In ground: sweet potatoes, carrots, asparagus, and onions

Raised bed: string beans, brussel sprouts, kale, lettuce, spinach, and argula
Little pot: zucchini

Come to think of it this whole area is pretty much experimental. The only thing we've grown before are the lettuces and spinach (we have some inside our pool fence that we've been eating for weeks now) but never from seeds; everything else on the list is new to our crop list; for the carrots and asparagus we but seed/root directly in the ground; sweet potatoes were a last minute addition after talking to some lady at Home depot and I think they're not going to get enough soon in this spot; and the brussel sprouts are seedlings started indoors.

Our second raised bed (this is why people think we're crazy) is up on little hill near our pool fence. This area gets a a full day of sun and should be a better spot for all our sunlovin' plants. This bed is a little less experimental than the lower garden....

Robinson garden (spring 2011)

The plants were purchased from a nursery and almost all veggies we have experience growing in the past: tomatoes (4 varieties), peppers (3 varieties), cucumbers, and eggplant (1st time growing). You can also see a potted little plant which is clementine tree that was sent to me in the mail as a gift. So far, so good for the little guy.

We've still got a little work to do, like adding mulch and cages for the vine plants, but it's pretty much grow time now! So, either we'll be feeding our entire neighborhood this summer or....that's not talk about the alternative.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Thank You Notes

I don't really watch late night TV. I actually don't really watch much TV in general, but it's a miracle if I'm up past 10pm, so late night shows are definitely out. But, on my way home last night I caught part of Terry Gross' interview with Jimmy Fallon on Fresh Air. Apparently writing a book is the popular thing to do, so he was on Fresh Air to chat about his new book, Thank You Notes.

In general I found the interview to be an enjoyable listen. Fallon was upbeat and quirky funny, which I like. And probably a little more funny because I've never seen his show, so it was all fresh comedy to me. Anyways, they also touched base on how he does a lot impersonations of musicians, including what I thought was a hilarious duet with his Neil Young and the real Bruce Springsteen singing a version of Willow Smith's pop song, "Whip My Hair."

The full article with links to the Fresh Air interview and other Jimmy Fallon videos, including a Bob Dylan "Charles in Charge" Theme song (not as good though), can be found here.

Speaking of Dylan, in honor of his 70th birthday XPN (88.5) is playing 70 Bob Dylan songs in a row. It's only available through the actual radio station and not the online stream because of some kind of online streaming regulations, so tune in if you're in the Philly area. Otherwise I guess you'll break out all your Dylan albums and make your own mix. He one guy I just never seem to get sick of listening to.

Monday, May 23, 2011


"I never did a day's work in my life. It was all fun."

~Thomas A. Edison

Friday, May 20, 2011

Mrs. Robinson's Poison Ivy Treatment

I haven't had poison ivy in probably 15 years or more and never to this extent. I guess because I'm always tromping around in the woods and spent my youth in the backhills of Ohio without any significant memory of this terrible ailment, I honestly had it in my head that I didn't really get it. This overconfidence allowed me to casually spent 3 or more hours clearing out an overgrown corner of our yard, knowing that there was poison ivy there.

For some reason, it's the only area of the yard that I don't have a 'before' picture, so you'll just have to use your imagination. The overgrown tangled mess basically consumed the entire space that it is now brown with no grass growing. It was so dense that we couldn't even mow or really weed-whack the area last year. It was a total eye sore for the neighbors being that it's the back corner of our property on the street.

So as I was clearing, I did clip a few pieces of poison ivy and wearing gloves, carefully placed them directly into the lawn bag thinking I was safe. Considering that there were poison ivy roots wrapped around the tree, at least an inch in diameter I should have known that it was strong plant and would be throughout the overgrown mess of brush I was a t-shirt. Basically, I'm an idiot.

The good thing. I learned a lot about poison ivy and have now development a serious paranoia, which has allowed me to locate several other deadly areas in our yard. First things first. You can not spread poison ivy from the rash. I once mad Jim sleep in long sleeves in 80 degree weather because I didn't want to 'catch' his poison ivy. I'm guessing this misconception comes from my childhood. I'm can just hear my mother telling me or a sibling "don't scratch it, you'll spread it everywhere..." You can only get poison ivy by coming in contact with the oil either from the plant or by touching garden tools, etc with the oil on them. If you care, read more here.

The rash is an allergic reaction and the treatment is basically waiting for the skin cells to die off and new ones to take their place, with healing time ranging from 10 days to 6 weeks. Six weeks! Are you freakin' kidding me?! I really don't have six weeks to sit around itchy and scratching in long sleeves trying to conceal this hideous skin disorder. I'm happy to report than in less than 10 days I was able to eliminate all the itching with some areas completely healed and all areas well on the way to being healed.

My theory was to completely dry out my skin first to try and get rid of the old rashy allergic skin cells. I basically bathed myself in tea tree oil for the first week. Seriously. I purchased Trader Joe's Tea Tree Tingle body wash, 4 bottles of pure tea tree oil, and one bottle of Vitamin E oil.
  • I took hot showers twice a day using a clean wash cloth to scrub all affected areas with the tea tree body wash. The hot water and tea tree oil both help dry up your skin.
  • Immediately out of the shower I used clean cotton rounds to wipe all the affected areas with the pure tea tree oil. At this point my skin was looking pretty red and fiery but also feeling very cooled and soothed. I should also mention that tea tree oil has a pretty strong smell. Jim could smell me have way down the hall even with the bathroom door closed. The smell does fade but not quickly, so I also purchased some over the counter anti-itch lotion for the pharmacy to apply before and during work.
  • I also applied tea tree oil whenever I was home and start to feel the itch coming back and immediately before bed. At bedtime I also popped two Benadryl, hoping to kill the antihistamine reaction over night and keep nighttime scratching to a minimum.
  • I followed this for about six days. At this point I noticed that my skin was really starting to dry up and scale over and I really wasn't itching much. I decide to continue with the tea tree oil body was scrub down but, switched over to Vitamin E oil after showering to start healing up the skin. (ps. Vit E is also GREAT for burns, scars, etc.) Vitamin E oil is...well oily, so after showering I generous applied to all areas plaqued by scaly, scabbing rashy skin, then put on a a long sleeve shirt to avoid getting oil on any furniture, etc.
  • It's now about day 11 and I've taken to wearing short sleeves without shame. Considering how BAD I had it, I think under 2 weeks is a speedy recovery. There are still some areas that have faint marks, but I think they'll be gone within the next few days with continued Vit E treatment.
So, farewell poison ivy and shall we never meet again.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Shame wins

Jim crushed me in Scrabble last night. Typically, even with my third grade level vocabulary, it's a close game. But last night I wasn't even within 20 points, and it would've been worse if I had let 'cruely' slide. I blame it on drawing insanely large numbers of vowels including every freakin 'I' in that evil little velvet bag. Jim also came out of the gates with something like 26 points for 'shame.' Needless to say, it was an intense evening. How to you top such an action packed Tuesday? Hold on to your hats folks...we're planning a trip to Lowe's to price out fencing options for the backyard.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Thoughts on a Monday...

I have been plagued by a terrible, terrible case of poison ivy. My arms are completely covered by a red, blistery, crusty rash that extends into my chest and even onto parts of my stomach. It's hideous and itchy. I hate poison ivy....

I bought a one piece swimsuit today. I didn't set out to buy a one piece, I just liked the way it fit way more than any of the two pieces. Gray hair, scaly arms and a covered midriff. I'm old....

I temporarily aborted my cloth wreath project after finding a good deal on a set at HomeGoods that Jim actually approved. They remind him of Crunch Berries and Phish's Joy album cover....

Poor little Sofee dog has been attacked twice in the last week. Thankfully we are super duper protective dog parents and scooped her up out of danger before her cute lil nose got snipped off....

I recently made the switch to boxed wine. It's sooo worth it. Not only does it save me money, but it means less trips and less items at the liquor store. They were getting to know me too well in there....

I making a yummy turkey meatloaf for dinner tonight with brussels sprouts and potatoes & onions fried in a million pounds of butter. I also made chocolate cheesecake for dessert. Maybe I really do need a covered midriff...

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Wreath crisis

My front door are naked right now. I finally took down the winter, pine cones wreaths about a month ago but just haven't been able to find something I like, and is in my budget, to replace them.

I attempted to transform this sad little wreath I found at Target on clearance but it's just not going to cut it. The size just didn't seem right, the little flowers were falling off and overall I just couldn't get a final product I was happy with. Not to mention that Jim was completely outraged by the fake, sparkling pears.

After a little web surfing I decided on a fabric wreath project. There are tons of tutorials online, some even involving a metal hanger, and it seems easy enough. As far as color, it seems like anything goes. It will probably take me a month to make that decision and another 2 months to actually start the project. I should have new wreaths just in time to change them for fall.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Every Day is Earth Day

I kinda missed Earth Day. But that's not for lacking of caring. I'm a pretty serious mother nature freak in one too many ways. I started with an odd obsession for saving the earth back in the early 90s. I believe I was a finalist in the 3 R's poster contest in the 5th grade. When I was about 12, I personally called to sign up for recycling curb side pick up, making my mother oh so annoyed by having to sort and store plastic and glass items (we were country bumpkins so pick up was only by request and only like once or twice a month).

In college I joined up with a fellow bio major to try and overall the college recycling program and in chiropractic school I tried to use my position in student government to start a recycling program, which turned out to be my least successful effort because chiro students are apparently jerks and throw trash in recycling bins for no good reason. And don't be surprised if you see me grabbing a plastic bottle off the top of a trash can to take home and recycle.

Anyways, I have a weak spot for nature and constantly try to improve my own lifestyle to make it more earth friendly. It's hard to do all at once, so I try to pick something new a few times a year and hope that eventually I'll be virtually sans trash. Currently I'm working on using less paper towels. At first I was going to try and eliminate them all together, but I thought that was a bit too unrealistic. I'm sure there are people that do, but I think messes and cleaning projects just require paper towels. So I'm working to only use them for those real messes and gross occasions. I've taken to using washable rags for wiping down countertops and light clean and bought a batch of cloth napkins. I think it's been a fair attempt so far. I think I have to remove the paper towel rack from the countertop area all together, so I won't automatic grab for them.

Another big help in lowering our trash producing is a little revamp on our township's recycling program. They're now accepting plastics 1-7 instead of only 1 & 2 and have a 'single stream' program, meaning sorting cardboard and paper products from plastic, glass, etc is no longer necessary. Our old township starting using RecycleBank, a great single stream program offering rewards for the amount recycled, which was so successful they eliminated the second trash collection day. I wonder how I go about implementing that program here?

I've also switched back to compostable trash and dog poo bags. I used these for a really long time but the old shipping cost off the old website I ordered from was ridiculous. I switched over to a partially recycled trash bag that I found at our local grocer but never like them as much. The BioBags are now available on and eligible for free super saver shipping. I also use the 3 gallon bags for our kitchen compost bin.

BTW...Our compost is doing AWESOME this year. More on that later.

Our last eco/earth/nature friendly contribution for this year is signing up for a local community supported agriculture (CSA) for fresh, seasonal produce. I'm so excited for our first share next month! And even more excited to share the recipes I come up!


"It is well to be up before daybreak, for such habits contribute to health, wealth, and wisdom."