Posts Tagged EarthBox

Bewitchingly Serious Moonlight

HeatherJ, this post is for you. You commented a while back that you were interested in knowing more about my homebrewing endeavors. I hope you find this information useful when deciding upon your brother-in-law’s Christmas present. Thank for reading and following my blog. I so appreciate you!

Did you know? Sweet Mother Nature, BEER IS ACTUALLY GOOD FOR YOU!

One reason I know this is because, back in my librarian days, I worked with a knowledgeable Catholic mother of nine (yes, nine!) children who extolled beers’ virtues for its milk producing capacity for breastfeeding Moms experiencing low milk supply. Of course, she was not advocating getting schnockered, but said having one beer a few days a week precisely timed around the breast-feeding schedule was not detrimental. Turns out, she was right not that I’m breastfeeding or anything.

A quote on a beer community forum site reads ” Beer is a wholesome liquor….it abounds with nourishment. ”

Dr. Benjamin Rush- American physician

Now working for a medical publishing company, I know physician testimonials are worth their weight in gold so I put on my librarian cap and did a little more research. It turns out moderate beer drinking benefits include: a stronger heart and bones; healthier kidneys and brain; reduced cancer, diabetes, and stroke risk; a boost in B vitamins; and a longer life. Heck yah, everybody grab a cold one!

It just so happens that the beer community forum I was visiting was that of MrBeer.com and since discovering it, I’ve decided that MR. BEER ROCKS!!

I decided to buy Mr. Beer’s Premium Gold kit for $59.95, plus $7.95 shipping and handling. This kit included everything one needs to brew and bottle two batches or four gallons of what turned out to be truly great tasting beer. This is what came with the  Premium Gold kit:

  • 1 Fermenter (2 GAL)
  • 2 Standard Booster™ Refills
  • 8 Bottles with Caps
  • 8 Labels
  • 1 Brewer’s Guide
  • 1 Set of Instructions
Of course, being the feminist I am, I had to make some minor adjustments to the kit when it arrived. (HeatherJ, your brother-in-law would not have to make these adjustments.)
Mr Beer Kit

That Would Be Ms. Beer  😉

Some words of advice before creating your first batch:

1) Read the directions

HeatherJ, I hope you found this informative and helpful in your decision-making process. And, finally there is an issue close to my heart that I hope you will agree is important to our health and the health of our children. So, for my friends reading, please take a moment to click the link and support Senator Gillibrand’s healthy food amendment.

And, when you’re done signing the petition, please take a moment to check out HeatherJ’s blog SoFull EATS. She is a phenomenal writer and she will have your mouth watering before you can say yummy in my tummy.

To Mother Earth,

Heather's Homegrown Signature

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The Circle of Life

Before I begin my next post, I want to share something with you that’s been weighing on my mind since last Saturday. I don’t want to sway your opinion so I’m not going to tell you what I think. You decide. (Oh, and I apologize in advance — I got just a wee bit excited.)

Thank you for voting. You rock.

Well, there have been many ups and downs at Heather’s Homegrown since my last post… Some happy, and unfortunately, some sad.

I’ll start by telling you, for the record, it’s official that I did not overserve myself my homebrewed West Coast Pale Ale as speculated in my last post. Like the second system I assembled, the netting on the third staking system didn’t install correctly either. However, in defense of my constitution — look at what I had to work with!

Faulty staking system netting

Does This Look Right To You?!

The blasted netting didn’t stretch  the width of the staking system!  What am I supposed to do with that!?

I had no choice but to tie one side, skipping the other side, alternating all the way down in a sort of herringbone pattern with curly little Tim Burton-esque “danglies” hanging from each row.

staking system complete indoors

3rd Staking System Assembled
With Stylish Herringbone Pattern

I chose to forgo the netting on the fourth and final staking system. Well, actually I think the sofa ate it, which is just as well because the netting obviously wasn’t reliable — West Coast Pale Ale or not. Instead, like a resourceful Renaissance woman, I used wooden stakes and fishin’ line.

Now, you may ask, what’s that EarthBox doing inside the apartment?!

Well, it all goes back to that lovely phenomenon I dub the apartment complex “facelift”. The follies du jour? Pressure washing.

I had to drag EVERYTHING off the balcony and into my apartment, including the confederate jasmine pictured below. Talk about a major pain! That jasmine hasn’t moved in two years other than to grow and entwine itself around the balcony railing.

Apartment Balcony Pre-Pressure Washing

Apartment Balcony Pre-Pressure Washing,
Post-Hardie Boarding

Now Jasmine looks like this:

Confederate Jasmine

De-Railed: Poor Jasmine, She’s Come Undone

Even worse, the pressure washers were supposed to be here three days ago so I’ve had to drag everything on my balcony in and out of my apartment for the past three days!! Thank goodness, I just so happened to be home on this particular day  because when I saw what the pressure washer guy was doing on other folks’ balconies, I realized I would have to move Mr. and Mrs. Finch’s babies (gulp) on top of everything else.  I prayed Mr. and Mrs. Finch didn’t abandon them if they detected human scent on their nest.

Baby Birds

Awwww, Just Look At All Those Babies

Mr. and Mrs. Finch were gone, and their babies asleep, so I hung the babies on the light fixture by my front door temporarily. I prayed an additional prayer: Please God, don’t let these babies wake up and start their cheep, cheep, cheeping lest Mr. and Mrs. Finch discover they’ve been relocated and freak out on me. No lie. I started to feel like a surrogate mother to those babies, as though I and Mrs. Finch were parenting in tandem. Yes, I know, crazy.

babies finches sleeping in temporary home

Shhhhhhh, Babies Sleeping

Here’s everything dragged inside… Again.

EarthBoxes Indoors

Hooray For Casters!

On another note, the apartment complex wasn’t the only thing around here to receive a facelift! Just one day prior, I’m thrilled to say, I took my car to the fine folks at Birmingham Auto Painting and got her a new paint job.

So, while I waited for the pressure washer guy to come, I decided to go admire the object of my vehicular affection, Christine. I named her after the Stephen King novel because she has a mind of her own. Most days, she purrs like a kitten. Some days, she has P.M.S. But, I forgive her because I love her unconditionally.

Birmingham Auto Painting was awesome! If you live in the Birmingham area and are considering making your old car look brand spankin’ new again, and for not a lot of money, then go to Birmingham Auto Painting. Jackie Shores, the owner, is knowledgeable beyond belief and his staff works fast!

She was Jaguar racing green when I took her in, but the clearcoat was peeling and there were a couple of minor rust spots. I dropped Christine off at 8:30 in the morning, called to check on her at 3:30 in the afternoon, and about fell out of my chair when Jackie said I could pick her up at 4:30! How do a handful of guys paint a car in a day?!

christine jaguar no tag

Heeere’s Christine!!

What’s amazing about Christine is that ever since my eldest son was a little boy and we would pass a green 2002 Jaguar XJR (he was born in 2001), I would say, “Wow, what a pretty ride. Mark my words, son. Your mama is gonna have one of those one day!”

So, Christine is a testament to the power of positive thinking. The Universe gave me my dream car — and she’s paid for.  🙂

I saw the pressure washer guy approaching so I ran back upstairs to my apartment.

pressure washing balcony

Hello Pressure Washer Guy

Son of a nutcracker!!

pressure washer kills satellite signal

Good-Bye Satellite Signal

I’d hoped to watch Saturday Night Live that night. Oh well, so much for that. It was time to schlep everything back out to the balcony, which was no small feat. I put the baby birds back in their normal place of residency just in the nick of time as they were awaking and coming to life. I plopped into the chair on the balcony and took a breather.

furnished balcony with EarthBoxes

Chaos Restored

Chet, happy to see the birds back, started circling.

cat after birds

I’m Just Gonna Go Over Here

chet salivating

Well, I’ll Just Go THIS Way Then…

chet and the knee

Doh! The Knee

cat on balcony

Foiled For Now, But There’s Always Tomorrow

The satellite signal was restored on Sunday at 6pm. When I awoke Monday morning there was a note on my door from the apartment complex stating painting would begin on my building that day. So, on a steamy May-in-Alabama morning, I had to haul everything back in again. I left the birds outside and told an English-speaking worker dude on my way to work to “Please, watch out for the baby birds on my balcony.”

He nodded and probably thought, ‘Yeah right, lady.’

When I arrived home from work, someone had caulked the balcony. Thankfully, he had not disturbed the baby finches.

caulked balcony

He Did, However, Hit The Satellite Dish And Knock Out The Signal… Again

So, after much inconvenience, continued service calls to the Dish people, and a few more days of dragging everything off and on my balcony each day, the painters still had not gotten to me. I was thankful when it rained for a couple of days because I knew they wouldn’t be able to paint — and I could leave everything on my balcony.

As is sometimes human nature, I got lazy and kept hoping for rain. Days passed and they still had not painted my balcony!

The plants grew taller…

baby birds with feathers

…And My Babies Started To Grow Feathers!

The next morning, it was raining again, so I went off to work and happily left everything on the balcony. However, being born and raised in Connecticut, I failed to remember the expression regarding Alabama weather. It goes something like this (and please do comment if you know how the real expression goes):

You can wear a sweater to work in the morning, need a tank top by lunch time, an umbrella for the ride home, and it will be snowing by nightfall.

In other words, it’s pretty extreme.

So that afternoon, I was sitting at my computer at work when it hit me. The sun is out! My babies!! I flew home.

Murphy’s Law: I was too late.  My balcony had been painted and the painter was already onto the next one.  I had just missed him.

I went up to my apartment to inspect.  I was pleasantly surprised. They managed to paint around everything pretty well. I immediately looked in the birds nest.

Much to my horror, it was empty. My babies were gone. My heart sank. After all that, I had failed them. I had failed Mr. and Mrs. Finch. Sadly, I dropped my head, looked down, and immediately gasped.

There, next to one of the casters on one of the EarthBoxes, was a baby bird.

It appeared to be panting because its sides were puffing in and out as if in distress. Without another thought, I cupped it in my left hand. It became instantaneously calm. It was rather surreal. It was as though it thought, ‘Phew, I’m safe now. Put me back in the nest.’ So, I put it back in the nest, said a prayer for the M.I.A. baby birds, and went back to the office.

When I returned from work a few hours later, I was thrilled to see Mrs. Finch sitting atop the satellite dish, chirping like mad. When she saw me, she flew to a tree that stands just off to the side of my balcony. I peaked my head around the corner and heard a cacophony of cheeps. I could only assume baby bird’s siblings were in that tree and doing fine. I took the nest down and saw the baby bird, not in the nest, but on the edge of the fern as if it was trying to pluck up the courage to attempt another take-off.

My spirits were lifted and my hope restored for the Finch babies!

Chet had been in the house all day and needed to go out. I figured since the bird was in the nest and Chet not on the balcony, all should be well. A couple of hours later, I went back out and checked on baby Finch. He remained in the same spot. All alone. My uneasiness returned. He has got to be getting hungry by now.

A bit later I went outside and checked on Chet. He was sitting under the tree next to my balcony, staring up, waiting for gifts from Heaven. Dang cat. I decided that if nature was going to take its course, it would have to take it because I had to make dinner before I faced an uprising. Everyone around here is acting hungry!

While up to my elbows in ground turkey sausage and oatmeal, there was a knock at my door. I quickly washed my hands of meatball goo and opened the door. My neighbor, Bill, was walking away saying over his shoulder, “He’s got something. I don’t know what he’s got, but he’s got something!”

I heard Chet’s telltale muffled my-mouth-is-full-but-I-got-you-something meow and I said to myself, ‘Oh, God.’

Chet ran up the steps and laid a baby bird proudly at my feet.

I started bawling like a baby and went and checked the nest. As I’d figured, the baby bird was gone.  After all we had been through together, I felt shattered, and all over a baby bird.

I had to tell myself to look at the bright side. The other babies grew and flew away with Mr. and Mrs. Finch. They were healthy and alive with a little help from me.

And, I couldn’t be angry with Chet. He’s a cat after all and a very good hunter. He’s always bringing me “treats” of some nature and I couldn’t expect him to be any other way. I love my Chet. Yes, I had to look at the big picture.

Things in life come and go like the ebb and flow of the ocean. Like the pressure washer man and the satellite signal. Like the plants that are thriving, and the stevia plant that bit the dust.

Some things are restored — like Christine.

And, some things are taken away — like sweet little baby bird Finch. May it rest in peace.

empty birds nest

They Are All Part Of The Circle Of Life

To Mother Earth,

Heather's Homegrown Signature

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Stake and Ale

So me and Jake drove home from the Girls, Inc. 2nd Annual Cajun Cook-off, weary…

cajun cook-off 2nd place judges choice with Crawfish & Shrimp Po'Boy

Oakstone Publishing MudBuggers, 2nd Place, Judges Choice – Crawfish & Shrimp Po’ Boys

..but WINNING.

It just goes to show what good, hard work, perseverance, and a positive attitude will get you. Now, it’s on to the next event. Thankfully, we can stay home for this one because we’re tired, thirsty, and in need of refreshment.

Much to my delight and wonderment, at the end of my last post, I left you with this:

life

Life 🙂

I had convinced myself it was dead.

So, with Gurney’s replacement (thanks again Gurney’s), I’ll now have three grapevines growing. Surely, that’ll be enough to make wine? Oh, which reminds me… I have a naysayer. Hard to believe, I know.

Of all people, Mum read my blog and chuckled incredulously at the prospect of me growing grapes in a box on my balcony.

She laughed, “Grapes take three years to get established. And even then, you have to grow them in the ground!”

She elaborated, “Don’t you remember when Martin chopped down one of the grapevines when we lived in Connecticut? And, how upset we were?!”

Seven years my senior, Martin is my brother and only sibling. I remembered.

The pitch rising in her voice, she explained, “We couldn’t figure out how he did it?! He was using the push mower for goodness sake!”

Apparently, my parents deduced that he blatantly and egregiously committed herbicide so he could get out of mowing the lawn henceforth.

Yeah. That sounds about right.

Undaunted (and a firm believer in miracles), I sensed it was time to assemble and install the EarthBox staking systems in the boxes containing the grapes. In fact, I sensed “The Stick” would be teaming with life before long and growing, growing, growing. Might as well get her started right, growing up the staking system.

But, first? Thirst.

I am thrilled to announce that I twisted the cap off my first ever batch of home-brewed beer that fine day! It took a month from start to finish, and I had been dying to see if it was carbonated, and how it tasted.

pouring beer

Pouring: West Coast Pale Ale

Nice pour. Good head. Lovin’ the bubbles.

west coast pale ale

Admiring: West Coast Pale Ale
My first bottle of homebrew ever!!

OMG, it was Heaven in a glass. And not just because I was “starving of thirst,” as my youngest, Chuck, would say. And not just because I’d made it myself, although that did give me a huge feeling of accomplishment. It really tasted great! Please leave a comment if you are interested in knowing how to do this yourself, and I’ll blog about it. After this batch, I’m going to make a batch of Bewitched Red Ale. Just so you know, one batch produces 8 – 1.5 liter bottles.

So, I sipped my beer, read the instructions, assembled away like an eager beaver, and completed the first staking system — one down, one to go. I think I may have made a mistake in the top part of the assembly, but it worked nevertheless, so I rolled with it (plus, I couldn’t get the pieces apart again — Doh!)

assembled EarthBox staking system

EarthBox Staking System Assembled
(Somewhat Properly)

Good job, Heather’s Homegrown! Grow little grapes! Grow like there’s no tomorrow! And, now it’s on to staking system number two.

But, first? I think I deserve another beer for a job well done. Maybe two…  😛

To Mother Earth,

Heather's Homegrown Signature

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OMG (Oh, My Grape)! Me Thinks There Is Life In There

Well, my bébés survived the cold. Thank you, Mother Earth.

I don’t think it ever got below 43 degrees, and it was back in the 70s the next day and sunny. I received  confirmation that Gurney’s shipped the replacement for “The Stick,” and  Murphy’s Law: The day after that, what to my wondering eyes should appear? Buds. At least, I think they’re buds. It may just be wishful thinking on my part.

The stevia plant is definitely a goner.

early plantings

Can It Be? Is "The Stick" (gulp) Budding?!

I guess only time will tell.  In the meantime, you tell me. Feel free to leave me a comment. Does this look life-bearing to you? Here’s a close-up:

grape buds

LIFE?!

Perhaps planting it almost directly in the fertilizer didn’t burn it’s roots? Perhaps it is viable after all?! Gurney’s, I apologize; I’m pretty sure I owe you one.

In the meantime, I’m going to go check out the definition of self-pollination.  I know what pollination is, of course, and cross-pollination, but not self-pollination. I didn’t even know there was such a thing. Sounds kinda kinky!  😉

To Mother Earth,

Heather's Homegrown Signature

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The Librarian Who Couldn’t Read

There once was a librarian who couldn’t read. And, because she couldn’t read she made an egregious  error – not once, or twice, but three times. Me thinks she couldn’t see the forest for the trees, poor thing. What I do know is this. She owes Gurney’s a HUGE thank you for being so great about replacing the grape and stevia that bit the dirt. And, she should thank her lucky stars that there are any signs of life on her balcony at all.

I’m not beating myself up [as I’ve already forgiven myself] for my major faux pas, but I really am lucky. I planted the plants directly in the fertilizer! I know better than that! What’s worse is I experienced that same brain fart not once, but thrice. I know! It was the euphoria of EarthBox container gardening that got to me. I really do think so.

The last steps when setting up your container garden are to 1) plant the plants and 2) add the last batch of moist growing media, creating a 2-inch mound on the top of the box. Before you plant the plants, you have to decide where to put the fertilizer. I followed the directions and placed it as pictured on the EarthBox diagram – in a trough straight down the center.  It wasn’t until I planted the tomato and pepper plants that I realized my mistake. Since they are smaller and there are more of them, it’s okay to put the fertilizer down the middle because the plants go around the edges of the box. For the first three boxes, I planted the plants straight on top of the fertilizer trough, which had been filled in with a dirt. But still — OUCH. And, I can’t blame the instructions. They were fine.

No wonder “The Stick” of grape springest forth no life,  and the puny, half dead stevia plant bit the dirt altogether. Turns out, most likely, the dirt bit the plant. So, Gurney’s, thank you for your patience and understanding as I get the hang of this EarthBoxing thang.

After planting the tomatoes and jalapenos, I had to race off to my eldest son’s baseball game. No time for pics even. While at the ballpark, I felt a marked dip in the temperature. I didn’t have a jacket and it got downright chilly. Driving home, I heard on the radio it’s supposed to get down into the 30s tonight.

Oh, now, that’s just lovely.

frost covers for plants

Brrrr! Warm dreams, Bébés.

To Mother Earth,

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The Joy Of Growing

7 Day Growth

7 Day Growth

I’m immensely happy report to that my “reliable” Seedless Pink Reliance Grape is growing by the second. I took this picture last Friday, one week after planting it in an EarthBox container garden. It was right after a thunderstorm too, obviously, from all the water sitting atop the “mulch cover” as it is called by the folks at EarthBox. [Incidentally, that thunderstorm produced a lightening bolt that struck the very floor of the building I work in (the top), sending us all home early on a Friday! Thank you, Mother Earth!!]

This is what it looks like today. Amazing!

Proof Life Exists

Almost 2 Week Growth

(And by the looks of that retaining wall in the background, the building isn’t the only thing in need of a facelift. Whoa!)

There is even NEW growth on that one, as you can see.

buds on pink seedless grapevine

New Buds Even!

I couldn’t be happier with this plant. Now, the other plant has me a bit worried. “The Stick” (as it shall remain aptly named until I see proof that it deserves more prosperous nomenclature) is still a stick.  

the stick

“The Stick”

In fact, I’m worried enough that I emailed Gurney’s customer service today and referred them to my blog so they could check it out. I’m still waiting to hear back. That said, my optimism isn’t waning. I am hopeful Mother Earth will prevail.

To Mother Earth,

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A Facelift and Life! LIFE!!

Buds On One Grapevine Already!

Buds On One Grapevine Already!

I’m here to tell you that I awoke to buds this morning! I planted a stick a mere four days ago. The other stick (yes, there are two sticks) still appears dormant, but my optimism runs high. I think I’m in shock. Yesterday it was a stick. Today it is a stick with life.

Speaking of yesterday…

Caution: Facelift In Progress

Caution: Facelift In Progress

When I got home from work, I discovered that the apartment community-wide facelift had made it to my unit; and my nicely swept balcony had nails and debris strewn all over it.  I’m assuming that’s why “they” were kind enough to provide a caution tape?  It’s not like all the hammering, banging, shouting, and bulldozering is going to compell me to jump or anything.

Good news. The caution tape wasn’t the only thing to arrive yesterday. I received the rack I purchased to organize my closet and I assembled it despite John’s help.  It fit with room to spare.  Solid. Happy I purchased it.

Dome rack assembled

What Closet Clutter?!

So, after a long day, I felt organized and ready to go. With caution, of course.

I think I’m still in shock that this morning I awakened to life. Life! I feared I’d be blogging about sticks for who knows how long, but to witness the buds this morning was very encouraging.

I eagerly await the arrival of my other plants, especially the mystery plant that is not illegal; and I leave you with a picture of the buds going to bed. Dream of wine little buds.

grapevine budding at night

Goodnight, Sweet Buds

Caution: EarthBox container gardening may be habit forming and/or cause shock and euphoria. Growing your own organic fruits and vegetables is fun, delicious, good for you, and good for the environment; and it doesn’t even require a lot of space. (Plus, it saves you money!) In cases of extreme euphoria, please consult your physician immediately.

To Mother Nature,

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