My 2014 Garden Resolutions

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:43 am on Friday, January 24, 2014

savvyhousekeeping 2014 garden resolutions

Somehow this didn’t make it to my blog, but in 2013 I took out my concrete slab in the backyard and replaced it with a garden patio. I also had a huge vegetable garden and finally finished converting the shed into an office.

This year, I want to make my backyard an inviting place full of birds and flowers. And I want to make it fun for Savvy Jr.


1. CONSERVING WATER. California is experiencing a major drought. It’s scary—I’ve never seen so little rain in the winter before. So I’ll be using drip irrigation even more than normal and collecting what rainwater we do get this year.

2. FRUIT TREES. I mentioned this before: I’m putting in a grapevine, apple tree, mulberry tree, and some shade berry plants—huckleberries and thimbleberries, to start.

3. FLOWERS. For the first time since moving to our house, I‘m thinking about planting flowers to add color, beauty, and fragrance, as well as attract birds and butterflies. I know for sure I’m putting in a camellia, hydrangea, gardenia, and two rhododendrons, and I’ll also be adding some kind of vine to the back fence—clematis or jasmine?

4. VEGETABLES. I’ll have another large vegetable garden, similar to last year but not quite so intense.

5. CHICKENS. I’ll be adding two new chickens to my flock. One chicken, Penny, died in 2013—we don’t know what killed her—and that cut down the egg supply enough to make us decide to get more chickens.

6. KIDS STUFF. I’ll be putting in a jungle gym for Savvy Jr. A relative has offered this as a gift, so we just have to pick out what we want. (No, not this one.) I’m going to try putting in a bean teepee or a sunflower house for Savvy Jr too.

What are your garden goals for 2014?

Turning A Shed Into An Office Part 2

Filed under: DIY — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:20 am on Thursday, January 23, 2014

Our shed is now an office!

In Turning A Shed Into An Office Part 1 I talked about how we were going to add an office to our house by converting a shed. It took us over a year to finish it, but it’s done.

Here’s the inside.


    * Painted the outside of the shed to match the house.

    * Wired the shed for electricity.

    * Installed a light and power outlets.

    * Insulated and sheetrocked the walls.

    * Painted the walls.

    * Laid down a wood floor.

    * Put trim on the doors and window.

    * Installed floorboards.

And we’re not quite done. We still need a step, a path leading to the new office, and some landscaping. Part 3 coming soon!

Amazing Outdoor Playset

Filed under: Kids — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:58 am on Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Check out this incredible Outdoor Playset.

I mean…


Well, I don’t think Savvy Jr. is getting one that fancy, but I envy the kid who does.

Munchkin Inflatable Duck Tub

Filed under: Kids — Savvy Housekeeper at 8:37 am on Tuesday, January 21, 2014

How cute is this Munchkin Inflatable Duck Tub? It’s a good way to conserve water and keep your baby safe during a bath. For ages 6-24 months. $12.

Lessons I Learned From My 2013 Garden

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:59 am on Monday, January 20, 2014

savvyhousekeeping lessons learned 2013  vegetable Garden

It’s funny how you can be in the middle of things and not realize how they appear from the outside. When I planted my vegetable garden, I didn’t realize how huge it was. I was so focused on the individual plants, I couldn’t see the forest for trees… or the vegetable garden for the tomatoes, let’s say.

Some of these pictures of my 2013 Vegetable Garden are really something, if I do say so myself.

Because I kept a garden tally, I was able to calculate that my garden produced about $1,300 in food.

savvyhousekeeping lessons learned 2013 vegetable garden

savvyhousekeeping lessons learned from 2013 vegetable garden

This is far (I just accidentally typed “farm”) more than we could eat. My freezer is stuffed to bursting and I donated a lot of food to my local food charities. So lesson #1 is: I can relax a bit in 2014. No need to grow a plant on every stamp of dirt just because I can.

Lessons I Learned From My 2013 Vegetable Garden:

Favorite Plant In 2013:

Dragon’s Tongue Beans. These beans have purples streaks in the pods that turn white when you cook them. They are vigorous producers and so pretty to look at. They can be frozen, canned, and dried, just like any other green bean.

Plants That Seemed Sort Of Pointless:

savvyhousekeeping lessons learned 2013 vegetable garden colored carrots

Multicolored carrots are okay and all, but I prefer sweeter varieties.

Weirdest Mistake I Made:

See that mound of plant trailing on the ground? That is all one butternut squash plant.

I mislabeled a butternut squash I grew from grocery store seeds as a melon and put it in my melon bed. It took over the entire bed and we ended up with 30 butternut squash from this one plant! I’m getting tired of butternut squash–I even made butternut squash pie for Thanksgiving.

savvyhousekeeping butternut squash pie

Most Successful Experiment:

Zucchini Plants

I tested whether steer manure helps the productivity of zucchini plants. The answer was a resounding YES. The plant with steer manure produced 3 zucchinis to every 1 zucchini from the plant without steer manure. That’s a lot of production for just a bit of extra fertilizer.

Second Most Successful Experiment:

savvyhousekeeping lessons learned 2013 vegetable garden

I tested whether pinching the first flowers off a pepper plant makes it produce more peppers. The answer was yes. Pinching the flowers makes the plant redirect its energies into growing bigger and stronger, which produced more peppers compared to plants where I didn’t pinch the flowers.

Biggest Producer:

My lemon cucumber plants went INSANE. I counted 759 lemon cucumbers by the end of summer. I pickled them. I made cucumber cocktails. I fretted about other things to do with them. Finally I donated buckets of cucumbers to the local food bank. Man, am I sick of lemon cucumbers!

Pest Victories:

savvyhosuekeeping lessons learned 2013 vegetable fruit garden tanglefoot ants

I got ants under control on my fruit trees and in general, and I figured out how to kill boxelder bugs.

Pest Infestation I Caused:


Spinach and Beet Leafminer. Leafminers are fly maggots that burrow into the leaves of your plant and eat them from the inside out. I created this infestation by planting spinach and beets side by side, right beside the chicken coop. This created the best environment for the fly to lay its maggots, and so I had quite a battle on my hands.

That’s right: a battle with fly maggots. Nature!

Disease Situation I Caused:

I learned the hard way not to trellis tomatoes together. One plant was diseased—I think it came from the nursery that way–and by the end of the summer, all three plants were sick because they were planted so close together. I’d never dealt with a diseased tomato plant before, so it was never an issue. Still, I picked 754 tomatoes this year, so I can’t complain too much.

Biggest Thing I Need To Improve On:

Trellising! As showcased by this sagging hop plant, almost all my trellises were overwhelmed by the plants by the end of the summer. I’ll put in better infrastructure next year.

Read more about my 2013 vegetable garden (with lots of pictures!) here:

Garden Update 1
Garden Update 2
Garden Update 3
Garden Update 4

Cabbage Patch Kid Inspired Wig Hats

Filed under: Kids — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:57 am on Friday, January 17, 2014

Haven’t you always wanted your baby to look like a Cabbage Patch Kid? You haven’t? Well, this is awkward, because you can buy a custom-made Cabbage Patch Kid Inspired Crochet Wig/Hat for your baby. And then make the baby wear it. [Geekologie]

5 More Organizing Tips

Filed under: Cleaning/Decorating — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:00 am on Thursday, January 16, 2014

I love all these helpful household tips I’m seeing around the Internet. There are so many clever ideas floating around out there these days.

Here are 5 More Organizing Tips found from around the web.

A decorative way to store your towels: use a hanging wine rack.

Organize your junk drawer with Altoid Tins.

“File” your clothes in a drawer so you can see them easier.

Spray a candle holder with cleaning spray for easy cleaning once the candle burns down.

Keep shoes off the ground with an artfully placed coat holder.

Have you tried any of these? Let me know how they worked.

The Best Time to Buy Anything During the Year

Filed under: Money — Savvy Housekeeper at 8:57 am on Wednesday, January 15, 2014

LifeHacker has a handy guide for The Best Time to Buy Anything During the Year. Good to know!

Click for a larger version.

From Patio Umbrella To Garden Trellis

Filed under: Recycling — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:03 am on Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Here’s a great idea from Flickr: when your patio umbrella gets worn out from exposure, as they are wont to do, don’t throw it out. Instead, strip off the material and use the frame as a trellis for beans, cucumbers, or other climbing vines.

Make Your Own Oil With An Oil Press

Filed under: DIY — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:29 am on Monday, January 13, 2014

I want to make my own oil with a Piteba Oil Press. This $149 gadget allows you to make oil from many nuts and seeds, including sunflower seeds, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, grape seed, even watermelon seed. I’m dying to try it.

The way it works is you mount the oil press to a board, light the candle/wick to heat it up, put in the seeds/nuts, and crank out the oil. Here’s a video demonstrating it in action.

This machine would especially pay off if you had a free source of seeds and nuts. For example, if I get one:

* I’ll look into getting free grape seeds from a local winery (I already sent an email to a friend who works at a winery asking about this).
* I’ll grow a bunch of sunflowers next year for the seed.
* I’ll ask my neighbor for walnuts in exchange for some of the oil.
* I’ll try making oil with pumpkin seeds, mustard seeds, and whatever else I can think of.

This machine doesn’t work with fruit, including olives. It does say you can run dried olives (minus the pits) through the machine to get olive oil, which might be worth it. I’m not sure.

Have you ever made your own oil?

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