How we fight off winter blues!

Its cold outside, but I can still do some garden prepping for the spring, to help fight off the winter blues.

Winter blues get me down, even before the Christmas holidays and with New years parties I still feel a little low.  I have tried anti-depressants which just made me more sad and fat which made me angry and sad.  Gardening makes me the happiest, so I needed to figure out how to garden in the winter.  I had a friend who was a nurse tell me once that what helps reduce winter blues is sunlight.  She told me that her sister would get a tanning package in the winter, not to keep up with a tan but to get more “light therapy” Sunlight gives you vitamin D and vitamin K which reduce sadness and loss of energy.

There is very little sunlight to go around during the winter so I work really hard at being outside when it is light out.  I can do inside chores when it is dark out. But I live in Pennsylvania. It is a balmy 41 degrees Fahrenheit outside right now, how do I garden? Got to be honest it’s not a lot of gardening, its much more of garden prep for spring since I do not have any greenhouses for winter veggies. It gets me outside in the light and the fresh air.

We have a few pine trees on our property and a whole bunch of other trees that drop their leaves every year. Oaks, Maples, Dog woods, Sweet gums. I have super high expectations of making a whole bunch of gardening space in the next couple of years and the huz is mostly on board. I noticed that most of the neighbors collect their leaves at the curb and the city picks them up. Life is crazy busy, I get that works for most people.  I am greedy I want to keep my leaves, I have read that they make some of the best mulch/compost for gardening and flowers.  Most importantly I am into free or super cheap! I don’t mind getting my hands dirty and I don’t mind putting in the sweat work.

Earlier this fall when most the leaves were falling and we had to keep up with appearances we raked and used our Torro leaf blower/vac to get a lot of leaves contained.  We super underestimated how many leaves would have at the new place! We put leaves in the raised beds.

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We used chicken wire and stakes and made a three foot high by eight feet long by four foot wide leaf corral and filled it.

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And then we piled up the leaves in the flower beds and raked them around all the bases of the trees and raked them under all the pine trees.

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Lastly my husband just started blowing all of them into the woods.

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Now that it is winter and colder out, no more leaves to rake. Yahoo! but all the plants are dying off from the frosts over night and it isn’t snowing yet.  I have read that leaves break down faster to make amazing compost/soil/fertilizer quicker if they are mulched and if you add used coffee grounds. So I have done some asking and Starbucks has a grounds to garden program where you can just take used coffee grounds for free! I have also found that not all Starbucks locations do this.  The Starbucks that is located close to my work is situated inside of the Target, so do not participate.  The manager was super sweet. I asked if I could just stop by and ask if they needed to empty their used grounds bin.  He said he can’t promise any but they are more than happy to give me whatever they have when I stop by.

So until the snow gets here I have gone out with my vac/mulcher and have sucked up leaves already piled high in the gardens and are mulching them down smaller and putting them almost right back where I sucked them up from.

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Might seem a bit silly but I didn’t have time earlier in the fall to mulch them all then. I have time now. It gets me outside for about an hour to two hours before the sun sets. In that amount of time I can fill the collection bag two to three times. Yes I even mulch them when they are soaking wet from all the rain, because this summer it rained ALL THE TIME.

The trick is to have a big long screwdriver in your back pocket. One that the husband won’t freak out if it gets dirty or a bit nicked up. About every other minute you need to take off the collection bag and un-jam the leaves using the screwdriver.  The other place leaves get jammed up is the big tube you suck them up with.  You have to just reach in with your arm and pull them out. The last place you have to un-jam is inside where the blades rotate.  UNPLUG the Vac/mulcher before cleaning any leaves out. You have to take off the big black tube and use the screwdriver in around the blades, it is going to look and act like mud caked up in there. It might be a bit of mud too but it is very finely chopped up leaves, and because they are wet they stick together and clump up.

How to know when to pause and clean out the vac/mulcher! Very important-you don’t want to blow out your motor. When you hear-or actually don’t hear the blades mulching your leaves. Another key indicator of when to clean out around the blades on the inside is when you hear the motor of the the vac/mulcher increase in pitch, it will start to whine high and loud.  It will not be long before you smell a burning.

When the snow hits usually around the end of January is when I start some of my seeds inside such as Bell peppers.  They can sit in that dirt for 6-8 weeks before poking out their little leaves. Just in time to start gardening outside again.

This is how the RickabaughReviews get rid of their Winter blues!

Small concrete leaves

This feature photo is my ambition! Watch my steps on what and what not to do!

I would like to start with when I try a new project or recipe I read several different versions and combine different aspects in order to make it work for me. I either do not add certain ingredients because I am allergic to them or try a different method because I do not have a certain product on hand.

Well I tried another very cool project!  I tried to put together small concrete leaves in a spherical shape, open on top to put a candle in outside.  It was an interesting trial.

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I started with smaller containers to mix the concrete in. Solo cups. And I was ready with my balloons and small bowls. Plastic knives for stirring.

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I picked out my leaves from the yard. They have nice bold veins on the back for excellent details on the finished product.

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I had my concrete ready next to me. My small watering can was full and on the table ready to go. Yes we are outside. Concrete is very messy.

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We blew up the balloon and placed it in the bowl for stability. Then we started to make small tape donuts to tape the leaves to the balloon.

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It is looking amazing! I get to choose the direction and placement of the leaves. This is working out great!

The leaves are all on and i realize that the printed part will be on the inside of the candle holder. No big deal, i can just find more leaves and stick them on the outside as well and i will have a pretty design on both sides. The concept idea is great and exciting.

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We mixed up the concrete. Next we attempted to put heavy wet concrete on not a flat surface-yes you probably know where I am going with this.

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It looks so pretty right in this photograph and easy. That is opposite of what is NOT pictured because my husband was keeping the concrete mixing and spooning me little amounts at a time in order to place it specifically he was unable to take photos. Maybe next time we will get a third party photographer. Although there is the down side of them bent over laughing at my husband and I struggling, and our silly comments, so there would still be no photographs taken.

What you are missing is where the concrete was too heavy. The tape was not holding and the leaves kept sliding out of place or just plain old falling or jumping off of the balloon.

We had to work harder and faster.

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Here you can see we have it completed. Yahoo, we are very excited, we take it inside the garage very carefully in order to dry for 24 hours.

i accidentally tapped it once inside and on the counter and it completely fell apart all of the counter.

Alright, lets try to save it!

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We wrapped some mixing bowls in cling wrap- it never clings to what you want it to cling to.

And put the concrete leaves inside.

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The husband at this point had run out of positivity, but I kept saying “ It’s trial and error-it will be fine-it will be great!”

Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha!!!!

The next day we took off the leaves.

Warning sad photograph below!

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It did not work!!! Also they are beautiful! But because they are so thin-they are brittle and crumble when I pick them up.

This project F- !

I really love the concept and want to be able to make a candle holder but I am going to do it differently next time.

 

 

Weekend Warrior!

Last weekend in August! Got to make the most of it!

Last Weekend in August-Work hard, play hard, sleep hard too.  Had so many gardening tasks planned for this weekend but only got a few done- due to my finger cutting episode. That is okay, we worked on a million other things this weekend. Plus we spent a little sweetheart time date night out to a movie.

Yesterday bright and early I started cleaning. Bathrooms, floors, laundry and ceiling fans. Then we did some gardening where my finger got cut, but it is healing great.  I soak it in warm soapy water every morning and then wear a bandage with triple antibiotic ointment, changing the bandage 4 times a day and letting the skin dry out a bit in between.  I wait until my skin is not so wrinkly from being wrapped up with moisture before I wrap it up again. When we go out I put a small finger splint we have on hand over my finger for extra protection. it is still just slightly sensitive.

While soaking my fingers in soapy water I set up a stepping stone to start painting. Looking good.

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I got around to water proofing my concrete leafs as well as a rock I painted months ago. The tops of these are done. I will get the bottom s of them tomorrow.

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I have the border on the baby boy blanket completed and am working on tying in the ends, so almost complete blanket! In plenty of time before my friends baby boy is here.

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I have successfully designed, printed, addressed and yes put in the mail box. Invitations to a great Aunt”s 90th birthday party.

The husband and I both sanded for an hour each on my China cabinet makeover.  The husband used the Dremel on the top edges where its a bit fancy and too tricky and small for the Black and Decker Mouse hand sander that I prefer to use.  It doesn’t look much different then my last update on my china cabinet makeover but it is coming along.  I did some sanding on the bottom of the shelves and I used the 220 grit on the one outside and my goodness that is so smooth.

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We went material shopping for my Halloween costume updates are in my previous post Hela of a costume. Made my cutie pie niece a card for her birthday. 8 is great! Also in the mail.

We also finally started working on our new bar.  We left the old bar behind when we sold the old house, it really was beautiful and it went great with the dining room.  It was our first bar building experience as a couple and we have a few things we are very excited about doing differently.  We got some stain, and some frame! 2x3x8 boards to start building the frame.

Busy! To bed at midnight and Up at 5am. Do it all over again tomorrow.

Garden Stepping Stones

5747FD88-7FB8-4288-9B8A-DDCFD2ED130D67B95B52-FE7D-4F69-9D71-385708B23572 In the first photo you can see the first leaf casting that I attempted. I used the back side of a hosta leaf the veins on the back sides of leaves are usually thicker which gives good grooves or definition to the concrete. Advised cure time of concrete depending on the type of concrete differs. My bag stated at least 30 days before waterproofing or staining. So my hosta leaf sat in the shed for 30 days to cure. It has been painted in the second photo. The waterproof label states that the waterproof material added to the concrete should be allowed to cure for 48 hours before submitting to natural weather. Tonight I will waterproof the back and reveal my banana leaf steps.

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This is the concrete waterproofing product that I am using.  About a week ago I water proofed the top of the painted concrete leaf, but I did not photograph the process, I was wearing gloves and had never done it before and was not sure how it was going to turn out.  Today I finally carved out 10 minutes of my evening and waterproofed the back of the leaf, and got photos of the process.

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I shook the gallon container a few times to make sure its mixed well and to make sure there was still liquid in the container.  I poured it directly onto the leaf back, the liquid is very thin and has a milky look to it.  It soaks into the concrete quickly, it is not very easy to spread.  I ended up pouring the liquid on in several different places on the leaf back to make sure I got all the back and sides completely covered. Within minutes the leaf back looked exactly as before. But suggested cure time for waterproofing with this product is 48 hours.  So once again, we play the waiting game.

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This photo was taken about 3 minutes after I had applied the water proofing material to the entire back side of the hosta concrete leaf.

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Stepping stone was put in the ground this weekend! So cute! So little!

My husband and I finished painting our grape leaves tonight.

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My husbands’ leaf is on the left and mine is on the right.  We figured out this evening that all of the super cool shiney leaf castings we have seen have probably been using metallic paints. Which is what I have used this evening.

 

Banana Leaf stepping stones.

 

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Big storm today took our Banana tree down to the ground. I have been working on making stepping stones to make a more permanent pathway through the woods, down the very steep hill to the beautiful creek. I have been putting off using the banana leaves because they are so big and a bit intimidating. But today’s storm said to me “Buckle up buttercup!!” It is a good thing I stopped at the local home improvement store to pick up a second bag of concrete made by Quikrete.  It took more than one 60 pound bag. I wasn’t able to use all of the leaves because my two tables are smaller than I remember sometimes. 890D92EF-563B-460B-B82A-B578BA2BFC0C

I noticed I had a few small open spaces so I popped into the yard and cut off 3 nice hosta leaves to make the most of the table space.  It is a bit of back breaking work and slightly time consuming. I am very lucky and my husband helps me out and it makes the process go so much quicker. With help about 2 hours later, set up and clean up included. C8F52DB4-41CF-4882-8D5A-701D470A6C65.jpeg

And the waiting for the concrete to harden begins. These leaves are pretty large so I plan on waiting 2 days instead of 1 before I flip them over and pull off the leaves.  I made several other stepping stones about a month ago. 30 days for proper cure time of concrete is advised before painting or waterproofing.

 

UPDATE UPDATE!!

I let the concrete dry for two days! Big leaf castings, which I will use as stepping stones are below. I am so happy with how well they turned out. Details of some things I learned this  time are below.

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I was afraid that if I added too much water the concrete would just run everywhere, off the leaf, off the table, onto the garage floor. Big mess!! (Storms like crazy-working indoors), but what I have noticed is the concrete mix needs to be just slightly runny because when its drier it tends to be chunkier or a bit rocky looking. Which leads to air bubbles that stay in the castings. When I was doing stepping stones in boxes I was able to gently jostle the boxes to work out the air bubbles. You can see where the casting looks rockier with permanent air bubbles in the close up photo below. Then following is a close up photo of the same leaf but you can see how much smoother and better defined details are presented with just a bit more water in the concrete mix. D720255D-1C88-4CA5-86A4-A0D3801685D6AF3FC2B5-22AB-44C2-857C-93BCAB86E3C4