Monday, June 30, 2014

Raising Adults: Packing

Last week, the Cluttered Family went on vacation. The boys went up to Cowboy Grandma & Grandpa's ranch while Diesel and I went to Vegas for our anniversary. Of course, a huge part of going away on a trip is packing. I hate packing. I love travelling, but I hate packing.

A few years ago, I realized that my packing load was more than it needed to be. While Diesel will pull out his clothes, it falls on me to ensure that clothes, toiletries, and other sundry items for our family of 4 (5 if Rockstar is going with us) make it into the suitcase. 

Then I had a major Oprah-style "Ah-ha!" moment. Little Man, at 4 years old, was more than capable of packing his own suitcase. 

I know some of you just had the record needle scratch moment and are thinking "Cluttered Mama, do you mean to tell us that you let a 4 year old pack his own suitcase unsupervised?" 

And the answer is, yes. Sort of. 

I started creating a pictograph checklist for Little Man, which details all the items he needs to bring on any given trip.

As you can see, #1 I'm not an artist. #2 I include the number of boxes equal to the number of each particular item he needs to pack. This makes it easier for him to keep organized. After the first suitcase, I stopped checking his work. And so far, nothing has been forgotten.

Teaching him to be responsible for his suitcase is just one step in my goal of raising my boys to be self-sufficient adults. And the bigger upside? At 3 years old, Duckie is starting to want to pack his own suitcase.
Little Man packed just what he needed.
 Duckie packed a stuffed polar bear, a stuffed parrot, 6 books,
1 t-shirt (belonging to Little Man), 1 bed sheet (also his brother's),
1 pair of pajamas (shirt is his, pants are his brother's),
4 matchbox cars, and a giant pine cone

He doesn't always get it right, but it is the thought that counts!!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Life's a Garden, Dig It!

Today I am giving you a photo tour of all the things we’re growing around The Cluttered House. I popped out this morning and shot some photos of our burgeoning suburban farm. Please excuse the mess. Unlike gardens & yards on Pinterest, ours isn’t all that photogenic-- but we love her and she’s come a LONG way, baby!

On our deck:
Blueberries & Lemon grass

San Marzano Tomatoes, Purple Cherokee tomatoes, lavender, cilantro, red Russian Kale,  a grape plant, and one hopeful Rockstar (he loves nothing more than to eat produce).

Sadly all of this will have to come out soon because we have to tear out the planter and move the deck in advance of our giant life-eating home renovation and addition (more about that later!)

Clockwise from the left: Lemon grass, some kind of collard (I think), red Russian kale, Lemonbalm, bolted lettuce. And Rockstar’s head. He’s such an attention hog!

By the tent (our temporary “garage”-- again, because of the renovation):
We have one grape plant, and then two sets of “growing shelves” for tomatoes. Diesel built them out of recycled materials from around the yard. As soon as our baby plants are big enough, they’ll get moved out here to live.

Grape close up! (sorry so many of these photos are blown out, my camera has been being wonky). I get so excited to see all these plants growing-- baby produce is ADORABLE!!

The “Orchard” as we affectionately call the back garden:

These two photos are the yard as viewed from the deck. Pay no attention to the trash can full of weeds and other crap around my yard… (also, my thrifty side wants to point out that both the playhouse and the climber were acquired for FREE… woot!). Our grass is a little worse for wear, what with two boys, a dog, and a drought. Last summer, when it was new, it was quite gorgeous

Orchard up-close:
Cinderella pumpkin (grown from seeds I exchanged with a friend, hooray for free seeds!!!)

Howden pumpkin-- a jack-o-lantern pumpkin for the kids!

Peppers galore! The one on the left is a jalapeno (I think), on the right is a white bell.

White pepper up close

Lots of kale and broccoli in front of the wall. Behind the fence from L-to-R: plum tree that produces 3 types of plum, a papaya (non-GMO), tree collard, Valencia orange tree, another tree collard, Black futzu pumpkin, mandarin tree, and some more peppers (we’ll see those up close later!)

Also in front of the wall is a pole bean (with no pole) and a fairly ragged basil. Organic gardening= difficult pest control, which means our leaves are not always as pretty as I’d like them to be! It also means I kill a lot of stuff with my gloved hands…

Fresno chile (central valley, represent!), Poblano chile, and Chipotle chile

Another KEY part of our little pseudo-homestead is located in the orchard area:
This is the dirt pile. My boys spend 90% of their backyard playtime out here digging, making mud, and a whole host of other dirt-y activities. It is their favorite. I highly recommend installing a dirt pile in your yard.

Onions by the barn

We built a lovely trellis that connects to the top of the barn for our vining plants:
Right now we have a baby Moon & Stars watermelon (not pictured), a couple spaghetti squash plants, and one cucumber plant that survived the onslaught of predatory insects as a baby plant. Also, we have flax growing here too…

Ants in a cucumber flower. Ants are my mortal enemy. Ants, aphids, caterpillars, and keeled treehopers. They are all bastards and I will kill them when given the chance (seriously, if you know a good, organic, non-ecosystem disrupting method of getting rid of any of the aforementioned jerks, I’m all ears… )

Baby cuke. It is so cute I want to die!

Okay, now we are going to head over to the actual garden. Full disclosure, when I designed this space in my head, it was going to be a sweet, productive, Pinterest-worthy garden. The kind that has a whimsical water feature and a bistro table situated amongst the cool, tranquil greenery. Where I could retreat each morning to sip my coffee and gather my thoughts before heading inside to fix my children their homemade and ever-so nutritious breakfast, which they, naturally, gobble up with no complaint and with chorusing “thank yous” before scampering off to do their morning responsibilities without being reminded.

Needless to say, my once blank slate:
looks nothing like I envisioned.

You see, several months after we built our cute little garden and had stuff growing, Diesel approached me with the idea of starting a “small” hydroponic garden. I agreed, excited that he was so interested in growing stuff, and assumed that he’d be building something small and Pinterest-worthy.

Diesel doesn’t understand the importance of Pinterest-worthiness. I should’ve also asked him to clarify what “small” meant. Over the last few months, the hydroponic garden grew into an aquaponic garden-- complete with fish we can eventually eat. It is cool, it impresses people, but… um… it ain’t pretty. Nor is the disaster area that we call “the garden.”

So, without further ado…
The Garden:
The “small” aqua structure… Diesel is quick to point out that it has water AND fish, thus making it a water feature. We grow most of our greens here. Lots of chard and lettuce and kale and broccoli and what not. Please don’t ask me how this works. I don’t know. basically fish poop and pee and it feeds the plants… or something. The gutter on the second level is where our seedlings live right before we put them out in the big yard. 

Our growbed- it is just like any other raised bed, only instead of dirt it has water and some kind of media.

Strawberry & pepper tubes attached to the front fence; they are also part of the aquaponic system.

The garden boxes have become a jungle. I just really need to get in there and prune.
It’s a fennel jungle in there…


Also, since I’m being all honest, warts and all… Here is how the main walkway looks:
Soothing. Calming. Tranquil. Doesn’t it just make you want to sit in here and sip some coffee?

Yeah… me either! (Good news? People are coming to see our garden this weekend, so we have to clean it up!! Hopefully I’ll have some “after” photos for you!)

OH and last but not least I want to show you  the old lemon tree which was on the property when we moved in. Sadly, it is in the way of where our addition will go, so we may lose it. The lemon tree has made a “friend” too-- a random passionfruit vine has taken up residence amongst the lemon tree’s limbs. No idea how that happened!


So that’s it, folks! You have seen my “farm.” Questions? Comments? Let me know!