We’ve got just over an acre and a half here at Arthurized Home. About 1/3 of that land is wooded. The property was very overgrown when we bought it 15 years ago, and some areas (okay, most areas) still need a good clean-out. Along the way we’ve discovered surprises hidden in the woods, a Nikko Blue hydrangea, Annabelle hydrangeas and Bridal Veil to name a few. We don’t want to go in and clear it without a plan.
This year, as our plants bud and bloom, we’re flagging everything we want to spare from the loppers. We’ll be able to identify and prune them at the proper time in their growth cycle.
Flagging tape – Don’t be concerned by the word “tape”, this product has no adhesive. Find it at a home improvement or hardware store. Cost: $4
I chose obnoxious, neon tape. Although difficult to photograph, (who knew?) it will be easy to spot in the woods later in the growing season. Also, because pink is the best color.
Cut 12” – 18” sections of flagging tape and write the name of the plant on one end.
Fold the tape in half and double the loop over a sturdy branch and pull the ends through.
There’s no need to label every piece of tape. Hang blanks on plants that you’ve already identified. Later on, you can compare leaves if you’re unsure of the type of plant. Make sure that you place the tape so you can easily spot it when you return to prune the plant or trim back its overgrown neighbors.
This fall, I want to plant hyacinth and crocus in front of my daffodils. But, because they die back every year, I won’t know exactly where to plant without marking it. I placed a circle of rocks around each clump of daffys and I’ll know to plant in front of the rocks later in the year.
I hope these simple tips are helpful to you. Happy gardening!
Judging by the heavy, clay soil and the copious amounts of debris here, this area of our property has never been gardened. Our first job is to improve the soil by adding rich, new garden soil and compost.
Wheelbarrow or heavy, plastic tarp
Gloves – I prefer leather gloves for this job
Soil Amendments (depending on your garden’s needs – new garden soil, compost, manure, sand, peat, etc.)
Here’s how to amend the soil: Dig the first row about 12″ deep (or the depth of a shovel head), and place the soil in a wheel barrow, or on a heavy, plastic tarp. Pour the soil amendments down into the row.
As you dig the second row, shovel the soil from row two over row one and mix it in. You’ve just finished amending row one.
Now, pour soil amendments along your newly dug row two.
Row Three: Dig and place soil amendments over row two, mixing as you did before.
Rows 4 – Last: Repeat the above process until you reach the final garden row. Once you have added the amendments to the last row, pour the soil from row one on top and mix it in.
Rake the bed smooth and pick up any rocks or clumps of soil. Your garden is ready for planting!
We’re up to our eyeballs in home and garden projects this week, so we’re keeping meal prep easy. I’m commiting to keto for two months and I’ll reassess after that. I’m still not comfortable with copious amounts of dairy and sweeteners ending in “itol”, so I’ve decided to go light on the dairy and use maple syrup sparingly as long as I can achieve and maintain ketosis. Fingers crossed for no keto flu!
Breakfast: Almond Flour Pancakes with Chocolate Chips – I left out the stevia, but added one tsp. each of vanilla and maple syrup. The maple syrup adds about .5 g of carbs to each pancake. These would be amazing with homemade whipped cream and fresh strawberries on top. I’d also like to try mixing cocoa powder into the batter for a double chocolate variation. Maybe next time? These freeze well with a piece of parchment paper between them. https://joyfilledeats.com/almond-flour-pancakes/
Treat: Mocha Ice Bombs – New Recipe! My ice bombs are based off of the linked recipe, ’cause I can’t metric! Makes approximately 18, one inch bombs. 8 oz. softened, full fat cream cheese 1 tsp. maple syrup 3 T. cocoa powder 2 1/2 T. strong coffee, chilled Chocolate coating: 1/2 c. Lily’s chocolate chips 1 T. coconut oil Using a hand mixer, mix the above ingredients until smooth. Freeze in the mixing bowl for 10-15 minutes or until firm enough to scoop. Scoop the bombs onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, using a 1″ cookie scoop. Freeze the ice bombs for 20-30 minutes or until they release from the parchment easily. While the ice bombs are still in the freezer, melt the chocolate chips and coconut oil in a double boiler. Working quickly, drop the ice bombs one by one into the melted chocolate and transfer them back to the paper lined cookie sheet. Freeze until the chocolate is set. Store in an air-tight container in the freezer. These are about 3.5 grams of net carbs each with the chocolate coating. Let these sit at room temperature for a few minutes before serving. https://www.ditchthecarbs.com/mocha-ice-bombs/
Have a great week, everyone! I’m off to enjoy some pancakes.
I’m just gonna come right out and say it. I love this trail because it is more about history and scenic views than serious hiking. We’ve already established that I’m not a hiker. Carriage Trail (as the locals call it) is an urban stroll along the old drive to Sunrise; the mansion home of West Virginia’s 9th Governor, William A. MacCorkle.
Don’t expect a typical rocky, rooty, woodland trail. This 1.3 mile out and back is a wide, gravel drive bordered by impressive stonework, beautiful plantings and lush woods. There are several places to rest, and interesting, historical monuments along the way. With just over 200′ of elevation gain/loss it’s a fairly easy hike, and makes an enjoyable, family outing.
We parked at the lot by the Kanawha River and began our ascent to Sunrise. The sounds of the city mostly died away as we walked further into the woods. Well behaved dogs on a leash are welcome here and we explored with our local guides, my sister-in-law, Wanda, and her adorable dog, Alice.
Some online reviews of Carriage Trail said that it gets very crowded, but we only saw a few people on the trail. Workers in downtown Charleston could hike this on their lunch break. I can imagine this trail is popular with locals because it is short and picturesque with convenient parking just below Bridge Road.
Governor MacCorkle was injured in an auto accident along with his 35 year old daughter, Isabelle, who died from her injuries. He erected this memorial to her. A few years later, MacCorkle died of pneumonia. His ashes were buried at Sunrise and then later moved to a cemetery across the Kanawha River.
At the top of the trail, we found ourselves in a beautiful neighborhood of older homes, with Sunrise mansion on a bluff overlooking the city. Sunrise is privately owned and not open to the public, but you can stroll the grounds and get a sense of the property’s grandeur.
This is the rear entrance of Sunrise, the ‘back porch’ if you will! The front of the mansion overlooks downtown Charleston with sweeping views of the city.
Governor MacCorkle collected some of the stones for Sunrise during his travels and they are engraved with their place of origin. He named Sunrise after his boyhood home in Rockbridge County, VA; so you know we had to find the Virginia stone!
This trail has something for everyone: history, wildlife, natural beauty and even a ghost story if you’re up for that!
We loved our time on Carriage Trail and highly recommend it. It’s fairly convenient to I-77, I-64 and other major routes through Charleston. If you are just traveling through the area, stop nearby for a bite to eat (we recommend The Market or Lola’s on Bridge Road), visit the trail and recharge a little. Or stay, and explore all that Charleston has to offer.
I’m so excited because we’re finally creating an herb garden! I’ve wanted one for years but the few sunny areas of our yard are out of sight and mostly out of mind. Recently, a wind storm took down a pear tree near our house, opening up the perfect place to grow herbs.
RIP, pear tree. You were a good climber, from what I hear.
First, we determined the size and shape of the bed. I wanted an interesting shape because this bed is smack-dab in the middle of our front yard. At the center of the bed I stuck a weeding tool into the ground and tied a string to the handle. I marked the string at 8.5′ and used that as my guide to spray paint the perimeter line. (This is my very unscientific method, and I’m purposely avoiding using words like radius and circumference here. I have to trick the right side of my brain into participating in math and science.)
Anywho, then we got to diggin’. Closely following the painted line, we dug a very deep border edge (8″ – 10″) and transferred that sod into a wheelbarrow.
Resisting the temptation to turn or till it under, we removed the sod layer entirely. This layer is full of seeds (grass and weeds, in our case) and they will sprout in the garden bed. We could have moved it to our compost piles, or filled a few low spots in the yard, but we chose to create a small berm instead, and we’ll have to aggressively weed it going forward.
Dig, remove sod, repeat. Dig, remove sod, repeat. Go to bed. Get up and do it all over again. You can see the berm taking shape in the back of the picture below.
Now that we’ve cleared away all of the sod, we’re ready to begin amending the soil. But for now, it’s time to stand back and admire our handsome new garden bed.
Crazy Story Time: Soon after we bought this house we noticed that whenever it rained, shards of broken glass and tile would work their way to the surface of the lawn. That discovery was quickly followed by a “no bare feet outside” rule. The debris that has surfaced since then seems to have no end.
Almost with the first shovelful of soil that we turned over in this bed, we began picking up rusty nails and other debris. The first day we threw them out. The second day we started tossing them into a 5 gallon bucket just to save a few steps.
We found half a license plate, bits of wire, metal springs, screws, a Willard battery cap and beer can tabs. Not surprising, since the original owner ran a neighborhood garage from our property.
We unearthed half of a broken, plastic cup, two table knives, four glass marbles and a tiny, blue game piece. Also not surprising, because the Thompson family raised fourteen children here. I can just imagine Mrs. Thompson raising Cain as her utensils slowly disappeared from her kitchen, never to be seen again!
And oh, my word! The nails that filled this bed! It’s been a week since we finished digging, and we haven’t found more nails, but I’m not deluding myself into thinking we’ve found them all.
Guess how many nails we dug up from the herb garden? Can’t imagine? Here’s a hint:
We picked up seven. hundred. and. eighty. two. rusty. nails! 782! I would love to know what on Earth happened here, to have so many nails in the yard!
And then there is the glass! Our nieces and nephews have played on this patch of lawn forever. They’ve chased lightning bugs, played What Time is it Mr. Fox?, Tag and Toilet Tag here. They’ve scoured this area for hidden Easter eggs. This is where we have our New Year’s midnight silly string battle. Our nieces turn cartwheels here. It’s really amazing that no one has been injured by a glass shard.
I told my sister-in-law that we’d never be able to work in this bed on our hands and knees, and she suggested that we use a small bag of soft mulch as a kneeling pad. Great idea! We will certainly do that.
The best discovery of all (the only good discovery?) are these two glass bottles that my husband dug up. The larger bottle is absolutely perfect with no chips or cracks. I cannot believe that it survived undamaged, considering that we used shovels and a mattock to dig this bed! The smaller bottle has a chip on the lip, but is otherwise in good condition.
So that’s your crazy story for the day, kids. Now, go update your tetanus shot!
I’m inching closer to keto this week and sharing some family favorite recipes with you!
Ropa Vieja is a delicious, Cuban, shredded beef dish that I’ve made frequently over the past 18 years. My version is Americanized; I take some help from the store and use jarred salsa. If you serve it over cauliflower rice instead of white or brown rice, it’s very low carb. I love the richness of flavor that slow-roasting gives, so I use the Dutch oven. As a bonus, the house smell amazing while it cooks!
Here is this week’s menu:
Breakfast: Blueberry Smoothie – New Recipe! “Looks so bad, but it tastes so good.” – My husband Y’all. I have laughed so hard over these smoothies which look NOTHING like the beautiful purple in the recipe photo. These look more like something you would serve at a Grinch party! Trust me, they are tasty, and you know you’re getting your daily dose of green goodness from the spinach. If the kids are constantly drinking your smoothie, offer them this and watch them recoil in horror! Looks can be deceiving. https://tastythin.com/anti-inflammatory-blueberry-smoothie-paleo-keto/
Lunch: Ropa Vieja My husband will have his over brown rice, I’ll have cauliflower rice.
Ropa Vieja 325° for 2 1/2 to 3 hours 3 lbs beef chuck roast 1 package (1 oz.) dry onion soup mix – or make your own like this: https://feedingbig.com/clean-eating-onion-soup-mix.html 1 onion, chopped 1 c. red wine 3 T. coconut oil 1/2 c. salsa – look for salsa with no added sugar 1/2 c. water – optional (I almost never add this) Garnishes: sour cream, cilantro, lime wedges and avocado
Heat oil in dutch oven, over med-high. Add beef and brown on all sides . Reduce heat, add onion and cook until soft but not browned. Add onion soup mix, wine, salsa and water (if using). Bring to a boil. Cover and place in preheated oven for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Check occasionally to make sure there is sufficient liquid in the pan, add more wine if necessary. Shred beef before serving. Serve over rice, or cauliflower rice for low carb. Garnish as desired.
Summer Squash Oregano – I found this recipe in Southern Living magazine years ago; and we make this all summer long. Well, as long as the squash from Pa Kettle’s garden are rolling in! Add some rolls or cloud bread, and you’ve got a nice vegetarian dinner.
Summer Squash Oregano – Serves 6 as a side dish From Southern Living magazine 3 T. butter 1 medium yellow onion, minced 1 garlic clove, minced 1 small, green bell pepper, chopped 1 T. chopped, fresh oregano 3/4 lb. yellow squash, sliced 3/4 lb. zucchini, sliced 4 tomatoes, chopped 1/2 t. salt 1 tsp. pepper 1 c. grated parmesan Melt butter in a large skillet; add onion, garlic and bell pepper, and saute until tender. Stir in oregano, yellow squash and zucchini; cover and cook, stirring occasionally for 15 minutes. Stir in tomato, salt and pepper; cook uncovered until squash is tender. Spoon into a serving dish and sprinkle with cheese.
Arthurized Home has french doors that developed some wood rot along the threshold. The folks at a big box home improvement center told us it couldn’t be repaired and that we should replace the entire door unit; to the tune of well over $1,000.
My sister had just successfully repaired a wooden column on her front porch using Abatron’s LiquidWood and WoodEpox, so we decided to give it a try. We ordered a kit from Amazon that was about $40.
The first step is to scrape away all of the rotten wood. Really dig in there and make sure you get it all. Remove anything that comes off easily. We were horrified to see the true extent of the damage, especially on that center support.
Tape off the area where you will be working in case there are epoxy drips. Use plastic sheeting if necessary. This product is meant to last, and drips or spills will not clean off easily.
The next step is to stabilize the adjoining area using LiquidWood. It’s an epoxy mixture that soaks into the wood and hardens it, preventing it from future rot. I probably went a little overboard drilling holes here, but I wanted to be extra thorough. I drilled slightly downward so the epoxy would flow down into the holes, not right back out of them. Mix the LiquidWood according to the package directions and paint onto your project, completely covering any exposed wood.
Let the epoxy dry completely.
Now comes the fun part! Mix the two-part WoodEpox together according to the package directions. It’s like playing with putty! Make sure the colors blend completely to solid white. That’s how you’ll know it is thoroughly mixed. Work quickly and in small batches; this starts to set up shortly after mixing.
Smoosh (yes, that’s the technical term! Smoosh!) it into and onto the areas you’re repairing. This product sands easily, so don’t be shy about piling on the WoodEpox. Apply enough product so that when you sand, you don’t end up with dimples or valleys.
Let that dry completely and start sanding. I used a triangular detail sander to get into those corners.
So much better!
Once the repair is complete you can paint the WoodEpox. This repair is almost four years old now, and still looks (and functions) as good as new.
We’ve got two driveways and the banks next to the first one are steeply sloped, shaded and have horrible, clay soil. When we moved in 15 years ago, we planted several flats of variegated ivy on one bank hoping that it would scramble up the bank and cover it quickly. The ivy proved to be slow growing and while it has spread, it’s not doing the job.
We’ve planted vinca minor on a third bank and discovered vinca major growing wild at the other end of that same bank. It has mostly filled in, and is beautiful when covered in periwinkle blooms. Vinca has glossy, evergreen leaves and looks great year round. It is on the Virginia invasive plants list, but we haven’t found it difficult to control.
In an effort to cover the other two banks, I’ve been researching evergreen ground covers. The banks are steep enough that withstanding foot traffic is not a concern. This will likely be a multi-year project because both banks are large. The first one is 52′ x 10′ and is under an ancient, oak tree. We’ve successfully grown Solomon’s Seal there, but it dies back in the winter. The second bank is 125′ x 22′(yes, that’s 2,750 square feet!) and has the slow-growing ivy on it.
With such a large area to cover, we need a plant that is inexpensive and will quickly spread to fill in. Last fall, we transplanted about a dozen plugs of liriope as a test to see if it would tolerate the deep shade, extremely poor soil and root competition from the oak tree. Surprisingly, they survived and are thriving this spring.
This spring, we’re transplanting liriope from two other areas in our yard; an unruly border and the bed of black-eyed Susans. Aside from lots of sweat equity, this project is free. My favorite price!
Because the test plants grew well in our poor soil, we’re not amending the planting holes with garden soil or compost. With thousands of holes to dig, it would only increase the time needed to complete this project. And I don’t think the extra expense is necessary.
We’re transplanting the liriope bare root so that we do not have to move a lot of soil. This enables us to dig smaller planting holes, and to tuck the liriope in next to the tree roots without damaging them. We started by using a trowel, but switched to a hand weeder to dig the holes.
Until they are settled in to their new home, we’re watering the transplants daily. We’ll mulch the banks once the transplants are established. This project is slow-going, but we’re hopeful that this is the tough-as-nails ground cover these banks need.
Like most people, I’ve got enough stress and chaos going on in my life right now. Nothing I can’t handle, however. I’ve had a couple high blood pressure readings lately so I went to the doctor to get that checked out. Wouldn’t you know it, at the check-up my blood pressure was fine. The doctor wants me to keep an eye on it and also suggested that I try a ketogenic diet. So, I’m pinning keto recipes like crazy and dipping my toes into extremely low carb for the next few weeks before testing out full-blown keto. (Ain’t nobody got time for the keto flu!) I’m not entirely sold on this idea.
My hesitation with keto is: 1) All that fat. Blah. I like my veggies and fruit. 2) All that dairy. Dairy and I don’t get along. Right now we use cheese, sour cream, and cream cheese as a condiment and unsweetened coconut milk for most everything else. I really don’t want to increase my dairy intake. (First world problems, I know.) 3) I don’t mind using stevia as a sweetener; in fact I’m trying to grow the plant this year. But nearly every keto treat contains sugar alcohols, which gives me pause. I prefer a teaspoon of local, raw honey or organic maple syrup over a teaspoon of erythritol. 4) Mr. Arthurized Home is not joining me in this keto adventure, so I’ll fix different breakfasts and snacks for him like I did before he went gluten free. Again, with the first world problems. 5) What should I eat before and during running? I usually eat a piece of toast with peanut butter before a short run and eat a Larabar or Honey Stinger waffle during long runs. I have no idea how to fuel on keto. Some say you can’t do keto and strenuous exercise, others say it’s amazing for endurance sports.
The jury is still out on this decision. That said, here is this week’s menu:
Dinner: Southwestern Squash Casserole – My sister-in-law made this for Easter and we’ve gone slightly crazy for it. We substitute a gluten-free flour blend (not low carb) for the all-purpose flour. We also use 1/8 tsp of cayenne and leave out the jalapeno. https://12tomatoes.com/southwestern-squash-casserole/
Snacks: Hard-boiled eggs, Celery, Cucumber and Green bell peppers, organic guacamole from Aldi Pimento Cheese – Every good Southerner should have a favorite pimento cheese recipe and this is mine. I use Sir Kensington’s mayonnaise and finely grate the cheddar. https://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2011/09/sauced-pimento-cheese-recipe.html Additional snacks for my hubby – Banana, Watermelon, Pineapple and Apples *sniff* I love you, fresh fruit.
I like to come up with creative ways to present gift cards and one of my favorites is giving a coffee card wrapped in a coffee cup. There’s no element of surprise about the contents, but it’s super easy and fun to do!
When buying a coffee card, I ask for a tall cup with a lid. The gift card fits down inside it perfectly.
For package filler, sometimes I use wrapped candies but today I’m using paper shreds. If you’re using candy, Lindt truffles are a pretty (and tasty!) option.
You can stop right here and you’ve got a clean, minimalist look to your gift wrap; or you can decorate the cup with messages and designs. Sharpie markers in bright colors work well for this. Another option is to add a reusable cup sleeve.
I’m going to make a cheater bow using two coordinating wire edge ribbons. I call it “cheating” because I’m not doing all the twisting and looping of traditional bow making. I’m using a striped “bow” ribbon and a sheer “tie” ribbon.
Start by laying the bow ribbon in a serpentine shape. The folds will become the loops of your bow, so make sure you have the same number of them on each side. I like to do two or three, depending on the length of the ribbon.
Cut the tie ribbon long enough that you can tie two knots and have plenty left over to drape nicely on the gift. Mine is two lengths of 15″ each.
Pinch the folded bow ribbon together in the center.
Using the tie ribbon, make a tight knot around the bow to secure it.
Then using the same tie ribbon, tie a second, loose knot to make the center loop of the bow. Fluff the center loop up slightly.
Trim the ends of the ribbon at an angle. I trim the bow ends pointing downward and the tie ends pointing inward, like the arrows below.
Adhere the bow to the top of the cup and you’re done!