Thursday, November 18, 2010

Back at the Bench

The garden has been (mostly) put to bed.  I admit I have been lazy about getting it ready for next year, and I know I'll pay for it in the spring :(  I had plans to try and rearrange the fencing so I could fit in a couple more beds before the weather got too cold, but it never happened.  Those three weeks my daughter was home in between the end of ESY and the beginning of her new school year just sucked all the motivation right out of me.  I know it's kind of backwards - one would think after three weeks of being prevented from doing what I wanted in the garden that I'd want to make up for it as soon as she was gone during the day, but no - I didn't have the motivation to do much besides sit around and read.

I'm feeling much better now, though, and have been back to making new jewelry.  I've listed some new work at the DaisyCat Jewelry shop on Etsy, and I hope to take more photos on Monday and have the rest of my new work up before Black Friday.  This is the one time of year I go out of my way to remind everyone I know "Hey, you know someone who makes jewelry for a living - and this is the one time of year you can justify spending money on jewelry, even if it's for someone else!  Buy presents!"

So this is what I've been up to:

Work-in-Progress - Sterling Pendant with Rutilated Quartz and Rhodolite Garnet
This pendant is almost done.  I love rutilated quartz, and work with it as often as I can.  The stones are now set, and it's been polished.  I'm going to add some dangle to the link at the bottom, but I'm not sure exactly what yet.  I'll post another pic when it's finished.

Here are some new earring designs that I made earlier this year that I finally got around to taking photos of and listing:
Almandine garnet and Sterling post earrings

Handmade chain and Amethyst earrings
And another new pendant:

Sterling pendant with Carnelian and Citrine
 Hope everyone has a wonderful and relaxed (?) holiday next week!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

At least I'm getting *something* out of the garden!

 I may not have had enough good cucumbers to make pickles, but I had enough to make relish!

It's the basic Ball Blue Book sweet relish recipe.  I haven't tasted it yet, but it sure smelled good!  It calls for covering the veg with salted water for two hours, then rinsing and draining thoroughly.  I think I drained pretty thoroughly, but I still ended up with more liquid than I was happy with in the final results.  Next time I think I'll try and get more of that water out.  I'll either let it soak longer, or salt-and-sit without water first, before I rinse.  Or maybe I'll line the salad spinner with cheesecloth and try and spin the rinse water out that way!

What have you done to get more liquid out of chopped veg before pickling?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Look Ma! No BER!

I may actually get tomato sauce this year!  I don't have enough plants to have big, all-at-once harvests, so these guys are being cored, seeded, and frozen as they come ripe a few at a time.  The other plus side to this method is that by the time I have enough tomatoes for a big batch of sauce, it'll probably be September, and (one would hope) much cooler!

Sadly, I may have to give up on the pickles.  It's taken three years, but I can no longer avoid the fact that trying to plant cucumbers as a succession crop in New England is doomed to failure.  Powdery mildew will hit at roughly the same time every year, no matter what I do to prevent or stop it.  If I want pickles, I really need to get my cucumbers into the ground as early as possible.  It's the only way I'll get a good crop before the cucumbers start to look like this:

I'll try again next year!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Surviving on next to nothing, part 2

As I mentioned in my last post, part of my current strategy for survival on an extremely limited budget involves finding ways to shift some expenses from the cash budget to the food stamps budget, mostly by using homemade cleaning products that rely on ingredients like vinegar, and handmade soap, which uses cooking oils.  In order to do this I need to make sure that I spend my food stamps wisely, so that I have enough both to keep my family fed for the month, and be able to buy those few extra things I use for cleaning.  Fortunately this is not difficult.


A lot of these ideas are things I'm sure you've heard before, as the grocery budget is the one we all have the most control over, no matter our financial situation.  There are a few things I do differently, but these are based on my own personality quirks - Your Miles May Vary :)   A lot of what I do is tied in to my whole Philosophy of Food, not all of which is about saving money. 

First, let me say that I'm a huge fan of Michael Pollan.  In The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food I found someone making a case against processed food and industrial agriculture who was able to back his assertions up with facts, naming specific studies and their results.  He cites his references, and includes a bibliography so that you can find the original studies and see the results in context, should you so choose.  Here, for once, was a true journalist who came to his conclusions as a result of his research, rather than looking for research to support a conclusion.  This was no zealot nutjob, this was someone whose conclusions I was able to take seriously, and it's made a tremendous difference in how I view food and where it comes from.  That being said...

I cook almost everything from scratch.  My personal beliefs about highly processed food aside, I do find that I spend less.  I can buy cumin, oregano and chili powder, combine them with other pantry staples, and have a year's worth of tacos PLUS I have those seasonings on hand for anything else that calls for them!  No need to spend .99 on an envelope of "taco seasoning" that has almost as much sugar as spice, and I can decide we're going to have tacos on the spur of the moment without having to worry about whether I have taco seasoning on-hand!  I've managed to find recipes for most of the convenience foods I used to buy (e.g. macaroni and cheese, and ranch and Catalina dressing).  Some of them (though by no means all!) take a little longer, but taken as a whole, they do work out cheaper in the long run. 

I only buy what's on sale.  I hear a lot of "keep a sale price diary" so that you know how low sale prices go on certain items, and how often.  I'm not quite that organized, but I do know what the lowest sale price on certain things is, and when it hits that price I try and stock up.  I only buy ground beef or boneless chicken breast when it drops below a certain price.  I buy chicken leg quarters and separate them into thigh and drumstick myself.  I buy bone-in thighs and bone them myself.  The bones go into the freezer (along with various vegetable trimmings), and when I have enough I make chicken stock.  The chicken stock gets frozen in ice-cube trays, and the resultant cubes go into a freezer bag.  Did I mention I have a freezer chest? 

I have a freezer chest!  It is absolutely worth its weight in gold.  It allows me to buy things in bulk that I would never have room for otherwise.  It allows me to make my own "convenience foods" in large batches because I have room to store it all.  It takes the same amount of time to make four gallons of chicken stock as it does to make one, and I'm more likely to actually do it if I don't have to do it very frequently.  It allows me to freeze leftovers of big meals that otherwise would go bad, because no one wants to eat chili four nights in a row.  It also means that DH doesn't complain that he can't fit his beer mug in the freezer because I've gone and stuffed it full of food of all things!

I'm a very "seat-of-your-pants" cook, so I ignore the advice to plan a weekly menu.  The idea behind that advice is that you look at all the supermarket flyers and plan your meals for the week around the sale items.  It's a good idea, but it doesn't work for me.  My version of this idea is to be a Really Good Cook!  I buy lots of basic ingredients (see first point), so when it's time for dinner I can look at what I have and decide what I want to make.   I'm not dependent on recipes, although I sometimes use them, and I know when it's safe to leave out or substitute an ingredient I'm missing.  It achieves the same basic goal - to have the majority of your meals based on what's on sale or what's on hand - but it has a great deal more flexibility.

I no longer bother with warehouse club stores.  Sure, it's cheaper than the supermarket, but only on the brand name items they offer.  Most of the time the supermarket brand was still cheaper than the warehouse brand name price. Yes, when there was a warehouse store brand version of something it was cheaper than the supermarket store brand. Unfortunately most of the items I found these savings on were for things I no longer buy - namely packaged, processed food.  The few remaining items (milk, cheese, butter, etc) do not offer enough savings to make up for the annual fee and the gas to get there.

I do not bother with coupons, except maybe store coupons (as opposed to manufacturer's coupons).  With rare exceptions, manufacturers coupons are all for processed food that I no longer buy.  Even when I run across a coupon for something I want, I find that the store brand is frequently still cheaper than the name brand, even with the coupon. Occasionally there will be a sale on a brand name item I want while the coupon is still valid - then it will be cheaper than the store brand.  If I already subscribed to the Sunday paper and was getting the coupons anyway I'd be willing to keep an eye out for these deals.  As it is, I'd have to spring for the paper once a week in hopes of finding coupons for food I was willing to buy combined with those items being on sale sometime soon.  Way too many "ifs" for the amount of effort involved.

I have a vegetable garden.  Many people don't realize that food stamps can be used to buy vegetable seeds and plants, as well as food!  My garden is fairly small, and it's only in its third year, so I'm still on the uphill side of the learning curve.  Some things work and some don't - and I try to distinguish between things I did wrong and those problems that are the Gifts of Mother Nature so that I can learn from my mistakes (Mother Nature's mistakes I can do little about).   I have not given up just because last year was awful for tomatoes and this year my cucumbers may not last long enough to provide me with pickles :(  I will try again next year!  In the meantime, I no longer have to buy  fresh herbs from the supermarket!

I found that my local farmer's market has a grant from Wholesome Wave that allows them to give 2-for-1 food stamps.  For every real food stamps dollar, I get two farmer's market "credits."  This puts the farmer's market produce on par with (or cheaper than!) the supermarket prices, which allows me to indulge my philosophical penchant for local food while staying within my food "means."  I like the idea of keeping my money (more or less) in my community.  A lot of farmers are on food stamps, too!

I can. It is not my primary form of food storage, nor is it necessarily even cheaper, as far as just plain condiments go - not until the garden improves.  It costs me more per pint to make my own blueberry preserves than it does to buy a pint of store brand grape jelly.  It is, however, much cheaper than the comparable "gourmet" blueberry preserves you might find at the supermarket, and I know exactly what has gone into it.  For me the biggest cost savings in canning is the ability to give the results as gifts!   Food as Gift is another way to transfer cash burden from Real Money to Food Stamps, and my family always appreciates the fruits of my labor.

Sadly, the one thing I don't do as much as I'd like is bake my own bread.  My daughter won't eat my homemade bread (it's an autism thing - I think she dislikes the texture) so I need to keep store-bought on hand.  While the rest of my family is quite happy to eat my bread, and expresses a desire for me to make it more often, I find that when it comes time for them to make their own sandwiches they automatically reach for the pre-sliced bread, and mine goes either stale or moldy.  Since the most expensive food in the world is the food you waste, I no longer bother.

It does, however, make wonderful bird food!

*Disclosure:  If you buy something from Amazon through the links to the Michael Pollan books I get a few pennies.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Surviving on next to nothing, part 1

The other day, Erin at garden now - think later! was talking about the financial challenges she faces in a single income military family.  She went on to discuss some of the things she does to keep her family occupied and afloat on a limited income.  Since I lost my "day job" a year ago I've found myself in a similar financial situation, and thought I would share what I've been doing to survive on an extremely limited budget.

A little bit of background, to put things in context:  I have a family of four.  We live in subsidized housing, which means we rent rather than being homeowners.  It's a bit of a double-edged sword.  I could not survive on this budget if this were not the case, but while I avoid the expenses of homeownership, it also means that I cannot make changes to the house or property that would make our lives easier - namely adding rooms (this house is truly tiny!) or modifications like a root cellar.  While we have managed to avoid needing Cash Assistance (Welfare), we do have food stamps, which helps.   Finally, my daughter has significant autism.  This is really the root cause of most of our financial difficulties.  There is no local appropriate childcare for her, and with the current job market, I have difficulty finding someone willing to hire a person who can only work part-time, no evenings or weekends, and needs all school holidays and snow days off completely.  This also means that we have some expenses that would be "wants" for most families, but are "needs" for ours, just so that we can maintain our sanity :)

These are the things I have done to survive.  A lot of them are based on ways to shift some of the real cash burden to the food stamps, because it's easier to control how much we spend on food than how much we spend on gas.

I looked at our non-food spending and realized that a large chunk of it was spent on cleaning supplies and various disposable products.  In order to reduce our spending here I...
  • cut up some old, ratty bath towels and started using them to wipe up spills instead of always reaching for paper towels. I now spend about 1/3 as much as I used to on paper towels.
  • started making my own cleaning products.  Food stamps will only help you buy food - they will not pay for soap!  However, many homemade cleaning products rely on vinegar, which you can buy with food stamps!  Now, instead of spending 3$-4$ each on five different cleaning products that will last maybe a month or two, I spend about $8 total on a few key ingredients (I use dish liquid, rather than the liquid castile soap a lot of recipes call for.  It's cheaper, and it doesn't separate with the addition of vinegar, as I found the liquid castile soap did), and can make enough different cleaning products to last for six months.
  • started making my own soap.  This may seem like a bit of a stretch, but again, it comes back to the "food stamps won't buy soap" deal.  You can, however, use them to buy olive oil and coconut oil.  Real soap is made with oil and lye (sodium hydroxide).  I spent about $15 on lye a year ago.  I think I still have enough left to provide as much soap as I need for another three or four years!
  • stopped using shampoo to clean my hair.  Instead, I use a baking-soda solution to wash, and a dilute vinegar to rinse (BTW, if you look for "no poo" info online a lot of people refer to the vinegar rinse as a "conditioner."  The vinegar does not "condition" your hair.  What it does is neutralize the baking soda, which is necessary because hair can be damaged by long-term exposure to alkalies like baking soda.).  More "cleaning" with food products!  My sister the hair stylist tells me my hair is in great shape, and no, it isn't greasy, and no, I don't smell like salad dressing.
  • got washable pads to use with our Swiffer (DH likes to mop every night - he finds it relaxing), and found a way to refill the Swiffer cleaner (we drilled a hole in the bottom of the bottle and stuck a plug in it) so that we could use our homemade floor cleaner.  I think this saves us about $20-$30 a month!
  • started using cloth diapers.  Because of her autism, our daughter can't be allowed outside her bedroom without supervision.  Unfortunately this includes overnight, which means she can't use the bathroom when everyone else is sleeping.  We have had her in pull-ups for a long time, but I recently found a pattern for waterproof underwear intended for children with enuresis, which I have adapted to our needs.  This is a savings of about $30 for me.  If I had a child still in diapers all day, the savings would be even greater!
  • made my own "baby wipes."  Some accidents require more than just toilet paper.  I had some lightweight cotton terry remnants that I cut into squares to use as "washcloths" instead of wipes.  No need for any special liquid - I just wet them in the bathroom sink as I need them.  Probably another $10 savings there.
  • do the numbers!  Sometimes, due to economies of scale, making things myself is not cheaper than buying the cheapest store version.  I found, for example, that while it was cheaper to make my own laundry detergent, it was not cheaper to make my own dishwasher detergent.  The store brand dishwasher detergent actually had a lower unit price than my own homemade.  

Wow!  This is a lot longer than I'd expected it to be!  I'm going to have to continue this topic tomorrow, and lay out the things I do to save money on food and other expenses.  I hope some of these ideas have been useful to someone!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Finally getting some good garden news!

My cucumbers are doing brilliantly!  I picked two today and had them for lunch, along with some of my grape tomatoes.  I'm trying to anticipate when enough of them will be big enough for pickling.  At the moment I'm aiming for sometime between Friday and Tuesday (understanding that Weekends Don't Count.  I can't get anything done on weekends) for making the first batch of pickles!

My Roma tomatoes are finally starting to turn red - and so far the blossom-end rot is still at a manageable level!  I plan on turning these into tomato sauce, so I'm going to experiment with freezing them as they come ripe so that I'll have enough for a big batch I can put up.  I figure it's mostly the texture that suffers when you refrigerate/freeze tomatoes, and I'm going to be cooking them anyway, so it may not really make much difference in the long run.  Anyone who's tried this and has an opinion please chime in!

In other better news, the Garden Beetle season seems to mostly be over, and my herbs are trying hard to stage a valiant comeback!  Of my nine purple basil plants I think I truly lost three of them.  The other six look much like this one, so I may yet get pink, basil-scented vinegar this year!

Friday, July 16, 2010

There will be pickles!

...Eventually :)  First cucumber blossom of the season!  I admit, I started late.  My garden is pretty small, so I had to wait until the peas were done before I could plant cucumbers.  The upside is that I was able to direct-seed them instead of starting them indoors, so no transplant shock.  Last year's cucumbers were a bust - they got hit with hail and never quite recovered.  This year looks much more promising!

My grape tomatoes are finally ripening, so I have more salad fixings.  The romas are sizing up nicely, and I finally have one starting to turn red!  So far I have not had anywhere near as much trouble with blossom-end rot, but it's still early.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed - I want tomato sauce!

On the flip-side- this is all that's left of my purple basil :(  They've also gone through my tarragon and my sage.  The stevia never really had a chance, it got eaten up when it was so small.  They have gone on to my mint and my shiso now - the only plant that's still mosty OK is the oregano.  They're even eating my marigolds!

 At least I've finally figured out who's doing this - it's these little buggers here -

The Asiatic Garden Beetle.  A lot like Japanese beetles, but nocturnal, and not so picky.  Apparently they're endemic in New England.  They're controlled in much the same way, also.  Unfortunately I found out about them too late in the season for nematodes to be any use, and I understand that milky spore is not very effective in the Northeast.  At this point traps and handpicking are about the only solution.  I'm pretty much giving up the herbs for lost this year :(  I'll have to get some nematodes between now and the spring, and with luck I can get this infestation under control within the next year or two!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Bugs or Slugs?


is exceedingly fond...

of my basil and sage!

I have yet to catch the perps red-handed, so I'm not quite sure who I'm dealing with here.  I've had slug bait out in some areas for a while, and I'm trying the soapy water trick, but it's too soon to see if it's made a difference.  Anyone have any idea who could be doing this and what's the best way to combat it?  

Saturday, June 19, 2010

My garden looks nekkid!

My peas are all done for the season :(  The plants are now in the compost getting ready to provide nitrogen for next year's garden, and I have planted my pickling cukes where the peas used to be.  I know I could have had cucumbers out much earlier, but I didn't have room!  I really need a much bigger garden.

Last year my cucumbers did not grow past 8" tall.  Some of that may have had to do with the hailstorm we got in June, but it was such an off year for gardens it's hard for me to know which failures were mine and which were Mother Nature.  At any rate, I figured since cucumbers grow quickly I might as well direct-seed them this year and avoid potential transplant issues (and things like forgetting to turn the lights on or off!), and so far they seem to be doing well!

I'm hoping to get at least 6mos worth of pickles out of these - maybe a year if I'm really lucky!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Why I make jewelry

Many people outside the metalworking world may find it odd that I really don't wear jewelry, except for rings.  Most of the time it just doesn't occur to me.  Because I don't need to "look nice" every day, my wardrobe is more geared toward functional.  In my case, functional is "How fast can I throw something on before DD freaks out because I haven't responded quickly enough?" and usually equals T-shirt + jeans.  Functional also means not wearing anything that can easily be grabbed at or pulled on, either of which could result in damage to my work or damage to me (!), and I don't want to risk either.  The times I make exceptions I am frequently sorry.  I still haven't located the "safe place" I put the baggie full of beads (some of them my handmade sterling ones) after DD grabbed at a necklace I was wearing at a family wedding!

My friend and business partner is a Jewelry Person.  She works in an office and has to look nice, and she loves to wear jewelry.  She is someone who will continue to buy jewelry even though she makes it herself, because she sees things she wants to wear.  I can see jewelry for sale (handmade or otherwise) and appreciate it, and in the case of handmade I can appreciate the effort that went into a fine piece of work.  I will not buy it because I just don't wear jewelry!

I'm most definitely a "process person."  I don't make jewelry because I like to wear it.  I make jewelry because I love to make small things - I find miniaturization fascinating!  I love to work with metal - it stays where you put it, and the likelihood of messing something up just by lifting it (as I found with clay!) is highly unlikely.  Most important, I love to make things that  can be used.  I'm certainly not knocking  purely ornamental work and wall art, but my creative needs are rarely fulfilled by that kind of work.  For me to really get that sense of satisfaction at the end of a project I need to be able to do something with whatever I've created.  I love Functional Art.  This is why I grow vegetables instead of flowers.  Flowers are beautiful, and I can stare at them all day, but in the end I find myself saying "Here they are - so NOW what?  What comes next?"

For me, jewelry gives me that sense of satisfaction because when I'm done with a piece, I can do something with it.  It's the "functional" part of "functional art" that is the important thing.  I may not choose to wear it, but the point is that I am able to!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Playing with Photoshop again :)

I'm not sure what this is, but it's pretty!  It showed up in my garden this year.  I thought it was a volunteer lettuce, but I see similar flowers growing by the highway exit ramp, so now I'm not so sure.  I showed my son the plant with lots of pretty blue flowers.  In typical fashion he responded with "Lots.  Pretty.  Blue."  Only my mother will get the obscure literary reference, but since she reads my blog I'm putting it out there for her :)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

How to become a Fashonista . . . or not.

So here's the thing.  I'm not really that interested in "fashion" - at least not the way it usually gets portrayed on TV and in print.  I don't "accessorize" and my thoughts on bags and purses tend to run exclusively to the practical (Can this bag fit an Emergency Diaper Kit, whatever book I'm reading, my current knitting project and assorted paperwork?) rather than the fashionable.  I've never had a job where I had to look Professional (aside from a stint selling cameras, and even then we're talking Retail Professional, not Corporate Professional), and I've never considered jewelry part of my wardrobe.

Selling anything online is certainly no Field of Dreams, and people will not be beating a path to my store simply because it exists.  Google's new search algorithms now make it even more difficult for people doing a general search to turn up results on Etsy or any of the other Online Marketplace site that host individual "stores."  I am responsible for my own marketing efforts, and I know I need to pursue them offline as well as online.  The marketers say I should talk about what makes my product better than other similar products out there, so I can convince people to buy mine rather than someone else's.  I have trouble with that, because once you get beyond the basics of construction and quality, the differences between the products of two jewelry makers are purely aesthetic.  Are my sterling stack rings better than someone else's?  Probably not. All the marketing info I've ever read says to "determine your target audience and market to it," but none of them say anything about how to identify your target audience.  So here I find myself trying to market my jewelry, but not knowing my audience, so to speak.  I am left with guesses. 

This leaves me with trying to figure out who is likely to appreciate my particular visual style, and that's where I get stuck.  That's where my innate lack of fashion sense does me in every time, because I have no idea what other people would think my jewelry goes with.  What's worse, I do not have the vocabulary to discuss fashion and jewelry!  My mother has suggested that I start reading fashion magazines to start learning more.  Do the people I'm trying to reach follow these fashion trends?  I have no idea.

My best guesses for my "target market":
  • Mostly women.  I know men buy jewelry for women, but right now I'm looking for the ultimate wearer, rather than the purchaser.
  • People with disposable income.  For the most part, jewelry is a want rather than a need, and my best pieces (those in the direction I'd like to pursue with my work) are not inexpensive impulse purchases.  
  • Women with jobs or social positions where they are expected to display a professional appearance.
  • People who care less about the value of the materials (because I work in silver rather than gold) and more about art, creativity, and workmanship.
  • People who value handmade for its own sake, and are not concerned with the name recognition value of the artist/designer. 
  • I would guess that I would be looking for women in the corporate world (or possibly politics or high-level charity), probably mid-thirties and up.   

How does this sound to you?  How can I find out pertinent information about people with these qualities? Who do you think would want to wear my jewelry?   Have I made any inaccurate assessments?  Have I left out any obvious groups?  Would it be something you or someone you know would wear?  If so, how close do you come to my market description?  I can use all the help I can get - any advice or insight is greatly appreciated!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Haul from the Farmer's Market

Here's my haul from the Farmer's Market in Hartford today.  Not too many veggies yet - mostly rhubarb, greens, and asparagus.  The little plastic container is black pepper chevre, and if you look closely you can see that it's sitting on top of a dozen eggs.  The apples are obviously from last fall, but I got 7 lbs for $3, so tomorrow I'm going to make applesauce.  We'll have the asparagus and mesclun with dinner tonight.  I'm still not sure what I'm going to do with the rhubarb-  last week I made pie, so this week I want to try and do something else. 

My snow peas started blooming last week!  I anticipate a lot of stir-fries :)  Granted, that's really not much of a change.  I do a lot of stir-fries anyway.  I'm just hoping I can get the other members of my household to eat the snow peas instead of picking them out.  It's not that they mind the flavor, it's that they find them too "stringy."  Maybe that's just the supermarket variety - maybe the fresh garden snow peas will be OK!

I have no idea what happened to this poor lettuce!  It looks trampled, rather than bitten.  Usually rain will only flatten them out - I've never seen it break a plant off like this!  I guess we'll be having garden lettuce a little earlier than we'd anticipated!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Westville Artwalk

The Artwalk went pretty well, all things considered!  People still aren't spending as much as they did a few years ago, but I still did OK - by my standards, at any rate.  The weather sort-of cooperated.  We had some rain early on, but fortunately it started after we got the canopy up, so nothing got wet!  It stopped early enough that it didn't keep people away.

It did get very windy about an hour before the show closed, and everyone was holding on to their tents to keep them from blowing over!  Our earring display went over at least two or three times, and someone stepped on a pair of my posts before we could get them off the ground.  I guess she didn't realize that the shouts of "Watch it! Watch it!"  were directed at her.

Some of my new work sold, but I managed to get pictures beforehand.  This heart went, and I had at least one person wishing they'd bought it when they first came by.

She took a card, but then lots of people took business cards.  I'll be surprised if we actually hear from any of them.  Everyone gets excited about the idea of custom work when they're standing there, but it always ends up being more hassle than it's worth to them by the time they get home.  Next year we're going to try coupon codes on the backs of the business cards to see if it helps us see how many people from the shows come visit us online.

 I finally decided what I wanted to do with this pendant  that I finished a few weeks ago, so I had the completed necklace finished in time for the show.  Lots of interest, but no buyers.  The expensive pieces always (unsurprisingly) take forever to sell.

At least we finally had a banner this year!

Monday, May 3, 2010

We have signage!

After five years of selling jewelry at craft shows I have finally gotten around to getting a real sign for our booth!  It matches our business cards and everything!  And I even got it in time for Saturday's craft show!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Soil blocks: Not an unqualified success :(

I got a soil block maker at the beginning of seed-starting season(which is February around here), hoping to get the convenience of peat pellets without the added expense.  So far I've had mixed results.

unhappy soil block seedlings

Most of my seeds germinated just fine in the soil blocks, but shortly after gaining their first or second set of true leaves they seem to have stopped growing.  These were planted sometime in March - I'd think the plants would be a lot bigger by now!

unhappy soil block seedlings

I've heard that if you pack your soil blocker too tightly the roots have trouble penetrating.  My first few blocks were loose enough that I had trouble moving them without crumbling, so I packed the next set more firmly.  There's no way for me to know what's too tight or too loose except trial and error.  It's also possible I might not have watered them enough - or I might have watered them too much!  I hate it when diametrically opposed actions result in the exact same symptoms!  I've tried potting some of them up and attempting to loosen the soil a little, but so far it doesn't seem to have made much difference. 

wimpy broccolli

So far the broccoli I started at the end of February hasn't gone much past this stage here.  I planted them out in hopes that being in the ground would encourage them - I'll let you know if it works. 


My sage, on the other hand, was planted in a peat pellet, and is going gangbusters, along with several other varieties of herbs.

I'm not all that upset, because I knew that soil blockers had a bit of a learning curve.  At the most I'm annoyed at the prospect of not having some of my longer-growing veggies (namely broccoli and eggplant) this year.  I'm probably not going to have time to try and start the eggplants again if these fail to thrive, but I can start more broccoli seedlings for a fall planting.  I think next year I'll stick to the peat pellets for these, and experiment with the soil blocks for plants that grow faster, so that I have time to try again if I don't get it right the first time.
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