Plant Nursery

plant room.png

It’s officially been two months since we’ve moved into our new suburban homestead! The majority of our “must-handle-immediately-because-the-dryer-won’t-work” projects are over, and now it’s time to look to our potted plants and seedlings, because fall is officially here. We planted a couple of cover crop beds (I’ll share more later this week, after some better photos) and our lovely patio is bursting with happy plants – however, our forecast calls for rain and cold tomorrow, with a low pushing 40. Some of our plants can withstand and even want to overwinter outside, but so many of our lovelies just can’t handle temperamental Kansas weather.

IMG_9472

When we first looked at the house, we couldn’t imagine what we would do with a formal sitting room. Our rental had squeezed in a small living room between a bedroom hallway and the garage with an afterthought of a kitchen tucked in a corner, so suddenly having a formal dining room, formal living room, a large family room, and a full kitchen to spread out amongst was daunting! Naturally, we filled it all quickly, but the formal sitting room was rather pointless. It held my grandmother’s antique spinet piano and some assorted bookcases with an old loveseat hastily covered with a cheap sofa cover, but it was not the inviting, useful front room we were looking for.

Suddenly, having a patio full of plants that needed a home and a front room that needed a purpose meant that we have a new plant nursery. It won’t be a greenhouse by any means, but in combination with a bright, north-facing bay window and some plant lights, we have a way to home our plants for the winter and maybe even start our seedling operation come Christmas.

IMG_3166

 

Evan purchased a couple of grow lights to get us started – these bulbs fit typical light fixtures, provided they have some extra vertical space to come out of the fixture (they are much taller than typical bulbs). They provide the full spectrum of light that plants are accustomed to outdoors to help supplement the low to typical light the window would bring in and provide a brighter light for plants like my gardenia or our Pixie grape plant, which will come inside soon.

//ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ss&ref=as_ss_li_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=sing08d-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=B005P29K1S&asins=B005P29K1S&linkId=8a45f58aedbb1593079a1142eb76f527&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true

Now, to address the white carpets, I decided to get sneaky with my carpet protection. I don’t know how long the carpet will actually stay white (thank you, cats), but for now, I’ve tucked a shower curtain beneath the rug so that we’ve got one extra layer of protection if our plant trays leak onto the floor. Every plant gets a plant tray, and I’m always careful to water so very little actually ends up in the tray – wet roots lead to decay and mildew growth.

I spent nearly five years working in a floral shop in high school and college, and one of my favorite watering tricks was actually to water over the sink and only water once a week. Watering infrequently but heavily helps create stronger roots that search more actively for nutrients, which is great for encouraging those vegetables in the garden to reach down further to gain nutrient access. With our houseplants, I like to remove the plant from the basket & tray (plant stays in the main pot, just not the decorative one(s)) and hold it under the faucet until the water is running out of the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot. At that point, I keep running the water for about 5-10 seconds longer and then let it sit in the sink with the drainage holes over the drain. If it’s still pretty light in weight after the first watering, I’ll usually water the same way again, but otherwise it should be good to go for 4-7 days, depending on the warmth, size of roots/amount of roots, sunlight, and humidity the plants are exposed to on a daily basis.

IMG_3167
Not many plants on this side of the room yet – this’ll change quickly come November!

For now, we have just a couple of houseplants in our new plant nursery, but they’ll be more very soon with cool weather on the way! I’m also excited for our plant room come winter because our white wicker bookshelf and the large cafe table will provide wonderful places to set up seedling operations come Christmas and New Years. We visited different farms on a farm tour this weekend, and one of the farmers we visited recommended that we do fewer vegetables as direct seed and more as seed starters indoors, so I imagine we’ll use this space quickly if we’re to try more onions and such for the spring. In the meantime, while it becomes darker and gloomier outside, we’ll brighten up our house with lots of green on the inside!

 

We’ve put down roots!

Roots.png

I think my first post back can be summarized in a series of emojis, most of which would just be a variety of crying/worried faces and ecstatic faces, followed by an exhausted face. Exhausted is where we are now, because we’ve finally moved!

IMG_3015.JPG

I last left you hanging with hopeful thoughts about a previous home – all in all, since we met our realtor this past January, we’ve browsed hundreds of homes online, seen dozens in person, and tried to buy FOUR homes. Yes, four. And that comes to the point of why I stopped writing this summer – between grad school and my emotional instability from swinging from ecstatic excitement to utter disappointment, I was more in the mood to live under a blanket and sleep rather than face the stress. I had zero motivation and zero interest in writing or doing anything but attempting to hold on to my cats for emotional support.

IMG_2994
My moving helpers. 

Thankfully, the fourth home came through for us – and it’s probably the nicest and most well-kept option we had seen. I’ve previously discussed what Evan and have been looking for in a homestead, and while this house doesn’t have the acreage, it has the beautiful patio, blank backyard ripe for gardening, and plenty of space for the three of us (me, Evan, and Evan’s mother) to spread out and enjoy a variety of spaces. We have a formal dining room, an ample studio space in the basement, a two-car garage, gorgeous patio, front parlor, and a master bathroom off our bathroom (this is one of my favorite spaces!).

IMG_3066
We love our patio time – and I love my cat mug. 
IMG_3412.JPG
Olivia is testing out the fireplace ledge. 

We’ve already experienced our first power outage and survived happily with the help of some oil lamps my mother gifted us, but we found out that our fire alarms work a little too well – the little bit of smoke that comes off the lamps set them off! There’s a lot of little things to get used to – stuff like the heat settings on the stove to the white carpet (and yes, my cats have christened this multiple times…). It’s been an adventure, and we’re so proud and excited to finally be homeowners and to be happily located in a central location for both our jobs.

IMG_9701
I fondly call this dining room the Audubon Parlor – the wallpaper is flush with birds!

 

Our plans for our suburban homestead include developing narrow beds with no till practices, building a chicken coop in the spring and adding a couple of chickens to our family, developing our patio with permaculture like blueberries and blackberries plus herbs, and so much more. We’ve been outside on our gorgeous patio almost every night, enjoying the beautiful sounds of the night insects and cicadas, even here in the heart of our town. Welcome to the suburban Epperson homestead!

IMG_3014.JPG

Limbo

limbo.png

“Limbo” is an accurate summary of my last few months. We started the official house hunt in mid-March, and after one failed house closing, one lost offer, and now an offer on a third we’re waiting on pins and needles. We’ve tried for a lake house with 2 acres, a hidden country property on ten acres with plenty of moles and farm cats to go around, and now a 1/4 acre house only a few houses away from our rental with a lovely yard for a suburban garden and plenty of space for some chickens.

We’ve spent the last two months, and even the months before that, being entirely unsure of our summer plans. We agonized all Christmas over how much to plant this year – do we risk losing a garden when we move, or just plant them all in planters (a more expensive and far less sustainable method for us)? The difficulty and frustration we had over the home meant so much more time finding comforts to solve our unhappiness rather than actually keeping up the garden and seedlings (read: we watched too much Netflix rather than having the discussions we needed to about what to do with the seedlings and start a fertilizing schedule). The stress sucks. But hey, if you’ve bought a house, then you know my pain. So what to do? Succumb to the stress and barely do house chores because you might be moving, so it can wait until a deep clean during the move? (So the spiders start building bigger webs in my basement…) Start thinking about moving boxes but get so depressed after perusing Realtor.com for 15 minutes and find nothing even close to being worth it? (Those boxes are empty…)

Being in limbo is a horrible feeling. Every decision about my home and my finances (can I buy a new work shirt this week for my new summer restaurant job, or should I save it for a new security system potentially in my future?) are tied to this homestead dream. Sometimes – no, most of the time – chasing this dream feels like dating as a teenager all over again – dragged around in the misery of puppy love, flirtations, the crushing denial of being distant and cool, flightiness, and unplanned, spontaneous meetings. So tonight, contemplating what to do if yet another house lets us down, I’ve decided to make a few decisions that keep my mind more rooted and to lower my anxiety throughout this process.

First, I’m going to make sure that I’m maintaining my house as best as I can despite the potential moving process. I have patches of spackling all around the house – time to actually touch up with paint and move on. The kitchen and bathroom deep cleaning? Still need to regularly happen. My cobweb-infested basement? Yup, time to unleash the vacuum. For me, a clean home keeps a clean mind – when we have gone to see homes and they are messy and cluttered, I totally feel the resulting anxiety from viewing cramped and unkempt spaces. Why should I continue to invite anxiety into my safe space at home simply by neglecting my work?

Secondly, time to tackle the projects I’ve been putting off that don’t depend on a house structure. Our bar cabinet has crooked hinges on one side, I have a pile of teacher to-do’s regarding long-range planning and concept plans, and I haven’t had a sewing project in ages. I have a stack of coupons ready for fabric purchases – time to attack Pinterest! We’ve been half-trying to introduce our cats to my mother-in-law’s cat, and without much success – time to hunker down and start positive associations and psychology work.

Third, I want to use the time I have to work on building my creativity and options for stress outlets. I’ve been meaning to write more on my blog, to start new sewing projects, and to find new ways to organize my small office creatively. Our library has a summer reading challenge and the reward is coupons for local businesses and a wealth of additional knowledge. My day times are now free for yoga, walks, or work in the backyard – or, better yet, time spent reading or sun-bathing in a new above-ground pool we splurged on this weekend from Target.

The point is that the house frustrations can’t be the reason for my summer grinding to a halt, my stress to be through the roof, or my home and possessions to be a jumbled mess. Life continues on, with or without a new 30-year loan, and it’s time to keep going along with it.

 

Summer Goals

Copy of graduation.png

It hasn’t quite hit me yet – that the usual, daily grind has been postponed for a couple of months. Part of it has to do with my current misery – I’ve been coughing and sick for a couple of days now, coming to a head last night when I came down with a low fever and spent most of my evening huddled beneath blankets and binge-watching HBO. Tonight, I’m at least upright, and this time it’s binge-watching Hulu, but still – I’m not poolside, or even gardenside, by any means.

When I have unbooked time, I habitually create goals. Sometimes it’s just vacuuming and laundry, others it’s plant a whole garden. With two and a half months ahead of me, let’s see what I can do with the time and willpower I have.

1. Grow food!

With the homestead shopping spree still remaining that – shopping, not purchasing – we have piles of seedlings in our window sill with no destination. If we plant now, we’ll move without our seedlings (I joke that’s the only way to find “the” house – by planting the garden, we’ll jinx ourselves into finding the “one” the next day). We had hoped to have a plan by now, but to be honest, there isn’t one. I’m thinking we’ll go ahead and resort to what we did four years ago at our last house – a patio garden! It’s hardly sustainable, and goes against almost all of our hopes and dreams for improving soil, but growing in pots does provide homes for our seedlings and food for our table.

2. Finish my certificate.

For the last two summers, I’ve been working on levels I and II towards my Kodaly methodology certification – each level is offered for 5 hours graduate credit at Wichita State with a two week, ultra-intense course in the beginning of June. Since getting my level I, I have found a wonderful and satisfying new path with my teaching – a child-centered approach that uses folk songs from our student’s cultural traditions, all while enhancing their music literacy abilities to the fullest. This year will be my last of three levels to complete – which will bring me not only my status up to “Kodaly-certified teacher” but also my master’s degree status to “15 hours completed” – and this fall I’ll start in on the rest of my coursework to finish a master’s.

3. Buy a @#$^ house already!

Can you tell I’m feeling frustrated? I heard an NPR report that said in this past quarter of housing sales, houses have sold faster than they ever had in a decade. I can’t tell you how many houses we’ve looked at or gotten ready to look at only to arrive and find out an offer (or 3) was already on the house. It’s exhausting. It’s tiring. We’re at the point where we are happy to get a house with a big backyard just so we can build equity with something, but even that has been hard to find! It’s really stressing me out, so that means I probably ought to…

4. Take a yoga class or learn to meditate.

This school year, especially the last few months, have been stressful. I’m ashamed to admit how often I’ve broken down in tears or how often my husband has gotten some kind of exhausted or facepalm emoji through text the last couple of months. I. Need. A. Break. I’ve barely had time for myself, none for my friends or family, much less patience for any of the aforementioned. I’m going to start with some organizing to help me feel in order and then just some plain old sleep. It’s wonderful how therapeutic being in the garden can be, so as soon as I feel up for some exposure to allergens I’ll head out to the garden to weed and explore with the kitties.

Longterm, it would not be a bad plan for my mental health to establish a yoga or meditation routine. Even YouTube has some fabulous guides and gurus, and quite honestly I just need to step up and recognize how much I need this and do it already!

5. Get some thorough work done on my long-term planning.

In order to know what to teach, you need to have an end goal for your students – what do you want them to know when they leave your classroom at the end of your school year together? From there, when do you want to teach those goals, and how? With what resources or focuses? I want to take time to develop my concept plans and long-term planning, now that I’m entering my fourth year of teaching. My first several years were about experimenting, surviving, trying new things, and seeing what fits – how long it takes to teach a concept, that sort of thing. Now that I feel like I have the handle of it, it’s time to think broader, more deeply, and with more effectiveness.

 

Most of all, I want to spend time with myself, my friends, my family, and to relax. After all, it is summer.

Graduation

IMG_2483.JPG

It’s that time of year – wrapping up lesson plans and packing away supplies for the summer, endless graduation parties, saying goodbye to our students. For me, it’s a particularly-tough end of the year, saying goodbye to a hundred little faces that I’ve loved for the last two years. Part of the heart-wrenching part of working for a school district is just that – we work for a district, not a school, and our contract isn’t tied to a building. With numbers and circumstances changing, one of my school assignments is changing, so today I gave hugs and love to my little ones as I said goodbye on their last day of music.

While for so many, the end of the school year marks the end of an era – the end of 5th grade, the end of college, and, for some teachers, then end of a career. As I sit here on the couch, nursing a late-spring fever and miserable cough, I’m reminded that it’s never really the end, but merely the restart of another lap around the track. We’ll toast to the end of another year, schedule vacations, put our feet up, but we start the preparation for next fall as soon as our students walk out the door. Come this fall, we’ll be greeted with a similar batch of excited, beaming faces intermixed with tired, unsure ones and still need to inspire them to the same results through our teaching. We’ll face the same, miserable stacks of paperwork, exciting workshops with new ideas, complain about the same types of issues, celebrate the victories, and face that student that just makes you want to cry after trying everything. (Today, I had that student laugh at me and try to hurt me by saying that I must be getting fired if I’m moving schools, to my dismay and to the shock of all his classmates. Unfortunately, no explanation would persuade him from thinking it was the truth – and I left today hoping dearly I had made some kind of difference in this poor child’s education, with all the struggles we’ve had. It was not a good morning.)

But alas, the years don’t always get to end with a perfect, wonderful goodbye – sometimes they are messy and imperfect. All we can do is learn from each day and let it (hopefully) influence the next experience for the better. For a teacher, our years are a cycle, of hard months to exciting months, of challenging students to sweet notes on Valentine’s Day, of evening concerts to a much-needed summer vacation. While our students may close their books and move to the next school or graduate from their last classroom ever, we continue in the cycle – to rinse, refresh, be inspired, and begin again.

Happy summer, my friends.

All Quiet on the Home Front

IMG_2248

It’s been far too long since I’ve been able to sit down and write. In fact, this is the first night I’ve really been home and not been running off to meetings, concerts, projects, or heading out of town. My poor kitties won’t leave me alone when I’m home, they’ve missed me so much! Olivia, in the picture above, has missed going outside with me, so the last couple of days we’ve been trying to stock up on some more outdoor exploration time with her brother and I.

On the home front, all is quiet, unfortunately. We chose to retract our offer on the lake house we were pursuing a few weeks ago. It was relieving and disappointing all at once – we had made it all through the inspection process when we found out that it needed some significant electrical, HVAC, and roofing improvements in addition to nearly $200 a month in flood insurance. I’ve learned to always check the county website and verify flood insurance requirements and whether or not homeowner’s associations restrict the property FIRST, rather than find out what zoning requirements are on the land AFTER the offer has been made. To be honest, the stress of the financial burden we were facing was starting to physically and emotionally hurt. While there were 2.5 acres of promising land with which to be sustainable, the comfort gathered from growing your own food can only outweigh the risk of financial ruin so much.

We said ‘goodbye’ to this vacation home, this house with it’s own dock and hundred-year elm trees behind the pole barn. After letting go, we spent a week or so refusing to think about moving. The headache, the money we couldn’t refund from the inspection and appraisal fees, the dozens of documents we had to collect and upload to our bank – we just couldn’t do the exhausting, stressful cycle all over again so soon. We focused on moving my mother-in-law up from Wichita and being astounded at Cattigan’s new defensiveness towards the new cat in the house (a small child came to visit the house once and he hid behind the couch because the baby moved, and now the same cat is prowling around the door to the guest bedroom and is intent on jumping Sharon’s cat if she ever emerges).

IMG_2258
My mother-in-law definitely shares in our love of all green things – I drove back home with this happy jungle of hers in my front seat! 

After a bit, we began to see houses again, and the last handful or so have come close but not quite good enough – either no place for my mother-in-law, not enough space in the backyard, or out of our price range, or some combination of the three. We have another one to visit tomorrow, a fixer upper on 5 acres just 5 minutes from town, about which I am cautiously optimistic – there are apparently horrible urine smells and the house has been filled to the brim with hoarded items, but if the bones are good, we could do a lot with a cheap home and flip it to be our little dream home. It’s half the price of the lake house property – and we’d be paying 30% less on a mortgage than we currently pay in rent. Plus, what better time to create a truly green space – energy-efficient appliances, recycled materials countertops, energy-efficient windows, solar panels, and more.

In the meantime, I’m spending my afternoons shoving my new little flower plantings back into their containers and shooing the scavenging squirrels away as we wind down the school year. Only five more days with students and then it’s time to take 5 more hours of my masters program – and we’re off to summer!

Who Rescued Who?

cats.png

It’s high time I introduced our cats to everyone! These two sweethearts have our hearts wrapped around their little claws, and you’ll only see more and more of them as our homestead journey continues.

This summer marks year 2 with Olivia and year 4 with Cattigan, and no, they aren’t siblings. These goofballs have become fast friends (as evidenced by their occasional brawls and excessive amounts of cuddling) thanks to some careful introductions.

Cattigan is our senior cat, somewhere around age 11, and he’s a big softie. When we first brought him home from the store where he was a store cat, the big guy clocked in at a whopping 18 pounds! Thanks to a steady diet, his hyperactive sibling, and an unfortunate spat with diabetes this winter, he’s dropped down closer to 12 pounds and is back to chasing squirrels and prancing around. His old name used to be Caesar, and he is very much our little prince – he tucks his paws in, sits with his chest puffed out and proud, and chirps at us all day long. His meow is a strange one – he makes more of a sound between a “bruff” and a “mehrow” that is a little rough around the edges, but is very signature “Cattigan.”

Catti had a rough start to life – he was raised in a house full of cats that stressed him out and made him terrified of not getting fed enough, so he ate everyone’s food and got very fat very quickly. When he lived at a store downtown, he got affection when he was fed once a day, but his poor owners were allergic to him and couldn’t bring him out into the store very often, so he spent most days lonely and craving attention.

IMG_1288When he came home with us, he had a pretty severe eating disorder – come dinner, he’d refuse to eat and cry unless you sat with him and petted him, and once settled he’d wolf down the food so quickly he’d vomit it right back up. The poor guy ended up needing his food spread into four meals a day and lots of petting and encouragement to finally find the perfect balance of food and affection without the terror of never being fed again.

Nowadays, he’s living a happy, comfortable retirement, spending his days sleeping next to the warm vents in the house or curled up in our laps. Our big teddy bear loves his humans, that’s for sure!

Our spunky Olivia came home from the humane society with a nasty kennel cough, rough fur, an insane energy level, and a timid loyalty for her new humans. When we adopted her, her name was “Lucky” – she was rescued as a stray and had a litter of kittens with her, and the poor girl was barely a year old! Cattigan got his name as a play on “The Great Mouse Detective” – the big bad rat, voiced by Vincent Price, was named Rattigan, so our cat became Cattigan. That meant that our next kitty needed to follow in the same family, so we picked Olivia, after the little girl mouse that gets kidnapped in the movie. (If you know the movie, we joke that the next kitty ought to be named “Fidget” and be a three-legged, black cat – special cats need the most love, after all!)

Sweet Olivia took nearly six months to fully warm up to us and balance her diet so her skin and fur could improve, but now she is my loyal bedtime companion and practically beats Cattigan to the door to greet us when we get home. She is a spunky girl that chirps and paws after birds through the window and even has her own dedicated wall stairs for climbing and adventuring.

IMG_1160
Human is not amused by parrot-cat.

She loves to patrol the garage for mice and ride on her humans like a parrot, rocket through the living room and roll in the dirt outside. Her energy peaks and troughs are hilarious to watch – she will be bounce around the house like a rubber band, but when she’s down to sleep she’s as limp as a rag doll. Wake her up too soon and she sleepily blinks at you and drags herself into the living room to stare at you with heavy lids and slow limbs. She’s not a delicate thing, by any means, often sitting with feet spread apart like she’s ready to bolt at any moment, but she can weave under furniture, bound over tables, ricochet off walls, and change directions mid-air.

These two rescued goofballs bring light and cuddles to our home, and we are so grateful we get to share our lives with them! “Who rescued who?”, indeed!

IMG_1281