Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Breaking Down Compost- the nitty gritty of it

  • 1. A mixture of organic matter, as from leaves and manure, that has decayed or has been digested by organisms, used to improve soil structure and provide nutrients. Webster's dictionary

  • Like any good gardener I have a pile of rotting roughage off in the far corner of my property. Out of respect, we call it a compost bin. There in lies all things foul and stinky: barn muck, stall crud, coop poop, gross egg shells, leaves, moldy hay- you get the picture. In order to become a bit more respectable in the department of garden knowledge, I have taken a few classes on compost.

    Proper compost bears no foul odor, is not compacted, and has a healthy green-to-brown ratio. Not only do leaves, bark, and pine needles go in, but there needs to be a hearty does of veggie debris, grass or yard clippings, and the like. Compost needs to be damp; watered regularly to keep moisture at a proper level. There must be stirring or turning of the bin or pile to encourage heat distribution and adequate break down of debris. Who knew?

    Okay, so I don't have the best practices when it comes to my compost pile- I have never turned it, water only happens when rain comes, and uh, no veggies or grass clippings have ever graced the bin. Whoops! Moving on..

    Compost should be added to gardens areas yearly in colder climates or twice a year in warm, southern climates (mine). Once a season ends, working a hearty helping of compost into the plot replenishes nutrients preparing the soil to support new plantings. Flower beds or beds already planted will benefit from some side dressing or top composting- simply placing a light layer of compost around the base of your plants offers them a nice boost of nutrition.

    Okay, I did get that one right. Our soil is worked over between plantings and often side dressed while plants are in the ground. Compost tea is a great vitamin shot for hearty plants, flowers, and sturdy herbs (don't do it when you are about to harvest and never spray it on lettuce! Think ecoli.)

    The reality is- there is a lot of advice about compost- some is experience based and some is research based. My practice falls somewhere in the middle. The intention of my garden and compost is to do the best I can with what I have and the time I have to do it in. There is always room to improve!

    A few side notes:
    Never add fats or animal protein- that will make a rancid mess and attract unwelcome pests.
    Egg shells are excellent for adding calcium to the mix.
    There are accelerators/activators on the market to hurry up the decomp process.
    Worms are always a welcome sign of healthy compost.


    Monday, March 23, 2015

    Beautiful Sighting

    Luna Moth
    Actias luna (Linaeus, 1758)
    Sometimes called the American Moon Moth
    This beautiful Luna moth rested calmly on our homestead during a long day of intermittent rain. Most we have found have wing spans around 4", yet this one was rather on the small side. I love when the Lunas drift in from the woods during the night attracted by the light over our shop door. Some mornings the side of our barn area is covered with them.
    Identification: Hindwings have long curving tails. Wings are pale green, each with a transparent eyespot. Outer margins are pink in the southern spring brood, yellow in the southern summer brood and in northern populations.
    Wing Span: 2 15/16 - 4 1/8 inches (7.5 - 10.5 cm).
    Life History: Adults are very strong fliers and are attracted to lights. Mating takes place after midnight, and egg-laying begins that evening. Females lay eggs in small groups or singly on both surfaces of host plant leaves. The eggs hatch in about one week and the caterpillars are sedentary and solitary feeders. Leaves and silk are used to spin papery brown cocoons in litter under the host plant.
    Flight: One brood from May-July in the north, two to three broods from March-September in the south.
    Caterpillar Hosts: A variety of trees including white birch (Betula papyrifera), persimmon (Diospyros virginiana), sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua), hickories (Carya), walnuts (Juglans), and sumacs (Rhus).
    Adult Food: Adults do not feed.
    Habitat: Deciduous hardwood forests.
    Range: Common. Nova Scotia west to Saskatchewan and eastern North Dakota; south to central Florida, the Gulf Coast, and eastern Texas.
    exert from:

    Wednesday, March 18, 2015

    Pondering the Coming Change

    Things are changing. Everywhere I turn it seems more and more difficult to recognize my surroundings. Outside my door the weather changes daily as we move from one season to the next. Cold is followed by rain that inevitably reveals the sun. Bare trees unfurl their leaves and seedlings appear overnight. Transformation is inevitable. It is healthy. It is also hard. These changes fell trees, kill week living things, and bring challenges to new growth.

    Along with the changing weather seasons comes changing family seasons. Children grow up, spread their wings, and move on. This is inevitable. It is healthy. It is also hard. These changes alter a home, realign a routine, and cause need to reflect on a lifestyle. Family changes cause us to look deep into ourselves and rediscover what we are at our core. Less distraction, less demanded focus, brings me to a point of challenge- what needs my attention now.
    Changes in season also occur in jobs. My husband and I both face the possibility of change in this area; and uncertainty that brings strain and strive. Financial uncertainty is a challenge in and of itself; one that rocks a home at its foundation. This change to is inevitable. It can be healthy, but it is painfully hard. When you have built a life around these things, change is like an earthquake. You can recover from it, but things are never the same.

    The remainder of this month finds me and my homestead digging deep, looking hard, and pondering the coming change. It is time to redefine our focus and mold our lives toward the new and coming seasons. Our children are in college; one married and with a child of her own. Our homestead has suffered fallen trees, wear and tear bringing a need for change. Our jobs are uncertain, bringing a need to knuckle down and search long and hard for the next step.

    During this time the blog is 'under construction'. I will be seeking help in redesigning and refocusing the purpose and content. While I deeply love writing, educating, and meeting so many wonderful people through this space it is hard to tell if there is any impact or interest still remaining- or if the direction needs to change in order to meet interest.

    Thank you for bearing with me during this time of change.

    Friday, March 13, 2015

    Regarding Quilting

    Recently there have been some questions as to quilting; more specifically, my quilting services. Let me answer a few.

    Do you still quilt?
    Yes I do, though not as often as in the past. The reason is simple: working during the day and trying to learn machine quilting.

    What happened to your Etsy shop?
    Simply Scaife Handmade has been temporarily closed. While it seemed to have a small following and we did sell some items, it just wasn't making progress. The future of the sight is not decided.

    Are you still available for quilt piecing and finishing?
    I am, but the process may take a bit longer due to the fact I am working during the day. No pressing projects are on the table right now, but things can change.

    What are the fees for your services?
    Simply Scaife Handmade


    Layette     Crib     Twin     Full     Queen     King
    $60          $100    $120    $140   $160       $180

    Quilt Piecing

    Layette     Crib     Twin     Full     Queen     King
    $50          $75      $90      $105   $120       $135
    * hand applique or intricate patterns add $15

    Finishing Services

    Layette     Crib     Twin     Full     Queen     King
    $5             $5        $10      $15      $20     $25  

    **quilt repair is priced by evaluation of work needed and size of quilt.

    All fabrics, batting is reimbursed at cost.
    Thread is included in fees.

    Shipping is priced at flat rate prices.
    Quilts are worked in a smoke free/pet free home either on a frame or in a hoop.

    I do ask that all commission work begin with a $50 deposit which will be applied to the final cost.

    If you have more questions regarding quilting services or our shop, please feel free to leave them in the comments or email me directly at

    Tuesday, March 10, 2015

    Technical Difficulties- I was not cut out for machinery!

    Okay, okay- I broke it again! Can I just say that in all my years of sewing I have never had so much trouble with one. This sucker is finicky. Three baby size quilt tops were cranked out since the last mess and here we go again.

    Before you recite the very same words my father said- no, it is not a bent needle. Yes, I checked. Yes, I change it. For whatever reason my top thread is catching on the right side of the bobbin case (inside the bobbin area). No obvious barbs or snag that I see or feel, just seems too tight for the thread to move smoothly. So frustrating!

    After much research and a lot of frustrating disassembly, it seems these problems are common to my particular machine and it's family. Some issues are relieved slightly by very frequent cleaning and oiling in the bobbin well. Yuck. I mean, have you ever taken a large sewing machine bobbin area apart? Grief.

    So what do you do? Today, I shut the door to my sewing room- declared that persnickety machine dead to me- and pulled out 'old faithful'. I pulled out my standard, box store special, Singer home sewing machine. It still knows how to function without throwing a fit!

    Until next time- my fancy, froofroo million dollar baby is in an extended time out and the faithful little machine that could is called to action. Back to the stitching, ladies!

    AND- just let me say- THE NEEDLE WAS NOT BENT!!!!  (this time)

    Tuesday, March 3, 2015

    Harvesting Today: Swiss Chard

    Today was long and full of wonderful moments; children's creativity, adult's inspiration, and garden wonder. As my day drew to a close, Ben and I meandered through the garden for a few last minute chores before the sun set. In the corner of my greenhouse beautiful Swiss Chard stood stately and tall, ready for harvest.

    Chard is a leafy green often used in Mediterranean cooking. Believe it or not, it is related to beetroot; the seeds look almost exactly like beets, as does the sprout. Chard is loaded with vitamins A, K, and C as well as a multitude of minerals, fiber and protein. I love the fact chard seems to tolerate our climate fairly well and is a great 'cut and come again' green.

    Fresh young, or baby chard is excellent in salads and smoothies- I love green smoothies, however, the more mature chard leaves can be a bit bitter. With the older leaves I generally cut the stems away, leaving them for the stock pot, and sauté them in the same manner as kale or spinach.

    After harvesting chard, I like to give it a nice soak in the sink to clear out bugs, dirt and other not-so-nice's that may be lurking in the little crevices. Chard freezes well and is similar to frozen spinach. Some people blanch it first, but I just toss it in the bag.

    This evening, the chard was tossed with a bit of olive oil, crushed red pepper and a splash of lemon. Leftover roast beef was added just to warm it through. All was set on a bed of brown rice seasoned with broth. What a wonderful end to a long and lovely day.