Patio Pizza Pots

Grow bags are a something I learned about in quarantine. Their name describes them precisely. These are bags meant for growing! Since grow bags are made of fabric, aeration and drainage are optimal versus the common plastic or terra cotta flower pots. They can be sourced online or even made on a sewing machine. While just about any supply was out of stock in stores during lock-down, I was able to purchase this pack of bags from the big name we dare not mention. Although I took the easy route to obtaining these bags, they can be sewn with many types of fabric. A couple of patrons sewed dozens of grow bags in our makerspace, Creation Station to plant sapling apple trees in the making of a small orchard.

How to Sew a Grow Bag

If you have the will to make your own bags, follow these instructions from Northern Homestead. They recommend using weed control landscape fabric to make the bags instead of using it under your mulch in the garden beds. I concur that landscape fabric has little weed control ability and am certainly intrigued to make bags with the roll I purchased, but never used.

The bags I purchased are durable, more so than the landscape fabric will create, but I’m willing to test that theory for curious minds. Perhaps making grow bags will be a lesson we cover in an upcoming #SeWednesday. Whatd’ya think?

Grow Bags First Test with Ginger

Ginger was a crop I learned to grow this season. I also learned she’s a temperamental girl in this Northeast climate. Our spring literally sprung temperatures to both extremes. It was deceptive weather patterns and an anxious gardener that helped hinder the health of the green sprouts you see above, but the grow bags had their first test and won my approval! For a second try, I decided to put to test a program idea that was in development with Bluebird Trail Farm before our lives were flipped for the foreseeable future. Let me walk you through making a Pizza Patio Pot.

Tomato Plant First Aid with Grow Bags

The main ingredient of pizza, after dough, is tomato sauce. A neighbor gifted me a flat of tomato plants–that’s 32 plants! My empty garden beds filled quickly, leaving about 12 plants that still needed love. I took the strongest of the leftovers along with the grow bags and attempted a little tomato plant first aid. Extreme day sun and another frost bit these plants hard, but I wanted to see how much resuscitation I could actually provide, while possibly inspiring some of our readers.

Potted Plants are Happy Again

Using the recipe for Square Foot Gardening, I filled up three bags with the materials I had left. Each bag holds seven gallons of dirt, so I felt it worth the risk to place 2 tomato plants in each bag. I had three beets and three basil plants to add to these pots and decided they could be the most delicious Pizza Patio Pots for any gardener. *I would add beets to my pizza, yes I would. For those opposed to beets on pizza, I recommend adding herbs like oregano and parsley that you like in tomato sauce.

Protection from Wood Chips

After the bags were filled with the growing medium, I wanted to add a layer of wood chips as mulch. As I added the layer of chips to finish each bag, I cupped my hand to cover the tiny basil plant and protect the leaves from damage. I often get lost in the YouTube rabbit hole of curiosities and found these Back to Eden garden tours with Paul Gautschi who recognizes the power of wood chips for bountiful gardens. This was just another layer of experimentation to my experiment. Would the wood chip layer help maintain moisture to the plants, while feeding the plants with nutrients as the chips break down throughout the season? Watch a video with Paul if you have a few hours to be inspired by his admiration for nature’s free fertilizer.

Pizza Pots in Process

Once each grow bag had their layer of wood chips, it was time to water these puppies and let them process their magic over the growing season. We saw the driest June and July in over a decade of living in the Fingers Lakes, so the little green watering can was my best friend for several weeks. I kept the bags on the grass, so water can flow right through, but they can be place on a patio or porch, as long as they receive enough sunlight. Remember water will flow through, so if you might want to protect the surface upon which you place these pots. I found that baking sheets work very well for keeping the water from sitting on a wooden porch step. Any liquid that is collected gets absorbed over time.

The Three Amigas

After four weeks, the towering tomato plants above are those I resuscitated. Either the wood chips or an attentive gardener helped them regain health. Each plant is starting to provide cherry tomatoes. The beet leaves are growing large and luscious. I look forward to a fresh salad with them soon. I implemented branches as a support system so the stem stay upright. You could opt for tomato cages instead.

Jesse Beardslee of Themis and Thread

Join me as we continue the #SeWednesday series, Work with Whatch Got. The talented Jesse Beardslee of Themis and Thread and Hector Handmade will guide us on how to sew an Upcycled Waistband or Separate Belt using materials we already have in our closets. Follow this link to watch the premiere this Wednesday, July 22 a 6pm EST.

When you’re finished with the tutorial, set your scopes for the skies. July 22 is our last chance to easily catch a glimpse of Comet NEOWISE for another 6,800 years! Be sure to reach a high vista for the best view. I am waiting for my chance to show the snapshot skills I built in the Photo Fun with Dan Gallagher class we hosted over the weekend. My Nikon is charged and ready, I hope you are as well.

FREE, LIVE and IN PERSON Yoga Series

We have a terrific announcement for all aspiring yogis. The Yoga with Elizabeth Moses video series we have hosted online since lock-down is now in person at area parks for the next six Saturdays! Please mark your calendars to travel our coverage area and practice sun salutations in together in nature! July 25 and August 1 are our first park visit. Set your GPS for Caton Park, 1180 Riff Rd, Corning, NY 14830.

Stay creative and keep in touch until we meet again.

That’s a wrap for this stationary moment. I’ll check you on the flip side!

e’Scape Plan

My escape plan each evening tends to lead to my garden. Warm weather leaves me craving fresh air and birdsong. A mindful gardener is always at the ready to harvest and process their bounty in preparation of the pending seasons of cold.

It is by virtue of living in the Finger Lakes (#FLX) region that I discovered the delicacy we will discuss today. This type of tinkering is far from the electronic tech stuff we explore in our maker space, Creation Station, but I dare you not to geek out on the genetic code of garlic. It’s a super food and I told myself I’d marry it one day. (Ha!) I believe I’ve achieved that marital status, as the crop is the easiest to maintain and provides two harvests per planting. Garlic is the double duty power plant you need in your homestead (and when I say homestead, that’s anything you call your dwelling—my first “homestead” gardens were in pots and tin cans on a curbside in Philadelphia). Space is not a major concern for this allium. Give a clove a six inch dirt covering to rest inside in the fall and it will show its gratitude as the first green shoot to pop out of the ground in spring.

Garlic in May, before the Scapes Soar

While I’m busy prepping and planting my remaining garden beds in spring, Garlic is growing and showing off. By late June, the flower stem begins to develop and curl. That is the scape. Once the scape curls, I harvest it by cutting it off of the plant a few inches above the leaves, which allows for more nutrients to go directly to the bulb.

More than 2.5 Pounds of Garlic Scapes to Process

Once washed and dried, I weighed my bounty to assess just how much I could make of each recipe I found in this video. I really love the Garlic Scape Powder recommendation, but Pesto and Pickled Scapes are a favorite in our home, so garlic powder will wait until I harvest the rest of the plant in a few weeks. I decided to put up a batch of pickled scapes to eat throughout the year and process a couple cups of Garlic Scape Pesto to enjoy now.

Fresh Garlic Scape Pesto Process

I used the New York Times recipe for this batch of garlic pesto, but there are many options to choose. You can omit the cheese to keep this recipe vegan. The flavor is still wonderful. What I also love about this recipe is using inexpensive sunflower seeds in place of pine nuts. I have replaced pine nuts for walnuts in pesto recipes previously , but am aware that practice is not safe for nut-free homes.

Check out that fresh basil in the lower middle frame above. THAT basil is from a hydroponic plant I got at the grocery store in April. Remember when we made Chunky Knit Planters? Recall that plant in the final product?? Yep, that’s the one! Harvesting from my kitchen table is incredible.

Prepping the Pickles

In order to can the garlic scapes for pickling, I cut off the tips of the harvested end and the flower. Some people prefer to cut their scapes to straight lines for ease of packing, but I prefer to preserve the spiral. We think the curl is the most unique feature of this delicacy, so a little more time in preparation makes for a beautiful presentation.

Steamy Stockpot of Sterilized Jars

Before I start preparing the garlic scapes to be canned, I sterilized the jars in a stockpot with at least an inch of water covering them. I learned from a rustic homesteader that a rack is not required under the jars to protect the glass, so I go rogue. You might choose to follow more strict processing rules at the Ball Jar website. Once the water comes to a boil, I know the jars are sterilized and safe for use. I take them from the water bath to dry and fill each one like it is a work of art.

Filling the Jars

Using a chopstick that I sterilized in the hot water bath, I gently push down each garlicky curl. I work to keep the flower end of each curl up, so that it acts as a handle for the person who grabs it. I ensure no curls are tangled and continue to fill the jar, leaving a half inch of head space. Any straight portions of scape get stuffed in the center to completely pack the jar.

Scapes and Scraps

The bounty of scapes I harvested equaled 6 pints for pickling after making the pesto. The bowl of scraps will go to the compost bin for fertilizing the new crop this fall. Once the jars were filled, I made the brine. This Pickled Garlic Scapes recipe from Home in the Finger Lakes was very helpful and the first recipe I tried several years ago. If you don’t have pickling spice mix in your cupboard, use approximately 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns and 1 teaspoon of dill per pint. If you are a pickling guru, you may have a favorite brine recipe to share in the comments. I put the spices into each jar for equal proportions, then pour the brine over everything, allowing a 1/2 inch of headspace per jar.

Chopsticks help keep down the Scapes

As the brine fills the jar, the scapes tend to also rise, so I use the chopstick as a stopper. I hold down the scapes for a few seconds and watch them blanch into a vibrant bright green. At that moment, they seem to back down from the rise, which allows me to wipe the jar rim and place the lids on top for sealing.

Sealing it Up

We learned in our Homesteading Series at Bluebird Trail Farm in 2019 that the best way to seal your jars is to hold down the lid with one finger, while applying the screw ring with the other hand and twist to close. Then grab a towel to hold the hot jar and tighten the lid with the other hand.

Spicy Pickles

Two jars were reserved as spicy pickles. I added 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper to each jar, then realized I needed a way to mark these separate from the rest of the batch. Using chunks of fresh garlic, I used this as my marking system, which worked better than labeling the jars with marker that could contaminate the water bath.

Get in the Bath!

Each jar was then gently placed into the bubbling water bath and processed for 10 minutes. This gave me time to clean up the kitchen and prepare a pasta meal with pesto and fresh veggies. After the jars boil for 10 minutes, they can be removed from the pot of water and allowed to rest for 24 hours, undisturbed. The best part of the whole process is hearing that distinct “pop” of a lid sealing properly outside of the water bath. It’s like perfect science.

Fresh and Fermenting

I usually take the pot off of the hot burner and allow everything to cool overnight. Once I’m ready to put them up, each jar will be labeled with the ingredients, so we know what’s inside. These jars make perfect gifts during the holidays and are a great addition to any barbecue or pot luck meal. A recent study found that consumption of fermented foods are linked to low Covid-19 mortality. Pickles could be the perfect food, after all.

Zoom on Saturday

Pivoting from the e’Scape plan, let’s talk about future things. There are still a few hours to register for Photo Fun with Dan Gallagher. This class will guide you through using an interchangeable lens camera or SLR. The Southeast Steuben County Library hosted a similar class last summer and all attendees proved better portfolios and family photos with credit to Dan’s excellent teaching.

Work with Whatcha Got

Check out this video, in case you missed the first of a three part series for #SeWednesday. Jesse Bearsdlee guides viewers on how to upcycle or repurpose old clothes into a new ensemble. We learned how to make a bodice in part one. Follow this link to join us for part two on July 22 at 6pm EST. Learn how to Work with Whatcha Got, Upcycled Dress Waistband or Separate Belt.” This video series is made possible in part by the QuickARTS grant program administered by The ARTS Council of the Southern Finger Lakes and funded by the Community Foundation of Elmira-Corning and the Finger Lakes, Inc.

That’s a wrap for this stationary moment. I’ll catch you on the flip side!

Sacred Herb Spiral

As I prepared for the end of days with the Great Pause of 2020, the best way to maintain my sanity was to garden. I know a lot of Americans began to step away from their technology as the weather warmed up and stepped their shovels into freshly tilled earth. This was the way I survived Quarantine and want to share the trials and progress.

Scrap metal and Varmints

Pinterest is usually my platform for inspiration. I love to discover trending crafts and Do-It-Yourself projects to tackle, then share my experiences with our readers. The Sacred Herb Spiral is one of those projects that immediately spoke to me. Luckily I had a spot on my homestead to revitalize. Some junk metal that housed mice and other farm style varmints (Bleh!) for several years finally moved to the curbside. Time for improvement.

Unearthed Soil

My husband became a major resource of muscles and determination to help see this project through to completion. I admit I’m a bit lazy once the heat beats down and the weed roots travel deeper than my arm… Leaving this patch of land unused and unloved for years proved how much love we needed to return in order to see the balance in reciprocation.

Setting up the Layout

Druids used this type of gardening method. Herbalists and Square Foot Gardeners appreciate this technique for keeping beneficial perennials with medicinal properties close at hand for herbal concoctions. The design can be built vertically to accommodate small spaces. The space we chose is on a slope and allows for a meditative walk in, around, up, and out.

Preparing the Path

The herbs I added in this garden plot were all started from seed from a local vendor that I HIGHLY recommend, Fruition Seeds. They are a seed supplier, very local to the Finger Lakes (FLX) region, so the seeds and crops they produce are proven to grow in Upstate soils. The folks at Fruition are also the BEST supporters of all gardening questions. I barely wait a few hours before receiving a very thoughtful response to a question that I initially felt awkward to ask for fear of being too silly. Remember, that old adage about unasked questions…ask away! Feel free to do so here, that’s what this project is all about.

Meditative Spiral

My main purpose for this garden plot was to provide a meditative space for walking and clearing thoughts. There are optional plans to consider the four directions or coordinate plants to earth’s elements. Instead of getting too deep into plant placement, I went with my gut on where each plant belonged. If I change my mind, I can rearrange whenever I choose. Allowing your artistic license to have authority is the best part of any creative project.

Structure Nearly Complete

After researching various ways to accomplish a Sacred Herb Spiral, I knew I wanted to keep the surface flat and allow a guest to enjoy this walk as much as I will enjoy harvesting it. We created a spiral with a rock path for walking. The areas of dirt on each side of the rocks allow for planting. All of the rocks you see were dug from cultivating this plot of ground. The amazingly rocky Upstate soil never ceases to provide the sediment!

Planting Time!

After the spiral structure and rock path was complete, the fun part of planting arrived. Now here is where the wonky part begins. My seedling tray was mislabeled.(!!!) Plants I assumed were one thing began to grow into a totally different specimen! I know this is all user error, or multiple errors combined (insert giggles and eyerolls)… so much for gut feeling on where plants should go. My goal was to place tulsi basil in the center, as the star of the plot. I am actually not quite certain what is growing in the center. I assume it’s marshmallow, but only time and the flowers will tell me. There are more question marks on this map than I want to admit, but confess I will. That’s part of this project. I’m sharing my successes and failures so you can learn from my mistakes.

A bit of Confusion

Despite a few seeding errors, I love this space and enjoyed the process. I learned that the stings I got on my skin were from a highly revered Stinging Nettle, which is more of a weed in my garden. I have much to learn about this bountiful healing herb.

Ironically, this spiral garden was constructed the day of George Floyd’s murder. The intent for this space to heal the soul promptly proved it’s purpose. With grace, we dedicate this space in memory of all beings whose lives are cut short.

Pollinator’s Promise

Now that I’ve shared this precious process with you, I hope you are inspired to take on a similar challenge. Gardening is the simplest way to stay active and connected with Mother Earth and oneself. After a rough day, the last thing I want to do is weed, but once my hands are in the dirt, I see the progress and feel the rewards. I always recognize the stress deplete and disappear while I am in this happy space. I wish the same for you.

The e’Scape Plan

I invite you to return soon for more creative endeavors. Do you know what those green spirals are? They are the flowering stems of garlic called scapes. Check back next week for a recap of my adventure on canning and storing this first-of-the-season farm harvest.

Image by Dan Gallagher

Before I close, I want to highlight an upcoming online class scheduled for Saturday, July 18 from 11-1pm EST. Register today by clicking this link for Photography Fun with Dan Gallagher. Do you want to take the best photographs with your camera, but need real-world some guidance?  Invest in your dream and start learning creative photography from an experienced photographer and teacher.  Dan Gallagher will show you how to use the settings of your camera to achieve shots you’ve only seen in magazines.  Interchangeable lens camera preferred, any camera can be used to learn new skills. This class has limited seats and will be hosted on Zoom. If you are eager for more library program options, check out the calendar packed with options for all ages.

Jesse Beardslee of Themis and Thread

I like to call the middle day of the week #SeWednesday. We’ll be sewing together on July 15 at 6pm with Jesse Beardslee of Themis and Thread. Learn how to “Work with Whatcha Got.” This will be the first of a three part sewing tutorial series. Jesse will guide you in creating an Upcycled Dress Bodice or Separate Top. Tune in on the Southeast Steuben County Library YouTube channel for the 6pm premiere on July 15.

There is sew much fun on the horizon. I look forward to learning with you. That’s a wrap for this stationary moment. I’ll catch you on the flip side!

Chunky Knit Planters

Chunky Knit Planters

New Home for Fresh Basil

I found this Chunky Knit Planters tutorial a few years ago and stewed on the idea until now. There are a few items you will need to produce this project. Polymer clay is the star of the show. For the sample you see above, Sculpey is the medium of success. Tin cans or oven-safe vessels are the base of this project. If you do not have Sculpey in your toolbox, follow this simple recipe to make a Natural Polymer Clay Substitute. Making this recipe was the first step in my journey to creating this tutorial.

Mix Ingredients into a Pot and Mix

Using 2 cups each of baking soda and cornstarch and adding 1.25 cups of cold water to a saucepan over low to medium heat, depending upon your stove, mix the ingredients until they combine. The numbered photos give you a visual of the changes in consistency.

Add Oil and Food Coloring

Once the homemade ingredients were cool enough to handle, I mixed in 1-2 tablespoons of oil. To keep this project an easy kitchen sourced creation, I used canola oil, but you can use vegetable glycerine to make this smooth. If you wish to make a colored clay, form a pancake with the clay, poke holes in sections and drop food color into the holes. Knead the clay until the color mixes to a solid shade. Less kneading reveals a tie-dye effect.

Lavender Blob

The process to make this chunky knit look is to make coils with the clay, then twist those coils and align them alongside each other on the outside surface of your vessel, attaching the clay at the top and bottom and pressing to adhere all elements together. A faux knitted stitch is revealed by laying each twisted coil side by side, giving your vessel a little blanket hug.

Make the Coils, Twist the Coils, Cover the Can

Take a peak at my video tutorial of this project over on the Southeast Steuben County Library YouTube channel. You will see the full process of each clay I used and the results. This project can take a full day if you let it, so be prepared to have fun. Save the clean up for another time!

Preview of the Samples

I loved working with both of these clays for several different reasons. Making my own clay from natural ingredients was rewarding and very inexpensive. The batch of dough made twice the amount of planters than did the polymer clay. The polymer clay was easier and quicker to work with and made the most durable final product. Sadly, the homemade version saw some sad ending.

Not All Endings are Happy

For some reason, or several, the natural polymer clay substitute did not hold up well after baking. The surface of the colored version was uneven, dried out in spots, but was still very soft after an extra 15 minutes of cooking time. Perhaps the coils were too thick for the cooking suggestion of a 250-degree oven for 15-20 minutes. This was my glass test vessel you will see in the video. The hope was to have the glass vessel pop out and leave only a clay planter in which to put fairy lights or a candle. Sadly, my experiment failed and the whole thing fell apart. The lip on the white version broke off in transport to my studio. I believe I could have scored both the base and coil to make a better seal, but I would have to do another test to know for sure.

Try it Out!

Perhaps this tutorial recap and complimenting video provide you some inspiration. Don’t be shy! If you make this project, share your examples in the comments. Now is the time to refresh your houseplants and give your decor a little sprucing. Be well and Keep Crafting. ❤

World Art Day

Mindy the Mask Maker ” design by Toby Maurer, https://thebrandinghouse.com/

I’m back from the Face-Mask-Sewing Trenches (needed to give my back a break)! Are you as grateful for the FREE YOGA SESSIONS each Friday morning at 10am with Elizabeth Moses as I am? To seamsters around the world pressing pedals to the floor to protect their community members, we are ever-grateful for your spirit. My studio hummed all week with over 50 masks made by this Factory-of-One in the style of Tangled Hangers.

While we are all busy figuring out time in this parallel universe, ART still surges! In 2020, April 15 is no longer Tax Day. According to UNESCO, April 15 is WORLD ART DAY. World Art Day, a celebration to promote the development, diffusion and enjoyment of art, was proclaimed at the 40th session of UNESCO’s General Conference in 2019. Considering this revelation, now is a great time to share this amazing contest to all the mask makers out there.

Contest details at https://woobox.com/ink6fa

Deadline to enter your submission is April 26. Please let me know if you enter. (May the Force Be With You!) < > All my upcycled and wearable art friends out there will appreciate this offering from Nancy Judd at Recycle Runway. Click that link to find interactive art classes from the artist directly. These classes are perfect for any parents who are now learning to homeschool. They are also fantastic for any adult who needs a little guidance to find their own creative wave.

Watch the tutorial with Filomena Jack Studio!

In case you haven’t checked the Southeast Steuben County Library calendar of events, my bunny painting is a sample of what you can make from a Virtual Bunny Painting class with Filomena Jack. Click that link so you can follow along with the video and make your own art for World Art Day- or any day!

Crafting with Kimberly: Bunny Gnomes

Kimberly Canale helped us get festive for Easter with a Bunny Gnome tutorial. If you love crafting, but have few store-bought elements, Fear NOT! Kimberly shows you how to upcycle ordinary household items into unique creations. Follow her video for full instruction on making the gnome seen above.

PPE Volunteers at CCLD

Our library friends at CCLD Makerspace are busy making PPE for hostpital staff in the Southern Tier. I always say they have the coolest tools! This pandemic is proving the power of compassion and community dedication behind the tools. If you have time to get involved, please fill out their volunteer application.

Celbrate 50 Years of eARTh Day on April 22!

Next week is the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day. There are so many ways to honor the only home we know. Find ways to Take Action on the Earth Day website. Upcycling is my favorite means of creating and a great way to take action to save our planet. Watch my tutorial on making Seed Bombs and Seed infused paper from junk mail on eARTh day, April 22 at 4pm. Subscribe to the Southeast Steuben County Library YouTube channel. Find the link to my Earth Day Seed Bombs video premiere (link available on April 20) so we can have a Watch Party!

or take a walk down Market Street

I understand all this isolation has us itching to get out and enjoy the fresh air. That’s the wonder of this internet thing and video channels. They have your back when you’ve nothing better to do. When the weather is on your side, I prescribe a Tech Vacay and stroll down Market Street. Enjoy this expanding mural outside of Volo. Find other #art out there. Share with me later–post with #CreationStation to spread the L.O.V.E. Get outside, Keep creating, Stay Golden. ❤