Barn Style Greenhouse

Last fall my husband surprised me by telling me that he was going to build me a green house. He knew that I have wanted one for a while but we just never got around to getting one set up until now. I really did not have an idea of what I wanted. He looked online at several styles and decided on this Barn Style Greenhouse from Ana White. He showed me the plans and I really did not get around to reading the plans; I just looked at the picture. I was expecting something around 4 or 5 feet. Nope! The green house size ended up around a 10×12 feet!

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The plans did not include a door design. I wanted a half-door so I could leave the door open and not have the chickens come in and eat all my plants. He came up with this one. We did include a latch on the front to lock the top and bottom together. We did find a small flaw. The opening in the plans for the door is not a standard door size. We had to build the door to fit the opening, which is how I ended up with a Dutch Door . The door frame needs to be adjusted if a standard door will be used in the plans.

It was an easy plan to follow. The plans were designed to use 12 feet boards so there is very minimal cutting. The bottom of the frame was put together first and this is the part that was the easiest. It is made of all treated 2×4 feet boards.

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The next part was a little more challenging. It was not difficult to put together. We just had to think of some ways to put the ends together. The plans advise making gussets but I really did not want those so we decided to use metal plates on the front of the greenhouse. There are plates installed on front and back of frame.

Remember if an adjustment is made to the door frame; this section will need to be adjusted too. I think building a door would be easier than changing cutting patterns of this section.

greenhouse-4.gifNote my compost bin beside the greenhouse – perfect spot. You can find my post about composting with this Link.

The next step included the back section, middle beam and middle rafter.

greenhouse-3.gif*The girls (chickens) are ready to come out and investigate.

The final step in building the frame – building and installing all the rafters.

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The next section included installing clear plastic for the top. The 12 foot length was a blessing at this point. We did not have to cut the plastic on the length. We did have to cut the plastic for the front and back but it was not many cuts. We decided to wait until it was warmer to decided on ventilation and airflow.

greenhouse-frame

We used metal roofing for the bottom of the greenhouse. We have a local company here that cut the pieces to size that I needed.

greenhouseThe girls are looking for treats (worms, grubs or whatever they can scratch up)

We had extra lumber that turned into a shelf for me. This was a surprise from my husband too. It is a perfect level. We only put a shelf on this side. I plan to use the other side for larger plants.  We installed 2 small windows toward the back for airflow and 2 vents in the top as well.

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It still gets really hot in there now; the temperature has been reaching about 115-120 F. It is the first part of May and living in southern parts of Alabama – it’s always warm. I was able to start my seeds in here in early spring for my garden. I will be able to continue to grow in the greenhouse come this fall and winter.

Soap Making

I have been wanting to make homemade soap for several years but the plans just never did come together for it to happen. This past fall, I started reading on it again. I finally made my first batch in October and I love it. I have made several batches since then. soapmaking

Making soap is really easy but there are several safety precautions that needs to be followed. Accidents can happen. It is usually caused when someone gets comfortable in their routine and gets careless.

My advice for anyone who wants to learn to make soap is to research and read before the first batch is made. I did this for several months myself.


I have purchased a few books to keep on hand as reference.

These have helped me from the beginning and still find myself going back to these books. There are some websites that helped me along as well:

  • Soap Making Resource
  • Brambleberry
  • Soap Queen – great video tutorial for beginners. Watch the videos from beginning.
  • SoapCalc – lye calculator. This is little difficult in the beginning but I found a  video tutorial about understanding this calculator. Every recipe needs to be run through a soap calculator to make sure your lye is right amount for your recipe.

Soap can be made several different ways:

  1. Melt and Pour base soap – a base soap to melt and pour into molds. Fragrances and colors can be added to this without going through the process of making soap.
  2. Cold Process soap
  3. Hot Process soap

The difference between (CP) cold process soap and (HP) hot process soap is that the HP soap is heated and cooked for a period of time.

Cold process soap is the act of mixing oilssodium hydroxide (LYE) and water. The result is a chemical reaction called saponification. This is where the structure of the oil change with the help of the lye to create soap.  Soapmaking is basically a science experience.

There is certain supplies that is needed but once it is used for soap it cannot be used for any reason other than soap. I keep mine labeled and stored away until I am ready to make soap. Some of the items needed is a scale that weighs is ounces or grams, thermometer, heat-proof bowls and utensils, soap molds (can be wood, cardboard, plastic or silicone), goggles or safety glasses, gloves, colorants, fragrances, oils and anything else.
The first loaf did not go as well when it was time to remove it. i did not have it lined; I did not think I had to since it was an acrylic. It was hard to remove since I did not line the mold and I did not think I had to. Now, I will line any loaf mold with parchment paper or freezer paper. I found this video tutorial to line a soap loaf mold. This technique will keep from the corners leaking too.

I have used a basic recipe for the soaps I have made. The oils I used for them are coconut oil, olive oil, castor oil and palm oil. I have used some crushed lemon peel and ground oats to it as well. The oatmeal soap is a big hit among certain members of my family. It has lots of lather and I like a soap that lathers. Its also a creamy soap too. I am at the point of making my own recipe. The key to making a recipe is to learn the properties of the oils. Each oil will make a bar soap different depending on the amount used and the combination of oils will effect the outcome of the bar as well. The soap calculator will also help with the characteristics of the bar: cleansing, creamy, moisturizing, hardness, etc. The liquid (water) can be replaced with goat’s milk, tea, coffee, etc.

There is only one downfall about making soap – waiting 4-6 weeks for curing.

 

Hamburger Steak & Gravy… Crock-pot

We love hamburger steak and gravy. It is much better in a crock-pot. This does well in the freezer. I usually freeze in small portions. I will take them out and thaw in fridge over night. I would need to only make the mashed potatoes. I cannot take credit for this recipe. I found this searching for recipes. Here is the link for the original recipe. I did change it up a bit. It called for 2 pounds of ground beef. I ended up using 3 pounds. I also used “Lean” ground beef. I found that using anything else other than the lean ended up more oil with the gravy. I was not sure on some of the ingredients first time I made this but I followed the recipe. The gravy is not a traditional gravy. It is actually a mix of Au Jus mix, water and cream of chicken soup. It was a very light brownish orange color. I thought I made a mistake somewhere the first time I made it but I followed the instructions. I had a back up plan in case the recipe bombed. It did not. The longer the gravy and meat cooked; the darker the gravy became. I made mashed potatoes to go along with it. I like to make mine creamy. I really do not have a recipe for it. I mix a little salt, pepper, mayonnaise, butter, milk and sour cream in the potatoes after boiling. I will add more if needed during mixing I used a potato masher to smash the big chunks up. Then I get my hand mixer out and blend up into a smooth mixture. I do not like very thick potatoes – Creamy and not too thick.

hamburger-steak

Hamburger Steak & Gravy.. Crock-pot

  • 3 pounds ground beef (any type is fine but more fat content will cause more oil in the crock-pot as it cooks
  • 1 (1 ounce) envelope dry onion soup mix
  • 1/2 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour or more if needed
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or more if needed – I used olive oil
  • 2 (10.75 ounce) cans condensed cream of chicken soup
  • 1 (1 ounce) packet dry Au Jus mix
  • 3/4 cup water

In a large bowl, mix together the ground beef, onion soup mix, bread crumbs and milk using your hands. Shape into 8 patties.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Dredge the patties in the flour just to coat. Quickly brown both sides of each patty. Place browned patties into the slow cooker stacking alternately like a pyramid. In a medium bowl, mix together the cream of chicken soup, au jus mix and water. Pour over the meat. DO NOT STIR. Cook on low setting for 4 to 5 hours, until ground beef is well done. I have left this cooking on low up to 7-8 hours before. Stir gravy gently before serving. Serve with rice or mashed potatoes.

 

 

Wings

I am currently reading Wings. The author is Cynthia Lee Cartier.

Wings by [Cartier, Cynthia Lee]

It’s WWII and daredevil pilot, Liddy Hall, dreams of leaving her small Midwestern town to fly for her country. She applies for the Women Airforce Service Pilots program, though her excitement is mixed with the apprehensions of leaving her ailing father and the only home she’s ever known.

War complicates life and life complicates war as Liddy’s unconventional journey brings true friendships and true love into her life for the first time. The high-spirited and fun-loving female fliers in this novel have the time of their lives and get into their share of mischief, while they loyally serve their country and each other. Liddy Hall and her dynamic friends will endear and entertain as they all learn what it truly means to have wings.

I really cannot give my opinion on this book yet. I have just started reading this over the weekend but so far I am enjoying this book.

Russian Ball Piping Tips

Last year I was searching cake decorating tips on Amazon and I came across this lovely post. They looked interesting and I figured I would try them. white-cake-russian-tips

These do not fit the standard Wilton Coupler but truthfully I do not use this often. I usually put the tip inside the bag and cut the tip off. There is a coupler you can get to use with these tips but I do not have one at this point.

I love these tips. There are more different tips that I will be adding to this set. I have found a great Tutorial on using these tips.

white-cake-web

I used only one tip with this cake. I will be using the others in the future and learning different techniques.

Getting Back To It

It has been several months since I have made any post. Life just happens. It started with my body scan. I had Thyroid Cancer in 2013. The cancer is gone but I have to deal with issues with not having a thyroid, which is a lifelong issue. I have good days and bad days. I take each day as it comes and feel blessed every day I am here. The body scan is done to make sure the cancer did not show its face again. I am glad to say that I am still cancer free!! I had to do some shots prior to the scan during that week. I am not going to get technical with it but it helped my thyroid hormone level get to the point it needed to be for the scan without coming off my meds. It just made me feel as if I did come off my meds. I had to do a low iodine diet (LID) three weeks prior to scan. I think the worst of it all was that I had to stay away from seafood, which was tough since I live along the gulf coast. We are known for our local seafood. The first thing I did after the scan was lunch at a local seafood restaurant – Red snapper with crawfish and lobster sauce.

We completed several projects since then as well. My husband built me a green house. I had to help him thought. I love it. I will post pictures soon and the link for the plans. We also finished the office. I will post the final pictures for that too.  I did make homemade soap for the first time. I used natural oils: olive, coconut and caster oil. This is easy but safety precautions need to be made. I will explain all of that in the upcoming post. I would advise to research before you even start. I have been wanting to do this for a while. I have read books and watched videos on this.

There is a lot of things I have planned in the upcoming future. Mainly, getting the house back in order. The bedroom needs to be painted. I still have not yet decided on a color. My husband made a comment to me the other day when he say all my paint squares on the wall. He asked me if that was a hint for him. It’s funny but like I told him it was for me. I have yet decided on a color. The color of the wall is a dark green now. I want to go lighter and I think I am not seeing the color because of all the dark green. I may just pick a color and go with it. I am looking at a blue. It is so odd for me. Many years now, I have loved red and browns. Now, I am enjoying blues. I guess it might be the fact I want things calming. We are considering moving our washer and dryer to a back room to make that an utility room and turn the utility room into a pantry.

Stay tuned for upcoming post and have a blessed day!

Confederate Rose

The first time I saw a confederate rose was in my father-in-law’s yard. I decided to find one for me and I did after several years looking around.  The confederate rose is actually an Hibiscus and grows as a shrub / tree. This plant is best grown in southern states – zones 9 and 10 in full sun. It starts blooming in late summer to early fall. I look forward to seeing these beauties every fall. The plant freezes down in the winter and returns the next spring. The stalks needs to be cut back in winter but i did not do that this past year and really not sure why. I have cut back every year until then. I had growth in the spring appearing on the stalks from the previous year. I will cut back any stalks that did not have any growth. It is best to  cut back after fall blooming. It keeps it maintained and from growing too tall.

confederate-rose

These blooms will change colors. The flowers start the day out white and by the end of the day they are a dark pink color. I planted this about 5+ years ago. I had no idea the blooms changed color when I planted this. I found out the first year it bloomed.  I left for errands one day and by the end of the day – they were pink!confederate-rose-whiteconfederate-rose-pink

Here is a care guide for the confederate rose and it also has instructions for rooting from a cutting. I was not aware of this until recently or I could have got a cutting from my father-in-law’s years ago.  I will be cutting many cuttings this year; just in case not all of them root. I had several requests for a cutting from family members as well. The cuttings are put in a large vase to root in water during winter months. It is planted in the following spring after frost.

confederate-rose-full

This is just starting to bloom. The blooms only last about a day but it is loaded with buds. The blooms leave a large seed pod after blooming. The seeds from this pod can be collected and planted. I am not certain how to do this yet but I will be trying this upcoming spring.