How We’re Starting Seedlings, Part 2

As mentioned in the last post, we now have homemade, indoor seedling shelves in our basement, complete with high-output fluorescent lights, to create a mini-greenhouse effect. Seedling tray

Seedling shelvesTwo weeks after sowing herb seeds in a tray and keeping them under 18 hours of light per day, we have this result: Basil and dill are already sprouting up from the soil.

In the photo you can see there are three rows of dirt with no signs of life yet. In those rows, we’ve sown parsley and cilantro seeds and are eagerly waiting for them to break through.

The basil rows to the left are two different kinds: Genovese and sweet basil. Both are great for cooking and have different tastes and fragrances.

In this photo here, you can see the full view of our completed seedling shelves. Mike painted all three shelves black to keep them water and mold resistant.

It’s not pictured, but we have an oscillating fan in front of the shelves to help ventilate the moisture. To the left of the herb tray is another planter tray with Morning glory seeds. Those have only been in the soil for a few days, so it’s still too early to see any greenery.

Agro lights close upHere’s a close-up photo of the seedling trays on the shelf. The trays are situated on the heating pad Mike created on his own after reading about the materials used in different versions of pads.

This weekend we plan to plant New Guinea impatiens seeds that were just shipped to us. Given that the weather forecasts for the beginning of April are more winter- than spring-like, we’re optimistic that these seedlings will be ready for the outdoors once warm weather is here to stay.


How We’re Starting Our Own Seedlings

Have you ever wondered if you could start growing seeds of plants you want in your garden indoors before warm weather arrives?

Building seedling shelves

Our seedling shelves started with two by fours and plywood.

We have and we’re attempting something new this month. After reading about indoor seed-starting systems in Gardening In Ohio and from Common Sense Homesteading, Mike decided to build our own seedling shelves, complete with grow lights, heating pads, cables, and a timer that turns the lights on and off.

We had talked before about how cool it would be to start growing herbs earlier so that we could enjoy them for a much longer season.

In the past, we had tried to keep potted herbs and a fuchsia alive indoors through the winter but with little success. With no dedicated sun room in our house, the plants still wilted.

So this year, we’re breaking some new ground. Our goal is to successfully start plants inside and have them ready for transplanting in May or June. Besides the herbs, we’re also going to attempt to start and transplant New Guinea impatiens, the annual we buy the most each spring, in the hopes of saving money on impatiens now and in the future. Cutting seedling shelves

As the old saying goes, you’ve got to spend money to make money, and our total investment in the lumber, lights, timer, cables, heating pad, and black paint for the shelves is about $250.

But if this experiment works, it will enable us to keep fresh herbs throughout the winter and save us money on outdoor plants.

And Mike has really enjoyed the process of building these seedling shelves. As you can see the above photo, they are sheets of plywood that he cut to the appropriate size and mounted on 2x4s.

The contraption has three shelves: The bottom two are for seedlings while the top shelf is meant for storage of supplies. Mike attached rollers to the bottom legs so the seedling shelves would have easy mobility. Seedling shelves come together

As you can probably guess from the pictures, Mike built this project in our basement, and since we don’t have a room in our house that could be a solarium, we’re keeping the seedling shelves in the basement.

We ordered high-output fluorescent lights to bring the necessary “sunshine” the seeds will need to grow in planter trays.

Mike read several online reviews of different types of fluorescent grow lights and chose ours based on a reputable company that seemed to offer a quality product.

A funny side note to the lights: One online vendor of fluorescent grow lights touted the fact that their product will come in an unmarked, “discrete” box, which seemed odd to us.

Then we realized the reason that vendor was willing to package the lights so discretely was that they’re popular with marijuana growers!

We ended up ordering a higher-end choice of lights instead, but that ad was definitely worth the laugh. And hopefully, that’s an indication that these lights will be effective on our seedlings.

On a final note, Mike came up with a great idea on how to create a viable heating pad for the shelves. He brought together a 24-foot heating cable with a 2 foot by 4 foot egg-crate style drop ceiling light cover. Heating pad for seedling shelvesHe basically zip-tied the cable to the egg-crate panel.

Will this entire contraption work? Time will tell, but the process can definitely be as enjoyable as the outcome.

Stay tuned to our seedlings’ progress by subscribing to this blog in the upper right hand corner of the page.

How Using Our ‘Fringe Hours’ Can Restore Our Lives

How often have you said to yourself that there just aren’t enough hours in a day to do everything you would like to get done? And how often have you gone to bed knowing you spent a full day meeting the needs of others, but none of your needs were met?

If you’re like me, you have days like these where a lot of tasks, errands, and mothering were done but finding time for yourself just didn’t happen. And the results can be exhausting.

I recently finished reading The Fringe Hours, Making Time For You by Jessica N. Turner. It’s a great book for women about making time throughout the day for ourselves—to take care of our bodies, minds, and souls.

It’s about living intentionally—taking five minutes to do something we enjoy instead of wasting those five minutes. And taking a time out for rest so we’re not burning the candle on both ends.

Kitchen window illustrating using fringe hours

Photo credit:

Does any of that resonate with you? It does with me. And Turner is a mom to three kids, a full-time marketing professional, blogger, and author, and yet she writes how she makes time for scrapbooking and sewing, as well as her friendships.

Here are some insights I gleaned regarding the issue of juggling our responsibilities and passions.

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Why Online Courses Can Be Useful For Moms

About three years ago, a relative suggested to me that I take free online courses through Coursera to stay current on technology and trends.

At the time, I was knee-deep in changing diapers, scheduling play dates, Sesame Street, and trying to keep up with household tasks. It truly wasn’t the right time for me to consider online courses even though I knew in my heart she was right about my need to keep learning and growing my knowledge.

When preschool came along and I could pay a babysitter once or twice a week, I took a couple Coursera courses, one that was career-focused and another to try to learn a whole new skill.

And I realized I could l learn some new skills and knowledge through other means: free online courses from bloggers, webinars, podcasts, and borrowing ebooks from the library.

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3 Tips To Stop Feeling Overwhelmed

How often do you feel overwhelmed by your to-do list? Every day? A couple times a week?

Do you have the best intentions when you wake up, yet by evening it’s all been derailed?

Feeling overwhelmed from poor time management

Photo credit: Tookapic

If you’re like me, you have seasons of life where the answers to these questions are not no, no, and no, even though that’s what we’d like to say.

I was attending a recent professional development luncheon where time management expert Lisa Crilley Mallis posed these questions.

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Why A Job Promotion May Not Mean Satisfaction

When you think of a job promotion, do you automatically think of a raise in pay and position? And if a promotion meant sacrificing personal time and/or taking on responsibilities you don’t really like to do, would you still say yes to the promotion?

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How You Can Be OK With Being Single

Valentine’s Day is one of those holidays most of us have a love-hate relationship with.

For a good part of January and February, Valentine’s Day can remind us of what a great love relationship we have or what a poor relationship we have. And if we have no romantic relationship, the approaching day can feel like salt poured into the wound.

I didn’t marry until age 30, so I remember many Valentine’s Days where I didn’t have a date, much less a boyfriend. And there was this ongoing tension between wanting a love relationship and trying to be OK with being single.

Dating and how to be OK with being single

Photo credit: Mystock Photos

I was thinking of those past Valentine’s Days because of recent ads concerning romantic gifts and because of the release of the movie “How To Be Single.” It’s a romantic comedy about single women living, working, and dating in Manhattan.

I’m not going to see this movie after reading its reviews, but the premise it brings up about how to be happy and fulfilled as a single woman reminds me of some lessons I learned before I married my soulmate.

Some of these lessons were learned from personal experience and some came from other people. But this overriding principle forms the basis of these lessons from singleness I’m going to share: We’re as happy or as miserable as we choose to be.

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Our Visit To The Home and Garden Show

The Great Big Home and Garden Show is going on right now at Cleveland’s I-X Center, and we decided to visit it on opening weekend and see if there were any good ideas we could glean from the show.

We were not disappointed. The show had some gorgeous displays! I’ve been to many automotive shows in my career, but hands down, the home and garden show turned the cavernous I-X Center into a colorful gem of landscapes and waterfalls. (And who would have thought the I-X Center could look this good?!)

Waterfall and landscaping at the home and garden show

landscape design at home and garden show

Chairs at the home and garden show

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Forget Resolutions: How To Set Goals And Achieve Them

New Year’s resolutions are a funny thing. It seems everyone wants to talk about them in early January, yet studies on the subject show that only 8 percent of Americans actually are successful in achieving their resolutions.

And by February, we hear little talk about resolutions.

I used to be a New Year’s resolution-setter in my twenties. It was usually something vague and typical, like exercise more or save more money, and by mid-year I didn’t care about those resolutions. A lot of times my problem was putting off the very actions needed to achieve the results I wanted for the year.

But living intentionally does mean we need to set goals and work to fulfill them.  Otherwise, we drift through life.

How to set goals by writing them down

Photo credit: Viktor Hanacek via picjumbo

I understand a lot better now than in my youth how goals take time and focus. Change usually happens in increments rather than dramatically and suddenly.

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What You Can Expect In 2016

Love it or hate it, winter is a season that brings rest. And with rest comes renewal of life and vitality.

Winter trees

Photo credit: ShutterStock/David Wagner

Yes, it’s been a while since I last posted on this blog. Just as plants and animals go into a state of rest for the winter, so I did the same with writing. But a time of rest and renewal has been good for brainstorming ideas and to think about the direction of this blog.

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