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February 2022


DIY Dried Flower Hoop Wreath

Have you ever thought of self-reliant home decorating? Maybe the thought of self-reliant home decor doesn’t rank high on your list, but any time that I can get something from my backyard instead of the store, I call that a “win!”

A handful of the cut flowers I grew can also be dried for crafting. Keep reading for some varieties you may want to try growing, and for a tutorial on creating a dried flower hoop wreath.

(If you are interested in some other flowers I enjoy growing that will self-seed and regrow next year without having to plant them read this article.)

4 Easy-to-grow Dried Flowers for Crafting


Globe amaranth is also called gomphrena. 

My favorite stage is when it is these almost perfectly round blossoms. That’s where it gets the name of “globe” amaranth.  If you let it keep growing the globes elongate into more of a gumdrop shape.

Other varieties of amaranth dry well including upright and trailing varieties.  But the tiny globes ar a good scale for this type of project.


One flower that you probably already familiar with, because it is very common in grocery store bouquets is called statice. 

Statice is very common in grocery store bouquets because it looks good even when it’s not fresh.  That’s one of the things that makes it good for drying–it holds its shape and its color really well.

Statice is really easy to grow.  It’s one of my first seedlings to pop up when I am seed-starting and it’s very hardy so you can get it started really early in the spring and might even be able to get it to overwinter where you live.


Straw flower is sometimes known as “everlasting flower”.  It is very common for drying.  It’s called strawflower because of the way that the the petals almost feel like straw. 

You can harvest them at many different stages of bloom. Be aware, they will continue to open a little bit as they dry.  

Strawflowers are interesting because sometimes when the front of the flower is a little over-opened–the back of the flower has a really interesting look and can be used as well. 

Strawflower is wired by making a “U” out of the wire and pressing it through the center from front to back.  Then twist the two ends of the wire together to make a bendable “stem”.

Bunny Tails

Bunny tails technically aren’t a cut flower–they are a grass. But they are so much fun in dried flower arrangements. 

Mine did not have the longest stems, but long enough for a wreath project.  

Constructing a Dried Flower Hoop Wreath

In addition to the dried flowers, some other supplies that you will need for this project are floral paddle wire, nippers or scissors, and a hot glue gun.

Hot glue is the fastest material to work with. You can work with craft glue if you want it just takes longer to dry.

Finally, for the hoop you will need a wooden embroidery hoop.

Embroidery hoops come in a lot of different sizes.  The wood is a nice natural material that goes well with the flowers. 

They have two pieces to them so when you buy an embroidery hoop you actually can make two wreaths from it. Just make sure to cover up the hardware with flowers. 

To create the floral swag on the wreath you need to construct a number of tiny little bouquets. Doing this gives a more even feel and a more balanced look to the swag on the wreath. 

Once you have created a little bouquet or a little bundle.  You can wrap wire around the stems to hold it together. (Or use the wire from the strawflower if you have wired it.

Then glue the little bundle onto the hoop. Continue making these little bundles of flowers. 

Glue the second bundle down over the stems of the first little bundle to cover up the stems.

After doing 2 in the first direction go about a quarter of the way around the hoop and place and glue the next bouquet with the stems going the opposite direction so that the stems are pointing back toward the first two bundles.

Layer the bundles as thick as you want.  I have done two in each direction. 

In the middle there will be this place where the stems are crossing over, or touching.   Cover that area with straw flower blossoms. If any blossoms don’t have a stem– glue it to this stem of another of another flower. 

Once the middle is filled in with strawflowers, look over the wreath to see where it needs a little bit of filling in or if it needs a pop of color somewhere and individually add a few extra flowers or bunny tails. 

If you glue in the bunny tails in with their stems a little bit long — they will have some movement in them.  Instead of just being stuck next to the flowers.  

There are a couple different ways that you can hang a hoop wreath. One way is to hang it with the floral swag down on the bottom or over the top.

Another way to hang it is to have the flowers off to one side.

If you want to see me demonstrate the construction of these wreaths, watch the video below:

Main Dish/ Recipes/ Side Dish

Ham Bone Beans

At one point in my life I would have thrown away my ham bone.  I would have looked at the bone left over from a spiral sliced ham and I would have seen that there was still meat on it, but not really known how to best use that. 

As I’ve tried to gain more homesteading skills I’ve looked for ways to use more of  the animal than I would have in the past.  Because one day, this could be the ham bone from a pig I raised on my own homestead.   

I love this recipe for ham beans because it uses every last bit of goodness that the leftover ham bone has to offer.

Begin by rinsing and sorting 1 lb of pinto beans. You used to occasionally find small rocks mixed in with dried beans but I think the mechanical sorting process has gotten better so I rarely see that any more.

If you want to pre soak your beans the cooking will go faster, but it’s not necessary.  Add your ham bone to a 5 or 6 quart dutch oven then add in the beans. 

If you plan ahead when you cook the ham you can save any juices leftover in the roasting pan.  Adding these juices will make the flavor of the beans even better.  And any collagen and fat help the texture and mouthfeel of the beans to be silky smooth.  

Slice an onion into small pieces. Mince a clove of garlic. 

If you like spicy beans, dice one jalapeno.  This will cook for a long time and mellow the heat, so my kids are usually ok with it in this recipe.  

Add vegetables to the dutch oven.

Fill the dutch oven with water to cover the beans.  Start the dutch oven on a medium heat with the lid on and leave it to begin boiling.  Once it comes to a boil turn down the heat to a nice bubbling simmer.  

I’ll come back and check on the pot periodically and make sure that the beans are still covered with water.  My 5 quart dutch oven is a little small for this recipe, so I add water once or twice while the beans are cooking to keep the beans covered. 

After a few hours all the little ham pieces of cooked and separated from the hand bone so at this point you can remove the ham bone. 

Take out those pieces of ham and chop them into small chunks. This way when you mix it in there’s bits of ham all through the beans.  

Serve with some homemade cornbread on the side.


If you plan ahead when you cook the ham you can save any juices leftover in the roasting pan. Adding these juices to the cooking water will make the flavor of the beans even better. And any collagen and fat help the texture and mouthfeel of the beans to be silky smooth.

If you soak dry beans in water at room temperature for a few hours, up to overnight, you will reduce the cooking time needed. You can either drain off excess soaking water or use it to cook the beans in.

If you don’t have a leftover ham bone you can substitute a smoked ham hock. These are available in the meat department of most grocery stores.

Ham Beans

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Main Dish, Side Dish
Serves: 10
Prep Time: 15 minutes Cooking Time: 3 hours Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Meaty and delicious use for the leftover spiral ham bone to get every last bit of goodness from it.


  • 1 leftover ham bone (or ham hock)
  • 1 lb dry pinto beans
  • 1 onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 jalapeño (optional)



Rinse and sort 1 lb of pinto beans.


Add your ham bone to a 5 or 6 quart dutch oven then add in the beans. Add juices leftover from cooking ham (optional).


Dice an onion into small pieces. Mince a clove of garlic. Dice one jalapeño (optional). Add vegetables to dutch oven


Fill the dutch oven with water to cover the beans with two inches of water. Start the dutch oven on a medium heat with the lid on and leave it to begin boiling. Once it comes to a boil turn down the heat to a nice bubbling simmer.


Check on the beans periodically and make sure that the beans are still covered with water. Add water, if needed, to keep the beans covered.


After three hours all the little ham pieces of cooked and separated from the ham bone so at this point you can remove the bone. Take out those pieces of ham and chop them into small chunks. Return to pot and test the beans to see if they are soft all the way through the middle. Cook up to an hour more to soften the beans. Test flavor, add salt if needed.


Serve with homemade cornbread on the side.


If you want to pre soak your beans the cooking will go faster, but it's not necessary.

Gardening/ Raised Garden

How to Choose Between In Ground or Raised Bed Gardening

Many people choose raised bed gardening because of its consistency and predictability and the solutions it offers to a number of gardening challenges. However there are many valid reasons, especially if you have a larger plot of land, or lower annual rainfall why you may choose to garden in-ground instead.

Gardening in ground is the most well-known type of gardening and has been around the longest, but people began raised bed gardening for a number of beneficial reasons. Let’s discuss first some of the pros and cons of raised bed gardening, and then move on to the reasons to choose one over the other.

Benefits of Raised Bed Gardening Over In Ground:

Complete Control Over Soil

In the ground one area of your soil may have a lot of organic matter, while another area may be completely clay. When filling raised beds you can ensure that your soil mix is consistent across any number of beds. This will lead to more consistent results in your gardening.

In a raised bed you add everything to the bed that the plants will grow in, so you ensure that it is the perfect medium for growing. You don’t control the composition of your native soil. So even though you could add amendments to your soil, you still have less control over the composition.

This complete control over the soil can allow you to crow crops with very specific soil requirements. Blueberries require a higher than normal soil Acidity. It is easier to achieve this in raised beds in areas where the native soil is not useable.

Start Planting Earlier in the Season

There are two reasons why you can get a head start in your garden when using raised beds. Drier conditions and warmer temperatures.

As winter snowmelt and late winter rains saturate the soil it makes it impossible to start your garden.

An old gardener once taught me that in the spring, the proper time to start planting is when you can pick up a handful of soil and it will clump together in your hand, but when you drop it on the ground it will break apart. If the soil is too wet then when you drop it it will land in a glob on the ground and not break apart.

Overly-wet soils create poor growing conditions where you can experience root rot, and undesirable fungi. Also, you will really destroy the soil structure by digging it up while it is so wet.

Because the raised beds are above ground level, more of the rain water drains out of the beds into the soil beneath. So even in the early spring when the soil around the beds is muddy and squishy, the raised beds will be ready to plant.

Being above ground and holding less water also helps the beds to warm up from the sun earlier in the season before the ground does.

Seeds germinate when all the conditions–including soil temperature–are perfect. These warmer raised bed conditions will give you a head-start on planting.

High Intensity Planting

Traditional gardens hold beautiful single rows of vegetables–each separated by a pathway large enough for a wheelbarrow to go down–or at minimum–a person to walk down.

Raised garden beds use a high intensity planting model, where we take the spacing recommended between plants in a row, and give the plants that much space in every direction, but plant multiple rows next to each other.

This creates the appearance of a grid in the garden bed. By getting rid of the space between the individual rows of vegetables–a gardener is able to plant exponentially higher numbers of plants in the same amount of space as the traditional garden.

There are additional benefits to this high intensity planting model. The plants themselves act as a sort of living mulch, helping to prevent nourishing sunlight from getting to weeds and helps retain moisture in the garden bed.

Avoid Wasting Amendments or Materials

Many people find it necessary to add amendments to their garden–whether that be sand or peat moss or compost or other fertilizer to help promote satisfactory growth.

The traditional model of gardening is very wasteful in this respect. Amendments are spread across the entire growing space and tilled into the ground. But only a portion of that is in the soil that will actually hold a plant.

In a raised bed garden, you will only add amendments to the raised garden beds. None of the amendments will be wasted in the aisles or walkways. This also helps avoid the environmental impact of fertilizer runoff. 

This same principle affects using things like row cover, insect netting or greenhouse plastic. You can get more plants covered with less material than traditional rows.

Structural Benefits

There are a few benefits to be had from the actual structure of a rigid raised bed.

Raised beds which are constructed with sides out of lumber, stone or metal can be any height you desire. This makes raised bed gardening ideal for people who are unable to bend over to tend a traditional garden. People using wheelchairs, or the elderly are often able to garden in a raised bed built to fit their needs.

Raised beds with rigid sides can also be constructed with either a rigid bottom, or a screened bottom using hardware cloth.  These garden beds will help keep out burrowing animals such as moles and voles.  This may be the only way gardeners with this type of animal pressure can successfully garden.

Non-compacted Soil

Having the raised beds distinct from the path ensures that the planting area does not get stepped on. Stepping on the soil compacts it and makes it harder for the roots of your crops to grow.

For this reason many people build raised beds no longer than 12 feet so the gardener will never be tempted to step in the bed to get to the other side instead of going around. For the same reason others suggest only making beds 30″ wide so that the gardener can simply step over the entire bed to get to the other side.

Drawbacks of Raised Bed Gardening:

Beds Dry Out More Quickly

One of the major drawbacks of raised beds is that they will dry out much more quickly than the ground. This may be a bigger problem depending on where you live. Most crops grown in the garden need at least an inch of water every week. If this is not provided through rain you will need to have a system for supplementally watering your garden. 

Cost of Materials

The biggest drawback to constructing raised garden beds is the cost of materials. Inexpensive raised beds can be constructed out of pine boards. (See my DIY Raised Bed Instructions)

Cedar or Redwood will be more expensive.  Stone, brick and metal are also options that will cost more but can be very attractive. 

The simplest raised beds can be made by forming mounds of soil that have no rigid side at all. But regardless types of raised beds will need a substantial amount of soil ordered in. 

Semi Permanent Nature

One additional drawback to building raised beds is that it would be difficult to move them.

If you want to till up part of your yard and plant a few rows of a garden one year. You could easily reseed that area with grass and move your garden to a different location if you realized it was not the best spot, or you did not enjoy it.

Moving raised garden beds would be in some cases impossible, and in every case a lot of work.

All of these considerations about the pros and cons of raised beds help inform the decision of how to grow your garden. The following indicators about your personal situation can help you determine what type of garden you should grow.

When to Choose Raised Bed Gardening:

  • You only have a small plot available
  • You have very poor native soil
  • You have heavy clay native soil
  • You have burrowing animals like moles and voles
  • You have trouble bending over to ground level or getting up and down

When to Choose In Ground Gardening:

  • You don’t want to put money toward bed construction
  • Your native soil is average or good
  • You have a lot of land available
  • You want to produce on a large scale
  • You want to use large farm equipment
Condiments/ Recipes

Pickled Radish Taco Topping

When we lived in Texas one of our favorite restaurants to go to was Torchy’s Tacos.  I was partial to a “trashy” Trailer Park taco. (But I would often add a deep fried avocado slice from my son’s kids meal.)  We liked to try the taco of the month as well.

The great thing about Torchy’s is all the combinations of sauces and toppings on their tacos.  I grew up eating a very basic prescribed tacoTorchy’s Tacos taught us a better way.

The first easy fix was learning what the crumbly white “cotija cheese” was, and that it’s readily available in mainstream grocery stores. But we also needed to get a little bit more adventurous with our taco toppings. 

Pickled vegetables make great taco toppings, and these pickled radishes with cilantro and carrots are a fun recipe to make from the spring garden. 

Tips for Garden Fresh Ingredients

Many people think of cilantro as a summer salsa ingredient. But cilantro is actually a cool season crop. It does not like the heat and tends to “bolt”, or go to seed, quickly.  There are a few ways you can try to get a longer harvest from your cilantro in the summer: plant in partial shade, succession plant, plant a slow-bolt variety.

Cilantro can grow in partial shade.  Crops grown for their leaves need the least amount of sunlight, which is around 3-5 hours of direct sun.  It would be best if this was morning or afternoon sun, avoiding direct sun during the hottest time of the day.  Planting cilantro in partial shade will help it grow longer in the summer without bolting. 

Another thing you can do is succession plant cilantro.  Basically this means to plant cilantro a number of times a week or two apart.  This way you you have cilantro getting ready to harvest in succession.  Just plan on harvesting the whole first crop before going on to the next.  Hopefully you can use it before it bolts. 

If it does get away from you and starts to bloom, just move on to harvesting the next crop.  You can succession plant next to the first planting or you can gow successive crops different places in your garden. 

One more thing you can try is to grow a “slow-bolt” variety of cilantro that has been cultivated to tolerate heat better than standard varieties.  I received some slow-bolt seeds from a seed swap this year and will be trying them this year. 

Radishes are an easy spring crop and are ready to harvest at the same time as cilantro and lettuces. 

Radishes and lettuces are also both good things to succession plant to extend their harvest.  (See the second row of radish sprouts popping up in the foreground?)

Everyone needs to grow radishes, though. They come in the most beautiful colors, and they are ready to harvest so quickly, it gives you a real gardening confidence-booster at the beginning of gardening season. 

If you don’t like the heat or spice of radishes, don’t worry.  The pickling process of this recipe actually takes the heat down quite a few notches.  You could use homegrown carrots in this recipe, but I did not have any ready at this time. 

Recipe Instructions

Begin by making a basic salt water brine.  Combine 2 cups of water with a tablespoon of pickling salt.  This brine can be used to pickle any hard vegetables.  (Soft vegetables like cabbage create their own brine simply from adding salt).

I like to prepare my vegetables with a mandolin.  It makes it very easy to create consistently thin slices and matchsticks. 

Slice the carrots into matchsticks.

Slice the radishes into rounds. You could also slice them into matchsticks like the carrots, but I liked the contrasting shapes.

Chop up cilantro. 

Toss all the ingredients to combine. 

Then just appreciate those beautiful colors for a minute!

Pack veggies it into a mason jar. 

Cover the vegetables with a salt water brine. 

I like to put a little jar on top to keep oxygen out but it will bubble and spit as it ferments so set it on top of a plate to catch that bubbling over.  You can buy a specialty fermenting lid, but I don’t have any yet.  

Leave it on the counter for about two weeks.  Then taste test it to see if it’s fermented enough.  If the flavor is not very strong yet you could let it ferment longer. 

In the middle of summer temperatures you want to ferment it in a cooler location in your home, and it may only take a week and a half before it has fermented enough.  At that point you can store it in the fridge.  Add it to your favorite tacos!

Pickled Radish Taco Topping

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Serves: 16
Prep Time: 20 Total Time: 20

Pickled vegetables make great taco toppings, and these pickled radishes with cilantro and carrots are a fun recipe to make from the spring garden. 


  • 1 C carrots
  • 1 C radishes
  • 1/2 C cilantro leaves
  • 1 Tbls pickling salt
  • 2 C water



Begin by making a basic salt water brine. Combine 2 cups of hot water with one tablespoon of pickling salt.


Slice carrots into 1 inch matchsticks. Slice radishes into matchsticks or thin slices. Roughly chop cilantro.


Toss all the ingredients to combine. Pack into a mason jar.


Cover the vegetables with salt water brine.


Cover with a fermenting weight and lid. Or use a little jar on top to keep oxygen out. The jar will bubble and spit as it ferments so set it on top of a plate to catch that liquid.


Leave it on the counter for about two weeks. Then taste test it to see if it's fermented enough.


If the flavor is not very strong yet you could let it ferment longer. Ambient temperature affects the fermentation process. It could take as little as one and a half weeks in warm summer, or up to three weeks when very cool.


Store in the fridge. Add it to your favorite tacos!