Jan 26, 2015

shop birthday + faqs and faves + a giveaway

My little shop turns 4 today! What started out as a little hobby when I quit my design job to stay home and raise my girl, has flourished into so much more than I could ever have dreamed.

The past four years has brought me so many great memories, friends and experiences all thanks to you guys and the grace of God. I don't deserve the support you guys give me but I'm so thankful you do. When I opened up my shop I hoped I'd sell a print or two. In 2014 I surpassed 3,000 sales. WHAT?! Not only that but I was asked to be a local maker for both west elm Tulsa and OKC! Never could I have imagined I'd be typing that out.

I am humbled and honored that you guys choose to hang my designs in your spaces and can't say thank you enough for supporting my shop. 

I was thinking up a fun way to celebrate my shop's birthday and decided to have a giveaway. Over the years I get asked a lot of questions about what pens, paper, paint pen, etc. I use. I definitely have my favorites and you can read more about those on my "faqs and favorites" page. So to celebrate the big 4! I'm giving away a few of my favorite things to one winner!

Think of it as a "design basics" kit. I'd include donuts but those don't ship well so I'll eat one for you. You're welcome.

One winner will receive this bundle of goodies:


  • small sketchbook
  • pencils to get those ideas on paper
  • erasers - an artist can never have too many quality erasers
  • sharpie marker pen - keep away from children
  • Faber-Castell PITT pen - one of my favorite drawing pens
  • pad of watercolor paper
  • Pentel aquash watercolor brush - I LOVE mine
  • set of Prang watercolors
  • lined notebook with pretty floral cover - with the elastic band to keep it closed, my favorite
  • hardback copy of "Little Book of Lettering" by Emily Gregory - the first lettering book I bought

To enter:

1. Leave a comment telling me what you would like to see added to the shop. More cards, prints, notepads, mini cards, etc.

2. Get a second entry by sharing about the giveaway (however you choose, instagram, facebook, twitter, you're own blog, etc.) THEN come back here and leave another comment telling me where you shared.

I'll randomly select a winner Friday, January 30th, 2015 at 12pm CST.

In addition to the giveaway, TODAY ONLY, you can get any 8x10 print in my shop for only $12! No coupon code needed, prices have already been marked down.


Jan 12, 2015

Garden Tip - soil prep (oldie)

prepping your soil for food gardening

This is the last garden tip for a bit, and it's not a new one. I wrote it last year but the people have asked about getting their soil and beds ready for spring gardening, so click here to take you to the info I posted last year.

It also has a link to spring planting tips from our garden at our old house. I forgot how much we grew in that small space!

zellers city garden

Now go get dirty.

Jan 9, 2015

Garden Tips - comfrey, buckwheat and borage

Apparently you guys liked the garden tips I posted last time. That makes me smile. I was asked to go into more detail about some of the things I mentioned to include in your garden, specifically comfrey, buckwheat and borage.

So here's a quick run down. This is a super basic overview. Googling those will tell you a whole lot more and go in more depth but here's what we know on the topic and why these are in our garden - you'll see a trend in the end.

First, comfrey.

It's a funny little leaf. My husband first read about it in Gaia's Garden and knew we had to have it. There are many types of comfrey and it's important to use the right type to reduce spreading.

**"Bocking14" is grown specifically for gardening as it doesn't produce seeds and can only spread through cutting and transplanting the tap root.** Other varieties produce seeds and can overtake an area.

The Bocking14 plant grows a deep tap root so it's really difficult to get rid of once planted so you better plan a spot for it that you don't want to change! But that's also a good thing because plant it once and you'll never need to plant again.

Here it is in various stages in our garden:

pictured bottom middle, the two big leaves about mid-spring, chicken to the right

lower front, by early summer the comfrey plants growing quite well and rather large


On to the good stuff:

  • It's a great organic fertilizer for your garden, specifically tomatoes as it's rich in potassium and nitrogren (but do your research, not all plants like it, ie root plants and lettuces)
  • It kicks your compost into major over-drive because it breaks down quickly
  • You can compost it on it's on and make a liquid, comfrey tea, as a liquid fertilizer - we haven't done this yet as we started out planted last year and it's best to have them established before making leaf cuttings for tea but you better believe we're doing it this year!
  • You can cut the leaves and lay in the hole where you're planting tomatoes, peppers and fruit to fertilize the plant at the roots
  • We used the leaves as a mulch around our berry plants as a fertilizer
  • If you let it blossom, the leaves attract bees which will pollinate your plants
  • We also give fresh leaves to our chickens and rabbits (have I mentioned here that we now have rabbits?!) a supplemental feeding and since it's planted around the border or our garden, the chickens snack on the leaves at will* 

We purchased our cuttings online but word on the street is there's a local Oklahoman growing and selling it.

Buckwheat

I didn't know anything about this plant until the husband educated me. Do you see a pattern? He does the research and I follow his lead. It works!

Anyway, having grown it this past year and seeing the benefits, I will always want it in my garden. It's that good. Here it is in our garden:

my oldest in the back area of the garden full of flowering buckwheat

pictured very back by the fence, to give an idea of the space we planted

aerial showing some buckwheat removed for summer squash plants

summer squash growing with remaining buckwheat

buckwheat seeds harvested, leaves removed for chickens and stems dried for mulch

  • It's a great cover crop for outer areas as the plants get pretty dense as they grow and block out weeds
  • the bright white flowers are not only beautiful and look like wildflowers but they also look good to beneficial insects like bees, ladybugs and most importantly, parasitic wasps - these are key if you want to do organic gardening and not spray for pests
  • the plant grows quickly and can be turned in to fertilize the soil
  • the seeds can be harvested and ground into flour - we didn't do this, we threw some in to our chickens
  • instead of turning the stalks into the ground, we let them dry and used as mulch for our strawberries

Lastly, Borage

pictured to the left with purplish-blue flowers
inside the fence, to the left of the chicken is comfrey early spring and borage far right

  • When I talked about companion planting, this is one of the best to plant near tomatoes and squash because it deters hornworms
  • bees and beneficial insects like the blue flowers
  • the small leaves and flowers are edible and taste a little like cucumber and are a pretty addition to salads
  • the leaves help activate compost
  • you can feed the leaves to chickens - ours love them!

There you have it. Basically, we like these because the all attract beneficial insects which pollinate plants, repel bad ones so we don't have to use sprays or chemicals to get rid of pests, they add nutrients to your garden soil and plants and most greens can be fed to your chickens (and rabbits).

As with anything, don't take my word for it, do your own research and see if these are plants you'd like to include in your garden.


*there is some debate on this plant - do your own research and decide if you want to feed to your chickens. We do, our girls love it.

Jan 5, 2015

Garden Tutorial - Planning

Over the years I've been asked to do tutorials on how we garden. It's funny to me because we're not the best gardeners out and we are continuously learning as we go (and we've been gardening for nearly 10 years) so I've never felt comfortable sharing because we're no experts.

But, having said that, and you guys knowing I'm no master gardener, I've decided to go ahead and share how we go about our garden. It's not perfect. We have a lot to learn. But it's what we do and love so here's how we #farminourbackyard (that will make sense if you follow me on instagram, @lesleyzellers, if not, it's just a collection of pictures from our gardening adventures this past year).

**Please keep in mind this is Oklahoma. Different areas have different growing seasons so check your seed packets or nursery to plan for you area. **


For us, the first step in growing food in our backyard is PLANNING.


So my first tip is to do your research. Read blogs about gardening, look at pinterest for layout ideas, read books. Researching will give you an idea of what you want your garden to look like and what you want to grow in it. Take notes, draw plans, scheme and dream.

Most of our growing knowledge was passed down from my grandpa. He grew just about everything in his backyard. Over the years we've mixed in his knowledge with other ideas we've read from various sources.

These are my favorite gardening books:


  • Gaia's Garden - I haven't read it but my husband has. It's a whole lot of permaculture and really good ideas. I'm thankful he read it and has instrumented different principles from it in our garden.
  • The Edible Garden - it ties in with the idea of permaculture but also dives into specific ideas of laying out your garden in a natural way. No rows. More what works best together and how to make the most out of your space. I really like it because it talks specifically about the major plants and how they grow best.
  • The Backyard Homestead - really amazing for garden planning on a small lot with big produce!
  • Farm Anatomy - great design and super basic facts on all farming principles. Not detailed but a really good resource for all farming.

Get yourself a seed catalog.


Any will do. It will give you an idea of all the things you can grow. Highlight, dog-ear, make a list of the things you'd like to grow. Write it all down! Even if you don't feel like you can do it all this year, it's good to know where you want to go.

Sketch out your space and start thinking what you want to plant where.



You'll need to know how the sun moves across your space so you can plant accordingly. Plant smaller things and plants you'll harvest frequently up front with taller ones behind them. Plants like ground cover, radishes, lettuces and greens stay short so no need to worry about them blocking each other out.

That first sketch was my original layout for this spring. We've always worked in rows. It's easy to plan, pick and change but it also has it's drawbacks. So we're trying something different.

The next sketch shows our new approach, called polyculture (what the Edible Garden and Backyard Homestead reference). The idea is called polycutlure. The thought is planting more in line with nature. No straight lines, mixing in plants that grow well together or benefit each other. It's supposed to limit the need as there's less ground open. It's also supposed to help disease from spreading from plant to plant and a ton of other great reasons to try it. That's a whole different post in itself.

For now, here's what our spring plan looks like:


Even if you do rows, you can still do "companion planting" in the rows. From what little research I've done, here are a few plant groupings that work well together:
  • carrots + onion
  • radish + lettuce + onion
  • basil + tomato (the scent is supposed to repel aphids)
  • beets + radish + leeks
  • climbing peas or cucumber + nasturtium flowers
  • herbs + just about anything short - they attract beneficial insects like bees and ladybugs
  • marigolds - another good insect attractor (on that note, it's good to mix different flowers in with your plants as they bring in the good insects and just make it prettier)

We also do a mix of buckets and pots throughout the garden. I like the different levels they bring. It's also good to contain plants that get out of control, like mint. I also like doing carrots in buckets because their roots seem to do better.

We also have chickens so we planted herbs and things they can eat, like comfrey, along the inside of the fence. They can snack on the leaves and flowers that stick out of the fence and appeases them enough to stay out of the garden. Plus it's really good for chickens to eat herbs. In addition to comfrey, we also plant borage, buckwheat and yarrow to give to our chickens. I won't go into detail on those here (because this post is already crazy long) but if you're not familiar with them, google them. They are so beneficial to have in your garden. Especially if you have chickens!!

Once you have your plan, what you want to grow and where - get the seeds. You can order them from a million places online, buy them from a local nursery, of get the ones you saved from last year's garden.

Online seeds places we're used include:
Johhny's
Burpee
Southern Exposure

Local favorites are Carmichael's and Stringer Nursery.

It costs less to start seeds as opposed to buying the plants but it also takes a lot more work. We've always done a mix of both but this year we're going to try to start all our plants from seeds.

*For spring gardening, start your seeds indoors February 1st*

If you want to start seeds indoors, here are some we're doing: broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, various greens, herbs and tomatoes - to name a few.

That's it on planning. Are you still here? If so, let me know if you found this in any way helpful. I never know what to share when people ask about our garden so I hoped I answered some questions .

To end, here's a quick video I shared on instagram of our #farminourbackyard adventures from 2014.




I'll share more as the growing season moves along and let me know if you have specific questions you'd like me to address. Thanks and happy garden planning!




Dec 31, 2014

best of twenty-fourteen

I got this great idea to do a top ten of 2014 from my friend, Natalie. Thanks for letting me steal your idea.

2014 was a huge year for us with so many changes which when I look back at it all, they all seem so major! It's hard to imagine a year with more change, ups and downs, uncertainty and craziness than this one but some how we not only made it through it, we thrived. It's been a year of pain, laughter, dreams crashing to the ground while others being more than I could ever imagine possible.

It's funny to me when I look back on 2014 and think my word of the year was "brave." I can honestly say I've never felt like I had to be more brave in all my life. More on that later, but for now, here's to 2014.

In no particular order:

• Celebrating 2, 4 and 8!


2. Her favorite things at two were bubbles. I love her.


4. Weeks were spent working on her fourth "frozen" birthday. Thankful for a family that brought her dreams to life.

8. years of marriage. I do love this man. He challenges me, encourages me, believes I can do anything. And he has one heckofa green thumb. But most of all, I'm thankful for his friendship.

• We sold our house.



Although it felt sad and strange to walk through that empty space where we brought two babies home, painted every single wall from floor to ceiling to make it our own and started our lives together back home, it's just a reminder that our time here is short. Places aren't permanent. That chapter closed and a new one opened. A fresh start with a dream in our eye.

• And speaking of dreams, we got chickens!




We have dreamed of living in a place where we can have chickens. Now that we're out of the old house and in a temporary one, we were gifted a chicken tractor and chickens to go in it. God is so good. Even in the waiting, He provides. We may not be on our land with more chickens, goats, pigs and cows (maybe one day) - we are in a place where we're one step closer to living our dream and we're getting eggs and chickens to love on.

• Be Crafty adventures with Amanda!




I never imagined I'd be traveling to Arizona and Nebraska to co-host Be Crafty workshops with Amanda but this year brought crazy adventures and forced me to be brave with public speaking. And traveling alone. And just getting out of my comfort zone. These workshops, and Amanda's friendship have been such a sweet part of 2014 and I'm so thankful for the opportunity to do it.

• While we're on the topic of work-related things, THE highlight of my career this year has to go to having my designs sold at West Elm!!!




This is so huge to me. 2014 has been a big year for my little shop but being a Local West Elm maker takes the cake. Thank you to everyone that has supported and encouraged me. And yes, that's a bathroom selfie at the OKC "meet the maker" event. haha

• On a more serious note, this year I found out how my idea of being brave wasn't what I had in mind.



For those of you that have been around the past year. You know my word for 2014 was "brave." Specifically feeling led to go to Africa. More on that here. But then something happened.



I got pregnant and learned I couldn't go to Africa because of the shots required. So not only did I have to be brave with not going to Africa but also telling the many people that helped fund my way there that it was a no go. Then we found out I lost the baby, or more so that the baby wasn't actually developing because it got stuck in one of my fallopian tubes. And then I had to be brave as I was rushed to the emergency room one night after my tube burst requiring emergency surgery.



So my brave may not have been what I imagined. And may be a bummer of a best of 2014 but it had to be included because I learned so much along the way. I learned to trust God in a way I never had before. I learned that even if I don't understand the why's I still know He's there. And while the pain, heartache and so much sadness may not look like the best, I know there's so much better on the other side of it all and that gives me hope.

• A nice stream in that dessert was our family trip to Montana.

 



It was on the drive up that I found out we lost the baby. What better time to be away and around those you love most? It was a nice distraction but more so a nice time to just connect with family and process everything. I'll remember those 8 hour stretches of just praying and asking so many questions but feeling the peace and comfort the whole time. It also didn't hurt that there was beauty every where we turned. I have been blessed with an amazing family, that loves adventure and being together. I couldn't ask for more.

• More sad things, why not. Saying good-bye to my grandparent's house this year.



It was hard. There were a lot of tears. A lot. But there wouldn't have been the tears had that place not held so many amazing memories and so much love. I learned so much in that house and backyard. My grandpa taught me how to tie my shoes and grow food in his backyard. My grandma taught me how to cuss, what? No, she taught me how to make the most amazing pie crust and be a loyal wife. They were one-of-a-kind and they will be missed.

• Speaking of learning to garden. We got a new area to garden this year. It was the best year to date. Salads were made. Tomatoes eaten. Things were grown. I cannot wait to get started on our garden next year!!!





• And last but not least. We built a pond out at our land.



I say we. My husband was the brains behind it. I just had to be brave and trust that he knew what he was doing. Haha. Good thing he did. And praise Jesus the rain held off during construction and waited until 2 days after we finished to open the flood gates! I can't tell you how ready I am to be out there. But patience.

So thank you 2014. You were golden. Now I'm ready to ring in the new year with the ones I love.





Dec 30, 2014

Saturday recap - on a Tuesday

Insert the squinty eyes here.

It's just like me to decide to do a recap and be late on posting. Oh well. Better late than never. I blame it on the holidays.

So here's the last week...


























It was a week of Christmas party dancing, bunk bed assembling, Bible reading, whole30 eating (even though I'm a drop out, I still keep trying), pom pom trimming by the girls, Rhema light viewing, new hen laying, Christmas Training, deviled egg making, dog sitting, present opening, lego building, more present opening, rejoicing, prime rib eating, more lego building, hutch building, sledding, snow jumping, snow man building and land loving.

Not to mention the melt downs, forced napping, laundry doing and all the other not so glamorous things.

It was a week for the books!