Crystal Madrilejos

Design & Creative

The groundhogs must have been lying in waiting to get into the garden. Today, I left the gate open for 10 minutes while I went inside and in the meantime a little groundhog snuck in. Andrew looked out the window and there it was grazing in our garden like it was nobody’s business.

Of course, in the short amount of time it was undetected, it was able to eat 50% of our salad greens. Andrew went out and it got scared and ran under the small space under one of our lettuce beds that is against the side of our porch. Andrew’s Dad always has groundhog traps on hand because they are quite a nuisance around these parts. We set the cage in the path to the garden gate, in hopes that it might be enticed by the watermelon that we set as bait.

We had to wait awhile before it would even come out again. We tried to scare him out of the hole so we could get his into the trap, to no avail. By chance, Andrew and I were standing inside the house by the window and we saw it start making its way out but it walked right past the trap right into our flower bed. It then proceeded to ravenously eat everything in it’s path. I mean, it was going at it like it hadn’t eaten in weeks. Andrew was like “We need a plan and we need to make a move NOW.” I held Quil inside the house because when quietness is of the utmost importance, he’s like a bull in a china shop. Apparently, Andrew had some sort of weird plan because he grabbed these two things: the Bumbo and the Bilibo.

He went onto the front porch and had the wherewithal to at least wait for a car to go by to muffle the sound of his footsteps so as to not scare the little guy back into his hiding spot. But that seems to be the only part that goes according to plan. All the while, I’m inside the house watching the groundhog feast on our garden. I can’t see Andrew because he’s on the front porch and I’m looking out the side window into the garden. All the sudden, I see the Bilibo fly by and the groundhog darts toward his hiding spot behind our lettuce bed. Next thing I see the Bumbo go flying by, narrowly missing the critter before he burrows back into his hiding spot. Andrew comes back in and I’m like “What happened? Did you panic?!” No, he didn’t panic. He just missed.

Needless to say, the groundhog hasn’t come back out since. We finally did the smart thing and cornered him in there with the only opening, going right into the trap. So when he finally gets over the ordeal and decides it’s safe to surface, if all goes according to plan, he will get trapped in the cage with some watermelon to keep him company until we can take him elsewhere.

If anything, we totally blew that groundhog’s mind. A shovel, a broom, a stick, a rock. These things, yes. But a Bumbo and a Bilibo? Probably the very last things it could have ever imagined having to encounter in this situation. And he’s most likely the only groundhog in the world that has ever seen a Bumbo or a Bilibo since I can’t think of any other instance these two things would intersect with its life.

We will see in the morning if our little trap worked. Updates to follow.


The deer fence that we finally installed after four years of deer issues. So far so good, but we’ll see if it keeps them out for good.

My birthday gift from my Mom. A fig tree! It’s desperately in need of a larger and better-looking pot.

Butternut Squash

Cinderella Pumpkins

Strawberries, Pac Choy, Acorn Squash, Sugar Baby Watermelons and in the far distance, Tomatoes.

The side of our house that faces the garden. Not the ideal place for maximum sun exposure, but it saved us from having to fence in all four sides of the garden.

Potatoes, Kale, & Carrots



Pac Choy

Acorn Squash

Herbs & Amaranth

This was an offshoot of my Dad’s Thornless Blackberries that he gave us to plant.

Mini-trellis and wood stumps for bed edging.

Flowering early Potatoes (Chieftan)

The owl found a more prominent spot. You can see the tomato trellis in the background. We finally got that up today, but we need to get some hardware to finish securing the lines.

Lettuce and Salad Green Beds

It’s getting there! We put up the bean and pea trellis’ today after I took these photos. Will post more photos soon.


Oh, hey there! Meet our new garden addition. As I mentioned in my last post, chipmunks have been using our garden as their own personal nut repository. So I got this guy in hopes that he would scare the bejeezus out of those little guys so I don’t have to resort to drastic measures. Just look at those crazy eyes, and his head moves too!

But the big question is, does it actually work? I think it’s still too early to tell. We haven’t had an ideal set up yet. The first day we got him, the chipmunks still went to town on our beds, but I don’t think we placed the decoy in a good spot. He was sitting on our porch and sort of lower down than I think is normal for owls?  So, I’m going to put him up on a pole to, you know, simulate real owl life. The past few days, I’ve been putting him in more prominent spots around the garden and it seems to help the beds that are in direct line of the owl’s sight. Hopefully, having him up in the air will help.

Scare tactics aside, Quil seems to like him and moves him around the garden for the fun of it. So we’ve got that going for us.


Nature, you know? The vast wonders of her majestic beauty, punctuated by the biggest pains in my ass. First it was the deer, then the birds (yes, that’s bird crap in our lettuce bed but I’ve made peace with the birds, for the time being), and now chipmunks.

The birds at least have some purpose, other than pooping everywhere. They eat the bad bugs that eat our veggies. But chipmunks, what good are they? Cute, for sure. And whenever Quil sees a chipmunk running around in the backyard, he says the chipmunk is on his way “to eat pasta with grandmother.” Which he totally made up himself and is almost reason alone to pardon the creatures. But still, they are driving me crazy. They keep digging in our garden beds to hide their little nut stashes and in the process uproot any plants nearby their chosen spot. Holes like this in our potato bin:

And last night, one of those little brats knocked over one of my succulent pots on our porch and broke it. I just planted some flower seeds in another pot on our porch and they keep digging in that as well. I’m not even sure if the flowers will grow now since they’ve been disturbed so many times.

So, I did a quick little search and found that putting up a big fake owl in your garden is a common thing to do to freak those chipmunks right out. Now, that sounds all sorts of crazy. But I’m willing to try it. And I googled it and there are such things in existence for this exact purpose. I might just go all out and make my yard look like this:

There are some people on the web who say no amount of fake-owling will keep the pests out, but I’m going to give it a try since it’s cheap and requires a minimal amount of effort. Nothing worse than spending a ton of money and time on something that doesn’t work. I will let you know how it goes.

Wish me luck!

I’ve been doing a little bit of research into low-light houseplants.

After buying a handful of succulents over the past year, I’m realizing that we just don’t have enough light to really get them to thrive. I have a few that are doing okay, but they are stretching and getting leggy due to the lack of light, even in our south-facing window (due to two beautiful, but huge, maple trees.)

Here’s a photo of part of my current succulent collection that I moved out onto the porch for more sun. See how long and leggy that middle one is? And you can see the Echeveria at the top, how the center is stretching. Poor guys.

I came across this great post on Martha Stewart (of course) on how to measure what type of light you have and what plants are appropriate for your light levels. I don’t think I’m going to do the entire light test with the camera that they suggest, but it did give me some ideas for plants to look out for. Here are two of my favorites:

Crested Leopard Plant (Farfugium Japonicum ‘Crispatum’)

Prayer plant (Maranta leuconeura)

I don’t know what I’m going to do with all these succulents come fall – right now they are on the porch which gets a bit more sun, but come winter they will have to come back indoors. I looked into using plant grow lights, but those have a tendency to be an eyesore. We still have a grow light hanging in our kitchen from our seed starts and it just screams “illegal activity” to me. But it may be my only choice if I want to keep them.

Anyone have any low-light houseplant they like and recommend?

What’s new on the homestead? Harvested some ramps from a friends property (pictured above – ramps as far as the eye can see), garden is underway, pond stocking is in progress, potatoes are sprouted, the reclaimed wood for the compost bin is nail free, a couple more raised beds have been built, and deer fence is almost up. Now, we just need the weather to cooperate! It’s been up and down the past couple weeks and I guess that’s why we have “last frost dates” – but man, am I itching to just get going with the warm weather already!

Today we started putting up the new deer fencing that was my gift to myself last year when I got a bonus at work. Who buys deer fence with their bonus? I do. It’s that important to me. With our past experience, it’s just not worth it to garden in our area if you don’t have either a dog or a deer fence. We don’t want a dog, so we went with the fence. I’m really, really hoping this does the trick because I love having a garden but the stress of the deer almost makes it not worth it.

I wish I had more pictures for you from the past few weeks, but I’m too lazy to upload them right now.

So here is a picture of one of our raised beds before we installed it last fall. You can see the basic construction in this photo. The outside rails are attached to four posts that will go into the ground so the bottom board sits flush on the ground.

After installing them, we put a layer of black weed blocking fabric, followed by a few layers of cardboard, a layer of leaves, a layer of alpaca manure, then another layer of leaves. This then sat for the past six months to kill the weeds and grass and also create the nutrient rich base for a layer of composted soil that went on top last week. If you can do this in the fall, it will save you a lot of work come spring (and summer, since it will save you lots of time weeding.)

Okay, so I know some of you are wondering why we used pine when it’s going to be outside and will eventually rot. Ideally, cedar would be the wood of choice since it’s naturally rot resistant. But Cedar is many dollars. We figured if we can get a few years out of these beds before they rot, it will have been worth the price we paid for the wood. I think down the line, we’re open to trying different things. We just don’t have the money for cedar ones at this point. One bed can run upwards of $200 – which is double what we paid to make ALL our beds.

We also didn’t seal the wood. And the reason being, we don’t want any toxic materials touching the soil that will be growing the food we’ll be eating. This is also the reason we didn’t use pressure treated wood, which again is rot resistant but also treated with chemicals. Here is Quil helping Andrew with the beds last fall. And by helping I mean, running around like a maniac. I just got him during a moment of stillness in this shot.

I will post more current photos of our progress soon, I promise!


These are some of the treasures we’ve found while digging around the yard and playing in the creek.

Clockwise from top left: Black lump (I’m not sure what this is. We find it all the time in the yard. It’s very light.), broken glass, a shell fossil from the creek, another weird fossil, a piece of white ceramic, another fossil of coral, & a broken piece of china.

If anyone can identify what these things are, especially the black lump, it would be much appreciated!


We’re taking a leap and have decided to try creating a sustainable food source for our family by raising our own fish. This spring we will be populating Andrew’s parents pond with a combination of Large Mouth Bass, Blue Gill, Red Ear Sunfish, & White Amur. White Amur or Grass Carp is not for eating, but for keeping the plant growth under control – sometimes people use chemicals to keep their plant growth in check, but we definitely don’t want any chemicals in our pond since this is one of the reasons we want to raise our own food – to avoid chemicals!

This is an idea that Andrew and I have been tossing about for some time now. But finally, today Andrew spoke to a local fish propagator who said we can have our fish delivered sometime between April and May. Since we are starting with full-grown fish that are ready to spawn instead of fingerlings, it will only be a year before the population gets stable enough for us to start fishing. Fingerlings are cheaper, but they take a long time to grow and you risk them getting eaten by other things that live in and around the pond (turtles, other fish, blue heron, etc.) since our pond is already established.
Of course, I don’t expect that the fish will just be jumping into our nets. Especially since Andrew and I are no expert fishermen. So, I’m fully expecting to rely on all my family members (namely, my Dad) and friends who know waaaay more about fishing than we do to help us figure this one out. I don’t even know how to clean a fish properly! No better time than now to learn, I guess.
Here’s to trying new things!


Buckeyes + Black Walnuts + dried Tomatillo husk + broken robin’s egg + deer antler

I honestly think there is nothing more wondrous, beautiful, and inspiring than the natural world. Rereading that sentence, I realized I probably just ripped off a line from David Attenborough from the Planet Earth documentary series. But it’s true! Whenever we go on walks, Andrew, Quil and I are aways on the lookout for “treasures.” Whether, it’s rocks or feathers or interesting seed pods, we like to collect these little things and display them at home. 
For awhile now, I’ve been meaning to photograph our growing collection in hopes that they can become a regular feature on our blog, since it seems that we’re always finding something new. So, today I finally got around to photographing the first installment of our “Found Treasures.” Hope you enjoy them!

Feathers (collected between 2008 – 2012)
I don’t know what kinds of feathers these are. If anyone has any idea, I would love to know! Aren’t they beautiful?
This Calvin & Hobbes comic pretty much sums up my feelings exactly whenever we find something neat. 
Recently, a family friend and I were laughing about how she went on vacation one year and came home with a suitcase full of rocks. Andrew is slightly concerned about our upcoming vacation to the beach and the amount of shells that may find their way home with us! I’ll do my best to keep it under control.