Crystal Madrilejos

Design & Creative


This is the time of year that things start getting crazy (and fun) in the garden. Garden 2014 is no different, though a bit behind. Still no ripe tomatoes, but plenty of beans and kale. We got a decent haul of blueberries this year, and the blackberries are coming in nicely.

The other day a groundhog got into our garden, again. Damage was minimal, just some carrot tops and a torn branch of ripening Gilbertie paste tomatoes. Maybe it remembered that time Andrew threw a Bumbo at it. Turns out there was a hole in our fencing either from some critter’s chewing, or some careless mowing. I’m inclined to think it was the groundhog due to the size and shape of the hole. The hole has since been fixed and the groundhog trapped and moved out of the garden, thank goodness. (more…)


I realized the other day, I haven’t done a garden post in awhile. It’s getting lush and green and everything is exploding but not much bounty yet, with the exception of strawberries, salad greens, kale and spinach.

I feel like everything is a bit behind this year. But I also have a feeling this might be a long summer. No scientific proof behind that claim, just something that I feel. I could totally be wrong though. (more…)


When we first started our garden, there were only a few things that Andrew was dead set on growing. Lettuce, potatoes, corn, and strawberries. Lettuce, check. Potatoes, check. Corn and strawberries, eh not so much. Every single year, something went awry with our strawberries. Until this year! We finally have a bumper crop – if we can manage to keep the animals and bugs (and little kid fingers) in check.

We’ve managed to keep the animals and kids at bay with fencing and netting. However, slugs are a problem. I see them everywhere leaving their disgusting foamy slug trails! How rude! A friend on Facebook suggested beer traps, which I have yet to try since we don’t have beer readily available in our house and I can never remember to get some. Andrew used to work/live on an permaculture homestead out in Washington state, and they have HUGE slugs out there. Like, cartoonishly big. Like if you accidentally stepped on one it would make a pop/crunch sound! Yuck. The people he lived with would crush up egg shells and sprinkle them around each strawberry plant because apparently the slugs don’t like to crawl over them – a similar concept to Diatomaceous Earth I suppose. Our strawberry patch is way overcrowded to do that, which probably isn’t helping our slug problem either. Too many plants in one area give slugs lots of hiding places! (more…)


Potatoes have been one of our favorite veggies to grow since we started our garden because they are so fun to harvest. It’s like digging for treasure! Up until this year we’ve mainly done one big harvest at the end of the season for storage potatoes. But our storage set up hasn’t been ideal and we seemed to end up with lots of sprouting spuds – okay for seed potatoes but not great for eating. This year we plan on harvesting as we grow (it’s a sign that potatoes are forming below ground when the plant starts to flower.) We’ve tried a few different growing methods over the years – planting in-ground and hilling the soil around the plants as they grow, a build-as-you-go bin, and last year started growing in a few different containers. I can’t say so far whether one has been more successful in terms of the amount of yield, though bins are less time consuming but a lot of soil is needed on hand to keep filling as the plants grow. (more…)


Years ago when we started our first garden we jumped all in and grew pretty much anything and everything we could, even if we had no idea what to do with it. Back before Kale was all the rage, we grew it because we were young and ambitious and wanted to just grow the weirdest things we could find (Kale being one such “weird” thing) and when it was time to harvest we were like, “Now what?” – we literally had never made anything with Kale. Fast-forward to our current garden. We’re a bit more selective in what we grow due to space and time restrictions, years (it doesn’t take many) of gardening toil have made us a bit less ambitious in certain ways and a bit more humbled by the force that is nature (aka the damn deer, the groundhogs, chipmunks, birds, bugs and the weeds). But Kale… good ol’ Kale… has become a staple that goes into everything from smoothies and fresh juice, to breakfast scrambles or kale chips. Plus, not only is it really healthy, but it’s a workhorse during our zone’s colder months, a superfood in more ways than one! (more…)


Last year was the first year we didn’t do any summer squash (zucchini or yellow squash.) Despite these being the most prolific of veggies and something I would definitely recommend for any novice gardener to plant because they give a lot of bang for the buck, we didn’t plant them for that exact reason. Every summer we drowned in zucchini, like we couldn’t GIVE these things away, and you have to be diligent checking your plants or you run the risk of huge mutant squash. Plus, we belonged to a local CSA last year and we knew we were going to have a fair share of summer squash already.

Since we didn’t have those massive zucchini plants taking up space, we were able to plant more winter squash and also some watermelon, all of which were a great success. (more…)


You know what I love? The fact that more and more people are talking about natural health and beauty. I think there are a cast of characters that people automatically lump into the “natural” category when it comes to health and beauty products and they are usually crunchy, hippie, granola types or hipster urban homesteaders (two genres that I straddle, easily.) But I’ve been noticing more and more within my diverse pool of friends and family (hippie and non-hippie alike) that natural alternatives are coming to the forefront of people’s consciousness when they consider their routines, and that is really awesome.

I wrote a couple years ago about No More Dirty Looks, a website that has clean healthy and beauty at its core and how much that site changed my approach to the personal products I use (and might I mention that these ladies are a far cry from being what most people would consider “dirty hippies”). The great thing about their site is that they are highlighting brands that are fighting the good fight to keep things clean. You don’t have to resort to cooking up all your own homemade concoctions to avoid all the bad stuff in a lot of products these day.

However, with that said, I’ve already done a post in the past with brands that I’ve tried and like and wanted to focus on all those homemade remedies that have made it into my regular routine: (more…)

Tomatoes haven’t always been the most successful plants in our garden. Yes, there are factors that are not within our control, like the weather but a lot of attention goes a long way with tomatoes. They aren’t like some plants where you can just let them go wild and they are the better for it. Tomatoes crave attention. This past season, I made the tomatoes into my own little pet project. I was determined to have a big and healthy haul and I can say that it was our best season yet. Our goal is to grow and perfect a canning process that is suitable for the type of sauce Andrew makes for his pizza.  (more…)

It’s hard to believe that it’s that time of year again. Not only does it seem like we were just planning the garden not so long ago, but with this crazy winter weather, it’s hard to believe that spring is even around the corner. Instead of doing one massive garden planning post this year, I’ve decided to spread things out a bit to get us all ramped up for the planting season. So with that said, onto the garden planning!  (more…)

The Design Elements of a Chicken. Illustration from “Introduction to Permaculture” by Bill Mollison.

I first learned about Permaculture when Andrew was living out west at Bohdi Creek Farm. And from the moment he started describing the things he was learning while living there, I knew it was something life-changing. Who knew that, what would turn out to be an unplanned three month stint for Andrew in the Pacific NW, would end up being so influential on our lives?

If you are unfamiliar with Permaculture, here is the general synopsis from Wikipedia:

Permaculture is a branch of ecological design, ecological engineering, and environmental design that develops sustainable architecture and self-maintained agricultural systems modeled from natural ecosystems.

Andrew and I have talked about the general principles of Permaculture before and know some aspects of it from his time out west and the modest amount of research we’ve done, but something I read recently was sort of an “ah-ha” moment for me. It made things clear as to why the whole idea of Permaculture really speaks to me, and it’s basically this: Permaculture is design. (more…)