A garden is a grand teacher.  
It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; 
it teaches industry and thrift; 
above all it teaches entire trust.
~Gertrude Jekyll

Chris associate for the Home Depot writing our guest-post today.  Chris very generously created the planter pictured below.  He wrote this post in response to my interest in learning more about Sub Irrigated Planters a.k.a. SIP's.  Mike and I currently are in the process of building our own raised bed planters...thanks to Chris's influence...and will post photos when they're planted and producing!  Thanks again to Chris and to Home of my favorite places!

Garden Liquidator: Simple Sub-Irrigated Planters
When it comes to gardening, the phrase "less is more" just doesn't apply (unless, of course, you're talking about bad things like weeds, bugs and plant diseases...). For the most part, more is going to be more. After all, who doesn't want more produce, more natural goodness and more days enjoying the fruits (and vegetables!) of your labor?
And the plants agree: they want more water. Fortunately, establishing a sub-irrigated planter (SIP) is a quick and easy way to make the most out of your crop.
By injecting the water under the surface (as opposed to the traditional method of watering above ground), more of it gets directly to the roots and you use much less water than you normally would. Since it is a closed system, there is no runoff and little overflow.
And the best part is that building one isn't as difficult as you might think. All you need are a few supplies, a good pair of gardening gloves, and a couple of hours and you've got an operational, sub-irrigated raised bed garden.

Bed Basics
The key to this super-efficient underground method of gardening is the use of perforated corrugated drain pipes. The little perforated slits that cover the pipes provide the entry and exit points for the water; there is no need for a wicking material because the soil surrounding the pipes serves as the capillary go-between that transmits the water to the roots.
*Tip: While you can also use an inverted nursery flat or a plastic food container with holes (basically anything similar with holes that won't corrode), the larger, rounded shape of the drain pipes fills up the bottom of the planter better and takes up more space in the box, resulting in the ability to use less filler or soil than average.
Plus, the little notches in the corrugated drain pipe provide just the right amount of air/water needed to aerate and properly water the roots.
The other major material component is a fill pipe which, as its name implies, is the means through which you fill the pipes with water. Your fill pipe can be as simple as a plastic water bottle, inverted and with the bottom cut off, inserted directly into a hole you have cut into the top of one of the pipes. You can also use an extra piece of drain pipe in a corner, (as shown), that just extends to the bottom of the planter.
Finally, don't forget about an overflow drain hole - the bed's protection against overwatering - that you can cut directly into the planter.
*Tip: Although you can build your SIP directly into a wooden planter, you will greatly extend the longevity of the lumber by lining the entire inside of the box with plastic before inserting any other materials. This moisture barrier will keep the lumber's porous surface protected and will result in a much more successful, watertight raised bed garden.
And if you do go the lumber planter route, don't forget to cut an overflow drain hole into the lumber. Drill a ½" circular hole into one of the boards the planter 4" up from the bottom and insert a piece of ½" OD round vinyl tubing into it, extending it to the bottom of a pipe to ensure proper drainage. When it's time to water, just keep adding water until a little bit starts to weep out of the overflow. Refill it again the next day and you will be good to go for quite some time.
*Tip: Just remember that if you decide to go the direct-to-lumber planter method, do not use pre-treated lumber as it contains harmful toxins that can kill your plants before they have a chance to grow.

Quick Construction

Step 1: Gather the necessary materials. In this case, an SIP was constructed out of a large pontoon boat before it was placed into a lumber housing unit.

Step 2: Insert the pre-cut lengths of ventilated pipes into the container.
*Tip: When you place your pipes into the planter, be sure to space them apart evenly as these spaces form the soil wicks.

Step 3: Pour soil into the planter and cover the entire lengths of the pipes.

*Tip: When you add the soil mix to the planter, be sure to pack it down into the spaces between the pipes to ensure good capillary wicking action.

4: Insert an upright length of pipe into the planter with one end exposed above the surface to serve as your fill pipeOnce you have completed your planter, you can construct a lumber "housing" unit to dress up your SIP like this one here built out of 2x4 boards stacked in a "Lincoln log" type formation (alternating parallel layers bolted together).

*Tip: Whether you build your SIP for use directly on the ground or raise it off the floor, it is important that the bed of your planter is flat and level. Otherwise, you are going to end up with uneven distribution of water.

Now, simply plant, water and watch as your new nursery blooms before your very eyes!
What are you planning on planting in your new sub-irrigated raised bed gardens?

Chris Long, a long-time store associate at a Home Depot in Illinois, writes on lumber products for the Home Depot website. He also enjoys writing on underground irrigation projects for gardens and lawns.

Photos:  Chris Long


Simple Sowing: Herbs and Greens ~ The Garden in Winter

"A garden is a lovesome thing...
The veriest school of Peace."
--Thomas Edward Brown

I've been busy planning and working on the herb garden this past month... inspired by the image of a simple yet fascinating circular herb garden I saw on Pinterest (above center left...all the other photos are my own).  The viewing thereof prompted cravings for fresh mint and tangy thyme in our daily salads... not to mention that elusive lemon-y/yet not lemon-y flavor of French sorrel in our soups in lieu of spinach.  If the truth be told I began in late December after a visit to the 99-Cent store where I literally stumbled upon a group of lonely looking herbs (bottom right picture in collage) while putting away the basket in front of the store... sage, chives, oregano huddled together on a small rolling cart... all in need of a nourishing, nurturing home and, of course, they were adopted by me (bottom right collage photo).

A few weeks later found me planting more green, herbal goodness that I found for a few dollars each at our local nursery, Brita's Old Town Garden.  Parsley, Purple Kale and Cabbage, along with a lovely Lavender bush found earlier that week at Trader Joe's (top photo of collage) joined the existing baby rosemary bush by the garden gate and the other plants populating our tiny herb garden.  

As gardening was heavily on my mind, I bought an extra Lavender to plant at my Dad's house... it will eventually replace the cherry tomatoes that (while very spindly and sparse) are still producing about half-pint per week (bottom left photo of collage).  


Purple Kale for use in our morning juice (thank you Manuela for the good advice!) as well as use in other recipes such as soups, stews, sautéed dishes and salads. Kale and other lettuces will grow as a perennial in our mild climate if we harvest only the outer leaves and leave the center intact.

Cabbage for juicing, sauté's and the like...
like the Kale I will try to keep this as a perennial by harvesting only the outer leaves.  The herb pot in behind the cabbage was bought for under $4 from Trader Joe's.  

A potted semi~dwarf Kumquat tree we bought last week from Costco of all places for a mere $19.99!

Even our Rose tree was in the mood for spring... communicating this to us by offering its' generous blooms in late January!

Robert Collier tells us to "See things as you would have them be instead of what they are."  I'm finding that garden planning is a perfect exercise for mastering this.  What are you seeing for your garden and world?  
Sending love and good thoughts to always.

Tracey and Family x0x



The Art of Frugality... Recent Practices

"How simple and frugal a thing is happiness."
~Nikos Kazantzakis 

As with most people, the advent of the new year has us combing the budget to patch the leaks... reassessing our spending habits... and battening down our spending in order to accommodate a tighter budget.  Because of this I've been especially inspired by all of the frugal ideas found throughout this wonderland of Bloglandia.  Sending gratitude and thanks to all who so generously share their life~enhancing frugal strategies... you are very appreciated.

Here are a few simple ways we've been practicing the art of frugality in our realm of reality recently.

One of my goals for this year is to do more planting of edibles in our little garden.   I've already planted the herbs I received for Christmas (see picture in previous post... I'll write a longer post on our garden plans soon).  

I finally tried this great idea that's been rolling around Pinterest for awhile:  Instead of throwing out the stub of our organic celery I put it in a bit of water on the window sill and use the leaves in cooking.  If all goes well it will eventually go out into the garden with our herbs, cabbages and kale!  I did a similar strategy using organic Romaine lettuce cores (cut from store bought lettuce) with great results.  They sprouted on the window sill where I harvested a few of them to top Tostadas.  I eventually planted them in the garden but our resident raccoons immediately dug them up and ate them! Perhaps the next batch will be put into pots?

I'm also trying another classic idea to further enhance our tiny edible garden: Organic green onions are stored in a glass of water.  After using the green stems (leaving just enough to reach the top of the glass) I'll allow them to sprout and then plant them in the garden.  I hope the raccoons don't have a taste for onions... but we'll find out!
 Several months ago I bought a huge bag of California garlic from Costco and had several bulbs remaining.  After doing a little research in my gardening books I found that planting garlic with your other herbs and vegetables may deter critters (i.e., raccoons and munching insects) from digging up and/or nibbling on your garden edibles.  With so much garlic not being eaten, I decided to plant several of the cloves.  This is my first time planting garlic bulbs but my research tells me that one little clove produces twenty more...that's a very good return!  And if it keeps guard over the rest of the garden all the better.  Also...if you're wondering why I'm showing the garlic cloves in a jar it's because I soaked them for about an hour in a 20 to 1 solution of water and peroxide.  These were all planted about three weeks ago and they are all sprouting beautifully (photos to come).  I will keep you posted!~~~

Inspired by need, I dug out some of our thrifted vintage silver plated flatware and soaked it in an aluminum foil lined stainless  pot filled with water and sprinkled with baking soda and a bit of salt.  It worked fairly well to take the first few layers of the very dark tarnish from them but elbow grease had to take over from there!  We use these for our everyday flatware and I never tire of the pretty shapes and designs.

Citrus abounds out here in southern California so I am doing my best to preserve the fruits of this winter season via dehydrator (seen above) and by freezing the juice.  Mike bought me a juicer for our anniversary last year (at my request) and we've made a healthy habit of it since.  Fresh oranges, lemons and grapefruits are delicious additions to our morning juices.  They are especially frugal as we get most of our citrus free from my father's trees or for a song from the local farm stand.  I plan on using the frozen lemon/orange/grapefruit juice to add to our juices and smoothies when citrus isn't so abundant and/or well priced.

Thank you again for the abundance of ideas and inspiration everyone puts out here... it is so motivating and nudges me to action!

Sending love and good thoughts to all.
Tracey and Family



Sorting and Appreciating Life's Most Precious Gifts

".... such golden gifts!"

 Ever since the holiday season officially ended a few weeks ago, I've found myself sorting (dare I say wrestling with?) those  tangled threads of earthly phenomenon that were so graciously gifted to me (us) this past season.  Please don't misunderstand. I am a life~long lover and appreciator of receiving gifts.  I am ever so grateful for them in all forms!  In fact, I pondered on this fact the other day as I happily removed the contents of a very raggedy billfold and placed them into a brand new, lovely, Michael Kors wallet (thank you Rosie!); and again, as I prepared a small area of our tiny garden to receive newly acquired additions of herbs (and a tiny Italian Pine tree that promises even more gifts of pine nuts... in approximately fifteen years, give or take).

As I was digging through the soil, I thought of something I'd read long ago: Anything of value multiplies when it's given.  I admit to testing this philosophy over the years and have found it to be surprisingly accurate.  Giving can create much happiness for the giver as well as the receiver.  

Whatever the gift, it is the emotion and thought of the giver that sets its true value.  When thinking back on important gifts I've received in my own life I find them to be too numerous to count.  Yet, there are a few that stand out from the rest.

My first great gift in life came from my mother.  Besides the obvious gift of life, of which she played a key role, my mother bestowed upon me an avid love of learning.  She tutored me in my first struggles with phonics and was a wise, gentle guide who unlocked the door of my young mind and allowed me access to that secret world of reading... and all the joys and benefits that grace those who wander through it.  My favorite books from childhood (many of them classics she once recommended) continue to be my friends and counselors.  I find it ironic that these books have offered me much needed advice during the years after my mother became too ill to guide or counsel me.  This gift continues to increase the quality of my life as well as enrich my soul.  

I suppose it's no surprise then that the second great gift of my life came much later, from my father.  My mother's illness (Multiple Sclerosis) had progressed to the point where she became unable to care for herself in any way.  Her doctors recommended that she be permanently admitted into a convalescent facility.  My father adamantly refused their strong suggestions and he was unwavering in his answer.  "If I were in that wheelchair she would be taking care of me...and doing a better job of it than I am."  He would quietly explain.  That was in 1976.  For thirty years (until October 2006 when she passed away) he cared for her at home and we visited often.  Although she could no longer speak she was vividly aware of our presence.  We know this by the way she greeted us. Her eyes sparkled... her arms feebly reached out to each of us for an embrace as her lips silently mouthed the words "I love you".   My father would look on and then tell us later  how much healthier she seemed when we were there.  Who could ignore the valuable gift found in his example of loyalty, love and unselfishness?

Now that it's a new year, like most of us, I've made a few resolutions.  Among them... at the top of my list... is the decision to make a conscious effort to maintain my focus on the many gifts I've been given... tangible as well as intangible.  No more focusing on what I don't have. Instead, I plan to put the art of appreciation into high gear and look for the good gifts that are present in all things and experiences.    

Wishing you and yours a blessed 2013 brimming with tangible and intangible gifts !

Sending love and good thoughts to all.

Tracey and Family


"Proof of Heaven"... and the Power of Prayer

 " A  Single  Prayer  Moves  Heaven . "

~ Japanese Proverb




"Proof of Heaven" is a very thought provoking book.  I read it a few weeks ago and each chapter is fascinating.  Yet, I can't stop thinking about the segment where the author tells us he fell into the depths of despair after being informed he was to leave the Heavenly place.  Deeply saddened at his impending loss he absentmindedly observed what looked to be a sea of butterflies fluttering beneath him.  A closer inspection revealed that it was NOT a sea of butterflies at all but an ocean of prayers.  The frequency/vibration of the love, good thoughts and faith were delivering them from Earth to Heaven.  They served to immediately lift him out of despair and back into the happiness he had felt only when he was 'within the gates that housed the One.'

Reading this book impacted me profoundly... the butterfly scene especially brought an entirely new dimension to my own prayers.

  What a gift... to be given a glimpse of what our prayers look like on the receiving end!  

It is such a wondrous reminder of the power we each hold... recourse to prayer !  Yet... sadly... some individuals barely recognize they possess this power.   

During this hallowed and gracious season I felt a strong need to share this information with you kind souls who visit.

  As the kids and I used to pray when they were little (on the way to school each morning): "Thank you Lord for making the bad people turn into good ones... and the good people of this earth to have perfect wisdom, truth and understanding... and to take action with that truth, wisdom and understanding in a perfect way for all concerned."  

I give thanks to Dr. Alexander (a highly respected neurosurgeon) for having the courage and taking the trouble to share his amazing... after-life affirming... experiences with us via his book and media appearances.

Sending love and good thoughts to all for a blessed and happy Christmas and Holiday season.

Tracey and Family



How to Find the Time...Getting Things Done During the Busy Holiday Season...Without Losing the Joy!

Here are a few strategies for finding the time to make gifts and get things done during the busy holiday season...while keeping the joy alive.  Note: This article is an excerpt from a 1998 issue of our newsletter, Frugal LuxuriesAt the bottom of the page you'll find a scan of the original page!

  • Every evening, after dinner, I would choose an old movie to watch on video or television (I enjoy watching those with a holiday spark my enthusiasm).  I settled myself in a comfortable seat in the family room to prepare the apples [for the apple pies I planned to give as gifts]. Flanked by two large mixing bowls, I peeled and cored apples over bowl #1.  Next I cut the peeled apples into slices directly over bowl #2 (I also added a bit of lemon juice at the bottom of the bowl beforehand, to prevent the apples from browning).  This process continued until all of the apples were processed, taking about two hours.  I then seasoned the apples with cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar and cloves and set them, covered, in the refrigerator.  The following evening, while playing my favorite Christmas music, I prepared a quantity of pie crusts, and proceeded to bake the apple pies. [See HERE  for more on easy food prep.]

  • My "movie watching strategy" is also quite effective for many craft projects as well.  You may settle yourself in a comfortable chair and hand sew or craft over a deep (2 inch) lap-size tray (you may substitute cardboard boxes, or jelly roll pans if you have no trays available).  Doing this keeps your mess within a confined space (the tray) and makes clean up simple and easy.  If your project requires several days, you may set aside your tray (perhaps on a closet shelf) until you have a chance to finish.

  • Create a master craft and cooking/baking list helps you to budget your time.  Because you are able to see at a glance the many projects you wish to accomplish during the holidays you may easily prioritize and edit your plans if necessary.

  • Another self-induced incentive to action is to invite friends over for a few hours, and host a cooking, baking, or craft night.  The old saying that "many hands make light work" is drenched in truth.  I have done this and find that at least twice as much gets done when you have help.  As well, the simple fact that time has been set aside for you to specifically accomplish such tasks makes it more difficult for you to procrastinate or become sidetracked, before they are completed.

  •  Perhaps the most important thing to remember when performing any task is to make them as enjoyable as possible.  If you look at something as a chore you will naturally find ways to put off doing it.  Listening to your favorite music, watching a favorite holiday video, listening to [audio] books....or visiting with friends (remember the efficiency of the old~fashioned quilting bee?) will most definitely enhance any project.

 (Zucchini spice bread, using the farm stand zucchini I saved by freezing...I wrote about it HERE.)

I made these while implementing my classic "Movie Watching Technique"... all accomplished within a few episodes of "Downton Abbey" season 2! 

This page scanned from the 1998 Holiday Issue of our original newsletter, Frugal Luxuries.  To enlarge right-click and choose "view image"...then click the image to view a larger size.

The original "FRUGAL LUXURIES" ~ Based on the books by Tracey McBride ~ Established 1993

A warm Thank You to all kind souls and kindred spirits who generously take the time to leave a comment...your encouragement, trust and support are deeply appreciated...please know that we read each and every message and will respond as time allows.


Frugal Luxuries
is a registered trademark.


"FRUGAL LUXURIES: Simple Pleasures to Enhance Your Life and Comfort Your Soul" was written by Tracey McBride and published by Bantam Books, NY, in 1997. It was the first of its genre to synergize the elements of simplicity, frugality and gracious living.

After more than a decade, FRUGAL LUXURIES has never been out of print and is now more relevant than ever.

"It's our hope that a new generation, faced with a teetering economy, will also find this information helpful and enlightening."

Sending Good Thought to Our Special Band of Kind and Kindred Souls!

Frugal Luxuries Book I

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