Monthly Archives: February 2013

Simple No-Cough Tea (herbal tisane, actually…) and other natural cough remedies.

The bad news is that I was up with my four-year-old in the middle of the night.  We tried a number of things to stop her incessant cough, ending in the tea.  I didn’t start with tea because she doesn’t really like it, and there were a couple other things I could try first.  They didn’t work this time, but the good news is that the tea did.

My husband had a childhood full of asthma and tends to somewhat panic when our children cough, as he immediately correlates coughing with, “MY CHILD CAN’T BREATHE AND SOMETHING MUST BE DONE NOW.”  I appreciate his sympathy, and frankly, his urgency regarding coughing has kicked my rear end into gear a number of times when I would be content to just let my kids cough it out.

For everyone’s benefit, I now try to identify coughs better:

  • Is this asthma and my child really can’t breathe?
  • Is this a “wet” cough because my child is on the recovery-end of an illness and s/he is coughing up mucus (which is a good thing)?
  • Or are they just coughing incessantly and it’s disrupting their sleep, spreading germs, and not having any productive effect?

Fi’s was the third.  She miserable, unable to sleep, had been coughing for several hours to the point where her stomach muscles were aching from coughing so badly.  And weakened stomach muscles often = puking in our home, and I determined that for her peace, to keep food in her stomach, and to reduce the chance of the cough spreading to the other six in our family, we needed to address the cough.

First, we tried an oregano oil breathing treatment.  “My” oregano oil breathing treatment works AMAZING WONDERS on my 11 year-old son’s asthma.  It is also fabulous for deep-down lung pain and infection.  Fiala’s cough seemed more upper-respiratory, so I didn’t have much hope that it would work for her, but I thought I’d try.

Oregano Oil Breathing Treatment

This requires a nebulizer, typically used for albuterol breathing treatments.

Into the medicine receptacle of the nebulizer, place:

  1. Turn the nebulizer on and breathe deeply.  Inhale and hold for a few seconds.  Repeat for 3-10 deep breaths.  This DOES put a little tickle at the back of one’s throat, and breathing oregano oil is kind of a learned skill.  However, if my young children can do it, you can, too!
  2. Alternately, you can put 2-3 drops into a large mug, fill it with boiling water, and breathe the steam deeply for as long as possible.

Oregano oil is an amazing product that is virucidal, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal.  It is also anti-parasitic.  I’m uncertain WHY it works on asthma, and there is less research on oregano oil’s effectiveness on asthma (unlike various funguses, bacteria, and viruses, which has been studied and proven effective numerous times).

Colloidal silver has effectiveness against a variety of viruses, bacteria, and funguses, as well.

Secondly, we tried:

Simplest Cough Remedy

  • Honey

Available in many health food stores for about $9, or online for $7-8.

Studies have shown that up to 10 ml (two tsp) of honey is as effective as dextromethorphan for relieving the coughs of colds in children with upper respiratory tract infections.

My daughter Fiala, in particular, is super-suceptible to yeast/candida overgrowth, so I limit her sugar intake, including honey.  And even though honey is good for just about anyone for a wide variety of reasons, I’m still leery of sugar, even natural sugars.  So, I would never give a whole 2 tsp to anyone.

Our favorite “medicinal” honey is from Y.S. Organic Bee Farms and is called Super-Enriched Honey.  It is raw and unpasteurized and contains pollen, propolis, and royal jelly.  It is really thick and has an unusual taste.  I find it pleasant, but if you’re expecting a honey-taste found akin to that found in the McDonald’s honey packet, you’ll probably be startled.

I simply scoop up a small spoonful of honey and let the child slowly lick it.  Consequently, when anyone coughs even a tiny bit in our home, they tend to come running with a certain proclamation of, “I need a honey spoon!”

When neither the herbal breathing treatment nor honey was doing any good, I brewed up a batch of my no-cough tea.

No-Cough Tea

Into a wire mesh tea ball, place:

  • Fennel seed — and, YES, I’m thrilled if your medicine cabinet and your spice rack are one and the same.

    2 tsp loose chamomile flowers

  • 1/8 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seed
  • 1/8 tsp licorice root powder
  • optional:  1/2 tsp dried peppermint leaves
  • optional:  1 tsp dried mullein flower (verbascum thapsis)
  1. Place tea ball in a very large mug and pour boiling water over the top.  Let steep 10-15 minutes, then stir well.
  2. Sweeten with honey (especially if you didn’t use a “honey spoon” to stop the cough) or stevia, or simply don’t sweeten at all, as the licorice root lends a sweet taste.
  3. Put 1/4 cup of the brewed tea in a smaller mug and let child sip slowly for 10-20 minutes.
  4. If cough hasn’t stopped, repeat with 1/4 cup doses.
  5. This may take up to ONE HOUR for effectiveness — in other words, 3-6 doses of 1/4 cup each over the course of an hour, until coughs subside.
  6. Extremely effective for stopping coughs for 3-4 hours.  So, repeat throughout the day as necessary, trying to re-dose before your child returns to violent coughing.

(For readers local to the Phoenix area, all of the tea ingredients can be found at Sprouts.  All of the herbs — except the mullein — can be found in the bulk spice area.  Mullein flower can be found, packaged, hanging close to the “regular” tea and herb area, God’s Garden Pharmacy brand.)

What the ingredients are and why they work:

  • Chamomile (matricaria recutita) flowers have antianxiety, antihistamine, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-spasmodic properties, mainly due to chamomile’s natural phytonutrient, chamazulene.  The “anti-inflammatory” and “anti-spasmodic” characteristics especially important for calming coughs.
  • Beautiful, fragrant thyme.

    Thyme (thymus vulgaris) is a strong antiseptic.  Its natural phytonutrient, thymol, is actually the active ingredient in classic Listerine.  Thymol is also an active ingredient in most naturally-based antiseptic cleaners.  For coughs, thyme is effective not only in destroying germs, but it is a powerful anti-spasmodic and has bronchial-clearing properties.  (Thyme oil is extremely strong and should be used with caution.  However, using a pinch of the dried herb itself is safe for just about everyone, pregnant women and small children included.)  Thyme does have somewhat of an unpleasant “green/herbal” taste in tea;  however, do not omit it!!

  • Fennel, in general, is truly a miracle plant.  It is by far one of the most nutritious and helpful plants one can consume — from bulb to stem to feathery top to seed.  I personally cannot understand why it is not at the top of “Superfood” lists!  Fennel, as well as being anti-spasmodic, is also a pain-reducer, fever-reducer, and has antimicrobial activity.  It soothes upset stomachs and speeds healing of muscle strains (including muscles sore from incessant coughing!).  Fennel’s “magic” properties are largely due to the phytonutrients creosol (also found in chaparral and creosote) and alpha-pinene.  (Again, use the whole herb — fennel seed, not fennel oil, which is extremely strong and dangerous, if used incorrectly.)
  • If you have ever had Throat Coat tea by Traditional Medicinals, licorice root is the main ingredient, followed by mullein.  Licorice is extensively used, world-wide, as a remedy for an astounding number of ailments, from lupus, to cancer, to diabetes, to chronic fatigue syndrome, to HIV/AIDS and more.  Its effectiveness is primarily from the naturally-occurring phytonutrient glycyrrhizinic acid which, among other properties, acts as an incredibly effective immune stimulant.  For our purposes here, licorice root relieves the dry, tickly feeling associated with hacking coughs — as well as shortens the healing time needed to recover from illness.
  • Peppermint has properties helpful to those with coughs and colds — however, the flavor rather clashes with the flavors found both in thyme, fennel, and licorice root.  Peppermint contains the phytonutrient menthol, long known for relieving coughs and other respiratory disorders.  An alternate tea, especially if your child enjoys the mint flavor, would be simply chamomile and peppermint.
  • Mullein (verbascum thapsus) has soothing, emollient effects via its plentiful, naturally-occurring mucilages.  It also reduces inflammation via natural tannins.  Mullein promotes expectoration, meaning it loosens phlegm in the respiratory tract, causing coughs to be more effective.

I dearly hope that some readers find this useful.  If you do, post a comment and let me know!!

What if your husband is wrong???

So…  My husband and I have always been budget-minded.  We came away from our respective childhoods after watching at least some of the adults in our lives be fairly irresponsible with money with a wounded awareness of how that affected us, as children.  Both of us, independently, had said, “That won’t be me when I’m an adult.”

As a result, as young adults, each of us were already very mindful of responsible fiscal living, and that only increased after we got married.

However, it took Martin and me what I thought was a REEEEEALLLLLLYYYYYYY long time to get on the same page with how to approach exactly HOW to approach being “fiscally responsible.”  His tactic, for a number of years, was, “Don’t buy anything, ever, and save all your money.”  That sounds all right, but what about when there are real needs?

I was reminded of that time in our lives this morning, and one major way I got through his tight-fistedness.

Six children later, it’s STILL one of my favorite books on pregnancy. And there’s an updated edition now available. And reading scribbles from previous years has reminded me that, while there is also a Kindle version now available, the good old printed page still triumphs.

Most mornings, I sit down with my six-year-old, Audrey, with my now-ancient copy of The Pregnancy Journal.  There are daily entries in this spiral-bound book of what is happening in the mother’s body, how the baby is developing, plus other tidbits about childbirth in other cultures, hints on nutrition, pithy — or touching — quotes about parenting, et al.  There are also lines on which the mother can record how her particular pregnancy is progressing:  her weight, mood, and other thoughts.

My current pregnancy is only a week different than my first, as far as due-dates go.  My oldest, who will turn 16 on June 23, was due on July 4th.  This pregnancy, my sixth, is tentatively slated to end on June 27.  So, I have found it especially interesting, comparing my thoughts now, as an experienced mother, with my thoughts from sixteen years ago.

This morning I read something particularly poignant:  It detailed how I really needed maternity clothes, and Martin wouldn’t release the funds.  I now find that almost laughable:  He’s a lot more reasonable now;  I almost can’t believe that I could have made it to 20-ish weeks in my first pregnancy with ZERO maternity clothes, and him still saying, “No.”  Additionally, I’m now a lot better at finding good deals;  most of my current maternity wardrobe came, second-hand, from Craigslist.  Some items came at no cost via Freecycle.  And just a few things, I purchased new.  I’m certain that, back then, I had no intention of buying secondhand maternity clothes.

In my journal entry, though, I noted that even if my husband was wrong, I didn’t want to develop any bitterness.  I didn’t want to harbor any anger for him.  He wasn’t in sin.  He wasn’t breaking the law.  He was simply unreasonable.  I felt it then, and now, looking back, I still think he was unreasonable.  Reading that journal entry caused all my old feelings to come flooding back:  I remember struggling mightily with feeling hurt and unprovided-for.

Unreasonable

However, in the midst of that dilemma, I decided to pray.  Really, it was my only option.

I’m 39 and have been a Christian since I was five years old.  However, I still tussle with the basic premise of prayer at times.  “Why would God listen to me?  Why would He move on my behalf?  What if I’m praying the wrong way?  Or for the wrong thing?  I don’t even fully understand why He wants His people to pray.  He knows everything, right?  He already knows my needs.  I don’t know why He works like that.  Hmph.”  Prayer often seems like a non-action.

Even though I’m not really fond of aging, one thing that I am appreciating is having a history and a longer perspective.  I can look back on a current difficulty and say, “Well, I don’t know why God would answer my prayer.  But He has, so many times before.  I’m just going to pray.  I’m just going to exercise some faith that He will listen and that He will move on my behalf.”

And, whaddya know???  Sixteen years ago, God provided.  He showed up, and in a BIG way.

My pen from 16 years ago records the names of seven people who had, in a period of three weeks, given me money for maternity clothes, gift cards, gifts of clothing, and loans of maternity clothes, all of them unasked-for.  I don’t know what prompted them;  but whatever the method of prompting, God was behind it.

There were seven of them*.  In three weeks.  Immediately after I started praying.

I wrote, “The Father has seriously overwhelmed me.”

Shortly after my firstborn entered my life, I started going to a ladies’ Bible study.  It was held at a church so near to my house, I could walk.  It was attended by about 200 women weekly, most of whom were in the midst of marriage difficulty.**  The lady who led it — a wise and grandmotherly sort — was fond of telling us women that the line we draw is sin:  If our husbands are so wrong that they are requiring us to SIN, we don’t comply.  However, if it’s just that our husbands are wrong, if it’s just that we don’t agree, if it’s just that they’re unreasonable… The best course of action is to turn it over to God in prayer, and let God be God in our husband’s life, and trust HIM, Almighty God, as the true source of our provision.

Easier said than done.

Well, maybe.  It’s not even easy to say!  But, I’m glad for the reminder, this morning, of God’s provision.  And, I’m glad for the reminder of how far my husband and I have come as a couple.

——————

*Five of those ladies are still in my life, incidentally.  :)

**I wouldn’t say that my marriage was in difficulty, however, I was — two years into it — still having a tough time adjusting to being married, being other-oriented, thinking in terms of “two become one”, etc.  I learned a lot in the 3-4 years I attended.

More than you ever cared to read about my fingernails.

I decided that as a 40-year-old mother of six, it was time to grow up and stop biting my nails.

I’m not actually either 40 nor a mother of six, but I will be both in about four months.

I don’t think my lifelong nail-biting habit is a nervous one;  It’s just more of a compulsion… Especially when I read.  But even if it’s a nervous habit, I figure it’s better than Xanax.

I have a friend who is older than me… Not quite old enough to be my mother, but definitely older than me.  And she bites her nails.  That always made me feel a tad better.  It shouldn’t have, but it did.  Until I glanced at her hands recently and saw that they had been nicely manicured and she said it had been some months since she’d bitten them.  She still hasn’t resumed.

I have a number of problems with NOT biting my nails, in addition to the whole habit/compulsion part of it:

  1. I play guitar, so they can’t be long anyway.
  2. If I want to stop biting my nails, it really helps if they’re painted;  that’s quite a deterrent.  However, as a chemical-avoidant person — any kind of chemical, for any reason — it chaps my hide that nail polish is one massive bucket o’ chemicals.  BAD ones.  Ones that, under pretty much all other circumstances, I wouldn’t expose myself to.  I felt like a hypocrite, buying nail polish at Target earlier this week.  I had to, though, because all my other nail polishes were 5+ years old and gooey;  they wouldn’t dry.
  3. If I want to stop biting my nails, it’s best if I just IGNORE them.  But, when one has nails, there is a whole, new, mandatory hygiene regimen associated with them, and they can’t be ignored.

It seems almost like I’m doomed to fail before I even begin.

But, vanity and a bit of shame compels me — the shame part as described above:  “I’m too ‘mature’ to bite my nails.  What is wrong with me??”

And the vanity comes in when, on a near-daily basis, on the Birth Without Fear blog, I view the multiple awesome pics of mamas triumphing through labor, with joyful relief as they’re now holding the tiny one they’ve waited so long to behold… and can you imagine if you see the mama’s hand, cradling the perfect newborn, and there are gnawed off stumps where the fingernails are supposed to be??  Yuck.  I’m not saying that a birth story and accompanying photos of mine will ever appear on the blog.  And I’ve never had a birth photographer present for any of my births.  I’ve never even had a friend or family member take pics of the process!!  But, if I did… Would I want to see the remains of what should be my nails, but have been chewed into oblivion??  No.  No, I wouldn’t.

And so, it has been two weeks since I’ve bitten.  In my world, that’s a long time.  I can’t quite call it “triumph” yet, but it’s a good start.

Nails

I don’t even like this color. But, it was on clearance. $3.84 — which still seems crazy-expensive — for this color, or $6-9 for nicer, less pink and frosty ones. And, no, I won’t buy $1 nail polish, because I need it to dry and need it to not chip off. Still, if you’ve seen me in real life and have thought, “That’s not a color I would have pictured on Karen,” you’re right; it’s not a color I would picture on myself, either.  I have to find somewhere local to buy Zoya nail lacquer, because apparently, it’s the only brand that is actually free of formaldehyde, toluene, and dibutyl phthalate (DBP).

 

Now, all I need to do is color my hair — WITH HENNA — again.  There goes the vanity again:  I think I’m the grayest pregnant woman ever and it just doesn’t seem right.  But, that’s a story for another day…

Do you plan out your meals?

If you think this is a post in which I berate encourage you to do a better job planning, it’s not.

I don’t plan.  Not really.  Well, sort of, I do.

But not like my friend Daja at the Provision Room.  She’s a pro.

A friend asked me yesterday, “Do you have a website that you use to plan meals or do you just wing it?”

Here was my response:

Somewhere in the middle. I don’t use a website. What I do is see what is on sale for the week, and plan my meals — roughly — around that. “OK. Pork roast is on sale. I can do a Crockpot with green chile pork.” And I know that I always have green chiles, onions, garlic, and the spices to make that happen. “OK. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are on a smoking sale. I’ll buy four packages, put one in the freezer, do stirfry with one, grill two packages using one batch of grilled chicken for dinner that night and saving the other grilled chicken for chicken sandwiches on the night I have small group and I need a fast meal…” Like that. I also purposefully make LARGE dinners, both so that Martin can take leftovers for lunch at work (he prefers that, and it saves money) AND so that we can have at least one night during the week (usually Saturday) where we have a whole meal of just leftovers.

And then… if there isn’t a cut of meat on sale at a price I want to pay, or if there are other staple items that have taken a big chunk out of that week’s grocery budget, I pull stuff out of the freezer.

So… I don’t plan stuff out like with a website. But, I do make a rough plan in my head, based on what I know I keep on hand in the pantry, dishes I know our family likes, and dishes that will best use what’s on sale that week.

Hope that makes sense.

This does bring to mind a few things:

  1. I have quite a few standard pantry items.  When I run out of one thing (or come close to it), I always put it on my grocery shopping list.  I know my pantry well, and I ensure it stays stocked.
  2. When I make my grocery shopping lists, I combine both what I know I need with what is on sale that week, using the weekly ads, if the store has one.  With the sale ads, I can see what “occasional buy” type items might be found at a good price that week.  For instance, in my shopping trip last night to Sprouts, I had, among other things, arborio rice, chia seeds, and yogurt on the list.  When I looked at the sale ads*, I saw that Sprouts also had bulk quinoa at $2.49/lb, Mom’s Best cereal (not g.f., not organic, but all-natural and my older two boys can eat it) at $2/box, and Cascade Fresh 6 oz yogurt cups at 2/$1.00.  Those are all things that I can and will use, even if they weren’t initially on my list.  Yes, there was yogurt on my list, but I usually only buy plain.  Cascade Fresh is one of my favorite brands — all natural, fruit-juice-sweetened, and it was nice for a treat.  So, I purchased.  (I also purchased one soy-based yogurt at $0.99 for my son who can’t have dairy.  It was a brand that uses non-GMO, organic soybeans…  I’m not a huge fan of soy, but when he only has one soy yogurt every month or two, I think his body can weather it.)
  3. I have a mental file of what is a good price for pretty much everything.  For example, on my shopping list were dry beans and canned pumpkin.  However, this shopping trip, both were expensive – – not on sale.  So, I didn’t purchase.  I’ll wait until next week or another store to get a good price.  Can I wait for a few days or a week or even more to purchase those things?  Yes, I can.
  4. I cook exclusively from scratch and mostly without using recipes.  I know not everyone has this skill…  My mom taught me how to cook, starting at age seven.  I’m 39.  That’s 32 years of cooking.  I enjoy it, too!  So, while I often keep an eye out for a new recipe to try, I would hazard to say that nine out of ten dinnertime meals are made without a recipe.  This allows me to be more flexible.  I know what I can make, I know what our family likes, and I can make those items, sans a recipe.  I don’t have to pull out a recipe card, look at the 15 items, realize that I don’t have 13 of them, and then put all 13 things on my shopping list.  In other words, what’s on sale dictates the menu, not the other way around.
  5. If I have a hankerin’ for something or someone makes a special request — like homemade pizza or homemade Caesar salad — I’ll put mozzarella cheese, (nitrate-free!) pepperoni, and tinned anchovies on the list, and I’ll purchase them if I can find them at a good price, and make that special item.  Often, though, I will “plan” to make a special dish for two, three, or even four weeks before I find all the items needed to make that special dish at the right price.  If those items cost too much that week — or if they don’t otherwise fit within the budget — I will add the “special purchase” item back to the grocery list for next week.
  6. My flexible approach makes participating in a CSA, farm share, or other “random” produce plan work well:  It really doesn’t matter what kinds of produce I get that week.  Whatever comes in the basket, I can find multiple ways to make it work.

So, I guess that’s what it boils down to:  I prefer flexibility and saving the maximum amount of money OVER having all my ducks carefully lined up in a row and me knowing a week (or a month!) in advance what I will be making on any given day.  But, like I wrote to my friend above, that doesn’t mean I don’t plan at all;  I just don’t plan in what might be considered a traditional, menu-planning way.

So, how about you?  What tools do you use?  Any?  Are you looking to change your meal-planning habits any time in the future?  If so, why?  If not, why?  Inquiring minds want to know….

————–

*As a bonus, Sprouts has double-ad Wednesdays.  Each sale ad starts on Wednesday and ends Thursday, eight days later.  So each Wednesday, two weeks’ worth of ads are valid.  So, when there is a screamin’ deal — like navel oranges at 4 lbs/$1.00, I know I can buy 10+ this Wednesday, and 10+ lbs next Wednesday, too.  I virtually always shop at Sprouts on Wednesdays to take advantage of double ads.

I read a romance novel over the weekend…

…It was kind of on accident.

Beyond some classics — Austen, Brontë — I don’t think I’ve purposely read a romance since I was in junior high, 25 years ago.

I rather disagree with the whole premise of romance novels.  I tend to think that it’s unhealthy for women to live in the fantasy world of The Perfect Relationship;  it sets them up for disappointment with reality.

I feel the same about most chick flicks — “relationship” movies.  I see almost none of them, on purpose.

Strangely enough, this was a decision I came to WHILE I was in junior high.  A very odd thing was the catalyst for my decision:  the movie Romancing the Stone.

In the movie, Kathleen Turner plays a romance novelist who becomes caught up in an adventure.  The movie opens with her, alone in her apartment, crying over her typewriter, sipping wine, and talking to her cat.  As a 13-year-old or so, this made an impression:  “I’ll bet that’s what it’s really like.”  It dawned on my pubescent self that the people writing those books and movies weren’t relationship experts — just relationship dreamers.  And I swore them off.

Now…  I know that a number of friends read romance novels and some of my readers even WRITE them.  I’m sorry if my stance is offensive.  I’m sure any number of people can come up with good reasons to read romances, and exceptions to my stereotypes.  But, I stand firm.  I just don’t think romances are a generally healthy read.

So, imagine me:  standing eagerly at the library counter, waiting for the librarian to fetch my reserved copy of the latest Charles Todd novel:  Charles Todd who reliably writes mystery novels.  Picture my surprise when I see that, on the book in her hand, the “R♥MANCE” label is slapped on the spine.  I was literally, physically startled.

Charles Todd, how could you do this to me???

I have always enjoyed mysteries;  since I read my first Hardy Boys book,  borrowed from my brother, while I was in 2nd grade, I have been hooked.  And, for the last couple of years, I have been immersed in the World War I era.

It’s hard to find compelling, literate mysteries, that aren’t trashy — full of sex, bad language, and violence, masquerading as “intrigue”.  And when you add my caveat of setting it in WWI, the list is even smaller.

  • Yes, I’ve read almost all of Laurie R. King’s books — I’m tired of her.  She seems too  impressed with her own cleverness, and her books have devolved into farce.  I put The Pirate King down, midway through — something I virtually never do! — and swore her off, too.
  • And I’ve read all of Dorothy L. Sayers’ works;  she’s the queen, the original, and Peter Wimsey is a classic.  But, she’s not writing anything new… ;)
  • And I’ve read all of Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series.  I like them all right.  Winspear, though, liberally injects her books with her personal philosophy, with which I generally disagree.  I do like the story lines, though.
  • And I’ve read Anne Perry’s World War I four-book series, which starts with No Graves Yet.  They were all right only.  The first and fourth books were the best.  Clean:  Yes.  Compelling story line:  Mostly.  Interesting, believable-but-inspiring-yet-flawed characters:  Mostly.  Literate:  No.  Perry has written a whole lot of other books;  I don’t believe I will read any of them.
  • And, I’ve read a bunch of stand-alone novels set in the 1910-1930 era;  I prefer series, though.

So, really… the ONLY author of whom I know who fits my extremely niche current interest, plus my long list of requirements:  Charles Todd.  The author is really a mother-and-son team.  They have written the 14-book series featuring Inspector Ian Rutledge, who suffers from PTSD in the aftermath of his service in the war.  I love Inspector Rutledge!!  They have also written the newer four-book series featuring World War I nurse, Bess Crawford, all set during the war years.  I’ve loved all those books.  Their first novel — The Murder Stone — I must admit that I didn’t like.  It was an absolute maze of characters for whom I cared nothing, and I put it down after the first 100 pages or so.

Overall, though, I do love the Todds’ work.  They’re my favorite current fiction authors.  Last spring, two friends and I even traveled to the Prescott Public Library to see the authors!!  It was a glorious day trip — the best of company, with two friends who are also fans of the Charles Todd books.

Karen with a cheesy smile with the Todds.

Karen with a cheesy smile with the Todds.

So, having a track record of 18 “loves” and one “dislike”, I always look forward to any new Charles Todd novel!  When The Walnut Tree came out, even though it is (kind of) stand-alone, rather than part of the Crawford or Rutledge series, I really anticipated reading it.  However, I have done very little reading the last few months;  it’s just been an insanely busy season, and when I had time for reading, it was not typically books for pleasure.  So, even though the book was published late last fall, I just now got around to reading it.

So, again… imagine my surprise when I saw that offending sticker on the back…

Ugh.

Under partial internal protest, I read it.

And, I liked it!

I had to get past the “this is a romance” thoughts.  And I had to get past my internal editor, who was highly annoyed that there are a TON — and I mean hundreds — of incomplete sentences in the book.  I finally rationalized that by saying, “Well, the book is in first person, in which Todd generally does not write… and when we think, we often think in incomplete sentences…  The protagonist is narrating her thoughts…  Oh, well.”

I liked the story line;  I found it very compelling.  The book was very readable, though “lighter” than I typically prefer.  And, I got a kick out of the fact that the protagonist is actually tied to the Bess Crawford series, so there were some character references and interplay that I really enjoyed….

I used to voraciously consume books.  Now that I’m a mother of five with responsibilities, I tend to read in a more self-controlled manner, finding ten-to-20-minute snippets of time in which to indulge my reading compulsion:  In a doctor’s waiting room, while a little one is in the tub, waiting in the car to pick up a child who is finishing an event, that sort of thing.  But, I (perhaps unwisely) stayed up late into the night on Friday and Saturday nights, long after everyone else was in bed, to read…  And I finished it on Sunday afternoon, in less than 48 hours.  (I typically take 1-3 weeks to complete a book, using my stop-start technique.)

And, when finished, I found myself hoping that The Walnut Tree would be the first in a new series by the Todds.

From this past week…

After a flurry of almost daily blog posts, this last week, I’ve ground nearly to a halt.

This week…

  • A friend's pic of this week's produce, in her kitchen. And you can't even see everything!! LOVELY. YUMMY!

    A friend’s pic of this week’s CSA produce, in her kitchen. And you can’t even see everything!! LOVELY. YUMMY!

    …has been consumed by the CSA — the farm share I’m coordinating for Crooked Sky Farms.  It is wonderful, and I’m glad I’m participating.  I’m certainly not regretting agreeing to be the coordinator — largely because I got two HUGE crates of produce out of it.  Literally:  Nine heads of Romanesco; four bags of baby lettuces; four huge (probably 2 lb each) bunches of carrots;  two bunches of Swiss chard;  about four lbs of red potatoes; 13 tangelos; three bunches of baby Hakurei turnips; and four bunches of “grilling” onions (onions with small white bulbs and very large but tender green tops).  Part of this was my share, and part of it was — I think — people just not taking all eight of the bunches of produce allotted to them… Or something.  I think the farm threw in some extra produce, just in case.  And all those leftovers were even with me finding buyers for the produce that should have gone to two people who didn’t show!  Anyway, that’s a good probably 40 lbs of fresh, organic, local produce, all for me — for my family.  Ah-MAY-zing.  Some of it we’ve eaten, some is in the fridge, and some is now in the freezer.  However, it has been a lot of work, especially when one person canceled beforehand, and then the aforementioned two people didn’t show…  I was supposed to have a minimum of 20 paying customers in order for the farm to deliver to me.  I ended up with 16.  Ack!  But my contact at the farm has been very gracious and they haven’t dropped us or anything.  But I am being encouraged to try to drum up more business.  I’M TRYING!!  I really am.  Since Wednesday, I actually found two more full-time members (one is an airman from Luke AFB who calls me “ma’am”), and then another guy who wants to sign up for only the 2nd half, and two or three more week-to-week people, and at least a couple more potential CSA members…  Plus the eggs.  So many people wanted eggs, and I’ve found two people within a mile and a half who have eggs that I’m selling.  Again, that’s GOOD, but it’s more work.  More bookkeeping.  More keeping track of this and that…

  • And the seed giveaway.  That took a lot of time, just regulating!!  Especially on the second day, I had a lot of comments…  I was trying to respond to everyone who asked questions, send e-mails to folks who hadn’t followed the instructions…  Um, I gave that up after a while.  But, the seed giveaway was fun!!
  • My heart has been worrying me.  I have Wolfe Parkinson White syndrome, where there is an extra nerve connecting the left (I think) atrium and ventricle, which produces a wonky feedback loop.  It is benign — though I just can’t help but thinking it CAN’T be good, long-term, for one’s heart to beat wrong — and normally, I have 5-10 episodes (weird/hard/thumpy heart beat, heart stops for a few seconds, or it races for 10 seconds or so, etc.) while my heart resets itself.  But, while I’m pregnant, it happens… I don’t know… 30?  50? times a day, sometimes for multiple minutes on end, especially when I’m just sitting down (after standing) or just lying down.  At my midwife’s insistence, I saw my cardiologist (whom I really love — he’s my favorite doctor for anything, ever), and I wore a 24 hour Holter monitor a few weeks ago.  I finally got the results this week.  And they essentially said, “Why, yes, you are having quite a few PACs, but it’s OK.  See you again in April.”  And that made me feel a lot better.
  • My pregnancy is going well.  I am now 21 weeks along.  All-day “morning” sickness finally ended about three weeks ago, to my great relief.  I’ve gained 20 lbs already, which is not good… That’s more than I gained with my whole pregnancy with Fiala.  In what is a recurring theme in any weight gain I typically incur, I do eat good food — not junk;  I just eat too much of it.  Even if my midwife doesn’t suggest it, I think I’m going to do a counted-reduced-carb diet — herder-gatherer Paleo — which is almost how I eat anyway… just that from weeks 28 – 40 (or whenever), I’ll be extremely careful.  After about week 28, nothing new develops in the baby;  she will simply put on weight and whatever is already there matures.  So, it’s less critical that a mother gain weight.  In case it sounds worrisome that I’m planning on “dieting” while pregnant, I did this with my last pregnancy (Fiala):  I gained a total of 17 lbs and she STILL came out at 8 lbs 13 oz.  I would have felt badly if she was scrawny…  But she wasn’t.  And I became a bigger believer than ever in eating high-protein and low-carb in the last trimester.  With my first two pregnancies, I gained nearly 50 lbs, so I know that, left unchecked, that’s probably where I’d end up.  I just feel better and recover faster when I’m not toting an extra 20-30 lbs, postpartum.

JUST GROW IT!!! Big Seed Giveaway from Botanical Interests

bg-plants-a

SEED GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED TO ENTRIES!!!!

I have deleted all the non-entry comments so as to get a more accurate count of the entries…  Just a note:  I tried to contact most folks who put all their entries in one comment to ask them to return and create multiple comments — one comment for each entry, as per the rules.  If I wasn’t able to contact you, I’m sorry!!  All winners chosen through a random number generator (from http://www.random.org).  Oldest entry is #1, newest is #323.  First selected gets first choice.  I will post both on my Facebook page and on here as I select winners.

  1. The first winner is comment #64, Melissa K!! The entry that won it was for her subscribing to the Botanical Interests newsletter. She wanted the Can You Dig It? Children’s Gardening Kit for she and her children to use in their new home! (The kit was by far the #1 choice of winners!)
  2. The second winner is comment #173, Vickie!  She said that she would like the Can You Dig It? kit as well, which was the choice of the first winner… So I have sent an e-mail out to Vickie asking her what her second choice would be.
  3. The third winner is comment #165, Cindy in GA.  She also wanted the children’s kit.  After Vickie (winner #2) chooses, Cindy will get her choice of the remaining prizes.
  4. The fourth winner is comment #303, Alex.  Alex will get whichever prize remains after Vickie and Cindy have chosen!

I WANT YOU TO GROW THINGS.

I want you to try your hand at gardening, even if gardening means putting a few seeds into a windowsill pot and hoping they sprout.

I have found that most people, when they find I love gardening, say something like, “I’ve always wanted to do that…”  Or, “My mother had such an amazing garden.  I wish I could…”

There are so many rewards to gardening!!  I dearly want to help you overcome the typical reasons I’ve encountered for not gardening, like…

  • Not enough space.
  • Intimidated by lack of experience.
  • “I don’t have anyone to teach me!”
  • “I know a lot of people who have tried to garden and failed.”
  • Not enough time.
  • Not enough money to invest into a garden.
  • It just seems like a huge hassle…

Honestly, I’ve had to battle my own gardening challenges and disappointments.  The home into which we moved, July 2012, has ample space for a really big garden, but we decided to prioritize remodeling the indoors before we tackle the yard.  We live on nearly half an acre, but as I recently blogged, it takes a LOT of work to prepare the soil to grow things, here in the Phoenix area.  You can’t just scatter seed and expect it to do something.

So, for the time being, I’ve resorted to container gardening.  I have some raised boxes that are currently growing some veggies and herbs, and some containers that are waiting for my indoor starts to be ready to transplant.  This almost doesn’t feel like “real” gardening to me, when my previous garden looked like this:

Garden on 69th Lane

My old garden…. I miss it…

But…  I am often encouraging friends to just grow SOMETHING.  Just try.

I want to equip you to try your hand at growing something.

I was recently thinking about how much I love Botanical Interests.  They’re a seed company whose home is just outside of Denver, Colorado.

  • They’re family-owned.
  • All of their seeds are non-GMO.
  • Many of their seeds are organic.
  • Many of their seeds are heirloom (Meaning you can collect, save, and re-plant the seeds from the veggies you grew from the originally-purchased seeds.  With hybrids, this is not possible.  Being the cheapskate that I am, I save as many seeds as I can, though I have much to learn about seed-saving!!)
  • I love that I can find Botanical Interests’ seeds locally.
  • They have fabulous customer service.
  • The art on their seed packets is gorgeous.
  • The information on their seed packets is second-to-none:  It is detailed, helpful, and educational.
  • I love that their seeds are reasonably priced, even the organic ones.

Having a wee bit of a brainstorm after not winning this giveaway, I thought that perhaps Botanical Interests would sponsor a seed giveaway on MY blog.  Happily, they quickly agreed!  In fact, they agreed to a BIG seed giveaway!!

There are FOUR separate prizes which will go to four winners and TEN ways you can enter.  Yes, you can enter ten separate times.  But, you can only win one prize.

First, the prizes (click on the titles for more information from Botanical Interests):

  1. Can You Dig It?  Children’s Gardening Kit.  This retails for $29.99 and is a package that includes a colorfully illustrated instruction book, garden supply list, planting map, horticultural glossary, a reusable harvesting bag and garden markers.  The seed packets included in this collection are:  Carrot Baby Little Finger, Tomato Cherry Gardener’s Delight, Lettuce Butterhead Tom Thumb, Bean Bush Blue Lake 274, Radish Cherry Belle, and Marigold Dwarf Lemon Drop.  This would be perfect for a homeschooling project, a weekend family project, or as a project to do with your preschoolers!  You and your children can learn together!!

    Can You Dig It? Kit

    Can You Dig It? Kit

  2. Water-Wise Flower Mix Two large packets of seeds, enough to cover a total of about 500 square feet with water-wise color, both annuals and perennials.  It contains a mix of 20 different flowers like Arroyo Lupine, Sulphur Cosmos, Orange California Poppy, Moss Verbena, and Pink Evening Primrose.  Retail value:  $9.98.

    Water-Wise Mix

    Water-Wise Mix

  3. Container Vegetable Seed Collection This collection retails for $15.00 and contains eight packets of seed, all selected to grow well in containers or other small spaces.  Included are:  Carrot Tonda di Parigi, Cucumber Spacemaster, Kale Dwarf Blue Curled, Lettuce Mesclun Farmer’s Market Blend, Onion Bunching/Scallion Tokyo Long White, Pepper Sweet Cherry Blend, Spinach Lavewa, and Tomato Bush Better Bush.

    Container Vegetable Collection (and yes, it comes in the cute, beribboned box)

    Container Vegetable Collection (and yes, it comes in the cute, beribboned box)

  4. Karen’s Selection for February-March planting in the Phoenix area.  With a (small bit of) knowledge of what is likely to grow well in the Sonoran Desert, and using the reliable, indispensable University of Arizona Vegetable Planting Calendar for Maricopa County, I have personally selected a eleven varieties that are perfect for late-February and/or March planting.  Of course, you don’t have to be in the desert to plant these gems, but the seeds, some good compost, some water, and the spring Arizona sunshine should net you some great veggies in a couple of months, right about the time that most people in cooler climates are starting to plant!  Nine of the the eleven varieties can be direct-seeded:  You plant them directly into the soil of your garden;  no need for starting them indoors.  Included in this package are:  Organic Greek Yevani Basil, Heirloom Pencil Pod Yellow bush beans, Organic Heirloom Gourmet Blend beets, Heirloom White Stem bok choy, Spacemaster cucumbers, Organic Heirloom Hearts of Gold cantaloupe, Heirloom Tokyo Long White green onions (scallions), Organic Heirloom Early Jalapeno peppers, Organic Heirloom Cherry Belle radish, Heirloom Tatuma Calabacita summer squash, and Organic Heirloom Italian Roma tomatoes.  (Approximate retail value $23.00.)

    Tatuma Calabacita -- this WILL become your new favorite summer squash.

    Tatuma Calabacita — this WILL become your new favorite summer squash.

Now… here are the TEN DIFFERENT WAYS YOU CAN ENTER!  Please leave ONE comment for each entry.  Yes, that means you may end up leaving a whole bunch of comments.  That’s OK.  There is no maximum number of times to enter;  I would be tickled if you did every single thing on the list.  Also, if the entry requires you to take some action, do it BEFORE you comment.  In each comment, tell me what you did.

  1. Post a comment below telling me which prize you’d most like to win, and why.
  2. Like Only Sometimes Clever on Facebook.
  3. Like Botanical Interests on Facebook.
  4. Post a link to this contest on your personal Facebook profile.  (Shortlink:  http://wp.me/p1wkS-Z2)
  5. Post a link to this contest on your Facebook page — other than your personal profile (for instance, if you own a company, or have a blog, or moderate a group that has its own Facebook page).
  6. Post a link to this contest on Pinterest.
  7. Write a little blurb and include a link on your personal blog.
  8. Send out a Tweet promoting this contest with a link.
  9. Download a PDF catalog or request a print catalog from Botanical Interests.
  10. Subscribe to Botanical Interests’ eNewsletter.  (Enter your e-mail address in the box on the right-hand side of Botanical Interests’ home page.)

Contest ends at midnight, Mountain Standard Time, on Wednesday, February 13, 2013.
Four winners will be selected at random on Thursday, February 14.  I will contact the winners by e-mail, so make sure you include a valid e-mail in your comment registration.  First selected will have first choice, second will have second, and so on.
If winners do not respond within three days, I will select a new winner (or winners) at my discretion.  All prizes will be awarded.
Giveaway open to legal United States residents aged 18 and over.
Odds of winning depend on how many entries are received.
Winners agree to have their first names and locations published here on Only Sometimes Clever.
This contest is being sponsored by Botanical Interests, and the prizes provided by their generosity.  However, I am not being compensated for this in any way!!  It really is because I want you to GROW SOMETHING!!!

Sponsored by Botanical Interests, Inc.  660 Compton St., Broomfield, Colorado, 80020

CHEAP, natural cleaners for your home

There are a lot of resources (including recipes) on the internet for all sorts of natural cleaners.  I still get asked frequently, though, about what I use.

So, here’s what I do.

First, gather your ingredients:

  • Baking soda.  I buy baking soda at Costco in 13.5 lb bags, about $6.50 per bag.

    On sale right now at Vitacost for $4.53.

  • White (distilled) vinegar.  I also buy this at Costco.  It comes in a 1.33 gallon size, about $3.75.
  • Essential oil.  I buy this at Sprouts — there are a lot of online resources for essential oil, too.  Depending on the oil, it will run you $4-15 per 0.5 oz dropper jar.  I typically buy tangerine or lavender, both because I like the scent and because they’re one of the less-expensive varieties.  Various essential oils are supposed to accomplish various things (for example, lavender has disinfectant properties and is calming), but I just buy them for the scent.
  • A natural, phosphate-free dishwashing liquid.  I like the kind from Trader Joe’s, but you can find it just about anywhere.  Method, Meyer’s Clean Day, Seventh Generation, even Clorox Green Works is fine.  Just not Dawn or Palmolive or the like;  they contain chemical detergents and dyes and scents that aren’t good for you or for the environment and just don’t work when you’re using it as an ingredient to make a household cleaner.

Now, make your cleaners:

  • For my Everything Cleaner:  Fill a 32 oz squirt bottle about 60% full of white vinegar.  Add about 20 drops of essential oil.  Add about 1 tsp dishwashing liquid.  Top bottle with filtered water.  Shake gently.  This cleaner literally works on everything non-porous:  toilets, counter tops, windows, mirrors, stainless steel, whatever.  And, it’s non-toxic, so use it without fear in the kitchen.  The vinegar is a disinfectant, so if that’s important to you, let the cleaner sit on the surface for a while before wiping down.  If you notice streaking on windows, mirrors, and stainless steel, you’re using too much dish soap.
  • For things that need scrubbing:  Baking soda.  That’s it.  If you want to get fancy, fill a bowl with baking soda and add 10-20 drops of essential oil.  Store in a shaker jar.  Use this to clean out tubs, sinks, cook tops, ovens, etc.  This also works as a stink-remover on carpet and furniture.  Sprinkle, let sit for a while, then vacuum off.
  • For floors:  A squirt of dish soap in a bucket of hot water.  For floors that are NOT a natural stone, add a cup of white vinegar.  You don’t need a fancy, expensive floor cleaner.
  • For laundry:  For about two years, I made my own laundry soap;  I don’t any more.  I now buy Costco’s Kirkland brand “environmentally friendly” laundry detergent.  It is scented (much to my surprise when I first purchased it).  To the bottom of each tub of laundry, I add 1/2 cup of baking soda.  I fill the fabric softener compartment with white vinegar.  The white vinegar is especially effective if you live in an area that has hard water, and/or if your family suffers from eczema and you need all soap residue removed from clothing.  If your washing machine does not have an extra rinse/fabric softener cycle, when your clothes are washed, run an additional rinse cycle, adding 1/2 cup of white vinegar.  I use regular ol’ unscented bleach on my whites.  I do not use fabric softener in the dryer.  Don’t need it.  Our clothes aren’t as highly scented as if I were using Tide and Downy, but they are CLEAN and what I’m doing is better for our skin and our environment, not to mention cheaper.

Where I do use purchased cleaners:

  • Murphy’s Oil Soap.  I still use this on wood surfaces like kitchen cabinets.
  • Method Wood For Good Furniture Polish.  I like the scent, I like the shine.  It works well.
  • Lysol toilet bowl cleaner.  You can use bleach or even baking soda, but the Cling variety of toilet bowl cleaner is still my old standby.
  • Dishwasher detergent.  I typically buy Palmolive Eco+.

There are folks who make their own dish soap, their own dishwashing detergent, their own laundry detergent…  I have experimented with all of those.  But from a cost + effort + effectiveness, at least for now, these are the things I have found to be the best choice for our family.

CSAs, city ordinances, and scary neighbors, oh my!

Looks pretty good from the air, doesn’t it? Though this is Phoenix, it isn’t actually my neighborhood…. Not even close.

I tend to shy from endeavors that require me to be consistently organized.  It’s not in my nature.  It stresses me out.  I’m MUCH better-organized that I used to be;  it’s a necessity if you have five children and homeschool;  homeschooling requires at least a modicum of organization.  But, in general, I know my limits, and I don’t willingly volunteer for something that taxes my shaky organizational skills.

However, if you follow OSC on Facebook, you’ve probably seen my offer for you to join a Community Supported Agriculture — CSA — pickup that I’m hosting at my house.  This is something new for me;  I’ve never done anything like that before, where I am the point man.  Point woman.  Whatever.

In spite of my flaws, I decided to embark this adventure because:

  1. The CSA with which I have been a member for two years is now defunct, because the farmer needs back surgery.  That’s one of the dangers of buying your produce from one farmer!  If she’s down for the count, the food supply ends.  Not to sound callous about it;  I’m very sad for her.  We’ve developed a nice relationship and it hits me in the heart that she is in pain, and that her dream of being a direct-to-consumer farmer has gone up in smoke.  But in my everyday reality, her ceasing to function as a farmer means that I need a different source for my veggies.  If I want know who is growing my produce — which I do — I needed to find a different farmer.
  2. There are a number of CSAs and similar opportunities around Phoenix.  However, I wanted one whose cost was reasonable, and whose pickup location was near to me.  There weren’t any who met that criteria.  However, one farm — Crooked Sky Farms — had a number of people interested in joining a farm share in my area — many of whom had participated in times past — but no one currently acting as a coordinator.
  3. If I agreed to be a coordinator, I would get lots of veggies for myself.  AAALLLLLLLLLL for myself.  About $40 worth of organic vegetables for “free” every week, to use to my heart’s content — with which to cook, to experiment, to preserve….  As someone who is constantly trying to trim the grocery budget, yet eat in an ever-increasingly healthy manner, this was VERY appealing to me.
  4. I really do want to equip others to eat better.  Food matters. Food is intricately connected to our health.  If we eat better, our health will be better;  it’s that simple.  Healthier individuals make for a healthier society.  I’m interested in having a healthier society than we currently do, here in the United States.  We can’t get there without baby steps.  Eating organic is both an individual baby step and a societal baby step.
  5. Farmers matter.  Crooked Sky is single-farmer run, and employs 15 people or so.  Small business matters.  Small business DONE WELL is important to the economic strength of a community.
  6. How we treat the earth matters.  How food is produced matters.   Farming in particular, when done badly, is a tremendous source of soil depletion and pollution.  When done right, it is a tremendous source of soil enhancement.  Done right, farming IMPROVES the land.  Crooked Sky Farms won a local award for the best organic farm of 2012.
  7. With my two years’ experience of CSA participation, I had already decided that if I switched CSAs, I would prefer to join one that was just a little larger, still owned and run by one farmer, but with a little more diversity…  I mean…  if there’s a drought (which is likely!) or one planting utterly fails due to soil organisms (which is likely!) if the farmer has only 3-4 other veggies going at the same time, my share is likely to be sparse.  But, if the farmer has 30-40 things growing simultaneously, if one crop fails, I probably wouldn’t even know about it!  Farmer Frank Martin with Crooked Sky runs about six fields in the Phoenix area — mostly urban infill projects (which also delights me) — and has a few more further south in Arizona.  A diversity of locations means that all of his eggs aren’t in one basket, so to speak.
  8. If I hosted the pick-up at my own home, that would mean I could — duh! — stay at home, which is easier for me.  I really try to minimize the number of times, weekly, that I have to leave.  Going places simply takes a lot of time.  I figure that even if there are people filtering through my home for 2-3 hours on a weekly afternoon, I can still prep dinner, answer kids’ questions, and otherwise attend to my home and family, which would not be possible if I was camped in a parking lot somewhere, waiting for folks to come pick up their produce.

Given that preponderance of good reasons to join the Crooked Sky CSA, I was willing to immediately jump in with both feet as a coordinator.  My husband, though, cautioned me with a, “Whoa, girl!” and suggested that I contact our city to ensure that hosting an in-home pickup wouldn’t be violating any city ordinances.

Grrr….

The reason behind his suggestion is that, well, my hubby is a by-the-book kind of guy.  Additionally, we knew that one of our neighbors had already brought a lawsuit against another neighbor for an illegal in-home business.

Even though I could see the wisdom in making sure I was covered by the City of Glendale, I wasn’t thrilled about doing so;  bureaucratic hoops through which I need to jump annoy the snot out of me.  They’re difficult to unravel and time-consuming.  Half the time, they don’t even make sense!

All of this proved to be true.

It was difficult to even FIND the right person to whom I should talk.  Then, the initial response from that city employee was that I would have to obtain a Conditional Use Permit to allow a business to function out of my home.  To do this, a city employee would be assigned to me to help me walk through the process, then I would have to attend an evening hearing during a city zoning meeting.  Well, all right…. I would do it.  THEN, the employee told me that the fee for this process is $1,086.  WHAT?????  

Clearly, it made no sense for me to have to fork over that kind of dough for an enterprise for which I would be making basically no money.  I see it more as a community service, rather than a home business.  I do benefit from hosting the pick-up at my home, but it’s not really a money-making enterprise.

I appealed to my contact person at the City.  She said she would “go to bat” for me at a weekly meeting where these matters were discussed.

When she called me back about a week later, the news was GOOD!!  I did not have to obtain a permit!!

I squealed.

However, she did tell me that though the City decided that what I was doing did NOT constitute an in-home business, that “there’s no problem until there is a problem.”  In other words, if a neighbor decided that they were tired of the extra traffic, they could call and report me to the City and then I probably would have to obtain a permit to continue.  She advised me to contact all my neighbors and tell them in advance what I’m planning to do.  I had already thought about that, but had sort of been dragging my feet, especially as I knew at least one neighbor was quite litigious, and we only really know two other neighbors  on our street.

But, what had to be done had to be done.  So, I printed up my CSA FAQ sheet, the CSA contract (in case anyone wanted to join), and a cover letter to give, in an envelope, to each neighbor.  And, on Saturday, I went a-knockin’.  I planned to visit 13 houses:  the house directly across the street from us, plus the three houses to the east, the three to the west, on both the north and south sides of the street.  Fiala and Wesley went with me for about half of the visits.  I had to do it in sections, as talking to neighbors is pretty time-consuming!  I did get it all done in one day, though.  Of the 13 neighbors, I talked with nine of them in person;  for only four did I have to simply leave the envelope half-tucked under the front door mat.  I thought that was pretty good results.  Most of the people with whom I spoke I’d never met before!

Things I learned:

  1. I have some really great neighbors.
  2. My kids were hoping I’d discover some children…  Only one:  a ten-year-old girl, previously unknown to us.
  3. The litigious neighbor of whom I was a little afraid… well, he wasn’t home.  I met his wife for the first time, and she was LOVELY.  She was also from a family of six children, and thought it was wonderful that I was expecting my sixth.  She invited me into her home, which smelled amazing — chili simmering on the stove! — and we had a wonderful chat.
  4. Turns out another neighbor has five chickens, which I didn’t know.  They can’t eat all the eggs — five per day, and there’s just the two of them, an older couple.  She sent me home with a dozen eggs, and the husband said he would love to give me some pointers about raising backyard poultry as he has been doing it for years.  (They have lived in their home for 35 years!)
  5. Another neighbor, whose grapefruit tree’s branches are dripping with uneaten, ripe grapefruit said we could come pick them at any time!
  6. Another neighbor is a fifth-generation Arizonan, which is incredible.  My husband is 3rd-generation, and most folks’ jaws drop at that — that his grandfather came here in the 1930s.  This neighbor and I chatted for quite a while about our disdain of Walmart (but how we both find ourselves there more frequently than we care to admit!), and our love of gardening.  Her husband is using what used to be a fenced-in dog run as a fenced-in garden.  It’s not quite up and running yet, but that’s her plan, which I thought was great.  We also lamented about how we are so close to the area where the land is irrigated, and how we’d both love to live on the irrigated properties, but just can’t afford it (yet!).  One day, perhaps…
  7. One family on our street is from Bosnia.  It’s a four-generation household.  I think that’s wonderful.
  8. I learned some things about our next-door neighbor, the neighbors whom we know best… that they eat almost-all organic, that they use herbs as medicine as much as possible, and that they have a fledgling garden (the garden part, I did know already), and that they compost…  Hmmm…. sounds familiar!!!
  9. All of my neighbors were unfailingly friendly and encouraging, and said that they didn’t care a hoot about an increase of traffic along our street on Wednesday afternoons.  A couple of different people did thank me for informing them, saying something to the effect of, “It’s the not-knowing that would bother me, wondering about why all the cars were there, and what they were doing…”

I do still worry a bit about the folks with whom I was unable to speak directly.  But, over all, I would say that the endeavor was much more successful than I anticipated.  And I feel wonderfully having met new-to-me neighbors.

Perhaps this is hard to understand in other locales, but the whole Phoenix area is SO very transient.  People move here for work, then quickly move away when they discover that the “dry heat” touted in the tourist brochures is akin to a stiff breeze blowing out from an oven.  For a good five months out of the year, it is literally so hot that most people don’t leave their homes unless they absolutely have to — straight from the air-conditioned house to the air-conditioned car to the air-conditioned store, and home again.  It’s common for people to have NO CLUE who their neighbor is, to never meet them…  We’re used to people moving in, moving out, moving on…. and the foreclosure crisis of the last few years has only exacerbated that problem of unknowable neighbors.  I have actually dreamed of coordinating a little block party, and meeting so many people on my street kind of fires that up again…

But I think that would completely tax my organizational skills!!

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