Category Archives: Arizona
…actually write a blog post today.
But, I’ve decided to use my rare time on the actual desktop computer to look for plans for a chicken tractor, instead. (OK, I wrote a blog post.)
I will briefly update to say:
1. My oldest son, Ethan, is doing great at Arizona State. He is getting all As, and one of his professors loves his writing so much that he is keeping all of Ethan’s writing assignments to use as examples in current and future classes. While this is a particular win for Ethan (and for me, because — yay! I didn’t really suck as a teacher!), it’s a win for homeschooling, in general. Because what does this professor want? Analysis. Synthesis. Excellent grammar. Thoughtful, insightful writing. An understanding of the topic at hand. As a homeschooling mom, this is what I want, too! I’m not just looking for my children to regurgitate information; I want them to understand and to think. Apparently, professors enjoy having students who can do this.
2. My 16 year-old, Grant, is still mostly homeschooling in the traditional way. He is, however, taking two classes at a local two-day-a-week co-op. Honestly, he isn’t killin’ it like I thought he would; it’s a struggle for him. But, that’s a good thing to figure out NOW, as a junior, rather than in his freshman year of college. He still has the Air Force Academy as his goal, and is killin’ it in Civil Air Patrol Cadets, where he is a Staff Sergeant.
3. My son, Wesley, is a freshman at a small, conservative, tuition-free charter school. I have been extremely pleased with the school itself, and shocked, frankly, with how well Wesley has integrated into “the system”. There is one class in which he isn’t doing well — French II — and it’s mostly because of conflict with the teacher, who is pretty hard-nosed. But, I’m fine with that. I’ve told Wesley that, a) it’s an elective, and he’s still actually learning to speak French quite beautifully. And, b) for his whole life, he will encounter people who don’t “get” him, or are otherwise challenging, and learning to adapt and have healthy relationship is at least as important as learning particular subjects. So, overall: he’s doing very well.
4. Audrey is in 4th grade and Fiala is in 2nd. They are both doing excellently in school. Audrey is doing 6th grade math. Fiala can spell as well as a 4th grader. It was my aim for them to have FUN this year; to have a rich, full educational experience. That is happening. Because I couldn’t find a group in my area which was relaxed and social with no fees and no “statement of faith” to sign, I started a homeschool support group. We’re up to 95 families, which is crazy. Not everyone participates in every event, of course, but I organize a weekly park day, a weekly mom’s night grade-and-chat at a local coffee shop, and usually 1-3 additional events weekly. So, we’re busy, but it’s fun-busy. We’ve been to museums and on day trips and to art classes and more. This is exactly the sort of school year I envisioned for them, even if it means that we’re making really slow progress through the structured curriculum we’re doing (old Sonlight Core 2).
5. Jeanie is two years old and absolutely crazy. She is fun, chubby, happy, very active, doesn’t nap well, and has a thing for playing with her poop, which drives me absolutely batty. Yesterday, when I thought she was napping, she actually sculpted a faux hawk for herself with her poop. Yes, it was as gross as it sounds. “WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU???!!??” I admit I yelled. Holy crap. Literally. It’s one of those things where my previous judgements have come back, in God’s humorous way, to bite me in the butt. Truthfully, when I had previously heard about other toddlers playing with their poop — since none of my kids had ever done that — that there must be something deeply wrong with the family, or with the child, emotionally. Or something. Playing with poop is clearly wrong and disturbed. Well, Jeanie is about the furthest a child could be from “disturbed”. But, she still plays with her poop.
6. Jeanie has been going to the home of a dear friend of mine for two hours, four days a week, and in exchange, I tutor my friend’s great-granddaughter for Kindergarten. She also goes to weekly park day with us, and on field trips. This is the first time I’ve taught a child other than my own. In the past, I’ve declined such requests, because they’re mostly along the lines of, “Hey, since you’re already home and teaching your own children, and public schools stink and private schools are too expensive, why don’t I bring my child over and you can teach her/him for free!” Which I decline. However, this particular plan is going quite well! I’m paid AND my friend keeps Jean, which really makes the whole thing possible. I had intended for Audrey and Fiala to be doing their seatwork (math, grammar/phonics, handwriting, and journal) while I work with our Kindergarten-friend. However, we’re doing Five in a Row (plus Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons and Handwriting Without Tears). And, apparently, even though my older daughters are nine and seven years old, they still enjoy FIAR books and activities, which, frankly, I didn’t do enough of, with either of them. So, they are reliving kindergarten, and having a blast. (Reminder: Audrey is doing sixth grade math and can spell as well as a 7th grader, and is on-track with her other subjects; doing K won’t damage her education, thankyouverymuch.)
7. My garden is doing fab. The past summer, in my first — 8′ x 12′ — bed, the most successful things I grew were: Clemson Spineless okra — which is actually still growing, here in late October. My okra bushes — five of them — are nearly six feet tall, and still producing, though more slowly, as it has cooled a bit. I also grew Lemon Queen sunflowers, which were amazing — a good 7-8 feet tall. Armenian cucumbers grew wonderfully and were extremely productive. The next-most successful plant was Fonzy Melons, which I grew from saved seed from an organic melon I had purchased early this year. And flowers — Sulphur Cosmos. They made lovely cut flowers all summer and are self-seeding in actually a rather invasive way. It’s a nice problem to have, actually. Oh! And a volunteer spaghetti squash was quite productive. Less successful were banana squash, Tatuma Calabacita summer squash, and a musk melon. I had a number of tomato plants come up volunteer — which I’m still growing — as well as a tomatillo plant which grew humungous and was covered in flowers, but never fruited. Dumb waste of space. I yanked it. In the places where I have pulled out and re-prepped the soil in this bed, I have planted Atomic Red carrots, Greyzini summer squash (which will grow here in the winter!), Bloomsdale Longstanding spinach, Super Sugar snap peas, white sweet Spanish onions, and zinnias, all from Pinetree Garden Seeds (which, yes, I know their test gardens are in Maine. But, I’m a sucker for small, family-owned seed companies). I have had a heck of a time getting the carrots and spinach to germinate, but the Greyzini has its first tiny fruit already growing! I have prepared a larger, 12′ x 12′ bed “next door” to my first bed. That sucker took ALL SUMMER AND FALL for me to prepare, as a) bermudagrass is so, so, so, so horridly invasive; b) our clay soil is hard and heavy; c) I worked on it in my “spare” time. The bed is now waiting for me to till in all the amendments. I haven’t done that because a) it has rained so much in the last week that the ground is too wet! and, b) I bought a rototiller and a friend from high school fixed it for me, but our schedules haven’t allowed us to meet up for him to return it! And, I don’t want to till 12′ x 12′ of heavy clay soil by shovel. In the new bed, I’ll be sowing more sugar snaps, Harris parsnips, Ching Chang bok choy, more carrots, Top Bunch collards, a leaf lettuce mix, Cardinal chard, Homemade Pickles cucumbers, more onions, Red Cloud beets, Gaillardia, and nasturtiums. Although I haven’t actually planned out the space exactly to see if I can fit all that into the bed… I might have to pull the okra, which I was considering trying to overwinter.
8. We’re still plugging away at our home remodel. I’m kind of weary of it, so I won’t say much about it, except to admit that it’s still in process.
9. We are still at Vineyard Phoenix and absolutely are in love with our local representation of the Body of Christ. (If you click the link, that is my hubby in the video on the front page.) God is good and moving mightily by His Spirit. People are getting saved and healed. It’s really an amazing church, and I’m so happy to be a part of it. I’m leading worship again at a small home group, which I greatly enjoy. I also am teaching the 4s and 5s Sunday morning preschool class once a month and singing on the worship team usually about twice a month. Our head pastor — whom I’ve known since I was 15 (I’m 42) — stepped down to a semi-decreased, semi-retired role in July, which gives him greater liberty to immerse himself in missions and apostolic ministry. As I type this, he’s in Zambia. My hubby’s best friend, Doug Scott, is now our head pastor. I adore Doug. I’m biased, but…. seriously…. I feel like God has given me absolutely GOLD with the church in which I get to participate.
10. As I mentioned at the beginning…. I’ve been given the go-ahead to start my chicken flock!! I’m super-excited. I just need to go now and get that figured out. 🙂
11. My husband is awesome, and I’m very grateful for him. NOTE: Awesome doesn’t mean perfect, nor does it mean that we don’t work, work, work, work on our relationship. We do. We have ups and downs. But, this November, we’ll celebrate 21 years of marriage that has been profoundly blessed and is the result of two people loving Jesus and not giving up on each other. HALF OF MY LIFE will be with that man, and it has been an honor.
My love and blessings to each of you who have read through this.
I won’t lie: I’m really happy with my garden. I go out to visit it several times daily. In the evenings, when the right-hand wall (which is on the western edge of our property) is in shade, I often sit on the walk path. The shade makes it tolerable, and the water content in the air around the garden acts as evaporative cooling. The screen — which is actually concrete “remesh” from Home Depot — makes a fabulous bird blind, even though the beans have not traveled very far up it yet. Hummingbirds and verdins flit and zoom right by my face… It’s perfect.
The water-pollination dilemma: I’m happy that this coming week, the highs top out at 105°. I’m hoping that it’s cool enough for more flowers to be pollinated before they die. This is the big dilemma in summer desert gardens: female flowers bloom, but they die before they become pollinated. And, similarly with water: we need enough water — usually daily — for the plants to grow and not die… and the most effective way to water is with an
old vintage sprinkler which I found in the shed of this house when we moved in. We had one identical to it when I was a kid. Newer sprinklers are more efficient and don’t deliver enough water to provide a good soaking. This one is pretty leaky and the drops it distributes are big. I have carved channels in the garden bed in which the “excess” water travels, making sure every corner of the garden gets soaked. However, here’s the rub: watering with a sprinkler soaks the blooms, and makes it difficult for the bees to pollinate them. So, I just water everything enough to keep it alive, and the greens are lush, but the actual fruit of the garden is not gigantic.
I’ve harvested only Armenian cucumbers so far. Three of them, and another will be ready tomorrow or so. And one okra.
- More okra (I’ll probably have enough for a meal within a week).
- More Armenian cukes.
- One getting-quite-large banana squash and several smaller ones.
- Two spaghetti squash. I didn’t plant it; it came up volunteer in the compost.
- One melon (I think it’s honeydew — again, it came up volunteer in the compost).
- One mystery volunteer squash/melon that might be watermelon — actually, there are three on the plant.
- Another melon plant that has a good 5-6 melons on it, which I am cheering on — it might be a Fonzy melon I planted from saved seeds. It’s hard to tell what’s what in the tangle of vines.
- Many tomato plants — those came up volunteer, as well. Same pollination problem: it gets too hot too fast, and they bloom and die before they’re pollinated. Historically, if I can keep tomato plants alive through the heat of summer, they’ll start fruiting in September or so.
- Lots of flowers — mostly cosmos so far, but my marigolds are about to bloom, and my first sunflower bloomed yesterday.
- My asparagus yardlong beans are flowering and there is ONE baby bean.
- My native Yoeme Purple beans aren’t doing so well, but they’re alive….
- The summer squash I was excited about — Tatuma Calabacita — is growing and climbing, but the blooms and baby squashes keep dying before they’re pollinated.
- There’s a butternut squash vine — two of them, actually — growing nicely, with darling little butternuts on it. I didn’t plant that one, either.
I also planted an apple tree, developed in Israel — an Ein Shemer — and it’s not looking great, but I’m not surprised about that. I have more hope for it, for next spring.
The only thing that has flat-out died is all the nasturtiums I planted (from seed). It’s just too hot for them.
For bugs: I have had very few problems with harmful bugs this year. Shortly after it germinated, the okra plants were beset by aphids, which kept the growth stunted and killed off one plant. I sprayed the leaves off thoroughly — especially the undersides — about once a week. There is a little aphid activity in the garden currently, but it’s really minimal. There are LOTS of
hoverflies — actually, lots of what I’ve been calling “hoverflies”, but upon research, I’ve discovered that they’re actually long-legged flies. In any case, they’re very beneficial to the organic gardener, as they eat aphids, thrips, and spider mites, all the small, soft-bodied insects which like to eat garden plants.
For feeding the garden: I’ve soaked the plants with compost tea about once every 7-10 days. There are lots of pricey compost tea systems you can purchase, but mine is a cheap hack: When I water and turn my three bins of compost, I dunk the head of the hose into an empty plastic garbage barrel. While I work on the compost, the barrel fills. I have a zip-top burlap bag from a 25-lb package of basmati rice — I’m not sure if I got it from Costco or the Asian market… I have several of them. Anyway, I just fill the burlap bag with almost-completed compost and lower it into the barrel of water. I cover it and let it stew for 1-2 days, and voila! Compost tea. I fill two garden watering cans and it takes 3-4 trips of refills to soak the garden — leaves and all — in the “tea”. It’s kind of gross, so I inevitably have to spray down my legs with the garden hose, post-feeding. Compost in general is not for the faint of heart, but that’s a post for another day. (Hint: compost needs decomposers.) This is actually the first year I’ve done compost tea. I’ve favored fish emulsion in years past, but I will never go back to that. Not only does fish emulsion smell like puke, it doesn’t wash off well, and it’s pretty expensive. Comparatively so, compost tea is less-gross, washes off completely, and is free. Win-win-win.
In the above garden pic, I’m working on prepping the bed on the right-hand side for a mid-August planting. According to the very reliable University of Arizona planting calendar for Maricopa County, that’s the next big planting “season” for a fall garden.
And that’s it, for now!!
I truly still love writing. I’ve just been insanely busy. My load right now is somewhat lighter, which allows me the luxury of reflecting, here in my neglected blog. (Note: I have no idea why the sizes of fonts change throughout this post. Rather than taking the time to figure it out, I’m leaving it. Sorry-not-sorry.) Edited to add a few more things about Fiala, and to note that you may click on each picture to enlarge it, if you care to.
- My oldest son, Ethan, did receive the scholarship he was hoping for, to attend Arizona State University. I am part of a couple different groups where homeschooling parents support each other, especially where prep-for-college is concerned. I’m struck again and again how, as a homeschooling mom of a senior, it seems like the college admissions process is WAY more about how prepared and organized **I** have been as my child’s mother/teacher, and much less about how well-educated my son is. I’m happy to report that, even though I have discovered, in retrospect, that there are a hundred things I could have done better or differently, what Ethan and I did, together, was exactly right for what he needed. I’m feeling the mercy of God on that one, because truly, I’m not kidding about those “hundred things”. Ethan turns 18 this month. He isn’t altogether eager to transition to adulthood; it’s challenging for all of us, to be frank. I have told him, “We’ve never parented an adult before, please bear with us.” We’re all learning. It’s funny, because I have often urged him to DO HIS OWN RESEARCH AND MAKE HIS OWN DECISIONS, because, even though I’m complimented by the fact that he still likes the things I choose for him — it makes me feel like I really know him — it’s healthier for him to be at least a little more independent than where he’s comfortable. So, in light of this, I turned over to him the plans for his birthday party. And, whaddya know? He has planned it for a day when I’m going to be out of town. Not purposefully; that’s just the date that works best with his friends, who are hosting. However, it’s kind of good news/bad news, “You took charge? GREAT! But you left me out of it completely?? Sad face.” LOL!
Grant is my son who will be 16 later this summer. I don’t think I’ve blogged about this, but what I’m going to write about here, about Grant, is kind of a big deal to me. Grant is the opposite of Ethan; he has known for YEARS where he’d like his future to be, what he’d like to do, where he’d like to go to university… He really can’t wait to get on with his adult life. A big part of that includes his plans to attend the United States Air Force Academy. To be completely honest, up until nine months ago or so, I kind of blew that off. It’s hard to get into the USAFA. Really hard. It’s even harder for homeschoolers. And, they don’t just look at academics; they look at the whole person. I had decided, in my own mind, that the chances of Grant getting into the AFA were incredibly slim. However, early last fall, I started to feel convicted. I remember having dreams while in high school, and feeling like no one wanted to help me achieve them. I remember what it felt like to be blown off. So, I started checking things out, what I could do to help Grant gain ground on his goals. I decided that I didn’t want to be an impediment to his hopes; I wanted to assist him in every way possible. So, I signed him up for the Future Falcons at the USAFA website — which is kind of a Big Deal, as it is super-official; you need the child’s Social Security number, even! I downloaded the 21-page “Instructions to Precandidates” pdf and we mapped out his sophomore to senior years of high school accordingly. And, I looked into getting Grant involved in an Air Force-related program. I first thought of Junior ROTC… But, then, I heard about Civil Air Patrol Cadets from some other homeschooling moms. Long story short, Grant has only been in CAP Cadets for a little over six months, but he is excelling. He’s actually at a week-long semi-boot-camp experience called “Encampment” at Fort Huachuca as I type this. Grant still has a long way to go, and many smaller goals to achieve before we can even apply to the Academy. But, all of us feel pretty good about his chances, which is 180° from where we were, about a year ago. In this coming school year, Grant’s junior year, he will be taking two classes at KEYS — a two-day homeschool co-op — and the rest at home. Grant will be taking Honors Chemistry and College Lit and Composition. Frankly, these are two teaching-intensive classes, and I was looking to outsource the most mom-dependent classes for Grant. Additionally, we’re looking at having Grant take all of his classes for his senior year at a local community college, and we wanted to ease his transition. Other than American History, Grant won’t need much from me in the coming school year; his other subjects — French, Economics, Algebra II, and a couple of others, won’t need a lot of input from me. I’m totally OK with that.
My son Wesley will be in 9th grade in the fall, which hardly seems possible. He’s the youngest of our three sons, and it is a challenge for me to not think of him as “little”. He has had a massive growth spurt this past year, and his voice has dramatically deepened. Whether I’m ready or not, Wesley is no longer little. He is an excellent big brother to our toddler, Jeanie. He’s in the teen youth group at church. It just feels odd to me, still. Through much thought and research and prayer, we have decided to try Wesley at an “brick and mortar” school for this coming fall. None of our kids have ever gone to a “real” school before. But… I have long felt that I just don’t quite speak Wesley’s educational language. He hasn’t suffered under my instruction, and testing shows he is on course or ahead for his grade level. However, I don’t feel like I’m best-suited to maximize his potential, since his potential is in areas where I’m not strong. There is a charter school (publicly funded, privately run) less than a mile from us; I have checked them out before, and I like their literature-based, liberal arts approach. It’s a small school: this coming year, they’ll very likely have less than 150 students, only 9th – 11th graders. Most kids bring their own lunches (which seems trivial, but with Wesley’s celiac disease, dairy allergy, and peanut allergy, I didn’t want him to feel like he’s the odd man out, bringing his own lunch every day). And then, a good friend of ours took a job as the English teacher there. This man is everything you’d hope for in a teacher: brilliant, kind, patient, thoughtful, a good leader…. I do believe he’d be an excellent teacher for Wesley for English, which has long been Wes’ poorest subject. The daughter of that teacher, as well as another friend of Wesley’s, will also be attending the school. My husband Martin and I have discussed, toured the school together, talked on the phone with the principal, e-mailed back and forth with staff, read every click on the school’s website, and PRAYED. However, neither of us have felt any strong inclination or direction from God. We both feel like He’s saying, “All right. It’s up to you. You can give it a shot.” I’d feel a thousand times better if I had heard something more specific than that. But… It’ll do, for now. This next week, I’ll be enrolling Wes.
This past year was our busiest ever, for school. With Ethan as a senior, Grant as a sophomore, and Wes in 8th grade, there were far too many days when Audrey (who just finished 3rd grade) and Fiala (who just finished 1st) would just do seat work — phonics, math, journal, and a couple of other subjects where they can work largely independently, with little help from me. In other words: the bare minimum. I have no doubt that the girls’ educational skills are up to par, or perhaps beyond their typical peers. However, I want a richer, more robust school experience for them. With Ethan at college, Grant working mostly-independently, and Wesley enrolled in a charter school, I’m VERY MUCH looking forward to a hands-on school year for the two “big” girls: art projects, science experiments, field trips, actually READING THE READ-ALOUDS in our curriculum! It should be a wonderful year. As stated in the caption of the pic at left, Audrey — who turned nine years old a couple of months ago — is artsy, funky, fun, and LOUD. All the boys did Rosetta Stone French this year, and Audrey joined in, as well. I am tickled to hear her lovely little French accent. It’s charming. Fiala, who is six years old, is loving, thoughtful, intense, unique, and can be petulant and impulsive. She loves swimming, loves playing dress up and changing her clothes in general — her clean, folded laundry stack is ALWAYS taller than anyone else’s. She loves waking up earlier than any of the other children and coming into my bed to “snug” with me. It doesn’t usually happen like that, but it’s a good day for Fi when it does. All in all, she is a delight of a child, my little green-eyes-freckle-nose, as I often call her. If Fiala was in a public school, she would have been in Kindergarten this last year, as she has a late-fall birthday. That seems crazy to me, as she was well-ready for first grade work.
Jean will be two years old next week, which also seems crazy. I tell her that if it wasn’t for her screeching in restaurants and playing with her poop, she’d be a perfect child. Seriously: up until now, my sixth child, I have had NO children interested in their poop. Jean, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to understand what “gross” means. So, when she takes a nap, I have to put this ONE outfit on her, every time — it’s a BabyGap long-legged, button-up, one-piece, short-sleeved cotton romper. It’s the only thing that doesn’t allow access to her diaper area. Actually, “Pull-Up area”, as she is nearly completely potty-trained. We went from cloth diapers to early potty training in December, and I rejoiced, but it has taken her A Very Long Time to be serious about it. She just isn’t serious. She is a joyous little bundle of… everything. She’s still chubby and overall large for her age. She has a passion for Bubble Guppies, swimming, and dancing. She is bossy. Charmingly bossy. “Hum!” she will demand, which is Jeanie-speak for, “Come!” She will pull on your hand and do everything she can to make you comply. Or, “Hi! Hi!” she will insist, patting the seat next to her. For unknown reasons, “Hi! Hi!” means, “You sit HERE, NOW!” Or, “Tiss!!” meaing, “Kiss!” Then, “O’er side!!” Meaning, “I want a kiss on the other cheek, as well!” We all adore Jean.
- This past spring just about did me in. I always felt like families who couldn’t eat dinner together were doing something wrong. Well, guess what? We became that family in 2015. Sunday nights, Martin often has events at church to attend. Monday nights, I take Grant to CAP Cadets and usually sit in a nearby coffee shop, grading papers for the 2.5 hrs of CAP. Tuesday nights, Martin led worship at a weekly small group. I was leading worship just on Wednesday nights, until a group got too big and needed to multiply, but didn’t have a worship leader. I agreed — just for the spring — to lead worship in that group, as well. So, from the end of February to the beginning of June, I was gone both Wednesday and Thursday nights. Additionally, I started hosting a CSA/farm share again for a local organic farmer, every Wednesday. I had kind of taken an six-month hiatus, but started up again in April. And, Ethan works three nights a week at Sprouts. Martin has a fairly long commute, and often isn’t home until 6:00 or so… It became like passing the baton, and the 30 minutes we’d have together before one of us needed to head back out the door was usually not at the dinner table. When you have a family of eight, dinner is loud and usually fun, but it really isn’t the place for Martin and I to connect. I’d have dinner made, but we usually didn’t sit down together. Homeschooling, church, CAP Cadets, three weekly small groups, the CSA, Martin’s commute, Ethan’s work… Lordy, I was stretched. But, small groups take a break for the summer and school is DONE, so my load is infinitely lighter. I feel much freer!!
- My other big things for the spring are: my garden — which is a scaled-down version of my original vision. I have one 8′ x 12′ bed in, and it’s growing wonderfully. I’m working daily (or nearly so) to put in a walk around the bed, and hope to have a second bed ready for mid-August planting. It is so hot here (yesterday hit 115°!!!!) that there is little that will grow in the heat of mid-summer. The bed that is growing, I planted in late April. I can’t really sow anything else until there is hope for cooler temperatures. I have sunflowers, two kinds of melon, Armenian cucumbers, okra, two kinds of heat-tolerant green beans, summer squash, and a winter squash growing, plus a variety of flowers. I also have way too many volunteer tomato plants, whose seed came from my compost, I suppose. I have transplanted as many as possible, replanting and giving away about 20 tomato plants. There are still far too many tomato plants growing in the garden — growing too closely with the other plants. It’s not really the right time to grow tomatoes here — ideally, I would have had them in by January or February. But, I can’t bear to yank them. We’ll see what happens. My garden gives me joy, exercise, and a sense of fulfillment. It keeps me sane. To me, gardening really is a kind of therapy.Of course, all of this is barely scratching the surface. There is much more happening in our home… An upcoming camping trip, me traveling to the Portland area for a girlfriends’ weekend, sewing projects, lots of canning, Bible studies, small and large challenges and triumphs, a continuing home remodel, birthdays — including my own, baseball, me going low-carb again to lose weight, books to read, and more. But, I will call it a day and go swimming with my kids.Blessings to you and yours.
I bought a yogurt maker and I must say, the first batch?? NOT a success. There are lots of conflicting instructions out there for making yogurt. Next time, I will SCALD the raw milk (not boil it, per the instructions I followed), use already-made plain yogurt as a starter (not acidophilus caps that so many places said you could use), and keep better track of the temperature. I’ll also just make plain, rather than the honey-sweetened blueberry yogurt I attempted. The results separated into yogurty curds and whey. The flavor was good, but the texture was horrible. We half-froze ours to make it palatable, and that worked all right. But the next go-round needs to be much more successful!!
- My oldest son now has a job: He’s a bagger at Sprouts, a local, natural grocer. It was really the only job he wanted, and though it took a few months of trying, he got the job! The day he was hired, he had to read 100+ pages of various employee handbooks (which he truly read, because he is thorough, like his father). I also took him to open a checking account, which had about 20 pages of various information and things to sign. As we were leaving the bank, his brow was furrowed, and I could tell he was on information overload. “So, Ethan, now that you have a job and a checking account, do you feel like an adult?” I asked. He replied, “Well, if adults regularly feel confused, then, yes, I feel like an adult.” Ha! Welcome to adulthood, my son. We are having him tithe 10%, save 50%, and the rest is his for spending and short-term savings. He looked at his first paycheck, which was for just one week, and proclaimed that the paper he was holding amounted to more than he had made doing odd jobs in the entire previous year. I had really wanted him to get a job for his own benefit — for learning how to be responsible with money; for learning how to be part of a team within a work environment; and to just take a step up in transition to adulthood… But, unexpectedly, I feel very blessed. He’s not a fully grown adult, but it blesses me, knowing that my husband and I have raised a young man who is an asset to a good company, and to the workforce in general. It feels very right.
Last Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Monday, and Tuesday, and today, I have worked HARD in my yard for 2-3+ hours daily. I am trying to transform a section about 21′ x 42′ into my real, true garden. It’s difficult to explain to people unfamiliar with caliche JUST HOW ROCK-HARD our “soil” is. Technically, it’s not soil; it’s dirt. The Bermuda grass — the only kind that will grow in the desert’s heat and lack of water — needs to be removed, so I rented a sod-cutter last Thursday. Man-oh-man, that was SO punishing. So difficult. I put it at the deepest setting — 2½” — to dig up as much of the Bermuda as possible. Now, I am digging and toting the cut dirt/sod to other areas of our yard, making berms around trees. I’m only about 1/3 done with it being cleared. And here, it has mostly been in the mid-90°s. So, add “hot and sweaty” to physically challenging. I am keeping my eyes on the prize of having a productive, inviting, rewarding garden, some months from now. Once I finish clearing the area, I still need to soak the dirt, Rototill it, rake out as many Bermuda grass roots as possible, then cover the area with clear plastic to solarize — and thus kill — it. All of that is BEFORE I get to plant anything. I also need to put up a fence with a footer, not just to keep out the dogs, but to keep the Bermuda grass from creeping back in. I’m collecting interesting garden fence ideas on Pinterest.
- I was going to post about our new dog (a third Staffordshire Bull Terrier)… And about me going low-carb almost-Paleo again. But my baby Jean is waking! So, here are a couple more pics:
1. I am happy to have a neighbor with whom I can chat about gardeny things. Our interests and our knowledge overlap enough to give us things about which to talk, but we have enough difference that we can learn from each other. Me from him, mostly. I get flashbacks to Home Improvement, with Tim ever talking with his neighbor, over the fence. We chatted this afternoon about starts vs. seeds, squash bugs, beet tops vs. rhubarb chard, and asparagus. It made me happy.
It rained on Saturday, the first time since mid-December. To the southwest of my home, an official weather station recorded about 1 1/3″. To my northeast, one recorded 1.81″. So, we likely received somewhere in there. Between outbursts, I was turning my (sadly neglected) compost. Just as I returned my pitchfork to the shed, an all-out downpour let loose. In a metal-roofed shed, that storm was LOUD!!!!! I had my ears covered, and looked up to see my husband, standing under the eaves, holding baby Jean, who had awoken while I was outside. I couldn’t believe he was there, holding her! He was about 15 feet away, yet I couldn’t year a word he was shouting. He disappeared and then reappeared, sans baby, holding a mostly-broken Hello Kitty umbrella, which he tossed to me. You know you’re a desert-dweller if the best umbrella in the house (actually, the ONLY umbrella!) is a nominally functional undersized one, owned by your seven-year-old daughter. After most of the storms had passed, I followed a simple tutorial to plant my first barrel of potatoes. It seems that folks have varying success with growing potatoes in a barrel, but I figured I had little to lose. I had purchased a $17.99 half-barrel planter from Costco and used an organic potato (Red La Soda) that had already sprouted eyes — which, I learned this weekend, is referred to as having been “chitted“. I used homemade compost. The whole project took me about 15 minutes, and that includes wheeling the compost over to the barrel. All I have to do is keep adding compost as the plant grows. Next time, though, I think I’ll add vermiculite to the compost, to make it lighter…
3. I’m trying to purge my inner Perfectionist Gardener, and just PLANT THINGS. Of course, planting in the right month, with the right seeds for one’s climate, purchased from the right place, with the right soil and amendments, at the right orientation to receive optimal sunlight — all are good. However, I am finding that the more I learn about gardening, the LESS bold I am, the less risky. I rediscovered some old seed packs that I had purchased locally from an organization called Wild Seed which, charmingly and frustratingly, doesn’t have a website. (You can call them for a catalog, though — (602) 276-3536.) The packets are years old — four or five, at least. However, I figured that even if only a few germinate, it would be worth the effort of actually putting them in the ground, rather than have them languish for another couple of years in a drawer. So, with the ground soft — soggy, even — from Saturday’s rain, I hoed and weeded a bed created by a former owner of this house. The bed is NOT in the optimal location; it’s against a south fence, facing north. It hardly gets any sun, except in the middle of summer. But, it’s a bed, a garden bed, already created, yet not in use. I scattered the seeds in a rough drift pattern and raked them in. We’ll see what happens! I saved a couple of packets for bare places, given the haphazard planting and the age of the seeds… One thing I do have going for me: they’re all native desert flowers — some native to California, but most native to the Sonoran Desert. By nature — literally — many seeds are dormant for YEARS until there is enough rain at the right time. I’m hoping to a) put to use seeds I’ve been saving for who-knows-what; b) beautify an ugly wall; c) attract butterflies, birds, and honeybees. Here’s hopin’!! I planted:
I used to eat broccoli a lot. It was THE go-to veggie for my family. I’d purchase, at a minimum, enough for two dinners’ worth, and prepared it in innumerable ways, but most often, just steamed. We hardly ever eat broccoli any more. I like broccoli. I just usually can’t bring myself to buy it.
“…the United States is a net importer of broccoli overall. In 2010, the United States imported 524.5 million pounds of frozen broccoli valued at $243 million. The majority of the frozen broccoli came from Mexico (72%), followed by Guatemala (15%) and Ecuador (8%) (Vegetable and Melon Data, ERS 2011).”
To be clear, if you are eating FROZEN broccoli, it is almost certainly from another country; producing broccoli florets is labor-intensive, and since labor costs are higher here than in other countries. If you eat fresh broccoli, there is a better chance that it came from the United States, most likely California. If you eat organic, fresh broccoli, chances are even GREATER that the broccoli came from the U.S. But, still…
I live in the desert, here in the Phoenix area. I know that broccoli is harvested here for a very limited time of the year, usually in March.
And how do I know that? Because a majority of my family’s veggies are from a local farm, Crooked Sky Farms, in a year ’round CSA. Before 2013, our veggies came — for 20 weeks out of the year — from a different CSA. The window for local, fresh, organic broccoli is very small.
So, when I’m shopping in the heat of summer, and that broccoli is looking mighty fine for a stir-fry, I ponder and think, “It’s August. It’s stinkin’ 120° out there. I know, Grocery Store Broccoli, that you did not come from any place even remotely close to here.” And I usually pass on by… I might cave if it’s from an organic producer in California; that’s not too very far. But usually, I just pass, and choose a summer veggie. Or, I just live off of what the CSA provides.
I purchase very few veggies any more. Year ’round, I do purchase mushrooms, lettuces (when not from the CSA), celery, and red bell peppers (when the CSA doesn’t provide other bell peppers).
And… I think that’s about it. Oh! Potatoes I purchase year ’round, though they are available from the CSA for a good portion of the year. I also purchase frozen organic sweet corn and frozen organic green beans, both from Costco. Again, both green beans and corn are available for a time from the CSA. And, I froze as much corn as I could this year, but we’ve already eaten it all. 🙂
That sounds like a lot of purchased veggies. But, really, it’s not, compared to how many veggies our family eats.
And when I finally have my garden up and going, it will be even fewer, but that’s another story.
I sent this to my CSA members this morning:
I just wanted to send out a note of encouragement to each of you. I’ve heard from several who are growing really weary of eating the same things from week to week. Well, it hasn’t been exactly the same thing, but there have been several items — especially okra and cucumbers — that folks seem to be tiring of. I do understand! I intended to turn a batch of lemon cukes into pickles this past week, and with two different sets of houseguests, I didn’t get that done. I also decided to give away a bunch of okra, rather than freeze it. So, I do understand the weariness.
I do, however, want to remind each of you that eating seasonally is much healthier for YOU and for the planet. Studies have shown that produce that is grown seasonally (instead of imported, or grown locally in forced, non-natural environments) to be much higher in nutrient content.
Eating seasonally is a true return to ancestral ways of eating. Our ancestors ate what they could grow in their own environment, according to the season. They would eat a glut of what was fresh, and preserve what wouldn’t keep. We’re simply not accustomed to that. We live in America, which is, in many ways, a tremendously blessed country. Each of us very likely lives less than a mile or two from a supermarket. In that supermarket, we can buy broccoli year ’round. However, broccoli bought in the deserts of Phoenix in October likely grew in Mexico or South America, and traveled thousands of miles to get here. (The U.S. does grow broccoli in California, but we import more than we export. Most of the broccoli eaten in the U.S. comes from Mexico, Guatemala, or Ecuador.)
I’m not trying to guilt-trip you out of buying broccoli on your next trip to the grocery store, I promise! And in some ways, I do realize that I’m preaching to the choir; most of us don’t have to be convinced of the benefits of eating locally, seasonally, and organically.
For another perspective:
“Better nutritional content and overall health – Most grocery stores and food chains jazz up their fruits and vegetables to keep them looking attractive and inviting when they’re out of season. This naturally compromises the nutrition level of the food. Non-seasonal foods require bending of nature’s rules in order for them to survive the improper season in which they are brought into the world. Therefore, these foods are often full of pesticides, waxes, preservatives and other chemicals that are used in order to make them look fresher than they are.
By eating freshly harvested produce, you will be rotating your foods, thereby keeping your body from developing intolerances to certain foods and reaping the health benefits of a diet that is diverse and naturally detoxifying. Seasonal foods also have a much higher antioxidant content than non-seasonal foods.
Sustainable and environmental benefits – By eating seasonally, you will also be supporting the local farmers and local markets, which, in turn, works well for the sustainability of the entire economy. Seasonal eating helps the environment by reducing the number of food miles your food has to make before it reaches your table. The more local you eat, the less chances exist that you are consuming food that has been flown in from half way across the world, in effect consuming that much more fuel.”
And here’s another article: http://life.gaiam.com/article/benefits-eating-what-s-season
And another: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=faq&dbid=28
ALSO, when farmers (and gardeners) plant the things that grow best in our rather extreme environment, and they don’t try to FORCE things to grow here that shouldn’t be growing in the desert, that helps to eliminate the need for pesticides and fungicides, etc.
So… if you can find the time, DO pickle those cucumbers — refrigerator pickles are easy and don’t require pressure canning. Okra is easily freezable: Cut off the stem end and pop them whole into a freezer bag. Similarly, you can freeze summer squash without doing anything special: wash, trim the ends, and dice them. Then, just put them into freezer bags. Store your onions and potatoes in the fridge, and they will last for MONTHS.
I’m still enjoying greens that I froze this past spring, and summer squash from my freezer as well.
Preserving helps you maximize the value of the CSA, as well. I know I feel GREAT when I pull out some dried basil from the cabinet or diced rutabaga from my freezer, long after the season has ended. I feel like I’m being an excellent steward of what has been provided to me!
That said… cooler weather crops will very soon be available! I don’t have an exact timeline, but I did receive this message from the farm:
“Good day Glendale CSA. Thank you so much for participating in supporting your local farmer. Eating seasonal takes that ancestor heart that brings us back to eating the way nature intended. This is the best way to ensure your family is putting chemical free produce in their bodies. Farmer Frank always says “we fight GMO’s with our actions, not just our words.” While your taste buds are craving autumn, sweeten your palate with winter squash like butternut squash, spaghetti squash, baking pumpkins and more. Also look forward to soooo many greens, such as swiss chard, spinach, kale. Lets not forget our root crops. This year we plan to wow you with colored carrots, watermelon radishes and more! Jazz up your plates with Romanesco, graffiti cauliflower (purple), lettuces and rare onions. We are just beginning to scratch the surface. Thank you for your patience and commitment. We delight in serving you with many treasures.”
“Naturally Grown, Naturally Yours”, the Crooked Sky family
Again, NONE of this is said to guilt anyone into doing anything. I also understand about being on a budget, and the continual pull between eating more healthily, and being wise with my family’s resources. That’s actually the main reason I started hosting!! I primarily get paid in veggies. 😉 It’s a huge benefit to my large family to be “given” about $40 worth of organic veggies every week. But, before I hosted, I participated in CSAs for several years, in addition to growing my own garden…
I do understand that you have to do what works for your family… I truly do.
And I THANK YOU, all of you, for participating, whether you’ve been with me from the beginning and are absolutely committed, *OR* if this whole CSA thing is new to you — or eating healthy is new to you — and you’re just trying it out. Everyone is on a different point in their journey to health and wellness, and I’m so very, very pleased to assist any of you at any point in your journey.
The short version of this very long post is that it is an EFFORT to eat well. It requires something of you. Time, money, effort, convenience… All of those, or a combination.But the result is worth it, I do believe.
When I make a dish for the family to eat, it’s always my hope that EVERYONE will like it. Something that all seven people at the dinner table will adore has proven rather elusive, however. I now see this as a good thing, mostly. For instance: I made sauerkraut earlier this week, and it is done fermenting today. My 13-year-old son has been highly anticipating its readiness, and is already preparing his sandwich in his mind. He mentioned that he wishes we had ham, but we don’t. So, he’ll have turkey, mustard, and sauerkraut. Not everyone else is so excited. 🙂 But, other family members are expectant of different foods. I am roasting six bunches of small beets right now. My three youngest children are REALLY excited about that. I have received beets a number of times these last few months from our CSA and only ONCE have the beets actually made it into a dish. The rest of the time, after I roast the beets, peeling them becomes somewhat of a party, with everyone popping cooled, newly-peeled baby beets into their mouths, just like candy. I can’t say that I’m disappointed that not everyone feels this way about beets. My husband can’t stand them. My older two boys are rather ambivalent. The rest of us ADORE beets.
- Our new home is an older one, and it is an endless project. We knew it needed more insulation, as some of it was missing in wide swaths, some was thin and compacted, and some of it had shrunk away from ceiling joists and the outer walls. When we got our electricity bill for the time spanning from mid-April to mid-May, and the stinkin’ thing was north of $350 (and that is with our air conditioner thermostat set at 80-81°), that was a wake-up call. Last weekend, my husband Martin, after quite a bit of research (wet-blown cellulose? dry-blown fiberglass? fiberglass batts? do-it-yourself? or hire it out??) he decided to do dry-blown fiberglass, which requires a big machine. The blowing machine is rentable from Home Depot, or free with the purchase of enough packages of insulation. It was quite an undertaking. He purchased a head-to-toe coverall, and with goggles, mask, and gloves, ventured up into the attic. Actually, we have two attics, as part of our home is single-level, and part of it has two stories. It was hours of work. Our oldest son, Ethan, stayed at the ladder and fed the tube up into the attic as needed, and relayed hollered messages to our next-oldest son, Grant, who was feeding the batts into the blowing machine and turning it off and on as needed. At Home Depot, they supplied a cardboard measurement stick, telling us how deeply the insulation needed to be to supply a certain R-value. “How deep does it need to be again to reach R-38?” he asked Grant. “Thirteen inches,” Grant replied. “Good. We have about R-100 in most places,” Martin announced with satisfaction.
In the above pic, you can see a bit of the washing machine, with which I have a love-hate relationship. It is an LG, and when it works, it works WONDERFULLY. However, yesterday, we had the LG repairman out for the SEVENTH TIME in less than a year. Seven times. Granted, his visit on Friday was a follow-up from Tuesday’s assessment, and he was installing the parts that he had ordered on Tuesday. And two of the previous visits were — umm… — due to user error, as a quarter coin had slipped into the wash undetected, and had lodged in such a way that it was keeping the drum from agitating. BUT, this washing machine was the most expensive purchase my husband and I had ever made, barring cars and houses, in our 18 years of marriage, and frankly, I didn’t expect the thing to be a lemon. Or, I don’t know if it’s a lemon, exactly, but it just doesn’t seem that such a high-tech and expensive item should continually require repairs. So now, we are considering purchasing an extended warranty. I have kind of a moral objection to extended warranties. My thoughts are, “BUILD IT RIGHT IN THE FIRST PLACE, AND AN EXTENDED WARRANTY ISN’T NECESSARY!!!” And yes, this is said while shouting. I’m also kind of upset, because, before purchasing this unit, I did a lot of research to find the right product for our lots-o’-laundry family. This washer had glowing reviews and was universally touted as a heavy-duty, GIANT-capacity washer with few problems, certainly less problematic than a front-loader. However, the LG guy has been refreshingly honest with some information that I wish I had access to before I purchased. He has mentioned that, while the unit is power- and water-efficient, it actually runs better on the cycles which use more water (mostly the “Bulky/Bedding” setting). Also, the heating element in the washing machine, which allows the water to heat up super-hot (in the “Sanitary” cycle) especially for whites and cloth diapers, isn’t particularly powerful, and it takes a LONG time to actually heat the water. In the meantime, as I had observed, the washer just slowly spins, waiting and waiting and waiting for the water to heat, automatically adding MORE time to a cycle that is already THREE HOURS long. I guess I’m not the only LG customer who feels rather crabby about this, because just last night, I saw an ad for a new LG washer that heats up super-hot, but has an incredibly short cycle time. Hmph.
- Another thing I had wanted to add to our home is a clothesline. In our last home, the HOA forbade them. Even in the back yard. This house has no HOA and plenty of space. However, my husband wants to do the clothesline “right”, on its own separate poles, sunk in concrete, on the side of the yard, out of sight. But… that has been added to the very long list of to-dos, here in the house, and we have now been here ten months with no clothesline. So, last weekend, I procured four eye bolts and screwed them right into two trees in our back yard, and strung up some perfect nylon rope, handily left in the shed by the previous occupants. Voila! Clothesline. So, for a little more than a week now, I have been hanging up about 95% of our family’s laundry — everything except my husband’s clothes and the bath towels. Our handy new LG dryer (with which we have had no problems) has a great moisture sensor, and the few items from each load that go into the dryer are completed in about 20-25 minutes, instead of the 50-60 minutes each load was previously taking. A friend on Facebook (well, she’s a friend in real life, but she mentioned this on Facebook) said that she finds hanging clothes to be “meditative.” I didn’t quite understand her at the time, but now I do. I bring out a glass of ice water, put my basket of wet clothes on a chair, and actually enjoy the quiet efficiency of hanging clothes. I’m outside (which I love anyway); the sun is shining on me; it’s a gentle form of manual labor; I feel like I’m…. benefiting our family by saving money on power that would otherwise be spent on the electric dryer; it feels satisfying to provide my family with freshly sun-warmed and sanitized laundry; and it just feels RIGHT to be using the plentiful solar energy here in the desert to dry my clothes. Even when the day is hot (though I typically hang the clothes in the morning or evening), I have my ice water, and when I stand between the lines of damp clothes, the breeze cools and refreshes me… It is, indeed, a meditative activity.
With the Crooked Sky Farms CSA I host, I feel like we have a good plan for what’s going to happen when the baby comes. The sixth week of the summer season is on Wednesday, June 26, and the baby is due on the 27th. And… the baby could come at any time, really. I’ve been anywhere from 11 days early (twice!) to eight days past my estimated due date. While there have been a number of people offer to help, the most promising person is, ironically, a woman with seven kids. She hosts a raw milk pick-up (where I am a customer), so she is rather familiar with the ordeal of people coming to her house over the course of an afternoon and picking stuff up. 🙂 Also, she’s a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom whose oldest is 16. Just like me! She said that she would be happy to either come to my home and host the CSA for a day, or to even have it at her house. So, the plan is that, if I have the baby on a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday, she will have the CSA in her home. If I have the baby Thursday, Friday, or Saturday, I’ll probably just tuck myself upstairs with the baby and she will stay here for the afternoon, with my kids helping her. If I have the baby on a Sunday, it could go either way. That’s at least the plan. Another woman, who participated in the spring CSA season, sent me an e-mail yesterday saying that she would like to help around the time the baby comes, if need be. I was quite touched by her thoughtfulness. She isn’t participating during the summer because she has her own garden which is being very productive right now — no need to pay $20 for organic veggies if you grow an abundance of your own! I sent her a reply sketching out the basic plan, and asked if she’d like to be back-up, or perhaps be the host (as her home is much closer to mine, and would be less of a deviation from the regular plan for the other CSA members). Anyway. It just feels nice to know that things are taken care of, and that people are kindly offering to help out. 🙂 I feel surrounded by wonderful folks.
- We’re almost done with school. Kind of. Three of my kids will be finished on June 7th, in less than a week! My oldest, who is a sophomore, won’t be done. He got himself behind and will likely be playing catch-up until the end of June. I’m rather displeased with that because, as a homeschooling mom, if he isn’t done, that means that I am not done! But, as he is a sophomore, we can’t just say, “Ah, well. We’ll come back ’round to it in the fall.” There aren’t really any do-overs once you’re in high school. So, he’ll keep working until he’s finished with the year’s curriculum… I will admit that I am very ready for summertime, and I’m very ready to focus on the baby. Two weeks ago, I told my middle boys (8th grade and 6th grade) that they will finish the last three weeks of school primarily on their own. Normally, I do about 60% of their work with them — reading to them, discussing assignments in depth, having conversations about the topics at hand, reviewing their work, etc. But, in order to help me be able to have time to prep for the baby, I was straight-up with them: “Listen, I know and you know that you learn better when we do school together. Having an actual teacher helps you glean so much more out of the material than if you just cover it yourself. However, you will be doing virtually all your remaining work for the year on your own, reading to yourself or reading to each other, because it’s either that or nothing.” That is one of the benefits of homeschooling: You can make it be flexible when you need to. They would learn more if I was more highly involved, so I feel kind of badly. But, three weeks of independent work within a 35-week school year won’t kill ’em, I guess. It’s better than just stopping school. That sounds like I’m setting the bar rather low. Perhaps I am… But, that’s what is necessary for these last few weeks of school. 🙂
It’s not quite two p.m. as I type this, but today has been one of the sorts of days that I hope for, but rarely occur. To me, a “good day” is one in which I get things done in the home, outside, with the kids’ school, and that something pleasant happens for me, too. It has a nice pace: Filled, but not frenetic. I hate busy, deadline-driven days. I hate days where I feel like I’m doing stuff all the livelong day but nothing gets accomplished. I hate days in which there is an abundance of strife amongst the children. Today has been good, full of the things I like, and with little to none of the things I don’t. So, I thought I’d document it, if for no other reason, than to encourage myself.
- Let the day begin! The day started just as I prefer: On the back patio, with a cool breeze blowing, coffee mug in hand, reading the Bible. I have an odd (?) affinity for Old Testament prophets, and was reading from Zechariah. Then, my four-year-old, Fiala, came outdoors, sleepy-headed, and crawled up into my lap. It was just right. What started as a bright and breezy morning has turned into an all-out windy, dusty day, but that’s OK. It’s keeping the temps down to the high 70s, which is fine with me.
- Gardening. I am out of large and medium pots, now! In what I semi-affectionately call my “fake garden”, I now have 10 medium or large pots filled with plants and seeds, in addition to my two, 2′ x 4′ planting boxes. Today, after creating a mix of native “soil” (clay, really), compost (from a bag; my homemade stuff isn’t ready yet), and vermiculite in a wheelbarrow, I transferred two large heirloom tomato starts into my last two medium pots. I planted cilantro seed around one and cumin seed around the other. I also transferred three small tomato starts (not ready to plant outside) into larger containers. In related news… I thought that with such a small garden, that there was NO WAY I’d forget what I had planted. Wrong. I have three different kinds of squash (I think) plus a few cantaloupe plants and a couple of cucumber plants, and they all look identical. I have no remembrance about what is planted, exactly, and where. Around each larger plant, I also planted smaller things like chard, scallions, various herbs, and flowers. Some things are pretty easy to tell: Chard, for one. Scallions, too, are pretty apparent. But the various herbs and flowers??? I have no idea. AFTER I had planted cilantro seed around one tomato plant today, I noticed that some seedlings in another pot were getting real leaves. “That looks like cilantro!” I thought, “Or is it parsley??” I sampled it. Cilantro. From now on, I am making markers for each pot.
Yard work. I am happily transforming our back yard. Our home, into which we moved in July 2012, needs some serious work to the back yard. The front, too. But, the back is where the living and the gardening takes place. We have plans to seriously overhaul the back yard, but one bad thing about this being a larger property (almost 1/2 acre) is that the bigger the yard, the more it costs to re-do. We need a pool fence, a completely redone drip irrigation and sprinkler system. We need more trees. We need to install my REAL garden (which, blessedly, my husband does consider a high priority!!). We need to re-do at least some of the landscaping so that grass is not growing right next to the swimming pool. The cool-decking needs redone. We need gutters. The whole yard needs to be Roto-tilled, as the clay soil is VERY compacted. The list goes on. But for now, we’re doing small things. For instance, every Monday, I’ve been moving a sprinkler around the yard. I let it soak a spot for an hour, then move the sprinkler. It has very much greened-up the yard. Regrettably, a good half of what’s growing is weeds. But, when the collection of grass and weeds are mown, as my 15yo son did on Saturday, the yard is looking quite nicely. There are a number of bare dirt patches, still, though. I decided today to start aerating them, to see if that will encourage the grass to spread. Today, I only did a maybe 5′ x 20′ section with an aerator we already had. It’s just a four-prong step-on device.
- Homeschooling. In spite of the above, I still got school done with my four school-age children. Actually, I’m sitting at the dining room table with my son Ethan (who is a sophomore) while he works on science reading and questions… I read in several subjects to my 11 and 13-year-old sons, and gave them instructions for further self-directed work. For my first-grader, Audrey, well… I should have done more with her. I only had her do her workbook items (phonics and math) and then let her play with her new Play-Doh contraption all morning. That’s fine motor skills and creativity, right?? (It was her birthday on Saturday… Can’t believe she is seven!!)
- Laundry. I also washed, dried, and folded a giant double-load of laundry, and loaded the machine with a new load to start tonight, after the electricity rates go back down for the evening…
- Food, etc. I noticed that some red oak leaf lettuce, obtained from the CSA on Wednesday, was looking decidedly water-logged this morning. So, I sorted through that, as well as some CSA spinach, and started a small salad for my lunch, and a large salad for our family’s dinner tonight. And I used up the rest of the Red Russian Kale I had on hand, too, though that went on top my eggs this morning. It feels good to use something completely. I also harvested ten small-to-medium-sized Red Rhubarb Chard leaves this morning to add to the salads. It was the first chard harvest of this spring… I love my organic CSA veggies, but there is nothing better than plucking something from the back garden, which you’ve grown from seed, and nurtured into maturity.
Birds! I finally positively identified a hummingbird that has been flitting around our back yard for the last couple of weeks. It’s an Anna’s Hummingbird. I got to get quite close. “Male, medium-small, short beak, red gorget, throat, and head, green back, wingtips not quite as long as the tail… Think it’s an Anna’s.” Then, I went back inside and checked my Sibley guide. It was an Anna’s. Those are fairly uncommon here — I usually see Black-Chinned or Costa’s hummers. It wasn’t quite as satisfying as ID’ing a new-to-me species, but still very nice.
- Pain. The ONE bad thing about this pregnancy — I am now 28 weeks — is that I have a mass of varicose veins running up the back of my right leg, from my knee area up into my rear. It sucks. It is often incredibly painful. I am WAITING AND WAITING on a stupid, expensive, girdle-looking “pregnancy support garment” that I purchased about two weeks ago. I hope it works miracles. I do take Horse Chestnut Seed extract for leg vein support and pain, as well as cod liver oil to thin my blood. That worked brilliantly until about six weeks ago… Some days are better than others, and today, even though I’ve been on my feet for much of the day, has been good.
- The one bad thing about today: Last week, we took my truck — I call it The Land Barge — in to get fixed, as the RPMs were revving with little corresponding power to the engine. The shop found a cracked gasket somewhere that was letting air into the system. Problem fixed. Except that it wasn’t. On my way to the zoo on Friday (a 25 mile trip), the truck started to lose power and we had to pray it into the zoo parking lot. My husband came to our rescue and traded out vehicles. (Originally, all five children were going to go to the zoo with me, but my husband said that Ethan, our 15yo, needed to stay home and work on school. I wasn’t quite in agreement, but did go along with it. Well, if Ethan HAD been with us, we wouldn’t all have fit into my hubby’s small commuter car! As it was, myself and the four kids fit snugly but fine…) The truck completely broke when my hubby was driving it, and he had to get AAA to tow it back to the shop, which is closed on the weekend. (I don’t mind single-owner, small businesses that close on the weekend and give themselves and their employees a break.) Today, we heard from the shop that they had to take it out for a spin for a good 20 minutes to get the truck to repeat the problem, as no codes were showing up on the computer diagnostic system they use. The good news, I guess, is that the truck DID lose power and they DID determine the source. The bad news is that we need an entire new transmission for the truck. That’s an expensive fix! 😦 One good thing, though, about being 39 and gaining the perspective of years, is that I have seen provide for us NO MATTER WHAT, and I wasn’t worried. No, I don’t know where the money will come from — we’ve been saving money for a tax bill and the midwife — but that’s OK. God still provides, He still takes care of us, and I found myself saying, “At least it broke down now, not on some big, long summer trip.”
- Now, I’m blogging, which I’ve been working at, off-and-on (mostly “on”) for the last hour and 20 minutes… I’m always happy when time allows for that.
- Next, I will sort through Sunday’s coupons and plan my four-store grocery trip, which will be this evening, after my husband comes home from work with the car, instead of this afternoon…
No matter what happens the rest of the day (it is now 4:00), I can look back and say, “Today was a good day.”
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.
- 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!)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
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):
- 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!!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.)
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.
- Post a comment below telling me which prize you’d most like to win, and why.
- Like Only Sometimes Clever on Facebook.
- Like Botanical Interests on Facebook.
- Post a link to this contest on your personal Facebook profile. (Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1wkS-Z2)
- 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).
- Post a link to this contest on Pinterest.
- Write a little blurb and include a link on your personal blog.
- Send out a Tweet promoting this contest with a link.
- Download a PDF catalog or request a print catalog from Botanical Interests.
- 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
Arizona is in the process of reviewing the scope and practice of licensed midwives. Currently at issue is this: May they legally deliver twins/multiples, and may they legally assist in the delivery of homebirth VBACs (vaginal birth after cesarean)? Currently, they’re not allowed.
The VBAC question doesn’t affect me; I’ve never had a c-section. But the part about twins thing might.
My midwife still says I’m measuring huge and that it’s likely that I’m either a month further along than I think I am, or that I’m carrying twins.
I don’t think it’s twins. With this being my sixth baby, I can palpate like a pro (almost) and I only feel one baby in there. Of course, I could be missing something… But, the fact that I can feel a whole baby and I’m only 15 weeks — according to my LMP — tells me that I’m probably 19 weeks, in actuality.
My husband and I went back and forth on whether or not to have an ultrasound. I’d like to avoid or at least limit ultrasounds. My husband would prefer that I have none*. However, we’ve decided to go ahead and have one in about three weeks.
I was almost afraid to find out if I was carrying twins, because I didn’t want that to mean I couldn’t have a home birth. But, in my appointment yesterday with the midwife, she said:
- If I’m having twins, I really need to know in advance.
- In order to birth twins at home, we need to have a CPM (certified professional midwife) who is also an NMD (naturopathic medical doctor) attend the birth. They are governed by a different body — the one that licenses NMDs — and they ARE allowed to attend twin home births.
- If I’m having twins, it’s a good idea to have two midwives on hand, anyway.
And, wouldn’t you know?? I already know an NMD who is also a CPM. Voila! The doctor who oversaw the healing of my now four-year-old daughter, Fiala, who had a lifelong intense, crazy, systemic candida yeast infection: Dr. Jesika DiCampli. So, I have a message into her office right now, though it might be jumping the gun a bit.
I also found out in yesterday’s appointment that I have great out-of-network coverage with my insurance, and even with a deductible, the cost for birthing the baby at home will be LESS than what I paid for the hospital birth of our last, Fiala.
So. Overall, I’m feeling better about things: that my hope for a home birth may still be realized, even if I’m carrying twins. That has weighed on my heart for the last month-plus, when it became apparent that I’m big-for-dates.
I’m also feeling less sick, though I’m struggling with some insomnia issues, which has NEVER been a problem for me, my whole life. I was previously feeling ill from about 11 a.m. until 11 p.m., and now it’s just from about 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. or later… and I can’t sleep when I’m feeling pukey, and when I do go to bed, even if I’m exhausted, I just can’t get comfortable, or the sleepiness just evaporates, and I lie in bed, grumbly and feeling rotten. Last night, I finally got up and went downstairs. Nothing like a crossword puzzle at 2:30 a.m., right?? I drank three glasses of water and ate some blueberries until my husband came down to inquire about my presence. I spent more than two hours, awake. I was just thinking last night about how I don’t have any “getting oneself to sleep” skills, because normally, as soon as my head hits the pillow, I’m OUT until my hubby wakes me in the a.m. Unless someone cries. I’m up with a start, then.
Anyway. I’ll let y’all know how it turns out, twins or no. 🙂
*Excellent, informed, balanced info on the pros and possible cons of prenatal ultrasounds found in the book Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering by Dr. Sarah Buckley, MD. In related news, it turns out the my midwife actually met Dr. Buckley and was very encouraged by her at a conference. I was jealous; I’d love to hear Dr. Buckley speak.