Category Archives: Loving Nature!
My friend Kathy told me I need to write more. So, I comply.
Though I struggle with feeling irrelevant in this age of blogs that are perfectly photographed, engagingly-written by self-assured experts in every imaginable topic, she tells me that I do have a niche, and I fill a role… I’m still not 100% certain what that role is, nine and a half years after I started blogging.
I’m also going to — at Kathy’s urging — start to journal more on the things about which I cannot write publicly. I find that, as my children grow toward adulthood, I can’t really disclose to the faceless masses — or even friends I know and trust in real life — many of the things that truly weigh down my heart, as they are often not my secrets to divulge.
Then, when all of these thoughts and feelings and words are teeming in my mind, considered but unwritten, everything else seems like fluff — truly irrelevant and not worth the time invested in writing a blog post.
This, however: Worthwhile. To me, at least.
I did something this past weekend that I’ve never done before: gone on a girlfriends’ weekend with no kids and no husband. Well, I haven’t done anything like that since I’ve been married. For Mother’s Day, my husband surprised me with a trip to the Portland area, to see some dear friends. I had been semi-planning this trip for, oh, about a year… But, with my oldest son’s high school graduation, my second son going to Civil Air Patrol Encampment in June, a house that sucks up our remodeling budget and most of our discretionary income, a family camping trip to plan, and more — always more — I was certain that it wouldn’t work out. Unbeknownst to me, my husband had been scheming with my friends. He’s a good man.
So, while my headcold-ridden husband stayed home with our six children, I flew to PDX, and went criss-crossing southern Washington and northern Oregon with three friends for four days. Mountains! The beach! Gardens! Farmer’s market! City! Country! We packed a great deal into a short period of time.
One friend, Dee Dee, traveled up from the desert — though not the same flight as me — and we met our two friends who used to live here, but who now live in the Portland area.
This time is a treasure to me. I have no great love for the Phoenix area… Yet, as my husband says, it is the land of our anointing. It’s where God has us, and where He has blessed us. We have not plans — not any hopes, even — of ever living elsewhere. There are far too many attachments here in the desert: our beloved church, my husband’s job of 24 years, nearby family (though no one remaining who actually lives in the Phoenix area)…. So, it’s a hard balance, something I’ve struggled with — with varying degrees of success: I long for green, for water in creeks, for rain, for tolerable weather… Yet, I cannot give in to discontentment. It wants to eat my heart, and I can’t let it. I won’t.
So, any trip outside the desert is a delight, and this one was particularly so.
In my absence, my husband bought me a second-hand rototiller, so all things considered, it might have been the Best Weekend Ever.
My other favorite times:
- Hanging out in Allison’s home, with her hubby and their two sons. The living room is on the second level, and it is like being in a tree house, with massive windows on two walls, tall trees surrounding the property. We curled up, kicked back, scritched the ears of her two Westies, and chatted for hours.
- Eating. Every restaurant in the Pacific Northwest has a gluten-free menu, and even the gelato at the grocery store (Chuck’s, I think it was called) was labeled as g.f. We also ate at an Iraqi restaurant, which I wish I could transplant here.
- Kathy made a delicious dinner for all of us, which we ate in her back yard. As we waited for the meal, we had hors d’oeuvres of fresh blueberries, plucked from the bushes in Kathy’s yard. Blueberry bushes. In her back yard.
- Just the friendship of other women who know and love each other and have similar values… I feel rich in the blessings of friendship. And we laughed a lot. And exclaimed over the same things. We’re all alike enough to enjoy most of the same things, but different enough that conversation is enlightening and lively, and we learn from each other.
- On Sunday morning, as we drove to the Oregon Garden, Allison — the driver — made an executive decision that we would worship and pray aloud. We did, for about an hour — praying for each other, our families, our churches — three represented by the four of us… And we listened to the Housefires. Time flew. And then right at the end, as we were drenched in the Spirit, someone up the way started backing a 60-foot Winnebago into a driveway, and a lady strode purposefully onto the two-lane blacktop highway and held up her 5″ palm, telling us to stop. This struck all of us as hilarious, because, really… we couldn’t see the Winnebago, and we would have been lost without her direction. We were so grateful. (Much laughter.)
I must return. We’re already making plans, the four of us, to do so.
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.
This morning, my five children and I sat around our island and shucked sweet corn.
My oldest, Ethan (who will be 16 on Sunday), expressed a new appreciation for pesticides.
I was a bit shocked, as was Grant, who is 13.
It was, however, somewhat understandable.
The corn we were shucking was from the CSA, from Crooked Sky Farms. Organic, fresh, but quite wormy.
Wednesday is CSA Day, where (currently) 24 people come to my home and pick up their share of local, organic, single-farmer-grown produce. However, on Wednesday, I thought that I was going to have a baby, and I called in the troops — a fellow CSA member who had volunteered to host the pick-up, should I be giving birth or something like that, especially since we’re planning a homebirth.
In retrospect, I feel like a chump for calling her, because here it is, two days later, and I still don’t have a baby.
The instructions from the farm said to give everyone three ears of corn. She was about halfway through the afternoon when she realized, “We are going to have a LOT of corn left. A LOT.” She upped the remaining people’s share to four ears, but was also worried, like perhaps the farm unintentionally gave too much corn, and they were going to ask for it back.
So, she came to my home yesterday with all the leftovers, including four boxes of corn — each box holding 25-40 ears of corn. Clearly, each member could have had SIX ears, and we still wouldn’t have run out. I’m not sure what happened — if they delivered too much accidentally, or if they just gave extra so that folks could pick through the ears and get the best ones, or what.
In any case, she kept two boxes, as did I. I assured her that she had done nothing wrong; sometimes, you just have to go with the flow and adjust, and she just didn’t know that, as this was her first time. And, one of the perks of being the host is that you get to decide what to do with the leftovers, and one of the decisions you are free to make is, “Why, I’ll just keep it!”
The substitute host has seven kids; I have five (almost six). We happily kept our corn.
HOWEVER… I must say, this corn was definitely picked-through, and not nearly as pretty as what you’d see in the grocery store. Most of the ears were, as I mentioned, wormy. (However, cut off the top third or half, and voila! You have a beautiful half-ear of corn.) Some of it was way too mature — dented kernels throughout, telling me that it was over-ripe, and that the sugars had turned to starch, and that it wouldn’t be good eating. Some of the ears were just too worm-eaten or even moldy, and the whole ear had to be chucked into the compost bin.
So… It wasn’t exactly pretty work, shucking this corn. There was a lot of, “Eeeewww…” and ears dropped like a hot potato when pulling back the husk revealed three caterpillars, happily munching away at the kernels.
Wesley (age 11) eventually got grossed out and became mostly the guy who carted all the shucks, silk, and “dead” ears off to the compost bin.
Audrey (age 7) became distraught that I wouldn’t allow her to make a habitat which would enable her to keep all the caterpillars. Indeed, I was insisting that everyone simply throw away the caterpillars in with the shucks. She was horrified by my casual discarding of life.
However, Ethan, Grant, and 4-year-old Fiala hung in there like champs to the very end.
I wish I had a “before” picture to show you just how ugly this corn was… But, I didn’t take a pic.
I found myself, though, reflecting on the treasure we uncovered, in pale yellow and white kernels — one that required a little work. One that required us to “extract the precious from the worthless.”
New American Standard Bible (NASB)
19 Therefore, thus says the Lord,
“If you return, then I will restore you—
Before Me you will stand;
And if you extract the precious from the worthless,
You will become [a]My spokesman.
We have enough “pretty” whole or mostly-whole ears of corn to give us two — maybe even three — nights of sweet corn feasting with our dinners. And that is for our aforementioned large family of seven.
I also took the not-so-pretty ears — those which were less-than-half-sized, those which needed multiple kernels trimmed out, or even whole sides cut off, due to being dried or worm-eaten, etc. — and cut the remaining good kernels. Those efforts resulted in a couple of knife nicks on my left hand, a partially numb right index finger from grasping the knife for six passes per ear… AND, five quarts of kernels to add to our freezer.
I feel like that’s a win.
This song was running through my head this afternoon, as I extracted the precious sweet corn kernels from what previously appeared to be two boxes of worthless, picked-over, dried, wormy, partly moldy corn…
I don’t know how to explain it… It just feels redemptive and rewarding to have rescued all that corn… to have worked for it, toughed it out when the going was gross, and now my freezer is stocked and we will feast on hot, buttered, salty corn-on-the-cob tonight.
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:
- ONE DROP ONLY of pure oregano oil
- 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
- One dropperful of 250 ppm colloidal silver (or, colloidal silver at LEAST 100 ppm)
- 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!
- 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
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.
Into a wire mesh tea ball, place:
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)
- Place tea ball in a very large mug and pour boiling water over the top. Let steep 10-15 minutes, then stir well.
- 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.
- Put 1/4 cup of the brewed tea in a smaller mug and let child sip slowly for 10-20 minutes.
- If cough hasn’t stopped, repeat with 1/4 cup doses.
- 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.
- 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.
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!!
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
- This is my kitchen, right now, as I type:
- We moved into this house in July with a plan to remodel about 40% of it as soon as possible. “ASAP” has come upon us, much to my satisfaction. People have been asking me, “Are you settled in?” and I have answered, “No, and I don’t want to be! I can’t wait until the remodel starts!!” I’m very pleased that I got to swing a sledge hammer and kick in drywall. :D Very cathartic. I’m also crazy-excited about the finished product, which won’t be completed for another three weeks or so.
- You might be thinking, “How is she making dinner?” The answer: Crockpot, grill, and pre-cooked chickens from Costco. I’m awfully impressed with myself that in 11 days of demolition and construction, we’ve eaten out exactly two meals. My family is less than impressed, especially my kids. They don’t see Costco roasted chicken and carrots with hummus (also both from Costco — the cilantro jalapeno hummus is all natural and VERY tasty!) as a real meal.
- To facilitate above-mentioned demo and construction, my father-in-law came to stay with us for six days, as he is a general contractor and pretty much overseeing the project. He is a wonderful man, very easy-going, doesn’t expect me to cook for him, is totally fine with sleeping on my 11yo’s lower, twin bunk bed (though we tried to give him the master bed, and at least my son’s bed has a new mattress). On a night when my husband was away at his Bible study, and the kids were all in bed, he looked at me and said, “I think we both deserve a Blizzard,” and off he went to Dairy Queen. :) Hard not to love a man like that. Hahahaha!! However, even a house guest that is stellar company is still somewhat wearing, eventually, for a girl who tends to need some alone-time before bed each night, to maintain sanity. He went back to Prescott for the weekend+, and is due to arrive again tomorrow.
- My mother is in the hospital. She was admitted on the 27th of September, and is still there. Long-time readers might remember that my mom has long had health difficulty. Truly, I am SO VERY GLAD that she is still with us, in spite of a number of doctors’ very negative prognostications. But, she averages a trip to the hospital around once every six months. She is in ill health, indeed. Even before her admittance, my sister and I were stepping up our involvement in our mom’s daily life, as she was frequently “getting into trouble”, so to speak, during the five hours that my step-dad is away from home at his part-time job. It made me extra-glad that we moved close by my mom; that is one of the reasons we picked this house. She suffered a stroke, though it took a couple of days in the hospital for the doctors to come to a definitive diagnosis. It doesn’t appear that it was a severe stroke. However, we’re theorizing that this wasn’t the first one, as starting in February, after a surgery, she had difficulty recalling words. Her health has never quite recovered from that surgery, and it has continued to decline markedly; we’ve been in a search to find out what was causing it — her heart? Oxygen depletion? Early-onset dementia? Conflict with medication? Too many meds? Not enough? Is she just exhausted? It still could be any or all of those, but the fact that she has had at least one stroke, and likely more than one, is now apparent. The very good news is that she is already recovering mobility on her right side, and is no longer speaking gibberish, and is more aware of life and people. There is light back in her eyes. She is still in the hospital, but that is turning out to be a good thing, as the doctors are discovering things that are actually helping her… and her appetite, which has been gone for a couple of years, is returning.
- One of my dear friends just moved to the Pacific Northwest. Their two boys are also some of my three boys’ dearest friends, and the whole thing has been wearing on me, emotionally. I’m happy for them. Heck, I would gladly move to Portland!!! But, there is a hole of sadness in my heart, both for myself, and my boys. They were some of my few homeschooling friends, locally, and we went to the same church. I miss them.
- On Sunday night, two precious friends, who are also birders, went with me to a local birding hot spot. There were reports of a Roseate Spoonbill there. I had seen one, once, in 2004, on the Gulf of Mexico, in Texas. They’re not supposed to be in the Phoenix area; this one was clearly lost. However, I’m glad that this particular Roseate Spoonbill made friends with a bunch of egrets and decided to travel with them, because the little trip to view him was such a precious time to me. Spending time with friends who share a passion, just hanging out… Talking about deep things and not-so-deep things… Those two hours were a much-needed respite, and I thank God for good friends.
My two long-time readers may perhaps remember a sort-of series I did, sparked by a young man named Jerry, an ex-Amish cowboy for whom my youngest son fell hard. Our family met Jerry in the heart of western Colorado, at the Circle K Ranch, which is blessed with one of the most gorgeous settings known to mankind, along the lush and bird-filled banks of the Dolores River. Jerry is the oldest of eight children and was 17 when we met him; I’m sure he likely had a younger brother Wesley’s age, at home in Wisconsin. He gladly gave Wesley time and attention, playing Uno (which Jerry pronounced “You-no”) with Wesley’s made-up rules, and giving Wes a spot on the couch next to him, watching rodeo events on TV during the rainy afternoons.
Wesley is now almost eleven years old, and is still very careful about sharing relationship with anyone; it takes a special person to really capture his admiration.
The fact that Jerry hadn’t received anything past an eighth grade education also weighed in my heart, prompting a number of thoughts on the subject of the value of education, and… non-traditional ways of approaching life that might be, in the end, much more balanced and healthy. (One of my first blogs ever was on the subject, here, on July 14, 2006. I continued the thought about a week later… I’m kind of embarrassed about my writing style, but the thoughts remain relevant.)
Six years later, those topics are still very close to my heart: Living close to nature, pursuing a life that’s a good fit for one’s personality, the value of education… and even Jerry himself meanders through my memories quite frequently. In 2006, very shortly after I met Jerry, I read a book called Last Child in the Woods. And guess what? I’m re-reading that right now.
Yesterday, on Facebook, my cousin posted a link to a gorgeous black & white photo essay published in an English newspaper. It reminded me, yet again, of Jerry.
I decided, on a long shot, to e-mail the good folk at Circle K, to see if they ever hear from Jerry.
To my delight, I received this quick response:
Yes, I remember your family and the fact that your son was praying for Jerry. :-) He is working for a horse trainer in Grand Junction Co. We hear from him every now and then. He loves the work he is doing. If I speak to him, I'll let him know that you were asking about him.
Wesley is already making plans to visit Grand Junction.
We don’t even know Jerry’s last name!
But, I won’t discourage Wesley’s hopes.
And I’m almost giddy that Jerry is still a cowboy.
I often hear (or read), with more than a twinge of envy, the yearly plight of gardeners who live in climes more moderate than mine: that of the overgrown garden. They post pictures on Facebook of two-foot-long just-discovered zucchini, which had been hiding in the undergrowth of lamentably uncontrolled veggies.
“If you only knew!” I silently respond, a pout on my lips, “how wonderful it would be to have things actually GROW like that!!”
Gardening in the desert is hard work. It’s a labor of love, yes…
In fact, I was reflecting earlier this week, on how gardening feeds my love — and increases my understanding of the process — of being a part of the growth and development of things: of children into responsible, loving adults; of two separate people into a carefully-tended, history-filled, long-term marriage relationship; of increasing spiritual maturity; of lifelong learning and the gaining of new skills… And more. I love to be a part of the growth of something.
So, it’s not like gardening is all pain. There are few places I’d rather be during summer days, even in the blazing heat, than out in my garden. And minutes after I wake, often still in my pajamas, cup of coffee in hand*, I take advantage of the quiet of sleeping children, and the shade and not-yet-blazing heat, and stumble into the first 10-15 minutes of my day (sometimes longer) slowly circling my garden, crouching every couple of feet to inspect growth, check on the presence of pests, watch a honeybee deep in the bowels of a gorgeous squash blossom, pull a weed or two, lament anything dead, and generally take stock of the state of affairs in that little patch of earth. I listen to the Verdin family chirp in a nearby Desert Ironwood tree, breathe in the not-quite-cool early morning air, and soak in the green. It’s a lovely, lovely way to start the day.
Still, though, gardening in the desert takes concerted effort and determination, and one can’t let off for more than a day or two — at most — or that will be the death of the garden.
It dawned on me recently why the “soil” in the Sonoran Desert — which is actually a heavy clay called caliche — is so dead. Under normal conditions — that is, conditions in environments where it actually rains — a plant goes through a cycle with the ground in which it grows:
- Eventually the plant, or very least, part of it — like spent blossoms and old leaves — dies, and that dead part settles onto the ground below the plant.
- The dead bits decompose with the help of, among other things, moisture.
- The decomposition replenishes the soil, returning the nitrogen-rich matter that is the nursery for new growth.
That’s elementary school science, of course. But it has really been revelatory to me to understand that the reason that doesn’t happen here is because this: the dead plant parts simply dehydrate, instead of decompose! If there is no moisture, there is no decomposition. If there is no decomposition, nothing returns to the soil; it just sits on top the ground, withers, and eventually blows away in the hot wind.
I’m starting to be concerned that the pay-off on this post, dear reader, is going to be highly disappointing to you.
Are you still with me?
I hope so.
Here was the source of my giddiness this morning: In spite of the close, daily inspection my garden receives — not only in the morning, but multiple times daily — in spite of my daily work and close involvement with the growing things in my veggie patch, I FOUND SOMETHING HIDDEN!
It is not, my friends, a two-foot long zucchini. It is, however, nearly eight ounces of green beans. TRIUMPH!!
They’re not beautiful, I’ll give you that.
I should have known better, actually, than to plant them. I bought them from a seed company whose gardens are in Maine. MAINE.
Note to self: It’s beyond foolish to expect beans grown in Maine to perform similarly in the deserts of Arizona.
This season, I have watched my pole beans (they’re a French heirloom variety called Émérite — read a whole post of an Oregon gardener singing the praises of Émérite here) have trouble germinating, but then spring up with vigorous, hopeful growth, and be covered with delicate lavender blossoms just in time for the desiccating 100° – 115°F rainless winds to blow, and for the cursed Western Flower Thrips to move in, for a good third of their leaves to fall, and for me to mourn the thousands of tiny, curved almost-beans which will, apparently, never grow to the “heavy producer of attractive, light green, straight, pencil- slim round pods” of which I had read, visions of haricot verts dancing in my head.
I had resigned myself to simply trying to keep a tiny breath of life in the vines, and that, hopefully, they would produce something edible, come fall’s cooler weather, when many desert gardens thrive.
However, this morning, I noticed, among the 4″ thick shady, damp mulch of Palo Verde “straw” and dead bean leaves, a fairly good-sized bean. I reached in and plucked it. Then, I saw another. I lifted away some of the mulch and found more. Then, more! All of the mature beans were very close to the ground, perhaps because it’s cooler there, and less affected by the withering desert air.
Since most of these beans were growing in damp, over-shaded, conditions, ¾ covered in mulch, they’re not very attractive. They’re pale and scarred. However, they’re tasty. Nearly a half-pound of them. They will be dinner, tonight.
I finally have my overgrown garden, in which edible things hide, waiting to be uncovered and give sweet surprise.
*Every woman should be so lucky as to marry a coffee snob who takes it upon himself to select beans, freshly grind, and brew the daily coffee.
**I must also say that the desire for jungle-like growth lives in uneasy tension with my desire to have a well-tended garden. The words “well-tended garden” frequently filter through my head… The phrase infers a great many metaphors, all lovely. Oh, well. I guess this will be one of the things I cannot have both ways. Snap.
Finally watched Food, Inc with my boys today, as part of school. The 91 minute movie took us more than two hours to watch, because of the little girls needing attention, and for pausing to comment on the movie itself, both by me and by the boys.
I would say that I already was aware of about 95% of it, having learned from other sources the same/similar information. But, it’s just GOOD to have what I already know be reinforced, and to learn even that 5%.
Most of what I didn’t know had to do with the human element: The progression of how subsidized American corn has been exported to Mexico, putting Mexican corn farmers out of business. Then, slaughterhouses advertise in Mexico, soliciting illegal immigrant workers — often ex-corn farmers — and even BUS them to the U.S. Then, the employers have basically slave labor because the illegal employees don’t want to get busted by ICE and deported. So, they have zero voice, and they’re one more source that keeps the price of low-quality meat unnaturally suppressed in the American market. I had never heard that, nor pieced it together for myself, but it makes total sense.
I told my boys at the end, “I know that you already knew much of this, but sometimes, it helps that, instead of hearing your mother harp on you –” Twelve-year-old Grant interrupted and laughed, “You can hear OTHERS harp on you!” Ha! He said this with good humor, as none of the boys felt “harped upon”; they all appreciated the content and found it interesting and confirming. They also commented that, at the end of the film, where all the suggestions are made for how to be better food consumers, “We already do all of that!” My oldest said that, instead of our family being the health-freaks amongst our circle of friends* and being the odd man out, that, maybe by the time he’s a grown up, the weirdo will be the guy who regularly eats fast food cheeseburgers. Most touching was 10-year-old Wesley saying, “I hope you get to be in a movie like that some day.” :) Not that I aspire to be an interviewee, or that I even merit that, but that’s how he sees me, which is so precious to me.
*Not that we’re the ONLY people we know who are committed to eating healthy, but it’s still not the norm, by far.
More garden stuff, including a little seed giveaway… (plus, any takers for an online/e-mail natural birthing class??)
I promise that there is more of note going on in my life than just my garden, but since I have such a nice pic, I thought I’d post another garden update.
One other thing I wanted to mention, though (buried, here in the garden post) is that I’m thinking about making my birthing class notes available as an online/correspondence/something-like-that birth class. Anyone interested? I can e-mail you the PDF of the first class (of six, total) as a preview. I would send copies of each week’s class, one at a time. I highly suggest that you take two weeks to go through each class’s material and homework, because there is a LOT of info! And, for full disclosure, the classes are really geared to married Christian couples, but I’m thinking about editing them to be more appropriate for other… uh… demographics. The basic idea of them is to show the wonder and amazing, kind plan of our Creator God in the process of birth — so that the mom would birth, filled with that wonder, and eager to participate fully in His transformational intentions for her… and that there would be NO FEAR in birth. If anyone is interested, I will take on three student couples for $40 each, and you can help me work out any communication kinks that may need fixing. Beta test, if you will. :) ANYONE can have a free copy of the first class’s notes, though. email@example.com
OK. Back to this day’s regularly scheduled garden post:
This was yesterday’s harvest: Red chard, green beans (I found more hiding under the red chard after the picture), two dinky tomatoes, and two Dragon carrots.
The carrots would have benefited from another week or two in the ground. The packet says that they should mature in 70-90 days, and they’ve been in the ground more than 120 days!! Things grow more slowly in the winter growing season here… less sunlight. But, sheesh! Mature already!! They’re lovely carrots, though.
My tomatoes are thriving. I’ve harvested a dozen or so in the last couple weeks, though it doesn’t look like any will be red and ready for Thanksgiving. :( There are probably 200+ tomatoes growing on my plants, but the bad news is that they’re all about one ounce “big”. Teeny tiny. Bigger than cherry tomatoes, but not by much! I bought my seeds from Native Seeds/SEARCH, which is a fabulous, to-be-esteemed organization for growing, promoting, and selling native and heirloom seeds that do well in the Arizona desert. However, the Native Seeds’ description of my Punta Banda tomatoes neglected the mention the size, and I neglected to notice the lack of description. Here, on another site, they’re listed as cherry tomatoes.
My basil plants just won’t die. Not that I really want them to, but when I add basil to any dish I’m making, I must confess that I use my basil-and-olive-oil “ice cubes” from the freezer.
Fiala, my three-year-old, ran off with a packet of carrot seeds and a packet of onion seeds a few weeks ago. It is now clear where she planted them, as there are about one hundred carrot sprouts in about a one square foot area of my garden, onions sprouting in the gravel (leading me to think about the parable of the sower), and a sprinkling of onions and carrots in other less-than-ideal spots. :) Precious, rascally girl.
I have one Mexican grey squash plant that is hanging on… Broccoli that is sprouting (not too vigorously, though, and I think the birds like the sprouts), green onions that are slowly but beautifully growing, mystery volunteer tomato plants that are starting to flower and bear new, tiny fruit… I planted some garlic cloves, too, and they’re coming up beautifully. I love garlic and we eat a TON, but I’m kind of planting them for their flowers. My green beans (Yoeme Purple String Beans, to be exact) are still hanging on, though I’m only harvesting about 1/4 – 1/2 pound every week from four largeish bamboo teepees. I have set aside 33 seeds that would be good for planting, and will give them to the first taker who mails me a self-addressed, stamped envelope, if you wanna give them a shot! Again, e-mail if interested.
My tomatillos are fairly pointless. I have 1/2 gallon of teeny tiny tomatillos in my fridge, waiting to see if I will make salsa out of them for Thanksgiving. I guess I should take them out of the refrigerator and let the husks dry all the way… I’m fairly disgusted with how much space those giant plants took up, compared to the tiny fruit. :( I started pruning the bushes WAY back, in hopes that the roots and stalks would super-charge the remaining tomatillos and make them grow big, but no such luck. After Thanksgiving, I do believe I will just pull them out, amend the soil, and plant more broccoli, and maybe some cauli and rutabagas.
Now that I have a fruitful garden, I can’t imagine even NOT having one. I pray I will continue to learn, and that my little plot of ground will continue to produce.
And, that’s it! For today.
Happy Thanksgiving to all my American readers, if I get overwhelmed by cleaning and baking and cooking and don’t make it back to the blog before then. :)