Thursday, February 23, 2017

26 Vegetable Gardening "DOs and DON'Ts"

In no particular order:

1.  DON’T use chemicals in your yard or garden, as much as possible.  I believe that chemicals hurt the environment, the insects, the animals that eat the insects, the crops, and they ruin your yard for the future families that will live there.  We all share this world, this space.  And we all need to do our part to keep this place healthy and going strong.  Over-use of chemicals affects the environment.  It might not seem like much for you to do it, but multiply that little bit by every home in your neighborhood and it really adds up.  It affects our water quality, the air we breathe, our country’s bees and crop pollination, and the quality of your soil. 
            There’s a garden around here where the gardener has always used chemical fertilizers.  For years and years.  And after working in his garden, I can tell you that it’s dead soil.  There is virtually no life in it at all.  His soil is not even soil . . . it’s just dirt.  And it’s compacted, hard, and dry to the touch.  It’s not the fluffy, squishy, life-filled soil that we have in our garden.  I planted 80-90 seedlings in his garden and found only about 2-3 worms, whereas I can find dozens and dozens in each of my garden beds.  And not only are there no worms, but there are basically no weeds, even when the garden has rested for months.  And when weeds won’t even grow in your dirt then you know it’s not healthy and can’t sustain life.

This is what my garden soil looks like:
This is what his looks like:
(Okay, technically that's the back of a toaster pastry.  But that's what his soil would look like if it was lighter in color.) 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Sorry ... But I'm not buying that crap!


            A famous actress recently said that monogamy is hard.  And she said that monogamy being hard for everyone is proof that it’s not natural.  And, therefore, the obviously conclusion is that because it’s not natural, we shouldn’t have to abide by such an unnatural restriction. 

            How sad!  And how tragic that young people will look up to her and her advice and use it as an excuse to live any way they want. 

            What she’s saying is that how easy something is or how fun it is or how much we desire to do it determines how “natural” it is.  And since we can’t fight what’s "natural," we should just go with it and do it.  We should let our desires be our guide for right and wrong.   

            Can you even imagine the kinds of horrifying scenarios this could lead to!?! 

            I can. 

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Roses and Thorns (and Ice Cream)

            Okay, so let’s walk out the back door of the kitchen into the backyard.  As we leave the house, there is a little rickety porch with rickety stairs leading down to the driveway.  The porch used to be enclosed, but some of the windows blew out in a storm and shattered.  And when it rains, the water drips right through the porch ceiling, so it is bowing and bending and ready to fall in at some point.  And yet, we can’t do anything about it right now because we already have other necessary repairs that we don’t have the money to fix.  But let’s forget about the porch as we carefully step down the rotting stairs, being careful not to wiggle the railing too much because that’s barely holding on, too.

            As we step down onto the driveway, the first thing you might notice is the smell of mint.  I did a big no-no, and I planted some mint (chocolate mint - the best kind of peppermint) in the ground, to the left of the porch as you walk down.  Mint is a known bully.  It will spread like the flu.  So I had to be careful to make sure that I contained it as much as possible.  And so it’s wedged between the porch, the driveway, and an area where we laid down landscape fabric and rocks to keep the garbage cans on.  So there isn’t much room for it to spread.  But every year, I still have to keep an eye on it and tear up any stray roots that manage to find their way out. 

(There is some plain peppermint in here, too.  The light-colored one.)

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Our Favorite Low-Sugar Strawberry Freezer Jam

            I created this simple recipe because I couldn’t find a recipe for strawberry jam that didn’t use a ton of sugar and because I didn’t want to use store-bought pectin.  We don’t like things too sweet in my house.  If jam is too sweet, it loses its fresh, clean fruit taste.  And I learned that the low-to-no-sugar pectin that I was using is created from corn.  And corn, in general, is a GMO-crop, unless it’s organic.  And then there is the question of the chemicals used to grow the corn.  So I decided to try to make my own low-sugar jam without pectin or a lot of sugar.


Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Looking Out the Kitchen Window

            Pretend you’re standing with me in my kitchen right now.  (Ignore the piles of dirty dishes and the crumbs under the cabinets that the boys are somehow blind to every time they sweep.)  We’re at the back of our almost-100-year-old two-story, creamy-yellow house.  Unfortunately, the kitchen walls are a horrible bright yellow (which I intend to paint as soon as we can afford to take care of some necessary repairs first), but there is a window over the sink where I stand every day doing dishes and staring out into our backyard.
            I love my backyard.  There’s no place I’d rather be than in my backyard with my family.  (I’d love it even more if my backyard was surrounded by more open land, instead of neighbors’ houses and garages and a popular road.)  The house has many, many problems with it, but the backyard makes up for most of them.  At least for me.  The first summer we were here (we’ve been here a total of 6 summers now), we spent so much time in the yard that very little got done in the house.  But it’s been worth it because I’ve been able to accomplish so much outside, putting in gardens that I had dreamed about for 11 years. 

Monday, February 6, 2017

A Garden in Winter

Unfortunately, we've had almost no snow this year.  I like snow.  I miss snow.  I think it's beautiful.  But there is also beauty and intrigue in winter when there's no snow.  And so on the first really nice, warm day in a while, I took my camera outside to take these pictures.  Hope you enjoy them!

My Royal Raindrops crabapple tree
I love the tiny red apples that hang there all winter.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

My 2017 Garden Plan

            After 11 years of renting, we finally bought a house in 2010.  It’s not that we didn’t want to buy before that, it’s just that we couldn’t afford it.  By the end, we had four kids in a two-bedroom rental, which became a one-bedroom rental after we closed off our room because of mold.  At that point, I was sleeping upstairs in the boys’ bunk bed with the baby, while my husband and three other boys slept downstairs on the living room floor next to the moldy backroom.  (I could smell the mold and knew it was making us sick, but the owners wouldn’t believe me.) 
            And we slept that way for nine depressing months until we found this home (which has its own set of problems, but at least there’s plenty of room to spread out and no mold).  When we moved in during the fall, I immediately began making my plans for a garden the next year.  I had been eagerly studying gardening for all the years we rented, unable to put it into practice except for a few potted vegetables.  But now was my chance to go wild.
            And I did!
            And for the past 6 years, I have been learning about gardening through the trial-and-error of doing it.  And it’s way different than just reading about it. 

Everyone Should Have a Garden

            I was at a seminar during a couple years ago.  (To keep my counseling license current, I have to attend so many seminars every two years.)  And the speaker asked us to think of a word or phrase to describe how we see ourselves.  And then he asked a few people to share their phrases.  One lady stood out to me - she said, “I feel like a child full of wonder, filled with delight at God’s creation.” 
            My goodness, how long has it been since I have felt that way?  I envied her.  How wonderful it must be to go through life like that, feeling so alive and free and inspired.  On the contrary, I could only think of this phrase to describe myself:  “A third-wheel, I don’t really belong.”  (This was during a rather deep depression.)

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Gardening: Just Be

            Here we are, the first day of February 2017.  It’s been a mild, pleasant winter for my neck of the woods (Midwest, zone 5).  There has been little snow compared to other years and the sun has been shining a lot.  The sun is nice to have, especially when dark winters are hard on you emotionally.  But it does lead to below-zero days.  And the bitter cold is worse when there’s no snow to look at, to make it worth it. 
            Personally, I love the snow.  I need the snow.  I need the deep rest before the world wakes up again and it’s time to go, go, go.  Winter forces us to slow down and breathe, to learn to wait and rest and be at peace.   
            I didn’t always love winter.  I mean, of course, I love the Christmas lights and Christmas songs and hot cocoa and cozying into my house with my family, being all hermit-y and anti-social.  But I didn’t really learn to love winter - to embrace it, to need it - until recently.