Friday, February 28, 2014

An August 2015 Update

            It is August 20, 2015 right now, early in the morning before all the kids wake up.  It’s quiet and peaceful as I sit here on the stairs by the window, looking out on the reblooming lilac that has exactly one blossom left, typing this update.  It is my favorite kind of morning.  Last night, some very chilly air blew in, pushing out the hot and humid days we have been having.  And when I took my coffee, my homemade chocolate-chip breakfast scones, and my Bible outside to the backyard swing this morning, I had to wear a jacket.  I love that!  I love jacket weather.  I love it that the sky is dark and cloudy and it looks like a storm is on the way.  This kind of weather makes me feel alive!
            We have actually been quite blessed this year with the weather.  The spring was really long, with many, many cool, rainy days, right up into June.  And there have been very few really hot days.  And now, fall has come early.  The weather has been so mild that my fall mums started blooming in mid-July.  All the plants are confused.
            Anyway, I decided to write an update about this year’s gardening experience, about life.  Life can be interesting. 

Reprint of "Hunting for Tomatoes"

            Okay, I’m going to admit it . . . just say it out loud honestly . . . “It’s not fair.”
            It’s not fair . . . it’s not fair . . . it’s not fair! 
            My whole summer has been ruined by a careless neighbor.  The neighbor’s garage is right behind our property, just five feet from our lovely garden.  And every year, we have noticed a smell, but we never could figure out where it was coming from.  Well, this year, my husband finally realized that it’s the neighbor’s garage.  The windows are broken and it’s piled up with rotting, “hoarder” garbage.  Old appliances and boxes and papers.  And it reeks of mold so bad that we haven’t been able to go out in the garden for the last six weeks.  And since they are directly west of us, the smell (and spores) blows all over us almost every day.  And so we haven’t let our kids outside except for a handful of times in the last six weeks.  (This was written in late-September 2014 and originally posted in July's posts, but I have reposted it in the gardening series since it relates to gardening, too.) 

Homemade Cleaners and Personal Products Using Essential Oils

(I have recently updated this post to include new info and new recipes.)

            Since we are on the topic of recipes and health, I’m going to share recipes for the homemade cleaners and skin care products that I use.  The first thing that started me on the road to “as all natural as practically possible” was household cleaners.  I didn’t like the chemicals and the strong smells of store-bought cleaners.  And who says that you have to kill all germs with anti-bacterial products in order to have a healthy home?  The way I see it, the only thing we are doing is creating superbugs.  Only the strongest germs survive those harsh cleaners, and there are no other bacteria to keep them in check.  Having the healthiest condition possible is all about a proper balance.  And using natural cleaners tips the balance toward “healthy” while not creating these superbugs.  By making homemade cleaners, I am doing my part in creating a healthier home, healthier bodies, and a healthier environment. 

Why We Eat What We Do

            Since we have looked at garden vegetables and recipes this month, I also want to share with you a post from my other blog, “Why We Eat What We Do.”  Now, first off, let me say that these are just my opinions.  It’s the way we choose to eat based on things that I have read.  And read and read and read!  I am making no health promises for you (or for me), but I am challenging you to think deliberately and deeply about what you put into (and on and around) your body.  Our food, I believe, has been designed by God to have a great impact on our health.  And I think that our society is in a deep spiral of self-destruction because of our poor choices.  And so I challenge all people to consider if what you eat feeds your body or harms it. 

The Battle Is Worth It!

            Well, this post brings me to the end of my “garden” series.  The last plants I’m going to talk about are my fruit plants.  Particularly about the raspberries and blackberries. 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Dead Skunks Happen

            We noticed a faint scent of it in the air, but we couldn’t tell where it was coming from.  A few days later, it was a lot a worse.  Right before my son’s birthday party, during an intensely hot week of summer, I began to suspect that it was coming from our backyard.  But I still couldn’t figure out where. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Patient Garlic

            While asparagus (as I said in the last post) is one of the worst garden tasks, planting garlic is one of my favorite.  Maybe it’s because I love garlic so much, and it can be used in so many dishes.  Maybe it’s because organic garlic is nearly a dollar a bulb in the store, and I can easily grow a hundred of them in my own backyard.  Maybe it’s because it’s so easy to grow, almost foolproof.  Or maybe it’s because garlic gets planted in the fall, and so I can go into winter knowing that at least there is something in the garden, and in spring it’s one of the first things to pop up. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

He's got the Whole Asparagus Patch in His Hands

            There is almost no worse garden job than putting in a bed of asparagus.  The first spring we were here, I found myself at dusk – on a cold, wet day - standing in a muddy, 8” deep trench that I had dug out, trying to get over 60 asparagus roots to lay flat so that they would be facing up when I shoveled the dirt back on top.  And I had to watch my one-year old son at the same time, trying to keep him out of the piles of mud. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Raw Peas and Purple Beans

            I love growing peas and beans.  Peas straight from the garden are such a treat.  Every spring, we plant a small patch of them just to eat fresh.  My sons and I will go out and gather a huge pile of them, and then sit on the yard swing and eat peas to our hearts’ content.  In the couple years that I’ve been growing them, they’ve never made it to the cooking pan.  But I don’t mind.  Because watching my children delight in raw peas right out of the garden is one of spring’s true delights.  We look forward to this highlight every year. 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Greens: Kale and Chard

            This was a pleasant discovery for me – realizing that I love kale and chard.  I never tasted them before I decided to grow them.  But once I did, I realized that I had to have them every year.  A great big bed of them. 

Raising Tomatoes and Peppers

            Here are some practical tips on raising tomatoes and peppers.  As I said, I start them from seed in about mid- to late-March.  I prefer to start them a little on the “too late” side than on the “too early” side because they do not love growing indoors too long.  So if the packet says start 6-8 weeks before last frost, I start them 6 weeks before.  Peppers in mid-March, tomatoes in late March for my zone 5 climate. 

Friday, February 21, 2014


            Boy, would my husband be mad at me if he just saw what I did.  I could just hear him now, “What do you think you’re doing?  You’re going to make the problem worse!”  But I couldn’t help it, really.  It just seemed too cruel, considering that it’s a frozen wasteland out there right now.  Deep snow, everything iced over, howling winds kicking up little snow tornados. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Inch by Inch

            Last winter, I went through a deep four-month funk, a depressed and despairing time.  (I go through these regularly.  It’s just a cross I have to bear.)  And I struggled long and hard through the winter months to get a grip, to give my fears and concerns and negative self-views over to God.  I worked hard to find Him and His healing in it all.  And somewhere around spring, I began to come out of it as I learned to be okay with my failures and with loneliness.  (That’s a journey I’m still on.  Have been for years.)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Waiting for the Fruit

            One of the hardest parts about vegetable gardening is waiting for the harvest . . . putting in all the hard work, and then waiting for months for the produce to ripen.  Especially when it comes to tomatoes. 

My Own Private Eden

            Okay, so I’ve already gone through the flowers and herbs.  Now it’s on to the vegetables, the crown jewel of home gardening.  I love growing flowers, but there is just something even more glorious about growing food.  I can totally see why God put Adam and Eve in a garden and gave them the job of tending it.  It was a wonderful job to give them.  He could’ve given them the job of cleaning up horse dung all day or building animal houses out of sticks.  But He gave them the job of gardening.  How gracious!  And I think whenever we plant a garden – vegetable, herb, flower, or fruit – we get to experience a little bit of Eden.  We experience God’s goodness to us.  We feel closer to Him.  And we find ourselves worshipping our generous, creative God!  What a great way to spend a few hours on a warm summer day!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Grandma's Azalea

            I’m sitting here this morning with my coffee, looking at the beautiful cut flower arrangement and the deep pink, potted azalea on my kitchen table.  The ones we brought home from my mother-in-law’s funeral last night.  Valentine's day.  Ugh!  It all happened way too soon.  She didn’t even make it to 70.  Cancer is a monster.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Finding God's Love in a Praying Mantis

            After the summer one year, I was getting the garden ready for the winter, cleaning out old plants and such.  And I ended up getting an unexpected lesson in God’s love for us.  I always had trouble really grasping God’s love for me.  It’s not that I really doubted His love, but I never really had a father that cherished me.  I didn’t know what it felt like to really belong to or feel loved by a dad.

Lesson from a Praying Mantis Egg Case

            Several years back, I bought some praying mantis egg cases to put in my garden.  But we wanted to watch them hatch (and raise one in a tank on our counter), and so we kept the egg cases in the kitchen suspended from a stick over a bowl.  For weeks they did nothing.  They just sat there, like dried-up walnuts.  I was beginning to wonder if we had a couple of duds.

The Herbs in my Garden

            Everyone should plant an herb or two, even if it’s just in a container.  Having fresh herbs is enticing.  It makes you want to cook more because you’ll want to put these plants to good use.  And having herbs makes you feel like a real gardener, like you have a green thumb even if you don’t.  Because most grow very well with only a little care.  And there’s just something about growing a plant that looks and smells good, and that you can cook with, too.  It’s inspiring. 

Worthless Tips about my Perennials, Wildflowers, and Roses

            This post will be about some tips that I learned about the plants I have.  So if you don’t care about that stuff, feel free to skip it.  There are no inspirational or spiritual lessons, just information.  And it’s not professional info, just friendly.  And probably pointless, but I feel like sharing it anyway.  So here are some things I’ve learned.  And, FYI, I live in zone 5.  Hot summers and nasty cold winters.  (I’ll look at my herbs next post.) 

Friday, February 7, 2014

Butterfly Gardens and Wild Strawberries

            Just north of the perennial bed, right behind the garage, is our new butterfly garden.  We put this in last summer as a project for my oldest son.  My other three sons love strawberries, so they got a little alpine strawberry bed right behind the house.  But my oldest hates berries of all kinds (unthinkable and tragic!), so he got a butterfly garden.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

My Perennial Garden

            Just ten feet or so past the first wildflower garden are my perennial flower/rose garden and another wildflower garden, separated by a trellis.  When I look out the kitchen window, this section is in full view.  The wildflowers to the left of the trellis and the roses/perennials to the right.  It’s just about in the middle of the backyard, bordering the cement patio where we sit in the summer. 


            If we turned left at the bottom of the rickety stairs, the first garden bed we would hit would be a wildflower bed that’s right behind the porch.  (These may not be considered real “wildflowers,” but I call them that because I don’t really have to tend to them and they just keep growing anyway.)  I can just see the tops of these flowers from the window when I do dishes.  This is my newest bed, so it is still a work in progress.  I’ve only had it up for one summer.  So we’ll see what it turns into this next summer.
            I love roses tremendously, but there is just something about these wildflowers that I find so enchanting and romantic.

Roses and Thorns

            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 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. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

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 at least three times 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. 

My Garden

            We are still in the deep, deep freeze of this really long winter.  But now is the time when I start to dream about and plan my garden.  And the next however many posts will be about my garden.  About the things that I have tried that have worked for me and that haven’t worked for me.  And about the lessons that I have learned that have touched my soul and taught me about life and God. 

Saturday, February 1, 2014

We've Lost the Wonder

            I was at a seminar not too long ago.  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.”

A Long, Dark Winter

            You know, I’m gonna say something that’s not going to be very popular, especially as snow is pouring down outside right now, predicted to give us 8 extra inches.  Which will probably make the snow thigh-high for me.  But I’m really loving this winter.  I’m loving the deep snow.  (I don’t love the bitter wind, but it only really bothers me when I have to go shopping or pump gas.)  Oh, sure, I roll my eyes about the weather and gripe about “too much snow” when I am with other people; I don’t want to look fruity for being like, “It’s cool with me.  I’m liking it.”  But I’m glad there’s no sign of thawing yet.  Because I haven’t learned all the lessons that a deep winter offers.  And I need these lessons.