Things are Growing Up all Over

Well, as of last weekend, I have officially gotten my Certificate in Urban Farming and Conscious Living from SWIHA. My dear husband has always said I am certifiable – now I have proved him correct.

The Three Sisters Garden is growing successfully, too – so successfully, in fact, that I have had some unwelcome visits from the Gardening Ninja Squirrel.

Paid actor portrayal, not real Gardening Ninja Squirrel.

Paid actor portrayal, not real Gardening Ninja Squirrel.

Now I have alluded in the past about this rare and unusual garden nemesis of mine, but I have never fully explained. You see, lots of people have squirrels visiting their gardens, helping themselves to the sweet young shoots growing there. But my squirrel is different. My squirrel comes in the dead of night, carrying his secret with him (I assume it is male, though thinking about the level of deviousness, I may well be wrong). This squirrel takes a snip here and a bite there, like many other squirrels of his ilk. This week he nibbled the leaves off of my newly sprouted cucumbers, and all but two of the sunflowers. But this one also takes it one step further by burrowing deep into my garden containers and depositing seeds and leaving. The darn thing actually PLANTS things in my garden!

I suspect nothing, happily watering whatever it is I wanted to grow in the pot in question. And then some unsuspecting day later, usually after a good rain, or a bout of beautiful weather, I am met with something like this…

I think at some point this was birdseed collected by the squirrel.  It comes up when I least suspect it, and steals the nutrients and water from my hard-worked soil.

I think at some point this was birdseed collected by the squirrel. It comes up when I least suspect it, and steals the nutrients and water from my hard-worked soil.

Well, today, the squirrel met Rosie the Wonder Dog. Actually they didn’t even meet formally, but I am pretty sure the squirrel is now very aware of Rosie, and Rosie of the squirrel. I can assume this based on the lightening speed that Rosie shot out the door and across the yard this morning when I let her out. Something was in the garden bed, and then it wasn’t.

Perhaps I will see less evidence of the squirrel from now on…

Oh, and speaking of the garden bed, here is an update.

Glass Gem Corn - Day 38.

Glass Gem Corn – Day 38.

Green Beans - Day 14 March 23, 2014

Green Beans – Day 14
March 23, 2014

Mayo Watermelon sprouts - Day 7 March 23, 2014

Mayo Watermelon sprouts – Day 7
March 23, 2014

Nothing New on the PPU

It is definitely spring here in the Valley of the Sun, heading rapidly towards summer. With the warming up of the weather (low 80s expected this coming week) I have carried out my own personal tradition of catching a bad spring cold. This tragedy was of course compounded by the fact that it was spring break for my kids, and they both got sick, too. So plans for using Minion labor to do the heavy lifting for the PPU floor, well… It just didn’t happen. I have come to terms with this and am making an executive decision to have the yard cleanup and the flooring (and the rest of the planned hard manual labor) done by paid labor. This will happen within the next couple of weeks, after we get our tax refund.

Meanwhile, I am creating a tutorial that I actually started several weeks ago involving green potatoes, an old laundry basket and patience.

I had started my little experiment on a whim when some organic russet potatoes I purchased got left out in the kitchen instead of going into our potato storage bin in the kitchen. A few of them turned green and kind of sprouty so I did a little reading online and found out how to grow potatoes. Lots of different ways to grow potatoes, in fact. Do I cut them up or not? Do I put them in the ground, in a bag, in a tower? I didn’t want to be bothered with tilling the bad soil in my garden, so I decided on container gardening.

I started 4 potato plants in one 12 inch pot.  Then I realized my mistake when they started growing like crazy!  This was about 3 weeks after planting.

I started 4 potato plants in one 12 inch pot. Then I realized my mistake when they started growing like crazy! This was about 3 weeks after planting.

I took one of the green sprouty things and cut it into fourths – pieces about 2 ounces a piece – and made sure there were multiple sprouts on each piece. I put two inches of garden soil and compost into the bottom of the first empty pot I found, placed the pieces all in the pot, eyes looking up toward the sun, and covered them with another 2 inches of the soil. They started to show above the soil within about a week, and as they continued to grow, I added more soil to the pot. By week three I realized they were going to need a lot more space and quickly!
This basket is great for potatoes, the holes in the side are small, and it is taller than most you find, allowing more vertical growth.

This basket is great for potatoes, the holes in the side are small, and it is taller than most you find, allowing more vertical growth.

I remembered reading about people growing potatoes in a laundry basket, which made sense to me. Manageable size and weight, good drainage and easily obtainable. In fact, I already had a likely candidate in my garage holding some old paint tarps. It was easy to split the side of the old pot and transplant the young plants into the basket.
I separated the plants as much as I could while transplanting them.  As they grow, I add more soil, leaving about the top 2 inches of the plants sticking out the top.

I separated the plants as much as I could while transplanting them. As they grow, I add more soil, leaving about the top 2 inches of the plants sticking out the top.

Had I planned this experiment a little

Potato plants on March 16, 2014,  I will quit adding soil when we get to the top.

Potato plants on March 16, 2014, I will quit adding soil when we get to the top.

better, I would limit the number of plants to no more than two in a basket this size, one would have probably been even better. Next time I will know better, in the meantime, I shall provide updates as things progress.

As the plants continue to grow, they will flower, and then the tops will die off. That means the potatoes will be ready. I’ll just dump them out of the basket, let them dry for 24 hours, wipe them off and store them appropriately. I am hoping the worst of the hot weather will hold off until they are ready. I can’t wait!

And finally, here’s a pictorial update on the Three Sisters Garden…

Not sure if I should measure the tallest natural leaf, or the top of the stem when judging the height of my corn... Glass Gem Corn - day 31 March 16, 2014

Not sure if I should measure the tallest natural leaf, or the top of the stem when judging the height of my corn… Glass Gem Corn – day 31
March 16, 2014

Sunflowers are starting to come up along the north edge of the bed, and I am also seeing some of the borage and nasturtiums I stuck in the corners coming up, too... and there may be a couple of beans poking their heads up to find the sun, too...  March 16, 2014

Sunflowers are starting to come up along the north edge of the bed, and I am also seeing some of the borage and nasturtiums I stuck in the corners coming up… and there may be a couple of beans poking their heads up to find the sun, too… March 16, 2014

The Hardest Part…

… is the waiting. I managed a whole week without planting anything else in the garden.

Glass Gem Corn Day 24 Mar 09, 2014

Glass Gem Corn Day 24
Mar 09, 2014


The Glass Gem Corn in the Three Sisters Bed is about 4-6 inches tall now, so today I planted Kentucky Blue Pole Beans around each circle, and then 2 seeds each of Mayo Watermelon, Castillo Melon (which is similar to a cantaloupe) and Raider Hybrid Cucumbers in some of the spaces between the circles. In the rest of the garden I planted or transplanted Texas Sweet Onions,
Purchased Texas Sweet Onion starts planted Mar 9, 2014

Purchased Texas Sweet Onion starts planted Mar 9, 2014

Roma Tomatoes, Basil, Lemon Thyme, Oregano, Sage, Purple Bell Peppers, and more Borage. I also collected more Nasturtium seeds.
The beginnings of the tomato garden, Celebrity, Roma and Better Boy with onions and basil planted in the containers with them. Mar 9, 2014

The beginnings of the tomato garden, Celebrity, Roma and Better Boy with onions and basil planted in the containers with them. Mar 9, 2014


Onions started from seed - 4 weeks. Mar 9, 2014

Onions started from seed – 4 weeks. Mar 9, 2014

I’ve also started Phase 2 of my externship project, the PPU, or Plant Protection Unit. The first part of this project is the laying of the floor. We’re using 12 inch cement paving tiles. I had started this project a few months ago but put it on hold while I put in the Three Sisters Garden Bed. This part of the project is pretty boring, but the flooring is needed to keep animals from burrowing into the cage, and to deter subterranean termites from getting into the wood frame. Here’s a shot of the floor as of today.

Concrete pavers are going in a few at a time. Mar 9, 2014

Concrete pavers are going in a few at a time. Mar 9, 2014

Now the hard work begins!

The Cornfield

My husband, my dear Noble Knight, has been teasing me about the Three Sisters Bed this week. He calls it my “Cornfield” and jokes about my feeding my family from this little plot of land. He is not serious, and knows my aspirations are not that large… yet. He also tells me how impressed he is with my efforts to bring life to the soil, and that I am actually growing things that we can eat. It is still small, and paltry compared to it’s potential, but The Lady’s Garden shows a lot of promise, and is bringing a lot of joy to our home.

Rain fell all day on Saturday - after 70 days with no precipitation, it was a welcome sight! Mar 01, 2014

Rain fell all day on Saturday – after 70 days with no precipitation, it was a welcome sight! Mar 01, 2014

Earlier this week, I was planning on spending most of Saturday working on planting in the garden bed. Throughout the week, I sowed a few nasturtium, and borage seeds around the edges of the bed, but left the bulk to be done on Saturday, when I would have the help of the Noble Knight and our young minions. As the week progressed, the weather reports for the weekend predicted more and more rain and I was afraid we would not be able to do everything we wanted to do. Friday evening, the stormy weather started to move in, and it became obvious to me that I would have to spend the bulk of Saturday indoors, which is what I did. I did some diagraming and laid out a map of the garden bed, and during breaks in the downpours I ran out and planted sunflower seeds along the north side of the garden, and spread citrus peels around the borders to help repel pests.
The layout of my Three Sisters Bed Mar 01, 2014

The layout of my Three Sisters Bed Mar 01, 2014


By Sunday morning, the weather had cleared and I went out and took a few photos around The Lady’s Garden to show off some of the things that are growing there now.
Carrots growing among the nasturtiums-I always have carrots in various stages of growth all around my garden beds. Mar 01, 2014

Carrots growing among the nasturtiums-I always have carrots in various stages of growth all around my garden beds. Mar 01, 2014

Better Boy Tomato, I had just planted Borage and Basil seeds around the base. Mar 02, 2014

Better Boy Tomato, I had just planted Borage and Basil seeds around the base. Mar 02, 2014

Green onions ready to harvest Mar 01, 2014

Green onions ready to harvest Mar 01, 2014

Glass Gem Corn seedlings Day 19, just before being transplanted into the garden bed.

Glass Gem Corn seedlings Day 19, just before being transplanted into the garden bed.


Oh, yeah – I also transplanted my Glass Gem Corn seedlings into their permanent home in the Three Sisters Bed. The beans and vines will be direct sown in a week or so, as soon as the corn plants are about 4 inches tall.
The cornfield with 5 circles of corn. Beans will go into the circles with the corn, and vines will be planted between them. Mar 01, 2014

The cornfield with 5 circles of corn. Beans will go into the circles with the corn, and vines will be planted between them. Mar 01, 2014

Have you heard the news “Dirt is the new Prozac”

mintheweaver:

As an extra post I would like to share Robbie’s blog – Palmraeurbanpotager as they talk about recent research into gardening and depression. I believe in gardening as therapy in a deep down visceral level because I know how much digging in the dirt has helped me overcome my own mental and physical health issues. Enjoy the post!

Originally posted on Palm Rae Urban Potager:

Venidium fastuosum”Monarch of the Veld”, Amaranthus cruentus ‘Hopi Red Dye,
Monarda didyma ” Jacob Kline” mixing with vegetables in Palm Rae Potager

Just think dirt is the new Prozac!Yes, creating a garden on your city lot can help with depression + anxiety. There is scientific proof that it heals our mind! It is obvious to those of us that work + grow plants or spend time outdoors that we feel better, but now we have scientific evidence that it really does happen! It is not a figment of your imagination.

Venidium fastuosum is in the aster family + is often called monarch of the veld, Cape daisy, and Namaqualand daisy. It is native to South Africa and Namibia.

“The results so far suggest that simply inhaling M. vaccae—you get a dose just by taking a walk in the wild or rooting around in the garden—could help elicit a jolly state of…

View original 632 more words

Rosie Updates

For those of you interested in Rosie’s progress, she now has her own Blog.

Ready, Set… Plant!

It has been a busy week in The Lady’s garden – we have more or less finished the garden bed for the Three Sisters, we’ve started laying the foundation for the PPU, did a little experimental planting AND added a new member to our family!

Rosie the Wonder Dog joins our family 2-21-14

Rosie the Wonder Dog joins our family 2-21-14

This is Rosie, who rescued us from our dog-less-ness this week. She came to live with us Friday night and has promised to become our number one Gardening Ninja Squirrel Chaser. She is a rescue from the wonderful folks at Central Arizona Animal Rescue, and was pulled from a so-called “Pet Sanctuary” near Yuma, where she was being housed with over 200 other animals. She was well-fed, but lived in an outdoor kennel with no real human contact, so she needs to be socialized, house trained, and loved. She’s a smaller Belgian Malinoise, and is super smart – in the two and a half days we have had her she has already learned to like her crate and walk on a leash.

Bed framed out with timers ready for more garden soil  02-23-14

Bed framed out with timers ready for more garden soil 02-23-14

Today the Three Sisters Bed was more orless finished as we framed it out, and topped it off with some commercial compost and garden soil. I decided to go with timbers instead of rocks for the border for the sake of economics. The wood was treated with copper and boron, which are safer for vegetable garden use. The 4 x 4 timbers were dug in about 2 inches to provide a physical barrier between the garden soil and what will eventually be the gravel walkway.
Mionion #1, the boy, adds extra soil to the bed to fill it.

Mionion #1, the boy, adds extra soil to the bed to fill it.


Bed before wetting it down. Feb 23, 2014

Bed before wetting it down. Feb 23, 2014

I used minion labor to then add a large bag of commercial organic compost and another bag of garden soil. The level of the top of the soil is currently higher than the top of the timbers to allow for settling. If the soil level drops too low, I will add additional soil to the top to bring the level up.

In addition to finishing the garden bed, I have added additional paver tiles to the floor of the PPU and started to prepare to plant in the new garden bed. I will be discussing my planting in the Three Sisters bed and some additional detail on other companion plants that will be added during next week’s post.

Day 1 - Glass Gem Corn Feb 13, 2014

Day 1 – Glass Gem Corn
Feb 13, 2014

In the meantime, I did some experimental planting with the Glass Gem corn I received from my husband. Normally corn is direct sown, but being the rebel that I am, I decided to do some starts and see if they would succeed as transplants. One Feb 13th I pre-soaked the seeds for 4 hours (some people pre-soak, some do not, it is a personal choice) and then planted them in starter trays. Today is Day 10, and it looks like we have achieved about an 80% germination rate.
Glass gem Day 10 Feb 23, 2014

Glass gem Day 10
Feb 23, 2014

A Caffeinated Update

With the unusual heat we have had in the Valley this week, my garden bed did not get quite as much attention as some of my other garden activities this week, though we did have forward progress. As I mentioned last week, I completed the base layer from the rock removal process, and tilled in some as yet uncomposted materials, old soil from several containers and the bulk of the finished compost from my original compost bin that was started last year. This is what the bed looked like at the beginning of the week.

The base layer of the garden bed prior to starting the lasagna process. Feb 10, 2014

The base layer of the garden bed prior to starting the lasagna process. Feb 10, 2014


On top of that went a layer of newspapers 3-4 pages thick to act as a weed barrier in case any of the yard waste I added in the soil below decided to try to grow. Had I been building this layer on top of an existing lawn or weed patch I would have layered twice as much newspaper or used corrugated cardboard. Since I want to plant in this garden bed right away it is my hope that the plants I grow will strangle out any errant weeds trying to come up from the depths. Note if using newspaper, avoid the glossy magazine type pages, as they will not break down as well as the regular newsprint paper. You can also use brown paper grocery bags for this step.
Newspaper is layered to act as a weed barrier.  Feb 11, 2014

Newspaper is layered to act as a weed barrier. Feb 11, 2014

On top of the newspaper layer went a thin layer of native soil, then a layer of dried leaves and shredded newspaper, followed by a layer of green garden trimmings and the spinach and lettuces from my garden that had started to bolt because of the heat (I decided not to let them flower to save the seeds as they were varieties we didn’t really enjoy). On top of that went a layer of old potting soil and a layer of dried grass clippings from the neighbors.

The first few layers of sheet compost are finished Feb 12, 2014

The first few layers of sheet compost are finished Feb 12, 2014


At this point I was running low on greens, so decided to go to my next best option for compostable nitrogen – coffee grounds.

Now I don’t know how many of you are aware, but used coffee grounds have about a 20-1 Nitrogen to Carbon ratio, are highly compostable, add good texture to silty or clay soils AND help make your soil that pleasing deep rich brown color we all want. In a garden where you want to grow plants with high nitrogen needs, such as corn, coffee grounds are very, very good to add to the soil. You can also top-dress your existing beds by sprinkling used coffee grounds around before you water. Now, I love coffee, and I drink a lot more of it than I probably should… but not enough to put a thin layer of used grounds on a 4×8 foot garden bed all at once.

I am going to let you in a little secret. Ask your local coffee house if they give their grounds to gardeners. I know for a fact that all of the Starbucks do… it is a corporate policy. Usually Starbucks will have a box or bucket in their lobby in some out of the way place labeled “Grounds for Gardeners.” Usually there will be small bags of grounds all nice and neatly packaged up for you to take home – they want you to take them because if we gardeners don’t use them, then they go to a landfill and that isn’t a good use of resources. I say usually because on Friday, when I went in, there weren’t any neat little bags in the bucket at my neighborhood location. So I asked the barista when there might be some more ready. He told me if I could hold on a few minutes he would pack some up for me and I could have all they had if I wanted. Naively I said sure, I’ll take whatever he’s got. I got the equivalent of a full 5-gallon bucket. Enough coffee grounds to layer over my garden bed AND have some left over to add to my compost bin periodically. And a note on being thankful. Say thanks when they give something. They may consider it a waste product and may think it an annoyance when they have to bag it up for you. If you let them know you appreciate it, they may be a little more willing to work at the process. Oh, and buy a drink when you go in, that will help to ensure that there are grounds for the next gardener that comes in. Here’s what around 5 gallons of used coffee looks like.

A lovely Valentine from Starbucks "Grounds for Gardeners" program.  That's a lot of used coffee grounds! Feb 14, 2014

A lovely Valentine from Starbucks “Grounds for Gardeners” program. That’s a lot of used coffee grounds! Feb 14, 2014


A note about adding coffee grounds into your compost bin – add them incrementally if you are doing a “Hot” compost. Too much nitrogen may encourage the growth of the wrong kind of microbes, which then may kill off the good microbes we want. That will make your compost stinky and slimy, and may actually slow the decomposition process. So go easy on adding the joe, Joe!

Next week – the finished bed and some planting may actually happen. Oh, and look at the Jewels I got from my Noble Knight for Valentine’s Day!

Glass Gem Seed Corn. Gems from my Noble Knight. Feb 14, 2014

Glass Gem Seed Corn. Gems from my Noble Knight. Feb 14, 2014

We Start the Finish…

Minion #2, the girl, pulling the last of the rocks out - deconstruction is done, now to do some building! Feb 9, 2014

Minion #2, the girl, pulling the last of the rocks out – deconstruction is done, now to do some building!

I am excited to say that things are moving along exactly as planned! This week in the Lady’s Garden we spent a little more time removing rocks from the Three Sisters Bed, and then started the processes for building the soil back up in that area. With the removal of all the detritus, the level of the sandy-silty-dusty dirt dropped by several inches overall. This is actually a good thing, as it gave me the vertical space to start the layers for the sheet compost.

I mentioned before that, in the interest of time, I am doing a “modified” sheet compost bed for this area. In the soil I loosened in the rock removal process, I am going down as deep as I can and mixing in both brown and green uncomposted materials from yard cleanup, as well as the more “processed” contents from my compost bin, and the used potting soil from some of my older containers. Most of this initial mixing happened earlier today. I then watered the area well to kick-start the cold composting process.

Spreading the almost-ready homemade compost into the bed. Feb 09, 2014

Spreading the almost-ready homemade compost into the bed. Feb 09, 2014

Next week I will start adding the more traditional layers of my lasagna garden starting with a newspaper weed barrier, in case some of the grasses we mixed in have any viable seeds in them. The “regular” sheet compost layers will be intermixed with commercial organic compost, the rest of the good stuff from my compost bin and native soil. I am doing it this way, because I am hoping to start growing in this bed this spring. Normally, I would allow the bed to compost naturally over several months, but as I think I have mentioned, I am lazy and somewhat impatient. Besides, several months from now will be the beginning of the hot summer and I will have missed one of the prime growing seasons. I plan on growing Glass Gem Corn (google it, it is amazing), pole beans of some sort, and melons in this area, and I want them well-established by the time the Valley starts to heat up. The growing plants in the bed will also help to break down the layered materials further. I will be direct sowing the seeds starting in the second half of February.

Minion #1, the boy, demonstrates his "hula" skills as we clear the area for the compost bins. Compostables going into the new bin, and directly into the new bed. Feb 09, 2014

Minion #1, the boy, demonstrates his “hula” skills as we clear the area for the compost bins. Compostables going into the new bin, and directly into the new bed. Feb 09, 2014

A quick note on my compost; I have been using a single compost bin I acquired from the city early last year, and the contents have been coming along nicely. Problem is, having only one bin, I keep adding stuff to it, so the contents are never completely broken down. One of the events that happened this week, is that I arranged for two more bins and got one of them set up to start a new batch, moved some of the “less processed” materials from the old bin to the new one, and got set up to have a three-bin composting system. The goal is to have one bin of material with mostly composted materials, one in the process, and one to collect and get the materials started. The bins are made by the city, and are old trash barrels with the bottoms cut off and holes drilled in the sides for air circulation. All they cost me was a $5 deposit per bin and I can keep them as long as I want. They work perfectly for my needs and my neighborhood, and I get a good workout stirring the materials with my pitchfork. High tech all the way!
About a 1/3 of the useable compost that came out of my original compost bin. Feb 09, 2014

About a 1/3 of the useable compost that came out of my original compost bin. Feb 09, 2014

When I started to take the mostly ready compost from the bin to spread in the garden, I had a happy surprise… Earthworms! Hopefully some of them will find a new home in the garden bed!

We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Winter…

For this brief lesson on my favorite garden companion plant – Nasturtiums!

One of the first plants I grew in The Lady's Garden, Nasturtiums have been my go-to companion plant ever since.

One of the first plants I grew in The Lady’s Garden, Nasturtiums have been my go-to companion plant ever since.


I know I show photos of my nasturtium plants in bloom all the time, you all are probably getting a bit tired of them. But, I love this plant! Here in the desert Southwest, they can grow pretty much year round, if you protect them a bit from the heat of the summer and/or from frost. I had heard that Nasturtiums are a good companion plant all over the garden, as they repel white flies and aphids, along with squash bugs. They grow easily, have lovely, cheerful flowers and the seeds are easy to collect and save for next time. Nasturtium leaves and flowers are also edible, and add a sweetly peppery flair to your salads. I have not cooked with nasturtium yet, but if any of you have experience with that, leave me a comment to share.

snowpeas013114I originally planted my first Nasturtium seeds from Territorial Seed Company back in October of 2012. It was a lovely assortment of “Jewel Toned” seeds that came up with red, orange and yellow blossoms, some of which are now coming in variegated. I have saved seeds from two generations now, and as they self-pollinate the colors are becoming increasingly interesting. The saved seeds also seem to be better acclimated to our desert environment, and they are living longer in the garden. Here in AZ they grow spectacularly well in the winter months, and provide a cheerful reminder of why we like to live in the desert in Winter.

Developing seeds still have flower petals attached.

Developing seeds still have flower petals attached.

I went out to do some weeding in my “Horse Trough Garden” this morning and discovered that some of the blossoms were finally dying off and there were seed pods forming. I thought I would show some pictures of what to look for if you want to save your own seeds. If a blossom has been pollinated, it will wilt and the petals will eventually fall off, leaving a little knobby bit at the end of the stem. This will develop, fairly quickly, into a cluster of anywhere from 2-4 seeds. Once the seeds are large enough they will turn brown and drop off the plant and try to reseed, starting the process all over again.
Pod barely ready for harvest

Pod barely ready for harvest

If you want to collect the seeds and dry them, look for larger seeds still on the plant. From my internet research, and based on my own experiences, it does not matter if the seeds you collect are green or brown, what you want is the largest seeds you can find. I pulled a few off this morning, and will leave the rest to mature a little more to be harvested next week sometime.
These seeds are on the small to medium range of the size you want

These seeds are approximately the size you want to save

nasturtiumdryrackTo save your seeds successfully, you will want to dry them completely before you store them. I leave mine out on an old cookie rack for about a week just to make sure. If it is spring or summer you can dry them outside, keeping them away from moisture. Once dried, store them in a paper envelope and store the envelope someplace airtight, like a tin or jar. Inspect them periodically for signs of mold or decay, and check your local planting calendar for the best time to replant them.

And I apologize for any flippant remarks I may amke about the weather in the rest of the country. This year has been one of the most difficult in a long time in many parts of the US, while here in the Southwest we are experiencing temperatures in the 60s and 70s – warmer than average with below average rainfall. It is my hope, dear reader, that I can bring a little warmth and light into your homes, even for just a few minutes as you read this. And remember, we will envy you in June. Stay safe!

It Always Comes Back to the Dirt, Doesn’t It?

Once again, I am obsessing about dirt. But this time, my friends, I am working on doing something about it. Last week I told you about my garden plans, and using my garden building project to fulfill my externship requirements. A major portion of my school project is the planning and installation of my “Three Sisters” in ground garden bed. It will eventually end up being the “corn field” on my urban farm, along with growing other space intensive crops as well. Don’t get me wrong, it won’t be large, just 4′ by 8′ – specific size being dictated by my available space in that portion of the yard, accessibility, and by the size and quantity of the rocks I have available to form the border.

I am going to be using modified sheet composting to build up the soil initially in this area, with the hope that the life cycles of what I plant will continue to improve the soil and build up the bed into something thriving and fertile. That’s the plan, anyway. In order to get this process started I have to give my existing ground the spark of life (insert mad scientist laugh here) and get it started on this whole perpetuating process.

Diagram from freshorganicgardening.com

Diagram from freshorganicgardening.com

Sheet composting, also known as lasagna gardening (and though I know in your head you went there, there is no cheese nor any pasta involved in this process, though there may someday be tomatoes) is a process in which you layer your compostable carbon and nitrogen (brown and green) materials directly on top of the soil and allow them to decompose directly into your garden bed. I know I am in Arizona, but I found an awesome paper online from the University of Oregon about how to use this technique, you can read it yourself HERE. I took the information from this article, and from several other places, modified it for my lack of patience and my wonderful clay/sand/dust desert soil, and that is what I will be talking about here over the next couple of weeks.

Because I want my final garden bed to be more or less ground level, I somehow need to dig down into the bed so that I can build the layers up again on top of it. As the materials decompose, the area will compress and sink back down into the ground. My plan is to build everything up 8 to 12 inches above the surface to start, so ideally I would need to go down an additional 6 to 10 inches in order to get the 18 inches recommended in the article. Have I mentioned what a lazy gardener I am? Realistically I think I can say a 10 inch deep rectangular pit measuring 4 feet by 8 feet is probably not going to happen by my hands. Especially after I broke ground…

So, while I was home on Wednesday I decided to get a head start on my project. Since I knew I would need to be digging down into the ground to start my bed, I cleared the weeds from the area and ended up with this promising looking patch of ground.

Half an hour of scraping and raking away rocks and I found some dirt Jan 29, 2014.

Half an hour of scraping and raking away weeds and rocks and I found some dirt Jan 29, 2014.


Don’t you love how pale and gray the earth looks? Not! Had I been following the article’s instructions I would have just laid a layer of newspaper or cardboard over the weeds and started from there. But I knew that wouldn’t work for a ground-level bed, and besides, the original patch of ground was very uneven and rocky, and I knew I needed a better foundation to start with.

Friday I thought I would come out and “pop” the soil, like the article talks about. Loosen up the area and get some air pockets in there so the water could come down and the microbes could start to do their thing. Shovel went in about 3-4 inches and stopped. Tried again in another spot, 2 inches and stopped. Gosh darn it – caliche! But no, this did not feel or sound like a solid layer of hard pan clay under the soil. This felt uneven, and had a kind of hollow ring to it. Kind of like rocks… an almost solid, yet uneven layer of rocks – and pieces of concrete – obviously planted there by the contractors to “fill in” the area (apparently my whole yard) when they graded the property and built houses on it all those years ago.

"Rocks... Big Rocks" as my kids say, parodying one of our favorite movie lines. Jan 31, 2014.

“Rocks… Big Rocks” as my kids say, parodying one of our favorite movie lines. Jan 31, 2014.

I went ahead and broke up the top surface of the soil anyway, and dug out a couple of big rocks in the process – and then decided I would need to pull as many of the rocks out as I could to give roots room to grow, and it was going to be a much bigger job than originally anticipated. I would need help from my minions, um, I mean my kids, so it was going to have to wait for the weekend.

Minion #1 with one of our "treasures... this one will actually be used as part of the border for the garden bed. Feb 2, 2014

Minion #1 with one of our “treasures… this one will actually be used as part of the border for the garden bed. Feb 2, 2014

So, it was Sunday, before the big game, that we finally got back out there. Minion #1, the boy child, went out with me and helped sift through the dirt as I tried to dig down a bit. It was hard, dirty work, but we were laughing about being archeologists… here are some of the treasures we found. We only spent a total of about 30 minutes, and pulled so many rocks out of just a few square feet. This process is going to take another week at least. May have to rethink how deep we want to go.
Took about 30 minutes to pull out these few rocks.

Took about 30 minutes to pull out these few rocks.

The larger rocks we pull out will become part of the border for the garden bed, and the smaller rocks and concrete will be going into the bottom of my horse trough garden beds as filler. And just because you are being so patient, and because the photos this week are all so “beige,” I am finishing this week’s post with a close up photo of my current trough garden’s nasturtiums and snow peas. I love me some nasturtiums!
snowpeas013114

“Someday” Comes into Focus

I apologize for my absences of late, work is continuing on the garden, my schooling is progressing and life goes on, sometimes too fast. The holiday season has come and gone, and I am heading into the New Year with a new attitude and a level of energy I have not experienced in quite some time. I have been continuing in my studies at Southwest Institute of Healing Arts and I am beginning to use what I am learning in planning out and building my growing space. It is exciting to see what not so long ago was a vague idea solidify into something tangible and positive.

I am actually in the last phase of my Certificate in Urban Farming from SWIHA. It has been an eye-opening, incredible experience and if you have the means, I hope that you will look into educating yourself about something that you love and then work to put that love into practice in your life. My health scares over the past couple of years have taught me that life is a very fragile thing and too short to waste.

Winter container garden Jan 23, 2014

Winter container garden Jan 23, 2014

As a result of that, I have quit saying “someday.” My husband and I have had this vague dream for as long as we have been together- we would “someday” move “someplace” green and fertile, get some land and grow things and raise animals, and our children, in a rural area. Well, the years have passed, more than 20 of them so far, and we are still here in the desert, in our starter home. Until now, making a living has superseded what we thought of as making a “perfect” life, and because of my Noble Knight’s technical specialties, we are required to live near a bigger city, because that is where the jobs are. So Phoenix it is, at least for now. Unless we win the lottery… but I digress.

Recently we have made a conscious decision to start our “someday” right now, here where we are. We already have a not-so-little patch of dirt that “someday” was going to have a pool and a barbecue area and a water feature. With our kids being older now, they will be leaving the nest in just a few short years, so the expensive pool holds less allure than it used to, though the barbecue area, and maybe even a water feature or spa, are still in the works. We are still figuring that bit out.

As the last phase of my school certification, I am required to do an “externship” to put what I have learned into practice and see how all this edification works with “real world” experience. Since my focus in this part of my life is not to start a business, but rather to go through the process, and maybe help some others like you, dear reader, along the way, I have been given permission to use my own garden development as my externship. That means I report to the school, to myself, and to you about the process and the progress. The externship requires a minimum of 25 hours to be completed in 10 weeks or less, and also that I do weekly reports including pictures and written descriptions of that week’s activity. This where you come in, or at least this blog does, since I have no way of knowing if you are here or not…

Our current "Vision" Jan 26, 2014

Our current “Vision” Jan 26, 2014

Our garden plan is not something that can happen overnight (oh, where are those garden fairies and why have they not planted a money tree yet?) so the elements show here are being broken down into smaller parts so that they are manageable. As you can see, as of today the plan includes raised garden beds, a protective structure, fruit trees, an in ground bed, composting bins and a chicken coop. The elements up against the house are tentative and still under negotiation (It seems the Noble Knight and I have slightly differing views on what constitutes Paradise). There will be compromises, and also adjustments to the current plan as we learn and grow with this process.

What will be happening during my externship is the building of the PPU (what that is in a moment) and the installation of a sheet composted garden bed for use as a Three Sisters bed later this year. I will take a closer look at Sheet Composting (also known as Lasagna Gardening) and the concept behind the Three Sisters method when I get to those points (patience, my dear, patience). Below is a current picture of what my Three Sisters area looks like this week, and yeah – it’s a mess.

The area of the Three Sisters garden bed, located in the north end of the yard, east of the PPU. Jan 23, 2014

The area of the Three Sisters garden bed, located in the north end of the yard, east of the PPU. Jan 23, 2014

Ok, that caption reads, in part “east of the PPU.” What is a PPU and why will it be in my garden? First off, PPU stands for “Plant Protection Unit” (my husband, the Noble Knight, is a former military man, and the military does like it’s acronyms). This will be a structure, roughly the size of a small greenhouse, constructed of wood and chicken wire and placed on a stone slab. It is designed to house my current containerized garden, and support additional gardening vertically with hanging pots. But the main purpose is to protect the fruits of my labors from birds, and the dreaded Gardening Ninja Squirrel(s) that roam our area (more on that when we get there). The structure will also provide a framework to support shade cloth and possibly frost protection material as well, in order to extend my gardening seasons to pretty much year-round.

This picture was taken from the southwest corner of my garden area. The chicken coop will be going in directly to my left (not in the picture) sometime in the fall of this year, the three compost bins will be roughly where the gigantic spool is now, and you can see the beginnings of the stone pavers which will make up the PPU. The Three Sisters bed will then be just this side of the shed shown in the back.

View of most of the yard looking Northeast. Note the beginnings of the pad in the middle, and all of containers used for gardening. Jan 23, 2014

View of most of the yard looking Northeast. Note the beginnings of the pad in the middle, and all of containers used for gardening. Jan 23, 2014

So there you have it. The beginning has begun. I will be reporting my progress for the duration of my externship, usually on a Sunday afternoon, so check back with me each week to see what I, an out of shape, middle-aged suburbanite, have done to change my world. I am so excited!

The Story Continues…

As soon as her hands touched real, living soil she felt connected in a way she had never experienced before!

nasturtiums

Her small attempts flourished and blossomed, and bore fruit. And though she was limited by her physical abilities and by the small scope of her containers, she was able to benefit from the efforts and share healthy foods with her family. She began to feel hope and joy and was encouraged by the Noble Knight, who saw the changes occurring in her and was happy.

firstcarrotsThe next season, he brought her more and larger pots, and some better soil and the lady began to grow herbs and edible flowers, and even a few more vegetables.

The lady sat one day, overlooking their almost empty parcel of land, while the noble knight looked on. She stated wistfully, “Would it not be a good thing if I could have a small parcel of land to call my own, on which to nurture and grow even more things to enrich our bellies and our hearts?” The Noble Knight gazed upon his beloved, wanting more than anything to make her happy. He looked out at their small parcel harvest101613of land, and at the once noble steed that rested there and he knew what he must do. He placed an advertisement on the list of Craig, and on the Bay of E, and he found a buyer for the noble steed – a man with financial resources who could honor and rebuild the mighty beast and restore it to it’s former glory. The Noble Knight held back the tears as the gentlemen came to retrieve his treasure, for he did not want his beloved wife to see his sadness. But she knew.

Now the pair had a small purse of gold with some to save and some to spend, which was the right way to do it. They took a small portion of their money and purchased some of what they needed to enrich the soil and make a garden grow. But they knew that they needed a plan.

So the Lady started to read. She read articles on the internet and information in books. She read about worms, and companion plants and desert varietals. She read about nitrogen mix and liquid seaweed, and also about Glyphosate and genetic modification vs. selective breeding. As she read she realized that it was not that long ago, in the grand scheme of things, that the Earth was in balance and Nature was allowed to manage Her own affairs. That not so long ago, in the grand scheme of things, Man followed Nature’s rules, instead of the other way around, and the world existed in harmony and not the chaos that was now.

So the Lady read some more, works by smart men and women, like Joel Salatin, Richard Reynolds and “The Dirty Girls” of NY. She enrolled in school again, so she could learn about urban farming, and guerilla gardening and what a food forest is and why it is important. As she read, and she learned these things, she knew in her heart that it was good and right. And she was happy.

A Change in Viewpoint…

Most of you are not aware, but I have gone back to school in my middle-aged wisdom, to learn about things like Urban Farming, Permaculture, and Holistic Wellness. I finished my first class this past week in “Sustainability and Conscious Living.” It resonated with me on so many levels, and it has really helped me to organize my ideas and formulate some plans. I do not see myself as a life-off-the-grid sort of gal. There are blogs and websites out there that teach you how to do things like prepare for disaster, protect your home, build a cistern and filter rainwater for drinking. I read some of them, and I am aware of them, but I am not really like that – I like my suburban neighborhood. I like having a dryer, and a dishwasher and I even -gasp- drive a gas-guzzling SUV, though much less than before. But I also have become hyper-aware of the state of our world, and the mechanisms behind our food system, and where things we all take for granted come from. I am aware that our government has legislated itself out of the ability to protect us from things like food-born illness, and into the nutritionally void Standard America Diet. All of this information is out there for those that choose to look for it.

My wish is to integrate more sustainable practices into my life in a kinder, gentler way. Reducing my impact while, at the same time, making others like me more aware of ways that they can do the same. Living more sustainably does not have to mean a radical alternative lifestyle. It does mean that you need to be aware of the impact that your actions, and the actions of others around you, has on our world, locally, regionally and globally. That taking a few small, gentle steps can have a huge impact on the lives of our children, and our children’s children. It also means being more self-sufficient so that when hard times do come, you are not caught unaware and you have a plan in place and can take action.

Anyway, back to my new education… As part of my final project, I wrote a set of essays on ways I wanted to live more sustainably. I would like to share them with you here, in serial fashion, so that you can understand where I am coming from. A lot of it has already been covered, haphazardly and in a piecemeal manner, in this blog over the years. I had to consolidate my tale into a shorter format for my presentation to the class. I made it a little romantic, and a little tragic, because I love a good story. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed putting it together.

The Lady’s Garden
Part One – A Story of Hope

The Lady and her Noble Knght

The Lady and her Noble Knght


Once upon a time, near the desert kingdom of Phoenix,
There lived a lady with too much time on her hands.
For years she had been a slave to illness and despair
And she did not feel at ease in the world she knew.
She ventured out seeking wisdom and understanding
about how the world could be so far out of harmony
with the way she felt in her heart that it should be.

The lady was not rich or famous, but she was well loved by a Noble Knight who supported her in her quest for enlightenment, for he knew she would not be happy until she found the answers she was seeking.

Also know that the noble pair had a small land holding, in a well established colony of almost identical parcels near the great desert kingdom, but their land had stood empty and barren for many years because, though noble, the couple had no great wealth to draw upon. Nothing to sculpt a cooling pond, or a playing field of green grass for their young offspring to frolic upon, as all the other nobles of the land had done.

The Noble Steed

The Noble Steed

The Noble Knight had used their parcel of land to keep his most prized possession, a once-mighty steed that had carried him, and his father before him, in glorious splendor. The steed was now old and lame and had stood unused in lonely despair and solitude within the confines of the small parcel of land for many years.

Over the years, as their children grew, and as the mighty steed grew more and more decrepit and refused to die, the Lady searched and dabbled. She dabbled at work, and at play, she dabbled in art and in culture and at community work and she still felt it was not quite the answer she was looking for. In her search for answers, she came across many supposed wise men and women who told her that their magic chemical elixir, or their sacred rituals would cure her many ailments and her unease. They did not.

Then she began to dabble in food and learned about the supposed magical, yet restricted qualities of Atkins, Paleo, Low-carb, no-carb, vegan and gluten-free. And still she was not well.

In her search for answers with food, she learned so much about where her food was coming from and how it was grown, that she began to feel that maybe the answer to health was not in the amount or type of food she was eating, but in the source of it, what was in it, how it was grown, where it came from and how it was processed. She was soon overwhelmed and sickened even more by what she learned.

She looked around her, and wondered what she, past her prime and in poor health, could do about what she and her beloved family were made to eat. She pondered and decided she would try dabbling at gardening and see if she could grow some healthy food for her family.

She would have to start small, because she did not have the resources or the strength she thought she would need. So she bought some pots and some seeds and set about her experiment.

nasturtiums

To Be Continued…

A Change in Name and a Change in Paradigm

Wow, it has been a while, hasn’t it? I do apologize for my absence – it is not due to lack of energy or poor health this time, it is due to busy-ness! You may notice the name change at the top of the blog. My previous meanderings seem to really be taking shape and forming into something new and interesting (well, interesting to me, anyway) and I will shortly be sharing specific details with you as they become more cohesive and real. Look for updates in the next few days…

The Lady and her Noble Knght

The Lady and her Noble Knight

Raising the Garden – Compost… Ewww!

nasturtiumAnother discussion about dirt, “great” you say, “She is obsessing again.” But dirt is important, or more specifically, what is in the dirt is important.

In my opinion, dirt is composed of eroded and crushed mineral elements but soil is a living breathing thing. Ideally it is composed of dirt and decomposed life, in the form of nitrogen, carbon and oxygen, along with other trace elements. Even more ideally it includes the enzymes and micro-organisms that will continue to feed on and break down even more vegetable matter into more soil. Plants need these elements to survive, along with a healthy dose of water every now and again (almost daily in the summer here in the desert).

If one is terrestrially challenge, like I am, where does one get good soil? With the growing re-interest in urban homesteading and organic gardening, there are all sorts of ways to find good soil. You can go the Craig’s List route at http://www.craigslist.org and search your area for topsoil, garden soil, compost or potting soil and you will get an overwhelming number of hits. Buyer beware! Before purchasing from someone locally, make sure you ask where the soil came from, what it is made of if it compost, and what may have been sprayed on it. If they don’t know, don’t buy. When looking at the soil, does it look rich and earthy, and does it smell earthy, too? Also, is it completely decomposed or does it still have a lot of discernable leaves and twigs. The latter is not necessarily bad, but know that it will not hold water as well. The same rules apply to soil you purchase at a garden center or big box store.

Another option is to make your own. The City of Mesa, for example, will provide a composting barrel to their customers for a $5 deposit, and you can keep the barrel as long as you want. They also have some very basic instructions for composting on their website at http://www.mesaaz.gov/waste/Successful_Composting.aspx. You should check with your local community if similar services are offered. If your community does not have a formal program, you can always purchase your own system affordably.

I have acquired a worm composter through Amazon.com. And my little worms have been busily chomping down on our kitchen vegetable scraps for almost 6 months now, and I am beginning to get some good naturally composted worm castings. The worms are currently living in our still-under-rennovation master bathroom, but they shall be relegated to somewhere else in the house as the bathroom gets finished. If you were wondering, there is no smell and I feed them every 3-5 days with about a cup of chopped up kitchen waste which has been run through the food processor. They also get sprayed with water at the same time. When the worm castings are ready, I mix them with purchased garden soil and organic potting mix before using them in my containers.

Speaking of containers – I did score a great find on Craig’s list with these old horse troughs – the bottoms are a bit rusty and leaky, so they work perfectly for my garden!
startingtroughs

And the carrots I started planting last fall are ready to harvest – I planted several groups of seeds several weeks apart, and the first ones are gorgeous (and delicious)!
firstcarrots

Next time – When Squirrels attack!

And we are joining up with Natural Living Mamma and her friends for their Natural Living Monday Blog Hop!

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Raising the Garden – Dishing the Dirt

Severe dust storm, or Haboob, hitting downtown Phoenix in 2011. Photo from MSNBC.COM


Dirt, I never really thought much about it until recently, now it consumes me. It is everywhere. Here in the Arizona desert, it is even in the air in the form of dust, which is a big part of our poor air quality.

Lime basil I got at the farmer’s market, growing roots, needing good dirt.


As I mentioned before, the dirt in my back yard leaves a lot to be desired. It is very rocky, full of construction debris, and it seems equal parts clay and sand, though they are in different areas. I have, in the past, attempted to dig in this dirt for various reasons, and with varying levels of success. I have also sprayed any number of things on my backyard over the years, in the name of weed and pest eradication and prevention. There will be no more of that. This dirt will require a lot of ammending if it is to ever sucessfully grow any edibles. Or I may need to disregard the existing dirt sompletely and bring in healthy, living soil. I am leaning heavily towards the latter… In fact I have pretty much already decided on the latter.

In fact, I have pretty much already started with the latter, in a small-middle-of-the-hot-summer-in-Phoenix sort of way. Our plan is to start small, with container gardening for the fall season, while we work to put together a raised bed or two for next spring. My reasoning behind that is that I am not as active as I used to be, and I need to build myself up to my full potential. My husband’s reasoning is that before he goes out and spends time, energy and money on something that major, he wants to make sure I will actually grow things. He is somewhat misguided, but only slightly, given my history and my tendencies to jump from project to project. This feels different to me, it is a result of an awakening on my part to the food production and procurement process, how farming is done in this country, and wanting a fresher, healthier alternative for myself and my family. And so far I am really enjoying it.

A few tips I picked up that I would like to share if you are planning to container garden with me this fall:

1. Get big containers, bigger than you think you will need. I like half-barrels, either real ones (heavy, but oh so lovely), or the much more practical mock ones you can get at Lowes or Home Depot.

2. Make sure your planters have good drainage. There is nothing a vegetable or other plant like less than constantly wet feet. The above mentioned barrels, for example, sometimes do not have drain holes in the bottom – we drilled a series of six 5/8 inch holes in the bottom of each one for our garden. We then added about 2 inches of gravel in the bottom before adding any soil.

3. Use good dirt. My dirt is not good, so I went and purchased a bag of organic top soil, a bag of compost and a bag of organic potting soil and layered them in the pot, then dug around in it a bit to mix and aerate the soil. We also stirred in some of what we like to call “Bunny Bombs” delightfully donated by the lady next door that does Rabbit Rescue.

4. Think about the sun vs. shade needs of what you are going to plant BEFORE you fill your pots with heavy soil. I learned this the hard way. ‘Nuff said.

My recently trimmed back senior citizen Sweet Basil, along with it’s 2 New Mexico Chile body guards.

I have actually had a few things growing the past few months, even a basil plant that was planted 4-5 years ago and has been nurtured and protected and finally hacked, I mean trimmed back so it is thriving again. I may just have to write about that at some point…

Ginger in the desert

I also “planted” ginger root a few months back by taking the whole root I got at the market and sticking it in a shallow pot and keeping it moist. No one told me just to plant the knobby rizomes. I shall have to seperate the plants now and give each of them a new home in a new part of the yard. The plants are lovely, and I have been told they blossom beautifully. So far all of my gardening efforts have taken place in front of my house.

Since I last posted, I have added a couple more barrels and some more soil to my compilation of commodities, I am acquiring seeds, by seed saving and from online heirloom seed sources, and I am researching different methods of composting. I am getting more than 75% of the produce we eat from our local farmer’s markets (love bananas and oranges too much to give those up, along with some other things) and I am slowly moving towards locally produced grass-fed beef. It is starting to feel right to me, and kind of familiar. I am realizing, as I do my research, that a lot of what I am reading about is the way it was done when I was a child. Not THAT long ago.

Raising the Garden – Before the Beginning

A while back, I wrote a kind of tongue-in-cheek post about a friend of my son thinking I was a hippie. I may not fit into the counter-culture world of 40 years ago, but I am definitely taking a turn towards getting back to the basics. Over the years I have delved into the fiber arts to learn to spin and weave and knit, and earlier this year learned the process for making soaps and natural laundry products.

I have been researching food lately, learning how it is grown, processed, distributed and acquired by me, the final consumer. It has been a definite awakening. Or actually, a kind of re-awakening. I mean, I knew this stuff in the past, I have studied economics and some nutrition and food science – heck, I went to an agricultural university. Seems a lot has changed in the years since I was in school regarding farming practices and animal processing. I will leave it to you, dear reader, to do your own research and come to your own conclusions at this time. Suffice to say, There is not a lot offered out there that I want to eat anymore.

My husband’s grandfather was a farmer in Kansas until the day he passed away about 12 years ago. We had the pleasure of visiting him on several occasions, to see the steers in his pastures, see the corn and wheat in his fields and eat the farm-fresh eggs and vegetables. He had a wonderful, hard-working life and instilled his salt-of-the-earth ethics into his children, who then passed them down to their children.

My ancestors (wow, that sounds officious) also tilled the soil – my paternal grandmother grew up in central California in a family of farmers, she married and moved to Los Angeles and kept the most amazing gardens and horses and chickens. I have some very fond and vivid memories of running around her paths with my cousins hunting Easter eggs and playing horseshoes. A few months ago I was reminiscing about her beautiful gardens and wishing I had the land to create my own. My husband just laughed at me and pointed out the back door… Duh!

You see, we bought our house in the suburbs and moved in 20 years ago and at the time focused our limited funds on meeting the neighborhood’s requirements that we landscape our front yard. We had planned to someday put a pool in the back, but that someday has long since passed us by… and we still have an almost empty backyard. (Except for the car that is – more on that at some other time – though it is for sale – let me know if you are interested).

Our Blank Slate…

Now you must understand, we live in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona. Our native soil is caleche (clay) and dust, and our environment includes the Saguaro Cactus and something called a Javelina. Granted, we live in a nice subdivision, in a nice suburban community, with some beautiful lawns and lush vegetation, very little of which is native. As a result of the developer’s grading practices, our back yard is full of rocks, and bits of concrete, and even a few nails still, and we have a low spot right in the middle where Lake Hughes magically appears during every summer monsoon rain. A BIG job, to say the least. And it is summer.

So this will be an ongoing, or “ongrowing” project. I will drag you along, I mean invite you to join me, as I slowly transform my little piece of desert into a suburban homestead, along with all the other stuff I write about. And to the best of my ability work the land I have to help feed my family and make our world just a little bit better. And since it is summer I will first be doing a lot of research and sharing what I find out, mostly to prove it can be done even by me!

Time to get on with it

I guess I have been noticeably absent from the world the last 6 months or so, for which I apologize. Life has thrown me a few hard balls recently and I am just now really picking myself up and dusting myself off. During my trials and tribulations (mostly medical) I have felt myself make a major paradigm shift towards a healthier lifestyle, physically, emotionally and financially. I thought for a bit that I would start a new blog to write about the changes going on, and then I realized this blog was still appropriate for my new attitudes because yarn and fiber crafting are still very much a part of me. And it has never really been just about the yarn.

One of the major changes has been work-related. I am not working now, and don’t think I am capable of doing a regular job, with regular hours anymore, seeing as how they want you to be there on a regular basis. It is just not physically or mentally/emotionally possible. As a result of that, I have reduced our family’s income… not substantially, but enough that it is being felt. So researching ways to save money has been one of my major activities of late. I have also felt a very strong pull towards the garden, or at this point, the earth, as my garden is pretty non-existent right now. I live in a desert, so figuring out the growing seasons, and making them work will be my challenge this year. I have always been fascinated by herbs and the uses of essential oils, so I am slowly replacing some of the toxicity in our lives that way too. Couponing, Canning and Crafting are also big on my list. I may seem a bit scattered and will most likely jump from topic to topic as this new me evolves, so I am just inviting you along for the ride… Better Hang On!

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