Gardening, Home and Family

Clearing the weeds

It has returned.  The attack of the weeds has begun again!  My herb garden is becoming over-run, so I have begun my nightly routine of 10-15 minutes of pulling what doesn’t belong.  (If I do any more than that at one time, my fibromyalgia flares and I am out of the game.)  Then I looked in my lawn and realized that the entire summer may be spent with a trowel and digger in hand!  Where to start?

Here is what I decided:

  • Begin with what can hurt me or the someone else.  Utah has these wonders called goat heads.  They resemble the caltrops used in the warfare to make a horse go lame, except they are small, wooden, and stick into feet about 1/8 of an inch.  OUCH!  There are also thistles with spikes, and other stickers of various shapes and sizes.  I have no mercy on any of them.
  • Move on to the vines which aren’t as much a threat to me but will choke my plants.  Bindweed looks similar to a miniature morning glory, but isn’t as pretty or as helpful.  Morning glory has large, gorgeous flowers which follow the sun and climb so that you can plant it and create your own privacy fence or trellis wall.  Lovely!  Bindweed, on the other hand, creeps along the ground, up the fences, and across everything in sight.  It sends out roots that cover the same area underground.  The only truly effective way to eradicate it is by hand-pulling it every time you see any.  AUGH!  No mercy here either.
  • Pull whatever else is there which shouldn’t be.  There are indigenous plants which pop up here and there.  One tug and out they come.  No big deal.  Just not invited into my lawn or garden.

What am I learning as I pull, tug, dig, and yank?  My life is also full of weeds.  Some aren’t necessarily dangerous; they just get in my way if I let them.  Others choke out the things I would prefer to have in my life instead.  They are the time and/or energy wasters.  I just need to be vigilant to keep them at bay or I will find everything I intended to grow and flourish is buried under something much less desirable.  Then there are those things which can really damage me or those I love.  Anger, worry, judging, selfishness, and vitriol can become so encompassing I lose sight of the beauty and grandure which surrounds me.  If I am not careful, they will steal my peace of mind, and make having a grateful heart near to impossible.  People are fallible, me included.  My garden grows as I accept them for who they are and what they have to share.  I grow as I share and accept and love.

Maybe as I weed this year, I can clear more ground than what is outside my window.

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Cooking, Finances, Gardening, Home and Family, Homemaking, Organization, Parenting

Learning life’s grammar

(Just a note- this post is awfully close to a rant.)

I looked up the word “grammar” in the dictionary recently, and one of the definitions is the “basic or beginning principles of a subject.”  It is generally paired with language, but everything in life has a grammar to learn.  With that definition in mind, I started thinking about the following:

  • Life is based on eternal, unchanging rules. We will be happier when we serve, smile, and learn to love people.  There are absolutes.  Dishonesty is wrong.  End of story.  Giving of yourself brings blessings to you ten-fold.  Family is the basic unit of society and deserves the best we can give it.  God is good.  Talk to Him.  He will help!
  • Parenting is a challenge.  Your children are NOT simply blank slates to write on at your will. Take time and read about how children grow, and what is reasonable to expect.  Personalities differ.  Learn about them.  Everyone has their own set of gifts and challenges.  Go to those who seem to know what they are doing, and learn from them.  Being a parent is so much more fun when you aren’t trying to “reinvent the wheel” and you can relax a bit!
  • Learn how to get organized.  Read books.  Search online.  Talk with people.  Chaos is unnecessary and makes everything harder.  Things don’t have to be in cute, designer, matching containers where everything color-co-ordinates!  Just learn how to put things together, and have a system that makes sense to you.  When you learn the basics of how to organize your space, time, and resources, you can move through life more smoothly.
  • Everyone needs to learn how to cook.  Not just how to read a recipe (although that is a good thing too), but why what happens in the kitchen happens.  Most whole grains cook up similarly.  Which are exchangeable?  A white sauce, gravies, and many other pan sauces start with a roux. What about a “skeleton recipe” for muffins, bread, soups, or casseroles?  When you know the basics of what is involved, you can mix-and-match what you have to make something new.  Which foods can you freeze and want to eat again when they are thawed?  We won’t all be gourmet chefs but we can all learn how to feed ourselves and our families without poisoning someone, or depending on pre-made, processed food.
  • Cleaning can be much simpler and cheaper if you understand which cleaners can be used for multiple applications, and which cannot.  We use an all-purpose organic cleaner, vinegar, citrus, shampoo, baking/washing soda, and peppermint oil to clean.  Just a few things will leave my house looking great and smelling fresh.
  • You get one body in this life.  What are the basic rules of health and nutrition to keep it running smoothly?  How much sleep does your body need?  How are your eating habits?  Is exercise a foreign concept?  Health challenges come to everyone but we can choose to make the best of whatever comes our way.
  • Keep a budget.  Know the basic rules of finances and make them your friends.  We have to learn to live with them.  Remember: $3 income – $2 expenses= happiness; $5 income -$6 expenses= misery.
  • Growing your own food is a boon to your health and your budget…unless you buy all the newest gadgets, pay for premium seed in the tiny packets, and haven’t learned when, where, and how to put things in the ground.  You can grow your own starts but if you plant them outside too soon, you’ll need to grow your own starts twice.  Some plants don’t handle the cold well.  Others need to go in before the threat of frost is past.  Peas and spinach prefer cool weather, and will bolt or die off in the heat.  You don’t need the latest and greatest of everything to begin; just borrow a couple of books from the library, find out how things work best in your area, and start digging!
  • Don’t try to teach your children advanced skills without building a foundation.  If they don’t know their times tables, algebra will be frustrating!  In that same light, they need to learn how to compromise and problem-solve before you send them out into the workplace to get a job, or go to college.

There is so much “grammar” we never learned at school.  Today is a great day to start!

Gardening, Homemaking

Gardens- the ultimate multi-taskers!

The race is on to get the garden in the ground before rain falls this weekend!  (In the desert, that doesn’t happen as often as we would like!)  Last evening we planted 36 tomato plants, 9 bell peppers, and seeds for watermelon, cantaloupe, cucumber,  squash, more cabbage, and watered the existing plants.  When I went outside to get the newspaper this morning, I just grinned.  Overnight while I slept, the starts took root, more buds were created on the peas, some spinach, lettuce, and beets appeared from the soil, and my beans grew another 1/4 inch or so.

There is so much I can learn about productivity from my garden.  Plants set down roots, grow taller, and become fruitful at the same time.  Maybe that is why Adam and Eve were placed in a garden.  It is an amazing object lesson in taking advantage of every opportunity to settle, grow, and bear fruit.

Today we’ll get potatoes, sweet potatoes, hot peppers, and more corn and beans in the ground.  Once seeds are planted I can go about my life putting out the fires that appear, living each day as I need, and (with minimal intervention from us) in the next few weeks we will have peas, beets, carrots, lettuce, spinach, and strawberries to enjoy.  Then comes the corn, beans, tomatoes, melons, and everything else.  They just quietly use what they are given and turn it into food for my family.  No fanfare needed.

I need to be more like my garden….

Cooking, Gardening, Home and Family, Homemaking, Organization

The right tools for the job

This evening, I was in the kitchen cooking dinner and happened to look around at the beehive of activity at my house.  I had both ovens going with food for dinner.  I was using various pans and Pyrex dishes for meal prep.  There was the immersion blender for mixing milk, and the spoons made of various materials for stainless steel and non-stick pans.  After we eat, the dishes will go into the dishwasher to get clean.

My husband and son-in-law were outside with the weed-whacker, mower, and tiller in use as they cleaned up the lawn, and prepped three grow-boxes for the corn and beans to be planted tonight.  Three loads of laundry are on the clothesline drying.

Downstairs were the washer and dryer helping me complete the days laundry.  (I don’t hang underwear, socks, towels, or wash cloths on the line.)  My daughter is teaching her five boys.  Some academics.  Some cleaning skills.  And sorting as she goes.

None of this would be possible without the correct tools for the job.  No tiller would mean a full day of amending and mixing soils before we can plant.  No immersion blender could result in lumpy milk.  Doing laundry with modern appliances just doesn’t bear thinking about at all.  And without the ability to plan and the correct supplies, raising and teaching children is tough!

We don’t have the “ideal” world of years gone by in which to rear a family, but we don’t have to go plow the “back forty” with a horse and plow either.  I will take the 21st century anytime!  I will use my curriculum, my scriptures, and lots of time talking with the young ones as I use the wonderful tools at my disposal!  We are so blessed!

Gardening, Home and Family, Homeschooling

Gardening and life lessons

The garden is one of my favorite class rooms. Beyond the obvious botanical lessons, the opportunities for learning and understanding some great life lessons are right before you!

Reminding the grandkids that we will harvest what we plant is a yearly ritual that seems to get sillier as time goes by.

Grandma, “Hey, M, this corn seed will give us some great melons, don’t you think?!”

M, giggling, “No.  But the corn will be really good!”

Grandma, “Are you sure?  Does that mean we can predict what is going to happen by what we do?”

M, “Yeah.  That is how it works.”

Grandma, “Okay.  I guess we’d better be careful what habits we plant!”

At six and seven years old, I know they only understand part of the conversation, but it is a life lesson that will stick with them.

Teaching about the importance of consistency and follow-through is so easily done with plants.  If you don’t weed, water, or tend to things as needed FOR THE WHOLE SEASON, you won’t reap what you took time to sow.  Stopping half way through or trying to play a frantic game of catch-up in August is no way to get good results!

As learn about the needs of different types of plants, you can increase your yield.  Peas need cool weather.  Melons need consistent watering.  Peppers and hot peppers need to not cross-pollinate!  People are much the same way.  If you take the time to understand how they “tick”, you will often get much better results!  Sometimes they need to be fussed over.  Some prefer alone time.  Some thrive in the lime light.  Others want to be in the background helping others shine.  Help your children see the differences and appreciate them!

One of the most difficult life lessons for just about anyone to learn is best illustrated by gardeners.  Dung is a necessary part of life.  It helps plants grow.  It adds vital nutrients to the soil.  And it invites the worms to come and break up the hard places so that roots can grow down deeper into the soil.  Our challenges are the same way.  We all have times when we have to deal with things we would like to avoid, but the growth that comes from making the best of what we are dealt creates a person who has more to give.

And the lessons go on….

Happy gardening!

Finances, Gardening

Favorite gardening books

We are finally getting a taste of spring!  Warmer days, cool nights, sunshine, and buds on the tips of trees.  Time to think about the garden!

In our home, we sit down and talk about what each person would like to eat, preserve, or try during the coming growing season.  Once we have our list made, and our garden planned and drawn on graph paper, it is time to inventory our seeds and decide what new thing we will be trying.  Some years we try a new variety of vegetable.  Some years we experiment with a different growing method.  But each year many things remain the same.  We always plant peas, and corn, and tomatoes, and cucumbers.  We always work as a family.  The weeds always seem to get a bit beyond us by late August.  And we always eat well!

The amount of food that is produced from just a few seeds can be worth some thought!  We have a large garden plot and plant around two dozen different kinds of veg, but even if you have just a bit of space, you can eat well with a few tomatoes plants, one cucumber, some lettuce, a squash, and a couple pepper plants. You can even share a packet of seeds with a friend or neighbor, and split the cost if you only need a small amount.

Not sure how or where to start?  Here are some of my favorite books.  They cover a variety of options for gardening.  Enjoy!

1001 Hints & Tips for Your Garden published by Reader’s Digest

The 12-Month Gardener  by Jeff Ashton

Carrots Love Tomatoes and Roses Love Garlic by Louise Riotte

Great Garden Companions by Sally Jean Cunningham

Gardening When It Counts by Steve Solomon

Garden Smarts by Shelley Goldbloom

The Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control by Barbara W. Ellis and Fern Marshall Bradley

Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardens    Suzanne Ashworth

Crops in Pots by Bob Purnell