Anyone Can Have a Vegetable Garden – Even Me

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Years ago I visited a friend’s parents who lived in Michigan. The mom was so sweet and hospitable, kind and generous. And she had a fabulous garden. I fell in love with her garden as much as her that weekend. When we arrived she summoned the dad to go grab some green beans from the garden “real quick”. He was back in less than 5 with a bag full of gorgeous green beans. I was in awe. Growing up in the south things like that didn’t happen. The harsh sun would have burnt them to a crisp long before they could produce something. She threw these delightful beans in a frying pan with some oil and salt. That was it. Oil and salt – 3 minutes. Then on a plate and in front of us in seconds. There they sat, a beautiful bright green color, crisp, yet warm and so, so tasty. The best green beans I have ever had. Ever.

That day I realized there was a different way to eat vegetables. They didn’t have to come out of a can all salt soaked and dark green, almost brown. They could be fresh and crisp and good in minutes.

I wanted a vegetable garden.

But I lived in Dallas where the sun scorches everything it can and not much grows except hot peppers. Oh, plus I lived in a condo with a 4×4 plot of garden in front. Not much hope for me.

But since that day I have had a desire to have a garden of my own where I could grow things and eat them. Sounds so simple. But to date, I have not lived in a place where I had enough yard to plant a garden.

Or so I thought. Until I went to a MOPS meeting this spring and our speaker told us about “square foot gardening”. A guy named Mel Bartholomew popularized the phrase square foot gardening in a book and a PBS television series in the 1980’s. This method is particularly well suited for areas with poor soil, beginning gardeners, children and small spaces. This is for me!

Here is a basic overview of what we did to build our garden using this method:

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Here’s what you will need: peat moss, vermiculite, potting soil, ground cloth or weed barrier, 4 1×8 boards cut the same length, nails, hammer, scissors, staple gun, string.

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1. Build your garden box.

You will need: 4 – 1″x8″ boards cut the same length. I had to use 2×8″ because my store didn’t have 1×8″ boards. And I used 2′ long boards but you can make yours bigger. Also, a piece of ground cloth to cover the bottom of your garden.

Nail the 4 boards together in the corners. I also used L-brackets to make it stronger. After that, staple the ground cloth on to cover the bottom. Then take some string and mark off 1 square foot sections by tacking the string to the side of your box in 1 foot increments. If you do this on both sides you should end up with a nice grid.

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2. Mix your soil.

The soil mixture should be 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 vermiculite and 1/3 compost or potting soil. I poured it into the bed and mixed it up in there. The soil should last for about 3 years and there is no need to fertilize anything, it contains all the plants need. So, “just add water”.

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3. Plant

You can get crazy and germinate your seeds inside if you want. I went to the nursery and purchased baby plants to use instead. Once you know what you want to plant you can look it up online or get a book on square foot gardening that will tell you how many to plant in a 1 square foot section. For instance if you want a tomato plant, you can get one in a square foot area but other things you can get 16. So you just have to look that up.

I was surprised at how much you can get in this tiny garden. I will keep you updated throughout the summer on how well we are doing here! This is my first attempt, so let’s not have high expectations, ok?

If you are interested in trying this method yourself, here are some other resources on square foot gardening:

Books
All New Square Foot Gardening: Growing More in Less Space   by Mel Bartholomew
Cubed Foot Gardening:Raising Vegetables in Raised, Intensive Beds   by Christopher O. Bird

Online
http://timssquarefootgarden.com
Garden Web: Square-foot gardening forum http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/sqfoot
www.squarefootgardening.com

 

 

 

In-Home Garage Sale

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I had a garage sale this weekend. In my room. With my 5 children. You know that pile of stuff I had ‘picked up’ for them over the past month? Well, I told them they could buy back anything they wanted. One dollar per item. They made some interesting picks, especially the smalls. I wouldn’t have saved it, but that’s their business. Of course they could only buy as much as they had money for – which made the picking all that more difficult. But I think it turned out the way it should have in the end.

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As you can imagine there was still a lot of stuff left over after the picking was done. So I shifted and sorted and this is what I came up with:

I had 1 tub of garbage. This was all the things that had no business in my home or anyone else’s. Torn clothes, broken toys, doodled on papers, worthless stuff – it was trash, rubbish, waste.

Then I had a second tub of items to donate. Nicer clothes that my kids won’t wear, toys that they obviously don’t care about (and neither do I). And – BONUS – the donation truck came yesterday – excellent timing.

The third tub was a spur of the moment decision on my part. There were things that the kids didn’t care about, but I did. And I could not bring myself to throw them away or donate them because I had paid good money for them and we might need them again. Or better yet, they might ask for them. Oh, then what would I do? I would feel compelled to buy it for them AGAIN. Things like: Hats for costumes, Hawaiian lays for a luau, a game, and a bucket of legos. I have no idea why the Legos weren’t important to someone. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, when you have soooo much of something what’s one more bucket full? And they’re right, who would care? This bin, I will put away in a storage closet for now.

The forth contained clothing items that don’t fit anyone right now, so I will keep them for hand-me-downs later. Fair enough!

I’m thankful to have my room back! It looks so nice and clean.

But this whole process was harder than I thought it would be. It was really hard to get rid of stuff I had paid money for. I felt guilty for having so much extra. I felt guilty for buying it. I felt guilty for not teaching my children to take better care of their things.

In the end I realized I needed to no only purge our home of the excess, but more importantly I need to make a shift in my thinking and my habits.

This will be the hardest part because this way of thinking is pervasive in our culture. Everyone is doing it. We are almost wired this way. Work so we can get the next thing. Things will make us happy. Having an organized, perfect home will make us happy and peaceful.

But it isn’t working for me. It doesn’t bring me peace and rest. I’m more frustrated and frazzled because of all the stuff and even when I organize it to death, it’s still a time consuming job to keep it that way.

To change my habits and way of thinking would be a massive shift. And I’m not even sure what exactly that means right now.

So, for now, I will continue to rid my home of the excess and ponder ways to keep the “stuff” from coming into our home in the first place. Some of this may be my purchasing habits, and some is not.

Farmers Markets and CSAs, Oh Yeah!

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Wednesday is the best day of the week in summer. Our local farmer’s market is open and my CSA share is delivered to my door! Oh yeah!

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. CSA allows city residents to have direct access to high quality, fresh produce grown locally by regional farmers. When you become a member of a CSA, you’re purchasing a “share” of vegetables from a regional farmer.

I have been a member of a CSA for the past 3 years. With mine, I know in advance what is coming each week and I can even swap out things we don’t eat. The hard part is meal planning around it. And I’m not good at meal planning anyway which makes it that much more difficult. So I have to admit I am still learning how to use all of it and not waste any.

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Last year, toward the end of the season, I started using Wednesday as a basic meal night where I grilled some chicken or fish and then used whatever veggies I had received that day to create a super fresh meal. It ended up being one of the best meals of the week. Usually I follow a meal plan from The Fresh 20 that I discussed before in Can Your Family Eat Healthy, Easily? But I found that while they use what is in season each week, it doesn’t always line up with what I receive. So I started buying basic meat each week to use on Wednesdays for my own creation. That worked well for me at the end of last season, so I am sticking with it this year.

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This past Wednesday, I also took the kids to the farmer’s market after school to get some bread, a treat, and my knives sharpened. Seriously, I am so happy that I have sharp knives today. You forget how nice it is to work with a really sharp knife.

That night we had grilled chicken, asparagus, a very crisp salad and fresh bread. It was really good.

You can ask the husband, but I am not known for my cooking abilities. The first meal I made for him was embarrassing. It looked something (or exactly) like frozen chicken breasts and frozen veggies from a bad dumped in a pyrex dish with foil over top and thrown in the oven for 30 minutes. Seriously, no seasonings, not even salt or pepper.

Rachel Ray taught me how to use the stove and The Fresh 20 has turned me into a decent cook.

But this past Wednesday night was all me (with the help of my CSA and local farmer’s market). And the hubby and kids all said it was good.

I was so proud. Oh, and thankful for summer Wednesdays!

My Summer Reading List

I thought I would share my summer reading list with you – in case you cared. As you will see from my list, I’m a slow reader, since I haven’t read some of the popular books out there, YET.  Right now I’m trying to come up with ways to explain to you why I haven’t gotten around to them, but I don’t think I really have to, so I won’t. I will keep them to myself because they make me feel better.

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One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are

by Ann Voskamp

Just like you, Ann Voskamp hungers to live her one life well. Forget the bucket lists that have us escaping our everyday lives for exotic experiences. ‘How,’ Ann wondered, ‘do we find joy in the midst of deadlines, debt, drama, and daily duties? What does the Christ-life really look like when your days are gritty, long–and sometimes even dark? How is God even here?’ In One Thousand Gifts, Ann invites you to embrace everyday blessings and embark on the transformative spiritual discipline of chronicling God’s gifts. It’s only in this expressing of gratitude for the life we already have, we discover the life we’ve always wanted…a life we can take, give thanks for, and break for others. We come to feel and know the impossible right down in our bones: we are wildly loved–by God. Let Ann’s beautiful, heart-aching stories of the everyday give you a way of seeing that opens your eyes to ordinary amazing grace, a way of being present to God that makes you deeply happy, and a way of living that is finally fully alive. Come live the best dare of all!

Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend offer biblically-based answers to these and other tough questions, showing us how to set healthy boundaries with our parents, spouses, children, friends, co-workers, and even ourselves.

Peter’s unique approach helped people everywhere learn to let go of the emotional and psychological clutter that was literally and figuratively choking the life out of their homes.

With his good humor and reassuring advice, Peter shows you how to face the really big question: What is the vision for the life you want to live? He then offers simple techniques and a step-by-step plan to assess the state of your home, prioritize your possessions, and let go of the clutter you have been holding on to that has kept you from living the life you imagine. The result is freed-up space, less stress, and more energy for living a happier, richer life every day.

Also in workbook form!

Add Zest to Your Family with God’s Rest

Seriously, your schedule is hurried, your expectations are extraordinary, and you and your family’s commitments are too many to count. Your relationships with your friends, your family, and your God are suffering.

Ready for a change of pace? Here’s help. Little House on the Freeway takes a look at the breakneck speed at which we live and reveals how to not only put on the brakes, but how to get off the freeway altogether. With a special section, “101 Ways to Give Rest to Your Family” and a new chapter that addresses the perils of the Internet, this timeless classic about the importance of quality family time has been updated to rescue a whole new generation from hurry.

Don’t let busyness, productivity, or the tempation to “keep up with the Joneses” keep you from the peace and incredible quality of relationships God created for you.

“Hurry and busyness are everyday parts of modern life. True priorities of things that matter most may be lost. Little House on the Freeway offers biblical insights and principles to our hurried existence–help from the Word of God for the life being lived in the fast lane.” -Billy Graham

 

I’m starting with these, I’ll see how far I get! I also want to throw in a novel by Karen Kingsbury during a vacation. I read one in March and couldn’t put it down.

 

Finally, a few devotionals that I like to go to. I rotate these around to keep it fresh.

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Girlfriends in God

Three women of different ages who write devotionals. They share from their lives and stories both the good, bad and difficult. I always get something from their stuff. You can get the app too!

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Jesus Calling
by Sarah Young

There is an app for this one too, and a Jesus Calling for Kids (also in app form). Plus I just found a Jesus Calling Bible Storybook that I really like for the kids. If you haven’t ever read any of these, they are super short and really good! When you need a good hug from God – read this! It usually comes in an orange-y cover, but I like this one.