Why You Should Start a Compost Pile NOW (& how to do it)

Summer’s soaring temperatures have plummeted and autumn leaves are beginning to litter the ground. Now is the perfect time to start your compost pile.

Approximately 90 billion pounds of food is wasted in America every single year. That’s roughly 30 percent of the food that is sold. (Source)

Why You Should Start a Compost Pile Now

Not only does a compost pile cut down on your household waste, it turns that “waste” into rich and beautiful soil to grow fresh fruits and vegetables in.

Even if you don’t garden, starting a compost pile is worth it. I promise you that the avid gardeners in your life would consider a few loads of fresh compost an awesome present.

So why should you start your compost pile NOW? Because a good compost pile needs two types of materials: greens (like kitchen scraps) and browns (like, you guessed it, dried leaves). Plus, if you start in autumn, your pile will be at least partially composted come spring planting time.

How to Start a Compost Pile

Select a Site for Your Compost: 

Pinterest is full of ideas for cute composters. Me? I opted for a plain old-fashioned pile, hidden behind the shed. I’d suggest tucking the pile in a hidden, but easily accessible, spot. If you have to dodge an obstacle course to get to it, the compost pile is likely to get neglected.

Also make sure it is a spot that doesn’t stay soggy for days after a downpour. A pile that’s too wet starts to smell bad quickly.

To compost properly, the pile should be at least 3′ wide by 3′ long and (eventually) 3′ tall. That size will help it generate enough heat to compost properly.

Build Your Compost Pile: 

Compost piles are not like puffed pastries. You do not have to measure exactly to get rich crumbly results. The general rule of thumb though is 1 part “green” materials to 3 parts “brown” materials.

Green (or nitrogen-rich) materials:

  • Fruit & vegetable scraps
  • Coffee grinds & tea bags
  • Garden trimmings from healthy plants*
  • Eggshells, preferably crushed
  • Farm animal manure, like rabbits or backyard chickens
  • Weeds, that haven’t gone to seed
  • Grass clippings (add in thin layers or stir around so it doesn’t mat)

Brown (or carbon-rich) materials:

  • Leaves, except black walnut leaves
  • Cardboard (even toilet paper tubes, egg cartons, etc)
  • Shredded newspapers, scrap paper, etc (avoid glossy paper though)
  • Straw
  • Corncob husks

Material to AVOID in your Compost Pile

  • Meat, dairy, and oil (you don’t want to attract nasty critters!)
  • Glossy paper
  • Cat & dog (or other carnivore) poop
  • Weeds that have gone to seed (for obvious reasons)
  • Diseased plants (you don’t want to spread plant diseases to your compost pile!)

Speed up the Composting (if you want)

Left to their own, these materials will compost. Eventually. If you want to speed the process up, keep the pile moist and aerated.

Keep the pile moist: If the pile is too dry, it won’t compost well. If it’s too wet it won’t either (and might smell bad). The ideal “wetness” is like a moist sponge. Honestly, when I’m watering the garden in the heat of summer, sometimes I’ll spray the pile down too. I’m not in a huge hurry and don’t worry much about it though.

Keep the pile aerated:  When you first start the pile, it’s usually nice and aerated. As the materials start to break down, use up oxygen, and compress, the pile gets more matted. If you want to speed up the composting, aerated it a bit with a pitchfork. Again, this is optional and something I only do rarely, because I have plenty of other things I’d rather do with my time!

How can you tell when it’s ready? When your compost smells earthy and looks like rich soil not a pile of leaves, eggshells, and potato peels. Sometimes the bottom layer will be ready first and you can just scoop some out to add to your garden soil.

Go Start Your Compost

Starting a compost pile is about as difficult as doing a load of laundry and NOW is the best time to begin. Just pick your site, add your materials, and wait the pile to turn into rich compost.

 —————————————

Want to start your own garden but don’t know where to begin? Of the stacks of gardening books I’ve read, One Magic Square is hands down my favorite. It’s down-to-earth, informative, upbeat, and inspiring.

 May be linked up at Mama Moments,Works for MeWalking RedeemedGraced Simplicity, & Simple Lives

[Full disclosure: links to products in this post are my referral links.]

photo credit 

Herbal Helps for Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

Herbal Helps for Hand, Foot & Mouth Disease

This very cute baby isn’t mine (photo credit). Thankfully, little Ned’s case never got this bad. 

When I learned we had been exposed to Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease, a slight shiver ran down my spine. It sounds simply dreadful, doesn’t it?

Thankfully, it’s rarely as scary as its name.

Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease is a contagious illness caused by several different strains of Enterovirus, but it’s hardly ever serious. Usually it starts with a sore throat, proceeds to a fever, and then little rashes or blisters appear on the hands, feet, and/or mouth.

Of the half dozen children I know with it, only one followed the normal progression. Edmund was perfectly happy till he came down with a fever on Sunday.

Meg played like a champ all day Tuesday, but an hour after tucking her into bed she complained “My hurts all over.” She didn’t have a fever, but had little rashes on her feet. I rubbed homemade herbal salve on her feet, gave her a bit of pain medicine, and she woke up perfectly happy (though she still had a painless rash.)

I didn’t even told Rose she has a slight rash on her face. It hasn’t seemed to bother her in the slightest and since we’re quarantining ourselves anyway, what’s the use of worrying her?

Hand, Foot & Mouth disease is a common, but very uncomfortable, childhood illness. Since it's caused by a virus, antibiotics are useless. But, these simple herbal aids helped soothe and calm my kids.

 I am not a doctor or a nurse. The only hospital I have ever worked at is a doll hospital. There, a band-aid can cure a heart attack. As always, please do you own research (these are some of my favorite resources) and talk to your health care provider if your condition is serious. 

Herbs for Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

Since Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease is caused by a virus, antibiotics are useless. It usually clears up on its own within a week, but I wanted to do what I could to boost all of the children’s immune systems and fight the illness off as quickly as possible. (We have an Ancient Egypt party coming up at their weekly academy and simply have to be better in time! 😉 )

Here are a few herbs that are generally considered safe* for children that help fight viral infections and/or boost their immune system:

Instead of giving one big dose a day, herbal remedies are best split into multiple smaller doses throughout the day. I aim for every hour or two during the height of the illness, then tapered off for a couple of days once they’re recovering.

I also rubbed homemade herbal salve on their rashes before they lay down, which seemed to sooth them.

A lukewarm oatmeal and lavender bath also soothes itchy rashes (and the kids just think it’s fun!) To avoid a very slimy oatmeal mess, put the oats in a clean old sock and run the water through it.

Very rarely, serious complications occur, which cannot be treated at home. Usually though, Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease is a non-threatening childhood illness whose speedy end can be helped along with herbs.

Have you (or your kids) had Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease? Did you follow the “normal” progression? 

 [Full disclosure: links to products in this post are my referral links.]

Cayenne Pepper for Shock

If I were just a wee bit less clumsy, I wouldn’t have the chance to try out the lovely herbal remedies I read about (like onions if you bruise yourself while tumbling down the stairs.) What would be the fun of learning about herbs though if you don’t put them to the test, right?

This test was a bit scary: cayenne pepper for shock.

It was the day of Joshua’s little sister’s wedding rehearsal. He wasn’t able to get off work as early as he’d hoped so by the time he got home we were already running late. I hurried to load up the van while he changed. I quickly walked around the back to buckle in Meg. Normally, I can walk under the open trunk with no problem. Alas, the trunk wasn’t quite open all the way and I trotted right into it.

Immediately, I started to hyper-ventilate and felt like I was going into shock. Unbidden tears streamed down uncontrollably. I put my hand to my head and blood poured down my arm.

Blood gushed down my forehead as I started going into shock. Then cayenne saved the day.  Read more...

Cayenne pepper from the Bulk Herb Store

I am not a doctor or a nurse. The only hospital I have ever worked at is a doll hospital. There, a band-aid can cure a heart attack. As always, please do you own research (here are some of my favorite resources) and contact your health care provider immediately if your condition is serious!  

I made it to the table and melted into a chair, leaving a trail of blood from the garage to the kitchen table. I knew head cuts bleed really easily and the blood loss shouldn’t bother me. But everything seemed to spin out of focus and I couldn’t stop shaking, crying, and hyper-ventilating.

Joshua came running when he heard my feeble call for help.

“Cayenne! Can you get me some cayenne pepper in water?” I whispered weakly. “I think it will help.”

Despite the dazed feeling, a vivid story of cayenne helping shock had come to mind. [Herbs come alive in Lalitha’s Ten Essential Herbs, making it much easier to remember when to use what!]

Joshua fumbled hurriedly through the spice cabinet and finally found the buried cayenne pepper.

My bloody forehead dripped a trail and my  body started going into shock. Then my husband helped me put cayenne pepper to the test...

I’m not sure how much cayenne he put in the glass of water, but it was bright orange. Normally, I’m a huge wimp when it comes to hot stuff. With shaking hand I took a sip. The cayenne tasted sweet!

A few sips later, I had stopped shaking and started breathing more regularly. By the time Joshua had gently wiped the blood from my hair and cleaned up the trail of blood, I was feeling recovered enough to go to the rehearsal. As I read later, it’s common for people suffering from shock to experience the sweet taste when they take cayenne pepper. Tasting the spiciness again is a sign that the shock is fading.

We were really late, but we made it to the rehearsal. After we got back, I upgraded the cayenne pepper to an easily-accessible spot in the spice rack.

Why is cayenne so effective? Read more here…

 [Full disclosure: links to products in this post are my referral links.]

Cayenne Pepper: Herbal Highlight

Cayenne is one of the best herbs to keep on hand for the many mine "emergencies" moms face. Discover the wonders of this incredible herb!

As I learn about the wonders of the plants in God’s creation, I find myself standing in awe again and again. I love learning how herbs work and ways to use them. The problem is that with so many herbs out there, my brain gets over-crowded.

So, each month I’m focusing on just one herb and how to use it. Last month’s herb was yarrow, which makes an effective, though very bitter, tonic tea and is an excellent addition to herbal salves.

September’s herbal highlight is one of the most beloved herbs of all time: cayenne pepper.

Herbal Highlight: CayenneFull disclosure: links to some products in this post are my referral links. (photo credit

I am not a doctor or a nurse. The only hospital I have ever worked at is a doll hospital. There, a band-aid can cure a heart attack. As always, please do you own research (these are some of my favorite resources) and talk to your health care provider if your condition is serious. 

What’s so great about cayenne pepper?

If only granted one herb, many herbalists would pick cayenne. Ancient Egyptian tombs indicate that its healing powers have been valued for millennia.

What’s so special about cayenne? A lot.

Perhaps its most important trait is its ability to stimulate circulation in the body, from the organs down to the tiniest cell. Cayenne’s stimulating powers help it cleanse the blood, boost the immune system, strengthen the heart, and flush out impurities.

If you, like me, are a huge wimp when it comes to hot food, start small. You don’t need to find the hottest cayenne and take a huge pinch. Build up your tolerance slowly. Although it’s tempting to want to take it in a capsule, Lalitha cautions in 10 Essential Herbs, “An important process is initiated in the mouth, brain, and digestive tract when Cayenne interacts with the saliva and enzymes in the mouth…Many stomachs do not like to be surprised [by cayenne]. (1)”

If you happen to get too much cayenne, just take a sip of milk or spoonful of yogurt. It cools the mouth quickly.

Here are just a few uses for this incredible herb:

Shock

Numbed senses, uncontrollable shaking, dizziness, and a loss of touch with reality are all symptoms of shock. Cayenne helps calm them all by balancing circulation which helps halt the shock response. When I was pregnant with Edmund, I banged my head really hard and instantly started to go into shock. A dash of cayenne in water worked like a miracle (and allowed us to make my sis-in-law’s wedding rehearsal!) Read the whole cayenne story here. 

Carrier Herb

Cayenne, which is pretty amazing in its own right, is especially beloved because of its effectiveness as a carrier herb. Just a touch of cayenne added to another herb makes the other herb more effective because it speeds the absorption into the bloodstream.

Nerve Pain

Arthritis and many of the other “itises” can be helped by cayenne. “It appears to act by decreasing the concentration of substance P, the primary chemical used by nerve cells to transmit pain signals. (2)” Unlike other topical pain killers, which tend to lose their effectiveness over time, the capsaicin in cayenne has a cumulative effect. Regular use increases its effectiveness.

Stomach Problems

Although raw cayenne or cooked dried powder can cause stomach upset and even lead to ulcers, dried it helps heal the stomach and promote “digestion by stimulating the release of saliva and stomach enzymes(1,3)”! So, if you’re using it in food, add it at the very last second so that it doesn’t have time to cook.

Cold feet

It’s a traditional remedy for cold feet. Just sprinkle a teensy tiny bit in your socks and stomp around a bit! Your feet will warm up in a hurry!

For Minor Cuts

Twice now I’ve witnessed cayenne’s incredible ability to stop bleeding. My sis sliced her finger while helping me in the kitchen and it wouldn’t stop bleeding. I dumped a little cayenne directly onto the cut and could practically see the blood clot. It was amazing!

Discover the many uses of this incredible herb! It's effective for a number of common mini emergencies, from stomach problems to cut fingers.

Cayenne Pepper Herbal Highlight

There’s a good reason that cayenne pepper ranks near the top of herbalists list of favorite herbs. It is incredibly effective at helping a number of common mini “emergencies” moms face, from stomach problems to cut fingers. Make sure you keep this helpful herb handy in your herbal medicine closet!

What’s your favorite use for cayenne? 

(1) 10 Essential Herbs, pgs. 31-57

(2)  Herbal Drugstore, pg. 431

(3) Medicinal Herbs, pg. 61

DIY Herbal Salve

If you can make pancakes, you can make an herbal salve. (If you can’t make pancakes, you probably still can.)

Not only is it easy, making an herbal salve is fun and useful. In the one week since making my first antibacterial green salve, we’ve used it on a mild diaper rash, a not-at-all-mild forehead bump, and a badly skinned knee. Each time I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how soothing the salve seemed to be and how quickly the owie started to heal.

Once you have selected your herbs and infused your herbal oil, it’s time to make a salve.

Make your own herbal salve easily and frugally!

[Full disclosure: links to products in this post are my referral links.]

Antibacterial green salve with yarrowlavendercalendula, plantain, clover, and rosemary (Here are some other great herbal choices!) 

DIY Herbal Salve

Ingredients & supplies: 

  • Herbal oil
  • Beeswax (approximately 1/4 cup beeswax per 1 cup herbal oil)
  • Cheese cloth OR old, clean tea towel
  • Double broiler or two pots
  • Tins OR glass jars

Instructions: 

  1. Strain the herbal oil through a cheese cloth or tea towel (that you don’t mind getting stained) and measure.
  2. Pour into a double broiler OR a small pot that fits into a slightly larger one. Pour water into the bottom pot and heat over very low heat. You don’t want to burn the oil.
  3. Add beeswax, stirring occasionally until the beeswax is melted.
  4. Test your salve’s consistency by placing a teaspoon of it on a plate in the freezer. After a couple minutes, check to see if it’s your desired thickness. If it’s too thin, add more beeswax. If it’s too thick, add a little olive oil.
  5. Once the salve is the right consistency, pour it into tins or glass jars.
  6. Mark the jars with the contents and date (because, unless your memory is WAY better than mine, you will forget!) and enjoy!

Stored in a cool, dry place the salve lasts a long time. Once it starts to lose it’s color or smell off, discard.

Tip: Want to make an extra potent salve? Once you’ve strained the herbal oil, add fresh dried herbs and pour the strained oil over them. Store in a sunny spot for another two weeks. If condensation forms, wipe dry. Then, strain again and make your extra awesome salve!

Want to make your own herbal salve? Good news! It is easy and fun. Just follow these simple steps.

Make Your Own Herbal Salve

Not only is making your own herbal salve easy, it’s a frugal way to care for your family naturally. We’ve used our anti-bacterial green salve to help all sorts of minor bumps, cuts, and bruises.

So gather your supplies and start making your own salve!

DIY Solar-Infused Herbal Oil

Once you have selected your herbs, making an herbal oil is simple. Herbal oils extract the power of herbs into an easily-absorbed and potent source and are the first step in making salves and ointments.

There are several methods for infusing an oil: double-broiler, crockpot, and solar. Solar-infused is the simplest (and most ancient).

DIY Solar-infused herbal oil

Yarrow, lavendercalendula with fresh-wilted rosemary, plantain, & clover infusing in olive oil. 

How to Make a Solar-Infused Herbal Oil

You will need:

Directions:

  1. Select your herbs.
  2. If you pick fresh herbs, fresh-wilt them first by letting them sit in a warm place (out of direct sunlight) for a few hours until they have lost most of their water content. Too much moisture can ruin the oil.
  3. Fill a clean mason jar 1/3 to 1/2 full of herbs.
  4. Cover with oil, leaving about two inches of head space.
  5. Screw lid on tightly and let sit in a sunny windowsill for about two weeks.
  6. Strain out herbs with a cheesecloth.
  7. (Optional) If you want an extra potent herbal oil, repeat steps 1-6 using the herbal oil you just strained.
  8. Store your herbal oil, tightly covered, in a cool dark place or use it to make an herbal salve.

Properly prepared herbal oils made with olive oil should last for several months to a year in a cool dark place. If it starts to smell off, discard and make a new batch!

*Anti-bacterial in the sense that the herbal properties fight bad bacteria, but hopefully don’t contribute to the rise of super bugs like improperly used anti-bacterial soaps might.

I am not a doctor or a nurse. The only hospital I have ever worked at is a doll hospital. There, a band-aid (or plantain!) can cure a heart attack. Please use discretion and seek medical assistance for serious injuries! 

May be linked up at Mama MomentsGrowing HomeWorks for MeWalking RedeemedGraced SimplicityFabulously Frugal & Simple Lives

[Full discloser: links to products in this post are my referral links.]

Choosing Herbs for an Anti-Bacterial Green Salve

Scrapes, bruises, tumbles, and bug bites are all part of the mini traumas of growing up. Many remedies to these minor ailments grow unbidden in yards around the world.

Just a few weeks ago, Rose and Will ran breathlessly into the house and exclaimed, “Mama! Guess what! We found lots and lots of plantain outside! Do you want some?”

I’m so excited to finally harvest the healing powers of the herbs we trample underfoot regularly. This month’s DIY project is to make a Green Salve of anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, astringent herbs (and weeds) to replace our almost empty tube of Neosporin.

Making an herbal salve is simple. Deciding which herbs to put in it is more tricky. There are so, so many incredible herbs choose from. Below are just a handful of common choices to include in an anti-bacterial green salve.

Pick at least two or three of the heavy hitters and add in others if you wish.

Want to make your own anti-bacterial green salve, but are overwhelmed with all the options? Here's a simple guide.

[Full disclosure: links to products in this post are my referral links.]

I chose dried yarrow, lavender, and calendula with fresh clover, plantain leaf, and rosemary

What Herbs to Use in an Anti-Bacterial Green Salve

Heavy Hitting Herbal Healers

Calendula flowerspotent but powerful, calendula promotes cell repair. It is anti-inflammatory and antiseptic and aids in healing cuts, burns, bruises, rashes, skin infections and is gentle enough to use on diaper rashes.

Comfrey root or leaf: famous as a “cell proliferant”, comfrey works to clear away diseased cell and encourage rapid growth of healthy cells. Use for burns, bruises, cuts and stings. Some forms of comfrey contain PAs which should be avoided internally by pregnant women and children. If using internally, use Symphytum officinale–which has little to no PAs, and speak with your health care professional first.

Lavendereffective and beautifully fragrant, lavender’s anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-septic properties are legendary. Use it to fight skin infections, burns, bee stings, and scrapes.

Plantain leaf: last year Rose cut her finger while we were at the zoo. My sis-in-law Amber bent down, picked a piece of plantain that was growing at our feet, smashed it, and tied it to Rose’s finger with a piece of grass. It made a very memorable (and healing) band-aid. Plantain is excellent at drawing toxins from hurts and helps heal bites, stings, and slivers.

Yarrow flowersthis lovely wildflower is a potent styptic [fancy for, “it stops bleeding”] that is anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and astringent. Used for healing wounds, bruises, and sprains. Not to be taken internally when pregnant because of its uterine-stimulating properties. Occasionally causes allergic rash.

Additional Herbs

Clover flowers: Nutrient-dense clover covers our backyard and the bees, bunnies, and birds all enjoy it. It’s good for the skin too and aids in healing eczema and psoriasis.

Echinacea flowers/leaves/stems: this beautiful and powerful flower is one of the best-loved herbs. The anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties of echinacea also make it a good choice for external ailments.

Rosemarya mild analgesic, rosemary is helpful in fighting inflammation. Plus, it smells amazing.

(For more information about these herb–plus tons of other wonderful herbal remedies- check out two of my favorite herbs books: Medicinal Herbs and 10 Essential Herbs )

Most of these herbs you can grow or harvest yourself (not many people plant plantain!) If you don’t have them in your yard or garden, the Bulk Herb Store and Mountain Rose Herbs are very favorite sources for dried herbs.

Want to make an anti-bacterial green salve, but feel overwhelmed by how MANY herbs their are to choose from? Don't worry. Here's a simple guide to awesome herbs.

Pick Your Favorite Herbs

Choosing which herbs to use in your herbal salve is the most interesting part. It’s the hardest part too!

Prioritize herbs that help issues you regularly face. If you burn yourself regularly, lavender is a good choice. If your kids are constantly bruising themselves, try calendula and/or yarrow.

For my salve, I chose four of the “heavy hitters” plus two “additional herbs” for a well-rounded selection.

Once you’ve picked your herbs of choice, the hard part is over. Now it’s time to make a herbal oil (here’s how!).

 (photo credit 1/photo credit 2)

Yarrow: Herbal Highlight

I am so excited to start a new feature here at Feminine Adventures, highlighting a herb each month.

Yarrow: herbal highlight
Lovely pink or white yarrow blossoms bloom as weeds in most temperate climates, and are incredibly useful “free herbs” (photo credit)

This month’s herb is widespread, beautiful, and one that I had never heard of until reading about it in one of my favorite herb books: 10 Essential Herbs.

Since then, I’ve seen yarrow referenced dozens of times. What makes this lovely wayside “weed” so special to herbalists?

Yarrow is a mildly bitter herb that cleanses the blood, builds the immune system, and stimulates OR relaxes depending on what the body needs.

It is also a potent styptic [fancy for, “it stops bleeding”] that is anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and astringent, making it an excellent herb to use in green salves for healing bumps and bruises.

Yarrow Flower - Cut, Organic

Grow or wild harvest yarrow, or purchase high-quality dried yarrow from the Bulk Herb Store

I am not a doctor or a nurse. The only hospital I have ever worked at is a doll hospital. There, a band-aid can cure a heart attack. As always, please do you own research and talk to your health care provider if your condition is serious. 

Our summer has been full of late nights and exhausted mornings. I get headaches if I drink coffee very often (and don’t want to get addicted to it anyway), but I needed to do something about the morning sluggishness.

After reading in 10 Essential Herbs that yarrow makes an excellent pick-me-up tonic I decided to give it a try.

Each night, before I go to bed, I drink a small glass of yarrow tea [Since I’m lazy, I brew a big batch and keep the leftovers in the fridge to drink over ice.] Despite getting even less sleep than usual lately, I wake up with more energy than usual.

When the books say “mildly bitter” I’m not sure what they mean. This stuff is bitter. But waking up without feeling like a train had run over me is totally worth it.

Safety factors: Yarrow is normally considered safe though there are occasional cases of allergies to it. Since it stimulates the uterine muscles, it isn’t recommended during early pregnancy (though it’s often used by midwives during labor).

  May be linked up at Mama MomentsGrowing HomeHealthy 2Day ,Works for MeWalking RedeemedGraced SimplicityFabulously Frugal & Simple Lives

[Full disclosure: links to products in this post are my referral links.]

Summer Garden Update

Someday, I want to be a master gardener. I’m not exactly sure what defines a master gardener, but I think it means you’ve spend decades playing in the dirt and tending plants as they spring up, grow, and die.

For now, I’m quite happy to play in my little patches of dirt and smile with delight when the children come running inside with crisp warm cucumbers for lunch or devour serving after serving of fresh kale chips.

2014-07-23 19.57.42

A view from my kitchen window: cucumbers, beans, kale, garlic, pansies, leeks, tomatoes, peppers, more kale, marigolds, and basil.  

In my favorite gardening book, One Magic Square, Lolo encouraged gardeners to expect a handful of plants in your garden to grow really well, most to do moderately, and a few to straggle along. (Assuming you care for the garden, of course.)

This year has not been a good one for my tomatoes, but the kale? Oh my! We’ve enjoyed dozens of panfuls of kale chips, cream of kale soup, kale in breakfast smoothies, and I’ve frozen a good bit too.

Cucumber

Cucumber close-up 

Last year, we had a horrible squash bug and cucumber beetle problem. (Imagine thousands of squash bugs swarming over the only squash plant.)

When I asked an experienced gardener at church (who shared a bagful of beautiful squash with us) for advice, she said, “Keep the plants happy. Be ahead, not behind, on watering. Bugs seem to sense a distressed plant and attack it with a vengeance.”

After a delightfully wet spring, we’ve had a long hot and dry spell. To keep the plants happy, somedays I’ve watered twice! (Time to get more mulch, methinks!)

Raspberries

Raspberries galore

When I mourned the loss of two of the raspberry canes I planted, I had no idea that the one remaining cane would be so prolific I have to weed-whack around the bed regularly to keep the yard from being overrun!

Strawberry Patch Strawberry Patch

Gardening is practice in patience. After wanting to plant strawberries for years, it was hard to pluck the beautiful white blossoms off this spring so that they could be strong for next year. But we did.

2014-07-22 14.42.20Asparagus patch: a practice in patience

Asparagus is even harder. You aren’t supposed to pick any asparagus the first year (and hardly any the second) so that the roots have time to develop.

Some of the spears are plump and look so delicious. So far we’ve been good…. master gardeners say the patience pays off in years and years of fruitful harvests.

Hidden behind the asparagus are little patches of parsley. Parsley is supposed to repel the asparagus beetle.

Since our garden seems to have attracted most of the bad (and good) bugs known to man gardeners, I won’t hold my breath.

How does your garden grow? 

  May be linked up at Mama MomentsGrowing HomeHealthy 2Day ,Works for MeWalking RedeemedGraced SimplicityFabulously Frugal & Simple Lives

[Full disclosure: links to products in this post are my referral links.]

Playing Farmer

One morning a week, usually on Friday, I pretend to be a country girl.

After finishing our morning routine, the kids and I head outside to tackle “the chores”. With the rainy summer we’ve had, the grass and weeds grow quicker than I can conquer them, but it’s time to attempt it. The fresh earthy smell of cut clover fills the air as I carefully weed-eat, dodging the straggling strawberry vines or swift-spreading lavender in our seven small garden beds.

Playing_Farmer

The ascending sun beats down, so I don my straw hat to shade the sun and keep working. Once the yard is finished (or my battery runs out) it’s time to tend the garden: pulling a few weeds in one bed, staking tomatoes or asparagus in another, and wondering what on earth to do with the sage bush that threatens to take over another.

At this stage in gardening and motherhood, at least fifty percent of the planting happens after dark or at the beginning of a rain shower, but every once in a while I find time to actually dig in the dirt on a sunny Friday morning and plop a few seeds into the earth.

Hour for hour and dollar for dollar, I’m not sure the gardens are exactly worth the effort in the strict financial sense, but few things bring as much joy as watching our little garden plots bloom and bear fruit.

With dirty hands and dirt-streaked clothes, I turn to the chicken coop. Rose feeds the chickens, but refilling their five gallon pail with fresh water weekly is my job. So is cleaning out their coop. I try to think of the beautiful pile of sweet-smelling compost our garden will get next year as I scrape the chicken poop out of the pen.

Any allusions of a sparkling clean chicken coop I held when we first brought home baby chicks have met their just end. Once the coop is clean enough and our girls have fresh water and straw, I tidy up the tools.

Then I head inside for a shower, grateful to be a city girl again. Until next week.

  May be linked up at Mama MomentsGrowing HomeHealthy 2Day ,Works for MeWalking RedeemedGraced SimplicityFabulously Frugal & Simple Lives

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