I’m going to try a new writing technique, just a journal with the prompts: Truth, Candor, Kindness, Acceptance, Harmony, Wisdom, Kaizen.
Reflections of Truth:
I’m looking at the rain fall outside, tired from relocating one of my small greenhouses, but happy it got done so rapidly as well.
I washed the plastic cover, soaking it in a bucket of bleach all day I thought I could scrub it in the shower, and I did, yet… there was a slug on it… alive after a day of soaking in pretty concentrated bleach. I’ll never really ever trust bleach again the way I did before.
I had two small greenhouses right by the front door so I wouldn’t get rained on when I go to water, but actually I love the rain, so I’ve been thinking for awhile of moving the greenhouses away from where they are.
I’m not done thinking about where they should go, but I already moved one.
Some of the plants were so dry… I don’t remember skipping a day, did I forget to water or is the soil way to much peat moss? I’m not sure.
I made a whole tray of potatoes and sweet potatoes in soil, they are chunks of potatoes with eyes and three sweet potatoes to create more starts. Rather than having the potatoes in one greenhouse and the sweet potatoes in the other, they work well together in my mind.
I put all the flowers together as well, morning glories, marigolds, some wildflowers, I don’t know why I tend to neglect the flowers.
I put the beans together stage 1 (germination) and stage 2 (small sprouts), the roma tomatoes got stuck there for now as well.
Reflections of Candor:
I like gardening, it’s hard to get organized, but I like eating from the garden, I like making play spaces for the kids in the garden, I like watching it change and seeing what it looks like now vs what the future looks like in my imagination. I like the idea of leaving it to the kids, they will remember me in the garden, if they keep it, or if they don’t, I think the garden and I will merge in their minds. I don’t know what I was supposed to be to them, it’s not clear in my mind, but I just do what I can with it.
Reflections of Kindness:
Just learned PRIDE, praise, reflection, imitation, description and enthusiasm about playing with my kids from the therapist, that’s helpful. That would have been part of parenting training in an ideal world, but in real life I never heard about that training and declined, it just wasn’t evident if it was available, I would have like to go, but better late than never.
Reflections of Acceptance:
It’s a hard time because I’m still potty training, I don’t think I have to love dealing with accidents and cleaning them, as long as I don’t get angry at my kid, and do deal with them and do clean them, I don’t think I have to try to enjoy it, I think it’s too far away from the things I authentically enjoy to be realistic for me to enjoy.
Reflections of Harmony:
I’m playing with both my kids on a timer, three times a day for five minutes, it makes me feel better. I don’t know if it’s more than we played before, I think it may be less, but because it’s just with one at a time it does feel like I’m paying better attention to both of them. Then if they want more, I don’t feel as guilty, because I’ve done something.
Reflections of Wisdom:
Things are not the worst, but I feel so scatterbrained, I’ve got to check into an agenda or something to get some sense that I can stay on track… I hate this feeling of not knowing what is going on in my own life like I missed an episode of a soap opera… in my own life.
Reflections of Kaizen:
A lot of things are going better lately, cleaning the floors is a good routine, Tai Chi has been a really rewarding and fun routine, reading to the kids much more makes me feel less guilty and I enjoy it, all this stuff is good stuff I didn’t have patience and energy for during the pandemic. I’ve also been drinking about enough water now, which is good, a new bottle helped a lot. All that feels empty, even though I know its mostly good. I don’t know why it feels so hollow. Started therapy for my daughter, it’s going well, I’m really grateful to the therapist who is very helpful, yet it feels like it’s a win for HER. Which is good, I care for my daughter, yet I guess to some extent I’m dissatisfied as an individual entity, as a human being. As a mother, mostly the things I can be doing for the kids are doing well, but it doesn’t fill my own well being, it drains it. The gardening helps a lot, but it still feels like something is missing and off balance. I don’t know what it is? I keep wanting alone time, not having it, not spending money and energy to get a baby sitter and not being satisfied, I’m not really sure if I will change that or not. Since I’m spending extra on therapy, it doesn’t feel right spending extra on baby sitting just yet, maybe someday. But I don’t know if that would really help, because I don’t know what is really wrong, other than a nagging off balanced feeling that hasn’t gone away in a long time.
(The End of the Exercise)
This post was inspired by morning pages, Julian Cameron shared her technique for writers block in her book The Artist’s Way, much of it didn’t really work for me, but I kept the morning pages for years. Often morning pages are not shared, but they could be (in my opinion). It’s a good place to vent before you vent, or if you have no one to vent to, but that’s not all there is to it. It’s a starting place to try to know your own feelings for those of us who struggle to do that. Last week I thought about what seven values I wanted to live by more during the rest of this year and I used that list as a writing prompt for today. Free writing can be a kind of meditation, but sometimes it helps to have some kind of prompt.
Decided to name our home farm “the Secret Forest Farm” and named each section after a Steinbeck Novel since naming the “East of Eden” garden, which happens to be the most Eastern.
Farm experiments, corn with beans vs corn with manure:
Conclusion corn really likes steer manure, though it did scorch the leaves yellow at first.
The Moon Is Down Greenhouse and Garden:
East of Eden Garden:
The Wayward Bus Garden:
Trying to keep track of half an acre has been a challenge for me, coming from a very tiny container garden. Even though I know the details, I find I should be able to understand the whole picture somewhat as well, so that led me to draw it out and give names to the gardens using sketch.io a free drawing software that runs via the internet.
I’m really looking forward to the pumpkins in the Forgotten Village Garden and the flowers there have spouted, I also like the Pearl, which just has clover and a large tree, in the Winter of Our Discontent is just wheat right now, but it’s beautiful to me, the Long Valley has nothing other than the hedge growing in the boarder (Panax), East of Eden just has small trees and more hedge coming in, the Wayward Bus has bamboo and a square foot garden, the Moon is Down is starting to be a proper veggie garden, the Grapes of Wrath has no grapes, but I feel I have to grow some since naming it that, Of Men and Mice has watermelon I’m most looking forward to eating and a grass lawn that seems like it will be nice once it comes in (it’s a huge mud rectangle right now).
I took pictures of the front so far to try to remember what it looks like now and motivate myself that things change, although slowly, they do change.
Ok, writing that I took pictures of the back few gardens so in another season I can really look back and forward though time and see the changes. But I’ll have to upload them later because they are not synced yet…
The garden is a healing thing for me, I enjoy it, but I also doubt myself and struggle between biting off more than I can chew or not even getting started on things I want to do with the aquaponic section or in general. I keep watering so nothing dies, but I could be a lot better about cleaning, pruning and mulching… I haven’t even tried the new mulcher because I need a dry day that I have a baby sitter, both those things seldom occur and rarely occur together, but hopefully the stars will align for this weekend to try the mulcher.
Reading to Stay Sane:
I’m trying to transition out of a pandemic funk into whatever the next chapter of life is like… I read a book about goal setting called the Most Powerful Goal Achievement System in the World by Mike Pettigrew, I liked it, I really needed it at this time more than others.
My oldest child graduated preschool with a cute green cap and gown, even though it was only preschool, it’s actually a big thing. Because in the fall she will try school with the other kids and although I will have a two year old at home, it will be different with her gone.
My daughter starting school, my husband shopping for a new house, a lot of changes even after this past year of changes.
So, I’m trying to find peace where I can, within myself, started exercising again with Tai Cheng videos, I like them, it’s Tai Chi in video form with Dr. Mark Cheng.
Still trying to get along better with my daughter, reading her Dragon Mage by ML Spencer, very scary, but very good.
Just finished Loving Someone with Borderline Personality Disorder, a large chunk of both my family and my husband’s family are borderline, so it’s quite helpful, this book teaches you how to do DBT a treatment that can actually help those people and goes a long way for dealing with anyone easier.
I still feel overwhelmed with two kids, I feel like I’m trying to catch my breath and I can’t, but I experience moments of peace, when I play the piano for a few minutes, when I water the plants and notice a change in them, when I write (which I haven’t been) or brainstorm some goals on a note paper. I think right now I have to expand out my moments of peace rather than eliminating stress, because most of parenting, the crying, whining, falling down, cleaning, cooking, serving, being insulted, being interrupted, getting dirty, being exhausted, being dissatisfied, being confused… it’s just pure pain and stress to me.
No matter how I’ve tried to reframe the non-stop servitude, I haven’t succeeded in not being really tired of it all at the end of a real day. I don’t love it, not sure if I ever will. But I do love my kids, I just don’t love the nature of being a parent who does just about everything myself, even though I’m married. It made me mad at my husband at first, when we both worked, now that I don’t work, it makes me sad that the kids don’t get a whole lot of life lessons from him and I don’t get attention, love or a break from him, but at least we get money and at least things are peaceful between us. I’m tired, because I’m parenting for two to two kids, and that’s hard, it’s common, but it’s hard.
It’s been surprising that doing more doesn’t make it worse, doing other things take my mind of the bigger task, which is daunting, thankless, important, and tiring.
“If you plan for one year, plant kalo (taro). If you plan for 10 years, plant koa (a strong, native tree). If you plan for 100 years, teach the children.”
I especially love this quote because it ties together my life, gardening veggies (including kalo), trees (including koa) and trying to teach my kids kindness and courage, and the less essential basic skills like reading.
Anyways, that’s life right now, kind of improving, but still off balance, hoping for a brighter future one day at a time.
The awareness of life and death in the garden, is present, ever present, but softened by beauty.
Grim Fandango is a game where the dead go to work in cities like ours and there is corruption of afterlife train ticket theft… it’s a really cool game, very beautiful and funny.
In that game the dead become skeletons in the world of the dead, but if killed in that world they sprout blue flowers and die a final death.
So, I want to turn my “pumpkin hill” garden into an emotional embrace of death and fall. Right now it was a huge chunk of ginger… like a 10’x4′ ginger bulb… which is bizarre. I chopped the stalks, threw 3 cubic feet of organic soil on top and planted pumpkins, yet the pumpkins “should be” 5′ apart and I had nothing else going on there…
The Grim Fandango flowers have 8 petals and are not Forget Me Nots, but when adapting from Video Games into real life, there usually is a bit of a difference from reality that inspired the game, to the game, back to reality.
In the game Harvest Moo the “Blue Mist” flower has always been my favorite, it grows like a lily, but with colors of a Forget Me Not.
My favorite flower as a girl was a “Monkey’s Wort” which I can’t find in blue on the internet, but I loved the illustration I had on a learning poster, so I’m guessing it’s real and out there somewhere. It was blue, with a red stalk or runners… the combination of blue, red and green was somehow entrancing for me and also the idea of the ugly name with the beautiful appearance.
So, I’m putting the blue flower seeds on the pumpkin hill, they are said to be very easy and tolerant to either shade or sun, either wet soil or normal soil.
I ordered Blue, Yellow and Pink Flowers recently, the seeds came this week and I didn’t get started until today… because I didn’t even catch up to the morning glories I started on April 1st… so, I started finding places for the morning glories and put about a dozen into the garden… many got eaten in the shady part of the garden, not sure if it was chickens or slugs, they were there, then gone… and I know I have slugs and wild chickens.
The blue will make a fall themed garden, this is the song for that garden in my mind, Tchaikovsky’s Romance. I’ll be able to directly sow the blue flower, and should see them this year. The seeds are super tiny so it’s hard to handle them without them getting stuck together, they are black and even smaller than sesames, they look round to me.
The pink will go into the summer themed garden by the front of the house and along the dinning room windows. The pink flowers are from Spain, Canterbury bells, I think my climate will be okay, it’s possibly warm enough here in 10A. They are supposed to be germinated in complete darkness, so I can put down some card board, the pink flowers are a bit tall and I won’t see them the first year (just the greens). The seeds are long like tiny pencils, they look delicate and small. Once they germinate I’ll put them right in front of the windows and possibly along the pathway. The song for that garden is How Deep is Your Love by the Bee Gees, you need bees in the garden right… ha ha ha, ha.
The yellow will go into the spring garden, they are Marigolds, I’ve never done Marigolds before, they supposedly keep pests away (I hope so). I think I’ll rim around the whole drive way and square foot garden if I have enough sprouts, the version I have is “Lemon Gem” Tagetes tenuifolia, it should be able to go directly into the garden, but I think I’ll try greenhouse and direct sow on all three flowers just to see which works better here. My song for that is Moon Light Sonata by Beethoven, it’s dark, then light, it really lightens up at the end in my opinion like spring breaking through winter.
“The genus name Tagetes is for Tages, an Etruscan deity. The specific epithet tenuifolia means slender leaves.”
Of course me being me I also want to start a winter garden, but the bulbs for the white lilies (Easter lilies) I want there are not yet here…
I want to go take the chicks outside, so I’ll make this “to be continued” but I did notice it took a long time to allow myself these simple things I wanted and dreamed of, which were financially in my reach the whole time… and it always amazes me how individual plants are, some you can break apart with a shovel (like banana and ginger) and just stick in the ground, others like orchids are germinated in a flask with a partner fungal spore matching it individually (like a plant fungus soulmate) and everything in between. It still amazes me some seeds like beans and corn have strong roots, other ones like hemp will break if you transplant them, some plants like tulips are worth so much and other ones like dandelions are scorned (even though they are super healthy to make tea from).
Plants more than anything make me feel like “life wasn’t all for nothing”, don’t know if it’s true or untrue, but it’s a damn fine feeling in the morning and I like it.
Happy “you” day, thank you for being you and taking a moment to share a moment of my life, I’d love to share a moment of yours if you have a day in the life post or something like that please leave a link below I always wonder about the people I see reading, if you hate gardening, what you like, if you are surviving the pandemic alright…
My favorite writer died last year in September. But I found out today.
I can’t remember being sad in September when it happened.
I was a bit stunned today, it’s hard for me to imagine a world without Terry Goodkind.
I woke up early and was thinking of treating myself to a new book to read just for fun, something I don’t do often.
Since I’ve been 16 or so, 19 years… I’ve been reading his books, and they were my favorite.
I didn’t say that often because they are fiction and fantasy, I think a lot of people judge readers of fiction, that we are people who can’t handle reality, who escape into books that are similar to other books, just to escape having social skills and living “a real life”… And even when I do read fiction, I’m usually reading scifi, because there seems to be more.
I’ve always enjoyed scifi and fantasy, I also enjoy fiction and non-fiction (isn’t non-fiction just God’s fiction? anyways?), I also enjoy being alive and interacting with the world as well as reading.
Sometimes life is too painful to enjoy, it can be tolerated, but it stops being enjoyable. I guess books at times are my painkillers, because most of my pain is mental.
But there is something magical about books, the same way there is about gardens, or antiques, or paintings, or wine, or anything else.
Just the smell of books gives me hope life might be worth living.
Just a new book gives me hope, I may still become a better person, or find my long elusive purpose for being born and place in the world.
“To exist in this vast universe for a speck of time is the great gift of life. It is our only life. The universe will go on, indifferent to our brief existence, but while we are here, we touch not just part of that vastness, but also the lives around us. Life is the gift each of us has been given. Each life is our own and no one else’s. It is precious beyond all counting. It is the greatest value we can have. Cherish it for what it truly is . . . Your life is yours alone. Rise up and live it.”
– Terry Goodkind
Terry had a kindness that came through in his books, and an anger at life wasted. I never met him. I don’t know if I would have enjoyed meeting him or not. Without meeting him, he was a hero to me, if I had met him, he might have been a man.
When Stephen Hawking died a few years ago, I was sad, pretty sad, because he had always uplifted me. Someone struggling harder, but doing more, and with a smile and a joke, and time to encourage others. I guess that’s an English upside to offset the downside that if you don’t keep an eye on them they may colonize your homeland…
I felt silly with Stephen to grieve someone I didn’t know, though people do it, I still felt silly. But perhaps that is what was meant for humanity before it got too large.
In Canada I saw hikers were lost and died, the country lowered the flag for them, they didn’t have to be government officials, they didn’t have to be celebrities, they were Canadians, they were people there and that was enough to be valued and to be missed. It touched me forever.
I live in the US, it’s a big country, when I lived in Chicago I walked past homeless people’s frozen bodies downtown in order to get to my work. Before I could think about how I felt about it I absorbed the general vibe, which was a neutral vibe… as many people hated the homeless as were sad, and far more people felt nothing, because the homeless “people” weren’t people in the way they should be…
That’s normal that because you can’t process thousands of people mentally, they stop being people, it’s a normal part of city life. Then is city life even a life at all? If people stop being people to you and you to them?
So, Terry died last year, in the fall, and I wasn’t sad. Today I found out, this year, in the spring. And I was trying to understand why. If he died and I wasn’t sad, why now?
My Mental Theatre: “Death of a Favorite Writer”
(Me Portraying Terry: Terry is now dead.)
I’m still going to miss being able to pick up a new Terry Goodkind book when I have $8 and the freetime to invest in a new book, I think I will always miss that. Seeing what new stuff he was up to was always worth the price of the ticket, though sometimes it was $24… His best and his worst books were still better for me than reading Robert Jordan, or other books in my preferred aisle of the book store.
I’ll still miss Terry, who I never met, but I know he would have wanted me to take actions towards a better world, rather than griping or sulking, that really seems to be who he was. The actions he took were sometimes written ones, sometimes deep thought, sometimes building, racing, regular actions, but he seemed to be a man of quiet but constant action and perhaps a big part of me is a kindred soul to that and the loss of any of us hits home with me.
It’s hard to transition from thinking about his death September 17th, but when someone dies, its a time to think of their life as a whole, see what can be learned or borrowed to help me on my journey… time to salvage the corpse for valuables (metaphorically). I know Terry was a fan of Ayn Rand’s philosophy of objectivism.
When I’m ready I’ll have to take a stoic vacation to objectivismville and see what’s there for me.
Terry Goodkind’s Wizard’s Rules (Used to Be on His Site, Which is Now Gone):
“People are stupid; given proper motivation, almost anyone will believe almost anything. Because people are stupid, they will believe a lie because they want to believe it’s true, or because they’re afraid it might be true. Peoples’ heads are full of knowledge, facts and beliefs, and most of it is false, yet they think it all true. People are stupid; they can only rarely tell the difference between a lie and the truth, and yet they are confident they can, and so are all the easier to fool.”
“The greatest harm can result from the best intentions.”
Stone of Tears, Chapter 63, page 886
“Passion rules reason.”
Blood of the Fold, Chapter 43, page 360
“There is magic in sincere forgiveness. Magic to heal. In forgiveness you grant, but more so in forgiveness you receive.”
Temple of the Winds, Chapter 41, page 318
“Mind what people do, not only what they say, for deeds will betray a lie.”
Soul of the Fire, Chapter 28, page 205
“The most important rule there is, the Wizard’s Sixth Rule: the only sovereign you can allow to rule you is reason. The first law of reason is this: what exists, exists, what is, is and from this irreducible bedrock principle, all knowledge is built. It is the foundation from which life is embraced.” — Richard
Faith of the Fallen, Chapter 41, pages 459-60
“Life is the future, not the past. The past can teach us, through experience, how to accomplish things in the future, comfort us with cherished memories, and provide the foundation of what has already been accomplished. But only the future holds life. To live in the past is to embrace what is dead. To live life to its fullest, each day must be created anew. As rational, thinking beings, we must use our intellect, not a blind devotion to what has come before, to make rational choices.”
The Pillars of Creation, Chapter 60, page 549
“Talga Vassternich. Deserve Victory.”
Naked Empire, Chapter 61, page 626
A contradiction cannot exist in reality. Not in part, nor in whole.
Chainfire, Chapter 48, page 489
“Willfully turning aside from the truth is treason to one’s self.”
Phantom, Chapter 12, page 127
“The rule of all rules. The rule unwritten.” The Unwritten rule. Knowledge is earned not given.
Confessor, Chapter 65, page 592
You can destroy those who speak the truth, but you cannot destroy the truth itself.
The Omen Machine, Chapter 70, page 446
Life gives dimension to time.
The Third Kingdom, Chapter 26, page 175.
“There have always been those who hate, and there always will be.”
Severed Souls, Chapter 47, page 306
“In this world, everyone must die. None of us has any choice in that. Our choice is how we wish to live.”
This little garden is only 2″ deep, it was built by adding wood onto a rail and putting a few drainage holes (drainage is very important because plants breathe too, carbon dioxide during the day and actually oxygen at night).
It’s been very dilapidated at times, very groomed, very empty and very full, in a lot of ways you can tell my wellbeing from this patio garden. Right now it has wild flowers (above left), organic seascape strawberries (above right), a lot of peas my son picked out that will add nitrogen to the soil (they can take it out of the air).
The garden is very small, but one of the most troublesome actually, reason being it always needs to get watered and the outdoor plants often get watered by the rain, also a ton of slugs go on out patio with or without any plants (I never knew why they were attracted to our railings so much before any plants were there). But I still really like the patio garden anyways, a lot can fit there, like the bonsais, moss, wildflowers…
A Small Garden
Four (Home Depot) Bucket Veggie Gardens
This garden is made of 4 Home Depot buckets, it does have a frame my dad made and kind of has irrigation, but I don’t use it because it doesn’t water evenly the plants I have now.
This garden has the original tomato plant I had the first year we moved here, it’s babies at least, the first plant got over grown in the front garden (and covered with slugs), I tried to move it and it survived, but didn’t like the low light, somehow it adjusted to the low North facing light and is thriving now… tomato actually likes dry soil, so in these beds that get no rain (under the eves) they did better than in the Square Foot Garden. I guess you never really know, everyone will tell you the South is better than the North, but really, you don’t know what works without trying new things and looking at reality.
The garden is a great size, it’s not really harder to deal with than the tiny one and it can produce a lot of edibles. I would recommend this size and set up for new gardeners, enough to have fun (and pay for), but not too much to control (if you want to), kind of just right for a beginner or someone busy with other things. Mine has tomato, avocado, potato, in the future sweet potato.
A Hill of Wheat
Wheat, Wheat Grass is actually Wheat, It’s Illegal to Produce at Home in the US, But Not to Grow for Yourself.
This is the “back” of the garden… it doesn’t have soil naturally, just sticks… To make soil I’m growing wheat, the wheat will make straw, the straw will become soil (with some compost mixed in). So this year sticks, this fall straw, perhaps next spring soil.
This is just a hill covered with sticks… I found a bag of unused wheat grass seeds and decided to plant wheat rather than just leaving the seeds as unused clutter. Wheat grass is one of the easiest things ever to grow, it grows at smoothie shops indoors, or on paper towels, or in a Tupperware, or in foam, basically on anything, including this hill with no soil. I was surprised wheat grass is wheat. Rebranded, same seed.
I did have to cover the seeds with weed cloth I already had left over from the Home Depot Bucket Garden, I don’t think I needed weed cloth in the buckets, but I didn’t know how much soil would fall out without it… not much if the drainage holes are small. So I covered, uncovered and watered, everyday for a week and than just left it alone when the seeds were not showing anymore (since we have had rain). So, one week of hard work watering by hand and no work at all since then. I kind of love the way it moves in the wind. Kind of want to put in more, but trying to take care of what I have before I buy anything more to do…
A Play Farm Next to A Play House
This is the playhouse farm, we were not using the space so I wanted to give my daughter more room to experiment with, but since she is 5 she didn’t start planting it, I think once I plant something she will want to change it up and gradually take over.
There is a small onion bed and small carrot bed both doing very well, a hill right behind the playhouse for pumpkins to form our own little pumpkin patch and a little playhouse next to a chicken coop. It’s a decent farm for a child. Along the edges of the designated space are beans (with the large spade shaped leaves). The local pheasants ate some of the beans clean off, but since we don’t eat a ton of green beans anyways, it wasn’t a huge loss.
Next to the play house window sweet pea flowers are growing (slowly), along the “road” to the front door corn flowers (bachelor’s buttons), at the boundaries of the “property line” (of the playhouse’s farm) are Mexican Sunflower cuttings (the first leaf just came in).
The Net Keeps My 2-Year-Old from Running Off
This is where I like to have outdoor school inspired by Charlotte Mason, it’s not fancy, but someday I hope it’s at least charming.
I planted clover into the “not really soil” we have on the East Half of our half acre home. The clover is just starting to sprout. I didn’t protect it from birds with weed cloth, but I did water it super well the first two days, and I did water it for the first four days after planting, I think that will make a difference. Soaking it in lets the seeds be a little bit under the dead leaves, so that the birds didn’t eat as many. We have Zebra doves that will take every seed of the seeds that they prefer…
Because I’m a farmer now.
The Watermelons I guess, are my cash crop this year… my Home Depot trip this spring cost $30… so if I can grow more than $30 of watermelon, I will in my own head, be a successful farmer.
The seeds germinated very well in a warm but not hot plastic green house (torn so thus not hot), the started in 2″ pots with vermiculite and old peat moss soil, not very fertile or fancy, but just fine. I kept the seeds watered everyday this year, something hard to do… I wanted to give up after a few days of not seeing anything happen, but I didn’t and a week later they came up. The seeds were all mixed up in the same pot, once one sprouted well I took it out to another pot left over from Papayas a few years ago… It’s stressful for the seedlings, but the roots are very large and strong so watermelon in particular can handle that. I moved them into a sunny place pretty early on, now something keeps knocking them over… I think feral cats. And perhaps rats are eating them a bit, a few two leaved sprouts only have one leaf now… So I may move them all. I could have protected them with plastic cups until they are bigger, but I’m not sure if they will scorch like that… maybe I’ll try.
Just for fun.
Can you find the corn in each photo? It sure does look like grass, but it has that central stalk which catches a dew drop of water I couldn’t really photograph.
Some of these corn are grown with beans to fix nitrogen for them and some aren’t, later on I’ll compare the difference. This corn surrounds our front driveway, so when we drive up it will seem like “a real farm” kind of… my daughter is the most excited for the corn. As it grows I have her jump over it too see how long she will be able to do that. We don’t eat a ton of corn, but it seems like it will be fun to eat a little bit of our own “hopefully” this summer.
The New Garden
The front garden started with just corn next to the drive way, I used an empty tub for peas, then I decided on four new pots. The soil isn’t horrible and the pots don’t prevent pests, but I love being able to move my plants around to reconfigure the garden.
I used compost in the pots and it scorched the corn… (see the yellow leaves) not sure if I will do anything to fix it. Interestingly the strawberries don’t mind the high fertilizer load, the peas kind of mind, but the corn is uncomfortable.
Interesting to me at least… The strawberry had previously had the red and yellow leaves, it was kind of sun scorched in the greenhouse previously.
On the hill in the new garden are melon (cantaloupe, left), watermelon, artichoke and basil. Basil (top right) looks more like artichoke, but artichoke (bottom two) has pretty light green stripes on the medium green leaves.
Leaves As Mulch
This is My Daughter’s Watermelon (Not Mine)
One of the things my garden/farm needs is much more mulch. As a beginner I didn’t know about or use mulch at all, but it’s about time. Mulch prevents weeds, prevents some plant illness and visually makes gardening easier. It saves work by preventing work, which lets the energy go into plant care or get saved, so that it’s kind of a game changer (or so I think).
I don’t have a mulcher yet… thinking of buying one for about $120, but also thinking about a mini chain saw for about the same…
But I do have leaves. Which are good mulch. Some people don’t like the look of them, I kind of do like it. But I think I would prefer to get the mulcher to make garden paths that my family can recognize as garden paths and then still use the leaves directly around my spouts. I might use a bit of straw as well in the future, especially on the pumpkin hill or under the strawberries…
So, mulching is what in my opinion separates a novice and intermediate gardener and I’ll hopefully be entering that phase this year.
Square Foot Garden
This square foot has a Milo tree, two avocado tree seeds, peas, corn, beans, and a few carrots. My daughter stole those beans from my garden… I didn’t know whether to be sad she steals or happy she gardens. This is defiantly not officially recommended spacing, but it didn’t explode either. I was happy to see my daughter take over her own garden’s design and planting.
Trees in the Shade
These my daughter germinated, she stuck the seeds in a pot of soil, I watered it, I doubted it completely. It did germinate, so I potted the little trees in separate 2″ pots (they were all in one pot), then we bought them these larger pots.
I planted clover with them because I like to see something growing (the clover, you guessed it, fixes nitrogen thus a natural fertilizer). The sticks are to keep away wild chickens, there are tiny copper dish scrub pads cut into rings around the base of the trees to discourage slugs.
I was intimidated by trees before this, now I don’t see them as harder, but different than veggies. They are similar to start, a pot, soil, water, time, but move slower, which makes me loose interest and not want to water. So I add something like clover or an onion to give me a reason to water the pot as the tree sprouts.
Then they do well, but they seem to need a large pot sooner and then they keep growing, but slowly. It’s somewhat less exciting at certain time frames than veggies.
I’ll never eat these, since I don’t eat trees. And their larger pot will cost more… but I do like the idea of bonsai.
In A Small Green House
The greenhouse seems to be the hardest to keep clean, but that is where the magic happens as well.
This is my homework, if my gardens are haphazard, my greenhouse is a work hazard…
Morning glories, carrots, onions, pumpkins, Milo trees, melons, watermelons, basil, artichokes, waiting for me to plant them, thin them, give them individual pots, find them a spot in the semi shade, find them a bigger pot… figure out where they will go.
The cool thing about the greenhouse is that the plants grow better there, so the longer I procrastinate the better it is for the plants anyways… rare in life when procrastination pays off, but I do have to hand water the greenhouse since I messed up the watering system that was fine… so it costs a bit of watering to procrastinate.
I also have an aquaponic system that is a bit “all messed up,” we are going to visit a functional aquaponic farm tomorrow, so I wanted to mentally check in with the non-aquaponic gardens today before putting a lot of new information about aquaponics on my mind.
Sometimes when I garden I think about what’s left to do and forget to see the beauty in the flowers. Georgia O’Keeffe would slap me…
“When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else. Most people in the city rush around so, they have no time to look at a flower. I want them to see it whether they want to or not.”
– Georgia O’Keeffe
Right now I have most the plants I’ve ever wanted to have and I spend so much time weeding, planning, setting up, watering, taking care of my kids, paying bills, doing paperwork, cooking, cleaning, wondering about the future, that I rarely ever SEE them there.
Hopefully by the summer I can slow down, something about spring in the garden makes it hard not to rush, to get as much out there in time for the sun before the shady seasons come. It’s never really cold in my garden, but we loose the sun for the fall and winter and nothing wants to grow then. So I rush to get the plants out… but I’d rather slow down and enjoy the morning glories, if I could find a way.
All our lives we live alongside bugs, earthworms in the gardens, butterflies in the spring and summer (or autumn in Mexico), ants marching along the sidewalk, June Beatles flying low among the roses and high among the trees. As a child they are mostly delightful, until we learn to be disgusted, then as an adult they burden us. When the wand of responsibility changes hand, suddenly they are a draining burden to dispose of…
Cockroaches… When I wasn’t in charge, they didn’t bother me mentally, though I did develop asthma, so perhaps even though they didn’t bother me mentally, perhaps they took some of the joy out of life (I hated mile running day at school and heading to the urgent care for a breathing treatment).
The first apartment I was responsible for had huge “American” Cockroaches… it was a pain to seal the kitchen floor, ceiling, cabinet calking, and see them in my halls, bedroom, and light fixtures. I hated it, hated the slow progress. Eventually we got an exterminator and they focused more on baits and less on caulking or prevention. We got the cockroaches with an almost bare apartment so I didn’t feel bad about the organization or house cleaning, they are just rampant in that city and that apartment so for them to wander down the wall or wander inside from the garden would be all too easy.
I noticed people in the same city who had their houses under control, they took care of the pests ASAP when they started, and they used poison of some kind.
I had a long lull with no cockroaches in my life when I moved out of that apartment, recently we got “German” Cockroaches, when I found out I got two baits from Home Depot put some diatomaceous earth in the office (where they are the most) and am still waiting to be completely rid of them.
I read a really informative article about them and learned a few new things:
1. “Like most insect (and rodent) pests, German cockroaches need to have two sides of their body being touched at all times; this behavioral phenomenon is called thigmotaxis.”
I had already noticed that these German Cockroaches like to walk in between the baseboard and the floor (but not my American Cockroaches that walked all over the middle of the hallway and side walk… boldly and confidently sharing the sidewalks of Santa Ana rather than walking through the gutters), but I didn’t really consider that when I placed the bait stations I wasn’t putting them against the edges that would allow these German Cockroaches to feel secure eating from these poison bait stations.
2. “On average, a new ootheca (egg case) is produced every month, and contains between 32 and 48 embryos. To illustrate just how prolific she can be, consider this: Assuming that half of the embryos were female in each case each time, and that they would each go on to successfully reproduce 48 embryos at the end of the next month, and so on, for a year, there would be approximately 1,500,000,000,000,000 female cockroaches in one year from just that one original female.”
That really is a lot, but I was actually worried that they had 200-500 offspring each time. I noticed a generation of babies growing up and I was stressed that I had at least 500 to kill, but since this is the first or second month it might be much less than I was worried about. 1.5 quadrillion grandkids each cockroach…
3. “Adult females tend to remain in the harborage (dark, warm, secluded areas) 75 percent of their lives when carrying an ootheca; and they do not stray far from the cracks and crevices once their nymphs hatch.”
At this point I felt a bit like I was in Franz Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” as I am an adult female who due to shelter in place and having two small children have been remaining in harborage at least 75 percent of my recent life when caring for my nymphs…, children. America in general downgraded to China like first amendment rights (in Hawaii the first amendment was legally suspended, it will never happen in America? It did, it is, it still is.) and in my area German Cockroach life quality. But things are really looking up for things getting back to normal and I know in other states things have been less concentration campy. Hopefully the pandemic and the cockroaches in my house will both fade to a memory soon.
4. “If we think of food, water and harborage as a three-legged stool, and we remove one of these legs, the population will be stressed, and any efforts we make at control will be more successful.”
So I was thinking what conditions give us humans comfort, our version of thigmotaxis, perhaps success, perhaps meaning, or maybe goals and hope?
And what are our requirements to be happy, it’s more than food, water and harborage I learned this past year. Most of us were able to retain our food, water and harborage, but not much more, and I think most of us were honestly markedly unhappy with the situation.
Yes we want food, water and harborage for survival, but what we need to thrive and be happy seems to be something else entirely. What are those slippery higher requirements for life balance?
Perhaps flow (balance of challenge but not overwhelming struggle), perhaps elegance (where life isn’t overwhelmingly visually or auditorily noisy), perhaps satisfaction?
It may be that we enjoy goals more than success, it may be that we need meaning even if it is invented and ascribed, it may be that we need flow, and elegance, and satisfaction to keep our souls from slowly dying.
1. I eat a lot of onion, when I cook Chinese, Mexican or American food it usually has a garlic and onion in grapeseed oil base before the meat or tomato gets added. In the past I grew things I didn’t like to eat like dill or Thai basil and I couldn’t convert myself to start eating them, so it felt like a waste of the garden space and effort. 2. The game Harvest Moon, which I love, has always has onion and really growing something I’ve grown in games is pretty fun for me in a whimsical way. 3. I’ve heard onion may deter pests. 4. The show “Grow, Cook, Eat,” season 2, episode 1, covers onion and my daughter and I love watching the show together and trying out the plants. They plant from sets and I’m planting from seed though.
How I “started“:
Starting from seed… I prefer to start from seeds when I can. The onion seeds were on sale… they are small black seeds, I soaked them in their metal bag with normal water (which in my case is filtered rain water) for about 24 hours before planting out into a mix of peat moss and vermiculite in a little pot. Then I put the pot in the green house which has broken plastic, so it’s not too hot and is near our house so it’s actually not too sunny either… kind of sunny and kind of hot, hotter then inside while the sun is out, but probably not even 90°F/32°C. About a week after sprouting moved the onions to the full sun greenhouse and about a week after moved them outside to the sun.
Why that soil?
I was heavily influenced by the late Mel Bartholomew’s Square Foot Garden concepts, but peat moss tends to clump and get to solid in my area. I tend to do container gardening with just a few inches of soil so I use really fertile soil, I don’t add any chemical fertilizer but I do add soil with natural fertilizers such as chicken manure, bat guano, or steer manure compost. I’m a permaculture gardener so I try to have 0 waste (or less and less) and I compost on site, but my compost isn’t ready to use so I get local steer manure compost that is really affordable at Home Depot, we got two chickens so in the future I will have their fertilizer.
Did a lot of transplanting, when it was sooner more of the transplants survived, when I waited more than a week after sprouting about half were not seated well enough into the soil and their roots shriveled and died off.
The onion started like Λ, I thought I would find two plants, but instead I found just one shaped like Λ with a seed on one side and both sides equally seated in the soil… all the onions were like that. It took about two weeks for the onions to stand up strait like |, I’m guessing that the seed went to the top end eventually before being discarded.
The onions are the only plant I’ve ever grown that sprouts folded in two rather than as a straight line with two little leaves…
I wouldn’t say onions can’t transplant, but I didn’t pay attention to how dry the soil was and I had them in full sun, so the sides of the little pots let the soil dry out much more than if they were planted in ground, I think they could take the heat well, if I would have watered deeper. I was pretty good about daily watering, but sometimes I kind of rushed through the onions and just gave a few drops because the plants were small. That’s how I lost half the onions in the sunny hill garden… by rushing the watering. Slow watering is better for the water to get absorbed rather than to just run off… but I’ve heard bonsai want that, fast watering that lets the water drain (not sure if it’s really true).
Currently I’m planting in many different places to see how they do better and also spread them around in case they really do deter pests. Another interesting thing about starting from seeds was noticing that as soon as they sprout they stink like onions! They smell really strongly as little sprouts, something I’ve never noticed with any other sprouts.
Working Towards a July Harvest:
So… the onions are now 25 days of 115 to harvest, so Sunday, July 25th they should be ready to eat. I planted the whole bag hoping that the seed from these onions would be better suited for my climate so that I will use my own seed next year. If that is the case I won’t need any of this year’s seed getting older and thus less likely to germinate.
As of now the green house onions are doing the best, second place is the onions in my daughter’s farm garden near her playhouse (7), the front square foot garden (2) onions are okay, but perhaps not getting enough water, the onions near the sunny hill garden at the entry of our home (1) have just been planted in… forgot them when I watered today.
The idea is to design the garden first with mandalas or keyhole shapes that make watering and weeding easier instead of me making six or seven back and forth trips to water rows…
I “should” take the onions I have in the greenhouse and scatter them through the garden, but I’m a bit tired. I watered in the new Panax hedge (120 cuttings) with pond water (took five trips I’m not used to yet) and tending the red wheat on the hill which is coming in nicely, to a hill that had no soil… I threw seeds on the sticks there and watered it with a weed cloth over the top. The seeds grew in and I added just a bit of left over compost on the top of the seeds coming in so that they can stand up in something, the roots look really good about three inches already and 2/3 of the seeds were already standing up in the dead leaf and stick mixture that North Hill is made of…
I remember there was a native american myth about 7 sisters who ate too many onions and smelled bad…
“The Mono or Monache in Central California saw six wives and one little child, when they told the story of The Wild Onion Wives:
Long ago, when the world was nearly new, six families lived at the edge of a village, and each day the husbands set out into the forests to hunt. While they were gone, the wives went out in search of herbs to prepare the meat.
One day, as the wives were digging in the Earth, they discovered a plant they had never before seen – round and white with a long green stem. The women thought it looked lovely. They tasted it. “It’s delicious. Just the right combination of tangy and sweet,” they agreed. The wives had discovered sweet onions.
Once they began eating, they could not stop.
They ate until it was late in the day, and then they hurried home to build the fires to cook supper.
When the husbands returned home, they were exhausted from their hunt, but they brought back a bounty of deer meat, and they looked forward to a delicious meal. But when they walked into the lodge, they smelled something strange.
“What is spoiled?” the first husband asked. “Something stinks,” said the second, and when the third approached his wife, he stopped and held his nose. “It’s you who smells so wretched!” he cried. But the wives were excited about their discovery, and so they reached into their baskets and handed over the onions. “Taste these,” they said. “If you taste them, you won’t mind the smell.” But the husbands shook their heads. “The stench is terrible,” they complained. They told their wives they must sleep outside that night.
The next day, the husbands once again went out hunting, and the wives returned to the spot in the forest where they had found the onions. “I don’t care if my husband doesn’t like the smell,” said one of the women. “These are too good to resist,” and she began to eat. The others could not resist. “Who cares about our husbands?” they said. “They’ll learn to love these if they try.”
And once again, they ate and ate.
When the husbands returned that evening, they were in a terrible mood. “The deer would not come near us because we smell so terrible,” one said. “It’s all your fault, and the fault of that terrible plant.” “We don’t believe you,” the wives said. “You must have been unlucky.” Still, once again that night, the husbands told their wives they must sleep outside under the stars. The next day, the same thing happened. And the day after that, it happened again, until a week had passed, and the men could catch nothing at all. “All the animals run from us because of that terrible smell we carry,” the men complained to their wives.
“We can’t sleep outside forever,” said the wives. “It’s chilly and uncomfortable.” So they bickered. The wives wished their husbands would try the onions, but the husbands wished their wives would give up on this strange plant. They could not reach an agreement, and once again, the wives slept outside.
On the seventh day, the wives made a grave decision. “We cannot live this way,” they agreed. One of the wives lifted her baby girl out of her special cradle. “We’re going away,” she whispered, and all the women walked out into the fields, to the spot where the onions grew. They brought along their ropes made of eagle feathers, milkweed fibers and willow bark. When they came to a big warm rock, they stopped to rest and talk. “We must leave our husbands,” said one of the women. “Yes, we must,” the others agreed.
The oldest wife, who knew magic, began to whisper powerful words up to the sky. She tossed her rope high in the air, and it began to rise, higher and higher. When it was high above the Earth, it hooked over a cloud, and the two sides of the rope hung down to Earth. The women and the baby stood on the ends of the rope and began to sing. They sang to the sun and moon and to the sky. They sang to all the bounties of the Earth. They sang so sweetly and loudly, the ropes began to dance and rise. Soon the ropes were swinging in great circles, rising higher and higher, carrying the women higher into the sky with every swing.
Before long, the people of the village saw the women dancing in the sky. Their mothers and fathers called, “Please, come back!” But the six wives and the little girl kept swinging and rising. When their husbands returned from their hunt that night, they discovered their wives were missing. They were hungry. And they were tired. And now they were lonely, too. “Let’s follow them,” one of the men said. The others agreed, and so they carried their eagle feather ropes out to the fields, and they tossed the rope into the sky. They, too, began to sing. Their rope folded over a cloud and hung down, and the men climbed upon the ends and soon they, too, were rising into the sky.
When the people of the village saw the men rising, they cried, “No, don’t leave, come back!” But like their wives, the men just sang louder and rose higher, and when the wives heard the commotion below, they looked down and saw their husbands rising after them. “Look, it’s our husbands,” one of the women said. “What should we do?” “They sent us away, we’ll be happier without them!” said the eldest wife. And so as the men drew closer, the wives called, “Stop!” and the rope carrying the husbands stopped rising. Forever after, the husbands stayed right where they were, while the wives who loved onions rose higher.
Since that time, the wives and husbands have lived in Sky Country. The women turned into the seven stars of the Pleiades – the faintest star is the little girl. Their husbands stayed just behind them in another constellation, this one called Taurus.”
In the onions there isn’t much money saved since they are cheap to buy, but for me there will always be that connection to the Pleiades which is arbitrary, yet the constellations themselves are all arbitrary as well, stars that appear grouped in a 2-dimensional view often are not at all close in real 3-dimensional space.
In gardening food I eat I find a certain deep connection to my ancestors, who must have at a point been farmers, probably before leaving China and Japan. And all farmers were in a sense astronomers, as were sailors and fishers and most people in general.
The stars change over time, dancing, exploding, but at a slow pace, so that they have been consistent for a very long time, looking at the Pleiades when I first find them (I still haven’t) will remind me of the 8th century Japanese observers and also make me wonder if my children’s children will take the time to see them also. So much changes rapidly, but the stars are something consistent. Not unchanging, but at least consistent.
The stars change with the seasons and the seasons still rule the gardening world, even if we grow indoors with lights the length and color of the light needs to provide what the correct season would provide a plant.
Not only the sunlight, but also the moon light grows plants, a study in Italy showed that the moon affects the thickness of sap directly and that affects plants in a few ways.
Gardening is a good time for me to be mindful, I like to be active, so I feel better about growing something, but after the design and choices are made much of the work is routine, dipping the watering can into the pond, walking around to water, looking at the leaves to make sure no major pest damage is going on, those things are more soothing than it seems like they would be. It’s not hard as much as gym exercise, but not sedentary, it’s not stressful decisions like which bills to pay first, but it is a bit of paying attention to what is there to pull me into the present. Gardening humbles me, to think of the people who must work so hard farming the food I eat, the farmers everywhere who feed the world and often make less than business people, it’s strange to think the people who do the most necessary work often make the least profit… Gardening connects me to the past and the present, it’s fun when my daughter picks me a crimson clover flower, it’s fun to see the wheat come up this first time, it’s sometimes a bit heartbreaking when plants die off, but behind the individual plants your skill as a gardener is always building and there comes a time when you can find why fungal rot killed your seedlings or simple heat dried out your plants too far for them to come back from… to reconnect to the food chain is really therapeutic for me now that I finally have a space I can do it, it wasn’t as easy as I had expected, but also not as hard, pieces of it are easy and pieces of it are hard.
I hope to update this with more pictures and a harvest, but even if I don’t make it to harvest I enjoyed the strange shape and smell of the onion and now when I cook with my favorite yellow onions I will look at them in a different way, as something that lived, that someone tended, that made sugar out of sunshine on this planet until it’s basic building blocks were fated to become my body which sails my mind and soul through this world.
During his documentary series The Brain with David Eagleman, David mentions a Ulysses Contract:
“A Ulysses pact or Ulysses contract is a freely made decision that is designed and intended to bind oneself in the future. The term is used in medicine, especially in reference to advance directives (also known as living wills), where there is some controversy over whether a decision made by a person in one state of health should be considered binding upon that person when they are in a markedly different, usually worse, state of health.
The term refers to the pact that Ulysses (Greek name Ὀδυσσεύς, Odysseus) made with his men as they approached the Sirens. Ulysses wanted to hear the Sirens’ song although he knew that doing so would render him incapable of rational thought. He put wax in his men’s ears so that they could not hear and had them tie him to the mast so that he could not jump into the sea. He ordered them not to change course under any circumstances and to keep their swords upon him and to attack him if he should break free of his bonds.
Upon hearing the Sirens’ song, Ulysses was driven temporarily insane and struggled with all of his might to break free so that he might join the Sirens, which would have meant his death.” *
It got me interested in trying it, I tend to hesitate towards my dreams in life. For example I have wanted to have a farm, never a nursery, then I half heatedly attempted a nursery when what I really wanted was a farm. I’m not an expert in business, nor gardening, so the way forward would probably be just getting more gardening experience in general. I love gardening, but I tend to hesitate because I feel guilty leaving the kids in the house while I garden, but if I were going to martial arts or the gym or college or work, I wouldn’t feel guilty, so maybe I should consider it my work?
Last year was my husband’s first year investing, he didn’t think to himself “I am an investor” on day 1, but he did surprisingly well over a year. I hope it’s like that for me, I hope in a year I seem like a farmer.
One thing I have is the right hat. Another thing is some land. It’s part of half an acre, I think that is fine, but I noticed cheap farm land for rent nearby as well, but to rent it I would need money, so I would at least need a business plan. Right now I have no idea if I would go for something high profit like vanilla bean, macadamia nut or coffee, or something I like like lychee or avocado, or a variety of low cost items with perhaps some kind of educational grant and some sort of community teaching or outreach or something… I really don’t know.
I have dabbled with gardening as an adult, as a child I never had the opportunity, so in general I know very little about what farming would be like. Since I know I don’t know I don’t want to box myself in, but at the same time I know I want to do more gardening no matter what.
Seeds were a good price at Home Depot when my dad stopped for something else, so we got some flowers to liven up the patio and some seeds for myself and both my kids.
My daughter was interested in corn, which is sweet, because we use the corn silk to make tea when I get a mystery side pain.
In the past I saved my seeds waiting for the perfect time, the perfect soil, and often they just were wasted. Each year they germinate at a worse rate…
Also my climate is weird to most the plants, so that if my plants do survive the seeds I can save are better for my particular climate than the old seeds would be, so there is no reason to hold back saving half a bag of $2 seeds for the next few years.
Yesterday I cut open the seed bags, which were aluminum, and filled them with water to soak, this meant I would “have to” plant them all within the next day or two. It may not sound like a big commitment to you, but it was a big deal to me.
I was potty training my son the past few weeks and that temporarily bound me to his every move and expression, since he can’t talk clearly I have to watch for little signs like his feet or his gaze or tiny things, (my son kind of whines and pulls at me when he needs to go potty).
So in committing to planting, it is committing to self care and a break, and committing to be at peace if there is an accident, and committing to stepping away from the kids, which is my parental Achilles heel.
I was committing to trying to be the architect of my own life, committing to hope that things will go well, that we either will keep the property or will learn skills and have fun landscaping it or both.
I was a small commitment, but it feels very good to be hopeful.
Today I planted the seeds, not in rows in the garden, but in pots in the greenhouse, which I think is better in general. The greenhouse I have was only about $65 which is very affordable and I’ve liked it enough to re-buy it when we moved.
I planted in mostly peat moss, which I have a bag of left over to finish, I may move away from peat moss, it seems to clump together into really dense clumps which is the opposite of what I want. Then when it gets wet the clumps stay dry on the inside… I loved the Square Foot Garden book, so I went with peat moss, but I think the peat moss you buy today isn’t the same as the older one. The depth of the bog it was harvested from can make a difference. I don’t know yet, but I think this may be the last peat moss I buy.
So even though the planting media isn’t perfect it’s what I had on hand at the right time.
For me it’s worth celebrating my own mental flexibility.
I do have some room in the garden, a movable raised bed, some space in the veggie beds, two small but empty green houses, and plenty of space to start new beds, but if all the seeds sprout I will probably need more growing space.
But it’s kind of up to me, I have a lot of small pots from the last time I was gardening papaya trees and they all died, but that failure gave me the pots for today.
I have about three failed gardens and zero successful ones, but maybe four is the charm?
Last time I had papaya and tomato and bamboo, the papaya died (about 200 little trees), the tomato looked dead, but it wasn’t, it was more overgrown, I split the best plant into three plants and all three are growing well right now, I’m interested to get the seeds and start that one again (since our place gets a bit cold for tomatoes) and the bamboo does okay, but doesn’t grow fast at all, just a bit at a time.
I also had morning glories, they sprouted well and hard, but then I was too slow to pot up and give them more room…
So I learned a few lessons, that I have to nurture the small trees personally for longer, that I can’t wait too long to pot up, that I should get rid of excess if I can’t keep up rather than loose everything because I’m so overwhelmed I don’t water.
The tomato is a positive lesson, that sometimes what I do is enough, even if it seems like it wasn’t.
I don’t know in my own mind the difference between a farmer, a gardener and a normal person who gardens or farms. I guess I won’t have a farm until I understand what that means for me.
I guess it has a lot to do with sustainability, I would like to be close to self sufficient. Even though I won’t have cows, I would like to have chickens for eggs, chickens for meat, most of the produce we eat, I would love that. And if not that, I would love to have at least enough for the kids to know about many plants, vines and trees and root veggies.
I often read all the parental burnout Google results on the first page, and often find none of them helpful. A few pages in, typically it gets better, and sometimes I find information that helps me. I don’t usually share it, because I don’t love writing about parenting (I don’t want to end up as the Dave Ramsey of Parenting), but in the interest of sorting out my own mind, and sharing something helpful I’ll try today.
Robyn Koslowitz wrote about the research that parental burnout has serious consequences. Before I was a parent I had no sympathy for parents, they chose to have kids, they had kids, so why complain? Perhaps because you have almost no idea what it will really be like before doing it, so it is very difficult to know if it is a good or a bad idea. Like marriage, you start out assuming it’s a good idea and sometimes afterwards it no longer seems that way, no one really tells a beaten wife, “well, it was your choice to get married so why are you complaining now?” but I tell myself when I feel beaten down by parenting, “well, it was your choice to have kids.” That is an ANT by the way, an automatic negative thought which has been shown to be detrimental to brain health, in a round about way they cause inflammation and thus the mental has a path towards becoming physically damaging. Dive deeper with Daniel Amen’s TED Talk Change Your Brain Change Your Life.
I did chose to have kids, I was 30, I was married, so I didn’t expect to struggle like a one legged, drug addict, teen mom would. Then when I started to burn out, it wasn’t okay with me. Sure my husband shamed me, my family expected me to do better, but the worse critic was myself.
So I needed Robyn Koslowitz’s article “The Burnout We Can’t Talk About: Parent Burnout” to give me permission to allow myself to admit that I was burnt out. I think it was obvious to most people around me, but especially right now during the pandemic, everyone is tired of bailing out everyone else emotionally, and it’s really a take care of your own mental health world right now, more than before.
Which is horrible for parents who do so much, and for kids who then rely more on the parents, who are then burnt out even more.
People who know me may already be tired of hearing me say the pandemic was the worst thing for parenting and I wish my kids were born far before or after, but I’ll say it again, for all the parents who are smiling through gritted teeth, trying to support seniors afraid of dying while almost wishing it was them dying instead so they wouldn’t have to do one more day of hearing increased whining and going through the “I don’t know when X will open again, sorry it’s closed” conversation one more time… The pandemic wasn’t movies with popcorn and chalk sidewalk drawings, it was getting bitten and kicked by big kids who were going crazy behind closed doors, and trying to pretend it wasn’t happening, and going into survival mode, sometimes regrouping, feeling better about life, then being unable to control the kids having panic attacks and regressions in just about every area of life.
Things were horrible, but denial was my go to coping mechanism, so it took a long time to even wonder if I was burnt out.
I was wondering what is the difference between being a mom, who semi or completely hates being a mom (depending on the day) and a burnt out mom?
The difference is wanting to escape. Fantasizing about leaving, which both my mother and my husband’s father actually did do. So it isn’t something I would want myself to want, it’s something I look down on. Yet I found myself unable to stop fantasizing about living a life in a quiet place, a place without the laundry, dishes, messes, emotional problems, medical and educational logistical decisions and other demands of children. I didn’t enjoy it, but I was compelled to keep fantasizing. Like cookie monster eating a cookie that was supposed to be an educational prop, I told myself to stop, but didn’t.
At first I dreamed of leaving the special needs child and taking the baby, then I dreamed of leaving them both, in an imaginary world where they would be cared for by someone great. I imagined a new start somewhere else, with no family, no husband, no kids, no room mate, no lover, no pet, just silence. Delicious silence, and sleep. More sleep that 8 hours, maybe 8.5 hours, or even 9 hours! It feels good just typing that. The good life, 9 hours of sleep if I wanted it, it’s been about six years since I’ve had that.
Burnout was coined by Freudenberger in 1974 and parental burnout has been studied independently, but the concept is more taboo.
In America the gender norm used to be, men work, women take care of babies, cook and clean. I think it is now, men work and help with kids, women work shittier jobs for less (on average, not everyone) and take care of babies, help turn on the kid’s tablets, buy take out, and clean. So the idea of parents, especially women, not loving the drudgery of child care, is kind of offensive to the gender norms, and if women don’t love taking care of babies what even defines a women then? So to avoid that can of existential worms, women kind of have to enjoy taking care of babies, and to make it fair men can have to enjoy it too, but woman can’t not enjoy it, or shame!
It wouldn’t make sense for parents to have kids if they hated taking care of kids would it? It wouldn’t make sense for men to get married if they enjoyed free choice of sexual partners either, would it? It wouldn’t make sense to sit kids down for school since they learn better while moving, would it? It wouldn’t make sense to elect presidents that already have dementia, would it?
The parenting relationship is crucial to children’s psychological development. Attachment, or the lack thereof, can be damaging. That’s why it’s so threatening to even consider the possibility that parents can burn out. But if we can’t think about it, we can’t do anything to address it.
– Robyn Koslowitz
Burn out is an ugly thing for kids, but it’s really ugly for the parents as well, but since it’s bad for both parties I guess it’s more important to find a way out than to find fault with society or the parents or the kids.
The world misunderstands challenging children, and it’s up to us to explain them to everyone. Simple tasks, like getting our kids on the school-bus, to brush their teeth, or to eat dinner become massive jobs requiring Herculean effort. Homework time with kids isn’t anyone’s idea of a good time. Try doing homework with a child who erases every letter that isn’t shaped perfectly, or who can’t stick to a task for more than three minutes straight. Then multiply a few siblings, who just have the neurotypical struggles and life demands. Add in some soccer practice, maybe a boss asking for some at-home work and throw in a toothache for good measure. For some people, this would be a nightmare. For others, it’s just called “Tuesday.”
– Robyn Koslowitz
Robyn’s article really resonated with me, because I have a special needs child, and I would never have understood how much it’s annoying when they rewrites their letters and can’t get through a three minute task at age five. It’s not cute in real life, it’s not a wonderful opportunity to learn about my child and myself and cultivate patience, but rather a drain on my will power that I get through, and then have less energy than I would if I didn’t have to deal with it.
In essence, burnout prevents parents from being present emotionally with children, its ugly, but it’s true.
I think in the past there wasn’t an expectation a factory working parent would come home and then teach meditation to their kids, and “just be there” to hear about how hard it is that they don’t have an iphone and “everyone else” does… but there sure is that expectation now, that parents are there to feed the emotional needs of the kids. Before becoming a parent I thought kids would just kind of handle that sh*t themselves, like my sister and I did, but if I tell that to just about anyone, they will think I’m a monster. I have a burden of needing to co-regulate sometimes (though I do let the kids soothe themselves often), being expected to soothe an unsoothable child, being their advocate, noticing the different temperaments of my shy and diva kids, trying to help both to learn stress coping mechanisms that suit them… modern society expects parents to be psychologists with pretty much no training, and in my case, no desire to be a psychologist.
In real life, I am constantly cleaning mold, doing laundry, just started potty training my younger, weaning my younger of milk at night, doing dishes, meeting with the doctor of my older, giving treatments to the older one, and today I noticed my older child is depressed, and needs MORE comfort, attention, intervention… and I in all honesty HATE that right now.
When your children cry out for help, and you hate it, that’s a sign of burnout.
So, I noticed I was burnt out eventually, and all the articles suggest self care, which often on paper is basically more stress to do more stuff like exercise, when you are already over burdened.
Life is already too hard, so what you are suggesting to fix it is do a lot more hard stuff then?
I talked to my dad about being burnt out, as he was a single father of two, I thought he might have ideas, but I felt really disappointed when he recommended exercise. I had been exercising while I was burnt out, it’s good for a number of reasons, but it wasn’t fixing the burn out, also my father didn’t exercise when we were kids so he wasn’t speaking from experience but rather from the collective trends of today.
I think what it comes down to for now, is starting family therapy. My husband refused to go on Zoom, or at all until things are all the way back to normal (it will be over a year for our family), but my daughter is depressed TODAY.
I wanted to all be on the same page, if I saw improvement with my daughter’s mental health I wasn’t going to push for therapy that my husband is against doing or paying for… but although the anxiety has improved, the depression is worse, so I’ll fight for getting a real therapist to be my daughter’s therapist (instead of me trying to be a therapist, since I hate that stuff on a good day and can’t even try on a bad day).
Marilyn Wedge wrote an article that gave me hope, 4 Misconceptions About Family Therapy, spoiler alert, it says family therapy is a whole different thing than normal therapy, that it usually does help, and in 7 sessions. Perhaps she is biased since she makes money selling that stuff? But I trust her.
So, even though it will be a pain to get it set up, and do it, I will start seeking professional help again. I’ve tried in the past, and had so many rejections for our insurance, on paper my insurance has “so many providers standing by to help,” on paper “there are so many options for people who need mental health care,” but in real life money changes hands and therefore it’s very bureaucratic how, when, and who, has what options, and when.
So basically I’m burnt out trying to council my child, maybe because I never should have had to? Or maybe because I am not a good person since I don’t love child care and I am a woman? But bottom line I can’t solve my child’s mental health issues by singing Daniel Tiger songs at the right time, I’m going to get help from someone who probably can help, and my husband will pay for it more than he emotionally supports me to set it up.
He was stressed at work because a necessary team member transferred out, and they lost one person they needed to complete all the work of the shop. Management will either have trouble getting someone for awhile, or intentionally milk the situation to over work the remaining employees, who just won’t be able to get the same amount of their work done while covering the other workers thus not really saving much for the company in the long run.
In a way, I am both the management and the workers, I’m being cheap to get the help I really need, and also working myself to hard, and missing activities that did benefit the kids and me, while trying and failing to do the work the psychologist could be doing much better and faster than I could.
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
– Abraham Lincoln
So, shot an email to my child’s neurologist hoping for a recommendation and here’s to finding a solution that way or in another way. It’s a tentative process for me because of the logistics of mental health care not being as streamlined as advertised and the loss bias of not wanting to invest time and money with absolutely no guarantee therapy will really help at all, but if my kids couldn’t speak, we would go to speech therapy, if they couldn’t walk, we would go to physical therapy, so if they cant’ cope I guess family therapy it is. What actually held me back the last time was a six month wait caused by the pandemic, that was December, so we would still be waiting even if I had already “got in line” as a new patient… Real life, slower progress than preferred.
Been entertaining the past two weeks and the morning after I couldn’t find the new instruments for music time, didn’t have a good charge on my daughter’s school computer and in general noticed there are tons of toys everywhere, built up to discard bags in the closet and built up garden supplies waiting to be used. In essence it was time to declutter and clean again.
The main focus was the playroom, which smelled moldy. Behind the bed debris and toys had molded, I had to rotate the bed frame, which I realized was in a bad place as far as accessibility and traffic flow. It’s been a wet winter in our especially wet area, so therefore, mold has to be constantly addressed. I love the mold prevention spray we use now, I notice the places I do spray need to be cleaned a lot less or not for mold. The window sills were molding each week before, my daughter’s wooden desk hasn’t molded after it was applied, the back of the bed frame and the bottom of the mattresses were molding before and aren’t anymore.
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We finally got life vests for everyone and want to try kayaking with the kids, that is exactly the kind of stuff I want to do more in life and I want to be cleaning less (but still have a clean house) so I turn to minimalism where perhaps others would delegate, get help from family or pay someone.
Less stuff > Less cleaning > More Ocean Adventures (Hopefully)
I reread the first of my Konmari Monday articles today, I moved out of my old home of about 6 years since writing it. So much has changed in regards to what I keep and let go of…
Now I have a garden so there is that clutter magnet, now I am not by relatives that would need anything my kids used, now I live somewhere everything you own has to be cleaned because there is no way to store it in good condition otherwise.
It seems I always interpret circumstances as driving me further and further towards minimalism, but again I feel that way. Less stuff around makes cleaning easier, makes mold easier to keep at bay.
In my quanta system:
Level 1 would be hoarding,
Level 2 would be “collecting” that is semi-hording and semi-normal,
Level 3 would be the imaginary normal life with a box in the attic, but clear rooms,
Level 4 would be minimalism,
Level 5 would be the Konmari “Mythical Legendary Master Status.
My home got to a level 2 in just two weeks of ignoring it…
But just about a day of cleaning got me back to level 3, mostly.
The room I cleaned has a better layout now, the organization of toys, books, clothes and the Google Home Screen has changed. I took one video call, it was an easier angle. The kids seemed more happy to play there again. The mold smell is gone. It makes me feel hopeful that I’m going to be able to use it well for a school room and play room.
I blocked the gaps next to the bed with reused foam so no more toys or weird things fall through the cracks where it’s hard to clean, that should help keep the room more fresh than before.
All the stuffed toys got washed and dried, the bedding is drying right now, so once I finish cleaning the window sill and the last 1.5 boxes of clutter, plus the top of the closet shelf, the room should be nice and fresh.
The books all got moved, but it feels like the wrong place still, as does the stuffed animal herd.
So unlike Konmari I did focus on location, but I did check all my daughter’s clothes at the same time, a kind of hybrid approach. As far as my clothes I don’t think I have much extra, maybe some underwear that is too tight and can go (which is the same size as ones that do fit weirdly, poor manufacturing perhaps). My son’s diapers, we are done with them, but I don’t know off hand if anyone will take used cloth diapers in real life… they are cute, but they have elastic that needs to be replaced as it ages and that doesn’t seem worth the effort. Eventually I’ll have to research it… but perhaps I should just let it go.
My old schedule was:
8 Breakfast, 9 Teach School, 10 Exercise, 11 Lunch, 12 Freeplay/Writing, 1 Teach Music, 2 Mum and Me with Daughter, 3 Outside Play Mum and me with Son, 4 Dinner, 5 Video Call with my Sister to Tutor Daughter so I can do ASL with Son, 6 Kids play together I relax, 7 Kids play with dad.
My new one will be:
7 Breakfast, 8 School, 9 Cooking, 10 Exercise, 11 Lunch, 12 Freeplay/Writing, 1 Music, 2 Outside or Building Blocks, 3 Reading or Signing or Language, 4 Dinner, 5 Video Call with Dad for Kids, 6 EQ Journal and Tidy Up, 7 Settle Down.
Schedules and cleaning always seem to go hand and hand, in physics time and space are actually one force like electricity is magnetism, and for me I need less physical clutter to have mental space to be brave enough to make a new schedule.
I have a coffee cart, I think I want to move the books and papers there, and hopefully go through my clothes. I feel like I don’t have an clutter that is clothes or books or paper, but if I actually count everything maybe I will find out I did. Either way I want to approach all those three categories together since I don’t have much of any of them.
I feel better about the future this year than last year, last year there were too many unknowns to really thrive for me, I did my best, but it was just too chaotic to really fully relax.
Reading the past five Konmari sessions I realize I took so many steps backwards last year that I’ve only gotten to the place I was last August, in terms of organizing, in terms of routines, in therms of living my best life, but maybe that’s enough, maybe everything is fine.