Welcome to my Universe!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

I'm a sucker for a cute face.

We're in the midst of several days of warm spring rain, so I look forward to soon having some pictures to post of new seedlings in the garden. I have broccoli and cabbage transplants out there, in additional to several squares of seeded veggies. I think I saw a little bit of green in the kale patch today.

I had a bit of trouble in the beginning keeping the stray cats from next door (a vacant house) from digging in the garden and using it as their litter box. It didn't take but a couple of days before I was fed up, and I bought a Spray Away motion-activated sprinkler to keep them out. It doesn't always go off when it's supposed to, but all-in-all, the cats seem to be slightly afraid of the garden now.

So...

I've had serious puppy-lust for quite some time now, but I denied myself (and my kids, who don't have a whole lot of fun with our 14-year-old Toy Manchester Terrier, Rocky) the pleasure in the name of "sensibility". However today, on an innocent trip to Walmart for bagged spinach, there was a little girl by the entrance with a "FREE PUPPIES" sign. Upon inspection, I was faced with the cutest little black lab-mix puppy faces, and I couldn't resist. They had been sitting in the 80-ish degree heat in the parking lot all day, five of the little chubby dears in a dark blue Rubbermaid bin. They were tired and thirsty and forlorn-looking, so I rescued one.

She doesn't have a name yet. I think we are all in love with her.

Friday, March 20, 2009

So, what does your garden grow?

When we moved into this house a year ago, there was absolutely nothing but weeds growing in the flower bed beside the house. I dug it up and planted some flowers and herbs. It looked pretty decent until the weeds took over again...right now it doesn't look much different than it did before I touched it. However, for the first time EVER, I finally got some rosemary to survive through the winter. It thrived last summer and grew to at least 10x its original size. Surprising, my thyme and oregano also survived. I also have some peppermint in the herb garden, which is not even in the same place as I put it last year. I'm hoping it will do what mint does, and take over that spot before the weeds do.


I also have an abundant crop of dandelion growing all over the yard. I know, I know, dandelions are weeds, right? Well, actually, the scientific name for dandelion is Taraxacum Officinale, which means "the official remedy for disorders".



Dandelion greens are full of vitamins, and when picked young in the spring, they are delicious. I have been using a few dandelion leaves each day in my green smoothies. I also hear that you can make wine from dandelion flowers. Hmmmm...sounds like a fun project for later in the season.

I've been gardening with earthboxes for the past few years, but they just don't fit my needs any longer. They are sitting in the back yard by the fence, out of the way, still full of last year's soil. I decided to take the covers off a few of them and stick in some spinach seeds to see what happened. A couple of days later, mysterious holes were dug into the surface of the soil. I do believe that squirrels find spinach seeds tasty.




Ok, back to the square foot garden.

Even though the NEW Square Foot Gardening book suggest wide wooden strips, or even vinyl slats from old blinds, as the dividers for the grid, I decided to keep it simple. I used jute twine and upholstery tacks to keep them in place. I like the rustic look of the jute, and I don't mind having to replace it next year. It took me 30 mins max to put all the twine in place for the grids.

I also found a lightweight metal trellis on clearance at Wal-Mart for $19, so I installed it on the north end of one of the beds for peas to climb on. I used jute as a guy wire to give it a little more stability.






Up next...planting in the square foot garden!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Worms!

Even though this is gardening-related, it deserves a post of its' own.

While I was on my second trip to Lowe's yesterday, the mail lady delivered The Second Coolest Package Ever.



Red Wigglers!

In researching my interest in starting a compost bin, I came across some information on vermicomposting. I had heard about it before, and even know some homeschoolers that do it, but I always thought it was complicated. On reading more about it, I discovered how simple it can be!

We eat alot of fruits and veggies in my house (hence my desire for a backyard garden), so I have lots of food for worms. Not to mention...hello, I own a coffee shop! Coffee grounds are like ice cream to worms!

Red Wigglers are the most commonly used composting worms, and they can eat half their body weight every day! Worms are vegans, so you can feed them just about anything that came from a plant. No animal products, cheeses, dairy, or oils for the worms, though.

I ordered my worms online ($28 for about a pound), and starting collecting food for them. In the week that it took to get the worms, we collecting a large bowl full of orange and apple peels, potato peels, leftover pizza crust, egg shells (the only animal product that is ok for the worms, as it gives them calcium), leftover pasta (without sauce), banana peels, etc.




So, for the "worm house", I took a Rubbermaind bin that I had (I actually had several, which is how I got the extra lid. This is important, because you will need something underneath the bin to catch the "worm tea") and with my handy drill and a 1/8 inch bit, drilled several holes all over the bin. Under the bottom so the excess moisture can drain, and on the lid and sides for ventilation. It's important that the holes aren't too big so your worms don't escape. Since the holes are so small, I must have drilled at least 100 of them.



Next, Seth and I tore newspaper into strips and added them to the bin. (Worms love newsprint! No glossy paper, please.) We dampened the newspaper, because worms need moisture...not soaking wet though, because worms can't swim!


A couple of handfuls of soil from the garden (the grit helps the worms' digestion), the food we have saved, and then the worms!



I later read that orange peels are too acidic and worms can't take but a little at a time, so I picked out the majority of the orange peels. I got some coffee grounds and filters from the coffee shop and added a few of that too. The food is underneath the bedding, to control fruit flies and any odor. We are keeping them in the family room right next to the back door, because worms are kind of delicate and need temperatures to be between 55 and 85 degrees. It's still getting down to the 30s and 40s at night here in eastern NC.




The worms are quiet, they don't smell, and they don't need to be let out at night...which is more than I can say for my dog and cats! I am looking forward to having some beautiful worm compost for my garden in a few months!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Vermicu-what?

I searched every home improvement and hardware store for a 20 mile radius, and no one had any vermiculite. My understanding is, vermiculite (which is added to Mel's Mix for the purpose of holding water in the soil), is made from a mined mineral, and so is not "sustainable". Therefore, lots of places don't carry it. (Even though I've read conflicting arguments on the whole sustainability issue). Home Depot in Rocky Mount had Perlite, but from what I've read it's a poor substitute, so I didn't get any.

Two trips to Lowe's (about 700 lbs each in the back of my Jeep Cherokee), and I had my soil ingredients. What I ended up with for each bed was: 2 large bales of sphagnum peat (about 8 cu ft each when not compacted), 2 cu ft of generic "organic compost", 2 cu feet of cow manure compost, 1 cu ft of mushroom compost, 2 cu ft of "soil conditioner", which looked a bit like pine bark compost, and 4 cu ft of a potting mix for vegetables. I picked this potting mix because it happened to contain some vermiculite. This gave me about 27 cu ft for each 4x8 bed. The beds are 10 inches deep, and the mix filled them to about 2 inches from the top.



I made the first trip to Lowe's alone...loading the heavy bags onto the rolling cart thing, dragging it to the checkout, loading them into the Jeep, then unloading them at home. For the second trip, I dragged my man-labor with me...



I poured the bags straight into the bed, mixing them the best I could as I went along. Every once and a while I would stop and spray the water hose on the whole thing. When we were done, we had a couple of good-looking raised beds.




Tomorrow, the grids...
(Mel Bartholomew says that if you don't have grids, it's not Square Foot Gardening!)


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Spring fever, and raised beds.

The kids and I went to the library yesterday, and I got three books to feed my latest obsession. Night and day, I am thinking about getting my hands dirty and planting a beautiful, abundant vegetable garden. I picked up a book on gardening in 20 minutes a day, one on companion planting, and for the first time ever, my library actually had the specific book I went in there looking for! Square Foot Gardening, by Mel Bartholomew. I've already devoured that one, and am 1/4 of the way through the companion planting book.

Not only have I been reading about gardening...last night I went to Lowes and bought MORE seeds, and three 2x10x16 feet long pieces of lumber. I had them cut into four 8 foot and four 4 foot lengths. Today the corners that I ordered from Gardener's Supply Company arrived in the mail, and I was finally able to take the first step toward building my raised beds. My husband and two youngest boys pitched in, and within a half an hour we had two 4x8 raised beds (unfilled) in the yard.





I put flattened cardboard boxes underneath them, then covered that with newspaper.

This will help kill the grass and weeds, and by the time my plants' roots grow that deep, the cardboard and newspaper will have begun to deteriorate. Eventually it will be compost.









Tomorrow I will be out hunting for the ingredient's for "Mel's Mix" (the soil that will fill my beds), which is 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 vermiculite, and 1/3 blended compost. According to "Square Foot Gardening", this is the perfect soil mix, and I won't ever have to cultivate my soil again! I tell you, this book definitely lives up to the hype, if for no other reason than it has gotten me more excited about gardening than I've ever been before!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

What happened to spring?

I am a little dismayed at the return of the cold, rainy North Carolina winter-like weather. I am waiting on some corner brackets to come in the mail from Gardeners.com so I can build two raised beds in the yard. I have such an itch to get my hands dirty this year! I have been gardening in Earthboxes for the past five years or so, but last year it became clear that they were no longer big enough for my gardening dreams. This year will be my first venture into raised-bed gardening, or square foot gardening, as gardening legend Mel Bartholomew coined it. I will be posting pictures of each step as I go through the process of building, filling, and then planting my gardening beds! I'm so excited!

Another thing I'm excited about is....well, I'm not going to tell you yet. Let me just say that I am awaiting the second coolest thing I've ever received in the mail! The #1 coolest thing ever was of course...



My bees! I remember the postmaster calling me on the phone, "Um, Jennifer......we have some BEES up here for you. You're going to have to come pick them up." Apparently my mail carrier didn't want them in her vehicle! It was a thrill to pick up this humming, vibrating, writhing box of bees from the post office.

I didn't bring my bees with me when I moved to town a couple of years ago...but I'm about to get something else that will be much less offensive to the neighbors. Stay tuned!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The message is there if you are ready to hear it.

I've been fighting a nasty cold for the past two days, and when I woke up this morning I wasn't ready to get out of bed. I really wished I had my laptop in the bedroom, but decided that it was too cold to get out of bed and retrieve it from the office. I remembered that I had a book in my bedside table drawer, so I reached over and picked up "Ask and It Is Given" by Esther and Jerry Hicks. The book had been there for months, maybe even a year, and I had only read the first chapter. Although I have some Abraham-Hicks audiobooks that I have also listened to periodically, the message just never really clicked with me. I have preferred other books on the Law of Attraction over the Abraham-Hicks ones.

I picked up the book and turned straight to chapter 2, entitled "We Are Keeping Our Promise to You--We Are Reminding You of Who You Are". My interest was piqued, and I imagined that "they" were speaking directly to me. (If you've never read any Abraham material, "they" is Abraham, which is supposed to be Source Energy, as channeled by Esther Hicks).

They say, "We write this book to reawaken within you your memory of the power and inevitable success that pulses through the core of that which you really are. We write this book to assist you in returning you to your place of optimism, positive expectation, and expanding joy; and to remind you that there is nothing that you cannot be, do, or have. We write this book because we promised you we would. And now, as you hold this book in your hands, you are completing a promise you made as well."

I closed my eyes for a few minutes and focused on my breathing, feeling Source Energy flow through me. I focused on the idea that "they" (Abraham, Source Energy, whatever you choose to call it) is me, and I am them. I really do believe that I chose this life before I was born into it, and everything that has happened thus far have been part of the path that I chose. The broken hearts, the love lost, the addictions, the struggle... I cannot and will not regret one bit of it because it has brought me to this place.

Now, in the 40th year of my life, I feel that I am awakening to my purpose. I am choosing joy now, I am remembering why I am here. Every day, however fleetingly, I feel inspired to follow my heart on this, and to help other people understand what I know from my years of seeking. I know that I am ready now for the second half of my life to be joyous, fulfilling, and productive.

This reminds me of a Daily Quote I got in my email the other day, also from Abraham-Hicks. (I highly recommend you subscribe...it's free and very uplifting!) The quote was:

"Every single person on the planet and every single Consciousness in the Universe has the same experience of being here and having a desire to be there. In other words, it is the promise of this eternal Universe… You’re always, always, always going to be on your way to something more—always. And when you relax and accept that, and stop beating up on yourself for not being someplace that you’re not, and instead, start embracing where you are while you keep your eye on where you’re going—now life becomes really, really, really fun."

In other words...we will always have unfulfilled desires. It's human nature. We are never supposed to be fully satisfied, because if we were, we would stop evolving. Instead of thinking from a place of lack, we should be excited about the things that we want that we don't have yet, because we know they are coming. If we can find joy where we are now, while we still look forward to the things we don't have yet with excitement, we have learned a very valuable lesson. If we are constantly feeling sorry for ourselves because we don't have our desires, then we will NEVER be happy because we will always, always want more than we have.

We must choose to be happy NOW!

Right now, I am sitting at my desk, looking out the window at today's clear blue sky, watching the leafless trees sway in the breeze, and hearing my two young boys laughing and playing in the next room. I am grateful that I am not spending today at a soul-sucking job, and my children are not being brainwashed and oppressed in a classroom full of other bored, oppressed children. I am grateful for my health, my loving husband, and my friends. This is a wonderful life that I have chosen, and I am excited for my future.

Thank you for reading! Make a list of the things you are grateful for today!

Ask and It Is Given: Learning to Manifest Your Desires

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Free yoga!

I attended a local yoga class last week. I had been wanting to go for a long time, but probably procrastinated for fear of being an "outsider". Anyway, my friend Alice couldn't go with me as we had planned, so I went alone.

There were only four other students in the class, all older than me. It was so laid-back and relaxed, I immediately felt welcome and comfortable. The class was alot of fun, and I resolved to myself to start doing 20 minutes of yoga each day on my own.

Well, I didn't follow through with my daily yoga practice, but today an online friend turned me onto YogaDownload.com. They offer free 20 minute yoga classes (with or without optional pdf pose guide) that you can download to your computer or MP3 player! I just downloaded four classes and am planning on doing one before I go to bed. Maybe it will help me to fight off this nasty cold!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Happy Square Root Day, fellow math nerds!

From Wikipedia:

Square root day is a humorous holiday celebrated on dates where the day and the month are both the square root of the last two digits in the current year. For example, the last square root day was March 3, 2009 (3/3/09), and the next square root day will be April 4, 2016 (4/4/16). The final square root day of the century will occur on September 9, 2081. Square root days fall upon the same nine dates each century.

Bill Rogen, a Redwood City, California high school teacher, first created the day for 9/9/81. Bill is the official public relations person and sends news releases to world media outlets. In addition, his mother has got in on the act and set up a MySpace page for people to share how they were celebrating the day.

One suggested way of celebrating the holiday is by eating square radishes, or other root vegetables cut into shapes with square cross sections (thus creating a “square root”).

Monday, March 2, 2009

Designing my life

I am reading Bob Doyle’s “Wealth Beyond Reason”, and have gotten to the part where I am supposed to write down what I want. The text instructs the reader to write down exactly, in detail, what he or she wants. The purpose of doing so is to get “into a vibration that is in resonance with HAVING those things that you are writing down”…so, instead of writing, “I want a new car”, we are instructed to write “I have a new car”. Then we are to go a step further. We are to express emotion in our words, thus shifting the vibration from wanting the car to being that we already have the car. (The car just being an example, of course).

So, first I brainstormed and wrote down 12 things that I want. Then, I went back and imagined myself already having those things, and felt the feelings that would be associated with having those things. I wrote details and emotions, and I have to admit, writing the list and imagining having the things felt really, really good.

Here’s my list: (incomplete and scattered, as is the nature of brainstorming)

1. I feel so free. I wake up each day rejuvenated and excited for the day ahead. I know that each day is mine to do what I want and go where I want to go, with no obligations. The things that I must do that are planned or scheduled are things that bring me joy and make me feel like I am contributing something wonderful to the world. Each day is an adventure, and my children are growing into wonderful people who will know that there are no limitations to what they can do, have, and be in their lives. I feel that I am living my life to its fullest potential.

2. I feel light, energetic, and strong. I feel ageless, and I love my body.

3. Whenever I step into my new, beautiful class-A motorhome, I am happy knowing that we have a comfortable home on wheels in which to explore this vast continent of ours. We love to get into our RV and drive without a set plan or destination, stopping along the way to see all sorts of interesting things and places.

4. I love old houses. Old houses have souls. I love to take old houses that are sad and neglected, and bring them back to their original splendor. It makes the houses happy, and gives them a whole new life. People love restored houses and will pay top dollar for them too, which is another way that I can improve the world we live in while making a very nice income.

5. My family and I love to travel the world. Soon, we are going to tour Europe for a whole summer. We also have made plans to visit Egypt, take an African safari, take extended vacations in Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific. We are also planning on spending a summer in Asia. We love the ocean, and take many luxury cruises. I feel so free and happy when visiting new places. It is wonderful to meet new people from all over the world.

6. The older I get, the more I want to learn. I get excited when I think of all the things that I’ve yet to learn. Each new thing that I learn makes me feel more enriched and complete. I have learned to speak Spanish and French. I have learned to play the guitar and the piano, and also have taken voice lessons. It makes me so happy to sit with my family and friends and play music and sing together. Music is so good for the soul. I have learned advance web design and have many successful websites now that bring me a passive income. I finally learned many advanced photography techniques, and now I can take pictures like a professional. I love to take pictures of the different places that I travel and post them on my travel blog. I feel that my mind keeps expanding with each new thing I learn.

7. I constantly amaze myself with how creative I am. In addition to my photography, I am a prolific blogger, and I have many regular readers who find my writing entertaining and refreshing. I am working on my third book, and I find the words come easily when I sit down to write. I feel so blessed to be a gifted writer. I am even starting to write some songs. I have found that I am good at promoting our town, and the community hub that we have created is a huge success. People have said that it’s like no other place they have ever been.

8. I have a 100 acre farm here in eastern NC, and when I feel like a quick trip back to nature, this is where I go. I feel so capable when I can catch my own dinner in the river there. We have chickens, which are free-range, and we sell organic eggs to many people and businesses in the county. We also have goats, and make the best organic goat cheese. We grow many organic fruits and vegetables in the summer, and also have a large beekeeping operation. The farm is self-sustaining, paying its own expenses and payroll for our farm employees by selling it’s organic eggs, produce, honey, and cheese to people for many miles around. We have established quite a reputation for ourselves, and even give tours of our farm to school children from the area. We have a hayride which is very popular. I have wonderful, dependable employees that run the farm for me, so I never have to worry about things when I’m away, which is most of the time.

9. I also own the only health food store in our town, which in addition to the normal health food store fare, sells items from our farm. We have a large room in back where we sometimes have classes on nutrition and cooking. It gives me great joy to offer this to our community, and many people have said that they regained their health after attending some of our programs and classes.

10. As much as I love to travel, I am also very content and happy in my home. My dream home…a fully restored Victorian on the town common. Sitting on my front porch, sipping tea, looking out across the beautiful town common, I feel like I am on a permanent vacation. My home is wonderful for entertaining our many friends, which I love to do on a weekly basis. From our house we can hear the Symphony when it plays on the common each spring. I feel so happy and blessed to live in such a beautiful old home in such a peaceful, happy town.

11. My home away from home is a four bedroom oceanfront house on the Outer Banks of NC. I have loved the ocean since I was a small child. Sitting on the deck of my house listening to the waves and watching the dolphins swim by, I feel most at peace.

12. It makes me happiest of all to see the men that my children are becoming, and knowing that I was and am able to provide them with so much love, adventure, and happiness in their lives. They know that their are no limits to what they can achieve, and I feel that these three loving, intelligent people are my greatest gift to the world.