Saturday, January 30, 2016

Goal Roll Call: January

JOY OH JOY!!!  Presents arrived in the mail this week!  Yes, I know this is the goals blog and I promise I will get to that very important topic but first I have to tell you about my presents!  I have several friends who live in Iowa and one of them sent me a lovely gift.  She grows a huge garden every year and saves her own seed.  Occasionally I offer my services as a garden consultant to her (meaning she asks a couple of questions and I get to talk her ear off about way more info than she probably wants or needs).  She blessed me with a big box of canna bulbs and a selection of some seed that she has saved.

My presents!

I am so excited about these seeds as she grows organically and only uses heirloom seeds.  In fact I believe she is even more picky about her seed’s status than I am as I am often given or somehow acquire a variety of seed that may or may not be organic / heirloom / or open-pollinated.   While I would prefer that particular list, that is not true of all my seed.  Anyway, back to my wonderful present.  I received two kinds of tomatoes: a beefsteak and a German Stripe early indeterminate tomato which has red and yellow stripes.  I believe she has grown and saved the seed from this one for a couple of years.   My friend was really excited about the Ponento pepper that she has grown for 3 years and had great success with in her hot summers.  Hopefully it will be happy in our cooler ones here.  Green beans and multicolored Zinnias finish out the package.  I am gleeful.

My cannas are red with green leaves and will probably look something like this.
Photo credit: http://www.nutshellnursery.com.au/canna-generalis-canna-lily/  
The canna pictured is called President.

In just a few days January 2016 will be ripped off the big calendar to make way for February.  It went by too quickly, but then when it is winter and cold, I don’t mind the winter months going by fast.  My first post of the New Year talked about my goals for this year in regards to the blog and gave my planned schedule.  I am happy to say that this being my sixth blog of the year means that I have been successful thus far with my blog. Yay me!

A dear friend and I have a phone call every week in which we hold each other accountable and encourage each other to do the good works that are our goals.  She encouraged me this week to celebrate my successes, to take note and acknowledge my progress, regardless of its standing on my self-imposed scale of perfection.  So, because I am attempting to obey her wise council, I will say again, Yay me!  See, I’m collecting goal points where ever I can.

I am enjoying creating chalkboards.  This latest one, which used to be an ugly metal holiday sign, now hangs in my Blessings Room encouraging me to be courageous.

So onto February which is typically a short dreary month in which not a lot happens in the garden and not too much excitement event wise, except of course for presents arriving in the mail.  For some reason I love to get mail and am always excited to get a letter or a gift… even if I ordered my gift.  Probably because as a child my mom would dutifully save all the box tops and UPC codes from cereal boxes and send them in to get small trinkets in the mail.  We got pencils and match box cars and plastic cereal bowls in the mail which she often would have addressed to a particular child.  Boxes in the mail were always fun.

So my goal for February is to get presents in the mail.  Um, no I am not asking you to send me something, (totally will NOT complain if you did though!) I am going to put in a big seed order.  While this world’s power structure is flawed and obviously unstable and has been for all of my life, signs of the times and rumors have led T and I to believe that time is short and trials lie ahead in the near future.  This is not a joyful, hopeful place to dwell and so we are putting our hope and trust in Him, the One who is in charge and is the source of our peace.  However, there are a few things I can do to prepare for… the something… that is coming.  One of them is to buy seeds that do fit my dream list mentioned above.

This is preparation that has the ability to bless many more people than just T and I.  The places we order seed from are mostly small family owned and operated businesses who will be blessed by an order.  Once we have the seed, any food we grow can be eaten by us and anyone who comes to us hungry.  We can teach others how to grow plants and give them seed to start their own gardens.  Finally, we can save the seed that we grow to multiply it for the next year.  One cannot hoard seed as it has an expiration date.  It has to be used, passed on for it to multiply.  What better use for money which may or may not have value in the near future?  Perhaps this concern for a calamitous near future will be yet another false alarm, if so, I will have a great store of seed.  I will then still have a great opportunity to bless others.

So, February’s goal is to do the tedious chore of drooling over multiple catalogs and laboriously deciding which varieties will be added to my list of desired plants.  Can you hear the snark in my tone?  I am going to have a blast.  Smile… no make that a huge SMILE!

Pile of seed catalogs I receive.  One that is missing is Johnny’s.

My list will include staples that are open pollinated, meaning that I can save seed from them and they will breed true as long as they are not crossed with another variety of the same plant.  Hybrids, while a wonderful option when seed is readily available from the grower, take about seven generations to develop a seed that breeds true.  Also I am interested in plants that grow well in my area.  This means that I will be looking at days to maturity, heat or cold tolerances, day length and soil preferences.  Not all my seeds will be annual food plants though.  I also want to get flowers and herbs as well as plants that attract beneficial insects and improve the soil.  I will be investigating different cover crop plants too.

My other goal for February is to paint the walls in the basement.  We are remodeling and rearranging our basement to accommodate guests, a War Room and an indoor garden space.  If you saw the movie War Room, you understand what I am talking about.  The War room will have the library, storage for T’s computer and work stuff, my piano, the prayer board and our household filing cabinet.  The guest room will have a new bed and dresser and a desk from my Blessings Room moved there.  Both the War room and the guest room need to be painted.

Future war room and library, it was once T’s office but we moved him upstairs where it was warmer and he now has a window.

This room was a half hearted attempt at a guest room combined with the library.
We are going to create a welcoming guest room with a real bed.

The indoor garden space will be in the big room where we are tearing up carpet, painting the floor, touching up paint on the walls, building a large potting bench and creating storage space for all my seeds.

Big room is a big mess.
The side with the slider will be revamped into a garden space
while the other side will be made into a sitting and workout area.
Hopefully we will still be able to use the ping pong table too.

Searching for the right blue to paint my potting bench. The true wall color is the yellow in the middle of the strip with the two corners of blue pointing in. It looks a lot brighter in person.

Perhaps February won’t be a boring month… at minimum it will be colorful!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

How to: Amaryllis

Amaryllis are perhaps not quite as common as poinsettias in December but they are pretty close for being a winter plant purchase.   While I understand that many people treat them as an annual or a cut flower and after blooming toss the bulb, my thought is this habit is simply for lack of information.  I have two amaryllis bulbs that I am going to show you how I grow and keep over for the next blooming season.

To provide some additional information,  I innocently googled amaryllis and quickly discovered that there is a dispute over the details of Sir Linnaeus’s nomenclature and a question of if the plant we are calling amaryllis today was the actual plant he was studying at the time he was naming plants.   I wonder if they throw dirt clods at each other in these heated contests of naming a plant?  In any case, amaryllis is the common name for the plant that I am speaking of and also the official Latin name of a completely different plant from a different continent (Africa).  That would be a bulb plant that I also grow, however it is outside and whose common name is Naked Lady.  Its leaves grow and die back before it blooms later in the summer.

Any how, the amaryllis’s Latin name is Hippeastrum, given to it by William Herbert, which means "Knight's-star-lily".  Apparently no one knows why he gave it that name and dirt clods and confusion abound.  And here you thought Latin was a dead boring language….

The details that actually matter to the care of this plant follow now.  Amaryllis (common name will be used here on to prevent more confusion and airborne dirt clods) hail from South America and are tropical plants.  Hence the reason they are grown indoors in North America.  It is a bulb plant that grows its flower first and then the leaves.  This is called hysteranthous.   No quiz later, but don’t you feel smarter?

Ok, now onto fun stuff.  One generally obtains a bulb in a box along with a peat block and a plastic pot, or if you are fancy (meaning more money invested) pre-potted and ready to grow.  I, readily admitting to a tight fisted grip on the non-growing green stuff, purchased a box last year labeled Apple Blossom from a box store.  It grew wonderfully for me and was beautiful.  After flowering, I cut off the hollow flower stem and let it grow leaves.  I then put it outside with the trees next to the greenhouse for the summer.  I have to admit that I didn’t baby it much.  It got watered occasionally, sat in full sun and pretty much got ignored.

Amaryllis, forced daffodils growing out the leaves, avocado tree, fig trees sitting outside the greenhouse in May.

Later that year, I brought the pot in around September, cut off all its leaves, stopped watering it and put it in the dark furnace room.  I marked the calendar to pull it out a couple of months later.  Middle of December, our hardware store was running a special on amaryllis bulbs, $3.99 I believe, and I succumbed to another bulb.  This time I chose a variety called Star of Holland which, according to the picture, has a white strip down the middle of each red petal.  It too came in a box and the bulb was the same size that the Apple Blossom was when I purchased it the year before.

My two bulbs, the Apple Blossom on the left, its former pot and the newly purchased one on the right.

I was impressed by how much the Apple Blossom had grown in a year’s time.  A general rule of thumb for bulbs is the bigger the bulb, the bigger the flower display, whether that be in number of flowers, size of flowers or overall size of the plant.  I pulled the Apple Blossom out of the pot and cleaned the soil off, pulled off the messy layers of dried skin and tried to untangle the roots a bit.  I was very surprised by how root bound the bulb was as you can see in the photo.  According to what I have read, they like to be root bound and the suggested size of pot is to be no larger than an inch or two more than the bulb.  Apple Blossom was potted up into an eight inch pot while I put the new Star into the old six inch pot.

Upon inspection, the new Star bulb had some moldy fuzz on the bulb and all the roots were dried up and brittle.  I cleaned it up and was a little worried if it would be ok.  It looked a bit naked and the moldy spot was a bit soft.  Next time open more boxes and look?  I thought that I had found the best one there.  Yes, I opened about 10 boxes and looked at the bulb inside before I bought this one.

Newly cleaned Star of Holland bulb…

Next, into the pots they go.  Amaryllis want to stand proud of the soil, 2/3 in and 1/3 out.  They do not like to be too wet either.  I use a potting mix with a bit of compost and some coir.  I do not use the peat block that comes with it because I have found it is usually filled with soil gnats.  They don’t do a lot of harm but they are very annoying and hard to get rid of.  Think fruit flies for soil and you get the picture of little swarms of black insects everywhere.

12 / 9 / 15  All potted and dressed up for display.

I put moss collected from the woods around the bulbs to dress up the top a bit and added a little bling.  Since these two pots are going to sit in front of the slider door part that we use to go in and out, I put them on a tray so they can be easily moved out of the way.  They will get way too tall to sit on the plant rack so on the floor they go.  Now I wait.

12 / 19 / 16  Added a couple of chairs to the pot… now I just need to find a miniature dog….

12 / 19 / 15  A bit of bud showing on Star…

12 / 25 / 15  They are growing!

1 / 1 / 16  Growing very quickly now.  I turn the pots almost daily to keep the stems straight.

1 / 9 / 16  A tad wiggly but going strong.  The difference between the two bulb sizes is very evident here.



1 / 16 / 16  Two flowers opened with two buds yet to go.  The Star has the beginning of flowers showing.

1 / 18 / 16  All four flowers are open on the Blossom and Star is showing color.  It amazes me how fast this grows.

1 / 18 / 16  All the wiggly bits and pieces of the flower are just as interesting to me as its beauty.  

A beautiful ALL red amaryllis….

It is pretty but NOT what the box said!  Star of Holland has wide white stripes down the middle of the red tepals (an amaryllis flower is made up of 3 petals and 3 sepals which are collectively called tepals) and this one definitely does not have white on the inside.  It does have some white on the outside of the sepals as shown below.  When I expressed my dismay to T, he asked me if I was going to take it back.  Well, no, of course not!  But still!

1 / 22 / 16  White on the outside, none on the inside.

1 / 22 / 16  So beautiful

1 / 23 / 16  I found T hunched over peering at the flower today and he pointed out the fact that the tepals look glittery, like they are covered with little crystals.  

1 / 23 / 16  Final shot of my beautiful amaryllis…. For this blog at least.

I am so happy with my Apple Blossom.  A second flower stalk is growing so I will have another set of blooms soon.  So my Star isn’t a star…. He shall be renamed Red.  I guess this just gives me an excuse to buy another bulb next year.  I’m thinking that amaryllis are like orchids… you can’t just have one!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Only 7 Pictures?

T jokingly (I hope) said that I could only have seven pictures in my picture blog, one for each day.  Well, I took 256 photos this week.  203 remained after culling fuzzy, awkward and duplicate shots.  Some were intentionally taken with future blogs in mind, but I did just have fun taking lots of pictures.  I actually was a little worried about the fact that I didn’t have a specific goal in mind.  I wondered if I would have anything interesting to share or if it would be ok if not all the pictures were plant focused or have a lesson with them.  So there is no specific order or theme to my collection of photos for this blog and I am going to be happy with that.  I just found a few pretty pictures and told their stories.

Stack of water rocks in the Ashitaba ‘s pot.

My family (Shannon’s side) enjoys hiking, outdoor activities and sports.  We are usually moving.  Back in December, most of us (missing 3 of the 21) went for a hike at a park on Lake Michigan.  The day was beautiful, I didn’t bring my camera, but I did pick up rocks on the beach.  I left most of them stacked on a big boulder along the trail for others to enjoy but did bring home these five.  I love the fossils in the top one.  Of course the colors all match too.

I LEARNED something!

Ok, a plate of food, normal enough dinner for us…  BUT I learned how to program the white balance on my camera and that was amazing!  No more yellow indoor pictures!  I’m so excited!  About time though right?  No, I have not YET read the 400 page instruction manual that came with my camera…

Ladies and Gentlemen, may I introduce you to sunrise.

Yep, I was awake for the sunrise one morning.  It was beautiful and it only happened that one time.  My circadian rhythm swings towards night owl rather than bright eyed and bushy tailed morning squirrel.  That would be my Mom.  However, it was beautiful and I thought about trying to make it a habit to take a picture of the sunrise every morning and then thought nah…. I like bed way too much and that would just make this one less special.  This attitude does not apply to sunsets though.

Michigan blue

My Dad made this little wooden cut out of Michigan which sits on my window sill over my kitchen sink.  It is about an inch and a half tall.  I love blue glass and anything that my dad makes is special.  He made one for each of us kids so no matter where we are, we always have home with us.

Glass blue bird

I found this figurine at a second hand shop a few years ago and it moves around my plant rack.  Sometimes it can be found in a pot, sitting out on the deck or displayed front and center.  Regardless of where it ends up, it always makes me smile.

Empty watering cans waiting to be filled.

Technically I water the indoor plants once a week.  Realistically, it happens whenever a plant looks thirsty.  I usually play with my plants a couple of times a week, checking leaves, dead heading, turning them so they grow evenly, and watering the extra thirsty ones.  It is a great procrastination chore because I’m still doing something productive… and it is a LOT more fun than doing the dishes.  I fill my watering cans with “waste” water (the water that you are waiting to get hot or cold goes into the watering can rather than down the drain) so it actually takes a while to refill them all.  Then I wait for the chorine to off gas before I use that water.  I have a bottom shelf on one of my plant racks for the water to live.  Usually I have one can that is being filled while the others are rotated.  I just happened to water everything all at once this week and wiped them all out at one time.

Glass hearts decorating the plant rack.

These hearts are leftover favors from my wedding.  While decluttering last month, I found a small box of them carefully packed away and I decided to display them.  Fancy ornament hooks bought on clearance added a touch of class to my sparkles.  Since they hang from the top shelf of the plant rack, they don’t impede much sun and they glow when the sun does decide to come out.  Note to self:  keep using the pretty stuff now, don’t save it for later because then you miss out on the joy of it now.

Boston Fern

This is a detail of my Boston Fern who is currently taking up almost the entire picture window in the living room.  It was a rescue from a friend who couldn’t bring it inside at first frost a couple of years ago and since then has been transplanted from its hanging basket to a large pot.  It has definitely enjoyed and used up the extra space and now has a diameter of about three feet across.  I love the way the leaves are so haphazard in growth but extremely organized in form.  This is one of the thirsty ones.

The plant rack…

So to finish this plant blog off, I’d better show you a few plants.  This little corner of my dining room gets lovely southern sun and I make the most of it.  Every plant has a story and so do most of the pots and decorations.  By no means is this the total head count of my collection but it is a large chunk of it.  Perhaps I’ll do a plant yearbook picture blog and tell you some of the stories.

I hope you enjoyed my little foray into randomness.  Hey, there were a couple of plant pictures so that counts right?  Let me know if there are any particular sorts of pictures or themes you would be interested in seeing and I’ll add it to the list.
Have a lovely week!

Friday, January 8, 2016

Change is Not Failure

Miniature worlds have been fascinating forever.  Right now fairy gardens, terrariums, miniature gardens and all the different possible decorative items to fill these worlds are trending.  The idea to create something small and perfect is alluring.  I have been playing with miniature landscapes since the sandbox days of childhood.  My mom was a big proponent of sending us outside to play in nature and use nature as our toys.  Perhaps I haven’t grown up all that much since then.

Turtle tea light candle holder repurposed to miniature planter.  
Collection of hens and chicks and sedum.

Glass globes are a new addition to my small world landscapes.  I obtained one on clearance and hurried home with my new treasure, plotting all the possibilities.  I found a Selaginella "Golden Moss" which I thought would be perfect.  Happily I hung him up and watered him faithfully and it was ok… for a while.  Then it died, just withered away to brown depressing strings.  I think the humidity was too low for it… I think….  In any case, failure yelled at me every time I saw it.

Version one of globe world.

I let it hang there for months before I finally decided to try again and remove this negative reminder of my failure.  I went searching for the perfect plant to put in it at Jonker’s Gardens, a local nursery at which I had once been an employee (we parted amicably and I still take clients there).   The owner, Mr. Jim reminded me of something important.  There really is no plant that will stay small permanently.  He told me it would be about four months before it would be too big and would need to be replaced.  Change…

See, I don’t like change.  In my desire to be perfect, the need for change means I wasn’t perfect.  If it was perfect, change would not be necessary.  Change just reminded me of my deficiencies.  I wanted to create a world that would stay perfect, untouched by well, reality I guess.   I know that it is necessary; life is always changing, growing, and adapting.  I understand change is good just as I resent it.  Perception is a funny thing.

In Integrated Forest Gardening, a permaculture book I am working my way through, I came across a paragraph talking about change, emphasis mine.

Creatively Use and Respond to Change: Use Adversity
Change is a matter of fact and life.  Just as things get comfortable, they change.  Expect constant change – fast and slow in everything from sunlight to temperature.  Do not be afraid of change. Prepare for it.  Take advantage of it.  Changes are an opportunity to improve.  The shift of energy can be used to create new energy and a new direction.  In an ecological frame of mind, look forward to change – especially seasonal change, without which you would have little opportunity to improve systems or enjoy any harvest at all.  Plants, animals, and trees base their lives on the living systems around them that have patterns of change; they respond to these changes and in many ways benefit.  (Weiseman, Halsey and Ruddock, 72)

Instead of focusing on the past and the failure itself, this encourages me to focus on the new opportunity presented by this, ahem, empty space.  This is grace.  As a teacher, it is my job to help my students work through problems and failures to learn the subject.  I do not expect them to master it on the first introduction or even the third in some cases.  Why do I believe that this grace extended to my beloved students is not available to me?

It was, it always is, but I did not see it due to the heavy load of self-inflicted rules and lines bowing my back, preventing me from looking up to see the gentle hand of my Heavenly Father reaching out to remove my burden.  Grace says, “I see your faults, mistakes and accidents and love you regardless.  Come, let us sweep up this mess and look for the lesson and try again.  Don’t stay in the ruined attempt, the broken glass, dead plants and failures, get up and forgive yourself and move forward little one.  You are loved, you are precious and you are not your failure.”

Change becomes a positive place in this perception.  It is not a reminder of the failure; it is a moving beyond failure to take the opportunity to succeed in the next development of the project.  Fear of failure, rebellion against change results in paralysis which leads to death.  You see, that which does not grow will die.  The plant that out grows its miniature world is alive, living and expanding.  That is to be celebrated, even if it means that it must get yanked out and replaced by another smaller version.  So I replanted the globe again.  This time with tiny succulents harvested from various plants in my landscape.

Version two of globe world just after planting.

I am understanding that it is ok for beauty to be fleeting, to enjoy a temporary moment of “coolness” before it is gone.  The enjoyment of the process is just as important as the end product.  I am not equal to the permanence of my creation.  So change may always make by breath catch and I may hesitate, but I hope that I am learning that when I am loved, it doesn’t matter.  It is not the level of outward perfection that He is concerned with, but rather the condition of my heart.  Is it soft and willing to change that which needs to be, or is it so engrossed in the tangled knot of failure that it is unwilling to be released from bondage?  I am loved.  I do not need to fear change.

Globe world six weeks later.



Sunday, January 3, 2016

To go from here to better

I know that I have not been intentional with the blog this past year.  Glancing at the number of posts for 2015 shows a very small number.  I know that this blog provides such an opportunity for me to share knowledge, joy and encouragement to others that I have decided to make a change and organize a more structured format.

T has started a new blog recording his and other’s thoughts as they journey through the scriptures in this next year, so this blog remains mostly in my hands to create posts for.  So during the month of December, I sat down and thought of all the themes that I generally cover in the realm of my life and gardening and organized them into the following schedule.

Week 1:  Lessons from the garden

This is where I express thoughts and ideas that apply to life in general, which were learned and observed in the garden setting.  They will often be spiritual in content as I firmly believe that as a follower of the Messiah, He is the most important thing in my life and accordingly everything revolves around my Heavenly Father.  He is the center of my life and is my life.  Of course there will still be pretty pictures of plants included with the story.

Week 2:  Picture a day / what is blooming this month or week / collection of photos on a particular topic

This idea was inspired by other people’s blogs on various topics.  One person sewed a new garment every day for a year; others created something new every week or month, another took a picture every day from the same spot.  The idea was to intentionally do something each day that was creative.  My goal is to follow that inspiration and to bring back having fun taking photos again.

Redbud tree in bloom this past spring.  I received this from the Holland Garden Club as a foot long stick on an Arbor Day years ago at the local library.


Week 3:  How to  OR   Why blog

This is where I explain how or why we do particular things.  Here is where I would answer questions given to me via the blog, related to the season or things I am interested in and have researched recently.  I would explain how we did a particular project from start to finish with pictures and descriptions.  The why questions would be explored and hopefully answered via a variety of sources and experiences as to why we do what we do or why something happens.  This search for truth could very well instigate change in our practices and thus is a good place to intentionally visit.

Week 4:  Goals

Without a clear detailed plan, most endeavors never go anywhere.  This is painfully obvious in last year’s blog history.  How many blog posts can you do of another pretty flower that everyone saw last year?  I would be bored making the blog post so I am sure you would be bored reading it.  In this blog I would describe the goals that we have for the following month, which could include garden chores, projects and plant growth as well as give updates on how the past month’s goals were or were not met.  A little accountability and transparency is good motivation for me and hopefully some neat project completions that we have planned to do in 2016 can be shown off a bit.

This is a great goal…  in the midst of worn out tulips, grass that needs cutting and too much to do…  just keep calm and garden on.

I hope to post a new blog every weekend.  Since January has five weekends in it, I decided that I would take this first week to introduce you to my new plan and goals.  The following four weeks will follow the general schedule.  Of course, if something awesome or amazing happens, that week’s plan may be replaced with the appropriate blog.  My idea is to have something of value every week for you, my dear reader that will instruct, encourage, delight or amuse you in a positive way.  I do not want to be an ugly thing in your weekly encounter, but instead to bring light and joy to your path.

A piece of artwork I sent in card form to a friend.  It is a promise that comforts me.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Year in review (2015)

Beginnings often require a glance back to see from where one has come to help focus on where one wants to go.  The first part of last year was heartbreaking, which was followed by a great revelation of a choice of love.  The night may be filled with tears, but in the morning we can sing for joy!  Psalms 30:5b  Join me for a stroll through last year…. Perhaps there are way too many pictures but how does one choose from the hundreds of photos taken over a year's time?

January

Although I made this chalk board tile and decorated it this past fall, I am putting it here as we didn't seem to get winter a second time this year.

We started out the year with a good amount of snow.  Lots of free nitrogen for the beds.

A gift from my sister Mary, Paperwhites forced in a cute teacup.

February

Snow and more snow for February.  It was so gloomy and so was I.  I was struggling with depression, feeling unworthy and questioning who I am and if the God I said that I believed in really could love me.  This struggle will steal one's joy faster than all the gloomy days of winter combined.

Grasses in my front bed decorated with frosting.

The snow did not slow down the large variety of birds who visit my feeders.  This little guy didn't care that I was snapping pictures of him, although he did keep a careful eye on me.

T spent a great deal of time shoveling off the deck and creating paths for Rooper and I to get out to do business.  No, we don't have an outhouse; my business was daily trips to the compost pile.

What to do when stuck inside by cold and snow?  Plan the garden!  I don't do winter outside sports despite living in one of the most perfect states for it.  I like to be warm.  Outside during winter is cold.  Therefore I do not go outside.  Here I am using both the Gardening App T has created and good old paper so I can color code all my garden beds and lists.

March

All the planning in February means that I am starting seeds in March.

Hopefully this will be the last year I work on the floor as T has plans to build me an indoor potting bench.  We are slowly perfecting our seedling production.  This is probably my favorite part of gardening, well besides the flowers and cool looking plants.  Planting the seeds and watching them come up and transplanting them.  It is new life despite the cold winter which is still lingering.

Beautiful onions bursting through the soil.  My seed is several years old so I planted too much, expecting poor germination.  I'd say germination was great.

The snow on Garden Bed #1 has finally melted to reveal smooshed kale.  It's time to clean up the beds for planting in April.

My birthday is at the end of March and my mom took a couple of sisters and me to paint-a-pot.  This year's creation is the swallow tail shown with a previous year's plate.  I always enjoy going despite being teased for taking FOREVER.  We are making art here people!  Actually, the ribbing is good natured and people seem to enjoy my efforts.

Self imposed tradition:  I must go to Fredrick Meijer Gardens during the Butterflies Are Blooming Event for my birthday.  This year Timothy took me and patiently followed me around as I took hundreds of pictures of all the butterflies and flowers and plants.

One of the gorgeous swallowtails.  I soak in the heat, the smell of green and the humidity.  I am happy in the big greenhouse.

This is a glass sculpture named Lena's Garden created by Dale Chihuly in the Taste of the Garden's CafĂ©.  It makes me smile.  It was snowing outside while we were there.  Long winter.

April

Spring is coming!  Plants are getting big and going into the greenhouse.  My Love has a birthday this month along with my Dad and a late cousin and uncle.  I am still struggling to be happy.  I am a perfectionist and while this is good tendency when one is building an airplane, it is paralyzing to trying anything new for fear of failing.  I was operating under the tremendous weight of a lie that I was not lovable in my current state.  I made the terrible statement to Timothy that my life would be perfect if I were not in it.  My life is so blessed, I have need for nothing yet I was not feeling happy.  I was basing my happiness on my sense of value which was directly correlated with my evaluation of my success at perfection.  I was miserable on the inside but smiled on the outside.  Not everything was horrible though, when I stopped worrying about me and focused on others, life was good.

The love of my life who gets better looking each year….  Yeah, this photo is from later in the year but I think it is my favorite one of him so in honor of his birthday month, here he is.

Dusting of snow and mid 30's in late April, on the 22nd actually.  Winter please go away!

Plants waiting patiently in the greenhouse for it to warm up.  We found that the seedlings grew so much better in the greenhouse than under grow lights.  Also, there wasn't enough room on the light rack for everything so we rotated out the bigger and hardier plants into the green house early.  It worked well and we had lovely sturdy plants.

Planting out Swiss Chard, ashitaba and parsley in the cold.  This is the last photo I have of Rooper before he died.  He usually hangs out with me where ever I am.

May

Where I live, May is tulip time.  I believe that there are over a million tulips planted in our town which makes for an amazing display, if you want to battle the tourists to go see them.  Personally I prefer the species tulips for their longevity and tendency to multiply.  I am content to see my tulips in my yard along with all the other bulbs I have planted.  May is also the time it starts to be warm enough to go out without a coat on and work in the garden begins in earnest while greens are harvested and babies transplanted.  Our last frost date isn't until the middle of the month and tomatoes and peppers don't go in until the end of the month.

A species tulip called Little Beauty with muscari and mint.

Doesn't everyone own a Dutch costume in Holland regardless of ethnicity? This Middleburg costume hails from my time working at Dutch Village as one of their artists.  My mom and I participated in an attempt to break the Guinness Book of World Records for the most people dancing in klompen (wooden shoes) at one time.  We joined some friends, made new friends while standing around waiting for the organizers to get organized and had a lot of fun.  We didn't have enough people this time, but there are plans to try again Spring 2016.

My second to littlest sister Debbie came over to help me with garden chores for a couple of hours one day and I sent her home with lots of babies for her little yard.  I often wished she was around to keep pushing me later in the season.  She is a hard worker and we got a LOT done that afternoon.

Baby lettuce sprouts with Swiss  Chard transplants in the background in one of the big raised beds.


I have several perennial food plants on our property that are such a blessing.  Not only do they provide food, they are also beautiful.

We have a Jonagold apple tree in our front yard courtesy of the previous owners.  It was given to them and planted in honor of one of their son's birth.  There is a 25 year old or so young man out there to whom I owe this tree.  It was covered with blossoms this spring.  Just gorgeous.

Our blueberry bushes were loaded with blossoms too and we are grateful to all the bumble bees who took their job of pollinating very seriously.  The bushes sounded like they were buzzing all spring.

Our great spring project this year was to redo the strawberry bed.  It was a mess.  This was partly because I had let it go, partly because they need to be renewed every few years and partly because it was poorly designed the first time.  We found that the paths needed to be wider than we originally made them and we couldn't pick the raspberries for fear of tromping on strawberry plants.  We are very happy with the new set up and a bonus was the ability to plant annual flowers all along the terrace edge.

Green house is slowly emptying out despite more seedlings being added.  I grew 5 flats of tomatoes and peppers for the Holland Community Garden that Timothy and I volunteer at weekly.

This plant delighted me.  It is a cactus that is a baby of a larger cactus grown by Mr. Bill, the original owner of Bill's Greenhouse who had obtained it while working for the City of Holland's greenhouses some 25 years ago.  I was gifted it by his son-in-law when it was in bud.  It was fascinating to watch it open slowly and stay like this for several days before the display faded.  My goal is to get it to bloom next spring again which means that I will have to trick it into thinking that it isn't a house plant but that it is growing in the dessert.

June

June broke my heart.  We had lost Ubu spring of 2014 while I was gone filming dance videos in Texas.  For me, he was just gone and I missed him.  For Timothy, it was more heart rending because he sat up all night with him after Ubu had a stroke and had to be put down.  This time I was present when Rooper had seizures that left him dazed and me crying.  They came in waves that never ended all night and the next morning we took him to put him down at the farm.  I sat there holding my last dog, crying as he seized in my arms and praying that God would just take him so he wasn't in pain.  My heart ached and I finally understood the pain Timothy went through alone the year before.  My guys are both gone and while I don't look for them wondering why they aren't under my feet anymore, I occasionally think, as I'm scraping the plates that, "Boy the dogs would have liked to have gotten this on top of their kibble."
Timothy and I celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary and for the second time in our whole marriage we didn't have our dogs.

Sir Rooper. He was the serious, proper dog in comparison to his brother but he loved to be where ever we were.  The shaggy mutt that took two of us to convince that he was going to get the hair on his face trimmed so he could see and not walk into things.  Bye Buddy.

My very thoughtful and loving sister-in-law Jenna dropped off this plant and card for me.   Many people were loving and supportive despite the fact that to some, the death of a pet isn't that big of a deal.  They aren't a human being after all… but they were my babies and I loved them.  This gift was such a blessing to me and it is still blooming eight months later.

Work can be a great balm for grief.  I am a great collector of well, anything that I think is pretty.  In an attempt to direct and curb my "if one is good, five is better" tendency, I have limited my pot palette to cobalt blue and terra cotta.  This is only part of my collection of blue pots which are here waiting to be filled with annual plants.  Several others had already been planted with perennial plants.  My biggest problem is coming up with enough soil.  I can physically carry all of these filled and planted pots by myself with the exception of my most recent acquisition, the biggest pot in the picture.  Timothy was a good sport and helped me carry it up the hill to its final resting place for the summer.

Planting out my old fashioned petunias in bed eleven.  I put flowers on both sides of the bed this year so I would have something pretty to look at amongst all the green from the greens.

The Jack in the pulpit I rescued from a re-landscaping project.  It is quite happy here under the Japanese Maple.

This is my favorite azalea called Rosea Azalea.  If I could only have one variety, this would be it.  It was planted by the owners before us and I love how it looks like miniature roses and is so sweet.

June is not complete without strawberries.  Despite having been moved earlier in the spring, we still got a decent harvest of beautiful berries.  None of them lasted long enough to be put up though.  I think our plan to add another strawberry bed next spring is a good one.

July

The middle of the year.  Beach volleyball is in full swing, days are warm, the sun is setting later and later and the garden is beginning to become its usual jungle.  If I keep moving and don't take time to breathe, then I won't think about my dissatisfaction with me.  I go from one deadline to the next, hurrying to outpace my thoughts.  I am so blessed but I don't receive it gratefully, hesitant to embrace the grace because I fear of being rejected as a failure and a phony.  Everything could be gone in a second if I do not measure up.  My impossible yard stick of perfection defeats my joy.  The idea promoted by our now defunct church group that I am a new creature, thus no longer one who sins, is rattling around in my brain declaring that I must not really have salvation because I still sin on a regular basis.  Blatant choices I have made to not do righteously, for everything we do is a choice, are a loud condemning voice adding layers of cement to the heavy load I already carry.  I feel like I must break.

The bountiful harvest of berries from our three kinds of raspberries and the beginning of the blueberries.  Timothy faithfully went out and harvested almost daily for several weeks.  These too never made it into storage as they were eaten quite quickly after harvest.

The tomatoes are beginning to produce while the peas are still hanging on.  Our very late and cool spring has pushed everything back by a couple of weeks.

The gardens are full, the greenhouse emptied and taken down, and the garlic harvested.

Hope is looking up and trusting in something that you cannot prove, cannot see and often don't feel.

My mom and I had a serious conversation about the status of my joy, or rather the lack there of one afternoon.  It was quite by accident, an offhand comment that she zeroed in on.  She asked me if I believed that God loves other people despite whatever flaws and sins they might have.  "Of course He does", I replied.  I base my faith on the fact that Yahweh sent His son to redeem us because He loves us.  "So then does He love you?" was the next question.  My head and mouth said the correct answer but my heart said no, I don't feel like I deserve His love.  That was the problem.  I cannot earn His love, will never earn His love but I was denying that He loved me because of my false criteria.  My mom had me say the words out loud.  "God loves me."  Why is it that we feel stupid saying things out loud sometimes and fight it?  Words have power; they can speak life or death.  These words were the outward sign of an inward choice to believe truth.  "God loves me."  I can be incredibly stubborn, strong willed is a nice way of saying it, and I decided that I was exhausted living or rather existing the way I have been for so long.  If I was going to be stubborn about something, why not it be for life?  I made a choice that day that I was going to live like I really believed that I am loved.  Not for any reason that was a result of who I am, but because of an unexplained, unfathomable, unchanging love that is a fact of my universe.  Who I am is a loved child of the King.  I have value and worth because He gave it to me.  I have joy because He is my joy and my peace.  My heart is overwhelmed by His amazing love for me.  Life is different now.  I am different because my understanding of who I am and who He is has changed.  Up, grow up to the light.

August

Late nights playing volleyball on the beach, watching the sunset with friends and being fully present in that moment to hang onto it for later when it is cold and you haven't seen the sun for days.  Beautiful, glorious moments to remember.  The garden keeps growing and space between the beds gets tight.  T and I are a part of a small group of people putting together a new Sukkot site, The Rehearsal, Sukkot 2015 in South Dakota. While we have been working on this weekly for over a year, finalizing details and preparations take up more of our time as the date draws closer.  I am choreographing and practicing dances along with the other volunteer work and garden jobs I do.

Beautiful greens ready to eat from bed twelve: Rainbow Swiss chard, Several lettuce varieties, Russian Red Kale, Genovese Basil and Lamb's quarters.

Daily exercise for Timothy, harvesting tomatoes from our 16 cherry tomato plants.  He is so faithful to harvest on a daily basis.  I quite lose interest when we get to this point in the gardening.  Harvesting just means more work in the kitchen for me.  Honestly, I'd rather be doing anything else. We also had 8 "big tomato" plants too but we have found for our purposes, the cherry tomato varieties produce much better.  I use them in salsa and freeze them whole for later use in the kitchen.

Big messy, plant filled green small back yard.  Due to cool temperatures and plentiful rain fall, our grass (or rather a combination of various grass like plants and weeds) is still nice and green.  Personally I don't really care what the lawn looks like… is that bad?

We had a couple of hummingbirds stay in our area this summer and they were so fun to watch.  Occasionally one would do a flyby next to your head.  While taking pictures of the hummingbird's activities, a monarch decided to join him at the Purple Hyacinth Bean.  It seemed that we had many more desirable insects and animals in our yard this year.  From no monarchs in past years, we had several that seemed to stay for a couple of weeks.  Perhaps our commitment to beyond organic practices, no sprays or chemicals (OMRI certified or not), interplanting of crops, intentional beneficial host plants and a more laid back attitude to native habitat is working.

I can't help it, these glads are just so pretty.  I planted a bag of corms several years ago and these are from those original, supposedly non-hardy in my climate plants.  I am grateful for them and next spring I am going to dig them up and spread them out a bit so I get more flowers.  Apparently my little microclimate next to the lowest West terrace bed is perfect for them.

This…. This is what happens when one ignores a garden for several years.  MESS!  It is gorgeous in spring because I seem to plant mostly spring and early summer flowering plants but by the end of summer it is just messy.  A project for next year is to renew and revamp this whole area.  Plants need to be divided, moved and thinned out while some late summer interest is added.  Big job but it will be (hopefully) beautiful when I'm done AND I won't feel like I have to apologize to people when they see this part of the yard. This is something that I have felt guilty about for a long time.  Now, I am choosing to see it as a result of choices I have made to focus on other things rather than allow it to be another negative statement of my unworthiness as a gardener and a human being.  It is a messy garden, period.  The fact that I am showing you this is a huge step for me too towards having grace for myself that while I think is easy to extend to others, is very difficult to give to myself.  I am loved.  The goal is to learn how to live like I am loved.

September

Harvesting, dancing and organizing a Sukkot feast site with volleyball on the side keeps us busy.  Well T isn't dancing but he is doing everything else with me plus working hard on the Garden Time App. Conversations with a dear friend who I am giving a Ladies' Tea event with while at the feast explore this new mindset of being beloved.  My prayer for this upcoming Sukkot is that people leave different.  For so many years, T and I would make goals and plans on the long drive home (we always seem to go to sites that are 10 plus hours away) and find that the next year, our list is exactly the same.  The change was short lived which means it was all done under our own power and there was no lasting soul change.  This year I desire to end that cycle of hope and failure not just in our lives but also have that Yahweh driven change occur in other people's lives too.

The mammoth Sunflower - I had assumed that mammoth referred to the size of the flower which would then be on a tall stem.  However, the plants that sprouted from our seeds were very tall with lots of flowers.  I like this version better than my assumption.

Morning glory volunteers climbed the very thick sturdy stems of the sunflowers to add another layer of beauty.

Another new resident to our yard.  This little, and I do mean little, fellow was one of a group of five little frogs that lived in our garden.  They were in the pole beans, the water melons, the cantaloupe and the raspberries.  From my searching on the web, the only frogs that matched this picture were Pacific Tree Frogs, which, according to the different articles I read, were only found west of the Rockies.  Um… these guys are a long way from home then…  I wanted to bring them inside to save them from winter but then they got here somehow so I'm sure they survived a winter here before.  We'll see if they come back next year.

My niece Brina and I practicing for a dance presentation at Sukkot.  She was such a calm, sweet blessing to me in the dance circle.

One of the sukkahs or temporary dwellings that was created for our Sukkot celebration.  My friend Mike created this one to have the word Shalom spelled out on both sides.  Shalom means peace in Hebrew and we did have a wonderful peaceful, blessed Sukkot celebration with worship, prayer, dancing, messages, good food, kid's and youth programs, meaningful talks with young people exploring their faith at 2 am and games of bouncy ball soccer at 3 am.  It was amazing and exhausting and I wore myself out.

October

The beginning of October was spent returning home from South Dakota and recuperating from many nights of not enough sleep.  I tend to get sick with too many physical stressors and I definitely did myself in.  I added a Bible Study to my weekly routine along with a weekly accountability / encouragement phone call with a dear friend.  We help each other with goals, perception and prayer.  It has been such a blessing and I feel like I have accomplished more in the past few months since this inception than I have the past year.  Choosing to think on that which is honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise has completely turned my attitude around.  No, I do not put my head in the sand and emulate the much maligned Pollyanna attitude of willful ignoring of anything bad, I simply take that thought, examine it and ask myself, "Will this bring life to me?"  "Do I want to live here in my brain?"  If the thought does not match the above instructions, I release it and banish it from my head.  Often I pray about or for the subject of that thought if it is needed, but in the end I am choosing to live in a mindset that brings life to me and glory to my Heavenly Father.  Do I find myself in a negative mindset from time to time, for instance when I wake up and don't want to yet?  Yep I do, but when I realize this, it is time for me to engage and fight, fight for me to have life rather than death live in my head.  That fight is hard sometimes and I have found that for me, music and dance are the best ways to clear my head.  Drawing scripture verses and creating beauty is another way to intentionally live.  Not just exist, but to be present and to live, to enjoy this beautiful life, even when you are stuck in a grocery store line for a half hour while waiting for someone to finish.  Every moment is an opportunity to live and in living, to intentionally spread life and joy to those around me.

A scripture verse that after being discussed as very encouraging at Bible Study, I went home and created this illustration of to give to my group the next week.

Blueberry bushes have such a beautiful fall color.

The nights are cold enough to stop our tomatoes production.  Clean up of the beds and pots is the next task in the gardens.

Every year I buy a few bulbs to tuck into already full beds which I never seem to get around to planting until it is a miserable cold and usually rainy November day.  This year I had a plan and followed through on it.  A lovely mid 50's day, over 200 bulbs, a shovel, trowel and some compost will all hopefully cumulate in a lovely display next spring.  Yes, I even purchased the "regular" tulips that don't last very long simply because they are beautiful enough to enjoy for even a short amount of time.  The planting is also crammed full of daffodils and muscari too so when the tulips eventually peter out, there will still be beautiful flowers.

November

The la nina winter that was predicted was definitely evident this month.  A light dusting of snow and a few hard frosts knocked down everything in the gardens but warm temperatures returned with lots of rain.  I enjoyed going outside with few layers and the furnace had a break too.

Our really only snowfall of note for the end of the year winter lasted barely a day.  It was beautiful while it lasted though.

Salads are commonplace in our home… however, this one struck me as pretty and reminds me of how grateful I am to be blessed to eat such bounty.

My Thanksgiving cactus, a cutting from my sister-in-law's cactus from the year before reminds me to look and see the beauty in the world around me.  To enjoy and be grateful for this amazing world I am privileged to live in.  My life is so blessed and I am blessed to be a part of it.  So different from how I began this year.

December

It has forgotten to be winter here and I most definitely do not mind.  While the ground is browns, golds and greens, I am not yet at the point where I desire the clean white blanket of snow because that means it would need to be cold.

My kale and parsley bounce back easily from the brief winter weather to produce beautiful leaves for me.  It is December 13 and 60 degrees when I pick kale for a meal.  I am NOT complaining!

Gorgeous leaves.  I love kale, it is a beautiful edible ornamental.

The sun goes down quickly now and I miss the light.  Hanukkah is the celebration of reclaiming the temple and its return to proper use in worshiping our Heavenly Father.  For us, we celebrate our dedication to Him and desire His light to shine more brightly in our lives.  Every night another candle is added, bringing more light to our home and hopefully His light will also increase in us as we share His love to others.


Thank you so much for joining me on my journey through the last year.  I cried and smiled while going through pictures and while I know I chose too many to share with you, I hope that you were encouraged and blessed by my testimony of the work Yahweh has done in my life.  My choice to believe that God loves me, that He cares for me and that my value as a child of the King is beyond value because He placed that value on me is life giving.  May you have life this next year.  I am excited to see what God has in store for us!  Blessings on you and your family in 2016.