Defining Your Reason For Gardening

I have been contemplating, lately, the reason why I garden. I have always hoped to grow enough produce to have a booth at the Farmer’s Market and make a little money on the side, but have not been able to accomplish this goal. I get a few extras to share with family, but it is sporadic and hard to get consistency on what is coming in.

I have re-defined my reason for gardening. I have decided to grow my garden with the goal of producing as many healthy, nutrient-rich foods, for my husband, myself, and our extended family.

This year I did a trial of straw bale gardening. This is how they look today.

Cucumbers and marigolds in front bales, potatoes growing behind.

Cucumbers and marigolds in front bales, potatoes growing behind.

Lettuce going to seed in front bales, basil, and huge tomato plants in back bales.

Lettuce going to seed in front bales, basil, and huge tomato plants in back bales.

The green bean plants need to be removed from these bales. The bales are decomposing and the onions are sinking. I am interested to see how the onions turn out as they sink further down and are growing crooked.

The green bean plants need to be removed from these bales. The bales are decomposing and the onions are sinking. I am interested to see how the onions turn out as they sink further down and are growing crooked.

The straw bale experiment has been a success in that it has cut down on pest, and grown really big healthy plants, but I have decided not to use the straw bale method again. I had to use a lot of chemical fertilizer to condition the bales at the beginning, because organic fertilizer required huge amounts and was more expensive. Then I had to periodically spray them with miracle grow to keep the plants going. The straw bales were another big expense.

In studying various resources on nutrients in our food sources, I have found two areas of thought.

#1 Our soil is not depleted of nutrients like many people think, otherwise the vegetables wouldn’t even grow.

#2 Our soil is depleted of vital enzymes and nutrients that made people healthier years ago. We still get really big lush plants from chemical fertilizers, but the nutrients we need from the food is lacking in these chemical filled soils.

Regardless of which we believe to be true, I do find there is a strong evidence that we should garden as organically as possible to prevent adding incessant chemicals to our bodies and to produce foods that are richer in the nutrients our bodies need to prevent disease.

I plan to use my straw bales for compost after this year and continue to produce as much compost as possible via natural resources of leaves, grass clippings, and vegetable scraps which replenish the ground with the natural elements we need to have in our food supply.

On a happier note, I have been getting a lot of antioxident-rich blueberries, grown in chemical free soil, with only natural fertilizers.

Blueberries and other garden produce.

Blueberries and other garden produce.

Making beneficial changes takes strong discipline, especially when it may be a long time before we see results. I read recently that because our body cells are always renewing themselves, a year from now, 97% of our body will be composed of new cells. That means that it may take up to a year to see a benefit when we stop drinking sodas, drink more water, eat only healthy foods, and make our food supply more organic.

If we want healthier lives we have to start.

What are your gardening goals?

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” 1 Peter 3:15

 

 

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Easier Weeding

I haven’t had time to post lately. This has been a very busy summer, made busier since my mom broke her arm, and I have been trying to help her and my dad during this time.

As I worked outside, yesterday, weeding the grass out of my daylilies…

daylilies

Daylilies

and hydrangea bushes

Before weeding

Before weeding

After weeding

After weeding

I kept thinking… there has been nothing to this summer except weeding, weeding, and more weeding. I even weeded my mom’s flower beds for her last week, while my husband and dad worked to build and install a cover over the area where she fell and broke her arm.

With all the weeding there is to do, I have had to come up with an easier solution, something that takes the load off and does not mean adding a lot of chemicals to the soil.

I had my husband buy some tarps and I placed them over the raised beds that are empty right now. Without the tarps, I would be growing beds of weeds.

Tarps over raised beds

Tarps over raised beds

I can also move the tarps around the garden to cover areas between the beds or in open areas. Since they are dark in color, when the hot summer heat hits them, the weeds practically melt away. It is also a good way to heat up the soil and kill any pests that are trying to live there.

When we removed our pool cover this year, my husband decided we needed a new one for next year, so I recycled it into a weed killer :). I had planted corn in the very back of our garden, and was in the process of weeding, fertilizing, and hilling the soil up around it, when my mom broke her arm.

Weeding the corn

Weeding the corn in process

I never got the job finished and the corn was a total loss. I decide to use the pool cover to melt down the old stalks in the heat, turn them into compost, and kill all the weeds that had overgrown the patch.

Pool cover over corn stalks and weeds

Pool cover over corn stalks and weeds

Once a crop has completed producing, I plan to use a tarp over each bed and see if I can compost the old plants directly in the beds. My goal for next year is to become even more chemical free by making as much compost as I can and filling my beds with it, so I don’t have to rely on any chemical fertilizers.

So… if you are totally overwhelmed with weeding this summer, use tarps to cover the areas that don’t have plants you want to save. It is a good chemical free way to kill out the weeds and make the areas ready for new future crops.

Wisdom is good with an inheritance, and profitable to those who see the sun. For wisdom is a defense as money is a defense, but the excellence of knowledge is that wisdom gives life to those who have it.” Ecclesiastes 7:11-12

 

 

 

Taking Responsibility

I have had the privilege to observe some negatives in the lives of others, and in doing so, I had to examine myself to see if I might be doing the same things. Sometimes we learn more from watching negative behavior than we do from watching positive behavior, however, both can invite good learning experiences.

From my observations, I have determined that many of the negatives in my life and the lives of others, come from not taking responsibility for things that we are definitely responsible for.

For example:

I am responsible for my own health. I recently went to the library and found books on how to prevent memory loss, and how to strengthen my bones. When my doctor wanted to add another medication for osteoporosis, that had the side effects of having your femur bone become brittle and break, or you jawbone deteoriate….eeeewwwwhhhh…(Now what would that look like???), I decided… NO Mamm, thank you very much, but NO!

The memory loss thing is just a minor forgetfulness right now, but I don’t want it to become worse. I am learning to make lists on paper, but many times I practice just keeping the lists in my head and making myself remember them.

From the library books, I have learned that whether it is osteoporosis, mental decline, or any other health disorder, it all boils down to the foods we eat, reducing stress, and getting enough sleep to let our bodies mend themselves overnight. All the books tend to recommend a Mediterranean diet which consist of lots of fruit, vegetables, and limited animal proteins. For osteoporosis too much animal protein can rob the bones of calcium.

I found a bone building website that said apples have a phytonutrient that builds strong bones. No other food has this certain nutrient except apples, with most of it being in the peeling. Wow! They also sold a weighted vest that studies showed improved bone density as much as medication did.

Weighted vests are good, but constant added weight in the form of excessive eating is not. If my knees are hurting because I carry too much weight on them, then I need to lose the ten pounds that would reduce the pressure on my knees by thirty pounds. (I read that on a chart in the orthopedic doctor’s office while waiting for my mom to get back from x-ray. For every pound you lose, it takes three pounds of pressure off your joints.) Overeating is one of the worst things you can do for your health.

I get stressed when things break and don’t get fixed for ages and ages. To prevent this stress, which by-the-way causes memory loss, bone loss, heart disease, etcetera, I need to be responsible and either fix them or get someone who can. I need to do it as soon as possible, and not wait until whatever is broken causes even greater issues further down the road.

I am convinced that God has placed a medicine cabinet in our backyards and grocery stores. Many of the diseases we acquire come from not eating what God has placed before us and desiring to overeat foods that are too rich in manmade substances. Soda anyone?

Healthy foods from the garden.

Healthy foods from the garden.

An herb pot used to enhance meal preparation.

An herb pot used to enhance meal preparation.

Flowers grown in the garden to add beauty and reduce stress.

Flowers, grown in the garden to add beauty and reduce stress.

Until recently, I had always been a proponent of a book that said… God has put cravings in us, and if we eat what we crave, we will be getting a balanced diet. If I ate what I craved, it would be powdered sugar donuts and not an apple. My new thought on this is… as we lead our hearts to do what is right, we should also lead our heads to desire healthier foods that can heal our diseases.

On the last Carolina Camera episode that was aired on WBTV from Charlotte, N.C., there was a 103 year old lady that still went bowling, took a dance class, lived by herself, drove until she was 98, was thin, mentally alert, not on any medications, and she was a joy to watch her face light up as she talked about how she lived her healthy, sweet life. When asked what her secret to long living was… she replied, “The Lord has helped me all my life.”

God has provided all we need for a healthy life. We have to be responsible and guide our hearts and heads to see what He has prepared for us.

Life started in a garden. Life is maintained by a garden.

God provided sleep for restoration and rebuilding of cells in our bodies.

God provided water to wash away toxins.

God gave us a brain to help us figure out what causes us to be stressed and the ingenuity to figure out what we need to take that stress away. He created us with stress relieving endorphins that are released when we exercise.

It is all pretty amazing!

Taking responsiblity for these things will make a better life for us and those around us, and instead of living out our lives in a torturous slow death, we can actually live a life of joy and happiness and maybe end up bowling when we are 103.

 

 

What A Difference A Day Makes

What a difference a day makes.

Last week I posted on Monday with a promise that I would start posting more regularly and share pictures of my straw bale gardening experiment. That very evening my mother fell down some cement stairs onto a cement floor, and my world changed dramatically. Besides cuts, bumps, and bruises, she suffered a really bad fracture to the upper left arm. We feel lucky that God chose to spare her life.

My week consisted of one night sitting up with my mom in the hospital and daily trips to help out, get her home, get her to a new doctor (There is a long story of neglect with her first doctor… better left untold.) and getting her and my dad situated at home where my dad can take care of her when I am not there.

My dad is very discouraged because his garden was doing so well, and now he will not be able to care for it like he had been doing. He is afraid to leave my mom for any length of time.

None of us can see what might happen any minute of any given day. That is when we must choose to have faith in God and move forward with a positive attitude. A day can make a big difference for good or bad. Last week as I drove back and forth under severe sleep deprivation, God gave me the strength and kept me awake. I came home one day with some of my best plants shriveled from lack of water, but had time to quickly water them before I went back the next morning.

Now God is sending rain, so I don’t have to water.

I also set out some rose bushes that had arrived in the mail during the week. At one point I thought I couldn’t get it all done but found time to plant and mulch them Saturday morning, before I had a big day filled with company I had invited to celebrate my husband’s birthday.

I refuse to give up.

I will work in the garden as time and strength comes. I will take care of my mom and dad, and fit it into an already, overloaded schedule. I will spend time with my immediate family and play with my grandson. I will prepare and teach Sunday School lessons to children (even when I have to get up at 4:15 on Sunday morning to study, then only one shows up… we actually had a sweet time…one-on-one), I will shop for and serve snacks for Sunday Service when it is my time (this Sunday was it), I will take care of our animals, I will keep my house clean, and the laundry caught up, and I will do it with the strength that God gives when I ask. I have total faith in God’s promise not to leave or forsake me (Hebrews 13:5), and that whatever I ask He will provide if I stay strong in my Bible and in being obedient to God’s wishes (John 15:7).

Even when I can’t see around the next corner and maybe I am one minute away from a major disaster, I rest in God, that He will take care of me through it all, and I will continue to have hope in a life that is filled with fun, energy, and promises of good days to come.

Now…

Here are the pictures of my straw bale gardening that I promised last week.

Straw bale with lettuce, basil and tomatoes.

Straw bale with lettuce, basil and tomatoes.

I actually got the tomatoes staked this weekend, and a lot more weeding done, so there will be more pictures later. Below are the rest of my pictures of the straw bales with various plants.

IMG_2216   IMG_2219            IMG_2231

Straw bales with squash.

Straw bales with squash.

IMG_2235

 

So whatever you are having to handle today, ask God for strength to get you through it all. He created us, He loves us, He knows us, and He wants to help us through whatever we are facing each day. He will walk each minute and mile with us, and He will help us grow in faith that He will always be there for us… if we choose to let Him.

 

Garden Work

I had to take some time off from blogging. The garden work became so heavy there was no time to blog. I finally got the garden completely planted last week.

Week before last my husband was off and he used a scoop on his tractor to get mulch into the back of the garden between the beds. Since the tractor could only deliver the mulch to the back garden gate, he also came up with the brilliant idea of putting the mulch on a tarp and dragging it to where it needed to be placed, rather than raking it over large areas between the beds. What would normally have taken days, took about two hours.

Here are the cleaned off beds with mulch. A thin veil of weeds is already growing over them….sigh.

Mulched Beds

Mulched Beds

I planted a melon patch in the back of the garden and placed straw between the hills to keep down the weeds.

Melon Bed

Melon Bed

Into each melon bed hole, I placed fertilizer, mushroom compost, and a handful of alfalfa from a bed where it grows in the garden. Just a small amount of the alfalfa in holes where you are planting is supposed to give the plants a boost. We shall see:)

Alfalfa growing in bed.

Alfalfa growing in bed.

Tomorrow, I will share with you what the rest of the garden looks like. The plants in the straw bales are growing really well.

For today, my work is to weed the corn patch in the back fence. The weeds grew extremely tall while I was working on the rest of the garden… so tall… you can hardly see the corn. Hopefully tomorrow I will have a picture of a weed free corn patch…

maybe…

Weeds in corn patch

Weeds in corn patch

Another view.

Another view.

One last view… I planted two fruit trees next to the fence. One is a yellow delicious apple and one is a plum. Both need other trees to cross pollinate. We already had a Stamen Winesap apple tree, and there are wild plum trees growing near the garden, so pollination is covered. I have a stake where I want to plant a cherry tree in the fall. I couldn’t find one this spring.

Trees next to fence.

Trees next to fence. The asparagus bed really stands out here.

I would be excited to hear how your gardens are growing. Have you planted anything unusual this year?

“The Lord will complete that which concerneth me…” Psalm 138:8a

 

 

Imitations

I get several garden catalogs with outdoor furniture, garden art, outdoor rugs and outdoor curtains. After I saw the outdoor curtains, I begin to think how nice that would be to keep the sun off our screened in porch in the afternoons and to keep the dust and pollen off the table and chairs.

The curtains ran $59.00 for an 84″ long, 50 inch  wide panel. They also sold tension curtain rods for $49.95 that would extend 48″ to 86″, which would be the size I needed.

Grommet outdoor curtains sold in catalog.

Grommet outdoor curtains sold in catalog.

I decided to try to imitate the look for less. I needed something that could withstand the sun and moisture, and would have grommets at the top. I checked several stores and found what I was looking for at Lowes. I purchased two gommeted shower curtains with a leaf pattern on clearance for $12.98. Those where the last two they had, so I purchased a white one of the same style for $19.00. Then I bought three tension shower rods for $13.99 each.

I was excited about the look. If you come to my house and wonder why I have shower curtains hanging on the deck, let me just tell you… it has been a wonderful thing to have the dust, pollen, and hot sun blocked out and I don’t think the look is too bad either. See for yourself.

Shower curtains outdoors.

Shower curtains outdoors.

Another view.

Another view.

Another view.

Another view.

It would look even better if I had two shower curtains per section to make them fuller, but that will have to wait for another payday.

I also needed a flower arrangement for my deck table that could stand the elements. At a local antique store, I was able to purchase plastic “wildflowers”. When I was checking out, I was discussing how I hated to use those styrofoam pieces to hold the flowers. They would be easier to wash off if there was no styrofoam involved.

I was given a good tip by the guy that was checking me out. In their store, they use crumpled newspaper to hold the flowers in the arrangements. I ended up using the crumpled up tissue paper that he wrapped my flowers in before he placed them in the bag. It held the flowers in place better than anything I have tried before. When they need cleaning, I can remove the flowers and tissue, hose the flowers off, let them dry, then replace it all. Can life get any easier?

So now I have imitations of outdoor curtains and flowers.

I think it is okay to have imitations if they give a look that is close to the real thing.

The definition of imitation is… “a thing intended to simulate or copy something else”.

The Bible says that we should imitate God… “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God…” Ephesians 5:1-2a (NASB)

Are you an imitation?

Fake Windows

I am continuing to put the finishing touches on my basement re-modeling project.

In a previous post, you saw that I had bought an old window from an antique store for $5.00 to make a fake, mirrored window. When I begin to work at cleaning it up, the wood around the panes began to crumble, and it became an impossible repair job.

I purchased two mirrored windows online from Target and was much happier to work with them.

Mirrowed windows in place over "window seat".

Mirrored windows in place over “window seat”.

My daughter-in-law, Collette, pointed out a great buy in a cloth shower curtain on clearance at Bed Bath & Beyond. She had a coupon that brought the already low price down to under $10.00. Collette showed me how I could cut the top off to use as a valance and the rest of the material would make the sides of the curtains. And as she said, “the colors are perfect to go with your room.”

Getting ready to turn a shower curtain into curtains.

Getting ready to turn a shower curtain into curtains.

The top that would be turned into a valence goes perfectly with my gardening theme of birds and flowers.

The top that would be turned into a valence goes perfectly with my gardening theme of birds and flowers.

And now the curtains are up.

Curtains over window.

Curtains over window.

Another view.

Another view.

The fake window adds depth to the room and makes the sitting area seem larger. Collette suggested adding tie-backs to the curtains, so… I will be looking for the perfect tie-backs to fit the area.

I have some pictures to add, and a few more small projects to complete before I can say the room is finished, and oh, yes, I hope next year to add new carpet to the room. It has been a very long project, but the end is near and I am happy with the results.

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, love abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:12-13

 

Compost

I made a compost bin yesterday in a corner of the garden. If you read any books on composting, especially by men, they recommend making a bin from chicken wire. This contains the heap and allows for air circulation. There are other materials used for compost bins such as pallets, plastic, etc., but chicken wire is cheap.

I found two pieces of leftover chicken wire in our barn. They were the perfect size and I didn’t have to cut them. Since I am trying to save money in the garden, after the purchase of all the straw bales for my straw bale gardening experiment this year…

Strawberry plants in straw bales.

Straw bale garden.

I didn’t want to spend any money on the compost bin. I also wanted to get a good, hot compost bin going so that I won’t have to spend as much money next year on fertilizer, or other additions for my soil.

I used rebar hammered into the ground for the base. I added fiberglass tomato stakes over the rebar. They have a center hole that allows them to slide right over the rebar. I attached the chicken wire to the back side of our preexisting fence and the stakes with cable ties.

Chicken wire attached to fiberglass tomato stakes with cable ties.

Chicken wire attached to fiberglass tomato stakes with cable ties.

I then used a smaller piece of the chicken wire to make a “door” between the red post on the left side and the yellow post. I attached this piece to the yellow post with cable ties in several places, and when I want to open it to add wheelbarrow loads of weeds, grass, and leaves, it bends back and can be propped open.

To close the door, I hammered nails into a wooden tomato stake and bent them up. The chicken wire attaches over the nails and holds the “door” shut.

Nail holding "door" closed.

Nail holding “door” closed.

I had been weeding and the wheelbarrow fit right though the door area and was easily dumped.

I have been totally sold on making my own compost.

On Monday I planted okra. The bed I used had held tomato plants last summer. I had liberally mulched around the tomato plants with straw. In the fall when I planted this same bed with collards and kale, I left the straw in place and added garden soil over the top and planted  in that. When I started digging in this bed to get ready to plant the okra, I noticed that the straw underneath had greatly decomposed and the bed was full of the fattest earthworms I have ever seen. The soil was rich and black.

To plant the okra, I only added composted cow manure to the rows so the worms would not be harmed and left them to continue their composting of the straw, leaving behind their castings, which is the best fertilizer of all.

Are you composting to save money?

“He also took some of the seed of the land and planted it in fertile soil. He placed it beside abundant waters; he set it like a willow.” Ezekiel 17:5 (NASB)

 

Corn

Corn has been a staple in mankind’s diet since the very beginning of time. It is first mentioned in Genesis 27:28 when Isaac is tricked into blessing Jacob instead of Esau. There are several verses of blessing included here, but having “plenty of corn” is in the first verse of the blessing.

Years later, corn was still a big part of Jacob’s life when his most loved son, Joseph, was sold into slavery in Egypt by his brothers, but then was blessed by God and rose to such a great position of power… he was put in charge of gathering corn for the coming famine. (see Genesis 41:48-49) Joseph gathered so much corn, it was as the “sand of  the sea” and became too much to keep a count of.

There are many diets that prohibit corn due to it being full of natural sugars and carbs. Jacob and his family would have starved, if there had not been available corn.

This year, with my husband’s help, I got my corn planted on Good Friday. After a second tilling of the soil, we made rows, added fertilizer, and dropped seeds. Toward the end, we were planting in a pretty good rain storm, but we got the job done.

We planted our corn in this fenced in area at the back of our garden.

We planted our corn in this fenced in area at the back of our garden.

In the South, there is a great significance to planting on Good Friday. Many gardeners have little hope in having a successful crop unless they get the planting done on this day.

If you don’t understand the meaning of  Good Friday here is a link to a good explanation.

Jesus died on the cross on the day that people call Good Friday. He arose again, and with that resurrection, He broke the chains of sin for us if we accept His sacrifice. When we plant on Good Friday, we are burying the seed in the hopes of a resurrection of new life from that seed. We are fed (physically) from that seed’s burial and resurrection to new life, just as we are fed (spiritually) from “The Word” .

There are several meanings when you think of being fed from “The Word.” Most Christians think of being fed (spiritually) from the Bible as we study it, but in John 1:1 it says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” From this verse we know that Jesus is the Word, and He has always been… from the beginning. Through His death, burial, and resurrection, He has provided salvation which feeds our hearts with a transformed life and fills us up.

God has provided so many examples in His creation, of the death, burial, and resurrection, that we are “without excuse” when we say we do not understand (see Romans 1:20) .

Our corn is beginning to ressurect out of the hard, dry ground.

Our corn is beginning to resurrect out of the hard, dry ground.

So when you watch your seed popping out of the ground in your garden, in another form than when it went into the ground, I hope you will think about these things, and be reminded of what Jesus has done for us.

If you didn’t get your corn planted on Good Friday, it is not too late. Plant those seeds and hopefully you will have so much corn you will not be able to count it.

“For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.” Romans 1:20

 

Gardening

I have started to plant the “conditioned” (see also… Straw Bale Gardens by Joel Karsten for the conditioning process) straw bales in my garden, and it has been fun and exciting. It is always fun to try something new.

Strawberry plants in straw bales.

Strawberry plants in straw bales.

Lettuce is planted in front, basil on the side, and a bush tomato plant in the back.

Lettuce is planted in front, basil on the side, and a bush tomato planted in the back.

I have saved room in this straw bale bed to add more tomato plants that I have been growing from seed. Right now, I have a pretty good crop of mushrooms that are part of the decomposing process of the straw bales. They will eventually die back and the plants will take over the bales.

Sugar snap peas planted and trellis added for support.

Sugar snap peas planted and trellis added for support.

I planted sugar snap peas in this area and by placing an old trellis between the bales and zip tying it to tomato stakes placed in the ground, it made a great place for the peas to run up on.

I am trying bush tomatoes  in pots this year.

I am trying bush tomatoes in pots this year.

I planted two bush tomato plants in pots, then added these walls of water to protect them from the lower night temperatures. I have had these walls of water for several years and just never put them to use. I am trying for less wasting of resources this year, and that has also been fun… trying to see different things I can do with what I already have available.

The straw bale gardening has been the most exciting gardening project that I have ever tried. Due to the shortage of straw last year, the bales were a little pricey, but the experiment has been worth the money. Hopefully the straw crop will turn out better this year, and the price will come back down for the next gardening season.

If you are trying to save money in the garden, it is probably better to work on making more compost to add to existing beds. If you have never started a garden, the straw bales would be a great way to begin. There is no tilling of ground, or the adding of anything but fertilizer and water. It has perfect pest and disease control built in, since none of these exist in fresh straw bales like they do in your soil.

I am not protecting any of the plants in the bales from cutworms, or squash borers since the rough straw sticking out is a natural deterrent. Also, there is very little weeding to do.

Another good benefit from the straw bales is that once they have been used for the season, they can be composted to use in the garden next year.

So if any of you are thinking about a garden, keep following my progress with the straw bales over this season and see if it might be worth your time.

“See then that ye walk carefully, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.” Ephesians 5:15-18