Sunday, June 29, 2014

In my garden (never posted because Aoife showed up)

This was written in October 2013.
In been a bit since we did any work in this tiny space. You may remember from my birth story that e planted a few things the morning before we met Aoife. This bed was sewn in April. The herbs are doing fabulous, the tomatoes seem confused (as they have all year), and the lavender we put in last year bloomed all summer!

We have spent much of our garden time fighting off the pill bugs who like to devour any leaf thing I plant. Especially in this box!  But by the look of the kale, I think we have finally encouraged lower numbers of pests! We did add a bit more greens here last week and, if you look closely, you may see that nearly all of the seeds have sprouted! Yay kale!

Our lone bean plant, usually a favorite for the bugs so I tested this one in a pot, just to see if I makes it past its first set of adult leaves. 

And of course, the pumpkin plants. Emagene was in charge of picking the plants for this fall garden. She choose pumpkin, corn (we have 2 small stocks of  pink Indian), and kale. I added a few potatoes and green onions (which I believe are working at pest deterrents) and here's what we have. The pumpkin is suffering a bit from blossom drop and needs a healthy dose of compost and some pollination. I went out yesterday to stir the flowers with a paint brush and was happy to see a honey bee had beat me to it! Here's hoping for at least one squash off these gorgeous vines!

Garden Journal #9 (and some chickens)

Meet my nemesis: the Squash Beetle. 

Today we waged war against this guy and at least 100 of his friends. Probably more. I armed myself with the following and spent a good hour and a half picking off bugs. 

The arsenal: a bucket of soapy water, a butter knife, neem solution and a whole lot of Diatomaceous Earth (DE).
The Plan: pick off whatever bugs we can, dunk them in soapy water. Shake leaves to knock large quantities of insects into the bucket. Use wet knife to scrape eggs off leaves. Spray the underside of leaves and around the ground with Neem solution, causing insects to flee to higher ground where they can be picked off and dunked in the bucket. Heavily sprinkle the ground with DE to discourage anyone who fell off the plant from climbing back on.

It does seem rather unlike me to use natural and safe products that encourage genetic defects in the target insects. Its a bit like chemical warfare but this way I don't end up hurting the good bugs, like the bees and butterflies and spiders. No innocent bystanders, like flowers, were treated in this process.

And when we finished it looked a bit like it had snowed in our garden.

I moved a few vines off the ground and tried to encourage some trellising with a piece of wire shelving, since it worked well before.
pumpkin, tomato, cucumber and pole beans
 The plants in our tiny space are so very intertwined that getting rid of this pest is crucial to the survival of everything. This particular insect feeds off the juices of the leaves, stem, fruit anything it can stick its needle-like tongue into, eventually killing the entire plant. I only lost 2 pumpkin plants in this battle. I did have to uproot a sunflower that was getting chocked out by the beans and acorn squash, and pull out almost all my mulch. Hopefully that's goodbye squash beetle and not a hello to the grasshopper who loves to lay eggs in bare dirt...

So grateful we have chickens! 

Which brings me to our next project:
A chicken house remodel. The babies' feathers have grown in (the stubs of wattles and combs are showing now! I expect eggs in about 4-6 weeks.) and so they no longer need momma hen to snuggle them at night. This means we have 5 chickens demanding space in a house built to spaciously sleep three. For a while now, Ferdy has been putting herself to bed in the nesting box in the shed. Ella was distressed two nights ago and couldn't go to bed without being pecked. All signs of over-crowdedness. Time to add a wing to the house. 
Naturally the girls wanted to help,

with some safety gear.

Welcome to the luxury nesting area and sleeping quarters:
Again, using only repurposed materials, we added a spacious room to the coop. The girls were apprehensive to climb in at bedtime, but they all had plenty of space once I got them tucked in.

 All that's left is to coat the inside with food grade oil and paint the outside before the next heavy rainfall. But for now, we just needed to get the house in place before nightfall. And we did!

It's a bit dark to photograph after lights out, but you get the idea. The babies are not quite ready to roost while sleeping, but now they don't have to fight for space once the time comes. Nor do they have to worry that they are sleeping under someone. I will have to install the fan next, but that's easy and then everyone will sleep extra comfy and I'll start giving eggs away again.

And now on to more important things, like giant chess.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Taking back the phrase "like a girl"

When you hear the phrase like a girl, do you picture something weak and pathetic or something tough and capable? I'm willing to bet it was the former. Forgive me if this been brought up before, but that only means we still need to talk about it. Why do we still say boys throw like girls or scream like girls? Why can't they throw like themselves? If that throw happens to be weak, call it weak. The girls I know are tough and capable. They can take hard situations, curve balls and the like, and conquor them. That doesn't mean they never shed tears, but they are should not shamed if they do. The men I choose to keep around are similar. They can push their minds and bodies to the limit, pet puppies and cry if they need to and they aren't ashamed of it. Why does our society still use female association to shame weakness? 

I don't have the answer to this question, but I do feel its time to change our vocabulary.

 For a long time now I've been bothered by the gender bias in our language. For example, if a boy falls and scrapes his knee but gets up and keeps going he "took that fall like a man," meaning he didn't show any emotion or let a scrape bother him. If a girl falls and doesn't react she us likened to a tomboy or praised for not showing the emotions of pain or fear. When the girl falls, and reacts to the surprising fall by crying out or screaming in pain or fear she is said to have "screamed like a girl." If a boy falls and cries out he is also said to have "screamed like a girl." So even though both children screamed like themselves, from pain or fear, perhaps in similar pitches since they have yet to hit puberty, they are both said to scream like girls. This bothers me. This is the correlation I want to change. 

If crying out is a sign of weakness, why is weakness automatically pinned as a female characteristic? How many female athletes have gold medals? How many females have taken on hardships and physical struggles and not cried out? How many men have fears or pain but can't voice them for fear of being called weak, like a girl? 

Girls are not weak. 

Children are growing and struggling through all sorts of things that will cause them to reach their limits and call out. This continues into adulthood. Why then is asking for help or showing emotion at a shortcoming labeled as something only women experience? I know many male children who cry when upset, yet he is said to "cry like a little girl." 

Yes, I am female. My children are female. We have times of heartache and brokenness, we fall while playing, but that does not make us weak. Our bodies were built to birth other bodies which hardwires us to be physically tough. True, we may not be able to open the wide mouthed pickle jar with our small hands but that does not make us delicate.

I challenge you to check yourself. Are you using the phrase "like a girl" to chastise, embarrass or humiliate? Being female is not a cause of embarrassment or humiliation. Woman are powerful. Let's take back this phrases. Let's handle that fall like a girl: cry if you feel the need, and then get back up and keep going. Lets show the world that girls and boys have emotions and real people comfort each other without telling anyone to Man Up or take it like a champ. The true champ learns from their brokenness and keeps going, but they have to experience brokenness first. Non-champions are no different. Perhaps if we allow our boys to cry when frustrated instead of keeping pain and fear bottled inside, they won't feel the need to hit, punch, shoot or stab things when the frustrations, pain and fear become too much to keep hidden. What happens when we treat our children as simply children no matter their gender and help them find healthy ways to express their complex emotions without belittling or name calling? Being female is not a cause of belittlement. We cry. But so do males - who also come with tear ducts. 

So next time you feel like saying someone screamed like a girl, check yourself. Girls don't simper unless taught to. They also don't roar unless taught. Lets take back the phrase like a girl and make it one of power. Go conquer your dreams like a girl: meet every challenge head on, cry if it gets too much but remember to get up, leave the tears and pieces behind you, create a new perspective from that place of brokenness and keep going. 

You will do mighty things, like a girl! 


I drafted this late at night after a frustrating day of fighting for my children's right of expression without labeling and saw this video floating around Facebook. The filmmakers handle this conversation better than I ever could and its simply a tampon commercial. I am including the video to a link on a men's page due to the conversation started below the video link. Think about what the author says and share your thoughts, please?

Here's the link:

Garden Journal #8

The Beans look amazing! I've even seen flowers, on the ground. The 5 or so plants that make up this tower of greenery might start to fruit but then drop. A condition known as blossom drop. Usually a sign of poor soil quality. So I added the usual coffee and egg shell grounds, a nice dose of dry grass trimming and leaves, and waited. Besides a sudden surge in growth, no change in the edible department. Time for research. I lurked around the Farmer's Alamanac forums and found that marigolds release an antibiotic into the soil. Pretty cool! The antibiotic is said to help keep tomato worms and other pepper, squash and onion pests away and aid soil quallity. However, it interfers with the fruiting of legumes. That finding led to my immediate transplanting of the 3 foot Aztec Marigold planted 2 feet away from the bean vine! (Well, i had to wait a week because I went camping, cleaned up from camping, sprayed the house for fleas, and spent yesterday running between playdates and library-led freeplay science explorer hour - if you live in Denton, check out that last one. It's so cool!) 

Anyway - this morning, I did some weeding, moved the giant flowering bush to where my lovely chicken left an acorn squash plant out to dry and hope this helps solve the issue. Next issue, I don't think my pole teepee is gonna be tall enough...

 I am waiting with baited breath for these big guys to turn red! Pictured are the most tomatoes I have had grow since leaving Oregon. that's right: 3 in the last 5 years. The only thing I did different this year, was not buy a plant from anyone. I grew all 9+ of my plants from seed and they all are fruiting. This year, we will have tomatoes! In fact, this year, we have already enjoyed more fruit from our garden than all the years since leaving Oregon combined,
Sneaking little bites of kale when no one is looking. Little Scamps!
 as long as these guys stay on the appropriate side of the fence.

This year has been extra wet and stormy. Yesterday we had another howler blow through with the chance of hail. The Crape Myrtle in the front yard looks like someone tried to drive a truck through the middle of the foliage 8 feet in thge air. I am hoping the dry weather today helps the plant put things back where they belong, but I digress. Last night as the wind was ripping through, I did the usual walkabout to make sure all the important stuff was tied down (like climbing on the pergola and securing the tarp. That was new for me.). I noticed one of my climbing trellises in the garden was swaying rather dangerously. Last thing I want is for my pie pumpkin to die because the trellises ripped it out of the ground. As I was securing it with tent spikes for the time being, I noticed the hidden cucumber vine that encircles the pumpkins finally had an actual cucumber on it! It was half buried in mulch and I assume the horrid squash beetles pollinated it. But I am so happy to have one that i didn't squish any beetles today. I did scrap some eggs off the leaves though.

 The mornings are the best time to see all the insects hard at work. I saw so many bees I was actually giddy. I am grateful for their hard work and I hope the bowl of nectar I put out in the fall and the constant stream of flowers we have in the garden helps them survive this coming winter!
Have you ever seen corn with this much hair?
 The radishes are still flowering, so I've left them for the bees. Occasionally I'll find a pod hanging off the plant and I'll pick that. These are the radish seeds for next year. I did some Googling and some book researching and couldn't find a thing on how to seed a radish. So naturally, I experimented. I just let the bulbs flower and watched to see what would happen. Pods formed where some flowers had been and as the pods dried on the vine, I picked one and opened it. Inside was a tiny round orb I can only assume was a seed. I haven't gather as many pods as I should have so I bet the radish has reseeded itself and I may have a voluntary crop come Autumn. I do hope anyway. In the meantime, the gnarly twisted plant is keeping the ground shaded and suffocating weeds.

 Happy gardening!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Blessed Solstice

I was busy enjoying nature and nurturing relationships on the day, but better late then never. May you have a blessed solstice and enjoy this season as the sun wanes and the shorter days of winter approach. 

Blessed Be/Namaste

Friday, June 13, 2014

Garden Journal #7

The following photos are by Emagene 

Everything is doing well, except the kale. It's a bit late for kale anyway so letting it go to the caterpillars and chickens isn't breaking my heart. In fact, our one siberian kale plant is almost more than we can keep up with ourselves. Kale at every meal! So instead we check the plants for cocooned caterpillars and then feed the empty ones to the chickens before adding stems to soup or using them as teethers. I did lose a pie pumpkin vine to some sort of vine rot. We got one tiny squash from it before we turned into green compost. Apart from the occasional splash rot and blossom drop due to heat, we're sitting we'll above every other garden we've planted here! Moving the garden's location was a helpful choice. And the new neighbor bringing female dog home, replacing three male fence marking dogs, is making the move an even better idea. I am hopefully that some of the bean blossoms will turn to beans and that I can save our 2 ears of corn from the bugs. Otherwise it's kind of fun watching which bugs come and go, who likes to lay eggs where, and finally watching the plants flourish! Third time truly is the charm!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Signs of Summer's Beginning

A few nights ago, after we were tucked in, Artemis started barking. She usually barks for one of three reasons. Reason 1: there is some being (human, neighborhood cat, unfamiliar dog, skunk)) lurking near the front door (or knocking). Reason 2: there is some being (human, stray cat, the neighbors dog - or rather any dog she can see from our deck which could include the dogs walking along the side street 3 houses away- or skunk). Reason 3: someone is playing with her.  

Since I was fairly certain reason 3 wasn't encouraging her commotion, I had Pete get up and see what was going on. He stumbled around in the dark a bit and came back mumbling something about our cat. That was enough to let me fall asleep peacefully. 

The next morning, I got up with the baby and found a huge, 2 inch cockroach dead in my living room. I now think Artemis, being slightly blind, could hear the thing rustling about but was unable to catch it in the dark. No worries. It seemed thoroughly dead as it was just lying there on the carpet. 

I do want to pause and say a bit about me and bugs. I don't particularly care for them. This fear is mostly based on ignorance, something I am working to change, and the visceral shock of things flying at my face or scurrying over my feet.

 When I moved to Texas a few years ago, I was warned about the bird-sized Mosquitos, the massive grasshoppers and the giant roaches. I was told it wasn't a matter of IF we got roaches but more about WHEN and knowing who to call. In my time here, I have seen 3 roaches in my house (counting the star of this story). All in May. All huge. All quickly dead. The first was in my kitchen and scared me to death. We then proceeded with a spring cleaning like you can only imagine and the purchase of roach traps. The second was seen scurrying down the hall as i opened the door to let the dog out. Fortunately, there was a chicken in hot pursuit. This year's roach sighting was a little more animated.

My first thought after determining there was truly a roach in the house, was how to get it outside to a chicken. I had the baby and didn't particularly want to risk trying to catch it, cauung it to come back to life and just disappear. (Fear based on ignorance triggers more unnecessary fears.) So I went out for my trusted friendly chicken, Ferdy. She's always trying to come in the house anyway. Time for a treat! 
She's an easy one to wrangle, our Ferdy. Almost like a lovable kitten. With talons. Those two weeks bandaged in our tub made her quite the cuddler! So I scoop her up in one arm while holding the baby on my opposite hip and bring her into the house. I set her near the roach, but she's too distracted by being inside to notice. She wanders off to my room to chat with her reflection in my mirrored closet door as i grab a handful of birdseed. I get the bird, set her back near the roach and sprinkle seed on the carpet, clucking like i do anytime I'm distributing treats. She goes for the seeds, sees the roach, and crunches it down fast! After I let her get the seeds out of my carpet, I take her back outside to an audience of the other birds. You could almost see Ferdy strut out, boasting about her awesome trip to the indoor cockroach bar.

 In retrospect, I should've grabbed another bird who isn't hellbent on sneaking in the backdoor whenever possible, but she was the one I knew I could trust to save me from having to touch that nasty thing! So much for not encouraging behavior I don't want or not allowing habits I'll have to break later! 

 I have come to call these intimate moments with nature my Spring Roach Sighting and they serve as a sign the hot season has started. Time for beings to find a cool place to move before the mercury really spikes. I honestly can't blame them. The summers here are brutal!

 Emagene's friends graduated from   preschool, we took a trip to the city pool and we had a Roach Sighting. Summer is definitely upon us!

What non-calendar ways do you have for noticing the seasonal change?

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Garden Journal #6

This post really should be called Flowers and Fruit! But then i'd lose the consistency of the titles and my OCD wouldn't be able to live with that. So now, a barrage of flower photos:

These were taken earlier in the week. Now, after a half week of rain and humidity, we have new flowers and fruit!!!

The cucumber has twisted itself into the pumpkins

What's going on in your garden?