Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for August, 2011

photo by betsyjean79 on Flickr

Some days you step in it.

Some days you find yourself on the bottom of the shoe.

We have a tendency to look at people and think they have all of their poop together.

I look at the lives of some of my friends and acquaintances and feel sad that I don’t have what they have:

Charisma.

Freedom.

Successful careers.

Kids they don’t have to send away every other weekend.

A house full of people that greet them with hugs.

First marriages that worked for them.

An idea of what they want to be when they grow up;

and a clear idea of how to get there.

I see people with big groups of friends that get invited to parties;

and people that actually like going to parties.

And the lucky few that have cats that don’t leave poop outside their door to step on.

Where do these people come from?  How do they pull it all together?  How did they learn to make such spiffytacular decisions? Are some people really that lucky?  Are they just super-talented?  Did they get a secret book of life instructions?

Sometimes I get so frustrated with blogs, because “successful-we-have-our-crap” together folks are telling me the top five steps for helping me fix what’s wrong with me.

I’ve stopped reading the most annoying ones.

There’s nothing wrong with me.

Am I stressed?

Yup.

Overwhelmed?

Sure thing.

Under-appreciated?

You did hear that I’m a teacher and step-mom, right?  That’s my middle name.

Here’s my truth:

I put a lot of stuff on my blog that makes me seem like I have Beautiful Steve’s (he’s the cat that hates me) poop tied up in pretty little packages.

At the moment, I’m wrestling with major life decisions and challenges.  Every time I sit down to write lately, the most pressing matters on my heart, I can’t write about.  I wish I could share the ugly stuff more, because I think it would help a lot of people.  The problem is that it could hurt my kids, or the exes, or my chances at becoming president some day.

The ugly stuff.

The stinky stuff.

The stuff you quickly throw into a pile and hope the unexpected visitor doesn’t notice.

My life is full of joy, and good ideas, and love.

But there is stinky stuff on the bottom of my shoes.

Are you finished with that stick?

Can I borrow it?

Read Full Post »

I haven’t yet taken any time to talk about some of my favorite blogs.  I mention them from time-to-time, but I’d like to do a formal introduction.  That way you don’t miss out on important, useful, or useless but funny information.  I follow several, but we’ll start with these…

Jennifer by a table that Steve made for her (photo from The Common Milkweed)

The Common Milkweed

This is a great site for gorgeous photos of nature and gardening, for getting ideas of how to repurpose your junk, and to watch the transformation of a little rundown country house into a dream homestead.  The posts are simple, full of great ideas for living simply and green, and for inspiration.  They’ve linked back to my site, and I get daily traffic from them.  If you enjoy my blog, then you definitely need to head over to check out theirs.

I met Jennifer and Steve exactly one time at a teeny craft sale where we were selling our wares.  We became facebook friends, checked out one another’s etsy sites, and started following one another’s blogs.  Even though we only know one another through the blogs, I’m pretty sure they’re part of my tribe.

Photo from Chicken Nugget Lemon Tooty - Visit this site for a smile 🙂

Chicken Nugget Lemon Tooty

This is a blog that features the artwork of children.  Their dad is an artist that encourages his kids to be creative, and creative they are.  I was introduced to this blog through the friendly rock street art his kids were doing.  It’s a joyful little blog that makes me happy.

My daughter also likes the shadow puppet theatre that his kids performed for the book, When the Mountain Meets the Moon.

The Marvelous In Nature

If you love nerdy nature notes, then this is the blog for you.  Seabrooke Leckie is an author and illustrator for Peterson Field Guides.  She just finished a new guide on moths. Her blog documents her daily walks.  Her curiosity leads the reader into new discoveries.  Recently, she has shortened her blog posts, but still worth reading if you are a nature nut like me.

Stay tuned for more blogs that I love!

Read Full Post »

“If people let the government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.” ~Thomas Jefferson

Pastured Pig © Jenny Frech 2010

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that sustainable agriculture is an important issue to me.  I worry about the state of our food systems, not just in the U.S., but all over the world.

Last December, Congress passed Bill S. 510 the Food Safety and Modernization Act, and President Obama signed it into law in January as Public Law 111–353.  As a supporter of local agriculture and food choices, I tracked it down online.

It doesn’t sound too bad.

Basically S. 510 gives the USDA the right to inspect, require additional paperwork for traceback purposes, and regulate all farms and hold them to a set of standards.

Luckily, The Tester Amendment passed along with it, which leaves some provisions for small farms that sell directly to the customer.  My biggest concern with this law is some wide open wording which could allow the USDA to regulate seed savers as well if they choose to do this.

It’s very confusing, and I read a lot about this stuff!

There are mixed reviews.  Some say that this regulation will hurt small farmers, some say it will help.  Some say that this regulation will keep people safer, others think we will lose some of our rights to food freedom.

Sure, I want my food that I have to buy at the grocery to be regulated and watched.

I’d love to be able to know if the food I’m going to eat is free from pathogens.  But food is biotic (meaning it comes from a living thing).  Living things have bacteria and pathogens.   Sometimes we forget that not all bacteria is bad.  I’m not sterile on the inside, I’d prefer my food to not be sterilized by bleach or other sterilization techniques.

We stand a better chance of pathogen free food if our food passes through fewer hands, travels a shorter distance, and goes through fewer processing steps.  I’d like to maintain the choice of buying as much of my food locally (from smaller producers) as possible.

This law doesn’t add to my confidence level about the future of our food.

I worry that:

1. big agribusiness will have the upper hand after this law is signed.

It’s easier for corporate farms to swallow the costs associated with the new regulations.

2.biodiversity of our food system is at stake.

Reading between the lines, some food biodiversity advocates are afraid that the USDA will be able to restrict seed savers. In Iraq and some places in Africa, it is illegal for farmers to save the seed they’ve grown for decades because it doesn’t meet the standards set by the government, which forces farmers to buy Big Ag seed.

3. our food choices will be reduced.

I’m not trying to say that everyone needs to run down to the farmer’s market every weekend, but I sure like having the right to do so.  Farmer’s markets are even starting to help lower income individuals eat healthier nutrient dense foods in the form of WIC vouchers, community based garden plots, urban farms, and donations from farmers.

4. the USDA is contradictory.

They give farm subsidies to grow corn for high fructose corn syrup, but yet, we have a generation of obese children.  I’m not sure that I completely trust them in the area of making sure that the food we eat is not detrimental to our health.

5. GMOs are polluting our ecosystems.

Once GMO DNA is out in the environment, there is no cleaning it up.  This has been devestating for Mexico that depends on the wild Maize to cross pollinate its crops.

6. I might lose the right to save seeds from my garden, and buy seeds from my favorite small seed catalogs or from other small growers.

I feel like we are moving to a synthetic food system, one that encourages us to eat tasteless, nutrient-deficient food.  In just a few generations, we have forgotten that chicken really does have it’s own flavor; egg yolks should be bright orange, not yellow; tomatoes come in all shapes and colors, and should not bounce; and baked goods made from wheat should be brownish with texture, not white and fluffy.

Like Thomas Jefferson, I don’t want some stuffed shirt to tell me what I can and can’t grow, buy, or eat.  

I want fresh, unadulterated food, Darn it.

Read Full Post »

Echinacea from my garden, Jenny Frech 2011

My mom and I always get a chuckle when we see someone buying purple coneflower, Echinacea purpurea, at the greenhouse.

This flower has always performed well for us.  I’ve gotten oodles of starts from mom and passed on baby flowers to friends and neighbors.

This is one of my favorite, easy-to-grow flowers.

Purple coneflower is native to the eastern half of the United States.  It is well adapted to a variety of conditions including: cold winters, wet springs, hot and dry summers, and clay soil.  Once coneflower is established, the only care it needs is a little bit of root splitting when it gets too dense.

Coneflower is easy to start from seed.  I just sow the seeds where I want them, sprinkle a little bit of dirt on top (or not) and then let the springtime showers germinate them.

As a perennial, coneflower won’t flower the first year.  You’ll get plants that are about 8-12 inches tall.  If you have other flowering plants in your garden that first year, they will be pretty inconspicuous.

The next year, and in following years, you should have a nice clump of flowering pinkish, purple flowers, between 24 and 48 inches tall.  I’ve heard, but haven’t tried this, that if you cut them back in the late spring/early summer, that the plants will be fuller and less gangly when they bloom in mid-summer.

The blooms look pretty for about 3-4 weeks, and then the petals start to brown.  Some people will choose to deadhead the flowers at this time.  I leave the seedheads as they are.

Goldfinches come to the flower bed all winter long to feast on coneflower seeds.

The seeds that don’t get eaten will reseed themselves, producing even more plants to share with friends.

Echinacea "Irresistible", Photo by Jenny Frech 2011

Echinacea "White Swan", Photo by Jenny Frech 2011

Echinacea is popular, easy to grow and makes a great background flower, so plant breeders have developed unusual varieties.  My first fancy variety was White Swan that I started from seed. This year, I finally broke down and bought a couple of the expensive, er, specialty varieties.

Coneflower comes in a variety of colors , some are puffy and frilly, and others look like a double decker flower with one set of petals stacked on top of the other.

As always, I recommend starting with the basics, in this case it would be the basic purple coneflower.  The basic flowers of any variety generally outperform the ones grown for appearances. That being said, White Swan has always performed well for me.

While searching for images to use for examples, I ran across  WhiteFlowerFarm.com.  This website gave me a bad case of the “Gotta Have Its” as I wiped the drool from my chin.  For even more variety, hop on Google and do a search for “fancy echinacea” and you will be amazed at the variety.  When ordering online, check Davesgarden.com for reputability of the store you are buying from.

Echinacea "Hot Papaya", photo by Jenny Frech, available at Whiteflowerfarm.com

Echinacea "Fancy Frills" photo from Gorge Top Gardens

Echinacea "Sunrise", photo from Gorge Top Gardens

Echinacea "Bubble Gum", photo from White Flower Farm

Echinacea "Flame Thrower", photo from White Flower Farm

 

Echinacea "Double Decker", Photo from Gorge Top Gardens

Read Full Post »

My mom is planning a memory garden for her new house.

Which got me thinking about the flowers in my garden that remind me of special people.

Montana Blues from Jeanette

Two people feed my flower obsession, my mom and Jeanette. Jeanette is my former neighbor.  I haven’t seen her for several years, but I still consider her to be my flower mentor.

There are oodles of flowers that remind me of Jeanette: cleome, sweet peas, Christmas cacti, giant pink rose bushes, coreopsis, flowering quince…

One time, she came home from church with Easter lillies that she pulled from the trash. She gave me some and told me to plant them. For many years the lilies returned. I moved them from house to house, but they disappeared along the way.

My whole garden style reminds me of Jeanette. Her philosophy is to let flowers reseed themselves and let them come up where ever they may to create a grand surprise for us. I’ve expanded on her love of mixing and matching, by tucking away annuals into nooks and crannies.

I still have a flower that she gave me.   As freely as I give away starts, I don’t share my Montana Blues, a fancy bachelor’s button. I’ll be glad to share some once I’m sure they’ve spread enough and are here to stay.

Lantana reminds me of my artist friend, Jan

This year I bought a yellow and pink lantana and put it in a pot with some petunias.

I can’t see lantana anywhere without thinking about Jan.

My friend Jan and I were both part-time traveling teachers at the same schools. She taught art, and I taught science.  At one of the schools we shared a room and exchanged moral support.  In the window, Jan kept giant lantana plants with sandpapery leaves. Guara always reminds me of her too, and how she calls the baby plants, “pups”.

Hollyhocks are part of the childhood memories of my Grandma Frech.

She didn’t bake me cookies or read stories aloud when I was a little lassie, but I recall two fun moments. The first is completely unrelated to flowers.  She babysat us and we played Land of the Lost underneath the dining room table that now resides in my dining room.

This hollyhock is a little bit fancier than the ones Grandma grew

The second is a sweet and simple memory.  Outside of the farmhouse was a patch of dark pink Hollyhocks. When they were in bloom, she would make dolls for me using a bud as the head and an open blossom as the skirt. I wish I knew how to make them like she did.

Bleeding hearts and daylillies remind me of my Aunt Nina who also has a flower obsession. Nina has jam-packed flower beds, which always have something in bloom.  She loves Hostas too, which rubbed off on my mom.

Lots of flowers make me think of Mom.

She has a special fondness for violets because they remind her of her grandmother. Once we visited the wooded lot where her grandmother’s house used to be. We took a few starts home.

My daughter is starting to enjoy flowers.  She claims to not like gardening much, but she spends hours playing in the dirt.  That is the makings of a gardener if you ask me.

She is starting to ask to plant particular flowers, and is claiming favorites.  This summer she declared poppies as her favorite.  How can I argue with that?  We planted several from seed.  When I’m missing her I visit her crab apple tree and the poppies underneath. The memories and joy that flowers carry with them is one of the reasons I love to garden.

When I spend time meditating by pulling weeds and planting seeds, I’m spending time with the people I love.

When I stroll through the aisles at a greenhouse, I’m looking for connections. What flowers are near and dear to your heart?  I bet there’s a link between our favorite flowers and someone we love and admire.

Violets, my mom's favorite

Read Full Post »

Tsk. Tsk. Tsk.

Her house is a pigsty.

Where would you like to sit? Let me clear a spot for you.

There is cat hair on the sofa the dog hair in the carpet. Half of a pair of dirty socks is rotting on the coffee table and its mate is on the stairs.

Fruit flies party around a bruised tomato on the counter. A mysterious red goo clings to the floor by the waste basket.

There is a funny ring around the sink in the kitchen, and the shelf in the fridge is sticky.

There is so much stuff on sitting surfaces that you’ll have to pile it up to find a place to plop.

There are kids drawings on the fridge and bulletin board; and games piled up on the table. Stuffed animals are stuck in between the couch cushions. Books pages are marked with old envelopes.

This is my house.

I know. I’m a slob. But there are only so many hours in a day, and I’ve finally stopped beating myself up about my messy house.

Quality time with my daughter and step-kids is more important than shiny floors. After a long day at work, if I come home and clean for an hour, there won’t be enough time to just hang out with the kids: helping with homework, watching Cosby show reruns, reading together and playing games.

Cleaning up before someone comes over to my house is lying.

I spend 95%* of my time in a messy house. I know I should try to put my best foot forward. But when I spend hours scouring the house, I get stressed, and still feel the need to make excuses for the mess that’s left.

My messy house is embarrassing.

But I’ve decided that other than running the vacuum and making sure there’s a place to sit at the table and the couch, I’m not going to stress myself out anymore before people come over.

Since I’ve stopped making a major production of cleaning before company, I’ve actually gotten compliments on my house.

Not, “Oh your house is so lovely,” but “your house is so homey.”

My friends feel pretty comfortable in the clutter, I think.

It takes the pressure off them to feel like they need to clean before I come over.

After all, most of us have messy houses 95% of the time. We either have kids, or dogs, or busy jobs, or occupying hobbies. All are more important than a clean house.

Now, I am in no way slamming anyone with a clean house. Some people are great at cleaning. They are efficient cleaners. They feel better when their living space is organized. Some people find cleaning, meditative.

If you love to clean, go for it.

I’m too A.D.D. to keep a clean house. I spend hours trying to organize a countertop. I am completely inefficient. As much as I love an organized space, it takes so much energy that I spend way more stress trying to maintain the organization, than the stress the clutter causes.

I’ve decided that the best friends are the ones you don’t have to clean up for; the ones that you’re not ashamed to bring into your messy house for coffee.

Typical state of the dining room table

Seriously, do we really want our friends to waste time fretting over their messy house for us?

Nah.

I want to be the friend that you’ll invite into your house when the counter is full, and you have to push your junk onto a pile on the floor for me to sit down.

I don’t care about your clutter.

I care about you.

*all percentages are completely made up, but I think they’re pretty accurate anyway.

Read Full Post »

The Store

We have three tween girls in our family.  Two age 9 1/2, and one age 11.  Trying to find clothes for all of them could break the bank, but we came up with a solution.

All summer long, I shop at garage sales and second hand stores.  Hubby and I watch for half-off sales and 75% off tags at Good Will, collecting cute clothes for $.10 to $2.00.

I have learned to hit the jackpot by driving slowly past garage sales, looking for  a stylish teenager guarding the money box.  Often their clothes have been worn once or not at all, or they have too many, so they practically give their unwanted threads away.

Right before school starts, and in the spring, we pull out the clothes and set up a store.

The girls take turn trying on and choosing items they love.  Lucky for us, the three girls have very different taste, and slightly different body types, so there isn’t a lot of competition.

This is the oldest in her "not quite polished mis-matched, but look at me I'm cute" look

The oldest sports a polished look.  The middle is a traditional preppy girl, and the youngest digs more of a Punky Brewster style.

Any clothes that are still too big get boxed up for the next season.  Unchosen clothes will make their way back to one of the thrift stores.

As they get older, I’m scared that they won’t want to shop this way anymore and my money saving plot will be foiled.

But they are still excited to pick out outfits.

Each of them will get a little bit of spending money to buy the school clothes that they didn’t find on shopping day.  We’ll go to the box stores and to the second-hand stores.  They’ll decide how to budget their funds to fill in their missing wardrobe.

I spent about $80 on the clothes and shoes bought this way.  Each of the girls is getting $40 to spend at the regular stores.  Any leftover money will be set aside if they want to buy something later this fall.

The girls are learning how to budget their money.  They’re learning about the value of reusing and recycling.  And heck, clothing three girls in really cute, full wardrobes for less than $200 total, works for me.

The three girls, youngest to oldest in their favorite outfit of the day


A Note About “The Boy”

My step-son is going into high school.  He is substantially less picky about his clothes.  I find nice shirts for him along the way, and his dad will take him to buy blue jeans and socks.  So far, so good.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: