All things green and beautiful

I can’t get over how amazing it is to have food growing in our backyard, getting bigger every day, just there for the pickin’.

wee little raised bed o' greens

wee little raised bed o’ greens

Even though I’ve been doing some work weeding and watering, and despite the fact that we paid money for the seeds, it still feels like free groceries. Yesterday I made a salad with our own spinach and lettuce, and some other fixings that we had in the fridge (sugar snap peas, carrots, sesame seeds, Annie’s French dressing, red onion). I took a terrible quality picture of it with my iPad. It was a bit of a mess, but it was tasty.

that's a lot of green and orange.

that’s a lot of green and orange.

I was unaccountably excited about that salad. I haven’t grown actual food by myself before. My mom used to keep a garden when I was a kid, but I definitely did not appreciate how cool it was. I’ve been wanting to grow our own food for a long time now, and even though we had tomatoes two years ago, it was one plant, which didn’t bear much fruit at all, and I don’t even eat raw tomatoes. It was definitely less exciting.

I’m particularly enthusiastic about the chard. It’s one of my favorite greens. I use it basically the same way I do kale, and I like the taste of both pretty equally, but chard is so gorgeous. The word “chard” leaves a little something to be desired, but its colorful stems really ramp up the whole experience for me. I like my food to be beautiful, and there’s not much more beautiful than varicolored produce.

bright lights Swiss chard

bright lights Swiss chard

I kind of knew this was going to be a post about green things, so I took some more green things photos this morning while I was out and about in the yard.

Our neighbor has an immense blackberry bush right up against the fence in her yard, and it sticks plenty of branches through the gaps. It’s forming berries now, and the anticipation is rising.



Chris likes to eat the berries right off the bush, but I like to cook with them and put them in smoothies. Last summer, we had plenty of our-side-of-the-fence berries, enough to freeze for later, and some ended up in individual peach-blackberry cobblers a couple of months ago.

The last plant I took pictures of this morning is another one that’s not quite done, but brimming with potential.

Over the winter, we had a huge snow pile in front of our living room window, from shoveling the driveway and having not much room to put the snow. Since the pile mostly blocked my view of anything else, I figured I might as well have something interesting to look at, so I threw birdseed onto it every few days. Dark-eyed juncos ran rampant over the pile, and we had some squirrel action, as well. Some seeds were missed, clearly, because this spring, some rogue sunflower plants sprang up in front of the house.



That guy is by far the tallest, and it’s driving me a little crazy that it hasn’t bloomed yet. I check every day, and even though there isn’t a blossom there, it still turns its face toward the sun as it makes its way across the sky. In the evening, the plant looks like the exact reverse of the photo. It’s neat to see it do that, and I appreciate its humble origins.

I’ve always considered fall to be my favorite season, but there’s definitely something to be said about all the abundant life that gets in your face during spring and summer. It’s fortunate that I happen to like the color green, because it is everywhere these days. I’m even eating it.

challenging a belief in finite creativity

Someone recently told me that I have too much time on my hands, and that I should hurry up and get a book out already.

Now, I don’t have any more hours in the day than anyone else, but I’ll grant that it’s possible I’m not using my time as efficiently as I ought to.

I told my heckler (who was just teasing) that I was writing every day, but what I didn’t say, and what makes me feel a little dishonest, was that I’m not working on my book every day. I have been doing a lot of other writing recently, but that comment made me want to figure out a way to get my smaller-scale writing done each day and still not neglect my bigger projects.

Most of what I’ve been working on is my book reviews, this blog (here and there), and a journaling project that’s been an everyday thing for a little while now.

I love writing those reviews. I get so much out of reading, and reviewing the book afterwards is a way to prolong the experience, and to really process what I’ve read. I think I get more enjoyment and meaning from a book by reviewing it.

Sometimes I worry that I’m using up a lot of my writing energy on book reviews and journaling, and there isn’t any left for working on my book (or my short story, or editing my first book).

Photo on 7-2-14 at 10.16 AM

I’m afraid that I’ll have to choose between those things, and I don’t want to give up any of it. I particularly don’t want to give up reviewing.

I wonder if I’m selling myself short, though. I have this preconceived notion, and I’m not sure where it comes from, that there is a limited amount of this writing energy.

I realize that I’ve been operating under the assumption that it can run out. I haven’t really pushed myself to see if that’s true, and how much I can write before it does run out.

Is it a daily limit, a weekly allowance? Is there really any limit at all?

Photo on 7-2-14 at 10.16 AM #2

I’ve had an idea that I could start a timer, like a stopwatch, when I begin writing, and see how long it takes me to finish what I’m working on. I’d just like to get a ballpark figure. Then, I’ll make a goal to increase that number by a certain amount — whatever seems realistic relative to my initial timed session.

I think it would be reasonable to expect myself to write for, say, four hours a day. That’s less than a typical shift at a part-time job. There are enough hours in the day for me to write for six hours, and still be able to get housework done, if I budget my time wisely.

Maybe I would feel completely spent and wrung out like a wet dishrag after writing for that long. So what? I wouldn’t have to do it again.

On the flip side, maybe I would feel exhilarated, empowered, like a superhuman writing machine. Then I could try writing for seven or eight hours, taking breaks to eat and make more tea. Goodness knows what I could accomplish if I wrote for that long even just two or three days a week.

All I have to do is see how much I can take… and in my experience, I find I can usually take a lot more than I expect myself to.


Morning Garden Inspection and Tea Time

My husband and I recently planted a vegetable garden, a sort of preliminary test garden. We hope to plant more after constructing more raised beds, but we got a serviceable, pre-constructed and free!) container to get the ball rolling.

We’ve planted spinach, two types of lettuce, chard, beets, and cucumbers. I’ve discovered that it’s quite a pleasure for me to go out there in the mornings, take a gander at what’s coming up and how it’s coming along, and pull out the weeds. The first weeding session was intensive and prolonged, but after that, it’s been easy to keep on top of it as long as I go out there nearly every morning.

It was looking quite lovely this morning, as I did my morning stroll while the yard was mostly still shady and cool. The far end of the garden was beginning to feel the benefits of the sun.

Screen Shot 2014-06-25 at 10.01.27 AM

chard and beet greens, spinach and lettuce

It’s refreshing and relaxing to wander out there and gaze upon all that new life.

I even munched on a tender baby leaf of iceberg lettuce while I was out there. They need to be thinned out anyway, right?

There is a board attached across the center of the box that Chris added to keep the sides from bowing out too much. A friend of ours who helped us plant had put his package of seeds there, and they spilled. The results of that incident are making themselves quite evident.

clumpy iceberg lettuce

clumpy iceberg lettuce

Chris is excited to thin them out and use them as micro-greens in a wrap or on a salad, so it’s a happy mistake.

There is also an herb garden closer to the house, constructed out of logs from a tree Chris is dismantling. (There really isn’t a better word for what he’s doing to that poor tree.)

Chris's herb and flower bed

Chris’s herb and flower bed from the side and front

The herb garden was Chris’s brainchild, and he planted everything, so I’m not sure what is where, nor am I certain what those things will look like when they pop up. Amongst other things, there is some lavender bergamot, thyme, and oregano in there somewhere — according to him. There may be a flower section as well.

The whole thing is completely overtaken with tiny sprouts, most of which I’m quite sure are weeds, but it’s nearly impossible to tell what’s meant to be there and which are the uninvited guests.

wish I knew what I was looking for...

Where’s Waldo?

I’ve managed to identify some things, such as tiny clover leaves, and two different types of grass. Those three things are all that I feel confident in removing, but at least it’s thinning the herd a bit.

I did think I spotted some oregano in there. I could be totally wrong.

Right there in the center... maybe oregano?

Right there in the center… maybe oregano?

I’m sure it will get easier to tell when things get bigger. I might check online to see what each plant looks like in its early stages, but to do that, I’d have to know exactly what Chris planted, and where.

At any rate, it’s fun to putter around out there, looking and liking, poking, prodding, and pulling. It’s a good way to start the morning — meandering about the yard, checking on the plants, sipping on a cup of strong, milky tea, and then coming inside to write for a bit.

It puts a pleasant, contented spin on the day. This could become a habit.


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