I’ve decided to use this blog again as a garden journal.  If anyone else reads this, I’ll be surprised (but it’s fine!).  Looking back at garden-topic entries from two years ago, I realize how useful it is to document happenings to refer back to.  I just read my post “Lessons learned (so far) by a vegetable garden neophyte” and it made me laugh; I haven’t followed all of my own advice!  How quickly my mind can forget even the most basic things…

I’m going to use this to periodically record plantings, significant occurences (for example, if bunnies come in and give buzz cuts to ALL of the broccoli planted from seed indoors months before, carefully and lovingly nurtured to seedlings ready to transplant and then they’re gone one morning…),  post pictures to show growth and progress, and records lessons learned so next year I will be a better gardener.

This year I got a very late start, but I feel consolation in that I was not alone.  We had a long winter and a very cool spring and it seems like everyone is delayed.  I decided to not start seeds indoors since last year those that I started indoors either were obliterated by those damn rabbits or were equally as productive as those I seeded directly into the garden, planted at the same time I transplanted the seedlings.   Therefore I decided it wasn’t worth the time and energy this year.

I have not endeavored into the starting-tomatoes-from-seeds world yet; I’m still intimidated.  Last year was my first year growing tomatoes (purchased plants).  I had two planted directly in the earth in the herb garden (my addition to the yard last year!) and two or three in pots.  The ones planted in the ground were behemoths (!) and those in the pots were scrawny and not very productive.  There will be no tomato in pots this year.

This year we (Andy is helping with the garden this year; it is so nice to have his company) planted the following seeds on May 3: radishes, carrots, peas, lettuce, spinach, green onions, and broccoli.  On Monday I planted about 18 square feet of red onion seedlings and have another 24 square feet or so of more red and yellow onions to plant.  I’ll get them in this week.  Since it’s been so cool, I haven’t yet planted tomatoes, peppers, basil, or rosemary; I plan to this weekend.

Andy started strawberries last year from some plants his dad provided.  They look beautiful and we can’t wait to taste the first delicious berry!  We need to learn how to keep them healthy and under control so the travellers don’t take over the whole garden.

Andy's Strawberries

Andy's Strawberries

The most exciting thing for me so far this year is that I harvested compost for the first time!  It was a beautiful, rich, black soil.  I did not harvest it as recommended by the master composters, but I think it will be fine.  I tilled it into the garden before planting.  We will be more actively managing the compost pile this year so it will break down faster.

Harvesting Compost

Harvesting Compost

Beautiful Compost

Beautiful Compost

That is my first update.  More pics and info to come!

I was asked if the Compact has brought me closer with neighbors or other people.  At first I didn’t think it has had such an effect, but I’ve had a few experiences within the last week or two that has made me re-think the my answer.

Here is the recap of one such encounter:

A few days before Christmas I was at an antique shopping to find buttons to finish off the sweater I knit for my nephew.  The buttons were in baskets behind locked glass so I had to ask for someone to open it.  The older woman who opened the cabinet sat down with me and together we perused through the baskets.  We spent almost an hour together, holiding up buttons, discussing if they were too big or too small, too feminine, how beautiful some were, etc.   She even helped me dig through a gigantic tub full of thousands of loose buttons in a fruitless attempt to find five matching, baby-sweaterish buttons.  At one point she asked me why I didn’t go find a cute set at a fabric store, so I explained my commitment under the Compact.  She seemed to appreciate the idea.  At the bottom of the last basket, she found the most perfect buttons and we both were very pleased. 

My point in relaying this encounter is that if I had gone to a store to purchase them new, I would not have had this pleasant exchange with a stranger.  I would have marched in, found the buttons, and marched out with five matching buttons and never thought about it again. 

I am glad I took the time to find the buttons.  I don’t regret that it took an hour.  I don’t feel like I “wasted” time.  How can I regret delightful time with another person?  In this day and age, we are all in such a rush to [fill in the blank].  I hear complaints about the loss of community, self-indulgence, and lack of respect for others.  If we can all slow down and allow more human interaction with neighbor, friends, and strangers alike, maybe we’ll feel like we’re getting more connection and community back in our lives.

I wish I had kept up with this blog.  Not because anyone else is reading it, but I wish I could look back on my perspectives on the Compact as I’ve been going through the 12-month period of not purchasing anything new.  Reading back on the original entry about it, my frame of mind and feelings about it at the time vividly come back.

I’ve been thinking about the Compact a lot lately for two reasons: 1.  Christmas season has been in full force (and thankfully winding down) so I’ve had to be very conscientious about my gift purchases, and 2.  I was interviewed (and photographed, arghhh) for an article in the Star Tribune about the Compact. 

Christmas this year was great.  We spent time with my whole immediate family (less a brother-in-law – missed you, Matt), time with Andy’s mom, and time at home with just the two of us and our ailing kitty who likely won’t be around this time next year.  Spending time with people we love was the best. 

For most of us Americans, the reality is that Christmas is also a time of gift-giving.  This year my awareness of the material aspect of the holiday was particularly heightened due to my commitment to the Compact.  Any gifts I purchased for others had to be not new or consumable which was rather challenging at times.  It took more thought and time on my part, but it paid off.  I feel like it showed through in the gifts I gave and I had such a sense of satisfaction when I finally found the perfect coffee grinder for Andy.

The cool thing is the gifts I received this year were so thoughtful and wonderful, and almost all of them are not new.  I wasn’t expecting others to follow the Compact rules for me, but feel very appreciative that they were willing to do so.  It isn’t my place to impose my values on others, especially since I realize it does cause for more time and effort to find appropriate and thoughtful “non-new” gifts.   For the record, I did receive a few “new” gifts that were also very thoughtful and I graciously accepted them.  Many people have asked me about that scenario; others are surpised that the rules of the Compact would include gifts.

Andy gave me a cherry coffee table.  With help from a friend, he spent hours upon hours putting together and finishing this piece that he designed and began cutting wood for five years ago.  I asked him how long it took in the last couple of weeks to finish it; he estimated 30 hours.  It is gorgeous… and I feel like an adult, finally having a real coffee table.  Now we’ll be able to use the ottoman for our feet, which I’ve been told is what it’s supposed to be for.  It is very special because I know Andy put so much thought, time, and effort into finishing it for me. 

 Coffee Table

I will always admire and appreciate the table; it has more meaning that any other piece of furniture we have and it will never be disposed of. 

On another Compact matter: an update on the cheats.  On the first Compact post, I wrote that I cheated twice.  Well, one of those “cheats” hasn’t transpired yet.  Yes, yes the intention was there for me to purchase a new item, but Andy hasn’t yet bought a windshield for his bike.  However, I did have a moment of weakness in September when I bought a brand-new (gasp!) baby outfit for our good friends’ first baby.  It was so cute and soft and my (totally irrational) rationalization was that it is made from organic cotton.

For all of you readers who have been wondering where I’ve been….. I know, I know, there are hundreds, maybe thousands of you and I’ve so selfishly left you hanging…. Well, here’s an update on my garden.

Confession: it has somewhat gone to pot.  We are still harvesting broccoli and in fact made a delicious broccoli salad this evening and there are still plenty of carrots to harvest.  I learned an interesting tidbit today from my sister (thanks, Lisa!) about harvesting carrots.   Being that it is my first year with a veg garden, I was worried the carrots remaining in the ground would be bad by now; we harvested a ton of delicious carrots well over a month ago and a whole row remain in the ground.  Anyway, I learned that one can place straw over the remaining carrots (and this can be done with other root crops as well) and harvest them throughout the winter, even here in Minnesota!  I will be on the hunt for some straw in the next week.

Here’s my broccoli harvest for today, with more to cut in the garden for this weekend. 

sept-broccoli-small.jpg

Note you will not see any more pictures of the actual garden because I am too ashamed to let anyone see its condition.  However, there are secrets to discover within the garden.  I’ll share one: even though no one else could find the sage, basil, or spearmint, it is thriving in the undergrowth.  (Maybe it’s my strategy to keep my herbs safe from the herb-stealers known to prowl my town… one may never know my true intentions with my overgrown garden…)

On a brighter note, I’m very proud of the onions.  Here was our onion harvest in August:

onion-harvest-august-6.jpg

Next year I’ll do more onions since I don’t think these will get us through the winter; we use onions in almost every meal.

peas-blog-copy.jpg

The peas are abundant and most delicious.  Definitely our favorite!

This is how picking goes: one in my mouth, one in the bowl.  One in my mouth, one in the bowl.  One in my mouth, one in my mouth.  Maybe one in the bowl.  One in my mouth.  Another in my mouth.  Here was today’s harvest:

peas-in-bowl-blog.jpg

They are no longer…

I took the leap into the world of non-commercial shampoo.  This is coming from one who gets greasy hair after not washing for one day.  In fact, my friend (who shall remain nameless to protect her identity) and I are known in some circles as the grease-heads because of our unfortunate tendencies to this condition.  So the decision was not made flippantly and the timing was carefully planned; I leave for a week-long camping trip soon that hopefullly will coincide with the worst of grease times.

My last day of washing my hair with store-bought shampoo was Friday.  We camped over the weekend and on Sunday I showered but didn’t wash my hair.  Yesterday (Monday) I used baking soda to scrub my scalp and rinsed with vinegar scented with orange essential oil.  My hair was soft and good-smelling (once it dried the vinegar smell was gone completely), a little greasy but not too bad.  Day One, done.  I’m on Day Two today and so far, okay.  I don’t think they’d take my picture for the cover of a magazine but I went to work without having to wear a scarf or other method of deception.

Since I ran today in the stifling humidity and was bathed in sweat and salt, I washed again using the same “products” as I did yesterday.  We’ll see what the result are after it dries completely.  It feels really good already!

My hygiene practices are good.  For my job I must meet with many people daily and have to portray a professional demeanor and appearance.  So a bit of explanation why I’m doing this.  I’ve been learning that most shampoo actually is detrimental to hair; it often dries it out causing over-production of oils, causing a dependency on shampoo to get rid of the greasies.   However, if allowed, after going through stages of grease, our hair (supposedly) gets to a point where it produces just the right amount of oil to keep the hair healthy and nice-looking without needing to shampoo.  Not only that, but there are a lot of chemicals in shampoo and why expose oneself to that?

We’ll see who’s winning in a week or two: the greasies or nature…

On April 8 I joined the Compact.  I have agreed to not purchase anything new (exemptions include food items, other necessities like toothpaste, and non-sexy underwear).  Here is the mission statement from the official blogsite (http://sfcompact.blogspot.com/):

1) to go beyond recycling in trying to counteract the negative global environmental and socioeconomic impacts of U.S. consumer culture, to resist global corporatism, and to support local businesses, farms, etc. — a step, we hope, inherits the revolutionary impulse of the Mayflower Compact; 2) to reduce clutter and waste in our homes (as in trash Compact-er); 3) to simplify our lives (as in Calm-pact)

Here is a link to an article that explains it further: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/02/13/BAGH3H7DH71.DTL

I’ve never been one to purchase a lot of things, at least compared to many other Americans, so joining the Compact is likely not as much a challenge for me as it may be for many others.  Even so, I had a ton of anxiety after joining and it didn’t wear off for a day.  I hate to admit that my first thoughts after joining included being very glad that I had recently purchased cross-trainers, a swim cap, and swim goggles.

The Compact has had a large impact on me and decisions I’ve made in the last three months.  Really it’s a commitment I’ve made to myself; there is no official Compact Enforcer to holler at me if I have guilty thoughts fantasizing about buying a brand-new chair to match the rocker in the front porch (yes, I have had such thoughts, sometimes rather obsessively).  I’m my own Enforcer.  The experience so far has forced me to think through things thoroughly: needs vs. wants, how can I resolve a situation without buying something new, how would purchase X would potentially affect the world (which then gets me thinking on the path from an item’s voyage from raw material to the store shelf).  I have become a much more creative person in the problem-solving realm!

Confessions of a Compacter: I’ve cheated twice.  The first time was one week after joining when I purchased birthday candles and a small package of napkins at Target (haven’t been to Target or similar stores since) for a surprise party (justification: if I hadn’t done it, one of my siblings would have).  The second cheat moment is when I bought a windshield for my Andy’s motorcycle as a birthday gift.  Well, I haven’t actually purchased it yet, but told him he could pick one out.  It took months of thinking it over to decide if I was going to do it.  At least it was a very conscious choice. (Andy has not joined the Compact but he definitely has the spirit of it and is supportive of me.)

There have been many instances where I normally would have gone to a store to get what I needed (i.e. fish line to hang a stained glass piece, fencing material for my garden to mention a couple) and not thought about it again.  To be honest, it was a natural inclination in the beginning; I had to stop myself from jumping in the car.  Now, it’s natural to think about what I have that I can use, or think about how I can get what I need, either purchasing it used or getting it for free.  After a few moments of thought, I realized I had fish line on my childhood fishing pole in the basement – glad I didn’t buy a whole spool since I only need three feet.  I was able to find old chicken wire and some other fence material for all of my garden needs from the local recycling center’s scrap pile, for free.  How cool is that!

Don’t plant all the seeds of one vegetable at the same time (yes, I read one should spread out the planting time or face the consequences but I was so anxious to get the darn seeds in the ground).  We’ve been inundated with 20+ spinach plants, all giants, ate radishes for what seemed like three meals a day for weeks (and felt guilty as they burst out of the ground, begging to be pulled because we couldn’t keep up), and are about to be conquered by hoards of lettuce.  Neighbors, friends, family – come get your greens for the next few weeks.  Wait ’til the peas come out… then we’re in trouble.

Thin.  It’s hard to get rid of handsome seedlings but the results later will be worth the immediate sorrow.  The remaining plants will grow into much more beautiful, hearty edibles.

Don’t thin during the heat of the day if you’re hoping to move the healthy-looking seedling to a new spot in an attempt to avoid the sorrow of wasting perfectly good young plants.  The sun will have it’s way and melt the transplants in a matter of 20 minutes…. sorry broccoli and spinach.

If you do thin & attempt transplant during the heat of day, homemade tents (for instance out of sticks, bandanas, and clothespins or whatever else can serve to create a tent-like structure) can save the sheltered plants… yay for the lucky ones that got the tents.

Put up a perimeter fence taller than 18 inches.  Eighteen inches is enough to keep out the rabbits but not neighborhood dogs and the self-appointed taste-tester cat.

Give the poor peas a space to climb early on.  Otherwise one must get creative with ways to train the established plants with their empty, flailing little arms reaching for something, anything to grab on to.

Do not crowd corn and bush beans; they need their space.  I am afraid of the kingdoms of weeds ruling amongst those congested plants.

Veg garden

Plant cool crops like spinach, lettuce, and radishes early.  They can handle the cooler weather and we can benefit from earlier harvests (but remember to plant in succession).

Don’t procrastinate on starting seeds indoors.  Just do it and then don’t forget to water.

Make the garden bigger!  Next year I want to add cucumbers, squash, strawberries, kohlrabi, garlic, more tomatoes, and so much more!

Learn about companion planting.  This will help with pest control and will encourage healthy growth.

I decided to join the blogging community after much deliberation.  I was hesitant because, in some ways, it seems rather narcissistic of me.  However, I’ve been reading a blog (http://simplereduce.wordpress.com/) for the last year-and-a-half and it has really changed my actions and how I live.  I’ve realized blogging is just a newer way of sharing ideas in a more informal way and I believe information exchange can only bring good things overall.  Also, a friend (thanks, Siri!) opened my eyes to the concept further when we attempted a blog between us and I realized it can be a great way to start discussions and share ideas.   So I figure I’ll give it a shot and maybe it could be some sort of forum for discussions and idea-exchanges.  If nothing else, it will act as a journal for me to be able to look back at how I used to approach some matters; change can happen so subtly that without record, one may not remember how it used to be.

Through the changes I’ve been making, I realized a few weeks back that I feel I am living much more deliberately these days; one foot is placed in front of the other and I am noticing it and it feels good!  (Hence, the name of this blog.)   I am taking more time to do what some may consider mundane tasks and in the process I have more time to think and I find that I really enjoy hanging the laundry on the line – I’m all alone with my thoughts and the fresh air and it provides opportunity to notice the environment in which I live.  Plus it feels great to know I’m saving energy and my clothes smell wonderful.

I hope also to document some of my gardening experiences and mishaps so that I can remember next planting season what I want to do differently.  What a sharp learning curve I am going through!  This is my first year with a vegetable garden and it has become the most beautiful sight.  I was worried that nothing would grow; in actuality I think there isn’t anything that hasn’t grown with vigor.  So far we’ve only been able to indulge in the radishes, spinach, and tomatoes, but they are the best I’ve ever tasted – really.  Every day I check on the other vegetables with anticipation to see how much closer we are to harvesting them. 

So friends and family, you’re welcome into my sharing of new adventures of trials, tribulations, and triumphs into simpler, lighter living – all which, for me, seems to be leading me into more deliberate, and therefore more content, living.  I encourage comments of all sorts: plain old comments, ideas, encouragement, challenges – any thoughts at all!

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