Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Peas to Rebuild the Soil

The peas we planted in 3 of the beds are finally growing. These beds will later hold Tomatoes. The plan is to grow the peas for as as long as possible, chop them down and leave them to rebuild the soil. This worked well last year. One of the beds will have a great cherry tomato that was delicious and produced for many weeks, and two will have canning tomatoes. 

Some of the goals we have for this season:

  ~ Lettuce, Arugula and perennial greens - as much as possible in rotation.
  ~ Enough carrots, potatoes, and tomatoes canned to get us through the
  ~ Learning more about culinary and medicinal herbs - and how to harvest an
      store them.
  ~ Adding many more flowers and plants that are beneficial for insects.

It's all such a great experiment!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Next to my desk I have this shelf with a collection of gifts, found objects, etc.
Nature represented in various forms - each is a talisman to a place.
Ocean, river, quarry, woods, field, winter, summer, autumn, spring.
Inspiration for life - inspiration for writing.

Many also remind me of people that I care about and adventures we have been on.

The newest addition is the sign, a gift from my daughter - that ties it all together.

"Keep Calm and Garden On"

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Herb Spiral, Raised Beds, Flower Pots and More!

Spring is finally here and the work outside has begun!

Over the past week, we have been working on several projects...
  • Built up the raised beds 
  • planted potatoes
  • planted two kinds of carrots
  • planted leeks, and two kinds of onions
  • 6 planters of flowers, herbs and kale (expanding our planting area to the driveway by using planters - also getting some annuals like Marigolds out into the yard and Poppies to the patio)
  • planted two new blueberry and two strawberry plants
  • planted 5 new grape vines
  • added herbs (basil, lemon thyme, rosemary, dill) to the herb spiral (still waiting for the perennials to come up)

In the warm sun of the past few days we have found that all of our fruit trees and bushes have made it through the winter. The fruit bushes are already getting leaves! The bulb flowers: Daffodils, Crocus, and Tulips came up for the second year and where one Daffodil was, 5 came up. I am so happy they are doing well. Still on a search for a flower to come up after the early bulbs...

There is the ever present working with wood for the wood stove, spring cleaning and learning to cook with new and different ingredients. All fun. Learning how to balance life, writing in the blog, and actually being out of the house and in the yard more is my new quest. 

new strawberry and blueberry plants

working on the herb spiral/ rosemary on the top
working on the herb spiral

new herbs planted - alternating with perennials that are not up yet.

garden beds raised up higher 

Sunday morning visitors outside the front window

view from the house  - Spring 2013

2nd year for bulb flowers - new fence in the distance to keep Pippin out of the Sunchokes on the other side

One of the 6 new flower/herb pots throughout the yard

This time of year, time seems to slow down and a million little things get done.
On days like to day with a chicken slowly roasting in the oven, I put my coffee in a travel mug and work at a nice slow pace...

Everything gets done and there is time to sit and eat with family to rest and enjoy it. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

Letting Go of ... Why?


My spirit is wounded by the events in Boston at the Marathon on Monday, and the fear and violence of this whole week. I am exhausted, drained from the bombardment of everything on TV, torn because I cannot logically reconcile the faces of youth causing the destruction of life. It hurts my heart to see people suffer so much, so needlessly.

What can one person do in the aftermath of violence? Find the good - the amazing first responders, the police, FBI, etc. that worked tirelessly to find the people responsible, keep people safe, and bring the end of the search as they did tonight. The stories of the heroes on Monday are heart wrenchingly beautiful and restore the humanity to the world that the senseless violence steals from us.

Things have been put into a better order of priority for me: I have decided to be sure the people in my life know how much I love them, give of myself more, be a better listener, and continue as much as I can to contribute to good news and not perpetuate negativity.

But how do I let go of why? 

I want answers. I want there to be a news conference that explains in great detail exactly how and why this has happened. How do two young boys grow up to do something like this? How can any human being desire such destruction of another human being? I'm not naive, I know that these things happen around the world every day, but because of distance, it doesn't effect me like it should. This time is close to home and does effect me.

The truth is that I have to let go. We can ask, and we can guess at why these events happen, but, for me, the questions I have will drain my energy and start making the rest of my life less enjoyable and productive.

But how do I let go of why?

Questioning life is great tool, useful in the right places, and for me, replacing the why with action of being creative, gardening, writing - trying to contribute something positive and beautiful to the world and do my best to live in peace with myself, other people and the environment around me.

I can't be responsible for the actions of others. Energy spent on questions that can't be answered is better spent on being sure of the quality of my contribution to this world. I fight the negativity I see with the knowledge from my own experiences, that people are inherently good and kind.  Most are just trying to find a place to belong and desire to leave behind a good memory so their time on this earth will be of value and they won't be forgotten.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Girls Don't Game or "Are you a girl IRL?"

Since I was a little girl, I have loved playing games. Hide and Seek, Freeze Tag, Hopscotch, jump rope and jacks, chinese checkers, scrabble and rummy. Weekends of Risk and Monopoly marathons gave way to weekends of D&D and now we game once a month with friends playing D&D in a Dark Sun campaign. I don't know how to explain that this is a big part of my social life, but it is. I truly love it. Sitting around a table role playing and writing a story is hard to explain to someone - unless they have been there.

Another type of game that I have played (for as long as we had a system to play on) is video games, but I was not as good at the spinning fast, shooting and stunts that a lot of console games required. I found Morrowind and wandered there for a couple of years and have since played computer games like Skyrim, Rift, Diablo, and World of Warcraft. These I also have really loved playing, but mostly World of Warcraft. I've played most of the classes and in the end, played primarily a druid named Staar. For several years I played most days/nights and met a lot of really great people - many of which I keep in touch with now outside of gaming. For eight years we have logged in at various times - weekday or weekend - and found a place where people who have a variety of backgrounds and employment, age and location have become a very real part of my "real" life - many of which I might have never met in person. As people have married, had children and been hired into new jobs, or started new careers, we have shared in this together. To me, it is not any stranger than a room full of people who physically work together becoming friends and sharing life's experiences with each other.

For our birthdays in March, we ordered statues of our characters from Figure Prints and mine came this week. It's printed by a 3D printer and each is a custom made replica of the characters we play in WoW.

So Staar arrived on Tuesday =)  I fully expect that Warcraft will end one day and I wanted to have something to remember the character I have played.  It's so cool, and I don't know if the pictures will do it justice...

I have been writing a fantasy novel and posting in two blogs, working full time and establishing a perennial garden that incorporates the principles of Permaculture, but when I relax, I play games.  On Saturday our D&D group will get together and play. I love these friends, and they have become family to me. When I have free time in the next week, I will play Warcraft, and when Warcraft is done, someday I will play the new Elder Scrolls Online.  Have you seen it??  It looks amazing.

Something I have not shared with many people was the deep depression I was in - barely leaving the house and trying desperately to figure out what direction I wanted for my life. It was then that Rob starting playing and convinced me to try playing Warcraft. I remember telling him I didn't think I would like it...but, it's been eight years now, so I guess I ended up liking it. I met people that talked to me about things I had similar interests in - and it was like a jolt of lightening - the world wasn't full of people who were crappy, negative and had nothing in common with me. Here was a gathering place of people had a lot in common with me, enjoyed each other and were super creative and fun to be around. Would it be dramatic to say I don't know where I would be if this hadn't happened?

Maybe it is, but I'm not apologizing for the drama. As every event in life has the power to do - gaming has changed me and made me a more creative person, writer, friend.

I think of many cultures that have passed down mythology and lore for generations through the process of storytelling, and I have the desire to build stories with other people, and gaming gives me this outlet. Whether in person or in a fantasy setting MMO like World of Warcraft, it is fun to game together, and what may once have been an escape has now become an enrichment of my life and I feel very fortunate to have met the people I have met. I have learned so much from them.

To the people I have continuously had in my life - in person or not -when the days come that I don't feel inspired, I remember you and your friendship - you are the fuel of my life - the inspiration and help I need when I don't have access to the place of storytelling.

We are all writing a story every day - I feel fortunate to share mine with you... <3

Monday, April 8, 2013

Food Intolerance and a Glimpse of My Future...

I am four weeks into this experiment of no wheat (gluten) and no dairy (lactose). The changes were immediately noticeable. The puffiness of my face and hands is gone, I have lost almost 10 lbs., the headaches are gone, my mind is not clouded and I can think more clearly, I have more energy, and most importantly, I have less general pain. The future is looking good!

If you are saying at this point that you would never be able to give up bread or ice cream, believe me, I have said this too, fought against it for years, and finally decided it is not worth the hassle. When I have even a little dairy or wheat, it causes what is probably best described as spasms in my legs, arms and back. It wakes me up at night, and bothers me all day. It makes me weak, it irritates my feet and makes me off balance, and to put it nicely: cranky. There is sensitivity to light and sound, with headaches and at the very worst of it, it causes pain to wear clothing or shoes. Also, at this point, I should say that I did not make the connection until this month: some food = pain. I never talked about it with people, but I am wondering how many suffer unnecessarily with this? My doctor has been an amazingly patient with me and after systematically going through all of the tests and options, suggested just cutting out lactose, but I already knew that wheat bothered me, so I cut that out too. I would suggest that if you have trouble that can't be explained - talk with your doctor about cutting out gluten and lactose and just give it a try.

With the numerous products that are just as delicious as wheat and milk – for instance coconut or rice milk, buckwheat flour, rice crackers, hummus, goat cheeses, fruit, greens, vegetables, meats, etc.  I don’t feel deprived, I feel empowered that I can live a different life, and it is based on my decisions. I can educate myself and choose combinations of food and drink and test them to see if they work as fuel and have no negative side effects. I can also go out and have a couple of drinks and be sure that there will be no negative reaction.

Here are some guidelines I set for myself - these aren’t rules, and except for the first one, I will change them as needed:

Change my relationship with food: Food is fuel, I need fuel to live. If something isn’t going to be useful fuel, I’m not going to consume it. This is really all that matters. It may take a little more effort to prepare or think through a menu, but food intolerances and everything that goes with it is not going to define who I am, food is not a reward for some behavior, food is not the only way to enjoy spending time with people and it can be adapted for special meals and holidays. Food is not an escape from my problems.

With few exceptions, I will not be eating out. I’m giving this at least 6 months because I had lunch out Friday and was sick all weekend again with pain and headaches. I’m tired of wasting my time like that, in bed with a migraine. Not the quality of life I’m looking for, especially when I have seen the difference of having no headaches and less pain.

Packaged food is not an option. For the most part there are too many additives and coloring in packaged food anyway, and very few are without corn syrup, soy, gluten, or lactose.

Eat as much local and fresh food as possible. I’m not doing the raw food thing, and I will never be a vegetarian. I am unapologetic about my love of lamb and bacon. I have noticed that I feel better eating fresh food that is as close to its original form as possible. I can’t wait to start growing greens and veggies and am looking into a way to grow arugula and lettuce year round indoors. We are changing our shopping to be sure all of our meat and eggs are locally raised and purchased from the Mass Local Food Coop

Smaller portions and more variety:  I have never really had an “allergy” to anything – just sensitivities. That’s what puts me out of commission for days. I’ve had every test: celiac, lupus, etc. etc. and everything is negative. I have Fibromyalgia, I’ve had vitamin deficiency tests and my Vitamin D level is now up to normal. “Nothing” is ever wrong with me, so why do I never feel well and am sick every time I eat? So, to prevent myself from developing reactions to food, I have very small portions of a variety of things – spread out in smaller meals/snacks every couple of hours during the day, and then have a regular (but much smaller portion) of dinner with my family at night.

This is what my day looks like:

     6:00        Juice, vitamins, 1 coffee, and an egg (protein is crucial for my morning)
     9:00        coffee, diced fruit (variety of apple, pear, blueberry) and 1-2 Tablespoons of goat cheese. I never knew there were delicious goat cheeses like salt and pepper or orange-cranberry. I use the peppery one for savory (vegetables and salads) and orange-cranberry with fruit.
   11:00       rice crackers and hummus – vegetables and hummus
   12:30       vegetables roasted or steamed with ½ cup rice or sweet/red potato, salad with fruit, seeds, veggies, or leftovers of dinners, but two days after, not the next day. It seems that if I have leftovers the next day of something  that doesn’t bother me, it is too much, so I skip a day  or two.
     3:00       2 rice cakes with fruit spread (whole fruit/no sugar or corn syrup) and Tea
     6:00       Dinner is stir-fry, stew, curry, salad. We do a lot of stir-fry and stew substituting potato flakes for thickening and balsamic and spices for soy sauce. Of course, my favorite food is lamb Rogan Josh and that still stands as a great choice, as well as other curries. We cook turkey, chicken, lamb, beef, but use meat as a smaller part of the dish and vegetables as primary part. 
                   With dinner or in the evening, a glass of wine or port.

I am looking forward to trying more baking with buckwheat - with coconut as my go to for milk. Also, I found a pizza dough recipe and can imagine a delicious pizza crust with sauce, veggies and goat cheese. Although tomato may be a once a week thing for awhile…I’m still working on this one.

It takes a little imagination and a lot of patience, but it’s so worth the quality of life that I can have in exchange for a little work.

Friday, April 5, 2013


"To know even one soul
has breathed easier 
because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded."

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Finding Our Way Out of Food Insecurity...

I remember the first time I heard the phrase "food desert". A friend I work with used it and I remember the image it created in my mind and I wanted to find out more about it. Because I have not experienced this, it was a surprise for me to find out that places exist where people don't have access to a grocery store, but just small markets or corner stores and much of the food can be packaged or "junk" food. To get to someplace with fresh fruit or vegetables would take traveling a great distance. This was shocking to me. What I learned today is that this isn't an accurate description. There isn't a desert - this creates an image of nothing. There are so many people that live in these areas and do not have access to quality food. This is not their doing, but it greatly effects the quality of their lives.

What used to be just an inner city problem of not having access to food is larger than we realize. Packaged "fresh" fruit that I have bought for years, now says the same things it always said with an added little "product of China" printed at the bottom. Fresh fruit / Product of China really doesn't gel in my mind. It creates a conflict. I am also sick most of the time from food, so this quest has become urgent for me. No dairy, no wheat, minimal corn and soy? I can barely shop at a regular store with this list. So where do I go? It has to be local. But what does local mean?

I thought I had access to food that was good for me (the oranges are from Africa? organic food from China?) and I thought I was not one of the people at risk for eating contaminated food, but that is changing daily across the country as breakout after breakout of illness and death happens because of contaminated food. It isn't a third world problem, it is a world problem.

Why can't we have access to quality food? Without pesticides, and without food colorings and chemicals? We can. We ordered our food this month (meat, eggs, cheese, etc.) from the Mass Local Food Coop. All local from local farms. But this creates another conflict for me. Why can't everyone have this? We are also starting our second growing season of fruit trees, nuts, perennial vegetables and annual beds. We can have local access, but it's going to take work.

Now I need to act. I am researching the Regional Environmental Council (REC) in Worcester, and their next orientation for volunteers is on May 16th. So that's a start. They are already doing it - gardening and Farmer's Markets, reaching out to the community and education. I can find out about volunteering and learn there. I can also support them by shopping at the Farmer's Markets when they open.  I need to learn more to know where I fit in this process.

Today I went to Worcester State University to hear Karen Washington speak about food insecurity. (Not knowing where your next meal will come from)  She is truly an amazing woman. I first heard her speak at the NOFA conference in January and when I saw that she was returning to Worcester to speak again, I took the day off from work for an adventure. She's doing it, and has been for years: urban gardening in the Bronx, giving people in those places that are at risk access to fresh fruit and vegetables. Encouraging people to vote for people who care about food issues, educating youth about food, growing food and contributing to her neighborhood.

One of the things that really made an impression on me was that anyone who went to their Farmer's Market left with food - whether they had money to pay or not. They planted enough to give away to the  people who most needed it.

I have a lot to consider and don't know how I will be involved. I know where to start:

     Buy local, quality food. Check and recheck labels and where my food is coming from.
     Grow as much food as I possibly can.
     Get involved in what is already working and needs my support.

In the forefront of my mind are the ideas of Permaculture. Setting up a system that is partially annual planting, but the bulk of which will be perennial and not require any work except harvesting, saving seeds, canning and storing.

I keep hearing that the best way to "beat the system" is to know the system and learn how to change it. But, what if the best way to beat the system is to just not need it anymore?

Along with the ideas of needing and requiring less, developing quality relationships and having more adventures in my life, I think the best place to start is just outside my door...