Patience, Failure, and Fall Garden Planning

It seems too early, doesn’t it? Here we are, just coasting into summer, and I’m jumping right into fall garden planning.

When I started my seeds in the spring, I was disappointed that I’d started late, and I felt sort of like a failure — the tomato seeds I started hardly got bigger than an inch, and neither did the eggplants. The pumpkins grew too fast and grew leggy, and I had to start over. The failure was always magnified after scrolling through Instagram at the end of the day and seeing others’ beautiful, lush gardens. I feel left in the dust by people I don’t even know.

If anything, it’s been a good reminder to do what I can, with what I have, where I’m at; to be patient and present in my own garden; and to actively choose not to “live” through the pixels of someone else’s garden on a screen. Comparison is the devil. And even though it can be hard to put those feelings aside sometimes, I’m still learning from observation.

Case in point: my mom, the farmer’s kid, never taught me about succession planting, let alone the idea of planting a second crop of  hardy vegetables for fall a harvest. (To be honest, I don’t think she even knows about it.) I learned about it though those same gardeners I envied on Instagram — and it got me really excited, because it’s a chance to start again and put aside the failure I felt.

I promptly researched frost dates in our growing zone, and I took a little lunch break trip to Lowes to get some seeds. I know probably I won’t get everything sown that I’d like to try growing for my first fall harvest, but I can sure try! So far I’ve sown beets, kale, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, radishes, and turnips, and I plan to sow mustard greens, more cabbages, and Swiss chard this weekend.

And, finally, the geranium that was left outside all winter is suddenly sprouting new leaves — yet another reminder that growth does come from failure.

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The Annual Rotary Rummage Sale Pilgrimage

I’m a sucker for a good rummage sale, and last year my daily commute to work was peppered with small yellow signs advertising the Clark County Rotary’s Annual Rummage Sale. After seeing the signs on nearly every block, I was convinced Jordan and I had to go.

It was hosted at a local high school, and each classroom was filled with different categories of items for sale: kitchen, library, bulk clothing, crafts, shoes, lawn and yard, antiques, furniture, etc. We arrived a couple hours before it ended, and it was clear things were a little picked over, but we still found a few nice things, and the volunteers were making deals left and right; they just wanted to get rid of everything at that point. It was a good enough rummage sale that we decided we would go again next time it came around.

Fast forward to this year (two weekends ago), and we decided to get there when the doors opened at 8 a.m. to maximize our chance of finding some good stuff. There was already a long line of chattering people excited about the good deals awaiting inside. We were given a map of the school that outlined which category was in each room, made a rough plan of attack while we waited, and then away we went!

It was a mad frenzy as people dashed from room to room, and it honestly reminded me a little of shopping at the Goodwill Outlet (aka the the blue bins). Arriving when the doors opened definitely paid off, though, and we made out with some great things!

  • Two skeins of sock yarn, plus another random skein, $4 total
  • Victorian cat stamps (for Jordan to use in his classroom), $1
  • Largish Great Harvest jar with plastic lid (for my spare SCOBY!), $2
  • Tin biscuit box (for seed storage), $2
  • Various books and a movie, $5 total (I found a copy of Backyard Homesteading, which has been on my to-read list for quite some time, so that was pretty exciting!)
  • Scattergories and Pictionary, $1 total
  • A reusable shopping bag stuffed with clothing from the “Bulk clothing” room — this was a room full of tables of clothes sorted into piles by category. You could buy a reusable bag for $10 and stuff as much in it as you could. I found quite a few sweaters, a few things to resell in my Posmark closet, and Jordan found some nice shirts for work.

But by far my favorite thing I got was from the antiques and collectibles area — I negotiated this beautiful chrysanthemum painting (pictured above) from $50 down to $30! Sure, a little spendy for a rummage sale, but I’m willing to pay for nice art that I’m absolutely in looooove with. Plus, we painted our living room last weekend, and the yellow in the painting complements the color of our walls so well. It really makes the place feel more homey and “me.”

Do you shop rummage sales? I’d love to hear your best scores!

Solstice in the Garden

Solstice, how I love thee!

June is such an exciting time in the garden, and putting it so simply feels like an understatement. The anticipation of nourishing, homegrown food, the possibilities slumbering inside each plant just waiting to spring forth — oh, it just sets my heart on fire.

This morning while my oatmeal cooked I stepped outside and sowed some seeds for late summer/early fall harvesting — sugar snap peas and Kentucky Wonder pole beans. It was nice to get my hands in the dirt before work, as I often long for working in the garden while sitting at my desk during the workday. It’s so crazy to think that this is the longest day of the year, the official welcoming of summer, and it’s nearly time to start thinking about fall planting.

My garden is currently puny compared to what it probably should be. I got a late start sowing seeds in the spring due to lack of a greenhouse or grow lights, and while I suppose I could look at this year’s veggie garden as a failure, I’m considering it a success because it’s only June and I’ve learned so much already. I’ve learned mountains about starting seeds, building soil, organic fertilizing, composting, and mulching. Also, a friend tells me that her veggies don’t usually take off until July when the heat really sets in, so I’m hanging on to the hope that my garden will explode with growth soon.

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Please don’t judge my puny plants too harshly!

And even if it doesn’t, no biggie! I can still plan for a fall garden. I’m already dreaming of beets, turnips, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, radishes, kale, and even more cabbage. We are fortunate enough that our first frost usually arrives very late in the year, so there’s lots of growing time left even after summer officially ends. (Seriously, it’s so strange to be thinking about summer’s end on its first day!)

This evening I’ll be taking advantage of the extra daylight the solstice brings by spending time in the garden, of course. There’s no better way to unwind after work than by quietly tending to my plants. My dahlias are definitely making up for my lackluster edible garden with their rapid growth — and hopefully a spectacular show of flowers come July and August (fingers crossed!). And the wildflower seed I spread in May is coming up in the most surprising and delightful places — frilly cosmos fanning their foliage amongst the beans! California poppies between the cabbages! Little-bitty lupine between the dahlias!

I could go on and on, but I think I’ve rambled enough. I’m off to sink my hands into the soil again, and I hope you get a chance to do so too! Happy solstice!

The Generosity of Neighbors

After a day of feeling pretty rough last week (mentioned in my last post), I came home from work and was stopped by our neighbor across the street — she asked us if we would come over that evening, that her and her husband wanted to chat with us and help us out a little and “work out something financially” since they noticed we didn’t have a few yard tools and had some extras.

I went into our house and immediately started sobbing. I was for sure we were about to be lectured by the conservative, retired couple across the road about how we’re doing all our yard work wrong, how bad the weeds are, etc. I didn’t want to go over. I’d already felt physically bad all day — and then this? I didn’t want their pity.

We trekked over to their place 30 minutes later, and her husband, upon finding out Jordan teaches English, immediately launched into him about the merits of teaching Johnathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” to his middle schoolers, and how children are the future, and how we are going to be the ones to fix the current political state. He made some jabs at the farm across the road and the huge campaign sign on their barn, and asked us in awe, “You’re both working full time, and your property looks nice and maintained, and you have a vegetable garden? How do you even have time for that? You gotta make sure you have some time for leisure, you gotta!”

They then “sold” us their extra weed eater for $1 and gave us their extra wheelbarrow — they said they saw us struggling to haul yard waste a few weekends ago and wanted to help us out, saying they’d received a lot of help from their neighbors when they first moved to the area, and they wanted to do the same for us.

It was not at all what we were expecting, and I’m completely humbled by their generosity and embarrassed that we jumped to conclusions and judged them before even getting to know them. We were so, so wrong. It’s easy to think that there aren’t many good people left in the world, that they’re few and far between, but sometimes they’re much closer than you think. (In this case, right across the road.)

This week I’ll be whipping up a loaf of thank-you sourdough bread to take over to them, and hoping with each turn of the dough that I can be just as good a neighbor in the future.

Welcome, June

Holy moly, how is it June already? I can’t believe it’s just about summer — my husband is done teaching for the year in just two weeks, and soon after that he’ll get to work putting up some fresh paint around our house. (I already have a lovely shade of green picked out for our dining room.)

Sometimes I’m envious of the summers he gets off because he’s a teacher — I can easily see myself spending hours in the garden if I had a summer break. But then I remember how he is surrounded by children all day, and that is something I personally would never want to do. I don’t know how he does it — but he definitely deserves those few months of vacation time. He’s earned them for sure.

Last weekend I didn’t spend as much time in the garden as I would have liked. I got my cucumbers, cabbages, and a few more flowers in the ground. I tended to my roses. I weeded a little with a new-to-me tool I picked up at an antique store — I call it “The Claw” because it looks like a creepy little hand. It’s very effective at removing the small clumps of grass that are rapidly sprouting here and there in the veggie patch. (I call it the veggie patch, but really it has a good dose of flowers mixed in, too.) Hopefully soon I’ll get some mulch down.

“The Claw”

I’ll be honest, the reason I didn’t get much done last weekend is because I’ve been feeling under the weather. I’m exhausted all the time, no matter how much I sleep. It’s hard for me to muster the energy to get anything done around the house — even something as simple as putting a load of laundry in takes a lot of energy. I spend a lot of time on the couch. The vitamin D supplements my doctor told me to take don’t seem to be helping anymore, and I’m just so irrationally irritable and anxious all the time. I can’t really remember that last time I felt “normal.” I’m suspecting I have some sort of thyroid issue, but I don’t see my doctor until the end of the month, unfortunately.

I try not to talk about my health too much, so I apologize, and I’m sorry this veered off the garden path. But it seemed important for me to mention that my day-to-day isn’t always how it appears in my Instagram pictures or the carefully written words on this blog. I try to share only the good things, because who wants to hear about my health issues? I most certainly don’t want to write about them any more than I already obsessively think about them, and focusing only on the good things helps with my anxiety a little.

Anyway, here’s a picture of part of my garden from two weekends ago, when I was feeling more myself and had a productive day. I made this funny little trellis for my beans to climb up and got all my impulse-buy dahlias in the raised bed. I planted that catnip off to the side, which you can see our cat is immensely enjoying, and out of sight are pumpkins, sunflowers, and onions. While I worked, I could hear my husband and a friend playing some music together in the garage, making it feel like a truly Rock Homesteady day.

Here’s to more days like that — and hopefully another raised bed!

Happy Birthday, Herman!

Herman the sourdough starter

My sourdough starter, affectionately named Herman by my mother, turned one year old today! Happy birthday, little guy!

Tonight I am feeding him in preparation of baking two loaves of bread this weekend. Yep — two! I’m rather excited as I typically limit myself to only one loaf per weekend. It’s really not a lot of work, but it can definitely feel like it since the process is spread out over a few days.

Also, I have two new bread accessories to try out, which seems appropriate for a sourdough starter’s birthday celebration. One is a nice long loaf pan I got at a thrift store in Spokane for 99 cents (perfect for sandwich loaves) and the other is a cane proofing basket (banneton, brotform, or whatever you choose to call it) for artisan bread that I also scored secondhand for $2!

I also picked up this nifty bottle capper for $2 — we’re about to take our home brew to the next level!

I kept telling myself one day I would find one at the thrift store, and it finally happened. I’ll be honest, it looked pretty gross — all covered in flour and dried dough and stuffed in an old plastic produce bag — and the guy at the register was probably thinking, “Who in the hell would buy this nasty thing??” But I knew with a little scrubbing it would be good as new!

I promptly cleaned it with warm water, baking soda, orange-vinegar cleaner, and a little elbow grease, and it looks good as new, all ready to bulk ferment some tasty sourdough.

Three cheers for Herman — I can’t believe I kept him alive for a year.  O_O

Reflecting on One Year in Our House

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We got the keys to our house on May 17, 2017, on a day when the dogwood tree in our front yard was in full bloom, the pop of pink blossoms complementing the clear blue sky. I looked out the window a few days ago and saw those familiar flowers, mentally checked the calendar, and thought, “Wow, have we really been here a year already?” Sometimes it doesn’t feel like it. Other times, our former apartment near the mall is a foggy memory.

As I mentioned a while back, I have Big Plans™ for our little acreage — I have since the day we put in our offer on the place — but patience has never been my strongest trait. I often find myself getting frustrated that I don’t have a plethora of raised beds yet, that I only grew a few things last summer, that I’ve only planted one fruit tree, that we haven’t painted a single room in our house yet — and we’ve been homeowners for a year now.

I’m still learning to accept that it takes a while to completely settle into a new house, and especially one with land attached. And it’s also been a struggle for me to accept the imperfections in our home that we can’t change right away or easily, like the baby blue formica countertops in our kitchen. (Can you say yuck?)

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Our neighbors are all retired and have immaculate yards. I often feel like I’m not spending enough time on our house, and the pressure to work work work has been a constant source of anxiety for me. It’s like Instagram envy, but real life, in person, and it comes with the constant worry our neighbors are judging us for not having everything picture perfect. I have to remind myself of the things we have done so far. We’re not lazy, things just take a while — especially when we both work full-time jobs. Properly settling into a new house can take some time.

The following is a list of things we’ve done around our lil’ homestead since moving in a year ago. It’s not a huge list, but I’m happy with what we’ve done.

  • I got a “new” (vintage) oven that we moved into the house and put a new electrical cord on. (This doesn’t sound like a big deal, but holy shit was it heavy.)
  • We got new kitchen flooring that better suits our taste (Ok, sure, we didn’t install it ourselves. This was a result of some water damage and our insurance covered the new flooring. BUT it was on our list of things to do at some point!)
  • I canned a lot of wild blackberry jam last summer and experimented with applesauce and apple butter from our tree. We didn’t buy jam for almost a whole year, and it was great!
  • I made a sourdough starter from scratch and have been baking delicious things with it ever since.
  • I painted half of our kitchen cabinets and installed new hardware on them
  • Jordan and my dad installed a new water heater that dramatically cut our electric bill
  • I planted lots of things! Holy shit did I plant lots of things, both indoors and out. Jordan is positively sick of me talking about plants.

Like I said, it’s not a huge list. Last year was spent unpacking and settling in, getting into the rhythm of our new house and land, making note of what’s growing where, and also… having experiences outside of our home. I don’t know if it’s just my parents’ generation, but “experiences” aren’t something my parents seem to value like Jordan and I do.

When we weren’t working at home, we spent time with friends. We flew to L.A. to rock our faces off to the musical stylings of Glen Danzig ft. the original Misfits. We ate at some great local restaurants. We went to the beach with Jordan’s family, and we celebrated wonderful couples joining their lives.

We have five weddings to attend this summer. FIVE. And while there is a large part of me that is worried about the garden and finding a pet sitter and “how bad will the weeds accumulate?” and “what will the neighbors think?” — another part of me is excited. We’re still young, and we will have plenty of time to work on our house. Everything will be fine, the dahlias can wait, and it will never matter what the neighbors think — we will soon be the “old couple” in a neighborhood full of youngsters possibly chasing the same dream we’ve been chasing.

And right now, I think it’s about time for me to log off, sit on the porch with a cup of tea, and forget about weeding the walkway and just enjoy our place. I don’t often do that enough, and before we know it, those youngsters will be pulling up in a moving van next door.

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