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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Tales from the Garden: Season Prep!

After last year's groundhog escapade, I must admit I was not actually too thrilled to be nearing garden prep again.  Watching that little critter demolish months of work and effort, planning and excitement, in a matter of days was such an emotional event for me.  It was incredibly frustrating and, honestly, totally stole the wind from my sail.  Even though my awesome husband took the critter out with a through-and-through arrow shot, we came to find another one had learned of our "secret" stash of goodies and followed in to fill the gap.  I think he only ended up killing two of them (maybe three), but not knowing whether or not more would continue to come, I found little enticement to go care for my previously thriving garden after that point.  The tomatoes had been stripped and pulled, the sunflowers had been bent and torn, the lettuces were completely gone in one bite, and on it went.  :::humph:::  That was a rough summer's end.

So, I have been wrestling with this issue for weeks.  "Lord, should I really devote all this time and energy into something that could be swept away in a moment's notice?"  Eventually, I heard the reply..."yes."  Lol, sometimes it is that simple.  The truth is I already know the value of the garden.  He has been teaching me that for years.  Parable after parable uses His creation to teach lifelong lessons, and what better place than to learn it in the backyard while experiencing the fruits of our labor?  I knew I must persevere.  Those groundhogs will not get the better of us!  I was, though, extremely grateful when we stumbled upon a critter protecting plan for the garden beds (basically a wood, boxed frame with chicken wire over it).  At least I knew we had a defense plan that did not include the hubs having to sit post on a perch watching over the seeds each day =0)  I know it will not deal with any under ground development, but it is better than nothing.  I will take it!

I have been trying to get myself together enough to sit down and work out the planting plans for the garden beds this year, and finally yesterday I was successful.  I plopped down at the kitchen table and for the next hour or more plotted out carefully what will go where and be followed by what.  Here's the overview of our plan for the garden:

Goal:  Everyone has their own purpose for gardening (some pleasure, some experience, some production, etc.)  This garden is purposed for production, as best as we can get, though we are still learning.  I want to be able to curb our grocery bills, store some up for the winter, and have a bit left to bless others.

Strategy:  This year I am using a combination of several different books, websites, etc. that I have been studying to plan the garden.  I will be using one area of the beds for a Spring/Fall garden, while using the other for Summer/Late Fall planting.  I will be using the Square Foot Garden (SFG) method for optimal production, as best as I can figure.  I will be also doing a form of crop rotation, but by crop families.  I hope this will simplify things significantly.  I have no idea if my plants are paired well, or not, but I sure hope so!

Layout:  The garden on the side of the house will be the Spring/Fall garden this year (I have not yet done the seasonal type of planning, so this will be interesting), which will have lots of carrots, potatoes, kale, cabbage, broccoli, peas, beans and lettuces sprinkled here and there.  The Summer/Late Fall garden will contain the asparagus bed, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, squashes, peas, beans, onions, potatoes, garlic, shallots, etc.  Obviously these are not in any particular order.

Resources:  The two books that I have gleaned from the most and will be returning to throughout the year are The Square Foot Garden and The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener.  These are awesome books and chock full of information.  I just hope I can keep myself together enough to keep it all spinning.

Seeds/Transplants:  I have not yet been successful at planting seeds in the home and getting them thriving once moved to the garden, but hopefully this year will be a bit better.  I will be purchasing any needed seeds from Burgess, an inexpensive but extensive supplier of all things garden.  I also need to give more attention to our two apple trees this year with a better watering system and plenty of mulch.  Last year they kind of were neglected (oops).  I am pleased to say, though, that I am finally getting my seeds better organized which is awesome since the whole "throw them into bags haphazardly" idea was not working out so well.  More on that in another post.

Well, that is the plan in a nutshell.  This will only be our third year in the garden, and we continue to learn more and more about ourselves and God's Creation each year as we go along.  What are your gardening plans this year?

Friday, January 4, 2013

Guess who is writing a novel!

Welome 2013!  The Mayans were wrong!  Woohoo.  Have you ever thought about why the Mayan calendar kind of just ended?  I wonder if some guy was determined to just keep going and going and going and finally his buddy said, "Hey, dude, give it up.  No one's going to care in two thousand years," and the guy just stopped, suddenly, abruptly, and without any significant reason....

Anyway, everyone in the Filter home is moving right along.  Zack is continuing to benefit from the homeopathy and other vitamins we have him on for his OMS.  The other kids are all doing well.  Taliya is almost one year old, WOW!  It really is amazing how time flies.  I am excited, too, because it appears that I am writing a novel; an unexpected twist to our already busy days.  A week or so ago Lily asked me to write her little love notes (she loves that kind of thing and writes them to me and Mark all the time), and when I sat down to write her one, a novel started!  It's the craziest thing.  I am going to post it here, a chapter at a time as they come, so I hope you will be so inclined to read through it and share your thoughts.  I am hoping to be on here a bit more frequently again too.  I do love to share my thoughts and what is going on in the house.  Hope it blesses you today!

Our Story is HIStory: Our Real-life Fiction Story
By Julie Filter

Chapter One

As the long Christmas Day drew to a close, Lily gazed out the damp window of her bedroom at the twinkling stars above. The day had been acceptable, but still her heart yearned for more.  Mama had spent most of the day baking up a storm; from pancakes to cookies to a dinner of chili Mac.  Everything was delicious.  She and her sisters had watched a few parent-approved Christmas films, and they too were pleasant and enjoyable.  And, still, she felt a hole inside of her.

   "God," she said.  "I feel this tugging in my heart, that there's more for me than this.  Help me to know what that is.  I feel as though I was made for something special.  Guide me, Lord.  Amen."

The next morning started the same as any other.  Lily, a 7 year old, very capable, intelligent, and God-loving girl, was the oldest of her four siblings.  As much as she loved holding her baby sister, tickling her little brother, and helping her younger sisters, a lot was expected of her throughout the day and it was sometimes overwhelming.  This morning was no different.  After awaking to the alarm, she drowsily toddled down the stairs to begin emptying the dishwasher, her morning chore.  While she dried and stacked the dishes, she hummed a lingering tune from the music that filled her head from the radio while they slept. 
   "Hmm hmm hm hmmmmm, the stars we brightly shiiiiiiiiiiining...."     "Try to remember to keep your voice down, sweetie."  Mama was shuffling down the stairs after an apparent long night with the baby.   "Good morning, honey," she said with a yawn.  "Sleep well?"  Mama  reached out her arms to offer a hug.  Lily happily accepted.   "Yes, ma'am."  Her courtesy reply of respect to her mother.   "I'm going to go take a shower and get the day moving.  Would you please take care of your brother if he begins to cry?  Please, do not take him out of his crib, but just help keep him happy.  And, keep moving with your chores.  Okay?"    "Yes ma'am," Lily replied with enthusiasm.  Her parents had been teaching her and her siblings that an enthusiastic response was a key ingredient to obedience, and today she was really focused on practicing being good.  

It didn't take long for Lily to empty the dishwasher and put away the dishes.  She left out a few items she did not quite know where they belonged, but overall was happy with a job well done.  She headed upstairs to get dressed and prepared for the day when she began to hear her brother cry for mama.  She hurried over to him with a smile.    "It's okay, buddy.  You want Mama?  I know.  You can have Mama soon.  Want a few books?"  His smile reassured her that she was on the right track, so she handed him a few cardboard baby books that would be safe with him in the crib.  "Here you go, buddy."   Lily's younger sisters were busy getting themselves dressed and ready for the day too.  They made their beds, straightened the room, and got themselves dressed.  Mama still insisted on brushing four year old Anaya's hair, but Lily and Nadya had proven themselves capable of that responsibility.    "Ouch, Nadya.  You're stepping on me.  Get off!"  Anaya had recently been struggling with speaking rudely to her siblings, and this morning was no exception.    "Remember, Anaya, we need to speak nicely to our sisters."  Lily worked hard to encourage her sisters in behaving rightly, although sometimes she herself even struggled with it.  She remembered often the scripture that Mama had taught her; "Let us not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."      "Thanks, Lily."  Nadya was bothered by her younger sister's sharp tongue, but was working hard to practice forgiving her as often as was necessary, which right now seemed to mean a whole lot.    "Let's finish getting this room straightened up so we can get downstairs quickly.  I would love to be able to make eggs this morning," said Lily.
    "But I can't have eggs.  They upset my belly."  Anaya had to follow a gluten-free diet and also seemed to have stomach issues from eggs, which was very saddening for her since she loved eggs as much as her sisters.    "What if I make something special for just you, Anaya!  Would that make you feel better?"  Anaya's eager "yesth" was all Lily needed to put a smile on her face.     The girls all skipped down the stairs one after the other and began getting their breakfast items together.  Bowls out, spoons out, electric water pot on, eggs cracking.  They were efficient and well-trained in the kitchen, even for being so young.  Anaya stood by to be the go-fer should anyone need something.  Mama was grinding beans to put into the machine to begin brewing her coffee.  She loved enjoying a hot mug of coffee while they went through their school day.  Sadly it seemed that it was enjoyed lukewarm or cold more often than she would like.    "Remember girls, you have until 9 o'clock to get everything done and be ready for schoolwork.  If you're late you lose your promptness point.  Nadya, please give the dog water when you feed him.  He's a living creature and needs water just the same as you and me."    "Yes, ma'am," came Nadya's reply, who had nearly forgotten to feed the dog and was pleased by the subtle reminder from her mother.

Half an hour later everyone was ready for schoolwork.  While books were opened and lessons begun, mama got the little ones finished up with their breakfast.  The baby played happily on a blanket with some toys, but mama still was training young Zack to remain on a blanket during his "blanket time."  After cleaning him up, she brought him over to the living room floor where his blanket lay and said, "it's blanket time now, so I want you to sit down and play with your trucks until the alarm goes off."  Little Zack gave a fuss, but soon decided otherwise when he saw his trucks.  He began to play quietly, zooming the trucks around in little circles.  

Mama returned her attention to the older children.  Lily was continuing to do very well with her math assignments.  She was a natural at learning most things, but they were beginning multiplication now, so mama knew it was important to be patient and calm during this initial learning phase for a new topic.  Nadya, who was now 6, was practicing penmanship, cursive this year, and was coming along very nicely in her hand control.  Mama was pleased to see that her p's all faced the right direction this morning.  Anaya was coloring in a page of circles and squares; red for squares, and blue for circles.  She did not, though, seem to be giving much care for the instructions on the page.  She was coloring the open space purple and had green and pink standing by.      "Oh, well," mama thought.  "A little here, a little there.  She'll get it eventually."    And so went the morning.