Inside: Finding my pace and slowing down to enjoy life, like most things, takes practice. I have learned this by knowing myself better and paying attention to the rhythms of life that make me thrive. You can, too.
*This post contains affiliate links.
I remember sitting around the long table at critique group one night, listening to one of the women. Always busy, she’d come from a rehab construction project, her blonde hair wet from a hasty shower. Always vocal, she started in about how exasperating life was in Missouri compared to the west coast where she had resided. That the pace of life in the Midwest was like a coma. I remember thinking, Yeah? Where you’re from it’s a heart attack.
Different strokes for different folks.
I know what works for me, but I didn’t always. I’d gone through much of my life feeling off, not quite right, like I always needed to hurry to keep up with other people’s expectations and preconceived notions of what was the right and wrong way to go about getting things done. I often felt overwhelmed. And, much of the time, I had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.
I went about things differently, I knew that. My brother would hurry through tasks that would take me hours compared to his minutes. Granted, the bathroom would be spotless when I was through. Not so much when it was his turn. I had (and still do have) a perfectionist tendency I carry with me regardless of whether I’m scrubbing sinks or painting a picture. I’ve learned, particularly in the last decade, to adopt a more balanced approach. For example, the printing on my shopping list no longer has to look like the script on a Hallmark card. Yes, I was that tightly wound.
But there was more to it. A few years ago, when writing down a list of goals I suddenly jotted down I would like to live life at my own pace, not someone else’s. The words surprised me. They’d come from somewhere deep inside, and I knew they had merit. With prayerful consideration, I entrusted this heart desire to God, that He would help me live this way.
And He did.
Along the way I learned a few things. After all, I still had to live in the real world with appointments and deadlines, and I had to acknowledge that other people had their own pace. If I wanted them to respect mine, I had to respect theirs. So I made a few simple adjustments.
I identified what caused me to feel hurried. That was easy–procrastination. Waiting until the last minute. But why did I procrastinate? The default answer for most people is laziness–yet another character flaw I thought I had. But upon really examining the reason, it was mostly (though not always) something else entirely. I had trouble starting a chore or a project for fear of not doing a good enough job. I didn’t feel I measured up to the task. Or the project felt completely overwhelming–how would I ever get everything done and to the high standards I set for myself? It was easier to avoid starting than push through and deal with negative feelings.
Poor planning was another reason. Because I hadn’t started the project or task, I hadn’t done the prep work. I didn’t want to think about preparing for the task because of all the negative feelings I associated with it. And on and on it went, until I faced disappointing someone–friends, teachers, parents, spouse, child. That was the catalyst to accomplishing most things.
Letting go of perfectionism.
Beyond working on feeling better about myself–reciting scriptures on who I am in Christ has worked wonders–I learned to lessen my standards for some things by prioritizing. The casserole for supper versus the novel chapter. The former is just a meal, the latter I really want to get just right. I didn’t need to do everything perfectly. Not even most things, really.
Confronting overwhelm–little by little.
A few years ago I read the book The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You by Elaine N. Aron, and I learned a lot about how I process the world. While not every situation or task overwhelms me, on a challenging morning opening up my dishwasher to unload it can have me feeling stressed. My new approach is to break down the task into small pieces. I decide to put away just the silverware, though often simply starting can carry me through to the end of the job at hand. On other days, I stop with the utensils and next time I’m in the kitchen I’ll do the plates and bowls. Before long the dishwasher is unloaded. This little by little approach works well for me for many different tasks and projects. This post, for instance, has been written over several days.
I’ve become much better at planning ahead as well as allotting more time for whatever I’m trying to accomplish. I’m still working on my skills at determining how long a project will take, so I give it my best guess and then allow even more time. For example, Mike and I need to leave for the Saturday evening service by 1:30 in the afternoon. (He is employed at church, and it’s a working day for him.) So in order for me to make sure I don’t make him late, I plan ahead. I gather my laptop bag and Kindle so that I can get work done in his office before service. I also have to fix our meal before we leave as well as plan something quick to eat when we get home. And I need to figure enough time to get ready. Saturday morning and early afternoon are spent working toward these goals in small increments. Little by little. But I find the more I plan ahead, the easier it is to make this busy weekend day work for us. Running around last minute only frustrates both of us, as being punctual is important to Mike.
I remember reading in the Florence Littauer book Personality Plus: How to Understand Others by Understanding Yourself that those with a melancholy personality type (think introvert, perfectionist, detail-oriented) can only handle a small amount of responsibility. At first that made me angry as I thought about how responsible I was. Then I got what she meant by it. Because we (melancholy types) have such a drive to do things perfectly, we can’t take on too much because we’d be in major stress mode all the time. We do things well, so we need to be selective about which projects we take on and how many we allow space in our lives. So many things get my attention–particularly if I’ve been on Pinterest–but I only have so much time and energy. While others might not understand the choices I make, especially in the church community, I have to be true to God, myself, my family, and friends as well as what my mission is on this good green Earth. I have to do what makes sense for the way I am wired.
Observing a daily quiet time.
Spending time on a daily basis with the One who created me is fundamental. It brings me back to center, placing my focus where it needs to be–and on Who it needs to be. When I spend time reading my Bible, I gain insight for my life and a calm sense of knowing God is at the helm.
Taking time for the little things.
Sitting outside in nature. Puttering in my garden. Petting whichever kitty settles on my lap. Stirring a pot of simmering peaches to make preserves. These are the little things in life which I enjoy, and I take the time to do them. Not only are they great de-stressors, but these seemingly insignificant activities make my life richer.
So what has happened?
These small, simple changes have added up over time to produce a different me, a person I’m coming to like more and more. I won’t say I never have that anxious feeling in the pit of my stomach, but it’s rare these days. Life isn’t perfect, but it’s good. Meaningful.
I feel comfortable in my own skin, finally living life at my own pace.
What does living life at your own pace mean to you? Tell us about it in the comments.
Related posts: Gifts of an Introvert
Inside: How to soak nuts, an easy and healthy practice. Plus a new way to get my salt–a simple, addictive recipe for buttery salted nuts.
I have dubbed August “DIY Summer Projects Month” here at the blog, and though it might seem odd to think of soaking nuts as a project, I have wanted to try this “ancient” nourishing tradition for a while.
But let me back the truck up first and explain.
As a woman in her early fifties, I’ve noticed that what had been working in my diet for all these years is suddenly not working as well. I’m in the process of tweaking some of my food choices to support my thyroid and adrenals. Upon reading some suggestions from Dr. Axe, he mentions sprouted nuts. While I’ve eaten sprouted grain bread as a once-in-blue-moon treat (and loved it), I’m not fond of sprouts. But upon doing some research, I discovered you can simply soak the nuts, much like you would rice or beans over night, and for much the same reason. Grains, legumes, seeds, and nuts contain phytic acid, which interferes with the body’s ability to absorb the nutrients in the nuts. In a nutshell (pun intended), soaking improves digestion and nutrient content. Wellness Mama gives a more in-depth explanation, if you’re curious.
What You’ll Need:
- 2 cups of raw almonds (and shelled)
- 3 – 4 cups of warm water (most people recommend filtered)
- 1 tablespoon of sea salt
Dissolve the salt in warm water. Place nuts in a large jar or bowl and add the water. Make sure the nuts are completely submerged, and leave the container on the counter for at least 7 hours or overnight. (Do not place in the refrigerator.)
When the time is up, rinse almonds thoroughly in a colander and drain. Place nuts on a baking sheet and dry in the oven at the lowest setting (mine doesn’t go under 170 degrees, but 150 is recommended) for approximately 12 hours (though mine didn’t take that long). The almonds should be thoroughly dried to avoid mold. You can also use a food dehydrator if you prefer, but it might take longer.
The texture and taste of the almonds were slightly different, though not much. I was pleased with the results. I also tried walnuts, in the same proportions but soaked them for a shorter time as I had read elsewhere not to go beyond 5 hours of soaking. Drying the walnuts took about as long as for the almonds. Again, texture and taste were slightly different, but not much. For the nutritional benefits alone, I will continue doing this, but I can see how it would be more efficient to do larger batches at one time to save on energy costs.
A New Way to Get my Salt
I’ve also noticed from doing keto dieting for so long that I tend to be short on salt. This summer I discovered a really great way to up my salt intake when I made an ice cream recipe which required the nuts be sautéed in salt and butter. The simple recipe follows.
- 1 cup of raw almonds (pecans or walnuts work well, too)
- 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon of sea salt
- Melt the butter in a 10-inch skillet.
- Add almonds and salt, cooking over medium-low heat until the nuts are toasted and golden, stirring frequently for 4 - 6 minutes.
- Remove from heat and strain off the butter, which can be reserved for another use.
- Allow almonds to cool and enjoy!
Have you ever tried soaking nuts? Tell us about it in the comments.
Related posts: Eggs: A Dozen Ways to Use Them Up
Inside: Enjoying life with my windows wide open, making my food look good, and my mini staycation.
Enjoying Life with my Windows Wide Open
Mid to late July gave us a stretch of miserable–albeit typical–summer weather with high 90s and a few low 100s sprinkled in for good measure. I’m not a fan. (Though I have plenty of them running in my house this time of year!) High temps mean extra watering and monitoring of fragile plants, avoiding the use of my oven, higher cooling bills, and closed windows. And not only closed windows, but blinds down on the south side. No looking out into the pasture, lost in thought. No listening to birds singing at dawn or the nightly serenade of cicadas. No fresh breeze with the hint of some delicate flower. My connection to nature is relegated to short morning bursts when the sun is young in the sky and hasn’t yet turned mean.
But here comes August–normally brutal–but decidedly charming this year. Nothing hot or dry about it–so far. I say that cautiously. Almost whispering it. I know how fickle summer in Missouri can be.
Meanwhile I will enjoy my breezes and bird songs, insect sounds and sweet-scented air, and the view of the good green Earth I know simply as home.
Making my Food Look Good
This past weekend I got my first lesson in photography (which means “painting with light,” by the way) and discovered firsthand what it’s like when the subject doesn’t say cheese–because it is cheese. Welcome to the world of food photography! My daughter Emily, who is a talented photographer, dropped by to take pictures for future recipe posts, warning me ahead of time that I should prepare to learn.
And I did, sort of.
I learned that food photography takes a lot of prep work–both from a cooking standpoint as well as staging.
I learned that it’s a messy process. Be prepared for lots of dishes and, in my case, moving furniture.
I learned that it’s fun to snack on props.
And I learned I have so much to learn!
So stay tuned as my skills will grow (hopefully) and the pictures on this blog will look better and better.
My Mini Staycation
So Hubs has a week off starting Tuesday. Me, not so much. (We’ll call it a light week for me.) Sure, I make my own hours, but as most women will agree, job aside, there are meals to fix, dishes to wash, floors to sweep, and laundry to fold. As I’ve said to my spouse before, “When is my day off?” (I say it lightheartedly and with a smile these days.) But what Hubs doesn’t know yet is that I will be defrosting a lot of meat for barbecuing–his domain.
No special plans at this point. A meal out, maybe. A movie, if there is something worth seeing on the big screen. Relaxation, plenty of coffee, good conversation. Staycations can be a good thing.
Inside: Today’s post is dedicated to my new friend Calen from Impromptu Promptlings. I met her during the A – Z Blogging Challenge, lured to her blog because of a shared love of classic television, and she’s been so supportive of this website since then. I’ve become a fan of her writing and taste in poetry–another shared love. So, Calen, here is one of my favorites, “Wash Day in the Midwest,” written more than a handful of years ago. Hope you enjoy it!
Wash Day in the Midwest
The corn wilts and puckers,
waiting to get its feet wet
in the playground of grasshoppers
as cows collect
beneath the coffeenut tree.
The dog doesn’t bother to get up.
It’s hot dry August in the Midwest,
where people assemble
in the frozen foods section to complain.
“Hottest day of the year,” one says.
“If it weren’t for the humidity!” says another.
from the back door of a hundred years ago,
behind the old farmhouse
Great-Grandma gathers her skirts
’round the washboard and tub,
takes up her fight against several days’ dirt
and laughs out loud.
“They’ve all gone soft,” she says.
Related posts: Hands: A Tribute
Inside: It’s a challenge to keep hydrated in the hot summer months. Stay cool with water infusions. Our DIY adventure will show you how.
For a while now I’ve been wanting to try some water infusion recipes, and when Mom showed up to help with the stump garden a few weeks ago, she happened to have a fruit-infused water in her hand which contained lemon grass, cukes, and some type of citrus. “Try this,” she said. “It’s refreshing.”
And it was. Right there on the spot, the wheels in my mind started turning, and I knew I’d be doing a post on water infusions sometime this summer.
Enter sometime. So Mom and I embarked on a mini DIY adventure making water infusions this past week. I found some intriguing recipes on Pinterest, pinned them to my board Good Things, and we dived right in. (Notice the clever water theme.)
Mom brought over some sage, lavender, cilantro, mint, and one jar of a water infusion she’d already made. I had the fruit and the rest of the jars, and we got busy slicing.
Here is what we tried:
Quart one – slices of cucumber, lemon, lime, and strawberries (pictured top right).
Quart two – slices of orange, whole blackberries, and a sprig of mint (top left).
Pitcher – grapefruit slices and two sprigs of rosemary (top middle).
Pint one – whole blueberries and three small sprigs of lavender (below left).
Pint two – peach slices and sprig of sage (below middle).
Pint three – orange slices and small sprig of cilantro (below right).
(Meaning performance of, not killing, although some fruit was hurt in the making of this blog post.)
We added water, fruit, and herbs to the jars. Then we did the photo shoot.
Then I read the directions. After washing the ingredients, which I did, we were supposed to “muddle” the ingredients to release the juices and flavors and then pour the water over top and stir or shake. I wasn’t familiar with muddle (muddling?) except when Judy Garland belted out the word in “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Upon looking up the term, I discovered it meant “to mix or stir.” Having tried my own water fusion a few weeks prior by simply slicing lemons in a jar, I figured maybe the muddling part was overrated. The next step? Wait 24 hours while the fruit and herbs released their flavors.
The following day I was eager to try my fruit-infused waters, and Hubs was willing to be a taster. So we swigged, sipped, and gulped our way to these impressions.
First up, the pint with four peach slices with one sprig of sage. Probably our favorite, although the peach flavor was too subtle. I did try squeezing the fruit, but it didn’t change the flavor much. We both felt the sage worked well, and I could see how a sprig of sage added to a pitcher of peach tea would be tasty. The sage added a refreshing hint, yet it didn’t overpower the water.
The next pint we tried was the one with a handful of blueberries and three small sprigs of lavender. We ranked this one third overall. Again, the fruit was too subtle, but the lavender was perfect. We felt this infusion had potential if the blueberry flavor was stronger. The only drawback was some of the lavender fell apart, and the tiny pieces were irritating.
The third pint contained two orange slices and a tiny sprig of cilantro. I tried it solo because Hubs is a cilantro hater. (Yeah, one of those people.) My feeling was that both the orange and cilantro were too subtle, but I think more orange slices and a large sprig of cilantro would have me loving this. As with the sage, the cilantro added a refreshing quality I could appreciate on a hot day.
Moving over to the quarts, the one with a big handful of blackberries, three slices of orange, and two sprigs of mint came in second. Both of us felt the three flavors mixed well together, and, not to sound like a broken record, the mint added that refreshing quality. Admittedly, we tried this at 48 hours, and the flavors were stronger, though I also ended up mashing the fruit and shaking the jar, which didn’t make for a pretty presentation.
The other quart went home with Mom, and so I asked her to tell me her impressions. This one had six thin slices of cucumber, four thin slices of lemon, three thin slices of lime, and a small handful of strawberry slices. She had this to say, “It’s slightly tart but very refreshing. Really quenches your thirst. A good re-hydrator.”
The pitcher had me intrigued. I made this one the biggest because I anticipated liking it the most. This had one whole sliced grapefruit (peeled because we were trying to avoid that bitter taste) plus two big sprigs of rosemary. Turns out I didn’t like it at all. While I’m fond of grapefruit, I only tasted the bitter aspect of it (even without the peel), and the rosemary, which I also like, was much too strong.
Overall, I would try making most of these again–except for the grapefruit-rosemary concoction–but next time I’d gently squeeze the fruit first, add a small sprig of whichever herb the recipe called for, and shake it up before drinking it. I can also see how adding a small sprig of sage or mint to fruit-flavored iced tea would be good. I plan on giving this a try.
Stay tuned for more DIY projects in August.
Have a favorite recipe for a fruit-infused water? Share it with us in the comments.
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Related posts: 5 Delicious Ways to Use Up Strawberries
Inside: What happens when someone forgets to return the weed whacker? Writer and reluctant gardener Beverly Robertson explains in her guest post.
As I now gaze out my front window and enjoy the view of lilies, hostas, sedum, and other plants leaning against a white fence, I remember a time when this was only grass and weeds. A weed whacker kept things under control, but one day it disappeared. Someone borrowed it, I think, and I despaired of it returning home. The whole scene frustrated me to see this unwanted foliage grow taller.
In desperation, I dug up the ground and gradually planted a few hostas then later kept digging and planted lilies. Being the reluctant gardener that I was, I found things that almost grew by themselves, such as sedum. Someone said impatiens grew well in the shade, and because we have several large trees near the area, I planted these annuals between the shrubs surrounded by stone and the sidewalk. A ceramic frog and a few other ornaments accented the plants.
One day when my young grandchildren came to play, my grandson said to his sister, “Look, Zoey, a little garden.” Then I realized, yes, this is a pretty little garden, and I’m glad that weed whacker took so long to come home!
Are you a reluctant gardener? Tell us about it in the comments.
Related posts: Life is Like a Garden
Beverly Robertson is a retired elementary school instructional aide. She completed a course from the Institute of Children’s Literature and is a graduate of Delta College with an Associate Degree in literature and writing. She sings in her church choir and has presented her Bible Bride stories and other studies to her women’s group. She is married and lives in Michigan with two spoiled cats. She has finished a novella and is working on a sequel. Her latest project is publishing a book on Bible Brides that will be out soon.
Inside: Sunflower fields forever, curry pickles kick off the canning season, and my new favorite thing.
Note: This post contains affiliate links.
Sunflower Fields Forever
For the past several weeks, whenever I walked out my front door, I’ve been treated to a yellow horizon to the west. It’s a shock to the eyes, but in a good, surreal kind of way, particularly when the sky is that typical azure color. I find the sight to be cheery, uplifting, these bright beauties nodding their heads to the sun.
Heading up to the farm to take care of the chickens this afternoon, I noticed the yellow starting to fade. Many of the plants have come to their zenith, and now their energy goes into making seeds. Certainly not the vibrant show, but an important part of the process. Seed time and harvest. Sometimes life situations mirror that. What begins as grand and lovely becomes worn after a while. Yet if we could just remember how close we are to harvest time, we might have the strength to keep going.
I think I have found my second favorite type of field–sunflowers!
Curry Pickles Kick off the Canning Season
If you’re like me, this time of year you’re finding creative places to put cucumbers until you can find creative uses for them. I’ve got a
few good recipes in my repertoire–and added a new one this year–for fresh use and making pickles. Pickles for giving gifts, pickles for home use. We eat a lot of ’em. While I’ve experimented in the past, last year I decided to just make what we like the most. Our two favorites are Sweet Garlic Dills and Curry Pickles–both of which come from this canning book I absolutely love, love, love called The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving by Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard. The authors understand the way some of us can–little by little as time permits. Already I have made three batches and am aiming to do some dills, provided I can find dill seed. Hubs checked the high-end grocery store next to his work, and he said they didn’t even have a place for dill seed in the spice display. Not a lot of canning going on in the ‘burbs, I guess. Hopefully I can find some dill in my small town grocery stores when I go Monday–that is if the other canners haven’t nabbed it before me.
My New Favorite Thing
As a joint Mother’s Day and Father’s Day gift, my daughter Emily got us an electric 2-quart ice cream maker–the kind with the bowl you put in the freezer ahead of time. (No more ice, rock salt, or cranking. Yay!) This summer we’ve given it quite a test run. So far we’ve made vanilla, three kinds of chocolate, strawberry, blueberry and strawberry, coffee, lemon curd, butter pecan, and pistachio. Which seems like a lot, as I see it written out in front of me. I should explain that we’ve shaved off some of the calories by using a stevia and erythritol blend to replace the sugar and also a vanilla low carb milk we get from Kroger’s to go with the heavy cream. We also portion control to around a one-cup serving. Okay, it works for us.
Next stop: fresh peach ice cream. Provided I can find some good peaches tomorrow.
What’s happening in your neck of the woods? Tell us about it in the comments.
Related posts: Cornfields, Stump Garden, and Other News Fresh From the Farm
Stay tuned for DIY Summer Project Month coming in August!
Inside: Make cheap organic fertilizers from what you have around your house and yard and save money.
So maybe you’re new to gardening, and the whole prospect of “save money, grow your own food” lured you in to planting your own little plot on the good green Earth. Now those plants need to be fed, but a trip to the gardening center reveals lots of expensive ways to fertilize your garden, including the organic solutions. You scratch your head, thinking, I’m trying to save money.
What’s a gardener to do?
Enter cheap fertilizers. The kind of stuff you have around the house and your yard. Stuff you were going to throw out anyway. Let me demonstrate.
As I hinted at in the previous post, weeds can be useful to the home garden. You can add them to your compost, provided they haven’t gone to seed. (Note: Some gardeners say that if your compost gets hot enough the seeds will be destroyed. I’d rather err on the side of caution. Besides, my compost pile doesn’t get that hot. I know. Call me unconventional.)
But my new favorite way to handle the weeds is to make a tea. Now, let me be the first to tell you it will smell bad and attract flies after a while. And when I say after a while, I mean about a week or so into the process. Interestingly for me, I kept waiting for this horrendous odor, and it ended up smelling like the milk barn used to on very hot days. So it was oddly comforting, as I miss milking cows and miss my milking partner. You’d understand if you ever worked the underside of a Holstein.
Back to the weed tea. Here is what you’ll need:
- A standard 5-gallon bucket
- A stick for stirring if you’re in it for the long haul
Fill the 5-gallon bucket with weeds–nettles, horsetail, chickweed, to name a few–and cover with water. Stir once a week for three to five weeks. When the fertilizer has thickened into a gooey substance, you can use it by mixing the liquid at a 1:10 ratio. Or, more simply, add some of the liquid fertilizer to water in your watering can until it looks like a weak tea.
I found this on Pinterest a couple of months ago. The idea comes from Tiffany McCauley’s website The Flavor of Healthy Living, and I love the story of her grandmother’s egg pitcher. Worth visiting for that alone. The long and the short of it is to simply put your egg shells in a pitcher of water whenever you make eggs—crush them down to fit more inside. This, too, will smell after a while, though for some reason mine didn’t have a strong odor. It could be because I didn’t add enough eggshells. As you use it up, she says you can keep adding water to the same shells, but when the water fails to stink, you’ll need to dump the old shells out and start over.
Kitchen scraps (aka compost)
If you are new to composting, it’s probably quicker to mention what not to include in the compost bucket—meat, dairy products, eggs (the part inside the shells, obviously). All your other food scraps are welcome in the bucket, including coffee grounds and tea bags—minus any staples on the bags. The tea bags and coffee filters go right into the mix, so you don’t have to sort those out.
I have a pile where I dump such things, but I’m also fond of another simple method. Dig a hole between plants that’s big enough to accommodate your compost from the kitchen bucket—leave a little room so that it’s buried under a layer of some of the dirt you removed. I’ve also heard this called “trench composting.” Same idea, just dig a trench and fill in with your garbage gold.
There is actually a simpler method, and that is tucking bits of scraps underneath your mulch, but I’ve not tried this. You do run the risk of pets or varmints retrieving the compost, whether digging up the hole or tearing up the mulch to get to the food.
What are the results?
Whenever I’ve used any of these homemade fertilizers, I’ve noticed the boost a week or two later, so patience is needed. I happened to use the contents of the egg fertilizer on a large planter filled with squash, and the leaves perked up and turned a darker shade of green with some noticeable growth on the plants. The weed tea worked well on my strawberry bed. Right after renovating I applied my weed tea fertilizer and, again, I noticed the darker, more vibrant green leaves and healthy growth.
Try one of these fertilizers on your little piece of the good green Earth, and be patient. You’ll reap the rewards of healthy plants and not spend an arm and a leg to do it!
How do you fertilize your garden? Tell us in the comments.
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Inside: Have the weeds taken over your garden? Here are some simple solutions for taming the jungle.
You meant to get to it. Weeding the garden, I mean. But your cousin Sally’s wedding took up one whole weekend, and Billy’s little league game used up a perfectly good Friday evening. Then you promised to bring chicken divan for the church potluck. So you pencil in Saturday for some much-needed weed pulling, and here come the rains–buckets and buckets of the stuff. When you finally do get out to the garden, you are overwhelmed, to say the least. How will you ever tame the jungle?
Well, my gardening compadre, I have a few ideas. Let me share.
Newspaper is your friend.
Newspaper is your friend, followed closely by mulch in the form of straw, grass clippings, leaves, or spent hay. You could even use the weeds (without seeds) as a mulch–though you’d have to pull them first, and I’m all about simple here.
The first thing I do is trample down the weeds by walking all over them. Then I apply a thick layer of newspaper–wetting it makes it easier to stay in place. Cover the paper with your mulch. Smothering the weeds is one of the easiest and quickest ways to get rid of them.
You could also use black plastic or some kind of landscaping material, but you’d need to pull it up in the fall. The good thing about the newspaper is that it’s biodegradable. And plentiful. Cardboard also works well.
Weed eaters, to help work through your aggression.
Call it therapy. Your weed eater at the ready, plow through a tall stand of weeds and you just feel better. But, please, use responsibly. Avoid killing your tomatoes. A plant is a terrible thing to waste!
For years I bugged Hubs for a weed eater, and he kept directing me to the tool shed where he kept this huge gas-powered monstrosity that, when he used it, gave him a backache for days. It was heavy and cumbersome, and I didn’t want any part of that. I wanted one of those simple kind I saw advertised on TV, to which he replied, “They don’t work on our kind of weeds.” So one approaching Mother’s Day I did my research and purchased a Black & Decker and haven’t looked back. While the weed eater cost a nice chunk of change, it helped tremendously in taking away the overwhelm–as well as the discouragement–from feeling like I’d never catch up on all the weeding. I’d even say it restored my joy of gardening.
The drawback for some will be having to repeat the process, but weeds will keep showing up, anyway. Or maybe I just like to work through my angst that way. You should see me wield a corn knife.
Old-fashioned weed pulling–with a plan.
I should mention here that I really don’t mind pulling weeds by hand. Really. I do this often. I’ve made my peace with weeds and tolerate them to a certain extent. I even view them as beneficial–in my compost pile and now in my homemade fertilizer weed tea. (More on the fertilizer next week.)The part I don’t like is when I’m faced with a jungle and feel like I’ll never get ahead of it. So I’ve got a method that I’m currently using in my strawberry bed. I find the most weedy place in the patch and work there for a few minutes. When I stand back and admire my work, I see progress.
But maybe that would overwhelm you. Then you could do the opposite–start with where the weeds are thinnest and quickly move from easy spot to easy spot. Either method, you’ll get there.
And if not, there’s always the weed eater!
How do you conquer your weed issues–or not? Tell us about it in the comments.
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Inside: Attracting birds to your backyard can be fun and relaxing. Writer Patsy Reiter reveals four tips in her guest post.
Throughout the year, I take great care to feed my variety of feathered friends. Summer is the busiest as many different species fly in and then depart when autumn arrives. Below are some ideas on how I have made my yard bird-friendly. I’m not an expert, but these applications work for me.
1. An abundance of trees and bushes is wonderful as birds like good nesting sites and most species return to the same area year after year.
2. Water and food source.
3. Colorful perennials and annuals attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees!
I personally fill two bird baths, one in the front and one in the backyard. Besides drinking from these, the birds like to take baths. Some weeks in the summer, I’ll rinse the bird baths twice during the day and fill with fresh water.
I keep my feeding station in the same spot, under a pine tree. I’ve had several hanging feeders, but the nocturnal animals such as raccoons tear them down. I’ve given up on that, but I do hang a small suet feeder and that remains in position.
I toss together a songbird country seed mix with black-oil sunflower seeds. I also make my own hummingbird nectar. One part sugar to four parts water, boil then cool, and fill a hanging feeder. Hummingbirds like red, so you’ll notice most feeders sport that color. I change the liquid every three to four days and wash the feeder to ensure mold doesn’t form. There are times mid-summer that I’m filling the feeder every day. My feeder hangs in front of my kitchen sink window, and it’s so much fun watching the little beauties.
Thistle seed for finches is expensive, so just once in a while I’ll purchase a small bag. I find that the finches dip into the oriole’s grape jam. Just drop a large spoonful of jam onto an orange lid or plate. Orioles are attracted to that particular color and also love oranges. There are liquid oriole feeders on the market, but I keep to simpler in-home items.
Sometimes during the week, I treat my feathered friends to my own homemade mix—old bread dipped in leftover grease from bacon or red meat. I break it up, toss it out in the yard, and it’s quickly retrieved. Since there is an abundance of flowers, fruits, and grains for birds during the growing season, they are well fed.
In winter months, even after the snowbirds have headed south, I continue to feed my feathered friends. The blue jays and cardinals make a colorful display on a blanket of snow. I have a special fondness for mourning doves that seem to settle at my place all year.
Tip: Unsalted peanuts are a favorite of blue jays, but watch out for the squirrels as the nuts will disappear quickly.
My biggest tip? Sit, relax, and enjoy our feathered friends.
Are you a backyard bird enthusiast like Patsy? Tell us about it in the comments.
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Patsy Reiter has been writing stories for children and adults for over fifteen years, with five credits in two e-zine magazines and a piece in the Genesee County Family Resource Guide. A Michigan native and member of SCBWI-MI and American Christian Fiction Writers, her inspiration is fueled by her grandchildren and an offbeat sense of humor. In 2009 she won first place for her e-zine story “The Necklace.” School visits and opportunities to inspire children are high on her agenda. She enjoys spending time with family and friends where ideas consistently sprout. Patsy has just completed her first inspirational novel.