Monday, March 31, 2008

On Teamwork, Joy for my Daughter, and What We Want to BE When We Grow Up

It's all been a whirlwind. I can't believe a whole week came and went...

A huge dream has been realized. This is a major turning point for our family, all three of us.

Today, my daughter, who is 19, had her first interview for a job as a LPN.

A LPN!!!!! It's official!!!!!!!!!!

On Monday, she took her state exam...HUGE...she took two courses just to prep for the exam. We all held our breaths. We prayed. We allowed unlimited computer access, bought prep books,blah blah blah, and the big day finally came.

We sweated collective bullets while awaiting the results...two whole days of not knowing!

I got the call from R while I was on the road at work. She sounded sad.

She is a HUGE faker....I'm glad she was faking!!! She learned she passed!!!


It sounds bad to say it's one of MY dreams come true, but being the poster child for having bypassed completing a college education or trade myself during the years when I put a husband through graduate school and had/raised a baby, after 13 years of which life pulled a wrenching switcheroo of divorce and subsequent boinging me right into the job scene unprepared(minus experience and letters behind my name)....well, I just wanted my daughter to have some help with direction WHILE she figures out the many things she MOST wants to do.

I'd never had much help on the parental front with things requiring direction. Oh to have had some wise advice and some direction during my early years, as I had set off into life. Life's been full of a lot of lessons :)

I'm so beyond the point of expecting to find enough money to pay the bills by doing "my dream" (I have so many dreams! none of which are moneymakers in and of themselves), and my own reality has been that had I utilized some varied opportunities as I went along, I'd have a lot more choice about doing a job I enjoyed more. I now believe we can have multiple and changing talents and careers all throughout the years, none of which has to be the sole bearer of the title "what I know I want to BE."

I wanted to breed horses. To be a writer, a poet. To speak foreign languages. To create beautiful artwork, paintings, pottery, sculpture. To have horses to ride every day of my life. To live where you don't see your neighbors' houses, out in the wild, or a cottage in a glen or a rocky hillside. I wanted to travel the world. I wanted to paint the world with meadows of wildflowers. To have bison and wild horses roaming nearby. I wanted to marry a farmer. I wanted to be a professor holed up in a room full of dusty books, overflowing paperwork, writing papers and giving brilliant lectures. To teach creative writing. To inspire students to think for themselves, outside the box. To innovate, find solutions creatively. To be a home decorator. I wanted to be a biblical scholar. I wanted to start an orphanage. To be a counselor. To be a midwife. A naturopath. I wanted to design buildings. I wanted to have a really large family, complete with adopted children, some possibly with handicaps and international backgrounds. I wanted to go into Romanian or other orphanages and turn things around, see miracles happen with a lot of elbow grease and love. To make sandwiches weekly for the homeless. To be an investigative journalist on the front lines of a war or reporter covering abuses and stir action. To go to Jerusalem and pray at the wall. I wanted to live self-sufficiently, back to the land. To build a log cabin by hand, drink from a stream, not have a car and only get around by horseback.

LOL...ok I'll stop there...

I've not necessarily stopped wanting these unrelated things. But I've not had a boring life. And I did plan for the above, at various points in life, but the course of life has been different than expected.

My wants narrowed down very boldly a few years ago to something very basic:

I wanted to be able to survive. A few years ago, I found myself on the brink of being months from being homeless and losing custody of my daughter for the sole reason of being unable to afford a roof over our heads and food to eat.

That'll put a whole new spin on the What To Do When I Grow Up subject. So when R neared the end of high school, and a fantastic opportunity presented itself, I saw it as a gift...and really really amazing gift from God. That is how I see my present marriage, and the fact my husband is more than a stepdad...he's a team leader forgeing forward FOR and WITH us all. Without his strength and agreement and decision-making, this would have been an opportunity missed.

Rachel had a big opportunity three years ago...
When you have a daughter who gets really excited about science, nature, how things work, and challenging academics AND when that daughter gets an opportunity through a high school program to simultaneously enroll in a health sciences program geared towards nursing...she has an opportunity to have a skill FOR FREE and schooling FOR FREE while still in high school that, by the time graduation arrives, puts her mere months (8 to be exact) from being a full fledged nurse.

Some would frown on my urging her to try this. Had she been left to just decide for herself without some persuasion, she'd have done what I'd have done at her same age, given the initial impulse...probably have decided that I didn't know what I wanted to "be when I grew up" and therefore have passed it by because I wasn't sure I wanted to do all that. Maybe later.

As "later" to myself and her stepfather loomed, and we have (lets just say) limited means as far as being able to send her to college, we saw an opportunity for her to have a HUGE skill she might very well thrive in.

We sat her down at that time (it was just before her junior year) and basically presented the pros and cons for at least trying the program. She had to face her immediate future, and wrestle with the realities of what getting to college would require. My years of prepping her for going to college after high school were still in was her expectation, not just ours. But divorce and financial setback had narrowed the monetary scope of choices. It's hard to have that conversation with a 16 year old. She considered the program, and we all discussed it over the course of a month or so.

As that school year approached, and she had a deadline to decide on her classes, she was undecided, still thinking she had to KNOW what she REALLY wanted to do...when she grew up. I told her that my thinking on that had changed over the years, myself, and I see life now as a palette for all SORTS of things to do (and when did I grow up? that year eludes asked her the question "What do you have better to do in the meantime?" Really, at that point, she was not particularly passionate about any particular thing, and doing the program wouldn't bump her from some other activity or opportunity. So I basically DARED her to try it....for 2 weeks. We toured the school, went to the meet-n-greet, met the teachers, talked to former students.

R looked a little apprehensive at the outset. These former students all had something in common...they were very self-assured. VERY self-assured.

Then R spoke with a girl who was still in her senior year of high school, and was attending the trade school, too. That girl had not known what she really wanted to "do," either. But her home situation was such that her mom was having a hard time, her home life wasn't good, and she really needed to have a skill for life that was all too real ...and to be able to be independent quickly once out of high school. She said the program was the best thing she'd ever done. She was not a poster child of over-achievement...she was gritty and "normal" ...and my daughter really listened to her at that point.

So, it was atttempted. The first couple of days' reviews were lukewarm. The "how did it go" question was met with a shrug and not much else. But after day 2, she became more and more lively about her classes. Getting up for a 5 o'clock bus was no picnic, nor was keeping some honors classes in the afternoon AFTER health science classes...she was bused by the public school system an hour's drive BACK to high school every day, so that's 3 bus rides a day. And she had to keep all her other grades up, which she did.

We were partners with her, too. She didn't have her drivers license at that time, so guess who got up to take her to that 5 o'clock bus? Yep, moi...and I'm not famous for being a morning person. I'm not patting us on the back, since R did the work and saw this through...a big committment. But it's been family teamwork, and that part feels GOOD :)

All that to say that R gained an amazing amount of confidence. At the outset, when she had weighed the pros and cons of trying out the program, she had expressed her strong doubts. Some of them were doubts about whether she could handle cleaning up after people who are ill. And doing things such as adult diaper changes, cleaning up bedpans, etc. I can't say that anyone, if faced with such realities, makes those things at the top of their lists of dream jobs.

Anyway, she tried the program for the agreed-upon 2 weeks, and decided to stay in...SHE decided, not us. And she stuck it out. And then delighted in regaling us with nursing details at the dinner! She gained a lot of maturity as she gained skills and knowledge, and it wasn't long before she thought nothing of the concerns she'd been a bit dubious about beforehand.

It WAS a LOT of work. It had times of difficulty now and then as she'd have to get her head around some math or a skill that needed more practice. She kept getting up those early mornings, and it became a special time for us together as we waited for that bus in the wee hours. We always started her day with a prayer together, both of us half asleep. Then she'd get on the bus (to fall asleep during the hour drive), and I'd get ready to head to work myself. J pinch-hit on days when his different schedule would allow. He's a trouper, too!

R really excelled. At the end of the first year in health sciences through the vocational program, she took the state CNA exam.

WHAM. The "A" student didn't pass. This test was supposed to be a piece of cake. She had missed the easiest of all skills tests...weighing someone. She knew ALL the hardest skills, performed them perfectly, did great on the written. But according to the book, she was supposed to TALK the patient through stepping up onto the scale and helping them step down...TALK them through it. Weighing someone!!!

She was crushed. And humbled.

And honestly, it was a take even the small things seriously and not for granted.

She passed it on the second try.

She entered the LPN phase of the course the next fall, all along keeping up with her high school grades and some honors classes. She had a few bumps along the way, as reminders that not everything comes easy, but thankfully, she's a natural. She's developed an interest in health beyond the doctor's office, and is interested in herbs and natural foods. She's taking great care of her own health and fitness. She found things she loved and didn't love about nursing. In short, she's a natural, and she has a useful and wonderful skill...yay!!!!! She may choose to NEVER do this again in her whole life...but IF she DOES do it, she is a terrific nurse. She may choose to go forward and become an RN, or to specialize in some particular area. She really enjoyed assisting in surgery, and is looking into that as a specialty. How NICE to be 19 and have some tangible options (I'm so grateful to God!!)

She loves photography, and we want her to have the experience of college.

God has been so good to us...the three of us. He provided other opportunities in the form of scholarships, and now college IS a present reality. Wow, I'm SO SO grateful, as a mother. Humbled and GRATEFUL...

R is on her very first job interview for I type!

I hope she has only good as she steps out in this next new phase.

We've tried to be the best team possible with her the last few years. J has worked hard to fund her gasoline and scrubs and book fees, etc...a weekly expense as the portion of classes AFTER high school were no longer free. Clinicals had to be driven to, and daily classes...all an hour away. And gas ain't cheap!

He's walked her through getting her first back account, balancing her first checkbook, trying to establish a small and modest credit history, giving her some pointers here and there. He's been big on her safety, and after some really awful murders and abductions not far from here, she takes her home and car safety lessons from him a lot more seriously. He got her a cell phone for emergencies when on the road. We loaned her our vehicle for the commutes. He warned her about traffic tickets and was there to reiterate that same conversation after she had gotten a couple..and had to pay them herself. He's taught her about budgeting...she kept EVERY receipt for EVERYthing before he would reimburse her expenses, to teach her to be aware of the real value of spending and budgeting and help her to SEE it rather than just be handed money. He allowed her to manage her small amount he gave her..and to mismanage it and to learn the lessons in miniature, so she wouldn't be unfamiliar with those realities in upcoming years. He taxied her to appointments and to the employment office recently.

And he OFTEN met with teenage attitude during many of these conversations and lessons...but that has diminished a lot as R's urge for independence has met with real life situations, and she sees the benefit of them now.

We had held our collective breath as her program drew to a close. Graduation from the program never guaranteed her passing her state exam. Now that she has passed, it's been difficult for us to realize it's over...the big HUGE team effort that's been going on DAILY for the last 3 years.

On to the next step, eh? :) Life's an adventure!

I had a long cry last night. This has occupied all our lives so much the past years, and so has the push to get things wrapped up for us financially and get moved to some land. So many stops and starts.

MUCH to celebrate along the way. MUCH for which to be grateful!!

I'm having that pre-empty nest ache in my heart. I have no intention of standing in the way of my daughter's path forward, out into her life that will be her own story to write. I pray God figures into it, always at the center, and that she'll be safe...and very very happy.

R's ability to go get a job now will free us up in a lot of ways to retire the rest of our debts more quickly. J hopes to be out of debt by this time next year...I am praying that there will be none left by the end of THIS one.

My job is more to my liking now. I've been given a permanent assignment, and was allowed a lot of input as to my schedule. And s ometimes I get to drive the company vehicle home, which helps alleviate the gas costs of that long commute. My whole work day or night involves driving the company vehicle, and guess what I do for the county? Code enforcement, namely finding regular watering violations. I know that sounds ludicrous to some, but we do have a drought here (even with the spring rains, overall the water table is very low), and we also have luxury communities where folks simply don't care that their irrigation systems dump streams of water into the sewers long past their lawns' abilities to retain any more moisture...we're talking about HOURS of watering, any day of the week.

I drive by those homes, with their amazing tropical plants, and smile a wry smile when I see the silhouette of herds of deer munching down on manicured lawns and sculpted raised beds. All that "perfection" of landscaping, and the deer still have a I see opossums, raccoons, rabbits, owls...and more deer...nightly, and smell the night flowers and feel the warm breeze. I do have to say that I'll be able to stick with this job for a prolonged period because I get to be close to where I want to be the most...outside the box (for me, the corporate world feels the most like a box, but that's me; others often enjoy it). Ideas crowd my head, but the setting is peaceful enough to allow for thoughts to drift and just to ENJOY the moment, oftentimes. And so, I'm grateful! This is my job to help us get out of debt so we can get our hands down in our OWN dirt somewhere...and it's looking closer.

It can't get here fast enough...that's how I feel so often. That's "what I want to do when I grow up."

But maybe the "growing up" part is the journey in getting there.

My daughter is growing up too fast. She's taking some new big steps. But she doesn't see herself as a Grownup.

I'll be 42 next weekend.

I wonder if I'm grown up yet :)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

No You Did NOT!!!

YES, you DID......!!!

January, 2008
Gail named "2007 NW Vocalist of the Year" by Earshot Jazz!!!

Good golly, I AM behind these days...

CONGRATULATIONS, Gail! I'm so glad the world is getting to hear your fabulous talent!!

Said While Jumping Up and Down

(Which makes typing an interesting exercise in coordination)

Jumps are in caps...

Guess WHAT

we're going to GET

with the MONEY

we set ASIDE

from the TAXRETURN

after we PAID

a big ol' CHUNK

of the CAR

payment OFF ?????????

I'm not telling.

Noooooo, oh HA



(you can take a peek here)

So now I can drink and cook with clean water and type strike-throughs with my keyboard and have a blog post stolen by plagiarizers and be closer to being completely out of debt all at the same time! Wheeeeeee!!!

(I'm a little happy...thank you for sharing my happy dance!)

Pictures and experiments will commence as soon as the big Fed Ex truck arrives :) Stay tuned!

Raw Milk Restrictions, Raw Nerve

Here they are. Here are the villains at Organic Pastures Dairy. Remember, it's a crime to provide clean food straight from grass to cow to consumer any more. It's a crime to drink a glass of untampered milk.

Also remember that everyone else wants a piece of the pie, especially all interests "protected" by the FDA and to get that, need to legislate the dickens out of any bovine operation focused more on knee-deep pastures than bureaucracy. Well, that, and the fact that for some reason, too many Americans have swallowed the brainwashing that everything, yea everything that gets consumed in our slickly-marketed and commercialized world HAS to be processed, or something is just...well...not normal, right?


In 2007, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed AB 1735 into law. This was a blow to consumer choice in his state, relating to raw milk.

See a video protesting that move (below)

Recently, it would appear the raw milk dairies are under a concentrated and stepped-up attack from government authorities who "milk" this opportunity for all it's worth to prey on the public's ignorance of the role of healthy bacteria and raw foods on human health -- and the endemic modern disconnect/ignorance of the progression of any of our basic foods from pasture to dinner plate.

We need to wake up and insist upon our own right to determine what goes on our plates and how it is raised. It's more than a red flag waving when government regulation insists on being the decision maker FOR us, and criminalizes we the public for exercising our own basic human right to choose and control our own foods.

We can NOT let this one go, folks. If we allow any bureaucracy to make these choices FOR US, it's no longer our government, but rather our Big Brother.

The raw milk issue is just one of many important issues. Yet it is fundamental. We must not allow the system to self-perpetuate a runaway algae bloom of legislation designed to feed the corporate interest machine, at the expense of losing our individualism and innovation (not to mention independence and Yank ingenuity).

Here is a good article from the Boston Globe about this issue. Anyone who has experienced the joy of unadulterated foods, including raw milk, knows that we must preserve our right to raise them, AND purchase them freely.

If you have a local dairy providing sumptuous pasture and producing a superior raw milk product, befriend them! They are likely good folks who are quietly and steadfastly swimming against the tide of mass agribusiness and its hydra clones.

Here's Greenwood Farms website, a Missouri farm page I ran across during a web search. They, like many other dairies, have responded to the consumer demand for raw milk. Those look like some really contented Jersey cows!

Mmmmm... now I'm craving a creamy glass of cold milk :)

Blog Content Theft


Will just left a comment on my recent Water Purification post alerting me that it had been stolen by a spam scraper site.

Thank you, Will, for the heads up! I enjoyed finding your blog, too, and I'll be back for a closer read :)

Spam scraper site? Still in the grip of my computer ignorance, I had to look up the term. I'm still not sure I really understand it, but I'm clear enough on the concept that someone reprinted my material in whole without permission.

That is one reason I haven't put any of my poetry here, or any of my published writings, not that there are that many of them (there aren't), but in any case I'm sticking to homesteading journaling here.

I formerly belonged to a writers' group, after having shopped several groups in my location at that time, and the one I ended up joining was necessarily kept very small for the sake of the very same thing...the tendency of some folks to be a bit too free and loose with OTHERS' material...and abscond with it. As it was, each of us in the group wrote in a distinctly different style (and often genre) from the others; and yet even so, over the course of time creative similarities showed up in our works, simply from familiarity.

Plagiarism is something I've insisted upon avoiding...with my daughter (in her years of schoolwork), with our family's correspondences, and in my own writing. I really appreciate others citing sources and providing links in some form to give credit where credit is due.

I'll try to contact someone at the spam site (if that's possible?) to ask that my article (though it was simply some ramblings about some water purification questions) be removed and not related to product links.

After a basic Google search, which was necessary since I don't even know what a spam scraper IS, I pulled up this article by Jonathan Bailey , a writer for Plagiarism Today, titled The 6 Steps to Stop Content Theft. It looks pretty helpful, except I'll probably need a Blogging For Dummies guide to get past the first few sentences. Even so, maybe it'll help someone else out here!

If you have any advice or experience with this, I welcome your input! Just make sure to use very small I'll try to wrap my brain around the unfamiliar :)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Raw Milk in the News Again

This just received in a news update from the Weston A. Price Foundation (thank you, C !)

FDA HARASSES DAIRY COMPANY EMPLOYEESGrand Jury Investigation is Latest Government Tactic against Raw MilkMarch 24, 2008: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASESpecial FDA agents and investigators from the US Food and Drug Administration aggressively interrogated two young female employees of Organic Pastures Dairy Company, the nation's largest raw milk producer, with questions focusing on the dairy's interstate sales of raw colostrum and raw milk for pet food.

The surprise interrogations took place after work in their private homes on the evening of March 19, just hours after Judge Tobias of the Hollister Superior Court issued a temporary restraining order against the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

The state court ruling blocked enforcement of California's anti-raw milk AB 1735, which mandates unnecessarily stringent standards for beneficial coliform bacteria in raw milk. The temporary restraining order represents an important legal victory for raw milk producers and consumers in California and throughout the nation.The federal agents threatened one employee with arrest if questions were not fully and truthfully answered about Organic Pastures' order fulfillment practices.

Her answers reflected information that is readily available at the company's website, The other employee was told FDA would "make it worth her while" to "wear a wire" and record conversations with Organic Pastures president Mark McAfee. The employee refused the offer. "We are like a family, I would never do that to a family member," she said, reflecting her close relationship with the McAfee family.

Both employees were served subpoenas to appear April 3 for a secret grand jury investigation. In 2003, Organic Pastures received a confirmation letter from Larry Childers of the FDA, which clearly stated that interstate sales of raw colostrum are not regulated because colostrum is not milk.

The FDA website notes that "pet food" requires no pre-market approval and is unregulated by the FDA. The Bronx Zoo in New York and other zoos regularly order raw colostrum and raw dairy products from Organic Pastures to save babies of endangered species and keep other animals healthy. Orders stipulate that the milk and colostrum must be raw because pasteurized versions make them ill. Many veterinarians recommend raw milk for cats and dogs.

"FDA has gone on the record as 'hating raw milk' in any form," says Mark McAfee, founder and president of Organic Pastures. " The harassment of our employees and grand jury investigation is just the latest round in the government vendetta against Nature's perfect food. If Organic Pastures is doing something illegal, all FDA needs to do is come and tell us and we will make the necessary changes to our labels and procedures."

Organic Pastures will be represented in this action by the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund. Membership in the Fund helps support the defense of raw milk and direct farm-to-consumer sales.

For further information visit
CONTACT:Mark McAfee, President, Organic Pastures Dairy Corporation, (55) 846-9742, cell (559) 351-2453, Meikle, President, the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, (703) 964-7421,

Saturday, March 22, 2008


Today saw tiny little buds already emerging on the four Western Soapberry whips we planted recently.

It was a relaxing weekend. Friday night was the candlelighting and a relaxing dinner of small steaks, mashed potatoes, green peas with mint from the garden, yeast rolls, and fresh salad (some greens and herbs from garden mixed with store-bought romaine) with fresh-squeezed lemon. Iced tea with mint, and strawberries with whipped cream from the real milk we had on hand...yum! We're very grateful, and it felt like a feast with all gathered round the table at the same time.

Dessert was chocolate cake made with the addition of Guinness, an adaptation of a recent recipe I saw on a blog...but I can't remember which one! (If you're the one and you're reading this, let me know so I can give you credit!) It turned out great :)

Shabbat was spent relaxing, study the Torah portion and reading in the Psalms, and taking some walks outdoors. And sitting on the back porch talking and being amidst the plants. We're really enjoying this temperate weather before it turns hot and the mosquitos come out in force.

The work week keeps us running to catch up. We have a lot of to do in the next couple of weeks before Passover, as all our yeast and leavening products have to be used or given away by then, and everything deep-scrubbed and organized. It's a great time for a spring cleaning!

As stated, the Western Soapberry starts are alive! The first tiny buds have shown themselves. The shock the Moringa tree went through after having been put into better soil has passed, and its new growth attests to its happiness with the new arrangement. I have about 6 or 8 pots to repot tomorrow, finishing getting the immovable clay out and the new fluffy stuff in. Some of the berry canes aren't doing well because their feet are very wet, and there are no signs of the grapevines budding yet at all. The hot peppers seem to be wimping out, too, so I'll check on them and see what's happening. R is going to mow and then I'll put black landscaping fabric underneath the area we'll keep these pots longterm, and get them into rows and neaten up the backyard somewhat.

Last bucket count...72. Or somewhere in that range.

We're looking into beekeeping. More on that soon!

Friday, March 21, 2008

More Raw Milk News

Forwarded to me from the local chapter, this press recent press release is from the Weston A. Price Foundation and is related to the legal efforts to protect the availability of real milk.

(All highlights in green are mine)


March 20, 2008.

For Immediate Release:

Raw milk consumers won a major victory yesterday as Judge Harry J. Tobias of
the San Benito Superior Court in Hollister, California granted a temporary
restraining order against the enforcement of AB 1735.

Described as a "stealth attack" against raw milk, AB 1735 calls for a strict
coliform limit of 10 per ml or under in bottled raw milk. In court papers filed
on March 6, Organic Pastures Dairy Company and Claravale Farms argued that raw
milk from their dairies has a superlative safety record in California and that
the new coliform limit would effectively put them out of business.

Coliforms are beneficial bacteria found in raw
The plaintiffs were represented by Gary Cox of the
Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, which gives legal support to member farmers
who provide raw milk and other farm products directly to the public. Ruling from
the bench after nearly two hours of oral argument, Judge Tobias concluded that
the two dairies would both be irreparably harmed if the coliform standard
imposed by AB 1735 continued to remain in effect, noting that existing testing
data proves the dairies cannot meet the standard.

In issuing the temporary restraining order, Judge Tobias set the matter for a
preliminary injunction hearing for April 25th to determine whether the temporary
stay should remain in effect until the parties actually go to trial, which could
conceivably be later this year. If Judge Tobias issues a preliminary injunction
at the conclusion of the April 25th hearing, then raw dairy products will be
safe in California until the parties go to trial.

"This is a huge win for raw dairy consumers in the State of California" said
Taaron Meikle, president of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund. "With this
ruling, consumers can continue to enjoy the health benefits of raw dairy. We are
pleased with Judge Tobias' ruling and hope the stay remains in effect after the
April 25th hearing."

The Legal Defense Fund argued on behalf of its members, Organic Pastures and
Claravale Farm, that without an injunction, both dairies would go out of
business. In addition, Fund lawyers noted the lack
of evidence that any pathogens causing human illness have been found in any of
the dairies' products.

"The Judge's ruling is consistent with the evidence and the law of the case,"
said Fund attorney Gary Cox. "We had provided evidence that our members would
both go out of business should AB 1735 be enforced, and that there was no
scientific or reasonable basis for using coliforms as the standard for safety
and health," Cox further added. The parties will now begin preparing for the
April 25th hearing. At that hearing, both parties are free to submit
declarations and affidavits as well as introduce live testimony with expert and
lay witnesses.

The hearing is scheduled for one day and a ruling is expected within a month
thereafter. In the meantime, legislative efforts continue to gain momentum, as
several concerned legislators have introduced bills to rescind AB 1735 and
replace the 10 coliform limit with another, more reasonable and scientifically
based limit.

Tax-deductible donations in support of the upcoming legal efforts may be made
to the Farm-to-Consumer Foundation,

CONTACT: Taaron Meikle, President, The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund,
(703) 964-7421

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A Total Revamp of Direction in a Mere 24 Hours

This post may sound suspiciously like it has nothing to do with homesteading, but it does...eventually. But first -- a scary little retro trip around the inside of my head. Y'know...the place songs you can't forget lurk...

You know your life is going to take a dramatic turn in a different direction when you can't get this radio refrain out of your head for the past four straight days:

Once upon a time I was falling in love But now I'm only falling apart
There's nothing I can do A total eclipse of the heart Once upon a time there was
light in my life But now there's only love in the dark Nothing I can say A total
eclipse of the heart

Poor Andy Gibb. (My husband just asked me who Andy Gibb was, no joke. Forgive him, Bee Gees). No, Andy didn't sing this, but for some reason this song catapults me to post-1980s sorrow for him over his breakup with Victoria Principal. Which happened HOW many decades ago??

Oh the silly pop culture concerns we had. My best friend of that era and I had simultaneous crushes on the Hardy Boy TV stars guy was Parker Stevenson and hers was Shaun Cassidy.

Oh the imaginary dates we had with that pair. We would decide who went where with whom and what the most romantic settings would be, and if we'd doubledate, just us and Parker and Shaun. We decided these weighty matters while listening to Karen's Captain and Tenielle records...yeah, please don't do the math there (I think we were what, 12 at the time, and there was no such thing as dating till you were at least 16)

This was made all the more interesting by the fact that my parents raised us with NO radio-listening or record-buying of pop music at ALL. Zero. Zilch. But exposure did happen on a limited scale, which probably heightens its impact at that impressionable age. I can hum the songs from back then, because I heard the radio now and then with my friends in other settings, but I know NO words.

Except for a few refrains. Such as Total Eclipse of the Heart. And when I hear them now on the OLDIES (ahem) station, they're harder to make go away than a crowd of bad relatives.

There are as of yet no total eclipses of the heart going on around here (and no plans for those, either!), and yet BAM, there in the middle of the day, for NO reason, like a bad commercial jingle comes the turn around bright eyyyyyyyyyyyes, turn around BRIGHTTT eye-eye-eyes...

But in a foreshadowing of life imitating (bad) lyrics, there has been a turn around. No word yet on how bright anyone's eyes are, though.


This isn't a bad thing :) It has to do with what happened last night.

I've mentioned here a few times that we're researching biblical verses related to country living, agriculture, debts, and animal care. We're finding some very interesting things.

One of the things we've been chewing on is how to emulate many of the principles in our lives, as Jews, even though we don't live in Israel. Many of the commands that directly impact homesteader-sorts of ownership, gardening, and husbandry are preceded in the text by the phrase "when you come into the Land the Lord your God has given you." It's written in all the instructions Jews keep while living in Israel, since in the verses, God says it's a land set apart and which must be cared for in specific ways to maintain its being set apart for His uses. That's my quickie explanation to precede describing just what changed for us last night.

Some of the commandments are preceded by the "when you come into the Land" phrase, and others aren't. The 10 commandments aren't. You don't murder, no matter where you live in the world. You keep the 7th day as a day of rest wherever you live. But others are specific to the land of Israel, at least as we understand the simplicity of their construction.

One such commandment has to do with "7 weeks of 7 years," or a rest for the land every seven years, counted the same way as a week is counted...the first 6 days as days of work, and the 7th as a day of complete rest from any labor. Counting this way makes every 7th year of the Jewish calendar a year in which the Bible specifies that all growing of crops and vines ceases, including pruning and harvesting. It's considered by God to be a complete rest for the land, specifically the land of Israel. It doesn't mention anything about anywhere else, and most scholars agree it's an instruction specific to Israel.

The very VERY cool thing is that God promised that the Israelites who will keep that command will receive 3 times the normal harvest in the 6th year...enough for that year, the following year of fields resting fallow, and enough for seed and food for the year beyond that during which things are replanted. How COOL is thatt??? God is so incredible!

We looked it up on the Hebrew calendar, and discovered that year of rest for the fields and vineyards, THAT year, is NOW. It started last fall, the way the biblical months are counted, and ends this coming fall. Of THIS YEAR ....NOW. Eeeeeeps.

In the Land of Israel, that is.

Which sort of means we're officially off the hook, in a literal way. We're free anywhere else to do otherwise in that respect.

So, I had visions of tomato plants. I had counted them, planted them, and harvested them all in my imagination, as the summer approaches here.

There's nothing I can do A total eclipse of the heart

Arrrrggggghhhhhhh!!! Told you! I can't get it out of my head!

ANYway, we talked about a lot of things related to this, and read in Leviticus 25 about the 7th year sabbath and crops and such. As you know, our plans are to expand Bucketville into a fertile orchard-in-waiting till we can move and plant them as more mature specimens. And to fill the many, many wonderful buckets with other lovelies, such as Paul Robeson, Black Krim, and Black Prince tomatoes (the list is miles long in my head).

The conversation turned to something important to both of us: to keep alive in our hearts the desire to live in Israel, and to keep the love of Israel alive in our hearts while we live anyplace else...for ourselves and our children. It's a different expression than a lot of people have, and it's certainly just our own way of walking it out. It's NOT incumbent on Jews to do anyplace but Israel. And we're just fleshing this out as we go...just making it clear that there's no directive anywhere for our doing things quite this way. BUT...we want to "stay in practice" since we are on this as a learning journey. We want to learn to make this way of life our habit, even in exile as such.

So it won't look like anyone else's conviction, and that's fine by us :) But we prayed about it, and decided to sleep on it for the night...the decision of whether to STOP doing any planting this year, anymore buying, and (gulp) any tomato plants. (waving bye to Paul Robeson...)

Well, we did sleep on it, and this morning found us both energized and my wonderful hubby has a firm mind that we ought to carefully try to observe this command, as if we were in the Land, even though we're not required to. With all we want to do, keeping the WAY God set things up as central in importance is truly the foundation upon which we hope to build. No, we're not shooting for "brownie points" here...that's not the way we see this relationship and covenant with our Maker. We do, though, want to LEARN how to be more honoring of His ways, and want PRACTICE. We want to make things habits. For ourselves. To pass along. To be familiar with since many of the practices are very foreign to our surrounding culture.

One thing that sets apart my husband, to me, is a rare heart that CARES about pleasing God, and cares about learning more and attempting to put His ways into practice. I'm ALL ABOUT being a team in that respect, so YAY, what more could I ask for?? He thinks we ought to hold off on any planting (other than what we've already planted), well, so do I!

So look for some upcoming posts on our revamped plan.

We went to lunch today to have a date together (when we can!), and many things were discussed. The most exciting was the prospect of preparing our house to SELL. Whenever it is a better market or the opportunity presents itself. There are OH SO many projects we can be doing in the meantime, while NOT planting this year. Many many skills we need in other areas to develop till they become habits, a learning curve to continue along prior to being on our future land. Getting the house ready to SELL gives me chills of excitement...that's something very tangible TOWARD a nearer time frame to DO THIS :) :) How VERY much we want to be out of here and THERE (wherever there is)

More about what we're going to be redirecting and doing. We'll be making lists, and crossing things off (likely in lists with strikethroughs!) and getting ready to move, yayyy!

We'll also be filling ALL those buckets with soil...just not plants, and in the fall of this year, after the year of rest ends, we'll celebrate by planting a lot more trees in them. That's always good to do in the fall :) (And it should REALLY confound the neighbors NOW, since they'll just be pots of dirt, sitting

Till then we'll be crossing off other projects and working hard to bring down our debt, towards its eventual payoff.

There, I've typed nearly an entire post without You-Know-What-Song interrupting me.

I just reminisced a few minutes with my husband, to assure him Parker Stevenson is but a memory (lol). And then, oh then...

I remembered...


I will no longer turn on the oldies station at work. I do not want to know what changes the memory of Sonny and Cher foreshadows.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Robbyn, At Mere Age of 41, Finally Learns How to Type a Strikethrough

Yes, I, too, can strike through words.

Little words.
-----> urp
(pardon me)

Medium sized words.
-----> Ronpaulism
Honest, it's a word. Really.

Large words.
-----> obese

Oops, I mean long words...

This is the word for Tobacco Mosaic Virus, Dahlemense Strain. We use it in our everyday conversation, especially at the table with our mouths full.

I never realized the power of the written (er typed) word until I became recently (in the last five seconds) knowledgeable how to strike them through. (Yes, and maybe someday I can figure out what in the world a RSS feed is, but let's not rush progress) Now I can abolish things! I can wipe things out!

I can annihilate, abolish, extirpate, eradicate, and expunge with a mere flick of the keyboard.

Watch how effortless this is...

World Hunger
My gosh, WHY did we not think of this before??? OH the POWER!

Take THAT, hate groups and deeply ingrained status quos.

Dictatorships and Totalitarian Regimes
If only I had had a keyboard during WW2 ...and the Stalinist

Excess weight
I just singlehandedly put Jenny Craig back in the unemployment line, which is probably causing her to want comfort food, which will result in added pounds, which she can STRIKETHROUGH with a mere keystroke! But don't tell this to McDonald's...

The National Debt
Wow, this is getting fun!

The upcoming presidential candidates
Nuff said.

OK, so much power is rushing to my wee head. I must stop now and do the dishes.

Wait! What am I saying???

heinous pile of dirty dishes from supper AND the dirty floor that needs sweeping AND the laundry we won't talk about how it's smelling AND the boxes I swore I'd find a place for but that are still sitting in the living room for the fourth straight week
WHEW! What a day of chores this has been, now that I've gotten all that out of the way...with the strikethrough option, of course.

I think this has just changed my world...


When Life Hands You Buckets... take one wonderful husband, and he pries the lids off

...examines the mess he's about to clean up...

...gets his own assembly-line system going for washing them out...

...and does it all again...happily...44 more times, whew! That is one determined farmer-in-training. And definately the nicest and most wonderful guy I know (even without buckets).

Total bucket count now is 64 designated for plants (including the ones we've already potted), 4 for hauling things (and for making compost tea later), and 3 that are full of all the leftover paint (totaling 15 gallons of interior paint that surely will get used for something). Cool!!

Know what this means?? It means that we DO anticipate there being some tomato plants this year, oh happy day!! Paul Robeson, Black Krim, Black Prince...oh, I hardly can contain myself!

I love my husband more than I thought possible, and the sight of messy buckets and his happy smile while working to gain us some pots for more plants makes me happier than if he were all scrubbed up and wearing a nice suit. THIS is happiness to me. I want 100 more years of being able to see J intent on his projects...our projects, and me right there with him doing the same.

Bucketville keeps growing!

This is not all of them. No, a lot of them won't fit into the picture...

But I'm sure the neighbors are impressed by now with our mess yard decor, green with apoplexy jealousy. I know they are preoccupied by the thought of just how they, too, can turn us into the code enforcement officers grow strange and unusual plants in old paint buckets, and are rushing out to a construction site and begging, yay even bribing someone, to for gosh sake stop the insanity for some 5 gallon buckets. It's all the rage!

(And now I return from my happy little land of least long enough to go do those dishes from dinner that are piled up in the sink...)

Monday, March 17, 2008

And Then She Discovered that Cream Really DOES Come From Cows...

The friendly cow, all red and white,
I love with all my heart;
She gives me cream with all her might,
To eat with apple-tart.

Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894)

Here is a poor photograph of one of our gallons of real un-homogenized milk. Notice anything different than the homogenized?

Here's the same gallon in a different light, to show a greater contrast...can you see it? There is an awesome cream line on this. See how the top is a different color and consistency than the rest? CREAM :)

How much cream can you get off a gallon of real milk? Unless I'm doing it wrong, you can get this much!

I'm not sure I've had that much cream EVER at one time in my life. Oh, the possibilities!

Or I can just leave the cream in, give it all a shake, and serve up an icy chilled glass of deliciousness...mmmmm :)

(Going now... to further indulge!)

Children Milking Cows photograph from this site:

Sunday, March 16, 2008

A Year Later: Thank you, Path to Freedom! Thank you, homesteading bloggers!

First Birthday Cake by Mary Mo, from this site

Path to Freedom was the very first homesteading website I ever read online, long about a year ago. And as you can see on my sidebar, the addiction and the list of greats has only grown!

Those first exposures coincided with our first posts here detailing our slow but deliberate journey towards a better life...a life deliberately chosen, worked for, researched, experimented with, goofed up at times, and learned from. (Yes, I know that sentence is an atrocious array of dangling participles, gah)

I realized today that my first Blog-O-Versary has come and's been over a year, Yay!!

We're "green" as in new to almost everything. But look, we've been trying for a year, and it's been GOOD :) We've learned a lot of things NOT to do, many things that work for us, learned the value of waiting (not the most patient in that department, I must say), of teamwork towards goals.

We've paid off debts! We've begun seriously collecting for our Someday Orchard, have gone from store-bought milk to REAL milk from grassfed Jerseys, are learning to deydrate fruits and vegetables, have tried new recipes, narrowed down a bunch of house plans to a fairly clear set now, have spent countless days and weeks looking for land, and have met wonderful online and in-person friends on their own wonderful journeys.

It's inspired us to turn to the wisdom of our forbears for traditional ways of being good stewards of the earth and our time. It's inspired many transitions in how we view and value our health and our eating. It's wrought an appreciation for the way God made things to live in balance, and an awareness of just where our food comes it gets from pasture or garden to table, if done naturally.

It's also made us aware of the imbalance that has snowballed in our society, from which it is difficult to extricate oneself without some really deliberate effort and hopefully a sense of humor, as these efforts are viewed by many around us as being kooky.

We've voraciously read related books, magazines, and blogs. We've turned back to the Bible, also, for ancient guidance in areas related to animal care and agriculture. We've kept our minds open to innovations. We've tried figuring out ways to adapt a slower-food-and-life mindset to today's "requirements" of cars, commuting, and travel. We've done without a TV, and cleared our minds.

We've begun valuing each other's strengths and weaknesses...our humanity... and truly appreciating that fragile and wonderful relationship called Family. We've begun finding alternatives to the things on which we've become supplies, entertainment, groceries from supermarkets, clothing and cheap import products warehoused for consumers --and all from China. Overthrowing the dependence on those things in our own family's life has been something of a revolution...and we, the renegades. The America we love has (sadly!) embraced an appetite for a culture of Junk Consumerism that rivals heroin addiction...more is never enough, and never satisfies....and eventually destroys real life. But this is so prevalent, that we've experienced some outright hostility at the suggestion that there is a better way, a way as individulistic as whomever will try it in areas of consumerism and health.

One thing we don't want to presume to ever be...experts. We don't like holier-than-thou folks who stump for their way being THE way, with self-righteous dictates. We LOVE the diversity we see with what we blanket-term "homesteaders," and we're neither righteous liberals nor righteous conservatives, whatever either of those labels mean. We're individualists, and appreciate that in others.

So on this website, you'll not find us denigrating those who stretch a box of store-bought macaroni and cheese to make affordable casseroles, even if our own path is documented here as taking us a completely different direction. First of all, we've been there and we may "stay there" in different ways. In other ways, we're pursuing what works for us, and many of those areas need improvement and diligence. We won't judge what's on your plate, and ask you not to judge what's on ours :) There is so much to share and learn, and what we most value is folks who think for my husband tells me often, he loves an opinionated woman (he says that while looking at me, usually after I've expressed a strong opinion..ha!) We both love opinionated and original people!

Areas we're trying to improve right now, besides debt retirement, focus greatly on cutting the apron strings of dependency on the WalMarts of the world, the stupormarkets (oops! ;-)), and in getting healthier. And in trimming our monetary dependency WAY WAY back, till we're eventually as self-sufficient as possible.

Our world concerns are born here in our own backyard on a small scale. It is hard for me to visualize battling for less oil dependency if I am having to commute two hours roundtrip daily just for us to make the house note. Solution? Get rid of the house note? It has to be done wisely...and so we have a plan and are trying. And that plan happens to include keeping the commuting job till we get debts paid off..and so, for the moment, the gasoline guzzling continues. See the dilemmas of waiting while goals are being chipped away at? We live with it by being easy on ourselves and congratulating ourselves for small victories, and this is our attitude towards others as well.

I thank anyone who comes here to share thoughts on the process and on any interest related to bettering ourselves or the world around us. The sharing, the ideas, the continuing conversations...they are FUN!

What a wonderful community to be a part of! We LOVE this community, we LOVE you guys!

Happy Blog-O-Versary to this haphazard journal of our past year's efforts, and a BIG THANK YOU to those of you who are such an inspiration to us! If you're on our sidebar blogroll list, you're a fantastic bunch from whom we've learned! Each of you is someone we respect and admire as our teacher and friend.

A very special thanks to Path to Freedom, who recently included us on their Fellow Travelers list. Their Little Homestead in the City journal is their updated site with even more details, how-tos, and updates to lose yourself in. Thank you, Dervaeses! This is a wonderful honor, and really caps off our first year with a bang....fellow travelers with the first site to inspire us on this journey just a year ago, and with so many other homesteading bloggers we're honored to know and learn from. What joy!

Bee Friendly Seeds!

While knocking around the Seedman site, I ran across this seed mix, which will warm the cockles of every bee-lovers heart!

In the article, he writes the following (emboldend print mine):

"After a year of testing this mix, we are not making it available to everyone."

Ah, the wayward typo!! heehee I'm fairly sure he is NOW making it available to everyone, since there doesn't seem to be a screening process on the order form ;-)

I frequently see seed mixes for butterfly gardens and wild birds or hummingbirds. It's refreshing to see more coming along for bees!

If you LOVE bees, want to encourage your pollinators, and love beauty, this might be a terrific seed mix to accompany your other organic garden regulars. (Remember, pesticides kill is the way to go for all concerned) We hope to one day keep bees, and will be reading up on others' efforts to keep bees organically. (Here's one such site) There are organic beekeeping clubs out there, and publications (one shown below). If you keep bees organically, we'd love to hear from you or be sent your link!

I LOVE the idea of bee-friendly plants intermixed with vegetables in the garden. An idea I've had for some time involves alternating rows of vegetables with rows of plants such as anise hyssop (below), lemon balm, and other bee-friendly crops for just such a purpose.

We currently are gardening in pots rather than raised beds or rows, but the time will come (we hope!) We still have a few individual bee-friendly plants among the herbs we keep in pots; hopefully it'll be done on a much larger scale.

Here is a wonderful list of plants to include to keep your bees happy...and here's another :)

I look forward to future years filled with the happy hum of these wonderful pollinators, who are such a benefit to our plants and trees. The sight of happy bees buzzing amidst growing things fills me with real hope and optimism.

Bee photo from

Soapnut Seeds

Looky! Seeds!!

Here's a pic of what arrived in the mail from the Seedman recently...soapnut tree (Ritha/Reetha) seeds! They were received with great excitement!

If you've ever read about Soapnuts, they are a natural dried fruit (inedible) that's being used by many as a replacement for laundry detergent as well as body cleanser and shampoo.

They have found a very receptive modern market for those who desire a sustainable and eco-friendly product. Soapnuts have received enthusiastic reviews by many users since they are gentle enough for those with allergies, strong enough to get clothes really clean, reuseable several times before discarding to a compost pile, keep clothing colorfast, both soften and clean (which removes the need for laundry softeners for those who use them), and are adaptable to a wide range of cleaning applications...from household to body cleanser and shampoo/conditioner.

Soapnuts are considered by many to be a very economical alternative to laundry detergent. For ourselves, after having inquired of some wholesalers, we've found that the prices of this product still exceed what we find is economical for our own budget. Their retail prices, for us, are much beyond our comfort zone. We will still purchase a few as we go along, in order to experiment with them as cleaners in the meantime. Despite what I frequently hear from some people, making the switch from modern conventional products to organic is not, as yet for us, an inexpensive process. Getting set up for independence requires many overhauls and a good deal of experimentation...and special attention to the budget.

But I digress...

Here's another closeup. My husband read up about their germination, and he decided we should soak the seeds in very warm water for 24 hours prior to planting. We're not using a grow light simply because we don't have one, but the seeds were soaked, planted together in a pot of good soil, and J made a wire mesh cover to fit over the top in case curious raccoons decided to have a the cost of a dollar a seed, these aren't toys :)

The enclosed literature had detailed germination instructions we found helpful, and hopefully in several weeks (or it even stated a few months), we hope to have some sprouting! The planted seeds are currently in a shaded but warm spot in Bucketville, letting the warm Florida days help them along till we're further along towards summer, at which time they'll be rescued and find themselves porched on the lanai in order not to bake to death.

Simultaneously, we received the little 18"seedling whips for the 4 native Western Soapberry trees (shown below), a plant whose berries reputedly have been used by our native populations in the past in much the same way the soapnuts are.

They don't look like much here, but from humble beginnings we hope to arrive at some lush and productive native trees! Soapberries or soapnuts, or both, we hope to one day have a bountiful supply for cleaning our clothing, home, and bodies much more healthfully AND sustainably.

And affordably! How long will it take? We're not sure. (Here's to headstarts) We do know the annual fruit harvest of ONE mature soapnut tree can provide far more fruits in a single year than one family can possibly use. Which is great news, since that means we could SHARE, and give others access to this resource AND have plenty of berries to give out for FREE :)

If you've had any experience using or growing these fruits, we'd love to hear your feedback and any advice you might have!

Water Purification

Does anyone out there have a preference when it comes to water purification? We currently are on well water, and the homes around here rely upon the addition of salt, and a system I don't really understand, to make the sulfur-stinky water more fit for bathing and such.

I still feel kind of creeped out about putting it on my skin, with no real assurance of what's really in it.

We have to purchase water weekly for cooking and drinking, and we do so in 5 gallon bottles that we dispense from a stand that has reservoirs, one each for cooled water and heated water. I've never lived anywhere we had to purchase all our drinking water.

One of our priorities has been to try to find a better (and more economical) solution to our water purity.

My cousin has a Berkey water purifier and seems very happy with it. We are looking into it as a possible solution for our situation, and would like to know if anyone else out there reading this blog might have some leanings one way or the other towards a purification system, and if so, which one? Supposedly, the Berkey operates without any need for electricity, and can purify ANY sort of water, even water straight from a rain barrel or pond, purifying it within an hour to quality drinking water.

That sounds too good to be true, but often, simple solutions are the best. We wonder if it truly is that wonderful and would love to hear any feedback about this or any other system that you may have tried, or are currently using.

If its claims are true, it would save us a great deal of outgoing grocery money weekly, and help me trim my budget by a fair margin. Thanks for any input you have!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Buckets of Fun, or How the Pyramids Were Built

Welcome to Bucketville, home of the unsightly and stalwart evergrowing bucket brigade of repurposed containers!

J has been on site at a hotel that's under renovation and has been given a bunch of used 5 gallon buckets...yay! He's been schlepping home as many as they're throwing away (with permission, of course) They require soaking and cleaning, and we're using them as pots for the burgeoning plant experiments. We're on a crash course learning curve with the Bucket Garden, as we're starting to collect tree starts for our eventual orchard, as well as berry patch canes.

I went out to help J plant out some of the plants that had been collecting, and found that the many he had potted throughout the past weeks were...well...extremely heavy to lift. (More on that later.)

He's invested a lot of effort into cleaning up the buckets, drilling drainage holes in the bottoms, and mixing different soils as a gardening mix. He's been buzzing around out there in Bucketville (the backyard) in all his spare time, getting sweaty and communing with what he envisions as our plant investments. This is the first time I've seen him this excited about growing things...he's all aboard the enthusiam wagon to gather and nurture some plants that need to be better established by the time we're finally on some land, so that we won't have to wait as many years to see them bear fruit and so on. It seems a lot of plants and trees will do well for a long time in pots down here in our Zone 9/10, so the backyard has become .... um... bucketed.

See what I mean?

This, folks, is how to add resale value to your landscape...immediately. Just make big collections of are buckets in their "before" state. They are sitting exactly as you see them here, right in our backyard.

And here are more buckets, which, too are presently sitting in our backyard...this is the "being cleaned out" stage.

And here is the "Buckets of citrus plants" shot. These, in addition to the two groups of buckets already shown. Limes and lemons. I love to go talk to them...I encourage them to grow quickly. I've heard plants respond to being talked to, but I'm not sure how these are liking the part of the conversation that goes "so I can EAT you"...

Anyway, here are the baby lime and lemon trees after having been rescued...more details to come...

And here below are, of course, MORE buckets...this, our berry patch and miscellaneous survivor herbs collection. They have not yet been rescued. That is why you can't actually SEE them, because they're embedded in mortar, er, "a custom-mixed soil" with only half-full pots. Explanation in a moment...
Here is further bucket bounty, the non-citrus and other plants, kind of a motley crew.

Here is a close-up of the newly arrived Western Soapberry tree starts we received just yesterday...yay! (that's another post for later) They don't look like much right now, but since they are a native tree to most of the U.S. and since they tolerate a lot of differing conditions, we think they just might thrive (read "survive our amateur phase of gardening")

Note how they are planted in warm, fluffy soil that's well-drained. Imagine that we know what we're doing and that this soil contains the whole array of special nutrients and love in the exact combination needed to persuade these frail little twigs to burst forth and thrive...

They are evidence that we can correct some of our own mistakes, before it's too late....most of the time.

With the exception of the berries plants, ALL of these pots have been re-potted. With a smallish hand-held trowel.

You see, when I tried to LIFT one of these buckets (before the re-potting), being the observant sort of plant owner I am (cough cough), the fact that I nearly slipped a disc and experienced the surprise of each pot weighing approximately 79 1/2 lbs each clued me in that perhaps, just maybe, we had a little soil dilemma going on somewhere down there in the depths of each.

My sweet, witty, optimistic, and intelligent husband had a vision. And he always has a wonderful way of pairing vision with hard work. He believed he could take the best of what we had on hand around us, namely the rich soil from a low area and the sand from another area nearby, and utilize them as amendments to the soil used to pot many of our smaller plants. He's already composting our leftovers in shallow trenches, hopefully enriched some compacted ground and creating decomposed amendments for use in later months.

It's been a lot of work, especially as he had spent long hours shoveling the drainage area behind our house, where water has drained for years without pesticide runoff (our surrouding area's relatively wild still and we use no chemicals) He thoughtfully shoveled the rich muck into the bottom of each bucket, with the hopes the natural minerals and accumulated nutrients would be a power-packed natural boost. Then he added, from our side lot, a shovel of clayey sand (if there is such a thing) to each on top of that, the idea being that it is our native soil and that it would help with draining. THEN, he added a few handfuls of organic potting mix, the top layer. His reasoning was that the combination would approximate the layered "Lasagna" gardening concept, giving our little seedlings a nutritious environment in which to thrive.

Things don't always go as planned.

The first sign of trouble was when he told me the planters were draining off too much without anything added to the potting soil. Ergo the other soil additions, to help with some heft and some texture and more nutrients. It was logical to us both.

I've had a hectic work schedule, and I thought "hmmm, I've never had that problem before." We checked the sized of the drilled drainage holes and they were fine, not too large, not too small.


After J's hard work potting everything with the layers of soils, we noticed standing water in the pots. Not a good sign, when it was standing after an entire day.

We didn't want the roots to start rotting. None of these plants are water plants, and all need adequate drainage.

To save potting soil, J had potted all the plants only to their containers' halfway marks. Which was probably fine, but I really wanted all the planters to be brimming with fluffy soil up nearly to the top. Sort of like the difference between folks who sleep with just a sheet, and those who need two pillows and a huge comforter to wad up around them. I'm a two pillows gal :)

When we had an afternoon together, we bought more potting soil, and decided it was time to top off the shallow plantings. I wanted to organize the potted buckets and straighten things up a little. I was surprised at the unusual weight of the pots, and the difficulty I was having while trying to move them around. It literally felt as if they were each full of concrete!

"Um, again, what exactly did you put in these??" I asked J.

"You know, some of that rich soil from the ditch and some other things..."

"What other things?"

"Sand, potting mix, good stuff, you know...I layered them the Lasagna way it mentioned in some of those great articles we read" It was what we had discussed, and he had done the elbow work.

"These don't seem to be draining very well. Did you mix them all up really well?"

"You're supposed to put them in layers. Like Lasagna, remember? We have a lot of things to pot. I don't want to waste all the potting soil."

"I'm not sure you put the right layer combination down. And if you say Lasagna again, you're going to have to take me out to eat Italian...haha..."

(Smile and shrug from J, who is now digging holes for compost to be deposited)

(Me again)"Well, if the plants don't survive and we lose them entirely, we've wasted the money we paid for them and that's kind of beside the point of why we're trying to get them to grow, right? They have a lot off water that doesn't seem to be going anywhere. Plus, I like the pots to be full instead of halfway..."

At this point, I decided to tip one pot over and investigate the contents. It thudded like a concrete statue. It was so heavy I had to sit on a milk crate and brace it as I tipped it...I simply couldnt budge it to lift it, so I heaved it over on its side and started trying to loosen the contents. Water ran off the root clump of the plant I'd dislodged as I carefully held it up. I placed the survivor aside to await improved potting conditions.

"I don't think this is a good sign, honey" J came over to see what was happening.

The top layer of potting soil came out fine, so I piled it in the wheelbarrow. Then my trowel hit bedrock.

"What on earth...??"

It was wet sand alright, but not nice draining sand. It sat there as compacted as a brick, in a wet hard clump, that I dislodged next. It was heavy. It was clinging to the layer below it, through which peeked CLUMPS of ditch weeds.

"J, when you put this stuff in here, you didnt take the weeds out??"

"Plant matter, sweetie!" There were indeed reedy stalks, which should have added some aeration to the planter underworld. J was still in a very good mood. It's hard to be frustrated with the man you love as he digs compost holes and watches all his hard work being dumped like a huge mud pie container by container, all in good humor.

When he realized this wasn't going to end anytime soon, since I was troweling out the pot innards with the enthusiasm of an archaeologist at the cusp of a great discovery, he returned to observing from a safe distance, where he was attending to our compost holes. We don't have a compost pile...we just have the above-mentioned trenches he digs where it goes to die. We did that last year, and it seemed to work pretty well for now, since our weather is warm or hot nearly year-round. Dig the hole, bury the scraps, cover it up and hope it rots...I think that's our survival composting effort at this point. It bothers us now to throw things away in the trash, when it could be good food for worms and microbes, mice and desperate raccoons. J was very attentive to the compost hole as I excavated the impacted pot contents...

Below the sand layer lurked the uglier culprit. Only with a lot of strong-arming and elbow grease did the bottom layer allow itself to be dislodged, with a slow, reluctant sucking sound, and a wet THWOP as each clump landed on the ground. Each was the exact dimension of the shovel that had originally dug it (and had not chopped it up), intact with reeds and roots, a perfect cross-section slice of sodden ditch dirt. In its humbled and confined state, there is no way this stuff qualified as was dirt, pure and simple. If you get duped and get sold a piece of proverbial "swampland in Florida," it's THIS you've just acquired.

As I sat there amidst the growing glops of sand, weeds, clay, and potting soil, I felt sorry for my husband's wasted labors. And I remembered the story of the Hebrews serving as slaves during a certain period of Egyptian history, and their being made to add plant material to clay and sand...and make BRICKS to build great cities and pyramids...


My enthusiastic, wonderful, good natured Hebrew husband had been unknowingly mortaring our plants into immortal monuments for posterity. He had just about cemented them into a hastened afterlife.

He was just so excited about getting them all planted, how could I complain? We both learned from this. We commisserated...conferred...dug...emptied all the newly purchase soil and compost...and re-potted. And repotted and repotted and repotted. We still have some to go yet...

All the discarded Glop got to know where...the compost holes. That area of our backyard looks like we have a new groundhog colony springing up.

When we're finally in the country somewhere, someday, it won't matter what sort of an aesthetic "statement" our collection of odds and ends buckets makes, though I like things to be neat and not trashy. These trees will get planted into the ground then, and more baby plants will be bucketed till they're healthy enough to get off to a good start.

Until then, I'm not sure my neighbors are appreciative of our backyard collection. Hmmm...

Just think...

If I'd not interfered and had left my husband un-impeded to fulfill his cheerful dirt-sand-and-weed digging efforts, I might one day have looked out the back window to see this...

Which the neighbors probably would have admired...


I hope everyone has a wonderful night tonight and day tomorrow, full of rest and rejuvenation!

I leave further blog entries to be procrastinated for another day, to stop all projects and go "dig" our weekly time off from work.....shabbat shalom!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Remembering Andrew and Jeremy

They came into my life by my former marriage, after we'd been unsuccessful in adding to our family in the years after Rachel was born, we eventually decided to be foster parents. We chose to be available to whatever ethnicity and age child most needed to be placed in our home, and we had the expectation that would manifest as a teen boy.

When we got the call that two half brothers needed immediate placement or they'd have to be separated and would later be adopted separately, we said yes...and only a day later we were joined by Andrew, age 1 1/2, and Jeremy, age 8 months.

We had the opportunity to adopt them if we had them at least a year. God's wisdom prevailed, and though that adoption was something I wanted with all my heart, my then husband decided he didn't want to adopt a child that was not his biologically. I was devastated. But the family that became their parents was a beautiful couple that had tried for 16 years to have children of their own...and Andrew and Jeremy were their answer to years and years of prayers. I have no doubt they are having the fullest and most beautiful of family life now through their growing years.

I am grateful they came into my life for that year, and I think of them as my own children even today. They came to life in amazing ways in our family, and they are sorely missed. I know their quirks, their personalities, and their "firsts" as if I bore them myself, and the pang of missing them never leaves entirely. And oh, I am so grateful for having been their mother even though another mother is now their forever Mom.

This video is something I saw my daughter enjoying the other may have already seen it. The two boys remind me so much of Andrew and Jeremy, even right down to the looks of the older boy and the way they interact. And it makes me smile!

And feel SO grateful.

As Shabbat comes and we get to have some rest this week, I leave you with this video clip that's been making its way around YouTube, called "Charlie Bit Me." I saw it and laughed with delight!

I am grateful for many things this week, namely that my job has improved to be something I actually enjoy, and gratefulness for God's continued protection of my family members as we come and go so busily, especially with long commutes. So grateful for my husband, daughter, friends, and for those I know here from a kindred mindset and kindred inspiration. And I also include among the many things for which to be grateful this week the piece of my heart that Andrew and Jeremy will always occupy :)

Have a great and restful night and day!