Good Morning, Sunshine!

In my childhood bedroom, my twin bed was directly across the east-facing window.  The early morning sun would creep through the blinds, and I couldn’t help but smile — mainly on those lazy days when I didn’t have to go to school or rush off somewhere.

I am not a morning person usually.  I long to be.  I consider it a character flaw that I can sleep until 9:00, even with four kids.  I can stay up all night when duty calls, but I’ll sleep much of the next day.  I love a nice nap.  I love my sleep.

But some days, I wake up before everyone else.  I move in the still silence of early morn, write, make a cup of coffee, and abide in the freshness of the day.

That didn’t happen today, but I did make myself get out of bed before 9:00, get my shower and go outside to water the thirsty plants.  These hot ruthless days and teasing thunderstorms that don’t wet much aren’t doing the plants — or me — any favors.  I bless my day with at least a bit of productivity.  I tend to the living things (you know, the plants and flowers, cat, dog, kids, etc.) to make sure we’ll all be okay.  I get rewarded with growth, purrs, smiles over mouthfuls of homemade granola cereal, and the kiss of sunshine glistening off the green foliage.  Or was that a hint of aura I saw?

And I smile again remembering how my mom in her sleepy morning voice would come beaming into my room, “Good morning, Sunshine!”  On occasion, I get to pass along that morning delight to my daughters, to whom I’ve also passed along my character flaw.

Maybe if I focus on these morning delights, I’ll get out of bed a little earlier.  Here’s to hoping!

photo: everystockphoto.com by Randy Son of Robert; my garden roses are much more, well, not as elegant as this.  🙂

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Present Joy

Today’s calendar presented an open slate, which then filled with the simple pleasures of keeping house and preparing an abundant lunch.  The next wave of thunderstorms has rolled in, just in time to go pick the kids up from school.

For this brief moment, I find myself sitting in a quiet house . . . well, maybe not completely quiet.  The thunder, rain, and dishwasher have their voices heard at the moment, along with the clicking of the keyboard.  It is, however, still — especially compared to what it’s usually like with four kids and two adults and a dog and cat running about.

Some days we just have to revel in what is, and I know that this is good.  I don’t know what the next hour or tomorrow or next year holds for us, but I do know that if I can remember the joy and gratitude I feel in my heart at this present moment, that all will be well.

Right now we also get to enjoy eating the few fresh strawberries we have from the garden, reminding us what a real strawberry tastes like, what a fruit of the earth carries in a perfectly packaged little bundle of tender juiciness.  Experiencing and tasting these delights, I know that what I buy in bulk from the store doesn’t even get close to the truly organic variety from the backyard.  Sometimes we just have to be reminded of how good it can be.  Sometimes we have to remind ourselves how sweet we really have it, fresh strawberries or no.

I consider myself delightfully spoiled today, and I give thanks to all that is.

(Cloudy skies today contrast with the sunny skies of yesterday morning, when we remembered to collect our first strawberries of the season. 🙂 )

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Fall into the Garden

The sunflowers have dried up, the tomatoes are long and leggy and experiencing a resurgence of green after all the rain and cooler temperatures, and my son delights in picking the green peppers.  The okra’s still going strong, too, but the squash were devoured by the squash bugs.  (I’m sure I’ll be dealing with those again next year.)  Such is our garden now, and I’m wondering what we need to do now that it’s fall. (By the way, that’s not my cute dog — from everystockphoto.com by darkpatator, photo called “Les feuilles magiques.”)

Looking at several lists, these are the basics to making getting started again next year that much easier.

Clean out plant debris.  Healthy stuff can be composted, but diseased or pest-ridden plants need to go in your yard waste or burned in your brush pile (if it’s legal).

Plant or tansplant your trees/shrubs.  Be sure to keep watering young plants until the first freeze.

Clean and sharpen your garden tools.  I hear that putting oil into a bucket of sand is good for storing your tools in and keeping them honed.

Save and store seeds from your favorite plants.  I use regular paper envelopes.  It makes them easy to label and keep separate.

Harvest your herbs.  If you don’t already have an herb garden, now might be a good time to plan for next year’s.

Feed the wildlife.  Make sure your feeders are free of wasp nests and such, clean and ready to fill for the winter time.  We have a feeder hanging right outside our dining room window so the kids can watch birds eating while we do.  We don’t mind the mess, but be aware that wherever you hang a feeder, it gets messy below.

Water features need to be cleaned and drained.  Frozen water expands, and you don’t want to ruin your investment.  It’s not attractive, but that’s why fountains are turned upside down in the winter.

Take care of your roses and gladiolas.  (See links below.)

Some sites if you want to know more:

Enjoy the early fall and the beautiful weather to get your boost of vitamin D and fresh air.  My kids are loving it, but most importantly, so am I!

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Garden Harvest

The rewards of the summer are in the bounty of the garden.

I took my youngest to the botanical garden yesterday, the older three being with their grandma, and we got to pick some purple beans (like green beans, only purple).  I brought our handful home, added them to our small bit of green beans and the small batch from our produce delivery.  We had a full bowl, and they tasted delicious.  I’m not sure if it was the purple beans or not, but they seemed to have a particularly buttery flavor.  Delicious.  (picture coming as soon as my obstacles are overcome!)

I’ve also taken our bounty of squash and zucchini, added some onions, bell peppers, mushrooms (all flavored with some hoisin sauce and a bit of soy sauce) and teriyaki chicken to make a stir fry, served with brown rice.  The kids raved and raved, much to my surprise.

If you don’t have your own garden, take advantage of the local farmers’ markets.  Use your imagination to create something from what’s in season.  It’s a good practice anyway and will add something new to your diet, and, chances are, you’ll be glad you did.

Enjoy!

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Weeding and Organizing — Papers and Boxes

For your craftiness today, I’ll share a couple of tips you may already know.  Both involve good old-fashioned reusing and will help save you some time.

Simplify your garden chores by reducing the amount of weeds with newspaper, preferably black and white only and no slick ads.  Some people are fond of lasagna gardening.  While I think it seems like a great method, I’ve taken a different approach and just put newspaper down beneath the straw.  This way, if the co-op gives me hay instead (like they have twice now — “fool me once . . .” ), at least the grass that grows isn’t as embedded in the soil as it is when there is no paper underneath.  Consider it a biodegradable alternative to the weed barriers out there, and be sure to add more regularly.

If you’re head-long into organizing like I was last week with my friend here to help me and need some baskets or magazine holders, just use a cardboard box or shoebox.  Take a box-cutter (or scissors) and trim the box down to the size you want, angling downward to make it easier to get into and out of.  I have a few of these revamped boxes in one of my cupboards now, holding the small miscellanies and larger folders, keeping everything orderly.  Don’t forget to label if you end up closing the box.  (Thanks, Patricia!)

Feel free to share your own helpful tips and hints, especially if they’re so cost effective that they’re free!

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There’s No Room If It’s Overflowing

I watered the plants one day last summer, for they didn’t look like they could wait any longer for the rain that promised to come any minute but hadn’t for days.  Little sprinkles just don’t quench a great thirst, though, any more than little pecks of a kiss give justice to great passion.  So I watered the plants.  Within 15 minutes it was raining and continued to rain on and off for most of the afternoon.  I joked with my kids that I watered the plants just so it would rain, kind of like washing the car to make it rain.

Almost as much as the plants needed water, I needed some fresh air.  We had turned on the air conditioning just a couple of weeks before, so the home was sealed off from the natural flow.  As good as it is to keep the humidity off our pictures and portraits, there’s something to be said for being in tune with nature as the temperature and humidity rise and fall.  I was grateful for my fresh air that morning  and enjoyed the once limp flowers rising tall again.

As for the rain barrels that provide the water for my watering cans, they were overfull when I began my chore.  I should have known they would be filled again soon.  With our summers around here, though, you never know if it’s going to rain for a week or come a drought.  I shouldn’t have worried. 

As with all things, if we hoard or collect, we can become stale and stagnant.  It’s much better to be useful and beautiful in due course and then be renewed when the time comes. 

I remember the story of the proud Zen student asking the teacher why he hadn’t experienced enlightenment, especially since he knew so much about the ways of a good monk.  It was tea time, and the teacher poured the student some tea as he listened.  And he kept pouring.  The cup was overflowing, and finally the student asked the teacher why he didn’t stop.  The teacher asked how he could teach when the student’s mind, like the cup, was so full.

Hopefully I didn’t completely destroy the beautiful story, for it is one of my favorites.  (If you enjoy good, quality dharma talks and Zen stories, please visit Zen Reflections.)  I think of this story, though, when I feel like I’m all used up, when like the flowers and plants, I’m wilted.  It’s not entirely a bad thing.  When the rain comes, when the energy returns, the sense of vitality is incomparable, the possibilities endless.  Best to use while it’s fresh and make room for more than worry about what may or may not happen, wasting what is already at hand.  Plus, I’d hate to miss an important lesson, not able to catch it because I thought I already had enough.

May your days be fresh and fruitful.

 

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Garden Time

Finally, we have something in our garden besides volunteers, which consisted of some sunflowers — the first of which bloomed this morning — some tomatoes and some sort of squash or melon (we’ll know when it gets bigger leaves or its fruit).  Now we have our intentional tomatoes (the salmonella-free variety), squash, zucchini, okra, cucumbers, sweet bell peppers, and seeds for basil and cilantro and flowers, soon.

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(I only wish this were my garden!  Photo is by Chailey and is an organic vegetable garden: Kadoorie Farm, New Territories, Hong Kong. From EveryStockPhoto.com)

Time in the garden inevitably reconnects you to the earth.  There’s rejuvenation in tending to the plants, noting the beneficial insects, removing the pesky ones (with a blessing and pardon).  Rising before the sun crests high enough to heat you through and through, it’s refreshing and truly signals the start of a new day with hope and promise.  You are at the mercy of nature, lacking the control to determine exactly how the crop turns out, but if you do your best, chances are you’ll be rewarded.

May we all be blessed with bountiful gardens, whether our plot is large or small, spreading across acres or spread around in containers.  Enjoy the bit of earth you are blessed to share, and tend it well.

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A gardening book we were recommended and encourage others to look into as well:  John Jeavons’ How to Grow More Vegetables.

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Flowery Day

white_crop_green_8481_tn.jpgToday was Kids’ Day at our local farmer’s market, and we were happy to have an Earth Scouts booth there.  Not only were we telling other folks about this great alternative scouting program, but we were encouraging them to participate in The Great Sunflower Project.  Do take a look at the site, grow some sunflowers, count some bees and report your findings.  It’s a great summer project for those of you with kids old enough to understand it or at least get the general idea. 

Tomorrow we’ll be visiting our local botanical garden for a music/puppet program.  The summer fun never ends!  All the while, we’re getting a good dose of vitamin D, and the kids sleep well at night.

And, if you need a crafty floral idea, my mom sent me this link to make a pressed flower bookmark.  We’ve already bought a bunch of flower seeds.  Hopefully before the summer’s over I’ll be able to share some beautiful flower photos.  It would be even better to have my own flowers pressed into a bookmark.  Time will tell.

Enjoy the sunshine and watch for bees!

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Spring Gardening

pansies_lambs_ear.jpgStorms and all, Spring is definitely here, and I guess I’d rather stay up way too late cleaning than waste precious daylight.  The kiddos and I got our jump start on gardening, getting the straw for much.  What is some straw in the garden without the strawberries?  I bought two root bundles — that means 50 plants.  Yes, we take our strawberries seriously around here, though not scientifically seriously enough.  I’m not sure about the variety we got; I need to research the Chandler kind since that’s what we brought home!

So, 25 strawberry roots are already planted.  There are two groups of three near the red raspberries and lavender (both just in their second year in our garden) in the bed by the veggiegrowing_raspberries_lavender.jpg
garden (not yet planted at all this year).  I’m
curious to see how and if flavor is affected by the nearness of the plants, but that’s a long-term project.  (I was inspired by the wine conversation in French Kiss, one of my hubby’s and my favorite movies.)  The other 19 plants are filling in unused sunny space. 
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Our yard was landscaped when we bought it, but it’s largely ornamental, though good for animals/insects.  There’s lots of space we foresee filling in to make it more like an “Edible Estate.”  We have a long way to go and lots of research to do to make that happen, but it’s a goal.  You gotta have goals.

We didn’t plant today since I thought it would rain.  We’ll see what it’s like tomorrow afternoon because I just can’t wait to get all those berries started.  For me there’s nothing like a good day’s work outside to revitalize the soul.  Fresh air and a boost of vitamin D does a body good.  Now if I could just get my kids to be aware of that positive energy to dilute their angst and negativity, we’d all be better off.

Happy sunny spring days to you.

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A Mother’s Zen Garden

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Standing at the edge of the sand, one dares not disturb the serenity of a Japanese rock garden.  God knows how long it took to rake it just so, and the monks probably had a time of it to keep their robes hiked up or the sand out of the hem.  Then again, they were probably just there.  the sand was just where it would be, too.  Everything would be just as it is, which is just as it should be.

My “rock garden” takes at least two hours to complete.  On a small scale, it’s just the floor.  A bigger experience is the whole house.  I have to clean it, hopefully regularly, for before long the dog and cat hair is clumping up, the juice spots are collecting dirt and even my socks stick with every step.  So, I grab my tools and set to work, creating a masterpiece that satisfies my body (especially my feet) and my soul.

But this, too, shall pass.  The animals and children will come, my effort disappear and the chore will reappear on next month’s (if I’m lucky) to-do list. If I can do it with joy and fully participate in those fleeting moments of cleanliness, I will be doing well.  If I can honestly and sincerely welcome the dog, cat, children, everyone and everything else to destroy my masterpiece, I will be doing even better.  It’s about time to give it another try.

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I would feel amiss if I didn’t share a blog (Zen Habits) from which a fellow parent shares advice and tips, all with the right intention of helping you mindfully simplify your life and increase your productivity.  I’m still exploring the knowledge archived there and encourage you to indulge.  My husband particularly likes the Dad perspective Zen Habits offers.

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Photo by tiarescott, found at EveryStockPhoto.com,shared under Creative Commons license.

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