Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Stepping Into A New Beginning

I've been feeling that old familiar pull to come back to blogging for awhile now. I've resisted about as long as I can, so here I am! I have to say up front though that this isn't a full jump back into where I used to be when it comes to an online presence. I wish I could say that it were, but I know what making promises like that ends up doing. I've done that far too many times. I'm taking my time this time and just doing what feels right. I'm not going to spill everything that's gone on in the last 6 months in this post :p I'd end up with a novel and this post is already going to be short story sized :p But, I'll say that I've learned some lessons over these last six months and one of those is the importance of self care and knowing your limits. So will I try to post more and comment more and read more blogs and respond to emails? Yes. Will I beat myself up and disappear completely online like I usually do if I don't do those things? No. I've just really missed writing and blogging and having a place to record my thoughts on whatever and share things with other people, so that's what I'm doing.

This blog is going to look a little different in it's content than it did before too, though not drastically different. I'm still me and sorry guys, but I can't help but give you me :p But my focuses have changed a lot recently partially out of necessity and partially from the things I've found that have brought me comfort over the last few months. So books will still be a part of this blog, absolutely, but I really see this blog becoming more of a personal, reflective, lifestyle type blog.

With that in mind, I thought that a good thing to come back on would be a gardening post! One of the biggest changes in the last six months is that I moved!! I moved for a number of reasons...I was tired of having a 45 minute drive home from work every night, I wanted to be closer to my family and friends, I needed to be closer to my dad as he's gotten sicker, and my landlord who's a family friend had a house open up in New Orleans that is sort of a dream house with a HUGE back yard that is a bit of a dream come true for me!! He's given me the ok to do whatever the hell I want with the back yard too :D The people who lived here before me were big hippies and had vegetables and fruit and herbs growing all over the place! So I already had a nice frame. I actually pulled up a lot of what they had done because it was so chaotic. But more on that in a second.

It's so exciting to have a HOUSE! This is the first time I've ever lived in a house of my own (even though I'm renting). Even though I had a really nice apartment, a house is so much nicer. I have goals for this garden guys. I've been really inspired by a girl I found on instagram. Her username is hopieannc. She's actually a friend of a friend of mine and I didn't know this until after I had been following her account for a few days, but her and her husband have made a documentary that's really beautiful called Hope For Steve. You should check it out! Her husband was diagnosed with ALS in 2001 and they got married right after his diagnosis. They've since transformed their back and front yard into "Steve's Healing Garden" and it's just beautiful and so full of joy and life and hope. While my garden might never look like theirs, I want theirs to be an inspiration for mine. So I'm keeping this in mind while I create this garden.

I'm making this garden with intention. It will be a healing garden for myself, for my dad, and for anyone else who might need it :) Everything that goes in there is going in for a reason which will make it that much more special and that much more fun and rewarding to keep up with. I'm about to bring you on a guided tour of what I've done so far, but future plans involve a wildflower bed so I can have fresh cut flowers for me and my family and to bring bees and butterflies and birds. I'm planning on growing all sorts of veggies and fruits and herbs that the whole family loves to eat and stuff that I can can and preserve. I'm also planning on planting things that I know might help my dad or me with medical problems. This garden is going to be a way for me to get in shape...both by eating healthier and by getting exercise from working in it! It'll bring me peace just by the beauty of it. I plan on creating areas in the yard where you can sit and enjoy the space either alone or with friends :) Sunflowers are going to go in for ultimate smiles! I'm planting things like birdhouse gourds so that I can do other things with what I grow like make birdhouses :D Eventually I'd like to set up a birdbath and maybe get a koi pond...that's way down the road though. You get the point though. This will truly be a healing place and I plan on doing it all myself and as cheaply as possible too! Luckily, my landlord is a pack rat and has piles of PVC pipe, wood, lattice, netting, cinder blocks, bricks and more and has told me I can use it all! So I have all of the free supplies I could want. Seriously, it's like I walked into an urban gardener's dream.

Here's the before pic. Actually, this is after I did some cleaning and weeding. When I first saw the house, the yard took my breath away but it was disastrous too! The people who lived here before just threw seeds everywhere! I didn't think I was ever going to get the back yard looking somewhat neat, lol. There was lettuce, swiss chard, herbs, blackberries, zinnias, carrots, and nasturtiums just growing EVERYWHERE!! As in, just as much of all of the above as their was grass :/ Which is kind of neat, but not really. The raised beds were a disaster too. They had chickens so maybe the chickens were just spreading seed. Here are some of the things that I left:

They have tons of bulbs planted and I still don't know what all of them are yet, but I know that some of them are gladiolas now and I'm so glad I didn't pull them up because they're so beautiful!!!! I've never had gladiolas before, but I could love these :) I'm debating on whether or not to pull all of these nasturtiums up. I really like nasturtiums just for the colors of them. I've never eaten a nasturtium before just because I can't imagine any flower tasting good regardless of how edible they are :p But they are pretty! I'm thinking I may pull these up though. There's just SO many of them and they're all just out in the middle of the lawn. The last picture is this incredibly cool flower called Rudbeckia Maxima! They are the most odd flower in the world but so cool! They have these cones in the middle that get huge! Like about 3 inches tall and then they grow these fuzzy seeds around them. The flowers then get to be about 8 feet tall! The birds love to come and eat their seeds and they give a garden a really neat cottage feel in my opinion :)

 One of the first things I fell in love with when I saw this back yard were the morning glories!!! I've since learned that they are all over the whole neighborhood!! My guess is they all stem from the same place :p The vines grow like crazy. I'm letting them cover this one piece of my shed because they just look so pretty against the white there. I just can't bring myself to pull them down and they're not doing any damage. The picture next to that is my back fence! Yep, they give me privacy from my back neighbors :p And this is what all of the fences look like in the neighborhood! The back fence is so pretty. It's about 20 feet across and 10 feet tall of just a wall of morning glories :)
The house also came with a GIANT and gorgeous fig tree!!! I love figs so much too and they're extremely popular in New Orleans cooking. I'm am going to have figs coming out of my ears when all of these ripen. I see lots of preserves and fig cookies and fig vinaigrette and fig salads, etc etc etc in my future :p 

The last thing that the neighbors left that I've since pulled were the carrots! They left two raised beds planted in complete chaos. And when I say chaos, that doesn't even do it justice. I finally finished clearing them out yesterday and ended up with probably about 50 carrots!! And thanks to some instagram friends, I now have great ideas for what to do with them :D

Now we get on to what I've added so far. I've added a lot more than what I'm about to show, but these are just the big additions. The first thing I was excited about was to have a compost bin again!! One of the things you miss when you're in an apartment is simple things like being able to compost and having access to recycling. It's so nice to have those things back again!

The first garden bed I made was this little herb garden/kitchen garden right outside my back door. I don't know if I like it or not...I may re-do it. When I dug it, I discovered that about 5-6 inches underneath the dirt is a slab of cement :/ So it's not very deep. It may need to be mounded up with more dirt and replanted without the cinderblocks in a more permanent bed. But I thought the cinderblocks would keep the herbs confined and stop them from going wild. Especially things like mints!! We'll see how they all do. But there is parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme (like that? :p), lemon thyme, greek and italian oregano, sweet mint, peppermint and chocolate mint, chives, nasturtiums, pineapple sage, catnip, and then aloe vera, chamomile and pentas in the middle :)

Here's the first of the two raised beds, cleaned up and fixed up! I tore out everything except for a bunch of cucumber plants that they had in there and a tomato bush that's producing well!. The cucumbers were not doing so well because they were so cluttered and covered. So I took some of the PVC pipe and cut it and secured it into the ground and then gave it extra support with a cinder block and then put a 6 foot piece of lattice laying against each piece of PVC pipe with a nail in it to stop it from sliding down. Now I have something for the cucumbers to climb up with bonus room underneath the lattice to plant more stuff :D I'm thinking I'll plant watermelons or something that climbs along the ground here.

Here's the main garden bed that's about 10 feet long. I should've left space to plant more stuff, but with all of the room I have in the yard, I'm fine. If anything, I'll get a better yield since the plants have so much room now! I have two bell peppers there, two eggplant and 6 more tomatoes. I'd like to get more of all of these!

And finally, here's ONE little peek inside the house to show you a couple of my indoor plants :p On the console table is my indoor lemon tree that was just about dead at my apartment. Though it does have two lemons on it! It is going to LOVE this room!!! It has four windows in this little tiny bonus room that will be a sort of study. And my fiddle leaf fig is back there in the corner though I don't know if it's going to stay there. It needs to be repotted too!

Ok...that's it for today! That's enough, sheesh!! I'm sure I put everyone to sleep :p It felt really good to write this though and to be gardening again and getting back to things I love. This year has been one of, if not THE, most testing years of my life, yet it's also been the most rewarding, fulfilling, and personally gratifying years of my life as well. When my dad was diagnosed with cancer, I didn't see anything but a giant black cloud on the horizon. Oddly enough, despite the many dark days that have been involved, I've been able to find more opportunities for personal growth during this than at any other point in my life. I think my dad has too. I think I'm finally ready to start talking about that and sharing it now :) I missed you guys! Hope you are all well and look forward to catching up!


Jeane said...

So great to hear from you again Chris. Wow on the garden. Just wow. Can I say I'm jealous? I'm wishing my yard didn't have shade trees and kids to please (they need room to run and play or the entire middle of my back lawn would be raised beds haha). I love seeing your garden. I hope it is a place of healing and abundance for you. Awesome that you already got some harvest out of it! I can't wait to see what it turns into. What's that plant on the left in you pic of the yard, with the huge leaves? I guessed elephant ear but maybe it's the fig?

Debi said...

Best way to end the month of May: wake up to a text from you, and then find out you posted on your blog too! Seriously Chris, you just so totally freakin' made my day!!! I love this post, everything about it! I loved seeing more pictures of your new place, and I loved hearing not only that patented Chris-enthusiasm that makes my heart burst with joy, but also hearing the contentment in your voice. My eyes filled with happy tears. :) And on top of all that, you made me want to write a post like this and show you all our garden efforts thus far this year. But our gardens aren't as pretty as yours. ;)
Absolutely, don't force yourself to blog more than you feel in the mood to, Chris. But not-so-secretly I'm hoping you're going to be in the mood to a lot! :D Also, I know how friction' hard it is to break the mindset (because I struggled with it for years), but don't feel like you can't blog if you don't have time to read and comment on other people's blogs. Seriously, everyone understands because everyone has been there. There just isn't time to do it all all the time. And you should not feel guilty because you're taking care of yourself by writing a blog post (because I do believe its therapeutic). And I in no way shape or form read anyone's blog because I want them to read mine. I read people's blogs because I enjoy it! Every time you write a blog post, it feels like a present to me, I mean that with all my heart! So please, sweetie, drop all guilt from the whole blogging thing, and just let it be a thing of joy for you!
Love you to itty bitty pieces!!!

Jeane said...

PS: You should totally try a nasturtium. I've never used the petals on salads or candied, but I like to nip off the end of the pointy part behind the flower (I don't know what it's called) and sip out the nectar. It tastes kind of like honey. My kids like it so much it's hard to keep flowers on the plants to enjoy looking at, because they want to pick them all for nectar!

Carole McDonnell said...

So happy to hear from you. I am so looking forward to what you'll do with that garden. The house looks wonderful!

Kailana said...

I am so happy to see a post from you!!! This reminds me that I didn't reply to your email... oops! I personally only blog once a week and that seems to be working so far... But, basically you have to do what works! Happy to see you around. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi!! How great to hear from you again, and I am SO jealous of your place. The backyard looks gorgeous especially with everything you're going to be doing to it. And if you're doing figs, can I recommend chopping them up and putting them in granola? I made the Smitten Kitchen granola recipe a few times last year -- delicious -- and adding figs in there makes it even yummier and more nutritious. :D

Fence said...

Congrats on the new digs Chris, looks great. And I'm very impressed with the garden. I've tried planting a couple of salads but they keeping getting eaten, snails, mice and rabbits abound near me.

Nan said...

This was just wonderful to read. I'm really happy for you having a house with such a great yard. There's nothing like gardening to renew one's spirit. I have a question about the last picture. What is on the outside of the windows? Some kind of shutters?

Anonymous said...

Chris! YOu have to email me! I need your new address. MUST HAVE. My email is bkclubcare [at} gmail. Pretty please?

Bookfool said...

You're back! I'm so excited. I'm not blogging, right now, so I probably won't peek in all that often but I'm thrilled to see that you're here. Love, love, love your garden and what little you showed us of the house (more please). So sorry that your dad is not improving. I've been thinking about him a lot. And, you, of course. :) I don't think anyone cares what your content on this blog is, so long as you show up and post. I know I'll read anything you write.

We managed to get exactly one tomato - yes, one. The squirrels have made off with the rest and the only reason we got the one? Huz put a net over the tomato plants. They were safe for a while but then the squirrels knocked them all over and the one tomato is one that fell off and rolled away. It was so tiny, but at least it ripened so we got to enjoy it.