the tree

For most of the past seven years of marriage, Chris and I have decorated our Norfolk Island pine tree with origami balloon-covered Christmas lights. Chris has been making origami balloon-covered lights for (at least) several decades. So yeah, it’s somewhat of a tradition. This is not one of those new, hipster, DIY projects. This is old school, baby! And now we’ve passed the tradition on to our little birdies. Wren has enjoyed “starting up Merry Christmas!!!” by replacing the balloons that get too smashed in the box and those that are necessitated by a growing tree and a new strand of lights.

Take a look at this Harrisburg tree service that really helped us that evening with the tree, we couldn’t do it without them and the right tools.

Fun fact: apparently having a Norfolk Island pine tree as your Christmas tree is considered “green,” as seen in several magazines lately, but for us, it’s mostly just practical and cheap. Where would we even put a Christmas tree with such a huge tree already living in the house? A couple years when we decided to cut down a $10 Charlie Brown-esque Christmas tree outside of Empire, I swear Norfolk (as we call him) was depressed about it. What’s wrong with me, he wilted. Sniff, sniff. So here’s Norfolk, proud in all his Christmas splendour! Isn’t he handsome?

tomatoes, finally!

It seems that for the last couple of months our garden just kept getting greener, wilder and more overgrown, but wasn’t producing much of anything. I wondered if we would ever harvest anything but herbs, salad greens and peas. And then seemingly overnight we are giving away big ole brandywine tomatoes to friends, neighbors, even the appraiser who came by this morning. I noticed that we’ll have a head or two of broccoli this week and it got me wondering about the fingerling potatoes in the ground… The dark, leafy greens we planted last week are sprouting too. Pretty soon I’ll be complaining that we have too much to keep up with – be careful what you wish for, right? Make haste and get the canning jars out, lovelies! It’s tomato season. Finally!

What are you harvesting from your patches of green, lovelies? Any fun farmer’s market finds lately? Cheers!


nesting: dark, leafy greens

The little birdie and I worked in the empty patches of our garden yesterday afternoon. Early summer’s bright greens and peas are only a healthy memory now. It was time to turn our minds and spades toward fall. We weeded, turned soil, dug trenches, planted seeds and watered. Hardy, healthy, robust, iron-rich kale and spinach will take up a couple rows. We threw in a couple rows of beans too because somehow I forgot to plant them earlier this year. We’ll see how they do…

It dawned on me as the little birdie was burying the seeds with soil (her favorite part of gardening so far) that–with a bit of luck–we’ll be harvesting these dark, leafy greens right around the time little birdie #2 is due to arrive. Must have been on my mind as I chose these particular things to plant. Probably what my body will need most. And, who am I kidding?, some halloween candy to balance things out…

Designs from the Shed: upcycled feed bags

My mother-in-law gifted me with one of her original, upcycled feed bags this summer and it quickly became my favorite, always-packed beach tote. Aren’t these cool? She makes them out of old animal feed bags, like this one for bird seed, or for horses, goats, bunnies, etc. They have a woven polypropylene (think: durable, easy to clean) exterior and she lines them with vintage fabrics and adds thoughtful details like the bright green rim with yellow ric-rac. Fun!

Here are a few more details…

At this time Judy only takes custom orders for the bags. She will make you a bag based on colors/style/feed bag designs that you like. Contact her through the Designs from the Shed Facebook page.



nesting: the whites

With a taste of cooler air on my skin this week, my nesting for our next little birdie has kicked in. I sorted through most of the little birdie’s infant clothes this week: whites and colors, stained and clean, summer and fall. I had forgotten a few things: just how tiny she once was, how incredibly much she spit up, and how adorable newborn white onesies are.

I enjoyed hanging all the little white pieces on the line and marveling at the sweetness of it all. Little birdie #2 just might smell like tomatoes too as our tomato forest is quickly gaining on the line. I clearly remember Wren smelling like sugar cookies when she was first born. I don’t think tomatoes and sugar cookies are a great combination, but I guess there are worse things to smell like, right?

How’s your week going, lovelies? Has it cooled off where you live too?

blueberry bonanza

Happy August, lovelies! We started the morning out with an early blueberry bonanza to beat the heat. Apparently, I just can’t eat enough fresh blueberries because we picked some last week too, but my supply was already getting a bit low. They’re just soooo good right now. I’ve been eating them by the happy handful every day. And no, I haven’t turned into a Smurf yet. Yet!

Truth be told, the little birdie isn’t a great blueberry picker at this age – maybe next summer. She loses interest in picking after about, oh, 60 seconds. But she loves to run up and down the rows, check in with her friends (err, boss them around), and occasionally, pop a big, plum-sized one in her mouth. Pure northern Michigan summer!

She also had a great time with her good friend, Cora. And they didn’t even fight over anything today! Girls are so funny: one minute they’re pulling each other’s hair out over a toy and the next, they’re hugging and laughing. Or holding hands…

How are you celebrating the arrival of August and beating the heat in the midst of these dog days? Any great blueberry recipes I just HAVE to try? Send ’em my way. Until then, we just eat them straight out of the bowl! mmmmm.

Cyberspace friends, thank you so much for your thoughtful, thought-provoking, understanding and encouraging thoughts regarding my anxiety over the arrival of little birdie #2. Your support and advice means a lot. Thank YOU.

the jungle

It doesn’t seem to matter what I do OR neglect to do. My garden seems to turn into a jungle, a tangled mess of green stuff. Last year, I overplanted two small beds. This year, we expanded the garden to take up half the back yard and I actually followed the directions on spacing the seeds and starts that I bought. I only bought four tiny tomato plants, but I’ve lost count of how many we actually have growing now in the garden because at least a couple dozen have sprouted from last year’s compost that we mixed into the soil.

And it’s not just a tomato jungle. See that pumpkin plant? I did not intentionally plant it either, but it’s taken over the south half of the garden. You have to be careful when standing near the garden that its curly tendrils don’t quickly wrap their sticky, prickly selves around your limbs. We have to keep retraining the pumpkin plant to stay in the garden or else it would probably spread across the lawn and happily find its way to the hammock twenty feet away. Crazy stuff! And the weeds? Sigh. They’re back. But you knew that would happen, right?

While the heat wave of 2011 has not mixed well with my psyche and growing belly (and butt), the garden seems to be absolutely thrilled. So at least one of us is happy with it.

How’s your garden growing this year, lovelies? What have you been able to harvest where you live?

it just doesn’t get any fresher

I don’t really like peas. Sugar snap peas, yes. But shelling peas? Not so much, thank you. So I’m not sure what made me throw a shelling pea seed pack in my cart late this winter. I think it might have been because they’re such a beautiful plant and easy to plant for tiny hands? Regardless, it was one of the best decisions I’ve made this year! Picking, shelling (shucking?) and eating the peas right off the vine is one of the little birdie’s favorite things to do right now. “S’more peas, Mama?” or “pick SELF, Mama!” are common words out in the back yard this week.

I just love to hang back and observe the little birdie in her work. She’s so focused and serious about the process. So proud of what she can do! I watched her reach high for the peas she wanted, pull hard and yank them off the vine, sometimes making her tumble back into the dirt or on top of a broccoli plant: “uh oh!”  Then over again and again, undeterred.

I was full of awe at her determination and in those moments, I thought again how I had no idea I could love someone so much. At the same time, wondering how I could find more love for the other little birdie on its way. Trying to remind myself that I’ll be surprised again by the capacity to love, to expand, to nurture.

on weeding

A miraculous thing happened last night. Lots of late summer sunsets and parties caught up with the little birdie and she went to sleep at 6 p.m.! Lovelies, this has NEVER happened before. I’ve heard of children going to sleep at a reasonably earlyish time and sleeping for twelve hours, but Wren is not one of those. I was cursing myself for putting her down so early because I knew she would wake up at 7:30 or 8 and then be up for a few more hours, arrggh. But she was so crabby and we just couldn’t take anymore of each other. Usually when Wren naps in the afternoon, I rush around and try to cram in as many things as I possibly can because I never know when she’ll wake up and require my attention. Could be in 45 minutes or the very rare, three hours.

So what was I to do with this gifted time? Read a book? Take a bath? While those sounded appealing, I just couldn’t ignore the garden anymore so I went on a long-overdue, no-holds-barred weeding rampage. I know, right?! I have some extra time and what do I do with it? Weed. Because I over-planted last year’s garden, it didn’t have any weeds. But this year, well, a completely different story. One ripe with clover. Sigh.

The thing about weeding is that there’s just no space for the kind of feverish activity that I usually cram into any extra time that lands in my lap. I was forced to slow down, be methodical and eventually let my mind wander. After about an hour or so of bending over, my preggers heartburn kicked in and I had to take a break. I went inside, drank a glass of water, consumed a couple Tums, aka “Mama’s medsin,” listened for the little birdie and hearing nothing, headed back outside. It took about another solid hour of bending and pulling, oof.

Miracle: the birdie didn’t wake up AND the weeding is done. For now anyway. And it actually looks like a garden again with pleasingly distinct rows of strawberry plants, asparagus ferns, fingerling potatoes, beets, carrots, tomatoes, nasturtium, basil, dill, tomatillos and peppers. Where the parsley is hiding I still have no idea, but I’m still holding out hope that it will emerge. Slow to germinate, right?!

The same simple geometry cannot be found further south in the squash and melon patch. I came across an absolute deluge of volunteer plants likely from last year’s compost and my rule became: if it looks even remotely edible, it stays. A few tomato plants here, what looks like tomatillo or maybe a couple sunflowers there, and a pumpkin or two? So let’s just say it’s even more organic down there…

Once I settled into the weeding routine, it reminded me a lot of my yoga practice. The way my mind wanders and my body protests at first, then my mind slows and focuses and my body finds its flow. I’ve been really missing my ashtanga yoga practice during this pregnancy so maybe that’s why I found the weeding so gratifying, almost meditative. The sun crept lower, the traffic quieted, I stopped hearing lawn mowers, edgers, radios.

“They know, they just know where to grow, how to dupe you, and how to camouflage themselves among the perfectly respectable plants, they just know, and therefore, I’ve concluded weeds must have brains.”  ~Dianne Benson, Dirt

The weeds will certainly be back and I’ve got to admire their resiliency. Albeit completely terrorizing!

What are your thoughts on weeding, lovelies? Do you also have a love/hate relationship with them in your garden?

the new line

My sister-in-law, Emily, gave us an outdoor drying rack late last summer and we’ve finally found the perfect home for it. Confession! Although I really wanted one, I’ve never really used one so let’s just say I’m still learning. Further proof that I’m a complete dork: I actually Googled “how to hang clothes on a line” because there is probably a correct way to efficiently do it, right? Sure enough, 55,600,000 results popped up. This actually made me feel a bit better about my dork status. A bit.

Fun facts I ran across in Cyberspace about line drying:

  • According to the NYT, clotheslines are banned or restricted by many of the roughly 300,000 homeowners’ associations that set rules for some 60 million people. Yikes, Big Brother, yikes.
  • Most households can save more than $25 off their monthly electric bill. Nice!
  • You can reduce the full lifecycle climate change impact of your jeans by up to 50 percent by line drying and washing them in cold water.

More fun facts and reasons to line dry can be found here.

I think clothes on a line are just beautiful and I’d like to see more of it. But not your dirty old stained underwear, thank you very much. What are your thoughts on drying clothes on a line? Do you have a method or routine you follow? I’d like to know!