Sunday, October 2, 2016

The Distinction Between Homesteading and Survivalism

  This morning was the big clean-out day in my pantry and larder. Through the years, one tends to amass items that, for a short time, seem important but upon further reflection bear no real significance to one’s current daily activities or lifestyle. Today I came face to face with the small nooks of my own hording and asked myself, truly, if these items were really necessary for me to continue to hold on to into the future. Some of the treasures I uncovered included various shapes and sizes of vessels for holding any number of products; gallon jugs, half gallon jugs, salad dressing-sized jars, glass cylinders for ferments, etc. etc. etc…. Every item I touched was covered in a thick layer of dust indicating their obsolescence to my current life stage. So I sucked it up, grabbed a cardboard box and one by one placed these items into the give-away pile. Some I pondered longer than others before placing them into the box….my inner preparedness expert screaming out that ‘someday-I might need this or that’ and when that time comes I will be overcome with regret for placing said item willingly into the hands of someone else. And then a part of me opened up and was overjoyed with the prospect of the future life that existed for everything contained within that box.  To someone else, my ‘yesterday’ would be their ‘today’. And with a great sense of relief I placed the box in my car, forever sealing its fate.

  Next on my list was my stockpile of canned and dried food. Each jar I touched contained hours of love and labor. Each had been prepared under the best of intentions; the long-term security of my family’s needs. I ruminated over the small mountain of clearly past-prime goods that started to build on my pantry floor. Then, one by one, I opened the lids and dumped the contents into the compost.  And inside, part of me rejoiced and part of me cried.

  The reality of the matter is that it is impossible, even when you try your hardest, to hold on to everything. All these jars were my attempt to hold on to the sunshine that I felt years ago, to hold on to the colors and flavors that I no longer feel a desire for.  These jars were meant to hold onto a feeling of safety and of ‘enough-ness’ in a time when I felt so much vulnerability and desperation (and despair).  Today, I came face to face with my past and chose, for the most part, to move into the future.  I realized that there is a distinct difference between survivalism and homesteading and often that line is a blurry, hazy mess of emotions based off of past life experiences and future hopes and dreams.  A survivialist goes it alone; a homesteader believes in the power of community.  I mean really, how naïve we humans are to believe that we have the ability to make do in this world without reliance on the talent of others. Truly, my pantry is not large enough to ‘survive’ any major catastrophe longer than a few weeks, maybe months. How large of a horde would one need to really survive or more importantly, to continue to thrive? Frankly, thriving is not something I would choose to do alone and instead feel it is much more rewarding to continue into the future believing that given the opportunity to test ones abilities, we would all be better off working together.

  So today, I transitioned back to being a homesteader and made one more move away from the depressing world of survivalism.  I will continue to set aside the provisions I need to keep my family well-fed and comfortable and I will hold on to the tools I still feel are relevant given my own personal talents. But I will no longer hold on to the quiet expectation that has lingered on and off in the back of my mind that, if the moment arrived, somehow my family’s future would be fulfilling without the assistance of others.  This little lie is the distinction between optimism and fear. I am letting go of my fear and am trusting in my friends.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Wenatchee Mom Blog Post #4 The Busy Parent's Guide to Canning Tomato Sauce

Here's a link to blog post I wrote: The Busy Parent's Guide to Canning Tomato Sauce. Fall is just a crazy time of year to try and get anything done other than the basics. Hopefully this will inspire a few of my parent-friends to do a little canning, even though it seems impossible.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Wenatchee Mom Blog Post #3 Kids Makers Markets at the LCFM

Here's the link to the actual post....
For most people, it won't apply but I am trying to archive my published writing in one place so I decided to include it on the blog regardless.

2016 August Edition of the Good Life Magazine

Here's a link to an article I wrote about local farmers for the August edition of the Good Life Magazine: Farmers Market vendors bring something fresh to local tables
There are even some nice photos.
Eventually, I will get caught back up on updating the blog with all the stuff I wrote over the summer....this is at least a start.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Flower Garden

I find myself in the midst of another farming and wedding season. There is a fatigue that begins to settle in during this point of the summer; it sits behind my eyes and spreads itself slowly across both temples, down the bridge of my nose and continues through my neck and into my spine. It is a dull, tired ache that becomes a permanent part of my every moment. Days off are now rare and hard fought jewels of time. The great irony is that when on the rare occasion  I have a moment to myself, other than sleeping the only activity I find myself longing for is gardening (and  maybe a little writing...). Essentially,  I need time away from gardening to garden more.  However, during the hours that I scrape together for myself, the gardening that happens is a free-form version of love and creativity. It is less about rows and more about art. It moves in waves and rounds corners. It manifests in bursts of flowers and the sway of fruit-filled trees and bushes. It's hauling rocks and stones, mining the creek for sand and muck, removing mats of grass and dead-heading spent blossoms. It's whacking back brush, building trails and cutting out beds from hard-packed hillsides. And, for some crazy reason, it is more than just relaxing but is a respite, a calm in the eye of the storm, a world away tucked within my everyday life.
My flower garden is where I can wander barefoot, where the wind can whip my hair into a knotted frenzy, and where I can speak to no-one but my soul can open to everything. It's a curiosity even to me.  I carve out places of sanctuary and rest yet hardly stop moving myself.  And although at the end of the day I am tired and disheveled, there is less room in my mind for the dull throb of farming and wedding season and more room in my heart for patience and love.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

A Scathing Letter to the Editor of Vegetable Growers News

Recently I read the Editor’s Letter in Vegetable Grower’s News entitled ‘The unintended effects of activism’.  Any of us who are in the organic farming world know that this publication is provided free of charge to growers because it is subsidized by advertising and ‘informational’ pieces provided by large ag companies ranging from seed providers to herbicides. There is often very little ‘news’ that applies to the organic industry but I still choose to skim through it from time to time to keep on issues that are affecting larger, industrial crop producers. This op-ed piece in particular I found completely troubling from a human rights perspective to the point that I felt driven to write this counter-piece.
The whole editorial revolves around the ‘battleground for a living wage’ and the rate that producers will now have to pay to their employees if legislation does in fact take place to raise the minimum wage from the measly $7.25/hr to $15/hr; a move that is poised to take place in increments over the next 6 years. Frankly, I am personally appalled that the minimum wage nationally can still exist under $10/hr. On a recent trip to the grocery store, I purchased cereal, cream and milk, bottled water, two frozen pizzas and a watermelon for my children. The total at the check-out counter came to over $60 to cover the expenses of one shitty ‘take-out’ style dinner and maybe enough breakfasts to feed my kids for a little under a week. At the federal minimum wage level I would have had to work nearly 10 hours (over a full 8 hour workday) to make enough to pay for this very basic grocery trip. There would be nothing left over to pay for our mortgage, my car, the gas to put in my car, health insurance, and the clothes to keep my family from walking the streets naked much less any type  of free-time activities (like taking my kids to the city pool).  Fuck that.
So it angers me to see this balding, aging middle-class white dude telling me what an atrocity it is that the ag industry will actually have to give their farm hands a raise. Sir, have you ever worked in ag or have you only written about it? If you have spent any time laboring on your hands and knees in the blazing hot sun or a freezing cold November rain, you know that your time spent working a full 8 hour day better be damn well worth more than a couple of frozen pizzas. Which, frankly, is why you sir did not choose farm labor as your career but instead chose the very cushy job of journalism (As I sit here at my comfortable desk drinking my fair trade coffee w/ organic cream…I know how hard of a struggle it can be to write some words on a piece of paper in my pajamas).
Your letter states that the reason to avoid raising the minimum wage is a loss of jobs, an increase in mechanization and moving production out of the US. Sir, this has already happened. All large farms have been working tirelessly to rid themselves of the headache of actually having employees. Who wants to pay L&I and Federal Employment Security Taxes anyway? And if you think that it is so overly simple to move production out of the country, please remember that moving production actually means having some good arable land with water and fertility resources to actually move to. These aren’t shoe factories, they are farms!
And your argument that farmers cannot recoup costs because they cannot set the price on goods is weak. You big farmers set the system up this way for yourselves during the last century, now deal with the consequences. You yourselves are no more than slaves to the industrial food complex. Stop whining about your lot in life and organize a revolt. Start asking to be compensated for your commodities at a fair exchange rate. Work with each other as growers rather than against each other. Form a fucking farm union. Remember what unions used to be good for…they used to keep ordinary people from getting screwed by big business! Take a stand rather than continuing to play the victim. This spineless mentality is getting so old.

And, rather than continuing to spew the dogma of the antiquated machine known as modern agriculture, why not encourage farmers to step up and do the right thing. Raise the minimum wage and encourage your workers to make a living rather than remain enslaved in poverty. Farming is a highly skilled, physically intensive job. Stop whitewashing the facts. Stop perpetuating the myth that farm work is unskilled labor unworthy of a reasonable rate of pay. This is a fallacy and it is offensive to those of us who have spent our lives with our hands (our white hands) in the dirt. I am fucking sick of migrant labor (the majority of the workforce in large ag) being treated like less than human. When will this end? Never, without a change in attitude toward one’s employees. Shame on you, Mr. Lee Dean for continuing to perpetuate this system of capitalism at its worst. I hope when you are sent to hell, you will be bent over for 8 hours, picking strawberries by hand on a 90 degree day for $58 before taxes.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Dinner Dress

There was never a color before
That looked brighter on a woman
Than black

Thursday, May 5, 2016


I was here first.

And when I say I, I mean we
And when I say we, I mean me
And a handful more but
not more than a few.
On this hill, in that valley
with our pads and our shoes

And grass lived here still,
in that place where you lay
to admire the vista
on this beautiful day

There were faces, but no names
And flowers and bones
And I knew this could be my temple
I knew this was my home

You can't understand this.....
I won't ask you to try
There's too much strength in your limbs
and lust in your eyes

But I was here first
not nearly the first
staining these walls
with my blood and my thirst

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

2016 Fire-Wise Around the Home and Garden

Here comes the sun. Spring is here in full force and summer will be around the corner shortly. This is your friendly reminder that now is the time to begin assessing your property for fire hazards. Continuously keeping your property manicured and well maintained is an endless, thankless task but is part of the price we pay for living in such an amazing setting. There is never a better time than now to begin plugging away at all of those fire-wise projects that tend to pile up over time.
One of the first jobs of spring is to start cutting back old brush and removing it from around your home and property. Remember that last year’s dead growth is this year’s kindling. Many of our native plants grow from the ground up each season leaving behind a plethora of dried-up sticks, leaves and stems. A hedge trimmer is a great tool for cutting back old, dead growth. This will also allow new growth to flourish. After trimming, the plants look tidier, giving your forest a more manicured and ‘park-like’ appearance….an added bonus.
Next, it is worth walking around your home with an eye out for potential hazards. Trim back any branches that are touching the house or the roofline. Ideally, you will have at least 10 feet of space between larger bushes and trees and your house. Mature trees within 30 feet of your home should be limbed to a height no less than 6 feet off the ground (15 feet is even better!). Also, move any firewood at least 30 feet away from structures whenever possible. Clean away any needles that have accumulated in gutters, roof valleys or along decks and foundations.
Assess the type of landscaping you have installed. Are the plants ‘fire-wise’? Plants that make a good choice for around your home are those that contain succulent leaves or have a low volatile oil or resin content. The Pacific Northwest Extension (a collaboration between Oregon State University, Washington University and the University of Idaho) has a list of plants that are appropriate for fire-wise landscaping. Their brochure can be found for download at
Consider removing ‘beauty bark’ and replacing it with small rocks or river stones. Bark can act as an ignition point for flying embers; a common occurrence during large fire events. Rock is a better landscaping choice around structures.
If installing a new deck, consider materials that are fire resistant. There are several manufactured products available that are both aesthetically pleasing and less combustible than cedar or pine. If you already own a wooden deck, make sure it has been painted or stained. A treated deck is less likely to ignite than one left untreated.
Become familiar with the Zone Concept of property management. Information on creating zones around your home can be found at . This site also contains a whole host of additional information that can keep you informed and up to date about what you can do as a land owner to minimize your risks during a fire event.
Finally, make it fun! Take this opportunity to get to know your neighbors. Have a discussion about what you can do as a community to work together to protect yourselves and your structures from fire. And remember, fire-wise landscaping is still landscaping. Many choices exist for both plants and hardscape materials that are attractive and functional. Make your yard beautiful while working toward a more fire resistant home. Happy Gardening!

2016 Monitoring Soil Temperature

Over the last few weeks, it has been fun to watch the snow recede back to higher elevations and to see soil present itself once again on the valley floor. My personal Facebook feed is filled with photos of friends who, like busy little bees, are working continuously on planning and planting their future gardens. It is so easy to be taken in by the warm, sunny days of early spring. It makes a gardener antsy to get their hands dirty. We take off our sweatshirts and let our pale skin soak in the warm rays; retiring to the comfort of our house when the sun begins to set and the temperatures again dip down to near-freezing at night.  However, the seeds that we sow outside in this early season do not have the luxury of finding warmer accommodations once the heat of the day dissipates and it is often easy to forget that, even though we are comfortable and warm while working in the yard, the soil in our gardens is often still very cold, damp and unpleasant for seedlings. For this reason, I thought that it would be good to write a brief reminder about the importance of monitoring soil temperature as part of your gardening routine.
When sowing seed in the spring, a gardener should monitor the temperature on the top 3-4 inches of garden soil. This is the zone where germination and root development will be taking place.  Although most seeds are sown within the top ½ inch of soil, the first 3-4 inches will be were root development occurs. This is also the depth that will start to indicate the overall warming profile of the entire soil column. In the spring, we oftentimes have days where the upper-most layer of dirt will feel warm and comfortable to the touch. However, by digging in just a little deeper, it is easy to feel that the earth below has still not warmed and is holding on to the residual cold of winter.  If we allow our excitement to outweigh our rational thoughts we will oftentimes plant seed a week too early and many of our efforts will be wasted due to fungus, rot, damping off, and poor or delayed germination. For those seedlings that do germinate, their growth can be permanently stunted and will oftentimes be overtaken by seeds planted even a week or two later. Best to practice a little patience and diligently monitor soil temperature before planting.

Checking soil temperature can be incredibly easy to do and does not require special equipment. Although a person can purchase specialized thermometers from garden supply stores, a simple meat thermometer will suffice for probing the upper zones of garden soil. Like probing a turkey during roasting, a gardener only needs to stick the probe end of the thermometer down into the soil and then wait for the instrument to calibrate. With a black sharpie and a ruler, it is possible to make markings in 1” increments on the probe of the thermometer. The thermometer can be moved up or down so that temperature can be measured throughout the 4” column of soil. This time of year, you will see a drastic change between surface temperatures and deeper measurements. Wait until the soil has reached at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit at depth and 60 degrees at the surface before sowing cool weather crops. For warm season crops, the soil profile should be at least 65 degrees Fahrenheit at depth as well as at the surface. This simple technique will help increase your germination and over-all gardening success. Good Luck and Happy Gardening!

2016 May Edition of the Good Life Magazine: A Sail in the San Juans

**This article was written for the Good Life Magaine, May 2016 edition**

I started to fall in love with sailboats during middle school. In art class, I would spend hours painting watercolors of sloops, schooners and colonial trading vessels. I would sketch small figures in striped shirts manning the decks and would imagine that it was me. My art teacher told me that, in dream psychology, boats represent a desire to escape and be free. That revelation couldn’t have felt any closer to my own personal 13 year-old truth.  This was also about the time when my family acquired a small, single-sailed Sunfish. During the hot summer weekends, my dad would load the small craft into the back of the truck and would take us sailing on Crystal Lake. On windier days, we would race the little boat as fast as possible to see how far she would lean before catching water in her sails; eventually swamping or flipping. Over time, our family dynamics evolved. Weekends of taking the little sailboat out on the water made way for pre-college employment and other teenage distractions. The Sunfish was eventually sold and my sailing days came to an end. However, in the years that followed, I found myself gravitating toward the water now and again, if only to admire the beautiful sailboats that were moored along every coast that I have ever visited. I kept having this urge to jump aboard the deck, throw the lines loose and sail away on some epic deep sea adventure….but it never happened; until recently.
Robin Kodner has been my best friend since college. She is a take-charge kind of woman and her adventurous spirit never ceases to amaze me. During grad school on the East Coast, Robin found herself leading multi-week sailing courses for Outward Bound during her summer vacations. After graduation, she crewed for a private family and spent time sailing around the Canary Islands and various other exotic locations. For years, we have joked about running away and becoming pirates; two women on the high seas with wind in our sails and salt in our hair. So it came as no surprise, when she found herself permanently residing in Bellingham that she would end up as a partner in a 3-way boat share of a 38 foot sloop named ‘Arpege’.  
Peg is a beauty. Built in the 70’s, her interior is composed of impeccable mahogany with sleeping space for 5 people, a small kitchen and an even smaller ‘head’ (bathroom). Her lines are classic and graceful and her previous owners showed obvious care for her (including all new upholstery and a full engine rebuild). Although a financial stretch for a single, professional woman, Robin couldn’t refuse her and drained a good portion of her savings to both purchase the boat and pay for moorage. During the first months of ownership, Robin defaulted to her more experienced boat partners and never took Peg out in Bellingham Bay or the San Juans without a few additional crew members to help out with the lines and the rigging. But when mid-summer arrived, I could tell that Robin was itching to become the captain of her own vessel.  I talked her into taking me out on an overnight sail as her only crew member. Just the two of us, like we had always imagined.
My summer work schedule is hectic. I am often limited to trips that can happen within 36 hours or less from door-to-door. I knew that taking on an overnight sailing trip in this amount of time was pushing the limits of what was logistically possible coming from Leavenworth. But the idea of taking Peg into the San Juans with my best friend was too good to pass up. I was in my car by 10 AM on a Monday morning in July. By about 1 PM I was at Robin’s house. By 2:30 PM we were loading up the boat and throwing off the lines. The weather was sunny and bright with a variable wind of 5 to 10 knots. The water was flat and glassy; a perfect afternoon for sailing.
We tacked our way across Bellingham Bay and crossed Lummi Channel with a favorable wind. Peg glided through the water at a reasonable pace and we only needed to tack one time while shooting through the narrow channel between Lummi and Eliza islands. We set ourselves on course for Vendovi Island, a remote private island that is now held in a preservation trust. We reached Vendovi without incident and went on a quick hike around some of the most amazing, pristine forest I have ever visited. All vistas on Vendovi looked out over the water and the multitude of small islands that dot the Washington coast. Vendovi closes to the public at sunset with no overnight moorage available, so we hopped aboard Peg and motored our way back over to Lummi Island where we spent the night anchored in Inati Bay. We entered Inati just as the sun was sinking into the water; the heavens ablaze in oranges, reds and purples. The night entered the sky clear and calm, with the stars in full array across the horizon. I fell asleep to the gentle swing of the boat on its bow line as Peg swayed back and forth with the surging tide.
In the morning, we awoke to an unforeseen bout of weather. Although Inati Bay was calm, we could see that the Lummi Channel was surging with five to six foot swells and a wind blowing a steady 20 knots in the wrong direction. Feeling slightly out of my league as first mate, we motored across the channel and only raised the sails after passing into calmer waters, coasting gently back to Bellingham.

True to plan, I was back in Leavenworth by Tuesday afternoon having completed my first overnight sail with one of my favorite people. This summer we plan on sailing together out to the Sucia Islands. It’s our practice trip for when we really do run away and become pirates. 

Sunday, April 10, 2016

a springtime garden

Today I entered my garden
I did not know what I was looking for
I did not know what I would find
Kneeling down, my hands touching the ground
My heart stretched open
and accepted the sun as her companion
The birdsong of complex melodies
became the playlist of my peace
and the smile I knew was lurking
spread across my face.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

In Praise of Homework

On a regular basis, I come face to face with articles telling me that homework is not helping my children. These pieces are laced with strong feelings about the value of childhood and playtime and the complaint from parents that they don't want to spend their after school time 'fighting' with their kiddos to complete the assignments that have been sent home in their backpacks.
I have many friends who feel inclined to take the homework packet and chuck it directly from the take-home folder into the recycling bin. I hear these stories and then proceed to keep my mouth zipped tightly shut. I am not looking to start a fight, but I can't help but vehemently disagree with the 'anti-homework' movement. In my experience, some children may actually need homework to thrive.

I concede that homework may not be for every child, but it is certainly a necessity for at least one of my children. Now at the age of 9, my oldest and I have had years of negotiating after-school routines. I have found that our happiest days incorporate a very rigorous homework schedule; just the opposite of what is advocated by the 'no-homework' movement. Although there are probably some kids who would use their after school time to play outside, create artistic masterpieces, or challenge themselves with advanced reading and writing, my kid is not one of those. My child would choose instead to spend any and all extra unstructured free-time playing video games and lounging on the couch until dinner or even bedtime. And I am certain that he isn't the only one. Giving him the freedom to 'just be a child' is not helping fact, I am pretty sure that left unchecked it will cause more harm than good in the long term.

Homework serves many purposes in our household aside from the skills that they are intended to strengthen. First and foremost, homework gives me insight into what my children are learning at school. By sitting with my kids or at least being present while they are completing their take-home assignments I can see where they are struggling and where they are excelling. When I know where the point of struggle comes from, it allows me to step in and 'guide' them through the learning process to help ease the stress and frustration that comes along with a difficult task. I don't give my children the answers, I just help them to think about their assignments in a different way and offer alternative suggestions on how to achieve success. This has helped my reluctant learner to become more confident and engaged academically and has helped my younger learner to feel comfortable sharing learning suggestions with others in her class that may also be struggling with the same concepts. When I know where they are excelling, it allows me to offer my kids greater opportunities for learning that keep them challenged and engaged. This helps to eliminate the boredom that comes along with mastery. It gives us the opportunity to discuss, together, the 'bigger picture' of the target subject (beyond just grade-level) and for the kids to choose for themselves how they would like to progress. For my oldest, it usually means  learning math concepts that involve algebra, geometry and basic calculus since grade-level math (adding, subtracting, and multiplication) is no longer interesting. Without the homework, I would not know where their individual skill levels fall in relation to what is happening in class. I actually give my kids additional homework to help them explore subjects that they are passionate about...and they like it.

For me as a parent, homework is also the tool that I  use to keep my children engaged in learning even when school is over for the day. That is a pretty important skill to master; as important as unstructured play. I have seen very clearly that our society puts a weak (at best) emphasis on life long learning. Since I am in disagreement with this as well, it is natural that I find myself opposed to the 'no homework' mindset. Moreover, I feel that free time should be a chance to learn about all of the things that interest you but that you didn't have the ability to study during the hours of the day that were set aside for structured, goal-oriented learning. Homework sets a precedent that just because the school day is done, it doesn't mean that learning should stop. This is a skill that I wish more adults possessed as well.

Homework offers some structure and routine to after school free-time. I find it interesting that so many people argue for a lack of structure in free-time for elementary aged children when it is so obvious how important structure and routine are for pre-schoolers and toddlers. Elementary aged kiddos still thrive on routine. They like consistency. For us, homework lessens the anxiety that comes along with too much free choice. Trust me, that sounds ridiculous, even to me....but I still believe it to be true. The school days that do not involve homework evoke a different 'feel' and often, my children are more likely to mill about fighting with each other; uncertain of what their role is in this unstructured time. Because homework is such a part of our daily ritual, my kids will now assign themselves their own version of 'homework' if none has been assigned to them. They find it comforting. Homework is used as a transition time between 'school time' and 'home time'.

Elementary school homework is the 'soft' transition into accountability. If you think it is hard to get your kiddos to do their assignments now, just wait until middle school or high school when after-school work begins to take an hour or more to complete rather than 10 minutes. I don't believe that you are doing your children any favors by delaying this inevitability. Again, homework establishes the routine that will become a common, unavoidable theme later in life.

 Lastly, I believe that homework sets a precedence for responsibility. As a parent, if you are taking your child's homework and throwing it away, it is telling your child that it is okay to give the finger to work that you don't agree with. Honestly, there are many times that I would like to do the same thing with my work. However, if I started to chuck every work assignment that I didn't agree with or thought was boring, I would eventually be fired. The homework that your child is bringing home in elementary school is the easiest that it will ever be in their entire life and it is your chance as a parent to start instilling a sense of responsibility for completing the task (however mundane) that is assigned to them.

Obviously, I am expecting a lot of mixed feedback regarding my own personal opinion on the subject. I am not saying that homework is right for every family, but I am tired of hearing that is wrong as well. Ultimately, parents are as responsible as schools in the education of their children and it will be up to each family to decide what the important things in life are. In our family, we place a high value education. Homework helps us to strengthen our familial bonds around this fundamental core value. Please stop telling me that I am harming my children by asking them to be active, life-long learners.

Friday, March 11, 2016

From now on, I am always going to wish someone a happy birthday on Facebook

We all have a love-hate relationship with Facebook. On the one hand, we feel the need to keep in touch with one another and on the other, we want our privacy. Most of my 'friends' are so different from me, that if we were forced to hang out with each other in real life, the chances of us finding anything in common to talk about would be in the fractions of a percentile. If you have 'made' friends with enough people on Facebook, eventually you will find that your feed has a birthday reminder popping up just about every day of the year. It is pretty easy to skim past it and not acknowledge the person who is celebrating because maybe in a strange way, it feels too personal to wish someone a happy birthday....especially a person who may be a long lost acquaintance and nothing more...especially if it is a 'friend' who is a lurker; someone who logs in on the FB but never comments, never posts and never interacts....Ever.
  But today, I learned my lesson the hard way.
I don't throw parties. I never throw parties. I hate throwing parties. For the most part I am a social introvert. People scare me. Even my friends scare me. But this year, I decided to go out on a limb and invite my friends and 'friends' on a camping trip out to the desert. March is a shitty month for having a birthday. It ranks up there with November as The Worst Month on Record for having any type of outdoor party....and our house is too small for much of an indoor event.  So, I decide that to celebrate, I am going to have a camp out at the only place I know of where the weather is mostly reliable this time of the year. Its a place out in the Washington desert that I have been visiting for a long time and a place where I feel pretty comfortable. And it is beautiful. And there is climbing and hiking and bird watching and a bunch of other stuff that a person can do if they decide to make the short drive. It seemed like the best bet I could think of for an 'easy sell' to even my most reluctant friends.
  Except that, even though we have been making the day trip out to this climbing area since January (because it is sunny and warm and dry), on this particular weekend (which also happens to be my birthday), the weather has turned to shit and the forecast calls for wind, rain and less than ideal temps. So, this person (me) who never throws a party and decides to throw a party, has to cancel said party. This person (again, me) cannot convince even her best of friends that it could possibly be a good idea to make this trip happen. The one notable exception to this being her steadfast husband who smartly decides to remain neutral in this situation.
  Canceling your own birthday party feels 'cry in the shower all morning and try and pull yourself together' sort of shitty. It shouldn't be a big deal. I keep telling myself this. "Whatever, the weather is will be better some other time". But I know myself, and the likelihood of me having enough courage to actually ask people to do something for me on my behalf again in the near future is slim to diminishing. It isn't gonna happen.
And then I turn on Facebook. And for some stupid, crazy reason, it makes me feel better to see all of the birthday wishes pouring in on my page. It's kind of lame, I know. And at the same time, it isn't lame at all. It is like opening little packages of happiness. And suddenly, I don't feel so bad about having to cancel my own party because none of these people would have been able to come anyway and they are still taking the time to tell me that they love me. And that is a pretty special thing.
So from now on, I am going to return the favor. Even if it is a person that I may never see again in my entire life, I am going to take 30 seconds out of my day to wish them a Happy Birthday. Maybe if they are having a sucky day,  it will help them to have a better one....even if it is for a minute. Because everyone deserves a little love on the day they were born....everyone.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

All Hail

how lonely without the moon

if it were gone, would we finally realize
our limited size

or would desperation arise
from a lack of companion

to hurtle together with intertwined orbits
repulsed and attracted by internal forces;

could we navigate the oceans
without their tides to drive us?
and when seeing the stars,
would they compel us to madness

with the urge to reach out
and prove to ourselves
that we are not alone
entangled in darkness
with only a sad song of patriotism
to guide us
on this delicate jewel;
our only home

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

2016 Raised Beds

People are always interested in building raised beds. Like any gardening project, there are pros and cons to all options. Here are the upsides and downsides to putting in raised beds and some things to be aware of that will help keep them in good condition for the long run.
First, consider the materials that you will be using in the construction of a raised bed. Oftentimes people will go with the least expensive wood option (usually pine or fir). This, however, is not the best choice for durability. Since raised beds hold large quantities of frequently moist soils, fir and pine boards are prone to rot from the inside out; often degrading in a matter of two or three seasons. Since replacing rotted boards is very difficult without removing large quantities of soil from the interior of the bed, it is better to spend a little extra money at the beginning of the project to purchase rot-resistant wood (such as cedar) or a manufactured product (such as Trex). Sometimes, people will treat pine or fir with a wood sealer in the hope that it will eliminate the decay process. This only delays the inevitable for a short period of time and also exposes your soil to unnecessary chemicals. Under no circumstances should you use railroad ties or treated wood for vegetable beds. These products contain hazardous anti-fungal agents that should not come into contact with soil that is used for growing produce.
Second, consider why a raised bed is advantageous in your circumstance versus an in-ground garden.  One reason that a raised bed may be a suitable choice is the need for soil remediation. Most of the greater Wenatchee valley has transitioned from old orchards into housing and lawns. As a result, residual chemical residue may remain in the soil (arsenic) from previous land-use practices. Raised beds allow you to garden above this contaminated soil and essentially gives you a ‘fresh start’. Also, with proper pre-construction planning, the bottom of a raised bed can be lined with galvanized steel hardware cloth which can keep pests such as gophers and moles from reaching your tender carrots and baby beans and peas. An unwanted side effect of a raised bed is that it can be difficult to keep weed free if proper care is not taken during installation. Stubborn grasses tend to find a way to wind their roots through the cracks and seams where the corners of the bed meet. It can be very difficult to remove all of the grass runners once they become established. It also takes extra effort to maintain the outer edges of a raised bed. For a neat appearance, careful weed whipping is needed to avoid damaging the side boards. An alternative approach is to create gravel pathways between multiple raised beds. This is easier to maintain than a lawn pathway.
Finally, a last consideration is performance. For those who have mobility or flexibility issues, it is possible to build raised beds that are elevated and within easy reach of a person who cannot kneel or is confined to a wheelchair. The trade-off to this is that the garden itself is limited in area to that of the raised bed. There is no easy way to expand the garden once the beds are built. Raised beds also require that the gardener maintain a healthy soil and add nutrients often to keep the raised bed fertile. Without regular attention, the soil can become ‘tired’ and less productive. 

Whatever type of garden you create for yourself, may you find hours of enjoyment from your decision. Happy Gardening.

2016 Foothills Magazine

Here's a link to the recent gardening article in Foothills Magazine. It is always an honor to be included in fun projects like this!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

snow moon

It is the last snow moon;
the last of its kind.
The last time the light would shine so brightly
that daylight kissed the sky through the darkness
and all the mysteries of the night were laid bare in plain sight.

The waning brings with it the rising of a different season
and the snow moon sleeps again.

In this blue light, I love you more
and no horizon exists to limit our hopes.
I will exhale my ambitions and breath in
the green grass of springtime.
And dream of the snow moon and the
frosty spirits that flow from me
freely toward the stars.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Middle Age; The Short List

Several truths of middle age that no one will ever tell you about (until it is too late); these are the things I think about when I am stuck at my desk fulfilling the tasks that are required of me to be a successful adult (When really, I would rather be outside playing).

1. You will drown in paperwork. You will spend hours of your life sorting through applications for health insurance, sports team sign-ups, vehicle registration, employment forms, school permission slips, jury duty surveys, mortgage applications and tax documents. You'll hate it and wish you could pawn it off on someone else but find that there is actually no one who can save you from this dreadful fate.

2. In your late 30s your skin starts to loosen. Those small, fine ridges that you observed on the arms of your grandma have now become the same topography  you observe on your own arms. Suddenly, your evenly toned pigment begins to dissolve to reveal every scab you ever picked, every sunburn you ever regretted, every cut or scrape that you forgot you even received. Its all there, written out in the colorless blotches that now begin to spread over your hands.  Your veins begin to fatten and pucker; popping up like a hidden mountain range in purple and green.

3. Hair grows at an astounding rate. Your eyebrows, nose hairs, chin hairs, lip hairs, mole hairs, shoulder hairs, back hairs, ear hairs, belly hairs.... all take on a life of their own as the hair on your head that you are accustomed to caring for coarsens, grays and may eventually fall out. Slowly, you spend more time managing all the funky unwanted hairs than the hair you actually like on your body. You invest in multiple pairs of tweezers and stash them in emergency locations (like your purse).

4. My God! You own a purse, and its getting bigger. Probably to hold all that paperwork....and all the other odds and ends that you now seem to require on a daily basis just to make it through life. Gone are the days of a tube of chapstick and a $20 bill stuffed into the front pocket of your jeans.

5. Your favorite music is at least 20 years old. Yep, it happened. Somehow along the way you stopped spending your life's energy keeping up on the most popular, most hip, most cutting edge new bands and found that really, all you wanted to listen to on this beautiful sunny day was the Cure. You still attend shows but have found that even your favorite bands are now touring acoustically and with assigned seats. Eventually, your kids will discover that everything that you have been forcing them to listen to all these years is actually Not That Cool when you are under the age of 30. And, even more cruelly, when you do start to find yourself gravitating toward modern day talents, you start to feel awkward and creepy; like that old dude who always stood at the back of the show and you wondered why the hell he was still hanging out with a bunch of kids. Congratulations, that is now You.

6.You want to go to bed early. Your parents weren't actually as lame as you thought they were. You really do get tired more easily as you get older. Must be all that shitty paperwork....

7. It's harder to stay strong. Part of the loose skin issue mentioned in #2 comes from the ever-decreasing muscle mass that actually took up space under all that skin. Take pictures of yourself in a bikini now...your days of  looking good in it are numbered. You feel every major injury you ever received and realize that if you stop moving now, you will remain forever stuck in an arthritic stupor that will never loosen its grip. You decide to start drinking lots of water just to keep your eyes from sinking into your skull, exposing the dark circles that show exactly just how old you are becoming.

8. Sugar doesn't taste as good. Probably because now, every time you eat it, you feel it gnawing away at your receding gums, the root canal you should have gotten last year or the cavity that seems to be forming just to the side of your last filling. Your teeth are f*d up, but at least they haven't started falling out....yet....

9. You now know with certainty that you are never going to retire. All those aspirations you had when you were younger of putting aside enough money to quit your job when you turned 45 to travel the world, are laughable now. Mostly, you are hoping that you will be able to save enough to get your kids though college and maybe hold on to your house long enough to die in it and not in some housing complex above the senior center.

10. You never knew you would have so much happiness and heart ache in your life. You never knew the world could be so deceptive and so kind at the same time. You never knew how lucky you would be or how hard you would have to struggle. And now that you know it, you can't help wondering how you will make it through the second half of your life without suffering a mental breakdown. But you also know that time seems to move faster as you get older and, in a way, you wish it would all slow down and that summertime would last forever the way that it did when you were a child.

And lastly, and most importantly, you realize that although your body will eventually fail you faster and faster with each passing year, your soul will go on forever. And beauty really is in the eye of the beholder and that youth is a state of mind. And that nothing is certain in life except death and taxes. And that the only way I am going to finish mine so that I can go out and play, is to get back to work.....Happy Saturday.

2016 Cold Stratification

*This month I sort of took the path of least resistance and wrote my column for the Wenatchee World as a shorter version of the blog post I wrote for Mother Earth News....*

The snow is rapidly melting, leaving behind a landscape that seems almost barren and asleep. However, for many native plants, it this act of freezing and thawing that awakens them and actually increases their ability to survive and reproduce. Cold stratification is the term used to describe this very basic need; the need for winter.  Winter has the ability to soften the outer seed coat of some of nature’s toughest seeds through the action of freezing and thawing in a moist environment. For many plants that require stratification, this process can take up to 2 months and typically happens between 34 and 41 degrees Fahrenheit. During that time, the seed coat softens and embryonic growth is stimulated. Eventually, the embryo bursts through the softened coat and begins the process of germination.
For those of us who enjoy starting our own flowers, there are some classic perennials that require a period of stratification to increase germination. One example is Echinacea. Without a period of stratification, the germination rate for this garden favorite can plummet to less than 30%. However, with stratification, it is possible to germinate nearly 100% of all seeds that are started.  Cold stratification is a process that is easily replicated at home in a controlled environment. After the seed is planted into a potting mix, water thoroughly until the soil is completely saturated but no longer dripping out the bottom drain holes (I like to plant one seed per cell in a 78 cell container). Then, wrap the top of the container in plastic wrap and secure loosely with duct tape. Put a piece of tape on the top of the plastic wrap with a label indicating both the date the seed was planted and the date that you are removing the container from cold stratification. Also include the name of the cultivar that was planted in the container. Place the container onto a cookie sheet or nested in another tray that will catch any excess moisture and eliminate any dripping or mess. When all of these steps are complete, slide the tray into a spare refrigerator (like the drink fridge you keep in the garage) and place a note on the outside door of the fridge with the date the tray should be removed from cold stratification. Typically, 30 days is enough stratification time for Echinacea. Other species may take longer. During those 30 days, check on the container and make sure that the soil is still sufficiently moist. If need be, pull out the container and water thoroughly. This should only need to happen once in the 30 day period since the plastic wrap will help to contain the moisture.
After the period of stratification has finished, pull the container out from the fridge, remove the plastic wrap and continue the seed starting ritual like usual including any heat mats or lighting that you typically use for your vegetable starts. 

For those of us who like to collect native seeds (ex: Balsam Root), an easier method is to take the saved seed (good quality, mature seed heads), plant it into a ½ gallon or similar sized pot, place the pot in the shade outside your house for the summer and then water the pot intermittently over the fall and allow it to freeze and/or get snowed on over the winter. Come spring, move the pot into a sunnier location and water regularly without overwatering. Take note of the rate of germination and experiment with overwintering your seeds in different locations around your yard to see if germination increases or decreases with location.  Stratification can be a lot of fun! Good luck and Happy Gardening.

Mother Earth News Blog #7 Growing Echinacea from seed and the importance of cold stratification

Here's a link to the blog post at Mother Earth News.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

2014 For You

If I could find my voice,
And words flowed like water....
I would whisper to you love, respect, awe, gratitude
What I allow to share with you instead
Amounts to a jumble of gravel, boulders
Course sand
Papercuts, blood.
I remain mute, afraid of the
Broken glass, slivers and shards that amount to my love

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


**This piece was written for the Write On The River annual writer's competition where it received an Honorable Mention for non-fiction writing.**

Her grandmother called it a sin.

  March got her first tattoo when she was twenty-one. A Christmas gift from the Wolf (her lover), it was a modest self-drawn snowflake inked into place by a shaky-handed apprentice to the great Wanda H. of Peoria, Illinois.  They had driven 7 hours along flat, featureless winter roads to fill a weekend with wake-n-bakes, hard music, heavy drinking, long-standing friendship, unspeakable love and some virgin ink. The needle offered a new sensation to her life and her brain felt in tune with the rhythm of its sounds and the heat from its sting. Later, standing in the filthy bathroom with her shirt pulled up over her head, March carefully removed the bandages from her shoulder, examined the art she had acquired and smiled. It was as if someone had opened the door to an invisible cage and allowed her to walk out, free.

  Thinking back, March remembered the first time she had entered this room. Flash Art encased in protective acrylic sleeves filled the walls as her high school girlfriend flipped through the pages of each plastic-bound book of images. It was a neon-filled parlor in a Wisconsin tourist trap of a town. Overweight moms and Harley dads and newly turned eighteen-year-olds exploring their freedom and not much else. She couldn’t even remember the symbol that had finally been chosen since it was meaningless. Art didn’t live here. This was more like a dare. This way, was without love.....

  Her next visit to a parlor happened within the year but, again, it was not she who sat the chair. Standing alongside her enigmatic friend, March watched as the artist tried to make sense of the sinuous space left behind from the scoliosis along Little Bird’s spine. Little Bird had been a gymnast as a child and the rigors of training and poor genetics left her twisted but strong. The final piece followed the center of Little Bird’s back, but not the bones beneath. It was a list of carefully chosen symbols in black and flesh, set with an overly-heavy hand. The art healed dark and scarred and beautiful like Little Bird herself.

  At a party that winter, someone pulled out a home tattooing kit and began working the soft skin inside Kiah’s lower lip. Small stabs of blueish ink began to form out the word that would remain there forever. On the perpetrator’s wrist lived a bolt of lightning and on her partner’s hand a crescent moon.  Eventually, March would watch those two people grow older together, separate, remain friends and finally dissolve into obscurity. But still, the bolt and the moon remained alongside the memory of that night.

  In the spring, March got home late from class and had to ride her bike as fast as the wind to reach the shop in time. He was already in the chair and the work was nearly complete. The Wolf had chosen an ancient script that wrapped gracefully around his muscular calf. The needle began to bounce as it passed over the bone in his shin and he drew in his breath deeply to compensate. The size and scope of the art was larger this time, the session lasting hours. In the end, the Wolf was tired and drawn and shivering with adrenaline. March followed him home and kissed his watery eyes.

  The fall was crisp and golden. Always happy, Cat decided that her time had come and asked if March would sit with her while the ink work was done. Cat’s skin turned red and blotchy beneath the needle and small droplets of blood exuded themselves from the damaged tissue. A cacophony of musical notes spread gracefully across her supple back; a symphony to play on forever….

  And then, nothing. For years, there was nothing. No needles. No Art….at least not for March. She wandered into a small shop at some point during the hot summer and had almost conceded to a meaningless piece of work if only to have some connection again to the transcendence, focus and love that the ink offered. She made an appointment; but never showed up.

  Then quite suddenly and unexpectedly March’s heart was again moved. Captivated, for 10 years she carried a photograph tucked carefully inside the creased and dirty pages of a CrimethInc. novella.  Occasionally, she would pull out the aging paper and wonder if she would ever commit to fulfilling her desires. Once, she thought the image to be lost and nearly panicked; so encircled was her soul around its subtle meanings for her life. A mustang ensnared by a pair of griffins. In the face of certain death the steed remained poised and strong, meeting its fate boldly and without fear.

  It was her 37th birthday. The Wolf had arranged for her to meet Little Bird in a back-alley parlor amidst the chaos and beauty of Capitol Hill. The room had tall tin ceilings and walls the color of new blood. The vertical surfaces were adorned with mounted animal heads (boar and coyote)and the gilded frames of petit paintings in oils and acrylics. The windows were large open panes of glass and as the needle worked, March watched a man walk past dressed in tube socks, underwear and nothing more. Over the course of four hours, the soft skin of her belly became transformed into the gruesomeness of a truth only she could really understand. The wings of each beast spread out toward the bones of her hips with the head of the wild horse dipping gently below her navel. As the ink flowed, March did not cry out. Indeed, she barely moved. Her thoughts remained quiet and her breathing came in long flowing sighs as she explored the calmness of the world inside her mind. After all this time, March had again found peace….. At last.

Monday, February 1, 2016

2016 February Edition of the Good Life Magazine: Van Camping on Maui

**The printed story with photos can be found at The Good Life Magazine, February 2016 issue. The unedited text is below...

Every fall for the past 4 years, my husband Willy and I have embarked on a multi-week family road trip with our two kiddos. It is a chance for us to re-connect as a family through camping and adventuring. This year, instead of remaining in the Continental United States, we decided to branch out and do our first ‘exotic’ road trip. Since our kids are now 8 and 6, I wanted to start exploring parts of the world with them that are highly inconvenient/less enjoyable when traveling with toddlers. For our first airplane-necessary road trip, we decided to explore the Island of Maui in a 1989 pop-up Volkswagen Westfalia camper van. I’ll preface my story by saying that the trip I am about to describe is not for everyone. If a Hawai’ian vacation to you means poolside drinks and over-priced luaus then please don’t attempt our style of vacation. However, if you are comfortable with adventure and the unknown, then this may be the next trip for you.

I first came across the ad for Aloha Campers when I was searching for tent camping options on Maui. We knew we wanted to visit the island but didn’t want to be stuck in one location for the entire trip.  We also weren’t interested in visiting Maui for the resort experience. A vacation for us means the opportunity to see new plants, animals, birds and aquatic life. It also means hiking, sleeping under the stars and (at times) putting ourselves as far away from civilization as possible. We knew that logistically, it was going to be difficult to bring all of our camping gear with us on an airplane. Renting the Westfalia seemed to be the best solution to our problem…..enough sleeping space for 2 adults and 2 kids, a small fully stocked kitchen and the ultimate freedom to explore. This was going to be a great trip!

We landed in Kahului, Maui at 2 PM in the afternoon and caught our shuttle to Kihei where we first became acquainted with our home away from home for the next 6 nights; a 1989 Steel Blue Volkswagen Westfalia pop-up camper van. Brandon, her owner, briefly acquainted us with her quirks and showed us the location of several essential features including the jumper cables and an extra screwdriver….just in case…. We threw our packs in the back and prepared for departure. As I was about to turn the key, one of the mechanics knocked on the passenger side window. Willy rolled it down and the guy threw us a big smile…. ‘Her name’s Stella!’ he shouted through the window. We promised to take care of her and headed out in search of a grocery store and a place to spend the night. We made a quick stop to a local pawn shop and purchased a set of snorkel gear for $8 and a fishing rod and reel for $25. We were set!

Camping on Maui was an interesting experience. Lately, the islands have been getting a reputation for being un-friendly to tourists. Although this may be true if you are touring around in an ȕber fast cherry-red mustang convertible or a shiny new Jeep Wrangler, this isn’t the case when cruising the island in an old Volkswagen bus that tops out at 50 mph. People love these vans. Even though we knew we were running the risk of stepping on the toes of locals during our camping trip, we found that it was easy to make friends when traveling along in Stella. People would wave, throw us solid shakkas and made a point to come over and say hi and have a look inside the van. We discovered that Westfalias are a hot commodity on the islands these days. Very few of them still remain in private hands. They are a throwback to a time when surfing and good vibes still ruled the island; before the mega-resort complexes became king. We had no trouble backing the van in to some prime on-water camping. Often, we were peacefully nestled between old-school surfers who had been living on the beach for years.

Truly, this trip was amazing from Day 1. We hit up nearly every public beach on the island; snorkeling 2 or 3 times a day in warm, pristine azure waters. We spotted more sea turtles than we could count, saw octopus and eels and more fish than an aquarium can hold. The only beaches with trash in the sand were those adjacent to the mega resort complexes. Those beaches also held the least diversity of sea life and the cloudiest waters. The county beaches set aside for locals were well maintained and uncrowded. They often had showers, bath houses and sometimes a playground.
Because of the mobility the van afforded us, we were able to drive the infamous road to Hana and could spend several nights exploring the more remote areas of Maui. We hiked through bamboo forests, slogged up muddy trails that wound beneath wild papayas and banyans to hidden waterfalls, explored freshwater caches within ancient lava tubes and spotted elusive native birds in their jungle homes. Willy fished the rugged inlets along the North Shore and the kids made sand castles from dawn until dusk with intermittent pauses for boogie-boarding and snorkeling.  We dined on fresh pineapple and star fruit, tiny sweet bananas, creamy avocados and sugar cane.

When it was time to return Stella, we were all overcome with sadness. We had become attached to our nomadic life in the van. Living on the beaches of Maui for that brief period of time was certainly one of the best adventures of my life. I am overcome with happiness that we could all enjoy the trip together as a family. I am already planning our next vacation. Who knows what possibilities the future holds? But I wouldn’t hesitate to repeat our Maui road trip. Indeed, I would return to van life in a heart-beat…..and my family would too.

Heirloom Apples 2016

Heirloom apples have a particular appeal to me.  There is a richness to the flavors, colors and textures of an heirloom that cannot be found on a grocery store shelf.  Often, heirloom apples have qualities that lend themselves more readily to sauce making, cider pressing or baking. They may keep longer without refrigeration or may reach maturity earlier in the season making them a better choice for the short seasons associated with mountain climates. Many are pictured in great works of art; great still-life paintings pay homage to the qualities and values that made some of today’s lesser known varieties the staples of a time that has come and gone. Still, even in our era of stream-lined convenience, heirlooms (of all kinds) are re-gaining their lost foothold. As a home gardener living in a region surrounded by the ‘tried and true’ apples associated with mass production, adding an heirloom variety or two to the mix may add some ‘spice’ back in to your small orchard.
Many reputable seed catalogs are starting to carry grafted tree stock from all types of lesser known apple varieties. Tracking down some historic favorites is getting easier and easier to do, but this is the time of year to do it. Most heirloom apples sell out quickly since only a small number of grafts are made each season. Also, apple trees are only shipped for a small portion of the year, when the stock is dormant and before bud break.  Here are a few varieties that are of particular note for their flavor, though not always their appearance (heirlooms tend to have speckled or mottled skin tones):
Cox’s Orange Pippin-I crave these apples! Considered one of the best dessert apples, this variety originated in England in 1830. This apple is very aromatic and has a relatively attractive, medium-sized form.
Ashmead’s Kernel-This apple was first discovered in the 1700’s and is one of the few edible varieties that originated from a seed rather than a sport or mutation off of an already established variety. This apple tastes more like a crunchy lemon when it is first harvested; with sugars developing over time. They are a medium-sized golden fruit with some russetting.
Winesap- An East Coast apple that was developed in the early 1800’s, it is another medium-sized apple with red skin and white flesh. This apple is both sweet and tart and is of good storage quality. Winesaps are used for fresh eating, cider making and cooking.
Esopus Spitzenburg- The claim to fame for this apple is its close ties to Thomas Jefferson and Monticello. This apple originated in New York in the 1700’s and is blocky in form with a reddish-orange skin.
These are just a handful of some of the more popular heirloom apples available for purchase. A little detective work can find you swimming in choices…so many, that it can be hard to decide what to plant. For a home garden, stick with varieties that are grafted to a smaller root stock. Several small root stocks are available and each is geared toward a different soil type. Be sure you understand your landscape before purchase to be sure you are picking the most appropriate stock for your conditions. Also, please be aware that homeowners are responsible for the maintenance of their trees. This includes any necessary spaying. If unsure of the best course of action for caring for and maintaining your apple trees, please contact the WSU Master Gardener diagnosis clinic for help.  Because of the commercial nature of apples in our area homeowners must be vigilant in caring for their trees to avoid large-scale pest problems. Happy Gardening!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Bounty from the Box Blog

I recently got asked to share one of my posts on the blog site of Bounty From the Box.
Thanks for including us and here's to another great season of farming!

A song of sin and feigned regrets

Trace the bloodline of each wicked word
to the inevitability of your crashing world.
No mystery hides this ugly truth
from eyes swimming in feigned regrets.

Our choices are our cruelest deeds
and yours, my friend was without
need; so out of place in your
crystal world
of ideals on love and life and loss.

That bitterness, I never saw
but listened to her tender voice
and understood there was no choice
but freedom on a thousand wings.

So try and sink or dare to swim
no longer will I bear the strain
of tying you to a swaying shore
in hopes you'll be a better man.

Turn the earth around the sun
a heart's wounds knit with time and silk
thinnest thread; a delicate hand
torn anew....this time, by you.

Walk away,
I watch you go.
I call you back and wonder why.
A friend you are but not to her
not to me
alone you cry.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

For the boy inside that man

Best name your demons soon boy,
Lest they consume your heart and steal your dreams away.
Yours is a tempest soul. There is a swirling that lives within you
and I never know which way the wind blows
when I meet you.
So many hurts and scars
framing your beautiful face.
I will admit that you scare me
from time to time.
A love so great resides inside you
I see that now;
There is no hope long enough or
patience fierce enough
to survive this storm.
From here,
you must find your own path
and at a distance I will wait.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Garden Resolutions 2015

The New Year is a time of reflection, for the good and the bad. I was recently asked what some of my regrets or mistakes have been in regard to gardening. I don’t know that my experiences are really all that different from other people, but I am happy to share some of my mishaps. Maybe you can identify with what I am about to describe. Resolving to ‘do things different the next time’ doesn’t mean that you actually will change your ways. We are creatures of habit, and a dreamer is always a dreamer and a procrastinator will always be a procrastinator. Although, I will give an ‘A’ for effort to anyone who genuinely learns from their mistakes and puts a concerted effort into re-learning habits.
For me, my biggest bad habit in the garden is the sin of over-commitment. This happens just about every winter and spring when I start laying plans for what is possible in the garden for the following season. I tend to Dream Big, which gets me into trouble now and again. For example, I slowly continue to pick away at building a small orchard at our home. I flip through catalogs and read the descriptions of heirloom apples or pears. I look for cold hardy peaches and blueberries and dream about the bounty of the harvest that will eventually come my way. In my mind, most of the hard work is already done; the holes are dug, rocks are picked, fertilizer has been added, irrigation is plentiful and a deer fence is fully constructed.  I wish I could say that I have enough restraint to keep myself from actually purchasing any plants until after this work is done but time and time again, I come home with bare root plants that quite literally have no hole for them to be put into. In early spring, you can get away with this lack of pre-planning preparation. However, I am prone to purchasing plants even in the heat of the summer and then have to scramble to make them a home.  Needless to say, I have killed a plant or two as a consequence of my desire. When this happens, I always make a little promise to myself that I won’t let it happen again. But eventually, I am confronted with a new variety (or a really good sale) and the cycle begins again.
This year, to combat my overwhelming urge to expand my garden on a moment’s notice, I did actually plan ahead. I made my garden beds much larger than necessary (while scrambling to get some really beautiful delphiniums in the ground in early June!) in anticipation of finding some desirable additions at the beginning of this coming gardening season. I spent all summer watering and weeding this future home site; carefully pulling every last runner of crab grass and digging every single mallow and thistle as they emerged. I even pre-planned my irrigation to accommodate the future expansion.  In a sense, I am following through (at least partially) on last year’s resolution to be a little less impulsive and a little more prepared.
I will always be an idealistic dreamer when it comes to my garden. I am old enough now to recognize the flaws in my character, including my perpetual habit of over-committing. But old dogs can learn new tricks given enough time and practice and I think I am getting a little bit closer to learning how to work around my own pitfalls. I hope the coming season brings you one step closer to overcoming yours as well. Happy New Year and Happy Gardening!