Compost, It’s Worth It

Compost is an integral part of every garden operation. I have a small, urban garden and even though I’m an avid composter I don’t get a lot of compost each season. Not enough to fully cover every bed. This is why I also plant cover crops in the fall to build my soil.

However, I still believe compost is the key to good gardens. First of all, it’s free. Literally. It is your waste, not going to the curb, but to your back yard. Simply set aside all your plant based scraps and find a place to put them. It doesn’t have to be some fancy container, it can just be a pile. I actually advocate a pile because it is so much easier to turn, use and fill.

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That, is my freshly turned pile. I add in leaves which help provide carbon for the disintegration process. The way I do compost at the moment is that I have two piles. The fresh pile that I add to daily, and the aging pile. Each fall and spring before and after the growing season, I put the aging pile on my beds and then I turn the fresh pile over to where the aging pile was…the fresh pile becomes the aging pile and is filled with oxygen and leaves. Then I begin a new fresh pile.

Last year was my first year gardening here. My soil was rough. Really rough. Compacted, hard, crumbly and  devoid of nutrients. Going straight from lawn to a garden is not an immediate success. Throughout the growing season I piled on mulch, manure, compost soil around the plants. I knew this wouldn’t fix the compaction but it would give me a head start for winterizing and would be beneficial for my cover crops.

Then I planted those cover crops.

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I was super big pregnant at the time and only managed to plant two beds before calling it quits but in those beds, my soil was hugely improved. I let ALL the cover crops rot and become a part of the soil.

Now that it is spring, I’ve been covering my beds in a thin layer of compost and then turning them under. Once I turn it under I do a once over with my hands to break up all the big clumps and then it’s ready for planting.

IMG_20150321_174525014Good soil is dark, moist, and springy. The beds I planted cover crops in have sections, that are beautiful. There is still some clay there. The beds I did NOT plant cover crops in are in rough shape. Better than when I started last year but still have lots of clay and some compacted and crumbly areas. I added some carbon producing material (leaves, dead and dried plant stalks, etc) in the fall and now I’ve added compost for the nitrogen (and many many other trace minerals, enzymes, bugs, worms and what not). So all my beds are currently in better shape than they were last year when I planted, which feels good.

I read about a bazillion books on soil last spring and now that I can recognize the different issues I’ll be able to work on them.

IMG_20150321_174737022 (1)I’ve started planting greens and will be doing a few herbs soon too. This nice weather has really been killing me because I want to plant all things right now but gardening is about cycles, patience and letting nature do it’s thing and so I’m trying to keep calm and let the warmth become consistent before going crazy out there.

 

 

Developing Culture

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That, my dears, is a sourdough starter.

I have plunged, decidedly deep, into the world of culturing food.

I won’t go into extreme detail but I haven’t felt great for a while though generally masked in sleeplessness, pregnancy and breastfeeding for years, I realized three months ago that I have been feeling pretty darned bad. After extensive reading in the area of gut health (digestive system starting with the mouth) and learning so so much about how the body works I decided someday, when my kids are older I am going to work in the industry of health. It is fascinating. If doctors weren’t so hung up on medicine I would become one. For now, I think I’ll stick with the dream of becoming a holistic nutritionist or something.

Anyway, during the studying of how the system works, what makes it work, and how to fix it when it’s broken, my mom told me she had read a book about culturing and that she was starting to do a lot of it herself. She recommended me the book and I took myself out to the library and got it. It was not scientific, it was not written my someone with a doctorate who had done studies or was in practice. It was a lady, a local lady in fact, who shared her experience with cultured foods and how they healed her.

I was just to the point in my research where I was ready for action and her testimonies were a great jumping point and so the next time I was at my parent’s house my mom gave me a SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) and some veggie culture starter.  She let me try her creations and it was quite inspirational. If you’re ever feeling squeamish about cultured and fermented foods I would urge you to find a friend who cultures and check out their operation because it’ll help qualm those fears.

Since then I’ve been sprouting all my grains, beans, and nuts, culturing vegetables, making kombucha and milk kefir (mostly coconut milk kefir).

I started out small. Started making kombucha (takes two to three weeks each batch), started culturing veggies (takes a week or two) and kefir ( which takes two to three days).

Since I started out so small I wasn’t able to consume cultured foods daily for any length of time until a couple weeks ago. That was when I started putting kefir in smoothies daily. I add greens (spinach and kale), berries, sometimes banana  or pineapple and chia seeds and or ground flax, even some kombucha if I have some ready. Once I started daily kefir, my headaches disappeared. I have upped my kombucha batch size so maybe soon I’ll be able to drink it the full time between batches. My SCOBYs are so cool.

SAMSUNG CSCThis is a new SCOBY. Actually, since I took this it has grown white all across but it’s fresh and so cute.

SAMSUNG CSCThis is a bigger and older scoby that has many layers. Look weird? Yeah, it is weird…but it’s also fascinating and powerful.

My current operation is this.

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Sauerkraut, kombucha, sourdough starter, coconut kefir and sprouting grain. I also ferment onions and carrots frequently.

In my pantry I have secondary fermenting kombucha (lemon ginger) and apple cider vinegar.

SAMSUNG CSCYou can see the difference between the freshly started vinegar and the one that has been fermenting for a bit longer.

I also cut out caffeine which took care of the insomnia I was experiencing between the six or seven wake ups for kids each night. Yes, my toddler still sleeps badly and my four year old still needs me for going to the bathroom at night and yes, I do have an infant.

I cut out daily sugar and, well, I still crave that like it’s my day job. And night job. Basically, I crave it like a mother…which means 24/7 job. Hehehe, see what I did there? Hehe.

So this is the start. Hopefully the start of feeling much better.

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Ginger Lemon Kombucha

 

Dead Self Expression

I’ve reached the point. Three kids was the point. It’s the point where there is literally SOMEONE always needing SOMETHING all the time. I get it, this is my full time gig and by full time I don’t mean a 40 hour work week. I mean 24/7. I love my kids, I have an amazing husband, I have a home and everything I could want. I am grateful for this. I am an incredibly blessed woman. However, in an attempt to write one paragraph I have been called away by my kids six times….and they’re all in bed, should be asleep. This is why I haven’t posted in so long.

My struggle isn’t taking all three kids out for activities, keeping my house somewhat in order (emphasis on somewhat) or making each meal. It’s not a struggle of finance, or illness. I understand all of these and many more things come before what I am struggling with.

I don’t have time for creative outlet, I have no place for self expression. When I am alone ( which means kids are in bed and husband isn’t home) my whole being is pulled between the things that need to be done ( laundry, cleaning the kitchen, etc) and what I want to do (read, write, drink tea, plan my garden, etc). Since I am only ever alone at night I don’t get to actually garden which would be my number one at this moment in time. But in the winter months (which literally ended last week) I was in a rather dark place. I like to think of myself as a positive person but my husband and probably most of my close friends can attest that I haven’t been positive at all. Probably a good thing that I haven’t written here now that I think about it.

This past week we’ve had sunny, warm weather and just the vitamin D alone has cheered me up considerably and the physical activity and gardening has done a lot as well.

It seems petty for me to complain about not having time for creative expression but this is the first time in my life where I’ve really had no ability to make it happen, or at least, not without a lot of fighting, planning and compromising.

It has made me think a lot about my identity. At first the best way for me to describe the depression (possibly most of that was related to being post partum), anger, frustration and generally being down as feeling like I’d lost my identity. However, the farther I delved into what was actually bothering me (outside of no sleep) wasn’t identity, which I find in Christ, but just the pent up feeling of not doing anything that I individually enjoy….by myself, alone, just me. I am not just me right now. I am Avery, Eli and Ida. They are attached to me (literally most of the time) and they are my heart and brain at the moment too. I can’t shower without planning. I can’t get away without lots of planning and usually bringing Ida with me. Today I did a small bit of gardening between feedings, cleanings, wiping butts and cooking. It was exhilarating. All I did was turn one bed over, go through the soil a few times and then do some plant planning. That was just enough for me to feel that passion seep into my bones. It’s like I was deficient in a key nutrient and was suddenly given a small dosage. It made me feel a little bit like myself again.

I am fortunate my biggest hobby of choice is gardening, which is something that can be done while my kids are about, playing outside or ‘helping’ me. There are other things I love that I can’t do with kids around (like write) but I try to tell myself over and over, like a mantra, that this is just a season and it will pass. To soak up all the precious snuggles, the brief segment in life when your kids actually want to be around you, the bizarre conversations led on by weird little kid questions, and all the laughter. So much laughter all the time (but also tears all the time too).  The cuteness that will turn into stinky teens with an attitude.

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I chose my life as a stay at home mom. It is what I WANTED to do and I don’t want to discount from that. However, it is extremely hard.

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All the demand, all the time. It does wear on one.

I’m glad winter is over and I have at least one small outlet to make me find a little something to define my individuality even if I don’t feel individual at all.

Habits for 2015

Last year, for the first time in my life, I chose and created habits. It all started when we were hanging out with some friends and the topic of flossing came up. It was stated that the longest any of us had flossed every day was a week and that it’s like psychologically impossible to go longer. In my head, being the rebel I am, I thought ‘okay, well that’s as good a challenge as any, I’m gonna floss every day.’ For the first week I was surprised that every single day there was something gross in between my teeth. But it took a solid SIX weeks for flossing to feel like an important, necessary part of my routine. Basically, it took six weeks for it to be a habit and not feel like I was making a great deal of effort to do it.

Once that habit was established I realized I could probably make other habits and help my well being. If you recall I wrote on the habits I took on in 2014. They included:

  1. Flossing daily.
  2. Drinking 16oz of water in the morning before eating or drinking coffee.
  3. Eating breakfast daily.
  4. Dry brushing before every shower.
  5. Washing my face every night.

So, how have those held up? Very well! The only one that gets a little muddy right now with an infant is drinking water. I basically drink water all night long so sometimes I don’t drink a dedicated 16oz in the morning. However, the less Ida feeds at night the more I’m bringing that back into play. Also, there have been a few times when I knew my chances of getting a shower on a given day were slim, and involved a five minute window, and in those times I’ve skipped over the dry brushing. I know that it’s temporary that I’ll have to rush showers like that because it’s all due to having an infant. In general though, these are a big part of my routine and I have successfully established them. I never miss a night washing my face, I never miss breakfast, I NEVER miss flossing. Seriously, once you start that, you can’t go to bed without flossing. Morning breath is so much worse without it. So so much worse.

Anyway, for 2015 I decided to skip the goals and resolutions and decide what new habits I want to establish. After looking carefully at areas I need improvement the obvious two that came up were diet and exercise.

My diet is extremely clean, filled with whole foods, lots of fruits and veggies and water. So what’s the problem? I eat chocolate. Like every day. Christmas didn’t help that at all. As soon as I give birth to a baby and start breastfeeding I get STRONG cravings for chocolate. Now that Ida is over two months old I think I can more easily avoid chocolate and would like to confine it to a certain day of the week….Sundays. Every Sunday Shane and I set aside the evening for a movie night. I make up a tray of random veggies, fruits, cheese, olives and what not for us to munch on in place of dinner while we watch our movie or show.

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I think it’d be a perfect time to include chocolate as a treat. So my first habit of 2015 will be to avoid chocolate except for Sundays.

Next up, exercise. How can I make that a habit? I don’t know. I think if I said something like ‘three days a week’ things would come up and suddenly I’d realize a week was gone without exercising because I put it off. To avoid the avoidance I have to make it more unavoidable. How? Well I figure I should try to be intentional and do some exercise every day. That doesn’t mean going to the gym every day, which would be financially impossible since paying for child care for three kids daily would definitely not be doable. I might go to the gym two or three times a week and then do squats after the boys go to bed another day or take a walk if it’s nice outside, etc. Intentional movement, daily. My most successful exercise stints involved daily movement (30 Day Shred, Insanity, etc) and I think that will very likely keep it in my mind. If evening comes along and I realize I haven’t exercised, I can simply hit a hundred squats or do a few sun salutations real quick. It doesn’t have to be an hour of weight lifting. Missing a day here and there due to circumstance or sickness won’t be a big deal if I’m doing daily movement.

So, those are the two habits I’d like to focus on for 2015.

  1. Avoid chocolate except on Sundays (more of breaking a habit which is arguably harder than creating one).
  2. Move intentionally every day.

Including these habits to my existing ones will hopefully lead to a healthier and more energetic mama. I need all the energy I can get! I can only imagine how insane things will be once Ida is out of the newborn stage and starting to move.  Fortunately, the older she gets, the older and more independent/helpful my little super heroes get.

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It’s always nice to have Batman do my little errands and chores. And Spiderman to help with Ida.

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Being Mom and the Four Pillars of Health

We all know the four pillars of health….

  • Hydration
  • Nutrition
  • Sleep
  • Exercise

But sometimes, as a mother of littles (especially more than one little) it can be super hard and sometimes impossible to give them all enough attention. My biggest struggle with the pillars is definitely sleep.  This one is my ‘impossible’ category. I can easily achieve the nutrition and hydration, exercise is harder and requires some logistical wrangling when it comes to my three very young children but isn’t impossible…but sleep, oh elusive sleep, I miss you!

I’m blessed with a sleeping infant. I fully recognize the amazingness of this. However, even very good sleepers still get up to eat at this age and occasionally have a blow out or something. Then I have my terrible sleeping toddler. I have written about him many times and even though things have improved I still get up to deal with him more than my infant. Then there’s my oldest. He’s four and potty trained but doesn’t get up well at night by himself to go to the bathroom and therefore requires assistance. So last night was a perfect example of my ‘usual’ lack of sleep.

11pm- Ida finally falls into a deep sleep. She had a rough day without naps (due to church, and family over after that) and got very over tired which kept her up and restless from 8-11.  Naturally, after I put her to bed I am wired because I got a second wind while trying to calm her down. So after thirty minutes of laying wide eyed in bed I get up and take a melatonin which I use occasionally for insomnia.

11:45-I JUST drift off and am woken up by Eli crying. I go check on him and he’s slid off his bed via his blanket. I right him but can’t find his paci…he’s asleep so I don’t worry about it.

12:30-Eli is crying again. He’s looking around for his paci. I find it on the floor and give it to him.

1:30- Eli is crying. I can’t figure out a problem so I just lay him down and put his blanket on, he falls asleep.

2:00-Ida feeds.

3:30-Avery didn’t make it to the bathroom. I change his clothes.

5:00-Eli cries…his blanket it on the floor and he seems cold. His diaper is full but I ignore it because I don’t want to wake him up more this early in the morning because he won’t go back to sleep. I get his blanket back on him and he’s asleep.

6:00-Ida feeds. I bring her to bed with me because I’m so tired I don’t want to sit in the chair in her room to nurse. I feel like crying from tired at this point.

6:45-Shane’s alarm goes off and I can hear Eli playing with toys in the livingroom. I didn’t hear him get up.

7:08-Eli comes in my room and asks for food. No, you don’t get it, he said FOOD! First time using that word. I’m so excited about it I jump up and get started on breakfast even though Avery isn’t awake yet.

So, how much sleep did I get? Like nothing. My brain hurts. Coffee helps. Here is another issue with not sleeping, I don’t feel the brain power or physical energy to want to exercise very much. I’m basically a blob. Occasionally I send my husband texts with my best ‘trying-to-survive’ face….

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Nutrition, done. Since I gave birth to Ida I have dropped all the aversions and have been able to eat very well, quite easily. I was raised on veggies and so I like them a lot. Breastfeeding makes me crave sugar so I eat chocolate in some form almost daily. That is my biggest food issue so after the holidays are over I’ll be stopping that and having it only for an occasional treat.

Hydration, kinda hard to keep up with all the nursing. I am trying very hard to keep up though and most days I do very well. Some days I forget to drink at all and then feel horrible.

So being a mom can definitely make health more challenging. It CAN be done…to some extent but it’s hard to feel really good without getting enough sleep. I am keeping things in perspective and remembering that this is a very short season in the scope of things and  if I keep up on the other aspects, I’ll be on the right track once sleep actually happens. Also, when nutrition is right and hydration is happening I am feeling the best I can feel on no sleep. No need to destroy my body like I did when Eli was a baby by neglecting EVERYTHING and also not sleeping. That was awful. You live and you learn.

Motherhood is beautiful and messy. I’m just gonna go with the flow, and enjoy it. Being a mom is the most wonderful thing I’ve ever experienced even if it is hard a lot.

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