Thursday, September 22, 2011

Festival Loot

Happily there were soil block makers for sale at the Heritage Festival.  I've always thought they looked pretty cool when I seen them on the Internet, but wasn't quite sure if they'd work well. The Gardeners Workshop had a booth and was demonstrating them.  You could even try your hand at making a set of soil blocks.  I was sold and bought the small size to try at home first.  If it works as I think it will....I won't need to purchase the large block maker. 
The soil block maker is a device that makes little soil cubes for starting seeds from a specially mixed soil that holds together.  The benefit is there is no plastic pots to mess with and the roots do not become pot bound...they simply grow out of the block.  The only caution you must take is when watering. You must water the blocks from the bottom gently as not to wash the soil blocks apart.

Here is a link to The Gardener's Workshop if you might like to purchase one....I'm going to explore the site some more looks like it might have a lot of interesting information.

I bought a small bag of already mixed soil so I could start sowing seeds as soon as I arrived home from the festival.  September is a huge planting month here.  Yesterday I planted 5 carrot varieties, 6 onion varieties. and 5 squash varieties.  I know it seems a little late to start squash....but I'm trying something a little different.  Our occasional light frost or freeze doesnt' really happen until late December or January.  I'm betting I can get a crop before then, and if I protect the plants they may keep producing right until spring.  These seeds I directly sowed in the garden.  In my soil cubes I sowed 4 types of lettuce, 6 types of cabbage, 2 types of kale, cauliflower, Romanesque, broccoli, cilantro, leeks, think that's it....anyway I think all around the soil block maker is going to make sowing certain seeds and spacing them much easier....and less wasteful of the seeds.

Here is a picture of the soil block maker and the left over soil!
Soil blocks.
Two days after and seeds are already sprouting.
I also bought a couple of books I've wanted for while.  It's amazing how often I look at things on the Internet and never buy them...but if I get them in my hands....well...I can tell right away if it is worth the money or not.  These two were....others...not so much.

The Solar Food Dryer by Eben Fodor.  It contains complete plans for making a sturdy long lasting solar dryer as well as solar info, tips and recipes.  Byron loves it.  He already has plans to make a dryer.
This is a book I've thought about for a while.  I compared it to a more extensive book on growing grains and figured this good overview is my style for starting.  I've purchased rice seeds and am determined to grow them.  I'll let you know how that goes even if I fail....failure is something I'm no longer afraid of ....we're good friends....he  boosts me up to help me succeed the next time...KEEP TRYING AND TRY AGAIN!
An added picture of a Monarch chrysalis we found on an okra pod in the garden....My friend Mary is going to be thrilled when I send her this pic!  Look at the gold on it...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Heritage Festival At Thomas Jefferson's Monticello

This past weekend Byron and I traveled to Virginia to attend the Heritage Festival at Thomas Jefferson's home Monticello.  I had been drooling over the advertisements in my Mother Earth magazine when Byron announced, "You want to go?  Let's go!"  Byron made it happen.   We drove straight to Asheville, NC.  The next day we took the Blue Ridge Parkway towards Charlottesville, VA. 

We had to travel up a little winding road called Township Road to get to the Parkway.  When we're looking for them we  never see them, but rounding the bend we saw a mother black bear and her two chubby cubs tussling in the roadway!  Even with my heart beating so fast I manage to get out my camera, stand through the sun roof, and shoot a few pictures!  This was a huge highlight in the trip for me!
The good little mama hurried her cubs into the brush and then stood on her hind legs bobbing slightly up and down and back and forth trying to figure out what we were up to.  Should she run or should she fight.  I was glad I was in a car and not on a bike at that moment!
Finally after winding up the mountain we arrived at the Parkway and headed north.
The parkway is a beautiful winding road.  You rarely can safely go over 40 miles per hour and often only 30 and 35.  So, you really must have time to do the whole thing.  I would like maybe to bike some of it one day.  There were hiking trails crisscrossing the Parkway and the Appalachian trail crossed several times as well.  I will do part or all of the Appalachian trail one day...Lord willin!!!
It was overcast and cold (43 degrees), but the views were still lovely!
We also saw a flock of wild turkeys!
....and highland cattle.  Byron loves cattle.  He quickly pulled over and snapped these shots.  Such funny beautiful critters.  They'd probably keel over and die with all that hair in Louisiana.
After a while we realized at the pace we were going we'd reach Charlottesville after midnight, so we made our way back to the interstate.  On the way we saw this field full of drying tobacco.
The next day we went to the festival and started taking in the demos and classes.  We went to a vinegar making I will be making vinegar maybe soon....there was so many things happening at once you couldn't possible take them all in we did as much as possible!

We watched this sheep get sheared....He was all too happy to sit and let it happen.  Almost like a day at the spa....
There was this sweet lady who showed me how to make these awesome rugs from small scraps of fabric....
....I watched her spin for a while....pretty groovy.....
....I gazed at this beautiful cashmere goat for awhile....
...We took a tour of Thomas Jefferson's house....
....and a tour of the garden.  They try to grow as many varieties as possible the Thomas Jefferson grew.  All of those varieties are marked with a TJ.  I bought several varieties that he grew to try in my garden at home.  This is one of them...
...awesome caracalla bean.  The flower is a corkscrew shape!  There wasn't a dry pod left on the plant!  You could tell there was a bunch of gardeners walking around! ...I did look for one for myself....
This is Peter Hatch.  He gave the tour of the garden.  I had to pay extra to attend this tour....worth it...He has been the head gardener at Monticello since 1977.  His insight was fun and his knowledge of Thomas Jefferson's writings  and happenings at Monticello...which he gave with dates....was amazing.  His newest book will be out in April it is called "Revolutionary Garden".
Byron....Make me these!!!!
This huge old tree is growing on the front lawn of the house...sigh....majestic.
...I'll be sharing some pictures of my loot next!!!...there was a seed exchange!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Today's Bento

A little messy, but still cute!  Teddy bear rice molds decorated a little different makes cute frogs!  The rice is dyed green.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Bentos and Fall Garden Cleaning

This cool weather that followed tropical storm Lee has me feeling energetic and inspired!  The garden has needed a good weeding, pruning and cleaning for a while (typical summer), but 95 degree weather tempted me to put it off to the next excuse now!  

Cleaning is coming along really well, and fall planting will start today!  Fall is really our best growing season here.  Even eggplant hangs it's head in our heat and humidity.  Only melons and sweet potatoes seem to revel in searing sun.

Today the girls' bentos had a heart shaped pink rice ball (tinted with Wilton's pink dye paste for well for other things too)....
Sweet little cheddar cut outs and small bottles of soy sauce for the egg rolls so "kawaii" (cute in Japanese)...
...pears from the trees with kawaii picks :-)... and a Greek pepper (the girls like the juice on their rice)...So yumm
Here is the front garden all trimmed back...The roses are just sticks currently...they were a little out of control so I pruned them rather severely...should be fine.
I dug out the shabby buddelia and put a pot in its place.  I plan on putting some type of focal point in it...maybe a gazing ball...and then planting some sort of trailing succulent around the focal point.
...the mounds of red dianthus survived the winter and summer (I sheared them occasionally) but I think I'll remove them.  The red just isn't the right color for the front garden.  It's too harsh.  I prefer yellows, oranges, pinks, and white in this garden.  I also had to dig up the Aztec grass to remove some stubborn weeds.  After separating the weed roots from the Aztec grass roots I replanted a larger more spread out clump.  I also removed the yellow mounding lantana.  It tended to get too leggy over the path and it's roots too had bundles of weed roots that were removed as well.  In the process I was able to dig up my hurricane lilies or naked ladies (as you choose) bulbs.  I plan to plant them in a better spot this weekend.  I would like to enjoy them more.

As this garden matures I've had to make decisions on what to remove.  This reminds me of a permaculture practice.  Newly planted areas are over planted with legume trees then later as the planting matures they are removed to make room for the plants that their roots collected nitrogen for.  Did you get that...maybe it was too run on-ish...anyways....Look at that mound of cuttings.  I'm going to put them in another part of the garden until the leaves fall off (the leaves will become mulch).  Then I'll put the stems in a brush pile that I am forming to make a hugelkulture bed.  I think I spelled that right.
I also pruned my lorepetalums or "plum delight fringe shrub".  The cuttings were just dropped right underneath.  They're nice and flat (the cuttings) and make a perfect "chop and drop" scenario for returning nutrients to the soil and providing mulch that shades out weeds and keeps the soil moist.
My garden this morning with the sun breaking through the trees on the batture (batture is the area between the levee and the river).  With the cool weather weeding is actually pleasurable...time to think, plan, and contemplate.
Sweet potatoes on a rampage...Sooooooo excited about
The egg plants are recovering from Lee....they were a little wilted for a while....
Had to put wire cages over the pumpkin seedlings....because of marauding chickens...I'll have to think of a solution to this soon.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Getting Out Of Debt

About 8 years ago I had this uncontrollable desire to get out of debt.  It consumed me.  It felt as if I had no other choice.  Boy I'm glad now I listened to this inner urging.  I was diagnosed just before Hurricane Katrina with Graves disease.  For years I knew I really hadn't felt well and thought something just wasn't right.  After several years of going to doctors and describing my symptoms I still wasn't diagnosed.  Not until my hands were shaking uncontrollably and I could barely climb stairs did a doctor finally recognize what this might be and he did a blood test that confirmed Graves disease was the problem.

Graves disease causes mental issues as well and I really thought for a time I was losing my mind.  Thankfully my faith in God kept me tethered to the ground during those hugely emotional times.  The doctors prescribed radioactive iodine treatment to stymie my thyroids out of control hormone production.  Now I have to take thyroid hormone to regulate the levels in my body and deal with the subsequent battle against weight gain.  Boy it was easy to stay thin when my metabolism was working overtime...Not so anymore so cutting down on the excessive calories I had to consume before has been an issue I'm dealing with as late.

   THANKFULLY...Debt is not an added concern on top of all the other challenges I face day to day...and I am so HAPPY HAPPY this is the case.

Byron and I are not any different than the average God fearing American couple.  We love our family, church and community and work hard to do the best for them all.  Unfortunately, most people have turned more to the marketers than God to determine how best to live their life. 

Marketing and our own pride has convinced us that to be, or more accurately appear, to be successful we must have the right accoutrement's which include a new clothes...coolest cell phone...  Unfortunately, with the way most people choose to live their life, and the way I did at one time, you must borrow to afford these things.  I found out quickly that this life was a huge weight and it chaffed against my knowledge of how I must live as a follower of Jesus.  The Bible simply states:

  1.Proverbs 22:7

The rich rules over the poor, And the borrower is servant to the lender.

Proverbs 22:6-8 (in Context) Proverbs 22 (Whole Chapter)

I want to be a slave to no man and only a servant to God.  Geez, actually if chaffs against the whole idea of what it means to be a free American.  (So does many other things, but I won't go there now.)  I realized that my indebtedness actually made me a slave!  All of mine and Byron's future earnings were already owed to the overseer.  We weren't working for the future....we were working for the past!

I discovered Dave Ramsey through some friends, and thought Wow!  This is what I have needed for so long!  Instruction on real people real life money management.  His ideas made so much sense.  I found myself struggling up hill at first trying to do it on my own, but with enthusiasm and daily gentle encouragement and lots of love....I finally convinced Byron to get on board the get out of debt train and once we were united in a single goal as a couple .....we cruised through the steps!!!

It was so freeing to be out of debt!  No credit cards at all!  No car note at all!  Basically no house note at all (another long story maybe I'll tell one day).  We were free to work for our future instead of our past, give more to our church and do things we only dreamed of hiking to Havasu Falls in the Grand Canyon (an experience I will never forget.)

I found myself wanting to share this with everyone!  I foolishly ran out and told everyone and shared it with everyone I knew.  Hey you don't have to be a slave to debt.  That's when I found out that most people like their debt chains.  Most really would rather you shut up.  They think you're crazy when you say they can pay cash for the car they want or they can go on vacation without using a credit card, or you can give up the false security of having a credit card "just in case" there's an emergency or you don't have to live from paycheck to paycheck.  It's the simple old fashioned...."Live Beneath Your Means!"
I think that most people have to much pride to drive a car or dress in a way that most people consider...'sniff' beneath their class in life.  There's a scripture for that too:

1.Proverbs 16:18

Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.

Proverbs 16:17-19 (in Context) Proverbs 16 (Whole Chapter)

Many people find themselves in financial straights because of pride, and then call out for God to deliver them from the snare that he warned them of in the beginning.  You must deliver yourself, then God will bless and help. 

How many people have I heard poor mouth about not knowing how they will pay their bills then pull out their I-phone....Really?  Not trying to be judgemental.  It just makes you wonder.  My husband drove my Father's old Suburban that my parents gave us with no air condition even during Louisiana summers.  Yes, he had to endure jokes from people he worked with about having the junkiest car at work, and people really do judge you by the car you drive.  Shallow, yes!  But we experienced this during our getting out of debt time  We did it though!

I would like to encourage anyone who is having trouble to seriously consider Dave Ramsey's advice.  He has a great website.  You can listen to his radio show and there are many other resources...just google's there.

I will tell you.  It's a load off the mind not to owe....and without stress....I'm a lot healthier now!

Here is one of Dave Ramsey's videos to start you off!