Spring has officially sprung!

Today I did some hardcore spring cleaning- I cleaned out the backyard shed. I mean REALLY cleaned it out. And I confess, I didn't even know it had a red painted floor until today, because it has always been under a thick coat of dust and dirt. Youch!!! So now I'm extremely pleased to have a good workspace out back.

We dug up our front yard (yes, our FRONT yard, it's the only place with good amounts of sunlight) and created six raised beds. I heard a local Master Gardener say yesterday that the ground was still too cold to plant seeds. I winced a little and hung my head in shame; I planted seeds in our beds last weekend. Oops. But on the bright side.... we have some beautiful little sprouts today!!!

Picture: Cherokee Trail of Tears Bean. I love this bean. It grows easily and produces a LOT of beans. Last year my sister and I grew these, and I had enough for several meals and about 2 qts to freeze. I'm hoping to up the yield this year with the garden in my yard (last year we were growing them together on property an hour away from my home).

Next comes the okra. I ordered these Heirloom Dwarf Green Pod Okra seeds from My Victory Garden on Etsy . They arrived quickly, and I started the seeds indoors several weeks ago. I used a little trick I read about in Mother Earth News a while back- I've been saving my toilet paper rolls, and I used them as little seed pots. When I put the seedlings into the garden, they went straight in with the little pots! They are biodegradable and the roots are able to grow right on down into the earth. I'm very excited about my okra, as my best friend and I are positively obsessed with pickled okra, and I plan to pickle enough to last us all year!

Along with pickling okra, there will be lots of cucumber pickling going on at the end of the summer here at Casa Buck. Pickles, Relish, Chow Chow... oh the possibilites. The variety I have chosen this year is one I purchased from Horizon Herbs last year and had seeds left over. It is called Peacemore, and I also grew it last year. It grew well and produced a TON of cucumbers. This year I hope to save the seeds myself from this crop to use next year. I'm a VERY novice seed saver, but I will be working on that :)

My husband is in charge of the tomatoes this year. I've tried growing them for years with zero success. I'm convinced I'm tomato jinxed, so we'll see how he fares this year. He will be growing Romas and Amish Paste tomatoes. The Romas were bought as plants to transplant, but I'm starting the Amish Pastes from seed for him to transplant later. We also have some nice Latvian seeds that he may attempt, too.

My beautiful Passionflowers are sprouting up for Year#3 on my porch, the catnip is back in action, and the cuttings from Leanne's garden last year (lemon balm & some beautiful lillies) are peeking out of the ground.

Worms and Pears - All about timing

“The early bird gets the worm.” I don’t know about you, but I heard that piece of wisdom many times growing up, probably when Mama was trying to coax me out of bed. In spite of its being, well, a little unappetizing for me, it always seemed to be a straightforward proverbial gem. First come, first served. Early to bed, early to rise. Get there early, be first in line. That sort of thing.

As I got older, I started to rethink my interpretation. I don’t think it is meant to glorify the state of being early as it does timeliness. Being at the right place at the right time. For birds, that may indeed be early, assuming there are a limited number of worms available and every other bird is out for as many as they can catch. And that makes sense - for birds. For humans, it’s a bit more complex. Good timing can be due to lots of things, including planning and just plain good luck. Some timing is in our control. For instance, in 1994 when we decided to move from Maine to Tennessee, we sat down and figured out when the perfect timing would be. We decided to wait until 1996 when our oldest, Rachel, had graduated from high school. Her brother, Matt, would be 13 at the time, finishing 7th grade. We figured we could move to Maine in June 1996, and that fall, Rachel could start college, and Matt could have a year in junior high to make friends before he moved on to high school. It worked out well.

On the other hand, there are places in life we gamble about timing. Who hasn’t wished for a life rewind button when stocks plummeted last year and beyond? I imagine there are some lucky or smart people who managed to buy low and sell high, but for most of us, it was and is a total gamble. I try to time my gasoline fill-ups to coincide with the lowest price, but sometimes I wait too late and the price has gone up again. Only recently being able to fly, I am novice at buying airline tickets, and hope that I wait late enough to see if the price goes down, but not too late to get the flight I want, or, heaven forbid, the price goes up.

I recently had three completely different timing experiences with fruits. I bought a mini-watermelon a week ago. I know - way too early for ripe watermelons, especially in Maine, but I was lucky; it was bright red, juicy and delicious. I decided to press my luck, and got another mini-melon from the same store a week later. Inedible. I could hardly remove the fork once it was in it. Then we bought some pears, brought them home and put them in a paper bag to ripen. Ed announced they were ready yesterday - and they were the most perfect pears I have ever eaten! We timed it exactly right.

The best piece of wisdom we have ever heard about eating food is this: “Choose foods that spoil. Eat them before they spoil.” It’s all about choice and timing. You know the foods that can spoil are the best for you - fresh, unprocessed, and full of vitamins and minerals. The catch is on the timing part. You have to try to eat them right at the peak of ripeness and flavor for that particular food. Sometimes, as I said, it takes instinct, planning and sometimes it’s just luck. (As much as I recall my grandfather thumping melons at roadside fruit stands, they say that’s not a good indicator of a good melon.) It’s so disappointing to taste a fruit or vegetable and discovering that it’s not ripe or one that is past its prime. It’s also frustrating to buy fresh produce and forget to prepare it before it is spoiled. But those days you bite into The Perfect Pear of Ecstasy, it makes it all worthwhile. “Choose foods that spoil, and eat them before they spoil.” Welcome spring - the race is on!

The Good Life, 2009

One of our goals in downsizing and simplifying is that elusive status of “the good life.” A description of that, of course, varies from person to person. In fact, through my life, I have lived many “good lives” and many not so good. Sometimes I was living “the good life” and “the bad life” at the same time. But generally, these days, I consider the good life for Ed and me to include these things: The basics of family, friends, health, reliable transportation, secure employment and income, sustainable food-shelter-clothing. To those necessities of life in America, I would add the extra things that add joy and pleasure to our lives: Internet access, a dog, books, music, a digital camera, quilting and other creative opportunities. I have to include a cozy fire in the wood stove during the winter; one of Ed’s home-cooked meals; the serendipity of seeing a deer, owl, wild turkey, or moose; a neighborhood walk on a sunny spring day; the first snowfall of the season; the gorgeous autumn foliage, going through my “past box” and reminiscing. Then there are the real intangibles: Hearing from old friends, celebrating weddings and births, watching my grandchildren play, learning something new about myself, laughter, enjoying what I do for a living, teaching a skill to someone, doing a good deed, giving to charity, or watching another person discover his/her passion.

My favorite magazine these days is Experience Life. If I could afford it, I would buy a subscription for each person I know. If you are interested in a richer, healthier, more sustainable and happy life, I highly recommend reading it on a regular basis. There is an article in this month’s issue called "The Better Good Life: An Essay on Personal Sustainability," written by Pilar Gerasimo (Editor-in-Chief of the magazine). Here is an excerpt:

So, what exactly is a “good life”?,,,We’d prefer a life that feels good in the moment, but that also lays the ground for a promising future - a life, like the cherry tree’s, that contributes something of value and that benefits and enriches the lives of others, or at least doesn’t cause them anxiety and harm. Unfortunately, historically, our pursuit of the good life has focused on increasing our material wealth and upgrading our socioeconomic status in the short term. And, in the big picture, that approach has not turned out quite the way we might have hoped.

For too many, the current version of “the good life” involves working too-long hours and driving too-long commutes. It has us worrying and running ourselves ragged, overeating to soothe ourselves, watching TV to distract ourselves, binge-shopping to sate our desire for more, and popping prescription pills to keep troubling symptoms at bay. This version of “the good life” has given us only moments a day with the people we love, and virtually no time or inclination to participate as citizens or community members.

It has also given us anxiety attacks; obesity; depression; traffic jams; urban sprawl; crushing daycare bills; a broken healthcare system; record rates of addiction, divorce, and incarceration; an imploding economy; and a planet in peril.

From an economic standpoint, we’re more productive than we’ve ever been. We’ve focused on getting more done in less time. We’ve surrounded ourselves with technologies designed to make our lives easier, more comfortable, and more amusing.

Yet, instead of making us happy and healthy, all this has left a great many of us feeling depleted, lonely, strapped, stressed, and resentful. We don’t have enough time for ourselves, our loved ones, our creative aspirations, or our communities.

The article is way too long to quote here, but Ms. Gerasimo talks about the times (encompassing all areas of our lives) when we choose short-term satisfaction over long-term goals, not considering how our choices will affect our own lives as well as those sharing this planet with us. She reports that as the Gross Domestic Product has tripled over 54 years, our Genuine Progress Indicator (the environmental and social effects, including happiness), has not gained much, and that gap between the two is widening.

She ends the article with 3 questions to ask ourselves:
1. Given the option, would I do or choose this again? Would I do it indefinitely?
2. How long can I keep this up, and at what cost - not just to me, but to the other people and systems I care about?
3. What have I sacrificed to get here; what will it take for me to continue? Are the rewards worth it, even if the other areas of my life suffer?

It all comes down to your interpretation of “the good life.” Considering the impact our life choices have on ourselves and those around us, they are questions I guess we need to continue asking throughout our journey. Happy Earth Day, April 22nd!

Kudos to Spokane


I really can't comment on the attitudes interviewed in this story. My mama taught me that if you don't have anything nice to say to not say anything at all.

Let's Face It

I consider myself relatively computer literate. I mean, I know how to create a blog and post and edit. I can work with and manipulate digital pictures. I work at home on a Mac and at the hospital on a PC. I send and receive e-mail and can pay bills online and shop online and order pictures to be printed off at my local Walgreen’s. But heaven help me - today I joined Facebook and I am drowning in technological awe. I bow down to those who can navigate that alien world.

My husband Ed was kind of scared of letting me put more personal information out there on the Internet - but, of course, Ed is scared of everything technological. I was so excited the day when he actually learned how to turn our computer on. I was doubly excited when he could click on the Safari icon, and triply excited when he could even look up a bookmark I had saved for him and go to his chosen site. Hmmm...I should probably never have shown him how to put items in a cart, but he still has to come get me in order to check out. There are some things he never needs to learn.

Anyway, under Rachel’s encouragement, I joined Facebook tonight. I thought that all I had to do was sign up and then I could look around. I was wrong. Facebook had me click on this, click on that, then gave me a list of people it figured I knew. Some were familiar - my kids and their spouses, a few friends - but some I never even heard of. I thought Facebook was asking me if I wanted to go see their profiles, so I started clicking away. Before I could say, “Yikes!” I realized that e-mails were being sent to all these people to confirm I was their “friend.” Afterward, I tried to remember on whom I had clicked. Would they even know who I was? Was there someone somewhere who gets this confirmation e-mail and thinks, “Who the heck is THAT?”

Next, I had to take a picture of myself. It’s not my favorite thing to do - in fact, I avoid it religiously - but that generic silhouette up at the top of my profile looked kind of weird. I have a built-in camera in my iMac, but my computer is in my messy sewing room/office and I don’t have good lighting, and the background is always cluttered. Enough excuses - I did some more clicking and got my photo up there.

Oh, look - I have a message on the screen! It says my daughter deigns to be my “friend.” Oh, the excitement! I must reply! But I have no idea how. I can’t see a “reply” button. I don’t know all these terms - what’s a wall? Wall-to-wall? It’s all so intimidating. And to think even kids in elementary school can do this.

It isn’t long before I realize that a person could spend HOURS on this site. I’m on a journey to simplicity - I don’t have HOURS to spend. I barely find the time to blog once a week or so. Fortunately, Facebook didn’t have me click on a button which made me promise to check in 30 times a day. At least I don’t think I clicked on that button. Who knows? I was pretty extravagant with that mouse trying to set all this stuff up.

Technology is the insidious beast on many a Road to Simplicity. First it pleasantly surprises you, then leaves for a bit and you get back to your other duties and relationships. The next thing you know, it starts walking with you more frequently until one day, you realize you’re palling around with technology so much on the Road that you have lost track of time and have missed some beautiful scenery.

Ed says every blessing has a curse, and every curse a blessing. That’s certainly true of technology. Joining Facebook? Intriguing and free. Being able to check my e-mail and see a picture of my precious granddaughters? Priceless! I think I’ll be thankful for technology, and I’ll accept it on my journey to simplicity. I just need to remember to use it as one of many tools to make my life richer and make the walk a little more pleasant. As long as it stays in its proper place, I will enjoy the company.

Now....what the heck is wall-to-wall????