Wednesday, June 29, 2011

in clover: rest a minute

This summer hasn't exactly worked out as I planned.  Back in mid-May, I wrote this post for my other blogging gig, over on The Bluevine Collective.  As I reflect over the past month, I realize that despite "clearing my plate", life has continued to be very busy and I haven't checked much off on that list of things I intended to do this summer. (This might make more sense if you read the post but I can't promise anything.)

While I have done a bit of walking, I haven't read a single book...and I'm someone who can knock out a book (or two) per weekend. In fact, I've just received a notice from the library, letting me know that the Paul Knitter book mentioned in the above BVC post is now overdue. I'm only a few pages into the first chapter.

I've not picked berries, and my garden is struggling, I mean, REALLY struggling!  I've only boiled eggs, tried no new recipes at all and despite the lovely June weather, I haven't spent much time sitting in the garden, with or without coffee, watching my chickens.

I am definitely experiencing how extremely difficult it is to truly, genuinely make some space and room in our busy, busy lives.  I probably should only speak for myself here.  I am finding it extremely difficult to make time for sacred silence.  And I am experiencing just how clearly I resist silence and stillness, even as I very loudly and publicly proclaim my desire for both. 

In spiritual direction last week, I confessed that I was finding it difficult to read, impossible to journal (or write for publication with any real depth at all) and also, I noticed while walking and sharing with my friends that I talk more than they do.   Quite a bit more.  (I am blessed with patient and loving friends.  Thank you.  I love you.) 

It was gently suggested to me that all of the difficulties I am currently experiencing have one thing in common.  They all involve NOT listening.  I was asked to name what it is I am avoiding hearing but I had no answer.  I'm sitting with that question.  Well, sort of. 

Funny thing is, even at this level of busy-ness, I do not accomplish even one smidegeon of what many, actually, what MOST of my friends accomplish. (I have patient, loving and accomplished friends!) To be honest, that really bugs me.  To be perfectly honest, it really bugs me a lot!

I want to be accomplished too.  And isn't that what this summer was supposed to be about?  A period of discernment...time for me to hear what God is asking (telling) me to accomplish?

The (nearly obsessed) planning, list making, do-er me got busy thinking about and making a list all about how I could do more.  And that's just so I can  feel like I am merely (sort of) keeping up.

And then I remembered.  Turns out I have employed that strategy before and it failed quite miserably.  And left me quite miserable.  And my family even more miserable.

Clearly, I have plenty to sit with.  That is, if I ever actually sit.  

A few mornings ago I found myself with nothing to do and nowhere to be. First time all summer!  I wandered out to the garden with a cup of coffee  and had a seat. Within two minutes I was up and rearranging the garden. I moved lots of things.  

My hens, despite their clipped wings, have proved to be very accomplished escape artists.  There is a ledge between their coop and the aviary where I used to place a trio of flowers in pots.   But the girls used the sloped coop roof like a ladder and helped themselves to a nice snack of violas and geraniums!  The violas were on their last leg but hey, leggo my geranium!

So (although it nearly killed me) I decided to be practical and leave the ledge bare.  It's really hard for me to leave most any flat surface bare.   And come to find out, it wasn't a very good idea anyway because that nice flat surface really encouraged the hens to hop the fence so I replaced the flower pots with three (let's hope) non-edible vintage galvanized watering cans.   

I was left with what to do with those three flower pots so I flipped three old buckets upside down,  creating a bit of a plant stand effect.

Then I had to rearrange the French baker's rack that houses the rest of the galvanized.  It ended up looking like this...

I love my old tool collection so I left these lying about, as part of the vignette.  

The whole thing ended up looking like this... 

It was at that point that I realized I was no longer sitting.  Or being still, in the least.  And my head was FAR from silent.  

So I made myself sit down.  But as soon as I sat down, I thought I should get a shot of my view while sitting. For the blog.  And that's when I noticed which coffee mug I had (not intentionally) chosen that morning. 

Rest a minute.  Ok, universe.  Got it.  Well, I really don't GOT it but I think I've got it



P.S.  I don't really think it's so much about "resting" as it is about "listening." I'll keep you posted. 


Monday, June 27, 2011

in clover: empty nest

If you are wondering, I am still waiting.  Still an empty nester. Not a single egg yet. 

My friend suggested that my girls are enjoying their fancy "French - Kentucky" lifestyle and don't care to have any babies to tie them down.  

That gave me pause!

When I chose to incorporate the antique French aviary into my chicken run, I never anticipated that particular problem. 

I'll keep you posted. 



Thursday, June 23, 2011

in clover: egg envy

After finding my vintage French egg basket lying about the garden in various locations, I decided it would be best to hang it near the nesting boxes built into the side of our chicken coop.  I needed quite a long hook for it to "look right." I was just sure I had some old plant hooks hidden away in the shed or basement for an occasion such as this but alas, they were not to be found.  

I did discover a trio of vintage french light fixtures I picked up in Normandy and tucked away because, well, you NEVER KNOW when you will need a trio of vintage French light fixtures.  Seriously.  Looking at the fixture I realized....

that it is just the right size and it looks like a hook.  If the wiring were gone, as well as the "thingy that the lightbulb screws into", well, it would BE a quite charming hook.  Don't you agree?

Don't really care for the big silver screws Michael used to mount it to the fence, but I will take that up with him later.

Removing the old wiring and the "thingy that the light bulb screws into" is just fine. You should ALWAYS rewire vintage lighting.  Kits for rewiring are inexpensive and easy to use, do not risk a fire.  Rewire! 

And, if you buy a fixture from outside the US the "thingy that the light bulb screws into" will have to be replaced anyway.  So I have not harmed this fixture in the least by using it as a hook. 

I have to tell all my buying trips to the French countryside, I found and purchased many egg baskets but never, not even once, did it ever occur to me that I might use one for...gathering eggs

(I really can't stand those silver screws)....but here is my basket, hanging right by the nesting boxes.  Hens like to lay eggs in a bit of a secluded, cozy space but they will also share nests so we have two nesting boxes for six hens.  Actually, it's one box divided in two.  

Just an hour or so after it was hung, the phone rang.

It was my friend John-Mark.  I purchased my hens from John-Mark and his wife.  Back in February, after moving to a new home,  they were getting a new flock started.  They knew I was interested in starting a micro-flock so they offered me some of their babies.  I took six and John-Mark gave the other extras to his niece.

He identified himself on the phone and then said,  "Lisa," (short dramatic pause)  "...I got an egg today." 

And I squealed!  And I squealed...and I squealed again.  SOOO exciting!

I wanted ALL the details..."Which one laid it?  What color?  How big?"

SOOO exciting!

That was last night.  I have checked the coop numerous times today hoping for an egg of my own.  I think I have injured my shoulder from lifting the coop roof over and over.  A friend gently suggested my hens might be experiencing "performance anxiety." 

And then, this afternoon, I got a photo text.  John-Mark's niece has an egg too!  A lovely light brown egg. 

Serious egg envy has set in.

I went outside and had a chat with the girls.  "It's time!"  I told them.  "You are big girls now.  Time to get down to business."   They just looked at me. 

Truth be told, I am having so much fun with these chickens I had almost FORGOTTEN about them actually laying eggs...but if the rest of the flock is producing, well, I want an egg too. So I am sitting.  And waiting.

Michael asked what I am up to.  "I have a glass of wine and I am waiting."  I replied.  "Waiting for what?"  he asked.  "My egg." I replied.  

He mumbled something that sounded an awful lot like, "A watched chicken never lays an egg"  and wandered off.

He's probably right but I really, really don't want to miss it. 

I'll keep you posted.



Sunday, June 19, 2011

in clover: little c's perfect polka dot party

It's Birthday Princess time at our house. 

Little c LOVES a good party and she invites everyone she sees...young or old, friend or foe, she'll ask you to her party.  Seriously, I have made the acquaintance of several neighbors after c flagged them down from across the street, issuing a personal invitation to some upcoming event.  I have heard her playing with her dolls, saying, "Come on in...there's PLENTY of room." 

I keep reminding myself, I am now the QUEEN OF GOOD ENOUGH so even though we want the party to be super cute and oodles of fun, I don't want to drive myself nuts over it. Here's our recipe for a fun and festive party that is "us" but doesn't turn mommy into an evil witch.      

I would call myself creative in many different ways but entertaining small children at a birthday party is not one of them. I have accepted this!  For this years fete, Little c requested a repeat of last year's venue...Bounce U. We had a great time there last year so I thought, "why not?"  They will do pretty much everything for you, if you want.  They'll even order the cake and balloons and provide all the plates and napkins. 

However,  little c and I were not content to let the Bounce U staff have ALL the fun...we wanted to pick our own party decorations and of course, our own cake.  We weren't sure what we wanted but we knew it had to be "super cute" and also not too "matchy matchy."   

Off to the giant (but locally owned and PROUD of it) party store we went.    The first thing we found were these cute polka dot goodie bags....

My hint for shopping a large party store:  Look at EVERYTHING.  Go down every aisle, scanning the different themes.  We found the polka dot goodie bags in the "Baby's First Birthday" section.   We liked them much better than the bags we saw in the "big girl" aisle.  

Next, mix and match everything up.  In two other sections of the store we found these striped and polka dot paper tablecloths and striped party hats.  c liked the butterfly. Me too. It would have been great fun to design and make our own hats....but I keep repeating the mantra, "good enough.  good enough." 

Using stamps is a fun and easy way to personalize your party.  A few years ago, my friend Liz brought me a gift wrapped in plain white paper with my monogram stamped in black, right in the center. It was so elegant!  I've been crazy for stamps ever since. 

The office supply store is a great place to find craft items, usually a little less expensive than a craft store. Little c and I chose these key tag rings from the office supply store. 

We always keep a good supply of curly ribbon on hand.  LOVE curly ribbon.  It feels so ABUNDANT but doesn't cost much at all. The colors are so pretty when all mixed up.  Little c chose pink, purple and green from the curly ribbon bin. 

c stuffed the bags each with a pair of sunglasses and a confetti bouncey ball and then added her own personal candy picks....Nerds, Laffy Taffy and Sweetarts.  We spread the bags out on the French farm table in the dining room and got to work.

We stamped each side of the key tag, one side with a "c" (and three polka dots) and the other with the number six.  We tied up the whole shebang with lots of curly ribbon. Then we found an extra large basket and heaped them up.

We also found these cute wish napkins in yet another section of the party store.  To keep things simple (and to keep our cost reasonable), we chose solid hot pink paper plates.  Plain but colorful paper plates and napkins are much cheaper than decorated ones.  Choose one or the other in a pretty but plain color for a more sophisticated look and a lower total at the check-out counter.  

Before leaving for the party, little c spent some time eyeing the gifts waiting for her at home.  I save all my gift bags..we've used the large fairy bag many times. We've used the big pink bow many times as well. And I like to buy inexpensive paper bags from the Dollar Store and stamp them.  Top 'em off with some curly ribbon...the more the better.  I was in a hurry here so I used less than usual.  (good enough....good enough).

Once we arrived at Bounce U, it was all fun and games for the birthday girl and her guests...

And then it was time for cake and ice cream.  Remember the cute "wish" napkins and hot pink plates?  Mama left 'em at home!  Still, with the polka dot tablecloths and balloons, things looked festive even with the stock Bounce U plates and napkins which were thankfully plain white.  And c didn't notice.  At least, not yet! 

Definitely would have been cuter with the wish napkins and plates but as the Queen of Good Enough,  I know I need to learn to let some things go. 

The (strawberry) polka dot cake, from our neighborhood bakery, turned out really cute.  And yummy, too.  No matter how simple or elaborate the party, my kids always enjoy the singing the best...

When we came home, she got to dive into those gifts...

And found a new friend.

Cliches are cliches for a reason.  Time goes so quickly and they grow up so fast.  I can't really wrap my head around it.  I think she had a great time and thoroughly enjoyed her party and I know I did. 

Do you have any cute (good enough) ideas to share for a child's birthday party?  Post them in the comments!



Tuesday, June 14, 2011

in clover: plan b

This photo of our raised veggie bed was taken in mid May.  In late April, Mike picked up a load of 50-50 topsoil / organic compost from a local place.  Meanwhile, Central Kentucky experienced the wettest April on record.  When Mike loaded the soil into the new raised beds, it smelled to high heaven.  I was really concerned and even gave the folks a call.  I was afraid we had received uncomposted horse manure and I wasn't sure I should plant.  Horse manure is excellent for a garden but it must be well composted.  I was assured that there was no manure in our compost and it was ready to plant. 

Here it is as of yesterday.  Unfortunately, in six weeks time there has been very little growth and blooms wither almost immediately, instead of setting fruit. I don't think we were intentionally given hot compost but I do think we got soil that was not ready for use.  Next time I will listen to my inner voice and trust my instincts.

When I brought my plants home from Wilson's Nursery in mid May, they were healthy and beautiful and the smell had subsided from the bed. I remember thinking that maybe it had just been too wet. I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.  I got the plants in the ground the same afternoon.  I noticed the soil had quite a bit of clay clods and a hardpack had formed on the top.  I stripped off the hardpack and watered everything really well. 

This photo is of a tomato plant I planted in my own compost (taken today).

And this is a tomato plant planted at the same time, in the topsoil/compost blend I purchased locally. 

I knew it was the soil that was the problem because I planted directly in the ground last summer in this same location and despite the severe drought and my sporadic watering,  I still got a good harvest.  I needed a rescue was time for PLAN B.

With the growth of two trees which were saplings when we moved here, much of the sunny spaces in our back garden are now shady spaces.  I had to get creative.  In the end, I removed one each of the acorn and zucchini squash plants, three tomatoes, and three peppers and put them here, on the edge of the perennial bed. I'm calling this the "potager." 

In the raised bed, I removed the rest of the plants and dug nice sized planting holes which I filled with organic top soil Mike purchased in a hurry from Home Depot.  (Remember...this is a rescue plan!) 

 My neighbor told me that the problem with "hot" compost is that it leaches the water from the soil.  He thinks my rescue plan might work and advised me to overwater.  So that's what I am doing.  Only time will tell. 

This is gardening.  There are no guarantees.  Things change...a tree matures and a sun garden becomes a shade garden.  Or an ice storm takes down a tree and a shade garden becomes a sun garden.  Some years we get drought, some years we get flood.  Some years we get both. Sometimes, we get hot compost.  It's just how it is. That's gardening.  That's life.  We need to find a way to get ok with a Plan B. If we want to feel peaceful, that is. 

Sometimes Plan B can turn out to be what some people call a "blessing in disguise."  I really love the new potager.  That area of my  garden needed something and I didn't know what.  I've tried different things but who knew tomatoes and peppers would be just the ticket! And the zuchinni that I was going to try to grow vertical (which apparently is not easy) now has plenty of room to spread out...both in the potager and in the raised bed.  And I've learned a lot about the science of soil which will make me a better gardener. 

I may have a diminished and / or late harverst this year but I feel confident I WILL have a harvest.

Elsewhere around the garden, things are going really well. While I was rummaging in the shed, I found this old french faucet I forgot I had.

The basil I started from seed and transplanted to a tub in the perennial bed is doing great.  That's purple spider wort behind it.  I pulled that out a few years ago because it drove me crazy.  It was always flopping over.  But a sprig of it remained and it is quite large again.  But now, the tub holds it upright.  Everyone is happy.   

The coneflowers are ready to bloom...

There are a few tomatoes on the vine....

Little c and I planted these begonias in a vintage French wire egg basket for our outdoor dining table.  She brought them home from church on Mother's Day. 

The ross moss is my favorite in the window boxes this year.  So lovely.

And there is even more basil in a pot by the French aviary, a nice sunny spot.  I really love basil.  Just have to keep it out of pecking distance.  Chickens love basil too.  

How is your garden growing?  Am I the only one on Plan B? 

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