Saturday, February 28, 2015

Collecting Cities

Kim and I were at it again! It was 2007 and I was studying abroad in Zurich. We decided that we would commence another European Adventure together so we met in Madrid to explore Spain and Portugal.

Photo Credit to Kim

Between the two of us we snapped a thousand photos. We took pictures constantly. It became compulsive by the end of the trip. I was fixated on the notion that if anything caught my attention I needed to capture it immediately and keep it for all time. No detail escaped my lens, no meal was left documented.  

Photo Credit to Kim- Barcelona, Spain

On the second to last day of our trip we split up. Kim didn't mind riding overnight in the crowded, sitting car in the back of the train. I was still exhausted from our first attempt at sitting up on the overnight train, so I paid the extra cash and got myself a bed for the night. I shared a room with 3 quiet backpackers and enjoyed a decent night of sleep, rocking back and forth over the Spanish countryside. When we arrived in Madrid, we hastily jumped the gun and got off a few stops too soon. In our rush, I did not check my bed to be sure I grabbed all my belongings. 

Photo Credit to Kim- Sagovia, Spain

As the train zoomed away in the distance, I stood on the underground platform and began to cry. I suddenly felt naked, like something REALLY important was missing. I started dumping out my bag and pulling out pockets. My gestures were futile, I left my camera on the train. Two weeks of photos were gone in an instant. 

Photo Credit to Kim- Madrid Palace

Kim felt terribly for me and reminded me that she took plenty of photos and she would share all of them with me. I knew that was true, but I could not deny the loss that I felt. All those interesting angles, all the images I wanted to be the keep, the poses, the cumulative hours I spent setting up the perfect shots...gone. Not to mention that I had another trip back to back with this one that I wanted to document. I was a college student, I couldn't afford to buy a new camera! I couldn't afford the one I lost which was a gift from my Aunt.

Photo Credit to Kim- Lisbon, Portugal

When I pulled myself together enough to leave the station. I was curious to find that I was feeling lighter and lighter with each step I took towards the brightness of day at the top of the stairs. By the time we walked into the first restaurant we could find, I was feeling free. We sat down and ordered a pitcher of fresh Sangria and split a huge pan of Paella. It was a feast and we celebrated the unbelievable two weeks we spent together. I only thought about my camera a little bit.

We parted ways later that night and I flew to France to meet two more friends who wanted to travel in the South for a couple weeks. During that time, I experienced what it was like to travel without a camera. Standing awe-struck under the Eiffel Tower, I saw things I missed before. It was grander and closer than I remembered it through my photos. Walking the shores of Nice, I enjoyed long lingering stares taking in the whole coastline uninhibited. My hands were free to touch the sand, the rocks, the earth, and the food I wanted to discover. I was exonerated from this strange burden. 

Photo Credit to Julia- Nice, France

My hands were free, my eyes were free, but more importantly, my mind was free. I realized that as soon as the camera was in my possession I was possessed by an irrational desire to capture the world around me. Everything I saw was just a picture I needed to take instead of a unique moment in time that I will not ever get to experience this way again. I felt alive, real. I watched my friends scurry to capture a sunset, missing most of it as they dug through their purses to find their cameras, and I wondered why did I ever live like this?

Photo Credit to Julia- Nice, France

I thought back to all my adventures from the years before and with some discomfort, I realized that I saw most of the Grand Cities of Europe through the lens of my camera. I was trying to capture them all and keep them. Somehow, I thought I could experience them the same way when I looked at the photos, but it doesn't work like that. My photos are 2D reminders of a 3D experience that I did not live into. 

Photo Credit to Julia- Nice, France "Feeling Free"

Remembering that experience, I wonder if I subconsciously left my camera on the train. 

Today, I still travel and I still take lots of photos, but I learned a very important lesson that Spring. I don't photograph the world like I used to, I experience it.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Part 2: Cry-ercise

Last Spring, I wrote about Cry-ercise with the hopes that readers would give their tear-ducts a workout from time to time to help detox their bodies. I still believe that crying is a very important way that we can become healthier, happier people. Apparently, my method of "milking" is not unique, though. 

My husband showed me a sketch by comedian, Dane Cook. He describes my method perfectly while giving it a catchy name: "Weep-a-thon". I have to admit, I could not even laugh the first time that I watched this because I thought he must have been spying on me for most of my life. I was pretty stunned by the accuracy of his humor. Seeing it multiple times now, I laugh out loud and appreciate what he is able to convey through raw human experience. It is a gift to cry and it is a gift to laugh. It's awesome to have another person who is on the same page.

"Weep-a-thon" by Dane Cook

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Candle Making

A couple I admired as a teen once told me that they made a vow to light candles everyday. Lighting candles had a much deeper connotation. It meant, taking the time to linger in one place for a while, to spend time together, to celebrate. I loved the meaning behind it and vowed that I too, would always make that effort when I was grown. 

Candle made by John and me
Now that I am in school to become a Spiritual Director, I am understanding the spiritual  importance of lighting candles. It is an instant way to bring a sense of warmth and invitation to a room. It can be done with an intention like remembering the Spirit is present in this place bringing light into our lives. Lighting a candle is a simple way to show that you are present to a moment, a space, a person, holiness. It is attributed with offering, taking the time to present the effort of light to the Holy and the Sacred. In light of this symbolism, Joel and I try to light a candle anytime we sit down for dinner together. I light a candle when we are reading in the living room or when I am journaling alone, or when we have friends over. For me, a candle is a reminder of life and being whole in the Light. 

Setting the mood
This is all well and good, but one must also recognize that candles come at a price. I used to be a candle snob when I began this journey and wanted only to have Yankee candles in my house. I thought they smelled heavenly and I liked that they seemed to last the longest of any candles I'd previously used. The trouble is, Yankee candles are crazy expensive. After a while, one of my friends began to sell Mia Bella candles and those burned almost as long as Yankee and smelled just as good. They were also about $10 cheaper which I considered a plus. Last year, I was wandering around Walmart with a friend and was shocked to discover some pretty nice 20oz candles for $5. I immediately began to question where this candle snobbery ever originated and bought myself a few Walmart candles for our house. 

Every time a candle would burn until the wick was gone, I'd just throw away the glass and buy a new one. That is, until last fall.

Candle Jars I used to just throw away that I now reuse

It was a Friday night and my friend, John, called me up and asked if I'd be interested in making candles with him. I said I'd love to, so we met at Michaels. We bought some paraffin wax, a package of wicks and some oil scents. He had a collection of mason jars at his house so we just headed to his kitchen to get to work.

We chopped up the wax and melted it on a double boiler on the stove. When the wax was totally melted we poured in the scent and stirred it well with a spoon. Then we formed a cone with some newspaper (because we did not have a funnel). We stood the wicks in the mason jars and very carefully (and slowly) poured the wax into the jars (making sure that we did not loose the wick in the process). We used chopsticks to hold the wick straight up while the wax cooled and discovered that if you wash the pots out with hot water they clean in seconds.

We were stunned that with 8 pounds of wax we could make 7 large candles and had only spent $20 each. Michael's is one of the more expensive craft shops in town, so we wondered how much we could find wax for online or elsewhere to continue this candle making journey. Over time we found better deals and then discovered something more important: wax is everywhere. 

Candles that burn wicks fast and leave lots of wax behind- easy to reuse

I started to notice wax all over the place. Those candle jars with a little wax left in the bottom that I threw away could easily be melted down and added to a new candle. The chunky decorative candles that burn out in a few hours can be melted down to make more candles. It just happened that I was to help clean out my grandparents house and in the process I came across a store of wick-less candles that my grandmother had saved for some reason. I ended up with around 25 pounds of multicolored candles ready to melt down and give new life.

One of 4 bags I collected from my Grandparents house (all with destroyed wicks which you can pull out and use again once you melt the wax down).

I started keeping old jars, pottery, mugs, anything that I didn't really have a functional use for and began melting down my found wax to make new candles. We even spent an  evening learning how to burn the ends off beer and wine bottles to make glass jars for our candles. This proved much more tricky than YouTube made it seem, by the way. Suddenly a new world had opened up to me and I realized how much I had wasted. I can make my own candles. 

Odd shaped candles also can leave behind lots of extra wax to reuse.

Making candles is easy, it requires very little set up or clean up and all we have needed to purchase are wicks and scents (if we want scents). I am learning to make my own wicks (reuse ones that were trapped inside wax) and to use herbs and essential oils that I already have to scent my candles. After all this, it is hard to remember why I used to buy candles.

It is a satisfying thought to know that it is possible to light a candle everyday without burning through your money.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Filtered Water

Two years ago, my Aunt spent some time researching water filtration systems for her home. Living in the Florida jungle on well water overtaken by iron and silt, this was a very important move for her family's health. In the process of researching, she came across a company called "Berkey". Berkey creates portable water purification systems. This was exactly what she was hoping to find and it would mean that she could filter her tap water and she could use her Berkey to purify pond or lake water if a hurricane should knock out their well during a storm. It was the perfect system. She was so impressed with it that she bought a Berkey light system for everyone in the family so that we could all live healthier lives. 

Photo credit to Berkey 

Berkey black filters are some of the best ceramic filters available to the public. These filters are able to remove 99.9% of water contaminates. They remove organic matter, bacteria, viruses, chemicals (like chlorine), metals, and volatile organic substances. In other words, you could poop in the top of your Berkey and the water that filters to the bottom will be 99% pure by the time it reaches your lips. They also last a lifetime if you clean time properly (every few years, depending on what you filter). 

Having this purification system available in our home opens the door for us to make beneficial choices for our health. We can choose not to drink chlorine and fluoride which is automatically added to our city water. Chlorine has been linked to inhibiting iodine absorption in the body which can slow your thyroid and weaken your immune system (without iodine, your body cannot absorb vital minerals needed to live). It is amazing to simply have that option.

Photo credit to Berkey

This system also allows us to use other sources for water in times of need just like my Aunt hoped for. It gives us the freedom to collect water and purify it or find another water source if something goes terribly wrong here like a natural disaster. It also makes it very easy to make delicious beneficial drinks and food like our Kombucha which requires filtered water in order to brew it. 

Joel and I both carry Nalgene bottles to ensure that we are getting enough water everyday (enough water equals- 1/2 your body weight in ounces). Nalgene bottles (or bottles like them) are great because they are BPA free which means they will not leach chemicals into your water over time (chemicals linked typically to cancer).  When purchasing a reusable water-bottle it is important to note if it is BPA free. Throw-away bottles are not BPA free and should not be refilled and used multiple times, especially being left in a hot car because the plastic will leach into the water you are consuming. We refill our Nalgenes with purified water from our Berkey system which provides us good drinking water (chemical free) and saves us money. We save hundreds of dollars each year by not buying filtered water at the store. This also means that we are not throwing away hundreds of plastic bottles each year so we have reduced our waste drastically. It is a win for us and the Earth. Plus, we can avoid city water with all it's additions when we fill up.

Photo credit Nalgene

The Berkey System is pricey on the front end, but it will pay off in the end. Consider it an investment in your health and your future which I believe is always worthy cause. 

Thank you for making this possible for us, Aunt Bobbi.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


Since July, I have been drinking Kombucha almost everyday. This has been made possible because I am making it myself. 

  1. Kombucha is a fermented sweetened tea that has been around for centuries. It is slightly tangy and slightly sweet, and a great treat on a summer day. Just as with water kefir, Kombucha can be double fermented into a fizzy soda with a slight fruit taste." Wikipedia
  2. Kombucha has been around for more than 2,000 years. It was known by the Chinese as the "Elixir of Life". It has extraordinary health benefits and antioxidant properties, which have been known to ward off cancer (particularly of the colon). It is a probiotic and by definition, it will improve gut-health. Improving gut-health means strengthening the immune system. It works to detoxify your liver and kidneys which improves your energy and overall vitality. In short, it is a delicious miracle drink of love. 
  3. If you would like to read more about this please check out this post by Tom Valentine at Search for Health Magazine via (1993 when Kombucha knowledge was introduced to the United States).
  4. This is how we make it:
1. Acquire  a scoby or grow one.

The Scoby is the fungus that ferments the tea to it's level of healthy goodness. People who already grow them know that when they get to be about an inch thick it is time to split the scoby and find a home for it's other half. This is how we came by our two scoby-babies. My mother-in-law grew them and split hers to start me making my own "booch". If you are interested in growing your own then check out Cultures for Health for various options and instructions on all things Kombucha.

This is my scoby- it looks like a jellyfish 

2. Add 12 cups of filtered water to a pot and bring it to a boil. Tap water could kill the scoby so be certain to use filtered water. 

Photo Credit Berkey Water Purification

3. Once it is boiling, add 1 cup of organic cane sugar or 3/4 cup of pasteurized honey (do not use raw honey because it has its own enzymes that might damage the scoby).        *Hint-The scoby is a living organism.

4. Make sure the honey or sugar dissolves and then add two bags of organic black tea and two bags of organic green tea. Turn off the burner and let the tea steep.

5. When the tea-water is at a temperature between 90-98 degrees Fahrenheit then pour the liquid (minus the tea bags) into a gallon jug (glass only to prevent chemical leaching from plastic or metal which could also damage the scoby).

6. With clean hands, add the scoby to the gallon jar (it should float on the surface for the most part). Then cover your jar with clean muslin or cheese cloth so the scoby can breathe.

Our Kombucha fermenting

7. Put your jar in a place that will stay a consistent temperature of around 60-75 degrees and let it ferment for 2-4 weeks. We have found that 2 weeks makes a carbonated, sweet Kombucha and 4 weeks makes a less bubbly-sweet more funky Kombucha (I prefer the later). 

Harvesting your Kombucha

1. With clean hands, remove your Scoby and place it in a glass or plastic bowl with 1/4 cup of Kombucha juice to keep it saturated. Cover it with the muslin or cheese cloth to keep out contamination.

2. With a plastic strainer, pour the contents of your jar into the vessel you would like to store the "Booch" in. We like to use beer growlers. The strainer helps to pull out the baby fungus that has formed in the bottom. They are a bit slimy and are an unpleasant texture to sipping your kombucha if you leave them in.

Helpful supplies to have 

3. Prepare a new batch of water, sugar/honey, tea to add the scoby to as soon as possible.

4. Drink to your health!

If you are not able to make your own Kombucha then you can buy it in stores and specialty shops. Be prepared to spend around $4.00 for around 8-12 ounces. Locally, in Charlotte, we have a great "Booch" brewery called "Lenny Boy". They have Kombucha both on tap and in bottles at their Brewery and they sell their products at Seventh Street Market, Common Market, Rhino MarketAtherton Market and other locations around town. They have a variety of flavors which are possible to make at home. This requires a little bit of research to be sure that the flavors you'd like to add to your brew will not hurt the scoby. Typical flavors that are safe to brew with your tea are: mint, rose, jasmine, ginger. I have tried Mint (dried from my herb garden and added to the brewing tea), Jasmine (organic and dried), Rose (organic and dried). 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Church Stopped at the Tomb

During this time of Lent...

Lent is a season of the Christian Year where Christians focus on simple living, prayer, and fasting in order to grow closer to God. It's the forty days before Easter. Lent excludes Sundays because every Sunday is like a little Easter.

... I've been exploring what it means to be part of the church. In a quick correspondence with my Uncle today, he sent me some thoughtful words in response to my explorations of what church might be for me in this period of my life. He started by reminding me of what Jesus said at the Last Supper...

The Last Supper is the final meal that, in the Gospel accounts, Jesus shared with his Apostles in Jerusalem before his crucifixion. The Last Supper is commemorated by Christians especially on Maundy Thursday.
27-28 Jesus told them, “You’re all going to feel that your world is falling apart and that it’s my fault. There’s a Scripture that says,
I will strike the shepherd;
The sheep will go helter-skelter.
But after I am raised up, I will go ahead of you, leading the way to Galilee.

Jesus told the Disciples and anyone present at this meal, that he is going to die and that he will be resurrected. Even more importantly, that he will go ahead of them leading the way into Galilee. Wow! How many times have I read this and not ever considered those words? He will go ahead of us into Galilee.

Photography by Gage Bulick

Galilee is in Northern Israel and it is the region where Jesus was born and raised. This is where Jesus came from and where he lived most of his life. Nazareth, Capernaum, these were both in the region of Galilee and were both home to some of his greatest miracles and sermons. 
After Jesus was killed, he was buried in a tomb for three days before any of his loved ones could come and anoint his body (which was traditional at the time). This was very troubling for many who wished to perform these rites of burial properly for the Lord they loved so dearly. They could not get to the tomb because it was being guarded by the political and religious officials who did not want to have the Disciples hiding his body and claiming that he rose again. This could possibly create a dangerous uprising from a people who were already causing ripples that the officials were nervous about. Jesus had ignited quite a stir over the last three years before his crucifixion, and when he raised his friend Lazarus who had been dead three days, this really was the last straw. Jesus had officially become threatening to the powers that be.

Side note, the thing about being dead three days was a big deal. The Jews believed that when you died your soul lingered with your body for three days so there was a chance of the dead person coming back to life somehow. If you were dead for three days this possibility was now gone because your soul had left the premises.  Jesus was dead-dead when his followers were finally able to get to his tomb.

Photography by Gage Bulick

Maybe you know this part of the story, 3 women who were his followers also, arrived at the tomb early on the third day and were stunned to see that the huge stone that had been placed in front of it had been rolled away. The women went inside and saw two men dressed in white robes who appeared to be gleaming. The men asked them who they were looking for and assured them that Jesus was not in this grave, but that he did rise from the dead. The fabric that were wrapped around his corpse were folded neatly on the stone where they laid him. However, there was no Jesus in sight. 

The women were elated and ran back to the place where the Disciples were hiding (at this point, it was extremely dangerous to tell anyone you were a follower of Jesus). A couple of the Disciples wanted to believe the women so badly that they ran full speed to the tomb. Apparently, Peter was outrun but his buddy waited on him before entering the tomb which was considerate. Sure enough, Jesus was not there and they saw his burial clothes folded neatly just as the women did. They went back to their hiding place to tell the others.

There was one follower who was left behind that morning. She doesn't get a mention in the race to tomb but it would be hard to imagine that she was not part of it; Mary Magdalene was sitting outside the tomb alone and wept. A man approached her as she cried as said, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She replied, "They have taken my Lord and I don't know where they have put him." Then (and this part always chokes me up) the man said, "Mary". He said her name and she looked up and saw Jesus standing before her. She rushed to him and he asked her not to hold on to him because his time had not yet come and soon he would join with the Father, our God. Mary later went to the hiding place to tell the others. I can only imagine the great depth of joy she must have felt from that encounter with Jesus, who called her by name.

I bring this up for several reasons. The scripture narratives seem to make it clear that Jesus did not want anyone lingering at the tomb. He is NOT in the tomb. He told the Disciples before all the horror and wonder even began, that he would rise again and go ahead of them into Galilee. He did not say, "When I die, come anoint my body and mourn for me at the tomb and try to imitate everything I taught you out of your faithful sadness." No! He said, he was already back in his town. He was connected to the Great Spirit (God, Father, Lord, whatever you want to call Him or Her) and he was already ahead of them in their own region.

This Lenten season, I can't help but wonder if we are worshiping in a tomb. We build brick and mortar buildings and call them "church" and stand at the door wondering "Where is God in my life, in this world, in this situation?" We weep in the pews and listen half-heatedly to sermons when somewhere deep in our hearts, we still sense that something isn't right here. Something is still missing.

The Apostle Paul taught us that the church is the people, the followers of Christ Jesus. He also said that the church where the people meet is in the home. The early church met in people's houses. My home, my hometown, my body, my friends, my community are the church. Not the tomb where we keep Jesus. He isn't there. He is already in my house.

Photography by Gage Bulick

My Uncle encouraged me during this season with these words and I hope they are equally as meaningful to you, "You have left the sarcophagus and gone into Galilee...the church stopped at the grave...thank goodness you have gone into Galilee where he waits for you."

Are you part of a tomb? Did you stop at the grave and mourn how Jesus is missing in this real world? Or are you heading home to meet Jesus where he is already waiting on you and called you by name to join him?

Definitions provided by Wikipedia

Harvesting Vegetables

Harvesting your vegetables is almost the best part of having a garden (next to eating them, of course!). It is important to understand how to harvest your food so that you don't damage your plants in the process. It is also helpful to know when your plants are ready for harvesting.

Summer Garden

Over the summer we had a very prolific garden. 

  • Green Bell Peppers- When they are the size of your fist they are ready to pick. We used cooking shears to cut the stem closest to the pepper in order to harvest it.
  • Purple Bell Peppers- Same idea although ours stayed about half a fist size.
  • Hot cherry Peppers- when these turned from green to bright red they were ready to pick (using the same shear technique).
  • Cucumbers- When these were almost the size of store bought cuc's we would cut them from the vine with shears. Remember, they are actually prickly and you have to rub off the prickles. Their vines are prickly too so take care not to let them graze your skin too much.
  • Tomatillo- When these tomato-like fruits fill up their leafy exterior to the point of ripping open, then they are ready to harvest. Remember to take off the leafy shell and don't eat it.
  • Roma Tomatoes- These are ready when they turn bright red. You know tomatoes are rip when you barely have to touch them and they fall right off the vine. Be careful not to wait too long because they will fall of the vine and then bugs will enjoy the fruits of the garden before you will.
  • Fat Boy Tomatoes- These can grow as large as two fists of you let them. Again, wait until they are bright red and seem to just fall away from the vine.
  • Green Okra- Okra needs to be cut away from the trunk it grows from with cooking shears. When an okra pod is about 4 inches long it is going to be perfect. They can get even larger (up to 7 inches) but the bigger they are the more impossible it will become to eat them. They get very woody when you let them get that large and you will not be able to chew most of it. As they okra plants get taller you will need to find a way to bend the plant carefully in order to cut away the pods or you will need a stool. It is worth it, I promise!
  • Black Beauty Eggplant- These will grow to the size of store-bought eggplants. You should cut them away from the stem with cooking shears when they are dark purple. If they start to fade in color that means you let them hang on the plant too long and they need to be harvested immediately. They have a tendency to get heavy and pull the plant down as they grow so be sure to give your plants lots of extra support to keep the fruit off the ground (or bugs will find their way inside).
  • Watermelon- Our watermelon did not grow well this summer. We had three melons form and one grew to be about 2-3 pounds but bugs found their way inside all of them. They ended up rotting on the vine because of the holes we did not see had been poked into them.
  • Asian Ginger- My neighbor gave me a ginger root and told me to poke it in the dirt and see what happens. I did. Before I knew it, in two months, I had a small plant growing up from the ginger root. I left the root he gave me int he ground for 4 months an when the first frost came I dug it up. The root had tripled in size. I cut away the plant and cleaned the root to cook with. I left a small portion of it in the garden just to see if it would come back in the spring.
  • Yellow Squash- These will grow under their large leaves and it is important to pull dead, rotting leaves and plant matter off the forming fruit or it could cause the fruit to rot too. When the squash are the size of squash you could buy in the grocery store, cut them with shears away from the vine.
  • Zucchini- These grow the same way squash does and when they are about 10 inches long they are ready to harvest. Cut them away from the vine with cooking shears too.

Fall Garden

  • Variety of Lettuce- Lettuce is great because if you can keep it covered during cold temperature and freezes then you will have it all winter into Spring. We planted a variety of Lettuce. Romaine varieties require that you cute them with shears like you are giving it a hair cut- just trim from the top, don't ever pull the whole leaf out or you will kill the plant in time. Leaf Lettuces require that you break off 50% of the leaves during harvest with your hands. Be careful to not break away 50% just on top or just on the bottom, but pull from all over so that your lettuce don't start growing tall and go to seed. If they start getting tall then they are going to seed and they will start to taste very bitter. This means, all of the plant energy is going to the seeds and not to the leaves.
  • Kale-We planted three types of Kale: Curly, Dinosaur and regular. All of them can grow so that each leaf is around 6 inches long. If you have great fertilizer then yours can get up to 20 inches long or longer. Use cooking shears to cut the leaves at the stem to harvest them.
    photo from
  • Swisschard- We planted "bright lights" swiss chard which has pretty colorful stems. These are harvested just like kale. It is best to cook Swiss chard rather than eating it raw.
  • Tatsoi- is my favorite green. These little babies grow about 1-2 inches in circumference and they are ready to pluck. Just pull off individual leaves from the plant like leaf lettuce. 
  • Broccoli- When the head of the broccoli looks fully formed and the buds are still tight in the head then you can cut it away from the stem with a knife. If the head's little buds begin to open and turn yellow then you have waited too long.
  • Cauliflower- it is the same idea with the cauliflower except it will not turn yellow. You take it when the head looks fully formed like what you would see in the store only a little smaller.
  • Cabbage- When the head of the cabbage is about the size of a head at the grocery store and when you squeeze it the head is firm then it is time to cut the cabbage away from it's root system with a knife (you take the whole head). Once you have done this, the plant will not grow back so make sure this is is the right time.
  • Kohlrabi- When the base is the size of a woman's fist it is ready to harvest. You just cut it away from the root system like you would with cabbage. Once it is cut then it will not grow more.
  • Collard Greens- These can grow to be huge leaves but ours stayed around 8 inches mainly. These are harvested much like kale and swiss chard. We like them raw and cooked. 
Kohlrabi Photo from
After harvesting any of our vegetables, we always wash the in a colander and store them someplace fitting. Tomatoes will last much longer if you keep them out of the refrigerator. Greens should be dried fully before being stored. Tomatillos should be cooked before you eat them. All of these vegetables except for the lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes can be frozen well just as they are. Tomatoes freeze better then they have been cooked first.  

Saturday, February 21, 2015


I was strongly against using pesticides in our garden. I became a broken record when Joel would bring it up. I'd repeat, "What is the point of having a garden if we are going to put the same poisons in it that are in our store bought vegetables?" I was very stubborn on this point, especially since we were able to score some heritage seedlings. I was high and mighty about this until something started eating our squash and zucchini. 

We somehow invited a vine-bore to start killing our precious plants from the inside out. Once this happened, I began listening to the men in my life. 

There is an organic pesticide called Diatomaceous Earth. This is a powder that you can sprinkle on your plants and it gets under the exoskeleton of beetles like the vine-bore. It's kills the bores without poisoning your plants. You can eat this stuff. In fact, according to a skin care specialist I know, she eats a little bit everyday. We used this for a while and felt good about it,then we started attracting the cabbage moth. We planted cabbage,
 broccoli, cauliflower in our fall crop which brought in these beautiful, dancing, white moths of death. Once this happened, I was ready to try something synthetic. 

Joel's dad helped me to understand more about pesticides. The trouble with buying vegetables and fruits from the grocery store is that these plants have pesticides encoded in their DNA and they are sprayed with pesticides. There is no way to wash that stuff off. If you use pesticides in your garden and you are tending heritage plants, you are able to wash a lot of the pesticide off when you harvest your food. That made me feel better.

In the end, we settled on a product called Sevin Dust. You can do your own research, but this product has upset the organic world because it kills all bugs that come in contact with your plants. Obviously, that is a serious problem when you need bees and butterflies to pollinate your plants. However, my father-in-law is using this pesticide and he supports 4 healthy beehives in the same garden. He hasn't noticed a negative impact on his hives or in his yard so we felt pretty good about going for the Sevin Dust. It is up to you, but this is how it evolved for us. We use pesticides sparingly and they have saved our crop this fall. 

Friday, February 20, 2015


The key to gardening is knowing when to plant your seedlings. We are fortunate enough to have Joel's parents who take urban homesteading to the next level, so we get lots of helpful tips from their hard earned experience. If you don't have folks like my in-laws then I'd get familiar with some great urban gardening YouTube channels. You can find anything you need on YouTube when it comes to homesteading. My father-in-law recommended this star to me: Kaye Kittrell .

To find out when to plant your seedlings, it is important to know what season you are in and what can be planted during that season. It is also worthwhile to consider what types of plants you want to eat. Everyone tends to get really excited about plants like tomatoes or peppers. These veggies are delicious. However, it is also helpful to think about how much of the plant goes to waste when you harvest. You can only eat the literal fruit of these two, but if you plant kale or collards you can eat the whole plant and it regenerates so you can keep harvesting it. Just something to consider. 

This is a helpful chart to give you an idea how what vegetables and fruits you can plant in each season: 

chart from
Remember when you look up a planting chart to search one for your area of the Country. This one is specific for Piedmont North Carolina.

Once you have decided what vegetables you'd like to have in your garden and figured out if it is possible grow them in the season you are in, then you have to decide how many to plant in each garden box. Joel's Dad instructed us to plant 6 seedlings by 3 seedlings depending on the types of vegetables we decided on (remember our beds are 4x8 feet). For example, we planted two rows of purple bell peppers (3 across), 2 rows of green bell peppers (3 across), and two rows of eggplant (3 across) in one box. In another box, we planted a row of cucumbers (growing up the headboard-3 across), 2 rows of hot cherry peppers (3 across) and then two rows of okra (3 across). This was a learning experience for us because we did not realize that okra can grow up to 8 feet tall. By the end of the season our okra (which was wonderfully prolific!) had created enough shade to seriously deplete our peppers which seemed to shrivel on the vine. A little more research would have helped us choose a better location for our okra trees. 

There are lots of places you can purchase your seedlings if you have not planted them from seed yourself. We will grow our seedlings ourselves this year from the seeds we dried out from last summer, but last spring we did not have that opportunity. We checked around our area for the best deals on seedlings. In the process, we discovered that some places offer you nice plants that are GMO grade (genetically modified, which means they have pesticides already tagged to their DNA) and some can offer you nice plants that are Heritage Crops (still in their original evolved state). What you choose is up to you. I prefer heritage crops, myself. Joel prefers what is least expensive and won't be eaten by bugs. Some research shows that heritage crops have almost double the nutritional value of GMO crops, but often they are destroyed by pests before you can enjoy them (if you don't use pesticides). It felt like a toss up until we found "Dilworth's little Secret", Campbell's Nursery in Charlotte. They offered the best quality, heritage seedlings for a fraction of the cost. I paid $1.25 for a package of 3 plants. That is roughly 41 cents a plant and when we are talking green peppers, we gleaned between 10-15 peppers from each plant this summer. That is a huge savings when one green pepper from Food Lion can cost up to $1.25 on it's own. We were delighted! Not to mention, their seedlings were hearty and lasted all summer. 

Once you purchase your seedlings, you just plant them according to their instructions on the tab or according to the information on the planting chart above. Then you water them really well. Watering seedlings is very important and it is best to water your plants in the evening during the summer months so they get the most our of your efforts. We watered our plants every night (for the most part) which is one way to do it. My in-laws cover the top of their soil around the plants with wood chips which retains water and keeps the plants moist longer so they don't have to water their plants much at all. 

I add marigolds in the garden to attract bees and detour pests who don't like the smell.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Original Art

In this season of direction and discernment I am spending time painting. 

Here are examples of pieces I have enjoyed painting.

India ink on paper

India ink and acrylic on paper

India ink and acrylic on paper

Graphite, Gesso and ink on board

Mixed Media

India ink and Watercolor on paper

India ink and Watercolor on paper

India ink and acrylic on paper

India ink and acrylic on paper

India ink and acrylic on paper

India ink and watercolor on paper

India ink and watercolor on paper

watercolor with metallic ink

Acrylic on 4 part canvas

Mixed Media with Acrylic

Acrylic on Canvas
Oil on wood panel

Acrylic on cardboard
Lino-cut for printing

Acrylic on canvas
Acrylic on canvas
acrylic on canvas
Acrylic on canvas

Acrylic on recycled beadboard

If you are interested in commissioning a piece please contact me:

If you would like to order a specific painting online, please visit my Etsy Store.

A man from my church recently commissioned me to paint the tree where he proposed to his wife. He emailed me a photo and in 3 weeks, I sent him his painting. I had not seen his wife since he gave her the painting so I was delighted to find this post on my facebook wall a few weeks ago:

"So I have not seen you since Christmas to thank you in person for my beautiful painting (although I shared with your sweet hubs and mom my delight.) I CRIED I mean CRIED on Christmas morning when I opened my gift. I'm married to a wonderful man and I cannot tell you how thankful I am that you helped him to make my Christmas one of the most memorable ever. That tree(s) is so special to me and you just captured it so perfectly. I LOVE all the colors. Thank you a million times over for painting it. It is hanging in our living room and is the very first thing you see when you walk through our front door. What a gift you have and thank you for sharing it!"

India ink and watercolor on paper