Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Snow Days.

It snowed. A lot. Well, at least for Upstate South Carolina, six inches of snow qualifies for a blizzard. Scoff, you northern friends—but add a layer of ice on top of the six inches of snow, subtract major road-clearing equipment, and the southeast shuts down. The southern folk must live on a French toast diet during snowstorms. As soon as a flurry flutters, bread, milk, and eggs fly off the grocery stores' shelves.
(Seriously, we get nervous with the ice-business. Some of us have lived through week-long power outages after a particularly nasty ice storm. It's not pretty.)

So, we're on day number two of no school, the kids are still in PJs, and even Peter is lounging on the sofa.

I, however, am busy.

While the neighbors are sledding and the dogs are playing like little kids in the backyard winter wonderland, I'm playing, too.

In the dirt.

Spring is coming, and my first round of planting—fraise des bois (alpine strawberries) and about 30 varieties of herbs--is well underway. In a month, it will be time for tomato-craziness, but right now, my downstairs gardening is still in the blissed-out, relaxed mode.

A few seedlings here....

...a few transplants there...

....a few frosty trips to the greenhouse...

...and a blooming bougainvillea, just for your viewing pleasure.

(I highly recommend greenhouses to combat seasonal affective disorder—or just to escape the snow and cold for a few minutes and surround yourself with flowers and greenery. My mood definitely improves after a trip to the greenhouse.)

Spring is coming, I promise.

See? The first little sign of deliciousness to come...

Until then, stay warm, travel safely (or not at all), and dream of summer.

 XO ~


P.S. Just found out that we'll have another snow day tomorrow. Perhaps I'll put the kids to work...what are the child labor laws regarding family businesses? I need some seed trays scrubbed. Hmmm...

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Desk.

It's been more than a month since my last post. Did you think I left for the weekend—and just didn't return?

We all know how crazy December is. Add in a couple of family birthdays, school parties (who thought it was a good idea to be room mom for both kids' classes?), as well as a little one with the flu—and it's easy to put everything else on the back burner. Plus, I'm now in the throes of my post-holiday sickness...an annual ritual of coughing, sore throat, and headache that I fend off until after Christmas every year. Yippee. Please pardon my muddled thoughts.

So, here we are, a month after the Carolina Farm Stewardship Sustainable Agriculture Conference, and as excited as I am to share with you insight into all of the amazing sessions and interesting growing strategies that I learned, I'm afraid I have some housekeeping to do first.

My desk.

There's a hazard to owning a home-based business. Everyone thinks that my work space is their play space. Kristen searches obsessively for chicken breeds, coop designs, and rescue pups on my computer. The last Google search on my iMac? “How to get your parents to let you have a sleepover.”


Michael plays Poptropica while I need to write. Peter just joined Facebook, so now when I want to check on my friends, I often end up posting as him—because he's left his account open.

Or he's online, searching for sailboats.

Here's the thing: we have a computer in the living room. With Internet access. Peter also has a laptop. With wireless.

It's not even the lack-of-access that bothers me. It's the amount of stuff that is left on my desk. I need a fairly clutter-free space when I try to write or work, otherwise I tend to feel mentally disheveled. It's not that I'm a neat freak (I know Peter is laughing out loud about that)--I just need some breathing room.

So, in an effort to reclaim my work space and my computer, I thought I'd share with you—in no particular order--what I discovered as I cleaned my desk:

  • Three paper towels.
  • Four plastic bags.
  • 1 pair of horse earrings.
  • Essential Herbal Wisdom.
  • Encyclopedia of Herb Gardening.
  • A back scratcher—one of my favorite gifts, chosen with care by 5-year-old Michael at the school's Santa Shop.
  • My nieces' Christmas lists.
  • Washing tips for the kids' Christmas Pjs.
  • A coupon for Hanna Andersson.
  • The receipt for the kids' Christmas PJs. (What was I thinking?)
  • A file with documents about my parents' estate.
  • Tyler's Christmas list (which somehow printed in a 2-point font size. Who knows if he really got what he wanted?)
  • The CD of the kids' Christmas pictures, taken by the fabulously talented Jessie of Smilin' Down Photography. Isn't she great? (And patient. I'm not sure what I was thinking, bringing light sabers to the photo shoot, but Jessie rolled with it.)

To continue...

  • “Care and planting of your ginseng seeds and rootlets.” The most expensive seeds I have ever ordered. Please grow, seeds.
  • A box of snowman Christmas gift tags.
  • “Questions to ask when reading a book.” *
*Note: According to this list, there are 25 questions to ask when reading a book. Now, maybe I'm crazy, but if my kindergartner looked for every contraction, compound word, blend, antonym, and punctuation mark while he was reading The Time Warp Trio, I can assure you it would take us a full month to read the book. Plus, somehow, I can imagine it would kill his love of books. Maybe we could reduce the list to a few questions, like #24: “What was your favorite part of the book? Why?” But that's just my opinion.

  • “Individual Summary—Universal Screening in Reading, 5K.”
  • Word cards.
  • Business card for Tradd Cotter, the mushroom guru from Mushroom Mountain. I promise, once my desk is clean, I am going to write about Tradd's workshop for growing mushrooms. He is a mushroom God.
  • Tyler's checking account bank statements. Trust me—if you're looking to begin a life of crime in 2011, don't pick Ty's account to hack. You'll find more money under the sofa cushions.
  • Sky Top Orchard brochure. In a fit of locavorism prior to Thanksgiving, I realized I needed to replenish our supply of local apples. My quest entailed an hour drive to North Carolina, where I stocked up on several gallons of apple cider and about six enormous bags of various, lovely North Carolina apples. After chatting with the owner about the pros and cons of heirloom apples, I pulled out my debit card to pay. Guess what? “Check or cash.” After spluttering apologies and asking where the nearest ATM might be (way down the mountain), that incredibly kind man handed me the brochure with the address for Sky Top, and just asked that I mail him a check when I got home. Then he helped me load all of my goodies into the van...in the freezing rain. Truly, there are good souls in the world. (And yes, I mailed the check the next morning.)
Back to the desk...
  • A letter about an organic gardening presentation I'm making on Monday.
  • An IRS filing statement that I need to take to Warptek, Peter's company. (Yes, it was done.)
  • An “All About Kindergarten” folder that I use to contain all of the many tools sent home by Mikey's teacher.
  • The menus from “Outstanding in the Field” and the “Hub City Farmer's Market Farm Dinner.”
  • Receipt for my excessive order of garlic.
  • Box Tops for Education.
  • My mom's obituary.
  • The business card from the guy who just rang the doorbell, wanting to clean our gutters. (No thank you.)
  • Instructions on growing mushrooms.
  • Oh my gosh, another receipt for garlic! Ack. (Well, at least, it's all planted.)
  • Uh oh. A rebate offer. Need to look at that one.
  • Hmmm. A homemade Valentine with a picture of Michael—but the signature says, “Love, Kristen.” Intriguing.
  • A seed order receipt.
  • Newsweek. From September 20.
  • Passionflower seeds. On a paper plate. (It was a seed saving endeavor.)
  • “Top 10 Reasons Why You Should Let Me Rent Braveheart.” A little background: Braveheart is a horse that was for lease at the stables where Kristen takes horseback riding lessons. Here's her list:

Convincing, isn't it? (We're not leasing Braveheart.)
  • “Welcome to a Great Year in Fourth Grade.” Check.
  • A stack of Garden Delights orders from last spring, along with last year's inventory spreadsheet, to determine what to grow in 2011.
  • Warm Crab Parmesan Dip, Raspberry Crisp, and Tomato Salsa recipes.
  • A receipt for Mikey's soccer program, which he didn't attend due to a broken arm. $65 well-spent.
  • School Year Calendar.
  • Checkbook.
  • iPhone case, which I never use—but should—since I shattered my first phone.
  • Yippee! A Barnes and Noble gift-card, which I received from their customer service department after spending one hour and 13 minutes on the phone with them, trying to get a Christmas shipment corrected.
  • My tattered Webster's Handy College Dictionary. I just like having it close, even if I haven't used it in years.
  • Michael's MAP scores.
  • A friend's phone number.
  • “A Very Merry Kidz Bop.”
  • At Blachard's Table. This is the cookbook that accompanies one of my favorite books, A Trip to the Beach, by Melinda and Richard Blanchard. If you're ever in a rut and dream of making a change, A Trip to the Beach is incredibly inspiring. FIVE STARS. (My own rating.)
  • A postcard from my in-laws. Bep and Peter (my Peter's mom and dad) know how to be retired—they're always traveling, visiting friends and family, or just exploring. I want to be like them when I grow up.
  • Barnes and Noble receipts.
  • Love notes from Mikey.

  • Seed catalogs. What a surprise.
  • Seed to Seed by Suzanne Ashworth. While not a beautiful gardening book, Seed to Seed is a wealth of information about—take a guess—starting seeds. Trust me—not all seeds grow under the same conditions. Light, dark, stratification, scarification, germination rates, heat requirements—it's all in here. It's a permanent fixture on my desk.
  • A reminder to renew my Garden Delights business license. That's kind of important.
  • The New York Times Book Review. Love it. December 26.
  • Five Webkinz tags.
  • A parking receipt from the CFSA conference.
  • Two extremely elaborate drawings of pirate ships, complete with cannons and guns. Can you guess who the artist is?
  • An expired ETV member card.
  • Eye drops.
  • A beautiful tulip tile from Turkey, the hotly contested Christmas present at our book club Christmas exchange. It was stolen twice to end up in my possession, and it will be hung prominently in our new kitchen--whenever the kitchen is actually done. (Thank you, Kathy!)
  • A piece of paper with the number “8”--which was my draw in the Christmas gift exchange.
  • An angel ornament. Shoot. I knew I'd find something else after the Christmas decorations were put away.
  • A Lichtenfelt Nursery gift card! Yippee!
  • Paintbrushes, from my fabulous attempt at making sugared pansies. I think those will go to the kids' art supplies.
  • A seashell.
  • A keychain. The key chain isn't much to look at, but when you hold it up to the light and look through the viewfinder, there is a tiny picture of my dad mid-golf swing.
  • My camera. My lovely, fabulous new camera. I WILL learn how to do more with it than shoot on automatic.
  • My iPhone.
  • Dust. Lots of it.
So, there you have it. My desk is now (somewhat) clean, my mental state is a bit more organized...and when you find that your desk is messy, you can feel so much better about yourself since you now know what constitutes a true mess.

Sadly, as I tackled this project, I've realized that the majority of things on my desk were, actually, my things.


Now, I have no excuse...except that I'm sick...for not writing.

Thanks for sticking with me as I cleaned my desk. Next time, I promise—I'll try to write something worth reading.

Happy New Year, my friends!

XO ~