"…By what stretch of arrogance do you think a life form that looks like you is more important than a life form that doesn’t?”Joel Salatin

Nothing is more beneficial to your wellbeing than to look for and acknowledge those parts of everyday life that you enjoy.

"If you are happy where you are now, why does it matter how painful it was to get there?" -- Abraham

"It is no bad thing to celebrate a simple life." -- Bilbo Baggins a.k.a. The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

"And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet, and the winds long to play in your hair." -- Kahill Gibran

“And forget not

Thursday, January 22, 2015

It's a Swale of a Deal!!

My front yard

Looking at this, it's difficult to believe that this place won the Registry Award for our area from the Wichita Falls Clean Community in 2006.

In the foreground of the picture on the left, you can see the telltale warning signs of the present disaster; the yellowing of the St. Augustine on the island.

The dirt feels like talcum powder on top, but to be fair, once I dug down past the dust, it seems like pretty good soil.  No, I have not had it tested.  I picked up the paraphernalia to do that but never did and now I've lost it.

 One of my neighbors doesn't speak to me anymore and since I have little contact with her anyway, I can only assume she hates my guts because my yard looks like this and hers is perfect. Hers is Bermuda (much better choice for grass around here).  It's in full sun, not one tree in her yard.  Her lot is  also flat so when she waters, it stays in place.  It doesn't even have any winter leaves on it -- because she vacuums them off.

Oh, well, that's the least of my worries.  In trying to figure out what to do about this dust bowl, I decided one positive thing would be to start growing composting worms, so I got my bins ready after watching several videos on Youtube. (By the way, growing composting worms for their castings is called "vermicomposting".) I ordered 500 Red Wrigglers which are supposed to be the best for composting, from Uncle Jim's Worm Farm.  They are different from the earthworms we see when we dig in healthy ground. They are supposed to do their thing quicker. And Seth loves them!  They are the "new family pet."  Every time I open the bin to check on them, he comes running. "I want to see the worms!  I want to hold one! Awww! They're so cute!"

I guess googling "worm bins" is what brought the Permaculture course to me.  One of the first things I read on the Permaculture site was about "swales".  Swales are shallow troughs that catch and hold water so it can absorb into the ground. There is an amazing video about how with swales, some Permaculturists in Israel, totally rejuvenated 10 acres of salty desert land in four years. You can watch that miracle here 

One of the problems with my yard is the incline. I'm not sure we had this issue when we bought this house.  But over the years, Ronnie has hauled in so much stuff to improve the lawn so he could have that damned thirsty temperamental  St. Augustine grass, I'm pretty sure he built this mound I'm dealing with now.  Every time he put down St. Augustine squares, they died and he put down more in the same place, and it got taller and taller.

Now it's impossible to water without the water running into the street.  When it rains , the water rushes down hill.  In torrential rains, it takes plugs of grass with it.  By the time I came to my senses after he died, I had a large area of erosion on the south end.  The drought went from bad to worse . The St. Augustine, which had not been happy for many years anyway died the same year Ronnie did. It left loose runners which stuck up all over the place like a bad hair day, so I pulled them up.  That was a mistake because it left the soil exposed to the summer sun, the heat and the wind.
Because I didn't want my neighbor who barely speaks to me anyway to be offended by the unsightliness of hay, I never even covered it up.

In the absence of the St. Augustine, thin patches of Bermuda have appeared and are surviving -- not thriving. Every time it rains they get a little bigger, then diminish again when it's dry again and hot. Like two steps forward and one step back.

Anyway, I started thinking about digging a swale to trap some of the next rain fall.  Of course all the doubt came on really strong. "You can't do that.  It's too much work.  You're not strong enough,, bla bla bla."

But the more I read and watched videos about the benefits of swales, the more convinced I became that one might help solve some of my dilemma.

At some point, I happened on the Tenth Acre Farm website.  They are in Cincinnati, Ohio, and get 40 inches of annual rainfall, but they made an amazing difference in their place using swales.

So, I dug the swale in a half moon in front of the pecan tree. When the weather warms up again next week, I'll extend it south and swirl it up on the end to catch and slow down the runoff from between the houses.  With the dirt I took out, I made a "berm" which is a mound along the down side of the swale. The berm serves as a dam of sorts.  I filled the swale with harvested water and it took at least an hour for it to absorb into the ground! That must be part of the problem. I transplanted Vinca Major, spearmint, ajuga, Mexican Petunias, creeping sedum and "Scrambled Eggs" (thanks David and Virginia Stepp) on the berm with Vinca Major around it.

Then I made "homemade mulch" out of crispy dried leaves, ground wood chips from the pigeon pen, and cypress mulch.  I mixed it together in the wheel barrow, then wet it down with harvested water and put it around all the new plants and completely covered the berm.  I brought in rocks from the back yard to help hold the new berm.

I sent Amy from Tenth Acre Farm the picture of the front yard.  I think she was  shocked, and she probably felt sorry for me having to live here because she was far more helpful than I expected. She explained to me that logs hold moisture and that they are a good thing to put in the swale, so I did that.  She also explained that rocks "absorb moisture, emanating it into the atmosphere slowly over time." The rocks will also "attract soil microbes that will make the soil inhabitable for plants again."  So I filled it with "egg rocks".  I wore out before I got the rocks covered with leaves but I'll do that asap. I really don't want it to stick out like a sore thumb. Amy recommended a series of swales around the yard so I'm gonna be so busy on these beautiful winter into spring days!!

After many years of pre-emergent in January, June and September -- like clock work, the dandelions are coming up! They are very beneficial, surprise, surprise! Did you know that in addition to being a medicinal herb, the dandelion is a nitrogen fixing plant? They store nitrogen in their roots and when they die, they release it. 
My hardly-speaking-to-me neighbor may have a series of anxiety attacks when she sees me pampering dandelions -- but oh well. 

I believe henbit and chickweed  are also nitrogen fixers. These are other plants we have traditionally considered weeds and sprayed chemical on to get rid of in our lawns.  But I think I'm finished with the traditional lawn.  If the Vinca Major grows as well in the front as it always has in the back, it'll take over half the yard.

I want to grow some food on "my little corner of the world", but I'll do that in back because there's more sun.  I have a couple of big containers that might work very well to grow onions or squash, and I have some ideas about making raised beds out of pallets.

When I was digging holes for the transplants I actually saw a few earth worms! That gave me a sense that this is all going to turn around soon. 

In one of the posts I read on the Tenth Acre Farm, she encouraged people to find something to do in the front yard. Meet your neighbors! That's something we're losing with our focus on terrorism, our fear of hooded men and cops. In other words we are losing our moments to enjoy what's outside, Nature's offerings, the plants! The trees! The birds! The squirrels! And my neighbors, as eccentric as they are, are friends!

While I was working out front on Tuesday, I visited with several neighbors a few doors down.  Wednesday, three neighbors and a friend stopped to say hello and check on the progress.

It started raining around 9 pm last night.  I went out to check on the swale this morning.  It's holding water and I see no signs of an over flow.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

What Happy Feels Like Today

Christmas morning 2014

Oh, these cold gray windy days! After many days of cloud cover -- without rain -- happiness would be a beautiful colorful sunrise.  

It's seeing a 95 year old woman who is still teaching yoga and hearing others telling the world how and why she has inspired them.

Happiness can come in the form of a possible/probable/attainable solution to a problem that's been waiting for just the right time to show itself.  

It's that "A-ha!" moment when you finally realize you've figured something out.

Many years ago, I was delivering flowers for Wallander Florist and I had an accident in the delivery van.  Ferrell, my boss, scolded me -- very gently -- I might add.  "You drive too fast." He paused then added, "But you weren't hurt and that's what's important. And who knows?  Driving as fast as you do might have put you ahead of a much more serious accident." I was still figuring out this new-to-me concept when he added, "Or behind".  

After that I became a bit obsessed with the idea that what I choose to do -- or choose not to do -- will have an effect on what happens to me years down the road. What will happen if I stop and get a drink of water at the faucet?  What if I don't?

After many weeks of torturing myself with this, I decided, "to hell with it," and I went on about my business.  I still think about it though -- and wonder.

Abraham through Esther Hicks has been saying since they began visiting with us that God/the Universe/Source, whatever you call the Creator, is constantly in motion arranging -- orchestrating -- organizing, reorganizing -- everything -- in order for us to get what we want and to get where we want to be.  

It's hard because we are always changing our mind. It's why we live such jigsawed lives. It is also why people who have a dream and are really dedicated to realizing that dream usually attain it -- at least to some extent -- because they didn't change their mind about it a hundred times a day for years.

On the newest Abraham cd, they talk about how many "winding trails" God/Universe/Source leads us down in an effort to get us to arrive at where we said we want to go. I  couldn't help but wonder one morning when I opened a can with the electric can opener, then had to try five times before I actually got the lid out of the opened can. It kept popping out of my fingers -- five attempts at something that usually happens in one try. Insignificant things like that, like dropping something on the floor and having to stop what we are doing to pick it up are part of those "winding trails" that -- time wise -- help put us in the right spot at the right time to see the opportunities that are there for us.

And I kid you not!  The Universe/God/Source uses the internet to our advantage, too. 

I decided I wanted to start "vermicomposting" which is using worms to create compost. I've googled all kinds of stuff related to worms and vermicomposting in the past few weeks -- all in an effort to find a solution to the bare soil in my front yard, a solution that I can manage to do myself. I got my bins ready and ordered the worms.  They came in alive and in good shape.  I had some problems with them trying to leave at first, but with more googling, I figured out the nesting material wasn't damp enough. Problem solved.

Sunday, on my news feed on Facebook, I saw an ad for "Permaculture".  (It rhymes with "Dermaculture" and I thought it was skin care so I ignored it. )

I don't remember what about the ad finally captured my attention, but I clicked on it and low and behold!  It's gardening -- not skin care -- and they are offering a free extensive course online to spread the word about "gardening in harmony with our natural surroundings!" And guess where it heralds from? My new favorite place, Oregon!

I'm in love with this concept because it speaks to things I already believe and it has already introduced to me some ideas I had never thought about before.

Henny Penny

In Permaculture gardening, which is eco friendly, they advocate keeping a few chickens -- for many more benefits that I'd ever thought about before we got HennyPenny, Gallo Cogburn and Michelle Obama. One of the benefits to keeping chickens -- according to Permaculture -- is that they are "fun to watch" and I know this is true.  They add an element of calm, that all is well, as they peck and scratch and enjoy being here in the safety and freedom of my yard.

Fresh eggs.  Thanks, Ladies!

They also add fertilizer to the soil, they eat bugs and they give me eggs -- beautiful fresh pale pink and green eggs with yolks the color of an orange.  The hens clucking and Cogburn crowing add to the symphony of bird song in the neighborhood. I thoroughly enjoy my chickens! 

Happiness today feels like knowing that the chickens are beneficial to my wellbeing. 

Happiness is rain and water!  I am tickled to discover that water conservation and harvesting is another aspect of Permaculture gardening and landscaping.  I have already installed three 330 gallon receptacles -- and I'm using them but probably not as effectively as I could and I'm looking forward to learning more about that.

On one of the first 3 videos I watched, I saw pictures of problem landscapes like mine that have inclines and soil erosion. The owners of the property dug a "swale" which is a shallow water catchment area midway between the top of the incline and the bottom. This allows the water to stop and stay long enough to soak in.  Eventually, with enough rain, the water will gather subterranean and benefit the trees and everything else growing.  I had already put in metal edging at the sidewalk to slow the soil and water and keep it from rushing over the sidewalk in heavy rains. Now I have another option!

I just started this Permaculture course so I haven't found where Permaculture advocates "vermicomposting" yet, but I have heard many mentions of the benefits of composting. I'd recently started a compost pile in the back yard - not some labor intensive system but an area where I dump the litter from the pigeon/chicken pen, leaves, loose soil etc. 

I'd also spread the litter/poop from the pigeon pen in areas around the yard.  I haven't used a commercial fertilizer back there in twenty years. I'm looking forward to spring and seeing what happens in those areas.

Well, "seek and ye shall find".  I told ya, God/Source/the Universe uses the internet.  When I went on the Permaculture website this morning, "vermicomposting" popped right up. Of course they are highly in favor of using worms to enrich the soil! Yay!

There is also a spiritual aspect to Permaculture.  On one video, he encourages the gardener to "go walk around your yard. Get to know it, observe all that's there.  Become part of it."

Anyone who loves gardening, or being outside will be familiar with this feeling of being one with your space -- regardless of how big or small it is. I call my place "my little corner of the world," and although I often dream of moving to Oregon, where everything is lush and green with little or no struggle, I love "my little corner of the world", and I'm probably not going anywhere. I'll learn how to bloom where I'm planted.

Having a healthy beautiful space to live in is more important than some want to admit. I love the fact that the city of Wichita Falls is willing to spend money to beautify the city, but I do wish they would use native plants and perennials instead of the water hogging annuals they use in all these mass plantings.  

Happiness today is also seeing the iris come up that Dotti LeSieur sent me from Holland! Real Dutch iris! I planted them in front and I used bone meal to help them flourish. I can't wait to see what colors they'll be!

Happiness right now feels like having information at my fingertips to take good care of my landscape so that it is beautiful, wild, free and of benefit to all that live within it.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Take a Deep Breath

I got a note from a friend a while back who wanted to have lunch.  Apparently she had been down with  upper respiratory problems because she said, "I can breathe again!"

When your ability to take in air and distribute oxygen to your cells is limited, all kinds of problems occur as a result.   I've had pollen related asthma problems all my adult life, so I'm well acquainted with the blessing of being able to breathe freely again.

Not long ago, I started meditating.  I noticed that in most meditations, you are encouraged to focus on your breathing. Some instructors want you to count your breaths.  Some think it works better to only count the in and out.  One, two, one two, one two. That way your don't have to worry about losing count.

I listened to one that suggested that on the intake, you say the word, "peace" and on the exhale, "calm".  And of course, there is that old one that DJRonnieBruno used as the intro on his "Optimism" cd, "Take a long, slow, deep breath -- and relax."

I happened upon a website, "Breathing for Peace".  They encourage everyone to stop three times a day and take three long slow deep breaths - for world peace.  I didn't have time to stay there long so I'm not going to even try to tell you their mission or their thought process.  Check it out for yourself if you want, at www.breatheforpeace.org

I was listening to Belle Ruth Naperstek's "Meditation For Healthful Sleep." Usually, I'm asleep five minutes into the cd, but this time, I caught a phrase "the healing power of the breath".

The phrase stuck with me and I woke up thinking about it. On this cd, she guides the listener to relax by focusing on the way the body rises and falls with the intake and exhale. She instructs the listener to "breathe into any discomfort" and "imagine the warm energy of your breath relaxing and softening the tension, then releasing it through the exhale."

At first I thought this was odd, then I remembered cupping my hands around my mouth on a cold winter day and blowing my warm breath onto my freezing fingers.  I remembered times when I'm cold at night, covering my head and letting the energy of my breath warm my face.

Most of us take breathing for granted. We don't think about it much until something threatens our ability to breathe. Most of us only think about breathing in the context that if we can't breathe, we'll die.  Nothing lives if it can't breathe. 

When we perform CPR to "save" someone, we give them the energy of our own breath through mouth to mouth resuscitation.

Recently, I found this jewel from Abraham: "There is nothing about your physical awareness that connects you more to the Non-Physical aspect of your being than that of your breathing. Many assume that the process of breathing is only about your physical nature but that is not the case. The process of breathing is … the flowing of Spirit to you and through you. That is the reason that when the focusing of Spirit through your physical body ceases, your breathing ceases also."

Figuring out how to use the "healing power of the breath" might well be a major step forward in the spiritual and physical evolution of mankind. It just might be the way toward better health for all of us.

So when you're feeling stressed, take a long slow deep breath, tell yourself, "this too shall pass" or "Oh well, in the grand scheme of  things, this doesn't really matter" or even my personal favorite, "I don't give a shit."