Friday, June 22, 2012

It's Not Too Late.

For some time now I've wanted my own garden. It's a dream of mine to turn out like my mother, Carol, and have a flourishing and verdant green space full of flowers, fruits, veggies and garden tableaus everywhere you look. Over the years I have watched as her gardens take off and inevitably, eclipse every other house on the block, be it in our tiny condo backyard when I was in elementary school, to the expansive vegetable raised beds she now has. And not to forget my amazing step-dad, Stan, who builds the beds and tends to them with her, especially taking on pet projects such as Ellie's Potato Garden. This is his fantastic idea to dedicate the potato patch to my 1-year old niece for digging up come fall.

Unfortunately, however, until now I was under the mistaken opinion that a garden had to belong to me to be useful or worth it. As in, a house that *I* own, in a yard that is mine to dig and plant how I wish that will stay mine forever. This fantasy goes along with the "And then the prince comes down and kisses me and awakens me from 100 years slumber and we slay the dragon and move into our white-picked-fenced home on Cherry Street, USA where all the little children play Kick-the-Stick in the street and the wives greet the husbands with martini in hand" fantasy. Needless to say, not happening. Took me 30 years to realize that my life won't ever look like that. And I have to say, I'm okay with it!

So, onto the garden, then. I have one, it's mine for now, it's 11 blocks away and it is fantastic. I found a community garden plot opening and for $25 a year it's mine. Free water, okay soil and approximately 6x3 feet of space to plant!

Now, I have to back up a bit and tell a little story. Nancy is the woman who runs the community garden and compost program. I signed up for the plot a month or two ago, paid my dues and then promptly fell into personal chaos, as is prone to happen. The plot went unplanted, and unheeded and neglected for that time. I was lamenting my life (giving little regard to my poor garden space) when I got an email from Nancy asking if I still wanted the plot since she had noticed no activity. I thought, I can't handle another commitment right now, so I emailed her back saying cheerfully that she might as well give it to someone who had more time and energy to plant, since I wasn't getting around to it. Well, Nancy emailed me right back and reading it from my phone, I saw in my inbox the email and just the first line. It read,

Jordan, it's not too late.

Whoa. I read that and stopped in my tracks. It's not too late. Not too late to plant a tomato and zucchini, is what she meant, but Not.Too.Late. is what I read. Not too late to find a career path, change my diet, find my inner sanctuary, save myself, be alive, live fully is what I saw when I read her email. So I emailed Nancy back with a chuckle out loud and told her okay, that she'd convinced me and that I'd get started that week.

What I saw when I got to my garden to plant!

When I got to my garden to plant, I found that Nancy had not only weeded my garden, but left a few volunteer plants (extra bonus plants that have sprouted up without having been intentionally planted): 4 tomatoes and 1 possible zucchini. Huzzah, my garden is ready to be planted!

I ended up with 7 tomato plants, my volunteer zucchini, 1 crookneck yellow squash start, summer squash from seed, seed basil (if it takes), a few mixed lettuce starts, and lettuce from seed.

Added extra compost and grass clippings 
I added extra compost and grass clipping mulch a few days later. Hopefully it will help with my soil quality. I am still green (ha!) at this gardening thing and am constantly learning what to do and not do (see below! I planted the lettuce seeds a bit to compactly and will need to thin by 20-30%). Check back for garden progress over the summer!

Things are growing!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

All Purpose Kitchen & Beyond Cleaner

This is one of my favorite DIY projects for everyday use around the house. It has transformed the way I clean and makes me feel so good when I wipe down the countertops. I'll admit it, I'm not the best about cleaning. Okay, so I'm actually not at all that good at regular household maintenance, but using my own products adds a certain pride that makes finishing up the kitchen after (ahem) 3 loads of hand-washed dishes seem a bit sunnier.

Plus there are good reasons to make your own cleaners! All natural, vinegar-based with the power of citrus oils and naturally antibacterial means it's safe for your pets, children and your food. I never worry if a spray goes awry and a tiny bit lands on my fresh strawberries. And you can customize the scent, which is super fun.

the players
All Purpose Kitchen & Beyond Cleaner
adapted from Big Box Detox and Just Like My Nan Made 

1 tsp. baking soda
~1/3 c. citrus infused vinegar*
1 tsp. vegetable-based dish soap (I like Dr. Brommer's castile soap)
2-4 c. water, depending on the size of your spray bottle
several drops of essential oils (optional: I like tea tree, eucalyptus, lemon, sweet orange, grapefruit or lavender)

*There are countless methods out there, see my Pinterest page for recipes- and for the record, I haven't yet in 4 months drained my vinegar, I just keep adding vinegar to the jar after taking out what I need for a recipe. I also use a variety of lemons, oranges and grapefruit.

To the spray bottle add your baking soda, dish soap and 2 c. of the water and give it a good shake. Slowly add the vinegar, no big deal if you lose some due to erupting baking soda volcano reactions. Fill the rest of the way up with more water and add a few drops of essential oils if you like. That's it!

I keep this out by the sink, with a small rag for cleaning off the countertops. Change out the rag every few days, and feel good knowing you are cleaning your house with something marvelously green!