Happy New Year

Just a quick post to wish you all a blessed, happy New Year!

This video is a little late for Christmas, but it’s so beautiful, I couldn’t help but share. It’s the first video shot by my son, Chris, of my daughter-in-love Jen, singing Christmas in Heaven. Chris recorded and mixed the music. Jen is singing her own harmony and backup. The photos with the candles are of Chris’ father on the left, and Jen’s father on the right. Both were wonderful men and we’re looking forward to being reunited with them again someday.

I pray the video blesses you, as it has me.

’til next time,

Betty Jo

in my neck of the woods

Soon after I last posted about the first harvest in my little garden, my world changed completely.

We had been suffering a severe drought here in western North Carolina. Some very aggressive arsonists took advantage of the dryness and set several wildfires in the area. The first one was about ten miles from my home. Due to the dry situation, the fires spread rapidly. Generally here in NC, when we have forest fires, it’s the underbrush that burns. This time, however, the flames were so intense they were jumping from tree top to tree top, characteristic of fires out west.

I simply haven’t had the heart to write about all of this, until now. Stress and unhealthy air took a toll on me, and many others in my area. I only went out four times in over a month, simply because when I did, I could not breathe well. There were times, breathing was difficult even inside.

At one point, my son’s small town and county were entirely surrounded on all sides by wildfires. Chris said it was like living inside a camp fire, their air was so horrible.

There are simply not enough words, or thank-yous, to express our gratitude to the many firefighters who came from all over the US to help us in this battle.

This is the third time I’ve lived in this area in the past forty years. I’ve never known anything like the latter part of October and November, and I pray I never experience it again.

Following are some photos (not mine, taken from Facebook) of the fires, so you’ll know what I’m going on about.

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We’ve had a bit of rain in the past week or so, and it has helped to make the fires containable with most being put out completely. Thankfully, no lives were lost, and few structures were damaged in my immediate area. But, my heart is still very heavy and hurting for so many people over the mountain from me in the Gatlinburg, TN area. According to the authorities, two teens started a fire over that way, heavy winds picked up the embers, and within a very short time the fire was out of control and spread over thousands of acres of forest and residential areas. At last count, it took the lives of 14 people, injured 150, and damaged or destroyed 1,700 homes and businesses.

Please pray for those people who lost family members and their homes, especially during the holidays. Christmas is going to be a very, very sad time for many this year.

’til next time,

Betty Jo

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first harvest

The last week of September, I gathered my first harvest!!

What a joy it was to pick, and taste, the product of my hard work and efforts.

To an experienced gardener, my crop might look like a failure. But, as I told a friend at the outset, I considered the first planting an experiment.

I’ve practiced a habit in my life of looking at every new thing I try, as black or white, either a success or a failure. If gardening has taught me anything thus far, it’s trained me to change that way of seeing. Instead, I’ve come to realize that failure is often the path to success. When a scientist does an experiment, there can be all kinds of results. It’s considered a learning experience. And, I plan to learn a lot from my garden.

I planted several types of lettuce, kale, swiss chard, spinach, Asian greens, beets, carrots, radishes, as well as, pick-and-come-again baby mustards. A typical fall garden.

None of the lettuce germinated at all. I believe the ground was still too warm for lettuce, which I’ve since learned, needs a cooler soil for germination. I got only a few scraggly kale, swiss chard, and spinach plants. I left them in the ground to see if they might perk up and grow larger. If not, I’ll till them under, and they will become compost for my next planting. There were quite a few carrots or at least small carrot sprouts that emerged from the soil, which I haven’t pulled yet. I’ll soon see if there are edible orange roots beneath the puny tops.  The beets did not germinate. I got exactly two Asian greens; one smallish Tatsoi plant and a massive Pak Choy that filled a grocery bag all by itself.

What grew best; French Breakfast Radishes and the lovely mustards with their assortment of colors and textures. I’ve picked the baby greens twice already and will pick again tomorrow. From one tiny patch, less than 50 seeds, I’m still harvesting. Each time I’ve filled a grocery bag with the greens. They are so incredibly delicious and tender. I have only one problem with them, some of their leaves mysteriously go missing before I can get them home!

Here is a photo of the baby mustard greens growing in the garden:

copyright Betty Jo Martin 2016
copyright Betty Jo Martin 2016

And here is a shot of the radishes and greens after I washed them at home!

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copyright Betty Jo Martin 2016

Those are beautiful, and enticing enough to make the centerfold of a seed catalog! Don’t you agree?

I used the lovely Pak Choy in a stir-fry. The mustards have been eaten raw in salads, combined with radish leaves (Yes, you can eat radish leaves. Who knew?) in stir-frys and green smoothies.

I used the beautiful radishes for breakfast, and snacks, pairing them with goat’s cheese or dipped in a delicious salad-dressing-thick, cherry wood aged balsamic vinegar. A few made it into salads. Unfortunately, the radishes are all gone as I only planted one small section of them. Amazingly, I never cared for radishes before. But, I had never had any this fresh, or that I had grown myself, and what a difference that makes. Not only are locally grown organic vegetables healthier, but they also taste a thousand times better than store-bought.

So, I’ve a ways to go, but I’m on the path to success. My experimentation with gardening has already taught me a few things, given me incredible tasty and life-giving food, but most of all has made me want to grow more and more and more! Especially, radishes, baby mustards, and Pak Choy, not only for myself but enough to share with others.

Coming up; I’ll soon be planting garlic!

’til next time,

Betty Jo

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squatter

Squatters were people who moved onto unoccupied land along the frontier and claimed that land as their own. I would soon join their tribe!

Try as I might, I couldn’t get any information about the little garden plot I found with the adoption sign. By following trails around Facebook, I sadly discovered the garden director had been in a boating accident, and had recently returned home from the hospital. In a week or so he contacted me through Facebook and arranged to meet me on a Thursday morning at the community garden.

I arrived early, with camera in tow, and snapped some photos of the beautiful flowers in the gardens while waiting. I was so excited to meet the director.

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copyright Betty Jo Martin 2016

Unfortunately, he never arrived.

I locked the camera in my truck, and walked back across the acreage for another look at the little garden plot, sleeping under a blanket of tough weeds and runaway mint plants. Wondering all the while, if the director’s no-show was a redirect for me.

Was I going in the wrong direction? Should I be trying to grow my food closer to home, saving the gas money? Could I be taking on too much physical work for a woman of 69?

Instinctively I knew what I had to do, even with the unanswered questions still swirling around inside my brain. I stepped over the little fence, removed the adoption sign, and claimed my land. In an instant, I became a squatter.

This is an aerial view of the community garden soon after it’s beginning in 2012, with my little plot circled in red:

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When I returned home, I sent the director a message on Facebook telling him what I had done. Later I found out; he had been back in the hospital with an infection in his injured leg. I’ve yet to meet him, but I’ve been praying for him, and he is doing much better now and able to carry on with his life.

The very next morning I began clearing my land! I felt like a pioneer.

In a few hours of digging and pulling the mammoth weeds, I began to feel more like a pooped petunia. I worked with a hoe, shovel, and other garden tools, some I can’t even name, supplied by the community garden. Although I walked daily for exercise, it didn’t take me long to realize I’d been a couch, or office chair potato, way too long.

As I pulled on some of the huge weeds with all my might, it was as if their roots were made of rubber, literally yanking me back towards them. I was about as effective as a gnat. I almost face planted in the dirt several times. The weeds that weren’t trying to bury me, face first, had huge thorns and clawed right through my basic garden gloves.

Thinking I could clear the plot manually was either brave, or stupid on my part, and I was beginning to think the latter. Perhaps, a real garden would remain only a figment of my imagination.

By the next morning, every inch of my body hurt. I could hardly move. Although the work had been devilish, and not very productive, it was satisfying in some odd way, and I wanted more of it.

With faith and sheer determination, by August 31, I was planting my first seeds for a fall garden! There were still weeds in the fence, and surrounding it, that I would remove later and eventually build a path. I had unburdened the beds of weeds, put straw in the paths, and loaded and dug in two hundred pounds of composted cow manure.

The compost bags were massive. I couldn’t lift them. Instead, I had to pull them onto the tailgate of my little truck, cutting a hole at the end of the bag, then banging on it with my fists so the contents would drop into a wheelbarrow. Then I hauled it from the parking lot to my plot. The unwieldy wheelbarrow almost tipped on me several times, on a downhill stretch, as it gained incredible speed, with me hanging on best I could. As tired, and sore as I was, all I could do was laugh about the entire adventure.

As you may remember from the last post, this was my garden as I first saw her:

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And this is the way she looked by the end of August:

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Gran’s Garden, was finally becoming a reality!

’til next time,

Betty Jo

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taken root

Gardening has taken root in me!

As I mentioned in the previous blog post, my research for health, and healthier food has led me to a lot of new experiences. Gardening is one of those adventures.

For sometime, I’ve followed the blog of environmental activist and humanitarian, Rob Greenfield. On one of Rob’s posts about living healthy on less, I commented. I can’t recall exactly what I said, but it had to do with the realization that if I’m going to eat healthy, eating locally grown food is imperative. And to afford locally grown food, I’d have to grow it myself, which wouldn’t be easy on my small income. In reply to that comment Rob said he would send me the first seeds to get me started.

Now, blessed with a gift of seeds, I had to find a place to plant them. Since I rent a small mobile home, on a little weed-killer saturated lot, growing anything healthy in my yard wasn’t an option. The previous owners had spent over thirty years in homicidal pursuit of any wild plant that dared to poke it’s little shoots out of the ground. Their weapon of choice; Monsanto’s Glyphosate, marketed as Roundup.

My little home is also deckless, so container gardening to the degree I’d need to grow a goodly portion of my food was also out of the question.

I did with this, what I do with every need in my life; I prayed about it. I awoke the next morning, one day last August, with the thought of community gardens. I knew nothing about community gardens but googled while having my morning coffee. I found two located nearby. One, was only a couple miles from my trailer, very near our small downtown. The other, about four miles away, in an even smaller college town. Both, totally organic, no pesticides.

I learned online that one could adopt a plot in either garden free of charge, but with the understanding that a portion of the produce grown would be donated to a local nonprofit organization that prepares, and serves the food to those locally in need of meals. That brought joy to my heart! I could have a pesticide free place to grow some of my own food and share with others. It doesn’t get any better than that for someone who learned, a long time ago, the truth of Acts 20:35 “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

After visiting both gardens, I fell totally in love with the one near the university.

On my first visit, I walked the entire planted garden acreage, oohing and ahhing over all the beautiful intensive planted plots overflowing with every kind of vegetable, flower, and herb imaginable. I felt I had stumbled into the Garden of Eden.

At the very back of the gardens, on a path where I stepped gingerly trying to avoid lush melon and squash vines that had escaped from their designated plots, running rampantly across the walkway like green, runaway trains; I spotted her.

She was about fifteen feet by fifteen feet in size, surrounded by a sagging chicken wire fence enmeshed, almost blotted out, with some of the tallest and healthiest weeds I’d ever noticed before. There were no adjoining cleared plots, so she was entirely alone, sitting in the midst of the thick perennial wild greenery, much of which, grew taller than me. On closer inspection, I saw there were three long, wide raised beds within her.

The one thing I could see well was the white adoption sign on wire legs standing in the midst of the jungly chaos. In an instant, which later I would describe as a moment of insanity, I knew I wanted to adopt her.

Here she is, as I first saw her:

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Adoption is never easy. It took a lot more online work, and finally, a bold move on my part before she became mine.

Oh, I almost forgot, the name of the director of the community garden is Adam! It didn’t surprise me at all, after praying for a garden spot, the caretaker of the gardens would have the same name as the man God placed in His garden, to work it and take care of it.

More about my garden saga in future posts. Stay tuned!

’til next time,

Betty Jo

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looking back

February, of this year; I was not well.

I was experiencing a severe case of carpal tunnel in my right hand and wrist, which at times, was painful all the way to my shoulder. There was also back pain; again.  Just a few years before, I had been using a walker daily, bent over at the waist, unable to straighten up due to severe arthritic type back pain.

By changing my diet to a more plant-based way of eating, with minimally processed foods, and organic when I could afford it, I had gotten over the back issue and was walking comfortably, and in good posture. The diet change enabled me to pack the walker away in its original box for the past several years. The experience proved to me there is a direct connection between nutrition and health.

So, what had changed?

Copyright Betty Jo Martin 2016

I had slowly, one unhealthy food at a time, reverted to my old way of eating. In particular, through last year’s holiday season. Looking back, I was able to pinpoint the carpal tunnel had started around the latter part of October when everywhere I went there was some tempting seasonal sugar laden goody begging me to indulge. And I did, like an alcoholic, falling way off the wagon.

With my severe chemical sensitivities, pain medication was out of the question. My only alternative was to change my diet back to nutritional. Could I reverse the physical pain the second time ‘round?

It worked!

Being the type of person who never does anything half-way, I experimented with a totally raw, plant-based diet for three months. After the first month, both the back pain and the carpal tunnel were history.  After three months, I added back a little animal protein; grass-fed beef raised very near to where I live.

While on the raw regimen, I did a lot of research into healthier food choices, compared to the standard American diet. I’ll share more of my findings in future blog posts.

My research has led me to a lot of new experiences and brought me into contact with some amazing and extraordinary people. I will introduce many of them to you in future posts.

‘til next time,

Betty Jo

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transition

copyright Betty Jo Martin 2016
copyright Betty Jo Martin 2016

 

It’s been a long hot summer!

Just this morning I was thinking how much cooler the air feels, although we’re still in the eighties during the day. Summer is transitioning into fall. I can feel it!

Speaking of transition, I’ve made some changes in my personal life.

  • I’m now gardening, something I hadn’t done in nearly thirty years when Hubby and I had a tiny square-foot garden. I’ve adopted a small plot in a nearby community garden where everything is grown organically. It’s been both challenging and exciting!
  • Recently I was thinking of doing volunteer work, and an opportunity came knocking, that I simply couldn’t resist.
  • I’ve continued on my trek of decluttering and learning to live more simply, healthier, and environmentally conscious.

In the days ahead, I’ll share my adventures with you in all of those new-to-me endeavors, as well as, things I’ve learned along the way about simplifying life.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve blogged, so catch me up in the comments. How was your summer? What’s been going on in your life?

’til next time,

Betty Jo

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