The horse's pasture to the East...

Wednesday, March 8, 2017


I'm on a gardening roll here. Thought I'd talk to you about Lasagna Gardening. I found information about it eight years ago thanks to the 'Google Gods' and Youtube, awesome resources. It makes organic gardening from scratch so easy! We have two versions of it and both have worked very nicely, eliminating a lot of time and energy I used to spend on loosening and improving soil, turning it over and dealing with weeds. 

I do my own cobbled together version of this. I usually start my beds in the Autumn and let them over Winter, but I've also put them in during the early Spring months too. We've chosen a spot on the east side of our barn where it doesn't get hayed and has become a spot for weeds if I don't mow it every week. It looks like a good place for Sunflowers and Echinacea (purple prairie cone flowers) . The Echinacea is a biannual that takes two years to get started. I'm putting the  Sunflowers in to stabilize the hillside (we have no flat areas at all where we live) and to provide shade for the Echinacea while it establishes itself. The first year for the Echinacea will be low growing greens only. It will flower the next year and continue to grow, reseeding itself every year there after. Both are very good for the wild life as well as the horses, and they're pretty flowers that are native to this area to boot. It's a win-win for us.

We waited until the horses were taken off that field (they get to use it six hours a day for about six months of the year after it's been hayed) and then I scooped the multitude of poop they gift the Earth with and layered it directly on the well grazed, short grass back behind the barn. See my cat sitting on the blue barrel? Walk around that corner and the triangle area the tractor can't easily get back to is where we're putting in our new wild flower area. It will go back to the fence with enough space for me to easily mow around it. Lots less mowing for me to do!

On top of the nice, deep layer of poop we put layers of boxes we've saved. The poop underneath breaks down very nicely with the cardboard acting as the shade to help keep the weeds from coming back. On top of the cardboard we put hay left behind by the horses or moldy hay that wasn't good enough to feed them. 

The next layer is the broken down compost that is at least a year old. We call it 'Black Gold'. On top of that we'll put soil and mix it with the 'Black Gold', making a very nice place to start wildflowers without weeds. The finished area is about ten to twelve inches high and will break down to being only about two to three inches high by the end of the Summer. While that's happening the sunflowers will push roots down through the cardboard, which breaks down rapidly, establishing a nice system to hold it all in place. The Echinacea will establish itself around the Sunflowers and will take over next year. 

I had to add this video. The music and fast forward were a hoot to watch. I love the way they used hay bales to make the edging for the raised beds too. It, eventually, becomes part of the garden. We built beds using wood. They've been there for eight years now. The wood has warped some but it still is holding the shape. The soil, since we amend it every Autumn building another layered Lasagna style garden on top, has become a rich, loomy home for a multitude of worms. It smells good enough to eat! (I know. Some of you are making 'YUCK!' faces here. But really good dirt does smell delicious to someone who spends a lot of their time experimenting with ways to improve the soil. ) Even in years of drought, when most of the neighbors around here have given up on their gardens, ours is still producing. And the weeds are very easy to control. 

In the raised container beds we use coffee grounds from some of the local coffee shops (they give it away free!), produce that is either too bruised or old to sell from the grocery stores, scraps from our kitchen as well as peed on bedding from the stalls and our own composted horse poop. If you check in your area you can usually find horse ranches as well as people who have chickens that are more than happy to share the bounty with you. It's very rich and breaks down quickly, giving you beds to grow in that will be the envy of your neighbors. And it's all organic! You know how much it costs to buy fresh organic produce in the grocery store. Whew! Takes your breath away. 

I can't say enough good things about this style of gardening. It gives back to the Earth, eliminates or helps to cut down on the carbon 'footprint', and provides so much fresh produce you'll end up teaching yourself how to can and freeze to save the bounty for the rest of the year.

This is a no brainer style of gardening that saves time and money as well as the back breaking job of tilling the soil every Autumn. Throw some seeds in, tuck a few plants in and enjoy. I promise your gardens will DANCE with butterflies, bees and more tomatoes and peppers than you know what to do with!

I am, ever yours, Nancy, smiling because Spring is around the corner ! 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017


The landscape is slowly waking up. Forsythia is blooming and the fields have a delicate pale green cast to them. Time to garden! 

Definition of garden

1a :  a plot of ground where herbs, fruits, flowers, or vegetables are cultivatedb :  a rich well-cultivated regionc :  a container (as a window box) planted with usually a variety of small plants

If you look at the definition of the word garden, from the Merriam Webster Dictionary, you can see that a garden is all inclusive of whatever you are growing in the ground or a container, inside or outside. So anyone can grow something anywhere and call themselves gardeners. 

There's a movement afoot to make gardening available to everyone without the interference of corporate entities. I'm going to be attaching some of the videos about these groups to this article because I truly think that growing your own food and herbs is the best form of revolution there is. It's peaceful, beautiful, enlightening and satisfying. If you don't have a place to put your hands in to the soil, then create a place to grow within the environment you live in. When you grow your own food, you take back your independence. YOU control the food that goes in to your body and you give back to the Earth, even when growing hydroponically in recycled bottles in a tiny apartment. There are now communities online with thousands of members who are crowd sourcing, sharing their ideas about how to lessen the carbon footprint while recycling containers and growing their own organic food. 

Did you know that there’s a natural antidepressant in soil? It’s true. Mycobacterium vaccae is the substance under study and has indeed been found to mirror the effect on neurons that drugs like Prozac provide. The bacterium is found in soil and may stimulate serotonin production, which makes you relaxed and happier. Studies were conducted on cancer patients and they reported a better quality of life and less stress. Lack of serotonin has been linked to depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder and bipolar problems. The bacterium appears to be a natural antidepressant in soil and has no adverse health effects. These antidepressant microbes in soil may be as easy to use as just playing in the dirt.

Read more at Gardening Know How: Antidepressant Microbes In Soil: How Dirt Makes You Happy ( from an article by Bonnie L. Grant )

I've been a gardener for sixty years. Yikes! Big number, isn't it? My Grandpa started me off on the quest for mud between my toes and dirt under my fingernails when I was "knee high to a grasshopper". That was his phrase. He would laugh at how earnest I was about making straight rows and doing exactly what he was doing with the soil. He didn't have a voice so he would point at his knee, catch a grasshopper, point at it's joints and at me. We had our own language, my Grandpa and I. I'd smile and back we would go to our planting, weeding, loosening of the soil, and watering with my own little watering can he'd found for me in the back of the barn. 

There was no internet when I was a young woman. But there were seeds, hand tools and spades, soil and pots. I grew something every place that we lived, including the tiny studio apartment in Berlin, Germany. There was a window with a ledge and flower pots were cheap and plentiful. I grew lettuce and spinach, cherry tomatoes and flowers in that window. In the process I made friends with my German neighbors who I would wave at everyday while watering my tiny, urban garden. It wasn't long before the barriers of language were broken when we shared our bounty back and forth ; flowers for herbs, herbs for lettuce, tomatoes for seeds. I can't remember their names but I can still see their faces, the smiles, when we compared our window gardens. 

I hope you're taking the time to watch these short videos as you go through this article. Each of them has a theme that CONNECTS together. This one is about the CONNECTION we have with the Earth and the fact that most of us have lost that CONNECTION. We need to find our way back to the garden, to the Earth and all of the lovely, natural gifts she offers. 
I've added the videos to inspire you. Now all you have to do is decide how you're going to use the ideas here. To help you get started I'm going to add some information about my favorite places to order seeds. Tools you can find at any big box type store. Better yet, go to garage sales and estate sales. Some of the tools being sold there for pennies on the dollar have history and are made better than the new tools. One of our favorite family jokes is about the "Cheap Hoe" I've used in my gardens for more than thirty years. I bought it at a garage sale for fifty cents and it's still going strong. But that's another story...

EdenBrothers.Com - Eden Brothers Seed Co‎ 633-6336

I've been shopping with Eden Brothers for more than twenty years. I especially 
love their wild flower mixes. You can buy them in bulk for excellent prices. Their
website is very easy to shop from, service is excellent and the germination rate
for everything I've bought has been way above average. They sell vegetables, herbs,
almost anything you're looking for. I would give them a five out of five stars.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds: Rare Heirloom Seeds
Buy Heirloom Garden Seeds online. Over 1800 varieties of Vegetables, Rare Flowers & Herbs. 100% Non-GMO open pollinated seeds. 

If you're like me, you love seed catalogs. There's nothing like having the actual, printed on paper catalog in front of you for dreaming and planning out your garden. Baker Creek is an excellent source of heirloom seeds from all over the world, all of them carefully sourced and organic. The catalog is a work of art loaded with information and ideas about how to get started with your own garden. Better yet, this catalog is FREE. If you love to make vision boards or to sit up at night with catalogs next to you while you plan out your garden, order your catalog from Baker Creek. (I save mine from year to year!) This company is another five out of five stars for me.

Organic Non-GMO Vegetable Seed - -For growers and gardeners‎
Excellent Quality. Over 700 Organic Varieties. Free Shipping. Free Catalog.
(802) 472-6174

I found High Mowing at a Mother Earth Fair a few years back. I bought some of
their seed packs, listened to a presentation, looked at some of the tools they 
offered and I was hooked! The seeds we planted that year had an excellent 
germination rates and very high yields. This is another five stars out of five stars
for me. And did I forget to mention the FREE catalog?! Another one to add to 
your stock pile.

Dutch Gardens Catalog - Search & Find Quick Results.‎ delivers the best results from across the web.
Learn More · Quick & Easy Answers · Find Relevant Information · Search & Find Now

I've ordered my bulbs from Dutch Gardens for years. They have excellent bulk prices and a wide variety of bulbs and seeds. I would give them four out of five stars but only because I'm not as sure of their sourcing for organic products. If you love flowers grown from bulbs I would highly suggest them as your go to source. 

Start your own revolution. Use this as a way to RESIST. Find your way back to the gardens, fresh food you've grown and the magic of watching the first tiny sprouts come up. Share with your neighbors, CONNECT to the Earth and find your way home. There's nothing like plunging your hands in to the dirt or, even better, rebuilding the soil for centering yourself and regaining control of your life.
Do the best that you can with what you have wherever you are. Be a "soldier" of the Garden and bring green in to your life. 
This was written for the memory of my Grandad and his love of the Earth. Thank you for the gift of a lifetime Grandpa. I love you!
I am, ever yours, Nancy, smiling with green stuff between my teeth and mud between my toes. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017


I'm going to write about violence today. I choose, most of the time, not to identify myself with my abusive and chaotic childhood. I've worked hard for my entire adult life to understand and forgive my parents; my Father for his uncontrollable temper and inability to "control his hands" (as Mr. Stewart talks about in this and other videos on youtube) and my Mother for not being strong enough to take us away from a home where we all were endangered. 

Where does domestic violence come from? How can we, as a species, hurt our own children or spouse, brothers or sisters? It's self destructive and it leaves scars that never go away. It's a pattern that repeats itself down through the generations, creating and recreating the atmosphere for more violence.

My Father, like most of the young men of his generation, was a veteran of WW2. He and his brothers served during the war. Statistically the vast majority of men in prison for domestic violence or for assault are veterans of war. We lived in one of those households where uncontrollable anger, pain, frustration and physical violence took root and bloomed. 

I don't know what went on in my Uncle's houses but I can tell you that in my parent's home I always kept a window open, hoping that I would have a way to escape. I watched my Father break a board over my brother's back because he was lost in a snow storm. He would strike me so hard that I flew across the room, hitting the wall and being knocked senseless. He would fight with my Mother, throwing things at her and hitting her. And one of my brothers was on the street by the age of fourteen, becoming a drug addict and convicted felon later in his life. I am certain he left because his home life was worse than his life on the street.

 I was an expert on violence, on being able to predict the atmosphere and temperature in the room and knowing when it was coming by the age of five. And I always knew the best way to exit the room too; either through a door or, if I couldn't get to the door, through a window. I knew a lot about how to hide and if I wasn't able to get away, to hide inside my head. 

Violence begets violence. One of the definitions of the word patterns is : Consistent and recurring characteristic or trait that helps in the identification of a phenomenon or problem, and serves as an indicator or model for predicting its future behavior. 

It's a repeating pattern that recycles itself because of the imprint it leaves on the children who grow up in a house with domestic abuse in it. I've watched the lasting effects of our childhood roll down through the generations, putting a niece and a nephew of mine in prison as convicted felons. They've been incapable of long term relationships and have lost custody of their children. My nieces were pregnant by the age of fifteen and none of those children finished high school. 

Do I think war had something to do with it? I think that's a high probability. I never saw my father's parents show any signs of aggression towards any of us or each other. We sometimes spent weeks with them in the Summers. There was plenty of opportunity for uncontrolled anger and violence. It never showed it's face to any of us. My father had scars on his head, perhaps causing closed head injuries (something that was not part of the conversation in the fifties and sixties or even seventies). Shell shock was the term for PTSD during that generation. I have no way to confirm it with my father or mother. They died many years ago. But I do believe his behaviors may have been affected by his experiences during the war.

I've spent my life as an adult breaking the pattern of violence imprinted on my childhood. Violence is a choice. I decided NOT to be like either of my parents. I took classes, went to counseling, took a minor in psychology in college. I learned the art of self defense, choosing not to be vulnerable. And my mantra now, to my sons and others, is ALWAYS QUESTION AUTHORITY. And I am one of the lucky ones. I married my best friend who has always been there for me, reaching out and helping to put me back on my feet when I was struggling. In my family my husband and I, together, have broken the pattern of pain, anger, frustration and "not being able to control one's hands". 

I will never understand the violent side of our nature as humans. I will not condone it. And I will not participate in it either. Violence is a choice and mine is to walk away or, better yet, run away from it. 

I still stop to look at any room I'm in, making sure there is a way to escape. I never walk in to any situation without looking at all of the people present and being prepared to run, hide or if there is no other choice, to defend myself. My scars will never allow me to fully relax in any social situation. Trust is a powerful word for me. It is rarely given and once broken it can take years to recover or, sometimes, never at all. 

The videos I've linked here will give you a basic set of steps to take if you or someone you know is being abused. Please, please reach out for help. And if it is refused, ask again and again. 

The National Abuse Hotline number is :1- 800- 799- SAFE (7233) or
                                                         1- 800- 787- 3224 (TDD)

Both numbers will put you in contact with trained counselors and are completely confidential. Please, ASK FOR HELP either for yourself or for the person you know is being hurt.

I am, ever yours, Nancy, no longer silent and smiling because I can!