Featured Post

How much is necessary?

For the past year, David and I have been house hunting. We love our little home, but we desire a different layout, a different town, and c...

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Gardening Adventure

I am not a gardener. As I've marched into my mid-30's, I've definitely grown in my appreciation and enjoyment of puttering in my yard. I've learned to mow the grass and weeding isn't quite so overwhelming. But I've never had a flower or vegetable garden. I kill plants. While not as bad as some, I'm of the mindset that plants should just survive without much care on my part.

My brother on the other hand is amazing with plants. He can smell if my compost is good. He can identify a tomato disease by description! The man has a True green thumb. [Pun intended]

This is why it is borderline folly that I have a garden and he does not- in the traditional sense. I believe his basement of lamps and basil is doing well.

We are doing this impart to teach the girls where food comes from, how to grow things and to hopefully improve our (mine and David) skills at tending things. We have herbs- rosemary, cilantro, lavender, oregano, basil, thyme; sweet potatoes (this will likely fail); zucchini; tomatoes; and cucumbers.

Ambitious. Wish us luck.

A neighbor of mine in the village
    Likes to tell how one spring
When she was a girl on the farm, she did
    A childlike thing.

One day she asked her father
    To give her a garden plot
To plant and tend and reap herself,
    And he said, “Why not?”

In casting about for a corner
    He thought of an idle bit
Of walled-off ground where a shop had stood,
    And he said, “Just it.”

And he said, “That ought to make you
    An ideal one-girl farm,
And give you a chance to put some strength
    On your slim-jim arm.”

It was not enough of a garden,
    Her father said, to plough;
So she had to work it all by hand,
    But she don’t mind now.

She wheeled the dung in the wheelbarrow
    Along a stretch of road;
But she always ran away and left
    Her not-nice load.

And hid from anyone passing.
    And then she begged the seed.
She says she thinks she planted one
    Of all things but weed.

A hill each of potatoes,
    Radishes, lettuce, peas,
Tomatoes, beets, beans, pumpkins, corn,
    And even fruit trees

And yes, she has long mistrusted
    That a cider apple tree
In bearing there to-day is hers,
    Or at least may be.

Her crop was a miscellany
    When all was said and done,
A little bit of everything,
    A great deal of none.

Now when she sees in the village
    How village things go,
Just when it seems to come in right,
    She says, “I know!

It’s as when I was a farmer——”
    Oh, never by way of advice!
And she never sins by telling the tale
    To the same person twice.

by Robert Frost  (from Mountain Interval, 1920)

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Minimalism: Uncluttered Course Week One

Photo from Penguin Random House
Minimalism. I've talked about it several times in the past. [Scroll down to the bottom and search "minimalism" to see how many times.] I have counted how many items leave my house. I have experimented with self challenges to see how "low" can I go. As a family we have lived this intentional live for almost 5 years. But now... Everything changes.

Joshua Becker, one of the strongest and most honestly practical voices within the minimalist movement, released his first book through a major publisher last week. The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own is nothing short of life-challenging, life-changing, life-giving. Many of you are reading it and taking Joshua's course Uncluttered with me. And those that aren't, well, you're missing out. Honest.

This phenomenal new resource is pushing me to give and do and be more. As I type, I'm staring at an amazingly high pile of unwanted objects. I thought I had pretty much cleared out the clutter. In fact, I am content with the level of minimalism in our home. What we have works for us. Yet, when I opened a cabinet I noticed several things we no longer used. When I hung up the rain jacket, I saw the under-worn jacket hanging limply in the closet. These items are fine living in my home, but truly someone else could use them more. My heart has started to follow my hands in how it holds onto our possessions - loosely, very loosely.

In week one of the Uncluttered course, Joshua asks us to declare our "why" for minimalism. Since David and I have been journeying for a while, I kinda thought we had this assignment nailed. Our family motto still rings true yet I realized that my voice has been the loudest as we've walked this counter-cultural road. I wanted to hear David's voice, his dreams, his desires.

See, I am the dreamer in my family. I love goals and vision and brainstorming the seemingly impossible. I also love practical and easy to accomplish steps. David, practically turns green when I mention setting goals for our family. It's not that he doesn't want purpose or defined focus, he's just wired to go about them differently. Truthfully, sometimes I want to tell him to lighten up and don't get so hung up on the semantics of the thing. [smile]

When it comes to how our home is run, I lead the daily to do's. He keeps me in check, as a good husband should, but he trusts me. Still over the years, minimalism has changed David. He no longer buys items just to own them. He calculates if we have the space and if he has the time to properly care for whatever he desires. He has disowned many items because he recognizes that these items don't bring him happiness, healthy relationships do. But, I'm still the dreamer, the motivator. I enjoy this role, but we're reaching a point as a family where some of our "one day..." and "sometime..." could be realities. And while I love to dream, I really, really need David's insight and encouragement to risk. Funny that. I'm not the risk taker. He is.

So I'm learning to listen to his voice in our minimalist home and I'm pushing myself to risk. One of those "risks" has been to welcome several of you into my home. Not just for tea or a chat, but so you can physically see how we live. I try to answer your questions. I don't view this as a bragging game, but an idea generator. Sometimes it just helps to see how someone does something. So closets are opened, drawers are pulled, and my prayer is you leave filled with possibility for your own space. [I'm happy to have more visitors, so just holler if you want to see, but I'm also hoping to see some of your spaces. I'm still learning and growing too and you have ways of inspiring me.]

This whole mission of minimalism isn't about reaching a nirvana-like state where no clean-up is required. And it's certainly not about winning some prize for lowest number of possessions. What it has always been and always will be is a chance for us to live simply so Christ, in us, is made great through us.

Uncluttered, The More of Less, and the conversations I'm having with you and my husband are leading into a new phase of minimalism for my family. We are on the cusp of taking this to the next level. We cannot stay in the infant stage forever [how boring!]. It's time to start growing up, risking a little [or a lot] and trusting that where our treasure is there His heart will be. It's about walking with faith and not sight.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

My Neighborhood: Nature in the City

A recent post on FIMBY by Renee Tougas about lifestyle choices got me thinking about my life, my choices, and how that is reflected in my story. I have spent the majority of the last 12 years living in urban environments. Some have been very urban (North Philadelphia) while others, like our current home, is tucked between "the city" and "the suburbs". David and I also have a penchant for traveling to cities rather than roaming through farm land. This was evidenced as we just returned from a getaway to Minneapolis/St. Paul and while there talked about places we'd like to go in the future-- all cities!

On one hand cities offer so much to do, concentrations of culture and food. Yet, I don't think we consider cities a place where nature blossoms--at least outside of zoos and city gardens. With the advent of spring, I have been reminded how much nature is available in my backyard- despite not having a wood or creek or field.

In our neighborhood, we have squirrels a plenty. They can be bothersome to vegetable patches and bird feeders, but they are also hysterical to watch chasing each other. There is also a resident chipmunk who I saw skittering down the sidewalk just last week, little tail bolt upright as it dashed from our neighbor's bush to a hole in our mulch. A less desirable animal is a groundhog who seems to hide under our neighbor's sheds. Last year, Mr. Groundhog ate all of Patty's sunflowers. We're hoping to live trap him and remove him from our area, but he's proven crafty. A far more beautiful and arresting animal is our neighborhood red fox. I am personally tickled to have such a lovely beast to share our little scrap of earth. We saw the vixen early one morning. The sun was rising, the mist slowly dissipating and her gorgeous coat of rust trollopping across our backyard. Foxes are wonderful creatures to have in a city. We are on the look out for her return.

This evening with the damp and rain we witnessed a robin pull a worm from the ground, divide it on our patio, and eat one half. Than a male and female cardinal came and pecked at the leftovers. All we had to do was stand at our kitchen window. Meanwhile, if you look out the bathroom window at our rose and clematis arbor you will see a small nest lovingly built by mourning doves. We can't wait to hear the peeps and calls of the chicks when the hatch. There is also a pair of woodpeckers that reside one street over. We hear their pecking in the late afternoon rhythmically tick-ticking the passage of time.

We have vegetable gardens that are being planted and produce that will be shared among neighbors as spring gives way to summer bounty. And of course, we have flowers. Our next door neighbor has gorgeous tulips and daffodils everyone enjoys viewing in early spring. As the forsythia turn from yellow to green the azalea bushes are ablaze with pink, white, and red blooms. Roses are being watered and hydrangeas heavy with green buds patiently await warmer days. Color, texture, fragrance  fill my neighborhood each season of the year. Holly bushes in winter; hosta and lily of the valley every spring; summer holds hibiscus and rhubarb; and fall the yellow ginkgo and the flame red of fire bushes. It's a delight to the senses. It's also a testimony of time, of tending. Patience from past growers and the continued diligence of current owners. I live in a beautiful place.