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About two weeks ago, I put my new seed starting station to work and planted some tomato and pepper seeds, along with some spinach and lettuce.  This week, I started some snow peas and sugar snap peas.

I always start tomato seeds early, with the hopes of getting them good and tall before transplant time.  I’ve never gotten them more than a couple of inches tall before planting outside, but I keep hoping with a bit of tweaking (and a lot more fish emulsion), I’ll have them as tall as the nursery transplants.

When deciding which varieties of seeds to plant first, I use a very scientific method:  my intuition.  I just sort of ask the Universe which ones to start, and then I plant what seems to come up in my mind.  In addition, I also use some actual science, in that I know certain seeds have to be planted at certain times in order to grow well in this area.  I also rotate where I plant things.

In the flat of tomatoes, I planted the following varieties: German Johnson, Granadero and Black Krim.   About a week later, I saw my first seedling popping through the soil.  Now, most of the seeds have germinated and the baby plants are reaching toward the grow light.


Unfortunately, the flat of pepper seeds looks quite different.

006Not hide nor hair of a seedling!  Like a child at Christmas checking presents under the tree, I kept going back to this flat, picking it up and investigating each little soil cell.   Finally, I decided that the first batch of seeds (which consisted of Sweet Chocolate and Golden Cal), wasn’t going to germinate.

So, thanking my lucky stars I had lots more seeds from which to choose, I tried again and used a bit different tactic.  I usually barely cover the pepper seeds with seed-starting soil. But the directions on the back of the seed packets said I could lay them on top of the soil.  So I decided to experiment and lightly covered some while laying others on top of the soil.

I know peppers like warm soil, so the thought crossed my mind that perhaps the soil wasn’t warm enough.  But that grow light keeps the soil warm to touch, and it even dries the soil out quickly, so I’ll wait a bit longer before pulling out one of my heat mats.  I don’t currently have the time to water the seedlings all during the day, so I can’t have them drying out too quickly.

Hopefully this batch will grow.  I planted the last of the Sweet Chocolates, some more Golden Cal, and a few rows each of Sweet Red Stuffing, Melrose, and Jimmy Nardello.   I haven’t grown any of these particular kinds of peppers before, and I’m looking forward to trying them.

I’m happy I bought a lot of seeds just because sometimes I don’t get good results.  I’d rather end up having too many plants to deal with than not enough.  Yes, I could go buy some transplants at the store — and I’ve had to do that with basil, of all things!  But buying vegetable plants feels a bit like cheating to me.  Plus stores don’t carry as wide of a variety.

At any rate, the spinach and lettuce are growing nicely.


It’s about time to transplant some of those little buggers so they can grow bigger.  Good thing I have lots of pots that I can use indoors, since it’s so cold and wet outside.    I’m excited to see how the spinach does, since I don’t have luck with outdoor spinach.  I’d love to be able to grow it indoors continuously in the winter.

And lastly,  the snow peas and sugar snaps are beginning to sprout.  I may have jumped the gun on these guys since, as already noted, it is so cold and so very, very wet.  I figure the cold will end soon, but it’s the wet I worry about, especially since my soil is still 90 percent clay.   Worst case, I can bring in lots more soil and compost and build up the winter/spring garden areas, rather than digging too far down into the clay.

Next up, I’ll probably plant some squash and beans.   Oh … and there’s eggplant this year.  I haven’t had luck with that in the past, but maybe this year will be different!

What’s growing in your garden?





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We’re in line for another cold snap, so what better time to start some seeds indoors?

In the past, I used the dining room table to house my seed trays.  Using the dining room chairs, I propped up several homemade lighting structures given to me by a former gardener, and I was all set.

However this year, the dining room is off limits for pretty much all activity.  Seems one of my feral cats (I’m looking at you, Patches!) has taken the liberty of tearing apart the duct work under that room so that the heat now only warms up the crawl space.  The dining room is freezing!!!

I know that I have to fix the duct work and create a warm space for Patches that doesn’t involve my crawl space.  Unfortunately, I haven’t figured out what type of space to create, and I just don’t have the heart to take away Patches’ warm space right in the middle of winter.   So the easiest option was for me to find another place to grow my seeds.

A quick internet search on seed starting supplies sent me to Old Word Garden Farms and the article they wrote about building a seed-starting rack.   (Note that they also used their dining room table before building this structure!)

I then enlisted my woodworker friend J., who built the structure for me out of leftover wood he had from other projects.  I chose different dimensions for the shelf heights, but other than that, J. pretty much followed the plans linked above.

I have a very large dining room table, and I would stuff it full of seed trays, so I’m not sure how much extra space I gained.   But I know that I will love having a dedicated space for the seeds to grow.  And once I figure out the cat situation, I’ll actually be able to use my dining room!

Now… what to plant?

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It’s been about a month since I returned from walking the Camino de Santiago, and out of necessity, life has been slow going.

Turns out that when I hurt myself near Leon, I actually did have a stress fracture. The doctor couldn’t believe I had walked about 200 miles (and then some) with that injury.  And, looking back, I can’t believe I did, either.

If I had known it was a stress fracture, I would have come home, but I chose to believe everyone who said, “it’s just tendonitis.”  Then I wondered why everyone else with tendonitis was getting better and I wasn’t.

Of course, I could have gone to a doctor, but that’s a whole nother story.   Suffice it to say I thought I could finish, and I pretty much knew that if I left when I did, I might never have the opportunity to come back and complete the walk.

So I limped my way into Santiago, rested a lot, and finally went to the doctor when I got back home.  I haven’t seen the x-rays personally, but the doctor said the bone is displaced.  Sort of makes me a little sick to think of that, actually!   I’ve got a boot, and I’m supposed to stay off my right foot altogether.  Though, between you and me, I am not following directions.  Sometimes I have to put a little weight on my foot, like when I feed my animals or go up and down the deck stairs.  But I do realize I have to stay off my foot as much as possible or it will never get better.

Life on crutches has made things a bit more challenging.  Thank goodness for doggie day camp! Meghan the wonderdog gets to romp and play with dogs twice a week, and comes back exhausted. I feel less guilty about not being able to walk her.

Speaking of Meghan, I am not shy about soliciting playmates for her.  She really needs to run and wrestle with another active dog.  The picture below is of Meghan and Jake, a neighbor’s dog with similar energy.

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Another, more personal challenge is that of integrating my experience on the Camino into my daily life.  In some ways, the insights I received and the experiences I had have greatly changed me.  What of my “old” life do I bring back?  Do I attempt a side business or just focus on my long-term goals of operating a mini-farm/b&b?  Will I be able to  move closer to family?  Can I live more fully in the moment, trusting that angels surround me here just like they did on the Camino?  Can I show the same open-heartedness and support to others that I was shown on the Camino?

Right now, I’m being tested on what I’ve learned.  I’m on the job market, and working hard to trust that the right job, with the right income, will present itself.  Funny how we view things — I never questioned my ability to walk 500 miles (and I might do it again someday!), but I often question whether I can support myself doing a job I like.

Anyway, part of the “old” life was my 50-in-50 challenge.  Some of my challenges for myself (such as the restaurants and new experiences) I’d already given up on.  I’m still reading (I’ve got several books to add to the tally), and I guess I’ll still write about the new recipes.  Funny that I still love to cook and to eat, but I haven’t found the energy to link to the new recipes. Maybe once I’m off crutches, I’ll get back in the swing of things.








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I recently turned 50 years old and one of my goals for the year is to make 50 new recipes. The latest recipe is Black-Eyed Pea Masala ftom Fat-Free Vegan Kitchen’s site.

I chose to make this dish because I have some home-grown purple hull peas in the freezer, and it’s about time to use them up lest they get freezer burn.

I love Fat-Free Vegan Kitchen; many of the recipes are easy to make. This recipe Was especially easy. cook black-eyed peas (or in my case, purple hulls), onions, canned tomatoes, and spices. Serve over brown rice. Add some greens (I steamed kale). De-licious!

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I recently turned 50 years old and one of my goals for the year is to have 50 new experiences.

This latest new experience, attending a high school musical, feels a bit like cheating. After all, I acted in several plays back when I was in high school, though, technically, they were not musicals.

Regardless of my admittedly limited past dramatic experience, I haven’t been to a high school production since I graduated in 1981. So when my neighbor B. called to invite me to a play at her grandchildrens’ school, I jumped at the chance. I was – and am – in desperate need of new experiences or I’ll never meet my goal!

Plus, the production in question was “Grease.” I had never seen the stage production, but the movie … well that’s another matter entirely.

“Grease” the movie was released the summer between my freshmen and sophomore years in high school. Along with my BFF’s K. and K., I saw that movie easily 30 times that summer. We watched so many times, we had the entire movie memorized, songs and all!

The movie still holds a special place in my heart. Yes, it’s silly, but it reminds me of a fun, innocent summer with my two besties.

The play is a bit different from the movie, with lots of different songs and sets. And at least one song (Sandra Dee) had different lyrics, too.

We went on opening night, and it was fun seeing the young folks performing while their parents watched proudly. My only complaint was that the student running the sound didn’t quite have the job down: no sound from the mikes, then suddenly sound would blare. It was a bit disconcerting, but hopefully the situation was resolved by the next performance.

Besides being a new experience, I was glad to be able to support high school arts. Funding is tough these days, and I would hate to see art, drama and music programs fold.

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I recently turned 50 years old and one if my challenges for the year was to make 50 new recipes. This weekend, I made a quick and easy Sweet Potato Chili from Chocolate Covered Katie.

This is a great recipe if you want a “one-pot” meal but don’t have a lot of time to prepare or cook.

Sweet potatoes, canned beans, canned tomatoes, onion, zucchini and spices – throw in a pot and cook until the sweet potatoes are done.

I’ve made similar recipes before, but not this exact one, so it counts for my challenge. Plus, it includes two of my favorite things: black beans and sweet potatoes. I couldn’t go wrong trying this!

It does make a nice amount; I gave a little away, froze some, and still have enough for several meals this week.

Yum yum!

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I recently turned 50 years old and one of my goals for the year was to have 50 new experiences. Today’s new experience was climbing the stairs at Wallace Wade Stadium.

In the past, I’ve avoided excessive stair climbing, even though it’s great exercise, because of my faulty knees.

But about a month ago, I was reading some Camino forums and saw a suggestion to climb stadium steps if one couldn’t easily train in the mountains. So I decided to go visit my friend, Wally Wade.

Duke’s football stadium is not very large, but it presented enough of a challenge for the beginner.

I must admit I’ve done this twice before, both times in February. The first time, I went around the stadium twice and was very proud of myself until the next day, when my calves seized with pain. Interestingly, all other muscles were fine.

Next time, I only went around once, and I varied my “step down” technique so my calves wouldn’t revolt.

Today I went around only halfway. Hmmm… This is probably not the best training plan!

Though to my credit, I’ve been sick the past three weeks and am just now getting my exercise back to where it should be. Plus I wanted to make sure I will be ready for my 12- to 15-mile hike tomorrow. Next week, I’ll go around the whole way.

Now about new experiences: I have realized that it’s much harder than I thought to do different things each week. Maybe because I haven’t felt well, combined with getting ready for my trip, wrapping up at my job, and hardly ever sleeping through the night?

Minus all my experienced on the Camino, I may have a tough time meeting this challenge.

How do you motivate yourself to do new things?

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