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Spring Gardens North & South 2017

This year is my first full year in my new home (and Garden of Gains South). I had moved in at the end of July 2016, had a garden that I quickly plowed in the first week, but now I have a full season, and am much more organized & intentional with my planting this year.

Fast forward to 2017 & finally got the home garden fully planted! I listened to Googled sources on my frost dates last year & paid for it when my tomatoes were hit with frost; this year I listened to local legend & waited until after Mother’s Day to plant the delicate plants – most everything besides the berries.

This garden consists of:

  • San Marzano Tomatoes
  • Early Girl Hybrid Tomatoes
  • Jalapeños
  • Habaneros
  • Bell Peppers
  • Sweet Peppers
  • Boyne Raspberries
  • Pink Champagne Currant
  • Apache Blackberry
  • Cilantro
  • Basil
  • Mammoth Dill
  • Romanian Red Garlic
  • Strawberries

It really doesn’t seem like I have that many different varieties, but I do usually get carried away when it comes to plants..

The Boyne Raspberries, Pink Champagne Currant, and Apache Blackberry were planted earlier in the spring, plus I had an Anne Golden Raspberry that is thriving in its second year.

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Boyne Raspberries, Anne Golden Raspberry in background of this row. Row to the left consists of Jalapeños, Habaneros, & Bell Peppers

 

I’m trying something new for my tomatoes & pepper plants this year. For the tomatoes & half of the peppers I am using red mulch film under them. This will suppress weeds, help the soil retain moisture, and heat. I also have black ground cover fabric over half of the Pepper bed to test if there are significant differences in yield. The good this about the black ground cover is that it is woven – meaning that water & nutrients can pass through the fabric. The red mulch film is plastic & therefore repels water – didn’t really think the irrigation issue through before doing all that. There is a small hole around the plant so I can still set up some drip irrigation if needed.

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The Garden of Gains South. Tomatoes in the foreground, raspberries along the left side & the Pepper bed in the middle. I have bamboo stakes at every planting site – 5-6′ for the tomatoes & 3′ for the peppers. And Twiggy is singing the national anthem.

Probably going to have to replace a few of the weaker transplants. My tomato & pepper seedlings were grown under T5 fluorescent lights for about 6 weeks & didn’t really know what to think of the Sun.

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Weird roots growing from my tomato seedlings

Gardening for Gains North is @ my parents’ house & is where is all began. I’ve currently got ~1000 onions comprised of 10 varieties planted along with much smaller amounts of beets, radishes, turnips & a bunch of sunflowers coming back again from last season. I mainly chose that combination because it is pretty low maintenance, the garden is 30 minutes away from my home & I planted things close enough that it should eliminate a ton of weeding – we’ll see how this theory pans out though.

Nothing better than watching & facilitating the growth from seedling to garden – it is so satisfying to be able to complete this journey for a good amount of seedlings! This is only the beginning, now the name of the game is prevention of disease & pests and managing growth. Happy gardening, hope you make some gains this year!

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Giving Your All

Raise your hand as high as you can.

Now raise it higher.

Were you able to raise your hand higher when I told you to do so? Why?

I remember the first time this stunt was pulled on me in school & it blew me away. Literally everyone was able to reach higher. They eventually stood on desks, chairs & tippy-toes with arms reaching skyward.

This leads us to 2 questions: why aren’t you giving it your all? What does it take for you to give it your all?

Why aren’t we giving it our all? Of course we can’t operate at 100% efficiency 100% of the time, but what are you saving all your energy for? Are you running a marathon later? Every day is just another day if you’re holding back, but if you just reach an inch higher – how would that affect you? You may just ask that question that you were afraid of asking and get an answer you wanted, but not the one you expected – just reach one extra inch when you think you’re @ the end of the ladder & see how high you can climb.

What does it take to give it your all? If asking for your best doesn’t actually bring out your best, what will? We can continue to ask to go higher & higher, but it’s an endless & maddening game. I feel that Growth is a natural thing, every thing in life is geared towards growth & self-improvement, but the call to go higher is inspired by outside forces, yet cultivated from within.

Next time you reach up, stretch just a little bit higher & you might get exactly what you want.

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Life & Luck

And at this point all I can really do is laugh. Murphy’s Law – what can happen, will happen. I don’t like to say it the way people normally say it because who is to say it is right or wrong – sometimes it just happens.

I consider myself lucky for having medical bills to pay considering that everything came back normal. I have been in a state of gratitude since then, not taking anything in life for granted, trying not to complain, and generally just living for the moment.

Earlier this week we hit 85 here in Ohio & my air conditioning has been out since the fall (and I procrastinated the service call). Finally made a call & learned that my ~35 year old furnace isn’t kicking electricity to my 18 year old ac unit. I was hoping it was only electrical, but since the furnace is so old, it’s a liability to work on & the parts are no longer being made. Basically I have a nice big investment to make in a new furnace & air conditioning unit 🙂

This isn’t all bad. The way I figure is that I can get a newer, more efficient model & probably make up the money I spent in savings on my utilities – Always a silver lining!

And all I can do is laugh! As I sit in this Honda dealership, pecking away on my Mac & probably annoying the shit out of everyone here (damn Millennials!) – I just got the new of a pretty penny’s worth of repairs on my car. What began as a routine stop in to repair a recalled airbag, get an oil change & tire rotation (oh, and 2 brake light bulbs needed replaced & needed to rethread my oil pan drain) turned into so much more when I asked them to check the reason why my car was vibrating so badly (other than that it’s a perfect car! lol).

So now the amount I thought I was spending today just increased 10x! Right after ole Johnny broke the news I began to feel sorry for myself. I wanted to call my girlfriend or my parents & just say wtf is going on, but you can’t ruminate on these things – this is life! What can happen – will!

There are other options – I can suffer through the heat. People have lived without A/C for hundreds of thousands of years! But there’s also the option for payment plans & financing too, so let’s not get too crazy.

Another option is to find “cheaper” solutions or to ignore my vehicular issue & wait for my engine to drop completely out since my Motor Mount was completely crushed! Or as the HVAC salesman put it to me, “we could put a really expensive bandaid on this.”

I believe him too. We have all tried to take the easy way out; to cut corners to find solutions – how did that work out for ya?

A cheap solution will prolong the problem & be a consistent drain on your finances until the root issue is truly resolved. How does the saying go? “The bitterness of poor quality is remembered long after the sweetness of low prices are forgotten”

But I think the bottom line here is the most important – how you react emotionally & logically to stressful situations will determine your success through them & beyond them.

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Why Wait to Write?

Why write?

Why not?

After suffering for 4-6 months from on-again, off-again pain in my neck, shoulder, clavicle area I finally had to get it checked out. The doctor I saw looked concerned by the way my clavicle was noticeably popping out on the right side near my breast plate. Almost immediately I was referred to a surgeon.

Surgery on an injury in that area is extremely rare, but if it had to be done, it looked pretty nasty – basically like open-heart surgery (worst-case scenario).

But that wasn’t my worst case scenario.

What if this came back that I have cancer.

New worst case scenario.

I began thinking & acting much differently. I remember thinking that if I did have cancer that I would stop living so carefully. I would say what was on my mind, not let opportunities slip by, not think of my responses after-the-fact; I would take life by the horns, take a leap & maybe even start my own business – what would I have to lose if I was told that my life was in the grips of that!?

X-ray, CT scans & an MRI was taken – next I waited a week to meet with the surgeon for results.

My x-rays were fine as expected, but it was the CT & MRI that I was most worried about – they would reveal the truth. And Truth is that I was never worried that my shoulder was torn or that there was structural damage; I was worried that something else was growing inside me other than my anxiety.

Finally the surgeon broke the news to me – There was nothing wrong!

As he said, though, “That’s not to say you’re completely crazy!”

He was glad that I came in & told me a story about his sister-in-law that was complaining of the same thing. She came in, got the MRI and when the doctor analyzed, there were masses in her breasts. Her husband was on a hunting trip in Alaska with no cell service & this doctor had no other choice but to tell his brother’s wife the bad news.

I’m not exactly sure that this story comforted me, but it reaffirmed my reason for being there.

Prescriptions were given to me along with an okay to continue lifting – very slowly & meticulously. I didn’t fill the scripts, but with help from yoga, more mindful practices, and expert advice from my (natural) bodybuilding brother – I was sent on my way.

But what about my dreams? What about starting a business & taking life by the horns?

No, I didn’t take any giant leap; I didn’t start a business – I just began investing in myself. It took me a while to realize “Hey, just because you’re okay doesn’t mean you need to abandon your wildest dreams!” Writing & blogging has been on my list of things to do for the past year at least. I’ve published a few things on my WordPress site but was not consistent. With a jolt from things that have happened to me & inspiration from close friends, I’ve decided life is too short to not take chances, and besides – you’ll be judged either way!

Every case of life is terminal. Until you wake up & start to live – you’re just surviving. You have this one life & I have one question: what will it take for you to live it to the fullest?

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Mom gets a Day, but gave us a Lifetime

I have the best Mom in the world.

Correction: my Mom is the most dedicated, hardest-working, & most thoughtful person in the entire universe. My SuperMom worked full-time AND did the full-time Mom thing on level 9000 – keeping the house clean (like spotless clean, I would eat dinner off of the bathroom floor if she served it there), always had healthy snacks & fun activities lined up after school, and dinner was always home-cooked & healthy. Thank you for making me eat healthy, not letting me drink pop, and teaching me to love to exercise!

There’s also a big reason that I place such great value on waking up early & it all goes back to my Mom. Throughout our childhood she sacrificed for us by waking up in the wee hours of the morning- most times around 3am – so that we didn’t have to spend as much time at the babysitters & so that she could be home with us after school.

And speaking of school – thank you for making me love to learn! There was never a shortage of books to read, activity books to do, puzzles, logic games, coloring, the list goes on – thanks for filling my big head with curiosity & a love for knowledge!

My childhood was everything that one could hope it to be because of you, Mama. With everything from making homemade play dough & clay, helping you bake cookies & cake, painting rocks, playing with our Batmen toys in the tub, building Legos, and all of the picnics and walks through Tawawa Park – there truly are too many great memories to pen them all down; bottom line is that I love you for all of it!

A lot of times it goes unnoticed – we definitely don’t say “thank you” or “I love you so much” enough because you are always so on-top of things that we just don’t know any different than to be spoiled!

So all I can say is – I love you Mom, thanks for being the best; thanks for teaching me, nurturing me & helping me find Happiness 🙂

Adam & Danny
My brother Adam (5) on the left, I’m on the right (8) & rocking the bull cut.

 

 

 

#momskills #mothersday #writing #life #inspiration #thankyou #grateful #love

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Cobweb Gardens

Last night I had a vivid dream that I was able to remember – at least a picture & a thought from it. In my dream, my backyard garden was completely covered with a spiderweb-like substance. It really reminded me of a mold or fungus – and I remember thinking this was a great thing in my dream; in my mind it was Mycorrhizae, a fungus that grows within the roots of a plant in a symbiotic relationship helping plants with uptake of nutrients.

Mycorrhizae
Credit: Earthdance Organics

Why would I dream such an awkward & nerdy scenario? And why did this stand out to me as a dream I could actually remember & recall later in the day?

Over the past few months/weeks/days I have made monumental shifts in my normal way of living; I have tried to expand my output from the norms of work, weight lifting, yoga/stretching/maintenance, and gardening to opening up & actually publishing articles that I start working on. In this shift of developing my writing, perhaps it feels like my foci have changed; like I’ve left the garden to sprout weeds in favor of a more glamorous hobby.

And perhaps that Mycorrhizae in my dreams are just the figurative cobwebs of my garden’s progress so far this year.

Last year I listened to my Googled sources that the last frost date in my area was April 20th & my tomatoes paid the price, but this year I listened to local legend & am waiting for Mother’s Day, May 14th. There was a last frost date map I saw that drew a line just a few blocks from my current location – basically half of my city could plant 4/20 & the others couldn’t until 5/10. But that’s what to expect in Ohio, especially living near the northern tip of the Ohio Valley.

So, this weekend we will be brushing the cobwebs off the gardens & begin planting everything I’ve been patiently waiting to plop in the plot:

  • Roma Tomatoes 
  • San Marzano TomatoesIMG_20170420_191840_767
  • Green Peppers
  • Mini Sweet PeppersIMG_20170416_114542_382
  • Jalapeños
  • And my favorite – HabanerosIMG_20170413_173955_327

Once you plant plugs out – things get real. The bugs comes alive, the birds start raiding your strawberry stash, dogs are squeezing into your Fort Knox Fencing – and everything is starting to grow; that’s the best struggle of all to facilitate, but I’m feeling super confident about this year! I started seedlings a couple months ago & have actually kept everything alive. All of the above listed crops were sown from seed & doing amazingly so far.

The big differences this year for me are:

  • Follow Through
  • Daily Maintenance & Watering
  • Used Seedling Heat Mats in Winter
  • Low Doses of Fertilizer w/ Watering
  • Eyes on prepping for the Farmers Market

The weather has been a little crazy this spring, but it’s starting to stabilize & soon I’ll be picking tomatoes, peppers, onions & herbs, posting pictures of my girlfriend’s world-famous pico – Pico de Kyla 🙂

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Don’t let your garden dreams grow cobwebs! Brush them off because it is not too late – spring is just getting started and I can feel it… this is gonna be the best spring yet!

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10 Tips for Achieving Flow & Happiness

Have you ever felt fully immersed in what you’re doing; like you’re in the zone & at the top of your game? This is a psychological theory called Flow. When you first experience Flow, it feels like a fleeting thing – crushed by distractions or let-downs, something that comes in cycles (maybe I should check my horoscope?), but you know that you can attain it somehow!

Here are a few of the things I have found to help me to feel in the state of Flow & to attain Happiness @ work & in life.

  1. Take Responsibility for your Actions – Whether you win or lose, take credit. People respect someone who can take the fall for mistakes made, and know that person is someone who is geared for success – they want to win & want you to win with them.
  2. Accept Failures – This is not to say failure is good, but it happens in sales & in life! Sometimes the best thing is to realize that there are a thousand others out there that would appreciate your time, talents & service. And failure today is not to say tomorrow won’t yield success.
  3. Find Solutions – Send an email, send some real mail, send a sample, set a follow-up date – this is an easy way to sidestep an objection & find a way through to get yourself closer to your goal of talking with a decision-maker.
  4. Listen first & always – This goes back to the old saying that the customer is always right. The easiest way to find solutions is to ask questions to uncover the true needs of your clients. Sure there are scripted questions you could follow, but keeping things organic is very important! YOU are using a script, but the customer is waiting to talk with a real person, with original thoughts. Which leads into..
  5. React to what you’ve heard someone tell you, don’t push a thought you had 2 minutes ago & don’t interrupt to inject your thoughts!
  6. Learn as much as possible, as often as possible – From the customer, from their website, social media, industry publications, LinkedIn Learning Courses – however you can better yourself, DO IT!
  7. Fear Nothing – Everybody that you talk with is a real person with a job they have to do. Put yourself in their shoes & use your empathic side to realize the challenges they are against – and help to alleviate their woes; provide the value you know you can bring to the table.
  8. Set Goals / Make Plans – Short-term, mid-range, and long-term goals are important for success. Do you have a daily schedule you stick to or try to keep a general form of? Did you make a New Year’s Resolution List? All goals start with identifying opportunities for improvement AND acting towards realizing them. Your resolution is to have a garden & you envision this beautiful, perfect English-style garden in your head, but it doesn’t just happen. Make a plan, plant the first seed and let your goals blossom.
  9. Always Keep your Word – When you make a promise to call back @ 3pm – you call back @ 3pm! It’s easy to think that everyone hates Salespeople, but they’ll really hate them if they are no-good, lying Salespeople! Follow-up is an easy thing to do. Set a calendar event that will remind you – there is really no excuse for “forgetting” or something “slipping through the cracks” in the Age of Technology – you have all the tools you need @ your disposal, it just depends on how well you can MacGuyver things to make it work!
  10. Never Stop Trying – The simplest & easiest advice. My parents always told me that you can be proud of the work you did if you gave it your all – even if you failed. I’ve always had trouble accepting failures & realizing that one failure doesn’t mean that was your only chance to succeed. Grit is the single-most important thing is this world that will keep you clawing your way up to a State of Flow & Happiness. When you keep the faith, good things will naturally follow.

How about you? What’s your ticket into the flow state? More importantly, how are you connecting this to your career & life?

Thanks for stopping by! Please like, comment, and share – I’d love to hear your thoughts & tips for attaining Happiness & Flow!

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What it Means to Want It & How to Get It

Last night I was in the locker room of the gym I regularly attend, gathering my things and preparing to leave when a gym-regular asks me, “you done?” I answered with a brief “yep, getting ready to head out” and then got a response of “lucky you!”

As he walked out I just stopped and really thought about that statement. How am I lucky? Why are you here? Why are you complaining about a situation you put yourself in? What is your motivation? And what does it mean to really want “it”?

I was almost offended by the statement because I couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact that he viewed his workout as a chore, and consequently thought that I shared his viewpoint. Working out, whether it is weight lifting, sports, cardio, is not a chore, but should be viewed as a privilege and something that you can take pride in!

And pride isn’t even the point or the issue, this statement is about a matter of perspective. He thinks I’m lucky to be done with my workout, but I think he’s lucky that he has a full workout ahead of him. He is there because of his health insurance, I am there creating my own. He is there to maintain, I am there to progress.

By no means do I believe myself to be superior to anyone for what I do, but what differentiates yourself from others is how you frame your life’s activities. Do you let life control you or do you take the reins?

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Fast forward to my current situation – I am just now getting back to weightlifting after the last ~6 months being a patchy mosaic of consistency due to a shoulder injury (funny considering I said how I was “creating my own healthcare” ha!) – and I’m finally publishing this article after sitting in my drafts for nearly a year! This article has kind of been haunting me as I feel it sitting here waiting for completion; and that is where all of these lessons converge into one.

We all have passions & pursuits that we feel like we should go after, but aren’t sure where to start, if we know enough, or if we even have the talent. Here are the lessons I learned from “Wanting It”, but not allowing myself to attain it; of chasing it, but not with the correct ‘how of doing things’:

  1. Passion We all have different passions for different reasons. Joe may have a passion for data; Lisa has a passion for sales; Bill’s passion is gardening – whatever it is, LOVE WHAT YOU DO. Weight lifting is one of my passions and when I found I couldn’t continue with the trend of lifting consistently for a couple weeks, taking a couple weeks off because of extreme pain & discomfort – I stubbornly did something about it & ended up being referred to a surgeon.
  2. Pursuit Loving what you do is just part of the equation – without a constant pursuit of your passions, you have planted a garden to let it be devoured by weeds, bugs, and, the most easily controlled, Apathy. I was sick & tired of feeling sick & tired. My X-rays, CT scan, and MRI came back normal – no structural damage, no surgery needed, hallelujah! My issue came down to a lack of flexibility & mobility work. These were things I already did actively – but not consistently & not mindfully. Who wants to stretch for 30 minutes when stretching isn’t building any muscle??
  3. Maintenance “Practice? We talking practice?” Every single success in life stems from doing the maintenance: pulling weeds, practicing that jump shot, running an extra mile – whatever it is that you love to do will not flourish as a personal goal without tending to the smallest details. This does not mean to scrutinize every little thing that you do. To be the best at anything, we must do the fundamentals extremely well. For me, this meant re-adapting by waking up @ 5am, finding an awesome yoga video on Amazon, and doing this every single day along with other functional mobility. One does not become Mr./Ms. Olympia by simply loving to lift weights; they lift weights, but they lift them correctly. The diet is finely tuned, they stretch prior to working out, they focus on Every. Single. Rep. 
  4. Life is about the Journey, not the Destination In our lives we tend to think of things in terms of the desired outcome we seek, but not imagine the path to attain those goals. Example: if I work out, then I will gain muscle & lose fat (or insert your goal). But we all know it isn’t this easy. Most people see it this way & don’t want to put in the work to get the results. In a results-driven world it is tough to enjoy the rocky ride on your way to your end goals. Trust in your processes & don’t lose sight of the important elements in the quest to fulfill your vision – those elements lie in the maintenance section. They are the least “fun”, but are the daily duties that will give you the yield you desire.

No matter what we do in life, we all strive to attain “It”. Whatever your It is, chase & attack it furiously and never let the Fear hold you back from your dreams.

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Start your Seeds!

It isn’t too late to start your seeds indoors! Spring seems right around the corner, but for us in Ohio, we’ve still got a while. The last frost date in my area is listed as April 20th, but local gardeners always go by the Mother’s Day rule for spring planting.

With that date in mind, we’ve got 8 weeks until we can plant outdoors – which just happens to be the perfect amount of time for tomatoes & peppers. Here’s a few tips for starting your seeds.

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  • Refer to your garden plan – or make a garden plan if you haven’t done so already. It’s quick & easy to do and ensures that you have enough of the supplies you need when it gets to planting time.
  • Select suppliers – there are tons of seed & seedling companies out there, do some research to find a good intersection of quality products with great pricing.
  • Determine last frost date –  this is the most important thing unless you’re growing under cover of a greenhouse, or using frost blankets. Check out your last frost date here.
  • Check planting instructions & set a planting date for each crop – this is important so you don’t have pumpkin vines growing in your closet in March!
  • Location, Conditions & Care – make sure you have a location that will get 8-12 hours of sunlight or from grow lights. Keep your seed trays in a well-ventilated area that is around 70 degrees for optimal germination. And finally, be sure that you are checking daily for water, fertilizer needs, and turning trays if seedlings are reaching.

There is nothing more satisfying than watching the seeds you’ve sown, sprout & evolve into the plants in your garden – and eventually become the salsa in your fridge!

Stay tuned for more gardening tips through the spring & season. And drop me a line if there’s something you are curious about and I’ll tackle that issue in a future post – thanks & happy gardening!