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Tilling Another Garden

As I sit down to type out my Nightly Blog, a navy hue hangs in the air extending dusk deeper into the night more & more every day as we inch towards the Summer Solstice. Today was another ultra-productive day that began with a slower-than-expected start & a later-than-expected wake time – but it all ended up perfect in the grand scheme of things.

I stayed up late last night finishing my nightly blog while Kyla conked out from all the work we put into scrubbing the front of the house. I find that I really enjoy writing the nightly blogs, but it is difficult to focus, and to properly articulate my day because I am so exhausted, and coming from a point of spending all my energy through the day, not from a point of pure pursuit of passion.

With that being said, I woke up early, cranked out my Morning Pages, then enjoyed my morning coffee with Kyla & the dogs before heading up to my parents’ house to get their garden prepared for the season. At the beginning of the year, I didn’t think that they would have a garden because I didn’t think they wanted to care for it (and I wasn’t sure that I wanted to care for it) but I’m really pumped that they changed their mind so that we can plant tons of sweet corn, tomatoes, peppers, green beans, watermelon, cantaloupe, pumpkins, cucumbers, & sunflowers.

Today’s project was long overdue, but had to be done – I needed to till up my parents’ garden. Yesterday we had a cookout at my parents’ and my grandparents were there as well. My Grandpa took a look at the weed patch that used to be a thriving garden for the past 4-5 years and asked me what I was going to be doing with it. I replied that I needed to till it up and that was all it took to get him rocking & ready to go.

“You wanna get that done in about a quarter of the time? I’ll bring the Kubota down and grind that up into a fine powder in no time,” my Grandpa said with a smile and a gesture with his hand like he was crumbling dirt.

“Hell yeah, let’s tear this yard up!” was my reply as I was laughing at my Grandpa hopping on the opportunity to help me with my gardens – and any excuse to use his new trailer and play with heavy equipment. But doesn’t everybody love playing with heavy equipment!?

It was funny because earlier my brother Adam texted me asking me if I remembered playing Army men on the dirt hills at Grandma & Grandpa’s house. I replied with an ‘of course’, and a burst of flashbacks of playing with Tonka trucks in the dirt with my brother & cousin – I feel like that was basically my whole childhood right there, just playing in the dirt with my dudes!

But after that wave of memories flooding back I realized something – I took those dirt mounds from my Grandparents’ house to build my parents’ garden into what it is today. So it was weird that Adam had those memories pop up – because it happened when I was tilling up the dirt that we played upon as kids. And the spot where my parents’ garden is located is where our childhood swings was; I’m just growing fruits, herbs, & vegetables on the mounds of our memories.

My Grandpa took the first few swipes on the Kubota and then handed it over for me to grind up the soil into the lush loam that all gardeners desire. There is nothing I love more than running heavy equipment or tractors – it just makes the job so much easier and it really makes you feel like a real Farmer 🙂

Grandpa on a tractor tilling up a garden
My Grandpa on his pride & joy

After I criss-crossed the garden I noticed that I had a heavy clay area in the southern portion of the garden. I had no manure, rice hulls, perlite, or anything to loosen the soil up – but then I found pine needles under the pine trees growing in the yard. After dumping 3-4 wheelbarrows-full onto the area, I tilled it in and it loosened the soil to an acceptable, and workable, consistency.

With the garden tilled up, we packed the tractor up and I followed my Grandpa back to his house to help him unload. Once we got there, we put the tools away and went on a little garden tour to see all that he has started so far this year. He always has a nice large garden, but this year it feels like he’s taking it to another level; I think I’ve got some competition. What I didn’t realize though was that he was actually growing potatoes for my CropBoxes – we’re still not sure if we will offer them at the scale we have, but it looks like we might have to with the volume that the whole family is growing!

After rounding up the kittens and then hugging my Grandma & Grandpa goodbye, I headed back to my parents’ to finish up the garden duties there. The last piece of the puzzle was to cover the garden with ground cover fabric to eliminate the weed problem, then I will burn holes in the fabric where I want to plant plants. As these things go, I ran out of anchor pins with only 2 more swipes of ground cover needed, so my plan is to get more anchor pins tomorrow & finish up the Garden of Gains North tomorrow if possible.

With sweat pouring off of me, I trudged from the garden to the garage to eat a double burger that my Dad made for me. There’s nothing quite like a thick, greasy burger after a long day of hard work under the hot sun. And it was also nice to get to spend more time with my parents, grandparents, Adam & Chelsea, and Kyla this weekend. I think we all take advantage of the value of the relationships that we have, but we realized how much we missed people, and how much we love people, through this whole Covid situation & social-distancing. Though it may have been necessary, it isn’t natural for humans to be separated from each other. We need each other to live, to heal, & to thrive.

Farmer in a straw hat on a tractor tilling up a garden
Me, living the American Dream
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Sunburnt & Smiling

Today was a great day.

I feel like it’s not often that you get to say that, but it truly was – even though I am thoroughly exhausted and trying to write this while Kyla, Twiggy, & Basil sleep soundly around me.

Our busy day began mid-morning as we felt the heat creeping up on us while drinking our coffee on the patio. Though my phone said it was only 72 degrees, you could feel the potential for heat in the air and we immediately began to gather our supplies to begin cleaning the front of our house before going to my parents’ for a cookout later in the day.

Cleaning the siding on the front of the house was priority numero uno, but there was a deeper issue that was causing the buildup of mildew on the siding – my gutters were clogged, which was causing rain to collect in the gutters, not drain, and spill water out and down along my siding. Once I set my ladder up against the house, I climbed up with a rake to attempt to unclog the gutters; although all I could really see was water & some of those helicopter seed things that fall from maple trees.

I reached my rake along the gutter and heard the water & seeds shift down the downspout.

Progress. But the water was still plugging the gutters.

I raked again and heard another shift.

I raked one final time and then a tsunami of stagnant rainwater and a bucket-full of maple seeds rocketed through the downspout & finally completed its journey back into the ground.

From the point of the gutters finally being cleaned out, the next task was to get scrubbin’ the siding!

It took a little Dawn dishwashing liquid, a scrub brush, and some balance on the ladder, but we got a huge portion of the siding and our porch railings done. It’s really amazing what a little soap, water, and hard work can do to make a place feel like brand new – and to give you pride in what you work for; what you own & to have pride in the place you call Home.

Aside from the work and the results of the work being fulfilling, it was great to see our neighbors outside and to feel the warmth of human engagement & interaction. It was funny because at one point I looked up and saw two people riding their bikes by our house and say Hi to us, only to find out it was one of our friends (who is also our hairstylist – yes we go to the same hairstylist hah!).

But either way – I loved the fact that they stopped by to talk, and ended up seeing our crazy garden that engulfs half of our backyard. I have been loving having people stop by to get plants, or to randomly say hi so that I can show them the garden; introduce them to this madness that keeps me sane.

Cleaning the front of the house was therapeutic for me & Kyla’s soul, but once we got rolling on projects we just had to keep it going. Next up was rearranging the landscaping so that we had a more balanced landscape – making sure we had a solid mix of colors, textures, & heights – but I won’t bore you with all of that. The biggest thing I had to say about this is that I couldn’t believe what happened next. As I was digging out a shrub in the landscaping to transplant, I was wearing one of those farmer sun hats with a broad brim and then a truck drove by, slowed down and they yelled, “HOLA” at me.

I’m not sure if it was just a joke – or if they thought I was Mexican – but I just stood there confused and just started laughing & was like, “Holy shit, I think I was just racially profiled”.

With all the plants in place, the dogs fed, and both of us showered, we headed up to my parents for a cookout. Normally we would have steaks and burgers, but today my Dad went with smoked chicken halves & they were absolutely primo. The chickens were marinated in either Mesquite or Cajun marinade, then smoked in the smoker for 7-8 hours with Mesquite & Apple wood chips – and you could taste the sweetness of the applewood in that chicken – again, primo.

Somehow Adam & I lost in corn hole 2 games to 1 to my Dad & my Grandpa, but the real victory of the day was that I landed my first ollie on a skateboard on concrete. I may have only gotten 3 inches off the ground, but the fact that I conquered that fear of skateboarding has me pretty pumped up & ready to keep attacking it to see how much further I can push the boundaries. Needless to say, I’m ordering a helmet & pads – gotta protect this body from my clumsiness! It’s funny because I feel that I’m athletic, but as soon as I’m not in athlete mode, I trip over my own feet.

Good food and good conversation filled the rest of the night as we yelled across the deck about the insanity of the news, the government, and politics – though we said we wouldn’t talk about those things – yet how do you avoid it.

Either way, I think the biggest thing we realized today is that we all need each other; people need people – especially family. So while times are tough, and things are uncertain, enjoy the things in life that are certain – and enjoy your time with the people you can’t live without.

And so it is sunburnt & smiling that I slip into my slumber 🙂

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Seedling Sales on a Saturday

Today was a beautiful Saturday here in Ohio.

Kyla & I began our day somewhat late because we took advantage of not setting an alarm and sleeping in on the first day of a long holiday weekend. Sleeping in for us is 7am – but it always feels amazing when you wake up on your own power & can face the world with your own force.

We didn’t really have an agenda today other than to prepare boxes of veggie plants for our friends & family who bought starter plants from us. It’s been incredible to see the overwhelming response that people have to our garden and to our plants. Just with our small circle of family & friends I feel like we have begun to sell a decent amount of plants – I just wish I started marketing the plants earlier!

But on the flip side of that, I think that this whole Covid situation has amplified people’s interest in gardening & growing their own food – plus it completely changed my focus for the Garden of Gains this year.

For the past 2 seasons we have offered our CropBoxes – a bi-weekly box of fresh produce from the garden. Once lockdowns began, and it became clear that we wouldn’t be going back to work anytime soon, I completely changed gears & rather than grow a bunch of quick-turn crops for 10-20 people, I needed to double-down on food production for our household & for our families.

What this meant is that I would plant a ton of plants that would produce a high yield of food, or things that would store for an extended period of time. Tomatoes, peppers, and herbs were the crops I chose for producing high yields, and offering veggies that we could can. Root crops such as potatoes, turnips, carrots, and beets are the veggies that will store for 3-4 months in the proper conditions and keep us fed for a while.

While my aim became more selfish with the garden, I saw that I had plenty of space to grow plenty of plants on my Grow Rack in the Plant Lab. The Grow Rack is a 4-tiered rack that holds 4 trays per level and each level has 2 Stratum LED Light Bars. I have started all of my seeds on it for the past 2 years & absolutely love the results that I’ve gotten with starting tens of types of tomatoes, jalapeños, habaneros, Banana peppers, Anaheims, Dill, Cilantro, Basil, Thyme, Lavender Hyssop, cucumbers, squash – you name it; we’ve grown it!

So with all that extra space on the grow rack, I decided to grow tons of popular tomatoes & peppers so that people who are looking to start a garden can get all the basics from us. It’s funny because in a way it feels like we have been “working” the past couple days that we have prepared plants for people, but it also makes me so happy that I can’t quite quantify it – there’s something about it that makes me realize that that could be my whole life; growing plants & putting smiles on people’s faces because of the seeds that I pushed into soil.

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A New Routine

silhouette of a person staring at the milky way

I want to keep things brief, but I have to write about my new routine that I have to commit to.

Every morning when I wake up, I grab a mug of coffee & head upstairs to my creative area / Plant Lab to write my Morning Pages. Morning Pages (from The Artist’s Way) are a daily dedication to writing that I have done every single day since New Year’s Eve 2019 – I believe today was day 144.

While Morning Pages is a stream-of-consciousness writing that is more private, personal, and not meant for anything other than serving my own creativity for me, I feel like I need to do more writing and communicate more with the world other than sporadic posts. I will have Morning Pages for myself in the morning, but my new routine will now include Nightly Blogs.

Nightly Blogs will be my recap of the day that will inevitably consist of stories about Kyla, Twiggy, Basil, and the garden – but it will also be packed with lessons I’ve learned through the day with topics sprinkled in such as business ideas & opinions, politics & news, health & fitness, and so much more.

We all have varying interests in life & I believe that the point of life to experience as much as you can while enjoying the journey you’re on. Super excited to keep this rolling & hope you join along the ride!