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What I Learned from Breaking my Foot

It has been 7 weeks since the ER confirmed that my foot was broken after falling 4-5 feet from a tree that I attempted to climb while at a family cookout. Ok, so I didn’t really try to climb it as much as I tried to run up it like a bear or monkey would. According to Kyla, my last words were, “Hey, watch this!”

Usually nothing good comes after a statement like that and this case was no different. I reached a point far higher than I anticipated and once I hit the ground I landed on a tree root, turned my ankle, and instantly knew my foot was broken due to the level of pain that I had.

After the fall I got up, walked (limped) back to the patio area where everyone was sitting, and of course everyone thought I was being dramatic. My Grandpa strapped a giant ice pack to my foot and that was that. I refused to believe it was broken but knew the truth.

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Minutes after breaking my foot

Since the cookout was earlier in the day, we went to Chipotle afterwards and I walked (limped) through the entire line and drove us home. This was another great plot line – I drive a stick-shift and I broke my clutch foot. I powered through the pain with the help of the endorphins flowing, but this would be the last time I would drive for 3 weeks.

For some reason I didn’t want to go to the hospital that night. We got home around 6pm and I knew we would be there forever – plus my foot wasn’t broken so there was no sense in wasting time & money right now!

I laid there all night in extreme pain waiting to fall asleep. Every trip to the bathroom or the kitchen was getting tougher & tougher – around 3am I could no longer walk/hobble/limp, and had to start hopping to avoid the pain. At that point I figured I would just wait for Kyla to wake up & then we would go to the hospital.

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Waiting on x-rays @ the hospital

Little to my surprise, they found I broke my 5th metatarsal, and I broke it right under my ankle – a clean break right in the middle of my foot! In this moment I realized that I broke my foot doing something stupid as hell, now had to rely on everyone for transportation, and basically was going to spend summer 18 on crutches!

But for some reason, I wouldn’t let it register in my head that I broke my foot.

I have too much stuff to do!

What about the garden? How will it get weeded & watered? How am I going to wear a backpack sprayer for applying fertilizers & pesticides while I’m hopping around on crutches? How am I supposed to carry stuff so I can actually garden?

And then what about my real life? No dog walks for a few weeks (taking our first one today). But how would I get to & from work? How would I get home at lunch to let the puppers out? How do I get my coffee cup from the kitchen to the living room without spilling?

These were the existential questions burning holes in my mind – but I tried my best to keep it from eating me alive.

And I believe these are all the reasons why I broke my foot.

Yes, I brought it upon myself, but I feel as though I was meant to break my foot in order to slow my life down. I was getting to a frantic pace of action – always busy doing something, feeling the need to create content / document the garden journey & just do as much stuff as possible – always on. With this accident, it forced me to stop & realize how fast the world can pass you by when you’re busy & focused in your own lane.

But more than anything, it humbled me.

You don’t realize the importance of your freedom until you rely on everyone else for transportation. Whether its hauling my ass to work (thanks Kyla), hauling me home for lunch (thanks Brian), or delivering the coffee from the kitchen (thanks Kyla), we all take the little things for granted until something helps mold our perspectives. Accepting help is something that I needed forced upon me & I am very appreciative to my friends & family for helping me when I couldn’t help myself.

Out of the struggles also come solutions, though.

Gardening on crutches is an absolute nightmare. You have to deal with crutches sinking in the soil, crutches damaging plants (R.I.P. to at least 2 tomato plants), and… you can’t carry anything!

I started getting creative with carrying work stuff in a backpack & for the garden I had won a tool belt on Instagram last year (never thought I’d wear that, what kind of guy wears a tool belt apron-thingy). The 5 pockets got packed with all the tools I needed: Soil Knife, Pruners, Weeder, plant ties, and whatever else would fit. To finish it off, I hooked a kneeling pad on the belt and that’s how I accomplished most of my gardening with a broken foot – by crawling around the garden like a child.

Although I was forced to slow down, I kept pushing myself to do as much as I could. Not only to keep the gardens groomed, but just to prove that despite the broken foot, I was going to keep doing my thing. The first 3 weeks were strong and then I decided, “hey, maybe I should just rest all day instead of part of the day?”

My mind stopped calling the shots and my body stepped in and told me to chill. Week 4 was a relaxing time with much less gardening & going, and I think it was a sort of turning point. At this point I was driving so I was exercising my foot whenever I drove and had to push in the clutch. I think that served as a micro-therapy and applied enough pain to slow me down the rest of the day.

As the weeks went by, I slowly began coming back to life. I was able to start walking – first on my heel, then slowly into a limping walk that allowed me to abandon the crutches. I limped for a week until my foot muscles & ligaments got built up and now I’m basically back to normal!

Although I was mad at myself for getting into this situation, I feel like it was much needed. I needed to slow down. I needed to ask for help instead of trying to do it all. I needed time to myself & time to think. And most of all I needed my mobility taken away from me so that I could appreciate what role Hustle plays in our lives. Ultimately & ironically, I think I needed to slow down so that I could optimize my actions & attack my goals even harder!

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How To Grow Tomatoes: the Gardening for Gains Guide

Solanum Lycopersicum; Lycopersicum esculentum

Determinate vs. Indeterminate – what type is best for you?

When I first starting gardening, I had no idea about the differences in tomatoes plant types – I just wanted to grow tomatoes! There is a really big difference between the 2 plants & it is important to know these differences and how each plant should be cared for.

Determinate Tomato Plants – these are the “bush-type” varieties of tomatoes. Typically they will grow 3-4 feet tall & 3 feet wide. They do not require pruning and tomato cages are probably your best bet for plant supports – my Grandpa drives a stake in by the plant & has fencing along one side of his that keep them supported & fruiting all summer long. Determinate varieties set fruit all at once & then they are done producing for the year, unlike Indeterminate tomatoes which produce all year long.

Indeterminate Tomato Plants – these are “vining” varieties that tend to grow more vertically. Typically they will grow between 4-6 feet tall & 2-3 feet wide. They do require pruning – remove the bottom third of branches, and prune and “suckers” that emerge between the main stem & a branch. Those suckers will basically form another head to your tomato plant. You may think this is a good thing, but it will actually suck a lot of energy from the plant & is not ideal for optimal fruit production. With proper care, Indeterminate varieties will produce fruit all year long (or until the frost gets them).

Spacing

  • 24-36″ between plants, 4-6′ between rows (room for plants to grow & accounts for 2′ walking path).

Height

  • Depending on type of plant, will grow 3-6′ tall, width 2-4′. That’s for the garden – some greenhouse varieties grow over 25′ tall!

Seeding

  • Start seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before last frost date.
  • Can start in trays, but I am thinking about planting seeds straight into 4″ pots from the start next year. (Anybody with thoughts on this, would love to hear it in the comments!)

Transplanting

  • After danger of frost has past and soil temps warm to 60°, you can transplant into the garden.
  • Drop a couple tablespoons of Epsom salts in planting hole to prevent blossom end rot – also provides good source of Sulfur & Magnesium.
  • Plant your tomatoes deep – this will help establish deep, strong roots to help support the vine’s growth.

Fertilization

  • I generally mix a balanced fertilizer or manure into my garden before the year. Then wait 2-4 weeks after seedlings emerge for dry fertilizer & every 1-2 weeks after flowers & fruit have set.
  • Sprinkle Epsom salts in planting hole & soil surrounding Tomato-tone or balanced fertilizer.
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My organic pest management kit consisting of: Diatomaceous Earth, Monterey Complete Disease Control, Neem Oil, Neptune’s Harvest Hydrolyzed Fish & Seaweed Fertilizer, and my Jacto Sprayer

Cages & Stakes

Stakes

  • Best for Indeterminate varieties (vining tomatoes).
  • Place stake in ground @ time of planting to avoid harming roots later in growth cycle.
  • Metal – may want to use one with coating over metal to prevent hot metal on sensitive plants. These are great because they last multiple seasons.
  • Wood – may last a few seasons, very sturdy, solid support for plants.
  • Bamboo – most cost-effective & I have used them the last couple years with good results. Typically want to use one year to avoid the potential to spread disease.

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Cages

  • Best for Determinate varieties (bush tomatoes).
  • Place over tomato after planting.
  • Cage should be 4-5 feet tall.
  • Be mindful of the gauge of wire being used & check the welds to make sure you’re getting a quality product!
  • Can be used multiple years.
  • Several different sizes, shapes, colors.

Trellis – Florida Weave

This is my first year using the Florida weave method – I think my mom tagged me in something about it? Or maybe I found it while looking at a customer’s website? Either way, it’s an awesome alternative to traditional staking.

  • Drive stakes every 4-6′, in-between the tomato plants. Use wood so that you don’t have as much flex in your stakes as I am having with bamboo!
  • As the plants grow they will need to be supported.
  • Tie twine on the end stake.
  • Run it along one side of the plants.
  • When you get to another stake, wrap the twine around the stake a few times to hold it tight.
  • Continue down the row.
  • When you get to the end of the row, go down the other side of the plants – this gives stability to both sides, and essentially creates a long, narrow tomato cage.

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Water needs

  • Irrigation types – Drip irrigation, soaker hoses, hand-watering.
  • Water @ base of plants to avoid damaging foliage.
  • Keep water consistent – large amounts of water will cause fruit to split.
  • Containers will dry out faster than in-ground grown tomatoes & will require more attention – good opportunity for drip irrigation.
  • Soaker hoses should be placed ~6″ from the base of plants & buried a few inches to promote the water to spread through the soil.
  • Tomatoes need about 1-1.5 inches of water per week – keep them hydrated, not saturated!

General Maintenance

  • Pinching suckers – Indeterminate tomatoes require pruning, Determinate do not.
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Notice the “suckers” growing between a branch & the main stem. These need to be pinched or clipped off to keep the plant growing vertically and to keep the plant to 1 main stem.
  • Pinching Flowers – It sounds counter-productive, but in the early stages of growth, you need to pinch flowers that emerge too early. Doing this will allow the plant to focus on growing in other aspects (height, leafy growth) to support the production of fruit.
  • Fertilize – I fertilize at time of planting by putting Epsom salts in the planting hole. This supplements plants with sulfur & magnesium, and will help with overall plant health, and help to prevent blossom end rot. Fertilize @ planting with Epsom salts & your fertilizer of choice. Then once fruit sets, fertilize every 1-2 weeks to keep them healthy, growing strong, and yielding tons of tomatoes! Fertilization after the initial planting can be done with any variety of products – the easiest way to go would be to throw some Tomato-tone Fertilizer around the base of the plant. This will be incorporated into the soil when you water & I had really great luck with it last year. This year I am testing out a hydrolyzed fish & seaweed fertilizer – plants are loving it so far!
  • Pulling Weeds – a necessary evil of gardening, weeding can be done while you’re already pinching suckers & pruning your plants. Weeds will suck up the nutrients around your tomatoes, so get them outta there!

Weed Management

I think pulling weeds is kind of therapeutic. It makes you stop and focus on a “mundane” task – but you know it is essential to your garden’s success, so you suck it up. But there are other options to help prevent pulling so many weeds!

  • Groundcover Fabric – Water-permeable material that will allow the soil to breathe, but suppress weeds. You can cut holes in the fabric where your plants will go. A lot of people will use this in conjunction with drip irrigation.
  • Mulch – a natural, dye-free mulch will suppress weeds & help retain soil moisture in the same way it does in your landscape & also add some organic material to your garden.
  • Mulch Films – similar to groundcover, this will block weeds & help retain moisture. There are also red films that are supposed to increase your yields (testing this out this summer & that will discussion will be a semi-scientific article from the research I’ve done so far).

Pest Management

You’re not the only one who wants to eat your tomatoes – here are some tips on pests & what to do to control them.

  • Pests include – aphids, tomato hornworms, whitefly, among many, many more.
  • Neem Oil – this is my favorite organic pest control product. It smells citrusy and goes to work instantly – I swear I see the bugs bolt immediately and they stay away until we get a few good rains.
  • Diatomaceous Earth – this is my first year experimenting with this stuff & so far it’s had really positive results. You can apply diatomaceous earth as a dusting or mix it into a slurry. I opted for the slurry and was really pleased. Even with the heavy downpours we’ve had in Ohio this summer, that stuff really sticks to the plants’ leaves. Be careful that you don’t overcoat the plants – it may prevent/restrict growth if you suffocate it. Again, this is an organic product.
  • Basil – plant Basil around your Tomatoes & it will help to repel some insects with its aromatic foliage.

Disease Management

Tomatoes are usually bred to have pest or disease-resistance, but that doesn’t guarantee that will be the case. There are some simple steps you can take to ensure your tomatoes will survive & not suffer from diseases or pests. The most important this when it comes to disease is not necessarily treatment, but rather, your plan should be focused on prevention.

  • Epsom Salts – put a few tablespoons in the planting hole. This will supply the plant with 2 crucial elements: Magnesium, and Sulfur. Along with Calcium you would call these secondary nutrients (of secondary importance to the macronutrients of Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium), but the role they plant in the plants health is critical. Calcium, magnesium, and sulfur are required by plants for normal healthy growth and help fortify & strengthen the cell walls (important in new growth as well as existing). The secondary nutrients basically work in conjunction with the macronutrients – helping make them more available, assisting in nutrient delivery & uptake (please drop some knowledge on me if I’m out of line saying this!)
  • Neem Oil – I swear, this stuff is awesome. Not only does it take care of insects & pests, but is also listed for several diseases and fungal infestations!
  • Copper Fungicide – Copper fungicides are considered as preventative, not curative – but so are most products. If you have gotten to a point of noticing a disease taking hold of a whole plant, you’re probably too late. Prevention is always the best method of control – it’s like putting sunscreen on before going to the beach.
  • Complete Disease Control – this Monterey product is a biofungicide/bactericide – bio meaning this is a live product. The active ingredient is a naturally occurring strain of the beneficial bacterium Bacillus amyloliquefaciens. This is my first year using this product, but given the fact that we’ve had buckets of rain poured over this season and my plants are still okay – is a good sign! The really great thing is that this product is so safe that you can use it up to the day of harvest – and it’s certified Organic as well!

Harvest

  • Leave tomatoes on the vine as long as possible, picking when fruits ripen to red.
  • Heavier varieties may need to be given extra support, or pulled when green. Let it ripen in a cool, dark place – not in a sunny windowsill as this may damage the skin of the tomato.

Storage

Videos will be coming in the next couple weeks as all of my tomato plants are fruiting like crazy right now! (You can see those on the [once] greatly neglected Gardening for Gains YouTube Channel – I PROMISE MORE IS ON THE WAY SOON!) If I don’t learn how to make a perfect sauce, I’ll end up buried in tomatoes from the 55 plants we have blooming.

  • Do not store in sunny areas (unless you want sun-dried tomatoes)
  • Do not store in the fridge (unless you make salsa or pico)
  • Salsa
  • Pico de Gallo
  • Canning – Tomato Sauces & Pastes
  • Freezing

Supplies needed

  • Seeds
  • Soil mix
  • Growing trays
  • Grow lights if you don’t have south-facing window for seedlings
  • Epsom Salts
  • Tomato-tone Fertilizer
  • Stakes – bamboo, fiberglass, steel, wood.
  • Plant Tying materials
  • Sisal/Jute Twine (Florida weave method)
  • Sprayer to apply fertilizers/treatments
  • Drip irrigation / soaker hoses / sprinklers
  • Canning Jars
  • Patience, Passion, and Persistence! I used to hate growing tomatoes, but now I just love the challenge & the reward!

Really hope that this guide has given you a somewhat detailed roadmap to successfully grow tomatoes! Please like, comment, follow AND PLEASE let me know if you have any wisdom to contribute to this tomato growing guide!

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9 Ways Sales Changed My Life

Does working in sales change your life? I stumbled across a LinkedIn article with this title by Adam Honig (check it out here) the other day & was immediately drawn in.

The cover picture is a before & after of a salesman. Pictured is a polished Shia LeBouf ‘First day in sales’ & a more rugged/unkempt-looking picture of him for the ‘One year later’ photo.

I love (and hate) that people have this perception of sales! However, Mr. Honig did not write an article about how hard sales was & how it will kill your spirit, but laid out the foundations of what it takes to be a salesperson, the pros & cons of being in sales and how it will ultimately change your life.

Currently, I am an Account Manager with AM Leonard. That’s a fancy title for salesman, but it is definitely much more than sales; it is customer service, accounting, marketing, being a shipping specialist – simply put, anything to ease our customer’s woes & make their lives easier by seeking out & providing solutions.

So how has Sales changed me?

  • Helped me structure day / manage time – I’m not well-known for my ability to plan things out – I usually go for the wing-it approach, or following my gut. But in sales, you need a little more method than madness. Intuition plays a pivotal role, but without a clear end-goal supported by a detailed roadmap, you could be driving in circles and not even know it. As a younger salesperson, I am finding balance between continually cultivating relationships with existing customers, hot, warm, and cold leads – and different customer types. All of these demographic titles assist with the structuring of my day, but once you know your customers, it becomes much more than a demographic – it is a living, breathing thing that needs to be cared for.
  • Forced me out of my comfort zone – I believe that the best in people is brought out when they’re outside of their comfort zones. I enjoy sitting on the couch, watching ‘The Office’ in the mornings – it’s incredibly comfortable; I know I’m going to laugh, be able to relax, and enjoy myself. On the other hand, if I don’t do my daily morning yoga, my body will be in so much pain that I won’t be able to sit still. I won’t write anything creatively for myself or for my blog; that incompleteness to my pre-conceived plans will leak into the day and be that nagging “thing you wanted to do, but didn’t have time”. You have time. We all have Time if we have a desire strong enough & are willing to endure an uncomfortable situation for the Greater Good.
  • Understanding my value – this was a little bit of a tough one at first – I understood my value, but I also understood why people were mad for me calling them, or that they were busy. And conjoining those two ideas is where I find part of my value – I know I can help you AND I understand that you are busy or get sales calls all the time, what can I do to best help you. The biggest value that anybody can provide is a promise to back your value AND then delivering on those promises. Communicating value by words is how a business relationship can begin, but actions speak louder than words.
  • Improved communication – once you understand your value, communication is easy. You have supplies. Your customers need supplies. They need your supplies because x, y, z. Necessity is another thing that improved my communication. In sales, you’re always looking to expand your offerings to customers & key accounts and communication is crucial in maneuvering through organizations to reach all potential decision-makers. The more communication, the more you will expand your business; the more you will become an asset to your customers.
  • Feeds appetite for knowledge & continued education – this is the nerd in me speaking out. I love learning. There is so much to learn in the Green Industry between landscapers, growers, government agencies, universities, and all of the processes involved in their businesses. I’ve always had an interest in gardening & growing plants – both of my science fair projects in 5th & 6th grade were based on growing plants with different variables. I didn’t end up studying in any of these fields (no pun intended), but love that I’m in the industry learning so much about growing plants in the field, in greenhouses and watching it in my own garden. Learning is important to me – and quite frankly, it should be for everyone. If you’re not learning, you’re staying stagnant; you’re limiting yourself. The world is changing & moving too fast for us to sit still!
  • Patience – like losing my first draft that I thought was great; greatness lies only in execution though, not intention.
  • Handling rejection & objection – sales is rejection; life is rejection. When I first began my journey in sales, there was a lot of rejection – maybe it was the way I was saying things, my tone, maybe I don’t have what it takes for sales. When you find your value, rejection looks a lot more like objection – and in objection, there is opportunity. This isn’t so much a ‘no’ as it is a ‘this better be good’. When someone asks why you’re calling, you better have a damn good reason!
  • Picking up the phone – for inside sales, for a lot of sales, we live by the phone, we die by the phone. This is the most convenient, ‘personal’ touch you can have without a Skype or video call. Lots of writers on LinkedIn seem to think the phone is dying, but when you’re in business, you’re in the people business. A live voice will provide a lot more comfort & promise than a colorful flyer that was blasted into every one of your accounts’ emails. Not that email blasts are bad – it all comes down to the value you provide to your customer. In my experience, the phone is the best way to handle tough situations that you need to fight for. In the case of negotiating pricing, delivering bad news, or anything serious – your customers need to hear your voice. They need to have the opportunity to be pissed at you. This is just an opportunity. How can you make this right?
  • Finding a way – this is the simple secret to sales & to life – when you want something bad enough, you’ll carve a path that leads you to your destination.

As a psychology major I never saw myself going into sales – I’m pretty sure I vowed to never take a sales job, but look where we are now! I love the industry, learning about my customers’ processes and all of the relationships I’m building all over the country along the way. Sales has changed me in a way, but I think it also just forced me to become my best Self – continually seeking knowledge & improvement to fully understand my customers, the industry, and ultimately, my Self.

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Everyday Glory

We all grow up with aspirations & inspirations for life, so what happens when we reach adulthood? Finding ourselves “in a rut” or “trapped in a cubicle”; lost in a world that promised us so much more. What happened to your inspiration? What happened to fighting your way to glory? And when did you lose all the power to do so?

When I think of glory, I imagine a football coach giving an inspirational speech; a player making an impossibly athletic & willful move to win the game – blood, sweat, tears and victory.

The problem is that our glory is a picture painted by symbols of what we believe to be victory or success; the ultimate glories of life are forgotten because the idea of success is what we chase instead of fanning the embers that lights the path towards true glory & success.

In other words, success is not a thing or an end goal, it is an action – a continual action of adapting & creating in order to build up to your ultimate goals. I think that we all have one big-huge-out-of-this-world goal, but do we expect to just magically have it one day without putting the work in?

When we think of people like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, professional athletes – we think that they are just talented beyond belief. Heightened, superior intelligences & abilities; they are the superhumans. But none of these people just stumbled upon success. Of course they are extremely talented, but to assume that is the only factor that led them to the top is absurd. Hard work, curiosity and a desire to learn, improve, & innovate is what separates them. The countless hours spent reading, coding, practicing, learning, succeeding, failing – it’s all about the quality time you pour into your passions.

The ultimate glory in life stems from the seeds planted by your everyday victories. It is easy to see yourself trapped in your situation or lacking motivation, but at the end of the day, it all comes down to you. If you are unhappy with your job, then move on. But ask yourself if you’ll be happy in your next role – or will it unfold the same way? Sometimes it is not the environment you are in, but what you are feeling within. When we struggle, I believe that people want to overcome – but people also do not want to fail! So rather than continue to fail they decide to move on. I think it is important to remember that failure is temporary & in the present moment; it can be painful, but it is only temporary!

There are millions of opportunities for success before,during & after failure – persistence is the key to overcoming failure, and failure is the key to evolving your ideas & strategy.

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5 Ways to Prevent Pullin’ Weeds

There is nothing that seems like more of a waste of time in the world than pullin’ weeds! If you’ve ever worked for a Grounds Crew or Landscaper, we all know that this task is reserved for the grunts & freshmen. The typical, “I don’t have anything for you to do, so go break your back pulling weeds and let me know when you’re done”. Almost always confusing you, thinking that was the secret maintenance signal to go “get lost” & come back before lunch. But I digress…

As a gardener, weeding is viewed through a much different lens – but not too different, bottom line is that it still sucks! Weeding left undone will only continue to multiply, so as hard as this is to do, just keep on it every single day or pick a couple days a week to dedicate to the sacred art. When they start poppin’ up, it doesn’t seem like a big deal – but you also don’t think you need a haircut until you already look like one of the Beatles.

  1. Weed Barrier Fabric – There are so many options in this category. Woven & non-woven ground covers are pretty ideal because they will allow water & nutrients to pass through them while suppressing weed growth. This eliminates the need for installing irrigation, although adding that to the garden is never a bad idea! Plastic mulch will suppress weeds while helping retain soil heat & moisture. You may be able to water the plants @ their bases, but irrigation in the form of soaker hoses or drip irrigation would be much more ideal (article coming soon on irrigation in the garden). Biodegradable paper mulch is the last fabric-type of product that I have heard of. This is basically kraft paper & works to suppress weeds through a more natural means. Over the season it will begin to breakdown & the great thing is the convenience of not having to remove it at the end of the season – a much more sustainable option with no waste!20170523_163135-1
  2. Mulch, Straw, and Rice Hulls – The first 2 options may look familiar, but you’re probably wondering what rice hulls are or could do for the garden – we’ll get there! With mulch & straw it is important to make sure you’re getting clean product with no viable weed seeds. Mulch should be free of dyes – this is not like your landscaping mulch. The point is for weed suppression & water retention, not necessarily the aesthetics of the color. I’ve never used straw, but with fellow gardeners I follow on Instagram, it seems to be working! My only worry would be the wind blowing straw away – anybody with experience, please comment & enlighten me! Rice Hulls are relatively new to the horticulture world, and most growers use them in pots, not necessarily on the ground. Since the hulls are parboiled, they are free of weed seeds, and they come in compressed bales of 7 or 30 cubic feet bags – so that would go a long ways in the garden! Basically the rice hulls will work in the same way as straw or mulch – suppressing weeds, but loose enough to allow air & moisture to pass through.
  3. Square Foot Gardening – I try to plant things as close as possible, so that I can get as much food as possible, plus the dense planting proximity will help suppress the weeds. This year I had a bed planted with garlic bulbils (Bulbils form when a garlic scape is allowed to mature & they take a couple years to mature). Since the bulbils grow very thin, I also had a ton of weeds popping up. Once Kyla & I pulled the weeds, we planted Tomatoes & Lettuce in any possible open spots. It’s working well so far & I’ve been pulling weeds as I prune the tomato plants – luckily I have ground cover or plastic mulch on my other beds & won’t have to do much weeding there! 20170528_200254
  4. Harvest the Weeds – Believe it or not, a lot of ‘weeds’ are nutritious & some are even considered ‘superfoods’. Here is a link to flowers & weeds that you can harvest & eat: 13 Edible Weeds and Flowers.
  5. Water & Pull – This is the good ole-fashioned way to garden. Water your plants and then go down the rows & get to pullin’! Weed-pulling while the ground is soft is optimal because the weeds will easily uproot.

Happy Gardening!

 

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The Power of ‘Just Showing Up’

Everyone has something that they’re passionate about – or at least have hobbies they really enjoy. For me, that means weight lifting & yoga. I absolutely despise when people say, “half the battle is just showing up”. It sounds… arrogant? lazy? cliché? The problem is that it is too simple a solution – or is it?

Part of the reason that people don’t get things done is that they think about it too much. You’re worrying how you’ll fill the rest of this article with words if you just dive in & don’t meander around the problem for a little while first. You will sit & think about the best way to stretch for 15 minutes instead of systematically stretching for 15 minutes. Why are we so subconsciously scared to head towards completion of something?

Last night I saw that episode of The Office where they were talking about New Year’s Resolutions (I have a problem with The Office, but I am expanding my horizons with other shows). Again, everyone is talking about their resolutions & how hard it’s been to keep them or how quickly they faded away. Michael Scott, the sales manager, asks “what is wrong with you people? Since when is pretty good okay? Can’t you stick to anything? Then he goes onto say how his goal was to floss & he did it @ 12:01.

Not every goal is that easy to accomplish, but every goal is that easy to get started. The extremely difficult thing about an ongoing goal such as weight lifting, running, or any daily activity is that it can be difficult to summon the energy & willpower to get moving. And beyond that, these goals are rolling & results are not instantaneous – at first, there are no true goals being met other than… showing up day after day.

This is not sustainable, “to just show up”, but it is mandatory to success. Every step towards the goal is a step in the right direction – every intentional step is a stride in the right direction. I believe that with showing up, intention must inevitably follow. Being active in the present makes you aware of what needs to be done – just showing up is like being thrown into the ring with wild animals & you must adapt to survive.

Some of my best workouts have come from days when I’m just not feeling it, or I’ve had a slight headache all day. If I force myself to follow through, there is much greater satisfaction in overcoming not only your goals, but also your Self.

Our bodies are well-equipped with a stress-response system & I believe that is what helps you succeed in the ‘just showing up method’ – that is, the fight or flight response. Through evolutionary psychology, our stress has been thought to manifest itself in one of 2 ways Fight or Flight – stand & fight the threat or run away from it. Both will lead to the ultimate goal of survival – but that is the difference between our primal ancestors & us – they fought just to survive life & we are fighting to live the best life.

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Life & Luck & Faith

I have just recently started writing again & just can’t stop! It is so freeing & relieving to smear your thoughts on the blank canvas of LinkedIn Publisher or WordPress. Of late, my goal has been to spread Optimism & Realism through my interpretations of life & situations. In an article I published last week called “Life & Luck”, I wrote about how many things have been slopped onto my plate, and the ultimate lesson was that life happens – how you handle it will determine your success.

One thing I wanted to weave into this lesson, but wasn’t sure how to, was the concept of Faith. For some reason, with ~$10,000 of potential costs from replacing my furnace & AC, I was able to stay positive – I felt that everything would be okay even though it was far from it. I didn’t get a feeling of anger or anxiety, I didn’t question my luck or why God would do this to me.

Sometimes, things just happen. The good thing is that on the other side of that coin is the fact that sometimes, things just work out. No matter how tough life gets, or how nasty a curve it throws us, somehow it all works out in the end – and usually works out for the best.

When I look back at my life, the toughest of times, I never think to myself, “I really wish I knew that in high school.” Or, “if I could go back with the knowledge I have now…”

It’s limiting. It’s stupid. And without my roughest, toughest tests in life, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.

You can sit around & believe that life has it out for you, but I promise – they’re out for us all, not just you! The difference in life is always the how of things. How do you react when your environment pushes on you? How do you sustain being you & preventing yourself from freaking out?

I believe this is where Faith comes in – this doesn’t have to be specifically tied to Spirituality, but for many people it may be. Faith, in my mind, is trusting in the forces that are beyond your control – belief that you are in the right place @ the right time & everything will fall into place; it’s all part of the Grand Master Plan. Some may call this serendipity or intuition, and I believe that Faith is something rooted in those ideas, but still so much deeper & all-encompassing.

Wikipedia defines Faith as, “Faith is confidence or trust in a person or thing; or the observance of an obligation from loyalty; or fidelity to an entity, promise, or engagement.”

I think that the semicolons & ‘or’ that is listed in the definition could be switched to ‘ands’ – in other words, this definition looks like 3 different definitions, but I think they are all an embodiment of the whole picture of Faith. This is not 3 separate definitions, but helps to explain & set-up the relationship-like nature of Faith (I’m having flashbacks to Philosophy class; Kierkegaard anybody?)

This 3-part definition sets up with a couple things. Confidence in a person or thing (the self & others). As it relates to being loyal to the thing of Faith & to the world – it is interesting how they use obligation in this part of the definition, but then go deeper on the third section stating that it is fidelity to an entity, promise, or engagement. Fidelity is defined as faithfulness to a person, cause, or belief, demonstrated by continuing loyalty and support.

To me, this demonstrates that Faith is its own entity, but part of a 3-part system including the Self, the World, and belief in a higher order & higher power to things; a relationship to the Divine in Life – and not only that, but belief that everything is happening exactly as it should – and if it isn’t, good things are on the horizon.

Live your Life.

&

Make your own Luck.

&

Have Faith.

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Shot on my phone @ Charleston Falls Preserve, OH
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New Year’s Resolutions

How are your Resolutions shaping up?

Every year we talk about resolutions & what we dream of achieving, or people talking about how quickly they are broken, how they don’t work, blah blah etc. – but then you never hear about it again. Where is the follow-through?

Here’s my resolutions list for 2017:

The blogging started off as a little bit of a challenge. I wasn’t really sure what to be writing or how I should write it. And what could I write that others haven’t done before me? I think this is a huge deterrent to people writing – there are so many writers out there sharing their opinion, so why does it matter what I have to say? The biggest takeaway for me has been to just start writing. My buddy Tony has been the biggest inspiration with his success he’s had with his blog & his advice to just start writing. Now I have a decent mix on my blog of personal opinion, mixed in with my gardening posts.

The goal of weekly yoga turned into almost daily yoga in order to combat some serious tightness I have in my shoulders, hips, & just general muscle tightness/soreness from weight lifting. Yoga has nearly alleviated all of the chronic pain I was having in my clavicle & neck and I’m even able to run again because my muscles feel so great! (My hips have been so tight & painful that it has limited my activities such as running & powerlifting.)

Morning lift is a tough thing to do. It means waking up early, preparing yourself for a highly intensive work out, and just following through. Lifting in the morning is truly a breath of fresh air – nothing better than taking a step outside into the dewy morning after a lift, everything else in the world is asleep, but you have already conquered part of your world today!

My censored goals relate to money & projects that are in the works – don’t prefer to share those sorts of things, but being able to set a goal on your income is an empowering thing! Being in sales, my pay depends on my performance & I look to increase my pay at least 10% every year. I haven’t made that happen every single year, but I have my sights set on a certain number this year & would love to double it.

And finally, sell @ the Farmer’s Market! This is something I wanted to do last year but had no plan in place to guarantee that I would have produce every single week. This year I’ve got a better handle on things, have added a mixed portfolio of vegetables that should be yielding produce all season long – should be are the key words here! Anything that can happen, will happen in the garden – it all just comes down to preparation & execution.

I think people hate resolutions because they seem so unattainable; they want to completely flip their lives upside-down with no real clue of how to execute these goals. I always think of the episode of the Office where the boss, Michael Scott, gets mad @ his employees for not being able to follow their resolutions, “I made a resolution to floss, and I did it. 12:01, January first, BAM! Blood everywhere.”

If you want to do it, just do it. The biggest differences for me the last couple years is that I’ve written my resolutions down & kept them in a safe place to check periodically through the year. Before that I would have one big goal to tackle, but life is so much more – you don’t have to punish yourself, figure out what you want & make it happen.

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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!