November 23, 2015

Chicken Drama

Somewhere between the sleepless nights and way-too-early mornings, thoughts pass through my foggy consciousness and call me to write. Then the moment slips away, baby’s brief nap ends and I’m back to being that little girl’s everything.
If I had a minute to write, I’d tell you about our chicken, Jolene, who died last fall. I’d tell you that in a moment of weakness for little fuzzy creatures, I agreed to get a baby chick this spring. I’d tell you that the baby chick lived in my son’s closet with a light on 24/7 through much of the summer and that my hot-blooded kid couldn’t sleep with his ceiling fan on because his chick could get chilled. I’d tell you that she moved from his closet to a dog kennel in the coop with the other girls and finally officially became one of the girls and moved in “for real”.


Berry – The New Girl

I’d also tell you about how some days, being a chicken mom stinks because your son comes in from the coop crying because his new chick’s head is bloody from being pecked by one of the other hens. I’d tell you how much fun it is to coordinate moving a chicken out of the coop into her vacation home in the compost bin.


Find Billina

And I’d tell you how easy it is to chase a chicken around with blue hair spray that’s supposed to protect her head and help her heal, but instead you end up spraying the wrong chicken, the chicken swing, the door and her face, making her look like she has a blue beard. I’d tell you that Billina (a.k.a. Bully-na) is currently looking to find a more permanent residence than her vacation home in the compost bin, she would really like to downsize into a small retirement home. And I’d tell you that the girls had a visit from a couple wild turkeys a few days ago. But alas, I’ve got to run, the baby is crying and needs to be fed, so I’ll have to save those stories for next time.

All my best,
Kate 😉

May 13, 2015

Before you spray…

A Scott’s sales rep came to the door yesterday telling me he could spray to kill all of the dandelions and other weeds in our yard, fertilize the lawn and spray to get rid of all of the mosquitoes. I politely told him, “No thank you. I don’t mind them and am actually growing plants to attract insects and pollinators instead of kill them.” He then offered to use their organic line and estimated that it would be $56 to “take care of” our yard. Again, I smiled and said, “No, thank you. We’re not interested.” at which point he offered me his business card, told me he was also a realtor and offered to do a property value estimate if I’m ever interested.

We have no plans of moving.  Part of why we bought this house is because it’s just behind the nature center which has a lake. Mosquitoes, whether we like it or not, come with the territory.

Don’t get me wrong, I hate mosquitoes just as much as the next person, but the SPRAYS they use ARE NOT SELECTIVE. That means they don’t just kill mosquitoes, they also kill everything else including bees, butterflies and other beneficial insects.

I realize a lot of people don’t like insects, but we NEED these insects. Our food system relies on them. I don’t think most people know or understand the impact that spraying their yard for mosquitoes has on our food system.

Yes, I’m a gardener and every year I hope for an abundant harvest from my garden, but this isn’t about my garden. This is effecting food on a much larger scale. This is about the food on everyone’s table.

Our pollinators are disappearing at alarming rates and our food is going to follow. This isn’t something we can ignore or pretend isn’t happening. It’s not going to be okay or correct itself on its own.

This time of the year, when everything is in bloom, my yard is typically abuzz with bees and other insects feeding on the nectar and pollen from dandelions, creeping charlie, flowering crabs and dogwoods. This year I have seen a couple of wasps pass through and a handful of flies. That’s it.

It would be so easy to blow it off and try to reason our way out of why I don’t see them in my yard, but the truth of the matter is that I work to create a bee, butterfly and insect friendly yard and they are not here. My yard is a minute sample of the greater picture. Looking at my yard is like looking through a sample under a microscope. If the insects aren’t in my yard, that means they aren’t around.

Am I worried that the fruits and vegetables in my yard won’t get pollinated and will produce less fruit? Of course. But what really bothers me is that the fruits and vegetables on a greater scale aren’t getting pollinated,  which is a much larger problem.

All of this makes me so sad. They are making it so fast, cheap and easy to kill-off the insects that we think are a nuisance but fail to tell people that they are also killing off insects  that pollinate the plants that give us our food.

We have smoking policies in place to protect people who don’t smoke from breathing in second hand smoke.

Spraying our yards doesn’t work the same way. If we spray, we are not just impacting our yard and our neighbors, we are impacting life on the larger scale.

We need to stop pretending that what we do in our yard is our choice and that it doesn’t impact anyone else, because it does. It impacts EVERYONE else.

The next time you go to buy groceries, look at the produce section and imagine it empty or sparce with extremely expensive produce. Imagine coffee so expensive that it becomes a luxury. Do you hate spending so much money on groceries? It’s going to continue to get more and more expensive and we will have less and less available if we don’t change what we are doing.

We need to fix our system, fast. Some states are banning neonicotinoide pesticides. A couple of cities in the Twin Cities metro area have also banned them. But until they are fully non-existent we need to be our own advocates.

That’s not to mention the detrimental effects directly on people. Pesticides are also hormone – altering (endocrine disruptors) which alter the natural function of our bodies in many, many dangerous ways.

If our world were balanced, it should be ungodly expensive to spray both herbicides and pesticides because the effects are damaging on a global level. Damaging to our health, damaging to our food system, not to mention damaging to the soil, water and air we breathe.

It shouldn’t cost $59 to kill everything that lives in a 1/3 of an acre lot, it should cost at lot more than that because in reality, it does.

March 29, 2015

The Farmer or The Miner

Our family is a part of Jacob’s Well in Minneapolis. To quote Jacob’s Well, it is “church for people who don’t like church”. I learned about Jacob’s Well through a friend and for the first time in my life, I feel like I have found a community that feels genuine, non-judgmental, supportive, challenging and down to earth.
There’s no physical church building. We meet in a middle school or the park near the waterfall or a mile marker during the Twin Cities Marathon because being a part of Jacob’s Well is about the people in the community, not about the space we are in. We grab a cup of coffee and chat before sitting down. Our gatherings feel more like going to a friend’s house to have a good conversation over a cup of coffee on a Sunday morning than going to listen to someone preaching to us.
But this post wasn’t meant to be about Jacob’s Well. It is, however, inspired by Jacob’s Well so I felt I needed to give credit where credit is due.
The message this week, which, by the way, our family listened to via podcast on our drive home from visiting my husband’s family, was about seeing God and our relationship with God as The Miner vs The Farmer and our connection with the soil.
Ahhhh, the soil… a topic I can truly connect with. Every time I step foot in my garden I feel the connection between me, the plants, the soil and a higher power. In fact, for many years, my church has been outside in the soil in my garden with plants, fresh air, wind, rain, sun, birds and insects. It’s hard to ignore the connection to a higher power when you spend time connecting with nature. You start to notice the similarities between the soil, the earth, and us and how we are all intertwined.
I realize though, that a lot of people don’t have the opportunity to spend the same amount of time outside in the soil (and straw bales) as I do, so they may not see the connections I see every day.
When I look at plants I see the connection we have not only with food, but also with the exchange of air. We inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. Plants inhale our carbon dioxide and release oxygen. How can that be a coincidence?
When I look at soil I see dark, rich life which supports healthy plant life which ultimately supports our lives. Again, an accident?
I see large nut trees which protect smaller fruit trees and plants with tiny flowers attracting insects that attack other insects which try to kill plants. This seems like a plan.
I see support system after support system.
I see birds eating berries and flower seeds only to fly off and deposit them somewhere else. Part of a bigger plan.
I see worms and other insects eating decayed plant material, turning it back to dark, rich soil again. How can this be designed if not by a higher power?
I see soil germinating seeds, growing plants, which produce flowers which attract insects, who pollinate the plants, then return to make honey for themselves and us to eat while the pollinated flowers drop and turn into fruit for us to eat or decay and fall to the ground to have insects and animals eat, to disperse the seeds to start the process again. We couldn’t design a system so amazing!
But I also see soils, neglected, abused, stripped of their nutrients and minerals forced to do the same thing over and over without the symbiotic relationships they yearn for. I see these old, grey soils die and blow away in the wind. They don’t seem to be a part of the plan.
I see areas once lush woods and forested be cleared and mined, left ripped open, wounded, robbed and left vacant. Sad. Neglected.
I’ve also seen trees be planted where others had once been harvested. An exchange of sorts.
We can’t separate ourselves from the earth or the soil beneath our feet. We are part of it. It was a gift to us. And this gift was given with the responsibility to care for it and in turn, it cares for us.
Everything we do each day impacts the air we breathe, the water we drink, the soil from which we eat.
Each day we get to decide whether we want to live like a miner, harvesting the gifts of our planet; metal, oil, coal, trees or food from the soil and moving on to harvest more and more, leaving nothing behind or whether we want to be like farmers; planting, feeding, harvesting and nurturing the soil in a symbiotic relationship that will last beyond our years.
Each day we have a choice, but it’s not really our choice. By accepting the gift of life, the gift of soil and everything that goes with it, we accepted the responsibility to care for it like it were ours, because it is ours.
For now.


March 14, 2015

…and we’re back!

Wow! It’s been a long time since I’ve written a post. Too long!

A lot has changed since my last post.  Let’s see if I can bring you up to speed.

I started the program with the Institute for Integrative Nutrition to become a Health Coach last spring and loved it.  And then things changed.  A couple of months into the program I found out I was pregnant!  I was overwhelmed with emotion, two of the biggest being excitement and fear.  Why fear?  Well, because I don’t do pregnancy well.  I had Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) during my pregnancy with my son, which if you’re not familiar with, means you have extreme nausea and vomiting around the clock. (Think of your worst hangover and bout of stomach flu, combine them together and then imagine having it for 9 months).  I hoped and prayed this pregnancy wouldn’t be like that, but unfortunately I did get HG again and without getting into the gory details, I’ll tell you that it basically made me worthless for the duration of my pregnancy. Unfortunately, that also meant letting go of my Heath Coaching program (but hope to return and finish this year).

That aside, with a lot of support from my family and friends, I survived and even managed to get a few amazing things accomplished last year.  I was a part of a project with Seed Savers Exchange and Seed Sages to grow out heirloom tomatoes that had limited prior documentation, save seed, document the growth habits, insect and disease resistance and present them in a tomato tasting at the end of the season.  It was a great learning experience and a lot of fun! Had it not been for growing them in straw bales and having an automatic watering system in place I’m not sure it would have turned out the same way.

I also was asked to be on the Richfield Beautiful Garden Tour, which show cased my Straw Bale Garden.  The tour took place on a rainy Saturday in July, but we still had over 95 people attend!  Just prior to the garden tour, a writer for the local paper contacted me and asked to do an interview and article (which you can read here if you are interested). That article caught the attention of Joel Karsten, the author of the book Straw Bale Gardens, and the next thing I knew his publisher called and they came out with a camera crew to snap some photos of my garden. Joel came along for the photo shoot and I had the pleasure of meeting him that day. We got to talking about Straw Bale Gardens, his background and my background and eventually, Joel offered me an awesome opportunity to get out and share the knowledge I have about Straw Bale Gardens with others.  I took him up on the offer and now, this spring (starting next week, actually) I’ll be teaching classes helping others learn “How to Grow A Straw Bale Garden”.

As if that wasn’t gift enough, December finally came and all of my sickness ended when I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl.  I fell in love with her the moment I saw her.  Holding her in my arms washed away all of the struggles with my pregnancy and has truly made my world and our family feel complete.

So there you have it, nearly a year in a nutshell.  It was full of excitement, disappointment, illness and unbelievable joy.  And if I had to do it all over again I would do it in a heartbeat.

I’m truly blessed and looking forward to a fun year. I hope you are too!Kate