Sunday, January 30, 2011

Ah Swell, Seed Starting is Upon Us

Our Camellia sasanqua 'Yuletide' is here with its annual flush of color and we have several Hellebores blooming too. This means that is time to get ready for our annual pilgrimage to Seattle in February for the Northwest Flower & Garden Show. I am hoping this year my husband and I will have more fun than ever, but we just never know since my chronic illness—a mysterious malady—can make me miserable quite quickly.
As I sit and drink my special tea, the one I only drink when I need to feel the warm embrace of my Parisian friends and the happiness of what brought my husband and I together, I only do so as if to hold a warm security blanket. I say this because January has been a really difficult month of me, oh, and if you'd like to know the tea, its Mariage Frères "Pleine Lune."

Despite the ongoing pain from continual swelling, and the fear of having a swollen neck that can make it difficult to swallow, and sometimes breathe, I have continued to keep my hands and my mind occupied with garden-like crafts. Sales of my online boutique shops have continued, and the kids have kept coming. What I have learned from being sick like this off and on now for 10 years is that you have to simply keep going. Doing this is so hard at times because on the other hand you must learn to let other things slide. For a Virgo perfectionist like me, this has been heartbreaking and it is my real daily struggle.

I'd wanted to have had these finished a few months ago, but they are finished now and I am really happy to have made them. This is the only complete accordion seed book so far, but I learned a great deal from making it. It looks really nice too and I am so pleased with it.
These origami boxes are for seed collections too. I made these while watching a 007 movie marathon a few weeks ago. I'd wanted to roll up seed tapes in them but when the seeds were applied to the paper strips, they were simply too big. Guess I need larger origami paper!
Lastly, these are large stakes I've painted with chalkboard paint. I am not sure if I would use them outside since the chalk comes off with water so easily, but nevertheless, they look really cute. I highly recommend making some of these if you have any kind of garden themed party this upcoming season. You can get the paint at craft stores in all kinds of crazy colors. Folks also plant planters with the stuff, and I have some I've been making too, but for some reason I am thinking that the pots will chip off. We'll see and I'll let you know.
So January has been a rough time, but I have completed some goals, despite having to neglect some others. Never giving in, and never giving up can really wear a person down and I am so concerned that this year my seed starting will end up like last year's. Many of the seedlings didn't make it because I was too wrapped up in being a new foster respite provider. This year I will really need to find the balance between my needs and those of the kids.

The last year has taught me much about empathy. I empathize too much with everyone and it is really draining. Some of us are just very empathetic and although it is a skill set, it must be used responsibly.

The kids in therapeutic foster care often have little empathy for others because of what they have experienced in their lives. This is a huge challenge for many of them. Some will learn to trust others enough again in the future to really open up and feel what others feel, but others will not. My job is to be a good role model, and not to over empathize with them. I need to teach them skills and help their confidence. This is how gardening fits into the big picture and this is truly my New Year's Resolution.

With that, we begin the seed starting season: Gardening Skills 101.

If you would like to see the list of seeds I'm starting this year, please visit the tab that reads Seed Starting 2001 to the right of the HOME button above this post. 

Friday, January 21, 2011

Short Wait for Community Garden Plot

For years now I have considered signing up for a plot, and I have had plenty of folks encouraging me along the way, but it wasn't until just last month that I added my name to the wait list. This may seem like a silly idea since my garden here at home keeps me busy, but I have a few different reasons for doing so that really changed even my own mind concerning the subject.

Now that I have been contacted about a 200 square foot plot about 1.5 miles from my home, I am ready to post my reasons for doing this bold garden expansion.

1) My husband and I can now grow in straight lines with a square foot system.

2) The foster kids and I will now have a daily task to tend to practically year round in our climate. Many of them have expressed an interest in gardening, but they only want to work on veggie gardens. I credit programs at their schools for introducing them to this kind of activity and for giving them the confidence to work the earth.

3) I can actually walk to the location, and once I save some more money, I can buy a bike and ride there. Our house is located within a stone's throw of a designated bike route. Even some of the kids could ride with me if we had a bicycle for them to ride.

So all in all, this is a wonderful opportunity for us and for the kids. I cannot wait to take on this challenge too since growing veggies has not been my forte.

If you are interested in learning about our city's program, here is a link!

Community Gardens Program, the City or Portland

Friday, January 14, 2011

Birds & Blooms

Birds are our friends—right? Sometimes though, it is hard for me to describe my feelings about birds. I am married to a bird lover, who has a mother who is a bird lover, and I only discovered in my 20s how much I enjoyed birds too. (My mother never let me keep any pet birds because of their noise and their mess making.) But I am talking about pet birds now, and not wild ones, and that opens up a whole different set of feelings. 
The Dude, our old bald Senegalese parrot from the Oregon Humane Society. We adopted him with a female Senegalese we named Pretty Bird. She is now living with my mother-in-law and The Dude moved to a home with an indoor aviary. They were our first therapeutic foster kids since they were older birds who had been neglected and did not like people much. Their anxiety levels were the worst I have ever seen and our cats were traumatized by the whole experience. Parrots falling into this state just breaks my heart. I am happy though that we helped them both by praising their individual talents. The Dude loved to dance and we loved to watch him listen to music. Pretty Bird is much more complicated though. To put it simply, she would make a great old school nun at my Catholic grade school. 
We live in the Great Northwest and it is fairly well known that our access to wild birds is really quite incredible. I have travelled and camped in many of the greatest bird watching areas in Washington, Oregon and Idaho and yet I have not done so to watch the birds. Since I am chronically ill, and can sit and watch virtually anything for long lengths of time, none of this makes a great deal of sense. My New Year's resolution is to work on this and to include more bird watching outings with some of the kids who come to our home as Therapeutic Respite Foster kids. Not all of them will enjoy this activity, so for their enjoyment, and for ours too, we are going to begin close to home with our bird watching. 

Last weekend we visited one of the Backyard Bird Shop stores in the Portland Metro Area. I love these stores, and my husband had never been to one, so we took one of our animal loving kids. 
If I'd had more money, I would have bought a lot, but instead I chose some basic items: new suet cakes with mealworms embedded in them, gourmet food for the winter birdies, and a bird ID pamphlet for anyone who wants to use it.

I think that  all of these should be interesting for the winter birds, and I plan to let you all know what is popular in the neighborhood. Since we have two very large Douglas firs on our property, and a large park full of adult trees up above us on the extinct volcano, there are plenty of birds hanging out year round. I only want to keep the occupants happy so that they will keep my garden in order.

Lastly, this is my first Amaryllis bulb ever and my first bloom. Enjoy it as you have enjoyed your own!
Hippeastrum "Picotee" aka Amaryllis 
PS: For those of you who wanted to see the French King Cake, I was too ill to make one this year, but I have heard that my favorite local French bakery is making them throughout the month of January so I am going to check into this.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

When in Need of Gardener Humor I Watch This

It has physically and medically been a very bad week. So, between placing seed orders and resting, I watched my favorite gardening skit from SNL. Enjoy!

Saturday Night Live - Googly Eyes Gardener - Video -
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