Catching rainwater and pleasant memories

When I was very young, during the summer, when school was out, I stayed at my maternal grandmother’s house while my mother and father were working.  My grandmother was a gardener.  She grew flowers and shrubs and trees mostly.  Her yard was beautiful.  In fact, she was featured occasionally as the “Yard of the Month” in her Dallas suburban home, and, at least once, I remember an article in her local newspaper about her garden.  She was a member of the local garden club, and it was a big deal to her, and it made her happy.

Aside from this, she was a beautiful lady, very kind, and had an awesome laugh, especially when she couldn’t stop laughing and got on a roll.

My paternal grandmother also grew lots of flowers, especially heirloom roses, that had a fragrance so strong you could smell it as soon as you got out of the car to go busting into the house to say hello and raid her candy dish.  Her pink roses were what my definition of “rose” was.  I took them for granted because she had hundreds of them, it always seemed.

I have always been intrigued by the process of gardening, of “making things grow.”  When people spoke of a “green thumb”, I took it literally and frequently looked at my grandmothers’ hands to see what color their thumbs were…hmm, same as mine, mostly pink.

One of the most interesting things at my maternal grandmother’s house was her rainwater collecting habits.  I didn’t understand why she did it — had no understanding of drought or even the needs of plants for water — but she had several jars she kept on her back patio to catch water, and we were warned to keep away from them, my cousins and I.

Now that I’m gardening, and living through an extended drought in this Texas climate, I’m considering the rain catching habits of my grandmother.  I may invest in several rain barrels, but for now, I think some large containers of any type will do.  I have some old plastic storage barrels, and I can manage to improvise, I think, though I may have to figure out how to dispense the water once I have some collected.  I’ll figure that out when we get some rain.

Any ideas?


Working on my bad eco-habits

water wasteThe more I delve into this lifestyle change, and what the long-term implications of bad habits are, the more I have become aware of some of my bad eco-habits.

One of the worst habits I have had is wasting water by letting the tap run while I’m shaving, washing dishes, watering plants, etc.  When I shave, I have always let the water run so that it would stay warm when I rinsed off my safety razor before reapplying it to my face.  Shaving with a cold razor is no fun!

Another one is that I’ve never become completely devoted to recycling trash.  I am much better at saving trimmings of food for the compost pile than I am at recycling paper and plastic products every day.  At best, I am only recycling about 25% of the paper and plastic products that get tossed after I use them.

One more, I also drive to all my favorite grocery markets on weekends even though one of the stores I use is only a mile from my house.  I also like other produce markets much better, but most of them are at least five miles away, still not too far, but I will often go out of my way to go to one of these because of preferences that have little to do with economy or quality.  Maybe, the clerks are friendlier, the stores more appealing in appearance, etc.  I should do better on this.

The first step, I suppose, is recognizing the problem.  I have that part down.

Making behavioral changes requires some planning, just like changing my eating and food shopping patterns.  I’ve begun working on the water use and have reduced it a good bit already.  Still, for example, I find myself carelessly letting the water run while putting dishes in the dishwasher, instead of handwashing all of them in the sink, and then rinsing all of them at once, using a drain board to dry them.

The recycling thing is “system” problem as far as I’m concerned.  It’s a matter of making separate bins available in the waste collection places, and I need to figure this out and get it done.

The grocery store shopping is an issue that can be resolved in a couple of ways.  I can make sure I stop during the week on my commute home, because I pass right by the store, and pick up the large items, and then walk on the weekends when I have some smaller, non-perishable things to bring home.  I’ve done this before, more for the exercise than anything else, and I can do it again.  I could also get a bicycle, but that might be a little more risky in the heavy traffic lanes I would have to use (6-lane boulevards and such).

Here is an article that inspired my post from Mother Earth News:

How to Break Your Eco-Harmful Habits – Nature and Environment – MOTHER EARTH NEWS

“Walking gently on the land”

gardenYears ago, our little family visited the Thoreau museum at Walden outside of Boston.  I was taken by the simplicity of it.  My daughter and I walked the perimeter of the pond much differently than Mr Thoreau would have done.  He called it sauntering, an art form for walking.  I want to be that kind of artist, a saunterer.  I would think that even in the busy suburb where we live, a saunterer could find pleasure in the art.  Thoreau wrote:

For this is the secret of successful sauntering. He who sits still in a house all the time may be the greatest vagrant of all; but the saunterer, in the good sense, is no more vagrant than the meandering river, which is all the while sedulously seeking the shortest course to the sea.

This brings me to the point: the most basic appreciation of the natural world comes from sucking in its beauty and complexity every day, and walking gently through it all.  Away from any device that has a plug, just me and the sunshine, or better yet, just me and the gently falling rain.

A beautiful expression of this kind of environmental activism — because that’s what it is — is in this wonderful article published on the Mother Earth News‘ blog, by Randy Walker.  Walker describes in vivid detail the simple act of “caretaking” for the planet.

Describing a grandfather teaching his grandson, less by words, more by example, through simple acts like carrying a few seeds in his pocket at all times, while on walks, to plant in spots where they could thrive and rebuild that little spot of the Earth, Walker’s article is inspiring.

Grandfather would not only want to interact with the environment to maintain a state of homeostasis, he wanted to leave the area better than it was before. That is the way of the Caretaker. Essentially, a Caretaker is a healer of the Earth.

Source for Walker’s article: Move Toward, Not To, Your Destination: The Caretaker’s Approach to Environmental Awareness – Nature and Environment – MOTHER EARTH NEWS

Five hurdles to overcome obesity

Sometimes, it seems that the more warnings we read, the more dire the situation becomes.  But, is it the fault of those who do the warning, or is it something else?

Stop-ObesityObesity, as the issue of smoking was when I was a child, is the topic du jour.  And, frankly, it is no wonder.  Those who want to eat whatever they want, without regard to their health, are doing nothing different from those who continue to smoke tobacco, even with all the culture “noise” and health warnings that have been drummed into them.

It is, ultimately, a decision in which the “eater” has to consider the benefits, weigh them against the costs, and then, change his/her own behavior.

But, there are significant hurdles to overcome.  Here are a few:

  1. The “pleasure” hurdle — the inability to deny ourselves the pleasure, fleeting as it may be, to eat whatever we want, whenever we want, and in the quantities we want.  Self-denial and delayed gratification have become rare, and is bordering on extinction.
  2. The “peer pressure” hurdle — the desire not to be seen as “odd”, “difficult to please”, or “picky” when it comes to eating.  Blending in to the culture, whether it be the mainstream or one of the countless countercultures, reigns supreme in our value system, and it takes its toll in many ways, including our health.
  3. The “procrastination” hurdle — as long as we have lived, to date, there has always been tomorrow.  We may know the facts, when it comes to eating unhealthy foods, but we still have time to enjoy what we want with no immediate impact, we believe.
  4. The “health care” hurdle — With drug companies always offering newer and better drugs to counteract our unhealthy eating habits, we surrender our nutritional choices to pills.  Also, doctors seem more hesitant than ever to prescribe lifestyle changes in lieu of drugs.
  5. The “convenience” hurdle — the preference not to put ourselves to any trouble, if we can avoid, and if we can afford it.  Convenience foods, whether at a fast-food restaurant, or in convenient prepared meal packages at the supermarket, make life easier, or so it seems.

The warnings will continue, and they should.  People will hear them, read them, and believe them, and at some time in the future, it may matter to them enough to do something to help themselves without depending on the health care system to do it for them.  But, the hurdles will have to be jumped.

This article, “34% of Kids Eat Food on a Given Day, Study Says“, on sorts out some of the facts and assumptions about childhood obesity and the “fast-food” component of the cultural problem.

Home-grown microgreens

I enjoyed my first taste of soil-grown sprouts this weekend, and I was impressed with how much this technique of growing them in soil intensified the flavor.  I grew these in partial sunlight, and this picture was taken fter only six full days from seeding.

These are lentil sprouts, grown in a clamshell packaging flat, with just a few drops of water added as needed during the week.  We had a couple of 90-degree-plus days, lots of sunshine, and plenty of TLC from the gardener (me!).

Lentil microgreens

After trimming these, I placed them back on my outdoor shelf to see if I could get more growth from some of the “slower” seeds.  After one day, I’m seeing more sprouts, and I’ll get a full second harvest, it appears.

Microgreens, such as these, deliver a large dose of antioxidants for just pennies a cup, when you do it yourself.  Another big plus is that you can grow your own salads 365 days per year.  Whether grown in soil or in a Mason jar, the nutrient density per dollars spent make it worthwhile for your health.

Another tip: I continue to grown them even when I have plenty in the fridge.  I package the excess in reusable containers in my freezer to use for my morning smoothies.

Here’s a link to Dr. Greger’s blog regarding micronutrients.  It also links to some of his short videos that explain the cost effectiveness a little more.

Bean bed and make-shift gardening

I thrive on beans of all different sorts!  Since going to a plant-based (vegan) eating plan, beans have become even more important to me than before, even after liking them my whole life of 60 years.

Beans are cheap!  Even so, they are so easy to grow that it seems like it just has to become a part of my gardening plans to grow them myself.  This ensures me that they are grown organically and fresher from soil to fork.

Bed prep

Last weekend, on my backyard garden conversion project, I cleared out an area on my fenceline to start my “bean bed.”  Voila:bean bed

I have some old fence posts already in place from a previous dog run we had.  I will use these posts this weekend to string with some kind of wire mesh so the vine beans can climb.  I need to pull some weeds and plenty of organic matter to the bed to prepare the soil for the babies I sprouted this week.

Sprout prep

Aside from the indoor sprouting method I’ve used for awhile, I decided to sprout some beans in soil, some of which will be used for eating immediately, and others to provide plants for my new bean bed.

I made use of some of the clamshell packaging that many of my “bought” fruits and veggies come in.  I feel really great about saving this for something useful now.  They have built-in drainage, and each clamshell provides you with TWO planting beds by cutting the top off the packaging.  The shallow side (the top) is PERFECT for “no-soil” sprouting, using paper towels to lock in the moisture.

I chose among the beans I have in my pantry: mung, adzuki, and lentil.  Here are some pictures of the sprout preparation:


Since I didn’t have any compost yet, I used a bagged potting soil.

lentil sprouts

Lentils for eating immediately, on wet paper towel. I also covered this with another paper towel and kept these moist throughout the past week. I have sprouts ready for eating this weekend.

lentil sprouts in soil

Lentils, using soil sprouting method. These are sprouting as well, for this weekend. I will use some of these for planting when they get big and strong.


Mung beans, using paper towels, non-soil, method. These sprouted within two days. Tasted some today, and they are much richer tasting than the indoor “Mason jar” method I’ve been using. Delicious!

adzuki sprouts

I love these adzuki beans. These are ready for the plate this weekend, too. (Wet paper towel method)


Kept all covered with wet paper towels, watered twice a day if needed in our 90+ temps this week. Ready to go!

This is the shelf that faces the south side of my house. It gets good sun, but is protected from the wind and hard rains when we get them. This will become my "greenhouse" during the colder months, and I will install some temporary heat lamps and plastic covers to keep the project going.

This is the shelf that faces the south side of my house. It gets good sun, but is protected from the wind and hard rains when we get them. This will become my “greenhouse” during the colder months, and I will install some temporary heat lamps and plastic covers to keep the project going.

I don’t have finished product pictures yet, but will harvest most of the eating sprouts this weekend.  My starter plants are coming along well.  I will transplant them into small containers for a couple of weeks before planting in my new bean bed.

It’s late in the traditional growing season, but, this is Texas, and we don’t have freezing temps, usually, until late October, and they are usually mild until mid-November at the earliest.  I should get some harvest by the time the colder temps come into play.


Delicata squash

delicataI’m a big fan of this variety of winter squash I just saw for the first time.  Like all winter squash varieties, delicata is very mild, and it is slightly sweet.

I prepared it by cutting it in half, scooping out the seeds (for the garden), and then cutting it into 1/4″ slices.  I baked it for 50 minutes in a covered dish with some excellent fresh tomato sauce, shiitake mushrooms, onions, garlic, and about 1/4 cup of California wild rice.  I spiced it with my favorites: turmeric, black pepper, and a squeeze of fresh lemon.  I also added some apple cider vinegar.  I really like this tangy addition to the dish!

It made 4 generous servings, and it was delicious and healthful.

Will do this again soon!  And, I’m counting on it growing in my garden, maybe even getting a few before our first freeze, usually in late October.

Give it a try, cooking it your way, or try mine!

Source: Delicata squash – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia