Sunday, June 29, 2008

Trouble Maker

This plant is a trouble maker. It got me questioned by the police. I have had to explain over and over that I am not growing anything that someone might want to toke. Our Meme and her man called me wanting to know why I planted weed in their flower bed. I have had to tell several black sheep type family members not to try to smoke it. Finally, it bloomed and I have proof of the real purpose of this monster. Meet my Texas Star Hibiscus.

Here is a more well behaved cousin. I am happy to introduce our Southern Belle. Isn't she pretty?

This gentleman is a little worse for wear. Looks a bit tattered and torn. Presenting Lord Baltimore.
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Friday, June 27, 2008

Plant Water Bottles and Three Sisters

My plants are spoiled. I like to make plant water bottles using plastic water and sports drink bottles with the bottom cut out. I stick the neck of the bottle into the ground and put a stick through the hole to keep the bottle from blowing away. I then put a cup or so of earthworm castings or compost into the bottle. I water through this. The compost/earthworm castings slow the water down and the plant gets a shot of compost/worm casting tea. The water is delivered directly to the roots and there is no run off. The roots also seem to stay moist longer.

Here is a tomato plant with it's own personal water bottle.

My three sisters row has taken off. Planted together are squash, popcorn, and red noodle beans. The beans grow up the corn and the squash grows low and shades everything. I went ahead and put large tripod made of bamboo in to help support everything. In the picture above, the tripod fell over. This has turned into yet another lush jungle in my backyard. It very effectively hides me from the monkeys.
I was thinking this kind of planting wasn't' going to work. Last week I gave everything some earthworm castings and they just took off. All of my veggies get a weekly foliar feeding with a diluted organic liquid plant food. A close look revealed that the squash is putting on fruit. The varieties so far are round and striped zucchini.
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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Buggin You

I hope this works. A friend sent this to me tonight and it is darling

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


A few days ago the folks at Poor Richard's Almanac tagged me. I finally got around to it today. Bored with myself, I asked the Monkeys to tell six things about me and here is what they came up with.

First the rules.
1. Post the rules.
2. Write six random things about yourself.
3. Tag six people.
4. Let the people know they have been tagged.
5. Let the person who tagged you know you post is up.

Now on with the Monkeys
1. I am crazy. (You would be crazy to if you had to live with three house apes)
2. I am on the computer too much. (No I am not. Now go make me some popcorn).
3. My kids scare me. (I'm not scared just baffled).
4. I do and don't like Teenage Monkey's music. (I cheated and put some music I like on his ipod. He just thinks it is his music)
5. I put rabbits in the dog's kennel. (I have to keep them seperated or we will have more babies).
6. My son's like me too much. (Aw.)

Here are the six I tagged. Notice I put in a few couples so they have to tell on each other. That is how Silence, Richard, and Ourfriendben did it and it was hilarious. I also added my kid, my sister, and a new blog I like.
Double Danger
Our First Garden
My sister at In Stitches
All Kurt All The Time
Weed Wackin Wenches
The Manic Gardener
Have fun. Only play if you feel like it. No tagbacks.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Incredible Compost Crew

Our Boys have some friends over today. We are going swimming later this afternoon. I asked them, thinking they would laugh at me and run away, if they would like to tear apart my compost pile. The neighbor boys were all into it, so my boys agreed. It took them about ten minutes to deconstruct the pile. This made them happy and saved my middle aged back.

It turns out this was a teaching opportunity. They wanted to know why we did this. Before I had a chance to answer, Middle Monkey spoke up and said, "To recycle." Then one of them asked, "What do you do with it?" Baby Monkey replied, "Dig it into the dirt for the plants to eat." They were very interested in all the bugs that live in a compost pile. Which lead to the question, "How do you get rid of the bugs?" In unison, my boy exclaimed, "You don't get rid of the bugs! The bugs are part of it. The bugs help make compost."

I explained that compost has a lot of uses. It holds moisture and cuts down on the amount of watering we need to do. It also reduces the amount of fertilizer the plants need. It keeps the food scraps and yard waste out of the landfill. Compost is very useful stuff indeed.
I was very proud of my boys and their knowledge of compost and very grateful that the compost pile was turned for me.
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Friday, June 20, 2008

New Rain Barrel is Ready for Action

My new rain barrel is ready for rain. I bought the barrel for four dollars at a local feed store. Of course we washed it out very well. The gutter attachment, plumbing parts, and gutter guards cost less than twenty dollars. We were able to put this together for under twenty-five bucks. Considering the rain barrels I have seen for sale were all more than one-hundred dollars, I think we came out pretty good pocket book wise.
I finished up a big project today for one of my customers. It was pulling up and replacing a brick patio and adding on to it. The bricks are called Chicago antique. Apparently, they were hand made. Every brick was slightly different in size. This job was like trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle from Hades. It didn't help that the temperature was over 100. We were almost finished and taking a break when the Ozarka delivery man showed up. He was a very cute, well dressed young man and very friendly. Before he left, he walked back over to us and handed each of us an ice cold bottle of water. That was the best water I have ever had in my life. If I have to buy bottled water, I will stick with that brand.
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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Another Ridiculously Big Plant

It figures I would play my own game first. Middle Monkey here again with Abby and a giant Pampas grass at our neighbors house. I cheated and shamelessly copied Weed Wackin Wenches photo. Their's is way bigger and they didn't pose a ten-year-old boy in front of it. Anyway, do you think the scale may be a little off? Sort of looks like the grass is trying to eat the house.
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If You Show Me Yours' , I'll Show You Mine

Here are a few pictures of Middle Monkey, one of his hibiscus blooms, and a couple of bunnies. The other bunny had dirty feet and a squirmy attitude. The brown bunny is fat boy. He has grown too big to hold in the palms of our hands.
No, my child does not have a tiny head. Those flowers are really that big. We thought it would be fun to see other big flowers and plants and pets. Even better, pictures of big plants and pets. To start us off here is Weed Wackin Wenches with Diva Dog and a giant Papas grass. I will be looking for your big blooms, big plants, and cute critters. If you feel like showing me yours instead of making me look for it. Leave me a comment. To repeat, we are looking for big flowers, big plants, and cute critters. Feel free to cheat with photo shop or trick angles.
Player #1 Cinj has what looks like a spider eating something
Player#2 Jack with a dinosaur
Player#3 Jack again as monster baby
Player#4 My Sister with her hydrangeas and daylilies
Player#5 Brenda with Abigail in the garden
Player#6 Tomato Casual showing the everything is not bigger in Texas. But the wenches already proved this.
Player#7 Kathleen with Hollyhock munchers.
Player#8 Silence Dogood has tamed a tiger
Player#9 Sherry love is in the air over at her blog
Player#10 Double Danger has a giant agave
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Sunday, June 15, 2008

June GBBD Hardy Hibiscus

Just in time for GBBD this month, one of Middle Monkey's hardy hibiscus plants bloomed. This is Malvaceae Hibiscus moscheutos. I think this one is Moy Grande. My hands are pretty little, but even so, that is one big flower. We have four other varieties. Next month maybe the Meme will bloom.
Thanks to Carol at May Dreams Garden for hosting GBBD each month.

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Friday, June 13, 2008

More Toad Drama

As if last nights toad incident was not enough, tonight two of the monkeys rush in and shout, "Guess what K caught?" Then Baby Monkey shoves a Mason jar with a big ole toad in it right into my face. I scream, "GET THAT OUT OF MY HOUSE!!!!" "But, we want to keep him." Me, "No, NO REPTILES OR AMPHIBIANS IN THE HOUSE EVER. " "Okay, we will put him in your water garden, " they reply. "DO NOT BUT THAT CREATURE IN MY WATER GARDEN. IT WILL EAT MY FISH OR MAKE A MESS OR SCARE ME." I hollered while melting down. Manly Man intervened and I am safe.
Oh, BTW, I found a worse bug story.
One more thing. Somebody out there in the blogosphere wound up here through google looking for this.
Sitting on an ant pile.
I can't recall ever doing that. Double Danger has a whole bunch of advise on keeping this from happening to our backsides.
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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Toad Up Pant Leg, No I am Not Kidding or Copying Silence

Over the past eleven days I have been working in my garden in the evening from about 7:30 til dark. I have managed to get a lot done. I have also seen a lot of cool things such as lady bugs, lady bug larva, fire flies (way too cool), assassin bugs (also cool), and baby bunnies.

During this time, I have been crawled on by a lot of bugs. Fortunately, I am not afraid of bugs. I kind of think they are cute, unless they sting. I let pretty much any bug crawl on me and I sort of like it. Unlike Silence and her hilarious post on a bug up her skirt, I am pretty much at one with the bugs. Not in the house though, I don't like bugs in the house either, Silence.

Well, anyway, the bugs are not the only things hanging around the garden. We have toads, which is great as they eat some of the bugs (hopefully mostly bad bugs). We are organic around here and do not spray or bait. We do squish. We squish the squash bugs.

Much like Silence, I like to garden in long cotton skirts. I also like to garden in loose cotton pants. They look like pajama pants. Well, maybe they are pajama pants. Just don't look over my fence, okay.

Tonight I weeded until almost dark. Unfortunately, I did not water until it was almost pitch black outside. The moon was helping a little. I was carrying a watering can through the garden gate towards the tomato plants at the back of the garden when I startled a toad. Well, I was moving pretty quickly, trying to save daylight, and the toad and I intersected.

That stupid toad jumped right up my pant leg. The encounter did not last more than a few seconds, but I think I jumped about a mile. Fortunately, no plants were trampled during my toad extraction. I don't know who was more upset, the toad or me. I do not like to touch or be touched by toads. Monkeys laughed at me. I am plotting my revenge.

Isn't This the Cutest Thing?

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Look What I Found on the Fennel

I counted five black swallowtail caterpillars on my fennel this afternoon. They made it to their last instar. The wasps didn't see them until it was to late. Looks like they will make it.

Remember the exploding cabbage. This is it's cousin the murdered watermelon.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

This Just Makes Me Happy

Thanks to my first born. He makes me happy. He has a wicked sense of humor. I hope he feels like that pizza more often than not.
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Tastes Like Summer

I have been buying vegetables and fruit from roadside stands for about a week. We took a trip to Ham's Orchard over the weekend and bought peaches, tomatoes (yes tomatoes), and zucchini. Yellow squash came from a card table vegetable stand near my mom's house, and a watermelon came from a truck farmer set up at a local restaurant. We are pretty full of locally grown veggies and fruit. Here are a few ways I have prepared them.

Squash Casserole#1
4 Large Yellow Squash steamed and mashed.
2 Medium onions chopped
2 Eggs
2 Tablespoons Sugar
1 Stick of Butter melted
1 Cup of Soft Breadcrumbs
Salt and Pepper to taste

Mix the squash, onions, eggs, sugar, half the bread crumbs, and half the butter in a mixing bowl. Spread the mixture into a baking dish, pore remaining butter and sprinkle the remaining breadcrumbs over the squash mixture. Bake at 350 for thirty minutes.

Squash Casserole#2
4 Large Yellow Squash steamed and mashed.
2 Medium Onions chopped.
2 Cup Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
1 Teaspoon Curry Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Coriander
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cumin
5 drops Chili Pequin Sauce (Tabasco also works).
Salt and Pepper

Mix squash, onion, 1 cup of cheese, and the remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl. Spoon into a baking dish, sprinkle the remaining cheese on top of squash mixture. Bake at 350 for twenty minutes.

Friend Zucchini and Yellow Squash - Not a recipe more like a set of instructions.
Cut squash in thin slices
Dip in egg white water mixture (1 egg white 1/4 cup water)
Dip in Cornmeal type Fish Fry Mix
Fry in vegetable oil until golden brown
Sprinkle with season salt.

Zucchini with Tomato
2 Chopped Zucchini
2 Chopped Onions
2 Chopped Tomatoes
1/4 Cup Tomato Sauce
1/4 Cup Brown Sugar
1 Teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
1 Teaspoon Cider Vinegar
Salt and Pepper

Saute onion in olive oil until clear add the remaining ingredients and simmer until the zucchini is soft. Add more tomato sauce if needed.

Baked Tomato
Cut tomatoes (As many as you need), sprinkle with chopped basil (we use lemon basil), sea salt, and pepper. Drizzle the tomato halves with olive oil and bake at 350. Sprinkle on some Feta or Parmesan cheese before serving.

Tomato Salad
Chopped tomato
Chopped Basil
A little Balsamic Vinegar
A little Olive Oil
Sea Salt to Taste

That's all I have right now. Anyone have some recipes to share? I could really use a few more ways to cook squash.

Garden/Pizza/Sleeping Monkey

Here is the garden after the major clean up. It is not perfect, but it is much much better. Note the garden cart with more veggies to be planted. Those are peppers, cucumbers, and dill.
To entertain us, Teenage Monkey did this to some pizza. Comedy and Tragedy in pepperoni. My kids are weird.
This Monkey falls asleep in random places. To torment him, Teenage Monkey takes his picture.
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Monday, June 9, 2008

Hot Compost and a Rainstorm

Hip-hip-hooray. My compost pile heated up to 120. I was hoping for 140, but I can live with 120. It is working and should make good compost in three weeks. I know I should let this go and just live with a cold pile, but the competitive streak in me is strong almost as strong as the stubborn streak. I want to dominate the compost pile. I want the compost pile to yield to my will. I want the compost pile to obey me. Pretty sure a bunch of microbes could care less what Aunt Debbi wants.

We had rain today. Unfortunately, we did not get the rain barrel installed, maybe next time. It felt so good outside. The temp dropped into the 70's from the 90's. There was a little thunder and lightening, but nothing major. It was a nice rainstorm, unlike those that have been drowning other parts of the country.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Sit Down, Stop Whining, and Weed!!!

Remember me complaining about how I never can get anything done in my own garden. I was sunburned and being a big baby. The garden really was neglected. There were weeds everywhere. Everything was overgrown, and many little veggies were waiting to be planted. Well what a difference a week can make.

At the end of my gripefest last Sunday, I had decided to just go out in the garden and just enjoy gardening. I took a little stool, gloves, a bucket for weeds, my Felcos, and a glass of wine. I sat in the garden for about an hour and a half, staying until it was too dark to tell the difference between the good plants and the bad weeds. I worked until the area I could reach was cleared and then picked up my stool and moved down the row. After repeating this activity every evening since, I am happy to say, about half the garden has been looked after and the compost pile has been turned.

It is possible to turn and sift a compost pile while sitting down. A giant pile of plant material was accumulated during the weeding process. After compost turning and sifting was over, I layered the weeds, with rough compost, and stuff cleaned out of the refrigerator. Cotton seed meal was also added to the pile. Hopefully, tomorrow, this will be a hot pile. If not, tomorrow's post will be a rant about why my compost pile will not heat up.

I really enjoyed this week in my garden. There was no sunburn or sore back. There was no feeling sorry for myself. I did get crawled on by lady bugs and enjoyed the scent of herbs as I brushed against them while working. Lemon balm, lemon verbena, Mexican mint marigold, thyme, and basil all smelled wonderful. Finally, I have a garden I can be proud of. Well, at least part of the garden is praise worthy. The second half of the garden and the perennial borders still need a lot of work. There is still a long way to go, but at least I know how to get there.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Breaking Tomato News and a Cookie

Texas is not responsible for the tomato crisis. Neither is California. Although earlier we were being investigated. Is this news? They don't have a clue where the salmonella came from.
Above is a great oatmeal peanut butter cookie made with eggs from a friend's flock. No salmonella there. Middle Monkey made them and they taste great. Please forgive the blurry picture, Aunt Debbi is tired.
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Giving and Gardening

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I was reading blogs (imagine that) and Silence was giving some great hints on reducing clutter. She got me to thinking about something that happened yesterday. First the back story.

Two years ago, a fellow master gardener suggested that we take on two projects. Both were to build, plant, and maintain flower beds adjacent to local charities. The first was at a senior citizens center. The second was at a local women's shelter. I did not know that there was a women's shelter.

The funds to run the shelter are raised by a thrift store. They take donations of clothing, books, furniture, toys, appliances, and sporting goods. I soon as I became aware of this set up, I began donating all of our unused, outgrown, or just unneeded stuff. Turns out with three kids and a large generous extended family, we end up with a lot of stuff.

I have been volunteering on the projects since the beginning, working on the design, installation, and upkeep of the flowerbeds. I have dropped off many many bags of clothing, toys, and random stuff for the thrift store. I also occasionally shop at the thrift store for books or seasonal clothes. It is a feel good project and a feel good way of donating.

Yesterday, it all took on a different meaning. I was talking to a fellow baseball mom during a game. I mentioned that I had bought a couple of prairie skirts at a thrift store. I was bemoaning the fact that I could not find new prairie skirts. She suggested I look at the thrift store at the women's' shelter. I explained my involvement with the women's shelter gardens and that it was exactly where I had purchased the skirts. She lowered her voice, leaned in toward me, and said,"I am staying there right now. Please don't spread it around, but they saved my life." I knew her son was staying with grandma, but I didn't think anything of it. Many children stay with grandma, especially during the summer. Turns out she was a victim of domestic violence. The volunteer staff of the center houses her, feeds her, gives her counseling, and helped her write a resume and get a job. Yes, she has a job. She plans to stay a while and save enough money to make a good stable start to living on her own.

The picture above is one of the flower beds. This is a Christian run charity, but don't worry, I am not going to get all religious on you. Before you even ask. No she does not read this blog and her identity is very well protected. Ignore the spacing, blogger is at it again and I can't fix it.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Block of the Month Gone Bad

Here is the May block of the month. As you might have read before, I agreed to do this block of the month thing with my mom back in January. You buy the first block and if you bring it in on the first Thursday of the month, they give you the next block for free. You then have the option of buying three "completer" blocks to go with your free block. The completer blocks are only seven dollars pattern and fabric included. If you do all four blocks each month, at the end of the year you will have a full sized quilt top.
Sounds good, right? Wrong!!!!
I have lost complete control of my project. I didn't get one of the completer blocks done for March. I didn't get any of the completer blocks done for April. So I am four blocks behind and a new month is here. Last night I cut out the big block for May. I sat down to sew it this morning. Luckily my mom called to see when to come pick me up to go to the quilt store. I said, "Give me about an hour. I have it all cut out and there is only a little bit of applique. It shouldn't take me too long to get it together." She asks, "What applique?" I had cut out the wrong @!#$ quilt pattern. Mamala to the rescue. We sat down and cut it out. Cutting it out is the longest part of the process. Then she pinned and pressed while I sewed. We had it made in two and a half hours.
At this point I have nine quilt blocks to make to get caught up with this project. I also need to make two double wedding ring quilts one for Baby Sister and one for Niece#1. The first needs to be done by September and the other by this time next summer. I have sewn myself into a corner and can't get out.

The pattern pictured above is called "Devil's Claw." That, somehow, seems fitting.

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Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Bunny Update and The Tomato Situation

Two of the babies have their eyes open. One of the white babies is definitely and albino. Its' eyes are very pink. Fat boy has dark eyes like mom and dad. The last one is white and still has its' eyes closed tight.

Now, I wonder, dad is black and white and mom is brown and white. Hum, albino twins? Do rabbits have milk men?

Does anyone else think the media is overreacting to the tomato situation? Apparently, cherry, grape, vine attached varieties are supposed to be okay. Take is seriously, but don't scare people into not eating healthy fruits and vegetables. I am seeing a fantastic trend around here. Several home gardeners are selling their extra produce. These roadside stands consist of nothing more than a card table and an honor cash box. I bought beautiful yellow squash and tomatoes yesterday. I will keep buying like this until my own garden begins producing enough for our family. Maybe I will have some to sell. This is doubtful, as we love our veggies. I also buy our eggs from fellow master gardeners who keep chickens. As I might have whined about before, Manly Man will not let me have even one chicken. Sigh.


I had to visit a big box store to purchase a replacement water pump for my little half whiskey barrel water garden. At the entrance to the garden center were two shopping carts loaded down with dozens of flats of dead lantana. The flats had not been watered. How long to you have to neglect to water lantana before it dies and dries out? I just don't understand.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Disappearing Corn Snake

Talked to my mom this morning. She was inviting me to share a ride to the grocery store. She told me my younger sister had given her son a corn snake for his birthday and somehow the snake had escaped from its' cage.

I waited a few hours and called the sister for a snake update. She told me the snake was still missing. They had torn the house apart and looked everywhere. Unfortunately, this had to happen while her in-laws are visiting. I am not sure how they feel about snakes. We talked about how to find a snake on the loose and the wisdom of getting a snake for an eleven-year-old. Then she screamed. The snake had reappeared in its' cage. Luckily, she figured out that the log in its' cage had an almost invisible opening in it that the snake could slither into. But wouldn't it have been funny if she didn't figure it out and the snake disappeared and reappeared over and over in the cage. Sorry, I find my siblings hilarious. I wonder if she know that snakes can't have hiccups?

No we are not getting a snake. I am putting my foot down. If a snake got loose in my house I would have a complete nervous breakdown. No snakes.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Taking Out The Trash

I was introduced to a new blog today. The site is trashwatch and has been set up by Sean of Bamboo Geek. The point of the blog is to point out corporations which contribute to this countries horrible, awful, gross, disgusting, nasty, sad litter problem. Not to be all negative, good corporate/environmental citizens will be recognized. Our job, is to help Sean out by taking pictures of trash with corporate logos visible and sending them to him along with location by street and cross street. He will post, per his discretion, these pictures. He then offered to compile our pile of trash pictures and send them on to the companies to raise awareness and maybe a little shame. I can keep him busy just with the crap that gets thrown in the ditches around this place. I love a blog with a purpose and I am ready and willing to help and gripe. At least Sean is doing something. Atta Boy Sean, Atta Boy.

Baby Bunnie Pictures Are Here

Here they are more than a week old and getting some fur. They are really hoppy even though their eyes are still closed. The brown one is a perfect blend of mom's color and dad's markings. We are calling it "Fat Boy." It is bigger than the others.
Middle Monkey found a bifurcated carrot. He fed it to mommy bunny, Starr.
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Sunday, June 1, 2008


I keep thinking I am going to get more done on the weekends. Then the weekend gets here and our gigantic extended family wants to swim cook out, exchange kids, and generally act like families on the weekend. In the meantime, my garden has gotten totally out of control. What did get put in got put in late and what is in and growing well is covered up in weeds. I have such high hopes for my garden every year, but there never seems to be enough time to make it pretty.

This weekend was no different. Friday I think, I will get up early tomorrow and work in the garden until it gets hot. Then I will come back inside eat a great lunch and take a two hour nap. After I wake from my nap, I will wait until it cools off in the evening and go back outside and work again until it is too dark to see. Sunday, I will do the same thing. Then I get this nagging feeling that I am forgetting something. The something is a recruitment meeting for our master gardener group. Crap. I spend Saturday morning talking to a few people who are interested in becoming master gardeners. I really enjoyed this, but I didn't get anything done in my own garden.

When I arrived home a cousin was here visiting. The next thing I know one of my boys is going with him. I still have to plant some hibiscus in another person's garden. Okay, nothing gets done in my garden.

Sunday morning, I get up before dawn and type an agenda. I went back to bed because it was too dark to work outside. At 10:00 the phone wakes me. It is a cousin, "We are on our way over to go swimming. Do you want us to bring the watermelon?" Here we go, pack up everybody and head to the pool. Still thinking, I can get a lot done this evening. At least something done this evening. We come home in the early afternoon. It is too hot to work outside so I will wait until 6:00 or 7:00. Over the next hour, I develop the sunburn of the decade. Nothing takes the energy and motivation out of me like a sunburn.

I will go outside here in a few minutes, but I don't expect to get much done. I hurt and I am tired. I am going to try to get out of my garden what I need out of it. Peace, quiet, calm, nurture, the smell of dirt and herbs. The goal is not to get something done. The goal is just to be there.

Do you know what is really relaxing? Watching a teenage boy mow the lawn for you.