Saturday, March 31, 2012

Garden: Like a House of Cards, Part 2

Back in late December 2011 my husband and I started a program at the gym designed to lose weight. It included regular meetings with a dietitian and working out with a personal trainer three times per week. I remember the first meeting with the dietitian when she asked me what my motivation was for signing up for the program, I said that I couldn't find the motivation to lose the weight, to get healthy on my own so I  decided I'd pay somebody to try to motivate me. I thought she was going to reject me on the spot. Return my money and send me on my way.  "Without a high level of motivation, most people are not that successful with programs like this." she told me.  "Sorry, I could lie to you and say I'm highly motivated but I'm not. I have no reason to believe that I'll be successful with this program because I've tried everything and nothing has worked. I know what to do, I just can't seem to do it." I was defiant. "Well, what's your expectation for a program like this" she asked me, puzzled.  "I just want to finish it. I never finish anything. I just want to follow the directions you give me and not quit before it's finished. I don't even care if I lose weight because I know if I just do what you say, it'll happen."  The doubt lifted from her face a little. She said she was relieved that I didn't have an unrealistic weight loss goal like most people.  "OK, let's finish it, then" she said. And that was that.  Sort of.

It was a long hard, slow three months.  The first few weeks of the program were horrible. I felt like that lame story of the clam without its shell. Vulnerable. I tweeted that I was wearing a coat of insecurity. I was afraid of everything.  And I didn't know why. The only thing I was doing was recording my food in an online food diary and working out and I've done that a million times.  But I was freaking out. About everything. My relationship with my husband. My job. My family. And then I started getting sick. This is inappropriate for a gardening blog but I got three bladder infections in one month.  Three! And a really bad cold a bunch of other crap.

Other stuff happened that is probably relevant but I haven't figured out how, yet. Like I refused to weigh because it always derails me. Or so I say. It was really helpful that my husband and I were both in the program together and although I was highly motivated at times, the team at the gym was mostly dragging me along kicking and screaming. I never missed a session with the personal trainer, or the dietitian. But I was a slack ass when it came to getting in my extra cardio and at some point I stopped logging my food.

One day after complaining to my trainer about feeling extremely unmotivated I got an email from the dietitian. I hadn't sent her my food logs in a few days. Her email was short. "Alicia said you were really struggling this week. Is there anything going on that we can help with?"  And I started an email to her that practically ended up like these blog posts. Long, rambling, cathartic.

Dear Cris, thanks for the email. I'm sorry I've been out of touch...

The intention of my email to her was to make excuses. And in the meantime to say something that would make me seem less lame. Or maybe make her feel sorry for me. Anything! But the more I wrote the more I was accidentally digging deeper and deeper into the problem.

Friday, March 30, 2012

One Seed Chicago: Voting Ends April 1st!

Vote for your favorite herb seed here!  Voting ends April 1st.


I can't believe it's March 30th and I'm just now getting around to writing about one of my favorite annual gardening projects, One Seed Chicago.

One Seed Chicago is a program hosted by NeighborSpace, Chicago's land trust for community gardens.  Mr Brown Thumb is the ambassador of the program. You may have seen him educating folks about the program at various gardening events around the city.

Each year three seeds are chosen and people in the Chicagoland area vote for the seed they'd like to grow.  The winning seed is then mailed, for free, to everyone who voted.  Not to brag, but the seed I voted for has won every year that I've participated. Last year was Swiss Chard.

This is such a fun little contest because spirited debates always break out, each gardener arguing, debating on behalf of their favorite seed candidate.  In fact, an actual debate was held this year on Mike Novak's radio show. You can listen to the podcast here.

I was really excited to see that One Seed went herbal this year because I'd already made a commitment to grow and eat more fresh herbs, myself.  When you think about it, herbs tend to really easy to grow in the home garden and I think they are so underutilized. We could all make a lot more delicious homemade dishes simply by using all the wonderful varieties of herbs available.  I grow the basic herbs every year...a thousand varieties of basil etc.  But this year after reading Gayla Trail's new book Easy Growing, about growing herbs and edible flowers, I'm inspired to try more new stuff.

As much as I would love to launch into a debate over why you should pick Cilantro over the Chamomile and Basil, there is already so much good information on the One Seed Chicago site about all the candidates. Please check them out.  Personally, I am voting for Cilantro because it's an herb I have been trying to establish a relationship with for a while now.  I have always been on one of the cilantro-tastes-like-soap people. But over the last year I've read so many good things about the healing properties of Cilantro.  Supposedly it's like a blood cleanser and besides that, it is such a versatile herb used in so many different cuisines.  But I wouldn't be disappointed if Chamomile won because, My God! Those cute flowers!  And who doesn't need more basil?

The voting ends on April 1st so please hurry over to the One Seed Chicago and vote for the herb you'd like to grow.  Regardless of which one wins, it's always fun to be growing the same exact seed as so many other gardeners around the Chicagoland area.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Garden: Like a House of Cards, Part 1 of 5

Where I go on an on about why I'm a gardening failure to the point that I need to break it into multiple posts. Where I write and write until the answer comes. Settle in. This could take a while.

If you've read my blog very long you know that over the past few gardening seasons I've petered out.  Given up at the end.  Let things go to shit. Left ripe fruit hanging on the vine. And each year "the end", my end of my gardening season, just keeps getting closer and closer to the beginning.  My season shorter and shorter. My harvest less and less. My motivation shrinking. My shame over quitting, growing.

At the end of last year I had decided I was done. I began regretting ever digging up that first patch of grass. Building a garden that I had once enjoyed started bringing me just as much regret and shame. Like I need more things to be ashamed of!

This happens to nearly everything I start in my life. I dive in, get high off the newness and beauty of whatever it is, then fall hard. Or peter out.  If I'm being honest, gardening would've been one of those fall-hard ones had it not been for this blog.  The pressure if it kept me going, and gardening I guess.

All the negative self-talk has escalated. I chalk it up to bad habit. I'm worthless and I just can't stick with anything. I'm destined to quit everything I start. It holds me back. It makes the doubt and self-loathing well up in me. But instead of quitting all proper like with advanced notice and planning I just start half-assing stuff until I get so bad at it that going on with it feels worse than the half-assing.  Then, poof, I'm ghost. I end on a low note, carrying the failure in my back pocket for next time.

You probably know her if you read my blog. My friend Katie. My God! The self reflection. The examination! The soldiering on! It's invigorating to read and exhausting at the same time because I don't understand how I am as able bodied as she is yet I wallow and she soldiers on through it.  As she candidly writes about on her blog, she got divorced and nearly died in the same year. And she's fighting her way back, fear by fear.  There was a lady at a gym I used to work out at in Memphis who once told me that life is about learning. That problems come up and you can face the with fear or dignity. And that when it comes right down to it, your life is about how you face your fears.  The more breakthroughs Katie has the happier I am for her but the more I feel the need to distance myself from her blog because what she's doing is a reminder of what I'm not doing.

Then something happened that I have a hard time finding the right words to describe because it's blurry. I don't mean my memory of it is blurry, I mean that whatever it is, it's still unclear to me, hard to define or describe to you because it's way down inside me and until things come to the surface, what words are there?  It wasn't like a light bulb moment. It was like a slow drip I didn't even notice until it became a big puddle that got my feet wet when I accidentally stepped in it.  For a minute I decided, or rather the thought just slipped in that what if I wasn't a natural destined failure? Maybe there was a reason for it. Something that caused it.  If I could only find a reason, something that led to it, maybe I could fix it.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sunday Gardening Updates

Semi Dwarf Georgia Bell Peach Tree is confirmed dead. This little tree was one of the first things I planted in my garden.  Clueless, I planted it close to my house where it grew taller than I expected. In 2010 when it was three years old and I spotted baby peaches for the first time I was in shock. People said I'd never get peaches from it. Not in our climate. Grace. Last year the baby peaches up and died one day when they were about the size of golf balls. And all the leaves fell off. In the fall I tried to trim it only to be informed by my neighbor that I'd merely "topped it" and likely killed it. Cause of death - unknown.

Bindweed is already coming up all over the garden. This is earlier than I remember ever seeing it. I am so not ready for this battle. Bindweed is the one thing in this world that makes me think of resorting to using chemicals in my garden.

I finally found the nerve to dig up some dandelion greens and I added them to this spicy Italian soup I like to make. I only added a little in case it's terrible. But I'm excited to be branching out.

I cleared out three of my six raised beds in my vegetable garden.  If you knew my mental state right now you'd understand why this deserves to be here.

The two asparagus I planted last year are up. I traded Jessica some rhubarb for the asparagus. My rhubarb never came up. And far as I know, neither has Jessica's or Jennah's, who I also sent some to.

The strawberry invasion is worse than I could ever have imagined. They are completely covering the 2.5 foot space around the 4 x 8 foot raised bed they're in and have even spread into the adjacent perennial bed. Worse, I'm having a serious moral dilemma about whether to try to give these away or just start yanking them out. I'm all for sharing plants but I'm not thrilled about the work that goes into the finding of the people to come get them and the dealing with said people who will likely see my garden which is a shambles. I don't want to talk about it.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Grow These 3 Lettuces for Beauty and Deliciousness

When you walk by the lettuce isle at the grocery store it's a real snore-fest. Don't get me wrong, some upscale grocery stores have a few interesting varieties but lettuce is so easy to grow from seed and there are so many wonderful seed varieties available that I'm all about works-of-art salads now. Gorgeous varieties whose colors compliment each other like an expensive designer outfit.  These three are my current favorites for a beautiful and delicious salad.
  1. Romaine "Freckles" from Botanical Interests.  I love this one for its flavor but also because the leaves are green with red flecks which is awesome.  Like all salad greens, this one can be harvested early or allowed to grow larger. This variety tolerates heat well in my garden.
  2. "Sea of Red" from Renee's Garden.  This variety has deep red leaves, is heat tolerant and it's slightly stronger flavor adds interest to any salad. 
  3. Tango lettuce from Johnny's.  This one is bright green, also heat tolerant and and in combination with the Freckles and Sea of Red, makes a salad masterpiece.  
It probably sounds crazy but when I'm harvesting lettuce from my garden for a dinner salad, my mood, ...what I want the salad to look like, is a high priority. I start clipping leaves in color combinations that feel good, tweaking as I go until the bowl is full and I get that feeling of standing in front of a mirror staring at a reflection and thinking this outfit looks good.  I feel good!  The multi colored "Freckles" makes me think of a beautifully patterned skirt with so many subtle shades of green and red that I could stare at each leaf for hours just trying to identify them all.  Tango is like a beautiful frilly pale shirt, simple but elegant the way it lays over the top of Freckles. Sea of Red, the shoes that add a punch of color. 

Lettuce is probably the easiest thing to grow from seed. Just broadcast the seeds over soil then water and in a few days they should be sprouting.  

Do you have a favorite combination of salad greens you like to grow? If so, I'd love it if you'd share it with us.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Chicago Flower and Garden Show: The Great Chicago Seed Swap

Today the Chicago Flower and Garden Show opens at Navy Pier. This year's theme is Hort Couture. Flowers meet fashion. Now this is a theme I can get behind!

There are a lot of things to see at this year's show, exhibits, presentations, awesome vendors like the succulent plant people. But the thing I'm most excited about is The Great Chicago Seed Swap.

The basic premise is that you get to take a pack of seeds for every pack you bring to swap. These can be seeds you've saved from heirlooms you've grown or extras you've ordered that you can't use. Please see Mr Brown Thumb's post about this event for the full swapping details.

I'll be volunteering at the seed swap so please stop by to say hello. And if you want some seeds but you don't have any to swap, Mr Brown Thumb has extras so please don't let that stop you from attending.  

3:00 pm March 11, 2012
The Great Chicago Seed Swap
Chicago Flower and Garden Show
Outside the White House Let's Move garden