Roses, Loss and Resolve

Rose garden at Happy Simple Living blog

Every June, the most fragrant flower in the garden blooms for just a few precious days.

rose6

The deep pink double-petaled roses are a bit unruly, growing from long, arching stems that resist all efforts to make a tidy, well-shaped bush.

Double-petaled rose at HappySimpleLiving.com

But no matter.

old fashioned rose at Happy Simple Living blog

The scent of the old roses is pungent, sweet and spicy. The fragrance always reminds me of Grandma C.

The flowers, alas, are fleeting.

fading rose at Happy Simple Living blog

A day or two after they bloom, the roses fade and the petals begin to drop. Too soon, the roses are done for the season.

Rose petals at Happy Simple Living blog

The little rose bush is special to me, because it grew from a shoot of the rose bush that Pop’s mom grew in her garden. The rose is hardy, and Grandma C.’s original plant produced offspring rose bushes that now bloom in my parents’ garden, my sister’s and mine.

The simple home where the rose flourished and my Pop grew up along with six sisters was in the Black Forest near Colorado Springs, where a wildfire has killed two people, burned 24 square miles and destroyed 483 homes since it started last Tuesday. The Black Forest fire is the most destructive fire in Colorado’s history.

Black Forest Fire - photo by U.S. Army

Black Forest Fire – photo by U.S. Army

Each week seems to bring new stories of catastrophic weather disasters from around the world. It feels like the earth is crying out for us to unite and put the brakes on the cycle of endless consumption and careless pollution. If these disasters don’t get our collective attention, what will it take?

Black Forest fire - photo by Kim Singdahlsen

Black Forest fire – photo by Kim Singdahlsen

I was thinking about this as we drove through Wyoming last week and passed several enormous coal strip mines.

Coal mine at Happy Simple Living blog

Photo by Inf-Lite Teacher

As we made our way home, we crossed paths with several freight trains winding through the plains, their cars loaded with coal. And so it goes: more coal for more energy, more consumption, more pollution, more mercury in our food, more disasters, more fires—and of course, coal-fired energy is just one small piece of the environmental puzzle.

With hours to think as I drove, I wondered:  what will it take to change course and save our planet? I don’t know if we can count on our politicians to truly implement meaningful change, so I feel a constant urging to take personal action.

One thing I know for sure is that well-placed money helps. Money helps finance campaigns to raise awareness. Money can enable communication and help spread information. Let’s face it; money can help make things happen. If we really want to see change in our lifetimes, perhaps we need to choose strong, well-managed organizations that are aligned with our values, and support them with our dollars.

One such organization I support is the Moms Clean Air Force, which I learned about when I heard co-founder and senior director Dominique Browning talk in Denver. (She’s one of my favorite writers and I love her book, Slow Love and blog, Slow Love Life. But I digress.)

moms clean air force at Happy Simple Living blog

Moms Clean Air Force is a grassroots, non-partisan (hurray!) organization of more than 138,000 moms committed to protecting our right to clean air and educating people about what’s at stake if we don’t. You might enjoy food writer Mark Bittman’s recent editorial in the New York Times supporting the organization, and his findings about the connection between coal-burning pollution and mercury in foods.

When money is tight, I especially appreciate the group’s “Take Action” page, which has several simple efforts we can make to fight for change that don’t cost a dime.

What are your thoughts? Are you involved with groups or organizations that are taking real action to save our Earth? I’d love to hear your comments and ideas about how we as people can unite around this crucial, most-important issue.

rose bud at happy simple living blog

Our children, grandchildren and future generations are depending on us to do something while we still can.

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

Rabbits Enjoy Nice Salad Bar in Our Garden

Rabbit ate plants at Happy Simple Living blog

If you’re a pea plant trying to grow in our garden this summer, you’ve had your share of challenges. First, you had to endure two snowstorms with hard freezes. Then, just as you were beginning to thrive and feel good about life, a rabbit snuck in the garden and ate most of your foliage and tender shoots. What’s a pea plant to do?

Because I’m trying to be a frugal gardener this year, after surveying the damage this morning I was determined to try and solve the rabbit problem without spending any cash. So I rummaged around in the shed and found some bamboo stakes that I drove between the openings in the wire fence, about four inches in the ground.

Deterring rabbits at Happy Simple Living blog

Bamboo stake fencing at Happy Simple Living blog

Then I placed a fierce looking owl (or tacky plastic owl, depending on your point of view) to guard the plants.

Fake owl to scare off rabbits at Happy Simple Living blog

Finally, I sprinkled some black pepper on and around the nibbled plants.

Black Pepper to deter rabbits at Happy Simple Living blog

I got this tip from the Rutgers website, which also recommended bone meal or, um, blood as rabbit deterrents. (They don’t say where one might obtain this blood, and I really don’t want to know.) I’ve also heard that cayenne pepper will do the trick. Other rabbit deterrents I’ve read about–but have no experience with–include spraying hot pepper sauce around the garden, planting marigolds or cilantro around the border, and scattering dog hair (something we always have plenty of around here) near the plants. Seems kind of unsightly, but it just might work!

I love seeing the bunnies in the back yard, I really do, so I hope these measures deter them from eating our peas and other garden plants.

Rabbit on Happy Simple Living blog

How about you? Are you dealing with critters in your garden, and if so, have you found any solutions that work?

Enjoy the weekend and happy digging,

The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

Frugal Gardening, or How To Avoid $100 Tomatoes

heirloom tomatoes on Happy Simple Living blog

Heirloom tomatoes – photo by mrsdkrebs

Last summer was a tough year for growing tomatoes here in our Colorado garden. After buying six large tomato plants for the garden and lovingly planting them in soil I had enriched with store-bought compost, a hail storm on June 7 destroyed all the plants – along with our cedar shake roof.

After replacing all the plants (and the roof), the summer of 2012 broke all our previous records for heat, with more than 70 days of temperatures over 90 degrees. I tried mulching, drip lines and shade fabric, but all of the tomato plants in that full-sun garden were droopy and produced only a few smaller fruits. I also later learned that the commercial compost I bought was probably contaminated. We probably spent about a hundred dollars between all the plants, compost, water and more – for about a dozen garden tomatoes.

A new gardening year is upon us, and I’ve been thinking about how to maximize our output without spending so much cash. One of the best money-saving strategies, of course, is to grow your own plants from seed. Alas, I wasn’t that organized this year but here are some other thoughts:

1. Has your gardening zone changed? Climate change has caused a general warming trend, and you may want to consult the latest U.S. hardiness zones from the Arbor Day Foundation. Choosing the best plants for your particular zone is a whole lot easier than trying to force things to grow where it’s too hot, cold, dry or humid.

2. Watch for sales on less-than-perfect plants. Dig a nice deep hole, add plenty of good soil, give the plants regular water to establish them, and cut off any dead leaves or blooms. I bought a full flat of bedraggled fuchsia petunias last week for just $2.34, and they perked right up with a little TLC.

3. Got old seeds that didn’t get planted last year? Try planting ’em now and they might just sprout. Scientists planted centuries-old Anasazi beans and – surprise! They sprouted just fine.

4. Swap plants and seeds with friends. Or ask for a slip of a plant you admire and try establishing it with rooting powder.

5. Evaluate what’s thriving and what’s not. Keep notes in a gardening notebook, so you can move plants around next spring.

6. Get creative about adding edible garden plants to your landscape. If you’re going to spend time and money on water and upkeep, the area might as well be producing food, right? We’ve got rhubarb, strawberries, herbs and currants tucked in the front yard landscaping.

7. Install rain barrels to save money on water. Or save “gray water” (like the water used to rinse dishes) to water your garden plants.

8. Make your own compost. You’ll reduce waste, save money and have complete control over the soil-enriching product.

9. Visit a botanical garden. Our beloved Denver Botanic Gardens is always a feast for the eyes and soul, and a great place to stroll around and see what native plants thrive in our particular region.

10. Explore other nearby neighborhoods and find gardens that appeal to you. See what the professional landscapers are planting. Observe the combinations of colors, textures and heights, and make notes about what you like.

11. No new plants in the budget this summer? Maximize what you have. Prune your bushes and tidy up the spaces. Perhaps you can divide some of your perennials and help them produce more. Dig out unwanted weeds. Edge the garden paths. Sketch and plan your dream garden.

What money-saving strategies are you taking in your garden this summer? I always love hearing from you. In the mean time, here’s to a happy Memorial Day. We are deeply grateful for the men and women who sacrificially serve our country.

xo,

The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

The Clean Fifteen – Fruits and Vegetables You Don’t Have to Buy Organic

Sugar snap peas at Happy Simple Living blog

Sugar peas at the LaGrande Farmers’ Market, LaGrande, Oregon

If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably interested in eating organic foods whenever possible. But let’s face it—availability isn’t always predictable, and prices can sometimes be 100% higher or more for organics.

Since I wrote last week about the “Dirty Dozen”—the 12 fruits and veggies we should try to eat organic whenever possible due to heavy pesticide loads, I was curious about whether certain produce types typically have lighter pesticide residues. Indeed, the Environmental Working Group has published a list of the safest conventionally-grown crops to consume from the standpoint of pesticide contamination:

  • Onions
  • Sweet corn
  • Pineapple
  • Avocado
  • Cabbage
  • Sweet peas
  • Asparagus
  • Mango
  • Eggplant
  • Kiwi
  • Cantaloupe (domestic)
  • Sweet potato
  • Grapefruit
  • Watermelon
  • Mushrooms

Of course, in my humble opinion the best produce of all includes the herbs, fruits and veggies we grow organically in our gardens. Check back this week for another great gardening book giveaway!

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

 

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

Free Book Giveaway – The Ultimate Guide to Permaculture

Permaculture

I’ve learned much about permaculture after reading a very interesting book. Permaculture is a method of growing food and building homes in a manner that works with nature instead of against it.

Author Nicole Faires has written a hands-on guide that takes the reader through every step of the permaculture process. The book is divided into nine sections:

  • Overview
  • Energy
  • Water
  • Homes and shelter
  • Gardens
  • Cooking and preserving
  • Zones
  • Community
  • Plants

Faires lays out a common-sense approach for sustainable living, and while some of the ideas aren’t applicable to those of us who live in urban areas (how to build an underground house or breed cattle, for example), the ideas are nonetheless fascinating and interesting to read.

Maybe because it snowed again in Colorado yesterday I’ve been in full-out garden dreaming mode, so the gardening sections in this book were especially interesting to me. Faires includes an extensive list of plants to consider for your own homestead, from perennial food crops to interesting edibles like JuJuBe and quinoa.

She also includes a very useful 16-page chart of companion planting ideas. The idea is to group plants in communities or guilds, taking advantage of their growing tendencies and the way they use nutrients, so that the plants support each other. It’s a concept that seems so simple and smart – but one which, admittedly, I’ve rarely considered other than in terms of aesthetics.

If you’re interested in learning more about self-reliance and living off the land, the book is packed with ideas, illustrations, photos and tips for topics like worm farming, designing a greenhouse, conserving water, extending the growing season, cold storage, building a chicken coop, composting, preserving food, finding your right career and much more.

The Ultimate Guide to Permaculture is 330 pages and retails for $16.95 USD. Skyhorse Publishing has generously provided a complimentary copy for one lucky HappySimpleLiving.com reader.

To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment below and answer the question “What is one step you would like to take towards sustainability or self-sufficiency in the next 18 months?” The giveaway closes next Tuesday March 12 at midnight MST, and is open to US residents.

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

Free Book Giveaway – Rocks, Dirt, Worms and Weeds

Rocks Dirt Worms Weeds at Happy Simple Living blog

If you love to garden and are looking for ways to share the joy with the kids in your life, you will love this book! Rocks, Dirt, Worms & Weeds by Jeff Hutton is packed with fun vegetable and flower gardening ideas for kids and adults.

Hutton is a writer and master gardener, and he clearly knows his stuff. The book has easy-to-follow directions and photos for kid-friendly projects like starting garden seeds indoors, transplanting seedlings, creating a strawberry pot, planting a sunflower maze, composting, attracting beneficial bugs, and keeping the garden free of weeds.

He also shares directions for fun crafts like pressing flowers, keeping a garden journal, creating a butterfly garden, painting ladybug rocks and making stepping stones.

Rocks, Dirt, Worms and Weeds is 136 pages and retails for $14.95. Skyhorse Publishing has generously provided a complimentary copy for one lucky HappySimpleLiving.com reader. To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment below and answer the question “What are you looking forward to growing in your garden this summer?” The giveaway will close this Wednesday evening February 27 at midnight MST, and is open to US residents.

It’s snowing here in Colorado today – a perfect day to daydream about digging in the dirt. Good luck, and I look forward to hearing your gardening plans.

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.