My whole body aches…

…and it feels so good! Gardening is sometimes tricky for me because my sciatica usually gets irritated after about a half hour. One of my goals is to eliminate that pain through healthier living and gardening is a big part of that. It has become one of my favorite forms of exercise. I spent the day gardening yesterday and ripped out some truly horrendous weeds. Their bulbs were down a foot or two, causing me to have to dig down and basically turn over and sift through my whole garden bed. I am thankful that my back lasted the whole time.

weedsMeet Italian arum or Orange Candleflower. It has a reputation for being nearly impossible to eradicate. So much so that the city of Portland recommends throwing the bulbs you dig up in the trash rather than the municipal compost! (I love that Portland has a municipal composting program. It was one of the reasons I wanted to move up here.) This plant, that looks nice at first, has been trying to take over my whole garden.

I don’t know who was in charge of the landscaping before I moved into this house buy for some reason they picked all the WORST plants! (Except the daffodils, I love my daffodils).

After much ado I was able to get my two new blueberry bushes in the ground.

Here they are, Jersey and Earlyblue.

They’re not very photogenic yet but they will be soon. Good luck little guys! I am pretty excited about the bounty of fruits and veggies I am going to have this summer, I’m well on my way toward a more self sufficient life. It’s a good thing too, the drought in California could have a major impact on the availability of some foods.

My Garden: a Work in Progress

gardeningLike many, I grew up reading the Little House on the Prairie series and it made a real impression on me. I still find it astounding that in our county’s infancy, under the homestead act, you could just go and build a house somewhere and that land became yours. The notion of self sufficiency, living off the land and growing your own food has always enchanted me. After years of living in apartments, I have finally moved into a place with some dirt of my own. One of my goals is to grow a significant portion of the produce my family needs and to do it consistently. I hope to share what I learn along the way so that we can all lead more self sufficient lives, free from chemical pesticides and mad scientist genetic engineering.

Garden BeforeSo without further ado, here it is, my garden this year. Let’s call this the “before” picture. I have kale left over from last year (score!) and some thyme. Oh! and weeds! yay! I’ll deal with them soon, I promise. My major accomplishment so far: I’ve torn out a bunch of mint. Don’t get me wrong, I love mint but it is super invasive. Seriously, this plant does not mess around. My dad warned me about this some time ago and like everything he tells me, I had to experience it for myself before just taking his word for it. This time however, I wasn’t the one who planted it. The mint came with the garden. When we moved in just about exactly two years ago the garden consisted of mint. period. I ripped out a bunch of it to make room for all the vegetables I wanted to plant. Fortunately it hasn’t strangled out anything yet, but I can’t get rid of it. Every time I pull weeds there are new little mint sprouts, super far away from the mother ship. I pull them out along with their roots leading back to from whence they came. Devil plants! (sort of) but boy, do they smell good when you yank them out. Heed my warning: only plant mint in containers!

Beds being prepped for asparagus etc.

Chris and I moved to Portland two years ago to a place with the first thing we could call a “real” garden since moving in together. The first spring we were here I bought some asparagus to plant. Asparagus is another one of those “where has this been all my life?!” vegetables. After reading about growing asparagus on Pinterest I learned that it takes a whole year to establish itself so you can’t harvest it until the second year. Two years ago I didn’t know whether or not we’d be living in the same house in a year so I didn’t plant it. (the “crowns” I bought died by the time I tried to plant them the next year) Two years later, it looks like we’ll be her for a while. We seriously lucked out on this house. The location is incredible.

asparagus startsI bought asparagus starts again this year and have one of my beds all ready for them. Stay tuned (as in a year from now) to see how they turn out. Seriously, can you stand the suspense?

This year I also plan to plant snow peas, which did well for me last year, and brussels sprouts (another of my new-found favorites.)  I love being able to wander out my back door and grab a handful of herbs or veggies to go in whatever dish I am cooking. I’d really like to grow a substantial ammount of all the produce we eat. A double whammy carbon reduction if I eliminate having ship food from who-knows-where and having to drive to the store.

I am also going to plant a dye garden. There are so many beautiful colors you can get from plants and I’m hoping to get as much mileage as possible out of the limited space I have in my yard.

[Just checked the seeds I still have left over from last year, there are more than I thought. I’ll let you know how it goes]

A trip to SCRAP

a look at SCRAP in Portland, OR
SCRAP – It’s like a thrift store for crafts!

The first step in starting my clothing line is cleaning out my sewing room so that I have a functional space to work. Going through boxes of old fabric acquisitions, scraps, and unfinished projects was really difficult process at first. I didn’t know where to start and I have a hard time throwing things away so I tend to just move things from pile to pile. I feel bad being wasteful and contributing further to our landfills. I keep bits of things, thinking someday I will turn them into something – a quilt, a bag, stuffed animal. All the ideas I had when I first obtained said random piece of fabric rush back to me. The thing is: I am in all likelihood NOT going to turn all this random fabric into some great work of art. But someone might.

Here in Portland there is a magical place where I can donate my odds and ends so that they can make their way to some crafter that will actually put them to use.

SCRAP is nonprofit organization whose mission is “to inspire creative reuse and environmentally sustainable behavior by providing educational programs and affordable materials to the community.”

And it’s a wonderland of goodies and craft supplies, all donated, all diverted from the garbage. If you are ever in the area I highly recommend stopping in (also go to the ReBuilding Center, it’s the same kind of thing but for building supplies)

So I loaded up my trunk and headed to SCRAP. When I arrived, much to my chagrin, I saw that they were not accepting donations because they are moving! All the way across the river (it’s not really that far, I’m just complaining) Looks like I will have to haul around my donation for a few weeks.

I did however find some fun stuff. I wound up with a super retro 1977 book on Tatting, in all its earth-toned glory and a calendar from the Union of Concerned Scientist featuring entertaining cartoons about science deniers. Score!

Look for an update about SCRAP’s new location, later this month.

My journey thus far…

Since deciding that I want to have children sometime in the near future, I am trying to remove all chemical products from my life. Call it a cleanse of sorts. I want to set up my hypothetical, future child to have the best chances possible (not to mention, create a healthier environment for Chris, myself and said child to live in).

My journey to clean up my life really officially started about three years ago when I took a class on sustainable design at UC Davis. I already was a big recycler and was already conscious of most of the things I put in my body. My mom and my aunt, Peggy inspired my interest in nutrition; I read nearly ALL ingredient labels before buying new foods. But not until taking this particular class did I realize just how pervasive chemicals are in our lives. It can be overwhelming to think about not to mention downright scary. My list of ingredients to avoid keeps on growing. I’ve found that the best strategy is to just do things the old fashioned way: at home, by hand, from scratch. This means more cooking, gardening, and sewing, which just so happen to be things I love to do.

Silk chiffon dyed with persimmon leaves and pennies.
Silk chiffon dyed with persimmon leaves and pennies.

UC Davis was also where I learned to dye with plants and minerals. We were so lucky to have Sasha Duerr from Permacouture Institute teach a guest lecture in my surface design class. From that moment I was sold; I “drank the Kool-Aid” as my professor put it. I had known for years that I wanted to be a clothing designer but that day helped to cement in my mind that I wanted to design clothing that was as good for the Earth as it was for the wearer.

I have an insatiable thirst for knowledge and I have probably bought every book there is on natural dyeing and sustainable fashion. Learning to dye with plants has been one of the most exciting and rewarding things I have done in my life. It feels so good to make something beautiful that is inspired by and made from nature. I hope to be able to share some of that knowledge with you as well as my excitement for eco-fashion. Hopefully you’ll “drink the Kool-Aid” too.