Egg in a Nest

an empty Robins egg I found at the edge of the road last week.

I can't express what eggs symbolize for me. Not really.
I love the shape of eggs, the textures of the color on shells (some eggs are matt and some are satiny), and the colors- white, cream, almond, pink-beige, blues, browns, terra-cotta, sea-foam green, olive... even the ash-black eggs of the Cayuga duck. (The eggs start out a matt black and lighten as the season progresses to a very light gray). 

Eggs are all wrapped up in their own package, like a little gift. A gift of life!  
A complete protein that will enable you to live. 
Or a chick will hatch from it. 
The chick may lay more eggs or become a luscious dinner (or three...).
Eggs are associated with newness- like Spring time, and Easter. 
All those things are joyful in their own ways. 

Then there is the nest one finds the eggs in (unless they are duck eggs, which I just learned may be laid about anywhere a duck is walking around).

Nests speak of 'home'; a space of one's own that cocoons some part of life, protecting it from the bigger world. Nests are MADE for that purpose - you can't just feel at home any 'ol place. 

Home is created by a labor of love, with some amount of passion for comfort, need of function, and an eye for making belongings fit together. Sometimes it takes many years to make it fit your life just right. 

Bowerbirds have THE MOST interesting nest-building technique - the male builds it alone (on the ground), and goes to the limits of decorating it, in order to attract a female! I think that's a hoot! See what you think: 
The Vogelkop Bowerbird: Nature's Great Seducer - BBC video

Then life circumstances or priorities change and the nest needs to be reorganized or refurbished to fit again. As in when the kids leave 'the nest', and you become 'an empty nester'. 

I have found that it takes me one full year to feel at home in a new place. That is a very very long time! I'm not sure why it takes that long. 
I think it has to do with the cycles of the weather seasons. For some reason I have to learn the weather patterns to feel at home. I need to know what to expect and from what direction and when. 
The first thing to know then, is what direction the house sits, which windows catch the sun's arc across the sky. Things like that. I need to understand it's position to feel oriented.

I wonder how other's adjust to a new house/environment. 
What finally seals the deal? 
Is it just a matter of adjusting to where the light switches are, so you can flip it in the dark?
Is it having a place to put everything in it's place (rather than perpetually stored in a box)?
Give me your thoughts or experience on this!

I have a very small collection of nests, feathers, and most recently an empty Robin's egg, that I found. 
The TINY one pictured (on top of a larger nest) is one with horse hair woven into it.
I've shared before, how I let a beautiful horse, Cherihuka, return to life within a herd of horses, where he would be happier. My heart wept when I saw how happy he was, getting into the trailer like he knew. Like he had been my prisoner for a time.
Yet he was the fulfillment of a dream for me. At least for a while... and somewhere on this blog I've described that moment in time. 

The nest I found with his hair in it, out one spring day after the winter snows had melted away, and there it was, near his long-empty corral. 
Strands of hair from his black tail and mane were woven throughout the tiny nest. How could I not treasure it, and find joy that a little bird made use of his hair? (Cherihuka's tail was so long it brushed the air of the ground).

I truly believe that animals come to us when we need, them or they need us. 
I suppose the opposite could be true, but it hurts to lose animal friends, for whatever reason. If it doesn't hurt, I think it's safe to say they weren't your friend... and that's ok too; help in a time of need doesn't necessarily mean 'hugs and kisses'.

I also loved having hens to tend. 
Every day discovering a new clutch of eggs in the nest... filling the laying boxes with fresh straw, fragrant hay and dried grass... watching the hens compete for the same nest... Watching the broody hen set on her eggs...learning about the new chicks.... I even loved learning to manage relationships with my roosters. 

I mourned many aspects of this, from 'culling' extras, to natural death of the old one, to re-homing one when we moved.
It's very risky to hatch eggs - because you may end up with 50% roosters. Then what will you do with them? 

Chickens are a wonderful experience with infinite lessons ...and a good amount of entertainment. 

To me, having chickens = food security. 
It's not true, if you depend on a feed store to maintain a flock of chickens. 
But that fact doesn't hamper the impression I hold that chickens equal security.
It's NOT economical to keep them, even year-round layers. It costs way more than buying eggs in a carton. I'm working on the feed aspect, before I get chickens again. I am learning how to successfully garden here first. 
Then I need the space for them and the coop... and finally the hens. And a roo. 
I can hardly stand to wait! 

So, I am painting eggs in nests. I don't know what it is symbolizing, or what it's saying. I just know I need to do it.

I planned out my future kitchen area- the wall colors anyway. And the art for the walls. Even the frames and colors. I was pretty sure I want is some luscious pears and apples, and beautiful eggs in nests. 

EVERYTHING in my future dream kitchen revolves around eggs, and eggs in nests paintings. From the dishes, even down to the salt & pepper shaker, the colors on the walls, even the picture frames.
(America Retold, salt & pepper shakers, on

My most recent egg-in-nest piece, in progress........

Next time... the finished picture, I promise.

O.M.G. it's Mosquito Season! And other things...

I had a conversation with my sis recently. She was suffering with broken air-conditioner syndrome. She's currently living in So. California, where it is now ranging between 103° edging closer to 114°. I couldn't remember it being so hot there, (at least not since the mid-1980's when I had baby twins and a swamp cooler). I do remember getting my fingers burned on the door handles of cars every summer. But this year, it seems everywhere is either hot... or flooding...

I told her it wasn't so hot here yet... but it's full-blown 'mosquito season', which means the air is made of mosquitoes! 
It's green everywhere here though. Some days the air even seems green. And I am not kidding!
I'm pretty sure the air gets humid from all that greenery just breathing! (This town is a little swampy in places, too).  
So there you go... one more example of what I tend to say a lot: "There's pros and cons to everything, wherever it is that you go/are".
A Foggy Spring Morning in Minnesota 
Lately we’ve been steeped in the gardening and hydroponics how-to’s, (a good series  HEREInnovative organic farmer Jean-Martin Fortier, author of "The Market Gardener" shares his profitable methods for achieving success growing vegetables on a small plot of land.”

Then I found “Raising Heritage Poultry”parts 1-25 (playlist) from Living Web Farms on youtube. 
These are full of useful info when you want to assess individual birds for flock improvement, detect who the true layers are, understand which birds to cull or keep, and the (heritage) breeds you want to get vs the ones you should not...depending upon your climate (for one thing), and lots of other useful information.

Even if you don’t have any heritage breeds. (Oh, and you’ll learn the significance of so-called ‘heritage’ breeds vs what they often have for sale at the hatcheries, even if they are pure bloodlines).
A hatchery-bred Cochin hen with my last batch of a dozen chicks of various breeds from the feed store. 

I didn’t know you can sustain 100 turkeys on 1 acre of pasture (apparently not more). 
I never thought about them wanting to ‘roost’ either, but then, turkeys are not something I really think about raising. We don’t really like to eat them. Well, I do like turkey noodle soup after Thanksgiving, but I can live without it. I wouldn’t want to raise ugly turkeys, and I’m pretty sure I couldn’t ‘process’ pretty ones! 
There are some really beautiful heritage turkeys! I have too many favorites...
I'd rather raise geese than turkeys! These are Sepastopol... and yes, geese usually only get 1/2 as big as a turkey, but look at these as 'expensive yard ornaments', and possibly as guard dogs...  (not a recommendation just as photo source)

Fortunately, there is a LOT of info in this series about raising heritage CHICKENS. So if you’re a chicken-keeping buff, have a look. (You might also like the ones on raising black soldier flies for feed supplementing).

There’s got to be something on one of those 340 vids that will enlighten you and help you on your own journey to sustainability! (I’m making an assumption that you have such ideas, since you’re reading this blog).

***Um, if you’re reading this because you’re a family member, come on, it’s time to fess up in the comments section!

Over 340 videos to learn from, covering oh so many topics related to farming, raising things, gardening, ranching, raising livestock...
I love learning this stuff, even if it’s not applicable to my life right now (or ever). I want to understand how all the pieces of a farm get put together. In my mind, a farm is like a homestead - with many interlaced parts working together for the whole. The fun part of course is choosing what it is you want to interlace with what... based on what feeds into the other thing, for exactly how that interlacing will be done. 
But you see, you need to know things to figure that out.

Katie, from Valley Pasture Farm wrote a post back in January about homesteading skills – specifically, her “farmgirl goals”. She said:

“The modern-homesteading movement is growing, and with the internet, it is easy to connect with people across the country that are making things from scratch, raising farm animals, and providing for their families in ways similar to their great-grandparents – even in the city! Feeling proud of something you have done with your hands and possibly saving money along the way is a bonus to having these skills to fall back on if ever needed.”

It’s true~ and I’m on the same page already!
Along with her 2016 Farm Girl Goals she listed skills she had already done (that I have not), including these....
  • Learned to drive a skid steer  (Um, a what? I don’t know what a steer skid is!)
  • Make soap (Oh, I have plans..... and recipes and ideas for this! I can’t wait!)
  • Make sour cream, and cream cheese & mozzarella cheese (why haven’t I done this? I keep hearing how easy it is...)
  • Learn to use a pressure canner (when I get one)
  • Tap maple trees & make syrup  (If we ever have the trees...Apparently you have to tap the right kind. 
I watched MIGardener’s instruction vids on tapping- which works on some trees, even if you don’t have true ‘sugar maples’...)
Oh, and he has a great one on making rose water too! Why aren’t we all doing this?
It’s SO EASY. And how wonderful to have a flowery cologne to spray on bed pillows, or laundry fresh from the line, or in the closet (especially for all those heavy coats)!

When I lived in California (for 25 years), and then in Colorado (for a dozen), I never smelled flowering trees in bloom. 
I didn’t catch the scent of the jacarandas, or any of the other myriad landscaping trees. I didn’t catch the scent of all those roses growing in Riverside - ‘The City of Roses’, either.
I remember distinctly, putting my nose right up into the blooms all around my neighborhood one summer (I was trying to capture photos at the time), and that was the only way I could smell them. ANY of them.
       *random photo just to break up all the text....

And the landscape trees that line the avenues... nope, no scent wafting through the air! I don’t even think the magnolias sent their lovely lemony scent across the air.
We did have ‘pepper’ trees in the school yard playground – those kind of stunk. And the poor choice landscape Carob trees planted down our street, only had blossoms once, but they sure dropped the heavy hard ugly pods every year! It was a lot of work to rake them up every year, and the smell was NASTAY!
I don’t mean to mislead anyone, but I didn’t remember their blossoms BECAUSE THEY WERE NOT WORTHY OF REMEMBRANCE.

Some things are worthy of remembrance. 

In Colorado, there were cedar and pines. I could most definitely smell that wonderful spicy pine scent on a warm breeze, but never smelled any of the sparse wildflowers that might have been blooming, and there were no landscaping trees- except in the big box parking lots – they tended to plant trees that had gorgeous fall leaves, not flowering ones.

My first experience of Minnesota’s short and explosive spring season, was completely different. Late afternoons I take my dog for a walk. These are my limited outings... and I try to notice every little thing in order to understand this new geography. I want to understand the wildlife habits and migrations- to know when the first Canadian geese will come back, when the fireflies arrive and leave each year, when which butterflies arrive (please take note of my Monarch Butterfly migration tracker to the right...), and, when the mosquitoes arrive (and leave)... and things like that.
Oh I saw a silver fox 2 days ago, down by the garden! Sorry, that was off-topic, but so neat! (It also tells me that having 'city chickens' would be a situation fraught with predation. The hawks and eagles here are as prolific as they were in Colorado, too. Oh, and skunks too.)

What I wanted to illustrate is the heavenly scents I could follow down the sidewalk here. They would fade off and then be picked up by yet a different flowering tree (or bush). 
I don’t know the names of them yet, but there were blooms cascading and opening up everywhere for exactly 3 weeks – the last 2 of May and the 1st of June. 
Then the blossoms from the walnut trees came floating across the street like giant snowfall, signaling the end of spring bloom. They were done,  just like that!
At least until the next round of blossoming things (early spring, early summer, mid-summer, fall...)
Blossoms are wondrous things, after a long cold gray bare-naked snowy 'smells like cold' SAMENESS of winter.

While they lasted, the smells were like opening up my Grandmother’s solid perfume tins when I was little. The kind she would dab on before church on Sundays.
I really remember the Gardenia. It always offered an overpowering shock to the nostrils, lol. There were others I preferred more, like the Freesia, and the Lilac, and there were others I don’t remember. I am sure the church pews smelled like a church-lady bouquet all week! 
I thought they were overpowering at the time, but now I understand that is exactly how blooms can smell. It was a happy discovery!  

Anyway, getting back onto the previous topic, it was fun to read Katie’s past, present and future goal lists. They made me feel more connected to the REAL FARMGIRL experience because I had done so many of them.

Yay me, I’m not a faker, nor a wannabe farmgirl – I’m IN THE CLUB!
If you’ve been reading my blog over time, you KNOW that’s been kind of an obsession on this side of the screen, lol. 
I'm hoping to hear from more of you out there, who have the same vision!

Some of the things on her exhaustive list I did well enough that I hope to do more of / again (you know, somewhere down the line).
Like make candles. That was a very fun process. And there are sooooo many techniques!
Her list also reminded me of things I’d long forgotten, and of other things too. I feel pretty good about the accomplishments I can claim– like ‘made paper from scratch’, ‘pressed flowers’, and ‘made a doll out of a burlap sack’...
And for sure, I want to add: make rose water. 

*random photo from Pagosa Springs, CO. 20+ years ago

These are a few of the things on her future to-do goal list that I have already done...
  • Start seeds indoors (this spring, my first time! Only 1 in 4 plants lived after transplanting tho’).
  • Make homemade yeast breads (I want to try more whole grains!)
  • Made butter (in a jar and in a real churn, along with all the other family members that got roped into it, lol - instruction that left us all with a lasting memory).
  • Cook on cast iron (see below, but now mainly when baking)
  • Make pie crust from scratch (I LOVE it! Please look at Pinterest for some awesome creative crusts!)
  • Started a compost bin or pile (I think the squirrels are robbing it, lol)
  • Made own candles (now I want to try beeswax dipped candles)
  • Kept bees (hubby took that over, thank goodness...)
  • Went fishing (& gut) & cook your catch (at one time we lived on what we caught, along with potatoes and onions fried up in a pan and served with mustard- for an entire summer! Cooked in a cast-iron pan.)
  • Cook a whole chicken (whole and I also learned how to cut them up... unfortunately all 3 of my girls say they were as traumatized having to learn that technique as going thru a science class dissection – but fortunately they don’t ‘need’ to do it in daily life.)
  • Hemmed a pair of pants (my last pair of jeans – wish I’d had some plaid trim or lace to add!)
  • Made bone broth (chicken and turkey, haven’t yet done beef)
  • Hatch chicks or ducklings (I did ‘raise’ ducklings two different times, does that count?)
  • Learn to knit or crochet (LOL -I made a multi-colored ‘thing’ that was 12’ long by 2’ wide. I can also embroider, and am currently working on that rusty skill – look up “Red Work’).
  • Baked a cake from scratch (don’t wish to repeat this one!)
  • Kept backyard chickens (and did that hard thing: ‘dispatched’ roosters)
  • Planted vegetable gardens (with varying degrees of success)
  • Learned basic first aid & CPR (while in school for Medical Assisting)
  • Dehydrate fruits and strips of meat (it was easy when I lived in the desert heat!)
  • patch a pair of jeans (several times over, but only to get thru to the next paycheck, see notes!)
  • Fixed clothing instead of tossing it (I made some clothes for my kids over the years, and Halloween costumes, then I learned how to revamp clothes for myself-thanks to ideas from Pinterest! And have made doll clothes.)
  • Traded goods or services with a neighbor (eggs are a great barter item- I also traded paintings. One for my first flock of chickens, and one for my beautiful horse...though they would’ve been given to me freely, I wanted to give something in return. Without chickens now, I need to make something else to barter with though. The internet rocks with ideas...)
I WISH I WAS DOING EVERYTHING ON THAT LIST RIGHT NOW (except maybe the bees... lets substitute “tapping maple trees” instead!)

I have divided my goals into “1 thing a week” goals and I schedule them on a calendar (or they won’t happen). It works when I have the materials/supplies. It kind of sucks to be thwarted, but in that case, I can move on to the next thing. Or find something to paint on. 

Or, just watch vids and collect MORE ideas from Pinterest. LOL
*Minnesota - sky over cornfields

I want to say that repairing blue jeans is a quandary and depends on where they need repairs and how often they are washed. You can sew holes together but believe me, it doesn’t last long.I would suggest the easy more durable way: patch them with iron-on patches. I find them unsightly, myself...

But, there are lots of things to MAKE with old jeans, really cute things!
My latest DIY discovery were using old jeans as bags for clothespins!
The cutest thing by far though was a QUILT made out of jeans pockets – making one of those ‘countdown calendars’ for kids (Christmas); you can stuff the pockets with goodies!
(If you’d make one to sell, you could then buy a pair of NEW blue jeans!)

I had six pair saved before we moved here, but I tossed them out instead of packing them up. They weigh a lot and so unfortunately we left a LOT of thoughtfully hoarded useful items behind. It takes years to save those up, so in reality I probably won’t be making an advent calendar out of jeans pockets... unless I gear it for college-age Grandkids.

I’m currently doing what I can with what I have though... and even though I’m not moving thru my list of diverse things I want to try/do, there are ways to get along with what I have and still accomplish ‘production’ –maybe not my intended items or direction... but something is always better than nothing.

If you have an old sweater, and an old summer top- you can make 5 or 6 of these:

I happened to have 100 burlap sacks... so one winter project was Miss Bunny.
Now I’m working on getting her into photos so I can feature her in a little story book. 
Kind of like the things that get sent all around the world getting their photo snapped by people in different locations and then sent on to someone else... It's kind of fun- and has given me something to DO when walking the dog and scoping the neighborhood out!

Sometimes it’s not something that keeps growing in scope, it’s just one tiny thing...

What kinds of old fashioned skills do you practice? 

What would you like to learn / to do?  

On one of those 'at least do one small thing' days ...I finally worked up the ‘umph’ to dismantle the crappy frame... and touch up that mixed media picture – adding better shading all around (and that blue egg doesn’t look so much like it was printed out – which it was!)

But now I won’t cringe when I see it! 
(Truth is that most paintings aren’t done until they’ve been observed on the wall for a while and my eye can detect the flaws.)

Every day I must move forward with at least one thing.... so today, aside from watering the garden, (spraying liberally with ‘OFF” because it’s mosquito season), re-potting the luscious rosemary plants (that I propagated from store-bought in wintertime), bleaching the sinks and the toilet, doing dishes, laundry, manning the office phone, and watching a few more educational videos out of the side of my eye... while writing this thing up... whew... I have started another egg-in-nest painting.

I'm hoping to practice creating a highlighted area as if 'backlit'. Sorta. 
One in that series I’m hoping to one day hang in my future kitchen, but will keep me company now, in this space that contains so many dreams.

If I could impart one idea to you today... it’s this:
Do ONE THING every day that moves you closer in some way, toward the reality (or future) that you dream of. Otherwise, how will you ever get there?

And on that realism, I’ll close. The paintbrush is calling.

First Harvest & Weird Weather

Our first strawberries... yeah, just two. It's our first try with them, and hopefully the start of something successful we will continue. Unlike the big hard berries that are often white and tasteless and harder still in the middle, these are tender and sweet, and taste just like strawberries! They are the 'everbearing' kind that blossom and produce all season (or continually in the grow room), rather than the 'June-bearing' kind that has one "all-at-once" harvest. 
They also shoot out runners, which can be rooted to create a whole new plant. Yay, more for free! (Not counting the fertilizers, filtered water, water pump and  grow lights and heat if needed...)

I know, it's only ONE bunch ... but it still counts! 
These are the TOPS of about 3 dozen or so scallion roots that I had in that coffee can all winter (and was harvesting once a month- even though they were more 'chive-sized' than onion sized). 
Since they will grow over and over again from the same 1/2" root base, I've grown to be really fond of them! 
This was at the end of January this year. 

A little plant-talk (background): I started overwintering them several years ago, when I had a south-facing window, then planting outside when the snow was gone,  they would thrive in the heat and grow big again! They do a little better under grow-lights and kept at 65°-68° (like a basement with some heat blowing in), than they do next to a window when it' below freezing on the other side of the glass and the temps fluctuate a lot (like from your wood stove being fired up in the daytime). 

Anyway, this is a fun 'herb' to plant- they only need about 2-3" of soil. I don't worry about drain holes at the bottom. The soil dries out inside pretty quickly, and they drink a lot! 

It's really nice to be able to snip a fresh bunch when you want it, all winter long. 
Even more, when you live with snow and bare naked trees... it's good to see greenage!

And speaking of weather.... this is what my hubby drove into on the way home today....
I am positive I would've gone the other way.
He lived in tornado country for 35 years and NEVER saw clouds like this. And those blue clouds are just weird. He said it seemed eerie like another dimension trying to break thru.

I have only ever seen these cloud rolls on youtube - they are being seen all over the world, and are apparently a new strange phenomenon, because the people are amazed, alarmed, or awed, but they are not only stopping to observe and film them but then uploading them. 
Have YOU seen this cloud formation before? 

So, I have another question:
Would you rather live in blue-skies-forever Southern California, 3 miles from the San Andreas... and wait for The Big One (that the scientists now say is locked-and-loaded, and long overdue)... or in a place where you get to see something new in the sky every day along with fantastical weather? 

Putting Down Roots, Tornadoes, Hobbit Houses, Arizona, (and a mini-rant)

The Garden got planted by mid-May, in a 20’x26’ section of the community garden across from the house. The dirt is a rich ash-colored black, and full of earthworms!
I didn't quite empty out the big boot box seed box (that has been storing seeds in the fridge for the past 2 years)- as we aren't doing any corn (we have 3 kinds), and I'm not wasting space on anything hubby won't eat (turnips, various greens, beets, eggplant, etc.) But there are a lot of things we do find agreeable!

*pencil-straight ‘Calima’ green beans (bush) supposedly can start harvesting in only 55 days! (One that is 3 weeks old now is about 6" high. It better hurry up and grow!)
*10' row of sugar pod peas (sweet edible pods that are fat, not flat) 
*a few kinds of radishes (will be sowing these every 2 weeks for continual harvesting and seed-saving if they bolt)
* 3 each: yellow-scallop and lemon-shaped summer squash (bush), bush zucchini
*1‘Black Mountain’ (small round) watermelon
*large blue Hubbard squash (I have little hope in this one- I planted 4 seeds, none up yet)
*butternut & spaghetti squash (one hill each, and only one of the two has come up-but I don't know which one!)
*green onions (the ones I raised in coffee cans all winter & harvested each month)
*1 head of garlic cloves (2 kinds- I hope one is 'MUSIC' - huge cloves, less peeling!!)
*red and yellow onions (a handful of each)
*1 cucumber
*5 white potatoes, 1 sm. red potato (as these produced eyes and sprouts in a paper bag on top of the fridge all winter)
*red bell pepper
*a jalapeno, (maybe a poblano chili too?)
*a few random Turkish purple carrots (we just liberally sprinkled seed around the boundary), *5 kinds of tomatoes—two different cherries, a buttery-smooth orange heirloom beefsteak (saved from a special store-bought assortment I got back in Durango), a round red ‘Abe Lincoln’, and a pink beefsteak (also from the special heirloom section of the store). 

*sweet potato slips are just getting started now at 3", with strawberries, lettuces, and rosemary under lights in the basement. Some are growing in in dirt, some in ‘Kratke’ coffee cans, some in rail hydroponics. (The sweet potato slips are between 2" and 4" high but I clipped them and set them into water along with the mint. (Sprinkled a little bit of rooting hormone in there. And it's 6" underneath the growing lights).
The 5 tiny slips will go into the ground on Friday - so they can finally get heat! Wish them luck! 

Hopefully the one leaf of ‘apple mint’ will develop substantial roots and take off – it’s setting out baby leaves now -on a one inch stem
I collected that from the landscape near the farm supply store.  

My purple morning glories waited thru weeks of cool spring rains to come up. Now they will have to grow without direct sunlight, but at least it's warming up.

We got 3 hazelnut trees last fall – supposed to be named after  B.B. King (though I couldn't find any online, they do serve special ales at B.B. King's “Blues Club” in L. A – one made with hazelnuts & cinnamon and one with chocolate & hazelnuts (brewed by River Horse Brewing Co.)  
One tree was dead already, and after hibernating in a bucket in the garage (where the sunlight might hit it on sunny days, even thru the frost)... they started budding in April and then suddenly one just up and disappeared! 

I suspect the naughty squirrels, but I can’t be sure.  
There are bunnies hiding everywhere...

But even so, I'm always surprised when plants 'make it' under my watch... 
If it's not me breaking the 'gardening rules', then it's mystery maladies. 

I once told my son I thought it was fine to pour watered down cola into his bamboo plant. A little sugar shouldn't hurt it, right? It came to a very rotten end fairly soon. (You'd think I'd learn a thing or two.)

The way I am forcing the sweet potatoes...makes me feel like a Medieval Torture Chamber Dude (whatever they were called). But every day I see more new leaves poking up thru the dirt, so my fingers are crossed, and I will faithfully water and weed, just in case.
I admire all the plants that make it thru the torture chamber of my gardening practices and the Colorado Potato Beetles. 

The seedlings are now being well-watered by Nature. I planted a lot of things on little 'hills' because of this (If they are surrounded by a circle of a water then the roots get an advantage and this also to avoid having the actual plants drowned  -  at least to my logic). 

Spring storms and overcast days are the norm, but I'm learning to take storms seriously... each one has potential of being more than just a good soak!

Every day I geek the weather (courtesy of, looking for the first sign of threats:


Wow, a lot of potential outcomes.
Know the signs of a tornado, and what to do! 

Here's a good page for research; it includes many slides (some animated) on tornado damages and stuff - like slide #8 that discusses the Moore tornado (everyone knows about that one!). 
It covers what people did WRONG when trying to situate themselves for tornado impact (even when some had the opportunity of 10 minutes to drive away from it)... and the injuries sustained by making the wrong decisions.

Highway Overpasses as Tornado Shelters: Fallout From the 3 May 1999 Oklahoma/Kansas Violent Tornado Outbreak (click link for slides and info).

Quote from NOAA (Norman, OK)
"The most important point is this: seeking shelter under the overpass resulted in the highway becoming blocked, trapping people in the path of a violent tornado with no options other than a ditch, an overpass, or their vehicle - 
all terrible options. In effect, those who sought shelter under the overpass made a bad decision that put many more people than themselves into a life-threatening situation, unnecessarily."

NOAA has a lot of info, but was hard to find. : tornado safety - WHAT TO DO

I have collected a lot of weather info since I came with a huge learning curve on this part of the country. I needed to understand about snowfall history and tornado history (for state, county, town), all about tornadoes in general, then on personal safety and storm preps. 

I found basement shelter design intriguing... this room as a "safe place" is actually a misnomer, as houses often collapse INTO the basement, crushing you, or are completely lifted OFF the basement, exposing you

So, there is NO SAFE PLACE in case of a tornado- it's just the luck of the draw.

While horrifying, viewing pictures of the devastating effects of a tornadoes is helpful. That basement above is just like OUR basement - it's only partially underground, there is no under-stair space, and there are windows on 3 of the walls, too. 

The safest place is a small enclosed and reinforced 'safe room' INSIDE the basement. But of course many of us are renters, and most of us can't afford that- especially retro-fitting one in an established home. 
A lot of people make up for that by reinforcing the small area under the basement stairs. 
Of course not all stairs have an 'under'... it's just a cement 'block'... so people must do what they have to do at the time. Hopefully that has been somewhat thought out beforehand. 

On that note....
If you have nothing better to do, this is meant to be a kind of funny story with a lesson in it (at least for me), and I'm sharing the entertainment factor with you, if you don't need the lessons. 

First, we get 'test' sirens at 1pm  every first Wed. of the month. (Of course I found that out the hard way).

Second... we are between two different sirens, and both go off with their different intensities like an eerie train whistle getting closer and farther away and closer again.

Re: the tornado threat... 
It is important to have a safety plan in place and know what to do in case the tornado siren goes off (again)... 
...and NOT to run around cussing and looking outside at the sky for signs of it, and then looking for info online... like what direction it may be coming from. 

After hearing the sirens, I found out about it by looking up the city police dept's facebook page! (They said 3 or 4 tornadoes were sighted at 2 different locations, neither of which I knew the direction of... so MORE time spent looking around to determine the threat level...)

... Oh, and just because the siren quits sounding off does NOT mean the threat is gone.

(Here, as in many other towns, they ONLY sound the siren if a tornado is SIGHTED ON THE GROUND and/or by radar. Some towns blow it for "watches" as well, so you have to know that difference where you are.) 

So, this video includes all the panicked screaming and hyperventilating and running around one does when they are UNPREPARED (which is JUST exactly what I did - except I didn't use the "F" word - I used the "S" word)... 

I share it so you will understand panic because of a lack of a 'plan of action', (and my reaction, if you just watch the first 15 minutes). 
Go ahead an laugh at me. 
But note how eerie the siren is... 
And how hard it is to hear from inside!!!!

Everyone ends up safe... but the process is a hoot (when seen from the point of afterwards)

Things I learned in situ:
1)  it would be nice to have a little stool to sit upon while waiting for the storm to pass by. 
2) Without a little NOAA radio (on the wish list), the minutes will go by very quietly and slowly. 
3) Our city doesn't have an "all clear" siren. [If you don't have a way to hear reports, you might come out of safety too soon. You have to judge for yourself.]
4) One important prep is to get your shelter prepped BEFORE there's an actual warning. Depending on lines of sight, trees, buildings, you may not be able to see one coming in time, and running around looking for things is not the smartest reaction.

I now keep an emergency Rubbermaid tote in the basement - our tornado shelter, such as it is. It is similar to a BOB (bug-out-bag/backpack, but because it's always damp in the basement those wouldn't work). I keep the basics (radio, flashlight and a headlamp, batteries) as well as water, bandages, and a pair of shoes in case we run downstairs in the middle of the night and have to walk back out in debris. 

Per my plan, the rest of the space will hold the laptop, the ipad, the PC backup unit, charger cords and my purse! 
Plus a little container of dog food. And a mascara. You know that is a necessity.

For seating, I decided on a 5-gallon bucket with a lid (free from some grocery deli's), which can hold a lot of emergency supplies, and keep them dry (which is imperative here!) and you can roll a blanket/jacket up and store it on top, wrapped in plastic, held in place by the bucket handles. 

This gives you something to wrap up in, in case glass shards or other debris makes it into your basement - the less you are exposed, the better. (Nothing I can do about all the items stored in there becoming missiles, or the walls crashing in or other incoming projectiles). 
After the tornado hits & passes by, it may still be raining, or there may be injuries, so the blanket/jacket is good to have on hand.

I recommend keeping a headlamp and a book to read in the bucket, so you can remain calm and be hands-free while distracted with some measure of comfort - and therefore encouraged to stay as long as you need to. 
Our basement has a nickname: "The Dungeon". 

For the 5 minutes I made myself remain down there last time, I thought a lot about Hobbit Houses- built into hills (a great idea - after all, the safest place to be is underground!) 
And I thought about Arizona... yeah, I know, it gets hot there - but that's what pools, misters, shade tree courtyards, lounge chairs, iced tea, ice cream, and long books are for, right? 

If you live in the SOUTH, I hear the remedy for the oppressive humid heat is "Magnolia Milk": a sort of 'punch' made of Bourbon poured over vanilla ice cream, with a dash of nutmeg.
It's legit all right- there in all the bartender manuals! 

I really do sympathize with Southerners... humidity is it's own special kind of hell. shower. In fact, you can do your laundry by just wearing the clothes. 

Sadly humidity doesn't seem to do anything GOOD or necessary (there is no pro vs con, there is only con). It doesn't clear your pores, it isn't wrinkle-fighting, and it does NOT moisturize your hair! 
Maybe it was good in the Dinosaur days, when plants grew to be ginormous enough to fill those bellies, and the dragonflies were 4 feet across... but it doesn't do anything for us now but breed hordes of the Minnesota State Bird (the Mosquito)!

I suppose mushrooms do well and like it. Anything else worthy? (I know, even that's questionable).

Meantime we’re starting a new business adventure! 
It’s a dream come true to have another opportunity as we seek a way forward in this uncertain economy. 

Food security is my obsession, (I do not ever wish to see a hungry child! And, it's my plan to never be reliant on a feed store for my next chickens...). But rather than hoard cans of food, we are working toward resiliency in many areas, so we may be able to keep up with the inevitable decline (of the petro-dollar/fiat money system/empire... whatever may come), to have back-up ways of production - both inside and outside.

Our farming efforts are born of the desire, in fact are the main part, of an “intentional family back up plan”. 
When next financial crisis hits (because it's just a matter of when), and our standards of living go down by half as much or more, family members would have a place to live and the means of breaking into the market garden business with their own creative/entrepreneurial vision, passion and energies (sweat equity). 
We will be a producer of foods, selling from our own store-front and at farmers markets, taking on the management of several growing systems and locations, while encouraging even more growers (by helping them to sell their produce), which should make a positive impact in building up some resilience to hard times.

But getting it off the ground (including initial demolition and building projects) will take the main part of summer. And then we have to grow as fast as possible, while we gain experience and expand. We're in it for the long haul, so no big rush, but obviously the sooner it's off the ground the better. 
This is a head of lettuce growing in the "Kratke" method - in this case a coffee can with nutrient water. It takes 35-45 days to grow to full size from seed, and you never have weeds, pests, or have to water it...just give it light. 

This is our first strawberry blossom, growing in a 'tower' - hydroponically. (Nutrient-rich water cascades down thru the tube from the top). We got our first strawberry a week ago.
It was Sweet - and not hard like the ones in the store!

The business is not something I intend to blog about here, but just so you know why some things are important, and why I might dwell on them... 
Obstacles and uncertainty abound, and I try very, very hard, not to rely on 'hope'.
I have reasons to believe my/our efforts will pay off, it's not the same as relying on hope alone.
Hope is not a good or reliable strategy. And relying on something you 'hope' will happen, or 'hope' will work out in your favor... well, hope can entrap you. 
You do nothing (because you are waiting on hopeful resolution of your circumstances)... but while you are waiting on hopes, with your fingers crossed, reality bites down, just like a bear trap. This is hard-earned wisdom I speak.

Remember how the last 2 elections were pinned on 'hopes'? ... 
You know how President Snow in 'The Hunger Games' said,
"Hope. It is the only thing stronger than fear. A little hope is effective. A lot of hope is dangerous. A spark is fine, as long as it's contained."
It's like that. 
Call me cynical, color me skeptical, accuse me of being biased and jaded... but twice burned, lessons learned! 

And if you've read my blog for a while, you know how we lost our home and the struggle that ensued along with that (based on our ignorance of how the insidious financial system works). Mortgage lenders called it "dual tracking," but homeowners called it by another name: "the double-cross". 
That was just the beginning eye-opener. The existing economy is based upon government-allowed frauds by private banks. It's bad enough they are counting debt as an asset, debt as money... but on a ruinous level, allowing predatory lending-  to become exponentially more fraudulent, as personal debt levels now reach a crecendo. 
Learn a little about what happens behind the scenes here... The Dept of Justice Confirms Holders-of-Securitized-Loans Cannot Be Traced/Tracked/Held Accountable
Although the Big Banks have paid billions in fines for their frauds against us, it's all tax deductible for them. And mostly the fines get regurgitated between gov't agencies anyway. 
OMG, stop me now, so I will not rant.
If you'll read the right-hand bar on that website, you'll begin to get a gist of the gargantuan properties of all these property improprieties...
I dare you to say that 5 times fast.

Basically at this point, a little piece of me expects we are headed the same direction, and into circumstances just as dire as what Venezuela faces today. 
Venezuela's middle class is dumpster-diving for food, and eating their dogs and cats!!

It's my opinion that things will get that bad here, but it is opinion based on the experience of collapsing economies around the globe.
This video will enlighten you on what food scarcity does...
"Civilization Is Only Nine Meals Away From Anarchy"

And here it is being considered in the light of reality on the ground in a 1st-World country... when the first financial crisis hit (Daily Mail, UK -June 2008):
 "'nine meals from anarchy' no longer a distant or improbable threat." 

I could spend a lot of time illustrating this, but I just want to reiterate - one of the worst things in life, is just going about your life not being aware that they are about to yank the run out from under you. 
And then when they do- no one will be held accountable, for whatever reason, no matter what damage it causes you. 
In fact, as you see in evidence above... it will take 10 years for them to investigate before they come up with that answer. 

Because you weren't savvy enough to understand that there WAS a game being played, never mind HOW the game was played, and really, really, never mind how to outsmart them at their own game. 
It can't be done.
Study: America is an Oligarchy not a Democracy or Republic...

So. Here we are. But, hey, it's not where we are that counts - it's all about where we're going. 
I am forging a pathway, planting my boot prints in the deep, rich, dirt of Minnesota! 
(And I hope I smash some of these mosquitoes while I'm at it).
Now, after that epic post, I'm headed out in my favorite picture, to absorb the sounds and sights of life among the greenery... and just breathe. I highly recommend it!