Lauren McLean Iuppa Ayer

Poet | Artist | Optimist

Tag: gardening (page 1 of 4)

Integration

One GardenOnce upon a time I had a dream of lush, sustainable, edible gardens. I dreamed about helping to build resilient communities by teaching others how to grow food no matter the size of your yard, or even if you didn’t have a yard. That dream was called OneGarden, and it was filled with projects, plant information, sustainable gardening tips, and more.

It would be easy to say I have new dreams now, but it would probably be more accurate to say my dreams have evolved. It takes more than a garden to build resilience in our lives and our communities. And the gardens we do cultivate are at the mercy of our increasingly erratic climate. Still, they hold an import place in building a resilient life–along with self-care, art, story, mindful living, and making a difference in the world at large. So rather than simply let all that juicy content disappear into the ether when the OneGardenOnline domain expires at the end of this week, I have opted for integration. Each of us is, after all, the result of our combined experiences, interests, passions, loves. And this gardening bug has been with me since grade school or before, when I used to save my pennies to buy whatever 2″ potted plants caught my fancy, creating a jungle in my half of the shared bedroom.

With the new content, you will notice a few new categories, a handful (maybe two) of new tags, and a flurry of new/old posts from the years before this site was built. Consider it a missing piece of the puzzle that, now found, clarifies just a little more of the bigger picture. And soon more missing puzzle pieces will be added. Quilts of Change has also been brought over, but there are a few others out there waiting to make the journey home. I will do my best to make any disruption to the site as painless as possible.

 

Special thanks to Christine U’Ren who designed the lovely OneGarden masthead. I will be sad to see it retired.

Celebrate Each Tiny Step

#DareToExcel Challenge – 8:

Take time during the next two days to look back on the past two weeks and acknowledge any positive changes you have noticed during the past two weeks in terms of how you feel, how you are paying attention more to what matters (challenges and all), any new relationships you’re striking up.

Write down and share what you are celebrating. When you celebrate in public, others get to celebrate with you. Your celebrations are not self-centered. They are uplifting to your peers and to your audiences and customers. So what are you waiting for? Howl out and lift us up!

Halfway through July’s #DareToExcel and it’s time to celebrate our accomplishments. Why is that always so much harder than it sounds? Probably because what’s left to do seems so much bigger than what’s already done. But it’s precisely that illusion that makes this challenge so important.

So what positive changes have I made so far?

  • I accepted the challenge in an effort to pull me out of the morass I’d been stuck in since the end of March
  • I wrote down my two most burning questions: “what if I focus on making instead of mulling?”, and “what if the story is wrong?” (which really leads to the more important question: “what if we changed the story?”)
  • I committed to one small project (Hands in Motion, Mind at Rest) to help clear mental, emotional, and physical space for my one big project, the book referred to as 3T
  • I have been practicing Hands in Motion, Mind at Rest, if not every day, at least most, and am now just 3 long seams away from finishing a quilt started more than three years ago, making me feel lighter, more focused, and like I’m actually getting stuff done; I can’t wait to finish it and move on to the next
  • I identified three young genius traits that I want to reintegrate into my life and work: Vibrancy, Resilience, and Freedom
  • I identified my audience for the book–something I’ve always been reluctant to do–and in doing so gave myself a renewed sense of purpose
  • I identified a skill that I need to cultivate in order to improve my chances of completing my small and large projects, and while I called it “saying no” it’s actually about discernment, which also includes attention to what I need to say yes to, in some cases making tradeoffs–saying yes to one thing in order to release something else
  • I identified my cross-training and versatile heritage skills–sewing, mindfulness, writing, research, and content architecture, but realize now that there are others that are less obvious and in some ways more powerful: creating a backyard homestead garden, learning belly dance and performing on stage, writing several NaNoWriMo novels, and learning how to fly a plane, all of which taught me about focus, dedication, dealing with uncertainty and obstacles, and facing some of my most long-held and agonizing fears
  • I took a look at my relationship with time and realized much of the drowning churn was of my own making
  • I continued to take my #365 daily photos, getting myself out of the house and into the world, all the while staying focused on the concrete world around me, and the beauty there, even in things that don’t at first seem beautiful
  • And perhaps most importantly, I have begun talking about collaborations and getting more involved with other people’s projects–sharing my immune disorder story with Tracee Vetting Wolf for her project, discussing a possible short story collection with Brenna Layne, and attending Jeffrey Davis‘ Tracking Wonder event in Albuquerque where I met some great people and got some great advice about my book from the man himself

Seeing the list written down like this makes me realize how much I’ve accomplished in only two short weeks. Yes I still have a long way to go, but if I can maintain this level of progress for the second two weeks of the challenge and beyond, there’s no telling what I can accomplish.

Compost

Compost. That’s the first word that sprang to mind when I read this challenge. Reclaiming the past to feed the future. I’ve done versions of this challenge before, but each time there is something new to learn–not the least of which is just how full of experience, knowledge, and important skills my life really is.

#DareToExcel Challenge – 6:

Cross-training is defined as how working on one project or in one field can complement your endeavors in another field. Cross-training can happen sequentially (e.g., your work in your 20s can help your work in your 40s) or simultaneously (e.g. the thinking required in your work as a lawyer can help you in your book project).

Versatile heritage is defined as the repurposing of previous experience in a current endeavor. For example, you may have previous experience in art or design. This experience can then inform your work in marketing or coaching.

What unique skills and experiences do you already possess that you can bring to your project?

List 1-5 existing skills you have developed from previous experiences and work that you are bringing forward to this project. 

First, the meditative sewing portion of the program:

  • Sewing & Quilting: I made my first quilt when I was 10, and have completed more than 40 since then, with several more in progress. What that means for this project is that deep attention is no longer required, allowing my mind to rest as I stitch.
  • Meditation practice: Although I wouldn’t say I have deep experience with meditation, I have studied both sitting meditation and writing practice with Natalie Goldberg and others, which means I have some experience and the basic skills to build on.

Then onto the book:

  • Research: Undergraduate and graduate school, writing for a museum publication and novels, and many years working in the content realm for a variety of tech companies and departments, have helped me develop some seriously kick-ass research skills–both online and in the real world. But beyond that, research is one of my great loves, so even when I’m not doing it for a project, I’m hunting down data, trends, and histories out of personal interest. Research is best when it’s full-immersion–books, movies, music, photos on the walls… I want to be able to slip completely into that other world.
  • Writing: Again, academia and my work experience have molded me into a professional writer with a wide variety of skills: I’ve written magazine articles for the Exploratorium Quarterly, crafted editorial experiences for Walmart.com, worked as a tech writer, marketing writer, advertising writer, newsletter (and e-newsletter) writer, social media writer, website copywriter, blogger, content and story editor, and proofreader. I’ve written and published poems and micro-fiction, completed drafts of 5 novels, many short stories, and two screenplays. I’ve also attended multiple writing retreats with author Natalie Goldberg. That’s more than 17 years focused on all aspects of the craft.
  • Content Architecture & Strategy: My professional writing career started with newsletter and catalog work–creating categories, writing copy, crafting flow between pages. From there I moved on to website content architecture and navigation–what appears on each page and how you move between them. These skills are essential in any written work, especially those with complex or interlaced story structures, which happen to be my favorite to write. My current project contains three distinct but connected story lines which will require unwavering attention to chronology, points of intersection, flow, and detail. Suffice it to say, there will be color and time-coded story architecture diagrams. Lots of them.

And of course, my whole #onesmallproject is a form of cross-training–sewing as a way to clear physical and mental space for the larger project I need to bring into the world.

But of course I’m going to add one more, in the form of a riddle:

What do gardening, belly dancing, learning to fly an airplane, and writing a book have in common?

Answer:

They all require mastery of a million tiny nuanced parts, profound courage, and deep faith that one small step can lead to the journey of a lifetime and with it, the opportunity to transport others into a completely different world.

Meditations on Spring: Gardening as Practice

The main window in my casita looks out into the garden I share with my friend Kristin who lives in the larger house. Just in front of me, the apple tree’s garnet buds are beginning to unfold into blossoms the color of seashells. Along the far wall, the peach tree looks like a heavy pink cloud in a grey, New Mexico sky.

Spring is strange here–most days feel like it’s already summer, most nights, like the dead of February. Some days it’s 70. Some days it snows. The flowers in the garden–crocus and hyacinth–don’t seem to care. Spring is spring and the new season cannot be unborn.

In the spirit of all this burgeoning green, I’d like to share a post I wrote last year for The Liberated Life Project, an enlightening and empowering blog written by friend Maia Duerr. It’s called Gardening as Practice. With spring finally here and Easter tomorrow, it seems the perfect practice to resurrect, or begin anew, practices that feed our souls. Happy spring. Happy Easter. Enjoy.

Gardening as Practice

Gardening is my passion. It brings me joy and peace, a meditative practice, challenges and heartaches, a tangible way to help make a difference in the world.

Gardening is a sensory experience. It pulls you out of yourself and into the bigger picture. It teaches you about interdependence, about the cycles of life, and about the transitory nature of all things. Here is how the garden speaks to me, but it doesn’t matter whether you have a 300 square foot vegetable plot or a single African violet on a windowsill. Any one or all of these steps can work for you.

  1. Start with your eyes. Eat your breakfast or enjoy your afternoon tea looking out into your garden. Eat slowly, giving your mind time to settle into that green space. The longer you sit, the more you will notice – a newly forming flower bud, a suspect spot or curl of leaf, a lizard hiding under a branch, a bumble bee, the beginnings of a patch of weeds. Do nothing. Make no mental lists. Just notice the space and the details, small and large, within it.
  2. Walk outside. Chances are, after completing step one, you won’t be able to resist. The garden will call you to join it. But don’t succumb to the urge to get to work right away. Spend a moment just being with it. Close your eyes and breathe deeply. Take in the lush green scent or sharp dryness. Notice the top notes – a blooming rose, the scent of warm herbs. Run your fingers across them if you like, taking their scent onto your skin. Notice then, the bottom notes – the smell of earth, warm flagstone, your compost pile. Embrace the rot. It is what keeps the cycle alive.
  3. Move in close and touch the leaves. Turn them over to see if anyone is hiding there. Feel the texture of flower petals, of rough bark, of fuzzy leaves. Reach down into the dirt without your gloves. Notice if it’s warm or cool. Dry or moist. Your fingers will tell you what it needs. Listen and give to each plant what it asks for, one at a time.
  4. When the work is done, sit and listen – to the breeze in the leaves, the buzz of the bees, the birds in the trees. Witness all the aliveness that surrounds you, both visible and hidden. Feel it pulsing through you, becoming part of you, to help ground you through your day.
  5. If you have herbs or other edibles in your garden, take a tiny taste of one small leaf – sorrel or romaine, rosemary or mint. Let it fill your mouth with its wild green, making that garden a part of what creates you every day.

It doesn’t matter if you have 5 minutes or three hours. If your garden is large and your time short, pick one corner, one plant, one flower. It doesn’t even matter if you have no garden at all. Pick a houseplant to look at, really look at. Sink your fingers into its pot. Feel its roots grow and grow with them. Or visit a friend’s garden, a park, the woods. Look more closely at the weed-riddled median in the center of your road.

And speaking of weeds, please do not consider them a foe to be vanquished, but rather a teacher to be respected. When I lived in San Francisco, I had a huge garden with a view of the ocean. It was beautiful, but completely overrun with Cape oxalis, one of San Francisco’s most invasive and persistent weeds. Everyone told me to put down weed barrier or spray herbicides, whatever it took to get rid of it all. But for me, that carpet of green was beautiful and getting down on my knees with my hands in the dirt to clear a vegetable patch one small oxalis bulb at a time really helped me feel connected to my garden – the plants and the soil, the water and the sky. It got me out there every morning to check on the progress of each squash seedling making sure they hadn’t been overrun. And those weeds kept me there, noticing things I would never have seen had I blanketed the dirt with plastic and set automatic sprinklers.

What’s most important in the garden is whatever gets you outside. Beyond that, it’s just being there that matters, whether pulling weeds, tilling soil, planting seeds, or simply enjoying the flowers. All help to ground you in the earth and the world and connect you to something bigger, putting all that bad news on the television, your child’s ear infection, or the politics at work into clearer perspective.

Outside, things grow. They live and die. The sun shines, or it rains. It doesn’t matter. The garden is there, and so are we.

 

A Bit of Green in a White World

Despite loving the freedom of a few gardening-free months, there is something to be said for having a little life in the house. A piece of green to brighten up a room. I have one small houseplant in my tiny house — a Christmas cactus my parents hauled out from California when they helped me move. It must still be in a bit of shock, because while usually by this time it’s overflowing with pink, so far this year there isn’t even a hint of bud or bloom. Still, the green is dark and glossy and quite nice atop the wide bookcase against the back wall of the room. The thing is, I want more.

There is an empty pot in the bathroom waiting for a Sansevieria, for starters. I just haven’t found the right plant yet. And then this morning, I saw this:


And I love it.

Now, living in ~ 300 square feet, I don’t exactly have room for a 28 gallon fish tank filled to the brim with skulls and horses and plants, but I could certainly find space at the edge of my desk for something smaller… say, something like one of these:

Here’s what I love about terraria:

– They’re easy to make from stuff you may already have lying around the house, or can find cheap at thrift stores or yard sales

– They can be big or small — whatever fits your space

– They are low maintenance because they are largely self-containted (especially good in water-poor areas like the desert)

– The sky’s the limit in terms of design — create a mini tropical rain forest, a sparse, cactus-inhabited desert, a green mossy hill, or a kitchen herb garden in jars; add marbles or dinosaurs or tiny farmers with shovels and hoes

A few things to keep in mind:

– Choose plants that won’t outgrow the container too quickly

– Keep them in a place where they won’t get direct light

– Water only as needed — there’s no hole in the bottom so excess water won’t drain out

– Remember, the bigger the container, the more plant variety and creativity there’s room for

Check out some of these simple DIY terrarium tutorials (no reason for me to reinvent the wheel when these folks did such a good job with theirs). And as for me… I’ll be keeping my eyes open for the perfect tank or jar and will post progress as I make it.

Fish Tank Terrarium

Apothecary Jar Terrarium

Lightbulb Terrarium

 

A Subversive Plot

Roger Doiron, founding director of Kitchen Gardeners International and the man who led the charge for Michelle Obama’s White House kitchen garden, gives an eye-opening and inspiring talk on gardening as a revolutionary act.

Gardening as Practice

Gardening is my passion. It brings me joy and peace, a meditative practice, challenges and heartaches, and a tangible way to help make a difference in the world.

Gardening is a sensory experience. It pulls you out of yourself and into the bigger picture. It teaches you about interdependence, about the cycles of life, and about the transitory nature of all things.

Here is how the garden speaks to me, but it doesn’t matter whether you have a 300 square foot vegetable plot or a single African violet on a windowsill. Any one or all of these steps can work for you:

1.  Start with your eyes.
Eat your breakfast or enjoy your afternoon tea looking out into your garden. Eat slowly, giving your mind time to settle into that green space. The longer you sit, the more you will notice – a newly forming flower bud, a suspect spot or curl of leaf, a lizard hiding under a branch, a bumble bee, the beginnings of a patch of weeds. Do nothing. Make no mental lists. Just notice the space and the details, small and large, within it.

2.  Walk outside.
Chances are, after completing step one, you won’t be able to resist. The garden will call you to join it. But don’t succumb to the urge to get to work right away. Spend a moment just being with it. Close your eyes and breathe deeply. Take in the lush green scent or sharp dryness. Notice the top notes – a blooming rose, the scent of warm herbs. Run your fingers across them if you like, taking their scent onto your skin. Notice then, the bottom notes – the smell of earth, warm flagstone, your compost pile. Embrace the rot. It is what keeps the cycle alive.

3.  Move in close and touch the leaves.
Turn them over to see if anyone is hiding there. Feel the texture of flower petals, of rough bark, of fuzzy leaves. Reach down into the dirt without your gloves. Notice if it’s warm or cool. Dry or moist. Your fingers will tell you what it needs. Listen and give to each plant what it asks for, one at a time.

4.  When the work is done, sit and listen – to the breeze in the leaves, the buzz of the bees, the birds in the trees. 
Witness all the aliveness that surrounds you, both visible and hidden. Feel it pulsing through you, becoming part of you, to help ground you through your day.

5.  If you have herbs or other edibles in your garden, take a tiny taste of one small leaf. 
Sorrell or romaine, rosemary or mint… Let it fill your mouth with its wild green, making that garden a part of what creates you every day.

_______________

It doesn’t matter if you have 5 minutes or three hours. If your garden is large and your time short, pick one corner, one plant, one flower. It doesn’t even matter if you have no garden at all. 

Pick a houseplant to look at, really look at. Sink your fingers into its pot. Feel its roots grow and grow with them. Or visit a friend’s garden, a park, the woods. Look more closely at the weed-riddled median in the center of your road.

And speaking of weeds, please do not consider them a foe to be vanquished, but rather a teacher to be respected. 

When I lived in San Francisco, I had a huge garden with a view of the ocean. It was beautiful, but completely overrun with Cape oxalis, one of San Francisco’s most invasive and persistent weeds. Everyone told me to put down weed barrier or spray herbicides, whatever it took to get rid of it all.

But for me, that carpet of green was beautiful and getting down on my knees with my hands in the dirt to clear a vegetable patch one small oxalis bulb at a time really helped me feel connected to my garden – the plants and the soil, the water and sky. It got me out there every morning to check on the progress of each squash seedling making sure they hadn’t been overrun. And those weeds kept me there, noticing things I would never have seen had I blanketed the dirt with plastic and set automatic sprinklers.

What’s most important in the garden is whatever gets you outside. Beyond that, it’s just being there that matters, whether pulling weeds, tilling soil, planting seeds, or simply enjoying the flowers. All help to ground you in the earth and the world and connect you to something bigger, putting all that bad news on the television, your child’s ear infection, or the politics at work into clearer perspective.

Outside things grow. They live and die. The sun shines, or it rains. It doesn’t matter. The garden is there, and so are we.
This post first appeared on The Liberated Life Project–an enlightening and empowering blog written by friend Maia Duerr–as part of a series of “how to” posts on spiritual/contemplative practices. You can learn more about the series and how to develop a practice of your own here.

Food Sovereignty

Food security is important, but it’s time to start thinking about taking it to the next level. Food sovereignty goes beyond mere access to address the root problems of our current food system. Read about the movement in Haiti in this month’s Orion Magazine article, Peasant Bounty.

Teach a Man to Fish

We all know the old saying: “give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.” But what happens when the corporations take that one step too far, fishing the oceans and rivers to near extinction? And what does any of it have to do with gardening?

Two things, actually. The first, is that the big fishing question is just one more component of a much larger food security coin that growing our own food at home can help to address. The second, is the growing movement known as aquaponics.

Aquaponics is basically a hybrid of aquaculture and hydroponics, comprised of fish tanks and garden troughs. The waste from the fish fertilizes the plants. The plants purify the water for the fish. And because it all happens in a closed, water-conserving system, aquaponics is especially interesting for low-rain areas such as our high-desert. I hope to be learning and posting a lot more about aquaponics in the near future, but in the mean time, check out these videos from two companies dedicated to growing aquaponic culture, Friendly Aquaponics in Hawaii and Colorado Aquaponics in Denver.

You can also get a basic overview at the Growing Power website.

Temptation

 

Today my favorite online edible plant shop, Rain Tree Nursery, announced its end of season sale. This is the time of year I always greet with a mixture of joy and trepidation. Yes, I can save a lot of money on some of the most unusual, interesting edibles around. On the other hand, it’s so hard to decide where to stop. It can be so hard to resist the Double Banana, or the Kashmir Pomegranate, or the Tea Breeze Tea Plant, or the Blue Pacific Honeysuckle with its star-shaped deep purple fruit.

Of course this year, it will be less of a challenge. Those lush Pacific-friendly plants aren’t built for the high desert. Then again, that honeysuckle is rated as low as zone 2, and that banana can be grown indoors in a pot… see what I mean?

To see the selection of sale plants, visit the Rain Tree Nursery home page, and use the pull-down just below the green “Save Now! Spring Clearance Sale And Free Berries” headline about a third of the way down the page to select a category (hey, I build websites for a living and even I had trouble figuring it out).

And do let us know if you buy anything and how it does in your garden. I don’t get a cut of the sale, but love their healthy, happy plants (I’ve purchased many over the years) and would love to see that love spread.

Happy gardening!

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