Monday, March 20, 2017

Three Sisters Companion Planting


      Ok folks, you're going to have to bear with me on this one. I was going to have a guest blogger to explain the Three Sisters gardening technique but that fell through, so I'm on my own with this one. Fortunately I have been reading a ton of articles and tips so I should know what I'm talking about by now... I hope!
      Before I begin, I have a few amazing updates on my previous projects. My kitchen garden is still holding strong, minus one succulent that I didn't think had much of a chance when I planted it. My pain relief lotion is still my favorite go-to remedy for my aches and pains. Oh. and the most amazing update is that my home girl, Louise, from South Africa finally got the post card I sent to her back in the beginning of this whole adventure!
Adorable, right?! Amazing chick -- check out her blog at http://ladykillpop.wordpress.com

      The three sisters garden is a Native American gardening practice. This type of garden consists of corn, beans and some type of gourd. I will be planting heirloom golden bantam sweet corn, blue lake bush beans, and howden pumpkins in a 4 foot round above ground fabric planter. Those are also the seeds that the lucky winner of my contest will be receiving as well. According to my research, the corn grows tall and straight providing the perfect climbing pole for the beans to grow and climb up. The beans provide nitrogen to the soil, that benefit both the corn and the pumpkins. The pumpkins spread out around the base of the two other plants acting as a weed barrier. Now let's lay this plan out in a few easy to follow steps.

#1. Pick a a section of your garden (preferably at least 4 feet wide) for your three sisters garden layout. As I stated before, I'm using an above ground planter. That is partially because the soil out here is just packed desert dust and partially because of my roommate that can't seem to help but dig enormous holes everywhere she goes. I think she is trying to dig to China. If she makes it there I have requested some steamed buns upon her return.  
There she is... probably looking for her next dig spot!
#2. Sow your corn seeds in a circular pattern, starting in the center of your planter. You will want to space your corn seeds about 10 inches from each other in a ring pattern. Pat down the soil around the seeds and then water the soil. Now there is a little debate as to what step to take next. Many articles state that you should wait until your corn is at least 4 inches tall before planting your beans. However, out here in the desert, it is shown that you can plant both your corn and beans at the same time very successfully. Plants growing at the same time help to attract sufficient pollinators, and the early growing season in the area can help to bring a longer harvest. So I'm going to roll the dice and plant both beans and corn at the same time. Your beans can be planted about 4 to 6 inches apart, rather than the 10 inch spacing of the corn. 

#3. In theory, within a couple of weeks, your corn should be sprouted and somewhere around 6 inches inches tall. This is assuming everything has gone well and you have sewn your seeds correctly. Shortly after your beans should also start sprouting. I am just proud as a peacock to say that a few of my corn and beans have already begun to spring into life!

#4. In 3 to 4 weeks, once your beans and corn are well established, you will plant your gourds. Take your squash or pumpkin seeds and plant them evenly spaced outside your ring of corn and beans. As the pumpkin vine grows, help it along by directing your vines around your garden and into the center of your planter to shade and protect your other plants.

      The wonderful thing about the Three Sisters garden is that you can plant it on any scale. Even if you only have a tiny urban yard you can still have a very productive garden in a relatively small space. If corn and beans aren't your thing, the Three Sisters aren't the only companion plants you can try. I'm offering a new printable companion vegetable guide at the top of the page! Happy gardening, and congrats to Michelle who was the lucky winner of the My 17 in '17 Garden Contest!

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Bex , My 17 in '17
Nye County, Nevada | my17in17.blogspot.com | rebeccabrin.com

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Kitchen Garden Project

      For the 5th project in my 17 in '17 adventure I started a kitchen garden.... again. See I love the idea of having plants in my kitchen. It's bright and cheery, and it should have some green things growing to enhance the sunny feel! I however have a black thumb and seem to just keep killing everything I try to grow. The only exceptions are when I re-grow onions and garlic from scraps, and my aloe vera plant that has somehow been surviving my presence since last summer! The onions and garlic are easy as pie. For the onions you just snip off what you want to use and put the bottom bulb in a cup of water. They regrow over and over for months! The garlic is similar, but takes a little longer. I put one or two pieces of a store bought clove in some water and let it do its thing. Once it sprouts I use the green shoots in my cooking. They have a slightly milder taste than the clove part which I love!


       So this week we are going to go over the plants I have decided to add to my kitchen garden. These are all hard to kill (so they tell me) so hopefully they should pull through. Worst case scenario, I still have my onions, garlic, and aloe!
 
#1: Pothos.
     Pothos plants are very easy to care for-- or at least that's what it says online! They thrive in a wide range of environments, including bright indirect light as well as low windowless light. You can forget to water them and they can also be grown from trimmings in vases of water. They are not picky about nutrients or placement. Hang 'em up. Set 'em on a shelf. Stick 'em in a corner. They supposedly survive it all!

#2 Cacti & Succulents.
      This seemed like an obvious choice given my desert homestead. Cacti and succulents can be found in just about every shop in this area. The giant ones look amazing, but I don't want to get too carried away just in case they don't survive, so I just bought a couple small ones. These are also very easy to care for and will survive both low water and lower light. They do love sun, but can survive just fine in partial sunlight as well. I have most of mine in a planter under the kitchen window. The only way to really do damage with these is to over-water them. Just poke your finger into the soil to make sure they are fully dry before watering.

# Jade plant.
    Jade is also a succulent, but because it was so cute and pretty I planted it all on it's own in a little pot. They come in many color and size varieties, but I went with an adorable little green one. It has fat roundish leaves and should hopefully stand true to its succulent nature and survive the heat and dryness of the desert! I read that they prefer a lot of bright light, but will tolerate partial light indoors just as well so I think it will be a wonderful addition to the collection.
     As you may have noticed from the photos I love to re-use rather than buying new. Since there is such a high probability that most of these won't survive it seems silly to buy all new planters. I have some of my succulents planted in soil, with rocks for drainage, in extra wine glasses. My onions are in extra beer glasses and small milk bottles. My garlic is sprouting in a set of vintage low-ball glasses. And my aloe has been replanted in two Halloween trick-or-treat buckets I got on clearance at the Walmart. I bought two buckets, poked holes in the bottom of the inner bucket for drainage and just painted over the skeleton pattern on the outer bucket. Voila-- a $1 planter!
     These plants are the newest additions to my kitchen, and at the moment they seem to be thriving. I will be updating throughout the year on the status of these plants, but for the first time in my life I actually feel hopeful about their survival. I just hope that I have the same level of hope and confidence in the outcome of my outdoor vegetable garden! Fingers and toes crossed everyone-- and happy planting!


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Bex , My 17 in '17 Nye County, Nevada | my17in17.blogspot.com | rebeccabrin.com



Sunday, March 5, 2017

Spring into Retail Therapy!


     It's March! Time for spring cleaning, spring projects, and springing into action! I'm springing into action by attempting to get my garden growing. March marks the beginning of my 5th and 6th projects, which are the kitchen garden and the garden I can harvest. Despite how much I love living in a small rural town I will admit that I do get the occasional pangs of homesickness. Especially when it comes to shopping. I'm proud to say that I was born and raised in Boulder, Colorado. I chose to move out to the old west for many reasons. And while I'm so happy out here, it's definitely different and it lacks a lot of the modern conveniences of the urban college town where I grew up. There are very few free wifi spots. Our "farmers market" meets in the parking lot of a casino. And that organic white chocolate bar that I eased my PMS with can't be found within a 50 mile radius of here.
     While I was still in Boulder I would have loathed being called a "Boulderite". The name comes with a tone of elitism and a too aggressive-liberal-granola-crunchy attitude. Having moved out to a rural, gun-toting, red-state area though... well my perspective on my roots has changed a bit. I realize that I'm more "Boulderite" than I knew. And now I appreciate my uniqueness and "Boulderite" title. I stand out like a sore thumb at times, and I like it. Yup, I might be the only one with a drawer full of reusable shopping bags. And yes, you bet your sweet aspirin, I'm jumping on every grass-fed beef and free-range egg deal in town. And the most out-of-the-norm habit I have is I still love to walk. At least once a week, when I'm making my three to six mile trek to town, I get offered a ride from some local Good Samaritan who just can't wrap their mind around walking down a dirt road in the desert sun just for the fun of it. Hasn't anyone ever seen a horror movie out here? Don't they realize the danger of picking up a hitchhiker?


     Anyway, this week I'm embracing my hippie college town roots and I'm shopping for organic gardening supplies and some of the little things I miss from home. Fortunately we do have a few resources for organic garden soil, heirloom vegetable seeds, and plants for my gardens. I'm happy as a clam with the plants I've chosen for my kitchen garden. First, I have decided to re-grow some onions and garlic from scraps since I already have experience with that. I have also gone with harder to kill plants like cacti and pothos. I'll go into greater detail about the kitchen garden next week. For my outdoor vegetable garden I found a fabulous fabric above-ground planter on Amazon. Everything else was easy as pie to find in town, within walking distance, at Home Depot and the Walmart. Now my little vegetable garden is filled with dirt and ready to go when it comes time to sow those seeds next week!


      In the spirit of healthy hippie living though there are some things I'm just unable to find at the Walmart that I do still miss and will probably end up ordering from Amazon. You can call this my "Three Amazon Buys For Your Health", or the "Boulderite Starter Kit". Whatever you call it, this is my short list of things that I miss from home that make me feel healthy and happy!

    This was my favorite macro greens supplement back in Colorado. I'm sure my fellow office mates remember me keeping a jar of it in my desk at all times! I put it in my protein shakes. In my smoothies. A little in my oatmeal. I made hot chocolate with it, and even occasionally mixed it in my coffee. It is packed full of vitamins, flax oils, super greens, omegas, and so much more. And the best part is it's 25 calories and tastes just like real rich chocolate. You can even mix it in just cold water and it tastes like a more flavorful Yoohoo-- and I LOVE Yoohoo!
     For the love of God, do NOT start taking any supplement because some chick online recommended it. Consult your doctor before beginning to take anything new.
     Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, I can say that I love L-Phenylalanine. When I quit smoking (the first time... and the second...and so on and so on) this was like a gift from the baby Jesus himself. Now that I'm a full-time graduate student, with a job, and blog, and 17 projects to complete in 12 months I feel like I need a little help from it again. L-Phenylalanine is a building block of protein and is changed into tyrosine.  Tyrosine helps the brain stay balanced. It helps me stay energized and alert, and it gives me an extra boost of optimism. I don't believe in being shy, so I will tell you honestly that I have tried a number of anti-anxiety and anti-depressants over the years. This little over-the-counter supplement felt better than all of them. For me it doesn't work long term but for short stressful periods in my life, when I just need a little help, this does the trick. I credit it with being the only thing that helped me with the cigarette withdrawal and the side effects from the Chantix when I quit smoking. Also helps me keep the positive mood and energy needed to stick to my diet!

#3. Green & Black's Organic White Chocolate with Vanilla Bar
      This is the one. This is the one and only piece of candy that can make all of my PMS troubles and period cramps wash away. I don't know what witchcraft they are practicing over at the Green & Black's plant but it's working. I miss this chocolate bar more than I miss certain friends back home. Sure it's neat that it's made with organic, fair trade, ethically sourced chocolate. But better than that is that it tastes amazing! It is the creamiest white chocolate I have ever had. And seeing as I'm normally a dark, or milk chocolate, girl that is really saying something!


     Well, that is my little shopping recommendation list. Now I'm off like a dirty shirt! I have got to get out to the garden to start prepping that soil for next week. Have a wonderful week, take care of yourself, and I will do the same!
Don't forget to enter my 17 in '17 garden contest, where you can win the seed packets necessary to start your own backyard Three Sisters garden! See the link in the bottom right hand corner of the page for more info!

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Bex , My 17 in '17
Nye County, Nevada | my17in17.blogspot.com | rebeccabrin.com


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Friday, February 24, 2017

Are you defending toxic behavior?

      Hello again! This is the last post of the month and the last origami project too. I saved the hardest one for last: cranes. Origami cranes are one of the harder things I have ever tried to do. I can’t tell you how many little balls of paper ended up in the trash trying to make this one!
     Before we jump into the instructions I want to touch on another very challenging thing I have tried to do. In the last couple years I have tried to take an honest look at some of the people in my life, and how I have been making excuses for them. If you find yourself constantly defending someone’s behavior there is a very good chance that this person is a toxic influence in your life. This may be hard to hear. You may be thinking of someone right now as you read this. It stings to think about because some of these people may be very close to you. You love them. You care about them. You may even tell yourself that they need you to speak up and defend them. Excuse their actions. If you don’t have their back, who will?
     The process of quitting any habit is hard. And quitting the habit of making excuses for the toxic behavior of a loved one may be one the hardest things you have to do. Harder than making origami cranes— which is a doozy! It’s easy to identify toxic people. There are a dozen lists on a dozen sites breaking down each type of toxic person. Negative Nancys, and Debbie Downers. Narcissists and Victims. It’s easy for a cute image on Pinterest to tell you not to let these people affect you. While “Don’t Let Toxic People Bring You Down” is a great poster slogan, there is very little content there to instruct you how to stop letting them bring you down. And honestly, I don’t know for sure either. I don’t have any answers here, and I won’t claim to. Despite my own work on distancing myself from toxic people I still find moments when they affect me. I've over-analyzed. I've worried. I've gone back and forth too many times to count. I regularly have arguments in my head with people I will probably never see again. All I know is that we all have been guilty of defending toxic behavior when it’s someone we care about, so let’s at least admit that we do it. Maybe we can all work through this bad habit together.
At some point you have to realize that certain people can stay in your heart, but not in your life.
     Our excuses are rarely as severe as “he hits me because he loves me”. It’s usually something so subtle that even you almost believe the excuses you give.
  • We say, “She just needs a listening ear”, about the coworker that is always talking at you rather than talking to you. Going on and on about their own issues, not once asking about you.
  • Or, “He’s taking a little time off to figure things out”, when we're questioned about the cousin that only manages to hold a job half the time and spends all day watching tv in a filthy apartment.
  • And of course the classic excuse of, “They didn’t mean anything hurtful by it, they’re just kind of blunt”, about that mean friend in the group. The friend that acts like they’re being helpful, but really they are bullying you. They’re not giving constructive feedback, they are just making you feel helpless and inferior so they stand out as “the smart one” or “the pretty one". 
      Some of these toxic people you may have to continue living with due to family and work obligations. Just because you have to continue to be around them does not mean that you have to continue to support or defend them. No one believes the excuses you give anyway, they are just too nice to call you out on your denial.    
      I found that when people start complaining to me about a toxic person that it’s easier to just change the subject. Or just excuse myself. Maybe when their name comes up you realize suddenly that you have to return some video tapes. Distance yourself from the gossip so you don’t feel compelled to defend your toxic friend. Again, this is not an answer to the problem, I’m just sharing what works for me.
     Unfortunately over the years I have also found that dealing with toxic people means you may have to let some people go. Painful as that may be. They are not being helped by, or reciprocating, any of your support. Yes, you care about them. And yes, you have been friends for a very long time. But if the tables were turned do you think that they would go to such great lengths to make excuses for your bad behavior? When you defend their behavior, or make excuses for it, you are only making yourself look weak and naive. 

     So now that the heavy topic is out of the way, let’s try something else that is incredibly difficult. Let’s make some origami cranes!


 


Below are the results of my final origami project. I'm just as proud as a peacock-- scratch that-- as proud as a crane! If you would like a printable copy of these directions they are available in the top bar of the website.
Now onward to a new month and a new project!
 

February Origami Projects (left to right): Boat, Dog, German Bell, Heart, Rabbit, Pajarita, and Crane

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Origami-- The German Bell Tolls For Thee

      Blame it on too much sugar. Blame it on the rainy weather. Blame it all on the al al al alcohol -- kidding! Whatever the case may be, I seem to be doing things the last week that I should have done back in December. The first is the obvious changes to my blog style. I may never be quite content, or quite finished tweaking, with my blog. It feels like an endless journey of trying widgets and new image styles. Maybe the evolution and changes will never end. At the moment though I'm very pleased with the look of things. All thanks to the help from Krystal Oickle at Studio Krystal. With her help I was able to polish my blog layout and get a more cohesive color palette. Check out her amazing post, Creating a Color Palette with a Positive Impact for your Branding, at studiokrystal.com.
     The second thing I have started up again recently is walking. Back in my hometown I walked everywhere. I did own a car. A 79' Fairmont to be exact.
Me and "Jackie Blue", my 1979 Ford Fairmont..... Jealous?
      Despite the slick whip I just preferred to walk. It was easier than battling the rush hour traffic, and it helped me keep my girlish figure. For some reason once I got out here I just stopped walking anywhere but on the treadmill. I live in such a beautiful area and the winters are so mild and wonderful. I have really been missing out! I should have started this back in December to really enjoy the crisp winter air and snowy mountain backdrop. Alas, I spent that time indulging on Christmas cookies and treats. Adding calories instead of burning them. Better late then never though, so my feet are shaking some desert dust now!  
Pahrump, NV ...don't worry, no one else has heard of it either.

     And the final thing I have been doing that would have been better done in December is making German bells. This is traditionally made as a Christmas ornament, but I think it's cute enough for everyday paper folding. I'm going to give it to you straight... this one was pretty tricky for me. I had to follow a few tutorials and a youtube video before I got it.
Note: This model requires a touch of tape or glue to hold it's shape.
     I may have been a couple months behind on these tasks but I'm making great progress on all of my goals and projects so I'm feeling just as proud as a peacock! I hope all of your are succeeding in your goals as well!