A foreboding warning for 2023 happened in late December with two deaths and two stokes. Death for one was a welcome relief from exile and one was a heart-wrenching early end to a beautiful life. Stroke for one brought unimaginable burden to an already burdened daughter and stroke for the other was for a young immigrant who lost her ability to work. Everyone else was sick who had not died or had a stroke. My own sickness caused me to cancel my beloved Birthday/Christmas celebration at French Lick and West Baden. If that was not enough misery, I spent New Year’s Day in the ER almost dying of pneumonia. And so that is how 2023 started.
No More Hopium
In 2023, I came to the realization “white hats” and “black hats” were on the same team and no one was on my team. I shut down my belief in “hopium” and turned back to God. My focus shifted to what was within my reach – my little home and my little life and what could I do to bring purpose to my sphere of influence. I signed up to work five days a week plus two monthly Saturdays. I can’t see in the dark, I hate the cold, but God planted one of those crazy acts of giving that would be fulfilled by me to help one of the least of these, a benefit as miraculous as the parting of the Red Sea for someone I had never met, but for one of God’s children.
Who Has Time For Commercials
YouTube was in high gear and I signed up for Premium so I would not have to listen to the commercials. Time is short and $10.99 per month was well worth the elimination of the irritation. At the start of February, I made plans to garden in containers. Last year I had two tomato plants, both with blossom end rot. Surely, I could do better if I studied. And in the nick of time at the end of the season as I was learning about a fascinating Amish technique, I bought two heirloom tomatoes from Fresh Thyme and sliced them onto soil and put those in my dark basement. Amazon arrived every day with supplies to grow plants from seeds. Lights, heating mats and everything else under the sun to grow everything in the darkness of my basement, the last frontier of homesteading adventure.
February suggested I become a worm farmer. The cost of organic soil and compost made me realize I could produce my own. The best pet to own is one that lives silently in the dark of your basement and eats food scraps and poops black gold. I got duped into receiving Indian Blues (temperamental worms) who were passed off as pure breed Red Wigglers. I keep them separated and both poop equally well and have supplied me with over 40 pounds of worm castings in the first nine months.
March began with growing microgreens and sprouting seeds. They are the most nutrient dense food on earth and almost foolproof. Sunflower sprouts became toppings for tacos and Arugula topped my egg and bacon breakfast sandwich. The biggest miracle was taking the Fresh Thyme tomato slices that molded in the dark of the basement and planting them in new fresh organic soil and watch them sprout into hundreds of tomato plants. I did not label them so I called them heirloom #1 and heirloom #2. I knew one was yellow and one was pink, I just did not know which was which.
April began the daily search of Goodwill stores to find 99 cent plastic tubs. I was going to have a container garden because I am too old and decrepit to bend over to plant a garden in the ground. For every 99 cents I spent on a container, I ordered $99 dollars of equipment and supplies from Amazon.
Back To Eden
A life-changing documentary called Back To Eden inspired me to cover my yard in wood chips. The film is about how to grow a regenerative organic garden. This led me to study regenerative farming and soil conservation and a new world opened to further broaden my knowledge and perspective. For me the film is a wonderful reminder of how God made everything to work together (while we humans messed it up.) I am using the wood chips I get for free (plus a nice delivery tip) for weed control and a way to reduce how much grass needs to be cut. It will make a nice base for a labyrinth, a meditative walking path with one way in and one way out. You cannot get lost!
May through September
was my introduction to garden pests. I grew really tasty produce as every pest came to call. Ground hogs, raccoons, chipmunks, squirrels, rabbits and more. What was left after they feasted; the flying pests devoured. And every day Amazon arrived with natural pest control. From a solar operated owl, to motion-activated screechers to cayenne pepper and Irish Spring soap, I tried it all. And trust me, nothing worked. I got the bright idea to feed the pests in another area of the yard so they would not feed on my prized produce. All it did was bring out friends of friends of the pests. The ground hogs and raccoons devoured the trays of sunflower seed microgreens I grew for them. They have good taste.
Tomatoes of Every Kind
All my tomatoes of which I estimate 20 varieties, had blossom end rot. Impossible. I sprayed, watered consistently, applied every natural deterrent and still I failed. A last-ditch attempt of adding pelletized lime did the trick. A 50-pound bag was only $5. Hmmmm. In the end, I learned all about making tomato sauce and I made a boat load with the direction of Vincenzo’s Plate. He encouraged the passata to make love to the fresh basil and garlic and they did. The dastardly Roma tomato is banished from the garden to be replaced with San Marzano.
Pests from the Pit of Hell
Cucumbers grew like I wished zucchinis did. Painstakingly, I hand-pollinated the zucchini and got all of three the whole season. Doesn’t everyone have an over-abundance of zucchini they can’t give away? I did not find any of those people this year. Once the invasion of the squash bugs arrived, I gave up. No amount of neem cake juice controlled those pests from the pit of Hell. Some gardeners recommended taking your vacuum to the garden to vacuum every leaf. I have done some ridiculous things, but I was not going that far.
I did discover the Greenstalk vertical planter and was highly successful at propagating strawberry plants from the three bare root plants that lived out of the twenty I ordered. There is a net cover that will keep the birds and every other pests from pecking my strawberries next year. Green beans were a huge success in the vertical planter. I did catch the raccoons on my night-vision camera running up and down the planter and the net covering deterred those nimble climbers from eating the whole planter.
From Garbage to Gold
Compost Queen with the Wild Woman Worm Farm was born when I discovered Bokashi composting. This is basically fermenting your food scraps and adding this to your spent container soil to revitalize into the richest potting soil/compost mix going. I turn garbage into gold with microbe rich shredded Amazon boxes. Amazon boxes come in full of goodies and then they turn into microbe rich compost. There is nothing I can’t compost. There were a few mishaps with fermenting the worm bedding and fermenting the food scraps that almosted landed me back in the ER, but a respirator solved the exposure problem of those amazing microbes I grow so successfully!
Whew, I finally got to come inside and sit down in October. There are still four months left to remember. I write these so I can remember. This one is not at all my normal style for a look-back but it was a year like no other. No wonder I am tired. I thought I was just getting old, but this was a lot of work and I deserve some rest. I am going call this Part One and will continue with Part Two if I get around to it. The miracles are in that part and will more fully explore not what I did, but what I learned and how my perspectives changed. Stay tuned.
Polly Riddell writing as G. Polly Jordan has a high level of curiosity and love of learning. There is a world of information available for the taking. Take a risk, try something new and write it down so you will remember in your old age.