gardening

Spring Fling Blog Hop!

Happy Spring! Today, fellow writers (links below) and I are participating in a blog hop to celebrate the vernal equinox. We’ll each be talking about spring-y things.

As an avid container gardener (my only option for gardening, as we live on property that’s mostly deck), spring for me starts in January, when the seed catalogs start rolling in. They are a welcome sight, I have to say, and help me dream of greenery in the midst of the gray-brown backyard. Usually I start seeds–cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, and vining flowers such as morning glory and cardinal climber–in mid-March:

Cukes, tomatoes, and peppers in this pic. Notice the capillary wicking mats, which is the best way to water seedlings.

Recently we had a week or so of 70-degree days that lulled me into a false sense of security, and I direct-planted sweet peas, scallions, and lettuce seeds outside. Um, well, that turned out to be ill-advised, as you can see by this pic of my lettuce pot (taken three days ago):

 

uh oh…I may have to replant….

But the false starts and hard work are worth it, in the end. Here’s a photo montage of how things look by mid summer:

 

So, what are your favorite things to do in the spring? I’d love to hear from you.

Be sure to check out the rest of the blog-hopper sites, and see how these gals ring in the vernal equinox:

Allyson Charles

Connie diMarco

Gilian Baker

Layla Reyne

Kirsten Weiss

Mona Karel

Misterio Press

Shannon Esposito

Victoria De La O

 

Until next time,

Kathy

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Gardening for the Mystery Lover: a mash-up

Gardening for the Mystery Lover: a mash-up
Hydrangeas from my garden.

Hydrangeas from my garden.

Happy Monday, everyone! Those of us north of latitude 32 or so have been longing for the end to the snow/sleet/freezing rain and the dreary gray-brown landscape. The gardeners among us have been deluged with seed catalogs and Pinterest prompts that have us dreaming of the lush backyards we delude ourselves each year into thinking we will achieve. *wink*

So today I thought I would provide a few links to entertain both gardeners and mystery lovers, because yes, there is a way to have it all!

Garden fun:

Below is a slideshow of pictures from my garden. Not professional by any means, but isn’t it great to see something green this time of year?

Garden Slideshow

Here’s a post from a couple of years ago about the benefits of gardening, including why dirt is good for you!

Life is a box of seeds

Mystery-style gardening:

Gardening and murder can be connected in so many ways: the heavy spade, the razor-sharp pruning shears, the deadly foxglove growing by the fence….

  • Mystery author Margot Kinberg discusses the role of gardening in several classic Christie novels (among others). Click on her banner below:

 

confessions

  • The Cozy Mystery List Blog is an excellent resource for finding themed mysteries, and there are plenty of garden-themed stories out there.

Gardening Cozy Mysteries…

  • How about something more interactive? Shot in the Dark Mysteries has created Mystery Party kits for kids and adults, including something sure to chase away the winter blues:¬†Garden Party Murder – Mystery Party Game.

Do you enjoy gardening? Ever been to a garden party? I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,

Kathy

 

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Life is a box of seeds

Life is a box of seeds

FridayWelcome to Fab Friday, where we celebrate making it through the week! It’s all about sharing the happy stuff. Hope it will brighten your day, too!

 

Yes, this is how we celebrated St. Pat’s: cookie-cutter snow!

 

Here in the mid-Atlantic part of the U.S., it has been the snowiest winter we’ve seen in a long, long time. It seemed that every other week (sometimes twice in a single week) we’d have snow. The kids had a snow day as late as St. Patrick’s Day. Are you kidding me?

Okay, you Canadians can stop smirking now. ūüėČ

Finally, the snow is gone and we’re seeing “real” green. The trees are starting to bloom (some of us are sneezing into our Kleenex, but that’s another post).

 

But the warm temps and greening up of the landscape aren’t the only things that make me feel like celebrating.

I have a confession: I’m a backyard container gardener. (Shhh…don’t let it get around).¬†I’ve been patiently growing my seedlings indoors for weeks, and in just a few more weeks…it will be time to plant! Wahoo!

Not a fan of gardening? Would you like to try but you feel like that dead philodendron in your dining room window is mocking you? Let me share a few facts:

 Benefits of Gardening

Gardening has been shown to lower blood pressure, boost mood, and enhance focus; some studies suggest that it can even prevent Alzheimer’s disease. ¬†It’s now common for garden therapy to be used in nursing homes and rehab centers.

How does gardening provide these benefits? ¬†Let’s take a look at what we’re doing when we garden:

 

  • We get regular exercise – good for the heart, bones, and mood. ¬†Exercise releases endorphins, the “feel good” brain chemical.
  • We are exposed to sunlight: ¬†our bodies then make Vitamin D, which helps us absorb the calcium needed for bone health. ¬†Sunlight, too, is a natural mood-booster.
  • We are surrounded by aesthetically pleasing sights, sounds, and smells (except for the manure part) in nature, improving our mood, our inner tranquility, and our sense of being part of something larger.
  • We’re breathing in fresh air, and getting away from the indoor environment, with its chemicals from furniture, carpeting, cleaners, etc.
  • We get a mental workout from the ongoing need to observe changes in our garden, tending to plants’ differing needs, planning the ideal positions of garden beds, and problem-solving (Me: evil squirrels). ¬†Check out this¬†article for more information on the study done.
  • And here’s a benefit that may surprise you: ¬†dirt is good for you. ¬†I kid you not. ¬†This doesn’t mean you should go out and start eating dirt, of course, but studies have been done which demonstrate that a certain bacteria found in the soil,¬†Mycobacterium vaccae, boosts mood and improves cognition. ¬†The benefits were first discovered by oncologists in the UK, who were looking into the bacteria as a possible cancer treatment. ¬†Check out¬†this article for details about the experiments done on mice. ¬†It’s super cool. ¬†Just the contact of working the soil with your hands and being within¬†breathing range, they say, is enough to get this benefit.

 

And speaking of cognitive function, I’ve been considering lately (as I tend my own seedlings and emerging plants) the life lessons we can take away regarding plants and their needs. Apologies if it sounds a bit sappy, LOL.

What we can learn from plants:

pic by Si Griffiths, via wikimedia commons.

pic by Si Griffiths, via wikimedia commons.

1. Pay attention to and honor differences. Seeds have a wide range of needs and timetables: ¬†basil, for instance, should be planted with only 1/4″ of dirt covering it, while moonflower seeds need 1/2 – 1″ of soil on top. ¬†Some ¬†require soil rich in organic matter, while others are better suited to nutrient-poor soil. ¬†Some seeds germinate within days, while others take a couple of weeks before peeking out. Some need to be started indoors, while others have roots that cannot tolerate transplanting and have to be directly sown outside.

People, likewise, thrive in different settings, need different “nutrients” for the mind and spirit, and “bloom” at different times. ¬†Why compare ourselves to others? So what if it takes you longer to reach your goals than your neighbors, former classmates, or J.K. Rowling? It’s your journey, not theirs.

My daylily plants grow crazy-fast.

 

2. Recognize when it’s time to make a change. Container gardeners are familiar with the need to re-pot. ¬†Given enough time, all container plants will become root-bound. ¬†That’s when the roots run out of room and wrap themselves around and around the bottom of the pot, sometimes even coming out of the drainage hole. ¬†The plant will die unless it has a bigger pot and space to grow.

We are always growing, too, no matter what “grown up” age we reach. ¬†Our circumstances and needs change with time. ¬†Sometimes the old pot just doesn’t fit anymore.

 

 

3. Use support when needed. Climbing plants in particular – morning glories and beans, for example – need trellises for support. ¬†When they have it, there’s not much limit (save for the span of the growing season) to how high they can reach. ¬†When the plants are strong and have filled out, you can barely even see the supports they have been climbing on.

An abundant mix of beans, morning glories, and cypress vine in my backyard.

 

Using our supports – family, friends, education, and so on – enables us to become the wondrous souls we truly can be. ¬†The support doesn’t take anything away from what we’ve accomplished.

 

 

4. Adversity can strengthen. ¬†Did you know that when you’re growing tomato seedlings you should put a fan on them and brush your hand across the tops of the leaves several times a day? This strengthens their stems so the seedling plants can hold themselves upright without support. Click¬†here¬†for more info.

The baby grand is the only spot that can hold the grow light, two trays, and a fan. Sorry, hubby.

The cuke seedlings are camera-hogs. There really are tomato plants behind them.

 

Do you like to garden? Have any hobby that relaxes you, gives you joy, or makes you feel contemplative?¬†I’d love to hear from you!

Until next time,

Kathy

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Let’s get Vernal!

Welcome to Tuesday Terrific, where we celebrate getting over the Monday bump and picking up speed for the rest of the week.

Today, on the Vernal Equinox (the first day of spring, meteorologically speaking, when there are 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of night), let’s celebrate growing things. Specifically, growing plants – mustaches, beer guts, and cellulite do not count. Oh, and legend has it, you can stand a raw egg on its end at the Vernal Equinox. ¬†Be sure to let me know how that works out. ¬†I’ve never tried it myself.

But anyway, back to:

 

Things to love and learn about Gardening

Gardening has been shown to provide many health benefits: lowering blood pressure, boosting mood, and even preventing Alzheimer’s disease. ¬†It’s now common for “garden” therapy to be used in nursing homes and rehab centers.

How does gardening provide these benefits? ¬†Let’s take a look at what we’re doing when we garden:

 

 

 

  • We get regular exercise – good for the heart, bones, and mood. ¬†Exercise releases endorphins, the “feel good” brain chemical.
  • We are exposed to sunlight: ¬†our bodies then make Vitamin D, which helps us absorb calcium needed for bone health. ¬†Sunlight is also a natural mood-booster.
  • We are surrounded by aesthetically pleasing sights, sounds, and smells (except for the manure part) in nature , improving our mood, our inner tranquility, and our sense of being part of something larger.
  • We’re breathing in fresh air, and getting away from the indoor environment, with its chemicals from furniture, carpeting, cleaners, etc.
  • We get a mental workout from the ongoing need to observe changes to our garden, tending to plants’ differing needs, planning the ideal positions of garden beds, and problem-solving (Me: stink bugs). ¬†Check out this¬†article for more information on the study done.
  • And here’s a benefit that may surprise you: ¬†dirt is good for you. ¬†I kid you not; it surprised me, too! ¬†This doesn’t mean you should go out and start eating dirt, of course, but studies have been done which demonstrate that a certain bacteria found in the soil,¬†Mycobacterium vaccae, boosts mood and improves cognition. ¬†The benefits were first discovered by oncologists in the UK, who were looking into the bacteria as a possible cancer treatment. ¬†Check out¬†this article for details about the experiments done on mice. ¬†It’s super cool. ¬†Just the contact of working the soil with your hands and being within¬†breathing range, they say, is enough to get this benefit.

 

 

And speaking of cognitive function, I’ve been considering lately (as I tend my own seedlings and emerging plants) the life lessons we can take away regarding plants and their needs. ¬†Apologies if it sounds a bit sappy, LOL.

What we can learn from plants:

1. Pay attention to and honor differences. Seeds have a wide range of needs and timetables: ¬†basil, for instance, should be planted with only 1/4″ of dirt covering it, while moonflower seeds need 1/2 – 1″ of soil on top. ¬†Some ¬†require soil rich in organic matter, while others are better suited to nutrient-poor soil. ¬†Some seeds germinate within days, while others take a couple of weeks before peeking out.

People, likewise, thrive in different settings, need different “nutrients” for the mind and spirit, and “bloom” at different times. ¬†Comparing oneself to others, then, is a pointless exercise. ¬†You may not succeed as quickly at your goal as others at the old alma mater, but your reach might stretch farther when you get there.

 

 

 

 

2. Recognize when it’s time to make a change. Container gardeners are familiar with the need to re-pot. ¬†Given enough time, all container plants will become root-bound. ¬†That’s when the roots run out of room and start wrapping themselves around and around the bottom of the pot, and come out of the drainage hole. ¬†The plant will die unless it’s put in a new pot, where it has more space to grow.

We are always growing, too, no matter what “grown up” age we reach. ¬†Our circumstances and needs change with time. ¬†Sometimes the old pot just doesn’t fit anymore, and we need a new one.

 

 

3. Use support when needed. Climbing plants in particular – morning glories and beans, for example – need trellises for support. ¬†When they have it, there’s very little limit (save for the span of the growing season) to how high they can reach. ¬†When the plants are strong and have filled out, you can barely even see the supports they have been climbing on.

 

 

 

 

Using our supports – family, friends, education, and so on – enables us to become the wondrous souls we truly can be. ¬†It doesn’t take away from anything we’ve accomplished.

There are many more parallels, of course, but sometimes less is more!

What do you think? ¬†Have you ever thought of the aspects of your hobbies as metaphoric of our lives on this planet, or your pursuit of a goal? ¬†Ever try to stand a raw egg on its end on the day of the Vernal Equinox? ¬†I’d love to hear from you!

Until next time,

Kathy

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Putting “words” in the “W” – ROW80 check-in

Hi, all, it’s time for the ROW80 check-in! ¬†I’m really excited about this one, because I actually have progress to share.

So, let’s get to it:

My goals:

1. Check-ins on Sundays.
Done!

2. Blog posts on Tues/Fri schedule.

I posted on Tuesday about How to celebrate Mardi Gras in front of your computer, which was a lot of fun, and Friday I did¬†a post about Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles, one of my favorite classic mysteries.

3. Work on sequel to first book.

Yay! ¬†This is where I made the most progress this week; yep, I put the “word” in the ROW80 “W”! ¬†One of my sessions last week I clocked 1600 words, which surprised me no end. ¬†It was a dialogue scene where the policeman is grilling the family after a murder – I just went crazy with it, I guess. ¬†These kinds of things really give a much-needed boost of enthusiasm, don’t you think?

4. Support fellow writers/bloggers.

I’ve been keeping up with everyone’s blogs just fine, and making a point of visiting new folks and those I haven’t seen in a while. ¬†While I tweet their posts, though, I haven’t had time to chat much on twitter these days. ¬†I’ve been doing Facebook more. ¬†I think twitter moves a bit too fast for me, and tweets disappear fairly quickly. ¬†I lose the thread of what folks are talking about.

5. Exercise.

The warm weather last Thursday and Friday, combined with the heap of seed packets I bought a while back, made me a gardening fiend. ¬†I got some much-needed fresh air, sunshine and exercise cleaning out last season’s pots and clearing the backyard. ¬†I planted lettuce outside and started several types of seed inside. ¬†Right now there are dirt-filled containers huddled in front of all the sunny windows, even blocking off one end of the dining room table. ¬†But my poor family is used to this.

Aside from those two gardening sessions, I got a walk in one day, and when it was too cold and windy outside (our weather is EXTREMELY changeable) yesterday, my 11-yr-old and I spent 40 minutes in front of Wii Sports. ¬†Let us just say that my defeats were decisive, except for boxing, of all things (which annoyed him no end, hehe!). ¬† But I was just flailing around rather than “boxing”- a good work out, though!

So how are my fellow ROWers doing?  Hope all of you have had a great week!

Until next time,

Kathy

 

 

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