Bethany turned 32…. too.

Well, some years you go all out for birthdays (see: 30th) and some years you don’t.  Apparently this year Bethany and I are exchanging .jpg files on the internet.

Its a new thing.

Bethany, I loved the chicken graphic as much as anyone possibly could.  For your gift, I’m pulling something out of my back pocket that I’ve been sitting on for a while, probably good enough for a chuckle or too.  Its that random blog comment you got ages ago from an extra-poetic spam bot.  Enjoy!

bloggingsoulmates

Happy 32th old friend!

May we forever be blogging soul-mates.

*wink*

Mary-Hall Turned 32……

…….and all I got her was this lousy blog post.

I had totally planned for the chickens to pose for some elaborate birthday themed photo sesh, but life has been so frenetic lately, that all she gets is the this birthday chicken graphic I stole from the interwebs.

BirthdayChicken

 

Love you MH and hope your day was lovely!  You have five days to report back and tell me if I should bother turning 32 or not.  :)

Composting for Dummies

Bethany mentioned composting in her awesome post on Monday, so today I will share about our new compost pile.  We just so happened to start informally composting several months ago.  {Read: not an expert.}

I happened to visit Bethany during her last composting phase, I think, although this was years ago now.  I believe there was a plastic bin and some worms involved.  I believe she referred to the composting process as “feeding her pet worms”.

That is one way to do it, yes.  Maybe this is what is making Keith shudder – more mouths to feed.  So much responsibility, and so forth.

So take heart, this composting thing does not have to be complicated.  Here are my pointers:

1.) You can’t really mess this up.

Last summer, I let a patch of morning glory vine really get out of control.  Here it was:

IMG_1662

One afternoon I decided to reclaim my flower patch, so I spent a couple of hours literally rolling the Morning Glory vine into a giant lump.  The lump was so big that I could roll it but not exactly pick it up.  I’d say it was approximately the size of bathtub.  And so there it sat in the middle of the garden the several months.

Do you know what it had turned into by springtime?  Compost, {morning} glorious compost.  (har har)

2) Add some brown, add some green.

Sure, there are some complicated composting methods out there.  Lots to learn about ratios and turning and so forth.  My “Self-sufficient Gardener” book has a whole chapter on it, complete with diagrams.  However, the simplest method I’ve come across is, just dump about equal amounts of green to brown.

Sources of green: watermelon rinds, squash necks, all other veggie waste, fresh grass clippings, morning glory vine.

Sources of brown: dried leaves, dried weeds, dried grass, chicken poop, dryer lints, shredded newspaper, dirt

We’ve been following this formula very loosely for several months and haven’t had any odor problem.  (Except for the time that August threw some dead fish in. That was stinky.  Fish are neither green nor brown matter and don’t go in the compost pile, fyi. )  I suspect we add more green than brown in general, just because we have so many garden scraps, but nothing bad has happened to date.

3) Don’t let the perfect stand in the way of the good.

(My life motto these days.)

I spent several months thinking about starting a compost pile but was held back by all the complications.  Forget about all that.  You just need a place to pile the compost, a shovel/hoe/rake, and a container with which to carry the kitchen scraps out to the pile.  After that, just get started.

I looked around for a suitable kitchen container for a while to no avail.  So now I use chip bags or other soon-to-be-trashed items.  Then when they get funky with slightly too old kitchen scraps, I just pitch them.  No need to wash.

Here are our duel compost piles.  Right now, Bin 1 is the compost for use in the garden.  We used a lot of it in the garden this spring, and now as you can see, its grown a healthy layer of grass.   Bin 2 is where we are actively composting.  Once we use up all the compost from Bin 1, we’ll switch.  The door on Bin 2 is removable and fits either bin.

IMG_3263

Having the piles right there on the ground means that the worms and other critters can just make their way in and out as they please.  i.e., no responsibility.  August gives our pile a quick stir with the hoe when we are adding a batch of scraps, but otherwise there’s no maintenance.

For urban composting, I’d probably use some pallets for walls in order to make it match my chicken coop.  But if that’s holding you back, perhaps just find a discreet corner behind the shed or something.  Its just a glorified dirt pile, you can always move it.

4) Chickens get first dibs.

More customized advice for those of us with urban chickens:  I think the chickens are more efficient composters.  So, I’d give them priority on any veggies or fruits you would normally feed them.  Then you can add their poop to the compost pile.

Here at the Johnsons we are composting very haphazardly and its working out just fine.  Our weekly garbage back is much less “messy” and of course I love making something valuable from trash.  Who doesn’t love that?

Moral of the story:

Make a small pile of dirt and dried grass clippings.  Start collecting your kitchen waste and throwing it out there.  The end!

 

Unsubscribing

A little over a year and a half ago, in effort to meet the book reading portion of her Thirty By Thirty checklist, Mary-Hall read and reviewed a book called 7:an experimental mutiny against excess by Jen Hatmaker.  (Read Mary-Hall’s original blog entry by clicking here.)  Coincidentally, about 3 months later my boss and I headed to a conference in Michigan where she had been hired to be one of two key-note speakers for the weekend…Jen being the other one.  I, of course, made several awkward blubbering remarks about how my best friend had just read her book and said it was awesome, etc. etc. but fortunately Jen is just as super and awesome and gracious and hilarious in person as you would expect her to be from her writing, and was completely un-phased by my temporary fan-girl moment.  Anyway.  Before I packed up and headed out, I purchased my own copy of “7” from her product table along with another of her earlier books.

And then I put them on my bookshelf at home.

And didn’t pick up either of them for over a year.

Until two days ago.

Keith was deep into a book of his own and the house was full of the peaceful sounds of birds chirping outside (plus an occasional chicken squwak or two) and the cat purring and the hum of passers-by outside headed to eat popsicles and fancy burgers from one of the fabulous joints at the end of our street.  Basically, and all around reading haven, and so I went into our library and carefully considered the many books on the shelves I’ve never read.  And from the middle of the “H” author section, “7” called my name and I’m ever so glad it did.

The short synopsis of the book is that the author went on seven different “fasts,” each one a month long, focused on simplifying life for the purpose of allowing Christ to reveal areas in her life that needed re-aligning.  It’s hilariously written, but the depth behind it has had me in tears on more than one occasion.  It’s the kind of book that made me want to make some changes, some of which may or may not happen. Changes like going more green. I spent about 20 minutes researching the possibility of setting up a self-waterer system for my chickens that involves the water we collect in our rain barrel.  (The jury is still out  whether or not that is a safe thing for the chickens to drink so I’ll need to do lots more research first.)  I’d love to finally try a CSA (community supported agriculture). I’m also motivated to clean out some of the like-new-condition housewares from our shed and find an organization that works with refugees instead of donating them to GoodWill or selling them on Craigslist.  I’m considering instituting a personal rule with housewares and clothing that if I buy an item, I give one away.  For example, if I buy a new sweater, I choose a sweater to give to a women’s shelter so that I never exceed the amount of clothing I have now.  I want to try my hand at composting again.  (I can already hear Keith groaning as he reads this.)  While financially our spending and saving are both on the right track, I think there is more we could be doing to plan for retirement.

My brain got overloaded with ideas and so I put the book down for a minute and opened up my laptop to check my email.  I had 13 new ones in the hour since I’d checked it (!) and as I checked the first one, from a marketing list I’m on, I clicked over to an Etsy shop that sold expensive, beautiful leather laptop bags.  Ten minutes later, I found that I was in the midst of an internal dialogue trying to rationalize the purchase of a super cute retro style bathing suit that was “on sale” from another shop that had sent me an email.  (No matter that I haven’t once this summer donned swim attire, have zero plans to go anywhere involving water for the rest of the summer, and that in addition to a few cute, relatively new-ish suits of my own, a friend recently sent me a box of almost-brand-new bathing suits that she wasn’t going to use post having given birth to twins.)  I kept clicking and suddenly realized that 12 out of the 13 emails were marketing emails from stores and that I’d wasted about 45 minutes and been tempted to purchase LOTS of things that I neither needed, or should spend money on.

And then it hit me.

I didn’t have to only eat 7 foods for an entire month (an actual chapter of the book) or sell my home and live in an trailer park or anything crazy drastic.  I could start small.  I could unsubscribe from marking emails that do nothing but flood my inbox, steal my time, and fill me with all sorts of consumerism that really at the end of the day only led to covetous thoughts and discontent with the many many many material things I am blessed with.  So I opened up my trash email folder and started unsubscribing and changing email settings.  When I was finished, I believe I had unsubscribed from a grand total of 47 different emails.  FORTY-SEVEN.  What in the world?  I was baffled at how many times a day I plug in my email address without thinking about the barrage of junk email that will ensue.  The Home Depot Garden Club from when I was comparison shopping rain barrels and hoped there would be a coupon.  CNNSports.com from when I was in a Final Four Bracket Challenge 5 years ago. (Five!  And I’ve just been hitting “Delete” all these years!)  The Red Dress Boutique from when, well, which I don’t even remember signing up for.  Most of them (Papa John’s Pizza, for instance) were no-brainers to pull the plug on.  A few were trickier.  Anthropologie was the hardest to unsubscribe from and I even tried to rationalize not unsubscribing because I actually shop there.  But I realized that I have tons of super cute clothes and I do NOT need the temptation (or the time waste) of browsing their emails daily.  And on and on it went.

I know it’s not drastic or revolutionary.  But I’m excited to see what this electronic purge does to my time management, satisfaction level, spending habits and online productivity.  And who knows.  Maybe it will be the first step in bigger things.  Like a social media fast or a shed clean out.  And I challenge you to figure out from what you need to unsubscribe.  I think we all have something we could use less of in our lives.

What I Did With My Maternity Leave

Just like that, my new baby is 11 weeks old and I am back to work.  What?!?  Where does the time go?

So instead of ‘what I did on summer vacation’, here’s my essay on  my 11-week break from working.

First, I attempted to grow the largest baby on the earth.  Although I didn’t exactly achieve Guinness Book-level baby, I came close enough.  We have a seriously large child over here.  I mean, they all grow up too fast but one Sir Davis has grown VERY quickly.  It hurts a mama’s heart a bit to be constantly putting whole groups of onesies back into storage.  We have blown tall the way to the 9-month stuff.  9-month old baby clothes!  Sniff.  17 lbs.  Also, #backache.

   IMG_3185And this picture is several weeks old.

Second, we have also pretty successfully grown the largest tomato plants on earth.  They are threatening to take over the entire garden.  Well, the cherry tomato is trying to take over all the other tomatoes at least.  I can’t really claim this as a maternity leave activity because we have done exactly nothing to make them so huge.  I do sneak out there when I can to tend things when I can.  Up next: canning tomatoes?  What are we gonna do with all these?

IMG_3186Fun times in the garden.

IMG_3183Large tomato.  Our secret is… nothing.  Luck.

Third, we have all taken luxuriously long naps, day in and day out.  Yes that is a LIE.  Ransom’s daily nap has gone from a solid 2.5 hours to more like 45 minutes some days.  I can’t complain, many kids his age don’t nap at all.  Meanwhile Davis has become the champion of cat-napping.  No, its not good for his little 11-week-old brain development, but I mean honestly, what am I gonna do.  There’s no arguing with babies sometimes.  They wake up when they feel like it.

IMG_3182No one is actually sleeping in this picture.

Fourth, we have played with the LEGOs. Pirate ships, tree forts, castles, race tracks, all manner of wheeled vehicles.  Ransom is a die-hard Lego lover, and he has entirely too many of them even at the tender age of 3.5.  (They are hand-me-downs.  #daddyisapackrat.)  While playing Legos with Ransom, I have been cogitating on the most efficient Lego organizational system.  I’m still tweaking it, but once we get done, I promise to share with the internet.  When I do, a light will shine down from the heavens (with a chorus of angel voices) I’m sure because this has got to be one of the most enduring problems of the modern era.  I mean, what do you do with ALL THESE TINY PIECES?  His room is a serious construction zone/disaster area ALL THE TIME.  Really though, what’s clutter in the grand scheme of things.  Although stepped-on legos do hurt a lot.

IMG_3184Ransom has entered the ‘weird picture face’ phase.

Fifth, I dabbled in Paleo cooking & eating again.  I wanted to try to recapture that “energized” feeling I felt during that Whole30 (okay whole25) I did last year.  This year we made it just under two weeks (Whole11?), and then we had some travel plans and it wasn’t worth sticking to the diet while staying with family.  Plus I really wanted to eat some gluten.  ha.  But, now that the garden veggies are coming in, I am determined to up the health-factor in my cooking.  So get ready for some OKRA recipes because we are going to have a lot of that to eat.

That’s most of it!  There was also: replacing the cabinet pulls in the kitchen, two weeks of swimming lessons, a stomach virus, a couple of trips to Columbus, a couple of power outages, a partridge, and two pear trees.  Oh, wait, make that a couple of paw paw trees.  yes, seriously.  More on that later.  Now we are three days into the next ‘new normal’, and struggling to adjust to another new routine.  I’m now working half-days for the rest of the summer, and looking forward to it, but also missing our totally carefree do-whatever-slash-survival days.

 

 

 

Cultivate: A Women’s Gathering Around The Word

Cultivate Web Banner v1

I remember the first time I went to a women’s conference.  I was 23 and the sister-in-law of a friend of mine had invited me.  I’d told her no a few times….I didn’t really “do” women’s ministry…I thought women’s events were only for middle aged women with perfectly coiffed hair who had memorized half the Bible, prayed for others 24 hours a day, and never made any mistakes.  I was a newly minted college graduate with big dreams and little direction and couldn’t imagine what I would have in common with anyone else in attendance.  Plus there was that tiny issue of the admission fee.  I was playing violin at churches and weddings on the weekends and working part-time as a sales clerk at a high-end children’s boutique during the week.  Neither of these jobs brought in a whole lot of money and I figured paying my electric bill was more important than buying a ticket to an event.  The third time I tried to decline the invitation, an “extra ticket” magically appeared and I found myself agreeing to be picked up after dinner the following Friday night.

The speaker that weekend was a young, vivacious Bible teacher named Priscilla Shirer who spoke truth to places in my soul that I didn’t even know needed it.  A month or so later, the director of my church’s women’s ministry asked if I would be interested as serving as the first ever “young women’s” rep on the 25-member women’s ministry committee, to which I agreed (although to this day, I feel that I was an unlikely candidate).  When Priscilla returned to our church a year or two later, I found myself leading worship for the conference instead of being the scared kid sitting in the back of the room.  But when I moved to Nashville, I moved here for music and for a new town, not for anything to do with women’s ministry.  I’d enjoyed my time serving on the committee but it honestly never occurred to me that it would circle back around and end up taking center stage in my life.  But then the opportunity to work for Kelly Minter came along and I am so blessed to be part of seeing ladies lives impacted each day.  And I’m grateful daily for those ladies that poured into me ten or so years ago.

They say that hindsight is 20/20 and as I look back to the hours I spent planning a “Bible Study Introduction Tea” and prepping for the annual women’s conference, I recognize that those experiences weren’t happenstance; they were preparing me for the tasks that I do on a daily basis at work.  But never has my women’s ministry journey come into play more than this summer as I work to plan the first ever “Cultivate: A Women’s Gathering Around the Word.” It has been on Kelly’s heart for a while to create an opportunity for women to come together and study the Word and worship in a simple environment.  Kelly will be teaching three sessions and our dear friend Michelle Margiotta will lead worship (Adam Moritz who produced my album will jump in on acoustic guitar and I’ll round out the trio on violin).  And because Kelly loves the people of the Amazon jungle dearly, all proceeds from the event will go to benefit the work of Justice & Mercy International, the organization that I traveled to Brazil with last year.

If you are in the Nashville area, or looking for a fantastic weekend get-away with friends, I invite you to be part of this event.  If you think that women’s events aren’t really your jam, I would encourage you to step out and join us anyway.  Sometimes the thing you don’t think you need is EXACTLY the thing you need, and we pray you’ll feel comfortable in our simple and contemplative environment  And if attending feels like a perfectly natural thing for you to do, I’d ask you to consider bringing someone else along.  You may never know the impact that an invitation (and a ticket) might make on a person.  And isn’t that what we’re called to do as Christians?  To pour into one another?  To encourage and build one another up?  We know there are so many things vying for your time and attention, but we pray that you’ll choose to spend a few hours with us in August.  Event information is below and you can purchase tickets HERE or by clicking on any of the event logos.  If you have any questions, you can leave a comment below or email me at info@kellyminter.com

Cultivate Widget v1

What:

Biblically focused and stylistically simple, this will be a time to seek God’s Word, worship with an elegant trio of musicians and enjoy the warmth of community.  This event features Bible Teacher Kelly Minter and worship leader Michelle Margiotta.  All proceeds will support the work of Justice and Mercy International.

When:
7:00pm-9:00pm – Friday August 15
9:00am-12:30pm – Saturday August 16

Where:

Rolling Hills Community Church ~ Franklin, TN

Tickets:

Tickets can be purchased online HERE, or in person at Rolling Hills Community Church or by calling their box office at (615) 861-3663.  All tickets are general admission.  For group ticket purchases of 10 or more, it is possible to reserve seating together. Please contact Bethany Bordeaux at info@kellyminter.com to reserve your group seating, or with any questions you may have about the event.

 

Garden Tour 2014: Nashville Edition

A few weeks ago, Mary Hall graciously took us on a tour of this year’s Johnson family garden.  And it got me thinking that I should follow suit.  Now before you get all excited, lets review that I don’t have a large garden.  In fact, I just have a few things growing here and there, but what I’ve got is strategic so I just had to share.

First off, we have an herb box on our back porch willed with lavender, rosemary and cilantro.  Everything grew gangbusters this year thanks to some stakes and netting I added over it.  Last year, the chickens decided that the herb box was the perfect size for them to hop in and take a dirt bath so our herbs didn’t make it very far.  Although the netting is only loosely draped over the top, it’s been enough to deter my feathered friends from trying to get cozy so I’ll probably continue this practice in years to come.

Lavender, Rosemary, Cilantro.  Yummy tasting and yummier smelling.

Lavender, Rosemary, Cilantro. Yummy tasting and yummier smelling.

 

Next is a new addition to the yard….two blueberry bushes.  If you remember from years past, Keith and I both really love picking blueberries (see here and here for more blueberry adventures, or here and here for some yummy blueberry recipes) so it really only made sense for us to add our own bushes.  Louisa the chicken has developed a penchant for jumping up to grab the ripe berries off the top so we may not end up getting very many until the bushes get bigger.  But I’m glad to have them in our yard nonetheless…and have enjoyed the few tasty berries I’ve already been able to pick from them.

Our two blueberry bushes.  Tasty fruit and nice addition to our landscaping.

Our two blueberry bushes. Tasty fruit and nice addition to our landscaping.

Berries!  Wonder how long before Louisa the chow-hen figures out they are there?

Berries! Wonder how long before Louisa the chow-hen figures out they are there?

Last on the list of growing our own food this year is the actual garden portion of our “garden coop.”  Last year I decided to bring some shade into the coop by growing pole bean plants and cherry tomatoes up the side of the coop.  (You can see the start of that project here, although I apparently neglected to post update photos.)  The beans were wildly successful and the tomatoes were as well so I reprised the project this year and planted from seed long before the last freeze not knowing that you’re supposed to start seeds inside and that beans and tomatoes both have a planting season.  I don’t know if it’s all that fertile soil from the chicken poop, or just dumb luck or a combination of both, but my little seeds are growing like champs, climbing the coop wall like a trellis and already bringing shade to our hens.  The bean plants are full of blooms and I have several baby tomatoes on my tomato vines.  I put some bird netting around this garden too to keep the chickens from digging up my plants and so far it’s been successful.

Edible shade....green beans and tomatoes growing on our chicken coop!  We should have our first harvest in a few weeks!

Edible shade….green beans and tomatoes growing on our chicken coop! We should have our first harvest in a few weeks!

 

Look at how huge those tomatoes and bean plants are!  No stakes needed....they hold themselves up to the side of the coop.

Look at how huge those tomatoes and bean plants are! No stakes needed….they hold themselves up to the side of the coop.

baby beefy boy tomatoes.

baby beefy boy tomatoes.

green beans ready for harvest!

green beans ready for harvest!

And on the non-edibles front, we did a few hanging baskets and such, but the most notable victory has been our daffodils.  Aren’t they lovely?

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So there you have it.  Not as fancy as the all-out farm that Mary-Hall has cranking at her place, but always exciting to grow your own food.

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