Another drought & I’m out.

I told Jason after 2011 that if we ever go through that again, I am leaving Texas.

Well, here we are eleven years on and it’s looking pretty 2011-ish. While we did have a few heavy rain events this spring, it wasn’t enough overall. We are only considered “abnormally dry” according to the U.S. drought monitor, but everyone in Texas knows when June hits, the tap turns off unless you get a hurricane or tropical storm. And to add insult to injury, our temps have already hit 100 and remain in the high 90s, so I am calling this month Jaugust. And I’m sure next month will be Juaugust, then August, then Saugust.

So that’s why I am going to go back in time to our winter/early spring garden, in far less crispy times. I think we had a nice fall/winter garden and I hope you will enjoy the mini-tour.

I find that fall and winter gardens are easy to do for our area, with the occasional annoyance of having to cover your plants during freezing temps.

January/February tend to be our coldest months. It would be best to plant in mid to late September, but as I said before that’s the month I call Saugust and my least favorite because it’s still hot and soooooo dry. Honestly, who wants to plant in hot dust? Not I. So I usually end up waiting until mid-October when we get some rain.

So below is a pic from December, when I had my beds wrapped and Team Cilantro was in full force. It reseeds itself yearly, so I let it do its thing. The cabbages are Bonnie’s Best hybrid that were transplants. You can see that some cabbage worms made small holes, but these are quickly taken care of with a Bt spray. I use the Monterey brand and I had the RTU (ready-to-use) kind. I won’t be without this spray! It kept my kale happy and worm-free from spring through the next spring.

The next pic is of some more cabbages, carrots, and one of our very favorites: kohlrabi. If you like broccoli and cabbage, you will love kohlrabi. Even if you don’t like broccoli or cabbage, give it a try. It is milder that either of those two and is SO GOOD just steamed until tender. I don’t even add salt. But definitely peel it unless you enjoy chewing on twigs/shoe leather.

Cabbages, carrots, kohlrabi

Now I love this kale! It is called Black Magic. It just produced seed this month (June; and it’s in its second year now) and it tastes great! I use it in soups, casseroles, stir-fries, salads, smoothies…anywhere you can stick it. Just cut out the rib and slice it thin to use. Trust me, it hides easily in everything and has a great taste. We also roast it sometimes, and yes, it makes great kale chips, too, if you enjoy those.

Broccoli! We love it. This broccoli is looking a little sad and wilted because it had been covered and when I took off the cover, the humidity it was used to dropped rapidly. I ended up re-covering it slightly to help it. I got these as transplants and I think it’s Lieutenant. I used to use Packman and they did away with that. Then Green Magic and they switched again. I also had Artwork, but I haven’t found that in a couple of years. This is why it’s so important to know how to grow your own! Growers aren’t always going to have what you want.

Admittedly, I am proud of the following cabbage. It’s some of the first I have grown from seed. This is an heirloom called Red Acre. The heads ended up being nice and dense and very tasty.

Snow peas….I babied these peas. I planted them too late in October, and they grew and grew and grew and I covered, uncovered, and re-covered about 10 times. You can see I even added some Christmas lights/party lights to keep them warmer while under cover. They survived all of the frosts and cold, but ultimately died due to a fungal infection in mid-spring. I did get some pea pods, but it wasn’t worth the hassle. So this fall, I’ll plant earlier and hope for a late fall harvest.

Peas n’ Strawberries. My strawberries got very confused with the very mild winter and produced like crazy. The bad part is that they were mealy and weren’t good over the winter months. If they did this again, I will definitely pinch off all blooms and let the roots/plant grow instead. By this spring, they were tasty. Here in East Texas, you really are supposed to plant your June-bearing strawbs in fall. But good luck finding plants! I had these overwinter and reproduce like mad, so I planted the babies EVERYWHERE. And this year I found a variety that tastes way better: Seascape. Now we are only supposed to plant June bearing strawbs, but these are considered “everbearing”. Whatever. I am going with this to see how it turns out. The berries are bigger and far tastier than these other ones, which I THINK are Allstar.

A December harvest: It’s scant, but it’s food. We enjoy eating the leaves of broccoli as well as the stalks; just peel ’em! No reason to let either go to waste. Throw the thinly cut leaves into a stir-fry or a soup. Also, you do know that broccoli as we know it is the unopened flowers of the plant, right?

Thanks for taking a little detour with me today! Now it’s back to reality and back to dreaming of a well or a cistern for the garden…

Hubris and Humility in the Garden

After my lame summer growing, I kicked it into high gear for the fall garden. I started my seedlings early, I got the beds composted and ready. I was on top of my game this year! Finally!

In September, I happily planted my garlic in the ground. Earliest ever! I planted my greens! Beat my record for planting by a whole month!

This would be the BEST. FALL. GARDEN. in the history of my fall gardens!

But then, it went south. I can just tell you that just when you think you have gardening all figured out, it is gonna throw you a curveball.

The garlic I ordered struggled to root. The turnips and some of my rutabaga never germinated. My carrot seeds laughed in defiance; they mostly failed to germinate at all. Then it was time to plant the seedlings that I had loved on since August.

Something was way wrong.

It took several days, but then it hit me: I had started my seeds in Miracle Gro potting soil. That’s all the store had. On top of that, because I forgot I had used Miracle Gro soil, I had been fertilizing, too! UGHHHHHHHHHHH. Talk about a root killer! So that was the issue with my indoor seeds! Too much love. Never plant seeds in MG potting soil. Just don’t. Use a seed starting mix with no fertilizer. I found some at another store and loaded up. The oldie made a newbie mistake.

As far as my carrot seeds, after doing research, I found that they lose germination quickly if not kept cool/frozen, and mine had sat out for about a year. The turnip seed was six years old and who knows how well I had stored it? The rutabaga? Also old seed. The garlic? Not sure. But I have a story about that.

I asked the seed company on Facebook if this particular garlic took longer to root. I usually only do the grocery store garlic, which I believe is the variety California Early White. For whatever reason, the Sicilian Artichoke garlic just seemed to not want to put out roots. So as I said in another post, I dug up the cloves, took them inside and replanted them in a seedling mix. This brought more success, but still some struggled to root. So fairly immediately the company replied to me on my Facebook post, and asked how I had planted it and what my soil was like. I replied, and then just a few minutes later they said that they would send me replacement bulbs. This was completely unexpected but very much appreciated because not many companies stand behind their products like that. So for that reason, I will very much recommend using Willhite Seed out of Poolville, Texas for your seed needs. Before you ask, yes, they do sell non-GMO seed. I have had no other issues with the other seed products I have bought from them.

Back to my failures:

The seedlings that I did plant outside are slowly making it. Probably because now they are in good compost and not sitting in a chemical/salt-laden cesspool. After a couple of nights under a plastic cover, they have really begun to thrive. Especially the carrot seeds; I’ll remember that for this spring! The turnips never came up: Old seed. The rutabagas did start coming up after the plastic cover was in place. The garlic is now coming in. The grocery store garlic came up easily and I planted it all over the yard, in various beds. I mean, can you EVER have enough garlic?

The garden is looking better, despite my “help”. Plants are amazingly resilient.

Update: Most of the transplants have made it. LESSON LEARNED!

I don’t have a pic of the garden right now, but here’s some adorable metal plant stakes that my “big sister” got me for my birthday!

A Fall Garden

After my summer of B.L.A.H. (see last post), and feeling the pressure of the current supply chain crunch, I’m all into my fall gardening. We are in gardening Zone 8a; a very nice zone for fall and winter gardening. It always has surprised me that more people around here don’t do much fall gardening. And no, mums don’t count. Most people plant for the summer garden, and that’s great and all, but fall/winter are very productive, too.

This year, I’m trying out a few new varieties of veggies, mostly from Seed Treasures and Baker Creek. Some of the new things in the starter “greenhouse” are: Red Acre cabbage, Goliath broccoli, Chijimisai greens, Purple Lady bok choi, Chinese Pink celery, He Shi Ko bunching onion, and Sweet Spanish onion (from seed). Brassicas and greens do especially well for us during fall/winter, and they are so good for you! I use all the parts from my cabbages and broccoli; even the leaves. They are great in soups and stir fries, and very easy to dehydrate for later use.

I start most of my seeds inside in a cheap little “greenhouse” that I got from Tractor Supply. It has 4 shelves, and on the top three, I have a seed heating pad and two grow lights per shelf. The heating pads are from Amazon, and I have used Wal-Mart’s linkable grow lights. Right now, the temps inside are such that I don’t turn on the heating pads, but I will in December, especially, as I start my seeds for February plantings.

I use plastic containers from leftovers and salad mixes, mostly, with a soil-less seed mix. I am bad about planting stuff too deep, so this year I was extra careful, and only had to replant a couple of things. I found that spinach is especially picky and so I barely even covered it, misted it daily, and it all finally came up the second time around. I leave containers covered with a clear lid (or even Saran wrap) until the first true leaves come in, then I remove that.

I should have planted two weeks earlier to get everything to the right size for transplanting (I really want everything in by this week), so I’d recommend starting your seeds for most fall things no later than the last week of August if you are in my zone.

Some things you don’t want to transplant, like carrots. In the outside beds, I planted these seeds: Kohlrabi, turnips, two kinds of beets, radishes, chard, carrots (4 types), potatoes (an experiment), and garlic. Kinda miffed at the garlic.

I ordered garlic for the very first time and it was PRICEY stuff. With shipping, it was $25 for TWO HEADS. Yikes. Anyway, I planted it several weeks ago and….nothing. I got impatient and dug some up on Monday. Several had rotted, five pieces had rooted, and the rest were just sitting there and had done NOTHING. I replanted the rooted ones, chunked the rotted ones, and took in the ones that had done nothing. Earlier this year, I had rooted some garlic indoors and transplanted it later on and it did well. So that’s what I’ll do again. I have the ends of the pieces barely in some soil and I’m making sure the soil doesn’t dry out. Since the container is clear, I will be able to watch the roots develop and I’ll transplant them when I see good roots. Angry at the garlic priced like gold, I went to Wal-Mart and grabbed a sack of garlic like I usually do, and planted it all over our gardens. It doesn’t need covering when the cold comes, at least not here, so you can plant it wherever it will get full sun. UPDATE: A week later, about seven more cloves of garlic had rooted. YAY. I planted it yesterday.

What’s in your fall garden?

Cannin’ and such – The end of summer 2021

Here is a short list of things I don’t like:

  • Humidity
  • Oppressive heat
  • No rain
  • Wasps
  • Fleas
  • Stinkbugs in the garden
  • A summer cold

And here is a short list of things that always happen during Texas summers:

  • Humidity
  • Oppressive heat
  • No rain
  • Wasps
  • Fleas
  • Stinkbugs in the garden
  • A summer cold

At least I can say that summer 2021 DID have more rain, at least through early July. Plus, we didn’t have but a few days of 100+ degrees.

I was not inspired this year to do much in the garden. Last year, I grew stuff like there was no tomorrow (and frankly, who knew?). But this year was the summer of B.L.A.H. (Being Lazy And (probably) Hormones (because frankly, when do they NOT rule our lives?).

Even so, I did get some things accomplished.

I planted enough cucumbers to make almost a years’ worth of pickles. I made a few “spicy” jars this year.

We grew some apples! You don’t hear about Texas apples, do ya? But it can be done! Despite me running over the tree two years ago on the UTV, our tree survived!

Our muscadines produced really well, due to all of the rain we got this year. I still had about 21 pints of grape jelly from 2020, so I couldn’t figure out what do. Then, it hit me: JUICE. Who doesn’t love grape juice? Well, duh. So if you are into making jelly or juices the ONLY way to fly is to get a steam juicer. Throw the fruit in, add water to the bottom pot, heat, and POOF! You get beautiful juice that can be canned as is, or made into beautiful jellies. Don’t even touch the fruit on top; don’t squeeze it with a spatula or you get ugly jelly, like I did in 2020. It puts sediment into your juice and makes it cloudy.

This picture is when I was juicing “Carlos” bronze muscadines. They are amazingly sweet and remind me of those expensive “cotton candy” grapes.

On the left is the finished juice of the “Carlos” grape, and on the right is the finished jelly of “Noble” – a purple muscadine. See how clear the juice/jelly is? So easy with the steam canner. Worth every cent. (Mine is no longer available on Amazon. As of 9/23/21, they have a Roots & Branches brand for $69 that looks nice! It’s one quart smaller in capacity than what I have, but I paid over $125 for mine, thanks to the 2020 canning frenzy)

And in the Weird files, which, admittedly, are very thick over here on the farm, I had a mystery squash come up in my orchard along the fenceline. It grew all over my grapes and I just left it to see. Well…it was a spaghetti squash! What the heck! I could have planted a million of those seeds and probably never grew a vine as nice as this one. I think we got 6 squash from it and they are delicious. So I think I’ll plant some sketti squash next to my grapes on down the fence next spring. Why not? A little cabbage worm ate off some of the skin, which is what you see here, but it didn’t hurt the squash at all.

So maybe it wasn’t my most productive summer ever; oh well. Now I’m just ready for the rains to come to break the official spell of dryness that always hits us in September. Meanwhile, the insane amount of seedlings I have started for our fall garden are sprouting and growing. I have promised them that I’ll not fail them when it comes time to get them in the ground.

Goodbye, summer of B.L.A.H.! Here’s to a productive fall!

Confessions of a Carb Queen Foodie

It’s no secret: I LOVE FOOD.

Since 2019, I have been on a quest to merge my love of food with my obsession over “natural remedies”. It all came about when I went on a vacation and wasn’t blown away with my reflection in the local storefront windows. I also wasn’t exactly elated with the numbers I was seeing on the scale or my body measurements, which were the highest I’d ever had, with exception to the times when I was pregnant.

To condense my long story, I had tried keto the year before for a little while. I’d gone down 11 pounds, but I swore if I ate another slice of bacon, chunk of cheese, or a low-carb vegetable, I was going to stab someone in the eye with a celery stick. Previous to THAT, I’d tried a low-calorie diet. That was an absolute disaster. I would dream of food. I’d watch the clock to see when I could eat again. I remember sitting on my front porch in a daze, wondering about how many calories were in a rice cake. My God.


So starting in the fall of 2019, I started logging my calories, just to see how many I was consuming in a day. I do SO love a good science experiment, so why not try one on myself? I discovered quickly that a big part of my problem was eating calorie-dense, but not-so-filling-nor-nutritious foods like chips, crackers, and dips. As I cut these foods out, my weight started dropping slowly but surely. I discovered that I actually lost more weight when I ate more calories from healthy foods. I also decided to not do any extensive exercise to see how large a role diet played in weight loss. I lost several pounds and then somewhere in the late spring of 2020, that loss came to a halt. In late August of 2020, I got sick and decided with everything going on at the time, it was high time to get absolutely serious with my health. It was at this point that I chose to go the whole foods, plant-based (WFPB) route.

There are several reasons I chose this way to eat. First of all, I had already gotten to the point where eating most meats made me feel physically bad/gross. There were definitely repercussions to having any kind of pork or beef. I’ll spare you the details. Dairy products also fell into that same category. Secondly, I love carbs. I love rice, beans, peas, potatoes, oatmeal, lentils…and I’ll be danged if I wasn’t going to eat them. Last of all, the way I eat has to be sustainable. I am not going to stick to anything restrictive. I am not going to take supplements. I’m not going to group meetings or taking a pill or constantly doing food logs. Ain’t happenin’. The whole point of WFPB is very simple: Eat more plants, and eat those plants in their natural form. In other words, not in the form of pre-packaged and highly processed veggie burgers or veggie chips, etc. The second thing about WFPB is: Eat less fat. This means using very little to no oil in the foods you prepare. Oil is 100% fat and you’d be shocked at what it is added to (just about every processed food you can imagine) and how many needless calories it adds. You’d likely also be very surprised at how most oils are made.

When I made this change last September, that’s when the weight came flying off. I was stunned, really. I got to a weight I had never even imagined possible and one I’d never seen as an adult. In all, from fall 2019 to January of 2021, I lost 26 pounds. It’s true that I didn’t have a lot to lose, but I also had no idea that I was carrying around this much “extra me”. If you like hearing about big weight loss numbers, though, my husband was at his highest weight in 2019, and is currently down 76 pounds! But the fastest part of his weight loss was when he started the low/no-oil WFPB way of eating. At that point, he began losing at an average of 1.5 pounds a week and continued that for 25 weeks! Even more amazing was that his sleep apnea and night sweats disappeared, AND his fasting blood glucose lowered by 60 points. Yes, SIXTY points. He also likes to utilize intermittent fasting to his routine. It is a tool that works well for him.

So where are we today, in July 2021? As all people do, we “fell off the wagon” a little this spring, went on vacation, and let some ‘snacky things’ back in the house. Which of course, went straight to my butt. That’s okay because we’re back on the wagon again. I am within 4 pounds of my lowest weight, and my measurements are only up a half of an inch. Everyone else in the house still looks great, and more importantly, FEELS great. Goodbye to insomnia, digestive troubles, achy joints, migraines, and the like! And don’t come back!

When we tell people we eat a diet full of vegetables, people always, always, always assume we eat nothing but salads. Now I love a good salad, but come on. I can’t imagine sitting around eating nothing but a salad all day. Here are just a few of our favorite meals we’ve eaten in the last few months and all are WFPB:

Tomatoes & Okra with rice:

Rainbow Stir-fry:

Getting ready for Rainbow Taco night!

“Not Fried” Rice, with pineapple and cashews:

“Cheezy” noodles

Roasted veggies, Christmas-style!:

Black-eyed pea and cabbage soup:

Roasted veg and toasted bread with “cheez” sauce:

Crispy black bean burger:

Stir-fry veg and rice noodles:

Fully loaded nachos:

I’m sure my family is so tired of hearing me say this, but EAT A RAINBOW every day! I promise you will feel so much better and you’ll see changes that you won’t even believe!

One last thing about carbs specifically…if you are a carb queen (or king) and you want to get some carby validation, check out Dr. John McDougall’s book, The Starch Solution. Don’t vilify complex carbs! Processed (AKA crap) carbs are the ones to avoid. Don’t throw out the beans with the bathwater!

Wishing you all a wonderful week!

My migraines were a blessing

It’s true.

Granted, they were a blessing in disguise (like a really BIG disguise), but they were the beginning of a huge, positive, life-changing path for me and my family.

I was the kind of person who never got headaches. Like, ever ever. All of that changed in my early 30s when I started getting annoying headaches on the right side of my face. At first, they weren’t too bad. At first, I could take two ibuprofen with a coffee chaser and in 15 minutes, I could feel the headache melt away like magic. Cool, I thought…I have this figured out.

Only, I didn’t.

The headaches worsened in time. They felt like the right side of my face was in a vise. My right eye watered and the right side of my nose ran like a water faucet. While I never saw an aura, I was very sensitive to light and had to be in a dark room. Noises of any variety annoyed me to no end. Smells sickened me. Nausea set in and then some vertigo. Nothing helped; lying down made the vertigo worse, but it was also hell to try and move around. The headache day was bad enough, but it also took 2-3 days to fully recover. I was in a daze when I wasn’t in pain. This is called the “postdrome phase”. It’s a feeling of being “washed out” and drained.

A recent entry in my headache log…Lasted two days and I had consumed some dairy the day it began.

Up until this point, I had done only a little bit of research and read that low progesterone and a lack of magnesium may play a part in migraines. More research revealed other common triggers that I knew I was consuming/experiencing. The headaches started coming once a month and typically within a few days of my period, so I figured that my hormones had to play a part. I remember one day quite vividly when I discovered one of my biggest triggers. We had been swimming at the lake and had ordered pepperoni pizza. Within 30 minutes of eating the pizza, I felt “the twinge”. If you have migraines, you may know what I’m talking about. It’s that feeling on the side of your face that tells you, “Hey, get ready cause you’re having a full-blown hellacious headache in 24 hours or less.” Sure enough, I had a horrible one over the next couple of days. As I was recovering, I read about sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate, which are common food preservatives in processed meats, and how they play a big role in causing migraines. One article even said that migraines are so common after eating hot dogs that they call them “hot dog headaches”.

Well, as you can imagine, I was excited about this discovery, yet at the same time, floored that this was the first time I had ever heard about it. Shouldn’t it be common knowledge, since almost half of women will experience migraines at some point in their lives?

When the migraines started coming every two weeks and were worse in intensity than ever, I went to my doctor and had some bloodwork done. Everything that was tested came back normal. At that time, I had also experienced “ocular migraines”, which, for me, meant loss of sight in my peripheral vision. Talk about freaky! At my appointment, the doctor asked if I wanted to start taking medicine, but I hate taking medicine. I wanted to find and treat the cause of the problem, not the symptom. I had to know, because that’s the kind of person I am. I HAVE TO KNOW.

I decided it was time to get serious and figure out what was happening. The first thing I did was order a book: “Heal Your Headache: The 1.2.3 Program For Taking Charge Of Your Pain” by David Buchholz, M.D. (See below)

This is where the healing began! I’ll try to summarize for you, but BUY THIS BOOK if you are a migraine sufferer! So, basically, everyone’s “triggers” for having a migraine will vary. A trigger is something that can lead up to a headache for you. It can be hormones, barometric pressure, a certain scent, food additives, certain foods, stress, etc. Everyone also has a certain threshold that, once you have so many triggers present, will cause you to have a migraine. The whole concept of the book is to reduce your exposure to triggers when possible, and to try and not cross that threshold. I will tell you right now, that if you are eating the Standard American Diet, you ain’t gonna like the elimination diet in this book. Ha! If you like caffeine, alcohol, and dairy….well….but don’t go away! Keep on reading.

So I started by eliminating my known triggers, which were sodium nitrate/nitrite, alcohol, MSG, yogurt, and yeast extract/autolyzed yeast extract (which is in SOOOOO many processed foods!). The intensity of my pain lessened, but I still had the migraines. As I read further in the book, it was said that caffeine is a major trigger for many people. I was only a one to two cup of coffee a day person, so I thought that surely he wasn’t talking about people like me, right??? I slowly decreased the amount of coffee I was drinking and then only drank it every other day for a week. I quit cold turkey on a Tuesday. I remember it was a Tuesday because I missed work from Wednesday through Friday that week! I was SO SICK. I couldn’t believe that such a tiny amount of caffeine had such a death grip on my system! I decided right then and there that I would never allow anything to have such a hold on my body, ever again.

After I finally detoxed from caffeine the week after I quit, it was the beginning of the end for my headaches. The intensity was greatly lessened. I decided to go all out and do the elimination diet in the book. This means no dairy, no nuts, no caffeine, no alcohol, no chocolate (GASP), no fresh yeast-risen breads (ACK), no vinegar, no processed meats, avoiding certain vegetables/legumes/fruits, among other things. Don’t quit on me, y’all! I know!!! It was tough! I thought, this better be worth it!

AND IT WAS. For a glorious…wondrous…miraculous two full months, I had no headaches! None at all! I had been having the headaches for a few years at that point (fall of 2018), and they were at least once a month. I was so, so happy. Because I am hard headed (and dumb, I guess), I did add some foods back into my diet that I know are triggers, like nuts. However, the migraines I get now are what I call “manageable migraines“. I can work out in the yard, hang with the family, get some sleep, and get on with life, even though I am in migraine mode. It’s there, I can feel it, but it’s tiny. Just annoying, and only about a 1-2 on the pain scale of 1-10. I pop some ibuprofen every 4 hours a few times, and I’m good to go. I have recently started eating fewer nuts and have noticed that my pain is lessened.

For example, over the weekend, due to stress/hormones, I got the “twinge” on a Friday before a huge event. “Lord, PLEASE let me get through this and be in a functioning state”, I begged. How is it that your body just seems to know when you need to be clear-headed, and it throws you a curve ball? But everything went great. I think I only took ibuprofen twice, I got lots of great sleep, and any pain I did have fizzled away overnight. Such an enormous change from the days when I had to lie in bed in a silent, spinning, blackened room with an ice pack over my face, with snot and tears pouring out of me, while I felt like barfing up my toenails!

So, for those of you out there suffering from that personal hell they call a migraine, here’s what I have to say:

  • First of all, you MUST be your own advocate. No one knows your body like you do. Listen to what your body is telling you! Don’t be afraid to take control of your health. Find a doctor that will listen to your concerns.
  • Buy the book and give the suggestions an honest try, including the elimination diet. It’s simple, but not necessarily easy. Let’s face it though, when you get to the point where you’ll do just about anything to get rid of migraines, it’s 100% worth it if it works for you!
  • Keep a journal/calendar that documents your headaches. I did this for years (and still do), and it helped me to find my triggers. Foods that could possibly cause migraines may take up to 72 hours to affect you, so having a food journal is very helpful also. I record intensity, duration of the migraine, and possible causes.
  • When you start the elimination diet, READ THE LABEL OF EVERYTHING YOU CONSUME. I even asked restaurant waitstaff to show me labels from salad dressings that they used, just to be safe. MSG and yeast extract is in just about everything. Ranch dressing, seasonings, broth, cream soups, flavored chips, flavored anything at all. Eating out and eating at other people’s houses may get extremely difficult for you, but you’ll adapt, I promise. I always know a baked potato is a safe bet! Ha. I’ll go ahead and plug my current obsession/love, which is a whole foods, plant based diet. Again, it’s simple, but not easy. At least not at first. Since you won’t be eating processed foods much, you will be automatically eliminating all those yucky additives that can cause migraines.

As I was writing this post, I came across a blog called The Dizzy Cook. She, too, found healing through research, doctor’s visits, and Dr. Buchholz’s book. Check out her story here. I didn’t even know that vestibular migraines were a thing! She doesn’t have headaches, but instead had intense bouts of dizziness.

Last of all, you have my complete sympathy. Migraines are scary, painful, and will make you think you are losing your mind. You are definitely NOT alone in this! If anyone gives you a hard time about having a migraine, it’s obvious that they have never had one. I hope that something here will lead to healing for you. May you soon be migraine free!

Desperately Seeking Simplicity

***Another post I wrote in 2019 and didn’t publish! I look back at those busy days and I want to stick my finger down my throat. I was running on a hamster wheel and I clearly remember the Mom and Me weekend…it was terrible. I was so tired, I couldn’t even think straight. That was five years ago now, and it was a wake up call for me. Since that time, I’ve lost more weight (got very serious about our health), I have decluttered more, and I do not make commitments to things that I don’t care about. “No” is the most powerful word! ~A ***

Three years ago, I was part of two MLM sales companies, planning a class reunion, homeschooling the kids, and up to my eyeballs in unfinished projects and events. The weekend after our reunion, I had a “Mom and Me” retreat with my youngest followed by an MLM sale event, and I was on the verge of tears the entire time. I was EXHAUSTED. I felt bad that I couldn’t enjoy the weekend that SHOULD have been fun.

I swore to myself that after that weekend, I was D-O-N-E with commitments outside the home for an entire year. I practiced saying “NO”. Over the next several months, I cleared up my calendar to only celebrate holidays with family. I quit the MLMs. I started picking up old projects that had sat around, neglected and collecting dust bunnies, and began finishing them one by one. I got rid of crafts that no longer suited me.

That one year experiment turned into two. I still felt tired.

Then this year, I went on a decluttering kick. While my calendar was pretty empty, my house was not. Things…things…THINGS in every drawer, cabinet, countertop. Things I never used, things that I no longer liked, things that were just there to take up space. One afternoon, I had the house all to myself and did something I never, ever do: I flipped on the TV and started scrolling Netflix. One of the shows that came up was Tidying Up With Marie Kondo. Now hold on…stay with me. I know not everyone agrees with her methods.

I had read The Magic of Tidying Up some years ago, but never really implemented it. So I start watching this show, and immediately I thought, “This is the most adorable person I may have ever seen.” When you read her first book, you might feel like I did; the book just seems a bit “preachy” to me. But when I saw her on the show, it changed something for me. She just seems very happy-go-lucky and so friendly. Therefore, I bought her book and re-read it. Then I got her second book, “Spark Joy”, and read that as well. I began joining minimalist groups on Facebook for inspiration, and I re-read Joshua Becker’s book, “The More of Less”.

One afternoon, I was outside in the garden. I was removing old spent flowers and plants whose time had come and gone. When I was done, I took a look around and I noticed how pretty everything looked, now that the distraction of the dead plants were gone. It was an ephiphany: Remove what you don’t love, so that you can focus on what you DO love. Where had I heard that before? Well:

Yes! So I immediately went and made a list. What did I love? I love my family, my homesteading experiments, gardening, chickens, crafting, visiting friends, good food…and how much of this was I participating in at that moment? Not much. Most had been put on the back burner for far, far too long. What I thought was important simply wasn’t. I was doing things that kept me from doing what I truly loved. So it was with my household. I had it arranged in such a way that all the STUFF was a major distraction.

In addition, I asked myself where I wanted to be in ten years. That question led to several actions: I did a real, honest-to-God declutter of the house (still ongoing), I lost eight pounds (and still going), we got very serious on becoming debt-free, we reduced the number of pets we owned, and I got all gung-ho on gardening and doing my “homesteady” things again. I can honestly say that this has been such a great experiment. It’s like everything is finally coming together…that’s the best way I can explain it.

So I guess that the entire point of this post is this: If you are exhausted beyond belief and feel like you are running on a hamster wheel to nowhere, maybe it’s time for a life audit. What do you enjoy the most? Where do you want to be in a year, or five, or ten? If you want a simplified (sane) life, I highly suggest researching minimalism. It isn’t a bare house with modern furniture and clear counters. Far from it! I have found that it is just life simplified.

End note, 2021: I would highly suggest going here if you are thinking of joining, or are currently in, an MLM:

I also suggest the Reddit group: r/antiMLM :

This may come across as harsh, but I’ve been a part of a lot of MLMs and they essentially are all the same, with slightly different twists. Your income increases with recruitment (gag), and then if you meet their requirements, you will level up, anddddd then you are saddled with training in addition to maintaining your own sales each month. And so on and so forth. I remember hearing from “successful” women at conferences who were in the top tiers and their lives were pretty much 100% centered on the MLM. No thanks.

No shame if you are in an MLM right now; I just beg you to do your due diligence and run a brutally honest profit and loss, INCLUDING your time spent. Again, the resources above shine a light on the truth behind MLMs.

Happy 2019!

***May 2021: Well, well, it looks like I did write some posts since 2018! These were lost in the depths of the Draft section, so what the heck…I’m publishing them! I loved the Katie Daisy planner. As it is in 2021, I have a Katie Daisy calendar right by my desk and it makes me happy every time I look at it. In 2020, I went with another small planner; I believe it was another 6 x 8 size. I just picked it up at Wal-Mart. It was a monthly/weekly number and I think it was by Blue Sky. For 2021, I went BIG. It’s an 8 x 10 I found at Wal-Mart by Day Designer. Again, it has a monthly spread and then weekly with lots of room to write in each day. It’s a little too big, really. I would rather go back to a smaller, purse-friendly size. So do you use a planner? Leave me a comment about what you use and why you love it.

It’s the day before the new year and I am admittedly tired. I have been chair surfing all morning and finally just got out of my PJs at the crack of 1pm. As I contemplate the new year, I’m thinking of things that I want to accomplish. Not just written-down, then-shoved-to-the-back-of-a-drawer-and-forgotten things, but real goals that need tackling.

First things first, I invested in a new planner. I call this my paper brain. Google calendar is lovely but I don’t care to solely rely on digital things since they can die at any given second; just like my phone did last year. I also enjoy writing and doodling…a lot! It’s fun to go back and see what happened in a year’s time.

Last year’s planner was an Orange Circle Studio planner that I picked up at TJ Maxx.

My 2018 planner

It was a monthly planner and it was the first time in years I had gone that route rather than a weekly one. I was tired of all the extra “fluff” and wanted to get back to a month on every two page spread.

For 2019, it took me MONTHS to decide between planners (hey, it’s a big commitment!) and it was down to two: the Hobonichi Techo daily and a Katie Daisy weekly. I love the simplicity of the Techo, but as a daily calendar, I thought it would just be too much. The other factor was price. The Techo is over fifty dollars and the Katie Daisy was around ten. I finally went with Katie because the artwork is just amazing. Every page is full of nature paintings, including moths, trees, birds, and even snakes.

So I decided to use the new planner as a journal as well since it is a weekly version. Just a sentence or two about what I did that day and a note about the weather. The size is perfect because it goes right into my purse but it’s not so small that I can’t write in it comfortably.

Do you use a paper planner or a digital one? Or any at all? I don’t have a great memory, especially short-term. I’d forget my head off it weren’t screwed on.

My Little Country, back again

I’m embarrassed to say, it’s been almost three years since I have posted. I started this blog as a journal (of sorts) when we moved to the country thirteen years ago. Sometimes I think, man, I started this thing just 2 years after Ree Drummond started her own blog…what if I had gotten famous too, and had my face plastered on kitchenware/house decor/home appliances in every Wal-Mart from here to the moon? But the truth is, I enjoy my obscurity and also, posting 15+ pictures for each recipe I make was never my thing. Life under my little mossy rock is just fine with me.

So now that my kids are much older and we are looking at a close-in-our-future “empty nest”, what to do next? I’ve been reading up on the Japanese concept of “ikigai”. Translated, it means “a reason for being”, and it’s about finding joy in life through purpose. Discovering your purpose in life…makes you think, doesn’t it? It’s beyond a job title and beyond the words “wife” or “mom”. Obviously, it doesn’t mean abandoning those things or diminishing their importance in any way. Rather, it’s finding your very own personal reason for being. What do you have to bring to the world?

My husband is lucky. He’s one of those people who had his stuff figured out very early in life. He made his own business in his early 20s and still runs it to this day. He is a fixer of things and even his name means “healer”. I, on the other hand, have a hard time sticking to any one thing for more than a week. He has the gift of remembering what people say word-for-word, even years later. I can only loosely paraphrase past conversations, at best. He can take something apart and remember exactly where every tiny piece and screw will go. I have to take copious photos during disassembly and it’s highly likely I’ll end up with a handful of screws and something that will never work again. So in that way, he is blessed. His brain is like an efficient filing cabinet. Every file is labeled and typed perfectly. Every memory is neatly tucked away in its own appropriate folder. My brain is reminiscent of a large bazaar/flea market with every vendor waving their arms and yelling for attention. Things I want to memorize are hastily written on scraps of paper (and promptly smudged), then thrown to the winds, likely never to be seen again. So this only brings me to the point that I will never be a star in the profession he chose, or maybe I should say, the profession that chose him.

I did a few exercises I found online to try and clarify my life’s purpose. What do I really love doing, after all?

I love creating. Whether that is sewing, cooking, writing, gardening, drawing, etc. I just love to make stuff!

I love to be helpful. It makes me happy knowing that I was able to help someone with a problem or teach them something new that is useful to them.

I love to learn. I see life as one big science experiment. There is a saying, “There are no failures, just discoveries.” This is why I enjoy trying new things constantly. What works? What doesn’t? I look forward to learning something new every day.

Now where does that leave me? For the present, I have no idea, and that’s okay! At least now I can focus on activities that involve these 3 passions of mine. So here I sit, creating! I found this article that I thought was pretty good on finding your ikigai:

You see? There’s the helper in me.

Now I will leave you with a photo from the farm. I don’t know the name of this iris, but I’m betting she is an old variety. This year, she put on her best blooms, so the “SNOVID 2021” of Texas didn’t hurt her!

I hope you will hang around for more posts. I look forward to sharing 3 years’ worth of farm pics and experiments with you!

Showers N’ Flowers

Today I am sitting at my desk at work, contemplating why I even attempt to re-ink a stamp. The frugalista in me says, “Why buy a entire new stamp when a bottle of ink is three dollars?” The realist in me says, “Every time you re-ink a stamp, you end up looking like you were booked and fingerprinted MULTIPLE times in the county jail.” I now have ink on my desk, my face, all of my fingers, my pencil cup, my mouse, and the book I was reading. Luckily, I wore a black shirt today.

But let us discuss more pleasant and pretty things. My yard, for example!

This spring was chilly all the way into the first of May. Not that I’m complaining, HOWEVER, my corn I planted never came up and my cream peas were lackluster. My tomatoes were sad and took forever to grow. Even so, now that it’s warmed up, things are filling out. Let’s take a look around:

View from our porch. It rained today for the first time in a MONTH, PTL! I was already tired of watering.  Yarrow and daylilies are at the forefront:


View of the house. The front porch will eventually be screened in the front, and closed on the sides with big screened windows. I call it my future three season room. You can see that the blanketflower (on bottom left) really took over. It is all over our yard now.


Front left side of porch. From left: Indian hawthorn (covered in blackberry I can’t kill), blue/black salvia, daylily, and then my lemon trees I grew from seed five years ago. Also, a couple of geraniums.


View of what I call “The Salad Bowl”. Jason leveled the front yard, and this required making a hill around the driveway. I have really been working on this hill with tomatoes, wildflowers, asparagus, and Drift roses, among many other things. Trying to keep it covered to prevent erosion. Also, it is 100% ‘sugar sand’, so I am slowly digging out sand and replacing with compost. The flat ground is where we will plant big thing like corn and okra, and you can also see my sad peas and my rows of green beans. The flowers are brown eyed Susans, which I love!


Raised metal bed that Jason built. The plan is to trellis indeterminate tomatoes here. This is a 10′ bed, but a 20′ is in the works. I will put anything vining or trailing on these.


Prime-ark Freedom blackberries! Only 2 yr old vine and producing tons of huge fruit. I love this berry!


Backside of the ‘rose garden’. Time to clean up the old bulb leaves. Once they are brown, they are fine to remove.


Iris bed with orange, purple, and white irises. Also have some daylilies and crocosmia planted.


The ‘rose garden’, with a few unidentified roses, but also has “Trumpeter”, “Electron”, Mutabilis, “The Fairy”, and “Dolly Parton”. I put assorted impatiens in the empty spots just to fill space.IMG_20180520_190023805

Another view of the iris bed. You can see the lighter green crocosmia taking over, but it’s so gorgeous here in a few weeks, who cares? The little tree on the right is a lemon tree that I planted from local seed. There are two lemon trees in Jacksonville that I know of, and both are ancient. I got seed from both trees about five/six years ago, and one tree is just now fruiting! We are sooooo excited. BTW, the Coors can you may see isn’t mine; it’s for the slugs. Yes, I am a bootlegger for slugs. Only kidding…slugs are apparently addicted to cheap beer and they will come by the hundreds to a beer-filled dish only to party and subsequently perish. Try it for yourself if the slugs are driving you crazy!


Hope you enjoyed the tour! In the next month, things will start getting crispy out there and I’ll only come out “when the sun hits the pines”, which is to say, either before sun up or after sundown!