Saturday, November 20, 2010

Chester County Food Bank

I am going to be helping out by doing volunteering work with the Chester County Food Bank.  In September, they came out to Matt's school to put in some raised beds.  The school will be planting and maintaining the beds throughout the growing season.  When the time comes to harvest the vegetables, they will give all the food to the food bank to help those in need in Chester County.  The day that the Food Bank came out to set up the beds, I volunteered to help out with the students and was very interested in what they were doing.  I wanted to get more involved so I contacted them and asked how I can help with other projects.  I am now going to be helping with maintaining 20 raised beds at Springton Manor Farm in Glenmore, PA. 

Today we started building the beds.  We put in 6 of the 20 beds.  These 6 will be double highs.  The remaining 14 will be singles.  This winter we will also be starting a nursery program at the farm.  Here are some pictures of the bed construction project.

Matt helping with staking in the beds.      

Time for a break with a visit to with the goats.

This is the nursery where we will be growing the seeds this winter.
The first 6 beds are done!
We have 14 more to go!  Last season they planted without raised beds and the weeds were a nightmare.
A job well done!
I'm really excited about this project!  To be helping out, giving to the community and to be doing something that I love love love!  I hope to learn a lot this growing season from some really neat people that I've met so far!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Adventures in Asparagus

It's too soon to tell if my new addition of asparagus to the garden will be worth the effort.  A veggie or fruit makes it into my garden when it meets at least one of these three qualifications:
  1. At least person (or pet) in the house must like it.
  2. It tastes better fresh then when bought in the store.
  3. It's just too expensive at the store.
Well asparagus meets #1 and #3 of the above requirements.  It's something that we rarely buy at the store even though Mike and I enjoy it.  It's so hard to get asparagus the size we like it.  Additionally, it's a bit on the pricey side, especially when it's rarely that good when bought from the store.

A friend of mine was telling me about how he purchased some asparagus roots and planted them this season.  Hearing his story really got me curious and so I decided to do research of my own good ol' Junior and Archibald (Veggie Tales peeps will get that).  I ended up purchasing 10 purple asparagus roots.  Purple asparagus are sweeter than the green asparagus.  Additionally, you can eat them raw.  When you cook the purple asparagus, it will turn green (sort of like a lobster turning red when you cook it -- how's that analogy?)

Anyway, they came in the mail and to prepare the soil, I had to dig some pretty deep holes.  At least 12" deep.  I put root in each hole and then only covered them about 2".

I kept them watered and waited to see what would happen.  A week or so later little baby asparagus started to pop out of the ground.  First one, then another, then another.  Pretty soon each of the 10 roots showed promise by producing new growth.  I then filled in the holes a bit more and continued to keep an eye on them.

Several weeks later I have quite a pretty little addition to my garden, if not yet edible.  The asparagus needs a season or two to produce more mature stems.  At the very least, they are pretty.  The good thing about asparagus is it is a perennial and will continue to produce for me.

Right now some of them are producing what looks like little yellow berries.  I read that these will fall to the ground and help spread them.  If it is doing this or not I can't tell as each week passes by, I see a new baby sprout emerge from the ground.  

I put the asparagus in the same raised bed as I plant some of my herbs.  I have to say out of all my raised bed, my asparagus and herb bed looks the best.  I am eager to see how these veggies do this season and next season.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Why I run

A friend of mine had asked me a while back why I like to run.  After thinking about it for a moment, I realized that I wasn't able to answer adequately.  Ever since then I've been trying to find words to describe why I enjoy running.  I mean, running makes me feel good, but why?  Why does it make me feel good?  This was not so easy to answer.  Well two weekends ago I had gone on a 10-mile run and it was then that I was able to formulate an answer to that question.

When I run I feel most at peace.  I love being outside and when I run I feel the most connected to God.  (Although after all these years of doing it, I finally realized that was what I was feeling)  As I run on a trail and pass by the different trees and flowers and grass I take in all the different sights, smells and sounds of nature around me.  The different colors around me in nature as well as the different surprises I see along the way are never the same from run to run.  I think to myself, how can I get bored on a run when there is so much to beauty take in?  God made this for us to enjoy and so often we are speeding by both literally and figuratively.

I hear my breathing and from it's slow, steady rhythm I start to calm my racing thoughts.  I feel so alive and thankful that I have my legs to carry me, my arms to pump in rhythm with my legs, my lungs to breath in the fresh air and my ears and eyes to hear and see all things.  Everything working together perfectly.  On some runs I do a lot of thinking, while on other runs I don't want to think.  But the beauty of it is, I alone, can choose.  These runs are my brief adventures.

I spend time thinking about these wonderful gifts that the Lord has given us to enjoy and I am so thankful for them.  Thank you for this breeze.  Thank you for the river I run next to.  Thank you for the different shades of green that I see.  Thank you for blessing me with such a loving husband.  Thank you for giving us two beautiful boys.  It feels good to be alive.

I took some pictures of this particular run to try and capture some of the things that I see and experience.

This is the entrance to the trail I usually run.  It's a mile in no shade to get to this point.  My first gratitude, to enter the shade of the trees.

It's peaceful to be here.  The shade provided by the trees is a welcome gift.  On the left of the trail is the Brandwine River and I can hear the water flowing as I run along side of it.  I wonder who is faster, me or the flowing water? :)  Picture this same trail on a snowy winter day.

These next two pictures are a thwarted attempt of me exploring beyond.  The trail is going to be extended, but must have JUST been fenced off.  The week prior, I had discovered this and ventured out on the trail a bit.  But alas, it is now closed off... I head up this hill as I saw a mountain biker ride up here.

And I come across this!  Another path that is an entrance to the state park.

After a mile of being under trees it opens up to this.  The photo is deceiving, but this is a HILL.  And up ahead is the dam for Marsh Creek.  On the other side is Marsh Creek Lake.

At the top of the hill and the dam.  Having a look at where I've been.  See the water below?  That's from the dam.

And when I look to the right I am presented with this!  Marsh Creek Lake and some sail boats.  All created by the very dam that I am standing on and just ran up.

And so now on to the "trail running" part of the adventure.  I see at the top of the dam, is a trail.  Obviously used by mountain bikers.  So I continue on with my run, and here are some pictures of the trail I ran on.

I was running around the lake.  And was but a few feet from the water.  Passed a few bikers along the way too.

Do the people in the sail boats see me?

Decisions, I take the left path or the right path?

A secret spot in the lake.

This is as far as I went.  I turned around from this point and went back the way I came.  Put on my headphones and listened to some Pearl Jam, Alive.

So this is just one of my runs, my adventures, my time with the Lord, my time to recharge and be better for it.  And this is why I run.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Tree with 9 Lives

Remember the post back in May about the tree we planted for earth day?  Well the little Silky Dogwood was doing just fine until I started meddling with it.  About a month back I was cutting the grass and I decided to weed around the screen that we put around the tree sapling.  So, I removed the screen and proceeded to trim around it.  As I was doing trimming around it no sooner was I thinking, "I really need to be careful not to wack it", when sure enough - wack!  Little tree sapling was no more.

I was so angry for doing that I yelled and stomped around the yard a bit thinking...what am I going to tell Matt?  This is his tree that he brought home from school for us to plant, and here I am having to fuss with it.  Thoughts started running through my head such as going out to the nursery and replacing it without him knowing to just sticking it back in the ground and seeing what happened rushed through my mind.  After a few minutes of looking at the little tree, I walked away from the scene of the crime with my head hung low.

Finally, I brought the evidence into the house and set it on the kitchen counter.  I was not really sure what I was going to do about it, but I knew I couldn't just throw it away.  After a while, I thought, I'll just put it in a cup of water and set it on the window sill like I do any other cutting.  Who knows, maybe it will hang in there a bit?  I then went back outside and cleaned up the other half of the sapling by cleaning off the tip where it was wacked off.  I watered it and put the cage around it again just pretending that nothing ever happened.

That evening, I realized that I had to tell Matt about the accident.  I told him that maybe we could go out and replace it with the very same type of dogwood.  He responded that this was a "special tree that his teacher bought for him."  Ouch...that hurt.

And so we waited....

About a week or two later, when I was cutting the grass again, I glanced down at the little tree (twig sticking out of the ground) to find that..what?...was there some new growth on it?!  Do my eyes deceive me?  I stopped the mower to take a closer look, and sure, two, three little buds forcing their way through the remains of the sapling.  A smile came over me and I was glad to tell Matt the news.

Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, the other half of the sapling remain in the cup on the window sill.  I was expecting leaves to start curling up and dropping one by one, but yet, it never happened.  There is was, perched on the sill looking just as it did the day I attacked it with the trimmer....but wait...was that a new bud starting to grow at the tip? couldn't be.

A few days later I noticed that the water in the cup was getting low, so I decided to fill it up a bit, after all, if it wasn't giving up, then I sure wasn't going to either.  As I put the cup under the faucet, I noticed what looked like new roots forming at the base of the sapling.  Upon closer inspection, it was indeed 2 or three new roots emerging from it!  I couldn't believe it!  I mean, I can understand the half outside re-growing as it was still alive with it's young root system in place, but sticking a "twig" in a cup of water?  No way!  But sure enough it was still growing.  Here I thought I had killed Matt's Earth Day tree that he had brought home from school only to find that I have created two new trees.  I was and am ecstatic and couldn't wait to tell Matt the news.

So this story has a happy ending and a lesson learned for me as well.   I can't help but think of Mr. Miyagi from the Karate Kid saying, "tree have strong root".  And this little tree does indeed.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Peas Glorious Peas

It's been far too long since my last post during such a busy growing season!  The lettuce is almost done and we had a better crop than last year.

However for next year I am going to have less arugula and more spinach.  Seeing that I am the only one in the family that likes arugula, devoting 4 squares to it was way too much.  Next year arugula only get's 1 square.

The peas are going crazy.  I will harvest all that I see in one evening, and then come out the next evening to see a whole new crop ready to be picked.  It's like I hadn't even picked any the day before.  And boy they are so sweet and tender.  I think for every 3 pods I pick, I will pop one in my mouth.

Not sure what to make of my raspberry bush.  It was going full force the beginning of spring.  I could almost taste the fresh berries in my mouth.  But now were are in the end of June and they seemed to have just stopped ripening.  I have no idea why this is.  Unless perhaps the bush needs another year to mature as this is only it's first year producing anything.

I harvested my garlic the other day.  And think I might have waited a bit too long to harvest.  It's tough to tell when it's ready as I pulled one out a month ago and it was still on the small side.  Now I pulled out this bunch and they seem on the edge of being "over ready".  I'll have to do some research on the prime time to harvest it.  I think next year I am going to increase my garlic growing so I can give some away to friends.

And finally at the last minute we joined a 2nd CSA called Vollemecke Orchards to get some fresh eggs. 

As much as I want to raise chickens, it just would not be the best thing in our current home.  So co-op eggs will have to do.  While there we picked up fresh ground beef and fresh strawberries and yogurt made from fresh dairy.  The yogurt is unbelievably rich and creamy, like a yummy dessert.  It beats the pants off the store bought yogurts for sure.

Next post will be on the tomatoes and the introduction of a new vegetable to my garden, the asparagus.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

It's still spring, right?

This has been a crazy roller coaster spring so far.  Last weekend it was a in the high 80s and this weekend it's crazy windy in the 50s and going down to the 30s tonight.  I don't know whether to pull out the shorts or the turtlenecks anymore.  I don't know if this spring weather is any indication of how the summer is going to be.  But, I'm being conservative with my planting so far.  At any rate, the lettuce likes the cooler weather so I guess it's just a matter of knowing what plants tolerate what conditions.

Back in the end of March, I prepared my raised beds by mixing in my compost that I had started last season.  I think it needed some more time, but I was eager to get it in the beds and call it my own.

This season, I am not going to be using a tiller in my beds, but rather laying my compost right on top and mixing it in a bit.  I don't want to stir up what ever good stuff mother nature has going on in my raised beds (which are naturally nice and soft as they do not get walked on).  Let the worms do their stuff and the fresh compost I lay down on them work their way into the soil just like in nature.

I waited a few weeks before starting anything directly in the beds.  First to go in was several varieties of lettuce, spinach, arugula and parsley, which I planted in April.  Here they are, as of this weekend.

I'm also quite happy with my raspberry bush that I planted last season and was too new to produce for me last year.  However this year I am expecting some fruit.  Look at all the blooms!

I also have planted parsley which is taking longer than then the lettuce to germinate, I do hope these plants produce for me as I have some hungry rabbits that looove their parsley :)

I planted several different varieties of bean/peas.  Two weeks ago.  I'm wondering if I planted them too soon?

Finally, I started my tomatoes and peppers inside and I am ready to move them out into the "greenhouse" that Mike made for me so they can get a bit more sun.  (see Shed Renovations post for details on that).

I will be planting some other veggies as well, such as cucumbers, but those will have to wait until more consistent warmer weather before I put those seeds go into the ground.

For fruit, I joined North Star Orchards Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and am looking forward to getting local, in-season fruit this summer. 

It should be an exciting growing season with many lessons learned right around the corner.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Earth Day

I realize that it's a bit late to be posting about Earth Day, but I did indeed honor Earth Day by planting a tree.  (See how well protected it is!)

My 7-year-old son brought home a Silky dogwood (Cornus amomum) seedling from school today and so we planted it in our back yard.  It will grow 6-10 ft tall and grows at a fairly fast rate.  It is a hearty tree/bush and will grow in wet or difficult sites, preferring moist, fertile soil and full to partial shade.  Blue fruit is a favorite of birds.

I guess referring to Earth Day as God Day would stir up too much controversy huh? After all, isn't the beauty of the earth a gift from God?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Broad Street Run

Philadelphia PA, Sunday May 2, 2010

Overall Time: 1:46:02
Goal Time: 1:45:00
See my actual numbers here:

My pre-race training was inconsistent and with no real plan. I think I was ready
for the race in that I knew I could do the 10 miles, however, prior to joining a new great online resource and community called Marathon Nation, I didn't go into races with a goal of nothing more than to "finish". The Broad Street Run is a fast, flat point-to-point course down Broad Street in Philadelphia.

My plan was to try and finish the race in 1:45:00 which translates to 10:30/mile pace. Using the marathon pacing chart available on the Marathon Nation site, I adjusting the chart for a 10 mile race which broke my race down into miles 1-2 at 10:45/mile, 3-8 at 10:25/mile and miles 9-10 at 10:30/mile.

So starting my race at an intentional 10:45/mile pace was quite a smart thing as I was tending to want to go faster. Holding back at this pace worked well and I felt quite good for the first two miles. We were corralled based on projected finish times and start times were timed. The gun time was 8:30am but I didn't cross the start line until 8:55am due to the timed start.
It was difficult to stand there for 25+ minutes waiting to run. The weather was unseasonable warm but first two miles in it wasn't too bad and I felt like I had energy to "burn" after the first 2 miles.

My mid race, which I'll call miles 3-8 were inconsistent and at times difficult (especially at mile 7) for a couple reasons. I found myself again trending faster than I should some miles but then struggling to keep pace other miles. This was a bit discouraging for me as this is a flat course and so I can't blame hills on my inconsistent pacing. I suppose my inconsistency is due to my newness to being aware of the concept of pacing in general?

Despite the heat, the race was very well supplied with extra water stations but the saving grace was the open fire hydrants every 1/2 mile or so. Running through that cool spray of water definitely kept me going for the 10 miles.

Miles 9-10 were the most exciting. The spectators along the course were getting larger and more live music was playing. I was able to stay on pace for mile 9, but couldn't help to speed up the last mile and paced my last mile at 10:12. I figured though that this was OK as I was approaching the finish and it felt good to finish strong. I felt badly for three individuals that I saw 1/2 mile away from the finish line. They were down on the course and being treated by paramedics. The heat today was nothing to take lightly.
The finish was a bit bottlenecked and they fed us through a tented area to pick up a "Philly" pretzel ...blech (an ultra-refined hunk of salty dough is the LAST think I wanted after 10 miles) and our food bag. The banana and orange were a welcome site though.

Biggest challenge:
For me, my biggest challenge was to stay consistent in my pacing and also I'm questioning if my planned race time of 1:45:00 was a realistic time for me? Sometimes I found myself going too fast, while other times I'd glance down at my watch and see that I was way off pace running too slow. I think that since I'm so new to really being in tune with deliberate style and pacing that over time, I will get more consistent with practice.

Post Race:
I feel optimistic after today's race in that with a more focused weekly training plans I expect a significant improvement in my race times and overall strength as I work towards my main goal of completing the Philadelphia Marathon this November in 4:30:00

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Shed Renovations

In the fall of last year, we had planned on doing some modifications to our shed and make it more of a "greenhouse" so I can start my seeds in it. Well, we never did get around to it in the fall, but we were able to add on to it over two weekends this spring. Here are some pictures of the project.

This is the shed before we started. It's an 8'x8' shed. However, the base footprint we had initially made was larger than the shed as we used to have a plant shelf there for bonsai. The shelf has since rotted and fallen apart so we had a nice place to add on. (an additional 2 -1/2 feet)

Getting ready to knock out the wall. Plan is to remove this window wall and move it out a couple feet and add more windows and a plexi glass roof for letting the sun in.

Base floor in and framed out the sides and the roof.

All together, 2 new windows and moved the original window to the side. Clear roofing.

Inside, with a nice work area for potting and starting seeds.
(See the tomatoes and peppers started?)
All ready for this growing season.