AppleJade Returns in June

Cherry Tomatoes, Summer 2007, © Copyright 2008 Jade Leone Blackwater

I am returning to Seattle this May, and AppleJade will be on vacation until June 1, 2008 while I pack and travel.

Once I am settled in Seattle you will be able to join me here at AppleJade as I create a new vegetable garden from seed to table.  Until then, have a wonderful, productive season, and feel free to stop by and consider goal-setting, attitude adjustments, and easy ways to simplify your life.

See you in June!


Simplify Your Life: Clean Your Home and Lose the Clutter

Spring Clean and Clear, © Copyright 2008 Jade Leone BlackwaterHappy Spring, Northern Hemisphere (and Happy Autumn to the Southern Hemisphere)!  If the season has you looking for new, creative ways to make positive changes in your life and attitude, try a new approach: simplify.  Simplifying your life in small ways can have an enormous impact on your health and happiness.  Today I’d like to talk about how to simplify your life by reducing your wealth of material “stuff.”

Spring cleaning should not be limited to the dusty windows and the ceiling cobwebs.  Cleaning our homes can make us feel better by improving the quality of life in our living space.  Cleaning is also a great excuse to get up out of your chair and move around.  (Anyone who tries to say cleaning isn’t exercise has never properly scrubbed their bathroom.)

When you tackle your spring cleaning this year, I encourage you to get rid of some STUFF.  If you’re a pack rat, it’s easy to forget just how awesome it feels to downsize your materials things.  Take a look around your home: where do you see piles of “stuff” collecting?  What shelves, desks, drawers, corners, even rooms seem to be magnets for all things useless?  If you are in need of a lift, get rid of some stuff:

Donate – donate useable goods that you no longer use!  In the US I recommend The Military Order of the Purple Heart Service Foundation.  You can make an appointment and they’ll bring a truck right to your curb.  Visit their website for more details about items they will accept.

Freecycle – useable goods that cannot be donated are still useful!  I’ve been Freecycling happily for three years.  It’s easy to do, and you can truly make someone’s day by sharing an item you no longer need.

Recycle – items which are no longer useable should first be recycled or composted wherever possible.  Seriously: get in your filing cabinets and decide how much of that old paperwork you really need.  (Remember to properly shred ALL items with personal information).

Trash – do not try to donate or Freecycle your trash: if it’s trash, trash it.  If you’ve got a major load, call 1 800 GOT JUNK.  They’ll come out and give you a no-obligation estimate for your load of “stuff”, and haul it away without you so much as glancing at a transfer station.  (Of course, if you grew up enjoying trips to the dump with Dad, you might want to save the fun for yourself.  It’s incredibly good for the soul to heave items into the dump.  If you think I’m joking, you really need to try it out for yourself).

Once your house has reduced, reused, and recycled, it’s time to rethink: take a breath and feel the difference in your home.  Acknowledge the change in your mindset about what you really NEED in your life, and what really brings you happiness.  Apparently, it was not all that stuff!

Now that you have removed the first layer of stuff, you will be able to see the next layer of things-you-don’t-need cluttering up your living space.  Give yourself a week to bask in the awesomeness of your newly-cleared home, and then if you’re feeling brave: repeat.

Spring Clean and Clear, © Copyright 2008 Jade Leone Blackwater

Fruit Blogging

Summer Apple, © Copyright 2008 Jade Leone Blackwater

The Festival of the Trees is a monthly blog carnival featuring posts about trees and forests.  The upcoming festival #21 is a special-edition festival featuring fruit trees and orchards.

Our hostess Peg at Orchards Forever has invited us to contribute our blog posts:

“I’d like to try and adhere to a theme of fruit trees and orchards… but virtually anything that is even loosely connected to that theme is welcome! Gardening and growing, horticulture, heirloom fruits, food and recipes, environmental and conservation issues, folklore and mythology, travel, what have you!”

If you like to blog about cooking, gardening, health, nutrition, the earth, or your own backyard, then this month you have a great excuse to share your posts about fruits and fruit trees!  Publish your blog posts and then send your links to Peg at amberapple [at] gmail [dot] com, or visit the Festival of the Trees coordinating blog for more details.

Projects and Planning

Sprouting Daffodils, Winter 2008, © Copyright 2008 Jade Leone Blackwater

While I am busy with my writing projects, hop over to see someone who is REALLY busy with garden planning: Jenny at Seeded has an ambitious planting schedule that will make you groan with envy (plus it’s a great source of ideas if you’re trying to decide what you want to plant in your garden this year).  In my gardens, the early spring bulbs are making their debut from the cold winter earth, teasing me with suggestions of gardening days to come.

A Look Ahead at Spring Gardening

Sunflowers, August 2007, © Copyright 2008 Jade Leone Blackwater

The above image shows the southern-most corner of our garden in August 2007.  As you can see our giant sunflowers were in their finest blossoms last August, attended daily by bees and birds from sunup to sundown. 

The equinox is still six weeks away, and those months will be cold for many of us in the Northern Hemisphere.  Don’t let the lingering cold months fool you: now is the time to begin planning your spring, summer, and autumn plantings, and to begin seedlings for tomatoes and peppers indoors.  (If the soil is soft enough, this can also be a great time to prep soil with compost or wood ash, and pull out stubborn root balls.)

Sleeping Garden, January 2008, © Copyright 2008 Jade Leone Blackwater 

My garden in Chester County, Pennsylvania will soon see enough warmth to begin germinating seeds in the cold frame.  Once that happens, I’ll be sowing carrots, radishes, cilantro (coriander) lettuce, spinach, onions, and a few others.  I like to select vegetables that are easy to grow, and that suit our tastes and cooking habits.

Arugula, January 2008, © Copyright 2008 Jade Leone Blackwater 

Fortunately we have a major arugula patch thanks to its wonderful proliferative qualities, so I won’t need to grow any in the cold frame.  The arugula and sorrel have been happy to overwinter in the main garden.  As you can see in these pictures, the cold freezes and snows wilt and kill the outer leaves, while the center of the plant remains vibrant and alive.  As soon as things warm up the plants will grow a fresh set of small leaves, and voilà – fresh salad!

Garden Sorrel, January 2008, © Copyright 2008 Jade Leone Blackwater

With any extra room in my cold frame, I may see how early I can get jalapeños to start from seed.  I’ve been told that the cold spring months are the perfect time to grow a “salsa garden.”  I promise delicious salsa images and ideas here at AppleJade this summer.

If you want to get started with a cold frame this season, but don’t have the time or means to build one, here are a few places to get you started:

Seeds of Change is a great place to find organic and heirloom seed varieties.  They also offer gardening supplies, including their Collapsible Coldframe and Deluxe Coldframe.

Planet Natural also offers a variety of heirloom seeds, and many natural gardening supplies and pest controls.  They offer Single Cold Frame and Double Cold Frame kits.   

To learn more about using (and building) cold frames I recommend you explore the book Four Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman.  Once I get started with planting my cold frame, I’ll be sharing step-by-step pictures at AppleJade with ideas for your own gardens.  Have a question, idea, or suggestion?  Leave me a comment, or contact me!

Healthy Holidays

If you worry about “holiday pounds” and looming “New Year’s Resolutions” to lose weight, you are not alone.  For many, the celebratory feasts of the winter season aren’t just about breaking bread, they’re about breaking diets with blissful indulgence.

Rather than set yourself up to disappoint and regret, why not try a different approach this year?  Winter feasts are celebrations – celebrations of harvests, of friendships, of community.  Essentially, the winter feasts are an affirmation of life when most life is in deep hibernation.

Feasts can also be an affirmation of health.  Here are a few ways that you can approach your holiday season with a healthy, happy attitude, and wrap a little nutrition in too!

Homemade Health

Whether you’re a master chef or a kitchen novice, you can always make simple, easy meals in your own home.  Connecting with your food can be an important part of developing your personal health and wellness.  Food nourishes our bodies – and its preparation nourishes our souls.

This season, make a little time to try a new recipe, or make something from scratch that you might normally purchase pre-made.  Got kids?  Forget about picture-perfect presentation, and bring those kids into the kitchen.  Cooking with your kids gives you a perfect chance to teach them about nutrition, help them build confidence, and give them a sense of ownership and participation in the family.

(Need some recipes?  Write me or a leave a comment, and I’ll post some delicious ideas!  OR: check out my “Homemade Pumpkin Pie from Scratch” post.)

Healthy Attitudes

We all know that holidays can be stressful, whether you like them or not.  At this season of giving, remember to set aside a little time, space, and/or money to give a little something to yourself!  If you’re feeling stressed or tired, stop what you’re doing for fifteen minutes, and give this a try:

Put on some warm clothes (if you’re living where it’s cold in winter).  Go outside, and find a quiet tree in your yard, or a local park or garden.  Park yourself under the tree, and watch the sky.  As those worries and frustrations bubble around in your head, think them through, and then watch them waft away with the clouds and the breeze.

I can’t guarantee that your problems will go away, that you’ll suddenly feel on top of the world, or that you’ll forget all the reasons you’re so hard on yourself.  What I can promise is that if you take a minute to do this, you’ll open a tiny little window in your brain… and if you listen carefully, you may hear the answer to any number of tough questions whispering through.

(Need some more ideas to help broaden your perspective?  Write me or leave a comment, and I’ll discuss other approaches to healthy attitudes.  Also, check out my post on Goal Setting.)

Adventurous Health

If that little taste of personal freedom gets you salivating, try taking it one step further.  Get away from your TV, your bills, and your normal routine.  Visit a local park, zoo, museum, or garden.  Try a new winter project!

You don’t need a fancy vacation to take you out of your element.  Many cities, counties, states, and provinces have websites these days which provide all kinds of ideas for things to do and see right in your area.  If you try to remember that “Healthy Attitude,” and keep that little window open, you may be surprised by what you find when you just take a look around your own neighborhood.

(Need some more ideas?  Write me or leave a comment, and I’ll post some fun suggestions.  Ever made a wreath before?  I’m going to show you how here at AppleJade).

Healthy Holidays is a huge topic, and these are just a handful of ideas.  If you want to hear more, let me hear from you!  What are your biggest challenges at the holidays?  What solutions have you found to help you navigate a happy, healthy path at such a busy time of year?

Until next time, good health to you!

New moon goal setting for the coming new year

Moon December 2007, © Copyright 2007 Jade Leone BlackwaterIt’s the time of year when many of us who celebrate the New Year on January 1st begin to set goals and resolutions.  Effective goal setting can be a powerful tool for positive change – be it for your health, your job, your attitude, even your garden.

Goal setting need not be restricted to every New Year’s Eve.  In fact, there’s no reason to insist that you set any goals for yourself this New Year’s.  I revise my goals throughout the year: on my birthday, at a season change, at a full or new moon, or when it just “feels like the right time to reassess my path.”

Last year at Brainripples I outlined a few simple steps for setting goals.  This Sunday December 9, 2007 brought us the New Moon.  Many of us find it easier to set new goals when the moon begins to wax.  Timely and relevant as always, Bloglily also discusses goal setting and organization in her post from last week, Yes Virginia, There is Such a Thing as Being Too Organized.

Below is a recap of the goal setting strategy I originally shared at Brainripples in my post Goal Setting with the Capricorn Full Moon.  (This method for setting goals is derived from what I learned from Carleton H. Sheets in his video “How to Buy Your First Home or Investment Property with No Down Payment.” )

A Quick, Effective Goal-Setting Technique:

1) Select your goals

– Make it easy: pick one area where you want to set goals, and scribble out a list of words, ideas, or tangible “wants” and “needs” until you can’t think of any more to write.

2) Record your goals

– Make it obvious: create a clean, easy-to-read copy of your goals.  If you’re artistic, take the time to embellish, and make it something eye-catching.  If you’re more of the minimalist-type, print it out on a clean sheet of paper in a comfortable font.

3) Display your goals

 – Make it accessible: hang your goal sheet by your bedside, in your office, or in your bathroom – wherever it is convenient and appropriate for you.  If you value your privacy, keep your goals in a personal drawer or file. 

4) Review your goals

– Make it consistent: with a set of goals in an easy-to-read, easy-to-find location, you will have to work hard to ignore them.  Read your goals each day.  If you’re frustrated or feeling stuck, just pick one thing on your list, and make it your focus for the day.

Using this goal setting method (and adjusting it to suit your needs and tastes) will help you become actively involved in making changes in your life.  Make your list reflect those things you most want to achieve, and then allow yourself the time and space to make them happen.

Moon December 2007, © Copyright 2007 Jade Leone BlackwaterComing up at AppleJade, we’ll discuss how to successfully apply this strategy to health and wellness goals in the future.  Until then, be sure to take a look at the original post at Brainripples, which offers more ideas and details for making this strategy work for you.