“To Do” Lists and a Time to Rest

“To Do” Lists and a Time to Rest

As I contemplate the upcoming challenges in my life for 2015, I search inside of myself for the energy, motivation, optimism and solutions I will need to achieve my numerous goals and tackle my “to do” lists for the year to come.  This is nothing new.  It is a Jan tradition that has been a regular routine every year since I became a homeowner and avid gardener 15 years ago.  I make yearly goal lists divided into categories (health, exercise, social, spiritual, brain, friends, family, job, etc…), and of course I have the garden and home improvement to do list that is at least 3 times longer than the ones for everything else.  My daily lists are essential for survival.  If I didn’t have them I would worry constantly that I’m forgetting something, especially as I get older and my memory doesn’t fully cooperate with me anymore.   My lists are a way for me to feel that my life is under control, and as long as I’m organized then I can relax knowing that it will all get done somehow.  I can’t imagine a day, or a week, or a garden season, or a year without my lists.  They are comforting, and yes, they do help me get more things done.

That being said, I’ve decided this year that all the must do’s, should do’s, have to do’s that I usually include on my long lists of obligatory items will be more limited this year.  The lists will still be as long, and possibly longer, but I’m going to substitute many of the must do’s to “wanna do’s” instead.   On my to do lists this year more activities will be fun, creative, relaxing and life enhancing in ways that are less strenuous, and I will not put so much pressure on myself to do them.  I’ll do them when the spirit moves me, or when my creative urges naturally take over.  Some of these activities will involve writing, painting, beading, photography, and that sort of thing.  I also plan to do more walking, hiking, weekend excursions with friends and family, and just sit around more reading, playing games, going on Art Walks, enjoying playtime with my spiritual community, and relaxing socially.  In other words, I will be engaging more in the kind of activities that one doesn’t get as much time for when one has a huge garden to tend to during a long growing season.   But how will I accomplish these goals?  Seeing as how I am still not retired, and there are only so many free hours in a day and a weekend, something else has to give this year, and what will that something be?  My garden and home improvement activities.  OMG! Did I really just write that? After 15 years of intense gardening, growing, and home improvement projects, am I really going to back away from these activities for 2015?

Yes!

A major change this year in my garden that previously would have been unimaginable to me will be that I am not going to grow any vegetables this year!  I have decided that it is time to let my garden soil rest, and in so doing I too will be able to rest a little more too.  I plan to take a break from the intensity of growing things; the laborious preparations, the constant attending, digging & hauling, cultivating and watering, and then of course, the harvesting. Everything that requires daily attention, enormous amounts of time and intense physical labor will be set aside this year.   My growing areas will be allowed to go fallow, and the only thing that I will be propagating and growing will be a few new flowers and the usual herbs.  Of course I’ll still be spending time in my garden on necessary tasks like weeding, watering and detailing spaces, and maybe I’ll lay another  8 feet of pathway along the rose bed, but no more building projects and no heavy, expensive, time consuming activities that weigh me down and empty my wallet. I will also be postponing the purchase of my first honey bee hives until 2016.  My mason bees will have to do for now.

Why?

So what made me decide to not grow vegetables this year?  When I was down visiting a friend in Gold Beach a while back, we went on a garden tour where the host talked about depleted soil and how to re-mineralize one’s soil to produce more nutrient dense produce.  He recommended reading the book by Steve Solomon called “The Intelligent Gardener: Growing Nutrient-dense Food”.   This book was the most important book I have ever read on gardening and has completely transformed the way I will look at food growing for the rest of my life.   I, like most home gardeners that I know, usually do the least amount required each year to replenish the soil by adding the minimal amount of amendments and nutrients in order to produce an” acceptable” garden crop.  For me, that means adding a little manure, compost, a little fish oil fertilizer here and there, some standard vegetable food sprinkled about, and maybe a few other basic minerals that I think the plants need like the nitrogen, phosphate, potassium all-purpose blends, and maybe sprinkle on a little lime for the tomatoes.  This is work intensive and may produce positive results to a degree, but if you’re like me, you notice that some years, some things just don’t do so well.  I noticed this trend during the last growing season.   I thought it was due to the drought like conditions we had here in Oregon and the long, hot growing season, but now, after reading Solomon’s book, I believe it was mostly due to the lack of nutrients, minerals, and abundant micro-organisms in my soil.

Year after year of growing vegetables without adding enough fertilizers and minerals, and probably improper crop rotation, has taken its toll.  Sure, a few things grew well this last season, but other vegetables failed to thrive, and much of my produce seemed less tasteful than in times past, especially the peppers. It just seems like everything could have grown better, bigger and looked healthier. Some vegetables, like the pole beans, didn’t do well at all, but that was probably also due to the variety I used which I will never use again: Burpee Garden Bean Kentucky Wonder.  It was NOT tender and stringless as stated on the packet, so I will go back to using Ed Hume Blue Lake beans which have always grown prolifically and been yummy and tender.

Organic = Healthy?

Read Steve Solomon’s book and you’ll understand why my soil, your soil, Pacific Northwest soil, big Ag’s soil, and soils around the world are not abundant enough in the minerals they need to produce the healthiest, nutrient dense, disease and pest resistant vegetables and fruits that are optimal for our health.  You will understand better than ever the direct connection between the health of the plants we eat and our own level of personal health.  No wonder a large portion of the human race is so diseased and unhealthy, as are our domesticated animals, when the so called “healthy” foods we’re eating really aren’t as healthy as we believe.

I assumed that just because I was growing organic produce and could eat it fresh from my garden that it was the healthiest produce I could put into my body.  NOT TRUE!  Just because it’s organic doesn’t mean it’s healthy.  If conventionally grown produce is grown in nutrient and mineral dense soil, then it is probably healthier than organic produce grown in depleted or less mineral dense soil, and you will need to read Solomon’s book to understand why.   My plan now is to let my soil rest for 2015, take soil samples this spring, send them to the recommended lab, get back the analysis, and then buy the minerals I need and start adding them to the soil. I plan to do this before summer and then cover everything with straw again. Then I will wait & water, and then go do something else more restful on my list!  This will be good for me and good for my garden.  We both deserve some rest this year, and I believe we will both be healthier and happier for it in the long run!

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