Bring It On

early fall leaves and pond“To everything there is a season… turn, turn, turn. And a time for every purpose under Heaven.” I don’t know if it made the Top 10 on the Boomers’ Favorites Playlist, but I love this song, especially the Byrds’ version. And this fall, I’m taking the song’s advice seriously. I’m exploring new things and planning some fun adventure.

Let’s start with exploring. Come fall and I get the urge to travel. Up and down country roads: along the river road, out to the barn, or up to Chicago. I like to see things as they change. The leaves, of course, are their own source of wonderment. But it’s also the land and the skies. The brown earth is looking well groomed now, like she just got a haircut and cooler breezes push wisps of clouds across the crisp blue skies. I anticipate having lunch on a bluff overlooking the confluence of the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers and a night time trip out to the barn, hot cocoa in hand, to watch the full moon. Both great ways to celebrate Birthday #63.

Trying new things. I’ve just joined three new groups: a writing group and two singing groups. The writing group has me a little concerned. Writing isn’t the problem so much as figuring out how to deal with the scope of the project. You see my general plan is to write the great American novel. Right? What has me bamboozled are these elements that must come together to create this novel: character development and plot lines, for example, and a theme of some sort would probably be a good idea too. I’m already hedging my bets by writing a companion blog about my writing experience. Seems to me that this backup approach would help my wounded ego if the master plan falls flat on its face.

folk singalong groupAnd, yes, the singing groups! When we were in the mountains of North Carolina, we discovered the world of Shape Note singing. The general idea is that you follow these sheets of shaped notes to run through a song and then sing the words. Full blast! Singing LOUDLY so that the combined voices bounce off the ceiling and wooden floor. It’s an incredible sound! I can hardly wait for the folk singing class that I also signed us up for.

I’ve always loved the stories that folk songs tell.

Now for the biggie: new directions. I quit my job last week. This makes me both happy and nervous. Happy because I really didn’t like the job. In fact, I actively disliked it. Suffice it to say that both the nagging boss and the computer-oriented job were both total mismatches with my personality and my strengths. Ever have a job like that? It’s a lousy position to be in. So, freedom acquired, I’m now dealing with the nervous part. How do I fill my day? How can I be productive? How can I contribute? How can I grow? And that nagging question: how do I use all this new-found time without spending money?

To a large extent, I’m going back to my old roots. Back to my old interest in teaching but without the obligations of teaching. Back to the conversational walks with my snail-paced walking group. Back to working in a local non-profit where I can partner with a friend as we help coordinate volunteer activities. Back to my Mother Nature personality as I muck out a stall or two at the barn (let’s not get too carried away…this is hard work).

So off I go on a cool fall morning, turning this way and that. Playing with the yellow leaves as they fall. Enjoying the sheer pleasure of the season. Somehow, I think that this fall will really be something to remember.

smf-jane2Jane Baker is the Co-Owner of Saving Memories Forever. She likes to write, garden, explore, read, meet with friends, and pat her cats. Not known for big spending, she and her husband, Harvey, like to take advantage of the free activities around St. Louis.  

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iTips and iTricks #2

iphone and iPad Today I thought I would spend some time on doing things faster. So today’s tips are about using the screen and keyboard on the iPhone and iPad

Automatic Typing: Did you know that any time you have the keyboard up you always have the option of pressing the microphone key and translating whatever you say into text? This is very useful if you are on the go. You can even translate short audio clips from another recording. Just tap the microphone button and play the recording into the iPhone microphone.

Quick Write: There’s also a neat way to “quick write” those pesky extensions like .com or .net or .org when you are surfing the Internet. In order to do this, type the web address and hold in the period for a second and several popular extensions come up. Slide your finger to the one you want and it is entered. Now if you are like me, you may not hold the period button in long enough. Then you get a period at the end of the address with no extension. Don’t despair: Just press the period button again and hold it in. Select the extension you want and the period you typed will be replaced by the period and the extension.

Keyboard Tips: Finding the shortcut above inspired me to look for other keys that provided a menu when you held them longer. To no one’s surprise, in the alpha keyboard, holding down the vowels and some consonants gives you letters with accents used in other languages. On the 123 keyboard you can get all manners of dashes by holding down the hyphen key and holding down the quotes key gives you quotes in different directions than the standard ones on the keyboard. On the symbol keyboard holding the exclamation point gives you an upside down explanation point that looks like a candle. And holding the question mark longer gives you an upside down question mark.

Jump to the top: Since we are working on the screen, here’s an interesting thing that happens when you tap the very top of the screen. It normally goes to the top of the page you are on. So if you are doing a search using Google and you want to get to the top of the page, tap the very top of the screen and you will be there. Scrolling through your mail? Tap the top of the screen to get to the top of your e-mail. Most applications respond this way and it saves a lot of scrolling time if you are way down on a page.

That’s it for now. If you come across a tip or trick others might find useful, please send it to me and I will add it to the iTips and iTricks Blog. If you want to refer to the tips I mentioned in my first blog, click here.

IMG_1527-001About the Author:   Harvey Baker is the President of Saving Memories Forever. He learns about technology by making mistakes and researching how to correct them.  He is addicted to his iPhone. Maybe you are too.

Love That Dirt

55_why_gardenHere’s a surprising factoid: a whopping 75% of American households garden. Say what? Why would so many people endure the discomfort of heat and the likelihood of itchy bug bites?

Depending upon how you look at it, the answer to the question, “Why garden?” is both elusive and complex. Ask any gardener why they garden and you’ll get a variety of reasons.

I’ll start with myself.  I garden mostly because I like the creativity it offers and the huge feeling of success when I actually eat something from it.  I also garden because the garden is pretty and because it gets me outdoors.  I need that connection with nature. In addition, I garden because it ties in with my husband’s cooking talent. Plus, gardening gives us a fun new joint project: composting.

Why do you garden?

Here’s a list of possible reasons from the National Garden Bureau. I bet you’ll see that your interest in gardening is rooted (pun intended) in several core reasons.  For the complete article by Janis Kief, click here.

Six Reasons

1. Garden for safe, healthy food. Reports of food-borne contamination appear regularly in the press. With your own garden, you know what you’ve treated.  Or maybe you skipped pesticides entirely. Beyond that, you know veges are healthy. As the vegetables ripen, (and they all seem to be ready to harvest about the same time), the more immediate question becomes: how do you cook all of them?  We recommend the website AllRecipes.com. Just type in the vegetable that you want to use (example: basil) and a bunch of recipes will pop up. Very handy.

2. Garden for exercise. Give me a garden over a gym routine any day of the week. Get a good workout even thinking about it. An hour of gardening involves stretching, bending, and weightlifting.  On top of this, you’ll see the immediate results (no weeds!) in your garden.

3. Garden to add beauty and to be creative. Yes! This doesn’t have to be elaborate:  it can be as simple as adding a container of colorful flowers near the front door.  Think of your garden area as another room to be enjoyed.  A garden’s design also reflects a personal creativity and sense of style. And there are so many styles to choose from ranging from the romantic cottage garden, the peace of a Japanese garden, or the rather random approach (like mine) where I plan with color, height, prime blooming time, and plant “companions” in mind.

4. Garden for emotional needs and spiritual connection. To me, gardens serve as a tranquil retreat from everyday life.  The beauty of flowers lifts my spirit.  Not to mention that pulling weeds can be a great release from stress! The sight of colorful flowers or a passing Monarch butterfly delights me. On a higher level, gardening provides a spiritual connection to life. It’s a miracle to take a tiny seed, plant and nurture it, and watch it grow into a beautiful flower or delicious food.

5. Garden to learn and to meet people. Gardeners love to talk about their gardens.  They also like to share their knowledge and learn even more.  There’s a variety of ways to increase your gardening know-how such as seminars or Master Gardener programs.  Or (if you’re like me), just look online for YouTube gardening instruction. We found several great YouTube videos about composting that we used to get us started. Click here for one of my favorites. Gardening is also a great excuse to talk with your neighbors. Surplus tomatoes? Bet you can find a neighbor who would love them.  Bug problem? A neighbor might have a good solution.  You can also meet neighbors through community gardens.

6. Garden for lasting memories. Gardening is a fun activity that can be shared with children and grandchildren.  Gardens also provide a beautiful way to remember a special person. My memories of my grandmother are inextricably connected to her beautiful rose garden in her back yard.

Discover your own reasons for being a gardener and share them with someone in your family. Enjoy the satisfying fun that gardening provides. Capture and preserve some of your family’s gardening stories…like our fearless Uncle Sam who battled the squirrels with his antique BB gun.

SMF-Jane2Jane Baker is the Co-Owner of Saving Memories Forever. She likes to write, garden, explore, read, meet with friends, and pat her cats. Not known for big spending, she and her husband, Harvey, like to take advantage of the free activities around St. Louis.  

Gardening Lessons from Mother Nature

vegetable-flower-garden-cantaloupe-marigold_226e3768261fe09454889d0d38bc8281I don’t care how many gardening articles you read, gardening is mostly about trying …and learning.  As they say, Mother Nature is a good teacher.

Let’s just say that I’m on a steep learning curve.

This year my greatest challenge was figuring out the dirt situation.

 

We moved into our townhouse in the middle of June so I rather hastily threw a garden together. After the first few shovelfuls of dirt turned up mostly chunks of concrete and heavy clay I decided the best solution would be to go with a raised bed. As an experiment (I actually thought it would work), I planted some veges outside the garden area to give them room and to see how they fared in the poor soil. More on that experiment later.

Building a raised bed called for manpower that I simply don’t have. So I enlisted the help of a friend who built me a 16-foot by 4-foot raised bed and then filled it with garden soil. Compared to the lousy dirt that I’d first discovered, this new garden soil was like manna from Heaven. It turns out, though, that the quality of good garden soil was still lacking. That’s a problem that I’m addressing with my new hobby of composting.

Then there was the matter of planning the garden. This is when I learned about companion plants and dealing with the “enemy”….rabbits. Planting with companion plants in mind was like working on a puzzle. It was fun! The solution for dealing with the rabbits was an amusing one. Maybe you’ve heard of it. Stuff old stockings with dog hair and then lay lots of them around your garden. Now these lumpy gigantic wormlike things don’t exactly look lovely, but they work really well (and eventually they pretty much are covered up with the foliage from the plants.)

So…what did I grow? Eggplant, tomatoes, basil, dill, zucchini, sage, thyme, cucumbers, bell peppers and chives mixed in with petunias, marigolds, zinnias, and some milkweed. Totally successful? No.

photo(4)Lessons Learned

There’s a long list of lessons learned from this year’s effort. Here are just a few things I learned.

• I learned that I need to do a better job of placing my crops. The tomato plants pretty much suffocated the red peppers. On the other hand, I’m not a person who places a high priority on neatly lined rows. I like my more random approach–even if it means fewer vegetables.

 

• Start with good soil…and then build it up. Even good soil needs help. Hence, our venture into composting.

• Only plant inside the garden. The cucumbers and dill that I planted outside the official garden area just wilted in the poor soil. In fact, I’d say they were pathetic.

• I also learned that that I don’t have to grow every type of vegetable that I love: in fact, it would be wiser and cheaper for me to buy peppers at the nearby Soulard Farmers Market. Come Saturday afternoon, there are bargains that you just can’t beat—and you’re getting fresh produce.

• I learned that less is probably more. I need to stick to growing the things that we actually eat in abundance. Basil (which we use to make a delicious pesto sauce) and tomatoes will definitely be part of next year’s crop. Dill and thyme won’t be.

• I learned was how much I enjoy flowers. As the flowers spread out, I noticed that my eyes were always drawn to their colors. I’m now including more flowers in my gardening plans.

Do you have some gardening wisdom to share? I’d love to hear your gardening stories and advice. Please comment!

SMF-Jane2Jane Baker is the Co-Owner of Saving Memories Forever. She likes to write, garden, explore, read, meet with friends, and pat her cats. Not known for big spending, she and her husband, Harvey, like to take advantage of the free activities around St. Louis. She volunteers with several local organizations with her favorite one being STL Village.