Last autumn, my family visited a pumpkin farm. My son, Graham, couldn’t believe his eyes. Every row had pumpkins of varying sizes, tethered to a seemingly endless twisting vine.
He enjoyed the excursion so much that he, too, wanted to grow pumpkins. Not just for this year’s Halloween, mind you. Turns out my precious son has an entrepreneurial spirit.
Graham wants to sell his pumpkins.
Not to deter his enthusiasm, my husband has committed to helping Graham plant a pumpkin patch. I’m pitching in with the prep.
To get a garden ready for planting, whether it’s pumpkins or other vegetables, I’ve discovered a few valuable tips:
1. Select Location. While some plants like pumpkins prefer sun all day long, others do not. Conversely, not all areas of a yard get full sun. When choosing your garden location, be sure it provides the ideal sunlight to grow your plants.
2. Assemble Equipment. Necessary items include a hoe, rake, soil, hand shovel, watering can and gardening gloves. Clean tools with soap and water. Replace broken or rusted tools and sharpen any dull blades.
3. Prepare Soil. Perhaps the most important step, healthy soil is key to growing a bountiful garden. Remove weeds and leaves, break up clumps of soil and amend with new nutrient-rich soil and fertilizer high in nitrogen. Aerate then rake until surface is level.
4. Plan to Maintain. To keep soil healthy, mix in manure and compost whenever possible. Fertilizing every two to three weeks is also important (liquid variations can be added to water). Also, be sure to check the pH level with a soil tester readily available at gardening stores. The ideal level for pumpkins, for example, is 5.5 to 7.5. Water soil once a week, avoiding vines and leaves.
Adding coffee grounds is a great way to keep insects and other critters out of your garden. Simply mix in your soil before planting.
As we begin to thaw out and look forward to spring, an annual ritual looms: spring cleaning.
In our home it’s a family affair. My husband focuses on outdoors while I get my hands dirty inside. It’s actually therapeutic in a way as we rid ourselves of the old and make room for what this new year brings.
My spring cleaning starts in the mudroom. With the snow and rain behind us, I wash and put away winter coats, snow pants, boots, hats and mittens.
My young son often outgrows his clothing by the end of the season. So I compile a “giveaway” bag of clothes and boots we can pass on to other local families.
Then I get scrubbing. I clean the mudroom from top to bottom. It’s surprising how dirty it gets during those winter months. To accompany the newly cleaned room, I invite in fresh air by opening all of the windows in the house (just in short spurts if it’s still cold outside).
Next I head to our bedroom. I wash and put away our heavy down duvet and replace it with lighter bedding.
To finish up, I remove window plastic (for those on the West Coast, that’s insulation film) and clean, dust and vacuum all of the rooms in the house.
While I focus on the inside, my husband cleans, washes and fertilizes outside.
In anticipation of this season of renewal, he cleans the lawn mower and adds fresh gas and oil. He sharpens the blades and makes sure other lawn tools are also sharp and clean.
He rakes the grass and planters to get rid of debris and fertilizes bushes and shrubs. After a dormant winter, he gets out the hoses and turns on water faucets. He assesses outside projects to be done—painting the trim, touching up clapboards, replacing broken sprinkler heads.
Then he heads to the store. He buys fertilizer and fresh soil, gardening items and any supplies he’ll need for projects.
Since my son loves to ride his bike, my husband tunes it, wipes it down and replaces parts as needed.
As I clean the inside windows, my husband and his squeegee work their magic outside.
Imagine a society where “all men are created equal” and women take a back seat. They make less than men, if they can even hold a similar job. They have no right to vote. Stewardesses are fired by the age of 32, and women are banned from the New York Stock Exchange floor.
This was once life for women in our country.
But women persevered. We fought hard and today continue to make strides in improving our country. There are countless stories and none more important than those who have shifted the way we think about sustainability.
Following are a few trailblazers we can all thank for creating a better world.
Rachel Carson and Bob Hines conducting research off the Atlantic coast in 1952
Marine biologist and author Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” was criticized by the government but ultimately inspired an environmental movement.
Published in 1962, “Silent Spring” spotlights the detrimental effects of pesticides. Carlson called out the chemical industry and public officials for releasing false information, which led to a ban on DDT in agriculture and eventually the formation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Carson was a steadfast supporter of environmental issues and continued her pursuit of raising awareness until her death in 1964.
With a motto like “Green the Ghetto,” no doubt Majora Carter is clear on her purpose.
Carter is a leader in local economic development who got her start at home in the South Bronx. She is the force behind the neighborhood’s first open waterfront park in six decades. She also secured $1.25 million in federal money to create a greenway in the same area through the Sustainable South Bronx group she founded in 2001 that continues to combat economic issues in the area.
Today, Carter runs a private consulting firm focused on urban revitalization.
Alice Waters is the chef, activist and author behind Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Calif., one of the first restaurants in the country to offer organic, locally grown food.
But her contribution to the farm-to-table movement reaches far beyond her kitchen.
Waters introduced healthy food choices to schoolchildren in 1996 when she founded The Edible Schoolyard Project that also trains educators worldwide to create sustainable food programs. She lobbied the White House to plant an organic vegetable garden for many years. In 2009, former First Lady Michelle Obama agreed.
Before he left office, President Barack Obama awarded Waters the National Humanities Medal for her work promoting “a holistic approach to eating and health…integrating gardening, cooking, and education, sparking inspiration in a new generation.”
At the turn of the last century, neighbors in rural Mississippi kept a tidy home inside and out. Grandma Baker and her family were no exception.
As my mom’s mother has recounted, they washed their laundry on the back porch. Each piece was individually cleaned using a washboard then rinsed in a tub of clean water. This was rough work, especially when they accidentally rubbed their knuckles on the board.
Whites were boiled in an iron pot in the backyard and laundry was hung on a clothesline to dry.
While they washed on Monday and ironed on Tuesday most weeks, winters could be challenging. Clothes would freeze stiff on the clothesline so laundry was brought indoors and stood in a corner until thawed. If weather conditions were especially severe, they’d string the clothesline across the kitchen and hang laundry there.
Dresses and shirts were starched with a mixture of flour and water poured into boiling water. Next was ironing—sheets, underwear, dresser scarves and socks included. Most items were cotton, so that meant a lot of ironing.
At the time they had “sad irons” they heated on the stove. These worked well during cold winters but in summer they made the house too hot. Grandma Baker would sometimes use a bucket of charcoal outside to heat the iron and often did the ironing out there, too.
There was an unspoken competition among the neighborhood women to see who could finish their laundry and hang it on their clothesline before noon.
Knowing Grandma Baker, she was a regular winner.
• • •
My mom moved from Arkansas to Michigan when she was about a year old. Her mom had started doing things a bit differently by then.
They owned a wringer washer, an early tub-style washing machine. Clothes were still cleaned by hand with a washboard; the wringer squeezed out any excess water. It wasn’t until years later that they had an automatic washer and even later before a dryer arrived.
Grandma Baker taught her and my aunt to do laundry, which included properly sorting and cleaning clothes. Dirty clothes were never acceptable, even socks.
Even if it took a second rub on the washboard, that’s just what they did. There was no way neighbors would witness grayish clothes on the clothesline; only white was acceptable.
The day after wash day was ironing day. They had graduated from Grandma Baker’s early days to an electric iron and spray starch in a can. The iron didn’t have a steam option so they used a spray bottle. And just like when my grandmother was growing up, my mom ironed every item. Jeans, shirts, dresses, sheets—every piece.
• • •
In true Baker fashion, my two sisters and I learned to do laundry early on. In fact, I was in the first grade.
With my mom working on our farm the chore became ours. One day she called us together and showed us how to sort, measure detergent and properly fill the washing machine. No partial loads allowed.
My mom was meticulous with the laundry. She showed us how to fold, hang up laundry and put things away, leaving a pile for ironing. By this time, about the late 1970s, permanent press was the rage so little ironing was needed as long as we removed items from the dryer right away.
My sister would tease our mom because she herself would iron the most ridiculous things—pillowcases, sheets, T-shirts, pajamas.
For me laundry has always been using a washer and dryer. In college, after many trips to the Laundromat, I couldn’t wait to have my own set at home. Between my husband’s work clothes, workout clothes and having a 7-year-old boy, I do at least one load a day. I prefer spreading out the chore during the week rather than waiting until the weekend to do several loads.
This household practice has definitely changed since Grandma Baker’s early days. It is easier with today’s advanced machines and laundry products (LooHoo Wool Dryer Balls included!). But one thing remains: The art of doing laundry leads to a sense of accomplishment that has transcended generations.
I think Grandma Baker would be proud.
As an entrepreneur, I appreciate businesses both large and small. I especially admire those that have a great product and also support creating a better world.
I enjoy hearing the stories behind the brand; the lives that have been touched and the unwavering integrity of the makers. While not everything I buy has a great story to tell, it sure helps me purchase with a purpose.
Following are companies I admire that offer quality, hope and inspiration.
This Ventura, California, company has been making reputable outdoor gear and clothing since the 1970s. As the brand has grown, so has the company’s commitment to fair working conditions and protecting the environment. Patagonia donates a cut of revenues to various environmental groups and more recently launched a recycling program that repairs and repurposes its clothing.
Patagonia management is also fiercely loyal to its employees. One longtime customer service manager, struggling through cancer treatments for more than two years, retained his medical insurance while unable to work until he lost his battle. It was a just reward for a man who had committed two decades to the company.
Glassybaby is “devoted to giving hope, beauty, kindness, and millions of dollars to help people, animals, and our planet heal.”
How can you not support this mission?
Their vibrant hand-blown glass votive holders and short drinking glasses easily fit in the palm of your hand. They are great for gift giving, especially when you share the message behind the brand.
Owner Lee Rhodes is the three-time cancer survivor behind the Washington-based company. Rhodes found comfort in lighting candles and wanted to help others afflicted with cancer heal. That was nearly 20 years ago.
Today, Glassybaby has two thriving storefronts—San Francisco and Seattle. She employs local artists who hand craft these works of arts and donates 10 percent of her profits to cancer-related causes. To date, that equates to more than $1 million.
If you saw their jewelry, you’d be blown away by their story.
Here how it goes: Stephanie Pollaro traded in the beaches of Southern California for a cause in India. She had heard about women and girls forced into prostitution after they were kidnapped and sold. She was resolved to make a difference.
She started working in shelters, teaching survivors a sustainable trade: jewelry making. That was 10 years ago and Pollaro hasn’t left Mumbai since.
Today, International Sanctuary provides jobs to survivors in India and Orange County, California. They create pieces through its wire and beaded jewelry line, Purpose Jewelry. Survivors share in the profits and, more importantly, they learn self-sustaining tools and gain a confidence long lost.
Their goal is to create 10 more “sanctuaries” around the world in the next three years.
Almost daily, I find myself intervening my son’s wardrobe decisions. He tries to wear shorts as much as possible even when it’s 25 degrees outside. At age 7, he’s a West Coast boy at heart living an East Coast life.
The morning is a whirlwind of negotiating breakfast choices. Most times we settle on our go-to favorite: oatmeal and a green smoothie. We review after-school activities and quickly brush teeth before Graham heads out the door—hopefully on time.
After the school bus leaves and my husband kisses me goodbye, I take a deep breath.
A new day has begun.
I saunter into the kitchen, wash the last of the breakfast dishes and finish my coffee. I plug in the diffuser and enjoy the slow release of a natural scent. Lately it’s been Northern Lights Black Spruce. I find it creates an incredibly calming atmosphere.
Before I delve into starting my work day I take a moment to sit and soak in my very quiet house. I meditate 10 to 15 minutes then spend some time writing in my journal. On paper I explore challenges I may be facing and the future I hope to create. I reflect on life’s gifts when I’m not feeling particularly thankful. I write about a loss weighing me down. I make lists.
From there I flit from one room to the next, checking off the day’s duties. Inevitably I end up putting a load of laundry in.
Truth be told, I enjoy the solitary confinement of the laundry room; the feeling of great accomplishment seeing piles of soiled clothing reborn and put away; the satisfaction I get from cleaning and the fresh scents that abound.
I have come to embrace my morning rituals. They help give me perspective. I choose to embrace the day rather than let it envelop me. I aim to keep everything in its place and take a natural approach whenever I can. It allows me to feel good about myself, my family and the environment.
This perspective helps me conquer the day, every day.
Natural and homemade can also be simple.
Many of us are attracted to the idea of making our own skincare products, but where do you start? Like any good researcher, online. You’d be surprised at the number of ideas out there.
The best way to chose a recipe is to consider the source. Be sure you know who tried it—if someone puts their name on the recipe, they’re also risking their reputation. If one doesn’t work, try, try again. Don’t give up; what works for one person may not for another for whatever reason.
Online resource Wellness Mama, for instance, does her due diligence. Katie tries every recipe herself and offers organic alternatives on the market.
The Nerdy Farm Wife not only posts recipes, but also an extensive list of things to know before making herbal shampoo. How many times have we tried a recipe and were left scratching our head, wondering why it didn’t work out? This list aims to prevent that, which is incredibly helpful.
When in doubt, ask Martha. She’s published thousands of recipes and has shown us how to make them on her TV show. Martha Stewart is the guru of the handmade and has a recipe for just about everything.
There’s shampoo just for dark hair, light hair. Shampoo for dry hair, oily hair. Shampoo for thinning hair, to grow your hair. You can find a shampoo to fit any need. Luckily, there are oodles of recipes to make your own.
Many handmade shampoos call for dried herbs. Rosemary and sage are a good choice for dark hair, while calendula and chamomile work best for blonde and red hair. Lavender and nettle can be used for any hair type.
For fragrance, try essential oils. Lavender is a good choice for normal to dry hair, lemon for dry hair and rosemary for oily hair.
Exfoliating removes dry skin and keeps the blood circulating. Skin looks refreshed and clear and feels smoother. Pores are smaller and age spots become lighter.
By incorporating nutrient-rich ingredients such as grapefruit, grapeseed oil and bananas, you can actually reduce wrinkles and tighten skin, according to some DIY sources.
Skincare experts recommend exfoliating both the face and body two to four times a week with a product that best fits your skin type. Just remember to moisturize after so your skin doesn’t dry out.
Here’s an idea you can share with your spouse. Most recipes call for shea butter or coconut oil, which leave skin super soft long after the shave. Homemade doesn’t lather up as much as store bought, but then again, it also doesn’t contain the chemicals.
Simply add essential oils to customize the scent.
Foaming Hand Soap.
Antibacterial ingredients kill germs. In September, the FDA banned triclosan along with 18 other anti-bacterial chemicals from soaps, saying manufacturers had failed to show they were safe or more effective at killing germs than plain soap and water, according to The Associated Press.
So why take a chance? Make your own.
FOAMING HAND SOAP RECIPE
What You’ll Need:
Empty foaming soap container
2 Tbs. unscented castile soap
1-2 tsp. fractionated coconut oil
10-15 drops essential oil
What You’ll Do:
1. Pour castile soap and coconut oil into bottle.
2. Add essential oil. Shake to thoroughly mix.
3. Fill rest of container with water, leaving room for the foaming pump.
4. Screw on the pump top and shake gently.
Packages have been opened. Holiday confections have been eaten, every last one. Guests have said their goodbyes.
We’ve enjoyed another wonderful holiday with family and friends. Again, we welcomed a new year full of promise and prosperity.
But this year is different. I’ve made my first New Year’s resolution—ever.
I am a firm believer in bettering myself and nurturing a positive outlook. So I’ve committed to incorporating three small things into my life on a weekly basis that will make a big difference.
Family is my priority. But to care for them I need to keep myself healthy. I love to work out and when I do I usually lift weights (oftentimes heavy ones). I also enjoy crazy cardio classes (or run) and sweat, a lot. But I know the importance of yoga. It helps me take my exercise routine to a meditative level. Yoga benefits not only the body, but also the mind. It’s a symbiotic relationship. I have found that an hour of yoga on a regular basis helps me slow down, relax and focus in—and outside—of the studio.
Minimize my impact.
I want to leave fewer footprints in this world. To do this, I’m now using reusable coffee filters. I’ll soon start composting and have committed to making my own oraganic cleaning products. I will reuse and recycle like I’ve never done before. Every week I am challenging myself to discover new ways to help me keep this resolution. I invite you to share my progress in weekly blog posts beginning this month. Who knows… you may want to join me.
Live outside my comfort zone.
This year I plan to say yes more. Yes to more opportunities, yes to more experiences. I know that great things lie outside of my bubble and when I take a chance, it oftentimes pays off in life-changing ways.
Last year I took the leap and became a certified fitness instructor. I am already reaping the benefits of feeling better and helping others do the same.
Those who know me know I am an introvert. I probably would have been just fine taking fitness classes forever. So when an instructor approached me about training classes, I hesitated. Then I said yes.
Now that I teach regularly, I love it. Fear surfaces occasionally and I still get nervous, but I love helping others become stronger and healthier. This gratification supersedes my self-consciousness. I am so glad I stepped out of my comfort zone and into a new life experience.
This year I vow to take more of these steps.
LooHoo readers recently reflected on some pretty great things they experienced in 2016.
While some took a trip of a lifetime, others bought their first home. The majority of highlights, however, centered on family. Both Laura Hathaway and Brittany Kruchan gave birth to baby No. 4. Sheryl Edwards watched her son get married. And Julie Meps says her greatest joy was “seeing my little girl so happy at school.”
Dorothea Collington says she is blessed to be alive. “So many aren't here to be thankful or to show, share and be with their loved ones,” she says.
Blessings are all around. What better reminder than sharing a few with our LooHoo family?
Gift of Children
“Greatest joy in 2016: my two boys will always be my greatest joys in life.”
“The announcement that I will be a first-time grandma!”
Gift of True Love
“My husband, we grew so much closer in 2016. He's also my best friend.”
—Candace Candy Lynn
“Meeting an amazing man to share my life with about six months ago. I've waited 35 years for him.”
Gift of Home
“Paying off our 20-year-term mortgage on our seventh year just in time for our 10th wedding anniversary.”
“Closing on a beautiful new house and finding out we were having baby No. 4—a girl!”
“Buying a house four days before Christmas.”
Gift of Animals
“My greatest joy in 2016 was finding my beloved cat who went missing in the wilderness at the Oregon Vortex in Southern Oregon for 43 days. We made a five-hour drive on a bi-weekly basis to find her and on the last day we found her. To say we were and are beyond thrilled to have her back is an understatement.”
“My beautiful, wonderful service dog.”
Gift of School/Work
“A promotion at work.”
“Getting into nursing school. Starting this spring.”
“My greatest joy has been seeing my fiancé finally graduate in nuclear engineering after working so hard through six years of college. I am so proud of him and his accomplishments. He has been so strong through everything and now he's going to find a job and he'll be set in life. I cannot wait for that milestone. Here's hoping it's in 2017!”
On a good day, mothers are slightly stressed.
But that scale can elevate quickly. Throughout the holidays—and the subsequent shopping, baking and entertaining—we sometimes feel the need for a therapist. Or at least a timeout.
Americans consume more than 40,000 tons of aspirin a year, mental coach and author Robert Kriegel writes on a blog post on The Huffington Post. The benefits of timeouts, Kriegel asserts, include decreased stress and tension, relaxation and more energy.
To enjoy this wonderful season, slow down. Take a load off—you don’t have to do it all. If shopping stresses you out, buy gift cards. Skip the cookies this year and buy from a bakery. Pay the babysitter a little extra to help address and send out Christmas cards.
The best way to relieve stress? Exercise, hands down. If you’re at work and sit at a desk, walk away. Skip the elevator and hit the stairs. Eat outside. Catch up with co-workers. You’ll be more productive and think more clearly.
At home, take a bath, go for a walk or read a magazine. A short break—even just 30 minutes—is reenergizing.
Another stress buster is aromatherapy. Sure, we love things that smell good. But essential oils not only stimulate the senses but also help us relax and lift our spirits, according to the National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy.
Stress-relieving oils such as lavender, ylang ylang, chamomile and bergamot can be found in diffusers, candles, lotions and capsules.
It is important to note that while there are many essential oils on the market, experts agree it’s best to choose certified organic to avoid herbicides and pesticides.
Organic eating, or at least sugar-free, non-processed, clean eating, can also better prepare us to handle stress. And if we’re sleeping well—experts recommend seven to nine hours a night for adults—we’ll have a better shot at keeping the doctor away. Or at least a therapist.