Well, hello there! It’s been… a while, to say the least. The blogging and writing has been overtaken by the garden. It keeps me busy and (mostly) out of trouble but doesn’t leave a lot of time for other pursuits like writing. But that’s a positive, as it keeps me moving – “Motion is Lotion”, as one of my favourite MSers loves to say.
It has certainly been a peaceful and hopeful place to spend time during the pandemic, and I am grateful for that every single day. The pictures really don’t do it justice, and things are just starting to come together after years of redesigning and refiguring, but I hope you can experience even a fraction of the joy that I find here every day.
The Working Garden – The Vegetables
As you see, I like to mix it up and stuff many different vegetables into a container or raised bed. I’m not sure it’s the most efficient or productive method but I like the variation. Not only does working in the garden keep me physically and mentally healthy, growing our own food has been a huge factor in getting my symptoms under control.
Gardening is a lot of work, and can become overwhelming if it gets away from you. I’m very lucky that my husband and I share the passion and the work. Adding a chronic illness to the mix can make it seem impossible on some days, with crushing fatigue, dizziness, pain and brain fog making the simplest tasks insurmountable. Those are the days to rest and enjoy, meditate and reflect.
Just like housework, the weeds will always be there and there is always more to do than time to do it. But that’s a gift. And, like everything in life, it’s all about perspective and what you choose to focus on. On my good days, I move slowly, take lots of breaks and hydrate constantly. On my bad days, I focus on what’s blooming, what’s growing well, and the overall beauty of the garden. There is always something to appreciate.
Wishing you peace, love, hope and joy, today and every day.
P.S. It’s always interesting to see the changes from year to year. So, here’s the May Tour from 2020. Also the Vegetable Tour.
We all have them. Those moments in life, often a split-second, we wish we could go back and do differently. But we can’t, so we have to chalk it up to Lessons Learned.
So yeah, I’ve sprained, possibly broken, my ankle.
Lesson Learned: Pirouettes and garden clogs are a terrible combination. No matter how chuffed I was that our daughter asked for choreography help for one of her videos, it was just plain dumb. And I will never forget the sound. 🤢
Anyway, the garden has been neglected for several days and I’m not loving the crutches so we’ll see how this goes…
The deck – My poor potatoes have been flattened by the almost constant wind.
Peppers are coming along nicely.
Holy tomatoes! Some peppers and cucumbers too.
The raised beds- The kohlrabi will be ready soon, and more peas!
View from the bottom ‘entrance’ – Check out the spaghetti squash, it’s enormous! These sunflowers (left) aren’t growing fast enough to be trellises for the beans, even though I started them early from seed and transplanted them. Uh oh, could get messy.
The everlasting sweet pea on the driftwood tree needs tying again too. This is the first time it’s been able to flower because the deer kept eating it last year. Yay!
View from the bottom sitting area.
These sunflowers are doing better, they’re the same height as those first ones but I direct sowed them much later. I think sunflowers prefer not being disturbed. The alstroemeria finally gets to flower too, another deer favourite when they get in. So far so good!
This bean has the right idea! I’m hoping the sunflowers will be big and strong enough to support the cucumbers growing in front too, but I’m thinking that’s probably too much to ask. We’ll see…
Check out this onion! 😁
The zucchini and cucumbers are doing pretty well but I’m a bit surprised that the cucumbers are flowering already even though they haven’t grown very tall. 🤷♀️ The carrots and leeks will still be a while.
The oldest part of the garden – I plan to make lavender oil with some of this lavender. My first batch didn’t work too well, it smells like pesto for some weird reason. I think I needed more flowers. It’s all a big experiment.
These steps are also the most established part of the garden. The daphne (right) is in full bloom for the second time this season and smells heavenly. I love the tiny light pink flowers.
The other side of the oldest part, and the lily and hollyhock bed.
View from the other entrance.
The apple tree bed, with the oh-so-attractive, temporary deer fencing. At least it seems to be doing the trick. And the buggers are around, our daughter had to step over a tiny fawn sleeping on our doorstep one night, and got charged by mama another night!
Top garden – I’ve waited too long to harvest this artichoke now. Boo. Lemon tree is doing well even though we’ll have an ongoing battle with the crabgrass up here for the foreseeable future.
Blueberries! We’ve had these bushes for almost ten years but they’ve been moved around so much they’ve never really produced. This is the most we’ve ever seen. I’m so glad I got them protected with bird netting before The Incident.
View from top deck.
This deck area was the original, overgrown garden when we moved in and we’ve never done too much with it. My husband is finally tackling that project and has cleared out a ton.
Sadly, our previously stunning, well- established, huge orange rose picked up some weird infection and basically rotted away. The stump is still there so maybe there’s hope. 🤞🏻
So there we go, a gimp tour of our backyard. I’m almost afraid of what things will look like by the end of July if my ankle doesn’t start healing faster. X-rays on Tuesday will hopefully give me a better idea of how long I’ll be hobbled. I really feel for people with chronic mobility issues, it’s a royal pain in the arse to not be able to do for yourself. I’m so fortunate, I won’t whine. Much. 😏
Thanks for joining me. Wishing you peace and calm.
Aloha! Since my backyard urban farm in-development has taken up all my focus and energy and I haven’t been writing at all, I thought I’d share photos of how I’ve been staying busy.
Honestly, it has become a full-time job. There are days when the MonSter awakes and I drag myself out of bed hardly able to face the thought of all the tasks calling for attention. But I make myself get out there every day at least for 20 minutes. Usually that ends up with me outside all day.
Besides the obvious advantages of all that vitamin D and fresh air, I know that digging in the dirt is helping rebuild my immune system and my gut microbiota. So even on the toughest days, I rest a lot but I make myself do the lighter tasks. The trick is to not focus on everything that needs to be done but to put the blinders and just do one, small, task.
Anyway, enough of that. Have a wander through our garden.
I know not everyone is fortunate enough to have a yard to garden. But even a small pot on a windowsill can grow parsley, basil and cilantro. Food security is a serious issue that has finally been brought to the forefront of people’s minds because of the Covid-19 situation. Start small and grow your own!
Alright, thanks for joining me. I didn’t even get to the vegetable beds by the house, but I’ll leave that for another post.
The world has stopped. The unthinkable has happened and we’re in crisis mode, trying to get our heads around this ‘new normal’.
I’ve been here before.
No, not exactly like this, obviously. But almost five years ago, my world stopped when I finally admitted I couldn’t teach anymore. I’ve been adapting to my new normal ever since. It’s been a bumpy ride, but there have been many surprising blessings as well.
Learning to be. This is a big one. We are so inundated with messages telling us we need to be doing something all the time. There’s a culture of busy-ness, where the more you’re doing is like a badge of honour. When you have a chronic illness, that’s not really an option because the fatigue, among other things, is so killer that You. Just. Can’t.
So you spend a lot of time at home, sitting around, isolated, without a whole lot of options for entertainment. Sound familiar? I’m sure it’s a new experience for most healthy people, and it can be uncomfortable just sitting in your own skin sometimes. Or maybe that’s just the MS. 🤔
But just being, instead of always doing can be a wonderful opportunity to get real with yourself and figure out what’s really important. We’ve been conditioned to believe we need to be working, be productive, be entertained, be adventurous, be travelling , be consuming, be socializing.
We’ve forgotten that sometimes it’s important to just BE.
When you stop doing and sit quietly with yourself, your mind has space to process. This is why meditation has become so popular. But you don’t even have to be that organized about it. I’m not knocking meditation in any way, I’m just suggesting that you pay attention to whether you take any time during your day to stop doing and just BE.
Staring at nature is my go-to for times when I need to stop and be for awhile, even if it’s just out the window, or the nature channel on TV. I guess that’s technically doing something but the mental health benefits outweigh any slicing of that proverbial hair.
We’ve been running on the societal treadmill for so long that doing nothing, just BEING is a difficult thing for many people right now. I get it. Like with anything though, a shift in perspective can change this strange situation we’re finding ourselves in, into an opportunity to examine our values and decide if we really want to go back to the “old normal”.
As much as I miss teaching, I am grateful every single day for my many blessings. Learning to be comfortable with just being and not doing all the time has helped me enormously in accepting my new normal. I hope it helps you too.
It has been far too long since I’ve published anything but this article is important enough to share. If you allow your fear to spiral out of control, that lowers your immunity and makes you more susceptible to getting sick.
Stay informed, but focus on connection and gratitude. Turn off the screens and get outside. Wash your hands, and stay home unless it’s essential to go out. Stay safe and healthy out there!
He’s off. Settled. Installed at university – across the country.
I’m always a proud Mama, and never more so than when our son was accepted into one of the top universities in Canada. The fact that it’s four provinces (4029km/2504miles) away, is something my husband and I have been digesting, with a smile on our faces, for months.
I’ve just returned from a four day trip to get him organized and set up in residence. It was one of the most wonderful, but more emotionally challenging experiences I’ve had in motherhood.
He’s doing exactly what he should be doing, moving into the next phase of his life with the skills, values and independence we’ve worked to instill in all our children.
But hugging him goodbye and having to leave him there, no matter that I know he’ll do great and be just fine, was almost as hard as when I had to leave him in the OR for surgery on his broken leg when he was six.
I sucked it up (mostly – poor Uber dude) until I hit my hotel room. It was only in writing out all the fantastic details of the day to email his dad, that I got a handle on the Snuffluffagus tears. Writing is therapy.
I flew out so early the next morning, I was hardly conscious. I was one of the last to board the plane, psyched to have an aisle seat near the front. The middle seat was empty and I thought I had it made, despite the huge manspreader in the window seat. (wtf is up with that???)
Then a young mother boarded with her 9 month old baby boy, and smiled at me apologetically. I jumped up to let them in, remembering well my many trips with young kids and the obvious looks of horror from fellow passengers, then realized the father was there too. I offered to move but they said he was in the middle seat at the back of the plane. Yeah – not happening.
I was happy to help her out and thrilled to hold the little monkey. He was such a happy guy, with a shock of blond hair, huge blue eyes and a ready smile.
Then a three year old boy walked up the aisle and spotted the baby. He stood and gazed at him with such fascination for ages, it was adorable.
Do you see the pattern here? Okay, Universe!!!
I didn’t let myself say the usual, ‘it goes by so fast’, ‘appreciate every moment, even the most frustrating ‘, ‘you never get this time back’.
I didn’t want to be that person.
It’s all true though, but you can’t really understand it until you live it. Like everything in life.
I lost it a bit at the airport when I saw my husband, a couple of times on the way home, but walking up to the house was really weird. He’s not just out, he’s away.
So sniffling away in my bedroom, I pulled out my phone, and there was a text from my boy.
I thought you should know, I had tomatoes for lunch.
😂😂😂 Thank god for technology.
And perspective – he’s only away at school, he hasn’t moved out! Home for a visit in two months!
This is not the end of anything, it’s the beginning of everything.
It’s been a long six and a half years since my MS diagnosis, seven since the relapse that made teaching impossible, but I’ve healed more than I thought possible back in 2015.
I attribute my healing to various things, namely a healthy, stress-free lifestyle, low-dose Naltrexone (LDN), a healthy, mostly vegan diet, circadian fasting (more on that later), time in nature and in my garden, and a great dose of luck that this monster isn’t as aggressive for me as it is for some people.
The biggest factor in the last year though, has been exercise. I thought they were lying. When you barely have enough energy to breathe, how can you possibly exercise? Or, when you do have the energy, you go as hard as the ‘old you’ could manage, then end up in bed for days, useless as braces on a duck.
So I decided I needed to be methodical about it, and makea commitment to myself to spend half an hour a day using it before I lose it. Never mind MS, age starts gnawing away at the natural strength you used to take for granted and it’s a slippery slope. If I can binge watch Survivor at the end of the day, surely I can carve out half an hour for exercise.
Remember the movie About A Boy? Hugh Grant’s character was a rich layabout who organized his days in thirty minute increments. It became wisdom to me when I was first on disability, and now at least one of those thirty minute chunks is devoted to exercise.
If the weather permits, my exercise is walking outside because it also checks off another important part of my morning routine which is at least 30 minutes of sunlight (or a reasonable facsimile thereof-gray skies are still beautiful). I’m all about efficiency!
Otherwise, I either ride the recumbent bike or do yoga or pilates on YouTube. There are some amazing channels out there, I’ll link a few favourites at the bottom. The trick is, pick the beginner videos. You havenothing to prove except a commitment to consistency.
I know, I know, you used to be able to handle intermediate or advanced, but remember the braces on a duck? While incongruous, it speaks nothing to the true pain you can cause yourself by trying to do too much too fast. Maybe we should picture a tortoise with a headband instead. Since I’ve been limiting myself to gentle but CONSISTENT exercise, I have finally been able to maintain an exercise routine and start to see and feel the benefits.
the tortoise→ MS Warrior
the hand → MS
The tortoise might be caught but he never stops moving!
My newer, all-time favourite paid exercise program, that I do two or three times a week because it always leaves me with a smile on my face, is BodyGroove. With catch phrases like “you can’t do it wrong” and “do whatever feels good for your body”, they have turned exercise into a fun way to connect with your body and dance like it’s 1988.
For each song, they introduce three different rhythms that are simple enough for you to interpret however you want but sooo good for your cognitive health. Check out these articles for all the benefits dance provides.
I’m not affiliated in anyway, I just think it’s a great program for anyone chronically ill, as they have all sorts of people demonstrating and showing how much you can do even sitting down. You don’t need any experience but I grew up dancing in a fairly serious way so I love that I can reconnect with that previous iteration of myself, even on days when the MonSter makes my movements sluggish and difficult.
On my darkest days, stuck in my bed, I dance in my head like I used to as a child. With strength, freedom and passion. Now, even on my mediocre days, I can push myself to do it because “you can’t do it wrong”. You need to move your body, so why not groove your body?
It was my oft-mentioned, well-respected naturopath, Dr Pamela Hutchinson that gave me the idea for the title of this post. Dr Pam believes that exercise should be considered a DMT(disease-modifying therapy), and my neurologist agrees that exercise is the single most important thing you can do to fight MS.
They’re not lying. Move your body, but gently. If you can’t commit to half an hour, commit to five minutes and build up from there. The important thing is to get or keep moving so we don’t lose any more of the mobility and strength that we still have. Fight the fight. You got this!
I can walk! After doing the June tour on crutches, I finally got an X-ray and found out that what I thought was a sprained ankle was actually a spiral fracture of my fibula. So, I’m madly rehabbing my ankle constantly and being very careful but I’m thrilled to be mobile again. I have even more appreciation and compassion for people with permanent mobility difficulties. I tried not to whine, really.
Vegetables and irrigation
Needless to say, the garden isn’t quite where I envisioned it would be pre-wipeout. Although I give my husband, who is more of a landscaper than a gardener, full credit for managing single-handedly as well as he did. Hand watering the vegetable containers alone could take an hour or more to do properly, so in the last few days I finally built a drip irrigation system. Hallelujah!
It’s not pretty (yet, but the tweaking is half the fun) but it only takes four minutes per zone to get everything watered through. It’s mind-boggling to me, I wouldn’t believe it if I wasn’t seeing it but the plants are showing the difference just from two days watering, and plants don’t lie. Why did I wait so long???
The Garlic Experiment
I grew garlic for the first time last year, not altogether successfully. I didn’t know that the ‘flowers’ that garlic throws up are called ‘scapes’, and beyond being my new favourite raw vegetable to snip over my salad, now I know that you need to clip them so the growing power goes into the bulb, not the flower. One of those duh-in-retrospect moments.
This year has been much more successful, due mostly to better planting, fertilizing and watering – and snipping the scapes. There is just no comparison with grocery store garlic when you slice into it. So satisfying!
But check this out, last fall I planted some of my garlic in the ground (left) and the rest of it in half gallon containers (right). I transplanted the container garlic into the ground in the early spring, and the difference was unreal. It was all absolutely huge, whereas the in-ground garlic developed into several smaller heads. I’ll also wait longer to harvest it next year because I just pulled out this monster (bottom right) the other day! I intend to use the bigger heads as my seed garlic in the fall.
And now for the flowers…
The sunflowers are lovely but I’m rethinking my decision to try to use them as trellises. While kind of amusing to go bushwhacking hunting for peas, beans and cucumbers, it’s not especially efficient – or user-friendly. So the vegetables will stay in the containers close to the house in future, and the back garden will be for perennials, annuals and herbs.
Alright, we’re off to our favourite spot on the west coast for my 50th 😱 birthday holiday. Be kind, stay calm and stay safe.
I can’t believe it’s the last day of May! I wanted to complete my May Garden Tour with a record of how the vegetable beds closer to the house are looking. It’s a crazy windy day – again, ugh – so I snapped them quickly, but such is life.
Unfortunately, the damn deer got in again last night. We can mostly thank our nature-hating, pavement and power tool-loving neighbour for basically killing the hedge on his side. Okay, vent over. Check out the temporary fence – it’s like living in a junk yard! 😂
On the back deck we have potatoes, peas, lettuce, spinach, arugula, leeks, peppers, tomatoes, strawberries and mint. My potatoes have never been this tall before. I’m hoping for a better yield this year, so fingers crossed.
In the raised beds we have potatoes, garlic, radishes, beets, lettuce, peas, carrots, kohlrabi, leeks, peppers, beans and cucumber.
We bought these 20 gallon containers for cheap this year. They’re amazing for tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers and big enough to stuff in some basil, dill, parsley, cilantro, spinach and lettuce.
Tomatoes are so satisfying to grow. I planted these from seed and was horrified when I broke the first one when transplanting. But I pinched off the bottom leaves and stuck the stem deep into the soil and voilà! I also stuck the root ball into the garden and it’s started sprouting new growth. Life will out. 🥰
Alright, I hope this finds you well. Any gardening tips always appreciated!