Practice Makes Possible

As a recovering perfectionist, I remind myself on a regular basis that nothing is perfect. But practice does make possible.

I’ve written a lot of words over the years, and as it turns out, none of them were wasted. Even the glorified grocery list was practice for bigger things. I always assumed that perfection was the standard by which these words had to be measured, so naturally, my words never measured up. I cast a cold eye over my blogs, my lists, my little side stories, and banished them into a drawer. It was years before I dared let them creep onto the internet.

The real breakthrough for me was trying National Novel Writing Month. I know you went on that journey with me and were as surprised as I was at what was possible. And let me rephrase that one with Yoda’s help. There was no try. There was only “Do or Do Not”. I discovered that self-discipline was also a possibility. As absolutely weak as it was (is), there was just enough willpower (stubborn keyboard smashing) behind my focus that a book came out on the other side.

Once my perspective shifted away from perfectionism (a fancy word for control), my words flowed faster, easier, and buzzed with the joy of creation.

It’s been said that you can’t rush genius. I took genius by the ear and hurled it through walls.

Editors are the janitors of the writing world. They’ll clean up that mess later.

The results continue to be both astonishing and addicting. Below are the books I wrote before turning to Loveda Brown. Every book I will ever write is a “practice book”. This perspective is what makes it possible for me. Possible enough that the last one won awards without even being published.

If you find fun and freedom in some form that continues to shadow you, I challenge you to turn around and stare it down. See what happens when you commit to it for a month. Is it music? Watercolors? Karate? Gardening? Dance? Baking? Quilting? Yoga?

What do you think might be suddenly possible if you practiced?

Rom-Com. Completed Nov 2019 at 62,200 words. Practice manuscript.

Regina’s new job in a catering company lands her in the middle of a fantastic Hotel Del Coronado wedding where her fast thinking saves the day and gets the attention of both the wedding planner and the hottest man at the party. Between her fiesty grandfather, a dachshund named Dufus, her bestie, her neighbors, and offers she can’t refuse, can Gina find her place at last?

Historical Fiction. Completed March 2020 at 80,300 words. Practice manuscript.

In 1888, three families leave Texas and head west, seeking a homestead and a haven for their faith. Young hot-headed Joe Campbell and his sweetheart, Lidy, elope in the night and race to join them. Deep in the secluded mountaintops of New Mexico, hard work and strong ideals are no surety against the internal demons of pride, passion, disillusion, and politics. As a new century arrives, and Joe and Lidy must watch helplessly as the next generation questions the price of isolation and exclusivity and whether they will live the Truth…or a lie.

Historical Faith Fiction. Completed Sept 2021 at 100,500 words. Currently in edits, seeking traditional publication. (Maybe!)

In Roman conquered Israel, two sisters break tradition to raise their baby brother and keep their home intact. Jesus’ rising ministry begins challenging the status quo, both personal and global. When their brother dies and Jesus resurrects him, the women must decide whether to risk violence, rejection, and losing everything they spent their lives fighting for, to protect Jesus.

You Need This Joy Yesterday

Welcome to 2022. I got you. In the excitement of entering yet another year full of woes and wherewithals, I’m here to say there’s a better way.

Now, I’m not immune to the gloom, but raising five kids taught me to make lemonade out of those lemons. I made a million meals in my kitchen. No matter how fancy, there was always one kid who turned up a nose and refused to bite it. Bought thousands of outfits and half those little stinkers preferred running through the backyard in the buff. What I’m saying is that the bar can be quite low and almost everyone will feel better about it.

After months of hand-wringing deliberation and prognostication, I’ve come to the conclusion that once again, I’ve been overthinking the blog.

I know.

Do I attempt a big voice in the writing industry, expertise in my niche, research white papers? How about mom advice and resources, or more wildly humorous parenting stories? Along with most of the planet, I’m pooped. My creative energies are tied up in making books and there’s almost nothing left in my tank when I finish for the day. As much as I desperately love a good plan, these pandemic years are saying the same thing the toddler years did: “Girl, let it go.”

I find myself scrolling social media looking for the laugh. The color. Some tiny bit of joy. If Loveda Brown must be full of rules (so many rules!), then my blog is going to be play time.

I intend to abandon all the “shoulds” for 2022 and run around with the kids streaking through the backyard in their birthday suits.

Not literally. **eye roll**

But if this doesn’t make you smile, nothing will:

When I remind you it’s the little things, well, I mean it. When I was in second grade, the librarian gave my class a pile of book jackets divested from newly purchased hardcovers. Our task was to choose one and write a story to go inside the cover. I remember running my hands over the glossy beauties and the overwhelming magical thought that this was going to be my book. That this fancy package was going to hold my words. Mine.

Terrie Relf brought this tiny bookstore to my attention, and it just floats my boat. I love knowing it exists and that people love it. I love the pops of color and the teensy little paper details, but I hate crafting.

Maybe I will blow some bubbles on a random Wednesday afternoon. Maybe I will skip the chicken cordon bleu and make a bowl of Cheerios. And I play dress-up every day for work.

Doesn’t everyone?

Wear what brings you joy, not what you “should”. Or maybe, what you can get away with. ;~)

I’m going to keep scrolling. If I lean into Amazon shopping, well, who hasn’t? Yes, I’m an affiliate now. It’s the closest thing I’ve come to monetizing my website and blog and I won’t ever get closer. I don’t know about you, but ads make me bonkers when I’m trying to read. Save that nonsense for TV. So if you click on stuff around here, it will likely take you to an Amazon page and if you buy something, it will likely make me a sparkly little dime.

Ima buy a teensy little book with it! 📚

What sparks your joy? What little things have been your lemonade? Send in your favorites. Let’s make another blog.

The 2021 Christmas Newsletter

Salutations, mon ami.

Lest you think this is one of those sweet family newsletters full of accomplishments, exotic travels, and perfectly manicured photographs, I shall remind you that I have a full sized bathtub sitting on my bed right now. I just made a drug run to Target for a sister who tested positive for the ‘Rona. And my nails are chewed down to the nubbins because, life.

Compared to the 2020 Newsletter, this one feels hazy, but slightly more constructive.

I think the photo above captures the general #mood. If there’s one thing the Covid kitten taught me, it’s that naps are good, kibble is better, and for a truly uplifting experience, nothing beats shredding an entire roll of toilet paper. Indy is over sixteen pounds and spoiled rotten. It obviously works for him.

The beloved Hubbs hired a contractor to build us a bathroom. The one I gutted almost two years ago. The contractor showed up every day with a smile, worked hard, and only swore in Finnish. He is my new favorite person. We have had bathroom parts and boxes strewn across the whole house for weeks. I cannot overemphasize the level of chaos here, but if the bathroom gets DONE, I will put up with almost any amount of it.

I don’t want you to think the bathroom is the final destination, though. No. We’ve been using the guest bathroom and apparently it was designed just for looks, not actual bathing, because now it not only needs to be gutted but ALSO the entire property because Kid #4 went and got engaged and the happy couple decided the perfect venue was, um, here.

Let’s take a deep, cleansing breath. Good.

They are mostly after the giant oaks in the backyard, but I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck. A wedding means winery-quality ambiance. Mood lighting. Archways. A balcony for the mariachi band harpist. Bribing the neighbors with cake. Underground parking. They set the date for next November, so we have plenty of time to run around the place shrieking in panic. The boys took out a massive hornet nest the other day, so we are on our way!

Other than that, Kid #4 is doing fine.

Hubby, too.

Did I mention Kid #4 moved across town? No? And Kid #1 moved down from LA and took his room? Okay. Back up. They did.

Kid #5 and Kid #1 are living downstairs and it’s fun to watch a 20-year-old and a 30-year-old together. They are both passionate about art and craft magic in the basement. The elder makes a living with it, though, so it’s only a matter of time before he’s out again. I miss him already. Thankfully, the younger still has to graduate college as a mechanical engineer. It’ll be awhile, but I love that they inspire and encourage each other.

Kid #3 lives in Los Angeles and manages a Kahoots Pet Store and took her dog to the snow the other day. Communication is not her forte, but this vid clip pretty much sums up her year:

Kid #2 graduated this weekend with her “Master of Arts in Education: Learning and Technology” and has the pointy cape hooden thingy to prove it. Afterward, she and the fiancés went to see Hamilton. I’m still jealous. She’s already got teaching jobs lined up and I’m happy to say she’s staying local for the time being.

That’s all I can remember from this second year of pandemic. I kept my head down and got some books written and frankly, it’s time for a nap. We wish you peace and joy in the coming year.

More kibble.

Less panic.

All the bubble baths.

About These Book Dedications

Something snaps in the marketing mind of an Indie author as she careens through the social media maze and the website, uh, web. She sits at her desk one fine morning and realizes that her efforts at anonymity have been crushed. Personal information is blowing on the wind like leftover party confetti and could land any-ol’-where and how am I going to protect the children?

For heaven’s sake, I only refer to my husband as “Hubby” so that some crazed Jolie Tunnell fan won’t find out his true identity and try to kidnap him on his way to Costco and hold him for ransom.

You didn’t read that here.

Hand frozen half-way to my mouth with a crispy piece of bacon just out of reach, my brain declares that all these years of blogging, referring to “Kid 1” or “Kid 4” were absolutely wasted the minute my books came out with their names right in the front dedication page.

Oh, girl.

It’s not my fault.

The first book was Kid 2’s idea, hands down. The pandemic was ruining our lives and she and I sat in the park by the lake and came up with the time, the place, and the first villain in a casual conversation.

She likely would’ve come after me with a sharp stick if I hadn’t acknowledged her efforts up front.

It was all downhill from there, and in no logical numbered order. What I could never have foreseen was the serendipitous way that each book, as it was birthed, seemed to be a perfect match to another child.

Book 2 matched Kid 3, right down to her button-top boots.

Book 3 was such an obvious fit to Kid 5 that we laughed. Poor kid.

The dedications, for me, are a last minute thought after the book is already edited and I realize the front matter has to be thrown together. And the fact that I was running out of kids had nothing to do with the subject matter and characters I chose as I went along.

They just happened.

So, Book 4, about a storm and train robbers and mountain legends, became the perfect match for my Kid 1 when I realized in afterthought how much it spoke about his heart.

Kid 1 has not—and likely will never—read this book. (My family treats my books the way they treat my blogs. They know I’m talking about them, but they just don’t care enough to look up the details.)

Book 5, as you know, is about a summer wedding in Idyllwild. The last kid standing, the one without a book dedication so far, Kid 4, went and got himself engaged this summer.

This makes my heart happy on many levels, but two amazing things transpired: a Kid 6 stepped up to share his dedication.

And they want to be married in Idyllwild. No. True to form, they knew nothing about my book at the time. And…maybe they still don’t.

*shrug*

But how perfect is that?

Who will get the dedication for Book 6? Now there’s a puzzler. I’m out of Kids.

But the Books are only beginning.

My Goodreads Reading Challenge

I love me a good reading challenge. I raised my fabulous five surrounded by books and, so far as I can tell, I think it’s done them well. The youngest is a tender twenty years old and can figure out the letters they put into math and occasionally spouts the Greek at me across the kitchen, just to make me shiver.

The alphabet. Don’t underestimate it.

We’ve graduated from the good old days when kids had nothing better to do during the long lazy months of summer but chase chickens around the backyard, annoy ant hills with a magnifying glass, or walk with the fam two blocks south for a visit to the public library. The attraction had as much to do with the free air conditioning as it did with seeing how many borrowed books we could squeeze into our little red wagon.

Every summer, the library held a Reading Challenge for kids. And we knocked it out of the ballpark. The kids still have medals to prove it. Perhaps the idea of a reading competition feels as exciting as watching grass grow or—follow me here—a golf tournament. But as my third child would say, you are a bucket of wrong.

And there comes a time when a mom can no longer live vicariously through her children.

Have you seen my Goodreads Challenge page? It’s Fitbit for readers.

The idea is to set yourself the goal of reading “X” amount of books during the calendar year and then, as you finish each one, you post it to your list along with a review if you so choose. Not just for a summer…for an entire year!

Come here, Goodreads.

First, I had to throw a huge backlist together of my favorite books that I’d already read (possibly multiple times) and it keeps me up at night, knowing I’ve missed actual thousands of titles because I was too chicken to post the kid books. I’d love for you to think my reading list is classy and intellectual, but I love “Where the Wild Things Are” and Ezra Jack Keats and every single Nancy Drew ever written, even though Caroline Keene is a lie and our relationship has been strained at best, ever since she came clean.

After posting the backlist, I had to remember what I read last year and hurt myself trying. It’s mostly accurate. But a goal for this year? I took a step back and made the rational decision that a book a month felt healthy. I do have a full-time job writing, but after all, I’m also in a real live Book Club. If I read nothing else, I can post the dozen current books that these hip and happenin’ ladies put in my path. Right?

Sigh.

I’m supposed to be halfway through “A Million Steps” by Kurt Koontz. Instead, I’ve hidden under the covers at night and binge-read Sue Grafton. My secret goal for the Reading Challenge is to get all the way through her alphabet before the Book Club catches on to me and I get the boot.

This is how my kids got into trouble at school, reading fiction under their desk instead of their math book sitting on top. I suppose that explains my twenty-year-old, though.

I read “Migrations” by Charlotte McConaghy like a good girl, and it gutted me entirely. I don’t know if I can handle that level of emotional shipwreck every month. I mean, I’m already doing that with menopause.

Last week, I posted “F is for Fugitive” on Goodreads. I’m claiming every page. Kinsey Millhone is steady, predictable, and teaching me about my own craft. It annoyed me that she didn’t describe herself until page fourteen and then said her hair was “dark”. Dark? Like brunette? Black? Mahogany? Glints of red or blue in the direct sun? Sure, it’s good enough to use those details on the suspects, but we readers need foundational reference. If you don’t tell me, I will make it up, Kinsey!

But that’s not the kind of stuff you post on Goodreads. You have to say things like, “Delicate and fresh, very soft tannins with fruity aromas. A little vivid for my taste, but overall well balanced and smooth on the palate.”

Sigh.

I will keep my opinions to the blog and keep my enormous pile of TBR books in the little red wagon next to the bed.

It’s full of the alphabet, G through Y, with a couple of Kiplings, a secret Madeleine L’Engle, a Shel Silverstein side wall, a bottom layer of JK Rowling, a mix of CS Lewis and EB White, random Janet Evanovich numbers, and a flashlight.

What’s in your little red wagon?

The Top Five Blogs of 2020

As if you couldn’t evacuate 2020 fast enough, here are some parting stories to keep you company till midnight.

The five most popular posts of the year according to my website stats are:

Five: The Maelstrom. Appropriate word for 2020, little did we know in February.

Four: Seattle Shenanigans. This was our first and only trip for 2020 (sob), but we all made the most of it.

Three: Murder Mystery Mayhem. We all began the Loveda Brown series together, and it’s been quite a ride.

Two: Mother’s Day Hotline 2020. In appreciation of moms in the weeds. Ain’t no hood like motherhood.

One: The Bottomless Bookshelf. I love that readers keep coming back for recommendations! What was your fave read this year? Add it to the comments.

And now, because I just can’t help myself:

The 2020 Christmas Newsletter

When Covid broadsided us in March, my family members reacted each in his own way, but that didn’t stop us from doing things. Special things. Things we just didn’t see coming…like this watercolor by Kid 5.

Hubby bought groceries. He bought them until our cupboards exploded and I took his Costco card away. Then he bought blocks. Eighty-pound keystone wall-building blocks. He hid his credit card from me and he won’t stop bringing more home. Hubby is building the Great Pyramids on our hillside property with his bare hands. Obviously, he has a better chance at stopping gravity than stopping any of 2020s dumpster fires.

I picked up a sledgehammer and demolished the master bathroom. All of it. I ripped the flooring out and you can stare into the basement if you don’t mind the funny smell. I left nothing standing but the toilet, only you can’t get to it because the floor is gone. This is fine because, conveniently, there’s a toilet paper shortage. I ripped out the dry-rot—the nasty slime that no one could see, but I knew it was there—because there was a lot of it swirling in the global atmosphere that I couldn’t reach.

Some day, Hubby will stop building walls and build us a bathroom.

But this is not that day.

Kid Numero Uno, about to turn a whopping thirty years old, created a plethora of art for people. Art makes people happy. That’s a big deal in 2020. He lives in L.A. and has gone all adulty on me. He calls on the regular to make sure we’re all healthy, wears his mask, visits people outdoors six feet apart, and to really understand the level of his shocking behavior: he exchanged Christmas presents with us. This is unheard of and I’ve asked him repeatedly to take his temperature and read me the little numbers on the thermometer.

Senorita Dos Equis, on her way to becoming The Most Interesting Teacher in the World, went back to school for her master’s degree in Education: Learning & Technology. She also works in the local school district: “I don’t always zoom with kindergartners, but when I do, they take naps on camera and there’s not a thing I can do about it.” I can’t help feeling like this is some new level of Jumanji where juggling swords on a unicycle will be required. I hope she wins.

Tres Leches Mija ghosted on us. She lives less than a mile away, but the only proof she’s alive is when she sends me hilarious memes at two in the morning. Although her plans with her sidekick, Alastor the Wonder Dog, were curtailed (haha), the two managed to win ribbons (Best in Class for “Who’s a Good Boy?”) and are in training to join CARDA as a search and rescue team. He’s already snoofed up plenty of hotdogs and rescued cats from boredom, so glory is in their future.

Quatro Corazones split the year four ways: college, work, girlfriend, and a brand new car. He passed his classes. He was promoted into a full-time position at work. I’m not sure his girlfriend knows that the Toyota 4Runner is for camping and boys’ trips, but we’ll do coffee soon and talk. He had his blood drawn last week and texted me: “I blacked out. But got a cookie.” Me: “Never watch!” Him: “I didn’t, I just tilted my head for a second and I couldn’t see anything. Good news tho, I don’t do drugs.”

Me: “Whatever. Just try not to slurp up any Covid while you’re in there.”

Cinco de Mayo Mijo is currently the favorite kid because he stays home and feeds me. He rode the restaurant industry rollercoaster all year, and it taught him that food could be used to steal car keys from parents. “Mother dear, I see that you are typing sideways and about to fall onto the floor on your face. Could it be that you haven’t eaten in three days in your effort to MAKE MORE WORDS?” Then, he slips a grilled cheese sandwich with a tiny dill pickle nose and a ketchup smiley face on it in front of me and runs away with my car key. I don’t even care where he’s going. I lick ketchup from my fingers and keep typing.

These are great life skills. Why he insists on staying with college, I don’t know.

Covid-Kitty Furrybutt Smoochin’ Sugarloaf Whiskerboy is doing fine, thanks. He misses his life on the street and plays Ninja-paws in the back alley once in a while, to hone his tough guy persona. I carry my scars with pride. I want to go on record as saying, “When the animals in this family get more stocking stuffers than the actual kids, it must be 2020.”

We’re all leaning a little sideways, and that’s okay. I celebrate your own flavor of crazy this holiday season and lift a virtual cuppa with you as we farewell 2020.

It’s been one heck of a ride.

 

The Boxes

God is in it all. The mundane, the crazy, the life-altering zesty life things that come at us every day. But how often do we see it? This blog was about sorting boxes but the God Echoes would not stop coming. They are in italics. You can read this piece with them, or without them, either way.

Boxes. Boxes and boxes. In these boxes are memories. Baby shower cards and diplomas and finger paintings. Coins and yearbooks and a newspaper from the day each child was born.

I am not a saver by any stretch and my beloved children will tell you that I am practical to a fault. So why are there so many boxes on my dining room table?

In all fairness, I blame my mother.

Back in ye olde days of April, when the world was ending, my mother’s somewhat panicky voice – the one that lives in the back of my head – spoke up:

What if?

What if I lose the last fifty years of memories to fire or earthquake or some other chapter of Revelation? To locusts or rats, or *gasp* outdated tech?

What if the world ends and I haven’t organized it yet?

We can’t let that happen.

And so, in April, I gathered every box from the basement, attic, and closets. Cleared out under the bed and emptied my cedar chest with one goal in mind: turn all of this overwhelming why-did-I-save-that pile of flotsam into a future-proof time capsule.

A little Noah’s Ark.

When the world as we knew it was going to end, God thought it was important to bring the past forward into the new future, too. My fifty years counted. Noah’s 600 years counted. For better or worse, we can’t act like they didn’t happen. God does not erase our past, He offers a better future. The mosquitos and the ants were on the ark.

I opened the first box and lifted out an infant onesie, covered in tiny yellow bumblebees, stained on the front, snaps in place, and I was undone.

And now I know how Noah must have felt on the other side. And why he needed a drink. We don’t get to go backwards. Be still, my heart.

The child that wore this tiny scrap of fabric is no longer interested in it, but I was transported instantly to a place where he was. I was holding the memory for him. Literally.

If there are parts of our past that are too heavy to carry, poop that happened in the infancy of our relationship with Him, entire boxes of memories we would rather forget, know that He holds those closest to His heart because it represents how much you’ve grown. He wouldn’t trade that journey for anything.

My memories will never mean as much to anyone else as they do to me. And that’s okay. I would like to keep them, please, just not in so many boxes.

It’s nice to know God has an attic that stretches to infinity. I’ll let Him keep the boxes.

The next generation has no concept of my anxious task. Their memories go directly to the cloud.

You see? Safe. Likely decorated that attic door with a rainbow or two. Typical proud parent.

Mine are in a cloud, too. A dust cloud. I march my memories, two by two, across the scanner, and this, too, results in another memory.

The Year Mom Sorted the Boxes.

It took Noah over a hundred years to pull the ark together. He probably paced himself. I guess I shouldn’t whine about six months.

The little time capsule, filling and thrilling, reminds me that life is full of good memories when you stop and pay attention to them.

And now I can carry them on a lanyard around my neck, close to my heart.

Mom always said, “Look where you’re going.” Since the past is not where I’m going, I will only spend a little more time looking down instead of up. Whatever happens next, my past and my future sit safely in the cloud. And we will not be forgotten.

He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart. Isa 40:11

A VHS Time Warp

 

Sometimes the past comes back to haunt you and sometimes, it arrives in time to help.

Let’s hit the pause button.

We used to own an obscure Disney movie that was part of an extensive VHS collection. It lived in a box labeled “Mommy’s Sanity”. We dipped into it so frequently that my two year old could operate the VCR on his own. I should have asked him to program it so the time displayed correctly. Too late now.

Some of you may have seen “So Dear to My Heart” at one time or another. I suppose its popularity faded as fast as an actual Disney movie with morals – and Bible stories! – in it would. It’s as preachy as Pollyanna and as bathed in buttermilk as Charlotte’s Web. You might be wondering whether my kidlets picked up some nice manners or learned a few lessons on how to respect their elders.

But no.

Fast forward about sixteen years.

My baby boys are all grown up and can drive cars and everything, although I feel in my bones that driving the VCR was far less dangerous. A friend of theirs is flying into San Diego and my boys insist that they are going to pick him up at the airport. I attempt logic first.

“No problemo. I’ll drive you guys and you can load him into the car. Just ignore me, pretend I’m the chauffeur.”

“No, mom. So uncool. We don’t need a driver. We can do it ourselves.”

“You’ve never been to the airport to pick someone up before. The place is a multilayered pretzel on steroids. You’ll take the wrong exit and get all turned around and the clock will be ticking while your friend stands on the curb wondering where you are and YOU NEVER SHOW UP.”

“Mom. Jeez.” Eye rolls, pats on the head, and the casual mention of senility because apparently mama has forgotten that they are MEN and can DO this and just hand over the KEY.

“Look. Boys. You don’t have smart phones. I’ve never seen you read a road map. The place is crawling with one way streets. Just call me when you get lost. I’ll talk you in from where ever you are stuck and get you there, okay? Easy, peasy. Don’t panic. Just pull over in a safe location and call me. Please.”

Three hours of phone silence go by. I hold my head high because this very fact proves beyond doubt that they are, indeed, men. I am that super cool mom who refuses to call them and check in. Instead, I pace the house and stare for the millionth time at the map of the San Diego airport.

“Just turn on Laurel,” I tell it.

When the men return victorious, I pat their little egos on the head and take my key back. I’ll check the paint job and the gas tank level later. There is loud banter as they proceed directly to the kitchen to attack the fridge and scatter its remains throughout my kingdom.

But later, in the shadows, a snitch tells me the story. He is both joyful and triumphant as he hits the rewind button.

“Mom. Remember that movie when we were kids? The one with the black sheep? And the kid wants to find honey? Remember that? Well, we got totally lost downtown today and we pulled over to discuss our options when a plane went over our head. So we decided to follow the planes.”

“Follow the planes?”

“Yeah. Like the movie. He tells the kid to just find a bee and follow it home. That’s where the hive is. So, we just kept turning on whichever road went the same direction as the planes. And we found the airport!”

Now, isn’t that a dilly?

The JARR Farmhouse Revisited

 

What a difference three months can make! For everyone considering, attempting, or winning at urban homesteading, here are some things to consider from “a house of four women who are completely unqualified farmers” but are having a go anyway, sharing inspiration and creative tips for container gardening and other homestead adventures direct from the southern California quarantine.

In April, the planter beds and containers were set up, the soil prepared, and the sowing commenced. See the previous post for our “before” photos. A lot of new skills came into play during May, June, and July, and now it’s time for the summer harvest. Let’s see how the ladies managed.

  1. Remember this lil chick? She was a dude. Four hens came home. One was an imposter and crows now.

    Are we planting flowers or fowls?

    Claudius Maximus Caesar is a lavender orpington. Attitude sold separately.

    Pika is a pheasant cochin, Mochi is a blue leghorn, and Boo is a blue plymouth. They trade manure and eggs for leftover garden produce and bugs. Win, win.

  2. Chickens here require a coop built like a maximum detention facility. Suburbia is no barrier to critters like coons, possums, snakes, weasels, bobcats, coyotes, hawks, skunks, and toddlers, all of whom love to ruin months of hard work in a single night. Build it, and they will come. Search my blog for other stories on chickens.

    Extra points for cuteness. This went inside a larger, chain-link enclosure.

  3. Speaking of extra, the watermelon patch has taken over most of the yard. The first five seeds were planted in April. Nothing happened. They planted another five seeds in May. Nothing sprouted. They bought watermelon seedlings and then it rained. Fifteen watermelon plants later, they could open a corner farm stand and sell melons if they wanted to. For now, they are making friends and influencing people with them. Smart business ladies.

    Summer picnic time!

  4. That one rain is a good reminder about SoCal: we have to water our yards and gardens. We live in a desert. But we are in denial. The spring months were unseasonably cool but by the end of July, the hot spells rolled in. Either way…we have to get out there and water the garden or lose everything. Here you can see the block planter with herbs gone to seed, the shelf planter with greens gone to bunnies (they jump? who knew?) and only part of the rioting watermelon patch.

    Planter mosh pit.

  5. Rows of corn planted along a fence grew to different heights, based precisely on how much sun vs shade they received during the day. Lesson: more sun = taller corn. Taller corn = more ears.

    Growing gold.

  6. The pumpkins fared well, although we are nowhere close to Halloween. Lesson: plant them in the summer for a fall harvest. Also: chunk them into the InstantPot and make homegrown pumpkin pies now because yum.

    Smallish but tasty.

  7. The rest of the garden grew nicely. The cucumbers and peppers are ready. Fresh salad greens came through quickly around the end of May and were afterward left to the bunnies. Late July is when tomatoes are bursting. The butternut squash were delicious.

    Chili pepper poppers, anyone?

    Little cuke cuties!

    Cheery cherry tomatoes!

  8. Last, but not least, we had a peek at the fruit trees in pots. I was a bit skeptical, but here’s proof that you don’t need a yard to harvest trees. These would fit on an apartment balcony.

    Meyer lemon tree. Harvest in winter.

    Mission figs. They will turn a glorious purple later.