Category: Gardening


Avocado Seed

I’m attempting once again to grow an avocado tree from seed.  This time I’m going to wait the WHOLE six weeks before giving up.  I’ve not yet been successful, but I also didn’t realize little avocados gestate for so long. I’m concerned because while inserting the toothpicks, the seed cracked a little.  Does anyone know whether this is okay or should I try another seed?  I suppose I should try several seeds.  That would be more scientific.  

*Avocado Nutrition Facts*

Avocados contain just 5 grams of fat per serving. 

Avocados contain NO cholesterol and NO sodium.

Avocados contain 60% more potassium per ounce than bananas! 

Avocados are high in fiber, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin E, potassium and folate.

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Today we visited the Riverbank Zoo in Columbia, SC. The girls rode ponies and saw a hatchling flamingo.  They also sang with monkeys, fed goats, petted tortoises and heard a tiger MEOW.  (And I even had the opportunity to see several leopard sharks up close and personal).  The zoo is also somewhat self-sustainable with massive gardens full of veggies and herbs.  

This was our first visit in the daytime to the neighboring city to the south and I was impressed with how tropical it felt.  In only an hour and 45-minutes, we went from the mountains to a place that felt much like Florida with its native vegetation unlike anything I had seen before, as varied and bountiful as the tropics (there was a tree with leaves far larger around than the length of my hand).

The all-time cutest exhibits were the koala bear and meerkat habitats.   The koalas were napping and had curled themselves up comfy into the arms of tree-branches.  One meerkat took a fascination with me and I swear behaved as if we were doing a Vogue photo-shoot.  

When asked what the girls enjoyed most, for the older two it was the pony trail-ride (although milking the fake cow was right up there).

Our littlest giggled when the goats literally climbed the fence to eat out of her hand.  They were sweet-natured and beautiful goats with shaggy colorful coats.  And what personality!  

We crossed a bridge over the Saluda River (Columbia marks the convergence of the Broad and Saluda) and saw the old stone foundation of a bridge that was burned during the Civil War.  In the peace and shade on the other side, we rested (and remembered the automatic features of my camera).

Afterward, we visited the elephants, giraffes and the sea-lion a little boy emphatically suggested we see.  I was certain the elephants were Asian elephants for their size, but through the crowds, I read something about Africa on the signs.  We were on some kind of deck above the enclosure, so perhaps the elephants appeared smaller.  Regardless, they were gorgeous creatures caught red from bathing in the Carolina clay.  

And how difficult it must be for a giraffe to eat grass when it feels so inclined!  We saw first-hand how they do it.  

We concluded our day with a visit to Erick’s uncle’s 18th century stagecoach house where the girls enjoyed tractor rides around the property while we sat on the front porch sipping iced-tea.

 

The girls are getting creative.  My oldest is blogging, and all of our girls are working on various art projects at the moment.  Yesterday, I set up Popo’s paint set and let them have at it.  Their creation was yummy.  

I’m always finding little things they’ve made like the magnet-flowers that began springing up the other day. Here we are in the center of a concrete jungle and our children have created a mini-garden out of magnets!  Let the sun shine in!

Erick and I are considering condo living, so we took a look at the Arlington, a 25+ story building on the light-rail.  It’s beautiful and the units were very spacious.  The top floor offered a magnificent view as well as a lap pool and fitness facility.  It’s just under 2K/month which isn’t bad considering we never use our car in Uptown, so the added cost would go into housing rather than fuel or vehicle maintenance.  Still, I think it would be best for us all to have some space outdoors in which to play and explore.  And a place where Celli and Lady could run free.  

All this creativity is exhausting!  

This city smells good.  I mean it’s just delicious.  And in total contrast to my high-anxiety mode entered into each time I step into the crowded streets, this week, I feel calm as the scent mimics the effect of lilac or lavender.  Could it be the crepe myrtle in full bloom?  

I’ve been doing some research of late into lead paint because we’re considering buying a home built in 1950.  We’ll be performing a test on Thursday to determine whether materials in the home are coated in paint containing lead.  Unfortunately, the odds are stacked against us.  Homes built prior to 1978 are likely to contain elevated levels of lead paint and those built prior to 1950 are all likely contain some lead-based products.  Even homes with copper plumbing might have been soldered together with solder containing lead.  

Lead is absorbed into the body in the same manner as other minerals and nutrients, so the body sends the toxin directly to our brains and other vital organs.  Consequently, children are far more likely to suffer elevated levels of lead since their growing bodies are taking in more nutrients than their adult counterparts.  One way to reduce exposure to lead is to ensure a healthy diet rich in calcium and iron.  

Lead has been blamed for the downfall of the Roman civilization.  Romans used the highly-pliable metal to mold pipes which carried water to the people.  In fact, the word “plumbing” comes from the Greek word, plumbum, for lead.  Lead has also been implicated in the loss a few IQ points for we Generation X folk due to exposure to lead used commonly throughout the first part of the last century on everything from toys to homes to public buildings to plumbing and gasoline.   

Lead paint cannot be painted over except with pain designed specifically to encapsulate the lead-paint layer(s).  High areas of friction generate lead dust which enters the air and may be absorbed by humans and other animals living inside the home.  Lead dust must be wiped away with a cleanser; vacuuming dust will only throw more particles into the air.  Lead does not break down, so it is as toxic today as the day it was mined.  Left undisturbed, lead-based paint should not pose a direct danger. Lead may be present in your soil – especially if your home (or a nearby residence) has recently been repainted or power-washed. If you live in a home built prior to 1978, have your blood checked to determine lead-levels in your body.  If you have children, it is recommended you have them tested also.  

From the CDC.gov (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

For children at risk for lead exposure, a simple blood test can prevent a lifetime spoiled by the irreversible damage caused by lead poisoning.
     
  One of the most important risk factors for lead exposure is the age of housing. Over 80 percent of all homes built before 1978 in the U.S. have lead-based paint in them. The older the house, the more likely it is to contain lead-based paint and a higher concentration of lead in the paint.
     
  According to recent CDC estimates, 890,000 U.S. children age 1-5 have elevated blood lead levels, and more than one-fifth of African-American children living in housing built before 1946 have elevated blood lead levels. These figures reflect the major sources of lead exposure: deteriorated paint in older housing, and dust and soil that are contaminated with lead from old paint and from past emissions of leaded gasoline.
     
  Lead poisoning can cause learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and at very high levels, seizures, coma and even death.
     
  Children between 12 and 36 months of age have a lot of hand to mouth activity, so if there is lead in their homes, they are more likely to take it in than are older children.
     
    For more information, talk to your pediatrician or call theNational Lead Information Clearinghouse toll-free at 1-800-424-LEAD (1-800-424-5323).
     

In addition to the Carolina house, we’re considering an old farmhouse a little closer to Charlotte (still a 40-min commute).  It’s a neat house with a slate roof and a fireplace in every room along with some of the worst wallpaper of the century (and cats- lots of cats).  The house comes with 2.76 acres and some old out-buildings, nut trees, peach and apple trees and road frontage named for the farmstead.  

Asking price is well below recent appraisal and the house seems very solid, but I didn’t get the same warm-fuzzies I get with the Carolina Ave. house.  I think mostly, it’s the presence of the people and the wallpaper detracting from the original structure. I’d show you additional photos, but the rooms were in a very messy state.  The house has been updated and is “move-in ready,” as they say.  Even our youngest has been spouting real estate lingo:  “Location, location, location,” she repeated over and over again last night. 

For photos, please visit our flickr site


 

Okay, I know it’s escapism, but Erick and I have been going back and forth with the notion of moving to New Zealand, known to the eloquent natives as “The Land of the Long White Cloud.”  It is a country thick with native culture, governed by a woman and governed symbolically by a queen.  NZ is home to several organic farms and was one of the first countries to initiate WWOOF (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) International programs, which began in New Zealand in 1974 and supplies volunteers with opportunities to live and work on the farm, while traveling to foreign states or countries. I worked on a WWOOF farm and it’s one of the best ways to get to know locals and folks from out of town who share a love of farming and a passion for learning about sustainability.  

Imagine living cradled by a mountain with a view of the sea – NZ seems like a perfect nest perched on the edge of the world with a spectacular view of the sea and heavens.  Yeah, we’d have to visit first and even a visit could be quite a production.  Imagine moving across the world!  How strange, how wonderful, adventurous.  Would it make travel to other countries easier?  Probably not, but it might encourage us, having taken the first step to relocate to a foreign land to investigate further this incredible world around us. 

According to Wiki, NZ is home to plenty of unique flora, birds and wildlife.  And they have sharks.  How can you go wrong with sharks outside of the water?  The climate on the North Island is mild, dry.  The government is extremely protective of its fragile ecosystem, which means it recognizes the value inherent in preserving an ecosystem in the first place.  Go Kiwis!

Anyway, just some thoughts about why I might consider traveling across the US and over an ocean to visit the Land of the Long White Cloud, even if for only a week.

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My oldest thought it wise to sketch an idea for her room.  She’s only six and already drawing perspective!  And FYI, she explained, “Mama, I added face pillows, but my pillows won’t have faces.”

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An echo of a former life, remnants of the original paper could still be seen on the walls.

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Some say demolition, I say POTENTIAL.
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The next house we toured was on a nice piece of land not far from town.  Six+ acres with three individual creeks and totally fenced for horses.  It was beautiful.  The land was ecologically diverse and the perfect setting for continuing with Healing Tree.

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At the rear of the house was a beautiful little girl making a funny face while standing near a gazebo.  I liked everything about the exterior of this house, but wasn’t impressed with the interior.  However, for the right price, I think this could be a great buy.  It’s definitely on my top three.

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We no longer have stairs, so we made them with DVD cases so Gug-bug could watch the slinky walk.  She said, “It’s alive!”

Something I’ve noticed about the city: There’s a lot of glass.  Most of the buildings have minimalist railways, doors, divisions, so as to express the enormity of space stretching out before you.  It isn’t obvious, and certainly it’s not the kind of thing I would ordinarily mention, but today I ran into my second plate-glass window and it got me thinking that I should pay more attention.  It’s so embarrassing!

In other news, we’re on the hunt for a condo in Uptown.  We met with a Realtor who shows rental properties.  In the next month, we’ll need to move into a larger space and move our belongings down from Michigan.  This is the next step before a purchase either in Uptown or outside of town.  It’s too early to make any major decisions, so we’re just hoping to find something comfortable and spacious enough for our table.  Uptown is pricey, so we’ll be fortunate if we can even find something affordable.

I bought an ivy and umbrella plant this afternoon for some greenery.  Wherever we land, I really need access to dirt and planters and room outside or enough sunlight to sustain some greens.  I’m going to do some research into that permaculture farm an hour north of Charlotte.  If I can’t have a planter, maybe I can spend some time learning on a working farm.

I’ve had to change course a few times in the last few years. First, with cancer, and recently with Erick’s new position with Cardinal. I started a farm-project for education purposes, but soon I will be living in a hugely biodiverse region with a large peramculture network neatly and conveniently threaded already into the culture. I’ll also be near two- and four-year universities where I might pursue a degree in Horticulture. In the meantime, the experiences are translating into interesting chapters not only for my book, but also in writing the pages of a fulfilling life.

This weekend some friends I hadn’t seen in a while and some friends I’ve made more recently got together. I listened as they talked about stories that we had made together or I had shared and it helped me realize, that even in those times when I was being an absolute f*ck-*p, I was experiencing a part of life I now know with certainty has enormous value. I was on an extended adventure and what I lacked in collegiate education, I made up for in life experience. And now I’m able to appreciate both.

We did some exploring this week at the Old State Hospital and it revived in some of us, that feeling of adventure; in pressing boundaries just a little; in hoping for something magical awaited just around the next corner, behind the next door or within each of us. And we discovered the adventure, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant relative to the rest of our lives, was made special because we were in it together; we were supporting each other and the collective adventurous experience. In essence, we let our inner-children come out to play.

In pursuing a career for myself, I’ve nourished my strengths and realized some of the weaknesses that have held me back. My current goals include returning to schools, feeling good about Imperfectly Yours, finding a way to continue Healing Tree, and discovering a tree under which I can contemplate these and other goals/thoughts in the future. Have you ever noticed the beautiful form a tree holds; arms stretched upward in constant praise of the energy off which it feeds? The tree reminds me to celebrate each day, to stand in peace, with integrity. It also reminds me to move with the wind, but to remain rooted to those principles I hold in higher regard. In doing these things, my life has become a fulfilling experience.