Saying Good-bye

MaplehurstIt took me by surprise when I shut the garage door and prepared to leave the house for the last time. I sat in the driveway, crying. I called my husband, but he was in a meeting. So I sat and cried. We loved this home where we’d lived for the past five years. With our wedding in the backyard less than a month after we moved in, we began our marriage in the large house with a flat yard for my husband’s garden.ceremony

Love and produce blossomed and bloomed in this house. We didn’t sell the house because we hated living there; we sold it because the time had come for it to be used by a family big enough to fill its spaces.

And so this week after months of preparation and packing, the place stood empty, but not vacant. The walls echoed with the sound of our laughter and waited to embrace the young couple who bought it.

I cried again at the closing. Not tears of sadness, but of happiness for the family about to make it theirs. Two young folks with a five- and two-year old and another baby on the way in September, excitedly signed the papers turning it over to them. Their young sons played on the floor behind us, unaware of the momentous event occurring for their parents who were buying their first home.

“You know why we bought this house that was far too big for us?” I asked the couple as we signed papers. “It had a flat yard for the garden.”

“That’s my favorite part, too,” the woman said.

June 8, 2013

I wish them abundance, laughter, and love in this home that embraced us in its loving arms.

We left green tomatoes on the vine, peas bursting from pods, and onions peeking up from the earth. It feels good to walk away knowing we nurtured the land and left it better than we found it.

We move forward in a cabin that is much, much smaller and with no flat land. We’ve packed the pick-ax and boards for terracing a mountainside garden. Wish us luck!

 

I gave the couple an autographed copy of From Seed to Table and two of my novels written in this house. This home proved fruitful for both vegetables and words.

Click on cover for Amazon page

Click on cover for Amazon page

Thoughts on Moving

wild plum

Pittsburgh Home

My brain struggles to keep it all straight, so a little notebook has become my friend in recent weeks. We’ve made some major decisions in the past month that will impact our lives for years. Timing seems to be a little off, but I believe there is a reason for everything. It sometimes takes years to figure it out. Sometimes, we never do.

NEWHOUSE

New Cabin in NC

We are in the process of becoming hybrid snowbirds when my husband retires. We’re not sure when that will happen, but it will be within two years, maximum. His company doesn’t want him to retire, and he still enjoys his work, so why mess with that? Except his job is in Pittsburgh, and we’ve just sold our home here and bought a new log cabin in Murphy, North Carolina. Our home in Tallahassee has tenants in it until April.

Interesting times ahead. I feel as if I’m juggling balls in the air as I make arrangements for the moves, buying a home, selling a home, and giving away as much as possible. I’m packing for the move into a condo here in Pittsburgh temporarily; I’m separating our lives into Florida and North Carolina.

As hectic and chaotic as life is right now, I’m enjoying parts of it. Once I started on the task of going through all of our stuff, I began to find a rhythm for what to throw away or recycle, what to donate to our local Vietnam Veterans group, and what to keep. I find it fascinating to discover that many things from my past no longer hold any attraction–at least not enough to want to fill yet another box. So the award trophies and copies of everything I’ve had published meet either the recycle bin or the garbage bags. I’m recycling the article I wrote about kindergartners dressing up as mice and singing “Three Blind Mice” during their end of the year program at the local elementary school. No, I don’t think I need that for my portfolio. I don’t need the feature article about the scary man who raised hairless dogs in a trailer. But maybe I’ll hang onto the series I did on drugs in the community where I lived. I won an award for that and for columns I wrote. Perhaps I should keep those, too.

I found my baby book yesterday, hidden way back on a high shelf in my office. I thought I’d lost that in my last move. But there it was with little tidbits about my early life. I was child No. 5, so Mommy didn’t write too much about little Patti, except one tidbit I treasure: “By twenty months, Patti had a very large vocabulary.” I wonder what words my not-quite-two-year-old brain processed.

I read my diary from seventh grade yesterday. I admit after reading it, that it’s a wonder I made it this far as a writer. “Today I went to school. I came home and did chores. I talked to Brent on the phone for hours.” Dull and not worth saving anymore. When I become famous, I’d hate for anyone to use that in my archives.

I found yearbooks and cards from my teaching years, also not worth keeping. “You’re my favorite English teacher ever, and I hope I make an ‘A’ in your class this semester.” Those comments made me laugh, right before I placed them in the recycle pile.

Photos from my years as a Girl Scout leader and the girls in my troop, who are now young women in their thirties in professional careers and raising their own children. Those I keep because my own daughter and her friends who were like my daughters are chronicled in those photos.

So many phases of a life, but I don’t feel old. Yet I’ve lived nine or more lives it seems.

I’m keeping just enough to remind me of those good times. The rest I’m willing to let go because I’m moving into a new phase. As I do my juggling act, I’m trying to keep things in perspective. Every day brings new tasks and challenges, but it’s now that counts so I stay present while visiting the past for a minute here and there.

It’s strange to be moving right now as the garden begins to blossom and bring us bounty. My husband couldn’t help himself. Despite selling the house, he put in a garden as a gift to the buyers. More on that later, I promise.

To help with your gardening and abundant produce, check out our book From Seed to Table filled with gardening tips and recipes.

Click on cover for $.99 cents Kindle version

Friday is Arbor Day!

P. C. Zick:

Remember Arbor Day – plant a tree. It’s good for you, and it brings beauty.

Originally posted on What's Green with Betsy?!?:

This Friday is Arbor Day – always the last Friday in April – a tradition that began nationwide in 1872 and continues today with individuals and groups celebrating trees and nature.

Planting new trees and caring for existing ones is more important than ever as we battle exotic invasive insect pests, air pollution, soil compaction and contamination, limited water and nutrient availability and the overall effects of extreme weather conditions and climate change.  Trees are much more than just a beautiful big plant; their social, communal, and environmental benefits are numerous.

  • They manufacture oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide.
  • They provide shade in summer and windbreak in winter.
  • The beauty and serenity of trees have been shown to help hospital patients recover more quickly.
  • Trees reduce crime in low-income urban areas and increase home property values.
  • Trees save energy, improve air quality, conserve water and provide homes to wildlife.
  • Trees…

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BOOK REVIEW FRIDAY – CROSSING TO SAFETY BY WALLACE STEGNER

P. C. Zick:

Wallace Stegner left us with books that are relevant and thoughtful. Perfect addition to all the Earth Day celebrations this week and beyond.

Originally posted on P.C. Zick:

Crossing to Safety

“In fiction, I think we should have no agenda but to tell the truth.” – Wallace Stegner

Thank you to my friend and colleague Christina Carson for pointing me to the literary genius of Wallace Stegner, both author and environmentalist.

He’s known for his dedication in writing about the preservation of the West of the United States, but my introduction to him came from reading his novel, Crossing to Safety. I’ve already ordered his Pulitzer Prize winning novel, Angle of Repose because I’m enamored of this gentle man’s prose and honesty in the telling of a compelling story. Isn’t that the standard to which all authors should aspire? I know it’s what I wish for myself.

From the very beginning, he drew me into his story as the narrator, Larry, and his wife, Sally awaken in a cabin in the woods of Vermont in 1972. There’s to be a meeting…

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Happy #Earth Day – Pay Dirt – #Composting

Happy Earth Day 2015!

Celebrating Earth Day is a little bit like giving canned goods to the homeless at the holidays as if that’s the only time the food is needed. Same with Earth Day. We get all warm and fuzzy inside thinking about doing things to help the environment, but then May comes along, and we forget that the Earth still struggles under the weight of human weight and consumption, just as the homeless need food as much, if not more, once January 1 rolls around.

Here’s something to do year round to help you, the environment, and maybe even those who have less than you do. Food banks welcome fresh produce and making compost surely helps you grow your own.

I’ve been composting kitchen waste ever since I had a small rooftop garden in my efficiency apartment in Ann Arbor in 1979. Since then, I’ve composted on a 20-acre homestead, in an urban backyard, and behind the shed in my current home in Pennsylvania. It’s a simple process and begins with finding a container with a sealable lid to keep in the kitchen for the food scraps.

Not all of your waste from the kitchen makes good compostable material. Avoid the use of meat scraps, fish byproducts, cheese, bones, fats, oils or grease because they all attract wild animals and take a very long time to break down. Egg shells, coffee grounds and vegetable matter make the best material to start the process of minting your very own black gold.

Once the container is filled, take it to the compost bin and put it inside and cover with either brown or green organic material. Making the rich topsoil requires a balancing act between green materials and brown materials placed on top of the kitchen scraps. Think of the green things as those still close to the live stage: grass clippings, food scraps and manures. The browns have been dead for a while and consist of dry leaves and woody materials and even shredded paper. We use the ashes from our fireplace. Layering these elements, with the browns taking up the most space, leads to the decomposition of the materials. Air and water are essential in assisting in this process, but usually there is enough liquid in my compost container and in the air to not worry about wetting the materials. If you notice the material in the bin looks dry, go ahead and water it.

There are products you can purchase, from shredders to rotating drums to three-stage bins. You can spend from $50 upwards to several hundreds of dollars. If you live in the extreme north, you may need to invest in the more sophisticated type of equipment to ensure the success of your compost bin. But I’ve composted in Michigan, Florida, and now Pennsylvania and managed to do it successfully without expending lots of money.

When I lived in an urban setting in Florida, I did the simplest thing. But it could easily have been expanded. I bought a plastic garbage can for under $10 and cut off the bottom. I drilled holes all over the lid and sides to allow air flow. A nail and hammer would have accomplished the same thing. I dug a hole about three-inches deep in the soil the diameter of the can and placed the bottom into the ground, filling around the sides to make it secure. I covered the bottom with the dirt I had just removed, making sure it was nice and loose. Then I placed my kitchen scraps on top. I covered those with leaves from my yard and put the lid back on the garbage can. Every time I put new material from the kitchen into the bin, I stirred the whole thing with a shovel.

Here in Pennsylvania, we bought a simple compost bin from Lowes for under $50. It has panels on all four sides that slide off for easy removal of the dirt from the bottom.

I fill my flower pots full of this healthy rich soil where grateful petunias and pansies thrive in the dirt that started in my kitchen. Our vegetables and herbs will receive a healthy dose of the soil when it’s time, and then we start the process all over again.

Earthworms are the essential ingredient for turning the scraps into rich dark soil. If I see a worm in the yard, I’ll pick it up and carry it to the bin, but mostly the earthworms find it all by themselves. If you don’t see any in your pile, buy a small container of earthworms from the local bait shop and let them loose. They eat the organic matter, and quite graciously poop behind nice dirt. Maybe that’s what I love most about composting. It’s a way to be a part of the cycle of nature without disturbing or destroying it.

When I began pulling together information for my book, From Seed to Table, my copy editor read the part on composted and was amazed that she could very easily start a small pile in her urban backyard. Just be sure to cover all the food scraps and keep a secure lid on the heap or you’ll have wildlife other than earthworms wanting to eat your scraps.

Do you compost? What’s been your experience? Any tips or suggestions to add?

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Click here for Kindle

And in honor of Earth Day and in remembrance of all we lost during Deepwater Horizon, I’m offering an eBook sale (either $.99 cents or free on Smashwords) on my novel Trails in the Sand. This contemporary fiction chronicles BP’s oil spill in 2010 as environmental reporter Caroline Carlisle races to save her family from the destructive forces of their past.

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Click below to be taken to the purchase site of your choice.

Amazon Kindle

B&N Nook

Apple iBook

Kobo

Smashwords (use coupon code FR84H)

Paperback (Sorry, I don’t set the price on this version!)

Five Year Anniversary of #Deepwater Horizon Disaster

Florida Setting 6Five years ago today I sat in bed reading the morning papers and listening to Good Morning America. A little passing news story took up less than a minute of air time to let us know that an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico had caught on fire. No big deal.

Until it was. Eleven men died in that fire. The environmental effects aren’t over just because the cap was sealed on the gushing fire. Click here for some comprehensive articles from the Wall Street Journal  on what is being done and what has been done in the past five years.

We know for sure that we lost lives, both human and wildlife. We know that habitats were disturbed. And we know that if full safety procedures had been followed, this disaster might never have happened.

Today, please remember what we lost.

I wrote my novel Trails in the Sand as an appeal to make sure we never let anything like this happen again. At the time it happened, I worked for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission as a public relations director. One of my jobs during the spill and subsequent threat to Florida beaches was to head up the media portion of the effort to move sea turtle nests from the Panhandle beaches to the east coast where once hatched, the hatchlings would march to sea in safer waters. I hope they remained safe.

3-D1webFor the month of April, Trails in the Sand eBook is only $.99 cents. Click below to grab your copy.

Amazon

Nook

Apple iBook

Kobo

Or download for free at Smashwords, using coupon code FR84H.