30 April 2014

we're planting a canning garden.

Has Spring come to your part of the world yet? Wichita (and the midwest in general) has some funky weather patterns, so one day it feels like spring and the next it's snowing. Nevertheless, the gardening season has begun! 
There's a lot of gardening talk at our dinner table because Josh and our cousin Lauren work for Legacy Ministries' awesome program called GardenWorks. They employ at risk youth to prepare the soil, plant and tend vegetables, herbs, and even some fruit. The goal is to give these teenagers job experience while providing healthy, locally grown food to the community. It's an awesome program and I could probably tell you more about it, but I really want to talk about my garden.
I should call it our garden because Josh and I are working on it together. Since we will be able to buy fresh produce from GardenWorks all summer long, I thought it would be fun and fruitful to plant a garden that we could eat from throughout the rest of the year. After some dinner table discussion, Josh and I decided to plant a canning garden. I have never canned a single tomato, so I have lots to learn. 
We started from scratch on this garden. Our first step was to dig up a ton of bermuda grass. About a month ago we spent about 16 hours digging and pulling out those wretched bermuda grass roots. We were lucky that the start of my spring break coincided with 70 degree weather, so we could dig in the warm sun.
Our little triangle shaped plot, located in a nice sunny spot across the street, measures 19' 9" x 17' 9" x 15' 5".  We first planted onion sets and then three varieties of beets from seed (colorful beets, candy stripe beets, and bulls blood beets). It's so fun to watch the little leaves of our beets coming up! In addition to beets and onions, our plan is to plant tomatoes, bell peppers, hot peppers, and maybe some basil. The latest additions to our garden are a wood chip path, a barrier of buckwheat around the edge of the path (to discourage bermuda grass from taking root), and a rock wall. We've also mixed in some horse manure with our soil. Since we've never canned before we're starting small with salsa, tomato sauce, and beets (in what form, we're not sure yet). My mind is spinning with possibilities, though! I picked up some books from the library on canning and keeping a root cellar. Now I'm wondering if our little basement could be a root cellar and what foods we'd want to store down there. 
I love both the solitude and the community I find in this space. Our garden is close to the house of some neighbors who have befriended us. Their three little kids love to come over and talk with us while gardening. They are talkers! We show them earthworms and they try to help pull out the bermuda grass roots. I also love the time spent with Josh in the garden. It’s special for us to have a common project and it’s a good space for conversation. However, some days I find myself alone in the garden and the time to lose myself in the soil is also valuable. Watering, digging, weeding- they're all monotonous tasks, but I find joy in doing them and in letting my mind wonder or rest. 
 So this is the start of our canning garden. We hope our plants grow well! If you have any great recipes or tips for canning, please leave a comment.

24 April 2014

my parents came to visit!

Several weeks ago my parents made the drive from Greenville to Wichita to hang out with Josh and me for the weekend. We had such a good time together. Our weekend was packed with conversation and delicious food and filled to the brim with love. (Is that too cheesy? Oh well, it's true.) Amidst all the activity, though, I also felt a peacefulness and restfulness in just being together.
My parental units got in kind of late on Friday evening, so we feed them enchiladas and chatted for a while before "hitting the hay," as we say in our family. My mom is amazing and training for a half marathon, so first thing on Saturday she went for a 6 mile run. I joined her for the first two miles. Meanwhile Josh and my dad watched soccer and made waffles. After breakfast there was a plant sale conveniently located across the street; my mom bought tomato plants and basil plants. Luckily the weather was warm and just slightly breezy so we walked around the various gardens. We showed my parents our very own garden (more on this soon) and the Legacy GardenWorks gardens and greenhouse. Not a lot had been planted at that point, but there were onions, beets, and peas coming up, and there were many plant starts waiting to go into the ground.
For lunch we met up with our friend Joey, from Greenville College. Joey was one of my dad's students and he worked at the summer I went to as a junior higher. Joey has this clear memory of me all alone, crying on a swing at camp. I don't remember this at all, but it does sound like something I'd do. Anyways, Josh and I actually ran into Joey at a show here in Wichita about a month ago. It was a total surprise; I hadn't talked to him in a few years and didn't know he was living here. Reconnecting with old friends is really fun. Plus, we ate at the most delicious Salvadorean restaurant, Usuluteco. I could eat their fried plantains with frijoles and crema everyday. If you are in Wichita you really must eat there.
I couldn't stand being inside for too long when the sun was shining so warmly, so we called up Dan (Josh's cousin) and met up for nine holes of disc golf. I'm not sure that I've ever enjoyed disc golf more than I did this day. I often get tired of walking and throwing, so nine holes was perfect. Dan and Josh are actually good at disc golf because they play regularly, but my parents and I had fun learning, talking and walking. After disc golf we zipped home to cook a feast: beat soup, homemade bread, baked sweet potatoes and sweet apple, kale & walnut salad. Grandparents Kline, Dan, and our housemates Lauren and Daniel joined us making our table a bit squished, but happy. Josh's grandparents ended up sharing stories from their lives of learning to follow God; my parents and I felt so inspired and encouraged. After dinner some of us hung around playing Nerts and Up the River Down the River and eating chocolate covered almonds until bedtime. It was my worst game of UTRDTR ever, but life goes on. I love playing games with my parents; some of their dearest quirks come out during an intense round of Nerts.
On Sunday we enjoyed breakfast and good conversation at Riverside Cafe, then went to church at Church of the Savior. My parents had to get back to Greenville for the work week, so we walked along the river, said our goodbyes and they drove off. It was a quick weekend, but full of quality time together. It was much needed on my end! This is only the second year of my life that I haven't lived in the same town as my parents, so the whole long distance thing is unusual. It's easy to get caught up in daily tasks and activities, but when I think about it I really miss them. And some days the missing is stronger than others. My parents are some of the people I am closest to in this world and being apart from them on a daily basis can be hard. 
  Mom and Dad, thanks for coming! I miss you and love you and I am so grateful for our time together.