Gardening Tips for Beginners, Part 2: Creating Raised Beds


It may still be winter outside, but in my mind summer is starting. Dreaming of crunchy, sweet peas fresh from the garden melting in my mouth and hummingbirds whizzing past my ears helps me beat the winter blues.

In my last post, Gardening Tips for Beginners, Part 1: The Potted Garden, I talked about starting a garden in pots. In this post I’ll share what I’m learning as I plan to create garden beds.

The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible by Edward C. Smith is my main guide because it has thorough, simple steps for everything from choosing what material to use for raised beds to naturally controlling common pests and diseases.

The decision for where to place the beds was based on where there is the most sun exposure, which means facing south without trees in the way. There are a lot of trees and brush to clear (thank goodness for my boyfriend’s strong arms!), but soon enough we’ll begin creating the beds…I’m so excited!

Here are the steps I’ll be taking to create my garden beds:

  1. Mark where the beds will be with stakes and string.
  2. Deep fork (love that term!) the soil beneath where those beds will be, which means shoving a pitch fork into the ground and rocking it back and forth to loosen the soil – Ed says this will allow roots to grow longer and so be more productive. I’ll deep fork about 8 inches down.
  3. Build my boxes, making sure to build in support in the corners, and settle it into place. I’ll most likely use untreated cedar because I don’t want nasty chemicals leaching into my garden.
  4. Put one inch of compost over the soil that’s been deep forked (ha!)
  5. Put about 10 inches of topsoil and compost over the top, filling in to about two inches from the top of the wall.
  6. Let the soil settle for at least one week.
  7. Plant my plant babies!

One of the biggest things I’ve learned is that gardeners always have more to learn, so if you have gardening tips, tricks and treasures, please share! 

“Discover Ed’s High-Yeild WORD System for All North American Gardening Regions: Wide Rows, Organic Methods, Raised Beds, Deep Soil.”





IUDAn intrauterine device (IUD) inserted into a uterus.Men – don’t be afraid! It’s good to learn what your women are going through.

The hormones released from Mirena intrauterine uterine devices (IUDs) can wreak havoc on a body and mind.

Even if you don’t have an IUD, haven’t heard of them, or if this topic totally grosses you out, you likely know someone who has one of these tiny plastic devices attached to their uterus and it’s good to know about them. There are about 150 million women worldwide who use the Merina and millions more who are on some type of birth control.

My doctor said she had one, a couple of my best friends have one, it seems like every other woman I talk to has one. When I was looking for effective birth control, it seemed like a no-brainer to get the Merina.

Yes, I’m an all natural girl, but I wanted to make it easy – why is it so often the easy way isn’t the healthiest?

Many women love their IUD, but I learned today that there are thousands of women out there who are suffering because of their IUDs.

I have a confession to make: I’m not happy. I’m extremely uncomfortable in my own skin. I’m anxious and depressed and exhausted.

This morning I woke up feeling like my insides were shaking, as if there was a violent earthquake going on but only my insides could feel it. This has become normal for me.

99 out of 100 nights I wake up two to three times throughout the night. For a moment I think, “Ahh, no problem, I’ll fall right back to sleep.” A moment later pandemonium sets in – my heart races, my stomach, neck and back tighten, I get so hot I can’t bear to have anything touching me, and my mind rampages through anxious memories that have no bearing on anything whatsoever.

I started doing yoga daily. I quit drinking coffee. I eat so healthy I feel like I should win an award sometimes. I take long walks in the beautiful woods around my house. I think of all the things I’m grateful for each morning. I’ve tried every breathing technique I’ve heard of to fall back to sleep. I take daily doses of magnesium and vitamin D and vitamin B complex.

I still feel abso*&%#inglutely miserable. My life and mind feel out of control. I know I have a beautiful life, amazing friends and family, an incredible, loving boyfriend and a mind that can create wonders.

None of that matters when I can hardly think straight or make a decision. I have fits of rage that make my dog, Cricket, cower (I’d never lay a hand on her, don’t worry!), I get up and sob silently in frustration in the middle of the night, I feel like I’m going to throw up when I have to make a decision or leave my house.

cricket hidingCricket doesn’t like my moodiness any more than I do

Depression and I have done battle before. I’m working on a book about my teenage years of being a suicidal drinker, if that gives you any indication. But I’ve found ways to cope, to not be overcome, to enjoy life even when I feel down, to harness that energy and turn it into positive things. I had not felt the darkness consuming me for a long, long time.

However, this winter has been a battle. I’ll just leave it at that.

I keep wondering: what is the cause of this? Why do I feel like I’m running as fast and hard as I can but still sliding backwards?

My sweet Mum could see I was struggling, so for Christmas she gave me a gift certificate for three acupuncture sessions and a health exam with a Chinese medicine specialist. 15 years ago this same specialist took away my incessant pain with eight acupuncture sessions, despite my skepticism and deep dislike of needles.

This time the doctor asked about each comment I’d made on my intake papers – anxiety, foggy thinking, pain, mood swings, past injuries, sleeplessness and extreme fatigue. It took two hours to go through them all.

I found myself fighting back tears as I realized how out of control I feel, how tired I am, how frustrating this daily battle of the attitudes has been.

Finally, the doctor looked me in the eye and pleaded with me to have my IUD removed, saying it was affecting my uterus and probably other things. I just nodded and said I’d look into it. I then laid for almost an hour with needles poking out of me, feeling strange sensations and occasional blissful reprieves from the heavy weight I’ve felt baring down on my body.

That night I had my first full seven hours of sleep in months. I felt refreshed and energized. But today, two days later, I awoke so full of anxiety I felt I could burst. I found I don’t want to go outside (REALLY weird for me), I don’t want to talk to anyone, I can’t decide what to do next and my brain is in a fog.

This morning, instead of laying in bed sweating and fretting as I often do before I haul myself out of bed, I started researching Merina and anxiety…

WOW, are there a lot of sad stories out there!

Thousands of women are struggling with depression, anxiety, dislodged IUDs and other issues related to IUDs. As I read story after story, a rush of relief wash over me – I’m not alone, I’m not crazy and there may be an answer!

Well, I might be a little crazy, but there is a potential fix for at least part of it: just get it taken out.

Yep, that little IUD is getting taken out of my body ASAP! Maybe my life won’t be perfectly anxiety-free, but I have hope that at least I’ll feel a more like the fun loving, outgoing, creative, happy and organized person that I usually am.

I read that some women have major anxiety or depression issues for awhile after having IUDs taken out, but once the body’s natural hormonal balance is restored life can resume without feeling like aliens are taking over the body.

So be prepared for a more emotional me for a bit, but hold onto hope that you’ll soon see me shine the way I used to.

Have you or someone you know experienced IUD issues? Please share!

Here are a few of the links that helped me understand my IUD and come to the decision to take it out:

Thank you for letting me vent! I feel much better now 🙂

Happy (inner and outer) Adventuring!




Gardening Tips for Beginners, Part 1: The Potted Garden


squash-flower (1)

A cold, gray day in January is a great time to plan a summer vegetable garden! Imagining warm sunshine on your back back as you pop a sweet, juicy cherry tomato in your mouth is like offering the mind a warm cup of tea.

A garden can be as simple as a few inexpensive pots on a porch with a few plants, or as complex as my friend Cari Schumaker’s giant garden, which provides a large amount of food year-round for her family of five.

In this post I’ll share tips on beginning to garden in pots. In my next post I’ll share what I’m learning for creating garden beds. Over the summer I’ll share how it’s going, and in the fall I’ll write about what I’ve learned.

If you’re new to vegetable gardening and have any trepidation, as I did, please know that it’s actually so simple you’ll wonder why you didn’t start sooner!

If gardening is old news to you, passing on the joy of gardening to those who haven’t experienced it yet is a great new year’s resolution.

I grew up with fresh food from my parents’ gardens, but I didn’t appreciate it until I came around to eating healthy later in life. Now I dream of having all those fresh food option straight out of the garden!

I started gardening a few years ago in a few pots on my porch. Even though I had a tiny budget, almost no knowledge and limited space, I harvested cucumbers, basil, chard and a few tomatoes. I grew to love coming home from work and taking care of my plants, as well as the fresh tastes in my meals.

For the last few summers I’ve had a little more room and have experimented. Now I have the budget, time and space for a larger garden, so I’m planning to create raised beds for a wide variety of vegetables, herbs and flowers. I found an excellent book to help me plan and I thought I’d share some of what I’m learning with you.

The book is The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible by Edward C. Smith. He also has a good book called The Vegetable Gardener’s Container Bible: How to grow a Bounty of Food in Pots, Tubs and Other Containers.

To start, any nursery will have inexpensive pots and potting soil. Farmers markets and nurseries will have plant starts – and staff will happily give you planting tips.

Once you have all your pieces, all you need to do is put them together and pay attention as they grow – water before they get dry, check for issues such as disease or bugs (ask those same farmers market or nursery staff if you get these) and then harvest your goods!

A few tips that helped me begin gardening – most of which I learned the hard way:

Don’t be attached to the results. If your plants thrive, that’s wonderful! If they die, it isn’t the end of the world and you aren’t a terrible gardener. Think about what could be done differently and try again, and maybe talk to someone at a farmer’s market or nursery about your experience. Just keep trying – you will succeed!

Get pots with drainage holes and put plates or pot bottoms under them so you don’t get dirty wet spots underneath. Without drainage, roots will likely rot.

Get a good fertilizer and follow the directions. Everyone seems to have a different favorite – mine is…….Just ask your friends at the farmers market or nursery and experiment to find your favorite.

Check water levels daily until you know how much they require. It’s important not to overwater plants or let them dry out. Get in the habit of poking your finger up to the first knuckle into the soil every day – if it comes out dry, it’s time to water.

Try to avoid watering over the top of your plants. If you water directly onto the soil, rather than over the top of leaves, you can help avoid mildew, which can spread through plants quickly and kill them, or at least drastically reduce their production levels.

Gardening is a continuous learning process. There are thousands of books out there to choose from to get started and the choices can be overwhelming. The important thing is just to start!

Here are my two favorite gardening books right now. Please let me know if you have other favorites and/or gardening tips!

The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible by Edward C. Smith. “Discover Ed’s High-Yeild WORD System for All North American Gardening Regions: Wide Rows, Organic Methods, Raised Beds, Deep Soil.”

McGee and Stuckey’s Bountiful Container: Create Container Gardens of Vegetables, Herbs, Fruits and Edible Flowers (also a staff pick at Powell’s Books).