The Evolution of Our Urban Jungle

We’re coming to the close of another year, and once again, it’s been a year full of ups and downs, with the former seeming fleeting and the latter feeling overwhelming at the time.  Regardless, it’s been a busy year for many of us, and for some reason, it’s at this time of the year that we often look back and contemplate the events of the past while looking forward to the events of the future.

This past Spring, The Goat and I drove to Cincinnati and brought home Charlie Brown the Airedale.   Charlie brought his own set of ups and downs.  He’s a typical Airedale, smart, silly, and  active.  But The Goat and I had forgotten what it is like to have a young Airedale in the house.  The Jasmanian Devil had lived a long life, and having been sick, for we don’t really know how long, she had “mellowed” with age and illness.

Also, Charlie’s personality is quite different than Jasmine’s was, which is welcome  because being the same breed, it’s nice to be able to distinguish the difference between the two so easily.  No one ever wants to replace a beloved pet, so different personalities are helpful in these situations.  But, because of his different quirks, he’s forced us to rearrange a few things and rethink how we do things around the house.

Because I’m continually working towards simplifying and downsizing/ minimizing our possessions, Charlie’s been helpful in this overwhelming task, unfortunately.  See, if it’s not in a cupboard, drawer, above nose hight, or behind a door, he will lick and/or gnaw on it.  He doesn’t seem to want to eat it, unless it is a food source.  Like a small child, it seems that he just wants to learn more about every object he can through taste and smell.

That means that we’ve had to rearrange the kitchen, switching what’s in which cupboard or on the counter/shelves.  We had to figure out how to get the few soaps and shampoos that populate our shower shelves and sink counter higher than his reach.  We had to relocate 2 trash bins – one in the kitchen and one in the bath.  Laundry bins had to be elevated.  Baby gates and barriers have been strategically placed around the house.

And then there’s the garden …for the foreseeable future, we will not have grass.  Due to Charlie’s aggressive playing, most of the grass has been ripped up by his four speeding, and quite large, paws.

The Jasmanian Devil, if you recall, loved the brassica family – broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, etc. .   At planting time, we didn’t have a brassica munching four legged family member, so I planted a few of them inside the fence.  I thought, mistakenly, that since Charlie let them be when he first arrived that he wasn’t going to develop that habit.  Then one nice Fall day, I went out to harvest some kohlrabi and there he was, standing in the large pot, eating all of them.  All. Of. Them.  So much for that.  If you recall from an early post, he’s an avid tomato muncher too.

Which brings me to the year end pondering of what the next year will bring.  Once again, or maybe I should say “As always”, I will be trying to simplify our life by minimizing, sorting, and organizing the stuff in our house.  This year however, we’ll be assisted by a nosey four legged critter with a penchant for slobbering on everything.  As frustrating as it’s been (“Where did you find that tubing?”, “Stop drinking the dishwater!?”, “Why is there a dog toy in the laundry basket?”), I’m pleased with the clean lines of the empty hallway, the uncluttered look of the spaces we’ve already had to tackle, and the routine vacuuming schedule I’ve fallen into.

As for the garden, each year it gets a bit more difficult for me to manage and keep it up.  And each year I plan to up my game and be a better gardener.  I continually try to grow veggies and herbs, and some years I’m successful, others not so much.  (As a side note, our summer weather has been a bit erratic over the past few years, which doesn’t help either.)  And I have been moving towards container gardening – at least for the veggies – but haven’t had much success yet.

Now with Charlie tearing up the grass and eating every vegetable he can, the decision to move to containers, mostly outside of the fence, has been made for me.   But that’s going to come with it’s own set of issues, mainly the chipmunks and squirrels that inhabit that area of the yard  because it’s dog-free.  But I’m going to give it a try, again.  At least I know of a few CSA’s we can join to be sure of our local and fresh veggie consumption this next summer.

Moving to container gardening, also creates a few challenges in the current garden – like what do I do with it?  We have three raised beds that are still quite usable, I’ll have to decide what to plant in them – maybe I’ll expand my herbs this year and plan on harvesting and preserving more of them.   I could also look into crops that are more biennial or perennial than annual.  Since they are just outside the door, formatting it to look more like a traditional English-style Herb Garden might be fun.

Regardless or what I decide, and how I manage to accomplish it, one thing is certain, 2018 will be an interesting year in our Urban Jungle, hopefully it will be positive, restorative, and  energizing; and may whatever 2018 brings you be positive too.

Oh, and if you have any extra serving platter or bowling ball sized rocks you don’t need, feel free to drop them off at our house.  Our embankment could use some landscaping.



Hibernating Under the Hydrangea


Charlie Brown the Airedale napping under an Oak Leaf Hydrangea and Ginkgo tree.

So many people love Fall.  Really, really, love Fall.  Cooler weather, that smell, changing of the leaves, Pumpkin Spice everything – and I mean everything, just yesterday I saw a sign at a large auto dealership that read, “Pumpkin Spice Oil Change now available.”  That made me laugh much harder than it should have.  Probably because I don’t get the whole pumpkin spice craze.  I’ll let you in on a secret, add some cinnamon and nutmeg to your coffee in March, it’s still “Pumpkin Spice”.

Despite the unseasonably warm weather this Fall, I’ve been affected in the usual ways;  sleeping almost 12 hours a day, and I’m still exhausted.  My hands and feet are always cold, therefore I spend the days layering up and wondering where my fingerless mitts are – I own a ‘freakin’ yarn shop, so why can I never find my fingerless mitts when I need them?  I can’t spend time outside without paying for it the day after.  Everything hurts, all the time, every day.

Much like Spring, Fall is a season of change.  Maybe that’s why despite my efforts, precautions, and the various actions I take to combat my body’s usual response to Fall, I fail every year.  Because things seem to be changing and weighing on me heavily this Fall, the precautions are counteracted by the changes – the good and the bad ones.

While many of these changes could, and do happen, at any time of the year,  they just somehow seem more poignant in the Fall.  Probably because unlike Spring’s anticipated change of rebirth and renewal, Fall signals death, cold, and hibernation.  That’s quite a different type of change; green and vibrant vs. grey and still.  And that difference can create a vastly different attitude.

I believe we need a period of hibernation.  The rest of hibernation allows one to wake up renewed, as we’re supposed to in the Spring.  But our society doesn’t place much value in the notion of rest and hibernation.  And let’s be honest, unlike animals, we can’t sleep away months – the dishes still need done; dinners need made; laundry still piles up; appointments must be kept; and with the holidays coming, family obligations arise.

All of these tasks and obligations can wear away at our being.  It’s a hard thing to accept, but it’s ok if we only maintain the status quo at these times.  You only got the dishes and the laundry done?   You’re probably the only one keeping tabs.  We need to remember that not all of us like to, or are even able to, run at full speed every day, all year, every year.  And that is ok – albeit hard to accept, even by those of us who unwillingly slow down.

As we move into what is supposed to be a slower season in our annual life cycle, let’s remember that not all of us enjoy the hustle and bustle of daily life every day of the year.  Some of us need a break.  Life is exhausting.  Truly.  Sometimes we need to slow down, whether we want to or not.   The fast pace that society seems to demand isn’t the pace we should always strive to maintain.

However you find yourself handling this season of change, I hope you find the support you need to slow down and enjoy the changes that Fall brings and the hibernation ahead, even while continuing your daily life.  Or at least, like Charlie Brown, may you find a great place to hibernate (nap).

Shine on.

Image result for karl popper tolerance

When I started this blog a few years ago, the intent was to share the ways in which The Goat and I were attempting to live lightly, leave a small footprint, be green, or basically how we were attempting to live in such a way that we would use our, and Earth’s, resources, wisely.

Since then a lot has happened.   That’s to be expected, as life moves forward day by day, hour  by hour, minute by minute.  We get older, all of us.  Situations at work change.  Situations at home change – sometimes due to everyone getting older, sometimes due to work, sometimes due to unforeseen circumstances, like an accident or sudden death of a family member.  Fashion, pop culture, and society’s ideals and positions change.

Right now America is going through a huge moral quarrel, and it will get ugly, because it already has.  Each time something horrible happens, my heart breaks a little more.  I can’t wrap my thinking around the hatred spewed almost daily on the nightly news.  I can’t grasp how someone can hate an entire group of people with such ferocity that they lose sight of the objects’ humanity.

Throughout modern history there has always been an “enemy” – and for some reason we like to assign them a color?!  This idea that the “other” is evil propagates an ideology of fear and hatred, entitlement and superiority, and the ever popular “us vs. them” mentality.  While it might be an acceptable attitude at a sporting event, it’s not acceptable elsewhere.

I’m tired of this “us vs. them” ideology.  There is no “them”.  We all live on a small planet with limited resources.  There’s just humanity.  That’s it.  Every human on this rock needs to eat.  Every one of us needs a safe place to sleep at night.  Every single one of us is linked to someone else.  We all need assistance from others, every single day.  You might not think so, but someone works at the power plant that feeds electricity to your home.  Someone wrote that app you can’t live without.  Someone harvested the veggies at the grocery store, yes even the ones that are imported from across the globe.  Someone butchered the cow that provided the burger you grilled last night.  Someone made the fabric from which your clothes are made.  You get the picture.

I may have digressed a tad, but I felt it a bit necessary to do so before getting to my point, which is that I’m going to strive to return to the original intent of this blog – sharing and documenting our attempts to live life the best we can, while using our resources wisely – be that upcycling, gardening, choosing our products carefully, or sharing healthy habits and ways to improve our life.

Right now things look pretty dark; and the only way to overcome darkness is to shine a light.  Once one candle is lit, it’s easy to light a second from the first’s flame, and a third, and a fourth, and a fifth…  We all need to find those people that help us stay positive, keep up the work we’re doing, and to stay focused on the bigger picture – living a good life while leaving a planet for all of those that come after us.

By forcing myself to refocus on the bigger picture I’m hoping to help others do the same.  Because as one of us shines brighter and shares their light with others, the light begins to overcome the darkness, making it easier for all of us to see a way out.

Image result for victory gardenCorny?  Maybe.  Mostly, I’m hoping to remind myself that while the Paradox of Tolerance is very real (see photo above), climate change is happening, violence is becoming the norm, and the political climate is tenuous (and historically reminiscent), sometimes the best acts of patriotism, defiance, and activism look very similar.  And sometimes they are as simple as planting a garden, mending a shoe, or freezing your leftovers…

So can your salsa, mend your shirt, and learn an apocalyptic life skill.  You don’t need to carry a protest sign to be a light in a dark world.  Shine on.



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