This week I find myself right back in the messy middle in writing, gardening and life. While I’m not yet ready to share my current work in progress (a YA dystopia,) I can share some updates from my adventures in homemaking.
Three weeks in, here is the tomato plant (pictured below.) I’m pretty impressed with how quickly it’s grown. I’m planting everything on a west facing balcony so I’ve been a little concerned that it wasn’t getting enough light. From what I’ve read full sun constitutes 6-8 hours of sunshine. It gets almost exactly 6 hours now that it’s lighter later, but a few large eucalyptus branches are throwing a little more shade than I’d like. It’s been making me nervous. But just yesterday my son spotted the first tomato forming! (You can see it in the middle of the picture on the right.)
I LOVE spicy food. So even though the light isn’t exactly ideal on our deck, I had to plant this Thai Chili (below) in a sunny window box that sits over the deck railing. Fingers crossed it gets enough sun. Again, the appearance of these little buds is giving me reason to smile.
During my son’s spring break, we planted lemon seeds from an organic store-bought lemon two different ways. The first was just planting the moist seed in potting soil and covering the pot with plastic wrap held on with a rubber band. After three weeks there is no sign of sprouting.
The second way was to peel the outer husk off the seeds and then sprout them in a moist paper towel. After about 8 days we checked them and they had sprouted! We then decided to plant two of them in a small pot to see if one grows better than the other. Just yesterday we had to take off the plastic wrap covering because they were getting too tall! For now, our little seedlings are being kept inside, next to the sliding glass window so that they get plenty of light and aren’t disturbed by the weather, which has been all over the place, at least by Southern California standards (between 60-90F.)
Next, we planted 5 cloves of organic store-bought garlic in a container. One of them sprouted right away, but until two days ago none of the others showed any signs of following. This is their progress as of this morning (below.) 3 out of the 5 have sprouted, and now that the weather is cooling off again I’m hoping the other two will too.
For anyone who already knows a lot about growing their own food, my excitement may seem a little much, but until a year ago I’d never tried to grow anything apart from some indoor plants that were basically un-killable. I am finding tremendous satisfaction in planting, watering and watching my new babies grow. The view from my desk now includes my little urban garden and I love it.
We’re still in the process of up cycling an old IKEA bed frame, turning it into a vertical garden space to plant kale, spinach, basil and scallions. Thanks to a little help from my musician/pirate/handyman husband it’s coming along nicely. And while that’s been happening, in my effort to eliminate waste and reduce toxins, I decided to venture into soap making.
The caustic nature of lye (the binding agent required to achieve saponification) as well as the possibility of explosion (if mixed incorrectly) made my seven-year old son super excited, and me a little nervous. I decided it wasn’t a kid friendly endeavor but promised to tell him all about it if there were any explosions. Luckily, it was quite boring on that front.
A friend and I decided to try it together at her house. We used a hot process method and my friend, who makes many of her own beauty products, came up with the blend of olive oil, jojoba oil and mango butter as our fats. We discovered there is definitely a difference between dissolving lye in purified water versus distilled water (use distilled!) but mostly it was pretty straight forward.
We added lavender and peppermint essential oils at the very end to make our soap smell delicious. The final texture is a little crumbly, but totally usable. I can’t tell if it’s crumbly because of the mango butter or if we screwed it up somehow. Possibly, it would be better to do the cold process instead next time. I suppose it will require further testing.
It gets the husband stamp of approval, though. (He hasn’t been using either the toothpaste or deodorant I made, so it’s not that he just likes all my experiments.)
It feels like in all areas of my life at the moment creativity is germinating. With a little patience, stubbornness and luck there will be some exciting updates soon. Thanks for following along on my little adventure.