Tag Archives: mel bartholomew

Thought-Collage Thursday // Riddles

Where on earth does the time go? It’s the middle of May!

5 minutes ago, it was May Day, and suddenly the month is halfway gone, school is about to be let out, graduation parties are happening in earnest and spring seems awfully late this year (a little snowstorm on Sunday and Monday???).

snow on mothers day

What do 30 kale seedlings, 14 tomato plants, a couple dozen pepper plants, zinnias, daisies, cauliflower and cabbage, 4 cubic feet of vermiculite, 9 cubic feet of peat moss and a bunch of bags of compost have in common?

mothers day snow message on picnic table

They are not in my garden, as they SHOULD be on Mother’s Day weekend because they are waiting for some sunny warm days to happen, you know, in a row! Do I seem bitter about the spring snow? Because I obviously am.

Where in the world are DP and Tara?

heading to paris

Paris. In France. Or maybe London, in England today? Not sure which. But they are somewhere 8 hours ahead of us.

the eiffel tower in paris

I am watching Kai while they are gone. He is a little bruiser and quite independent.  He is 16 months of power and speed. But when he runs to me with his little arms up, I scoop him close as fast as I can, before the moment passes.

Yesterday, I was cuddling him for his nap and I swear a blanket of deja vu swept over me and I felt like I was in my 20s again – a young, energetic mommy. It was a heady moment, so sweet.  And Dave and I still have our co-parenting rhythm, I have found – the gentle give and take and ins and outs of baby-chores: diapering, bathing, feeding, diapering again, playing cars on the floor. We were once top experts in our field, with so many babies in the 1980s!


But at about 1 am I woke up with aching back, neck and shoulders and realized, uh no. I’m not in my 20s anymore. I am a Nonna in my 50s. Ha! But Malakai’s darling squeals and trails of cheese crackers and Hot Wheels do take me back. Memories…

How is it possible to just so deeply love this many people I have known for 11 years or less?

It’s like – I couldn’t have imagined them and then, *poof,* here they are and I cannot fathom anything without them. I could ramble on about them all, I actually could. But suffice to say, Steph gave me these shots for Mother’s Day. And I just want to give them all a *kiss-kiss* from Nonna. grandkids 2014-May Mother's Day aa Tonight is Gavin’s last band concert of the year. It’s scheduled to be outside. Hope the rain holds back. He’ll be 11 soon, and officially a middle-schooler.

Here is the low down, left to right (above): Hunter (9 1/2); he is holding Eva (5 months tomorrow), she lives to smile with her whole heart and face; Then there is Averi (6); Gunivere (8 1/2) is holding Bailey (who is 1 and wants to run); Gemma May  (7 next week) got glasses recently; Amelie Belle (4); Malakai (16 months) making a getaway; and finally the one who started it all, Gavin (turning 11 in June).

grandkids 2014-2

The lovely and fair Guinivere, as soft and sweet, thoughtful and gentle as she looks (but also sharp and wry, with a sense of humor that comes out of nowhere) just became an official business woman. She has been sewing decorator pillows (by machine, then stuffing, then finishing by hand) for $3 each to raise money for a camping trip at the zoo.

Guini pillow

She worked really hard and sold lots more than she even needed to reach her goal and her mommy said she felt the pressure of deadline order filling. But she did it. And she did it well. I am so proud of her.

Which is worse: failing at something, or not even trying?

I think almost everyone would say that not trying would be so much worse than trying something and then failing at it. But maybe the question is really this, Which is worse: failing at something you had the courage to try, or feeling ashamed by others’ reactions when you fail at something?

Forget Hunger Games, the shame game is the most deadly in the world. Though we understand that failure is just experience in the making, a stepping stone to something really great, the heaviness of having shame heaped on when it happens keeps us from trying the things we were born to try. Shame says:

  • You did it wrong. You shouldn’t have tried.
  • You have now ruined it for everyone else in the universe.
  • I hope you’ve learned your lesson.

Shame is a liar.

Don’t you just wish we would call its’ bluff more often? I want to master the art of “the shrug,” the oh-well, I tried. I did my best. I love people who can take flying leaps, outrageously stumble, then tumble, skid on their knees into brick walls, get up, hobble away with a smile and say, “Ok – next time, I think I will..” Yes! Those kind of people amaze me.

Keep trying!

BTW-what the heck with the vermiculite?

I used to be able to buy course grade vermiculite for about $3 per cubic foot at a garden center in Westminster. They closed and I need a new supplier. Now I am paying more than $10 per cubic foot.

Vermiculite is magic, though. It makes up 1/3 of Mel’s suggested Square Foot Gardening soil mixture, which, when made to spec never has to be replaced in your garden. Various composts + peat moss + vermiculite = amazing garden!

mel bartholomew all new square foot gardening

As I understand it, vermiculite is made from mica and other minerals being heated to the point of “explosion,” puffing up like popcorn! It’s like tiny, rock-looking, little sponges that soak up moisture and keep it in the soil near the plants’ roots where it is needed. It also keeps the soil from getting hard and compacted.

I am creating more tomato space in the garden this year (of. course!) and I just had to pay more than $50 for 5 cubic feet of this stuff. I am willing to raid a vermiculite stash in the night, trash bags in hand, if anyone knows where I might find such a place?

#tbt Throw-back Thursday time again!

Since I am having memories of when our kids were little so strongly this week, well, I’ll share from that era. You know I always tells you the 1980s were a blur, as we added to the family in rapid-fire succession. Oh, they were sweet days. Big hair. Silly children. Songs, church, gerbils, bikes, face paint, kids clubs, walking to school and oh, so many hugs and kisses and love among us!

rocky and dessa august 1987

At the beginning of the movie, “While You Were Sleeping,” the Sandra Bullock character is recalling her childhood and they were depicting scenes from her hazy, muted memories and she says something like, “I just don’t remember it being so…orange.” haha. I feel somewhat the same!

Daddy & Baby napping

Baby Dessa napping with her handsome daddy. Summer 1983.

Jordan, Rocky and Stormie

Does it go without saying that I, like my mother before, would not be caught without lots of sailor-inspired outfits for my children. We even brought one to their little cousin, Jordan one year!

stormie 1

Stormie’s first birthday.

Stephanie on her dedication day

Getting Stephie ready for her dedication at church, summer 1982.

tara turning two

Tara’s 2nd birthday.

Rocky on his dedication day

Rocky’s dedication day. Fall 1984.

fall 1982 church directory

One of those church directory photos. They are always the worst! But still, October or November 1982. My little family in Kokomo.

Jeanie 1987

I was the picture of a pastor’s wife, I think. Pantyhose and dresses at almost all times! Fall 1987, when the kiddos were 1 1/2 – 8 years old.

Well, this was quite the mish-mash of memories and thoughts and garden frustrations. But that is what Thought-Collage Thursdays are all about.

Please let me know if you have the answers to the riddles of life that swirl in my head, and plague my existence…especially if your know where I can get that vermiculite! :)


Mel is the Man!

You will never need another gardening book.

mel bartholomew

Just this one and Google (for searching anything you can dream up).  The image above is from Amazon, of course.

Mel.  :)


Mel Bartholomew is the father of smart gardening. And how you can grow more veggies in less space with way less work and we all need to know these things!

I hated vegetable gardening as a kid.  Can you believe that?

But one day, I decided that I had had enough of grocery store tomatoes.  I couldn’t quit thinking of summers at my Aunt Rosie’s.  Her redwood-stained picnic table was loaded daily with her freshest picks from the garden.  We ate corn on the cob, green beans cooked with bacon and juicy hamburgers.  But the piece de resistance was the tomato.  The tomato in her garden was the queen.  She cut huge slabs of beefsteak tomatoes, red through and through and passed the platter, then the salt.  And the tingling, tart-sweet explosion on your tongue – well, you had to be there.

So when my kids were all teenagers, I became a gardener.  I decided to grow tomatoes and green beans and baby zucchini, plucked and grilled while tiny and delectable instead of waiting for them to become brick bats and then running out of friends and relatives to pawn them on.  I decided to be a gardener.

And glory be, I found THIS book at the library.

square foot gardening

This was Mel’s original Square Foot Gardening book

I shudder to think what my experience may have been had it not been for Mel Bartholomew.  Because even though I had actually checked about 16 gardening books out at once,his message sounded truer than any of the others, logical, just made sense.  It was simple and doable and I took 37.42 pages of notes on his book.

square foot garden

An I had THE MOST amazing garden.  I had a huge yard back then and threw garden boxes in all over the place.  I even had room for more than 20 tomato plants.  I had harvest coming out my ears of everything I grew: okra, swiss chard, lettuces, peppers of every color, 4 or 5 types of radish, corn, mini-corn, watermelon, cucumbers, strawberries and grapes – everything you could imagine – but mostly, tomatoes.

aunt rosie

My Aunt Rosie, right

My Aunt Rosie and I talked on the phone a lot that year and exchanged letters excitedly sharing that day’s harvest, “Well, today I got about 16 beefsteak tomatoes, a bowl full of cherry and half a basket of plum.  The parsley and basil are running wild.  I have a large pot of green beans on the stove for dinner.”  We loved sharing the great good news of the garden.

Square-Foot Gardening – Grow More in Less Space

I checked Mel’s book out regularly for the first few years, each January.  Imagine my delight when I walked in to the library annual book sale a few years down the road and there it was for 10-cents.  How truly fortuitous. I have THE orginal book from which I was first inspired to garden and LOVE it!

square foot garden

And now Mel has made it even easier. I got his newer book just last summer.  The charts, wisdom, the inspiration, the cheering on – all of it.  THE only book you’ll ever really need.  But I am keeping both of mine!  :)

SFG!  All the way.  Check it out.


Just call me Mr. McGregor

Hey, Peter Rabbit – yes, you and all your friends and cousins, too:

Get the heck out of my garden, you little hole-digging, lettuce chomping monsters.


I wouldn’t be bothered one bit if a bunny feasted on Russian Sage or Garlic Chives (both quite aggressive little boogers in the backyard).  But darn it, stay out of my SFG* raised beds, or else!

P.S., Bunny-boy: I saw where you came in.  Don’t make me have to take drastic action.

*SFG Square Foot Gardening #lovemelbartholomew

Square Foot Gardening

When I first started gardening (1997), I checked out the BEST book EVER from the library, Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew.  See a 3-minute introduction in this youtube video:

The book has been updated and is better, all-new and improved they say.  The early SFGs were not that great looking and are now much more attractive.   But I still have the actual copy I first readnot because I stole it from the library!  No, they sold it a few months later because some one had apparently watered it along with their garden.  Silly person…Great sentimental value to me!


Mel, the Square Foot Gardener guru, says if you have never gardened, he can teach you all the principles of successful gardening in an hour.  But if you have done “traditional” farm-style (rows and hoeing, for instance) gardening, it takes waaaaaaaay longer to teach you (can you say: hard-headed?).  Luckily, I was a total novice, so I LOVE Mel!  And I love all the produce I have been able to grow in very small spaces!

Mel taught me:

  • to plant seeds in vermiculite which acts as a sponge to hold the moisture around the seed so it will germinate quickly.  Gavin and I planted lettuce, radishes and spinach that way exactly one week ago and it has already germinated!  Tiny little sprouts are smiling up at me!
  • not to plant handfuls of seed and then go back and get rid of 2/3 of it (called “thinning”…there’s no thinning in SFG!).  With Square Foot Gardening, you plant the right amount of seeds in a 1-foot space and enjoy every single thing that grows!
  • to plant smartly:  16 radishes at a time.  I have 16 growing right now.  In a few days I will plant 16 more, and so on.  Why would I plant an entire package of seeds at once when I cannot eat them all at once?
  • weeding doesn’t have to take over your life because in a SFG, there is hardly any weeding!
  • and he taught me how to get the BEST tomato harvest ever!  And that alone makes Mel one of my all-time favorite people.

This year I have discovered the Square Foot Gardening website along with instructions on how to grow potatoes.  Mel’s current website: http://www.squarefootgardening.com/ …F U L L of incredible gardening knowledge!  Good times!

Benefits of Square Foot Gardening:

  1. Uses 80% less space per harvest.
  2. Uses 90% less water.
  3. Uses 95% less seeds!
  4. You get 5 times the harvest
  5. And?  It makes me feel so green!

This is the method I am passing on to the grand-bebes!…Jeanie

NOTE TO SELF:  Never go another year without gardening!

pictured: my ragged copy of the first Square Foot Gardening book….still much used and greatly loved…