The 2016 Holiday Gift Guide for (Pissed Off) Nasty Women and Bad Hombres

If you’re anything like me you realize, now more than ever, that perhaps the last thing I need in my world is more stuff.

You know what I DO need? Equal rights. Civil liberties. To feel safe. To BE safe. For those people who have been targeted by hate speech this election cycle to feel (and truly BE) safe. To support those organizations working so hard, every day, to be sure that our rights are not stripped away, one by one.

Dear Santa: All I want for Christmas is for our country to not be blasted back to 1950s America or, worse, 1930s Germany. But how do you ask Santa for that?

It’s a different world, but here’s what I’ve come up with so far: the 2016 Holiday Gift Guide for (Supremely Pissed Off) Nasty Women and Bad Hombres. 

GIVE TO ORGANIZATIONS WORKING TO PROTECT OUR PLANET AND OUR PEOPLE: This year, I’ll be asking for donations to be made in my name and will be donating in honor of others to local and national organizations that support those who will find themselves most vulnerable under our new administration. Check out Trump’s first 100 days action plan to see which people and what causes (hint: THE EARTH) are going to need some serious help. A few ideas:

  • American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU): My guess is the ACLU is going to be busy over the next four years, protecting the individual rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States.
  • Southern Poverty Law Center: This organization combats hate, intolerance, and discrimination through education and litigation, particularly focusing on hate crimes and white supremacists.
  • Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC): Not only can you donate in honor of someone or give them a membership, but the NRDC also has some great gift options, making this a good option for kids, too. Who doesn’t want to support the bees or the polar bears, right?
  • Planned Parenthood (here’s the Indiana/Kentucky chapter, but you can select your own chapter when you donate online): I owe PP a personal thank you for the many years where my full-time jobs didn’t offer me health insurance. An extra fun fact: not only can you donate on behalf of your Great Aunt Tessy, but you can also donate on behalf of someone you don’t even know, like, oh, your women’s rights-attacking governor (*cough cough Mike Pence cough cough*). They will receive a thank you note from the wonderful people at PP. I can’t wait for Governor Pence to get his card from my donation in his name!
  • A local organization serving refugees, like Exodus Refugee Immigration in Indianapolis, which is also one of the primary assistance organizations serving Syrian refugees coming to Indiana.
  • Any organization, like the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition (ADAC), serving the 581,000 kids who will no longer be protected from deportation under the immigration policy Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an Obama executive order that Trump has stated he will immediately get rid of. These kids deserve our protection, not to live under the constant fear of deportation.
  • And now I’m realizing there are too many to list: GLAAD, Lambda Legal, Indiana Transgender Wellness Alliance… So many amazing organizations working so tirelessly. What organization are you excited about donating to this holiday season? 

PUT YOUR MONEY WHERE YOUR HEART IS: If you are going to buy “stuff” for people (or just stuff in general), consider these ideas:

  • Open for Service: A worldwide community of diversity-supporting businesses, churches, organizations, employers, and consumers to celebrate inclusiveness regardless of politics. Sounds good to me!
  • Amazon Smile: Anytime you purchase from Amazon, go to smile.amazon.com instead to support a non-profit of your choice. I have a friend who is sticking a note into the gifts of all of her relatives this holiday season, letting them know that their gift also supports Planned Parenthood.🙂

PAY FOR QUALITY NEWS SOURCES: You know how we’re lamenting “fake” news sources and how awful the media is? You can make an impact by PAYING FOR YOUR NEWS. Subscribe to a newspaper. Support NPR. Journalists who have actual resources behind them are going to become a national treasure. Beyond content, paying for your news also provides money for copy editors and fact checkers; keeps editorial separate from ad revenue; gives resources for in-depth reporting on major issues; and allows papers to hang onto experienced reporters and editors.

  • My favorite news sources: The Guardian, Washington Post, New York Times, and Christian Science Monitor. Where do you get your news?
  • NPR Membership: I love NPR. I love Steve Inskeep and Renee Montagne, I love considering all the things every afternoon, I want to marry both Terry Gross and Ira Glass. I feel like I learn something every time I listen. I’ll be asking for a renewed membership to WFYI, our local station. If you can pay $10 a month for Netflix, you can pay at least that much to support a free press, amiright?

DON’T LEAVE THE KIDS OUT: As the mother of two small boys, I want them to know what it means to be the change they want to see in the world. I want them to know they have a voice and how to use that voice to speak against injustice and hate, every time they see it.

  • Expand a child’s library – and mind: Check out the amazing reading list Westories.org offers at the bottom of this page, which gives tips for how to speak to kids about protesting. Particularly beautiful is A Is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara, which my toddler will be getting in his stocking. I’m really hoping he gets I Am Rosa Parks and a few others from the Ordinary People Series by Brad Meltzer.
  • Couple one of the NRDC’s Green Gifts with a game or toy. Help your favorite kid Bee a Hero, then bust out a new related game, like Hanna Honeybee by Haba. (My husband asked if anyone has created a global warming/rising sea levels game yet).
  • Retool your advent calendar tradition to give back to a local organization: Pick an organization in need of supplies (we’ve picked an organization that serves foster kids). Then each day leading up to Christmas, have your kids pick out one item to put in a box. Each day, you’ll watch the bounty grow. After Christmas, wrap up your box and drop it off at the organization together.

20161013. Christmas gift stockpile has begun: bong(o) drums, a hand-knitted lion, and maybe the coolest board book I've ever seen. 211/365. #365days

My pledge this holiday season and beyond: do what I can to support those made most vulnerable by this election cycle and current events. I can’t think of a more loving gift than to extend that gift to others.

Willem and His Questions… and a Few Updates Around the House

Where has the summer gone? Between baby rearing, toddler wrangling, freelancing, and community garden managing, things have felt a little harried lately. And by “lately,” I really mean, “since January 29, Max’s birth day.” At 6 months, Max has cut his first two teeth, is eating real food two times a day, and has only recently started liking sleep.

My days are full to the brim with baby rearing and toddler wrangling. I wouldn’t have it any other way. This morning as we loaded into the car to go to the community garden, Willem said to Max, “Let’s go on an adventure, Maaah.” I count this as a parenting win, the fact that my toddler thinks of every outing as an adventure.

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So this update is brought to you by a) the fact that Max has been napping for over an hour and b) me managing to get my freelance job for August done. WINNING.

WILLEM AND HIS QUESTIONS: My Cuteness Cup Runneth Over

In July, Willem started something new – he asks the question he wants us to ask him. Then when we repeat it, he says enthusiastically, “Okay!” Ex: Willem: “Do you want play with school bus?” I repeat the question, he yells, “Okay!” Or in the middle of the night, we’ll hear a plaintive, “Do you want to go pee?” from his room. Chris goes in, asks if he needs to pee, then: “Okay!”

Last week, I was tending to Max, who just got his first two teeth and has needed extra snuggles, for a while. Willem was playing on his own, then finally came up to me and said, “Do you want to sit in Mommy’s lap?” Aw, buddy. Later that evening, it was, “Do you need hug?”

Then a few nights ago, Willem was standing at the side of our bed at 1:30 in the morning. Willem: “Do you need some attention?” (I repeat the question). Him: “Okay!” Aw, bud. Then: “Do you need to rest? Do you need to snuggle bunny?” (I repeat him). “Okay!”

So. Cute. He’s got an amazing vocabulary and communicates incredibly well for 2.5 years old. He’s also an awesome big brother. We had big storms a couple of weeks ago, and when the storm really hit one afternoon, Willem started patting Max gently on the top of his head, saying: “That’s okay. That’s okay, Max. Just a little thunderstorm, Max.”

Birdie kisses

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UPDATES AROUND THE HOMESTEAD

We haven’t really done a whole lot around the house this year in terms of building out our garden space. Things have felt a tad busy/overwhelming this year. BUT! We did plant 32 native perennial wildflowers out front AND Chris finished our new 3-bin compost system! He’s all excited about actively managing our compost bin at the new place, which I think is adorable. We were very lazy composters at the old place, but we still got great soil out of the bins. That’s the beauty of composting, right? I mean, it’s decomposition. It’s going to break down… eventually.

Yesterday he went out with his new gigantic compost thermometer (which looks just like a meat thermometer, only several feet long) and found that both piles were in the “hot” range. Awesomesauce! Now we just need to build a bunch of garden beds to fill with our new compost once its done cooking. Hint, hint, Chris.

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Oh, and? I’m knitting again! First project since Max’s birth is a temperature blanket, and I also just started knitting his Christmas stocking. I feel like my old self! 20160806. Temperature blanket, one month in. Hint: brown represents the days above 90 degrees. 120/365. #365days

Three Months Later… A Birth Story

Oh, hey – the last time I posted, I was in the home stretch (pun intended) of pregnancy. Here I am at home on Friday, January 29. I knew I was in labor, but I didn’t know Maxwell Orion would be born only about four hours later.

As of yesterday, we have a three-month old!

20160429. Three months old.

So what if it took me three months to getting around to documenting our birth story? Let me hook you with some spoilers: this tale includes Taco Bell, getting your frosting swirled, and a hilarious anesthesiologist with a potty mouth. Brace yourself.

It all started at my weekly OB appointment on Wednesday morning; my due date was the following Saturday, 1/30/16. The doc checked me out, told me nothing seemed to be imminent, swirled my frosting (this is a fun way of saying she stripped my membranes, which sends about 50% of ladies into labor within 48 hours if their bodies are ready), and said it could be a day or a week. I asked if we should get my parents down to Indy since they would be watching Willem during all the hospital/birthing hoopla, and she said, “Well, I would.” Okay then!

The parents came down and hung out with us Wednesday and Thursday. I felt totally normal and fine, but I did have some business going. Still, I just assumed I’d be pregnant FOREVER, because that was exactly how I felt the entire last week of pregnancy: that I would be the lucky medical anomaly to have a college student in my uterus.

That night, we got Taco Bell because, if any kind of food was going to be successful in expelling a baby, it would be Doritos locos tacos, AMIRIGHT?! I had some pretty good contractions that night but assumed it was the tacos talking.

The next morning, I woke up feeling totally downtrodden. I slept just fine the night before with no contractions, no discomfort, no nothing. By 8:30, though, I was calling my parents at the hotel to tell them, OH HEY, no rush, but I think I’m having a baby today. Contractions had kicked in and were regular, but they were still totally manageable painwise. I kept waiting for them to become horrendous like they were with Willem, but they never did.

I spent the morning cuddling Willem, yukking it up with the parents, timing contractions, bouncing on my yoga ball, and finally calling the doctor’s office around 11:00. I was annoyed that they wanted me to come right in; since nothing felt super awful yet, I was afraid I’d be stuck in a hospital bed laboring forever if we went in too early. Chris came home around 2:00, and we headed to the hospital.

January 2016.

Thank goodness we did. I was already dilated to 5 cm when I arrived, but I was really not in any pain and walked from the office to L&D to get checked in. My two L&D nurses thought I was an induction because I was acting so a-okay: “So why are you getting induced?” When I told them I was 5 cm already and in labor, they got a little more pep in their step.

January 2016.

It all went extremely fast after that. We checked in around 3:30, water was broken around 4:00, epidural process started around 4:15. The anesthesiologist was hilarious (Anthony) and, as the bearer of the mighty epidural, by BFF very, very quickly. By 4:45 I told the nurse I wasn’t sure the epidural was working since I had some intense pain on one side. She was like, “Um, I’m pretty sure that just means you are about to have this baby.” Sure enough, there he was, RIGHT THERE, ready and waiting.

Suddenly, there were a lot of people in the room, and I swear one of my nurses said, “Oh, here’s so and so. She’s going to catch your baby.”

The doctor did manage to get back in time, right around 5:00 pm (I think). I still was in shock and disbelief when she looked me in the eye and said, “Let’s have this baby.” I think my exact words were, “Wait, I’m not ready!” I figured I had at least a few more hours.

I pushed through 5, maybe 6 contractions, and there he was at 5:25 pm, screaming on my chest, a little dimple on one side of his sweet mouth every time he got really worked up. I still cannot believe what an amazingly different labor and delivery experience this was compared to Willem’s. It was, dare I say it, EASY. And because I wasn’t completely wiped out when Max arrived, I was actually able to enjoy him… and definitely got pretty teary eyed when I saw his face for the first time.

January/February 2016.

Welcome to the world, Maxwell Orion! Born Friday, 1/29/16 at 5:25 pm, weighing 8 lbs. 7 oz. We love you more than we can say.

January/February 2016.

January/February 2016.

January/February 2016.

January/February 2016.

On the homefront.

On the homefront.

TWO WEEKS!

That’s right. Two weeks until Baby #2’s estimated due date. This iconic scene from Total Recall is all I can think of:

We’re ready…ish. Readyish. With Willem, I really had no idea what to expect. Sure, you read the books and the blogs and absolutely soak up all the information you can about caring for your newborn (or at least I did). You get all the baby “stuff” that is supposedly essential to having a happy baby these days. You stock your freezer and buy 20 extra rolls of toilet paper so you won’t have to send your husband out at 2 am.

20160115. Baby blanket for #2.

But no one can tell you how your body and brain will react to insane hormones, nursing all day and all night, the physical pain and recovery your body must go through on zero sleep, and a tiny creature you don’t quite understand, are just getting to know, and are trying to keep alive and, preferably, from crying.

End of the year snapshots.

And so now I know all of that… which makes it both easier and even more terrifying. That’s where the readyish part comes into play. I know I will never be truly “ready” for the newborn shock to the system. It’s just something you’ve got to get through, in all its sweet messiness.

End of the year snapshots.

This time, of course, I also have a wonderful little boy in the mix, a little dude who amazes me daily with his smarts, sense of humor, gentleness, and sweetness. Latest cute Willem-ism: he has this running monologue lately that goes something like, “big car, red car, green car, big big car,” etc. as he’s going about his day. Yesterday I asked him what was in mommy’s tummy. His response? “Baby car.”

I am so proud to be his mom, and I can’t wait to see how he and his little brother become a team. And I worry I am not going to be able to live up to being the mom Willem knows and loves.

Warm December chicken petting.

And then I worry that I’m going to sell this new little guy short, that he’ll just be along for the ride. And I know this is all silly and, really, pointless to fret about because, in TWO WEEKS (+/- two weeks, of course), Baby #2 will be here.

We’ll be fine, we’ll be great even, and when it comes right down to it, I absolutely cannot wait to meet this kiddo.

20160116. 38 weeks.

Willem-Speak

As I get closer and closer to starting this whole child-rearing journey all over again with a second little guy, I find myself constantly amazed of Willem, our first little guy. I swear the kid has grown leaps and bounds in the last several months.

End of the year snapshots.

The latest: potty learning and language. Maybe we’ll get to potty training some other day. Let’s just say I am completely amazed at his ability to really get it this time around. It’s totally impressive to me that in just a week, we are really getting this down. I’m so glad to be laying this groundwork now, even if things slip a little (understandably) when Baby #2 arrives.

Now for the fun stuff: language. A few choice phrases in Willem-ese:

  • Helicopter: “apart-ter-ter”
  • Octopus: “ah-puh-tata”
  • Lawn mower: “murr-murr”
  • Again: “ah-NENN”
  • Stuck (his favorite book lately): “kuh”
  • Semi (as in semi truck): “hem-eye”

Some other faves:

  • Together/Apart: he says “apart” with such gusto, all high at the end – “ah-PAAAARRRRT.” He also loves pulling things apart just so he can say it over and over.
  • “Oh no!” repeated in a very high, sweet falsetto, usually when he does something like purposely pulling his train off the tracks
  • “Milk” – which sounds more like a goofy “MEEEEEELK” (totally taught him that, I’m so proud)

 

And just to get a real dose of the cuteness over here:

Dusting Off the Old Blog: Year in Review

Wow, has it really been since MAY since I posted? Somewhat fittingly, it appears my last post focused on the general feeling of living life like a chicken with its head cut off, a feeling which characterized much of 2015.

I’m happy to say things have slowed down just a tad as the year comes to a close – enough for me to update the blog! – although I fully anticipate the whole “head above water” thing to jumpstart again soon enough for reasons which will become abundantly clear in just a mo’.

So here’s a sampling of what we’ve been up to since May of this year:

  • About a week after my last post, we learned there would be another little critter added to our homestead. Of the two-legged variety. And, no, I’m not talking about chickens. Here’s Willem making the big announcement for us:
    20150712. Big brother! 

    And here I am today at 34 weeks. Baby #2 is due January 30, 2016, and we are thrilled (oh, and it’s a boy!):
    20151218. 34 weeks.

  • The Keystone-Monon Community Garden work chugged along, hitting a number of snags, all of which were pretty much out of our control, which drives me bonkers. I’ve learned a tremendous amount already about launching such a project from the ground up, and I am completely thrilled that, after one last hail Mary pass right before the changing of the guard with the mayoral elections in November, we’ve made it happen! We have our agreement with the city signed to begin building at Arsenal Park in 2016, we raised over $3,000 in 2015, we have a coalition of excited neighbors, and we’ve secured insurance. Now… WE BUILD! We’ll be picking back up in January to plan out what needs to happen to have our official ribbon cutting in May. I am hoping to still be massively pregnant by that meeting and not have recently birthed a small child… but we’ll see.

    Painting out the outlines for the garden:
    Arsenal Park.
  • In the span of about a month, Chris and I listed and sold our wonderful first home and moved into a new one! We tried to find a way to make our old home work for our growing family, but at the end of the day it just wasn’t happening. And then we found our new home: a half-acre of land only a few blocks from our old home (in other words, in the same part of the city we know and love). Three bedrooms, two baths, a giant maple tree out front, and a garage I can actually park in. And did I mention the land? It all worked out just as it should: the first people to see our old home put an offer in the next morning, and within a month, our beautiful little homestead in the city was sold. It hurts my heart a little that I won’t get to enjoy the asparagus I planted this past spring or the strawberries and blackberries, but I can plant all of those again and then some in our new space. And, oh, I will. 

    The old house, all prepped for sale: 20150819. Prepping the house for sale.

For sale!

And the new place! 20150919. Tearing out grass, planting oregano, sage, lavender, thyme, and butterfly weed.

Chris and my dad building the new coop:
20150919. Building the new chicken coop.

201510. The finished coop.

Moving the bees:
20150920. Moving the bees.

Our amazing maple tree:

201510. Fall outside times. Our amazing maple.

  • What else, what else? Oh, right. Chris got a new job! Well, that happened back in April, but this year he has really settled in and flourished. I am so grateful that he found a place where he can grow and be challenged and has the support to do so. Also, I quit one of my part-time jobs as of this month. It was a tough decision, but I already feel lighter. And I have no clue how I was going to pull it off once I had another little kiddo to care for all day.Oh, and Chris’ new place of employ? It’s a big enough company to host a holiday party  (I’ve only ever worked for small non-profits, so this was super novel to me – can’t resist a photo booth):

    Holiday party photo booth.

 And a glimpse into the rest of the second part of 2015: Coxhall Gardens.

20150628. Trip to Des Moines.

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20150811. Indiana State Fair.

 

100 Acres morning.

 

On the homefront.

 

20151021. Offset button band sweater.

20150926. Anderson Orchard.
20150926. Anderson Orchard.

20150926. Anderson Orchard.

Halloween 2015! Mass Ave trick or treating and Dia de los Muertos at the Eiteljorg.

Everybody's getting cozy for story time - especially Birdie.

Cozy snuggle time with grandma (aka "Ma").

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End of the year snapshots.

End of the year snapshots.

Warm December chicken petting.

20151201. First Christmas present tradition: Christmas book and jammies.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from our half-acre of happiness to you and yours!
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Head: Above Water?

This is both Willem’s latest adorable move and how I’ve been feeling lately:
Spinny Willem

*Huge shout out to my buddy Ian for being amazing and creating the above magic. Amazing magic!

Heart = Warmed

What a fantastic weekend. On Friday, we got word from the city that they have approved our proposal to build the Keystone-Monon Community Garden at Arsenal Park.

We had our first fundraiser for the garden yesterday at a community event at a local school. We had such a super fun morning talking to people about vegetables and gardens and community, and we raised just over $100 from the extra seedlings I planted this spring. We talked to a couple of kids about becoming scientists in Antarctica; another two told us their favorite fruits or vegetables were oranges and food.🙂 One child picked out a lettuce plant and wouldn’t put it down or let anyone else hold it.

20150425. Seedling sale at IPS School 91's Our Community Day.

20150425. Seedling Sale at IPS School 91's Our Community Day.

Now it’s today, aka the best day ever: we just got back from an awesome afternoon hanging at old Bloomington friends’ place for a barbecue (Willem’s first!). I put Willem to nap when we got home, then checked my email. One of my friend’s moms here in Indy made an extremely generous donation to the community garden! Like, we should name a garden bed after her. I am just overwhelmed to know such a wonderful human being who is so incredibly supportive of local food, community projects, and general good stuff (oh… and ME!). This is just… it’s so overwhelmingly wonderful, it’s hard to even put it into words.

I’m over the moon right now. We need to raise a lot more in the way of funds or even in-kind donations, of course, but I’m feeling absolutely humbled and thrilled.

20150425. Seedling Sale at IPS School 91's Our Community Day.

20150425. Seedling Sale at IPS School 91's Our Community Day.

20150425. Seedling Sale at IPS School 91's Our Community Day.

Waxing Poetic on This Whole New Neighborhood Pride Thing

I’m feeling all warm and fuzzy today about the place I live. In the last two months, I think I have met more neighbors than I have in the entire four years I’ve lived here. And you know what? I’ve got some really cool neighbors!

Backyard panorama.

Deciding to go forward with the community garden was a bit of a leap of faith and definitely an exercise in putting myself out there in a way I never really have before. But honestly? The worst thing that could happen – it not working out for some reason – would still be an improvement over where I was in January, simply because I’ve gotten to meet and get to know so many people I probably never would have otherwise. Not only that, but I feel like my neighborhood is a friendlier place, just because of my own shift in perspective. We hang out in our front yard. We laugh with people on the street and say hello to everyone who walks past. We actually recognize people when we’re out and about, people from the neighborhood. And I’m constantly amazed at the projects and ideas that so many other groups and businesses and people are doing.

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I’m proud of where I live, and I want it to thrive because its people are thriving. I’m proud of it even though people’s houses get broken into when they are at home, even though a motorcycle gang is trying to move in, even though a young man was shot and killed in the middle of the day 12 blocks south of us yesterday. The more we all care about this shared place and each other, the more we can push these bad things away.

Willem stamp of approval: fingers crossed we can make this community garden a go at Arsenal Park.

Asparagus Pee for You and Me!

This family? We are big fans of asparagus. All of us, Willem and Birdie and Boombox included. Heck, one of my favorite photos in recent years is a joyous me among the asparagus fronds at the Chase Near Eastside Legacy Center two summers ago:

20130613. Asparagus dreams at the Near Eastside Legacy Center.

So it’s a little odd that we haven’t taken the plunge and decided to try growing them. Honestly? I’ve been intimidated. Asparagus: intimidating little spears of deliciousness, let me tell you.

I think it’s something about perennial growing. Pretty much all of my growing experience are with annual vegetables. Oh, we have perennial herbs here and there and some blackberries and a couple of apple trees. But other than that, if something doesn’t grow well one summer, you just plant it again next year. No big.

This morning, though, I decided to take the plunge. At around 9 am, I decided we do, indeed, need asparagus. By 9:30 am, Willem and I were cruising around outside, (finally) taking soil samples for lead testing, something I really should have done years ago.

By 10 am, 25 asparagus crowns were ordered from Johnny’s Selected Seeds, and I was showing Chris where my dream asparagus bed will live. By 12:30 pm, Willem and I were hard at work, digging up a 3’x12′ chunk of turf in our front yard and shoveling compost.

20150411. Asparagus patch in development.

Less grass, more food! We also hosted our first seed swap and third organizing meeting for the Keystone-Monon Community Garden last night. Here’s my bounty (as if I needed more seeds):

20150411. More seeds! Keystone-Monon seed swap.

Our first fundraiser will be a seedling sale later this month (which pretty much means me selling off all the extra seedlings I have in my basement that won’t fit in my garden). There is so much to say about that project and too much to do/not enough time to say it. We’re working on land, funds, mission development, making friends, and garden design. All at once. 

20150405. Seeding growing setup.