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Rebecca Collected

Plastic Free July, Low Impact Living and Who to Follow

Sunday, July 15, 2018
We're already halfway through July. Ridiculous. How? When? I only have 16 days left of my 20s?!? I really don't understand how time works anymore.

July doesn't just mean birthday month for me -- it's also is Plastic Free July. What's Plastic Free July you ask? It's an awareness campaign that challenges participants to refuse single-use plastics for the entire month of July. The idea started in 2011 in Perth, Australia but there are now over 2 million participants from all over the world! The aim of the challenge is to call attention to just how much plastic we consume in our day to day lives, promote behavioral changes that reduces plastic consumption and support people as they live a lower impact life.

zero waste plastic free july reusable eco friendly mason jar tote bag produce glass pantry bulk shopping

I'm sure you've noticed lately that I've been discussing topics that are at least tangentially related to the environment more and more frequently. 2018 has truly been eye opening for me regarding the state of our planet. We've made more plastic in the last 10 years than we have in the entire previous century and we're exponentially increasing our consumption every year. Already, more than one million plastic bags are used a minute across the world, totaling more than 500 billion each year. Only about 5% of plastic ends up getting recycled, so much of the plastic used ends up in landfills or in our oceans. In fact, over 1 million sea birds and 500,000 mammals die every year due to the plastic that ends up in our oceans. Often they're dying due to starvation after mistaking plastic for food, filling up their stomachs and never being able to pass the plastic out. And sadly, every single piece of plastic we've made ever still exists today and will continue to exist for about another 500-1000 years. (Source)



I know that was a lot of disheartening information to read and it might have even made you angry, either with me for shoving it in your face or with the world for letting our planet get into such a sorry state. Whatever emotions you might have felt, I'd like you to consider harnessing them into some kind of action. If your instinct was disbelief, thinking that those facts couldn't possibly be true, line up a documentary watch party. If your heart went out to all the animals that starve due to plastic, go out and do a little trash pickup in your area. If you were floored by the number of bags we're using a second, go prep yourself a little plastic-free shopping kit. Any approach you can think of will literally make this world a better place than it currently is.

zero waste plastic free july reusable eco friendly mason jar tote bag produce glass
My plastic-free shopping kit: reusable tote and produce bags, mason jar for wet bulk items and small jar for bulk spices
If you're ready for a few simple changes to help you reduce your plastic usage very easily, here are some of my favorite ideas:

1) You're probably already using reusable shopping totes thanks to the discount for bringing them in many stores or even the up-charge or complete ban in others. Go a step further and swap the plastic produce bags for some reusable cloth bags like these.

2) Next time you need to stock up for self-care Sunday, ditch your plastic shampoos, conditioners and soaps and grab some plastic-free packaged bar soaps instead. They last so long, work just as well and you now officially have a reason to go make a Lush haul.

3) Create and bring your own plastic-free supply kit with you wherever you go. A reusable water bottle, cutlery, a container for leftovers from restaurants, and maybe even a reusable coffee cup if you're a coffee addict like me should help you reduce a lot of incidental plastic in your day to day life.

4) A lot of plastic comes from food packaging. Shop the bulk section, which so many regular grocery stores have these days. In my area, Fresh Thyme and Super Saver (locally-owned chain) both have really great selection and cheap prices. If you need something from the deli you can ask them to put whatever you're buying into your own container. Finally, try to buy loose produce instead of plastic wrapped produce.

5) Make what you can. You don't need to go all in right away, but figure out what you use a lot of that you can't find without plastic packaging and scour the internet for DIY varieties. There are so many easy recipes out there for anything from bread to nut milks to face masks and making them can be a really fun alternative to sitting in front of the TV for yet another night. I love making my own cold brew coffee from locally-roasted whole beans that I buy loose from a local coffee shop, strained with a cheesecloth (which is also great for making nut milks). Lip scrubs are also super easy to make using honey and sugar.

zero waste plastic free july reusable eco friendly mason jar tote bag produce glass coffee cold brew cheesecloth filter free
Making my daily cold brew coffee with cheesecloth and a mesh strainer
Maybe you're hooked and ready to dive into this plastic-free life, or at least to keep learning about it? Time to get your follow button finger ready! These are some of my favorite Plastic Free July, low impact living or even full on Zero Waste people and resources:

http://www.zannavandijk.co.uk/resources/ - TONS of other great links here
http://trashisfortossers.com/
https://packagefreeshop.com/
http://tradingwasteforabundance.com/
https://www.instagram.com/sustainably_vegan/
https://www.youtube.com/user/Gittemary/
https://www.instagram.com/thelowimpactmovement/
https://wildminimalist.com/
https://www.goingzerowaste.com/
https://myplasticfreelife.com/
Vermicomposting post
Flirting with veganism post
https://www.madeleineolivia.co.uk/

And finally, if all else fails, please recycle! No one is a perfect, plastic-free human. In reality, just focusing on reduction is probably more realistic than complete elimination, especially at first. So while you're still a plastic consumer, let's move the needle on that 5% recycling rate. At the very least you're helping prevent more plastic from being made.

What changes are you going to tackle first to reduce your plastic consumption?

How To Use All That Zucchini

Sunday, July 8, 2018
zucchini bread brownies recipe cooking baking garden vegetable bake baker loaves recipes family tradition


If your area is anything like mine, zucchini season has officially begun. I went from nothing but big giant zucchini plant leaves to practically baseball-bat-sized zucchinis within about 4 seconds. At first throwing a few chunks of zucchini into to whatever dish I was making was enough to keep up with my crop, but now I'm actively seeking out zucchini-based dishes to use it all up before it goes bad. What's better than taking a healthy veggie and turning it into a sugary, unhealthy baked good in order to consume it? Nothing. So without further ado, here are two family recipes that I, a July baby, have begged to have at birthday parties since I was a little girl: zucchini bread and zucchini brownies.

zucchini bread brownies recipe cooking baking garden vegetable bake baker loaves ingredients mixer kitchen aide

zucchini bread brownies recipe cooking baking garden vegetable bake baker loaves grater shredded

zucchini bread brownies recipe cooking baking garden vegetable bake baker loaves whisk dry ingredients bowl metal mix stir

zucchini bread brownies recipe cooking baking garden vegetable bake baker loaves kitchen aide mixer metal bowl dry ingredients mix stir add

zucchini bread brownies recipe cooking baking garden vegetable bake baker loaves glass pan oven spatula

zucchini bread brownies recipe cooking baking garden vegetable bake baker loaves

Zucchini Bread

Yield: 2 small loaves
Prep time: 15 minutes
Bake time: 1 hour
Total time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Ingredients
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla
2 cup grated zucchini (drain a little when measuring)
3 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Cream eggs and sugar.
3. Mix in vegetable oil, vanilla and zucchini.
4. Combine flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg in a medium bowl. Whisk together. Slowly pour dry ingredients into wet ingredients while mixing.
5. Pour into 2 greased and floured bread pans.
6. Bake for 1 hour.

Note: These loaves freeze really well. Just double wrap in tin foil and freeze for up to several months. To defrost, just leave it out on the counter. The bread will have more of a moist top than if not previously frozen, but if you ask me, that's the best part!

zucchini bread brownies recipe cooking baking garden vegetable bake baker loaves measure measuring pyrex shredded grated

zucchini bread brownies recipe cooking baking garden vegetable bake baker loaves ingredients bowl mess mix flour

zucchini bread brownies recipe cooking baking garden vegetable bake baker loaves sprinkle sugar oven batter dough pan

zucchini bread brownies recipe cooking baking garden vegetable bake baker loaves fork eat chocolate chips moist frosting pieces

Zucchini Brownies

Yield: 1 13x9 inch sheet pan of cinnamon-y, chocolate-y brownies
Prep time: 15 minutes
Bake time: 45 minutes
Total time: 1 hour

Ingredients
1 1/2 cup + 2 tsp sugar, divided
1/2 cup butter/margarine
2 eggs
2 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp cocoa
2 cup grated zucchini
1 cup chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit if using a metal pan, or 325 degrees if using a glass pan.
2. Cream 1 1/2 cup sugar, butter/margarine and eggs.
3. Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon and cocoa in a medium bowl. Mix into wet ingredients until well blended.
4. Stir in zucchini and chocolate chips.
5. Pour batter into a greased and floured 13 x 9 pan. Sprinkle 2 tsp sugar over top.
6. Bake for 45 minutes. Frost if desired, which you obviously do desire.

And don't forget, shredded zucchini freezes beautifully so even if you can't fathom turning on your oven in this summer heat, you can squirrel away all that zucchini goodness for later this year. Happy baked good feasting!

Now Finn says, "Go clean up that mess!"

zucchini bread brownies recipe cooking baking garden vegetable bake baker loaves cat finn black ears

zucchini bread brownies recipe cooking baking garden vegetable bake baker loaves mess dirty flour spill

June Highlights

Sunday, July 1, 2018
June has easily been the most social month of 2018 yet. Now that things are warming up, people are coming out of hibernation and looking to spend as many warm summer nights outside as possible. All this people time is both refreshing and exhausting for a little introvert like me, but in the end, summer adventures are always some of the best times of the the whole year. Let's take a look at a few of my highlights from June!


wedding engagement ring diamond gold lab grown emerald cut east west sideways ethical jewelry custom made

My first favorite is actually a bit of a cheat since it technically happened at the very end of
May -- I GOT ENGAGED!! The Friday night of Memorial day weekend, John planned a little date night for us to go to a local restaurant downtown. That itself wasn't out of the ordinary since we've been trying to get in at least one official date night a month, so I wasn't suspicious at all. I knew something had to be up when he sat around watching me get ready and kept asking if I was done. Right after I declared myself officially beautified, he told me to stay in the bedroom because he had a gift for me he had to go get from downstairs. When he came back up he told me he knew it was a bit of a joke between us that he never really got me gifts like stereotypical boyfriends do, so this time he got me something but didn't wrap it. Before he could give it to me though, he said he needed to tell me how much he loved me and appreciated our relationship, etc, etc, insert mushy emotions here. Then get got down on one knee (despite apparently telling himself he wouldn't do that) and proposed with the most gorgeous, perfect ring! I obviously said yes right away and then we celebrated with a fantastic dinner, wine and a walk to the 24 hour donut shop, as one does. It was completely perfect!


bike lake man ride cycle commute eco friendly

I should probably just stop here because obviously not much can top an engagement, but there were still plenty of other things I loved in June. Jazz in June is a highlight every year, but this year might actually top every previous year I've attended. The weather for every show I went to was perfect, the food vendors were top notch once again and this year I had the added bonus of getting to ride my bike to the show! The absolute topper however was getting to see Jazzmeira Horn. Her vocals amazed me, her music selection was fantastic and she really got the crowd engaged in a way I've never seen at Jazz in June before. She even kept the concert going 40 minutes after it was supposed to end without giving a damn about any local noise ordinances or rental contracts. A woman after my own heart...




On a style note, I've been wearing my Topshop Moto Jamie skinny jeans to death as you can see from these pictures. The light wash is perfect for those unbearably hot days when I'm not really feeling shorts or skirts. They pair really nicely with a more flow-y, oversized tops which is exactly what I want when I'm trying to avoid sweat patches and they're also ├╝ber comfortable, which is clearly everything. Don't be surprised when you see me rocking another pair of these in black sometime soon.

And finally, remember that new mascara I chatted about in my last post? Well Glossier lash slick has quickly become a favorite. Like I said before, it's super natural looking, easy to apply, doesn't flake or smudge and, unlike my previous go-to mascara, it isn't tested on animals. Looks like I'm just going to have to get used to paying $16 for a mascara...

New In Beauty And Style Bits

Sunday, June 24, 2018
So, I've had a bit of a summer rejig as I always tend to do with the changing of the seasons. For me, summer is all about getting rid of as many layers as possible -- clothing as well as beauty layers. As I write this, we're looking at a high of 98 degrees with heat indexes well into the 100s so it's just too damn hot to be messing with anything more what's than absolutely necessary! Here's a peak at some of things I've picked up or restocked lately that help me strip back as much as humanely possible while not actually walking around half naked.

glossier mascara lash slick beauty makeup routine face becca nars yves saint laurent foundation blush lip pencil boy brow eyebrow perfume primer highlighter

glossier lash slick mascara cloud paint blush cream boy brow eyebrow you perfume

makeup routine mirror mascara glossier lash slick reflection

Glossier Lash Slick
Let's be truthful. I only picked this up because I needed to restock my beloved Boy Brown and in order to hit the free shipping amount, I needed another purchase. I had seen the marketing campaign for this and I was already really intrigued, so it wasn't really a hard sell, but they can rest assured their Instagram posts and free shipping limits are doing very well for them. It's a super natural looking mascara, which is perfect for summer when you can't even bear to think of anything that could be remotely described as clumpy. It doesn't flake at all throughout the day, nor smudge or wear off. Even when I'm bad and forget to take off my makeup at night, it's still practically good as new the next morning! Bonus: Glossier is cruelty free, unlike my previous drugstore mascara favs. I'm officially a convert!

Glossier You Perfume (again)
I'm not even sure if this counts, because it's only a sample size (again), but it's just such a perfect summer (or really any time of the year) perfume. It's florally while still managing to be fresh. It's warm while not being too heavy. I just keep coming back to it! Seriously, I don't know how Glossier does it but I've loved every single product of theirs I've tried, especially when it comes to light and airy summer time looks (or smells).



topshop denim light wash skirt h&m red slides sandals everlane black crew t-shirt hands up

topshop denim light wash skirt h&m red slides sandals everlane black crew t-shirt

Topshop Denim Skirt
I still automatically think of the 90s when I see denim skirts, but I just don't care. Skirts and dresses in the summer are great because you don't have to fully encase yourself in a denim sweat lodge aka jeans, but I hadn't really found a skirt I liked. The ones I've had previously were all a little too formal for everyday, or a little too blah (I'm looking at you, cotton elastic banded a-line skirts that for some reason I always think will work). Finally, a more structured skirt that's still super chill! I love the light wash and the frayed hem. It's high waisted so you're still flattering the thinnest part of your body and it's not so short that you're worried about flashing everyone. I hope we all collectively stick with this denim skirt trend for a few years at least!

Topshop Linen Tank Top
Cream. Tortoiseshell buttons. Linen. It's like my spring style inspiration post went personal shopping for me and found the summer incarnation of itself. It's a super easy wear, it's a dreamy summer fabric and it's super on trend while still being the kind of thing I'd be happy to wear in seasons to come. I'm a huge fan.

Everlane Black T-shirt
Everlane t-shirts are my jam. I already own a white crew neck and a white v-neck from them, so naturally it's time to expand to black. Sure maybe a black crew neck t-shirt doesn't sound super cooling in the summer, but paired with my light wash denim skirt and my yellow sandals, it's a super easy to wear, casual smart outfit that you don't even have worry about sweat patches in! The dream!

black cat linen tank top green eyes black wall

Falling In Love With My City (Again)

Sunday, June 17, 2018
Every summer I fall head over heels in love. Just like any love, it waxes and wanes a bit throughout the year, but inevitably the summertime is always a passionate affair. This love isn't for any one person or even a single thing -- it's a love of my entire city.

falling in love city local shop outdoor activity event tourism staycation  lincoln nebraska haymarket downtown

falling in love city local shop outdoor activity event tourism staycation walk path shadow bike path field

It starts around the beginning of May. Opening weekend of our two farmer's markets bring a little buzz to the crowds. Everybody breaks out summer wardrobes and ditch the gym in favor of playing outdoors under the sun. The days start getting longer, so even weekday evenings can be spent out on porches, sipping wine and eating delicious grilled food.

As May turns into June, more signs of summer start to creep in. Homegrown gardens start taking off. Local makers host festivals to showcase their products. Tuesdays are spent picnicking on the grounds of the university art museum, listening to Grammy-winning artists play at Jazz in June and Thursdays are reserved for a summer-long concert series at a local park. Suddenly there are options for free outdoor yoga classes at different public squares or parks practically every other day. The extensive bike paths are full of people exploring every different corner of the city, from downtown bike lanes to crushed gravel paths way out next to llama farms!

falling in love city local shop outdoor activity event tourism staycation  picnic music jazz in june art museum gallery sculpture blanket

falling in love city local shop outdoor activity event tourism staycation  ice cream cone picnic local vendor food sweet dessert dairy store lemon   falling in love city local shop outdoor activity event tourism staycation  ice cream cone picnic local vendor food sweet dessert zestos sprinkles

And sure, it sometimes gets almost unbearably hot here in July and August (and I guess May and June too...), but the heat isn't so bad when you're splashing around in one of the many neighborhood public pools, hitting up a local lake or hanging out at the zoo in the evening drinking local beers and watching penguins waddle around and swim at Brews at the Zoo. If you prefer, you can cool off with an iced coffee (or even another beer) at one of the four Mill coffee shop locations. Or maybe coffee isn't your thing? No worries -- Zesto's, the university Dairy Store, Ivanna Cone and C&L Dairy Sweets all have some fantastic local ice cream options that are perfect little destinations to head to on your bike.

The sheer number of outdoor events makes my heart burst with excitement every year. Rib fest (which is fun even if you're a vegetarian), food truck gatherings, a Nelly and Juvenile concert outdoors in the middle of downtown (!?), rain barrel and composting workshops, local food walking tours, bike rides that tour through local breweries and end up at Pioneer's park, next to the bison fields -- the list goes on and on. The only way you could be bored in Lincoln in the summer is if you're actively trying to be.

falling in love city local shop outdoor activity event tourism staycation  bike path exercise fitness lake holmes trek

falling in love city local shop outdoor activity event tourism staycation  concert music show

Lincoln is absolutely not the only city that's bursting at the seems with summer vibes. Surely your city is too! Facebook, Meetup, heck, even your local newspaper or bulletin boards in local shops will be chocked full of things to do so get out there and fall in love with everything there is to do and see during this awesome time of year!

Flirting With Veganism: Motivations and Resources

Sunday, June 10, 2018
In my May highlights post, I mentioned that I was learning more about veganism, but haven't yet made any full-time switch. There's too much to say about the topic to touch on in a quick highlights post, so I decided to dedicate a full post to the subject. Lucky you! If you're at all interested in veganism, even if you're not yet considering it for yourself, stick around for a chat about my motivations, what kinds of plant-based options and resources there are and how I'm making some simple swaps but avoiding any labels for now.

vegan vegetarian vegetable radish eating plant based healthy environmentally friendly eco sustainable

Before this year I had never considered a vegan lifestyle mainly because I always thought that the reason people went vegan was for animal welfare. Don't get me wrong -- I absolutely love animals, I just haven't been that bothered by the concept of eating them because that's a natural occurrence in the wild. Of course in the wild the animals have enjoyed a free life and haven't been kept cooped up in tiny, dirty cages without ever seeing the light of day -- obviously that fact that this is not the case in the meat industry truly sickens me. But the problem is the well-known and openly discussed instances of cruelty surrounding the meat industry have never prompted me to change, as heartless as that may be. I was raised on meat, I live in "the Beef State," and I genuinely like the taste of meat and dairy.

So what did it for me?

My inner hippie.

vegan vegetarian eco earth plastic ocean environment plant based eating pollution sea getty images
Photograph: AFP/Getty Images
I'm not even sure now where I first started looking at the environmental impact of animal based products, but the reality caught me off-guard. I thought reducing or eliminating the packaging on the things I buy would be enough, but I suddenly realized that simply making those animal-based items was a problem itself, not just what kind of packaging it ends up in.

In hindsight it totally makes sense. Animals need room, even if you are cramming them into teeny, tiny spaces, and they need food, which takes room to grow. And of course farms are crammed, dirty places so you need pesticides and herbicides and ways to combat all that bacteria squishing around. Don't forget that the animals themselves are letting off substantial amounts of methane, which is more detrimental to the environment that carbon dioxide (86 times more detrimental to be exact), and when all is said and done and the animals are ready to die, there's all the emissions involved with transport and processing (51% of the world's emissions are from livestock and their byproducts). And that's not even touching on the fishing industry, which alone is responsible for 20% of the plastic in the ocean!

Once I started opening my eyes to the environmental effects my food choices caused, it was pretty much impossible not to do something about it. I started small, just learning about being vegan and what kinds of experiences different people had going vegan. Like I said in my May highlights post, YouTube was invaluable for this. There are several YouTubers that I listed so be sure to check those out here. At the same time, I started trying some vegan recipes. Minimalist Baker made it super simple to dip my toes into the vegan waters because their recipes are all really easy and really tasty. They've got a YouTube channel, blog and several cookbooks, both printed and ebooks -- I highly recommend them all!

vegan vegetarian vegetable lettuce eating plant based healthy environmentally friendly eco sustainable

I've got quite a bit left on my vegan/plant-based eating game plan. Right now I'm just incidentally eating vegan meals, but going forward I want to make more of a structured plan. I might try eating at least 2 out 3 vegan meals each day, or eating vegan on the weekdays, etc. I know that having a goal will help me stay on track and make slow progress. Continuing to learn more about the effects of eating animal products is also important to me. As you know, I love to read so I'll be hitting up the library for some books. There are also several documentaries I'm interested in watching, even if I know they'll be hard for me to watch. Here's what I've got on my to read/watch/listen list currently:


I've got a long way to go, but I'm proud of the changes I've made so far. I am excited to continue down this path. If any of you are already vegan or vegetarian, or are considering making the change, please reach out because I'd love to hear about your experiences! And thanks for reading this behemoth post all the way through! Time to get started on one of those documentaries...

A Veggie Garden Guide

Sunday, June 3, 2018
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It's that time of year once again! From here until late summer you'll probably catch me with a sweet farmer's tan (what little tan I can manage to get) and dirt perpetually stuck under my nails. It's a little hard to maintain any semblance of grace when you've got your knees in the dirt a few nights a week, but it's totally worth it when you've got bunches of delicious veggies to munch on for free throughout the year! Curious about tilling your own little plot of land? I'll try to make all my farming ancestors proud here today and let you in on my best gardening knowledge, as well as my best sub-title alliterations.

garden gardening veggie fruit vegetable crop plant guide 101 how to square foot small space urban gardening farming box plantsPlanning

Deciding what you want to plant is the fun part! I recommend a quick trip to your local gardening shop just to take a peek at what kinds of seeds and plants they have in stock. Most times you won't find anything there that isn't well suited to your area so you won't be disappointed like if you found some cool plant online only to learn it dies instantly in your climate. Got a plant-obsessed friend? Time to call them up, buy them a coffee and head to the store. They'll certainly have some knowledge about what is easy to care for or what requires more work, so make sure to listen to their advice. Make your first trip a window-shopping only trip, and compile a list of everything you're interested in planting. And make sure you're picking things you actually want to eat! If you hate squash, maybe don't dedicate a whole corner of your garden to 6 different heirloom varieties - nobody likes dedicating their time and money to something that they won't even reap the rewards of.

garden gardening plan planning square foot method veggie vegetable fruit bullet journal bujo notebook log

Once you've got your wish list of fruits, veggies and herbs, it's time to whip out your measuring stick. I'm a big fan of the square foot gardening method because it really lets you pack all kinds of things into a small space. Basically, you just measure out your space in 1x1 foot squares, and then figure out which plants to place in each square foot. There are tons of planning tools or simple charts to help you figure out how many plants of a specific type of crop you can get into one square foot. This is where I draw a fun little picture in my Bullet Journal and sketch out my garden layout. After I'm done I know exactly how much I'm going to plant and where they'll all end up. Time to go shopping!

My shopping list this year includes:
  • 1 Basil
  • 1 Pineapple sage
  • 1 Parsley
  • A few more strawberry plants to join my existing crop (3-4)
  • Tomatoes (4 roma, 4 jet star and one or two cherry or grape varieties)
  • 4 Eggplant
  • Bell peppers - 4 red, 4 yellow, 4 gree
  • 1 Jalapeno
  • 6 Zucchini 
  • 4 Cucumbers
  • 1 Watermelon
  • Black bean seeds? 
  • Radish seeds

garden gardening veggie fruit vegetable crop plant guide 101 how to square foot small space urban gardening farming grid lines planning

garden gardening veggie fruit vegetable crop plant guide 101 how to square foot small space urban gardening farming planning


garden gardening veggie fruit vegetable crop plant guide 101 how to square foot small space urban gardening farming

Planting

When to start getting your hands dirty will depend on two things: where you live and what you're growing. Check out what zone you live in here and then you should pretty easily be able to find some planting calendars based off of your zone number. When in doubt, play it safe. Exact dates don't ever really seem to matter so long as they're after the last frost so don't worry too much about planting a little later than it recommends.

Once you're ready to plant, make sure you give your garden a good tilling first to loosen up the soil. Luckily for me I have access to a rototiller, but a hand tiller will do just fine and is much, much cheaper. I don't bother with any fertilizing, but I'm also really lucky to have pretty nice soil. I give my soil a little boost at the end of the growing season by throwing in some crushed egg shells, burying all my leaves in the garden and, hopefully by the end of this season I can also add some vermicompost. By the time spring rolls around I just need to mix it all up and it's ready to go!

If you're also using the square foot gardening method, I recommend drawing out your square foot lines with a hand trowel or stick. They don't have to be precise, or even very straight lines (as you can see by the pictures), but they really help when you're laying out your plants.

All that's left is digging some holes, loosening up each plant's root ball, plopping them in and packing them down. Try not to do this during the hottest part of the day so you don't stress your plant babies out too much, and don't forget to give your new garden a good soaking when everything is planted.

Finally, it's a good idea to set up any support structures now that your plants will need later, like tomato cages, trellises, stakes, etc. It's a lot easier to get a cage around a baby tomato than when it's 3 feet tall with branches spreading out everywhere! Bonus: all these structures help deter little creatures from coming and snacking on your plants. I even go a step further and supplement the structures with clear plastic forks near all the plants, stuck in handle-side first. It sounds really weird, but the prongs seem to scare the animals away! Alternatively you can use cat litter or hair (human or pet) spread around the garden to keep animals away. Once you've got everything in place you should be set!

garden gardening veggie fruit vegetable crop plant guide 101 how to square foot zucchini
Picking

(Okay, maybe this sub-title alliteration thing was a bit of a stretch.)

Now that you've got yourself a beautiful new garden, you just have to keep it alive. No big deal, right? Here are some tips for caring for your plants:
  1. Check on your plants daily and look at their leaves to tell if they need watering. Check during the morning or evening, not in the middle of the day when they might be a little droopy from heat. 
  2. Count to 10 when watering each plant. Not too much, not too little.
  3. If you're watering in the evening, avoid getting the leaves wet if possible to help prevent any molding.
  4. Keep up with your weeding so your plants don't have to compete for resources.
  5. Learn how to tell when your crops are ripe so you don't pick too early or miss their prime time.
  6. Use cattle panels for making trellises, or twine wrapped around stakes.
  7. Don't bother with fertilizers or pesticides unless you actually have a problem. Most of the time they're not worth it. Plus, if you skip them you can say you're a fancy organic farmer!
  8. You probably don't need to prune anything. Be lazy.
  9. If you have a problem with birds or other critters (or drunken strangers if your garden is in your front yard like mine...) you can cover your plants with netting so nothing can get it. Be sure not to leave holes or otherwise animals might get stuck!
  10. Learn a ton of recipes for using up your crop. There will be veggies everywhere. Pickles, cucumber salad, tomato sauce, pesto, salsa, stuffed peppers, eggplant parmesan, etc, etc, etc. And make friends with your neighbors because you will absolutely have more than you can eat!
In summary, plant, water, wait. Don't worry the small stuff, don't get sucked into buying a lot of gear and don't make it more work than it needs to be. A little dirt, sun, water and time is all your garden needs to give you a ton of fresh food throughout the summer! Good luck and I look forward to seeing what you grow!

May Highlights

Sunday, May 27, 2018
favorites may tulip pink yellow garden flower

tree sunset sun light leaves shade spring buds

May is great for a lot of things, like warmer weather, longer days, the tail end of tulip season and the start of peony season and the sudden resurgence of outdoor events and markets. But the best thing of them all? The first three day weekend after five long months of no days off of work (if you work in a typical corporate American job at least). Happy Memorial day weekend everyone! Hopefully you've got a nice holiday weekend planned, whether that means it's jam-packed with activities or you're not planning to see another soul until Tuesday morning and are looking forward to your mini-hibernation. Let's make the most of the extra time off and take a sec to catch up on some of the things I've loved this May.

bike bicycle trek hybrid fx3 matte black

bike bicycle trek hybrid fx3 matte black shadow wheel

My absolutely no-contest, favorite-est, favorite ever for May is my new bike! The boyfriend and I have been talking about getting bikes for probably about two years now, and because we're both slow to take the plunge regarding any major decision, we only just now actually got them. We have matching bikes (*queue simultaneous awwws and gags*) because we're just so cool - Trek Fx3 hybrids. I should be clear that the entire reason I got the 3 model versus the other Fx models is because it was the only woman's bike that came in matte black. Yes, I'm ridiculous, but it's so damn pretty. Also I don't want a ridiculous color I'll grow quickly tired of when bikes don't exactly come cheap. We've clocked about 48 miles already after only two weeks and I'm so excited to hit the trails more as the summer goes on. Oh, and I'm officially on Strava now so let's be friends!

franco sarto gene sandal flat slide yellow strap summer

And with new bikes comes...completely impractical shoes that you could never wear while biking. Right? I think that's how that works. Regardless, I walked into a DSW completely on a whim and found love -- Franco Sarto Gene sandals in yellow. They're flat, they're incredibly cushioned, they're brightly colored which is usually not me at all, but I'm absolutely loving them. The combination of the leather and suede straps plus the diagonal angle sets these sandals apart from all the other generic slides out there this season. So far my favorite outfits with these shoes have been wearing all black tops and jeans to really bring out the yellow, or when I've used them to bring a casual feel into an otherwise more put-together outfit. I am positive I'll be getting my use out of these! I see they also come in brown and black so let's see how long I can hold out. And by the way, they seem to run short, so I sized up a half size from my usual 8.5 to a 9, which fits perfectly.

vegan plant based eating vegetarian healthy avocado onion chili black bean sweet potato

The last favorite of the month is a result of going down the YouTube rabbit hole for far too many hours -- vegan lifestyle videos. I haven't made the switch to veganism or even full on vegetarianism by any means, but I've been spending a lot of time learning about the lifestyle, nutritional considerations, effects and just getting some good meal ideas. I have a lot of things to say about why I'm becoming more and more interested in veganism and vegetarianism, so I'll probably do a separate post about that, but for now I'm just really enjoying making more plant-based meals each week. YouTube has been a phenomenal resource for hearing about all the different experiences people have had since going vegan. I definitely recommend checking out people like Pick Up Limes, Sweet Potato Soul, Nikki Vegan and Zanna Van Dijk if you're interested in learning more!

And with that, I'll leave you with this cute doggo picture. Enjoy your June!

dog black lab car ride ear