Category Archives: Mother Nature

Please Don’t Piss on the Petunias—a Memoir

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My memoir is coming out this month!

Yes, I know. I announced that it was coming out “soon” in JUNE (over six months ago). This baby is late, very late. As some of you know, I’m a self-taught publisher. Over the last eight years, I’ve published six issues of Greenwoman, a YA novel (Zera and the Green Man), a book of short stories (Fifty Shades of Green), a few e-books, and many articles and posts. I’ve had the honor and pleasure of working with many talented writers of fiction, creative non-fiction, and poetry. I’d published so many things, but I’d never published a memoir—so here, once again, was another huge learning curve.

I thought I had all the material, all the stories I’d written over the years, and it could be easily put together. Oh, ha ha—wishful thinking! Luckily, my daughters (thank the heavens for them, always bringing me back to reality and keeping the bar set high) told me that the first draft was too incomplete and too inconsistent.

Those were not words I was hoping to hear.

My daughters urged me to rewrite several of the stories in past tense. A significant undertaking.

Then I discovered that the book, about our menagerie of pets over the years (among other things), really needed a story about our dog Chancho.

More importantly, the book needed an “origin” story.

That story took another month of writing, but first I had to time-travel back twenty-five years. (And let me tell you, time-travel is not easy!) The process was difficult emotionally, reliving those days, the tough times back in the early days, before all the fun started with raising kids, chickens, and a garden. Andy and I were just starting out in business and in parenthood, paying student loans and the mortgage on two houses for an entire year, living paycheck to paycheck (having to borrow money at times from his brother Danny to keep the utilities on), as Andy worked seven days a week to fix up a beautiful yet humble home with (finally) a space to garden . . . Oh, and did I mention I was pregnant with Lily and we had no health insurance?

I wrote the origin story. We went over the manuscript, again. And then again, reading it aloud this time and making over 600 more editing changes.

Two days ago I received what I hope will be the final proof. One more fine-tooth comb reading and a only a few (I hope!) minor edits.

I was reminded: Anything worthwhile takes time and thought and care. More than you imagine!

But today, finally, a sneak peek! Here she is. Almost born!

(Consider this an invitation to the baby shower.)

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Now for the backstory on the title, because some of you might remember that it was going to be titled The Chicken Chronicles. A good friend alerted me (thank you, V. G.!) that there was already a memoir with that title, by the illustrious Alice Walker (the Pulitzer-prize winning author of The Color Purple). Her book was also about chickens. So . . . I had to think of another title. Not easy, as that was my “working title” for years.

For a while I was stuck on Mother Hen . . .  but no one seemed thrilled about that one, and the only male beta reader (hello, Geno!) gave it a thumbs’ down in appeal to male readers. A clever friend (again, G. V.) , suggested a few alternatives. Her favorite was Chicken Scratches, which had its charms, but as I always prided myself on good penpersonship, it didn’t connect with me the way it needed to.

Sidenote: Wow, while writing this, I just thought of another title . . . Clucked Up. Ha ha! Maybe that will be the title of the sequel! Goodness knows there have been many more challenges and harrowing adventures this last decade— and especially these last two years!

Anyway, back to the subject at hand: One day I was rattling off title suggestions to Lily, including “Please Don’t Piss on the Penstemons,” the original title of one of the stories about our dog, Broonzy, and his destructive puppyhood. The back story on that title is that it’s a play on the old book/movie title Please Don’t Eat the Daisies, a work I’d never read, but I remembered vividly from childhood.

Lily said, “I like that one.”

Image result for please don't eat the daisies

I said, “I do too, especially the alliteration, but . . . I don’t know. It has a swear word. And I think there are a lot of people who don’t even know what penstemons are!”

Lily said that readers could look up penstemons—and that it wasn’t a big deal about “piss.”

I still thought it could be a dangerous move, a title with both “penstemons” and “piss,” so I decided to change penstemons to another “p” flower. What would sound best? We asked friends their preference: poppies, pansies, petunias or peonies?

“Petunias” won.

Now, to take a look at “piss” (ha). I researched: “book titles with swear words.” It seems that it can actually help sell a book these days!  Who knew? I brought it up to a media-savvy friend (hello, Mary Ellen!) a decade older than I am. She was, to my surprise, very enthusiastic. She said, “Our book club chose to read The Badass Librarians of Timbuktu  because of the title. Do it, Sandy!”

Still searching for a bit more reassurance (this was a big move!), I brought up the subject of swear words in book titles in Facebook-land. My mother immediately commented that she would never have a book with a swear word in the title on her coffee table! (Protecting the grandchildren and great-grandchildren, you see. I didn’t even disclose what the colorful word would be, but she was against it.)

So “Piss” it was!

The book is very sweet (and only slightly pissy). More than anything, it is a love letter to our home and garden, our family, and Nature.

I hope you’ll make a note to buy a copy this month. I’ll let you know when she is born!

With much love and appreciation to all who have helped bring yet another dream to fruition,

— Sandy

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Strawberry Fields Betrayal

The post below is from a local woman I greatly admire. Sue Spengler’s a local middle school teacher who for many years ran her own school. She’s so many things to many people, one of those members of society who adds intellect and heart and sparkle every day of her life. She is also one hell of an activist. This year (and last year) she’s been very involved in trying to save one of our open spaces, a park  right next to the mountains where the people of Colorado Springs can hike, bike, and enjoy Nature.

What she worked to save this land from was a billionaire (x 10.5), by the name of Philip Anschutz, who moved to our city some years ago. He bought the only local daily newspaper, bought a famous 5-star hotel (The Broadmoor), bought several of our biggest tourist attractions, like the Cog Railway that takes a couple of hundred thousand people up to the top of Pikes Peak every year, and Seven Falls (another attraction) . . . and then decided that wasn’t enough. He wanted our public park that happened to be right next to his hotel.

I don’t know how exactly the deal went down. He owned some land that the public was already using on a daily basis for hiking, so his lawyer-minions finagled a “swap”: The land (that we were already using and which would have created a public relations nightmare if he took from the public) in exchange for some pristine parkland that he wanted as place for picnicking and pony-riding for his rich hotel guests.

I don’t know what kind of razzle-dazzle went on to make the people of our city (who are supposed to be in charge of protecting our parks and our properties) make a swap/deal with this billionaire. But once word got out, the taxpayers, the people who have lived in Colorado Springs for many years, even for generations, became furious. How dare they swap our land without a public VOTE? These are our PARKS!!! They belong to us ALL!!! This has been a public park since 1885!

A group got together, and protested publicly, making their voices heard. To no avail. There was nothing to do but gather the money and sue. They did, and they lost (a District judge named Michael McHenry ruled against the people of our city). And so the people appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court.

This week we got word that the Colorado Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal.

— SK

Now that you’ve heard the backstory, here’s Sue’s “Master Plan”:

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“Panorama at Strawberry Fields” from KRCC.org

 

Well, heck, I finally did it. It took me all day. I’ve been crafting a letter to the editor about the North Cheyenne Canon Master plan in my head for weeks, trying to figure out how to pare it down into something digestible and understandable, when the Plan itself is a 130-page behemoth of a hodgepodge of ideas with no real substance that is basically a “blank check” of plans with nothing specific — it just has a “tool box” of things that they can choose from if/when they’d like, including: paving Gold Camp Road (so shuttle buses can drive on it), closing Mesa Avenue to only Broadmoor shuttle buses, closing down all the pullout parking at the picnic areas along S. Cheyenne Creek and making people walk in from a brand new trailhead/parking lot, and closing S. Cheyenne Canon Rd to all traffic. There ARE some good trail ideas up around Stratton Open Space, and plenty of carrots for our high-level mountain biking community (making the Chutes downhill only, e.g.), but overall, it’s a plan with a premise of: “How can we cram more people IN?” (yes, it includes a “Marketing Plan”… !!), instead of a plan with a premise of: “How can we make our city park great for the people we serve?” Anyway, I finally sat down to write my letter today. But what came out was a poem…

My Master Plan

I sit with my notebook and write at a wobbly,
splintery picnic table, one of many under
this public pavilion.  At least some underpaid
city employee was told to paint them brown.
Through the scrub oaks, I see:  four
old ladies with hiking poles and sun hats,
three hardcore mountain bikers, a snake
of multi-generational hikers, two deer grazing,

a young couple from Palmer Park stringing
up a hammock, an elder couple with binoculars,
a mother and teenage daughter looking for a trash
can in which to place their pooch’s poop.

I scramble up a short social trail to the mesa
above the pavilion, and there it is: a spectacular
view of Strawberry Fields, where King Philip
plots his Broadmooresque stable and bbq party venue.

Up here, I watch a hawk hover, hear a bluebird
call, and discover a decomposing coyote.
Below, in the south canyon, I watch white whales shuttle
up and down, as a blaring ambulance struggles

upstream towards Seven Falls. The trails
on this wild and unnamed mesa below Mt. Cutler
are slated to be closed in the new Master Plan —
a plan meant to deflect from the city’s neglect.

What should a Master Plan have?  What does a City Park need?
Closed public roads? More trailheads and parking lots for tourists?
Private-public partnerships where somebody profits?
Ideas that will never be funded because we can’t even afford to take care of what we’ve got?

Nah.  What we really need is simple and more cost-effective than that:
picnic tables made from those newfangled recycled weather-resistant materials
pullout parking areas that make the creek and its coolth easily accessible to all
trail systems that respect and reflect the needs of the locals who use them
a limited number of cars, but only during peak summer weekends
a regular maintenance crew to keep the picnic areas beautiful
friendly city park rangers to enforce the rules
a budget that reflects our values
trash cans near picnic sites
clean, open restrooms
and above all else…
that playground
you promised
the children
in 2003,
but never
built.

 

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Bee Mine

If you haven’t seen this video yet, it’s a bee-youtiful story. ❤

When Fiona Presly found an injured bee in her garden, she took her in and helped her live out her life. The bond that she and “Queen Bee” developed —  so soulful!

Here’s a link to where you can learn more about saving bees.

And here’s another story, from Scotland (where Fiona lives) on her Bee friend.

It’s amazing to me how scientists are “scratching their heads” – can’t they see and feel our interconnectedness, the intelligence in all things, and know we can communicate?

Sigh . . .

— SK

 

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Autumn Days Come Quickly . . . (and an update on my memoir and garden)

 

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Colchico d’autunno” (Autumn crocus), taken on 23 September 2006 in Limana (Valmorel) Italy, by Enrico Blasutto. Via Wikimedia Commons.

Autumn days come quickly, like the running of a hound on the moor.
 —Irish proverb

For weeks, friend and Flora’s Forum contributor Virginia (Ginny) Gambardella and I have been sending emails back and forth about my upcoming memoir, a collection of “Stories about raising kids, crops, and critters in the city” (actual subtitle). For those of you who have forgotten, this is a book that I thought was very close to being ready to be published . . .  in June! (Ha ha ha, she laughs, the frustration showing a little.) The Chicken Chronicles, which is no longer going to be titled The Chicken Chronicles (more on that in an upcoming post), has undergone a round with beta readers, a semi-pro editor, and a professional editor. I’ve also been working on the cover. Now the manuscript is back in my hands for a final rewrite. I’m adding a much needed “origin” story to the beginning of the book, I’m also rewriting the Introduction, and making a few other adjustments.

Creation can sometimes take (so much) longer than we expect! 

Absorbed in this work and other concerns, the connection to my garden has been very different this year. For the first time in over 25 years, I decided to take a break, to “let it go” in a big way. At first, I felt shame and disappointed in myself. I wasn’t doing “what I was supposed to do.”

It took me a while to realize: Who is the creator here, anyway?!

Now, several months later, I’ve learned that the things we love the most can become yet another master. This is not how it is supposed to be! Gardening (to me) is not meant to be about control, but about joy, about communion

This disconnecting from the garden, painful at first, taught me valuable lessons, and it’s still teaching me. As I kept my distance, all the beautiful creatures who rely on this space for food and shelter and a place to raise young (a significant amount of pollinators and birds!) were not affected negatively by my decision whatsoever! On the contrary, they have been happier than ever with the wildness and the extra weeds in bloom! I have seen more hummingbirds, more goldfinches, more bees of many species, than I ever have before.

Video: ‘American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis) Pair Feeding on Sunflowers,’ by Katja Schulz, National Botanic Garden, Washington, DC, USA. 9 July 2010, via Wikimedia Commons

 

THIS is also what gardening is about. Discovery! 

Wow. That’s a long way to getting to the point of this post: Ginny informed me that September 1st is actually the first day of fall! (Not astronomically, but in accordance “to the meteorological definition of seasons, which is based on temperature cycles and the Gregorian calendar.”)

Did you know that?

I thought autumn officially began with the equinox, which this year in the northern hemisphere arrives on September 22nd. Of course, there are some leaves changing colors and falling here in Colorado, and the nights are cooler, but it feels like “late summer.” And, of course it is (I’m just now getting some ripe tomatoes!). And yet . . .  it isn’t.

The fact is, time is relative. Oh, and here’s the informative link Ginny sent me.

We all have our own timetables, for learning and growing. 

And, it’s an in-between time for sure.

Looking forward to the harvest season (and all that “harvest” means!), and wishing you a happy 3rd day of fall. ❤ 

— SK

 

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Monthly Museletter – August 2018

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“Lunar Libration” by Tomruen, via Wikimedia Commons

Hello everyone!

Karla sent me her wonderful newsletter well over two weeks ago, yet I’ve only now published the bits that I feel connect the best to the Flora’s Forum audience. For this delay, I apologize.

I also had a realization. Instead of going through the whole newsletter and creating an online version once a month . . . why not just parcel out these videos, quotes, book reviews and other interesting tidbits, through the month and post more often?

(Why didn’t I think of this before?)  I think it will be more fun to do a few posts throughout the month, and then I won’t be late, and perhaps you won’t be overwhelmed with too much content at once.

That is what I shall start in September. For now, the last Museletter!

(Today, I’m especially excited to share “The Death Cafe” video, which I found to be both heart-wrenching and beautiful.)

Thank you, Karla, for once again sharing your Wisdome News!
❤ —SK

P. S. If you’re from Colorado Springs and would like Karla’s full newsletter that includes local events, you can write her at karlaann45 @ gmail.com.

Love to you all,

Sandy

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“The smile on my face doesn’t mean my life is perfect. It means I appreciate what I’ve been blessed with. I choose to be happy.” —Charles Schulz (Peanuts creator)

Designed with the Earth in mind, the gentle washer, Monono (Japanese for “empathy for all”) washes the equivalent of 12 tees with 5 minutes of hand-cranking, uses no electricity, fossil fuels, or dry-cleaning chemicals, and much less water than our washers (only 18 liters).

Two Colorado College students who came to Death Café last winter made this 10 minute documentary film. Everyone’s welcome to join the conversation; FMI contact Susan Coffey goingmywaydeathcare (at) gmail.com.


Also pertinent: THE GREEN BURIAL GUIDEBOOK by Elizabeth Fournier (2018) is in libraries now. It includes information about non-toxic “green embalming fluids” and alkaline hydrolysis, a non-fiery way of cremation that produces earth-friendly cremains.

Sisters Leah Song and Chloe Smith of Appalachia Rising sing “Resilient.”

“Realigned and on point,
Power to the peaceful,
prayers to the waters,
Women at the center,
All vessels open to give and receive,
Let’s see this system brought down to its knees.”

You can read more about their music here.

What are “STRANDED ASSETS” & why do they matter? They appear to be a mirage, a Ponzi scheme on the part of big oil/coal/gas companies.

A wiser approach?
“The biggest problem for the climate change fight isn’t technology — it’s human psychology.”

Ecological oyster shell “living shorelines” restore habitat and build up beach edges!

Good News for Colorado! 
Sierra Club got Denver mayor Michael Hancock to commit to 100% clean renewable energy by 2030. 

Shea Moisture (established 1912!) is an ethical, fair-trade, family-owned, women-supporting business that will leave you soft, clean, and smelling great!
(I love their Peace Rose soap!)

Another by Charles:
“All you need is love, but a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” —Charles Schulz

BRILLIANT!
Biologist Janine Benyus, founder of the Biomimicry movement champions the idea that we should take cues from the natural world, because what better teachers exist? This hour presentation, at the Aspen Ideas Festival, is worth listening to — the only thing that would make it more exciting is if we could see the pictures she sees.

A final note from Karla:
“I’m ‘guerilla gardening’ golden raintree seeds in alleys & empty lots in memory of my little sister Elise Marie Clarke. Soon I’ll harvest bee plant seeds to scatter around on my morning walks, then marigolds, cosmos . . . To me, SEEDS are symbols of the ‘unstoppability of Life’.”

By U.S. Department of Agriculture (Seedling), via Wikimedia Commons

By U.S. Department of Agriculture (Seedling) [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0) or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Until next time . . .

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Monthly Museletter—July 2018

 

Lunar_libration_with_phase2

“Lunar Libration” by Tomruen, via Wikimedia Commons

 

Thank you, Karla, for sharing your Wisdome News!❤ —SK

P. S. If you’re from Colorado Springs and would like Karla’s full newsletter that includes local events, you can write her at karlaann45 @ gmail.com.

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“We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.” —MLK

YAY for COSTA RICA—no fossil fuels by 2021! (Share if you think your country is capable of great things!)

“The noblest art is that of making others happy.” —P.T. Barnum (in The Greatest Showman movie)

No gas, no license, no insurance, no plug-in . . . a covered pedal & solar-powered trike. ELF- SHARING webs are being formed among friends, family, neighbors, students & co-workers. Hmmm—shall we get Tangerine or Lime or Zebra?

Scientists project that without intervention, there’ll be more plastic than fish by weight in the oceans by 2050.

“We did not leave the stone age because we ran out of stones. Why are we waiting to leave the fossil fuel age until we’ve consumed the last coal, oil, & gas?” cleoinstitute.org

“When your enemy is making mistakes, don’t interrupt him.”— Brad Pitt
(Does this go for presidents?)

“ . . . the larger the animal, the more it has to be fed, and a goat produces five times as much milk in proportion to her body weight as a cow.” —MILK, A 10,000 YEAR FOOD FRACAS by Mark Kurlansky. (Is it time for us to give up raising cows?)

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“Milking an Artificial Goat at Grubighütte” by David Short from Windsor, UK, via Wikimedia Commons

Is your sunscreen destroying coral reefs, which are the supermarkets of the oceans ?

How does the Volcan de Fuego volcano in Guatemala and the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii differ? CBS gives an excellent science lesson about two types of volcanos!

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Photograph by E. Klett on 27 January 1994; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, via Wikimedia Commons. “Snow-covered Kanaga Volcano in Alaska erupts a small column of tephra, gas, and steam. Kanaga is a stratovolcano. View is toward the west.”

A MUST-SEE!
SING THE WATER SONG with Algonquian Elders & Women & Girls.

Did you know?
CORAL REEFS cover only 1% of the ocean floor, but are home to more than 25% of marine life.

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“Coral Reef, Elephant Beach, Andaman, India,” by Harvinder Chandigar, via Wikimedia Commons

Bee hives and solar panel farms make happy partnerships!

“It may feel dangerous for a woman to actualize her full potential because it may mean risking some form of rejection by her mother.” A friend shared with me she’s taking HEALING THE MOTHER WOUND , an online course from Bethany Webster. Their free 18-page e-book is an excellent way to get the flavor of the course.

Until next month . . . have a beautiful July!

 
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June is for Strawberries

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“Fraises” by Lisa Risager from Denmark, May 28, 2013, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Algonquin tribes of what is now New England called the June full moon (this year on the 27th) the Strawberry Moon because the phase marked the best time of year to harvest this wild fruit. Berries are a’plenty.

I love June (and strawberries). What about you?

If you don’t have the garden space, or the woods close by to find wild berries, grow them in pots! I love these little clay pots on a windowsill in Denmark. Here’s another image I found from Italy.

Fragole_fax01Zanchetta Fabio (faxstaff), WC, April

“Fragole” by Zanchetta Fabio, April 18, 2016, via Wikimedia Commons

And then, this mesmerizing time-lapse photography.

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“Strawberry Growth GIF” by Tomas “Frooxius” Mariancik, Czech Republic, May 19, 2014, via Wikimedia Commons

 

From Wikimedia Commons: “A timelapse of a growth of a strawberry fruit (a GIF version), captured for about 40 days and post-processed (stabilized, some night frames were removed to prevent flashing, speed up is not constant – the flowering part is speeded up less than the fruit growth one). My original published video with some behind the scenes shots is available here.

I hope you’re growing some strawberries this year. I harvested and enjoyed my first one from my little backyard strawberry bed just a few days ago. It’s in its third year, the plants are flourishing, the berries are many, and I only wish I’d have created it sooner!—SK

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