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All articles here are written by Melinda Briana Epler (that's me!) unless otherwise noted. I'm a documentary filmmaker, writer, and brand experience designer - I've dedicated my life to living a sustainable lifestyle and helping others do the same. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions or thoughts for articles. Welcome!

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Vegetable Seed Giveaway!!

Survival Seed Giveaway!

Apparently all I had to do was host a giveaway, and more would come to me – I had no idea!  Well, I will share the wealth with you all as much as I can, starting with….

A 16 Seed Pack Giveaway!

Hometown Seeds is a small seed company in Utah, whose biggest claim to fame are their Survival Seed Packs.  The seeds come in a vacuum sealed pack that will last at least 5 years.  So that means you can use them as a starter pack for your garden now, or you can hold onto them in case of an emergency – in the freezer they will last up to 10 years!

What’s In The Survival Seed Pack?

The pack contains 16 easy to grow varieties of non-hybrid seeds (ie, you can save the seeds from your crops and plant them again the next year):

  1. Lincoln Peas (5 oz)
  2. Detroit Dark Red Beets (10 grams)
  3. Kentucky Wonder Brown Pole Beans (5 oz)
  4. Yolo Wonder Peppers (5 grams)
  5. Champion Radishes (10 grams)
  6. Lucullus Swiss Chard (10 grams)
  7. Black Beauty Zucchini (10 grams)
  8. Waltham Butternut Winter Squash (10 grams)
  9. Bloomsdale Longstanding Spinach (10 grams)
  10. Scarlet Nantes Carrots (10 grams)
  11. Long Green Improved Cucumber (10 grams)
  12. Rutgers Tomato (5 grams)
  13. Golden Acre Cabbage (10 grams)
  14. Romain Paris Island Cos Lettuce (5 grams)
  15. Golden Bantem Sweet Corn (5 oz)
  16. Yellow Sweet Spanish Onion (10 grams)

More!

The seed packs come with a very comprehensive instruction booklet – very cool.  The seeds are also housed in double water tight packaging with optimum water content to increase storage life, and contain a total of 1.5 lbs. of GMO free seed – enough to plant 3/4 of an acre.

Too much for yourself?  I’m sure you know another gardener who would love to share!

So…

Enter Your Name In The Comments For The Drawing!

I will randomly select a winner next Sunday at noon.  Good luck!

Spring Is In The Air: Growing Challenge Check-In

The Growing Challenge New! The Growing Challenge Advanced Edition – From Seed To Seed! The Growing Challenge: Evangelist Edition

Can you feel it?  Can you smell the warm air on the horizon, see the little buds coming up, oooooh… Spring is almost here!

So all you Growing Challengers….

Come Check In, Say Hello, Talk About Your Plans!

I’m still laying low from a virus I’m fighting, and I would absolutely love to hear all about your spring garden plans.  Will you humor me?  Also would love to hear from all you new gardeners, whether officially joining the challenges or not!  Come say hello!!

My Grandfather's 99th Birthday

The King and Queen of the Party: My Grandfather and Step-Grandmother

Amazing isn’t it?  Both my grandfather and his second wife turned 99 this February.  It is just incredible to think about how much has changed in our world since 1911.  The number of changes he has seen in his lifetime, the fads, the technology, the friendships and the family members!  It puts life in a bit of perspective when you think about it spanning over 99 years.

Whole Family

We had a wonderful feast together, the 30 of us, from four generations.  I just wanted to share a bit of it with you today.  The little tyke in the back, toward the center (just above my grandfather) is my grandfather’s great great grandson.  WOW, right?

You can do a great deal with your life.  Little moments of despair really don’t often matter in the scheme of things.  Life is bigger, longer, and more powerful.  To think of how many people he has affected in big and small ways during his lifetime…it’s incredible.

A Triumphant 99 Years

Live long, be healthy, do what you want to do, and do it well.  Live life to its fullest.

Redefining Health

As I lay here in bed nurturing a cold, I am realizing that as a part of redefining normal in my mind, I have redefined health.  From a small child through my young adulthood, I was sick very often.  A normal cold often turned into a three- month long disaster that ended in bronchitis, sinusitis, ear infections, mononucleosis, strep throat, or any number of things – often more than one at a time.

But this year, I went through almost the entire winter without a single cold, even as many coworkers and friends were sick time and again.  Why is that?

Ways of Redefining Health

  1. Emphasize Preventative Health.  As a result of eating local, seasonal, organic foods I eat a diet low in additives, preservatives, high fructose corn syrup, and other things that aren’t good for me. Instead, my meals are high in nutrients and amino acids that boost my immune system.  I also take extra vitamins, go to my doctor annually, and I take good care of the ailments I do have – like asthma.
  2. Nurture Yourself When You Are Well.  In the same way nutrition and health maintenance is important, so is emotional maintenance.  Nurture yourself, allow yourself time to relax and unwind, learn quick and easy destressing mechanisms like meditation or concentrated breathing.  Give yourself family time and self time often, and leave work behind when you do.  Spend your free time doing things that make you happy!
  3. Pay Attention To Your Needs.  Something I didn’t learn until a few years ago is to see the warning signs in my life and in my own body.  For instance, when I get stressed out I often clench my jaw or tense my shoulders.  Doing yoga a while back actually taught me to notice when I’m tense, and to then relax those muscles.   Also, I know that certain foods don’t make me feel good, so either I don’t eat them at all, or in the case of acidic or spicy foods sometimes I take an acid reducer beforehand.  Know your limitations, know when your body is telling you something, and know what to do to make it better quickly.
  4. Wash Your Hands.  Huge.  No need to be paranoid, but before you eat make sure to wash your hands.  If you’re in a public space or shaking a lot of hands or wiping kids’ noses, don’t touch your face or mouth until you wash your hands with hot water and soap.  So easy, but so often forgotten.
  5. Sleep Well.  Eight hours a day keeps the sickness away!  Your body needs to regenerate, so let it do its job.
  6. Reduce Stress.  Stress can make you sick or leave you more susceptible to illness.  If you think you’re doing too much, you probably are, so allow yourself to say no and set boundaries.
  7. Nurture Yourself When You’re Sick.  Rather than filling yourself up with pills and tonics and all sorts of things to make you feel “normal” while you’re sick, stop and relax.  Make yourself take the time to heal.  You will ultimately be more productive if you’re out for 3-4 days, rather than sick and in the office for 10-12 days.  Plus you’ll save your co-workers from becoming sick as well.
  8. Weigh The Pros and Cons of Taking Cold Medicine.  Your body rids itself of germs by fighting them internally and getting them out of your system with mucous.  When I really can’t sleep because I’m coughing all night, I sometimes take a decongestant to help my body sleep – so that my antibodies can fight off the germs.  But during the day, I often let my body do its thing without medicines.  As a result my colds are usually quicker!

The only thing that costs money here is #1: Preventative Health.  And only that costs money when you visit a doctor  for checkups and to take care of your chronic health issues.  Ultimately that is cheaper than ending up paying for the months of care you will need if you don’t take care of yourself in the first place:  for example, if you end up with bronchitis you’ll need multiple doctor visits, xrays, antibiotics, a humidifier, and any number of other things that cost money.

Redefining Health As A Society

As a society we still don’t value preventative health enough in my opinion.  And it is extremely unfortunate that many of us don’t have the money to pay for preventative care.  At the same time, I think we often don’t effectively prioritize our spending as a society:  we often value cable television more highly than preventative doctor visits, for example.

We also punish ourselves at work by having to take time off when we’re sick, which is a deterrent for taking time off.  Instead, it seems like we could be rewarding productivity, which might force people to take a few days off to get better so they could be more productive in the office.  Suddenly regenerative health would make sense from an economic perspective as well.

If you are an employer you can help redefine health at your office by encouraging people to take time off when they’re sick, and rewarding them with their level of productivity when they are healthy.  You can also keep people from becoming sick by helping them destress, encouraging them to nurture themselves, and providing preventative health care.

And as a family member and friend, you can help others to learn how to redefine health in a way that most benefits them.

What Ways Have You Redefined Health Over The Years?

How To Save Vegetable Seeds - Part 1

Alright, I’m flat out admitting it:  I took on a bit too much the past few days!  So in light of our new Growing Challenge Evangelist Edition, I thought I would syndicate an oldie but goodie here.  Which reminds me that I never did write a How To Save Vegetable Seeds – Part 2.  I’m on it… Next week!


Magic Beans:  Runner beans and lima bean

Since those of us in the Northern Hemisphere are beginning to order our seeds and plan our gardens, here is a list of things you need to know about each of your crops if you’re planning to save seeds this year.

Species

This is probably the most important bit of information you need to know when seed saving. Generally speaking, cross-pollination can occur between different plants from the same species.

What confused me in the past was that within a Family, there may be several species. For instance, in the Leguminosae (ie, Legume) Family, there are 12,000 different species. So I can simultaneously grow pigeon peas, runner beans, and lima beans, for example, and save seeds from each of them – they will not cross-pollinate because they are different species! As you can imagine, learning can considerably widen the breadth of what you can plant at the same time.

Pollination Method

  1. Insect-pollinated plants are generally plants that have male and female flowers on the same plant. Squash plants are easy illustrations of this: you have the female flowers that have a mini-squash (“ovary”) at their base, and male flowers that do not. Depending on the species, these crops can be pollinated by honeybees, bumblebees, other bees, moths, butterflies, wasps, flies, and/or hummingbirds.
  2. Self-pollinating plants have male and female flower parts within the same flower – these are called “perfect” flowers (ha, if only we were all so perfect!). Generally you only need one plant to create seeds from these plants. However, some of these are self-incompatible, which means they can only be pollenized by an insect or wind that carries pollen from another plant. And some of these, such as tomatoes and peppers, are greatly aided by wind- and insect-pollination.
  3. Wind-pollinated plants are plants that rely on wind for pollination, such as corn, spinach, and many grains.

All three of these have the potential for cross-pollination. This means if you want to save seeds from these plants, you must isolate them from other plants in the same species.

Isolation

  1. Physical isolation. Isolation distance is the distance a plant needs to be away from another plant of the same species in order to keep from cross-pollinating. However, in many instances you can isolate plants artificially by putting one plant in a greenhouse or wire cage, or covering the flowers with plastic, cloth, or wire mesh. In this case you must hand-pollinate any wind- or insect-pollinating plants.
  2. Temporal isolation. If you want to grow more than one variety, plant the first one as early as you possibly can. When that plant starts to flower, you can sow seeds for the second variety. This works only if the second crop reaches its flowering stage after the first crop has already set its seeds and stopped shedding pollen.

Population Size

Always attempt to grow as many plants as you can in your garden, in order to preserve a wide range of genetic diversity within each crop. If you can only plant a few plants, you can hand-pollinate between your most vigorous plants in order to maintain maximum diversity within your crop. Make sure that when you are saving seeds, you save seeds from several different fruits.

Even if you are selecting for certain characteristics that you’d like to bring out within your next crop, a good rule of thumb is to focus on the plant, not the fruit.

Annual, Biennial, or Perennial

  1. Annuals produce seed within the same year that they are germinated. Once the seed is produced, the mother plant dies.
  2. Biennials produce seed the year after they are germinated. Once the seed is produced, the mother plant dies. These can be the most difficult seeds to save – particularly in the North, as the plants have to be overwintered. Mulch can protect them, but if your area is particularly cold you may have to bring your plant indoors, cover it in a cold frame, or dig, store, and then replant the roots in the spring.
  3. Perennials generally produce seed every year, and live several years before the mother plant dies.

Important Books

How do you learn all of these qualities of your seeds? Read. Read the packets of seeds, read nursery websites, read Master Gardener information, read blogs and forums, read your gardening books, and read seed saving books. It’s an incredible experience to save seeds and grow them the following year, but it’s only incredible if you do it with the knowledge you need!!

Other Great Resources

Please, if you know of other resources, add them in the comments below!

Where To Buy Seeds

Lots of information here:

Challenge Yourself:

The Growing Challenge New! The Growing Challenge Advanced Edition – From Seed To Seed! The Growing Challenge: Evangelist Edition

Please share any additional knowledge you have in the comments below!!


The DivaCup Giveaway Winner Is….

DivaCup Giveaway!

Thanks to Random.org, it is incredibly easy to generate a random number!

DivaCupWinner

Comment #33 is

miriam!

Congratulations, miriam – please contact me and we’ll get it off and running to you.  And thanks everyone for participating.  Since this was such a large response, I will host more giveaways soon!

Taking The Weekend Off

Hope you’re having a lovely weekend! Last week was an incredibly exhausting week for me, so I’m giving myself some R&R time this weekend.  I’ll be back on Monday to announce the winner of the DivaCup Giveaway and more!

Have a lovely valentine’s day, everyone, and don’t forget to keep your love green!