Fate Foretold by A Fortune Cookie…

…at least as it pertains to the next few weeks.  Last night I was handed this fortune cookie, it could have gone to anyone else but it came to me:


Turns out I am travelling to “many exotic places” with the specific intent of looking within.  In less than a week I’ll be jetting my way to the island country of Sri Lanka, where I will spend a week in remote lodge in the mountains near Kandy.  It will take me close to 48 hrs to get to my destination, a very very long journey…to a place very very far away.  The lodge I chose comes very highly rated (by complete strangers on travelocity) but it’s not the Hilton (which is the point of choosing it).  I’m looking forward to getting to the know that family that runs the lodge, wandering around the nearby village, spotting monkeys and birds and visiting a nearby elephant orphanage.

This from the lodge’s website:

“The jungle is filled with wildlife that include 61 different species of birds of  which 16 are endemic. Monkeys, barking deer and  the giant squirrel roam about during the day while wildboar, owls, flying squirrels  and bats appear at night.”

I’m still sorting out what gadgets I will need to take.  After Sri Lanka I’ll be heading to India for work so I will be lugging along my laptop, but given the power situation at the lodge, I don’t expect I’ll have much use for it in Sri Lanka.  Which is fine, my plan is to go as electronic free as I can.  I will have my kindle so I can read some books, my new awesome DSLR camera (this will be its debut trip), and my phone for emergencies.  Otherwise, I want to disconnect.  I won’t pretend that this “disconnect” plan doesn’t make me a little anxious…I travel quite a bit for work…and do so alone…but this feels different.  When I travel for work I stay connected to the world, I have a clear focus on what I want to achieve and when, and even though I may do a tourist side-trip here and there, I never really get out of work mode or take any real time for myself.

But – This trip is about letting my mind completely unwind, to completely let go go of my routines, my obligations, and my expectations.  This trip is about waking up each day and allowing it unfold exactly as it will, without an agenda or anyone else’s influence.  This trip is about leaving large empty spaces (physical and mental) for new experiences.

Sri Lanka Animals

Does an Exact Copy of YOU Exist Someplace Else Right Now?

Maybe…at least that is what Brian Greene argues.

When I expanded the scope of my blog, I did so with the intent of including more posts like this.  I have an insatiable curiosity when it come to understanding how things work, how things hang together, and how we mere mortals fit into the bigger cosmic and spiritual picture. If you follow my blog for gardening tips, you probably won’t get much from this post unless you would like the idea of the “other you” tending the exact same garden in a parallel universe!

Back to Brian and “The Other You”…Brian Greene is a physics and mathematics professor and director of the Institute of Strings, Cosmology, and Astroparticle Physics at Columbia University.  His research uses superstring theory to suggest the idea of parallel universes that exist in what is called a multiverse, among many other theories he investigates…

Of course, this all hangs together on some basic assumptions that I’m going to go into deeper in other posts, like gravity, dark matter, and string theory, but for now, I just want to introduce this mind blowing concept.

Interested? Listen to this short and funny 5 minute Colbert Report Interview

Still Interested?  Watch this 21 min Ted talk:

Want to really “get your geek on”?  Listen to this RadioLab interview:


What do you think?

My learning process works best if I attempt to share what I learn…put the concepts into my own words and discuss with others.  That is what I’m going to do with some follow-on posts that will expand on some of these concepts…over time I’m going to weave all of this into some concepts about THE MEANING OF LIFE and GOD.  You know…the lighter topics.

Front Yard Makeover Progress

I’ve spent the last 5 years updating the inside of my house (new floors, new walls, new paint, new kitchen, upstairs master bath, etc…), building a garage, siding the house, and completely re-landscaping the backyard. Now it’s finally time to turn my attention to the wofully neglected front yard.  I’m starting with the left and right front patches between the side-walk and the house (parking strips will come later) and just starting with the basics.

Accomplished in the last 6 weeks:

  • Removed all the foundation plants from the front of the house
  • Replanted the foundation areas with size appropriate, local habitat supporting plantings
  • Carved out over 300 sq. ft. of planting beds & mulched
  • Planted a berry patch between my property and the neighbors (3 Blueberry and 2 Huckleberry bushes)
  • Planted pear trees across the front boundary as a living fence
  • Relocated the rain barrels

Now for some pictures!

Corner View Progress

Left Fondation View Progress

Right Front View Progress

Right Side Foundation Progress

Yard Boundary Progress

Pictures of the berry patch to come, it’s not quite finished, but as for the rest of the beds go now I just need to wait and watch it all grow!

Cheap Support

My body needed a break from sitting at my computer and my mind needed a distraction – which I took as signals it’s time to get outside and build something.  I rooted around in my garage and found the following:

  • String
  • Some left over nails
  • Some left over random pieces of wood

After about 20 minutes of tinkering I completed a much-needed pea trellis.  I think it turned out pretty good!  Not only do my peas now have something to climb up and support them, I feel revived and ready to get back to work – cheap support all around!

Pea Trellis Finished ProductPea Trellis Top DetailPea Trellis Bottom Detail

Moldy Seeds and other Lessons Learned

Seeds expire? What?  You can’t just leave them in any old container in a damp and cold space all winter and expect to use them the following year?  Who knew?

Clearly you can tell I’m new to starting plants from seed.  Upon opening up my trusty seed box (Kermit the frog metal lunch box), which I kept outside all winter on my potting bench in our cold and wet NW climate, I was almost knocked over by the smell, and sight, of some very moldy seeds.

Even though that was a disappointing shock, it also presented an opporunity to start over this year (recurring theme in my life) with a new batch of seeds and little more experience.  To that end, let’s start with a review and update of the original plan set forth last year as outlined in my Mini-Project:  Learning from Seed post.

Mini-Project Name:  Learning from Seed

Project Start:  April 2012

Goal (RESULT):  Grow 90% of the veggies this season from seeds (MET – Thanks only to my prolific Sun Gold tomatoess, they completely skewed the numbers.)

Objectives (RESULTS):

  1. Have more appreciation for what happens before I buy my plants “ready to go” (OBJECTIVE MET – I now totally and completely appreciate the ability to buy healthy starts at my local garden center.)
  2. Grow plants I can’t typically find at the local garden store (NOT SO MUCH – Unfortunately my more exotic veggies did not survive my neglect – turns out they are harder to grow – who knew?)
  3. Practice Patience (UMMM)
  4. Save Money (COMPLETE FAILURE – Besides my 4 awesome Sun Gold tomato plants, some radish and beets that were started outside, and my herbs and flowers, I had to buy veggie starts for everything else.  And to compound the failure I didn’t care for my leftover seeds and had to throw them all out this year!)

The “Insiders”

OK…so perhaps starting 247 plants indoors is a bit ambitious…here are the results.

  • Marigold & Alyssum (SUCCESS – These fall into the “Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy” category.)
  • Basil & Sage (FAILURE – They Started out great in the grow pods but then stunted in the ground.)
  • Thyme & Oregano (JURY STILL OUT – They disliked their 1st location so I moved these from pots into the ground and they finally took hold.  They wintered over so I will watch them this year.)
  • Chives (SUCCESS – These are a fantastic herb, they wintered over and grow great in pots, although I really don’t need many so a package of seeds was overkill.)
  • Oak Leaf Lettuce (COMPLETE FAILURE – I moved these outside too early.)
  • Spacemaster Cucumber (COMPLETE FAILURE –  These started out fine in the pods but then stunted in ground.  Although the one I gave to my Mom grew great…operator error?)
  • Onions and Leeks (PARTIAL SUCCESS – I used these as companion plants. They fulfilled that part of their mission but they never did mature into something worth eating.  I think they were crowded out.)
  • Black Tula & Tumbling Juniper Tomato (PARTIAL SUCCESS – These never really did mature, I think I put them out too early and they got “stressed” but I did get some decent fruit that made a yummy sauce  – see Saucy!)
  • Sun gold Tomato (MY SHINNING STARS – although I only grew four and these are VERY easy to find as starts…not really worth starting from seed.)

The “Outsiders”

My outdoor seed starting results were much more impressive.  I attribute this to not needing to transplant the pods, which didn’t work so well once in the ground, and that I used a square foot gardening template to place my seeds.  I also believe that the type of template I used encouraged me to the use the right amount of seed starter soil and easily plant the seeds at the correct depth.

  • Beets (OK – Only about 25% matured, this could have been due to the location and planting too deep)
  • Carrots  (FAILED – These didn’t mature , my lack of patience may have played a role here.  Plus I planted these prior to learning about the square foot gardening technique so I may have planted them too close together.)
  • Mesclun Mix (FAILED – I started these outside too early.)
  • Plum & Red Radishes (SUCCESS – Plus I learned hot to make awesome tarragon pickled radishes!)
  • Snap Peas (SUCCESS – freshly picked and steamed peas is hard to beat!)

Seed Plan 2013 – Guiding Principles:

  • I will only grow lettuce from starts
  • I will resist the urge to buy 20 different types of tomato seeds when I can only realistically fit 8 mature plants in my yard
  • I will focus ONLY on those special plants I can’t buy as starts
  • I will be patient and let my slower growing root vegetables fully mature before picking
  • I will share seeds
  • I will store any important, left over seeds, properly…sorry Kermit


How My New “Living Fence” Has Connected Me to My Neighbors

My front yard “Living Fence” idea was inspired when I planted my backyard pears last year as a replacement for the bamboo I extracted.   I wanted a way to create the impression of a “fence” in the front yard without actually putting up a fence.  My front yard has been a pretty dismal place – overgrown and thorny foundation plants, weedy grass and no real habitat to support local birds, bees and animals.  I live on a highly visible corner lot with a significant amount of foot traffic, so the idea of an open type of fence would not only protect my yard from “short cutters” but also define the space and better tie the landscaping in with the other cosmetic improvements I’ve made recently.

Over the last month I’ve been whittling away at my “Living Fence” project and I’m almost finished (just need to stain the supports).  The results are better than I could have predicted.  Not only does it look fantastic, but folks that would normally stroll right by are stopping, taking pictures, reading the tags, chatting with me – I even had a cars stop!

Since I’ve been on working on this project in the evenings, when most people are out for their after dinner strolls, I’ve met at least a dozen of my neighbors in more than a just “friendly wave” kind of way.  They are compelled to stop and talk (in some cases invite me to their homes), and many have told me how excited they are to watch the new trees grow.  One evening last week I talked to 6 different people – and mind you I wear headphones when I’m working so it takes an effort to get my attention!

Interestingly, some have expressed concern that I’ll “lose fruit” to people stopping by and picking it.  My response has been “great”!  With the addition of these pear trees I now have strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and huckleberries all in easily accessible places that anyone at anytime can pick and enjoy.  I have no desire to “protect” or “guard” the fruit that is produced – which is a very freeing feeling!

Ironically, my “fence” project (Do good fences really make good neighbors?) has connected me more to my neighborhood – what a curiously wonderful gift these trees have been both to me and my neighborhood!

My Orchard

As I mentioned in my Riddle:  How Do You Fit 12 Types of Fruit Trees on 1 Average City Lot? I have managed to plant 12 different types of fruit trees on my average city lot – see the list of currently planted fruit trees and pictures below:

Bryce Street Orchard

Front Yard Pears 1 April 2013

Backyard Pears 1 April 2013

Backyard Pears 2 April 2013

Backyard Applies April 2013

Stay tuned for an update on the rest of the front yard transformation!