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6.23.2012

Look at the bright side.

Can you see the positive in a weedy onion patch?
 I fall into some fatalist thinking sometimes.  Although my moodswings have reduced greatly by switching to a traditional whole food diet, I still get the blues sometimes (who doesn't?), and the result is usually a lack of motivation (and the resulting lack of action) which makes me feel more like a lump... and turns into a vicious cycle.

Not all of the things I am about to list send me into a depressive downward spiral.  Some merely annoy me.  But the point (I'm getting to one, I promise) is that I am learning and training myself to look for benefits to everything.  This, in fact, is something I have learned from gardening, especially since reading about permaculture.  Everything- the most annoying bug, the most pernicious weed- has a purpose (with the sole exception of potato beetles...).  So to demonstrate this and encourage you to do the same, I'm going to list some of the things that annoy me and how I look for the positive.
  •  Grass-  I know I am alone in my hatred for grass (probably not alone, but in a very small minority).  I don't particularly hate lawns, but I do think that they are horribly wasteful- I mean, they drink up water, and most people spend so much time, money, and resources to maintain that boring green uniform mass.  I like the "food not lawns" movement.  But I hate grass mostly because it invades my garden and my flower beds like a freaking army of miniature green soldiers... soldiers who refuse to die.  How I see the positive:  well, at first the only thing I could think of was cows.  Cows need grass.  Of course, cows do better with a mix of grasses and other yummies (legumes and the like), but it was a start.  Then I had an epiphany.  Last year I spent like $130 on mulch (well, the gas to get the mulch, since I got it from my inlaws, but I would have spent more than that had I bought straw around here).  But I live on a big patch of grass.  See where I'm going?  So this year I pow wowed with my husband and we decided that we are going to mow less often (extra bonus- less gas used!) and use the taller grass clippings as mulch in my garden.  I've also read that mulching garden plants with grass provides the right amount of well balanced fertilizer for garden plants as the grass slowly breaks down.
  • Wind-  Wind bugs me.  I can't really tell you why, although if I were to analyze (because you know I do that) I would say it's from my childhood, either because wind on the weekend in the summer was the fastest way to kill any plans for the lake (because baring wind or storms, we were at the lake every Sunday after church the entire summer).  Or because when I was growing up I was paranoid about tornadoes.  Either way, I don't like it.  It wears me out and frustrates me.  So I finally decided to think of some reasons wind is good.  How I see the positive:  Wind actually prevents fungus in those plants in your garden that are particularly susceptible- for me, that's tomatoes.  Wind also keeps mosquitoes off of you while you work outside and lowers the humidity, both of which make working outside more comfortable.
  • Dishes-  Washing dishes makes me crazy, mostly because it feels never ending.  I always feel like I just did them and that there's always another pile waiting for me.  Part of the problem is that I don't have a dishwasher, but in all honesty I dreaded the dishes almost as much when I did have one, and having a dishwasher only encouraged me to put them off longer, which resulted in a much larger pile.  How I see the positive:  Dishes suck, so this one was hard, but I actually gave dishes a positive by making them more work.  How is that possible (and how is that possibly positive)?  Well, I took a cue from Flylady for starters and worked out a system that keeps my sink clear.  Instead of piling dirty dishes in the sink, we put them in a dish tub that I keep in the cupboard under the sink.  I really believe in her notion that having a clean LOOKING kitchen makes you happier and more motivated to keep it clean.  When I do projects that require larger dishes, like when I made strawberry jam yesterday, I do put them in the sink but only because I try to wash those dishes while I wait for the jam to boil or for the jars to process.  Then at least once a day I pull the tub out and place it in the sink- the whole tub.  I fill the tub, wash the dishes, and then this is the "more work" part- I haul the dishwater out to one of my planters or to my newly planted fruit bushes.  This isn't a whole ton more work- it's about fifty steps max (to the new fruit bushes- the planters are more like 10 steps) and takes about 3 minutes, and I feel better about my water usage.  Plus soap and food residue make good plant fertilizer, although if you want to copy my strategy I would make sure you're not using a dish soap with bleach, triclosan, or any other funky ingredients.  Basic stuff is fine- it doesn't even need to be all "free and clear" or whatever (although I use a free and clear one).  One of my goals is to eventually have all of our waste water aside from the toilet routed to a greywater system, but this is good for now.
  • Weeding-  I'm sure I don't need to explain why I hate weeding.  How I see the positive:  This one was actually easy, even before I came to a similar conclusion with the grass.  Weeds= plant matter, and what makes awesome compost?  A mixture of nitrogen rich plant matter and carbon rich plant matter, with possibly a little livestock poo mixed in for good measure.  The more weeds, the more compost I can make.  The more compost I can make, the less oustide inputs I need to find.  But taking it further, many plants that are typically viewed as weeds have other purposes.  Many have long taproots that loosen otherwise compacted soil (which is why they can grow where other plants struggle) and bring up trace nutrients from the sub soil.  Then when you pull the weed and put it in your compost these nutrients add to your black gold.  Some common weeds make excellent food or chicken forage.  And we all know how I feel about the common violet, which is considered a weed around here (but not at my house!).
There are things I'm still working on.  I can't see a bright side to folding laundry or picking up dog poop (other than not stepping in dog poop) or people who feel the need to be dropped off in front of stores, but I'm sure I'll get there.

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