Category: Thematic Focus

Summer Heat: My Journey From Hating It To Reveling In It {Hot, Hot, Hot}

by Dr. Margaret Rutherford

A lot of folks dread the heat.

I prefer the colder temperatures myself. Get to channel my inner polar bear.

However, there is a part of me that relishes the chance to get outside. Just to feel sweat running down my face as I walk briskly down our hill. Or maybe do some chore. Work out in the sun.

My reason? I want to warmly welcome a season, I used to hate.

A part of my brain, when I was young, didn’t function properly. My hypothalamus. The primary symptom was that my body temperature was all over the place. When I got too hot, I couldn’t cool down. In fact, sometimes I just got hotter.


When the heat came, living in Arkansas, the only outside activity I could enjoy was swimming. That made for summers that were not your typical running around, enjoying bike rides or camps kind of summers. I read a lot. Played piano. Spent time with friends, as long as they had air conditioning. Could play outside for short periods of time.

But had to go inside and cool off.

Sometimes my body wouldn’t cooperate. I remember being packed in ice.

I understood the rules. I railed against them a lot. My mother worried about me constantly.

During the hot months of school, everybody wanted to sit by me. Schools weren’t air -conditioned back then and I had to have big fans hitting me all the time. Sort of a strange popularity. At least for a little while.

I grew out of this completely by about age 18 or 19. Other symptoms decreased as well. Stopped taking the required medications.

I got to grow out of my illness.

There are so many people that don’t.

Either physical or mental, they deal with painful or draining symptoms all their lives.

It is lonely. Even well-meaning people forget how hard it is to make life work in a wheelchair. Manage the mood swings of recurrent depression or the nightmares of PTSD. Cope with the fears of deterioration in muscular dystrophy. I could go on and on.

My own experience taught me how hard it is to be different from others. To feel out of control of your body. To have to learn to manage an illness.

Please be aware of those around you. Maybe you yourself deal with chronic illness.

It just takes a little looking around. Noticing. Saying something when it seems appropriate. Helping when you can.

I know that I am as guilty as the next guy of forgetting. I am going to try harder.

When I go to reunions, inevitably someone will come up to me. “Do you mind if I ask you something? What was wrong with you back then? I just knew you left school a lot. Are you still sick?”

“No”, I smile, as I am standing with them under some big tent.

Just out of the hot summer sun, a little sweat running down my back.

Dr. Margaret Rutherford is a clinical psychologist who has been practicing in Fayetteville for over 20 years. She began blogging in 2012, coining the term “NestAche” for her empty nest feelings, after her son left for college. She is now the Mental Health Columnist for Midlife Boulevard and is a featured contributor to the Huffington Post, BlogHer, Boomeon, and here at Arkansas Women Bloggers. You can find her on her own website: or on Twitter @doctor_margaret.

Cooling Off While Pregnant (Hot, Hot, Hot)

By Heather Vaught of VaughtBabyDreams
Cooling off while pregnant.  Is that even possible?
I’m sure at least one of our readers is or knows someone who is trying to figure out how to stay cool during this summer while being pregnant.  I reached out to all of my Mommy Friends and asked them what they did.  The responses are both practical and amusing:
“Muumuus, copious amounts of ice cream, and very little movement… Oh, and, a buzz cut. I was quite a “vision” to behold…. ;-/” – K.C. from Arkansas
“Both my kids were summer babies. One in august, the other in september. Both with no AC. I spent a lot of time in the back yard either i the spinkler or kiddie pool. Or just under the shade. One thing I did, I took a cool shower before bed. It helped cool me down enough to get some sleep.” – D.B. from Arkansas
“I had to put ice on my feet and put them in front of a fan one night just so I could get shoes on to get to work. I worked nights at the PO and spent 8 hrs on my feet on a loading dock!” – T.B. from Arkansas
“We bought an inflatable pool and Ryan and I sat in it all summer while I was prego with Charley” – M.B. from Virginia
“Well, I’m at the end of my summer pregnancy and I have been either at a pool, lake or on the couch! Lol.” – A.D. from Texas
“When I was pregnant with my son (born 7/12…8 days late! ) my only saving grace to stay cool was very little clothing and spent many hours in the pool.” – M.B. from Maryland
“I used to come home every night and sit in a tub of cold water. Son was born 8/29 in one of the hottest summer in Oklahoma.” L.L. from Virginia
“When I was pregnant with the boys, I took Todd and Heather swimming just about every day that summer. It kept them occupied, I got exercise, and the water was cool and supported my big old belly. We took cold drinks and lunch, stopped for ice cream or watermelon on the way home.” S.D. from Georgia
“Stay inside! Lol! Oh, and lots of smoothies (and that’s a healthy snack bonus)!” E.L. from Virginia
“Sit on a raft in water, secluded water, And milkshakes.” – H.D. from Maryland
“My a/c went out when I was 6 months preggo with TWINS… put on the emergency list….they said if I wasn’t pregnant when they showed up, they would leave… the air back on the same day. Also, find a cool mall to hang out in or the movies….they are always chilly!!!” – P.H. from Virginia
Well ladies, bodies of water are a must when trying to stay cool.  So, of course, that led me to wonder, where are the best places in Central Arkansas for a pregnant woman to cool her heels (and belly)?  Here are some of the top places:
Woolly Hollow State Park offers a popular central Arkansas swimming hole. Lifeguards are on duty at the swimming beach from Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day. Fees are charged to all swimmers age two and above. Swimming is not allowed from the boats in the lake. For details about Woolly Hollow State Park, call 501-679-2098 or
On the shore of Lake Dardanelle, a sprawling 34,300-acre reservoir on the Arkansas River, Lake Dardanelle State Park is your gateway to lake and the water sports that can be enjoyed on it and the Arkansas River. For swimmers, the park offers a swimming beach by the picnic area. Swimming is free to the public and at your own risk as there are no lifeguards present at this beach. For details about Lake Dardanelle State Park, call 479-967-5516 or visit:
There is one area designated as a swimming area on 1,940-acre Lake Catherine, one of the renowned Diamond Lakes around Hot Springs. The swimming beach at Lake Catherine State Park is on the lower end of the lake. Swimming is free to the public and at your own risk since there are no lifeguards present here at the park’s swimming beach. The park features some of the finest lake cabins in Arkansas. The Nature Cabin staffed by the park interpreters during summer months overlooks the swimming beach. For details about Lake Catherine State Park, call 501-844-4176 or visit:
And of course, if water parks are more your style, you can always visit Magic Springs or Crystal Falls, both of which offer cool, clean water to sit in.
However you decide to stay cool, please make sure you do it safely, and, know your limits.
Have a great summer!
heathevaughtHeather is a transplant to Arkansas by way of Texas Georgia and Virginia (Navy Veteran).  She and her husband are currently trying to build their family through assisted reproduction.  They currently have three fur-babies who have enjoyed exploring the great Arkansas outdoors. Catch up with her at VaughtBabyDreams.


By Laura Lynn Brown

This came up at a hangout with friends last week: “Where are you going on vacation this summer?” And for the first summer in at least a decade, my answer  is “nowhere.”

Last year, I was away from home on a third of the year’s weekends, plus four full weeks. In May I traveled out of state three weekends in a row. One my first weekends home, I stayed put. I want to get reacquainted with my own home.

I swept and did other maintenance on my balcony and put the patio umbrella up. The rule for meals was “Use what you have on hand.” It yielded a lunchtime feast of a great salad and corn on the cob, and a delicious dinner soup of leftover rotisserie chicken, a bunch of sautéed vegetables from the fridge, a couple of cans of white beans and some secret seasoning. When the half-used bottle of salsa in the fridge turned out to be expired, lo and behold, that fridge also held most of the ingredients for fresh salsa. And it tasted better.


I’m saving vacation days for some events in late fall. But what is summer without the carefree feeling of going and seeing? This year, the summer weeks will sometimes end in the smallest kind of staycation: a daycation.

In downtown Little Rock, several things are on my list: the Arkansas Arts Center (the annual Delta show is coming); the Historic Arkansas Museum, where the exhibits are small but always interesting; the Saturday morning Farmers Market; browsing time at the coffee shop on the top floor of the Central Arkansas Library System’s Main Library; and the Chihuly glass exhibit at the Clinton Presidential Center. While there, I’ll also stroll down by the river to see that actual rock the city is supposedly named for. After too much walking, there’s the treat of riding the trolley over to North Little Rock and back. Across I-630, there’s the Esse Purse Museum; a place with an authentic old soda fountain; and the Roots Café, also a favorite place to eat.

In Riverdale, there’s the newly reopened Riverdale 10 cinema, and on an especially hot day, it’s appealing to plan a DIY film festival, two or three on one day. If screen fatigue sets in, there are sometimes weekend flea markets and estate sales in warehouses nearby, some favorite restaurants (Red Door, Whole Hog barbecue, Faded Rose), and a sunset stroll at the Big Dam Bridge.

But some daycations will be right here at home, opening the balcony door to the breeze, discovering forgotten treasures in the fridge and pantry, making things from scratch, editing some closets, letting some hours slip by with books I already own, cooling off in the neighborhood pool, inviting friends over to share it with. Because isn’t that the point? I love the places I go and people I see there. But I want to relearn to love what I have here.

Where am I going on vacation this summer? Home. This home.

imageAn Arkansan for 23 years, Laura Lynn Brown sets small things right as a copy editor at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Her writing has been published in The Iowa Review, Slate, the Art House America blog, Tweetspeak Poetry and elsewhere. She blogs at, tweets at @lauralynn_brown and posts a random assortment at the tumblr site Daylilies.

Staycation: Lifestyle vs. Novelty

Written by Jennifer Mullen of Coffee with Jen

As I flip through my friends’ Instagram pictures and see all their grand adventures to Disney or the beach, I find a little bit of jealousy rising within me. Until I hear their horror stories that is! One friend said her entire family got the flu while they were at Disney.  Another got stuck in traffic for hours and, to further complicate things, her daughter threw up everywhere. Another friend lost their luggage. Granted there can be great bonding on trips when great tribulations occur. But let’s face it, who really wants the Griswold experience?

When my husband and I took the plunge into being a single-income family, we knew there would be areas of sacrifice. Grand vacations simply have not been in the budget. Fortunately, we live in a beautiful place and are honestly never without entertainment. For us staycation is not a novelty; it is lifestyle.

 Our kids look forward to every weekend because it usually means another adventure. We have trained them to expect it. From the time it warms up in the spring until the coolest of the autumn days set in, we spend all of our free time exploring Northwest Arkansas. You can follow our day trip adventures here.

One of my daughter's first day trips to Eureka Springs, AR.  She is now six-years-old and knows Eureka like the back of her hand.

One of my daughter’s first day trips to Eureka Springs, AR. She is now six-years-old and knows Eureka like the back of her hand.

My two biggest tips for planning a day trip are: have low expectations and focus on just being together. Really the point is to enjoy spending time with one another. These years are so short. Soon enough they are going to be playing on a sports team or involved in school activities that are not conducive to this lifestyle. Don’t miss out on all the little moments just because you can’t afford a big vacation.

Exploring Historic Downtown Siloam Springs on a surrey with the fringe on top!
Exploring Historic Downtown Siloam Springs on a surrey with the fringe on top!

Often my friends ask me where we get our ideas for day trips. Here are a few simple suggestions for planning a staycation of your own:

  1. Visit local downtown districts – Go spend the entire day walking around the various towns. Start in one shop and begin to ask around for restaurants, parks, coffee shops, book stores, etc. Learn about the history. It is fun to discover new places together.
  2. Visit museums – Of course we are blessed with the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art which we frequent, but there are many other smaller museums in our area to visit. Go to your city’s local historical museum. In today’s transient society, it is so important for our children to learn the history of their local communities and the generations of families that helped build them.
  3. Experience Nature – I grew up in the country three miles down a dirt road in a town of 600. My children have grown up in the middle of a city in a crowded neighborhood. I want them to experience nature like I did. We love going on the regional walking trails, to the lake, or to state parks. The opportunities are vast; especially in Arkansas!
  4. Get on the local festival circuit – Every little town has a festival of some sort; whether it be a monthly city square gathering or a yearly celebration. These festivals are so much fun. We have picked out our favorites and put them on our yearly calendar.

So, what about you? Do you have any recommendations for us to add to our toolbox? I would love to hear your ideas for staycations.

Photo credit:
Photo credit:

Jennifer, a native Arkansan, is a fun-loving, stay-at-home mom who might be slightly addicted to caffeine. On Coffee With Jen, she blogs about her family’s frequent weekend adventures among other topics ranging from faith, home organization, and family fun. You can also find her on the Women Living in Faith podcast where she and Gretchen Speer discuss topics of faith to encourage women in their walk with the LORD. You can follow her on Twitter: @coffeewithjen and

In the Garden

By Laurie Marshall of See Laurie Write

When my grandmother died, my mother bought her house and continued to care for the small cottage garden that had become grandma’s showplace. Around the hand-built rock fountain my grandfather built when I was a toddler, she planted lamb’s ears, azaleas, blue bells, daffodils, and several varieties of iris. All the garden goodness was watched over by a small statue of St. Francis of Assisi.

St. Francis and Iris

When my mother died in 2009, the task of cleaning out the house fell to my sister and me. It was difficult to part with the furniture and mementos that mom left behind, but because of the genuine love of the digging in the dirt that seems to be a genetic trait in my family, it was perhaps even harder to give up the years of passionate work that built that garden. One of the final things I did before I left the house for the last time was to  fill a few tote bags with iris tubers. And St. Frank. Call me greedy. Or grieving.

Grandma’s irises have been in the ground in my front yard for several years now, and this year they have apparently reached their adolescence or something, because they are fantastic! There are several purple and lilac varieties, and a pink and gold one that is truly special.

Purple Iris 1

Pink and Yellow 2

The garden that was already in place in our back yard when we bought our house has provided white, yellow, pink and peach iris as well. It’s been a lovely spring for hand-picked bouquets. I know this fall will be a perfect time to cut a few pieces off to share with friends, so before they stopped blooming, I wanted to mark them.

I’ve been collecting mismatched pieces of old silver plate, knowing that I’d find a use for them “someday”. I am drawn to the tarnished and the rusty, you see. To create some plant markers, I dug out a box of old canning lids from my stash, and wrote the flower colors on them before wedging them between the tines of the forks.

Plant markers 2

I tend to decorate my garden with found and repurposed objects, so these markers fit right in. And they remind me of the thrifty“wear it out” sensibilities of my mother and grandmother. A fitting tribute, don’t you think?

Plant markers


LaurieMarshallLaurie is a writer and junque-hunter living in Springdale, Arkansas with her husband, son and three goofy cats. She raises kids and chickens and makes messes in her craft room. She loves to create good food, pretty gardens, and happy kids. But when that doesn’t happen as planned, she simply reads about them on Pinterest. You can follow Laurie at See Laurie Write.

Growing MORE Than Your Garden

Written by Jessica Bauer

When winter shifts into green grass and wildflowers, a change takes place inside my home, too.

I start flipping through seed catalogs and making mental notes of what new things I’d like to grow. That’s when it begins. Two little boys appear by my side, peering over my shoulder and pointing to the funny purple carrots. Later I find them looking through it by themselves, Nathan with a pencil and Owen’s brown eyes following along.

Their interest in gardening rises with the temperature, and soon they decide they’d rather soak up the sun than whatever is on TV. I have to bribe them to come inside on beautiful spring days, and when the sun is gone, they beg to dance in the rain. Their excitement swells higher with a trip to the nursery and they happily hold the cardboard flats while I pile on my purchases. They jump into seeding, digging, watering, and waiting. My three-year-old goes on daily watermelon hunts and my six-year-old questions the originof canned green beans.

They learn patience and perseverance, disappointment and dedication, and that results often follow hard work.


Growing a garden with three helpers under foot {okay, one sitting in the grass nearby} makes me think. It makes me realize that I’m growing something more than tomatoes and peppers. Owen could pick acucumber seed out of a lineup. Nathan knows which bugs are good and which bugs are terrible. They both know fruits and vegetables trace back further than the grocery store. I don’t have a chalkboard filled with companion plants or quizzes printed to test them on frost dates. I just do what I love, and we all learn. Maybe this hobby will stick with them, but maybe it won’t. I pray the lessons learned in the process, however, will last.

Every season in my little patch has been different. Every season I think I know what I’m getting into, and every season I’m proven wrong. I water and I weed and I worry, but there’s no way to tell what lies ahead. I know the steps to get to harvest, but the journey is different every time. It seems the seasons of motherhood follow the same pattern. No two are ever the same. I simply try my best, learn from what works, and grow from mistakes.

I’m no gardening expert, but I don’t have to be. I garden because I love the smell of tomato plants. I garden because I love the feeling of dirt on my hands. I garden because it provides me with preciousmemories while my children are still young. My garden isn’t the only thing growing before my eyes, and just like the strawberries and squash, I want to do everything I can to help them reach the harvest. It will soon be on them to stretch upward and outward to their full potential, but you better believe I will never be far behind.

I don’t always know where we’re going, and I never know how we’ll get there, but I promise to do everything I can to help my garden and my children grow.

PS: For all you mamas looking for something productive to do this summer, look no further than your yard. It doesn’t take much and it’s not too late to start. Just pick a sunny spot, grab a shovel, and dig. Add some form of compost and garden soil, snag some of the veggie plants left at your local nursery, and get going. I can guarantee this will pique your kids’ interest, and they’ll be working beside you in no time. I know there are plenty of Arkansas Women Bloggers who are much more proficient than me, but if I can do it, so can you. Give it a whirl, and I’d be happy to help if you have any {beginner} questions.

imageHey y’all! I’m Jessica and you can find me blogging over at Life With the Bauer Bunch. I’m a small-town girl just enjoying my slice of the good life with my husband Jonathan, our two sons, and our bouncing baby girl. Pull up a chair sometime and watch my garden and my children grow.

Me vs. The Broccoli

Broccoli. I want to be its friend. I don’t want to fight with it, but as my broccoli harvesting season comes to an end, I am battling with this stuff tooth and claw. I try to understand broccoli. What does it need? What does it want? What is its . . . motivation? Here is where the battle begins. Broccoli wants to make seeds. Its sole motivating purpose is to set a bunch of seeds in pointy pods on tall spindly stems that come shooting up from the middle of the plant. And this is the root of our conflict. Broccoli and I, we are at cross purposes. I want broccoli to STOP when it has formed its nice big head of flower buds, to stop there and not go on with the seed-making process, not go on to fulfill its destiny and bloom.
imageMy own sole motivating purpose is to harvest a nice big heavy head of tightly packed broccoli flower buds. That is what we are eating when we eat broccoli – the tender, delicious flower bud. You see, I am growing a market garden. I provide veggies to nearby families who have subscribed to my “Sunshine for Dinner – The Farmer’s Market that comes to you.” service. Every other week, I show up on my customer’s doorstep with a big bag of homegrown veggies, and I want them to be delighted when they unpack that bag. In order for that to happen at this time of year, I need broccoli. In the summertime, it is all about tomatoes, but in the earliest months, broccoli is about the only wow-factor I can provide. The cool weather garden is full of leaves – lettuce, chard, kale, spinach, bok choy, mustard, turnip greens, collard greens, arugula. Delicious leaves, but leaves nonetheless. That can get a little boring. I need to provide my customers with something besides leaves in their veggie bag. Broccoli always makes them smile. Broccoli, however, has only one thing on its mind: making seeds. It does not care about my needs at all.
So, broccoli and I go head-to-head. Broccoli is tricky. I start out being nice to it. I try to gain its cooperation. I plant it in a comfy covered hoop house. I give it a nice bed to grow in, full of compost. I give it plenty of space – broccoli is BIG.
image A plant can easily grow to four feet across. I water it and weed it. But this year, right from the start, it fought me. It started putting on heads when the plants were only about a foot tall. That tiny stalk and puny leaves could never support the lush heavy heads of broccoli that I need so my veggie-loving foodies will smile when they unpack their Sunshine for Dinner bag. Frown.
This is the tricky part. When what the plant wants (to make seeds) is the same as what we want (to harvest ripe fruit) then things are great. We work together to that end, because the seeds it wants to make are conveniently within the ripe fruit we want to harvest. The tomato. The apple. The blueberry. The eggplant. The pepper. Perfect. Or consider the leaves that I mentioned before. Lettuce. Chard. I fully support their leaf growing habits. I enable. I am in total peaceful accord with the easiest crops that just grow leaves. Like my dear friend, kale. It is happy to keep growing leaves for a year and a half before it wants to make any seeds. Eighteen long glorious months when I have no responsibilities besides starting a sprinkler every now and then when it doesn’t rain. I can just lay in a hammock while the kale grows, rousing myself once a week to pluck off leaves to bring the doors of my customers and fill the standing order at the health food store, so the people of Texarkana can buy kale to juice and make salads and add to green smoothies. Everybody’s happy! Alright, maybe the hammock thing is a bit of fiction, but it remains that we can join with these vegetable plants in common purpose. It’s easy! We help them achieve their goal. We revel, together, in the bounty of the summer garden. Leaves and luscious ripe fruit.
But not broccoli. Poor broccoli. We have an adversarial relationship. Just at the moment its buds are perfectly formed and it is ready to burst into glorious flower, BAM! Well, more like, WHACK! There I am with the knife. It worked so hard to make this huge (I hope it is huge, anyway) head of tight blossom buds, to create a thick sturdy stem for support, to grow a beautiful rosette of tremendous leaves for harvesting the sun’s energy, all to fuel this process – its purpose in life – to make its seeds. WHACK. Into my basket. I strike the first blow in our battle. For that one plant, in our first confrontation, I win this round. But behind me, 70 other plants are quietly growing. 
At this point, the only thing I have on my side is the knife. Broccoli has all the tactical advantages. The weather is on its side. Longer days. More sun. Warmer soil. All sending messages to the plant – stretch! Don’t just sit there in a nice tight head anymore, the time is NOW! The pollinators are here! Do you hear them buzzing? Quick! Stretch! And a plant hormone starts to flow, telling the stems growing between the many tiny flower buds in its nice tight head to start to grow and lengthen. While I am not watching, the stems stretch and bloom and reach up. Broccoli never rests. It never sleeps. It never watches TV or cooks dinner or goes away from home to work. It is relentless. It keeps growing. Inside the buds, yellow flowers are forming.
I have a market garden – I sell broccoli, so I need it to be perfect on a certain day of the week. Monday is the delivery day for Sunshine for Dinner. Friday, Saturday, Sunday, I am there with my knife. Even as I harvest, it is growing. I am almost afraid to turn my back on it. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, it is growing. Each head is changing as fast as it can into a giant bouquet of yellow flowers. Can I make it slow down?
I try. I cut the heads that are starting to stretch and not looking so pretty. The kind that would give my customers a puzzled expression instead of a smile. “What the heck is this? The tag said there would be broccoli in this bag. Where is it?” My family eats them, the culls. When I cut off a central head of broccoli, whether it is perfect or a little loose, the feedback system in the plant is interrupted. Whatever was telling it, “Our buds are formed and perfect, now STRETCH!” is abruptly gone. That head of buds is no longer sending its message, it is in my harvest basket. The plant, I hope, resets into “make buds” mode. Now we are in phase two of the battle.
image On the left, the plant is still making buds. It is compact with large leaves. On the right, the plant has entered “seed mode.” It has smaller leaves and its buds have stretched up and bloomed.
 The central head is gone, but the broccoli plant also makes buds all up and down the stem. Where each leaf is attached, a group of cells starts to grow in response to the “make buds!” order. I can get broccoli to produce a whole new set of smaller but still smile-producing heads. I watch the plants to see which ones have already beaten me by passing completely into seed mode. These plants are growing smaller leaves. They are not putting their energy into making more buds. They are DONE! It is seeds or nothing for them. Poor things, they don’t get the satisfaction of finally ripening their seeds – I pull them up and toss them to the chickens.
One by one, despite my efforts, the plants move into seed mode. It is inevitable. It happens around me, one day as I am hunting among the few big squat leafy plants still giving me some small buds, I find myself surrounded by fluttering spires of yellow flowers and buzzing bees. Time for broccoli to go. The dramatic pulling up of spent broccoli plants commences and the chickens feast on them and I think, I wish I had some pigs to feed this to. Sigh. The broccoli goes gentle into that good night.
Their space is needed in the garden. Things that bear fruit need to be planted. I have other smile-inducing produce to add to the bags for now. Under the leaves, my customers find new potatoes. Big smiles. They were tired of broccoli, anyway.
imageGeorgiaberry Mobley grows broccoli and other veggies in her hometown, Fouke, Arkansas. Since 2007, she and her husband, Kandan, have been selling their locally grown food in the Texarkana area through their Sunshine for Dinner subscription veggie delivery service. It’s the farmer’s market that comes to you! In her spare time, she teaches their two kids at home, is an active La Leche League leader, and helps out with their landscape design/maintenance firm. Find out more about her market garden and farm life, and how to sign up for Sunshine for Dinner at Join the conversation on Facebook at You can also find Georgiaberry on pinterest at and Instagram at


Confessions of a Semi-successful Gardener

by Jeanetta Darley

“April showers bring May flowers.”

And yes, May flowers bring pilgrims but this time of year they also bring bees to the garden.  And bees bring pollination.  And pollination brings a bountiful harvest.  

Well, that’s the theory of gardening anyway.  

When that theory is proved right you feel so successful.  You feel like the queen cultivator out to provide food for her family from the dirt of the earth.  Crowned with your over-sized sun hat and your trusty trowel at your side.  You envision an ever vigilant summer where weeds tremble at your hands, beetles and aphids have retreated in terror and the neighbor’s dog has banished any thought of digging in that fresh smelling dirt.  You can and freeze and dehydrate.  Fresh salads are fixed every night.  And your kids no longer snub the dark green vegetables from days of yore because they have been enlightened and now know where their food comes from and will eat it happily.

Sorry to burst your bubble but the dream of gardening nirvana just doesn’t exist.  Not even for professional farmers and gardeners. The reality is a garden, like anything worthwhile, is hard work.  It’s dirty work during the hottest most humid times of the year. But don’t let the fear of failure or the harsh conditions stop you from pushing on.

I have only been gardening with minor success for maybe the past four years.  I say minor success because each year I learn some things I need to stop doing and some things I need to start doing.  So this is my garden confessional for this year.

Things to stop:

  • I’m a hopeless over-planter.  I envision myself harvesting and washing and cooking and canning every evening during the summer when the reality is I’m lucky to give them a quick rinse and blanch and pop them in the freezer.  

  • Don’t get angry at my family when they don’t share my gardening passion.  I can get grumpy being the only one that ever waters or mulches or shells peas.  Even if they do enjoy the eating.

Things to start:

  • Keep a better journal.  I use a fantastic online journal with the website SmartGardener.  It is very easy to use and helps with your garden floor plan and even sends email reminders.
  • Prune! I’m terrified to prune. So by mid summer my over-planted, over-grown raised beds resemble a small jungle.
  • Compost.  It’s time I gathered all the chicken poop and tossed it in with the eggshells and other matter and get some composting bins started
  • Plan our meals around the harvest and give our abundance to food pantries.

I am always asked questions about starting a garden and when you’re supposed to do what when.  The truth is I’m still learning all that too.  I ask questions. I look things up and most importantly I just go ahead and do it.  Start simple.  Don’t get discouraged.  Pay attention.  And have fun.  Happy gardening!

My Favorite Gardening Resources:

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Karen Kingsolver

P. Allen Smith’s Youtube Channel

Gardening: Starting, overcoming, & creating happiness

Written by Natalie of Great Contraditctions

As Winter is starting to transition into Spring, we are taking the time to enjoy being outside. I have been trying to be a gardener for a while now. Gardening is definitely an art form I have come to appreciate as my meditation from life’s stresses. I have a few tricks that I have learned along the way that can hopefully help you find your joy in gardening. Once I got a little more confident in my abilities, I brought the whole family on board. My boys love seeing what is happening in the garden. We talk about what we find, what do we want to make with the foods, and what we want to grow next. We talk about why bees are good (like that our strawberry plants would not produce berries without their pollination help). We talk about why we love the rain despite having to stay inside because it helps our garden grow. Something that started out as a personal escape has turned into a bonding experience for our family to engage even more in healthier living.


Getting started: Think about your limitations! Do you travel a lot? Have inconsistent schedules? Let’s be honest…are you forgetful? If you want it to work you have to find plants that work with your limitations. I am the forgetful gardener.

*Starting with some forgiving plants like succulent plants can give you instant gratification. My personal low maintenance favorites are sticks of fire {featured in picture below on left) and crown of thorns cactus (on right). While typically you may think of just plain green and boring, these varieties are more than that! Sticks of fire are smooth green sticks that turn red with sunlight. Crown of thorns have small pink flowers that add some softness to this thorny cactus.


*I have learned to accept help like from a soaker hose to save me from having to personally water the whole garden by hand and automatic timers when we travel.


*As well as setting daily alarms to remind me


*There is no shame in being on a budget when gardening. Gardening can save you money on regular meal staples. Also keep your maintanence costs down by making your own compost bin or rainwater barrel while doing sustainable gardening practices.


Finding happiness in your yard no matter how big or small

Due to us moving every few years, I have been a huge fan of container gardening. I find happiness in seeing how far I have come that I can’t leave my babies behind. Now that we have 2 glorious acres for gardening, I have expanded.

Some of my favorite container plants: Tomatoes, Peppers, herbs, and blueberry bushes
If you have even a little bit of space, raised garden beds are amazing for edible gardening. We currently have greens, herbs, and strawberries visible as well as carrots and radishes waiting to sprout. I find it amazing that in such a small corner of our yard we can grow all of that delicious food!


Getting over the fear of failure

Gardening is not about perfection. As in everything else, gardening is about the journey and the joy it brings. The feeling I get when I walk out my backdoor is pure relaxation. I may get a dirty out in the garden, but that is proof of my hardwork. Just digging your hands in the dirt soaking up the sunshine is amazing!

Here is the most important tip in all of this…
The world is not over if you kill a plant. Actually I would say that it makes you human. The police will not come to arrest you for plant murder. Just regroup and try again! If you notice, we had a dead cabbage plant in our raised bed. It happens!


imageNatalie Zanatta is the mom of 3 wonderful boys who recently moved to Central Arkansas. Natalie writes about healthy living covering gluten free cooking (due to Celiac Disease), DIY, gardening, fashion/beauty, and more to help us all be healthier inside and out. Check out her blog Great Contradictions to be inspired!

Filtered (Does not equal) Fake

Filtered (does not equal) Fake
Written by Jody Dilday, Miss February 2014
An observation: there seem to be two distinct camps in the vast virtual world. You’re either completely RAW – as in say anything, share everything, push the envelope, “how shocking can I be?” or .  . . you’re “practically perfect in every way” (read in your beat Mary Poppins impersonator voice) – which makes people simultaneously loathe you and want to be you! (Or at least have your gorgeous home, your perfect family, your zany sense of humor, your impeccable style, your way with words, etc., etc. etc.) 
Many people have complimented me for my sunny disposition on Facebook, but I would venture to guess that an equal number of acquaintances roll their eyes and mutter under their breath when they read some of my posts. I’m no dummy. I’ve heard acquaintances criticizing others for being too positive  (otherwise known as fake) online. Some are accused of cultivating an online image of perfection, of only posting blissfully happy family photos, of staging their recipe photos in a kitchen worthy to be featured in Better Homes and Garden, or simply “blowing sunshine” (to put it politely).  
Call me old fashioned, but I try to follow the advice of all our moms and grandmas who who said, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”  (As opposed to Clairee Belcher in Steel Magnolias who said, “If you can’t say something nice, come and sit by me!”)
I’m not Pollyanna. It’s not that I don’t THINK not-so-nice things and I don’t have really lousy days.  Life at casa Dilday ain’t perfect. Kids get bad grades, they get grounded, I burn dinner, and sometimes we have cereal for supper. (Sometimes life is MUCH harder than that but, even now,  I choose not to say more.)   So just because I’m not airing all of the not-so-good stuff via social media, that doesn’t mean I’m not “keeping it real.”  I just happen to believe that there is enough crapola, mean-spiritedness and negativity out there without me adding to it. 
So I CHOOSE to look on the bright side and share only what I think will be uplifting. I believe that among my gifts is that of being an encourager. I feel compelled to intentionally use my voice for good. I’m not trying to appear to be something I am not. I am, however, doing what my mother taught me, and hopefully I am teaching my kids the same through my example. 
So while my home decor/marriage/career/life is not perfect, I will focus on what is good and share it. That doesn’t mean I am fake, it means I have a filter and I know how to use it!