Friday, January 28, 2011

Enhancing Life through Gardening Series

Have you ever wanted to have a vegetable garden but didn't know how to get started?

Or, maybe you've started a garden, but didn't quite harvest as many vegetables as you thought you would?

Perhaps you experienced pest problems in your garden?

Well, then this is the class for you!

What: Vegetable Gardening Basics class
When: Tuesday, February 15th, 7:00 - 8:30 P.M.
Who: Bob Westerfield, a State Specialist in Vegetable Gardening
Where: 4380 Memorial Drive, Decatur, GA 30032
How much: $10, in advance or at the door.

Learn the essential fundamentals that will last a lifetime, all the while improving the quality of life year after year…

This is just the first in a series of Homeowner classes offered by the Dekalb County Horticulture Extension called Enhancing Life Through Gardening.

More info:

You can find information about Bob by following this link:

Here is the website with a listing of all the upcoming classes:

Here is another website which provides additional class information:

Monday, January 24, 2011

I am a Wanna-Bee

There. I said it. I fully admit to being a wanna-bee. How can you not be after hearing statements like these?

"Becoming a beekeeper is the single most important thing you can do for the environment." -Cindy Bee, Master Beekeeper and yes, her real name is Bee


"If you look at a plate of food, one-third of everything on that plate has been touched by honey bees."
-Jennifer Barry, Apicultural Research Coordinator and Lab Manager at the University of Georgia

Well, on Saturday, I, and over a hundred of my fellow wanna-bees, had the pleasure of attending the Beekeeping Short Course hosted by the Metro Atlanta Beekeepers Association. This class was fascinating and really took some of the fear of beekeeping out of me. It's not so much the bees that had me paralyzed with fear. Oh no. I have a strong feeling that once I don the incredibly chic bee protective suit, I will find my rhythm in handling the bees. Plus, I am so comfortable working side by side with bees in the garden, they barely register with me these days. So what is it, you ask? It's the bee equipment that had me utterly dumbfounded.

I see a langstroth hive and think, "boxes." There are big boxes and slightly smaller boxes and then even smaller boxes. But, beekeepers call these things brood chambers and hive bodies and supers. What are they talking about? Upon hearing all those words, my normal reaction was to go eat some chocolate. Yes, I am a stress eater. How could you tell? And, what in the world is the smoker for? There are only two types of smoking I am familiar with; one that's unhealthy and another that makes me hungry (think applewood-smoked bacon or smoked BBQ beef brisket or...), neither one is recommended if I want to maintain any level of fitness.

Anyway, the Beekeeping Short Course took all the confusion out of how to build a hive, light a smoker, install bees (I know. Install? Yes. Install. Don't I sound so experienced?!), feed them, diagnose problems in the hive and what to do about them and where to buy quality bees. It's not like a birdhouse. You can't just put it out there and hope you get a homeless bee to move in. Although, that might be the case with an opening in the side of your home. I digress...

At any rate without getting too technical, let me just say that if you ever thought that having your own honey would be amazing, or you're crafty and you like to make lip balm, lotion bars and candles or you simply like to live life on the edge, then perhaps you're a wanna-bee just like me. (Have I mentioned that my motto for the year is, "If it's scary, new or would otherwise make me uncomfortable, I am going to go for it?" Oy!)

In that case, there are a number of excellent resources out there. You can take the Georgia Beekeeping Short Course. Or, you can check out The Blue Heron Nature Preserve where they have an area dedicated to beekeeping. Or, you can check out Linda Tillman's very informative blog. I sat at Linda's table during lunch and really admire some of her less-invasive, natural beekeeping practices. Finally, for those of you who are reading that live in Dunwoody, be sure to check out the bees at Dunwoody Nature Center and Cindy Hodges, a Dunwoody resident who maintains the hives.

I have to say, before I attended the Beekeepers Short Course, I thought that this question of whether or not to keep bees could go either way. After attending, I am totally geeked out, beegeeked out ,that is! I know I still have so much to learn. But, the fear is gone now because I know there are resources out there to help me should I stumble. I won't be on my own. And, I will be in excellent company. Oh, and if you have little ones who become as beegeeked out as you are like mine did, then check out the Junior Beekeeping Course. Sadie and Harry will be participating in it!

Come on, as the people say, "Give bees a chance!" Peace out, y'all!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Easy does it!

If you've been thinking that you might want to try a small vegetable garden in your yard, but have been overwhelmed with the idea of building a raised bed yourself, then this is a great time of the year to start looking at the local warehouse stores for simple kits that you can buy and put together without a carpentry degree. For instance, I happened to be at Costco this morning and they are selling a 4x4 raised garden bed with a weather shield for $99. That's it. It is made of plastic, looks decent and will give you an idea whether gardening is for you with a minimal investment. It might be worth checking out. Then, when the time comes, give me a call and I will share with you a great soil formula to fill the bed with that will give you a good start on growing healthy, hearty plants.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


As some of you may know, and others of you are about to learn, I am a 2011 Georgia Master Gardener Intern. As part of my certification, I am required to complete a certain number of hours in the classroom and complete a certain number of hours working in the field. Our class today was all about insects. Yep. Insects. For 7 hours. And, let me tell you, that 7 hours flew by it was so interesting!

One of our instructors was this really cute, hip, funny, incredibly smart lady named Christine Heidt. You can find information about her here. Christine knows bugs. Wow! And, while I learned plenty about bugs, the one thing that she touched on that really resonated with me is the idea that we should approach our gardens (and lives for that matter) from a place of gratefulness. HOLD UP! Did she just say what I thought she said? For a moment, it was as if the room stood still. A quick glance at the people around me and I wondered, "Are you people getting this? Or, am I on my own?" I couldn't help but feel that this message was intended for me.

See, for some time now and due to recent circumstances, I have come face to face with this idea of finding the value in what, at first glance, appears to be unfortunate and the peace that can come from that. Let me go back a few months...

Last year, my husband and I thought it would be fun to have another baby. That did not go as we expected. We were devastated by the late loss of our unborn son. Throughout the summer, I took solace in my garden. My garden has always been a special place for me. I have enjoyed growing things for as long as I can remember. But now, my thoughts went something like this, "While I can't nurture and grow my baby right now, I can grow this garden. This much, I know I can do." And, I did. I spent a lot of time and energy in that garden. And, I was rewarded greatly with harvests so large I was able to share them with neighbors because we couldn't possibly eat it all. And, as the summer went on, I began to find peace again. By the end of the growing season, it became clear to me that this was more than my garden, it was my sanctuary.

My time in the garden gave me the opportunity to think through and process very difficult emotions and to find a little hope again. I became keenly aware of the many blessings I have in my life including the family and friends who bring me so much joy and the many comforts that surround me. I even began to find peace with my loss. That experience gave me a new perspective that I can only imagine will stay with me for the rest of my life. And, with that, I am forever changed. My highs are a little higher, the lows aren't as low and everything in between is just a little bit better. It's as if the focus has been adjusted and the view is clearer, sharper. And, for all of this, I am grateful.

And so, when Christine mentioned being grateful as a way of thinking, I could relate. She had just put into words a shift in perspective that I had struggled to articulate. It's about being grateful. It's about realizing that what may be in front of you might be something beneficial if you allow it to be viewed that way.

Now, a blog. This is something my mother-in-law has been encouraging me to do for some time. (Thanks, Laura! I am finally doing it.) I was a writing major in college and so I hope some of the old flow comes back to me for both our sakes!

As I embark on my new adventures as a Master Gardener, I will be sure to post my old tried and true methods, things learned along the way and anything else that seems worthwhile. And, I am sure I will post about baking because I love to do that, too. Who knows what's in store? I certainly don't. But, I am forever grateful for the opportunity to find out.