Gardening for the Heart and Soul – Part 8 – Passing on the Knowledge


                A few days ago I was babysitting for a good friend of mine and her daughter wanted to come over and help me plant part of my garden. I thought this was a great idea, because not only could I begin passing on what I know about gardening and plants, but I could also get some help. Anyone who gardens will tell you that it is not an easy task, it is a labor of love. My back injuries give me even more of a challenge, which in turn is making the gardening that much more rewarding, since I was told I might not ever get to garden again, but I will always take help when it is offered. My friend’s daughter was so enthusiastic about everything we were doing and was as absorbent as a sponge with everything I was telling her. After 2 and a-half hours of planting and playing in the mud we had over half the garden planted! It was fantastic:) With the sun setting, we figured it was a good time to stop, but I loved seeing the look of having accomplished something worthwhile and rewarding on the little girls face. Then I babysat again for my friend, and her daughter didn’t want to play video games, watch TV, or surf the internet; she wanted to come over to my house again and plant more of the garden. Unfortunately by this time I had the rest of the main garden planted, but I still needed some help with herb pots and container planting, so we tackled that. I even sent a pot back with her full of seeds to take care of at home and watch the miracle of growth.

                It really made my heart soar to see someone so happy by doing something so simple, as well as getting to impart the knowledge I know to her. I learned just about everything I know about gardening from my neighbor, Avis, when I was about 10 years old. The other place was taking a course in high school called plant science. During my 11th and 12th grades of high school I had the grades and the maturity to be a part of a program called Post-Secondary Education Option (PSEO). This is a program that as a high school student you can take classes at the local community college instead of at the high school, for free, and you begin earning college credit. I had to split my schedule, though, for the first year, since I was still taking my Latin class at the high school. Due to scheduling conflicts I couldn’t take some of the upper level science courses, and I already had biology honors and chemistry under my belt, so it wasn’t a big deal, and I ended up taking plant science. Plant science was considered the slacker class for the kids who were not “smart enough” to take an upper level class. Looking back, I learned more practical knowledge from that class that I still use today than from just about any other class I took in high school. It may have been considered a slacker class, but to me it was fascinating and I loved it. Why can’t we learn more in high school than algebra and chemistry? Those subjects the majority of us will never use after we take our ACTS and SATS. Most of us come out of high school knowing a foreign language, trigonometry, and who won the battle of 1812; but so many young adults go into the world without knowing anything about basic cooking, car maintenance, balancing a check book, gardening, house cleaning, entering into a lease, signing for a student loan and how it will be paid back, or caring for a pet. We know the theory and the science behind it all, but our practical knowledge is sorely lacking.

                Education in all forms I believe is invaluable. Whether you are learning something from a book (like I am doing now with gardening), or watching a documentary, traveling, taking a community education class, or learning on the job or from a friend; whatever you learn is now a part of your knowledge base. Some of the smartest people I know are not necessarily PHD holders, NASA Scientists, or Executives of a Corporation (although some are, just not due to their status); they are the people who have gone through life with a desire to learn all they can, embracing their desire to learn and becoming a sponge for all knowledge that they are privy to. They are also the people who tend to give back the most to others and to pay their knowledge forward. When I look at Peace Corps Volunteers the majority of us do not come from a world of monetary wealth, we are the ones that come from the desire to learn and to share what knowledge we have with others.

                I am embracing my gardening project as an opportunity to learn even more about what I am growing and how I am growing it, as well as knowing more about what I am eating. I want to be connected to the earth, to the food that goes in my mouth, to feel a part of the ongoing story of our planet and to be involved in a positive way that makes a difference no matter how small that can be. Till next time, Love Tammy

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Gardening for Heart and Soul – Part 7 Mindful Eating & Stress Reduction


                When I was overseas serving as a Peace Corps volunteer, I ate more vegetables than I ever have in my life, especially tomatoes and onions, which were the local specialties. Since coming home, my eating habits have gone down the drain; not only do I tend to eat too much, but I am also eating all the wrong things, especially processed high fat food that is quick and easy to make after a long day. Fruits and vegetables have been an afterthought. After working a high stress, long hour job that did not fulfill me or that was a good fit for me the last 6 months, I have taken a step back to reevaluate a number of things in my life. Partly due to a family medical need and partly a personal need to get my own life back on track, I did a very scary thing and resigned from my good job. I need to shed the 30 lbs I have put on in the last few months, I need to get my stress level under control again, I need to exercise again, and I need to be able to look forward to every day and wake up with the sun, smiling.

                One of the first things I am going to conquer are my eating habits. This is where my garden, once it begins producing, will be invaluable. I have already started buying more fresh produce at the store, but I can’t wait till it is coming out of my backyard. I also love to cook and I can tell everyone this: now my gardening writing will soon begin combining with food writing. 

                Gardening this past month has also been invaluable for my soul. Despite the hard work, money, sun, and rain, I am so relaxed and happy when I am working with my plants. Even the simple task of watering brings joy to my over taxed nerves. The more I am out working with the plants, the more I want to do. As the shoots begin coming up for the vegetable and herb garden now, I want to see blooms coming up everywhere. I bounce with childish joy each morning when I go outside to see the changes. They are happening so fast right now. Spring is slowly turning into summer, and as the days lengthen, I can feel my spirit begin to wake up again. I come inside glowing after a long day outside in the mud. This is who I am. I need to feel a connection to the earth, trees, animals, and people that I live around.

                Later today I am going to go out, sit next to my garden and meditate. Let my mind release and swirl in and among the plants. Perhaps then I will feel relaxed and grounded and ready for slumber. Love, Tammy

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Gardening for the Heart and Soul Part 6 – Hope


The garden taking root:)

                I can hardly believe how long it has been since I last wrote an update about my garden. It has not been from a lack of desire, but more a lack of energy and time. Starting about the time I began this series of garden stories, change began blowing in the wind. It is time to take control of my life back and to begin going for and living for the things that make me not only happy, but that I feel good about doing.

                When I think about it, I cannot look back and tell anyone why I had such an urge a month ago to begin planting a garden. I think that it had to do with roots, as I talked about in my last post, but I also think that it has to do with hope and faith in tomorrow. Planting a garden is one of the most significant acts of hope and faith I think there is. You put this tiny little seed in the ground, cover it with dirt, give it water, love, and sun light and it begins to grow. So simple yet so profound. Without this simple process our world would cease to exist, and the fact that every living creature on earth has hope and faith year after year that this cycle will continue demonstrates this. Walking out in my garden this morning, the air drenched in the sweet perfume of lilacs (the one scent that has always said spring to me), I gazed at the small shoots pushing their way up through the earth. Tiny and fragile, but also so very strong and resilient. My heart soars to see the life beginning to sprout. Even the herb seeds are coming up; basil, cilantro, and parsley are in the lead, and my very first rosemary seed is beginning to come up!


Basil Growing:)

                A couple of weeks ago I went to my first church service in a very long time because a good friend of mine was singing in the choir and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra was joining in. I am not a church person, and even though I am very spiritual, I find God hiking in the forest. Out of all the services I could have gone to though, the pastor began talking about his son who has served in the Peace Corps. I swear that lately Peace Corps has been following me everywhere in my life. He proceeded to tell a story of when his son was short on money and food and a care package arrived from home that was full of food that he could not find in the country he was serving in; it was a true gift of love and made a world of difference at the time. While he was telling this story tears began falling from my eyes and my heart squeezed, because I knew from personal experience just how much every single package and letter I received meant to me. They were so much more than a nice treat, or a needed lotion or vitamin; they were miracles and gifts of love that kept me going. I got out of the hospital after my car accident on my 26th birthday. I was exhausted, hurting, scared, and completely overwhelmed. Waiting for me at the Peace Corps office was a package from my mom and one from my good friend Wendy. Those packages could have been full of toad stools and I would have been just as touched. Simple things like growing a garden, a phone call to a friend, or a kind word to a stranger can be its own miracle and blessing. Hope can come out of anywhere and bloom bright and true. Faith can be held by the most struggling of beings. I can make a difference in this world no matter how small or insignificant it may seem. To me life is about connecting to the world around us; the plants, the people, the animals. We are all connected and I believe that if we go forth in this world and lead our lives with love and kindness, anything is truly possible. Till next time, Love, Tammy




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Gardening for the Heart and Soul – Part 5 Roots


                The other night I was over at a friends for dinner and helping her out with some dog training when we started talking about the garden I was in the middle of working on. She mentioned that the gardening would be good for me to help grow some of my own roots and to feel more grounded. This simple statement has had me thinking the last couple of days. I have felt very much like a feather blowing in a storm the last 2 years. I have had so many jarring things happen. In the last two years I have lived in 3 states, a different country, survived a terrible car accident, and have been dealing with chronic pain and PTSD ever since. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is exhausting and it rears its ugly head at the most unlikely of times and can be very disadvantages. I could really use some peace and quiet, as well as simply slowing down my life a little to enjoy the little things, such as planting a garden. I am also using this blog as a way of telling the story of my experience and as outlet for my gnawing need to write on a daily basis. It gives me a goal, a deadline, a purpose besides the ones that are inside me.

                There are so many different kinds of roots in the world. There are the big thick ones that grow deep, the tiny spindly ones that branch out in all directions and become tangled up in one another. Some are tasty and editable, others are amazing medicines, and then there are the ones that are bitter and poisonous. Some roots live very long lives where others are short, perennial roots allow a plant to regrow year after year even after the plant or the flowers have withered and died. They are fascinating and complex and can be found in very corner of the world; rugged mountain sides, thriving metropolises, and in arid deserts and roots can thrive. They seem to be able to thrive in the harshest of conditions, a root can cause concrete to crack and break, hold a hill back from a terrible mud slide, and they can manage to snake their way into metal piping. It goes to show that there are no limits to what something or anyone can do or achieve.

                I have never been one to put down roots anywhere. I like to travel and I enjoy seeing the world and getting the chance to live in different places and to meet so many amazing people along the way. Planting this garden seems right though. Giving my soul a place to rest and to grow. Each seed that goes into the dirt calms me. I find delight in the growth and in the hard work of getting it put together. I find myself wanting to have this connection to the earth and to hear the inner heartbeat of our planet that I have lost track of over the last few months. I am once again letting my body breath with the rhythms of the earth, I am allowing my eyes to take in the beauty of the natural world around me; absorbing the scents, the tastes, and the music of the birds singing outside my window. Spring in nature is a time for rebirth, renewal, and for flourishing. I am going to let my heart, body, and mind do the same.

                This spring and summer I am going to slow down. I have been rushing around for far too long. It is time for some roots and for letting myself land somewhere and to become grounded. What has anyone else out there done to renew their hearts and souls? What grounds you? Where do you plant your roots? What makes your soul come to life?

Love, Tammy

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Gardening for the Heart and Soul – Part 4


                As I wake up this morning and see the sun slowly begin to creep above the horizon I feel a promise in what a wonderful day it is going to be. I am still tired and my body is soar from so much physical work over the weekend, but it is also a good feeling of having accomplished so much.

                This past weekend has been busy. On Saturday I went to the Friends School Plant Sale (, which is held at the MN state fairgrounds every year. I had never been to the sale before and had only learned about it from a pamphlet I found at the library. In other words I didn’t really know what to expect and I was blown out of the water! It was so amazing! The entire grandstand was filled with plants; herbs, exotics, wild flowers, fruit trees, annuals, perennials, roses, grasses, vegetables, trees, shrubs, and hundreds of others. I walked around wide eyed and stunned. The best part is that the organization is all volunteer and benefits scholarship programs for people in need. The plants were very reasonably priced and they had so many unique varieties. In the herb section they had everything from cat nip to fennel, including more varieties of basil than Shady Acre’s, and many others that I had never even heard of before. They had so many varieties of everything, heirlooms, rare and exotic, you name it seemed as if it was there.  Not only did they have the plants they also had booths set up from local gardening and urban farming vendors and clubs. I learned more in the two hours I spent at the Friends Plant Sale than I have in a long time about gardening as well as being inspired to do more. One thing I didn’t realize until Saturday was just how much Urban Farming has taken off since I left for the Peace Corps a couple of years ago. It is more than a hobby it is a movement that is encouraging people to eat more organic, local, and sustainable food. It also doesn’t have to be all that difficult or expensive either and you can do much of it in your own back yard. In the coming blogs this week I will expand more on the different vendors that I found so fantastic:)

                The rest of the weekend was dedicated to getting the garden plot ready to go. First I had to steak the area, then pull up all the grass, spread peat moss and manure, and finally till it all into the soil. Given that my plot is only 10 x 10 feet I did not expect this to be as time consuming or back breaking as it was, but as I wrapped up yesterday and looked at the finish product I was happy and proud of the work I had completed. The ground is finally ready to receive the plants and seeds:) All I have to do is get the rabbit fencing up so the little neighborhood ones stay out and find other food sources.

                I feel as if it is all coming together and with the warm weather on the way I am even more excited for the coming summer! Love, Tammy

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Gardening for the Heart and Soul – Part 3 Dedication


                The gardening section of this blog is dedicated to a very special person in my life, Avis Riehl, my neighbor while growing up, who was more family and grandparent than many of my blood relatives. Avis was there for every birthday, graduation, holiday, play I performed in, as well as the day to day activities that make up our lives. Avis is the one who took the time to teach me to garden, to respect the food we put in our mouths, and to watch the miracle of watching things grow. At the time I wish I had known just how lucky I was to be learning so much from an expert as well as an amazing and patient teacher.

                Each summer from the time I was about 10, she gave me and my sister part of her garden in her back yard (just about her entire back yard was a garden!) so that we could learn how to garden. My sister and mom never really fell in love with it like I did. By the time I was 16, I was the one gardening by myself. I loved getting my hands in the soil, sowing the seeds, and waiting for them to take root and to spring to life. Each fall I would gather the harvest and help my mom cook many of the items and get them ready for preserving. Countless tomatoes never made it out of the garden as I would take them off the vine and eat them like a big juicy apple, letting the sun kissed flavor burst in my mouth.

                Avis grew up on a farm in SE Minnesota and worked one with her husband until they retired and moved to Rochester, where I met her. Avis lost her only son in the Vietnam War, and in many ways, I believe that my sister and I became surrogate grandchildren to her. I regret now not spending more time with her after graduating from high school. Life was so busy but that is no excuse. Avis died in February this year at the age of 92. While I will never get to see her again, which breaks my heart and brings tears to my eyes, I am going to dedicate my garden to her this summer and all the ones in my future. Avis, I miss you, I love you, and I hope that where ever your soul is now, it is full of joy and happiness and that you know just how many lives you touched and changed for the better:). You lived a truly amazing life. Love, Tammy

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Gardening for the Heart and Soul – Part 2


                The rain is falling, slowly, gently, musically. The birds chirp and sing, welcoming the spring and change in weather. The air is damp and fragrant, the smell that comes after the first spring rain washes away the last remnants of winter. The world is blessedly quiet and peaceful. As I sit on the screened in porch in my back yard writing this, sipping a glass of red wine, my amazing cat curled and purring at my feet, looking at my freshly potted herbs, I find my heart humming and my soul beginning to sing. Such a simple pleasure, but wonderful none the less.

                I am reminded to slow down, to take it breath by breath, and to take pleasure in the simple things that we so often rush through or don’t pay attention to. It is these priceless moments that we remember, that we savor after they have past. Right now I am pondering and working through a series of questions. What is important to me? What do I want to invest myself in and spend my time doing? What is my legacy?

                Being in nature and being surrounded by growing plants and breathing animals makes me feel more connected to my spiritual side than anything else. “Every rock and tree and creature
has a life, has a spirit, has a name” from Pocahontas rings so true with me. Tonight I added a new addition to my herb garden strictly for the cats living in my house, Cat Nip! I am also going to grow special barley and wheat grass for them to chew on as well. I might as well grow something for Galahad, my cat, as well as for myself. Hopefully it takes root and grows wellJ Till next time, Love, Tammy

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Gardening for the Heart and Soul – Part 1


The Staging Area

                Since returning from serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer last fall I have been floundering, lost, and to be honest scared. I did not know which direction to take my life in. I was intimidated by so many things that had never scared me before and I lost my self-confidence and spirit along the way. Part of my soul was awakened last February on a dive trip to Turks and Caicos, but I was still lost in where to go next. It has only been in the last week or so that I have begun to have a sense of direction, a rebirth of imagination and inspiration, a taste of destiny. I’m not sure if I am just finally ready, or if the spring weather after our long winter from hell did the trick, but the blood is flowing and my mind is churning. I have decided that as I craft this next part of my life I need a focus, a project, a goal to work on. I am a being that loves adventure, but I also love to balance my adventures out with a life that is also full of peace, love, and harmony. I have also always loved having a garden; working the damp soil with my bare hands, watching plants sprouts and take bloom has always spoken to my heart. I have not had the chance to garden in 10 years. I am no master at it, but simply love the process. The 2nd reason I have decided to have a garden and a blog about my progress with it is that I LOVE to cook. I am usually happiest when in the kitchen. I love to create and I am passionate about delectable food. Good food starts with good ingredients. This summer I want to have the chance to cook food that I have personally watched go from seedling to table.

                My first step into the venture was a trip to Menards. I needed to get the supplies for my garden. I decided that I was going to do a 10 x 8 plot in the back yard as well as starting an Herb Garden in pots so that it could be brought in next fall. I was fortunate to have the pots given to me by a good friend who didn’t need them anymore and Menards provided everything else. I almost giggled in the store, I needed everything from seeds, rakes, a hoe, rabbit fencing, potting soil, and a few starter plants. I was lost when I first walked into the store and didn’t even know where to start. Luckily I was helped by a very nice older gentleman who pointed me in the right direction for everything. The last time I had a garden was when I was 17 and I used everything, including the garden plot, from my neighbor who was also the amazing woman who taught me to garden in the first place. I think that it is about time that I did some root growing of my own, even if I decide to transplant them someday.


The 1st Menards cart:)

                My second stop was to Shady Acres , a small family run herb farm out in Chaska, about 20 minutes from my house. I will admit my knowledge of gardening is not great and there are some things like rosemary that I have never succeeded at growing from seed and while I am going to try I was going to get some starter herbs to begin with. The farm was just lovely and the staff was very helpful. I also found a number of unique herbs such as chocolate mint, orange mint, and about 15 different varieties of basil. I walked out with a full load and was so glad I made the trip out.


The beginning to the Herb Garden:)!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

                Sunday afternoon, the first warm day in about a week, after 2 major snow storms in May, I began planning the Herb pots since they could be taken in at night. It felt so wonderful to get my hands in the dirt again and to be sowing seeds and planting roots. Listening to the birds sing, as well as to Josh Groban I watched the first part of my garden begin to take form. Joy radiated from me and into my work. Something that I hadn’t experienced in so long. One of the things that I learned in Peace Corps was taking pleasure from simple things. This is something I want to get back to. Right now my life is so busy and so crazy that I forget about the simple pleasure in life. I believe that this project will allow me to begin doing this. Till next time, Love Tammy

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I am a Horrible Sick Person

I am one of the worst people in the world at being sick. I can take pain to the point of it being ridiculousness, but when it comes to having a common cold or the flu watch out I am a monster. I am bitchy, irritable, tired, cranky, and downright miserable. I don’t know what it is exactly that makes me so miserable and irritable when I am sick, but I am and can never seem to help it. Since I have come back from Turks and Caicos in February I have been plagued by one sickness after another. Before one cold has ended the next one is already taking hold. I guess that is what happens when your immune system has been over run and you work with and around young children. After seven weeks and five plague ridden colds I finally broke down and went not to one but three doctors. I have always believed that the best way to treat any problem is by combining eastern and western medicine. While both have their place and work well individually they work even better in conjunction. I went to my regular medical doctor and found out that I had not only the colds running my body and immune system down, but they let my body develop a sinus and upper respiratory infection. Other than some nice strong antibiotics to kill bacteria they could find nothing else wrong and had no other suggestions for strengthening my immune system and for getting rid of the current cold. This is where I turned with open arms to some more nontraditional methods of treatment.

                Luckily I go to the most AMAZING chiropractor in the world, Dr. Cory at Bloomington Family Chiropractic, who has the good sense to also have a naturapath on staff. Dr. Katie, is a naturapatic doctor who specializes in healing things naturally. I went to see her after my GP and we were able to set up a plan to get my immune system up and running again. Using all natural herbs and supplements I am going to be to start resetting my system as well as detoxing my system to get rid of toxins I have built up. To top it off I tried acupuncture for the first time for my cold and it worked like magic. Not only did it relax me deeply it also made just about all the congestion in my head disappear and my nose stopped running!  

                For the first time in weeks I feel better, have more energy, and feel more human again. I don’t know why it took me so long to try and do something to feel better, maybe I just got to use to living like that, but I am so glad I did try a couple of different approaches and am now on my way to feeling better. It will be interesting to see how I do over the next three weeks with my detox and see how my body feels at the end when everything has been flushed out and reset. Till next time! Love, Tammy

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World Street Kitchen

ImageSince I have come back to the Twin Cities I seem to never stop hearing about the newish restaurant World Street Kitchen in the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis. After reading what seemed like dozens reviews and articles about the great food and upscale fun fast food atmosphere I decided it was high time for me to give it a try.

I was intrigued by the seasonal menu and that the menu that is inspired from food that one would find street venders serving from all over the world. When I first walked in I was a little overwhelmed by the diverse menu and was then pleasantly surprised that they didn’t just have wine and beer for sale, but cocktails as well! There is nothing like a kick ass cocktail:) I just kept gazing at what appeared to be fantastic food choices and kept vacillating between different options. I only wish I had been there with more people so we could have all ordered something different and shared. I finally decided on the Korean BBQ Beef Short Rib Burrito and Kalimotxo Tinto Red Wine Sangria. The burrito was tightly packed and layered with BBQ beef, rice, and cilantro. Zesty sauces and spices oozed through the ingredients making for a highly flavorful treat that delivered just the right amount of heat to make it very tasty indeed. The sangria was amazing! I am not normally a big sangria fan, but this one was smooth with a nice wine base, but the added zing of blended spices was so well done that had I not been pressed for time or driving I would have had another one.


Overall my experience at World Street Kitchen was great and all the hype I have heard is well deserved and I cannot wait for the next time I go so that I can try the pasticcio baklava! Till next time, Love, Tammy

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