nature, Special Guests, Wellness

Bloom Where You’re Planted: Q+A with Hannah!

Bloom where you’re planted.

Today’s post explores the benefits of houseplants and gardening.

Gardening can be rewarding mentally, physically, spiritually, and even economically. Bringing the outside in brightens up living spaces and helps with air quality – not to mention the sweet scents of the flowers!

Read on to explore Hannah’s love of plants – both houseplants and outdoor – and learn about the benefits of your local plant nurseries.

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What draws you to plants and gardening? 
I like how gardening makes me feel, especially since it’s so rewarding to watch them grow and bloom.  My mom loved gardening and always had a lot of flowers growing in her yard so I think that’s what kick started my interest as a kid.  As an adult I became more interested in restorative agriculture and permaculture so that drove my focus to fruit trees, fruit bushes, herbs, and pollinator-friendly plants.

(Learn more about restorative agriculture and permaculture!)

When did you start getting into planting?
I really got into gardening once I bought my home in 2018.  I have a good sized yard (at least larger than any yard I had growing up) so the possibilities seemed endless. 

What are your favorite plants and flowers?
My favorite houseplant is my monstera (I call her Monsty) and my favorite flowers are currently dahlias (my favorite flowers tend to change year to year).  I have a few varieties of dahlia bulbs getting sent to me next month and I’m very excited to plant them!  They’ll bloom in the summertime.

I remember you planted some fruit trees in 2019. How are those doing?
So far so good!  In 2019 I planted an apple tree (grafted with four varieties), a pear tree (grafted with four varieties), a fig tree, apricot tree, peach tree, and walnut tree.  Sadly the walnut tree didn’t make it but everything else is doing well. The only tree that has produced fruit yet is the fig tree but I’m hoping that this year I can start seeing some peaches and apricots.  The apple and pear won’t produce for at least another 3-6 years.

Plants make a home feel cozier. Do you have them in every room of your house?
Actually I don’t! I keep all my plants on the first floor of my home.  I have a south facing window in my dining room so most of my indoor plants are centered around there.  In my dining room I have about 30 plants in total. I have a few plants and cuttings in my kitchen and I keep my bigger cacti in my sunroom.  I used to keep my succulents in my sunroom but I recently made a “succulent station” on an old bookshelf in my dining room.  I have UV lights on a timer to make sure the succulents get plenty of light and don’t become leggy. 

What are your go-to plant and gardening resources?
I have found a lot of support on reddit on these communities: r/gardening, r/houseplants,  r/homestead, r/permaculture, and r/flowers.  There is a wealth of information in those forums and an active community ready to help and answer any questions you may have. 

Also, Better Homes and Gardens has a lot of great information online including pre-made garden plans.  If you have an area that you’d like to fill with blooms I highly recommend you look at their plans and find something that you love.

“Be patient with yourself, be patient with your plants, and most of all forgive yourself when you make mistakes.”

What benefits do you perceive from working with plants?
It really teaches you to be patient and forgiving with yourself.  I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve killed more plants than I can count but it’s all part of the learning process.  There are some plants I refuse to have because I can’t keep them alive to save my life and at this point it seems cruel to keep trying. So far my no-go list is peace lilies, ferns, and orchids.  Everyone has their talents and interests and it’s all about finding them.  Be patient with yourself, be patient with your plants, and most of all forgive yourself when you make mistakes. 

And finally – since this is a book blog after all – what are you currently reading?
Dune by Frank Herbert

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With a few quick internet searches, you can discover the ideal plants for your area as well as local nurseries to explore!

Here in San Antonio, I’ve visited the Rainbow Gardens Nursery which has not only plants but also statues, potting materials, and other garden decor. They also offer tons of information on their Learning Center.

The Monthly Gardening section even lists what vegetables you should plant by month.

What are your favorite plants to work with? Happy planting, friends!

Many thanks to Hannah for being today’s special guest!

Disclaimer/Disclosure: Views and opinions shared by guests may not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Oak + River Books. Information contained within this post are for entertainment purposes only and should not be used or referenced as professional advice. Please contact a professional for information regarding any of the contents above. Unless otherwise noted, photos on this post are owned by Hannah and used with her permission; she is to be credited in any sharing of the materials contained on this post.

nature, Wellness

10 Ideas for Including Nature in a Joyful Life

What’s the difference between being happy and living a joyful life? How can we incorporate nature into a joyful life?

Happiness is fleeting –whether we want to admit it or not. A joyful life is overall content with the way things are while recognizing the moments that bring peace into your heart.

Photo by Jill Wellington on Pexels.com

We all know someone like this. How are they so happy all the time? we ask ourselves.

The truth is…

They are not happy all the time!

They have learned to create a joyful life through acceptance and action.

Just like love, joy isn’t something that we go looking for and once we find it everything is hunky-dory. It takes a little practice.

How do we accept our situation as we go throughout life?

For what I hope are obvious reasons, 2020 could be called the Year of the Introvert. But even introverts need a little bit of sunlight and socialization.

We recently got rained on during a walk, but didn’t let that dampen our spirits! Instead, we found it to be a refreshing way to start the day. The smell of wet soil and pavement is nostalgic for me.

While avoiding large crowds is not a big deal for me, some people thrive on the energy. If they’ve made the decision to social distance, phone calls and video chats could be their new norm, and sometimes it’s just not enough.

But what about the rest of the time? What about all the people who were already unhappy before COVID-19 hit?

Learning to appreciate the small moments goes along way toward creating an abundance of joy.

Joy = big leaves on a morning walk

What actions can we take to be joyful?

There are lots of ways to take action to include joy in your lives: volunteer work, meditation, writing in a journal (not just buying every pretty one you see *guilty*).

A few weeks ago, my post Summer, Sunshine, and Sunflowers listed 10 ways to still have fun in the summer while social distancing. Today I am give you 10 new ways to incorporate nature in your life of joy!

Inside or outside, near or far, these activities are versatile enough to suit your lifestyle.

  1. Hike and walk – If you have time for an outdoor hike, awesome! If not, totally reasonable and understandable. Walking can be done literally everywhere, even if you need to walk in place in your yard or your living room; a quick 10 minutes is enough to be effective.
  2. Go on a picnic – Go to your favorite park or sit on a blanket in the yard and enjoy your favorite treats and age-appropriate beverages. Remember: leave no trace and don’t feed the wildlife.
  3. Collect and identify leaves – This collection can be turned into a beautiful family keepsake and is a project that’s extremely kid-friendly.
  4. Conduct a photoshoot – of plants and landscapes! Fancy phones are always coming out with updated camera technology, so it’s very easy to have good quality photos at your fingertips. I have ordered a few wall art pieces from Shutterfly to hang in my home that showcase my own photos.
  5. Get down with the dirt – Gardening is a soothing way to focus on something and feel, dare I say it, grounded. Get a little dirt under your nails and pot some flowers or vegetables; plus, working with soil is good for you, body and soul.
  6. Visit a botanical garden – Botanical gardens are the perfect places to see birds, bees, butterflies, and smiling faces!
  7. Listen to a music with scenery channel on the TV – Bring nature inside by enjoying the sights and sounds of nature from your own living room; Soothing Relaxation has a lot of great videos with nature scenes, and a quick YouTube search will reveal tons more; this is a great option if you want to listen to a stream or even thunder and lightning.
  8. Create art – While wine and paint night and at-home Bob Ross tutorials have grown in popularity, nature can be incorporated into every art medium: drawing, scrapbooking, crocheting, pottery, etc.
  9. Do an outdoor workout – Do some lunges and squats in your driveway; boost that Vitamin D intake and wear appropriate sunscreen! When not social distancing, join an outdoor workout group or meet up with a friend.
  10. Read nature books, poetry, and articles – Expand your knowledge by learning something new or kick back with a faithful favorite.

You’ll notice none of these ideas are particularly strenuous – that’s because I believe they shouldn’t be. Enjoying nature can be as simple or complex as you want it to be.

I love the botanical gardens but don’t always want to drive 30 minutes to end up in potential downtown traffic; sometimes watching the cardinals or the doves in my backyard is enough. I love doing a in-person 5ks and 10ks but wouldn’t necessarily want to do one every weekend (okay, maybe every other weekend!).

Can you spot the dove hanging out on my crape myrtle?

What do you do to include nature in your joyful life? Do you think it’s possible to have a joyful life without nature?

Have a joyful day, friends!

Wellness

Summer, Sunshine, and Sunflowers

Summer is my favorite season. I love Wisconsin summer – Up North during the summer means family, beach time, and camping. And I love living in Texas, where even the sun seems bigger, and where it’s acceptable for everyone to be sweaty all summer long and not have to worry about being judged. No matter where you live, summer means grilling out, traveling, and early morning sunrises.

Summer 2020 (and the year in general) has been a roller coaster for many reasons and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. In addition to social distancing, allergies, humidity, and high temps can force people inside during the summer.

For work and personal reasons, I am not traveling this summer. I would love nothing more than to pack up, drive north, and stay with my parents for a while.

A view of home

In a time when the healthy and safety of everyone is of the utmost importance, how can we still have a fun summer?

In no particular order, here’s a list of things you can do:

  1. Have kids or dogs or both? Play in the backyard
  2. Flying solo or chilling with your roomies? Set up a tent in your backyard and go on a staycation: grill out, order take in, and break out the fancy wine (no one’s judging if you play Slap the Bag, though)
  3. Take a walk in your neighborhood- this is a great opportunity to phone that friend you’ve been meaning to call
  4. Get up early and drink your morning coffee while you watch the sunrise
  5. Set a new bike riding goal – can you beat the 20 miles you did last week?
  6. Go to a recreation trail before peak hours – Google Maps shows how busy locations are by time of day, taking out all the guess work for you
  7. Give your green thumb some time to shine – those plants need some love, too!
  8. Any outside projects on your to-do list? Clean those gutters! Paint that trim!
  9. Sit on the patio with your mimosa and write your bucket list

There’s so much to do and there are ways to do them safely: bring a water bottle, wear your mask when needed, tell a friend where you are in case of emergency. Plus, going for a walk is free. The only thing you are spending is time on yourself.

I’m adding a few things to my Texas Bucket List. Eventually I’d like to take a trip to every state park but that’s a long-distance goal. In the meantime here are a few other Texas destinations I plan to visit:

Wildseed Farms: In addition to beautiful fields conveniently located in Fredericksburg, they also have a Biergarten and wine tasting room.

Fort Worth Botanic Garden and the Dallas Arboretum and Botanic Garden: I have yet to explore this metropolitan area and both of these gardens are in the American Horticulture Society reciprocal admissions program – if you have a membership at a participating garden, you may be eligible for special admission privileges and discounts at other member gardens. More on the reciprocal admissions in my upcoming three-part botanical garden series!

Galveston: This is an historic city full of old homes, monuments, and perseverance. According to the site’s history page, it has 2,000+ buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. Above all, Galveston is the birthplace of Juneteenth. To learn more about African American history and Galveston, click here.

In the featured image at the top of the page, you see an imperfect sunflower: pieces of a couple petals are missing, the leaves aren’t blemish free, and you can tell that the background isn’t especially exciting (that particular piece of land is under construction). How like this sunflower are we as humans?

Sunflowers have this amazing ability to grow along the edges, in unlikely spots. The imperfect sunflower above was the only flower growing along the edge of the lot I was parked at.

A burst of sunflowers from a recent walk

Sunflowers typically follow the sun all day long and rest at night. They keep their eye on the prize.

We, too, are blemished. We are not perfect. We make mistakes.

And we can also follow the sun. We can also keep our eye on the prize and not let outside things distract us.

I’m focusing this time on relaxation and reconnecting with my passions. We’re staying local and taking plenty of walks; my son has lots of energy so any way I can wear him out is a plus! The ultimate prize is next year’s vacation to visit family.

How are you staying safe and practicing wellness this summer season?