Slice of Life Tuesday: What Brings Me Joy

Slice of Life Tuesday: What Brings Me Joy

Yesterday, June 18th, 2018, I wrote about finding joy and the steps I will be taking to do just that. My initial actions were two-fold. 1) Make a list of the things that bring me joy, and 2) obtain some books on being joyful and/or finding joy.

I did neither of these things right away but instead focused on some routine Monday activities. First, I kept the laundry going my husband had started. This merely entailed folding a load, transferring another load, and starting a third.  Then, from 8:45 a.m. until 11:10 a.m. I retreated to my new writing office (door open) and worked on my blog. I also caught up on a few emails and made blueberry muffins.  By 11:15, I was outside, ready to pot up some more plants (you can never, ever have enough plants), and discovered I did not have enough soil. My husband had the day off and had just left minutes before to go to the hardware store, so I texted him to see if he could bring a bag of potting soil home.  In the meantime, I opened a 36 pound bag of Milorganite I had purchased last Thursday and started fertilizing some of our vegetable plants.  I will write about Milorganite in another post, but am going this route to fertilize this year.  As I was weeding the tomatoes and peppers, my husband arrived home with the soil. But, here is the caveat.  I did not jump from what I was doing to go pot. I finished the task at hand. After refilling the bird feeder and breaking for lunch, I proceeded back outside. (It was hot and humid , so I did change my attire into something less heat trapping than jeans and a long sleeved dry fit shirt.) Next, I decided to tackle the strawberry bed. It wasn’t too bad, but needed some weeding and some Milorganite, too. Although I felt like stopping mid-way through due to the heat and humidity, I did not. It was looking nice and I wanted a finished job – again, I noted that I simply stuck with the task at hand instead of being pulled away to something else.  Before I took off my gardening attire, however, I found three more monarch caterpillars on my rose milkweed.  I added them to the container in my kitchen. I now have one egg, five chrysalises, and seven caterpillars. (I had four before I added these three.) Each year I love taking care of this species more and more.

Mid-afternoon came and I switched my outfit yet again and headed out to the local bookstore, which consists of the nearby Barnes and Noble. Being a hot Monday afternoon, it was nearly empty – just the way I like it. I took my time perusing the books, looking over the titles, tables of contents, and even skimming a few pages. It reminded me of how much I like information and love to read.  I picked out a couple in the self-help section – one on joy and one on mindful aging. Next, I want to say I wandered to the business section but I really purposely went there to get a book, of which the subject and content I will not disclose here. If you read my post from earlier yesterday, you will know that I am supposed to be finding something just for me and not share what it is at the current time. So, the book I put in my “to buy” stack fit that criteria.  You’ll just have to be satisfied knowing I found something that struck a chord.  Lastly, I headed over the the fiction section. Since early May I have read two novels by Kristin Hannah, The Nightingale, and Night Road. Both were excellent reads. I wasted no time in selected a third novel of her’s called Firefly Lane.  Before I checked out, I made one last stop in the book store – in the reference section – and again, that is all you are going to get from me on that subject. But, while I was intrigued by a few titles there, I did not add to my “to purchase” stack. I need to do a little more research first on what type of reference to buy.

Now, I am home once again. I did check my email regarding a job related post that had to be written and sent out today.  But, today has been a really good day. Have I thought about what gives me joy? Yes! My list is starting. Perhaps, I’ll share it when I give you an update in July. But, given my activities of the day – I’ll bet you can guess at least a couple things on the list.

Most notable, however, is that I was mindful of HOW I conducted myself today. I did not rush from activity to activity. Once I started something, I stuck with it until finished. This reduction of multi-tasking was notable and something which I will have to keep an eye on. It might be a key element in my search for joy.

This post is part of the Slice of Life Tuesday Blog Forum hosted by the blog. Thank you for building a wonderfully supportive writing community in which all are welcome! 

A Tit for Tat System of Gardening

A Tit for Tat System of Gardening

The month of May was consuming. This year, I had a new school garden to manage. It is very large, much larger than the school garden I was previously in charge of caring for. It’s been a struggle to get it planted and weeded.  Before planting with each of the 400+ students that attend this elementary school, my husband and I weeded. He also used a rototiller on one of the large garden beds.  Planting took place over a period of two weeks. During the two weeks we had rain, temperatures in the upper 90’s and more rain. You know what that means, don’t you?


It might as well be mid-August, given how things are growing! Unfortunately, the constant weeding has prevented my mulching of the beds as well. It seems I am caught in a vicious cycle of weeding, rain, heat, and mulching and have been unable to get out.  I’ve realized that in the space of time from last June to October, not much was done in the garden. Of everything that was planted last year, none were removed as part of fall clean up, so everything reseeded. I am already telling myself we need to have a fall clean up this year – for sure. I don’t want to go through this again!

Two hours have been invested this week already with another two planned for tonight. I was left in charge of attempting to recruit community volunteers, both from the parents of the children who attend this school, and from a business partnership that has been formed to help assist the school with their needs. Last week, by this time, I designed and sent out a digital volunteer sign up sheet asking for help. Both the school and the business had promised some help in the garden this summer. We are to meet at 6:30 tonight, but the sign up sheet is empty, with the exception of my name. Fortunately, my husband will go with me to help get the last portion of the garden that the students planted, weeded and mulched. As I have learned from the past, summer garden help for a community based school garden is elusive. The difference here being the size of the gardens. Again, these beds are huge – without help, I will not last another year in this position.

A New System

We also have extensive gardens at home. In the past I’ve been guilty of letting them go or letting my husband do the work in those as I pursued keeping up on the school garden I previously managed. I decided that this was not fair to him or even to me. Spending all my free time working on garden beds that were not my own was frustrating. So now, I have been trying a tit for tat system. For every hour I spend at school in the gardens, I have already spent an hour at home in my own gardens. It seems to be working. My frustrations are kept at bay as I work to beautify my home environment, as well as that of a community space.


I have also noted that I must have experienced some personal growth in that I am not anxious about the gardens at this school appearing unkempt. I know I have worked hard. After all, my focus is on the students and teaching. I was able to get all of the classrooms in this pre-K to fifth grade elementary school out to plant. That is quite an accomplishment!  Had I not done that, would the gardens be in better shape? Mostly likely, yes! Would I feel as accomplished? Most likely, no!  More than a few times this spring I have reiterated to people that I am an educator first, and a gardener second. The gardens are the vehicle in which my lessons ride.  Does this mean that the school gardens are not important? No. Does this mean the school gardens might look messy from time to time? A most certain, yes!

I am hoping that someone will show up tonight to help my husband and I in the school gardens. But, since no one has signed the volunteer sheet, I also have my doubts. We will continue to work, side by side, as we’ve done in the past, at home and at school, to fulfill commitments to both ourselves and the community in which we live.


This post was written and shared for the Slice of Life Tuesday blog forum hosted by Thanks for the wonderful sense of community this group provides!

Silent Sunday: In My Gardens This Week, June 10th, 2018.

Silent Sunday: In My Gardens This Week, June 10th, 2018.

IMG_1567 (1)
Bright Potted Plants, Spring 2018.
IMG_1565 (1)
A Carpet of Sedum.
IMG_1564 (1)
Sedum in Flower
Sum and Substance Hosta in our Front Perennial Bed
Hosta Leaves Up Close, 2018.
Tiny Monarch Caterpillar on Rose Milkweed Behind the Barn.   June 2018.
IMG_1545 (1)
Milkweed Flowers Already Forming, Early June 2018.
Southside Monarch Habitat Garden, June 2018.
Tiny Caterpillar, June 2018.
Four Cats being raised indoors. Early June 2018.
Siberian Iris, a Transplant from Evergreen when we thinned the beds at school. Blooming in Early June 2018.
False Blue Indigo in Bloom, June 2018. 
Bearded Iris in Bloom, June 2018.
Johnson’s Blue Geranium, June 2018.
Lupine at North Woods, June 2018.
Clematis in my front bed, June 2018.
Back Perennial Bed, June 2018. 


Silent Sunday: Milkweed

Silent Sunday: Milkweed


Rose Milkweed © Carol Labuzzetta, 2015
Common Milkweed HSP
Common Milkweed, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2017
Milkweed erupting in the spring, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2010
two very early larva 2017
Monarch Caterpillars on Commonmilkweed, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2016
Monarch Butterfly Eggs on Common Milkweed Leaf. © Carol Labuzzetta, 2017
Three Types of Milkweed Leaves: L>R, Rose, Swamp, and Common, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2017
Rose milkweed seed pod in the fall, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2017
Swamp Mlkweed Blooming,  © Carol Labuzzetta, 2015.
prairieview milkweed
Milkweed in Field at a School After Fourth Grade Planted in Drainage Ditch. © Carol Labuzzetta, 2015
milkweedgermination at PV 2016
Milkweed in Ditch at School, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2015
Common Milkweed Seeds, ready for planting with School Children © Carol Labuzzetta, 2015
Monarch Caterpillar on Common Milkweed, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2015
Emulation of Gardening: Priceless

Emulation of Gardening: Priceless

Wednesday, I received a text from my eldest son who is in graduate school in Iowa. He was letting me know that he applied for a piece of a community garden plot near his apartment building. Besides letting me know this, he was also asking advice on plants.

Little did he know, this was a great compliment to me – a long time Master Gardener Volunteer and his mom who introduced him to the benefits of gardening. When he was in fourth grade I started a garden club at his school, exposing him and many of his peers and those students to follow to the wonderful world that awaits in our local gardens.

One of the greatest gifts one can receive is that of emulation or imitation.  As the years of garden club went on (13 years to be exact) and my teaching evolved, it became evident that I was inspired to plant the seed of environmental stewardship in our youth. Recently, I wondered about this seriously enough to conduct a formal research study on what former students remember about being in garden club and whether their time spend attending our meetings, learning about plants, and exploring the natural world that existed outside of their classrooms in the school yard did just that. Did I help to plant the seeds of environmental stewardship and sustainability? What of their actions now indicate this?

If my son’s text is any indication, I did influence this. Certainly, by being brought up in a household by two parents who maintain a thirty-tree home fruit orchard, had some successful vegetable plots, and witnessing the planning as well as execution of pollinator habitat restoration at home as well as at school were among influential factors.  Was I the sole inspiration? No, I do not claim to be.  Other aspirations of being self-sufficient, a minimalist, saving money on food, and knowing the health benefits of working in a garden are also ideas put to work by his plans for a garden.

So, when I got his text, asking for plant recommendations, I had to give it some thought. Gardening is often a grand experiment. There are many factors that influence success. Careful planning is one of these factors. Time is another factor. He asked if he should start seeds indoors. The answer to that was an easy “no”. When someone starts to garden on their own, you want it to be as successful as possible to encourage future ventures. Starting seeds inside is not easy! I know! For years, I tried and had problems with dampening off and spindly seedlings that barely stood up to any wind stronger than a breeze. Starting seeds inside also requires a fair amount of light, space, and attendance. Then, you have to “harden” off the plants before taking them out to the garden plot and placing them in the ground. Too much, I say, for a first independent experience.

When we finally got to talk about his plot, which will be 10 x 30 feet, I asked him what plants he was interested in having. Peas, beans, chives, and peppers were amongst the first to be named. I suggested lettuce and marigolds.  Luckily, it sounds like he might be able to put up a small fence of a certain type to keep bunnies and such out of the plot. This was good news – after all he is not Mr. McGregor.  The marigold suggestion was also made to help keep the local hungry critters out, if planted as a boarder around his plot. Marigolds have a strong, distinctive scent that smells (to some) like the unpopular skunk, which serves to direct hungry rabbits elsewhere. They will also help to attract pollinators and add a little color. Zinnias were also suggested to help with the aesthetic factor as well.


Other actions suggested were to direct sow some seeds right in the ground, like the peas – who like cool weather, while others could be purchased as plants already started and then just transferred to the plot.  His budget will determine the size he is able to buy.  Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and Lowes are amongst the store available to him to get plants that have had a head start.  The growing season in Iowa is not much longer than it is in Wisconsin. Getting plants with a head start, especially for things like peppers, will allow him to reap the rewards of his efforts sooner than later.  This piece of advice will also increase his chances of gardening success.

Hearing my eldest son would electively plant and manage a garden of his own – priceless!

Silent Sunday: Some Cactus

Silent Sunday: Some Cactus

Christmas or “holiday” Cactus.
Barrel Cactus, San Diego, 2012.
Bloom on a Rhipsalis Cactus, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2014
Cactus Garden in Balboa Park, San Diego, California, 2012.© Carol Labuzzetta
Old Man Cactus @ Longwood Gardens, Pennsylvania, 2010. © C. Labuzzetta
Cactus and Succulent Room at Longwood Gardens, Pennsylvania, © C. Labuzzetta, 2010
holidaycactus4 copy
Getting Ready to Bloom, Holiday Cactus, 2013.
A Little Bit of Garden Clean Up

A Little Bit of Garden Clean Up

We were lucky to have a mild weekend here in the midwest. My husband set about pruning our fruit trees.  We have about thirty different trees – apples, cherries, plum, pear, and a couple new peach trees, as well. They really needed severe pruning this year.  Even though my husband prunes yearly, as the trees have gotten bigger, it seems the branches cross more and more.  Fruit trees need to have an openness that will allow light and air to penetrate for a healthy flush of fruit. The tree branches were laden with so much fruit last year, we had some branch breakage.  So, on both Saturday and Sunday hours were spent trimming the fruit trees.  He looked for a fruit tree ladder but could not find one locally. Ordering one from a big box store would work but will not get here until after April 9th –  too late for the pruning sessions.  Smaller suppliers will not ship anything over 4 feet and then, the shipping is as much as the ladder. So, he made one. It is rough but helped him do the job on the smaller semi-dwarf trees.

By  yesterday afternoon, he had moved on to garden clean up. We have several large perennial beds, two of which seem to collect leaves because they are under maples in our back yard.  He invited me to help him when he stopped for lunch but I balked saying that I had a ton of school work to finish and had not gotten to even half of it yet. He shrugged and returned outside. I returned to my schoolwork. But, after a morning and short time into the afternoon spent looking at the computer screen, I developed a headache. So, I decided to join my husband in the garden.

I raked up on of the larger perennial beds and dumped the debris onto a tarp which was then dragged over to the brush fire we had going. Sparks and pops could be heard as the dry brown leaves, seed pods, and evergreen branches burned.

After I finished raking, I filled two bird feeders with fresh seed.  I found my headache was gone, I had helped my husband, and gotten some exercise as well. I guess it is true that “every little bit helps.”

I am participating in the Slice of Life Story Challenge for the month of March. Thank you to for hosting this blog writing challenge for the 11th consecutive year.  It is the second year of my participation.