THE FUNNY FARMER: An astonishingly boring, painful, humorous and occasionally insightful approach to gardening and life as amom, a former psychotherapist, and apparently a life-long patient.


My name is Cherie and I live in Southern Maine with my husband and two young children. I have a Master's Degree in Counseling Psychology and still have about 10k in remaining student loans to prove it. I left the field of practice three years ago, so this is not the place to be posting any suicide notes, okay? But if you want to hear about my garden and my gremlins, my pests and my problems, well then you just sit right down and read on!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Putting Out

Decisions regarding when and where to Put Out your seedlings do not have to be confusing or complicated.  A well educated gardener can make informed decisions regarding when to Put Out by taking into consideration just a few, simple factors.   There are many great gardeners who have come before you and you can learn from their successes and their mistakes. 

You may be tempted to place a precious seedling into your soil on a particularly sunny day when you are in the mood for a little gardening  But it is important to use not just your heart, but also your head.  And getting to know your garden is extremely important before deciding to put out. 

First you need to know your Zone, and this information can be easily found online.  Your particular zone will have, from year to year, its own unique "Put Out" date, when it is believed that there is no longer a chance of a frost.  Take this "put out" date as a general recommendation.  Gardening should not be mechanical and you may have some other personal factors to work around.   For example, it may be difficult to put out when you are working, while your kids are having a play date, or when your in-laws are in town.  Simply delaying your put out by a couple of days will not cause harm to your specimen or to your garden.

Back to the web, I must caution you that there is a lot of misinformation out there.  Sadly there are websites that are just trying to make money from objectifying your beautiful garden. They do not truly care about the best interest of your soil or your blossoms, so be sure you are dealing with a reputable source in order to avoid frustration and embarrassment.

Beware also of Zone Envy.  Though I often wish that I was a zone 4 person, I happen to live in Zone 5a.  There are many Zone 4 specimen that I adore but after many unsuccessful plantings, I have finally come to terms with my zone and stopped trying to make it something it is not. I have wasted a lot of time and money by planting specimens that simply have no business being in my zone. Sure they may look pretty, seem exotic, smell nice or taste good, but these experiments ultimately fail.  This can lead to discouragement, remorse, and sometimes even shame. It's best to respect your zone,  appreciate these specimen from a distance, leave them at the nursery, and just walk away.

The next step is to really understand your soil.  In this article from Fine Gardening, the author explains in great detail how to perform tests in the privacy of your own home.  Obtaining informative and useful results involves understanding the importance of the depth in your sampling, the nuances of texture, your soil's ability to hold moisture and nutrients, and of course, fertility considerations.

Also noted in this article is, "There is is no hard and fast rule to how tall a plant should be before you put it out in the garden due to the fact that different plants grow to different sizes."  Simply put, do not judge your seedling by its size as it has nothing to do with how well it will perform.  Just ensure that your specimen has an appropriate level of maturity by making sure that it has at least 3-4 "true leaves".  Otherwise you risk causing permanent damage to this young specimen.  There really should be a law against it, in my opinion.

Once you have decided that your soil, zone, and seedling conditions are ideal for putting out, you still shouldn't rush the process.  It is important to respect your seedling's transition through a process called "Hardening off."  In an article titled How To Harden Off Your Seedlings,, the author explains how the 'Hardening' process will make your plants grow stronger and perform better when you finally place them in your garden.   Here is a pic of some of my babes getting used to the elements before taking the final plunge into the dirt.

While putting out too early can be detrimental to your garden, so too can be putting out too late, as noted in an article by "If you put [your seedlings] out before they are ready, they may have a hard time surviving the elements. If you wait too long, your seedling may become pot bound in its original container." If you have never seen a root bound seedling, it's not a pretty sight.  It can be really difficult for this root system to create a successful planting,this is always a bit of a disappointment.

Please see my post on companion plantings while deciding which plant should go where in your garden.  It's like eHarmony for plants!

It is usually at this point that I take a post about gardening and toss in some analogies to psychology and life.  However "putting out" is such a sacred topic that one risks trivializing its importance by making trite comparisons, so  I will save any analytical ponderings for another day.  As Freud said, "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Funny Pharma - Antidepressants and Miracle Gro

I just read a GREAT article by Katrina Alcorn in the Huffington Post titled Peaceful RevolutionIf You Give a Mouse A Prozac  She began experiencing crippling symptoms of depression, exhaustion, panic attacks, and sleep disturbances while attempting to "balance"  a demanding commute and job with young children. 

Her quote/recap in red summarizes her story.  My comments are in black.

1. Trying to work full time and raise young kids put my body under unendurable strain (Been there, done that)

2. My body broke down. (Symptoms of depression including sleep disturbance and anxiety)

3. The doctors decided that something was wrong with me, so they prescribed pills (antidepressant)

4. Those pills made it impossible to sleep, so they prescribed more pills. (sleeping pills)

5. The second pills depressed my breathing and made it look like I had sleep apnea. (extensive sleep study)

6. The doctors gave me a machine to treat the sleep apnea (expensive and not covered by health insurance), which dried out my (medium-to-large) nose and made me sick (with a cold).

Mamma Alcorn took the diagnosis off from herself and gave it back to its orignal owner: It is crazy to put working parents in impossible situations where they are bound to go crazy, and then act like there's something wrong with them for going crazy.  This is a classic case of treating the symptoms and not the problem.

This article REALLY spoke to me.  When I became a mother, I was self-employed with a thriving psychotherapy practice and loved my work.  I was fortunate in that I stopped working at week 36, was not limited to 12 weeks of maternity leave, could come back to work part-time, and could schedule my own hours.  I pumped and napped in my office in between clients.  Ideal, no?

Actually, no.  With the sleep deprivation and multiple life-stressors, my own symptoms of childhood trauma began to surface.  Despite being a trained therapist, I was also ignoring my own symptoms of Post Partum Depression and Anxiety.  At the time I was too 'in the thick of it' to see the forest through the trees.  We just had a newborn (who did not sleep well for the first couple of years), bought our first house, moved, my father began having health problems, and I had two miscarriages.  I was simply in survival mode and functioning on adrenaline and cortisol.

As I became more and more specialized in trauma treatment, my workload of clients became more skewed in the direction.  I began having nightmares of not only my own trauma, but those of my clients as well.  I had intrusive thoughts about my patients, panic attacks, sobbing spells, was not thinking clearly, and very irritable.  I was waking in the middle of the night and  unable to get back to sleep, blah blah blah blah blah.

Finally I made the extremely difficult and painful decision to close my practice, something I had worked so hard for and had so much pride in.  I was given a prescription for an antidepressant which I did not fill.  I tried two jobs as an employee thinking that a different line of work would solve my problems, not medication.  But I just couldn't maintian the pace.  Those memories of racing out of the office to pick up my kid from childcare and coming home to a dark and empty house are forever burned in my memory.  My husband typically didn't get home until 630pm from his job, leaving me to care for a tired child and attempt to make a healthy-ish meal.   You know the drill, right?

After being essentially fired from my last job, I finally filled the prescription, got back into therapy, took some tai chi and yoga, starting getting acupuncture, and was able to sustain my next pregnancy.

So let us draw some parallels to gardening, shall we? 'Cause you know that's what I do!

Placing an overtaxing burden on any organism is going to make them unealthy at best and unsustainable at worst.  People and plants need the proper nutrients and environment in order to thrive.  People should ideally have adequate housing, healthy and plentiful food, a supportive environment, rest, relaxation and some sun.  Similarly, plants thrive with the correct balance of nutrients in their soil, adequate water, the proper amount of sun for their species. 

Now what about synthetic assistance?  There is a lot of research out there, as well as my own anectodal experience, which suggests that anti-depressants improve your mental and physical health.  Similarly, Miracle Gro can cause your plants to shoot up quickly and prolifically.  You don't have to google past the first page to find some very strong opinions on either side of each debate.  A lot of the arguments for both anti-depressants and Miracle Gro involve:
          Research & professional recommendations          
          Ease of use         
          Financial implications
          It's not hurting anyone
          t's my decision and my body/plant/soil

The arguements against both synthetics include
         Treating the symptoms, not the problem
         Side effects on body/plant/soil
         Environmental (negative impact on soil, water)
         Political (research studies skewed, big industry, fossil fuels)

Personally I shy away from synthetics when I can, but when I was down and out and could not see my way to a solution, I caved.  And guess what, it helped enormously.  If I were a farmer and my tribe was depending upon me to feed them or they would stave, perhaps I would break down and head to the local hardware store for some of that Grower of Miracles.

A few months ago I went to dinner with 3 other moms.  We enjoyed pleasant conversation about our children, work, holidays, and books.  But by the time the bill came, the conversation had taken a severe turn.  Suddenly we were all sharing about our anxieties, our overwhelm, our failing health, and ordering another bottle of wine.  Three of us "confessed" that we are taking antidepressents and the fourth, the only one with tears streaming down her face, was not (but she is now!). 

Everyone's circumstances are different, and judging individual decisions for their particular set of circumstances was trained out of me in college and grad school. However I do think it important to really examine the big picture.  What is the common denominator that now four out of four women (granted, a rather homogenous sampling) are taking antidepressants for virtually the same complaints?  And what can we do to TRULY replenish our soils?  What will give us REALLY deep roots so we can grow really tall, strong, and colorful?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Seed Organization

I have always had a tough time keeping track of my seeds. In the springtime, packets are often lying here and there, leaving me scratching my head and feeling very confused and disorganized.  ls this packet from this year or last?  I thought I bought cuke seeds, where the heck are they?  Oh crap!  I found the cuke seeds but now it's September!  See the problem, here?

At its extreme, clutter can be diagnosable for its compulsive, addictive and life-interfering consequences.  I'm sure you've seen the Dateline specials.  On an everyday basis, clutter is a serious challenge for even the average person.  I've become a lot better at it out of necessity.  With my new system of seed organization, I anticipate that both my garden and my mind will be much more pleasant and productive places to hang out.

Though I'm not tidy person by nature, I really dislike disorganization.  When I take the time to organize (or better yet, someone does it for me), I can think more clearly, I lose fewer things, and I don't end up wasting money from lost items.  Having purchased a ridiculous amount of seeds this year, I was a little overwhelmed by what needed to be planted when, indoors or outdoors, how long before last frost, days until germination, and so forth.  Determined to not waste these precious little embyonic propagaters, I really needed to come up with a system for packet control.

First I found a carboard box that would fit a couple rows of packets.  Next I made some "index cards" and created categories including:  Veggies, Seed Indoors; Veggies, Direct Seed; Flowers, Seed Indooors; Flowers, Direct Seed; Herbs, Seed Indoors; Herbs, Direct Seed; and Greens. 

I divided the packets into the appropriate categories and then divided them further with rubber bands by the number of weeks recommended to plant before the last frost.  I wrote those categories on the index cards with the seeds types below.   For example, with the 'Flowers, Seed Indoors' index card, I grouped together the flowers that require 10+ weeks before last frost, 8-10 weeks, 6-8 weeks, 4-6 weeks, and 3-4 weeks.  See the picture if I'm not expaining myself well.

 This next idea I stole from Lina at  As I plant the seeds, I have been placing the packet, empty or with seeds remaining, into a photo album with pockets for 4x6 pictures.  I made sure to choose an album that has space beside the packets to write information about when I planted the seeds, how I planted them, when and where I put them outdoors, and any notes on the resulting plants or vegetables. 

Do you have any ideas or methods for seed organization that you wouldn't mind revealing to me and the gardening blogosphere?  Do share!!!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Companion Planting

The Vegetable Gardner's Bible by Edward C. Smith talks about garden planning as being time well spent and I couldn't agree more. For me, garden planning is one of the few highlights of winter in Maine!  My visioning often coincides with some big football event.  The Superbowl perhaps?  I don't know for sure.  I'm too busy with my nose in gardening books, catalogs, and magazines.  I grab a pile of my favorites, kiss my husband goodnight, and head for the bedroom.  He calls it my "housewife porn," but I'm pretty sure don't have a problem.  It's not hurting anyone, right?

So back to garden planning... part of the planning that Smith's 'Bible' discusses is the "buddy system" for plants.  "Some plants have a synergistic relationship with certain other plants.  One or both of them grow better, yield more, and sometimes even taste better when they grow near one another.  These are often called 'companion plants'." 

Now isn't that just the coolest thing?  Beets simply thrive in the presence of bush beans, cabbage, corn, leek, lettuce, lima beans, onion, and radish.  Eggplant may be finicky wallfowers, but they do enjoy spending time with bush bean, peas, pepper,and potato.  And the uber-extraverted tomatoes are psyched to hang out with asparagus, basil, bee balm, bush bean, cabbage, carrot, celery, chive, cucumber, garlic, head lettuce, marigold, mint, nasturtium, onion, parsley, pepper, and pot marigold.

So I assume you know where I'm going to go with this one.  People too can have synergistic relationships in various arenas:  romantically, artistically, professinally, and so on.  But just like plants, the presence of certain others may be merely neutral, while some are downright aversive.  I know that there are some folks with whom I thrive and blossom, whereas with others I feel like withering. You know what I'm talking about here, right?

Synergistic relationships can lead to prolific growth and blossoming.  I recently heard an interview with the creators of South Park and they are a great example of long-term, mutually thriving relationship with great productivity.  How about The Beatles?  Abigail and John Adams?  I remember the very moment I first locked eyes with the man who is now my husband.  There was just something familiar in his smile, soothing in his voice, and comforting in his presence.  After nine years, I would say that our companionship has been pretty bountiful.  We certainly have healthy, colorful, and vibrant offshoots!

In On Narcissism Freud's "On Narcissism: An Introduction" (Contemporary Freud Series),  Freud theorizes that the idealization of love objects often has to do with the deficits in our ego.  In some cases, a "Cure By Love" is successful and other times it can lead to an excessive dependence on the partner.  Making sure you are the healthiest specimen you can be precipitates finding a healthy companion and bountiful harvest.  What are the deficits in your ego?  What can you do to become healthier?  Psychotherapy can be very helpful (see how to find the right therapist link below).  Examine your deficits, where they originated, and what you can do to heal them to be a Super Seeding, cape and all.

Back to the Garden Bible, Smith's first step in planning is to "eliminate antagonistic relationships" or the "inhibitors":  His terms, not mine!  Once again gardening, interpersonal relationships, and mental health are marvelously analagous!  There are some amazon links I attached below to books that have great insights and tips in identifying and weeding out the inhibitors in your life.  Again, psychotherapy be very helplful with this.  You get to talk about your unhealthy relationships for an entire hour, hear yourself as you define these problems, acknowledge your participation with a supportive person, and get some unbiased feeback from a trained professional.  Al Anon groups are also a great option.  They are free, confidential, you don't have to talk if you don't want to, listen to and learn from other people's experiences, and the meetings addess codependence and establishing boundaries in toxic relationships.

So a carrot walks into my therapy office...... (no, not the setup for a joke).  Presumably said carrot's primary complaint is resulting in a failure to thrive in some way.  A la Freud, we might explore things like the carrot's early germination, growing environment, soil and weather conditions.  We would discuss how that has shaped her thoughts, beliefs, self-concept, behaviors, and of course her relaionships.  During this process we would look at what things are within this carrot's control.  Might she re-evaluate some of her thoughts and behaviors that are not serving her well?  In examining relationships, we would likely discover that celery, dill, and parsnip are stunting her growth.  So can she limit her exposure them somehow?  Will she choose to move to a different garden?   Are there other ways to increase her nutrients, rain, and sun?

Way back in my hipster Boston days I went to a party thrown by a cool, artsy couple who were, by the way, synergistic blossomers.  At the door entrance there was a table for what looked like name tags.  But tnstead of "hello my name is" stickies, they were typed quotes for you to choose from and wear.  I chose a quote that said, "Surround yourself with people who respect and treat you well."  That piece of paper has been long since misplaced and I can't seem to find the author, but I loved that quote!  It has come to mind many times in my contemplations about friendships, relationships, and family. 

Now 41, much less hip but a whole lot wiser (subjective opinion), I look back with a little embarassment and humility at my poor companion choices and wasted time, even with marvelous quote in hand.  I suppose with gardening, there is a rigorous process performed by the brightest of horticulturalists and master gardeners to discover which plants work best with which.  So I'll chalk up some of my past to... well.... research I guess.

Regardless of your past and present, it is always important to plan for your future garden.  Remember that you deserve to thive and blossom - true that!  Take good care and choose your companions well!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Seedling Central

So this is the year that I have taken on the endeavor of growing seeds inside.  Many an hour have been spent pouring through books, magazines, and the good ol' 'internets' researching methods and materials.  To be honest, I had been toying with the idea for a few years now, but was confused by the different products available and leery of the investment requirements.  But this winter I studied extra hard, made some executive decions, held on tight to my wallet, and took the plunge

Because they are local, have many organic options, and are all-around-uber-cool, I chose Johnny's Selcected Seeds to purchase my products  However I will also attach Amazon links to the same or similar products so that you can see the information and images of the things I have used or am considering. 

One of the coolest investments I made this spring is a seedling heating mat.  They come in various sizes and I chose 20"x20" so two trays will fit perfectly.  You keep the pad under the trays, and it elevates the temperature of the soil by roughly 10 degrees - ideal germination conditions for most seeds.  Cover the tray to seal in moisture and heat until the seedlings are an inch or two high.  Then it's time for the seedling rotation!  I take the cover off, take the sprouted trays off the mat, keep them close to the window for light, and proceed to plant more, more, more!!! 

And now a shout out to the maintenance of domestic tranquility...  my husband was not impressed with the moisture leakage from the covered seedling trays, the watering overflows, and the spillage of soil.  He tends to be more particular about these things than his hands-in-the-dirt wife.  I think I may have improved the situation by laying an old towel on the window sill, then a layer of plywood, then the heating pad, then the seedling trays.  Problem (hopefully) solved.

So another cool investment I made and played with is the Soil Block Maker.  It comes in three different sizes, and I chose the medium.  No pic on amazon and I'm too lazy right now to go take a picture of mine.  Maybe later.  The Johnny's Link is  There is a cool block-maker-demonstration video at Johnny's website that really helped me to understand it better.  Check it out: at  Overall I have found the soil block maker to be a pretty cool investment.  It's a little more labor intensive initially than simply dumping germination soil into plastic cell flats or biodegradable pots before adding your seeds.  One advantage over plastic cell flats is obviously in the amount of non-recylable waste and purchasing new ones every couple of years.  The biodegradale pots are cool and quick for filling with your soil, but are one-use products.  The blocker is a higher initial investment, but there is no waste, no further investment, and the seedlings don't become root-bound like they can in containers.

For comparison purposes, I have also used some plastic cell flats (promising to be very gentle and to wash them thoroughly with a little bleach before re-using) and I have transplanted some blocked seedlings into some organic, biodegradable pots  Some of my seedlings from the "blocks" got a little "leggy" when I left them covered for too long, so I put them into the pots and added more germination mix to give them additional support. 

An extremely important item in the seedling production rock-pile is the germination mix.  Now don't be going out to your front yard and digging up some dirt, okay?  I said... Okay!!??  The best route is an organic germination mix that includes sphagnum (brown) and sedge (black) peat mosses, compost, and perlite.  Your seedlings will thank you for it, and if planting veggies you body will thank you for it as well. I'm no horticulturalist, but "organic" materials by Miracle Gro or Scott's kinda give me the creeps. 

So besides the seeds (a topic for another day), that covers some of the basics.  On my radar for future investmests are the following:

1)  A thermostat for my seedling heating pad that will help to regulate the germination temperatures with more finesse. 

2)  A grow light system.  I have a reasonably sized, southish-facing bay window so I am using this alone during my first year of seedling experimentation.

3)  Another cool product on the market is a piece of crap.  Seriously!  Check out these Cow Pots!
They are made of cow manure, can be inserted directly into the ground, organic, biodegradable, and add nutrients to your soil and plants.  How cool is that in an icky-weird-why-didn't-I-think-of-that sort of way?  What a GREAT gift!

 4)  My very own greenhouse.  I know, I know... I'm shooting for the stars...  But check this baby out!  Adorable, no?

Soooo.... I shall cover "seed selection" at another time. I have probably bored you to absolute tears and will give you a chance to recover whilst I go clean up my leaky cell flats.

Happy Germinating!!!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Weeding Plants and People

I hated weeding as a child.  It was a chore that required completion in order to not only receive my weekly allowance, but to also avoid punishment from my erratic father (the latter of which was ALWAYS a priority in our house).  I recall many a summer day weeding in the garden when all I really wanted to be doing is riding my bike, building a treehouse, or playing kickball.  Weeding was tedious and boring and interfered with fun with my neighborhood friends.

At times weeding was even difficult, especially in the rows of early corn.  It was hard to differentiate between the weeds and the seedlings.  One time my father was weeding a few yards behind me and pulled out all of the weeds I had not pulled, at risk of them being corn seedlings.  Very sternly my father commanded my attention, pointed out the lookalike weeds on the ground, and claimed that they were corn.  My heart sunk, believing that I had pulled out these precious seedlings.  Then my heart began to race, fearing the ensuing punishment from this erratic grown-up.  But instead he began to laugh and fessed up.  My heart still lodged fimly in my throat, I attempted to laugh as well.  This was his idea of a joke.  It's my idea of anxiety.

Perhaps this is why I like to weed when I am anxious and/or angry.  Instead of saying the wrong thing to the wrong person, I scold the weeds with severe displeasure at their very existence.  I reprimand them for daring take up precious nutrients and space in my garden.  And finally I pull them, trying to pull up as much of their subterranean evidence as possible, leaving their roots to dry in the sun before moving their withered carcasses to an undiclosed location. 

In addition to becoming sociopathic while weeding, I also become philosophic.  I can't help but ponder things liked, "What is a weed, anyway?"  Seriously!  Think about it!  I loved dandelions as a child and was utterly baffled by my father's insistance that they were evil.  Now I understand why.  And how about invasives like evening primrose or wild morning glory?  They are beautiful yes, but they will crowd out your other precious babies.  I took some evening primrose from my MIL's "wild area" and put some in my tiny 0.21 acre lot.  Big mistake.  They are lovely to begin with, then they began crowding out my lillies, my sage, and overtaking my lawn.  Like a total chucklehead I even shared some with my neighbors (sorry guys...). 

So what is a weed, anyway?  The omniscient Wiki says:

A weed in a general sense is a plant that is considered by the user of the term to be a nuisance, and normally applied to unwanted plants in human-made settings such as gardens, lawns or agricultural areas, but also in parks, woods and other natural areas. More specifically, the term is often used to describe native or nonnative plants that grow and reproduce aggressively.[1] Generally, a weed is a plant in an undesired place.

Hmmm... which gets me all philosophical again.  I start thinking about some of the people in my life as weeds that need uprooting or that I have uprooted, somtimes angrily, sometimes by accident, and sometimes without even realizing it.  Do you have any of these people-weeds in your life?  Pretty perhaps, but invasive?  Aggressive?  Sun stealing?  Nutient robbing?  A general nuisance?

Yes, uprooting undesirable plants was definitely a boring chore as a child and a teenager.  Weeding out peers sometimes came naturally, but I often did it with too much venom, much like my family.  Cut off your nose to spite your face sort of stuff.  Weeding out grown-ups was a whole different story.  It was not possible.  They were always there to contend with.  I lived on their turf.  I attended their schools.  I was born into their world.  Many of them I liked, but some of the ones closest to me were pretty toxic.  You know, like the seed packets that warn you not to use around children.  Some parents should come with such labels.

As an adult, weeding out people still comes with a lot of confusion and frustration.  "But he's pretty." "But she smells good."  "But dammit she's strangling me and sucking the nurtients from my soil!"  And when is enough enough?  I guess that it varies from person to person, plot to plot, season to season.  It can depend on how much nutrients you have available to share.  It can depend upon your definition of a weed.  After all, one person's weed is another person's rose.  So do you put up with the invasive despite your mounting frustration?  When and how do make the decision that they have to go?  And what method do you choose?  Do you attack violently with a hoe?  Cathartic perhaps, but you may not get all of the roots.  Do you go all Round-Up on them and risk the organic nature what you have been cultivating? 

I am trying ever so hard to be thoughtful about the weeds I pull and how I pull them.  If I do it correctly, I can do it with compassion and effectiveness.  Difficult, no?  As a child, I could not weed out my family.  They met many of the criteria of weeds, but I was not a full-fledged-farmer yet.  All my siblings and I had learned about weeding people involved bulk quantities of Rouind-Up.  For example, out of four siblings, I don't think that any of us are on good terms with another at present.  It's all hoes, pitchforks, arsenic, and lighter fluid.  Not much thoughtful or empathic about it.  At this point I have a respectful relationship with my father and mother, but I certainly do not expect it to bloom into a gorgeous bouquet.  I have not weeded them out thoroughly like my sibs have at various points in their lives.  But I visit them sparingly.  This limits the amount of "aggressiveness" I am exposed to, the amount of nutrients they can take, and the amount of sun they may block.

Although I was not handed tools to weed thoughtfully and effectively, I am trying.  Honest, I am.  Deep down inside, I still just want to build a clubhouse with my good friends.  A good resource that I have used for weeding people and drawing/maintaining boundaries is a book called "Emotional Blackmail" by Susan Forward and Donna Frazier.  It is especially relevent when dealing with weeds of an especially toxic, substance abusing, invasive, personality disordered, nutrient sucking nature.  And of course a classic is definitely "The Dance of Anger" by Harriet Lerner.  She eloquently guides women through "weeding" in an effective yet environmentally friendly, non Round-Up manner.  And of course there's always therapy.  It's so helpful to lay it all down and look critically at the relationships in your life.

These are the contents of my brain while weeding my gardens.

May your gardens be free of weeds and may your methods of extraction be effective and compassionate.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


I have just spent an INORDINATE amount of time trying to set up my blog, figuring out if I'm selling my soul by monetizing my account, wondering about all of those "I agree to" boxes I check-marked, and fretting over pics, fonts, and edits galore.  I started writing about my pansies, then had to "draft" that post because what is truly on my mind is... well... what exactly am I committing to here?  Is blogging a good way to spend my time?  I like the idea of the whole blogging gig because I like to share, I like to write, I like to read (in spurts) and I like my self-selected topics, and I like the social aspect (presuming, of course, somebody reads this someday!)  But at the same time my seedlings need some attention and the towels have been sitting in the dryer for 3 days now.  Can I add on one more project?  Can I sustain a blog?  If I actually get followers, will I disappoint them if/when I do not write?  Is it a project that I will naturally be drawn to or will it become a chore?  Can I truly commit?

Gardening was a chore when I was a child, but now I am naturally drawn to and committed to it.  I never feel like I have spent an inordinate amount of time on ANYTHING when it comes to gardening, I just wish that I had more of it (time, that is).  But blogging and gardening do have a couple of things in common. The first commonality that comes to mind is that there are tangible results.  When one writes or gardens, you can step back, take a deep breath, look at your work, and feel a sense of accomplishment and pride.  This is something that I rarely felt as a psychotherapist.  The changes the clients made were not nearly as tangible.  I certainly celebrated the successes of my former clients, but they were not a daily occurence.

One problem that I encountered as a psychotherapist was my inate extroversion.  I found the profession to be quite isolating actually, especially in private practice.  Despite "talking" all day, it was one-sided sharing and I couldn't exactly talk to my family and friends about "work."  See what I mean, here?  Mothering has been rather isolating as well.  I used to be quite social but now I do not have the time nor the budgetary availability to socialize the way I used to.  I believe that this will change as the children get older.  For now, I meet a lot of my socializing needs through Facebook.  My gardening helps to cure the "I can't hear myself think" (NOW I know what all those moms meant by that phrase), but not the social isolation.  So I am hoping that blogging will help fill that void that my inner extravert is screaming for.

Something that I may find pleasurable in blogging about gardening is that I can post pics of my garden.  I finally bought a grown-up camera (still in need of a grown-up lens) and I look forward to displaying my botanical creations to those who share an appreciation.  Now I just have to figure out how to get my pics from my computer to the slideshow without bypassing other websites.  Arggghhh!!!

Well, there you have it... My half-hearted commitment to this blog.  As an extravert, I welcome your input.

Planting Seeds for Sanity

Well HELLLOOOOOO Blogosphere! My name is Cherie and I am a 41 year old mom of two, a wife, a former psychotherapist, and a home gardener: thus my blog name. The Funny Farm is a not-so-politically correct reference to a psychiatric hospital.  Catch the humor?  Anywho...  This morning I was researching some gardening information and found some wonderful blogs out there - Kudos! It's really cool to see people willing to share their ideas, pics, thoughts, and struggles - both personally and botanically. Then I thought - Hey! I want to do that too!

Growing up in Maine, I had a lot of gardening responsibilities. My Dad (you'll hear more Funny Farmish references in the future when it comes to my family of origin!) worked full time at various jobs and kept two large vegetable gardens at home. Back then gardening was a chore that interrupted my play time. In my 20's I did a LOT of playing, studied Psychology, was an occasional client, and did virtually no gardening.  While apartment dwelling in my 30's, I worked at a Community Mental Health agency for 6 years, had a private practice for 6 years (I know, I know, my math isn't exactly accurate), was one again a client, and did some co-op gardening with my fellow apartment mates. I started to find that gardening and fun need not be mutually exclusive.

Now in my early 40's and finally a homeowner just 6 years ago (I'm starting to see a theme here...), I now have my own little piece of earth for perennials and more serious veggie gardening. I left the mental health field as a practitioner (still a client), and now find that gardening is a huge part of keeping my own sanity.  My baby boy just turned six, my baby girl turns 2 this weekend, and now I am thinking that my dad probably would have been even crazier had he not worked his land. 

Spring time is perfect for planting seeds - both literally and figuratively. Perhaps it's the six year thing?  I am virtually unemployed as is my husband, in weekly therapy, and my kids and seedlings are thriving.  I have put compost into my four 4x8 raised beds and just "rented" a 25x25 co op space.  I have tiny tomatoes, peppers, husk cherries, broccoli, and various flowers in my windowsill.  There are MANY more seeds packets awaiting germination.  And for today's latest venture....  I am now a blogger.  Here's to springtime and new beginnings!  Welcome to my blog, my garden, my family, and the bats in my belfry.!