Sorry for the Long Wait

It has been over a year since my last post. As an explanation, I was pregnant for most of that time and immediately following, adapting to being a new mother to a wonderful little babe.

For months I attempted to post, but accepted my inability to log in to WordPress as a sign that it wasn’t time yet, and enjoyed yet more cuddles from said babe. I have since fixed the issue and write now as she sleeps.

This will be a short update post with more detailed posts to follow. The short of it is that I practiced and taught yoga throughout my pregnancy (I taught until 38 weeks) and started a version of asana to heal and strengthen my body postpartum. I returned to teaching a regular weekly class three months after delivery with my schedule much smaller due to Covid (many classes never returned) and because – I’m a mom. I have also been gardening this year and continue my environmental journey which has had a new element of navigating a baby and sustainability. Posts on all of that and more to follow in time.

Time is precious and rigid these days with a six month old, it goes by incredibly fast and I have, of course, had to alter how I spend my time with the majority enjoyed with the wee one. That being said, posts will likely be few and far between until, and if, I can find a balance to prioritize writing and bulking up my thoughts.

Hatha Yoga Vs. Gentle Yoga, Naming a Class

I have added a new class to my weekly schedule.  This class takes place at a hot yoga studio in town that offers multiple fun classes to flow in the heat at, but the studio did not previously offer any Hatha or beginner level classes.  The honor was all mine in accepting the class.  

For years I have taught primarily hatha classes, in fact out of six weekly classes that I was teaching before quarantine five of the six were Hatha.  

When it came to giving this new class a name I went back and forth on what to call it.  Do I call it Hatha, and possibly have many potential students not understand what that means, or do I call it something that is a little easier to comprehend such as Beginner Yoga or Gentle Yoga?  

There are pros and cons to both options, but what I landed on was to stick to Hatha Yoga, with a Beginner Yoga subtext.  The reason being is that as a student who has practiced in studios around the world, when I see a class listed as Hatha vs. a class listed as Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Mysore, Power Yoga, etc. I know what each style represents.  Of course this took a while to learn, and being a yoga convert (joke) for roughly two decades and a teacher for almost ten years, it is safe to say that I can easily differentiate between styles.

So why would I choose to confuse new students by calling the class Hatha?  It boiled down to cultural appropriation.  A reality that I hope many if not all yoga teachers have given thought to, if not for a long time in their career, then hopefully at least in the past year or two.  

During Covid quarantine, like many, I attended (and am still attending) webinars on many different topics and listening to podcasts as I complete projects around my home, some of which have been about cultural appropriation in the yoga world.   

Yoga is ancient.  Yoga stems from not one, but multiple religions.  Yoga was brought to the west in roughly the 1700-1800’s and has had an explosion in popularity and practice in the past two to three decades.  There are so many more styles than what I listed prior, most are not traditional, but creations and hybrids from the 21st century.  

Although the classes that I teach, whether Hatha or Vinyasa, are not fully, 100% traditional, I try as best as I can to honor the ancient tradition of yoga by utilizing Sanskrit and incorporating the unity of body and mind throughout all of my classes as opposed to focusing on solely the physical aspect of the asana. I also self study by reading and rereading philosophy books, listening to aforementioned webinars and podcasts, and practicing as much yoga as my schedule allows. I also tend to prefer more traditional styles of yoga and classes that offer spiritual and mental aspects which I then hope is reflect in my class offerings to students that attend my class.

This is scratch on the surface of cultural appropriation in the yoga world. If you’d like to learn more on your own, check out this episode of Yogaland. How do you pay homage and respect to the origins of the tradition of yoga that has brought so many of us in west calm, peace of mind, healthy bodies, and tools to cope with our daily lives?  

Postscript – India, the motherland of yoga, is suffering.  Covid cases are skyrocketing, an Indian variant is widespread, and crowded cities are struggling with managing the overwhelming amounts of dead, the forest department has even given permission to cut down city trees for crematoriums because they have run out of firewood.  India and its kind people need our help.  If you have the means to give, you can find organizations to donate to in this NY Times article.

One Year Living Through Covid

We recently marked the one year mark since the United States, and much of the world, moved into shut down.  In March 2020 schools went virtual, many workers moved to working from home, and a lot of changes were made to the way that we live our day to day lives.

Although it is undoubtedly true that living with changes due to Covid-19 has been a struggle for most everyone, it can also be argued that those of us that practice yoga and mindfulness may have benefited from the ability to handle some of the changes with potentially more ease and grace.  Judith Hanson Lasater said in an interview with Andrea Ferreti on Andrea’s podcast Yogland (highly recommended) that she believes that people that practice yoga and mindfulness have been (unknowingly) preparing for something like shut down via practices of quiet and stillness.  I agree with her completely and feel that my yoga practice as well with my time spent living abroad, where adaptation is a major necessity, aided in my ability to cope with the extreme life changes that took place just over a year ago.

With true transparency I should say that my struggle with Covid has not been as difficult as others due to the facts that I kept my job, was able to do my job remotely until September, have no co-morbidities, and am in a secure financial place with no children at home to manage. Having lived abroad in Asia for a few years, I was used to people wearing masks out of respect for others when sick, so transitioning to wearing masks was not entirely new to me. I do find it difficult and annoying to wear one for hours on end, but I remind myself of the compassion that wearing a mask represents and while wearing it use my yoga experience to focus on breathing through my nose as much as possible.

Whatever your Covid situation, and views on wearing masks, if you have yoga and meditation in your life, I truly believe that those practices and skills likely aided you in your handling of the difficulties of the past year.  Not only by means of stress relieving techniques such as pranayama (breath work) or mindfulness practices but also by asana practice which may lead to improved physical health.  All of those practices, mental and physical, fold into one big benefit for the immune system.  Wearing masks and social distancing is necessary, but to live a healthy lifestyle and improve the immune system as best as possible is another bow in the quiver to fight all illnesses.

Looking back at the past year, in all of its loneliness and disappointments, the ideas of adaptability and strength came to mind as carrying me, personally, through the pandemic.  But whether it is recognized or not, I think that the country and world have adapted and come together in strength to do our best in 2020 and the beginning of 2021.  We are all in this together.

Of, course, like everyone else I long for “normal” life, but instead of dwelling on what is missed, I think it is a good opportunity to be grateful for the health that we currently have and for the loved ones that are still with us today, while also grieving those that we have lost. These struggles paired together with the abilities of modern technology give us an opportunity to realize and recognize that as a global community we have come together and helped each other though. Take care of yourself and each other.

Acuity Scheduling Review

During the summer the studio that I was teaching for, Samsara Yoga Center, shut its doors due to Covid.  It was sad, but expected, as the space was small and would not accommodate more than three students plus the teacher while socially distanced, not enough to pay the rent.

Luckily for the teachers of the studio the closing of the studio occurred during the summer months which enabled teachers to hold classes outdoors, however a new location had to be sourced when fall temperatures cooled.  Personally, I have been teaching in an old elementary gymnasium since October 2020.  It is a large space, that although lacks the serenity and ambiance of a yoga studio, has what is most important during a pandemic – space.

In the past when I taught freelance or contracted classes outside of a studio payment would be by cash or by check from the corporation that hired me to teach.  Up until Covid and the closing of Samsara charging cash and promoting on social media was enough for me to run independent classes.  However, because of Covid and the guidelines of my local health department I needed a concrete system to keep track of students and enable them a means of booking classes ahead of time.  That is when I started using Acuity Scheduling.

This review of Acuity is not a promotion of the product, but my personal experience using the service.  Initially I heard of Acuity from the Yogaland Podcast, the scheduling service was a sponsor of the show and a handy coupon code was given to listeners for a discount, which I took advantage of.  

What I’ve enjoyed about Acuity

  • Easy to work out the website and customize aspects of your site. 
  • Ability to update color scheme and upload photos to market your brand.
  • Linking of classes and appointments to google calendar for teacher and students.
  • Reminder emails to students about classes that they’ve scheduled.
  • Coupon codes to give discounts and the ability to limit coupon codes to single use only and apply expiration dates.
  • Customizable link to share on social media and website.
  • Payment options of a linked Paypal account or a Pay Later option of payment by cash.
  • Ability for student or teacher to easily cancel or reschedule class, even if payment has already been made.

There really haven’t been any negatives for me in using Acuity.  It would be nice if there was a waiting list function, which there is not, but my classes do not require that function yet and I plan to communicate via social media if class fills up and likewise if a spot opens up.

If you are a yoga teacher or other fitness instructor making it out there on your own, navigating your side hustle during Covid, then I highly suggest utilizing Acuity Scheduling. Another great benefit that I should bring up during tax season is the Reports section, and don’t forget to claim this expense in your taxes.

Tips on Being Green During Covid

There is no denying that a lot of waste has been created and discarded during Covid.  Much of the single use PPE is necessary to keep healthcare workers, essential workers, and all of us safe.  But if you have the option of choosing the PPE that you utilize to protect yourself, then going for the multi-use, washable face mask over the polyester surgical mask and other such choices can help keep single use items out of landfill.  More tips below.

Cloth Face Masks

The best way to acquire cloth masks is in your neighborhood or town via a local seamstress who made them.  By buying small and local, you’ll help your neighbor during these tough times.  If you sew you could make your own and save even more out of landfill if you use your scraps to make masks.  Personally, I have experimented making masks with my scraps (proud new sewer) and have upcycled more materials for the nose wire by using twisty ties or copper wiring from our remodel.  The copper wiring was very rigid, however and on one mask ripped through when washed.  Sticking to the twisty ties from now on. 

Bar Soap 

Go old fashion at home and stock your sinks with bar soap instead of liquid.  Bar soap works just as well, it costs less, and likely you have a local soap producer in your area who you can support (in which case the cost will be more, but supporting the local economy is worth the spend.)  The other benefit of buying local over buying from a big box store is that the soap will likely be of higher ingredients and less harsh chemicals.  Also, there’s more of a chance that you can avoid plastic packaging.

Organize a Neighborhood Cleanup

Most of us have more free time these days, so what a good idea to use that time for good.  With your family, on your own, or with a friend or two masked up, go for a walk around your neighborhood and pick up litter.  Wear garden gloves or washable gloves while you collect, or invest in a grabber (from your local hardware if you can, or from a local big box store) to use while picking up trash.  Buying in person is better than ordering online to save on shipping and to support employment in your area.

By wearing gloves or using a grabber you ensure that germs are less likely to spread, although since the beginning of the pandemic research has shown that the virus is not as likely to live on objects and spread that way, but even before Covid it was a good idea to wear gloves when dealing with trash.   

Book Review – Breath by James Nestor

This post is somewhat of a book review as well as my lived experience while reading Breath, by James Nestor, a book made popular by Joe Rogan’s interview with the author (which is how I heard of it, via my  husband) and as the title might suggest is a good resource for any yoga student or teacher. 

The very broad gist – Nestor is an author who has written about breathing in another book of his about Free Diving, so he’s no breathing amateur which sounds like an oxymoron since we’ve all been breathing our whole lives, so we must all be experts, right?  Wrong.  As you know as someone reading a yoga blog, there’s the breathing that your body does in line at the grocery store and then there’s the breathing that your mind consciously trains your body to take and practices hour after hour over the course of any given week depending on the dedication of your yoga and pranayama practice. 

While reading Breath I haughtily assumed that I knew a thing or two about breathing and did it pretty well, although admittedly my pranayama practice is limited specifically to ujjayi and in fact I often struggle with other forms of pranayama as they make me feel short of breath.  

What I learned first from the interview with Rogan and then in the book is how important it is to breathe through the nose all of the time.  Research has proven that people who habitually breathe through the mouth suffer health issues such as sleep apnea. In order to increase my nose breathing in the past, my husband and I used first aid tape to tape our mouths shut at night as we slept.  As I read “Breath” I caught myself mouth-breathing now and again in the day (usually with my mask on) and have told myself to switch my breath to move in and out through my nose.  The same is true at night time when I often become congested, instead of relying on the tape, I have simply reminded myself to keep my mouth shut, and it has worked. Since reading “Breath” and concentrating daily and nightly on the way that I breathe I no longer wake up in the middle of the night in need of water because my mouth has been made dry from breathing. I now sleep through the night (I find sleeping my back makes nose breathing easier and is better for spinal alignment, as well.)

The book outlines the author’s ten year journey through varying breathing techniques many, if not arguably all, have roots in ancient, yogic breathing.  Towards the end of the book Nestor discusses prana and it’s prevalence in eastern cultures and practices of medicine. The yogis call it prana, the Chinese call it chi, however it is relatively new to western minds.  Prana for those of you who are unfamiliar is life force, or energy that is mindfully worked in practices such as pranayama in yoga, or breathing techniques.

“Yoga practices were never designed to cure problems, … they were created for healthy people to climb the next rung of potential, … control their nervous systems and hearts, and live longer and more vibrant lives”


My very favorite excerpt from the book is, “Yoga practices were never designed to cure problems, … they were created for healthy people to climb the next rung of potential, … control their nervous systems and hearts, and live longer and more vibrant lives” a quote from DeRosa, a breath and yoga instructor and author based in Sao Paolo.

The book ends by declaring that eastern practices such as yoga and breath work are aimed at maintaining a healthy lifestyle whereas western medicine is meant to fix major emergencies rather than milder chronic maladies.  For these sorts of issues a practice such as pranayama and physical asana might be a better route. 
The very last section of the book is an appendix that outlines breathing methods from nadi shodahana to basic yogic breathing (three part breath.) In his interview with Joe Rogan, Nestor says that just as diet and exercise, breathing should be a focus of a healthy lifestyle.

In the time of a respiratory pandemic, I’d say that bring more focus and awareness to the way that we breathe is a pretty good idea. If you’d like to read Nestor’s book, please consider buying a copy from your local independent bookstore instead of Amazon.

How are you breathing?

Updates on Teaching Yoga During Covid – Winter 2020

This post is specific to NYS DOH, however the procedures and regulations may be beneficial to studios and teachers anywhere. 

Wear A Mask

In mid-October I attended my first in person yoga class in another town.  At this studio the students arrived with masks and once on mats they removed masks.  I consulted a local teacher to ask how her studio handles masks and she said that they do the same. (Note this class and conversation took place in mid-October 2020)

I took my research a little further, reaching out on a Western New York Yogi FB page asking what the clear rule was and what studios were doing considering that the NYS rule for “gyms,” which yoga studios fall under, is that attendees must wear masks at all times.  The overwhelming response, from the 6-10 people who got back to me, was that students must wear masks at all times, as well as teachers, of course. 

This, honestly, disheartened me because of the instant fear I had that students would not attend if they had to wear masks during the entire class, so I posed a follow up question on the same group asking if students were attending with the mask mandate.  The responses that were elicited smothered my fear as all of the teachers who replied said, Yes! Students are coming and are very grateful for the opportunity.

All of that to say that masks should be worn during class.  It feels odd at first, but we’ll all adapt as we have to wearing our masks while running our errands or at work.  That being said, in NY, if a student has a medical reason to not wear a mask, they are able to wear a face shield as outlined by NYS DOH.

Stay Home if Sick

Although masks are worn, students, and teacher, should remain home if feeling any symptoms of Covid.  When entering the space students are asked to sign a contact tracing sheet so that we can contact you if we are informed of a case.  The sign in sheet/contact tracing sheet also doubles as an agreement that you do not have any of the symptoms and have not, to your knowledge, been in contact with anyone who has tested positive and that you yourself are not at the time of class supposed to be home isolating waiting for a test result. 

Provide PPE

Have hand sanitizer available before signing in as well as enough pens for sign in.  Because class size is capped for maximum social distancing at the space (personally my classes are capped at 12 for a space that could easily fit three times as many) it should be easy to know how many pens to have so that everyone can use a fresh pen.  Also, it may be a good idea to bring a box of masks in case a student forgets theirs and does not have time to run to the car or get a new one.  The last thing we would want would be for students to have to have made a wasted trip and go back home without any yoga because they forgot their mask.

Limit Community Use

Request that students bring their own equipment.  We can expect that all students will have their own yoga mats, that should be an easy ask, but many will not have their own props which will change the way that class is taught.  Mention to students that blocks may be very useful in most classes and direct them as to where they can purchase blocks locally at a low price.  I directed students to TJ Max.  I also made it very clear that they are not necessary and it is completely their decision.  

If props are being shared, be clear on distribution, sanitization, and clean up after class.  

Bring Your Mic

If you taught with a mic in the summer or at anytime in the past I suggest that you continue to use it. My new space is large to allow for distancing, I wear a mask the entire class and demo the entire class because I can’t interact one on one, therefore it would likely be very difficult for my students to hear me if I did not use my mic. Another benefit is that I don’t have to shot in a large space that would swallow my volume.

Teachers and Studios, be sure to stay up to date with guidelines. And prepare your students for the very real possibility of in person classes ending suddenly and for an unknown amount of time. If resources and skills are available, have a plan for a smooth transition to virtual and guide your students to those resources. We all know how much we need yoga right now.

Vote for the Environment – Presidential Election 2020

Kara Bemis <>10:15 AM (2 minutes ago)
to me

This major election is two weeks away, which is shocking.  Covid and the election have been dominating news and media, but it still seems as if the election is coming up soon, which means that time is running out to to self educate, educate others, and prepare to be a well informed voter. This blog has a primary focus on yoga but also on environmentalism.  Here are some quick resources on the candidates’ platforms on the environment and climate change.

Trump’s Horrendous Record on the Environment

The below outlined “successes” come directly from Trump’s campaign website.  Nowhere does he mention science, climate change, nor protecting the environment.  In fact, Trump has been known to be a climate change denier who brushes off the science, for example when speaking to Governor Newsome and other officials of California about the unprecedented wildfires in his state and pressed about climate change, Trump said, “It will start getting cooler. You just watch. It will. I don’t think science knows actually.”

The Trump administration has rolled back around 100 environmental protection regulations in favor of corporations and profits.  The rollbacks have taken place since his four year term began and, “dismantled major climate policies and rolled back many more rules governing clean air, water, wildlife and toxic chemicals. Over four years in office, the Trump administration has dismantled major climate policies and rolled back many more rules governing clean air, water, wildlife and toxic chemicals.”
Some of the rollbacks include such jaw-droppingly disgusting changes as 

The list of course could go on regarding how dangerous this administration is for the entire population of the US as well as the world.  Pollution and increasingly strong and dangerous natural disasters know no borders, therefore rollbacks of regulations that protect the earth the human and natural populations on the earth do not only negatively affect the citizens of the US, but also the entire world population.  As the “leader of the world” you would think that the United States would be leading the way in the advancement of renewable energy instead of promoting the use of oil, gas, and coal.  There lies opportunity in our drastic state.

Biden’s Climate Plan

The massive font on Biden’s campaign site says almost all that needs to be said to win anyone’s vote who has the remotest admiration for nature and the environment, for anyone who enjoys breathing clean air and drinking clean water.  For anyone with a conscience, really.


First of all Biden says that he will put the US back into the Paris Climate Agreement.  Biden was VP when then President Barack Obama was key in formulating the agreement.  The US has until the end of this year to pull out if Trump is re-elected.  If we were to pull out of the agreement we would be the only country to do so, three years ago the remaining two countries who had not signed on – Nicaragua & Syria, signed the agreement leaving the US standing alone as the sole laughable country not taking climate change seriously even though the US is a major emitter.

Unlike Trump’s heinous remarks to leaders of California facing deadly wildfires, Joe Biden understands that the effects of climate change are a threat to all of us: wildfires in the west, increase numbers and strength of hurricanes, dangers to citizen’s health via pollution and exposure to dangerous chemicals (primarily affecting people of color and our poorest populations hence his bold outline of climate justice.)

Joe Biden has outlined a goal of net zero emissions and 100% renewable energy throughout the country by 2050.  That is a big deal, and it is something that many developed (and developing) nations and regions are attempting so if the US does not commit resources into moving forward with renewables instead of coal and carbon then we will be left behind as other nations eclipse us.  

It is a very well known fact that climate change is real and that human beings have played a major part in our warming climate.  There are of course those that choose to disregard science and do not believe in it, but climate change is not something that you believe in, it is a fact in the same way that gravity pulls items to the earth.  Those people who deny the facts have a right to their beliefs, but they should not be in power.

A few more items on Biden’s Climate Plan are to invest heavily in steering the country towards his goal of clean energy and carbon mitigation which he proposes to pay for by using the money earned by rolling back the Trump tax incentives that benefitted corporations, improve building standards in government buildings and set up incentives for homeowners to improve their homes’ efficiency which in turn will reduce heating and cooling costs, reduce emissions in household appliances/airlines/vehicles/etc., and increase availability of electric charging stations and tax incentives to purchase electric vehicles. 

The Biden Climate Plan is so extensive that it would be ridiculous to outline more here.  To sum up, there is absolutely no comparison between our two candidates.  If you are an American citizen still pondering who to cast your vote for in this election and you also would like your children, grandchildren, and all future generations to inherit a safe and beautiful world then the choice is clear.  

Vote Biden this election and do some research for which candidate is strongest in their plan to combat climate change in your local elections.  

Disciplined Yoga

Years ago I took a self defense course. While practicing my kicks with my instructor we spoke about my daily yoga practice.  He told me that my yoga was extremely disciplined which was not a way in which I had ever thought of it before, although at that point I had been practicing multiple times per week for about two years.  This was before I became a teacher.  I practiced so much because I enjoyed it so much, and still do, and suppose that I always will.  I had found my thing. 

In the years since that moment I have continued with my regular practice, although it does ebb and flow.  Currently with being home more often than in the past due to all of my prior indoor yoga classes being cancelled indefinitely from Covid, I have more time than ever to practice.  That does not mean that I am doing two hour Ashtanga practices, rather I practice anywhere from 10-60 minutes roughly 4-5 times a week.  

I view my yoga practice as a form of bodily maintenance, I don’t mean in terms of appearance, but in terms of mobility and functionality.  I also continue to practice and to push my edge in order to sharpen the saw and be able to teach new poses, sequences, and variations to students whenever I am back in a studio.

Discipline Tips

Roll Out Your Mat

As is often said, the hardest part about practicing yoga is rolling out your mat.  Once you have taken the time to clear a space and roll out your mat you are almost halfway there since it is so easy to keep binging Netflx instead of practicing.  One of the best things you can do, if possible in your space, is to have a dedicated yoga room or area so that it is that much easier to practice.  

Consider Your Opportunity Cost

There are often times when I’m at home alone after work considering what to do with my time.  First I try to get some work done in the house or garden and I usually walk Fred for both of our health and enjoyment.  Then, when tasks have been done I weigh the choices of practicing yoga, reading, watching TV, or some other option.  

I then consider the time commitment of practicing.  I usually practice with Glo, a subscription platform that I have been using for a few years, it offers a variety of styles and teachers and the option to search for classes based on filters like length of time, teacher, area of body, etc.  If I’m planning to do a 30 minute class then I tell myself how 30 minutes of my 16 hour waking day is nothing and that I owe myself that time and will feel better after practicing.  Plus, with the search option, or if I’m doing a self practice without video guidance, I can choose to practice a chill hatha class if my energy is low or a challenging vinyasa class if I’m energized.

Don’t Get Down if it Doesn’t Happen

Whether you are a teacher or  not (all yoga teachers ought to consider themselves yoga students) try your best to get on your mat and to not have negative self talk if you do not.  Sure I feel annoyed with myself when a few days have passed and I haven’t done my asana practice, but I push those negative thoughts out of my mind and look towards tomorrow to get back into my practice.  For years, early on in my yoga journey I would practice yoga in studio, for a week or so, or with a VHS (it was a while ago) and then I would fall off the wagon and wouldn’t do yoga for a few weeks, or months even.  It wasn’t until a few years into doing yoga that I started to really practice very regularly and that was after finding a teacher and style that was a match and seeking that style out. 

Don’t be overly strict with yourself.  Maybe doing yoga once a week is perfect for your schedule.  Once a friend asked how often I did yoga as a teacher, I told her 3-4 times per week and she said that made her feel less guilty  about not doing it much, I suppose she didn’t think that that was very often, which made me feel slightly guilty that maybe I should be doing more, but I’ve accepted that there is no perfect amount, it depends on so much – time availability, energy level, mental health, etc. 

And maybe yoga isn’t your thing in which case I would be very surprised that you read this far in, maybe your thing is running or swimming.  Try to get into a regular habit of doing your thing that makes you happy and provides you with benefits for your physical and mental health.  The world would be a much better place if all of us did that.

2020 Summer Garden In Review – The Good and The Bad

It’s early September and the garden has been in full swing for a while here in WNY where I live in Zone 5b.  This post is an update on what’s growing and thriving, but also a record of what didn’t work or was attacked by pesky pests, in hopes that these problems can be mitigated next year and hopefully you might find some advice from my garden experience.

The Good

Due to the pandemic, I was home a lot more than a normal spring and was able to start my starter plants indoors from seeds earlier than I ever had before.  I also have a lot more space this year since we moved from our one bedroom apartment into our house, which meant I had more space and windows to grow my seedlings in.

I started a variety of seeds in mid-March including but not limited to: arugala, lettuces, beans, radish, beets, kale, chard, tomatoes, peppers, etc.  Many of the colder weather, hardier plants could have been planted directly into the soil, but I thought I’d start them all indoors, I also direct sowed plants later in the season.  Important to note, I didn’t have soil to sow seeds in until my husband and I designed and built our raised beds.  Our front yard was just that, yard, compacted soil with thick grass.  
After the raised beds were built we had to wait weeks for topsoil since there was a hold up with the landscapers and their supplier.  In May there was a weekend of SNOW, around May 20th, so we had to cover our little babes with a covering and luckily they survived that terrible weekend.  It was only our first raised bed that had any plants in since we still didn’t have topsoil and I only put hardy plants in the ground early around May 3rd including radish, beets, borage, peas, kales. 

The Bad

Here are some of the issues we’ve dealt with this summer and that I am now hopeful I will be more prepared for next season. 

Japanese Beetles

These suckers were extremely prevalent this summer.  Luckily they mostly attacked an inedible plant that was on our property when we bought it, a rose bush, but they also enjoyed our healthiest basil plants.  

Our Organic Solution

After researching how to handle these pests I found that hand collecting in diluted dish soap and water was the best option for us since I had time to walk the garden twice a day and collect.  The beetles appeared in July and were heaviest around mid-month.  It wasn’t just our garden that these guys harbored at to turn leaves into lace, we noticed them all over the neighborhood when walking our dog.  They even entirely decimated a vine growing around a road sign.  By mid-August they were far less prevalent.  I had read that milky spores was good to spread on the ground to kill the larvae, but it is very expensive, so I’ll just keep my eyes out next season and do the same again.  A note that I did not get the bags as I have heard that they attract the little buggers.

Squash Stem Borers

I designed and built a keyhole hugelkulture for my squash plants so that they had as much space as they needed.  It is a beautiful garden that makes a lot of sense because it borders an existing circular flower garden around our well.  All was going well, my zucchini and summer squash plants had large, green leaves that reached towards the sky, but sometime in late July my friend was visiting and noticed some troubling signs that proved fatal for my plants – squash stem borers had entered into the stem of literally every plant as well as mold on the leaves.

Our Organic Solution

The next morning I tried to kill the larvae by hand, I was successful with a few, but it seemed futile.  I pulled off leaves that were dead and burned them to stop contamination.  For the mold I sprayed a dish soap solution in the mornings to not burn the leaves in the hot sun.  I have read that mulching more thoroughly around the base of the plants and stem as it grows is a good way to protect against the moths laying their eggs on the plant, this will be my game plan next season as well as relocating my squash plants. 

There have been other lessons along the way this growing season, but for the most part it has been a very successful year.  I have processed and have in stock a few pounds of a variety of the beans that we grew, tomatoes are processed, kale and swiss chard frozen and a lot of pesto.  From this year’s experience I also have a lot of ideas of how to improve our gardens next year. I hope that your growing season was a success as well, as I know many people started gardening during Covid to pass the time, learn new skills, and be self-sufficient.