Join the Ultimate Veggie Gardener Challenge!

The weather has finally warmed up and we’ve catapulted from blustery cold and a blizzard a to warm (almost hot!)and sunny during the past week. The snow is melting quickly, and it will only be a few more days before my garden will be visible for the first time in months.

I’m excited for gardening, especially since I set so many gardening-related goals that I want to make progress on. I’ve been having fun encouraging others to garden through the online course and in other ways, and I want to keep that going. So I’m setting up an online challenge to help people (like you, dear reader!) get started on their veggie gardens this spring.

About the Ultimate Gardening Challenge

So what is this thing? This challenge will help you through the steps of setting up and planting your vegetable garden. It consists of two parts:

  • Weekly emails coaching you though the basics of site assessment, garden planning, planting, soil improvement, and more.
  • Access to a Facebook group to ask questions and share your successes with others in the challenge.

Sign up now! The challenge starts on April 30 and runs through June 10. You’ll receive an email every week describing that week’s theme and activities for starting your garden off right.

Who should take the challenge?

The challenge is open to designed to get new gardeners started on their way to vegetable success. It’s designed with beginning gardeners in mind, although more experienced gardeners are welcome to participate. The challenge program is designed for those living in relatively cold climates where experienced gardeners tend to plant tomatoes at the end of May or early June (see blue areas on the map).

Map of Average Last Spring Freeze Dates (via NOAA)

It’s Easy

All you need is an interest in gardening and access to a bit of soil and a trowel. Some additional tools will be handy, but you do not need any special equipment, gardening experience, or a large garden to be join the challenge. Container, patio, and small gardens are also welcome!

Okay, yeah, so this feels kinda like a big commercial, but I hope you’ll consider signing up—it’s free and will be a whole lot of fun. 🙂

31 Days of Nature Challenge

Audrey over at is instigating a nature challenge for the month of May, and you should sign up!

Here’s the description of the challenge:

31 Days of Nature is a challenge to spend every day of May 2017 outdoors. All you have to do is spend at least 30 minutes outdoors each day. In order to make the 30 minutes count, you have to get your hands or feet on the earth in some way, shape, or form.

I’m going to play along, even though I’m a little nervous about being able to pull it off. I’m especially nervous about May 1, given the forecast for 40 degrees, rain, and strong wind.

May 1 forecast. 😦

I’m good at getting outside when the weather is nice and when my schedule allows, but I still wimp out a lot more than I’d like to when it’s not as easy to go out. This should be a good opportunity to see when and where I run into resistance and experiment with getting over it.

I hope you’ll do the challenge too!

Here are a few ideas for what to do this May to spend time outside:

Keep me posted—I’d love to hear what you’re up to!

A Last-Minute Camping Microadventure

I slept outside last night. I was all alone. I didn’t die,  and I only really freaked myself out once.

Earlier this year, I decided that I wanted to sleep outside a few nights. I haven’t gone camping or backpacking much during the last several years, and I’ve been missing it a bit. I camped one night earlier this summer for my birthday, but that’s been it so far. The days have been getting much shorter and the nights much cooler the past few weeks, and so my window of opportunity (because I’m a big wimp) has been correspondingly shrinking.

Last night seemed like it might be one of my best chances since the weather was forecasted to say warm all night. The probability of rain would increase through the night, but any real chance of rain wasn’t expected until at least 5 am.


So a half hour before dark, I ran around the house grabbing up a few things: clothes, sleeping bag, headlamp, and water bottle. Continue reading “A Last-Minute Camping Microadventure”


Let’s be honest: adventures are fun and exciting, but they can also be exhausting. There can be a lot of planning involved in launching the adventure. And then, if you really do it right and live it up, you can feel completely exhausted afterward (i.e., the dreaded vacation hangover—when you need a vacation from your vacation!).

But what if you could do smaller, more bite-sized adventures between the 9-to-5 daily grind?

Adventurer Alastair Humphreys proposes one solution: microadventures.

Think of microadventures as the expresso of all adventures Continue reading “Microadventures”

GO: Get Outside!

How much time do you spend outside? If you’re like most people—including me—it’s probably not all that much. Last fall I made a small challenge for myself, code name Project Get Out, to spend a half-hour outside each day, even in crappy fall weather, which is the worst.

I’m going to do it again this year. Only this time I’m starting earlier. I’m starting now—the beginning of September—with the goal of going all the way through December.  So here we go:

Monday (8/30): A gorgeous late-summer day made it easy to kick off thisproject! After dinner I sat on the porch to finish up a blog post. Then I got out my aerial silk and climbed in a tree. What’s that? you ask… that’s for a future post!

Tuesday (9/1): I biked to work, which took a tad over an hour, and then home from work, which took just a little longer than that. I love riding my bike to work, probably becasue it seems like an exponential win: exercise (win!) plus time outside (win!) plus money savings, fossil energy savings, badassity (win! win! win!)… Continue reading “GO: Get Outside!”

Project Get Out: The End

Project Get Out is my personal challenge to spend at least a half hour a day outside for the fall. Because even though I work in natural resources and write about the outdoors, I don’t get out nearly enough. 

Gosh, it’s been a long time since I wrote last! Certainly, it’s been too long and I’m overdue to write about the end of Project Get Out: Weeks 11, 12, and 13.

Update: The lake is frozen over.
Update: The lake is frozen over.

I previously left off struggling to get outside as the days got shorter and work ramped up… unfortunately, the final weeks were more of the same. The past few weeks were a failure as far as the goals of the project (to spend a mere half hour outside everyday) were concerned.

Not only did I fail during this time period, but by the very end, I just plain gave up trying. Sigh.

What Happened?

Short, short days and lots of travel kept me from being able to get outside on many days. I had two work trips out East in early December, so there were a few days that were nothing but travel from 4:30 in the morning until 6 pm or later. Other days were just busy, where I started working early in the morning to prep for the day and would then go all day long and get to bed as early as possible, just to do it all over again.

I realize I’m making my work sound awful dreary, and that’s not at all the case. Everything I did on those trips was absolutely amazing and I loved every minute of it. I think of it as exhilarating, meaningful work. It’s only when I look at it from the perspective Did I spend time outside? that I feel at all bad about not getting out.

It’s the days that I didn’t travel where I failed. When I was home, I didn’t make up for my time away and make a point to get out–on many days, I didn’t even try.I stayed inside instead, telling myself that I was tired and needed to relax, that it was okay to stay inside to “decompress” (and that while I was at it, I might as well as devour a half pound of tortilla chips).

Of course, since I spend most of my spare time reading and writing about health and the outdoors, I know that spending a little time outside to even just take a short walk is probably the best thing I could have done for myself. And yet I didn’t do it…

Because it always seemed too dark or too windy or too cold outside.

Because I was tired or stressed from other things, and when I feel like that, I’m going to prioritize comfort ahead of everything else. And for me, comfort is cuddling up in our warm house with something interesting to read and something unhealthful to eat.

Because I’m human, and that’s how most of us work. As far as I can tell, comfort is king. Our default value is that we want to avoid things that make us feel uncomfortable, whether its cold weather or awkward or challenging conversations.

I purposefully put Project Get Out at my personal worst time of year, during the fall funk I seem to get every year from mid-November to mid-December, to see what would happen. The same thing happened that normally happens: I slipped into a fall funk. This year, it wasn’t too bad and I can already feel myself creeping out of it now that the holidays are almost over and the day are (albeit imperceptibly) getting longer.

I’ll write future post about coping with a fall/winter funk, but in the meantime, I do want to capture some of the outdoor highlights from the past few weeks:

  • In New Hampshire, it felt like I was outdoors when the furnace broke at the field station where I was staying. Two nights sleeping at about 50 degrees was really only a mild inconvenience, but it was kind of funny.
  • In Maine, it was wicked cold one day and then warmed up to freezing. Sleety rain fell on pavement and froze, creating some of the most adventuresome walking conditions I’ve ever experienced.
  • Similarly, the next day in Connecticut included some difficult walking where freezing rain had transitioned to fluffy snow during their first winter storm of the season. On the bright side, the snow had stuck to the trees and was downright beautiful.
  • Back home, I had so much energy from being “locked up” in cars and airplanes. One night I chose to walk the mile and a half to the Sportsmen’s Club, rather than riding in the car with Sexy, so that I could get some outside time. It was nice out and there were lots of stars. I ended up running some of the time (in jeans and ballet flats, in the dark, with my headlamp turned off, on snow-covered roads) just to burn up some some of that energy.
  • Most notably, on two Saturday mornings, my husband and I decided to walk to the town cafe, 1.25 miles away, for breakfast. It was really nice to have to time to talk and see what was going on around the neighborhood (spoiler: nothing, except maybe a few deer), and I think we’ll do it again once in a while.

Happy winter and holidays!

Project Get Out: Weeks 9 & 10

Project Get Out is my personal challenge to spend at least a half hour a day outside for the fall. Because even though I work in natural resources and write about the outdoors, I don’t get out nearly enough. 

Ack! This fall-turned-suddenly-to-winter has gotten the best of me, making me want to give up and hibernate! On the plus side, the weekend have been extremely quiet, allowing me to sit and read (and nap!). This all makes perfect sense—last year I determined that this time of year is my least favorite.

Monday: Long day at work—didn’t make it outside. Fail.

Tuesday: Long day at work—didn’t make it outside. Fail.

Wednesday: Long day at work—didn’t make it outside. We have so much snow this year! I went skiing after work, but the conditions weren’t the best. The temperature was still well below freezing, but the snow seemed to be warmer because it was wet and sticky. I was on the lighted trails and it was snowing a ton, which meant that the entire ski was in sort of a sepia-colored version of a white out. I felt like I had no idea where I was because visibility was so poor and it was just nothing but snow.

Thursday: Because of all the snow, my outside time has had to become a lot more practical—snow blowing after work.

Friday: Long day: work, followed by errands—didn’t make it outside. Fail.

Saturday: The last cyclocross race of the season was on Saturday. I’d really wanted to go to see what the course would be like with 2+ feet of snow on the ground, but I couldn’t muster the energy to drive the two hours in each direction to go. I can’t even remember if I went outside this day, or just enjoyed being inside and relaxing when I could. I think I stayed inside. I went to a friend’s house and made a Christmas wreath, and then later to another house for a party.

Sunday: While I was mostly lazy, cuddled up on the couch reading all day, I did go outside and take a fairly long walk up one of the neighborhood roads.

Monday: More snow removal.

Tuesday: Long day—no outside time. Fail.

Wednesday: I went skiing after work. At the trailhead, when I was about to go out, I ran into a retired professor’s wife that I know from around town. She was so happy and said, “It’s beautiful out there. We’re so lucky to have these trails.” I don’t think this was a Thanksgiving-related outburst of gratitude—she’s just joyful like that all the time. Of course, I completely agree with her; it was a great day to be out. I don’t run into her often, but every time I do, I think, “I want to grow up and be like her.”

Thursday: Happy Thanksgiving!! It was a beautiful morning, and I took pictures of trees for a recent post. Then more skiing. I couldn’t get myself excited to drive 15 miles to the trails to go skiing, so for the second time this year, I just skied right down our road. With 2-3 inches of fresh snow on top of snow-covered roads, it’s good enough for me. It’s not as scenic as the trails, but it doesn’t really matter—I’m a terrible skier and spend most the time looking at my feet anyway.

Trails are nice, but I’ll ski right down the road when I have a chance!

Friday: The day’s project was for Sexy and me to move wood into our basement for the next 6 weeks or so. It was really nice to just putter away on that project (move wood from shed to trailer, trailer to house, over and over) while chatting about things we want to buy (solar panels! a tractor! land!) someday.

Saturday: Over at the neighbor’s property, I helped snowshoe some trails in the woods with the intent of making trails that we could use during the winter for skiing.

Sunday: Travel for work tied up my day from four in the morning until after dark, so I didn’t get out. Bummer.

Ack! I guess it’s good that I at least have better than a 50% success rate, but I’m not doing so well at actually getting outside lately. (Spoiler alert: So far week 11 isn’t looking that good either.)

Last year, I attributed my fall blahs and lack of activity to the cold weather, and, to a lesser extent, to hunting. This year—especially with so much snow on the ground and the potential to ski—I’m realizing that sunlight is probably my biggest hurdle in all this. Long days and travel don’t make it any easier, but mostly I just can’t get myself out the door after dark because I get the heebie-jeebies thinking that I’m not visible to cars, but potentially more visible to anything else that might be out in the woods (like Bigfoot!).

Project Get Out: Week 8

Project Get Out is my personal challenge to spend at least a half hour a day outside for the fall. Because even though I work in natural resources and write about the outdoors, I don’t get out nearly enough.

This project was supposed to be my fall challenge to get outside more, but when I look out there, it’s already winter.

Monday: Another inside day, aka a fail. The days are just too short. If I don’t get home early, there’s no time to get outside while it’s still daylight. We’re now down to just over 9 hours of daylight: 8 am until a little after 5 pm. It’s tough to get out during the day. Of course I could go out after dark, but with two recent cougar sightings in the UP, I have another excuse to stay inside and watch that damn TV.

Tuesday: Holiday! I was going to spend the day doing some errands in town, but stayed home because we got a snowstorm on Tuesday. By the end of the day, the snow was well over a foot deep and it would have been impossible to get my car out of the driveway. Continue reading “Project Get Out: Week 8”