A conversation about the beauty of Kale…and whether or not I ever really lived in Haiti…

So there I was, standing in the grocery store express line with some chicken and produce. I mean, I figured that my husband shouldn’t have to fix EVERY. SINGLE. MEAL during my month-long run with the flu and bronchitis.

The cashier worked quickly through my groceries, but when she got to the kale, she stopped. “This is very good stuff,” she exclaimed, gazing upon its beauty.
As I fished in my wallet for my debit card, I agreed with her by nodding. Oddly, though, when I looked up, she was still holding onto the kale.

“This is very good stuff,” she repeated, “especially when you cook it with meat…”

I laughed and confessed to my new cashier-friend that I really had no idea how to cook kale, and I only bought it for green juicing.

But oblivious to my passion for juicing, she continued. “Have you ever tried Haitian food? I think you’d like my kale.”

Wait, now we’re talking about Haitian food? A bit puzzled, but going with the flow, I told her, “I’ve eaten a lot of Haitian food, just not with kale.” She looked up and starting listing a myriad of other ingredients she adds to her evidently delicious kale recipe.

I was aware of the long line behind me and wanted to kick myself for adding to the conversation. I tried to end things there by holding up my debit card and shifting over to the payment machine, but the end of our chit-chat was nowhere in sight. The teenage boy waiting to bag my groceries chimed in, “YOU’VE eaten Haitian food?” He challenged me, as if this was an impossibility.  “YOU, really?”

Not sure why this seemed so odd, I laughed as I inserted my debit card. “Yes, I lived in Haiti for a couple of years.”

Oh, my. Now the line was never going to move. The kale forgotten, he looked me straight in the eyes, “No you didn’t.”

And then here’s how it went:

“Yes, I did.”

“You did not.”

“Yes, we lived in Port-au-Prince.”

“You did not.”

“Well, yes.” Now I was trying to keep the conversation friendly. “We lived there when my husband was a pilot…”

“You did not.”

He almost had me believing I had never lived there. He almost had me convinced I had never eaten a Haitian dish. And all this happening while the line grew longer behind us and my few groceries piled up waiting to be bagged.

Amused and bewildered, I tried again to hurry up the process, but stunned bagger-boy was grinning from ear to ear as he stuck out his hand to shake mine.

Well, okay, I thought, no problem. I’ll shake your hand…

He laughed. I smiled.

I think it was a truce of sorts, but I’m pretty sure neither he nor the kale-loving cashier believed a single word I had said.


Not really sure what had just happened, I headed home to make some dinner…and some kale-enriched green juice.



Come Grow a Tomato with Me

My first vegetable garden was on my apartment patio in plastic containers bought at Home Depot. The vegetables never received any direct sun and did poorly from the start. I eventually replaced the wilting tomatoes with flowers which also received no sun. They looked pretty for my mother-in-law’s visit but died soon after she left.

My second vegetable “garden” was on the kitchen counter in Solo cups as part of my daughter’s homeschool project. To her delight, the green bean plants grew quickly—but then never produced any more than a hint of a bean.

For the next decade I stuck to silk plants inside and a single flower pot by the front door. But again and again, as I replaced those potted seasonal flowers (if I could afford it), that gardening itch kept returning. Finally in my early 40s, I decided it might be time to get it right. With a little more planning and a lot more effort, vegetable garden number three was the charm.


As a Christmas gift that year, my husband surprised me with all the elements needed for my first backyard vegetable gardening experience, including several bags of beautiful black soil, a must-have in our sandy Florida yard. (Don’t judge him for that; he also gave me a necklace!) The next week I methodically positioned my first plants in the 4×8 raised bed he built. I began to faithfully water my six cabbage plants, three tomatoes, and a few herbs. I watered and waited, watered and waited—and hoped for the best.

Crazy thing, but everything actually began to grow! I mean, I knew that was supposed to happen, but it had just never happened for me. I can’t even tell you how much fun I had watching those plants reach taller, expand wider, and start showing signs of real, edible food.


And then came the day I realized it was time to snip off and use a couple sprigs of the herbs, harvest that very first cabbage, and start eating the tomatos. I felt like I’d become my dad during our Illinois summers in the 70s when he would come in from the garden completely delighted to cover the kitchen counter with his homegrown produce.

During the next year, my husband caught the gardening bug, too, and our joint efforts resulted in non-stop tomatoes for months and months, even after all the leaves were practically dead on the stems.


As the tomatoes kept coming, I began to sympathize with my mom’s consuming efforts of trying to keep up with all the zucchinis my dad grew. I personally didn’t grow zucchini, but I felt like I was bonding with her in a new way, realizing her mix of gratefulness and frustration with so many homegrown garden delights. By the end of that second season, I had eaten so many tomatoes I became allergic to them.

Tomatoes on hold for me, and with the extended gardening season in South Florida, Greg tried planting peppers, onions, and carrots. Then one afternoon I walked around our backyard and realized he’d dug up yet another area—to plant carrots.

See, I told you he’d caught the vegetable gardening bug. Then he started planting fruit trees, and even brought home a baby avocado tree for me on Valentine’s Day.


In the next couple years, we learned how easy it is to grow pineapples, if you’re super patient, that is.


Of course, along the way, we had to brighten it all with some some orchids, another low-maintenance gardening beauty.


Admittedly, the perennials I planted around the yard helped during the times the veggies died off and weeds overtook the gardens. During those times, this red shrimp plant just kept showing off its colors.


After all this time, we’re still planting, watering, and watching things grow. It’s been a decade-long adventure of seeing up close the wonder of God’s artistry. I love it how during at least three seasons of the year, His intricate creation supplies us with fresh fruit, fresh veggies, and produce for juicing, smoothies, and salads.

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I don’t claim to be an expert on backyard farming, nor am I a photographer (except with my phone). But with those disclaimers, I invite you to join me here on my blog. Along the way, if you get the urge to dig a hole in your own soil and grow something edible (or just simply pretty), I’d love to hear from you.

My blog won’t always be about gardening, but you can be sure I’ll be returning to the backyard again and again in my writing. So go ahead and subscribe to Beyond (left of screen) for future ideas, photos, stories, successes, bloopers, and how to be part of this fun and fulfilling “farm to table” and flower-filled living.

(And one last thing. If you love essential oils, they’re going to pop up here, too. What do they have to do with gardening? Stay tuned. Because I’m rarely in my garden without them.)