Smemerson Sustainable Farming

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

– Albert Einstein

I have tried (unsuccessfully) to grow a vegetable garden twice since Geoffrey and I have been together. The first time, we made the mistake of believing that Memphis soil would be perfect for growing veggies all by itself. We went to Home Depot, bought some plants and tools, rented a plow, and spent a day working what looked like fertile soil. Sore and sweaty we planted our baby plants and stood back in admiration of our hard work as our brand new sprinkler and hose watered them. By the end of the day, we imagined we looked like this:


Satisfied that we had done a solid day’s work, we went inside to eat dinner, watch a movie, and feel superior about our self-sustainability. Over dinner, we scoffed at all the people who say “gardening is hard,” “you have to research, plan your garden, or start preparations in advance to successfully grow vegetables,” and “it takes years to develop quality, rich soil.” We had shown them all! Our garden was going to be perfect and we were going to eat like kings with all the fresh tomatoes, peppers, cucumber, and squash we would grow.  I got up the following morning to water the garden again, only to find that fertile, delta soil had baked like clay in the sun. Our plants were dead or dying and we could bounce a basketball off the plot we had spent hours tilling, plowing, and digging up the day before. CRAP

The following year, we got started planning our garden in February. We bought an above ground gardening kit, started a compost pile, and paid what seemed like a ridiculous amount of money for quality, vegetable garden soil. I researched square foot gardening, planned the placement and quantity of each plant, planted marigolds near my squash to keep away the squash bugs, fertilized my baby plants with coffee grounds and dried egg shells; this was going to be the year! My plants grew quickly at first, and I thought I had made it. They were alive, strong, blooming! Then it happened, one day I walked outside to find that one of my squash plants wasn’t looking so hot. It seemed weak, wilted, and there was this weird saw dust stuff at the base of the stem. I went inside, googled the problem and found out that my plant had been invaded by vine borers. The gardening sites gave descriptions for numerous ways to salvage what was left of my garden, but they all warned that it was likely a lost cause. A few weeks later, everything was dead but my potted herbs. SHIT

This year is going to be different! I’ve learned a lot of lessons over the past few years. 1. Gardening IS hard! 2. A decent vegetable garden DOES take lots of planning, preparation, and research.  3. NEVER trust the soil you have at home, no matter how much your home resembles the “fertile crescent.”  Despite all the lessons I have learned over the past few years’ failed attempts at self-sustainability, I plan to go into this years’ growing season with the self-assured arrogance of a master gardener (or perhaps a madwoman). My garden will THRIVE! EVERYBODY is getting homemade canned salsa and pickles from the extra produce I will grow this year. We will grow ALL the vegetables and set up our own Smemerson Farmer’s Market. This garden will solve world hunger and bring about world peace!  And in the words of Scarlet O’Hara, “As God as my witness, I will never go hungry again!”



Goals for Team Smemerson

It’s a new year for team Smemerson, so this post is all about looking at where we have been, were 2014 will take us, and the toilet habits of our cat, Noodles.

2013 re-cap:
1. We adopted Maebe
2. I left MCS
3. We left Memphis
4. Geoffrey got into Ph.D. school
5. We moved to Alabama
6. We both started teaching college again
7. We got engaged
8. I started strength training (2013 Lizzie is way stronger than 2012 Lizzie was. I mean, it’s not like I can lift a car or anything, but I don’t get sore muscles from playing too much Wii bowling anymore).

Goals for 2014:
1. Make this marriage thing official one way or another
2. Start working out together, at home. We are both already active, so this isn’t one of those “I’m getting into shape this year!” resolutions. It’s more of a “working out at home is cheap and doesn’t take as long as going to the gym, so we should do that instead” resolutions.
3. Start running with Maebe (or at least teach her not to chase after every squirrel, bird, and paper bag that crosses our path on a walk. She hates bags; they are the worst.)
4. Read more, internet less (I stole this one from Kayleen)
5. Toilet train the cat

Progress so far:
1. Geoffrey and I have decided to wait to make any official wedding plans until we have a better understanding of what our lives will look like this summer. There is a good chance I will either be applying to jobs or will have just started a new job at the beginning of the summer, and we don’t want to make any big plans that end up getting canceled due to work constraints.

2. Geoffrey and I have successfully completed two at-home circuit training workouts, plan to complete workout # 3 later this afternoon, and have set up a weekly schedule. I’ve learned a couple things from working out with Geoff. First, 2013 Lizzie wasn’t as strong or in as good a shape as she thought. I put together what seemed like a pretty reasonable full body circuit workout for our first day, and not only did we not finish it, we were also sore for four days. I modified workout #2 to accommodate our lack of burpee experience, and it was much more successful. Second, I learned that any future children Geoffrey and I may parent have no hope of any kind of athletic prowess. If we start a family in the next few years, assume to find pocket protectors, thick rimmed glasses, and suspenders on our baby registry, because that kid doesn’t stand a chance!

3. Maebe and I made it out on one trial run so far this year. We did a little over a mile together and she hardly pulled on the leash at all. Now that the temperatures have risen a bit, we are going out for a 2 miler later today. I’ve come to realize from this experience, that my medium jogging speed is Maebe’s gentle strolling speed. She loved every minute of our run and wasn’t winded at all at the end. She will certainly be up to going on 3-5 mile runs/ strolls in no time.

4. We have started reading for 20-40 minutes before bed, and it has been nice.

5. We have made some major progress with toilet training our cat, Noodles!
First, I will admit that toilet training a cat sounds like a crazy thing to do, so let me explain. We hate, Hate, HATE cleaning the litter box. As a matter of fact, whatever room the litter box resides in is usually an abandoned place where things go to die in our house. Typically, we don’t clean it out until Noodles gets mad and starts peeing on all our favorite pillows, blankets, rugs, shoulder bags and coats we wear to work, etc… I should probably stop here, and explain that Noodles usually voices his displeasure after 7-10 days. So, when I say we never clean it out, I really mean, we just don’t clean the litter box as often as Noodles would like. Lately, Noodles has gotten more and more particular about his litter box and our stuff is getting peed on pretty regularly (every couple of days). So we figured, if we hate the litter box, and NOODLES hates the litter box, why not do away with the darn thing entirely? We googled “toilet training cats” and found a lot of funny pictures of cats pooping on the toilet while staring creepily into the camera and a lot of success stories about people who successfully taught their cats to “take care of business” in the toilet.

We decided to give it a try, and just before Christmas we moved his litter box into the bathroom (right next to the toilet) to get him comfortable going in there. This worked perfectly from the start. The bathroom is his favorite place in the house, because it is always warm in there, and now that his litter box is right by the toilet and full of flushable litter, he gets it cleaned several times a day. (Maebe eats the cat poop if we leave it there long enough for her to find it; her cat poop obsession is another major reason for our toilet training Noodles. See the link below for a dog’s explanation of why cat poop is so delicious).

Next, we put the litter box on top of the toilet lid and placed a stool next to it so he could step into his litter box; Noodles handled that no problem! Yesterday, we removed the litter box entirely and placed a lasagna pan filled with litter just under the toilet seat. He has successfully “taken care of business” in the lasagna pan a few times now, so things look pretty promising. All we have left to do is cut incrementally larger holes in the lasagna pan until he is just going directly into the toilet bowl. I predict that the Smemersons will soon be “litter free in 2014!” If you were wondering what it looks like when a cat uses the toilet, here is a picture of Noodles demonstrating:

noodles toilet

noodles toilet2

He is kind of a sneaky pooper, so all we were able to capture was a picture of him “burying” his waste, but you get the idea. Just in case you still want more, here is the creepiest pooping cat ever: