Building a Greenhouse and Growing My Food

Hello Friends!

The month which ushers in Spring is upon us! If you’re like me here in Southeast Missouri, Spring arrived in early February for the second year in a row, which concerns me about the upcoming summer. Last year from June until about mid-August, we only had roughly a week’s-worth of days where we did not see heat indices above 100 degrees, which was incredibly hard on my plants.

With positive hopes for what’s to come, I’ve started preparing for this year’s growing season, which for me in zone 6b stretches from February until about the end of October. Until now, I have always purchased my plants from a nursery or garden center, then planted them directly into the ground. I haven’t had a greenhouse before, so I’ve never started my plants from seed (with the exception of those you direct sow into the ground, like lettuces, squash and cucmber, for example).

An add for a greenhouse showed up in my Instagram feed, which happens regularly considering that a lot of my content is gardening. It was insanely expensive, as greenhouses tend to be, but I was curious to see what Google had to offer. So I did a search. In the results, a greenhouse from Harbor Freight showed up…for $399.99. My partner was sitting next to me and saw it, and immediately said “you need to go buy it!”

We hopped into my car minutes later and drove to Harbor Freight and purchased it. Michael is (lucky for me) an engineer and was already planning out the foundation for the greenhouse en route to pick it up. I would have probably anchored it to the ground with tent stakes and rope if I didn’t have him, but since I do – it has a proper concrete block foundation and is solid as a rock!

We spent a few weekends, the first one freezing cold, digging trenches, burying and gluing blocks, and assembling the greenhouse frame. I put in the panels, then he helped me assemble the door and windows. I put together a video of the process for Instagram reels and Tik Tok, which I will insert here:

In the meantime, I started some seeds! The first thing I started was onions, because they need the longest to be ready for transplant. Next up was bell peppers, with the tomatoes and marigolds following about a week later. Then I started some other companion plants: borage, nasturtium, basil, rosemary and cilantro.

During that time, I also planted my early Spring vegetables: beets, radishes, peas, swiss chard, kale and various lettuces. I’m getting ready to start carrots too, but we have a little cold snap coming up and they will not be under the cold frame this year, so I’m waiting just a couple more weeks.

Here is a little diagram of my planting beds, to help visualize where everything is going. Not pictured are the three tomatoes that are container varieties (early girl, big boy and cherry), that will go in pots in the sunniest spot in my yard above my retaining wall.

I will be sure to share more progress as my plantings come to life and gardening season takes off. For now, I will leave you with some snaps of the greenhouse and planting beds!

New Dietary Guidelines Released – Financial Power of Agribusiness Wins Again

Hello again my friends!

As I write to you I am still awaiting the arrival of my new Chromebook. My current one is on the fritz – the keyboard has stopped working, and it spazzed out and deleted half of the photos from my SD card. Which means that post I had planned to share my charcuterie table and Christmas dinner – gone! My touchscreen still works, but I have to plug in the keyboard from my desktop to type, which is how I am writing this to you now. My new Chromebook was expected to arrive yesterday, but it (as with most packages shipped via USPS) has been delayed.

Once it arrives and I can again safely upload photos, I will be resuming a regular blog schedule. It will be altered slightly, however. My plan is to publish a weekly blog post on Sundays, and a weekly nutrition topic post on Thursdays. Recipe posts will not have a scheduled day, as I am finding myself trying more of other people’s recipes than creating my own these days, so I will share those as I create them. Also – if you are not following Beetitudes on Instagram, please hop over there and give the page a follow. I created a new account just for the blog, separate from my coaching account, and am sharing meals, nutritional information, and daily living stories over there.

And now for the topic of the week! Every five years the USDA releases new dietary guidelines, and 2020 was the year. In the final Hail Mary pass of 2020, they released guidelines that are still in favor of industry over human health. This article title from the Wisconsin State Farmer says it all:

While there have been some (very) minor positive changes, overall not much has improved and science has largely been ignored. For example, despite findings in July that added sugars and alcohol needed to be further limited from current recommendations before being deemed safe, the new guidelines on added sugar and alcohol remain the same. The recommendation is to adjust alcohol limits from two drinks per day for men, down to one; and for women to reduce to less than one drink per day. In reality, no alcohol is good for us aside from a small amount of red wine, and even that is unnecessary because the component of wine that is good for gut and health – resveratrol – comes from grapes. Which means we can skip the alcohol and just eat grapes.

Also on the guidelines, unchanged from years past, is limiting saturated fat to 10% or less of calories per day. What remains missing is clarity on what foods contain saturated fat. The largest sources of saturated fat in the standard American diet are oil and dairy, followed closely by meat. Oil is 100% fat, while butter and cheese are 70-80% fat. Meats range from about 20-25% fat. Even that “low fat” 2% milk is actually 35% fat – they’re allowed to manipulate us by measuring volume instead of actual percentage of calories from fat. All to make us think milk is a healthy, low fat product, when in fact it is high in fat and cholesterol, and has a direct causal link to breast and prostate cancers.

In fact, the guidelines directly contradict themselves by recommending we limit fat on one hand, while on the other pushing us to consume three servings of dairy per day. Despite scientific recommendations to stop promoting dairy by committees tasked with advising the USDA dietary guidelines, the guidelines remain unchanged.

Another thing that remains unchanged since the 2015 release, is meat. In 2015 the category was changed from meat, to protein. However, what constitutes protein is again left up to the consumer to figure out – and in a nation where protein is synonymous with meat, the assumption will thus be made that protein group = meat group. Again, this despite the fact that the recommendation for saturated fat is 10% or less of total calories. The healthiest source of protein is and always will be plants – and all plants contain protein. As long as we are eating sufficient calories, we are getting sufficient protein. The highest and healthiest sources of protein are legumes which, unlike meat, contain no fat, no cholesterol, and no risk for colon cancer.

In a year of unprecedented illness with the pandemic making tsunami-level waves across the world, human health has never been more important. The USDA had the opportunity to leave a strong and noticeable impact on American health for the future, but instead they’ve chosen to stand in place with business as usual – ignoring science, ignoring committee recommendations, and catering instead to industry. What they’ve delivered, to quote Registered Dietician Susan Levin from PCRM, is “just kind of a lot of fluff, and no substance.”

As long as we continue having the same government agency responsible for promoting the ag industry also writing our dietary guidelines, it is doubtful that we will ever see guidelines that do not pander to industry while ignoring human health. As a result we can expect cancer, chronic disease, and the ongoing obesity epidemic to persist, and likely worsen. As a domino effect, we will also continue to see health care quality decline while costs of services and prescription drugs increase.

We have the power to change it all, because we are at the root of our health crisis. It has been demonstrated time and again that the strongly-biased USDA will not act responsibly for the people, so it is up to us to educate ourselves and to share honest, science-supported information with those around us. We have the ability to take our health back into our own hands, eliminating the need for “health”care and daily prescription drugs. We can fix the broken system by first fixing ourselves, but the real information must get out before this can happen.

If we want dietary guidelines that we can trust and depend on, let us look north to Canada. While they have not called to fully eliminate meat and dairy, they have removed dairy as a category in their guidelines completely, and highlight legumes, nuts and seeds more than animal sources for protein. This is a photo of the guidelines for Canada compared to America. If Americans were to adopt the Canadian plate, we would start to move in a positive, much healthier direction.

To stay up-to-date with real, science-backed nutritional guidelines, please subscribe to this blog and be sure to check out Beetitudes on Instagram. You can also follow my nutrition coaching page on Instagram too, Planted Coaching.

Have a happy and healthy evening, and I will see you back here on Sunday for my weekly blog!


Preparing for the Holidays

Dear friends,

What a weird year it’s been! It’s hard to believe that in just a couple of weeks 2020 will be over, and I’m praying for some sense of normalcy in the upcoming year. With the vaccines now being distributed, we are at last on the path to recovery. We will be celebrating by taking our very first family trip – Michael, me, my boys, and his two kids – to Savannah GA/Tybee Island at the start of the summer. We’ve rented the most beautiful house for a few days and are very much looking forward to the adventure!

Right now, I am battling the usual winter blues and preparing for the holidays, which for us begin this Friday. Friday night we are Christmas caroling with Michael’s parents and siblings. Then Saturday we are having our annual Christmas Cookie Swap party, although – as is the case with everything in 2020 – modified from usual. I normally have an extended group of friends in our area along with family members. But this year it just isn’t safe to have large gatherings, so we’re keeping it small – our close-knit main group of friends, which is nine of us in total – just making the limit of 10 for a gathering.

The challenge for me, being the only plant based one in the bunch, is to plan a spread that will provide plenty of options for me and still keep my carnivore friends happy as well. I’ve decided to lay out a large charcuterie spread on my kitchen island, which is a butcher block table. I’m doing the traditional meats and cheeses, plus a “pickle roll” requested by one of my friends (ham and cream cheese wrapped around pickles and cut like sushi). Then I’ll be adding crackers, toast, fruits, veggies, a variety of hummus dips, olives, and finishing it off with some chocolate covered pretzels and cracker sticks, and Christmas M&Ms.

Then of course, the cookies. I’m making my traditional sugar cookies, which are not vegan since they contain eggs. But I’m also making vegan raspberry thumbprints – not healthy since vegan butter is just a bunch of oil and of course there’s plenty of sugar and refined flour – but still animal- and cholesterol-free. Everyone else will be bringing different cookies too, so I will have a nice variety to mix and match for the family on Christmas Eve.

On Christmas Eve we will be breaking the gathering of 10 rule by one – there will be 11 of us from my immediate family. I was hoping to get to have Christmas dinner a little early and make it 30 miles north to my hometown church to sing with the choir – we haven’t been singing all of this time, but the director is breaking us into groups of about 5 to sing for the Christmas masses – but it doesn’t look like it will happen. My sister, a 21-year-old college student working part time at Walmart, has to work until 3:00 so they (her, my mom and stepdad) won’t be down until around 7:00, and mass is at 8:00. The plus side is that I will have more time to get dinner, and myself, ready.

I’m again the only plant-based one in my family, so I’m planning a carnivore friendly dinner. I’m making my usual beef roast and a pork tenderloin. I’m doing two kinds of mashed potatoes – one with vegetable broth and almond milk, and one with rosemary and white cheddar. I’m making a stuffing using vegetable broth and sourdough bread with the traditional onion, celery and sage. Then green beans and corn to pair with it. Since I do eat a small amount of meat about once per week, I will save that day for Christmas Eve dinner and have one small piece of the pork tenderloin with all of the other plant-friendly sides.

Something I’m super excited about is my Christmas Eve outfit! I like to do a little vintage-y theme each year at Christmas, and this year I bought myself a little Christmas present (which is currently delayed, but my fingers are crossed it will be here before next Thursday)…a beautiful pair of white Tory Burch booties! Which will go with a solid white sequin dress with a crinoline underneath, and a white pillbox hat I have from a past vintage outfit. Finishing it off with white nail wraps (I also ordered some red Christmas plaid ones for an accent nail, but I managed to lose them). So this year’s outfit will be white on white on white!

I will have the Nikon out for both events so I can do a post for you after Christmas to show you all of the spreads, and my complete Christmas outfit. I wish all of you the merriest of Christmases, and strength to endure the rest of the pandemic. Much love to all of you this holiday season.


The Latest on My Plant Based Journey, and Weight Loss for My Teens

Hello, Friends!

I’m back with another blog post, right on the cusp of a new school year for my kiddos and a change in schedules for all of us. It has been a fast, full, happy summer here in the Miller house and I can’t wait to share some updates with you!

As you may know if you’ve been following the blog over the last couple of years, my sons (now ages 13 and 15) spend their summers with their dad, who lives three and a half hours away, and are home with me every other weekend. This is the reverse of our schedule during the school year, when they’re with me and visit their dad every other weekend.

This year, unsurprisingly, was different. The school year ended in mid-March and the boys began going to their dad’s every other week, before eventually leaving for the summer at the end of May. As always, the transition to not having them around regularly was tough, but I have the support of a pretty fantastic partner to help me through it.

Michael had his kids every two weeks, which gave us two weeks with his kids followed by two weeks where it was just the two of us. It was great to have that time together, since having kids tends to reduce the amount of time a couple has for each other in a relationship.

The best part of my summer was the change in my work schedule. When Covid-19 struck, the bank moved workers like myself, who are not on the front lines of customer contact, to working from home. This has been an absolute game changer for me in terms of sleep, stress, exercise, being a single mother, and just general happiness.

I haven’t gotten up to an alarm in months, I’m consistently walking every day on my lunch break since I’m not rushing home from the office, scarfing down food, then driving back to work. I can eat when I’m hungry without having to prep meals and snacks ahead of time. I can keep up on laundry and dishes and cleaning the floors during down moments, so I’m not forced to do it all after work or on Saturday mornings anymore. I have been more productive and focused, both at work and at home, ever since the transition. And the best part is – it is very likely to be a permanent working arrangement!

I feel refreshed, reinvigorated, and ready to buckle down on what comes next.

Along with the change in my daily routine, has come a change in my overall health and wellness. When I first started this website, which initially was just a personal blog, I was eating in a way that mirrored the mediterranean diet, while being very plant strong. The more I studied and learned about nutrition, the more I moved away from animal products, towards a fully plant-based diet. To be plant based means that at least 90% of your calories come from plants, while the remaining 10% can come from animal based foods.

The last few months I’ve been nearly 100% plant based, and my whole body has transformed in ways I didn’t realize. They say change comes slowly, a little at a time, sneaking up on us so that we don’t see it, but one day we look back and everything is different. That is what happened to me a couple of days ago.

I was out on my daily lunchtime walk. I was on my way back uphill, headed home, when I realized my right knee didn’t hurt. I used to only be able to walk for two or three days in a row before my knee would become inflamed from an old injury and I would need to rest it for a few days. Well I’ve fallen into the routine of daily walks this summer, and I’d forgotten about that old knee injury. I suddenly remembered it after several weeks of walking every day. There was no knee pain anymore. Five days per week and no pain at all!

I thought back to other things that used to ail me, to realize that every complaint I had was gone. I’ve had acne since I was 11. For the first time in my life my skin is in wonderful shape, save for the occasional pimple at period time or if I slip in a piece of cheese. I used to have migraines following extreme stress – well I was under an insane amount of stress in April and May when I was working overtime to process Paycheck Protection loans for SBA, then more stress with a change in job duties during my department’s current restructure. But no migraines!

My periods ultimately come and go unnoticed – no cramps, no food cravings, no mood swings, no bloating. My hormones seem to be in balance. And my sleep. Ah, sweet, glorious sleep! I’ve struggled with it for my whole life, or at least as much of it as I can remember. Struggled to fall asleep, struggled with early waking, struggled with insomnia. I was having a few crappy nights of sleep per month, and I’m now only sleeping poorly a few times per month – and most of those times come from spending the night at Michael’s house and hearing him snore or being smacked with one of his pillows when he rolls over…ha!

I have to be honest – I feel amazing! I have energy all the time now. I’m happy, healthy, and loving life!

Next up on the journey – my kids. Every summer while away at their dad’s they’re living on processed junk foods, sodas, sweet tea, and have very little actual meals. They gain weight every year, usually 10-20 pounds. This year, since their visits started in March, they’ve gained 35 and 40 pounds. I discussed this with their dad the first year that my oldest put on 10 pounds in six weeks, but it fell on def ears. Since then it has fallen on me to get them healthy again when they come home.

Now we are working not only on getting that weight back off (we do this every year), but also teaching them about healthy habits and putting them in the driver’s seat, rather than me just telling them what to do. The goal is for them to learn how to make healthy choices on their own, to prevent them gaining the weight back next summer….I hope!

I will be writing more about this weight loss journey, and navigating into the territory of children’s health, in the upcoming weeks.

I’ll be back to talk again soon!


Burger King Combats Climate Change by Changing Diet of Its Cows

Following close behind the promotion of the Impossible Whopper, a meatless sandwich alternative, Burger King announced new plans to combat climate change. By changing the diet of cows to include 100 grams of lemongrass, Burger King believes methane emissions from the cows will be reduced by around 33%. First, less meat. Second, less methane. Could Burger King make a meaningful impact on climate change?

When looking at greenhouse gas emissions, agriculture makes up 10% of total emissions. However, when looking at total environmental impact, agriculture is responsible for an astounding majority of climate change. There is a great deal more involved in animal agriculture than just the gases released into the atmosphere. Raising livestock requires food, water, and land. This is what makes the greatest environmental impact.

Worldwide, agriculture is responsible for 80% of deforestation. This land is cleared both for raising animals, as well as growing grains to feed these animals. In the US alone, 70% of grains grown are going to livestock. Growing this feed accounts for one-third of agricultural land use worldwide, not including the land used for the animals themselves.

Another major factor is fresh water. 70% of our fresh water is going to agriculture, with the majority of that being used to raise animals and grow livestock feed. In fact, to get just one hamburger patty, 660 gallons of water are needed. By comparison, the Impossible Burger uses 87% less water, and has a total carbon footprint that is 89% smaller than that of beef.

Animal agriculture may account for just 10% of greenhouse gases, but it is “the leading cause of deforestation, water and air pollution and biodiversity loss.” Can lemongrass in cattle feed really make a difference? Less methane certainly means less greenhouse gas, although how much less of total methane in the atmosphere from feeding a small portion of cows a diet that reduces their methane emissions, is probably only making a dent. Any step in the right direction, however, is a good step to take.

Ironically, it is the Impossible Whopper that stands to make more of an environmental impact, even though it was not marketed as being environmentally friendly. As noted above, it is animal agriculture that is most responsible for ravishing the global climate, so reduction in meat, dairy and egg consumption would have the most profound overall impact on climate change.

The question of health still remains whether any burger, beef or plant-based, from Burger King is good for our bodies. We can all agree that a traditional fast-food burger is unhealthy, but what about the plant-based burgers? Unfortunately they are still processed, contain oils, are served on a bun made from highly-processed refined grains, and come with a side of greasy fries. It wouldn’t be a good idea to make the Impossible Whopper a frequent meal, but it’s great to know that there is a meatless option out there if you’re in a pinch. Its biggest benefit is that it can help people transition to a more plant-strong diet.

Where fast food is concerned, Burger King is pulling ahead of the curve.