The Green Box Garden

Island Style Gardening & Plant Based Living

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Late Working Bees

At sunset, there were about a half-dozen bees working hard on our crown flower.  I typically only see bees in the yard in the early morning and usually on the gigantic-overgrown basil. However, I cut back the basil (it was taking over walking paths!) so the bees are now more interested in the other flowers we have. They were so calm and let me photograph them for about five minutes. Thank you pollinators for all that you do.

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Home Again

“I wanna live where the green grass grows, watch my corn pop up in rows….”


For two months my kids and I watched epic sunsets while we visited Iowa. They lasted for 2 hours and always put on a show of colors, shapes and cloud formations.  I love Iowa sunsets.

IMG_1245I also love visiting my tree. It really is my tree, since I planted it as a little helicopter seed with a kitchen spoon about 30 years ago. My grandpa told me there was a tiny tree inside that little propeller that flew off our backyard maple and I didn’t believe him. He said, “Go dig a little hole, put it inside and wait. You gotta be patient though.” So I did. I even built a little fortress around it with popsicle sticks to keep my mom from running over the spot with the lawnmower. And wouldn’t  you know, he was right. There was a little tree inside, and though it has been ripped apart many times over the past 3 decades by windstorms and tornadoes, it soldiers on. :-)

My Tree <3

My Tree <3

…and more trees! Walnut trees that our family planted as seedlings are now a proper forrest. With so many corn fields that go on forever and heat in the Iowa sun, this little oasis was about the coolest place for miles. (I always think of that saying…”The best time to plant a tree is 30 years ago. The next best time is today.”…or something like that.)


And bunnies. Who doesn’t love chasing bunnies? We don’t have little wildlife critters like this in Hawaii…mongoose don’t count. They are a nuisance! (Of course bunnies are a nuisance too to gardeners, but darn in, they are so cute.) :-D

IMG_1367But Home is also where our organic papaya trees have started pumping out fruit! Yippy! I was so happy to come back to see these beauties.


And home is where our crown flower plant doubled in size in two months and had literally dozens of caterpillars who were on their way to making their debut as butterflies.


Home is also where dear friends share organic avocado with you and your babies and let you lounge around in their backyard for hours on Sunday doing nothing at all. <3


Our family will always have a complex understanding of Home. I’ve come to think of it more as a state of mind than a place…your heart is happy at home. Wherever that is. And this Happy Hearted Gardener has a lot of work to do to get my plants back after a 2 month hiatus! Stay tuned for more growing news. Aloha.




Nothing Dies


Throughout the life of this blog there has been an unsung hero; ever present, always helping. My mom has shared our life, our home, our garden chores, our cooking, our bug problems, our garden box building and our son’s growth every single day for the past four years.  She even got a short debut on the blog back in 2012. 

Six months ago she found out she had stage four lung cancer, and on Sunday May 11th, 2014, she passed over to the Other Side.

It was a short six months of brutal battle that has left us all with scars. She was 56.

I have always felt that my plants are a reflection of how I’m doing inside. If they are strong and growing, I know I’m doing ok. If they are dying, I’m usually a mess.  And right now, it’s a hot mess out there…yet there’s all this life peeking out. I’m the same.


An overgrown hot mess…but there’s goodies underneath.

My mom always was game for all my mad experiments. I wanted to make vegan “bacon” out of long squash and call it BLTs…she was waiting by the oven for them to come and sing my praises, even if it was awful.  (That time it was good…other times, not so much, like the pineapple jam disaster) :-)

She was always the first to head out to the garden in the morning and check to see if any tomatoes were red. Between her and my son, not many ever made it back to the kitchen. Tomato snacking was a favorite pastime.

She fed our chickens, helped clip their wings and imparted her wisdom on all of our projects. She had knowledge she didn’t even know she had. As soon as I would start doing something she was always chiming in with just tidbits of information until I would say, “Have you done this before?” And sure enough, she had. So why re-invent the wheel? Just ask Mema (my son’s name for her.)

The garden on the side of the house was one of the last things she was around to help with. We set up the shade tent for her outside while we dug in the soil, planted seedlings and marigolds, her favorite.  That spot is overgrown now, filled with grass…yet there’s still a bunch of food waiting to be plucked.

Plucking red strawberries

Plucking red strawberries

So much of our garden has been neglected over the past six months of newborn care and cancer battle. I don’t feel bad about it, the people were the priorities. Sorry plants. While mom went for radiation treatments for tumors in her brain and on her spine, I nursed a baby and read Naturopathic Oncology, The Gerson Therapy, Healing with Whole Foods and about six other books on healing your body with foods. It wasn’t for nothing. The juicing and supplements she did while at home made her feel better, gave her strength, and gave me, the caregiver, something to feel like I was doing something.

Because I think a gardeners hands need to be busy. I needed to feel I was doing something to help her, and she let me do that.

My son and I spent some time in the gardens this morning, talking about the life cycle. When a plant dies, where does it go? It’s seeds are likely picked up by birds and transported somewhere else, where a new one is started. The ones we harvest, nourish us. The roots and leaves decompose, become soil, and nourish new plants. The plant is never “gone.”


The belief that nothing is permanent is healing and peaceful to me. Nothing is born, nothing dies. The whole of the cosmos has come together to make that tomato manifest. If the plant dies or the fruit falls off, it’s not gone. It changes form. You might see it again in a new spot with better conditions.

I was with my mom every single day for the last 2 months of her life and I was with her when her spirit left her body. But she is far from gone. I feel her every single day. Her voice interrupts my internal dialogue. She makes lights flicker at coffee shops. She talks to me in my dreams. She has manifested in new and interesting ways…butterflies hatched from their chrysalis on the day she passed, purple hibiscus bloomed finally, and our overgrown garden is filled with life. I may ask her if she could help us out with that slug problem…as little Divine intervention would be great.



I see her in my children, the best things I’m growing. I will always see her in marigolds.  I will always see her in tomatoes, because she loved them and because she taught me how to can them with my grandpa.  I will also always smile when I see rosemary, because she hated it.

I will keep her desert rose flowers blooming as best I can.

She is here.



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Broccoli Mac n “Cheese”

When friends give you avocados, you never turn them down. Even if your fridge runneth over with avocado, or you’ve already made enough guacamole to feed a small country or your nearly-5 year old says, “Not sliced avocado again!!” at snack time.

You just find new and ingenious ways to ingest them. And to trick others into eating them too.

I give you: Creamy Broccoli Mac and Cheese (makes two very generous portions)

All the creamy goodness...none of the cheese!

All the creamy goodness…none of the cheese!

So simple it’s ridiculous.

Put water on to boil water for pasta.

While you wait for that, chop up about 1.5 cups fresh broccoli.  And make the “cheese” sauce.

Boil the pasta (about one cup dry) for about 2-3 minutes, then toss in the broccoli for the remainder to blanch it. Drain all together. Mix in the cheese sauce.

Garnish with Smoked Paprika. (Especially if you liked bacon as an omnivore, I can’t recommend this spice enough…put it on everything. Trust me) :-)


“Cheese” sauce- Blend all this together:

1 avocado

1/2 cup nutritional yeast

1 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp turmeric

About 1/4 cup non dairy milk, or more to thin it out

Enjoy this with one episode of Clifford the Big Red Dog for a peaceful, mom approved lunch. :-)


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Chickpea Burgers with Kale

So much kale…what to do?! Harvest it, clean it up, chop, steam & pile it high on these chickpea burgers….so yummy.


Kid approved, as anything on a bun usually is. Also added some vegan cheese & a dollop of marinara sauce.


Chickpea burgers are from Happy Herbivore Light and Lean. They are an easy go-to at our house and remind me of those frozen chicken patties from our junk food days. So comforting on a rainy yucky day!



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