Author Archives: Darcy Cronin

About Darcy Cronin

I'm a Mother/Coach/Blogger/Business Adventurer from Portland OR. My family consists of my Hubby of 12 years, our 8yo Kieran, 5yo Makenna, and 1yo Teagan. I love dreaming about a better future, and making it happen.

Berry Abundant – Edible Landscape Design

Abundant garden strawberries

As the 4th of July approaches, I’m always reminded to take stake of what matters.

To me, that means berries.

In July 2000, when Hubby and I first moved in together in a converted three-bay garage on Ladd’s Circle, our landlords happened to be going out of town for the holiday weekend. So, they offered us the chance to forage blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries from their amazing back yard. We had berries with breakfast each morning and berries with ice cream each evening. The brilliant mix of red, white, and blue felt as patriot as you could get. W hen I lived in Denmark, my host family would harvest a bowl of strawberries every day for weeks…to be served with cream and a dash of sugar. I’ve always aspired to these two berry-benchmarks.

So, when we hired Alissa and Dreya at Seed Garden Designs to create a landscape design for us, creating an abundant edible landscape was my top priority. Their plan indeed does include all our favorite berries, plus several columnar apple trees.

While we haven’t implemented the whole plan yet (we’re on a 3-5 schedule), we have already started to reap the benefits of the the plan. Over the spring, we used the Seed Garden Design plan to remove multiple small trees and shrubs. This included a Camellia shaded the raspberry row that was trying it’s best to grow the neighbors fence, and it dumped wilted flowers into the strawberry bench. As a result, neither our strawberry or raspberry harvest were much to speak of it. I’m happy to report that we’ve now been harvesting bowls and bowls of berries.

Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for our blueberry harvest. It’s still minimal at best, and we’re planning to try to revive the soil in the fall and/or replace them with new plants by next season. Life is too short for blueberry plants that don’t produce. In the mean time, we’re looking forward to a trip to our family friend’s organic blueberry farm on the McKenzie, Mohawk River Blueberries. They are plump and delicious, and will fill our freezer for the next year…yum!

On a side note, I was naturally intrigued by the recent Oregonian Home and Gardens article on the top eleven books on edible gardening.

Does your garden focus on edible berries?

Sustainable Family Finances
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Update on Kiva Experiment

Faith Group from Tanzania

In January, I shared about a new experiment of mine: loaning $1,000 in micro-loans through Kiva. I’ve continued to relend the money, and in less than six months I’ve almost doubled the amount of loans, lending out another $900 with the original seed money.

I started lending money through Kiva two years ago when I gave a $25 loan to my Dad and Father. While I started pretty small, I’ve been able to relend and relend the money over and over again. At this point I only relend $100 at a time, and I’ve now provided 23 micro-loans, totaling $1850. I’ve experience 0% default and 0% delinquency. Six of the loans have been repaid in full, and remainder are still repaying them.

I’ve funded people in Bolivia, Guatemala, Ecuador, El Salvador, Peru, Mexico, Kenya, Tanzania, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Palestine, and even the United States. I lent the most in Africa, since I have a soft heart for my sister’s work there, and the most has gone to Kenya and The DRC. The group above is my most recent loan, I loved the photo with the nursing mom!

Have you started lending with Kiva?
Use this link to lend your first $25 for free!

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Missing Rings = Insurance Claim

Pumpkin carving 2010, rare photo showing both rings…

Close friends of mine know that earlier this spring, my wedding rings disappeared after an emergency surgery. My platinum wedding ring and 20’s era heirloom diamond engagement ring, and another heirloom ring that was made from a spoon by a Great Aunt during the depression were inexplicably lost at the surgery center.

After I got over the grief of loosing these irreplaceable items (which took a good month), I finally took everyone’s advice and went through the steps of reporting them as stolen and filing an insurance claim. In the process, Traveler’s naturally wanted proof that these jewels existed…this was surprisingly difficult.

At one point many years ago I took up-close photos of my rings for insurance purposes, but somehow after switching laptops several times and loosing some photos in a melted motherboard, I wasn’t able to locate any close-up photos. The best photos I had were distant shots of me signing our wedding certificate and another of me in a family photo in Denmark. Note to readers: take a photo of your valuables today!

I also needed to find a receipt, and deep in our old filing cabinet, I discovered that we do in fact still have copies of checks and financial records from 10 years ago! I need to write another post on this, because it was fascinating to see what our financial life was like just ten years ago. I had almost completely forgotten that for two years of working temporary/part-time/hostessing I barely brought in enough to pay my minimal bills…

Back to the rings, I told myself ages ago that I would get an appraisal for the heirloom jewelry, but I never did. I know they were more valuable the covered by our basic insurance. While I’m somewhat satisfied to have gotten our maximum of $1500, the truth is that I still bring myself to purchase any “replacement” rings. Our 10th wedding anniversary is coming up in August, so I’m hoping to feel inspired to get a new ring. Until then, my hands will feel naked and I’ll always wonder what really happened to my rings…

Have you ever had stolen/missing jewelry?

Sustainable Family Finances
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

A Woman with a Garden Plan

Dreya and Alissa, permaculture designers extraordinaire

My favorite season has a officially begun; the season of eating outdoors whenever possible. This evening we had salmon burgers on our patio’s red picnic table, and it felt like our little private paradise. I t’s hard to not feel madly in love with my yard this time of year. I spend as much time as physically possible there, and seem to savor the exhaustion at the end of the day. I love watching our kids’ rake and dig and play, washing off their mud at the end of the day.

And yet, even though in my estimation our yard is maybe 80% close to being complete, I obsess about the final 20%. After three full years of puttering around with various design ideas, I finally decided that it was time to hire some professional landscape designers. While I’m already fairly educated, having taken a permaculture design course in graduate school, the truth is that I could never seem to develop a wholistic design. I’ve wanted to clear out several bushes and holly tree, and Hubby always wanted a definitive “plan” before doing so (at our old place I did make a full permaculture plan, so I could never seem to find/make the time, plus there were some problematic areas where I really needed a second/third opinion). More importantly, without this illusive plan, I could never get Hubby’s buy off to purchase more than about a $100 of plants at a time. So, when we finally had some extra cash, I new a garden design was at the very top of my wish list.

I searched for permaculture designers, and was excited to find a small company of two women about my age doing landscape design and installation. Seed Garden Design has a philosophy that I aspire to as well, and just from checking out their beautiful before/after photos, I had a strong feeling that I had found the right duo to fulfill my garden dreams. They were truly a pleasure to work with, and they met with Hubby and I to gain a deeper understanding of how we want to use the outdoor space and what we view as beautiful.

Throughout the design process we met three times: first to determine the scope of the design, second to discuss likes/dislikes, and third to reveal the final design. We also had a bit of homework between sessions to help them assess our likes/dislikes better. I ended up deciding to do the full design for our front and back yards, which is a larger lot than most in Portland. The design cost $1550, and I feel it was worth it.

I love having a full vision for my yard/garden. I can finally see its full potential, and can hardly wait to see it come into reality. We most want our yard to be kid-friendly and ready to entertain/enjoy. Plus, we want to produce more and more veggies/fruit from our garden. I also have a dream of having our yard in some type of local garden tour, so we have high hopes for our little paradise.

We plan to pace ourselves though, and it will probably take 4-5 years to implement the full design. I bought $120 of native plants at Audubon’s native plant sale this weekend, and it felt so great to have my plant list in hand, knowing each plant had a destined place. I felt like a women on a mission…

Since I’m admittedly more inspired by plants than our finances lately, I’ll soon share some specifics of the design…which really rocks, by the way! I’ve also stared a new “permaculture garden” tag to help you find other related posts in the future.

Does your yard/garden have a plan?
How much is your yard/garden worth investing to you?

Sustainable Family Finances
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Olivia Beach Camp Cabins

I haven’t written much this year, and I have two goods reason. We’ve been working swiftly toward our dream of owning a beach rental we’re actually building two camp cabins at Olivia Beach! So, we’ve been really busy setting up deal, and I didn’t want to jinx us by writing anything before a contract was signed and our 10% down.

But before I get into the recent details, I’d like to share the back story of how this became our dream…

Not long after Hubby and I met, he shared his dream of wanting to own a beach house by age 50. It sounded like a great dream, but I was skeptical that we’d be able to pull it off in that time frame. He was still in graduate school, without a solid career, and I was piling up college loans. Regardless, I happily agreed to the goal, and have been secretly dreaming of our beach house ever since.

Early on Hubby also shared with me his passion for New Urbanism, and the concept of designing communities around people, not cars, really appealed to me. I was pretty sure that I could never see myself living in suburbia, but a New Urbanism community would be a different story altogether.

Then, a few years ago, Hubby heard about some New Urbanism communities being developed on the Oregon and Washington coast. We visited Bella Beach and Olivia Beach when they were breaking ground, even though we weren’t actually anticipating ever being able to purchase…we were secretly a little jealous.

So, when we received our family inheritance, I couldn’t help but think back to our deepest seeded dream of owning a beach house. I also knew that we still couldn’t afford it on our own, so I proposed to my Twin Sis and our Aunt that we go in on a venture together. After visiting Olivia Beach, and weighing between buying a single house or two small cabins, we eventually settled on the “camp cabins.” It turned out that our timing couldn’t have been better, and they had just proposed the option of building small 1 bedroom/1 loft cottages.

There were lots of factors that swayed us toward the cabin option (even though two was a bigger investment than a single 2 bedroom house), and one of the reasons is that there are only planned to be four cabins. Therefore, our cabins will be the most affordable rentals in the whole development. Plus, we really like the “small is beautiful” aesthetic.

We just met with the builder/realtor team this morning, and I’m still pinching myself that we’ll soon be picking out paint colors and will likely be able to stay there for our 10th anniversary this August. Setting up the business, furnishing the places, and marketing them is going to take a lot of my time in the coming months, but I do hope to write more this spring (we’ve also been working on a permaculture garden design!)

What’s your deepest dream?

Sustainable Family Finances
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.