What’s next for me?

If I had a pizza for every time I’ve been told this:

“You need to write a book.”

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When I abruptly left the ministry, I assured everyone that I was not retiring in the typical sense of the word. My reply to those who expressed dismay at my no longer serving as a pastor was that I was confident the Lord had another career for me. I told them I intended to continue to serve my fellow Christians, but I didn’t know what shape that would take.

That was 2014. At the time, other than talking to a handful of church leaders, I could not speak about my gender dysphoria. Thus, I had to remain vague about what I hoped to do after leaving the ministry. But, already then—during the period when I had no idea whether I would be able to hold on as a male or would attempt transitioning—I was confident that I would eventually go public regarding my gender issues.

Why? I was going to be public about it for exactly the reason I learned by having done so in 2015, because the world was in the dark about gender dysphoria, and because I found the Christian Church, and especially my Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, to be completely unequipped to work compassionately with trans persons.

I knew that I wanted to do two things. First, I endeavored to write my life story, with the emphasis on my gender issues and all that I have learned and experienced. Second, I was determined to get to a point where I could make presentations to Christians, to educate them about transgender matters.

I am pleased to report that my plan is taking shape. In September, I reached important stages toward the two goals. Indeed, they were in themselves goals realized.

  • I have completed the first draft of my book—forty-nine chapters and more than 100,000 words.
  • I have made my first transgender education presentation to a church group.

“Riding a Roller Coaster through a Hurricane”

The working title of my book is borrowed from Julie’s description of my life in 2013. She said, “You are like a chrysalis that is riding a roller coaster through a hurricane.” In this, she captured how fragile I was as I lived through a most tumultuous time.

Having written my life’s story, I have a first draft done. Two friends are reading it, providing feedback, looking for errors and anything helpful they can provide. I am also reading it, searching for errors and looking for ways I can improve the text, either through addition (especially things I forgot to write) or subtraction.

The next step is the tough one. Should I pursue publishers, submitting a book proposal? Or would I be wise to search out a literary agent? Or should I go straight for self-publishing? Julie and I don’t have much money to spend, so that will temper anything I do.

I could use your concrete assistance.

I have read up on how to write a book proposal, seek a literary agent, and self-publish. Where I am lacking is connections. The saying was created because of the truth it contains, that it’s not what you know but who you know. If you know a literary agent who might be interested in my story, please reach out to me. If you have connections with a publisher which could be the right one for my book, please contact me.

I truly am in need. This task is daunting to me. I will proceed because I believe in my story, find it one that needs to be told in detail, and hope that the book can open doors to the education I want to do.

Transanswers

My desire is to educate, whoever and wherever. My first hope is to give my Transanswers presentation to Christians, either to congregations or to pastors.  I have three versions of it—one for Christian lay folks, one for ministers, and one for a secular setting, such as the workplace.

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During my first presentation of Transanswers.

Four weeks ago, I had my first opportunity, presenting at a local church. I am pleased to report that it was well received. The folks paid close attention during my just-over-an-hour talk—no one drifted to looking at a phone, which is today’s ultimate test!—and then they had numerous excellent questions, so many that we did not have time to cover all of them.

Three ministers were in attendance, the resident pastor and two retired ones. One of the retired pastors wrote to me that he found my presentation to be “educational, inspirational, and courageous.”

If you are in the Indianapolis area and have interest in my presentation, please contact me. If you are farther away and would like me to come to your place, I bet we can make it happen.

Moving forward

I continue to feel great. I’ve not had even the tiniest blip of gender issues.

In mid October, I have a meeting scheduled with an important church official. I am hoping good things come from that, getting my foot in the door to educate pastors.

I have one Transanswers lined up for a group of pastors, but because of full schedules I wasn’t able to be fit in until next spring.

Even as I work on getting my book published, I intend to write a book specifically for pastors, to help them in understanding gender dysphoria and ministering to transgender Christians.

I am sixty-one years old. I have all of the passion I had when I was a young man. I am raring to go.

Bring on career number three!

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Kavanaugh: how I would vote

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I watched most of the September 27 testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh. I have listened to and read a lot of commentary regarding it.

I went into it with the attitude that Dr. Ford had the burden of making her case, that Judge Kavanaugh was innocent unless and until proven guilty. That is how I am, all the time, no matter the situation.

As I watched Dr. Ford, I found her credible. From her opening statement, to how she handled herself, to the answers she provided, her words and demeanor rang out with truthfulness. She was downright admirable.

I paid attention for holes in her story. While I wanted her to have a few more details, those she lacked all were reasonable for an event that happened so many years ago. Those she retained were the ones I believed that, had I suffered a similar incident, I would have retained.

As she spoke, I continually heard myself thinking, “I believe her.”

Here came the judge. Where some have found the strong emotions of his opening statement to be over the top, I saw them as fitting a person who was wrongly accused. I could see myself acting the same way, showing both tears and anger.

I felt that he spoke too long and covered some things that seemed unfitting, yet nothing he said in his opening statement harmed my opinion of him.

As he spoke, I continually heard myself thinking, “I believe him.”

And then came the questions.

For a professional, with many years of experience as a person who is tremendously challenged to make his case, I found him wanting. Perhaps, he was frazzled. Clearly, he was ticked off. He was upset. If this is what got him off his game, so be it. It harmed him.

When they went to the first break, I thought his wife and others would point out to him where he had blundered with some of his responses, and he would not make the same mistakes going forward. If they counseled him, he did not show it. He did not improve. He got worse.

In the first section of questioning, I found him slightly evasive when answering questions about drinking. He went from answering them quite straightforward to fudging a bit. Then, he began asking his questioners whether they drink. When, to the woman senator, who spoke of her father’s alcoholism, he pressed her, “Do you drink?” And, as she tried to ask her question he jumped in again, “Do you drink?” I was offended by him. I couldn’t look at the TV. I begged for him to stop.

To the FBI probe question, why did he never directly answer this? In his opening statement, he swore he was telling the truth. He was all in. Thus, he should have showed himself all in when asked the FBI question. His “I’m here” response, and his “The FBI only provides information, not conclusions” were not satisfying.

The FBI could wind up providing important information. Mark Judge, at the very least, hangs out there as one to be interviewed at length and in great detail. Kavanaugh’s responses regarding him degraded into deflecting. If Kavanaugh were telling the truth, he should have said, “Go talk with Mark Judge.”

I am sure I am not the first to catch the awaiting pun, that in this case the key witness is the other Judge.

The longer Kavanaugh’s questioning went on, the more I wanted it to stop. Does he get belligerent when he is drunk? That he was regularly edging toward belligerence in his back and forth with the Democrats had me thinking that if he is prone to getting drunk then I can see him being an obnoxious drunk.

Did Christine Ford prove her case? No. All of her evidence, as compelling and believable as it is, cannot be corroborated. Even her reason for needing two front doors—which I, with you, found fascinating—does not prove anything against Brett Kavanaugh. Something else could be behind that, even though she said that she has suffered no other significant traumas.

Did Brett Kavanaugh prove his case? No. About the only way he could have done that would be if he had a firm alibi that he was somewhere else. As enlightening was his calendar, the lack of the gathering being recorded in his calendar does not prove that he was somewhere else.

What, then, decides this? It’s how Kavanaugh handled himself with the Democrats, both in his demeanor and in how he answered the FBI and drinking questions.

If I were on the Senate judiciary committee, I believe that I would find myself voting no. Until yesterday, I was a yes.

Brett Kavanaugh failed the vital test of keeping his head, consistently demonstrating respect, and providing concise answers which directly answered the questions. No matter how much he felt he’s being smeared—even if he is indeed being smeared—it was incumbent upon him to keep his wits and remain respectful.

I am with Christine Ford because when it came to being a person showing herself or himself with the demeanor of a person I want on the Supreme Court, she is the one who demonstrated it.

I have no idea what happened at the gathering. Before yesterday, I sided with Brett Kavanaugh. After yesterday, I am with Dr. Ford.

Lord, have mercy upon our nation, that we don’t rip ourselves asunder over this.

Robert had a double mastectomy

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He didn’t have cancer. Or any other health issue. The breast tissue was healthy. But it had to go.

It was too much for Robert (not his real name) to succeed at living as a male, to have these now too large breasts, which, ironically, grew so large because he was doing everything he could do to remain a male.

I wrote about Robert in Using HRT to remain male.

In 2016, Robert contacted me, having found my blog. He suffered gender dysphoria. Married, with young children, and a Christian of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod  (my former church body), he found that he simply could not transition to female.

He called this desire to be a female “the alluring call of femininity.” Down deep, he wanted to answer the call. But, he knew, as with the siren song of Greek mythology, answering the call would only dash his entire life upon the rocks of being transgender—the rocks upon which so many trans folks have been unfairly crushed.

He had learned of a man, who had gone on hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which people take for the purpose of transitioning, but this man was using it to alter his hormone levels so as to remove, or at least lessen, his gender dysphoria. It was working for the man, so Robert went on HRT.

The idea is that hormone levels, which are typical for a male, are out of whack for some men. So, perhaps, if a guy doesn’t have so much testosterone coursing through his body, and, perhaps, a bit more estrogen, he would feel better. I call it “the sweet spot.”

I liken this to a person who suffers depression, who never experiences total relief while on depression medication. There is fluctuation. Good days and rough days. The need to change dosage. Riding it out. It can be hard to find the sweet spot. It can be hard to remain in the sweet spot.

Robert texts me every few months. This is what he has described, in and out of the sweet spot But, he continually informs me, he’s succeeding in silencing the alluring call of femininity.

Of course, he knew his breasts were going to grow. The other effects of lowering his testosterone and raising his estrogen—softer skin, some fat deposits shifting, body hair becoming more sparse (it’s different for everyone; as the saying goes: your mileage may vary)—likely would never be noticed. But, growing breasts? Those are hard to hide. Of this, I know.

As trans men do, who have not had top surgery, he bound his chest. This works to hide the breasts, but it is tremendously uncomfortable, and even dangerous if the breasts are bound too tightly, and for too long. Robert reported that at times he almost couldn’t breathe. And, of course, the larger the breasts grow, the tighter the binding needs to be.

For Robert, it had to stop. He talked to his doctor about having his breasts removed.

Softly, the sirens sang. They called to Robert, “If you have your breasts removed, it will be that much harder to transition should you ever decide to.” This is my translation of how Robert put it, that there was this little part of him which was mourning the thought of surgically removing his breasts.

He moved forward. He set the date. Two weeks ago, he had a double mastectomy.

Last week, he told me that he is healing well. The surgeon is pleased with the outcome. Robert would be back to work by the time I posted this.

As one who longs to have his breasts removed (this post isn’t about me, so more on that another time), I can easily imagine that Robert now dresses for work and moves about in the world with renewed ease. No more painful binding. No more wondering if people are noticing his chest. Looking like the regular guy he longs to be.

The Lord be with you, my friend, that you are able to continue, to be strong, to steer clear of the rocks on which the sirens would dash you.

For those who are able to transition and it works for them—which means it also works for their family, and for every situation it affects—I am pleased with them, that they have found health and wholeness. For those who do not want to transition or feel they cannot, I am pleased with them when, as with Robert, they can find a way to health and wholeness in their birth sex.

Thank you, Robert, for sharing your story with me, that I might share it with others, that others might be served in their battle with this cursed gender dysphoria.

Garden Spotlight: Compost

Six.  That is the number of places I have lived for more than one year.  It’s also the number of places I have kept a compost pile.

Thanks, Dad.

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Pile.  That’s the word for it.  No matter the way one’s kitchen-, garden-, and yard refuse is kept—such as seen, below, as I now toss it inside some fencing—it’s a compost pile.

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Last autumn, after I rototilled back yard leaves into my garden, I tossed the rest onto my compost pile.  By spring, they had reduced by half.  After using them two times in my composter, they were almost gone.  When I empty and refill the composter this autumn, the bin will be empty and ready for this year’s leaves.

Don’t let this short-of-glorious word, pile, give any less than impressive impressions, because what eventually emerges from the pile is worth more than its weight in pizza.

Tending the pile as Dad used to—which was the way I did it until some friends offered the composter, seen in the photos, which they no longer used—occasionally turning it over, introducing air and moisture to what is underneath, produced black, rich, decomposed matter in a year.

Using the composter, I have been getting three loads a year.  I snapped the shot, below, after refilling the composter in August, only the second time I took from it after filling it to the brim last autumn.

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What goes on the pile?

All of our kitchen scraps, including coffee grounds (filter, too) and egg shells, go into the bucket that we keep under the sink.  No meat, fat, dairy, or mixed matter goes into it.

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“Doesn’t it smell?”  I’ve received that question many times.  Because it’s all vegetable matter, it does not create a stink.  Rarely, when working at my compost pile, do I smell anything.

There are other items which I do not compost.  From the garden, I don’t put in full plants when they are done producing.  Yes, they will decompose, but because of their size and composition—many stalks have a woody quality—they take too long to break down.  I also do not compost flower plants.

I do not put oak leaves on my pile.  While I have recently learned that they are not as acidic as I had been told years ago, they decompose slowly.  So, the leaves from our front yard oak get bagged and hauled away.  Our back yard has two maples, a beech, and a tulip tree, and those leaves decompose nicely.  In the autumn, I cover the garden with a few inches of them and rototill them in.  When I rototill in the spring, they are almost totally broken down and mixed into the soil.  The rest of the leaves go on the compost pile to get mixed in with the vegetable matter.

Why bother with composting?

When I got my own home, my first garden already existed.  The woman had been known for her lovely yard.  I was the happy inheritor of her good work and the healthy soil she maintained.  Dad suggested where my compost could go, and I was on my way.

Every other place I have lived, I have had to create my garden from the lawn.  The soil has ranged from pretty decent, to quite hard, to a lot of clay.  After rototilling it many times, I was able to garden in it, but it needed a boost.

Decomposed vegetable matter does many good things.  It is lighter in nature, so when it is mixed with dirt it helps loosen it and keep it from getting so hard.  This requires patience; the process takes several years.  I had thirteen years of gardens in Port Hope.  Man, did I have that soil in great condition.

I did a test this year, to prove to myself how much help my composted material provides.  Last year, my potatoes did not do well.  The plants and spuds did not grow large, and many of the potatoes were poorly shaped.  The ground was too hard.  This year, I dug extra large holes for the seed potatoes and plopped in a nice amount of compost—which looked exactly like the stuff, below—and then placed the seed into it.

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Before I ever dug a spud, I was confident that my trick had worked because the plants grew tall and thick, as I was used to them doing.  And, sure enough, each plant gave me a good number of potatoes, many of which were nice and large.

The other important reason for putting decomposed material into one’s garden is the number of nutrients provided.  Nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium are the three major nutrients.  Thus, compost provides natural fertilizer.

You need not be vegetable gardener to benefit from composting.  Any gardens—and what homeowner doesn’t have flowers and shrubs adoring their yard?—will benefit.  One can keep a small compost pile in an out-of-the-way spot in the yard.  It takes little maintenance and little space.

If you are a conscientious recycler of plastics and such, think of composting as recycling vegetable scraps.  That’s exactly what it is, recycling what came from the earth back to the earth.

Not only do you receive benefit, it’s good for the world.

August 19, one last time

It was on this date, in 2015, when I went public that I was six weeks into the Real Life Test of living as a female to see whether it calmed the fire in my brain and if I could succeed in the world as a woman.

On both the first and second anniversaries, I posted photos to show the progress I was making, the evolution of myself.  With the biggest change of all occuring in me this year, it seems a final post is in order.

Before I get to that, I have a fun quiz for you.

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Trivia Time:

What do Clark Kent and Superman, and Gina and Greg have in common?  Two clues are tucked between the photos.  The answer is revealed at the end of the post.

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November, 2011: before I crashed with gender dysphoria:

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CLUE #1: Clark/Superman and Greg/Gina each have their parting ways.

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August 19, 2015: the transition begins:

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August 19, 2016: do you see a difference from 2015?

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August 19, 2017: the final one before my face surgery in November.

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CLUE #2: when Superman and Greg make a spectacle of themselves, they cease making a spectacle upon themselves.

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November 22, 2017: facial feminization surgery day.

Christmas, 2017: healing from surgery, this is the new me.  Gina is ready for 2018 . . . she thinks.

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In January of 2018, I had cataract surgery.  It went so well, I no longer needed glasses, making the Christmas photo all the more appropriate, when I had Julie take some pics of me without my glasses.

At the time of the eye procedure, I was in the early days of my identity shift, of which you now know the story.

August 15, 2018: three months into living full time as Greg.

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Trivia Time Answer:

Since all online photos of Clark Kent and Superman are copyrighted, I can’t copy them to post here.  You can easily find them, or you likely recall the parting ways and spectacle of the two clues.

Clark Kent and Superman part their hair on opposite sides.  So do Greg and Gina.  Did you ever catch that?

Clark Kent wears glasses, while Superman . . . well, he wouldn’t be super with glasses!  Gina wore glasses and, now feeling like a super man—and with the aid of cataract surgery—Greg does not.  Now, to acquire that Xray vision thing . . .

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A final side-by-side look nicely closes this monumental chapter of my life:

She-Nana-gans with Lou and Puppy

Thanksgiving, 2013, Jackie, our daughter in Indianapolis, and her two children, Oliver and Margot, drove to Port Hope for the weekend, to spend the holiday with Nana and Poppa.

On Sunday, Oliver, then six years old, absentmindedly left behind his beloved stuffed animals, Lou and Puppy.

Nana, knowing how desperate a child can be for his “stuffties,” set out to comfort Oliver until we would meet up with Jackie, Oliver, and Margot, a few days before Christmas.

Every day, Nana took a photo of Lou and Puppy, which included a fitting caption, to show Oliver that his loved ones were doing well.  Each day, Julie—er, Nana—tagged Jackie on Facebook, so that she could show Oliver.

The photos are in chronological order.  The captions are what Julie posted on Facebook.  The level of she-Nana-gans increases as the days grow long.

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Reading with Poppa.
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Making PlayDoh creations.
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Lou and Puppy are caught trying to sneak some turkey.
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The dogs felt very sleepy after all the turkey they ate, so they settled in for a nap. Yes, Lou sleeps with his eyes open.
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Well-behaved Lou and Puppy sit in on Pastor Poppa’s religion class.
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Naughty puppies! Lou and Puppy abuse their copier privileges taking photocopies of their paw prints.
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The puppies sweat it out on the elliptical machine.
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Doc McStuffpuppy to the rescue!
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Although they’d much rather be watching cat videos, Lou and Puppy find Shrek to be a worthy substitute.
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Their reputation as premier foot surgeons preceding them, Doc McStuffpuppies Lou and Puppy are invited to the hospital to oversee Poppa’s operation. Make sure you get the right foot, you two!  (Yes, I really was hospitalized.  I had toe surgery.  That cagey Julie is never one to miss out on a photo op!)
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Lacking opposable thumbs, Lou kept dropping the soap.
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Sometimes the dogs forget they are stuffed animals. “Lou! Puppy! Mind your manners!”
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“We are Lou & Puppy, and we approve this message.”
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An exasperated Poppa has to wait in line for a cup of coffee (aka, early risers Lou & Puppy get first crack at java).
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After waiting patiently on the roof for an hour, Lou & Puppy are rewarded when Poppa finally steps outside to a “snow shower.”
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After yesterday’s prank, Poppa tried to mail Lou & Puppy back to Oliver, but they must have bribed the postal service to let them stay a little longer.
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About to hand over the car keys to Lou & Puppy, Poppa realizes just in time that neither one of them can reach the brake pedal.
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Poppa is vexed by Lou & Puppy because:
A. They committed treason.
B. They refused to share their lunch.
C. They blew their cover as Starbucks spies.
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Lou & Puppy, eagerly awaiting Olly’s arrival . . .
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Reunited at last!

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Garden Spotlight: Sun and Shade

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Our back yard is one shady customer.

I should stop being surprised when someone asks me whether vegetables can grow in shade, a question I have received many times.

Perhaps, folks look at the many flowers, ground covers, and bushes and shrubs, which do well in shade, and transfer this to vegetables.  I get that reasoning.  With veggies, though, it doesn’t apply.

Generally, your vegetable garden should receive sun from morning till evening.  Specifically, it can get by with six hours of midday sun.  Some cooler-weather-loving types—think greens and root crops—do okay with fewer than six hours.

The reason I put my garden in the front yard is because our back yard is far too shaded.  Our first year here, I put in a small garden on the west end of the back yard, as a test.  The spot doesn’t get full sun until after mid-afternoon.  It was not good enough.  Everything grew very spindly.

In the spring of 2016, I rototilled a strip in front of our house.  In both 2017 and 2018, I extended it a few more feet into the yard.

The 2016 garden extended too far to the east.  I planted corn on that end, and the first row received too much shade.  The stalks in that row were short and never grew decent ears.  I cut the garden back from the east by three feet.

I took the photos, below, at 10:00 a.m., on August 8.  The west end, where the tomatoes are, had been in the sun for under an hour.  Our neighbor’s tree keeps the east end shaded until 10:30 or so.

The east end remains in the sun until late afternoon, thus giving it at least six hours of midday sun.  This year and last, everything I planted on that end grew very well.

The west end faces a situation that I did not encounter until this year, with the garden a few feet more toward the street.  The next photo was taken at 3:00 p.m.  Note the shade has landed upon the tomatoes and the entire west end.  This is not good!

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Here’s the weird part, which has been a lesson for me, never to forget as long as that oak is there.  The arc of the shade only glances over the back half of the garden.  My watermelons are nearest the house.  Next to them was my corn, then a row of peppers, then the tomatoes.  The shade remains over the back side of the garden for way less time than it does over the front.  The watermelons have grown great.

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The photo, above, was taken around 3:00 p.m, on July 22.  Looking at the four corn rows, from left to right, see how the corn grew according to the sun/shade mix.  The row closest to the house grew tallest, and that corn was ready first.  Each row, moving toward the tomatoes, was a little shorter, and the corn was ready a few days later in each successive row.  The row closest to the corn produced fewer good ears of corn.

In all of these photos, note the size of the tomato plants.  With how well my garden grew this year, they should be to the top of the cages, with their branches completely filling the cages.

It took me until mid-July to figure out the reason they are so small.  I stuck those tomatoes in a bad spot.  They get too much shade, not enough midday sun.  Last year, that chunk of ground was grass, I wasn’t growing there, and too much shade didn’t dawn on me.

The sun returns in the very late afternoon, and the tomatoes get enough total sunshine to be growing and bearing fruit, but I stunted their potential.  So far, I’ve gathered perhaps six quarts of tomatoes.  Easily, I would be at twenty quarts by now.

Lesson learned.  Next year, I will likely place spinach or kale there.  I rotate my crops, never putting the same thing in a spot until at least the third year, so I’ll have to be mindful.

Anyone putting in the time and effort to grow vegetables wants to harvest a good crop.  Placing your garden where it gets plenty of midday sunshine is one of a handful of keys to success.

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Here’s my best proof that the back of the garden gets plenty of sun.  This is our first watermelon of the year.  My granddaughter was impressed with its size and potential sweetness, but not with the seeds.  She set out to remove them by hand.