Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Well, I have to admit I have been disgracefully bad in the "post something to your blog already" department. I apologize. I have been overwhelmed. And it's partly because I am a sucker.

Amid the craziness of holiday preparations and kids' schedules, I somehow detoured over to our local animal shelter. It is a dismal place. They try. Really, they do. I know this. I know they are way underfunded, and running almost entirely on volunteer labor. But despite knowing this I avoid the place because it depresses me tremendously. If I could get past this feeling I would volunteer there. But despite knowing I ran the risk of ruining my holiday, somehow I ended up there just the same.

I didn't really intend to bring home another dog. The kids had been talking about one. But I knew it would really have to be the right dog to work in our household. I love Teak; but he can be a bit...difficult. So, I guess you could say I was at the shelter sort of mentally trying on the idea of another dog. And that's when it happened.

Have you ever been picked by a dog? I hadn't. I had heard of it happening; but had never experienced it myself. Luna picked me. And believe me, when it happens, you know you have been picked. But still, I really hadn't intended to go home with a dog, so I didn't.

I went home and thought about it. And the next day I went back and walked the shelter property with the dog they had dubbed Mallory, a name which really didn't suit her at all, as far as I was concerned. This dog gave hugs. She gave kisses. She walked politely by my side. She played. She was the anti-Teak. She loved me and I loved her right back. Still, another dog? Now?

The next day, I took the kids, and Teak, to meet her. She came home with us. It was 3pm. At 9pm, the dog we had rechristened as Luna developed labored breathing, and massive quantities of foul green snot. I took her to the emergency vet. They ran tests. Took pictures of her innards. And then came back to tell me Luna had a horrendous case of pneumonia and a collapsed lung.

Three vet appointments and $1500 later, Luna is doing great! Christmas will be a little slimmer than expected this year. But we have an awesome new addition to our family. Say hello to Luna!

Saturday, November 29, 2008


I have really struggled all week trying to write this post. I have started and stopped several times. How hard can it be to write a Thanksgiving post? Very, apparently.

The problem I have been having is this: When I think of the things for which I am grateful, my head is filled with an endless stream of things. These things run the gamut and I haven't been able to narrow them down to a few categories it would make sense to discuss together. Well, I could... but only at the expense of other things I feel are equally important. What to do?!

Years ago, I had a writing instructor who very cruelly would make her students practice stream-of-conscience writing exercises. I absolutely hated this because if you tell me to write, I can't. (Or perhaps, won't...in an unconscious, born-rebel kinda way.) However (and you will never, ever see me say this again), there are times this particular exercise can be helpful. For example, it could be helpful when trying to express a great many things for which one is grateful... Here goes... Please do try to keep up!

I am thankful I will see my kids again tomorrow and that they have had this week with their dad and his family. I am thankful they are maturing into fine young people who will soon be on their own, and that they are still at home. I am thankful I have been able to be at home with them. I am thankful we have a home and that we feel safe in it. I am thankful I have never known starvation, or the terror of waking to the sounds of bombs exploding nearby in the night. I am thankful I have never had to worry about being killed for having been born into the "wrong" tribe. I am thankful that my own life path has been down a route that does not predispose me to understanding the "rationalization" process that occurred in the minds of the terrorists who attacked Mumbai; and I am thankful to have not experienced the kind of carnage they left behind. I am thankful that all I had to do this week was paint and clean and try to make sense of it all. I am thankful to have had a break, and to have been able to re-group and come up with at least a few answers to "where do we go from here?"- at least on a familial basis. I am thankful that I have realized that the things I really want to give my kids for Christmas are experiences. I am thankful for second chances, and for depression-era grandparents who thought ahead for their family. I am thankful for the help I have recieved over the years, and for the opportunities I have had to "pay it forward." I am thankful for the ability to let my children become who they really are rather than trying to fit them in some predetermined slot. I am crazy thankful for my garden and all the wonder and joy it brings into my life. I am thankful my interests are infinite and for the knowledge I shall never run out of things to do. I am thankful for having some truly wonderful friends. I am thankful for the new friends I've discovered on the blogosphere. I am thankful for humor and the ability to find a few laughs in the myriad things that go wrong around me. I am thankful I do not become paranoid I may be the cause of those things going wrong. I am thankful my kids are smart-asses and not dumb-asses. I am thankful my country managed to put someone reasonable and thoughtful into the White House this time around. I am thankful for flannel sheets in winter. I am thankful for snow, and crisp fall days, and the first forsythia of spring. I am thankful I was able to see the Soviet Union while it still was, and that I can tell my kids stories about that trip. I am thankful for cameras. I am thankful my kids have stamps in their passports, and curious hearts. I am thankful I have a great relationship with my kids. I am thankful their dad and I have learned to get along. I am thankful their dad and I live 1100 miles apart. I am thankful for books, and the ability to read, and the ability to write. I am thankful for the times my thoughts come out the way they sounded in my head. I am thankful for the time Teak races gleefully around, like a puppy. I am thankful none of the appliances have crapped out yet. I am thankful that I can appreciate what I have, and what I don't have. And I am thankful for many, many more things...

Friday, November 28, 2008

Sunroom Happenings

Wow, I can't believe it is almost time to go get the kids already. I have missed them. A lot! But I have also been very busy at home with the endless list of things that should have already been done. So there hasn't been much to post about this week. You didn't really want to hear about painting the living room, did you? I thought not.

So, just a quick post about the sunroom happenings then... The good news: the cherry tomatoes are delicious. The herbs are doing great. The celery is slow growing, but doing well enough that I can harvest a bit now and then. The potato plant has really taken off, although I think one of the stems is getting too long. The radishes seem to be doing well and I should be able to eat some soon. And the banana tree is doing it's thing, despite being wounded by an airsoft pellet passing through one leaf.

The bad news: All of the beans succumbed. I still don't know exactly what disease they had; but I will toss all their soil as a precaution. And the spinach was no match for the kitties, who figured out how to get the wire cage off it so they could romp (and stomp) in the spinach.

I will be starting more seeds soon. But I have a few things to take care of first. I am finding the cost of heating the sunroom to be prohibitive. So I am considering moving some of the plants into the living room/ dining room, and starting the seedlings in the basement, which is actually staying rather warm. So, while nothing is written in stone as yet, the sunroom garden may become the basement and rest-of-the-house garden. We'll see.

Oh, and the worm bin is coming along beautifully. The worms are slowly working their way through the leaves I had added a little while back. They are just about done with them and have turned them into a beautiful bin of black worm poo that I can't wait to feed to the plants. Go worms!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Garden Pics

From top to bottom:

The cherry tomatoes ripening in the sunroom. There is now one less than in the photo as I ate the first one. Yum!

The rest of the pics are a couple weeks old now. The nasturtium were going strong in the garden, but have now been flattened by frost. I will miss them over the winter. They are such a welcoming sight in the garden.

It's not beautiful, but my first ever garlic bed. I planted two types and the early variety has all sprouted. A neighboring cat has dug in the bed a little since the photo was taken. Bad kitty! Shoo!

And last but not least, a shot of the potato plant in the sunroom. It is MUCH larger now! Go potato, go!

Life As I Know It

Let me just say up front that I have learned to really savor the little things in life. For example, the cherry tomatoes growing in the sunroom have begun to ripen. Fresh, homegrown tomatoes mid-November… this is a tiny joy to be relished. Many people wouldn’t get excited over this; but I do. And here’s why…

Today is Saturday, November 22. But we need to rewind my life a little bit, to the week leading up to Halloween. I was sick that week with a head/chest/fevers type thing. For the first time ever, on Halloween I put the candy bowl on the porch and stayed in so as not to share my ick. The day after Halloween, both my kids came down with the ick, and spent the next few days rather unhappily. By November 4, we were all feeling well enough to stay up to watch the presidential election results and Obama’s speech.

The morning of November 5, however, I awoke feeling as if the world was slipping out from under my feet, first one way, and then another. It was vertigo and I had it bad. Bad enough that for the next few days if I tried to do anything that involved not being flat on my back, I would vomit and then silently wish for a swift death. After about a week of vertigo I was able to get up and do things, which was good because while the children had managed to keep us all alive, the house had been trashed to a truly awe-inspiring and unprecedented degree. Although I had just spent a week wishing I could get out of bed, upon surveying the damage all I wanted was to go back to bed, slip my head under the covers, and never, ever come back out.

But, of course, that is not the responsible thing to do. The responsible thing to do is to start cleaning up the disaster, and so I did. One of my first acts was to gather up the great many wayward papers strewn about the upstairs and haul them to the recycling box downstairs. This should have been a fairly straight-forward chore. I gathered up an armload of papers and headed down the stairs, whereupon I put my foot down on an unidentified something (I suspect a kitty toy) that launched out from under my foot. My foot launched out from under me. The papers launched out of my arms. And my body wump-wump-wumped down the stairs on my tailbone. On my downward journey, my glasses flew off, I whacked an elbow on a stair, and knocked an ankle and my neck out of joint. The papers landed on poor Teak, who had been sleeping at the bottom of the stairs. For two days afterward he eyed me warily and slunk away if I approached him. This episode was on November 13 and afterwards I actually did go back to bed for a couple days. I could get around to feed myself and such; but I couldn’t sit, or carry anything. After a couple days, I felt much improved. Not exactly swell, mind you, but if I chose the right spot and the right position I could actually sit for a bit. Plus, I had to prepare to travel a week later. And first on the list was getting the car to the shop for an oil change and check-up.

My mother and I had a deal. I would follow her to the shop and we’d leave her car to have the window fixed- and when that was done we’d leave my car. So she pulls out of her driveway, and I pull into the road behind her, and I smell the strongest gas smell ever. It was so thick in the air I actually started choking on it in my car, and this with the windows shut. Then I saw it. Gasoline was spraying, no, gushing out the bottom of my mother’s car in front of me. She seemed blissfully unaware. When she stopped at a light I ran up and tapped on her window. She’d had no idea. When the light changed we continued on toward the repair shop, and I whipped out my cell phone and called my dad- who had just flow to the opposite coast and would be away for a month. Now, Dad is the go-to guy in our family. He can fix anything and on the off chance he doesn’t have the right supplies and can’t macgyver something, then at the very least he can tell you what’s wrong and what needs to be done. The conversation went like this:
Dad: “Hey there, what’s up?”
Me: “I’m following Mom to Buddy’s…”
Dad: “Oh good, I’m gl-”
There was silence.
Me: “Dad?”
Dad: “I cannot imagine why that would be happening.”
There was silence. That was not a Dad answer.
Dad: “Are you sure it’s gas?”
Me: “Yes. What I really want to know is, is it safe to continue driving the car to the shop?”
Dad: “I don’t know; but I suggest just getting over there as quickly as possible and seeing what Buddy can tell us.”
Me: “Okay. Thanks.”

So, having received these instructions, I hung up just in time to see my mother pulling into a gas station. She…um…got gas…and we continued on our perilous journey. At the last stop light before the repair shop, she pulled into the turn lane- right next to a car with the driver’s window open. I about had a heart attack. It was cold. Who drives with their window open in the cold unless they are smoking?! Apparently (thankfully) there is one guy in Maryland who drives with his window open in the cold even though he’s not smoking. Nobody blew up. It was great! We made our turn, and Mom ran out of gas just as she pulled up in front of Buddy’s shop. By now I imagine you are wondering why her car was spewing gasoline. The answer is… squirrels. ‘Nough said. A couple days later, my car went to the shop in a peaceful, not-at-all-disturbing way and came home with a clean bill of health. Good car. I love you.

The rest of the week was filled with various mundane trip preparations such as laundry and house cleaning, and less mundane but more annoying things such as marveling over how much one cat can barf and how she can make sure to only do it in the one room that still has carpeting. Plus, my laptop died, the dishwasher and clothing dryer have both started sqealing, and now that I have replaced the toilet that ran constantly, my bathroom sink has decided to run constantly. I replaced all the seals, and it was good for a day and is now worse. I was actually beginning to look forward to leaving the whole damn house behind on Friday. Until Thursday morning when my son (who I initially mistook for my daughter) flew out of his bedroom into the bathroom, followed by the sounds of retching. Are you kidding me?!

Well, vomit or no vomit we were leaving Friday morning. Twice a year the kids go to Minnesota to spend time with their Dad and his family. And fortunately, the vomiting was short lived. Which was good, because come Friday morning I was a little short on patience. It was Teak’s fault. He started barking three hours before my alarm was set to go off, and he wouldn’t shut up until I got up and checked out the entire freaking house. Everything was fine. Everything except that I was awake three freaking hours early and now had a dilemma. My body needs a certain contiguous number of hours of sleep to be functional. So, it would seem reasonable to the uninitiated that I should just go back to bed. Unfortunately, I’m not very good at sleeping for short periods of time- if I wake up early, I’m a bear; and then there’s the possibility that I will simply launch the alarm clock into orbit and not get up. This second possibility seemed like a distinct danger Friday morning, but I went back to bed anyway. After all, I had a long drive ahead of me. And in the end it didn’t matter because the dog started barking again when the alarm went off and he is the one thing I can’t sleep through.

So, I got up. Finished packing. Looked out the window. Wait a minute! Snow? Naturally. We load the car in the snow. Wonder how long I will be driving through the snow. It is very pretty, and really not all that cold. At first. But by Pittsburgh it was a real nuisance and damn cold. And when we hit Ohio, we hit whiteout conditions. It was awful. At times I couldn’t tell where the road stopped. Just before exit 187 I became disoriented by a single flashing light at ground level- until I realized it was a reflection from a blinking tailight on a car nose down in a ditch. We called it in but didn’t dare stop. We drove head on into the storm from our house in eastern Maryland to our meeting point in Indiana. It took 13 hours. We arrived at our hotel just after midnight. I slept until 9, turned the kids over to their dad, and drove 10 hours back home. Half an hour from home, out in the boonies, the only road I knew how to take home from I-83 was closed due to some kind of massive bad thing involving smoke and ambulances. I was “detoured”, sans signage, into the dark, rural night. Fortunately, I was behind a car that guessed well at a couple confusing intersections. I stopped at Mom’s to get Teak. She asked how I liked her paint job. She’d painted the dining room. I looked at the front wall. And the back wall. And back at the front wall.
Me: “Is this from two different cans?”
Mom: “Yup.”
Me: “What, did you run out of the stuff from the living room?”
Mom: “Yup.”
Me: “The back wall looks sort of purple.”
Mom: “Yup. I asked for the same thing as the other can, but it didn’t look anything like it when I opened it.”
Me: “Hmm…”
Mom: “I can live with it.”
Me: “Hmm…”

So I took my dog and we went home. The cats greeted us at the door, and then played coy like they hadn’t really missed us after all. I handed out treats and then got the brilliant idea to check the voice mail. You really shouldn’t do that when you first arrive home from a nerve-wracking trip because a) you might be inundated with quasi-urgent messages when you really just need to relax, b) you might have no messages and realize nobody gives a damn what you just went through, or c) you might discover, as I did, that your phone is disconnected. What fresh hell is this?!?!

I think very hard and decide that yes, I did pay the phone bill. So I turn on the computer and log on to my Verizon account to make sure they received payment. After giving myself a headache trying to decifer the online bill, I conclude that yes, they received payment. Okay, so I guess we need a service call. After more searching through the website I uncover the phone number to call for service. I get a very pleasant automated woman’s voice, although in the end I start wished her plug would be pulled. After a great deal of button pushing and question answering, she tells me she is unable to determine where the problem is, tells me to do some home diagnostics, and to call back tomorrow when I’ve got more to tell her. I curse at the automated woman, who is very sorry, but she didn’t “get that”, and hang up. I look for the box I am supposed to find in order to do the home diagnostics. And then I am sidetracked, into the office, where I discover that the kitties had knocked the office phone reciever off the cradle. Had they been calling for help? Trying to locate me? Or Teak? Inviting friends over? I replace the reciever, wait, and then lift it. There’s the dial tone! Woo hoo! (Diagnose this robo-chick! You couldn’t just tell me to go find the phone that was off the hook? Jeesh!)

And that was the point at which I had had enough. I turned on the television. And sat. Until one of the kitties knocked over the lamp next to the sofa. The kitties scattered. And the dog retreated downstairs where lamps wheren’t flying around. But I just set the lamp back upright and continued watching television. But when the news came on I had to turn it off. I dunno. I just didn’t feel I could stand to listen to any bad news. Because, you know, life as I know it can be rather trying at times. Sometimes I just go through the motions wondering “is this life really even possible?” Seriously, wouldn’t spontaneous combustion be more probable than all this happening at once?

So, remember to savor the little joys and triumphs. If you can do that, rolling with the punches will be a piece of cake. Most days.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Miracle...

That's what it would be if I make my next birthday. I haven't posted in a while and here's why: After almost two weeks of a head/chest/flu-ish type thing, I moved directly into a week and counting of vertigo. Now, vertigo is kind of an up and down thing (ha!). Some days I'm up and around; some days I'm flat on my back praying the world will stop slipping out from under me feet. Yesterday was an up and around day. Actually, I've had several in a row- but yesterday was the one that really tested me. First thing in the morning, I scurried around the upstairs gathering papers to take downstairs to the recycling box. After collecting a sizeable load, I started down the stairs. Part way down, I stepped on some unseen object- I suspect a kitty toy, but the kitties aren't admitting to anything. The unseen object shot out from under my foot. My foot shot out from under me. The papers flew out of my arms, landing on the dog who was sleeping at the bottom of the stairs. And I went wump-wump-wump-wump-wump down the stairs on my tailbone, whacking one elbow against a stair, losing my glasses, and somehow knocking an ankle and my neck out of alignment.

Have you ever seen a big purple moon? No, I haven't either. But I am pretty sure that is what I would see if I could turn my body far enough to see my backside in a mirror.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

We Did It

My children and I stayed up watching the election returns, and then, Obama’s speech. I cried. They were tears of relief, and more than that, of hope. I am honored to be alive at this moment in our history. I am thankful beyond expression that my children witnessed this moment.

I know that the whole world watched this election with us. And I know that we, the American people, have taken a huge step in the right direction toward regaining the respect of our global neighbors.

For any other politician, the tasks before Barack Obama would seem impossible tasks. But Obama’s life story itself is an “impossible” story, his win an “impossible” win. I have faith (more than I’ve had in a very long time) that if anyone can responsibly, successfully tackle these tasks, Barack Obama can.

And behind this singular, spectacular man… there was the movement. Inspired people from all walks of life, working together to bring the change they believe in. This was the most hopeful movement I have ever witnessed. This movement was a vote for hope. And if we, the people, continue to work together for the changes we believe in it would be hard not to move our country to a better place.

Yes We Can!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

We Vote...And We Wait

So, like an unprecedented number of other Americans, I voted today. I waited in line at my polling place, but not for very long. The man in front of me wore glasses and secured them to his head with a homemade glasses strap that consisted of a rope of various sizes and colors of rubber band. This made me cringe, as I have long-ish hair and would have rubber forever woven to my head if I tried something like that.

The woman behind me in line had a British accent. For a moment I wondered if the world had decided they could no longer trust us with our own elections. And then I wondered what had prompted her to become one of us.

I have voted at the same polling place for years. It has always been staffed by a gaggle of little old ladies and a couple of old men. This year, the usual crew was there- but so were several youngsters, twenty-somethings I would guess. It was really nice to see the new guard. There was also a noticeable increase in the number of younger voters, at least while I was standing there.

I didn't have any trouble with the voting machine. We have touch-screens here. You plug in a credit card type card and then use the touch screen. Then when you finalize your selections (vote) the machine spits out your card and you go deposit it in a box by the exit and pick up your "I Voted" sticker on your way out. Easy peazy.

So I did that- and then true to my word, I went and bought a nice bottle of wine. I picked a Saint M Riesling that I've enjoyed before. And now that polls are starting to close in many of the eastern states, I think it is time to break out the wine and settle into a cozy spot with my cross-stitch.

But, you know, no matter what the results are, I can honestly say that Obama's campaign, and Obama the man, have changed me for the better. And I think he has changed a lot of other people too. I think he re-introduced hope where it was flagging. He set a new tone- perhaps the most gentlemanly campaign in my memory (not perfect, of course, but certainly a breath of fresh air). And you know, I have noticed a change in the way people of color in my community carry themselves and interact with me. This bit by itself is solid gold, in my opinion. I love that Obama makes a point of making time for his family. I love the way he and Michelle interact. The man has raised the bar. 'Bout time.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Election Jitters

I can hardly believe that I get to go vote tomorrow. It feels like this campaign has run a long, long time. I will be so relieved to get my vote in; although it will be difficult to wait for the results- especially with my daughter bouncing around asking "what are they saying now? any change? when will we know for sure?" over and over again. But I'm not complaining. It is far better for young people to be plugged-in to the political scene that shapes their world than to steep in a materialistic, narcissistic stupor.

Personally, I plan to vote and then go buy a bottle of good wine to enjoy in the evening while feeding the media's latest best guesses to my daughter and working on my cross-stitch project. Due to rheumatoid arthritis, I have not been able to cross-stitch in a long time. But a new baby in the family prompted me to give it a shot again and I have just started stitching a bib. It's a manageable project. I look forward to spending tomorrow evening on an activity I have missed, while taking in my children's election commentary, and a bit of that good wine.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

So, I'm guessing you've heard of Murphy's Law, right?

My kids are 11 and 13. Some people would say they are too old for trick-or-treating. But that is something you just don't really grow out of here. As far as I'm concerned, if you'll put on a costume, I'll give you candy. But at 13, my daughter's friends are on that iffy border. And the friend she has always trick-or-treated with- and who has been planning with her for months- came by last night to say she was going to a party tonight instead. Oof! To her credit, my daughter was fine with this. And she was ecstatic when this same friend invited her to go over to U of D with her mom and her today to hear Joe Biden. Until the phone call this morning. Can't go, her mom's sick. I will not even try to describe to you the scene this news produced in my house.

All I wanted to do was go back to bed, because you see... I am sick too. In a kicking-my-butt-please-put-me-out-of-my-misery kind of way. You know, where you are waiting to see which will happen first: yours eyes bursting into flame or your sinuses exploding. But! This is Halloween! So, we take our skeleton- which arrived yesterday afternoon- out to the toilet by the front door... And apparently, one gets a bit stiff at the skeleton stage. We could not get this guy to bend in the appropriate way to mimic vomiting into the toilet. And his hands are sort of on backwards. Cheap damn skeleton. So, we just propped him up on the toilet and had him hold the bowl of candy. It seems to be all he's good for. But, people find him hysterical. They take his picture. They laugh belly laughs. And I don't have to spread my germs to innocent kiddos. Plus, I tossed a couple glow sticks in the toilet bowl, so he's got a bit of a green glow from below. I'll try to get a picture of that later. But don't hold your breath. For now, this is my handy helper...

Happy Halloween!

Baby Pictures

Well, I finally managed to get a few decent pictures of the sunroom garden babies: Tomato flower, bush bean, and potato.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I Nuked The Leaves...And, Baby Beans!

So... after wasting a lot of time hemming and hawing about it, I went ahead and nuked the leaves in the microwave before putting them in the worm bin. I can tell you that 30 seconds is NOT long enough, because after 30 seconds I opened the door and found a rather disoriented flying bug stumbling about. Sorry! But nuking it a bit longer works fine, didn't start a fire, and provides a neat visual show as the leaf pile shrinks (due to water loss, I assume). So there you have that!

Even more exciting...and this also falls under "how could I be so stupid"... remember that bean flower that crumbled in on itself? Um hmm... yep, it's formed a baby bean. It is absolutely the cutest baby veggie I have ever seen. Naturally, my camera refuses to capture this awesome cuteness. But I will try to find a camera that will be more accommodating so I can share this. Woo hoo! Beans a'comin'!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Laura's Vinegar Pot

Laura, at Mas Du Diable, recently posted about making wine vinegar. The article is inspiring and now I'd like to try my hand at it. However, I have a serious case of pot envy. Laura has a beautiful French vinegar pot that you can see here. I must find one of these pots, but it can't cost me my firstborn! If anybody knows of a source stateside, please let me know! My kitchen and I thank you!

Winter Sunroom Garden Update

Just a quick update...

The first bush bean flower opened today. The flower I thought would open first ended up "failing"- it sort of crumped in on itself. Not sure why. But I have a first bloom and more on the way.

The paste tomatoes are thinking about flowering. There are "buds" in various stages of development. One set in particular looks as if it may open very soon. Homegrown tomatoes for Christmas? We'll see...

The spinach is doing its thing, although the seedlings are a little leggy. I need to correct their lighting.

I did bring in a pot of parsley today. And then the cold, cold rain started. I may bring in some more tomorrow- as well as the eggplant, if I can find a large enough pot for that. Maybe I have another empty kitty litter jug I could repurpose for that? Hmm...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sing With Me!

*WARNING: You won't be able to get this song out of your head*

Yes, it's true. The world is laughing at us.

And, if this was a real movie, I'd soooo go see it.

Tomato And Potato And Teak, Oh My!

Just a few quick photo updates. The following are: a shot of some of the tomato flowers forming in the sunroom; the potato sprouting in the sunroom; and Teak, keeping an eye on things.

Good Dog.


Things are amiss...

When Teak and I went out the front door this morning, we discovered a large, sawed off branch in our front yard between our house and the neighbor's. This particular tree, a particular type of maple, is not in our front yard. It's not in our neighbor's yard anywhere. It isn't across the street. No, this particular tree is in our back yard, on the other side, by the other next door neighbor. Did I mention this branch was sawed off? Well, actually, it looks like one of those long-armed branch clipping tools was used on it. Sooo, we took a stroll around to the back and had a good look at this particular tree and lo! there was a clipped branch missing it's end. Now, this particular tree is up close to our house. It isn't anywhere near any of our property lines. Nobody has any excuse for cutting this tree, except me, should I so choose! Who would have done this? Naturally, I suspect CAN (that's Crazy-Ass Neighbor for the uninitiated). But he lives behind us. And why would he, or anyone, do this? What beef could he possibly have with this tree? I am baffled, and more than a bit miffed.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

What's Happening In The Garden?

Oh, where to begin?

It rained today, off and on, but mostly on- thanks, I am sure, to my to-do list involving almost entirely outdoor things. I did lime the garden bed out back though. And continued preparing the garlic bed. My garlic should arrive any time now. Hopefully Monday. I am feeling very behind. But I am plugging away nonetheless. What else is there to do as a gardener?

In the sunroom garden things are coming along nicely. The banana tree is putting out new leaves at an impressive rate. The celery forest is, well, just that. My spinach is coming up nicely. It has nearly all germinated and every time I check in on it I am surprised by the appearance of a few more stragglers. The yellow pepper plant I brought in from the patio seems to be much happier inside. It was looking a little sorry when I brought it in and repotted it. But it is now putting out all kinds of new growth that looks great. If it decides to flower too we'll be in business!

The bush beans are beginning to flower. Some of the plants are still somewhat crippled by whatever nasty they developed immediately upon arrival- but most of them seem intent upon performing their duties. One of them I pulled early on, and another needs to go. It has pretty much called it quits. But the remaining four continue to sally forth, and one of those four appears almost entirely free of whatever the others got. It is, however, also the last to start putting out flowers. Here's a picture of one of the sick, but recovering/hanging on ones.

The radishes that survived the kitten attack are bent but not broken. I am really hoping they will pull through. They continue to produce greens, so I think that's a good sign there. I will sow more in the spot left when I pull the other bean plant.
The Amish paste tomatoes flowered just after arrival and then decided they wanted to grow big instead. At first I thought maybe I had a nitrogen imbalance. But I did a little research and found that tomato flowering is greatly affected by temperature. I also read conflicting opinions about the importance of light with tomatoes. I think the sunroom was cooling off too much at night. I think I've got that corrected now- at least until it gets really cold. And, to be on the safe side, I have added supplemental light during the earlier and later hours. And it looks like these efforts may be working. I see evidence of new flowers forming. Woo hoo! Meanwhile, the cherry tomatoes are just barely beginning to change color.
One of the reasons I love gardening so much is because every time I turn around in the garden, something new amazes me. In the rest of life not too much surprises me. But in the garden I feel like I'm in a perpetual wonderland. Today while I was out liming, I noticed that the stub of the one eggplant I planted this year and had mowed down a couple weeks ago has put out new growth. With a vengeance. I may pot it up and bring it in to see what it can do. And I'll bring in some parsley too. It's looking really good right now and we'll use it all winter.

Also, I tried to get a picture of the potato that is sprouting for Melinda, but something is not right with my camera. I can't zoom in on things I'm already close to. I don't know what happened. Used to be able to; can't now. One of these days when I don't have a million other things to do I will read the book and try to figure out whats wrong. But until then, you'll just have to take my word for it.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Keeping Busy

While Meg has been busy making lovely pillows and rock gardens and stockpiling antiques for winter, I have been keeping busy too. Yes, I have installed a toilet on my front porch, conveniently located just next to the main entry, and even furnished it with current reading material for those who like to multitask.

No, I'm just kidding. This 40 year old toilet was running non-stop, using far more water than the new efficient ones, and then the seal decided to fail and it leaked around the base as well. So, I learned a new skill- toilet replacement! Even though I had to get my father to pull it out- the bolts had rusted for 40 years and I was physically unable to budge them- overall I am pretty happy with myself. I did manage to install the new one completely on my own. Unfortunately, I did this the day after our town's bulk trash pick up. So here sits the old one until the next pick up date. We have been tossing around ideas for how to use this for Halloween. The most disgusting idea so far is to place the candy bowl in the toilet bowl. But I just don't think I can go there. We also considered installing a couple of arms so they are reaching out of the bowl. And my personal favorite would be to sit a skeleton on top, reading the newspaper. Oh, no! Yesterday my daughter suggested my new favorite! Have the skeleton retching into the bowl and fill the bowl with candy. Yes! Diabolical, disgusting, and hysterical!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

More Worm Bin News

Just a quick update... And it's good news! There have been no more fruit flies out of the worm bin. So perhaps it would be safe to stick with freezing the scraps before adding them to the bin. I still haven't decided what to do about adding leaves to the bin. To bake or not to bake? What if I put them in after taking something else out, to use the residual heat? I am pretty sure nuking the leaves would be a bad idea. I am probably putting far too much thought into this question. But, you know, the idea of a winter sharing the house with bugs is just sooo unpleasant.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Growing Challenge!

I've joined the Growing Challenge! Check out my cool little challenge doodad over there to the right, and then click through to Melinda's site to learn more (and join in). The challenge is to grow (at least) one new fruit or vegetable and grow it from seed. And then post about gardening (at least) once a week. Easy enough, huh? (Oh, and you're supposed to tell Melinda your zone and where you are, which I forgot to do- Zone 7, Maryland)

At the moment, the sunroom winter garden includes: a pot-o-celery, three tomato plants, four not-dead-yet bush beans and one ha-ha-I'm-immune-to-whatever-you-have bush bean (with any luck at all I'll save seed from that one), several radish seedlings (those that survived being pounced on by the kitten), one yellow pepper plant brought in from the garden, a pot of mint, two pots of basil, a just sprouting potato plant, and the Dwarf Cavendish banana. Oh, and a flat of spinach that should germinate soon. And two giant aloe pups given to me by a fellow freecycler. That might be it. Oh... nope... also a bucket of flowers I couldn't bear to see succumb to the frost. That might be it. So far. But I really do need to start some more seeds.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Worm Bin Update

The good news is that the worm bin seems to be maturing. It is full of worms and they are munching through the bedding and edibles at an impressive rate. I have not added any new paper to the bin since adding the worms; but the worms are so efficient that I will have to add more bedding. I am considering adding dried leaves (happen to have a yard full at the moment) instead of paper. However, I've read that you sometimes get tag-along bugs when you use leaves- so I'm considering running the leaves through the stove first. Does that sound too crazy? I don't mind a little crazy, but too crazy is just going too far. Plus, I'm not really all that eager to provide my children with yet another "remember when Mom..." story. Know what I mean?

The bad news is that when I opened the bin last night a fruit fly flew out. Just one. But where there's one... I am pretty sure I can tell you how that fly entered the bin. The day before, I added a tub of food scraps I had been keeping in the freezer for a number of days- maybe even a week. (Remember that post about freezing and microwaving food before it goes in the bin to avoid fruit flies?) That tub of scraps had, prior to the freezer, been sitting out on the counter and I remember seeing a couple (evil) fruit flies lurking about. So, the lesson here, I think, is that freezing alone is not a cure-all for the fruit flies. I will switch to nuking the scraps and see what happens. Fingers crossed that there are no more signs of fruit flies when I next open the bin... Stop laughing. It's possible...

Friday, October 17, 2008

On To Happy Things!

Well! The election business is stressing me out. So, I will share with you something I have really enjoyed recently. Rebsie Fairholm, folk musician and Daughter of the Soil, has a couple of truly fantastic posts up about the breeding of peas. Quit laughing. If it was good enough for Mendel, it's for darn sure good enough for us. Seriously, if you have even the slightest curiosity about the development of plant varieties, go read her illustrated (and wait 'till you see the photos!) posts on Mendelian segregation and "the joy of genes." They're just outstanding. And they have nothing at all to do with the U.S. presidential election. I promise.

I'll Have A Future Please... Do You Want A Plan With That?

This link will take you to an article that originally appeared in the New York Times. I think it does a good job of highlighting the (scary) differences between Obama and McCain when it comes to science and technology, and specifically, the value of actually having a plan versus winging it. The platform differences on science and technology haven't had much play in the media. But they are absolutely central to our economic well-being. The United States has been hemorrhaging science and technology jobs for years. This is a bad thing! Completely morphing into a nation of consumers of foreign innovation should not be our goal. I hope this issue will make more headlines in these last few weeks before the election. This article is a good place to start. Pass it around!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Blog Action Day- Poverty

Well, apparently I missed it. Actually, I hadn't heard of Blog Action Day before, being a new blogger and all. But Laura at Mas Du Diable has a fantastic post on the importance of seed saving and it's relationship to poverty. I encourage you to check it out here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Last Debate, Thank Goodness

Well, as anticipated, John McCain came out swinging tonight. If he had done that weeks ago it might have helped him. But I would be surprised if it does now. He made a much, much stronger showing tonight than in the last debate. But he really turned me off. In fact, the amount he turns me off has increased with each debate. I really dislike the "divide and conquer" approach McCain has taken in his campaign. He has run the most negative campaign during my voting life- and yet tonight he shrugged it off as if to say "all's fair in war." I don't want a president who goes after his adversaries like he's rabid. I really like the way Obama can face down a vicious attack and simultaneously explain himself and redirect the conversation to an issue of substance. Now, I'd like it even more if he'd get into more details about those issues of substance. But I understand that there is only so much you can cover in a two minute response. It will be interesting to see if he provides any new info in his half-hour ads that will be running... hmm, I think it's Oct 29? Is that right? But honestly, I am ready for the campaigns to end. If nobody's going to tell us anything new, let's just vote.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Debate, A Bit Late

Some of you may be wondering why I never blogged on the second presidential debate. The reason is... I found it just too depressing. Seriously, I found the debate actually painful to watch. I thought both Obama and McCain stumbled through the first part. Obama eventually found his groove, although he didn't offer up any new info. That would have been nice. But McCain... oh, it just hurt. And I'm not even planning to vote for him. Still, I felt I was watching the undoing of a man who, perhaps, should have quit while he was ahead. And the whole time I listened to him I kept thinking "That's not McCain, but I know who it is...if I could just remember..." And then, the next morning, I did remember. It was Ronald Reagan. Now, Ronald Reagan doing Ronald Reagan is one thing. But McCain doing Reagan is just creepy. And that, I think, was what bothered me so much- McCain came off as a creepy old man who has no plan. This will probably be McCain's last presidential bid, and frankly, "creepy old man" is not how I want to remember a man who has given so much to his country.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Sunroom Garden Grows

I finally remembered to take a few pics in the sunroom before it got too dark. One of projects nearing the top of my list is to build a more proper work table out there for the sunroom garden to hang out on. But for now, things will have to continue resting on the floor or perched precariously on lawn chairs.

Can you see them? These are radish sprouts I planted in the gap left when I pulled out the dying bean plant. These babies were poking though the soil the third day after I planted them. I am always amazed by germination! I had hoped to have a close-up shot of one of the baby radishes. But my camera and I have been having some rather heated disagreements over whether or not it should focus properly for close-ups. Personally, I feel I have made some good arguments; yet the camera continues to win.

Next up, an update on the new banana tree. Can you see the new leaf it has popped out the top there? I have really been enjoying watching this tree grow. How does it make such large leaves so quickly?

In the same picture, but in the background, you can see my tub-o-celery. I haven't grown celery before; but I think this looks like it is doing pretty well. I may have too many plants in the tub. But space is at a premium in the sunroom, so I am taking my chances there.

The tomato seedlings I received recently were really leggy when they arrived. I am hoping they will out a bit. But already the cherry tomato is setting fruit. Don't those little buggers grow fast?!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Stalking The Wild Cucumber

Yesterday I was several hours west of here looking at properties. As the real estate agent and I were scooting around the side of an apartment building, we walked past the overgrown remains of a flower bed. Crawling all through the bed were these:
I had never seen these before; and the agent had no idea what it was. I regret not stopping to take a better picture. But when I got home last night I set about trying to find out what this is. My best guess is "wild cucumber." If anybody recognizes this plant and would care to chime in with an ID, that would be great!

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Roses That Won't Quit

These roses have been repeatedly pounded by hurricane weather recently. And yet, they just keep blooming. There are a few rose hips. But more than that, there are buds everywhere. Amazing.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Save The Beans!

So, I may have mentioned that I recently received some seedlings that I hope to grow to the edible stage in the sunroom this winter. Among them were fairly hearty bush bean plants. They are all potted up- but one of them seems to be dying and I have no idea why. The leaves seemed to curl and then the stem withered, but not at the base- more out the branches. So, I was disappointed, but not too worried since there are five more. But now I am wondering if the plant next to the dying one is also on the decline. Most of the plant looks great, but one section is starting to look iffy. I will probably cut that part off tonight in hopes of stopping whatever this is. But I see no obvious evidence of... anything! Help! Does anybody have any idea what this might be? Save the beans!

Winter Sunroom Garden

Our new house (new to us) has a sunroom off the back. It is a good size space built in the 80's on a conrete slab. Currently, there is no insulation in the ceiling. The exterior door is actually only a storm door. And the windows are the old style and not the new, energy conserving ones. Still, I am determined to grow some food in this room this winter. My long-term goal for this room includes replacing the awful carpet with tile that is radiant heated from below. But the radiant mats are expensive and I don't think it will happen this winter. So, I will focus on replacing the storm door with an actual exterior door and figuring out some way to keep heat in. Perhaps insulated curtains to pull shut at night? I bought some of that window film, thinking I would use that, but then I realized the window cranks stick out further than the window sill. So I'm not sure that will work- although I will probably try it out on a window just to be sure. And I'll try to get the attic area insulated, although the access door- or rather, panel, is so small I am not sure I can actually get my whole body through it. On the upside, the sunroom has a ceiling fan and a baseboard heater. So we should be able to keep the air moving and prevent things from freezing- though I have no idea what that will do to the electric bill. Any suggestions? Warnings? Encouragement? :)

Friday, October 3, 2008

Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!

Here is how my day began...

At some un-godly early hour, as the sun was just starting to drag its sleepy butt over the horizon, Teak started barking. Teak likes to bark, but he also likes to sleep. Usually, he doesn't start barking until the neighbors head off to work. But this morning was different.

I tried to ignore him. I really did. But he sounded so... scared. I stumbled down the stairs and tracked the sound to the office. There was my brave dog (cough), hunkered down on the far side of the room, barking madly to alert me to the mass exodus of the worms!

Okay, it wasn't really all the worms. The older, wiser worms and the younger, less mobile worms all seemed content to remain in the bin. It was the darn teenage worms who were out roaming. I think they may have been on drugs. One of them had actually made a beeline for the sunny sliding glass door. What kind of worm goes toward light? Well, I'll tell you! A very confused worm!

I think perhaps they were jostled a bit much en route to their new home. At any rate, I think I can now add "worm wrangler" to my resume. And by tonight, they all seemed content to hang with the 'rents in the bin. Much to Teak's relief...

Good dog.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Biden-Palin "Debate"

Can we just talk about this "debate" for a moment? I promise I'll get back to the happy stuff afterwards...

First, let me just say that Palin's handlers did a really good job prepping her to the "basic foreign issues" level of knowledge. Not foreign policy; but to the level of being able to drop names... names I strongly suspect she was previously entirely unfamiliar with, such as Ahmadinejad. Clearly, she was not prepped to the level of being able to actually engage on foreign policy issues or economic issues. Which brings me to what irks me so much... She was not there to debate. She said as much herself. When did it become acceptable to go to a debate and announce that you don't plan to answer the questions? Buy an ad lady!

I have to admit that Palin had me smiling when she spoke. But it wasn't a smile of agreement. I can appreciate her skill at "folksiness", although I think the winking at the camera bit is going too far. For this voter, at least, that is the wrong angle to take. Sarah Palin wants me to believe she's so much like me she understands my concerns. She's one of us! Well, yep... she is just like your neighbor. Would you put your neighbor in the White House? I wouldn't put any of mine there.

So, in the end, my opinion of Palin is not really changed. She still misuses vocabulary. She still relies upon verbiage (which btw Sarah, is a word I can use correctly). She still relies heavily upon making a "connection" with the voters, and avoids anything substantive. She's all gussy, no guts. She brought a good show, but had little to add to the conversation.

Biden, I thought, had a pretty good night. He managed to not shove his foot in his mouth. And he clearly demonstrated his knowledge and experience. He also was able to offer specifics about the Obama-Biden "plan" and to humanize himself to voters by sharing an emotional, personal, and traumatic aspect of his own life. Two actually. The mention of his first wife's death was touching, but in a wholly to-be-expected way. It was a little bit unexpected to see this seasoned senator convey his emotions surrounding his son's deployment. It is easy to expect our senators to be emotionally removed from the decisions they make with regard to war. It is good to be reminded that they are personally invested in this too. It's not just a job.

Actually, come to think of it, I think maybe Biden presented himself better than Palin, McCain, and Obama. Go Joe!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Worms Have Arrived!

Well, Bentley was right on the mark when he said the worms could arrive today. I was very busy this morning preparing their new home. I thought I'd share a few pics of the process and product.

Hmm... well, for some reason this first pic turned sideways when I uploaded it. I'm not sure what that's about. Anyway, this one shows the holes I cut in the Rubbermaid bin for air and drainage. There are three long, skinny air holes along the tops of both long sides of the bin. And there is one square-ish hole cut more or less in the center of the bottom for drainage and to allow the worms to migrate from one bin to the next when the bins are stacked.

This next picture is of the package of meshy stuff I used to cover the air holes. I wanted something that would permit good air-flow, but inhibit bug infiltration. I am sooo not a big fan of fruit flies! I have read that some people either freeze their scraps or microwave them before adding them to the worm bin in an effort to prevent fruit flies (by killing any eggs laid on the scraps). The "worm food" I've been saving the last few days went into the freezer. Anyway, this meshy stuff is actually replacement filter material for window air conditioners. It is washable, so if it gets gross I can clean it and re-use it. I read Encyclopedia Hydroponica's blog entry about the modifications he made to his worm bin. He used nylon pantyhose to cover the air holes on his bin. I worried that nylons would be too fine for good air flow and would possibly grow mold from the humidity of the bin. So I went with this air conditioner filter stuff. I'll let you know how it works out.

This next pic shows the section of hardware cloth I cut and set in the bottom of the bin. It serves a couple purposes. It helps distribute the weight over the whole bottom after I cut that hole in the middle. It also allows the worms to pass through into the next bin, while supporting and retaining the materials accumulated in the bin. The bottom hole looks dark because it is covered, on the exterior, by a piece of the air conditioner filter. That should keep the worms from exiting prematurely and also deter bug infiltration. But back to the hardware cloth- this picture doesn't show it, but because the edges were sharp, I melted a little paraffin wax to coat the edges. Don't want my wormies getting torn up! For the second bin I will probably coat the entire piece of hardware cloth. But this time I was racing the clock...

Here you see the exterior view of my duct taping handiwork. Okay, it may not win any beauty contests; but if it keeps fruit flies out, I think it's a shoo-in for Miss Congeniality. You can sort of get an idea of how much air this filter material allows through by the amount of back-light you can see through the air holes. I tried to get a close-up of the filter material, but my camera just did not want to focus on it.

This is just an exterior bottom view. You can see a hint of the hardware cloth through the mesh. Nothing too exciting. I tried to get a picture of the worm pile after I put it in the bin. None of those shots really turned out.
And last, but certainly not least, here is a shot of the finished set-up. I have the bin resting on a couple of broad landscape pavers that rest on an upturned bin lid. There is room underneath for me to place a shallow tray to catch any drippings from the bin without having to pull apart two bins like you often see with these Rubbermaid bin systems. This is all an experiment. I haven't cut the second bin yet bacause I want to wait to see how this set-up works out. If I need to make adjustments, I will.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Worm Casa Continued

Well, I didn't get the worm bin finished today. It was just too busy a day. However, I did figure out what I plan to do and gather all the parts necessary. That makes it sound complicated, but it isn't. Simplicity is elegance. In fact, the only components are the Rubbermaid tubs, duct tape, hardware cloth, and some meshy-filtery stuff. I'll post pics tomorrow after I finish the job.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Worm Bin Redux or The Race Is On!

Having decided to start a worm bin, I read up online about how to make my own. I want an indoor bin, for easy access, proximity to the plants that will be the beneficiaries of the worms' efforts, and because I just know I won't hike to an outdoor bin with food scraps mid-winter. Post-research, I can tell you I've settled on the rubbermaid bin approach.

I purchased two ten-gallon plastic rubbermaid bins and was all set to drill air and drainage holes in them when it occurred to me that I, the daughter of an engineer, might be able to come up with something just a little more interesting, something that might help me avoid some of the vermi-pitfalls I've read about online. Ho ho! This will be fun! Besides, I have a good week or so before my worms arrive...

There were a few emails back and forth with Bentley, the Compost Guy from Red Worm Composting (see last post)- and then he slips in, "Oh, by the way, your worms shipped today. Got them out early. Should arrive Wednesday or Thursday."

That's great! I'm giddy with excitement! But, hmmm...hmm.... that means... I have to start and finish the bin project tomorrow! Should I just go with the standard internet bin plans? Play it safe? Nah... where would the sport be in that?!

Stay tuned for the next installment of the Worm Casa Saga...

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Worm Bin

I have decided to start a worm bin in order to make good use of our kitchen waste. We do have a compost pile. But it's back at the end of the yard, behind the shed, and despite my best intentions, alot just doesn't get out there. If the compost pile was located under my kitchen window more of our kitchen scraps would make it in there. But that would have it planted in the middle of an established flower bed, and frankly, I'm not sure I want a compost pile right under my kitchen window.

So, I think the thing to do is start a worm bin. The idea of buying worms (and gosh, have you seen the price of them?!) is a little hard to deal with. But, I figure it beats spending hours digging up the yard and garden looking for the buggers. But there is no way I am going to buy one of those overpriced bins. I've seen some directions to make your own and I think I'll give it a try. I'll keep you posted on how it works out. Anybody else keeping a bin of worms? Any tips for vermi-success?

*Update: In researching how, exactly, to make this bin, I came upon Compost Guy's site, Red Worm Composting. If you have an interest in learning more about keeping worms, this is a great place to start!

Palin? Seriously?

Okay, I just had to share a link to this op-ed piece I just read. Here it is: Palin's Words Raise Red Flags

I promise I'll get back to the more pleasant business of the garden and pursuit of self-sufficiency tomorrow.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

How 'Bout That Debate?

I thought I might be able to refrain from commenting on last nights presidential debate. Alas, no. But where to begin?

I guess I should say that I was happy that this debate actually bore some resemblance to a real debate. I think it may be the first in my voting life to do so. I also think a closer examination of high school debate may be in order for the organizers of these events. But overall, I believe this was a (tiny) step forward for American politics.

McCain was a disappointment. He did manage to show off his foreign policy knowledge; but I didn't like his attitude. He has a tendency to get cocky. I find that unattractive in general, but downright inappropriate in a presidential candidate. Especially at this time in our history. We are already viewed as cocky abroad. We do not need another administration to reinforce that.

I was also surprised that McCain muddled his way through the beginning of the debate. I have to wonder what he spent the last few weeks doing? Clearly, he did not resolve the crashing economy problem (or, by some accounts, even participate all that much in trying to resolve it). But it looked as if he didn't spend the time preparing for the debate either.

This really was highlighted by obama's uber-preparation. Honestly, I think he must have been that kid in school whose hand shot up first, and who gave the correct answer, plus all the related information you never wanted to know. But there's something to be said for that. Obama at times seems to have an encyclopedic knowledge base, from which he is able to draw very quickly. That's got to be a good trait in a "world leader."

McCain seemed to be appealing very heavily to voters emotions. Obama presented as very rational. I think they both went a little too far. Obama needs to find a comfortable level of personalization. He strikes me as someone who has learned to guard his reactions and not give away too much. Nice feature for a politician already at the table, but a bit hard for the voters to see through. McCain, I thought, was too emotional. And sort of condescending. But the thing that actually angered me about McCain was his refusal to look at Obama, or to address him directly. That is ugly, unacceptable behavior. Obama has surprised a lot of people (including Hillary) by bringing a serious game. He is a worthy and prepared opponent. If McCain has nothing else positive to say about the guy, he should at least be able to acknowledge and respect that. So once again, I have to say McCain's behavior was sophomoric. And that's not very presidential in my book.

Belated Grapes and, Ta-Da! A New Baby!

I believe I had promised to post a picture of the grapes from our Concord vines. Here it is. Aren't they gorgeous? Perhaps I am easily amused, but I am just amazed by these grapes. I've never even been a big grape fan!

Yesterday's mail brought two boxes. One contained this new baby. It's a Dwarf Cavendish banana tree. We have a sunroom in our new house and I am determined to fill it will lovely plants I've never been able to have before. I'm so happy with this little tree I'm wondering if it should have a name? Any suggestions? Do other people name their banana trees, or is it just me?
The other box that came in the mail yesterday contained an amusing assortment of seedlings I ordered for my new "experiment." The above-mentioned sunroom will be the grounds of my first attempt to grow food indoors during the winter. I'll post pics when the seedlings are all potted and presentable.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Split-Personality Blog

Yes, I have realized that my infant blog has a split-personality...part garden/self-sufficiency, part random rant. I think I will transition it to focus more on the garden/self-sufficiency aspect because that's the part that makes me smile. But, I hope you will forgive the occasional random rant. There is just too much "stupid" going on in our society to keep my thoughts bottled up all the time. Wouldn't be healthy. :)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Perennial Vegetables

Yesterday, I started reading Eric Toensmeier's Perennial Vegetables. I am not very far along with it, but so far would recommend it highly. I'm so glad this book was written. Some of the plants featured in this book are things I've been curious about, but not yet tried (oca). Others are utterly new to me (air potato!). And some are familiar plants that I had no idea could be edible, like (pokeweed, when young).

The idea of perennial vegetables makes so much sense to me. I don't know why this hasn't been explored more in North America, although Toensmeier does offer a few possibilities. I don't think I would ever give up my annual vegetables in favor of perennials. But a mix of the two would be nice. And in times of great turmoil, having at least some vegetables already established would be a great comfort.

So, added to my garden goals for the coming year is to include at least a couple perennial vegetables. This will be a fun experiment! Which ones are in your garden?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Few More Pics

Just adding a few more pictures. Too tired for anything more tonight. This first one was the view from my office window earlier in the summer. Those red lilies were gorgeous. They were an impulse buy, purchased to fill a couple holes in that bed that my son insisted upon using as a shortcut- you know, because that nice paved path right next to it was too long a route to walk... I think I have another shot of those lilies in here somewhere. Let me dig a little...

Yep, there it is. Please forgive my lousy formatting. I haven't quite figured this out and I'm just too tired to mess with it. Let's see what else I have...

The clematis is one of the plants that was here when we moved in. I haven't had one before and was truly impressed by its manic flowering. Allow me to illustrate...

The pictures really don't do it justice. I'm sure my new neighbors thought I was a little weird when they saw me standing out there next to the garage staring at the clematis- over and over again.

Okay, let's see... Maybe one more picture and then I'm done for the night.

Ooh, I know! The geraniums. Nothing exotic, but gosh, how can you not feel happy when you see these?!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Garden Photos

I have had a bunch of garden pics sitting in my camera for quite a while and finally decided to share them here with whomever may be reading. We moved into our house the last few days of April this year. We did put in a small veggie garden and a few flowers; but most of our current garden came with the house.

This first one is of my "baby grapes." I was so excited when I realized the three mature Concord vines out back were really doing their thing. The result... baby pictures, naturally.

I am probably supposed to thin these out or something. I don't know. I've never had grape vines before! I don't have a photo of the mature grapes. But I do have a bowl of them in the fridge, so perhaps tomorrow I will snap a quick pic for an update. They are dark and lovely, and the grapiest smelling grapes I have ever encountered. My plan for the ones in the bowl is to make jelly. This is actually my second attempt- although the first attempt only failed because it took me so long to get around to it that the grapes got tired of waiting and went bad. What can I say? Life gets busy sometimes!

This one is of the hydrangea as it was just getting started. I was especially curious to find out if it would display pink or blue flowers. Well, it had both, plus various shades of purple! I'm not sure exactly what that says about the soil in our yard. But it made for a very pretty bush!

Here's another shot later showing a little more color. And that will have to be it for now as I seem to be far too tired to get this formatted properly. We'll give it another try tomorrow.

Camellia Love

One of my prized garden plants is a camellia bush that lives next to my front door. It blooms when nothing else does (late winter, very early spring) and puts out many perfect red flowers. Our mail lady (who is WONDERFUL, btw) has always admired this bush. So when the bush decided to grow one rowdy branch that towered over the rest of the bush, I decided to offer to clip it off for the mail lady to try to root. She was ecstatic! It was so nice to see someone so excited over such a simple thing. And I can't think of a nicer person to receive such a beautiful bush. I am sure she will take good care of it. I just hope it roots well for her. I'll have to try to remember to post a picture when it blooms.

Mom, What Is Your Position On Abortion?

Well, I didn't see that one coming. The kids and I were out running errands yesterday when my daughter mentions that she was surprised when her friend gave "she's against abortion" as her explanantion for liking Palin. And my son asks, "Mom, what is your position on abortion?" Here is my answer:

The difference between living things and non-living things is profound. The way I see things, there is something truly magical about two non-living bits coming together and becoming something living. That is something that humans can't do. A mother can contribute her non-living bit and a father can contribute his non-living bit and together they can bring them together- but they are not actually responsible for "breathing life" into them. I don't know if there's a God; but the question of who/what does this is the one reason I don't rule it out. And because of that magic of non-living becoming living, something which I can't do, I feel it would be wrong to undo. So for me, abortion is wrong.

However, this is also an issue I would never want to legislate. It is too personal for me to tell someone else what they should do on this issue and I can forsee instances where medically or perhaps otherwise it would be for the better to perform an abortion. My views are nothing more or less than where I am at on an issue at this time. I may feel differently in the future.

I can tell you that I think people who push for abstinence education exclusively, and reject more comprehensive sex education, are misguided. I think their actions are counterproductive. Sure, encourage abstinence. But acknowledge that people are people are prepare them for the situations they will encounter sooner or later. I can also tell you I do not think it is responsible to use abortion as a method of birth control. There are plenty of alternatives to prevent pregnancy and lots of people who would love to adopt an infant you don't feel you can raise. In my view, abortion-as-birth-control is one of the unseemlier expressions of human selfishness and irresponsibility.

But again, that is all just what I think about the issue right now. That may change. I don't know. And I have no interest in telling other people what they should do on this one.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Testing, One, Two Three

So, I may have jinxed myself with yesterday's post about moving toward self-sufficiency. After a busy and exhausting day, I popped dinner in the oven and waited with much anticipation. Until I heard a loud pop outside and the power went out. I suppose a transformer blew. I don't know exactly what the problem was. I just know I had no power and my dinner was not yet fully cooked. Sooo, I pulled it out of the oven, hauled it to my parents house, and popped it in their oven to finish.

Fortunately, the power wasn't out all that long yesterday. But it was a good reminder of how far away from being able to handle an extended outage we really are here. My parents have a generator that is wired to automatically start up when the power fails. It is awfully convenient. But even that would run only so long in a really extended outage. So my goals look beyond relying on a generator to figuring out how to manage without the grid or fossil fuels. Unfortunately, preparing on that level will probably cost a bundle. But I can do it bit by bit as I am able.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Seeking Self-Sufficiency

Currently, my household is nowhere near realizing self-sufficiency. But, we are slowly moving in that direction. Our new house is a wonderful house, but not set up for surviving any kind of real social/economic upheaval. For instance, the kitchen is all electric. No power, no cooking. The windows are the old original ones (working on that at the moment). And the previous owner converted the wood-burning fireplace to gas logs. I would like to undo the gas bit and put in an insert, but I haven't figured that out and it will probably cost far more than I am hoping.

On the up side, we did have a garden this year. This was a first for the kids and the "novelty" of growing our own food trumped their usual new-food-suspicion. I put in exactly one eggplant plant, thinking there was no way the kids were going to eat eggplant. But they were totally excited when we harvested the first one. "THIS came from OUR garden?! Awesome!" How cool is that?

We have also started a compost pile. We have contributed so much to it that we could actually use another. Although I have noticed that when I ignore this one for a bit, it does its thing and before I know it there is room for new additions. Ah, the miracle of decomposition!

Now, I should point out that I don't actually expect a social/economic upheaval that would require us to be self-sufficient. But stranger things have happened! I just think it is prudent to be able to take care of oneself if necessary. Plus, there is an enormous sense of satisfaction and comfort that comes with every step we take toward self-sufficiency.

I would love to hear about your journey toward self-sufficiency- and any tips you'd like to share.

For The Bible Tells Me So

I woke this morning thinking about penknife's post about Obama and McCain and LGBT families (see last post for link) and a movie I saw last year and again this year at the Chautauqua Institution. It is called For The Bible Tells Me So and was done by Dan Karslake, a fellow Chautauquan. From the film website, here is a synopsis:

Can the love between two people ever be an abomination? Is the chasm separating gays and lesbians and Christianity too wide to cross? Is the Bible an excuse to hate?

Through the experiences of five very normal, very Christian, very American families -- including those of former House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt and Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson -- we discover how insightful people of faith handle the realization of having a gay child. Informed by such respected voices as Bishop Desmond Tutu, Harvard's Peter Gomes, Orthodox Rabbi Steve Greenberg and Reverend Jimmy Creech, FOR THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO offers healing, clarity and understanding to anyone caught in the crosshairs of scripture and sexual identity.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Obama, McCain, and Families

I just felt compelled to include a link to a really well put comparison of Obama's and McCain's different positions on issues that affect LGBT people and their families. I'm not L, B, G, or T- but I have nothing against those who are. And additionally, the US currently has about 130,000 kids in foster care who are freed for adoption, but lingering in the system while there are families out there who would love to adopt but face discrimination due to sexual orientation. That's just wrong. So please, read this before you vote.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Good Friends

Yesterday we had company. Some friends we hadn't seen in waaay too long came for a few hours. It was wonderful.

Gina is an artist. She's currently doing, for the first time, illustrations for a childrens book. She brought her "progress" over to show us- and it is really neat to see the process! She is adding "background enrichment" to her illustrations- that is, stuff that wasn't specifically mentioned in the book but which gives children a lot to examine (and learn from, hopefully). I love what she's done with it; but we discussed the possibility that the author might not be too impressed. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Personally, I think there is a real need for the kind of details Gina has added. So many childrens books are all fluff, no substance. But what she is doing takes what is really just "a cute story" and uses it as a springboard for really stimulating young minds. Go Gina!

We talked about our boys and their "handwriting issues." My daughter pulled up the SNL Palin/Clinton skit because Gina hadn't seen it yet. She loved it. Natch. And I got to complain about my tree assaulting crazy neighbor.

It was a good time. But too short.

I Love Freecycle!

When I first joined my local freecycle list, I felt overwhelmed by the sheer number of posts that came through. It wasn't long before I was on the brink of unsubscribing for that reason alone. I mean, who has time to go through that many posts each day? But, almost right away I found a few things I could use and was able to rehome a few things I no longer needed but which really weren't trash. That was pretty cool. Now, several months later, I am still at it. I have resigned myself to doing a couple quick daily scans and dumps of the emails that don't interest me. But listen to what I have received from other recyclers for my efforts!

Most recently, I picked up a full-size carpet cleaner. The lady who gave it away said it worked but leaked and she didn't know why and had given up on it. Within a week of picking it up, my dog became ill and ended up, um, "leaking" from both ends all over my carpet (see yesterdays post). He's doing much better after a trip to the vet. And now my carpet is doing much better too, thanks to my freebie carpet cleaner. And as for the leak, after a quick exam, my novice opinion is that a seal wore out. The Hoover website sells replacement seals for about $1.50. I think I can swing that!

Before the carpet cleaner, I picked up a small, bagless, upright vacuum that a lady was offering because one wheel kept falling off when she used it. I looked at it after I picked it up and saw that a little plastic tab that holds the wheel on had become pushed in too far. I carefully repositioned it as best I could. For the most part, the wheel now stays on. The occassional wheel escape does not bother me and here's why... This little vacuum is the best vac I have ever owned! It sucks up everything! And there's no bag to mess with. I pop the canister out, dump it, pop it back in, we're good to go!

I have also picked up: plants for my garden, an awesome pedestal table, enough cement blocks to build a raised garden bed, a rollaway bed for guests, and a number of other things. The price for all this? Nothing but my time and a little gas money.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Why I'm Disappointed With McCain

So, for some as yet undetermined reason, my dog needed to go out every couple of hours last night. This made for very poor sleeping, but offered plenty of time to reflect on the current election. And I have to say, I am extremely disappointed- no, beyond that- I've graduated to angry- with John McCain. I used to have a fair bit of respect for the man; although I've never been in complete agreement with his positions on the issues (or anybody else's, so no real biggie there). But for somebody who made it this far in the pursuit of the presidency, I feel like McCain is dangerously sophomoric in his decision-making. I just want to shake him and shout "You're not running for prom queen!" in his face. Here's why:

1. McCain knew he had the republican nomination in the bag months before Clinton and Obama quit swinging at each other. How did McCain use that "gift time" to prepare for the looming race? Well, I dunno. Vacation maybe? But here's what he apparently didn't do: prepare a detailed plan for how he would bring about real change if elected, tell the wacko party extremists to shove it, come up with a coherent plan to confront the democrats and prevent this election from causing voter brain death like so many of the most recent elections.

2. How long has the McCain camp been shouting at us that McCain is a maverick who stands up to Washinton-as-usual? And yet he caves to the extreme portion of his party and picks a wholly unqualified individual as his VP rather than someone we could take seriously.

3. McCain had no trouble finding his balls when it came to accusing the Obama campaign of sexism for stating the obvious about Palin. But it seems to me that if Palin had been exactly who she is but UGLY, McCain wouldn't have chosen her. Ever. THAT, my friends, is sexism. And again, this is not the prom!

4. Picking Palin: This, in my book, amounts to reckless endangerment of our entire nation. Once again, the rest of the world has a good reason to laugh at us- and to be very, very afraid. And it is more than a little cocky of McCain to be so confident that there is no possibility Palin could have to take over for him. Sometime it happens. Would HE want to find himself depending on her ability to make world-affecting decisions?

5. His Madagascar-esque campaign style. "If you have any poo, fling it now."

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Neighborliness, Civility, and Other Old-Fashioned Values

So, the kids and I purchased our house a few months ago. Some of our new neighbors introduced themselves right away. As far as we can tell, they are all lovely people. But we've got to wonder about some of the others. The people who live directly across the street have never introduced themselves, or even spoken to us. Their tiny daughter has- but not the adults. We are frequently in our yards at the same time, and I used to wave when I saw them. But I never went over because I am of the opinion that the current residents are supposed to welcome the new residents. It just makes me wonder what's up that they never said hello. Personally, I feel better having some idea of who my neighbors are- and it surprises and baffles me that these people don't seem to feel the same way.

The other neighbor of concern is a guy who lives behind us. Two days ago I heard a chainsaw that sounded very near and looked out my window to see a man I didn't know hacking away at the trees that line the back of my property! Apparently he lives behind us. But he never knocked on the door to discuss whatever his issue is with my trees. He just took it upon himself to come and do major pruning. Now, I understand about the rights of neighbors to trim up to property lines when they think their property is in danger. And if my trees were threatening this guys fence, I would have trimmed them myself. But they weren't. He apparently just doesn't like them! So, right now, there is a giant pile of brush from my trees piled on the street in front of this guy's house, and at least as much still in his backyard.

What kind of a person does this? To say I am seriously unimpressed by his vigilante landscaping is a major understatement. Aside from the facts that he trespassed and intentionally damaged my property, I now have a "wonderful" view of the back of his house and a sound conduit from his dogs' vocal chords and the busy street traffic in front of his house straight to my house. But what bothers me the most is that he didn't have the decency to just knock on the door and talk to me about whatever was bothering him. I'm a pretty reasonable person. If he'd introduced himself, he'd know that.