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.