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Showing posts from September, 2013

Giving Hugelkultur a try

I've done some whining on this blog about how difficult keeping things watered here is. Partly it's due to our terribly sandy soil, partly due to the soaker hoses being tempermental, partly I need to get out there and amend things.

I had noodled around with the idea of using an old technique, bandied about a lot by permaculture folks, of hugelkultur. Basically, you're making a sponge of wood and biomass under the growing layer. Since we have both overly permeable soil and a bit of old wood and brush lying about, I got some help from Eric and made an experimental bed.

First, we dug out the soil about 18" and set it aside on a tarp. Then we layered logs and pieces of logs on the bottom.

Over that went branches of the plants we'd cut down a few weeks ago, then a layer of fresh chicken manure and bedding, and then those layers were watered down.

Over those went the totally uncured material from the compost bin. Turns out, if you never ever water it, and it dries out, …

Who Says You Can't Go Back?

You could say I'm a bad person because I never liked old people. My Italian grandparents died when I was young, and my Irish grandparents moved to Florida around the same time, so I never had that bonding experience helping them cross streets or whatever.  When I had my catering business, they tried my patience in the wholesale food store by asking the cashier to do stupid things like weigh their oranges separately to see which ones were the heaviest. I swore every time one gray-haired old bag got in front of me. 

Years later, I answered an ad for a sales job, not knowing that it was in a retirement community. I would never have considered working for, or with old people. When I was asked to come in, I figured I'd do it for the interview experience.  But the woman who took me around showed me active seniors doing Tai Chi and water aerobics, walking and biking on lush grounds, living in nice apartments in a planned Wrinkle City. Besides, they got their main meal in a beautiful …
A little essay I wrote for another publication:

What Ultimate Does for Daughters

Feet come pounding down the field, shouts from teammates: "Go, go go!! Yess, you've got it!"
My daughter jumps, catches, lands, turns, taps the disc on the grass in the end zone and leaps into her teammates' arms.
For six years, I've sat on a sideline, in heat, rain, and wind, watching my children play other mother's children in Ultimate Frisbee. Those six years have coincided with tremendous growth for my daughter naturally, but the person into whom she has grown has been deeply shaped by this sport. Whenever a parent of a daughter asks me what ultimate did for mine, I say three things: It gives them a voice, gives them a body, and gives them a tribe.

Since Ultimate Frisbee is self-refereed, the player herself has to make a call of foul or out of bounds or stall count. Her fellow players can't call it; her coach can't call it; and she might have to argue with the other player …

How Long Has This Been Going On?

I ended an affair yesterday, and I admit, I'm upset with myself and how I let this happen.  My friends must have guessed for some time now that something was going on, what with the changes in me. No one said anything, but then again, I probably would have shot the messenger.  No, I had to learn for myself.

I had to end my affair with eating junk food in bed.

I don't remember how this started.  I was raised by a mother who didn't allow us to have water in our bedrooms, much less food.  If we were thirsty, we went to the bathroom and drank tap water. My sons knew I would freak out over finding food and/or drinks in their rooms, and I did-both find and freak-especially when son #1 took to chewing tobacco when playing college baseball.  Have you ever seen chaw spit in a Gatorade bottle???

Towards the end, Wingman took to eating and drinking in bed.  At first, I would go into my "How many times..." speech until it just fell on deaf ears.  I took to just removing the pl…

Harvest Monday

Imagine my surprise when the camera's memory card didn't only contain pictures of today's incredibly bountiful harvest.

You see, Eric and I had taken the younger children away for a short backpacking trip near Tahoe, which was wonderful, but I'd left the camera home, partly because it is kind of heavy and partially because I'd misplaced it. Oh well, I took lots of mental pictures: the eight year old ahead of us on a trail overarched by huge trees; the two kids playing teetertotter on a log caught between two trees; the perfect bijou lake; the clear water; Eric's face next to mine in the tent, even though I was all wrapped up in a sleeping bag and he looked a bit hot. . .

But today, after yesterday's post-trip bout of laundry, laundry, dishes, dishes, dishes, returning camping gear to the proper shelves, washing camp cook pots, was over, I headed out to say hi to the garden.

I came back with a lot of stuff. I took pictures of it. Then came the work of changing …

Bell Bottom Blues

To the nice uber-famous rock star I waited on last week who makes more money in 20 minutes than I do in a year, and who brought the jeans that he didn't want (size 32 x 32 neatly folded) out of the fitting room: THANK YOU.

To the women occupying the two rooms next to him with their obnoxious teenage sons, and who left no less than 27 button down shirts PLUS sweaters, tee shirts and pants (all unbuttoned and inside out) for the common shop girls to take care of for you: A POX ON YOU AND YOUR SPAWN.  And please, go back from where you came.

Retail is deemed the second oldest profession in the world.  I'm convinced that the first was taken by women who didn't want to pick up other people's clothes. And after the past couple of weeks with the back to school shoppers, I'm thinking that the oldest profession ain't lookin' half bad...

I cut my teeth in retail, back in a time when women wore matching sweater sets and men wore suits to work.  A time when there were Blu…


Even the eggs vary. I think one hen must have hogged the kale scraps or gotten a beakful of bugs.
If the hens free-ranged truly, their yolks would all look that orange. Of course, we wouldn't have any vegetables from the garden, but that's the way it goes!

As far as I remember, they tasted exactly alike. Perhaps because they were beaten into pancakes!

Pear Pressure

The dogs wake me up every single morning, generally earlier than I'd prefer to get up. Some days I get up, let them out, feed them, and collapse back in bed. Some days not. Today I realized I'd like not only to keep to a sleep schedule that works, but also that I had something to do.

Generous friends are one of life's many many blessings. I try to spread my garden produce around, so sometimes willing friends are the key (I'm looking at you, cucumbers!). But today I processed the fruits of another friend's generosity. Jenny's mom has a pear tree. Now I have pears.

I'd gathered up what I needed to preserve them some days ago, but they really weren't ripe, as so comically noted by Eddie Izzard. Pears show up around minute 5. . .

In the quiet of the morning, however, armed with a pot of tea and the already-read newspaper by my side, I got going. Pot of syrup starting to simmer (I use a very light syrup; I don't want to candy the fruit. . .), jars steriliz…

The Sounds of Silence

Laura Linney is my favorite actress.  Has been for years.  When I was cast in a reading of "Love Letters" years ago, I was thrilled when someone said that I was just as good as she was in the role. If I could ever be an actress, I would use her as a role model.

And this week, I used her performance in "The Big C" for just that.

Last Thursday, I had my annual mammogram.  Only thing was, I hadn't been in four years.  I knew that in 2011 I put it off because I lost my job, had two sons get married (with three ceremonies on two continents), got Wingman into rehab, got another job.  I missed it in 2012 with the deaths of Wingman and his father, losing my home and losing my job again. I know, no excuses. Anyway, I went for the big squeeze, and was mildly concerned when the technician said she needed to take a few more films of one of the girls. 

I was majorly alarmed when they called me bright and early Friday morning to say they found an "irregularity" and n…

Variations on a bean

Dry beans, astonishingly enough, don't all ripen at once. I've been grabbing the pods as they dry and storing them in a paper bag. I'd sort of fluff the pods up from the bottom as I passed by, to keep them from mildewing.

"What am I doing in this bag?"

 It's an attempt at old-fashioned, foot-powered threshing.

Artistically done.

It's a two-footed crop.

Alas, this paper bag was no match for harvest stomping. We shifted to a different method.

The two of us sat on the floor and shelled beans and talked. I realized I remember doing something like this when I was very small with my grandmother. It was centering and quiet. We just chatted, compared the beans, talked about growing beans and anything else that came to mind. It was a lovely peaceful interlude.

Until my ankles started hurting from pressing against the floor.

Once we were all done, we lined up some of the more unusual beans we'd found. The purple one is one of about four or five that were shockingly pu…

It spawned

Well, something's alive. . .

Do you see the mold Apatosaurus? How about the fuzzy little . . . anteater? Not to mention the jumping jack/bilaterally dividing mold babies.

The poor mother of vinegar was apparently overwhelmed by the baddies. There's another vinegar start downstairs that hasn't been colonized. Yet.

Unfortunately, it's also not delicious vinegar yet either. Maybe a slightly warmer climate. Maybe more time. At least we got a good chuckle out of this one before we tossed it. Not every experiment works out.

Cucumbers heard 'round the world

When a ten year old says she wants a garden, and then gets it, and keeps wandering through the world of growing food for -ahem- some additional years, there's no guarantee about where it will lead.

Until very very recently, I thought of the "urban farming" movement as an American thing, I suppose, if I thought of it geographically at all. I know that there are folks all over the world shoving seeds into soil, and when it Italy of course met people interested in it, as well as those just growing food as they always have. But generally, I keep my head down (eyes whipping around wildly though, because seriously, lots of people, animals, and plants here. Plenty busy) and don't think about The Big World Out There much.

Specifically, I had not given much though to the growing interest in local food in . . . Korea.

At least, not until recently. A person from one of the three main networks in Korea got my name from. . . well, from the network of local gardening folks. I'm …