Monday Musings: the Garden Variety Edition

Been a busy but not unpleasantly so time here in the soybean field. Visitors, walks, and work in the garden have kept me occupied the last couple of weeks.

The cherry tomatoes set blossoms this last week. We wait, not very patiently, for the tiny green bumps to transform into lush red spheres. No need to do much with them. The little balls of sunshine need no special prep. Maybe slice in half before you put them in your salad, but no need to do much else.

Green beans have unfurled themselves. They are ready for picking. Not as many as I’d hoped for, but it’s still early in the harvest. They can easily produce until first frost, usually mid-October around here. Simple is best. I love them stir fried with garlic. Or steamed with olive oil and lemon juice.

Lettuce and basil maintain their lovely leafiness, and will likely keep producing for a while. They look like parasol-balancing ladies at a garden party. Both have enhanced salads and pasta sauces with their presence. I should have enough basil to make and freeze pesto for winter. I use walnuts instead of pine nuts. Easier to find and less expensive.

The radishes bolted. I’ll pull them, then plant another round of seeds in another week or so when it cools off. Note to self: thin them out when they sprout. They had good flavor, but emerged from the soil in odd thin shapes due to crowding. The tiny sprouts enliven salads and sandwiches by their spicy presence. A few on your tuna goes a long way towards elevating it from the mundane.

Carrots are nowhere near ready. They push themselves to the surface when they are.   Root veggies, except for radishes. are usually the last ones to mature, so no surprise there.

Broccoli? This is the first year I tried to grow it. The foliage is impressive, but anything that looks like what I buy at the store hasn’t emerged yet. We wait.

On  a whim, I bought a pack of French mesclun seeds. I don’t know what I unleashed when I sowed them, but what came up looked neither French or mesclun. I’m cleaning that out as it emerges. Note to self: don’t buy seeds on supermarket end caps from growers you’ve never heard of, even if there are references to France of French anything.

Oakley isn’t a big veggie eater. He sits outside with me, or finds grass to nibble. When I finish pulling and watering, I sit on the back step. He sits next to me. I rub his ears with my cleaner hand, and we watch the sun lengthen the rays across the fields together.

 

 

 

Garden Report for 7/24/17

Image courtesy Old Design Shop

Around the time of the sun transiting from Cancer into Leo as it did last weekend, the ancients and those who follow their religion celebrate Litha, the first harvest festival. The veggies and fruits have started coming in, some not quite at their peak, but definitely on their way there.

Oakley and I have added weeding and watering to our morning routine. He walks around the bed, giving it a good sniff, then finds a sunny patch where he lies down curled in a half-circle, tilting his nose to the sky. I pull weeds, give the plants a pep talk. Some mornings I do standing yoga poses; others I take my coffee outside and watch the veggies grow.

I’m pleased with the results to date, considering that the last garden I planted was seven years ago, the horrible summer after Orion crossed the Rainbow Bridge. I just dug holes and threw things in the ground between sobs while smearing mud and snot across my upper lip as I tried to dry my tears. We ended up with some herbs, a few tomatoes, and several zucchini worthy of concealed carry permits.

This year is going much better, but as with any other literal or figurative growth experience, there are lessons at hand. For example, next radish planting, thin them out after they sprout. Otherwise the radishes will be long skinny roots and not the intended globes of rosy, spicy goodness. Still work in salads and you don’t have to chop them, just trim off the leaves and the taproot. The greens work best as sprouts in sandwiches. The mature greens work best in tandem with less assertive colleagues like spinach. Otherwise, the flavor is overwhelmingly spicy.

Green beans have morphed from blossoms to actual beans. Not ready just yet, but after the storms of last week, heartening to see them. I like them steamed and drizzled with lemon juice and olive oil or butter. The fresher, the less fussing they need.

Cherry tomatoes…I don’t know what to say about them. Some blossoms had appeared last week. Then came several days of storms with the type of winds that make a person wonder when the siren will begin its wail. I didn’t see any blossoms today.  Time will tell if they the wind ripped them off the stems or if they just dropped their petals in preparation for becoming tomatoes. It’s been and will be hot enough for another round of blossoms to emerge.

Broccoli: I don’t know what’s going on with that. Lots of foliage, but no signs of buds just yet. It’s really pretty, though.

Carrots: their lovely fernlike tops have emerged, but no signs of their readiness. Like potatoes, they push themselves up to the surface. Likely next month.

Basil: oh, yeah…basil. In scrambled eggs. Pesto with walnuts is a possibility. And insalata caprese, made with fresh mozzarella, tomato, and basil. Drizzle with balsamic and your taste buds will bless you.

Lettuce: the plain lettuce is just fine. We’ve had a couple of salads. Delicious. But the mesclun mix? I have stared at it and cannot tell what came up. Another note to self: buy next year’s seeds at a garden supply house, not a supermarket end cap. I’ve checked whatever that is against the picture on the seed package and can’t tell what it is.

Maybe next year will be the year I’ll have enough produce to freeze for the winter, but for now, I’m having too much fun to care.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Random Monday Thoughts

Two new goals have popped up in the last week or so: to create a firmer schedule for my days and to start doing meal prep and plan once a week.

The schedule is to give the sails of the day some structure the way masts and riggings would on a ship. Otherwise the day just kind of flops around and I embody the stereotype of the writer who watches TV  or goofs on social media all day and wonders what happened. Today I’m on track. I did yoga, walked Oakley, and am writing this entry before checking in with my buddies in cyberspace. Yes, I will still have fun and yes I will still have time to watch TV, but filling the day with meaningful activities pushes me to be more selective about what and how much I watch.

Lately I’ve been reading a lot of blog entries and watching videos by Tonya Leigh, a life coach who made significant, lasting changes for herself by studying French culture and applying the the lessons to her own life. Anyone who tells you to throw out all the self help books that make you feel broken is someone you need to listen to.

The meal prep and plan is an act of self nurturing and self defense. Otherwise it’s just too easy to look at what’s in the fridge and nibble on leftovers instead of sitting down with a portioned-out meal. This goes double after yoga class. Or to succumb to pizza’s siren song. I’ll likely do that on Wednesday and shop Tuesday en route home from dropping Oakley at day care.

In the garden, the beans have blossomed. I have a pretty decent crop of basil and lettuce.  Some of the veggies look so different in their natural state that I can’t tell what they are, but there are a lot of them.  However, I have a lot of stray grass and other things I didn’t sow that need to be pulled. Oakley and I will do that tonight. Well, I’ll do the pulling while he stands guard. He’s good at that.

Attempts to relearn crochet unfold. I can create a semi-decent granny square in about a half hour. I’m not in it for glory or cash; I’m just in it to keep myself out of the snacks. It calms my mind for the most part, except for the times when I can’t get the tension right or I have to repeatedly rip out stitches due to a multitude of errors. Then I put it aside.

And find something else to occupy my hands and head to keep myself out of the snacks.

Message

Our beloved Bristol Renaissance Faire opened this weekend. Of course Hubby and I  went. As usual, we had a splendid time in our happy place beneath the oaks. We saw acts new and familiar, indulged in ice cream, and people watched. It’s always a little surprising to see a fellow faire-goer in a Federation uniform, but no judgement from us. OK, a couple of giggles. But no judgement. OK, maybe a little. You caught us.

Anyway, we had a good time. I made some purchases: two books, one about the history of the spice trade and the other about the history of jewels; the obligatory pair of earrings; and a badly needed new purse.

I was way overdue for one. Now that sunglasses are no longer an option due to light sensitivity and cataracts running in the family, I need a bigger purse to accommodate the case. The old purse fell apart, lining and outer layers of fabric parting company here and threadbare patches there. The new one is bigger with plenty of space for my phone, keys, glasses case, canine cleanup bags, and other items that fall into the black hole that every purse I own becomes. It’s handmade of corduroy with an up-cycled belt for a strap. The flap’s embellishments set it apart from mass produced bags. There’s a small strip of cotton eyelet, a small patch of green fabric, and an embossed leather patch.

The purse kept calling to me. In the shadows of the tent, the patch looked like an owl.

Owls are symbols of wisdom, of the crone goddesses who stand in their power by right of time and experience. My transition into that phase grows closer. Yes, I’ll take this one, please, as a reminder of what is to come.

The next morning I transferred the essentials from the old purse into the new one before picking up Oakley from his happy place, sleepover camp at Ms. Lanette’s. I brought him home, then dropped my purse on the dinette table as I usually do.

Over lunch, Hubby stared at it. “It’s spooky,” he said. I had to get something from the fridge, and en route I stood behind him to see what he saw. From his angle and due to the lighting, the patch resembled a skull not unlike a the ones found on pirate flags or the others decorating Halloween and Dia de los Muertos celebrations.

I paused.  I conceded that from that angle it looked a little spooky, but reminded him that it looked like an owl from other angles. He continued to eat lunch so it couldn’t have been that unsettling to him.

To me, it was.

Owl=cronehood. Wisdom.

Skull=death, passages, rebirth.

Perhaps it came down to a question in perspective. Not only from the point of view and lay of the light, but from life experience and one’s unique life lenses. Hubby is, was, and always will be an engineer, retirement be damned. He embodies the phrase “it is what it is.” No hidden meanings, no symbolism.  I am, was, and always will be a mythical, metaphorical student of Carl Jung. Everything is a metaphor, a symbol of some aspect of the human psyche, of the soul and spirit.

Was the innocuous leather patch a sign of some kind? Perhaps a reminder that I’m being birthed into the next stage of my life, that my middle years are limited and that I have no more time time to let the grass grow under my feet, to get busy taking steps towards the multitude of projects planned in my head. A message that I move into the autumn years? That I have fewer days ahead than behind me?

Yes, that.

A small chill ran through me.

How can I put my wisdom to work? I let that simmer in the back of my mind as I started on the spice trade book that afternoon.

Maybe sitting down, creating a new life list and vision board is in order.

Or maybe putting Oakley on his tie out line so I can freely putter in the garden, waking up a little earlier to do yoga and meditate, staying off social media to honor my creative voice, those are in order.

Perhaps it’s a combination of both, a meeting in the middle.

In any event, the patch on the purse serves as a daily reminder.

 

 

 

A Song for Canada…I Think

(Many thanks to Sandra and Helen  for the inspiration)

 

Today is July 4. We are keeping it quiet, low key, and close to home to avoid the ones let out of the homes for the rude and the lacking in common sense today. Hubby’s doing yard work. Oakley’s dozing in front of the fan. I’m planning on grilling chicken for dinner.

This last weekend  July 1 brought the birthdays of my sister, a dear friend, and Canada’s 150th. Two awesome humans and an awesome country all on the same day lead to much reveling. I went to the friend’s party. My sister went for a lovely lunch with her husband. Cities large and towns small celebrated Canada’s 150th without untoward incidents. Everyone looked as if they were having a great time in the pictures on the CBC website.

In honor of the sesquicentennial (type that without autocorrect flipping you off), Ontario’s government released a video with the provincial song updated for 2017 to reflect the growth and change  of the population since the centennial in 1967. Pretty awesome.

The 1967 version of the song was pretty awesome, too. Until recently when a couple of my comrades in social media who live in Ontario posted it a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t know that it was a song. I thought that the “On-tar-i-ar-i-ar-ohhHHHH” part was a jingle for a tourism commercial released in my home state of Michigan.

And a beautiful ad it was: the image of a honey colored setting sun transforming a lake into a pond of gold with a soprano singing the province’s name as the image faded out.

As with many things of beauty, it became dangerous when it fell into the wrong hands. Or vocal chords in this case.

Such as the ones of lower elementary and preschool children. Mine, and Laurie’s and her little sister Becky’s, and Janie’s. We lived within a few doors of each other. On a slow summer morning, we circled ourselves on a lush lawn; I can’t recall whose. It was one of those childhood things that just happened. I don’t remember how. It just did.  At first everyone took a turn singing “On-tar-i-ar-i-ohhhh,” and then that went up the scale to the point where we plugged our own ears.

“ON-tar-i-AR-i-AR-i-O-OHHH!” Giggles. Up a few more notches.

And finally, “ON-TAR-I-AR-I-AR-EEEEEE-O-OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!”

Becky was the youngest. I think her ability to hit that note at age four that made the neighbors think a murder was in progress. Dogs in a two-block radius started going berserk barking back at us. Had car alarms been the norm, we might have set off a few of them as well.

On cue, all our moms flew onto their respective front porches and as one shouted “FRANCESLEIGHLAURAJEANREBECCALEEJANEMARIE! Will you PLEASE stop screeching?”

We all mumbled a short apology, then as Janie’s mom closed their front door, we looked at one another.

Very quietly, but at the high end of her range,  Becky sang “on-tar-i-ar-i-ar-i-o-ohhhh….”

 

 

Food in Bowls and Jars

The wheel of the year turned another notch today. Summer Solstice, the longest day, arrived. I watered the plants. Radishes should be ready by the end of the week. Carrots poke small fern-like leaves through the top of the soil. We have four bean plants getting ready to rock and roll. And many other green leafy things have popped up. I don’t remember what I planted where, but we have an abundant crop of something or things on the way.

After giving the plants a drink, I had a rather hip and trendy breakfast of overnight oats. You haven’t tried them? You can’t connect to any relatively healthy eating site these days without thumbnails for recipes greeting you. I used a 16-ounce very well washed salsa jar for mine. All you have to do is put oats and some sort of milk or yogurt in a jar in a two-to-one ratio (I use 1/3 cup oats to 2/3 cup yogurt or soy  almond milk), a sweetener (stevia in my case), mix, and let sit overnight. The longer the resting period, the creamier the oats the next morning. You can throw in cocoa powder, nut butter, nuts, chia seeds, flax, whatever is healthy and world for you. Just don’t forget the sweetener; otherwise the flavor will remind you of library paste. And don’t forget some berries or banana in the morning when breakfast time arrives.

I put pumpkin in with mine, and pie spices. A bit unconventional for the first of summer, but it was quite good. Cool, creamy, dessert-like. Pumpkin pie is one of my favorite desserts; this echoed it pleasantly.

Another ubiquitous jar presentation: salads. These get shown in quart Mason jars. I see no reason why any other quart jar wouldn’t work. The basic recipe starts with dressing on the bottom, tomatoes, cucumbers, protein to act as a moisture barrier, then lettuce on top. At lunch or dinner time, give the jar a good shake and there you have your lunch or dinner. You can eat it as is or you can pour it out onto a plate.

If you don’t want to eat your meal on a plate, you can always put it into a bowl. Bowls garner a lot of press these days as well. The formula involves a layer of grains, some veggies, a protein, and salsa or some kind of sauce on top. If I can’t get to Chipotle for one of their bowls, I can make a fairly reasonable copy at home. Not quite the same, but pretty close.

While nothing can replace sitting down and enjoying the casual elegance of a sit-down homemade dinner, jar and bowl foods provide an option for tasty meals on the go. Two sites I like for ideas are Mind over Munch and The Domestic Geek.

Even with the hipness and trendiness, bowl and jar meals introduce some practicality. You can make meals for a few days in advance. You can practice better portion control (says the writer who picks at leftovers). You can reuse and up-cycle glass jars and plastic containers from past take out meals.

And  you can be sure that curbing plastic consumption and saving money will never go out of style.

 

We Are Stardust. We Are Golden. And We Have to Get Ourselves Back to the Garden.

 

graphics from Old Design Shop

Oakley asked to go out at six this morning. While he nibbled yard salad and tended to personal business, I watered the garden. The last shadows of the night veiled it, allowing me to give it a good drink that should soak in before the rising sun evaporates the water.

The radishes came up first. Their leaves look slightly ruffled. Some carrots may have sprouted. At least I think they’re carrots. I didn’t mark any of the sections, so there may be some overlap.  Green beans and tomatoes poke their first leaves through the top layer of soil. The first planting of mixed French lettuces and basil have broken through as well.

No weeds. No invading species. Just my crops. As Oakley sniffed and grazed, I sang to the plants and myself the lines from the Crosby Stills and Nash song: We are stardust. We are golden. And we have to get ourselves back to the garden. 

In the wake of yesterday’s events concerning the Paris Climate Treaty, it seemed like the best place to be this morning. Even though I was expecting the news, I still felt as if I’d taken a foot to my solar plexus.

The backlash for this rash decision began almost immediately. Governors and mayors announced their commitment to the Paris guidelines. Elon Musk left the president’s business advisory council within a few hours. More will come internationally, I’m sure.

On an individual basis, a bit of self examination will help determine doable actions in your own little corner of the world. In addition to gardening and protesting, what about writing thank you notes to the elected officials who are standing up to this attempt to send the US into developing world status? Just a little “thanks” on social media? A phone call?

There’s always a little something to be done, a seed to be planted, as we return to the original garden.

 

 

 

Garden Report for 5/31/17

Hubby built the raised bed for the garden last week. It’s 4’x8’x18″ and can accommodate all kinds of root depth.

We filled it with some fine organic soil premixed with sand (for drainage) and compost (for nutrients). After we shoveled the beautiful dirt into the bed frame, I tucked the seeds into it. Short and root crops go along the eastern edge. The taller, bushier ones went to the west side. I  watered, watered some more, and hoped for the best. We have tomatoes, some herbs, broccoli, lettuce, green beans, radishes, heirloom carrots, and spinach incubating in their lovely bed. Now we wait.

image courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

I hadn’t planted in seven springs. The last garden came into being just after Orion made his journey across the Rainbow Bridge. In the haze of early grief,  I half-heartedly poked holes in the ground, stuck the young plants into them, and watered. And walked away. And still had decent produce, including a zucchini the size of a baseball bat. Really. As I cleaned out the bed that fall, I bumped something buried in the leaves with my foot. There was the zucchini. Hubby and I didn’t know if we should cook with it, bronze it for posterity, or apply for an open carry permit.

I think I made some bread with it, and soup.  Good soup, if I remember correctly.

This year, I wanted, needed to get my hands back into the dirt. I needed to do something, anything to counterbalance the craziness in the world. Working with the cycle of nature keeps me sane, reminds me that all things will pass, eventually, and to have patience as they come to fruition.

Plus as the meme says, I’ll get tomatoes. You can’t beat that.

“Otherwise”

It’s Monday. All day. For another 13+ hours.

The last week or so, Jane Kenyon’s poem “Otherwise” has been my mantra. So much could have been otherwise.

Things were pretty quiet around here since the last entry. Oakley made a lovely recovery from the mild case of Lyme disease. We go back to the (more experienced) vet (who’s seen Oakley since puppyhood) this week for a recheck. My money is on that diagnosis because of how quickly he responded to the doxycyclene.  Within a couple of hours after he took the first dose,  he perked up, took nourishment, and wanted walks. I feel like I can exhale now. That could have been a huge otherwise.

Saturday was interesting, to say the least. A loud storm discharged a huge clap of thunder that shook the house hard enough to make one of the smoke alarms wail in protest. Granted that it was the alarm that goes off if someone sneezes while walking beneath it, but it was still disconcerting. It could have been otherwise, such as a bolt of lightning striking the roof. Thankfully, it wasn’t.

Later, as Oakley and I returned from a hasty walk between storms, one of the turkey buzzards that live in the trees down the road flew directly in front of my car. I slammed on the brakes as did the driver behind me. The bird lived to clean up road kill for another day; my windshield and both bumpers remained intact. A win-win situation for all resulted. That could have been an otherwise as well, and an incredibly messy one at that.

Despite a relatively late night, Oakley and I woke up with the sun. That could have been a huge otherwise, but it wasn’t. The sky had cleared. We had slept well, even after watching “Dark Angel” on PBS last night. Joanne Froggat, best known here in the states as Anna on “Downton Abbey” portrayed Victorian-era serial killer Mary Ann Cotton with chilling accuracy. I wisely cleansed my mental palate with many cake making videos before closing my eyes for the night.  With the way I carry what I watch on TV into my dreams, that could have definitely been otherwise.

But it wasn’t.

We go about today, another ordinary Monday, and make notes of gratitude that it wasn’t otherwise.

 

A Day to Spend Nothing and Eat Veggies

And chill. Oakley and I had to make a run to the vet on Saturday. He picked up some kind of infection that caused the glands under his ears to swell. After a rather heated exchange with the (extremely young) new vet at our clinic, she conceded that we should try an antibiotic first; then if they don’t work, test for a couple of other possibilities; and then and only then will we test for the unspeakable (as in cancer but we will not go there).  By Sunday afternoon, the glands had started going down. He was back in his usual form, staring at me and patting the carpet until I took him to the park. Dinnertime brought on an extended version of the starving urchin lecture until his bowl was in his crate. We had a good sleep and woke up ready to face another Monday, including the obligatory chase around the coffee table when the time came to gear up to go to the park.

In the last few years, Mondays have been a call not to eat meat (#MeatlessMonday) and more recently, not to purchase anything (#SpendNothingMonday). The day of veg eating to begin the week started in World War II to make sure that the boys and girls at the front were getting well fed as well as making sure there was enough to go around here at home. Now it’s to relieve, even just for a few minutes, the burden placed on our dear planet by industrial meat production. Spending nothing started was brought to my attention a couple of months ago by a friend. Its objective: to make the participants aware of how much we spend on a daily basis and again, to relieve the burdens on the earth as well as our psyches caused by rampant consumerism.

It’s easy for me to participate in both since I’m home based. Out of sight; out of mind, aided by not being very fond of shopping either on-line or common reality to begin with.  I’ve slipped up a few times on the no spend thing by grabbing an iced coffee as a treat after a run to the park, but otherwise I don’t shop.  Especially not today. The vet visit put me off shelling out more shekels for the moment, thank you very much.

I usually don’t eat a lot of meat, so it’s not a big deal to me to go without it. Today I had yogurt with strawberries for breakfast . Lunch was a stir-fry of cabbage with carrots and red peppers to make it pretty, and an alt-meat called Quorn.  It’s made of egg whites and mushroom culture. With almost no discernible flavor of its own, it takes to seasonings well. I used half a package of the crumbles. I’ll use the other half in tacos or in shepherd’s pie tonight.

Tuesday will take care of itself. I may just extend this into Tuesday. As long as I have a jar of almond butter, a coffee pot, and the companionship of a good boy, I have all I need and more.