The Garden and Tech Reports for 6.19.19

 

agriculture basket beets bokeh
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com                                                                  

And finally a couple of weeks ago, the clouds parted and the sun came out, drying out the garden bed soil enough to plant a few tomatoes and herbs.

First I had to dig out about two inches of soil to get rid of the mesclun mix that had taken over the bed. Had I not done that, I would still be pulling it out by hand. Sprinkled in some dried chicken manure to replenish it, then poked holes for the lavender, parsley, sweet and Thai basils, and tomatoes. Three red ones, one golden, and one cherry (cherry is small and red, so we have a double count with it). Two of the tomatoes have set blossoms. The lavender blossoms opened to graciously share their fragrance with us and the bees. Now all I need to do is water as needed, pull a couple of weeds now and then, and wait.

The tech issues were a little more complicated. Sometime in the wee smalls of Monday morning, the modem that had served us well by keeping us connected to the outside world via the DSL line installed in 2002 if I remember correctly, joined the choir invisible, ceased to exist, etc. It became an ex-modem.

Usually, Hubby deals with tech issues while I make a cake. He was out of town. I called him to let him know what was going on and to please call my cell phone (our “landline” is actually a VOIP* system).

Now, bearing in mind that he was a telecomm engineer** for 35 years, he began rapid-fire troubleshooting questions, some of which I could answer (no, no adverse weather; yes, I did the unplug/plug thing; what’s wrong with it is that I can’t get connectivity, period).

“You’ll have to call support.”

I have to call support. I’d rather go to the dentist and gynecologist at the same time, thank you very much. And have them trade ends.

Not having much choice, I sucked it up and called. The human rep I spoke with after negotiating the queue was kind and friendly and helpful. He talked me through the steps of rebooting, and then…

And then with no warning, the power went out.

Rep asked when I thought the power would be back. I guessed about two hours. He or his supervisor would call me back then. OK, thanks.

And then my text chime went off several times. Hubby had tried to call, but kept getting the “all circuits are busy” message. What is going on? Did the tower go out?

I refrained from replying, “How the hell should I know?” I just called him, told him that there had been a power failure in the middle of the call to the support center, and that I needed to call Com Ed.

Com Ed didn’t know what was going on, either. I submitted an automated report.

Another call from Hubby. No, dear, I don’t know what happened to the power.

At this time, the muscles around my left eye started getting twinge-y. Went to the powder room where we keep the over the counter meds in search of something to take to keep the twitches and twinges from blossoming into a full blown cluster headache. I was out of my preferred pain killer. Great.

Breathing my way through the discomfort, I called Com Ed for an update. Very small, localized outage due to an equipment failure. If this was the transformer that I think it was and if anyone from Com Ed read this, we told you so.

The text chime dinged several more times. Updates from Com Ed, and forwarded texts from Hubby that he’d received from them.

Confirmed that I’d received them. Tried to sit quietly. Tried to visualize the tight muscles giving me the headache unwinding.

And with a flurry of beeps and chirps, the power made a triumphant return.

Now to wait for the ISP rep to call back.

And wait.

And update Hubby, who reminded me that the call center closed at five and the odds were that they wouldn’t call back. And wait.

No call. Five o’clock rapidly approached.

I called again. Negotiated the queue, ran through the paces with another pleasant rep. Yep. Sounds like a dead modem. We’ll get someone out tomorrow. Thank you.

Called Hubby for another update. Another round of troubleshooting questions (yes, they ran tests; no, I don’t know which ones; the guy will be here between eight and noon; African or European?)

Done with technology for the day, I walked Oakley. I ate ice cream for dinner. I had a salad or something to mitigate the ice cream, but I ate it while I stared off into space.

At least I slept OK that night. The tech arrived at the end of the time frame I’d requested, but he quietly and efficiently did his job, bringing us a new modem that brought us up to speed, literally and figuratively.

For now, we are able to do what we need to online, but hopefully we won’t take 20 years for the next upgrade.

 

* stands for Voice Over Internet Protocol. Same as calling on an actual landline, but over the internet.

**who worked on one of the rudimentary forms of the internet in the days of our courtship.

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The What Is This Garden That You Speak Of? Report for 5/30/19

 

variety of vegetables
Photo by Ella Olsson on Pexels.com

If all unfolds as it looks like it’s going to this evening and possibly tomorrow, May 2019 will be the rainiest one on record in these parts. The raised bed is a mud pit. As well as having to wait for it to dry out, I have to take out the top two inches of soil due to the rogue mesclun mix that took over and threatens to do so again this year. After that, I need to replace it with more soil and some fertilizer (organic, of course). And then I can plant.

I grow more than a bit impatient to do so. I know that I’m not the only one. Last night one of the local newscasts interviewed a farmer located about fifteen miles west of me. I think Oakley and I have driven past his fields on our adventures. The farmer said that he has as much as two feet of standing water in some places. If the crops can be planted by June 10, things will work out OK. Yield will be somewhat impacted, but  they will be all right. If not, well, that’s a problem.

I’m just grateful that we are not that dependent on my paltry gardening skills to put food on the table and that I don’t depend on the weather for my livelihood. Nevertheless, it’s starting to grate on the nerves. The daily soundtrack this month has included thunder and the patter of rain against the window as well as the rattle of hail. A couple of weeks ago the call of the tornado sirens livened things up. I wasn’t expecting that, at least not at 11:30 AM. No damage, but I don’t remember sirens going off that early in the day. Ever.

We didn’t have sirens on Memorial Day, but we did have a microburst on the north side of town. That’s a good five miles from me. Some trees parted company with the ground and one of the big box hardware stores lost a significant chunk of the roof, but everything was still standing.

So we wait. The seven-day forecast during the noon news indicated a drier stretch of about three days next week. Maybe then…maybe then….

The Springing of Spring

 

depth of field photography of tulip flowers
Photo by Vural Yavas on Pexels.com

The weather finally decided to warm up and act like spring here in the soybean field. The final measurable snow fell a couple of weeks ago and yielded four inches of slop. We stayed inside, needless to say.

Except for that day, we’ve been able to resume walks with our friends on weekend mornings. Oakley and Bonnie Blue read and respond to the social media posts left by other dogs as we meander the riverside trail connecting two parks, the one where we meet and the one that’s our turnaround point. It’s not a long walk nor is it a strenuous one, but it’s good friend hangout time for us as well as the pups.

Here at home, the first task outdoors will be cleaning out the raised garden bed. I still have a couple of weeks before I can plant this year’s crops, but remnants of the rogue lettuce and other plants I don’t recall inserting into the soil last year need to be pulled before that happens.

It is good to have that to look forward to. It’s good to participate in the cycle of life, of growth. In the last weeks, I had yet another passage to process. The husband of a close friend (and a friend in his own right) made his journey to the Other Side a couple of weeks ago. He had Parkinson’s. It wasn’t a battle, nor a journey during the 10 or 12 years of living with it. It just was a part of their lives. Until the last couple of weeks he was still engaged, curious, and did his best to follow the tango steps from his wheelchair as my friend and their teacher danced during a visit. Not long after that he just started the quiet drift to the distant shore. It was peaceful, comfortable, and full of grace. His funeral and interment will be next week.

For now, we get ready to go on.

 

 

Fresh Starts and New Beginnings

 

women s white top and orange floral skirt
Photo by Samuel Silitonga on Pexels.com

East. Sunrise. As part of my morning rituals, I thank it for fresh starts and new beginnings. It’s at the top of the wheel of the year, signifying spring.

Which arrived, finally, this week. We had a beautiful Monday and Tuesday wasn’t bad. Yesterday and today have been cooler and rainy, but no complaints will be issued after this winter.

Winter is in the west position on the wheel. It is to be thanked as well for the times of rest and stillness. Growth can be forced, as with amaryllis bulbs, but going against nature’s rhythms and cycles has always felt wrong to me.

When the time to break through the ground or wiggle out of the cocoon comes, it comes at its own pace. The need for changes acts as the catalyst for the process just as the alchemy of sunlight and enzymes spur plants to break through the surface of the soil.

For humans, that might mean a change to one’s appearance. I had my hair cut last week. I just couldn’t do long hair anymore. It’s grown finer as I’ve aged and snarls no matter how much conditioner I use. Pulling it up and back made me look older. It’s in a just below chin length bob now with lots of layers to accommodate the natural curl. Even though there’s more silver and grey than brown showing now, I think I look younger, or at least feel that way. If I blow dry it and use a half-tube of product, I can look sleek and sophisticated. If I just scrunch in a dab of curl cream and let it air dry, it springs into its natural ringlets and waves. Hubby said I look like a mad scientist. I will take that as a compliment. Anyway, it’s lovely to run a brush through my hair and not feel like I’m picking apart a piece of felt when I reach the ends.

The other seedling coming to fruition involved buying a ten-pack of classes at a yoga studio in the town where we do our big shops. After a month of arguing with myself about it–ruminating about the 30+minute commute, distance, hassles with parking, weather issues–I just did it. Since the teacher I had studied with decided to move on to other things last year (and the fact that I was the only student showing up most of the time), I had fallen off the yoga wagon. I don’t have the discipline to keep going solo with the YouTube videos. Neither studio here in town is a good fit for me. When I remind myself that it’s an investment in myself, it goes a little easier. Plus I can see a couple of close friends for tea or lunch as a reward. I went to my first class this past Monday. The teacher greeted me warmly and went on to lead one of the best classes I’ve ever taken. I’ve made reservations for two more classes this coming week. I already feel more grounded, centered, and inspired than I have in quite a while.

We worked on tree pose during class. Tree involves balancing on one foot while placing the other foot on the ankle, calf, or thigh of the active leg. You may hold your hands in prayer position at heart level, or reach them towards the sky.

As I wobbled like a willow in the wind storm with my weight on the right foot and left foot on my ankle, I kept reaching for the sky.

 

 

 

 

 

You Know It’s Spring When…

person standing using red umbrella
Photo by Aline Nadai on Pexels.com We are in for storms

I’m going to whisper this: it looks as if winter’s finally let go of us. Don’t let winter hear you repeat this; it might get ideas about returning.

Yesterday some redwing blackbirds sang in the day as I took Oakley out for his first round of social networking. It was breezy, but not to the point where walking and standing were neat tricks. The mild air smelled fresh and slightly milky with notes of green. Beneath my feet, the tender soil yielded to each step, making a slight sucking noise as I pulled my feet from the mud.

Yes. Hello, spring and all the things that come with you: the mud, the bird songs, the unstable weather. Welcome.

We are under a tornado warning until 5PM Central today. It’s to be expected when the day’s high spikes near 60 only to be chased out by a cold front during the afternoon hours. Starting tomorrow daytime highs will be more in line with averages for mid-March. After a winter with a polar vortex, they will feel subtropical.

So far today, we’ve had three short rounds of rain followed by crystal blue skies. The southwest wind is howling away. A little while ago hail smashed against the windows. No damage, just noise.

Oakley has spent the last few hours either sitting next to me with his tush glued to my hip or taking refuge in his storm shelter between the arm chair and the love seat. The flying debris smacking into the house and other solid objects is a bit nerve wracking for both of us. I don’t blame him. A seat next to Mom soothes his anxiety.

We tried to walk at the big forest preserve this morning, but bailed. The thunder under a half-blue half-clouded-over sky was disconcerting enough, but throw a couple of bus loads of elementary school students in and you can kiss any semblance of peace goodbye. We missed our 30 minute goal by about five minutes, but the speed of return to the car likely compensated for it.

I made sure to charge my phone last night in case of power outages, both so I can contact the power company and communicate with the outside world. We’re prepared. We don’t really have much else to worry about as this system makes its way to its next destination. For that I am truly grateful.

 

The Longest Month

 

accomplishment action adventure atmosphere
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

I have never been so happy to see a February go the way of the wind as I have been with this one. One ice storm after another; a day of winds at 35 MPH sustained with gusts nearing 60; no real thaw; all but a handful of days were as grey and dreary as a Dickens novel. Usually, the weather modulates in February, but this year all the meteorological events that prohibit outdoors activity trooped through the soybean field one after another.

The usual efforts involving DVDs, music, and decluttering projects to counteract the trapped feeling provided little help. I spent one post-ice storm day rage baking because I didn’t know what else to do with myself. Slick roads prevented any attempts at escape to anywhere a person could go for an outing. For that matter, we couldn’t even get down the blessed driveway due to the layers of snow and ice. The mixed apple-berry crisp turned out well, though. The olive oil and lemon cake landed on the dry side. If I’m going to invest calories and carbs in a cake, it had better be quite moist. This wasn’t and didn’t have much flavor. It was so bad that I wanted to throw it out for the birds. Hubby ate it with strawberry jam. He said it was good that way and that he didn’t want to waste it. Very well. However,  I’ll try a different recipe next time.

I’m going through my cookbooks and trying to think springtime thoughts, but when you have howling winds and daytime highs at least ten degrees below average, it gets tough.

This last Friday was rather warmish, and some signs of spring teased us before the temperatures began yesterday’s slide. Oakley’s been inspecting every inch of the field with me in tow, getting whiffs of scents left by the wildlife trotting through the back yard while posting his own messages. An odd brave blade of grass has turned green, and a few more of its fellows undergo the same transformation on a daily basis.

Eventually, the season will change. We have a cold week ahead of us, and next weekend will be warmer but with precipitation. Will we have a semi-normal spring, or will we go from heating to cooling in a single bound?

I don’t know. We’ll just have to see.

 

 

 

A Visit to the Ag Store

 

agriculture tractor
Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

We didn’t get out for a walk yesterday due to freezing rain. Outdoor activities are a no-go today, too. While it’s too warm to freeze, at least until tonight when the temps will plummet, the north wind tosses drops of drizzle around like the star-shaped weapons used by Ninjas.

On days like this, I struggle not to bake all the recipes. Oakley proclaims his boredom by pestering for snacks or licking the coffee table and the knickknacks on it to see how much of a rise he can get out of me, there’s only one thing to do: go to the ag store.

The one we frequent is housed in what once was a Wal-Mart on the far side of the next town over from us. The march of progress called for a move to a super center across the street, leaving this building unoccupied for some time. Then a furniture store that underwent reinvention at least twice moved in there. After its demise, the building sat empty again until the ag store chain bought it and set up camp there.

It’s not quite as good as a walk in the woods, but a bit of browsing and window shopping in a dog-friendly environment dulls the edge of cabin fever. We aren’t the only ones looking for a comfortable place to spend a bit of time. It’s not uncommon to see other people chatting or checking the bulletin board by the front entrance or debating the best tool for a given job.

After Oakley leaves messages on a lamppost or two in the parking lot, in we go. He’s happy and eager to do so because of the scents and the associates who tell him what a good boy he is and how handsome, mitigating the neglect he receives at home.

At the customer service desk, there’s popcorn and coffee for the people and a dish of biscuits for dogs.  The biskies don’t fit my criteria for Oakley’s daily consumption, but once in a while as a treat, they’re OK. I take two, then drag him away before he scarfs up the rest of them. From there, we proceed to the automotive department to give the tires and accessories a good sniffing.

When that department has passed inspection, we practice “sit,” munch on a bite of biskie, and walk through the aisles where hoses, hardware, and paint wait on the shelves to be purchased. Again, “sit,” and biskie bite.

Power tools don’t have much of a draw for either of us, and neither does the clothing intended for average sized and much younger women. We bypass those displays. We weave through the other aisles until we reach the livestock department. They have rabbits for sale year round, and next month spring chicks will join them. Oakley quickly peeks into the holding pens, keeping his nose high enough so he can sniff but not frighten the bunnies or chicks.

I rarely buy anything if Oakley is with me. It’s infinitely easier to make a solo return trip than to juggle 75 pounds of dog, a cartload of stuff, and my purse so I can pay.  When I see items I need such as pet safe ice melt or gardening supplies or the like, I make mental notes and swing by to pick them up after the day care run–it’s on the main route between our house and Ms. Lanette’s.

The true test of patience is in the garden department. We practice long sits as I look longingly at the seed packets and hand tools, anticipating the upcoming season of sun and earth. When I’m done, Oakley gets the final bite of biskie and we say “thank you” to the associates at the customer service desk as we make our exit.

We go home with stories to tell about who we saw and what smelled good that day. On days like today, those are just as important as the items I’ll return to purchase after the next day care run.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting Hygge With It

 

white polar bear on white snowy field near canal during daytime
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

(No polar bears in the field just yet, but I would not be surprised if one sauntered past us.)

Today Oakley and I experiment with the Danish art of hygge. There’s no direct translation of the word, but the gist of it means making things as nice as possible inside with candles, knickknacks, good music, books, DVDs, dog treats, and of course, chocolate and red wine along with having friends over. We have all of the above, and while I’d love to have friends over, not in this weather will I ask them to leave their homes, so I’ll make a couple of calls. It’s how Danes survive their winters without going totally mad.

Our winter chugged along in mild beauty and splendor until last week when weather turned into more typical January patterns of snow and co. This week, Mother Nature decided to send a cross-pole vortex our way. We’re going to make history for the next 48-72 hours out here in the soybean field. Tonight’s low will be -23F. Tomorrow’s high will be -15F. Thursday we’ll be hovering around zero, but all will be right again on Friday with a subtropical high of 20F. Right now it’s 4F above with the wind kicking up the top layer of the snow.

As much as it irritated both of us, I kept Oakley home from day care today. Usually he goes twice a week, but attendance this last month has been erratic due to weather. Today local weather people call for blowing and drifting later this afternoon, right about the time I usually pick him up. That’s the rub. The route I vastly prefer cuts through open farm fields. It gets blown in after snowstorms no matter how diligently they keep after it. I’ve been blinded by ground blizzards before and don’t wish to risk that, thank you. The other route involves a US highway that follows the railroad line stringing together the largest towns in the county. It’s better sheltered and the first road plowed after storms. However, accessing it involves doubling back to the east which jacks up drive time as well as negotiating a two mile stretch of  construction. As in 30 minutes to go two miles. Nope.

So we nibble a couple of extra treats, play some games, do some puzzles as we listen to the wind underscoring the current selection playing on WFMT. We only have to get through 48-72 hours of this, and we will.

I can’t speak for Oakley, but I intend to enjoy it as much as possible.

 

 

In Praise of Pantries

Image courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

Winter finally came to town this weekend. We didn’t get that much snow, but it was one of those storms that just strolled in early Saturday, pulled up a chair, and made itself at home until finally leaving in the wee smalls Sunday morning.

Luckily, we didn’t have to be anywhere this weekend. We made the big haul grocery trip a few days before, so we didn’t have to worry about perishables and had a fresh supply of nonperishables. Such is the joy of having a pantry and a freezer.

Oh, what’s in them? Something like this:

  • Fish, canned and frozen
  • Chicken from the place that meets both our specifications
  • Pasta
  • Jarred pasta sauce and canned tomatoes: crushed or diced
  • Rice, basmati and jasmine
  • Different canned beans and lentils. I’ve never been able to cook beans from scratch.  Yes, it’s cheaper and more ecologically sound to do so, but beans just won’t cooperate under my direction. Except lentils.
  • A few cartons and cans of soups: chicken broth for homemade, tomato soup from Trader Joe’s, clam chowder, and a vegetable soup Aldi gets from Germany a few times a year
  • Onions and potatoes and garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Frozen blueberries and green beans
  • Baking supplies including oatmeal
  • Nuts and nut butter
  • Shelf stable Indian foods for the days when neither of us just can’t

I always have seasonings on hand so I can create tasty meals such as soups and curries out of a few items from the pantry. While I have the luxury of a dedicated room (about the dimensions of a good sized closet) for storing canned goods and supplies such as toilet paper and paper towels, I know a lot of people don’t. I wish they did. I know some other bloggers who have their stashes in plastic storage bins that fit under their beds or tucked into closets. That’s not a bad alternative.

Being well stocked mostly prevents the temptation of making runs for fast food, so our investment saves money as well. Plus if the weather goes bad, we don’t have to pick our way over crappy roads to go shopping.

And while we’re on the subject of pantries….please don’t forget your local food banks. With the chaos and insanity in DC, the most vulnerable (children, elders, and disabled) are at risk for being forgotten. Thank you.

 

 

 

Winter’s Peace

 

afterglow background beautiful branches
Photo by Krivec Ales on Pexels.com

Yesterday afternoon, rose gold light tinted the bare oak trees and open fields along the back road I take between our house and Oakley’s day care and boarding. The road skirts a semi-residential area with a reduced speed limit and light traffic, so no one honked at me as I slowed a bit to take in the beauty.

The days lengthen in increments of a minute here, a few seconds there. I didn’t have to turn on the headlights as I had to last week on the way home from picking up a happy, tired pooch.

Oakley hopped in the car, looked out the windshield and the passenger side window, then curled into a snoring ball on the front seat for the trip home.

I kept the radio on the classical music station for a score befitting a drive home under a winter sunset. Much had happened in the news yesterday, so I chose respite from it  during the drive.

Once home, the aroma of salsa chicken* in the slow cooker greeted us. Oakley did his dinner dance, crashing afterwards into a hard nap on his spot on the sofa. Hubby watched woodworking videos on his tablet. I watched “A Craftsman’s Legacy” on PBS. We minimized news watching, choosing tranquility over the need for being well informed.

Somehow last night, things felt more OK than they have in sometime. The pieces scattered from by last fall’s losses are settling into their new shapes and forms. The lines in Hubby’s face have relaxed. There still are moments and there will be moments when  missing his sister and brother in law overwhelm him, but like an outgoing tide, those will fade away in time.

For last night anyway, everything faded with the evening light.

 

 

*Salsa chicken: one jar of salsa of your choice (I like Aldi’s house brand Casa Mamita organic fire roasted vegetable) and enough chicken to cover the bottom of a 5-quart slow cooker. Take the skin off the chicken if need be, place in the slow cooker, pour enough salsa to cover on top, then cover and let it go until falling apart tender. Works with any part of chicken. Pick it off the bones if need be. Use in tacos, on salad, in enchiladas, or in rice bowls.