And Yourself?

Image courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

So how the heck are you, Gentle Readers? We are slightly bonkers here from the monotony of the days in the soybean field, yet we are grateful that we are well off in so many other ways.

We’re making an effort to stick to some kind of schedule. Meals and walks get served up at pretty much the same time daily as they were before the stay at home order went into effect back in March. The two changes: afternoon walks are later to avoid crowds at the parks, and we stop at 2:30 for tea, species-appropriate treats, and to watch the daily briefing from Governor Pritzker, Dr. Ngosi Ezike, the head of the Illinois Public Health Department, and other dignitaries with important information pertaining to this accursed modern-day plague.

Those, too, have patterns and rhythms. If Gov. Pritzker’s opening remarks include acknowledgements of people on the front line in one capacity or another,  or introducing additional speakers, the statistics will run low. If he hands it off to Dr. Ezike right after thanking everyone for tuning in, we know the numbers are even less pretty than usual.  It’s been interesting to listen to a National Guard commander detail what’s gone into transforming McCormick Place from a convention center into an alternative care facility for COVID-19 patients. I felt uplifted by the motivational speech by a young man who created a NFP to mentor teens in his tough neighborhood reminding them and others to use this time at home to set goals and work out game plans to achieve them. Next come the questions from reporters, and then everyone is thanked and that’s it for the day.

Sometimes we watch “Jeopardy” to cleanse our palates. Sometimes nothing short of time in the woods will shift gears. And sometimes as it’s been too many days this spring, it’s too cold and rainy, so we have another snack.

Luckily, the weather has shifted gears, finally. My plan, subject to change due to factors beyond my control, is to get the garden planted in the next week. One of my local organic farmers is selling plants with curbside delivery. I know that I can trust him to pick good ones for me. Usually, I would buy them form the ag store, but many shoppers there believe that masks  and distancing are but suggestions.

The tough parts for me have been keeping Oakley amused (day care starts again next week–it’s located in a county that will start opening nonessential services on Monday) and not being able to shop for food in person. Well, I could. I don’t because as with the ag store, a lot of people in these parts see social distancing and wearing masks as a government plot to strip civil liberties. We’ve been getting curbside from a mom-and-pop near Oakley’s day care and as much as it gags me, Wal-Mart.

Will we have markets this summer? I don’t know. Right now, I would love to have tea or lunch in person with a friend, but because so many are in risk groups, and Hubby is in a risk group because of his age, I can’t and won’t take that chance.

Even back in the days of the Black Plague, people understood that isolation and quarantine was the best way to shut it down. In fact, did you know that “quarantine” is derived from the Italian word for forty? Now you do. And if this was something new, you may go take a nap.

The plague passed. So will this, eventually.  Not unlike a kidney stone, but it will.

 

In Praise of Normal Days

a brown barn close to the river under cloudy skies and snow covered grounds in winter
Photo by Tobias Bjørkli on Pexels.com

Forgive my unintended sabbatical, Gentle Readers. Hubby, Oakley, and I have been enjoying an extended stretch of normal days. You know the kind, the ones that unfold according to routine where you get up, do your work, walk Oakley, watch maybe a bit too much TV (such as impeachment hearings), perhaps lunch with a friend.

The good kind of normal, like really high end vanilla ice cream, the slightly off white with the seeds speckling it. On its own, it’s great, but it’s able to provide a backdrop for hot fudge or strawberries if those are available as well as supporting a swirl of whipped cream.

We give thanks for the basics right now be they vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry.  We have the pantry stocked for the winter with human and canine food. No outstanding bills loom over us; no human or canine health crises or passages to the great beyond disturb our peace. The vehicles declared their suicide pact null and void. None of them have acted up since my VW’s last trip to the dealer’s just after Labor Day.

Outdoors, the garden was prepped for next spring with layers of cardboard and mulch. One of my friends who is an experienced, wise gardener suggested that as a last ditch effort to rid the bed of the rogue mesclun mix and seeds in the compost that hadn’t cooked properly. Just poke holes with a spade, add the plants, and voila, instant garden this May.

Indoors, I’ve been decluttering. How two people and a total of two dogs can crap up a house like this is beyond me. Not purging the knickknacks and books so much as the piles of junk like boxes that we didn’t know what to do with, so we put them in the dining room until we could figure out the best course of action. Then they decided to use it as a breeding ground. I passed those on to a couple of friends who have an Etsy shop. Or the bags of hoarded inanities and old clothes that I piled into my car for their ride  to a donation center. I was a little surprised that I didn’t get a flyer with information about opening my own Goodwill franchise.

We have opened some space. What it will be filled with remains to be seen, but we welcome the good and normal.

 

 

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.

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday Notes of the Random Sort

 

Image courtesy Old Design Shop

 

(No, not quite like that.)

Late this week, the weather settled into a pattern conforming with the norms and standards of late spring/early summer. Metrological summer, not astronomical summer, that is. I spent five or ten minutes here and there pulling weeds and what had been labeled as mesclun mix on the seed packet from the raised bed this week. Finally, yesterday under a blue and grey ombre sky, I evicted the last of the rogue salad blend, dug out six inches around the burrow created by the critter this last winter, and planted the garden.

Since weather conducive to planting without risk of hypothermia or heat stroke came late this year, I decided to get some already started plants at our local ag store. Oakley and I walked at a nearby prairie restoration, then we stopped and selected the plants. We have three kinds of tomatoes (large heirloom varieties called Brandywine and Cherokee Purple for Hubby; yellow pear for me); yellow squash; lavender and basil (their aromas please the senses while warding off insects); cucumbers; and cilantro. From seed I planted rainbow carrots, parsley, green beans, and radishes. Water and wait.

Afterwards, I took a hot shower and coated my back with an analgesic roll-on to prevent my muscles from freezing into an unintended backbend. It worked.

Hubby’s next class started yesterday. It’s an internship where he gets to work on projects for his instructor’s clients. He was happy and geeked up and then…

Then came the text. His brother-in-law  (BIL)  had been in remission for a couple of months, but started having problems breathing recently. During the workup, they found out that the chemo and radiation f–ed up his lungs. Technically speaking, it’s called pulmonary pneumenosis. The treatments for the cancer caused damage and inflammation leading to the bronchial sacs becoming stiffened, making it hard to fully inhale or exhale. To add to the hilarity (she says, dripping with sarcasm), the cancer came back and took up camp in his liver. He’s in the hospital. We don’t know how long he has. Not much else can be done at this time except wait the interminable wait for the call we don’t want.

I talked myself out of making a cake. It wouldn’t help BIL, and with the mood that news triggered last night it likely may not have made it into the oven.

We’ve spent the day keeping ourselves distracted. Hubby is working on cabinets for his mom’s house. It’s keeping him busy.

Oakley and I are staying busy as well. We had our usual weekend morning walk with our friends early today. I took Oakley shopping at his favorite store. They finally had the bunny burgers in stock, making both of us very happy. Better yet, they had put a couple of bags of the burgers aside with a note to check with us to see if we wanted them. That made the day a lot better.

After lunch I put Oakley in the car for a ride. I needed to clear my head. We drove aimlessly, and stopped at a forest preserve. Usually this one is relatively desolate, but today a family reunion took place. A huge one. I smiled, waved, picked the way out of the creatively parked cars back to the main road and brought us home.

Hubby continues with building cabinets. I write. I need to clear out the dishwasher while contemplating one of the great mysteries of life: how two adults and a dog can create that many dirty dishes in a 24-hour cycle.

Maybe that’s not such a mystery, after all. Maybe the small tasks of everyday life are gifts, are the things that give us structure as we navigate the winds of change.

Beltane Eve

 

spring-trees-1403394.jpg

 

Finally, the weather picked a lane. The grass turned green; flowers unfurl their petals. This calls for a dance. 

In some quarters, Beltane, a/k/a May 1 or May Day, gets celebrated as the ancients intended it to be: a welcoming of warmer weather marked with bonfires, music, dancing, and, um, fertility rituals.

In others, it’s a rather watered down acknowledgement of the turning wheel of the year. May poles and teas abound in tamer circles.

Personally, I’ll land in the middle, dancing in the back yard with Oakley as we enjoy tea, cake, and biskies respectively. The soil is still a little cool, so I shall be twirling about in my boots.

Not for much longer, though. With a sigh of relief, I checked the weather. We have a potentially rough couple of days of storms looming ahead, but it’s just rain. This last weekend we had what was our last (please, Mystery) frost. I might have to wait a couple of days for things to dry out, but maybe I’ll be able to get the garden going this weekend.

Maybe.

I hope.

January Thaw

 

Image courtesy The Graphics Fairy

Despite the highs reaching a not unreasonable 28F, today is foggy, cold, damp. Perfect for tea, writing, and planning the garden for this spring. Wisdom in this area dictates waiting until Mothers’ day weekend to plant to avoid frost, so that means I still have about four months. I can start seedlings in April, though. Maybe a little earlier for the hardier greens.  Some root crops such as potatoes can go right into the ground as early as Good Friday, I’ve been told by farmers and more experienced gardeners. I’m not sure about that this year since it falls on March 30.  I stay in the dream state a little longer.

After a leaden-skied morning, yesterday turned out to be quite pleasant. The  early part of the morning featured ice on our road, but once on the main drag all was well. Oakley and I made the 45 minute trip to the eye vet. The good news is that the weird vascular growth in the right eye has stopped and his left eye is perfectly normal. The better news is that we are weaning him off the Prednisone. He may have to be on a maintenance dose (according to Dr. J, this would likely be a half tablet once or twice a week) for longterm purposes, but we will know more after the next visit.

Even better news came after the sky cleared in the afternoon. Hubby received a call from his case manager that the good people in Springfield approved his transfer to a training program specifically for CNC machine operators*. He’ll be done in six months attending classes there rather than two years at the local community college. He’s in his 60s and he doesn’t have two years to mess with taking classes that may not really help that much. The new adventure starts later this week.

My resurrected old adventure rebooted this week, too. My yoga teacher hosted a writing workshop at her studio this last bright but frigid Saturday. Small in size, but big in laughter and learning. I hadn’t taught a class in a few years.  Writing doesn’t have to be a big scary thing,  they learned. The participants worked on exercises that allowed them to leave with haikus to amaze their friends and families and with a tool kit to keep their practices going forward.

And in all honesty, as I drove home under the bright sky, I felt as if I moved forward, too.

*A CNC machine is a computer operated device that lets carpenters and metal workers cut materials to needed shapes and sizes with speed and accuracy.

Garden Report: Final Edition for 2017

We had the first real frost yesterday morning. Even as Oakley made our bed time potty run the night before, the grass glistened and crunched. Well, it is November, and this is to be expected on the heels of protracted warm weather.

Yesterday, I pulled the last of the carrots and some greens. I don’t know what they were. I’d planted a packet of seeds labeled as French salad blend. Beyond being kind of tasty, their identity remains a mystery. The basil hung like flags on windless days. It had slowed down, so no great loss there. The remaining green tomatoes may go into a batch of salsa. I sampled one–the recent rains made them really watery and the lack of sun impeded their ripening. They were just being tomatoes and didn’t know that November is not a good time to set new blossoms.

Weather wise, we open today on a not too unpleasant note, but the wind from a system originating in Canada will be sweeping through this afternoon. The temps are expected to drop rapidly. We’ll be inside, and warm. And we will let the seasons keep turning.