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.

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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.

 

Carrots

Image courtesy of Old Design Shop

 

I’m past the saturation point of stories about Harvey. The hurricane. I can always watch the gentle movie with James Stewart, but I am burnt toast from the images from Texas. I donated a little, and will donate more. But today I needed a break. I played in the garden and let the sun and the dirt work their magic.

Today’s lunch consisted of egg salad on whole wheat bread (Hubby) or crisp bread from Ikea (me) with the carrots that I pulled this morning. Oakley had a couple of hardboiled eggs with a scoop of the freeze-dried dog food on the side. He doesn’t like carrots unless they’ve been grated and mixed with other food. Even then, he still manages to pick them out and spit them out on the mat beneath his dish. I don’t have to step in a pile of them or chewed-up peas twice to get the hint.

These weren’t just any carrots, however. These had history behind them. Before the 1600’s, carrots were more likely to be white or purple than orange. I’d bought them from the store where I do my big bi-weekly shopping, but wanted to try growing them. They taste a little more carrot-y. The unexpected visuals of purple and white delighted the eye even if they temporarily confound the mind .

Carrots became predominately orange at that time due to hybridization and selective breeding.  According to The Carrot Museum, the story was that the scientists wanted to honor the House of Orange, the royal family of the Netherlands, and so developed the carrots in the color we know best today. That hasn’t been substantiated, but I still think it’s kind of cool.

Whether it’s true or not, carrots still provide beta-carotene among many other antioxidants (depends on the color) as well as being pretty.

They were fairly easy to grow. They were a little smaller than expected due to inadvertent overcrowding. Next year, I will thin them out, or take tweezers to the seeds. They aren’t much bigger than grains of salt and love to stick to your slightly sweaty fingers.

Even though planting them was a bit challenging, the tops waving in the breeze looked really pretty this summer. The ivory and purple roots added a note of royalty to lunch. More wait in the garden, waving the summer on in the wind.

Harvest Season

Image courtesy of Old Design Shop

I pulled the last of the radishes a couple of days ago, then planted the next crop. Note to self: heed the directions concerning thinning well to avoid overblown tops and mere roots, not rosy round radishes. Maybe using tweezers to place the seeds with a higher degree of accuracy was a little obsessive-compulsive, but these should work better.

If the cherry tomatoes will perform their alchemy and turn from little emeralds to small rubies, that would be great. There are a lot of them, but none of them seem to be ripening with any haste. If all else fails by frost time, green salsa is an option.

We have had a couple rounds of green beans. Steamed. Butter. Lemon. No need to do anything fancier. I’d hoped to have enough to freeze some for the winter, but not to be this year. I’ll have my gardening chops back next year. We’ll do better then.

I had to severely weed the other day. The alleged French mesclun greens bore no resemblance to any salad green I’ve ever seen. I gave them back to the earth and to the critters who eat them.

Carrots still hide underground. They haven’t started peeking above the soil yet. It’s still early. When I was on the wedding frenzy the other day I inadvertently pulled one. It was pretty tasty. This year I planted heirloom carrots that come in purple and white as well as the best known orange. They should liven meals up a little.

Basil has been prolific. I’ll be able to get some more pesto and pasta sauce out of the plants.

The broccoli? I don’t know about that. It put forth some impressive foliage, but doesn’t have anything resembling broccoli yet.

So we wait and see what happens for second harvest.

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.

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.