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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“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.

 

Storm Report for 3/3/17

March came in with rain and falling temperatures. February pitched a hissy fit as she left.

Oakley had spent the afternoon at day care flirting with his girlfriend Jazz and singing with his friend Willy. After I’d picked him up and brought him home for dinner, I had a strong gut feeling that I should check the weather on TV. A good thing I did. All kinds of red and yellow blobs covered the screen.

I made my dinner, too, then settled in to watch the storm coverage. During the course of the evening, one of the twisters headed east along the I-80 corridor to Morris. That’s a 20 minute drive from my house.  The track of the twister ran about ten miles south of me, so despite the admonishments from the siren, we stayed on the sofa, watching, listening.

The lights didn’t even flicker. No sounds of breaking glass or crunching metal. Just steady rain.

We stayed with the storm coverage except for a break to watch a mystery on one of the PBS substation instead of the happenings in Washington, DC that night. A wise choice. The TV is new to us, and I likely would have done had things to it had I watched the events in DC.

Oakley and I stayed up as long as we could, trying to ride out the rain so we could make the final potty run in relative comfort, trying to see what was happening to the south and southwest of us. At bed time, we knew that the the town of Naplate (just outside of Ottawa) had received a kicking.

When we went to Starved Rock or Buffalo Rock State Parks, we would drive back through Naplate. They had, and please, Mystery, may they still have a main street divided by parkways. Each one hosted gardens, benches, and sculptures, including a Greco-Roman temple at the east end. Between those and the mid-19th century architecture of the homes, anyone passing through had a taste of life in the Civil War era.

Yes, I choked up a little. For the people of the town, and for the loss of that street. The cherry on the icing of good hikes at the parks was the drive through town.

However, the good outweighed the bad. There were two passages caused by a tree falling on a couple of men, sadly. The good news was that all the residents of the county nursing home survived, even though its structure was heavily damaged.

Cleanup started. The new normal will be implemented in due course, I don’t doubt that.

The questions that I have concern global warming, climate changes, and the biggest one: was this an omen? Was this an energetic cleaning and clearing?

We will just have to wait for the answers.

 

 

 

Lessons of the Leaves

Oakley and I completed our morning constitutional by 8:15. What breeze there was rustled the leaves, inviting them to dance. We went to the observation platform overlooking the green glass river, then retraced our steps to the car.

Today won’t be as bad as initially predicted temperature wise, but it will still be sticky for the next couple of days. It is equinox, autumn, the first day of fall, and we welcome it.

I shed no tears for this summer’s passage. In fact, if it had a rear end, I would send it off with the admonishment not to let the door hit it there as it left.

While it wasn’t all bad, it just wore on and on past its useful purpose. The two trips to Ren Faire went well, thankfully. The never-ending string of sticky days, mechanical and technological failures, loved ones facing health challenges, and Oakley’s colitis flare-ups just wore me to a nub. I had too many days of non functionality because of fatigue and the heat, but know I will perk up as autumn unfolds.

The leaves have started letting go, gracefully travel on the air currents to land on the earth, weaving tapestries to protect the ground and newly seeded life from the elements. I envy their grace and ease as I do my own letting go: cleaned out my social media lists; deleted some contacts from my phone, including the number of  a friend and teacher who passed almost two years ago; let go of some false hopes about close real life relationships and dreams.

As the release of the leaves from the trees makes way for the new ones next spring, I await the arrival of the new with curiosity and advance gratitude.

The Wings of Evil

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from Funny Pictures

The flying lowlifes are part of the wasp family. They get riled up about anything at this time of year. Now you know why I love early frosts.

Recovery from Sunday’s nailing continues. The bite is still itchy, swollen and red despite essential oils, Benadryl spray, triple antibiotic ointment, and lots of time spent with my leg resting on an ice pack. Some improvement, yes. The itching is intermittent, but it’s still sore.

I checked with Dr. Google. The good doctor concurred with my choice of home treatments, but suggested adding oral antihistamines (specifically Benadryl, which works wonders but incapacitates me to the point where I believe Jerry Springer) and Advil. That doesn’t, so I took a couple doses of that. Looks like 7-10 days before it clears up.

The swelling’s subsided enough to see where the little mother grabber nailed me not just once, but four or five times. All the welts are along the hem line of my capri pants, the part of my calf that bumps against the edge of the seat as I get in and out of the car. Mindfulness is the order of the day. The next 7-10, to be exact.

So the ice pack, triple antibiotic ointment (it has a topical pain reliever and keeps bacteria at bay), and Advil are my companions of choice. It will get better. In the meantime, I contemplate the irony of all the bugs I get exposed to in the woods where Oakley and I walk. Yes, I get the odd mosquito or fly bite. But this? At a suburban gas station? Go figure.

Oh, well…sigh. Could have been worse. I didn’t go into anaphylactic shock. It wasn’t on my foot or many worse places (some of the pics will induce nightmares, so don’t ask).

I just wish it had been this kind of a Sting:

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not my work…not credited….used in Wikipedia

Oatmeal Morning

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Rain came through the soybean field on Saturday. It finally broke the endless string of days hovering between the high 80s and low 90s with tropical humidity levels. The windows have been opened since then.

The six a.m. sun turned the condensation on the window pink. The crickets’ songs of harvest time harmonized with the fan’s steady whir, gently waking me up. Make coffee, mix Oakley’s breakfast (he wakes up when he hears the microwave beep), then sip coffee while I offer prayers and intention to The Great Mystery. A few lines in my journal, and we begin the day.

That’s pretty much how every day starts. Today I had a definite craving for oatmeal. I’ve had yogurt or eggs or toast with a reasonable amount of nut butter on it and some fruit, but this morning I wanted oatmeal. Maybe it was the coolness of morning, but that called to me. So I had a packet of instant oatmeal with flax, a spoon of almond butter, and blackberries. I do instant because the need for portion control overrides the other benefits of plain ol’ rolled oats, plus you can’t make cookies with it, so it prevents scarfing down the dough.

If you can actually get the cookies in the oven or not sit and fudge with portion sizes, whole grain or rolled oatmeal is a great breakfast. The fiber fills you up, helps to keep cholesterol in line, packs in a good amount of magnesium (helps with generally feeling mellow as well as keeping muscles relaxed), and stabilizes blood sugar levels. Wanting lunch at 10 is a bit awkward. If you give in to the siren song of the donut to get you through until noon, that can cause a bigger blood sugar crash that will leave you feeling rotten and craving more sugar.

The biggest issue is making sure that you choose toppings that won’t play havoc with your nutritional goals for the day. Recipes abound for high-sugar variations on the oatmeal theme that pretty much negate the benefits, so I find it best to just stick to fruit and milk with a tablespoon of nuts or nut butter to boost the protein.

One of the spins gaining popularity in recent times is the jar breakfast: put oatmeal, milk of choice or yogurt, and fruit in a jar and refrigerate overnight. In the morning the oats will be soft enough to be edible. That way a person can reap the benefits of the humble oat year round without turning on the stove in hot weather.

It may not be the most exciting of breakfasts, but it’s reliable and does its job. You can’t ask for much else.

Cricket Songs

A lot, yet not too much, goes on hear in the soybean field. Oakley and I go about our day to day routines and rituals of heat and humidity truncated walks, our early morning communes with The Great Mystery.

We were up about six this morning. I had to turn on the kitchen light so I could see to make coffee, and the sconces by the fireplace needed to be turned on as well so I could journal for the morning. Just a couple of days ago the glow of the candle had been enough to see the pen leaving its tracks across the page, but not this morning. By the time we were out the door, all was bright, heavy and humid. If we don’t get a storm I’ll be surprised. This unending string of days in the high 80’s and low 90’s will break this weekend. I look forward to open windows during the day so I can get the house aired out.

At bed time, unless it’s storming or oppressively muggy, I turn off the air conditioning and open the windows for a dose of fresh air and to listen to the sounds of the night. Some sounds like the squeal and growl of the trains slicing through the dark or the coyotes announcing their presence pierce the night all year long.

Others happen only between the height and end of summer. If the field next door has been planted in corn, the wind runs its fingers through the leaves, rippling the dark silk of the night. The crickets chant like a Gregorian choir in a never-ending canticle of worship to the darkness, the turning wheel, conveying gratitude to the Mystery for a bountiful harvest.

The songs of the dwindling summer remind us to get it done, whatever the sacred “it” is before it’s too late. Corn and soybeans and produce can all be harvested and stored in canning jars and the freezer for later use, but the song of the crickets remind us that time cannot.