Thursday, June 14, 2012

And How Does Your Garden Grow?

So this was supposed to publish on June 14th...guess what didn't happen?

Very well, thank you.  The silver bells and cockleshells are doing just fine and the pretty maid (Ms. Flippers) just hand pollinated the corn last night.

I have learned lots and lots about vegetable gardening lately, my previous attempts at raising veggies being the type that occurr in pots on decks and patios.  Some of those were wildly successful, some not so much - like when a local wild animal got onto the deck and overturned pots of herbs (turned out all he really wanted was the cat nip)...or when I tried the much advertised Topsy-Turvy...

What I have learned, in general, is that it is all just one grand experiment.  I have been reading mini-farming books and following several Extension Services (did you know that there is one land grant college in each state that is required to maintain an Extension Service and that this is all part of the USDA's education program?).  Here is a summary of the knowledge that I have gleaned:

  1. Don't start out big.  That way lies disaster and/or insanity.  We currently have about 5 rows of our total garden space under cultivation.
  2. Every individual environment is different from the acidity of the soil to the clay content to its water retention properties.  This means that any given set of "soil additives" are not universal and although you can get information on what is known about "your general area" it won't apply to your own backyard.  You need to TEST and EXPERIMENT and PRAY.  I will be contacting my local extension service office (only about 5 miles away) to learn all about soil testing.
  3. A cucumber is not a cucumber is not a cucumber:  As you can tell from the dizzying array of choices at Home Depot, there are many species of tomato from which you can choose.  Guess What?  Not all of them will do equally well in every yard.  My reading instructed me to choose several varieties of each thing that I wanted to raise and plant them all to see which ones did best in my soil and which one(s) my family liked.  With luck they will like at least one variety of each thing that grows.
  4. In my area I should be able to garden year round.  We don't get hard frosts.  Or maybe only one a year.  On the plus side this means that I can use the garden space year round to raise broccoli.  On the negative side it means that I can't grow my favorite apples that require over 100 days of freezing temperatures to blossom and produce fruit.
  5. Just because you can grow from heirloom seeds and save them and replant next year doesn't mean that they will be disease reisitant. Oh NO. Some of them will be very tasty but extremely delicate...
  6. Tell your husband NOT TO KILL THE LADYBUGS!   Or the spiders.
What we are currently raising is one row of corn (30 seeds all of which germinated).  7 varieties of tomatoes.  Three varieties of green beans.  Cantalope, Watermelon, Broccoli and, get this:  5 varieties of cucumber.

The plan next year, after figuring out what went well and what didn't is to amend the soil as needed and to plant at least half of the available garden - starting in September with the cool weather root vegetables... in the spring around March/April we will start the melons and such...

Here's to my Mom, daughter of the soil (well, a dairy farmer), who always had fresh green beans in her garden - and tomatoes that we could just pick and eat whenever we felt like it.  Here's to Mom, from whom I inherited my love of dirty fingernails and my inability to keep garden gloves on when I'm weeding.  Here's to my Mom who would be as excited over my drip irrigation system as I am.

As the Bearded One said last weekend when we were changing out irrigation heads and replacing drip tubing and I was as filthy and muddy as  a kid in a puddle and had a grin to match, "You really love this, don't you?"


Friday, June 8, 2012

Forgotten Treasures

Apparently, I have been writing (seriously) for a long time.  How  this could have slipped my mind is beyond me.  I knew that there were many things out there that I had started but never finished.  As far as I know, the only things that I have finished literary wise are three song lyrics (only one with an accompanying melody) and two NaNoWriMo challenges.

As I dug through boxes that my Mom had sent from back East to California long, long ago I found  notebooks and folders and little pieces of paperclipped paper.  Most had in them at least the rough draft of a first chapter.  Some had only a first paragraph or a first sentence.  One had only a name on a piece of scrap paper - but what a name:  It is apparently the only female character in all of the writing that I have done who is not (at least initially) named "Sarah".  What I was going to DO with her I have no idea, but at least she wasn't "Sarah".  My mother's name wasn't Sarah, there really aren't any Sarah's in my family; maybe like Elwood P. Dowd, I always had such hopes for the name.

I consider these finds to be treasure of a sort. I surprise myself by how much I like what I have written.  I wind up thinking: "Well, that was certainly written by a 24 year old, but it is a fun story."  Or "What great characters! Instead of just following them through this little crisis in life, how much fun would it be to visit them 30 years later?"  Or "Oh crap! I've started this same story three different times in slightly different ways - maybe that means that I'm supposed to actually finish it!"

I am currently in the process of moving all of my writing from scraps of paper to a USB device so that all of the dusty, yellowing sheets of paper don't completely disintegrate on me.  Then I will do what mature adults do:  back it up and put a copy in the fireproof safe.  Because if I can lose all of this for 20 years by stuffing it into an old shoe box and stuffing THAT into the back of a dresser drawer and then "getting on with life", I could certainly lose my stories forever.  Already it has become apparent that using the turquoise felt tip pen to write deathless prose was somewhat less than a success - readability wise.

Do I believe that I will ever finish these stories?  Probably not the science fiction one that involves a version of the moonspinners of Greek legend, but I realize that I turned the main plotlines of it into a short story about my cat and fairies in the garden that was written for my great nephew..."Rufus and the Handmaidens of Time" (one of the finished NaNoWriMo projects).

Probably not the mystery about a library researcher in the days of InfoSearch Services (where college students were sent into the University stacks to copy chapters and articles and such for pay) - we all just google it now and nobody could relate to poor "Cassie" (original character name, "Sarah") these days.

But now I have hard evidence that all of my free time in earlier days was NOT spent shopping, watching TV or playing "Pong"...

so there, Stubble!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Precious Things

We first knew something was wrong when we opened her top dresser drawer and found it full of newspaper bags.  All carefully folded into 1" squares and neatly stacked.

My Mother in Law was a hoarder before there was a reality TV show for it.  The Bearded One thought nothing of it for a long time because he had always lived that way - with a Mom who paid the bills and then put them aside for further action (in their original envelopes with check numbers and notes written on them).

When I first knew him and went to visit his family, the house was cluttered but as I knew that my Mom was not normal (in a cleaning sense) I didn't think anything of it either.  After all, a cousin trying to comfort me over the state of my apartment had said, "You know that you shouldn't feel bad - you lived with someone that it is impossible to live up to." And I eventually came to accept the fact that not everybody lived in a home that looked like you had a live in maid and ate every night like you had a cook on staff...My Mother:  The original "Wonder Woman"!

When we visited  my MIL after having a child we noticed that the "stuff" had multiplied.  Every surface was piled with papers.  There were stacks of things in corners.  There were stacks of things under chairs.  There was a path from the living room to the kitchen.  A path from the bedroom to the bathroom.
I joke a lot about hoarding with respect to my family's life and we DO keep a lot of "stuff" but my late mother-in-law was a full on worthy-of-intervention-hoarder.  She has been gone for a number of years now, and at the time she passed, we didn't have a clinical term for what she did to her surroundings and her belongings.  As The Bearded One cleaned up her effects he found:
  • An entire bedroom closet full of paper towel and toilet paper
  • 12 medium sized moving boxes of unworn clothing - still with tags and/or in original wrappers
  • Paper bags full of chipped dishes (formerly good china) and mismatched silverware
  • BOXES full of financial records - back to the 1950's
  • Boxes and old suitcases full of family photos ( the people in which could no longer be identified because there was no longer anyone alive to do so).
And, actually useful:
  • Envelopes FULL of old postage stamps that were put away unused when postage increased.  The oldest was an entire roll of 8 cent stamps featuring Dwight Eisenhower.  I won't be purchasing stamps for years!
We also found the touching and poignant:
  • Letters written to her by The Bearded One's Dad when they were courting and lived in different states
  • Congratulatory telegrams that they had received on their wedding day
  • the cake topper from their wedding cake, carefully wrapped in tissue
  • The Bearded One's first pair of shoes - bronzed
We found the hilarious:
  • Old high school and college transcripts that gave the lie to everything she had told The Bearded One about her own academic career
  • Professionally taken portraits of The Bearded One and his mother, each holding a cat - looking cross-eyed and/or goofy (the people, not the cats)
  • Lovingly wrapped coffee mugs, ashtrays, memory books, knick knacks, what nots, and dust catchers - all featuring owls in some form
We found the just plain tragic:
  • TRUNKS of sheet music dating back into the 1920's that had belonged to The Bearded One's Dad (a professional musician) - the majority of it disintegrating and moldy
  • Cases of recordings made by The Bearded One's Dad and his students
  • Hand written sheet music given to The Bearded One's Dad - with copyrights and publishing  information gleefully written in
  • Personally inscribed photos of the Dad's former students who had "made it big"
  • A folded flag - having been used in a burial at sea way back in WW I - the name of the deceased having been lost in time
So much stuff.  So much of it rendered useless by time and storage conditions.  The old grade reports have been recycled.  The cake topper has been preserved.  The sheet music has been sorted and the still usable saved.  We are looking for a turntable that will play the old recordings so that we can get them into digital format.

It is so sad when everything in your life becomes so "precious" that at the end there is nothing much of value left.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

...and everything in its place

The Bearded One hit an impasse 2 weeks ago.  Organizing the garage had become an endless maze of moving boxes and piles.  Shifting steadily about on the concrete floor, the boxes did not decrease in number, neither did the tools magically appear on shelves and in drawers.

The garage cabinets were 6" less deep than the old ones rendering all of his storage bins useless.  Not only were they 6" less deep, the shelves were not nearly as adjustable height-wise and the cabinets themselves were a full foot shorter than what he was used to.  And this was a real problem.  Every time I needed a screw driver or a pliers I was referred to one of the cardboard boxes languishing on the garage floor:  "In one of THOSE," he intoned sadly, shaking his bent head.

He had begun muttering about pegboard and even though what was on his "list" for the weekend was bathtub caulk and kitchen veneer, it was decided that the pegboard needed to come first.

Two trips to Home Depot later (we were short of 75 pound drywall anchors),  two unsightly 2x4s had been removed and were awaiting disposal at the "hands" of the sawsall, the sprinkler timer had been moved 1 foot to the left, and pegboard was on the walls.  ANOTHER trip to Home Depot ensued when it was determined that the insulated staples with which the electrical cords attached to the sprinkler control would be controlled were nowhere to be found.

Pegboard installation complete, it became evident that we had the wrong kind of "pegboard storage devices" and yet another trip to Home Depot was undertaken.  Luckily, Home Depot is only 3 miles from the house and we returned in short order with hooks and brackets and baskets and other implements of storage and organization.

At this point, as The Bearded One had expected, boxes rapidlly emptied and were broken down and the garage began to take on a "lived in but well organized" look.

At the bottom of the last milk crate we found the box of insulated staples.

A Place For Everything...