Wednesday, August 29, 2007

crisp minnesota morning

it's been nearly a week now in minnesota. the days have been close to perfection. the transition from summer to fall in the north is what i consider the most enjoyable time of year.

the mornings are crisp and sweet like a mutsu apple (my favorite). the air is cool but not cold, the sun warms and the light glistens more golden. one finds comfort is cozying up in a favored coat or sweater in the early morning and the evenings call for a soft chair and a good book. a hot cup of tea is a joy as one savours the scent of the leaves .

the days are perfect for outdoor activity, a body warms in the working but does not overheat. it is in these cooler temperatures when i feel my long runs could go on forever .
it is these cooler temperatures that i wish for on marathon day.

i've been working long indoor hours each day but making sure to rise early so as to enjoy a bit of the morning quiet before the business takes over. i ride a bike up and down the streets of a the neighborhood, enjoy the view of the various flower gardens, observe the birds and squirrels in their own morning rituals and savour the slight breeze as it dries my shower wet hair.

this is the time of state fairs and going back to school. this is the time when we begin to plan for holidays and football weekend gatherings. this is my favorite time of year.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

gathering good souls

you attract what you are and how you are.
if you are kind and good, you attract the kind and good.
if you fall out and become cranky and crusty, you attract the same.

i live by the above. it's simple.
it's often true in action and it's a good way to keep yourself in check.
plus it breeds good health and happiness. try it and you'll see.
*I suggest you try the being good and kind end of the plan.

i enjoyed a great dinner with friends in town last night. it was an impromptu gathering with good talk and interesting ideas exchanged. there was a feeling of support and a sharing of thoughts that make evenings like last night's worth so much more than the act of simply getting together.

this gathering of four will lead to a natural gathering in the near future. this is important for me because i don't always allow people into my little country home life. i keep it exclusive and i'm very careful about who crosses that line. i enjoy my private life remaining so. sure there's lots that people know about some seemingly private parts of my life but there is also much more that folks are not privvy to. i think working in the arts, where the family is small, intimate and often chatty, has taught me to keep some things to myself. otherwise i have to ready myself for all to hear the juicy details.

last night's dinner guests were great! good people, good energy and thoughtful. i hope we share many more days together in the near future and beyond.


Saturday, August 18, 2007

I'm with you sister!

MY church is a farm. Give me a few chickens, a long row of carrots and the smell of dirt, and I’ll find the open heart and inner peace others might seek from a prayer book or a pew.

I found this today in the New York Times Region section. These few lines are the start of a longer article about the current trend of folks visiting more farmers markets than ever before. I think it's best to stop here for today.

Let's simply ponder upon the two lines above.

Friday, August 17, 2007

storm season begins - where are the squirrels?

here we are with storm season off to a start. our little texas town is doing just fine. there's a slight sprinkle of rain coming down this moment. we got quite a washing yesterday but it did not seem to cause any trouble for most. i'm glad that i dragged the sprinkler out the day before the storm hit. the ground was ready to absorb the moisture and it did quite well. the garden is looking perky and the mosquitoes are back in business which brings food for the birds and the bats, hopefully the populations will balance each other out.

i've been a bit concerned about one group of folks, the squirrels. i have not seen them around and i cannot remember if this is typical for this time of year or if there is a smaller population in activity. the pecan trees are loaded and they drop a number of nuts early naturally. it's typical for the squirrels to harvest those nuts or break them open and eat them on site. i usually see a whole number of busted open pecan nuts lying around the yard though this summer, not so much. i hope all is well. i enjoy the company of squirrels; their comic curiosity and courage and the tenacity they display when searching out the next meal. i enjoy watching them play and chatter at local cats. there are several who've been brave enough to sit on the opposite side of the screen door and chat with mr. t. he enjoys the visits and rarely actually makes attempt to burst through the door at them. mr. t is a peaceful fellow who enjoys the social encounter.
the squirrels are a sign that the microcosmic ecology of the neighborhood is on track and safe for their growth. i hope this is just part of a normal cycle but i'm keeping my eyes open. i'm on squirrel health patrol.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

bleary eyed, bushed girly girl

well push came to shove and the deadline hit me like bricks. as a close friend of mine says "all i can do is work all the time". and i did. i have not slept a wink. the project is out the door. sent off to those who have hired me and i've not heard a peep from them. i'm taking that as a good sighhhhn. sleep yawn in there.

i used to be able to crank out the all nighters when necessary even up to last year but last night was a tough one. granted i've been pretty constant all summer. i guess i should not complain considering i often think "i'll never work again!, no one will hire me." foooey! who am i kidding. something always comes along. in fact there's another something right around the corner. oh i need some shut eye but i have a terrible time with quality rest during daylight hours. well truth is i have trouble sleeping most all the time. can't shut the brain off. and though i'm not raised on religious guilt i think somehow i was born with a dose. here's the current thinking silly as it may sound. "it's daylight, i've got a million things on the list, how could i possibly sleep?"

i'm not good for much of anything right now. i think i'll try a chilly shower to stimulate the blood flow. see how that goes. ei ei ei. i hope i drop like a rock tonight. there is, i believe a thing called working too hard. i run up against it a lot.

ok up and adam! here we go.

update! - 5:45pm
guess who crashed out? yes, me! and i'm so grateful for it actually nor do i remember nodding off and that's really good. my friend mr. t finally meowed some sense into me. actually i think he was a bit bleary himself. he stayed with me for quite a few working hours last night. so i'd say we're doing better. i think we'll still sleep well tonight and we're hoping for the all night affairs to pass us by. it's just not worth the price. ugh!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

have you ever pickled okra at 6:oo am?

that's what happened this morning. a few more jars of pickled okra are cooling on the counter. i think this is going to turn out to be a record year for the okra harvest. the days are still steamy hot so i don't imagine the crop to slow down anytime soon. in fact there are a few plants now that i need to harvest via a ladder. they've shot up so high my 5'2" height can't reach them. i'm sure the neighbors get a kick out of seeing me up snipping away.

i've got two rounds of fall tomatoes out there planted just over a month apart. the round one maters are doing real well. several are actually fruiting which shocks me considering the high temperatures we've been having. you won't get any complaints from me. i just feed them and keep them watered. i used to labor over my mater plants but have found they prefer a little solace and to be let alone more often than not. i can understand that, i'm that way myself.

last early morning task today was to break out the back garden sprinkler. the ground is just so darn dry that even if we do get rain tomorrow as predicted (fingers crossed) it would not seep in and stick. it might puddle and evaporate which is not ideal. so i'm giving the back garden a bit of a prep in hopes of good moisture retention tomorrow. and it's good for the the fruit trees which are also out there.

speaking of fruit, how about the pecan trees this year? woh! major major harvest coming up. the limbs are so heavy with nuts that i was out looking to see if they needed trimming in fear of snapping off and damaging the tree. the spring rains really did them good.

all of this makes me look forward to thanksgiving. the whole family is coming down, staying at the house and hanging out for a good 3-4 days i hope. it will be great to share all the goods mr. t and i have grown this season and the sweet potatoes and irish potatoes should be in a place where i might be able to steal a few. the fall tomatoes should be ripe and fall greens should be ready to harvest if it ever cools down enough for me to get them in. i've got carrots stored from the spring and beans drying out on screens. we'll be set. won't need much of anything outside of a fresh farm turkey and some eggs. i always make a few garden quiche for breakfasts and daytime munching. ok enough for now don't want to get too worked up. it's still months from now. never the less it's always nice to look forward to seeing family.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

thank you peaceful valley

very cool! i just ordered my onion sets and organic garlic sets for the year. i've been watching the peaceful valley web site each day just waiting for their onion sets to become available. today is the day! they must have opened it up this afternoon because i checked this morning and the sets were still listed as n/a. what a geek huh? well when you want quality and you know the stocks will go quickly then you set up your own stake out. early bird catches the worm or in this case the onion!

down here in texas onion sets are the way to go for the january planting. transplants are great for november (over wintering) planting. peaceful valley has not yet opened up the lines to order transplants yet. i'll be staking out the site until they do as they sell a limited amount and they go fast. i'm hoping for some red torpedo's this season.

for now, more about sets;
in my experience, sets are much more hardy when it comes to the higher temps we experience in spring. they are easy to grow and the grow quite quickly given the right soil conditions, proper moisture and feeding.

many folks will argue that the resulting size of a an onion bulb grown from a set is often smaller than that grown from seed or a transplant and that can be true in some cases. larger sized onion sets might go to seed and smaller sized onion sets might just produce smaller onions. i guess it depends on what type of harvest you're looking for. i don't need giant sized onions myself. i'm just looking for onions that thrive well in texas conditions.

set,seed or transplant is something to consider in case you are looking to grow large onions. you might want to pass by the sets and work either from seed or transplant. that's up to each individual. and pay attention to day length. some onions do well with longer northern days and some do just fine in the shorter southern days. a lot of the sweet onions are better in the south. but you can try anything. you may try a long day and not get the best bulb but you might have a great eating green onion or chive like harvest. it all depends how you look at it. experiment, have fun and be joyful with the harvest you get. hey you can eat onions small or large. if you end up with small onions, you might try your hand at creamed baby sweet onions. they're yummy, a great side dish, good for you and sure to impress your friends! or you can roast them, there's nothing better.

have you noticed the crazy popular gourmet market for baby veggies? so if you're a farmer's market folkster and you end up with small sized onions, market them as baby onions. it's the lemon lemon-aide theory. you never know, small sized onions may just be the way to go!

here's what we got: photos appear as listed below
  • stuttgarter yellow onions
  • comred red onions
  • ebenezer white onions
  • organic purple italian garlic

thank you peaceful valley farm and garden supply! the cool thing about these folks is that you can request a delivery date. not many on line ordering organizations offer such a luxury. get your garden supplies and veggie growing goodness from these folks! they are good people and they offer great service!

come late spring time, we'll be harvesting these babies. ah but first i have to find and prep a good spot for them. that should not be too difficult considering they'll probably not go in until january. i won't have that much cabbage in the ground! kale and other cold hardy greens now that's another conversation.

note: photos and logo are from the peaceful valley farm and garden supply web site. rights and credits are theirs alone. be kind always give photo credit where photo credit is due.

Monday, August 13, 2007

percolate or procrastinate which is it?

so today i'm all over the place. i've got deadlines looming. i'm either procrastinating or percolating. which is it? i suspect percolation but it would sure look like procrastination to anyone other than myself.

how do i know this? we'll i'm cleaning and organizing that's how.

it's what i do when life gets a bit too crazy, when i've more than 10 things going on at once. cleaning and organize exercises a need to control a little bit of something in the universe. it also grants a quick hit of gratification. a clean kitchen, fresh laundry, a made bed, a swept walkway, you name it, instant gratification. so that's where i am.

the thinking on the deadline driven task has not stopped. i think i'm working out the final details. that's what my gut tells me. i'm not really worried but i am a bit worked up which i don't like to be because i get worked up way to often for my own taste. it's a perfectionist thing. i don't want to turn in the project until i know i've done everything i can to make it as best as it can be today. i have one more day to work and then turn it in and i will as is my habit. i make my deadlines.

side bar on the perfectionist thing: that applies to my design work and most of my home life but not to grammar or spelling. i have no desire to master either. in fact, i find great pleasure in communication outside of the grammatical or spelleration fence boundaries.

the good part is that i'm not feeling sad about not being able to be outside. it's fiercely hot out there! the bad part is that i'm still in my pj's. i've been going steady since i got out of bed. that leads me to think it's not really procrastination. i'm a freaking energizer bunny today, go go go. anybody else out there like me? you get to working and the act of changing into daytime clothes seems to fall down the list of priorities? i mean, who's going to see you? it takes time away from the aother tasks you've got on the list. blah blah blah

i know you're out there pajama working people. admit it! or maybe this just strikes creative types. i don't know.

well creative types. relax in the knowing that often times what might appear to be procrastination is actually creative percolation. at least i hope that's what this is.
back to work!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

a bit of a scare - heat get's you fast!

i was out and about a bit later than usual this morning with several physical demanding tasks on que. first up: distributing fresh compost to each and every raised bed. second to distribute pine mulch to each raised bed. you see, i was worried about our current temperatures sapping the life out of my wee ones and it's also time to give the soil a bit of nourishment in prep for the fall garden. round here, the heat and high temps cause the soil nutrients to break down more rapidly than they would in northern climates. and it is probable that with all the spring/early summer rains a bit more of nutrients might have leached out and been lost.

so i got to it. digging my way through one side of my double compost bin. i was pretty sure i'd need the whole stock to cover the beds with a good 2"-3" layer of nutrient building, moisture retaining, gardener's gold. sure enough, the bin was emptied clean. part way through the task i got to feeling a bit weak and bleary. this is unusual for me being the garden geek that i am, dirty, physical tasks get me excited and pumped up. i stepped in the garaged for a chug of my almighty iced coffee. nothing... still feeling odd. i noticed i was sweating pretty steady but then again it was nearly 95˚f out already so of course i'd be sweating. back to work. well by the time i hit the second to last raised bed i knew i was in some sort of physical oddness. i felt pretty darn bad - weak, spongy in the brain, slightly faint and now experiencing spots before my eyes, no kidding! oops... it hit me. heatstroke and maybe i'm figuring this out a bit too late.

i stumbled into the house, the a.c. came as a shock even though it's set at a energy saving 84˚. i headed straight for the gatorade endurance drink in fridge door but i could not find it. i knew it was there but for some reason i could not lay my eyes on it. i started looking through other parts of the fridge but told myself, "it is in the door, now focus and find it!". there it was, usually reserved for morning runs and recovery, i was grateful to have some on hand. why i did not see it first off, i don't know, it was right there. i mixed it 50/50 with water and began to slowly drink it down. i did not want nor could afford for it to come back up. the a.c. continued to be too much of a temperature change so i stepped back outside and into the garage where i clumsily set up a chair for myself in the shade. i just sat and sipped for what must have been a good 40 minutes. i wanted to close my eyes but did not allow myself the pleasure. i knew i had to gain focus and get myself together.

it was at this time that i realized just how much i had sweat. i was soaked to the bone and there was still sweat streaming down my legs, arms and face. i think it was time to put the tasks off until the relatively cooler evening hours. but the babies??? i thought. stupid girl!

yup, i went back out there determined to get some pine straw layed over the compost. i got about half the beds covered when the rational side of brain said. get out of the sun. you're going to get hurt. finally, i listened. now feeling poor once again. i sat for quite a while longer. i don't know how long really and then decided to venture in for a shower. i was after all a filthy sweaty mess. the shower felt good but i kept the cell phone near by just in case i needed to make an emergency call.

now an hour or later, i'm feeling better. well enough to know that i won't be heading back out for physically demanding tasks until the evening or maybe not until early tomorrow a.m.

be careful out there, the heat get's you faster than you think! heat stroke messes with your mind in ways that might keep you from knowing the critical nature of your condition. if you're feeling weak or bleary, better to be safe than sorry. get help, don't be the hero.

signs of heat stroke*: it's nasty!
  • feeling weak
  • feeling confused or lightheaded
  • headache
  • lack of one's ability to focus
  • loss of balance
  • upset stomach
  • profuse sweating which may lead to stopping sweating
  • *see your doctor to learn more about heat stroke.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

vitamins and minerals for the little ones

mr. t the talking kitty kritter and i got the round two fall garden seedlings in today! it was great fun. mr. t supervised, gave me tips and the final kitty blink of approval once all the babies were tucked in fed and mulched.

here's what went in: all seedlings from organic seed
  • tomatoes
    • sweet 100
    • roma
    • yellow plum
    • early girl
  • peppers
    • yellow pepper
    • red pepper
    • yellow sweet banana pepper
    • mild ancho red
  • lemon balm
here's what we direct seeded today
  • pickling cucumbers
  • tomatillos - 2 varieties
    • purple
    • green
  • lemon verbena
  • yellow crookneck squash
    • yeah i know i said i'd give up on squash but one more go
      • typical gardener - defeat is not an option!
all the babies are brave little souls considering the temp hit 100˚ on the thermometer today at 3:12pm. well mr. t and i gave them a bit of help for their start. here's the pre-planting/pre-seeding feeding process.

for seedlings:
  • mix up a batch of rainwater, liquid seaweed, liquid fish and molasses
  • soak all the seedlings in their pots for 30 minutes prior to planting
  • tip the seedlings over on their sides for the last 15 minutes to allow the stems and leaves to bask in the seedling spa bath.
    • this allows them to gain an extra bit of nutrition through foliar feeding
  • dig holes for each babies new home
    • sink the tomatoes down deep, they'll sprout roots from the stem and be extra sturdy down the line
  • add vermicompost to each hole
    • i use an old soup can (2 cans of vermicompost in each hole)
    • vermicompost? - vermi=worm compost=compost - worm compost! excellent stuff
  • quickly transfer your baby seedlings to each hole and pack soil around seedling
  • use 2 cans full of remaining brew to water each planted seedling
  • mulch the soil around the seedling to preserve moisture
    • remember it's 99+˚ degrees around here. yikes! you need to mulch.
for seeds:
  • mix up a batch of rainwater, liquid seaweed, liquid fish and molasses
  • soak all the seeds (separated in jars by type) in a bit of the brew for 30 minutes minimum though overnight works great!
  • fill the jars to the top with brew, you'll be using the excess later
    • if you're able to soak overnight, you'll want to keep this outside or in the garage. it's odor can be quite fruity if you know what i mean.
  • slightly rake back soil where you are going to plant the seeds
  • plant seeds at depth and spaced as recommended on the seed package
  • cover seeds with soil
  • use remaining brew to water planted seeds
now you've got supercharged, vitamin savvy, mineral muscle building, spa spoiled seedlings and seeds. watch them grow!

so let's catch up with what's out there in the garden:
  • okra
    • red
    • green
  • broom corn
  • cow peas
  • christmas lima beans
  • tomatoes
    • 7 varieties
  • potatoes (irish)
  • watermelon
  • peppers (see above)
  • chard
  • sweet potatoes
  • jerusalem artichokes
  • green globe artichokes
  • cucmbers
  • yellow crookneck squash
  • basil
    • italian
    • lemon
    • cinnamon
  • sage
  • chives
  • lemon balm
  • mint
  • bay (tree)
  • garlic
  • rosa rugosa rose hips
  • meyer lemons
what's to come: not for another month or so
  • red onion
  • white onion
  • more garlic
  • shallots

Friday, August 10, 2007

the most fabulous aquamelon

could a mama ever be more proud?

sweetie sweetie sweetiepea

how about a bit of a catch up with the goal department, a.k.a. the to do list.
  • fix the fence (check!)
  • clean and reconfigure garage (check!)
  • interact more with community (check! a beginning),
    • national night out - august 7
    • new board member of the local food pantry
  • honor the family - an ongoing pleasure
    • i'll be hosting a holiday and i'm looking forward to it
    • letting them know i love them often
  • lighten up
    • watching school of rock tonight
    • read The Big Over Easy (great book - lots of laughs)
  • sleep in - doing some of that
    • i have to admit i'm a morning person
    • i think the better goal is to get to bed early

mashed finger ei! ei! ei!

ka thump ka thump ka thump. this is how my finger feels even now about 16 hours since the mashing. it's the middle finger on the left hand so please take no offence if you run into me and you feel i'm silently flipping you off. i'm not, it's stiff and thumping and not wishing to be bent.

as most mashed fingers go, the nail has turned black and the base is bulging. the throbbing woke me more than several times last night which i found odd for two reasons. one, i have a high pain tolerance and am not usually bothered by mashing of smallish body bits too much and two, i had no idea a mashed finger could ache as much as this mashed finger does. in fact just typing this entry is causing a further throbbing.

so how did it happen.
well you see, i have a small area at the base of a live oak and sheltered by my garage that has this terrible nasty vine like vinca-ish but not vinca root traveling growth that is just out of control. it was there when i bought the home. i've cut it, burned it, stomped on it without the slightest success of controlling the stuff. so i decided yesterday to lay down some 6mm black plastic and small river pebbles to knock it out.

it required a lot of raking and moving of material in preparation. i had created a small stone pile under one gutter for better drainage. well, while clearing that stone pile, a rock slipped and mashed my finger. yikes! i shook it off quite quickly actually and did not think at the time that it would amount to anything further than a good ouch. wrong. i do consider myself luck just the same as it luckily turned out to be a single finger mashing and not several fingers mashed.

long story short, i got 6 small loads of the stone on the plastic cover before the thumping really suggested a break. there's much more to go before success can be claimed but i think the plan will work.

moral of the story. we must always sacrifice something for the gain of another something even if it's as simple as a mashed finger.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

weeding thru the heat of summer

this is the hottest time of the year here in texas and it makes it extra hard on plants and on gardeners alike except for okra which loves this heat.
it's also the time of year when the drought resistant weedy grasses thrive. and they've been doing just that due to their even greater advantage of my having been in and out of town so much as of late. so this morning i got out before the heat kicked in and pulled and trimmed and slowly revealed the garden once again. ahhhh... yes there she is garden gem that you are to me.

the reward is great. i personally love a tidy garden. i think there a number of veggie plants that also appreciate a tidy home. it allows them air and access to sunlight, room to grow and produce. it keeps bad bugs and disease in check. plus it looks pretty and pretty counts. so now i've got piles of weeds and trimmings scattered about. and it looks like i'll be dealing with all that in the heat. better moving piles than pulling weeds in high temps and there is always the shaded garage for refuge.

today brought a healthy harvest of okra. this summer has been amazing for the okra. i thought that maybe all the rains would deter it's fruiting but oh no, not even a bit.

it's mid-season with the okra and already i've canned up quite a bit. tomatoe and okra sauce, pickled okra, veggie soup with okra and the list will go on. i've also got a healthy amount of frozen okra packed away. I think i'll be making some additional pickled okra this week. I pick the okra when it's small then it's real sweet in the jar. mmm.

i did miss a harvest while out of town. i'm drying those pods for fall decorations and/or for seed saving. waste not want not.

this will be another design and draft weekend so i've cooked up some goodies to get me through.
  • 1 batch of baba (some for now, some for later)
  • 1 smallish roasted chicken (fresh from a local farm - dinner!)
  • a few boiled eggs - great after a run & mid to late day protein pick-ups
  • whole wheat pasta with fresh pesto
  • whole wheat pasta with fresh okra, tomatoes and garlic
  • chilly iced tea
  • chilly iced coffee
won't need much of more of anything. all is well.

ain't she sweet? a shy and delicate flower.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

accepting who you are

funny how this summer's events have picked up. try as i might to slow down life continues at a steady and fairly rapid pace. maybe this is just who i am. i refuse to think so.

but then i must be truthful with self
1. i am the busy living person- no flies on me
2. it is that which keeps me busy that i hope to change.

i do have a plan. it's far from where i am today. it has nothing to do with my current career and i'd need a chunk of money to get there.

so i'm saving. i have vowed to save 10% of every freelance paycheck and 5% of every university teaching paycheck toward this goal. granted the savings may need to assist with other home repairs or such but at least it's a start. i would save more but i've got debt to pay and i'm putting that first. i've always been good with the mortgage payments, never missed a one. this leaves very little extra cash, near to none really but i think the prize is worth the effort. food, shelter, clothing... check! so here we are -- frugal times.

i've got the garden to help out with groceries. i've got plenty of clothes and a a wonderful home. so how about birthdays and holidays. well i've been doing better with that. often i'll see something hand made by folks on my travels. i just buy it then with someone in mind at farmers market or an artist's studio. then i just hold on to the gift until the birthday or holiday hits the calendar. it allows a slow steady gathering of gifts rather than clustered spending. the gifts become more personal, the seeking of them less enjoyable and much less stressful and the craft hand made is wonderful. it's nice to tell the recipient a bit about the artist.

if all else in the finance department fails (which it won't, i hope) i've got plenty of pickles, tomatoe sauce and preserves to get me through a few months.