Category Archives: Blessings

Eco-Saturday: Planting day (and a tomato tip)

Today’s Eco-Saturday entry is mostly excited chatter, with one good tip at the end for drought-proofing tomatoes.

First, the excitement: It’s Planting Day!

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Mini-bed at the center of the yard. Indian blanket, strawberries, some direct-seeded arugula and an assortment of herbs.

This year, we had another bit of excitement to go with the usual joy of getting the garden into the ground:

bees

We spent the morning picking up a nuc hive from an ol’ boy down at Dexter. I’ll explain about nucs in a future post. Right now, I want to talk about the bees’ move-in day.

When honeybees feel at home in a new hive, they signal that to each other by sticking their butts in the air and doing a little dance.

Before I could finish transferring the frames from the nuc box to the girls’ new hive, they’d started doing the “yay, we’re home!” dance. If Miley Cyrus hadn’t clearly demonstrated why white girls shouldn’t twerk, I might have been tempted to join them, because with their arrival, I finally felt completely at home in my house, too.

More excitement: We left the lid off during a rainstorm to give it a good soaking, so the compost bin has finally heated up. I think it’s a little nitrogen-heavy — it smelled like ammonia when I opened it today — but that should change as the quail litter, which is mostly carbon, starts to break down.

The next couple of pictures are herbs I planted near the pond.

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Gratuitous mermaid shot, with lemon balm planted at left. Not shown, because they were busy hiding: Eight little goldfish.
pond2
Chocolate mint (left) and lavender (right).

They don’t look like much yet, but here are a couple of our tomato plants:

tomatoes
When the soil hits 80 degrees, they’ll grow like kudzu.

If you want your tomatoes to be virtually drought-proof, here is the secret:

Postholes.

Dig until you hit hardpan, then keep digging until you’ve gone all the way through it. Fill up the hole with compost and plant your tomato seedling in it. This allows the roots of the plant to go deep enough to reach moisture, even during a drought.

You can grow decent tomatoes without this step, but if you’ve got time to do it, you’ll love the results. I had the best-looking plants and biggest tomato crops of my life when I used this method in Belleville, and my dad, who taught me this trick, used it to grow 24-foot vines with spectacular yields the year I was born. I think I’ve got a picture of that garden around here somewhere. If I can find it, I’ll post it. It’s glorious.

Hope your Saturday was as awesome as mine.

Emily

P.S.: I know I still owe you Vegan Friday. I got sidetracked last night and didn’t get it posted, but it’ll be worth the wait, I promise.

 

P.P.S.: Edited to correct a detail about the bees’ weird little dance.

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Thank God Almighty

The bad news: My beloved Mac died just before 1 o’clock Wednesday morning.

The good news: Approximately eight hours later, I learned that the Oklahoma Route 66 Association didn’t want me to do the Trip Guide this year, because the board thought it would be better to find a designer who lives a little closer to Oklahoma.

This is good for two reasons: First, the Trip Guide was the only reason I needed to own a Mac equipped with professional-grade design software, so instead of wasting my Saturday driving to St. Louis to buy a $1,200 computer tricked out with $1,300 software, I went to Target tonight and picked up a $375 laptop. I don’t like it and probably never will (I haven’t been on speaking terms with Windows since 1998), but it’s good enough for blogging and writing, and that’s all I really need to do at this point.

Second, and more importantly, I was getting tired of laying out the Trip Guide. It’s a terrific project, and its value to the road is indisputable. But I did it for nine years, and it stopped being fun about three years in. Parts of it were exhilarating, and the end result was satisfying, but the negatives were starting to outweigh the positives, and I was getting seriously burned out. I wouldn’t have said no if I’d been asked to do it again, but I’m really glad I wasn’t.

Emily

Artwork by Ollie

Ollie made me a picture tonight at Mom and Dad’s:

handturkeyweb

Yes, I framed it. Of course I framed it. It’s a hand turkey. Made by a 3-year-old. The teal-colored wattles on the turkey actually started out as a teardrop, which made it look as if it had killed someone in prison, but I think Jamie convinced Ollie to modify it.

If you wouldn’t proudly display a toddler’s rendering of a turkey with a prison tattoo in your home, I’m not sure we can be friends.

munchkinsweb

Hazel had a birthday party today. She’s 5. Mom asked me to take a picture of all three kids together. I think she was hoping for something suitable for use on Christmas cards. This was the only one that didn’t have someone making a face or squirming or wandering off or giving bunny ears or some combination of the above. The boys have cake and Kool-Aid all over their faces, and Hazel is completely distracted, so obviously the party was a success.

Emily

Dig it

pond1

“Can you dig it? Yes, I can. And I’ve been waiting such a long time….”
— Chicago

It doesn’t look like much yet, but the picture you see above is the beginning of a project I’ve wanted to do since we moved: I’m excavating part of the backyard for a new pond. Eep!

I couldn’t put in a new pond when we first moved, because the yard wasn’t fenced, and I was afraid a curious munchkin would fall in and drown while trying to catch a toad or inspect a goldfish or something. We finally got our fence recently, so in the interest of taking advantage of end-of-season sales (and making sure all the equipment I buy works while it’s still new enough to return), I spent part of today digging out the spot where I want to put the pond.

pond2

My beloved mermaid moved with us, of course. (Excuse the terrible, fuzzy cellphone photo; it was nearly dark when I got done.)

In other news, my trifocals finally came in today. I’m still breaking them in, but I think I’ll like them.

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Just for the hell of it, I got a contact prescription this time around, too. I got caught having to come up with a Halloween costume on the spur of the moment last year, and it was a giant pain in the arse to find something that wouldn’t look too stupid with my glasses.

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God willing, I won’t have to dress up for anything this year, but if I do, I’ve got about three options I can throw together in a pinch: Merida from Brave, Magenta from the Rocky Horror Picture Show, or Bonnie Raitt.

Speaking of Bonnie Raitt, have we talked about the progress of my gray streak lately?

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And speaking of progress, I cut back my carbs, upped my protein and reduced my junk food intake a couple of weeks ago. Last night, I jogged four miles on the track and did 10 miles’ worth of intervals on a stationary bike and felt good enough today to go out and dig a pond, so apparently I’m doing something right.

Last, but certainly not least, here is my new baby:

piano

This was another of the big things I wanted to do after we sold the house in Tulsa. I went to Baldwin Piano and Organ in Herrin, Ill., last weekend and bought a digital piano. I haven’t had one in 10 years, and I finally started to miss it last winter. I’m terribly rusty, but it feels so good to have piano keys under my fingers again.

Life is good.

Emily

Back to basics (and feeling awesome)

We closed on the House of the Lifted Lorax on Monday (congratulations to new owner Josh, who is way amped about the solar panels and the woodstove, and whose young niece is way amped about the Lorax mural on the side of the garage), which means we have just enough money in the bank to pay off our moving expenses and put a privacy fence around the backyard.

You can’t fully appreciate the value of a good fence until you’ve spent six months putting out a pair of hyperactive dogs on short cables umpteen times a day. Yeesh.

In addition to affording us the convenience of opening the back door and letting Song and Riggy take themselves out, this fence will free us up to establish a new beehive, adopt some chooks, install a pond, start a compost pile, and — if I’m feeling really ambitious — maybe set up a small warren of rabbits without interference from curious neighbors of either the two- or four-footed variety.

I put in an experimental, totally halfassed garden this spring and learned enough about my new yard to feel pretty confident taking my usual “Darwin Garden” approach: Coddle the tomatoes and leave everything else to natural selection. So far, I’ve determined that California poppies won’t do a damn thing; cucumbers, strawberries, arugula and most herbs will thrive with absolutely no attention; green beans should do well with minimal attention; and tomatoes should perform fairly well if we choose a variety that’s tolerant of partial shade and try to protect it from the local wildlife.

After meeting the new owner of the old house Monday and giving him some pointers on living the eco-hippie life to its fullest, I’m in full-on DIY mode, so this afternoon, I mixed up a batch of homemade laundry detergent and am currently trolling for dishwasher detergent recipes, since I’ve got plenty of washing soda and borax left over.

Also on the to-do list for this afternoon: Get a new set of shelves for the basement, join a gym, stock up on soup and chili ingredients, find the source of the smell coming from the kitchen drain, and work on the coupon books I’m making the kids for Christmas.

Life is good.

Emily

Something’s gained in living every day

I’ve looked at love from both sides now
From give and take, and still, somehow,
It’s love’s illusions I recall;
I really don’t know love at all.

Tears and fears and feeling proud
To say, ‘I love you’ right out loud
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds
I’ve looked at life that way

But now old friends are acting strange;
They shake their heads and say I’ve changed.
Well, something’s lost when something’s gained
In living every day

I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose, and still, somehow,
It’s life’s illusions I recall;
I really don’t know life at all

— Joni Mitchell

Once again, I find Joni Mitchell’s masterpiece resonating for me in a new way.

This week on Facebook, a friend posted a link to some website’s ranking of 200 careers. This website — employing methods of data analysis almost as credible as those used to measure progress under No Child Left Behind — attempted to quantify the “best” and “worst” jobs of 2013 and declared newspaper reporter the worst.*

Most of the people weighing in on the conversation were disgruntled journalists who agreed they had the Worst Job in the World. I read their comments and wondered why, in an era of shrinking budgets and shrinking newsroom staffs, anyone would remain in a job where he or she felt overworked and underappreciated.

Actually, I didn’t wonder. I knew, because years ago, I was the same way. Instead of savoring the moments that make journalism the best job in the world, I let myself get caught up in negativity and focused on day-to-day annoyances and frustrations, forgetting that hassles are part of the human condition.

I really didn’t know love at all.

I don’t take my life as a journalist for granted these days. I’ve been through my share of “tears and fears,” and after five years away, I look at my profession and feel unbelievably “proud to say, ‘I love you’ right out loud.”

Old friends reading this probably will “shake their heads and say I’ve changed.” I don’t care. I’m not interested in something that’s lost. I’m too busy savoring something that’s gained.

Emily

* I had to laugh when I saw “stress” cited as one justification for the low ranking. I’ve taught in two urban high schools, and if the toughest part of your job is a deadline, you really don’t know stress at all.

Joie de vivre

Here is a thing I love about Cape Girardeau: The kids here seem to be animated by a sort of crazy wild joie de vivre that exceeds anything I’ve ever seen anywhere else.

Examples:

When I went house-shopping a couple of weeks ago, I found myself at a stoplight behind a school bus. Three or four little kids turned around to grin and wave out the back windows at me, and when I passed the bus a couple of minutes later, more kids were grinning and waving and opening the bus windows to shout, “We love your car!”

Last weekend, a pack of about four or five rugrats on wheels came barreling down the hill in front of my house. Two or three were on bicycles, and two were on skateboards. One little guy who looked to be all of 8 years old was flying hell-for-leather down the hill on his board, shouting, “Sh*t! Sh*t! SH*T!” in a tone that was somewhere between gleeful and terrified as he picked up speed on his way down. (He interspersed this with a couple of heartfelt “F*** yous” when the other kids laughed at him.) Toward the bottom of the hill, he managed to stop the board. One of his companions, a little girl on a bicycle, looked at me, beaming from ear to ear, and announced, “That’s a longboard!” as she pedaled past.

Yesterday morning, as I was heading to the office, two little kids came hopping down a side street on pogo sticks. Really. Pogo sticks. When was the last time you saw a kid on a pogo stick?

The sign says something else, but I think the real name of this street is Klickitat, because my young neighbors are like something out of a Beverly Cleary novel. If I don’t end up with a children’s book out of this, it certainly won’t be for lack of inspiration….

Emily