Now that we’re all done paying off a station wagon that doesn’t run, we can pour those resources into retiring the loan we took out to replace the sewer line last year after the roots of the neighbor’s tree grew into it and clogged it up. (I still don’t understand why I am legally responsible for damage caused by somebody else’s tree, but I’d like a word with whoever made that rule.)
Inspired by an end-of-season sale on echinacea, rudbeckia, and Oklahoma Indian blankets, I was just turning over the first few spades of dirt for a new flowerbed in the front yard when a young man walked up and asked if I’d consider paying him to do some yard work. He was stranded in town, he said, and was trying to earn enough money to buy a bus ticket home to Springfield, Missouri, to see his daughter.
I’d already hit three rocks by that point and was losing my enthusiasm for the project, so I told him I’d give him $20 an hour to spade up the area I wanted to plant and flatten out the rise left in the yard after the plumber replaced our sewer line last year.
I figured he’d be out there the rest of the afternoon, but he had the flowerbed spaded up in less than 15 minutes, and in the time it took me to install mulch cloth and plant my flowers, he’d flattened that rise. He was done in just over an hour, so I treated him like those fraction-of-an-hour-is-an-hour contractors and sent him off to the Greyhound station with $40, a big bottle of Gatorade, and a big smile.
After he left, I took myself to Lowe’s to pick up mulch and more flowers — including several daylilies to plant along the sewer line.
Between the two of us, I think we did a pretty good job.
I still need some flagstone to use as edging, and I need to move the coupler and spare hose to the front so I can water more easily, but I’m happy with this project so far, and I’m looking forward to expanding the beds in the coming months so they’ll be ready for planting in the spring.
“…your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.”
— Matt. 6:8
Sometime around 1989, my internal clock calibrated itself for Rawaki Island. This would be fine if I lived on Rawaki Island, but I don’t. Nobody else does, either, except for a few seagulls and feral rabbits, and I don’t think any of them are hiring.
I’m healthiest, happiest and most productive when I can go to bed about 3 a.m. and get up around 11. When I try to move that schedule up more than an hour or two, I end up with all kinds of obnoxious little symptoms that make life unpleasant and hamper my productivity.
I’ve tried every imaginable technique to reset my internal clock. I finally exhausted all my own ideas and sought help from a doctor, who recommended meditating; shutting off my electronic devices a couple of hours before bedtime; and taking melatonin.
The melatonin made me sick; the other recommendations, while pleasant, did nothing to alter my natural sleep cycle.
Frustrated, I Googled “circadian rhythm” last night and discovered there’s a name for the way I’ve slept for the last quarter-century. It’s called delayed sleep phase syndrome, and it affects about 3 out of every 2,000 people.
DSPS can be very difficult to treat, and since most people have never heard of it and regard “my body runs on Kiribati Standard Time” as a bullshit excuse for sleeping in, the easiest solution for most people with DSPS is to find a job with a schedule that matches their internal clock and move on.
I’d never heard of DSPS when I sat down to meditate the other night, but as I settled into the Fortress of Solitude and tried to concentrate on my breathing, my mind started to wander (as usual), and I got to thinking about the Sermon on the Mount, which I decided was an acceptable thing to think about while meditating, since it’s practically a Zen text anyway and thus conducive to relaxation.
Less than 24 hours after I’d considered the lilies of the field and beheld the birds of the air, my boss called me into his office — apropos of nothing — to tell me he was switching me from reporting to copy editing.
This means I won’t have to be at work until 3 p.m., and I’ll be able to stay up until 3 a.m. every night without running late or making myself sick. I might even have time to squeeze in a jog before work.
Forty-five minutes from Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the little guy who made this hand turkey I framed and hung above my desk last year. And for his big brother and their cousin. Nieces and nephews are the best.
1. I tried this excellent yogurt recipe last night. It turned out well and saved me some major cleanup hassles. I’ll blog about it one Saturday in the near future.
2. I finally got hold of two sources I’ve been trying to reach for over a week, so the deadlines I’d been worried about suddenly became less worrisome. After 30 years, you’d think I’d be used to the last-minute nature of this business, but sometimes I lose the rhythm and forget that things have a way of coming together when I need them to, if not necessarily when I want them to.
3. I went to cancel our gym membership tonight, since we don’t use it as much as we’d hoped, and the contract was set to expire this month. The guy who filed my paperwork said if I’d come in one day later, I’d have ended up being billed for another month. I almost waited, because I was tired and hungry when I left the office, but I decided to get it out of the way so I wouldn’t have to think about it any more. SCORE.
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!
This year, we had another bit of excitement to go with the usual joy of getting the garden into the ground:
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.
They don’t look like much yet, but here are a couple of our tomato plants:
If you want your tomatoes to be virtually drought-proof, here is the secret:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“Can you dig it? Yes, I can. And I’ve been waiting such a long time….”
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.
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.
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.
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?
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:
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.
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.