I have no idea whether this will work, but I found instructions online for propagating African violets, and since I had a violet growing and blooming like mad, half a bag of leftover potting mix, and an empty plastic salad tub, I thought I’d give them a shot.
I had several plants that needed to be repotted, propagated, or both. My aluminum plant — which was rootbound and suffering terribly in the dry air in this house — went into a bigger pot, with a plastic bag over it to keep the leaves from drying out. Meanwhile, my spider plant needed a bigger pot for itself, and I snipped off a couple of its babies and transplanted them while I was at it:
We’ll see how they do. They look cool on the credenza, where I put CFLs in a couple of faux-mid-century lamps to supplement the decidedly inadequate natural light coming in the front window.
I developed a new appreciation for African violets after a conversation with a young friend in California who messaged me on Twitter to ask what sort of plants would do well in her dorm room. I suggested several species, including African violets, and after looking at some pictures online, she was quite enchanted with them and was looking forward to a plant-shopping trip with her dad. (Good luck, Kadijah! If you ever make it to Missouri, we’ll spend an afternoon poking around the Plant Lady’s shop and Mother Earth Plants.)
I promised myself I’d unplug from social media after the election, because the campaign had me so tense, it literally made my face hurt, and there’s a limit to how much valerian tea I’m willing to drink in the name of sanity.
Then the election turned out to be such a trainwreck that I couldn’t stop looking at it, and I spent several days bouncing insensitive jerks from my life and commiserating with like-minded people who are as concerned about their black, Latino, Muslim, Jewish, LGBTQ, and other non-cishet-male-WASP friends as I am.
On Friday, I unplugged for several hours while we spent the afternoon and evening in Southern Illinois, listening to Leonard Cohen on the car stereo, wandering through the Rainmaker garden in Makanda, sampling hyperlocal food and drinks at Scratch, driving along the Strip in Carbondale, and hanging out in my parents’ living room, where Dad offered some consolation in the form of references to long-ago presidents who’d risen above their questionable personal histories to become competent leaders.
On Saturday, I slept in late, spent time with the dogs, did a little housecleaning, and composed a handwritten note to Hillary Clinton, who I am fairly sure feels quite a bit worse than I do this week. I prefabbed a couple of blog entries. I played “Imagine” on the piano. I tuned my guitars and played folk-revival covers until my fingers were numb. I had a bowl of green-chile cheese grits for dinner. And then I lit a piece of charcoal, laid a pinon chip on top, and spent the balance of the evening with Miss Shirley in Coldwater, where she poured me a strong cup of Irish coffee, shook her head at my stress, and set me to work transcribing her story to take my mind off things as the wind wailed across Sangre Mesa.
I may not bother logging into social media again for a good long while. It’s peaceful here at the Tumbleweed, and I’d much rather sit here at Miss Shirley’s kitchen table, gazing into her otherworldly eyes and listening to her spellbinding stories, than waste my time fussing over a world I can’t control at all.
There’s nothing exciting or magical about this week’s Tiny Tuesday tip, but again, this preparation for life in a tiny house at some point in the future is a gradual process, and I’m documenting the journey bit by bit, partly for my own records, and partly to help others who might be dreaming small, too, and aren’t sure where to start. Every cubic foot of space I save now is a cubic foot I don’t have to build (and thus a cubic foot I don’t have to heat and cool) a few years from now.
With that in mind, I present my current favorite space-saving tool: five-item hangers.
These cost about $10 to $15 at most retailers and are a godsend in a small closet where space is at a premium. I have two, but in looking at them in preparation for this post, I realized I only need one, because half the items currently hanging on them are at least two sizes too big. Guess we’ll be making a Goodwill run this week.
They’re designed for slacks, but I’ve also used them to store long skirts, maxi dresses, and even the occasional sweater. Very handy, and well worth the price to reclaim about three hangers’ worth of space. It’s kind of hard to tell from the picture, but I alternate sides with the garments, so the legs of one pair of slacks drape to the front of the hanger, and the legs of the next one up drape to the back, which I find saves space and makes it easier to get items off the hanger.
If you’re dreaming of a tiny house and don’t know where to start planning, jump in here. Clean out your closet, jettison everything you don’t use, and reward yourself with a relatively inexpensive tool to help organize what remains. You can also search the “Tiny Tuesday” tag to find other ideas for embracing a minimalist lifestyle.
As promised a couple of weeks ago, here are photos from the mural I completed in October on the east side of Tee Pee Curios in Tucumcari, New Mexico. I still can’t get over how fast and easy that neon technique is.
Spending a couple of weeks in Tucumcari this year has confirmed some things for us. First, it showed us we’re definitely on the right track with our long-term goal, which is to build a tiny house in northeastern New Mexico and retire there. The people in that area seem really nice, and the town is just about perfect in terms of size and proximity to larger cities and wilderness areas.
Second, the enthusiastic responses I’ve gotten to my murals have shown me this might make a nice cottage industry, so after New Year’s, I’m planning to take out an ad in the service directory part of the paper and see if I can rustle up a few mural-painting gigs in Southeast Missouri or Southern Illinois. Even small projects would bring in a nice chunk of extra income to save toward the tiny house of my dreams.
It’s good to have a long-term goal and a specific plan for reaching it. Even if something happens to throw us off-track, there’s never a down side to retiring debts as quickly as possible, learning new skills, or saving money for things you really need.
One day in the not-too-distant future, I’ll share our six-year plan for paying off our debts and putting ourselves in a position to make our very specific dreams come true. It’s a pretty good to-do list, even if you’re not planning to build a micro-house in the high desert.
As a Christian, I fully embrace the Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage, because one effect of the decision — while not part of the argument — serves as an expansion of religious freedom.
Far too many self-professed “Christians” appear to subscribe to the Orwellian notion that “some animals are more equal than others.” Not content to have their religious beliefs merely protected, they seek to have them codified in a manner that forces others to comply with them, whether they share them or not. This is unconstitutional, and frankly, I consider it immoral, as it is a clear violation of the Golden Rule.
Clergy always have been exempt from performing religious ceremonies in a way that violates the tenets of their faith. That exemption never has been in question — nor should it be. (This article outlines it nicely.)
Conversely, clergy should not be denied the right to perform religious ceremonies in a way that upholds the tenets of their faith.
There is widespread disagreement among religions and even within the Christian community about what constitutes marriage, but many — if not all — Christian denominations view marriage as a sacrament. When the government outlaws gay marriage, it essentially places itself in the position of deciding who can or cannot receive a sacrament. Government is neither qualified nor authorized to make those decisions.
We render unto Caesar when we recognize that for those who do not subscribe to any particular theology, marriage is purely a legal contract, and it would be entirely unconstitutional to base a citizen’s right to enter a legal contract on the whims of a particular faith community. Contractual matters are between the individual and the legal system, which is supposed to rest on the principles of impartiality and equal access for all citizens.
We render unto God when we recognize that in striking down the bans on gay marriage, the court has not taken away your pastor’s right to determine how sacraments are administered in his church — but it has ensured that his counterpart down the street has the same right, even if she arrives at a different theological conclusion.
A Christian should never be angry or afraid of an expansion of religious liberty. To borrow a line from one of my favorite theologians, Mary Baker Eddy: “Whatever blesses one, blesses all.”
(The rainbow pictured above was taken Friday evening as we were coming back from dinner in Foster Pond, Illinois. Vibrance, contrast and saturation adjusted to compensate for the limitations of my iPhone camera, which just barely picked up the colors.)
I’m slowly but surely turning my backyard into the sort of enchanted garden I’ve always wanted. I’m still several hundred pounds of Sackrete, ten lawn gnomes and a couple more growing seasons away, but it’s really taking shape this summer.
A few photos:
From the bench by the pond, you can kind of see what I’m trying to do. The raised beds behind the little black fence are full of compost and have vegetables coming up in them. So far, I’m delighted with them, as they’re super easy to weed, and most of the plants are thriving. I’m still figuring out the ideal spots for various species based on light conditions back there. In the foreground is the pond, barely visible behind the perennials I’ve planted around and in it, and at left is the Darwin Garden, so named because it’s an exercise in survival of the fittest: I’ve planted it entirely with perennials and vigorous self-seeding annuals and let them live or die as they will. It’s thriving, as I expected it to, and I intend to expand it into the rest of the yard as time goes by.
Now for a few details:
I have a lawn gnome I bought last spring that I’m going to paint this week to look like the Ninth Doctor. I’m hoping to make a pilgrimage to East Alton in a few weeks to score some more gnomes. Eventually, I want gnomes cosplaying each of the Doctor’s regenerations, sprinkled randomly around the yard.
While I was taking pictures, I accidentally set the phone to selfie mode, so I took this totally egocentric photo of my new haircut, which I got last week. I don’t like it, but I never like my hair short. I do like having it healthy, and I’m really going to like it when all this salt and pepper is down to my shoulders and looking all Judy-Collins-circa-1993.
Sorry I haven’t posted in forever. I’ve been adjusting to the new work schedule and working on a couple of pretty substantial projects.
OK, so “adjusting” is probably the wrong word. “Reveling in the glory of following my circadian rhythm” and “catching up the sleep deficit I ran up while trying to conform to society’s asinine ideas about how my sleep cycle should work for 10 years” are probably more accurate descriptions of what I’ve been doing for the past two months. You have no idea how much better I feel. I’ve set an alarm ONCE since mid-February, and that was only because I had a prior commitment I couldn’t duck out of.
In addition to catching up on a decade’s worth of lost sleep, I’ve been revising my novel for the umpty-seventh time and working like a madwoman to get ready for a Route 66 mural-painting project that starts this weekend and should wrap up in a couple of weeks. I’ll blog about it when it’s all finished, but if you want to see the work in progress, I’m probably going to live-tweet it. The biggest mural I’m planning — which will take up three walls in a garage — will feature trompe l’oeil paintings of neon signs that haven’t lit (and in some cases, haven’t existed) in decades. The technique I use to get the glow effect lends itself well to live-tweeting, as it goes from blurry mess to photorealistic painting in a series of steps that are so easy, you really have to see them to appreciate them.
Once you see the technique, you’ll be mad you didn’t think of it yourself, because it’s so simple, I’m pretty sure my 6-year-old niece could pull it off. (And she’ll probably get the opportunity in the not-too-distant future. Something tells me she and the boys would really enjoy a little foray into superrealism.)
Stay tuned. I’ll have a photo-heavy post for you in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter at @redforkhippie.
Fall has settled over us, and the lumberyard has started swapping flats of annuals for boxes of Christmas lights, which means the holidays are approaching — and with them, the usual boatload of potlucks and parties. You can find plenty of easy vegetarian recipes suitable for sharing, but most of them involve cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise or all of the above, and finding acceptable vegan substitutes for these ingredients can be a daunting prospect at 11:30 p.m., when you suddenly remember you were supposed to bring something for tomorrow’s office party.
Here’s a vegan version of an old standby that’s cheap, quick and always goes over well. The original is made with ranch dip mix, but this variation tastes just as good and doesn’t contain powdered buttermilk.
Vegan Snack Crackers
1 bag oyster crackers
1/4 c. margarine
1 packet Italian dressing mix
Big ziplock bag
Put the crackers in the bag. Melt the margarine in the microwave. Stir in dressing mix. Pour mixture over crackers. Seal bag. Shake until crackers are well-coated.
If you’re feeling ambitious, you can add a little dried dill weed to the mix or put in a few shakes of red or green chile powder to give the crackers an extra kick, but they’ll be fine if you don’t.
Protip: If the bag doesn’t seal quite as well as you might have hoped, and you discover this fact after you turn it upside-down to coat the crackers, it’s nice to have a four-legged friend or two to help with cleanup. As noted the other day, Riggy was more than happy to assist.
While a few notable exceptions exist, as a general rule, big houses are terrible for the environment.
Think about it: The bigger the house, the more material it takes to build, and the more energy it takes to heat and cool. Big houses also encourage consumption; if you have a lot of excess space, it’s really hard to resist the temptation to fill it with shiny objects.
For the sake of both the environment and our bottom line, Ron and I have always insisted on buying small houses.
Our current home is an 86-year-old, 730-square-foot Craftsman bungalow with hardwood floors; a full, unfinished basement; and a front porch that’s just right for sitting with a glass of wine and watching the world go by on a summer evening. Despite its diminutive size, it feels roomy, and I’ve managed to live in it for 16 months without cluttering it up.
Here are the advantages of a small house:
* They cost less to buy. * They cost less to heat and cool. * They are easier to retrofit for alternative energy. You can go solar in a 3,000-square-foot McMansion, but it’s never going to be cost-effective. * They discourage unnecessary purchases. If you don’t have a place to put it, you can’t buy it. I still buy a lot of stuff for the garden, but I waste far less money on odds and ends for the house these days. * They take less time to clean. * They’re cute.
Small houses require some creativity and planning, especially if you’re downsizing from something bigger, but the payoff in terms of energy and cost savings is worth the extra effort. If you’re considering a move in the near future, get on Realtor.com or another MLS engine to get a feel for what’s out there. Take an honest inventory of your personal possessions, and get rid of anything that’s taking up space without giving you anything in return. Figure out how much space you actually need, then look at your options. Chances are good you’ll save a pile of money, both upfront and over the long haul, and you’ll certainly be doing the environment a favor.
Here are a few photos of our house to give you some inspiration:
I can’t tell we’ve lost anything by downsizing from 950 square feet to 730. We have enough room to live our daily lives comfortably with a cat and two dogs, and those low energy bills make up for any minor inconveniences (e.g., the lack of a good place to store dog food and recyclables).