winter

winter

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Gardening update!

My plants are doing fairly well. I had to repot a strawberry plant and a tomato plant, but I think they'll do just fine with the change. I staked the tomato because it looked very listless after the repotting. I made some room for some oregano seedlings in one of my windowbox planters. I also planted some pepper seeds this afternoon. I popped my little bottle top mini greenhouse over them. In a Lunchables box planter, I finally planted the green onions that I had in a little jar on a window sill. I think they'll do much better out in the sunshine.

I thinned out my lettuces - which look beautiful despite how crowded they were. I used up the last of my planting soil with the pepper seeds. I need to get some more and a few more planters because my seedlings are not going to last much longer in the seed pots. I have figured out that some of the mysterious seedlings just might be rosemary. If it is, I will be delighted. The rosemary plant that I had bought for myself mysteriously disappeared. I think an animal is to blame for that.

I'm really not happy that something has been eating the leaves of my strawberry plants. I think I will be taking some of Beloved's cigarette butts and making a 'tea' with them. According to theory, this is a good and health friendly insect deterrent. I will be quite disappointed if my strawberry plants don't recover. I was hoping to get enough berries to make freezer jam this summer.

I harvested a bunch of lemon balm. I'm not entirely sure what I can do with it. I need to do a bit more reading and research. In the meantime, however, I am going to just make my list of what I need to be more successful with this project. Part of that, I believe, is going to be getting rid of the cover I made for my greenhouse and actually buying a cover off the internet or something. Then I can start using that space for stuff  as well.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

It's not easy being Green...

(Apologies to Kermit the frog!)

I really feel very strongly that I should minimize my environmental impact as much as I possibly can. I feel badly that there is so much waste in my household. I recognize that it is significantly less waste then neighbors of mine, but I still feel that it is too much. I am doing my best to recycle as much as possible. I am striving to conserve water. I'm working to minimize how much food is just plain wasted on a weekly basis.

In the light of all this, I know that some people would say that I am doing a very good job of being ecologically responsible. Every time the garbage truck arrives, however, I wind up getting a good look at how much stuff is getting thrown away. (Our living room has two big windows right by the dumpster. I don't particularly like that fact.) It disturbs me that the thing is regularly full to the point of nearly overflowing.

I recognize that there are some changes that I just can't make right now. I can't just stop using disposable diapers. We simply don't have the means to wash the cloth diapers as they get soiled. I can't set up something to collect rainwater for watering my plants. And there's literally no way for me to get rid of using non-biodegradable garbage bags. I am certain that aside from paper bags, there has to be biodegradable garbage bags on the market. I just can't find them anywhere.

Some of the changes that I have been successful in making, however, are going to count in a big way as the year goes on. I have planted a bunch of containers of herbs, vegetables, and strawberries. I am recycling old plastic containers that products we've purchased have come in as planters. I am in the midst of researching what I need to do to start composting vegetable waste. My hope is to do so in a bucket underneath the deck where it is out of the way and yet still accessible. I am doing my best to water my plants when they won't get burned by the sun. I'm working to make sure that our electricity consumption is as low as possible. When I do laundry, I do my best to load the machines in such a manner that we don't have too small of a load for the machine size so that we conserve water.

I keep looking for other ways to be 'green'. I know there are more ways to be responsible with the resources we have. And I am sure that they don't require some type of insane level of effort.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Communal container gardening?

I have lots and lots of peas. I also have lots of herbs and quite a few tomato plants. I've given some of the herbs and some of the tomato plants to my neighbors downstairs. I think I'm going to talk to them about the possibility of sharing space on their patio for pepper plants. I don't think they're going to object. They were thrilled to get my extra plants.

I am looking at it all and realizing that I really do want to get more stuff growing out there. While I can't plant corn or squash, there's other things that I can get growing in pots. The idea of having a bunch of vegetables that are home grown makes me smile. The thought that our canned vegetables for the late autumn and winter would be coming from what I grew just ... well, for lack of a better phrase, is growing on me.

I think I'm going to talk to the neighbors and see what we can manage. I have LOTS of strawberry plants that haven't yet put out fruit. That should be soon, though, because they're starting to get blossoms. Some of my mature pea plants are blossoming. The rosemary some how vanished. I think a critter got into it. Since I don't use a lot of rosemary, I am not going to worry about it. I have so much basil that it is funny.

To say the least, I am planning on making pesto and maybe basil butter. I'm going to do a little digging around and try to find a few more ways I can use up this basil. I am tempted to bring some plants out to Buffalo with me to Jbirdie for her to have in her backyard. I think, however, I am not going to give in to temptation. She has a lot of stuff going on right now. Taking care of some plants would just be one more thing to stress her out. I don't want to do that.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Wildcrafting herbs: Bedstraw

I have lots of bedstraw growing around the back deck. Galium aparine has a bad habit of taking over an area. I keep pulling it out and it just seems to keep proliferating in the same spots. Wikipedia says that this is edible. Some of the websites I have looked at give a bit of the history of the use of this herb. I know that the spot where it is growing is free of pesticides and similar toxins.

My only question is if the plant is too mature for me to use. I suspect it is. But it is something to consider for next year.

Canned beets stump me.

I'm going to try this recipe out and see if it changes my feelings on canned beets. So far, borscht was the only way I could see eating this vegetable.

From Chowhound.com forums:

Get some onions and garlic going in a skillet, usually with butter and/or olive oil. When they are ready, drain and quarter the canned beets and add them to the skillet, cook them until they are blackened to your liking. Add a handful of roasted pecans or walnuts near the end for crunch. Works best with whole beets.

From Allrecipies.com

  • 4 medium beets - scrubbed, trimmed and cut in half
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 (10 ounce) package mixed baby salad greens
  • 1/2 cup frozen orange juice concentrate
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 ounces goat cheese

Directions

  1. Place beets into a saucepan, and fill with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then cook for 20 to 30 minutes, until tender. Drain and cool, then cut in to cubes.
  2. While the beets are cooking, place the walnuts in a skillet over medium-low heat. Heat until warm and starting to toast, then stir in the maple syrup. Cook and stir until evenly coated, then remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the orange juice concentrate, balsamic vinegar and olive oil to make the dressing.
  4. Place a large helping of baby greens onto each of four salad plates, divide candied walnuts equally and sprinkle over the greens. Place equal amounts of beets over the greens, and top with dabs of goat cheese. Drizzle each plate with some of the dressing. 
 One of the commentators said you can replace the cooked beets with chilled, canned beets.

I'm still hunting through my cookbooks for something that helps to ease the ... intensity of the flavor of beets. Nobody really eats these things which makes them incredibly inexpensive. This makes me think that I need to find away to take advantage of this. I'm not a big fan of pickled beets but I know there has to be a way to make them that will agree with me and my palate. And on this one, I know that I am more discriminating on that taste then the boys are.
 

A crochet snood and other things.

I used this pattern with a bit of an alteration. Using thread weight crochet cotton and a size 'H' hook, I made my starting loop with the magic ring method. My first round was to crochet six stitches (single crochet) into the ring. When I came back to my first stitch, I pulled the tail and snugged the ring up tight. Round two had me crocheting two stitches into each stitch until I came back to the beginning of my round. I then put a marker at the beginning of the round. Round three I crochet two stitches into the first stitch and one into the second. I continued this around the round. (All of this was in single crochet.) Round four, I crochet two stitches into the first stitch and then one stitch into the next two stitches. I repeated this until I came back to the beginning of the round. I continued on in this fashion - adding one single crochet stitch for each round after the two stitches in the first (which turns out to be the first of the two stitches done together, so you can make sure that things line up properly that way).

When it became difficult for me to tell where to do two stitches together, I put markers at each increase. You should have six markers (including the one at the beginning of the round). Increase at each marker and then do one stitch for each stitch following until you come to the next marker. Do this until your circle is big enough to fit comfortably on the crown of your head. If you want it a little larger, that works well too. The way I checked to make sure it was the right size was to just set it on my head. When it covered the back of my head and the crown, I started on making the 'bag' portion.

This is where you chain two at the beginning of the round. This counts as your first half double crochet (hdc). Then do one hdc per stitch. As you work around the round, remove the markers, except for the one that marks the first stitch. Continue to work one hdc per stitch until the snood is long enough to be comfortable. Put it on your head from time to time to make sure that it is a comfortable length. When you have it just right, at the first stitch of your second to last round, chain four. This will be your first double crochet and chain. In the third stitch from the hook, do a double crochet. Chain one. Do another double crochet into the second stitch from the hook. Chain one. Continue in this fashion around the round. When you reach the beginning of the round, single crochet in that stitch. Then single crochet around the round into each stitch. Slip stitch the last stitch of this final round together with the first stitch and tie off. Weave in the ends.

Weave a ribbon through the gaps in the second to last round. When you wish to wear it, just tighten the ribbon by tying a bow. I secure it with a few bobby pins for a little extra insurance against slipping on my fine hair. If you wish, you can weave elastic through. Either way, make sure that your ribbon is long enough that you can tie around your head comfortably. Or your elastic is comfortably snug on your head before you sew the ends together. there will be some bunching of the snood. Don't let this trouble you. It is supposed to do this and adds to the charm.

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Today has been a pretty good day so far. I feel a bit guilty that this is the first time I have had the opportunity to blog in here for a little while. And that I am letting housework go for a little longer while I do this. I am, however, resolute not to wallow in guilt. Blogging in here is as important as my daily journaling (which I will be doing next). It feeds my soul.

Snuggle Bug and I got our first real walk of the season in. I popped him into the stroller and we walked two miles today. On the way home, we stopped at the park. I let him run around and all over the playground. As he was going to town on the slide and teeter-totter, I was doing a little bit of spinning. We admired the flowers popping up in the butterfly garden over there and he had fun watching the ducks swimming in the lake.

I was hoping we'd get to see the albino duck that was here last year, but I saw no evidence of it. I did see a few juvenile ducks swimming on the stream that is the outlet from the lake when we crossed over it earlier in our walk. Snuggle Bug was more interested in watching the crows flying overhead then looking at the ducks then. There weren't any geese about, but I suspect there may be a few when we return over there in the late afternoon after Cuddle Bear gets home from preschool.

I think dinner for the kids tonight is going to be sandwiches. Something simple and not going to really heat the kitchen up. Because in the afternoon, it gets sweltering in here. The sun beats on the western side of the building for most of the afternoon. Beloved says that we'll be putting in the air conditioner in a little while if this heat wave keeps up. I suspect that may happen this weekend if the weather permits.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Playing in the Garden

I just finished up playing with my plants out on the back deck. I weeded two planters. I then took a bunch of young tomato plants and put them into a couple of pots. I also rearranged things with the one planter that lacks drainage holes in the bottom of it.

I took the soil out and put it into the plastic containers that my sons' Lunchables come in. These little rectangular, thin plastic tubs are not only awesome mini-greenhouses (which I discovered a few weeks ago) they are also just the right size to fit into the planter width wise. So there are now three little tubs instead of a planter full of very wet dirt. I may get some pebbles and put them into the bottom of the planter. I'm not decided yet on that one. One of the little tubs is filled with lemon balm. Another has been seeded with sweet basil. The third will have a small rosemary plant in it. There is still a few inches of planter that doesn't have anything in it. It is too narrow for a fourth Lunchables tub to go into. This is where the pebbles may come into play. They'd make a good anchor point for another bit of basil or something else similar that would be tolerant of a watery 'soil'.

I planted more nasturtium seeds in one of the other planters to replaced the plants that the frost we had a few weeks back killed. If it looks like we're going to get another cold snap, I think I'll put plastic wrap or something else similar over the thing. I only had one marigold come up out of the package of seeds that I bought a little while back. I don't know how I feel about that.

I've decided to put petunias in the hanging basket that is on the front porch. I haven't decided what I'm going to put into my terracotta planter that I have out there. I am leaning towards the cosmos that my MiL gave me a few weeks back.

I need to repot the lavender. It keeps getting flooded when ever it rains because the pot it is in just is horrible for drainage. I forget what I was attempting to grow in the other pot, but it's just not happening, for the same reason. One of my pots of tulips is functionally dead. It got knocked over a few weeks ago and the soil wasn't covering the bulbs. So when the weather changed, the bulbs got affected a LOT. I don't know what I'll be growing in that pot next. Maybe I'll put some tomatoes in it after I take the bulbs out.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Killing time. Die, time die!

Good Wednesday to you all.

I'm currently in between chores right now. I've gotten about half of the things on my 'To Do' list done. My living room is still a disaster but this week is the kitchen zone so I'm not going to panic over it. I've done something of a reboot on FLYLady. It is my hope to get this nonsense of falling away from it when I'm depressed dealt with it.

Mood wise, I am relatively stable right now. Maybe this cocktail of medications is working. I don't spend as many days depressed as I had before. Now I just want to get the other psychological fires put out so that I can move on to other things. I'm feeling a bit impatient with myself, but that's not too terribly different from usual.

Snuggle Bug just isn't feeling well today. He's been really fussy and clingy. I think he has caught some sort of cold. He doesn't want to eat and only grudgingly will drink something. It makes me think he may have a sore throat. Snuggle Bug has been napping off and on all day. I suspect that he will sleep well tonight, even with all of these naps. It is my hope that he feels better tomorrow. While apart of me appreciates the break I am getting from chasing him all over the house, I don't want him to be feeling miserable.

Cuddle Bear has been doing pretty good with using his words at school. Now I just need to get him to do it more at home. Over the last few weeks, the boys have gotten into quite a few wordless screaming matches and shoving/hitting/kicking each other. It's mainly been when Beloved is off at work. There was a couple of shoving matches over the weekend, though. I'm wondering if it's just that the boys have hit the 'terrible twos' stage or if they're acting out because they want Daddy.

Beloved has been working late for the last several weeks. He's getting vacation time, which is good. I'm hoping that maybe he'll get to take some time off and hang out with me and the kids before kindergarten starts in September. I'm looking forward to him having a three day weekend at the end of the month. I'm hoping it will be enough to ease some of the lines of worry out of his face. I try not to worry over him but this job has him way too stressed out.

I'm trying to think of anything else major to add right now. I'm a quarter of the way done on my knitted shawl. I have been spinning like a mad woman in preparation for Tour de Fleece. I used up all the fiber I had kicking around and had to beg some off of my MiL. To say the least, she was giggling as she dropped off a *big* ball of fiber. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with all of the handspun that I've been getting whipped off. I do know this, however, learning to use that Navajo spindle is going to be tricky. That is my goal for TdF this year. I figure last year I spun a full mile (actually a mile and 33 yards), this year I can do just about anything I want.

I've been making hats lately. Some of them have been really funky looking. I'll try to post up pictures of them soon. It's just been a matter of playing around with the crochet hook and yarn. I have used up most of the handspun that I have made in a shawl and a few hats. I'm still trying to pick what pattern I'm going to make with that really lovely purple handspun that my MiL gave me for Yule a few years ago.

 Right now, I need to run and finish up my housework while Snuggle Bug is napping. I hope that all of you have a great day! <3

Friday, May 04, 2012

I don't know how I did it...

Some how, over the last few months I lost two dress sizes. I was a size 14 in December. Now I am a size 12. This explains why stuff has been almost falling off me. Today, I bought myself some more scarves. I bought two pairs of shorts. (It doesn't make sense to call them 'pairs' when they are single items. Our language is weird at times.) I also have a new blouse.

[...]

My random clicking and reading things on the internet brought me to the wikipedia entry about Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I read the entire thing. I've spoken with veterans of World War II. One of them is my great-uncle Gene. These people are not people who take life or death lightly. I have, when I had the opportunity, asked them about their thoughts about this event.

An overwhelming number of them still stand in support of it. They are utterly convinced that it was correct to have used that weapon. Some of them even said that we should use it in Afghanistan. These are not blood thirsty monsters but rather people who have seen and had to do horrific things. Taking another man's life is not something to be done casually.

I must admit, I do not think the atomic bomb should have ever been invented. I do not think it should have ever been used. I feel the same way about biological warfare. I feel the same way about chemical warfare. I feel the same way about carpet bombing. I feel the same way about asymmetrical warfare (aka urban warfare aka terrorism).

War is a blight upon the Earth. It is among the greatest crimes that man can commit against the world. There is little difference, in my eyes, between war and genocide. Does this mean that we should be pacifists? If someone were to invade my home, should I not use deadly force to protect myself and my family? No. The use of deadly force when it is necessary is appropriate. We have the right to defend ourselves.

If this world were more just, war would not happen. The only time a fist was raised would be to defend oneself. Disagreements between nations would be settled by negotiation rather then arms. That is my dream. That humanity could live in peace with itself and the world, taking only what was needed and working to preserve the rest.

Sadly, however, war happens. Humans are terribly clever. We like to find ways to improve our skills in various areas and to be more efficient in our activities. This has even extended to how to kill. We have not only learned how to kill more effectively but also how to do it with less concern for the moral and ethical questions involved. People have been increasingly dehumanized. This makes the jump from 'person' to 'enemy combatant' to statistic easier. This makes the process of war more efficient.

It is something that I am deeply ashamed of. And my soul weeps for the civilians who are killed for the crime of being alive and native to the wrong country. I grieve the dead who were counted as 'acceptable losses' and robbed of their humanity. I question sometimes if any one else does so? Some one must remember them, lest we completely descend into monstrosity.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

A recipe for Beltaine

I posted this up on my blog at Keen. I call it Beltaine Fruit Fool for Lovers. It is a variation of the Fruit Fool recipe that my Aunts taught me when I was much younger and learning to cook. It is incredibly simple and utterly decadent. A wonderful treat for lovers to share. And if you have some extra whipped cream left over, you always have many more options for how to use it. ;)

Ingredients
1 pint strawberries (cleaned, hulled, and quartered; reserve 2 for garnish)
1 pint heavy cream
1 tbsp vanilla
2 tbsp confectioner's sugar

Using a scrupulously clean bowl and whisk (both chilled in the refrigerator for 15 minutes), whip the cream until soft peaks begin to form. Beat in vanilla and confectioner's sugar until soft peaks form. Gently fold the strawberries into the whipped cream. Spoon into bowls and garnish with whole strawberry. Serve immediately.