Monday, June 30, 2014

To Market or Not to Market

That is truly the question, and the answer is, NOT! We really wavered back and forth on this one, for a number of reasons. First, we don't want to miss a market because we prepare all week for it, and missing it means a week without the income, which in turn goes to support our fabulous opulent lifestyles. On the other hand, missing the market means one extra day of our lives given back to us, and that's "not nothing."

This time around, we had valid reasons for concern, and we informed the manager accordingly and she understood. As usual, all week long the weather was beautiful and then the forecast went south on market day, calling for thunderstorms all day. The question was, would they be right? In weeks past the forecast was wrong and sometimes it worked out for us, and other times we got slammed. This time around the weather was pretty definitive, but what does that really mean? The reality is, they just can't be 100% correct when it comes to the weather, but they can get reasonably close.

We gave the manager a head's up that we might not make it, and then sat and waited. The evening before market it was beautiful, but the forecast still said thunderstorms. By the morning, it was still beautiful, but the chances of rain had gone up to 80%, so we bailed out. The weather was stable until about an hour into the market, and then it started raining in buckets. It rained a lot, but the worst part was, it rained for at least half the market, and we were glad we weren't out there, especially with all that hot oil. I felt bad for the guys who did show up, but on days like that, I think they should cancel the market. It's not that fair to the vendors, who put in all that time and effort for nothing.

Oh well, we knew the deal when we signed on. I was looking at the long range forecast and it's calling for beautiful weather until, you guessed it, market day. Let's hope things change in the coming days.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Anne Lise Heinrichs for the pic.

Back to the Barn

We have returned our attention back to the barn, and it's been slow going just to get the ball rolling again, but things are moving along. The primary goal is to get those darn dormers done, which like everything in life is easier said than done because it requires working on the roof, and standing on a metal roof for any period of time is tricky and daunting. I still look up at the dormers in disbelief that I somehow managed to put that fascia in. How exactly did I pull that off? Granted, it was much easier with a shingled roof because I could nail in a platform, which I can't do with a metal roof. Oh well, with greater challenge come greater reward, right? Whatever.

I ran into complications from the get-go with the construction on a number of levels. First off, the barn is a mess, and some cleaning needed to be done. R took command of that one and did some organizing, and N and I did a fair amount of preliminary stuff a few weeks back. This meant that my beautiful organizing system (i.e., complete chaos) was compromised and I had to spend a few minutes finding all my tools. I then had to get supplies, and as usual, that's when the fun began. I can only fit so many tons of lumber in the back of our car, and I need to get plywood for the soffit. The wood comes in 4X8 sheets, which requires delivery or the use of a truck, which we do not have.

(Sound of fanfare) Enter my Mentor, who as usual, saved the day. I don't know what I'd do without him, other than cease to train being a real-man. He told me to order the wood by phone and he'd swing by and pick it up. It was a good opportunity to catch up with him and get some tips on building the barn. I always take advantage of every opportunity to pick his mind, he's a fountain of manly wisdom, especially when it comes to building.

Best of all, after he left, I realized I got the wrong plywood, which meant that I needed his truck again. I racked my brain to think of someone nearby who would be willing to lend me their truck so I didn't have to bother my Mentor again, but all other options would have meant a delay of at least a couple of days, and we needed to get the ball rolling immediately. No time like the present when you're learning to be a real man. I wrestled with it before breaking down and calling him back, and as usual, he was happy to help, even if I felt guilty. I arranged to borrow his truck this time, and things worked out fine. I got the wood I needed, and went to work immediately measuring and cutting the pieces.

The work is a little tricky because I tend to do a rough job at first, and then fine tune it before I finish. Remember, I'm a framer, not a cabinet maker. Normally this is not a problem, except that I was on the roof, which required going up and down a ladder, not to mention doing battle with the all the wasps and hornets that love to make their nests in the rafters. Factor in the hot sun beating down on me, and it's like a party up there. Who said training to be a real man wasn't fun?

I have to thank HH for letting me use her nail gun and compressor, which makes putting a soffit a lot easier. As a former contractor, she's also a good source of advice.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Ken Thomann for the pic.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

On the Job

I went to my first day on the job at my new gig as a standardized patient (SP in professional parlance) and it wasn't half bad. It's not unlike acting, and the regulars whom I met take it pretty seriously. I even had to give it a go, just for practice, and they rate your performance and conversely want sincere feedback when they go. It's pretty serious stuff. The other SPs that I met were mostly veterans, though one guy looked like he was in college. They knew the drill and took it very seriously. I was impressed.

This should be interesting. I'm still in training mode and learning the ropes, but there is something interesting about going to work again. You realize that people who go to work have it easy compared to those who stay at home with the kids, isn't that right, JR? Leaving the house and all it's responsibilities and being at work is like taking a break. Almost, dare I say, like a mini-vacation.

It's been good thus far, the hospital takes the gig very seriously, so that puts a little pressure to perform, but that's what makes it fun, right? Otherwise you just mindlessly go about your day.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Chris Bordenka for the pic.

More Frisbee Fun

We had more ultimate frisbee last week, and we dabbled a little in another frisbee activity, frisbee golf. There is a course nearby and I see it all the time but was never really compelled to take part. We see people frequently passing through who are doing it, but again, I never joined in. Of course, it took N's interest to get me involved. He somehow became interested in trying it, so I spoke with the resident everything-frisbee expert, JM, and he said he would lend us some discs and we could try it.

Needless to say, N was excited, and we had a chance last week during A's track practice. We dropped her off and headed over to the field. I didn't have high expectations but interestingly enough, I enjoyed it. N had a blast, he always does, but I figured I'd be just going through the motions until it was done. This was not the case. In fact, I approached it differently than I thought I would, and as a result, enjoyed it all the more. I attempted to be philosophical about it and rather than just try to slog through it as if it were a chore, I tried to see how I could be better at it and understand the subtle intricacies of the game. I realize how pretentious this sounds, but I've found the same is true for regular golf. Instead of just trying to hit the ball as hard and as far as I can, it makes it more interesting to put thought into the mechanics and technical aspects of the game. Then it becomes a rewarding challenge rather than a simple chore that you just want to finish.

Maybe this is a good way to approach everything in life. Call me crazy, but I think we are already there in terms of a lot of things in our lives. Why not apply it to frisbee golf, as well? Besides, it's more enjoyable when it's not just about winning and losing. One note: my old karate class was out there on the field and I felt bad that not only was I not taking part, but I was playing frisbee golf, instead. Oh well, maybe one day I'll go back to training to be a lethal killing machine.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Reid for the pic.

Gardening Like Crazy

I'm not sure why we're so inspired with gardening this year, but inspired we are, and it's been reasonably taxing. What's crazy is the heavy weeding is still to come, and that's what usually breaks my spirit. Hopefully this year it won't be more of the same.

So far it hasn't been too bad battling critters, especially with our high-tech solution, but for whatever reason our tomatoes have been a little anemic. We have them going in three plots and so far none of them have really taken off. I don't think we're alone, and someone mentioned that the weather has not been conducive to happy tomatoes. Ironically, it's been the sort of summer I like; not too hot, with cool breezes and not too much rain. I'm guessing scorching heat is the way to go. Just goes to show you, you can't have it all.

It will get hot, no doubt, but for now, we are looking at these little plants that are being assaulted by bugs, which could very well do them in. I've been trying the diatomaceous earth, and it seems to be working. I want to believe, but as we all know, Mother Nature will always have her way.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Dena for the pic.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Jazzing Things Up

This past weekend we went to the local jazz festival and I have to say that we really enjoyed ourselves. The music was very enjoyable, especially watching it live. I like jazz, but am not the biggest fan of the big band sound. Too Glen Miller for me, I prefer the slow sultry stuff like a trio with just a bass, drum, and piano. This time around, I really liked the big band stuff.

Either way, we went because there was a musician that piqued our interest the night before that played the marimba, which is beautiful wood percussion instrument sort of like a xylophone, but so much more. The musician in question, Arthur Lipner, was the featured artist at the jazz fest and the night before he screened a movie about his art. It was interesting, and it really sparked some interest in N, at least at first. After the film he wanted to see the guy play live. Say no more, as far as I'm concerned.

There were a few acts before him, and I like all of them. There were even middle school and high school bands, and they all did well. The weather was beautiful, breezy and not too hot, so that helped, but there was something nice about being outside and listening to live music. You just can't beat it.

Around 1:00 the Arthur Lipner came on and he had a kick-ass backup band that played beautifully together. They communicated nicely, and even though I'm no expert, it was a lot of fun to watch. They seemed to be enjoying themselves, as did the audience. There was a decent crowd, as well. The musician Lipner is world-renowned, so this was no small thing.

I was watching N and he was watching intently, so he was captivated. After the show I approached Lipner to inquire about how to encourage interest in the instrument, and he was very approachable and very friendly. Just an all around nice guy, I enjoyed talking to him.

After the show, N and I hung out a little longer, tossed the frisbee back and forth, and then rode our bikes home. The end to a really nice day, I must say. I hope it sparks some musical interest in our boy.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to T.D. Ford for the pic.

Here We Go Again?

Just a quick note about the market - we are in the midst of a simply beautiful stretch of weather, the kind you live for in New England. It's sunny, warm but not hot, with a cool breeze blowing. You can't beat it. The long range forecast calls for more of the same all the way up until market day, where it's supposed to rain. You gotta love it.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to prajakt_23 for the pic.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Tomato Progress

The report is mixed thus far with our tomatoes. I had high hopes for the community garden because we scored an additional half-plot and I figured we could plant all tomatoes, but that one isn't going so well. Total bummer. I ended up replacing some of the plants with ones that had more time in the greenhouse, which for the record, is an amazing thing. They still seem small, and I'm not so into the soil in that plot, which is heavy on the horse manure. It makes the soil very clumpy and unpleasant, but I'm assuming it's enriching. Then again, it doesn't appear to be composted properly.

The tomatoes in our backyard garden seem to be doing pretty nicely, which loosely translated means they aren't dying and haven't been eaten (thanks to our high-tech radar gun from RJR). They are perky and standing at attention, they just don't seem to be growing much. Oh well, take what you can, right? We still have several tomato plants that need to planted in the flower farm garden, and I think the time has come to attend to that. There is concern about groundhogs over there, so I'm thinking we need to get another sonic radar gun. I'm convinced they work. Maybe I just need to plant them and accept whatever fate comes along, but I like the high-tech solution. I'll need to work on that one.

For now, the plants are moving along, albeit slowly. The weather is becoming more consistently warm, so that bodes well for all things in the garden. We'll see where this journey takes us.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Debbie Ohi for the pic.

Second Market Report

As hard as the work is (I guess it's not that bad), doing the farmers market teaches you some important lessons in life, and one of those lessons is that you never really know how things are going to turn out until they actually happen. With this in mind, there is no point to worrying and fretting about it, which of course is exactly what we do, but we're learning.

Two weeks ago the weather was supposed to be pleasant and nice and then it turned out rainy and cold. As a consequence, business was terrible, and we came home with a lot of product. We could freeze the falafels no problem, but everything else spoils, so we ended up eating as much as we can. Some of the veggies have a longer shelf life, but the lettuce goes bad in a day or so, and we can only eat so much salad before feeling like Peter Rabbit.

We came away from it bitter and disgruntled, and decided to cut back on production for the next market. Since we had so much falafel left, we only made a few more, and bought less of the other stuff. It was actually nice because preparation was a breeze, we didn't have to do much. The weather forecast was also beautiful every day except for market day, which called for thunderstorms. Don't you just love when that happens? We didn't have high expectations, and planned accordingly.

Well, as it turns out, the weather was nice, and it even became beautiful, with a nice breeze. The people came out in droves, and we sold out with about 45 minutes to go. We had people coming up to us near the end wanting food, and we had nothing. It just goes to show you, you never really know how things will turn out, and rather than fretting about it, it's good to just embrace a little uncertainty (within reason) and go with it. In life, you have to assume some risks and take some chances. Rather than living in fear and stressing out about controlling every situation, just realize that life sometimes throws you a curve, but often it sends you a fat meatball that you can hit out of the park. You take the good with the bad, and besides, even though we go to great lengths to control our cozy little world, things never turn out the way you plan them, so you might as well just let go and ride the wave. I'm learning that a little chaos and uncertainty is not always a bad thing.

Next market should be interesting. Stay tuned for more.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to lolmanic for the pic.

High Tech Solution

We were recently given a high-tech solution to our critter problem in the garden, and it sure seems like it's been working so far. RJR gave us an electronic device that emits some sort of high-frequency sound wave that is supposed to drive critters insane. My old and decaying ears can't detect the noise, but the kids can hear it, and during controlled experiments with our cats, it appears that they don't like it. The machine has a motion detector that sets it off, and it has a solar panel on top to recharge the battery. For the record, I don't think the solar thing works, but we get around this by simply recharging the batteries on a regular basis.

So far, so good. It's hard to really know how well it works, but at this point, nothing has come to eat our tomatoes, and there is a groundhog family nesting right next to the garden (I kid you not). We've only been employing this thing for a couple of weeks, but I love it and want to believe it works. Isn't that enough? I'd like to get another one for our garden across the road, but maybe we should wait and see. Then again, no time like the present, right?

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Tom Banwell for the pic.

Getting Whacked

Now that summer is kicking into gear, everything is growing at a rapid clip (no pun intended), and I'm having to step up the yard maintenance. Actually, everything is growing fast except for our tomatoes, but at least they're not dying, sort of. There are several areas that are in need of maintenance, but nowhere is this more evident than our garden. Yes, despite our scorn for tending our garden in years past, this season we have decided to once again plant some stuff, albeit in a smaller area. It's much more manageable, but the rest of the space is growing wild, and I'm talking out-of-control wild. At some point you have to do something.

R has patiently stood by and voiced her concern, and I finally broke out the weed whacker and decided to take action. The idea of getting rid of all the weeds is the stuff of fantasies and completely out of line with reality. You just can't get rid of weeds without nasty chemicals. You pull out a bunch, and there are hundreds more waiting to take their place. The only thing you can do is consistent maintenance, which for the record is beautiful in theory but much harder in practice. Once the weeds become established, they are a friend for life.

In order to keep them at bay, I fired up the weed whacker and took care of business. That machine never ceases to amaze me, and it's a lower end model, which you knew I would go for in order to save money. Truth be told, it works beautifully and has never let me down. I took care of the garden (for now) and then went to work on other sections of the yard, taking out sumac saplings and assorted ferns. Of course, it works well for sections that the lawn mower can't reach.

Now the yard looks somewhat civilized, at least for this week. We'll see how things look when the weather starts cooking.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Mike Sheehan for the pic.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Falling Back to Earth

Have you ever had it where things are working in your favor and then they're suddenly not-so-rosy? I seem to experience this a lot with writing. At one point, I felt like I was moving along in the right direction, head in the clouds, and now I feel like I'm back to square one. I feel like I'm getting the message that there is no easy solution to this and I need to keep my feet moving. Complacency will be the death of me.

Several weeks back I was contacted by a friend at the college who asked if I was interested in doing some freelance work for their website. You better believe I was. In a way, it was an ideal situation - freelance work that paid well and looked good on my resume. Plus, it was on assignment, so they were telling me what to write, as opposed to me coming up with ideas and pitching them to publications. The first assignment I did and didn't hear back for a bit, so I figured they either didn't like what I wrote or didn't need it. It eventually made its way into their site, but again, they didn't contact me after that. I was bummed but at least they showed some interest.

A couple of weeks later, they contacted me again and said they wanted me to cover two events. I was stoked, and assumed this meant that my work was adequate enough to warrant a call-back. Woo-hoo! I dutifully covered the events and submitted the pieces, but that was weeks ago, and they never made it onto their site. Once again, I figured they didn't like the work and were not interested in hiring me again.

So now I'm back to square one. I can't really inquire what the problem was (can I?), even though I know the people in charge. They all live in my town. It's out of my hands at this point, and I have to move forward, but it's a bummer nonetheless. Back to the drawing board, as the saying goes.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Jasmijn Hormann for the pic.

Critters Still An Issue

I foolishly thought that critters were no longer an issue in our lives, but silly me. I guess when you live in the wilds of New England, you're really just leasing space in their territory and you can't really expect for them to completely vacate the place. Case in point: gardening. When you really get down to it, gardening is really an exercise in pushing your luck against nature, and nature will always win.

We had a problem a few weeks back with critters (chipmunks, I believe) in the greenhouse eating our seedlings. They pretty much decimated our crop. I moved the seedlings back to our house and they've been growing fine, but then moved them back to the greenhouse because things grow there like crazy. The difference is truly amazing. I figured the critter situation was resolved, but then we started to see sunflowers growing all over the place, including our seedling pots. It turns out the chipmunks hoard seeds and hide them in the soil, wherever they can find it. What better place to find soil than in a greenhouse? It was kind of funny, actually, because there are all these random clusters of sunflowers popping up. The source of this was explained to me by the farmer who runs the garden/greenhouse, KN.

R got a kick out of it when she heard, though I'm not as thrilled about it. I think I need to get the plants into the ground sooner than later. Then all I have to worry about is groundhogs, which eat the entire plants. Nature wins again.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Dawn for the pic.

Meditating On It

I started dabbling a little in meditation, mainly for the calming benefits and to get a better grip on the here and now. So far I sort of like it, and am definitely fascinated by the possibilities. I'm not a new-age afficionado (I just play one on TV) or anything like that, but there is something to be said about meditation, and even hard science sees some benefit to it. In a way, the proof is in the pudding - I've always found that when things get a little frenetic, stopping to take a deep, calming breath can make a huge difference. From what I can gather, meditation is all about focusing and controlling your breathing to slow things down and relax. Of course it goes much deeper than that, but for now, that's what I'm trying to get out of it.

I guess you could say I'm a "pop culture" meditator, at least for now. I am intrigued by it all, but am not quite ready to go "Walden" and drop out of society and live on a mountain top. Not for this week, at least... maybe next.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Renee Bertrand for the pic.

Lending a Hand

We've re-connected with our friends the H's who lost their mother several months back in a terrible accident. I am good friends with the dad and know the kids fairly well, they're all older and somewhat self-sufficient now. They're great kids, and I wanted to help out so I started cooking meals for them. I didn't even know if they were getting them because I never saw them, but I just kept leaving them by their door. Later on I was told by the eldest daughter that they really loved and appreciated the food. Say no more.

Then they moved and I wasn't sure where to find them, so I stopped with the food. The oldest had a baby just recently, and I saw the new dad at work and mentioned starting up with the food again, and even though they're proud and don't want hand-outs, he alluded to it being helpful. I got their new address and we're back in the saddle. Sure, it's more work, and there's a certain expense involved feeding 4-6 people, especially young teenage men, but you can't put a price on friendship. I'm sort of glad to be helping out again because I'd like to help in any way I can.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Jacob for the pic.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Happy Father's Day

Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there. We actually have a busy day planned ahead of us, though not really in the spirit of F-Day because it involves carting the kids to various activities. Not that I'm complaining, I'm not a big fan of days in my honor, and if it's an excuse for doing something fun with the family, count me in.

This morning we have to head up to N's lax tournament, which we did yesterday, as well. It's a bit of a trek, about 1.5 hours one way, but it's a nice drive through the Killington Pass and fairly straightforward. We did it yesterday and will repeat it today. He has two games, and then afterward we will head to UF, which will go until dinnertime. R is going to prepare supper so we can get a quick bite in, and then I have a library board meeting, which is kind of bad timing on F-Day, don't you think?

Originally the kids had a buddy spending the night last night, which changed our planning of F-Day. I was thinking of going out for breakfast, but now we had guests. We could have simply brought her along, but I figured she wanted to spend F-day with her dad. She wasn't feeling well last night, however, and had to go home so our plans shifted again. Now I think the plan is for R to make us F-Day breakfast, then we'll hit the road and get our crazy day started.

Hope everyone has a nice day, especially all the dads, and thanks for reading, and thanks to Johnna Phillips for the pic.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Ultimate Fun

Last week we managed to make it to ultimate frisbee, and it was a blast. It felt good to be back in the saddle, though as usual, it highlighted my lack of endurance. On the other hand, it's part of the process of getting back in shape, right? Several of us had been pondering how to get UF going again but our indecision made us sit around and do nothing. Finally LJ sent out a message on the listserv for people to come out and play, and that got the ball running. We were not there for it, but a good sized group showed up.

This week we decided to simply ride that momentum and show up, and sure enough, there was a nice-sized group out there, with a good mix of young and old, experienced and novice. There weren't too many aspiring pros so the competitive level was just right - not too intense, but high enough to make it challenging and fun. There were actually a fair number of little kids, and people were nice to include them in the mix.

The weather was perfect, temperate but sunny, and a good time was had by all. We played for a couple of hours and JM handled the torch over to me, of course, leaving me in charge of the cones that mark the field. I figured this would happen, but wasn't about to step forward and volunteer. Can you blame me?

A good time was had by all, and we had enough people to where we had three teams rotating in and out, so we could catch our breaths in-between. Plus, I think the really little kids had fun because we did our best to include them, and their parents were on the field to make sure this would happen, as any good parent would do. The final piece of the puzzle was that it was not too intensely competitive, so the atmosphere was really about having fun. There were, however, enough skilled players to make it a challenge, which is just the way we like it.

I got quite a workout, my legs are still sore... in a good way, of course. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Raymond Rodriguez for the pic.

Washed Out

We've had an awful couple of days of weather, with cool temps and rain. In fact, it was so chilly that I was tempted to build a fire, but was told by my kids to be a real man and deal with it. Enough said.

It all started at the market and pretty much ruined our day, and it's been steadily raining ever since. The irony of all this is that the previous week called for thunderstorms and it was beautiful, and this past week it was supposed to be beautiful and it rained. The day started off nicely, too. We loaded up the cars and headed over to the big city, and en route it started to drizzle. Now a little drizzle isn't a big deal, but it started to build, and by market time, it was coming down consistently. We were assured by the market manager that it was a passing system, the day was supposed to be beautiful, but no such luck. The rain just kept coming, and it was chilly, so we were cold and miserable, and as you might have guessed, the weather kept the customers away. Total bummer.

If that wasn't enough, the rain hasn't stopped. We haven't seen the sun for a couple of days now, and it continues to be cool. It sure doesn't feel like June. Then again, if it was hot and sunny, I'd find a way to complain about that, so I'll just keep my big mouth shut... for now.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Ross Pollack for the pic. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Hazardous Waste Social

Last weekend was hazardous waste disposal, which only comes around twice a year. The state collects hazardous waste at no cost, I think because they would rather take it off our hands than risk having us toss it into the environment, which is a good thing. I remember as a kid in California people, including my dad, would discard motor oil in the yard or into the sewer, where it would end up in the ocean. Shameful. That attitude has changed today, but there are still plenty of people who toss their garbage out the window of their car. We see it all along our road, so we know. I'm sure that if you made it hard enough, people would dump their waste in the Connecticut River.

Either way, I usually end up with a gasoline leftover from my chainsaw and lawn-mowing exploits. Now I've been told repeatedly that you don't want to keep gas lying around for more than 30 days. I'm not sure who adheres to this, and it seems that if you make a living using this equipment, it wouldn't be an issue because you're constantly using up your gas. For someone like me, a real-man in training, I often fill a gas can around the end of summer and by the time fall rolls around, I don't need to use my chainsaw or lawnmower. I guess in the old days people would just pour the gas on the ground and light it. I deduced this from the number of old-timers who suggested I do this. I opted to bring it to hazardous waste.

This only comes around twice a year, and since it applies to everyone in the state, they all come, as well. Consequently, I see plenty of people I know, including old friends that I haven't seen in awhile. Kind of funny that the only time we connect is when we're disposing of hazardous waste. Then again, I might never see them if not for that. Another good reason to look out for the environment.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to the City of Stillwater for the pic.

Nature's Wrath

Boy, you just can't beat Mother Nature, no matter how hard you try. It seems like just when you think you've gotten things somewhat under control, something new comes along and reminds you that you're a mere mortal. We have been getting into gardening despite the past battles we've had with assorted blights and critters, and have tried our best to account for these issues. We thought we were doing pretty well when something new comes along and dampens our spirits.

We have a new pest has come along and is causing some problems with our garden. At first I wasn't sure what it was, but I noticed that they weren't doing so well over in the community garden. They looked droopy and sad, even sickly, and I figured it was rooted (no pun intended) in the fact that I transplanted them too soon. I started the seeds in tiny pots and as they grew I transplanted them into larger pots. After about a week, I put several in the ground, and you could tell that the roots had not taken hold yet. Most of the soil just fell right off the plant, and I was left with the small plug from the first planting. I didn't think it would be a problem, and for the first several days they seemed fine. When I went to check them out yesterday, they looked droopy and pale, like they were dying. What a bummer, but I still had several seedling going in the greenhouse and figured I could replant.

R came home last night and said there was some sort of mite or flea beetle that is eating the leaves and killing the plants. She could see tiny holes in the leaves. We are even seeing some in our backyard garden. What a bummer. Again, we have plenty of backups, but we have to resolve the problem or it's going to be a long summer. R did some research and said diatomaceous earth is supposed to help, and believe it or not, we have the stuff. I got it to combat ants, and it's pretty cool stuff. Tiny microscopic ocean crustaceans that apparently kill bugs. It's all natural, too. I remember when I was a kid my dad used to put the stuff in the pool filter, so I'm familiar with it. I figure we have the stuff, so it's worth a try. Besides, if it works, that would be too cool for school.

In the meantime, we'll watch and wait. At this point, the groundhogs are only part of the problem.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Ed Phillips for the pic.

Monday, June 9, 2014

One Down, How Many to Go?

We had our first market last week and it went fine, even though I was dreading it like nothing else. I really could not wrap my mind around the fact that we were doing it, and we put things off until the zero hour, which always aggravates the situation. When market time came, we were scrambling a bit to find our footing and remember how things went, but it wasn't too painful.

The weather worked out in our favor, despite the forecast. They were calling for thunderstorms throughout the day, which turned into afternoon thunderstorms, which thankfully never materialized. The day turned out beautifully, and the cloud cover made it cool and manageable. Plus, there was a breeze. We loaded up the cars and headed to the green, and the day went well. We sold a decent number of falafels, and it felt sort of good to be working towards supporting our fabulously opulent lifestyles. We saw many of our old customers who were happy to see us, and us them, and even saw some new friends.

It was a long day, no question, but a long day of hard work is never a bad thing as long as you feel good about yourself in the end. Now we just have to get ready for next week.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Catherine for the pic.

Into the Ground

We're a little behind schedule because of our whole chipmunk debacle (at least I think they were chipmunks) in the greenhouse, but we are finally getting our seedlings into the ground. As I mentioned, we have several garden plots so we're hoping that between them all, we'll get some fruits of our labors. The more the better, in my eyes.

Our main tomato area is near the library, where we procured an additional half plot. I put almost all tomatoes in there, with a couple of squash for good measure. I figure I'll direct the squash in a certain direction so as to not impose on other people's space. The plants have been in for a couple of days and so far, so good. There are critters over there, no doubt, but somehow it's not as bad as everywhere else. It's a pretty high-trafficked area. The big library plot is R's domain, and she's got all sorts of good stuff going like beans and peas and some cucumbers. Not so much tomatoes because we are trying to rotate our crops.

We also have the garden plot at the flower farm but there is a resident colony of woodchucks and I've been led to be believe that they help themselves to whatever is growing. In fact, I spoke with one guy who said he lost everything last year. Bummer. I am planning on putting tomatoes and squash into that plot, but I am not sure what to expect. They are making efforts to alleviate the pests, but it's hard if not impossible to beat out Mother Nature.

Then we have our backyard plot, which is actually nice and you can't beat the convenience of the location, but like the flower farm, there is a resident colony of woodchucks that lives adjacent to it. I see them all the time. Whatever we plant will be fair game, so I don't have high hopes for that one, either. To get around this, we have three strategies. First off, we have the high tech solution thanks to J&RR. They sent us this really cool high frequency emitter that probably uses technology developed by NASA and the CIA and is supposed to drive the woodchucks mad. I'm very interested in seeing how effective it is. The kids are fascinated by it, especially N, and as crazy as it sounds (no pun intended), they can hear the thing when it emits. I can't, I'm too old, but their young ears are sharp enough to hear it. Pretty impressive.

The second way is to build barriers out of wire. I got some chicken wire and will make cylinders that will go around the individual plants, at least while they are young and vulnerable. The barriers are flimsy, and a little thought will lead to a way around them, but hopefully groundhogs aren't too thoughtful. The final way is the evolutionary method: plant tons of plants and hope that at least some of them will weather the storm. Hopefully the combination of all these methods will yield some of the proverbial fruits for our labors. We shall see.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Tico for the pic.

Getting My Act Together

We always seem to run out of kindling, and by the late middle of winter, I'm scrambling to find pieces of wood to split and burn. Like always, I have a grand plan to account for this, but it usually falls a bit short. This year, however, I actually got it done and even have a contingency plan. There are four trash bins that I use to hold kindling, and the assumption is that when they are full, that's about a year's worth of kindling. Not quite, but it sure sounds good on paper. I've never really filled them properly, and have large piles of un-split wood on the basement floor that I'm sure R is not so keen about.

This year I've actually managed to fill all of the bins, and then some. I'm storing numerous blocks of hardwood that are in the basement. The plan is that when the bins are depleted, I can simply split the blocks into kindling and refill the bins. Plus, if we are in a pinch and need wood, I could always just toss them into the stove because they're hardwood. Is that brilliant, or what? Before I get too smug, I should mention that it's not always so easy to make kindling from hardwood blocks, and takes a little more time and muscle. I try to choose an easy splitting wood like ash or beech, but it's doable. I'm also for the first time storing some split wood in the basement for emergency purposes. Every now and then when it is late at night or there is freezing rain outside and the wood box is low or empty. The last thing you want to do is go outside and get wood, so now we have an emergency ration. I love when I'm organized, or rather, diligent enough to implement a plan.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Mick for the pic. 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Mad About Gardening

Speaking of getting in over our heads, we seem to have gotten a bit enthused about gardening this season. It all stemmed from concerns over planting the same thing year after year in the same place. My understanding is that you want to diversify for a number of reasons, but I was driving by a corn field the other day and realized that farmers plant the same thing for generations. Either way, when I get an interesting bit of information, my OCD kicks in and I can't let it go. This year I decided that I would not plant so many tomatoes in our plot.

The problem is, I still want to plant tomatoes. I toyed with the idea of swapping plots with someone, but didn't follow through with it. I then had the brilliant idea to get a plot at the community garden across the road. They do a fabulous job over there, providing everything you need, and the greenhouse alone is worth the price of admission. Plus, you can't beat the location. After the disaster with the critters eating all of my seedling, however, as well as the news that there are groundhog communities that have been preying on people's garden plot, I realized that things were all so rosy. I still have the plot, I'm just not sure if I'll plant everything I have over there.

R is organizing our community garden plot, it's her baby, and I managed to finagle a half plot nearby, so I can plant lots of tomatoes there. We also cleared a small plot in our backyard in our massive garden. The total plot is way too big, and subdividing it makes it much more manageable. I will plant some tomatoes and squash, maybe some peppers. The problem is, there is a groundhog family camped out right next to the garden, so they will chow down on the plants. My only hope is to try to protect them with makeshift shelters, but groundhogs are pretty resourceful. This will be interesting, no doubt.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to mike dunn for the pic.

Chainsaw Mania

I finished cutting the woodpile and am in the process of splitting and stacking it, but I'm not quite ready to shelve the chainsaw. I was stoked at the timing of it all because just as the saw was running out of gas, I finished cutting the log length wood. I figured I would drain the tank, run it dry, and store it in the basement until we receive our next load. However, there are several areas of our property that need tree clearing, and I figured the time had come to deal with it.

There is an area behind the garden shed that has been overrun by sumac, and some of the trees are 20 feet high. Even though sumac is a soft wood, I went at them with the chainsaw and cut them all down. I still need to clear them out, but it felt good to finally get started on this project. I also went behind the garden and cleared out a bunch of pines, some of which again are about 20 feet high. R got the ball rolling but going back there and clearing out invasive vines and bushes, not to mention thorny weeds. She did an amazing job, but some of the bushes and trees, including honeysuckle and pine, were too thick. The plot looks a lot nicer, you can actually see it being used for something.

Feeling empowered, I'm going to keep the chainsaw gassed up for at least another month while I try to tackle landscape improvement. I need to clear out some saplings all around the property, and who knows where I'll go from there.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Len Matthews for the pic.

Market Watch

I can't completely wrap my head around this (either that, or I'm in denial), but we are doing the market again this year. I have been trying to block it out of my mind for the past month, but our day of reckoning has arrived, and I can't believe it. Then again, sometimes you have to face your demons and just deal with it, right? The reality is, I don't want to do it, and have been scrambling to get my glorious freelance writing career on track to supplant the extra income, but have thus far fallen short. Things are moving on the writing front, however, so it's not all bad.

I will say this, the market is an income generator, and that's no small thing. Even if my glorious writing career was right on track, the extra cash flow is always welcome, especially with hockey and travel needs on the horizon. With that in mind, to the market we will go. This requires loads of preparation but more importantly, finding our footing once again. As we get the drill down, it will become easier, but the first time back is always a challenge. Besides, we tend to learn and adjust as we go.

This past week I went to Sterns and got the veggies that we will require, especially loads of parsley, which is not easy to find in large quantities. It also meant making the falafels. R has been busy with work things so it was up to me to get it done. I ground and cooked, and it wasn't so bad. The weather has been nice, so I like being outside. Speaking of weather, the forecast called for beautiful weather until market day, on which they predicted thunder storms. Some things never change.

I spent a good chunk of yesterday morning cooking the falafels, and it went down to the wire. Somehow in the past we used to cook the falafels the day of the market, which I find hard to fathom because there's never enough time. Yesterday we had book club, lax, and track, so we had to be out the door by noon. This meant setting up the cooking station, cooking the falafels, then breaking down the tent and cleaning up the cooking gear before heading to book club. I still needed to get some stuff for the market, so I dropped the kids off and went shopping, then picked them up and headed to the next event. Never a dull moment, as the saying goes.

A's track event coincided with N's lax, so I arranged for her to get a ride. After N's lax, we rejoined the girls back home. Since her track season is over, they had their year-end BBQ, so N and I were able to score some vittles, i.e., I didn't have to cook.

Just another day in paradise, right? Market should be interesting, so stay tuned for more.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Neal1960 for the pic. 

Strawberry Fields

We are going full tilt on the gardening gig this season, and we may be getting in over our heads, but life is short, right? Besides, we need tomatoes, and the more the merrier. I am not planting as many tomatoes in our community garden plot because I have been told that it's a good idea to rotate your crops. Planting the same thing year after year sets you up for problems like pests and disease, though I wonder how you're supposed to accomplish this in a 10 foot plot.

Whatever be the case, I figured I wouldn't plant so many tomatoes this year, which is a bummer, but I found alternatives. I inquired about getting a second plot, but apparently they are all taken. There is, however, some space in the former strawberry plot. Last year someone planted strawberries for everyone to have and it was pretty cool, but it fell into neglect. This year they wanted to clear the plot and I was told I could take half. Not wanting the strawberries to be sacked, we volunteered to take them with us, but weren't sure where to plant them.

R and I brainstormed and decided to start a little strawberry patch in our former garden. I built a raised bad out of some leftover siding, and fortified the soil with compost and manure, and we were good to go. While I was at it, I decided to clear a small section of the garden to plant squash and, you guessed it, tomatoes (more on this later). In the meantime, the strawberries look like they're doing okay, not too stressed over the move.

I would love it if this worked out, because having fresh strawberries would be too cool for school. We'll see how this one goes.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Ladywood Road Allotment for the pic.

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Long Day

I think I may have found some occasional employment over at the hospital as a standardized patient (SP), though it's a per diem position that is not even considered part time. That means that I'll work only when they need me, and I won't know when or how often that will be. Kind of a bummer, but I guess that makes it very flexible.

I'm not sure if this classifies me as employed, but it doesn't seem like it. I may have to investigate this more. One thing, however, is that the hospital doesn't mess around, even for lowly per diem workers like myself. Everyone hired by the hospital, from doctors to nurses to SPs has to attend an all day orientation, and it's a pretty big deal. I spent the entire day there, from 7:30AM to 4:00. They don't even provide lunch. It was like being in college all over again, except for 8 hours!

It worked out beautifully because the kids were away at camp, so watching over them was not an issue. I was able to meet R for lunch, as well, since she was at work during my session, which was fun. The orientation itself was quite a marathon, and basically introduces everyone to the rules, regulations, and philosophies of the hospital. When you get down to it, it's not much different from a regular business, and like a regular business, customers come first. In this case, customers are patients.

It was tiring and at points I thought a bit unnecessary, but all in all, it wasn't so bad, and you realize that the hospital is really working hard to maintain a happy work environment. Also, I did learn a lot of new information, especially the fact that the hospital is a pretty massive employer. It's hard to imagine who they manage it, but they do. One thing interesting was that the group was almost entirely women. There were a smattering of men, but for the most part, women are taking over the workplace. I hear about this all the time, and I guess I'm seeing it firsthand. Most of the guys I know tend to have jobs where they work with their hands (contractors, loggers, etc.) so maybe that explains their absence at the hospital. They don't want sissy desk jobs.

Either that, or they're at home watching TV with a beer. Whatever be the case, I manage to survive the day, and now I'm ready to move onto the next phase, whatever that may be. Stay tuned for more.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Bashi_B for the pic.