Thursday, June 2, 2011

Finally regained access!

I finally figured out why I haven't been able to access my blog for so long. I set it up with my first g-mail account, which was my work address when I worked at Dee-Mack. When I was laid off, my account was deleted. Thankfully, I figured out how to sign in to Blogger, and send myself an invitation at my new, personal g-mail account. Glad to have access to my blog again, after looking at it longingly for over a year!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

It's the end of the world as we know it

Or at least the end of the summer, which is nearly as sad. Autumn always makes me feel a little blue. I love the colorful leaves, but the chill in the air and the shorter days always get me down. I have a hard time doing those end-of-season clean-up chores that I know are so necessary--cleaning out the veggie garden, protecting the hydrangeas, cutting back the iris and daylilies, mowing down the spotty, brown peonies. It all feels so final, so much like a funeral. I tend to compensate by planting spring bulbs, those little globes that feel like hope in your hand. Yes, winter is coming, with dark days and gloomy skies, but just beyond that is spring. Those little bulbs will defy the cold temperatures and dare to poke their green little noses through the snow, and even press their blooms out into the chill to announce that the darkness is nearly at an end!

I think part of my dreary feelings are due to the fact that we are making absolutely no progress on our house. The floors all still need replacing, the trim is still not up around any of the doors, the window sills and door frame continue to rot away, the roof is desperately in need of new shingles, and most of all, the bathroom is still torn up, and I have little hope that it will be repaired any time soon. Basically, Dave wants to do it all himself, rather than hire anyone, but he has neither the time nor the skill to do it, so it just goes undone. He wants to replace the roof before we do any other projects, but won't take action on it, and doesn't want me to take over on that. He doesn't want to have anyone over, primarily due to our lack of a decent bathroom, yet refuses to consider hiring someone to finish it, since the problem is bigger than we realized when we began.

It is difficult to spend so much time in a place that constantly frustrates you. I feel pretty powerless to do anything about it myself, and it is of no priority to Dave whatsoever. That is a difficult position to be in.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Almost summertime!

I can't believe how long it has been since I posted anything here. I guess that is what happened when I discovered Facebook! It has been so fun to reconnect with so many high school and college friends, and keep up-to-date with my local friends, too!

I also got involved with another writing project on Dave's Garden, though this one is just for fun, not for pay. A group of us are doing a Round-Robin style writing project, where we each write a chapter of a story, then notify the next person that it is their turn. The first story I participated in was called Surprise Child, about the fall-out when a family discovers that the husband has an illegitimate adult child from an affair years ago.

The current story is completely different, about a widow and her children struggling to make it on a ranch in Arizona, in the early 1900's. This one has been much more of a stretch for me, since I've never been to Arizona, and know very little about ranching or cattle drives. It's a challenge, though, and you know I've always loved a challenge! It has just forced me to use some research skills that had gotten a little rusty. It's been a really fun group of people to write with. We are spread over the entire country, from Kentucky to Washington to California to Oregon, and with about a 30 year range of ages, as well!

School is out (obviously), and the month of June has already been flying by. Matthew decided he did not want to play baseball this year, so our game and practice schedule has been much easier to handle. Justin has games twice a week, and practice once a week, which is manageable. No more nights where they have to be in different towns at the same time! Justin's skills have really improved, and he is getting old enough to pay attention and enjoy the game a little more, too! It will soon be time for swimming lessons, too.

My garden has come a long way since last year. I dug up a whole new area for some iris I purchased, added 3 new hydrangea bushes and 7 new clematis, and finally got a trellis, something I've been longing for since we bought the house. On the "edibles" front, I added a bed of 8 different varieties of garlic, which I planted last fall and plan to harvest late summer, and a strawberry bed which we've been greatly enjoying! I never did get my asparagus planted, much to my regret.

My chief sorrow in the garden is the loss of our lovely blackberries. We had a big patch of huge, juicy, flavorful blackberries, the nice thornless kind. Last summer, they somehow became infected with orange rust fungus, and despite all our efforts to eradicate it and remove any diseased plants, it has taken over our entire patch. I am sad to say that we've seen the last of our bountiful blackberry harvests. If we do decide to replant new canes, we'll have to do it in a different area of the yard, to avoid infecting the new berries.

I bought a couple of blueberry bushes this spring, but have yet to get them in the ground. I've been wanting to plant my very own Blueberry Hill, a reminder of the nickname I had in high school (when my last name was Hill), and which has since been revived on Dave's Garden. We also have a couple of dwarf lilacs to plant, and a whole picnic table full of seedlings and plants from different swaps and garden centers. If only it would STOP RAINING! I have yet to even get my vegetable garden planted. This is a new low for me. I even started peppers and tomatoes from seed months ago, and have cucumbers, watermelons, canteloupe, and broccoli started from seed and ready to go, too. I'm afraid there will be no beans, peas, or spinach this year, with my late start and the hot weather. I MIGHT still get beans in, but it is just too hot for the others!

That is my life in an nutshell. Busy and hectic, but life is good.

Friday, December 19, 2008

I am finally officially a writer!

All through college, I knew I wanted to write. I thought I would go to grad school, get a degree in creative writing, and teach writing the rest of my life. Life, however, had different plans for me, and my dreams of writing have been on hold for a long, long time. This past year, however, I subscribed to a gardening website, Dave's Garden, and found a wonderful, supportive community of people. Everyone posts their successes and failures, asks their questions, and offers their wisdom. Somewhere along the line, another member asked if I'd ever considered joining the "Writing Team" and writing articles for the weekly newsletters. She said some of my posts on learning how to compost, and venturing into new areas of canning and pickling, were practically ready-made articles. I looked into it, and quickly received an official invitation to join the Writing Team. At the time, I didn't even have any clue that I would be paid for it! Let me tell you, there is no feeling in the world like holding a check in your hand, as payment for something you've written! It isn't a lot, but it does help supplement my meager teacher's aide paychecks!

Thus far two of my articles have appeared on the website, and three more are scheduled throughout the next year, to fit with the appropriate season. I have several more in the draft stages. My list of proposed articles keeps growing, too! Best of all, I've made some wonderful gardening friends, and gained some cyber-mentors in the process.

Funny how young and vulnerable I feel every time I submit an article to the editors. Reminds me of when I'd pour my heart into an essay or story in college, and then wonder if I'd overdone it, or revealed too much of myself. My friends used to laugh at me, because they'd all be asking what the minimum length was for an essay, and I'd be desperately editing, trying to get it down to fit into the maximum length accepted!

So, those cycles in life are coming around again, and I've rediscovered my love of writing. And on a website with so many subscribers, I know someone is reading it. The difficult part of blogging is wondering if you are putting it out there for yourself only, or if anyone else ever actually reads it!

If anyone is interested, here are my first two articles. They seem very rough and amateurish to me already. . .wish I could go back and edit them now!

I've learned so much more about layout and editing since submitting those early efforts. I need to go back and double-check the ones slated for publication soon, to see if I need to further tweak anything! Nice that we can still make adjustments up until the day of publication, if necessary. My next one is due on January 8, on forcing bulbs in the classroom.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

My Gardening Obsession

Why did no one tell me how addictive plants are? It seems I've spent every spare moment this fall planting! I've recently planted about 150 more bulbs (mostly daffodils, some tulips and crocus), 5 clematis, and 5 varieties of garlic (about 10-12 cloves of each, so I'll be all set for next summer!). I've got several day lilies coming next week, too.

Yesterday was a busy day. I definitely made the most of the wonderful weather, and only came inside long enough to eat lunch and dinner! I got my trellis painted with Rustoleum, so I could install it and get the clematis planted beside it. I planted the 5 clematis (4 by the trellis, one out front, to twine up one of the shrub roses), mulched the new bed where I planted a lot of new named iris last month when my mom was here, planted the garlic, mulched the strawberries and garlic with straw, weeded and re-mulched the butterfly garden, and just basically did a lot of yard clean-up. I also learned to drive our new John Deere riding mower, complete with the trailer. Dave had let the boys try it, with supervision, but never had it out when I was available to try it. Took a few tries to figure out how to start it, but no worries once I had it going. I don't think I'll tell him that I know how to run it, though, or he'll expect me to mow! :o)

Our tomatoes are still producing like crazy, so I've been canning and freezing lots of tomato products. I found two new recipes on Dave's Garden website, and have been making them constantly. One involves throwing tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, and whatever else you like, in a couple of 9 x 13 pans, drizzle with olive oil, and roast at 425 for 2-1/2 hours. Then run it through a food mill to remove the seeds and skins, for the most wonderful roasted tomato sauce! It is intensely flavored and has such a nice kick, if you add a hot pepper or two and lots of garlic. I know I COULD can it, but thus far I've just been freezing it in two cup quantities in freezer bags. I'm sick of all the steam of the pressure canner!

I've also been playing around with a chunky salsa recipe for canning, adding different levels of heat, trying roasted veggies, etc. That one I don't quite have perfected. I think I need less sugar, and roast everything BUT the tomatoes, because I don't like skins in my salsa. So far I've made 3 batches, and we've already eaten 3 jars of it!

The broccoli has made a surprise final showing, too. I didn't know it would start producing again when the weather cooled down. In fact, this is the first harvest I've gotten from the 5 plants I bought locally. I did get a little earlier from the two plants my sister-in-law, LeaAnn, gave me, and they are producing again, too. I guess I need to either blanch and freeze it, or get going on some broccoli cheddar soup! Mmmm, I love soup this time of year!

I harvested tons of walking onions, trying to clear out enough room to plant the garlic, and learned how hard it is to braid the tops to dry them. After a half-dozen attempts, I finally just tied string around the tops and hung them up to cure. I only learned this year that those walking onions are actually really good to eat, not purely ornamental, so this is a new endeavor, too! I sure hope that the garlic doesn't flavor the strawberries, which are next to it in the bed. I could handle garlic flavored tomatoes, but strawberries? Not so much.

Our other big adventure of the weekend was a visit from the surveyor that Dave hired. Dave and our neighbor to the west have been having an increasingly heated debate over exactly where the property line between us lies. I am relieved to have an official word on it, so there will be no more of the conflict. I grew up understanding the importance of good relationships with your neighbors, and just hated having this issue hanging between us. I'm sure the anger won't just go away instantly, but at least the definitive decision was made by an independent third party. Both Dave and the neighbor have been talking about putting up a privacy fence, because they are so angry over it. Personally, I just don't see the big deal. Six-12 inches one way or the other. . .is it worth ruining a relationship over? So they were both mowing around the row of peonies. . .so what? I do think I need to dig up and move my Pinky Winky hydrangea, a gift from my mom for my birthday, as I now know it is over into their yard a little. They said they didn't care, but I'd just as soon know it wasn't going to get sprayed or pruned inappropriately or something.

Meanwhile, as I update the yard and add beautiful flowers, the house itself suffers. We need a new roof, I really want new siding, we've GOT to get that main bathroom functional again, we need to replace flooring in the kitchen and bathrooms, I'd love to replace the ugly 1970's carpet on the front porch, we need to fix up the window sills and door frame. . .the projects just continue to pile up. I wish I knew how to do some of the work myself, but I truly have no idea, and it seems every time I dive in and tackle a project, figuring I'll learn as I go, I end up making a bigger mess than we started with. I suppose Dave feels the same way, but somehow I still feel like he should be taking a more active role in fixing up the house. I guess I've learned one important thing: we are the WRONG couple to buy a fixer-upper house.

Monday, August 18, 2008

A New Beginning

Well, all my worries this summer over what to do this fall seem to have resolved themselves nicely. I haven't even had a chance to tell anyone yet, but I did get a job as a teacher's aide at the Primary school. It was a whirlwind experience, as in driving home from a family reunion in Tennessee, going to a quick interview, accepting the job on the spot, and then heading back out for family vacation two hours later. We got home after midnight last night, and I started work this morning!

I'll be working with one individual student, helping to adjust assignments for his level, working one-on-one with core subjects, escorting to speech, OT, PT, etc. I am also going early two mornings a week to provide before-school care for the children of school employees, as their work day starts earlier than they are supposed to drop off their kids. I think it is wonderful that the district is offering this to their employees free of charge! I also have lunchroom and recess duty for the second & third graders. Sigh. Better pack my ear plugs! Not so bad this time of year, but around January/February I'll be miserable.

Anyway, just wanted to explain about the new adventure I'm embarking upon. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

New Garden Slide Show

Be sure to check out the new slide show I added at the bottom of the page. I've been documenting my garden each month, and finally got a few (!) images put into a slide show! There are a few pictures that looked rotated right in the preview, but show up rotated sideways in the slide show.
Sorry! I'll have to go back and fix them later!