The Almost Daily Thread

musings from the blue chair

Gardening of all flavors – an update

Hugelkultur. It’s my new gardening method! Adapted to my urban “farm.” Urban farm sounds so much more professional than backyard hobby! Really, urban gardener, sounds more like it.
Am I a farmer? Well, I suppose I kind of am on a very small scale.

What denotes a farmer? One who grows plants? And while I mostly grow to feed myself, I am still growing plants to harvest and eat. The title farmer takes too much from those who work bigger areas. I will keep gardener on my resume.

As my gardening knees get creakier, I wish to raise my already raised beds so there’s not so much bending and moaning when I plant and weed. And there is the issues of dogs and rabbits and other critters…so, rather than buy more boards which are expensive (I have a couple of beds that need replacing after only a few years), I am replacing with an adaptation of Hugelkultur Gardening. https://www.permaculture.co.uk/articles/many-benefits-hugelkultur

I have adapted the bed that needed replacing by digging it out (ughhhh) and removing the rottening boards. I end up with flat ground, a blank slate.

I then got fencing and chicken wire and posts. The dirt was soft where the boards were removed. I pounded the posts in and engaged the help of two of my grandchildren in to help me pull the fencing and wire around the posts.

And the layering began. I started with green oak logs in the bottom. I layered and built up with leaves, compost, sticks, and the dirt I had just removed! I used a layer of peat and dirt at the top. As I was filling I lined the outsides with straw to keep any dirt from falling out. And I put two old screens along the sides as well. Call me obsessive!

And then I stood and planted! YES, I stood and planted!!

As the boards of my current raised beds rot I will replace them with this layered gardening. I’ve read I can put my composting scraps right on top of the dirt this winter.

The aquaponics system is up and running. Plugged the pump back in and it worked first cycle. As soon as the water is warmed I will add fish. For now, I have planted Black Seeded Simpson and snap pea seeds. I don’t know it it’s too late for the peas but the system is in afternoon shade so I am taking a chance. Worth the half a packet of seed gamble. The peas I planted in Feb in the raised bed were about half successful. I’m blaming the weather, which every gardener can certainly do this weird spring.
Asparagus didn’t do well either. Sigh….

I also placed a basil, some celeric, and broccoli still sprouting from the latest microgreen tray into the rocks of the aquaponics tub.

In the dirt, the old fashioned way (!), I have planted arugula, spinach, broccoli, kale, lettuce, brussel sprouts, peppers, cabbage, tomatoes, yellow squash, watermelon, and cantaloupe. And strawberries. I have potatoes in barrels.

Here’s to eating so local it’s right from my back yard.

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Typos

I hope there is one on my tombstone to honor the struggles with editing I have endured! Ugggg.
I have taken New Hampshire Drive down for review because I have found numerous typos. I swear to you all, my fingers nor my toes are crossed. Not even my legs or arms are crossed. I swear to you, I edited this. I had 3 people edit this. WTF? And Yes I mean the “f” word very strongly!
So here I am, humiliated in public again by the imperfection in my written presentation. Maybe that’s what life is really about, how many times one can publicly humiliate oneself and still remain vertical with one’s face, your humanity bare naked to the public? To those who support me, to those I want to think highly of me, respect me, enjoy sharing my words. Ahhh, I am sorry.
Sigh.
Vulnerability. Shame. These are the words floating around my mind chatter. Vulnerability and shame are the words being shouted from the critic on my shoulder who is so capable of shouting down the calm, peaceful voice on the other shoulder who is proud of this another publication, a dream of mine for at least two decades. She is proud of the writing. Proud that she was able to successfully write humor and bring to life a really special and unique chapter in her life. She is proud of the cover and the typeface.
So here, the whole of who I am has taken New Hampshire Drive off line to return as soon as I reread it, again. Soon. Not as long as it took between versions of Joseph’s Journey or Betty Rea (still awaiting it’s most current editorial review).
I can hear your commentary. She’s done it again. Poor Susan, she just can’t get this right. Why doesn’t someone tell her? It’s like the erratic chin hair or a broccoli piece between the teeth or an open zipper no one speaks about out loud but knows the embarrassment and prays it will be rectified soon.
And oh yes, I am an English Major. Well creative writing major certainly not an editor. Maybe these technical difficulties are the result of my touch of dyslexia getting worse with age. Maybe it’s age catching up with me telling me I better get the bucket list completed before it’s too late. Maybe I just move to fast, take on too many projects. Maybe I’m just simply a lousy editor.
And, I still think the stories are good even if I somehow break down in the editing process and continue, unintentionally, to send them out imperfect. Is it a disrespect for myself and my craft?  It sure does take zap the joy out of the excitement of a new publication.  Of this I am well aware.
So, audience, forgive me, yet again. And just because it did happen again, it won’t keep me from writing. I love writing stories too much. This may force me into asking for more help or seeking another method of publication, but until then…
If you want a copy that is fixed I am so happy to replace it.
Sigh.
I listened to these TED talks again. And I will listen again and again every time I feel myself stepping onto the shame spiral.
Thank you Brene Brown for saving me from the spiral of “I’m not….” And PLEASE, Susan, figure this out.

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I sew because I am or is it I am because I sew?

People find value in varying things. I personally find value in fabric and fabric scraps. Yes, guilty. I do save scraps. Not the really tiny ones even though I am self-diagnosed ADD. My need to waste as little as possible, recycle and reuse has supported me in myriad ways. And, yes, it can get a little out of control.
The first quilt I made – after years of protesting loudly and often, “I am NOT a quilter. If the instructions say cut 42 of these and 84 of those, I am not interested.” I fact, I am bored before the whole process begins. But, a strip quilt…she thinks, eyeing that basket of scraps too good to toss. No geometry. No math. Hummm. Folk art!
My mother and Aunt Mary taught me to sew. Oh, and Home Ec class. Mrs. Hoflich. I think of her grade cut threat every time I put a pin in my mouth. I’ve been sewing flat things, pillow cases, table cloths, curtains for a long, long time. The clothing I made was never comfortable and I never liked to hem or put in zippers. Clothing is not my forte.
With the discovery of collage wall hangings I get to collect more than fabric and notions. I’ve branched into found objects, jewelry, beads and on and on.
In addition, I’ve crafted bags of all shapes and sizes for all shapes and sizes of objects from crystals to bedding. The scrap piles grew. And guess what fits the reuse, recycle agenda? Quilts. During the wars women made crazy quilts out of scraps, clothing too worn to wear, linings of purses and even feed bags were designed to be reused as clothing or bedding.
So, I sewed a bunch of scraps together in strips and made my first quilt. It was quickly claimed by my oldest daughter. It’s not precisely rectangular but is warm and colorful. So then, a non-partial Libra mother can not possibly justify sibling imbalance. The second quilt was for my second daughter.
And as the grandchildren get older and gift giving opportunities cause a drought in my “present” ideas and as more and more fabric is being gifted to me, the light goes off. I’ll make them all a quilt. I’ve been making a homemade Christmas present for several years now including pillow cases and aprons. Why not a quilt for everyone’s birthday? After all, it’s my grandson’s 21st birthday. What else to get him besides a bottle of Maker’s Mark? Some of the fabric I am gifted has similar patterning so I expand into a block quilt fitting for a 21 year old male. And then there is a 16th birthday. Are you catching the pattern?
Ready to expand I do a t-shirt quilt from Life is Good shirts and a UK quilt and my brother is such an environmentalist and I love to applique, so I did squares with triangle trees and little rectangular trunks. He doesn’t know yet. It’s still at the quilter. His February birthday is long past, so don’t’ tell him! I’ll bake a cake and give him his gift when it gets back to me.
Then my writing companion asks me to make a quilt for her grandchild! I make it in 5 days. Back to the basics, a strip quilt out of yellow and gray.
Now, onto the fifth grandchild and…well, it certainly looks like a year of sewing for me!
I am because I sew. Or do I sew because I am? Or maybe I sew to keep my studio room from exploding! Keep that fabric and those embellishments coming.

 

 

 

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A storm and winter

The glowing fire is warm
and the white day looms vast ahead.
Alone.
Projects listed
to occupy snowed in restlessness.
Alone to ponder
to complete
to create
to be.
Who will I be when spring (or even morning) emerges?

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Historical Fiction: The Magic of combining Fact with Fiction :by Kathryn Gauci

Source: Historical Fiction: The Magic of combining Fact with Fiction :by Kathryn Gauci

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One Pepper Plant at a Time

I am saving seeds from a Jingle Bell Pepper plant. cute, sweet red peppers. The seeds are easy to save. Eat pepper. You can eat them like candy. You can eat them raw, cook in any recipe or preserve them for later use and have a bit of delicious red in the dark, cold winter.  Dry seeds. Label to plant next year.  Freeze or keep in a dry cool place.

In the spring plant the seeds!  They make a great container plant. Lovely and decorative and etiable!!  Water.  Watch it grow.

Preserving the seed and replanting takes you our of the corporate food chain and lessens the burdens and control of feeding the people.  One pepper plant at a time we can gain some independence, taking a minimal amount of pressure off the system.

Need seeds?  i am honored to send you a few to get started.  One pepper gives 30-50 seeds and the opportunity to share. Abundance is inherent, grown in each fruit.

I challenge you, just like the manager of the Kroger challenged Uncle John with the Impatience in 1956.  Would you like some Jingle Bell pepper seeds?

Uncle John grew impatience from his own seeds until 2006.  And they were happy and healthy plants that held the love of Uncle John, the gardener, that I absorbed every season.  My annual Impatience are beautiful and splash color under the oak tree that shades my front yard, but they don’t have the same gift for me when I look at them.

They are tiny seeds, like a grain of black pepper.  Such a miracle that they grow to produce lively, colorful flowers.  Sadly, I didn’t get my greenhouse together to plant the Mason jar full of seeds we found in his basement.

So, I continue the legacy with red peppers.  They match my hair and feed my body and my beliefs in living with some degree of independence!

If you want some seeds, let me know!

 

 

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A total eclipse of the sun

Awesome!

A family road trip. Picnic and back roads. Wishing for a paper map because, while the phones are informative, the details are difficult to “stretch” into existence. The phone benefit is the red line, heavy traffic warning. I-65 and 31E.  The phone experts in the car found a route and we had an adventure. Springfield. Lebanon.  Across the Green River.  Columbia and the Cumberland Parkway. Edmonton.  Haywood and Barren River Lake to Scottsville.  A spectacular drive through rural Kentucky.

While watching previews from Oregon.

We found a small park.  Paid our $5 to park and claimed a vacant spot.  We spread our blankets, set up chairs and ate an amazing picnic lunch among a thousand or so other spectators.  Lots of funny glasses, tents, coolers, kids, telescopes, cameras and excitement.  Vendors sold festival food, watermelon and slushies.

A festive, holiday Monday in south central Kentucky.

The blue sky back dropped nature’s spectacle with only a few wispy clouds.  Hot.  High 80’s.  Humid.  August.

We arrived just as the moon approached the sun and we watched through our paper safety glasses while the cloaking began.  A local man had his telescope set up with protective lenses and invited every passerby to have a look.  A sun of brilliant, golden yellow with a dark circle encroaching.

As the moon slid across, the temperature dropped and the crowd quieted.  The hot dog man turned off his generator and the venue was stilled.  Whispers of conversation.  People mesmerized by nature’s theater.  Not a leaf moved.  Did the clouds actually stand still?  No dogs barking.  No traffic noise. No music.

As the temperature dropped and the light faded an energy seemed to surround us.  A blur, a haze of just the slightest distortion of the outline of things.  Complete dark didn’t happen so the remarkable thing was how much light the sun provided even with the smallest fingernail of itself visible.

When totality was reached, a cheer arose.  The awkward glasses came off and all voiced in wonder.  Awestruck at the black hole and it’s corona of glimmering white glory.   A super white electric with a small red flame of light and beauty.  Not blocking all light.

Dusk at 1:30 pm.  Eerie.  Still.  Stillness.  A calm, quiet, stillness.

Planets hung in a muted fuzzy day sky the night sky darker, like their point of light against denim not solid dark.

Taking the brief opportunity to scan the fields during totality we saw a hazy dawn atop the hazy trees.

And then in total reverse shapes the moon continued it’s journey.  And the glasses were again put on as the sun reappeared.

The 2 1/2 hour drive there.  The 4 1/2 hour drive home.  Worth every second of this wonderstruck one hour experience.

Going into a crowd of total strangers feeling totally safe to share an event of a lifetime together in peace and awe – Priceless.

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Prompt #8 – I do not choose to

The suggested prompt is: All good things must come to an end. That one way too close to a death and finality for me today so I say, “I do not choose to write about that,” which brings me to a story I can tell you about I do not choose to.

August 25, 1996 The Clinton family stopped in Riverfront Park Ashland on a whistle stop tour on their way to Chicago to accept the party’s renomination for Bill.

“The president is here in Ashland, Kentucky, first stop of his campaign train trip to Chicago, where he’ll accept his party’s renomination of the Democratic convention. His mission, to explain to Democrats and to Americans all over the country why he should be reelected and why Bob Dole should not enter the White House.” from an interview with CNN.

http://www.cnn.com/ALLPOLITICS/1996/news/9608/25/clinton.interview/interview.shtml

Ashland is a river front town where the railroad tracks parallel the river.  A flood wall built a block or so away from the river protects with gates that can be open and shut at the streets that cross it.

The town rose to the call of the event.  Clean up.  Paint.  Build a speakers platform and podium.  Chairs.  Bunting and banners.  Celebration.  For several weeks, secret service men, yes, in trench coats, wandered the streets obviously not “from here,”  but setting up observation posts.   Our town was honored, decorated and safe.

After much anticipation, the train pulled from West Virginia where Hillary had spoken that morning and stopped just past one of the street openings of the flood wall.  Maybe 14th Street??

My step-ex-mother-in-law (that is a whole other story!), a long time Democrat, got tickets in the VIP seats via our friend, head of the Democratic Party at the time.  Juanita was beyond excited to attend the event, however, her physical health was such that she couldn’t walk great distances.  I picked her up early so we could get a parking place close to the speakers platform and her seat.  We that happened!  We found our seats, talked and visited all morning with all those gathering.  We watched from the center the frenzy of a Presidential visit to our small town.

The only other time a President graced us was when Nixon came through Russell to receive an illegal campaign contribution from Ashland Oil.  We, then, lined the streets for a glimpse.  Nixon didn’t stop to speak, just breezed through with his hand out.

I digress.

https://mobile.nytimes.com/1974/12/31/archives/170000-in-illegal-gifts-admitted-by-ashland-oil-special-to-the-new.html

So, the chugging train arrives as the anticipation grows.  And the President of the United States of America on stage with our local heroes and politicians speaks.  A fabulous speaker, Bill Clinton.  He smiles.  He offers promise and hope.  He entertains in an eloquent political speech.

When the podium empties and the applause stops the crowd is directed to leave through a street a block down from where our car was parked.  The train would stay parked while while Clinton does an interview with Wolf Blitzer.  CNN was so brand new then.

Juanita and I stand, speak to people leaving, wait until the crowd thins a bit.  When we leave we are directed to walk past the open flood gate where our car sits just on the other side to down to the next street.  Like from 14th Street to 15th.

“But my car is parked right over there,” she points to just a half a block away.

“Ma’am, this gate is closed now,” replies the secret service man very kindly.  And he turns to walk away but stops when he hears her speak.

“Sir, we came early to  park close so I wouldn’t have to walk far to get to and from my car.”

The man comes closer to us.  “I understand that, Ma’am.  But this street is closed for as long as the President’s train is parked.  I am going to ask you to walk this way,” and he points towards the crowd that is flowing out of the next street.

“And I am telling you I don’t choose to.”

“Ma’am, this street is closed.”

“Well, look, at all the other people using this street.”  She points behind him.

“I see them and each of them are an authorized part of the team here to protect the President.  Now, would you just walk on to the next block and exit.”

“I don’t choose to,” she firmly states.   “My car is parked right over there and I am going to walk straight to there from here.”

I look behind her to see several local officials now aware of and watching this conversation.  The Ashland Chief-of-Police is standing with his arms crossed and I suspect he and the mayor and council men have just placed a bet on who wins this one.

“Perhaps then you need assistance, Ma’am.  I can get you a wheelchair or I can call for an ambulance?”

And I knew at that moment, no matter what kind of weapon was under that coat,  the secret service man had lost his cause.

“Sir,” she took a step forward, “I can assure you I do not need assistance.”  And she took my arm.  “Let me remind you, sir, you are in my town only for a brief passing and I am going to use the streets in my town to my benefit.  I am going to walk across here and go to my car and you may arrest me or assist me.  Now, come on Susan.”

I see the local authorities smiling and I put my hand on her hers and we start to walk.

The man in the trench coat shrugs his shoulders, turns and says to the locals, “This is one tough crowd.”  And he follows us across the railroad tracks to our vehicle.

The text of Bill Clinton’s speech is:

http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=53232

 

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Prompt #7 – One great party

My surprise 40th birthday party. And I thought was old then!!

My second husband, Ian, and I had lived in Lexington for almost a year.  I was settling into a house bigger than I’d ever lived in before.  The spaciousness, no longer intimidating was filled up with “us.”  One daughter at UK and her best friend in the guest room for the semester.  My younger daughter in high school.  My stepson in high school.  And I was also in school at UK finishing my BA.  Lots of studying at our house.

Ian said we were having birthday dinner at a lovely spot,  Merrick Place.  My sister came for the weekend.  While we dressed up for a celebratory meal, the girls and Charlie chatted and giggled a bit more than usual.  “Let’s go,” Ian calls out. And to my surprise – a limo is parked at the front door!  Whoa!  I walk on air to take my seat.  Lots more excited giggling.  The crowd of us creates quite a stir as we exit in the thrill of the limo ride and present ourselves for the reserved table.  We happily laughed, talked and ate.  Ian had a remarkable way of entertaining and 3 teenage girls or Charlie never let the chatter lag.  And my sister has a way in injecting just the right comment to make us all laugh.  We ate dinner and did the whole candle thing for dessert.  People at other tables clapped.

Leaving the restaurant, many diners wished me a happy birthday.  One woman pulled me aside.  “It’s my birthday too, only I am older than 40.  Do you realize that September 30 is nine months to the day from New Year’s Eve?”

Well, fodder for thought!  “Then, I believe we were conceived in celebration and joy.”

Riding home the giggling didn’t stop in spite of the full bellies.  The driver drove down a street full of cars and was barely able to find a parking space. I walked up the sidewalk and into the house to find 20 or so familiar faces to greet me!  Surprise.   Peeps from our previous residence, Ashland, that I had been missing terrible traveled to help me celebrate.

The kitchen table was laden with food.  Beer in coolers.  Flowers smiled up the place!  My house transformed in a matter of hours into a party spot.

I quickly changed from dress up clothes to comfy so the weird Happy Birthday blinking necklace thing matched better.  And the celebration continued.

Long time friends in our new location.

Thank you all again!

 

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Prompt #6 The Perfect View

Certainly Paris from atop the Eiffel tower or from rock wall fortification in Montmarte.

Madrid’s night sky from the 23rd floor.

The Mediterranean from the hill road going into Monaco or from the sandy beach at Cannes.

The Atlantic from San Sebastian or Barritz.

The red roofs surrounding Caracassone.

The chickens outside my bedroom window at the Pension Eirexe.

From the cafe in O Pino the cows marching to be milked.

Or the eucalyptus trees from the room at the Headlands Center for the Arts where I could wander up the hill to see the Golden Gate Bridge.

Or the real genius of Wendell Berry’s Window Poems, written from the inside the multipaned window in his studio.

As I look through all the pictures on my phone and am once again startled at the beauty and glory of nature and the creations of humankind, I believe the view I love best is from the futon on my back porch.  Looking into the yard I have, dug, raked, hoed, planted, harvested and maneuvered.  We have hauled dirt and compost to create six raised beds.  I’ve moved a rock walkway to create a 3-circuit labyrinth on  the left side of the yard and then hauled it to the right side so the grow beds and compost bin could be installed.  Now I’ve stacked them for a wall to line the walkway to the greenhouse.

Everchanging.

I have flowers along the garage with old metal window grates as trellising.  Red roses, pink white and purple zennias, orange Gerber daisys, purple phlox and a hearty tomato plant hovering over the thyme ground cover right next to the rain barrel.

It’s my little urban farm from and in which I love to work and play and plan.  And when the grass is cut and the weeding done, the raspberries trimmed back to manageable, the cucumber and squash contained, I sit and admire the plants that feed us food and joy.  And I nap and read and star,e surrounded by the quiet plot that holds the answer to many of my dreams.

Now for the aquaponics inside a bigger greenhouse….

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