There’s No Place Like Home

I’m home. I had a day to rest before jumping into day job work. It’s been pretty much non-stop all week, and today I finally have a whole day off. I’m worn slam out. I love to travel and visit, but it’s exhausting so I’d be tired even if it weren’t for the day job.

Luckily, I’ve been around this block a few times. Rather than trying to get caught up on everything today, I took the morning to read, made a concerted effort to eat well and drink water, and played in the mud. The garden soil has been turned and weeded, and the pot of potatoes that didn’t have any drainage holes does now. Hopefully the sunshine will hang around for a few days and my potatoes won’t disintegrate in the mud. Besides writing, dirt and sunshine are my therapy of choice, followed closely by chocolate. I’d say coffee, too, but that’s medicinal at this point.

Now here’s a question for y’all: What do you do to decompress when life gets stressful?

Warm(ish)

I don’t know about your part of the world, but Chicago has been unseasonably warm this winter. Strangely warm, like we’ve had to shovel twice. It’s so warm plants are starting to wake up.

So are gardeners.

To be fair, we usually wake up around this time. Usually, for me at least, it’s with a pang of panic that I haven’t started seeds yet. Then I realize I’m further north than I used to be, and I don’t really have to start them until early March. It is time, though, to start gathering supplies and think about how I’m going to lay out the garden this year. I had a lot crammed into a small space last year. I think this year I’m going to expand into pots. It will give us some breathing room, and if I do some tomatoes in pots, I can bring them inside in the fall and maybe extend the growing season. I’ll be able to devote garden space to other things, too. Maybe some squash.

My time in the city has made me wish we could get out into the country to start a homestead. The reality is the job is here. It’s a really good job.

I’ve realized in the last week or two I don’t have to wait to start homesteading. I can’t raise animals here. I don’t know if I want to raise animals at all. I don’t see myself being able to raise them and not get attached to them. I can, however, grow and preserve more of our food. Rain barrels are encouraged in our neighborhood, and I have space to compost. I can cook from scratch more, and get creative enough in the kitchen to work around having run out of something. I don’t need acres of land to become more self-sufficient. It’s probably good it’s worked out like this. If I had acres of land right now, I’d try to do too much. Baby steps are good.

Garden Make-over

We’ve been so busy lately that my garden has been neglected. I went out this morning to check on things and pull some weeds and discovered that my tomato plants are gone. All of them. Something–probably the vole that lives in our yard–ate them all, even the self-seeding cherry tomatoes. That leaves weeds and feverfew in my raised bed. The wood we built the bed with is disintegrating, so we had planned to replace it with cinder blocks this year. Since my critter discouraging techniques have failed, I’ll go back to pots. That will work out better anyway. I can put them next to the house and stick a trellis in each one, and if we get high wind during a storm (usually 2-3 times a summer), I can turn them so they won’t blow over. So now I have this golden opportunity to re-do part of my back yard. I have some large pots to get started with. For right now, they’ll be dirt holders. I’ll plant some late crops once I get the pots squared away and the raised bed dismantled.

I’m just pretty annoyed that I won’t have tomatoes to can this year. Any thoughts on late crops? I’m thinking brussels sprouts, spinach, maybe some lettuce, but I’d like to try something new. Anyone growing fun stuff?

Okay, yes, I’m a slacker

I blame change. And inconvenient updates that won’t let me save a blog post. Lots of stuff going on around here, in no particular order:

The Day Job ended. Not that any of us who worked there are crying any crocodile tears. We’re all pretty happy to be moving on to new things, and we’re all still on good terms. It just means we have to be more intentional about getting together.

Eric got a new job. He’s still on base but with a different company, doing networking security stuff as opposed to what amounted to project management.

I’m writing full time. Or at least, more regularly. I’m in the office at 9:00 a.m., Monday through Friday, so if you need to get a hold of me between 9 and 11-ish, don’t call me. I’m working. You can try e-mail, but I may have the internet shut off. I may or may not have my cell phone handy, but really, don’t call me unless my house is burning down. 9-11 is sacred writing time. That’s not to say I don’t write at other times. I do, and when I am I might answer the phone, but the other times are not regular, protect-the-work times.

Home improvement. We’re having a partial remodel of our master bath. The bathtub is going to be replaced with a walk-in shower. In preparation, I finally got around to painting, and we picked up some new hardware. It looks better now than it did, but it will look even better next week after the new shower is done.

It’s gardening season. Did I mention last fall that I was over gardening? It didn’t stick. In fact, I’m expanding the garden with pots this year. I’ve started tomatoes and peppers inside, and I think they might actually live this time. I’m hopeful, anyway.

Family visits and travel. My mom and aunt were in town over the weekend. They’ll be back in a month, and we’re going to Rhode Island so I can do some research for my Gilded Age novel. Eric and I also have a quick trip for stuff with his family in California coming up.

I’m actively decluttering. I keep finding things I don’t need. Eric took vacation between jobs, and we did three Good Will runs in a week. My house always looks better after a Good Will run. It’s inspiring me to dig into cupboards and closets, and it’s making me think twice before I buy things on impulse.

So that’s what’s been going on around here when I haven’t been blogging. Nothing earth shattering, but enough that it’s got me a little frazzled and overwhelmed. I’ll get settled in a week or two. Just in time to hit the road and disrupt my routine! Isn’t that how life works, though?

I wish someone would just TELL me

It’s that time of year again. Time to decide what to grow in the garden. I’ve done beans, potatoes, onions, and tomatoes with some success. Usually what happens is that as long as the weather is nice, I spend time out there weeding and watering and talking over the problems of society with my plants. They seem to appreciate the discussion. As soon as it gets hot and muggy, I retreat to the air conditioning and only come out to throw on some water in those few precious moments of the evening when the heat has let up but the mosquitoes haven’t arrived to carry me away. That I ever have anything to harvest after mid-July is always a mystery to me.

Last year I had a new complication. A vole took up residence in my compost pile and helped himself to several of my plants. He ate my pepper plants down to nubs. Twice. This year I’m thinking seriously of going back to container gardening, at least in the back yard. My raised bed has seen better days and while Eric has offered to build me another one, the containers will be much more rodent-proof. I’m also thinking of trying potato towers. You make towers out of gardening wire, put some straw, dirt and compost in the bottom, drop in the seed potatoes, and add more dirt and compost. When the plants get to a certain height, you throw in more dirt. It sounds easier than mounding dirt around them, and it might increase my yield.

The truth of the matter is, gardening is not my favorite thing. Every fall I decide to take the next year off. Every spring I plant a garden. Aside from the obvious reasons–convenience of having certain foods close to hand, and knowing they’re pesticide-free–the reason I garden is paranoia. If the world ends, I want to have the skills in place to feed my family and maybe even my neighbors. The world might not end, but if it does, I don’t want to be caught unprepared. And really, when it comes down to it, the hardest part is deciding what to plant. Guess it’s off to peruse seed sites. Again.

Weeds and rodents

After several busy days, I looked out the back window and noticed a few weeds popping up in my garden. I didn’t think I would be able to get them today; a thunderstorm at 3 a.m. and another one at 8 gave me that impression. However, we had a break in the action, so I put on my gardening shoes and headed out with no small amount of trepidation. The weeds in the first bed weren’t too bad, but my resident vole has eaten his way through all my lettuce, my two volunteer tomatoes, and the leaves of my sweet potatoes (which, by the way, I planted mainly because the flowers are pretty). He didn’t touch the weeds. Go figure.

When I got that done, I figured I’d better go around the corner and check the strawberries. I have trouble with weeds and grass in that bed, too, and it’s easier to get them when the soil is wet. In that bed, I had a lovely, verdant crop of grass. The bed looked like it needed to be mowed. The whole time I was hacking and pulling, I was wondering, why am I gardening again? Oh, right. Exercise and sunshine to boost my vitamin D. Because I’m not stiff enough from swimming and yoga. Let’s not forget that what comes out of my garden is the only thing I eat that I know without a doubt is pesticide free. I’m sure not doing it for fun anymore, boys and girls, I can assure you of that.

Special note to Mom: I did take a minute to pull grass, clover, and alfalfa out of the back flower bed. It’s not as bad as it could have been. Certainly not as bad as my strawberry bed. There was a new weed out there, too. I don’t know what it is, but it has thorns. No, I didn’t put it in the compost.

I still need to refill water globes, but with all the rain we have had, I expect that can wait until after supper.

So long, May!

It’s the last day of the month, and usually I’d be saying something like, “June? Already? Wait, wasn’t it just February?”

Not so much today. May was crazy. Between family coming for Vicky’s graduation (and getting ready for them to come), the kitten going into heat, Alex moving home for the summer, and jury duty, there hasn’t been a normal week all month. Add in the crazy weather (hot, cold, wet, dry and tornadoes) and all I can say is that I’m not sad to see the back end of May. I’m frazzled enough that I just realized I re-scheduled a haircut (which was supposed to be today, except I had one more day of jury duty) on Thursday at exactly the same time I’m scheduled to have acupuncture. There’s another phone call I have to make tomorrow.

It hasn’t even been a bad month. A lot of it has been fun. We’ve been to St. Charles twice, and yesterday we went to the Renaissance Faire in Wentzville. (Pictures of that to come soon!) I finagled an invitation to the next St. Andrews Society social, which could be the start of another facet of living history, Scottish-style. I’ve even gotten some knitting and crocheting done. Not much writing, but some very interesting research has crossed my desk. I have lots of notes.

Now that I’ve had a chance to settle a little and look at the calendar for June, it really doesn’t look like there is much improvement. I’m working a lot. Family is coming back at the end of the month for Eric’s graduation, and the next week, the Boys come. Already.

Again, there are fun things, like the previously mentioned social, and the spring rendezvous at Fort de Chartres this weekend. I have to get some writing in, and the garden isn’t going to weed and water itself. Oh, and I have a vole who is helping himself to all of my lettuce that I need to deal with.

Actually, after the first week of July, things might quiet down some. I might get a little boring in this summer after all. Maybe not, but a girl can hope, can’t she?