Summer

C'mon peppers!

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Yea, it’s been awhile, sorry about that. I’d have a leg to stand on if this were a real farm. Alas…

Every growing season is a learning one. I’m sure that’s true for all farmers, but when you’re just starting out, getting used to growing things, the lessons make themselves known strongly. A dozen tomato plants and maybe 2 of them are going to bear fruit, looks like. I overplanted, and one entire bin is withering, in spite of copious rains and the same sun as the other bin. I need to make some notes about what I think went wrong, so I can reel myself in a bit next season. I’m trying not to think about how the scarcity of pollinators could be playing a role too. I swear when we do get land, the first critters we procure may be housed in hives.

That sad looking batch of potatoes represents the first dig of the Russetts; there’s a couple left in one bin, but it’s not going to be nearly the yield I anticipated. Hubs brought up an interesting question. Granted, he’s a conspiracy theorist these days, but he pointed out that the Russetts were planted from an ordinary grocery store potato, non-organic, and it’s possible they are genetically bred not to grow outside of lab conditions. The leaves just died off early, while the Yukons (from Sow True) are still going strong. I’m thinking if it was blight, the fruit would’ve been affected. Will be researching further.

July here has been about rain, quite a bit of it, so everything’s growing like gangbusters, but actual harvesting will prove thin. We’ll bring in some mint, lemon balm, and basil this weekend, get the dehydrator humming, and I may start culling some pots already, of the stuff that I know isn’t going to make a go of it. It’s a little fascinating how the rain falls; we’ve got one tomato/parsley pot drowning, but it’s under the crabapple, so the branches of the crabapple must lean just so to make the rainfall heavier there.

Our situation isn’t really optimal for fall/winter crops, but I’m still hoping to start a tea garden. Not sure where, as the kitten is 3 months old and that definitely isn’t conducive to indoor plants, but I’ve got time.

*****

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I stepped outside this morning to cool temperatures, which still amazes me. Yea, I live in the mountains now, but it’s July, which I spent a quarter century equating with the wet wool blanket of HOT that followed you from door to door of wherever you were going. I could weep with relief. I see things with new eyes still; it’s like last year was all about just reveling in being here, and now I’m actually looking and seeing stuff. So much green, so much growth. Oak leaves big as dinner plates. The berry haul was almost nothing this year, because the landscapers are douchebags and cut it all back, which is cool though, because it helped me see how much I’d like some berry bushes when…..

So much to learn! Some local farmers are kind with samples, and what I thought were red raspberries at the Weaverville market last week were actually wineberries, a lovely mix of sweet and tart. Sampling also proved lucrative for Gibson’s, as their blueberries are the best I’ve ever eaten and I loaded up on those, made another refrigerator pie and froze the rest. The season’s definitely later up here, and I’m grateful.

I defrosted last year’s blackberry haul and canned blackberry jam last week. This weekend is about peaches (jam again) and tomato sauce. Enjoying the hell out of the process and seeing how it makes my pantry look.

*****

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Ansel’s wonderful. Curious and playful, running everywhere. He’s a biter, so we’re working with words and a spray bottle of water to get our point across, and he’s a quick learner. Growing like a weed. Figaro still hisses quite a bit, but we’re integrating them daily into each other’s lives and no bloodshed yet.

 

Learning

Life is change, adjustments, and learning to be OK with them. When the change is entirely voluntary, you feel guilty getting cross about it. Such was the case last night after a long day of being clawed and bitten in play. How do you train a kitten not to act like a kitten? You allow some of it, and whip out a spray bottle of water for the particularly rambunctious times. When you see that the kitten has found a circuit that he likes to run in a room, and anything that’s in the way be damned…you adjust.

I felt like a really bad mother last night. In the light of a new morning, with 2 cups of coffee working their magic and a kitten sleeping on my foot as I type, I see more clearly. Plus, kittens are hilariously springy, bouncing back from adversity in a manner that humans can only hope for. He may not understand why I get cross, but he’s still passing out on top of me in the evenings while I wind down with TV. No permanent damage.

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“Haha, you can’t stay mad at me, I’m cute!”

Sunday I woke up with tasks in mind and more than a little energy to complete them. I worked Saturday, and it dragged, so I was determined to get a couple of things accomplished on Sunday. There are waffles in the freezer now, fresh bread in the cupboard, and cookies for the week. The garden got some much-needed attention, and afterward, I treated myself to a bath and mani-pedi. When I let myself relax and tend to things I enjoy, the ripple effects are awesome.

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The garden…oh, the garden. I have so much to learn. I hate thinning seedlings, and the result showed itself rather mightily this June. I let the garden go for most of the month of June, not doing anything other than watering, and the result was crowded, leggy tomatoes and peppers (offering the fear that only half of them will actually bear fruit) and crazy long potato stalks. I transplanted half the peppers into their own pots, and was forced to pull quite a few tomatoes. Making that decision when the plants are bigger is a little easier; you’re better able to eyeball who’s got a chance and who would only be sucking life out of the stronger stuff by sticking around. Still, it feels like throwing away food.

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I staked all the tomatoes and the basil. and as I look at what I’m growing, it’s nice, and an improvement over last year, but all I want is more. More pots, more soil, more room. There are three fresh packets of seeds that haven’t made it into the soil yet, and there’s still stuff missing that we’d like to be growing, both for medicinal purposes or teas. With a kitten in the house, starting stuff inside may be plain illogical, so I’ll journal what we have, what we want, and make plans instead.

Such is the life of a shorter growing season. It’s the only thing I miss about Florida, and I couldn’t make decent use of it when we lived there anyway. With a west-facing porch, you could practically hear the plants gasping from the heat of the sun in the afternoons. Here, I’m rearranging stuff more, again, so the full sun plants actually get some in the mornings when the daystar cuts in through the canopy. But the days here are mid-80s with 50% humidity. To walk outside and not feel suffocated…it’s an exquisite relief that I’m still drinking in.

A couple of blog posts rang true this morning. Nourishing Days talks about the balance of effort with reward. Shannon Hayes talks about radical homemaking from a debt perspective, how it’s a personal choice whether to seek the quest in a debt-free model or take on a mortgage and all that entails. That too is a balancing act that must be looked at with a long eye. I’ll be rereading both of those posts this week, as I begin a true budget and lay out what that’s going to entail. How we must stop treating ourselves to dinners out (and in my case, Starbucks), how carefully we’re going to need to study purchases to determine if they are needs or wants, so that we can chip away at the tax debt and move forward. I plain don’t make enough right now for that scenario to bear fruit, but I think with some changes and hard work, it’s possible.

Ansel

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Just now seeing iPhone photos could be better…hope to start playing with our new Sony point-and-click this weekend.

To say it’s been a week of change feels like understatement. I had no idea how badly my psyche needed something to mother, another something that loves me unconditionally. Heck, for all we know, all domesticated animal love is conditional…I mean, we are the ones putting the food in their bowls. But I choose to take that love, in whatever its form, and allow it to heal me, and it’s doing that this week.

Ansel’s teaching me time management (it’s tricky editing websites with a kitten sacked out on your left arm). He’s clearing my mind of cobwebs. He’s showing me how much I want this life to work, and what I need to do to organize myself and quit dicking around. Freelancing is NOT the place for letting life live you. You let it pass you by and suddenly, you’re getting red letters from the IRS (not yet, thank the gods!) or wondering how the bills piled up so quickly. That’s a biggie, unfortunately. I listen to Jenna talk about keeping the wolf at the door and I thought I empathized, and then I watched as I caught up on bills and drained the extra-large check we got last week without even touching the IRS debt. Not cool at all.

I realized something awesome this week. This life I’m creating, where I work from home, is damn precious, and no way do I want to put on a different face for the corporate world everyday if I don’t have to.

*****

I’ve been feeling the hormonal changes that come with being a 40-something female all year. Thankfully, my moon cycle is fairly normal (sorry, guys, only time i’ll mention it), which leaves that glimmer of hope that children could still be a possibility, even while I steel myself to accept reality. But the mood swings have been hard. I can flash angry without a moment’s notice, or wallow deep for a week at a time (which is fairly unacceptable when we live in such paradise), and the Hubs has learned when to coddle and when to steer clear. I don’t like myself when I get like that, but the supplements I’ve been taking weren’t enough to combat it.

And then last Saturday, we bought a kitten…..

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*****

Technically he wasn’t even my first choice. I went to the shelter hoping for an orange one. He’s a grey tabby. But the minute he went into my arms, we knew.

His vet visit on Monday was fruitful. He got antibiotics for his cold, and I got questions answered. Within 24 hours, a new kitten emerged, curious, active, strong, comical. We keep bouncing different names off him, but he still looks like an Ansel to me. He climbs all over everything now. Our house could probably stand to be kitten-proofed some more, but it’s a gradual thing…see a problem area, change it. He spent the first day after the meds kicked in, playing catch-up in the eating department and his little belly is round now.

Petsmart sells a calming spray that Hubs has been treating our bedroom with. Our big girl, Fig, still growls if Ansel squares off on her, but he can be carried into the same room as her now without catching grief. It’s going to take awhile, certainly…Fig’s been queen of the roost around here for 7 years. I pray the fights won’t be too hurtful for either of them.

My life is taking on a new routine. I wake up, let him out of his carrier (we’ve been quarantining them because of the cold), he eats and drinks and gets his medicine. He goofs off and spends some time in my arms. As the day progresses, he hangs out nearby while I work. He breaks up my day with his antics and needs. He’s fallen off the desk a couple of times rather epically, once into his litter box, another time into the garbage can. The laughter’s been a blessing.

I’m back to working in the 2nd bedroom, and finding I don’t miss the TV. We’re getting him used to the 2nd bedroom being “his” room, and it’s good for both of us. He hangs out on my shoulder, my neck; I joke that he’s my falcon.

And I’ve barely said a cross word in 5 days. Unfortunately, that’s huge. I should be in the throes of PMS right now, destroying everything in my path. But there’s a kitten on the bed, with the softest downy fur, little belly going up and down as he dozes….feeding my peace.

*****

This post is long, but I have a couple more things…..just gems I’m finding this week:

Jenna’s latest (get well soon, Gibson!)

Happy and Heartworking—brand new and just what I need!

BBB—Date Night—for reminding me eating out doesn’t have to be expensive…we live 10 minutes from so many seriously awesome food options, and small plates are huge here.

• How am I supposed to give up wheat when there are recipes out there like this one? Mini chocolate chips, anyone?

• I adore finding a new-to-me blog that’s well-written and touches on my dreams and how to get them. Also love blogs that show me a different side of the same coin, like this one.

This week’s coming into the home stretch. Make it a good one, y’all!

 

Solstice

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Summer definitely rang in around these parts. Temps are in the mid to high 80s, but with humidity steering around mid-range, I’ve yet to feel the misery of summer. The memory of Florida, of stepping out into a wall of heat that follows you to your car, from your car to the office, where you are then blasted with obscenely chilly AC until you hit the wall again at the end of the day…..yea, I’ll definitely take North Carolina’s idea of summer. We have the AC on cuz we’re wimps and we don’t want the cat(s) to be miserable, but hopping outdoors to stretch, water plants, take in some sun…..not a hardship.

I’ve been lax over here lately, so my apologies. We had family visit for a week, and they’re high-maintenance enough to begin with, at the same time that my company offered extra work, which I gladly took them up on. We saw them off, a loooooong week later, and headed out ourselves a mere 4 hours later, to Charlotte, because my foolish ass had registered for a 6K. More on that hubris over at Melanie’s Gym. I spent last week, the whole damn week, recovering from that. My back took a sabbatical, my arthritis flared up, I was a mess.

Saturday, we went kitten shopping and came home with a little guy whose name might be Ansel. It’s hard to choose a name for a 2 month old kitten! If we tried it just based on his personality, his name would be Sneezy or Sir Farts a Lot. He took over my life this past weekend, and I’m not sure, but I think some cracked part of me is healing a pinch. Poor little guy has a miserable cold, so we’re taking him to the vet today. It’s downright scary seeing him sick, because he’s so little and fragile, so every little thing he does is a milestone. He nibbled at his food when I thought he’d lost interest. Hot damn! He’s bathing, haven’t seen much of that at all yet. Squee!

The garden is pokey. I need to throw some stakes at the basil and tomatoes, though the tomatoes aren’t really ready yet, and that’s a concern since it’s late June. I did plant stuff too close together this year, so it needs coaxing…I’m going to grab another bag of fertilized soil and put a small layer on top. The Russet leaves fell and look a little crappy, but since the main growth goes on underground, I’m trying not to freak out about it. The Yukons are flowering, the mint is spreading nicely, and there’s tiny seedlings starting in the cilantro/thyme bed.

Delightful PS: I FINALLY rearranged the 2nd bedroom again, so that my workstation was situated at the window. It’s great, everything’s all green and lush, and the blackberries are just starting to turn red. I was getting settled this morning and movement outside caught my eye. Figured it was a squirrel, but closer inspection revealed a little brown rabbit hopping up the hill! Gods, I love it here!!!

In the Garden

First week of June…no pictures. Things are growing. Potatoes still gangbusters. I’m adding soil to the tops of the bins. Tomatoes and peppers are starting to stretch upward finally. I never got around to thinning them. Adding more herbs next week, bought seed for chamomile, bee balm, and more calendula.

A high school friend has been diagnosed. It’s not for sure yet, but they’re thinking ovarian. She’s fought this fight before, in her thyroid, so she’s all positive, in public anyway. I just got done reading The Fault in Our Stars, so this news shreds me a little. I haven’t seen her in 25 years, but she was a great friend in HS. I know I have no business being shredded by this; it’s not my fight. But it’s stirring something inside me, about eating healthier and surrounding myself with the healthiest stimuli. She probably has a genetic disposition to the big C. I do not, and it could still happen at any time. I’m sad and angry.

Hug your loved ones, folks!

In the Garden: May 29

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Not working with the TV on in the background…what a concept!

It’s a bad habit that I’m quite ready to break. The weather these days is obscenely beautiful, and it’s not that hard to create a workspace out front of our apartment. It’s partly cloudy, lightly breezy, and 70-something outside, and I tried to fight the good fight and work at my desk today. I lasted til lunchtime.

I guess the breeze is keeping it from being too buggy, or maybe it’s not warm enough yet. The big stingers are staying congregated across the driveway, where they are methodically sucking the life (literally) out of some piney bushes over there. Once my plants really start flowering, it may be more of an issue, but that’s a ways off fortunately.

The peppers are definitely stronger than the tomatoes, but when you’re used to how quickly potatoes grow, you get impatient for everything else to get a move on. Now that the T & P seedlings are finally looking stronger, I’ll probably thin them a bit this weekend. Everything else is just water and eyeball for problems right now. The potatoes need more soil.

I so love living here, that it was hard to think about the bareness of winter causing any seasonal affective disorder. However, it was there, I’m realizing, just a little bit. I recognize it post-winter, in how delicious the sights and smells of summer are now. How all the different greens are feeding my soul.

Cars pass by on the main road. The neighbor had his radio on for a piece. But the birds and the wind through the trees are my main company. Blessed.

 

In the Garden: Memorial Day

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First, the great news: we were inspected by random contractor guy for the property management company this week, and I asked him point-blank if we had anything  glaring (like the front garden), that we could be potentially dinged on. He said we were fine! Let the crazy containering continue!

Amanda was in Brooklyn for a chunk of last week, so I got off track on the weekly garden posts. But I did play in the dirt on Saturday. The tomatoes and peppers seem stalled, but I’m pretty sure it’s more a sunlight issue than a nutritional deficiency. Most of the soil in the containers is brand new, so I’ll spend the next week or two moving containers around, seeing where they can get the most sun in the mornings. We bought basil and rosemary seedlings, I moved the mint into a larger pot, and Les finally transplanted his lemon balm and calendula. I also rearranged the chives finally, so that they’re not so crowded. Our seed starting was about a 50% success this year. I have a better idea of where we went wrong, but I still ache for a greenhouse.

So I’ll be keeping a careful eye on the tomatoes and peppers, and probably biting the bullet and thinning them a bit in the coming weeks. I’m itching to fertilize, but know those guys are still way too weak and fertilizing would just kill them. Patience is a constant learning experience. I remind myself it’s still only May.

Luckily, the tomatoes and peppers are my main concerns. The herbs and flowers are perking up, and the potatoes are gangbusters. The Russets are starting to flower, and both breeds grow so fast you can practically watch it happening.

The weather’s warm these days, and the air is heavy with honeysuckle and the flowering berry patches. I hold out hope that the GD landscapers keep their weedwackers away from the berries when they start to bear fruit. It was a long winter, and the sheer number of different greens in the mountains now is a balm for my soul.

*****

It was a good weekend. I didn’t have to work Saturday and Sunday and found myself at loose ends quite a bit. Making time to relax still eludes me, and once I have it, I have no idea what to do with said time. I had little tasks to accomplish, shopping and such, and the evenings baffled me a bit. I spent at least an hour last night untangling a ball of yarn the cat had been getting into, and the calm and satisfaction that produced was a good reminder that I need to get into the sticks and string more often. I’m also planning to remodel some T-shirts into workout tops, and I want to start making aprons by hand.