Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Brick Dust: At a Snail's Pace

We are behind on EVERYTHING this year.

2018 has not been the kindest year, so far.  I mean, I really can't complain, but at the same time, my partner and I have both suffered some setbacks, and as a result, the 'stead is just not running as smoothly as it did last year.

As I've mentioned in the past, my fibromyalgia symptoms are worsening, and my life is getting busier. It's been really tough to get anything done this year, and we're both very frustrated.  That said, I do what I can, when I can, and so does he.

The weather here in WV has been inconsistent and unpredictable.  We just came out of a very unseasonably hot and muggy period. At the same time we were planning our Independence Day party and trying to get and keep our yard mowed, our mower crapped out.  It's currently at the dealership being looked at. Luckily, I have a friend with a mowing business, who helped us out.  The job wasn't 100% completed--there's an overgrown patch on our back 40--but we still have some time before the party, so one way or another, it will get done.  (That's where we shoot off our fireworks.  We'll go out there with sickles if we have to!)  **UPDATE:  I'm happy to report that we have a mower again!  The manufacturer replaced it under warranty, because they could not fix the problem, and it was delivered today!**

The garden doesn't exist. Here it is, late June, and due to my health and schedule, the heat (which affects my health very badly,) and his health, we haven't even gotten it cleaned up and mowed, let alone planted anything.  The beds around the house are overgrown and look awful.  I just feel terrible about it all, and I think he does, too.

I'm hoping that, once I get past all of my doctor appointments and he is back on his feet, that we can just knock it out and get some planting done. We do have some lettuce coming in, despite the overgrown conditions of our garden, so I will check on that in the next few days, and who knows what else we will find that has seeded itself and come back?

These things happen.  This isn't helpful to our budget, but we're continuing to do the best we can, shopping organic and local (when we can,) taking advantage of deals, coupons, points, etc, and cutting out extras.

Project 1:  DIY and Zero Waste Dog Bed Repair

My dog is a jerk.

Yes.  I really said it:  MY DOG IS a JERK.  I've written before about how my dogs are inherited and not dogs I would have chosen for myself, and how I really struggle to be patient with them and to bond with them, particularly the English Shepherd.

My parents never bothered to obedience train or even house train them.  They are now senior dogs.  The photo above is of our enclosed porch.  When I go to work, the dogs go out there, as long as it's not too hot or too cold, because they go to the bathroom in the house, and in my partner's current state, he's unable to clean it up.  (We use puppy pads, but the smell is overpowering sometimes, so we like to pick up after the dogs when they can't wait to go out.)

This was the work of our little beagle mix.  She's never done this before, but our routine has changed, so  I think this is anxiety manifesting.  Because my partner has been unable to clean up after the dogs when I'm not home, and because I don't like to leave them out in the pen unsupervised, we compromised.  When it's not too hot or too cold, I leave them on the porch for the day with their beds, puppy pads, and water.  I turn on the ceiling fan and crack the windows open. (If I opened them all the way, the shepherd would destroy them trying to get out!)  As I'm writing this, it's too hot for me to put them on the porch when I am working, so I'm not doing that anymore.  When I am home, they are in the house.

Anyhow, this is what I came home to recently.  I was so mad, I left the mess for a day or so, and then I solved the problem.

What you see there are the shell of Poppi's (the small one, whom I actually really love, but she's lucky she's cute) bed, the stuffing, the partially-filled cushion, three cat litter bags, and a roll of packing tape.  I swept up all of the stuffing she'd scattered all over the porch.  each bag, because they are heavy plastic, got stuffed tightly about 3/4 of the way full and taped shut.  These were the inner cushions.  I simply put the cushions inside of the shell.  The zipper has been broken for a while, so I just folded the extra fabric under, and voila!

I'm sorry to report that, despite my ingenious solution, I came home from work the next day to find my new cushions destroyed and the stuffing once again all over the porch.  I was livid, but that's life with animals.  Under normal circumstances, this would have worked.  Indeed, the night before, the cat had been quite happily curled up on the "new" bed!  Now, Poppi has the shell, and that's it.


Project 2:  Produce Bag Made from...A Produce Bag

To keep plastic out of the waste stream, I recycled this bag.  We are both still trying very hard to minimize or, ideally, eliminate plastic that comes home with us when we are out and about.  One sticking point for me has been these net produce bags, but now I have a couple of solutions.

One solution is the one pictured above:  For the sturdier ones, I'm simply turning them into...produce bags.  They're a little smaller than normal produce bags, but they are big enough to pick up a few items, and they are sturdy. We reuse the plastic produce bags, but over time, they develop holes and fall apart.  This, to me, is a good alternative solution.

To make this bag, I simply took a shoelace from our junk drawer and laced it through to make a crude drawstring.  I knotted each end, so it doesn't slip back out, and there we go!  It originally held about a half dozen limes, so that should give you an idea of its size.

My other solution, for the flimsier net bags, is to add those to my batting and use them along with other stuffing for various projects, like pet toys or stuffed animals.

My number one solution, obviously, is to take my own produce bags with me and use those, but we can't always get to our preferred stores, where the produce isn't wrapped in plastic, so whatever I can do to help makes me happy.


That's all I have for now.  I hope you've enjoyed my latest entry!

Friday, March 2, 2018

How I Manage Chores with Fibromyalgia

This is not my cat.

The first thing I am going to say is that none of my links or mentions of products are paid for.  I simply talk about what products and tools work best for me.  I don't need to be paid to sing the praises of things I like.

The second thing I am going to say is that the cat in the photo above is one of the cats from the rescue where I help out a few days a week.  Her name is "Sprout," and she is up for adoption!  I think she is one of the cutest cats I have ever seen (except for my own, of course!)  She is one of the ones I would take home, if my partner had not put his foot down and said, "No more animals!"  There are a few others there I would like to bring home, as well, but I have to just be satisfied with seeing them a few times a week.  Oh, well!

As anyone who suffers from fibromyalgia or any related illness knows, keeping up with housework can be a real challenge.  Many things fall by the wayside, and often, you find yourself just focusing on maintenance and on picking up (until you have a big event coming up at your house!)  These days, even maintenance is very hard for me.  I try really hard to keep up with it, because my partner does the big, heavy, outside stuff, and it wouldn't be fair for him to have to do everything.  I do what I can, and he doesn't complain (until he runs out of underwear!)  As fast as my illness is worsening, I seem to be picking up lots of tricks just as fast, thank goodness.

One of my recent, amazing finds was this laundry cart, which I picked  up at my local Goodwill store for $14!  Laundry is probably my second biggest chore, after animal care (I still do most of the animal care, which is fine with me, as long as I am able to do it.)  The baskets of laundry, both wet and dry, were getting to be too heavy for me.  Just moving the laundry around to be hung to dry or put away was wearing me out.  Thanks to this cart, I can get either task done much more easily.  The bags make it a lot easier to carry the clean, folded laundry upstairs to be put away, too.  They also allow me to keep everything separated:  mine, his, household (sheets, towels, etc.)  When I unload the washer, i can just plunk the basket on the cart and go.  I do laundry just about every day, unless I'm caught up or am having a really bad day.  I just couldn't believe my luck in finding this cart as cheaply as I did!

Another tool I have sworn by is my Simplicity Sport and Shop Vac vacuum cleaners. The fact that these are rugged, lightweight, and very simple to assemble and disassemble makes them perfect for people with fibro.  The Simplicity is worn over your shoulder and weighs about 7 pounds.  It does not sacrifice power, though, let me tell you!   I use the one I have at home exclusively for cleaning up after the cats, and it does such a good job that I bought one for the rescue.  These types of vacuums work better on hard surfaces, but both of them come with attachments that allow you to clean carpet--they just may not get the deeper stuff.  Our home and the rescue are mostly free of carpet.

The last tool I can think of off the top of my head is the sifting litter pans that I bought last year to replace our traditional ones.  We had several large boxes we were using for the cats, but scooping them got to be too much for me as I got sicker, so I switched to the sifting ones.  We now only have two (out of six) that are not sifting boxes, and they are not that big.  Making this switch has made a world of difference for me in terms of my ability to clean up after the cats!  Not only does it save time, I end up far less exhausted when I am finished. I have also stopped buying the pine pellet stall bedding, which was super-cheap, at the local feed store and am now using corn or walnut-shell based litter.  While these are a lot more expensive, the waste is a lot more lightweight and easier for me to manage.  Since all but one of the boxes are in the basement, this has also made a huge difference.

I have also switched most of my pet shopping to online ordering. When I shop for the animals, I usually need a case of this, a big bag of that.  It was getting to be too hard on me, so I simply place an order online every two or three weeks, as needed.  I'm probably saving some money in the process, which is not a bad thing.  We looked into placing our Costco orders online, too, but they did not have everything we needed, and we found that they have a delivery charge for each item!  Yowza!  No, thanks!  Since we only hit Costco about every couple of months, I'm just going to suck it up and go on my next day off, if I'm feeling well.  You win some, you lose some.  There is still a lot of stuff that we order online, and that's been very helpful.

Finally, I am coping by resting in between tasks, by doing whatever I can sitting down, and by trying to let go anything that does not get done on a given day.  Missed chores are not the end of the world, I have to remind myself.  The house will still be standing when I get back to what I need to do. I am sure that I will discover plenty more tricks and hacks as time goes on.  These few have made a huge difference for me!

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Saying Good-Bye to a Sage "Alley Cat": Toranaga Daniel

I'm not going to lie.  Losing this one broke my heart.

Toranaga Daniel (Tori) was his name.  Being a handsome clown was his game.  Of our seven (now six, and at one time 11) cats, he was and always will be my favorite.  Everybody loved Tori. He was a sweet, sweet cat from the start, and he was way up on my left shoulder whenever he could be.  He was my Heart Kitty.

Like most of my other cats, Tori came to us when I was with my ex.  We were picking up supplies in a pet store one night when we saw him.  This particular pet store didn't sell milled pets.  They would let people drop off litters that their cats had had, that they'd found, or what have you, and then they would sell them to the public for a pretty low price.  (This was back in the early 2000s.)  Poor Tori was in a cage all by himself.  The cage had a wire bottom and nothing in it but a towel.  He just cried and cried and cried.  I had a really bad feeling about the whole situation, so my ex and I, even though we were pretty broke, pooled our money and bought him immediately that night.  We didn't give it any thought--I just knew he needed to get out of there.  Looking back, I suppose it's possible the store had just gotten him and didn't have him set up yet, but whatever the situation was, it gave me a really icky vibe.

Tori came home with us in a cardboard box that the store had just happened to have on hand, and he took up residence in our extra bedroom.  This kitten just cried and cried and cried whenever he was alone.  He was very clingy.  I guess he was separated from his mother too young, though by the time we got him, he was two or three months old.  We spent as much time with him as we could, because hey!---KITTEN! I should also note that his ears were WAAY too big for his head and that he used to sit on my ex's chest when he was in the bathtub.  (I have a photo of that, but I'm not going to post it!  LOL!)

The many moods of Orange the Menace

Tori has been through three homes with me, one of them in a whole other state!  He had his share of medical issues over his lifetime, but he always remained a happy cat.  He was always all smiles and purrs.  Everybody loved him.  He was a little clown, and he always managed to cheer me up and give me hope.  When I used to come home from work when I lived in the Little Stone House back in MD, he'd always be up on the cat tree in the window, looking out.  He was a food hog, even before he was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism.  You had to really watch your food, whether you were a human or a cat.  My current partner and I used to say he was a goat.  He would eat anything!  (Not that I would let him, of course!)  His most specialest special treat was a tiny piece of corn chip.  If I was eating chips and salsa, he would always bug me until he got his little piece.  (I never gave him too much of that kind of stuff.)

When he sat at the top of the cat tree, which he very often did, his chest was at eye level.  When I had had a really bad day, I could put my arms around him and bury my face in his fur and cry it out.  He was very patient and would just sit and hold the moment and accept my sadness. He was such a good friend.  He was very intelligent but extremely goofy.  Another nickname we had for him was "Dumbass." He earned this name one day when he shut himself in the bathroom.  He did that a a Dumbass.

Tori's ashes arrived a couple of weekends ago, and the box sits on a shelf in my office, looking out at our front yard.  I could not bring myself to bury him out in the plot we're creating. I wanted to keep him close.  I may eventually move him upstairs to my art studio. 

I still love all of my other animals with all of my heart, but the house is way too quiet, and there is an empty spot in my heart that may not go away for a very long time.  Tori was supposed to outlive everybody.  We were supposed to grow old together.  Thirteen years was not long enough.

Rest in peace, you beautiful, beautiful soul. I will never forget you, and I will always love you.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Lessons Learned: Estate Planning

Be prepared for anything!

I have learned a lot in the aftermath of my mother's passing. I have learned things, in fact, from both sides of the estate settlement issue. As I create my own will and related documents, I am putting all that I have learned to work.

  • When choosing an executor, Power of Attorney (POA,) Medical Power of Attorney (MPOA,) etc. it's very important to ask the people you have in mind if they want the job.  My mom's executor did not do a good job.  They did the absolute, bare minimum required, and that has resulted in a lot of pain. I can't speak for the rest of the family, but I can speak for myself: It has left a deep wound. I'm not going to say that anything was left undone, and I'm not going to say the person didn't do anything.

What I will say is that the person, while very professional and communicative and generally reasonable to deal with, did not show much common sense, compassion, or good judgment in carrying out their obligations. I'm not going to go into detail.

Toward the end of our dealings, this person confided in me that they had not wanted the job, that they hated that they had the job, and that they hated doing the job.  Naturally, this resulted in the depthless process with which we ended up.
When I started setting up my own documents, I reached out to everyone who would be in my will, whether they were being given "a job" or not, just to let them know that, should something happen to me, that they might be asked to do something or might be receiving something and was that OK with them.  Some did not respond, but no one declined. I also have my lawyer's office in my documents as a backup for most jobs.  That way, I know that I have a truly neutral party in place, should someone step down or not be available to fulfill their obligations.

  •  When you have someone in mind to act as your executor, POA, or MPOA, talk to them and really get to know them.  Can you trust this person?  Especially observe their interactions with your family members, particularly any heirs you will leave behind.My mother felt she could trust the people she chose, but based on the way I was treated through the process and on the way she was treated before I took over her care, it became clear that she had been mistaken. She was furious and not a little hurt when her original MPOA dropped everything in my lap and stopped all communication with her.  I think she would be equally furious if she had been around to see how I was treated after she passed.
  • Start the process when you are young.  I started my process just this past Spring, but I wanted to start it at least ten years ago.  (I just did not have the money for it then.) Even if you don't have a lot of resources or property, it's a good idea to start early in at least fleshing out your wishes.
  • Before you write anything out, take an inventory of anything you think might be around when you pass.  This includes both material objects and electronic property.  Think social media, web pages or online forums you may have built, blogs, etc.  Think hard about what you want done with all of your property, and write it out.  Some things may seem silly, but it's better to over-prepare than to not prepare enough.  You can always update your documents later. In our case, for instance, I have been given explicit instructions by my partner on what he wants done with his various websites.  I admit my own electronic estate is not worked out yet.  I don't know if I want any of it to remain.  I may want everything deleted. I have to give it more thought.
  • Choose your attorney carefully.  You don't just want an attorney with a lot of experience and good reviews.  You want an attorney whose values align with your own, who is personable and professional, and who seems invested, even if they are very, very busy and have a lot of clients.  The attorney my mother used talked a great game at the table and made some assurances which ultimately did not come true.  When I consulted with them about a problem with the estate sale, they made it clear they did not give one wet noodle about the outcome.  Naturally, I did not hire that attorney to handle my own affairs!  I started blind, and it took me a few days (Yay, Internet!) to find my attorney. I was not referred. I stumbled across her website.  The website was very bare-bones; however, the language was warm and encouraging to me. I took a chance and called her office and set up an appointment.  It turned out to be a good move.  We have a lot in common, and she deals with estates like mine (people who include their animals in their documents) and is even a rescuer, like myself. My and my partner's package was not terribly expensive.  Even though we are not married, we were able to create our documents together and got a discount for doing that.
  • Have your wishes written out in some form before your initial meeting with your lawyer.  That way, you should be able to go in, meet with them, get your questions answered, and just plug your plans into the documents.  it won't all happen in one day.  My attorney's office takes weeks, in some cases, to update a draft.  There will be at least two or three meetings, just to get your estate worked out.  This is a good thing. You want to be nit-picky in this case. If you go in blind--without at least a general plan, you'll miss some things.
  • Once your documents are finalized and signed, have multiple copies made, and keep those copies in multiple places.  One at home, maybe one with a trusted, close friend, maybe one in a safe deposit box, one with the executor, etc. Each person's situation is unique, so each person will have a different plan.  You just don't want the only copy to be in your home, in case there's a fire or something happens to you and no one can get into your home.
  • Do not engage in family fighting. This only draws things out and makes the whole process more painful.  People will act like jerks after a family member dies.  It's a normal part of the process, and it's unavoidable.  Just do not engage. Don't fight over minor things.  The process of cleaning up someone's estate and distributing their belongings is painful enough in and of itself.  Unnecessary added drama just adds to everyone's pain.
It is my hope that, in creating my documents the way I have and in sharing what I have learned here, I will save those I leave behind a lot of pain, and I will help someone else to do the same.  Death is hard on everyone, but the aftermath can be sheer torture, when things aren't handled well.  People should be able to mourn and move on in peace.

Ultimately, I came away from my mother's estate settlement pretty well.  I mean, I got a house out of the deal, for goodness' sake!  That said, the process was painful for me, and it brought into stark reality the fact that my huge, blended family had never been my family at all, and that really stings.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Brick Dust: On Anniversaries, Autumn, and Adjusting to My New Normal

Stonewall Resort-Roanoke, WV

There's a lot happening here at Sage Alley right now!  I'll get to why I have not updated in a while later on in this post.  I do know it has been too long!  Wowzers!  Time does fly!

My partner and I celebrated our 10-year anniversary last week, finally!  The anniversary is in February, but finances did not allow us to get away until now.  We stayed at the resort referenced above, Stonewall Resort in Roanoke, WV.  It is an absolutely stunning property, and we both got plenty of photos!  Though neither of us works full time and we live simply and happily, we both needed the time away.  It's always good to take a break from one's day-to-day life, and I'll be honest:  It was nice not to have to work or clean house or take care of animals for a week!

We are now saving for our trip for next year.  The goal is to go to Cape May, NJ!  We tried to go this year, but as I said, our finances just did not come together in time.  He still wanted to go now, in the Fall, but I don't enjoy going to the beach if I can't go swimming!

Autumn has hit us in full force, but the weather continues to be all over the place. The photo above is the squash harvest for this year.  (He planted one plant!  These are all from that one plant!)  We are still getting pretty hefty harvests.  I came into the kitchen yesterday to see my partner cleaning large bowls FULL of tomatillos and peppers!  I asked him if he had harvested that all yesterday, and he said that he had!  Our collards are also bouncing back from the bug invasion we had over the summer, and we have lettuce and kale, as well.

We have turned our heating system way down and are experimenting with just using the stove for heat.  We have the system set to just warm enough to keep the pipes from freezing, and the stove is doing the rest.  We're tinkering with what we do overnight, the damper level, the blower level, etc.  The stove warms the upstairs pretty well, and we have the fan on the HVAC running, so even the basement is not terribly cold.  We'll see how it all works out when it gets colder. Right now, it's pretty mild during the day and cold at night, but so far, we're OK.

While I've been busy enjoying the fall and getting ready for winter, I've also been continuing to adjust to my New Normal.  Fibromyalgia does not get better. Sometimes, it stabilizes for a while, but there is no cure.  All you can do, really, is manage your symptoms.  Thanks to some adjustments to my medication and the addition of a new one, I'm doing just that; however, my illness is getting worse.  I now frequently have pain and stiffness in my legs.  I am also sleeping a lot more than I used to.  I'm not sleeping longer at night, in fact, I am having more trouble with insomnia.  I'm just napping more.

This is making it really hard to stay on top of things, but I do what I can.  I generally will pick one project or one weighty task per day, and I focus just on that.  If I get more done than that, then that's wonderful.  Part of the problem is I've picked up a second part time job.  As much as I love this job, it's physically demanding.  (I help out at a local cat rescue--cleaning, feeding, etc.)  It's very rewarding, but I usually come home after work, eat something, and then go to bed, sometimes until dinner time.  I'm doing better this week than I have the last couple of weeks, but things are not easy for me.

I'm hosting a party in December, and I need to make sure to finish painting my dining room and get it put back together before then, so that will become my focus in the next few weeks.  I can always do the ceiling and trims later, but I need to finish painting it, because it's halfway done (and has been for a lot longer than I'd care to admit!)  

All I can do is take things one day at a time and stay on top of my self care.  As someone who is used to being active (if not athletic) and who is under 50 years old, this is all immensely frustrating for me.  I'm trying to move past that, though, and just deal with it.

Until my next update, be well, enjoy the holiday season, and take care of yourselves!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Brick Dust: Changes Inside and Out, Garden Update...Stuff

Things are busy right now at Sage Alley!  While most of our produce is starting to come in and be ready for harvest, my partner and I also have our own pursuits in progress.  Except for a recent illness for both of us (mine slightly more protracted,) we've both been running, running, running!

We were hoping to take a trip to the beach for our 10 year anniversary in September, but unfortunately, our finances aren't going to allow for that.  We'll probably take a shorter trip (long weekend or something) closer to home.  We also may go visit his family in Vermont. We have not decided yet.  It's a bummer, that we can't do our Big Trip this year, but it's not the end of the world.  It will be just as special next year!


This is our current bedroom.

Part of the fallout from our recent illnesses is that we have decided to set up a second bedroom for ourselves on the second floor of the house.  Our current bedroom is in the basement of our house.  We both love this room; however, basements tend to be cooler than the rest of the house.  While this is great in Spring and Summer, it's not so much in the colder months.  At the same time, our wood stove really heats up the house!

To this end, my partner has decided to condense his two studios on the second floor into one, and we're taking over one of the rooms as our "winter bedroom."  When we are not using it, it will serve as a guest room.

The master will remain my art studio, but I think we're going to replace the bed that's currently in there with a twin, set up as a daybed.  That way, the studio can still double as guest space, but I will have a little more work space.

I actually don't mind having a second bedroom.  My whole thing about sleeping in the basement has been about not leaving my cats down there all on their own, but the truth of the matter is that we are down there all the time, for various reasons.  When we are not sleeping down there, we'll be able to open the bedroom up and cover the bed, so they can hang out there.  We aren't able to bring them up into the house, because of my mom's pets, who are all still with us.  (I think I have posted in the past about trying to introduce one of our cats to the household.) The basement is a finished space.  It's an apartment, so it's not like we're just leaving them in some damp, cold place.  It's a home.  :)


I have made a major decision regarding the direction of my future, and I have not made this decision lightly.  I have fibromyalgia, and in the past year or so, it has gotten worse.  Thought I still do a lot of running around, and I get out a couple of times a week, it is getting harder and harder for me to function. Those outings and activities are costing me more dearly than they used to.  I may have a good day or a string of good days, and I take advantage of them when I do!  That said, I'm paying for them more steeply.  My flares are getting worse, and I'm staying more tired for longer periods of time after. I'm also not able to stand or exert myself for as long as I used to be able.  I now have to rest after every task or after every 15-20 minutes of activity. Sometimes, I'm done for the day after hanging the laundry for instance.  I can't concentrate on anything for more than an hour or two.

These factors are making it harder for me to find work that will accommodate my needs for rest and time to refocus my mind.  I have been looking for a part time job for over two years, and I have not had any luck. After much discussion with both my partner and my client (who has been more than understanding with me,) and with much hesitation and emotional struggle, I made the decision in July to apply for disability. I know what I am getting into, and I know that getting it is a long process and that most people do not get it the first time they apply, so I am taking it all one step at a time.  In the meantime, I am continuing to look for work and for clients.  I can't just sit around and wait for it. It could be years, and I might not get it at all, even on appeal.

I don't like it. It doesn't feel good.  When I have a string of good days and am kicking butt, I feel like maybe I don't need it (I DO need it.  Fibro does not get better. There is no cure right now. It's just symptom and lifestyle management.) I try to remind myself that I paid into the system for many years, and I still do and will continue to. I try to look at the bright sides:  When and if I get it, the stress of trying to find work and/or clients will be alleviated.  I will be able to focus better on meaningful things.  I will have time to help out others and work on stalled projects around the home and in my studio. I will have peace of mind in knowing that I will have an income and won't have to panic, as I would if I lost a job.  (Though there ARE sometimes hiccups with disability.)  I just try not to beat myself up. It's not my fault that I've gotten ill.

This is a very personal thing to share, but I want the people who follow this blog to understand a little more about who I am.  Unfortunately, my illness is part of who I am now.

On that happy note...


We harvested a ton of corn today! (Well, OK--so it was about eight ears, but still!) I have quite a learning curve with the timing. As you can see, most of the ears were not quite mature enough yet. My bad!  It tastes very good, though, and now I know better what to look for next time.  I did the research to find out when it should be harvested, and I guess I took it too literally.  I should have waited a few more days.  This isn't going to stop us from enjoying it, though!  The white ear is the same variety as the rest, just younger, but it tasted fantastic.  There is plenty more coming in, and I told a friend I may be able to give her some next week!

The good news is that, although I did see (and pick off) some critters while harvesting the corn, they don't seem to be eating the corn itself, so far.  If I can stay on top of the timing for harvest, we may avoid that problem altogether, which would be wonderful!  Overall, this variety appears to be pretty hardy, and it's also possible that the plants we have nearby are helping to keep some pests away.  We don't have a companion planting for the corn this time, but the beds are fairly close together.

I'm just over the moon, because the corn was all me.  I've never cultivated anything on my own before, so the fact that the corn is doing well is just a thrill!  Next year, I will take a more active role in the garden!  I became pretty invested in the peas, so I may oversee those next year, as well as the corn, and who knows what else?


Finally, I want to express how heartbroken and angry I am over the events that took place in Charlottesville, VA.  Something is very wrong with our society when someone is able to murder people in cold blood in the light of day.  No remorse.  No hesitation. Possibly pre-meditated. It's horrible, and it is surreal.

Tonight, I will be attending a candlelight vigil in a nearby town to honor all of the victims of what took place.  America has a lot of healing to do.  We have really lost our way.


Sunday, June 25, 2017

Garden Update: Summer

It's been a while since I've posted one of my Garden Updates. We're about due!  Despite the extreme, up-and-down weather we've had so far this year, the garden is doing pretty well.  Most of what's been planted is coming in.  Most, but not all. It also looks like we're losing the collards to an as yet unidentified critter.  As for the kale, it just never came in at all.  The tomatoes, which were started inside early in the year, mostly didn't make it through transplanting.  I believe we ended up with two plants.  Those two plants are thriving, though!

We have three or four surprise lettuce plants (top left in the collage, below,) and they look delicious!  I can't wait to harvest them!  The largest one, I believe, is a seed plant. We also have garlic coming in gangbusters, as well as two potato plants, which are doing well.  My corn is doing well so far, but in thinning out my plants, I fear I may have thinned too much.  I think the plants are fine, but I may not end up with as much corn as I had hoped.  A few did not come up, but I'm learning that this is normal.  This is why we "over plant."

The garden is huge, and all of the beds are not even in yet, but we are already growing quite a variety of foods--all things we will actually eat, of course. After my partner did some research, we decided to use the no till method for laying in our garden. In our case, the process is even simpler than what larger farms do:  We simply laid down grass mulch over the tops of our beds and dug the seeds in by hand. That's it.  We still have weeds, but they haven't overrun everything, and weeding doesn't take long.  (Though in the case of the dandelion, we're leaving some of it in place, because we eat it.) We will need to rotate our crops from year to year, but there's no need to leave a bed fallow, as some people do. Not only is this better for the soil--it is also saving us a lot of time, and with both of our various chronic health issues, it has made the process a lot easier.  The plants we have coming in are very healthy.  It helps that, before we moved in here, my parents had not put any chemicals on the lawn for several years.

As always, we use no chemicals or fertilizers--other than compost--on our garden.  Over the years, our yields have been fine for our needs.  Heck, last year, we weren't able to eat all of the tomatoes we harvested! I feel like in using this no till method, we are reducing our footprint just a little bit more, and that's a good thing!

(Other stuff)

The candles in the middle of the bottom row have nothing to do with our garden.  LOL!  That is one of my recycled art projects!  It was my first attempt at making votive candles (from recycled wax,) and I was about 90% successful.  I lost one to maker's error.  I'll just remelt it and use in in the next batch! Candles and incense are both items I have been making on and off for years. I had stopped for several years, because I simply did not really have the space to do either one on the scale I prefer.  Now, I have the space and the resources to do it.  It is my hope to start selling them. I'm even hoping to eventually sell some of our sage, but that is a long way off, because, though it is doing well, our sage plants are mere teeny, tiny babies at this point.

The photo in the lower left corner is of the entrance into the woods where our pet cemetery (I'm calling it "Sage's Rest") will eventually be.  The kitty statue is staying, and I'm making a sign.  Over time, I will be clearing out the space, and as our pets pass on, this is where we will bury them. This is where we buried my dear Musashi.  It may seem a bit morbid to pick out a space for a cemetery, but it's all a part of life.

I'll be sure to update later in the year, when we start to see how our yields are! Meanwhile, happy summer!