I’m Moving!

…blog hosts, that is.  I’ve had my own web space for many years, and decided to start hosting this blog over there now that I have an idea what features wordpress as software has available and what features wordpress.com doesn’t have that I want.

So I can now be found at http://www.awakeatheart.com.  All previous content has been moved there.  Hope you’ll follow me!

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Guilty Pleasures

I’ll admit it. I like canned icing. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say I much prefer canned icing.

I have no idea why I still find it so appealing. It’s in a plastic can that I’d rather not buy, and has a tongue-twisting list of ingredients including partially hydrogenated soybean and cottonseed oil, high maltose corn syrup, distilled monoglycerides, color added and Yellow 5&6, polysorbate 60, sodium stearoyl lacytate, sodium acid pyrophosphate, and potassium sorbate. Not a horrendous list of ingredients, but not a great one either.

Luckily I don’t eat the stuff that often. When I was growing up, my mom had a home business decorating cakes. Every week, she made cake. And buttercream icing made of shortening and sugar. Whenever I said hey I’m hungry for a snack, my mom would point me toward the thin piece of cake she sliced off the top of each round to even it out for layering and tell me to have at it. Bleh. I was soooo sick of cake. And icing. So even now when I’m out to make a cake, it’s rarely a layer cake with icing, it’s more likely a bundt-style cake.

cupcakes photo: Creative Commons / PDH

photo: Creative Commons / PDH

Last night I made the Ultimate Chocolate Cupcakes from Cook’s Illustrated for my husband’s birthday.  If these cupcakes aren’t the ultimate in chocolatyness and cupcakyness, they’re certainly darn close.  On the rare occasions I make cake that requires icing, like these cupcakes, I’ve tried making homemade icing. I tried real buttercream that used tons of butter from cooks illustrated. I tried fake buttercream that uses lots of powdered sugar from somewhere on the internet. I just don’t particularly like them.  I’ll eat them in a pinch, but for some reason nothing says yum to me quite like a thick layer of Betty Crocker rich and creamy vanilla frosting out of a white plastic can.  Until I can find a suitable replacement that actually tastes like it, I’m not sure canned frosting is a habit I can kick.  On occasion I’ve even been known to dip a finger without having cake to eat it with.

Is there any commercial food product out there that is a guilty pleasure for you, one that’s hard to give up?

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Ode to a Mason Jar

Oh ubiquitous mason jar
how wonderful to use you are
modern clear and older blue
crazed with age or shiny new…

Ah, the ubiquitous mason jar.  A brilliant storage unit that has gone practically unchanged in the last 100 years.  Strong, easy to store and organize, and long since proven itself to just about everyone.

Mason jars aren’t only for canning.  I’m only starting with canning, but I’ve used them for years.  Like many modern women, when I started homemaking I went out and bought all sorts of cheap plastic storageware.  Sometimes I just saved plastic containers from purchases (still do, but trying to cut down on buying stuff in plastic).  Mostly I just left everything in the box it came from.  Then THEY came.  Grain moths, who hitched a ride into my home probably 7 years ago now, and I have never been fully able to get rid of.  They’ll nest in practically anything.  Those little buggers can burrow their way through cardboard boxes, through plastic bags, and even through thinner plastic jars.  They can wiggle their way into basic screwtop jars and cheap tupperware.  When I had to search for a solution to these little pests, given that no lure or trap ever totally got rid of them, I chose to rethink my storage.  Enter the Mason Jar.  Now that I’m trying to eliminate plastic storage, mason jars become an even bigger part of my storage strategy.  Once I start canning vegetables from my garden, I’ll use them even more.   Perhaps I should buy stock in whatever company produces Ball jars.  Or more likely enlist my friend who goes yard sale hopping weekly, and try to have her pick up some on the cheap.

I have lots of mason jars.  I’ve bought a carton of quart, pint, and occasionally half pint jars once a year for the past few years.  I also have 5 half-gallon sized jars I picked up.  I use them to store all my grain products, because they actually work at keeping the moths out.  If I’m worried about spoilage, I can vacuum pack them, or freeze them.  (Warning!  if you’re interested in putting mason jars in the freezer, be sure to leave at least an inch or two of space at the top of the jar, and put the lid on VERY LOOSELY [or not at all] until it’s completely frozen.  Freezing liquid expands, and will shatter your jar if there’s no expansion room.  Guess how I know.)  I vacuum pack roasted coffee beans to keep them fresher longer.  I store my homemade granola in them.  I keep all my oats, baking mixes, and anything that I can buy in plastic baggies or in bulk that needs a better or moth-safe home, for example the arrowroot powder I just bought.  I keep my brown sugar in one, with one of those little clay bears to keep it moist.  There’s lots of other things you can keep in them.  I also keep my sewing pins in one, and my hubby drilled some holes in another lid and I put baking soda in it and keep it next to the sink to help with washing dishes.  This year I bought drawers from ikea for my tall storage cabinet in my pantry, deep ones that let me store large quantities of mason jars.  I put a label on the lid with what’s in them and I can look at the lower drawers from above and pull out the right jar.  Since the lids aren’t glued on during the canning process, they are reusable again and again.  If you search google images for mason jar, you’ll see lots and lots of creative storage and non-storage things people have done with mason jars.

Why a sudden ode to a mason jar?  well, I’ve dropped many a mason jar.  And amazingly they hardly ever break.  This past week I’ve lost two.  Sadly, they weren’t just basic Ball jars, they were a pair of Anchor Hocking 32oz Mason Jar Mugs.  I bought a dozen of these when we were first married, 12 years later I have a few left.  I went online today to see if I could buy some more, they’re perfect for me to make iced tea and they make great drinking glasses in the summer when we’re working in the garden and get really thirsty.  And now I find out they’re actually rare pieces!  My K-mart mugs are worth $25 a piece on ebay if they’re not chipped?  You’re kidding.  Admittedly I love the darn things, but I’m not about to replace them at $25 a pop.  Hear me Anchor Hocking?  You should manufacture these again, they’d be big sellers.

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No-‘poo take 2 and destink too!

No-‘poo take 2

In a previous post, I gave bar soap as shampoo and apple cider vinegar rinse a try, with my main goal being to reduce my consumption of plastic by avoiding buying shampoo/conditioner bottles.  The results were not great, my hair was only half-clean and my scalp was a tad itchy.  Since I usually only bathe every other day, my hair wasn’t clean enough to make it through while still looking good enough to go to the office.  I went back to my bottled shampoo and pledged to give it another try with something different.

This past weekend while wandering around Whole Foods, I looked to see if they had a Dr. Bronner’s bar soap shampoo that I had heard about.  They didn’t, but they did have J.R. Liggett Old Fashioned Bar Shampoo (original formula).  At $6.99 for the equivalent of a 24oz bottle, not a horrible expense and I was willing to give it a try. It uses a combination of olive, coconut and castor oils with no detergents to strip the hair.  The soap is minimally packaged in paper and made relatively local in New Hampshire, which made me happy.  It smelled pretty good too.

shampoo bar wrapper

shampoo bar wrapper

The first wash was a moderate success.  I didn’t use conditioner at all, since the packaging mentioned that many people found they didn’t have to use it.  The top of my head was a bit underclean, but the back looked quite nice.  I could comb my fingers through it while it was damp without too much trouble.  I haven’t used a hair dryer in about 15 years, I don’t even know how to any more, so I dried my hair like I always do, with no product and just pulling the top back in a barrette once it was sufficiently dry.   I was guessing that the underclean portion might be due to my oversoaping, undersoaping, or not rinsing properly, or perhaps that I was washing in cold water because it was very warm, so I was willing to give it another wash to try.

I tried again this morning.  I used warm water, and paid attention to use a good amount of soap lather and to rinse well.  The results look even more successful than previously.  I’d say it’s darn close to a regular shampoo/conditioner wash, though i don’t think I’d say it was equal to it.  I’m willing to continue using this bar shampoo and see how this goes.  I’ve been told after you stop using detergents in your hair it can take some time for your hair to adjust, so continued experimentation is definitely in order.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

Deodorant Remix

The previous experiment at homemade deodorant was a failure for me.  Which is not to knock the recipe itself, it works for others but did not work for me.  During the same Whole Foods trip mentioned above I also looked at the various commercial deodorants.  I’ve tried the rock one before, and while I keep one in my car for stink-emergencies, it’s not something that I like on a daily basis, I find my pits get itchy and just feel too watery.  Crossing off all the “crystal” deodorants from the list, I looked at the other stick deodorants, which were all encased in plastic.  One was in a cardboard shaker, which looked interesting.  It was a simple powder made of baking soda, corn starch, arrowroot powder, and essential oils.  I thought “Hey!  I can make that at home!  I’ve been meaning to try arrowroot powder as a stew thickener anyway!”  One bag of Bob’s Red Mill arrowroot powder later and I was ready to try making powdered deodorant.

Having no recipe to go on, I decided on a 4/2/1 ratio.  4 parts baking soda to 2 parts corn starch to 1 part arrowroot powder.  My guess is that the baking soda is to control the odor, and the corn starch & arrowroot draw in the sweat and “thicken”, as it were, to control wetness.  I made a small batch without any essential oil (automatically unscented deodorant!) and patted some on my pits.   As I mentioned, it’s a powder.  A powder puff applicator would probably be useful, and I don’t currently have one.  I’ll have to look around.  Also since it’s a powder I foresee issues if I don’t remember to put the powder on before the black outfit, and figure I’ll probably see residue when wearing short sleeved dark shirts.

Minute powder concerns aside, it worked great!  The weather this week has been in the ’90s.  While I didn’t push the deodorant to the max with heavy outside work, I did get sweaty occasionally on my way home from the office and in the evenings, and a quick sniff proved non-stinky.  I was impressed by the wetness control as well.  I was sweaty, sure, but it wasn’t as bad as it would have felt sans-deodorant.  I think I’ve found a new default deodorant without the worries of chemicals and the problems of plastic.

powdered deodorant mini-batch

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Letting Go

I am a stubborn and tenacious person.  I don’t give up very easy on most things.  If there’s a part of my that does want to consider giving up on an endeavor, I will hem and haw and consider the options for a long time.  Tenacity can be a good trait, but there comes a point where you just need to be able to let go and say “yeah I tried and it didn’t work.  I don’t have to feel guilty about failing, I just know better for next time”.

One such case of needing to let go is my climbing rose.  When we moved into our house nearly 12 years ago, I bought a white climbing rose for my garden, thinking it would be pretty.  I planted it about 10′ away from the house, just with a little fan trellis for it to grow on.  And it was pretty.  Then when it bloomed I thought “that’s odd, what’s that black spot?…and why is the leaf turning yellow?…and why are these other leaves getting black spots?”  Black spot fungus took nearly all the leaves on that bush that year.

I read up and found out that you need to pick the leaves with the fungus as soon as you see them.  OK, so next year I pulled the first diseased leaf off.  Then another.  And another…ad infinitum.  I plucked off every diseased leaf and ended up with a bare bush, same as the previous year.

my naked rosebush

After about 6 years, I gave up.  I’d cleaned the ground, added new mulch, used fungicide regularly, tried every suggestion I could find.  I figured it was just that my yard had endemic black spot and there was nothing I could do.  I gave the bush to a friend who had bought a new house, where she could plant it to have it grow up the front and be pretty.

The next year there was a tiny branch that grew out of the ground with thorns.  Some small bit of the root had lived and started growing a whole new rose bush.  To me, this was a sign.  If I’d gotten rid of it but it was still there, who was I to kill it.  Not sure why I had this approach suddenly, since I happily kill weeds that I keep getting rid of over and over (and over) again.  Probably because it was a rose, and roses are pretty.  It took a couple of years, but it started flowering, this time with dark pinkish red roses…and as soon as the flowering was done, the black spot shedding began again.  I used bottles of fungicide to try to stem the tide, but no luck.  The end result is always the same, a nude climbing rosebush.  I finally read in my Garden Problem Solver book that basically this bush was probably not disease-resistant enough to thrive in the humid NJ summers.

So this year i hemmed and hawed again and looked at the now 10′ tall 12′ wide fanned canes as they exploded in beautiful flowers.  I bought a Jackson & Perkins old rose this spring, which other than some issues with thrips has done fairly well and has no sign of black spot fungus even though it’s only 3 feet from the giant climbing rose.  So it’s the bush, and it will never thrive in my yard.  And me spraying a half a bottle of “safer” fungicide on it after every rain isn’t going to do anything in the long run, it will still just lose all its leaves and look big and ugly once the plant’s energy goes into flowering.

I’ve finally realized (for the second time!) that it’s not my fault and I’m not a failure as a gardener because I couldn’t get this rose to thrive.  I don’t need to carry that guilt anymore.  I have no control over the bush’s problems.  I can remove it, and plant something in it’s place that will thrive in my garden, that I can sit back and enjoy without breaking my back and feeling guilty.  It is time.  I am giving up, and letting go.

Is there anything in your garden you’ve had trouble “letting go”?

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Inspirations From My Elders

Recently I realized that the steps I am taking to live more frugally, simply, and honestly are changing my life to look more like that of my great-grandparents and older relatives who are now gone.  I started reflecting on these people and what about them I find makes them good role models.  I was lucky enough to have these elder statesmen around to show me, even in some small part, the simpler life that they lived because they were born in a simpler time, and perhaps in part how living through the great depression affected them and permanently marked the way that they chose to live their lives.

Clarence & Elsie

Clarence & Elsie

Clarence & Elsie

My mother’s mother’s parents lived in central Arkansas, in the southern Ozark mountains.  I believe Clarence was a chair maker, and Elsie raised 6 children.  During the great depression, my great grandfather was able to purchase land very cheaply.  He invested much of their extra money in land.  By the time they passed in the late 1990’s, that land was worth a considerable amount of money.  He could have sold it and bought several large houses and had lawn service and just about anything they wanted.

When I met them I was 6 or 7, in the mid 1970’s.  I remember my great grandmother wore cotton dresses and aprons, and had her white hair pinned back in a bun at the nape of her neck.  Then and there, I thought “when I grow old, I want to wear my hair like that”.  30+ years later, and I still haven’t changed my mind as they grey hairs have started to creep in.  They lived in what a modern suburbanite would probably have termed a “shack”.  Nestled away from the road in the woods, the car had to drive over the very small simple bridge to get to the house, being careful the tires didn’t veer off the bridge into the creek.  Crawdads could be seen in the creek around the natural spring.  It was a great place to play and explore.  As you rounded a bend in the long grooved dirt-and-gravel driveway, you could see the screen porch on the side of the small house.  There was a carefully tended garden surrounded by wire fencing to keep away the deer and other “critters”, and a small grassy clearing around the house.  Paper wasps made their home in the carport.  As my great grandfather said, “if you don’t bother them, they won’t bother you”.  The house had old linoleum floors and worn area rugs.  There wasn’t too much stuff, but what was there was well worn and comfortable.  It wasn’t spotless and sanitary, but it was clean, uncluttered, and cared for.  The only passing nod to modernity was the refrigerator, a small television and a Sears catalog.  That same catalog was still in that room on my return trip 10 years later, it gave us kids something fun to play with looking at all the old fashions.

What has always struck me in my adult life about my great grandparents is that they didn’t HAVE to live like that, especially towards the end of their life.  They chose to.  They raised their 6 children, and saw a parade of 20 grandchildren and even more great grandchildren visit that house.  Now I think I understand better the appeal of that “shack”.  It was a home.  It contained everything they needed to make them happy.  Their lives were slower, simpler, and for the most part happy.  They didn’t need new “stuff” to do that for them.  Everything was used until it simply wore out.  I now aspire to this level of simplicity of life.

Ruth & Bill

My Aunt Ruth and Uncle Bill were actually my great-great-aunt and uncle, Aunt Ruth was my great-grandmother’s sister.  They lived in a nice moderately sized house in central NJ.  While they had no children of their own, they were always happy to entertain the generations of children in the family.  I think anyone who knew them would use the words “kind” and “generous”.  Where I think they gave was not in money, but instead in spirit, in service.  My uncle loved to tease all us kids, grabbing an ankle and hoisting us up, not letting go until Aunt Ruth pleaded “Buzz!” (his nickname) and reminded him of his heart problem.  He always joked and played and we ate it up.  I remember his laugh vividly.

More ennobling for me than their spirit was their true dedication and love for each other.  In a family where my parents were divorced, all 5 of my mother’s siblings and my grandparents (her parents)  were divorced, they were the best example of what a marriage SHOULD be: love, devotion, humor, true partnership.  I’m glad I had that example, to know that what I have now reminds me of what they shared and I’m on the right track.

While the years may have dulled my memories and cast a rosy sheen on my view of these people, their lives are making powerful ripples in the choices I am making now.

Is there any “elder statesman” who has influenced your life?

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Fizz!

making soda

gathering juice from simmered grapes

On Tuesday, I made the leap and purchased a Sodastream at home carbonator.  The cherry soda syrup worked out so well I figure this may be my ticket to never having to buy soda again.  No more lugging, no more expense of buying BPA-laden plastic-lined aluminum cans.  The canisters can be exchanged right at the Kitchen Kapers we bought it at in Princeton.  It’s 3 blocks from my husband’s work, so we can exchange them without having to mail them off.

I don’t see buying the sodastream as a frugal purchase.  At least, not in the beginning.  It was $99, plus $22 for a second CO2 canister.  The initial outlay for the syrups will probably be costly too, but they should last for quite a while (I hope).  Only when we’ve used it for a few months will I be able to gauge the rate we go through supplies and match that to the 3 twacks of soda I bought every month.

The syrups that come with the system are…diet.  Which neither my husband nor I will touch.  I figure I’ll keep the samples around for guests who like diet soda.   But that’s ok, I had read a review before purchasing the system that talked about the syrups being kind of gross, so I was planning on buying quality syrups anyway.  I’m hoping I can wean my hub off of super-sugary corn-syrup sodas.  Fingers crossed.  You can lead a horse to seltzer…

Tonight I made homemade grape syrup for my hubby, and tomorrow I’ll order some quality bottled syrups online.  I’m looking into Torani syrups.  In the meantime, I’ve been enjoying some homemade orangina: orange juice & seltzer!  And since I get to control the amount of OJ I can keep it low so as not to worry about the sugar.  Next I think will be orange/cranberry soda.  Which certainly won’t look good, but should taste yummy.

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Of Successes and Not-So-Successes

I had a very busy weekend.  Most of the business was of my own making.  But in all it was full of accomplishments, both big, small, successful, and not-so-successful.  I’m going to refrain from calling some of them failures, because they were attempts and showed me where I might need to improve in the next try.

“I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.”
– Thomas Edison

First, I’ll start with the success.  On Saturday I harvested the yukon gold potatoes I planted this spring.  This is the first time I have tried growing potatoes, and I was pleased at the results.  They look like potatoes!  I got about a gallon sized bucket of small to mid-sized potatoes out of the 6 plants I had planted.  This will definitely be a repeat crop!  It was so satisfying to clear away the dirt with my hands and uncover each potato.  They were like buried treasure, and I was the archaeologist uncovering the find.

I made charcoal grilled lamb shoulder chops rubbed with olive oil, rosemary, thyme, and sea salt, sauteed fresh green beans with minced garlic, and baked the potatoes in the microwave and served them simply with a little butter and a little sea salt.  YUM! The potatoes were very good, missing the grainyness that they sometimes have.  Everything else was good too, that was a great cheap meal.  $4 for chops, $1 for greenbeans, $0 for potatoes = $3.00 per person if you leave some for covering the incedental pantry items.

potatoes2010

Saturday I also tried washing my hair with a bar of natural soap, and rinsing with apple cider vinegar.  The purpose of this experiment was to see if my hair came out clean and manageable, allowing me to stop buying shampoo.  Yup, stop buying shampoo.  My reasons are to reduce the use of chemicals on my body, and to reduce the amount of plastic bottles I have to buy.  Since I know where to buy shampoo/conditioners that are pretty all natural (albeit expensive), the whole chemicals thing isn’t my main point.  However, every plastic bottle I don’t have to purchase, bring home, and toss into the recycle bin is one less bottle either downcycled or ending up in a landfill.

The results of this experiment were mixed.  I would call my hair “second day clean” at best.  It wasn’t dirty, but neither was it clean, bouncy, and shiny as usual on day one.  I smelled like a salad while it air-dried, but once dry there wasn’t any lasting odor.  This morning I went back to shampoo because I’d forgotten the only bottle of vinegar downstairs.  I’ll try this again.  Perhaps it was the soap I used (lavendar oat), or the concentration of vinegar in the rinse.

morningglory

My next experiment involved making my own deodorant.  This was definitely a not-so-success.  I found the ingredients, and decided to use tea tree oil and rose oil.  Rose for the scent, tea tree for the anti-bacterial properties.  I goofed on two fronts:  One, I forgot how strong tea tree oil is, and two, I had some trouble with the bottle because it didn’t have a cap.  So I seriously overdid the tea tree oil.  It’s about all you smell when you open it, and when I lift up my arms it’s quite overpowering.

The deodorant feels ok going on, didn’t have to use that much.  I put a bit on one fingertip and shared it with a fingertip on the other hand, then spread it on like a cream.  It feels a lot like the Dove deodorant I’ve been using because I like the moisturizing properties.  Several hours later, after a hot day, I sniffed my pits and they STANK.  Not a natural gee-I’m-not-wearing-any-deodorant-and-I-smell-like-a-dirty-hippie stink.  It was a gross whoah-what’s-wrong-with-you stink.  because I was working today in the office, I didn’t put any on this morning.  This may require a rethink.  I’ve heard other people trying to go natural (not au-naturale) on deodorant have to shop around before they find what works with their body chemistry.  Hoping I can find a solution that will reduce yet another plastic bottle from purchase, like some of these on Planet Green.

beesandsunflower

My final experiment was in making soda syrup from fresh fruit. I made cherry vanilla syrup from a bag of cherries purchased at the market and a vanilla bean.  I began by pitting the cherries and chopping them into pieces, which took me about an hour for about a 3 pound bag.  I had History International on in the background, informing me about the french revolution while I got my fingers all red and sticky.  I simmered the cherries and smooshed them a bit for about 20 minutes, then hung them in a towel over a mason jar and let it drip for around an hour.  It gave me about 1-1/4 cup of nice dark red juice.  In the meantime I split a vanilla bean and simmered it for 20 minutes in about 3/4 cup of water.  After I was done simmering I let it sit, then removed the bean for reuse and added the vanilla water to the cherry to make 2 cups of juice.  I mixed that with 2 cups organic sugar and stirred over medium heat to make the syrup, which I put into 2 pint mason jars.

This experiment was definitely a success.  My hub, who likes soda, was quite happy with the results.  I had to buy a plastic bottle of seltzer in order to test this, but in the future I can purchase a reusable seltzer bottle.  I’ll have to work out the cost/glass once I’ve done that to see if it’s worth the work I put into it.  I have a bag of grapes that were on sale, I’ll try grape soda now.  Next stop might be to see our friend Joe Bair over at Princeton Homebrew with a recipe and get to making some Root Beer.

This weekend of experiments was a lot of fun, and left me with a sense of accomplishment.  It’s not something I think I’ll do every weekend, but there are definitely more experiments to be done!

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Garden of Earthly Delights

Summer is (hopefully) winding down.  Tonight the humidity was less, and the temperature went down enough at sundown for me to go out back and sit for a while.  In the heat of summer, other than morning watering and letting the dog out, and the occasional cup of coffee on the patio if it’s not too sticky, I rarely even go into the garden.  If it’s not the heat of the day forcing me back in, it’s the mosquitoes in the evening keeping me away.  I’m glad the weather is finally cooling down so I can enjoy the garden again.  There’s a lot to do, cleaning up and yanking out the morning glories that are (albeit pretty) a nuisance plant and if they go to seed just spread even further.  But I’m ready to garden again.  Bring it on!

wateringcan

garden is a verb; it is what you do.  And,
gardening is a noun that describes not what you
did, but what you got when you gardened.
-   Tom Clothier, Gardening Walk and Talk

But tonight I lit the lanterns, and managed to forget about the dying/dried out tomato plants and impatiens that suffered while we were on vacation, and all the leaves and junk that need to be cleared out, and I just breathed in, listened to the crickets and the cicadas, and smiled.

We live in the city in a row house, and our back yard is very small, only about 12 feet wide and perhaps 40′ long.  But one of the things that attracted us to the house when we bought it right before we married was the garden.  The little old Italian couple who owned the house had the back yard full of tomatoes and basil and other plants, and a big rosebush, and the ground was so healthy and it just radiated that wonderful natural energy.  It made me want to live there so I could have a garden like that.

Of course, other than a vegetable patch my mom had one year when I was in grade school, and a few occasional patches of marigolds next to the back door, I’d never touched a garden in my life.  I knew nothing of weeds or diseases or anything else.  I was (and still am, for the most part) a complete hack at gardening!  Weeds abounded, and the rainy season brought black spot fungus I had no idea how to combat.  And because I didn’t understand, I let things go and they just got into the ground and got worse.  And when I was ill and not feeling up to gardening, it became a big jungle.  After several years, harvesting anything was simply out of the question, nothing flourished long enough to harvest.

This year, we made a concerted effort to work on the back yard, and spent oodles of money and time updating it (after 12 years, it needed it!).  New patio furniture, some perennials, extending the patio with some old pavers we tore out a year or so after we moved in.  We covered the ugly wire fence between ourselves and our neighbors with some reed fencing, which gives us a level of privacy and turns the back yard into a tiny green retreat, almost making us forget we’re in the middle of a city.  We’ve added in the lighting layers over the years, and we’re so happy with how they look.  It is a pleasure to sit out back again.  If the weather is nice tomorrow I will have to pull out the hammock and take a nice, relaxing swing and just be in the moment of my garden.

artlamp_o


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I Need a Hurricane…

Which has nothing to do with this year’s thankfully very slow Atlantic hurricane season.  I was talking more about Mindy Smith’s song Hurricane, and the lyrics:

I need a hurricane
To empty out this place
Seems it’s the only way
To salvage any sense I have left
To move on

I sometimes think it would be easier to change if I lost everything, and started over from scratch.  No two mortgages, no car payments, no house full of clutter, etc.  Of course this is not making light of anyone who’s lost everything, I’m sure they’d say it’s definitely not all it’s cracked up to be.  Sometimes the bad spirit on my one shoulder starts suggesting I should just get up and walk away, start again somewhere else in a way that’s more like my “dream life” (lots of land, small herd of sheep, small house with a craft studio).  Then the good spirit on my other shoulder waves pictures of my husband and my dog in front of me, and I come back around to realizing that they’re the most important things to me, and that just walking away and starting over just isn’t an option.

My Dog Issoula

Izzy as I first saw her on the rescue website.

Making the dedication to share your life with someone you love isn’t always easy.  You don’t always share the same goals as you move on through the decades.  And if the love isn’t there to glue you together, perhaps you can just leave to move on.  I, however, am definitely lovingly glued.  And my husband would resent the whole sustainable farm life.  He’d rather run a coffee shop.  And with both our medical issues, that whole health insurance from work is a must have.  And of course there’s debts to be erased from our past high-on-the-hog living.  I’m still on the lookout for a solution that would fit both our dreams.  And perhaps the government will one day manage to find a solution for the health insurance issue.

In the meantime I’ll just continue to dream, and if there’s no hurricane I’ll just have to use the intermittent breeze to blow things into shape.

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