Monday, April 20, 2009

We Don't Want Zombies on the Lawn

Easter weekend, my parents came up, and Mom helped us with the last bit of planting we had to do for a while. With her help, we planted all of our potatoes, all (a metric butt-ton) of our onions, and our 18 boxwoods. We also got the weed block cloth down around the rest of the fruit bushes and all the windbreak plants.

Some of the daffodils that we planted in our tree stump (you know, the rotting tree stump that got trimmed down by some well-meaning contractors AFTER we had planted daffodils in them) apparently got buried enough by sawdust that they took root, so they are up, but not blooming. The other daffodils we planted are blooming. And at random spots in our yard, we have other gorgeous flowers (that weren't there last year and that we didn't plant) blooming. For instance, what my mom thinks are irises in the back lawn, by the pipes sticking up from the old oil tank, and there are grape hyacinth growing in a bunch in the middle of the front yard.

Apparently, spring is FINALLY here, but amazingly rainy.

Last week, many of the trees and bushes that we had planted started budding. We now have a pear tree, a cherry tree, and some raspberry bushes budding and a bunch of strawberry plants really taking off.

This weekend, I mowed. I shouldn't have put it off so long, but it was the first opportunity I've had all spring. And wow, what an experience! We decided that, because we've planted so many things in what USED to be our yard, we'd expand and take back a little bit of the property that we let grow up last year. So I mowed that area for about 2 hours on Friday night. And Saturday, I mowed the rest of the yard. It used to take me 3 hours to mow all of our yard. I have no idea how long it took this Saturday because I was also (1) picking up glass and pottery shards and rusting metal bits that had gotten turned up when our heat pump line got installed and (2) using the lawn tractor to run over some of the smaller ruts left in our yard from the heat pump line installation. So, with all the things we've planted and all the ruts and piles of earth left behind from the heat pump installation, I didn't have a yard to mow so much as a gauntlet to run, an obstacle course to defeat. Lucky I like mowing the yard, no matter how long it takes. Call me crazy, but I find it therapeutic.

Anyway, I came home today to freshly baked bread. Last weekend, checking email, I had seen information about a book called Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes. We ordered that and a book on root cellaring from Amazon, and today, M made bread. Delicious bread. It was "mediocre" for "artisan" bread, but FAR more delicious than store-bought bread, and it was just a first try. It was whole-wheat, and made with about 20 minutes of effort, to make the dough. And that dough will give us about 7 more "individual" loaves of bread. I highly recommend this book already. Seriously. Do it. No kneading dough; no rising, then letting it rest, then kneading, and repeating the process. After the dough is prepared (you can leave it in the fridge for several days), you cut off a chunk the size you need, let it rest for 20 minutes or so, and prep it to cook. Then walk away. Mmmmmm, bread and honey....

Now we just need to figure out the best way to make a "root cellar" here to store our onions and potatoes.

On the job front, M has had a few calls in the past couple of weeks, but no results yet. But people still are calling and interested. As for me, after some discussions with customers from my freelancing, I learned that I should be able to "make a go" of freelancing, getting as much work as I estimated that I need to make the same amount of money that I'm making on my contract with the government (far more money than I've made on any other job). So when my contract runs out May 19, no more putting up with the crap at that particular place. I learned today that I had actually made it in at number 5 of the 5 candidates selected by the first stage of the hiring process. Luckily, though, that was low enough that I couldn't be considered. Of the 5 candidates, 3 or 4 were veterans, so they were automatically bumped ahead of me. And 3 or 4 (including me) had Masters Degrees. So even though some of them had absolutely no experience doing what the job requires, they were already "more qualified" than me, and it would have been nearly impossible for the program manager to make justification to the higher-ups to choose me over the others. Sad for them, truly. But now I don't have to feel the least bit of a twinge of conscience about choosing to leave the group I was with because I don't want to put up with the ridiculous bureaucratic shit they have to deal with every day.

So, come May 19, I will be self-employed full-time as an editor and provider of other publishing resources. I should have enough work to pay me the money we need to pay our bills, but I could use enough money to get us health insurance. This means that if you know someone who needs a manuscript edited, a resume or cover letter proofread, a story critiqued, etc., send them my way. For a modest fee, I can probably do it. ;)

* Stringham high: So far (knock on wood), all our recently transplanted plants seem to be "taking" and thriving.
* Stringham low: Still no job for M.
* Stringham super-high: 21 days in my contract, then I can take a few days' vacation and work from home!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

WTG? (Who's the Golfer?)

Wonderful weather. 60 degrees, sunny, breeze 10-11 mph.

12 hours of planting and cultivating today. Planted 8 more arborvitae along the western edge of the property for a windbreak. Then I mowed for 4 more strawberry rows and tilled 3 of them while M dug holes for our fruit bushes.

We then planted 2 sugar maples, a dwarf apple tree, a dwarf pear tree, a Bartlett pear tree, 5 blackberry bushes, 9 raspberry bushes, and 6 blueberry bushes. That was done around 6 PM.

Then M started the third tilling pass through the three strawberry rows I had started, while I filled in peat moss and hoed and raked behind him. 3 hours (including 20 or 30 minutes for dinner) later, 2 of the rows were tilled, fertilized, raked, hoed, and covered with weed-blocking cloth, and the 3rd row was tilled. I was ready to collapse. Mostly, my arms and legs were shaking uncontrollably. I used my legs to fight the tiller and do most of my shoveling. And I've never had much arm strength, and all the tilling, shoveling, hoeing, lifting, and raking across the 10 1/2 hours of work we did just turned my arms to Jell-o. I honestly don't know how I'm able to type right now. But I do know that my thumbs really, reallyreallyhaveareallyreallyhardtimepressingthespacebar.Oh,mypoorpoorthumbs.

Other than being Jell-o, I'm not sore (yet), and M's not either, though he's going to have quite a bit of pain when his tries to move his lobster-red neck tomorrow.

Incredibly disappointed that we didn't get more done, but our yard looks completely different now. It doesn't look or sound like we did much, but I think the grubs and worms in our soil would beg to differ (if they could speak, of course).

* Stringham high: 13 trees and 20 bushes planted today!
* Stringham low: Strawberry rows not done, and not one of the 100 strawberry plants got put in dirt today. :(
* Stringham super-high: We keep digging more glass and crap out of the ground. (This is good because it means there's a little less junk in our soil every day.) Click the title of this post to see what we dug up while making the hole for our very last blueberry bush.

OMG Trees!

We had soaked the roots of the trees that were delivered on Wednesday. M dug holes for all the trees while I was at work on Thursday so we could plant them all. While I was at work, I got a text message from M: "The good news is that I have all the holes dug. The bad news is that we got more trees, so I don't have all the holes dug." Poor bastard.

So when I got home and we had had dinner, we started the about 5 or 6 planted before the rain started. (We were moving kind of slowly because M was so sore from all the tilling and hole digging and because I'm...well...a wuss still. No upper-body strength built up yet this year.) No worries, just a little rain. But we worked a little faster. Then it got gradually harder, and thunder started in the distance.

I suggested to M that we stop, so he said he wanted to get the fruit trees planted. We stopped planting the evergreen windbreak and moved to the other side of the driveway. As we planted the first or second tree, I saw lightning to the south. We hurried a little more as we saw a little more lightning. Then the lightning started showing up to the west--heading our way. We were pushing dirt and planting soil into the holes around the trees as quickly as we could while also *trying* to be gentle with the trees. No real TLC for the fruit trees as we planted them. [Title links to how they feel.]

As soon as we finished those holes, we nearly ran inside and closed everything up. We had planted 28 trees in under 2 hours. Nothing like the fear of electrocution to speed things up!

After I got cleaned up, we went out for ice cream, and then went to bed.

On Friday, M got up, walked to the couch, and fell asleep again. Then more trees were delivered.

That was the last of 'em.

We used Friday evening to get 3 more bags of tree and shrub soil, 8 more bags of peat moss, 10 more bags of mulch, some more weed-block cloth and stakes for the cloth.

Today is the big challenge. It's supposed to be a beautiful day, warm (well, 60 degrees) and sunny (that part is true so far). The alarm went off at 7:15. [M woke up earlier from the excitement. He said it was because he had napped all day before, but I know, it was really the excitement ;) ] We've had breakfast and are preparing to work our asses off. [I've said it before and I'll say it again: I wish the phrase were true, because I could stand to lose some ass.] We have to accomplish as much today as possible because we are supposed to have more storms tomorrow and snow on Monday and Tuesday.

Yes, you read that right. Monday, snow. Tuesday, snow. April 6 and 7. Snow. Spring is taking a nap, like M yesterday.

Updates tonight if we can still move....

* Stringham high: Who needs an exercise regimen? (Oh, and we now have "landscaping" to go with the giant ruts and mounds of dirt left behind from the geothermal heat pump line installation.)
* Stringham low: As M keeps pointing out, with all the supplies, it costs more to plant the trees and bushes than to buy the trees. [Steph: well duh!]
* Stringham super-high: In 3 years (if the birds don't eat too much off the "buffet"), we'll be rolling in strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and maybe a few apples, peaches, pears, and plums. Oh, and cherries.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Livin' on a Prairie

I had a migraine that kept me from going to work this morning, but as it turned out, that was fortuitous. The headache was well under control and down to a dull roar by 11, then throwing a nasty hissy-fit around 11:30, just before we got a large delivery of trees and plants. This time, it was the rest of our seed potatoes, 25 strawberry plants, 2 magnolia trees, 24 evergreens for a windbreak, and [most of] our super fruit tree (8 of 9) collection.

Well, M wanted to get started right away, but we couldn't realistically plant all of them, especially with my head roaring at me. So we did our research (ah, don't we always?) and got my headache under control with the meds, the sunglasses, and some lunch, and away we went to get mulch and weed-blocker cloth and all the other planting things we needed. [Including a gorilla wagon, which is awesome. It has four wheels and has a dumping basket. We can carry up to 600 pounds in it and dump up to 300. It took an hour and a half to put together, but after 5 minutes of not having to lug around a bag of wet peat moss, it was totally worth it.]

M tilled a big stretch of 100 feet for the strawberries after we agreed where to plant everything. At 6:30, we started mixing peat moss into the soil, and at 8:30 we were done. Tomorrow, the trees...

* Stringham high: Trees, trees, trees! Straaaaaaaaaaaawwberries!
* Stringham low: What's there to be sad about on a day that was sunny and in the 50s?
* Stringham super-high: We took a break after working the soil and laying the weed-blocking cloth and laid down on the grass, staring at the sky. In that moment, ah, the contentment! I spent my morning and early afternoon freelancing (in the semi-darkness) and the afternoon working to plant our food. I spent the whole day with my husband, working on our little "mini-farm/soon-to-be orchard," and lying next to him in the sun. Only a couple of kids and a dog running around could have made me feel more delighted. [The title links to an article about mini farms. What we are doing is not absent of power tools, nor is it focused on making ure to be pesticide free, but it is very close to this.]