Friday, May 29, 2009

More Change than President Obama

* Stringham high: We have neighbors! Both houses across the road from us are now occupied. Our new neighbors just started moving in Wednesday evening. Now we just need to meet them. Waiting for the right time, since they seem to have movers and contractors and other helpers there constantly. We're planning for today...we just have to get our social sides kicked in the butt to take our new neighbors the welcome basket we made them (well, and M has to make some of his tasty bread to go with the basket).
* Stringham low: What's there to be low about? I've been working my tushy off freelancing, and it's been fun!
* Stringham super-high: We had a red strawberry yesterday! It was smile, and it wasn't fully ripe yet, but M snipped it off because he didn't want the birds getting to it first. (Oh, and we picked up a WiiFit when we went grocery shopping last night--first time we'd SEEN one, and there were bunches and bunches...stayed up until 3 AM playing and working.)

Monday, May 25, 2009

We've Got Wood

This weekend, my parents came up and brought with them my cousin BJ and his wife, C, to cut down the 2 mature trees we have that were rotting. We knew when we bought the place last year that 3 of the 4 trees were rotting and would have to come down, and of course, last year, half of one tree fell on and near our house, necessitating its cutting then. But the other 2 were left for when we had the money to get them cut.

But my parents decided to spend their holiday weekend helping us. So they persuaded BJ and C to come up. BJ brought his tree-felling equipment, and within an hour of their arrival on Saturday, had the first tree (one along our driveway) down. While Dad and BJ used the chainsaws to cut the branches and limbs into manageable pieces, Mom, M, C, and I drug the limbs away to a pile and stacked up the wood in an out-of-the-way place. Three or 4 hours later, only the main part of the trunk remained on the ground (and it lies there yet today, waiting for M to split the pieces into manageable, moveable sizes). Luckily, the skies had gotten cloudy and a breeze had picked up just as my parents and BJ and C arrived, so we weren't miserable the whole evening.

After dinner, we all fell, exhausted, into bed, and woke up early yesterday morning to make a "quick" trip to Home Depot for more supplies. The day was a little sticky, but still cool. Until we started on the tree. This time, we were felling the tree that's on the west side of the house, amid all the ruts left when the heatpump line was dug and laid, where we have no shade, but sun exposure all day after 9 or 10 AM in the summer. The humidity really vamped up, and it got up to the mid-80s, at least. The tree fell easier than the first one had, but it was almost unbearably difficult to cut up and move...the thing was full of water, so it was dense, and hard to cut and move. Add to that the fact that we were still worn out from Saturday night and were so hot and that we had to watch every step for fear of twisting our ankles in ruts, and you had a crew of extremely sweaty, thirsty, filthy (did I mention that the sawdust from this tree was super-fine?) people. At almost no point were all 6 of us working like we had on Saturday. Instead, 2 or 3 of us worked as long as we could, until we thought we'd fall flat on our faces, then take a seat and drink water, beer, or soda, and then we'd rotate, going back to work while others rested, or we'd all collapse for a while until someone could muster up enough gumption to haul just one more wagonload of wood to the pile. (Across grass the whole way, so the pulling of the cart or the dragging of the branches was far more difficult than it had been Saturday, when most of the trip had been on the smooth driveway, and shorter.)

Again, several very big pieces of trunk are lying in our yard, but the limbs that landed in the neighbor's field were all dragged away, and all the pieces that were small enough were carted to our woodpile, though they were simply dumped unceremoniously into a large pile instead of neatly stacked. We were just too damned tired to do much after about 3 hours of cutting, dragging, and hauling.

That's it on the tree front. We now have just 1 shade tree left, and it's pretty young and on the northeast side of the house, so it doesn't help much...

Meanwhile, the reflective ribbons M put on the fruit trees, along with the blood meal spread around them, seem to have kept the deer from further nibbling, so our "appetizer" trees have really bounced back.

Several of the greens in our garden are popping up; all of our corn mounds have sprouted and have plants at least 3 inches tall; our tomato plants are thriving in our water-bottle "thermal protection" pods.(TM) :) (Pictures shown here are from Mother's Day weekend, when we planted the corn and transplanted the tomatoes, not of the sprouts)

Our potatoes are thriving. (And BJ has offered to give us as many old truck tires as we want to use for planting the potatoes next year. Three cheers for [free] recycling!) Our beans seem to be suffering from SOME exfoliation, but according to our companion planting guide, the potatoes should be attracting some other insects that will feed on our bean-stripping friends.

Our Ozark strawberry plants have teensy little strawberries everywhere. All but one blackberry bush is showing foliage; same with the blueberry bushes. Sunflowers are starting to sprout, and our Jerusalem artichokes are really shooting up.

And tomorrow, I begin my stint as a full-time freelancer. I think I'll start by taking half a day off. (Well, it's to donate blood, not to play hookie.) Cheers!

Oh, and we had another traffic pull-over while we were working outside yesterday. Instead of pulling into our driveway, this genius just pulled off the side of the road at our mailbox. (The picture isn't that great because I didn't want to be obvious about taking pictures of two cops pulling a minivan over.)

* Stringham high: Rotten trees: 0 Seifert/Stringham family: 2
* Stringham low: Supreme exhaustion
* Stringham super-high: Go, go gardening!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Oh Deer, the Carnage Has Begun!

It's official--I am now a full-time freelance editor! *gulp* Yesterday, the final day of my contract, was bittersweet, as I left behind some good coworkers and friends and some...not-so-great coworkers (I found a great piece of advice a few weeks ago: If you can't be kind, at least have the decency to be vague.), knowing that they'll be a little (well, a lot, for a while) worse off without me.

As I helped water the garden last night, I discovered that quite a bit of our corn has sprouted, and our tomato plants are getting bigger and healthier. As we did our walk-around last night, M and I were also extremely excited by the green strawberries he had found yesterday (that's his finger behind one of the berries, for scale, and his cell phone takes blurry pics) and the blossoming of nearly every fruit bush we have. Despite the unseasonably cool weather we've had the past couple of weeks, our plants seem to be doing exceptionally well. We may even have some salad greens sprouted from some planting we did 10 days ago.

Oh, and the deer have been nibbling the sugar maples and the Bartlett pear as they've walked through our yard. We got some blood meal today to put around the trees, and if we need more help, we might get some hair clippings from our hair dresser. I've read that the combination of blood meal and human hair is very effective.... Of course, I've also read that stopping deer from eating plants is difficult and requires a 3-pronged approach and that it varies from location to location, depending on the type of deer and the type of plant. So why should our deer "problem" be any different than our other issues? ;) We don't want to harm the deer, and we don't mind sharing--we just want to give the trees a chance to get large enough so that some nibbling doesn't do them too much harm. We'll keep you posted as we experiment.

* Stringham high: Full-time freelancing!
* Stringham low: Building raised beds and storage bins for our root crops is more expensive than we'd like.
* Stringham super-high: Corn growing much better than last year!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

It was cold, but we planted. M hoed and raked, and I raked and hoed, and we built mounds for our corn and transplanted our seedlings and planted 2-liter Mountain Dew bottles. We hope to corner the market on New Dew, the second-generation Dew that results from 2 Dews mating. We even threw in some Dr. Pepper and Coke bottles for good measure. The female bottles should fill up, and we harvest during gestation, and bam! Instant money-maker!

Okay, seriously, we DID plant 2-liter bottles, in a hexagonal pattern with tomato and pepper seedlings in the hexagons. The 2-liter bottles are filled with water and are meant to serve as a temperature equilibriator, protecting the plants from sudden rises and drops in temperature, which is apparently the kiss of death for tomato and pepper seedlings.

We made 30 mounds for corn and planted 4 types of corn: 3 sweet varieties and a blue corn for grinding for flour. We transplanted about 50 pepper and tomato seedlings, I'm guessing. And some cauliflower and broccoli and marigolds and chives. And we planted lavender, cilantro, dill, and sweet basil in our "herb garden" (a section of our very large "normal" garden). And then there was a row of carrots and white onions; a row of turnips, beets, and radishes (oh, and we transplanted one "volunteer" radish that Mike found in the garden); half a row of leaf and head lettuces; and some dwarf marigolds as "barriers" to some parts of the garden to help with pest control.

All in all, it was a lot of work, but not bad for about 8-10 hours. And we did all that while entertaining somewhat unexpectedly--my parents called late Saturday morning to ask if they could come visit for the night.

We are both exhausted (me so exhausted that I can't even TRY to make this post funny or entertaining), I am peeling from the sunburn I got two weeks ago, M has just added more to his standing sunburn (I swear, I'm just going to have to tackle him and put sunblock on him forcibly, or he'll never have it on), and we (of course) still have more planting to do. But we planted everything that was planned for this weekend. Tuesday, in honor of our anniversary (our agreement to always plant something on or near our wedding anniversary instead of buying each other cards or flowers or going on a date), we're planting some sunflowers.

* Stringham high: No more tilling for months! (Unless we run out of garden space...)
* Stringham low: M is so exhausted that I don't think he can remember his name, much less help me come up with an idea of a low.
* Stringham super-high: 7 more days of my contract (9 calendar days), and hello, career independence!!!!!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

I Like To Hear the Rain Come Down

It’s a beautiful day.

I came home early, in pain, from work. A migraine. The “perfect storm” of hormones and changing barometric pressure. As soon as I walked in the house, the smell of a “cat house” assailed me. We have two cats, both fixed, but they can make the whole house smell like we’ve got an entire litter using anywhere and everywhere in the house as their own private litter box.

Then I saw the corrected adjustment for a bill that I paid over the weekend. I had thought the corrected bill and had already arrived and that that’s what I had paid. But no, I somehow didn’t give it thought when I paid it and only just realized that I’d paid the original full amount, rather than what I should have paid.

And M said he has an interview on Monday. Woo, good news! But it’s “an insurance job.” Well, I know how that will go, but at least he has an interview. But still, I rained on his parade. I couldn’t help myself, apparently.

He asked why I hadn’t asked him about the bill over the weekend, and I said, basically, I screwed up. I assumed that the bills we had in our bill holder, the one specially meant to hold our bills in the right slot so we’ll be sure to pay them on time, had our old bill instead of the new one we had received. Silly me.

So I was tetchy. Pissy. Angry.


M walked into another room, I thought to use the restroom, but never came back. So I put on my shoes and went out to the porch to sit in the rain. I realized I had overreacted when I was doing it. My hormones overpowered me. Despite what my best friend D used to tell me, I DON’T give my hormones too much credit. I only wish I did. They don’t get like this all the time, but every once in a while, they go crazy. Smells are sharpened, exaggerated. I can’t focus on anything—including thoughts—long enough to see them through to completion. Any little interruption that comes along aggravates me, gets under my skin.

So I overreacted. And I got pissed about overreacting. So I sat, with my hooded sweatshirt on, on a patio chair on the porch, listening to the rain pitter-pat gently on the grass, through the leaves of the trees, onto the pavement of the porch, the sidewalk, the driveway, soothing me to calmness. The sound of the rain is gentle, comforting, calming. I watch a squirrel run partway up a tree trunk across the road. The mist has settled in between the trees, the moisture combining with the semidarkness under the trees to blur the lines of everything, the squirrel and the edge of the tree trunk becoming less distinct the longer I watch.

I turn my head up to the sky and let the drops caress my closed eyelids, massage the tension from them even as they twitch from the sudden, light plunks. I inhale the cool, damp air, rich with the scent of freshly cut grass and heavy with relaxation. As the cars slosh by on the highway, makes me think that the earth is breathing, the kiss of the cars’ tires on the pavement acting as the slight aspiration of the earth’s sigh, the spray rising behind the cars like the moisture that freezes in the air after you exhale on a very cold day.

The rain is starting to soak through the sleeves of my sweatshirt. I sigh. Truly, it is a beautiful day. These days are rare; the chance to enjoy them, even rarer. The slow fall of this rain, its slow, steady fall, this air temperature, the green of all the fresh leaves and new grass, the mist, the chitter of birds in the tree branches, all flow together, intertwine gently, like lovers reuniting after weeks apart, holding one another gently, caressing one another in reverence.

Sighing slightly with the earth, I wander back inside, my anger cooled for the moment, my hormones held at bay.

But there, waiting, is the sound of a crazy bird that has spent all day flying into one of our windows. Into the same spot, over and over again, making a huge smudge on the window. Thunk. Thunk…..Thunk…Thunk. No idea why, just hurting itself over and over again. Mike said maybe the bird that ran into the window the other day was a female and scattered pheromones on the window and this is a male trying to get to her. A possibly good theory, certainly worth consideration. Nope. Even window cleaner on the spot didn’t make it stop for more than 5…thunk…minutes. The cats yell at it. Thunk. The cats moan at it, hungry, excited. Thunk. Thunk. … Thunk. I stare at it. Thunk. Crazy—Thunk!—bird. Thunk. Son of a bitch. Thunk.

Mike picked up George from his napping position in a dining room chair and carried him to the bird’s window. The bird flew away to watch from the tree stump at the west end of the house. It values its life enough to stay away from a human and a cat, apparently. But it has no fear of a window that obstinately holds its ground against the bird’s crazed—but somehow mellow—attacks. Crazy freaking animals we have around here. Seriously, first drag-racing mice, and now a suicidal bird? The darker side of me wants to laugh and wonder where the rest of his compatriots are…maybe something similar was Hitchcock’s inspiration. Crazy effing bird.

15 Minutes Later…

The bird has stopped.

For now.