Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Job Ate My Homework


Just got a nice comment from Willa who has been so busy at her new job which leaves her very little time for relaxation. I'm relating!

The training has commenced. There is so much to be learned, soaked up, plunged into, and drowned in that I am wondering if I've been operating all these years with the mental capacity of a hamster. A remedial one at that.

First have come the codes memorization, the indoctrination, and the multi-layered computer programs and screens. And the deadlines. First day was test one. Second day was test two. The past two tests three and four were back to back the past two days, with columns of numbers to be memorized, each number the code for a particular event.

My brain is numb, and were this a job I wanted less, I'd have found some honorable way to back out of it well before now. But despite the confusion and cramming stage I'm currently in, I DO want to do this and I'd surely like to see if the old girl has it in her....CAN I do it?

Answer: I'll give it the ol' college try...I'll never know unless I do! :) Next up, a column of ten-codes used in dispatch, and two to go next week. And having to remember the 100 signal codes I've already learned.

I pray daily!!! Miracles have happened all along the way, so forward, ho! (and I'm SO grateful to the Almighty for helping me...especially in the sleep and memory departments)

I worked 8 days the first stretch of training, then had 3 days off. Now we're on an alternating 8 and 12 hour day schedule, for the time being. The 12 was yesterday, so this 8 hour day felt like a piece of cake.

On my days "off," it was the only time I had to study for the tests for this week, or at least the first two. (I'm studying for the third now cold turkey). But it was so nice to be home....HOME...much of that time off, and I'm a bit homesick to be home. It's a season right now for what's at hand, and it's exciting. But I was reminded WHY we're doing it all this particular way. We actually got a call from a lady who received one of J's mailing letters about doing a land swap, and though it didnt work out (she gave us another lead, though), it fuels the fire of continuing to follow leads and making a way towards our own place in the country.

Gotta scoot now and leave the blog undone so that my homework won't be. This is my progress journal, and the past tests met with high scores (thank you God for helping me!). I'm praying for success for the upcoming ones, especially the next one.

I'm really valuing the time I DO have at home when I finally get to see my husband and daughter each day/night. And I'm seeing daily how fragile life really is, and am coming home and really SEEING what matters most to me.

There's little time for anything else during this phase. It's a marathon, and I'm out of shape, but still chugging along! With this schedule and the 70 mile roundtrip commute each day, I've been lucky to get 4 or 5 hours of sleep most days.

I'd love to sit here and dig into that promised but neglected Pollinator project, but it'll have to keep a while longer. I only have enough time to water the plants, harvest them, and eat some great salad.

And catch up on that elusive thing called sleep...

It's raining here.....hope you're all getting some!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Legislation and the Term "Organic"

I'm short on time, but this article is worth noting...and acting upon.

Let's not let the term "organic" be further made a joke.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Oh the Barneys and the Fifes...

Not much time.

I sum up...

(Cue the Mayberry "deputy" music)

New job (911)has commenced, and the first few days are observation in which I'm paired with operators who will later become my trainers after I've completed the Academy. I'm supposed to be getting a better feel for things this way. Being a hands-on sort, there is only so much of a feel one can get till being trained on the multiple screens and applications. But I've REALLY enjoyed the folks I've been assigned to accompany.

I'm beginning to hear some of their experiences, too, and to get my "sea legs" as calls are taken. I'm finding my years of being a mom to my daughter as well as having kept other children is coming in very handy. A cool head is needed while trying to get basic information and sometimes requiring problem-solving skills, and no two calls are exactly the same.

I'm about to head to bed, again, due to the schedule we are keeping right now. I have a twelve hour day tomorrow, and I've already spent the time off today catching up with my daughter, after having pulled some crazy hours I'd normally be home.

But just wanted to mention one funny thing...

My trainer today was telling me about some people who've watched too many police shows on TV, or who like to listen in on the open public dispatch lines for police and fire calls. Since most of the lingo is in signals and codes, some of these callers will try to use the same vernacular when they call in. My trainer was chuckling when telling me about this.

This is the example she gave...(no real codes, names or places given here)

Operator: 911 emergency, what is your location?

Caller: My ten-thirty-one is Such-N-Such, and I'm at mile marker 80.

Operator: (Nonplussed) Can you verify your phone number for me?

Caller: (verifies)

Operator: Do you need police or an ambulance?

Caller: Maybe the police. I just need to report a ten-41.

Operator: Tell me exactly what your emergency is, sir.

Caller: A ten-30 just passed me doing 90 in a 70 and is ten- 41 and is endangering the lives of others.

Operator: Sir??

Caller: I said a speeding car overtook me on the highway doing 90 in a 70 and is driving recklessly... Oh yes, I did get their tag number. It's Florida tag A-C-6-7-Q.

Operator: (Repeating the tag numbers back...) Your cell phone is breaking up...can you repeat that tag number, sir...was that a Q or a 2?

Caller: (Repeating slowly and loudly for clarity) That is A as in Alpha, C as in Charlie,

six, seven, Q as in cucumber...

(Oh my gosh, STILL LAUGHING!!!)

The phonetic alphabet will never be the same.

Photo link:

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Closed for shabbat

This week has been so busy with preparations for both my daughter's schooling and the beginning days of my new job. It sometimes feels as if there's a birthing process before any worthwhile undertaking in which you just have to gently ride out the demands and all the To Do lists, and any complications. But it is so worth it!

Before taking this job, I wrestled with the reality that it would sometimes require work days that overlapped the sabbath, since that is central to our family's core convictions before God. My conclusion was that there are certain jobs, related to protecting or saving lives, that do not qualify as doing commerce (even though we're paid to do those jobs). Doctors and nurses are still needed, police and emergency workers, guards, etc. There were always watchmen needed on the walls in biblical times, on all days. There is still something inside me that is uncomfortable and conflicted, as if I'm interrupting a correct order of things. I do have a peace that I'm to do this now, though, and that there will be opportunities later to try to tailor a more flexible work schedule to the other days.

I'm very very thankful.

R is finally registered in her school, all uniforms ordered, rides and bus routes roughed out. Books will be gotten next week, and the bus routes tested. J is still plugging away at his job, fairly happily, and the shift he is now on seems to work well with his body's time-clock better...he is resting really much better when he sleeps now, and is waking refreshed.

Very grudgingly, after checking out all other available options, we had to make the decision to purchase an additional used vehicle. That really hits us where it hurts financially, which goes against our plan of not acquiring further debt obligations. It was one of those situations we tried to get our brains around, since I need this job...we all need for me to have this job. The researching and locating of a vehicle within an acceptable price range was thrown into the already busy days of the past two weeks, and we found one we thought would be about right. Most older models are not gas-efficient, and that doesnt make us too happy. The commute is a given, though, since our area is still rather small and growing. The day after we bought the vehicle As Is, the AC went out...or maybe I should say it works when it wants to. So we added repair shop to the already busy schedule and I ran both weeks' errands in our unairconditioned existing vehicle while the newer one was in the shop. Florida weather feels QUITE warm in an oven on wheels, ha!

After all that, the newer vehicle requires AC money we don't have as yet, and so I will content myself with Sometimes AC, and just have some fun with the rolled down windows. That said, in all other ways, I LOVE the new car :) (Because it has a lot of other things going for it, and though we didn't spend much money comparatively, we did get a lot for our money which we'd not have opted for in a newer one).

We rested last night. The uniform is hung awaiting its first outing later today. The codes I'm trying to memorize are swirling about in my head and I feel like it's the first day of school.

I've caught up with friends I won't get to talk to by phone for a while, and I think maybe, MAYBE, things are at a point where they can run themselves here without too much drama for the next little while.

The Pot Garden soldiers on, and I jealously look forward to the days down the road I can re-unite with it for longer periods and have a chat with the eggplants and peppers and actually harvest some of that basil. The weather's seeming very very hot, and it's not even officially summer here yet.

If the schedule allows, I will try at some point to sneak some time at the beach after the early shift, since the location is right nearby. I can't think of a better mini-vacation to de-stress. I'm also wanting to begin a daily walk, to rattle these bones (and their padding) into better shape.

I am so thankful for family, friends, blog friends, garden, dreams, JOB!, and health...and for open doors and those that were closed. I'm thankful to the Almighty, who guides and blesses and remembers.

I thank Him for watching over us with such care, and restoring places in my life that were long bereft. And for my husband, a wonderful husband and father, and who had another birthday this week.

So very, Very, much for which to be grateful.

Shabbat shalom :)

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Jazz Singer

Gail, Gail, Gail.
I just listened to your sample MP3 clips, and what can I say other than "Girl!"


We're all familiar with the question, "what do you want to be when you grow up?"

We put those questions to children quite often...

Fireman? Doctor? Astronaut? Airplane pilot? Teacher?

My sister and I would stage mock plays when we were little, whenever we were at our grandparents' house. Old drapes were our gowns, and lampshades were our Audrey Hepburn hats. We'd announce ourselves from outside the room where the adults were gathered talking, run in and say "Tah DAhhhhh!!!!" then proceed to act out some story or fashion show. I think at some point we spiced things up in the designer wear category by digging deeper into Grandma's bureau. She had a real collection of older bauble type jewelry that she never wore. And she was very modest and kept most of her private things, concealed. I have to say she was a really good sport when we'd model wild outfits pieced together from hers and my grandpa's wardrobes. Aside from the collection of hats, scarves, and Coty makeup, we'd dash out, sporting headdresses made of her whalebone girdle and "evening wear" featuring her very robust and utilitarian 18 hour bra.

That was about the extent of my sister's and my stage careers...

As a child, I was also horse crazy. It really hasn't gone away, it's just mellowed a bit. It started before I was even able to walk. My first toy was a stuffed donkey on rolling wheels, and I wore that thing out. Then on to the plastic horse with springs on a metal frame. I "rode" for years that plastic steed. Then came Breyer horse models, Marguerite Henry books, Walter Farley, horse care guides, tack stores. No REAL horse, mind you, but as close as I could get to them. Horse barns (there's no better smell than that and saddle leather to a horse lover). If I couldnt HAVE a horse, I still made up games as if I did. We raced (ran) and I was really fast. We jumped hurdles. I lined up outdoor garbage cans and would jump then re-enacting National Velvet (as would my equally horse-crazy best friend, which is how she ended up taking a spill and spraining her ankle).

I told my parents emphatically I wanted to be a jockey. As in the petite riders of very swift and very large thoroughbreds. This went on for years, despite the fact I'd never yet ridden a horse or been taken to a racetrack. By the time I was in fifth grade and was the tallest girl in my class, my parents broke it to me, somewhat gently, that I had already surpassed the height of the taller horse-racing jockeys in the business, and was likely to keep growing.

Despite my attempts to slouch down in my seat and wear flats, I still grew. So my dream morphed to horse breeding. I would own and operate a horse farm. (I just knew this in my heart...there was no doubt. I even had the names and breeds picked out, and was working on the bloodlines).

This, of course, has not happened, but look where having a love of the country life has brought us now :) Look how many titles we've had and how many hats we've worn in the journey. I think our kids would panic less when faced with the question of what they want to "be" if they realized that no one single hat defines a person nor keeps a person in a static place.

Now in my forties, I'm surprised to find how many of us who've had to do many jobs we've not particularly liked, usually from necessity, still find outlets to continue growing in the areas that energize us. Whether it's writing, singing, entertaining, gardening, being outdoors, sewing, knitting, painting, playing an instrument, raising animals, baking, etc there are some things that begin to unfold simply because of the freedom and joy we feel while trying them.

I applaud all our attempts and all the things that bring us joy. I applaud the folks who try things because they CAN and WANT to...for the joy of it, and not necessarily for their profit potential or having to be a virtuoso. I can't dance for the life of me, but I love to try. And I love (ok, I can hear the snorts, lol) belly dancing music. I even enrolled my daughter and me a few years ago in a belly dancing class together (talking about "making a memory"..hahaha). Let's just say she has more natural ability than I do in that area, but I still love it. I love so many other things. Maybe I'll get a chance to do some of them, maybe not, but there are a thousand things to try, and do, and love.

There was a line in Chariots of Fire that went something like this:
In response to the question put to the champion runner of "why do you run?" his reply was "because when I run, I feel God's good pleasure."

I've always taken that to mean, rather than fulfilling others' expectations, that there are some things we are BORN to love doing because they are a part of our very individuality. And when we do them, we feel joy simply in being who we ARE....soaring in the things that bring us joy, or even trying new things we wonder about.

I have a real friend who is one of those remarkable women you can pick right back up with, even after months or years, without missing a beat mid-conversation and automatically connect...and especially laugh. She has a full career, is strong, original, and intelligent and takes time to savor the things that bring her joy. She is an adventurer in inspired cook, passionate organic foodie, and the real thing when it comes to die-hard girl talk. In short, she's perfected real friendship.

That's one of the reasons I'm so delighted for her now, as she branches out into a new avenue of discovery. Among being so many other things, she's a remarkable jazz singer. It has become for her an area that gives real range of expression to so many of her inner worlds...she's singing publicly now (others are discovering her fabulosity!), and it's a pleasure to listen.

For a brief introduction to Gail, and to hear her interpretations through song, there are a couple of clips on her page at If you're in her area, hearing her live is a rare treat :) I think she'll have a CD out this fall sometime.

Great for listening to as you, or we, are doing the things we LOVE, as well...

Here's to what brings us those feelings of discovery and those "runners' highs" in our lives...and the doors of continued possibilities standing ajar.


Hey, Gail....

"....Tah Dahhhh!!"

Learning as I go: What to do better

The temps are sizzling here now.

I'm glad we've begun small because we can learn from our mistakes in minature. Here's what's transpiring with The Pot Ranch out back (no, not growing our own marijuana, lol):

1. Space/Room --
As I was forewarned by those who knew better than we did (yes, all you bloggers out there with your own better-maintained gardens!), the tomatoes ARE crowded because I never transplanted them to bigger ones. My work schedule picked up right at that point, and it never got done, and sooo.... they need room to stretch their vines. I staked them and used a pre-fab store bought cagelike thingy (triangular, repositionable grip strips). They just arent allowing enough air circulation among the vines if you squish all the burgeoning ones together within the cage. So I've run bamboo stakes horizontally between all the cages just to have something to tie the vines to, loosely so those new tomatoes I see going from flower to baby tomato have a chance to breathe.

What I would do better:
Take the advice of everyone here and give them PLENTY OF ROOM next time.

2. Fertilizers/Nutrients --
I was not prepared with enough homemade compost, despite the ease with which it can, in the right circumstances, be made. After 1 month, the yellowing of the vines led me to call the county extension service fellow and master gardener, who was kind enough to tell me they just arent getting enough nutrients despite the applications of epsom salts I was occasionally applying when watering. He said to get them fertilized ASAP, and often. Again, I acknowlege my need to have been more timely in taking the advice offered by folks HERE on the blog. I asked what a good organic fertilizer would be, and he had little or no suggestions. I'm fully capable of reading up on that and implementing some sort of fix when in a pickle, but without TIME, I did a fast fix...and I'm not too happy about it. I went off the organic track and bought store-bought "regular" fertilizer. Now, my tomatoes are no longer truly organic. They have to be better than storebought, because I've used no pesticides (and I won't...ever). But I'm disappointed that I wasn't better prepared...and sooo...

What I'd do better:
Oh, for the microbe!!! I would HAVE EVERYTHING I NEED...AHEAD OF TIME. INCLUDING ORGANIC FERTILIZER...which means compost compost compost, maybe some comfrey or manure tea, worm castings, decomposed rabbit manure, etc. Emphasis on having these ready Ahead Of Time. NATURALLY.

3. Water--
When you're balancing "outside" work schedules and car-sharing, procrastination ensues in other areas. Hopefully with this new job, once the three month mark has been surpassed, I'll be getting a predictable schedule so that I'll have a more reliable sleeping-waking clock rather than doing different shifts and hours every day. I have been faithful, however, in tending to my little seedlings AND the tomato plants with regular watering. Without it, here, they'd be dead in a day or two what with the heat.

However, I need a more efficient and less wasteful way of watering. Right now, we have several spigots at different points around the exterior of the house, but all of them are run through our water softening system, which utilize bags of salts to soften our home's water. I really didnt want salty water for watering our garden, which would likely kill everything off, so J hooked up a hose at the place out back where the well connects to the softener system, at a pipe that comes straight off the well. You can't pull on it very hard because there's a lot of PVC back there and it's not friendly to manhandling. So when you're dragging lengths of hose around and about to water things, you have to be careful. For the long term, anywhere else, we'll have to do something more practical (meaning if we don't stay here for years to come). In the meantime, I keep my pots pretty near the hose junction so I don't have to be dragging it everywhere. I water with a hand sprayer directly from the hose right now. I can control the force and make sure that it's not beating the plants to death or washing the soil away from the bottoms and disrupting the little seedlings too badly in their flats.

However, a soaker hose system would likely be the better long term option. There is a lot of runoff with even using a hand-held sprayer wand. The greatest waste is from the plastic pots, which do not absorb any of the moisture and don't retain water in the pots very well.

What I would do better:
In time, position the pots where soaker hoses or olla pots (or both) could be used for deeper watering with less waste.


Have a way to access (a) very durable spigot(s) directly from the well without a fragile PVC connection having to be babied.


Having closer access to water for plant beds at different points on the property

4. Types of Containers-- These notes are only regarding container gardening. As we grow, so we hope our gardening graduates to the ground, and the blessed microbes therein, without further ado. In the meantime, I do think things can be grown in pots, and it can still be utilized later even when gardening in beds. As mentioned, I'm beginning to develop a preference for particular types of containers. Here are the types I'm using, and how they're faring:

a. Recycled cardboard boxes --
These were good for sprouting seedlings, and by the time the seedlings were ready for transplant to beds or larger individual containers, the boxes had begun composting themselves. That's fine, and I'll do that again.
Portability. If you want a container you can move around, say to mow or clean up weeds in between, these are not going to be the ones. Once they're there, they're there till you transplant and they decompose on the spot right where they sit. I'd think they'd be great in a bed-style garden, because they can be turned right into the existing soil once they break down, or used to suppress weeds as such. Mine were fine, except the ones I put flowers into. Those began falling apart, and the one I have the carrots in is still holding together, but only barely.

What to do better: I won't use these for larger plants. I won't use them for any plantings needing to be portable.
I'll use these cardboard boxes primarily as starter flats (cut them down to size) and as weed barriers/layers for mulching. I LOVE them in those capacities, as long as they are stationary.

b. Clay pots -- After experimentation, these are my pots of choice. Even though I incorporated the same square footage recommended in the Square Foot Gardening books per plant, it's probably functioning differently since individual pots dont have the benefit of surrounding soil and "spread-room" as do square foot gardens that position several square feet side by side. Though you can take a square foot of space in a pot and grow the same thing, there is the added complexity of it being a freestanding container that dries out and heats and cools differently than a raised bed. The Square Foot gardening book says you only need 6 to 8 inches of depth and a square foot of linear surface for each planting, and yet I found that to apply that reasoning to pots doesnt work the same.

The advantage of the clay pots is that I can literally SEE the moisture being retained and released slowly...after every watering, there is coloration to the outside of the pot that lasts most times at least through the next day. The tomatoes in the clay pots, whether crowded or not, show much less stress overall than any of the ones planted in plastic pots, no matter what the size.

What to do better:
If I intend to continue using pots for growing vegetables, or at least in this case, tomatoes, I'll need to get bigger pots, only plant one plant per pot, use round caging rather than triangular, use old pantyhose cut up to tie up the plants (rather than cotton string I have right now, which seems to be too hard on heavy-laden vines and not "give" as much), and not underplant the tomatoes with any other plants (marigolds, borage, etc).

c. Plastic pots --
Well, I already had these pots, and they worked well enough for certain flowers. And they are much less expensive than buying clay pots. They are also not as subject to being cracked, down the road, if moved about. They do not leach minerals that some plants find irritating.


I just don't like them as much, for many reasons, but the main one being that they don't operate in a natural way, not being made of natural materials. Polyester may be more "durable" in some ways than fabrics that are linen or cotton, but the wearability of the latter is hands-down more comfortable, in my thinking. Just as cotton wicks away moisture, but polyester just bakes it in, I kind of feel like that's how my pots are operating as well. I like the environment of the clay ones much better, and that surprised me. I was all about durable and long-lasting before. If I learn how to repair broken clay pots, however, I think I can justify adding to their numbers slowly, and raising everything else in composted beds. I'll still use the plastics I have, but just plant them with non-fussy annuals like coleus or zinnias, etc. I just don't think I'll be buying more. Even the most decorative ones (and I have some that are beautiful) just didnt perform the same way the clay ones did.

What to do better:
Don't buy any more plastic pots. If I freecycle existing plastic pots, use them for non-edible plants, such as hardy annual flowers.

d. Recyled plastic milk crates --
It was fun trying this! I lined plastic milk crates with brown paper grocery bags, for moisture retention, and planted some of them with bell peppers.

I planted the plants too closely together, and therefore they're too crowded and are bearing smaller peppers. But I do have to say this...they are very healthy and the idea did work. This would only be a very workable container situation if the milk crates are already pretty readily available. I still think the clay pots are superior to them in many ways, and are much more attractive.

There is one advantage to the milk crates, though...the side holes, when lined with brown paper grocery bags on the interior, can be punctured through and planted with herbs or strawberries very easily, and grow out from the sides. The moisture retention is quite good, surprisingly! I found that a very hard rain beats the daylights out of the soil, since it's pretty porous, though. I would NOT line the bottom heavily with multiple thicknesses of paper grocery bags, however. This time, I lined it too thickly, with about three or four bags thicknesses, and that was too much. It held in the moisture TOO well. Next time, I'd only use one full bag thickness, and still puncture a couple holes in that. These containers are a cinch to move after being planted, too. I'm glad I tried them!

What I'd do better:
I'll plant them less thickly, use them for things such as herbs and strawberries where the sides can best be utilized, as well. I will not use as many thicknesses of the interior brown paper grocery bag liner on the bottoms so that they will not waterlog, but will only use one thickness on each interior surface. I'll also use them for plants that need to be relocated as the sun's strength heightens, for burn prevention. Not so attractive, but could easily be "sunk" (where container is still on the ground but not visible) behind small edgings of flowers or very low hedges to cycle flowers and herbs in a flowerbed.

e. Recycled plastic flats --
I was pleased with these. They are durable, lightweight, FREE, and very portable...their only advantage over recycled boxes/boxtops. They drained well, and were great for starting seedlings AND for growing mesclun (I've not tried any other lettuce mixes). I LOVED seeing multiple flats all sprouting lettuces in different stages, right there for the picking!

The flats stay!

What to do better:
Never position them under a downspout. Those beautiful watched-over seedlings don't swim well in waterfalls. (Sheesh! lol) The rain wiped out several of my planted flats because I was a little slow in looking UP and deducing that the roofline would shed right on them. Lesson learned.
Whever I can get these free, I will! When I can't, I'll just use cut down cardboard boxes or box tops and make sure I have them where they dont need to be moved around. I'd like to have more of the plastic flats to start many many more seedlings the next time around.

5. Seed, or store-bought tomato seedlings? --
I don't regret buying tomato starts. I would like to know what other varieties out there taste like and how they do in my region, though. I planted two heirloom types of tomatoes...beefsteaks and Mr Stripeys. The other type, and I dont know if it's an heirloom, was Roma.

a. Beefsteaks --
I had an Ooops moment and mistook one for the other when they started fruiting. The beefsteaks produced first, and since the tops of the tomatoes were a light orange before darkening when fully ripe, I mistook them for the Stripeys. These have a basic classic tomato taste. Nothing surprising, except FAR FAR better than storebought. It seems the older the vine is, the smaller the fruits, and the more concentrated the taste. I like these second bloom tomatoes (the ones AFTER the die-off before I started fertilizing them) better. I'm not sure if I'd choose this variety again. After all, the die-off was MY fault and it may be my fault they arent up to par. Let's see how things go the rest of the season.

b. Romas --
These were planted in a large pot, some sort of plastic material container, that apparently didnt have adequate drainage. These little champions were the first tomato starts I bought, back in January. It was mild and sunny here outdoors then, and in the sun, they flourished. But then, in February, we had one of our only freezes of the year, and they blackened and died in a night....with little green tomatoes all over them...arggghhh! Surprisingly, they came back, though, and bore one very heavy bearing of LOVELY Romas! I LOVE the flavor. The longer they bore, the smaller the fruits...likely because of my fertilization faux pas and my ignorance. Then they died and were no more. If I had done a better job, I could likely have some pretty hardy vines still bearing just now. Lesson learned! (wahhh) I WILL want to plant some of these again.

c. Mr. Stripey --
Can I say how mesmerized I am by variegated tomatoes?? These are BEAUTIFUL...that is, the ones that survived my mishandling. I had to trim nearly half the vines and leaves off these plants because of starving them of fertilizer, along with the other tomatoes, before getting on the ball. But they bounced back beautifully. I'm disappointed with the texture, which is a hint mushy, and the flavor, which is mild (some would say bland). However, it's sweeter with less bite than the beefsteaks, and mixing the two type flavors in a salad is a perfect blend. The things I love, though, is the beauty of the sliced fruit...variegated stripes of gold and red make for a party on a plate. The vote's out on whether I'd actually try this variety again, but I KNOW I'll be trying variegated varieties from now on. Gosh, who knew they were so gorgeous?

d. The mystery tomato --
I have one vine, growing off of one of the aforementioned plants, that seems to be not of that variety...since these are not hybrids, I'm not sure what this tomato exactly is. But it is bigger, like a beefsteak, but is a LOVELY color...a pure deep gold. It's in the window, finishing ripening (in case it turns a different color?) but so far looks about ripe and has not changed color. If it stays the same clear gold (no stripes) once fully ripe, we'll nab a tiny taste, see if it's good, and if so, save the seeds to see if it will produce the same beautiful gold offspring. I'll have to read up on how to do that. It's came off a vine with completely different fruits not at all like it.

What I'll do better:
I'll research my area for organic growers to see if anyone is selling starts of other heirloom varieties.
I'll definately grow more Romas, only not killing them this time around, hopefully!
I'll try growing some of those mystery gold tomatoes from seed.
I'll try ordering some heirloom seeds from Baker's Heirloom Seeds (blissful sigh!) to include variegated, purple, and other colored tomatoes.

8. Pesticides --
NONE. We had aphids on some of our tomato plants, but they didtn seem to harm them. I spray water on the leaves regularly, and I believe the increase of the little friendly lizards possibly is due to their having eaten any insects thereabouts...there have been no aphids since. Little birds also frequent the soil beneath the vines. We've had a few tomatoes with spots, but I think those may have been due to extremes in my care of the plants, such as fertilization and watering rather than disease. Since fertilizing more, the plants returned to vigor.

What I'll do better:
Continue to never use pesticides. I caved on the non-organic fertilizers because of availability and my limited time schedule. But I'd rather have dead plants than douse them with chemicals. Down the road I'll read up more on some simple home remedies for addressing specific bug problems, if they arise. But I prefer to let nature take its course. If there is an imbalance, likely I caused it or contributed to it. I'm of the opinion that if there is biodiversity, likely there will be some loss but overall the health of all will be consistent. Let's see if that's idealistic. Gardening is idealistic. We do nothing but cooperate with some invisible tenets that are already in place, and for our efforts get to see miracles before our very eyes. I may use natural deterrents, sprays made from vinegar and such if needed...things like that, in the future. Fences to keep the deer from decimating all the efforts in a single night. Plants that attract beneficial insects and pollinators. It's likely that any plagues of "pests" are just a response to an imbalance in the surroundings, and that it's trying to "right" itself to a better balance in the end. I'll shut up till I have more experience to draw from on this.

But I won't be using pesticides. They kill bees. And people.

7. The things I started from seed:
Bell peppers of different colors
Eggplants, different colors

Not bad for a teensy little beginners garden?

They all grew!! I get points for their survival :)

What I'd do better:
Mesclun -- grow this in our mildest weather. It got bitter quickly as the heat increased. Did GREAT in fuss whatsoever!
Carrots -- well, I think I have the prettiest carrot tops ever. I did finally thin them, per the suggestion of a commenter here...but maybe not in time? let's see.
Bell peppers -- these took time to get bigger. They are about ready to transplant. I will be transplanting them into containers large enough for them to have plenty of elbow room, and fertilizing them regularly. They seem so far to be quite hardy...yay!
Eggplants -- these took the longest to materialize from seed, and I didn't get a lot out of the total seeds planted. However, about ten or twelve have sprouted to become pretty healthy sized seedlings that will soon be outgrowing their little starter pots. On to bigger pots for them!
Basil -- I had no idea these would be as easy to grow as lettuce. They also endure the heat marvellously! I'll surely be growing more of these in the future. And different varieties, as well. The ones I have now need trandsplanting soon. Can't wait till they're big enough to nibble and make into pestos!


Consistency, planning, and adaptation. These are the areas I can continue to improve the most.

Whether we have busy work schedules away from home or not, our lives are made better from doing what we love in tandem with what is best for us. It's nice when those are the same things, such as gardening....even in pots (for now). Some things still change as you actually do them. One thing that has changed in my mind is that I believe now that when it comes time for us to garden on a larger scale, we might forgo the raised bed concept and simply "stack" the layered compost, green manures, green and brown material, manures, and cardboard (not necessarily in that order) into untilled rows or manageable squares that we add more compost and plant materials to throughout the season. In between the rows would be cover crops. We'll see. Eventually I'd love to see my containers hold smaller plants and the more vigorous ones, like tomatoes, have plenty of room to spread their vines out in a deep, rich, composted bed directly in the ground in direct contact with worm and microbe.

Increasing our efficient useage of waste:
MUST compost. We're just not doing that right now. MUST come up with a basic and simple system to begin.

Enough for now :)

My job will be a major time demand, and it may seem like this detracts from the hands-on outdoor projects for a time. It, too, is a season, and is for a greater purpose, to enable our overarching goals. It's my hope this season will be as fruitful as our very first beginner efforts in homesteading have been so far.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Closed for Shabbat

This blog will be closed for the next 24 hours, as is our weekly practice. I am thankful for so many things...namely the Almighty's continued blessings of provision, protection, family, friends...and jobs. He gives in such beautiful ways, and I thank Him!

Congratulations to my daughter, pictured here, who has enchanted me, challenged me, and given me fresh "eyes" for the world around me since the day she was born. Passing on from high school days to college ones is a big transition. It's our joy to get to share in some of that and to see the wings spread and the flights take her to wonderful new places of discovery and learning. The interior life, character, is the one thing we're so glad she's also cultivated.

May YHVH continue to bless and keep you, R, and give you ways to enrich and transform the world around you. Your being "you" already does!

To all friends far and near, and the ones I have yet to meet who may have ventured here for the first time...shabbat shalom :)

Thursday, June 7, 2007

It'll be a great challenge

I'm so excited about the new job. I'll really enjoy the hands-on helping with emergency situations. My first days will be observation in different areas of the commmand center and then after that will follow Training.

Training is rigorous, as will be the schedule. It appears I'm scheduled for 8 straight days and then finally a break. I feel as excited now as I did when I had a chance to return to college a few years ago as an adult, and WANTED to ace everything. Sort of to maximize on the opportunity ...maybe in some way to feel I'm compensating for those foolish first two years so long ago in my teens when I lacked direction and waffled around enjoying myself immensely, but hardly taking my academics seriously.

But I'll really be helping out in all sorts of situations, dispatching immediate response units, and calming panicked folks enough to get help on site. It's almost hurricane season here, and if I can learn all the codes, abbreviations, equipment, etc, then I'll be one of the gang during peak periods. Gosh, I can't wait! I'm realllyyyy going to give it my all, and just see how things go. We needed a way for me to work and bring in extra income towards the giants that need to be slain in the debt category, and now all three of us, daughter included, are all in sort of the same arena...chipping away at training and schooling in the short term to hopefully reap more lasting results permanently.

The one thing I like the most about this workplace so far is the attitude. There is such a striking difference between this particular county and the other I dealt with. I don't know if it's in how it's been organized's quite efficient and upbeat...or if it's that the people are rewarded to a point that they actually want to stay there. Most of the people I'm meeting have been there MANY years, in differing capacities...and they want to STAY. They LOVE it. It's been a many-months process, and now I feel like some of the people I've been getting to know through the testing and interviewing process are folks I'll be glad to know for a long time.

In comparison with some of the jobs I've had in the last two or three years, it's such a welcome feeling. They WANT me there...and they want people to succeed.


We'll see what this old gal is made of, what with the topsy turvy hours (8 and 12 hour shifts, all hours day and night) and the daunting terminologies and skill acquisition (and testing, eek!). Even though I have butterflies, this feels like JOY, so I do know something is so right.

I'm so so SO grateful to God for this opportunity. Just can't say that enough!

Signed my employment contract today. Oh SO good a feeling to be employed. The day I finish my training phase (Lord willing, passing it!), UP goes the "thermometer" on the wall where we can pencil our progress to see the debt total go down down down.

I'm going to be working on my eating and weight at the same time, too. Boy do I need to. The uniform is tailored, shirt tucked in, hiding the ugly stuff under discreet "fat girl clothes." :) I look pretty much the same from every angle, a bowling ball in uniform, ha! And nowhere to hide. So I guess these hips will be doing laps up and down the street between salads so I can live with the mirror, and get some health benefits for all that manure-shoveling I'm dreaming of doing in the NOW-POSSIBLE future!

Off to do some more studying.

LOVING this! :)

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Blacks and Whites

As I've begun familiarizing myself with heritage and endangered breeds of animals, I've noticed the beauty of these no-longer-mainstream animals and wondered about their histories. Each one has its own particular unique set of characteristics and appeal.

An example of this is the Randall Lineback type of cattle. A history of this breed can be found here:

I was disappointed to find that Randall Linebacks don't thrive in warm climates such as Florida. I'm attracted to multi-purpose heritage cattle, but I'll confess I was drawn mostly to this breed's distinctive coloration...something quite different than most cattle I've seen. It grew on me. The pattern is more broken and is not the standard black and white pied color like you see on Holsteins. Often, they have black ears. And black noses. Interesting!

As I've whisked through so many websites and Google searches for this and that over the months, I've begun to notice something. Maybe it's just a coincidence. The broken black/white coloration so distinctive in the Randalls is also found in other breeds worldwide, though each breed has specific points of difference. Some breeds are Bos Taurus and some are not. There seems to be an international occurence of breeds with similar coloration. Here's a sampling of pics, including their home links, so you can see what I mean.

Note the coloration similarities despite geographic locale:

1. White Galloway

2. Randall Lineback

3. American White Park

4. Black-sided Troender and Nordland Cattle

5. Swedish Fjall Cattle

6. Swedish Bohus Polled Cattle

7. Swedish Mountain Cattle

8. Colombian Blanco Oreginegro

9. South African Nguni

10. British White Park

11. Kenyan Boran Cattle

12. Lithuanian White-Backed Cattle

13. Nigerian White Fulani

14. Florida Cracker Cattle (not the only coloration and pattern in this breed, but it does occur both in this and in Texas Longhorn breeds occasionally)

Photos are borrowed for educational purposes only. Photo credits for all pictures above (in differeing order): Sided

Troender and Nordland cattle) (Fjall breed and Bohus

Poll and swedish mountain cattle)



2Bcattle%26svnum%3D10%26um%3D1%26hl%3Den Lithuanian White-BAcked Nigerian White Fulani white galloway

Monday, June 4, 2007


THANK YOU, GOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!







I just found out...after such a long, long wait! And some other parttime jobs that I didn't love so much, but were necessary. Oh, man, I'm SO grateful!!

Each step was a door opened, and could have been just as easily closed. I credit God with giving me the opportunity and keeping the doors open He really wanted me to continue through. Without giving any detail as to all the steps involved, I see this as an amazing gift from Him for so many reasons. It will REALLY help us right now, and hopefully be an accelerator towards many of our longer term goals, including our debt retirement and land acquisition someday.

Reallllyyyyyyyyy thanking God for ALL the miracles He's done ... WOW, and Yaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyy!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(Now to buckle down and make it through the training process...) :)

Does anyone want to venture a guess as to what sort of job it is? I don't think I mentioned that because I didn't want to get my hopes up too much (that might not make sense, but it was all part of holding my breath and hoping).

A hint: I have to memorize 250 codes and the training lasts for the first three months. And the application/testing process just finished up after 7 months!

OH MY GOSH, I'm SO happy!!!!!

Florida panther re-emergence

Interesting news. The Florida panther is making a comeback since having dwindled to very low and endangered numbers only a decade ago. In a move to prevent them from susceptibility to higher mortality rates due to inbreeding, a controversial move was made to introduce Texas cougars into the bloodlines.

It seems that at least in some areas, such as the Everglades, and possibly here in Southwest Florida, that's resulted in a very encouraging recovery in their population. A girl I worked with recently commented on her grandfather's phone call when he saw a panther in his yard. She thought he was pulling her leg with tall tales. He took a picture of the animal. As it tried to find a way to enter his house.

A few months ago, my husband had a breathless moment with such an animal. In a populated area, he paused in the road while driving when he saw a large cat (LARGE) leap in front of his path. It took him a second to realize it was a Florida panther, long and lean and tawny greyish. He said it took one look, and one long seemingly lazy leap, and was gone. But oh the gracefulness of it.

I thought this article was interesting, since livestock owners around these parts have to take that into consideration. Our wild animals and our domesticated ones are sharing a shrinking square footage.

GOLDEN GATE ESTATES: An idea from Africa is being used in Southwest Florida
to protect homeowners' pets and livestock.
Volunteers from local, state
federal agencies are working with the Defenders of Wildlife organization
to keep
all wildlife safe.
They joined in Golden Gate Estates to erect
the same kind
of pen used by African farmers to keep lions away from their

(Read the rest of the article:

Here are the shelters mentioned in the article, the sort constructed originally to keep African lions from harming sheep, goats, and cattle:

I never would have guessed we'd have to one day file this in our growing stash of homestead planning thingies...ha! Who knew?

I wonder if these beautiful bad boys come out in daylight much?

I wonder what I'd do if cornered in a back pasture by Really Big Kitty? Run? I'm not inmarathon condition, and I wouldnt get far. Though the animal might be deterred by laughter at the very sight of my trying. And I don't think my carrying a big stick and trying to wield it would be a very effective bluff, either. I wonder about things like that. Not that it's likely to happen, but then again, as soon as you dismiss the unlikely from happening, isn't that when they're most likely to occur?

I know sound can be used with animals to either relax them or disturb them. I've heard of some folks piping soothing music into their cowsheds for more relaxed milkings, or into riding barns to soothe the more nervous horses. I know noise can also be used to disrupt other pests from setting up camp, such as colonies of roosting starlings. Where we lived in Tennessee there was just such an overpopulation that would congregate behind our subdivision in a stand of large oaks. I never minded the bird noises, but their disease potential had been noted by local authorities, and light and sound, if I'm remembering correctly, were used nightly about sundown to convince them to disperse.

I wonder what noise, if any, would scare a panther?

I've heard some of my daughter's music. I'm thinking some of those thumping woofer sounds that come from my older vehicle she drives (with the mysteriously blown out speakers?) might be a possibility, ha!

Or then again, there's always Mrs. Miller...remember her from the 60s? (for any readers older than pre-embryonic at that stage) One of those albums might be the music industry's solution towards a sustained panther-attack decline...heh heh ;-) About...

For a sample of the songs "Downtown" and the Beatles' "Hard Day's Night"

(No house cats were harmed in these recordings...honest)

So much for visions of Milking to Mozart....


Panther image:

Love is in the air

Backtracking a bit here...the last couple weeks flew by!

As timing would have it, it turns out the date of our out-of-town guests' arrival just happened to coincide with this:

Yes, in the interest of keeping this a family-friendly blog, please shield your eyes from the brazen promiscuity of the rather prolific and randy Plecia nearctica hardy...or "love bug." Yes, they are doing "it." This is not a Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom freeze-frame moment caught only by the stealthy nature photographer...nah..these little critters are really so enamored with each other that they fly around together, whilst joined, in airborne pornographic ecstasy, for oh, say, 48 or more hours at a time (seriously!) before expiring in heaps upon back porches, in car grilles, or upon windshields during this season.

It's a relief to know that these little flies are as harmless to humans as they biting, infesting livestock feed or human storehouses, no nasty chemical reactions to the skin or parasitic actions to foil the human dermis, shy of the vigorous scraping required to remove them from any sort of moving machinery such as an automobile.

I guess I didn't notice the love bugs last year. I've been here going on three years now, and I just don't remember their being this thick and plague-like till THE day my company was to arrive for my daughter's graduation..ha!

Welcome to Florida!

The lovebugs moved to Florida from Central America some time in the mid 20th century, seemingly loved the Deep South, and decided to put down some roots. Their main function is to make mulch of leaf litter and moist grasses, so they have plenty to keep them busy here most years. The female emerges at the magical hour amidst a swarm of suitors, is grabbed and manhandled by the most aggressive fellow nearby, and stays, erm, so engaged for 24 to 48 hours...or so they say. Pheremones are essential in this whole Attract-and-Grab process, and it's known that automobile exhaust fumes seem to be a convincing mimic. Ergo the splat. And since automobiles are not nature's creation, it's not their fault that drivers curse these lovers when a long commute sounds like a hailstorm on a tin roof as the copulating clouds of the winged things meet their doom on oncoming windshields statewide.

They were so thick this year that they started coming into our house...even through the new weatherstripping. Why, I cannot tell you, since they don't like cooler temps. Maybe some of them just wanted some privacy? I have to say I'm pretty awed at the staying power of these couples and their two day honeymoon clench (I'm hushing up now on this

But it's not the sort of sight that makes you want to sip your cold iced tea on the back lanai and leisurely watch the birds and waders out back, or watch the little lizards sunning themselves on the edges of the flowerpots. Borrowing from a relief worker's site, THIS is more like what meets the eye on such an occasion; here, a windshield's-eye-view:

And here is what might greet you as you look from a window:

As eww as it may sound, I think the worst of the swarming is over for now. Until August/September. When love is in the air...again...

I know...this subject may not be the most exciting.

Go ahead, yawn.



I dare you!



Image credits: