Tuesday, May 28, 2013

In The Interest of Keeping Things Real

I made the most atrocious mess of some food that was supposed to stretch and last us, in various forms, the rest of this week.

My Muse had flown, obviously on an extended vacation, somewhere far from here.  It left me with a pot of stew meat in which I would usually a spark of imagination enough to work some kitchen alchemy and end up with something edible, several different meal incarnations, perhaps even good.

I won't belabor the point, but I didn't just ruin the flavor, I wasted some key ingredients that I DO NEED and are the little goodies that make bulk-purchased staples into something more specialized and finessed.

Well, Not This Time.

And I scorched the whole thing to boot.  And wasted a LOT of  "secondary ingredients," not to mention the PRIMARY ones.

All just in time to not have anything ready for my husband's dinner or overnight shift.  Gah!  So he stopped and got fast food.  Double Gah!! 

And that, my friends, is the reality that I will not, EVER, fully have my act together.  And I'm staring at the pantry wondering if the Muse is back in town yet.  Otherwise we'll be eating pimiento cheese or PBJ sandwiches till shopping day.

And that's....O.....Kayyyy....


Monday, May 20, 2013

Rethinking the Concept of Pests

Are bugs really "bad"?  Are unwelcome plants really "weeds"?  Are opportunistic plants really "invasive"?

I am reading an EXCELLENT book entitled Invasive Plant Medicine by Timothy Lee Scott which is challenging my preconceptions about so-called invasive or non-native plant species.  As I study some of the world's least appreciated plants otherwise known as "weeds," concentrating initially on their medicinal uses, I have noticed in my own understanding a change of direction.

Just as many people, I was raised with a non-specific belief that all bacteria were bad.  It went something like this..."bacteria are GERMS, GERMS are bad because they cause disease, and to kill germs is GOOD because to do so is to kill disease!"  And then the pairing of the idea of soap and antibacterials were akin to being really really CLEAN.  And of course, clean is good!  So went the rationale of my childhood and early adulthood.

And so went the assumptions of most everyone I know who has never learned the full story of bacteria, that without bacteria there would be no life.  To eradicate all life, of course, eradicates bad "germs" but also eradicates all the others as well.

This germ theory is the basis of much of modern western medicine, though perhaps the general public is becoming a bit more educated as our assumptions have oftentimes failed us.

I won't make this post about the germ theory of medicine, good gut bacteria, anti-vaccines, and so on.  But I'm saying all this to demonstrate my own change of direction in these areas.  As my awareness of the world of bacteria changed (I'm all about vitality and encouraging the "good" bacteria and flora), my mindset changed about things such as insects considered "pests" and plants considered "weeds."  I am, in fact, rather in love with the weedier of plants after discovering they are the heros of our plant world, staunchly surviving our attempts at eradication and yet continuing to offer to us their (often unsung or unrealized) benefits.  If anyone begins to study plant medicine, especially herbalism, they soon find that these little tough survivors are rather our allies instead of being our adversaries.  Not only are they best suited for improving human health (as opposed to synthetics or components divorced from their herbal whole), but they are also fantastic soil cleaners and nutrient restorers.  I HIGHLY recommend the aforementioned book.  I am in the process of reading and rereading it.

I just today found a very good article via Facebook contrasting the proliferation and actions of so-called "pest" insects when existing in a diverse food-forest style planting versus a managed planting lacking natural diversity (in this case, a hydroponic planting).  I'm not posting this to refute anyone's chosen style or type of planting, but rather to urge us to rethink terms such as Pest and Weed.  When I see insects on our plants any more, I don't cringe.  I wonder if there is some imbalance making that plant susceptible.  Something in me just KNOWS, some sort of wisdom or reluctance, I guess, buried under those years of "Kill it!" responses to bacteria and bugs.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this article called Food Forests and Natural Pest Control, by Angelo Eliades I'd love to hear your thoughts after reading!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Of Car Repairs and Culvert Dreams

I can hardly believe how time flies!

Where did the first part of this year go??

A little Land update, before the month's gone...

I had secretly hoped nothing would require funds by this point of the year, and that we would be in the thick of fencing the property.  We have two sets of end posts up, the perimeter has been cleared (yet needs widening, oops!), and some clearing has been done along the front ditch.

Long before now, the culvert was scheduled (in our flexible mental checklist) to be installed, which includes scraping more of the ditch, transporting equipment and the actual culvert itself, digging fill dirt from somewhere on the property (or ordering some shell from a nearby company) and getting it all positioned just right and filled over properly.  Initially, the estimates of all that came in looking much lower than they do now.  I'm not sure if it's because the prices have gone up or if we simply didn't tally the ACTUAL costs, all of them, before when doing our mental tally.  It turns out the long distance to and from rental sites to the Land do cost quite a bit in delivery.  We don't have vehicles and trailers to haul heavy equipment.  Other equipment that's not so heavy we still lack much of and are at the point of having to decide whether to purchase or rent...not an easy decision either way.

There is also the issue of overnight security for things parked on the Land.  We are not there to watch it overnight (yet) and as yet there is no fence and so on.  Opportunistic or just plain destructive individuals are known to take advantage of vacant sites out in the hinterlands, and it's just not wise to park equipment out there on trust alone.

None of this is a complaint, it's a reality.

Instead of hoping we get the whole fence perimeter done this summer, the first thing I really want done is the culvert and entry.  That, to me, will FEEL like progress!

On Thursday Jack and I were headed in the truck to run errands when the truck began behaving badly.  The AC was not cooling, then it jerked as if gasoline were not being delivered adequately when accelerating, and then I smelled a smell.  One look at the gauges showed the hot and cool gauge registering the hottest temp, so we pulled right over into a service station, at which point steam was billowing from under the front hood.  A hose had completely disconnected from something important (see? I'm a real mechanic! ha)  All I could see was dollar signs swimming before my eyes...

and so on.  After all was said and done...(until The Big Fix in a few days??)...a hose was routed temporarily to Something until this and that hoses and gadgets can be cleaned and replaced and such in a few days.  More dollar signs.

I swear, will we EVER stop having repairs in time to do something else important at the Land??

Add that to the necessary brake repairs already queued up to do.

I'm still at 2 workdays a week due to the knee.  In June I hope to add another day per week.  I am THANKFUL for any days I can work!!  I am restless to make forward progress and stop this backward slide.

Until we are situated on site on the Land, we have to use our vehicles for very long commutes, which means constant maintenance and repairs and means gasoline expense.  When we are on site for the long term, we HOPE this will mean we gain (or recover)... by losing the need for those expenses.  It seems illogical to us to try to maintain this hamster-wheel cycle, which is one reason to press forward in the timing of trying to be ON the Land as soon as possible.

This is our learning curve about transitions.  We've had some transitions and relocations in the past that were immediate and very hurried, even moving states away.  THIS transition has been over YEARS, if we count the two properties we owned for a few years but were never able to gain access to....until we sold them and bought this property that does have access and is closer at hand... and so many factors are different now, which is why it is more deliberate and much slower than we would like.  But it is what it is.

I bought a handful of seed packets from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed company as an act of optimism.  WHEN we get the culvert put in/ditch scraped/entry poles and gate area begun, I SHALL plant the road frontage near that entrance with reseeding types of annuals.  There's a magenta-red-leaved amaranth with red seed pods, a couple ounces of mixed giant zinnias, two types of red and orange cosmos, and some Tithonia/Mexican Torch sunflowers that should come back each year, or can be reseeded by saving old flowerheads.  I NEED to SEE some changes this year...I need to plant something and see something bloom!

What's growing where you are?  What changes do you hope to see this summer in your homeplace?

Saturday, May 11, 2013

A Passing, and Update

When I first began writing this blog, I took more time to write about the individual events of my life.  Now, not so much.

Sometimes I feel it would be redundant.  Sometimes life happens very quickly shotgun-style and there are too many fractured and unrelated happenings to make much sense.  Or else I'm already glad they're behind me and am ready to just put them to bed rather than to further their existence a moment longer on the written page.


Maybe the blog will limp along as nothing more than a series of nonsensical updates, but it is what it is (I say that phrase a lot these days), as is life right now.

Yeah, I'm still smiling.  And, it would appear, settling for the occasional rambling update here.   So here goes...

1.  I saw someone die.  It was one of my clients whose body had been fighting every which-a-way to thwart her good nature and desire to be active and fully-engaged in life's daily activities.  I'm not ready to write about her in detail yet.  I still miss her too much and I'm only now beginning to recover from the upside down schedule of the last two weeks as much of that time was spent revolving around her final hospital stay and the diplomacy necessary to keep things calm as distant family descended.

I'm appalled at how there seem to be few compunctions on the part of greedy relatives when they sense an older relative is vulnerable and dying.  I feel so strongly opposed to the ugliness of that sort of thing that it WORE ME OUT to maintain a professional demeanor in the midst of it.

It was a privilege to be able to be the one person at my client's bedside when she died, and thankfully it was entirely a peaceful passage for her.  I think the only way I can describe it now that it's been a few days is to say it was a sacred moment.  I've been her caregiver for over 14 months, regularly, usually for 10 hours a day.  That's more time together than most married couples have.  I do miss her.  I'm still ...I don't know...adjusting.  And missing her.  I think that will be the case for quite a while.

2.  After having sat vigil on nights I was not scheduled to work, I have made the decision that no matter how bad my knee is, if I have any other options I will choose to NOT work nights.  I had thought about seeing if I might change from days to night work, but it throws all the other days off for me.  I have to have daylight.  My body just doesn't adapt to changing back and forth any more.

3.  Patience, patience.  Not exactly my strong suit!  We thought we would go ahead and get the next step going at the Land.  We have a list of what needs to get done and which things are bigger projects that must be planned for and saved for.  Life has a way of interjecting a few odds and ends in there to slow down the process at times.  The latest delay tactic Life employed was my car needing to have a fuel line replaced and some sort of crucial ring thingies replaced.  Sort of car CPR, must be done now, to wait another day would be disastrous, and all that.  So there went the Most Recent Land Project Money, carefully hoarded, and now my work schedule's down to almost nonexistent due to my lovely knee issue.  If I thought pulling my hair out might help anything, I'd do it.  Pppptttthhhhhhhhhtttttttt.

4.  Everything has its trade-off.  I dearly love being home, and clearly I've not been home much in the past year, judging from the nice frosting of dust that's needing to be excavated.  Boy, do I need to deep clean.  Tackling so major re-organizing in small increments has helped my need to make some forward momentum.  I just can't think about how slowly this momentum is compared to past years when I'd have it all done in a day or two.  Whatever.  I'm able to pay more attention to stretching our food dollars with better homemade meals and putting reserves into the freezer.  Nevermind that I have to lay about with the leg up unless I want to gimp around till kingdom come.  If I don't rest enough, the inflammation renders the ol' knee painful and useless, so the rest is not optional at this point.  And again I try to gracefully learn patience.   The P word.  P!@#$%tience.  :-)

5.  I adore my husband.  And my daughter.  I remain GRATEFUL to God for His goodness!!

6.  I need to get back to studying my herbal curriculum and doing the lessons.  I feel like I'm in slowwww motionnnn.

7.  It's spring and outdoors it's bursting with birdsong and green growing things.  The baby plum trees must have started some pollinating ju-ju last fall because one of the trees has a few baby plums.  Too young to have a real crop.  I'm reminded of the command in the Torah of waiting 4 years before harvesting from a tree.  I'll have to look it up, but it's in that range.  These plums will be for the birds.  I wonder if they can be transplanted or if they'd die if we tried moving them to the Land.

8.  Jack has embraced the Hugelkultur thing.  He digs what looks for all the world like a long shallow grave and then layers trunks and branches of the moringas and the loquat tree trimmings into the trench.  He dumps our "compost" scraps (the lazy man's compost, I suppose you'd call it) and now we have two calabaza plants volunteering from the midst of the Not Yet Covered With Soil Hugelkultur bed.  It still needs to be covered with soil.  We do NOT sod ours over, however, because down here if ANY Bermuda grass takes hold, it's so invasive it chokes out all other plants and you'll never evvvverrrrrr get it all the way eradicated withing nuking it with pesticides, which we won't do.  So we compose a shallow grave for tree debris, in the meantime.  Otherwise known as the Likely To Become Snake Pit.  I hope it gets covered with soil soon.  I shudder to think of what creeps among those limbs and stuff.

9.  Kaleb has had his yearly embarrassing haircut.  We're too cheap to take him to a groomer for lo unto 90 bucks or so, so he gets the Scissor job once or twice a year.  Whenever his double coat and the weed seeds align with the planets and turn him into a walking poster dog for matted hair removal.  He and his truly bad haircut have insured that he is happy happy happy, much cooler as the heat amps up outside, and he has also been scrubbed clean within an inch of his privileged doggie life.  I realize I am the queen of the most horrible run-on and grammatically-errant sentences.  Ppppphhhhhhtttthhhhhhttt.

10.  I continue to get craiglist spam on that sole canning jar Want Ad.  HOWEVER, there was one legitimate woman who contacted me.  She had canning jars and other stuff.  We met and she had other things she threw into the mix for the same price.  It was remarkable...a set of dishes from the 1940's, a food mill, meat grinder, and few other things.  She also hand wrote two pickle recipes she used to use when she lived in Lancaster county, PA and was a Mennonite wife.  We talked and talked as if we'd known each other for years.  That was such fun!!  And tonight I set a pretty table and pulled out the old dishes for shabbat...I think those are now our official "shabbat dishes"...just right!

11.  There are still more things on my To Do list than things that actually get done.  But I get to be home and with my husband a LOT more than I used to, so the happiness-O-meter around here reads pretty darn high :-)

What's going on in your neck of the woods?  Is everyone planting already?