Sunday, May 10, 2015

Rambling: Rambling

So I made hard-boiled eggs so that when I have those "I'm hungry!" moments at home, I'd have something healthier than chips around. Not healthy, but not as bad as a snack can be.

Tonight it occurred to me that I had everything I needed to make deviled eggs, and promptly made two of the eggs as bad a snack can be. Well, sort of. I'm sure a snack can be worse. For example, the deviled eggs had no sugar in them. Except for whatever might have been in the mayonnaise.

Mmm, mayonnaise.

I never used to like mayonnaise as a kid. In fact, I hated it, along with mustard and liver and other scarey "I've never tasted it but I know I hate it!" foods. Now I like it far, far more than I should.

What's my point here? I don't seem to have one. This post is, really, just rambling.

Orphan Black is back. I'm not sure how I feel about...um...how do I say this without writing a spoiler? OK, I'll just say I'm not sure about the increased percentage of male characters. I rather liked the fact that Orphan Black might not have passed the reverse Bechdel test. It's not that I object to male characters, but a truly female-centered show is a pretty rare thing.

The "farm" is coming along nicely. Last weekend I planted thirty-five strawberry plants. And thirty-nine bean "spots"--I plant a group of two or three seeds at each carefully-measured location. And eighteen, or twenty-four, or something like that, "greens" plants. (Six each of two kinds of komatsuna, bok choy, and lettuce.) And some lettuce and beet and basil seed, several little four-foot-long furrows. And a sprinkling of dill.

I haven't planted the melon, cucumber, pumpkin, zucchini, or delicata seeds. I theoretically have the ground prepared for some of them, but I'm not sure if I'm satisfied with it.

I'm hoping to gear the farm up to support a daily salad. We'll see how that works out. Right now, there's a nice backlog of lettuce growing out there--twelve full-size heads and maybe another two dozen little ones, not counting what I just planted. But the warm temperatures are taking us out of prime lettuce season.

There's also the komatsuna, and the beets will produce greens, and so will the kale. I'm not sure if that will be a workable salad or not. And how about purslane? I've never eaten purslane; I'm pretty sure it's that stuff that's growing as a weed in part of the garden. And of course there's no law against the un-leafy salad vegetables. Cucumbers, zucchini, and so on. Assuming I get them planted.

We just ate the first ripe and not-bug-gnawed strawberry. Yay!

That is all.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Garden: No cheese


I don't know what kind of salad it is, I'm eating a salad, okay? I'm doing it, do I have to know the names? There's no difference between them, it's a bowl of weeds. Some of them have cheese. This isn't the kind with cheese. Does that answer your question?
Toby Ziegler, West Wing

The garden is producing food! Hah!

No, it didn't produce those walnuts. Or the cranberry raisinesque things. But the greens, yep yep. And there's a wad of kale in the fridge waiting for me to remove all of its health benefits by cooking it with butter and onions. Mmmm.

Um.

I'm going to eat my bowl of weeds now. Possibly more later.

Photo: Mine.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Rambling: More Onions

Planted, that is. Another ninety-six onions, for a total of...er...240 onions in the ground. And the heap of seedlings waiting to be planted doesn't look appreciably smaller. I need to remember next year that Territorial is crazy generous in the number of onion plants per bundle.  The remainder are likely to end up being trashed.

I should say "being composted" but we didn't include a compost heap in the farm.  (For any new readers, "the farm" is a roughly 70 foot by 70 foot vegetable garden. We're used to much smaller gardens, hence the grand name.) I was going to have a "compost row," a row on which I dump all the clippings and thinnings and weeds, in a thin layer over the whole row. I read about this somewhere.  But then I put fabric over everything.

Well, almost everything. Which was the other accomplishment of the day--covering most of the last major areas waiting to be covered. At least, the areas ready to be covered.The blueberry row is still waiting to be amended with sulfur in a perhaps futile hope of making it sufficiently acid by next year, before I cover it.  (Oh. I guess I could make that the compost row?) The pumpkin row wants to be amended with manure before I plant the pumpkin seeds for this year.  The rectangle where the previous blueberries died needs to be cleared.

Himself is proceeding on the irrigation system--a central PVC spine with twelve outlets for the twelve four-foot-wide rows, each with a manual valve so that we can decide whether that row gets watered or not. This year, three rows will be "wet"--they'll get regular irrigation, though we're still going with wide plant spacing and planning to water infrequently and deeply with drippers. Six will be dryfarmed, though I'm going to cheat and irrigate two honeyberry bushes in the front two blocks of one, if I can get the honeyberry bushes now and can't find reassurance that I can get them in the fall.

The remaining three rows will get their permanent plants in the fall, when the rainy season starts, though two will probably be used for further dryfarming experiments meanwhile. The third is that blueberry row, which will mostly just sit around mellowing, then get blueberry bushes in late winter or early spring. I suppose I could grow some sort of acid-tolerant crop there meanwhile.

Why all this detail? I have no idea. Apparently I just want to garden ramble again.

I currently have six edible crops planted (snap peas, lettuce, kale, currants, strawberries, and onions) and no ornamentals. (In the farm. There are still flowers at the house.) Well, except for some tulips popping up in the future pumpkin row. I sort of wish that I'd put in some sweet peas, but I suspect it's too late now.  I'll have to wait for the zinnias that I'm tentatively going to plant in the flower row. And, oh, hey, I could plant a block of nasturtiums. You can eat those, after all. And I suspect they'll tolerate dryfarming.

I was going to put in roses early this year, but then the year turned freakishly warm, the rains stopped freakishly early, and the moment passed--even if I'm dryfarming roses, they need to go into reasonably moist soil. I would plant them anyway and plan to water for a few weeks, but I heard that the expected water shortage is looking even worse than previously anticipated. So the roses, raspberries, perennial flowers, blueberries, and planned shrubs for the back are all going to wait for fall, settle in in the winter rains, and adjust slowly to limited water next year. The perennial herbs will be planted soon; they'll have to take their chances.

I want to eat something out of the garden, as proof that I'll eat from the garden. There's enough lettuce for a dozen big salads; we could eat some of that tomorrow, along with some little kale leaves and maybe some fava leaves, because i just looked up whether I can eat fava leaves and, yay! websites say I can.

My automatic spellchecker is absolutely positive that I mean to say "lava."

I mentioned at the top of this post that I should remember Territorial's generosity, but in addition, I should remember to grow my own onion seedlings. I find it oddly fascinating to have grown my own lettuce and kale seedlings--for some reason, I've always bought those as plants. I think that I thought it was hard to get lettuce to sprout--maybe because of all that fuss about how the seed needs light.

However, all that eagerly sprouting lettuce was a bit problematic to transplant, and the transplanted lettuce is still at seedling size, presumably due to the need to recover from the shock,  while the originals back in the seedbed are big enough to eat. I suspect that I'm going to want to leave one block of open ground in a 'wet' row to not only seed, but grow out, my lettuce. That means that I'll have to (shudder) weed. Oh, well. Eventually I'll want to grow potatoes and carrots, and I suspect they'll need open ground, too.

I ordered a packet of purple sprouting broccoli seeds. This is a form of broccoli that you plant in warm weather--different sources suggest times varying between May and September--and then leave growing, in fits and starts, all winter. In spring it's supposed to grow enthusiastically and put out a lot of broccoli-esque sprouts, which you cut and eat over a reasonably long harvest period. The winter Territorial catalog had several kinds of sprouting broccoli, but now they're all sold out, which confuses me, because you don't plant them in winter. But so be it; I ordered my purple sprouting broccoli seed elsewhere, and have moderate hope that it will work.

Um.

That seems to be all. I'll let you know how the lava leaves taste.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Rambling: Blah de blah de blah. And onions.

Look! It's me! Writing another post!

About. Something.

Something or other.

A thing.

Um.

Oh! Hey! The onions came! Copra onion seedlings. From Territorial. Five bunches, at "4-6 dozen" plants per bunch. So, 240 to 360 plants. That's a little alarming.

Let's continue the math. Territorial's recommended spacing is four inches apart. If we're assuming that's in both directions, that would be sixteen square inches of ground per onion. I plan to, instead, plant four plants per hole (you can plant multiple seedlings per hole with onions, which is handy for minimizing holes in the weed barrier) in holes eighteen inches apart in each direction.

That would give me eighty-one square inches per onion, or five times the recommended spacing. That seems good for the dry farming thing. Except Gardening Without Irrigation says that summer-grown onions need "abundant irrigation." Hmm. Dang. Now, one or two websites suggest that you can dryfarm onions--one suggests a six to eight inch spacing, and I'm providing more space than that. And another website says that Copra is more drought-tolerant than other varieties. So we'll see. Would cutting to three plants per hole (108 square inches per onion) improve my odds?

I have enough onions to experiment with both dry farming and irrigation. At twelve holes per six-foot planting block, four onions per hole, 240 to 360 plants is five to seven blocks. I could irrigate roughly half and dryfarm the other roughly-half.

I wanted to grow my own onion seedlings this year, but revamping the farm took too much of my lazy-gardener gardening time. Maybe next year.

Um.

That is all.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Rambling: Day two! Look at that!

Look! I'm back!

Though not so much with something to say. I just wanted to post two days in a row to prove that I could.

Have you seen I, Zombie? I recently saw the pilot. I'm vaguely embarrassed at how much I like it. Though well-written silliness with extra snark tends to be the kind of thing that I do like. People are comparing it to both Buffy and Veronica Mars, so how could I not like it?

Um.

See, I have to finish this post by midnight to post two days in a row. And my brain just stopped.

The lettuce at the farm is doing well. Y'know, just to offer an update. I planted three kinds of lettuce, and Red Russian kale, under a roughly five foot by five foot swath of that frost-protection row cover, way back in December. I passed the point where I planned to transplant the itty bitty seedlings; they're pretty big seedlings now. I could probably start eating them.

The peas that I planted a little while ago are partly up. Eight out of twelve plants. I'm a little concerned that I may have failed to plant three of them, since three of the failures are all in a row.

I should plant more. Unless it's too late. I tend to forget to plant things until it's too late.

We're planning the irrigation for the farm, going back and forth, back and forth, between PVC and cheap plastic tubing. The plan is to dry farm most of it most of the time, but we want to have the irrigation infrastructure in place anyway.

Again the um.

That appears to be all.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Rambling: To book or not to book?

Whenever I post, I think, "I posted! I'm back in the groove! I'll post every day now!"

Not so much.

But here I am again, forcing myself to type something.

I've had a book idea, a nonfiction book idea. This is a good thing, because while I love having written fiction, I don't love writing fiction. And that doesn't seem to be getting better. I love writing nonfiction.

However, I find myself operating under the assumption that you have to have some sort of fancy schmancy expertise, directly relevant credentials, to write a nonfiction book. That is, to get it published. Is that true? I've been checking nonfiction books to see if it seems to be true.

For example, I just picked up Cool: How Air Conditioning Changed Everything, by Salvatore Basile. I haven't started reading it yet, so I can't tell you how it is, though it easily passed the page-through-and-read-some-paragraphs test. According to the bio whatsit on the book jacket, Salvatore Basile is a professional musician, "educated at the Boston Conservatory and The Juillard School." Those are certainly fancy, but they don't have much to do with air conditioning, or technology history. Now, when I check his website, it tells me that his first book was about music, which is an area where he has fancy expertise. So I'm not quite sure what to conclude.

I recently finished My Age of Anxiety, by Scott Stossel. It's about anxiety, and the history of anxiety and treatments and how people feel about it, and relates most of that to his life and his experiences, sort of back and forth and back and forth. It's good, by the way--I recommend it. Scott Stossel doesn't have fancy academic/medical credentials, but he has thoroughly fancy writing credentials--he's the editor (rather than "an" editor) of The Atlantic.

And I just started How to Be a Heroine by Samantha Ellis, about literary heroines, similarly relating the material to herself, back and forth, back and forth. (Also good.) She's a playwright and has some fancy-sounding writing credentials.

I've previously mentioned The Lost Art of Dress, by Linda Przybyszewski. Her website mentions all sorts of things and publications--about dress, vintage dress, law, and so on. There's also a picture of someone, I hope her, with a straw hat with cherries on it. I like that. She has a whole lot of fancy credentials; if I want evidence of people who don't, she's not the data point I'm looking for. But she does have a blog. It looks pretty cool.

So do I try to write the book? It would likely be historical and current information on my topic, a topic on which I have no credentials fancy or otherwise, always relating to me, back and forth, back and forth. You notice I'm not mentioning the topic. I'm still in that phase (did I say this somewhere in my last post?) where I have the illusion that the mere idea, alone, has value, and that if I reveal the idea I may as well forget it because someone smarter than me will leap on it. Once I get a look at how much work it will be to implement the idea, and how many different ways it could be implemented, I'll probably be perfectly happy to describe it.

That is all. But I'll post again any minute now.

Or at least in less than thirty days.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Rambling: Blah de blah

Um.

We went to a theater event, as we tend to, and talked to various members of the theater staff, and as usual after such events I had a sustained spasm of creative jealousy. Creative jealousy tends to make me stop, rather than ramp up, my creative efforts. I'm trying to keep it from doing that.

Said creative efforts remain unfocused. 

In the garden realm, I've received my Blacktail Mountain watermelon, my Armenian cucumber, and my Bountful bush bean, seeds. I was pleased to read that watermelons are a desert plant and are suitable for dryfarming. Who knew? Other websites are encouraging about cucumbers as well. 

I don't know if snap beans are a good choice for dry farming or not. When I check Gardening Without Irrigation by Steve Solomon, he's distinctly unenthusiastic about bush beans, saying that they have "puny roots'. He recommends pole beans instead. But building supports is one of the things that I am not doing this year. So no pole beans.

We're growing Blue Lake bush beans, even if we have to irrigate them.  But it might also be good to grow several other kinds of bush beans, as a test, in either the "freak vegetables" or "more vegetables" rows, and just watch to see if they live or die. If they all fail the same way, that tells me something. If they have varying responses, that tells me something else.  I could grow, oh, five blocks, two kinds per block, nine (wait, no, six) plants of each kind. Ten kinds of beans. That should produce some decent preliminary results.

Of course, there are other experiments I'd like to run. I want to taste some dry farmed Early Girl tomatoes, to see if they're as glorious as rumored. Yes, Early Girl--it's supposed to be one of the best, or perhaps the best, tomato for dry farming, despite the fact that I don't like its corporate parents. Joe Schirmer from Dirty Girl Produce is supposed to be working on an open-pollinated version, which would free it from that parentage. But Googling tells me that seeds aren't available yet, only a very small number of starts if you're in the right place at the right time.

I keep debating growing Sun Gold tomatoes, too, despite the fact that the two or three times we grew them, we didn't eat them, because we're too darn lazy to pick all those itty bitty things. I must restrain myself.

Another candidate for space in the Freak/Other Vegetable rows is zucchini, probably Costata Romanesco.  I have no use for the squash themselves; I want to eat the blossoms. But maybe friends would want the squash. Or the ducks. Not our ducks. Friends' ducks.

Quack.

Yes, I am sober. I'm just writing in a slightly more free-associationish way than usual.

In sewing, I'm working on my Liberty Shirt pattern. I already did a narrow shoulder adjustment and shortened the sleeves to be three-quarter length instead of too-long length. I'm planning to do a forward shoulder adjustment and lengthen the body. And after that, I may make an alternative sleeve with an inverted pleat, just as an experiment, to see if it gives me more arm movement or looks good or both. Starting at the sleeve cap and gathered in again at the "cuff". The shoulder would be much like the sleeve on the dress on this page, but the sleeve would be three-quarter length.

Writing? I had an idea, one that I'm chewing over. But otherwise, this blog is the extent of the writing.

That is all.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Rambling: Focus, the lack thereof, and a lot of landscape fabric

I garden, sew, and write. And cook some. And eat a lot of chicken. I don't have much focus.

Writing is the one area where I'm at least under the illusion that I might have enough talent to go beyond pure hobby. Might. Maybe. Not inconceivable.

But not if I don't work on it. On the writing forum where I hang out, I occasionally discuss the idea that you need to write a million words before you know if you can write. That maps nicely to someone's (I can't find the link) statement that you need to write ten novels before you can write a decent one. Ten novels, a hundred thousand words apiece, there you go. And then there's Malcolm Gladwell's idea of spending ten thousand hours to acquire a skill. A million words divided by ten thousand hours is a hundred words an hour. That's really pretty paltry, but maybe if you include the editing time...

Anyway. I ought to write more. So naturally I spent most of my spare time this weekend farming.

Well, gardening. You remember the farm? It's the roughly seventy by seventy foot vegetable garden that we've been battling with for the past few years. This year, I have accepted (I think) the reality that a garden that cannot be managed on erratic and small chunks of time is a garden that will fail. Fail if I'm the gardener that is. So we planned the garden, this year, accordingly.

We got and installed a gazillion square feet of high quality (I hope) weed barrier, covering the whole thing. We're using it un-mulched, entirely violating the warranty, with the sun beating down, eagerly trying to make it dissolve. I've used this weed barrier before, so I'm hoping it doesn't dissolve it too soon.

The weed barrier is covering a dozen rows, four feet wide, sixty feet long, with two foot paths in between. Each row will be ten six foot long blocks. Plants will be spaced at eighteen inches (twelve per block), or three feet (two per block) or six feet (one per block). I'm treating the path as part of the spacing. That's kind of wide spacing. That's because I want to dry farm (which requires wide spacing) and because I want to limit the number of holes I punch through that nice weed barrier.

Twelve rows, ten blocks per row. The plan for those twelve rows, at least as of at this moment, is:
  1. Pumpkins. Ten plants, one per block.
  2. Roses. Same thing. Yes, I will be trying to dryfarm roses. The roses are probably not pleased.
  3. Flowers, at varying spacing. Maybe one dinnerplate dahlia in a block, versus twelve zinnias, versus two Oriental poppies. Actually, probably no dahlias; they need lots of water, right?
  4. Shrubby herbs, at varying spacing. One rosemary in a block; twelve thyme in a block. And so on.
  5. Blueberries. One per block. I'm still working out how to amend the soil to make it acid enough to keep them from dying the way they did last time.
  6. Perennial and freak vegetables. (Artichokes. Chives. Rattail radishes. Like that.) Varying spacing again. 
  7. Strawberries. Twelve per block, ten blocks. We like strawberries.
  8. Shrub berries--currants, raspberries, that kind of thing.
  9. Copra onions. I'm not sure of my spacing, but right now I'm thinking three onion seedlings in each of twelve holes per block. This will be interrupted with about fifteen feet of preexisting weed-infested strawberries. 
  10. Bush beans. Twelve plants per block. 
  11. More vegetables. I'm not sure what kind. One tomato plant per block, that kind of thing. Possibly more onions, because I just realized that I ordered too many onion plants.
  12. Melons (Blacktail Mountain?) and cucumbers (Armenian). One plant per block.
I'm trying to maintain a nice calm task. by. task. pace in developing the farm. And trying to suppress my desire to do crazy things that I won't maintain. And trying to get the ground ready well ahead of the time that I'm ready to plant.

For example, I want to get the pumpkin row manured (with the bags of manure that have been lying around for two years waiting for me to do something with them) and fabric covered and marked off and ready to insert the seeds before the first of April, because the seeds don't need to go in before May. Or maybe June. And the melon and cucumber row is already fabric covered and could be marked off any time I have ten minutes to do it. And also doesn't need to be planted until May or June. And the strawberry row is covered and marked and ready for me to transplant strawberries.

Right now, the living things in the garden are the weed-infested strawberries, several healthy currant bushes, several near-dead blueberry bushes, one block of twelve fava beans that have sprouted nicely, one block of twelve Sugar Daddy snap peas that I just poked into the ground, and a little scrap of dirt with lettuce seedlings waiting to be transplanted.  I want to add new plants slowly. Calmly. I want this year to be a nice low-key success.

We'll see.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Rambling: Rambling

Er...

See, I want to blog more often. That's going to result in a fair number of "Er..." posts.

Er.

Also, um.

And hmm.

See, my brain is largely empty. It has thoughts of chicken. And it's pushing away thoughts of work, because it's not work time. And again the chicken. Milk too.

Mmm, chicken.

In my head I can hear Leloo from The Fifth Element, making happy noises about the platter of chicken.

That makes me try to think of Great Chicken Moments In Film.

Like the guy in My Cousin Vinnie who stripped the whole chicken drumstick in one motion.

And "four fried chickens and a Coke" in The Blues Brothers, though we never got to actually see any chicken.

And.

Um.

Surely there must be more?

I tried searching for more, and instead learned that fried chicken for Christmas is a big tradition in Japan. Who knew?

Again, um.

That may be all.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Rambling: Weekend!

Bwa! Ha! Ha! Weekend!

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival season is starting. We just went to the first preview of Much Ado, and it was fabulous. Just, well, fabulous. In all sorts of ways. And it solved The Problem Of Hero. I might explain what I my by that later in the season, but right now it feels like explaining would be a spoiler. But you want to see it. Really you do. It blows the Branagh/Thompson movie version, among others, out of the water.

Tomorrow is Fingersmith. Sunday is Guys and Dolls. By the end of the weekend my brain will be full of new images and characters.

I'll also be dealing with creative jealousy, which really isn't a healthy reaction to witnessing world-class creativity.You'd think that it would inspire me, rather than making me look at my own creations and say "blergh." I'll work on that.

Right now, my creations don't have a lot of creative. I'm still working on getting The Farm ready for next year--covering a lot of square footage with weed barrier, in anticipation of a low-maintenance mostly-food garden with most things planted at a very wide dry farm spacing. Like beans eighteen inches apart in all directions rather than three inches apart in the row.

I'm also planning some fairly prosaic, rather than creative, sewing. Slips and tap pantsesque things from Bemberg rayon. Skirts to replace jeans--two in denim, two in two different types of chambray-like fabric. Pajama pants in cotton voile in gaudy patterns. For those, I already have the fitted patterns; I'm ready to just cut and go.

My next sewing priority is to get a  loose summer top pattern fitted to that same cut and go point. We'll see if that happens.

As usual, I should be writing fiction. As usual, I'm not. Characters are wandering around my head in a satisfying manner, but that doesn't really count. In-head movies don't translate into words in any straightforward process. I've said more than once that I don't like writing fiction, I like having written fiction. But I do love having written it. Even the itty bitty blog bits. So I really need to kick myself and write more.

I remember explaining, somewhere sometime, that I have trouble getting past the expectation that I should be able translate from the movie in my head to words, like taking dictation. And it doesn't work that way. I have a movie in my head, I watch it for a while. I write words that are "inspired by" that movie. The words are a sort of black and white cartoon pencil sketch. Then I push those words around and rearrange them and buff them. Then I come back later and read the words, and the words make a movie in my head. Which may or may not have any resemblance whatsoever to the original movie they were inspired by.

If I analogize it to sewing, it's a little like imagining a velvet beaded cocktail hat and ending up with a corduroy cardigan. But they're both red. And they have pile. So it's the same thing, see?

Um.

That seems to be all.