Sunday, April 26, 2009

Things I Want To Do

I have such a sense of accomplishment when I do something with my own hands. Whether it is cooking, baking, sewing, gardening, painting, writing – I love to create. Maybe it is pride that I really, really enjoy saying, “I made that!” I am very fortunate to have grown up with parents who have a lot of skills.

My parents were most likely what we would describe as homesteaders, but would never admit it! My parents grew up in the generation when you learn to do everything. They have a HUGE six car garage, with only two cars and a motorcycle in it. Everything else is tools. So maybe it is more like a shop with parking than a large garage. And when I say tools, I mean TOOLS. He has welding equipment. He has a lathe, table saws, jigsaws, drill press, you name it – I am fairly sure he has it and knows how to use it. The day of my senior prom I cleaned horse stalls, exercised a few horses at my neighbor’s ranch and changed the oil in my car – myself.

My mom is really no different, she just has different tools. She gardens. She cans food – not just the easy stuff like tomatoes and peaches but her brother catches a freezer full of tuna and then they can for a weekend. I grew up opening a jar of tuna instead of a can with a cute label. She sews and quilts. In fact, she quilts for a living. She also teaches other people how to sew and quilt. She raises chickens – not to eat but for the eggs and because they are fun to watch. We have raised chickens, turkeys and rabbits for eating but the plucking was terrible and I still have bad memories…they don’t do that anymore, it’s just too much work. My mom has her own set of tools that she hides from my father so she always knows where her drill and screwdrivers are…the fact that I want gift certificates to Lowe’s for graduation isn’t a surprise to any of my friends or family. It does however make them nervous…
So here is a partial list of things that I want to learn how to do or become more proficient. This is in no way comprehensive, just something that I have been thinking about and will from time to time need to update and expand…
I use vinegar to clean just about everything. And I love to cook with it. I have a really strange love for tangy food. In fact, just writing that sentence is making my sublinguals start watering! I want to try several different kinds including red wine vinegar, champagne vinegar, apple cider and regular old white vinegar. The problem is champagne vinegar is my favorite after balsamic, but there is never any champagne left after I open a bottle…hmmm, maybe that’s a different problem!
I’ve made mozzarella and I cannot wait for this summer when my tomatoes are ripe to combine the two! But I would like to expand. I even have an antique cheese press from Spain that my father brought back years ago. We had no idea what it was at the time. He said it looked like something I would like…so now it sits atop my cabinets in my kitchen awaiting the day it is no longer just a decoration but can once again rise to it’s former glory of making cheese. Ok, I know I get a little carried away sometimes!
I want to learn to weld. My dad has all the equipment and his father taught him and his brothers. I always see these beautiful pieces of metal that I know I could make and not spend hundreds of dollars on. Alas, I don’t have the time or the equipment. I’m graduating soon and my dad has all the equipment…now I just need to find metal that I can work on. Cue evil laugh.
Knit (well)
I can knit. Sort of. I can knit a scarf and have done several as Christmas gifts over the past few years. Purling is a little more difficult and actually making it look like something else, say any stitch is quite beyond me. It’s not that I don’t think I could do it, it is more that the time and the desire haven’t coincided yet. When I had time, I wasn’t interested. This is something that I would like to do this year since I have plenty of yarn and am thinking that I might have plenty of sitting time with my sister during Chemo.
Garden productively
Paint better pictures
Take better photos
Then there are just things that I do that I wish I had more time for and then there are the things that I am just too depressed or can’t seem to get up off my butt and do even though I enjoy them. But that’s another story…This post is in no way complete! There are so many things that I want to learn and do and create that I might need to start a running list…maybe I’ll create that this week!

What things would you like to learn/learn to do better?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Earth Day

The power went out at my house last night.
I thought it was fairly ironic that it happened on Earth Day! Other than my kids being scared and the fact that I had a large paper due today, it was rather nice. It was so quiet.
I could actually hear the wind chimes in my backyard. I have four different wind chimes and seem to keep buying more because I can never hear them. I don’t know if they are not hung up right, maybe they don’t have enough hanging swing or something…but leave it to me to not hang up a chime in the right way! Anyways, maybe it is just that there is too much ambient noise around my house to hear them. I still had all of the cars passing since my backyard backs up against a very busy and noisy street (somehow didn’t realize this when buying the house). And I did have one neighbor with a very loud generator, but could only hear that when I went into the kitchen.

I could definitely understand how life would be much different without electricity, or even electricity on a limited basis. I am not proposing going without my labor saving devices such as my washing machine, dish washer and vacuum or even my refrigerator as some people going green are doing…however, it forces you to slow down. There was no surfing the internet, no flipping channels, no cleaning the kitchen or doing laundry or really even cleaning my bedroom like I had been intending to do because I couldn’t see more than 2 feet in front of me.
I just had a desire to sit, to relax, to listen to the world. And try to figure out what is wrong with my wind chimes! No electricity is almost like a forced sabbatical – it can restore your senses and relax your body. I’m sure that somehow it is also healthier for you. Probably something to do with the natural rhythms of your body and the earth and sunshine….maybe if I went to bed when the sun went down I wouldn’t have such an awful time trying to drag myself out of bed when the sun comes up!

The only thing that bothers me about the power being out (and I realize it is not 115 degrees yet – not kidding, it gets that hot here) is that the world shuts down. Nothing works. You can’t buy anything because all stores are computerized. The clerks wouldn’t know how much to charge and most likely couldn’t add anything up and most definitely couldn’t make change. But then again, what would they make change with? Most people today don’t carry cash and we couldn’t get cash either since ATMs don’t work. It’s amazing to me how much we depend on something that really isn’t dependable…

Monday, April 20, 2009


I have approximately three weeks left of graduate school! Yeah!!!!

You know that it is time to be done when your 7 year old looks at you and cries, “I wish you had never started school!” It’s hard to explain to them that I need to graduate in order to be legal to get paid. We need money to live. I wish we needed less money, but the market tanked and we can’t sell them house like I had planned…so I am trying to explain to them that I have to work more. But here’s the problem – they don’t want me to work more. And I don’t want to work more. So how do I make them feel better about something that I don’t feel good about myself?

Three weeks to graduation!!!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Gardeners Delight

Sweet peas from the farmer's market this morning

I expanded my garden considerably this year due to many reasons, but the most significant one was the urging of Darrin. You see, Darrin made fun of my garden the first year we were dating and honestly because I got so sick in the middle of the summer it didn’t produce all that well. We had a few tomatoes and squash but that was about it. The next year he made fun of me again, but this time helped out. He installed a wonderful drip system and we planted several different varieties of peppers, tomatoes and even a cantaloupe for his son. The cantaloupe didn’t fare too well, but the peppers took off like gangbusters and we ate roasted peppers almost every day until the first frost.

He was hooked.
He started talking about expanding the garden to include more of the side yard, we added more wine barrels and he started looking at every square inch of plantable space. He even planted veggies in his own front yard.
Part of my expansion included things I have never tried before including strawberries, asparagus, blackberries and rasberries. I have always wanted asparagus, but because it’s a long term commitment, I wasn’t sure I wanted to tackle it. But after realizing that I have been in this house for six years and the housing market isn’t likely to turn around any time soon, I’ll be here for awhile.

I spent about 8 hours working on my new asparagus bed. Taking out old plants, digging up the soil, adding compost and shredded leaves. I planted my crowns, watered…and came home to find the boys building a fort on top of my new asparagus bed.

I cried.

I despaired of anything actually growing.

That was a month and a half ago. I kept watering once a week, just in case. This morning I decided that today was going to be the last day I was going to water, since there was no point in just wasting water…I have an asparagus spear! Well, two actually! Little tiny things that don’t look like have much chance of survival, but I have 2 spears!!!

I’m not sure what the chances are for maturity, since after I planted them I read that asparagus doesn’t like hot summers. Well, it is supposed to be 100 degrees this Monday…

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


I never planned on staying in my house. For many reasons my house holds memories that are not very happy. We bought this house because I was 8 months pregnant with my second child, had a 12 month old, and the house we originally had put in an offer had fallen out of escrow. Oh, and we had already sold our house (which I loved). This house became available and had a large back yard so we bought it. My daughter never came home from the hospital. My first piece of mail was her death certificate. Max came home less than a year later, but within a few months we were separated and then divorced. I did a lot of crying in this house.

(When we bought the house in 2003)

I kept it to give the boys some stability after the divorce, but planned on selling this summer after I earned my Master's degree. With the market the way it is, there is no way I could sell and make what I need to even break even. Because I had planned on leaving, everything I did to the house was with my eyes on resale. I landscaped the backyard as therapy.

(This is what the backyard looked liked going into winter, same view)

And I never really committed to my vegetable garden. Until now.

(2003, so many chemicals - not even a trace of a weed)

I have posted many pics over the past couple of months of the tearing up of the side yard and the not so pretty (yet) new vegetable garden. I have also planted asparagus, which is a very long term commitment. I am thinking about fruit trees, and yesterday I bought 2 blackberry and 1 raspberry vines. Commitment is scary. What if I lose the house? What if it doesn't work out? Will it hurt more after I have put in so much time, effort and sweat?

(2006, it was pretty for a while!)

(the picket fence was rotten and took up too much space...)

Monday, April 6, 2009


I love mushrooms. I have since I was little and I think a large part of my love is from my mom. We would go mushroom hunting every fall/spring. We lived out in the country and she had some hippy friends who taught us to look for horse mushrooms. These are huge! They look like portabellas, but have a milder taste and can be up to three times the size. They also grow in fields rich in horse manure – hence the horse mushroom name. I was really good at mushroom hunting, and every year I can still smell them (or the fungus they grow out of).

After a few years my mom got scared that we might eat a bad mushroom and accidently kill ourselves so we stopped the hunting. But I still crave those mushrooms! Nothing else I have tried quite tastes like it. My mom would slice them, batter them in egg and crushed saltines and then sauté them in butter…mmmmm.

This year I went a little crazy. I ordered asparagus crowns and since I spent more than $25, I had a certificate for $25 free. I ordered the mushroom growing kit, well actually 2 of the mushroom growing kits.

It was really cool. The soil is inoculated; you open the box, wet the medium and let it sit in a cool dark place for a few weeks. (my closet)
I now have mushrooms…and they grow overnight.
This morning I went in my closet to get dressed, looked down and saw my large crop. I knew from the last time I harvested, that if I waited until I got home they would be too old to eat. So this morning my mom made me sautéed mushrooms in bread crumbs for breakfast…mmmm. And I even had a Dr. Pepper to go with it!