Tuesday, December 9, 2014

I'm tired...tired of playing the game

Ain't it a crying shame?  I'm tired.  (Let's face it people, I'm pooped.)
Still trying to recover from this weekend's shopping craziness.  Did my seven minute sweep this morning to try to clean up this tornado.  Hubby was awesome and did all the dishes, so I should be back on my cleaning schedule.  There's lots of holiday baking to be done, so I'm grateful for any help.

I took the Praxis test yesterday for adapted curriculum and am looking forward to getting the results.  It would be nice to expand my certification to open up job opportunities.  Oh, and I was able to get some writing done, but now it's sleepy time.  Nite nite.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Just a quick update...

Santa's elves have been working overtime to organize this years holiday season. Dawn and I went power shopping this weekend, had a sleepover, and bought lots of supplies for our homemade Christmas. A plan is finally coming together. I love that!  

Taking a test today for adapted curriculum certification. So excited. I even studied this morning!! Can't wait to get it over with. Knitting tonight. Capsule wardrobe working well. Looking forward to not having a huge dressing decision to make when I exit the tub in 5. Still waiting on mag article, but plan on starting to write it this weekend. ;). 
Gotta run!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

So much going on!

So yesterday, I wrote that I had two reasons to be happy: one, I finally assembled my capsule wardrobe, and two, well, I never did get to two.

I pitched some ideas to another editor and she was interested!  This is exciting news, indeed.  I am impatiently patiently waiting to hear back with further instructions.  It is my unwavering belief that 2015 will be the year of two or more published articles.  As for editors who may be wading through my personal blog to get a feel for my writing skill, welcome!  I promise I am serious about this endeavor and will strive to do my very best for each of you.  Which is probably about one.  For now ;)

After my one devoted follower Sara-Across-the-Pond commented on one of my recent entries, I started thinking about all the plans I make.  It's true, I suppose, that I have lofty aspirations in my life.  It appears, while my initial dream to be a contributing member of society was a kind of baseline goal, I am now a thriving member of society.  I am no longer satisfied just be be "normal."  I want to effect some change on a larger scale.  Working among 800+ elementary age students makes me happy.  While once my efforts only affected 8-20 students, now I am able to help dozens each day.  I feel the same about my writing.

Right now, my writing affects me and a few others.  Being published gives me the ability to share my ideas with others, for better or worse.  The more I think about it, the more I like it.  You see, my parents have always been egocentric, self-driven, motivated, and confident.  Unlike me. Growing up, my father had two jobs, then retired as a lieutenant in the FDNY, and built a house.  Over the course of her life, my mom has traveled to five continents, speaks multiple languages, pursued careers in modeling, singing, dancing, and retired as an ESL teacher.  In her 60s, she decided to become an actress and after a few months is well on her way, even racking up credits on IMDB.  After decades of self-hate, self-doubt, instability, and lack of confidence, I'm finally starting to cultivate some of the traits my parents had, which were often viewed by me as shortcomings.  I finally am realizing my strengths and potential.  That I am worthy of being loved and capable of giving love.  That I am intelligent and beautiful, no matter what naysayers say.  That I am talented in some areas, and that though I have these talents, it doesn't mean I don't have to work hard at improving them. There. I've going to say it.  I finally love me.

Lastly, if this is just too emotional and stuff, just picture me typing in with a hairy cat strewn across my face. Because that's how it really is.  I can't breathe...

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Happy Tuesday Indeed!

It would appear that I'm overjoyed of late, since my most recent blog entries have all been titled "Happy..." While this may be misconstrued as proof that I lack a robust vocabulary of adjectives signifying this sometimes elusive emotion, I feel it is more or less a good indicator that I'm genuinely happy these days.  As Dawn always says, "North Carolina is a Magical Place."

(In case you are pondering this sudden change of tone in my writing, now that I am, ahem, published, I wish to take my writing more serious and skillfully entertain the masses with my riveting content...spoken with a proper English accent. One can never quite know who is trolling the Interwebs and lurking about, judging my sloppily crafted accounts of failed garden mishaps and yarny disasters.  One errant semi-colon and my burgeoning career may leap gracelessly off a cliff.  Preferably on Shetland, if there's a choice to be had.  Visiting is on my bucket list.)

The events that transpired today which have caused me to harbor such glee are two in number.  I've selected a capsule wardrobe after months of deliberation, and I received a positive response to my article pitch for one of my favorite magazines.  I shall divulge further details of the two endeavors in subsequent entries.

Firstly, the capsule wardrobe is a concept that I have been researching (a.k.a. Pinning) for quite some time. An idea so horrific, yet so beguiling.  I am mesmerized by the tales of these brave denizens of fashion who abandon the riches of their cavernous closets in order to pursue a more defined and simplistic style.  Would I be able to accomplish such a feat?  Someone who is known to frequently change her costume multiple times each day to suit her ever-changing moods?  A woman who is no less likely to wear a pleather minidress than a paisley maxidress?  One who serial pins Mori style and Mod style on the same board? For shame!  Well, some mysterious phenomenon happened at 7:00 this morning which had the effect of motivating me to sort through the mountains of clothes in my possession, choose a precious few, fling out the mismatched hangers and line my closet with the remaining soldiers of fortune. For this go-round, I chose a set based on browns and army green, with a dash of teal and burgundy.

Brown knit work pants
Herringbone knit work pants
Woven herringbone green work pants
Skinny green jeans with zippered ankles
Wide leg dark wash jeans

Jewel tone paisley velveteen skirt
Brown leather mini skirt 
Plaid brown, burgundy and gold skirt

Bulky cream cable knit sweater
Oatmeal post-apocalypse drop stitch sweater 
Mock turtleneck ruffle bib short-sleeved burgundy cotton top
Cream, brown and green western floral button down
Teal pouf-sleeved silk blouse
Cream lace empire flutter-sleeved blouse with gold sash
Cream and gold fine gauge knit pouf-sleeved dropped drawstring-waist tunic

Rust cardigan
Grey cardigan-outlier till I find the perfect camel cardigan. Hmm. Camel. I have some camel down in the stash, lol. 

The goals I hope to achieve from taking these drastic measures are to reduce laundry and early-morning decision making.  Some of you may already know I own one of the world's smallest washing machines. Invented for those who feel that a single 350 square foot room equals home sweet home, this marvel of Italian engineering compacts the washer and dryer into one drum. Like many other hybrid appliances, it is not particularly adept at either task. The only skill that it possesses to be worthwhile is its capacity to spin. It can spin like a tornado!  I plan to exploit this feature when washing fleece in the future.

In any case, the miniscule washing receptacle is a beacon of mastery when compared to its penchant for drying. Clothing may tumble on high for an hour and still be as damp as a baby bunny in a bog. With winter encroaching, I am reluctant to witness a clothesline full of icy stiff jeans, sweaters and undergarments. A smaller wardrobe will ensure there is enough drying area in my house without erroneously portraying me as a professional laundress. It was successful today. Let's see how it plays out tomorrow.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Exhausted but happy!

Been tired and under the weather.  The cats keep accosting me:  head-butting my face, sprawling across my chest, pinning down my arms, thus leading me to use my Google-Fu to research such topics such as "can cats detect illness?"  and other related queries.  There must be something wrong with me.  I'll add it to the list.  This long weekend was productive and relaxing at the same time.  I created and viewed my own British historical drama marathon and spun 4 bobbins of yarn for the yarn-eating Whippoorwill shawl, wound two balls off the bobbin of Loop striping roving for an as yet unplanned Granny Square afghan, (and decided that henceforth, all Loop roving will be for the granny square gingerbread afghan.  Did I say it was unplanned?  Maybe loosely planned is a better descriptor...)

I also have officially decided to pursue the HGA's Certificate of Excellence, Level I.  I figure it will challenge me outside of my spinning comfort zone, while doubling to hone my writing skills.  Boo-yah! Two-in-one goal!  Score!

Lastly, I've submitted some article proposals to a magazine and am waiting with great anticipation for a response.  Looking forward to 2015, the year of 2 published articles! In the meantime, I'm going to take a community college journalism course to brush up on my writing and get some insight to the business side of things.  This has been an awesome year :D

Saturday, November 29, 2014

In the interest of a side career...

Now that I'm a fancy shmancy published author, (Fall 2014 Issue of Ply), I am excited to start working on my writing so I can get more paid gigs.  This was very exciting .  My aspirations are to write everyday starting now.  Be prepared, dear readers, for an onslaught of writing.  My hope is that through daily exercise, I can hone my skills and become the author I've dreamed of.

Ever since I was a child, I knew I would be a published author.  I didn't know what I would write, but with all my heart, I know it's in there. Because I am a teacher, avid hobbyist, and cook, I always thought it would be a cookbook, crafting book, or book of poetry.  I have a flair for writing about mundane things, such as my previous entry "Ode to an Orifice Reducer."  I also authored the classic three-page short story, "Death of a Purple Pen," chronicling the death of the aforementioned favorite pen while attending High School.

Knit Purl (loosely based on the sonnet form)

Knit purl purl, knit purl purl, knit purl purl, knit.
Purl knit knit, purl knit knit, purl knit knit, purl.
Knit purl purl, knit purl purl, knit purl purl, knit.
Purl knit knit, purl knit knit, purl knit knit, purl.

Slip one, knit one, pass the slipped stitch over.
Knit two together, knit two together.
Slip one, knit one, pass the slipped stitch over.
Knit two together, knit two together.

Knit two, yarn over, knit one through back loop,
Work in pattern stitch for the next two rows.
Knit two, yarn over, knit one through back loop,
Work in pattern stitch for the next two rows.

Knit two, yarn over, purl to the last stitch.
Knit two, yarn over, purl to the last stitch.

Happy Jammy Day!

I officially declare today Jammy Day, an offshoot of Buy Nothing Day in protest of Black Friday.  Suffice to say, I will not be shopping in my jammies.  Just staying at home, watching rom-coms and dance movies, spinning the yarn I swore I would spin all this past year, and planning my homemade prezzies.  I am still happily in my jammies, and I have two new skeins of yarn, even though I haven't bought anything or left the house.  I am proud.  My Whippoorwill shawl, a.k.a. yarn eater, which started out as a Verb For Keeping Warm fiber club stash-buster, has turned into the "How can I keep dyeing  yarn to look like AVFKW so I can continue to knit this blanket shawl?"  These last 10 oz have been quite successful.  If I can get my steamer to work, I will steam, ball and get back to knitting.

Also, I fixed my drum carder belt, a cautionary tale to those who don't mind the advice to keep the belt off when not using for extended periods of time.  Had to cut out a section and re-fuse it to tighten it up.  Now I'm ready to re-card Guilia and get back on track with that program.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Due to hubby's latest schedule, I've been in bed by 8 and up at 4.  I hate it.  He hates it more.  That being said, it worked to our benefit today, as I had turkey parts for gravy in the oven, roasting lazily away, soup/stock on the stove slowly coming up to a simmer,  mirepoix for the soup, stuffing, and gravy, made pan-fried shredded Brussels sprouts with balsamic and Parmesan, and one lone sweet potato for me.  Hubby started the charcoal for our smoked turkey breast, and I soaked some apple and hickory chips for some delicious smoke flavor.  The gravy is going to be insane!  He butchered the thawed turkey last night and broke it down like this: breast and separated drumsticks for smoking, wings and misc. for soup, backbone and leftover carcass for soup/stock.  We rubbed it with a herb salt mix and olive oil, then stuffed some rosemary sprigs under the skin.  The dripping pan has some more mirepoix and rosemary to add flavor from steam underneath.

So every year, my family makes turkey soup on Thanksgiving morning with packaged turkey parts.  It's pretty simple.  Water + Turkey+Mire Poix+Rice.  Cook until rice looks like star pasta.  Even though they don't make a fancy stock or take heed of formal soup rules, we fight over the leftovers.  With a 28 pound turkey, we knew we had to come up with a game plan.  It wouldn't fit in the fridge that well, nor in the grill, or in the oven as is.  So the soup/stock is on the stove.  I will cook it for a few hours with pepper, allspice, bay leaves, and mirepoix, then strain out everything, pick out the meat, and throw in the veg/rice/shredded meat and cook it again till it's ready to serve.  So hungry.  Why does Thanksgiving have to be about dinner?  I propose Thanksgiving breakfast next year, lol.

For sides, I also made maple butternut squash with sunflower seeds and mixed dried berries, have to make some cornbread stuffing, gravy, and roasted corn pudding.  Can't wait to take pics of dinner!

Wishing you all a bountiful and lovely Thanksgiving :D

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Ode to an Orifice Reducer

The reason I wrote the previous poem is because I had to clean up the crap to find my missing orifice reducer.  I was not successful. I'm sure I will find it once the new one arrives.

Ode to an Orifice Reducer

Oh orifice reducer, where hast thou gone?
Deep into the depths of the craft room,
Or lost on a voyage?

Prey to feline antics and under the fridge
Or playing peek-a-boo just beyond my field?

I long for the days we were together,
Happily supporting my wee flyer.
Whilst others jest at thy small bobbin capacity,
We managed to spin and ply myriad yarns.

Though I am in need of a replacement,
None will really take the place of you, happily
Heralding me into the time of the Jumbo Flyer,

We comfortably switched to and fro,
Crafting art yarns for display, and
Frog hair for lace.
From rough and lustrous longwool locks,
To camel silk bliss.

I will miss you orifice reducer.
Onward to send off for another like you,
Plastic and round,
Exorbitantly priced with added shipping.

Hot Mess!

It's the day before Thanksgiving, and all through the house,
A yarn-bomb went off, even catching the spouse!
(He's wearing his new llama hat today :D)

Yards of wooley stuff stuck in the bags and the bins,
The cracks and the crevices,
The frowns and the grins.

I sat on the floor to make sense of this thing,
All fleece and roving,
Some natural with bling.

On spindles, on bobbins,
All loose and together,
I racked my brain to organize this endeavor.

Here's the problem I thought,
I have too much stuff.
I need to go through it,
It can't be that tough.

But alas, I'm still here,
And it's hours later.
Grand piles still dotting
The ground-zero crater.

I want to hang up my mitts in defeat,
The fingerless ones from the test pattern, (sweet!)

How on earth did I get here?
Stockpiling the fiber?
Could it be that I was a dyed roving subscriber...

As I sit here, procrastinating and typing this poem,
I realize


Monday, November 24, 2014


I wrote a lovely post about being thankful in my new iphone blogger app while taking my scorching morning bath, but alas, have lost the thing, having temporarily switched apps to research prices on Weber Ranch grills.  I kept waiting for it to say something like, "Have you lost something?" but alas, no such luck.  In case you must know, the Weber Ranch model averages $1300.  So, here we go.  Thankful.  Take 2.

My husband, ever the thrifty carnivore, took it upon himself to rummage through the Publix frozen turkey bin, where he found lurking at the very bottom of the freezer, a 28 pound turkey that some poor slob probably had the foresight to hide, but not to purchase.  If this person is you, dear reader, my apologies that you will have to buy two turkeys instead of one to feed the onslaught of siblings, nieces, nephews and cousins that will descend upon your home this Thursday.  My husband and I will be eating your turkey this day.  And the next, and the next, and the next...

That being said, I would like to share some things I am thankful for this year:

  • Family, Friends, and Pets
You are responsible for keeping my sanity, loving and supporting me, and I thank you all for that.  We couldn't have made it to year 2 without you.

  • Big Backyard
It seems funny that a backyard can change someone's life so much.  Over the year, we have acquired scrap wood, power tools, and a few gardens, along with lots of wildlife.  We are thankful that we can barbecue without climbing out the window, that there are always animal antics for entertainment, that I have a lovely herb garden to enhance my culinary creations and can have roasted marshmallows around the firepit whenever we want.  

  • Jobs
All jobs have their issues, but we're happy to have them.  Thank you full-time work with benefits and teacher raises.  Amen and hallelujah. 

So because we have this behemoth of a turkey, I've made the executive decision to spatchcock the sucker.
Not entirely sure it will even fit in a home oven, I'm sure we'll figure it out.  There is some thought to throwing it on the Weber 22", however, it may be too big for indirect heat, hence the Weber Ranch research.  That thing is 42".  It can fit a whole pig, if you're inclined to do such.  I'm sure my husband is.  I see the Weber Ranch in our distant future.  Or a reclaimed concrete block fire pit with scavenged grates.

Well, now I'm seriously procrastinating going to work.  It's only two days, I keep telling myself.  Just get through these two days, and December will FLY by.  Signing off :D

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Extending the season, or F*#$ You Mother Nature!

Hi!  Two posts in one day may help make up for my lack of posting.  So...I've had it in my head to make a greenhousey thing and overwinter my tender plants, as well as just see what happens.  We supposedly have mild winters, though there are some weeks that range in the 0-10 degree zone overnight and into late morning.  I'm experimenting with a hoop house to help extend the season.

After pinning a gazillion greenhouses I wish I could build, I settled on the inexpensive, easy to construct, relocatable PVC pipe low tunnel.  I wish it were high tunnel, but maybe we can call it little people tunnel?  If it works out this year, I'll get proper greenhouse plastic and improve the design.  For now I have a shanty greenhouse.  It's all good.


Five 10 ft x 1/2 in PVC pipe
Gorilla tape
C-clamp things you find in the electrical conduit aisle
Exterior screws
3.5 mil plastic dropcloth 10 ft x 25 ft
2 1 x 1 8 ft long wood pieces
large binder clips

Electric drill w/ phillips head and drill bit for pilot holes
Hacksaw for PVC pipes
Scissors for plastic
Staple gun

Pretty self explanatory.  Drill the c-clamp things into the bed walls.  My beds are 4 x 4 so I did two hoops on each bed.  Then I Gorilla taped the top beam to all the hoops.  Because my beds are not parallel (in response to the path of the sun) I just cut the top beam in half and taped them separately.  I latched the crossbeam on the back bed to the hoop on the front bed just to provide extra support.  Next week I will staple the bottom of the plastic to either lathing strips or 1 x 1s, to keep the plastic from gusting up and being all drafty.  Then, theoretically, I can roll up one side or another.  Still trying to figure out if I want to attempt doors.  Maybe next week.



At the end of the rainbow

Happy November!  It's been a while since I've updated about my garden.  I think I even had a draft saved in here somewhere, but as the season has been winding down, and at the urging of my plant mentor, Steve, I've decided to contemplate the years' successes and findings.

Warning: this is prolly gonna be a little long and boring.  I'll try to make it brief and interesting, lol.

In the beginning of the season, I felt like I was at the beginning of a rainbow, and that all summer long, I'd ride the colored arch until I reached the cornucopia of plenty residing at the end.  Well, I've fallen into that woven symbol of bounty, and though it's not quite full of Thanksgiving vegetables, it's full of experience and lessons learned (and one cute pumpkin).

Plants start with soil.  The first beds I made with municipal compost, bagged garden soil, and sand.
The problem: 
I didn't realize that municipal compost is mostly wood products, and thus needs an additional source of nitrogen.  It became apparent with my dwarf nasturtium and basil plants that there are some serious deficiencies in my garden beds.   I made a bin of leaf mold, which broke down nicely, even without mulching first.  Also, the network of oak and elm roots have started invading my nice beds.  Not sure what to do about that except spade down the edges to slow their growth?

The solution:
I used the leaf mold to amend the beds, as well as a few bins of alpaca manure I procured during a farm spinning demo.  Also, I've planted rye and vetch for a living mulch over the winter.  I will weed whack it down a month before planting, and leave the roots intact to rot and keep the soil structure intact.  My plan is to soil test and add blood meal.  And I've been adding wood ash sparingly.  Also, the large areas under the trees which were bare dirt and roots that I covered in leaves is resulting in some nice humus under the mulch.  I learned you can never have too many leaves.  Planning to make at least two bins of leaf mold.  I also started a compost pile and have plans to make a plastic garbage pail one to help conserve heat during the winter.  Lastly, I might add a straw bale garden if I can get the truck running again and find a cheap, local source.

I was really happy with where I situated the garden beds and herb circle.  They received adequate sunlight, and the herb circle was happy with partial sun.

The problem:
Water was a bit of a challenge moving into the summer months.  There was a brief period of time, when faced with the reality that something was seriously amiss with the soil situation, where I neglected watering and murdered a few plants.  Sorry lavender, rosemary, peanut butter plant and peony.  :(  Earlier in the season, I only used a hose with a hand attachment.  Later on, I was able to purchase a four head adapter and connect a soaker hose for the vegetable bed.  This was very helpful, except the time I left it on for 8 hours and my water bill was astronomical.  Oops.  Then there is the outdoor sink.  It still isn't plumbed, so I'd like to find the right fittings and get it up and running for next year.
The solution:
Next year I will set up a container irrigation system.  Also, I will get a timer for the hoses so I won't have those issues.  There is a possibility I will set up some kind of rainwater collection system, however, my rented roof has no gutters, and I'm still exploring some possibilities.

Mostly, I didn't have too much issue with the temperatures.  It was hotter than a hootenanny this summer, but aside from my watering issues, nothing did so terrible due to heat or cold.  I was saddened that my tomatoes came so late in the season, but feel it has more to do with the soil issues and the fact the first frost was a little late this year.  My remedy for this is a hoop house currently under construction to extend the late and early season. I also will make a cover for my salad table.  It needs chicken wire to prevent squirrels from digging holes (wasn't the black walnut offering enough?  Gah!)  and some plastic to help insulate.  Not sure about insulating the roots.  Will think about that.

The Plant List

Edible flowers:  These did not go so well.  Though I had seeds for different edible flowers, and some did bloom, they did not take off as I had hoped.  I blame lack of nitrogen.  I will try again next year.

Herbs:  The grand prize winner.  I had copious amounts of dill, oregano, marjoram, rosemary, lemon balm, horehound, basil, parsley, sage, and a few alpine strawberries.  The strawberries died in a strange fashion, one plant after the other within a few weeks time.  Not sure why.  Lemon balm took over, and I learned I only need one lemon balm plant.  Culantro and cilantro failed.  Murdered my container banana mint, and waiting to see if the chocolate mint will spread along the back fence.  So far, it's not too happy.  The mint seeds I sowed in the alcove didn't germinate at all.  :(

I have two oakleaf hydrangeas that took hold.  Not entirely happy, but alive.  Not sure how much growth they should have while getting established.  The buttonbush and beauty berry did well.  Can't find my chickasaw plums or hazelnuts.  Also weed wacked the blueberry on accident.  I thought the container peony had died, but just found it had some growth so soaking it to rehydrate the soil and see if it's back in business. Foxglove, comfrey and daylilies came back, too.  I also have malabar spinach, kefir lime, and fig to put in the hoophouse.  Still building the soil for more perennials.

Well, truth be told we don't have grass.  We have a mixed plot of weeds.  I had gotten a push mower, but it's not capable of mowing weeds that are too tall.  The solution was a high schooler looking for work on his bike.  He mows the lawn for us now.  Wish I could call him and see if he wants to add leaf wrangler to his resume.  Next year I'm planting a shitload of white dutch clover and calling it a day.

Well, the vegetable garden did give up some bounty, but nowhere near optimal yield.  All the plants were small, even the large, indeterminate tomatoes should have been larger.  Tomatoes did not grow big, but stayed tennis ball sized or smaller.  One did not produce fruit.  We got one pumpkin.  She is the crown jewel of the harvest.  A few cucumbers, some small jalapenos, 2 golf ball sized watermelons.  All in all, a sad affair.  The saddest was the cauliflower.  It actually was growing until cabbage worms invaded when I was in NY for a week.  Hubby doesn't garden, and when I came back, they were decimated.  One is still trying to survive.  I'm going to keep it in the hoop house and see what happened.

My mind is exhausted.  I have only eaten two hershey bars today and it's 2:11.  Methinks I'll eat something now and save my tool/project review and plans for next year for another post or two.  Happy gardening!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Building a Keyhole Garden

Today I had the fortune to go to a free permaculture class where we built a keyhole garden at a local high school.  Part of joining the crew was bringing a homemade/homegrown potluck item.  Well, unfortunately as nicely as everything is growing in my garden, it's not very productive.  I thought about frying up the two green tomatoes, but that hardly puts a dent into the cast of 50 that might be there.  Any-who, after much debate, and scrapping a few ideas, (like a watermelon fruit salad carving), I decided to use up some canned fruit I had in my pantry.  Without further ado, I present:

Spiced Candied Orange Polenta Cake with Lavender

1 1/2 c. yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 c. ground almond meal
1/2 c. AP flour (I used this Cup4Cup recipe hack by Gluten Free on a Shoestring)
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 t. dried lavender (I pounded mine in a mortar and pestle to grind it up a little)

Mix this together

3 eggs
3/4 c. coconut oil (wanted to use EVOO, but ran out, since I used it up for plantain oil!)
3/4 c. caramelized candied orange slices (I used homemade, but try orange marmalade*)
3/4 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. almond milk (or whatever milk you have hanging around)
1/2 t. orange flower water

Mix this together.  Turn on oven to 350 degrees.  Let mix hydrate while oven preheats.  Grease standard loaf bread pan.  Bake for 40 minutes, or until center is set.

*If you use plain orange marmalade, try adding some cinnamon, cloves, cardamon, allspice, nutmeg and ginger to the mix.  Those are the spices in my candied oranges.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Massive Garden Update II

Hi again!  Where did I leave off?  Well after marathon gardening for the last few days, I'm covered in bug bites, scratches and bruises.  I love finding appropriate ways to indulge in my masochistic tendencies, lol.  My latest obsession mission is to weed all the plantains from my front lawn.  You see, way back when the grass started growing in the spring, I realized I really need a lawn mower.  Due to the small size of our shed, my decision was to get a reel mower.  Now I'm sure everyone in the neighborhood who sees me mowing the lawn thinks I'm crazy.  I do weird things, like rake leaves with a rake or mow my lawn with a reel mower.  So at first, my neighbor, with whom I first interacted after almost a year of living here for the first time practically pleaded with me to use her gas mower.  Of course my husband, being the way he is, was completely opposed to the idea.  Lord knows what would happen if the mower suddenly stopped working. For the record, he is appalled that I bought a reel mower and refuses to partake in mowing.  Part of what he likes about living here is that he finally is getting power tools.  I quite agree with him though, about borrowing the gas mower.  I don't have a gas mower because I don't want one.  I bought the tool I felt was adequate for the extra-large postage stamp of a lot we have.  The people across the street have a ride-on. So now every time I talk with the neighbors, I find myself defending the idea of hard work in gardening.  Truth be told, it's the only exercise I get, so it might as well be taxing.

Anyway, the reel mower works great on grass; the only caveat being is that I don't have grass.  Let's say I have a diverse lawn which is comprised of crabgrass, plantain, clover, and fake strawberries.  Click here if you need a refresher course on fake strawberries.  The reel mower has difficulty cutting the flower stalks of the plantain because it's too high to get caught in the rotary blade.  To combat this, I invested in a weedwacker.  Then my neighbor informed her son that I was weedwacking the lawn (which is only partially true, since I had to weedwack first to get rid of the plantain stalks AND THEN mow to get everything to be even.)  Hence my steadfast fortitude to rid the front lawn of this lanky weed outlier.  All the other weeds behave and get mowed to a relatively similar height.

Fast forward a few weeks: I came back from work one night exhausted and practically falling asleep while I was driving home.  After I parked the truck, I sort of noticed that something looked different about my house.  A man two houses down was trying to get my attention as I was parking.  Apparently, I was treated to a free trial of lawn care.  Oh.  The grass is mowed down to the ground.  Subsequent mowing service will cost me $10.  Yet another neighbor who feels sorry for me.  I may take him up on his offer one day, but right now, I feel like the lawn is my personal hell to conquer, so I will continue weeding.  My current regimen is as follows:  8 am:  get dressed covering all body parts with socks to prevent further bug bites.  (Currently, I look like I did when I was 12 and came home from pioneer camp.)  Take the black bin, garden tools and gardening gloves (to prevent any more fire ant bites on my hands, which are really annoying).  Plop down in the grass and start digging out plantains.  Scoot down the hill, taking out plantains in the "row" I'm working on.  The ironic thing about what I'm doing is that plantain helps bug bites.  Which I wouldn't have if I wasn't sitting in the grass and weeding plantains.

So now that I have this huge harvest of medicinal plantain leaves, it's been fun experimenting with home remedies.  I double infused extra-virgin olive oil with whole plants that I washed, wilted and chopped in a water bath for a few hours.  This morning my fire ant bite was itching so bad I wanted to tear my skin apart.  Desperate, I put on some oil and within a few minutes, the itch was barely noticeable.  It definitely is not itch free, but I can function somewhat normally without perseverating on the blister.  The plan is to infuse it with plantain a third time, and then with lemon balm and lavender.  Also might add some tea tree oil and/or vitamin E.  Lastly, some beeswax to turn it into a salve.  Ribwort (Narrowleaf) Plantain
Plantain infused olive oil

This brings me to the unintentional, intentional plantain patch:
Medicinal Plantain Patch

Part of the reason I feel I can tear up all he plantains in the front yard is because the broadleaf plantains have so nicely congregated into a patch all on their own.  You see, I have no issues with weeds per se.  It's the untidiness of unplanned diversity I don't like.  The thistles have also found a way to create what I've christened the "Magical Thistle Forest."  They are about 6 feet tall right now and ready to bloom.  I leave them alone because I wasn't using that area anyway, and I know the butterflies and bees love them.  They have to get cut down after blooming though, because I don't like them that much.  There's also random patches of some clumping grass that I've left alone because they've deposited themselves in the landscape in a way that makes people think i planted them.
Magical Thistle Forest

The wildflower bed is starting to bloom and the mysterious unmarked seeds are starting to reveal themselves, cosmos, poppies, lamb's ear, and various others.  Next year I may reseed if it needs, since they've come up pretty sparsely.  Here's to hoping they reseed prolifically in the bed I made for them.

Wildflower bed

The herb circle is doing well.  Alpine strawberries are blooming, lemon balm is taking over the world, and the rhubarb is looking more and more promising as a permanent resident.  Also featured is oregano, marjoram, dill, thai basil, purple basil, horehound, sage, violets, and two dianthus plants I bought for $1 at Wally World because they don't know how to keep their plants watered and deadheaded.  They should come back in a few weeks.
Herb Circle with Reclaimed Glass Birdbath
Rhubarb from Seed

The fig tree is happy, though I've been finding mealy bugs on some of the plants.  I try to inspect all the plants everyday so I don't miss any potential problems.  They're easy enough to get rid of with rubbing alcohol, though I see I'm going to have to add soap spraying to my regimen.  Going to try a homemade recipe with Fels-Naptha.

Next to the fig are lavender, thyme, rosemary, more oregano and marjoram (I grew a bunch from seed), a hosta I rescued at half price from Aldi's, a lilac bush that needs a home, some parsley and bolted lettuce that I keep for decoration.

Mini garden

Oh, and I forgot, a kefir lime tree seedling for seasoning Thai dishes, and a mini succulent garden.

Next up, the vegetable patch.  More on that tomorrow :D
Veggies are growing!!!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Massive Garden Update!!!!

Father, forgive me, it's been about 2 months since my last post...

So in the last two months, the garden has been doing it's thing.  First off, I discovered that there's a bunch of desirable stuff (to me) already growing here.  There's a tree that suspiciously looks like a fig tree, (which having looked at many houses in the Charlotte area most likely is because most houses come with one, lol!)  I believe it must be a fig, because there aren't really any other trees that have fuzzy fig looking leaves.  This tree was severely pruned, so I believe most of the growth is from this year.  It has no fruit, but should set a breba crop in the fall if all goes well.

There's a wild blackberry bush that needs some TLC, but has lots of blackberries on it, plus tons of volunteers coming up all over the place.  Haven't quite decided where the blackberry bramble should be.  I never understood about berries how you identify old growth, new growth, etc, but think I know now.  It seems that the old canes are brownish, diseased looking and thick, and the new canes are thinner, greener, healthier and have deeper ribs.  Weird.  At first, I didn't think they were coming from the same plant.  Next year I plan on pruning all old diseased looking canes and seeing what comes from the new ones.  This plant has been hacked back in the last year, so not sure what grew when.  The berries are quite small,  but this may have to do with light, soil condition, and pruning incorrectly.  We shall see.

There are vines that look like grapes, though the neighbor was adamant that they have never seen grapes on those vines in 20 years (however, they hack the crap out of it every year so who knows?)  Volunteers that look like it are coming up in various places around the yard.   Keeping an eye out to see what becomes of them.  They should flower eventually.  Don't all vines?  How else will it reproduce?  The jury is out on this one.

Next up are the strawberries.  We were able to harvest some tiny berries each day.  While there wasn't a bumper crop, it's nice to know they're there and I didn't have to do a darn thing.  Next year I'll try compost and see if they do even better.  I also have alpines in the herb circle, though I admit, I like the idea of turning the whole other side of the yard into an alpine berry patch.  Seems they like it there, so I might transplant the lot of them to make more room in the herb circle for next year.  Most likely it will go like this:  get truckload of compost.  Dump in the side yard area thing.  Dig up berries.  Plop them in.  Forget until spring.  I was trying to grow mint there, but I don't think the seeds took.  Keep forgetting to look.  I'm sure eventually one plant will spring up and take over the world.  IMHO, it's not the worst thing that can happen.  Sick of looking at rocky bare tree root soil.  Dominating mint and strawberry patch would be an improvement.  It's possible I can plant the strawberries in the front.  Nasturtiums failed miserably under the oak.  I think I may transplant into herb circle or container garden.

Ok, so now we can get to the stuff I actually planted.  Here is the buttonbush.  It seems happy.

Here's the spice bush.  It too is growing along.

Onto the hazelnuts.  These have been a tad slower.  Possibly from sub par location.
American Hazelnut
This might be American Hazelnut too?

And the chickasaw plums that seem to be doing alright.
Most likely Chickasaw Plum
Chickasaw Plum II

There's three more I forgot to photograph, a possible beautyberry, and two oakleaf hydrangeas.  The mystery plant is doing well.  One hydrangea has been eaten pretty good by insects.  The other in the front has been slow to grow.  Each of these tree/bushes was $2 last February, so I'm thrilled to have such a high rate of success.

I feel sad that I most likely won't see my vision for the backyard to come to fruition, but still, even if we stay for two more years, there will be a marked difference in the landscape.  The plan is to label each plant and put together a packet detailing general maintenance tips for the next tenants.  I hope the property management company doesn't come in and raze everything down when we leave.  It was nice this spring when the landscapers came in to trim the hedges.  They were surprised they didn't have to do so much because I had already trimmed them a few months before them.  I have a lot of plans for the front, but they're on hold till the back is under control.  I spend more time in the back than front, so for me it makes sense to work on that first.  This fall I'm hoping to plant perennials and get the woodland lot situated.  Hostas, ferns, astilbes, heuchera, lily of the valley (damnit, one day they'll grow for me!), bleeding hearts, toad lily, and whatever other shady perennial stuff I can find.  For me, perennial gardens are the ultimate.  There's not so much to do once established except fall clean up, spring fertilize, and divide when they outgrow their spot.  It's important for a rented property to have easy to care for gardens.  Though I dream of a permaculture food forest, I wanted to pay homage to the woodland cottage garden and want include these favorites, even though they don't have much use other than decorative.  Well this post is getting long.  Will post about veg and Walmart sale flowers tomorrow :D

Friday, April 25, 2014

Los Cuatro Gatos Locos Urban Homestead

So I have four crazy cats, therefore, I figured since they're the only animals I have so far, I'd name the urban homestead after them.  Things have been going well here.  Hubby's been busy building things for me.  Unknowingly, he has enrolled in my "Farmhand in Training" program.  He's doing a great job.  So far, I have an outdoor sink, two raised beds and lettuce table on the way.  Apparently, we need more power tools.  I believe this is the motivating factor behind his willingness to help me.  He's such a manly man.  The machismo is really coming out now :D

Isn't he just precious?!


I found two cute white shutters, which will go on the front.  I haven't told him it needs a shelf or that I envision panels around the whole thing, but that's ok.  It will be serviceable once we find a faucet for it.  I'm going to try the Habitat for Humanity ReStore tomorrow. Not sure what color to paint it.  Any suggestions?

Here's the raised beds and the plants longing for its warm embrace.

Going to try to convince him to build just one more, lol.  There might also be a tire planter involved in this area.

Finally, the nasturtiums have really sprouted well via the wet paper towel method.  100% germination!  Yay!  I chose "Alaska" for its variegated leaves, since everything in the front yard is green or brown.  They will encircle the oak tree in the front yard.  First, I put down a ring of compost around the pine mulch, then I walked on it to tamp it down.   The seedlings are spaced about 12 inches apart.  They seem to be growing ok.  Oh, and we have fire ants everywhere!  We're going to try the boiling water method for a bit before we try more extreme tactics.  I've got bites that are two weeks old and still itchy!

Friday, April 18, 2014


Hallo!  So on Monday I found out that my lateral entry teaching program will officially be over on Monday, April 28th!!!  Long story short, they told me I only qualify to get two scores counted toward my final decision instead of three.  I wept in the car from sheer joy that this 10+ year journey is about to be a finished chapter in my book.  It's unbelievable to me how this has really weighed down on me.  The original plan was to be a teacher in NY.  It took almost 4 years for me to finish my undergraduate, then I went back to grad school the next semester, then I was there for a few years, and was almost finished, but then got sick, and could never bring myself to go back since I hated my program so much.  I was floundering around about what I should do, when a year ago, I received an invitation to apply in Charlotte to be a teacher.  I bit, and my whirlwind of a year began.  Now I find it will be officially over soon.  My scores are in the passing range and in a celebratory gesture, I dropped thirty bucks on a nice goodwill haul.  Mostly work clothes, of course.  Phase One of Farm in Five is nearing completion.  Though I think I have to stay in North Carolina for two more years to get my permanent license, there's no more school or program requirements.  They said they will give us more info about that on Monday.

So I submitted my magazine article, and am awaiting news from the editor.  This is so exciting.  My life is slowly starting to resemble what I've always envisioned.  It's going to take more time to get there, but Phase Two of Farm in Five is Make More Money/Buy a House.  I'm going to have to find a second job, and get our finances in order to get a house in the next two years, but it's looking good.  Pretty much right on track.    The plan is to buy the cheapest house I can through a government sponsored lottery for public servants in teaching, firefighters, police and EMT. This will allow me, hopefully to cut my rent in half, and within three years, sell the property for a profit since I am only required to pay 50% of the mortgage, and have a down payment for the farm.  In preparation for our home, I've been watching lots of DIY and HGTV.  Can't wait to add "home improvement diva" to my resume!

Lastly, with all this other stuff off my mind, I can focus on getting the competitions details hashed out for SAFF.  In the last few years, there has not been a proper fleece/sheep to shawl competition.  This makes me sad. Something like this can inspire someone to be a spinner or a weaver and add to our growing ranks.  I know it did for me.  I'm responsible for bringing it back now.  Up till now, I've been focused on the rules, and logistics of the event.  It's time to start thinking about how it will look, as well as how to get more participants and also how to drum up prizes.  Because there are so many new weavers, and I know I was prevented from participating in this event until I found someone with a four harness loom and four other spinners, I'm proposing to also have a rigid heddle scarf competition.  I believe this will attract more people and is appropriate for people who have less skill and equipment in weaving.  It will also allow for more creativity from the spinners, who will be allowed to make art yarn, weave in locks, use angelina and other fun stuff, and use commercially prepared roving and drum carders/carding boards.  This one will be a bit more challenging to form rules for and I think I need to form a practice team first to get a handle of how many people are needed to make it so.  Also, I'm toying with the idea of a "Wild Card" team, who will be supplied with tools/equipment/materials needed so we can get one more team made up of people who didn't register, but would like to compete and can sign up the weekend of the fair.

Whew!  Been busy!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Busy Little Bee Part II

Well, I thought I'd separate my loooong post into two parts.  There are some updates on the bareroot plants I bought in February, as well as my fig tree.  

Here is my fig tree.  I'm so freakin' excited:

Now with more and bigger leaves!  Yay!

Some of the native plants I bought are showing signs of life.  Not sure what this one is.  It might be a buttonbush, two others are oak leaf hydrangeas, and the last one leafing out might be a hazelnut.  Can't remember.

When we first came to the property, it was overrun with vegetation around the fences, and barren in the middle.  To balance this out, my plans were to thin out the fence line, and start building up the middle.  Once it fills in, it will add dimension to the yard, and afford some meandering paths around to add interest and a tiny little woodland lot.  We added the firepit in the center in between the trees to be a focal point and for fire safety rules to be away from the house.  Gravel that was in front of the back door was raked up and repurposed.  Right now, there's still a lot of brown everywhere, but over time, it will change.  The leaf litter serves as a mulch to keep the weeds down and build up the soil, and affords good cover for insects and worms which are beneficial to both the soil and the birds.  We noticed that water continues to drain from our property up to a day after it has rained.  I think it's because with all the mulch, the water drains more slowly, and has a chance to seep into the soil, as well as keep erosion down, since the whole backyard is sloped.

I never noticed there were some interesting plants, so when I attacked the fence line with the lopers,  I found these:

A vine that suspiciously looks like some kind of scuppernog or muscadine grape.

And these:

Which appear to be some sort of brambleberry with LOTs of brambles.  Ouchy.

And these:

Most likely strawberries.  Not to be confused with these:

False Strawberries.  (It took until they bloomed with yellow flowers for me to notice the difference.  They will form tiny hard berries for the birds, though.)

And the last surprise is I got started on two projects that have been on the backburner:

Repurposed glass birdbath and butterfly food dish to go in the center of the herb circle:


And the salad table:

Whew!  That was a lot of work.  Going to drink and write and spin and relax for the rest of the night.  Cheers!

Busy Little Bee

It's been an awesome weekend!

First, a disclaimer:  clearly I wanted to impress you, dear reader, with my photo and text laden post complete with inept iPhone pictures.  I hope you forgive the crappy angles and shadows and get the gist of what I'm trying to illustrate.

Yay!!  I don't have to go to work tomorrow, so that gave me the drive to get lots accomplished in a few days.  Hubby and I went to the county yard waste management facility and picked up one cubic yard of compost.  I think we got more than that, but it was pretty funny.  Hubby kept telling me I bought too much, but I tried to explain to him how 1 yard was the minimum of what you could purchase.  If we spent $23 on compost at the local big box garden center, it would have gotten us several bags.  This way I got a whole pick up truck full!  It was totally worth it.  I finally got around to filling in the herb circle.  My plan was to fill it up with a soil and compost mix, but we can't afford soil right now so straight up compost is where it's at.  Not sure what will happen, but lots of other crap grows in our soil, so eventually, I think the roots will spread to the soil level.  We shall see.  In the meantime, it was a lot of work to shovel the rest out of the pickup onto the tarp today.  Who needs yoga for toned arms?  I'm doing the farmgirl workout, lol!


I also was able to spread some compost on the back strip I cleared this winter in preparation for the wildflower bed.  I have no idea what's in the seed mix, if it will grow, or anything other than I bought 1 oz of southeastern wildflower mix, tossed it on the compost, stepped on it to pack it in and watered the shit out of it.  My goal is to water 2x a day until I see established seedlings, then taper off to once a day till they get bigger.  The soil back there is a bit better, since I don't think people raked back there, so the quality is a bit more loamy than clay.


I planted out the herbs I started inside in the herb circle.  There's a few horehound plants, since I've been dying to make "Rock and Rye" for "medicinal purposes" and Christmas gifts.  There's one weird lavender plant I grew from seed that looks nothing like lavender but smells like lavender.  I'd like to see what happens to it.  It's got broad leaves and a thick, sturdy stem.  Also, I planted out my alpine strawberry plants I grew from seed and it remains to be seen how they will fare.  And two rhubarb plants.  People say rhubarb does NOT grow here, it's too hot, but for 35 cents, I figured I'd give it a try.  Next, there's some spearmint, I think, and orange mint or something, but I don't remember.  In the next ring of  the circles, I planted some johnny jump ups and pansies, but it remains to be seen how they will do, as it is a bit late for them.  Apparently, they don't do well in the heat, either.  There's some nasturtium seeds that I soaked in the paper-towel-sprouting method experiment, since apparently, they're hard to germinate because of their hard seed coating.  Those will go around the tree out front, as an experiment to see if composting the roots will let things grow there instead of cultivating a pile of pine needles.  

Lastly, I threw some compost by the fence and planted some sweet pea seeds and am praying for them.  I'm sure they won't like the heat, either, but what the hell?   I shall call this "Southern Gardening for Northerners 101, School of Hard Knocks, Charlotte, NC.  I'm sure many have taken this class before me.  The key to passing it is learning from your mistakes, and not getting too discouraged.


There's too much to talk about, so I'm going to post a sequel, complete with MORE crappy iPhone photos :D

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

In two days time...

I will be on vacation.  No, I won't be travelling the world, or eating at fancy restaurants, or swimming in sparkling sapphire waters, but I won't be at work.  Also, my bestie is coming to visit and we'll be house hunting for her big move to NC.  Yay!

I did some spinning this morning before and worked on an article while proctoring a depressing bunch of ESL students who were taking a reading exam in English. I felt bad that they clearly had no idea what the hell they were reading.  Ironically, one of passages had instructions on how to write a magazine article.  Maybe I should have paid closer attention.   I'm just about finished with it and look forward to getting it done.

In television news, my husband and I are crushed that Being Human is Being Discontinued, although I'm not surprised.  What's more shocking is that a total copy of a British show, with the same characters, and similar stories, lasted for as many seasons as it has.  It was a good run Aiden.  We will miss your vampire-y hotness.  (That goes for Aiden (Mitchell) in the Brit show, too.  Been missing your hotness for a while.  Also, Agents of Shield went cray cray last night.  I think it's the first time a movie and a current TV show had overlapping story lines with the same actors at the same time.  People who did not see Captain America: The Winter Soldier are totally screwed now.  It's only been out for a little over a week, and there were no spoilers or anything.  Jeez.  I feel lucky that we saw it last weekend, so events weren't so shocking.  I have a feeling we will see more of that in the future.  It totally works.  Now you won't be able to wait for the digital version unless you want to wait to watch your favorite weekly TV show.  I'm surprised it took this long for someone to figure that out.

Lastly, my gardening plans have been on hiatus and it makes me sad.  I'd like to get some straw bales, but apparently, straw isn't in season in the spring, and I'm afraid to drive the truck too far to get some for fear of breaking down in the middle of Bumblefuck, NC.  I guess the perks of it would be that there would be mountains of F-150 parts for fixing what needed fixing.  I'm thinking Dawn will be my partner in crime for that event.  (Please don't read that Dawn...)  After I get the straw home, it still needs 10 days to break down and get ready for planting.  I think it's ok, though, since we have a long growing season.  It'll all work out in the end :D

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Bring me some figgy pudding!

Yes.  It's April.  And the title of my post is symbolic of December festivities.  Why, you ask?  Well because of this:

Baby Fig Leaf

My fig tree has finally started to come to life.  I've been waiting since the plant sale in November of last year for this day.  Not sure what will happen, but here's to hoping I have at least one lone fig for figgy pudding this Christmas.

In other news, I've passed my observations for the lateral entry teaching program.  Hip hip hooray.  And I passed my first year North Carolina evaluation.  Woo-hooo!  Now I will get my temporary teaching license until the end of grade test scores come back.  Which may not be until next November or so.  Who knows?  In the meantime, I have a bit of weight taken off my back from worrying so much about it.  On Wednesday, I have a job interview for a summer camp counselor.  The pay is OK, and I definitely need a summer job.  We'll see what happens.  The good thing is we're doing it.  We're making it happen in NC.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Oh Trucky Truck!

We are experiencing a rocky initial relationship with the new (old) truck. Like a newly adopted child, it seems we need to get acquainted better before we make any decisions on if we really like her.  (The Tardis.  Behemoth.  Trucky truck.)  The day before we registered her officially, hubby broke off the oil dipstick tube.  We ended up plugging up that hole permanently and the prescription was get the oil changed every 2-3 months so you know it's clean.  Ok.  Not traumatic.  Today we took her out on the road for our first pallet-collecting trip.  I think we used 1/4 tank just to go a few miles because of nasty rush hour traffic.  She took 4 pallets like it was nothing, the workhorse that she is.  We didn't even have bungees or rope; just tossed 'em back there, said a prayer, and went home.  Windows were down, A/C blowing hot air.  Like a dream.  Then when we got home, my window wouldn't go up.  Dammit to hell.  Now we're stuck with an open window.  Tried taking the switch apart and checking the connections, but to no avail.  Hubby thinks motor is seized.  Crap.  It seems my new hobby is the truck.  Which may or may not be good.  At least I'll be getting experience in fixing cars like I always wanted.  Oy vey!!!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

It's over!

I finally had my last observation and I think it went pretty well.  I told my students I would give them $10 each (fake school money) if they did everything I told them to do the first time and participated.  They all did really well.  Then the assistant principal observed me.  I think that went ok, too.  In any case,  I believe my observations may be over for the year.  I also passed my portfolio project, which I had been stressed about and received my provisional teaching license.  Yay!  If I can only hold onto it!!

The truck had some issues when we brought it home.  It was missing the entire exhaust system and one of the exhaust manifolds was broken in half.  We got two new front tires, and an alignment, so now the steering wheel is oriented almost correctly.  There are still some issues, like power steering leak and the directionals won't stay on when you click them on, but we're just hoping we pass inspection today.  Then we'll register the truck on Monday and it should be good to go.  I keep having this fear that when we go to the DMV it will have been reported stolen and the police will come arrest my husband and I'll have to bail him out and the guy we bought it from furnished the house he claimed he lived in and brought some people over to pretend they were watching TV and his kids and the whole thing was a scam.  Or maybe he broke into the house when those people were on vacation so it looked lived in.  Or maybe it really was a legit transaction.  This is what being from NYC does to a person.  Anywho, my seedlings are hardening off in the rain outside, and it's going to be 65 degrees today.   I really need to replant a few of them.  Pumpkins and cucumbers shouldn't be sown in February in Charlotte.  If they die, I'll just plant new ones.  Still trying to procure straw bales for my garden and one of the houses in the neighborhood had a tree cut down, so we think we're going to take the wood and chop it into firewood.  I suppose hubby can finally get the chainsaw and axe he wants! (Though to be fair, I really wanted to get a sawzall first to break down some pallets and make an outdoor sink and salad bed.)

Well, going to try to get some housework done so I can relax with hubby tomorrow.  We'll probably barbecue or have a cookout tomorrow, or at least have a nice evening with the firepit.  Off to carpe diem!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Counting Down...

It seems it the time of the school year for count downs.  Some teachers are counting down days till spring break.  Others are dutifully ticking off the days till the end of the school year.  Or End of Grade testing (EOGs). I, however am hyper-aware of my last teacher-prep program observation.  Tomorrow.  I found out I have passed my large project portfolio, so am elated about that.  Still, I worry.  It could be said I am a poster child for low self-esteem.  Everytime there's a test or evaluation, I fear failure.  Most times I do really well.  I sincerely hope that this impending feeling of doom about tomorrow is in my crazy head. I may have a break down when my certification becomes a reality.  This is a road I've been traveling for the better of ten years.  It's almost over!!

In other breaking news,we spent some cash last weekend.  We had been using the patio set from NY as our kitchen table, but because it's round, the chairs don't push all the way in and it blocks the back door and the refrigerator.  I had been looking for a rectangular table that has chairs that push in and found one at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. That place is awesome!  It was more than what I wanted to pay ($125) but is worth it, since it has fold down leaves that make the rectangle a circle, and two center leaves that make the circle an oval, it's pretty versatile.  Especially since we don't have a dining room and it's the only table we have.   Love it!!


Then, on Sunday, we bought a truck.  A serious, real truck.  Not like the Ranger.  It's a 1988 F-150 XLT Lariat.  It has an extended cab and a long bed.  Two gas tanks and 8 cylinders.  A little overkill? Perhaps, but in the spirit of my current life motto, "Farm in 5",  I think it's perfect :D  Currently, it's undergoing repairs to make it inspection worthy, but hopefully we'll have it tomorrow.  Seems it was lacking an exhaust system.  No wonder it sounded like a monster!  We call it the Tardis, since when my husband first drove it he exclaimed, "What the fuck is this, a time machine?  Why are there so many knobs and buttons everywhere?!"  He is such a character.


Saturday, March 22, 2014

Time is flying!!

Happy Spring Reader (Sara, lol) !!

It's been a climatic ping-pong game of late, bouncing from balmy barbeque weather to stretches of familiar nippy, rainy days.  Today the high will be around 74° F, ending our 3 day streak of beautiful weather.  Tomorrow, the high will be in the 50s° F.  We will continue to see highs in the 50s for the remainder of the week until Thursday, when it will go up to the 60s for a while.  I think that's where we are supposed to be in Charlotte at this time of year.  We've been enjoying our back patio that we made with plastic patio pavers which don't require installation except for placing them on the ground and stomping on them.  Making our backyard space livable by our standards has been challenging, especially because we rent and we are on a budget.  Most of the modifications can only be made once we get a pick-up truck, and that's taking longer than I imagined.  The plan was to get one on Christmas vacation, but it seems more likely that it will happen on Easter vacation.  No matter, I know the right time will present itself soon.  Then I can bring in some straw bales for my straw bale garden, dirt and compost for my herb circle and wood shavings, and/or whatever else is deemed necessary.

In the meantime, my seedlings are going crazy, with the pumpkin and cucumber getting quite large and ornery.  I keep thinking to transplant them to a pot soon, but get sidetracked easily.  It will get done today. Part of me thinks it's ok for me to let them die, since they're up quite early, but instead, I'll keep them going as long as I can with minimal hassle.  Maybe I can rustle up some 5 gallon buckets from a hotel or restaurant nearby.  Something started digging in my mini radish patch and lettuce garden the other day.  There was only a few seedlings, so there was minimal damage, but still, I think it was squirrels, since we seem to have an army of them nearby.  I know it could have been rabbits, but I've never seen rabbit damage, so I'm not quite sure.

The reality that the end of the year is fast-approaching is bringing much stress.  My lateral-entry teaching program has ended bi-weekly seminars, and I'm just waiting for my final observation and results.  This year has been especially challenging, with the long distance move and financial difficulties we have endured.  I admit I have not been on my A-game with all the distractions, but am hopeful I will find success and complete the program this year.  Also, it is time to start looking for a summer job.  Because we have not had a steady stream of income since we moved, I will not have the option of a free summer. That's ok though. My whole life I've worked summers, so I don't have much of an opinion about it.  One day, we will be able to swing it, but for now, I have to start planning.  Summer camp is an option I am considering.  A co-worker recommended me for a position as a camp counselor.  The pay isn't great, but my hope is to supplement it with some ABA cases on nights/weekends.

In other news, I've been spinning lots.  And drum carding and not a moment too soon!!! Fiber Fallout is open for business.  Not sure how I will pay for it, but I know I have to go. Somehow it seems like I'm going to have a lot less yarn than I initially thought.  My plan now is to spin all that I have of Guilia and then assess the situation from there.  I'm coming up with a 3-ply worsted with occasional slubs, which I like.  My plan was to have some of that homespun irregularity in my yarn, so it's pretty successful to date.  There's a total of approximately 140 yards, with two 8 oz bobbins full of singles and a few ounces leftover on 4 oz bobbins.  And 8 more oz to card and spin.  I guess I thought that 3 bobbins of singles=3 bobbins of plied, but it doesn't really work that way.  All guesstimates are out the window.  It's a learning experience to say the least.  I might have to add some more wool from a different sheep.  The plan was to make a Guilia sweater coat, but for some reason, the numbers aren't adding up.  I can't help thinking that I misplaced a few pounds.  There was a ton of wool. (Or maybe 7-8 pounds)  I know there wasn't a ton of lanolin, so my yield was at least 4 pounds, so what happened to the rest of it.  There's not much carding waste.  WTF?!  I'll figure it out.  There's still a bunch of spinning and plying to do.  I like how everything is coming together, though.

Rant Alert!!!  Read only if you care about teacher salary issues in NC

The problem is that North Carolina has the 46th lowest average teacher salary in the United States.  Beginning teachers do not get a raise in the first 5 years of service.  Yearly salary increases after that average $400 years 6 and 7, then go up to over $1000 in subsequent years. Masters degrees no longer warrant an increase in pay, either.  This is the whole reason I am here; the lateral entry program I am in supplies teachers to this county because they are not able to keep enough teachers in the system mostly due to the poor salary scale and urban school environment.  We are located within 15 minutes of South Carolina, which has a notable school district and has average yearly salary increases of about $800 starting from the first year.  There are at least three more states within a few hours of here, all of which pay better than here.  Why would anyone want to stay here when it is clear that teachers are undervalued and overworked?  This issue has been headline news on a daily basis.  There is talk everyday of overhauling the teacher pay scale, granting increases to new teachers, changing things in my favor.  On the forefront of these talks, though, is a motion to grant only 25% of teachers a 4-year contract with a $5000 salary increase spread over the course of the contract.  This is intended replace teacher tenure and move towards performance-based evaluation.  This 25% will be selected allegedly based on principal observations and years of teaching, but remains unclear.  If you are selected as part of the 25%, you will have to choose if you want to remain tenured, or if you want a 4-year contract.  If you opt out of the contract, you are back in the same position of not getting a raise for x amount of years, so in essence, it's the offer you can't refuse.  Now I am an EC teacher.  I expect my students to grow, however, due to their disabilities, I don't expect that they will score high on their EOGs or standardized tests.  That is the reality of what I do.  I will maximize my instructional time, differentiate my instruction, and collect and analyze data, but my students have an IEP which is a legal document which stands for Individualized Educational Program.  Why are my students taking a grade level standardized test with no modifications and this score is being factored into my performance grade?  How much growth should we expect from a student with LD?  How about Mild Intellectual Disability? Developmental Delay?  Please enlighten me so I can make the grade!  It is frustrating to say the least.  I'd love to see the percentage of EC teachers who are invited to the 25% club.  I'm sure it won't be surprising.  Sorry for the rant.  It helped me understand the issue by researching it to write about it.  I am slightly optimistic that some of these issues will be resolved in the near future.  I feel that this topic can't remain in the hot seat for much longer without something favorable happening soon. Performance-based pay is here to stay, though.  While I do feel that we shouldn't keep ineffective teachers in the classroom, I don't think that scores are the only measure of a teacher's effectiveness.   That's all on that.  I'll stay here for a while, as salary has never been a driving force for most of my career decisions in life, but I know I have options should I ever tire of this state's stance on educational issues.  I know I'm never going back to NY, but there are still 48 other states to choose from, lol.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

I gone done it

Well, it seems that seeds are not the only ones who reproduce when the days get longer.  I think I artificially stimulated my kitten to go into heat.  Yikes.  We've had 3 sleepless nights already, what with the yowling and meowing all night.  I've been trying to make an appointment to get her spayed, but they never pick up at the office.  As I understand it, there's a limited window of opportunity to get her spayed in between cycles, which will continue until she gets preggers or the days get shorter again.  Or something like that.

Yesterday,  I managed to card up 4 oz of fleece to blend with the first batch I dyed.  (Promise pictures next week.  I'm not even supposed to be writing this, since I have a crapload of work to do.)  After I submit my project on Sunday, things should settle down for a bit.  I can't wait to say goodbye to February.  This month has been hell.

The seeds are doing well.  I think the chamomile tea mist helps.  I have to keep at it everyday, but there's hardly any white fuzzy stuff anymore.  Some more seeds have come up, so there's lavender and some alpine strawberries.  Still waiting on the huckleberries and rhubarb.  Most of the seedlings are big enough that you can actually see them upon first looking at the seed tray, instead of closely inspecting every nook and cranny for signs of life.  Feeling a bit more confident, but damping off is a constant worry.  Well, gotta get to work.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Back to the Grind

Today was back to work.  Yes.  On a holiday.  But that's ok since we had a lovely 5-day break.  It also made the seedlings grow faster.  They do that when you're not looking at them every time you pass the seedling room.  Which is about every hour or so.  I saw the beginnings of rhubarb, lavender, oregano, thyme, marjoram, rosemary and lemon balm.  It's super exciting to see how they all look similar, but they will be changing a lot soon. The frais de bois and huckleberries are the hold outs.  I actually expected all the seeds to take a while so I'm pleased as punch I have this much action after 5 days. The super strong chamomile tea I brewed up seems to be helping with the damping off.  I no longer see the fuzzy white hairs on top of the soil.  2.99 for the chamomile flowers and 1.50 for the spray bottle.  I was desperate.  Next weekend is the county plant sale.  All the plants are $2 and I plan on getting around 10, depending on if they have the sex of the plants identified.  I really wanted to get some berries for the birds, but some of them won't fruit unless there is a male plant.  Hopefully someone can help me with that.  Mostly they are offering native shrubs and trees that thrive in clay soil.  That's good for maintenance.  It's nice to think I can have a lush woodland garden with minimal upkeep.

In other news, my cat went into heat.  It's the first time I've had an unspayed female and she's been yowling like mad.  Two of the boys think she is cray, and avoid her, and one seems to remember what you do with a female in heat, and keeps trying to mount her.  Money's been so tight, so even though we wanted to do it sooner, we just couldn't.  It's a priority now.  I can't live like this indefinitely with consecutive heat cycles.  Apparently, it won't stop until she gets preggers.  Which won't happen in my house.  None of the boys have their balls.  Signing off for now ;)

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Last day of my Impromptu Staycation :(

Happy Sunday!  Unfortunately everyone goes back to school tomorrow.  Oh well.  It was nice while it lasted.  This morning I looked through my fiber stash and sorted through it a bit.  Seems like I have a Jacob and a half, one baby Icelandic, one baby Shetland, the rest of Guilia (Coopworth/Border Leicester cross), one black/brown cross-breed from SAFF, half a silver Lincoln/BFL cross, and some more odds and ends.  The cross breed from SAFF is in the bathtub right now.  Gosh it's nice stuff.  Magicstix felted hers by accident from getting used to going crazy with the Cheviot this last year.  The dirt practically fell away from the fleece.  It's one of the cleanest I've washed in a long time.  Also, the electric centrifugal spin dryer works fantabulously!  I recommend anyone who works with copious amounts of fleece or roving to own one.  I happened to snag this one for free just before I left NY, but they cost about $145.  Definitely a worthwhile investment.

On the gardening front, the snow is pretty much melted, and I have a few more seedlings.  I see the beginnings of some fungus/mildew and am worried about damping off.  I'm going to try chamomile tea and see if that helps.  If not, next is boric acid.  We'll see.  I'm sure they'll be a lot more action next week.  Here's hoping.  I know my blog is seriously lacking pictures, but iPhone is not doing a great job (yes, i'm blaming it on the technology, not the user.)  Will dig out my camera and see if I can wrangle up some pics.


In fiber-related news, the black/brown fleece is drying and it's heavenly.  Spun up a tiny sample.  9 oz of Guilia is on the stove right now.  I'm trying to figure out what to do about my Post-Apocalypse coat.  It needs to be finished by the time Fiber Fallout comes around in September.  I dyed up about 2+ pounds of fleece a few years ago, then carded all the colors separately into batts.  My original idea was to have Steph card them together on her mini-mill to get a heathered green, but after the flood, it became hectic and no longer feasible.  Eventually, I got restless and started spinning up the batts by color with no real plan.  Now I see that I'll prolly need about 3-4 pounds for the sweater/coat and need to dye up some more.  The original design was based on an acrylic sweater coat I wore the crap out of, however, it's progressed from just a plain copy-cat design.  The bust had a horizontal cable across it, with the rest of the sweater ribbed from the empire waist.  Now that I have a bunch of colors, I plan on making a fair isle design and steeking it.  Something with green/brown/orange/white and possibly mushrooms.  Then I can knit down from the waist plain ribbing and increase my needle size to give it a slight a-line shape.  If I run out of the main color on the body, I can revise the design to include fair isle on the sleeves.  So anyway, I spun up 12 oz of green and 5 oz of green/brown.  I have 4 oz of green left over.  My plan is to dye up 9 oz of similar green, card it with the original green, and then dye up another 12 oz of similar green, ply the 3 together to get a little over 2 pounds of the main color.  This leaves me with some extra white fleece to work with for the fair isle part. If necessary, I can also add in some other fiber, like the black/brown
SAFF fleece, or the silver Lincoln/BFL.   I've also decided that the fair isle body will be 2-ply, while the rest will be 3 ply.  It will also have a hood, but it remains to be seen what kind of design.  So far this thing sounds like a hot mess, but I have faith in my skills.  I can do eet!!  I'm crazy.  This is my first handspun sweater.  Clearly, I love to stuff my mouth with more than I can chew.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Happy Saturday!

Hubby finally landed a full time position!  Yay!  The pay isn't great, but it's full-time with benefits so at least he's set up for the future for now.  I'm still working on getting a retro-active raise with my experience.  Hopefully it will pan out favorable for us.  In the meanthyme, um meantime, I have tiny itty bitty thyme seedlings.  You can barely see them.  Oh so cute!  I thought they would take a long time, but there they are.  Can't wait to see more seedlings tomorrow.  They grow so fast!  Saw some white mold/mildew forming so kept the top off all day to dry out some.  Hopefully I can avoid damping off.

In fibery news, finally dug out Guilia and recarded the green batts so I can continue working on my car coat.  I'm struggling with how to divide up the yarn.  I only dyed 16 oz of green, but prolly need 2-2 1/2 pounds of the MC.  Thinking of doing a fair isle bust, so the rest of the colors could be flexible.  Too many decisions!  Also, knit a bit on the sock that will not end.  Hopefully it will be done before I run out of yarn, or else I'll have to rip out some of the first one and finish it again.  BTW, I HATE SIZE 0 NEEDLES!  Onward.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Pax has brought me some peace!

Greetings from NC and Happy Valentine's Day!  Winter storm Pax has granted me early spring break.  At least, that's how I'm viewing it, since my district has now taken away two days from our upcoming break for make-up days.   Oh well.  It's not like I was going anywhere anyways.  It's a stay-cation no matter how you slice it.  The only difference is that I have no choice in staying, since we're pretty much snowed in.  No plows come down my road, and most in my neighborhood are retirees, with no interest in digging out to get anywhere.  We'll see what happens today.  Hubby has off till Monday, too.  We already discussed a crisis plan for him.  I have to keep him exercised so he doesn't turn aggressive, lol.  Looks like he's walking to Compare foods today...

Checking on seeds during week one is depressing.  Nothing going on at all.  It took me all day to sow 1 flat of perennials.  Though I wanted to recycle containers and spend minimal cash on seed-starting, I splurged for seedling plug trays.  At $5 a pop at Wally World, there's no reason for me not to buy them.  It's just easier.  I will recycle those next year.  First,  I dutifully filled the flats with peat-based seed starter.  Then I boiled some water to off-gas the chlorine in my tap.  Then I cooled the water with snow outside and bottom watered them.  A few hours later, dry as a bone.  Ugh.  Don't I already know this from boiling water in my basement years ago and wetting bags of peat?  So...I boiled the water again and mixed it in a stainless steel mixing bowl.  Ok, soil wetted.  Refilled the plugs, and then started planting.  After I spoke to my friend, I determined it's too early to plant vegetables.  So I figured I seed all my perennials which allegedly take forever.  Mind you, I don't even have garden beds in yet!  This truly is a fly-by-night operation.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Fast Forward Time Machine!!!!

Welcome back, oh faithful reader!  It's been over 3 years since I posted, but I think I'm back.  Seems like only yesterday I dreamed of having a trailer.  Oh yeah.  It was.  At least now, I have a driveway and backyard.  The trailer dream is closer than ever.  Try finding a place to park that thing while you're renting in Queens!

Anywho, I have moved to North Carolina and am loving it.  We're broke, and in transition, but I can see that we are a step closer to our dreams.  Most of them are contingent on me getting a pickup truck again, but that's in the works.  Hubby and I have been working on landscaping our barren backyard.  You have to see it to believe it.  Big trees, no grass.  Red clay, on a slope.  Builder's fill in everywhere and tree roots as far as the eye can see.  How can we fix it?  What can we do?

 (Curtains open...steps onto soapbox.)


Ok.  I said it.  Well, yelled it.  It's crazy to me how people have come so far from what is common sense.  Also, how they like to make more work for themselves.   When the air turns clear and brisk, and the wind has pushed out the heavy, sticky bug-infested air, bags of leaves appear mysteriously at the roadside.  They get carted off to the municipal yard waste facilities, where you can buy it back as compost for $23/cu yard.   Did I mention there's a fee to deposit it, too, if your vehicle is larger than a car?  Yes.    If you have a pick-up truck less than 10 ft. long, you only have to pay $8.50.  You pay to drop it off, and then to pick it up.   Genius.

Suffice to say, I will NOT be carting my leaves out.  Phase one of operation backyard overhaul includes raking leaves into beds that will remain undisturbed and build humus-rich soil that is typically found under large woodland trees.  Excess leaves will be raked to the left side of the yard to start building up the soil to fill in the ditch that has formed there, most likely due to water runoff since it's on the low end of the slope.  There is no topsoil in my yard.  Between the roots and builder's fill, it's near impossible to dig a hole.  No-till principles have become my best friend.

The funny thing is, since I did this, we see more birds in our yard than on either neighbor's yard.  That's how I know I'm on the right track.  One day we saw over 40 robins in our yard, hopping through the leaves after a light snow.  We also have frequent cardinals, a few types of woodpeckers, an owl resides nearby, and some rabbits in the brush just beyond our fence.  This is the reason we moved here:  to be part of a larger community of not just people, but plants and animals, too.  Looking forward to a beautiful yard filled with life :D

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