Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Sweater Swap?

It's been cold and rainy. Just now the sun came out, perhaps signaling some clearing--but since we're getting on toward evening, that may well mean freezing temperatures tonight. It sure feels like it. Brrr. It's been awhile since I've felt 39 degrees F during the day.

Naturally this sudden chill has inspired me to look at gardening magazines. In particular, I've enjoyed Horticulture: The Art and Science of Smart Gardening (the February/March issue features Alnwick Gardens, Alnick being the castle where Harry Potter was filmed,) Fine Gardening, and Birds and Blooms.

The Austin Rose ads haunt me in particular. Oh, the roses I could grow!

Which reminds me of a conversation I had with my friend R one afternoon a few years back. She and I discussed how someone she knew married rich and spent her husband's money on such things as expensive hand-knitted sweaters, some of which cost thousands of dollars.

"Now spending thousands of dollars on the garden," I said, "that isn't silly at all."
"Not at all," R agreed.
"Five thousand on planters and plants for the deck, including cast-iron hooks and iron cages for hanging baskets."
"A few thousand for a pond and waterfall."
"Toss a few more thousand on full-sized trees--I think a chocolate mimosa over there would be nice." (FYI, a small chocolate mimosa will cost a couple of hundred dollars.)
"A copper trellis for a really nice climbing rose."
"Stone columns and maybe one of those really fancy garden houses with an all-glass second floor."
"Six foot high stone walls."
"With stained glass windows."
"Ooo yeah!"
We went on like that for some time.
"Now that wouldn't be silly to spend money on at all," I said.
"Absolutely not. Not like sweaters."
We sipped our wine and enjoyed the deck view of the garden, thoroughly puffed up with virtue. After all, think of all the things we could do for the price of a few sweaters! Of course, the sweaters would be pretty nice to snuggle in while wander the garden in early spring ....

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Windy Adventure of the Day

The wind ate my walk-in greenhouse last night.

I knew there'd be some damage as I listened to the storm rage last night. The roaring wind actually woke me several times. It seemed to peak in the wee hours before dawn, and then softened into heavy rains and hail.

I woke up to the sight of the heavy cover drooping with water, half off the disassembled frame, with broken connectors littering the deck. Imagine my shock and amazement as I tallied the toll.

dwarf banana
indoor lilies
All the artichoke and cardoon starts
most of the asparagus starts
tulips (innocent bystanders that the greenhouse shifted onto) (and not one bud broken!)
most of the seed-start soil I just potted up last night
most of the peat and plastic starting pots
four start trays
all the shelves
the entire metal part of the framework
the cover (no rips!)
most of the connectors
1 crystal vase (I stuck it out there to deal with the rose stems in it later)
1 metal candlelamp and candle
2 partial bags of seedling start soil

1 asparagus seedling
2 peat pots
1 start tray
9 plastic connectors
A little bit of seedling start mix

I feel very, very fortunate. Every time I found an unbroken plant or a seedling on its side still in one piece, I cheered. This could have been much, much worse, especially since I was on the verge of planting a bunch of tomato, pepper, basil and petunia seeds, some of which were rare varieties that cost me a bit extra to buy.

Now I'm awaiting word to see if I can get replacement connectors. I contacted the manufacturer using their info email. If I can't get new connectors, I'm not sure what I'm going to do. We've tried hardware stores with no luck. The piping fits 1/2" cpvc joints, but they don't come in enough variety of shapes (many are 4 and 5 way connectors) and even if they did, they don't have as long arms as the existing connectors.

Suggestions are welcome! I do know that if it comes down to just getting a new greenhouse, I'll probably just build a frame of wood that fits the cover and surviving shelving and put it somewhat less conveniently on the ground instead of the deck. The advantage of the deck being that I can run electricity into there, like heat lamps.

Sigh. But it's all good.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Huh of the Day

Someone who shall remain unnamed observed that dust bowls/man-instigated deserts seem to occur where patriarchal religions concentrate. I haven't looked at this seriously but it made me think.

Not that this being true or false would change anything ....

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Springtime Pics

The garden, she is blooming! We won't be in full awesome mode until summer, but in the meantime, I'm enjoying some much-needed color outside my window.

Red currant (with my house in the background.)

I love my daffodils. I have a couple hundred of various colors.

(BTW she got out of there fine on her own--she went in head first and turned around into this position before leaving.)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Schedules, Punishment and Reward

It's been a challenge to find time to do writing lately. Everyone has trouble with this, sometimes occasionally, sometimes on a day-to-day basis. The key for me has been habit. I've gotten to the stage where if I don't write, especially in the morning, the whole day feels off until I manage to get onto a keyboard and get some work done. This is a good thing. When that sense isn't there, it would be that much easier to let days or even weeks go by without writing a word.

To develop that sense, I had to write daily for quite a while. Some people use reward (can have a chocolate after 1000 words) and punishment (can't have any chocolate for a month unless they write 500 words a day for a week) systems, others do Nanowrimo with an intent to just keep going at the end of the month. Some function on a deadline system. They find deadlines to meet, either ones they create or ones they discover (such as contests or submission deadlines for anthologies or magazines with submission windows) and then pace themselves accordingly. Some folks have real success with schedules. They get up early or write late after everyone's gone to bed, or type while the baby is taking an afternoon nap.

Whatever the system, it has to reward consistency, and not beat you up so much emotionally that writing becomes associated with pain.

Pick something, or several somethings, and if it helps make a formal statement of some sort. It's like the success self-talk that some people engage in. You can just look in the mirror and say, "I'm a writer, and I will write everyday," when you brush your teeth. It works for some people really well. Some folks write contracts with themselves and put them up on the fridge. Others join online writing groups or blog about their word counts to keep themselves 'honest.'
For me, that sinking feeling keeps me writing pretty steadily. Yes, I garden, and do housework, and paint, and do stuff with my family. We watch movies in the evening during and after dinner. Yesterday, the only time I set aside for writing was before our evening movie, and so today I'm putting more effort into a full day of dreaming on the page. I'll get back into the swing of full-time writing again soon. When? For all I know, today may have been the first of a long string of such days. But to make sure, I'm going to be getting up early and writing all this week. Our days have gotten too busy. This is something I believe will ensure success. It's worked for me in the past.

BTW, the most evil punishment system I've heard of was this: a writer said he'd write a chapter a month, and if he missed a month, he'd donate money (I think it was $100) to a political fund that he found particularly repugnant to his values.

He only missed once.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Gardening Weather

I've been a busy kid. The DH hunted down some folks doing pruning in the area, so I got another huge (free!) load of chipped plant material (mostly pine this time) that I'm going to use for more paths. I got two more beds opened up, four more paths opened and mulched, and a bunch of new perennials planted. A good friend of mine donated a bunch of plants and it took a while to get everything in the ground. I also got some more rows of radishes, spinach, lettuce, and pac choi. I also planted New Zealand spinach and two kinds of swiss chard. I'll be putting together my mini-greenhouse soon for my tenders and tropicals. Now that the solstice is behind us, we have that minimum 12 hours of daylight a day that sparks germination in seeds like petunias and helps generate some heat for heat lovers like tomatoes and peppers (though I'll have to supply heat at night.)

It's hard to remember that it's early, really really early, in the growing season. We've had excellent planting weather, though the snow pack is thin and therefore we'll probably have a drought this summer. That puts those of us on a well into kind of a situation if we do, snow pack or no--if the water table drops below the level of my pump, we won't have water. Not for the garden, not for the house, nada. We'll have to buy bottled water, and the plants will have to survive without.

Which brings me to a nifty little fact. The farther apart you plant veggies, the better they'll do in dry conditions. Plants are, for the most part, better survivors than we give them credit for. Overcrowding causes much of our plant problems--we put them close together for aesthetic reasons, as well as convenience and because few people have more property than they know what to do with. But think about the desert. What's the spacing on those plants? Pretty wide. Folk talk about roots going deep in search of water, but roots also go wide and take advantage of surface moisture that occurs at night and in the early morning as much as possible. Also, dry to us is not necessarily dry to a plant. Roots can extract moisture from what is apparently dry soil to us.

If you know watering is going to be an issue, try giving plants half again as much spacing as is recommended, or even double. Then water pretty deeply but not frequently, and see what happens. It may look odd, even silly to see your tomatoes planted four or five feet apart, but later you'll reap the benefits in less water use and some pretty darned sturdy plants. For more details, do some reading on xeriscaping and of course, Gardening West of the Cascades.

It's been raining lately (yay!) so I'm back into full-time writing mode. When the rains go away, the gardener will go out to play.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Professional Confession

Expect more gaps in blogging as good weather continues.

My DH and I are still finding our feet when it comes to this whole full-time self-employed thingy. Right now we have cushion, so everything feels 'normal' but there's this ongoing low-level anxiety, at least for me. When the cushion goes away, then what? Can we sustain ourselves without the relative security of an employer and a steady paycheck?

My DH got an official business license, and we have a business money account now. It's strange, being one step closer to 'official.' I'm conducting my writing business as a business as well, applying professional practices to something that a lot of folks go about as a hobby. Not that writing for a hobby is bad, or somehow lesser! Gawds no. I think there are a lot of really excellent writers out there who have no intention of making their main living as writers. I think some of the writing part-timers produce is better than stuff put out by full-time, professional writers. But that's not what I'm aiming for.

Like any other self-employment or private business, we're at the mercy of market forces, meaning people. Sometimes it's hard to remember that this isn't about people liking us or not liking us. It's about having something to offer that people want to buy. A not-so-subtle difference that emotionally doesn't always reach the heart of things. I'm getting to the point where rejections aren't a big deal, but at the same time the little voice in the back of my head hasn't shut up yet. You know the one. She didn't like my story. She doesn't like meeeeeee!

Stupid voice.

Anyway, I'm anxious, but also excited at the possibilities ahead of us.

In gardening news, gardening is happening at top speed. Also, I applied to one of my all-time favorite nurseries for work. Wish me luck!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

More Sweet Kittehs

In honor of Moody Minstrel's potential future litter, we haz more kitteh pics starring Carey and Veronica, aka the Fluff and the Little Bird Poop (affectionately, mostly due to her colors but partially because she's still a little stinky thing.)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Writer's Process

I don't usually have trouble keeping BIC (butt in chair) but some days ...

Perhaps a writer might decide that the house is becoming too much of a distraction, and some cleaning has to happen. This writer might, then, do the dishes, followed by a carpet steam-cleaning that gets about half the living room damp and the upstairs mostly uninhabitable due to carpet shampoo stench. The downstairs might be even worse, due to slowly decomposing rat nests. The solution? Paint that unattractive, scraped-up section of wall under the window seat RED.

The writer might have some RED paint from a previous paint job. Perhaps her daughter wanted her closet door trimmed in red, and the writer reflects, with a gentle smile on her face, on the fact that the RED paint job looks fabulous to this day. So she could therefore find a partial quart in the laundry room, and take it upstairs. Of course all writers have painter's tape just laying around, rolls and rolls of it from a sale at a hardware store.

(See, packrats aren't all bad.)

It might be, then, that after the writer tapes off the area and pats a little RED paint around on the wall, she will recall that this is a particularly translucent red (Velvet Cake, Miller Paint) and that she'll need some serious painting supplies. So she must merrily go, singing a song, to the hardware store where she will pick up some phosphate-free TSP (the rest can be used on something else, say a deck re-stain) and fancy primer on sale for half off! which she kindly asks to have some red put into it ...

... so that it's PINK.

Sadly, this does not change the fact that rather translucent reds remain translucent and any area she happens to accidentally double touch or add a little extra paint will be noticeably darker than the rest. The writer may contemplate this problem, and decide the only solution is to go to Home Depot where she has a gift card, and get a different RED.

Of course writers who are also watercolor artists can be wise in the ways of RED paint, and so the writer is somewhat likely to select the correct RED, a slightly warmer, opaque red called Red Delicious (Glidden Paint.) Being a writer has its disadvantages, though, because writers often forget to use the gift card and just swipe their debit card.

The result will have no choice but to turn out fabulous. The carpet stench must in time subside from extended drying, and therefore the writer may (the next day) at last breathe a happy sigh and write. Later, she will have the option to remove the painter's tape at her leisure, with the assistance of a very sharp knife.

Sharp knives do come in handy sometimes, as do the DHs who carry them.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Thank you, Lucky Labs

I'm sitting by a gas fire (the cozy kind, not the aaaahhh! run for your lives!!! kind) putting my freelancing duckies in a row. I got a story back (a kind-hearted form rejection) and sent out a story to my writer's group.

I really appreciate my writer's group. My attitudes about critique, revision, editing, feedback, polishing and all that (these are all different things, btw) have been all over the map and will probably continue to change, but one thing remains constant--my desire, and I'll even say need, to double-check my writing.

When I started writing, I wasn't very good at reaching my audience. My language got in the way. I still struggle with words and voice, but thanks to the people who read my work and then said useful things about it, I've improved.

I think there's still more than enough room for improvement. In fact, I believe I have farther to go than I've already gone. I don't see how taking the reader/feedback out of my learning process would help. I suspect it would slow down my learning. Without handing over my story to someone and asking what they think, I'll never know if I'm getting my message through. How could I? Sure, I could try to employ rejectomancy (the art of reading rejection slips, similar to reading entrails) but I can't ask questions of editors, like where did I lose you, and why did you read as far as you did?

I had a good experience with this with my DH recently. He doesn't read much fiction, and when he does read it, normally he starts complaining and making scoffing noises or worst of all, he reads with his hand shoved against his face like he's trying to keep the skin from sliding off and exposing his pained skull. (Heat Wave by Richard Castle (fun story behind that book, btw) was a recent, rare exception.) He read something I wrote and his reaction was 'eh.'
Why eh, I asked.
The story didn't go where he would have taken it, for one, and another, it was mostly internal conflict. He has real trouble with what he experiences as endless character whining. I made a note to myself that to reach more people like my DH, I should keep trimming that introspection I love so much.
I know, you all gasped with shock at the news that I introspect a lot.
But then later he came back to me and told me he was still thinking about the story, and that one part in particular was really cool. That not only told me that I did something well, but that even though he'd just read a story he didn't care for, it stuck with him. I like reading stories with sticking power, and I'm trying to learn how to write them. I must be getting somewhere!

Anyway, I treasure my writing group for all of the above reasons, plus I get feedback from a diverse group of people all at the same time, which helps me get a much deeper sense of a story's underlying strengths and problems.


Monday, March 01, 2010

All Animals All the Time

It seems like it's all animals, all the time around here lately.
Veronica had her first bath. (That's Veronica in the pic, but from last night, not today's bath.) She's exhausted from teh clean and fluffiness.

What actually got us started on the whole cat bath thing, though, was Lucky. He's gone into frequent grand mal seizure mode, as in last night he had four, and he's had at least one or two a day for about the past week to ten (out of the blue--this hasn't been building over time.) This up from having one once a month or so. He's on anti-seizure meds now twice a day. If his liver panel comes back eh then we'll have to reduce his dose, but for now we just want to halt the foaming at the mouth and spasms that last for a couple of minutes at a time. The poor kitty has been having some while standing up, too, and sometimes he recovers in that position, and others he flops over after a while.

All sadness.

But the good news is that he's otherwise healthy.

JR Bunny has something going on with his ears in the form of weird scabs. The vets were baffled. He got a Revolution top spot in case it's some sort of parasite they weren't able to find (no lice, no mites, no fleas ... nada!) and they sent him home with no real answers (though two vets and a couple of nurses all checked him out and scratched their heads and looked at lots of slides of samples taken from his quite clean though scabby earses.)

And then I decided it was well overdue time to worm (because it's been so warm!) the goaties and trim their hooveses. Trimming goat hooves actually isn't that bad, but it takes two people, so my much-suffering DH held heads while I trimmed feet. The goats I'm sure will be walking funny for a while until they figure out their balance points on their feet has shifted to better posture. It must be a lot like learning to stand and sit up straight after months of slouching. Doesn't hurt, but doesn't quite feel natural, either.

And then the DH and I jacked up the front porch a bit and put some fresh gravel up front for good measure. Where do the animals fit into this? Why, we had to do that because the big white floofy poopies (Brian and Finn) collapsed the porch's front corner by digging, and in the process brought the joys of mud to the normally graveled front entry.

It's not fixed, but it looks better, and it's not as dangerous getting up and down those steps. Still a bit dangerous, mind you, but if there was no danger, it wouldn't feel like home.