June 2008

We’re off to Indiana today, for the Hollyhock festival in Lafayette. My aunt Barbara is in some way involved, and has donated many hollyhocks to the local park. We’re going to try to time our return so that we will pick up Derek from the airport on the way home.

crafty boy

My industrious little 6 year old has decided to learn how to sew. It all started the other day, when Calvin became alarmed at the gaping holes an unraveling sections of Zeeb’s “buggy”. I told him that I wasn’t going to fix it, because it’s time for Zeeb to stop sucking his thumb, and he only does it while holding his buggy. When I was little, I was a thumb sucker, and I distinctly remember the day I quit. We had gone to a family reunion, and during some part (I’m guessing the talent show section), I took my pink blankie with the silky edge, found a little bush with a cave in it, and nestled in for a good session. When my mom called me over, I figured I would leave my blankie safe there, and return later. When we were halfway home, I remembered the blanket had been left. Panicked, we drove back to search for it, but it was gone. I never sucked my thumb again. But clearly, if I was old enough to remember the incident, it’s not a bad thing that I finally quit.

Anyway, Calvin became alarmed. He doesn’t want his bruzzer to be sad, and he knows how much that buggy means to Zeeb. He decided to take it upon himself to be the keeper of the buggy. Or at least the repairer. He asked me to continue to teach him how to knit. I told him the buggy was crocheted, and that no amount of crocheting could rescue that buggy from its impending doom. He asked me to teach him how to sew. At this point, he was signing himself up for something he knew would be terrifying, because he believed I would teach him on the sewing machine, which he is mortally afraid of. But he was determined to repair that buggy, for the sake of his little bruzzer.

So I got out some fabric and a needle and thread, and we commenced. He decided to make a purse, at once making up his mind (to change it several times in the ensuing hours) to give it to his girlfriend.

He has since begun plans for selling his creations, the smaller of which will cost $1, the little bit bigger ones will be $2, the medium ones will be $3, the medium ones that are gonna be a little bit bigger will be $4, the big ones will be $5, and the big ones that are gonna be bigger are gonna be $6 and $7. I hope I got all that, because he was talking really fast. He plans to enlist his friend, who apparently likes to sew as well.

I’m not quite sure where he plans to sell them to. Maybe they’ll be the side item at his bake-sale/lemonade stand. I am a little afraid of my enterprising son.


1. Derek is away again. He’s staying in San Diego for 3 days, and Seattle for 3. If I’d know he would be traveling this much for this job, I would have said no. Not so much because of the time I have to deal with the crazies by myself, because it’s not nearly as bad as I had always imagined. No, I just can’t take the jealousy I feel. He keeps going to these exciting (and sometimes not so exciting) places, and he has some free time to see the sights, he gets to eat at exciting restaurants, he gets to go to sleep when he wants to, and doesn’t have to brush anyone else’s teeth but his own. And it looks like I won’t be able to accompany him to Hawaii in August. Phooey.

Derek just called, and he’s stuck in Chicago, again. I have to amend my earlier statement about being jealous of him. I am most decidedly not jealous of his being stuck in airports, mostly O’Hare, during nearly all of his trips.

2. I took my own advice. After the race in March, running has been kind of hard. Plus, with Derek constantly leaving town for weeks at a time, it’s been hard to keep it up. So I’m back to the stage where even running two miles is difficult and unpleasant. Today, I picked it up and ran 4 miles. It was a little easier. I always tell people that running is hard for the first couple of miles, and then it gets easier. So if you have only run one or two miles, you probably hate running and think runners are somewhat masochistic, but once you break that barrier and go for 4 or 5, you start to enjoy it, you start to envision the possibility that running could be considered a recreational activity. I’ve missed that. Right now, the thought of running 8 miles sounds like torture, but I’m still trying to prepare for the Air Force Marathon in September. But Derek is gone for another 5 days, curse his hide.

3. The pie safe arrived. Barbara had shipped a whole bunch of stuff from Utah to her home in Indiana, and then rented a truck to bring the pie safe and some other items from Grandpa’s house. I don’t like to think of Grandpa’s house empty. Anyway, Derek and our neighbor brought the cabinet in and plunked it down in the dining room, and it looks like it was born there. I’m not much of a photographer, but here it is, in the corner.

Pie safe

And here’s a detail of the punched tin door.

punched tin on the pie safe

4. Barbara and Liz and I went out to eat at a restaurant that I had high hopes for, but it turned out a little dull and a lot expensive. I was disappointed, since I had thought it would be a good place for a date with Derek, but I don’t think we’ll be going there again. We ordered the portabello fries, which were yummy, but they came with banana ketchup. I had expected the ketchup to be the same kind as what we had in the Philippines, which is red, and tangy, but instead, it was chartreuse, and had the chemical banana flavor that mimics really ripe bananas. It was sweet. I didn’t think it went spectacularly well with the mushrooms. Barbara had the salmon salad, and was grossed out by the practically raw salmon, Liz had duck legs which she said were good, but quinoa that was still crunchy. My house burger was OK, but the burger part was really just a burger. It was nothing special. Kiki did really love the soggy french fries, though. And the waiter did accommodate me by making a variation of my favorite drink. I think I’ll call it a Sunrise.

1 part lemon-lime soda
1 part water
1 part orange juice
juice of half a lime for each serving

5. I wish I were a better photographer, because I didn’t know what to do for this shot.


I think the composition is perfect, but the lighting is not adequate. I don’t know how to work a camera beyond pushing the shutter button, though.

6. I got The Splendid Grain, last year. It’s a cookbook about whole grains, and has a section each for corn, rice, barely, wheat, quinoa, millet, wild rice, and a few others. It seems like a great book, since it explains how you cook each of the grains, and then provides recipes to use them in. I decided to try her method of cooking brown rice, since we eat a lot of brown rice, and the author seemed so confident that if you’re not cooking it her way, you’re eating inferior rice. I toasted it in a pan, rinsed it off, let it soak for several hours, and cooked it for and hour, all per the instructions. I ended up with totally decimated rice. Next I’m going to try a pressure cooker. That’s my latest energy saving endeavor, since pressure cooking takes about a third of the time to cook something as regular cooking, and therefore a third of the gas or electricity. I just really want my rice to be separate grains, but still retaining a little stickiness, and the grains need to be intact, slightly chewy, but not in the least bit crunchy. Like the frozen rice you can get at TJ’s. That stuff is amazing.

I did make barley from the same book this morning. The instructions are pretty much the same, and it was my favorite barley I’ve ever had. Barley explodes no matter how you cook it, so I was not put off. But the toasting gives it a nuttier aroma, and the soaking cuts the cooking time, and improves digestibility. I had barley with butter, salt and pepper for breakfast. It was really yummy. Kiki had hers with brown sugar and milk. Then she had seconds.

7. The forks seem to be working, there are no new baterpillars, and there are blossoms on the green beans.

I just made that up. I already did one that started with CAT, and Lisa’s fear of my upcoming post on the flying rodents was just too funny. But seriously, yesterday, I was just poking around in the garden, not even looking for anything sinister, when I noticed that the cabbage and broccoli leaves seems a little holey. I wondered in my mind whether that was normal, went in for a closer look, and spotted a little twig, just exactly the same color as the bluish-green leaves. It was sitting on the main rib, thus camouflaging itself even more by lying lengthwise. Disgusted, I went inside for a pair of tweezers (wuss, you say? I cannot deny it!) and a bucket. I plucked about 15 little buggers from my plants, some of which no doubt would have deforested my crucifers before morning. Alas, there is no hope for my little plot of earth.

Cabbage moths. Ugh. I marvel that humankind has survived these many millenia. There’s the whole thing about us having to bear live young, to carry those parasitically inside the female of the species, only to have them born completely incompetent, still parasites, and requiring years of dedicated care. Then there’s the part about us not generally being satisfied foraging in the wild for daily sustenance, the problems with which include, but are not limited to, seasons, drought, natural predators, laziness, and the propensity for epic complaining.

But when we do try to harness nature and till the earth, plant seeds, and reap the bountiful harvest from the sweat of our brow, we find it has already been consumed by the lesser beasts of the field, who got there first. So on our next try, we invent contraptions and preparations that will, theoretically, deter our voracious enemies. Then we discover new enemies, who can fit through the holes, dig underneath, eat poison and thrive, enemies we are no match for.

Have no fear, I haven’t surrendered yet. I still plan to make a removable cage for the strawberries. I planted forks today, surrounded by (used!) coffee grounds appropriated from Starbuck’s this morning (which nearly made me crash my bike, they were so heavy on the handlebars) in the one spot where nothing has come up yet. I concede that it is possible nothing will come up in that spot, since it has been dug into at least 6 times in the past week, and I have retrieved several (around 6, I would say) nobby, brown, post-consumer products, and then planted some forks there. Since there were no seedlings yet, it is possible that I pierced one or two in the process. I can’t say whether I would prefer that I lost some garlics, or some carrots. I may have to replant.

I will admit that I’ve never been so obsessed about my garden before. It has never been fully mine before, since we were living in Grandpa’s basement, and he was lending me part of his garden. I want to get it right. I’ve even been thinking about purchasing a pressure canner, though I may wait to see if I do harvest any actual vegetables.

Thank you all for the great ideas for keeping cats out of the garden. The crappy thing is that I cannot get a dog, since I would have to build a fence around the entire yard, and in our area, it would have to be a wooden fence. Chain link fences are against city code. As are loose dogs (and cats!). I might try moth balls next, though I hear they smell pretty bad. But if you only leave them in there until the plants get big enough to cover most of the dirt, I guess it won’t be a big deal because
holy smokes! there's not enough room.

I’m starting to question the whole Square Foot garden method. I thought I followed it pretty closely, and the guy tells you how much of each vegetable will fit into each square, but it’s still only early summer! Those broccolis and cabbages are going to take over the world! And the green beans! The carrots and chard are still so tiny, I can only imagine what they will be like next week. Actually, the chard has already served us 3 or 4 times, since I keep cutting it while it’s pretty tiny. Yesterday for lunch, I grabbed a large pita out of the freezer, spread some Trader Joe’s spaghetti sauce on it, grated some of my homemade mozzarella, went out into the garden and clipped a handful of baby chard and sauteed it, then piled it on top of the cheese. I added a few grates of cheddar and asiago, then sliced up some olives on top. It took just exactly the same amount of time to put it together as the oven took to preheat. It was fantastic! Little Zeeb folded it, and then took credit for inventing the sandwich. So the chard may never get very big, if I have anything to do with it.
tomatoes, square foot style
Let’s not talk about how those tomatoes may be a wee bit close together. I swear the SFG guy says you can put one tomato per square. Maybe he meant if they were all along one edge of the box, and staked, rather than caged. Ah, well. This next one is where the cat has been leaving the gifts.
more seedlings coming up
Planted in the empty spots are garlic, beans, shallots, and onions. Some of them have been forcibly removed by their erstwhile feline predators.

Since the sun is now up, and I expect my children to come barreling down the stairs any second, I will leave you with these last two.
I bought the dresses for Kiki at a yard sale about a year ago, and every once in a while, the boys beg to get them out and “twirl.”

It rained a bunch this morning. Not as much as the other night, when I thought it was the end of the world, and it sounded like there was lightning striking my backyard, but enough. Enough to put me into the gray area.

The digging in my garden has been perpetrated by a feline. I didn’t get it, until the neighbors had been in my yard 4 times looking for a cat. Different cats, depending on which neighbor, but all from the same house. Then I saw the footprints, and the little lumps that appeared next to the discarded bean sprouts. The violence that is welling up in me is not pleasant.

I’ve read up on what to do to deter cats from using your garden as a litter box. I can report that sprinkling cayenne doesn’t do a thing. Yesterday I walked to Starbuck’s and picked up about 6 pounds of coffee grounds, having read that the smell would deter cats. I spread it on all the spots in the garden that are currently foliage-free, but where I have planted seeds that are earnestly trying to come up, with no help from the digging, scratching, and burying. This morning, I went out to discover fresh prints, and more dug-up bean sprouts. I’m not feeling charitable.

I kind of hate cats. I should rephrase that. I kind of hate outdoor cats who come in my garden and destroy all my work while simultaneously introducing pathogens into my family’s food supply. They may be the same cats who went into the neighbor’s yard and ate the baby bunnies that lived in a burrow under the lawn. In which case, maybe they saved my lettuces and carrots. But still.

Next, I’m going to try putting plastic forks, tines up, in the garden so there’s no place for pussyfooting. Any other ideas?