Today’s Mantra

No name calling.

A lot has been going on. Really too much. For a lot of people. For us as well. Perhaps as a part of that stress (or more likely because I’ve been left unchecked by my moral compass due to stress), I’ve been quite:

Angry

and

Powerhungry

The Anger (though useful and I no longer berate myself for it…. I’m a fighter) could turn to bitterness. The Powerhunger, well that’s a somewhat new high that’s come with confidence (and therefore perhaps a byproduct of healing) but it’s not great.

On paper, that ego trip admittedly sounds a little badass to me. But I don’t want to become a bad guy.

And I don’t want to become one of Them.

So today: No Name Calling

Not in my head, not in a story, not in a grumble.

I’m sure I’ll not do very well at this.

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My Feminism is all Tapped Out Today

I’m a flag-waving, fully practicing feminist. That doesn’t mean I have adopted all of society’s latest feminist ideals or even necessarily know what those are. For me it simply means that I know my own worth and my own strength and that I encourage my fellow women friends to know theirs. Also that being female means that sometimes you’re the smallest kid on the playground and unfortunately you may need to yell the loudest and hit the hardest in order to prove that strength and worth to others. Other times exercising your power means being quiet and patient and making metered decisions, which can also be difficult especially in the face of injustice.

And I’m naturally a fighter. I know that. I was born a pissed off bundle of uncontrollable, so maybe it’s easier for me. But goddamn it, you have to fight in this fucking world. And when one of my fellow feminist friends cries to me that decisions are being made for her, I say “Do something about it! Don’t comply! You are free — no one can force you!” but instead she accepts her shut up gift with a tearful smile, puts on her newest $20 lip gloss, and gets back to her comfortable complaints.

And then another fellow feminist comes to me with a small problem that is going to take an uncomfortable action (very subjective here — more like “should in no way be perceived as an uncomfortable action”) to solve….so she wanted me to do it. I told her that it won’t be scary at all once she does it once or twice and that I have faith in her. So she eventually did it, but wouldn’t do it alone. Waited until I was there with her. I am not complimented by this. I am pretty much disgusted.

I want us to be empowered. Not in some stupid idealistic hypothetical sense, but in a real way. Let us say what we mean and stand up for ourselves and for each other. Let us quit making fear-based decisions. Let us realize that not making a decision IS making a decision; that we choose our own steps every single day. Let us be free to exist in our flesh and our minds however we present on any particular day. And for the love of God, let us fight when it is necessary, and maybe even when it is not.

But today I have my period and I’m done waving my flag for those of you who won’t wave your own. Grow a pair of ovaries — or rather use the ones you’ve got. Mine are yelling at me about chocolate right now, fuckyou very much.

So THAT Didn’t Work

Organic gardening, amiright?

So I’ve been battling squash bugs, which initially exclusively entailed hand squishing and crying. But then my brother Winston suggested diatomaceous earth. A bit of online reasearch confirmed it and also recommended neem oil. I excitedly dug in my garden shed and sprayed one evening and dusted the next.

While thoroughly drenching my plants in a maximum concentration of neem oil, the bugs showered without care. I believe one asked me to pass him the shampoo right before I squeezed his guts out.

The next evening I came armed with my bag of diatomaceous earth. Noticing that the neem oil seemed to have burned the leaves, but that there were no obvious legions of critters scurrying, I happily began heavily dusting everything I could. My adorable (yet idiotic) puppy rolled all around in the dusty squash beds and was subsequently bathed and banned from the garden. (The non-food grade DE is like 20% “other” ingredient(s)….and I’ll be damned if there’s a way to find out what it is.)

A few days later I realized that I had some withering, unpolinated squash and come to think of it, I hadn’t been seeing my normal crazy numbers of morning bees. Holy crap! Did I kill my bees? Or did they just break up with my garden because of my crazy DE cloud? I decided was time to rinse off the dust layer. Hopefully my weapon had been in place long enough to make the bugs go somewhere else (further than my poor ripening tomatoes they’re presently contaminating).

Rinse rinse rinse….huh. A few really yellow dead looking plants. And bugs. Lots of bugs. Scurrying around in the lovely shower. Scurry scurry scurry. They don’t give a fuuuck.

And check out these eggs that look like they got laid ON TOP of the diatomaceous earth.

Oh and lets not leave out the beauty of new life that hatched during my inactive battle.

I squished whatever I could easily see. Probably about 100 nymphs and adults. But I didn’t go hunting. I’m done. They won and I’m firing all the garden toads and spiders for incompetency.

But I may want to hire this guy. What he lacks in ability, he sure makes up for in tenacity.

This wasp was repeatedly trying to fly off with his dead grasshopper lunch.

Dear July 2014 Self,

You’re good right now. Your kids are 2 and 11. They’re healthy and happy. Gordon and you are healthy and happy. Your weight is at an all time low, and your body is strong. You trained hard and ran a half marathon this past spring. You learned about your mental and physical endurance and resilience in the face of adversity (gonna need that skill). You learned that caring for yourself makes you better able to care for others. You feel good about yourself and aside from the nagging twinges of guilt and sorrow that pop up haphazardly on most days, you’re satisfied with life.

But I’m sorry to say, that picture is about to change. Three years worth of fucked-upness is what you’re facing. Don’t worry, it’s not your kids or your husband. They are still great (thankfully). But you are personally going to be hit hard with some things that are going to mess up your mental well-being. Meanwhile, you’ll gain 75% of your weight back and your drinking, well that’s going to get to be very frequent and frequently excessive. And you’ll start smoking again (I know — wtf). But I don’t necessarily think you can prevent this and I don’t think you should get mad at yourself. You won’t roll over and die. You’ll take care of your family. You won’t completely quit taking care of yourself. You’ll even dive full force into new interests and projects. You’ll just consume too much of everything and spend quite a bit of time in a black pit where you’ll doubt yourself and analyze the same things over and over and over. Sometimes you’ll come out ahead; a lot of times you won’t. But you’ll never entirely give up for very long.

That guilt, that nagging you feel? It’s not right and you don’t deserve to have that coming at you every day. It’s a big part of all of this. You and I are finally going to let that go. I know, maybe it seems too soon to claim victory on something I haven’t yet accomplished even now in 2017, but I don’t think it is. Our brothers painted a picture that we can appreciate and understand and now I can see that the shit show is pretty much over. Or has at least shrunken into a less significant piece of annoying backstory. The ghosts are fading away now that I’m finally burying the bones. You’ll know all the gruesome details soon enough.

You and I are recently sober and not smoking anymore so nothing external is holding us back. And I’m ready to work on losing weight again. — But not all of it; you are honestly really very slim and I don’t feel like trying to maintain that. Plus, I’m kind of OK with hanging out in my imperfect skin. (I know – foreign concept.) We don’t try and cover or pluck our gray anymore either, if you can believe it.

Don’t be afraid. We’ll be better for having gone through this. For sure. I mean you’ve recently earned a good amount of confidence, but your mind is still all over the place and you’re dragging around some bullshit Jacob Marley chain. You’ve just gotta wade through a tiny little miles-wide alligator-infested swamp to get to the better days ahead.

But you know how you dream of gardens and chickens and big private spaces and how you love being in the woods with sunlight filtering through the leaves? That will be your life soon. And when you can learn to lay your burdens down long enough to breathe it all in, it will be your reward for hard work and trials endured. You will be safe again and in a place where your body and soul can be fed everything they need.

I promise.

A Better Day

The morning was cool, a welcome break from the usual stifling July days. So the family came outside to accompany me on my rounds.

I crushed my latest squash bug findings, but noticed that even under constant attack the plants looked healthy and pollination was in full force.

And I found some blossom end rot on a couple of small watermelons, but it allowed the girls a treat.

And of course we were entertained by a couple of wild dogs.

A bit later I fried up some okra (and snuck in a green tomato), getting people to happily eat their vegetables. After which Gordon said, “You grow us veggies and cook us veggies. Thanks for taking care of us!” Which made me feel less like the Little Red Hen and more like myself.

And finally (speaking of hens), the larva trap was full of fun chicken treats.

The chooks weren’t too keen on eating out of the pie pan, but happily gobbled up the squirmers once I dumped them out.

And here’s the larva trap. Its a plastic flower pot with some bait (rotten apple) wedged into the (vermi-) compost pile and covered with a pie pan to keep light out.

However, it gets raided at night by my compost thief. I was happy when I noticed that the soldier fly larva was back (discovered them last year) because these guys really make nice fast compost, plus now I have chickens to enjoy them.

And some other good news is that neem oil and diatomaceous earth should help with the squash bugs. So off to work I go! I really feel too lazy, but that’s ok. It’s nice out and sitting indoors on my arse isn’t really good for my body or brain.

Xoxo

It’s Too Much!

I’ve known that my Black Krim tomatoes were getting out of control. They are way past due for tying to their stakes. As a matter of fact, I’ve only done it once. And so I had this:

That was the worst example. When I was finished staking and cutting, I ended up with these:

And now I know in my heart the origin of Fried Green Tomatoes:

Once upon a time there was a lady who had a homesteading dream and a full time job with a long commute. Though she had a family, they weren’t much into gardening and so she had to try and keep up with the maintenance on her own. She couldn’t — and so along with a garden full of weeds, pests, and southern blight, she also ended up with a lovely bundle of green heirlooms that wouldn’t likely ripen. So she fried them and had to eat them all because her family hated them. Too bad, they can eat canned ravioli. The end.

20170729_115157

The Selfish Gardener

….And while I’m in an angry gardening mood, let’s discuss something else: Sharing Homegrown Produce.

I dream all year of bounty. So many of everything that we’re bursting at the seams. I dream of days spent laboring over jars of tomato sauce and salsa, and of shelves full of pickles, pickles and more pickles! And of course this sort of processing madness comes only after we’ve eaten all the fresh food that we can, and passed out buckets to neighbors and co-workers.

But then reality gives me a lovely bounty that looks more like this:

It’s truly a blessing. It makes us eat better and we creatively prepare new recipes. The harvesting part is a ton of fun. But it’s not a ton of food (at least not like in my fantasy produce festival).

So comes my quandry: sharing. I simply don’t want to. And sometimes I do it anyway. And then I end up getting excited about it because I think other people will be excited about it. But most of the time I’m underwhelmed by the responses. Sometimes people say yum, but sometimes it seems almost like I’m forcing my produce on them.

For instance: my neighbor. She’s a vegan as far as I know and can easily see my garden getting bigger and bigger. I therefore feel compelled to share with her. And honestly I want to (but out of my fantasy garden). And granted, she’s like a city girl, indoorsy and wears makeup every day and all that. So she doesn’t get it. The labor, the love, the study, and sometimes the agony that I put into my garden. A small basket of various items along with a dozen eggs (for her non-vegan husband) is a gift. Or it would be if I didn’t give it so begrudgingly. I didn’t start out being so selfish I don’t think. She tells me thank you but never tells me if she ate it or liked it so I feel like my treasures are not appreciated. It makes me especially not want to share.

I think of this tonight because my neighbor previously mentioned that she’d like some squash because she loves it. So far we’ve gotten like 6 yellow squash which are to-die-for delicious and may be the best thing this year. I keep not being able to force myself to share those. I’ll expect to bring a couple over and they end up in my fridge. So tonight, with the discovery of a squash bug infestation of biblical proportions, I realized the two in my fridge may be the last.

I decided to tithe with the garden gods and give the two yellow squash to my neighbor, along with my largest ripe tomato, two peppers, a bunch of cherry tomatoes, and a few pretty small tomatoes. I texted her and asked if they were dressed enough for a two second veg drop off. She said “no lol 🙂 but tomorrow is fine”. Fine. Fine? Not great? Not awesome? Fine, you can bring them tomorrow if you insist.

Maybe I’m being petty. Splitting hairs because I’m upset about the bugs. So in order to elicit some passion or sympathy or something, I texted her that I’d been waging holy war on the squash bugs and that I may have lost. Her response: “Hahahahaha lol”.

The squash went back into the fridge.

Waging Holy War

Squash bugs: Fuck you.

I have plucked your mating asses off my cucumbers, my tomatoes, and of course squash. I have crushed you under my boots hoping to prevent you from taking over. And now I see this:

You’ve managed to infest my lovely plants with your horrible little eggs.

And many of your eggs have hatched into horrible little nymphs.

And I get it: You’re just bugs, doing buggy things. But you weren’t around here before I grew these plants, so go the hell back to where you came from or die.

I crushed everything I found with my bare hands, taking thorns into my finger tips. But I’m afraid that you still may win and destroy all the buttery goodness that is the yellow squash we so adore.

Kale Yeah!

We ate some kale fresh, gave a lot to the chickens, but largely my spring crop was ignored.  The day I (finally) processed the chard, I already knew that the kale needed attention. And that was over a month ago.

My lovely abundant garden is a weedy mess. It’s time to start working on fall stuff (which will likely be minimal because I’m wearing down) and I really need to get in there and do some cleaning.  So I started with cleaning out the kale. 

The kale was tough and may not come out very good but we are going to eat it, damn it! 

Outside we washed it, pulled it apart, and deveined it. Then I brought the big washtub in and began processing it, batch by batch. I scooped up big bowls full, chopped it, sorted through it, washed it in a vinegar bath, transferred it to a plain water bath, then steamed it. After finding two cooked baby caterpillars, I freaked out and sorted through all the steamed stuff again, and washed it a fourth time before packing my jars. After two pressure canning batches (and about total 12 hours of kale fun) I was still quietly and secretly fretting over the amount of suprise protein that may be in the jars. 

But then I read this article and felt a hell of a lot better! My cans are probably worlds less buggy than the ones I buy. And they are poison free, to be sure! I tell my kids to eat earthworms if they ever get lost in the woods and so if they find a caterpillar, I’ll just tell them it’s their survival training. 

Cucumber Love

Many years ago I had a cucumber addiction and would visit a roadside vegetable stand almost daily, just to buy a few for eating whole. I mostly chalked it up as some cruel Freudian craving because I was very pregnant and Gordon was temporarily living a thousand miles away from me. However I apparently just truly love good cucumbers. 

I’ve never grown cucumbers before, but with all of the pickling experiments I’d been doing, I wanted to try and grow a pretty heavy yield. However, as was typical for this season’s start, I had germination problems. I planned for 30 plants and ended up with maybe 16-18 (I forget) of two varieties: Parade Pickles (heirloom seeds I picked up on Etsy) and Picklebush (Burpee).

I didn’t even realize that some cucumbers were climbers and some were bush variety until my dad told me that he always grows climbers for space reasons. Then I studied really hard to figure out what I had and how and where to plant them. Perhaps the name PickleBUSH would have sent a signal to a more confident gardener, but not me. I had to obsess for a few days, never sure that I had it right until the plants themselves showed me that all was ok.

Parade Pickles

I love the way my parades look. They are beautiful plants growing so prettily up their fencing trellis. The cukes themselves are dark green and almost perfect cylinders, becoming striped as they thicken.

Parade Pickle
Parade Pickle

The Parades have an almost floral flavor to them. Picked when small, the skin has very little bitterness. 

Picklebush

The Picklebush plants are wanderers, but not crazily. They are supposed to be compact for smaller garden spaces. 

Picklebush Pickle

Their color is bright green and I find that they are narrower at the blossom end, but that it seems to even out somewhat as they grow. The picklebush flavor is mild and delicious. They are a very refreshing summer snack and although I still prefer the smaller ones, the cukes that have been left on the vine for a couple of extra days are still great with almost no bitterness. 

Cucumbers, cucumbers, cucumbers! Oh how I will miss them when they are gone! Tuesday I picked enough to try a small batch of pickles. I found a recipe that I thought Gordon would enjoy — good old vinegar-based, shelf stable Bread and Butter.  (Food.com)

They turned out great! I was worried that I’d overcooked them, but I did not. They have a lovely crispness about them, even after cooking the pickles and the 10 minute water bath to seal ’em up good. Next time I will cut the sugar by maybe a third and make the pickle slices a bit thicker. Also maybe more onion would be good. I added a few cloves this time around. 

Today I assembled some tried and true lacto-fermented kosher dills (but tossed in a handful of green beans and a few jalapenos). Also found a cool idea online to pickle squash with basil instead of dill, so I’m trying that with garlic (and a few baby carrots for fun), also lacto-fermented. The dill I had stored in the freezer in a gallon bag because it was all ready when the pickle plants were newborns. The large leaf basil was freshly picked today.

I love the fermented kind of pickles for not only their healthy probiotic properties, but because they’re so easy to do! So far I’ve found that everything works well with a 3.5% salt water brine poured over whatever ingredients you like. Then they can sit (in a tray of some kind) on the kitchen counter for 2-3 weeks depending on what it is and how big the pieces are. (I did a chopped onion and it took forever!) The fermented pickles should get bubbly and then cloudy and usually they have some minor pressure explosions (hence the tray). And you can just keep tasting until they’re done. But tasting messes up the dynamics inside the jar, so it’s an adventure. 

I’m excited to try weird basil squash pickles. I’ll let you know what happens!