Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Diary Update

Today is just a mish mash, but wanted to be in the habit of writing.

Went with a good girl friend, to another's to talk quilting, gardening, and general life. Was a really good time. Left the house before my husband did, that always makes me feel strange. The conversation was good and the garden and the quilt squares she had made, were really fun.

I got many things done before I left the house today which surprised me, since I left before 9:30 am. I finished all the morning chores and got the dog food cooking before I left. After I got home I worked on potted plants. I repotted the Orchids, my husband got me a while back, the living stone my mom had gotten me, pruned our big potted plant minagerie, but a rambling rose start in a potato, re-filled the bird feeder, and watered everything.

Yesterday was garden working day. The sunflowers, corn, beans and peas seem to be doing fine. The potatoes are doing excellent and I rewarded them with 80 more pds of topsoil. I thought that the peanuts had not come up at all, but 2 plants look healthy, so I put in another planting with crossed fingers.

I also planted many seeds. I know it may seem too late, but if I had planted them earlier, this would be the 2nd planting to keep the harvest coming, so we will just call it that. Curry plant and orange tree got transplanted yesterday in the process. Rosemary and lavender, squash, cucs, zucs, watermelon, radishes, 5 color swiss chard, 5 kinds of tomatoes, various peppers - bell and hot. The onions and garlic look like they also are coming along fine.

I have been doing more than usual amounts of writing and reading and enjoying. We also have been watching some really fun movies lately. Life is full, and yet pretty relaxed atmosphere most day. Tonite we go to the Mystery Book Club in Newark, and I am starting Middlemarch for the Oprah Book Club. I complained when they weren't using classics, now they are. I devoured the Elm Creek Classic Novel #4, The Runaway Quilt, my husband gifted me and am still thinking about it.

In a couple days we will be celebrating our 1st Year Anniversary. I am so happy! We will go to the wilds on the Eve and hang out the next day, with a few surprises planned.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Enlightenment of the 80's

Since the last post and some of the comments, I have been thinking of this path that I have been taking for quite awhile now on finding ways and means to leading more of a handmade life and one that is more diverse, enlightening and fulfilling. So I would like to share a few of my experiences and ways that it has changed my life, and keeps leading back to this passion for living more.

In the eighties I was in the "big city" and involved in a number of organizations that was working to better the lives of others. You all, remember the 80's don't you? In my estimation that were absolutely wonderful. There was money galore available in grants, classes on all sorts of topics sprung up everywhere and people were trying everything from college to journeling, meditation, cooking, the classics. And the wonderful part of all of it, that I remember the most, was that everything was viewed as knowledge and looked on equally - that was a key to the diverseness and fullfillment that we lived during these times.

I spent some time with Catholic Social Services. That was the basic foundation of a new way of life for me, other workers, and hopefully the clients. First of all, we made a commitment to live the way that we wanted to show our clients how they could change their lives. So we didn't have TV or cable and unless we were taking a client somewhere we used the public transit system. Often we used the busses with the clients to show them how they could get around with cost efficiency. We worked with monthly budgeting and at times helped people find cooking classes for diversity and special diets, such as Diabetic, etc. Those things were available then, and we made home visits on regular basis, at least once a week to encourage these changes of life.

About the same time I was volunteering at Rosemont School for Girls. I teamed up with a man named Harry who had spent his career life working with pregnant teens. He had several degrees, spoke quite a few languages, and worked hard to teach these girls survival skills and beyond. This was the fertile ground where I learned the most myself and gained a joy in this way of sharing.

We made trips to the library and encouraged the girls to take out books, books of fun interest and books were they could learn things that they had always wanted to learn. We went to book sales and encouraged them to start libraries of their own interests. If they couldn't read, we wet them up with literacy training. Although most of the girls could read well, but had lost that habit with the pressures of being a single mother. We also looked for places of culture to take the clients. Now let me diverse here to let you know that often they did not want to go. They were scared, they thought it would be boring and they felt they would not be dressed appropriately. So we had to start out small, in some respects.

First, of course, we went for the free stuff. We went to things that we could go to on the bus and places that they could return to on their own. And encouraged that they do so, labeling them as "mini vacations" for themselves. There was free babysitting avaliable at the time, - imagine that! - and it was set aside as an adult time. We went to the conservatory, the art museum on the free day, Shakespeare in the Park and free introductory Symphony concerts. We tried to make them diverse, yet all of the them were geared toward the arts. The trick was to keep going. The more we went, the more everyone felt more comfortable in new situations and relaxed, enjoyed and learned.

The next stage was to set up a paying trip. This was a little harder to sell, but they were more interested now, since we had some positive experiences. So we went to a play, or a concert. We parused 2nd hand stores for skirts and blouses and made an evening of it.

Do you know what? After these programs we was shown that it was easier to get young girls to go back and get their GED's, to look at further education. No longer did they feel trapped. Too simple? Maybe. But think about it for a minute. When you work at learning something new, reading a new genre and push yourself to see that new art exhibit at the museum, don't you feel envigorated? Don't you want to see more? Find books about it, learn a facet of something you saw? Or if you don't like it, doesn't it make you want to explore other avenues then? So why wouldn't everyone else?

Next post, I will explore my experiences in the 90's and then later take it to the present to the culmination of these experiences. Please post your experiences or feelings on this topic, important to me.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Things I Have Learned So Far This Spring

In the attempt to write regularly, I decided to start with some of the events that have really rocked my world this spring. By going to a few classes and sticking my neck out a little, and of course a little introspection, I feel that many changes are being made inside and out.

Earlier this year I took a class in plant propagation. It was exciting to be with other plant people and learn how trees and shrubs can be started with, well, "starts". I have followed up my plant training with a class in Bonsai, early this spring. This was even more exhilerating. Not only did I get a bonsai pine tree out of it, (that is still alive, thank you), but it seems to have opened a whole new world to me. Follow this up with videos and books on Botanical Illustration and I am inundated with the beauties, although presently the reality of them is looking better than my renditions.

Suddenly the 2 lots of land we have in the city, looks like it can produce a lot more food than I had originally imagined. With the addition also of the books - Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and The After Dinner Gardner, here is what I am slowing making progress doing.

When I cook, I no longer throw away seeds. I am learning to save and store them for next years garden. Everything from avacodos, peppers, tomatoes, lemons, have a place to dry out and then be stored. Granted I cannot use all of these myself, but I can have them available also for swapping and/or gifts. I love to give seeds and bulbs for New Year's gifts - I feel it expresses hope!

Fruit and Nut Trees - Now this has been a confusion for a long time. I have some berry bushes, two grapes, and an apple tree. I attempt to grow peanuts, not many, only ornamental, and competitive with the ground jimmies. But now with the idea of Bonsai, I can see the ability of growing fruit trees and nut trees in miniature, possibly bush form. My first goal with this is the mixed bag of nuts they sell at Christmas to put in your holiday nut bowl, to take some out of there and starting around Thanksgiving to start indoors growing nut trees. Yes, sure, it will take awhile, but isn't that kind of the idea? I also can do this with some of the fruit that we eat during the summer, but I have to remember to do this mostly from local grown, and then I know that they grow in this area. The only fruit tree that I have purchased is a Trifoliate Orange, that is supposed to do fair in this area. The fruit can be bitter, but we have honey.

Next, is the gardening and farming technique of No Till. I am told this is an old German way of farming, and we all know that I go for all things Old German. My husband, who explains regularly, that he is not a dirt farmer, loves his wife way too much, which he proved by tilling my garden this year. I have a new plot, to save the plants from the 2 pups. We had someone dig up the sod, and then with the help of Cousin Betsy's small electric rotatiller, whala!

Last week I spent part of an afternoon with a wonderful lady who shared her garden and gardening secrets with me of No Till, with the promise that I would pass them on. You, my readers, get to be the first to benefit. No till, starts first with that, you just do not till the land. The earth is covered with hay, not straw, and the plants just put into the earth. Hay is for nutrients, for eating, straw is for bedding. Newspapers can be used in the walkways to keep down weeds or to put over pesky weeds, like grass with their intricate root system, until they die. Not all weeds are pulled, some are killed and then used for compost. Others are left to encourage insect life and pollination. Newspapers are also used in a very inventive way for potatoes. The newspapers are laid on the earth, then place the potatoe starts and cover with hay. The roots will work their way through the newspapers and the potatoes are "born" on top of the paper, clean as can be.

Compost is saved in the kitchen and buried in the garden on a regular basis. This I have found we do not have in abundance. I cook many things from scratch, but I never peel hardly anything so as to benefit from the nutrients. Most of our compost is coffee grounds and eggshells. Occasionally skins from onions and tops or cores of fruits and vegetables. Pine needles are saved for plants that need acidity and worms are encouraged and drawn by the compost. We are getting some fishing worms to start the process. This weekend we were very discouraged that none of the groceries we went to sold bait, so we will have to make one more trip!

I am putting flowers betwwen my vegetables to encourage insects, butterflies and bees for pollination etc and will try to harvest milkweed in late summer to encourage the monarch butterfly also. I try seeds from everything that I think we might want to eat and give them a try this year, to get a better handle on what can be done and what needs to be revised.

Two weeks ago I went and spent an afternoon with the same lovely lady and she showed me how to use a rotary cutter. My goodness, they have reinvented the wheel! It is wonderful! For the first time in years I feel free to cut fabric for clothes and to be as creative as I want with quilting, because it does not seem to bother my arthritic hands. It takes practice and you must move your thumb, but it is well worth it. I am starting a sampler and am looking forward to using both rotary cutting and machine assembly - first time for both.

I have also gotten out my quilt that I have been working on forever! I used to have it in a small frame, but my body will not stand for that much. Neither does a standing hoop work. So I have pinned it and am working on the stitching, trying for at least every other day. My husband got me the most wonderful books, The Elm Creek Quilt Series, first 3 books, and because of that I can have been able to see that I need to baste also and more of how the binding will work.

I am crocheting 4 baby blankets, 3 of my former students and one new lady I have met from Friends Meetings. One got sent off today and one started. One needs to be done in August, one in October, one in at the latest, December. I am learning that I need to blog less and be more picky about my blogging in order to be able to do these things which feed me so much.

Time is the subject I am learning the most about. When my husband is home I want to spend my time with him. I will be out of all "officer" positions in groups that I belong to at night and presently that is not soon enough for me. After he works all day, there is an overwhelming feeling not to race out the door, alone or together. With this frame of mind, while he is at work I try to multi-task. As many of you know I cook most of the dog food. Since we have discovered that Loki has IBD he has been taken off dry food, added yogurt each meal and some more exercise. Ming Fou obviously has a cast iron stomach, but I still give her about 80% homemade food, mostly because she loves her 20% crunchies.

So dog food is made 5 - 6 days a week. I am attempting, if it ends up being cost effective to make Greek yogurt for us and regular yogurt for them and the cats for an occasional treat. While I do this cooking I tend to listen to music often, which is fine. But I have been pushing myself to spend at least part of this time with learning videos and tapes. Presently I am doing the Teaching Company course on Understanding and Appreciating Great Music, by Dr. Greenburg. Beautiful and challenging. I listen so far on the DVD's and then follow up with the study guides. It always feels good to me to learn and music is one of my favorite topics.

Reading and writing is taking afore front in my life, pushing its way through. We are in a mystery book club at a nearby library. I am reading several books, including the ones mentioned above and The Working Poor, The Tale of Despeareax, and Middlemarch will be started by both my husband and I for the Oprah Summer classic. Our Y City Writer's Forum is coming up on their October Conference and I am working on registration on that. We also are putting together 3 small publications that I am contributing too. Writing is the hardest event to add to my schedule, it can so easily be pushed aside that I have asked my husband to help keep me accountable. He writes every day, or nearly so, as many of you know at
so this is an inspiration and a nudge for me. I know that I feel better when I write. I don't understand that much, but I know that it is so.

So, this is my spring so far. It seemed pretty full as I wrote this. Any suggestions are helpful, but for now this is it, and supper has to be readied for!