Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Every morning

Every morning, some harvest

hybridized ornamental corn
yellow tomatoes
black eyed peas
and more...

Every morning, this bucket gets filled with whatever is ready to come out of the garden. Sometimes, after work and before sunset, it gets filled again.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I have a seed habit

indian corn, ornamental ears

Esme and I spent an hour or so with a box and a butterknife and a few envelopes shelling seeds off of the Indian Corn. It is so colorful. There are striped kernels in red and yellow, red and blue and a few kernels that almost appear green. One ear (not pictured) is a rosy peach pink all the way through except for just one or two purple kernels. There were 'three' indian corns that were planted, one an 'earth tones' that came in the mail, a 'free' extra packet of indian corn that came with something else, and a packet from the Lowes store which was the same as what Grandma planted and/or kept in her seeds for this year. So, we can't tell exactly what is what, especially as it hybridized with our sweet corn. We did that on purpose, to put more 'sweet' into what is normally a flour grinding type of corn. I am picking out a small handful to plant next year for experiment, and then separating a few other 'types' into different pans to either give away or keep for more experiment in larger areas. Treated well and kept dry, it should keep for several years.

indian corn ornamental ears

Mark says my seed habit is getting extreme ;) I do find it extremely cool to plant one seed and get hundreds back in return. It just touches something way down deep in my soul and makes me light up there. And then the further idea of selecting for traits, changing what is brought back on the return..... adding that fourth dimension of change over time almost has me rubbing my hands together like Ebeneezer over his pile of gold. Except mine is corn, and beans. And 'investment' in gold and silver never has the 'heritage' aspect and you can't very well eat it in a pinch! I guess there are much worse habits to have ;)

//Note// : When Esme woke up this morning she told me she was thinking, thinking about Grandpa and Grandma and Esme and Mama all eating. She sat in the red chair (booster seat at the restaurant), and the food is here (belly button), in her belly now. It was good food. She liked that day. // I asked her if she had remembered that while she was sleeping, and she said No, just thinking, thinking, 'member' it, food in her belly now. *laughing*

Monday, August 29, 2011

tiny garden notes

The black shackamaxon beans are green in color to start with and start getting a purple line down the 'seam' and are supposed to turn more purple as they get bigger and mature. The beans are at the line stage, right now, and I have not picked any to eat. I think I see about a dozen beans of that variety on the two plants that survived. I would like them to go for seed.

The red sorghum started to put on heads a few days ago, and I pulled one in today to the garage to dry. I might have harvested it just a tiny bit early or late, as it does not have any 'red' on it, just lots of shiny golden little seeds with one round end and one pointed end. They truly resemble popcorn. I think there are more seeds on this one head than there was in the entire original seed packet.

My seed saving table in the 'basement' is growing more and more daily. I hang the beans on strings if they are not yet dry, and lay the shelled beans out onto paper plates. Zinnias and sunflower heads, broom corn and ornamental Indian corn are also hanging on strings until they are dry enough to pull the seeds out into coffee filters and then plastic bags or other long-term storage. Pumpkin seeds and basil are in there, too.

I found several dried pods among the Provider green beans that had beautiful shiny purple beans inside. Those plants have been largely eaten by some bugs but have given pounds and pounds of beans up until now, so I am not sad. The other seeds I had saved from Providers do not have that shiny coating on them, so I am interested to see what will come from this prolific producer when I plant them next year. The pinto and lima beans are having another run at producing now that the weather has started to turn 'cooler' (less than a hundred daily). I am looking forward to the pinto beans getting large enough to shell out for another pot of soup. I am finding a few small dry pods among those with beans to save for next year, as well.

The purple hull peas are mostly done, but the Mississippi silver cowpeas are putting on more and more pods where the old pods were taken off. In similar note, the black eyed peas are producing heavily and the Whipporwill peas will be ready soon. My beets are entirely withered down to tiny purple strings of foliage. I might need to look more into how to grow those.

I am looking at more herbs. Summer savory is supposed to chase off bean beetles like those that have eaten the Provider beans. I will definitely get some of that. I'd like to find some chamomile, coriander and lemon basil, but they are not terribly high priority. And the Pyrethrum painted daisies are supposed to help against the small biting insects that are living there... but they are perennial and that might not be good. Grandma has some Allium to plant up at the herb garden, but peas and beans do not like to be near it. That sounds like it will work!

other notes:
Whipporwill cowpeas : purple flowers
Black eyed peas : white flowers
purple hull peas : yellowish flowers opening to purplish-white
Mississippi silver cowpeas : purple flowers

Black shackamaxon beans : purple flowers
White half-runner beans : white flowers
Pinto beans : white flowers
Vermont cranberry : white flowers
Kentucky wonder : white flowers
Provider : purple flowers
Mayflower bean : white flowers
Lima beans (fordhook) : white with yellow center flowers

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Long day

Blueberry sour cream coffee cake, and olive-oil roasted potato pieces

Both from things in the fridge/pantry that were needing to be used and could be taken for lunch for the next few days. I don't have another day off until Friday. After days like this I feel like I've lived two or three days in my one day off!

Mitzi cat 'helping out' in the kitchen

It has been such a long day, doing so much that I guess it is only fitting that I take a few minutes and do a blog post, too. Early this morning started with putting up black eyed pea supports in our vegetable garden. I tried to wend them up a cornstalk but there was just not one close enough to a large patch, so I had to cut a long stick and put a piece of chicken wire on it to lead them over to the cornstalks.

While I was doing this Esme was bopping about, half amused and half upset at Mama because I was doing things she didn't want to do - she wanted to swing on the swing. Grandpa and Grandma showed up, and we went up to the new herb garden we are making, and laid down straw, lime, and pounded in t-posts for the corners of the garden fence. Esme and Grandma and I went to town while Grandpa helped Daddy with the tractor at the lake. We picked up flower bulbs, more lime and some extra plumbing bits. Back at the herb garden I set up the plumbing from the hydrant to the garden spaces and Grandma helped as a third hand to help put the glue into all of the pieces. The plumbing was a success, except the uphill leg of the hydrant really only works at usable pressure when the bottom leg of the hydrant is shut off.

Coming home Esme and I got some lunch and then she stayed inside with Daddy while I did even more work supporting plants in the veggie garden and pulling weeds. As the sun was going down, I came inside and prepared the harvest from the last few days drying basil, shelling peas and snapping beans and separating them into containers. One of the containers from the other day's harvest went into a pan and made a lovely stew which will go to work with me. I gave Esme a bath and Mark pointed out that there were still some blueberries from my last baking experiment in the fridge. They were still good, so I made this coffee cake with them. It was a decent attempt, but I need a deeper bundt pan and also wish I could find a recipe less crumbly.

Now my hands and arms and feet and legs are sore. Everything is cleaned up in the kitchen except the dishes, and the laundry needs to go in the dryer. After that... I can go to bed. Work at eleven, tomorrow.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Seeds of 2011

From Left to right, top to bottom: Fordhook lima beans, Connecticut Field pumpkins, Provider green snap bean, unknown cranberry type bean, Purple hulled pink eyed peas, Pinto beans, Mississippi silver crowder peas

This was a set of seeds I gave to a friend to spread the varieties a little bit. All of these seeds came off of plants that grew in our garden in 2011, and were a small (very small, agreed) sample of what I've saved for replanting next year. There are more to come, but this was what I collected this morning from what is drying in the basement.

And I have to let you in on a little secret, that might explain how very plant nerdy I seem to have become overnight. I've been a plant nerd for a long time, but it has been dormant for a while. My first job when I was fourteen was at the University of Minnesota Experiment station in Grand Rapids, MN. I worked there for several years, and got doses of greenhouse operations, plant nerdiness, work ethic and sunburn. I spent the summers at the station and the rest of the year managing the high school greenhouse. Cataloging varieties, separating them and noting differences is all wrapped up in those experiences. I do like coming back to it on a personal scale. What is more, there is now the 'legacy' aspect, as well. These seeds will become more and more tied to the ground I plant them in - changing to fit the environment and multiplying to provide for us and to share with others.

Also, the Sandhill Preservation genetic diversity heirloom catalog came in the mail the other day. I have been breaking sunbeam like smiles learning about new varieites that are available and thinking about next year's 'production'!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Jarrahdale blue pumpkin

Tonight was the night, the blue pumpkin was cut into.

The flesh smells slightly of watermelon. My first thought was cucumber, and then Mark said 'watermelon' and he was right. It tastes like a watermelon that had all of the sweet sucked out of it and just the fiber left. The flesh is thicker and harder than the Connecticut Field Pumpkins, and the seeds have to be dug out of the corners. The seeds are plump and seem to be full of meat (they are boiling and will bake later) and are a beautiful golden yellow color. All of these seeds came out of this one compact pumpkin. The cut in the surface and the slight 'mold' look to one spot on it had not affected the inside at all. Total it sat in the storage room for over a week between pulling it out of the garden and cutting it open.

After: The flesh was VERY dry.. may be good for processing into baked goods, but was not good at all for eating. The seeds seemed like they should have a lot of nut in them, and it can be very good, but it is smaller than it appears inside the husk and very hard to get out. I would need a nutcracker to get them out without tearing my fingernails up. I'm thinking this variety is not the one I need to grow next year, even though there was plenty of seed left to save some.

The Day after that: I'm a firm believer in trying something a few times. The cooked squash pieces improved greatly with being in the fridge for the night. I could eat one the next day for lunch with no trouble. I think the pairing of it with a plate of purple hulled peas (boiled, then salted) was part of making it so good, as well. The seeds are not an entire loss, either. The last pumpkin seeds peeled from top point down, and that method was NOT working on these seeds at all. I think I finally found a way that, although still slow, gets the entire meat out of this seed. It needs to be cracked at the bottom of the round, on the side, then peeled up towards the point. It sounds pitifully painstaking making this point at all - but if I had gotten the idea that the seeds may 'peel' differently I would not have tried to give up on them so quickly.

Overall: I give the pumpkin Jarrahdale a 7 out of 10, and may replant a plant of it next year.

More garden pictures

Morning glories this morning
truly glorious

Kentucky wonder that has attached itself to the sprinkler

Shackamaxon bean pods

Was out in the garden again to check on what was forming yesterday and got pictures of the Shackamaxon bean starting to put on tiny pods from the pretty purple flowers yesterday.

Shackamaxon pole bean pods

Whippoorwill cowpeas with a purple flower

An elusive bee. They are there, just in small numbers and very quick moving

Large sticky hard bodied ants
seem to also be gathering on some of the cowpeas. These are black eyed peas.
I think they are gathering the same nectar the wasps are after,
and are very protective against other insects trying to eat the plant.

The experiment bean, severely bugged
but good to capture the plant leaves.

These seem very 'bugged', and for the record, have no wasps or ants on them. There was a fuzzy bumblebee coming by on this and the pinto plant next to it to visit the flowers. There is definitely some politics going on out there - and this one is losing out on the protection from the aggressive insects because it has no nectar buds outside the flowers.

The experiment 'Esme'
I'm thinking more and more this is of the 'vermont cranberry' type

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Garden cowpeas, zinnias and an Esme in a hat

big smile with hat

This is my nose
future blackmail photo!

Zinnias blooming

The one 'flat' looking purple zinnia on the right and the red one on the left are from an heirloom package of Kirk Estate zinnias bought from The Little Ragamuffin shop on Etsy. They really stand out as different among the store bought package, which called itself 'lollipop.' I think I should start collecting them into two different piles as all the zinnia seed was going together before I realized what the difference was from.

tithonia, mexican sunflower
has incredibly soft leaves

Purple hyacinth bean
pretty, but poisonous
and only in the garden because it was given to me by a friend

Wasps on the cowpeas

I swear they are pollinating - they crawl all over the little 'buds' in the crooks of the stems and then visit the flowers. I do not know exactly how cowpeas pollinate, but it does seem the little 'buds' are producing nectar and that they specifically attract the insects using this nectar. There are no bees on the cowpeas when they are around - they are chasing them away, perhaps? They are also doing the same activities to the green snap beans nearby. The articles say that cowpeas are self-pollinaters, with the male parts producing pollen that then bursts itself onto the female flowers as they open. However, it also says that cowpeas can cross-pollinate, with the male pollen being transferred by insects and other methods. One study showed that the amount of fruit production was ten times as much in the presence of insects than it was in the isolation from insects. That is very cool!

I don't mind too terribly about cross-pollination in the garden as long as all of the results are edible. It is getting something inedible I worry about. Other than that - it would be interesting to see what shows up!

Black eyed peas cowpeas
growth habit pole type and green pods with purple tips

There are some black eyed peas in the back of the garden that have no support whatsoever.. they don't seem to care. They are crawling along the ground and sticking their pods up here and there. The ones that did have poles went RIGHT up them.

Shackamaxon bean
pole type, purple flower

This has been slow to grow and quite a few plants were lost to too wet conditions earlier in the season. The few plants that have grown up to find support are starting to thrive now and I hope to get a few beans to multiply seed from. It is nice they are a purple flower because all of the others near them (kentucky wonder, white half-runner) are white flower plants and telling them apart otherwise would have been difficult.

Purple Hulled peas
growth habit bush type and purple pods

bug enemies
on the purple hulled peas *growl!*

We have done very little to discourage the insect population, besides pulling and killing some by hand and slashing the zucchini when it was too bugged to try to keep it up. Considering the 'life' out there in the garden we are getting a very decent harvest. I do fear what will happen next year, with all these critters doing their best to populate their own species. We might not get any harvest if the bugs outpace the produce next year.

fresh and dried purple hull peas in pods
about 9 seeds to a pod

Mississippi Silver crowder pea
growth habit, pole type and pods

The ones that did not find the fence seemed content to put on their pods close to the ground and wait to be found. It is also possible that those pods were just 'firsts' before the plant had runners long enough to get to the fence. I would think that a few plants would survive without support just fine but for more than a few it would take something for them to train on to keep them out of the moisture and provide more protection against the insects.

Mississippi silver crowder cowpea
purple flower

14 seeds to a pod : mississippi silver crowder

This year's dry mississippi silver crowder peas against the original seed

Whippoorwill cowpeas
growth habit semi pole type and green pods with purple tip

The ones that are unsupported seem to be twining among themselves and the others near the cornstalks are reaching out and grabbing them.

Hand crossing cowpeas
Outcrossing in cowpeas
pollination in pea flowers
Floral morphology in cowpeas
Darwin's study on scarlet runner bean pollination

Monday, August 22, 2011

bean notes

The whippoorwill cowpeas are getting ready to mature - the pods are not quite plump yet, but there are a nice number of them. The black-eyed peas have surprised me. I thought they were almost done with their crop. No... they were just getting started! I see three times as many pods now as what I've already picked - and it will be a week or so before they are ready. The Kentucky wonder and white half-runner beans are starting to produce enough for more plates of green beans. I am enjoying the brown Mississippi silver crowder peas - they taste more like a dried pea than the black-eyed peas and taste like they have a lot of minerals in them.

Other notes: The White half-runner beans were planted intermixed with the Kentucky Wonder beans, but I can tell the difference. The half-runner beans plump out quickly with large shelling beans inside them and the Kentucky Wonder grow longer and skinny before they begin to develop beans inside. That makes a lot of sense as the SSE boards were mentioning half-runner types are more likely to be large beans. The black Shackamaxons are planted at the end of that row and have purple flowers instead of the white/yellow flowers both of the other varieties have. However, they have not yet gotten any beans on them.

Notes: I have seed (three total) for Tongues of Fire beans, and they look VERY pretty. They have red pods with striped beans inside when mature. I should plant those next season, and put them on poles. The files say they are pole beans. In that same box are three Scarlet Runner beans that were not planted and might need a second try.

I am really looking forward to planting Esme's experiment beans and seeing what they become next. An article said that it only takes a few beans of any type to make a 'variety', and then year after year it will become more hardy for the land it is planted in. Most of the bean swappers on the seed saver's exchange are exchanging as little as five beans per variety, and that explains while some of the packets from heirloom sites are ten or fifteen beans each.

With these new beans and cowpeas, I've joined Seed to Seed. The challenge is to grow a new plant or variety from seed, save the seed, and replant it the following year. I'm already planning on doing that ;)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Esme's experiment beans

These are the 'experiment beans'
taste like pinto beans, of course...
look more like cranberry beans for 'ID'

These are what came from the soup bean mix and I let these go to seed and dry in their pods to plant for next year. They are not like their 'parents', and they are all alike to each other. I am amazed and curious. I even joined Seed Saver's Exchange now... I want to learn more!

The originals
I selected these carefully from the whole bag, in hopes of
selecting for the color trait with small speckles.

It is hard to tell which set, the brown or the red, this came from. My memory says it was the red - and the evidence seems correct. My big question is if they crossed with the actual garden pintos I had planted in large number in the middle of the garden. The pintos were already producing beans by the time this set was starting to sprout but also put on a second round of flowers recently.

The varieties in the garden (all legumes included):

Mayflower bean (1 plant survived, produced very late in the season, about 7 pods total, saved 12 seeds or so)
Black Shackamaxon bean (several plants survived, produced very late in the season, 15 to 20 pods total)
White half-runner pole bean (producing nicely)
Kentucky wonder pole bean (producing nicely)
Provider bush bean (overwhelmed me!, got about 15 extra seeds)
Fordhook Lima beans (slight producer, and had a second wind)
Brown whippoorwill cowpeas (putting on pods, produced about 50-80 seeds)
Black eyed peas (from grocery store) (did very well)
Purple Hulled peas (overwhelmed me!)
Mississippi Silver crowder peas (did well early, then died off.. about 30 seeds saved)
Scarlet Runner beans (damaged, never produced)
Purple Hyacinth bean (poisonous, but pretty flower)

Mark said I should count these as separate 'varieties' because they had different sources and I was watching them as separate items.

--Pinto beans (from garden seed packet) (produced well and loved these)
--Pinto beans (from grocery store) (not doing well)
experiment beans from grocery store mix : red (produced, were cranberry beans)
experiment beans from grocery store mix : brown (produced, were regular pinto)
experiment beans from grocery store mix : black (did not come up)
experiment beans from grocery store mix : white (damaged)

The e.b. red, purple hulled peas, black eyed peas and packet pintos have all produced enough to save some for seed.

The fall garden notes

With all the summer squash pulled out, I'm thinking of what goes in next.

All of the websites are reccommending carrots and beets and 'cold' crops like kale and lettuce. The two items I actually bought for the fall garden are lentils and radicchio, of which the latter is on the list and the former probably isn't on ANYONE's list, but it is a cold season item and I am curious to see it grow. Hullless oats is an interesting idea, but would require more planning and obtaining seed a little earlier than now. If we were to add chickens or goats to our 'farm' in the future, that would be a no-brainer to plant as a cover crop AND a useful easy to thresh grain for storage. After having all of those squash bugs in the zucchini I am rethinking what to put there. Pyrethrin daisies would help prohibit those bugs from living there... Articles say that Butternut squash is not affected by these bugs - so planting them in their own place next year (instead of mixed) would help when wanting to know what to pull and what to leave. I see a 'polar coordinate' effect for the squashes next year - with varieties being planted at different o'clocks all around the garden with beans in between them of different varieties. Plains coreopsis and calendulas are seed packets I already have that are good for fall planting in this zone. I think there is enough season left to get another crop of southern field peas - especially the purple hulled peas which require no support and were a heavy producer in this soil. I would like to plant more of the Mississippi Silver crowder peas but they do require more support. The provider green beans are mostly done -- and they have a fence. That would seem a natural place to put another crop. The peas are mostly carefree, which is an added bonus.

thinking a bit further, not so much on the polar coordinate idea.. kind of between what happened this year and trying to separate some of the important things.

an idea of a map, for myself, for next year

corn and black eyed peas in the back, purple zinnias and yellow marigolds scattered about.. hills of a FEW types of squash, keeping the butternut away from the zucchini. A section at the side back for pumpkins - just a few plants because treated well they will do something... and have room to run off to the side out of the garden. In the middle of each squash type area pyrethrin daisies or other bug-hating plants put in the middle of the hills? Maybe zinnias, because they will be tall. The pyrethrin is supposed to be a good organic pest-killer, it makes the bugs shell bodies soft when they get it onto them, and then they are easily hurt and killed by other species wanting to eat them. Spaces for both the bush varieites of beans that need no fence and a place to train up the varieties that do need fencing to keep them from choking the ones that do not. Planned room for the field peas with the same thing, fencing at the sides for the ones that need it and a swath in the middle for the variety that does not (quick pick pink eye). Having the pink eyed peas in the place where the zucchini was this year is supposed to do well at having the wasps kill the bugs when they start to emerge. Tomato varieties separated with their own supports so we are not crawling in an overgrown jungle and wondering where X tomato type is and if it is going to produce. A swath for cucmbers up front and some planned space for radishes and basil. More room for carrots that are out of the way and will be able to be left to their own until the time comes ripe. One site I am reading says to keep planting radish seed all around the squash all season long - even if there are no radishes, it will keep the squash bugs away. That seems correct in a way... I had not a single squash bug to be seen until I stopped planting the radishes because the weather was too hot to actually GET radishes. I should have kept planting and not cared if there were actual radishes or not.

sunrise seeds, this local harvest seller (Indiana) seems to have a few varieties of beans and pumpkins that are interesting to me.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Grandpa Harvey and Grandma Gale visits

Gale with a tortoiseshell kitten...

lounging with coffee and kittens

Balloon animals ala Daddy made a fun round of pretend for everyone

pigtails became 'my long rabbit ears' and she played Grandpa was Elmer Fudd hunting her with a nerf noodle

Esme had a good time these past few days visiting with Grandpa Harvey and Grandma Gale from Iowa. They had a good time 'resting' as much as a toddler would let them, which couldn't have been very much. I had to work a few days but the time I was here they were being run ragged playing 'Looney Tunes Duck Season/Rabbit Season' pretend games and other things such as these balloon animals and dinosaur fights and 'doctor has to save you' etc.. Esme has a large imagination and really showed it to them.

They are on their way home now, but before that they took Esme and I out to a catfish restaurant for Esme's very first time at a restaurant (other than once or twice to McDonald's playcenter with Mama). Mark stayed home because he doesn't like fish OR crowds. Esme was very very good, just requiring some extra encouragement to eat her dinner instead of stare and talk about everything. Afterwards we were going out to the car and it had gotten dark. Esme told Grandpa to come in because she loved him, and the brown bears were going to eat him because it was all dark out there. She said it was not safe, even in the car, because it was dark and we all needed to go back to 'the green house' with her Daddy so we could all be safe. That was very sweet and really told a lot about how her mind works. I told her I would hold her hand and we would go back to the green house and find Daddy and that was 'okay' and she went to sleep until we got home. I know she will be looking for Grandpa and Grandma again tomorrow - and be sad that they are back at their house and will only talk on the phone for a long time again. However, we are all very glad they got a chance to visit and to rest away from the 'city' and busy schedules they keep. Have a safe trip home and enjoy the memories :)

For the record: We also lost the Cookie Rabbit yesterday morning - she was there and then POOOF she was gone! I searched for her and did not find her. Tonight before bed I turned on my spidey sense and a flashlight and found her hiding behind the 'chair' bench Esme eats her dinner at. So, yay - the Cookie Rabbit is found!

Notes: The brown whipporwhill cowpeas are starting to pod, and the black eyed peas and purple hulled peas have produced half their crop now. I pulled all the curcubit vines (pumpkins, zucchini and etc.) as the squash bugs were getting in large numbers out there. I hope this will help keep their number down for next year - and an early planting again with netting over them? //also, Esme's side leg measurement is now just under 21 inches. Pants time, again.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


pen and ink drawing, 08/17/2011

Monday, August 15, 2011

Cleaning Help

Esme insisted on helping me clean up downstairs last night. She definitely has her own sense of style. She said she was a Cinderella and a 'chef' last night, because she was helping to clean. I'm not sure why she thinks she is a chef, maybe that is why the hat? "Look at all this MESS. gotta clean this up. Now where that hand wash go?"

I had her put all of her downstairs toys into the box in the background - which was a lot. She was wearing rollerskates for a while there, and eating pizza and drinking milk while watching Wall-E. She told me I was being awful cleaning the bathtub because I was moving toys, but that the cleaning was a good job. In the end I had to make her get a towel to clean up the large expanses of water she had left on the floor, as it wasn't really dirty at that point - I had already mopped it.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


My father and his wife will be visiting some time this upcoming week. I'll try to clean things up a little more than the last 'surprise' visit he made about a month ago. Our house is firmly entrenched in toddlerhood, though... and geeky computer stuff.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

45 months

This was a big month for Esme. 40 inches tall now. She has learned how to put on her pants without help most of the time. She has not learned the shirts - but I have not been stressing it. We haven't used a diaper in over a week - although we have changed a few sheets, mostly on our own bed when she was napping. She is making some progress on tooth brushing. She can fill her own sports bottle drink cup with water at the sink but not get juice into the opening without making a mess. It seems, at times, that she can almost read some words - ones in places she would not have known by memorizing that situation - but instead has memorized what the word looks like and knows it even when seeing it in a new place. She is using her computer with ease now, and has learned to spell a few words on her word processor - cat, mom, esme and maggie. She paints bright abstracts all over her screen and can open the last one she was in and continue from it. She has learned how to transmit her photo gallery from her computer to her paint program and try to trace over them or make other additions to the pictures. She just put a green mustache on her picture of Beethoven that was in there. She's a 'natural.' She also seems to have figured out the 'undo' key to erase her changes and make new ones. She likes to try to play my Sims game and overflow the entire yard with armchairs. We had some discussion about naming characters something other than 'boy' or 'girl' or 'friend' or 'lady'. She decided to name the little boy Bob and the little girl Maggie. The lady she wanted to name 'Chair' because she likes chairs... we settled on 'Sherry', then 'Harry' for the man instead of 'Friend Man'.

She does still scream bloody murder to have her hair washed, and hyperventilate if anything except a toy falls into the bathtub whether we are in it or not. She loves to swing on the swing Mark made for her last year. She sings the Tweety Bird song sometimes lately - 'I'm a sweet little bird in a gilded cage, Tweety's my name but I don't know my age. I don't have to worry and that's a fact, I'm safe in here from that bad Putty Tat.' She also sings the Simpsons theme. She has also learned to twist herself up on the swing and let it spin her. She calls this 'ride the dog.' I have no idea why! She still calls piggyback rides 'ride the turtle'. She pretends she is Homer Simpson or Maggie Simpson, complete with personal habits like Maggie trying to walk then falling down on her knees or Homer patting his belly and stomping around. She has also picked up the little 'Marge' habit of growling 'rrrrrr' when she is upset about something, Mama not playing, having to put on shoes etc etc...

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

bits and another haircut

self cut and dye, again

I have been cutting my own hair now for about a year - it seems to both solve the social nervousness I have of the salon 'waiting room' atmosphere and also serve a therapeutic effect putting all the crux on my own self to get it done adequately. I overcome the fear of failure, stretch my capabilities, and live with the consequences. There is a lot to that. I don't see how it is less stress than waiting, getting called and making chitchat while someone else cuts it. In fact, it is more stress, but a different kind, a kind that feels healed and joyous when the results come out good, instead of just still awkward, as the social stress feels even after it is gone. I think it is the end result of 'capability' and the fact I can do it at home at any time - not have to plan a trip in town or go before or after work. I had dyed my hair the night before that. I am going 'gray' in an odd way, white all up underneath the nape of my neck. Nobody else sees it unless I put my hair up and point it out - but, I see it... and I've been wearing my hair up a lot lately. Instead of matching the color I ended up a slight shade lighter, with the ends not getting as much of the dye -- so a cut seemed in order as well. I cut off about three inches into a 'Cleopatra' type bob, which is easy enough to do. Esme watched me do it this time and did not cry like she did last time. Last time (months ago) she cried that Mama was cutting her fingers and was going to die. She told me to 'put it back' about the hair in the trash. This time she told me I was doing a good job and wandered around the room playing Maggie Simpson and drug all of her downstairs blocks in and surrounded my feet with 'build towers, I am making.' I stopped her short of building a tower on the toilet seat. *roll eyes*

About 'capability'... I have gained a lot in that the past few years, of which I am proud to have accomplished. I can fix a faucet, grow a garden and eat the food from it, bake a pumpkin pie, cut my own hair and sew clothing (getting quite good at this now for Esme, need to work more on my own). Every little bit helps, on the inside, as well.

The blue pumpkin came out of the garden. It had a spot on either side where the fence had rubbed through the skin - and I hope it will save to be edible. I put salt into the cuts on Mark's reccommendation - I think that was a good idea. If it is not good inside I'll have learned a lesson.

the Jarrahdale and a few Connecticut Field pumpkins

I also tried to make blueberry muffins last night with some pumpkin thrown into them - and the recipe worked, but the imitation blueberry boxed stuff did not give a good flavor to the pumpkin... real blueberry might be different. Can you tell I got my pumpkin cookbook in the mail? "Pumpkin, a Superfood for All 12 Months of the Year" by DeeDee Stovel. It has a lot of interesting combinations, but some of the recipes only call for pumpkin in a glaze or a frosting... There are a LOT of recipes in the book, though, and it is inspiring even without pictures of every recipe. Also, to have a basic pumpkin bread and pumpkin pie recipe with other things in a handy book (not computer printouts) made it worth it. There are a lot more pumpkins coming out of the garden and four small ones to use in the storage room.

a little damage on the sides
will see what it looks like when cut open

Sunday, August 07, 2011

I remember when.. bits

Coworkers were talking in the breakroom about 'I remember when' and this city we live in. I'm from another place, Grand Rapids, MN. Some of what they said spurred memories of my own from my childhood. They had a Ben Franklin 'five and dime' store here, and we did in Grand Rapids, too. Our next door neighbor Mrs. Arlene Tarbell worked there and my mom would bring me in to say 'hello' to her when we did our shopping. She worked in the basement area but I don't remember much about what she did there. When I was a child I envisioned her as a banker because of the little teller window she worked in - it might have been a bill paying office or a change office. My grandparents would often bring me in, as well and they would take my sister and cousin and I to the long lunch counter for ice cream and I would eat ice cream and look at toys and stare at the goldfish in the tanks for hours as they talked with other old folks. That is a memory from WAY back when I was younger than five - as my grandmother died about then and it had to have been before that or just soon after when my cousin still lived with my grandfather and grandmother.

There was a tiny elevator that went all the way upstairs to the 'loft' area - where the bedding and fabrics were sold. That elevator always reminded me of the elevator at the hospital. I believe they were the only two elevators I had ever seen in my life up to that point. I loved to go up there with my Mom and look through the bolts of cloth. My mom hated the elevator though, and she didn't want to take the stairs - so I had to beg very hard to get to go up there without needing something. My first sewing class in school we bought the fabric at the Ben Franklin. That must have been about 1992, and I do not think the store was open much longer after that. My sister and I would also buy little flocked bear toys at the checkout counter for 20 cents each, in different patterns and collect them. I still had a container of some of those bears in a box in my Mom's house, along with some other childhood treasures.

The other memory I have is riding our bicycles down to the M&H gas station which was a very long distance for us. We all had to go together or I could not go with, being the youngest by quite a lot. It was across the street from the Ben Franklin which must have been two or three miles from our house down the sidewalks of the major highway #38. When I was a toddler my mother had worked with a lady at Mickey's Diner named Reggie, and she was the clerk at the gas station by the time I was old enough to go with the other children on bikes. Sometimes she would talk to us over the loudspeaker from inside, before we even got up to the doors. We always thought that was amazing. We would save up our change to buy 20 cent candy cigarettes, bottle cap candy and sixlets - and buy soda in alumninum cans which was 'a big thing' in the early 80s, and I can remember it being as low as 40 cents a can. Reggie and the other clerks were usually patient as we counted out our pennies and nickels and dimes and coveted our quarters. We would buy cans of Squirt soda and dare each other to drink it all quickly because it was 'sour' and 'nasty.' We needed the quarters for playing Skeeball and other games at the 'Skill Mill' in the Central Square mall that most likely drove the Ben Franklin out of business.

All of these things were our 'downtown' and back when we were that age it was an important thing to be able to go do those things. I also remember being amazed at the tiny skywalk in the JCPenney store that connected it to the mall - it was originally on another street facing the Central School, near the Reeds drug store. Reeds was a big part of our childhood, as well - we would buy our school supplies there. There was a candy store in that mall with a mechanical statue of a cook stirring a pot. I used to stare at that because he always stopped for a moment, and then he would start again. That store sold 5 cent "peppermint sticks" in all flavors imaginable. We would buy a lot of those sticks and save them for later breaking off little pieces of root beer, green apple, lemon, lime, strawberry and blueberry and looking at the colors of our tongues in the mirrors in the stores. There was also the 'Two plus Two' jewelry accessories store - where we bought charm bracelets, got our ears pierced and all of the little 'hot' and 'cool' things my older sister knew about and had to have.  I bought my first piece of 'expensive' clothing in the JCPenney in sophmore year in high school - 35.00 for a cotton sweater that lasted from 1994 to 2006 when it was lost in my other possessions in moving from Minnesota. That sweater was still in almost perfect condition. They don't make much like they used to.

The Village Bookstore and the Perkins were in the mall, too. We would save money for books or ask the people at the desks to look up their big catalogs to see when books were coming out, as we could not do that by computer yet. Computers were still 'Apple IIe' and the Internet was unheard of. We would spend hours in the Perkins with our parents or grandparents or Uncle Jim if he was talking to Mom. Uncle Jim lived just a block away from the restaurant, so he and our aunt would walk over. It was a 'fancy' restaurant to us, and we had to be on best behavior or get stared at by everyone Mom and Grandpa knew and make them embarrassed. Sometimes I would get to sit with my sister and her friends when they hung out in the Perkins late at night because if you met the minimum bill as a group (cheese fries and drinks) they let you stay. Then about 1993 or so a girl was picked up from outside the Perkins by a stranger and killed - the first time that happened in our memories in our little town. It shook everyone up in the entire town. After that year our parents were MUCH tighter with us - I could not even ride my bike to the end of the road without an older sibling, even though that was nowhere near downtown.

Another restaurant in the town was the Frontier Cake & Steak, where my father worked as a fry cook when I was small. Thinking about the Perkins made me remember sitting there as well, in the little tiny booths and eating onion rings with my grandfather, peering up over the partitions to catch a glimpse of my dad in his white paper hat cooking. My father did not intend to stay there forever, he wanted to go back to school and he had met a waitress there... my memories of that time are very slim and sometimes even these ones I am writing about have been blocked in the overlap. My parents divorced, and there was a dark time in our house for months to a year where everyone was mad at everyone and everything and no one got along, we all just 'drug' along. My father moved to Iowa and I did not hear from him for five to eight years. We continued on, and life became Mom, Grandpa, my brother, sister, cousin and I for a while. Then my cousin went to live with the pastor for a while and his family, as my Grandfather felt a 'teenager' was too much for him and my Mom already had two herself. He was nearly like my brother, as well - so that was a little hard, but nowhere near as hard as it was on him.

//long trip down memory lane... ha

I wonder what Esme will remember in these lines when she grows up - going to Grandma and Grandpa's house, the library, the fabric counters at the stores and getting lollipops and chicken leg at the QMart in Bruceton. She will probably remember the bookstore in Jackson with all of its toys laid out in bins and stuffed animals in racks and pens and puzzles, as she already said 'it's you, we're back!' the last time we were there after having not been for months. And I know she will never believe her Mama ever did these things :)

Friday, August 05, 2011

July was a long busy month...

So long and busy, I'm adding a few days of August onto there because we were just too busy to realize it had overflown the calendar. Esme is potty trained. She understands, and we haven't used a diaper in many days. She is also happy about it, too. The garden is overgrown with grass, and I pulled a lot of it today. I found carrots - and brought them in. The field peas are all starting to put on two to three inch long pods that stick straight up on the vines, unlike the green beans, which hang down from the vines. The pole green beans are starting to produce, as well. There are pumpkins and squashes developing and new vines and leaves everywhere in that section. I have still been making 'garden soup' every few days and eating it at work. I've lost enough weight to really see it in the mirror, have been feeling it in the belt for a month.

The other night the lights went out and we were without power for seven hours. It was a very hard night for Mark. There was lightning everywhere, loud and bright through the large glass windows on all sides of the house. Esme and I were scared - her mostly because I was, but when all the lights went out she wanted me to put them back on. Earlier that night I had cut an ankle and she was scared of the blood - she thought 'mama dead' and then was very scared to let me anywhere near her for a bit until I showed her a band-aid is like 'duct tape' she plays doctor with her toys to 'make all better'. I think she thought I was a zombie because the more I came after her to show her it was alright the more she cried and tried to run... 'Walking Dead' is to blame, she saw some of at least one of those episodes months and months ago. Grandpa had to go to the emergency room for his eye, and Esme was further scared with Daddy out in the storm and 'Grandpa need fix, help Grandma fix him' and being alone with Mama with the lights out and Mama could not fix them. She pretended she was playing computer and sang the ABC song, then said 'click' 'ABC song' just like Starfall says it, then sang the song again. She tried to get me to read a book by candlelight.. and was very mad at me when I blew the candle out at midnight. She cuddled close against my back in the bed hugging Daddy's pillow and finally went to sleep. Daddy didn't get back with Grandpa until after 2 am, and the power didn't come back on until after 5 in the morning. Then Mark tried to use the chainsaw to remove some trees out of the road and it would not start. Trying to start the tractor, which was also being persnickety, he found some hornets which did not like him. Today has been much better for him, with lots of rest and relaxation. Grandpa is doing much better and he is ready to have his patch taken off his eye (cataract surgery) so everything has turned out good! We are all very happy about that.

Esme is dragging me outside to push her on the swing again...she wants to play ball, and air hockey table, and foam noodle swords and swinging and watering plants... keeping up with her lately is just a whirlwind of activity. I am still amazed when she slows down and uses her computer for a while.. keep looking over there and wondering when she is going to whirl into action again and drag me all over the house! She is just full of little surprises - like when she tucked her cookie rabbit toy into her pillow and blanket this morning after she got up (cookie rabbit needs to stay there, sometimes she even shoves her under the mattress to make sure she is there for bedtime), and the way she says she is 'exercising' and 'I a big and strong I brush teeth' etc... She is keeping her toothbrush in a little cup by the sink and pretending to use it ... may be making some progress... She is also watching the new Sims game Mark got for me to test out the graphics on the other computer -- the animations are such (or Esme is such) that Esme can recognize what they are supposed to be doing even when it is zoomed far out - 'He eat cupcake, she is making foods, he plays game' etc... sometimes I didn't even know what they were doing. She pointed out the kitchen of a restaurant in a 'downtown' area and said they were cooking... and I hadn't even noticed there WAS a kitchen in that corner of the screen!

Tuesday, August 02, 2011


morning glories

Esme has been clean and dry for three days and two nights. That is no small feat. She has finally clicked with it. Last night and the night before she refused the diaper for bedtime, mostly because that MEANT bedtime, but she didn't wet the bed, either. I know it isn't 100%... won't tell myself it is, yet... but woohoo :)

Tiny notes on the garden. I would like to position the beans between the zucchini and pumpkins next year - so they get more bees. The bees LOVE the squash flowers with all their pollen and the beans are probably getting some 'love' but not as much. Keeping the zucchini and pumpkins further apart will help with that cross-pollination thing I learned about the other day. I did not know that zucchinis and pumpkins were still close enough to crossbreed, like dogs and wolves. They are! Since I am saving pumpkin seeds I don't want to end up with a squashkin .. or do I? I'd have to meet a squashkin to find out. Pumpkins ARE squash... so... Also, I saw the wasps going from flower to flower in the purple hulled peas, which the bees seem to be leaving largely alone. Those cowpeas are producing pods while the black eyed peas (also cowpeas, and planted earlier) are doing very little. I am wondering if the wasps are pollinating the purple hulled peas just enough (bees are better at it, according to the articles I've read) to help or if they are keeping the bees from coming near those plants out of territorialism? I've read some articles and forum posts about cowpeas secreting sweet nectars to attract wasps, in order to protect themselves from being eaten by certain other bugs that would be present if the wasps were not nearby.

Jarrahdale blue pumpkin

I am awaiting the Jarrahdale to see how it tastes. The stem on it is not hard, yet... so it stays out there. There is another baby pumpkin started, and one more small grapefruit sized one turning orange. I finally have a Butternut squash started - hoping it grows to maturity. I think the extra butternuts in the valley which are flowering, but not doing much else, have helped to pollinate the one that is in the garden. Butternuts and pumpkins/zucchini do not cross, and may need more of their own kind to pollinate well. I've been cracking and eating the seeds out of the big pumpkin and they have been wonderful. I'd like to try the Kakai or Lady Godiva breed of pumpkin next year as the seeds do not have that woody hull around them. I am geeking out a bit on this stuff.. because I can. I even ordered a used pumpkin cookbook from Alibris!

a morning Pollywog