Aug 12

Letter Goodness

Books/Writing, Life 6

A little snail mail always brightens my day, even when life seems cheerless. I had two lovely letters this week, and a couple Postcrossing postcards as well. I am still a bit behind on replying to letters, though the week before last I sent out a couple.

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Aug 11

Life Goes On (Or We Try)

Gardening/Herbalism/Nature, Life 2

One of the girls I work with has that phrase tattooed on her collarbone (say ouch?). It’s become sort of her motto. Life goes on, she says, good or bad, happy or sad. She just tries to keep moving when things are sad, and dances when the sun shines.

I’m trying.

My garden certainly is going on. I haven’t been watering it as much as I should, but I still had enough tomatoes for a sauce experiment the other night. I really didn’t feel like cooking (almost never do :P), but I just couldn’t bear to let the little tomatoes that worked so hard to grow go to waste. I’m pretty sure they were supposed to be a little bigger and juicier, but I’m attributing that to the lack of water. They’re also struggling with a decided lack of vigor, probably due to the rather poor soil that I apparently didn’t do a very good job of amending. Sigh.

This was about average size, only slightly bigger than a cherry tomato. Heirloom variety called Red Siberian.

I was trying to make an edible spaghetti sauce. No recipe, so just threw in some basil and oregano from my porch pots, organic garlic (my garlic didn’t do much), a tiny onion from the garden, a pinch of sugar, and salt. I ended up needing to add a bit of tomato paste as well, because the resulting sauce was far too runny for spaghetti sauce.

After adding some ground hamburger, it got rave reviews. I wish I’d had a blender to chop up the tomatoes a little finer, mostly because the bits of the skin came off and I find that kind of disgusting. Overall, it filled the void and I don’t feel guilty because the first batch of tomatoes didn’t go to waste.

 

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Aug 08

Heartbreak

Life 18

The last truly “happy face” picture I have of him, brought on by a bowl full of his favorite foods (cheese, banana, and strawberry) right before we left for the last visit to the vet.

It really feels like nothing will ever be completely right again. Everywhere I turn, I’m looking for Timmy. Any door I open in the apartment, anything I do…because he was always there. The worst part is when I get home from work. In the past year he had lost his hearing, so most of the time he would just sleep in front of the door until I came home. He’s gone. And then there’s the bathroom door. He never really came in the bathroom with me, for any reason, whether I was taking a shower or getting ready for work or what have you. He would just lie down outside the door and jump up to give me loves when I was finished. And now…he’s not there.

So much love. But he was so very tired.

I know I did the right thing. Because he was hurting. The cancer, when it finally showed, deteriorated him so fast I couldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes. His poor body just finally gave up on digesting food, no matter how much he tried to eat. I held him (as best you can a 70 pound dog) as the vet gave him the injection that would ease any discomfort, and then still for the final one that stopped his heart. I know he felt easier and comfortable at the end.

The morning after getting the diagnosis, I took him to Mill Mountain Park. We people watched and shared an apple (one of his favorite snacks).

But it doesn’t make it any easier. I miss him. He was my happy little “alarm clock” for 10 years. Getting up in the morning is suddenly a lot, a lot harder. I can barely think of anything else. Nothing feels right. Nothing at all. He was my soulmate dog, the one who could read my mind, the one who kept me company through some of the most difficult times of my teenage and early married years. When no one else was or could be there, Timmy was. Now he’s gone, and it feels like nothing will ever, ever be right again.

I’d wanted a picture like this of us for a long time, but never found the time/person to take it. I realized there was no time left now, and so I put the camera on auto. It may be a bad photo, but the memories it invokes are beyond priceless.

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Aug 02

Preparing for Goodbye

Life 4

Is nearly as difficult as saying goodbye. 12 years isn’t nearly long enough for my sweet golden boy, but I can’t let him suffer. Our vet’s diagnosis is gastrointestinal or bowel cancer, with it already slowly wearing him away and manifesting in an almost grapefruit sized lump on his hip. He’s so tired. A tennis ball – all his life the immediate perk-up toy, regardless of how far we’d walked that day or how hot and tired he was –  is of no interest and food only slightly so, but he still gives me a tail wag every time I walk by and he’s awake. He’s not in constant pain, but his intestinal system is shutting down. We have some medicine to help him out for a few more days, but on Monday I will say good-bye to my wonderful and best friend over the past 10 years.

He adopted me, in the beginning. He’s always been here for me. Now it’s my turn to be there for him. I can’t let him down, no matter how much it breaks my heart. Nothing will ever, ever replace him.

I talk to him when I’m lonesome like; and I’m sure he understands.  When he looks at me so attentively, and gently licks my hands; then he rubs his nose on my tailored clothes, but I never say naught thereat.  For the good Lord knows I can buy more clothes, but never a friend like that.  ~ W. Dayton Wedgefarth

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Aug 01

Worries

Life, Random 2

I’m taking my baby in to see the vet this morning. I really have a bad feeling about this time. He’s not himself, has (yet another) ear infection, can’t keep any food inside of him, and since Sunday has had a slight cough (first attributed to almost choking on something). He had little to no interest in a tennis ball on Monday, which is beyond a major red flag.

Send some positive thoughts our way if you think of it.



 

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Jul 27

Beautiful Rain

Gardening/Herbalism/Nature, Life 4

As I write this, we are having a most beautiful rain. Perhaps not the most ideal, as it sprung up quickly and is drenching us in torrents as opposed to a slow steady fall, but it’s life-giving water and the winds aren’t so bad as to cause real damage. I didn’t appreciate rain until I moved to Texas and stayed there for 4 years. Spend even one summer in a brown, nearly treeless land where you feel like you’re inhaling dust with every breath, and you will quickly learn to dance in the rain. I feel almost guilty for enjoying it so much this year, with so much of the country in massive drought. Especially when I read on No Unsacred Place about how it’s affecting day to day life for some people.

Since I last posted about my “real” garden, I thought I’d put up some pictures of my little porch garden. Despite the heat wave, most of my little plants are thriving and some are not so little anymore. 🙂

Like the rose I was bewailing a month or so ago. It’s taken off at an astonishing rate. When I try to water it at the base, it whacks me in the face even with my arm fully extended. My mom suggested pruning it back some to try to get a second bloom out of it this year, and I think I will at the same time give it a manure tea treatment as suggested by the Redneck Rosarian. I wanted to do it before, but I don’t know any sources of manure in this area and am not currently equipped to have my own rabbits. I found some manure tea bags and bought three, so hopefully I can give at least all the potted plants a nice fertilize in the next couple of weeks. The price I paid for them really makes me cringe considering the content, but maybe I can source something local for the next season. Anyway, hopefully I can talk a second bloom cycle out of this rose, as the first one was very sad and I immediately cut the blooms off in order to help it save energy for fighting the bugs and black spot.

My edibles pot is finally looking like I envisioned it being this spring. I am delighted to be able to say that these chives, oregano, and violas were all grown from seed. The viola actually was so big a few weeks ago that I chopped it off to about three inches above the ground, as it had bloomed and done and I wanted a second bloom cycle from it as well. Not only is it beginning to bloom again, but tiny viola seedlings are popping up all around it. Squee!

This is my for-gods’-sake-bloom-already plant. It has looked like this, only slightly smaller, for weeks now. My mom says it’s an aster, but I remain unconvinced until it actually shows its colors. It’s over two feet tall, towering over the faery pot.

These are the mixed-up-chrysanthemums, also in the faery pot. See the bloom? I am tempted to cut them all off to ensure that they bloom in the fall, but it just feels cruel to do so. They’ve had enough rough treatment this year, being dug up and transported across three different states and then popped into a pot much smaller than the spacious yard they came from. We’ll see.

You can see the basil looking quite happy in the corner here, and the bleeding heart dying back in the heat. I’ve since pruned it back to about 5 inches. It’ll be back next year.

The day before the huge storm and before the bleeding heart started turning brown, we had a visit from the most beautiful luna moth (if I identified that correctly). My heart stopped when I spotted it. Isn’t it just gorgeous?


This was supposed to be a “Cherry Brandy” rudbeckia. Seeds were from Henry Fields, and damn it, but these are NOT red. If you know how much I hate orange, you will know how very disappointed I am. They were advertised as looking like this:

Photo from http://www.martinseebergardendesign.co.uk/blog/hello-world/

So NOT the same color. I am holding out some hope that either a lack of water or light might have affected them, however, as they did seem extremely dry and I had them partially shaded (dumb moment on my part – daisy type flowers, or those of the Asteraceae family – love the sun!).

Everything seems fairly happy. That makes me happy. The end. 🙂

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Jul 25

Fear of the Garden

Gardening/Herbalism/Nature, Life 1

For the past couple weeks I’ve had this horrible fear of my garden hanging over my head, because between the sprained ankle and very long work weeks, it had been almost exactly a month since I had even seen my garden. That means it was before the huge storm that knocked out our electricity for almost 4 days, and before the torrential rainstorm a week later (we received almost no rain with the “electricity” storm). I was afraid because I knew I would either find everything I’d planted dead (this mostly brought on from 5 years of Texas summers…any plant neglected for a month, outside, unprotected, will be nothing but dust when you get back to it), or find everything growing like gangbusters but competing with weeds as big or bigger as the plants themselves.

That’s right. We live in Virginia now. Neglected gardens don’t turn into dust, they turn into jungles! Honestly though, that’s alright with me. I was braced for either possibility, but this is far and away my preference. All I have to do is clear away the weeds and…

I have tomato plants again! Er…monster tomato plants. It’s like they’ve grown about 5 or 6 thick, long legs each. And they’re loaded, can you see? I’m seriously kicking myself for not taking the time to add either a cage or a stake when I transplanted them (kept thinking I’d get to it when they grew a little more), and I may still stake them. I hate them all lying over on the ground like that, and it can make the fruit get spotty. Now it will take 2 stakes per plant though, to support them in the way they’ve grown so misshapen. At any rate, I should have tomatoes in a week or so!

I also still have peppers, one cucumber plant (nearly smothered, but still alive…if it survives me accidentally breaking a portion of it during weeding), calendula, dill, zinnia, and cosmos. Oh, and lots of onions. LOTS of onions. Sadly today I only got about half of the garden weeded before it just became far too hot – and the grass around the lot still needed mowed, so I needed to do that. It looks better but it needs another day of work, and soon.

I also would like to most sincerely thank the person who had this plot last year, for planting potatoes and apparently only taking the big ones. When I turned the ground early this spring, I kept finding tiny potatoes and would throw them out, but guess what most of my “weeds” are? The 3 foot high, use-both-hands-and-heave-and-curse-till-you-fall-over-backwards kind? They’re freaking potatoes.

On the other hand, if I have this spot next year, I think I will plant potatoes in June. My family always had horrible trouble with potato bugs eating our plants, which were always set in March or April. What do you know…these unwanted volunteers – all of which came up in late June or early July – are showstoppers, with nary a bug to be seen. Most of them are nearly fully size already as well. I suppose the lack of bugs could be the onions I planted through the entire garden, but still. I might try it.

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Jul 10

This Life Is Yours

Quotable 0

This life is yours. Take the power to choose what you want to do and do it well. Take the power to love what you want in life and love it honestly. Take the power to walk in the forest and be a part of nature. Take the power to control your own life. No one else can do it for you. Take the power to make your life happy. ~Susan Polis Schutz

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Jun 23

Kayaking the James River

Gardening/Herbalism/Nature, Life 4

I’ve wanted to try kayaking for years. Despite the fact that I have a rather irrational fear of water I can’t see several feet into, gliding quietly (relatively) down a river has had a draw for some time. I was talking to a friend a few weeks back saying how many things there were I wanted to do and try, several of which were on her list as well. Her response was, “Well, we should just do it!”

The result of that conversation being an early afternoon trip to Twin River Outfitters in Buchanan, Virginia, where we rented a couple of kayaks and were shuttled to a spot 5 miles up river. Did I mention neither of us had ever been in a kayak? However, we picked the easiest of their list of self-guided runs and decided to hope for the best. With only a handful of Class I rapids it couldn’t be too bad, right? After slathering on sunscreen and watching a basic water safety video we departed.

The Twin River Outfitters bus, loaded down with tubes for an afternoon run.

Buchanan! It’s a very cute but very tiny town.

Shiny! Also sweltering.

Our shuttle driver chatted cheerfully on the short drive, then gave us both a shove off into the river. We looked at each other, then down the river. “Er…ok.” Feeling like complete and utter noobs, but grateful there was no one there to laugh, we paddled away. Or in my case, tried to. It took me awhile to even out my strokes (one arm stronger than the other, I suppose), and unfortunately ended up running into M a couple of times before getting the hang of it.

Just a few minutes down the river, we started hearing a faint roar. “I hope that’s traffic,” said M. “There were only supposed to be Class Is, right?”

I listened for a minute. “Nah, that has to be traffic.”

Or not. Getting closer, we could see it was definitely NOT traffic and was indeed our first rapid. Which, while not at all deep and not really all that fast, looked rather intimidating. And the video hadn’t said how one was supposed to navigate these things. I had a momentary panic when I bumped into a rock and was subsequently turned backwards into the current, then got stuck on another as I tried to turn around. M also got stuck but we both muddled our way through without capsizing. The first rapid turned out to be by far the rockiest, and the rest of the trip was fairly quiet.

Lovely and peaceful.

The water was so much clearer than I expected river water to be. For most of the trip we could see the river bottom, which was extremely comforting to someone used to swimming pools. 😛 We saw a couple of cranes, ducks, and M saw minnows.We also passed the remains of Buchanan’s Civil War era covered bridge, burned during an altercation in 1864 (which sadly I did not get a picture of – I was terrified of dropping my phone into the water and so didn’t get nearly as many as I would have liked).

I-81 bridge. You could feel the vibrations from passing vehicles, which I guess was to be expected considering the shallow water, but I was still a bit surprised.

The 5 mile paddle took us about 2.5 hours, and our arms thanked us for not signing up for the longer trip (yes, we’re babies yet, give us a few more trips). We also discovered that 3 Nalgenes worth of water isn’t enough for a 90 degree, 60% humidity day, and that we probably should have beached the kayaks and taken a swim part way to cool off, since we didn’t deign to flip either of them (despite the dire predictions of M’s husband). Waterproof watches and cameras were also discussed, as trying to dig anything out of the dry-bags was annoying. Neither of us suffered any major sunburn, which was a major achievement. 😀

We agreed it was a fun trip and we’d like to go back for more. “But next time, more rapids.” “Definitely. That was the best part!”

I hope I’m not about to acquire yet another expensive hobby…

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