Saturday, April 29, 2006

How does your garden grow?

My garden beds have become a mess over the last year or so, and I really want to get them somewhat into shape again. I also want to return to enjoying herb plants, and try to grow some tomatoes, bell peppers, and green beans. This year they'll ahve to be in containers because the intended veggie space is a real mess. Gotta start somewhere, though!

On Friday morning, just before the rains, I met two friends at a well-known nursery in a nearby town and had fun shopping for green, growing things. This time I had a bit of money to spend -- my favorite Mothers Day gift, of Mom-go-buy-plants money :)

I need some more color in my front garden bed, and I want to plant some containers with tomatoes, bell peppers, and herbs (I'll prepare a bit of ground for green beans from seed ASAP). Here's my memory of what I ended up bringing home -- everything is outside in the dark, ready to plant, well watered from the rains!

To add deep reds and oranges to my mostly yellow-flowering front garden bed, I'm getting some easy color for now while I figure out what perennials I need in the fall:

3 red-orange-yellow blooming verbena (or lantana -- the low, spreading one)
2 deep orange marigolds
1 or 2 "clown" deep orange and yellow marigolds
1 bronze-red strawflower that I went back for at the end
...all of the above have nice dark green leaves. Now we add:
2 very dark red coleus foliage plants
2 variegated (dark reds) Joseph's coat foliage plants

For a big pot up close to my front entrance:

1 red and 1 pink begonia, chosen by my 6-year-old son
1 red standard geranium, an old favorite "makes me happy"
1 red-with-green and 1 white-with-green ... foliage plant, the name is entirely escaping me!
...I'll plant these around a surviving huge poinsettia from Christmas.

For veggie containers on the backyard patio, and maybe one in front:

2 Arkansas Traveler tomatoes, 2 cherry tomatoes, 2 other cherry tomatoes (all tags are with plants, outside, in the dark)
2 bell peppers
1 basil, 1 green globe basil, 1 holy basil
1 chives
1 Italian flat-leaved parsley
1 purple sage, 1 tricolor sage (my favorites to look at)
1 fennel ('cause I love to smell the leaves)
1 chocolate mint ('cause 6-year-old son couldn't stop smelling the leaves)
...A friend has given me two big chunks of garlic chives, as well.

I really prefer to buy my ornamental plants in 3s, but I decided I wanted to try a bigger variety of things, so that front garden bed will be a mishmash!! As soon as the ground is not completely sodden I'll be on my knees PLANTING, yay! Do you have garden plans, big or tiny, this year?

Friday, April 28, 2006

A tootin' and a twangin'

Son1's class played two pieces for the school's morning assembly today (fun!), and immediately afterward he handed his recorder to me and said, "Will you please take this home with you? We're done with the recorders for the year." Er, um, okay.

Fast forward to this evening. After some dejunking work by dear, dear husband (see earlier posts for hints as to the work), we listened to the torrential spring-storm downpour dump an inch or so of rain on everything outside including the junk at the curb... and the family made music. Son1 had his recorder out and was playing Ode to Joy. Son2 fetched his lap harp so dear husband could pluck along with Son1. Much tuning of lap harp to recorder ensued, and we found out that Son1 knows the names of the written notes -- A-B-C-D-E-F-G. I never really got that in my piano lessons, oops. Of course violinist dear husband was pretty happy.

Anyway, things developed into Son1 pulling out his recorder book from last year and playing several of the songs along with dear husband on lap harp, and Son2 deciding his role was conductor. I dug around and uncovered the recorder instruction book and music that I bought in college when I bought myself a wooden soprano recorder. Flipping through the music, I do believe I'm going to do a little tootling tomorrow sometime, and maybe with Son1. Son2 doesn't think he wants to play his lap harp, but was kind of interested in trying the recorder, or maybe learning a bit of how to play his tin whistle (I think?), a gift from Grandma and Grandpa that he has lately been tooting in time to some favorite recorded songs.

We left the lap harp, recorder, and all of the related music on the table. I suspect there will be some tootin' and twangin' before I get up tomorrow morning!

We also had a bit of civics study tonight, in the impromptu dinner table lesson dear husband gave to Son1 on the U.S. Constitution and its first 10 amendments. I have no idea how we got on the topic! I contributed by pulling out resources; the Constitution and lots of other interesting documents are reprinted in part or in full in a book I have, entitled The Democracy Reader, edited by Diane Ravitch. I acquired that book just before grad school. It was interesting to read through the first 12 or so amendments. I think Son1 wasn't sure what to make of dear husband and me at that point...

Thursday, April 27, 2006

A sunny day, a busy life

I'm no longer freaked out about peak oil. I've adjusted and am feeling more able to deal with the idea that cheap oil may be drawing to a close. Trying to be super frugal about car use, though, and looking forward to the end of school and DH's permanent move to a new, closer office location in early summer.

I poked around in the upright freezer a bit and realized we don't need to buy meat for at least a month, even if we eat meat MUCH more often than normal. Heh. Cool! I made an oven-baked buffalo stew on a cool day early this week. The buffalo stew meat is from our local food cooperative and oh so tender. It turned out pretty well, and I found out the family buffalo-stew spread is: DH meat, carrots, onions but no potatoes (knew that). Son1 everything. Son2 meat, carrots but no potatoes. Me everything. Worked out okay! Well, except that I was going to bake biscuits as the stew finished in the oven, but got caught up in the evening news and ran out of time. Tortillas make do, in a pinch!

We dejunked the house quite a bit last Saturday. Now I have my decluttering and filing to do. The next two evenings we're going to dejunk the sunroom and maybe at least some of the garage, because the town's twice-a-year household junk pickup for our street is Saturday and we do not need to have two non- or poorly functioning TVs in our sunroom any longer! I hope it doesn't actually rain Friday night, 'cause I'd rather leave everything at the curb overnight as usual so folks can take what they want before the big official pickup.

Pale pink evening primroses are blooming all over town in sunny, ignored spots! Oenothera missouriensis, I think... And two days ago what did I see but furled prairie winecups along the roadside at the end of our street -- along the edge of pastures. Yay! I should look for them again today; I think they were furled because it was a very cloud-covered day -- but today is sunny (and warm, again). I LOVE that deep wine-red flower as much as I love Mexican hat and the little versions of the yellow coneflower that show up in the same areas in late July to my utter and complete delight.

In our yard, the big overgrown shrub at the corner of the house near the kitchen is blooming (ah-choo? not sure on that), as are the cheerful yellow perennials from my friend DA. It looks like all four will bloom this year, the second full growing season after they were transplanted late one spring. And alongside them, the Mexican hat is moving toward bloom! And the Indian paintbrush has that spiky look where flowers will eventually appear. I'm really glad I planted perennials that work well in this area, and that I had the patience to leave them alone for a couple of seasons to see how they settle in.

As for reading, I'm listening to a book on CD (8 CDs, actually!): Collapse: How societies choose to fail or succeed, by Jared Diamond. He wrote Guns, Germs, and Steel, which was the first selection of my nonfiction book club last fall, but I didn't even get halfway into that book due to lack of time and density of book. This one is pretty dense, too, but the CD version is very listenable. DH and I listen to it on the way home from picking him up from work in the evenings, and talk about it.

I'm still reading The Permaculture Way, and The Long Emergency, though on that I skipped the second half of the analysis of the world bit, read the last part that gives his predictions for changes in local life, and now I'm back to the analysis of the world bit. I also got a great book that finally came in at the library: The Knights Next Door: Everyday people living middle ages dreams. The author got involved in the Society for Creative Anachronism in order to write about it. I'd heard really good things about the book, and I sure have been curious about the reality (hehe) of SCA. A good read.

Son1 and Son2 have started their baseball practices, and next week the season begins. Son1's kid pitch baseball team of 10-year-old boys has games on all Tuesdays and Thursdays through mid-June. Son2's T-ball team of 6- and 7-year old boys has two games a week, but they are sprinkled among all of the days of the week -- arrgh! At least we have a schedule now, a big blessing for my May planning.

Son1 has had some great field trips lately with his fourth-grade class. Last Thursday they went to the zoo for an Earth Day-related ScienceFest that sounded really neat. Last Friday they went to a historical homestead/museum along with hundreds of other schoolkids for a day of life as circa 1890 kids, from building (but not lighting!) a campfire to toting their lunch in a metal bucket with a rope handle, to having a mock landrun! complete with taking their numbered rock to the land claim office to get their claim papers. WOW!

The day after Son1's Land Run field trip, Saturday, the kids and I went to the town's 89er Day parade. Very fun! It started with horse-drawn carriages and buggies, in the middle had lots of cool cars, dancers, bands, floats, fire engines, riders on horses, etc., and at the end had the actual horse-drawn wagon train that's spent the last 7-10 days working its way toward Norman. Very cool. The boys, of course, stuffed themselves with candy the parade participants were tossing to the crowds. No need for lunch when we got home, so I made them each eat a spoonful of peanut butter to soften the sugar high.

In a week or so the fourth graders will participate in a big mock city for a day at the science museum. Son1 has picked three potential jobs he would prefer: popcorn machine worker, accountant (for I forget what operation), or graphic designer (for I forget what other operation). Apparently it's a lot of fun AND they learn a lot about the money/exchange stuff that helps make a town or city run. Son1 said a friend plans to run for mayor and is promising to eliminate taxes. I posed the question to Son1 of how would the city then pay for the things it does to help the city run? (Maybe water, electricity, sewage, roads, police and fire protection..) Just a thought. I'm such an annoying mom!

Son2 is reading, reading, reading. And drawing, drawing, drawing. Currently it's a zillion variations of a rocket ship with an alien and some sort of other machine on the ground? The other big theme is an Amtrak-style passenger train. He's also losing baby teeth; two big gaps currently and perhaps another tooth loosening. Big brother Son1 lost a baby molar early this week, and a canine is about to go, any day now. Time to eat apples?

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Mixed reading, and spring a'springing

Currently reading two interlibrary loans: The Long Emergency: Surviving the converging catastrophes of the twenty-first century and The Permaculture Way. My reaction to The Long Emergency? Thunderously depressing, page after page, yet oddly intriguing. I'm glad I got the permaculture book; it'll be a very good counterbalancing read. Kunstler has a blog (fyi, the title is perhaps offensive), but I warned you: doom and gloom.

In other news, at old houses and other places the lilacs have stopped blooming and the irises are in full bloom. Our street's trees have all leafed out, offering their many colors of green to refresh the eyes on our very hot days through yesterday.

Today is so wonderfully "normal" with a low below 50F this morning and a high forecast to be in the mid 70s with good Oklahoma breezes. Around town, the sycamores are lagging, with their soon-to-be-dinner-plate-sized leaves still more the size of tea saucers. I love the shiny, fluttering-in-every-breeze leaves of the cottonwoods.

There is some sort of purple wild flower blooming along one grassy unmown hillside, and along the highway this morning I saw some yellow, daisy-like wild flowers blooming. I didn't get a good look (they were facing the sun, away from me); maybe I will this afternoon. Because I have to know or guess what it is, of course!

Son2 and I are listening to a "kids sing Elvis" type of recording from Music for Little People. It's keeping our toes tapping this early afternoon, and Son2 is finding it extremely danceable. Fun!

Friday, April 14, 2006

Good Friday, Holy Saturday

The eggs are hard boiled and the preparations are mostly done. For today's activities, anyway. In half an hour, Son2 and I are heading to church to participate in (me) and be patient during (him) the prayers for the entire parish by name. I have the list of names, and whoever shows up will be invited to read a page aloud (about 25 names, I think) as we pray our way through the parish. Kinda cool. It just stressed me out until I had the list done, is all!

Now I'm "in" Lent.. Holy Week... Good Friday at last. Settled down into it. If I have a few minutes, I'll read some or all of the Great Litany -- prayers for the world, etc. -- before we head out.

The hard-boiled eggs are for our Friday playdate tradition of coloring eggs for Easter on Good Friday. For dinner tonight we'll have fish sticks and stuff, something easy and Lenten. Tomorrow morning I might hard-boil more eggs for deviled eggs for Easter dinner. I gave up on shopping early for Easter candy etc; I'll be slipping off to the store in the morning to do that. If I feel really industrious I will pull out the rich brioche recipe I tried a few years ago, for our Easter morning enjoyment before heading to church and egg hunting festivities.

Whoops! No Litany time; perhaps tonight. Gotta get Son2 out of play shorts and into something less... stained. A blessed Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter to you and yours.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Whirlwind Houston visit; baseball begins

Did a road trip to Houston, Texas, with two other Tupperware consultants (okay, one is a manager). Whew! We drove down Friday night, caught a few hours of sleep, did the all-day big regional Tupperware meeting -- a blast and SO WORTH IT!, grabbed dinner and all, and drove home Saturday night. I fell into bed at 5 am Sunday morning, slept all day, had an evening with the family, got a normal night's sleep, and felt pretty okay yesterday.

If you like Tupperware, contact your "Tupperware lady" so you'll hear about the upcoming specials as soon as they're released to the public -- they're great! No "Tupperware lady"? You know: email me :) or check out my Tupperware site.

In other news, between Friday and Sunday the local irises started blooming, I'm seeing spirea blooming around town that I hadn't noticed before, and white lilacs. I also had my first sighting of scissor-tailed flycatchers last week, and a bunch on Sunday. The state bird of Oklahoma and all that... they are cool to watch.

Tonight both boys will have their first baseball or T-ball practice and parent meeting. I'm really hoping to set both teams up with Tupperware fundraisers; as a parent I'd love the help with the uniform cost, especially for Son1 (baseball pants, belt, shirt, hat), and a fundraiser is something I can do for the teams. We'll still be buying athletic shoes (or cleats for Son1), and possibly prescription sports sunglasses for Son1, not to mention a modest photo package in May for each boy, and innumerable ballpark hot dogs over the next two and a half months. We enjoyed our family baseball life last year; I'm truly looking forward to it again.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Morning notes

A soft (so, humid), warm breeze from the south. Our second river birch leafing out; it's always several weeks behind the first -- I wonder if there's some male-female?? difference between the two. My front garden bed is full of the new green leaves of my perennials, promise of things to come. A friend gave me a whole lot of dug-up lily of the valley plants, and I have purple hyacinth beans to plant from another friend. I'm antsy to go ahead and prep my big pots with soil, so I can plant veggies and herbs at last. The pantry is beginning to return to its typical full state; the freezer is full and destined to be our main food resource to clear some space. THE TAXES ARE DONE! A full two weeks ahead of my usual date (ie, tax day, April 15) -- this is truly amazing for me. I'm antsy to pick up my sock knitting but a bit nervous about picking up again the new-to-me cable aspect (ruffled pink "hoses and ladders" preschooler sock).

My brain has been full lately, and I find rest in leaving the radio off in the car and the house. I've been thinking and learning about a bunch of different things, and also putting into practice (at least some of) them. Areas of interest:

1. Really working our money hard again, to create more buffer and possibly pay down our debt even faster. Currently 20 percent of our monthly income goes to debt, but the end is in sight and I want it Here Now! So... my focuses are to sell Tupperware, use The Grocery Game to cut grocery costs while stocking our pantry and freezer, try an envelope system for our variable monthly expenses (groceries, any eating out, gas, "incidentals"), and get back to a one- or two-week menu list and having dinner decided by bedtime the previous night.

2. Figuring out Son1 and what's ahead for him and us. He's definitely a preteen. I'm reading lots of books. The Love and Logic book about teens, the Rosemond book about teens, several books about staying connected with our teens, The Good Son, A Field Guide to Boys and Girls, and so on.

3. Sustainable and simple living. I'm reading about peak oil. Then I'm going to catch up on the whole global warming thing. I'm going to return to ordering monthly from our food co-op, and the farmers market just opened, so that's where I'm going to buy most of our fruit and vegetables -- local, in season, from the growers. I'm thinking about ways to protect the house better from summer heat so we can use less air conditioning (a big challenge here in Oklahoma). I really, really want to move the cooking and its associated heat out of the house in the summer, but I'm not sure how that would actually work. It's possible I will go ahead and experiment with a solar oven, something I've been interested in for a couple of years. It's supposed to work great in Oklahoma. I really want to put up a clothes line. This would explain the hangers full of clothes all over the sunroom and other parts of the house, dear husband!

4. Trying to catch the moment in the yard and garden beds. We need to weed AND move plants around RIGHT NOW. I have overall plans that I spent an entire year working out -- no problem there. Now I need to take friends up on their offer to combine yard work days, and schedule a day ASAP for moving plants. I also really really want some sort of vine-covered arbor/trellis/something to shade the southwest-facing living room window and fireplace brick; it'd be even cooler (oh! a pun!) if it had green beans or shelling beans on it.

5. Uncluttering and decluttering the house. The eternal task, but I really believe the house is more enjoyable and easier to keep tidy and clean when there is little or no clutter. It's a goal that seems nearly reachable. Do a little every week, do something bigger once a month (deal with boxes in the garage, clean out the sunroom, ...).

6. Manage the calendar, rather than letting it manage us. April and May are busy for us, with several fun activities we could do every week (Medieval Fair last weekend, and a Local University baseball game)... baseball and T-ball practices starting soon and segueing into games and practices in May (so, dinners en route or at the ball park)... Holy Week and Easter... various end-of-the-year events with organizations, church, and school (1889 Land Run field trip for Son1 -- I am so there!)... Last year went pretty well, so I know it's time to look carefully at the calendar for this month and next, and be thinking ahead.

Okay, gotta go. That's this morning's brain dump!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Gotta reconnect

Solution to peak-oil-induced world weariness: read my favorite blogs. Get together with and/or talk to friends on the phone. Visit my favorite chatty homeschooling discussion board. Do household tasks and feel accomplished. Trade "morning hugs" with sons.

Much better!