Thursday, February 18, 2010

It's a National Almond Day Miracle!

Two days ago I ran down the stairs yelling to the Boyfriend that it was a Christmas miracle. A Christmas miracle, Boyfriend! After asking for explanation, the Boyfriend informed me that onion seeds sprouting on February 16 was neither a miracle nor in any way related to Christmas. Always the pragmatist he is. So I've revised my statement, but I'm sticking with miracle.

Yeah, I get it. Seeds are supposed to sprout and do every day. But my seeds don't! At least not in a regular and predictable manner. And . . . here's the real miracle of it--the seed package said the seeds would germinate in 7 to 14 days. Well, my seeds just so happened to sprout in 3 days! My black thumb is fading to green as we speak. I don't know what the future holds for these little onion babies--I've read I should have planted onion sets, rather than seeds--but it can't hurt that they're off to a good start!

These seeds were the first ones I have ever started in one of those little windowsill greenhouses with the expanding peat pellets. I'm a big fan now. In fact, I'll probably start some peppers in them today. Adding water to the pellets reminded me of those expanding sponges when I was a kid: place dinosaur egg in water, let sit, find dinosaur upon return. This time, I added water, two tiny seeds, and found onions upon return--the adult version is just as much fun, and I love that the tiny little greenhouse already smells of sweet onions. I can taste them already . . . Ok, maybe not. That will be the real miracle.

In other sprouting news . . . when I got home from work yesterday the Boyfriend had a picture on his phone of a little sprout that he found in the cold frame. He said there are probably 5 or 6 sprouts. I went out there this morning but didn't want to open up the cold frame just yet--it's chilly this morning and it looked so nice and warm and humid in there. In any case, I don't know if it's the lettuces or radish that sprouted, but either way I'm excited that it wasn't too cold for something to germinate out there.

In bulb news, the tulips and irises have broken the surface but have yet to commit to flourishing in the late winter weather. Like most of us, they're holding out for spring. However, the garlic seems more ambitious and has really started growing in the last couple weeks--which corresponds to some warmer weather and a good layer of compost mulch around them when I was adding it to the raised beds. Notice the paw prints that seem to have narrowly missed crushing the little green shoots towards the back. Thank you, dogs, for your strategic and considerate trespassing.

Green things are happening, and for me, that's still a miracle.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Gardening Day 1

Yesterday was a big day. I put my first seeds in the ground. Yes, outside in the ground. I've read more about gardening this winter than ever before, I've gone to classes, and I've asked for lots of advice. But at some point I had to actually start doing. I realize it may be way too early, but the one thing I've taken away from people and classes and books is that it's all one giant experiment. So I have a journal to mark down my activities and a table to keep track of seeds and planting dates and all that. I realize this year is going to be more of an experiment than most, but that is part of why I'm so excited. I'm figuring out what will work in our area and at what times. If a few vegetables make it to our table I'll be thrilled.

Lest you think I'm crazy, I should at least defend myself by saying that I planted cold crops--just lettuce (3 kinds) and radishes--and I planted them in the raised bed within the Boyfriend's masterfully built cold frame. Plus, it's been so mild how could I resist? The next week is supposed to be solidly in the 50s and hopefully when it cools down the cold frame will do its job and my little lettuces will be flourishing! Yesterday, however, was not in the 50s. Although the Weather Channel tells me it was mid-40s, it was blustery and cold. I include this picture of me on Gardening Day 1 because I think I'll look back in August and laugh at the various layers. It's also a testament to my zeal for gardening this year, however. In years past, I, like other people, thought about gardening on that first 60-degree day when the sun was flooding the earth with vitamin D and rousing people out of their winter blahs. This year, however, as you can see from the picture, I'm hard core!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Pigskin and Pork Belly

Had I planned my life to coordinate with blog titles, I should have served potato skins at our Super Bowl party, but I'm just not that organized so a pig theme will have to do. The pigskin, of course, was Sunday's Super Bowl. Most of you probably know that I'm a huge college football fan--pro football, not so much. In fact, I don't actually care about or follow the NFL at all. The only reason I knew one of the teams that was playing in the big game ahead of time was because my cousin's poor cat was wearing a football jersey and I had to assume it was related to the approaching game since she is a much better NFL fan than I am. In any case, my interest in the Super Bowl is purely social, and this year I was so excited that the Boyfriend and I could finally have our own party.

The invitee list was short--I was worried about seating and where people would congregate. I'm not much of a winter entertainer and would much prefer to barbecue and let people wander in and out of the house, sitting in collapsible chairs with built-in drink holders. But everything worked out just fine. I thought some people would head upstairs to our comfier-by-the-day bonus room, but I should have known better. People always congregate in one place and that's usually the kitchen, which is as it should be. Norah ran around the house entertaining the dogs and the adults and proved to be much funnier than most of the commercials. Apollo couldn't quite figure out why her bed kept moving and why she was sharing it with a doll that she wasn't allowed to eat the stuffing out of, but she managed.

Which brings me to the pork bellies--well bacon, actually. Prompted by special requests--demands, really--Erik brought his wonderful steak and bacon bites. Despite my usual aversion to meat on meat, I and everyone else I know love these scrumptious little treats. They couldn't be more simple, but the quality of the two components and the easy toothpick plate-to-mouth delivery method are part of the allure. The tender piece of steak topped with melt-in-your-mouth sweet and spicy bacon are to die for. For better or worse, Erik has guaranteed his spot on every guest list at our place--contingent on bringing the steak and bacon bites of course.
So between the good friends and the good food, I didn't see much of the game at all. In fact, I didn't really even see any commercials. It's probably all for the best. CNN reported that women were upset at the sexist ads and men came off looking immature and idiotic. Come on people--they're selling beer and pizza. What did you really expect? You probably shouldn't have been looking for enlightenment and understanding while watching the Super Bowl. In any case, we had a great time hanging out with friends and I was so happy to have a place where we can share and enjoy time together, even in the winter. On a related note, Super Bowl marks the end of football season--another sure indicator that spring is on its way and barbecues are in our future. Thank goodness.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Hello. My name is Erica, and I'm a runner.

I'm officially re-declaring myself a runner today. I made the decision on Tuesday, actually, but have been too busy doing very non-runner things to make my announcement (i.e., drinking, eating bread pudding, eating cheesecake, playing video games . . . you get the idea). In the down time between the aforementioned activities, I did find the time to check out Bandanna running company's race calendar and found myself excited to plan for some races. I'm choosing my blog as the medium to make this announcement because at last count I figured there are no more than three people who read my ramblings here. Should all three choose to hold me accountable for my declaration, that is a level of nagging, harping, chastising, and shaming I can probably handle.

The Boyfriend is a cyclist. (A "biker," I have learned, wears leather, not Lycra, and relies on gasoline, not thighs and calves for his power.) I have decided I again want to be "a" something--well, besides a writer or a fabulous cook or a really bad dancer. So I am again going to be a runner. Why running you ask? I'm good at it--not in the I'm fast at it type of way, but in a persistence type of way. Anyone who can run 18 miles on a broken ankle bone is either perseverant enough or stupid enough to be a runner. I'd appreciate no votes on which applies in this particular case.

I've really missed running since we had our big falling out a number of years ago. There is something so relaxing and soothing about running. Plus, I absolutely live for the dirty looks you get from non-runners when they see you out there on the weekends making them feel guilty for not doing the same. I also miss the way you can come to know a place through running. When I first moved to Corvallis, I started running. I was in Oregon, what else was I supposed to do? By the end of freshman year, I knew my way around town better than anyone I knew. I had run the whole town by that point. I knew the rises and falls, the best viewpoints of the river, and the subtleties that you can only know by travelling on foot. On the other hand, I didn't know which direction the one-way streets ran at all, which made me pretty worthless for giving directions.

I'd like to get to know this place on foot too. When I lived with Becky I used to go up in the foothills all the time. I knew those hills so well and it made me feel connected to that place more than I can ever explain. We have beautiful foothills by our new place too, and I want to come to know them just as well. I want to know the rises and falls around here the way the Boyfriend knows them on his bike (notice here that it's not a "cycle" even though he's a cyclist!). Most of all, I want to stop giving dirty looks and start receiving them!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

It's February

I have good news to report, although the title may have given it away. It's February! I love it when good news is guaranteed to come--February is always reliable for that. Despite the Boyfriend's urging that all months are created equal and possess their own similar possibility for beautiful days (very optimistic of him, I know!), January is my least favorite month. However, the last week or 10 days of January had some great events, particularly because they made me think past January and the various shades of gray that seem to be permeating the Valley and the people shuffling through it.

Edwards Greenhouse has been offering winter Saturday classes in preparation for spring planting. I've been to the first two and was absolutely impressed. The turnout was incredible--in fact, the staff was clearly overwhelmed at the response. They were digging out chairs (pun intended) from all over the greenhouse to provide seating and some people still had to stand. The first class was about planning a vegetable garden and I really learned a lot (which shouldn't surprise anyone since I'm a complete novice when it comes to gardening.) The second class also had a great turnout, but the staff was prepared with a microphone and more seating, although again people had to stand. This most recent class was about seed starting and again had tons of helpful information. I even bought some early-season seeds on my way out. If you're in Boise, I couldn't urge you enough to stop by the greenhouse. Although the place is always incredible, there is something magical about a bright, colorful, humid greenhouse full of blooms in the dead of winter. It's cheaper than Prozac and I would venture to guess more effective!

Other preparations are underway as well. The Boyfriend has been quite busy and I'm so thankful for his beautiful efforts. He finished our new raised bed for the garden and a gorgeous cold frame, which I think I will set in one of the existing raised beds and put to use right away. Seriously, isn't it incredible? After poring over my seed catalog for a couple of days, I finally decided (with restraint, I might add) what varieties to try this year. My order went in the mail yesterday and now I guess I just have to be patient.

I'm also scheming up a compost pile plan. I haven't quite decided what to use but am looking at a number of different options. The major concern is two dogs that like to eat rotten things. I'll spare you the details, but just trust me that they really do eat rotten things. Since rotten is kind of the premise of a compost pile, I'm trying to be proactive here! A slow couple weeks of work has left me plenty of time to dream and scheme and rejoice in the fact that January is done for another year.

Oh and I almost forgot. As I was walking by the side of the house yesterday, I noticed that Grandma's irises were peeking up out of the soil--just barely, but enough to make me smile ear to ear. Spring is in fact coming, and the fact that the message came from the oldest plants at our new place--plants that probably heralded in spring for Grandma time and time again--made it that much more real. Forget that groundhog, I've got an inside source!