Friday, December 7, 2012

We’ve got mail!

I've actually been stopping at the mailbox after work lately, which means only one thing—Christmas card season! I absolutely hate getting the mail. There's never anything good in there . . . except during one glorious month around Christmas. From the time the first card arrives, I'm excited to get the mail every day. And because I know there are some well-intentioned but less-than-organized people out there like me, I usually remain hopeful well into January that some rogue holiday greetings are still on their way.

I have loved Christmas cards as long as I can remember because they were one of my favorite traditions as a kid. Mom had this long piece of thick, soft red yarn. I can remember exactly the way it felt—with its individual strands twisted loosely around and around—as if it was sitting right here in front of me. Along with the yarn were little white paper hangers. We would hang the yarn up on the back side of the cupboards, facing the living room, and keep the pile of hangers handy. Every time a card came in, we would give it a little hanger and string it up on the yarn. By the time Christmas came around, we had a beautiful, eclectic, brightly colored banner of cards from all our friends and family. Even as a kid, I'd like to believe I knew that's what Christmas is about: reaching out, getting in touch, catching up, and connecting with the people you care about. And cookies. Don't forget the cookies.

Back then they really were cards. Now most of them are photo cards, and I love seeing all our friends and family and remarking, like the old person I swore I'd never be, how big the kids look. Getting a letter or a hand-written card is an even bigger treat. I'm a sucker for a letter. For some reason, Christmas has become a time when we put our whole year onto one page (or two or three—page limits were never really my thing), and I love reading these snapshots of people's lives. The highs and lows—for a few precious minutes you ride the roller coaster with them. And sometimes, if you happen to pull out last year's letters when you're getting out the Christmas decorations this year, you ride it all over again, but sometimes in very different ways. Those letters can be one of the most concrete reminders of how much can change over a year. They're a reminder to be thankful for whatever you have this year and to reach out to those around you, even if it's not as often as you'd like. Christmas is your excuse.

So keep those cards and letters and too-cute pictures coming, and we'll do the same—even if it's not until January.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Happy New (Gardening) Year!

Today is one of my favorite days of winter—seed ordering day! Yesterday, while the Boyfriend was waxing his snowboard and doing very winter-like things, I hung out with him in the garage and pulled out my tub of seeds to take stock of what we had, what we needed, and what we could probably toss. It felt good just to hold all the seed packets in my hands and feel the seeds through the paper. It felt good to lose myself in thoughts of spring and green things. Each packet has a story or a memory—the tomato seeds I bought to grow for Mom's mother's day present, the green beans that didn't produce until October, the Siletz tomato seeds that have been with me since the Mini. I organized all the packets in a way that probably only made sense to me and would make any horticulturist or true gardener cringe.

Armed with my current inventory list, I sat down this morning with the seed catalog, which of course I had already perused and marked up, and decided what to order. I'm sure I ordered more than we need, but it's so hard to narrow it down. Here's the final order:

We're probably not doing melons or corn this year. After a couple disappointing years with both, we're going to give the space to something else this year. We're doing more beans, carrots, and squash. I'm also going to do more herbs since they dried so nicely in the food dehydrator last year. The flavor of our dried oregano doesn't even compare to what you buy in the store. I also want to grow dill this year, although I'm a bit nervous since I've been told it spreads like wildfire. However, with homegrown dill, Mom and I can probably make our pickles with almost all homegrown vegetables this year since I do garlic and we both do onions (her more successfully than me).

The logical part of me knows that spring is so very far away, but seed ordering day always makes me feel like we've turned the corner. When the seeds come in, I'll start some seeds indoors, invariably much too early, and start the weekly countdown to the average last frost date. I'll kill lots of seedlings and probably set my beautiful tomato starts outside much too early, forget about them some chilly night, and kill them, all just to start the process over again the next day, undeterred by how bad I apparently am at this seed starting thing. That's the miracle of it all: the hope and promise and potential that come with spring and each of those tiny little seeds is absolutely indestructible.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Oh the places we’ve been!

Over the past 14 months, my life has been filled with many experiences I thought I would never have. Not surprisingly, those experiences have taken me to many places where I thought I'd never be, at least not for another 50 years. One of those places is the medical supply store. I used to go about once every 3 weeks, but I've since doubled my order and only have to stop by every 6 weeks or so. Still, it's an interesting experience that comes with a mix of emotions.

On the one hand, wow does that place make me feel young and skinny! I'm usually the youngest person in there by at least 20 years. And those that are 20 years older than me are usually there with an elderly relative helping to get oxygen tanks or walkers. The other option for the younger crowd is that they are there for welding safety supplies. Are all medical supply stores also welding and industrial safety supply stores? Well ours is, and let me tell you, it makes for an interesting dynamic. They try to keep the two clienteles separate, but the people watching is still topnotch.

I learned after my first couple visits that proper protocol is to call about a week before I need the supplies to make sure they're in-stock and have them placed in will call. This phone call is one of the few that I can actually make at work. They can look up my order by my name and birthdate, so I don't have to proclaim to the whole office what it is I need. However, I always get a chuckle out of asking them to place it in will call. Shouldn't will call be for something fun like concert or theater tickets? Not always, I guess. I can only imagine what my cubicle neighbors are thinking at work.

When I head out to pick them up, I used to get asked who the patient is, but not so much anymore. However, my biggest pet peeve is when I go to the will call counter and give them my name and they ask what the order is. Really? How many orders do you have for Erica Jensen? The customer service person usually asks as he's walking back into the warehouse, so I get to yell "two boxes of catheters" across the showroom floor for all the welders and old people to hear. Oh well, it doesn't get to me as much as it used to.

I used to run out to the medical supply store over my lunch hour, but I found it got me kind of down. So I've started going on the weekend when the Boyfriend can go with me and we make an event out of it, either going out to dinner or shopping while we're out. It's amazing what good company can do for the whole feel of a place. Everything always feels like it's going to be ok when he's there. Plus, we can laugh at the welding supplies, give the old people pointers, and walk that will call line like it's the red carpet. When we need our oxygen tanks in 50 years, we are going to be old pros.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

September: Reclaimed

As the Labor Day weekend approached this year, I prepared myself for the worst. It marked a year since surgery—a year since so much changed in our life. I expected a total breakdown and planned accordingly. How, you ask? By scheduling a celebratory weekend and following it up with an entire month dedicated toward taking back September. Life passed us by last September, and I was determined to make the most of it this year. It is one of the nicest months in Boise, and while I still enjoyed the view last year from the recliner, I missed lots of my favorite events and the peak of our garden.

So what did we do? We kicked off September 1 by going to a Hawks baseball game on what happened to be half-price beer night. Friday September 2 was the official one-year anniversary of the surgery and we planned to celebrate at a nice restaurant, but plans changed and we celebrated with fast food at the Boyfriend's office followed by drinks with friends. It was a great night and an even better reminder that it's the company and not the location that makes a celebration!

What else? We have watched football games, tailgated, gone to football games, attended BBQs and parties, hosted a BBQ, gone to Art in the Park, celebrated birthdays (three in one weekend!) and weddings, gone to a charity event, witnessed an app unveiling, wandered around the Hyde Park Street Fair, watched Casablanca at the Botanical Gardens, harvested veggies and berries from the garden, and sat on patios and drank beer. We had a jam-packed month that almost makes me exhausted if it weren't for the fact that we'll be hibernating soon. Soon enough, thoughts of watching movies outside will seem just as foreign as plopping a juicy, still-warm cherry tomato in my mouth straight from the vine.

Part of the month-long celebration was an attempt to derail any breakdown that might be creeping up, but part of it was truly an honest-to-goodness celebration. During a year when each day has been measured by a millimeter, the year mark represents a significant milestone. I was given a pretty broad window for seeing improvements, but all of those windows started around the year mark. Hitting that mark means being that much closer to getting better. It means a year of all this is behind us and better things are coming. It was also a celebration of the people in my life. I was flooded with memories of last year when cards, calls, emails, and visitors all made me feel so very loved and lucky. Those thoughts have done so much to lift my spirits not just last September but over the course of the entire last year.

So here's to the next 365 millimeters—whatever they may bring.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

How Does Our Garden Grow?

Well, most importantly it continues to grow regardless of how much (little) I write about it. Which, if you have been paying attention, is quite lucky for us indeed.

But I had to take a moment to write about one of my favorite days of the year, which just happened to be today. Today the Boyfriend and I harvested our garlic. Since I knew what to expect this year, it might not have been quite as exciting as last year, but it was pretty darn close. We dug fourteen nice garlic bulbs out of the north raised bed: seven hardnecks and seven softnecks. The softnecks were a little bigger than the hardnecks. I think I remember making the same observation last year, but I don't know that I could skip planting the hardnecks next year just because I love looking out in the garden this time of year and seeing the garlic scapes rising from the hardnecks. They look like regal but puny green geese standing guard over the garden.

Last year, my favorite part of the harvest was actually pulling the garlic out of the ground and finding out that a real garlic bulb had in fact grown under the ground over the past nine months. This year, my favorite part was peeling back those first few dirty layers of the bulb to expose the bright white skin just below the surface. You would never know these things had been living in the ground for the better part of a year. There's something cleansing and invigorating about the whole process.

And this year, as a thank-you-for-tending-your-garden bonus prize, we unearthed some beautiful fingerling potatoes! They had sprouted up in the midst of the garlic since that's where the potatoes were planted last year. I didn't expect any of them to be harvestable, but as we pulled out the garlic we got a nice dinner's worth of gorgeous fingerlings.

The potatoes are drying and the garlic is tucked away inside its critter-proof cage to dry in the sun for the next couple weeks. It was a good day indeed!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

If happiness was a seed…

If happiness was a seed and grew up to be a flower, this is the flower it would be. In which case, happiness would have to be a rhizome, but you get the point.

Why this flower? Well, it could actually be any one of these dozen or so irises that started blooming last week in front of our house. I waited three springs for these flowers, but their history goes back much further than that.

These irises came from Grandma Zada's yard in Nebraska. Mom dug them up, put them in her carry-on, and hauled them half way across the country for me about four years ago now. They were the only item I requested from Grandma's house. I waited for the following spring to plant them, which meant I planted them in a concrete planter on the happy little patio at the Mini. As if I had carefully and thoughtfully stored them just right in the plastic bag surrounded by a paper bag (you know mom and bugs), they sprang right up—fans of dark green, promising-looking leaves. However, they didn't flower that first year.

By mid-summer, our lives were on the move again as we moved into Big Red, aka the Barn. I dug up the irises and moved them to the new house and planted them out front next to the driveway. Since they had been transplanted yet again, the next spring offered a repeat performance: big green fans of healthy-looking leaves, but no flowers. We held out hope for quite a while, but as we watched irises bloom and eventually die all over town, we knew it wasn't going to happen.

Well, this year was finally their year. I didn't even know what type of iris they were or what color they were going to be. They're just perfect. Then again, they could have been the ugliest flower you've ever seen and they'd still be just perfect to me. Everything they represent is good and happy.

When we went to Ogallala for Grandma's funeral, I loved getting to show the Boyfriend around town and show him all the places that meant so much to me. But it just wasn't the same without going to Grandma's house—the backyard, the beer 30, the porch, the flowers, the birdbath. That was Grandma. These irises are all those wonderful things combined. And they make me feel like a tangible part of that house, of Grandma, is still with us. If only those rhizomes could talk…

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Garden Inventory 2011

I fear that I'm inclined to do this inventory tonight because of the cold weather coming this week. I got everything planted over this past week, and while the lows are only supposed to be in the low 40s, we seem to be in a cold pocket that is predictably cooler. In any case, as of today this is what we have in our 2011 garden.

In the north raised bed along the fence, we have two kinds of garlic (a softneck and hardneck), three kinds of lettuce (black-seeded simpson, a salad blend mix, and little gem), and a super sweet 100 tomato. We also have some volunteer potatoes that we might let go. Between the bed and the fence I've planted some sunflowers.

In the front raised bed, starting at the left, we have four broccoli plants that are doing great. We even have the beginnings of the first crowns. Next to the broccoli are two kinds of radishes (sparkling white tip and watermelon). In the middle of the bed are beets, although not many came up. I planted one of our baby tomatoes (a redo Brandywine) in the middle of the beets. In the cold frame are green onions, only a couple big onions (the ones I direct seeded outside didn't come up, but a couple transplants made it), a roma tomato, and a couple marigolds.

In the back raised bed, starting at the left, we have sugar snap peas coming up the trellis, and in front of those are parsnips and two kinds of carrots (muscade and danvers half-long). In the middle of the bed are a couple marigolds, a black prince tomato, and some basil. Under the cold frame are two more tomatoes (a mortgage lifter and a German Johnson), another basil, and a couple more marigolds.

In the back bed along the fence, we've got potatoes coming up on the right and melon (tam dew) and yellow squash under the cold house. We'll be putting pole beans and corn back there as well.

I've loaded up our pots with odds and ends (i.e., baby plants that I can't bring myself to kill), peppers, and herbs. By the door we have rosemary, strawberries, albino peppers, parsley, and jalapeno peppers. By the grill we have orange mint, oregano, and baby pink icicle tomatoes (that don't look like they're going to make it). By the hose bib, the big pot has Anaheim peppers and the small pots have thyme and some baby tomatoes (Brandywines). The last group of pots have a chocolate bell pepper, marigolds, and a determinate tomato that I'm blanking on the name at the moment (solar something-or-other).

I have one other baby tomato out front, and our hanging baskets by the front door have strawberries in them this year. We've even got a red one already! We've still got our raspberries in the back and we've replaced the strawberries in the strawberry bed.

I was really disappointed about losing the tomato starts, but I bought a couple tomatoes from Edwards (and any excuse to go to Edwards is fine by me) and a friend was nice enough to give us a few as well. I also ended up buying a few peppers from Edwards (the Anaheims) and some herbs. Here's hoping it all survives the night!