|Saturday, 18 October 2014|
||Saturday, 18 October 2014 12:42pm
October Garden PicturesSpeak Your Mind
I'm three days late for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day
, but I suppose that's still a significant improvement over recent months. I still have a garden! I haven't had much time to get out in it lately, but when I do get out in it, this California fuchsia (Epilobium canum
'Carman's Gray') is my favorite plant lately. California fuchsias are typically low-growing plants, sometimes only a few inches tall, but there's significant variation in height among the different cultivars. Even so, they're rarely said to grow much more than two feet tall. The 'Carman's Gray' cultivar is not advertised as being any exception to this; most websites describe it as growing about two feet tall. Well, this plant was labeled 'Carman's Gray' when I bought it a year ago, but if its stems are pulled out straight, some of them are taller than I am. (No, I am not actually under two feet tall. I am 5'5".) It is a strange and unexpected experience to find a plant blooming at eye level that isn't supposed to grow above knee level. I have no idea what inspired my plant to grow so tall (there's really nothing unusual about the conditions here, and other California fuchsia cultivars nearby are growing at their usual expected heights), but I'm extremely pleased with it. Nothing makes a gardener seem so impressive as plants that grow to three times their normal height.
The California fuchsia cultivar that is said to be the tallest is 'Catalina,' which is said to grow usually about four feet tall but occasionally up to five feet tall. Perhaps my plant was mislabeled and is really a 'Catalina'? I've never purchased a plant labeled as 'Catalina,' but if I see one in the future I'll check for a resemblance.( More fall garden pictures.Collapse ) Mood: busy
|Thursday, 16 October 2014|
||Thursday, 16 October 2014 12:38am
One Year Later
3 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
One year ago today, Susan informed me that she was leaving me. For another woman, whom she would marry less than a month later, with whom she now lives in a house she bought on my street, four houses away from mine. Four houses away from the house that she bought with me only a couple of months before she started intensely flirting with the other woman.
I have some things I want to say about that, to the world in general. Specifically, to anyone who might ever be tempted to do anything even vaguely resembling what she did. I want to stop you from doing that to anyone.
First, I want to clarify specifically what you should not do. And for that discussion, I want to take the focus off everything that happened at the end, because the end was not what created the problem. The end was just what revealed the problem for me to see. I want to focus on what occurred much, much earlier.
I want to talk about abuse. There are many kinds of it. What is the common theme among physical abuse, verbal abuse, financial abuse, and so on? I believe the common theme is that one person aims to forcibly circumscribe the other person's power to control their own life. If you make someone live in fear that you may hit them, you make that person feel afraid to speak freely. If you constantly insult someone and make them question their own worth as a person, you make that person feel unworthy to make decisions to protect themself. If you restrict someone's access to their money, or use their credit cards to spend their money against their wishes, you make that person less financially independent. There are other forms of abuse too, that don't all have clear category labels associated with them, but that we all recognize as abusive behaviors: If you try to control someone by restricting their access to their car keys when they're sober and competent to drive, or you demand that they call you six times a day to keep you constantly apprised of their whereabouts, or you throw a gigantic fit whenever they want to go anywhere without you, or you deliberately alienate them from all their friends and family to cut off their social support network . . . these are all ways of taking away someone's power to control their own life. And that is how we know that they are abusive behaviors.
These are distinguished from mutual agreements that people freely enter into as signs of commitment to one another, which can involve willingly and mutually giving up some freedoms: both members of a couple may agree not to have sex with other people, or not to make large financial purchases without consulting one another in advance, and so on. The borders can get a little tricky occasionally, because if both members of a couple mutually agreed to call each other six times a day to keep each other mutually apprised of their whereabouts, I would be inclined to wonder whether this was really more the idea of one of them than of the other, because I have a hard time believing that both of them could be that ridiculously insecure, but I suppose anything is theoretically possible; and, too, it's theoretically possible for both members of a couple to agree that only one of them has the right to have sex with other people, but here again I would be a little suspicious about quite how mutual that agreement really was. It's possible, though; perhaps there are other factors in the relationship that help to counterbalance that particular imbalance and keep everyone satisfied with the agreement.
In any case, the salient point is freedom of choice: willingly committing to something versus being forced into it. Consent, in other words. And when we talk about consent, we talk about informed consent.
When you get engaged to someone, and move in with them, and buy a house with them, these are all supposed to be commitments freely entered into, with informed consent. You should think carefully about what is at stake for the other person - emotionally, financially, and otherwise - and about what is at stake for you - emotionally, financially, and otherwise - and you should think carefully about whether you can fulfill this commitment. And if you have hesitations or reservations or uncertainties about that commitment, you should inform the other person.
Talk about it. Use actual words. Explain exactly where you're at and make sure they understand, and ask them whether they're okay with where you're at and whether they're willing to make this commitment on that basis, with informed consent.
Let me clear: this is necessarily going to be scary, and the more you've failed to be clear about these issues in the past, the scarier it will be. If you've already spent years misleading someone into thinking you're more committed to them than you actually are, then it's very likely that admitting you're having some doubts is going to significantly upset them. It makes sense for you to dread doing that.
But that is what informed consent
is about. You have to actually inform
them. And yes, they might end up breaking up with you over it. And yes, that might be very upsetting to you, because even though you're having doubts about commitment, you might still prefer to keep this person around until someone you like better comes along. You might in fact find the possibility of being dumped by them extremely horrifying. But you still have to take that risk. You still have to tell them. Because they have a right to make informed decisions about their own relationship.
They have a right to know every single thing you know about exactly how committed you are or are not to this relationship. Before they announce their engagement to you, before they move in with you, before they invest their life savings in buying a house to suit your tastes and your needs and a budget based on the assumption that you'll be around. Before they invest years of their life in you. They have a right to know the honest truth about how committed you are to the relationship, because if you withhold that information from them, you are manipulating them into staying with you in every bit as bad a way as if you were throwing a gigantic fit whenever they wanted to go anywhere without you and deliberately alienating them from all their friends and family to cut off their social support network. Arguably an even worse way, because if you were doing those things, it might at least be easier for them to see what you were doing and recognize that they need to escape you.
In short: you should never, ever buy a house with someone under the pretext of monogamous marriage-like commitment if you can't promise not to start secretly flirting with someone else two months later.
That's the first mistake I want to urge everyone reading this to avoid making. Now for the second.
Suppose you've already made some form of the first mistake. Suppose you're in a relationship that you just don't feel very emotionally invested in anymore, and someone else starts flirting with you, and you realize that you're tempted to leave your partner for this new person, and that scares you because your current relationship is longstanding and stable and comfortable in some ways . . . but you just don't feel like you can really talk to your partner anymore, because you've somehow fallen out of the habit of doing so. Because it's just so been easier for you to avoid telling your partner certain things, and maybe you convinced yourself they were just little
things, but now they've built up to a substantial wall between the two of you and you're not quite sure how to surmount it. But you're also not quite sure you want to destroy your existing relationship, so you start looking around for ways to try to fix your relationship.
There is only one way to fix your relationship in these circumstances, and I will tell you exactly how to do it:Tell your partner everything.
I know: that's exactly what you don't want to do. Perhaps you can't imagine that your relationship would ever survive it. And I suppose there's a possibility that it won't. But there's also a pretty good chance that your relationship will
survive it, since, well, how many times have you heard about couples breaking up because one member of the couple felt tempted to cheat and resisted the temptation and confessed everything to the other person, only to have the other person break up with them for it? That's not usually the way it works.
But here is what I absolutely promise you that your relationship cannot
You don't quite know how to really talk to your partner anymore, so instead of really talking to your partner, you ask your partner to come watch you coach the basketball games where the other woman has been flirting with you . . . but your partner is working 50 to 60 hours a week and has trouble finding any opportunity to go, and you never provide an honest explanation of exactly why it's so important. So your partner does intend to go at some point but postpones it until near the end of the season, and then the last few games of the season get unexpectedly canceled at the last moment, so then your partner can't go after all.
You don't quite know how to really talk to your partner anymore, so instead of really talking to your partner, you mention that you're having trouble feeling excited about the possibility that the U.S. Supreme Court will soon finally make it legal for the two of you to get married. You say that if this had happened years ago it would have been incredibly exciting, but after this many years of frustration and waiting, you already feel thoroughly committed and as good as married already, so it seems kind of too late for the ceremony to have as much meaning as it would have had if it had truly marked the beginning of a new commitment, and mostly right now you're just dreading all the bother of wedding planning. Your partner is understanding about this because she's also frustrated that whatever wedding you can have now will never be the same wedding you could have had if you could have gotten married at the time you actually first wanted to get married, and she's also dreading all the bother of wedding planning, and she accepts your statement about feeling as good as married at its reassuring face value because it matches how she feels and also matches every single thing you've ever said about how you feel. You misinterpret your partner's failure to panic at your declaration that you're having trouble feeling excited about planning a wedding five years late as proof that your partner has fallen out of love with you just like you've fallen out of love with her.
You don't quite know how to really talk to your partner anymore, so instead of really talking to your partner, you try to arrange to go on a romantic camping trip with her. The camping trip gets called off because your partner's employer begs and pleads for her to postpone her vacation time until later because her help is needed to meet an urgent deadline. You tell her wistfully that you're very sad about the camping trip being canceled, and that you feel like both of you have been spending too much time working lately and really need a break from it to spend some time together as a couple. She takes this statement at its face value and believes that there's nothing wrong in your relationship that taking a vacation together won't solve, and she figures that rescheduling her vacation time for a month in the future will still suffice to provide a vacation soon enough.
You don't quite know how to really talk to your partner anymore, so instead of really talking to your partner, you try to fix your relationship by taking your partner back to the place where the two of you went on your first date together, and you wait for the location to strike sudden romantic feelings into your heart again, but nothing really happens, so you just go on saying nothing and pretend you don't feel disappointed.
You don't quite know how to really talk to your partner anymore, so instead of really talking to your partner, you plan a romantic hotel trip with her during her rescheduled vacation time. You go lots of exciting places and see lots of exciting things, and you still don't actually tell her anything at all about what's going on with you.
You don't quite know how to really talk to your partner anymore, so instead of really talking to your partner, you take her to a bridal show to research wedding venues and services, hoping that this will strike a romantic mood into your heart. It doesn't, because, well, listening to sales pitches and contemplating burdensome expenses isn't actually especially romantic. Meanwhile, your partner is very confused about why on earth you wanted to go to this bridal show, because it seems so obviously the complete opposite of anything you'd ever want to go to, and she questions you about it, but you deflect all her questions and reveal nothing.
You don't quite know how to really talk to your partner anymore, so instead of really talking to your partner, you decide to tell that other woman who's been flirting with you all about the problems in your relationship that you haven't told your partner about and have detailed planning discussions with the other woman about exactly what new things you're going to do in bed with your partner to try to regain some semblance of interest in having sex with your partner again.
And so on.
Don't be stupid about this. There is exactly one way, absolutely only one way, to fix the problem that you don't quite know how to really talk to your partner anymore. Tell her everything.
That is all. Go forth now, and talk to your partners. Mood: font of wisdom
|Saturday, 27 September 2014|
||Saturday, 27 September 2014 12:48am
Summer Garden PicturesSpeak Your Mind
Both of the nearest chapters of the California Native Plant Society that have annual fall plant sales are having those sales this weekend! They've never had them on the same weekend before, at least not in the six or so years that I've been attending them. This is going to be a very busy plant-shopping weekend for me.
And I'm still trying to catch up on posting months-old garden photographs. This post will cover July and August. I'll start with two pictures that encapsulate those months for me. This is July: my Sacramento rose-mallow (Hibiscus lasicarpos
) plant in full bloom in front of a broad expanse of lawn. I don't have many plants that bloom in July; the last of the spring flowers have withered by mid-June, and the first of the fall flowers don't start opening until August. But the Sacramento rose-mallow is very much a July plant, and it's pretty enough to just about make up for the absence of anything else.
This is August. The first of the fall flowers are open - California fuchsia (Epilobium canum × septentrionale
'Bowman's #1') and, if you look closely through the grass, a little clump of yellow from an elegant tarweed (Madia elegans
) - but the flowers aren't entirely the point anymore; the huge clumping grasses somewhat steal the show. The grasses here are deergrass (Muhlenbergia rigens
) in the lower right and alkali sacaton (Sporobolus airoides
) a bit to the left, in the middle distance.( More pictures of my garden in summer.Collapse ) Mood: busy
|Wednesday, 17 September 2014|
||Wednesday, 17 September 2014 12:05am
June Garden PicturesSpeak Your Mind
It's absurdly late to be posting these pictures; the garden no longer looks anything like this. Most of the plants pictured here are no longer blooming, some are completely dormant and leafless, and a few are dead, the victims of the same neglect on my part that prevented me from getting around to posting these pictures. What can I say? It's been an extremely stressful summer. I've been working impossibly long hours for many, many months, and nothing else has gone very right either. But I want to catch up on posting my garden pictures, so here are the ones from June. I hardly managed to take any in July because July was so horrible, so I mostly have just August and September left to catch up with.
The plant I got most excited about in June was death camas (Zigadenus fremontii
). Its intimidating name comes from the fact that when not in bloom, it closely resembles camas (Camassia quamash
), a bulb that the indigenous Nisenan people regularly dug up and ate. Death camas is also a bulb, but if you mistake it for camas and eat it, it can kill you. So if you decide to forage for California native bulb to eat, make sure you don't get any death camas mixed in with your camas.
As long as you don't eat it, death camas is perfectly harmless. I only grow death camas, not regular camas, because regular camas doesn't grow as well in my area as death camas. So there's no danger of me mistaking my death camas for regular camas. And I grow my death camas in a large pot so that Boston can't easily get at it.( More pictures of long-gone flowers!Collapse ) Mood: busy
|Sunday, 14 September 2014|
||Sunday, 14 September 2014 6:25am
Books To Be Read SurveySpeak Your Mind
tagged me for a meme about books To Be Read. Yay, I get to talk about books! Without even actually getting around to reading them!How do you keep track of your TBR pile?
I have a floor-to-ceiling bookcase next to my bed filled entirely with books I haven't read. Once I read them, I move them to my other bookcases in other rooms.Is your TBR list mostly print or e-book?
It's essentially all print. When I occasionally read books online, I just leave them open in my web browser until I finish reading them. (I don't have an e-book reader.)A Book That's Been on Your TBR List the Longest
Since I have hardly any idea which books have been in my TBR bookcase the longest, for this question I'll turn to my Amazon wish list. The book Post-colonial, Queer: Theoretical Intersections
by John C. Hawley has been sitting on my wish list since October 21, 2004.A Book You Recently Added to Your TBR ListThe Tolerance Trap: How God, Genes, and Good Intentions are Sabotaging Gay Equality
by Suzanna Danuta Walters (because I was thrilled by the articles "The Power in 'Choosing to Be Gay'"
and "Why Rick Perry Is Beyond Repair"
by the same author).( Lots more information about books I haven't read!Collapse ) Mood: distracted
||Monday, 25 August 2014 11:42pm
2 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Today I made the mistake of glancing at my junk mail before throwing it in the recycling bin. I immediately regretted this.
Could someone please explain to me why apparently real CPR classes and healthcare equipment are being advertised using a picture of a woman in a ridiculously hypersexualized nurse costume?
Plus random, totally unexplained
If I wanted to learn CPR, you know what I wouldn't
look for in a CPR class? Advertising aimed at attracting incredibly creepy straight men and giving them misleading ideas about whether CPR actually has anything to do with saving lives or is just a fun excuse to feel strangers up. Mood: aggravated
||Monday, 21 July 2014 12:11am
1 Mind Spoken | Speak Your Mind
I am 38! And about time too, since 37 was hell. Here's what I received:
- Field Guide to Butterflies of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento Valley Regions by Arthur M. Shapiro and Timothy D. Manolis
- Field Guide to the Common Bees of California: Including Bees of the Western United States by Gretchen Lebuhn
- Wildflowers of Northern California's Wine Country & North Coast Ranges: A Photographic Guide to Native Plants of Marin, Sonoma, Napa & Mendocino Counties by Reny Parker
- The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America's Most Imaginative Chefs by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg
- Substituting Ingredients: The A to Z kitchen Reference by Becky Sue Epstein
- Half of a Yellow Sun: A novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- Joseph Anton: A Memoir by Salman Rushdie
- this poster print photograph of wildlflowers on Table Mountain in Oroville, California
- four stone coasters with pictures of cats on them
- an automatic door closer (for the door between my garage and my house; recommended by the home inspector for fire safety)
- two backflow preventers for my garden hoses (recommended by the home inspector for indoor water safety)
- the CD The Most Incredible Thing: Complete Ballet Score by the Pet Shop Boys
And I've read To Kill a Mockingbird
before, but not since eighth grade, when it was assigned reading, so I figured it was time to read it as an adult.
The very most exciting present was the Salman Rushdie memoir; I've been so eager to read it that I barely restrained myself from just buying it for myself rather than waiting to receive it as a gift. I already read the first chapter or so of it tonight while at my parents' house.
And this is a picture my mother took of me while I was at my parents' house, not for my own birthday but for my little brother's birthday, which was earlier this month. My own birthday was much the same, so this can serve to illustrate both. Mood: tired
||Monday, 7 July 2014 11:26pm
3 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Yesterday I went swimming! In Dry Creek, in Spenceville State Wildlife Area, near the extinct gold mining town of Waldo. First I had to drive my poor little Nissan Sentra over about four and a half miles of gravel road - so, about nine miles round-trip, which is probably the longest stretch of gravel road I've ever driven it over. At the end of this gravel road, when I was sure I was miles from the nearest human being, I arrived at a dirt parking lot completely full of cars. (I wasn't entirely surprised, because I've been here before, though not alone, not as the person doing the driving, and it always turns out to be crowded.)
There's a swimming hole there, a very popular one with a huge rope swing dangling from an oak tree, which I had actually never personally seen before yesterday, although I was dimly aware of its existence from having seen photographs of it, and also a smaller, nearly always empty one a bit upstream of the other, which was where I always swam before. Yesterday I started out at the smaller one but wandered downstream (walking on the creek bottom) until I discovered the larger one. I then went back and forth repeatedly between the two. Unfortunately the trip from one to the other was a bit bothersome each time, because the creek is about one foot deep for much of the distance between them, so I had to walk most of it rather than swim it, and the rocks are hard to walk on, so I fell down many times. It never really hurt, though; I only ended up with a few tiny scratches on one knee and a bit of a bruise on that knee.
The smaller, empty swimming hole is under a bridge. The underside of the bridge is covered with hundreds of cliff swallow
nests, from which the cliff swallows were coming and going continuously, one or a few at a time. I floated beneath the bridge and watched the cliff swallows, and watched various fish in the water, and watched dragonflies and damselflies and honeybees and, once, a hummingbird, visiting the flowers of the buttonbushes lining both sides of the river. I helped myself to the Himalayan blackberries and examined the non-native grapes, though the grapes weren't ripe yet. On my way to the larger swimming hole, I discovered some very large tadpoles, approaching frogness.
In the more popular swimming hole, I watched people swinging out over the water from the huge rope swing. They would hold onto the rope with their hands, jump off the high part of the riverbank, and swing out as far as they could over the water before letting go. Most people made this look easy, although there was one woman, similar in age to me, maybe a little younger, but heavier than me, who dragged her feet along the bank the first time she tried it and let go of the rope before even hardly reaching the water at all. She was immediately coached in how to do better, and the second time she tried it, she made a very passable effort.
Getting tired of being surrounded by people, I returned to the more private swimming hole. On my way upstream, I suddenly found myself face to face with a muskrat
. It was swimming straight toward me from about two feet away. We both noticed each other at the same moment, and we both swerved to avoid colliding. The muskrat then dived underwater and did not resurface within sight of me.
Eventually everyone else went home. I then returned to the popular swimming hole to have a try at the rope swing myself, now that there was no one around to embarrass myself in front of. (I prefer to embarrass myself later by describing my misadventures on the Internet.) I did exactly the same thing that I had watched the other woman do earlier. Except that I didn't get any better on the second try . . . nor the third. I gave up. It was terrifying each time, even though I never got more than about an inch off the ground. I think the problem was that I simply don't seem to be capable of holding myself up with my arms, not even for the tiniest fraction of a second. I couldn't do it in high school P.E. classes either . . . I remember that we were supposed to climb ropes one day, and I simply couldn't do it, by which I do mean that I literally never got off the ground.
But . . . muskrat! Cliff swallows! Hummingbird! And so on. There was so much that was lovely. I should go back again soon. Though it does mean driving my not-at-all-off-road-worthy car over an awful lot of gravel.( Two picturesCollapse ) Mood: uncomfortable
||Monday, 5 May 2014 10:30pm
Dead Snake and Various NeighborsSpeak Your Mind
During my work hours today I was looking forward to plugging in my laptop outdoors and sitting in the hammock on the back patio with it after work. This is a delight that I have discovered only quite recently, within the past month. But although I managed to finish my workday while the sun was still up, the moment I finished work, the sky started flickering and growling and dumping massive sheets of water everywhere. It was a fairly brief thunderstorm, but it lasted just long enough to deprive me of outdoor time until after sunset.
Yesterday I saw the snake again that I saw last weekend while mowing the lawn. I got a very long, up-close look at it this time . . . but I wish I hadn't, because the only reason I did is that it was dead.
It's definitely a gopher snake, not a striped racer as I had thought when I caught only a fleeting glimpse of it. Closer inspection revealed that it had some orange markings between its yellow stripes that clearly identify it as a gopher snake. So the range maps were right, and I was wrong. I probably should not presume myself knowledgeable enough to doubt the range mappers. I mean, I know
the plant range maps are sometimes a little off, so it stands to reason that the animal range maps would be too . . . but I know so much less about identifying animals that my odds of correctly identifying animals would probably be improved if I trusted the animal range maps completely and only dared to question the plant range maps.
Anyway, it's now a dead gopher snake, dead in my food garden. It was partly hidden under a log that I had used to edge the path. It appeared to have slithered there of its own free will, but I'm not sure why it died. The skin around its neck appeared to have been eaten away, but I think that may have happened after it was already dead, because it had clearly been dead for a few days by the time I found it. Either a neighborhood cat got it (Stardust is innocent because she does not go outdoors) or it died of an illness or just starved to death. I wonder whether it was feeling ill when I saw it last weekend (maybe that's the only reason I was able to catch sight of it at all) or whether its death is related to the destruction of its habitat . . . my next-door neighbor is a 90-something-year-old lady who had a hugely overgrown thicket of blackberries and mulberries and other invasive weeds on the other side of the fence from my food garden, and both times that I saw the snake, it was right next to there, so I suspect it was living in that thicket. This week her grandson came over and hacked away the thicket completely, cut it back to the ground and dug out the roots so there's now nothing left but bare dirt. If he used herbicides that might explain the snake's death, but my impression is that they didn't, since the weeds remained healthy-looking right up until they were cut back and dug up. Maybe the snake just couldn't find a new source of food or shelter when the thicket was removed. But if that was the problem, it ought to have tried wandering farther afield. There are plants it could have hidden among in my front yard. Or in my back yard, as long as Boston didn't notice it, which she didn't when it was in my back yard before.
Today I made a discovery about my next-door neighbors on the other side of me: they are selling their house. Generally our houses are very comparable. They're asking $15,000 more than the asking price on mine in 2012, so perhaps I've made some money by buying at the right time? I'm not sure how to feel about the neighbors moving out. They're devout Christian homeschoolers, but they were actually perfectly polite about having a lesbian couple move in next door to them, and they've been quiet neighbors, and they take good care of their yard, so I really don't have any complaints about them beyond the fact that they and I are not destined to become personal friends. (It would never have occurred to me before I moved from Sacramento to Marysville that anyone could ever regard their neighbors as personal friends. I doubt that I will ever have a neighbor I would count as a friend, but still I have become sufficiently rural that the theoretical possibility of such a thing now seems real to me.) Whoever buys the house next could easily be worse. I do kind of like the idea of not being the newest neighbor at the intersection anymore, though.
I've decided I need to introduce myself to whoever owns the house with the native plant garden in downtown Marysville. I keep driving past it and admiring it and noticing ever more plants that they've squeezed into their tiny yard - redbud trees, toyon, deergrasses, lupines, even (somewhat ridiculously) several redwood trees, all on a lot half the size of mine, with a house larger than mine on it. It's a pretty house, a two-story Craftsman-style house that looks well maintained. I just don't live near enough to be able to catch the residents outdoors and start a conversation. Maybe I could resort to mailing them a letter? Just to compliment them on their garden and offer to give them a tour of mine. It would be nice to be able to exchange notes with them about which plants can be grown here. Mood: sad
||Friday, 18 April 2014 12:48am
April Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day
7 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
I'm not sure whether I've ever been quite this late in arriving to Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day
before! It couldn't be helped, though. I've been working long hours, spending two and a half to three hours every weekday getting radiation treatments, meeting people for dinner, going on hiking trips, planting new plants, taking pictures of plants . . . how was I supposed to fit in any time for actually posting the pictures and writing about the plants? Especially with as many pictures as I have this month to post and write about . . . the garden is looking quite photogenic right now!( Garden pictures galore!Collapse ) Mood: busy
||Sunday, 16 March 2014 1:00am
March Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day
10 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
It's time for March Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day
, but the garden doesn't look like any March I've ever seen before. It doesn't look like any month at all that I've ever seen before. For one thing, there've been no baby blue eyes (Nemophila menziesii
) at all this year. For another thing, the mountain garland (Clarkia unguiculata
) is starting to bloom more than a month earlier than usual. I assume the strange garden behavior is due to the drought. Should I be concerned about the survival of baby blue eyes all across the state? Well, at least it's a species that gardeners have collected a lot of seeds from.
The plant I've been most excited about this month is glassy onion (Allium hyalinum
). My degree of excitement about plants is generally closely related to how difficult it was for me to obtain and successfully grow the plant. Glassy onion is hard to find for sale. I did find it for sale once when I lived at the duplex, and I planted it in little plastic pots, and some tiny seedlings sprouted, and I transplanted them into the ground . . . whereupon they promptly died, as so many plants did when transplanted into the ground at the duplex where there was no drainage. Well, I finally found it for sale again last fall, and this time I planted it in a large ceramic pot on my patio where I decided to plant most of my native bulbs (and a few native non-bulbs) that can't handle any summer water. The pot keeps them away from the sprinklers, and they all seem happy enough to grow together. This is the first one to bloom.( Other March flowers!Collapse ) Mood: busy
||Monday, 17 February 2014 7:03pm
Desserts! And Some Gardening
2 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
I've been trying a lot of dessert recipes lately. My dinner efforts have subsided (hopefully temporarily) into routine repetition of already familiar recipes, but my desserts have been adventurous. First, a few weeks ago, I tried Claudia Roden's orange almond cake recipe
, which is a very strange cake recipe because, first, it does not contain any flour (which means I can serve it to my gluten-free friends!) and second, it does contain two entire oranges . . . including the peels. You're supposed to remove the seeds, but I used homegrown oranges that didn't have any seeds. Also, I substituted homegrown pecans for almonds, so what I made was actually orange pecan cake. It turned out quite well. Grinding the pecans into tiny bits was a lot of work, though. In the future, I should probably just buy pre-ground nuts rather than grinding my own.
Next, I followed a recipe called Impossible Pie
. The recipe claims that although you just mix all the ingredients together, the "flour will settle to form crust" while the "coconut forms the topping." The different ingredients didn't really look to me like they separated much at all though, nor do they look to me in the pictures online like they separated much for anyone else either. I don't think it deserves to be called either impossible or pie. It turned out to be a perfectly delicious custard, though, and very easy to make.
Then yesterday I followed a recipe for Nutella cheesecake
, except that as with the orange almond cake recipe, I didn't actually follow it. I substituted a Nutella-equivalent chocolate-almond spread for the chocolate-hazelnut that the recipe called for, and I substituted chopped homegrown pecans for the chopped hazelnuts on top. (I never miss an opportunity to use up some of my pecans.) It turned out extremely well.
I also gardened a bit this weekend. It will be interesting to see what sort of results I get from my garden this spring, considering that I spent all last summer taking obsessively good care of it in anticipation of a backyard wedding, then completely ignored it from late September through late November while dealing with having the wedding called off, managed to pay more attention to it in December when I was starting to feel better again, and then promptly resumed completely ignoring it for the next month and a half due to being diagnosed with breast cancer. And then there's the drought; I provided absolutely no supplemental water, not so much due to eco-consciousness as due to being completely distracted from the garden. Hopefully my two huge 60-year-old trees (pecan and southern magnolia) will forgive me for leaving them to suffer through the drought without help. They seem all right. A few of the smaller plants I put in last summer are dead, but all things considered, the garden is in much better shape (and a lot less hopelessly overrun by weeds) than it easily could be - my December efforts must have helped.
A few of the plants are starting to suspect now that spring is on the way, but they're mostly the non-natives that came with the house. ( plant pictures!Collapse ) Mood: accomplished
|Tuesday, 10 December 2013|
||Tuesday, 10 December 2013 11:26pm
Apple-Pecan Cooking Efforts, and One Misguided Carrot-Pecan Cooking EffortSpeak Your Mind
My major cooking theme has now shifted from oranges and pecans to apples and pecans. I need to buy more ingredients, though, because there are several apple-pecan dishes I want to make that I don't have the proper ingredients for. So far I've followed two recipes, one for "nut-filled baked apples" (in the crock-pot) and one for "caramel apple and pecan bread" (in the bread machine). Both are pictured below. I was fairly happy with the the nut-filled baked apples, but not as happy with the bread. My bread machine breads practically all come out denser than I want them to, to one extent or another, and this bread was no exception. I think I need to experiment with shrinking the recipes slightly, because lack of sufficient space in the bread machine might be what's causing the problem.
Diverging from the apple portion of my theme, I pulled up another monstrously humongous carrot from my garden and attempted to make dinner out of it tonight, but things took some unexpected turns. I followed a recipe for carrot salad and somehow accidentally made pasta sauce instead.
The recipe called for a mix of shredded carrots, dill, and raisins topped with a salad dressing made from lemon juice, mustard, honey, garlic, and olive oil. I skipped the dill because it's green, thereby turning this into my perfect idea of salad: one with absolutely no green vegetables whatsoever. And I added toasted pecans because I'm adding pecans to everything
until I use up all the homegrown pecans.
However, things went rather wrong with the carrot. I remembered that a month ago I successfully shredded carrots in the blender by cooking them slightly beforehand to soften them up, so I thought I would do that again this time. Unfortunately, this time around I forgot the "slightly" part and cooked the carrot very thoroughly. As a result, when I put it in the blender I got liquefied carrot rather than shredded carrot. So I stirred the liquid carrot into the salad dressing and tried to turn it into carrot-raisin soup. Unfortunately, the lemon juice was way, way
too strong for my tastes. So to dilute it to tolerable levels, I used it as a pasta sauce instead. It was actually a fairly decent pasta sauce. I don't think I'd intentionally make it again in quite the same way, but it might be worth experimenting with variations on it. Mood: creative
|Saturday, 7 December 2013|
||Saturday, 7 December 2013 1:37pm
It Snowed! It Snowed!
3 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
It snowed! It snowed! Real snow, not just a large amount of hail that sort of looks like snow, which is somewhat less unheard of here. But real snow! I don't think it's ever before snowed this much at my home in my adult life. It snowed about this much once when I was a kid, and also once in the first winter after I was born. But not since then.
It snowed for about 20 minutes! And then it stopped for about an hour, and I took pictures. And then it rained for about 20 minutes. By the time the rain stopped, the snow was all gone. Then the sun came out, and it hasn't stopped shining brightly ever since.
But look! It snowed on my very own house!( Snow! Snow! More pictures of snow!Collapse ) Mood: ecstatic
||Monday, 2 December 2013 7:57pm
Orange-Pecan Cooking Efforts
1 Mind Spoken | Speak Your Mind
The theme of my cooking efforts lately is oranges and pecans. It's a particularly appropriate theme for me since I have both a pecan tree and an orange tree in my yard. I didn't go looking for orange-pecan recipes, though; I went looking for pecan recipes, and they turned out to frequently feature oranges. I used homegrown pecans but not homegrown oranges, because none of the ten oranges on my orange tree are ripe yet. Well, and neither of the recipes I tried used actual oranges anyway.
Yesterday I made chicken with orange-pecan rice. This is only a little advanced beyond Rice-a-Roni; it comes from a boxed mix, but rather than following the recipe on the box, I followed a recipe in a cookbook that said to add orange juice, chicken, and pecans, and then bake the result in the oven. It tastes fantastic. (And while you're looking at it, you can admire my new china. I love that it has insects on it.)
I also started some orange-pecan buns yesterday, and finished them today. I've owned my breadmaker for about eight or nine years now, but this was the first time I've ever used it just on the "dough" cycle and shaped the dough by hand and finished the cooking in the oven. They're filled with a mixture of toasted pecans and orange marmalade; I cut one open to try to show the filling, but you can't actually see much. They're okay, but I was more thrilled by the orange-pecan rice. The marmalade is a bit more sugary than I would have preferred. Mood: accomplished
|Saturday, 30 November 2013|
||Saturday, 30 November 2013 11:44am
Exciting New Household Chores
1 Mind Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Today I mowed the lawn for the first time ever! My first time mowing any lawn at all, ever. I'm sure it will be less exciting in future times, but it will probably also be less confusing in future times. I had to stop several times to read the instructions manual to figure out why the mower engine was stopping and refusing to restart.
It's a self-propelled mower, so I still have no idea how much harder it would be with a non-self-propelled mower. But my house is on more than a quarter-acre lot, so it was still a fair amount of work. Midway through the task, I figured out that wearing gloves is extremely helpful for reducing hand fatigue. I also took a five-minute break between the front yard and the back yard, which seemed to really help. And I'm extremely glad that I dug out as much lawn as I did over the past year to install garden beds. The lawn is still huge, but it's a little bit less huge than it started out being.
Immediately after I finished the mowing, I also edged both yards with the weedeater. I've used a weedeater before, but it's been a while, and I found that it was a lot easier than I remembered. The weedeating really required practically no effort at all.
Yesterday I achieved another major first by using my new crock-pot for the first time. I followed a recipe that came with the crock-pot, for barbecue pulled pork. Except I didn't actually bother with much pulling of the pork, and I decided not to make a sandwich out of it as the recipe suggested. Also, the warnings in the crock-pot directions to make sure to always include enough liquid caused me to question whether even the recipes that came with the crock-pot included enough liquid, so I added some apple juice just to be on the safe side.
And then, just to make myself feel like I'd prepared more of a fully developed meal, even though there was already so much food that it's going to take me all weekend to finish the leftovers, I also put together a side dish. A spontaneous side dish without any particular recipe: a red potato and a sweet potato, baked and mashed together with butter and the now-pork-flavored apple juice/barbecue sauce on it. I was pleased with the results. I was also pleased with the way the crock-pot made the entire house food-scented.
I also weeded the garden a bit yesterday, harvested some more pecans, and raked the back lawn in preparation for today's mowing. It's been nearly two months since my fingers were last their normal color; they get permanently stained dark brown or black by pecan juices, and I keep re-staining them every few days, so the stain isn't going to get a chance to wear off until the pecans stop falling.
The pecan curing and storage process doesn't seem to be going as well this year as last year, though. The pecans are supposed to cure for several weeks and then go into storage in the freezer, but some of them seem to rot before I get them into the freezer. I'm not sure why. Last year I didn't have this problem.
I also did one load of dishes and two loads of laundry today, and changed the bedsheets. All this when I also worked half a day of overtime today and another half a day of overtime yesterday.
Jessica is coming over tomorrow afternoon, and I'm hoping to get her help in figuring out where to hang my various pictures on the walls. If I get up early enough, I may also go hiking in the morning before she arrives, probably at Daugherty Hill State Wildlife Area again, just taking a different path than last time. I'm not sure whether I'll end up actually having time for that, but if I do, it would be nice to get a chance to use my new hiking backback with hydration reservoir for the first time.
Stardust seems to be really enjoying being the only cat of the household now. Wherever I go, she's constantly within a few inches of me and usually purring very loudly. Right now I'm on the couch, so she's sitting behind my head. She's made it very clear that she does not believe in sitting on the actual seat of the couch, ever. She always sits behind my head. Then if I don't pay enough attention to her, she squeaks plaintively directly into my ear until I pet her. Then she starts purring again. Mood: accomplished
||Sunday, 24 November 2013 10:51pm
6 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
I didn't get nearly as much done this weekend as I had hoped to, but I suppose my hopes were a bit unrealistic. For a weekend that I was forced to work through a significant portion of, I accomplished a fair amount.
I scattered the last of my native wildflower seeds today. I should have done this at least a month ago, but, well, becoming abruptly and unexpectedly single can really throw off a gardening schedule. Now it's done. I also managed to weed a little and to harvest some more pecans. Pecan season is starting to wind down, I think. Next will be pecan leaf
season, in which every leaf on the tree falls to the ground.
With high expectations, I dug up my sweet potato plant today. It was a huge disappointment. The top growth was lovely, and the roots were numerous, but the only actual sweet potato I found among the roots was the one I'd planted in the first place. Oh well. I made the best of it by picking all the best-looking leaves off the vine to save for Jessica's family. I tried eating one myself, but it tasted like what it is - a green vegetable - so I didn't like it. Oh, and I took this picture of the sweet potato plant just before I dug it up, so you can see how beautiful and promising it looked from above ground.
My efforts to teach myself to cook seem to have veered off on a tangent that I'm not sure whether I like. I went shopping at Grocery Outlet and ran across a couple of specialized containers designed to improve the quality of microwave cooking. These have helped me make a wider variety of foods, but they're not helping me learn to make anything outside of the microwave. I did finally receive the first two cookbooks I ordered in the mail everal weeks ago, though, so maybe things will continue improving. I also bought a crock-pot, but I'm feeling rather confused by it. I ordered a crock-pot cookbook, but I haven't received it yet, and I don't think I'm going to start feeling very comfortable with the crock-pot until I do.
I need to figure out how to cook something or other to bring to a Thanksgiving-on-Saturday dinner next weekend with my friends Alyson and Jackie and various other friends of theirs. My usual go-to food for pot-luck events at work, back when I didn't work from home, was homemade bread, but Alyson and Jackie are gluten-free, and I think I'd rather learn to make something else entirely than just experiment with gluten-free bread. I suppose that if all else fails, I could just bring some homegrown pecans, but I'd like to use the event as a reason to actually learn to cook something instead. I'd also like to host Jessica's family for a Christmas Eve dinner like Susan and I did last year, but since it's just me now, that also means that I need to learn how to cook something. Though I suppose I actually do know how to cook turkey already. At least, I used to cook turkey roast all the time back when I was last single. I should still be able to manage that much now, even though I haven't done it in more than six years.
My biggest step toward making the kitchen mine so far has been to simply buy my own china. I owned practically no dishwares of my own anymore - I never owned much to begin with, and most of what I did own had broken over the years since I was last single - but now I own lovely fine china with pictures of flowers, dragonflies, butterflies, ladybugs, and bees on it. The insects really won me over. It's nice to see ecological health on my dinner plates. Anyway, buying the china does bring me a significant step closer to being able to entertain company like an adult again. Now I just need to develop a few dinners that I can cook reliably. I can master at least one good dinner by Christmas, right? With a decent array of side dishes? I can probably manage a few side dishes right now, actually. Timing them to be ready at the same time as the dinner, though, I doubt I'd be much good at.
Another thing I did this weekend was to repaint the ceiling of the pink bathroom shower. It needs a few more coats, though, before it will be done.
Yesterday I went for a walk at sunset. This panoramic photo shows some of the area that I walked through. On the far right is my city. To the left of that is the asphalt walking paths on the levee. To the left of that is the railroad track, and to the left of that is the city cemetery. If you could see just a little farther left, you'd see Highway 70, and to the left of that is St. Joseph's Catholic Cemetery, which is where I walked to. Not for any particular reason; it just happened to be as far as I had time to walk by sunset.( A few more pictures.Collapse ) Mood: contemplative
||Sunday, 17 November 2013 2:26am
Daugherty HillSpeak Your Mind
On Friday I took the afternoon off work and went hiking at the Daugherty Hill Unit of Daugherty Hill State Wildlife Area. I had previously hiked at the Donovan Hill Unit of the same state wildlife area, but not at this unit. I thought about taking Boston with me, but there were cattle at the Donovan Hill Unit when I hiked there, so I thought there might be cattle at the Daugherty Hill Unit also, and I didn't want to deal with Boston freaking out at the sight of cattle. As it turned out, there weren't any cattle. However, I did see two horseback riders with an unleashed dog between them, so I was glad not to have Boston with me during that.
I think I hiked about six or seven miles. That's a very rough estimate based on looking at the aerial view of the trails in Google Maps. It felt like a much, much easier hike than the seven-mile hike to Feather Falls, but I suppose that was because it was a lot flatter. Not actually flat, that is, but merely hilly rather than mountainous. I did wish I'd had the good sense to bring some water with me. I need to buy myself a CamelBak or equivalent and bring it with me whenever I hike. Susan had one, but I never bothered buying a separate one for myself, and now I need to.
Anyway, it was a good hike, even without water. Here is a view of the Sutter Buttes from Daugherty Hill.( More pictures!Collapse ) Mood: independent
|Thursday, 7 November 2013|
||Thursday, 7 November 2013 10:45pm
Putting My Life Back Together
2 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
I made a carrot cake today. I also made carrot juice, but I drank the carrot juice before I took this picture. Both creations happened for the purpose of using up some incredibly humongous carrots from my garden. (Like, carrots four inches in diameter. Serious monstrosity carrots.) I don't even really like
carrots, I only planted the stupid carrots because Susan wanted them, and then whenever I harvested any she didn't seem to like them. And then it turned out she didn't like me either, at least not enough to refrain from romancing another woman while still living with me. Apparently this has been going on since May. I found out about it in September. On October 16, Susan officially dumped me to be with the other woman.
And tomorrow marks one week since Susan moved out of here and into the other woman's house. Today's carrot juice and carrot cake are, I think, the first two good things to result from her leaving me. Hopefully they'll be the first of many.
I don't absolutely hate carrots. When I was a little kid and my parents said I had to eat one vegetable or I wouldn't be allowed to eat dessert, I would choose to eat one carrot stick because it was preferable to eating one pea, or one of really any vegetable that was green. Carrots are not green, so I can sort of stand to eat them sometimes. However, they do tend to have a distinctly greenish taste that prevents me from enjoying them. And the carrot monstrosities from my garden added up to way more carrot than I could ever possibly have persuaded myself to eat. Thus, creativity was called for. It was a perfect opportunity to attempt to fill one of the many holes Susan left in my life by learning to make food.
(Technically, I suppose, I had already made the carrot. Susan never made food
in that sense of the phrase, so on some level, I actually have a whole lot more experience than Susan does at making food. Still, I can't grow many complete meals in my garden, so I'm going to have to learn new skills.)
Anyway, my first idea was carrot juice. I looked up some recipes online. The recipes all said to blend the carrot in a blender, possibly combining it with various other ingredients. I doubted that my blender was up to the task. I chopped my carrot monstrosities into little bits and boiled them on the stovetop for a while to soften them up enough that I thought my blender might be able to handle them. I filled the blender to the brim with chopped carrot bits and then filled the gaps between the carrot bits with apple juice, also all the way to the brim. The blender struggled a whole lot. I've actually never seen to blender struggle as much with anything as it struggled with this (and the blender is one of the few kitchen appliances that I do actually have considerable experience using). Eventually, though, it shredded most of the carrot.
I used a strainer to remove the carrot shreds from the carrot juice. The carrot juice is really probably more apple juice than carrot, but I've had carrot juice from the grocery store before, and my homemade carrot juice tastes pretty much identical.
However, I only obtained one glass of carrot juice. The remainder of the blender's contents consisted of carrot shreds. I searched the Internet for possible uses for carrot shreds. Thus, the carrot cake was born.
Technically, I didn't finish the recipe. I was supposed to make frosting for it as well, but I don't think I'm up to that tonight. Also, I made the carrot cake in lieu of making any dinner, which detracts somewhat from my sense of accomplishment. Unless the carrot juice can count as dinner? I'll just say I had a liquid dinner tonight.
Anyway, the carrot cake tastes good! It really, really does. Unfortunately it's so filling and so huge that I estimate it will take me at least a month to finish eating it all on my own, and I'm sure it won't last that long. Well, former neighbor Jessica will probably visit soon, and maybe she'll bring her kids, and I can feed a good portion of the cake to them. Or I can go visit my friends Alyson and Jackie and their kids and bring them some cake. So I'll find ways to get rid of it.
The photograph itself is a study in pretending that everything is okay. The little table and two chairs in the background, giving the impression of happy couplehood even though that's all over. The table and chairs themselves will be gone soon; they're Susan's, and she's taking them with her. If you look very closely, you can kind of see, in the shadows of the doorway at the upper right, the stacks of cardboard boxes that I've been frantically packing Susan's stuff into. Yes, I'm packing most of her stuff for her - the alternatives would be to have her spend a whole lot of time here packing it herself or have it linger for a long time, taking up space and bringing back painful memories, so packing it for her seems to me like the best of the options.
But the baskets of fruit and nuts are the main things adding a sense of abundance to the background of the photograph. And those things aren't going to leave when Susan does. The nuts are from our, excuse me, my
pecan tree, in our, excuse me, my
back yard (well, not really all mine yet, in the monetary sense, but hopefully it will all be legally in my name only by the end of this month). The tree is at the peak of its harvest season right now, and I've been harvesting daily. I harvested all the pecans myself. Even last year, I harvested all the pecans myself; pecan harvesting was my job alone all along. So it's fair for me to claim full credit for the abundance of pecans.
The fruit in the baskets isn't homegrown. It includes some of the same kinds of fruit that will be homegrown soon; the orange tree has ten oranges on it that should all start ripening very soon (okay, in the photograph you can't even see any oranges in the baskets, but they're there), and I've planted two apple trees, although they're too small to produce fruit yet. But the actual fruit in the photograph is just fruit from our, excuse me, my
box of fruit delivered to the doorstep once a month. Still, I paid for this month's delivery all by myself, so I suppose I can claim credit for that also.
So: abundance! Food! Harvest! Successful acquisition of new skills! I can do this! I can keep the whole household running all by myself, even though I still have three mammalian pets to take care of (I got Susan to agree to take Ganymede with her) and all the fish and, well, Jessica's entire family, kind of. And even though I have yet to actually operate the lawnmower successfully (though I did get Susan to show me how). Okay, so I'm not really quite entirely confident about any of this yet, but there's hope. At least today's cooking experiment was a success. Mood: accomplished
|Sunday, 15 September 2013|
||Sunday, 15 September 2013 12:35pm
September Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day
6 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
It's time for September Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day
! The best thing about trying to prepare a garden for a wedding is the opportunity to mentally excuse myself for spending tons of money on plants since, after all, the amount of extra money I'll spend on gardening this year compared to most years is still far less than most people spend money on flowers and decor for their weddings. Gardening is the only form of wedding decor we're buying, and I get to keep all the plants for as long as they live.
This is a coyote mint (Monardella villosa
) in the garden bed under our front window. The flower is at the end of a two-foot-long stem, so I pulled it onto my lap yesterday to photograph it with my purple corduroy skirt as a background. (Yes, I know the background looks blue rather than purple. No, I don't know why my camera decided to make my purple skirt look blue. The other colors seem true to life, though.) Coyote mint doesn't normally develop two-foot-long stems, but I think this plant is getting more shade than it's comfortable with, so it's reaching out to try to find some sun. ( More pictures!Collapse )
||Friday, 16 August 2013 5:20pm
August Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day
2 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
I missed the last two Garden Bloggers' Bloom Days
, and I'm already running a bit late for this one, and I'm likely to miss more in the near future, because, well . . . wedding-planning is time-consuming! At least if you're also doing other things with your life that keep you busy as well. But for now, I'm going to try to catch up by posting all my garden pictures from the last three months. We'll start with June. One of the most exciting garden events in June was the continued blooming of my leopard lily (Lilium pardalinum
), which began blooming in May. It's native to California and Oregon. I saw this plant in the wild on our Snake Lake camping trip
in 2009.( June to AugustCollapse ) Mood: busy
||Wednesday, 26 June 2013 7:51am
We're Getting Married!!!!!
20 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Only five years later than we wanted to. Still feeling bitter about having to ask four different courts for permission first (one state court and three federal courts), but . . . we're getting married! We're getting married! We're getting married! Mood: FINALLY.