Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Letter To The Senators (American Clean Energy and Security Act)

[Note: This is a letter I sent to the senators of Alabama (as well as Iowa Senator Harkin) in opposition to the American Clean Energy and Security Act...]

Senator Shelby/Sessions,

I am an environmentalist who stands in opposition to the American Clean Energy and Security Act, and I am writing you today to urge you to do the same.

I am not in opposition to this bill because I don't believe in climate change - I think the destruction of our environment has been very heavily documented. I stand against it because this bill will cause trillions of dollars in new American debt while reaping minimum benefits climatically for the environmental movement.

It will also be used as a bureaucratic tool for the further overextension of federal authority. The bill is plainly a choice between federal tyranny and liberty, and the circumstances of its legislation are suspicious at best. This law will institute some kind of governmental control over literally every aspect of the lives of the American people; it is overreaching at best and subversively authoritarian at worst.

Instead, I would urge you to stand with Representative Forbes of Virginia and support the New Manhattan Project, which instead of setting up an environmental police/inspection force, would fund a rewards system for innovating new advances in green technology. This will benefit both the industrial innovators of our great nation as well as the American populace as a whole.

Please take my words into consideration when placing your vote. We need a green future, but eco-police are not the way to do it.

The future of American liberty depends on you.

Kellye Parish

Friday, June 26, 2009

TGIF baby! (Update)

Big plans this weekend, and I am so excited it's Friday, it's a little ridiculous...

Tomorrow me and R. are going to set up our compost bin, set up a recycling center, hit up another local nursery to try and find some edible flowers/vegetables-we-don't-have, and we're also driving up Monte Sano to go do some serious Thoreau-type camping with nothing but some munchies, notebooks, and possibly a sketchbook or two. At some point we also have to make a guest appearance at my company picnic tomorrow evening, but given the breadth of things we plan to do, we probably won't be staying for long.

We got a bunch of transplants last weekend - the lettuce and spinach and onions are officially gone, replaced by peppers of all stripes (jalapenos, chilies, cayenne, cowhorns), tomatoes (cherry, regular), and cucumber. The latter we planted around the stub of what used to be Monster Rose Bush(tm), heroically cut down (AGAIN) last weekend by R. Our little plantlings were shocky and wilted the first couple of days (didn't help that we had a heat wave) but a dose of sugar water and some TLC brought them around just fine.

We now have no TV, no cable, no video games, no media center to speak of. All of our media comes from the Internet, and most of it at this point is news and current events. Our living room has been taken over by art supplies and its walls are covered with quotes which inspire us (ex. "My country is the world and my religion is to do good" ~ Thomas Paine). A large part of our vegetables now come from either the garden or the farmer's market - we are almost quasi-locavores. We have cut our electricity consumption back to a minimum, using an electric light ONLY in the room we currently occupy (if that).

I personally am learning to enjoy the tranquility of silence again; I believe the lack of television has been one of my favorite transitions so far - I definitely have missed it a LOT less than I anticipated. Instead of listening to the boob tube quacking away from the moment we get up, we sit in the quiet and drink black coffee, smoke cigarettes, make small talk about politics/whatever, or play with the dog. We do dishes by hand (even though we technically have a dishwasher) and listen to Alicia Keyes - not on the honking huge three-CD changing stereo we had in the living room before, but instead on a radio/CD the size of a small melon. Despite cranking up our thermostat to 80, the apartment is dark, cool, and spacious.

I'm lovin' it.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Monster rose bush.

So there is a lot of new stuff going on in the garden. R. went out and pulled up all the bolted lettuce which wasn't edible anymore and had definitely seed-podded out. I also harvested the entire crop of onions, and we've been cooking with those for several days. We've also pulled up the spinach. The kale, cabbage, and leeks are still going strong and making numerous guest appearances in our cuisine, particularly the kale and cabbage which are great for sauteing and stir fries with a little bit of chili sesame oil. Yum yum.

This Saturday is definitely going to be plant-oriented. We plan to go to the farmer's market first thing to find some local heirloom transplants to replace the ones we're pulling up - I'm thinking cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, squash, and a variety of other similarly overambitious projects. We definitely want to go organic and heirloom, since almost all seeds and transplants found in commercial plant farms/nurseries are ultimately supplied by Monsanto Agriculture, a company which has monopolized the agricultural field and is a major perpetrator of corporate terrorism on a global scale. Not only that, they are genetically manipulating plants to NOT yield seeds after producing. That means when the plant dies, instead of being able to save your seed and restart your garden again that way, you have no choice but to go out and by more genetically manipulated Monsanto seeds. So we say boo to that.

Not only does Monsanto genetically manipulate your fruits and vegetables, it is also responsible for the unnatural (and potentially dangerous) hormones that are being introduced to your dairy and meat products.

If you want to learn more about why Monsanto is an ethically bust, moneygrubbing corporation of politically-corrupt scumbags, go here: http://www.organicconsumers.org/monlink.cfm

We will also be tackling the giant rose bush in the center of our vegetable garden. I hate this frickin' thing. I've already cut it down to the ground twice and each time it just comes back bigger and meaner. But no more. No longer will I have a 4'x4' plot of ground in our garden taken up by a black spot ridden eyesore like this rose bush. So this weekend it's definitely got to go.

I'm giving it away.

So last night R. and I made an executive decision to cancel cable for our apartment, put the television into storage (temporarily, until we can bear to part with it on a permanent basis), and give away hundreds of dollars worth of video game consoles, games, and accessories. I ultimately decided to give all these games away to the children of my coworkers (including a $500 Playstation 3 that was definitely used a total of four times and dozens of new/vintage video games worth anywhere from $15 to $300 apiece).

Note: Yes, this includes Guitar Hero. *sob* < (j/k)

The reaction of my friends and colleagues this morning, when I told them about our plan, was unanimous dismay. How can I just give all this stuff away? Don't I want to sell it and make some of my money back? Won't I miss having it available to use? Why don't I donate it to charity so I can at least put it down on my tax return?

Luckily, being Buddhist gets me a lot of rationality points as far as the throwing off material possessions kick goes. While people might be mildly curious when a Buddhist does a material purge, one of the most well-known facts about the religion is its emphasis on non-attachment. Which is interesting, given the sheer amount of useless crap I have on hand at any given moment.

Hence the decision to give it all away.

www.trashyourtv.com has some really good reasons for why having a TV is a terrible idea. It rots your brain. It makes you fat. It makes your kids violent and stupid and obsessed with new expensive things. It keeps you inside on beautiful days when your butt should definitely be outside. And most of all, it keeps you from having the time to achieve your dreams or spend meaningful time with the people in your life that you care about.

Not to mention the fact that if you are a writer (as I am) then TV takes WAY too much time. Stephen King put it best when he said one of the most productive things you can do when you're trying to become a writer is to chuck your television out the nearest window.

Me and R. have several good ideas for how to spend the time we are going to be saving by getting rid of the TV. We'll relearn the virtues of silence and how to entertain ourselves instead of relying on "screen people" to do it for us. We're going to paint and draw and write and hike. We'll work on the garden, get more politically active, and travel. We'll study and do research, volunteer in the community, and play games. Contrary to popular belief, there are a LOT better things you can be doing than watching Grey's Anatomy.

This material purge is not just going to be limited to media either. Today on my lunch break we cleared the kitchen of all non-perishables except our canned goods, which are temporarily staying while we transition into a method of cooking which only involves fresh, locally produced foods. We are going to bake our own bread and can our own vegetables/fruits/etc. Hopefully a lot of these vegetables will be coming from our own organic garden, but anything we can't get there we plan to get through the farmer's markets and pick-your-own places. (Google Monsanto or genetically manipulated produce if you want to know why we are focusing so heavily on heirloom organic products. Agriculture is a scary place these days.)

If you think the world is heading in the wrong direction, one of the strongest things you can do as a consumer is take control of the things you are willing to make for yourself versus the things you are willing to buy. Pay attention. Turn off your television.

Wake up.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The bohemian life.

So I finally got my roomie R. moved into the apartment this past Saturday, where we have hung out in easy Guitar Hero-jammin', acrylics-slingin' tranquility until he promptly turned around to fly back to Texas for family business. So the last few days I've been flying solo.

I just got paid today, so I am already deep into plans for environmentally friendly upgrades on the apartment. I really want a few flowers for the porch, new vegetable transplants for the garden, new aquarium plants, some organic pest control, recycling bins, a vermicompost, and maybe some hemp and beads for jewelry-making. I need to buy a desk so I can officially move my desktop into my bedroom, but I think I am going to hit up the Goodwill store and Freecycle.org first before throwing my money at a corporation like Target or whatnot...


- We totally made a soup out of several ingredients in the garden (leeks, onions, cabbage, kale, and French tarragon with some egg, turkey burger, udon noodles, ramen noodles, and various Asian spices - I called it Kitchen Sink Chinese Soup) and it turned out absolutely great, with the exception that the udon noodles cooked a bit long and turned gummy. I was so proud to be able to eat something I'd grown myself!!!

- Working on a new painting for my goddaughter (finally). It should be done within the next couple of days. R. and I have been painting a lot, and it makes me SO happy to be creative on the regular again! It relieves sooooo much stress.

- Trying to get back on a writing (and gym!) schedule for next week.

Friday, May 22, 2009


It's been almost a month since I've blogged anything? That's redonkulous.

Well here's a quick garden update:
- 4 days of torrential rain killed almost all of my spinach. Boo.
- My lettuce bolted from a heat wave and is now inedible (but very cool looking); this was partially due to the fact that I didn't harvest early enough, but it happened while I was on vacation, so...ce la vie.
- The onions and leeks are officially ready for harvest. Must find onion recipes!!!
- I have been to New Orleans and Ft. Walton, Florida in the last few weeks.
- The broccoli bloomed. I didn't even know broccoli florets DID bloom, but I guess it's implicit in the name "floret"...learn something every day.
- Strawberries rotted from the rain.
- I don't know what the hell the brussels sprouts are doing, other than that they look absolutely nothing like brussels sprouts...

Also one major piece of news - instead of moving in with my folks when my apartment lease is up in June, I am taking in a roommate who is none other than the infamous java-slinging cynic pissipissi baobao, aka The Alabaman Barista. A kindred spirit and fellow artist-bohemian-warrior for humanity, he is pretty much the perfect fellow to kick my rear into gear on a LOT of my personal goals with regards to activism, autodidactism, etc...

To say I am excited that my delightfully strange best friend is coming to live with me would be a major understatement. We are both eccentric people, and our eccentricities are definitely amplified in each others' company because we are completely nonjudgmental of each other and have no problem being our random selves. It will be interesting to see exactly how weird we get in confinement (lol)...

Therefore, there will probably be a lot of odd social experimentation going on at the apartment in the coming months, herbalism and vermicomposting not the least of them (hopefully). I will try to keep a log of our bizarre adventures here particularly when they relate to permaculture, gardening, or any of that sort of thing.


Friday, April 24, 2009

The Name Of The Wind (book review)

(shamelessly stolen from my Amazon.com review...)

While I do not consider myself a well-read fan of the fantasy genre (I'm more of a literary/horror follower), I picked a fantasy book up at random in a grocery store because I'm an English major with over a thousand books I've ALREADY read, and I needed a new one. So it was a complete gamble. Who is this Patrick Rothfuss fellow? I had no clue.

After reading The Name of the Wind, I can say without a doubt that this is one of the best books I've ever read. Each of the characters ends up feeling like a well-loved friend by the time you're finished, and when it does end, you wish you could stay in the Four Corners of Civilization longer. You'll probably reread the book to do just that.

And the emotional connections in the book are amazing - everyone from professional musicians to broke college students will find something to relate to. The writing style is lyrical and the relationships are moving. Descriptions of grief, desperation, and curiosity are set forth in loving detail and authenticity. Kvothe's journey from child prodigy among the gypsy-like Edema Ruh to his stormy adolescence among the alchemists and warlocks of the University is enthralling all the way through. Don't be surprised if you devour this tome in one sitting. I did.

Better than The Lord of the Rings for the poetic brevity of its prose, and miles above Harry Potter with its much more skilled rendition of the "young magician goes to school" theme. Kvothe is, literally, too cool for school, destined to be one of the great literary heroes of our time.

To sum it up: This book is the real deal, whether you're a fan of fantasy or not. Go buy it. Now. What are you waiting for?! I said now!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I have a confession to make...

I am proud of myself for growing about six full-sized heads of lettuce in an apartment garden lot, as well as an assortment of other vegetables...but I am reluctant to harvest.

Not because I don't want to try my scrumptious homegrown vegetables (I do!) but because they're actually pretty beautiful and I would miss going out there every morning at dawn before my neighbors get up to check on them. I will miss watching the dew gather on the edges of the leaves, making them look like they've been accessorized with diamonds. I will miss "petting" my broccoli (I like to rub my finger on the little fuzzy tree part because the texture is so funky.)

I have alternating rows of green and purple cabbage (which is a lot more ornamental than I thought it would be) and the onions are about three and a half feet high now. The leeks...I don't know what the heck they're doing. They still look like little sprigs of wild onion, and not like anything remotely edible. The spinach looks like something out of Jurassic Park. And the Saladzillas are amazing, like big fluorescent green roses. So shoot me if I don't want to pull them up and demolish them for actual salad.

But the broccoli have broccoli heads! I am pretty sure the brussels sprouts are pretty close to budding out. And my strawberry plant has five (count 'em!) white blossoms, which means I will probably get five strawberries for the entire summer harvest.

It will make me sad when I have to pull it up and make a big farewell salad though. Sad but delicious.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Storms and stories...

It rained buckets this weekend. Two kids from my old high-school were burned alive in their car when a drunk driver evading the police rammed them from behind and their car caught fire. It looks like something stomped one of my lettuces too...luckily, it was one of the little ones, not one of the big honking ones that are almost a foot and a half across.

I also finished a short story this weekend called "Animal Person", which is about a girl who is driving home from a house party when she runs over a werewolf that dashes out into the road in front of her. She gets out to see what it is that she hit, and what follows is a battle of Cujo proportions. The title is sort of a pun, since the drunk girl in question is not fond of animals. And while the girl is not an animal person, the werewolf is. Get it? Get it? Ah, y'all are no fun.

I am pretty happy with it, actually, and extremely pleased with myself in a general way for actually finishing something. It's been so long I'd actually forgotten how satisfying it is to lose yourself in a story that you're making up as you go. And short stories are inherently more satisfying than novels on a short-term basis - you get in, get your feet wet, and get out. 5,000 words or less is not a lot of room for elaboration, so if anything, short stories at least teach me how to trim the fat.

I also started a second short story called "Chasing the Guardian", which is about a group of Scottish fishermen who go on a hunt for the Loch Ness monster to avenge a drowned friend (the cousin of the narrator). It's sort of a Moby Dick type story with a little Romeo and Juliet thrown in, since the narrator is engaged to the daughter of the cryptozoologist who is trying to stop them.

I worked a bit with The Book this weekend too, just a few notes on the chapters I'm in progress on, but mostly I was engrossed in this bloody little five-page diversion.

It was fun, too. I forgot it could be fun. :)

Friday, April 10, 2009

I believe the world is burning to the ground.

I'm waking up at the start of the end of the world,
But its feeling just like every other morning before,
Now I wonder what my life is going to mean if it's gone.
The cars are moving like a half a mile an hour and I,
Started staring at the passengers waving goodbye,
Can you tell me what was ever really special about me all this time?

But I believe the world is burning to the ground,
Oh well I guess we're gonna find out,
Let's see how far we've come
Let's see how far we've come
Well I, believe, it all, is coming to an end
Oh well, I guess, we're gonna pretend,
Let's see how far we've come
Let's see how far we've come

I think it turned ten o'clock but I don't really know
Then I can't remember caring for an hour or so
Started crying and I couldn't stop myself
I started running but there's nowhere to run to
I sat down on the street, took a look at myself
Said where you going man you know the world is headed for hell
Say your goodbyes if you've got someone you can say goodbye to

I believe the world is burning to the ground
Oh well I guess we're gonna find out
Let's see how far we've come (right now)
Let's see how far we've come
Well I, believe, it all, is coming to an end
Oh well, I guess, we're gonna pretend,
Let's see how far we've come (oh yeah)
Let's see how far we've come

It's gone gone baby it's all gone
There's no one on the corner and there's no one at home
Well, it was cool cool, it was just all cool
Now it's over for me and it's over for you
Well it's gone gone baby it's all gone
There's no one on the corner and there's no one at home
Well, it was cool cool, it was just all cool
Now it's over for me and it's over for you

I believe the world is burning to the ground
Oh well, I guess, we're gonna find out
Let's see how far we've come (oh yeah)
Let's see how far we've come
Now well I, believe, it all, is coming to an end
Oh well, I guess, we're gonna pretend,
Let's see how far we've come (oh yeah)
Let's see how far we've come
Let's see how far we've come
Let's see how far we've come

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Book(tm).

Probably every English major in the world has a book in them I think.

I have been working on slaying my first novel since about my freshman year of high school. I've been with it through 75,000 words and a title change. That doesn't necessarily mean I've been working on the novel for the last decade; like many other writers, I have a life outside of the world and the people I've created - I have a full-time job, a garden, pets to tend, dishes to wash, visiting to do. All this leaves me with precious little time to do what I really love, which is write. And that precious little time I have to write is often wasted on doing other things which have nothing to do with writing.

Which is why I sometimes get irritated when people ask, "When are you going to finish your book?" at times when I am lucky to be keeping my OWN life on an even keel, much less juggling the dozen or so lives of people I have invented. Luckily, the people who push me hardest are the ones who are rooting the hardest for me as well, so their enthusiasm is sustaining.

The funny thing about being a writer is that it is the ultimate love/hate relationship. As much as I love to write and as boppy, in-the-groove good I feel when I have cranked out a chapter, I will do anything and everything to avoid working on said novel. This leads to my favorite pastime, which is AVOIDING writing. Sometimes this is constructive, leading to a cleaning of the house (which is usually long-overdue) and sometimes, not so much (because sitting down with a video game and a six-pack is not nearily as fulfilling [or potentially lucrative] as writing). That doesn't stop me from doing those things though.

I have had some crappy jobs. I've loaded frozen dead dogs and cats into a flatbed truck for disposal at a kill shelter. I've coerced drunken arborists over the CB radio into PLEASE going to their assignments. I've cleaned up people's puke and shit and popcorn and spilled soda as a movie theater usher. So you would think writing and editing would be a breeze from the bee's knees in comparison, right?

I like how Orwell said it best: "All writers are vain, selfish and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives lies a mystery. Writing a book is a long, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand."

In other words, no job is harder than being a fiction writer. I won't be persuaded otherwise.

I have been working on my first novel, We Are The Weapon, since a few months after two planes destroyed the World Trade Center. I was not old enough to drive a car yet (or legally drink, or vote) when I started. As a result, a lot of this early writing has had to be meticulously revised, because the person I was at 15 is not who I am at 23.

I have been writing through two dirty, complicated wars and a rollercoaster ride of American international conflict that has left me jaded and rebellious. My politically-driven college years obviously had a profound effect on where I thought the novel should go, as has the growing sense of apocalyptic foreboding our society has taken on in the last year or so with the recession and predictions of the world's end in 2012.

Which is all well and good, since Weapon is all about war, apocalyptic destruction, subversion, and the things which come after humanity tries its hardest to destroy itself (and almost succeeds). It is, in effect, my American answer to Orwell's 1984, set twenty years after the beginning of World War III. The characters I have worked with in this novel I have known for almost a decade now (yeah, that's hard for me to believe) and I have come to love them like members of my own family. The reason I stay with them is because even though their world is so hard, their hopes and dreams and petty struggles keep me pulling for them (and occasionally, when the mood strikes me, getting them out of some pretty spectacular trouble)...

During said decade, I went through several periods of creative hiatus where I dabbled in other things I am interested in - painting, gardening, screenplays, editing, short stories, freelance magazine articles, all in an effort to circumnavigate this huge honking novel, which is dark and gritty and weighs heavily on my mind at all times. My day to day life is dreadfully mundane, but at night, I am all trip-wires and nuclear holocaust and smugglers and totalitarian governments and death.

So, needless to say, being a writer is exhausting, even when I'm not working on The Book(tm). Or a short story collection I've been playing with. Or my second novel, Everybody But Lazarus, which was actually supposed to be my first novel and was set on the backburner for Weapon. So in order to work on that novel, a story about werewolves and zombie hunters and other assorted supernatural phenomenon set against the Deep South, I will have to finish the first one.

Back to the writing board.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Attack of the monster lettuce!!!

Due to an inordinate amount of rain that has fallen on northern Alabama in the last two weeks, my lettuces and cabbages are definitely a foot across now. They went from tiny little sproutlings to Saladzillas in just a few days.

To my overwhelming surprise, everything else in the garden (with the except of the sage, leeks, and oregano) is thriving. Even the French tarragon, which I was sure would die a brown and crunchy death like the other two herbs, has taken over the rest of the planter box where the sage and oregano used to be. And my strawberries have blossoms! The onions are so big their tops have fallen over (will that hurt them? *makes note to research*) and the broccoli/brussels sprouts are HUGE.

I think a lot of this sudden growth spurt is due to the fact that when it heats up here, no amount of bathtub watering-can trudging gets the plants as wet as they'd like. Nothing really does it except for a good deep Southern drenching. And the plants give back what they get.

Luckily for me, late March/early April is officially monsoon season in Alabama, so we have been getting a LOT of rain. Also many tornadoes and lots of thunder.

I am still torn on what I am going to do with my plants when I move here in a month or so. The lettuces will probably be made into a big final goodbye salad; I'll also harvest the onions. The tarragon can come with me, because it's in a planter, as can the strawberries. But the cabbage, the brussels sprouts, the broccoli...none of that stuff is ready for harvest, and probably won't be by the time I leave. So I think what I'm going to do is just leave them in place and see if the next owners take care of them...

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Between now and June. (checklist)

- Box up all belongings to be stored/moved.
- Get rid of as many unnecessary possessions as possible.
- Repaint the walls. (Ugh...I am thinking of paying for this part to be done...)
- Steam-clean the carpet. Again.
- Finish the garden bed on the incomplete end so the apartment doesn't bitch at me for installing it right before I move (despite the fact that the apartment NEVER does any kind of cosmetic outdoor maintenance, but I digress...)

Also need to start thinking broadly about designing my house, since a semester of interior design is my only experience with it. I have studied drafting though, which will be useful in learning basic architecture. I may end up very heavily involved in actual construction and the whole process, depending on what kind of weirdness I want to incorporate (hidden doors say what?) so I'll probably also try to pick up as many basic electrical and plumbing skills as I can.

And just in case you think I'm exaggerating: http://www.hiddendoors.com/

Decisions, decisions...

I’ve been pretty tired lately and stretched thin with professional/social obligations, which has probably contributed a lot to the fact that I haven’t given a garden update in awhile. That and maintaining a blogging habit (or any good habit, really) is difficult for me.

The garden is going okay. I’ve had some damage due to frost, mostly because I am too lazy to a) watch the Weather Channel, and b) drag bedsheets into the yard every night. I’ve also discovered that having no access to a watering hose when you have an entire bed of vegetables is a real pain in the rear end.

I just determined recently that I will be moving back in with my folks when my apartment lease is up, for a couple of reasons. One is that at my current salary and my current living expenses, it would take me years upon years to just come up with a down payment for my own land. Another is that my apartment complex sucks and doesn’t actually maintain anything, which leaves me with electrical outlets that don’t work, an air conditioner that constantly freezes up, and a porch that STILL hasn’t been painted since I put in the work order LAST June.

Also, it was offered to me to move back in so I can live rent-free while I save up some money and pay off my final credit card; turning down an in-ground swimming pool, high def giant televisions, and a big sprawling four bedroom house with WORKING air conditioning and homecooked meals while I save money for a year was too generous of an offer to pass up. Also, my father is having some issues with his back that has made maintaining said gigantic house difficult, so it would be good for me to be around to help with the chores, especially stuff like heavy lifting and mowing the lawn. Also, unlike a lot of people, I have a great relationship with my parents. They are neither too lenient nor too strict, and because I was such a privacy-craving, introverted, antisocial teenager, we’ve basically learned to coexist peacefully and not get into each others’ way. I didn’t have curfews or dress codes.

I know there’s a huge stigma against moving back in with the parental units, and I’ve personally been wrestling with it for awhile because I’m a pretty independent-spirited person. But there are financial advantages of hanging back for a year to build some capital that I simply can’t pass up. I know that this decision will be better for my end goal, which is to own a small farm within the next three years. (Not an agricultural business, but a homestead.)

After all, after I do buy my land, I will probably be living in a rickety used singlewide trailer for a year and a half while I work out the construction loan and build a ecologically-conscious farmhouse, so I may as well enjoy the lap of luxury while I can. And between now and then, I will be doing the architectural design of the house myself.

But all of this begs the question – what will happen to my little apartment garden? The leeks and the onions, the strawberries, cabbages, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and lettuce? What about all the herbs?

Unfortunately, none of this stuff will transplant well again. So any new gardening I do between now and the time I move will be limited to containers (at least my strawberries and herbs can come with me…)

I am debating leaving the baby plants for the new apartment owner to destroy or keep. I do know it would upset me to have to pull all of that stuff up. I guess a mass transplant could at least be attempted.

But on the other hand, most of the stuff I’ve planted is cool weather and will be dead LONG before June, so I don’t think I have much to worry about. In any case, I have full permission to continue with my gardening ventures in my parents' big backyard (provided I can keep their equally huge golden retrievers Bella and Vito from good-naturedly demolishing it...)

So there is still gardening in the near future. Fresh beds, new vegetables, and chickenwire! Stay posted!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Mysterious kale illness.

I am still having issues with my poor kale-lings. Their lower leaves keep turning yellow and falling off. What is up with that? :(

I have read that it is probably a lack of nitrogen in the soil, but I just fertilized...I think tonight I am going to do a water change in the goldfish tank and use the nasty goldfish water to soak the kale and maybe the nitrate waste in the fish water will perk them up.

Barring that, I'm not really sure what to do...

The spinach is kicking butt and taking names, though. And I've about decided that leeks are more trouble than they're worth.

Sets Of Three

Three jobs I have had: Kennel crew member at a municipal kill shelter, grocery store clerk, technical editor.

Three places I have lived: Huntsville, AL; Tuscaloosa, AL; Auburn, AL.

Three shows/channels that I watch: House M.D., Top Chef, Malcolm In The Middle

Three places I have been: Boston, Massachusetts; San Diego, California; New York, New York.

Three people who email me often: Sonya, Leslie, Ilisa

Three of my favorite types of foods: Soups, Asian food, Southern soul food

Three places I would rather be: Tuscaloosa hanging with my best friend, fishing/boating at Lake Guntersville, on another road trip north.

Three friends I think will respond: Who knows...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Letter meme - J

I got the letter J in a meme from two and a half cents (see blogroll) so here it goes...

1. Jaded - I am a very jaded person. Part of it is due to the fact that I have very high ideals, and get disappointed when other people don't live up to them. I am politically cynical and expect politicians to get away with exactly as much as I allow them to. I have been exposed to a wide variety of wild experiences, and this has made it pretty much impossible for anyone to shock or surprise me. Since most surprises are not pleasant, I am not partial to them anyway.

2. Jocund - Despite my cynicism, I am generally an optimistic and cheerful person because there is a good chance that everything will turn out all right, one way or the other. I lead a fairly carefree life and I don't believe in worrying about things you have no control over. I am lighthearted, and a happy drunk.

3. Janus-faced - These two aspects of my personality identify me a dual-natured person. One could say that I am "Janus-faced"...many facets of who I am are contradictory; I am a slob who adores order, I'm an ethical liberal and a fiscal conservative, I am a homebody who loves new experiences and a religious person who does not attend church. (I meditate daily and study religious texts, but it is rare I make it to services, although I'm trying to rectify that.) I can also be a bit of a hypocrite at times. I try to work on that too.

4. Justice - I am obsessed with what is just, and justice is a driving force behind many of my ethical decisions. I try to take into account not just what is fair to me, but what is fair to everyone. Injustice infuriates me, and there is nothing I despise more than the obstruction of individual freedoms.

5. Java - I am a caffeine addict. A cup of coffee is vital to my morning routine, and without it I am a zombie until roughly 10 AM.

6. Jazz - I live by the rules of improvisation, and try to go with the flow as much as possible because I think it decreases the stress associated with change. That isn't always an option, but I'm always happy when I have many directions to choose from when it comes to how I am going to steer my life. I am also a fan of Charlie Parker and Billie Holiday.

7. Jinx - I have abysmal luck sometimes, but it's usually comical and temporary (like locking my keys in the trunk of my car). Sometimes the sheer amount of crazy things that happen to me wears me down though. It may be amusing enough for a sitcom, but it gets old.

8. Junk - I am a pack rat, and tend to accumulate WAY more junk than I need or will ever need at any point in my life. Occasionally I have to declutter my entire home and get rid of dozens of things that I don't want to look at anymore. My worst junk offenders are papers (I have problems throwing even an insignificant note away) and dirty laundry (I can never seem to get a laundry routine down...)

9. Jest - I love a good joke and I'm always up for teasing somebody (or getting teased). I think people take themselves way too seriously at times and I'm one of those people who tend to do that. So I go out of my way to be ridiculous sometimes. Being silly and having fun is good for you.

10. Jnana - Jnana is insight gained through meditation. I think I learn a lot through silent introspection and contemplation, so I make it a process to meditate and think deeply on a regular basis.

If anyone else wants a meme letter, let me know. :)

Garden update

Not much new going on in the garden right this moment. I got a new garden gnome for Valentine's Day that looks sort of like the one from the Roaming Gnome Travelocity commercials (this fact amuses me to no end).

I had to toss a few romaine lettuce plants that had root rot (probably from the transplant shock) and I thinned two of them, taking the tiny secondary plants that were fighting with the buttercrunch for food/water and replanting them on the end of the rows with the other three saved rejects. If they survive, cool. If not, eh, whatever. I am sure the remaining plants will benefit from the lack of competition.

I am having an issue with my kale seedlings where the lower leaves are turning yellow. I think this might be a nitrogen issue, but I'm still doing research. I've also had this issue with my cabbage seedlings. If anyone has a remedy or a solution for that problem, let me know. I did a bunch of snipping to strip the diseased leaves and leave more energy for the healthy ones, but I'd like to rectify the situation so I don't lose more leaves. The seedlings only have so many...

The best performers so far are the onions and the spinach, which are looking fantastic. The spinach lost a few lower leaves to what appears to be frostbite, but otherwise looks spunky and is putting out tons of new leaves. None of the onions had transplant shock like the cabbages/lettuce/brussel sprouts/broccoli did.

So far everything is looking good, if growing a little more slowly than I would have anticipated. But gardening is a patient art.

I want to get a new shoplight for starting the hot weather transplants (it's getting dangerously late in the year to start my heirlooms) but unfortunately I do not have an extra $150 hanging around. 'Tis the state of affairs, I'm afraid. Hopefully I can squeeze the seed startup project into my budget after I get paid this Thursday and get all that stuff rolling this weekend, as well as direct sow the plants I didn't get to last weekend.

What the stars say about me.

I'm interested in astrology, not because I believe it (although I am tempted at times) but because it's a cool concept, and scarily accurate at times. Here's what astrology has to say about me:

1985: Born in the year of the Ox

Ox people are hard-working and persistent, they can stick at a task longer and go at it harder than anybody. They believe in themselves and tend to classify almost everything into two basic categories, bad and good. They hold up their high standards as a model and severely judge those who don't aspire to maintain these same ideals.

Ox people are not social or party animals, they tend to be quiet when in a party. Although they appear to be tranquil, in fact, Oxen are ponderous but impulsive when angry. They are capable of fearsome rages, therefore, it is better not to cross an Ox.

Ox people are observant, they have remarkable memories and are good at reporting on absolutely everything they observe. Go ask an Ox if she remembers who were at the party 8 months ago, most likely, she will name them one by one to you.

In the home, the Ox is a great guy to have around. In business, the OX can succeed in the arts, a contracting business, or an estate., thanks to their creative nature. And since an Ox is intelligent and good with his/her hands, he can be a good surgeon as well.

Ox people are stubborn and dogmatic, they believe in their decisions and will never regret them once they're made. They are also very close to their families. Unfortunately, Oxen often find that those who are close to them fail to understand them. Nevertheless, they are patient and caring; that makes Oxen the best friends you can ever have.

Oxen are very responsible and loyal. Ox people are seldom jealous. but they will be jealous of their rights; and the fidelity of a husband or a wife is one of their rights. They are very family-oriented, conservative and faithful.

The Ox works hard, patiently, and methodically, with original intelligence and reflective thought. These people enjoy helping others. Behind this tenacious, laboring, and self-sacrificing exterior lies an active mind. While their balance and strength inspire confidence, Oxen can seem rigid, obstinate, and slow. They impress others as leaders, fearing neither responsibility nor risk. However, sometimes they must labor long hours to accomplish little.

The Chinese say the time of year and day an Ox is born is important in determining lifestyle. One woman in Hong Kong bragged that she would always be financially provided for with minimal effort on her part because she was born on a winter night. Oxen have little to do during the winter months, she explained, because the sweat of summer and fall harvesting is over and it is up to the farmer to feed and keep the oxen warm so they'll have strength for spring planting. Oxen born during agricultural months, however, are sentenced to a life of hard labor.

People born under the influence of the Ox are kind, caring souls, logical, positive, filled with common sense and with their feet firmly planted on the ground. Security is their main preoccupation in life, and they are prepared to toil long and hard in order to provide a warm, comfortable and stable nest for themselves and their families. Strong-minded, stubborn, individualistic, the majority are highly intelligent individuals who doen't take kindly to being told what to do.

Although Ox people don't ask to be put in the limelight, they do like to be boss, for these quietly dominant types enjoy being in positions of power. Oxen try to instill in those around them the rigor, determination and power of work which they themselves possess. Respecting others, they are always open to a dialogue. Even though they may not broadcast their virtues to the world, nevertheless it is that steady, conscientious attitude that will deservedly see them to the top.

The Ox childhood and youth will generally be without incident. It is in the second part of their lives that they will encounter difficulties to do with their marriage. Their partners may well take offense at their apparent indifference and seek consolation elsewhere in an attempt to find the romance so conspicuously absent at home. If this happens and the Ox cannot put things right by the exercise of intelligence, the ruin of the entire family may be risked as Oxen have no time for a deviation they are unable to understand. During the third part of life, Oxen may suffer enormous difficulties, but if they can manage to smooth them out, their old age will be peaceful.

The Affectionate Ox

Oxen make solid, steady, reliable partners. They can be tender, devoted, sensual even -- but they are never romantic. Very affectionate to those close to their hearts, they are cool and distant to anyone outside their emotional circle. Getting close to an Ox is a very difficult thing to do, for they hold all but their chosen few at arm's length. However, once they have committed themselves, they make loyal, steadfast lovers and are the least likely of all the signs to possess a roving eye. Casual love affairs are definitely not the Ox's style. Although they may not show it, their emotions are deep and passionate. If their love is spurned or if they should suffer a broken heart, they will retreat inside themselves and channel all their emotions into their work. Generally, they make no mistakes in their judgment of others, successfully merging their romantic and family lives. Happily settled in a contented relationship, an Ox will make a supportive and faithful partner, someone whose love grows stronger by the year and whose sterling qualities are worth his or her weight in gold.

The Rooster, Rat and Serpent get on very well with Oxen. There are struggles and problems with the Monkey, and a lack of understanding with the Ram and the Boar.

Popular belief is adamant that the Ox should under no circumstances set up house with the Tiger. Such a partnership would inevitably end in a battle that could terminate only with the departure or disappearance of the Tiger. The Ox, the stronger of the two, would keep on charging until the Tiger was destroyed. An Ox mother could never get on with a Tiger child -- better for the latter to leave home!

February is the month of the Ox. The time of the Ox is from 1:00 a.m. to 2:59 a.m.; their direction of orientation is north-northeast. The Ox's color is violet.

Life Path #: 7


The 7 Life Path is the searcher and seeker of truth. You have a clear and compelling sense of yourself as a spiritual being. As a result, your goal is devoted to investigations into the unknown, and to finding the answers to the mysteries of life.

You possess a fine mind; you are an analytical thinker who is capable of great concentration and theoretical insight. You enjoy research and putting the pieces of an intellectual puzzle together. Once you have enough pieces in place, you are capable of highly creative insight, and of practical solutions to problems.

You enjoy your solitude, preferring to work alone. You need time to contemplate your ideas without the intrusion of other's people's thoughts. You are a lone wolf, a person who lives by your own ideas and methods.

As a result, close associations are difficult for you to form and to keep especially, marriage. You need your space and privacy, which when violated, can cause great frustration and irritation. When your life is balanced, however, you are both charming and attractive. You can be the life of a party and you enjoy performing before an audience. You enjoy displaying your wit and knowledge, which makes you attractive to others, especially the opposite sex. But you have distinct limits. While you are generous in social situations, sharing your attention and energy freely, you are keenly aware of the need to come off stage, and to return to the solitude of your lair. You associate peace with the unobtrusive privacy of your world. Therefore, intimacy is difficult for you, because you guard your inner world like a mother lion does her cubs.

However, all this privacy and solitude can cause isolation and loneliness. You can be aware of an emptiness in your life, a part of you that yearns for company and close companionship that may be unsatisfied.

If isolation is brought to extreme, you can become cynical and suspicious. You can develop hidden, selfish motives, which people may sense and cause them to be uncomfortable around you. You must guard against becoming too withdrawn and too independent, thus shutting out the love for others, and keeping you from experiencing the true joy of friendship and close companionship.

You must especially watch out for selfishness and egocentricity, thinking of yourself as the center of the universe, as the only person who really matters. Social contract gives you perspective on yourself and on life, while too much isolation can make you too narrow, and even shut off from the rest of the world.

Secretly, you may feel jealous of the easy relationships formed by others; you may perceive others as less inhibited than you, or more free to express themselves. You may harshly criticize yourself for not being more gregarious, powerful or capable of greater leadership.

Your challenge in life is to maintain your independence without feeling isolated or ineffectual. You must hold fast to your unique view of the world while at the same time being open to others and to the knowledge they have to offer.

With your abilities to learn, analyze and seek out answers to life's important questions, you have the potential for enormous growth and success in life. By the time you reach middle age you will radiate refinement and wisdom. Phytaguours, who lived 2500 years ago and is often called the father of numerology, loved the 7 for its great spiritual potential.

The person with a 7 Path Life often finds success and satisfaction with business, science, religion, insurance, invention, the occult and anything relate to research.

Destiny #: 2

The 2 destiny suggests that the direction of growth in your lifetime will be toward gaining an understanding of people and a greater spiritual sense of the world around you. A name producing a 2 Destiny gives you the tools to work very well with other people. Your destiny will be, in part, in the role of the mediator and the peacemaker. As you grow in this direction, you become sensitive to the feelings of others, you become diplomatic in handling complicated situations.

The spiritual potential for the 2 destiny, and perhaps particularly so for the master number 11/2, is very high. You have the capacity to be inspirational, and the ability to lead merely by your own example. An inborn inner strength and awareness can make you an excellent teacher, social worker, philosopher, or advisor. No matter what area of work you pursue, you are very aware and sensitive to the highest sense of your environment. Your intuition is very strong; in fact, many psychic people and those involved in occult studies have the number 11/2 Destiny. Indeed, the 2 has a spiritual connection not found in other numbers.

In many ways you are dependent on others and seem to function best in a partnership or in some form of group activity. As you mature, modesty will run deeper in your nature, and you must work comfortably without recognition of your accomplishments.
Often, others will get credit for your ideas, and this must be of little real concern to you as you skill as a team play progresses. Cooperative, courteous, and considerate, you have the capacity to become an outstanding facilitator. You will have the capacity to organize and handle people, just as you will handle detail, rarely overlook anything.

As you fulfill your destiny, tactful and friendly behavior will increase your popularity, and nearly everyone will like you. Perhaps this is also because you are more content working with your ideals, rather than dollars and cents. The positive aspect of the number 2 Destiny is an always idealistic attitude. This is even more accentuated in the master number 11/2.

The negative 2 personality can be oversensitive and easily hurt. Too much of this number in your makeup can make you very shy and uncertain. Sometimes the excessive 2 energies makes one apathetic and somewhat indifferent to the job at hand; the ability to handle details is hampered in these cases.

Some 2s, and especially the 11/2s, struggle with a continuous sense of nervous tension; you may be too sensitive and temperamental. You tend to dream a lot and may be more of a dreamer than a doer. Fantasy and reality sometimes become intermingled and you are sometimes very impractical. You tend to want to spread the illumination of your knowledge to others irrespective of their desire or need.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

This about sums up my feelings on the situation.

Shuttin' Detroit Down

My daddy taught me that in this country everyone’s the same
You work hard for your dollar and you never pass the blame
When it don’t go your way...

Now I see all these big shots whinin’ on my evening news
About how they’re losin’ billions and how it’s up to me and you
To come running to the rescue -

Well pardon me if I don’t shed a tear
‘cause they’re selling make-believe,and we don’t buy that here.

'Cause in the real world they're shutting Detroit down
While the boss man takes his bonus pay and jets on out of town
And D.C.’s bailing out the bankers as the farmers auction ground...
Yeah, while they’re living it up on Wall Street in that New York City town,
Here in the real world there shuttin’ Detroit down
They’re shuttin’ Detroit down.

Well that old man’s been workin’ in that plant most all his life
Now his pension plan’s been cut in half and he can’t afford to die
And it’s a crying shame, ‘cause he ain’t the one to blame -
When I look down and see his callused hands,
Let me tell you friend, it gets me fightin’ mad.

'Cause in the real world they're shutting Detroit down
While the boss man takes his bonus pay and jets on out of town
And D.C.’s bailing out the bankers as the farmers auction ground...
Yeah while they’re living it up on Wall Street in that New York City town,
Here in the real world there shuttin’ Detroit down.
They’re shuttin’ Detroit down.

Yeah while there’ living it up on Wall Street in that New York City town
Here in the real world there shuttin’ Detroit down
Here in the real world there shuttin’ Detroit down

In the real world they’re shuttin' Detroit down, they’re shuttin’ Detroit down.


It's a VERY blustery day today. On my lunch break I had to go and prop some cardboard boxes up in the garden to act as wind breaks for my transplanted seedlings, which were being battered to heck and back by the weather. There are three romaine lettuce seedlings in particular that don't look like they're doing too well. They are limp and peakish-looking. I doubt they will survive. But as long as they are not rotting in the ground, I won't pull them up. It's only fair to give them a decent shot to recover. I put down some plant food this morning and we've gotten a steady sprinkle of rain today, so hopefully it will get my plot nice and moist to help out.

On the other hand, I found two kale plants and one white cabbage plant in the compost bin that looked remarkably healthy for having been thrown in the rubbish heap, so I pulled them out, dusted them off, and popped them in the ground at the end of the rows. No use in wasting good vegetable plants, especially if they look as good (if not better) than the ones you've already planted. It does screw up my neat little rows though, which bothers my OCD. But I'll live.

I did learn a valuable lesson to avoid transplant shock though - don't break up the root ball on any new young plants that you might have when you're planting. It hurts them. Especially, apparently, delicate seedlings like romaine.

To me, putting up the wind breaks seems like a pretty apt metaphor for what a lot of Americans are having to do right now. If they have wind breaks, they are putting them up in preparation for the storm. Things are hard all over, and I'll admit, it's made me a bit depressed at times. But I have faith that with dogged perseverance, charity, and a certain amount of practical preparation, most Americans will be able to weather the storm all right.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Kale & Kensho - or, How I Became An Agrarian Zen Buddhist (with a story!)

I got a majority of my cool weather crops planted yesterday, because it was absolutely beautiful this weekend. (Eventually there will be photos on this blog, I swear.) Only time will tell if they will produce. I planted everything from strawberries to broccoli, so we’ll see.

Anyone who knows me personally will tell you that my luck is inconsistent at best. As a result of this, I have had to develop a “roll with the punches” attitude over the years – not necessarily without a fair amount of griping, but I do pride myself on being fairly flexible for somebody who adores routine and order. This is probably because I am innately chaotic, my life is full of bizarre trials, and my love of order goes against everything that I am. I am disorder walking, in a nutshell. Soto Zen Buddhism was one of the things I turned to as a teenager in order to bring some semblance of peace to my life. And for the most part, it has succeeded. I lead a pretty sedate and contented life, and my goals are simple ones – owe no one, own land, be free.

This isn’t a religious blog, but since my religion factors in pretty strongly with my interest in horticulture and sustainable living, I will explain why gardens and Zen go together like peas and carrots.

Gardens are symbolic of everything holy in Buddhism – transient life, simple aesthetic natural beauty, kindness, compassion, and the nurturing of other living things. This all sounds very free-spirited, hippy-oriented, and nice in general, but gardens also represent some of the more difficult tenets of Buddhism – that suffering is inevitable, that death is unavoidable, that sometimes no matter how hard you try, things don’t work out for you. No matter how hard you work to keep your plants from dying, when winter comes, that is what will happen to them. It is a solemn reminder that no matter how much you love the people and things around you, they will all, without exception, be destroyed and gone in time. This is why living in the moment is so important, because the moment is all you have. To paraphrase Kung Fu Panda, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow’s a mystery, today is a gift. That’s why they call it the present.” (One of the most profound statements I’ve ever heard in a cartoon, I will tell you that much.)

Gardening slows you down, makes you pay attention and appreciate things. When you are digging a hole, it is very difficult to think of anything else besides digging that hole. You get in the zone. Being “in the zone” is Zen.
One way that Buddhism deviates from other major religions is that there is a major emphasis on putting thought into action. There is no messiah in Buddhism – the salvation of your soul is your own burden. Others can help you, but ultimately the realization which leads to enlightenment is your own. Things would be so much easier if a person could just say, “Here I am, please save me.” But in my experience, things are not so simple. Huddling in to wait for a miracle is not an option. Miracles, as far as I’m concerned, only come from the application of dedicated hearts and minds. God helps those who help themselves. Or, as Roland Deschain would say, “Water where God wills it.”

So here we are. Our country is teetering on the edge of a major economic meltdown which may last a decade and drive us deep into a depression. Global climate change is destroying our environment. We (Americans) have been at war for eight years. (Yeah, that long.) The world is in crisis.

But there is also a movement afoot to not only save the country, but the entire world. Yes, it’s headed up by flighty, disorganized, and sometimes impractical people.

So what is any self-respecting Buddhist to do?


Samu is a Zen concept which basically means “work practice.” Growing your own produce is a perfect example of this, and is actually done in many zendos and temples. It cultivates awareness of other living beings, brings humanity in tune with the seasons, and generally provides time for mindful meditation. I am certain that the first parent who told a kid to go out and shovel snow off the sidewalk because it “builds character” was secretly a Zen master. Because you know what? Hard work actually does build character. Buddhist monks have known this for centuries. And productive, meticulous work which provides sustenance to yourself and your sangha (community) is priceless in Zen. Because showing compassion to someone encourages them to pay it forward.

I am trying to move towards an ecologically sustainable lifestyle of voluntary simplicity not only because it’s trendy right now or because I don’t want to pay exorbitantly high prices for veggies or because composting is fun, but because I genuinely believe it’s the “right” thing to do.

Time will only tell if this crisis will cause us to take a step back, reevaluate our technologies, and simplify our hectic lives, or whether it will break us.
In the meantime, I have a lot of digging to do. And here’s a suitable koan, or Buddhist parable, which pretty much sums up my feelings on the subject:

There was an old Zen farmer who had worked his allotment of land for decades. One day, his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to offer their condolences. “What terrible luck,” they said sympathetically. “Maybe,” the Zen farmer replied. The next morning, the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful!” the neighbors exclaimed. “Maybe,” replied the Zen farmer. The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.

“Maybe,” the Zen farmer said.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Today's planting postponed...

On account of the fact that it is still ridiculously cold here right now. As in, it is still winter, and definitively NOT spring.

I realize to those of you in the northern climes that bitching about 40-ish degree weather is wimpy to y'all. After all, you guys are the ones waking up with *frozen walls* (I'm looking at you, Kristin.) But I'm from Alabama. You can go barefoot here all but three months out of the year, most of the time. We're home of the tank top and cut-off shorts.

We are also not a cold tolerant people. It seems like half of the casual conversations in early spring in Alabama involve the temperature and how abysmally cold it is outside...even if abysmally cold is only 45 degrees:

"Oh my gosh, I wish I had brought my real coat!" Because a) Most Alabamians are intensely hopeful that it will "warm up later in the morning"...and b) A lot of us only own one heavy coat because it's warm here most of the time.

"I thought it was supposed to warm up today!" = "I'm so cold I feel like my feet are going to fall off."

Today was one of those days. I am one of those Southerners that absolutely refuses to give in to the layering of winter - shunning (for the most part) scarves, hats, and even socks. (I wear those slip-on close-toed things.) The barefoot stereotype is there for a reason. We like being slouchy, comfortable and uninhibited. That's a lot of what being from the deep country is about.

But hopefully, it is getting into the seventies this weekend, so I will be able to plant then.

The rundown.

This is the list of vegetables/herbs I bought to plant in my teeny-tiny apartment garden. Feel free to laugh.

- Lettuce: Simpson Elite, Little Gem, Red & Green Romaine, Broadleaf Mix
- Mesclun (not mescaline, Art, which is totally different and entirely illegal): Spicy, Sweet, Regular
- Radishes: Easter Egg mix
- Beets: Golden, Detroit Red, Chicago Red
- Onions: Granex (Yellow Vidalia), scallions
- Potatoes: Catalina
- Carrots: White Satin, Purple Haze, Rainbow Blend
- Swiss chard: Bright Lights
- Squash (x7): Can't even remember the names...but I have zucchini, butternut, balmoral pansquash, spaghetti, crookneck, and several other kinds I can't think of off the top of my head...
- Tomatoes (x?): I have tie-dye colored tomatoes and yellow tomatoes and pink tomatoes and chocolate-colored tomatoes...Many. Let's just put it that way.
- Okra (I personally can't stand okra, but I know lots of people who like to eat it.)
- Peas (Black-eyed peas, English peas)
- Beans (Snap beans, purple running beans, bush beans)
- Eggplant (Lavender, Black Beauty)
- Hot peppers (more varieties and levels of heat than I know what to do with)
- Bell peppers (Green, yellow, orange, red, chocolate brown, purple...)
- Kohlrabi
- Spinach
- Herbs: Cilantro, Basil, Catnip, Chives, Lavender, Thyme, Dill, Tarragon, Oregano, etc...etc...etc...

On top of all this, I'm also trying for some tie-dye colored morning glories, some moon flowers, some zinnias, and other cutting flowers which I picked out of a catalog as being very pretty, but I don't know the names of any of them. But trust me - they're gorgeous.

So yeah. We'll see.

I'm practicing patience and perseverance - at least that's what I keep telling myself.

So, this weekend I went out and turned the cigarette butt-studded, dead-grass patch of clay behind my apartment into a real vegetable bed. I'm sure my neighbors now think I'm crazy, since I was out in the cold pulling up dead sod and putting down hen manure in my bright orange peace-sign pajama pants (I am sorely lacking in appropriate "get dirty" clothes...).

But the end result is a garden that I dug by hand - no rototiller, nothing but a shovel and a spade and a rake. I was sore all over the next day in muscles I didn't know I had or had used (heck, even my HAIR hurt) but the sense of accomplishment I feel every day when I go out to take the dog to the bathroom and look at my handiwork is enormous.

I've also come to realize that I have way, way, way more seeds than I will ever be able to plant in my own garden bed. There is no way I am going to be able to grow 7 kinds of squash, 11 kinds of pepper, and who knows how many kinds of tomatoes in the tiny garden I set up at my apartment.

I am in the process of talking my father around to the idea of helping me till a vegetable garden plot in his backyard (like we used to do every summer when I was a kid), and he's coming around for two reasons - a) He's a foodie who loves fresh vegetables to throw in his extravagant, delicious recipes, and b) I have pretty much sworn myself to landscaping slavery in order for him to give me this land to work.

"Just let me take care of it, and you can have all the free vegetables you want!" My exact words.

There was a minor setback yesterday though; I went to water/fertilize my herbs (which are growing wonderfully under the directional grow lights that my seedlings HATED) and my seedlings....were mysteriously gone. A few minutes later I found them ravaged and crushed into the carpet. I'm pretty sure I know who the fuzzy culprit is, but he was not punished to the extent that would have made ME feel better, because it was entirely my fault for putting the plants at floor level in the first place. Stupid me.

RIP Oriental Express and Lettuce Seedling Of Unknown Pedigree. You will be missed.

Oh well. Back to the drawing board.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Failure #2 - Steamed seeds, anyone?

So I think I killed all of my second attempt at a planting the first night by covering the bed with plastic wrap and putting the lights on it. When I woke up the next day the earth was very hot to the touch and steaming from the greenhouse effect. I think I cooked the seeds I planted, for all intensive purposes. So now I'm just nursing a cabbage seedling and a lettuce seedling of unmarked pedigree.

It also seems like the organic potting soil I bought doesn't have enough drainage and aeration as it needs. So I will be shopping for some alternatives...

This gardening thing is more difficult than I thought.

Or maybe I just suck at starting seeds indoors.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The little cabbage that could.

I came home for lunch to find that the sad leggy remainders of my first seedling batch had pretty much self-destructed and were flopped all over the damp tray soil accusingly. The only seedling left that looked like it might do anything at all was the last surviving Oriental Express, the most stocky of my doomed brood.

So I scooped it out of the Tray O' Death and into my palm, transplanted it in an empty grape tomato container, and deposited it outside my apartment to fend for itself (at least during the daytime today, when it is so sunny and nice and finally starting to feel like spring). Supposedly cabbage seedlings like their temperatures a bit cooler, so hopefully this unseasonably warm February day will sustain it where abnormally warm grow lights wouldn't.

I will bring the seedling back in tonight to bask in the glow of my newly planted tray for a few hours before retiring, if it survives the day.

Go little cabbage go!

Improvements on my seed-starting endeavors.

Here are the things I'm going to try and do differently to get some healthy seedlings going in my dim cave of an apartment:

1. Carefully log how much time the tray gets under the grow lights via spreadsheet, so the seeds don't get a sporadic source of light. I think this may have contributed to my "spindly" seedling problem in my first attempt.

2. Log watering times.

3. Figure out a way to keep my shop lights cool, so I can have intense light (good) without intense heat (bad).

Garden quote of the day:
"If you aren't killing plants, you aren't stretching yourself as a gardener."

Yeah, that's true. But my hope is that something will survive. I still have a few fighters left over from the Plastic Cover Tray Massacre, so we'll see if they can make it...

Destruction of seedlings #1 (and a Burpee's Seed Starter review)

I killed my plants yesterday. They were already looking leggy and stretched, sad little transclucent white stalks stretching up for the grow lights I have above my dining room table. So I thought maybe they were getting cold and not getting enough light.

My solution? I put the plastic covers that the seed starter trays came with over the trays and put the grow lights closer to the seedlings, effectively steaming them all to a grisly, wilted death. My baby cilantro and basil? Dead. My little cabbages and lettuces and mesclun? Mostly dead.

I transplanted the survivors into a new window box to give them some breathing room, which will probably kill off whatever I have left.

I am not discouraged though. Instead of giving up, I planted a new tray of veggies. A BETTER tray, with Romanesco veronica and rainbow Swiss chard and cauliflower the color of an orange Post-It and golden beets and more lettuce/mesclun/everything I just killed. (But better, because now it's in a REAL planter, and not that shitty Burpee's seed starter.)

About the seed starter - Not impressed. The little magic dirt clods that came with it had to be particularly placed in order to expand correctly when water was added, and even then the hardest ones didn't expand like they were supposed to. Will not buy one of these again, but I'm going to go ahead and replant the two that I have, because hey - they're twenty bucks apiece.

I WILL learn to garden.

Friday, January 23, 2009


When I received quizzical looks of disbelief upon telling people that I was going to start a garden (and not just a garden, but the biggest, most varied, most colorful vegetable and herb gardens this side of the Mississippi, and in a dwarf apartment complex lot no less) I was not insulted.

Admittedly, in the past, I have shown neither inclination nor talent for the fine art of growing things.

Growing up under the watchful eye of two avid landscapers and gardeners was difficult for the indoorsy kind of kid that I was. It always seemed like in the hottest part of summer, when I was most prepared to lounge around in the air conditioning and read a Stephen King book, my parents had other ideas. Like their parents and their parents' parents, they saw us kids for what we were - cheap manual laborers in desperate need of some sunshine and exercise and character. So to the flowerbeds we went.

I hated it. I hated weeding beds, I hated repotting flowers, I hated rotating the sprinklers, I hated grubs, I hated getting dirt under my nails, I hated squatting in the scorching Alabama sun all afternoon.

This disdain for the gardening world followed me into young adulthood. While I successfully raised dogs, cats, fish, and even nine orphaned baby opossums, I slaughtered a succession of houseplants with the efficiency of a serial killer. Any attempt at nurturing behavior from me sparked deep-seated and irreversible neuroses in my plants. If I watered them, they languished. If I didn't water them, I was the proud owner of beautifully potted sticks within a 48 hour period.

I always blamed this on the houseplants, which just glared (do houseplants glare?) at me from the corner, looking like little green lepers. Really, the problem was mine. I was not attentive enough. I did not see the plants for what they were - living, sentient creatures just like I am.

So this garden is partially a penance, partially a lifestyle change. I am really interested in sustainable living and the "back to the land" movement. I hope eventually to move out onto my own land outside of city limits and run my own ecologically responsible small-scale farm (mostly for self-consumption, but in my most heady dreams I supply gourmet chefs and speciality markets with the best chocolate bell peppers and pink tomatoes and neon green Romanesco Veronica in town).

This conversion from Black Thumb philosophy is not just about the perfect bell pepper or my own wide selection of cooking herbs. It's about learning a new way of life through trial and error.

Mostly error.