Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Grandma Was Right

Grandparents can be a wealth of information. Mine are no exception. They always have little pearls of wisdom. Sometimes at the time I was not ready or old enough to understand what they were saying, but then I find myself in one of the situations they were talking about, and it all makes sense. When I was really young, I would tell my Grandma that when I got my license to drive I would take us out shopping. (My Grandmother does not drive you see.) She would always smile and tell me that by the time I was able to drive I would be too busy for things like that with her. It seemed kind of hurtful at the time, but she was right. I grew up and was too "busy" with things I thought were important, and I totally forgot about the shopping trip once I got that coveted license.

This situation returned to me in college when I became overwhelmingly busy. I remembered the talk and the missed shopping trip and always regretted it. When I talked to my Grandmother about it, she simply said that life was going to get busier and busier. She related that it was all part of becoming a grown-up and gaining more and more responsibilities. Your free time starts to evaporate. I am feeling that lately. I am not sure where it was that I got so busy, but lately it seems like there are not enough hours in the day to get all that I want done finished. The to do lists stretch out longer and longer, and the check offs become fewer and fewer. I have been wondering what I can do to make things run more smoothly. I have tried using an egg timer to make sure I am on task and not taking too long of breaks for lunch. I have tried to get on a schedule like a school day. I have tried electronic to do lists. I have yet to find my rhythm to successfully getting everything done. Add on this that I don't have kids yet, and it makes me feel even less accomplished.

Somewhere in here I need to find a good way of getting it all done. When I figure it out I will let you all know, and if you are the golden one who has been given this knowledge, please pass it on. Until then, I am off to bake bread for lunch, can peach jelly, make a run to the post office, water the garden, make dinner, and a bunt cake, and hopefully get to that sewing project I cannot seem to get to ever! There is more on the list, but well... I guess I should start that egg timer and get to it!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

To Do List:

Things I HAVE to Do Today:

- Water the garden and look to see if there are seedlings or only weedlings.
- Grocery shop for staples. Need to get sugar and flour especially.
- Can those peaches. Once sugar is obtained, 22 pounds of peaches from Friday await!
- Do some bill paying.

Things I Would Really Like to Do Today as Well:

- Work on some sewing.
- Write my Grandmother... it has been far to long. (This one may move up into the other column).
- Bake bread for the rest of the week's lunches.
- Write a real blog posting.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Golden Gate Garden... Finally a Plot of My Own!

One of the things I have wanted most for myself lately is a garden. When we lived in Illinois before moving out to the bay in 2007, we lived in a condo. It was a great place, and while we could redecorate the inside however we liked, there was no gardening space. Sure I had some pots of tomatoes on the driveway, but that is not like digging into the ground and being able to plant just about anything you would want. My container gardening continued as an herb garden when we moved into our first place in Oakland. Once we moved into the second place, I had a balcony that I started up container gardening in again. While I did not get too great of results, it helped me to feel like I was still gardening in some capacity. Once we had to move for the third time, I lost my outdoor space to garden. It was something that I was determined to remedy as quickly as possible. While hunting for the current address, I saw the community garden for Emeryville. It was a very well organized garden all in raised beds. The plants in that garden are beautiful and well kept. I called to see if there was anyway that I could get in to the garden. There was of course a long waiting list. I placed my name on the list and was also directed to the Oakland Park District for their community gardening program. I contacted the head of the Golden Gate Community Garden. There was a waiting list there as well, but I was told to not panic as there may be a plot opening soon.

While on our trip across the country for the shuttle launch, I got the e-mail that informed me I would finally have a plot of my own! I was so excited to see where I was going to garden and meet all my new gardening mates. I had dreams of taking over a plot from someone that had a lot of great plants already established. I mean I am sure that whomever I was taking over from had to move or got to old to be able to take care of their space... right? I walked past great plots like this one that is next to mine. I saw beautiful flowers, vines of summer squashes, tomatoes ready to ripen in our late Bay Area summer of fall, and beans ready to be picked. Corn was a surprise to me in the garden, and all of it looked so good! I could not wait! Then.... I was taken to my plot and this is what I found:

Yikes! I was not quite sure what to make of it. If I pulled on one of the sections of the plot, the whole thing moved. I was not ungrateful by any means, but I know it was now going to be a lot of work to take over the plot from the neglect of the previous user. It was covered with lamb's quarters, which I have come to learn are edible and tasty to many people. To me, they were just a super invasive weed that had gone to seed all over the land. I wanted to get to work right away, but I was not ready that first day to start. It just seemed to daunting. I went back on Monday to start working on the plot. I pulled out the biggest of the lamb's quarters and the other plants that I could I worked for two hours on that first day. It seemed like it would never end. For every weed I chopped down with the machete or pulled out by the root, there seemed to be twenty more to come down. Once I got all the biggest stuff taken out, then there was all the grass that had taken root as well as some plants from the person who had the plot before.

I would take frequent breaks to inspire myself to keep going. One of the garden plots that I kept looking to for a boost was the plot directly in front of mine. The cosmos in this garden are a great shade of purple and would brighten my outlook. I would also go to the front of the garden and scope out a few ripe raspberries off of the community raspberry bushes. I would also just take a break in the shade and listen to all the hummingbirds zip and call through the trees and plants.

After two hours of work, this was the result... not quite where I had hoped but at least a good start. The biggest stuff was either cut down to the ground to get it out and prevent more seeds reaching the ground or it was taken out roots and all. There was still quite a bit of green matter all over the plot that needed to be raked out, and the most stubborn of the lamb's quarters needed to be dug out with a shovel. I decided to let it go for the day. Besides, I needed to get somethings done around the house, like making dinner! So, I put all the tools away, and I decided to tackle the rest of the job the next day.

I headed out for the plot with renewed vigor yesterday. I brought with me all sorts of seed packets, fertilizers, and bright eyed bushy tailed enthusiasm. I could see and end point in sight. I could see getting seeds into the ground! I was so excited. It should come as no surprise that when I get this excited about things, there is going to be something to put me back to Earth from my proverbial cloud nine. It was then that I met one of the other gardeners. She was a wealth of information and a great person to talk with and bounce off ideas. It was then that I came to the conclusion that I would not be planting anything today except weeds. Yes you heard that right, planting the weeds. My new gardening mentor explained that since the lamb's quarters had gone to seed and had seeded itself into the plot it would be better off to put my seeds for a week. I should turn over the plot, rake it, and then water it as though I had planted. As she told me she once heard from a gardening mentor: One year's seeds is seven years weeds. I am sure she is right on this one.

So while it seemed kind of disheartening to put off my planting for another week, it is a much better overall plan to let these seeds come to germination and then weed all the plot at once. That way I do not have to make sure I am only taking out weeds and not my seedlings. I set to turning over the plot. It was rather difficult as the grass and weeds had made quite the mat of roots to bust. Once I got all the dirt turned over and broken up, I raked it out to a even bed, and then raked one more time to remove any little clumps of root balls or more of the lamb's quarters stumps. I did find a few carrots, beets, and radishes that were left over from the previous plot user. Once it was all said and done, I soaked the plot well and crossed my fingers that I can get quite a few of these seeds out using this technique. I left for home feeling sore and ready for lunch... also rather sunburned. Next time I will remember the sunscreen and a shirt that actually covers my back fully rather than one that I think covers my back. You would think I would have learned this lesson by now! Look for more updates from the garden as I learn about four season growing, something new to this former Midwesterner. Till then, happy growing if you have a garden to tend or happy dreaming if you are still awaiting a plot of your own.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Month of Vacation

So for the month of June, I kept alluding to the upcoming vacation that the hubby and I were taking. We finally took off for our vacation at the beginning of July. We headed out on a cross country road trip to see the last shuttle launch of Atlantis. It was a long road trip from California to Florida. I called it our coast to coast to coast trip. Since we have decided to no longer fly due to currently TSA policies, we have had to make some decisions on how we are traveling. This time we chose to drive, and it was overall a very eye opening, but fun trip. We would drive at least twelve hours a day in order to make it in time to see the launch. The days were long, but we would break up the monotony with my afternoon news reports reading the news aloud as well as reading about different topics that we would wonder about. I read about everything from armadillos to Saltair to The Thing?. Don't click on that last one if you love roadside attractions and don't want the I-10 The Thing ruined for you. The biggest stand out of the trip out was the great food at Peck's Seafood in Slidell, Louisiana. We tried our best to support as many local and small businesses on this trip as possible. Many of our meals were at small mom and pop type places or out of our cooler rather than going the usual fast food route. The food at Peck's was amazing and huge. The staff there was super friendly and attentive. My big favorites there was the crab and corn chowder as well as the oyster po boy. The shrimp platter had more food than you could shake a stick at. It was a great place, a little ways off the interstate but well worth the side trip for some good fried seafood.

Finally we ended up in Titusville the day before the launch, and we had to go to bed early. The wake up call for us on launch day was 2:30 in the morning. We needed to be at Kennedy Space Center at 4:00 am, so we made our lunches and headed out for the day. The trip out took only 50 minutes. Once we got to the center and headed through security, our next stop was to get on a bus tour. We got on one of the last bus tours for the day. It was neat to see the buildings in the dark all lit up with flood lights for the launch. The vehicle assembly building definitely gave me shivers as we drove past it. We went out to the Saturn V center to see the rocket (pictured above) and the control center. I have to say that aside from the launch and watching the sun rise over the launch vehicle from the Saturn V center, this was my favorite thing at Kennedy. It was a well done recreation of the launch sequences that used to take place out of the control room. The windows rattle, the room rumbles, and the screens on the desks show the views that each person would have seen.

We decided to just watch and experience the launch when it happened rather than try to take pictures or watch it with binoculars.I am glad that we did this. It was spectacular to watch, and I am so glad we got to be there to experience it. The light from the shuttle was so intense, and it was the best example of the difference between the speed of light vs. the speed of sound. We did not hear the sound of the launch until after the shuttle was out of sight through the clouds, around 22 seconds after the launch started. We did take pictures of ourselves in front of the exhaust trail before heading to our bus for the trip back from Banana Creek Causeway to the visitors center. I don't look too bad for having only a few hours of sleep before the early pre-dawn arrival time. It was on the bus that we realized we made the right choice to watch rather than try to capture the fleeting moment of the launch. Many people were lamenting that they saw nothing and had no pictures to show for it either. I was so glad that I saw it and love the memory of that moment.

After the launch we headed back across the country. We went to St. Petersburg, Flordia next. A quick stop was made at The Dali Museum. It was well worth the side trip. The museum has some very neat pieces, and while I wished we had a bit more time than we did, it was a nice diversion from the usual days of driving. We then went out to dinner at a great local restaurant in Maderia Beach called Walt'z Fish Shak. The staff can be kind of brisk, and the place is populated by locals, but once they realize you are there for their true seafood versus one of the many chain places, all that melts away. Make sure you arrive well before 6 pm as items from the small menu disappear soon after that time. All the fish is fresh caught that day and prepared very well. We had a great time there and headed off for the next destination. We stopped in Paducah, Kentucky for a quick quilt shop browse, and I left with some great fabrics for a few aprons before the main event, Kansas City Barbeque. This time through, we stopped at the original Arthur Bryant's. It was great, and I totally recommend that you visit the one in the industrial part of town. Looking at their smoke box was amazing. The crew there is fast and efficient, and we ate ourselves silly.

From there we headed toward Rocky Mountain National Park. That was a great camping trip. We spent three days at the park camping and hiking around the mountains. We took the Alberta Falls trail up to Lock Vale. It was a moderate hike, and it only became difficult once we hit the snow pack. We had no poles with us, so it was all sorts of hands and knees scrambling to get up to certain places. The waterfalls were spectacular as the snow was very heavy this year and the rainstorms in the area have also been plentiful. We packed in our lunch and took a leisurely six mile round trip hike. The weather was perfect, and despite my thoughts that we were going to get poured on from the rain in the afternoon, a drop never fell on us. It fell on the campsite, but not on us.

The Loch was worth the extra trip up. We originally planned a shorter hike, but we wanted to make it up to Thompson Falls. Once we learned from other hikers that the upper falls was obstructed from view by ice and snow, we decided the loch was far enough. The water was super clear, and you could see all the fish swimming by. The local YMCA camp was doing some sort of initiation rite by having the campers jump into the glacier fed water. It was cold for sure, and while I am sure the kids enjoyed it from their triumphant yells, there was no way I was going into that cold water. We made our way down for a night of star gazing back at the campsite and got to see some wildlife up and personal that night. Deer were feeding on the grass just behind our tent, and a huge male elk was also feeding at the front of the campground.

The sunsets up in Rocky Mountain were spectacular. This was the view from our picnic table one night. It was just a beautiful tapestry of clouds and color every night. From there we headed home after a two week journey. It was great. I then had five days to recover and get packed before heading off to Chaos Wars in Idaho for eleven days. That was also very fun. It is always good to get to see old friends and get some combat archery under my belt for the year. I danced at the bonfires, and was delighted to make some new friends as well as reconnect with some old ones. Now I am getting back into the swing of homemaking, and there is a lot to do. While it is a well oiled machine, starting back up from an almost month long absence is difficult to say the least. There are piles of laundry to do, rooms to clean, and equipment to store. Costumes need repair, and I need sleep to get over my usual "Chaos Cough." A lot has gone on, and new plans are in the works. Check back for more updates and a new feature to the blog hopefully starting this Friday! It is good to be back, and I cannot wait to start in on all that my mind wants to do!