Season of Excess

While I am happy for all of you who celebrate this time of year with genuine joy and affection and meaning, we have to make room in our celebrations for people’s real pain. Their real experiences. Their real selves. Too often I observe how many of my own friends expect others to celebrate the season a certain way. For example, “It’s not Christmas if you don’t get together with family”. Not everyone has family. Some family members are on a military assignment elsewhere, in jail, the nursing home, at work, the bar, getting a divorce, shooting heroin, on a missions trip, dying, moving, coming out of the closet, home bound, bed bound, driving an 18 wheeler, or celebrating a different religious tradition. Furthermore, not everyone has family they like to spend any amount of time with.

I like that everyone has different Christmas experiences, traditions, and expectations. And that is what makes Christmas so beautiful to me. I am drawn to those who celebrate differently from the mainstream. One year, my dad and I were together for Christmas alone and decided to take a drive up to the mountains, I think somewhere on the Cajon pass, and hike. I’ve told some of you about this. And some of the some of you reacted as if I was out of sorts because I was not sitting by the tree with a turkey in the oven. One person said, “how sad”. I was rather insulted by this. Why can’t I celebrate the birth of Christ with a backpack, boots, a trail, and my dad who, by the way, feels much like I do?  And so what if my Christmas tree was nothing more than a tall oscillating fan adorned with some handmade decorations, later found tipped over due to a cat attacking it. God is not keeping score of how many lights you’ve hung on tree, and all the gifts you’ve bought. Sometimes I think He rolls His eyes and nods His head at the nonsense on this dysfunctional planet.

This is the worst time of year to have the TV on the mainstream networks or just looking at adverts. TV is good for favorite movies and horse racing. But it is easy to become wrapped up (no pun intended) with the suffocating holiday shopping ads and Hallmark stories that do not accurately represent a large population of the northern hemisphere’s families gripped in this inescapable force we call Christmas and the sheep mentality that we must behavior a certain way. I’d like to say I refuse it but I’m stuck with it because I share space with other humans (not referring to my family). I want to see this season presented with different angles of celebration and not so much excess. There are days this time of year I want to go somewhere and see not holiday decorations, shopping ads, the force of the season. I want to celebrate my Savior’s birthday but I don’t want to drown in garland, lights, wrapping paper doing so. At least on Yom Kippur, no one’s chasing after me with a Yamaka. And I’ll say “Happy Holidays” if I want to.

Caring For The Cat

This advice update is written for someone very dear to me that was recently adopted by a four- legged furry feline. I write this to assist in preparing the newly adopted pet parent with limited experience in servitude. The most important task you must consider is managing their bewildering behavior.

Call it cat logic. Just because the kitty is loving all over you by purring and rubbing on your leg does not mean he/she loves you. You are his/her territory. It’s nothing but a form of marking/branding. You can show all the love back and call it mutual but it isn’t. Get used to it.

Your cat has now established your favorite chair (inside or out or maybe both) as her/his place to relax or sleep. He will move only when you remove him. Don’t try to call him off the chair like you do with your well trained respectful canine. The cat may open an eye, glare at you, and resume the snooze. Join the club of cat ownership and just sacrifice your chair. You can get another one.

Because you serve your kitty well, she/he will reward you with gifts. Since your cat is outdoors, you will be blessed with a variety of bloody bedraggled carcasses left neatly your doorstep at just the right distance so that your foot lands squarely on it as you take your first step out unaware of the collision.  My best advice for you is to inspect both porches and entryways on your property before stepping out the door.  And don’t leave it with expectation of discarding it when you return home from work for that will be the one day the UPS delivery person leaves a parcel at your doorstep.  It really grosses them out.  Be kind and help your community.

Feeding a cat is an art.  It’s not as easy as it appears.  The early years better known as kittenhood aren’t too bad but as the cat matures you will observe a shift in dietary habits.  Your vet, friends, the feed store all say to feed your cat a well balance diet.  While that is the goal, your cat will define that for you.  Once your cat has established food habits you will need to ensure you have good medical insurance and/or life insurance policy.  This is the best advice I can give you in this section of reading:

  1. Don’t be late feeding your cat.  Your life depends on it.
  2. Don’t change up your cat’s diet.  Your life depends on it.
  3. Don’t underfeed your cat if you feel the calories have exceeded the daily recommended allowance.  Your life depends on it.

I keep a bowl of dry quality cat food available at all times.  I feed a portion of organic, non gmo, no grain, blah blah blah cat food at 6:00 am each morning.  Fresh water is served daily.  I do not feed my cats at 6:01.  I’ve ended up on the kitchen floor when they tripped me up walking through the kitchen to get their food.  And they don’t care if you are pregnant!

Another bit of advice.  Tuna and sea food meals often lend to urinary problems.  Avoid those.  Milk is tolerated on rare occasions but often cause nausea, diarrhea due to lactose intolerance.  Cats love raw chicken but a lot of people will strike me down for this suggestion.  I don’t care.

The best part of serving a cat is the hours of interesting observation and communication, whatever that may be.  Cats like to play, snuggle, and own you.  It’s a wonderful, yet infuriating life.

 

Who Comes Up With This?

I occasionally snack on a small bag of Lay’s potato chips just to fulfill an emptiness on my tummy midday or simply to satisfy a salty craving when consuming large amounts of cold water in the hot summer months.  About a month ago I went into an Exxon station or maybe it was a Shell gas station and grabbed out of the cooler the usual Fuji water and while walking down the snack isle my attention was drawn to the Lay’s chips display, particularly the green bag.  I’ve never had a chip of this flavor much less ever eaten Brazilian Picanha.  I pulled the bag off the display and marched up to the counter to pay with all quarters.  I was pleased with the flavor and vowed to try it again if I could find it.  It’s good!

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A couple of weeks later while roaming the grocery store isles in search of time, I browsed the chip isle  in search of an item not related to this story.  Not real hungry for much, I needed some items for home and had already found most everything on my list.  There, on the shelf at eye level sat a Lay’s brand bag of chips called “biscuits and gravy”.  Mind you, it’s “Southern”.    Who comes up with this?

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Biscuits and gravy is a treat I eat maybe once per year when traveling.  We don’t eat this much or at all at home.  I traveled often as a teen with extended family and it was Denny’s in Indio, CA that was our stopping point to and from Yuma, AZ where we’d enjoy brunch.  It was biscuits and gravy every time.   I bought the bag of “Southern Biscuits and Gravy” and had not even gotten out of the parking lot before consuming half the bag.

There is a whole boatload of Lay’s flavors.  No, no, it’s called Lay’s Passport To Flavor.  You can hop over to the website to gain all the flavor information and contests.

What I’ve had so far:

Sour Cream & Onion

Barbecue

Cheddar & Sour Cream

Salt & Pepper

Flamin’ Hot

Limón

Chicken and Waffles

Cheesy Garlic Bread

New York Reuben

and my all time favorite, “Plain”!

September’s Garden

All is planted for the Fall except for purple carrots.  Seeds left from earlier this year are stored in the little baggie they arrived in and after some reconstructing of one of the raised beds and fill dirt with compost and all the wonderful soil ingredients, the Kid and I will plant the seeds this afternoon.   It is cool enough to enjoy time midday outdoors.  Yesterday was the last 90 degree day for the year (I hope).

There three rows of green beens (bush) planted in the dirt.  Five squash plants are in two bales.  Cauliflower and cabbage are planted in straw bales.  Egg plant was planted some time ago but half are only now popping up.  There is a row of pumpkins with dozens of large blooms proudly showing in majestic yellow.  So far, I see only 4 baby pumpkins.  That’s fine.  This is our first year planting pumpkins and I haven’t a clue what I’m doing except following a YouTube gardeners advice.

Friends, I am a YouTube gardener.  That is where I get all this inspiration.  Not on Pinterest.  On YouTube.  Pinterest is nothing more than an art gallery for me.

Straw bales have been wonderful to use for planting and gardening but this being my first year ever to use them, I have learned so much. 1). Don’t sit on them.  If they’ve been basking in the sun all summer with rain, fertilizer, brussels sprouts, peas, grasshoppers and more water, they will collapse under your posterior even if you don’t carry much back there.  2).  Keep the twine from previous bales, or your friends huge round bales.  You will need it to secure loose bales after you’ve sat one one! Sometimes they become loose.  3).  You may have purchased wire bales like I did my first 6 from Dennards.  Wire rusts, breaks, and then you have a bale falling apart with pepper plants reaching upward confused and fearful.  4).  Recycle cardboard.  Cardboard is what goes under the bale to prevent grass and weeds from growing up through the hay and the worms love it.  Eventually it breaks down and only adds as compost to your soil.  When it is time to replace your bales, lay another large piece (or two) card board on the ground, situate the bale on top and prepare for next season.

Whatever the case, it is a pleasure to be in the garden without having to pull weeds every day.  Plant and learn.

Here are some pictures taken today.  And there is always a cat to be found tiptoeing through the garden.

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The Iris for 2017

Weather over he past two years has caused much grief for I shed many tears over the loss of many of my Iris plants.  Last year, 2015, it rained like no other year.  The cats awaited Noah.  The year prior was terribly dry and hot.   Iris do well in drought conditions but they do have their limits.  I keep a journal of my many variety of Iris and a grid so I know what is what since I don’t have garden markers yet.  They are so familiar to me though I can recognize most all of them at once.  I won’t tell you what all I had for the past six years for there are not enough tissues to dry my eyes over the loss.  For now I’ll share some photos of what I’ve purchased from a local farm and shared with my favorite mother in law who got me started with this beautiful hobby.

From left to right, top row:  A Grape Fit, Istanbul, Explicit, Capatonic

bottom row:  Tennessee Gentleman, Late Frost

These were photographed while shopping for them at Lavender Ridge Farms in Gainesville, TX.  If you ever happen that way, be sure to stop in for a visit.  Their farm is open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  They are known for their fields of lavender and their annual lavender festival.  What a wonderful fragrance. They also have a lovely cafe.

In order so that I do not go into a total state of unresolved depression, I must reconstruct the garden and and soil.  We have clay  here and it’s just dreadful.  I had used a combination of soil past few years, unfortunately with the drought, rain, floods, etc, this soil did not fair too well leaving the rhizomes to rot.  I must get this done quickly for I want to have roots established well before Spring in order to have a someone decent return with blooms.  They don’t always bloom the first year after planting but I’ll settle with just a healthy plant at this point.

Humus and gypsum are two ingredients necessary.  That and some landscape timbers just to prevent run off.  You can’t tell at first but there is a slight downhill slope in my back yard.  With a bit of determination and muscle, I shall have this completed by the end of the week.  There are 24 varieties to plant for now.  There are another 20 something to be dug up and transplanted.

 

 

Fall Garden Planning

This year marks the first time I have planted any seeds after June.  August is a scorcher in North TX so I started some seeds inside.  However. the past week cooled dramatically when we got rain and a cold front and the temps have been a comfortable 80-something.

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Moons and Stars is the watermelon planted this summer and we are quite thrilled with it.  At first my husband suggested the plant had disease when he noticed the yellow spots on the leaves.  A quick reference to the seed book convinced him that this why the plant is named Moons and Stars.  The watermelon will be spotted with small yellow spots and one large yellow area, being the moon.  We are pleased with the flavor.

As we picked our last watermelon I cleared all remaining plants from that bed.  Fortunately the bed is free of weeds and unwanted debris.  After planting the seeds, I placed newspaper on the dirt around the seedlings and covered with mulch.  The sunflower stalks were cut down and the seed flowers lay in the shed drying.  There are a few carefully placed on the bird feeder and as I write this I notice a pair of cardinals munching contently on the seeds.

The straw bales are cleared as well.  Cucumber seeds (pickling) were planted Friday evening before the rain.  The summer squash seeds were also planted however the two remaining plants have suddenly produced new blooms and leaves.  I may keep them for a while.  The tomato plants will remain for a while.  I planted a month late egg plant.  Who cares.  I’ve never planted them before and have no idea how they will do in the straw bales.  The pumpkin plants are huge.

There remains much space in the garden for more veggies as time passes.  It is too early for peas.  Setting up straw bales and raised beds has been such a benefit.  Furthermore, I covered the entire garden area where we don’t plant, with cardboard and mulch.  No weeds this year!  What a pleasure it is to maintain now because I don’t slave over unwanted weeds.

For the Fall, the following will be planted:

Carrots, peas, green beans, squash, red bell peppers, egg plant, tomatoes, spinach, cucumbers.

May the weather be in our favor!

 

Garden Progress

Earlier in the year, and you can find it in previous post(s), I started seeds and planted in straw bales.  Over the past couple months, I’ve made some changes in the garden and watched the plants slowly grow.  I say slowly.  The conditioning of the bales is key. Some did better than others and not all of my plants survived.  What did make it are producing moderately.  I know what to do for the next planting.  Furthermore, the bales will be loaded with nutrition and moisture.

Squash (upper left), Sunflowers (upper right), Cucumbers (mid right).  The tomato plants are planted in the dirt.  Fabulous plants. Nothing in the garden bought around here.  Oh, did I mention that there are watermelons?  My heart is happy.

Rain Welcomed

Rain was supposed to fall yesterday after lunch so said the forecast. Fortunately it remained cloudy and windy only and this allowed us to complete a couple of projects in and out of the house.  I knew that if it had not rained by evening last night, I would have to water the garden.  Exhausted from the days activities I forgot!

Sometime during my slumber, the pitter-patter on the north window awakened me.  So did Romee.  Apparently her food dish was empty at about 4 am and cats don’t sleep without having kibble to eat in the night.  I poured the last bit of food into her bowl and walked to the front door, opened it enough to lean out and was startled by the low rumble in the west sky.  The rain fell softly.  Silver trickles of water seeped into the ground.  A stream of water rush along the curb shimmered by the glow of the bright, yellow street lamps.  Chilled, I stepped back, closed and locked the door and crawled back under the covers.

The day remains overcast with a light rain.  Random thunder is heard.  The clouds have thinned for the moment is brighter.  “Like Wow” opened this morning and is pretty even in the rain.  The flower beds and bales are soaked and the grass will shoot up as the first hint of sun shimmers down.  For now, I finish with laundry, organizing, and planning for the week.

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Did I Mention That I Love Iris?

Not Iris Apfel, silly!  I am referring to what Wikipedia calls the genus of 260–300 species of flowering plants with showy flowers.  They are in bloom everywhere right now.

Yesterday I had lunch with my mother in law at a cafe on a small farm close to where I live and to my surprise, there were rows of beautifully blooming iris.  By the way, this farm is Lavender Ridge Farms in Gainesville.  It is tucked away just east of the city near what is known as Oak Ridge, what I refer to as Speed Trap 82.  It’s on the back road of the back roads.

Every year or so I order 5 to 8 different rhizomes from Schreiner’s in Salem, Oregon. Never have I been disappointed. I also ordered from a farm in Washington, Echo Gardens that was very generous with bonus iris. Unfortunately, while the farms want to make a profit, I am always looking for a good deal. To not have to pay shipping is my first deal. Secondly, these new introductions in many catalogs have a huge mark up. Consider “A Grape Fit”, a tall bearded plicata introduced just last year. It’s on sale right now at Schreiner’s for $45. I picked it up yesterday for $6.   It won’t come home to my garden until July.

A Grape Fit

You will want one too!  Stop by Lavender Ridge Farms if you are cruising around North Central TX around Sherman/Gainesville and have a look at their beautiful flowers.  Lavender will be in season in another month.

 

About What?

What do I write about?  This morning while driving to work a few thoughts crossed my mind but passed through about as fast as I was driving and I was unable to retrieve those ideas this evening.  I supposed I could have used my phone recorder or whatever that app is called but there are cops all over the place just waiting to pull me over for not having both hands on the wheel and traveling one mile over 55.  Seriously.  Maybe I’ll write about them in the future.

When all else fails I write about and photograph the cat, the horse, the garden.  About six years ago I planted some iris, about a hundred of them.  I’ve lost some, gained some.  Unfortunately last year we had so much rain and it was just dreadful getting out in the mud to sort through the mess out there and I lost about a third of my crop.  Heartbroken I totally ignored the garden for the remainder of the year.  Only this year, January, did I start pulling weeds, fertilizing, rearranging plants and am happy with the blooms.  I’ll start collecting iris again in July for next year.