Friday, May 31, 2024

Ruminations and risk taking...

Planting vegetables in the garden and harvesting fruit this spring has brought out the contemplative me.  I suspect that just being outside for hours, working the soil, planting seeds and transplants, all the while hearing little else but bird song, makes everyone contemplative - which is reason enough to garden if you ask me, if one can do it.  If one wants to.  

I remember the previous two springs (after we moved to this property) providing similar contemplative opportunities, but for different reasons.   

Two springs ago, I planted most of a garden unencumbered by the knowledge I'd spend the entire Memorial weekend nauseous and in some serious discomfort.  After three days and nights of that, I finally conceded defeat and asked Greg to take me to the ER, which resulted in an emergency gall bladder surgery the next morning.  That surgery (and recovery) was a bit more involved than anyone expected it to be, but within a couple of weeks I was feeling good enough to finish planting the garden.  As I held my mid section, bending over to put seeds in the ground, even I questioned if that was the smartest thing to be doing.  But the desire to plant our first vegetable garden at our new home was compelling. 

Last spring was different.  In late April and May, I knew some of what loomed ahead, and I needed something to distract me from worrying about what was still unknown.  With the optimism of an early caught cancer diagnosis, I threw myself into activities that left me physically spent most nights.  In May, Greg and I worked together on cleaning up some landscaping that was still lingering from the summer before.  Youngest son lent a hand on that Memorial weekend helping us finish up the job..  After all that work, I decided I wanted to till the garden, enlarging the space by a foot or so on three sides.  

I planted a few vegetables, but mostly I planted the garden with flower seeds.  While I didn't know everything that was ahead, I anticipated that I'd not likely be capable of lifting a heavy canner come August to preserve tomatoes or pickles or green beans.  But tending flowers seemed like a lovely thing to do as I healed from surgery.

With the flower garden put in, in the early weeks of June, we ate, gave away and froze lots of strawberries.  I think I might have picked the last of the strawberries the day before my surgery.  The night before surgery, I couldn't sleep, so I stayed up and sewed a pillow to protect my chest during the weeks of healing when I had to ride in a car and use a seatbelt.  Why I waited until the night before surgery to make it, I haven't a clue - except that I can be a world-class procrastinator at times. 

Having all these things to do was a gift. And having that pillow served me well for the rest of the summer as my chest healed.  

Headed home the day after surgery. 
My smile, I'm sure, can be attributed to still enjoying the benefits of a pain block.

While in the spring of 2023 I was wise enough to know I wouldn't be up to picking and preserving vegetables come late summer, I did imagine myself visiting the garden that summer and cutting fresh flowers.  I envisioned bestowing bouquets on anybody who might need encouragement that year.  It seemed like an antidote of sorts to facing my own scary stuff.  Funny how things turn out sometimes.  Nothing of any consequence ended up growing in the garden last summer. Not one single flower. But I was blessed weekly with fresh flowers from friends and family.  The whole experience has inspired me to plant flowers again, but this time there will hopefully be an abundance of veggies to pick in July and August, too. 

In all the outside work this spring, the thing that has been on my mind most is my recent diagnosis of osteoporosis of the spine.

Since last November, I have educated myself on the topic - to the point of annoying at least few people, I'm sure.  And this month I met for the second time with an endocrinologist and my oncologist, and have been making some changes that will, hopefully, minimize further bone loss.  We'll see this coming November when I get second DEXA scan.  Am I worried about what the results of that scan will be?  Yes. A bit.  Am I trying to live like I'm not worried about it?  Yes, because in addition to being an incredible procrastinator, I'm am also world-class compartmentalizer. 

But I'm not living in denial.  While I try to discipline myself to focus more on safe (and frankly, healthy) postures, I also try not to worry that some of the positions a gardener naturally gets into are not recommended for persons who have osteoporosis.  All my medical peeps were pleased to hear I'm enjoying gardening this spring, but interestingly, no one talked about being careful doing it.  Can I just say again how seriously thankful I am for the internet and all the resources available to us today.

A year ago, I was pleased (no, I was actually pretty proud) that I could still bend forward and touch my toes with little effort.  I still can, but my pride is all but shriveled up now knowing that this is not a recommended thing to do if one has osteoporosis in the spine.  This spring, as I've bent over to pick strawberries (which is the most comfortable position for me), I consider over and over again the gamble I am taking rounding my back for that task.  At this point, the last of the strawberries have been picked, and I've managed to not hurt myself, so I have another year at least before I need to think about that specific task again.  

Coming through all that last year held, I've come to recognize that all of life is a gamble.  On some level we all know our choices come with risks, but most of us don't count the costs of the risks we take on a daily basis.  We give little thought to the potential bad outcomes of our choices.  We go happily through our days with no worries or even thoughts about what is going on inside our cells, our bones, our vital organs.  As long as one can live that way, I consider it gloriously good to embrace it.  Even being more aware of the gambles I take, I consider it good to live life as free as possible from worry about all the "what ifs". 

While I now live with a greater awareness of the gambles I regularly take (in this context, the positions I get myself into), I try to not let that awareness worry me into being a scaredy cat.  

At the moment, I feel like I'm living in a middle land -  where the brain understands and sort of counts the costs, but the heart or the will hasn't quite figured out what do with the information that fires in my brain with every wrong move. Retraining myself into new postures for doing old activities, I think must involve a fair amount of synaptic activity before new ways of doing things become second nature. 

This is what's in my head this week.  Some loosely connected thoughts about osteoporosis, being relieved the strawberry picking has come to an end, glad the garden is in, and that I have a bit of a reprieve before anything else needs harvesting.

That reminds me... we have peaches this year!  I thinned them out a couple of weeks ago, and now they look like they'll be manageable - if they make it to ripeness without becoming bird or bug fodder.  

If they come a month early like the cherries did, I may be picking peaches in June, but I'm seriously hoping they wait 'till July.  While physically, I could do it, my brain is begging to recover from picking and processing strawberries and cherries at the same time this spring.

Until the peaches ripen, and the vegetable garden needs more attention, I'm contemplating what's next.  I'm assessing my need for more canning jars and lids, will soon go to work again on hopefully perfecting low or no-sugar jam, and I'm contemplating sewing some tops I recently bought fabric for.  

But first, this evening we have friends coming over with Chinese takeout.  I've been too pooped the last month to think about being hospitable, so tonight feels like a nice change of pace.  With the calendar turning to June tomorrow, it feels like a new beginning.

I love new beginnings...

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, 
this person is a new creation;
 the old things passed away; 
behold new things have come.

   - 2 Corinthians 5:17  (NASB)

Friday, May 24, 2024

The garden is in...

Just popping in to say all is well here. Things are growing and blooming, and I can't believe there is only one week left in May. 

The strawberries came on at least three weeks early this year, and suddenly this week, we noticed the tart cherries ripening.  We didn't get cherries last year, but looking back, I can see that they've come ripe a full month earlier than they did in 2022.  

Between some routine medical appointments this week, I've just been a pickin' and a grinnin'.  Strawberries and cherries.   Each in their own time is satisfying.  Both of them together... well, let's just say, I wasn't ready for this.  

As of today, though, I'm done picking cherries.  The birds get what's too high to reach, and we will be content with what we have.  

We have enjoyed what is becoming our traditional "first pickins' cherry cobbler".  

I expect the strawberries may only have another week or so - if they have that long.   Between you and me, I will not be disappointed when the strawberries stop producing.

The summer garden is finally (mostly) put in.  It's not a late garden, but it took nearly four weeks to get it all done.  Having said that, maybe that's not a bad plan going forward.  Just doing a little at time, however long it takes...

Here's another experiment we're trying with garden mulches:

I learned online (from several sources) that shaved pine bark makes a good garden mulch. It comes in large shrink wrapped packages, and we scored a deal on four bags that were ripped and taped closed, and discounted 50%.  This stuff is pretty cheap anyway, but at 50% off Tractor Supply was practically giving it away.  So all the tomato and pepper plants, and some other random stuff that hasn't yet sprouted has all gotten this shaved pine bark mulch treatment.  The tomato and pepper plants are looking good, by the way. Two did not survive transplanting, but I had two more waiting in the wings to take their place.

I still plan to plant some summer squash seeds - somehow I thought I had leftover seed from last year, but there was only one lonely summer squash seed in the packet when I cut it open.  Why did I save one seed and tape the package shut?!?

This narrow raised bed section of the garden finally got worked on one day this week.  Honestly, I hadn't done anything with this space since moving here:

Between the wooden sticks (above), I've planted some 
Lemon Cucumbers, and pickling cucumbers that I hope to train up the trellis. The walking onions, arugula and two different types of radishes are at the other end of this raised bed.  I planted some more lettuce seeds on this side of the arugula yesterday, that might just sprout next week with the cool weather that's forecasted.  I'm not really expecting lettuce to be successful planting it this late, but reports said this seed (Little Gem) does better in the heat.  We'll see!  

About half of this raised bed spends some time in shade in the summer, so I'm not sure what else I'll plant in here.  If you've had success with any shade tolerating/heat loving veggies (or even flowers - though not impatiens) I'd be interested in hearing about it.

With all the strawberry and cherry picking there has also been some preserving going on.  That will be another post, and hopefully by the time I post about it, I'll have figured out how to make beautiful low (or no) sugar jam.  My first batch tastes good, but it doesn't look quite like I want it to.  I may have cooked it too long.  Making good jam is a process, I'm learning..

I hope your spring is looking beautiful where you are!  

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Minimalism Challenge 2024 - Craft Edition, Days 23-30

My latest downsizing efforts have officially come to an end.   And a happy ending it is - for several reasons:  

  • It's always good to finish something one starts. 
  • While I'm finished with this particular challenge, the truth is I have once again sparked a greater desire to think more intentionally about my stuff, and to continue paring it down.  In other words, the process has only just begun (again). 
  • I have been reminded of what I actually own in terms of craft materials.  After our move two and a half years ago, and after parking various containers of craft stuff in this particular room, I got on with other things and rarely went into this room to see and use what I've kept there.  That bothered me greatly, but I just kept the door closed, for the most part, and ignored the whole situation.  I can see how I'll be using this room more regularly now.
  • And lastly, others are (hopefully) going to enjoy what I was not using.  

I have learned some things in this process.

  • Thirty days was too long for me to spend in one room.  Truth be told, because I got sick and there were two weeks of not much happening, maybe fifteen days is too long to spend in one room.
  • On the positive side of that, though, is that I am eager now to dig into other areas of the house I wasn't allowing myself to sort through while I focused on this one room.  With this kind of motivation, it will be easy to go through drawers and cabinets here and there and slowly over time continue whittling down the superfluous stuff.  
  • I was reminded once more that purging a lifetime of accumulations is (for me) best done in layers.  Even with stuff that holds little emotional attachment, there is a mental load that comes from making decision after decision about parting with things.

This last accounting of stuff leaving doesn't feel very impressive, but it does feel necessary to my completing this challenge here.

I went through binders of crochet and knitting patterns and recycled a small pile of paper that I had once upon a time printed patterns out on.  Some were duplicates, some I realized I had no interest in making.  (1 thing)

I gained a little space on a shelf by removing these craft books.  (9 things)

I rehomed a costume apron made years ago.  It's not a decent fabric for a real apron, but as a costume it served its purpose.  Also, I'm letting go of a man's Hawaiian shirt.  It belonged to my late brother, and I kept it after he died  thinking the prints on it might be fun to use in some craft project.  I still do think that, but letting go of this is actually a letting go of some pain.  And now someone will enjoy wearing this very nice summer shirt - on a trip to Florida, maybe.   And that little green thing is a balloon pump - leftover from my clowning days.  Yes, I was in a clown ministry for a while - in a previous life.  I actually kept a slightly larger balloon pump - why I'm not sure, but that may be a future day's purge.  (3 things)

Random items:  two embroidered pillows I bought at a fund raiser, a lone skein of sock yarn, and some jewelry pieces.  (5 things)

More lace panels, and some crocheted, stained doilies and a ruffly pillow sham.  The pillow sham and white doilies are old, and I count it a blessing I don't know their history as I might be compelled to keep them for sentimental reasons.  I have some other similar items made by Greg's grandmother, and possibly mine, that are more easily stored and used than these.  As a person who enjoys making doilies (and is thinking about making some again soon), I don't consider stained doilies to be precious - necessarily.  

That said, before hitting publish, I made the mistake of looking up uses for old doilies.  This isn't the first time I've done this, and I can't believe I saw some new ideas.  Okay...  I may be pulling out the larger round doily, but the ruffly one holds no interest to me. I'll let someone else reimagine something made with that one.  (5 things)

While I didn't cast off hundreds of items this time around, I did lighten a room, as well as my mind and spirit, by rehoming some still useful stuff. Last night, middle son spent the night here - as he does sometimes when he commutes two and a half hours to work in Indy once a week).  Taking his things into the room, he called out, "Wow, it looks like you've gotten rid of of lot of stuff."  Yay!  It is noticeable to more than just me.  Mission accomplished!

And then this morning, leaving before we were even up, he forgot to take his 14 year-old music collage/posters with him.  He did think they were fun to see again, but back they go into the corner for now...

Minimalism Challenge 2024 - Craft Edition 
Tally:   151 things gone.

Saturday, May 11, 2024

It's garden time again...

 Exciting things are happening right outside my back door!   

The last of the asparagus and the first of the strawberries got picked today. Strawberries usually come ripe here at end of May/beginning of June, but look at those beauties on May 11th!  We'll be eating strawberries with ice cream next week, I betcha!

And the Egyptians Walking Onions are putting on their show:

The walking onions are growing fat stalks, and starting to do their "walking" thing.  In case you've forgotten (or are unacquainted with these plants), indulge me as I tell once again how these little wonders work.  

At the top of each stalk, starts a sac with little bulbils in it (middle picture above), then the sac bursts open (bottom picture) and out pops tendril-like stalks ready to grow their own sacs, then the whole stalk will eventually bend over from the weight and plant new bulbils in the soil - all summer, onions "walk" across the garden as they plant themselves.   

If someday in the future I find myself without a garden again, I hope to be able to grow some walking onions.  They are worth their keep in entertainment value alone.

And slowly over these last two weeks, I have been getting this year's garden put in.  Bush beans are growing in the foreground (center of picture), zucchini further down the row.  Yesterday, in the next two rows over, pole beans got planted at the base of a number of round trellises (6, I think), then a small square of kohlrabi, and further down zinnias and sunflowers are seeded:

I'm trying an experiment this year.  On some of the garden, I'm putting broken-down cardboard boxes between rows to minimize weeds, then covering the cardboard with leaves, old hay, and grass (just using what we have).  The logs are only to hold the cardboard down until it starts to decompose and become one with the soil.  Soon, they'll be tossed back on the woodpile, leaving the walkways clear.

Today, had me preparing more soil for planting tomatoes and pepper plants.  Most did great, but two peppers and one tomato plant withered like this within minutes of being planted:  

As of this evening, they still haven't revived.  I don't know if the roots took a shock from transplanting, or if the wind simply beat them limp.  It was exceedingly windy, and in retrospect it was possibly not the best day to transplant seedlings.  I'm not overly worried as I have plenty, but it makes me sad to see them looking so poorly so quickly.   I watered them and put open plastic containers around them to protect them from more wind tonight.  We'll see if they look any better tomorrow.

I may give the garden a rest tomorrow.  Or maybe I'll not be able to help myself from finishing the planting.  I'm about two-thirds of the way finished.  The end of pushing myself on getting a garden in is so close...

While I started out feeling great a couple of weeks ago, all this physical labor makes me realize I am not 100% recovered from all that last year held.  It certainly doesn't help that I got a respiratory illness nearly two weeks ago, but still...  I can now tell that my stamina isn't quite what it was a year ago when I was tilling this same garden.  Every day I work in the garden, I end physically whipped, but at the same time, it feels so good.  The exercise and fresh air have to be doing me some good, and thinking about fresh veggies for eating and canning later in the summer makes me really happy.  That's worth a lot.  My full strength will come in due time.  For now, I am pacing myself, trying to make the most of the days, and that is very good.

Are you putting a garden in?  Whether you garden or not, what are some of your favorite summer veggies?

Thursday, May 9, 2024

Overthinking continues...

I finally got around to steam blocking my Sage Advice square.  And, as I seem to do every time I make a new square, I've separated out the squares I've made into two categories, and have another think over this project.

Those made with a blue-based solid color construction:

And those made with a purple-base, and with an off-white component:

My original thought (what was it, in 2017?) was I would combine all of these squares into the same blanket.  But the more I look at all these squares together, and try to place them together, I'm wondering if I'll be happier if I just make two separate blankets.  

Of course, the problem with that is that I will have to make twice as many squares as I would need to make for just one blanket, and it would take at least twice as long to finish all of this "square" business.  

On the other hand, if I make two blankets, I will use up more yarn in my stash - which, let's not forget, is one of my goals.  

While I work out what I want to do, I'll be alternating making squares with blue and purple as the base color.  At some point, I'll either become more sure of making two blankets, or I'll reach the point of having enough squares for one blanket and decide I'm just ready to be done with the the whole project and combine them all together.  

Have I mentioned before how I always seem to overthink a project? 

And, for some reason, make things harder than they need to be?

It's like it's in my DNA or something...

Sunday, May 5, 2024

Minimalism Challenge 2024 - Craft Edition, Days 11-22

I had no intention of disappearing for over a week - especially, right in the middle of my minimalism challenge, but best laid plans got waylaid by sickness.  I have no idea what respiratory bug I caught hold of, but by day 4 of a low grade fever and a wicked cough I was finally miserable enough to call my doctor's office.  I was able to get in to see one of my doctor's nurse practitioners.  

Which makes me want to ask...  Does anyone else out there prefer seeing your doctor's nurse practitioner or physician assistant over your doctor?  It's not that I dislike my GP, mind you, but it's her staff who are the jewels.  When I see one of these persons, the whole visit just seems more congenial and accommodating to me somehow.  Do these staff have more time than the doctor?  It wouldn't seem like it.  Less stress?  Possibly.     

Now two days on a steroid, and a magic cough potion and I'm starting to feel human again. I just wish the sore muscles under my ribs could count for some kind of exercise.  Ouch.

While I managed to squeeze in a couple of afternoons working in the garden between fever spells, nothing else of any consequence happened around here for the past week.  The crafty things I'm parting with below were all gathered before the coughing sickness befell me, and I'm thinking I've now pretty much gone through everything.  I'll plan to have a final post in this series in a little over a week.  We'll see if I can manage to round up anything else.  

For now, here is the latest count:

A crocheted bag - I'm not sure what I thought I might use it for once upon a time.  I'm even less sure now.  (1 thing)

A tabard costume piece made over 20 years ago for one of my then little boys, a lacey piece of cloth, a child's crocheted sweater that at one time I thought cute, now I'm not so sure, and a small art print.  (4 things)

Some bags and strings of beads.  (30 things)

I really don't know why I've been hanging onto this styrofoam cone for so long.  The lacey wreath has seen better days, and the nose bridges have got to go. I found those at Hobby Lobby toward the end of the those awful mask-making days, and I have no intention of ever making another face mask again.   (3 things)

Old cross stitch magazines  (3 things)

Some sparkly specialty yarns, purchased on clearance, and then I fizzled out on it.
(10 things)

Two posters that middle son made in highschool.  They were part of his graduation table display.  In highschool, he played on a worship team at church, and as a young adult was in a small band with friends.  I may be partial, but I think he played a decent guitar.  I found these posters in the corner of my craft room and am so glad I saved them all these years.  They made me smile, and I hope he'll be surprised to see them again.  I also hope he doesn't read my blog.  (2 things)

Old crochet magazines  (20 things)

So, if I've counted correctly... 

Minimalism Challenge 2024 - Craft Edition 
Tally:   128 things gone.