Monday, April 30, 2012

April 30 - Something that makes you sad

This was such a hard photo prompt to interpret. I'm not a sad person, and I don't go around looking for sad. I'm not trying to be Pollyanna or anything, but everything that happens has a reason and a lesson. Why be sad about that?

At any rate, because I didn't want to break my streak (can't believe I've done a photo a day every day this year! Thanks, Chantelle!), here's my attempt. It makes me sad that all the people in those pictures (we call it the grandchildren's gallery) live so far away from me.

Dedicated to Anna and Mark

When I had the falling out with my face-to-face gardening mentors last year, I turned to Farmer Google for much of the food production knowledge I needed. Two of the best resources I found were Anna and Mark. Mark is actually the nephew of a good friend, so I knew about the blog long ago and occasionally looked at it. But within the last year I've begun reading it regularly and have learned so much from them.

They live even more in the middle of nowhere than I do, and have thus learned to be extremely resourceful. I thought of Mark yesterday when I was on the ground trying to fix my lawnmower. Because I don't have a workbench and am not much of a fixer, I had to scrounge around in every closet in the house before I found ONE wire coat hanger. Like duct tape, coat hangers (or any other kind of heavy-duty wire) are indispensable in the toolbox. I was able to elevate and tie up the rod which had come loose and finish mowing the front yard, making only left turns (the rod is bent and scrapes the right front tire if I turn right). The neighborhood lawnmower fixer will take a look at it – again – when he gets a chance, but for now I can at least cut the grass (and add the clippings to the compost pile).

The dill has self-seeded and is popping up everywhere. I sprinkled the center of the herb bed with saved seed, none of which germinated, but there are plenty of baby plants in two flower beds that I will be moving to the herb garden. This is something I think Anna would delight in as much as I do – free food! I planted dill from transplants two years ago, and it has been growing itself every since.

The onions are ready to walk. These Egyptian onion sets actually came from Anna and Mark's farm. I knew NOTHING about Egyptian onions when I planted them. Now that they're growing new sets on the upper leaves of the plants, I realize I probably should have been eating every other plant, rather than waiting to see what happens. But since they're maturing, I will wait until the sets are ready to share with other gardeners I know. There's something magical (to a gardener, anyway) about food that reproduces without human intervention. (See dill in the previous paragraph … heh.)

The big bonanza this weekend, and one I'm sure Anna, especially, will appreciate, was straw, the secret ingredient to a good garden. Straw enriches the soil, improves the tilth and cuts weeding chores to a bare minimum.

I bought 10 bales of straw from a local farmer last weekend, and he said I could rake up all the loose straw on the floor of the barn and bag it up – free – if I wanted it. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I enlisted the help of the husband for this job. We spent a good two or three hours moving pallets and raking the perfectly good straw beneath them into THIRTY-ONE garbage bags. I'm guessing each bag holds about a bale and a quarter. All we had to provide was gas for the truck, the bags and our own labor for a yield of about 40 bales of straw (plus the 10 I'd already bought). 

I feel RICH.

Two and a half bags went on the asparagus bed, which got a good kill mulch two summers ago and is just now sprouting a few weeds. I'm tempted to only plant tomatoes in the big garden this year (I put a kill mulch on a third of the garden last fall, in preparation for the tomatoes) and use this straw to improve the remaining unplanted parts. Except I really, REALLY want fresh edamame. And squash. And maybe a few green beans. Heh.

At any rate, it's too wet (still) to do any planting today, so I have time to think about Garden Plan B. I'd hate for all this straw to rot in the bags. It would do so much more good if it rotted in the garden!

Anyway. Thank you, Anna and Mark, for mentoring this old lady farmer from your middle of nowhere to mine. I'm grateful beyond measure. And if you, too, want to be mentored, be sure to add their blog to your RSS feed and pre-order Anna's book, which will be shipping later this year. (And/or download – for a buck each – any of her monthly titles or other e-books.)

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Saturday, April 28, 2012

April 28 - 1 p.m.

I was late … didn't remember to take a picture until 2-ish.

The church spire across the street from my mother-in-law's house.

Half an hour later I stopped and stalked these Canada geese and their babies.

Not even CLOSE to a flood

Thank goodness.

The Greenbrier River was raging yesterday, but managed to stay within its boundaries and not creep up into the garden center's space. A central pavilion sits amidst the outdoor displays and greenhouses. When the water creeps up to the concrete pad upon which the pavilion is built, then we start to get worried.

This water isn't even close to the pavilion, but it's much higher than normal.

Yesterday was a lovely day to work. It was cool enough to keep a sweatshirt on most of the day, but sunny and pleasant. Working outdoors is lots of fun as long as Mother Nature cooperates. It sucks when it's hot or rainy or too cold. Nice crisp days like we had yesterday are perfect.

I lost count of how many baby tomato plants I moved into peat pots. We're offering several heirloom varieties this year, and I'm sure a couple of each will land in my garden. IF I ever find time to plant it!

I believe I mentioned I'm having trouble managing my time now that I'm working a regular three-day-a-week schedule? Well, I'm getting a little better. The house is clean and I managed to stay awake long enough to enjoy an evening out with my husband last night. Now I need to spend some time outside – today's the day! Mowing, weeding, getting more straw (which works great magic on clay soil, you really can't have enough, especially when the farmer is giving it away) and then collapsing, as usual, at about 8:30 p.m.

I'm such a party animal.

Friday, April 27, 2012

April 27 - Somewhere you went

I started my day by going to a local farm to pick up straw for the garden center.

And the rains came

And came, and came again. And with the rain came flood warnings for low-lying areas. I'm anxious to see where the river flowing behind the garden center topped off. Pictures tomorrow …

There have been two "hundred-year" floods in our area since I moved to West Virginia 15 years ago. I believe they happened seven or eight years apart. But that climate change theory, that's a myth and don't you forget it! A hoax, I tell you, a hoax!

What all this recent rain means is that the garden isn't planted yet and the grass is getting pretty tall. Which is fine, really, because I have more time later in the summer for preserving produce. The later I plant, the later the harvest, obviously.

As for the grass, the longer the grass the more of it there is to rake and deposit on the compost pile. I'm tempted to get a bagger attachment for the mower. I could collect a LOT of grass clippings if I bagged them. But I wouldn't get nearly as much exercise as I get raking those clippings.

What I really need to do is get the fence up around the garden. The deer have been tip-toeing through the as-yet-unsprouted pea patch, but it won't be long before there will be something for them to nibble.

Maybe tomorrow … today is a work day. I'm feeling well-rested and, since I was able to get the whole house cleaned yesterday, I don't mind leaving today at all. (I even fixed a really good roast-beef-and-all-the-trimmings dinner!)

Do you think this means I'm figuring out how to manage my time a little better?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Almost four years to the day …

I've been blogging for a long time. I started posting my drivel in 2006 at Ye Olde Shrinking Knitter. Life got a little complicated in the spring of 2008. I stopped writing regularly in February that year, but MISSED YOU GUYS SO MUCH that I started again, here, in May, 2008.

1000 posts ago.
If it hadn't been for that darned NaBloPoMo, I could have stretched things out and had #1000 land on May 14, 2012. Heh. I'd like to think I'm not so OCD that that doesn't bother me just a little bit, but that bothers me just a little bit.

I'd also like to think that after writing about weight loss for six years I might have lost some weight, but it turns out that hasn't happened. I haven't really been writing about weight LOSS. I've been writing about weight-loss STRUGGLE.

As most of you know, I'm a recovering alcoholic with more than 21 years of sobriety. When I hear newly sober people talk about how they know it's going to be hard to not drink for the rest of their lives, I try to reassure them that that's just not true. If not drinking was going to make me miserable, why would I not drink? I don't want to be miserable, I want to be happy, joyous and free.

And I am, when it comes to alcohol.

But I'm a prisoner of food, and I think it's time to plan my escape.

I've learned a lot about myself, struggling to get rid of a good deal of me over the past six years. Oh, hell, over the past 50, really. (I went on my first "diet" when I was 11. How in the world could my mother have encouraged that?) Six years of introspection (because what else is a blog but self-absorbed navel-gazing?) have taught me that

  • wishing doesn't make it so
  • good health is more important than wearing a size six
  • the love of my husband, family and friends trumps everything else
  • I love to cook (have you ever seen a skinny good cook?)
  • I'd rather eat healthful things most of the time, and 
  • life is too short to skip dessert.

Y'all have been through thick and thin with me. More thick than thin, unfortunately, but from now on it's not going to be all about the struggle. If I happen to lose some weight you will, OF COURSE, hear about it. But I'm more than my weight. (And you are, too.) And, looking back, I've certainly written about more than my weight.

You congratulated me when Mr. Shrinking Knitter and I got married. You've celebrated the births (this links to my third) of two of our grandchildren (this links to my husband's youngest. The triplets were born between blogs. (You've also probably noticed I don't write much about them or post their photos, at their parents' requests).

You were here for me when I ran my first half-marathon, and my last.

You helped me immensely when I lost my father. (I miss him so much, especially in the spring, when it's time to plant the garden.)

Thank you, for all of it. I don't have nearly as many readers here as The Shrinking Knitter did, and I don't think bloggers comment as much as they used to (I try to, but I'm guilty as well). But I know you're out there, and I appreciate you coming along for this crazy ride.

P.S. Here's the link I promised on how to make a garlic braid.

April 26 - black+white

Before daylight breaks is a good time to get a black-and-white in
color shot. This is my kitchen window. I've always thought I might
knit a pair of cafe curtains for this window, but knitting that much lace
would probably make me give up knitting forever.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

April 25 - Looking Down

I had a hard time finding something suitable to shoot today.
Mostly because I was busy, busy, busy working all day. But also
because looking up (at trees, clouds, sky) is SOOOO much more interesting than looking down at these baby tomatoes.

I should probably keep better records

I have no idea how much garlic I actually planted in the fall of 2010. I bought a pound to plant (from Seed Savers Exchange), but I'm pretty sure it didn't all go in the ground. And how many heads are in a pound, anyway? I don't remember. Some of the cloves were too little to plant, and I might have needed some for the kitchen. At any rate, I know I ended up with one very full braid come harvest time.

Here's what's left – one lonely end-of-the-
string head hanging in the kitchen.
Looks like about 18 heads. This
photo was taken July 3, 2011.
I use a bit of garlic nearly every day, so my hope is that I planted enough last fall to get us through to the next harvest. I'm certainly going to come up short this year, with just that one remaining head.

There are more than 40 plants forming heads out in the garden now. That should give me plenty to eat, plenty to plant and even some to share.

Garlic is one of the easiest foods to grow. Here in Zone 6b (southern West Virginia), it's planted in the fall. And since the garden is done producing in October (well, mine is, anyway), there's plenty of room to prepare a spot. I mix compost into the bed, "draw" my rows with the end of a hoe, throw the cloves down six to eight inches apart and a couple inches deep and cover with soil. Water well to settle the soil, and then spread a thick cover of straw over the whole bed.

The magic happens over the winter and you don't have to do another thing. No weeding or feeding or pruning. Mother Nature is happy to take over your gardening chores when you grow garlic.

And, of course, once you pull your garlic harvest, you have a great spot to plant a fall crop of snow peas or sugar snaps, and you can till the pea plants back into the bed to add more nutrients over the winter. Or you can plant a cover crop – rye, oats, clover or another "green manure" – that will nourish the soil once it's turned under and allowed to rot. You'll plant your next garlic crop in a new spot that has been amended.

How did I learn all this? Thank you, Farmer Google. Since the falling-out I had last year with my former garden mentors, I've relied on internet searches to answer nearly all of my gardening questions. I have a couple good reference books, but the ease of searching and the wealth of available information meets my needs just fine, thankyouverymuch.

I find a lot of technology-bashing going on (and it starts here at home, as my husband is a Luddite when it comes to computers), but I couldn't be more grateful for the internet and its associated devices. Maybe sometime I'll feel the need to take a technology break, but for now? I don't think so.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

April 24 - Something You're Grateful For

There was no question as to how I was going to interpret today's prompt.
Were it not for my sobriety, I would have nothing. Thanks to the 12 steps
of Alcoholics Anonymous, I haven't had a drink in 7,834 days (21 years).

If it's Tuesday …

I stayed the same again this week, no surprise considering that I've indulged in more than a few servings of snack-sized York peppermint patties since the last weigh-in. Making thanks-for-your-commit'mint' bags was a good(ie) idea, but I should have given everyone two – or three! – bags instead of bringing the leftovers home. Every last one of them is going into the freezer today. The freezer IN THE GARAGE. The one where you have to think about what the HELL you're doing while you're walking over there to raid it.

York peppermint patties don't taste fattening at all, in case you've never had one. They're light and refreshing and 70% LESS FAT, proclaimed loudly on the label. So right off the bat your tricky little mind thinks you can have 70% more of them. Right? Heh.

PastaQueen used to update her progress photos every 10 pounds, and that makes more sense than once a month. Even gym workouts don't produce much of a visible difference when one stays the same weight week after week after week. So no photo today. This would have been the fourth one and trust me, nothing has changed. I look just as goofy today as I did a month ago, and goofier than I did in January. At the rate I'm going I'll post another progress photo next year. That's discouraging.

Denise, you are not overthinking yesterday's three-ingredient recipe at all. I should have been clearer. Overnight Oats won't work unless the oats are the old-fashioned rolled kind. (I've corrected the recipe.) Good old Quaker Oats (or a store brand, doesn't matter), the kind that take several minutes to cook. And I know it sounds weird to throw rolled oats into yogurt and expect them to come out all creamy and yummy but they totally do! It's kind of magical, actually.

Edited to add: Diandra, my quick research yielded an answer for you – our rolled oats are the same as your oat flakes. So oat flakes should produce great results. (Who knew oats could be so confusing? And by the way, have you seen how many varieties of Cheerios are for sale these days? [My husband requested the peanut-butter kind. I had no idea there even was a peanut-butter kind!])

Back to this week's analysis: I only made it to the gym once. I worked a lot, but now that I'm three weeks into a work schedule I guess I shouldn't be counting "working" as "exercise." Once your body gets used to a routine it becomes normal activity, not intentional.

And that probably explains why, despite normal eating, the weight isn't budging. My body is used to going to the gym, too. I haven't stepped up the intensity or duration of what I've been doing for the last month or so. In fact, since I pulled that muscle in my right arm I've been lifting 10-pound dumbbells instead of 15-pounders.

A Runner's World writer suggested the Stairmaster most mimics running if you can't actually run outdoors or on a track (because of an injury). I haven't been on a Stairmaster in more years than I can count, but there are three of them at the gym. No one ever uses them. Just for the helluvit, I gave it a try when I was there yesterday.

Twenty years ago I could knock out 40 minutes at the highest level, without holding on, every damned day. I managed just 10 minutes at level 3 yesterday (look, Ma, no hands!), and then headed for a bike. Next time I'll try to stay on for 15 minutes. It was very hard.

And I am, um, very old.

Monday, April 23, 2012

April 23 - Vegetable [x2]

Orzo with asparagus, onions, olives and lemon vinaigrette.

The sausage and sautéed vegetables which were eventually tossed with
spinach-and-ricotta tortellini and pesto sauce. (The last jar in the freezer, sob!)

Oh, the weather outside is frightful …

It's snowing. And cold. And it's snowing. AND DID I MENTION IT'S SNOWING?!?!?

I put a sideways-oriented video on my Facebook page, because I'm stupid about cell phone camcorders. (And then I fixed it so it shows up properly! Woo hoo!) Not sure if you have to be a FB friend to see the video or not. If you're not my FB friend, feel free to click the little button in the sidebar and I'll add you right away.

I'm feeling a little emotionally manic this morning, I guess falling snow will do that to you me. I'd love to be feeling physically manic, as well, but I was up for a couple hours in the dark, early hours, right after 1 a.m., and my energy level is running on empty.

But since I got a call last night saying don't bother to come in to work today, I think I'll somehow manage to get through the day. I might even mop my floors, which desperately need attention. The garden center is having a snow day! Yay!

They were open yesterday, but my schedule has changed and I no longer work on Sundays. I did, however, celebrate Earth Day by picking up roadside litter with the owner and two other employees. We started at 9 a.m., got done around 11:30 and collected 15 bags of trash over a two-mile stretch of road. You can read about our adventures in litter-bagging here. (Honestly? What a nasty, nasty job. I couldn't wait to get home and take a shower. How hard is it to just hold on to your trash until you can deposit it in a proper receptacle, anyway? Especially beverage bottles used as spittoons. gross, Gross, GROSS!)

Moving on.

Apropos of absolutely nothing Earth Day-related, I want to share what I had for breakfast this morning. Overnight oats have been around for a while. I first read about them at Kath Eats Real Food. (Here's her recipe. And her photos are much better than mine!) I don't know if Kath invented them or not; I see lots of links to variations on Pinterest, as well.

These are not your warm, creamy, steel-cut-in-the-crockpot overnight oats. These are cold and creamy, and you'd absolutely NEVER know you were eating oats. I've been meaning to try them for months, but I never think about throwing everything together after dinner so they can meld together in the fridge.

Last night, however, I did. Here's the basic recipe:

Overnight Oats
1/3 cup yogurt (plain, flavored, Greek, it doesn't really matter)
1/3 cup milk
1/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

My last batch of yogurt was kind of thin, so I didn't add any additional milk. The flavor variations come, of course, from the add-ins, which range from sugar-free applesauce and cinnamon to fruit-flavored jams to fresh cut-up fruit to peanut butter and cocoa. I did the applesauce-and-cinnamon version and loved it. I added some chia seeds and a teensy bit of sugar, from my sugar-cinnamon mix stored in a shaker-top spice bottle.

Mix the ingredients in a Mason jar or other lidded container, pop it in the refrigerator and let it sit overnight. It's actually still good a couple days later, in case you get an unexpected invitation to breakfast.

Seriously. You won't believe you're eating oats.

Have you tried them before? Did you like them and are they now part of your regular breakfast rotation? And how did you celebrate Earth Day? Inquiring minds and all that …

Sunday, April 22, 2012

April 22 - Last Thing You Bought

I picked up a couple new spoon rests yesterday at my neighbor's gift shop.
She makes beautiful pottery. The glaze matches my dinnerware.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Gardening delay

Looks like I'll be planting most of the garden later rather than earlier. The snow peas and onions I just put in will be fine, but I'd hate to throw beans or edamame or even cucumbers in there and have them freeze next week!

And, of course, I work on Mondays. Outside. All afternoon. Brrr! I'll have to find something Very Important to do in one of the greenhouses.

Friday, April 20, 2012

April 20 - Something You Drew

My cat, Bandit. Drawing was made in 1985. Back when I used to
actually DRAW. Like, with a pen. And ink. On paper.

Look out, look out!

The spammers are coming!

Actually it was only one, but s/he left comments on two different posts. People like that should get a life.

So last night was pretty fun. Because I have a life! Heh. I went to the monthly meeting of our local county Democratic women's group. I'm the Democratic woman in charge of the group, and I'd invited a woman I met six years ago during a Congressional campaign to come talk with us about the upcoming Presidential race. She has a calm, even manner and has lots of experience with phone-banking and canvassing and registering voters. She actually QUIT HER JOB to work for Obama during his first campaign. She really inspired our group.

Members who have sent new-member post card invitations all got little treat bags like this one:

I was busy most of yesterday getting things ready for the meeting, and thus skipped the walk I usually take on Thursdays. But being busy means I'm not bored, and I eat more when I'm bored than when I'm busy. Except for a snack-sized peppermint patty. Or two.

As I was telling someone just this morning, event-planning is fun. I love finding ideas like the "mint" bag and putting my own spin on it. When I saw it on Pinterest, it was presented as a teacher-appreciation gift. I also made flyers (or is that fliers?) to solicit donations for a fund-raising walk for our state associations PAC (Political Action Committee). And a thank-you card for our speaker. And a salad and cookies to go with the Pizza Hut pizzas we had for dinner.

As I was also telling someone just this morning, it's always nice when the event is over!

Have a great weekend. Looks like stormy weather is headed our way – Mother Nature's way of telling me it's time to get out of the garden and clean my house!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

April 19 - Orange

After I killed the wheatgrass (sob!) I planted cilantro in my cute little
terra cotta pots. They're about ready to move outdoors, and I have new
wheatgrass to plant. Will. Not. Overfertilize. This. Crop.

A hot shower and a couple Aleve

You've probably seen the Aleve commercials, which promise, "Just two Aleve have the strength to relieve pain all day."

Well, I'm here to tell you they're WRONG, dammit, WRONG! I took two Aleve (normal dosage is one every 12 hours) at 5 p.m. and my painful shoulder/hip/ankle/lower back/you-name-it-it-hurts woke me at 3 a.m. Fortunately, I was able to go back to sleep, blessed sleep.

Maybe I need opioids. (KIDDING! And I REALLY shouldn't be joking about that, considering how much damage they've done to people who think popping an Oxy when for a headache is a good idea.)

Yesterday was my long day at work and it was, indeed, a long day. The good thing is it rained, so we didn't have to drag the hoses around watering a couple acres of trees, shrubs and flowers. But it was a cold rain. Not a hard rain. Steady, light, not enough to feel like I needed an umbrella, even. But six hours of it left me chilled to the bone. Every week I think I should be getting used to this, but a winter of sloth punctuated by a few strolls along a country road really doesn't prepare one for physical labor.

BUT ENOUGH BITCHING! I'm fine. Clearly, I must be if you're reading this, right? Heh. And I'm already looking forward to working tomorrow. We're starting to pot up tomato seedlings! Who else do you know who gets excited about moving baby tomatoes into larger quarters. Heh.

I have quite a long to-do list today, and nothing is going to get checked off if I continue to sit on my ass in front of this computer. (That's because the graphic design program I need to use is on the other computer; sitting on my ass in front of it will be much more productive.)

And so I will sign off, grab some breakfast and get on with my day. I hope yours is a good one.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

April 18 - Hair

Fur is hair, right?

I love that little soft spot at the top of her ears.

Gardening IS a workout, right?

It's unusual for me to come home from work without something new for the garden. Groundworks has lots o'plants – trees, shrubs, fruit, herbs and flowers – and I can almost always find something on a table or bench that I need to stuff in my lawn.

So far this year, the "something" has included creeping phlox, garden phlox, three rhubarbs, two kinds of petunias, some allysum, a baptisia and a blue salvia to replace ones that didn't overwinter, a couple liatris and five lamium. Oh, and a papyrus which will overwinter as a house plant.

Yesterday was a perfect gardening day. I'd planned to take a walk, but according to LoseIt! I burned more calories tilling, digging, weeding and planting than I would have by taking a stroll. The sun was mostly hidden behind thin clouds, and the temperature stayed in the low 60s. I started working outside at around 10 a.m. and didn't quit until 3:30, except for a PB&J at noon.

(Gardening is one of those intentional activities that ultimately deliver food as a legitimate reward. Unlike running, in which I – just speaking for myself here – often chowed down after a run with the feeling that I deserved it.)

I may be the only gardener in West Virginia who can't grow rhubarb. I've managed to kill every one I've planted, which is why the new ones went into the herb bed. I can't accidentally till them under or step on them or forget about them out there. They can't be overtaken by weeds when they're in a spot that's easy to manage. I will keep trying. (I mentioned my dismal rhubarb efforts to the Amish lady from whom I buy milk and she sent one of her daughters out to give me a few stalks. Which ended up being a POUND! I gave her my last jar of sun-dried tomatoes in garlic and oil in return.)

The last project on yesterday's list was tilling another small section of the vegetable garden and planting something in it. I'd originally wanted to get the edamame started, but the soil needs to warm up a bit. The one row of sugar snaps I planted a while ago aren't doing well – I, perhaps, jumped the gun even with sugar snaps! – so I planted four short rows, probably 60 feet altogether. It's too late to plant shelling peas and although I love them, they are a lot of work for very little reward.

Mother Nature has done me the ultimate favor of allowing me to skip the watering chore this morning. It's nice to have a good steady rain a day after planting.

This is the fourth year I've grown vegetables, and I learn something new every year. I like Italian green beans better than any other variety. Amish Paste tomatoes meet all my needs, and I will plant an entire flat (48 plants), or maybe a flat and a half, of them this year. Along with a couple cherry varieties and one or two slicers, that should be enough to get me through the year.

There's no reason to waste gardening space growing beans meant to be dried – black, navy, cranberry or any of the other varieties – except black-eyed peas because they are just so cool to watch growing. I'll gladly give them a short row and eat them on New Year's Day.

Two years ago I was on a sunflower kick. No plans for them
this year, but that could easily change!
I need to plant more pickling cucumbers and fewer slicing ones, because the slicers end up bloating and turning yellow before we have time to eat them. But we do love us some pickles. And I need to be sure to can more sandwich slices and fewer spears. I'll also plant some zucchini, but I use it mostly for relish and I still have a couple jars, so I don't need to plant much.

One or two rows of okra will be plenty, since I'm the only one who eats the pickled okra. I freeze what I don't pickle, to use in gumbo or to make stewed okra and tomatoes.

Neither of us cares much for corn, but when I see it coming up in others' gardens and I haven't planted any I regret not doing so. Yes, there will be corn. And lots of edamame which, with the corn, make a delicious and nutritious succotash. (I always allow several edamame plants to mature and dry, so I don't have to hunt for non-GMO seed the following year.)

And finally I will plant squash all around the edge and let the vines trail into the yard. Butternuts and cushaws, for sure. And maybe something new, just for fun.

My garden is going to look like a quilt this year, with lots of small squares or rectangles going in different directions. There's no scientific reason to plant this way, I just like the way it looks and feels when I'm walking through it.

Wow, I think I just planned my whole vegetable garden after just half an hour of writing. Thanks y'all! Most farmers <snort! I'm totally making fun of myself!> figure this all out in February when the snow's piling up. Fortunately, Groundworks also sells seed packets. I – and my garden – are good to grow!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

April 17 - Something You Don't Like

HAH! Y'all thought I was going to post a photo of a bathroom scale when you saw that subject line, didn't you?

I more than don't like this. I hate that I've planted half a dozen
rhododendrons  in the last three years and only two have
managed to survive. Clearly this is not one of them. 

The beauty of a food log

I actually did get on the scale this morning, and my one-pound gain (when I thought it was going to be four or five!) was a relief. I then went back and looked at my previous history, most of which is from FatSecret, and it's certainly normal (whatever that is) for me to have a slight gain after a losing week. It's also normal for me to average losing less than a pound a week, which is discouraging, but IT'S STILL LOSING.

I created a calorie deficit five days out of seven last week, and the deficit days more than made up for the two days I went slightly over my calorie budget. I exercised every day. I logged every bite of food every day.

I did not find it tedious or horrible or boring or frustrating or a Real Drag to do so, either.

The one issue I have with all the electronic food logs I've used is that they're based so very much on name-brand or restaurant-prepared foods. FatSecret frequently had an option for "homemade" – for stews and soups, mostly. LoseIt! doesn't offer that and so I end up best-guessing because I don't want to enter all the ingredients and divide by the number of servings to come up with truly accurate nutrient figures.

Therefore, my calories may have been underestimated slightly.

(One very cool thing about the LoseIt! phone app is it can scan a bar code. If your multi-grain crackers aren't included in its database, you can easily add it with a swipe of your phone. I do love me some technology. Heh.)

But still, I'm okay seeing today's number. Thanks for your thoughts about the subject of the scale yesterday. I wish for ALL of us that we attain some kind of sanity regarding food and weight sometime before our time is up. WELL before you die, preferably, so that your golden years won't be as anxiety-ridden about body image as mine have been.

Monday, April 16, 2012

April 16 - Flower

This petunia is called a White Russian. I potted up three or four flats from 3.5" pots
to quart-sized pots. I also brought some home from Groundworks for my garden.

Skipping the scale this week

My weekly weigh-in is coming up tomorrow, but I'm not participating. And here's part of the reason why:

  • One should not reward oneself with a bowl of ice cream after a five-mile walk.
  • One should resist the lure of the 10 for $10 Utz Pretzels display.
  • One should not let a pulled bicep keep one from going to the gym for an entire week.

The rest of the reason, of course, is that I'm not going to see the right number, based on what I saw yesterday. When I see the 'wrong' number (it's so hard to convince myself it's just information), I can respond in various ways:

  • Buckle down, add activity, eat reasonably.
  • Totally cave, what's the use, give up, have some chocolate. And ice cream.
  • Starve myself, double the daily diuretic, work out like a maniac.

Let's just say I could have done better.

Today is Monday, and I'm sure both of you know what that means in the dieter's life: Fresh Starts! New Beginnings! Today is the first day of the rest of your life my diet. Er, my do-it-for-life eating plan.

Ya know what? I'll be 61 next month (May 25, don't forget!) and it makes me sad to know I have spent FIFTY YEARS battling my weight. More than six of those years have been on public record here and back at Shrinking Knitter. I've been at a normal weight for about 15 of the last 50 years, but 10 of them were when I was in school and thought I was as fat as a cow, when I really was normal.

My much younger self was so very critical. My much older self is more willing to cut me some slack, based on my spectacular lack of progress despite mostly consistent effort. Especially these last few blogging years, since my effort has been on display, so to speak.

Today I will be good to myself, not with food, but with physical activity (I'm going to the gym and then to work – my work schedule changed; I'm at Groundworks Mondays instead of Sundays now), healthful food in reasonable portions and lots of water. I will take pictures of flowers (that's today's photo-a-day prompt), and I will be surrounded by beautiful sights and sounds all afternoon.

And I will have my once-in-a-while guilty pleasure between gym time and work time.

How do you handle potentially disappointing scale days? Do you face the music or take a mulligan?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

April 15 - Sunset

I've taken some pretty spectacular sunset photos during the time I've lived here
in the West Virginia mountains. This, unfortunately, isn't one of them.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

April 14 - How You Feel Today

This represents how I felt as I began my walk today – peaceful, tranquil,
calm. Now that I'm done (the first five-miler in a long time), I'm not sure
how to take a picture of tired, tired, tired.

Sleepin' 9 to 5

Well, I didn't go to the movie after all. Even working a half day did me in. But I will get used to this, I will, I will, I WILL!

Instead, I stayed home and played Scrabble with my husband after we watched Jeopardy. We are SO old.  Thank goodness we don't feel old on the inside, even though we do old-people things. Like, we used to eat dinner at 6, but have gradually backed that up to 5 on most nights. We might as well live in Florida.

So bedtime was delayed until 9-ish. It was probably 9:30 before I fell asleep. And I didn't wake up until 5:05 this morning. If I can add one or two hours of awake time at the end of the day, I think I can overcome the early wakefulness at the beginning of the next.

Gingerzingi mentioned recent reports of "blue screen time" interfering with sleep cycles. Interestingly, when I work I'm not spending any time in front of a screen. When I'm home, I'm checking e-mail or cruising the web A LOT. And I watch very little television. (I guess I've turned into one of those people who gets most of my news from Facebook. That's not how old people get their news! Heh.)

One of the bloggers I've recently started reading has chosen to [mostly] unplug for the month of April. I'm so guilty of spending too many of my remaining hours on earth following links and repinning things on Pinterest. But I'm not ready to back off yet. Everything I do lately feels like a job: losing weight, working out, volunteer activities. I like my part-time job, that feels like fun. As does my computer time, whether it's at the laptop or on the new phone. Giving it up at this time would just be mean.

Screen time is automatically being reduced because of the hours I spend at Groundworks. And once my own garden gets going I'll be spending a lot of time weeding and, eventually, reaping. We'll certainly have more cold snaps this spring, but I think hope we're done with freeze and frost warnings.

Today I get to be a good Democrat and attend our county convention. We will be choosing delegates for our state convention in June, at which time we'll select the national delegates who will be going to Charlotte in September. Despite registered Democrats outnumbering Republicans 2-to-1 in West Virginia, we are a red state. (Riddle me this, Batman: Why do these Democrats vote against their own interests?)

I'd love to go to Charlotte, but there are an awful lot of West Virginia Democrats who've served their party a lot longer than I have who will get to go. I'm pretty sure I'll be going to the state event, though, and that will be fun and interesting and something I've never done before. (And no screen time!)

When you're as old as I am, virgin experiences are hard to come by.

Friday, April 13, 2012

April 13 - Something You Found

I could smell it before I saw it … the wild honeysuckle is blooming!

I hate it when …

the Barnes & Noble Free Friday book is already in my library and I didn't remember downloading it the first time.


I have 156 books on my Nook, as well as half a dozen unread magazines. It's not like I'm reading paper versions of books and magazines, either. I'm just not reading.

But I'm playing a lot of Scrabble.

On the other hand …

being awake so early means you get to see some lovely sunrises.

To sleep, perchance to dream …

I have not been sleeping well lately.

Actually, that's not true. I sleep well when I sleep, but once I wake up, I'm UP. As in wide awake, ready to go, bouncing off the walls UP.

For the past several days, UP time has been between 2:30 and 4:30 a.m. I realize that for both of you, 2:30 and 4:30 come once a day, when it's light outside. You might be having a mid-afternoon snack then, or you might be at work.

The other 2:30 and 4:30 come when it's pitch-black outside. Frost develops in the pre-dawn hours, preparing to wreak its havoc on strawberry blossoms and baby apples. There's not much traffic on our road, or anywhere else around here for that matter. Should the sheriff drive by, he might wonder if all is well, seeing my kitchen light on at such an unseemly hour.

Bedtime is early, usually by 9 p.m., so I'm not technically sleep-deprived, more like underslept. Five or six hours, and sometimes seven, is certainly enough to get by on, but getting UP so early-early-early takes its toll after more than a couple of days.

My energy level drops dramatically around 4 p.m. – just in time to start dinner. I feel fuzzy, almost like I have a hangover, with the blackout but without all the fun. Not a good feeling. I have trouble concentrating and I'm not a good listener around that time. Just ask my oh-so-patient husband.

To somewhat prepare for not ever wanting to make dinner again, yesterday I cooked 10 pounds of chicken quarters. Some went into the crockpot for chicken noodle soup (which we ate last night and will have again tonight). The rest is in the refrigerator, ready to skin and bone this morning and put into the freezer in meal-sized packages. I also cooked and froze three pounds of ground beef with some chopped onions.

Hey, it's a start. As long as I have pasta, pizza dough, tortillas, cheese and the usual vegetables – celery, carrots, onions, peppers – I can make something that passes for dinner which will still be healthful and home-cooked.

Because shortcuts are allowed when you've underslept. Right?

I know some of you have written about your own sleep issues. How do you get back on track? I'll be staying UP later tonight, as I'm going to see The Hunger Games. It begins at 7, ends 142 minutes later and it takes another 25 minutes to drive home. I should be collapsing into bed around 10 p.m. Maybe that shift in schedule will be enough to get me back on track.

Until the next time. I'm open to other suggestions. (Can you believe it? I'm actually asking for advice!)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

April 12 - Stairs

Good thing we built a two-story garage, or I'd have to skip today's prompt!

It's official: I'm old

No it's not some milestone birthday or impending hip surgery or even incontinence. I'm old because I came home from work yesterday and collapsed immediately after dinner. I got up again long enough to watch Jeopardy, after which I went back to bed and straight to sleep. Oh, after I took an Aleve.

Now if that doesn't define "old," I don't know what does.

I spent six hours at Groundworks yesterday, bundled in sweatpants and a t-shirt topped by a hooded sweatshirt topped by a fleece jacket. And I got to wear knitted things! My favorite wool hat (a lace pattern by Medrith Glover which I cannot find online for you to buy, but you can contact her here, if you're so inclined) and a pair of fingerless flip-top mittens completed my ensemble.

The only time I unlayered was in one of the greenhouses, which registered a balmy 62 degrees most of the day.

There was much lifting and carrying and toting and moving of plants in and out of warm places. We had to make sure everything vulnerable was protected last night, since we under a freeze warning. AGAIN. There also was a painful wrenching of a bicep or possibly tricep as I tugged on a heavy cart. I know exactly when it happened, and I also know I won't be lifting any dumbbells in the near future. In fact, due to one thing or another, I haven't been to the gym, nor have I walked outside (except one short walk to read the electric meter on the water pump), all week.

I know I will get used to this, eventually (probably about the time the season's over and I get laid off), but for right now I just feel creaky and old and inadequate. Not at work – after work.

Also? When I wake up eight hours after I go to sleep it's only 4 a.m. And I'm WIDE AWAKE, no way can I fall back asleep.

I might as well have a baby if I'm going to be this tired and be awake in the middle of the night.

Ooooh, bad idea. Kidding!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

April 11 - Where You Ate Breakfast

This is, in fact, where I eat most of my meals. And I don't miss to many of them!

Payback is hell

Here in southern West Virginia we're experiencing a c-c-c-COLD snap, with freeze warnings and threats of snow. (I just read a friend's Facebook status announcing it was snowing hard in Morgantown, which is almost as far away from me as you can get and still be in West Virginia, but still. SNOWING.)

I shoveled snow exactly twice this past winter, and probably could have gotten away without doing it at all, since the sun managed to melt it all away within a day. We had one of the warmest winters on record and spring has been busting out all over for a month now. Everything bloomed early and I'll admit I was a little hasty in moving my herbs from their former location to the new herb bed. They look pitiful this morning. So pitiful I'm not even going to show you a picture.


As "they" say, paybacks are hell, and I'm afraid the fruit trees will be the ones paying this spring for our lack of winter when winter was supposed to have shown up.

To prepare for this cold snap I picked all the table-ready asparagus (it's amazing how quickly it grows, since I'd just picked all the table-ready asparagus for Sunday's Easter pizza) and threw it into a pie shell along with some sliced onions and mushrooms, shredded cheese, eggs and milk. Real men may not eat quiche, but we do, and it was delicious.

Yesterday afternoon I made a trip to the nearest Sam's Club (an hour's drive, one way, don't complain to me about traffic, I'd love to have to deal with traffic if it meant Sam's Club wasn't so freakin' far away!), an errand that always takes hours. I didn't do any intentional activity yesterday, but figured a couple hours upright in Sam's, wrestling 40-lb. bags of water softener salt and a 50-lb. bag of dog food counted for something.

Amazingly, today's scale reading was the same as yesterday's. Oh, happy day.

Thanks for yesterday's comments, and Denise, thanks for the suggestion. I've signed up. I haven't previously been successful with group challenges (the ones you sign up for where you're going to lose 12 pounds in 12 weeks, á la SparkPeople or FatSecret), but a daily nudge to so something healthful for myself is intriguing, and I'll give it a try. I think it will be interesting to see if I already do some of the  suggested activities. Today's, for instance, is to

Save money on your next supermarket shopping trip by including economical foods on your list.

Well, I do that every shopping trip. In fact yesterday at Sam's I was tempted to buy a box of prepared frozen chicken enchiladas because it would be oh-so-easy to pop them in the oven at the end of a work day. But even at Sam's they were expensive and, um, the ingredient list was long and much of it was unpronounceable. So I passed. This morning I pulled out a bag of frozen homemade vegetable soup to put in the crockpot. A grilled cheese sandwich and a bowl of soup will make a satisfying dinner after working all day in the cold and rain and snow.

And I know where everything in that crockpot came from.

Have a great Wednesday. Looks like the 2012 campaign season begins today, with Santorum's departure from the GOP primaries. Bring it ON!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

One more thing about LoseIt

When I was training for the half-marathons I've done, I liked to add stars to the chart to show my progress. It felt great to look at that piece of paper and see those shiny little symbols adding up as I made my way through the weeks and weeks of hard, easy and long runs.

Well, LoseIt knows about people like me, and every once in a while they give you a badge, a little Attagirl, an additional pat on the back. I haven't figured out what I need to do to earn one, so it's not like I'm working for anything other than to continue being consistent with eating reasonable amounts of healthful foods and exercising. But it makes me smile when I get an e-mail announcing I've earned another badge.

It's kind of like Girl Scouts, except I'm doing the work for myself, not for the privilege of sewing patches on my sash and showing off to the other girls in my troop.

April 10 - Cold

I should maybe, possibly, think about defrosting the freezer. Maybe.

A new low

Well, for this year, anyway.

It's official: I've ZOOMED past the 10-pounds-lost mark, all the way to 11 since 1/1/12.

As both of you know, my body doesn't much care for giving up lard. So what's the secret to my fabulous success? (Please imagine me smirking. Eleven pounds in 14 weeks is, um, WAY less-than-fabulous for most folks, but I must be happy about it or the scale gods will MAKE ME PAY.)

I was able to maintain a seven-pound loss on South Beach, but moving to Phase II stopped the losses. And, frankly, I like whole-grain bread and rice and pasta, so moving back to Phase One felt like being put in a corner for eating normal food. "Nobody puts Baby in a corner."

Is that the kind of food relationship I want to nurture? I. Don't. Think. So.

While driving lately, I've been catching up on some of Jillian's recent podcasts. I heard something a couple weeks ago that we've all heard before. You may have dismissed it as I did, since there isn't anything magical or amazing or even terribly interesting about it. What she said was:


So I have been, with a little help from the Lose It app. I've been using FatSecret for a couple years to intermittently record food and log exercise, but just as it helps to switch workout routines or have an occasional high-calorie day, I find it somewhat motivating to try a new way of tracking calories in/calories out. (LoseIt wasn't available for the BlackBerry, so I really should be giving all the credit to the new phone. Heh.)

What I like about LoseIt is that it works like a checkbook. You're subtracting food calories and adding exercise calories throughout the day, with the goal being a zero balance at bedtime. The difference between counting calories now and counting calories any other time I've done it is that I'm actually eating the calories I "earn" by exercising. Usually I think I'm doing myself a favor by sticking to the goal and creating a huge deficit. But, as Jeff and Russ frequently remind us, "Undereating always leads to overeating."

I've been burning a lot of calories lately, but as you can see from last week's summary it hasn't all been in the gym or on the road. I've had more energy to do things that need to be done outside. Yesterday I cleaned the garage, something I've had on my to-do list since we traded the old car for a new-to-us truck. I filled four large garbage bags with stuff; lifted, toted, carried and moved a boatload of boxes, and swept the entire floor with a broom and dustpan. It took three hours. Granted, I needed a bit of a rest afterward, but only a short one, after which I fixed dinner and went to two meetings.

Speaking strictly for me, I didn't have this kind of energy on South Beach. Some people find they do; that's not how it worked for me, at least after about a month.

To sum up, I'm not sure what the real difference is. I've created calorie deficits before and not lost a pound for weeks on end. Something's clicking, though. Let's just hope it keeps on doing it.

Monday, April 9, 2012

April 9 - Younger You

I was wondering how I was going to handle today's photo prompt. While
cleaning out the garage, I hit the jackpot, opening a box of 50+-year-old
photos. These are of me when I was about four, on Easter Sunday.
There's a little chick posing on my head in the main photo.

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade

And when you have a gallon of fresh milk, leftover ham and ripe asparagus, make


Fresh from the oven … the most non-traditional Easter dinner I've ever made.
 I hope your Easter was happy and that you broke your no-chocolate-for-Lent fast with the most delicious dark chocolate bunny you could find. We debated about thawing the one-pound Reese's cup Santa brought, but ultimately decided the calories wouldn't be worth it.

Especially since we'd just finished our Easter pizza.

I worked from noon until 4 yesterday afternoon, so I needed to be able to come home, get cleaned up and put dinner together relatively quickly. I made the mozzarella Saturday. I made the dough Sunday morning and let it rise, then stuck it in the refrigerator for the rest of the day.

Business at the garden center was slow, so I got to leave a little early, giving me plenty of time to put it all together. Heck, I probably could have made a more traditional feast, but everything was ready for pizza, so pizza it was.

Now I've never had a ham-and-asparagus pizza, but apparently it's not all that unusual. Seriously, I think you can put most food items on a sauce-and-cheese-covered pizza crust and it'll be edible.

For the sauce, I mixed half a small can of tomato paste with some spicy brown mustard, a little horseradish and a shot of sriracha. I covered that with the shredded mozza, added some sliced Egyptian onions, eight or nine asparagus spears snapped into one-inch pieces, about 8 oz. of chopped ham and a can of drained mushroom pieces and stems. I debated about seasonings, but decided the sauce would be a strong enough flavor that it wouldn't need anything else.

My husband LOVED IT! I did, too, but he absolutely raved about it. Granted he's very easy to please when it comes to food, but he seriously could not stop talking about how good it. He even said we should have it the next time we have dinner guests.

So there you have it: Easter pizza. I tried to figure out a way to include eggs and chocolate bunnies, but in the end decided that would be overkill. I hope your Easter dinner was as big a success as mine was.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Friday, April 6, 2012

April 6 - Lunch

Having a camera at your fingertips doesn't mean squat if you forget to take a picture of your lunch – today's prompt – before you eat it all. Therefore, through the magic of Screen Capture, I give you … lunch!
Pretty heavy-duty lunch, but it's kept me full all day long. In fact I think I'll just need a
light snack in an hour or so instead of a full-blown dinner.

About those apple blossoms …

We're under a freeze warning from 2 to 10 a.m. Saturday. I covered the trees the last time the temperature got way cold (28!), but since the forecast is for slightly above freezing – 33 degrees – I think I'm going to let nature take its course this time.

Also, I said I had three trees blooming, but only two look like they'll have any fruit. The honeycrisp doesn't have a single flower on it. =( Young apple trees yield very little fruit anyway, but it would be nice to have one or two eating apples later this year.

Clearly I have a lot to learn about orcharding. Heh.

'Tis Good Friday and for everyone who gave up chocolate for Lent, you only have to wait a couple more days. Since I'm no longer following South Beach and didn't give up chocolate for Lent, that hasn't stopped me from doing a little chocolate-filled stress eating this week. The good thing is the scale continues to be friendly. The bad thing is … well, there's nothing bad about chocolate, if you ask me. Although the older I get the less I crave it. I'd rather have a citrus-y treat than a chocolate one.

I probably won't write over the weekend, but I'll post the daily photo challenge shot. I've been having fun with Instagram for Android since it was released a couple days ago, and I've also downloaded a bunch of other photo effects editors that I haven't played with yet.

Have a hoppy Easter. I leave you with my very favorite Easter image:

Thursday, April 5, 2012

April 5 - Tiny

Fun with filters! This is the first spring for this lilac. The flowers are,
indeed, tiny compared to all the other lilacs in the neighborhood!

I heart my job

I really do.

Growing up, I was not at all interested in gardening. My father always had a vegetable garden, and he loved growing weird things like kohlrabi and shoepeg corn. My grandmother loved getting her hands dirty; she grew beautiful roses and poppies.

One time as an adult I threw some pot seeds out the back door and ended up transplanting a pretty incredible plant into the basement under a grow light. They call it "weed" because that's how it grows – like a weed.

My third husband was a back-to-the-land wannbe, and we had several raised-bed gardens, but again – they were his, not mine.

I guess it took all this time to meet the right mentors and to be open to the possibility of me actually being a gardener. I started several years ago with perennial beds, and three years ago dug up a large area for vegetables. Two years ago I doubled that space. It's just the right size to provide almost a year's worth of tomatoes, garlic, pickles and green beans for my husband and myself, along with several months' worth of squash, edamame, onions and okra. Oh, and the annual New Year's Day serving of Hoppin' John. (Seriously, black-eyed peas are easy and fun to grow, and I'm willing to "spend" a row of space on them just because they're so cool-looking.)

In the last couple years I've added two more large perennial beds, filled in the planters in front of the house, created an herb bed, planted strawberries and blackberries and am right now looking at three apple trees, all in bloom.

Here's the view from the break "room."
I wouldn't love gardening nearly as much if I weren't working at Groundworks. I'm inspired each time I go in to work. My "office" is a potting bench, with a sea of flowers in front of me and the gentle Greenbrier River flowing behind me. There's something beautiful to look at all the time: new varieties of perennials, unusual and interesting annuals, weird plants I'd never thought about (like the papyrus plant that came home with me over the weekend) and old favorites like baptisia and creeping phlox and hostas.
Papyrus, a likely candidate
for the "thriller" part
of the thriller/filler/spiller
combination in an outdoor
container garden.

And my job is not always about getting my hands dirty. I'm on a mission right now to find or create a daily sales report that will meet their needs. I do advertising and marketing for them. I spruce up their blog and Facebook page, make signs and I've even learned how to use the cash register. I load heavy bags of fertilizer and huge bales of growing mix into pick-up trucks. I water hundreds (maybe thousands, but who's counting?) of trees and plants.

It's a physical job, yet another reason I need to keep working out. Being leaner and stronger can only help me as I help the next customer wrestle a couple of rhododendrons into the trunk of her car.