Friday, June 29, 2012

A good day

Apologies to you lucky readers who don't live in the United States and who currently enjoy universal healthcare. This post is all about justice prevailing here in America.

I tried not to get all caught up in the hype yesterday morning, waiting for the Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). I posted on Facebook that it felt like watching the "Buckwheat Dead" sketch from Saturday Night Live, oh so many years ago.

And both of you know I'm not really happy with ACA anyway. Removing the public option weakened the bill considerably and left insurance companies in the mix. It's a fact that Medicare's administrative costs are 3 to 5 percent, while commercial insurance companies spend 30 percent just to process (or, more likely, deny) claims. Single-payer (Medicare for all) is the most economical, humane, just, fair way to deliver healthcare to everyone. Period.

So while I was a disappointed Democrat after ACA was signed in 2010, I'm still a devoted Democrat in 2012, and I wanted the Supreme Court decision to uphold the law.

I was surprised at how happy I was, once Wolf Blitzer got it all sorted out. (He originally reported the individual mandate had been struck down, which was not the case.) Giddy, even. My President won! A very good day! And he gave a very classy statement a couple hours later in which he pointed out who the real winners are: Me. And you, if you live in the United States.

I haven't benefitted from any of the ACA provisions yet. My insurance company (I pay through the nose for a private, high-deductible, catastrophic policy) has always offered an annual free well-woman visit to my OB-GYN, including an in-office PAP smear, and I can get a free mammogram every year, as well. Which I haven't done in a while, so I'd better schedule that soon. Those are a couple benefits from the law that some insured women now receive.

What the law didn't prevent, however, is my insurance company dropping all its individual policies. I learned this spring that as of July 1, 2013, I will no longer have health insurance. I'll be 62 at that time. It's not likely that I'll be able to find anything even close to the already expensive policy I now "enjoy." (Considering that this policy doesn't cover office visits, lab work, X-rays or diagnostic tests, and that I rarely visit a healthcare professional, Aetna has profited quite nicely from my premiums.) I've already started researching replacement policies.

Deductibles in most plans have gone from $3000/year (which is what mine is) to $5000/year. Most policies now cover office visits, with a $30 to $35 co-pay (my doctor charges $72 for an office visit for his uninsured patients). They typically offer 80/20 coverage – they pay 80 percent and the patient pays 20 percent – after the $5000 deductible has been met.

I'm grateful for my relatively good health. I'm glad I have a health savings account (which will pay for the upcoming dental work). I haven't contributed to the HSA since I originally funded it several years ago, and I still have most of it in the bank. I'd like to say my BMI is normal, but I'm beginning to believe it may never be. Obesity may be a pre-existing condition, but it's not going to keep me from being insured. Eventually.

I'm willing to go without insurance for the six months from July, 2013, to January, 2014, but my husband won't hear of it.

My hope is that West Virginia will begin setting up its insurance exchange well before the January, 2014, deadline, and that we will be able to opt into it ahead of schedule. I'll be making some calls to find out if that's being considered.

My other hope/wish/fervent prayer is that President Obama is re-elected in a landslide. Talk about a mandate. This signature legislation has helped and will help millions of Americans stay healthy or get treatment for conditions which were previously denied coverage. Once I'm eligible for the state exchange policy, I will save more than $2000 a year in premiums. And, truly, it's not all about me. It's about moving this country forward, eventually, to that ideal single-payer, Medicare-for-all system. Health reform in the United States will be a long slow process.

Yesterday's decision was a major step in the right direction.

June 29 - Soft

One of the many beautiful [and soft] asparagus fronds next to the garage.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

June 28 - On the shelf

The CDs, which never get played now that all the music is on the iPod,
still need to be stored, and of course the Dylan disks are front-and-center.

Giddy gardener

This is my fourth year of serious gardening, and I'm still not over it. And if other gardening bloggers I read are any indication, you never do get over it. In fact, I don't even think our Amish neighbors ever get over it. Whenever I stop by there for milk, the conversation turns to gardening: How are your tomatoes? Did you get many strawberries? My rhubarb is out of control! Have you seen the hibiscus/butterfly bush/hydrangeas this year?

We had the last of the lettuce in a salad last night, to which I added homegrown onions. The dressing was laced with homegrown garlic and homegrown cilantro (which is out of control, I've never had this much cilantro before. I'm rich with cilantro!) I don't think we're going to get a June tomato (other than cherry-sized), but there's still two days left and it's going to be hot-hot-hot, so you never know.

I'm not trying to grow enough food to feed my husband and me for a year. I'm pretty sure I'll have enough tomatoes and garlic to last until next year's harvest, barring any unforeseen circumstances – blight, blossom rot, hornworms – gardening is an adventure! But I'll go back to picking up organic romaine at Tiny Kroger until I can plant more greens later this summer. (Yes, I'm going to try a little fall gardening.) Much of my garden is fallow this year as I attempt to improve the soil for full production next spring.

I miss fresh green beans, but have been enjoying snow peas. I didn't plant a single cucumber, but I've picked the first zucchini. The few peppers I put in are already yellow, well on their way to red.

The herb garden is glorious, as is the lush landscape bed I planted last year. I never thought I'd be a flower gardener, but last night I dreamed about how I'm going to improve the view as we come up the driveway. Another project!

It never ends. And you never get over it. And that, as Martha would say, is a Good Thing.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

June 27 - Bathroom

I wouldn't have blamed you for not clicking through when you saw the title.
So thanks for clicking through! Peeking through the door of the unisex restroom at work.

Three hours

I was in the tomato patch yesterday from noon to 3 and didn't even get hot. It was a glorious day for pruning and staking tomatoes. Many of the Amish pastes are just beginning to go from green to yellow, and I had enough ripe cherry tomatoes to chop and add to our omelettes last night. Also picked the first zucchini.

Do you think I'll ever get over the delight of the first crop of the season? I hope not!

I also finished the bulk of a design project, 25 booklets of love letters from a friend's multiple-great grandfather to his betrothed. All that's left to do is assembly, the printing is done, done, done.

So. A productive day, all in all.

My brother, who lives on the Gulf Coast of Florida reported this morning that the downtown streets in his town have three to four feet of water coursing through them. No one has lost power in his immediate area, thank goodness, but he ran out of texts on his phone and had to wait until he could get to work to e-mail me. (He is home computer-less. And he likes it that way.) If you're affected by Tropical Storm Debby, please don't think of me. She spells her name differently. Just sayin'! Heh.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

June 26 - Where you shop

This is's grocery aisle, which is much, much bigger than Tiny Kroger.

Today's the day …

to work in the garden.

Definitely not Friday.

Today, though, is starting off as the most perfect June day. (I feel really, really bad for those of you affected by Tropical Storm Debby. Which isn't me, by the way, I spell my name with an "i," not a "y.")

Low humidity, cool temperatures, no rain in sight. I had previously tied the tomatoes two to a stake, which is working for some plants, but not all of them. My husband brought home a dozen new stakes yesterday.

So I'll be restaking, weeding and pruning the tomatoes today. It's one of those strike-while-the-iron-is-hot, make-hay-while-the-sun-shines kind of days.

If you need me today, I'll be in the garden.

Monday, June 25, 2012

June 25 - Something cute (also post #1111)

Permit me one more photo of a teeny Weck jar. It was either this or a
baby zucchini. 'Cause I'm just not that into cute. Heh.

Well, I gotta spend the next 38 months doing something, right?

I recorded my weight at FatSecret a minute or so ago and got this message:

My Weigh in Report
You lost 1.0 lb (0.5 %) since you last weighed in on Monday 28 May 2012.
At that rate it will take you about 38 months to get to your goal weight.

What's 38 more months, in the whole scheme of things? Heh.

I woke up really early this morning thinking about the coal industry in West Virginia. Wikipedia has been somewhat helpful in answering some questions, but not entirely. And all the answers lead to more questions, the biggest one (so far) being this:
If the healthcare industry employs more workers than the coal mining industry does, and if healthcare workers are treating people who have gotten sick from coal mining (directly or indirectly), then wouldn't we be hurting the healthcare sector by reducing the impact of mining?
I also had a great idea, maybe I should run for statewide office. Before the first fracking incident happens in West Virginia (it's probably too late, I haven't been keeping up with natural gas extraction news from the northern part of the state), everyone should be drinking city water. My biggest fear, as someone who drinks from a well, is that a natural gas well will, someday, contaminate my water supply.

I bet both of you are shaking your heads about now, wondering when I'm going to get a life.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

June 24 - On my mind

My little teeny (3/4 cup) Weck jars came this week. Just in time for pesto!
An abundance of basil has been on my mind for several days.

Pesto season

You may think it's summer vacation season, or baseball season, or mosquito season or, if you're in the southern hemisphere it could be the freezin' season. But here in southern West Virginia, thanks to nearly perfect growing conditions lately, it's pesto season.

As much as my mouth (still) hurts (so bad I can barely eat), I can ignore the pain when I'm cooking. So far today I've made lotsa pesto and an apple cobbler, and there's a dish of fresh corn pudding in the oven. I suppose anything – knitting, cardmaking, reading, weeding, fill-in-the-blank – would distract me, but today I was in a cooking mood.

Good thing, too, since the basil plants were beginning to flower, I'd already harvested the apples and a neighbor dropped off four ears of corn yesterday.

What's that? You've never made pesto? As condiments go, it's pretty easy-peasy. It's best (as always) to have all the ingredients ready to go before you get started. You'll need a food processor, and a salad spinner helps to clean the basil.

The ingredient list is pretty simple:
4 cups washed and dried basil leaves
6 cloves garlic
3 oz. parmesan
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/2 cup olive oil
These leaves were snipped from 14 plants. I'm not sure how long it will take before there's enough new growth to make more, but I guarantee I won't be running out of basil before September. I have, perhaps, planted too much. Ahem.

Let the parmesan come to room temperature.
The first of this year's garlic.

Whirl the cheese and garlic in the food processor until it looks like this.
Half a minute or so ought to do it.


With the motor running, add the salt and pine nuts, and then the basil leaves, a few at a time, until it's all smooshed up. It will be dark green and slimy looking, kind of like a thick green smoothie.

Slo-o-o-o-owly add the oil. Not slowly like when you make mayonnaise, but you don't want to dump it all in at once, either. Keep whirling until it looks like, um, pesto! Which won't take long at all.

I make pesto in batches, because my food processor is a countertop (little) model. If you're lucky enough to have a 12- or 14-cup vessel, you could easily double this recipe. I had 10 cups of basil leaves to start with, and made three batches. Each
batch got dumped in a bowl and then when I was done I mixed all of it together thoroughly before I spooned it into jars.

Pesto freezes beautifully, as I'm sure you know, and once thawed it will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks.

But seriously … who lets fresh pesto sit around in their refrigerator that long? Heh.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

June 23 - Movement

Hoping President Obama is re-elected, Congress returns to Democratic control,
and the Senate manages to swell to a super-majority. Onward. FORWARD!

Friday, June 22, 2012

June 22 - From a high angle

I tried …

to get a little video to post of the lovely rain we're having.

Do either of you know how FREAKING hard it is to film falling rain? It's FREAKING HARD!

But it's lovely rain, and we certainly need it. I wish my brother had had time to fix the gutters before he went back to Florida. Or maybe I just need to put a couple more buckets out on the patio. That's the lazy woman's way of fixing gutter leaks.

Yesterday I mowed and mowed and mowed, after I watered the garden. We've had rain in the forecast for several days, but the tomatos in the garden were looking a little droopy. Wrestling with the hose (or washing the car) is as good as a rain dance, I swear.

It's easier to water the little Sweet 'n' Neat cherry tomatoes in the planter on the patio table. And I do believe we'll be eating tomatoes in June this year. See?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

June 21 - Where you slept

My side of the bed. All filtered up using the Pixlr-o-matic Android app.

Antibiotics are a beautiful thing

I'm just sayin'.

I took it easy yesterday afternoon, after working at the garden center in the morning. The temperature soared to 90 degrees and the humidity wasn't much lower. There's always a threat of afternoon thunderstorms this time of year, but even when they come through (they didn't), they leave the atmosphere feeling even more tropical. If that's possible.

The morning was nice, though. The garden center is shaded most of the morning and my job was to water the plants. I almost finished, only the fruit trees remained unwatered when my co-worker arrived at noon to relieve me. Three hours of watering, punctuated by two or three customers. It took my mind off my mouth, and that's a beautiful thing, too.

I planted some sweet potato slips yesterday in the former garlic bed. I'm not sure what to expect, I've never grown sweet potatoes before. My soil isn't especially sandy, which Farmer Google says is ideal, so we'll just have to see what happens. I watered them by hand after I planted them, but I'll have to get the hose out today and give the whole garden a drink.

Not much else to report from the Middle of Nowhere. I really have just one thing on my mind, and I promise I won't inflict my dental anxiety on you.

When my brother left yesterday he said he'd come back when we had three things on our to-do list for him. When he called from Florida he had changed his mind, and said he'd come if we only had two things. Nice to know he had a good time. We really enjoyed having him here.

And we're really enjoying the repaired ceiling fan. And screen door with no holes in it. And casement window that doesn't slip off its track. And brake light that works again. And, and, and …

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

June 20 - Fave photo you've ever taken

A somewhat odd choice, you might think, to be the favorite photo I've ever taken.
If I'd chosen a grandchild shot, the other grandchildren would have been left out.
And I've taken so many pictures of my little Hershey girl it's hard to choose a favorite.

The entire experience taking this shot made me feel like a "real" photographer.
It was the first time I'd gone to the tunnel (this is Big Bend Tunnel in Talcott, WV,
home of the John Henry legend). I took dozens of shots, each one slightly different.
I love the pinhole of light at the other end of the tunnel. Also, it was a spur of the moment
idea and it fulfilled one of Instagram's Weekend Hashtag projects. It wasn't chosen as a
featured shot, but I think it was worthy.

The only other photo I considered for today's prompt was of a slice of apple pie.
Mmmmmmm, pie. =)

The party's over …

I have to work this morning, so my husband is driving my brother to the airport. I sure wish I was going, too. He seemed to have a good time, mostly relaxing and enjoying the quiet time. Unless he was fixing something. We now have a screen door that doesn't admit flies and insects, a dryer vent that doesn't admit mice and a ceiling fan that doesn't make so much racket we've never used it as a fan, only as a light fixture. Oh, and a previously broken-into window that is now closed and locked, never to be reopened, a brake light on the truck, etc., etc., etc. That boy can fix anything!

The ice cream social last Saturday was a success, and I'm sure our retiring Delegate was pleased and felt very much appreciated. I do believe life can return to normal. Sort of.

Monday started early – my husband, brother and I left here at 6 a.m. We picked up my sister, who quite possibly lives more in the Middle of Nowhere than I do and then drove another hour and a half to a cemetery southwest of Columbus, Ohio, to meet my dad's widow and bury his ashes. Since we'd already had two memorial services in 2010, when he died, this "service" was family-only and we simply reminisced a bit.

Dad's wife and her family went back to her sister's and our little group headed to the east side of Columbus to visit our mother's grave.

All in all, a pretty emotional first half of the day.

We had lunch and took my sister back to her place and by 5 p.m. we were headed south to West Virginia again.

And I was in unbearable pain, with what turned out to be a gum abscess on the upper right side of my mouth.

I got braces when I was 30, and since that time have spent thousands of dollars trying to make my teeth smile-worthy. Thirty years later, my lower teeth are fine, but the sad/bad news I got yesterday is that I need upper dentures.

I'm on antibiotics now and will probably begin the process of becoming a truly old person in August. The dentist said I was lucky to have kept my natural teeth this long, and that the kind of bone loss that is causing my dental problems runs in families (I can find no evidence from Dr. Google, DDS on that, however). At any rate, the inflammation that was causing the pain has been reduced a bit and I think I'll just channel Scarlett O'Hara:
"I can't think about that right now. If I do, I'll go crazy. I'll think about that … tomorrow."

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

June 19 - Imperfect

Well, I missed posting yesterday, which is imperfect in and of itself. But I was in a car, on the road for most of the entire day, which I'll write more about tomorrow. The last few hours of the drive home I was in excruciating pain because of what's pictured below.

My mouth. Totally imperfect. And painful. And infected.
The dentist worked me in today and gave me the unfortunate
(but expected) news that I will, before fall, have upper dentures.
Getting old really sucks.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

June 17 - In your bag

Took a little liberty with this photo prompt and used the American expression
"in the bag," which means finished, done, complete – I finished mulching the herb bed!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

June 16 - Out + about

"Out and about" implies hustle and bustle.
Unless you live in the Middle of Nowhere.
(from this morning's walk)

Friday, June 15, 2012

June 15 - Yellow

Yellow marguerites – or as my little sister used to say, 'lello.'

I took ANOTHER walk!

Wow, when you don't have to work and you don't have a mile-long list of Things To Do, there are a lot more hours in the day for things like, um, exercise. Heh.

My gym membership runs out next week, but I haven't been there regularly since I started working in April. I tried, but I had a lot of trouble justifying the 25-mile round-trip on days I didn't have to drive anywhere. I think I'll do another six-month membership beginning in October and in the meantime just keep walking.

My brother went with me for a two-miler yesterday. He is a non-exerciser who works at a desk job and I was very proud of him for making the effort, and then amazed that he actually went the distance. He's already informed me he's very sore this morning. As anyone would be, I keep reminding him.

And although I said yesterday (in my photo post) how nice it is not to have to do or be or accomplish anything, we've accomplished a LOT with his help. My husband and I are, um, limited in our handyman skills, but my brother? Not so much.

He reminds me so much of my dad, who loved to putter and could always figure out a way to zig when he should have zagged.

I now have a new dryer vent installed and the screen has been replaced in the door that needed it. These are things I might have gotten around to, eventually, but with an extra pair of skillful hands they're done. Yay!

Ice cream social to honor our Delegate is tomorrow and then, I think, I'll be able to sort of relax. We're going to Ohio Monday (up and back all in one day, that'll be a killer), my brother leaves Wednesday and then I can truly take it easy. I have one weekend trip planned in July. I already predict I'll be wishing I'd planted more of a garden when July rolls around but, as the young folk say, it is what it is.

I'll have PLENTY of tomatoes.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

June 14 - TIme

Time passes slowly up here in the mountains.
~ Bob Dylan

So very nice to relax and enjoy this visit with my brother. I feel no pressure to do or be or accomplish anything.

I walked yesterday!

Here's the beauty of a to-do list: When it's ta-done, you can go do something good for yourself. And yesterday was such a gorgeous, beautiful, perfect June day, I simply had to take advantage of it.

I got home from work about 12:30, ate a light lunch and headed out. It took a lot longer to do three miles yesterday than it usually does, because I stopped to chat with a neighbor and also stopped a couple times to take photos. But I wasn't timing myself.

I was taking a walk because I felt like walking, not because I was training or exercising or making up for something I ate or any of the other reasons I usually walk.

It felt great to be outside. It's been a while. If the humidity stays low, as it was yesterday, I think I'll be walking again today.

Our company arrived safely. My dad's widow will be going on to Ohio today to visit her family, but we'll see her again Monday when we go there as well, to bury my father's ashes. Finally.

In the meantime, it's good to spend time with my little brother (who towers over me!). Kind of like these trees did yesterday afternoon …

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

June 13 - Art

Landscaping is an art, right?

I had hoped to take a photo of a very cool bumper sticker today, but the truck that sports it didn't show up at the garden center. Here's what it would have looked like (and I think I've posted a picture of it before, maybe on Facebook, a long time ago).


I'd better be done with that list …

because today's the day! My dad's widow and my brother are already on the road, driving up from Florida. She is dropping him off here and then traveling on to Ohio tomorrow to visit her children. My brother will be spending the week with us. We're going to Ohio Monday to inter my dad's ashes.

Only these few things remain to be done:

I'm hoping my brother can help me with the screen door. It was on the to-do list long before I knew he was coming, so the extra pair of handy hands will knock that one out in no time. (My husband is great with ideas, talk therapy and even surgery, but not so great at plumbing, gardening or screen door repair.)

I've staked some of the tomatoes, but that's an early-early-early morning job. You see, tomatoes need lots of sun in order to grow, and if you're out there staking them mid-day, well the sun is beating down on you and you'll quickly become exhausted and hot and cranky. My discomfort trumps my OCD-ness about unfinished chores when it comes to staking tomatoes.

Speaking of tomatoes, Winnie asked for clarification about volunteers. The only tomato I know for sure that could be named a Volunteer is the Cherokee Purple, which is native to Tennessee, the Volunteer State. The volunteers which have sprung up in my herb bed started from seeds which were deposited there last year when we were using that spot as a compost pile.

I usually find a volunteer or two in the vegetable garden. I move the tomatoes from one area of the garden to another each year, to reduce the opportunity for disease from year to year. There have always been fallen tomatoes and, thus, seeds, in the ground when I put the garden to bed for the winter (cough, cough … I'm really not much of a fall gardener). It's kind of amazing that we spend so much time in March and April babying those seeds indoors so we can transplant the seedlings when the soil warms up, and then still find plants that have started from seed growing randomly, wherever they've happened to land.

I'll tidy up the refrigerator when I get home from work today. The donation container deadline is Saturday, and I don't think my brother will mind my taking time to do that while he's here. The garden stuff will get done when it gets done. (I'm reallyreallyreally glad I'm not dependent on my garden to feed us for a year. This would be a pretty good year to starve, I'm afraid!)

As always, thanks for reading. I hope your Wednesday is going to be as fun as mine will be! (I haven't seen my brother in two years – too long!)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

June 12 - From a low angle

Looking up into the apple tree. There aren't very many fruits, and I have
no idea when they'll be ripe. They're getting pretty big, though!



Mulch really is magical. I've been ready to plow the herb bed under and plant grass seed the past couple months because it was so ugly. But a few hours and many buckets full of mulch have transformed it. I'm so happy with it!

It's not strictly an herb bed. One section has rhubarb and one has horseradish and there are those volunteer tomatoes in there, too. I sowed fennel and basil in some of the blank spots yesterday.

I've always had trouble growing cilantro, but that section is doing great, better than any other, actually. Which makes me very happy, because I do love me some fresh cilantro. I garnished our curried lentil soup with a generous amount last night. Because I could. Heh.

Here's how the herb bed started.

And here it is now.

The opposite side remains unmulched, because I ran out. I'll get another
truckload as soon as possible, because the OCD part of me has trouble
looking past the unfinished-ness of it all.

A correction from yesterday: The light-colored mulch is cocoa shell, not coconut shell, and I would use it on everything if I could afford it. [A truck bed full (Ford Ranger) was $30. Four 2 cu. ft. bags of cocoa shell was $24.] But it's great mulch, and I like the contrast between the beds and the paths very much.

Still no clue as to how the door shattered. It's the inside pane of glass and the glass expert assured me it will fall out of the frame. It's just a matter of time. Oh, joy. I will, at his suggestion, gently apply masking tape to it and hope for minimal mess when it happens. He can't come to look at it until Friday.

I've been loving your comments. Thanks for taking the time to express yourself. And for letting me do the same.

That meeting again

On Sunday I wrote about a Saturday morning meeting with West Virginia's former governor Joe Manchin. The subject of racism in West Virginia came up, and he quickly shot it down. No, race isn't an issue here in the Mountain State. Our citizens want jobs. Oh, and Coal is King!

I'm linking to this article, which was published Saturday afternoon, so that I will always have it available. I've sent the link to former governor Manchin. Perhaps someone on his staff with an open mind will read it.

And weep for West Virginia.

Monday, June 11, 2012

June 11 - Door

Spontaneously shattered glass in one of the stationary panes
flanking a sliding glass patio door. Photo was taken from the outside;
there is a sheer curtain panel on the inside.

Monday morning, coming down

I'm not really talking about me, although I'm certainly not quite as high up on that cloud of excitement and empowerment I was on Saturday after scolding a U.S. Senator.

My husband is still shaking his head over that one.

I'll post the photoadayJune picture (how serendipitous is it that today's prompt is "door"?) as soon as I publish this post so you can see what I'm talking about.

I came out into the living room this morning and noticed one of the sliding glass door panels was completely shattered. I looked for a brick or a rock on the patio, but found nothing. Then – of course! – I Googled and learned that spontaneous shattering of tempered glass sometimes just happens.

What a bitch.

As I sit here at my dining room table, the door is behind me and I can hear it. It's literally creaking. The spider-vein cracks are probably still spreading, although I can't see them do so, as when a car windshield cracks.

I've called the hardware store, gotten a couple numbers (an Andersen window representative and an installer) and am waiting for the somewhat civilized hour of 8 a.m. to call the first one, who will need to inspect it and tell us what to order.

Nothing like reality to bring you back to reality.

And nothing like the threat of rain to get you outside, weeding the herb bed and spreading the rest of a truckload of mulch. I got the landscape bed mulched last night after dinner and there truly is something magical about a freshly mulched flower bed. It's just lovely – so neat and tidy and professional-looking. I'm hoping the herb bed will look just as awesome – even though it's filled with quite a hodgepodge of plants, not all of which are herbs – when I finish it.

As both of you already know, the herb bed is circular and sliced into wedges, like a pie. I'm going to use dark mulch on the slices and crushed coconut shell mulch on the paths between the slices. I think it will look pretty enough for a picture.

When I was out there last night working on the weeds, I found four volunteer tomato plants. I'm leaving them there – free food! – and thankful I feel no need to make this herb bed a showpiece. Heh.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

June 10 - Best part of your weekend

For the past several weeks the mowing chore has fallen on a Saturday or a
Sunday. So, lately, the best part of my weekend has been when I'm done mowing!

Democracy in action. Sorta.

Fair warning: Both of you will be bored out of your gourd if you're not politically inclined, so you can skip this if you like. You won't hurt my feelings. And it's kinda long. Ish. Here goes:

So the four of us – my husband, our friends (a married couple) who have recently moved from California, and me – trot off to the big city of Charleston, West Virginia, Friday afternoon to join hundreds of other loyal Democrats at the state convention. We were all first-time delegates in the quadrennial process of choosing national delegates and amending and adopting our state's party platform.

Friday was pretty low-key. We registered, got our pictures made with a life-sized cutout of President Obama, had just about the worst dinner ever (sorry if anyone from the committee is reading this, but blech!), and were gladhanded and plastered with campaign stickers from officeholders (or wannabes) and candidates for national delegate.

I was a candidate for national delegate but, being a first-time conventioneer I Did Not Know that campaigning was something I should have done. And I'm kind of shy in big crowds anyway so my previously slim chance of being selected plummeted immediately. I didn't have a sticker to stick, a sign to hold or a leaflet to hand out.

I did have a couple good friends who introduced me to everyone they knew (which was just about everyone), but name recognition is everything. My husband's family has been a pretty big school of fish in our little county pond, but I didn't have a prayer of being chosen.

And, as Stuart Smiley would say, "That's OKAY."

Because what happened Saturday more than made up for not getting to go to Charlotte in September.

Saturday was stump speech day, where everyone from the Secretary of State to the Agriculture Commissioner got to speak to the assemblage. The governor addressed us through the miracle of audio-visual equipment, since he was in Japan drumming up new business for West Virginia.

Our former governor and current junior Senator, Joe Manchin III, has made quite a name for himself here by avoiding endorsing President Obama. A thousand devoted Democrats sat on the edges of their folding chairs in a packed hall as Manchin took the stage. Would he call for unity in the party? Would he demonstrate the kind of leadership we were looking for?

He would not. He cited great Democratic presidents throughout American history, beginning with FDR, mentioning Truman, Kennedy and Clinton, but stopping short of saying a single word about the current leader of the free world.

And he pissed some of us off enough that we went to have a chat with him. How audacious is that?

As I stood in line behind other angry Democrats, I decided to keep my remarks low-key and my voice level. Former governor Manchin bristled and defended his omission. One of his aides noticed my name tag, which identified me as a member of the WV Federation of Democratic Women, and invited me to join other concerned women in a small meeting with Manchin.

I accepted and hurried back to the Summers County delegation to inform the group and grab a small posse for back-up.

So there we were, about a dozen women altogether, venting our spleens at a United States senator. I'll give him some props for agreeing to meet with 12 angry women. Many were there to chastise him for voting for the Blunt Amendment (which failed). The rest of us implored him to lead the Democratic party in West Virginia, to bring us together, to heal the divide.

(You may [but probably don't] recall that 41 percent of West Virginia Democrats voted for an incarcerated felon in our May 8 primary election.)

He continued with the bristling. He dug in his heels. One woman was in tears, she was so frustrated.

We in West Virginia know it would be political suicide for him to publicly endorse the President this early in the campaign, and we willingly said so in the meeting and he even denied that. He simply stuck to his talking points, dug in his heels and wouldn't back down.

Oh, and he called me "honey." My friend from California later said you can be sued for doing that in the Golden State. Apparently our Mountaineer State junior Senator thinks it's perfectly appropriate to figuratively pat the little woman's hand and implore her not to worry her pretty little head.

I didn't blink, or think twice: "Don't call me honey." He fumbled with an "I misspoke," and proceeded to continue to address my Democratic sisters as "honey." It was infuriating. And disturbing. And disrespectful. And condescending.

And he can get away with it because he knows that I, and all of us in that room and at that convention have to vote for him anyway, or see a Republican take the place of the late, great Robert C. Byrd.

I don't know if what I said next will make a difference to him as campaign season heats up. I told him about my FDR-Democrat grandfather and my Truman-Democrat father. I said I'd been involved with political issues for a few years and offered him the four most important words in the world, four words which can diffuse a situation in a heartbeat. These words have been invaluable to me. I offer them to you to use in any touchy situation. You can say them two different ways:

I could be wrong.
You could be right.

He could be right. We could be wrong. We were just a dozen die-hard Democrats in a state that's leaning more and more to the right. He's been in politics for decades and was a darned good governor. But I'm pretty sure the four most important words in the world went right over his head. None of us left that room feeling soothed.

But all of us left feeling empowered. (Cue the Rocky theme. And fade to black blue.)

Saturday, June 9, 2012

June 9 - Your view today

This was my view from the hotel lobby this morning before we left for the
state Democratic convention at the Charleston Civic Center.
I was, um, looking LEFT. =)

So much fun!

Let the campaign begin!
I just got back from our state Democratic convention. I was not chosen to go to Charlotte, but I truly didn't expect to be. Seems like those positions are rewards for many years of service to the party, and I've only been active since 2008. Lots of people said "next time, you'll get to go next time." Pretty heady stuff for a girl from the Middle of Nowhere.

I'm ready for the campaign, and right now I'm tired. Need to post the photo of the day and then I'm going to relax, relax, relax. I've been "on" for two days, something girls from the Middle of Nowhere aren't very often.

Friday, June 8, 2012

June 8 - 6:00

At 6:00 p.m. I was at the Charleston Civic Center in West Virginia. President
Obama was at a campaign event in Washington, D.C. But a life-sized cutout
of him was at the West Virginia Democratic Convention. Heh.

Ready, ready, ready (or nearly so) to …

1. Welcome my brother for a visit next week.

My little brother [17 months younger than I] hasn't ever visited me. He lives in Florida, so I've seen him several times in the past few years as I traveled there to be with my dad. He's only been north of the Mason-Dixon line a handful of times since he moved to Florida 40 years ago.
My father's widow is [finally] interring Dad's ashes, and my brother is driving up with her, staying with me for a few days and then flying back. She will be staying in Ohio with her children for a few weeks.
There wasn't much to do to get ready for his visit – we just needed to dig out the guest room, which ends up being a repository for all the stuff we don't know what to do with. Which really means we have too much stuff.
At any rate, I'm ready to see him and the house is ready for him to see. Heh.

2. Co-host an ice cream social honoring a state legislator.

I've never done anything like this before. I've hosted plenty of parties, here at home and, when I worked in an office, I hosted a couple going-away receptions. I helped my dad's wife plan his 75th surprise birthday party.
The delegate who has represented my voting district for more than a decade is not running for re-election. She has done so much for her constituents, and it just feels right to honor and thank her. The county Democratic executive committee, along with my group, the Democratic women's club, are organizing the event, but really it's the women's group who is doing all the work. [Go figure.]
It happens next Saturday. I've made name tags, the guest book, sent reminders, purchased the fun and colorful tableware, and designed and distributed posters and invitations. The only thing left to do is create some kind of donation receptacle to coordinate with the very colorful tableware and I'll be as close to ready as I'll ever be. 

3. Ward off vampires.

The softnecks came out of the ground yesterday, and not a moment too soon. A couple of them are bursting through their outer covering, just as Anna's were. Most of them are fine. I'll put the more mature ones in the garlic keeper for immediate use, and braid the rest. 
The rest of the hardnecks will be harvested Sunday, because we're leaving today to help

4. Turn West Virginia BLUE!

West Virginia's state Democratic convention begins today, in Charleston, and I'm a delegate. I'm also a candidate to be a delegate to the national convention in Charlotte in September. Am I excited?!?!? In the words of the former part-time governor of Alaska, "You betcha!"
West Virginia doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell of turning blue this election cycle, even though registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by a 2-to-1 margin. President Obama would have a better chance of carrying West Virginia if he were blue. [There. I said it. Some WV voters are racists. As evidenced by the fact that 41 percent of them voted for an incarcerated felon rather than the incumbent President in the May primary.]  
But going to the state convention will be interesting and entertaining, at the least, and I'm sure it will be a good networking opportunity. And I don't have to organize anything or make anything to get there. I did have to clean the car for the trip, because we're carpooling with another couple. But it needed to be cleaned anyway.
So there you have it. Now you know why that to-do list has been such a focus for me this week. It's good to have deadlines, maybe just not so many at once. After the reception next Saturday, life should calm down and I should be able to get back to Walking and Gardening in the Middle of Nowhere. [Sounds like a good title for the blog, doesn't it?] Hope your weekend ROCKS! Hope mine does, too.

June 7 - Drink

Mmmmmm, coffee.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The miracle of gardening

I am never not surprised when something I put into the ground actually sprouts and matures and gives me back food. To me – a relatively new gardener – it's a miracle, plain and simple, that I can pull produce from my back yard and use it to make meals.

I've learned a lot from many mentors, one of whom is the great and powerful Anna who, with her husband, Mark, writes from southeast Virginia. A couple days ago she wrote that she should have harvested her garlic a week ago, as the bulbs had begun splitting underground. Well, I'm a little behind in my blog reading and my garlic does kind of look like her photo. Sort of. It's hard to tell, but it was enough to send me out this morning to pull one of the hardnecks as a test.

Frankly, I think this one simple garlic bulb is as beautiful as that whole landscape bed I showed you yesterday.

I haven't pulled one of the softnecks yet, but I will as soon as I back away from this computer. They look smaller and I keep thinking they need to get bigger, and the leaves need to get browner, before I harvest them. I don't have as many of them, either, and I hate-hate-hate the idea of taking one too early.

But you know what? There will always be more garlic. If I don't save enough to plant from my harvest this year, I will buy more. ( is my source.)

Finally, here's what I wish my to-do list looked like:

But I'm making great progress. My brother is coming to visit next week, and I love it when to-do lists have deadlines.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

June 6 - Hat

I used to wear a hat all the time, and this battered old straw one was a
favorite. I have both a cream-colored and a black lace hatband for it.
The object on the right is a tiny little badge that says, "A hard man is
good to find." Obviously I wore that during my young-and-wild days. Heh.

Also …

remember a couple days ago when I said the reason I got the garage bathroom cleaned was because the washer overflowed? Way to put a positive spin on things, Debbi!

So yesterday I went to get laundry out of the dryer, only to find a lump of still-damp clothes an hour after I put them in. The dryer was tumbling and it was obviously heating. Google's Appliance Repair suggested a clogged vent, and that was, indeed, the problem. Until I was able to fix it, though, I was grateful for a clothesline, partly sunny skies and the opportunity for yet a little more physical activity.

Seriously, this is the only way I canNOT slide into the nervous breakdown. Heh.

Whittling down the list

My to-do list is getting slightly smaller. The only thing I crossed off yesterday was weeding the front flower bed, but that was a huge job and I was glad to finish it. Now I need to get some mulch. The herb bed hasn't been touched and is not nearly as  lovely as I'd imagined it would be. I'll post a picture after I tidy it up and mulch it, but it's still not what I'd envisioned.

In the meantime, here's a before-and-after comparison of the flower bed:

July 15, 2011
June 6, 2012

I'm beyond pleased with this project. I had no idea when we started how absolutely beautiful it would turn out to be. It's even prettier from the lawn side. Don't you agree?

July 15, 2011
May 15, 2012

This isn't much of a vegetable gardening year for me. The onions and garlic look great, and I put the tomato stakes out yesterday, although I haven't tied the plants up yet. I have 58 tomato plants, mostly Amish Paste but there are some other random varieties in there that we were going to get rid of at the garden center and they came home with me instead. I also brought home half a dozen already-started zucchini plants and found a spot for them.

The edamame didn't germinate very well, so I'll reseed and hope for the best, and buy new seed next year. I've been saving seed from my plants for a couple years but maybe it's time to start fresh again.

I'm trying to reconcile myself to the idea of not growing as much food this year. The good thing is the soil will be vastly improved when it's time to plant next year. And the other good thing is I have a couple friends who also garden who have promised to share.

I think I have time to cross another thing off the list before I go to work today. I'm working later than usual, but fewer hours, which is fine with me.

I'd love to spend an entire blog post on what happened in Wisconsin yesterday, but it would just make me sad and mad all over again. I'll just say this: The single most important issue in the United States today is overturning the Citizens United decision. The best way to do that is to re-elect President Obama, who will have the opportunity to replace at least two and possibly three Supreme Court justices.

It can't happen soon enough.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

June 5 - Sign

Two pix today. I went to town for groceries and looked and looked and LOOKED for something unusual, but ended up with pretty typical, Middle-of-Nowhere signs:

The sign of a perfect June day. Every time my husband or I go to town,
we always come home and report the temperature at the bank. It's usually
10 degrees cooler here at home, thanks to the slightly higher elevation.

If you're one of my Facebook friends, you already know that I was hungry for
french fries as I drove to town. And you already know that I snapped this picture
as I drove past without stopping on my home. Oh, and if you're not one of my
Facebook friends, um, why not click the Facebook button and send a request?