Monday, August 26, 2013


(L to R)  Mortgage lifter, German pink, Roma, Husky cherry
The tomato harvest is continuing to increase and the family is loving it. A feast for the senses happens every time you pop a sun warm, seconds ago picked tomato into your mouth. We planted five tomato varieties this season: Yellow pear, Husky cherry, Roma and two heirlooms, German pink and Mortgage lifter.  The yellow pear tomato came on first and produced a dozen tomatoes a day, but after about a forty-five days it wilted and died. The other miniature tomato, the Husky cherry always has tons of green fruit but it only ripens about four a day. Those tasty sweet fruits never make it into the house, we consider them picker's reward.

Our couple of Roma plants set fruit early and continued to produce lots of thin-skinned, two inch tomatoes. They have an average tomato flavor, enhanced by salt and are perfect for green salads & hand snacking. The heirloom variety, German Pink was slower to set fruit and ripen but definitely worth the wait! These are softer, thin-skinned, meaty and sweet, by far the family favorite. The heirloom variety, Mortgage lifter tomatoes were green a long time before ripening and even red ones are a needing a strong tug to pick. This tomato is a bit more acidic in flavor but pairs nicely with a slice of Parmesan cheese and salt.

We've been eating so many fresh tomatoes out of the garden, I am not sure homemade spaghetti sauce will happen this season. It has been a fun and interesting garden experiment to taste the differences in the tomato varieties. In contrast the commercial monoculture of store bought tomatoes clearly leaves a lot to be desired. I have to agree with the organic foodies that the quality of seasonally grown food is better food overall.

Thursday, August 22, 2013


Have you ever tried a solution to a problem, on a lark or out of sheer desperation, that initially seemed questionable or ridiculous? I'm referencing solutions out of your usual mindset, perhaps irrational or smacking of "old wives tale" folklore. Well,  fortunately not too often do the tried and true solutions fail, but I think it is quite mind expanding to go out on a limb and re-think your approach to an issue. Wonder is a sensation all too lacking in our daily lives.

I have been dealing with back pain for about six months, I have a sacroiliac joint space that tends to shift. I also work at a job which requires I lift approximately 15,000 lbs. (6803 kg) per shift, five nights a week. Anyway, I followed my usual remedies: massage 2x month, chiropractor visits, regular doses of anti-inflammatory meds, Icy Hot muscle cream, Epsom salt baths and lots, seriously lots of water. From these initial treatments I got some relief, as well as further instructions regarding stretches, ice application and wearing a back belt at work for support. The situation was improving but I still had a lingering, nagging pain which was really wearing me down. Let's just say aging is not easy and the reminder of said aging/wear & tear by constant pain, really bugs me. Even though I was being diligent with the positive behaviors, and I know healing takes time especially when I continue to stress my back nightly at work, I just wanted
to feel better faster.

I read on Pinterest, a carnelian stone can help with low back pain and arthritis. Whoa! Weird but interesting and I just so happen to have a couple of carnelian discs with holes in the middle that I bought in Santa Fe, New Mexico years ago. Originally these 1" diameter discs were going to be earrings, but they were too heavy for my pierced ears. Anyway, I found them in the bottom of my jewelry box, looped one on a string and tied it around my waist. I have been wearing the carnelian day and night excluding work. I feel better! Actually I felt better within 24hours of tying on the stone. Am I amazed?! Definitely. Could this be something akin to the placebo effect? Possibly, but if it works I guess I don't care.

So now I'm thinking... There are many amazing and unusual things in the world. Unfortunately, it is very easy in our rational culture to make a habit of initially discounting these odd occurrences. Instead, perhaps we should allow for a bit of magic or mystery by believing and participating in the wonder of it. It's a refreshing childlike state of mind, definitely an invigorating change up from my usual assumptions. Kind of makes me feel young again, although the lack of back pain doesn't hurt either. Ha Ha. So here's my salute to open-mindedness and the joy of baffled wonderment, may we often be participants!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


Wow! As of yesterday this blog site had received 1000 page views... Thank you readers! I enjoy writing and those of you that have stuck with me through the awkward, boring or infrequent posts are real troopers. It  has been ten months since I started blogging and giving my ideas flight in the vast chasm of the internet, so 1000 doesn't seem like a blockbusting number doing the math, but I am thrilled. So here's to another 1000 page views, better writing & content and to growing the comradery we develop when we share our life with others.

Friday, August 16, 2013

It's a crochet summer

Knitting has not been working for me this summer. I have felt like I am plodding along with two sticks, so I have switched it up and am zipping through a crochet project meant to be a Christmas present. Oh no, I mentioned the "C" word... Well, it's only, count 'em, 4 months away! I cannot stand the rampant commercialism which surrounds holidays here in the USA, so I try to make a few special gifts in advance of the marketing madness.

As I was scrolling through Pinterest, (yes, I still pin, but happily the novelty is waning) my daughter saw a lacy shawl she really liked; so I pinned it, later discovering it had a free pattern. Wahoo!  The Oasis Wrap through Caron Yarns by Kim Guzman is working up very nicely after I got the hang of the modified single crochet base row. I love the continuous crocheting in the oval and the pattern repeats are easy, just be sure to count them out. Here's the site if you are inspired to take on a new project 

I did not use the yarn recommended, as it doesn't seem to be available in my area. I substituted a Lion Brand acrylic, Heartland version, color #105 Glacier Bay, which I purchased at Jo-Ann's Fabric & Craft Store. Normally I am a wool only knitter, but my daughter will certainly throw this item in the washer, so I am circumventing destruction. For the most part this yarn has been fairly easy to work with, although it tends to split if you aren't paying attention. I found I preferred to use a bamboo ChaioGoo hook rather than a metal one as the yarn was easier to control. I am currently starting row 9 with only two more to go to completion.

I'm thinking this has been such a fun & quick project that the crochet-a-thon will continue. I have been hankering to use a lovely skein of Jitterbug merino in #28 Pink Tweed that has been lingering in my yarn stash for about a year. Another crochet shawl has caught my eye, the Elise Shawl on Ravelry (free pattern) and it only requires approximately 400yds. Take a peek at it here  I'm looking forward to trying some wooly lace in anticipation of those chilly autumn mornings.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Spice it up

I planted a new type of basil this year. I have always planted Sweet basil or Genovese basil because I love the flavor, but this broad leaf herb tends to sunburn and bolt to flower in our Missouri heat. On a whim this May, I picked up some Thai Basil seed at the farm store and scattered it at the edge of my garden near a cherry tomato plant. Wow! This basil is a terrific performer, growing about nine inches (23cm) tall, with non-bolting, purple tipped leaves and terrific flavor raw or cooked. Next season, Thai basil will be replacing most of my sweet basil plants throughout the garden. For more info check it out here  Should have known our climate works for Southeast Asian herbs.... It pays to experiment in the garden there are some disappointments but the excellent surprises more than make up for them. Gardening experience only comes with time & trials. Well, am off to saute some portobella mushrooms with Thai basil for dinner.

Catch the buzzzzz

Back into the garden, where the most influential change has been the weather... Yes, I know this is a predictable post beginning but Missouri is in the center of the country, where weather moves in like a giant swirling soup. Weather fronts blow by west to east as well as colder air barreling down from Canada and the tropical moisture pushing up from the Gulf. This variability often gives us Missourians weather surprises. Our blazing 90F heat with 58% humidity vanished two days ago and we have lovely 75F days and nighttime temps around 56F. Surely a sample of early Fall in my estimation and it feels wonderful!

The honeybees in my garden are very busy gathering nectar from the plants. I think the cooler temps have made them a bit frantic as they are buzzing about my head if I obstruct their flight path to the flowers. My local nursery has put all their perennials on sale and I have added to the garden some bee favorites:  Joe Pye Weed, anise hyssop, bee balm and verbena. A word of caution about buying plants this late in the season, most are terribly pot bound and will have a bit more transplant shock than those bought earlier in the year. Look for plants that have healthy foliage and not many flowers. Be sure to water daily and if they continue to look stressed, meaning wilty, snip off all the blooms, to force energy to the roots. Planting at this time of year is basically planning ahead for next year's garden, by getting the new plants into the ground to form strong roots before winter.

I have been increasingly concerned about the honeybee populations and read the recent article in the August 19, 2013 issue of Time magazine, A World without Bees, by Bryan Walsh. I have a link to the partial article but you will have to subscribe to Time to read it in total,9171,2149141,00.html   In summary, pesticides called neoniotinoids used by commercial agricultural farms are poisoning hives and causing massive bee die offs. Another honeybee stressor seems to fall square onto commercial agriculture as well, which is the monoculture of corn & wheat production, neither having significant pollen production to support the bees. The overall, focus of the article was to increase public awareness that without bees to pollinate, our food supply is seriously threatened. I suppose fear mongering sells magazines but I do believe the decreasing bee population is a real problem.

Joe Pye Weed
Perhaps if all of us home gardeners deliberately plan to include nectar rich plants in our gardens, we can foster a resurgence of local honeybees. It's worth a shot and what gardener doesn't enjoy adding a few lovely new plants to the yard? It is also important to carefully use pesticides or better yet go organic, that method has worked for centuries. So back to the plants....

Anise Hyssop "Heatwave"
Some excellent nectar rich flower sources are as simple as letting the white clover and dandelions grow in a small portion of your yard, but if that is not an option consider, Joe Pye Weed (eupatorium purpureum). This plant has lovely bronze foliage, can grow about 4' tall and does spread annually; a one gallon pot will get about 2-1/2' wide in a couple of seasons. It has interesting shaggy pinkish blooms clustered at the ends of the stems and the bees are wild for it. Important to note that it appears later in the Spring, so mark it's spot in the garden to avoid digging it up. My other all time favorites are the Hyssops (agastache) because each different hybrid has a different flower. In my garden I grow the anise hyssop "Heatwave" which has lovely tubular pink flowers up the stem, and if given a quick trim in the Spring will bush out to a 3'x3' height and width, as an additional bonus it is also a hummingbird favorite. The "Black Adder" Hyssop is more compact, about a foot wide and 2' tall but has purple tubular blooms on a terminal cone and is primarily visited by the bees. Each of these plants grows quickly and does best in full sun.
"Black Adder" Hyssop

If you are not sure about which flowering plants will benefit your local honeybee populations take a tour through your neighborhood park or botanical garden, looking for bee laden plants and ask questions. Many nurseries have a staff member that can direct you to the plants they sell that attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. Your local library will also have gardening books that are a wealth of information, even if you can only manage a five gallon bucket garden on your porch. Take a walk around your neighborhood, it might  be enlightening as you never know who is a gardener until you start to look for gardens and gardeners watch bees. Another option is to check in with your local Bee Keepers Association, yep, there is honey everywhere, and these folks will also be most informative. So catch the buzzzzz and bee beneficial!

*remember to click on the pictures for a larger view & see the bees

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Ah ha moment

A lovely Dahlia
Well, in a momentary flash of brilliance I realized I have been learning & finally, acknowledging a life lesson from my trials on the job. I have an ego problem. I feel horrible when I am not treated with the respect I think I deserve. This fact certainly puts a different focus on the stressful changes our manager is inflicting on the department. It is not about me personally, everyone is afflicted, which I knew anyway, but overall, our manager doesn't care a hoot about any of us individually. She just wants the department to run, so she looks good. Yeah, ego abounds...  It's actually easier to work under these conditions now, since I am not acting like a sponge and taking in all the abuse personally. Funny, how we forget that life lesson hurdles are not all leapt by mid-life, our polishing continues.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Life changes

The brutality at work continues... Our "mad dog" manager is finding ever more creative ways to bring stress and the threat of firing into the workplace. As a group we have conformed to her irrational schedules and random new rules; which she screams out repeatedly during the shift, so we all can hear. Since she has been unable so far, to write up a significant number of employees for ignoring her directions, she has now devised a disciplinary plan to place us on warning for minor errors.

 As you  might assume, I work on an assembly line of sorts and move about 3700 items on my shift. In an average month I handle about 74,000 items with only 4 errors on average, at about 1000 pieces per hour. At this point, no one knows how many warnings will lead to suspension or firing and apparently we will not be told... So the piece per hour rate has been plummeting in our department. I am aggrieved at the injustice of it all!

I try not to let this situation influence the rest of my day, but it does and I am sad. At the moment, I am stuck in this job because as my family's sole provider, I need the benefits. I am trying to learn something positive
Ancient Indian petroglyph at Elephant Rocks State Park
from this situation; optimistically thinking there is a lesson in this scenario that will be a source of wisdom, but for the life of me I am baffled. I want to believe the good guys always win, but obviously that is my naivete showing, evil abounds.

Such first world problems! I am grateful for food, shelter and family. I am healthy, creative, clothed and I have some money set aside for emergencies. I know I am blessed and in reality, this is just a small part of my day, I need to let it go. I am being forced to the edge of the cliff to make a step into the abyss of the unknown. To quote Bob Dylan, "the times they are a-changin'..."

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Garden peace

Tiger Swallow-tail on Butterfly Bush
My apologies as the blogging has appeared to stop, but work has been so horrible I have been in a writing (and everything else) funk. Weeks like these have called for intensive garden therapy which has involved some digging in of new, on sale perennials, but mostly sitting in my chair on the porch watching the garden and it's creatures. Quiet time observing nature has an amazing calming effect. Each creature is out hunting nectar for survival, there is no psychology which unfortunately, we as humans must endure; just simply creatures doing their jobs and making it another day. The garden is such a bustling place, a New York or Paris for the birds and insects. We miss the heartbeat of the earth when we don't take time to sit quietly in nature. I have learned so much about my environment simply from observing. It reminds me that I too am part of this same small garden environment and my actions have significant effects.

I believe there are about five different hummingbirds flitting between the feeders now and sipping from the pink anise hyssop (Agastache rugosa). The Goldfinches, Red-headed Finches and the charmingly plain House Finches are eating the thistle seed with gusto and I have hung up two more feeder socks. The Swallow-tails are frequent visitors to the butterfly bushes (Buddleia) and the Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum). There have been only a few Monarch butterflies so far this season, I imagine their drought plagued migration route has decimated their numbers. The bumblebees and honeybees are buzzing everywhere eagerly feeding on the abundant flower nectar. The larger fuzzy bumblebees took shelter in the gladiola blooms when it started to rain, amazingly cute!
Monarch on Joe Pye Weed

We just had a couple of lovely cooler days (78F/ 25C) of drizzly rain, mist and morning fog, which with my additional watering returned the garden to it's pre-heatwave splendor. The bloom laden gladiolas were bending under the weight of the extra moisture, so I used up all of my bamboo poles getting them staked upright. The tomatoes shot up in height and have been producing a dozen or so ripe fruits per day. I had to invert a second wire tomato cage above the first and duct tape them together, to give the tomatoes additional support. One tomato plant, the "Mortgage lifter" has set lots of green tomatoes but is altogether out of control in the growth department; I will be needing some serious wooden stakes to support it's husky branches... The green beans are still producing at a slower rate and beginning to yellow. This week I harvested my first two zucchini squash!

Most of the veg we eat raw or steamed but the glossy green, 7inch zucchini rated special treatment. I sauteed them in olive oil and butter. Diced a couple cloves of garlic and six leaves of Thai Basil from the garden. To that slowly simmering mixture I added some mini orange & yellow peppers sliced thin, two mushrooms finely diced and half and onion chopped into smaller bits. I served this lovely veg medley over angel hair pasta for a delightfully light summer dinner.