Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Travel itch

Our Smoky Mtn. adventure (2009!)
So, today I waved goodbye to my son... just a teensy bit envious that I was not the person behind the wheel heading west on a road trip to northern Nevada. I'd forgotten how exciting it is to anticipate, then prepare and finally pack for an adventure in this big world. The thrill of a little stomach quiver, half joy and half fear, that accompanies one of those big steps into the unknown at the leaving.

I'd forgotten how much I enjoy the challenge of paring down, packing versatile essentials and traveling light. The largest suitcase I have ever used was a 21" x 14" rolling bag which I filled with warm stuff & boots for ten days in Iceland. The smallest bag was the motorcycle saddlebag of my adventurous twenties, when sleeping on the beach and throwing jeans and a tee shirt over your swimsuit was "good enough!" So obviously, I am still a light packer, and I have no problem ditching a few items to make room for a souvenir. My pro traveling aunts have schooled me in priorities, they once told me to pack only old undies, so you can throw them out as you go... Something I have done, and a few tee shirts too, as well as an occasional read paperback ditched on a bench. It's book recycling if you think about it.

I've forgotten to remember to take a vacation! With school, work and then this prolonged job search I have not left Missouri since 2013! This is a surprising realization, especially since my last "gettin' outta town" moment was a three day business trip to NY and VT see here:

I have decided this situation needs to be spiced up with a quick trip to anywhere, because my constant "stay-cation" has left me unrefreshed. Since the budget is tight, and my passport expired this July, I will be exploring somewhere stateside. I think I could even tolerate sleeping in my car too. This could be very cool, I am already excited about the possibilities.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Watermelon Harvest

It's fruity dessert time, wha-hoo! Figured out how to tell when watermelon were ripe online, and to save y'all time, it's harvest season when the first curly tendril after the melon stem has turned brown. This is an amazing bit of trivia. Look at these babies! They look like watermelons, certainly, but NOTHING like what the plant stake said they would grow to be when we made our garden purchases. I'm not convinced this was a Lowe's error, but perhaps a little seed juggling occurred at the greenhouse. We bought 3 plant starts labeled, "Black Diamond-Heirloom," that pictured very dark green melons with pink fruit and suspiciously, no seeds. Now, I do know that seedless watermelon are a new development, an Americanized food that can be gobbled down without impediments, but what fooled me was the word, heirloom. I am a complete sucker for this word because my cozy, earth conscious interpretation gives me a sense of well-being, hugging onto the past, and doing my part for ecological diversity. All that from one word: heirloom. Seriously, I don't usually consider myself gullible, but if this word becomes a marketing ploy outside of the local garden center, I am going to have to encase my wallet in cement!

Anyway, back to the watermelons... the cut melon is delicious, very sweet and juicy, notice the large seeds, perhaps the only similarity to the plastic plant tag is that the skin of this watermelon was a very dark green. Note melon #2, also allegedly a "Black Diamond-Heirloom," it appears totally different from any of the characteristics indicated on the plant tag. Fortunately, it is also delicious with traditional pink fruit inside and small seeds; my son and I quartered this pint-size melon and ate it all. I have no clue as to what type of watermelons we grew, but since I can recognize watermelon-y shapes, and flavor I guess we successfully raised two of them. I have to admit that I have missed seedy watermelon, the seeds are fun to spit and they make for a more mindful eating of this juicy fruit. There are still 5 on the vine, so we will continue to enjoy our anonymous watermelon-y treats for a few weeks.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Sewing Thoughts

So, I am taking a calmer approach to the job search and not letting fellow job-searchers' anxiety about the process mess with my mood. I am looking at this time as an opportunity to be productive in other ways, like yard grooming, re-learning French, getting a few more excellent novels read and yes, sewing more stuff. Knitting seems to have taken a backseat in this creative activity process, mostly because I currently live in Saunaville and wool just doesn't appeal right now. I'm the resident barefoot pedal pusher at the sewing machine here and am challenging my skills. I decided to make some zipper-top bags out of the larger scraps left over from the sixty or seventy drawstring bags I have been making lately.

I have only successfully completed 2 bags, mostly because the blog link I used had a reversal in the pattern pieces giving me a zipper that opened from the inside! It took me a couple tries... crankily ripping out seams to realize this, but now I have the pattern memorized. While these first bags aren't perfect, they are cute and I am thinking that my next versions will be Christmas gifts. All family members reading this, FORGET that tidbit!

I have been delving deep into the plastic tub of fabric I have hauled around the country when I moved and I'm finally starting to reduce the amount of remnants I own. All these little bags will be lined with coordinated gingham checks, because I have a ton of this fabric leftover from my one and only quilting adventure. I pieced 25 gingham quilt squares (over years) by hand, then invited the neighborhood ladies and friends to hand quilt the top. A fun learning experience for all, and the quilt I'd been working on for 20 years got finished. Shortly thereafter, the estate sale quilt frame was donated to a local church and I officially got over my desire for any more hand-made quilts. My respect for the skills and patience of our crafty foremothers and the Amish knows no bounds, seriously.

Anyway, back to these cute little bags... After making these two, I also have a significant amount of admiration for all the low paid seamstresses of the world cranking these items out at what must be pennies per day. I have bought some travel bags at TJ Maxx out of fancier fabric for as little as $4.00! For the amount of geometry and itsy bitsy seams, the effort should warrant $20.00 to each seamstress per bag. See about International sweatshops & poverty here

Perhaps, as I get more confident, I will be able to move more quickly, but right now I definitely don't have the assembly line flow that I have with the drawstring bags. As a hobby seamstress, I had the luxury to get up and go out to the garden or grab a snack when I got frustrated; I'd never make it in a sweatshop. I have been thinking a lot about jobs, and job choices, as well as lack of choice this last month. As stressful as I think my situation is, I definitely have a 1st world perspective and privilege when it comes to work. Even having worked both "white collar" management and "blue collar" laborer jobs, I was still protected by laws, unions and the power of my ability to choose whether to work at a job or quit to get a better job. Most of the world's workers are not so fortunate... It was a terrific lesson challenging myself to make this bag, I need to keep looking at the world with open, empathetic eyes to really see.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Turtle Philosophy

This is the third time I have rescued a Missouri Box Turtle from Trixie the Terrier. She used to bark at this little guy before she would try to chomp his shell, but then she got disciplined (admonished and doggie timeout) when I discovered what she was doing. Now, she only barks once before she starts gnawing... The turtle is safe inside, but this time she did chip his shell. I dabbed some Bacitracin on the chipped edge and moved the turtle to the front yard garden. Once turtle decided it was safe outside his shell, he took off at a surprising speed straight for the back yard again!

Two things I have learned from this: turtles have a sense of direction & no matter how risky, being in their home environment is where a turtle wants to live. Add this information to the fabled, "slow and steady wins the race" and turtles seem to have a lock on the wisest approach to life.

Have a direction, it might take some time to figure this out, but once done it is a guiding light to how to proceed with anything. Random or scattershot approaches rarely yield results, whereas a planned approach generally meets with success. I have been applying the "direction" approach to my job search, looking in similar places and honing in on my skillset. The "I can learn anything" approach isn't a productive selling point, instead the focused "I am good at this" is the asset that gets attention. Certainly, the adaptability factor of the first approach is valuable, but it is secondary to what one can actually do and do well.

Head for home, means be in a comfortable place where the fit is right. Yes, there might be harrowing dogs, but home is where needs are met, the situation is familiar, you can be yourself and loving support is available. I'm not sure about turtle love, but heck, that little turtle came from somewhere and I'm not altogether sure it is the same turtle I have rescued before. When you are dispirited or ecstatic going home is the place to share, cry and love when life isn't going the way you want.  

Finally, take the slow and steady approach, stop being impatient if life doesn't work out the way you've anticipated. Life is unpredictable, maybe there is a reason our plans aren't fulfilled or perhaps, it's simply time to change. Affecting the mindset to keep plodding forward, heads us on a path that is possibly the only concrete element to making it in the world today... being in the right place at the right time.

Maybe this explains the importance of turtles... it's simply Turtle Power. Choose a direction, return home as needed and keep moving forward. Amazing the wisdom I find in the garden; the natural world used to be our home, perhaps we should return once in a while to appreciate these valuable lessons.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Backyard Gardening

Last post I mentioned the slope garden in the backyard... Namely pulling several bins of weeds out of this growing space. The weeds were massive and choking out the day lilies (Hemerocallis) after all our Amazonian-like rainy weather. Well here it is now, a very thinned out garden that actually has identifiable plantings. In the right foreground is some rampant Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis); it's almost overwhelming some Iris transplants, but for now I am going to leave it for the bees. It is nice to be able to negotiate this flight of stairs above the Black-Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia) again, it had been completely overgrown!

At the other end of the patio, some pretty pink "Naked Ladies" of the Amaryllis Family (Lycoris squamigera) are just now putting up their individual flower stalks. This plant has foliage that dies back in June-July and then pops up these long-lasting blooms in late July-August. Since we removed a large Elm tree to the left of these flowers, there are twice as many flower stalks this summer. Unfortunately, the shade loving ground cover has died back in this now sunny spot. Most gardens periodically need re-engineering when the environment changes, and this section has endured a completely opposite environment from the 100% shade tolerant plants I originally sited here. Consequently, I have been moving sun threatened plants around the yard all season post tree removal.

Our other exciting garden event is that there are now 7 fairly good-sized watermelon growing in the fenced garden beneath our nectarine tree. It is a bit hard to weed in here with all the vines, but I did get a sheet of tin foil beneath each melon to limit rot, add warmth and let us easily see the watermelon locations. The vines have completely filled this 8x12 space and are now growing over the fence and into the yard! Fingers crossed these melons will taste as wonderful as they look.

This year has been exceptional for plant growth, wet, and warm, so it is surprising that even the drought tolerant prairie plants are doing well. This is the best my Echinacea has looked in a few years! There haven't been any pests like leafhoppers, so no mutant green flowers from viral infections. I keep an organic garden, but especially so in the backyard, since the dogs are always nosing through the slope plantings. It has been a treat to see such nice seasonal color and immense productivity. I plan to keep up with the maintenance weeding now that the overwhelming growth has been removed. Hopefully, this healthy growth will continue through Fall giving the plants a strong start next season.