Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

 I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

 We are kind of skipping it this year.. or delaying it I guess. My husband had his 4 wisdom teeth pulled yesterday and he's the turkey fanatic around here, but for the next little while all he can handle is soft foods.

 We are hoping for the best as we have someone coming tomorrow to look at the house. It just kinda popped up on Wednesday.. so leisurely packing is out the window and we are now in overdrive. My hopes to be completely organized while packing is slowly slipping my grasp. 

 My next older sister couldn't be more excited. She's been calling several times a day asking when exactly we will be out there. She's offered to help unpack, wants to throw a family dinner party when we get there.. has even scoped out shops, pediatricians, you name it. She wants to know exactly when.. so she can run to the grocery store and stock up the fridge for us and turn up the heat so it will be comfortable.

 Sometimes.. my sister.. is just awesome. 

 She's lived in several countries and is nothing short of amazing when it comes to packing up a whole household and moving it to the other side of the planet in record time. It is hard to believe we are related.  

 I admit.. I miss this kind of attention. For as insane as my family can be.. this over attention to detail and exuberance that you are there.. it makes you spoiled. I am grateful for this, and I am thankful that these nutcases are my family.

 The pendulum swings both ways.. so don't be surprised when I start using enough expletives to make a biker blush. 

 December 1st I think is my last check-up... and then we should be on our way.

 It is a funny thing.. when you have family like mine.. gifts don't matter. We've gone through both extremes, but the highlights and what was remembered has never been the gifts.. but the fun and endless teasing is always recalled.

 No doubt, something will happen and my Mom will yell at one of us girls. In her frustration she will go through the list of names until she hits the right one. That quirk I find endlessly funny.. and my best friend's mother does it as well. What's priceless about that is she has a brother, but her Mom as well runs through the list in order.

 I hope everyone has an equally happy day. 

 Back to packing I go!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Anaerobic (rant kinda) Composting

 Ok.. I have to say something... must comment..

 Hot composting, cold composting are what is known as aerobic forms of decomposition. Basically, it means composting in an oxygenated system. 

 Anaerobic composting/ decay/ altering of matter is basically the breakdown of materials in an oxygen deprived system. Now I had to say "altering of matter" because it isn't quite composting.

One with oxygen and one without... but are they different? Yes, and as with everything, there are pros and cons to every option.

 Now this is where I encounter the wrinkle.. it is the same old wrinkle that pops up every time someone tries to shortcut the system without usually having a clue about what they are doing in the first place. That sounded crabby.. but just because the pace of life has reached break neck speeds, does not mean that mother nature is on the same time schedule.

 I've gone through a bit of cold composting and hot composting... right now I want to explain a little of anaerobic decay. Primarily because I seem to be encountering a fair bit of it in a trend, yet quite a few things are glossed over or failed to be mentioned in it's entirety.

 What I have been seeing is layers of green matter, or even vegetative matter run through a blender and then dumped into a bucket to rot in water. One such related method has been brand named Bokashi (which this method has a bit more study on.. but even more commercial spin attached to the concept). Anaerobic type of decomposition commonly occurs in bogs, swamps, and stagnant bodies of water. 

 Composting in an anaerobic situation utilizes a different set of microbes, in particular Methanogens. They feed on nitrogen, phosphorus and trace elements.. they expel methane and as well hydrogen sulfide byproducts. (Methane, is odorless.. a potent greenhouse gas many times more damaging than carbon dioxide.. and Hydrogen sulfide, which is actually a poisonous gas and smells like rotten eggs.. both of which are also flammable.) As well a little carbon in the decaying matter is released as carbon dioxide. This process reduces nitrogen into the forms of ammonia (& nitrous oxide) and organic acids.

 This form of processing does in fact release a few bound up nutrients from the matter relatively soon. However, unless it is processed long enough.. it isn't going to kill off pathogens. 

  In fact the beginning stages of this decay produce a fair amount of phytotoxins. (Phytotoxin byproducts is a naturally occurring part of the composting process. Leachate is another term for this when you have the stagnant liquids drain from vermicomposting bins or landfills.) The reason it needs to be diluted is because it still needs to go through a final step of aerobic decomposition which is done actually very quickly. To use it at full strength, you would kill your plants. Full strength it acts as an herbicide (due to auxin levels), a germination inhibitor.

 Anaerobic composting process created an acidic environment. It is in essence, fermenting. This is not a compost tea. Plants and their root system are in an aerobic state in gardens. 

 Yes.. if dilute you do see some benefits to this "fertilizer" as it does contain trace elements that are usable to plants. However I have yet to encounter very many that are aware that this process takes months and oxygen exposure should be regulated to be under 30% saturation levels. It also needs several days after this process to oxidize. In the case of Bokashi, the medium is buried. There is a reason for it.. to fully saturate it with aerobic microbes to finish the materials.

 Sorry if this is scattered.. I am writing this in a hurry. I just had to put that out there in hopes that someone can utilize this information before they wonder how and why their plants died off. 

 This form of "composting" is probably the least eco-friendly option. 




A Little Nip

 It is taking me forever to pack. I'm working on the basement.. which is where many of our tools are for our various interests. The day was a little chilly but I still left the sliding door opened so the cat could come and go.. and the dog will just shove the door wide open if he needs to get out.

 I had pulled out the mountain of stashed plastic grocery bags to help contain the many hanks of beads I have. Right as I was putting one sorted and packaged bag into a box, a gray fiend went for the kill. She dove right into the plastic bags sending them flying. This time of year, static is a big issue and in her insanity she got her head through one bag's handle, freaked out, and dashed away.. with 2 more bags stuck to her by the static.

 Someone was hitting the nip.

 She definitely makes packing interesting. She's been sitting on the highest stack of boxes in whatever room she is in.. stalking us from behind them.. and often jumping in every box she can. The only time she does this though, is after she has gotten her fix from the catnip growing like crazy in our yard.

 I made sure today to cut enough of it so she'll get her fix until I get a patch established at the farm. I have to thumbtack the bunch to dry to the ceiling so she can't and won't try to get it. 

 The 2 of the raised beds are ready to go for the most part for whoever moves in. I'm really hoping this one person in particular does. The plant debris was turned under, compost was spread across them all, then a couple of layers of newspaper and topped off with coffee grounds. 

 I won't be able to post much for a little while. We are coming down to the final stretch and the delays have put us smack dab in the middle of the holidays to boot. The more I can sort and donate, the easier it will be when we get there... that's what I keep telling myself. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The flying fence

 Sorry.. still busy with sorting, packing and the ever fun dentist trips. I've been at the dentist so many times that I should just move in. I never knew getting a root canal and a crown was this time consuming. One tooth for Pete's sake! 

Unfortunately, we will be here for Thanksgiving. The bummer is that it is because the only time my husband could get for an appointment to get his wisdom teeth pulled... is the day before Thanksgiving. 

 We have had our fill of turkey for several months.. so that is no big deal. I can't wait for Christmas! My sister and her family will be joining ours. I will be doing almost all of the cooking. I don't mind, plus I really don't want to be surprised by something like carob cake. She can tackle the wine.. and as silly as this sounds.. Pictionary. 

 The guys will try to separate us sisters when it comes to Pictionary. We have an unnatural gift to draw just 1 line or even a dot.. and know what our sister is drawing. My next older sister (the one coming for X-mas).. her 1st husband was in advertising. He is a "creative" and well.. from his talents he created quite a name for himself. Anyways.. he would COMPLETELY freak out. It was hilarious. He was fast.. and amazing at drawing.. and would lose every time. Mr. Cool would lose absolutely every shred of composure and throw a tantrum that would rival a 3 year old. It was beautiful.. and one of the things I used to totally look forward to when we got together. If we guessed it before our sister even drew anything.. oh boy would it hit the fan!

 Her current husband is well, pretty mellow. He has no idea what he's in for.. lol.

 I've also been digging up a few plants and gave them to a friend. He's excited for spring now, and I hope they all make it. So far he's gotten 2 hydrangeas, 6 artichokes, garlic chives, day lilies, Siberian irises, chives, sage, hops, 2 birch seedlings, 2 bur oak seedlings, and an Austrian pine seedling. Trees here need to be babied for them to even have a chance.

 So we had a big wind storm here the other day. The intensity was enough to make the house constantly shudder, the trees twisted in complaint, and the windows sounded like massive harmonicas. 

 I was outside today cleaning up the yard as the winds also seem to have liberated some shingles.. and that's when I noticed the fence. Several sections of it are leaning at a 65 degree angle towards the sidewalk. Not good.

 Right now I am trying to track down my wandering husband as he is out playing disc golf with the guys. I am hoping he can do something to secure it a bit before the parade of school kids starts. A lilting fence is too much temptation for them, and the last thing I'd want is one of them to get hurt by it.

 So while I wait for his call.. I am going to head back out there to straighten out the beds. Is it wrong of me to be giggling as I bury tons of radish pods, arugula pods, gourds, pumpkins, tomatoes, and the like? I know full well all of these will be sending up volunteers galore come spring. 

 Here's to hoping they really love radishes and arugula. 

 Well.. I had better get back out there while the sun still is keeping the chill out of the air. Once it starts to drop in the sky the cold grows some teeth and you really feel it's nip. 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Gardening Interest Continues with Success

 So was/is the gardening momentum a trend? Yes.. and no. There will always be people who may initially dabble out of trend, but then discover a passion for it and continue to play in the dirt now for sheer self satisfaction.

 People being people.. some may get nailed by bad luck, lack of information, pests, diseases.. you name it and the lack of rewards for their efforts effectively can squash enthusiasm. It is a shame when that happens.

  I do happen to think it is important that people at least give gardening a try.. it seems to make many more aware of their surroundings and more aware of their food. In the end it seems to have a chain effect.. yard waste and kitchen scraps are suddenly a resource instead of landfiller.. kids are more likely to eat fruits and veggies they got to grow.. chemicals often are looked at more closely rather than carelessly applied. 

 Someone I helped earlier this year with their first garden has pulled his harvest and is very proud of his success. "This is the first successful garden I have ever had, and I can't wait until next year!"  Yes, there was a learning curve.. like when the labels washed off and they ate the cosmos thinking it was dill.. and a friendly neighbor telling them the hops were mint.. resulting in some rather nasty tea made from it. However.. it did inspire them to make a compost pile and add another raised bed. 

 When you help someone start gardening, there are somethings that you can help remind them of when it comes to getting a good start. One of the primary things that is overlooked by the beginner is exposure. How much sun the area gets is pretty important, but someone new to gardening often forgets this and is just imagining the perfect little pristine vegetable patch tucked right under the big tree. Reality check.. aisle 9. 

 He thought he had "just the spot" but while the area was out of traffic, it was also well out of light. My husband helped him select the location and build the raised bed (the best light actually being in the front yard right off the driveway.. so some of the front lawn was ripped up.) 

 Something else to gently remind them of.. cool and hot weather crops, diversity.. and time until harvest.  Basically.. I am not so subtle. My husband reins me in, otherwise I am about as stealthy as using a semi to play bumper cars.

 Now one of the things I tend to encourage are those few lovely plants that are somewhat newbie proof. I say somewhat.. because as our dear friend just proudly announced.. he "harvested" the chives. Yes.. he pulled 'em up like spring onions instead of trimming the tops. I swear.. he's actually a pretty bright fellow.. just a bit too urban around the edges. I politely shoved the phone under the pillow while I laughed like a madwoman. 

 If there is something to pick.. a reward for their efforts.. it keeps the motivation going. Perennials like chives and mint are easy, extremely hardy, and chives are something that once established are one of the first things you can collect. 

 This is a list of good starter veggies and herbs 
  •  peas
  • radishes
  • zucchini/ summer squash
  • cherry & grape tomatoes
  • garlic
  • parsley
  • basil
  • chives
  • dill
  • oregano
  • sage
  • thyme
  • green beans
  • beets
  • turnips
 To name just a few. Definitely need a mix and things maturing at different times. The heavy producers like green beans & zucchini hold interest. Variety ensures at least something produces. Like this year we had slugs and aphids galore, so the brassicas had a heck of a time. 

 Small tomatoes, like grapes and cherry varieties mature more quickly. They also tend to be quite flavorful as well as many of them are quite hardy. Avoid ones like "Yellow Pear" that are heirlooms, but quite prone to cracking. Early fresh eating slicers are also a good beginner tomato, like Siberian, Silvery Fir Tree, and Stupice. 

 Basil makes me giggle as it is my sure-fire way to tempt them into the possibility of propagation. First thing is to show them where to trim so they don't go back too far and so the plant as well is encouraged to get more bushy. Having them place the basil in a glass with a little water not only keeps the herb fresh, on display, and ready to use.. but as well basil very happily sets out roots. Our friend fell prey to this.. and went from the dozen plants I gave him to a LOT more as he planted a ton that rooted. More than half survived his first attempt and the result is a quick how-to on drying herbs. 

 Easy wins are key and start small. 

 Avoid vining plants if they don't have the room, or show how to grow them in containers. The thought of growing squash like Butternut is appealing.. but if there is limited room an alternate option would be a better choice. For how much space they take up, their production isn't that great. Several I know also thought you could just trim back the vines and it wouldn't have an effect. Large winter squash need a lot of energy to produce these fruit, and they have a relatively shallow root system. Trimming off the rambling vines is like rerouting a river that a hydraulic power plant needs to produce electricity.

 The variety I helped him with was enough to get his feet wet, have a decent amount of success and definitely sparked enthusiasm to try harder next year. It makes me smile as he posts pictures of pasta simply dressed with sauteed onion, garlic, bell peppers and cherry tomatoes in olive oil and basil, parsley and parmesan. 

 I am digging up one of the huge clumps of chives for him to replant. It is a huge, established mound that he'll be able to easily gather more than enough from to satisfy his family of 5. He was so excited about his peppers that he dug them up and transplanted them in to pots to over winter in a south facing window.. right along with one of the last batches of basil harvested from the garden that are setting roots. The success inspired determination and the drive as well as some basic know-how to get antsy about next year. He didn't think they liked beets, until he tossed the baby beet thinnings into a salad.. now he wonders what else they are missing.

 The gardening thing right now is a trend for many.. that will probably fade for most. Every year there is a new challenge, a new experiment, a new success, a set back. Some things will never change, and unpredictability is the norm in the garden. 

 A helping hand can not only save a new gardener from a lot of unnecessary expense, but also troubleshoot potential problems. 

 I'll miss my gardening converts. I wish them luck with starting their own transplants and I look forward to their 8 million pictures of their first pickings, and dishes made from it!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

cracked tooth delays move


 Bit something.. it cracked my tooth. I heard something, but felt no pain and didn't see any "damage".. until I chewed gum the other day and a part of my molar with a part of the root came out. 

 Then came the pain..

 Waves and waves of pain as the nerve is exposed and not happy. Went to the dentist yesterday and today.. they did everything except treat this tooth.. but today they referred me to yet another specialized dentist. So that's what I will be doing tomorrow morning.. endodontist.

 So now that I have popped a hydrocodone, which wonderfully is taking only just enough of the edge off for me to function, but not be comfortable.. I decided to point out my laments about the whole health care/ insurance company bullcrap to my husband.

 Mind you.. this was a rather unattractive conversation. Both of us had been through 2 hours of "cleaning" in which a heavy handed, but perky and pleasant, pregnant dental hygienist let out her pent up rage upon our mouths. 

 So as spittle flew in ever direction as we complained with slack jawed enthusiasm of the overly numbed ..

Our bill for me yesterday and the three of us today is pretty close to $2000. That's what we pay... AFTER insurance "coverage". This does not include my root canal tomorrow.. or the crown that gets made shortly after.. or my husband's wisdom teeth that he finally is going to get removed.

 Crazy... insane..  what did we have done? Well.. we had our teeth cleaned, x-rays, my daughter and husband each had 2 cavities, flouride treatments.

 And nothing was done to my tooth that has be in blinding pain that initialized this fun family outing.

 Two grand... and that's just for starters.

 My husband is a bit mad. He should be. I tried explaining to him that this ALWAYS happens. Even though he opted to pay extra for the premium package offered at his work.. the bill still is obnoxious.

 It would have been cheaper for us to not pay insurance and cover the whole thing out of pocket.

 So I rambled on before how I have some health issues.. and keep hitting a brick wall when it comes to getting help. (Nothing like dropping $10k to get results like "idiopathic")

 He gets it now.. the coordination of visits.. the surprise big bill for services literally stated as "the minimum health care required".

Meanwhile.. my sister is a translator that is often employed by the courts, the police, hospitals, social services, etc.  Something that she is frequently hired to do... translate to help non-english speaking people to get assistance and financial aid. 

It makes me a little mad.. that I pay taxes.. and have paid a lot in taxes.. and my family has literally paid millions in taxes..  

 and when we need help we get shafted.. while someone who pays next to nothing if at all gets far better health care and assistance.

 So the move is delayed a bit.. and in an evil twist... we have someone who really wants to rent our place. I may have to find some means to get a crown done where we are moving to before the end of the month when our insurance is up.

 Just doesn't seem right that you pay extra to get the better plan.. so much extra as the company no longer covers it entirely but instead only pays 1/2 because the rates have jumped so high... to still get nailed. Especially in a time where the company still forces reduced hours and pay cuts.

 The system is just not right. (Yes, I realize this whole post is rantings from a person in pain induced delirium.. but it still has merit!) 

The pain meds are wearing off... time to take some more and hope like heck they give me enough peace to sleep a little. The last 3 nights I have gotten a total of 6 hours of rest.