Sunday, March 27, 2011

Project Vegetable, Part 2

Garden beds.
The first one has tiny onions planted in rows that may not be far enough apart!

I know you have all been waiting on the edge of your seats for an update on the vegetable project. (Actually, I thought you had all been waiting on the edge of your seats, but it turns out my mom hasn't even managed to read 'Project Vegetable, Part 1'. If my mom isn't keeping up, it's possible none of you are. But I will carry on as if you're dying to hear anyhow.)

This was a big week. Seeds were planted. Planters were built (thanks Seattle Feed! I highly recommend them is anyone wants planters or chicken coops, We're off and running. There are now at least 216 more beings alive this week because of me - though a caveat is that probably 1/2 of those will be killed off before they make it outside to the garden (survival of the fittest and all).

I bought a bunch of seeds and was going to start them inside, because it seems that is what you do when you live in Seattle. First things first, I read all the instructions on the packets and was a bit dismayed to find that each type of vegetable has a different set of rules for growth - time you plant, where you plant, temperature etc etc. It's almost enough to make one want to throw up one's hands and give up. But, no, I was not deterred. I was, however, concerned because these little plantlets wanted to be warm. My house, though warmer than outside, it not warm during most of the day or at night. So, I went shopping. At Lowe's I found the Jiffy Heated PROFESSIONAL Greenhouse. Yes, foks, this is what the professionals use. I reached a new level in my gardening career in my one trip to Lowes.

And, guess what, it worked. A week out and my little plants are has happy as can be. I am sure there are many more hurdles to jump over. But we'll take this project step by step.

On another note entirely, I was doing some work in the garden and when I finished, Otto was sitting staring at the garden beds and would not come in. So, I left him out. Ten minutes or so later when I went out to take pictures, he was just sitting by the Subaru. He wouldn't move until I finally enticed him inside with food. Crazy dog!


Monday, March 21, 2011

Happy animals, revisiting my food obsession!

Yes, I'm talking about happy food again. I have fallen further into the food deep end. You all have witnessed my slide. A quick recap, two and a half years ago I was a vegetarian (20 years), then no wheat, no dairy, then no soy, which led to meat eating (at some point, you’ve got to eat something). Then I went paleo (no grains). And don't get me wrong, paleo is a great place to be. I'm very happy with what I eat (and feel great). But I’ve been researching food, its origins and its effect on the body. And it’s taking me to a new scary place. No longer can I buy organic chicken breast from Trader Joe's or Whole Foods. Turns out, that poor mass produced chicken really doesn’t have much better of a life than its antibiotic filled counterpart. These days my chicken has to have spent its life scuttling about the fields eating bugs out of cow manure. To find that chicken, you have to buy the whole damn chicken and not just the breast!! Which, really, is a completely new level of commitment. (I know I talked about making that commitment before, but I hadn't actually done it.) I knew that I had totally lost it last night. I finished pulling the meat off my happy chicken and promptly felt compelled to drop the carcass in a pot of water to make broth. Yes, I’m cooking chicken broth so I can use the whole damn chicken.

Now, I have a huge pot of chicken broth sitting in my refrigerator and I have no idea what to do with it. Yes, I can make soup. Or it seems (according to Google) that I can freeze it. But picture this, I will probably be eating a chicken a week. That is A LOT of broth. I can just imagine the little baggies of chicken broth multiplying in my freezer - never to be heard from again. Currently, the dog is enjoying chicken broth with his meals.

And then there is beef. I've started eating more of it, after becoming fully enamored with the description of happy cows living in harmony with their roaming chicken counterparts. But it seems that one has to be even more careful with one's beef. Beef is frequently touted as 'grain fed' or 'grain finished', as if this is the best thing ever. Unfortunately, in the world of omega 3s and happy cows, this is no good. One needs not just cows that were happy most of their lives, but 100 percent grass fed cows that have lived blissful, stress free lives (it seems stress is bad in something you're going to eat) and never so much as thought of a piece of corn.

And what's next? What happens when I decide I need to buy the whole damn cow?



Saturday, March 19, 2011

Project Vegetable, Part 1

Otto decided he could be most useful by grazing on the grass around the rose bushes.

I have wanted, considered, talked about, talked myself out of, tested with tomato plants, growing vegetables for many years. I have grown flowers since I have owned houses, but never vegetables (except for the failed tomato attempts I have documented in this blog on previous occasions). Vegetables are scary. I don't know why they are scary compared to flowers, but they make me nervous. The probability for failure seems much higher!

Last year, I hatched a vegetable garden plan. First I thought I'd plant veggies in the back yard, but the backyard gets no sun, so that seemed a bad idea. Then I thought, hmmm, the best place for sun is the parking strip in front of the house. As anyone who has been to my house knows, that parking strip has been full of rose bushes since I bought my house. But, the more I thought about it, the more that seemed the only acceptable, sunny place to plant vegetables. Now, the roses in front of the house are the wandering beach kind, they send out little runners and pop up everywhere. So removing them seemed a daunting task, but none the less, I began to talk about my new vegetable garden and the raised vegetables bed I was going to build.

Okay, so let's stop here and mention that while I was thinking/talking about all this, I couldn't really imagine it actually happening. Last fall I tried to remove one of the rose bushes and it was a ton of work and ultimately unsuccessful (partly because my shovel had vanished so I was attempting it without). And building raised beds? I know it's probably easy, but really, me ever actually doing it? And making it look nice? Probably not. So I had this idea, but really didn't think it would actually happen. I thought it would just fade away.......

Then, I was walking Otto on our regular daily walk by my nice vegetable planting chicken owning neighbor's house. Outside my neighbor's house was a truck with a logo of a company called seattlefeed. When I got home and googled, it turns out my neighbor recently started a business that builds chicken coops and raised flower beds. It's a small (perhaps micro) business they used reclaimed materials when possible and they're all about producing your own food in a sustainable manner. In no time at all, I decided I just needed to jump right in, support the business and pay to get beds made. If I pay a. they will actually get made and b. I will feel obligated to actually attempt to grow food.

So I made an appointment and my new beds are being installed next week! The Seattle Feed folks are oh so nice. They (okay, she) will, of course, remove the rose bushes as well. But that was at an hourly rate and seemed unnecessary. I can certainly handle some manual labor. So today I went to Lowes, rebought a shovel, and went to work. Three hours later I'm exhausted and thinking of the many many hours of work, plus months and months of time before I taste even one vegetable (currently existing as seeds in packets on my counter). BUT, I'm very excited. I am going to try to have no expectations. I'm going to do a little research, throw a bunch of stuff in and see what takes. And you all, my lucky, loyal readers, get to be there with me every step of the way! Whoop, whoop!

My beautiful new shovel, mid shove.

Almost done! Well, almost done with the pre phase. Many more to go.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


First, can I mention, I hate the word vacuum. I can never remember if it is two Cs or two Us.

And before yesterday I had never heard of the word Dyson. In fact, yesterday when a friend posted on his facebook page that it was a good day for Dysoning I wasn't sure what the heck he was talking about. Then today (yes two days in a row!), another friend posted a link to a Dyson vacuum asking if they were really that great and if she should get one. So, since I am sitting in front of my computer doing a very good job of avoiding exactly that very thing (vacuuming), I took a click on that link as another excuse to procrastinate the house keeping that is desperately calling my name with increasing volume and intensity. And now, after that click, it seems as a pet owner my life will not be complete until I spend $500+ on a super cool new vacuum.

There were hints that I needed a new vacuum a couple months ago. I went to a friends house for thanksgiving and they have a robot vacuum. It's a little disk that you turn on and it runs around the house (by itself) and vacuums your floor. Suddenly I realized that vacuum technology had left me far behind!

I bought my vacuums at the Central Vacuum Service in Seattle. It's a cool, locally owned, super lo-fi store. It's been in business for 35+. They fix vacuums. They sell used vacuums. They will let you take home a vacuum to test without any deposit. I have purchased two vacuums from them. The first (a used vacuum I bought 17 years ago now) when, I realized that the old Hoover that I had inherited from my mom was doing nothing for the pet hair in my house. The second when I finally realized that perhaps a vacuum that was designed for rugs would work better on rugs than a canister with no rug attachment (hmm).

And now it's finally sinking in that there are even further stratifications of vacuums. I have always just thought of a vacuum as a vacuum as a vacuum. But maybe you don't have to be extra frustrated when you vacuum because the hose is not properly attached and falls out multiple times as you move around the house. And just maybe, some vacuum that pet hair a little better than others. Is this the type of thing you need to get married for, or do I just buy one. This might be the first thing on my registry. Hello fellows!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


A friend just started a new blog and it reminded me of how much I love both blogging and reading friends' blogs. I check my friends' blogs regularly and get very excited anytime one of them has an update. I find them fascinating, it's like reading a public diary. I love seeing the public face people present. With some friends I get a detailed view into their brain - thoughts and feelings that I might not normally see. With others, I see a very positive public image different that what is expressed in my day to day interaction with them. In either case, I learn new things about friends, things I would never learn chatting at a party or in an email.

And I find the process of blogging interesting as well. For me, I will having nothing to blog, nothing to blog and then suddenly the perfect blog. And it's hard to even know why something will be the 'perfect blog' in my head. It's usually something pretty mundane, but something about it just resonates. I hate coming up with the 'perfect blog' when I'm away from a computer and will be for hours. Then the blog becomes almost painful. I begin to dread the process of writing it. Over and over my brain runs through all the insightful, illustrative, witty things I want to say in hopes that I won't lose them all before I sit down at the computer. Sometimes the weight becomes so heavy, that the blog never happens. The act of writing it down becomes too much of a burden or I talk myself out of it.

And sometimes my blogs turn out great and sometimes, to reuse a word from last month, meh. Sometimes I become so enamored with my blogs that I read them over and over again, fascinated that I could have turned out something so clever and entertaining (perhaps a case of 'a face only a mother could love'). Sometimes, I get a little embarrassed about my blog and don't want to share. ( I think I have really good blog phases and not so good blog phases. I'm still in love with the Guilty Pleasure series.)

In general, I think have a blog makes me better - smarter, cooler, hipper, more cutting edge. I like saying 'I have a blog' and meaning not only that I have a blog, but that I blog regularly. Somehow, having a blog, even a blog that maybe 10 people (mostly relatives) read, makes me a part of something bigger. Somehow I put myself in line with the bloggers who do it for a living with millions of readers, they, like me, are bloggers.

Funny story, once I was conversing online with someone I had met through an internet dating site. He was an artist or designer or some nonsense, and wanted to know if I was creative. I replied no, not remotely. When that was clearly the wrong answer, I remembered my blog and directed him to it. Suddenly, it seemed I passed the creative test. My blog did make me more fascinating, cuter and more cosmopolitan. Of course, we never did meet. Somehow in the next set of emails he decided I was very narcissistic and canceled a date we had planned. (Yo buddy, if you're reading this blog, just so you know you missed out big time! Though of course my a. thinking he might be reading my blog and b. thinking he missed out, will probably only strengthen his belief in my narcissism.)

Anyhow, the weight of this blog is now off my shoulders. Thanks to all my friends for writing your blogs, I eagerly await your new posts. And thanks for reading mine!