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Sunday, February 24, 2013

So Very Close

Today was a good day.

Instead of the predicted rain, and then partly cloudy forecast, we got mostly sun today.  So while Steve was digging trenches along the fence in Hensdeep, I weeded the allium bed, which needed it, and between helping Steve stuff welded wire along the fence and whatnot, I also got the asparagus bed de-mossed.
But once we got the wire in along the fence, I let Steve go do what he planned to do this afternoon, which was brew beer.

That was the agreement, after all.  Plus, I cannot tell you how much I love the way the house smells when Steve is brewing beer.  The steamy, malty goodness (which smells better than bread baking) is only enhanced by the smell of the hop volatives being released into the air as they boil.  Heaven must smell like beer brewing.  I think it was Franklin who said that beer is the proof that there is a God and he wants us to be happy. There is probably also a Snopes that says he didn't say that.  I don't really care.  I just like the way it smells when it's brewing.  Oh- and drinking it isn't too shabby, either.

After Steve went in, I built forms for the sill that goes under the door.  There will be a step, and then a step up, and hopefully, everything that I've done today will discourage anything from burrowing under the fence.

But I'm so very close to being ready for chickens.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Update 10 February 2013

Things have been a little slower than usual at the ol' homestead household thingy (I still don't know what it is we're really doing.)

Last weekend I got a start on cleaning up the blueberry bed and transplanting volunteer strawberry plants.  Let me back up a bit.

We had raspberry plants.  The raspberry plants succumbed to what I suspected to be verticillium wilt, so I dug them all out.  When life throws you a curve ball you go with your strengths, and I know I can grow the hell out of blueberries, so I amended the old raspberry bed with a bale of peat moss and chucked in six blueberry plants.

Somewhere along the way the bed self-combusted with two or three volunteer strawberry plants, which sent runners hither, thither, and yon.  I don't know where they came from, probably bird poop, but they definitely didn't come from under the fence, because the old lady next door (she's 90, and she still mows her own lawn- she's amazing) doesn't garden strawberries on that side of the house.  They aren't the ornamental strawberries that she grows in her parking strip (that occasionally fruit and are delicious little buggers) and they are definitely not the same variety that I have in my strawberry bed by the back door.  They are much larger plants, and more robust, and have decent berries borne on longer stems, so they've more a chance to be out of harm's way (read: slugs) where we can get them. They are also everbearing.

Being curious why this could or should have happened, I did some research: it turns out that strawberries are ericaceous, which is sometimes used to describe plants that prefer an acid environment just like blueberries do (so do potatoes, for that matter), which was news to me.

the blueberry bed that needs weeding
Blueberry and strawberry starts
So I figure squelch the weeds and get fruit at the same time? With free plants?  Seemed like a no brainer to me, so that's what I did last weekend, only I got just a quarter of the bed done.  I need to get at it because the popweed is getting large enough to start sporting flowers and the thing with popweed is that you really want to get ahead of them flowering or you'll be sorry.

So what am I doing this weekend?  Resting, that's what.  Friday I had an arterial catheterization, and because they go in through your femoral artery, you can't do anything for a couple of days afterwards until that hole heals up.  I was actually admonished by my cardiologist not to dig any ditches.

"Oh darn!" I said. "That's actually what I planned to do this weekend."

She probably thought I was kidding, but I really had planned on digging a ditch; one of the things I'd wanted to get done this weekend was to get the welded wire, which is purchased and gathering dust in the garage, into the ground along the fence in Hensdeep.  Then the last thing I'd have to do before it is hen-worthy would be to pour a concrete sill under the door.

That catheterization was an interesting experience, one I'll be glad to not repeat anytime soon.  You're in a flimsy hospital gown in an absolutely frigid room where four different techs are sliding you from your gurney onto the table and they're all fussing about with various chores and suddenly you realize that the very attractive man with the trim gray beard is shaving your you-know-what and you are really grateful that he's not a young attractive man because at least this guy understands the whole snow on the mountain thing.  Then he comes around and does the other side.  Oh - thanks for making it match.  Then he tacks everything up with a sticky something.  Then the next thing you know is that he and one of the other guys is swabbing your freshly shaved area with something that zings so bad you want to vault off the table.  Alcohol swab. And they're swabbing and swabbing and swabbing.  It's only much later that you find out it's colored blue and that you look like a Pict with a very strange idea of where war paint goes.

I spent the next hour or so in la-la-land and recognized the contrast dye when it went through by the flush of warmth that spread from the center of my chest and woke me up enough to say "oh there it goes" as I recognized it. Evidently I was entertaining during this whole twilight period. Steve told me my doctor mentioned it when she came out to give him the heads up on my status. I am sincerely glad I don't have state secrets to keep.

For some reason, I woke up with a whacking, great headache.  The nurse said, "oh good- she's already ordered you Vicodin," which we tried.  When that didn't work, we tried the second one authorized.  I was not feeling at all well but it was nearing five o'clock at this point, and I just wanted to get home to my own bed.  Did I want a wheel chair? Yes, thank you.

James showed up with the wheel chair and we headed downstairs. I've noticed that when being wheeled on a gurney or in a wheel chair I've a sense of this refreshing breeze wafting past my face and I can't account for it, since the wheeler isn't walking any faster than I would be walking and I don't notice a breeze when left to my own perambulations. If anyone knows why this is, I'd be grateful for an explanation.

James parked me near a bench and sat down while Steve went to go get the car. Presently I began to feel the clamminess and sudden body heat that always tells me I'm about to be sick.  "Do you have any emission basins around here?" I asked James suddenly.

"Not down here," he answered.  Then he had an idea. "I'll go see what they have in E.R." he said.

"Good idea.  Hurry."

He came back at a trot with several blue rings, one from which he was pulling out the bag.  He handed it to me and sat down again, and about ten seconds later I violently hurled into it.

"You just have surgery?" he asked.

I shook my head. "Test,  I answered.

"Contrast?" he asked.  I nodded and vomited again.  And again. And….again. I felt bad when I handed him the bag. "Does it every time," he said.

By that time Steve arrived with the car and James wheeled me out and helped me into the car. I was grateful for his help and told him so.  In retrospect I can say that I am grateful about a lot of things. Grateful to all the people who choose to make healthcare their life's work. It's not something that I can do or would choose to do, but I'm glad that they do.  Grateful that hospitals spend the money it takes to have up-to-date diagnostic tools for the doctors and technicians to use.  Grateful that Steve and I have jobs and consequently have healthcare insurance. Grateful that I live in an age when my heart condition isn't an early death sentence and that they can do something about it.

I'm also grateful that I have a backyard to garden and a husband who for the most part, understands what it is that I'm trying to do. It's just taking a long time.  This coming Thanksgiving we'll have been here for five years, and I've yet to get any fruit off my trees.  I still don't have chickens, and I still don't have bees.

It may take another five years before I get it all figured out, but the only way to learn and get better is to keep at it.

No matter what.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Pruning Time

My friend Miriam over at Mucky Boots Farm finally took my advice and got herself a good pair of pruners.  Yay Miriam!!   It reminded me that it's pruning season, and time to get out the Felcos and overhaul them.

My Felco secateurs are the first birthday present Steve ever got for me eleven years ago, and I still have them.  (Not only that, I also know where they are.)  Before I get out there with them, it's high time that I took them apart and gave them a good going over.  Luckily, what anyone needs to know about maintaining your Felcos can be found here. Mine need to be taken apart and cleaned, and the blade needs to be checked and possibly sharpened, and then I need to put them back together again and tighten them down.  They are a little overdue for maintenance and are not doing quite as clean a job of it as I'd like, but that's entirely my fault, and there is no reason they shouldn't be good as new after I deal with them.

The other thing about pruning season that deserves mention is that many articles indicate that you should dip your pruners in a solution of bleach and water between cuts to prevent plant diseases from being spread.  I read the results of a study that found that bleach is not as effective a plant pathogen killer as was previously thought.  The study did find something effective that most people can find just about anywhere.  You want to know what it is?

Lysol Disinfectant Spray.  It also has the added benefit of being a whole lot easier to lug around than a bucket of bleach solution.

I think that maybe for this year's birthday I'll ask for a pair of Felco loppers. Some extra leverage would be a good thing to have on some of the larger branches.  Think about that, Miriam!