Saturday, April 19, 2014

Strawberry coring

I'm not a real fan of cleaning strawberries. Never have been. I'd rather be on the eating end of things when it comes to these little guys.


None the less, cleaning must be done. I'd always done it the 'old fashioned' way. Cut the top off, then slice the berry, but it always bothered me that the less sweet core was still inside, and it took a fairly big cut off the top to remove the leaves, and the hardest part of the core, right at the top.

Many years ago my sister told me to use a straw to push the core from the berry, but every straw I'd tried was too flimsy, and the diameter too small, so my efforts weren't very productive.

This morning I got to thinking, as I looked at cleaning 4 lbs. of strawberries, "how can I make this easier?" I had an extra fat straw from the local coffee shop, so I gave that a go. The only trouble? Once the straw was full of cores, it was hard to push more of them from the berries that would follow, so I added a smaller diameter straw in the center, to act as a plunger. It worked beautifully.


Push the straw into the bottom of the strawberry, up through the leaves and out. If you miss the center, just pull back the housing straw, realign, and push again. When the core is in the straw, and pushed all the way through the berry, push the plunger, and out it comes.



Viola!  Perfectly cored strawberries, with very little waste.



Saturday, April 12, 2014

New 'life'...

I knew after Jet died, I would need something to fill my time, to help ease myself into/through the grief, without being overwhelmed by it. It was probably one of the biggest reasons I went against my promise that I wouldn't grow another vegetable garden this year. I'm glad I did, though in some ways, it is bittersweet.

The day Jet died, we came home to find the first two peas emerging in the planter boxes in the backyard. Eight days later, we have over 50. Both Jet and Ty (and Kindle, too) loved the peas, plucked right off the plant. To see those emerge, and know Jet wouldn't be here to enjoy them this summer, was hard. I knew when we planted them, he wouldn't be here. I even said as much to Cliff at the time. Knowing that, I struggled through the planting, but Kindle is still here, and life goes on...we have to keep things moving for her, so she enjoys her life, as both the boys did when they were here.

The rest of my seedlings are still enjoying the grow lights, and the warmth of the room where they are currently housed. I added a small humidifier to the room a few days ago. I turn it on, along with the heater/fan, for a few hours every day. They are living in their own little 'rain forest'...and thriving, I might add.

This is about 3 weeks post planting. The eggplant and peppers were the last to emerge. I wasn't sure they would, but they did. Just took a bit longer. They popped up about six days ago.



The tomatoes are the furthest along.  We planted three varieties, and all three are doing well.  Cherry, Brandywine and Roma.


The basil is doing well, also. I have found I like to grow the Genovese basil best, and as I understand it, it's the one most prized by chefs. It grows about twice as fast as the sweet basil. I gave one plant to each of my sisters in law last weekend, and kept one for myself. I planted more seeds the next day, and they are well on their way now, too.


The cuttings I took from the gnat infested plant I got at Trader Joe's are also thriving now. After I cut the stems, I washed them well, and set them in a cup of water. Once the roots were well developed, I plunked them into my homemade potting mix, and off they went. They are happy...and no more gnats. In the last week, they have a second set of leaves on one stem. I think they like the 'rain forest', too.


Friday, April 4, 2014

I don't know how...

I don't know how to write this entry. I don't even know how to start. All I see is pain and loss...and a long life ahead, without you at my side.


All your life, you have been my heart, and when you left, it went with you. I feel so empty, so lost without you.  I know I'm breathing, but I can't catch my breath.

Our journey was a private one - one I never wanted to share, and one I don't think you wanted to share, either.

Before you came into my life, I didn't feel a lot of self worth. I'd never been told that I was good enough, smart enough, or worthy of love. You never uttered those words to me, because you couldn't, but in everything you did, every action, every look, every snuggle, bark, sneeze, lick and shake, you told me that I was worthy, that I mattered. You never let me down. You never left my side, unless you had no other choice.  You lifted me up, and healed my broken heart.

You gave me the greatest gift I've ever received - unconditional love.

I don't even want to tell people you are gone. I don't want to hear all the those familiar words, "I understand," or "I'm so sorry for your loss." I don't want to be told how lucky I was, or how lucky you were. I don't want any of that, because no one, anywhere, can understand what you meant to me, what you gave me and how much I loved you...I don't think it's possible to love anything more than I loved you.

I called you "my beautiful," and you were, in every way that possibly mattered.

I have said you were the greatest love of my life, and it's the truth - that I was so well cared for, by you, that I learned to love myself, to trust myself, and to give life a chance I'd never given it before. I trusted you with my deepest fears, and you pushed them away, always letting me know I was stronger than they were. You were the only living thing I have ever trusted completely...you never gave me a reason to think I couldn't. Not in your entire life, not for a single moment.

Goodnight, my beautiful. My heart goes with you...you were my everything.

Monday, March 31, 2014

The seedling splits

I've never done a great deal of gardening. I like to experiment, and I enjoy the fruits of my labors, but I've not invested in much, in terms of equipment or education. Just sort of a 'shoot from the hip' kind of thing.

This year I decided to take things a bit more seriously. This, after I promised myself I wouldn't do a garden...so much for promises to myself.

I decided that my garden would grow with peas and blueberry plants in my garden boxes, and everything else in Global Buckets, www.globalbuckets.org. The buckets are a spin on the EarthBox revolution, but instead of investing in a $50 Earthbox, which would only grow two plants, or in the case of tomatoes, just one, I used materials I sourced for next to nothing, and made Global Buckets instead.

I have my buckets made, and now I'm waiting on weather, and the growth of my seedlings, to transplant into the buckets, which won't happen for a couple more months.

The seedlings have started to take over my guest/craft/sewing room. While there is still enough room (barely) for a single air mattress, to accommodate one guest, it has become a room where my ideas come to life. As such, it has become a favorite room. Like the rest of my house, it's about function vs. form, but the older I get, the less I care about function.

This weekend I told Cliff I needed more space for my seedlings, and needed more grow lights, too. Being the electrical wholesaler that he is, he set me up lickity split.


We use these shelves in our business, so it wasn't hard to fit one with fixtures for my seedlings. The bottom shelf is also fitted with a fixture, but I have to wait to split the remaining tomato plants before I will need to use it. Set on a timer, the lights come on, and stay on, for 16 hours/day. It has proven a very effective way to grow starts. I'm very pleased with how everything has emerged this year, and I'm glad I made the choice to start from seed. Far more cost effective. The Solo cups really make nice (interim) planters, and the clothes pins (50 for 98 cents from Walmart!) were great for 'tagging' each cup.


In the two days since I took the above image, they are triple in size. Amazing how fast they grow!


My basil cuttings grew well in water. Once they had developed roots, I transplanted them into the well loved Solo cups. I have several others started, and now that I know how easy it is to grow from cuttings, I will never be out of basil again!

Emergence has been well over 90% on all the seeds. Far more than I expected, and as a result, I've over planted. I will need at least another 12-18 Global Buckets to house everything. Of course, that assumes all starts survive hardening off, and the move to outdoors. Time will tell!

There is no doubt that gardening is an up front investment, but it's one I really don't mind, since it does pay off on the back end. Fresh food isn't cheap, and if you can grow it during the summer, it eases the pressure on the wallet.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Gardening...just can't say 'no'!

The lure of the garden was too much for me this year. I swore I wasn't going to get sucked in again, but I just couldn't help myself. The promise of things emerging from the ground, after a cold winter...well, like a moth to the flame, here I am again.


This year I decided to start everything inside from seed. I bought three Jiffy greenhouses, then realized those starts would need interim transplant before going into their Global Buckets - a totally unnecessary step. I planted far more than I have buckets for, but when I plant from seed it seems I only get about 70% emergence, so I'm over covering my bases this time.

I used Solo cups for my starts, and used a potting mix I found (recipe #1) on the Global Buckets website. I will also use this potting mix in my buckets, so it should make the transplanting easier on my starts (or so I'm telling myself).

From there, I simply cut holes in the bottom of the Solo cups, planted my seeds, and used clothes pins for labels. The clothes pins were 98 cents at Walmart for a pack of 50. Works for me. The Solo cups were cheap, too.


Everything is now under grow lights in my guest room, turned temporary growing house. With a healthy glow coming from my guest room window, for 16 hours/day, I hope I don't draw the authorities, curious as to what I'm growing!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Tomato cage trellis


Last year's garden was a lot of work, tied us down to home a little too much, and didn't produce like we'd hoped. This year, while we swore we weren't going to plant a garden, we just couldn't help but plant the Cascadia sugar snap peas we have enjoyed so much over the last two seasons.


Cascadia is a bush variety, only growing to about 2', so a heavy trellis isn't necessary. We really didn't want to do anything too involved for the two additional boxes, and wanted to use what we had on hand. The solution? Tomato cages turned trellises. We used heavy pliars to turn the 'leg' ends into a whimsical shape, secured them with some wire we had in the garage, flipped the cages upside down, and staked them into the planter boxes.  Easy, peas-y!


Friday, March 7, 2014

Is it really almost over?


"If I dropped a tear in the ocean,
the day they found it,
 would be the day I'd stop loving you."
                                                                 -- Unknown


I haven't written about you much here, baby. I haven't been able to open my heart enough to let anything out. Unlike Ty, who belonged to the world as much as he belonged to me, you are all mine. I have never shared you with the world, and you never wanted me to. It's always been about what's between us.


As I return from a visit with Dr. Leslie, and news that wasn't what I wanted to hear, I find I would not be fulfilling my promises to you, and what you've meant to me, if I didn't take time to write to you, as I wrote to Ty toward the end of his life.

Why has it been so hard to write to you? I don't know, really. I've tried several times. I think the short answer is you are my heart. I've never given my heart out easily, and doing it now is difficult, but without writing to you here, now, I wouldn't be honoring who you are, who you've been, and what my life has been like because of you. I have never dishonored you, and I won't start now, so here goes.

Tears are streaming down my cheeks as I write, knowing it won't be long before you leave me, with wings upon your shoulders, knowing, as I always have, that this time would eventually find us.

The day I first saw you, I knew you were mine. Three puppies were put in my lap. Two blues, and you. The two blues wouldn't settle, and wanted down, but you turned yourself around, scooted up my chest, and set your head down under my chin, with a big sigh. I say I didn't pick you, that you picked me, and you did, though I knew it the moment I saw you, you were the one I wanted. There was something there, in that moment.

You would take me down paths I never knew were even available to me. You took to training and performance like you'd been born to do it. You loved it, and tolerated my clumsy training and guidance in the early days. As I look back, I can see just how driven you were. With me in your way most of the time, you found a way, and lead us along the path to success. For us, it was never really about the wins, it was about the time together. It was about walking to the line together, looking into each other's eyes, and doing what we loved so much.

Sometimes I would catch myself, and think, "gosh, what will I ever do without you," then I would push the thought out of my mind. We had so many years ahead, I would tell myself, and we did. But no matter the number of years ahead, we were slowly marching toward the day I dreaded more than any other.

You were wise when you were just a baby. You seemed to know things, like you'd been here before. Calm and smart, you faced every challenge with a deep knowing, like you'd experienced it before. Even as we get close to the end, you have a calm about you that makes me wonder, "have you done this before?"

We have been, for the last 5310 days, each other's hearts, in every way. Performance, long walks, trips hither and yon, raising puppies together. No matter what we did, always together. Poppa calls you my sentinel, and you are. I know, even when you leave this life, you will continue to be exactly that. I know you will watch over me, as you always have. I hope your days aren't over yet, but my eyes see you losing ground every day, and I know you can't stay here forever.

You have never really loved anyone but me. You have tolerated many, but your love has been mine, entirely, and I've always known it. I never encouraged you to love anyone else, because I wanted you all to myself...I wanted my heart to myself, and you, my sweet boy, are, forever, my heart.

How do I say 'good-bye' to my heart? How do I say farewell to the one thing I have loved more than any other? I don't know, but I imagine you will guide me there, as you always have, with an understanding only you have.

So, here we are, stepping forward, together, inching toward the moment we have to say "good bye", and I'm powerless to stop the momentum. Even as you begin to weaken, I hear you, telling me to be strong, to believe in the power of the love we have, and share, and to trust you, as I always have.

I love you, Jet...I never learned how to fully love until you came into my life. I know it was the lesson you came to share. It was your job. You did it so well, almost too well, and even as you weaken slowly, you are still doing it, with every breath you take.

I don't know if I will write to you again, as our language is so intensely personal, as you know, but even if I don't, look into my heart, my baby boy.  I will speak to you there, as I always have.

You are my everything, Jet...forever and ever, my heart.