Saturday, August 20, 2016

Project day

Once again, it was my turn to host project day. Because I had just taken project management training at work, I whipped out a project plan laying out goals, resources needed, timeline, people involved, and, of course, menus. Luckily, all this planning did not scare off my friends and they arrived, shovels and extra clothes in hand, for we were... de-gardening!
It may come as a shock that I wanted to rip out existing gardens in the yard, considering my love of all things growing. But it turns out that my love only extends to edibles, and despite my best efforts these gardens mainly grew weeds. I think the previous owner may have put them in decades ago, when the trees behind them were much smaller. I considered putting in shade-loving perennials, but then I'd spend a lot of time weeding shrubs that I didn't want in the first place. Instead, I decided to rip everything out and replace it with lawn. And since cool-season lawns are best planted in fall, the de-gardening needed to happen now, in the heat of the summer.
I'm not sure those pictures do our work justice, so let me elaborate. In 31C/88F weather, we relocated an herb garden, removed a small shed, pulled up pressure-treated wood dividers, removed armloads of bricks and rebar, and tore up ivy. We pulled out shrubs (So. Many. Shrubs), relocated the compost heap and the wood pile, and sawed out metal piping that protruded into the air. 
The only thing left in the space is a pile of brush to have picked up by the city, and then I can till and seed the lawn. This is not insignificant work, but it *is* achievable by me without any help in the next few weeks. Whereas when we stared this morning, I doubted whether even five adults together could clear the space. 
I had hoped to relax with a glass of wine tonight, but it turns out that I just want to drink two quarts of water and go to bed. But tomorrow morning you can trust that I'll be outside with my coffee, enjoying the hard-earned view of plain dirt.

Friday, August 19, 2016


     August was an unpleasant month for me throughout my childhood. As I've mentioned, I was a very shy child. Late August always meant returning to school, and returning to school meant a month of morning stomachaches. I didn't have a problem with doing schoolwork or learning, but meeting new people was hard. In addition, we moved around a lot. I attended seven schools before I turned eighteen – not an outrageous number, but definitely something that didn't help the matter.
     Leading up to the start of school was the never-ending stream of back-to-school advertising, all of which reminded me of my impending doom. To this day I have to suppress a fleeting moment of panic when I hear a back-to-school commercial. It only takes a moment to remind myself of that I'm not the kid I was and that I only go new places if I choose to, but it sort of amazes me that the feeling persists after twenty years.
     As a gardener, I both love and hate August. There's produce coming in quickly, and fruits and vegetables at the market are also cheap, so there's lots of things that need to be picked or frozen or stored. This week alone I froze ten pounds of peaches, made a gallon of applesauce and a gallon of summer squash chowder, and dried a few pounds of tomatoes.
     A little part of me is ready for everything to quit growing. I guess that's a good thing - when fall arrives, I'll be grateful that the lawn and "volunteer" (i.e. no one planted them and no one wants them there) shrubs aren't getting bigger, and I may finally win a battle, if not the war, against the weeds. Also, it will be nice to do yard work in 20 C days instead of 30 C days.*

*I make an effort never to complain about the weather. First, what is it going to help? Second, I moved north to have seasons and I still love them. But that doesn't mean I can't love some weather more than other weather.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016


I went to Ohio last weekend with my friend D and Ada. Ada emitted one lone bark on the whole trip. Sure, she whined every time we slowed down, but this is SO MUCH BETTER than the constant barking.
I ate the very first fig off my tree. It was delightful! There are only six tiny fruit on the tree, and this was the only one that was purple. It’s proof of concept that I can grow delicious fruit.
The doctor asked me to cut back on caffeine to see if it would help with a minor medical issue. I have been drinking only one cup of coffee each morning and not a drop of tea or afternoon coffee. Today I had a decaffeinated black tea, something I normally despise, but it tasted marvelous. Deprivation does make the heart grow fonder.

Monday, August 08, 2016

High summer

     I have returned to a season I would term high summer, and it is delightful. There is so much life happening. When I step out in the evening, the sound of the crickets and cicadas is almost deafening. I can't keep up with the pace of the ripening cherry tomatoes and squash.  A huge patch of black-eyed susans has taken over a corner of the garden.
     My friend E and I had a wonderful day trip to the beach on Saturday. Her husband dislikes the beach and its blinding sun and heat, so we decided that I would go with her and her two kids. Three hours to the beach with a three-year-old and a two-year-old is more manageable if the adults at least equal the number of the kids. I didn't go deep enough to immerse my waist, but the waves were so powerful that I was still knocked down by the waves a few times and lost my sunglasses. The kids wisely and carefully would not venture past ankle-depth, but the oldest still found his first experience with the ocean captivating.
     Next weekend I head to Ohio for the annual pig roast. As always, it's a bit odd that a pig roast makes the annual social calendar for a vegetarian. But I get to see my folks and there's always a subset of half a dozen physicists who specially come to hang out. And when else what I get my fix of Midwestern classics like Jello and ramen salad?

Friday, August 05, 2016

This and that

Re-entry into normal life after vacation was a bit more difficult than usual. I had failed to make proper sacrifices to the travel god, and I arrived home six hours later than scheduled. Since the plan called for me to get home at 10pm, that meant I fell into bed at 4am. And I am still part of the great unwashed labor class, so I hauled myself out of bed for seven hours of meetings. I did allow myself to miss the first hour of meeting, and apparently looked bad enough that my co-workers were impressed that I showed up at all.
As a result, I felt out of whack all week, trying to catch up on sleep, lawn mowing, and laundry. I finally bought groceries on Thursday, which meant I lived on peanut butter, pasta, and vegetables from the garden until that point.
I had a terrific garden sitter, but leaving a garden in the vigorous growing period of July means that the weeds were taller than some of the plants. I think it will take me another several weeks to catch up. As per cousin request, I will put more garden pictures up soon.
Every time I leave my cat to go on a trip, I sort of say a permanent goodbye, and I'm always a little surprised and delighted that she's still around when I get back. Phi is now almost completely blind and deaf. She walks into walls, but luckily whiskers help her to stop before she hits her head. She sleeps oven more than she used to, which I didn't think was possible.  Nonetheless, she can find her food and litter box, she can go up and down the basement stairs, and she doesn't appear to be in any pain. As long as she looks like she's still enjoying life, I'm awfully glad to have her around.

Sunday, July 31, 2016


One of the highlights of my vacation was a kayak trip that my brother and I took across Tomales Bay. In that bay live particular plankton, that bioluminesce when they are disturbed. A colleague had done the trip a few years earlier and recommended it. It was quite an ordeal to even get out there - a two-hour drive, a one-hour safety lesson, a three-hour kayak trip, and then a hour drive home after midnight. (Luckily, my brother did almost all the driving, so still-on-East-Coast-Time me got to sleep on the way home.)
Pictures can't capture what it looks like, although this video gives a rough idea. Shawn would make sweeping arcs with his paddle, and light-filled ripples shot out. I dragged my hand in the water, and when I'd pick it up, just for a second, I'd be holding sparks of gold. It's important to be far from other lights, although it wasn't clear to me if that was so that our eyes would adjust to better see the bioluminescence, or because the plankton won't light up around other light sources.  
I have never particularly desired to be a Disney princess, but running my hands through the water made me feel like I was in a Disney movie, with magical light just pouring off my hands. 
The two of us halfway through the trip, sporting our stylish sea kayak skirts.
Cormarants. There is a small island in the middle of the bay. Many, many birds rest there, making a terrible racket.
Some kind of non-poisonous jellyfish, included in the pictures simply because it was so interesting.

Thursday, July 28, 2016


I extended my work trip in California so that I could spend some time with my brother and his family. It's been like a foreign exchange trip, where the country is the Land with Kids. I've attended swim meets, gone on trips to the candy store, and played at playgrounds. I have learned about Pokémon Go, but thankfully haven't had to learn much about the preteen pop artists my niece favors.

Since I'm an introvert, though, I also appreciate the quiet times a vacation provides. Every morning I sit out with my coffee in their front yard, which is dominated by a giant redwood whose branches form a canopy over the entire yard. It's a lovely way to start the day.