Sunday, August 31, 2014


     I'm devoting this weekend to projects. Since I'll be traveling for the next two weekends, I need to get some of these half-finished projects off my list. Otherwise I'll turn into my father, who has unfinished projects that last as long as five or ten years.
    My lack of freezer space was one task that urgently required my attention. All this gardening means that I don't have enough room for my vegetables, and the edamame will probably have to be picked this week. After plenty of research, I  settled on a larger chest freezer. (Compare my old freezer on the left to the new one on the right). It's an annoyance to dive for my food every time I want something, but I figured out that I'd pay an extra $1000 over the next decade for increased energy costs and decided I could deal with inconvenience. I'm relieved that the new model is as quiet as the reviews promised, because the freezer lives in my bedroom.
     I'm also trying to turn my father's garage-sale-find of a bicycle into something that will work for my everyday use. I want things like a luggage rack and a different handlebar. Working brakes and new tires would be good things too. The repair job is made more difficult by the fact that I have to figure it all out without expert help. There are lots of bicycle shops in the area, but they primarily (1) sell new bikes and (2) repair the bikes they sold you. When I took my $5 bike in, they politely looked at it and then explained that I would need to replace almost every single part. This made the $700 bike they suggested look like a good deal. I can't blame them too much- we live on different planets. They sell reliable, stylish, comfortable bikes that you can use for serious commuting and racing. On the other hand, I like to bicycle sitting bolt upright, in my work clothes, at slow speeds. I'm looking for a functional bike that, when it is stolen, I won't cry about too much. Bonus points if it looks rather shabby, so that thieves target the bike next to mine - generally poor bike appearance along with a sturdy lock are my chosen defense against criminals.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Living in the past

     My cat has become part of the medical tourism movement. Since she turned 15 this year, it really was time to get her teeth cleaned. However, when I found out that it would cost $800 to have her teeth cleaned by the local vet, I called my mother to discuss whether this was an unconsciounable amount of money to spend on a senior cat. She offered to talk to her Ohio vet, and the $300 cost sealed the deal for me. There were already several trips planned between me and my parents, so Phi the cat travelled back to Ohio with my mother, had her surgery this week, and then I will pick her up next weekend when I attend the annual pig roast. I'm happy to say that she quickly recovered from the surgery, which is not a given with such an old cat.
   In other news, I am slowly joining the 21st century again. I finally gave up hope that I would ever find my wallet, and ordered replacement cards, which have not yet arrived. Unfortunately, my router also died over the weekend. So, for most of this week, I've lived in an all-cash, non-internet world. It was like going back to the 1980's, but with better fashion choices.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Project day in the mud

     For the August edition of project day, I helped my friends N and S put up a fence. Well, it would be more precise to say that I was one among a crew who helped them start to put up a fence. We had hoped to set all the posts on Saturday, and then N and S would attach the fencing during the week. But Saturday turned out to be a wet and dreary day, and the job turned out to be harder that we thought. We managed about six hours in the drizzle before we gave up, exhausted. Hopefully N and S can still get the rest done on their own.
     These pictures were taken during a few of the non-rainy moments. We tore out old fences and distributed many, many pounds of lumber around the yard.

     They rented a gas-powered, two-person auger, but it couldn't dig holes near existing structures and flooded and was generally temperamental, so we did a lot by hand. I did not have to swing the pick axe, although I use a post-hole digger and spade. I also helped remove that big red wooden fence on the right, along with a chain-link fence.
     It's hard to believe it, but I hope to own a house someday. And then I'll get to do exhausting, muddy projects like this on my own property...

Friday, August 22, 2014


     I've been without my wallet for almost a week now. To be more precise, of course, I've been without the contents of my wallet. I'm quite sure that it is lost in my house (or out of human reach in a garbage can or something) because I've been carefully watching my accounts and there's nothing amiss. It hasn't affected my life too much yet: I ride my bike and walk a lot, and mainly need the car (and thus my driver's license) on the weekends. And beyond the bills that are automatically paid, I don't buy that much. Still, I am grateful for my emergency stash of cash, which let me buy groceries and mail a package at the post office. At some point I'll have to admit that I can't find it and go through all the hassle of replacing all the cards and IDs, but I not quite ready to admit defeat yet.
     Here's a totally unrelated picture to remind me of happier days when (1) I spent my vacation in San Francisco visiting my brother's family and (2) I still had a wallet.
If you look closely, you can see evidence on both K's face and mine of the chocolate ice cream we had recently eaten.

Monday, August 18, 2014


     I learned to sew this weekend! I invited my mother to visit, and she taught me how to use the sewing machine I found while garage-saleing with my father earlier this summer. My mother used to sew a great deal: she made her prom dress, her wedding dress, and curtains and clothes when we were kids. She hasn't done as much lately (it is cheaper to buy clothes now than to make them), but luckily she still remembers it all.
     I wanted to learn to sew because vintage clothing is expensive.  You can buy actual stuff from the '40s and '50s, which is pricey and fragile, or you can buy reproductions made with more modern fabric (which is easier to care for). Or, you can make it yourself. So, we made an apron from a pattern from the '40s. For those of you that sew, the pattern called for nearly every seam to be edged with binding, and they apparently didn't have (or couldn't afford) store-bought binding back then, so we followed the pattern and made dozens of yards of binding ourselves.

I've learned to woodwork and to sew this summer, and my verdict is - sewing is much easier. It's a bit less terrifying, because you can usually recover from mistakes in fabric more easily than what you've done in wood. Also, you can mix drinking and a sewing machine (the pictured apron was accompanied by lots of wine), but drinking and power tools doesn't sound like a good idea.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A week at the farm

     I just got back from a week's vacation at a working tourist farm. Tourists come from all over, some from as far as England, just to experience a taste of the real Midwestern country life. We did hard physical labor, ate terrific meals on the shady porch, and drank bottles of red wine and hard cider.
     I took plenty of pictures so that I can create an advertising brochure, to lure future guests to this - ahem- wonderful opportunity

Here, our hostess demonstrates how to weed. Rest assured, there are enough weedy flower gardens that everyone can have a chance.
The 42-acre property has elegant lawns, which needed frequent mowing. After the lawns were mowed, some lucky guests were given the chance to head out into the nearby woods and harvest fallen timber infested with woodworm.
Pets are encouraged. They may look like fun, but also provide plenty of opportunities for grooming, walking, and cleaning litter boxes.
There are field trips to nearby berry farms, allowing guests to harvest in the hot sun, then return home to make multiple batches of blackberry jelly. And if you're technically inclined, you'll be encouraged to give Internet lessons to your more mature relatives.

To be honest, I had a great time with my parents and in-laws. I couldn't have asked for a better vacation.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Of rivers and gardens

First, a note from last week. Thank you to all the friends who sent me pictures of their candles, and to those of you who lit candles. It meant a lot to me, and I think it meant a lot to his family. I lit a candle in my hotel room in Minneapolis, and spent part of a day at the Cathedral of St. Paul.
     I also tried to spend time at the Mississippi River, but that turned out to be more difficult than I expected. Large swaths of land around the river are set aside by the National Park Service, so I thought I'd just wander down to one of the green areas of the map and sit by the river a while. But at one park a railyard separated me and the river, and another set of directions took me to a manufacturing plant, rather than a park. I could see the river from the third park, but only from a high bluff. I hiked down o a bike path, but was always separated by at least fifty feet of dense trees. I didn't dare climb through the thick underbrush because I've had way too many ticks in the last year. So, in the end, this is as close as I got.

After I returned from my long work week in Minnesota, I had two days at home. I've been madly trying to whip the garden into shape before I leave again. August is the time of reckoning for this gardener. It's when I discover that I really didn't choose the best strain of tomatoes, and they're all suffering from blight. The eggplants (in the right-hand bowl) weren't harvested early enough, which is why they turned yellow and a bit seedy. The watermelon plant looks dead, because all the leaves have dried up, but the watermelons still taste lovely.

And yet, not all is lost. I made pesto and cooked green beans, and this evening I got together with friends and we planned our fall gardens. That meant that we were trading seeds and placing a shared order for seeds online. When I get back next week from my Ohio trip, it will be time to plant again. I don't know what I shall do with all the free time I'll have in the winter...